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Title: Gertrude's Marriage
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 "Gertrude's Marriage" ***

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Transcriber's notes:
1.  Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/gertrudesmarria00heimgoog
2.  The diphthong oe is represented by [oe].



                          GERTRUDE'S MARRIAGE


                              W. HEIMBURG

                       TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN

                          BY MRS. J. W. DAVIS



                              ILLUSTRATED


                                NEW YORK
                     WORTHINGTON CO., 747 BROADWAY
                                  1889



                           COPYRIGHT 1889 BY
                          WORTHINGTON COMPANY



                          GERTRUDE'S MARRIAGE.


                               CHAPTER I.


"Really, Frank, if I were in your place I shouldn't know whether to
laugh or cry. It has always been the height of my ambition to have a
fortune left me, but as with everything in this earthly existence, I
should have my preferences.

"Upon my word, Frank, I am sorry for you. Here you are with an
inheritance fallen into your lap that you never even dreamed of, a sort
of an estate, a few hundred acres and meadows, a little woodland, a
garden run wild, a neglected dwelling-house, and for stock four
spavined Andalusians, six dried-up old cows, and above all an old aunt
who apparently unites the attributes of both horses and cows in her own
person. Boy, at least wring your hands or scold or do something of the
sort, but don't stand there the very picture of mute despair!"

Judge Weishaupt spoke thus in comic wrath to his friend Assessor
Linden, who sat opposite him. Before them on the table stood a bottle
of Rhine wine with glasses, and the eyes of the person thus addressed
rested on the empty bottle with a thoughtful expression, as if he could
read an answer on the label.

It was a large room in which they were sitting, a sort of garden-hall,
furnished very simply and in an old-fashioned style, with two birchen
corner-cupboards, which in our grandmother's time served the purpose of
the present elegant buffets, and which, instead of costly majolica,
displayed painted and gold-rimmed cups behind their glass doors;
with a large sofa, whose black horse-hair covering never for a
moment suggested the possibility of soft luxurious repose; with
six simply-constructed cane-seated chairs grouped about the large
table, and finally, with several dubious family portraits, among
which especially to be noted was the pastel portrait of a youthful
fair-haired beauty, whose impossibly small mouth wore an embarrassed
smile as if to say: "I beg you to believe that I did not really look so
silly as this!" And over all this bright orange-colored curtains shed a
peculiarly unpleasant light.

The door of the room was open and as if in compensation for all this
want of taste, a wonderful prospect spread itself out before the eye.
Lofty wooded mountain tops, covered with rich foliage which the autumn
frosts had already turned into brilliant colors, formed the background;
close by, the neglected garden, picturesque enough in its wild state,
and shimmering through the trees, the red pointed roofs of the village;
the whole veiled with the soft haze of an October morning, which the
rays of the sun had not yet dispersed. The regular strokes of the
flails on the threshing floors of the estate had a pleasant sound in
the clear morning air.

The young man's dark eyes strayed away from the wine-bottle; he started
up suddenly and went to the door.

"And in spite of all that, Richard, it is a charming spot," he said
warmly. "I have always had a great liking for North Germany. I assure
you 'Faust' is twice as interesting here, where the Brocken looks down
upon you. Don't croak so like an old raven any more, I beg of you. I
shall never forget Frankfort, but neither shall I miss it too much--I
hope."

"Heaven forbid!" cried the little man, still playing with the empty
wine-glass. "You don't pretend to say--"

But Linden interrupted him. "I don't pretend anything, but I am going
to try to be a good farmer, and I am going to do this, Richard, not
only because I must, but because I really like this queer old nest; so
say no more, old fellow."

"Well, good luck to you!" replied the other, coming up to his friend
and looking almost tenderly into the handsome, manly face.

"I have really nothing to say against this playing at farming if
I only know how and where.--You see, Frank, if I were not such a
poverty-stricken wretch, I would say to you this minute: 'Here, my boy,
is a capital of so much; now go to work and get the moth-eaten old
place into some kind of order.' Things cannot go on as they are.
But--well, you know--" he ended, with a sigh.

Frank Linden made no reply, but he whistled softly a lively air, as he
always did when he wished to drive away unpleasant thoughts.

"O yes, whistle away," muttered the little man, "it is the only music
you are likely to hear, unless it is the creaking of a rusty hinge or
the concert of a highly respectable family of mice which have settled
in your room--brr--Frank! Just imagine this lonely hole in winter--snow
on the mountains, snow on the roads, snow in the garden and white
flakes in the air! Good Heavens! What will you do all the long evenings
which we used to spend in the Taunus, in the Bockenheimer Strasse, or
in the theatre? Who will play euchre with you here? For whom will you
make your much-admired poems? I am sure they won't be understood in the
village inn. Ah, when I look at you and think of you moping here alone,
and with all your cares heavy upon you!"

He sighed.

"I will tell you something, Frank, joking aside," he continued. "You
must marry. And I advise you in this matter not to lay so much stress
on your ideal; pass over for once the sylph-like forms, liquid eyes and
sweet faces in favor of another advantage which nothing will supply the
place of, in our prosaic age. Don't bring me a poor girl, Frank, though
she were a very pearl of women. In your position it would be perfect
folly, a sin against yourself and all who come after you. It won't make
the least difference if your fine verses don't exactly fit her. You
wouldn't always be making poetry, even to the loveliest woman. O yes,
laugh away!"

He brushed the ashes from his cigar. "In Frankfort--if you had only
chosen--you might have done something. But you were quite dazzled by
that little Thea's lovely eyes. How often I have raged about it! When a
man has passed his twenty-fifth year he really ought to be more
sensible."

Frank Linden was obstinately silent, and the little man knew at once
that he had as he used to say, "put his foot in it."

"Come, Frank, don't be cross," he continued, "perhaps there are rich
girls to be had here too."

"O to be sure, sir, to be sure," sounded behind him, "rich girls and
pretty girls; our old city has always been celebrated for them."

[Illustration: "Both gentlemen turned toward the speaker."]

Both gentlemen turned toward the speaker; the judge only to turn away
at once with an angry shrug, Frank Linden to greet him politely.

"I have brought the papers you wanted," continued the new-comer, a
little man over fifty with an incredibly small pointed face over which
a sweet smile played, a sanctimonious man in every motion and gesture.

"I am much obliged, Mr. Wolff," said Frank Linden, taking the papers.

"If there is anything else I can do for you--Miss Rosalie will testify
that I was always ready to help your late uncle."

"I am a perfect stranger here," replied the young squire, "it may be
that I shall require your help."

"I shall feel highly honored, Mr. Linden--Yes, and as I said before, if
you should want to make acquaintances in the city there are the
Tubmans, the Schenks, the Meiers and the Hellbours and above all the
Baumhagens--all rich and pleasant families, Mr. Linden. You will be
received with open arms, there's always a dearth of young men in our
little city. The gentlemen of the cavalry--you know, I suppose--only
want to amuse themselves--shall be only too glad in case you--"

The judge interrupted him with a loud clearing of his throat.

"Frank," he said, dryly, "what tower is that up there on the hill? You
were studying the map yesterday!"

"St. Hubert's Tower," replied the young man, going towards him.

"Belongs to the Baron von Lobersberg," interposed Wolff.

"That doesn't interest me in the least," muttered the judge, gazing at
the tower through his closed hand for want of a glass.

"I have the honor to bid you good-morning," said Wolff, "must go over
to Lobersberg."

The judge nodded curtly; Linden accompanied the agent to the door and
then came slowly back.

"Now please explain to me," burst out his friend, "where you picked up
that fellow--that rat, I should say, who pushes himself into your
society so impudently."

Frank Linden's dark eyes turned in astonishment to the angry
countenance of the judge.

"Why, Richard, he was my uncle's right-hand man, his factotum, and
lastly, he has something to say about my affairs, for unhappily, he
holds a large mortgage on Niendorf."

"That does not justify him in the impertinent manner which he displays
towards you," replied his friend.

"O my dear little Judge," said the young man in excuse, "he looks on me
as a newcomer, an ignoramus in the sacred profession of farming. You--"

"And I consider him a shady character! And some day, my dear boy, you
will say to me, 'Richard, God knows you were right about that man--the
fellow is a rascal.'"

"Do you know," cried Frank Linden, between jest and earnest, "I wish I
had left you quietly in your lodging in the Goethe-Platz. You will
spoil everything here for me with your gloomy views. Come, we will take
a turn through the garden; then, unfortunately, it will be time for you
to go to the station, if you wish to catch the Express."

He took the arm of his grumbling friend and drew him with him along the
winding path, on which already the withered leaves were lying.

"I am sure the fellow has a matrimonial agency somewhere," muttered the
judge, grimly.

As they turned the corner of the neglected shrubbery, they saw an old
woman slowly pacing up and down the edge of the little pond.

"For Heaven's sake!" began the little man again, "just look at that
figure, that cap with the monstrous black bow, that astonishing dress
with the waist up under the arms, and what a picturesque fashion of
wearing a black shawl--and, goodness! she has got a red umbrella. My
son, she probably uses it to ride out on the first of May--brr--and
that is your only companion!"

It was indeed a remarkable figure, the old woman wandering up and down
with as much dignity as if one of the faded pastel pictures in the
garden hall had suddenly come to life.

"Shall I call her?" asked Frank Linden, smiling.

"Heaven forbid!" cried the other. "This neighborhood of the Blocksberg
is really uncanny--your Mr. Wolff looks like Mephistopheles in person,
and this--well, I won't say what--she is really a serious charge for
you, Frank."

The wonderful figure had long since disappeared behind the bushes, when
the young man answered, abstractedly,

"You see things in too gloomy a light, Richard. How can this poor,
feeble old woman, almost on the verge of the grave, possibly be a
burden to me? She lives entirely shut up in her own room."

"But I will venture to say that she will be forever wanting something
of you. When she is cold the stove will be in fault, when she has
rheumatism you will have to shoot a cat for her. She will meddle in
your affairs, she will mislay your things, and will vex you in a
thousand ways. Old aunts are only invented to torment their fellow-men.
But no matter, make your own beer and drink it all down. But I think it
must be time to go, the Express won't wait."

Linden looked at his watch, nodded, and went hastily to the house to
order the carriage.

His friend followed him thoughtfully; at length he muttered a
suppressed, "Confound it! Such a splendid young fellow to sit and suck
his paws in this hole of a peasant village! What sort of a figure will
he cut among the rich proprietors of this blessed country? I wish
his old uncle had chosen anybody on earth for his heir, only not
_him_--much as he pretends to like it. What a career he might have
made! And now he will just bury himself in this hole--confound
Niendorf! If I only had him at home in gay Frankfort--O--it is--"

A quarter of an hour later the friends were rolling towards the city in
a rather old-fashioned carriage. Behind them was the quiet little Harz
village, and before them rose the many-towered city.

They had not far to go; they reached their destination in an hour's
time, and the carriage stopped before the stately railroad station.
Silently as they had come they got the ticket and had the baggage
weighed, and Linden did not speak till they reached the platform.

"Greet Frankfort for me, Richard, and all my friends. Write to me when
you have time. See that I get my furniture and books soon, and many
thanks for your company so far."

The judge made a deprecating gesture. "I wish to Heaven I could take
you back with me, Frank," he said, in a softer tone. "You don't know
how I shall miss you. You know what a bad correspondent I am, you are
much better at writing than I, and you will have more time for it,
too--"

The whistle and the rumbling of the approaching train cut him short; in
another moment he was in a _coupé_.

"Good-bye, Frank--come nearer for a moment, old fellow--remember if you
are ever in any serious difficulty, write to me at once. If I should
not be able to help you myself--you know my sister is in good
circumstances--"

One more hand-shake, one more look into a pair of true, manly eyes, and
Frank Linden stood alone on the platform. He turned slowly away, and
walked towards his carriage. He had his foot on the step when he
bethought himself, and ordered the coachman to drive to the hotel, for
he had something to do in town.

He was so entirely under the influence of the uncomfortable feeling
which parting from a friend creates, that he took the road into town in
no very cheerful mood. On entering the city he turned aside and
followed a deserted path which led along the well-preserved old city
wall. He did not in the least know where he was going; he had nothing
to do here, he knew no one, but he must look about a little in the
neighboring town. It seemed, in fact, well entitled to its reputation
as an old German imperial city; the castle, with the celebrated
cathedral, towered up defiantly on the steep crags; several slender
church towers rose from out the multitude of red pointed roofs, and the
old wall, broken at regular intervals by clumsy square watch-towers,
surrounded the old town like a firm chain.

He took delight in the beautiful picture, and as he walked on his fancy
painted the magnificent imperial city waking out of its slumber of a
thousand years. After awhile he stopped and looked up to one of the
gray towers.

"Really it is almost like the Eschenheim Gate in Frankfort," he said
half aloud; "what wonderful springs the thoughts make!"

Suddenly he found himself back in the present; scarcely four weeks ago
he had passed through that beautiful gate, without dreaming that he
would so soon see its companion in North Germany. Like lightning out of
blue sky this inheritance which made him possessor of Niendorf had come
upon him. How it had happened to occur to his grandfather's old brother
to select _him_ out of the multitude of his relatives for his heir
still remained an unsolved problem, and he could only refer it to the
especial liking for his mother whom the eccentric old man had always
shown a preference for.

He had felt when he received the news as if a golden shower had fallen
into his lap; it is difficult living in a city of millionaires on the
salary of an assessor. And then--he had received a wound there in that
brilliant bewildering life, and the scar still made itself felt at
times--for instance when an elegant equipage dashed by him--black
horses with liveries of black and silver and on the light-gray cushions
a woman's figure, dark ostrich feathers waving above a face of marble
whiteness, the luxuriant gold brown hair fastened in a knot on the neck
and ah! looking so coldly at him out of her great blue eyes. After such
a meeting he felt depressed for days. "A milliner's doll, a heartless
woman," he called her bitterly, but he had once believed quite the
reverse a whole year long till one morning he saw her betrothal in the
paper. She married a banker who had often served as the butt of her
ridicule. But--he had a million!

Ah, how gladly had he gone out of her neighborhood, how rejoiced he had
been to turn his back on the great world, with what happiness he had
written to his mother and what had he found!

But no matter! The steward whom he had for the present seemed a capable
fellow; he would not spare himself in any respect and then--Wolff. He
could not understand what had set Weishaupt so against the man.

He had now been wandering for some time through the busiest streets of
the town. He asked for the hotel where his coachman was to wait for
him. He now entered the marketplace in the midst of which the statue of
Roland stands. A stately Rathhaus in the style of the Renaissance stood
on the western side of the square, and lofty elegant patrician houses
with pointed gables surrounded it; some adorned with bow-windows, some
with the upper stories overhanging till it seemed as if they must lose
their balance. Only two or three buildings were of later date, and even
in these care had been taken to preserve the mediaeval character.

Agreeably surprised, Linden stopped and his glance passed critically
over the front of the lofty building before which he had chanced to
pause. Three tall stories towered one above another; over the great
arched doorway rose a dainty bow-window which extended through all the
stories and stretched up into the blue October sky as a stately tower,
finished at the top with a weather-vane. The window in the _bel-etage_
was divided into small diamond panes--that was an "æsthetic" dwelling,
no doubt. In the second story rich lace curtains shimmered behind large
clear panes, and a very garden of fuchsias and pinks waved and nodded
from the plants outside. If a lovely girl's face would only appear
above them now, the picture would be complete.

But nothing of the kind was to be seen, and casting one more glance at
the artistic ironwork of the staircase, the attentive spectator turned
and crossed the market-place to the hotel in order to dine. As it was
already late he was the only guest in the spacious dining-room. He ate
his dinner with all speed, and began his wanderings through the streets
again.

Behind the Rathhaus he plunged into a labyrinth of narrow streets and
alleys, then passing through an archway he entered unexpectedly a
square surrounded by tall linden trees half stripped of their leaves,
which, grave and solemn, seemed to be watching over a large church. It
seemed as though everybody was dead in this place; only a few children
were playing among the dry leaves, and an old woman limped into a sunny
corner, otherwise the deepest silence reigned.

A side door of the church stood open; he crossed over and entered into
the silent twilight of the sacred place; he took off his hat, and,
surprised by the noble simplicity of the building, he gazed at the
slender but lofty columns and the rich vaulting of the choir. Then he
walked down the middle aisle between the artistically carved stalls,
brown with age. He delighted in them, for he had the greatest
admiration for the beautiful forms of the Renaissance, and he was
doubly pleased, for he had not expected to find anything of the kind
here.

Here he suddenly stopped; there at the font, above which the white dove
soared with outspread wings, he saw three women. Two of them seemed to
be of the lower class; the elder, probably the midwife, held the child,
tossing it continually; the other, in a plain black woollen dress and
shawl, a young matron, looked at the child with eyes red with weeping;
a third had bent down towards her; the sexton, who was pouring the
water into the basin, concealed her completely for the moment and
Linden saw only the train of a dark silk dress on the stone floor.

And now a soft flexible woman's voice sounded in his ear: "Don't cry
so, my good Johanna, you will have a great deal of comfort yet with the
little thing--don't cry!

"Engleman, you had better call the clergyman--my sister does not seem
to come, she must have been detained; we will not wait any longer."

The speaker turned towards the mother, and Frank Linden looked full
into the face of the young girl. It was not exactly beautiful, this
fine oval, shaded by rich golden brown hair; the complexion was too
pale, the expression too sad, the corners of the mouth too much drawn
down, but under the finely pencilled brows a pair of deep blue eyes
looked out at him, clear as those of a child, wistful and appealing,
as if imploring peace for the sacred rite.

It might often happen that strangers entered the beautiful church and
made a disturbance--at least so Frank Linden interpreted the look.
Scarcely breathing, he leaned against one of the old stalls, and his
eyes followed every movement of the slender, girlish figure, as she
took the child in her arms and approached the clergyman.

"Herr Pastor," sounded the soft voice, "you must be content with _one_
sponsor, for unfortunately my sister has not come."

The clergyman raised his head. "Then you might, Mrs. Smith--" he signed
to the elder woman.

Frank Linden stood suddenly before the font beside the young girl; he
hardly knew himself how he got there so quickly.

"Allow me to be the second sponsor," he said.--"I came into the church
by chance, a perfect stranger here; I should be sorry to miss the first
opportunity to perform a Christian duty in my new home."

He had obeyed a sudden impulse and he was understood. The gray-haired
clergyman nodded, smiling. "It is a poor child, early left fatherless,
sir," he replied. "The father was killed four weeks before its
birth--you will be doing a good work--are you satisfied?" he said,
turning to the mother. "Well then--Engelman, write down the name of the
godfather in the register."

"Carl Max Francis Linden," said the young man.

And then they stood together before the pastor, these two who a quarter
of an hour ago had had no knowledge of one another; she held the
sleeping child in her arms; she had not looked up, the quick flush of
surprise still lingered on the delicate face, and the simple lace on
the infant's cushion trembled slightly.

The clergyman spoke only a few words, but they sank deep into the
hearts of both. Linden looked down on the brown drooping head beside
him, the two hands rested on the infant's garments, two warm young
hands close together, and from the lips of both came a clear distinct
"Yes" in answer to the clergyman's questions. When the rite was ended,
the young girl took the child to its weeping mother and pressed a kiss
on the small red cheek, then she came up to Linden and her eyes gazed
at him with a mixture of wonder and gratitude.

"I thank you, sir," she said, laying her small hand in his for a
moment. "I thank you in the name of the poor woman--it was so good of
you."

Then with a proud bend of her small head she went away, the heavy silk
of her dress making a slight rustling about her as she walked. She
paused a moment at the door in the full daylight and looked back at him
as he stood motionless by the font looking after her; it seemed as if
she bent her head once more in greeting and then she disappeared.

Frank Linden remained behind alone in the quiet church. Who could she
be who had just stood beside him? A slight jingling caused him to turn
round; the sexton was coming out of the sacristy with his great bunch
of keys.

"You want to shut up the church, my friend?" he said. "I am going now."
Then as if he had thought of something he came back a few steps. "Who
was the young lady?" was on his lips to ask, but he could not bring it
out, he only gazed at the glowing colors in the painted glass of the
lofty window.

"They are very fine," said the sexton, "and are always much admired;
that one is dated 1511, the Exodus of the children of Israel, a gift
from the Abbess Anna from the castle up there. They say she had a great
liking for this church, and it is the finest church far and wide too,
our St. Benedict's."

Frank Linden nodded.

"You may be right," he said, abstractedly. Then he gave the man a small
sum for the baby and went away.

Soon after, his carriage was rolling away towards home. The outlines
of the mountains rose dark against the red evening sky, and the
church-tower of Niendorf came nearer and nearer.

Nothing seemed strange to him now as it had been this morning; the
first slight happy feeling of home-coming was growing in his heart. On
the top of the hill he turned again and looked back at the city, where
the castle looked to him like an old acquaintance, and hark! The faint
sound of a bell was wafted towards him on the evening breeze; perhaps
from St. Benedict's tower?



                              CHAPTER II.


Gertrude Baumhagen had quickly crossed the quiet square, had opened a
door in the opposite wall, and was at home. She passed rapidly through
the box-edged path of the old-fashioned garden, and across a quiet
spacious court into the house. In the large vaulted hall, she found her
brother-in-law standing beside a tall velocipede. He was dressed
elegantly and according to the latest fashion, a costly diamond
sparkled on the blue cravat, while he wore another on his white hand.
He was fair-haired, with pink cheeks, and a small moustache on his
upper lip, and was perhaps about thirty. A servant was occupied in
cleaning the shining steel of the bicycle with a piece of chamois
leather.

"Are you going for a ride, Arthur?" asked the young girl, pleasantly.

"I am going to make off, Gertrude," he replied, peevishly. "What on
earth can I do at home? Jenny has got a ladies' tea party again to-day
by way of variety--and what am I to do? I am going with Carl Röben to
Bodenstadt--a man must look out for himself a little."

"I am just going up to your house," said the young girl. "I am cross
with Jenny and am going to scold her."

"You will be lucky then if you don't come off second best, my dear
sister-in-law," cried Arthur Fredericks, laughing.

She shook her head gravely, and mounted the broad staircase, whose dark
carved balustrade harmonized well with the crimson Smyrna carpet which
covered the steps, held down by shining brass rods. Huge laurel-trees
in tubs stood on either side of the tall door, which led to the first
floor. On the left, the staircase went on to the upper story. Gertrude
Baumhagen pressed on the button of the electric bell and instantly the
door was opened by a servant-maid in a brilliantly white apron, while a
clear voice called out,

"Yes, yes, I am at home--you have come just in time, Gertrude."

In the large entrance hall, which was finished in old German style, a
young matron stood before a magnificent buffet, busied in taking out
all manner of silver-plate from the open cupboard. She wore a dainty
little lace cap on her light brown hair, and a house-dress of fine
light blue cashmere, richly trimmed with lace. She was very pretty,
even now when she was pouting, but there was no resemblance between the
two sisters.

"You are not even dressed yet, Jenny?" cried the young girl. "Then I
might have waited a good while in the church. It was really very
awkward, your not coming."

The young matron stopped and set down the great glass dish encircled by
two massive silver snakes, in dismay. Then she clapped her hands and
began to laugh heartily.

"There now!" she cried, "this whole day I have been going about the
house with a feeling that there was something I had to do, and I
couldn't think what it was. O that is too rich! Caroline, you might
have reminded me!" she continued, turning to the maid, who was just
laying a heavy linen table-cloth on the massive oak-table in the middle
of the room.

"Mrs. Fredericks laid down to sleep and said expressly that I was not
to wake her before four o'clock," said the maid in her own defence.

"Well, so I did," yawned the young matron; "I was so tired, his
lordship was in a bad temper, and the baby was so frightfully noisy. It
is no great misfortune, either; I can easily make up for it by sending
her something tomorrow."

"Why, Jenny! Have you forgotten that it was I who told Johanna that you
and I would be godmothers? I thought it was our _duty_--the man was
killed in our factory."

"O fiddle-dedee, pet," interposed Mrs. Jenny, "I hate that everlasting
god mothering! I have already three round dozens of godchildren as
surely as I stand here---_poor_ people are not required for that
purpose, I assure you. Come, I have finished here now, we will go to
the nursery for awhile, or"--casting a glance at the old-fashioned
clock--"still better, mamma has had some patterns for evening-dresses
sent her--wait a minute and I will come up with you; the company won't
come yet for an hour and a half."

She turned round gracefully once more as if to survey her work. The
buffet shone with silver dishes, a bright fire burned in the open
fireplace, the heavy chandelier as well as the sconces before the tall
glass were filled with dark red twisted candles, and as Caroline drew
back the heavy embroidered _portière_, a room almost too luxuriously
furnished became visible--a room all crimson; even through the stained
glass of the bow-window the evening light sent red reflections in the
labyrinth of chairs and sofas, lounges and tables, while white marble
statues stood out against the dark green of costly greenhouse plants.

"It looks pleasant, doesn't it, Gertrude?" said the young wife. "I have
not opened the great drawing-room because there will be only a few
ladies. The wife of the Home Minister has accepted. Are you coming in
for an hour?"

"No, thanks," replied the young girl, mounting the stairs with her
sister to her mother's apartment. "Send me the baby for awhile, I like
so much to have him."

"Oh, yes, the young gentleman shall make his appearance," nodded Mrs.
Jenny, "provided he doesn't sleep like a little dormouse."

"Do you go in to mamma," said Gertrude. "I will change my dress and
then come."

The rooms were the same as in the lower story, also richly furnished,
though not in the new "aesthetic" style, yet they were not less elegant
and comfortable. The sisters separated in the ante-room, and Gertrude
Baumhagen went to her own room. She occupied the room with the
bow-window, but here the daylight was not broken by costly stained
glass: it came in, unhindered, in floods through the clear panes,
before which outside, numberless flowers waved in the soft breeze.
Directly opposite were the gables of the Rathhaus; like airy lace-work,
the rich ornamentation of the towers was marked out against the glowing
evening sky.

This bow-window was a delightful place; here stood her work-table, and
behind it on an easel, the portrait of the late Mr. Baumhagen. The
resemblance between the father and daughter was visible at a glance;
there was the same light brown hair, the intellectual brow, the small,
fine nose, and the eyes too were the same. She had always been his
darling, and it was her care that fresh flowers should always be placed
in the gold network of the frame. And where she sat at work her hands
would sometimes rest in her lap and her eyes would turn to the picture.
"My dear, good papa!" she would whisper then, as if he must understand.

To-day also, she walked quickly towards the bow-window and looked long
at the picture. "You would have done that too," she said, softly,
"wouldn't you, papa!" An earnest expression came suddenly into the
young eyes, something like inexpressible longing. "No, every one is not
like mamma and Jenny; there are warm human hearts, there are hearts
that feel compassion for a stranger's needs, for whom the detested--"
she stopped suddenly her small hands had clenched themselves and her
eyes filled with tears.

She began to pace up and down the room. The soft, thick carpet deadened
the sound of her footsteps, but the heavy silk rustled after her with
an anxious sound.

What humiliations she had to endure daily and hourly from the fact of
being a rich girl! She owed everything to the circumstance of having a
fortune. Jenny had just now declared to her again that she had only
been godmother, because--Ah, no matter, she knew better. Johanna was
too modest. But she had not yet recovered from that other blow. A week
ago there had been man[oe]uvres in the neighborhood, and the colonel
with his adjutant had had his quarters for two days in the Baumhagen
house. She could not really remember that she had spoken more than a
few commonplace words to the adjutant, and twenty-four hours after the
troops had left the city--yesterday--a letter lay before her filled
with the most ardent protestations of love and an entreaty for her
hand. She had taken the letter and gone to her mother with it, with the
words: "Here is some one who wishes to marry my money. Will you write
the answer, mamma? I cannot."

Now she was dreading the mention of this letter. She was not afraid
that her mother would try to persuade her. No, no, she had always been
independent enough not to order her life according to the will of
another, but the matter would be discussed and the division between
mother and daughter would only be made wider than ever.

She started; the door opened and her sister's voice called: "Do come,
Gertrude, I can't make up my mind about that new red."

The young girl crossed the hall and a moment after stood in her
mother's drawing-room, before her mother, a small woman with almost too
rosy cheeks, and an exceedingly obstinate expression about the full
mouth. She sat on the sofa beneath the large Swiss landscape, the work
of a celebrated Düsseldorf master--Mrs. Baumhagen was fond of relating
that she had paid five hundred dollars for it--and tossed about with
her small hands, covered with diamonds, a mass of dress patterns.

"Gertrude," she cried, "this would do for you." And she held out a bit
of blue silk. "It is a pity you are so different, it is so nice for two
sisters to dress alike."

"What is suitable for a married woman, is not fit for a girl," declared
Mrs. Jenny. "Gertrude ought to get married, she is twenty years old."

"Ah! that reminds me,"--the mother had been turning over the patterns
during the conversation,--"there is that letter from your last admirer,
I must answer it. What am I to write him?--

"See here, Jenny, this brown ground with the blue spots is pretty,
isn't it?--It is really a great bore to answer letters like that; why
don't you do it yourself?"

"I am afraid my answer would not be dispassionate enough," replied the
girl, calmly.

"Do you like him?" asked her sister.

The young girl ignored the question.

"I am afraid I might be bitter, and nothing is required but a purely
business-like answer, as the question was purely one of business."

"You are delicious!" laughed the young wife. "O what a pity you had not
lived in the middle ages, when the knights were obliged to go through
so long a probation! Little goose, you must learn to take the world as
it is. Do you suppose Arthur would have married _me_ if I had had
nothing? I assure you he would never have thought of it! And do you
suppose I would have taken _him_ if I had not known he was in good
circumstances? Never! And what would you have more from us? we are a
comparatively happy couple."

Gertrude looked at her sister in surprise, with a questioning look in
her blue eyes.

"Comparatively happy?" she repeated in a low tone.

"Good gracious, yes, he has his whims--one has to put up with them,"
declared her sister,

"Pray don't quarrel to-day," said Mrs. Baumhagen, taking her eye-glass
from her snub-nose; "besides I will write the letter. It is for that I
am your mother." She sighed.

"But in this matter I think Jenny is right. Gertrude, you take far too
ideal views of the world. We have all seen to what such ideas lead."
Another sigh. "I will not try to persuade you, I did not say anything
to influence Jenny; you both know that very well. For my own part I
have nothing against this Mr. Mr.--Mr.--" the name did not occur to her
at once.

The young girl laughed, but her eyes looked scornful. "His address is
given with great distinctness in the letter," she said.

"There is no great hurry, I suppose," continued her mother. "I have my
whist-party this evening; if I am not there punctually I must pay a
fine; besides, I don't feel like writing." She yawned slightly.

"The evenings are getting very long now--did you know, Jenny, that an
opera troupe is coming here?"

Jenny answered in the affirmative, and added that she must go and
dress.

"Good night," she cried, merrily, from the door; "we shall not meet
again to-day."

"Good night, mamma," said Gertrude also.

"Are you going down to Jenny?" asked Mrs. Baumhagen.

The girl shook her head.

"What are you going to do all the evening?"

"I don't know, mamma. I have all sorts of things to do. Perhaps I shall
read."

"Ah! Well, good night, my child."

She waved her hand and Gertrude went away. She took off her silk dress
when she reached her room and exchanged it for a soft cashmere, then
she went into her pretty sitting-room. It was already twilight and
the lamps were being lighted in the street below. She stood in the
bow-window and watched one flame leap out after the other and the
windows of the houses brighten. Even the old apple-woman, under the
shelter of the statue of Roland, hung out her lantern under her
gigantic white umbrella. Gertrude knew all this so well; it had been
just the same when she was a tiny girl, and there was no change--only
here inside it was all so different--so utterly different.

Where were those happy evenings when she had sat here beside her
father--where was the old comfort and happiness? They must have hidden
themselves away in his coffin, for ever since that dreadful day when
they had carried her father away, it had been cold and empty in the
house and in the young girl's heart. He had been so ill, so melancholy;
it was fortunate that it had happened, so people said to the widow, who
was almost wild in her passionate grief, but she had gone on a journey
at once with Jenny, and had spent the winter in Nice. Gertrude would
not go with them on any account. Her eyes, which had looked on such
misery, could not look out upon God's laughing world,--her shattered
nerves could not bear the gay whirl of such a life. She had stayed
behind with an old aunt--Aunt Louise slept almost all day, when she was
not eating or drinking coffee, and the young girl had learned all the
horrors of loneliness. She had been ill in body and mind, and when her
mother and sister had returned, she learned that one may be lonely even
in company, and lonely she had remained until the present day.

Urged by a longing for affection, she had again and again tried to find
excuses for her mother, and to adapt herself to her mode of life. She
had allowed herself to be drawn into the whirl of pleasure into which
the pleasure-loving woman had plunged so soon as her time of mourning
was over. She had tried to persuade herself that concerts, balls, and
all the gayeties of society really gave her pleasure and satisfied her.
But her sense of right rebelled against this self-deception. She
began to ponder on the vacuity of all about her, on this and that
conversation, on the whole whirl around her, and she grew less able to
comprehend it. She could not understand how people could find so much
amusement in things that seemed to her not worth a thought. The art of
fluttering through life, skimming the cream of all its excitements as
Jenny did, she did not understand. To wear the most elegant costume at
a ball, to stay at the dearest hotels on a journey, to be celebrated
for giving the finest dinners--all that was not worth thinking about.
Once she had asked if she might not read aloud in the evenings they
spent alone, as she used to do when her father was alive. After
receiving permission she had come in with a radiant face, bringing
"Ekkehard," the last book which her father had given her. With flushed
cheeks and sparkling eyes, she had read on and on, but as she chanced
to look up there sat Jenny, looking through the last number of the
"Journal of Fashion," while her mother was sound asleep. She did not
say a word but she never read aloud again.

The large tears ran suddenly down her cheeks. One of those moments had
suddenly come over her again, when she stretched out her arms
despairingly after some human soul that would understand her, that
would love her a little, only a little, for herself alone. She had
grown so distrustful that she ascribed all kindness from strangers to
her wealth and the position which her family held in society. She was
quite conscious that she was repellent and unamiable, designedly so--no
one should know how poor she really felt. It was not necessary for them
to know that she wrung her hands and asked, "What shall I do? What do I
live for?" She had inherited from her father a delight in work, a need
for being of use--every responsible person feels a desire to be happy
and to make others happy--but she felt her life so great a burden, it
was so shallow, so distasteful, so full of petty interests.

She quickly dried her tears and turned; the door had opened and an old
servant entered.

"You are forgetting your tea again, Miss Gertrude," she began,
reproachfully. "It is all ready in the dining-room. I have brought in
the tea so it will cool a little, but you must come now."

The young girl thanked her pleasantly and followed her. She returned in
a very short time, nothing tasted good when she was so alone. She
lighted the lamp and took a book and read. It had grown still gradually
outside in the street, quarter after quarter struck from St. Benedict's
tower, until it was eleven o'clock. A carriage drove up--her mother was
coming home.

Gertrude closed her book, it was bedtime. The hall-door closed, steps
went past Gertrude's door--but no, some one was coming in.

Mrs. Baumhagen still wore her black Spanish lace mantilla over her
head. She only wished to ask her daughter what all this was about the
christening this afternoon. The pastor's wife had told her a story of a
curious kind of godfather; the pastor had come home full of it.

"Jenny did not come," explained the young girl, "and a strange
gentleman offered to stand."

"But how horribly pushing," cried the excited little woman. "You should
have drawn back, child--who knows what sort of a person he may be."

"I don't know him, mamma. But whoever he may be, he was so very
good; he never supposed, I am sure, that his kindness could be
misunderstood."

"There," cried Mrs. Baumhagen, "you see it is always so with you--you
are so easily imposed upon by that sort of thing, Gertrude,--really I
get very anxious about you. Did you know that Baron von Lowenberg--I
remember the name now--is a distant connection of the ducal house of
A.? Mrs. von S---- knows the whole family, they are charming people.
But I will not influence you, I am only telling you this by the way.
Sophie tells me an invitation has come from the Stadträthin for
to-morrow. One never has a day to one's self. You will come too? It is
about the Society festival; you young girls will have something to do.

"Jenny had a light still," she continued, without noticing her
daughter's silence. "Arthur brought home Carl Röben, who came for his
young wife, and Lina was just coming up out of the cellar with
champagne.--I beg you will not tell any one about that scene in the
church to-day; I have asked the pastor's wife to be silent too.

"Good night, my child. Of course the tea wasn't fit to drink at Mrs.
S---- as usual."

"Good-night, mamma," replied Gertrude. She took the lamp and looked at
her father's picture once more, then she went to bed. She awoke
suddenly out of a half-slumber; she had heard the voice so distinctly
that she had heard in the church to-day for the first time. She sat up
with her heart beating quickly. No, what she had experienced today had
been no dream. Like a ray of sunshine fell that friendly act of the
unknown into this world of egotism and heartlessness. And then she
staid long awake.



                              CHAPTER III.


The storms of late autumn came on among the mountains, heavy showers of
rain came down from the gray flying clouds and beat upon the dead
leaves of the forest and against the windows of the dwelling-houses.
Frank Linden sat at his writing-table in the room he had fitted up for
himself in the second story, and his eyes wandered from the denuded
branches in the garden to the mountains opposite. His surroundings were
as comfortable as it is possible for a bachelor's room to be--books and
weapons, a bright fire in the stove, good pictures on the walls, the
delicate perfume of a fine cigar, and yet in spite of all this the
expression on his handsome face was by no means a contented one.

He thrust aside a great sheet full of figures and took up instead a
sheet of writing-paper, on which he began rapidly to write:--

"My Dear Old Judge:

"How you would scoff at me if you could see me in my present downcast
mood. It is raining outside, and inside a flood of vexatious thoughts
is streaming over me. I have found out that playing at farming is a
pleasure only when one has a large purse that he can call his own. The
expenses are getting too much for me; everything has to be repaired or
renewed. Well, all this is true, but I do not complain, for in other
ways I have the greatest pleasure out of it. I cannot describe to you
how really poetic a walk through these autumn woods is, which I manage
to take almost daily with old Juno, thanks to the permission of the
royal forester, with whom I have made friends.

"And how delightful is the home coming beneath my own roof!

"But you, most prosaic of all mortals, are probably thinking only about
venison steaks or broiled field-fares, and you only know the mood of
the wild huntsman from hearsay.

"But I wanted to tell you how right you were when you declared of
Wolff: '_Hic niger est!_ Be on your guard against this man--he is a
scoundrel!' Perhaps that would be saying too much, but at any rate he
is troublesome. He sent me yesterday a ticket to a concert and wrote on
a bit of paper: 'Seats 38 to 40 taken by the Baumhagen family--I got
No. 37.' Then he added that the Baumhagens were the most distinguished
and the wealthiest of the patricians in the city--evidently those who
play first fiddle there.

"You know what my opinion is concerning millionaires--anything to
escape their neighborhood.

"Well, in short, I was vexed and sent him back the ticket with the
remark that I was the most unmusical person in the world. He has
already made several attacks of that nature on me, so I suppose there
must be a daughter.

"And now to come at length to the aim of this letter--you know that
Wolff has a heavy mortgage on Niendorf, at a very high rate of
interest. I simply cannot pay it, and wish to take up the mortgage;
would your sister be willing to take it at a moderate rate? I am ready
to give you any information.

"And what more shall I tell you? By the way, the old aunt--you did her
great injustice; I never saw a more inoffensive, more contented
creature than this old woman. A niece who comes to Niendorf every year
on a visit, and whom she seems very fond of, her tame goldfinch, and
her artificial flowers make up her whole world. She asked quite
anxiously if I would let her have her room here till she died. I
promised it faithfully. She has been telling me a good many things
about my uncle's last years. He must have been very eccentric. Wolff
was with him every day, playing euchre with him and the schoolmaster.
He died at the card-table, so to speak. The old lady told me in a
sepulchral voice that he actually died with clubs and diamonds in his
hands. He had just played out the ace and said, 'There is a bomb for
you!' and it was all over. I believe she felt a little horror of this
endings herself. I am going now into the city in spite of wind and rain
to make a few calls. I have got to do it sooner or later. I shall take
the steward with me; he will bring home a pair of farm-horses that he
bought the other day. Perhaps I may happen to stumble on my unknown
little godmother that I wrote you about the other day; so far luck has
not favored me."


He added greetings and his signature, and half an hour later he was on
his way to the city in faultless visiting costume.

Arrived in the hotel he inquired for a number of addresses, then began
with a sigh to do his duty according to that extraordinary custom which
Mrs. Grundy prescribes as necessary in "good society," that is, to call
upon perfect strangers at mid-day and exchange a few shallow phrases
and then to escape as quickly as possible. Thank Heaven! No one was at
home to-day although it was raining in torrents. From a sort of natural
opposition he left the Baumhagens to the last; he belonged to that
class to whom it is only necessary to praise a thing greatly in order
to create a strong dislike to it.

Just as he was on the point of making this visit, he met Mr. Wolff.
"You are going to the Baumhagens?" he asked, evidently agreeably
surprised. "There--there, that house with the bow-window. I wish you
good luck, Mr. Linden!"

Frank had a sharp answer on his lips but the little man had
disappeared. But a woman's figure stepped back hastily from the
bow-window above him.

"Very sorry," said the old servant-maid. "Mrs. Baumhagen is not at
home." He received the same answer in the lower story although he heard
the sounds of a Chopin waltz.

He heard an explanation of this in the hotel at dinner. A great ball
was to take place that evening, and such a festival naturally required
the most extensive preparations on the part of the feminine portion of
society; on such a day neither matron nor maiden was visible. Nothing
else was spoken of but this ball, and some of the gentlemen kindly
invited him to be present; he would find some pretty girls there.

"I am curious to know if the little Baumhagen will be there," said an
officer of Hussars.

"She may stay away for all I care," responded a very blond Referendary.
"She has a way of condescending to one that I can't endure. She is
perfectly eaten up with pride."

"She has just refused another offer, as I heard from Arthur
Fredericks," cried another.

"She is probably waiting for a prince," snarled a fourth.

"I don't care," said Colonel von Brelow, "you may say what you like,
she is a magnificent creature without a particle of provincialism about
her. There is race in the girl."

Frank Linden had listened with an interest which had almost awakened a
desire in him to take part in the ball. He half promised to appear,
took the address of a glove-shop and sat for a couple of hours in
lively conversation. After the lonely weeks he had been spending it
interested him more than he was willing to confess.

"I am really stooping to gossip," he said, amused at himself. When he
went out into the street, darkness had already come down on the short
November day, the gas-lamps were reflected back from the pools in the
street, the shop-windows were brilliantly lighted, and five long
strokes sounded from the tower of St. Benedict's.

He went round the corner of the hotel into the next street, and walked
slowly along on the narrow sidewalk, looking at the shops which were
all adorned with everything gay and brilliant for the approaching
Christmas holidays.

"Good-evening!" said suddenly a timid voice behind him. He turned
round. For a moment he could not remember the woman who stood timidly
before him, with a yoke on her shoulder from which hung two shining
pails. Then he recognized her--it was Johanna.

"I only wanted to thank you so very much," she began, "the sexton
brought me the present for the baby."

"And is my little godchild well?" he asked, walking beside the woman
and suddenly resolving to learn something about "her" at any price.

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Linden; it is but a weakly thing--trouble hasn't
been good for him. But if the gentleman would like to see him--it isn't
so very far and I'm going straight home now."

"Of course I should," he said, and learned as he went along, that she
carried milk twice a day for a farmer's wife.

"Does the young lady come to see her godson sometimes?"

"Ay, to be sure!" replied the woman. "She comes and the baby hasn't a
frock or a petticoat that she hasn't given him. She is so good, Miss
Gertrude. We were confirmed together," she added, with pride.

So her name was Gertrude.

They had still some distance to go, through narrow streets and alleys,
before the woman announced that they had reached her house. "There is a
light inside--perhaps it is mother, the child waked up I suppose. My
mother lives up stairs," she explained, "my father is a shoemaker."

The window was so low that a child might have looked in easily, so he
could overlook the whole room without difficulty.

"Stay," he whispered, holding Johanna's arm.

"O goodness! it is the young lady," she cried, "I hope she won't be
angry."

But Frank Linden did not reply. He saw only the slender girlish figure,
as she walked up and down with the crying child in her arms, talking to
him, dancing him till at last he stopped crying, looked solemnly in her
face for awhile and then began to crow.

"Now you see, you silly little goosie," sounded the clear girl's voice
in his ears, "you see who comes to take care of you when, you were
lying here all alone and all crumpled up, while your mother has to go
out from house to house through all the wind and rain;--you naughty
baby, you little rogue, do you know your name yet? Let's see.
Frank,--Frankie? O such a big boy! Now come here and don't cry a bit
more and you shall have on your warm little frock when your mother
comes." And she sat down before the stove and began to take off the
little red flannel frock.

[Illustration: "She sat down before the stove and began to take off the
little red flannel frock."]

"Ask if I may come in, Johanna," said Linden. And the next moment he
had entered behind the woman.

A flush of embarrassment came over the young girl's face, but she
frankly extended her hand. "I am glad to see you, Mr. Linden--mamma was
very sorry that she could not receive you this afternoon. You--"

He bowed. Then she belonged to one of the houses where he had called
to-day. But to which one?

"Do you know, I never knew till to-day that you were living in the
neighborhood," she continued brightly. "I was standing in our
bow-window when you came across the square, and saw you inquiring for
our house."

"Then I have the honor to see Miss Baumhagen?" he asked, somewhat
disturbed by this information.

"Gertrude Baumhagen," she replied. "Why do you look so surprised?"

With these words she took her cloak from the nearest chair, put a small
fur cap on her brown hair and took up her muff.

"I must go now, Johanna, but I will send the doctor to-morrow for the
baby. You must not let things go so,--you must take better care or else
he may have weak eyes all his life."

"Will you allow me to accompany you?" asked Linden, unable to take his
eyes off the graceful form. And that was Gertrude Baumhagen!

She assented. "I am not afraid for myself, but I am sure you would
never find your way out of this maze of streets into which my good
Johanna has enticed you. This part about here is quite the oldest part
of the town. You cannot see it this evening, but by daylight a walk
through this quarter would well repay you. I like this neighborhood,
though only people of the lower class live here," she continued,
walking with a firm step on the slippery pavement.

"Do you see down there on the corner that house with the great stone
steps in front and the bench under the tree? My grandmother was born in
that house, and the tree is a Spanish lilac. Grandfather fell in love
with her as she sat one evening under the tree rocking her youngest
brother. She has often told me about it. The lilac was in blossom and
she was just eighteen. Isn't it a perfect little poem?"

Then she laughed softly. "But I am telling you all this and I don't
know in the least what you think of such things."

They were just opposite the small house with the lilac tree. He stopped
and looked up. She perceived it and said: "I can never go by without
having happy thoughts and pleasant memories. Never was there a dearer
grandmother, she was so simple and so good." And as he was silent she
added, as if in explanation, "She was a granddaughter of the foreman in
grandpapa's factory."

Still nothing occurred to him to say and he could not utter a merely
conventional phrase.

She too remained silent for a while. "May I ask you," she then began,
"not to give too many presents to the baby--they are simple people who
might be easily spoiled."

He assented. "A man like me is so unpractical," he said, by way of
excuse. "I did not exactly know what was expected of me after I had
offered myself as godfather in such an intrusive manner."

"That was no intrusion, that was a feeling of humanity, Mr. Linden."

"I was afraid I might have seemed to you, too impulsive--too--" he
stopped.

"O no, no," she interrupted earnestly. "What can you think of me? I can
easily tell the true from the false--I was really very glad," she
added, with some hesitation.

"I thank you," he said.

And then they walked on in silence through the streets;--Gertrude
Baumhagen stopped before a flower-store behind whose great glass panes
a wealth of roses, violets and camellias glowed.

"Our ways separate here," she said, as she gave him her hand. "I have
something to do in here. Good-bye, Mr.--Godfather."

He had lifted his hat and taken her hand. "Good-bye, Miss Baumhagen."
And hesitatingly he asked--"Shall you be at the ball to-night?"

"Yes," she nodded, "at the request of the higher powers," and her blue
eyes rested quietly on his face. There was nothing of youthful pleasure
and joyful expectation to be read in them. "Mamma would have been in
despair if I had declined. Good-night, Mr. Linden."

The young man stood outside as she disappeared into the shop. He stood
still for a moment, then he went on his way.

So that was Gertrude Baumhagen! He really regretted that that was her
name, for he had taken a prejudice against the name, which he had
associated with vulgar purse-pride. The conversation at the hotel table
recurred to him. He had figured to himself a supercilious blonde who
used her privileges as a Baumhagen and the richest girl in the city, to
subject her admirers to all manner of caprices. And he had found the
Gertrude of the church, a lovely, slender girl, with a simple unspoiled
nature, possessing no other pride than that of a noble woman.

Involuntarily he walked faster. He would accept the kind invitation to
the ball. But when he reached the hotel he had changed his mind again.
He did not care to see her as a modern society woman, he would not
efface that lovely picture he had seen through the window of that poor
little house. He could not have borne it if she had met him in the
brilliant ball-room, with that air of condescension with which he had
heard her reproached to-day. He decided to dine at home.

With this thought he had walked down the street again till he reached
the flower-shop. On a sudden impulse he entered and asked for a simple
bouquet.

The woman had an immense bouquet in her hand at the moment, resembling
a cart-wheel surrounded by rich lace, which she was just giving to the
errand-boy.

"For Miss Baumhagen," she said, "here is the card."

Frank Linden saw a coat-of-arms over the name. He stepped back a
moment, undecided what to do. Then the shopwoman turned towards him.

"A simple bouquet," he repeated. There was none ready, but they could
make up one immediately. The young man himself chose the flowers from
the wet sand and gave them to her. It must have been a pleasant
occupation for he was constantly putting back a rose and substituting a
finer one for it. At last it was finished, a graceful bouquet of white
roses just tinted with pink, like a maiden's blush, interspersed with
maiden-hair and delicate ferns. He looked at the dainty blossoms once
more, then paid for it and went back to the hotel. Then he laid the
bouquet on the table, called for ink and paper, took a visiting-card
and wrote. Suddenly he stopped and smiled, "What nonsense!" he said,
half aloud, "she is sure to carry the big bouquet." Then he began again
and read it over. It was a little verse asking if the godfather might
at this late hour send to the godmother the flowers which according to
ancient custom he ought to have offered at the christening, and
modestly hoping she would honor them by carrying them to the ball that
night. He smiled again, put it into the envelope and gave the bouquet
and letter to a messenger with instructions to carry both to Miss
Baumhagen. And then a thought struck him--the ball began at eight
o'clock--that would be in ten minutes--he would see Gertrude Baumhagen,
see--if his bouquet--nonsense! Very likely! But then he would wait. "It
is well the judge does not see me now!" he whispered to himself. He
felt like a child at Christmas time, so happy was he and so full of
expectation as he wandered up and down the square in front of the
hotel.



                              CHAPTER IV.


The clock struck eight. Gentlemen on foot had already been coming to
the hotel for some time, then ladies arrived, and at length the first
carriage containing guests for the ball rolled up, dainty feet tripped
up the steps, and rich silks rustled as they walked. Carriage followed
carriage; now came an elegant equipage with magnificent gray horses, a
charming slight woman's figure in a light blue dress covered with
delicate lace, bent forward, and a silvery laugh sounded in Linden's
ear. "It is Mrs. Fredericks," he heard the people murmur behind him.

So that was her sister!

The beautiful young wife swept up the steps like a lovely fairy,
followed by her husband in a faultless black dress-coat, carrying her
fan and bouquet.

The carriage dashed across the marketplace again, to return in less
than five minutes.

"Gertrude!" whispered Linden, drawing involuntarily further back into
the shadow. A short stout lady in a light gray dress descended from the
carriage, then she glided out and stood beside her mother, slender and
graceful in her shimmering white silk, her beautiful shoulders lightly
covered, and in her hand a well-known bouquet of pale roses. But this
was not the girl of a few hours back. The small head was bent back as
if the massive light brown braids were too heavy for it, and an
expression of proud reserve which he had not before perceived, rested
on the open countenance.

Two gentlemen started forward to greet the ladies; the first gallantly
offered his arm to the mother, the other approached the young girl. She
thanked him proudly, scarcely touching his arm with her finger-tips.
Then suddenly this figure from which he could not take his eyes,
vanished like a beautiful vision.

The encounter had left him in a mood of intense excitement. He bestowed
a dollar on a poor woman who stood beside him with a miserable child in
her arms, and he ordered out so big a glass of hot wine for old
Summerfeld, his coachman, that the old man was alarmed and hoped "they
should get home all right."

"What folly it is," said Linden to himself. And when a moment later his
carriage drove up, and at the same moment the notes of a Strauss waltz
struck his ear, he began to hum the air of "The Rose of the South."
Then the carriage rattled over the market-place out on the dark country
road, and sooner than usual he was at home in his quiet little room,
taking a thousand pleasant thoughts with him.

In the manor-house at Niendorf there was one room in which roses
bloomed in masses; not only in the boxes between the double windows or
in the pots on the sill according to the season, but in the room
itself, thousands of earth's fairest flowers were wreathed about the
pictures and furniture. It had a strange effect, especially when
instead of the sleeping beauty one might have expected to find here,
one perceived a very old woman in an arm chair by the window,
unweariedly engaged in cutting leaves and petals out of colored silk
paper, shaping and putting them together so that at length a rose
trembled on its wire stem, looking as natural from a little distance as
if it had just been cut from the bush. Aunt Rosalie could not live
without making roses; she lavished half her modest income on silk
paper, and every one whom she wished well, received a wreath of roses
as a present, red, pink, white and yellow blossoms tastefully
intermixed. All the village beauties wore roses of Aunt Rosalie's
manufacture in their well-oiled hair at the village dances. The graves
in the church-yard displayed masses of white and crimson roses from the
same store, torn and faded by wind and sun. The little church was
lavishly decked every year by Aunt Rosalie, with these witnesses to her
skill.

She was known therefore throughout the village to young and old as
"Aunt Rose" or "Miss Rose," and not seldom was she followed in her
walks by a crowd of children, especially little girls, with the
petition "a rose for me too!" And "Aunt Rose" was always prepared for
them; the less successful specimens were kept entirely for this purpose
and were distributed from her capacious reticule with a lavish hand.

Frank Linden had long been accustomed to spend an occasional hour in
the old lady's society. At the sight of her something of the atmosphere
of peace which surrounded her seemed to descend upon him and calmed and
soothed him. She would sit calm and still at her little table, her
small withered hands busied in forming the "symbols of a well-rounded
life." By degrees she had related to him in a quaintly solemn tone,
stories of the lives which had passed under the pointed gables of this
roof. There was little light and much shade among them, much guilt, and
error, a dark bit of life-history. A married pair who did not agree, an
only child idolized by both, and this only son covered himself and his
parents with disgrace and fled to America, where he died. The parents
were left behind without hope or comfort in the world, each reproaching
the other for the failure in their son's training. Then the wife died
of grief, and now began an endless term of loneliness for the elderly
man under a ban of misanthropy and scorn of his kind; loving no one but
his dog, associating with no one except with Wolff, who brought the
news and gossip of the town, and treating even him with a disdain
bordering on insult.

"But you see, my dear nephew," the old aunt had added, "there are men
who are more like hounds than the hounds themselves,--dogs will cry out
when they are trodden upon, but the sort to which he belongs will smile
humbly at the hardest kick--and William found such a man necessary to
him."

It was snowing; the mountains were all white, the garden lay shrouded
under a shining white coverlid, and white snow-flakes were dancing in
the air. Frank Linden had come back from hunting with the steward, and
after dinner he went into Aunt Rosalie's room. She rose as he entered
and came towards him.

"There you see, my dear nephew, what happens when you go out for a day.
You have had a visit, such a splendid fashionable visitor in a
magnificent sleigh. I was just taking my walk in the corridor as he
came up the stairs and here is his card,"--she searched in her
reticule--"which he left for you."

Frank took the card and read. "Arthur Fredericks." "Oh, I am sorry," he
said, really regretting his loss. "When was he here?"

"Oh, just at noon precisely, when most Christians are eating their
dinner," she replied. "And the postman has been here too and brought a
letter for you. Oh, dear, where is it now? Where could I have put it?"
And she turned about and began to look for it, first on the table among
the pieces of silk paper and then on the floor, assisted by the young
man.

"What did the letter look like, dearest Aunt?"

"Blue--or gray--blue, I think," she replied, all out of breath, turning
out the contents of her red silk reticule. She brought out a mass of
rose-buds and an immense handkerchief edged with lace, but nothing
else.

"Was the letter small or large?" he inquired from behind the sofa.

"Large and thick," gasped Aunt Rosalie. "Such a thing never happened to
me before in my life--it is really dreadful." And with astounding
agility she turned over the things on the consumptive little piano and
tossed the antique sheets of music about.

"Perhaps it got into the stove, Auntie."

"No, no, it has not been unscrewed since this morning."

Frank Linden went to the bell and rung. "Don't take any more trouble
about it, Auntie, the letter is sure to turn up; let the maid look for
it."

Dorothy came and looked, and looked behind all the furniture, and
shaking out all the curtains--but in vain.

"Well, we will give it up," declared Linden at length--"I suppose it is
a letter from my mother or from the Judge--I can ask them what they had
to say. Let us drink our coffee. Auntie."

"I shan't sleep the whole night," declared the little old lady in much
excitement.

"O don't think any more about it," he begged her, good-humoredly. "I am
sure there was nothing of any great importance in it. Tell me some of
your old stories now, they will just suit this weather."

But the wrinkled face under the great cap still wore an anxious look,
and the dim eyes kept straying away from the coffee cups searchingly
round the room, lingering thoughtfully on the green lamp-shade.
Evidently there was no hope of a conversation with her. After awhile
the young man rose to go to his own room.

"Yes, go, go," she said, relieved, "and then I can think where I could
have put that letter. Oh, my memory! my memory! I am growing so old."

He walked along the corridor and mounted the staircase into the second
story. The twilight of the short winter day had already darkened all
the comers. It was painfully still in the house, only the echo of his
own footsteps sounding in his ear. It was such a day as his friend had
predicted for him--horribly lonely and empty, it seemed to rest like a
heavy weight on this world-remote house. One cannot always read, cannot
always be busy, especially when the thoughts stray uneasily out over
forest and meadow to a distinct goal, and always return anxious and
doubting.

He stood in his room at the window and watched the snow flakes
fluttering down in the darkening air, and fell into a dream as he had
done every day for the last week. He gave himself up to it so entirely
that he fancied he could distinctly hear a light step behind him on the
carpet, and the soft tones of a woman's voice, saying, "Frank,
Frankie!" He turned and gazed into the dusky room. What if she were to
open the door now,--what if she should come in with the child in her
arms? Why should it not be, why could it not be? Were these walls not
strong enough, these rooms not cosy and homelike enough to hold such
happiness?

He began to walk up and down. Folly! Nonsense! What was he thinking of?
Oh, if he had never come here, or better still if she were only the
daughter of the foreman like her grandmother, and sat on the bench
before the little house under the lilac tree, then everything would be
so simple. He would not for the world enter that mad race for Gertrude
Baumhagen's money-bags, in which so many had already come to grief. But
her sweet friendship?--

And then he fell helpless again before the charm of her eyes.

He was suffering from those doubts, from those alternating fears and
hopes that torment every man who is in love. And Frank Linden in his
loneliness had long since acknowledged to himself that he only wanted
Gertrude Baumhagen to complete his happiness.

His was by no means a shy or retiring nature. On the contrary, he
possessed that modest boldness which seems so natural to some people on
whom society looks with favor. If he were owner of a large estate
instead of this "hole"--as the Judge designated Niendorf--he would
rather have asked to-day than to-morrow if she would be his wife,
without too great a shyness of the money-bags. But as it was, he could
not, he must make his way a little first, and before he could do that,
who could tell what might have happened to Gertrude Baumhagen?

He bit his lip at the thought--the result was always the same. But was
a true heart nothing then, and a strong will? If the Judge were only
here so he could ask him--

During these thoughts he had lighted the lamp. There lay the card on
the table, which Aunt Rosalie had given him. "Arthur Fredericks." He
smiled as he thought of the little insignificant man to whom her sister
had given her heart, and he could not think of Gertrude as belonging to
him in any way. At last a return visit from him! And there were some
half effaced words written with a pencil.

"Very sorry not to have met you; hope you will come to a little supper
at our house the day after Christmas."

It was the first invitation to Gertrude's house. He wrote an acceptance
at once. Then he remembered that he had ordered the sleigh to go to the
city to do some errands there. He would send the hotel porter across
with the card.



                               CHAPTER V.


Christmas had passed and the last of the holidays had come with rain
and thaw; it stripped off the brilliant white snowy coverlid from the
earth as if it had been only a festal decoration, and the black earth
was good enough for ordinary days.

Mrs. Baumhagen was sitting in a peevish mood at the window in her room
looking out over the market-place. She had a slight headache, and
besides--there was nothing at all to do to-day, no theatre, no party,
not even the whist club, and yesterday at Jenny's it had been very
dull. Finally she was vexed with Gertrude who, contrary to all custom,
had talked eagerly to her neighbor at dinner, that stranger who had run
after her in the church that time.

It was foolish of the children to have placed him beside her.

"A letter, Mrs. Baumhagen." Sophie brought in a simple white envelope.

"Without any post-mark? Who left it?" she asked, looking at the
handwriting which was quite unknown to her.

"An old servant or coachman, I did not know him."

Mrs. Baumhagen shook her head as she took the letter and read it.

She rose suddenly, with a deep flush on her face, and called:

"Gertrude! Gertrude!"

The young girl came at once.

The active little woman had already rung the bell and said to Sophie as
she entered:

"Call Mrs. Fredericks and my son-in-law, tell them to come quickly,
quickly!--Gertrude, I must have an explanation of this. But I must
collect myself first, must--"

"Mamma," entreated the young girl, turning slightly pale, "let us
discuss the matter alone--why should Jenny and Arthur--?"

"Do you know then what is in this letter?" cried the excited mother.

"Yes," replied Gertrude, firmly, coming up to the arm chair into which
her mother had thrown herself.

"With your consent, child?--Gertrude?"

"With my consent, mamma," repeated the young girl, a clear, bright
crimson staining the beautiful face.

Mrs. Baumhagen said not another word, but began to cry bitterly.

"When did you permit him to write to me?" she asked, after a long
pause, drying her eyes.

"Yesterday, mamma."

At this moment Jenny thrust her pretty blonde head in at the door.

"Jenny!" cried the mother, the tears again starting to her eyes, and
the obstinate lines about the mouth coming out more distinctly.

"For Heaven's sake, what is the matter?" cried the young wife.

"Jenny, child! Gertrude is engaged!"

Mrs. Jenny recovered her composure at once. "Well," she cried, lightly,
"is that so great a misfortune?"

"But, to whom, to whom!" cried the mother.

"Well?" inquired Jenny.

"To that--that--yesterday--Linden is his name, Frank Linden. Here it is
down in black and white,--a man that I have hardly seen three times!"

Jenny turned her large and wondering eyes upon Gertrude, who was still
standing behind her mother's chair.

"Good gracious, Gertrude," she cried, "what possessed you to think of
him?"

"What possessed you to think of Arthur?" asked the young girl,
straightening herself up. "How do people ever think of each other? I
don't know, I only know that I love him, and I have pledged him my
word."

"When, I should like to know?"

"Last evening, in your red room, Jenny,--if you think the _when_ has
anything to do with the matter."

"But, so suddenly, without any preparation. What guarantee have you
that he--?"

"As good a guarantee at least," interrupted Gertrude, now pale to the
lips, "as I should have had if I had accepted Lieutenant von
Lowenberg's proposal the other day."

"Yes, yes, she is right there, mamma," said Jenny.

"Oh, of course!" was the reply, "I am to say yes and amen at once. But
I must speak to Arthur first and to Aunt Pauline and Uncle Henry. I
will not take the responsibility of such a step on myself alone in any
case."

"Mamma, you will not go asking the whole neighborhood," said the young
girl, in a trembling voice. "It only concerns you and me, and--" she
drew a long breath--"I shall hardly change my mind in consequence of
any representations."

"But Arthur could make inquiries about him," interrupted Jenny.

"Thank you, Jenny, I beg you will spare yourself the trouble. My heart
speaks loudly enough for him. If I had not known my own mind weeks ago,
I should not be standing before you as I am now."

"You are an ungrateful and heartless child," sobbed her mother. "You
think you will conquer me by your obstinacy. Your father used to drive
me wild with just that same calmness. It makes me tremble all over only
just to see those firmly closed lips and those calm eyes. It is
dreadful!"

Gertrude remained standing a few minutes, then without a word of reply
she left the room.

"It is a speculation on his part," said Mrs. Jenny, carelessly, "there
is no doubt of that."

"And she believes all he tells her," sobbed the mother. "That unlucky
christening was the cause of it all. She is so impressed by anything of
that sort."

Jenny nodded.

"And now she will just settle down forever at that wretched Niendorf,
for there is no turning her when she has once made up her mind."

"Heaven forgive me, she has the Baumhagen obstinacy in full measure; I
know what I have suffered from it."

"This Linden is handsome," remarked Jenny, taking no notice of the
violent weeping. "Goodness, what a stir it will make through the town!
She might have taken some one else. But did I not always tell you,
mamma, that she was sure to do something foolish?"

"Arthur!" she cried to her husband who had just come in, "just fancy,
Gertrude has engaged herself to that--Linden."

"The devil she has!" escaped Arthur Fredericks' lips.

"Tell me, my dear son, what do you know about him? You must have heard
something at the Club, or--"

Mrs. Baumhagen had let her handkerchief fall, and was gazing with a
look of woe at her son-in-law.

"Oh, he is a nice fellow enough, but poor as a church mouse. He knows
what he is about when he makes up to Gertrude. Confound it! If I had
known what he was up to, I would never have asked him here."

"Yes, and she declares she will not give him up," said Jenny.

"I believe that, without any assurances from you; she is your sister.
When you have once got a thing into your head--well, I know what
happens."

"Arthur!" sobbed the elder lady, reproachfully.

"I must beg, Arthur, that you will not always be charging me with spite
and obstinacy," pouted the younger.

"But, my dear child, it is perfectly true--"

"Don't be always contradicting!" cried Mrs. Jenny, energetically,
stamping her foot and taking out her handkerchief, ready to cry at a
moment's notice. He knew this man[oe]uvre of old and drew his hand
hastily through his hair.

"Very well then, what am I to do about it?" he asked. "What do you want
of me?"

"Your advice, Arthur," groaned the mother-in-law.

"My advice? Well then--say yes."

"But he is so entirely without means, as I heard the other day,"
interposed Mrs. Baumhagen.

He shrugged his shoulders. "Bah! Gertrude can afford to marry a poor
man. Besides--I don't know much about Niendorf, but I should think
something might be made of it under good management. He seems to be the
man for the place, and Wolff was telling me the other day that Linden
was going to raise sheep on a large scale."

"That last bit of information of course settles the matter," remarked
Jenny, ironically.

"No, no," cried the mother, sobbing again, "you none of you take it
seriously enough. I cannot bring myself to consent, I have hardly
exchanged half a dozen words with this Linden. Oh, what unheard-of
presumption!" She rose from her chair, and crimson with excitement
threw herself on the lounge.

"Now look out for hysterics," whispered Arthur, indifferently, taking
out a cigar.

Jenny answered only by a look, but that was blighting. She took her
train in her hand and swept past her astonished husband.

"Take me with you," he said, gayly.

"Jenny, stay with me," cried her mother, "don't leave me now."

And the young wife turned back, met her husband at the door, and passed
him with her nose in the air to sit down beside her mother.

Oh, he had a long account to settle with her; she would have her
revenge yet for his disagreeable remarks at the breakfast-table when
she quite innocently praised Colonel von Brelow. He was not expecting
anything pleasant either; she could see that at once, but only let him
wait a little!

"How, mamma?" she inquired, "did you think I had anything to say to
Arthur? Bah! He is an Othello--a blind one--they are always the worst."

"Ah, Jenny, that unhappy child--Gertrude."

"Oh, yes, to be sure," assented the young wife, "that stupid nonsense
of Gertrude's--"

In the meantime the young girl was standing before her father's
picture, her whole being in a tumult between happiness and pain. She
had not closed her eyes the night before since she had shyly given him
her hand with a scarcely whispered, "yes."

She knew he loved her; she had fancied a hundred times what it would be
when he should tell her of it, and now it had come so suddenly, so
unexpectedly. She had loved him long already, ever since she had seen
him that first time; and since then she had escaped none of the joy and
pain of a secret attachment.

She took nothing lightly, did nothing by halves, and she had given
herself up wholly to this fascination. Whoever should try to take him
from her now, must tear her heart out of her breast.

As she stood there the tears ran down over her pale face in great
drops, but a smile lingered about the small pouting mouth.

"I know it very well," she whispered, nodding at her father's picture,
"you would be sure to like him, papa!" And a happy memory of the words
he had spoken yesterday came back to her, of his lonely house, of his
longing for her, and that he could offer her nothing but that modest
home and a faithful heart.

His only wealth at present was a multitude of cares.

"Let me bear the cares with you, no happiness on earth would be greater
than this," she wished to say, but she had only drooped her eyes and
given him her hand--the words would not pass her lips.

It was as if she had been walking in the deepest shadow and had
suddenly come out into the warm, life-giving sunshine. "It is too much,
too much happiness!" she had thought this morning when she got up. She
thought so still, and it seemed to her that the tears she shed were
only a just tribute to her overpowering happiness. If her mother had
consented at once, if she had said, "He shall be like a beloved son to
me, bring him to me at once," that would have been too much, but this
refusal, this distrust seemed to be meant to tone down her bliss a
little. It was like the snow-storm in spring, which covers the early
leaves and blossoms,--but when it is past do they not bloom out in
double beauty?

The conversation in the next room grew more eager. Gertrude heard the
complaining voice of her mother more clearly than before. It had a
painful effect upon her and she cast a glance involuntarily at her
father's picture, as if he could still hear what had been the torture
of his life. Gertrude could recall so many scenes of complaint and
crying in that very room. How often had her father's authoritative
voice penetrated to her ear: "Very well, Ottilie, you shall have your
way, but--spare me!" And how often had a pallid man entered through
that door and thrown himself silently on the sofa as if he found a
refuge here with his child. Ah, and it had been so too on that day,
that dreadful day, when afterwards it had grown so still, so deathly
still.

And there it was again, the loud weeping, the complaints against Heaven
that had made her the most miserable of women, and now was punishing
her through her children. Then there was an opening and shutting of
doors, a running about of servants; Gertrude even fancied she could
perceive the penetrating odor of valerian which Mrs. Baumhagen was
accustomed to take for her nervous attacks. And then the door flew open
and Jenny came in.

"Mamma is quite miserable," she said, reproachfully; "I had to send for
the doctor, and Sophie is putting wet compresses on her head. A lovely
day, I must say!"

"I am so sorry, Jenny," said the young girl.

"Oh, yes, but it was a very sudden blow. I must honestly confess that I
cannot understand you, Gertrude. You must have refused more than ten
good offers, you were always so fastidious, and now you have taken the
first best that offered."

"The best certainly," thought Gertrude, but she was silent.

The young wife mistakenly considered this as the effect of her words.

"Now just consider, child," she continued, "think it over again, you--"

"Stop, Jenny," cried the young girl in a firm voice. "What gives you
the right to speak so to me? Have I ever uttered a word about your
choice? Did I not welcome Arthur kindly? What advantages has he over
Linden? I alone have to judge as to the wisdom of this step, for I
alone must bear the consequences. It is not right to try to influence a
person in a matter that is so individual, that so entirely concerns
that person alone."

"Good gracious, don't get so excited about it!" cried Jenny. "We do not
consider him an eligible _parti_, because he is entirely without
fortune."

A deep shadow passed over Gertrude's pale face. "Oh, put aside the
question of money," she entreated; "do not disturb the sweetest dream
of my life--don't speak of it, Jenny."

But Jenny continued--"No, I will not keep silent, for you live in
dreamland, and you must look a little at the realities of life that you
may not fall too suddenly out of your fancied heaven. Perhaps you
imagine that Frank Linden would have shown such haste if you had not
been Gertrude Baumhagen? Most certainly he would not! I consider
it my duty to tell you that mamma, as well as Arthur and I, are
of the opinion that his first thought was of the capital our good
father--" She stopped, for Gertrude stood before her, tall and
threatening.

"You may comfort yourself, Jenny," she gasped out. "I believe in him,
and I shall speak no word in his defence. You and the others may think
what you please, I cannot prevent it, cannot even resent it, you--" She
stopped, she would not utter the bitter words.--"Be so kind as to tell
mamma that I will not break my word to him." She added, more calmly, "I
shall be so grateful to you, Jenny--if any one can do anything with her
it is you--her darling!"



                              CHAPTER VI.


The young wife left her sister's room almost in consternation. She
could find nothing to say to Gertrude's unexpected reliance upon her.
The sisters had never understood each other. Jenny could not comprehend
now how any one could be so blinded and so unwise, and she was startled
as if by something pure and lofty as the clear girlish eyes rested on
her, which could still discover poetry amid all the dusty prose of
life. She sat down again beside the sofa.

"Mamma," she whispered, after a pause, during which she balanced
her small slipper thoughtfully on the tip of her toe, "Mamma, I
really believe you can't help it--will you have a little eau de
cologne?--Gertrude is so madly in love with him. I am sure you will
have to give your consent, notwithstanding it is so great a
disappointment."

Gertrude remained standing in the middle of the room looking after her
sister. She felt sorry for her. It must be dreadful when one could no
longer believe in love and disinterestedness, and the image of Frank
Linden's true eyes rose up before her as clear as his pure heart
itself. Can a man look like that with ulterior motives? can a man speak
so with a lie in his heart? She could have laughed aloud in her
blissful certainty. Even though she were poor, a beggar indeed, he
would still love her.

In the afternoon a great conference was held. At twelve o'clock an
order was suddenly given from the sofa to have the drawing-room heated,
the Dresden coffee service taken out, and some cakes sent for from the
confectioner's. Madame Ottilie would hold a family counsel.

The aroma of Sophie's celebrated coffee penetrated even to Gertrude's
lonely room. She could hear the doors open and shut, and now and then
the voice of Aunt Pauline, and Uncle Henry's comfortable laugh. The day
drew near its close and still no conclusion seemed to have been arrived
at, but Gertrude sat calmly in her bow-window and waited. He would be
calm too, she was sure of that--he had her word. Steps at last--that
must be her uncle.

"Well, Miss Gertrude!" he called out into the dusky room--"he came, he
saw, he conquered--eh? Fine doings, these. Your mother is in a pretty
temper over the presumption of the bold youth. He will need all his
fascinations to gain her favor as a mother-in-law. Well, come in now,
and thank me for her consent."

"I knew it, uncle," she said, pleasantly. "I was sure you would stand
by me."

He was a little old gentleman with a little round body, which he always
fed well in his splendid bachelor dinners; always in good humor,
especially after a good glass of wine. And as he knew what an agreeable
effect this always had upon him, he never failed for the benefit of
mankind, to make use of this means of making himself amiable and merry.
He now took the tall, slender girl laughingly by the hand as if she
were a child, and led her towards the door.

"Live and let live, Gertrude!" he cried. "It is out of pure egotism
that I made such a commotion about it. You need not thank me, I was
only joking. You see, I can stand anything but a scene and a woman's
tears, and your mother understands that sort of thing to a T. That
always upsets me you know. 'Don't make a fuss, Ottilie,' I said. 'Why
shouldn't the little one marry that handsome young fellow? You
Baumhagen girls are lucky enough to be able to take a man simply
because you like him.' Ta, ta! Here comes the bride!" he called out,
letting Gertrude pass before him into the lighted room.

She walked with a light step and a grave face up to her mother, who was
reclining in the corner of the sofa as if she were entirely worn out by
the important discussion. By her side sat the thin aunt in a black silk
dress, her blond cap reposing on her brown false front, in full
consciousness of her dignity. Jenny sat near her while Arthur was
standing by the stove. The ladies had been drinking coffee, the
gentlemen wine. The violet velvet curtains were drawn and everything
looked cosy and comfortable.

"I thank you, mamma," said Gertrude.

Mrs. Baumhagen nodded slightly and touched her daughter's lips with
hers. "May you never repent this step," she said, faintly; "it is not
without great anxiety that I give my consent, and I have yielded only
in consequence of my knowledge of your unbending--yes, I must say it
now--passionate character--and for the sake of peace."

A bitter smile played about Gertrude's mouth.

"I thank you, mamma," she repeated.

"My dear Gertrude," began her aunt, solemnly, "take from me too--"

"Oh, come," interposed Uncle Henry, very ungallantly, "do have
compassion, in the first place on me, but next on that languishing
youth in Niendorf, and send him his answer. It has happened before now
that dreadful consequences have followed such suspense; I could tell
you some blood-curdling stories about it, I assure you. Come, we will
write out a telegram," he continued, drawing a notebook from his pocket
and tearing out a leaf, while he borrowed a pencil from his dear nephew
Arthur.

"Well, what shall it be, Gertrude?" he inquired, when he was ready to
write. "'Come to my arms!' or 'Thine forever!' or 'Speak to my mother,'
or--ha! ha! I have it--'My mother will see you; come to-morrow and get
her consent. Gertrude Baumhagen.' 'And get her consent,'" he spelt out
as he wrote.

"Thanks, uncle," said the young girl; "I would rather write it myself
in my room; his coachman is waiting at the hotel opposite."

She could hear her uncle's hearty laugh over the poor fellow who had
been sighing in suspense from eleven o'clock this morning till now, and
then she shut her door. With a trembling hand she lighted her lamp and
wrote: "Mamma has consented; I shall expect you to-morrow. Your
Gertrude."

The old Sophie, who had been a servant in the Baumhagen house before
the master was married, took the note. "I will carry it across myself,
Miss Gertrude," she said, "and if it was pouring harder than it is, and
if I got my rheumatism back for it, I would go all the same. I have the
fate of two people in my hand in this little bit of paper. God grant
that it may bring joy to you both. Miss Gertrude."

Gertrude pressed her hand and then went to the bow-window and looked
through the glass to watch Sophie as she crossed the square. Her white
apron fluttered now under the street-lamp near the old apple-woman, and
then under the swinging lamp before the hotel. If the old man would
only drive as fast as his horses could carry him! Every minute of
waiting seemed too long to her now.

Then the white apron appeared again under the hotel lamp, but there was
somebody before it. Gertrude pressed her hands suddenly against her
beating heart. "Frank!" she gasped, and her limbs almost refused to
support her as she tried to make a few steps; He had waited for the
answer himself!

"There he is, there he is, my bridegroom!" escaped from the quivering
lips. The whole sacred signification of that blessed word overpowered
her. Then Sophie opened the door softly and he crossed the threshold of
the dainty maiden's boudoir, and shut the door as softly behind him.
The faithful old servant could only see how her proud young mistress
nestled into his arms and mutely received his kisses--"Oh, what a
wonderful thing this love is!" she said, smiling to herself.

Then she turned towards the drawing-room, but when she reached the door
she turned away with a shake of her head. They would all be rushing in
and she would not shorten these blessed minutes for Gertrude. It would
be time enough to go to "madam" in a quarter of an hour. And she busied
herself in the corridor in order to be at hand at the right moment, in
case they should both forget all about the mother in the multiplicity
of things they had to say.

It was midnight before Linden finally drove home. The jovial uncle had
gotten up a little celebration of the betrothal on the spur of the
moment, and made a long speech himself. Then Mrs. Jenny had been very
gay and had laughed and jested with her brother-in-law _in spe_. But
Mrs. Baumhagen, after a private interview of half an hour with the
young man, remained silent and grave, and played out her role of
anxious mother to the end. She scarcely touched her lips to the glass
of champagne when the company drank to the health of the young
betrothed.

Frank Linden, however, had not taken offence at her coldness. She knew
him so slightly, and he had come like a hungry wolf to rob her of her
one little lamb.

It must be dreadful to give up a daughter, he thought, and especially
such a daughter as Gertrude. He was touched to the heart; he thought of
his own old mother, he thought how gloomy the future had looked to him
only a few weeks ago and how sunny it was now; and all these sunny rays
shone out from a pair of blue eyes in a sweet, pale, girlish face. He
did not know himself how he had happened to speak to her so quickly of
his love. He saw again that brilliantly lighted crimson room of
yesterday, and the dim twilight in the bow-window room; there she stood
in the wonderful light, a mingled moonlight and candle-light. The
Christmas tree was lighted in the next room and the voices and laughter
of the company floated to his ears. She had turned as he approached her
and he had seen tears on her cheeks. But she laughed as she perceived
his dismay.

"Ah, it is because Christmas always reminds me of papa. He has been
dead seven years yesterday."

One word had led to another and at length they had found their hands
clasped together.

"I would gladly have held this little hand fast that time in the
church. Would you have been angry, Gertrude?" and she had shaken her
head and looked up at him, smiling through her tears, trusting and
sweet, this proud young creature--his bride, soon to be his wife!

He started up out of his dream. The carriage stopped at the steps and
the house rose dark above him--only behind Aunt Rosa's windows was a
light still shining. He went up the steps as if in a dream and entered
the garden hall. He looked round as if he had entered the room for the
first time, so strange it looked, so changed, so bare and cold. And he
thought of the time when someone would be waiting for him here. He
could not imagine such happiness.

The door opened softly behind him and as he turned he saw Aunt Rosa
appearing like a ghost.

"I have been waiting for you, my dear nephew," she cried out in her
shrill voice; "I have found that letter at last, thank Heaven! It is
upstairs in your room, and it has taken a weight off my mind, I assure
you, Frank." She nodded kindly at him from under her enormous cap. "You
are late getting home. I am tired and am going to bed now. Goodnight,
good-night!"

And she moved lightly like a ghost to the door.

"Auntie!" cried a voice behind her so loud and gay that she turned
round in amazement. But then he was beside her and had clasped her in
both arms, and before she knew what was happening to her, the shy old
maiden lady felt a resounding kiss on her cheek.

"What on earth, Frank Linden--have you gone out of your mind?"

"O, auntie, I can't keep it to myself, I shall choke if I do. So don't
be cross. If I had my old mother here, I should kiss the old lady to
death for pure bliss. You must congratulate me. Gertrude Baumhagen will
be my wife."

Aunt Rosa's half-shocked, half-vexed countenance grew rigid. "Is it
possible," she whispered, in amazement, "she will marry into our old
house? And the family have consented?"

"A Baumhagen--yes! And she will marry into this old house and the
family have consented. Aunt Rosa."

"God's blessing on you! God's richest blessing!" she whispered, but she
shook her head and looked at him incredulously. "I shan't sleep a bit
to-night," she continued. "I am glad, I rejoice with all my heart, but
you might have told me to-morrow. It is done now. Good night, Frank. I
am glad indeed; this old house needs a mistress. God grant that she may
be a good one." And she pressed his hand as she left him.

He too went to his room. The lamp was burning on the round table and a
letter lay beneath it. Ah, true! the long-lost letter! He took it up
abstractedly--it was in Wolff's handwriting. He put it down again; what
could he want? Some business of course. Should he spoil this happy
hour with unpleasant, perhaps care-bringing news? No, let the letter
wait--till--but he had already taken it up and broken the seal.

[Illustration: "But he had already taken it up and broken the seal."]

It was a long letter and as he read, he bit his lips hard. "Pitiful
scoundrel!" he said at length, aloud, "it is well this letter did not
reach me sooner, or things would not have happened as they have." And
as if shrinking with disgust from the very touch of the paper, he flung
it into the nearest drawer of his writing-table.

"Vile wretches, who make the most sacred things a matter of traffic!"

He sat for a long time lost in thought, and a deep furrow marked itself
out between his brows. Then he wrote a long letter to his friend, the
judge, and gradually his face cleared again--he was telling him about
Gertrude.



                              CHAPTER VII.


"Good morning, Uncle Henry," said Gertrude, who was sitting at her
work-table in the bow-window. She rose as she spoke and went to meet
the stout little gentleman as he entered.

"Well, it is lucky that one of you at least is at home," he replied,
rubbing his glasses with his red handkerchief, after giving Gertrude's
hand a hearty shake. "I wonder if one of the women-kind except you
could possibly stay at home for a day. Mrs. Jenny is making calls, Mrs.
Ottilie is gone to a coffee party--it is easy to see that a strong hand
to hold the reins is wanting here."

Gertrude smiled.

"Uncle, don't scold, but come and sit down," she said. "You come just
in time for me; I had just written a little note to you to ask you to
come and see me. I need your advice."

"Oh! but not immediately, child, not immediately! I have just had my
dinner," he explained, "and nothing can be more dangerous than hard
thinking just after a meal. Ta, ta! There, this is comfortable; now
tell me something pleasant, child--about your lover; for instance, how
many kisses did he give you yesterday? Honestly now, Gertrude."

He had stretched himself out comfortably in an arm-chair, and his young
niece pushed a footstool under his feet and put an afghan over his
knees.

"None at all, uncle," she said, gravely; "people do not ask about such
things either, you know. Besides I see Frank very seldom," she
hesitated. "Mamma goes out so much, and I cannot receive him when she
is not at home. And, uncle, it is about that that I wanted to speak to
you. Mamma,"--she hesitated again,--"mamma makes me so anxious by all
manner of remarks about Linden's circumstances. You know, uncle--"

"And you think she knows all about them?" said the old gentleman. "Oh,
of course, ta, ta!"

"Yes, uncle. You see the day before yesterday mamma went out to dine
with Jenny, and when she came back she called me into her room, and as
soon as I got there I saw that something had happened. Just fancy,
uncle, she had been in Niendorf to see, as mamma expressed it, the
place where her daughter was going to bury herself. It would be
horrible, she declared, to take a young wife to this peasant house; it
was not fit for any one to live in; she had felt as if she were in some
third-rate farm-house. Linden was sitting in a room--she could touch
the ceiling with her hand it was so low, and it was all so poor and
common. In short, I could not go there, and if I would not give up my
whim of being Mr. Linden's wife, she would have to build a house for me
first, for he--he--well, he certainly would not be able to do it, and
it would be much more convenient too, to have a snug nest made for him
by his mother-in-law. Jenny, who was present at this scene, agreed with
her in everything. Oh, uncle, I am so sorry for him, and it is all on
my account."

"Did your mother speak to him about building?" asked Uncle Henry.

She drew her hand across her forehead.

"I don't know--I went away without answering. If I had made any reply,
it would have been of no use--we battle with unequal weapons, or rather
I cannot use my weapons, for she is still my mother."

Her uncle's eyes gazed at her with unmistakable compassion--she was so
pale and she had a weary look about her mouth.

"You poor child! I see they do not make your engagement time exactly a
Paradise to you," he thought; but he only cleared his throat and said
nothing.

"And what can I do about it?" he asked, after a pause.

"I am going to tell you that now," said Gertrude. "You see I have to
torment you. I am not on such terms with Arthur that he could advise me
in this. I want to ask you, uncle, to speak to Frank--I must know how
great his pecuniary difficulties are, and--"

"Nonsense, child," interrupted the old gentleman, evidently
unpleasantly surprised,--"Why should you drag me in? Pecuniary
difficulties! What can you do about it? For the present you have
nothing to do with it--and you will find out about it soon enough."

"You mean because we are not yet man and wife?" she asked.

"Of course!" he nodded.

"O, it is quite the same thing, uncle," she cried, eagerly. "From the
moment of our betrothal, I have considered myself as belonging to him
entirely, and everything of mine as his. Then why, since I can already
dispose of a part of my property as I please, should I not help him out
of what may perhaps be a very unpleasant situation?"

"But, my dear child--"

"Let me have my say out, uncle. You know I have ten thousand dollars
that came from my grandmother, about which no one has anything to say
but myself, and you shall pay over these ten thousand dollars to
Linden. I suppose he will have to build--he may need all sorts of
things then, and he will be fretted and worried--do this for me, uncle;
you see _I_ cannot talk to him about such things."

"Indeed, I will not, Miss Gertrude."

"Why?"

"Because he would take it, finally--or he would be angry. Thanks, ever
so much."

"But I want him to take it."

He was silent.

"When are you going to be married, child?" he inquired at length.

A rosy flush passed over Gertrude's face--"Mamma has not said anything
about it yet. Frank wants it to be in April, and--I do not want to
increase his difficulties by my reception."

"Very well, very well, he can wait as long as that," said the old
gentleman.

She looked disappointed, but she said nothing.

"I don't want to go against your wishes, little one," he continued,
perceiving her sorrowful looks. "I only want to do what is right in
matters of business. Now you see if you are bent on following out this
plan you will throw away a fine sum of money--in order to make your
nest a right comfortable one. _Amantes_, _amentes_--that is to say in
plain English, lovers are mad--and when you wake up to what you have
done all your fat is in the fire."

Gertrude said nothing, but she wore a pained expression about her
mouth. _He_ too spoke so. How often lately had she heard the same
thing? Even her pleasure in the single present Linden had made her had
been spoiled by similar insulting remarks.

"Oh, don't look so miserable about it, little one," yawned the old
gentleman; "what have I said? We men are all egotists with one another
I assure you. Why then will you confirm your lover in his egotism and
let the roasted larks fly into his mouth beforehand? Keep a tight rein
over him, Gertrude, that is the only sensible thing to do; you must not
let him be anything more than the Prince Consort--keep the reins of
government in your own little fists; confound it, I believe you can
rule too!"

"Uncle," said the young girl, softly going up to him, "Uncle, you are a
hypocrite, you say things that you don't believe yourself. You are all
egotists? And I don't know any one in the world who has less claim to
the title than you."

"Really, child," he declared, laughing, "I am an egotist of the purest
water."

"Indeed? Who gives as much as you to the poor of the city? Who supports
the whole family of the poor teacher, with rent, clothes, food and
drink? _Who_ now, uncle?"

"All selfishness, pure selfishness!" he cried.

"Prove it, uncle, prove it logically."

"Nothing easier. You know the story of how I got a cramp in my leg and
dragged myself into the nearest house on the Steinstrasse, and sank
down on the first chair I could find. I was just going to dinner; had
invited Gustave Seyfried and Augustus Seemann to dine with me--well,
you know they have lived in Paris and London. So there I sat in that
little low room. The people were at dinner and a dish of thin potato
soup stood on the table, that would have been hardly enough for the man
alone. Seven children--seven children, mind you, Gertrude,--stood
round, and the mother was dealing out their portions. She began with
the youngest; the oldest, a lad of fourteen, got the last of the dish.
There was not much in it, and I shall never forget the look of those
sunken hungry eyes as they rested on that empty bowl. It made me feel
so queer all at once. I asked casually, what the man's business was?
Teacher of language at twelve cents an hour! He could not get a
permanent position on account of his ill health. Good God, Gertrude!
Four hours a day would give him fifty cents and he had seven children!

"Well, do you know, that day we had oysters before the soup, and they
were rather dear just then, so I reckoned up that each one of those
smooth little delicacies cost as much as an hour's lesson, in which the
poor man talked his poor, weak throat hoarse. They wouldn't go down my
throat in spite of their slipperiness. I couldn't swallow more than
half a dozen and that was disagreeable. At every course it was the same
story, and when Louis uncorked the champagne, every pop seemed to go
straight to my stomach. I never ate a more uncomfortable dinner--it
disagreed with me besides, and I had to take some soda water. 'Confound
it!' I said, 'this thing can't go on,' and--you know, child, that a
good dinner is the purest pleasure in the world for men of my sort. So
there was nothing for me, if I wanted to enjoy my oysters again, but to
comfort myself with the thought that the seven hungry mouths were also
busy about their dinner. So I sent John to the teacher's wife to ask
her how much money she needed a month to feed all seven, with herself
and her husband into the bargain, so they would have enough. And, good
gracious, it wasn't such an enormous sum, and so I pay her a certain
sum every month and I can enjoy my dinner again at the hotel. Now,
prove if you can that that isn't pure selfishness."

"Oh, of course, uncle," said the young girl, with brightening eyes,
"but I like that sort of selfishness."

"It is all one, Gertrude; I am sending Hannah into retirement now out
of selfishness; she is getting so stout that she can't get through the
door any more with the coffee tray. And I ask you if I am to keep
another servant to open the double doors for her, just for the sake of
the old asthmatic woman? That would be fine! So I said to her this
morning, 'Hannah, you can go at Easter, and I will continue your wages
as a pension.' She was delighted, because she can go to her daughter,
now."

"Uncle, I know you very well. I can trust to you," coaxed Gertrude.
"You will speak to Frank, won't you?"

"Oh, well, yes, yes, only don't blush so. Now you see you have spoiled
my dessert with all your talking. When does her serene highness come
home?"

"I don't know," replied the young girl.

"To be sure, these coffee-parties are never to be counted upon. So you
two lovers only see each other on state occasions, like Romeo and
Juliet, or when you have company yourselves?"

Gertrude nodded silently.

"Is it possible!" cried the little gentleman as he rose to go--"as if
the time of an engagement were not the happiest in the world.
Afterwards it is all pure prose, my child. And they are spoiling this
time for you now--well, you just wait. I must go now to my card-party.
I will look in on your mother this evening. Good bye; my love to him
when you write."

"Good-bye, uncle. Don't forget that I shall trust to your selfishness."

When the old gentleman had closed the door behind him, she sat down to
her desk, look out a letter and began to read it. It was his last
letter; it had come this morning and it contained some verses.

How she delighted in these verses in her loneliness! Nothing in the
world could separate them! She would indemnify him a thousandfold by
her love for all he had to endure now. She tried by a thousand sweet,
loving words to make him forget the scorn which her friends scarcely
tried to conceal for his boldness and presumption. His manly pride must
suffer so greatly under it. More than once the blood had mounted
quickly to his forehead, and more than once had he taken leave earlier
than he need, as if he could not keep silent and for the sake of peace
took refuge in flight.

"I wish I had you in Niendorf now, Gertrude," he had said at the last
farewell. "I cannot bear it very patiently to be looked through as if I
were only air, by your mother."

And she had nestled closer to him, trembling with agitation.

"Mamma does not mean anything by it, Frank," replied her lips, though
her heart knew better. And then he had pressed her passionately to him
as he said,

"If I did not love you so much, Gertrude!"

"But it will soon be spring, Frank."

And to-day the verses had come with a bouquet of violets.

She started as she heard Jenny's voice, and immediately after her
sister came in, angry and excited.

"I must come to you for a little rest, Gertrude," she said. "Linden is
not here? Thank goodness! I can't stand it at home any longer, the baby
is so fretful and screams and cries enough to deafen one. The doctor
says he must be put to bed, so I have tucked him into his crib. There
is always something to upset and fret one."

Gertrude started. Well at any rate he was in good hands with Caroline,
she thought.

"Are you going to the masked ball--you and Linden?" asked the young
wife.

"No," replied Gertrude, putting away her letter.

"Why not?"

"Why should we go? I do not like to dance, as you know, Jenny."

"Has Uncle Henry been here?"

"Yes. Is the baby really ill?"

"Oh, nonsense! a little feverish, that is all. We are going to the
Dressels this evening. Arthur has sent to Berlin for pictures of
costumes, for our quadrille. But you don't care for that. You will bury
yourself by and by entirely in Niendorf. The Landrath said to Arthur
the other day, 'Your sister-in-law will not be in her proper position;
she ought to have married a man in such a position that she would be a
leader in society.' You would have been an ornament to any salon and
now you are going to the Niendorf cow-stalls."

"And _how_ glad I am!" said Gertrude, her eyes shining.

"Mrs. Fredericks, ma'am," called the pretty maid just then, "won't you
please come down? The baby is so hot and restless."

Jenny nodded, looked hastily at a half-finished piece of embroidery and
left the room. When Gertrude followed after a short time she was told
that the baby was doing very well and that Mr. and Mrs. Fredericks were
dressing for the evening. And so she went upstairs again to her lonely
room.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


A week later the iron-gray horses were bringing the close carriage back
from the church-yard at a sharp trot. On the back seat sat Arthur
Fredericks with Uncle Henry beside him; opposite was Linden. They wore
crape around their hats and a band of crape on the left arm.

The winter had come back once more in full force before taking its
final departure. It was snowing, and the great flakes settled down on a
little new-made grave within the iron railings of the Baumhagen family
burial-place. Jenny's golden-haired darling was dead!

No one in the carriage spoke a word, and when the three gentlemen got
out each went his own way after a silent handshake: Uncle Henry to take
a glass of cognac, Arthur to his desolate young wife, while Linden went
up to Gertrude. He did not find her in the drawing-room; probably she
was with her sister. Presently he heard a slight rustling. He strode
across the soft carpet and stood in the open door-way of the room with
the bay-window.

"Gertrude!" he cried, in dismay, "for Heaven's sake, what is the
matter?"

She was kneeling before her little sofa, her head hidden in her arms,
her whole frame, convulsed with long, tearless sobs.

"Gertrude!"

He put his arms round her and tried to raise her, when she lifted up
her head and stood up.

"Tell me what has happened, Gertrude," he urged; "is it grief for the
loss of the little one? I entreat you to be calm--you will make
yourself ill."

She had not shed any tears, she only looked deathly pale and her hands,
which rested in his, were cold as ice.

"Come," he said, "tell me what it is?"

And he drew her towards him.

She clung to him as she had never done before.

"It will be all right again," she whispered, "now I am with you."

"Were you afraid? Has anything happened to you?" he inquired, tenderly.

She nodded.

"Yes," she said, hastily, "a little while ago I chanced to hear a few
words mamma was saying to Aunt Pauline--they came up from Jenny's--I
suppose they did not think I was here--I don't know. Mamma was still
crying very much about the baby and--then she said Jenny must go
away--she must have a change--this apathy was so dangerous. You know
she has not spoken a word for three days--and--I must accompany her on
a long journey--so I--" She stopped and bit her quivering lips.

"So you might forget me if possible?" he inquired, gravely.

He put his hand under her chin and looked into her eyes. She did not
reply, but he read the confirmation of his suspicion in her tearful
eyes.

"Are they so anxious to be rid of me? Is their dislike so strong,
Gertrude? And you?" He felt how she trembled.

"Oh!" she cried with a passion which made Linden start, "Oh, I--do
you know there are moments when something seems to take possession
of me with the power of a demon--I am swept away by the force of my
wrath--I--I do not know what I say and do--I am ashamed now--I ought to
have been calm--they cannot separate us, no--they cannot. Now mamma is
lying on the sofa in her room and Sophie has gone for the doctor. Ah,
Frank, I have borne it all so patiently all these long years--is it so
great a sin that my long suppressed feelings should have burst out at
last, that my self-control should have given way for once? I was
violent--I have always thought I was so calm--those words that I heard
seemed to sweep me away like a storm--I don't know what reproaches I
may have spoken against my mother. And to-day, just to-day, when they
have carried away the only sunbeam that was in this house for me!"

"We will go to your mother, Gertrude, and beg her to pardon us for
loving each other so much--come!"

He had said this to comfort her, and because he felt that something
must be done. His own desire would have been to take the young girl by
the hand and lead her away out of this house.

She freed herself from him and looked at him in amazement. "Ask pardon?
And for that?"

"Gertrude, don't misunderstand me." He felt almost embarrassed before
her great wondering eyes.

"I meant that we should show your mother calmly and quietly that we
cannot give each other up. Say something to her in excuse for your
vehemence. Come, I will go with you."

"No, I cannot!" she cried, "I cannot beg forgiveness when I have been
so injured in all that I hold most sacred. I cannot!" she reiterated,
going past him to the deep window.

He followed her and took her hand; a strange feeling had come over him.
Until now he had only seen in her a calm, reasonable woman. But she
misunderstood him.

"No!" she cried, "don't ask me, Frank. I will not do it, I cannot, I
never could! Not even when I was a child, though she shut me up for
hours in a dark room."

"I was not going to urge you," he said; "only give me your hand, I must
know whether this is really you, Gertrude."

She bent down and pressed a kiss on his right hand. "If _you_ were not
in the world, Frank, if I had to be here all alone!" she whispered
warmly.

"But you have all this trouble on my account," he replied, much moved.

She shook her head.

"Only do not misunderstand me," she continued, "and have patience with
my faults. You will promise me that, Frank, will you not?" she urged in
an anxious tone. "You see I am so perverse when I feel injured; I get
as hard as a stone then and everything good seems to die out of me. I
could hate those people who thrust their low ideas on me! Frank, you
don't know how I have suffered from this already."

They still stood hand in hand. The snow whirled about before the window
in the twilight of the short winter day. It was so still here inside,
so warm and cosy.

"Frank!" she whispered.

"My Gertrude!"

"You are not angry with me?"

"No, no. We will bear with each other's faults and we will try to
improve when we are all alone by our two selves."

"You have no faults," she said, proudly, in a tone of conviction,
drawing closer to him.

He was grave.

"Yes, Gertrude, I am very vehement, I sometimes have terrible fits of
passion."

"Those are not the worst men," she said, putting her arm round his
neck.

"Are you so sure of that?" he asked, smiling into the lovely face that
looked so gentle now in the twilight.

"Yes. My grandmother always said so," she replied.

"The grandmother in the old time?"

"Yes, dearest. Oh, if you had only known her! But I should like to see
your mother," she added.

"We will go to see her, darling, as soon as we are married. When will
that be?"

"Frank," she said, instead of answering, "don't let us go on a journey
at once; let me know first what it is to have a home where love, trust
and mutual understanding dwell together. Let me learn first what
_peace_ is."

"Yes, my Gertrude. Would to God I could carry you off to the old house
to-morrow."

"Gertrude!" called a shrill voice from the next room.

She started.

"Mamma!" she whispered. "Come!" They went together. Mrs. Baumhagen was
standing beside her writing-table. Sophie had just brought the lamp,
the light of which shone full on the mother's round flushed face, on
which rested an unusually decided expression.

"I am glad you are here, Linden," she said to the young man, turning
down the leaf of the writing-table and taking her seat before it.

"How much time do you require to put your house in order so that
Gertrude could live in it?"

"Not long," he replied. "Some rooms need new carpets, and trifles of
that sort--that is all."

"Very well--I shall be satisfied," she replied, coldly. "Then to-morrow
you will have the goodness to send your papers in to the clergyman and
have the banns published. In three weeks I shall leave for the South
with my eldest daughter, and before I go I wish to have this--this
affair arranged."

Linden bowed.

"I thank you, madam."

Gertrude stood silent, white to the lips, but she did not look at him.
He knew she was suffering tortures for his sake.

"Now I wish to settle some things with my daughter," continued Mrs.
Baumhagen, "with regard to her trousseau and the marriage contract."

He turned to go at once, but stopped to kiss his bride's hand and
looked at her with imploring eyes. "Be calm," he whispered.

Gertrude laid her hand on her lover's mouth.

"I will have no marriage contract," she said aloud.

"Then your fortune will be common property," was her mother's answer.

"That is what I desire," she replied. "If I can give myself, I will not
keep my money from him. That would seem to me beyond measure, foolish."

Mrs. Baumhagen shrugged her shoulders and turned away. The two were
standing close together and the bitter words died on her lips.

"Your guardian may talk to you about that," she said. "Will you be so
kind, Linden, as to find my brother-in-law? I wish to speak with him."

He kissed Gertrude on the forehead, took his hat and went. Thank
Heaven! he should soon be able to shelter her in his own house, this
proud young girl who loved him so.

He walked quickly across the square. The fresh air did him good. He
felt thoroughly indignant that any one should endeavor to separate
them, putting hundreds of miles between them. How easily might a
misunderstanding arise, how easily with such a character as hers, whom
only the appearance of pettiness would suffice to arouse to scorn,
hatred and defiance! How many couples who were deeply attached to each
other had been separated in this way before now! He dared not think
what would have become of him if it had happened so with them.

"'St!--'St,"--sounded behind him, and as he turned on the slippery
sidewalk he saw Uncle Henry coming down the hotel steps. He had
evidently been dining, and his jovial countenance displayed an
astonishing mixture of sadness and physical comfort.

"I have had my dinner, Linden," he began, putting his arm through the
young man's. "I was very much cast down by this affair of this morning.
You don't misunderstand me I hope? Eh? I am not one of those who lose
their appetites when misfortune comes. I approve of our ancestors who
had funeral feasts. I assure you, Linden, that wasn't such a bad idea
as we of to-day fancy it. Give all honor to the dead, but the living
must have their rights, and to them belong eating and drinking, which
keep soul and body together. Ta, ta! A funeral always upsets me. The
poor little fellow! I was fond of him all the same, you may be sure. I
am sure you have not dined yet. Women never eat under such
circumstances, every one knows."

"I was just going to look for you," replied Linden. "My future
mother-in-law wishes to see you. We--are going to be married in three
weeks."

The little man in the fur coat stopped, and looked at Linden as if he
did not believe his ears.

"How? What? She has changed her mind very suddenly--did Gertrude
improve the opportunity of her softened mood, or--?"

"Gertrude would never do that--no, Mrs. Baumhagen wishes to travel for
some time with her eldest daughter, and--"

"Oh, ta, ta! And Gertrude is not to go?"

"On the contrary--but she would not."

"Aha! Now it dawns upon me, something has happened. Her serene Highness
has been trying--now, I understand--travelling, new scenes, new
people--out of sight, out of mind. Ha! ha! she is a born diplomatist.
Well, I will come, only let us take the longest way; the fresh air does
me good. I am glad though, heartily glad--in three weeks it is to be
then?"

The gentlemen walked on together in silence through the snow. It was
wonderfully quiet in the streets in spite of the traffic of business.
Men and carriages seemed to sweep over the white snow. The air was
mild, with a slight touch of spring, and Frank Linden thought of his
home and of the small room next his own, which would not long remain
unoccupied.

"How do you do, my dear fellow!" said a voice beside him, and a little
man popped up in front of him, holding his hat high above his bald
head--his sharp little face beaming with friendliness. Linden bowed.
Uncle Henry carelessly touched the brim of his hat.

"How do you come to know this Wolff?" he asked, looking after the man,
who was winding his way sinuously in and out among the crowd. "He is a
fellow who would spoil my appetite if I met him before dinner."

"I am or rather was connected with him by business, through my old
uncle--he had money from him on a mortgage on Niendorf," explained
Linden.

"From that cravat-manufacturer? The old man was not very wise."

Linden did not reply. They had just turned into a quiet side-street.

"Does he still hold the mortgage?" asked Mr. Baumhagen.

"No, my friend's sister has taken it."

"Indeed! Why did you not come to _me_ about it? You could have had some
of Gertrude's money--"

Frank Linden made a gesture of refusal.

"Oh--I promised the child; she has authorized me to put a certain
capital at your disposal," explained the old gentleman.

"Thanks," replied Linden, shortly; "I will not have money matters mixed
up with my courtship."

"And the new house at Niendorf?"

"Gertrude knows that she must not expect a fairy palace. Moreover we
can live very comfortably there in the old rooms, though they are low
and small. I have a very pretty garden-hall, and as for the view from
the windows it would be hard to find another like it if you travel ever
so far."

"Oh, the child is happy enough, but how about her serene Highness?"
chimed in Mr. Baumhagen.

"I would far rather have her say, 'My child has gone to live in a
peasant's house,' than, '_We_ had to build first,'" remarked Linden,
drily.

The old gentleman laughed comfortably to himself.

"Yes, yes, that is just what she would say--and she wants to go
on a journey--it is astonishing! My dear old mother sought comfort
in occupation when my father died--that was the good old
custom--now-a-days people go on a journey. It would be better for
Jenny, poor thing, if she were to sorrow deeply here in her home. But
no, she must be dragged away so the whistle of the locomotive may drive
away her last memory of her little one's voice. Linden!" The old man
stopped and laid his hand on his shoulder. "Gertrude is not like that,
you may take my word for it. She would not go away from the little
grave out there--not now. She has her faults too, but--it is all right
with her _here_," striking his breast. "Heaven grant she may be
truly happy with you in the old nest. She has earned it by her sad
youth--through her father."

Frank nodded. He knew it all very well, just as the old egotist told it
to him.

"Well, now we must go," continued Uncle Henry; "my sister-in-law wants
to speak to me about the wedding, I suppose."

"I think it is about the marriage contract," said Frank Linden, "and
I want to beg you to urge upon Gertrude to yield to her mother's
wishes--I shall like it better."

"Hm!" said the old man, clearing his throat. "I yield, thou yieldest,
he yields, she--will _not_ yield! She is a perverse little
monkey--pardon. But it is no use mincing matters. She takes it from her
father. He was a splendid man of business, but as soon as his feelings
were concerned, away with prudence, wisdom, calculation, and what not.
Oh, ta, ta! But here we are."

Mrs. Baumhagen received them very quietly, Gertrude was not with her.

"She is in her room," she said to Linden, as he looked round for her.
"She expects you."

He found her in the deep window. There was no lamp in the room, and the
light from the fire played on the carpet, "Gertrude," he said, "how can
I thank you!" And he took her hands, which burned in his like fire.

"For what?" she asked.

"For everything, Gertrude! You were quiet with your mother?" he added,
quietly, as she was silent.

"Perfectly so," she replied; "I thought of you. But I am determined not
to have a marriage settlement."

"You foolish girl. I might be unfortunate and have bad harvests and
things of that sort--then you would suffer too."

She nodded and smiled.

"To be sure, and I would help you with all I possess. And if we have
bad harvests and nothing, nothing will succeed, and we have nothing
more in the world, then--" she stopped and looked at him with her
happy, tear-stained eyes--"then we will starve together, won't we, you
and I?"



                              CHAPTER IX.


The wedding-day came, not as such joyful days usually come. It was as
still as death in the house, which was still plunged in the deepest
mourning.

The large suite of rooms had been opened and warmed, and over
Gertrude's door hung a garland of sober evergreen. The day before the
door-bell had had no rest, and one costly present after another had
been handed in. All the magnificence of massive silver, majolica,
Persian rugs and other costly things had been spread out on a long
table in the bow-window room. A gardener's assistant was still moving
softly about in the salon, decorating the improvised altar with orange
trees. The fine perfume of _pastilles_ lingered in the air and the
flame from the open fire was reflected in the glass drops of the
chandelier and the smooth _marqueterie_ of the floor. Outside, the
weather was treacherously mild. It was the first of March.

Mrs. Baumhagen had been crying and groaning all the morning, and
between the arrangements for the wedding, she had been giving orders
respecting her own journey. The huge trunks stood ready packed in the
hall. The next day but one they would start for Heidelberg to see a
celebrated doctor.

As for Gertrude's trousseau, her mother had not concerned herself about
it--she would attend to it herself. Gertrude's taste was very
extraordinary, at the best; if she liked blue Gertrude would be sure to
pronounce for red, it had always been so. Ah, this day was a dreadful
one to her, and it was only the end of weeks of torture. Since the
funeral of the baby, when her daughter had made such a scene, they had
been colder than ever to each other. Gertrude's eyes could look so
large, so wistful, as if they were always asking, "Why do you disturb
my happiness?"

She should be glad when they had fairly started on their journey.

At this time the ladies were all dressing; the wedding was to take
place at five o'clock. The faithful Sophie was helping Gertrude
to-day--she would not permit any one to take her place.

Gertrude had put on her wedding-dress, and Sophie was kneeling before
her, buttoning the white satin boots.

"Ah, Miss Gertrude," sighed the old woman, "it will be so lonely in the
house now. Little Walter dead and you away!"

"But I shall be so happy, Sophie." The soft girlish hand stroked the
withered old face which looked up at her so sadly.

"God grant it! God grant it!" murmured the old woman as she rose. "Now
comes the veil and the wreath, but I am too clumsy for that, Miss
Gertrude--but, ah, here is Mrs. Fredericks."

Jenny entered through the young girl's sitting-room. She wore a dress
of deep black transparent crêpe, and a white camellia rested on the
soft light braids. She was deathly pale and her eyes were red with
weeping.

"I will help you, Gertrude," she said, languidly, beginning to fasten
the veil on her sister's brown hair. "Do you remember how you put on my
wreath, Gertrude? Ah, if one could only know at such a time what
dreadful grief was coming!"

"Jenny," entreated Gertrude, "don't give yourself up to your grief so.
When I came down when Walter died, and Arthur was holding you so
tenderly in his arms I thought what great comfort you had in each
other. That is after all the greatest happiness, when two people can
stand by each other, in sorrow and trial."

"Oh," said Jenny, her lip curling disdainfully; "I assure you Arthur is
half-comforted already. He can talk of other things, he can eat and
drink and go to business, he can even play euchre. Wonderful happiness
it is indeed!"

"Ah, Jenny, you cannot expect him to feel the grief that a mother does,
he--"

"Oh, you will find it out too," interrupted the young wife. "Men are
all selfish."

Gertrude rose suddenly from her chair. She was silent, but her eyes
rested reproachfully on her sister as if to say, "Is that the blessing
you give me to take with me?"

But her lips said only, "Not all, I know better."


Jenny stood in some embarrassment. "I must go down to Arthur now or he
will never be ready at the right time, and then it will be time for me
to come up to receive the guests."

The train of her dress swept over the carpet like a dark shadow as she
went.

Gertrude sat down for a while in the deep window. The white silk fell
in shimmering folds about her beautiful figure, and the grave young
face looked out from the misty veil as from a cloud. She folded her
hands and looked at her father's picture. "I will take you with me
to-night, papa." And her thoughts flew off to the quiet country-house.
She did not know it yet. Only once, when she had driven through the
village on a picnic, had she seen a sharp-gabled roof and gray walls
rising up among the trees. Who would have thought that this would one
day be her home!

She felt as if it were heartless in her not to feel the departure from
her father's house more. And from her mother? Ah, her mother! Papa had
loved her, very much at one time. Should she go away without one tear,
without one kind motherly word? Gertrude forgot everything in this
blissful moment; she remembered only the good, the time when she was a
happy child and her mother used to kiss her tenderly. She would not go
without a reconciliation.

She rose, gathered up the long train of her wedding-dress and went
across the dusky hall to her mother's chamber. She knocked softly and
opened the door.

Mrs. Baumhagen was standing before the tall mirror in a black moiré
antique, with black feathers and lace in her still brown hair. Gertrude
could see her face in the glass; it was covered thick with powder,
which she was just rubbing into her skin with a hare's foot.

Mrs. Baumhagen looked round and gazed at her daughter. She made a
lovely bride, far more imposing than Jenny--and all for that Linden!
She said nothing, she only sighed heavily and turned back to the glass.

"Mamma," began Gertrude, "I wanted to ask you something."

"In a moment."

Gertrude waited quietly till the last touch of the powder-puff had been
laid on the temples, then Mrs. Baumhagen took the long black gloves,
seated herself on a lounge at the foot of her large red-curtained bed,
and began to put them on.

"What do you want, Gertrude?"

"Mamma, what do I want? I wanted to say good-bye to you." She sat down
beside her mother and took her hand.

Mrs. Baumhagen nodded to her. "Yes, we sha'nt see each other for some
time."

"Mamma, are you still angry with me?" asked the girl, hesitatingly, her
eyes filling with tears.

"Forgive me, now," she entreated. "I have been vehement and perverse
sometimes, but--"

"Oh, no matter--don't bring it up now," said her mother. "I only hope
most heartily that you may be happy, and may never repent your
obstinacy and perversity."

"Never!" cried Gertrude with perfect conviction.

Mrs. Baumhagen continued to button her gloves. The room was stifling
with the heavy odors of lavender water and patchouly, and her heavy
silk rustled as she exerted herself to button the somewhat refractory
gloves. She made no reply.

"May I ask one more favor, mamma?"

"Certainly."

The girl involuntarily folded her hands in her lap.

"Mamma, show a little kindness to Linden--do try to like him a
little--make to-day really a day of honor to him. Oh, mamma," she
continued after a pause, "if he is offended to-day it will pierce my
heart like a knife--dear mamma--"

The big tears trembled on her lashes.

Once more she asked, "Will you, mamma?"

Mrs. Baumhagen was just ready. She stretched out both her little hands,
looked at them inside and out, and said without looking up:

"Kind?--of course--like him? One cannot force one's self to do that, my
child. I hardly know him."

"For my sake," Gertrude would have said, but she bethought herself. The
days of her childhood had passed, and since then--?

Mrs. Baumhagen rose.

"It is almost five," she remarked. "Go back to your room. Linden will
be here in a moment."

She kissed Gertrude on the forehead, then quickly on the lips.

"Go, my child,--you know I don't like to be upset--God grant you all
happiness." Gertrude went back to her room, chilled to the heart. A
tall figure stepped hastily out of the window recess, and a strong arm
was around her.

"It is you!" she said, drawing a long breath, while a rosy flush
overspread her face.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The little wedding-party were assembled in the salon, the mother,
Arthur, Jenny, Aunt Pauline and Uncle Henry. Two young cousins in white
tulle made the only points of light amid the gloomy black.

"For Heaven's sake don't wear such long faces!" cried Uncle Henry, who
looked as if the wedding had upset him as much as the funeral. "It is
dismal enough as it is:--"

The door opened and the old clergyman entered. Uncle Henry went to meet
him, greeted him loudly, and then disappeared with unusual haste to
bring in the bride and bridegroom.

The afternoon sunshine flooded the rich salon, overpowering the light
of the candles in the chandelier and the candelabra, and its rays
rested on the young couple before the altar.

The voice of the clergyman, sounded mild and clear. They had met for
the first time in the house of God, he said; evidently the Lord had
brought them together, and what the Lord had joined together no man
should put asunder. He spoke of love which beareth all things, hopeth
all things, endureth all things. Gertrude had chosen the text herself.

Then they exchanged rings. They knelt for the blessing, and they rose
husband and wife.

Then they went up to their mother. Like Gertrude, Frank Linden saw all
things in a different light in this hour. He held out his hand, and
though he could find no words, he meant to promise by this hand-shake
to guard the life just entrusted to him, as the very apple of his eye,
his whole life long.

But Mrs. Baumhagen kissed the young wife daintily on the forehead, laid
her fingers as daintily for one moment in his extended hand, and then
turned to the clergyman who approached with his congratulations.

The young couple looked at each other, and as he looked into her
anxious eyes he pressed her arm closer with his, and she grew calm and
almost cheerful.

Uncle Henry had arranged the wedding-dinner, as was to be expected.

The curtains were drawn in the dining-room, which had a northern
aspect, the lamps were lighted, and all the family silver shone and
sparkled on the table. The old gentler man understood his business. He
had had sleepless nights over it lately, it is true, but the menu was
exquisite. The only pity was that he and Aunt Pauline and Arthur were
the only ones who were capable of appreciating it, according to his
ideas. The chilling mood still rested on the company, even through
Uncle Henry's toasts, not even yielding to the champagne. The old
egotist was almost in despair.

When the company adjourned to the drawing-room for coffee, Gertrude
went to her room. A quarter of an hour later she came into the hall in
her travelling dress. Her husband stood there waiting for her.

From the drawing-room they could hear the murmur of the company--here
all was quiet.

She looked round her once more and nodded to the old clock in the
corner.

"Good-bye, Sophie," she said, as she went down the staircase on his
arm, and the old woman bent over the bannisters in a sudden burst of
tears--"Say good-bye to all of them."

Brilliantly lighted windows shone out upon them in Niendorf when Frank
lifted her out of the carriage, and led her up the steps. The sky was
cloudy, and the fresh spring air was wonderfully soft and odorous.

"Come in!" he cried, opening the brown old house-door.

"Oh, what roses!" she cried with delight.

The balustrade of the staircase, the doorways, the chains from which
the lamps swung were all lavishly adorned with roses, and by the dim
light they glowed against the green background as if they were real
blossoms.

Kind Aunt Rosa!

Hand in hand they mounted the staircase and walked down the corridor.
It was only plastered, but it was quite covered with odorous evergreen.
"This is our sitting-room, Gertrude, till yours is ready."

She stood on the threshold and looked in with eager eyes. It looked
exceedingly cosy and home-like, this low room, pleasantly lighted by
the lamp; and a beautiful hunting hound sprang up, whining with joy at
sight of his master, whom he had not seen for the whole day. She
entered, still holding his hand, in a sort of trembling happiness.

"Oh, what a beautiful dog! And there is your writing-table, and that is
the book-case, and what a dear old face that is in the gold frame. Is
it your mother, Frank? Yes, I thought she must look like that. And what
a pretty tea-table set for two! Oh, dearest!" And the proud spoiled
child of luxury lay weeping on his breast.

[Illustration: "The proud spoiled child of luxury lay weeping in his
arms.]

"Here--it shall remain as it is, Frank--here it is warm and bright; no
bitter word can ever be spoken here."

"Don't think of it any more," he whispered, comfortingly. "We have left
all evil behind us. We are owners here, and we will have nothing but
peace and love in our household."

"Yes," she said, smiling through her tears, "you are right. What have
we to do with the outer world?"

They were standing together in front of his writing-table. A majolica
vase stood on it filled with spring flowers.

"What an exquisite scent of violets!" she whispered, drawing in a long
breath, and freeing herself from his arms.

A card lay among the flowers. Both hands were extended for it at once.

_Heartiest congratulations on your marriage, from_

                            C. Wolff, Agent.

"How did you happen to know him? _Why_ should he send that?" asked her
eyes.

But he threw the card carelessly on the table and kissed her on the
forehead.



                               CHAPTER X.

Spring is delicious when one is happy. The trees in the Niendorf garden
put out their leaves one by one, a green veil hung over the budding
forests, and violets were blooming everywhere; Gertrude's whole domain
was filled with the scent of the blue children of spring. The voice of
the young wife sounded through the old house like the note of a lark,
and when Frank returned all sunburned from the fields, a white
handkerchief waved from the shining windows upstairs, and when he
reached the court it was fluttering in her hand on the topmost step.

"You have come at last, dearest," she would cry then.

And the walks in the woods, the evenings when he read aloud, and then
the furnishing the house! How sweet it was to consult together, to make
selections, to buy new things and how delighted they both were when
they happened to think of the same things!

So the house was furnished by degrees. Workmen and upholsterers did
their best. Aunt Rosa's room alone remained untouched, and the master's
cosy room, in which they had passed their first happy weeks together.

And now everything was ready, homelike and comfortable without any
pretension. The low rooms were not suited to display costly carved
furniture, so with excellent taste they had both chosen only the
simplest things.

"By-and-by, when we build a new house, Gertrude," he said, and she
assented.

"First we will improve the estate, Frank--it is so pleasant in these
dear old rooms."

The garden-hall been fitted up as a dining-room. Close by was a
drawing-room with dark curtains and soft carpets; on the walls Uncle
Henry's wedding present, two large oil paintings--a sunny landscape and
a wintry sea-coast. From behind great green palms stood out a noble
bust of Hermes. Sofas, low seats and arm-chairs everywhere, and
wherever there was the smallest space it was filled up with a vase of
fresh flowers.

Upstairs, next to the master's room, was that of the young wife, where
her father's picture now stood behind the work-table, by the window.

The door between the two rooms stood open, and bright striped Turkish
curtains drawn back, permitted Gertrude from her place by the window,
to see the writing-table at which he was working. And from the window
might be seen the wooded mountains beyond the green garden, and farther
away still the distant Brocken, half-hidden in the clouds.

The young wife had cleared out all the cupboards; in the kitchen the
last new tin had been hung up on the hooks, and shone and sparkled in
the bright sunshine as if it were pure silver. In the store-room jars
and pots were all full and in order, as she turned the key with a happy
smile, and put it into the spick-and-span new key-basket on her arm.

"Come, Frank," she said, after he had been admiring all this splendor,
"now we will go through all the rooms again."

"There are not many of them, Gertrude," he laughed.

"Enough for us, Frank; we do not need any more."

And they went through the garden hall, and admired the stately buffet
and the hanging-lamp of polished brass, which swung over the great
dining-table. They went into the drawing-room, and admired the pictures
again which the sun lighted up so beautifully, and then they stopped,
looked in each other's eyes and kissed each other.

"It is all just as I like it, Frank," said she, "plain and suitable,
but nothing sham, no imitations. I hate pretence--everything ought to
be genuine, as real and true as my love and your heart, you dear, good
fellow.--Now everything is perfect in the house," she continued,
picking up a thread from the carpet. "No one would recognize it; it is
the most charming little house for miles around. And it did not cost
nearly as much as Jenny's trousseau and wedding-journey."

They were standing in the open hall door, and the young man looked with
brightening eyes across the garden to the outbuildings which had
exchanged their leaky roofs for new shining blue slates.

"You are right, Gertrude, it is a pretty sight; we will sit here often.
And to-morrow they will begin to build the new barns. They must be
ready when we harvest the first rye."

"Frank," she asked, mischievously, "do you still think as you did a
week after our wedding when we spoke about this for the first time, and
you were really childish and absolutely _would_ not take anything of
that which is yours by every right human and divine? And you would have
let the cows be rained on in their stalls and the farm-servants in
their beds."

"No, Gertrude, not now," he replied.

"And why, you Iron-will?"

"Because we love each other, love each other unspeakably."

"The adjective is not necessary," corrected she.

"Don't you believe that one may love unspeakably?" asked he with a
smile.

"It sounds like a figure of speech."

He laughed aloud, and drew her out on the veranda.

"Our home," he said; "come, let us go through the garden and a little
way into the wood."

The next day Gertrude opened the windows of the guest-chamber, and made
everything there bright and fresh. The table in the dining-room was
gayly decked, and Frank drove to the city in the new carriage to bring
the judge from the station.

Gertrude was glad of the opportunity of seeing him, Frank had told her
so much about his old friend. She had laughed heartily over his
droll descriptions of his friend's peculiarities, how in company when
he tried to pay a compliment he invariably managed to make it a
back-handed one, to his own infinite astonishment.

She would take especial pains with her dress for this "jewel" of a man,
as Frank called him. She put a rosette of lace in her hair, Frank liked
that so much, it looked so matronly, almost like a little cap. When she
went up to the toilet-table with this graceful emblem of her youthful
dignity, to look at herself in the glass, she saw there a bouquet of
lilies of the valley with a paper wound round their stems.

"From him, from Frank," she whispered, growing crimson with delight.

He had said good-bye to her with such a merry smile. She hastily
unwound the paper from the flowers and read it.

They were verses turning on the expression he had made use of the day
before,--"loving unspeakably," and justifying himself for using it by
pointing out that for long after he had seen and loved her he knew not
how to call her, where she dwelt, nor who she was, and so he might
literally be said to have loved her "unspeakably."

"That is how he proves himself in the right," she murmured with
blissful looks, pressing the paper to her lips. "And he is right,
indeed, he does love me 'unspeakably.' Ah, I am a very happy woman!"

And she put the lilies of the valley in her dress, the verses in her
pocket, took the key-basket and went to the dining-room once more on a
tour of inspection round the table, and then as she had nothing to do
for the moment, she knocked at Aunt Rosa's door, which was only
separated from the dining-room by a small entry.

The old lady was sitting at the window making roses. There was to be a
wedding in the village at Whitsuntide. A small man was sitting opposite
her, who greeted the entrance of the young wife with a low bow.

"Beg a thousand pardons, madam,--I wanted to speak to your
husband--I heard he had gone out and the lady here permitted me to wait
for him."

"What does he say, Mrs. Linden?" inquired the old lady, shaking hands,
"I did not permit him to do any such thing. He came in himself--and
here he is."

"My name is Wolff, madam," said the agent by way of introduction.

"Must you speak to my husband to-day? It will not be convenient, for we
have company to dinner. Can't I arrange it?" inquired Gertrude.

"O, no--no--" said he, very decidedly, bowing as he spoke. "I must
speak to Mr. Linden himself, but I can come again, there is no hurry, I
used to come here every day. Good morning, ladies."

"What could he want, auntie?" inquired the young wife after he had
gone.

"Well, I can tell you what he wanted of _me_--he wanted to _question_
me. He would have liked to look through the key-hole to find out how it
looked in your house. But sit down, my dear."

These two understood each other perfectly. Sometimes the old lady drank
coffee with Gertrude and then she had many questions to answer. In this
way it had come out quite by chance that she had been a schoolmate of
Gertrude's grandmother.

Sometimes they went to walk together and Gertrude learned to know the
village people, found out who the poor ones were and a little of the
history of the place. Aunt Rosa's pictures were rather roughly drawn,
she did not like every one, but Linden was her idol next to a young
niece of hers.

"He is so nice," she used to say, "he is so courteous to the old as
well as the young."

And Gertrude returned the compliment by declaring she could not imagine
the house without Aunt Rosa.

To-day, the young mistress of the house could not stay long quietly in
the rose-room. It was strange, but she felt anxious about her husband.
If only he had had no accident with the new horses, she thought, as she
went out on the veranda.

The blooming garden lay quiet and still before her in the mid-day
sunshine. Suddenly a shadow came over her face--there, under the
chestnut-trees, where the sunbeams broke through the leaves in golden
flecks. There was no doubt of it--it was he, the man in Aunt Rosa's
room. How happened he to penetrate into the garden? Where had she heard
his name before? She started as if she had touched something
unpleasant. "Wolff,"--it was the name on the card that came with the
flowers on her wedding eve. Yes, to be sure. But she had _seen_ the
man, too, somewhere before--where was it? Perhaps in the factory with
Arthur, very likely.

She raised her head and her eyes began to sparkle. There was the
carriage just turning in at the gate. _He_ was driving and on the front
seat beside the expected guest sat Uncle Henry, waving his red
handkerchief.

The gentlemen were all in the best of humor--it was a lively meeting.

"It looks something like here now, Frank," said the little judge,
clapping Linden on the shoulder and shaking hands with his wife. He was
so pleased that he even inquired for Aunt Rosa.

"Do you know, child," said Uncle Henry by way of excuse for his
presence, "I should not be here so soon again, but the landlord of the
hotel died this morning--and I couldn't eat there, it was out of the
question. You have some asparagus?"

"I shall not tell any tales out of school, uncle."

She put her arm in that of the old gentleman and went up the steps with
her guests. At the top she turned her head and then walked quickly to
the balustrade of the veranda.

There stood Wolff bowing before her husband, his hat in his hand, his
face covered with smiles.

"O, ta, ta!" said Uncle Henry.

"How comes he here, Gertrude?"

The judge looked out from under his blue spectacles with earnest
attention at the two men. Just then Linden waved his hand shortly and
they strode along the way which led to the court and the outer gate,
Wolff still speaking eagerly.

Gertrude bent far over the iron railing. It seemed to her that Frank
was vexed. Now they stood still. Frank opened the gate and pointed
outward with an unmistakable and very energetic gesture.

Mr. Wolff hesitated, he began to speak again--again the mute gesture
still more energetic, and the little man disappeared like a flash. The
gate fell clanging in the lock and Frank came back, but slowly as if he
must recover himself first and deeply flushed as if from intense anger.

Gertrude went to meet him, but said nothing. She would not ask him for
explanations before their guests. She very stealthily pressed his hand
and spoke cheerfully of her pleasure in her guests.

"Charming!" he said, absently, "but Gertrude, pray entertain Uncle
Henry--Richard--come with me a moment--I must--I will show you your
room." And the two friends left the room together.

"Do you know that you are going to have some more visitors this
afternoon?" asked the old gentleman, settling himself comfortably in a
chair. "Your mother and the Fredericks,--they came back yesterday
morning. Jenny looks blooming as a rose, and, thank Heaven! Arthur has
got his milk-face burned a little with the sun."

"Yes," replied Gertrude, "he was with them at the Italian lakes
for a month." And then as if she had only just taken in his whole
meaning,--"How glad I am that mamma is coming out here at once! Ah,
uncle, if she would only get reconciled to Frank!"

"Eh, what? Gertrude, don't distress yourself, it will all come right.
Besides he is not a man to put up with much nonsense!"

"What could this Wolff have wanted with him?"

"Hm! what are they about in Heaven's name?" asked her uncle,
impatiently.

"Are you hungry?" she asked, absently.

"Hungry? How can you use such common expressions? A dish of pork and
beans would suffice for hunger. I have an appetite, my child. O, ta,
ta, the asparagus will be spoiled if those two stay so long in their
room."

It was a very cosy group that Mrs. Baumhagen's eyes rested on as she,
with Jenny and Arthur, mounted the veranda steps.

They were sitting over their dessert, and Uncle Henry, with his napkin
in his buttonhole, his champagne-glass in his hand, shouted out a
stentorious "welcome!" while the young host and hostess hurried down
the steps, Gertrude with crimson cheeks. She was so proud, so happy.

Mrs. Baumhagen looked at her daughter in amazement. The pale, quiet
girl had become as blooming as a rose. "It is the honeymoon still," she
said to herself, and her eyes never ceased to follow her youngest child
during the whole time of her stay.

The coffee-table was set out under the chestnuts. It was a beautiful
spot. The eye glanced over the green lawn, past the magnificent trees
to the quaint old dwelling-house with its high gables and its ivy-grown
walls. The doors of the garden-hall stood open, and from the flagstaff
fluttered gayly a black-and-white flag.

"An idyll like a picture by Voss," laughed the little judge.

The young host gallantly escorted his mother-in-law through the garden.
Every cloud had vanished from his brow, he was cheerful and agreeable.

"But very sure of himself," Jenny remarked, later, to her mother. "He
feels himself quite the host and master of the house."

The uncomfortable feeling which he had always had in his
mother-in-law's presence, had disappeared. To her amazement he
permitted himself once or twice quite calmly to contradict her. Arthur
had never dared to do that. And Gertrude, how ridiculous! while she
presided over the coffee in her calm way, her eyes were continually
turning to him as soon as he spoke. "As you like, Frank,"--"What do you
think, Frank?" etc. And when her mother hoped Gertrude would not fail
to call on her Aunt Pauline on her birthday, the next day, she asked
appealingly, "Can I, Frank? Can I have the carriage?"

"Certainly, Gertrude," was the reply.

Then Mrs. Baumhagen put down her dainty coffee cup and leaned back in
her garden chair. The child was not in her right mind! that was too
much. But Arthur Fredericks applauded loudly.

"Gertrude," he called out across the table, "talk to this--" he seized
the hand of his wife who angrily tried to draw it away. "What does
Katherine say as an amiable wife to her sister? Words that sound as
sweet to us as a message from a better world."

"To be sure!" laughed Gertrude, not in the least offended by the
ironical tone.

  "Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
   Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee
   And for thy maintenance; commits his body
   To painful labor, both by sea and land;
   To watch the night in storms, the day in cold
   While thou liest warm at home secure and safe;
   And craves no other tribute at thy hands
   But love, fair looks and true obedience,--
   Too little payment for so great a debt."

"You see, Arthur, I have my Shakespeare at my tongue's end."

Mrs. Baumhagen suddenly broke up the coffee party. She seemed heated,
for she was fanning herself with her handkerchief.

"Gertrude, you must show us the house," she exclaimed. "Come, Jenny, we
will leave the gentlemen to their cigars."

"Gladly, mamma," said the young girl, easily.

She led her mother and sister through the kitchen and cellar, through
the chambers, and through the whole house. In the dining-room a pretty
young woman in a spotless white apron was engaged in clearing off the
table. Gertrude gave her some orders in a low tone as she passed.

"That is Johanna, whose husband was killed," said Jenny.

"Yes," replied her sister, "I have engaged her as housekeeper. She is
very capable, and I like to have a familiar face about me."

"With the child?" asked the mother, scornfully.

"Of course," replied the young wife. "She lives in the other wing. It
is a pleasure to see how the little fellow improves in the country
air."

"Who lives in this wing?" inquired Jenny.

"Aunt Rosa."

"Good gracious! A sort of mother-in-law?" cried her sister in
consternation.

Gertrude shook her head. "No, she is quite inoffensive, she belongs to
the inventory--so to speak. But I would like Frank to have his mother
here, the old lady is so alone and she is not very well."

Jenny laughed aloud, but Mrs. Baumhagen rustled so angrily into the
next room that all the ribbons on her rather youthful toilette
fluttered and waved in the air.

"Gertrude!" cried Jenny, "you will not be so senseless!"

The young wife made no reply. She opened a wardrobe door in the
corridor and said,

"This is the linen, Jenny; we need so much in the country. That is the
chest for the finest linen and for the china, and this is my room. This
way, mamma."

"It might have been a little less simple," remarked her mother, who had
recovered herself, though the flush of excitement still rested on her
full cheeks.

"I did not wish to be so very unlike Frank, who kept his old furniture;
besides we are only in moderate circumstances, you know, mamma, and we
are only just beginning."

Her mother cleared her throat and sat down in one of the small
arm-chairs. Jenny wandered about the room, looking at the pictures and
ornaments, slightly humming to herself as she did so. Gertrude stood
thoughtfully beside her mother and felt her heart grow cold as ice. It
was the old feeling of estrangement which always thrust itself between
her and her mother and sister--they had nothing in common. She grieved
over it as she had always done, but she no longer felt the bitter pain
of former days. Slowly her hand sought the pocket of her dress, and
touched lightly a rustling paper--"Thou art unspeakably beloved." Ah,
that was compensation enough for anything, and she lifted her head with
a happy smile.

"But you have not told me anything about your delightful journey yet,
and your letters were so very short."

"O, yes," said Jenny, yawning as she took up a terra cotta figure and
gazed at it on all sides, "it was perfectly delightful in Nice. Now
that I am back again, I begin to feel what a provincial little circle
it is that we vegetate in here."

"We will go again, next year, Providence permitting," added Mrs.
Baumhagen. "Only I must beg to be excused from Arthur's company. He was
really just as childish as your father used to be in his time. Jenny
must not do this and Jenny should not do that, mustn't go here and
mustn't stand there, in short he was a perfect torment, as if we women
did not know ourselves what it is proper to do."

Jenny seated herself too.

"Never mind, mamma, he is still suffering for his folly. I have not
allowed him to forget the scene he made for us at Monte Carlo yet."

"O yes, Heaven knows you are a very happy couple," exclaimed her
mother.

"But I think it is time for us to be going home," she continued, taking
her costly watch from her belt. "We will go and get your husband.
Come."

The three ladies went back to the garden to the table where the
gentlemen were comfortably chatting over their cigars. Frank was in
earnest conversation with Aunt Rosa, who in her best array, sat
enthroned in the seat Mrs. Baumhagen had left only a short time before.
Gertrude hastened to introduce her mother and sister to the old lady.
There was no help for it--they were obliged to sit down again for a
short time out of politeness. Mrs. Baumhagen, with a bored look, Jenny
with scarcely concealed amusement at the wonderful little old lady.

"Gertrude," began Frank, "Aunt Rosa came to tell us that she expects
company."

"I hope it won't put you out," said the old lady, turning to Gertrude.
"My niece always visits me every year at this time. You have heard me
say that the child is passionately fond of the woods and mountains and
she cheers me up a little."

"Is it that pretty little girl you have told us about so often, Aunt
Rosa?" asked Gertrude, kindly; and as the former nodded, she continued,

"Oh, she will be heartily welcome, won't she, Frank? When is she
coming, and what is her name?"

"I expect her in a day or two, and her name is Adelaide Strom," replied
Aunt Rosa. "I always call her Addie."

[Illustration: "Gertrude hastened to introduce her mother and sister to
the old lady."]

Then she began to explain the relationship which had the result of
making all the company dizzy.

"My mother's sister married a Strom, and her step-son is the cousin of
Adelaide's grandfather--"

Here Mrs. Baumhagen rose with great rustling. "I must go home," she
said, interrupting the explanation. "It is high time we were gone."

Jenny, who was standing behind her husband's chair, laid her hand on
his shoulder.

"Please order the carriage."

"Why, what do you mean, child?" said he in a tone of vexation. "We have
only just come!"

"But mamma wishes it."

"Mamma? But why?" he asked, shortly. "We are having a delightful talk."

"Won't you stay till evening, Mrs. Baumhagen?" asked Frank,
courteously.

"My head aches a little," was the reply.

Arthur ran his hand despairingly through his hair. This "headache" was
the weapon with which every reasonable argument was overthrown.

"Very well, then, do you go," he muttered, grimly. "I will come home
with Uncle Henry."

"Yes, to be sure, my dear fellow," cried the old gentleman, much
pleased. "I shall be very glad of your company; we will try the
Moselle, eh, Frank?"

"Uncle Henry filled up the cellar for our wedding-present," explained
the young host as he rose to order the carriage.

"And so richly," added Gertrude.

"Oh, ta, ta!"

The old gentleman had risen and was helping his sister-in-law on with
her cloak, with somewhat asthmatic politeness.

"It was pure selfishness, Ottilie. Only that a man might get a drop fit
to drink when one arrived here, weary and thirsty."

"Gertrude," whispered Jenny, taking her sister a little aside, "how can
you be so foolish as to allow a young girl to be brought into the
house? I tell you it is really dreadful; they are always in the way,
they _always_ want to be admired, they are always wanting to help and
never fail to pay most touching attentions to the host. It is really
inconsiderate of the old lady to impose her on you. Invent some excuse
for keeping her away. I speak from experience, my love. Arthur invited
a cousin once, you remember, I nearly died of vexation."

Gertrude laughed.

"Ah, Jenny," she said, shaking her head. The she hastened after her
mother, who was already seated in the carriage.

"Come again soon," she said cordially, when Jenny had taken her seat
also.

"I shall expect a visit from you next," was the reply. "You must be
making a few calls in town some time."

"We haven't thought about it yet," cried Gertrude, gayly.

"Pray do see that Arthur gets home before the small hours. Uncle Henry
never knows when to go," cried Jenny in a tone of vexation.

And the carriage rolled away.



                              CHAPTER XI.


It was late before Uncle Henry and Arthur set out for home and late
when the little judge went to his room. They had all three sat for a
good while in Frank's study, talking of past and present times.

"We shall be very gay," said Frank, "when Aunt Rosa's niece comes. You
will not be so much alone then, Gertrude, when I am away in the
fields."

"I am never lonely," she replied, quietly. "I have never had a
girl-friend, and now it seems superfluous to me." And she looked at him
with her grave deep eyes.

"Madam," inquired the judge, putting the end of his cigar in a
meerschaum mouthpiece, "has he written poetry to you too?" And he
pointed to Frank with a sly laugh.

Gertrude flushed.

"Of course," she replied.

"Ah, he can't help writing verses," said the little man, teasingly,
clapping his friend on the shoulder.

"I tell you, Mrs. Linden, sometimes it seizes upon him like a perfect
fever; and the things that a fellow like that finds to write about!
Poets really are born liars. At the moment when the sweet verses flow
out on the paper, they actually believe every word they write--it is
really touching!"

"Spare me, Richard, I beg of you," laughed the young host, half
angrily.

"Isn't it true?" asked the judge. "Only think of your celebrated poem
on the gypsy girl. I was there when you saw the brown maiden on the
Römerberg, and in the evening it was already written down in your
note-book that she wandered through the streets with winged feet, with
straying hair, and shy black eyes in which a longing for the moorland
lay and for the wind which through the reed-grass sweeps--and so on.
Ha, ha! And she really came from the Jew's quarter and went begging
from house to house for old rags."

They all three laughed, Gertrude the most heartily; then she became
suddenly grave.

"You are a malicious fellow," declared Frank, rising to light a candle.
"It is late, Richard, and we are early risers here."

As the friends bade each other good-night at the door of the
guest-chamber, the judge said,

"Well, Frank, I congratulate you. You have won a prize--such a dear,
sensible little woman!

"As for the _other_--my dear fellow, what did I tell you about that
man? Well, good-night! That Uncle Henry is a good old soul, too,--now
take yourself off."

Gertrude was standing by the open window in her room, looking out into
the night. The lamplight from the next room shone in faintly. Dark
clouds were gathering, far away over the mountains there were flashes
of lightning and in the garden a chorus of nightingales was singing.

"Gertrude," said a voice behind her.

"Frank," she replied, leaning her head on his shoulder.

"Hush! Listen! It is so lovely tonight."

They stood thus for awhile in silence. This afternoon's conversation
was still lingering in Linden's mind. Uncle Henry could not understand
why he should not cut his timber from his own woods. But the Niendorf
woods had been greatly thinned out and no new plantations made.

"Tell me, Gertrude," he began, suddenly, "where is your villa
'Waldruhe?'"

His young wife started as if a snake had stung her. "Our--my villa?"
she gasped, "how did you know--who told you about the villa?"

He was silent. "I cannot remember who," he said after a pause, "but
some one must have told me that there is a little wood belonging to it.
But, Gertrude, what is the matter?" he inquired. "You are trembling!"

"Ah, Frank, who told you about _that_?" she reiterated, "and _what_?"

Her voice had so sad a ring in it that he perceived at once that he had
hurt her.

"Gertrude, have I hurt you? I beg your pardon a thousand times; I was
only thinking of cheaper timber which I might have cut there this
winter."

"Timber? There? It is only a park. Ah, Frank--"

"But what is it pray?" he asked with a little impatience. "I cannot
possibly know--"

"No, you cannot know," she assented. "It was only the shock--I ought to
have told you long ago, only it is so frightfully hard for me to speak
of it. You ought to know about it too, but--tell me who told you about
it?"

"But when I assure you, my child, that I cannot remember."

"Frank," said his young wife, in a low, hesitating tone, "out there--in
'Waldruhe,' my poor father died--"

"My little wife!" he said, comfortingly.

"It was there--he--he killed himself." Her voice was scarcely audible.

He bent down over her, greatly shocked. "My poor child, I did not know
that, or I would not have spoken of it."

"And I found him, Frank. He built 'Waldruhe' when I was but a child,
and he used to go and stay there for weeks together. It is so hard to
talk of it--he was not happy, Frank. Ah, we will not dwell on it. Mamma
did not understand him, and it was the day after Christmas and I knew
they had had a dispute; that is not the right word for it either, for
papa never contradicted her, and he bore so patiently all her crying
and complaining. After awhile I heard the carriage drive away. It was
in the morning--and I had such a strange feeling of anxiety and dread
and after dinner I put on my hat and cloak and ran out of the Bergedorf
gate along the high road, on and on till I came to 'Waldruhe.' I was
surprised to see that the blinds were shut in his room, but I saw the
fresh wheel-tracks in front of the house. The gardener's wife, who
lives in a little cottage on the place, said he was upstairs. He _was_
upstairs--yes--but he was dead!"

[Illustration: "He _was_ up stairs--yes--but he was dead."]

She stood close beside him, encircled by his arm, as she told her
story. He could feel how she trembled and how cold her hands were.

"Don't speak of it any more, my darling," he entreated, "you will make
yourself ill."

"Yes, I was ill, Frank, for a whole year," she said. "It was a fearful
time; I could not forgive my mother. From that moment the gulf arose
which parts us to-day, and nothing can bridge it over. I was so
horribly lonely, Frank, before I found you. But the villa?--Yes, it
belongs to me; papa destined it for me when he built it. I have had
some very pleasant days with him there, but now the very thought of it
is dreadful to me. It is empty and deserted. I have never been there
since. It is so horrible to find a person whom one has so honored and
loved--to find him so--"

"Forgive me, Gertrude," he said, gently.

"You could not know, Frank. No one knows it but ourselves." And as if
to turn his thoughts to something else she continued hurriedly, "Thank
you so much, love, for that lovely poem, 'Thou art unspeakably
beloved.'"

And she stroked his hand and pressed it to her lips.

"My poor little Gertrude!"

They stood thus together for awhile wrapped about with the sweet
atmosphere of spring.

"A thunder-shower is coming up," he said at length; and she freed
herself from his arms and left the room. Frank could hear her going
softly about the corridor here and there, shutting the doors and
windows, and jingling her keys. She was looking to see if everything
was in order for the night.

He put his hand to his forehead and tried to recall who had spoken to
him of the villa. He passed on into his lighted room as if he could
think better there. After awhile the young wife came back, with her
key-basket on her arm. The sweet face was lifted up to him.

"Frank," said she, "what did the agent want of you to-day?"

He stared at her as if a flash of lightning had struck him.

"That is it! that is it!" And he struck his forehead as if something he
had been seeking for in vain had suddenly occurred to him.

"What did he want? Oh, nothing, Gertrude, nothing of any consequence."

She looked at him in surprise, but she said nothing. It was not her way
to ask a second time when she got no answer. It really was of no
consequence.



                              CHAPTER XII.


It had rained heavily in the night, with thunder and lightning, but
nature seemed to have no mind to-day to carry out her coquettish love
of contrasts; she did not laugh, as usual, with redoubled gayety in
blue sky and golden sunshine on forest and field: gloomily she spread a
gray curtain over the landscape, so uniformly gray that the sun could
not find the smallest cleft through which to send down a friendly
greeting, and it rained unceasingly, a perfect country rain.

Frank came back from the fields rejoicing over the weather, and
Gertrude waved her handkerchief to him out of the window as she did
every morning.

"All the flowers are ruined, Frank," she cried down to him, "what a
pity!"

He came up in high good humor. "No money could pay for this rain,
darling," he said; "I am a real farmer now, my mood varies according to
the weather."

"And mine too!" remarked his wife. "Such a gray day makes me
melancholy."

He went towards her as she sat at her writing-table turning over books
and papers.

"Just look, Frank," as she held out to him a packet daintily tied up
with blue ribbons; "these are all verses of yours, arranged according
to order. When we have our silver wedding I shall have them printed and
bound. These on cream-colored paper were written during our engagement,
and these different scraps, white and blue and gray, were written since
our marriage, when you take anything that comes, thinking I suppose
that it is good enough for _Mrs._ Gertrude."

She looked up at him with a smile. He bent down over her,

"And now I shall buy a very special kind of paper for my next verses,
Gertrude."

"Why?"

"Bright, like the little bundles the storks carry under their wings.
And I shall write on it--"

She grew crimson. "A cradle-song," she finished softly.

He nodded and put her hand to his lips. But she threw both arms round
his neck. "Then it would be sweet and home-like, Frank. Then we should
love each other better than ever--if that were possible."

"Here, little wife, I wrote this for you today in the field in the
rain." He took out his note-book from his pocket and put it in her
hand.

"I will just go and see what the judge is about, the rascal," he called
back from the door.

And she sat still and read, her face as grave and earnest as if she
were reading in the Bible.

She was startled from her reading by the snapping of a whip before the
window. She looked out quickly--there stood the Baumhagen carriage; the
coachman in his white rubber coat and the cover drawn over his hat, the
iron-gray horses black with the drenching rain. She opened the window
to see if any one got out. Johanna came out and the coachman gave her a
letter with which she ran quickly back into the house.

Gertrude was startled. An accident at home? She flew to the door.

"A letter, ma'am."

She hastily tore it open.


"Come at once--I must speak to you without delay.

                                               "YOUR MOTHER."

Such were the oracularly brief contents of the note.

"Bring me my things, Johanna, and tell my husband."

"Frank," she cried, as he entered, hurriedly, "something must have
happened."

"Don't be alarmed," he besought her, though unable quite to conceal his
own uneasiness.

"Yes, yes. Oh, if I only knew what it was! I feel so anxious."

He took her things from the servant and put the cloak round Gertrude's
shoulders.

"I hope it has nothing to do with Arthur and Jenny. They were very
strange to each other, yesterday."

Gertrude looked at him and shook her head. "No, no, they were always
like that."

"Then I am surprised that he did not run away long ago," he said,
drily.

"Or she," retorted Gertrude tying her bonnet.

"I could not stand such everlasting complaints, Gertrude," said he,
buttoning her left glove.

"Nor I, Frank. Good-bye. You must make my excuses at dinner. God grant
it is nothing very bad."

She looked round the room once more, then went quickly up to her
work-table and thrust the note-book into her pocket.

When a few minutes later the landau passed out of the great iron gate
she put her head out of the window. He stood on the steps looking after
her. As she turned he took off his hat and waved it.

How handsome he was, how stately and how good!

She leaned back on the cushions. She felt a vague alarm--it was the
first time she had left the house without him. Strange thoughts came
over her--how dreadful it would be if she should not find him again, or
even--if she should lose him utterly. Could she go on living then?
Live--yes--but how?

It would be frightful to be a widow! Still more frightful if they were
to part--one here, the other there, hating each other, or indifferent!

Could Arthur and Jenny, really--? Oh, God in Heaven preserve us from
such woe!

She looked out of the window. The coachman was driving at a dizzy pace.
There lay the city before her in the mist. Again her thoughts wandered,
faster than the horses went. She took the note-book out of her pocket
to read the verses, but the letters danced before her eyes, and she put
it away again.

In the attic at home stood the old cradle in which her father had been
rocked, and Jenny, and she herself. The grandmother in the narrow
street had had it as part of her outfit. She would get it out for
herself if God should ever fulfil her wish. Jenny's darling had lain in
another bed, the clumsy old cradle did not seem suitable in the elegant
chamber of the young mother, but in the modest room at Niendorf, where
the vines crept about the windows and the big old stove looked so cosy
and comfortable, it would be quite in place, just between the stove and
the wardrobe in a cosy corner by itself. She smiled like a happy child.
She could not believe that her life could be so beautiful, so rich.

The carriage was now rattling through the city gate; she would be at
home in a minute now, and her heart began to beat loudly. If she only
knew what it was.

The porter opened the carriage door and she got out and ran up the
stairs to Jenny's apartment. The entrance door of her mother's
apartment stood open. No one was to be seen and she entered the hall.
How dear and familiar everything looked! Even the tall clock lifted up
its voice, and struck the quarter before two. She took off her cloak
and went to her mother's room. Here, too, the door was ajar. Just as
she was going to enter she suddenly drew back her hand.

"And I tell you, Ottilie, it will be the worst act of your life, if you
fling all this in the child's face without the slightest preparation.
Whether it is true or false why should you destroy her young happiness?
There are other ways and means."

It was Uncle Henry. He spoke in a tone of the deepest vexation.

"Shall she hear it from strangers?" cried the voice of her weeping
mother; "the whole town is ringing with it, and is she to go about as
if she were blind and deaf?"

"I am trembling all over," Gertrude now heard Jenny say; "it is
outrageous, we are made forever ridiculous. It was only last
evening that I said to Mrs. S----, 'You can't imagine what an idyllic
Arcadian happiness has its dwelling out there in Niendorf.'"

"Confound your logic! I tell you--" cried the little man angrily. But
he stopped suddenly, for there on the threshold stood Gertrude Linden.

"Are you talking of us?" she asked, her terrified eyes wandering over
the group and resting at length on her mother, who at sight of her had
sunk back weeping in her chair.

"Yes, child."

The old man hastened towards her and tried to draw her away.

"It's a thoughtless whim of your mother to send for you here; nothing
at all has happened; really, it is only some stupid gossip, a
misunderstanding perfectly absurd. Come across to the other room and I
will explain it all."

"No, no, uncle, I must know it, must know it all."

She withdrew her hand from his and went up to her mother.

"Here I am, mamma; now tell me everything, but quickly, I entreat you."

She looked down on the weeping woman with a face that was deathly pale,
standing motionless before her in her light summer costume. Only the
strings of her bonnet, which were tied on the side in a simple bow,
rose and fell quickly, and bore witness to her great agitation.

"I can't tell her," sobbed Mrs. Baumhagen, "you tell her, Jenny."

Gertrude turned to her sister at once. She cast down her eyes and wound
the black velvet ribbon of her morning-dress nervously round her
finger.

"Your husband is in a very unpleasant situation," she began in a low
tone.

"In what respect?" asked Gertrude.

"It is a disagreeable affair, but nothing to make such solemn faces
over," burst out the old gentleman, who was standing at the window.

"He had--" Jenny hesitated again, "a conversation with Wolff
yesterday."

"I know it," replied Gertrude.

"Wolff had a claim on him which your husband will not recognize and--"

"For Heaven's sake, make an end of it!" The old gentleman brought his
fist down angrily on the window-sill. "Do you want to give her the
poison drop by drop?"

He took Gertrude's hand again, and tried to find words to explain.

"You see, Gertrude, it is not so bad; it often happens, and this Wolff
may have thrust himself forward, in short--he is a sort of a walking
encyclopædia, knows everybody hereabouts, and whenever any one wants to
know anything he is sure to be able to tell him. So your husband--well,
how shall I excuse it?--he inquired about your circumstances, do you
understand?--before he offered himself to you--_voilà tout_. It happens
hundreds of times, child, and you are reasonable, Gertrude, aren't
you?"

The young wife stood motionless as a statue. Only gradually the color
came to her cheeks.

"That is a lie!" she cried, drawing a long breath. "Did you bring me
here for _that_?"

"But Wolff was here," moaned Mrs. Baumhagen, "asking for my
intervention."

"No, he came to _us_," corrected Jenny, "early this morning; he wanted
to speak to Arthur, but Arthur--" she hesitated, "last evening
Arthur--"

"You may as well say that Arthur started off suddenly on a journey in
the night," interposed Mrs. Baumhagen sharply, "I am very fortunate in
my children's marriages!"

"Well, I can't help it if he gets angry at every little thing," laughed
the young wife, quite undisturbed. "Besides we are very happy."

"A pretty kind of happiness," grumbled the old gentleman to himself, so
low that no one but Gertrude could hear it. Then he added aloud, "A
hurried journey on business, we will call it, a sudden journey on
business, preceded by a little curtain lecture."

"Oh, to be sure, a journey on business," said Mrs. Baumhagen in a tone
of pique, "to Manchester."

"What has that got to do with Gertrude's affairs?" asked Uncle Henry,
"It is enough that Arthur was not there, and the gentleman went up
another flight and spoke to your mother, my child. It is not worth
mentioning--if I had only been here sooner. It is very disagreeable
that you should have heard of it, but believe me, my child, they all do
it now-a-days."

The good-natured little man clapped her kindly on the shoulder.

Mrs. Baumhagen, however, started up like an angry lioness.

"Don't talk such nonsense! How can you smooth it over? It was nothing
but a common swindle. I hope Gertrude has enough sense of dignity to
tell Mr. Linden that--"

"Not another word!"

The young wife stood almost threatening before her in the middle of the
room.

"But for mercy's sake! It will be the most scandalous case that was
ever known," sobbed the excited lady. "He is going to sue Linden--you
will both have to appear in court."

Gertrude did not utter a syllable.

"Have the kindness to order a carriage, uncle," she entreated.

"No, you must not go away so! you look shockingly," was the anxious cry
of her mother and sister.

"Do listen to reason, Gertrude," said Jenny in a complaining tone.

"We must silence Wolff--uncle can inquire how much he asks for his
services, and--"

"And you will come to us again," sobbed her mother. "Gertrude,
Gertrude, my poor unhappy child, did I not foresee this?"

"This is too much!" growled the old gentleman. "Confound these women!
Don't let them talk you into anything, child," he cried, forcibly;
"settle it with your husband alone."

"A carriage, uncle," reiterated the young wife.

"Wait a while at least," entreated Jenny, "till mamma's lawyer--"

"Oh," groaned Uncle Henry, "if Arthur had only been here, this
confounded affair wouldn't have been left in the women's hands. I will
get you a carriage, Gertrude. Your nags are at the factory, Jenny? Very
well. Excuse me a moment."

Gertrude was standing in the window like one stunned; she had as yet no
clear understanding of the matter. "The whole city is talking about
it," she heard her mother sob. Of what then? She tried forcibly to
collect her thoughts, but in vain. Only one thing: it is not true! went
over and over in her mind.

She clenched her little hand in its leather glove. "A lie! A lie!" fell
again from her lips. But this lie had spread itself like a heavy mist
over her young happiness, bringing so much vague alarm that her breath
came thick and fast.

"Shall I go with you?" asked Jenny. The carriage was just coming across
the square.

"No, thank you. I require no third person between my husband and
myself."

Her words sounded cold and hard.

"You look so miserable," groaned her mother.

"Then the sooner I get home the better."

"At least send back a messenger at once."

"Perhaps you think he beats me too?" she inquired, ironically, turning
to go.

"Child! child!" cried Mrs. Baumhagen, stretching out her arms towards
her, "be reasonable, don't be so blind where facts speak so loudly."

But she did not turn back. Calmly she took down her mantle from the
hat-stand. Sophie gazed anxiously into the pale, still face of the
young wife, who quite forgot to say a pleasant word to the old servant.
At the carriage-door stood Uncle Henry.

"Let me go with you, Gertrude," he entreated.

She shook her head.

"It is only out of pure selfishness, Gertrude," he continued. "If I
don't know how it is going with you I shall be ill."

"No, uncle. We two require no one; we shall get on better alone."

"Don't break the staff at once, child," he said, gently,

"I do not need to do that, Uncle Henry."

He lifted his hat from his bald head. There was a reverent expression
in his eyes.

"Good-bye, Gertrude, little Gertrude. If I had had my way, you would
not have heard a word of it."

She bent her head gravely.

"It is best so, uncle."

Then she went back the way she had come.

The rain beat against the rattling panes and dashed against the leather
top of the carriage, and they went so slowly. The young wife gazed out
into the misty landscape. The splendor of the blossoms had vanished,
the white petals were swimming in the pools in the streets.

"Oh, only one sunbeam!" she thought, the weather oppressed and weighed
her down so.

Absurd! How could any one be so influenced by foolish gossip! Mamma
always looked on the dark side of everything--and even if she always
told the truth, she had been imposed upon by this story. Poor Frank!
Now there would be vexation--the first! She would tell him of it
playfully--after dinner, when they were alone together, then she would
say, "Frank, I must tell you something that will make you laugh. Just
fancy, you have a very bitter enemy, and his revenge is so absurd, he
declares"--she was smiling now herself--"Yes, that is the way it shall
be."

She was just passing the old watch tower. What was she thinking of as
she passed this place a few hours before? Oh yes--a crimson flush
spread over her countenance--of the cradle in the attic. She could see
the old cradle so plainly before her; two red roses were painted on one
end, in the middle a golden star, and beneath it stood written: "Happy
are they who are happy in their children."

She put her hand in her pocket and took out the note-book--the carriage
was crawling so slowly up the hill--she could not remember it all yet,
she must read the verses again.

It was a vision he had had of her kneeling before a cradle, singing a
cradle-song about the father bringing something home to his son from
the green wood.

She let the paper fall. She knew what song he meant--the old nursery
song that she had been singing to her godchild when he had heard her
from the window outside. He had told her about it and that in that
moment he had come quite under her spell.

She pressed the book to her lips. Ah, how far beneath her seemed envy
and spite! how powerless they seemed before the expectation of such
happiness!

Just then a piece of paper fell down, a piece of blue writing-paper.
She picked it up; it was part of a letter on the blank side of which
was written in Frank's handwriting:

"Half a hundred-weight grass-seed, mixed," with the address of a
manufactory of farming utensils.

She turned it over, looked at it carelessly, then suddenly every trace
of color left her face. She raised her eyes with a scared expression in
them, then looked down again--yes, there it was!


"----Besides the above-mentioned property Miss Gertrude Baumhagen owns
a villa near Bergedorf. A massive building, splendidly furnished, with
stables, gardener's house and a garden-lot of ten acres, partly wood,
enclosed by a massive wall.

"The property is recorded in the name of the young lady, being valued
at twenty-four thousand dollars.

"For any further details I am quite at your service,

                             "Very respectfully yours,

                                         "C. Wolff, Agent.
D. 21 Dec. 1882."

Gertrude tried to read it again, but her hand trembled so violently
that the letters danced before her eyes. She had seen it, however,
distinctly enough; it would not change read it as often as she might.
With pitiless certainty the conviction forced itself upon her: it is
the truth, the horrible truth! and every word of his had been a lie.

She had been bought and sold like a piece of merchandise--she, _she_
had been caught in such a snare!

She had taken _that_ for love which had been only the commonest
mercenary speculation.

Ah, the humiliation was nothing to the dreadful feeling that stole over
her and chilled her to the heart--the pain of wounded pride and with it
the old bitter perversity. She had not felt it lately, she had been
good, happiness makes one so good--and now? and now?



                             CHAPTER XIII.


The carriage rolled quickly down the hill to Niendorf and stopped
before the house. Half-unconsciously the young wife descended and stood
in the rain on the steps of the veranda. It seemed to her as if she
were here for the first time; the small windows, the gray old walls
with the pointed roof--how ugly they were, how strange! All the flowers
in the garden beaten down by the rain--the charm that love gives fled,
only bare, sober, sad reality! and on the threshold crouched the demon
of selfishness, of cold calculation.

She passed through the garden hall and up the stairs to her room. In
the corridor Johanna met her.

"The master went away in the carriage directly after breakfast," she
announced. "He laid a note on your work-table, ma'am."

"I have a headache, Johanna, don't disturb me now," she said, faintly.

When she reached her own room she bolted first the door behind her and
then that which opened into his room. And then she read the note.


"The barometer has risen and the judge insists on going up the Brocken,
I go with him to Ille. I have something to do there and I shall not be
very late home--Thine,
                                    FRANK."


And below a postscript from the guest:

"Don't be angry, Mrs. Linden. I belong to that class of persons who
cannot see a mountain without feeling an irresistible desire to ascend
it. I take the Brocken first, so when the weather clears again I can
bear the sight of it from my window with equanimity. I will send your
Frank home again soon, safe and sound."


Thank Heaven, he would not be back so very soon--but what was to be
done now? She sat motionless before her work-table, gazing out into the
garden without seeing anything there. Hour after hour passed. Once or
twice she passed her hand across her eyes--they were dry and hot, and
about the mouth was graven a deep line of scorn and contempt. Towards
evening there was a knock at the door. She did not turn her head.

"Mrs. Linden!" called the servant. No answer and the steps died away
outside.

Gertrude Linden got up then and went to her writing-desk. Calmly she
opened the pretty blotting-book, drew up a chair, grasped a pen and
seated herself to write. She had thought of it long enough; without
hesitation the words flowed from her pen:


"I will beg Uncle Henry to explain everything to you as gently as
possible. I cannot speak of it myself--it is the most painful
disappointment of my whole life. I only ask you at present to confirm
my own declaration that I must live in retirement for some time on
account of my health. It will not take long to decide upon something.
GERTRUDE."


She sealed the note and put it on the writing table in her husband's
room. She put the packet of poems beside it and the note-book also.
What should she do with it? The poem was nothing to her--it was only an
old habit of his to write verses; the judge had let that out yesterday.
He had only made use of it in this case as a useful means for making
the deception complete. A man who writes tender verses while at the
same time he is privately acquainting himself with the amount of the
lady's fortune through an agent--that was a tragi-comedy indeed, that
would make a good plot for a farce--and _she_ was to be the heroine!

She kept the fragment of that dreadful letter. Then she wrote a note to
her mother and one to Uncle Henry, then took out her watch and looked
for a time-table.

Whither? The Berlin express which connected them with all the outer
world was already gone. Then she must wait until tomorrow--and then?
Somewhere she must go--she must be alone! Only not with mamma and
Jenny, somewhere far away from here.

She suddenly sprang up with startled eyes, she heard a voice, his
voice.

"Has my wife come back?"

Then a merry whistle, a few bars from "Boccaccio" and hasty steps in
the corridor. Now his hand was on the door-knob. It was locked.

"Gertrude!" he called.

She was standing in the middle of the room, her lips pressed together,
her eyes stretched wide open, but she did not stir.

He supposed she was not there and went quietly into his own room. She
heard him open the door of the bedroom.

"Gertrude!" he called again.

Back into his own room; he spoke to the dog, whistled a few bars of his
opera-air again, moved about here and there and then stopped--now he
was tearing a paper--now he was reading her note.

"Gertrude, Gertrude, I know you are in your room. Open the door!"

His voice sounded calm and kind, but she stood still as a statue.

"Please open the door!" now sounded authoritatively.

"No," she answered loudly.

"You are laboring under some horrible mistake! Some one has been
telling you something--let me speak to you, child!"

She came a step nearer.

"I cannot," she said.

"I must entreat you to open the door. Even a criminal is heard before
he is condemned."

"No," she declared, and went to the window, where she remained.

"Confound your--obstinacy," sounded in her ears.

[Illustration: "There was a crash and a splitting of wood and the door
was burst open."]

Then a crash, a splitting of wood--the door was burst open and Frank
Linden stood on the threshold.

"Now I demand an explanation," he said angrily, the swollen veins
standing out on his white forehead, which formed a strange contrast to
his brown face.

She did not turn towards him.

"Uncle Henry will tell you what there is to tell," she replied, coldly.

He strode up to her and laid his hand on her shoulder, but she drew
back, and the blue eyes, usually so soft, looked at him so coldly and
strangely that he started back, deeply shocked.

"I have deceived you, Gertrude? you, Gertrude?" he asked, "what have I
done? What is my crime?"

"Nothing--"

"That is no answer, Gertrude."

"Oh, it is only such a trifle--I cannot talk to you about it."

"Very well! Then I will go to Uncle Henry at once."

She made no answer.

"And you wish to go away? To leave me alone?" he inquired again.

She hesitated a moment.

"Yes, yes," she then said, hastily, "away from here."

"Why do you keep up this farce, Gertrude."

"Farce?" She laughed shortly.

"Gertrude, you hurt me."

"Not more than you have hurt me."

"But, confound it, I ask you--how?" he cried in fierce anger.

She had drawn back a little and looked at him with dignity.

"Pray, order the carriage and go to Uncle Henry," she replied, coldly.

"Yes, by Heaven, you are right," he cried, quite beside himself, "you
are more than perverse!"

"I told you so before; it is my character."

"Gertrude," he began, "I am easily aroused, and nothing angers me so
much as passive opposition. It is our duty to have trust in one
another--tell me what troubles you; it _can_ be explained. I am
conscious of no wrong done to you."

"That is a matter of opinion," said she.

"Very well. I declare to you that I am not in the least curious--and I
give you time to reconsider."

He turned to go.

"That is certainly the most convenient thing to do in this matter," she
retorted, bitterly.

He hesitated, but he went nevertheless, closed the broken door behind
him as well as he could and began to walk up and down his room.

She pressed her forehead against the window-pane and gazed out into the
garden. It had stopped raining; the clouds were lifting in the west and
displaying gleams of the setting sun. Then the heavy masses of fog
broke away and at the same moment the landscape blazed out in brilliant
sunshine like a beautiful woman laughing through her tears.

If _she_ could only weep! They who have a capacity for tears are
favored. Weeping makes the heart light, the mood softer--but there were
no tears for her.



                              CHAPTER XIV.


In the late twilight the iron-gray horses stopped before the door and
Jenny got out of the carriage.

She ran lightly as a cat up the veranda steps and suddenly stood in the
garden-hall before Frank Linden, who sat at the table alone. Gertrude's
plate was untouched.

"So late, Jenny?" he asked.

"I want to speak to Gertrude."

"You will find my--wife in her room."

Jenny cast a quick glance at him from her bright eyes. Had the blow
fallen? She had nearly died of anxiety at home.

"Is not Gertrude well?" she inquired, innocently.

He hesitated a moment.

"She seems rather excited and tired. I think something has happened to
disturb her in the course of the day."

"Ah, indeed!" said Mrs. Fredericks. "Well, I will go and see her
myself."

She passed through the hall. The lamp was not yet lighted and in the
darkness she stumbled over something and nearly fell. As she uttered a
slight cry, Johanna hastened in with a light.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, ma'am, it is the young lady's trunk, who
arrived about a quarter of an hour ago. Dora forgot to carry it to her
room."

Jenny cast an angry glance at the modest box, ran up the stairs and
knocked at her sister's door.

"It is I, Gertrude," she called out in her clear ringing voice. She
heard light footsteps and the bolt was gently drawn back and the door
opened.

"You, Jenny?" inquired Gertrude, just as Frank had said a few minutes
before, "you, Jenny?"

It was almost dark in the room; Jenny could not see her sister's face.

"Why do you sit here in the dark, Gertrude? I beg of you tell me quick
all that has happened. Mamma and I are dying of anxiety."

"You need have no anxiety," replied Gertrude. "It is all right."

"All right?" asked Jenny in surprise. "You cannot make me believe that,
_He_ alone at the table and _you_ up here with your door locked--come
confess, child, that you have not made it up."

"Please take a seat, Jenny," said the young wife, wearily.

Jenny sat down on the lounge, and Gertrude took up her position at the
window again. It was still as death in the room and in the whole house.

"It would have been wiser if you had not married at all, Gertrude,"
began her sister, with a sigh.

"But, it can't be helped--you are tied fast--oh, yes! You must put up
with everything, you must not even have an opinion of your own, I am
quite ill too from the vexation I had last evening. At last I ran up to
mamma. She was dreadfully frightened when she saw me standing before
her bed in my night-dress. I cried all night long. This morning I
waited. I thought he would come up for me, he was usually so
remorseful--but he didn't come and as I was taking breakfast with mamma
Sophie brought me a card from him in which he very coolly informed me
that he had gone to Manchester for a fortnight. Well--I wish him a
happy journey!"

Gertrude made no reply.

"You must not take it so dreadfully to heart, child," continued the
young matron. "Good gracious, it is well it is no worse. All women have
something to put up with and sometimes it is far worse than this."

"Have they?" asked Gertrude, in a low voice.

"Yes, of course!" cried Jenny, in surprise.

"Do you think a woman can take up her bundle and march off? Bah! Then
no woman would stay with her husband a moment. No, no,--people get
reconciled to one another and they just take the first opportunity to
pay each other off. That is always great fun for me. Just you see, pet,
how good Arthur will be when he comes back; for a whole month he will
be the nicest husband in the world."

"That would be an impossibility for me," cried Gertrude, clearly and
firmly. "To-day bitter as death, to-morrow fondly loving; it is simply
shameful."

Jenny was silent.

"Good gracious," she said at length, yawning, "one is as good as the
other! If I were to separate from Arthur,--who knows but I might get a
worse one! For of course I should marry again, what else can a woman
do? By the way, mamma spoke to the lawyer--he urgently advised her to
hush up the matter as well as possible. Mamma thought differently, but
Mr. Sneider declared--you see now, one _can't_ get away even if one
wants to--that there were no grounds for a divorce, and I said to mamma
too, 'Gertrude,' said I, 'leave him? Incredible! She is dead in love
with the man. He might have murdered somebody, I really believe, and
she would still find excuses for him.' Was I right?"

Gertrude suffered tortures. She wrung her hands in silence and her eyes
were fixed on the dark sky above her in which the evening star was now
sparkling with a greenish light. Jenny yawned again.

"Ah, just think," she continued, "you don't know what we quarrelled
about, Arthur and I. He reproached me with spending too much on my
dress; of course that was only a pretext to give vent to his ill
temper--there were business letters very likely containing bad news. I
replied that did not concern him, I did not inquire into his expenses.
Then he was cross and declared that I had tried in Nice to copy the
dresses of the elegant French women. But it is not true, for I only
bought two dresses there. Gracious, yes, they were rather dearer than
if my dressmaker in Berlin had made them. Of course I said again, 'That
is not your affair, for I pay for them.' Then he talked in a very moral
strain about honorable women and German women who helped to increase
the prosperity of a house. Other fortunes besides ours had been thrown
away and when the truth was known it was always the fault of 'Madame.'
He found fault with mamma for making herself so ridiculous with her
youthful costumes, and at last he declared we owed some duty to our
future children--Heaven preserve me! I have had to give up my poor
sweet little Walter, and I will have no more. The pain of losing him
was too great; I should die of anxiety. In short, he played the part of
a real provincial Philistine, and finally even that of Othello, for he
declared Col. von Brelow always had such a confidential air with me.
That was too much for my patience. I proposed that we should separate
then. You understand I only said so--for he is pretty obedient
generally, when I hold the reins tight. And as I said before one can't
get free for nothing. 'I will go at once!' I cried, and then I ran up
to mamma."

"Stop, I beg of you," cried Gertrude, hastily rising. She rang for a
light and when Johanna brought the lamp it lighted up a feverish face,
and eyes swollen as if with burning tears, and yet Gertrude had not
wept.

"How you look, child," remarked Jenny. "Well, and what is to be done
now? I must tell mamma something, it was for that I came."

She cast a glance at the dainty time-piece above the writing-table.

"Five minutes to nine--I must be going home. Do tell me how you mean to
arrange matters?"

"You shall hear to-morrow--the day after to-morrow--I don't know yet,"
stammered the young wife, pressing her hand on her aching head.

"Only don't make a scandal, Gertrude," and Jenny took up her gray cloak
with its red silk lining and tied the lace strings of her hat.

"If the affair is settled as Mr. Sneider advises, it is the best you
can do. By the way, how does Frank take it? Has he confessed it? To be
sure, what else could he do? Well, let me hear to-morrow then, at
latest. By the way, child, it has just occurred to me--that day that
Linden called on us the first time, that fellow, that Wolff, came with
him across the square to our house. I was sitting in the bay-window and
I was surprised to see how confidentially Wolff clapped him on the
shoulder."

Gertrude stood motionless. Ah, she had seen the same thing; she
recalled it so clearly at this moment.

"Yes, yes," she stammered.

"The lawyer says he does a great deal of that sort of business. But now
good-night, my pet--will you send in word or shall we send some one out
in the morning?"

"I will send word," replied Gertrude.

She did not go out with her sister, she stood still in her place, her
head gunk on her breast, her arms hanging nerveless by her side. This
conversation with Jenny had opened an abyss before her eyes; she no
longer knew what she should do, only one thing was clear, she could not
stay with him; she could not endure a life of indifference by his side,
and--any other life would never again be possible to them. "Never!" she
said aloud with decision, "Never!"

She heard his steps now in the next room; then the steps went away
again and presently she heard them on the gravel-walk in the garden
till they finally died away. She was so tired and it was so cold, and
she could not realize that there had ever been a time when it had been
different,--when she had been happy--she seemed to herself so degraded.

She had that fatal letter still in her hand, where it burnt like
glowing coals. She knew an old maid, the daughter of a poor official,
who was soured and embittered. For thirteen years she had been engaged
to a poor referendary, and finally they had recognized the fact that
they never would be rich enough to marry. She had remained lonely and
pitied by all who knew her history.

Ah, if she could only have exchanged with her, who had been loved for
her own sake! And even if she could forgive him for not having loved
her, the lie, the hypocrisy she could never forgive--never, never. Her
faith in him was gone.

Half unconsciously she had wandered out into the corridor, and felt a
little refreshed by the cooler air. She ran quickly down the steps into
the garden. From the kitchen came the sounds of talking and laughing;
the gardener was talking nonsense to the maids--the mistress' eye was
wanting.

There was no light in the garden-hall, but Aunt Rosa's windows were
unusually brilliant and a youthful shadow was marked out on the white
curtain. That must be the expected niece.

Gertrude walked on in the gravel-walks; the nightingales were singing
and there were sounds of singing in the steward's room, a deep
sympathetic tenor and a sorrowful melody.

On and on she went in the fragrant garden. Then she cried out suddenly,

"Frank!"

She had come upon him suddenly at a turning of the path.

"Gertrude!" returned he, trying to take her hand.

"Don't touch me!" she cried. "I was not looking for you, but as we have
met, I will ask you for something."

In order to support herself she clutched the branches of a lilac-bush
with her little hand.

"With all my heart, Gertrude," he replied gently. "Forgive my violence,
anger catches me unawares sometimes. I promise you it shall not happen
again."

He stopped, waiting to hear her request. For a while they stood there
in silence, then she spoke slowly, almost unintelligibly in her great
agitation. "Give me my freedom again--it is impossible any longer to--"

"I do not understand you," he replied, coldly, "what do you mean?"

"I will leave you everything, everything--only give me my freedom! We
cannot live together any longer, don't you see that?" she cried quite
beside herself.

"Speak lower!" he commanded, stamping angrily with his foot.

"Say yes!" entreated the young wife with a voice nearly choked with
emotion.

"I say no!" was the answer. "Take my arm and come."

"I will _not_! I will not!" she cried, snatching away her hand which he
had taken.

"You are greatly excited this evening, you will come now into the house
with me; tomorrow we will talk further on the subject and in the clear
daylight you can tell me what reasons you have for thinking our living
together impossible."

"Now, at once, if you wish it!" she gasped out. "Because two things are
wanting, two little trifling things only,--trust and esteem! I will not
speak of love--you have not been true to me, Frank, you have deceived
me and lost my confidence. Let me go, I entreat you, for the love of
Heaven--let me go!"

As he made no reply, she went on rapidly, her words almost stumbling
over each other so fast they came. "I know that I have no right in law;
people would laugh at a woman who demanded her freedom on no better
grounds than that she had been lied to once. So I come as a suppliant;
be so very good as to let me go, I cannot bear to live with you in
mistrust and--and--"

"Come, Gertrude," he said, gently, "you are ill. Come into the house
now and let us talk it over in our room--come!"

"Ill--yes! I wish I might die," she murmured.

Then she suddenly grew calm and went back into the house with him. He
opened the door of his room and she went in, but she passed quickly
through into her own, threw herself on her lounge, drew the soft
coverlid over her and closed her eyes. Frank stood helpless before her.

"I will have a cup of tea made for you," said the young man, kindly.

She looked unspeakably wretched, as she lay there, the long black
lashes resting like dark shadows on her white cheeks. She must have
suffered frightfully.

"Go to bed, Gertrude," he begged anxiously, "it will be better for you
and tomorrow we will talk about this."

"I shall stay here," she replied decisively, turning her head away.

Then he lost patience.

"Confound your silly obstinacy!" he cried angrily. "Do you think I am a
foolish boy? I will show you how naughty children ought to be treated!"

Then he turned and banging the door after him he went away.



                              CHAPTER XV.


The first rays of the morning sun were resting like reddish gold on the
tips of the forest trees which crowded close up to the white villa-like
house. Magnificent oaks, like giant sentinels, stood on the lawn before
the massive wall. A narrow, little-used path wound in between them,
such as are to be found in places not intended to be walked upon. The
great trees gave out little shade as yet, the oak-tree is late in
getting its leaves; those that had already appeared looked young and
shrivelled against the knotted branches, and formed a delightful
contrast to the dark green of the evergreens on the other side of the
garden wall, mingled with the tender misty foliage of the birches.
"Waldruhe" lay as if dreaming in this early stillness. The green
jalousies were all closed, like sleepy eyelids; on the roof a row of
bright-feathered pigeons were sunning themselves. The lawn before the
house was like a wilderness, the grass-grown paths scarcely
distinguishable, which led from the great iron gate to the veranda
steps. From a side-building a little smoke rose up to the blue sky, and
a cat sat crouched on the wooden bench beside the hall-door. There was
no sound except the joyful trills of the larks as they soared out of
sight in the blue sky.

[Illustration: "She leaned with her ungloved hands against the misty
bars of the gate."]

From under the oaks a slender woman's figure drew near. She walked
slowly, and her eyes glanced now to the left over the green wheat
fields to the open country, and now rested on the trees beside her. She
must have come a long way, for the delicate face looked worn and weary,
dark shadows were under her eyes, and the bottom of her dress was damp
as were also the small shoes which peeped out under the gray woollen
robe. She went straight up to the iron gate, clasped the rusty bars
with her ungloved hands and looked at the house somewhat in the
attitude of an curious child, but her eyes were too grave for that.
Beside her stood a brown dog wagging his tail, raising inquiringly his
shrewd eyes to her face, but she took no heed of the animal that had
followed her so faithfully. Her thoughts took only one direction.

She had never been here since that day when she had run hither in
desperate fear, to arrive--only too late. Everything was the same now
as then--just as lonely and deserted. She pulled the bell, how hard it
pulled! Ah, no hand had touched it since!

It is true Sophie came here conscientiously every spring and every
autumn to beat the furniture and air the rooms, but no one else. Mrs.
Baumhagen had from the first declared this idyllic whim of her
husband's an absurdity, and Jenny always called the country house "Whim
Hall." She had been here once but would never come again, "one would
die of ennui among those stupid trees."

At length the bell gave out a faint tinkle. Thereupon arose a fierce
barking in the side-building and a woman of some fifty years in a
wadded petticoat and a red-flannel bed-gown came out of the house. She
stared at the young lady in amazement, then she clapped her hands
together and ran back into the house with her slippers flapping at each
step, returning presently with a bunch of keys.

"Merciful powers!" cried she as she opened the door, "I can't believe
my own eyes--Mrs. Linden! Have you been taking a morning walk, ma'am?
I've always wondered if you wouldn't come here some day with your
husband--and now here you are--and that is a pleasure to be sure!" And
she ran before, opening the doors.

"It is all in order, Mrs. Linden--my man always insists upon
that--'Just you see,' he says, 'some day some of the ladies will be
popping in on you.'" And the square little body ran on again to open a
door. "It is all as it used to be--there is your bed and there are the
books, only the evergreens and the beeches have grown taller."

The young wife nodded.

"Bring me a little hot milk," she said, shivering, "as soon as you can,
Mrs. Rode."

"This very minute!" And the old woman hurried away. Gertrude could hear
the clatter of her slippers on the stairs and the shutting of the hall
door. At last she was alone.

A cool green twilight reigned in the room from the branches of the
beeches which pressed close up to the pane. It was not so dark here
that last summer she had spent in "Waldruhe." Otherwise--the woman was
right--everything was as it had been then, the mirror in its pear-wood
frame still displayed the Centaurs drawing their bows in the yellow
and black ground of the upper part; above the small old-fashioned
writing-table still hung the engraving, "Paul and Virginia" under the
palm trees; the green curtains of the great canopied bed were not in
the least faded, the sofa was as uncomfortable as ever, and the table
stood before it with the same plush cover. She had passed so many
pleasant hours here, in the sweet spring evenings at the open window,
and on stormy autumn evenings when the clouds were flying in the sky,
the storm came down from the mountains and beat against the lonely house.
The rain pattered against the panes, and the woods began to rustle with
a melancholy sound. Then the curtains were drawn, the fire burned
brightly in the fireplace, and opposite in the cosy sitting-room her
father sat at a game of cards. She was the hostess here in "Waldruhe,"
and she felt so proud of going into the kitchen with her white apron on
and of going down into the cellar, and then at dinner all the old
gentlemen complimented her on the success of her venison pie. The dear
old friends--there was only Uncle Henry left now.

There on that bed they had laid the fainting girl when they had found
her by her father's death-bed.

The young wife shivered suddenly. "He died of his unhappy marriage,"
she had once heard Uncle Henry say--in a low tone, but she had
understood him nevertheless.

Mamma did not love him, she had loved another man, and she had told him
so once, when they were quarreling about some trifle.

"I should have been happier with the other one--I liked him at any
rate, but--he was poor."

Gertrude understood it all now; she had her father's character, she was
proud, too. Oh, those gloomy years when she was growing to understand
what sunshine was wanting in the house!

"If it were not for the children," he had said once, angrily, "I would
have put an end to it long ago."

O what a torture it is when two people are bound together by the law of
God and man who would yet gladly put a whole world between them!
Unworthy? Immoral?

Had not her father done well when he went voluntarily? But ah, how hard
was the going when one loves! How then? Love and esteem belong
together--ah, it was imagination, all imagination!

She grew suddenly a shade paler; she thought how her father had loved
her and she thought of the little cradle in the attic at home. Thank
God, it was only a dream, a wish, a nothing, and yet--Oh, this
sickening dread!

She went towards the bed, she was so tired; she nestled her head in the
pillow, drew up the coverlid and closed her eyes. And then she seemed
to be always seeing and hearing the words that she had written to-day
to leave on his writing-table. And she murmured, "Have compassion on
me, let me go! Do not follow me, leave me the only place that belongs
to me!"

The housekeeper brought some hot milk and she drank it. She would go to
sleep, she said, but she could not sleep. She was always listening; she
thought she heard horses' hoofs and carriage wheels. Ah, not that, not
that!

Hour after hour passed and still she lay motionless; she had no longer
the strength to move. Why can one not die when one will?

The noon-day bell was ringing in the village when a carriage drove up
and soon after steps came up the stairs.

Thank God, it was not he!

Uncle Henry put his troubled face in at the door.

"Really," he said, "you are here then! But why, child, why?"

She had risen hastily and now stood before the little old gentleman.

"You bring me an answer, uncle?"

"Yes, to be sure. But I would rather far do something else. How happens
it that your precious set should choose me for your amiable messenger?"

He threw himself down on the sofa with such force that it fairly
groaned under his weight.

"Have you any cognac here?" he inquired, "I am quite upset."

She shook her head without speaking and only gazed at him with gloomy
eyes.

"No, I suppose not," grumbled Uncle Henry. "Well then, he says if it
amuses you to stay here you are quite welcome to do so."

She started perceptibly,

"Oh, ta, ta! That is the upshot of it--about that," he continued,
wiping his forehead with his handkerchief.

"Linden did not say much," he went on, "he was in a silent rage over
your flight--however, he kept himself well in hand. He would not keep
you, he said, nor would he drag you back to his house by force. He will
send Johanna to wait on you, and hopes to be able to fulfil any other
desire of yours. He will arrange everything--and it is to be hoped you
will soon see your error. And," wound up Uncle Henry, "now that we have
got so far, I should be glad to learn from you what is to happen, when
you, with your well known obstinacy, do not feel inclined to own
yourself wrong?"

She was silent.

"As for the rest, Frank utterly denies having had any connection with
Wolff. And, I should like to know, Gertrude--you were always a
reasonable woman--why have you taken it into your head to believe that
old ass who was always known as a scoundrel, rather than your husband?"

Gertrude quickly put her hand in her pocket and grasped the
letter--there was her proof. She made a motion to give it to him--but
no, she could not do it, she could not bring out the small hand that
had closed tightly over the fatal paper.

"You ought both of you to give way a little, I think," said Uncle Henry
after awhile. "You are married now, and--_au fond_--what if he did
inquire about your fortune?"

Her frowning glance stopped him.

"Now-a-days it is not such a wonderful thing if a man--" he stammered
on.

"It is not that, it is not that, uncle! Stop, I beg of you!" cried
Gertrude.

"Oh yes, I understand, women are more sensitive in such matters, and
justly too," assented Uncle Henry. "Well, I fear the name of Baumhagen
will be the talk of the town again for the next six months. Goodbye,
Gertrude. I can't exactly say I have enjoyed my visit. Don't be too
lonely."

At the door he turned back again.

"You know it will come before the courts. Frank refuses to recognize
the claims of the fellow Wolff."

She shook her head.

"He will not refuse," she answered, calmly, "but I wish you would take
the matter in hand, uncle, and pay Wolff for his trouble."

Her eyes filled suddenly with angry tears.

"Oh, ta, ta! Why should I meddle with the matter?"

The old gentleman was deeply moved.

"I ask it of you, uncle, before it becomes the talk of the town."

A sob choked her words.

"Ah, do you think, my child, it is not already whispered about?
Hm!--Well I will do it, but entirely from selfish motives, you know. Do
you think it isn't disagreeable to me, too? Oh, ta, ta! What big drops
those were! But will you promise me then to let well enough alone!
What? You cannot leave him!"

The tears seemed frozen in her eyes.

"No," she replied, "but we shall agree upon a separation."

"Are you mad, child?" cried the old gentleman with a crimson face.

She turned her eyes slowly away.

"He only wanted my money; let him keep it," was her murmured reply,
"_I_ was only a necessary incumbrance,--_I_!"

"Oh, that is only your sensitiveness," said her uncle soothingly.

"Do you know me so little?" she inquired, drawing herself up to her full
height. Her swollen eyes looked into his with an expression of cold
decision.

The little man hastily shut the door behind him. It was exactly as if
his dead brother were looking at him. In a most uncomfortable frame of
mind, he got into his carriage. Confound it! here he was plunged into
difficulties again by his good nature.

Gertrude remained alone. For one moment she looked after him and then
she covered her face with her hands despairingly, threw herself on the
little sofa and wept.



                              CHAPTER XVI.


It was towards evening. Frank Linden mounted the steps, stood on the
terrace and whistled shrilly out into the garden. He waited awhile and
then shook his head. "The brute has gone with her," he said in a low
voice; "even an animal like that takes part against me." He went back
into the dining-room and stumbled over Johanna, who was busy at the
side-board.

"You will go over to 'Waldruhe' in an hour," he said, looking past her.
"Take what clothes are necessary for my wife with you. Whatever else
she may desire is at her disposal at any moment."

Johanna glanced at him shyly, the face that was usually so glowing
looked so ashy pale in the evening light.

"If I could have half an hour more, Mr. Linden--I want to show the
young lady something about the milk cellar."

"The young lady? ah--yes--"

"Yes, the young lady who came to visit Miss Rosa yesterday. She offered
her services, sir, when she heard that Mrs. Linden had gone away. I
don't know how I can manage without her either, Dora is so stupid and
she has so much to do besides."

Before he could reply, the door opened softly and behind Aunt Rosa's
wonderful figure appeared a dark girl with red cheeks and shining eyes,
who when she perceived him made a rather awkward curtsy, and was at
once introduced as Addie Strom.

Frank bowed to the ladies, stammered out a few civil words, and asked
to be excused for leaving them as he had letters to write.

"I am so sorry," said Aunt. Rosa, "that Mrs. Linden is not at home."

He nodded impatiently.

"She will soon be back," he replied as he went out.

"If Addie can help about the house a little--" sounded the shrill tones
of the old lady behind him.

"Don't give yourself any trouble," was his reply.

"I should be glad to do it," said Adelaide, timidly.

Another silent bow from him and then he went out with great strides.
That too!

He ran hastily down the steps into the garden. He took the letter out
of his pocket once more which he had found lying on his writing-table
that morning, and read it through. The writing was not as dainty as
usual--the letters were hard and firm and large and yet unsteady, as if
written, in great excitement.

The blood rushed in a hot wave to his heart. "It will come right." He
put away the letter and took another from his pocketbook which had
been brought half an hour before by an express messenger.

"I have just come from Wolff, with whom I intended to make an
arrangement of this fatal affair. The scoundrel, unfortunately, was
taken ill of typhus fever yesterday, and nothing is to be done with him
at present. I can only regret that you should have consulted this man
of all others, and I do not understand why you have not satisfied him.
As soon as the gentleman is _au fait_ again I shall take the liberty,
in the interest of my family and especially of my niece, to settle the
matter quietly, and beg you not to make the matter worse by any
imprudence on your part. You must have some consideration for the
family.

"May an old man give you a little advice? I am a very tolerant judge in
this matter, but a woman thinks differently about it. Acknowledge the
truth openly to your insulted little wife--with a person of her
character it is the only way to gain her pardon. I will gladly do all
in my power to set this foolish affair before her in the mildest
light--"

"Consideration!" he murmured, "consideration for the family!"

Then he laughed aloud and went on more quickly into the deepening
twilight. What should he do in the house, in the empty rooms, at the
inhospitable table with his heart full of bitterness? Childish, foolish
obstinacy it was in her--and no trust in him! How had he deserved that
she should give him up at once without even hearing him? Well, she
would get over it, she would come again, but--the spell was broken, the
bloom, the freshness was gone.

He must have his rights without regard to the Baumhagen family, or to
her on whom he would not have permitted the winds of heaven to blow too
roughly. She could not have hurt him more, than by giving more credence
to that scoundrel than to him--she who usually was so calm--calm?

He could see her eyes before him now, those eyes in which strong
passion glowed. He had seen them blaze with anger more than once, he
had heard her agitating sobs, her voice husky with emotion as she spoke
of her father. He saw her again as she had been the evening before
their marriage when she pressed his hands passionately to her lips, a
mute eloquent gesture, a thanksgiving for the refuge of his breast. And
now? It had already burned out this passionate love, had failed before
the first trial.

It was already dark when he returned from his walk. Johanna was gone.
The maid whom he met in the corridor told him she had taken her child
and a trunk full of clothing and the books which had been sent to Mrs.
Linden yesterday.

He went to her room; the sweet scent of violets of which she was so
fond pervaded the atmosphere, the afghan on the lounge lay just as it
had fallen when she threw it off as she rose. He could not stay---a
longing for her seized upon him so powerfully that it well-nigh
unmanned him, and he went back to the dining-room. He opened the door
half-unconsciously--there sat the judge at the table, dusty and
dishevelled from his Brocken tour, but contented to his inmost soul.
But--how came this stranger here doing the honors?

The rosy little brunette was just setting the table. She had put on a
white apron over her dark dress, the bib fastened smoothly across her
full bust. She was just depositing with her round arm half-uncovered by
the elbow-sleeve, a plate of cold meat by the judge's place, placing
the bottle of beer beside it. And as she did so she laughed at the
weary little man so that all her white teeth were displayed.

And this must he bear too, to make his comfort complete! Let them eat
who would! Soon he was sitting upstairs in the corner of the sofa in
his own room; outside the darkness of a spring night came down, and a
girl's voice was singing as if in emulation of the nightingales; that
must be the little brunette, Adelaide. At last he heard it sounding up
from the depths of the garden.

He did not stir until the judge stood before him.

"Now, I should really like to know, Frank--are you bewitched or
am I? What is the matter? Where is madame? The little black thing
downstairs, who seems to have fallen out of the clouds, says she is
'gone.'--Gone? What does it mean?"

"Gone!" repeated Frank Linden. It sounded so strange that his friend
started.

"Something has happened, Frank,--that old woman, the mother-in-law, has
done it. Oh, these women!"

"No, no, it is that affair with Wolff."

The judge gave vent to a long whistle, then he sat down beside Linden
and clapped him on the shoulder.

"We'll manage _him_, Frank," he said, comfortingly, "and _she_ will
come back, she _must_ come back; you will not even need to ask her. But
it was the most foolish thing she could do to run away."

And he began to describe a case that had come up in Frankfort a short
time before on the ground of wilful desertion.

Linden sprang up.

"Spare me your law cases," he said roughly. "Do you suppose I would
bring her back by force?"

"And what if she will not come of herself, Frank?"

"She will come," he replied, shortly.

"And that scoundrel Wolff?"

Frank Linden gave his friend a cigar and took one himself, though he
did not light it, and as he sat down again he said:

"You can ask that? Have I been in the habit of putting up with
imposition, Richard?"

"No, but on what does the man found his claim?"

Frank shrugged his shoulders. "I told you before, that he declared when
I turned him out, that he would know how to secure his rights. He is
ill now, however," he added.

"Oh, that is fatal!" lamented the judge. He was silent, for just then
the full, deep girl's voice came up from the garden:

           "Du hast mir viel gegeben,
            Du schenktest mir dein Herz,
            Du nahmst mir Alles wieder,
            Und liessest mir den Schmerz."

"It must be very hard, Frank," murmured his friend after a few moments
of deep silence. "Very hard--I mean, to go the right way to work with a
woman. How will you act? With sternness, or with gentleness? Will you
write her a harsh letter, or will you send her some verses? In such an
evening as this, I think I could almost write poetry myself. I say,
Frank, light the lamp and let us read the paper."

"Richard," said the young man as he rose, "if you will give me your
advice in regard to this affair of Wolff's, I shall be grateful to you,
but leave my wife out of the question altogether; that is my affair
alone."



                             CHAPTER XVII.


Mrs. Baumhagen had conquered her aversion to "Waldruhe" and had come to
see her youngest daughter. Something must be done--at any rate she
could not any longer endure the sympathetic inquiries for the health of
the young Mrs. Linden. Something _must_ be done.

Gertrude was sitting at the window reading in her cool dusky room, at
least she held a book in her hand; at her feet lay Linden's dog. She
started in dismay as she heard footsteps in the corridor and for one
moment a deep flush spread over her face.

"Ah, mamma," she said, wearily, as Mrs. Baumhagen rustled in in a light
gray toilet, her hat lavishly adorned with violets as being appropriate
to half-mourning, the round face more deeply flushed than usual with
the heat of the spring sun and her excitement.

"This can't go on any longer, child," she began, kissing her daughter
tenderly on the forehead. "How you look, and how cold it is here! Jenny
sent her love; she went to Paris this morning to meet Arthur. Why
didn't you go too, as I proposed?"

"I did not feel well enough," replied Gertrude.

"You look pale, and it is no wonder. I never could bear such want of
consideration, either."

Gertrude sat down again in her old place.

"Has Uncle Henry been here?" inquired Mrs. Baumhagen.

"He was here yesterday."

"Well, then, you know that Linden has forbidden him any interference
with Wolff?"

"Yes, mamma."

"And that this Mr. Wolff has been at the point of death for three days?
His death would be the best thing that could happen, for of course
everything would come to an end then. I don't know whether the people
in the city have any idea of the true state of the case, but they
suspect something and they overwhelm me with inquiries about you."

Gertrude nodded slightly, she knew all that already from her uncle.

"And hasn't he been here? Did he not ask your pardon, has he not tried
to get you back?" asked Mrs. Baumhagen, breathlessly.

"No," was the half-choked reply.

"Poor child!"

The mother pressed her cambric handkerchief to her eyes.

"It is brutal, really brutal! Thank God that your eyes have been opened
so soon. But you cannot stay here the whole time before the
separation?"

Gertrude started and looked at her mother with wide eyes. She herself
had thought of nothing but a separation. But when she heard the
dreadful word spoken, it fell on her like a thunderbolt.

"Yes," she said at length, wringing her hands nervously, "where should
I stay?"

"And for pity's sake, what do you do here from morning till night?"

"I read and go to walk, and--" I grieve, she would have added, but she
was silent. What did her mother know of grief!

"My poor child!"

Mrs. Baumhagen was really crying now. This atmosphere weighed on her
nerves. There was something oppressive in the air, and they really had
a dreadful time before them. What if he should not consent to a
separation? Why had God given the child such an unbending will which
had brought her into this misery! If she had only followed her mother's
advice. Mrs. Baumhagen had taken an aversion to the man from the first
moment.

"I think I must go home, my headache--" she stammered, unscrewing her
bottle of smelling salts.

"If you want anything, Gertrude, write or send to me. Do you want a
piano or books? I have Daudet's latest novel. Ah, child, there are many
trials in life and especially in married life. You haven't experienced
the worst of it yet."

"Thank you, mamma."

The young wife followed the mother down the corridor and down the
stairs to the hall door. Mrs. Baumhagen said good-bye with a cheerful
smile--the coachman need not know everything.

"I hope you will soon be better, Gertrude," she said, loudly. "Be
persevering in your water-cure."

Gertrude, left alone, went on into the garden. At the end of the wall
where the path curved was a little summer-house, with a roof of bark
shaped like a mushroom. Here she stopped and looked out into the
country which lay before her in all the glow and fragrance of the
evening light. Behind the wooded hills of the Thurmberg stood the dear,
cosy little house. She walked in spirit through all its rooms, but she
forced her thoughts past one door, the room with the old mahogany
furniture into which she had gone first on her wedding eve. And she
leaned more firmly against the wall and gazed out at the setting sun
which stood in the sky like a fiery red ball, till the tears streamed
from her eyes, and her heart ached with mortification and humiliation.
Why did that day always come back to her so, and that evening, the
first in that room? The evening when she had slipped from his arms,
down to his very feet, hiding her face in his hands, overwhelmed with
her deep gratitude. Must he not have smiled to himself at the foolish,
passionate, blindly credulous woman? And angry tears fell from her eyes
down over her pale cheeks, her hands trembled, and her pride grew
stronger every minute.

She turned and went back to the house, the dog still following, and
when she reached her room she sat down on the ground like a child and
put her arms round her brown companion's neck. She could weep now, she
could cry aloud and no one would hear. Johanna had gone to Niendorf to
get some books and all sorts of necessary things.

When Johanna came back at length, Gertrude sat in the corner of the
sofa as quiet as ever. The lamp was lighted and she was reading.
Johanna brought out a timid "Good evening!" which was acknowledged by a
silent nod. She laid a few rosebuds down beside the book. "The first
from the Niendorf garden, ma'am."

And when no answer came, she went on talking as she took the clothes
out of the basket and packed them away in the wardrobe.

"Dora is gone, Mrs. Linden. She could not get on with Miss Adelaide,
and the master packed her off. He is so angry. Mr. Baumhagen, who has
just been there, complained bitterly of the dinner to-day. I was in the
kitchen when he came in and said he had never eaten such miserable peas
in his life and the ham was cut the wrong way. Then Miss Adelaide cried
and complained, and declared she did it all only out of good-nature.
And the judge tried to comfort her and said it was a pity to spoil her
beautiful eyes.--The judge sent his compliments too, and said he would
come to say good-bye to you, ma'am. He is going away in a few days. Mr.
Baumhagen sent greetings too, and Miss Rosa and little Miss Adelaide--"

"Pray get the tea, Johanna," said the young lady, interrupting the
stream of words.

"The milk was sour, too, ma'am, and it is so cool too. Ah, you ought to
see the milk-cellar! Everything is going to ruin--it would really be
better if you would only agree that Miss Adelaide should come here and
let me go to the master."

"You will stay here," replied Gertrude, bending her eyes on her book.

"The master looks so pale," proceeded the chattering woman. "Mr.
Baumhagen was telling him in the garden-hall today that Wolff is dying,
and he struck his hand on the table till all the dishes rattled and
said, 'Everything goes against me in this matter!'"

Gertrude looked up. The color came back into her pale cheek, and she
drew a long breath.

"Dying?" she asked.

"Yes. I heard Mr. Baumhagen trying to soothe him--saying it was all for
the best and he hoped everything might be comfortably settled now."

"What was my uncle doing there?" inquired Gertrude.

Johanna was embarrassed.

"I don't know, Mrs. Linden, but if I am not mistaken, he was trying to
persuade Mr. Linden to--that--ah, ma'am!"--Johanna came and stood
before the table which she had set so daintily.

"What is between you and Mr. Linden I don't know, and it is none of my
business to ask. But you see, ma'am, I have had a husband too, that I
loved dearly--and life is so short, and I think we shouldn't make even
one hour of it bitter, ma'am; the dead never come back again. But if I
could know that my Fritz was still in the world and was sitting over
there behind the hills, not so very far away from me--good Lord, how I
would run to him even if he was ever so cross with me! I would fall on
his neck and say, 'Fritz, you may scold me and beat me, it is all one
to me so long as I have you!'"

And the young widow forgot the respect due to her mistress and threw a
corner of her apron over her eyes and began to cry bitterly.

"Don't cry, Johanna," said Gertrude. "You don't understand--I too would
rather it were so than that--" She stopped, overpowered by a feeling of
choking anguish.

Johanna shook her head.

"'Taint right," she said, as she went out.

And Gertrude left the table and seated herself at the window, laying
her forehead against the cool pane. Are not some words as powerful as
if God himself had spoken them?

When some time after, Johanna entered the room again, she found it
empty, and the table untouched. And as she began to remove the simple
dishes, Gertrude entered and put a key down on the table. She had been
in her father's room and the pale face with its frame of brown hair,
looked as if turned to stone.

"If visitors come to-morrow, or at any time, I cannot receive them,"
she said, "unless it be my Uncle Henry."

And she took up her book again and began to read.

The house had long been quiet, when she put down the book for a moment
and gazed into space.

"No!" she murmured, "no!"



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


Three days later the Niendorf carriage stopped before the gate of
"Waldruhe," and waited there a quarter of an hour in the blazing heat
of the mid-day sun, so that the gardener's children could gaze to their
heart's content on the brilliant coloring of Aunt Rosa's violet parasol
and the red ostrich feathers which adorned Adelaide's summer hat,
mingling effectively with the dark curly hair which hung in a fringe
over the youthful forehead. This sight must have been an agreeable
one to the judge also, for he did not take his eyes off his pretty
_vis-à-vis_.

"Mrs. Linden regrets that she is not well enough to receive visitors,"
announced Johanna with her eyes cast down.

Two of the occupants of the carriage looked disappointed, while the
judge felt in his pocket for his card-case.

"There!" He gave the servant the turned-down card.

"And here is a letter, an _important letter_--do you understand,
Johanna? My compliments, and I trust she will soon recover."

"So do I," said the young girl, timidly.

Aunt Rosa, however, was silent, and when they looked at her more
closely they saw she was asleep, the wrinkled old face nodding absurdly
above the enormous bow under her chin.

"Burmann, drive slowly, when we get to the wood," whispered the judge,
"Miss Rosa is asleep."

The coachman made a clucking sound with his tongue and drove
noiselessly over the soft grass-grown road. Johanna could see that the
judge moved over from the middle of the seat opposite the young lady
and that she glowed suddenly like the feathers on her hat.

Johanna went back into the house with her card and letter and gave them
to Gertrude.

"A letter?" inquired the young wife.

"The judge gave it to me," replied Johanna, as she left the room in
which, in spite of the outside heat, the air was always damp and cold.

Gertrude slowly opened the letter. It was in his handwriting--she had
expected it. Her heart beat so quickly she could scarcely breathe, and
the letters danced before her eyes. It was some time before she could
read it:

"GERTRUDE--Wolff died last evening. It is no longer possible to call
him to account on earth; it is no longer possible to expose his guilt.
He has gone to his grave without having cleared me from his calumny. I
remain before you as a guilty person, and I can do nothing more than
declare once more that we--you and I, are the victims of a scoundrel. I
have never spoken with Wolff of your fortune nor called in his
intervention in any way. I leave the rest to you and to your
consideration. I shall never force you to return to me, neither shall I
ever consent to a divorce. Come home, Gertrude, come soon and all shall
be forgotten. The house is empty, and my heart is still more so--have
faith in me again.      Your FRANK."'

She had just finished reading these words when Uncle Henry came in.
The little gentleman had evidently dined well--his face shone with
good-humor.

"Still here?" he cried. And as she did not reply he looked at her more
closely. "Well, you are not angry again?"

But the young wife swayed suddenly and Uncle Henry sprang towards her
only just in time to keep her from falling, and called anxiously for
Johanna. They laid the slender figure on the sofa and bathed her
temples with cold water.

"Speak to me, child!" he cried, "speak to me!" and he repeated it till
she opened her eyes.

"I cannot," she said after awhile.

"What?" asked the asthmatic old gentleman.

"Go to him I _can_not! Must I?"

"Merciful Heavens!" groaned Uncle Henry, "do be reasonable! Of course
you must unless you want him to be ruined."

"I must?" she repeated, adding as if for her own comfort, "No, I must
not! I cannot force myself to have confidence in him, I cannot pretend
what I do not feel. No, I must not!"

And she sprang up and ran through the room to the door, trembling with
excitement.

"Oh, ta, ta!" The old man ran his hands through his hair. "Then stay
here! Let your house and home go to ruin, and the husband to whom you
have pledged your faith into the bargain."

"Yes, yes," she murmured, "you are right, but I cannot!"

And she grasped the little purse in her pocket which held that fatal
letter.

It seemed as if this brought her back at once to herself. She grew
quiet, she lay back on her lounge and rested her head on the cushion.

"Pardon me, uncle--I know what I am doing."

"That is exactly what you don't know," he muttered.

"Yes, I do," was the pettish reply. "Or do you think I ought to go
there and beg him with folded hands to take me back into favor again?"
And something like scorn curved her lips.

"It would be the most sensible thing you could do," replied Uncle
Henry, rather angrily.

She bent back her head proudly.

"No!" came from her lips, "not if I were still more miserable than I
am! I can forgive him, but--fawn upon him like--like a hound--no!"

"God forgive me, but it is nothing but the purest arrogance that
animates you," cried the old man. "Who gave you the right to set
yourself so high above him? He was a poor man who could not marry
without money--is it a crime that he should have asked a question as to
this matter? It happens to every princess. You are stern and unloving
and unjust. Have you never done anything wrong?"

She had started at his first reproachful words like a frightened child,
now she sprang up and as she knelt down before him her eyes looked up
at him imploringly.

"Uncle, do you know how I loved him? Do you know how a woman can love?
I looked up to him as to the noblest being on earth, so lofty, so great
he seemed to me. I have lain at his feet, and at night I folded my
hands and thanked God that he had given me this man for my husband. I
thought he was the only one who did not look on me only as a rich girl,
and he has told me so a hundred times. Uncle, you have been always
alone, you don't know how people can love! And then to come down and
see in him only a common man, a man who does not disdain to tell a
lie--O, I would rather have died!" And she hid her face in her
trembling hands. "And there, where I have been so happy, shall I
satisfy myself with the coldest duty? I must be his wife and know that
it was not love that brought me to his side? I shall hear his tender
words and not think, 'He does not mean them?' He will say something to
me and I shall torment myself with doubts whether he really means it?
Oh, hell itself could not be more dreadful, for I loved him!"

Tears stood in the old man's eyes. He stroked Gertrude's smooth hair in
some embarrassment.

"Stand up, Gertrude," he said, gently; and after a pause he added, "The
Bible says we shall forgive."

"Yes, with all my heart," she murmured. "And if you see him tell him
so. Ah, if he had come and had said--'Forgive me'--but so--"

An idea came into Uncle Henry's head.

"Then would you give in, child?" he inquired.

"Yes," she stammered, "hard as it would be."

The old egotist knew then what he had to do. He led the weeping
Gertrude to her little sofa, asked Johanna for a glass of wine and then
drove to Niendorf. As he went he could see always before him the
beautiful tear-stained face, and could hear her sad voice. As he ran up
the steps to the garden-hall rather hastily he saw through the glass
door the little brunette Adelaide sitting at the table with the judge,
who was just uncorking a wine-bottle. Both were so deeply engaged in
gazing at each other and blushing and gazing again that they were not
conscious of the presence of the old spy outside.

"Really, this is a pretty time to be carousing in this house," thought
Uncle Baumhagen. As he entered he brought the couple back to the bald
present with a gruff "Good morning," and the judge began at once a
lament over the horrible ill-luck of this Wolff's dying six months too
soon.

"What is going on here?" asked Uncle Henry, inhaling the fragrance of
the wood-ruff.

"The parting _mai-trank_ for the judge," replied Miss Adelaide.

"Oh, ta, ta! You are going away?"

"I must," replied the little man with a regretful look at the young
girl. "Besides, my dear sir, since this dreadful wifeless time has
begun it is melancholy in Niendorf. Linden has been as overwhelmed,
since the news of the death came last evening, as if his dearest friend
had gone down into the grave with that limb of Satan. Heaven knows he
could not have been more anxious about a near relation, and his horses
have nearly run their legs off with making inquiries about the fellow's
health. I really believe he would have given the doctor of this
distinguished citizen a premium for preserving his precious life."

Uncle Henry grumbled something which sounded almost like a curse.
"Where is Linden?" he inquired.

"Upstairs!" replied Miss Adelaide. "He has been there ever since this
morning, at least we--" indicating the judge and herself--"dined alone
with auntie, then we went to 'Waldruhe' but we did not get in, and now
it is out of sheer desperation that we made a bowl of _mai-trank_. But
won't you taste a little of it, Mr. Baumhagen?"

She had filled a glass and offered it to the old gentleman with
laughing eyes.

Uncle Henry cast a half-angry, half-eager glance at the glass in the
small hand.

"Witch!" he growled, and marched out of the room as haughtily as a
Spaniard. He was in too serious a mood to enter into their "chatter."
But a clear laugh sounded behind him.

"I wish the judge would pack that little monkey in his trunk and send
her off to Frankfort or to Guinea for all I care."

He found the young master of the house at his writing-table. "Linden,"
he began, without sitting down, "the carriage is waiting down-stairs,
come with me to your little wife; if you will only beg her forgiveness,
everything will be all right again."

Frank Linden looked at him calmly.

"Do you know what I should be doing?" he asked--"I should acknowledge a
wrong of which I have never been guilty."

"Ah, nonsense! Never mind that! This is the question now, will you have
your wife back again or not?"

"Is that the condition on which my wife will return to me?"

"Why, of course. Oh, ta, ta! I am sure at least that she would come
then."

"I am sorry, but I cannot do it," replied the young man, growing a
shade paler. "It is not for me to beg pardon."

"You are an obstinate set, and that is all there is about it,"
thundered Uncle Henry. "We are glad that the scoundrel is dead, and now
here we are in just the same place as we were before."

"The scoundrel's death is a very unfortunate event for me, uncle."

"You will not?" asked the old gentleman again.

"Ask her pardon--no!"

"Then good-bye!" And Uncle Henry put on his hat and hastily left the
room and the house.

"Allow me to accompany you down," said Frank, following the little man,
who jumped into the carriage as if he were fleeing from some one.

But before the horses started he bent forward and an expression of
intense anxiety rested on his honest old face.

"See here, Frank," he whispered, "it is a foolish pride of yours.
Women have their little whims and caprices. It is true I never had a
wife--thank Heaven for that!--but I know them very well for all that.
They have such ideas, they must all be worshipped, and the little one
is particularly sharp about it. She is like her father, my good old
Lebrecht, a little romantic--I always said the child read too much. Now
do you be the wise one to give in. You have not been so hurt either,
and--besides she is a charming little woman."

"As soon as Gertrude comes back everything shall be forgotten," replied
Linden, shutting the carriage door.

"But she won't come so, my boy. Don't you know the Baumhagen obstinacy
yet?" cried Uncle Henry in despair.

He shrugged his shoulders and stepped back.

"To Waldruhe!" shouted the old man angrily to the coachman, and away he
went.

"My young gentleman is playing a dangerous game as injured innocence,"
he growled, pounding his cane on the bottom of the carriage. The nearer
he came to the villa, the redder grew his angry round face. When he
reached "Waldruhe" he did not have to go upstairs. Gertrude was in the
park. She was standing at the end of a shady alley and perceiving her
uncle she came towards him, in her simple white summer dress.

"Uncle," she gasped out, and two anxious eyes sought to read his face.

"Come," said the old man, taking her hand, "let us walk along this
path. It will do me good. I shall have a stroke if I stand still. To
make my story short, child--he will not."

"Uncle, what have you done?" cried Gertrude, a flush of mortification
covering her face. "You have been to him?"

"'Yes,' I said, 'go and ask her forgiveness and everything will come
right--women are like that!' and he--"

She pressed her hand on her heart.

"Uncle!" she cried.

"And he said: No! That would be owning a fault which he had not
committed. There, my child! I have tried once more to play the part of
peace-maker, but--now I wash my hands of it all. You must do it for
yourselves now. Anger is bad for me, as you know, and I have had enough
now to last me a month. Good-bye, Gertrude!"

"Good-bye, uncle, I thank you."

He had gone a few steps when the old egotist looked round once more.
She was leaning against the trunk of a beech-tree like one who has
received a blow. Her eyes were cast down, a strange smile played about
her mouth.

"Poor child!" he stammered out, taking his hat from his burning
forehead, and then he went back to her.

"Come now, you must keep your spirits up," he said kindly. "Over there
in Niendorf that black little monkey was making a _mai-trank_ for the
judge who is going away. What do you say, Gertrude, shall we go and
have some? Come, I will take you over quite quietly. You see we would
go so softly into the dining-room, and I am not an egotist if you are
not--one--two--three--in each others' arms--you will cry 'Frank!' he
will say 'Gertrude!' and all will be forgotten. Gertrude, my good
little Gertrude, do be reasonable. Is life so very blissful that one
dares fling away the golden days of youth and happiness? Come, come,
take my advice just this once."

He had grasped her slender wrist, but she freed herself hastily and her
face grew rigid. "No, no, that is all over!" she said in a hard
distinct tone.



                              CHAPTER XIX.


The summer had come; the yellowing grain waved in the soft breezes, and
the cherry-trees in the orchards and along the high roads had all been
robbed of their fruit. The sky was cloudless and the first grain had
been harvested in Niendorf.

From the cities every one had fled to the watering-places or into the
mountains. The corner-house in the market-place was shut up from top to
bottom. Mrs. Baumhagen was in Switzerland, Mr. and Mrs. Fredericks in
Baden-Baden. Uncle Henry had gone to Heligoland, because nowhere can
one get such good breakfasts as on the dunes of that rocky island.

Only the two sat still in their nests; separated by a small extent of
wood and meadow, they could not have been further apart if the ocean
had rolled between. There was no crossing the gulf between them.

In Niendorf everything was irregular and in disorder. How should the
little Adelaide know anything about the management of a farm? She was
on her feet all day, she took a hundred unnecessary steps, and in the
evening she complained that the two dainty little feet in the pointed
high-heeled shoes hurt her so, and that the servants had no respect for
her. Aunt Rosa was in a bad temper, for she found herself in her old
age condemned to the life of a lady-in-waiting. Adelaide could not
possibly dine alone with Linden, and she must always be there. So at
twelve o'clock every day, the old lady put on her best cap, and sat,
the picture of misery, opposite Linden, in Gertrude's vacant place. The
meals were desperately melancholy. After awhile Adelaide also became
silent, since she very rarely got any reply to her remarks. So they ate
their dinner in silence and separated as soon as possible afterwards.

Frank, however, had work to do at least, he could not _always_ think
and brood and look at the locked door which led into Gertrude's room.
That happened in the evening in his quiet room when little Adelaide was
singing all manner of melancholy songs about love and longing
down-stairs. And at midnight when it was quite quiet, when every one
was asleep in the house and only some faint barking of a dog sounded
from the tillage, he wandered up and down the room till the lamp grew
dim and went out, and even then he did not stop.

He no longer expected her to come, though he had done so for days and
weeks. At first he had gone to the very walls of her garden with a
gnawing desire to see her; he would be there when she came out of the
gate, and he would go to meet her at the very first step. In vain, she
did not come.

Once the servants had seen him when his eyes were strangely red. "The
master is crying for the mistress," was the report in the kitchen.

"Why doesn't he go and get her?" said the coachman, "I wouldn't cry a
drop; I should know very well how to get back an obstinate wife,"
making an unmistakable gesture. "Brute!" cried the maids, and thereupon
all the women turned their backs on him.

It was long since there had been such a harvest; the barns could
scarcely contain all the grain. The fragrance of the hay came over from
the meadows and mingled with that of the thousand roses in the garden;
the great linden bloomed in the court-yard and a happy hen-mother led
out to walk a legion of yellow little chickens.

In the stork's nest on the barn the young ones were growing apace; the
homely old house lay almost buried in luxuriant greenery; the clematis
climbed up to the windows and peeped in at the empty rooms, and the
swallows which were building under the roof, went crying through the
country and the city, "She has gone away from him! She has gone away
from him!"

Yes, everybody knew the sad story by this time. Gertrude Baumhagen was
separated from her husband. In the coffee parties one whispered to
the other, people spoke of it at the cafés and at dinner-parties,
and at the table d'hôte in the hotel it was the standing topic of
conversation. No one knew exactly why this had happened. There were a
thousand reports of a most wonderful nature.

"He did something disagreeable about his wife's dowry--"

"She went away because he lifted his hand to strike her--"

"The mother-in-law made mischief between them--"

"Nonsense! She was jealous--there is a little brown cousin in the
house--"

"No, it was not that--she heard that before they were engaged he
consulted an agent about her fortune. It is not so very unusual
now-a-days."

"Ah, bah, no woman would run away for that!"

"That shows that you don't know Gertrude Baumhagen very well. It is a
fact that she has gone away."

Yes, it was a fact, and Gertrude sat in her lonely house like one
buried alive in that ever gloomy room. She could no longer read; it
seemed as if she slept with open eyes. Sometimes Johanna brought her
her child, and the young wife's eyes mechanically followed the little
creature as it crept awkwardly over the floor or tried to raise
itself by a chair, but she would not touch it even when it fell and
cried.--Towards evening, however, the same unaccountable restlessness
always came over her; then she walked hurriedly up and down the garden
for a long time till she reached the top of the little hill; there she
would remain for hours, gazing at the Thurmberg till her hair and dress
were wet with dew.

"Believe me," she said to Johanna, "I shall be ill--here," and she
pointed to her head.

"I do believe it," assented the other, "it is easy to make one's self
ill--"

It was a day at the end of July; a frightful sultry heat brooded over
the earth, and the young wife suffered greatly from it even in her cool
room. After dinner she lay motionless in her chair by the window; a
severe headache tortured her as was so often the case lately.

Johanna placed her cupful of strong black coffee on the table and put
the book beside it which had been opened at the same page for the last
three days.

"Here is a letter too," she added.

Gertrude had acquired a great dread of letters lately. She overcame her
aversion however and opened it. It was in Jenny's pointed handwriting,
and Jenny only wrote surface gossip; one glance at the letter would
suffice. Two sheets fell out.

"It is a long time since we heard anything from you," she read, "so
that we are very anxious about you--are you still in 'Waldruhe?'"

"I met Judge K. yesterday at a reception, the same who, in the
celebrated divorce case of the Duke of P. with Countess Y., was the
counsel of the latter. I asked him playfully if a woman could separate
from her lord and master if she found that he had had more thought of
her worldly goods than of herself, described the situation pretty
plainly and spoke of a friend of mine who was in such a position. He
replied, 'Tell your friend she had better go quietly back to her
husband, for she is sure to get the worst of it.' His real expression
was a much rougher one, for he is well known as a brute.

"Well, there you have the opinion of an authority in such matters. Make
an end of the matter, for you may have so bitterly to repent a longer
delay as you are quite unable to realize in your present magnificent
scorn. If I am not much mistaken you really love him. Well, there are
things--but it is hard to write about such things. Read the enclosed
letter, which mamma sent me a few days ago. Perhaps you will guess what
I wanted to say.

"I wish you had been with me in Paris or were here now in Baden-Baden.
You would see how we German women, with our thick-skinned housewifely
virtues and our cobwebby romance, make our lives unnecessarily hard. I
am convinced a French woman would hold her sides for laughing if she
should hear the cause of your conjugal strife.

"Arthur is very amiable, and obeys at a word. He surprised me with a
Paris dress for the reception yesterday. As soon as he gets out of our
little nest he is like another man. Good-bye, don't take this affair
too tragically.

                                               "YOUR SISTER."


Slowly the young wife took up the other letter; it was in Aunt
Pauline's pointed handwriting and was addressed to Mrs. Baumhagen.


"DEAREST OTTILIE:

"Everything here goes on as usual. I was at your house yesterday;
Sophie is there and had a great moth-hunt yesterday. Your parrot had a
bad eye but it is all right again now. I have heard nothing of
Gertrude; she will let nobody in. I suppose you have heard from her.
There are all sorts of reports about Niendorf going about. Last
evening my husband came home from the club--they say there is a cousin
there who manages the house. Mr. Hanke has seen her in Linden's
carriage--very dark, rather original, and very much dressed. Well, of
course, you know how people will talk, but I will not pour oil on the
fire. I saw Linden too, once, and I hardly knew him; he was coming from
the bank. The man's hair is growing gray about the temples; he looked
like another person, so--how shall I describe it--so run down."

Gertrude dropped the letter and then she sprang up--she shook and
trembled in every limb.

With a powerful effort she forced herself to be calm and to be
reasonable. What did she wish? She had separated from him forever. But
her heart! her heart hurt her so all at once, and it beat so loudly in
the deathly stillness which surrounded her that she thought she could
hear it.

"Johanna!" she shrieked, but no one replied; she was probably out in
the garden or in the kitchen at work.

And what good could she do her? "No, not that, only not that!"

She sat down again in her chair by the window and looked out among the
trees. What would she not give if the woods and the hills would
disappear so that she could look across into that house--into that
room! "A gay little thing is that brown little girl," Johanna had said
the other day. And Gertrude saw her in her mind's eye tripping about
the house, now in the garden-hall, now up the steps, those dear old
worn-out steps. Tap, tap, now in the corridor, the high-heeled shoes
tapped so firmly and daintily on the hard floor; and now at a brown
door--his door.

Might she enter? Ah, his room, that dear old room! And Gertrude wrung
her hands in bitter envy. "Go!" she cried, half-aloud, "go! That
threshold is sacred--I--I crossed it on the happiest day of my life--on
his arm!"

And she could see him sitting at his writing-table in his gray jacket
and his high boots just as he had come in from the fields; his white
forehead stood out in sharp contrast to his brown face. She had always
liked that.

And gray hair on his temples? Ah, he had none a few weeks ago! And
again a dainty little figure fluttered before her eyes going towards
him. Ah, she would like to know that one thing--if he could ever forget
her for another--for this girl perhaps? But of what use was all this?

She got up and went out of the room across the corridor to her father's
room. What her father had done thousands had done before him, and
thousands would do it--a man need not live!

On the table by the bed stood the glass with his monogram, out of which
he had drunk that dreadful potion. The servants had washed it and put
it back there. She walked a few steps toward the window and started
suddenly. Ah yes, it was only her image in the glass. She walked
quickly up to the shining glass and looked in--there was a wonderful
bluish shimmer in it and her face, pale as death, looked out at her
from it. The deep shadows under the eyes spread far down on her cheeks.
Shuddering, she turned away; there was something ghostly about her own
face.

And again she stood still and thought. What was left for her in life?
Everything was gone with him, everything!

"Mrs. Linden," said a voice behind her, "Judge Schmidt."

She nodded.

"In my room."

Ah, yes, she had forgotten that she had sent for him. He came to-day,
and she had only written yesterday. But it was just as well, she must
make a beginning.

She turned back again; let him wait, she could not go just yet. She
went to the window and saw how the heavy leaden clouds were spreading
over the sky; a storm was brewing in the west. Courage, now, courage!
When it was past the sun would shine again; sometimes a broken branch
could not lift itself again. So much the better! There would be no more
of this quiet, this deadly calm.

Only something to do--even if--

"Ma'am!" called the voice once more, and then she composed herself and
went.

She knew him very well, the old gentleman who came towards her with a
kind smile, but she could not speak a word to him. She could only wave
her hand silently towards the nearest chair. He knew what the matter
was, let him begin the dreadful conversation.

"You wish for my advice, Mrs. Linden, in this difficult matter?"

"Yes, I wish you to act for me," she said, looking past him into the
corner of the room, "and I wish above all that Mr. Linden should be
informed of the decision I have come to. I will leave him in possession
of my whole fortune with the exception of this house, and the capital
that is invested in my brother-in-law's factory."

She said the words hurriedly, as if she had learned them by heart.

"Are you quite in earnest about it then?" asked the old man.

Her eyes blazed out at him.

"Do you think I would jest on such a sorrowful subject?"

"And you think your husband will agree?"

"It is _your_ affair, Mr. Schmidt, to arrange this."

He bowed without speaking. She too was silent. An oppressive stillness
reigned in the room, in the whole house. It seemed to Gertrude as if
she had just heard her sentence of death.

"There will be a bad storm to-day," said the judge after awhile. "I
must leave you now, madam, and as I am half-way to Niendorf now, I will
just drive over, to arrange the matter with your husband in person."

"To-day?" She was startled into saying it.

He hesitated and looked at her.

"You are right, to-morrow will suit me better too--let us say the day
after to-morrow."

"No," she replied, hastily, "go at once, it will be better, much
better."

She got up in some confusion; her headache, the consciousness that she
had now set the ball rolling nearly overwhelmed her. She accompanied
the lawyer mechanically to the head of the stairs; then she remained
standing in the corridor, her hand pressing her throbbing temples, half
unconscious.

She could hear Johanna in the kitchen, and as if she could bear the
loneliness no longer she went in and sat down on a chair beside the
white scoured table. Johanna was standing before it, choosing between
ivy-leaves and cypress-twigs. Her eyes were red with crying, and large
drops fell now and then on the hands which were making a wreath. The
whole kitchen smelled of death and funerals.

"What are you doing there?" asked Gertrude.

Johanna looked away and suppressed a sob.

"It will be a year to-morrow," she replied in a choked voice, "since
they brought him home to me dead."

"Ah, true."

The two women looked deep into each other's sorrowful eyes, each with
the thought that she was the most unhappy. Ah, but there stood the
little carriage with the sleeping child, and that belonged to Johanna,
and Johanna could think of _him_ without other sorrow and heartache
than that for his loss. To lose a loved one by death, is not half so
hard as to lose him in life. Gertrude could find no word of sympathy.

"Oh, how could I live through it!" sobbed the young widow. "So fresh
and strong as he went across the threshold, I think I can see him now
striding up the street. And the very night before, we had a little
quarrel for the first time and I thought, 'Just you wait, you will have
to beg for a pleasant word from me.' And I went to bed without saying
good night, and the next morning I wouldn't make his coffee.

"I heard him moving about in the room and I was glad to think that he
would have to go without his breakfast. He came to my bed once and
looked in my face and I pretended to be asleep. But as soon as he had
shut the outside door behind him, I jumped up and ran to the window and
looked after him--I was so proud of him. It was the last time; it
wasn't two hours later when they brought him home, and day and night I
was on my knees before him, shrieking, and asking if he was angry with
me still. And I prayed to God that He would let him open his eyes just
once, only once, so I could say, 'Good-bye, Fritz, come home safe,
Fritz.' But it was all of no use; he never heard me any more."

Gertrude sprang up suddenly and left the kitchen. O God! She felt sick
unto death. Everything seemed to whirl round and round in her brain, as
if her mind were unsettled. She could no longer follow out a train of
thought to its end, and an idea which had seized upon her five minutes
ago in the most horrible clearness, she was now unable to recall; try
as hard as she might, nothing remained to her but a dull dread of
something dreadful hanging over her.

It was no doubt the heavy air, the oppressive stillness of nature
before a storm that had so excited her nerves.

She rang for ice-water. When Johanna set the glass before her she
turned her head away.

"Johanna, do you happen to know how long the--young lady is going to
stay at Niendorf?"

"I think the whole summer, ma'am," was the reply. "A good thing, too.
What could they do without her over there?"

Gertrude bit her lip; she felt ashamed. What right had _she_ to ask
about it?

"Did you want anything more, ma'am?"

"Nothing, thanks."

And she remained alone in her room as she had been so many days before.
She could hear the gnawing of the moths in the old wood-work, and now
and then the steps of the servant in the corridor. With burning eyes
she gazed at the ever-darkening sky; her hands grasped the slender arm
of her chair as if they must have an outward support at least.

Gradually it began to grow dark; the approaching evening and the black
storm-clouds together soon made it quite dusk, while now and then sharp
flashes of lightning brought the dark trees into full relief. Close by
Johanna was closing the windows of the sleeping-room.

"Shall I bring a lamp?" she asked, looking through the half-opened
door.

"No, thanks."

"But you oughtn't to sit so near the window, ma'am, it looks so
dreadful out there."

Gertrude did not move and the tear-stained face disappeared. A sudden
gust of wind swept through the trees, the branches were tossed wildly
about as if in a fierce struggle with brute force; the slender branches
were bent down to the ground only to rise again as quickly, and a
fierce blast whirling about gravel, leaves and small stones dashed them
against the rattling panes. Then followed a dazzling flash of
lightning, thunder that made the house shake, and at the same time a
sudden deluge of rain mingled with the peculiar pattering of large
hail-stones.

Johanna, with her child in her arms, came anxiously into her mistress'
room.

"Oh, mercy!" she shrieked, falling on her knees before the nearest
chair. Another flash filled the room for a moment with a dazzling red
light, and the thunder crashed after it like a thousand cannon.

"That struck, Mrs. Linden, that struck!" cried she in terror.

Gertrude had stepped back from the window; she was standing in the
middle of the room. By the light of the constant flashes the servant
could see her pale, rigid face with perfect distinctness. She rested
her hands on the table and looked towards the window as if it did not
concern her in the least. And still the storm raged more fiercely,
while the world seemed to be standing in a perfect sea of fire. It
seemed to have endured for hours. But gradually the flashes grew less
frequent, the crashes of thunder grew more distant, and at last only a
light rain dripped on the trees and the storm died away in a distant
low grumbling.

Gertrude opened the window and bent far out; a wonderfully sweet air
blew upon her face, soft and aromatic, refreshing and invigorating, and
above in the sky the clouds had parted and a brilliant star sparkled
down upon her. Then she started back. From the high-road there came a
sound of hurried movements; a sound of wheels, the cracking of whips,
the cries of men--what did it mean? It was usually as quiet as the
grave here at this hour.

"Fire!" Had she heard aright? She could not see the street but she
leaned far out and listened to the uproar. Her heart beat loud and
fast. The gardener's wife ran hastily up in her clattering wooden
shoes, and her shrill voice came up to Gertrude's ears.

"David, hurry, hurry, hurry, it has been burning in Niendorf for the
last half-hour--the engine has just gone by--hurry!"

"Clang, clang, clang!" clashed out the church bell now. In Gertrude's
ears it sounded like a death-knell. Clang, clang, clang! Why did she
stand still there, her hands clasping the window-sill as if they were
nailed there? She heard doors banging, and voices and shouts, she heard
the gardener rushing out of his house--and still she stood there as if
there was a spell upon her.

Again clashed out the warning notes of the bell! And at length she
roused herself as if from a heavy dream, and now she was quite alive
once more. She flew like an arrow out of the room, snatched a shawl
from the wall of the corridor and rushed past Johanna, who was standing
at the gate with the gardener's wife and children,--away out over the
half-flooded high-road.

"Mrs. Linden! For the love of Heaven!" screamed Johanna behind her. But
she paid no heed to the cry. Like a murmured prayer came from her
lips--"On! on!"

The road before her was dark and lonely; the men who had hastened to
the rescue, were out of sight long ago.

She actually flew; she felt no fear in the gloomy wood; she saw nothing
but the dear old burning house, and a pair of manly eyes--once, ah,
once so inexpressibly dear. Something came pattering behind her. Ah,
yes--the dog.

"Come," she murmured, and hurried on, the sagacious animal close behind
her.



                              CHAPTER XX.


It was a long way to Niendorf, but Gertrude flew as if she had wings.

"Good Heavens!" she groaned as she reached the top of the hill and saw
the red glow in the sky. Faster and faster she rushed down the hill; at
the next turn she must see Niendorf--and at last she stood there,
breathing quick and loud, her eyes gazing with terror into the valley.
Thank God! The red smoke was still rising into the sky, the flames
still shot up here and there, but the force of the fire was broken. It
is true, shouts and cries still sounded in her ears, but already she
met men who were going home.

She moved aside into the deepest shadow and gazed down into the valley;
the old house stood there safe and sound, the red light of the dying
flames played about its green ivy-wreathed gables and lighted up the
shrubs in the garden. The barns were in ruins to be sure, but what
mattered that? As she stood there gazing at the house with insatiable
eyes, a light suddenly shone out behind two of the windows, gazing at
her like a pair of friendly eyes. The windows were his. But the young
wife found nothing reassuring in them. The terrible anxiety which had
left her at the sight of the uninjured house, suddenly leaped up with
renewed force. How happened it that there should be lights in his room
when the fire was still smouldering down there? He in the house when
his presence below was so necessary?

No, never--or he must--

On--on--only to see--only to see from a distance, whether he lived and
was well!

"Life hangs on the merest thread," Johanna's words sounded in her ears.
"God in Heaven, have mercy, do not punish me _so_!"

At the garden-gate she stopped. What should she do here? Her ambassador
had come here only to-day and had offered him money for her freedom.
Ah, freedom!

Of what use is it when the heart is still held fast in chains and
bands? And she ran in under the dark trees of the garden, round the
little pond, on the surface of which a faint rosy shimmer of the dying
fire still played, and she sank exhausted on a garden-chair under the
chestnuts; just in front of her, only across the gravel walk was the
house and a dim light shone out of the garden-hall.

Upstairs, the bright light was gone from his windows; shouts and voices
of men still came up from the court, carriages were being pulled about,
horses taken out, all mingled with the sharp hissing sound of the hose.
Gertrude shivered; a great weakness had come over her, her temples
throbbed, the smell of the fire nearly took her breath away.

Here she sat motionless, gazing at the steps which led to the
garden-hall. Her eyes sought out step after step and at last lingered
in the door. "Up there! In there!" she thought, her heart beating wildly,
but pride and shame held her fast as with iron chains.

It gradually grew quieter in the court, then steps approached, firm,
elastic steps. Gertrude quickly seized the dog by the collar. "Down,
Diana!" she cried, hoarse with terror, and then a figure passed the
bright light of the window, and brushing close by her went into the
house.

Frank! He was alive--thank God! But he was hurt, he kept his arm
pressed so closely to his side. Ah, but he was alive! and now, now she
could go again quietly and unperceived as she had come. There were
plenty of hands in there to bind up his wounds, to--

She shivered again as if in fever.

"Come," she said to the whining dog, and she got up and turned away
towards the darker paths, but the dog pressed eagerly toward the house,
and almost as if she knew not what she was doing she suffered herself
to be dragged forward by him.

At length she reached the steps and in another moment she was mounting
them. Only one look inside, only to see if he really was suffering, if
he really was alive! And holding the impatient animal still more firmly
she passed noiselessly across the stone terrace; then she leaned
against the door-post and peeped through the glass, trembling with
emotion, timorous as a thief, full of longing as a child on Christmas
Eve.

The room looked just as usual, the carpets, the pictures, all just as
she had left it; within were people hurrying busily to and fro, and by
the table near the lamp he was sitting, his face, pale and drawn with
pain, turned full towards the door. And beside him, bending over him,
and binding up his arm with all the charming grace of an anxious and
tender wife, was the agile little creature in a black dress and white
apron, her bunch of keys stuck in her girdle. How skilfully she laid on
the bandage! With what supple, tapering fingers she fastened it! How
nearly her dark hair touched his face!

And this must be done by other hands than these that she was wringing
so here outside!

A joyful bark sounded beside her, and the dog broke away from her
trembling fingers with a sudden spring and bounded against the door so
that it shook. She started to flee in terror, but her strength failed
her; the ground seemed to sway under her feet, half-unconscious she
could still hear the door hastily torn open, and then she lost
consciousness altogether.



                              CHAPTER XXI.


Gertrude awoke, just as the day began to dawn, from a deep dreamless
sleep. She was not ill, and she knew perfectly well what had happened
to her the evening before. She was lying on the sofa in Aunt Rosa's
room; above her smiled down the ancestress with the powdered hair, and
the whole wonderful rose-wreathed room was in the full glow of the
morning sunshine.

At the foot of the bed on a low footstool sat a young girl in a black
dress and a white apron; the dark head had fallen against the arm of
the sofa--Adelaide was sound asleep.

The young wife got up softly. Her drenched clothing had been taken off
the night before and her own dressing-gown put on; there was still a
large part of her wardrobe in Niendorf; she even found, her dainty
slippers standing before the sofa, which she was accustomed to put on
when she got up. She was very quick and very careful not to wake the
young girl. But as she softly opened the door, the sleeper sprang up,
and a pair of wondering dark eyes gazed up at Gertrude.

"Where are you going?" asked the clear voice.

Gertrude stopped, undecided.

"Mr. Linden went to bed so very late," continued Adelaide Strom; "he
sat here beside you till about an hour ago. You will not wake him? It
is not four o'clock yet."

A pair of firm little hands drew the young wife away from the door
towards the sofa, and in contradiction to the childish words a pair of
grave eyes looked at her, saying plainly, "Do what you will--I shall
not let you go."

Gertrude sat down again on the improvised bed and bit her lips till
they bled, but the young girl busied herself at a side-table, and
presently a fragrant odor of coffee filled the room.

"Here," she said, offering the young wife a cup of the hot beverage,
"take it, it will do you good. I made some coffee for Mr. Linden too,
in the night: only drink it quietly, it is _his_ cup and no one else
has ever touched it."

And as Gertrude made no reply and only held the cup in her trembling
hand without drinking, Adelaide continued without taking any
notice--"Ah, yesterday was a dreadful day. The frightful storm and that
dreadful thunderbolt, and the great barn was in flames in a moment, and
before any help came the other was burning, and it was with the
greatest difficulty the animals were saved. If Mr. Linden had not been
so calm and had so much presence of mind, it would have been frightful.
But he went into the horses' stable just as if the flames were not
darting in after him, and he put the harness on the horses and they
followed him out through the flames like lambs, though no one could get
them out before. And only think, when the uproar was the greatest, and
the fire was sending showers of sparks into the air, as if they were
rockets, something began to howl and cry so loud from the very top of
the barn, and we found it was Lora, the great St. Bernard dog, who had
puppies up there.

"And how that poor dumb creature did cry out for help! I could hear
from my window that no one would go up after her,--'Being a dog,' they
all said. And all at once I saw a ladder, and one--two--three--a figure
disappeared up there in the flames. What do you think, Mr. Linden
brought them all down, the old dog and her young ones--all of them."

The little girl's eyes sparkled with tears.

"But he has a mark of it on his arm to be sure," she added, "and
it was only a dog after all. What was it in comparison with a man's
life?--Aunt Rosa was so angry with him and said, when he came down here
pale and suffering with the pain, he might have lost his life. Then he
said that such a stupid thing as his life wasn't worth a straw! And
just as he had said it, Diana began to scratch so furiously at the
door, and he rushed out at such a rate that I thought the lightning
must have struck again, and as I ran out behind him, he had you already
in his well arm, and declared that he knew you would come."

Gertrude got up at this point, and walked to the door. But here she met
another obstacle. This was Aunt Rosa, who was just coming out of her
bedroom in the most astonishing morning array and the most enormous
white nightcap that a lady ever wore. She nodded to Gertrude, and laid
her small withered hand on her shoulder.

"The dear God always opens a way for the hard heart to soften," said
the ancient dame, "Yes, in hour of need, the heart has wings on which
it is lifted above all the petty foolishness of pride and perversity.
It was just before the closing of the door, too, my dear child, for
yesterday afternoon, after a certain man had had an interview with him,
I folded my hands and prayed to God to give him strength to bear the
blow--I was afraid he would never get over it."

Adelaide Strom now went softly out of the door and the old woman
remained standing before the young wife, and the tall form seemed
almost to shrink beneath her thin transparent hand. But neither spoke.
The eastern sky grew redder, and then the first rays of the sun played
on Gertrude's brown hair.

Suddenly she covered her face with her hands. "My happiness is over, I
can never be anything more to him!" she gasped.

"Say rather 'I _will_ never be anything more to him!'"

"Ah, and even if I would!" she cried, "I am so wretched!"

"He who will not do a thing willingly and gladly would do better to
leave it undone, and he who cares not to pray, should not fold his
hands." And Aunt Rosa turned away to the window, sat down in her easy
chair and took up her prayer-book. She left Gertrude to herself and
read her morning chapter half aloud.

The words struck the ear of the struggling girl with a wonderful force.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not
charity--" sounded through the room.

"Charity suffereth long and is kind; beareth all things, believeth all
things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

Had she no charity then, no true love? Ah, faith--love--how should they
remain when one has been so cruelly deceived! And her house came back
to her mind, that sad, lonely house on the edge of the wood, and her
life in the last few weeks, so frightfully bare and desolate.

And--"charity beareth all things--" it said.

"Amen!" said Aunt Rosa, aloud. And Adelaide came in, and the young wife
suddenly felt her hands drawn down and through her tears she saw
Adelaide, smilingly unlocking the bunch of keys from her own belt and
holding it out to her.

"I kept things in order as well as I knew how," she said, "it is not in
the most perfect order I know, but you must not scold me."

She felt the keys put into her nerveless hand--had she not been bowed
down into the dust?

"Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity vaunteth not itself," said
something in her heart.

"I will forgive him," said the young wife aloud. But her face was pale
and rigid.

"Forgive, with _those_ eyes?" asked Aunt Rosa. "And for what? For
believing him less than an acknowledged--well, he is dead, God forgive
him--than a man who was a perfect stranger to you? No, my little woman,
take heart and go up to your Frank and--"

"_I_ go to _him_?" she cried in cutting tones,--"_I_?" The bunch of
keys fell clanging on the floor; with trembling hands she snatched up
the dress she had worn the day before, and took the purse out of the
pocket,--the purse which contained that fatal scrap of paper. For
awhile she held the piece of paper in her hand, then she gave it to the
old lady.

"I will not seem to you so childishly perverse," she said.

Aunt Rosa put on her glasses and read it. She started, and then a smile
spread over her face. In great confusion she looked into Gertrude's
face.

"Addie," she said, "you can bear witness that I have always been a most
orderly person my whole life long."

"Yes, auntie, the most envious person must allow you that virtue."

"And yet last Christmas it happened to me to mislay a letter. It was to
Linden from Wolff; for four whole days we searched for it. Let me see,
that was the twenty-second of December--the letter was lost, and on the
twenty-sixth, I happened to lift up my window-cushion and there was the
thing. No one could have been gladder than I. I stayed up till late at
night--Linden had gone to a party at the Baumhagens--and when at last
he came home I gave him the letter and he put it carelessly in his
pocket and said, 'Aunt Rosa, you shall hear it first, I have just been
getting engaged.' And in the joy of his heart he took me in his arms as
if I were still only eighteen. You see, and that"--she struck the bit
of paper with her right hand--"that is a scrap of the letter, my little
woman, and the date coincides exactly."

Gertrude was already by her side. "Is that true?" escaped from her
trembling lips.

The old lady nodded. "Perfectly true," she declared. "Ask Dora. She
searched for the letter with me, and thereby got a great knock on the
head when she was trying to move the wardrobe."

But Gertrude declined this. She stood for awhile in silence, her head
bent down, her color changing rapidly from red to white, then she moved
towards the door and in another moment she had disappeared.

Lightly she mounted the stairs, and the old worn boards seemed to
understand why the little feet stepped so carefully and did not as
usual, crack and snap.

It was still as death in the whole house; the corridor was still dusky
and the old pictures on the wall looked sleepily down on the young
wife. The tall clock kept on its solemn tick-tack, tick-tack. It
sounded so strangely in Gertrude's ears, as she stood hesitating before
the brown door and grasped the knob.

Tick-tack, tick-tack! How the time flies! One should not hesitate a
moment when one has a fault to repair--every minute is so much taken
from him--quick, quick!

Softly she opened the door and slipped in. She had drawn her dress
close about her, so the train should not rustle. Two large eyes gazed
anxiously out of the pale face round the room, which was glowing in the
morning sunshine. Now her heart seemed to stop beating for a moment,
now it throbbed wildly: there in the large chair--he had not gone to
bed, but sleep had overtaken him. There he sat, his wounded arm rested
on the arm of the chair, the other supported his head. He wore still
the soiled, singed coat he had on the day before, and ah, he looked so
pale, so changed!

The dog, which lay at his feet, lifted up his head and wagged his tail.
Then she went towards him. "Make way for me," she murmured, "_I_ must
take that place!"

And she knelt down before her husband, and taking the shrinking injured
hand put it to her lips.

"Gertrude, what are you doing?"

"Forgive me, Frank, forgive me?" she whispered, weeping, resisting his
endeavors to raise her.

"No, Frank, no, let me stay here, it should be so--"

"Forgive you? There is no question of that. Thank God you are here
again!"

But before she got up she tore a bit of paper into shreds, then she ran
to the window and opened her hand and they danced away in the air like
snowflakes. And when she turned back again she looked into his grave
eyes.

"What was that?" he asked, drawing her towards him.

She threw her arms round his neck and hid her streaming eyes on his
breast. They stood thus together at the open window, in the clear rays
of the morning sun. The twittering swallows flew past them over the
tops of the trees up into the blue sky.

"Back again! Back again!" was the burden of their song.

Gradually the house woke up. The little brunette laid the table in the
garden-hall.

"Two cups, two plates, and a bunch of roses in the middle--for the last
time," said she, "then she can do it for herself again."

Then she stood thinking for a moment.

"He doesn't in the least realize how fortunate he is to get such a
yielding, lamb-like wife as I am," she murmured. "To be sure, I _could_
not possibly fancy that he married me for my money."

She laughed a clear ringing laugh.

"I shall have a nice little trousseau if Aunt Rosa gets it."

And she opened the garden door and ran out into the green shrubbery.

The world was so beautiful, the sun so golden and Adelaide was so fond
of the little judge.

She was engaged, secretly engaged, for the good fellow would not come
before his friend in all his bridegroom's bliss, when his happiness was
so utterly shattered. So they had plighted their troth secretly--after
the bowl of _mai-trank_ on that last day. Aunt Rosa was no check
upon them, for she slept placidly in the corner of the sofa, and
Frank--Heaven alone knew when he had gone.

But now--she looked at her pretty little hands; yes, there were
ink-stains on them; she had sent off the news at once to Frankfort:
"Great fire, great anxiety, great reconciliation."

She found herself suddenly before a stout little man in a gray summer
overcoat and a white straw hat.

"Oh, ta, ta! little one, don't run over me!"

He was very cross, this good Uncle Henry.

"Pretty state of affairs! A man comes from Hamburg, travelling all
night, and hardly is he out of the train when some one comes: 'Mr.
Baumhagen, did you know there had been a great fire in Niendorf?' Tired
as a dog as I was, I must needs get into a carriage and drive out
here--a man can't sleep after such a piece of news as that. For mercy's
sake, you are smiling as if it was Christmas eve!"

"All the crops are burnt," announced Adelaide in as joyful a tone as if
she had said, "We have won a great prize."

"The poor fellow has ill-luck," muttered Uncle Henry. "Has some one
gone over to--" He would not speak her name--"to--well, to 'Waldruhe?'
Or has the announcement of the joyful news been left for me again?"

"No one has been there," replied Adelaide, mischievously.

Uncle Henry looked at her more sharply.

"Well, what's up then, you witch? Something has happened."

"I am engaged," burst out the happy little bride. Thank Heaven, that
she could tell it at last.

"You unhappy child!" cried Uncle Henry, by way of congratulation. But
she ran laughing away into the house.

"Breakfast is ready!" she cried from the terrace. "Coffee, tea, ham and
eggs."

The old gentleman, who was going out to view the wreck, turned sharply
round and followed her.

"It is true," he remarked, "I shall be better for having something to
eat, I am quite upset by the journey."

And Uncle Henry went puffing up the steps and grasped the door-knob.

Good Heavens!--did his eyes not deceive him? There sat Linden, his arm
in a sling, and beside him--surely he knew that thick brown knot of
hair and that slender figure which was bending, down to cut up his
meat. Now she raises her head and kisses him on the forehead before she
quietly resumes her own place.

"Angels and ministers of grace defend us! A man has only to take a
journey--!"

Uncle Henry drops the door-knob. He has such a queer sensation--he does
not like emotion--and he does not like to disturb other people. He
would gladly get out of the way if he could--perhaps he may manage it
yet.

But no. Gertrude herself opens the door.

"Uncle Henry," she said, pleadingly.

And he comes in and behaves exactly as if nothing had ever happened. It
is the purest selfishness on his part. Scenes don't agree with him.

"I wanted just to see how you were--you seem to have had a nice little
fire," he begins.

"Thank God! No lives were lost," said Linden, "and no cattle were
burnt; the crops are all destroyed, it is true; but in place of that a
new life has risen out of the ashes." And he held out his sound hand to
Gertrude.

"Oh, ta, ta!" murmured Uncle Henry, helping himself hurriedly to ham
and to butter. "I tell you, children, travelling is a great deal too
hard work, and if it were not for the lobsters in Heligoland and the
eel-soup in Hamburg, then--but, Gertrude, you are laughing and crying
at the same time! Well, well, I am glad to be home again; there is
nothing like home, after all, and with your permission, I will drink
this glass of good port wine to your health and to the peace and
prosperity of your household."





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