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Title: Barbarossa and Other Tales
Author: Heyse, Paul, 1830-1914
Language: English
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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.

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                               COLLECTION

                                   OF

                            GERMAN AUTHORS.

                                VOL. 27.


                           *   *   *   *   *


                BARBAROSSA AND OTHER TALES BY P. HEYSE.

                             IN ONE VOLUME.



                               BARBAROSSA

                                  AND

                              OTHER TALES

                                   BY

                              PAUL HEYSE.


                            FROM THE GERMAN
                                   BY
                                L. C. S.


                         _Authorized Edition._



                              LEIPZIG 1874
                          BERNHARD TAUCHNITZ.
              LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, LOW & SEARLE.
                  CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.
          PARIS: C. REINWALD & Cie, 15, RUE DES SAINTS PÈRES.



                               CONTENTS.


      BARBAROSSA

      THE EMBROIDERESS OF TREVISO

      LOTTKA

      THE LOST SON

      THE FAIR KATE

      GEOFFROY AND GARCINDE



                              BARBAROSSA.



                              BARBAROSSA.


I had only intended to spend one day up in the mountains, and this one
day grew into two weeks, which I found pass more rapidly in that
high-perched ruinous nest on the confines of the Albano and Sabine
range--the name I will not give--than was often the case in the whirl
of great cities. What I actually did with myself during the sweet long
days I hardly know how to tell. But in Rome a mighty hunger after
solitude had fallen on me. I could satisfy it here to the full. It was
early spring-time, the leaves of the chestnut trees shone in luxuriant
freshness; the ravines were filled by the song of birds, and the murmur
of brooks; and as of late a large body of banditti who had rendered
this wild district insecure, had been in part captured, and in part
driven into the Abruzzi, it ensued that a lonely wanderer might without
any apprehension climb the remotest crags, and there give himself up
undisturbed to profoundest meditations.

From the first I declined all intercourse with the German artists, a
good number of whom had taken possession of both miserable inns the
village possessed, and as to the desire of every now and then hearing
one's own voice, which impels hermits to converse with their domestic
animals, I could gratify it quite sufficiently within my own walls. For
as it happened I lodged with the apothecary, and he had the utmost
indulgence for my very defective Italian. True he indemnified himself
for his outlay in patience by not unfrequently taking advantage of
mine, for as soon as the first shyness had worn off, he showered a
whole cornucopia of his own verses on me, confessing that despite his
fifty and five years he was still unable entirely to shake off this
childish malady. "What would you have?" he pleaded, "when at evening I
step to my window and see the moon coming up behind the rocks, and the
fire-flies on the wing about my little garden,--why I must be a brute
if it does not set me off poetising." And indeed he was anything but a
brute this good Signor Angelo, whom owing to a natural tonsure--a rim
of black hair still circling his smooth bald head--his friends were
wont to nickname Fra Angelico. He had never indeed left his native
place more than twice in his life, nor on either occasion gone further
than Rome. But then Rome is the world, he would say. He who has seen
Rome, has seen everything. And forthwith he proceeded to speak of
everything, partly according to the very miscellaneous and chaotic
knowledge he owed to a few books accidentally picked up, partly from
the audacity of unbridled poetical fancy. Of all the worthies who
according to old Italian custom were wont to gather at evening in his
apothecary's shop: priest, schoolmaster, surgeon, tax-gatherer, and a
few unofficial well-to-do proprietors, whose faces beamed with the
profits of their rich olive and vine yards,--of all these notabilities
not one ventured to contradict Fra Angelico, not at least, when
previous to one of his longer harangues, he polished his large silver
spectacles on his coat-sleeve and began, "_Ecco signori miei_, the
matter stands thus." But all the same he was the best and most harmless
creature in the world, and the most amiable landlord one could
desire, provided one had no wish beyond a hard bed, and two ricketty
arm-chairs! He was certainly fond of me, although, or perhaps _because_
he had not the faintest idea that I was a brother poet. I was discreet
enough to confine myself to playing the part of a grateful public, and
it was not until after the four-and-twentieth sonnet that I would
gently lay my hand on his arm and say, "Bravo, Signor Angelo! But I
fear this is too much of a good thing. Your poetry, is you know,
potent, and flies to the head. To-morrow you shall fill me up a new
flask from your Hippocrene." Whereupon with the most good-humoured look
imaginable he would close his volume and say, "What avail if I read you
to sleep, night after night a whole year through? I should still not
have come to an end! Here we have another Peru!" And tapping on his
bald forehead he would sigh, offer a pinch of snuff, and wish me a good
night.

The majority of these poems were of course devoted to love, and when
the little man recited them with sparkling eyes and all the pathos
common to his nation, it was easy to forget his five and fifty years.
Nevertheless, he lived a bachelor's life, with one old maid-servant and
a boy who helped him with his salves and potions, and it seemed strange
that with all his love for the beautiful and his comfortable means, he
should never have married, nor even now in his sunny autumn seem
inclined to make up for lost time. One evening, when we sat smoking
together over the good home-grown wine, and I jokingly asked him why he
took his monkish nickname so much in earnest, and whether none of the
pretty girls that daily passed his shop had contrived to touch his
heart, he suddenly looked up at me with a strange expression, and said,
"Pretty girls? Well, I daresay they are not so far from it either, and
marriage may be better than is reported. But I am too old for a young
man, and too young for an old one, or rather let me say too much of a
poet. The older the bird, the harder to catch. And then you see, my
friend, I was once devoted to a girl who did not care for me--one I
tell you the like of whom will never be seen again. So now I am too
proud, or whatever it may be called, to be flattered even if some
common-place creature--of whom there are twelve to the dozen--were to
fancy me. I prefer to dream myself happy in my verses, and to shape
myself a perfect beauty out of a hundred incomplete ones, like the
Grecian painter--was his name Apelles?--who took for his Venus the eyes
of one neighbour, the nose of another, and thus got the best together
bit by bit. But as for her who really did unite all perfections, and
was so beautiful that you would not believe me if I tried to describe
her, she paid dear for her beauty, and many know the story as correctly
as I do, though if you were to ask any of the older people in the place
about Erminia, they would all bear me out that she was a wonder of the
world, and that during the twenty years that have passed by since then,
nothing has ever happened that made such an impression as her fate and
all connected with it. Come now, I will tell it you, as you already
know the sonnets to her--I allude to the sixty-seven that I keep in the
blue portfolio, of which you said that they really had much of
Petrarch's manner; they all date from the time when the wound was still
fresh; and when once, you have heard the story you can hear them over
again. It is only so that you will thoroughly understand them."

After which, with a sigh that sounded to me rather comic than tragic,
he snuffed the candle, leant back in the arm-chair behind his counter,
half-closed his eyes, and buried his hands in the side-pockets of his
worn-out paletot. It was about nine o'clock in the evening. The Piazza
before the house was still as death, one heard only the prattling of
the brook, and the heavy breathing of the apprentice asleep in the next
room. Then after a long pause he began with his usual exordium.

"_Ecco amico mio_, the matter stands thus. Somewhere about the year
'30--you are too young to remember so far back--this said Erminia lived
here in the village with a mother and sister who are also dead and
buried long ago. If when you leave this door, you turn to the right up
the little street leading to the old ruin on the summit of our hill,
you will come to a small house, or rather hovel, roofless now except
for two worm-eaten beams, and even then it was not much better
protected from sun and rain; only that the great fig-tree that is
withered now, used at that time to spread its broad thick-leaved
branches over it just at the season when shade was most needed. In
those bare stone walls that had formerly served as a shelter to wild
creatures, Erminia lived. Her father had been dead for years, her
mother had no idea of management, so that the family had come down
wofully, and were glad enough to be allowed to nestle down in those
ruins. There were, indeed, many who would have been glad to support the
widow for her husband's sake. But you know how the proverb runs:

                 'Sacco rotto non tien miglio.
                  Pover uomo non va a consiglio.'[1]

It was all in vain. The girls who were thoroughly well-behaved, might
work their fingers to the bone, spinning and lace-making, and the
neighbours might do their part as well as they could, the old woman
drank everything up, and if she was not raging like a fury, she would
lie on the hearth and sleep, and leave her daughters to find food and
clothing for all. I do believe if their next neighbour, the fig-tree,
had not done its part so gallantly, that Erminia and her sister
Maddalena would both have died of hunger, for they were too proud to
beg. Raiment, indeed, the tree could not afford them, since we no
longer live in Paradise. Consequently everybody was astonished to see
the poor things come to church so neatly dressed, the more that there
was not a word to be said against them. True the younger of the two,
Maddalena was thoroughly safe from temptation, for she was as ugly as
sin, a short, unkempt, club-footed creature, with long arms and short
legs, having a gait much like that of a toad, and frightening the
children in the street if she came upon them unexpectedly.

"But she knew quite well how unsightly she was, and for the most part
kept at home, doing, however, no harm to anyone, which is not often the
case with such afflicted creatures, who are generally envious and
spiteful by way of revenging themselves for their misfortune. She, on
the contrary, seemed to look upon it as in the order of things that her
mother, after bringing into the world one child so boundlessly
beautiful as Erminia, should have had nothing but nature's refuse left
for a second. Instead of looking askance at her elder sister, and
wishing to poison her, she made so perfect an idol of her, that none of
the young men about were more in love with Erminia than the poor fright
Maddalena. And indeed Erminia was one that to see was to love. I for my
part had seen all the statues in Rome, Muses, Venuses, Minervas, no
small master-pieces, but such triumphs of art as the world cannot
equal. And yet, between ourselves, utter failures compared to what
nature had done. Look you, friend,"--and so saying the little man
jumped up and raised his arm--"she was so tall, about a head taller
than I am, but so beautifully formed; her little head so gracefully set
on her magnificent bust, that no one found out how tall she was. And
then her face, chiselled as it were, with large eyes richly eyelashed,
and an expression proud and sweet both; a mouth red as a strawberry,
or rather the inside of a white fig, and her brow crowned with thick
blue-black curly hair, which she bound up behind into such a heavy nest
of ringlets that it needed as stately a throat as hers to bear their
burden. And then when she moved, walked, raised her arms to steady the
basket she carried on her head, with her taper fingers turned, as
it were, out of ivory; and her little feet in their coarse wooden
shoes--_amico mio_, if I had not been a poet, that girl would have made
me one. As for the others who had not a drop of poet blood in their
veins, at least she made them mad, which is half-way to the Temple of
Apollo. There was not a young fellow in the place who would not have
had his left hand cut off, if only he might have worn her ring on the
right. But she would listen to none of them, which was the more
surprising when you considered the poverty she lived in, and that of
the offers made to her, the very worst would at least have saved her,
her mother, and her sister from any further distress. Of myself I will
not speak. Madly in love as I was, I had still sense enough left to see
that I was not worthy of her, and after I had in some degree got over
the pain of my rejection, I told her that I would at least be her
friend at all times, and she gave me her hand, and thanked me with such
a smile. Sir, at that moment I was more crazy than ever! But there was
another that everybody thought would outbid us all, and although we
might have grudged her to him, still we should not have had a word to
say against her choice. This was the son of the landlord of the _Croce
d'oro_, a handsome fellow, rolling in money, and about two-and-twenty,
a couple of inches taller than Erminia; generally called Barbarossa, or
merely _Il Rosso_, on account of his having with light curly hair, a
fine red beard of his own; but his real name was Domenico Serone. He
paid his court to Erminia in such a way that nothing else was talked
of, went on like one distracted, while she dismissed him just as she
had done the rest of us, without positive disdain. She only gave him to
understand that he might spare himself any further trouble, that she
could not marry him, for a good girl like her would not awaken any
false hopes. Many thought that her own country-people were not
distinguished enough for her, that it must be some foreigner, a milord,
or a Russian, and that her mind was set on distant lands and fabulous
adventures. But no, sir, that too was a bad shot. I myself knew a rich
English count, or marquis, or whatever he might be, who told me that he
had thrown a couple of thousand pounds or so into her apron, and
implored her on his knees to accompany him to England. But she just
shook off the bank-notes as though they had been dead leaves, and
threatened if he ever spoke another word to her, to strike him across
the face, even if it were on the public market-place. And so we went
on exhausting ourselves in conjectures as to what her motives could
be; whether she had made a vow to die unmarried; and I even once
summoned up courage to ask her--such was the friendly footing we stood
on--whether she had a hatred to men in general. Not so, she quietly
replied, but as yet she had not found one whom she could love. In this
way two years passed, she still with the same calm face, Red-beard
looking more and more gloomy, and it was plain to see how consumed he
was by the fire within, for the handsome youth went creeping about like
a ghost.

"One day, however, a stranger came here, a Swedish captain, who had
left the service because his promotion had been unfairly delayed, and
who, since then, having means of his own, had travelled by land and by
sea half over the world, shooting elephants and tigers, crocodiles and
sea-serpents, and carrying about with him half-a-dozen most beautiful
guns and rifles, and a great Newfoundland dog, who had more than once
saved his life. If I remember rightly this stranger's name was _Sture_,
or something of the sort, but I myself called him Sor Gustavo, and the
village-folk just 'the Captain.' He took up his quarters here because
he liked my little garden, had the very room you now occupy, and he and
I were soon as thick as thieves. He was not a man of many words, nor
indeed would he listen to my verses, for he cared only for one poet,
Lord Byron, whose adventures he had set himself to emulate. Well, and
he was quite up to the task. He was as brave as a lion, with more
money than he knew what to do with, and as for the women, they ran
after him go where he would, for he was wonderfully stately in his
bearing and figure, and yet had so good-humoured an expression that
they all thought it would be easy to play the part of Omphale to this
Hercules. In Rome he seemed to have been pretty wild, at least so this
one and the other pretended to know; he himself never touched on his
love-affairs, and here in our village, he never appeared to care
whether there was any other race in the world than that of men. With
these he went about continually; would sit--if he were not prowling
along the ravines with his rifle--whole afternoons at the café, playing
billiards to perfection, and when he had won everybody's money, he
would order a barrel of the best wine, and insist upon everybody
partaking. So all began as with one mouth to sing his praises, and to
rejoice that such a travelled gentleman should have taken such a craze
for our little spot above all others, that he even talked of buying a
vineyard, and of yearly spending a couple of months among us.

"Domenico Serone was the only one who kept aloof from our captain,
would get up as soon as ever he saw him enter the cafe, and pass him by
in the street as a thief does the gallows. No one wondered though at
this, for to see himself eclipsed by a foreigner--he who was accustomed
to be cock of the walk--must naturally have mortified him. It never
even occurred to me that Erminia might have something to do with it. I
had been present when Signor Gustavo met the fair creature for the
first time. 'Now look here, _amico mio_,' I had said, 'never--if only
you will honestly admit it, never have you seen anything like her in
either of the Indies, Turkey, or Golconda.' But he after a mere glance,
without a look of surprise, merely said, 'Hum!' biting his blonde
moustache so hard, you heard the crunching of the hair. 'Not amiss, Sor
Angelo, not amiss indeed.' '_Possareddio_,' said I to myself, 'this is
the only man who can look without blinking at the sun.' It crossed me
that I would engage Erminia in conversation, that he might see more of
her, and be punished for his cold-blooded 'not amiss,' by falling over
head and ears into love. But she, usually so calm and unembarrassed
when she met any one, turned strangely red, and hurried away, so that I
thought at once, 'Hollo! at length her hour has struck,' but I said not
a word, and the meeting went out of my head.

"But about a week later, I stood before my shop-door in the twilight
deciphering a letter I had just received, in which a friend in Rome
told me he had read aloud my sonnets at a meeting of a poetical
society--the 'Arcadia'--and that amidst general approval I had been
elected honorary member, which so surprised and pleased me, that for
the moment I was not aware of what was going on about me, till I heard
_Il Rosso's_ voice so loud and threatening that it woke me out of all
my cogitations. Looking up I saw him standing by the fountain not ten
yards from my door, pale as a corpse, and quite unlike the smart fellow
he used to be, and not far from where he was,--the pitcher that she had
intended to fill left standing on the edge of the fountain, and her
left hand pressing her side,--stood Erminia, and as it happened no one
else was in sight. I wondered what both could be about, as they had
avoided each other for months past. But _Il Rosso_ did not keep me long
in suspense. 'Hear me, Erminia,' he said, as though he were reading out
a sentence of death to some convicted criminal in the hearing of all
the world: 'It is lucky that we have met here. True we have no longer
any dealings with each other, but as I once loved you, even though you
trampled my love under your feet, I would still warn you. Take heed to
yourself, Erminia, and be careful what you do. I know one who has sworn
your death if any stranger ever carries off what you have refused to
your own people; and if we are not good enough to make you an
honourable wife, we are at least men enough to help a lost girl out of
the world; and so tell your fine gentleman to look out against
accidents, for the bullets we cast hereabouts can hit as well as those
of Swedish lead; and so God be with you, Erminia. I have nothing
further to say.'

"He pressed his hat on his brows, threw a glance around, and went off
with a quick step. The girl said not a word, and as for me I was so
bewildered by his passionate outburst, that not till she had lifted her
pitcher to her head, and was preparing to leave, did I regain the power
of speech. 'Erminia,' I said, going close up to her, 'who does he mean
by the stranger?' 'He is a fool,' she replied without looking at me,
but blushing deeply. 'I hope so indeed,' said I, 'for if there were any
meaning in his words I should be sorry for you, Erminia.' 'I want no
one's pity,' was her curt reply; and then she went off without so much
as good night, and from the defiance of her manner I first discovered
that she was really implicated. And being sincerely her well-wisher I
hurried after her, so as to walk on by her side. 'You know me to be
your friend,' said I, 'if you will not believe Domenico, believe me
Erminia, it will be your ruin if you have anything to do with the
captain. He is a fine fellow, but he will not marry you, Erminia, for
all that; indeed, he cannot, for he is a Lutheran, but, in addition, he
would not wish it. Therefore, even if Il Rosso did not make good his
threat, nothing but mischief could come of the affair,' and so on,
according as my friendship for the girl inspired me. She, meanwhile,
walked straight on in silence without once raising her eyes. So at
length I left her with a faint hope of having made some impression on
her mind. The great dog came to meet me at the door of my house, which
told me that his master was returned from shooting. I went up to his
room at once, and found him with his English rifle in his hand, having
taken it to pieces to clean, and a couple of dead birds before him.
'You have lost something, Sor Gustavo,' said I, 'there on the market
place your secrets have been discussed so loudly, that all the gossips
in the village are acquainted with them.' And I went on to tell him of
Redbeard's threats, adding that he did not know our people if he
supposed they were not in earnest, and that if he really had triumphed
and won Erminia's coy heart, he ought for both their sakes to be on his
guard and break it off, and get out of the scrape the best way he
could. And being once fairly started I could not refrain from taking
Domenico's part, and declaring that all friendship would be at an end
between us if he made Erminia unhappy. There were plenty of others who
would be no great loss. But to see the Pearl of the whole Sabina
trampled in the mire was what I could not endure, and so I told him to
his face that if I discovered him going after Erminia, I could no
longer be his host, and that he might look out for some other quarters.
To all this he answered nothing further than what Erminia had once told
me, 'You are not over wise, Fra Angelico,' and continued polishing up
the locks and barrel of his rifle, and puffing the blue smoke of his
cigar through his fair moustachios. At last I left him even more
disgusted with his cunning cold-bloodedness than with the affair
itself, and I did not see him till the noon of the next day, when he
entered my room with a letter in his hand which he told me necessitated
his immediate departure, and as it was too late for the mail, he
requested me to lend him my little vehicle. There was nothing I was
more glad to do, not indeed that I laid much stress upon the letter,
but rather believed that it was my own eloquence that had induced him
to leave us, and to break off that luckless love-affair in good time.
And so I let him have my apprentice, as I myself had no time to drive
him to Rome, and we parted the best of friends.

"It was his intention, he told me, to travel to Greece in order to
visit Lord Byron's grave, and he promised to write to me as soon as he
got there. The rogue! He thought as little of Greece as I of a journey
to the moon. But what would you have? A mighty spell was on him, and
held him down with a hundred meshes in the Evil One's net, so that he
could look me, his best friend, in the face and tell me so confounded a
lie as this!

"That evening I went to bed with the consciousness of having done my
duty, and saved two human lives. Nay I was even planning a lyric on the
subject, which would have been by no means one of my worst, though a
convincing proof that poets are no prophets. For would you believe it,
on the following afternoon my lad returned home with the vehicle, and
the first thing he did after taking the horse to the stable and feeding
him, was to ask me if Signor Gustavo had told me they were to take a
stranger with them, for that about two miles from the village, where
the evergreen oak stands near the old tomb, this stranger had beckoned
to them, and then jumped so quickly into the conveyance, that he,
Carlino, never got a good look at his features. But in spite of that
alacrity, and of the manly attire,--which by the way belonged to Signor
Gustavo's wardrobe,--he was ready to take his oath that this stranger
was no other than Erminia.

"I will not detain you by describing the effect this discovery had on
me. I bound the youth down most solemnly to hold his peace about it.
But what could that avail! The very next day there was not an old woman
who entered my shop for a penny-worth of anything who did not inform me
that Erminia had gone off to Rome with the captain, and had sent a
message to her mother to the effect that she should not indeed return,
but would never forget that she was her daughter. And, moreover, she
had left behind for her sister Maddalena whom she must have taken
into her confidence, all her clothes and other effects, and a bag of
money--probably from the Captain--so that their mother might want for
nothing.

"That this news should work upon the young village-folk like valerian
upon cats, you, my friend, will easily believe. Had we been in the old
times of Greeks and Trojans, Domenico would easily have assembled an
army to pursue and recover his lost Helen. But in spite of all that was
said and shrieked, spite of fury and curses, nothing came of it, and
soon it seemed as though these braggadocios were ashamed of even
uttering the name of the girl who had refused them all to go off at
last with a heretic and barbarian. There were only two who could not
forget her. I was one, and it was in vain I sought consolation from the
muses. The other was Domenico Il Rosso, in whose eyes anybody with an
insight into human nature might easily have read that he was brooding
over desperate deeds.

"And too surely before a month had elapsed since Erminia's flight all
my fears were realised. I remember the day as tho' it were yesterday:
it was on a Thursday--and the heat was such that the flies on the wall
were giddy, and at noon no Christian soul ventured out. I had closed my
shop-door, and all the shutters, and lay between sleeping and waking in
this very chair where I now sit. There was nothing to be heard but the
sleepy drip-drop of the fountain, and the rustling of dry herbs on the
counter, over which my tame canary-bird was hopping to-and-fro.
Suddenly I fancied I heard some one knock at the shop-door, and call my
name, and annoyed at being disturbed, I rubbed my eyes awake, and
prepared to see whether any one had really been taken suddenly ill. The
knocking was repeated, louder and quicker, as if in urgent haste, and I
had my hand on the door-handle when I heard a dreadful scream, 'Jesus,
Maria, have mercy on me!' I tore open the door, and saw a woman sink on
the threshold, from whose breast there gushed such a stream of blood,
that while I stooped to raise her I was reddened from top to toe. Three
steps off with a face like ashes stood Domenico, with eyes wide-opened
as though his crime had killed him too. 'Domenico,' I cried, 'what hast
thou done? Cursed be thy hand which has wrought this horrible deed.'
'Amen,' he replied, 'it was her fate. Now let him come.' And so saying
he turned round--for some horror-stricken faces began to appear at the
windows--and slowly traversed the sun-lit piazza till he reached the
gateway, where he disappeared like a spectre.

"Meanwhile I held the poor gasping frame in my arms, almost swooning
myself from grief and terror. I called to my maid-servant, the
neighbours rushed out, and so we carried her in, and laid her on a bed.
But I saw too plainly that there was nothing to be done, and so I sent
the lad off as fast as he could go to fetch a priest. I scarcely hoped
though that she would live long enough to see him, so bending down I
asked her if she had anything to communicate. She husbanded her last
breath to ask me how her mother was. 'Just the same as for a month
past,' I replied. Then her dying breast heaved a deep sigh, and she
gasped out: 'Then he deceived me!' 'Who?' said I. She felt for her
pocket, and drew out a letter, the tenor of which was that if she
wished to find her mother still alive she must set out without delay,
for that the illness was a mortal one. This letter bore the priest's
signature, but was not in his handwriting. I made out from the few
words that she with difficulty whispered, that a youth from our village
had secretly delivered it to her the evening before. How he had found
out her lodging in Rome she had no idea, for she was living most
privately, and not in the same house as her lover, who had been to see
her as usual in the evening, and on reading the letter had forbidden
her to go home, saying that it was only a plot to allure her to
destruction, and she herself had taken that view of it, and promised
him not to go. But in the morning when she was alone, a fear came over
her that it might after all turn out to be true, and if so, her mother
would die and would curse her own child on her death-bed. So she took a
carriage, and promised the driver a double fare if he would take her in
half the usual time. She got out, however, at the foot of the hill,
wishing to reach her mother's house alone and unobserved. But as soon
as she neared the first houses she had a sense of some one following
her, and for protection she ran rather than walked towards my door,
when suddenly Domenico appeared behind her, and called out, without
however looking at her: 'What, Erminia, do we see you here again? That
is well, it was time you should come to your senses!' 'What have you to
do with my senses?' she replied; 'you have no hold upon me for good or
bad.' 'Indeed!' said he, drawing closer and closer, 'all the same one
does not like the disgrace to attach to our village of having no young
man worthy of such a jewel. Probably you have now found out that your
foreigner was but a poor make-believe, like the rest, and that you
would do better to remain at home.' And she. 'What I think of _him_ is
my affair. Why do you always come after me? You knew long ago what I
think of you.' Then seizing her arm he said in a hoarse voice, 'For the
last time, Erminia, I give you warning. Renounce him, or both you and
he will have to rue it. I cannot prevent your loving him, but that he
should rob you of honour and happiness, that as sure as GOD lives I
_will_ prevent and that shortly. Do you understand me?' Then she stood
still, looked him full in the face, and said, 'You and no one else
wrote that letter.' And he, without answering, went on as before. 'Will
you give him up and remain here?' Then when she continued silent, and
shook her head resolutely, he three times repeated the same question.
'Will you, Erminia, give him up and remain here?' And when she
pretended not even to be aware that any one was speaking to her, but
quickened her steps fearing that he might do her some violence in the
deserted piazza, she suddenly felt his hand grasp her arm as in a vice,
heard the words, 'To hell, then, with your Lutheran,' and in the same
moment fell down mortally wounded close to my door.

"And now she had no wish, she said, but that her lover should forgive
her for leaving him against his will; she expiated it dearly enough. He
had meant to make her his wife, and take her to his own home. Instead
of that she must go down into the grave, and who could say whether the
Virgin Mary would intercede for her; and whether she should ever pass
out of the pains of purgatory into the Heavenly Paradise!

"That was the last sentence that crossed her lips, then her head sank
back, and she was dead!"

When the little man had got so far, he stretched himself back in his
arm-chair, and closed his eyes with a deep sigh. After some minutes so
spent he sprang up, walked several times to and fro in his dark shop,
and seemed to make a strong effort to recover his self-control. At
length he stood still beside me, laid his hand on my shoulder, and
said, "What after all is human life, _amico mio!_ A fleeting nothing!
grass that is green in the field to-day, and to-morrow dry and
withered. Hay, that the insatiable monster death crams his maw with!
_Basta!_ There is no waking the dead! She was a wonder of the world
while she lived, she was wondrous still when her fair silent form was
no longer warmed by a drop of life-blood, and her soul no more
susceptible of joy or of sorrow. There she lay in the room yonder, and
until she was buried I never left her night or day. When sleep overcame
me, I still held a corner of her dress in my hand, and thought myself
highly favoured in that at least in death I was nearer to her than any
other. But by the second night another came. The door opened, and the
captain stole in on tip-toe, as though he might still run a risk of
disturbing her sleep. We did not exchange a word, only I began to weep
like a child when he so mutely, and with such a look of despair in his
eyes, approached the bier. Then he sat down beside her and gazed
steadily upon her face. I went out, I could not endure his presence any
more than if I myself had been her murderer.

"The next day when the funeral took place and the whole village was
gathered in the church-yard, even before the priest had blessed the
coffin, there rose a murmur and a stir among the dense crowd. And the
captain, whom no one knew to be in the place, was seen striding through
the people with a look on his face that terrified them all. He took his
station close beside the grave, and threw two handsfull of earth on the
coffin. Then he knelt down, and every one else was on his homeward way
while he remained prostrate on the newly-made grave, as though he would
force himself through the earth, and make his bed there. I was obliged
to drag him away into my house, where for some days he remained as
though in a trance, and I could hardly get him to take a spoonful of
soup or a drop of wine. Four days passed before he seemed to come to
himself at all, but even then he continued silent, and it was only in
bidding me farewell, before he went off again in my little conveyance,
that he begged me to oblige him by buying for him the house with the
vineyard that he had once before looked at. In eight days he said he
should return, and then make his home with us for life.

"I did not dare to remonstrate, although I could not approve the
plan--partly because, of Domenico, of whom it was known that he had
fled to the mountains, and joined a party of banditti, and partly
because I had always been fond of the Swede; and could have wished that
he should not by living near this grave keep the wound in his heart for
ever bleeding. But, however, I knew well that he must have his own way,
let Heaven or Hell oppose him, and so I laid myself out to render him
any service that I could, for her sake who had been dear to me too, and
to whom even beyond the grave I could still prove my good-will by
befriending her beloved.

"And in a week's time he actually came and took possession of the house
which stood about a mile from the village in a tolerably large
vineyard, not far from the ravine where the chestnuts are; a lovely,
solitary spot for a man at least who had no fear, good weapons at hand,
and a faithful dog for companion. But the latter was not the only
living creature that joined him. Erminia's sister Maddalena insisted on
doing so, that she might wash and cook for him, and keep his house
while he was on his rambles. Nothing could have suited him better,
though people in general shunned her. But he knew that her dead sister
had bequeathed her own love and fidelity towards him to this poor
creature. And so the singular pair lived on in their solitude, and
never seemed to concern themselves about the rest of the world.

"I went to see him a few days after his arrival. The house had once
belonged to a Roman noble, and was still in tolerable condition, though
the old furniture was covered with dust and cobwebs which Maddalena
never disturbed. She had been used to worse in her mother's ruinous
hovel under the roof of the fig-tree. But in the neglected garden she
had somewhat bestirred herself, and planted a few beds with vegetables,
and the locks of all the doors had been repaired and new bolts added.
'She insisted upon it,' said the captain; 'she is continually dreaming
of an attack upon us.' 'Dreams are not always mere moonshine,' returned
I, but he paid no attention. He went before me up the stone steps, and
opened the door of the familiar salon, the balcony of which looked on
the garden. This was the only room that he inhabited; he had made a bed
out of an old divan, and cleaned the rubbish out of the corners
singlehanded, but he could not stop up the countless holes in the walls
through which bats and squirrels went in and out. My first glance fell
on a stand against the wall, from which his beautiful fire-arms shone
out, and as I was always fond of them I fell to examining these
master-pieces one by one. 'Just turn round Angelo,' he said; 'there is
something in the room that will interest you more.' It was a life-size
picture of Erminia, and so strikingly like, that it gave me, as it
were, a blow on the heart. During their early days in Rome, a
first-rate painter and friend of his had begun this wondrous picture,
and finished it with the exception of one hand and part of the dress.
The head, which looked over the shoulder with an indescribable
expression of proud bliss--actually beaming with love and beauty--was
highly finished, and as I said, one fancied one saw the exquisite
creature breathe. I could not speak a word, but I stood a full
half-hour motionless before it, from time to time wiping away the tears
which obscured the picture. It was then he told me for the first time,
that on the very day when she left him he had received a letter from an
old uncle, his only remaining relative, on whose consent to his
marriage he had laid great stress. Then he tried to tell me something
about those happy weeks in Rome, but his voice suddenly gave way, and
he went into the next room. I could not venture to follow him, and as
he did not return I concluded I was not wished for any longer, and
quietly crept down the steps accompanied only by the great dog, who
looked into my face as much as to say that he knew all about his
master's grief.

"I now resolved to wait until he should seek me out, but I might have
waited long! However, I sometimes saw Maddalena in the market or one of
the shops, and twice I spoke to her, asked for Signor Gustavo, and
heard that he was well, and if not out shooting was always reading
books, and allowed no one to enter, not even the priest, who had felt
it his duty to enquire for the mourner. In our village, where everyone
had been so enraged against him, the tide turned gradually in his
favour. People remembered the merry evenings over the wine-barrel, and
his courteous and sociable ways, and in time the women who had been the
most violent were quite conquered by his solitary sorrow. Many a one, I
suspect, would not have required much pressing to lend him her company
in that lonely villa, if he had only held up a finger. But month after
month passed by, and all went on in the old way.

"One night towards the end of August I had a headache, having drunk
more wine than usual, and the mosquitoes were more unconscionable than
ever: so that I sat up in bed, and began to think whether I had not
better strike a light and write some verses. All of a sudden through
the stillness of night I heard two shots, then again others, and from
the direction in which they came I judged that they must be somewhere
near the captain's villa. '_Corpo della Madonna!_' thought I, 'what can
he be about! Is he shooting bats or owls?' But they did not sound like
the English rifle of Signor Gustavo, and they succeeded each other too
rapidly and irregularly to be fired by any one man, and all at once
I jumped horrified out of bed, for I no longer had any doubt about
it,--what I had long silently feared had happened: Il Rosso and his
banditti had fallen upon the lonely man, and they were fighting there
in the vineyard for life and death. I got on my clothes, snatched a
pair of old pistols from the wall, wakened up my apprentice, and told
him to run through the streets, and call out 'help! murder!' as loud as
ever he could. I myself knocked up a couple of neighbours, and
encouraged all who were already roused to follow me. When we came down
from the village we were a party of ten or twelve, each armed with
rifle or pistol. And to be sure the firing did come from the vineyard,
and we to whom the moon fortunately served instead of lanterns,
scrambled over hedge and ditch towards the house, where we saw firing
going on from the windows. That comforted me somewhat. He had withdrawn
then into his fortress, and those rascals had to content themselves
with firing into the room at him at random. I was just about to explain
my plan of operations to our party,--how we were to form four
divisions, surround the enemy, and attack him in the rear; but some
out-post must have observed us, for there was a shrill whistle, and at
the same moment the attack came to an end, and here and there where the
moon shone on the open space between the rocks and the wood, we saw the
band scatter, some of them so lame that we might have captured them if
that had been our aim--over and above defending the captain--to take Il
Rosso, our own fellow-citizen, prisoner. But we wished to spare his
father the pain of that, and thanked God that we had come just in time,
for at our loud call we saw Signor Gustavo step out on the balcony into
the bright moonlight, and wave a white handkerchief to us. But when we
saw the handkerchief nearer, it proved by no means pure white, but had
large spots of blood, from a bullet having grazed his temple. It was
nothing of any consequence, and did not prevent the captain sitting out
of doors with me the next morning when all the rest had gone to their
homes. Only Maddalena in her passionate way, besotted with the man in
spite of her sister's story, could not be tranquillised, and went on
searching for one healing herb after the other, and he had to apply
them all to prevent her becoming quite frantic. The good creature,
whose sleep was like a cat's, was aware of footsteps creeping about the
house even before the dog heard them; and she ran up to wake her
master. On the first bandit who placed a ladder against the balcony,
she bestowed such a blow on the head with the barrel of a gun, that he
fell backwards, and the ladder with him. And so there she was at hand
to load one rifle after the other, and indeed every now and then she
herself took a shot through the window, and swore with might and main
that she had sent a ball through the coat of the murderous villain Il
Rosso himself, and that he gave a great start but went on firing. As
for the room, it had a ruinous aspect, not a pane was whole, the
plaster had fallen in great sheets from the ceiling, and Erminia's
picture had been struck in two places, but fortunately only the dress
and the frame were injured. When the day began to break, the Captain
and the dog too did get a few hours sleep, but Maddalena would not hear
of it, although for the present the cut-throats had been scared away.

"I spent the next day at the villa, and kept imploring my friend to
leave the district. Indeed all the reasonable people from the village
who came to see the battle-field gave the same advice. He most
obstinately refused to do so. It was only on the following day when the
Roman Prefect of Police came over to keep up appearances, and draw up a
protocol, by way of doing something, that he let himself be turned from
his foolhardy resolve. 'I most earnestly advise you,' said the
official, a monsignore N----, 'as soon as possible to leave the
mountains, and indeed the country itself. A youth who witnessed the
attack of the bandits--if indeed he were not one of them--has told me
that more than one bullet has been cast for you; that Il Rosso has
sworn upon the host that he will pay you off. Were I to remain here I
could only protect you so long as you kept by my side. But if you took
again to your lonely wanderings through the ravines you might expect
out of every bush a shot that would consign you to another world.'

"And so at last he made up his mind to leave, and that at once, in the
carriage of the Prefect of Police. When I pressed his hand at parting,
'Now then, Signor Gustavo,' said I, 'this will certainly be the last
time we two ever meet on earth.' 'Who knows?' he replied. 'After all I
am half a countryman of yours, and have no other home.' Then he gave me
some directions with regard to Maddalena. She was not to leave the
villa, nor did the captain think of selling it. If he failed to return
within a certain number of years, she was to consider the house and
garden her own property, and meanwhile to appropriate their profits. To
the priest he gave in token of gratitude for the assistance rendered
him by the villagers, a considerable sum for the poor. On me he
bestowed a small picture of Lord Byron, which he had always carried
about with him. The portrait of Erminia he had rolled up in a tin
cylinder, and that and his fire-arms were all that he took away with
him. So we parted, and as I believed, never to meet again, and
Maddalena, who insisted upon going with him, and clung like a wild cat
to the carriage, had to be forcibly dragged off and locked into the
house till it had rolled far away.

"However that very night, so soon as they left off watching her, she
vanished, and for days ran up and down the streets of Rome like a
maniac, looking in vain for her master. At last she returned, and
hobbled about the villa alone, but she let everything go to waste; the
grapes might rot on the vines, and the fruit on the trees, rather than
she take the trouble of gathering them and carrying them to market. She
had always been idle, indeed, as a toad--a creature she resembled in
appearance too--and it was only when it concerned the captain that she
could work and bestir herself like three people in one.

"Of him, however, we heard nothing more; of his mortal foe Barbarossa
we heard far too much. Since that night he and his band had lingered
about our neighbourhood, and he seemed to have conceived a hatred
against his countrymen, because they had gathered to the assistance of
the foreigner. But for the company of papal gendarmes who were sent us
as a permanent support from Rome, I do believe he would have fallen
upon his own native village and taken a bloody revenge.

"Accordingly no one who had been present on the occasion, ever ventured
himself a rifle-shot from the last houses without taking his fire-arms
with him, and such as had to go into the mountains always begged for
two gendarmes as escort. Those were sad times, _amico mio_, and I even
lost my pleasure in rhyming, for I knew that he had a special spite
against me. Twice there were great expeditions undertaken against the
bandits, but not much came of them, for they had their scouts posted
everywhere; they knew every crag and cranny of the mountains as
intimately as the devil does his own den, and they were merely driven
for awhile a little further back into the Sabina.

"However when in the winter old Serone, Domenico's father, died from
grief on his son's account, we had an interval of peace. Il Rosso, whom
of course the fact reached, may perhaps have felt some remorse, for by
nature, as I have said, he was not bad-hearted, only his unfortunate
love had hardened and frenzied him. It really seemed as though he meant
to keep quiet during his year of mourning, and until midsummer we heard
no more of banditti. Whether they were at work further south, or how
they kept themselves alive during this holiday, God knows. But when we
took it for granted that our deliverance from them was final we
reckoned without our host. Our neighbourhood began all of a sudden to
be haunted again. My neighbour, Pizzicarlo, who had been one of us that
night at the villa, was captured by these villains while riding his
donkey to Nerni, dragged off into their haunts, and only released on
payment of a considerable ransom. And so with others, whom they sadly
maltreated. This could not go on. The gendarmes obtained
reinforcements, the razzia into the mountains began anew, but not with
much better success. At that time Barbarossa seemed to be everywhere
and nowhere, terrible as a basilisk, and slippery as an eel, and far
and wide mothers quieted their screaming children by saying: _Zitto_,
Barbarossa is coming! But other stories were told too, more to his
credit; how he behaved to the poor and defenceless like a knight in a
legend, intent mainly on righting the defective justice of the world,
though every now and then robbing the egregiously wealthy just to
supply his own needs. As I have before said, he was to be pitied, and
if he had not run up so heavy a score that the law could not possibly
wink at it, perhaps an amnesty would yet have changed him back into a
peaceable honest citizen.

"Under these circumstances we lived wretchedly enough, much like
shipwrecked sailors on a plank, with a shoal of sharks around. Thirteen
months had now passed since the captain's departure, and no one spoke
of him, at least no one said any good of him, fearing to be overheard
by somebody who might repeat it to Barbarossa. Imagine, therefore, my
horror one afternoon. I had just opened a bottle of castor oil, and was
thinking of nothing worse, when Signor Gustavo his own very self
entered my room as though nothing had happened. '_Corpo della
Madonna!_' I cried, 'What wind has blown you here? Are you so weary of
life that you determine to make your villa your mausoleum?' Then he
told me that he had not been able to endure either the East or West.
Nowhere had he found any flavour in the wine, everywhere the women were
tedious, and since he had fired at men, the chase of lions and hyenas
had become insipid. And always too he had been pursued by the feeling
that he had, like a contemptible coward, left the field to his foe,
instead of waiting to measure his strength against him. And a short
time back, when staying at some German Spa, he read a newspaper account
of the Sabine mountains being again ravaged by banditti, and of Papal
carabinieri having for months pursued the vagabonds, who seemed as
inexterminable as toadstools after rain: why then he had found the
monotonous elegant world in which he was living, simply intolerable,
and taking an extra post, he had travelled day and night without
halting, crossed the Alps, and got here. And now here he was again
settled in the vineyard. Maddalena had been actually wild with joy, and
he himself felt more at home than he had done for a year and a day.
'And what then was he going to do here?' asked I in horror and
amazement. 'Oh!' said he, 'I shall have no lack of occupation; I shall
join the patrol of gendarmes that are constantly on the mountains, and
so as a volunteer and dilettante face my man. When I come to consider
it, it was I who hung this mill-stone about your necks, and so it is
only fair that I should try to help you off with it. Good-day, Angelo,
pay me a visit in my mausoleum.'

"And away he went: he had grown so strangely restless--quite unlike his
former self--that he could not stay long in any one place. What I felt
about the whole affair, I leave you to imagine. Meanwhile it had never
been my wont to play the coward, and indeed here it behoved me to take
the initiative, on account of my old acquaintance with Signor Gustavo.
So I boldly visited him in the villa, and found everything just as
though he had never left it. Maddalena hobbling about as before, and
busy enough now, gathering the grapes with her long arms; the dog, who
had grown old and blind of one eye; and in the salon the marks of the
bullets still visible, but the holes in Erminia's portrait had been
carefully repaired. When I went in, the captain was walking up and
down, smoking and reading, but on seeing me he laid aside his book--as
usual verses by his English poet--and heartily shook my hand. He had
spent the whole night between the rocks and woods, lying out to stalk
his game, and only slept a little in the morning. At midnight he was
going out again with three stout fellows who did honour to the Pope's
uniform. If I liked I might go with him.

"I declined with thanks on this occasion, and did not remain long, for
his manner, half fierce and half reckless--as though he were playing a
game of chance--gave me an uncomfortable feeling. On my way home, I
laid a kind of wager as it were with myself--that if seven days passed
without his coming to a bad end, I would print my sonnets to Erminia at
my own expense; if otherwise I would leave them in manuscript. And an
end did indeed come, but whether it could be called good or bad, God
knows, and so to the present day I am in doubt whether I won the wager
or not.

"It was he himself who circumstantially related to me the way things
fell out, so that you can receive my narrative as though you had it
from his own lips. He began to wonder much, he said, that Barbarossa
did not confront him, for his return was nothing else than a direct and
open challenge. Twice when on his rounds with the gendarmes, he had
stumbled upon suspicious-looking characters, but they had not held
their ground--dived out of sight like frogs when the stork appears. He
fancied they did this with the intention of drawing him on further into
the mountains in order to attack him with less risk. So he was glad
when an expedition on a large scale into the Sabina was planned,
although not for the next night, but the next but one, for the soldiers
were determined to get their fill of sleep first, so as to be all the
fresher.

"But the captain could not remain so long inactive, and as he had no
companions--his usual escort preferring a good night to an aimless
ramble--he loaded his double-barrelled gun, called his dog, who seemed
disinclined to follow him, and left his vineyard just as the moon rose.

"Fool-hardy as he was, he yet guarded himself against any unnecessary
exposure. He wore a dark coat, and dark trowsers which he pushed into
his high boots, and also a grey hat, one of those called, you know,
_Comecipare_, in which attire, so long as he kept in the shadow of the
oaks and chestnuts, it would have been hard even in the day-time to
distinguish him from the trunk of a tree.

"Now it so happened that the night was still and beautiful, and he told
me he had never so much enjoyed the gloomy forest, and had never had
Erminia's form and face so vividly present and near to him as they then
seemed. The dog silently and wearily crept on after him, and he himself
was lost in dreams, having never hoped that on this occasion he should
meet with his enemy, but being led on and on merely for the sake of
exercise, and by the exquisite coolness of the night.

"He had he thought wandered thus--creeping and climbing
alternately--for more than an hour, when the dog suddenly stood still
and growled. Instantly the captain's hand was on his gun, but before he
could look round, two shots were fired close to him, and he felt that
he had received a wound in the leg. At the same moment he saw a fellow
stand out from behind a great ilex and level a pistol, but he was
beforehand with him, and took such good aim that he shot off the lock
of the pistol and two fingers of the hand that held it; whereupon the
villain took flight, and ran along the steep path with such speed that
neither the dog--who to be sure was no longer so agile as he had
been--nor the second barrel of the English gun reached him. The captain
had paid dear for his night walk. The wound in his leg bled so much
that the bandage he improvised with pocket and neck-handkerchief was of
little use. So having re-loaded both barrels, he set out homewards, but
contrived to lose his way, the moonlight confusing him, and it was only
after much fruitless wandering about that he saw the roof of his villa
shining above the vineyards, and he was then so exhausted with loss of
blood and fatigue, that he sank down on a stone, and was obliged to
rest awhile before he could rise and drag himself over the last hundred
yards.

"But one there was past rising, and that was the dog. The second shot
had wounded him more seriously than the first his master, and having
limped after him thus far without a whine of complaint, his strength
was spent, and he moaned away his faithful life. The captain told me he
felt his blood run cold when he saw his old ally feebly wag his tail
and then stretch out his four legs stiffly. He himself was hardly able
to stand, yet he could not find it in his heart to leave his dead
comrade there in the open plain where vultures would soon have found
him out next morning. He wished to give him the honourable burial he
had so well earned, in the vineyard at home, and so he took him up,
supporting the weight with the stock of the gun--that gun itself being
heavy enough for him in his present condition--and with tottering steps
he reached the vineyard, and found the iron gate as usual locked from
within. He opened it by a trick known only to him and Maddalena. But he
was surprised that the sound of his steps should not have roused the
wakeful creature: thought she had perhaps been drinking some strong
wine which he had just had from the village, and as he passed the door
of her room did not care to disturb her. The dog he laid down in the
kitchen, and covered with an old straw mat, then he tottered up the
steps that led to the upper room, feeling as if he should hardly live
to reach his couch, and re-bandage his burning wound.

"But when he opened the door of the salon, he stood motionless on the
threshold, turned to stone by what he saw. The moon was shining full
upon the balcony and through the windows, and lit up the stand of
fire-arms in the corner. In the middle of the room, his back to the
light, erect and stiff as a marble pillar, arms crossed, and
contemplating the picture of Erminia, stood Domenico Serone, Il Rosso.
He no longer deserved this nick-name, however, for he had cut off his
beard, and his long wild hair looked ashy grey against the old yellow
straw hat that so shadowed his face nothing was to be seen but the
white of his eyes. But Signor Gustavo knew him at a glance.

"They looked full at each other for a moment, those two deadly foes,
Domenico, however, without changing his position, while the captain
leant upon his gun, and called up his last remnant of strength to play
the man, spite of his wound.

"'You are come at last then,' said Il Rosso, and his voice trembled. 'I
have waited for you here, since I did not find you at home. You know
that I have sworn to reckon with you, and the time is fully come.
Tomorrow night you are going to make a great sally and surprise my
band. Bravo! Set to! Only what you and I have to settle could be better
done, I thought, by ourselves. Let your gun alone,' for the captain was
about to stand on his guard. 'If I had chosen, you would have drawn
your last breath long before this. Do you suppose I did not hear you
outside when you were opening the iron gate, and had I wished for your
blood I had but to shed it then and there. I own I was very near doing
so. But I was not able. _She_ would not suffer it,' and he hurriedly
pointed to the picture. 'If you have still the heart to love your life
you may thank _her_ for it.'

"'Domenico,' said the captain, 'let there be an end to this. You are in
my house, and I cannot tolerate your playing the master here, and
acting as if I was at your mercy. I will have no gift from him who
plotted to deprive me of the dearest thing I had on earth. You had no
right to the girl, none--that she herself assured me. And as
nevertheless you murdered her, and are now seeking after my life, why
you are nothing better than a wild beast, and whoever renders you
harmless does a good work. It is pure mercy on my part not to avail
myself of my advantage, and shoot you down before you can lift your gun
from the floor. But I feel sorry for you. I can understand how one
might lose one's reason for that girl's sake, and not recover it after
her death. Therefore I offer you honourable terms. Take up your gun.
When I have counted three--one or both of us will have ceased to live.'

"Domenico never stirred. 'Do as you will,' he said, 'I shall not fire.
If I were to kill you, what better should I be? I am a miserable man. I
have murdered the fairest woman in the world, like a wild beast that I
was; you do well to call me one. I thought I should be happier if I got
you too out of the world. I was a fool. If you were to meet her again
up yonder, rage and jealousy at not being able to part you any more,
would devour my heart till I went down to hell damned beyond
redemption. No, make an end of me as you said. See, I stand quite
still. This gun,' he pushed it away from him with his foot, 'I will not
touch. Fire, captain, and with my last breath I will forgive you. For
by God's holy blood the life I have led was purgatory, and now it would
be hell itself since I have seen _her_ again, and _you_ whom she
loved.' While so speaking, his strength seemed to fail him, he fell on
his knees before the picture, and hid his face in his hands, his whole
body, as it were, convulsed.

"At last the conflict ended. He sobbed aloud, wailed and writhed like
one mortally wounded, then trying to rise he groaned out, 'My God! My
God! She is dead! Lord have pity upon her murderer!' and down he fell
again as in a swoon and pressed his sobbing lips against the cold
flags, and seemed to have utterly forgotten that any one stood by and
saw it all.

"And meanwhile there was the picture on the wall standing silent and
stately, and in its bloom of bliss and youth looking down upon the poor
sinner.

"'Domenico,' said the captain, gently drawing near, binding over him,
and laying a hand on his shoulder, 'neither of us can call her back,
and what we have to do is to get through our remnant of life. If you
will take my advice you will leave this country and cross the seas.
There is war going on in Africa, and the French need brave men. Your
crime--I forgive it, and there is One who weighs with other scales than
we do, who sees your heart and knows how you repent and suffer. If I
can help you in any way to get off, and fling your past behind you,
tell me. You shall find a brother in me.'

"Il Rosso had meanwhile risen, and was now standing with face averted
from the picture, gazing hopelessly into the night. At these last words
of his rival he vehemently shook his head. 'It is over,' he replied.
'You and I are quits. The rest is my affair. You and I shall never meet
again, that I swear to you by her shadow. But leave this house in which
I can no longer protect you. With the others it is an affair of your
money and your fire-arms, they hanker after them. If they hear that it
was in my power to give you up to them, and that I have not done so,
they will never forgive me, and there are some of them who still carry
about the tokens of that first tussle we had. Take care of yourself,
and good night to you. Yon have seen the last of me.'

"He bent down, picked up his gun, and with one last look at the picture
that in serene beauty shone out in the moonlight, glided from the room.

"The captain heard him go slowly down the stairs, step by step, and
when outside, open the iron gate and lock it again. Then the night was
once more still as death. He required some time to collect himself. He
felt, he said, as though he had been thrown down from a high tower and
had reached the ground without broken limbs indeed, but unable to move
from sheer giddiness. For awhile he lay half fainting on his couch, but
the streak of blood on the moonlit floor reminded him of his wound. He
roused himself to call Maddalena to bring him water and help him with
his bandage. But no one answered, call as he would. So at last he
tottered down the stairs and entered her room. There in a corner he saw
the poor creature lying huddled up, bound hand and foot, and with a gag
in her mouth. When he had unloosed her she fell half dead at his feet,
and only recovered when he had sprinkled her well with water, and
poured a little wine down her throat, and then crying and laughing, she
began to kiss his hands and his coat. But there was no getting a single
rational word from her; her fright when Il Rosso surprised her, and
then her agony when she heard her master return and go up the steps at
the top of which his enemy was awaiting him--these upset her poor mind
completely, and during the remainder of her life, the years followed
each other without her being conscious of any alternation except of
heat and cold, hunger and repletion.

"I took the captain to my house, and nursed him for a week until his
wound had pretty well healed. The sortie against the banditti had to
take place of course without him, but nothing more decisive was
effected than the procuring us peace for about a couple of years. The
only prisoner taken was a small boy whose father was one of the
bandits, and who himself had sometimes joined them. Nothing could be
made of him, so he was let go again. However one fact he did have to
tell us: on the morning after the night in which Il Rosso had that
reckoning with his enemy, a quarrel arose, and some of the party
accused Domenico of being a traitor. At last knives were drawn, and
before the cooler-headed could interfere, Domenico lay dead on the bare
rock, the knife in his breast, almost on the very spot where he had met
Erminia.

"As for Signor Gustavo he went to Naples, and thence sailed to Greece.
Later I heard from an artist that he had been drowned there, swimming
in the open sea. Possibly the wound in the leg was imperfectly healed,
or it may have left some weakness behind it, for once he could, as he
told me, have swum a match against that great Lord himself. But as to
what became of the picture of Erminia, which the artist well remembered
to have seen, I could learn nothing. I would gladly have given half my
substance if only I could have got possession of it.

"And now, _amico mio_, you know the history of Barbarossa and Erminia."



                           END OF BARBAROSSA.



                                  THE
                        EMBROIDERESS OF TREVISO.



                                  THE
                        EMBROIDERESS OF TREVISO.


It was our third day of rain, and the wood and garden walks around the
country house we were staying at, were turned into water-courses. On
the first and second day, the party of guests had made it a point of
honour to be as inexhaustible in good humour as the sky in clouds, and
within the large five-windowed saloon, with the oleanders blooming
before it, jests rained, laughter rippled, and witty repartees flashed
uninterruptedly as the drops pattered on the terrace outside. On this
third day, however, even the most genial in our ark became dimly
conscious that the deluge might prove more persistent than their good
spirits. True no one ventured to break the vow of enduring this
visitation in common,--made the day before yesterday,--by slinking off
to his room and sulking there on his own resources. But general
conversation, games, spontaneous play of intelligence and wit, had
somewhat failed since the professor who passed for a great
meteorologist, had confessed that instead of the change to fair which
he had promised, his glass actually showed a fresh fall of the mercury.
He had procured a second barometer, and was now seriously investigating
the causes of this discrepancy between two prophets. His wife meanwhile
was silently painting in body colours on grey paper her sixth
water-lily; at a second table, Frau Helena was setting up her men for a
seventh trial of skill at chess, while Frau Anna sat in a corner beside
her baby's cradle, fanning away the flies from it, while trying to
guess the conundrums and charades in the old almanac open on her knee.
The young doctor with whom Frau Helena was playing chess, saw in this
interval of silence an opening for doing justice to a rustic anecdote,
but suddenly broke off, remembering that he had told it the day before.
The husband of Frau Anna, mindful of the elder Shandy's sagacious
dictum, that all manner of mental distresses and perplexities are best
endured when the body is in a horizontal position, had stretched
himself out full length on an old leather sofa, and blew the smoke of
his damped cigar up in slow blue circles to the ceiling.

In the midst of these more or less successful efforts to adapt oneself
to one's fate, the off-hand cheery way in which a middle-aged man with
arms locked behind, continued slowly pacing up and down the room,
naturally arrested attention. Sometimes he would stand for an instant
beside the chess-table, or look over the shoulder of the painter, or
gently wave his hand in passing over the little brow of the sleeping
child, but all this he seemed to do unconsciously, as if absorbed in
some train of thought quite unconnected with the rainy Present, and
fixed either on a sunny Past, or sunny Future.

"What can you be about, dear Erminus?" enquired Frau Eugenie, who had
just returned from a housewifely excursion into the kitchen and
store-closet. "Here we all are pulling faces in keeping with this
horrible wet, and on yours there is actual fine weather, nay even a
kind of sunshine, as though you had secretly got betrothed, or had
written the last page of a book, or felt a toothache of four-and-twenty
hours subsiding. Come now, confess at once what this means, or we shall
suspect that it is nothing but most unholy exultation over us who do
not--like you--come to the country for the exact purpose of shutting
ourselves up in a room with books."

"I can satisfy you on that point, my good friend," answered, with a
laugh, the one thus addressed. "This time there is no malice in the
case, although I am enjoying myself; and your other hypotheses are,
thank God, equally groundless, nay, one of them actually impossible;
since I could hardly show a cheerful face if, after so long a freedom,
I had pledged myself to submit once more to petticoat government. No,
that which keeps up my equanimity, spite of our condition, is neither
more nor less than a pretty story on which I accidentally lighted
yesterday as I was looking over my old papers, and which now haunts me
in the same way a favourite melody will sometimes dwell upon the ear,
and constantly repeat itself."

"A story and a pretty one too!" said the artist. "Then you must
instantly let us have it as a matter of course. Have we not agreed to a
community of goods of all kinds so long as the rain lasts, and would
you keep a pretty story all to yourself? That would be a pretty story
indeed!"

"Perhaps, however, it might not please you," replied Erminus, standing
still beside her and twisting the long stalk of a water-lily into a
loop. "I at least care so little for many stories that have a great run
now-a-days, that I came long ago to the conclusion that mine was an
old-fashioned taste, and that I did not advance with the age. But in my
character of historian, I can console myself for this. We are not
entirely dependent upon the latest novelty. And perhaps the sources I
apply to for _history_, have spoiled my relish for stories as they are
now-a-days written and admired. The difference between the wood-cut
style of an old city-chronicle, and the photographic, stereoscopic,
stippled minuteness and finish of a modern novel, is altogether too
wide. In the one, all is raw material, blocks seldom sufficiently hewn,
joints gaping, subjects so shaken together that only an expert or
genuine amateur can pick out what answers his purpose. In our
artificial modern days on the contrary, all is so smooth and polished,
so conscious and premeditated, so reduced to mere form and style, that
the subject often utterly vanishes, the _what_ is forgotten in the
_how_, and owing to the very psychological finesse of the narrator we
come to be almost indifferent to the human beings on whom he practises.
I for my part still occupy so obsolete a stand-point, that in every
story the chief interest for me lies in the story itself. One man may
tell it better than another, but for that I hardly care. If an incident
that has really happened or been evoked by imagination makes an
impression on me in the rough and incomplete version of an old
chronicle, I would rather not have it tricked out with any gewgaws of
style, but trust to my own fancy to supply omissions. But you moderns,"
and here he threw a sarcastic glance at the chess-player and the
smoker, "you are never satisfied till you have bestowed all conceivable
ornamentation and decoration on any and every story whatsoever, even
though it should be most fair when naked as God made it."

"Each age has its own style of attire, and _nolens volens_, we have to
conform to fashion," said the recumbent figure on the sofa without
disturbing itself further.

"And each age acts and relates its own stories," interpolated the
chess-player. "So long as the right of the strongest prevailed, stories
were decidedly material in their interest, from Achilles down to the
noble knight of La Mancha. Since life has become more spiritual,
and its incidents more internal, they can no longer be outwardly
expressed by a few coarse strokes, as was the case with a middle-aged
dagger-and-sword-romance. Mere outline with some light and shade no
longer suffices; we want the whole range of colour, the most delicate
gradations of tint, and all the charms of chiaroscuro, and as we
ourselves have become in a great measure men of sentiment, the
sentiment an author manifests either for or against his characters is
no longer indifferent to us."

"Oh I know," returned Erminus, "little flesh, much soul, that is the
motto of the present day. But I happen to be just a man of the
unsentimental middle ages, though not in the romantic sense, and
therefore I had better keep my story to myself, for its structure is
by no means adapted to the attire of the present day, and while the
poets now present might turn up their nose at its very decidedly
old-fashioned form, I should fear to shock the ladies by its incidents,
though I for my part consider it perfectly moral."

"Since you yourself are quite sufficiently moral for us," said Frau
Eugenie, "this assurance will induce us to listen to your story without
a scruple."

"Especially since there is no un-confirmed young lady present," added
Frau Helena.

"With the exception of the little innocent here in the cradle,"
observed Frau Anna, "but she apparently intends to shut her eyes to
it."

"As to that point then I may feel safe in venturing," said Erminus.
"But now a sudden fear comes over me that this favourite of mine that
pleased me so much in private, may show itself awkward and unattractive
if I introduce it into such a fastidious circle. And my old chronicler
from whom I copied these few unpretending pages merely for my own
pleasure, was, I own, no poet like Boccacio and his companions, though
in this story he came pretty near them."

"Do not let us waste more time on the preface," said the professor.
"The worst that can happen to your story, is a poet's looking on it as
merely raw material, and, if it rains for another fortnight, making a
tragedy or a comedy out of it which may remain as a blot on the stage."

"So be it, then!" sighed Erminus, thus fairly driven into a corner, and
off he went to fetch his tale.

Before long he returned, a portfolio under his arm, from which he drew
a manuscript volume.

"The manuscript is twenty years old," he said, taking his seat in the
window, and spreading it out on his knee. "I chanced at that time to be
gathering materials for a history of the Lombard towns, and had come to
Treviso, where I hoped to find both in the Civic Records and in the
cloister-library treasures, which, alas! did not fall to my share. It
was only at the Dominicans at San Niccolo that I stumbled on a
remarkable chronicle, dating about the end of the 14th century, which I
would gladly have bought from the good fathers. But all that I could
attain to, was leave to copy out in their cool refectory, under the
eyes of a brother Antonio, whatever I thought useful for my purpose.
These sheets bear traces of the fragrant ruby-coloured cloister wine
with which I now and then washed down the dust of the chronicle, till
after many and many dry records, I lit upon the history of the fair
Giovanna, which like a spring of water in an arid steppe, suddenly
refreshed me more than any wine could do.

"At this time," (the chronicle refers to the first quarter of the
fourteenth century) "a bitter feud existed between the town of Treviso
and the neighbouring one of Vicenza, originating apparently in trivial
public matters, but fed by secret jealousy, even as the unseen wind
fans a feeble spark into flame. The inhabitants of Vicenza called the
Venetians to their aid, and were thus enabled by a rapid man[oe]uvre to
take possession, first of the castle of San Salvatore di Collatto, and
next to conquer the very town of Treviso itself, and it was only after
inflicting on it the utmost humiliation, and imposing a considerable
tribute, that they consented to withdraw, encumbered with booty and
hostages. As soon as these occurrences transpired--and the rumour
spread as far as Milan--no one was more enraged than a noble youth
belonging to our heavily-visited city, one Attilio Buonfigli by name,
(son of the most distinguished of Treviso's citizens, and nephew to the
Gonfaloniere Marco Buonfigli,) who had from early childhood been
brought up as a page in the house of the noble Matteo Visconti, had at
this time reached the age of twenty-five, and was thoroughly instructed
and practised in all knightly arts. As soon as he learnt the misfortune
that had befallen his beloved native town, he took an oath never to
sleep except in his coat of mail, until he had revenged the insult; and
accordingly he obtained leave of absence from his lord, and rode with
some friends of his, all clad in armour, out of the gates of Milan. And
since, young as he was, he had already made himself a proud name in the
feuds of the Visconti, no sooner was his purpose known than adventurous
youths from all sides flocked to swear fealty to him as to their
Condottiere, against whatever foe he might choose to lead them.

"As soon, therefore, as he had secured a sufficiently large body of men
to encounter the Venetians unaided, he sent secret messages to Treviso,
to inform his father and uncle of his plans, and of the day when he
purposed entering the gates of Vicenza to demand compensation for the
wrongs endured. They were to hold themselves in readiness to support
him, and with the help of God to place their feet on the necks of their
enemies.

"And thus indeed it came to pass, and was all so judiciously and
zealously carried out, that the men of Treviso succeeded in surprising
the retreating troops on their homeward way to Venice and depriving
them of their booty and hostages; while young Attilio, on the same day
in a hot encounter on the small river Bacchiloni, proved himself
victorious over the men of Vicenza. There was one thing only to trouble
the joy of our good city. The youthful victor had received a deep wound
in the throat from the sword of a Vicentine, and for some days his life
hung on a slender thread. His own father, as well as his noble mother,
nursed him in the conquered town's chief mansion, which belonged to its
most leading citizen, Signor Tullio Scarpa, whose eldest son, named
Lorenzaccio, had always been one of the bitterest foes of Treviso, so
much so indeed, that while the wounded hero remained an inmate of the
paternal abode, he never crossed its threshold. This only led to
Attilio--although a foe to her city--being regarded with greater
tenderness by the young Emilia, the only sister of Lorenzaccio; so that
his father and mother became aware of her partiality, and began to
found thereon a hope that through the union of the two leading families
of both towns, the long-existing bad blood and mutual jealousy might be
transformed into friendship and good will. And while his wound was
healing, in a confidential hour Attilio was induced by his dear mother
to entertain the idea, seeing that he had nothing to urge against it,
as his own heart was perfectly free, and the young Vicentine a comely
maiden. In secret, however, he felt a repugnance to take to wife a
daughter of that city: even after their betrothal he held himself aloof
from the girl, and would gladly have broken off altogether, but that he
feared to sow the germs of fresh hate amidst the up-springing crop of
peace. In this manner six or seven weeks passed by, and the leech
declared that the wounded man would no longer be running any risk by
mounting his horse and bearing shield and lance, even though he had
better for a further season avoid the pressure of his steel haubergeon.
Accordingly it was decided that he should set out for Treviso, whither,
in the course of a few weeks, the bride with her parents was to follow,
the rescued city being resolved to celebrate the marriage of their
noble son and deliverer with all possible splendour. Meanwhile the good
citizens had not lost the time spent by him on a sick bed, for they had
prepared for their loved young hero, whose name was on every lip, an
entry more triumphal than had ever yet been accorded to any prince.

"Amidst other offerings which the city meant to bestow upon him was a
banner, which his own uncle was to make over to him in the name of the
whole Council; a perfect marvel both as to material and skilful work.
The pole of ten feet was of polished oak, ornamented by bosses of
silver, the handle was set with rubies, and the point was gilt, so that
when the sun shone it was dazzling to look upon. From this pole hung a
heavy pennon of silver brocade, on which was represented a golden
griffin--the crest of the Buonfigli crowned with the mural crown of
Treviso--strangling a red serpent, whose coils were so natural, and
covered with such fine gold scales, that you seemed to see a living
snake writhing before your eyes. Above this was a Latin inscription in
flaming letters, which ran 'Fear not, for I will deliver thee.'

"This wondrous achievement of a skilful needle had, during the six
weeks that Attilio was laid low by his wound, proceeded from the hands
of one maiden only, whose talent for executing such work in gold,
silver, and silken thread, was renowned far and near. This maiden was
named Gianna--that is, Giovanna--the Blonde, for her hair was exactly
like bright spun gold, so that she had actually worked a church banner
for the Blessed Virgin, in the chapel of San Sebastiano, with nothing
but her own tresses. She had cut them off in her excessive grief when
her betrothed, who was, called Sebastian, a brave and handsome youth of
the district, had died of small-pox a few weeks before their marriage.
At that time she was eighteen years old, and the object of so many
secret wishes and so much open wooing, that she had often to hear
people prophecy that before her hair had grown again her bridegroom
would have a successor--agreeably to the proverb, Long hair, short
care. To speeches like these she would answer neither yea or nay, but
calmly look down upon her work like a being whose ear and mind were
closed against the idle sayings of this world. And in point of fact she
falsified all these prophecies, for she continued to live as if by her
votive offering of her hair to the Madonna she had vowed herself to
perpetual maidenhood, and never meant that any man should uncoil the
plaits which she again wound round her head, or twine their soft gold
about his fingers. Many thought that she would go into a convent,
because she preferred working church vestments and altar cloths, and
kept aloof from all public amusements. But she even contradicted this
opinion, and seemed to grow more cheerful as time went on, though still
more ready to listen than to speak; and after the early death of her
parents she removed to a small house in a turret on the city walls,
which had a wide view over the peaceful meadows that are watered by the
streams Piavesella and Rottiniga. There with an old deaf woman, her
nurse, she lived above comment or censure, during a space of ten years,
and no one entered her home except a neighbour now and then, or one of
the noble ladies of the city who came to order some piece of work.
Often, too, one of the spiritual fathers of the town might be seen to
raise the knocker of her door. On these occasions she would call her
nurse into the chamber while she received her visitors, and thus she
contrived to keep malice at bay. Although it was only on Saints' Days
that she allowed her needle to rest, and although she went but little
out of doors, she kept her beauty so unimpaired, that if she ever took
a Sunday walk in the cool of the evening on the walls, or in the
neighbouring woods, accompanied by her old servant, everyone who saw
her large black eyes look out calmly from between their fair lashes
stood as it were transfixed, to gaze after her; and even strangers and
distinguished noblemen who did not know her nature, and would not
credit the reports concerning her, made her many overtures, hoping to
lead her to renounce her single state. But she gave the same answer to
each and all of them, namely, that the life she led was dear and
familiar to her, and that she had no intention of changing it for any
other.

"Thus she had already attained her thirty-second year when the feud
between the two neighbouring towns broke out, and as she was a loyal
daughter of Treviso, she so bitterly felt all the misery and
humiliation that had befallen it, that its deliverance by the valiant
arm of a young fellow-citizen on whom her eyes had never rested,
impressed her as a supernatural portent, and the deliverer himself as
an angel with a flaming sword. Never had she more gladly undertaken a
task, or executed it with more skill and industry, than she did this
banner which the city meant to offer its triumphant son on his entry;
and when the festal day came, and everybody in Treviso who was not on a
sick-bed, sought themselves out a spot on market-place or street, at
gate or window, nay even on the very house-tops, from whence to shower
down flowers and congratulations on Attilio Buonfigli, even the fair
Gianna could no longer endure her narrow dwelling, though indeed she
might from the turret window have seen the procession from Vicenza well
enough. She procured herself a seat on a gaily decorated tribune near
the town hall, that she might see the hero quite closely, and she
dressed herself in her best attire, a bodice of silver tissue trimmed
with blue velvet, and a skirt of fine light blue woollen material, her
hair being according to the fashion of the time, richly intertwined
with ribands, so that even an hour before the entry, there was a rush
in the streets, and many exclamations of amazement when she, thus
arrayed, was seen to take her place by the side of a female friend. But
before long the eyes of the crowd were diverted from her, and fixed
impatiently on the street up which the hero was to ride. Part of the
town council had ridden at least a mile beyond the gates to meet and
honourably welcome him and his parents. His uncle, the Gonfaloniere,
remained standing with the rest on the steps of the town hall, which
was covered with costly red cloth, from whence a broad stripe of the
same led across the market-place to the door of the cathedral, a manner
of preparing the way hitherto reserved for consecrated and anointed
personages only.

"But who is able to describe the truly marvellous and unutterably
solemn impression made on all, when at length Attilio, in advance of
his escort, came riding up the street on his crimson-caparisoned bay
charger, he himself in plain attire, a steel coat of mail thrown over a
tabard; for the rest unarmed, with the exception of the sword that hung
from his girdle, his head adorned merely by its dark brown curls. His
chin and cheeks were shaded by a light beard, through which on the left
side the broad red scar of his wound was visible. And although his
management of his fiery charger proved his strength, a slight pallor
still lingered on his cheeks, over which every now and then a modest
blush flitted when he looked around him and saw on all sides white
heads bend reverently before his triumphal youth, or mothers hold up
their children the better to see the deliverer of their native city.
But what crowned the whole was the shower of flowers falling so thickly
from window and roof upon the hero, that his form was at times actually
lost to view beneath a many-coloured veil; and his good horse,
accustomed in battle to quite different missiles, pricked his ears,
shook his mane, and mingled his shrill neighing with the shouts of
triumph and the clamour of bells.

"As soon as the whole procession had gathered in front of the town
hall, Attilio leapt from the saddle and hastened up the steps to kneel
before his noble uncle, to receive from him the banner, and to kiss the
hand that bestowed so high an honour. But as he rose from his knees and
prepared to descend the steps and tread the way to the cathedral, he
started as though from some sudden pain of body or mind, and required
three minutes at least to regain consciousness of where he was, and of
the many thousand eyes riveted upon him. The fact was he had seen on
the tribune to his right, a face that, like a vision of paradise,
seemed to ravish him away from earth; and when the large black eyes
looked fixedly at him from under their blonde lashes with an
indescribable expression, half sweet, half melancholy, the blood
suddenly rushed to his heart, he grew pale as though an arrow had
smitten him in the breast, and had he not been holding the banner,
against the pole of which he was able to lean, he must a second
time--but this time involuntarily--have fallen upon his knees. Those
who stood nearest to him and noticed his faintness, attributed it to
his wound, and to the fatigue of so long a ride upon a hot day, no one
divining the real cause; and at last Attilio collected himself, and
forcing his eyes away from the enchanting face before him, trod the
path to the cathedral without once turning round his head to where the
women sat.

"All the people now streamed after him, and the tribunes emptied
themselves rapidly. The last who rose--and then only at the suggestion
of her neighbour--was Gianna the Blonde, who as if lapped in dreams, or
like one who gazes after the track of a falling star in the sky,
followed the young man with her eyes, till the deep shadow of the
cathedral portal swallowed up his lofty form. Her friend prepared to
follow the rest and be present at the high mass, but Gianna pleaded
indisposition, said she had sat too long in the sun, and with bent head
took her solitary way to her own home. One of the flowers with which
the streets were strewn, she picked up to carry back as a memorial; it
was a red carnation trodden down by a horse's hoof. This flower she
placed in a glass of water, and secretly settled with herself what it
should be held to betoken if it were to revive.

"Her old nurse who had been gazing at the procession through one of the
port-holes of the city-gates, overflowed with praises and admiration of
Attilio, of the modest way in which he had looked about him, he, an
immortal hero at such an early age! dwelling on all the honour and fame
he was sure to win in the future, making the name of his native town
great amongst all the cities of Italy, perhaps indeed greater than even
Florence or Rome! Then she fell to speaking of his betrothed, whom all
ladies must needs envy, and to wondering whether she was worthy of him,
and not by chance like her brother Signor Lorenzaccio, who stood in the
worst repute with the inhabitants of Treviso, the women more
especially. To all these remarks the fair Gianna replied nothing, or at
least very little, and much to the old woman's surprise, sat herself
down to her embroidery frame as though it were a common working-day,
only raising her eyes from time to time to look at the flower in the
glass. When afternoon came, and with it the rest of the amusements,
racing, dancing, and beautiful fireworks, she still remained quietly
seated, while the servant went out to enjoy the general hilarity. It
was indeed only late in the evening that she returned, tired to death
and covered with dust, but still with plenty to tell, and full of
tender pity for her mistress, who had lost so much by her sad headache.
The fair Gianna listened with a calm countenance, not joyous indeed,
yet not sad, as though she had no part in what was going on. Meanwhile
she had added a large piece to the stole she was working, and
apparently had never moved from her chair. But the carnation in the
glass was now in full bloom.

"By this time night had come, and after the women had got through their
silent supper, old Catalina, whose sexagenarian limbs had toiled hard
during the day, betook herself to her bed in the kitchen. Her mistress
remained up, looking at the rising of the moon above the broad plain,
and the flow of the Rottiniga; and now instead of the festal sounds
from the city, which had gradually died down, a nightingale who had her
nest under the window, began to sing so sweet and amorous a strain,
that tears came to the eyes of the solitary maiden as she listened. She
felt her heart so heavy and oppressed that she rose, put out her light,
and threw a dark cloak over her shoulders. Then she went down the steep
and narrow stair, opened the house-door, and stepped into the empty
street just to take a few steps in the cool night air, and quiet her
beating pulses. But lost in her own thoughts as she was, she forgot to
draw her hood about her head, so that although the moon did not shine
into the street, she was easily to be recognized by any passer-by. And
now, through a chance which, like all else that is earthly, obeyed a
higher will, she encountered the very one her thoughts--like moths
about a candle--had been fluttering round the whole day through.

"It was no other than Attilio, who had long ago been weary of all the
honour done him, and who more exhausted by the revel and riot of the
feast, than by the tumult of a battle-field, had made a pretext of his
wound to slip away from the banquet, and alone and unrecognized, visit
the old haunts where he had played as a boy. But still stronger was his
impulse and longing to try whether he might not chance again to meet
those eyes the glance of which was still glowing in his heart. He had
by well-put questions elicited from a burgher that the blonde beauty
was the clever artist who had worked the banner presented to him, and
he had determined on the following day, under plea of thanking her, to
pay a visit to her house. And now, just as he was sadly reflecting on
all that had happened and was yet to happen, the half-veiled figure
advanced as though she were awaiting him. Both were rendered speechless
by this sudden meeting. But Attilio was the first to collect himself.
'I know you well, Madonna,' said he, with a chivalrous obeisance as he
stepped nearer to her. 'You are Gianna the Fair.' 'And I know you too,
Attilio,' replied the beauteous one. 'Who is there in Treviso that does
_not_ know you?' And thereupon both were silent, and both availed
themselves of the shade of the gloomy street, to gaze at each other
more closely than they had done yet, and to the young man it seemed
that her beauty shone in the twilight a thousand times more gloriously
than in the full day, and she for her part thought his eyes had quite
another lustre while speaking to her now, than in the morning, when
he only mutely contemplated her from afar. 'Forgive me, Madonna,'
resumed the youth, 'for roaming through this street by night like a
house-breaker. My purpose was to visit you in the morning to thank you
for the great pains and the wondrous skill you have expended on the
embroidery of my banner. If not disagreeable to you, suffer me, since
you are alone, to reconduct you to your house. Truly I would that it
were a greater service that I had occasion to render, that you might
see how devoted I am to you.' Whereupon the blonde beauty, though
generally well-skilled in the choice of words, found nothing better to
say than, 'My home is only six paces off, and too humble for me to
invite you to enter it.' 'Say not so,' replied Attilio. 'Rather were
you a princess, and I authorized to entreat a favour, I should esteem
it the very highest, if you would allow me to enter your dwelling and
rest there a quarter of an hour, for indeed I am weary of wandering
about, and a draught of water would refresh me.' To which the fair one
replied, though not without hesitation and blushes, 'Who is there in
this town he rescued who could refuse the hero of Bacchiloni the
draught of water he so courteously entreats. My poor house and all it
contains are at your service.' Then opening the small door she bade him
enter in, and after bolting it again--for on festivals many loose
characters prowled about, bent on spoil--she courteously led her guest
by the hand up the perfectly dark winding stairs, so that he was quite
dazzled when she threw open the door of her chamber into which the
bright white moonshine streamed. 'Be seated a moment,' said she, 'while
I bring you water; or would you put up with a glass of common wine such
as we drink?' But he with quick-beating heart that choked his
utterance, merely shook his head, and stepping to the window-seat on
which her embroidery lay, fell to gazing on it, as though he wanted to
draw it from memory. So she left him and went down into the kitchen
where her nurse was fast asleep on a rug which she had spread on the
flags for the sake of coolness. 'Oh nurse!' she whispered, 'if you only
knew who has entered in!' Then after filling a goblet from a great
stone pitcher that stood on the hearth, she stood still a moment,
pressed her two cold hands on her burning cheeks, and said in a low
tone, 'Holy Mother, of our Lord, guard my heart from vain wishes.'
Thereupon she grew stronger, and after placing a small loaf on a tin
plate she carried both it and the glass of water up to Signor Attilio,
who had meanwhile seated himself in the window, and was gazing out into
the open country. 'I am ashamed,' said she, 'to bring you such prison
fare as bread and water. But if you will only stretch your arm out of
the window, an old fig-tree stands between the two walls and the moat,
which, with its load of sweet fruit is easily reached from here.'
'Gianna,' said the young man, taking the glass from her hand, 'were I
to remain here your prisoner for ever, I should never wish for any
other drink.' And she endeavouring to smile, replied, 'You would grow
weary of such imprisonment, whereas in the world without, by the side
of your young spouse, a thousand pleasures, prosperities, and honours
of all kind await you.' 'Why do you remind me of it?' cried he, his
brow growing dark. 'Know that this betrothal which you hold out as a
Heaven on earth, is to me a Hell itself. When I was still weak from the
fever of my wound, and hardly indeed my own master, I allowed myself to
be decoyed into this detested net, in which I now writhe like a
captured fish on a burning strand! Alas for my youth! why have my eyes
been opened now that it is too late? Why have I learnt to know my own
heart just after, like a fool, pledging myself to an accursed duty!'
And so saying, he sprang from his seat, and strode with echoing
footsteps through the moonlit room, just like a young panther trapped
in a pit, and confined in an iron cage. But the fair one, alarmed
though she was at the vehemence of this strange confession, was far
from imitating his demeanour, but gently said while stroking the
carnation blossom with her white finger, 'You astonish me, Signor
Attilio! Is not the bride young, fair, and virtuously nurtured, that
you should consider it a punishment to become her husband?' 'Were she
an angel from before the Throne of God,' cried he, suddenly standing
still and facing her, 'that flower that your hand has touched would be
a more precious gift to me, than her whole person with all her gifts
and virtues! Oh, why have you done this to me, Gianna! He who has never
seen the sun may live and even enjoy himself in twilight. But since my
eyes met yours for the first time this morning, I have known that there
is only one woman on earth for whose love and favour I would dare
anything, and cast body and soul away, and that woman art thou, Gianna
the Fair; and now I would rather that eternal night should swallow me
up, than that I should have to creep back into the twilight yonder,
frozen and wretched, to dream of my sun.'

"Thus saying he seized both her hands as though clinging to her to save
him from falling into an abyss, but seeing that her face remained
unmoved he let her go again, and returned to the open window. There he
stood awhile quite still and silent, and only the nightingale in the
bush below went on with her ceaseless trilling and warbling. Then as if
seized by some sudden resolve the youth turned round and cried, 'But
even though it should undo all that is done I will not consent, I will
not endure these bonds and chains! Tomorrow with the dawn I send
letters to Vicenza to take back my promise, and then I shall retire
from both towns and challenge with sword and lance all who dare to deny
that Gianna the Fair is the queen of womanhood.' 'This shalt thou not
do, Attilio,' returned the beautiful being looking beyond him to the
midnight sky with a calm and earnest gaze. 'That you should have been
so suddenly attracted towards me, and should endow me so unqualifiedly
with your affection, I acknowledge as an inexpressibly great gift, for
which, although unworthy of you, I shall thank you as long as I live.
But I cannot accept this gift without involving both in ruin. Reflect,
my friend, how the scarcely smothered enmity between the two towns
would burst forth again if you were thus to insult the house of Scarpa,
and with it all the city, by despising your betrothed bride who has
never offended against you by word or deed, merely because another face
has pleased you better. And this very face, even granting that it does
at this time deserve such excessive praise, and the passion it has
excited in you, who can say that even in one year all its charms might
not be faded, so that you would ask yourself wondering, how was it
possible you could have been thus possessed by it? Do we not often see
towards the close of summer, one single night of early frost avail to
turn the trees that were green but yesterday, suddenly sere and yellow?
I have overstept my one-and-thirtieth year; you my friend are in the
fulness of your youth, you are still climbing the hill, the summit of
which I have reached. Let me, therefore, being the elder, be the wiser
as well, and show prudence enough for both. And to this end I declare
to you my firm resolve, even were I to discover your love was more than
a sudden caprice, and were all opposing circumstances miraculously to
conform themselves to your wishes, I would _never_ consent to be your
wife, no, not though your parents came to me in person to lend their
support to your suit!'

"It was only when she had ended this speech that she ventured to look
towards him, and then seeing how pale he was, and how his fine eyes
wandered round, as in despair, she felt ready out of very love and pity
to contradict all that she had forced herself to utter with incredible
firmness.

"'Good-night, Madonna,' Attilio sorrowfully said, and seemed about to
leave, but then stood still and looked on the ground. 'You are angry
with me, Attilio,' said she. And he--'No, by God, Gianna, I am not;
only give me leave to depart, for truly I have tarried but too long,
and have spoken like a madman, without considering that what I offered
you might prove so worthless in your sight, that you could not even
stretch out your hand to take it, far less endure conflict and trouble
for its sake. And thus I depart with well-merited humiliation, and it
is no one's fault but my own that this my day of triumph, which began
so gladly, should have so lamentable an end. Farewell, Gianna. The
banner you worked, and which this morning seemed to me the most costly
of possessions, I will now bestow upon a chapel, in order that the
sight of it may not recall to me the hand which has so coldly rejected
and repulsed me.'

"With that he bent low and was nearing the door, when once more he
heard his name called. Gianna's heart, which had long been beating
wildly, now burst its bounds, and made itself heard in speech.
'Attilio,' said the blushing fair, who had lost all self-control, 'I
cannot let you go away thus, and continue to live. What I have said
stands firm, nor will you ever change one iota of it, for it behoves
your own good which is dearer to me than my own. But I have not yet
told you all. Know then that since my betrothed died--it is now twelve
years ago--I have never had the thought nor the wish of belonging to
any man, and if I have kept the jewel of my honour thus pure, in good
sooth it has cost me neither effort nor regret so to do. For I do not
lightly esteem myself, not so much because of this poor and transient
beauty, as because I know well that mine is a free and strong spirit,
which I could never render subservient to the sway of one weaker or
lower than myself, as in marriage a wife is often bound to do. And many
as my wooers have been, I have never yet found one whom to serve would
not have appeared to me a bondage and degradation. It was only to-day
that I saw you ride into the town to which you have given back freedom
and honour. When I saw how modestly you bent your head beneath so great
a triumph, achieved in such early youth--showing neither vanity nor
scorn, but receiving like a messenger from God, the gratitude of those
whom you had delivered--I could not but say to myself, 'Why art thou no
longer young to deserve the love of this youth?' And when I saw the
crimson scar on your throat, I felt that I would go barefoot on a
pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, if mine might be the bliss of only
once daring to press my lips to that sacred wound. And then when I came
home, knowing well what had befallen me, I picked up a flower from the
street--this one, see--just because it had been trodden under your
horse's hoof; and I meant to have it laid under my pillow when I should
be borne out hence to my last sleep. And now that I have told you this,
Attilio, repeat, if you have the heart, that this hand has coldly drawn
itself away from your grasp.'

"Then she held out her arms to her lover, who stood before her in
speechless ecstasy, like one doomed to death who had been reprieved at
the very edge of the scaffold. She drew down his head on her breast,
and kissed the wound for which her lips had yearned. Then freeing
herself once more from his embrace, she said, 'What I do, my friend, is
done with perfect deliberation and consciousness, and I shall never
repent it, although many might censure and condemn my conduct if they
knew of it. I give you the only jewel I possess, and which hitherto I
have held dearer than my very life. For look you, on the very spot on
which you stand, your future brother-in-law, Signor Lorenzaccio, stood
and vehemently besought me to be his, and he would lead me to Vicenza
as his wife. But what I denied to him, the enemy and oppressor of my
city--and I was fain to threaten him with my dagger (the mark of which
he bears on his right hand) before he desisted from his wild wooing--I
give to you as the saviour of my city, give it in token of your
triumph; and require from you in return no reward whatever, but that
you forget me when you stand at the altar to plight your faith to
another. And do not concern yourself as to what may betide me then. My
lot will be blessed through all renunciation, and enviable in all
sorrow, since I shall have endowed the noblest man on whom my eyes have
ever rested with the free gift of my honour; and before the winter of
years has covered this blond head with snows, I shall have enjoyed a
late spring, beauteous beyond all I could have dreamed. These eyes and
lips are thine, Attilio, and this untouched form is thine, and thine is
this heart which, when thou shalt part from me, will never more desire
any of the sweetnesses of this world, but like the heart of a widow,
will still feed upon its past joys till it beat no longer.'

"Thus saying she led him to the seat in the window, and knelt before
him, and he took her head in his two hands, and was never satiated with
gazing at her, and kissing her brow, cheeks, and mouth; and long after
the moon had set they were still together and immeasurably blest But
when the first cock-crow was heard over the plains, Gianna herself
constrained him to leave her arms, lest he should be missed in his
parent's house. They agreed, however, that he should return the next
night and all the following ones, and fixed on the signal at which she
should open the door; and so he took his leave; as one intoxicated
reels from a banquet: and in the arrogance of his bliss he scorned to
descend the winding stairs, although the streets were empty, but swung
himself out of the window, and profiting by the foot-hold afforded by
the fig-tree, scrambled down to the walls below, often delaying to call
out all manner of loving names and to throw the flowers growing on the
edge of the moat up to the beloved one in the window, till she, fearing
observation, withdrew from it. Then he tore himself away, and crept so
carefully along the walls, that he reached the gate unnoticed by any.
The sleepy watchman did not recognize him, and no one had missed him at
home, so that he entered exultingly into his own room, and throwing
himself on his couch, snatched a brief interval of needed sleep.

"With equal skill and secrecy, the lovers contrived their meetings for
the nights following, so that no one in the whole town had the least
idea of the relations between them; except the nurse Catalina, who was
as silent about it as the fig-tree under the window. For the happiness
and honour of her mistress were the first thought of her heart; and the
sharpest tortures of the rack would never have extorted the youth's
name from lips of hers. But one thing did grieve her much, and that was
her dear lady's firm resolve that all must be over for ever, so soon as
Attilio had exchanged rings with his bride Emilia Scarpa. 'What can you
be thinking of?' said the old woman. 'Do you suppose you will be able
quietly to endure that another should adorn herself with the flower
that you have worn on your breast? As sure as I love you, lady, more
than the fruit of my own body, you will die of it, your heart will
break in twain like an apple when you run a knife into its midst.'
'Nurse,' said the Blonde, 'you may be right. But what of that? Better
that I should be destroyed, than the one I love, and this dear city
which is the mother of us both.' 'What folly you utter!' replied the
old woman. 'If he love you as he says, and I believe, he will not be
able to survive it; and so your obstinacy will bring about the death of
two. And as for the city, now that it is defended by such a hero, it
may safely challenge the enmity of three cities, each of them mightier
than Vicenza.' Such arguments and others did Attilio too urge, and ever
more and more pressingly as the time drew near when he must bid an
eternal farewell to the eyes he adored.

"He still hoped, as he had hoped from the first day, to conquer her
opposition, and was resolved to sacrifice everything for her. Gianna,
on the other hand, to whom the bare idea of her lover's heart ever
growing cold, and regretting that he had linked his young life with her
faded one, was far more bitter than parting or death, tried, whenever
he assailed her with fresh entreaties, to turn away his impetuosity by
some jest about her age, and the inconstancy of men, and to make the
Present so sweet to him, that in it he should forget the bitterness of
the Future.

"Meanwhile in both houses, that of the Buonfigli as of the Scarpa,
preparations for the marriage were eagerly carried on, and in nine
weeks from the triumphal entry of the bridegroom, a no less brilliant
reception was accorded by the inhabitants of Treviso to the bride. If,
however, amongst the spectators there was even greater general joy than
before, because of the now sealed and ratified treaty between the two
cities, and also owing to the presence of the young and richly adorned
bride with her escort of sixteen bridesmaids, all mounted on white
jennets, and wearing costly apparel,--there were two in the festal
procession who found it hard to conceal their anger and annoyance,
one being the bridegroom himself, who would rather have touched a
snake than his bride, and the other, Signor Lorenzaccio, his future
brother-in-law, who secretly gnashed his teeth when he reflected that
he had to play a quite secondary part to his young rival's, and would
have gladly strangled, rather than embraced, him and his kindred. And
yet a third heart there was, firmly closed against the rejoicings of
the day, and that heart beat in the bosom of the fair Gianna, for she
knew that the night that followed would be the last of her bliss.
Accordingly she had not as on the former occasion exerted herself to
procure a seat in the tribune in front of the town hall, but had kept
at home while Attilio rode by the stranger's side through the streets,
and a very rain of flowers rustled down about the pair. Even in the
afternoon, while all the people were flocking out to the meadow before
the town, where within splendidly decorated lists a tournament was to
be held, she sat still at home lost in gloomy thoughts, and her tears
falling so fast she saw nothing of the brightness of the day. 'O my
poor heart!' she sighed, 'Now is the time to prove thyself strong
enough to renounce thy own happiness; and thou art so weak, thou
meltest away in tears. Thou hast undertaken more than thou art able to
perform. True thou knewest not that love is a wine of which every
draught but increases the thirst of those who drink. Now the cup of thy
bliss is turned to poison that will slowly consume thee, and no leech
on earth, nor help of all the Saints in heaven, will avail to heal
thee!' At this moment in came Catalina, and persuaded her to go out
with her, that at least if she really were resolved to part from her
beloved, she might behold him once more in the full splendour of his
knightly prowess and beauty, and as conqueror of all assembled. For the
kind soul secretly hoped that a miracle would yet take place, and her
mistress's mind change. Accordingly she dressed out the mourner (who
was passive as a child) with the utmost case, and led her to the
tilting-field, which was already swarming with people, and resonant
with the neighing of horses and blare of trumpets. There then Gianna,
standing amongst the crowd, saw the bride sitting on a raised daïs
between the father and uncle of her bridegroom, and heard what people
thought of her, some admiring her to the utmost, and others finding
this or that to censure as well as to praise. The fair Gianna spoke not
a word, and what she thought was never known. Only on two occasions she
blushed deeply, when of some young men who passed before her, one
exclaimed loud enough to be heard, 'I would give ten Emilias for one
Gianna the Fair!' and the other, 'Treviso carries away the palm in
women as in arms!' and this led to many eyes being bent on the fair
embroideress, whose colour suddenly changed into deadly pallor; for at
that moment Signor Attilio rode into the lists armed cap-à-pie, except
that his throat instead of being defended by a brass haubergeon, which
the French call _barbier_, was only protected by a slight leathern
curtain fastened to the helmet. His visor was up, so that all noticed
how pale he was and what sad and searching glances he cast around, and
many marvelled at his aspect, seeing that he was such a triumphant
young hero and a bridegroom to boot. However he rode up to the daïs on
which his betrothed sat, bent before her, and allowed her to wind about
his helmet the scarf she had been wearing, in token that he was her
knight. Then the trumpeters blew, and from the other side came Signor
Lorenzaccio riding into the lists, with visor closed, it is true, but
all knew him from his armour and device, and hoped with all their
hearts to see him stretched on the sand by the strong arm of his future
brother-in-law. It was, however, otherwise decreed in the councils
above. For scarcely had the heralds given the signal with their staffs,
and the trumpets sounded, than both knights charged with lances in
rest, and their horses hoofs raised such a cloud of dust, that for a
moment after the shock, they were lost to the view of the spectators,
who only heard the sound of lances on shield and coat of mail, followed
by sudden silence. But when the cloud dispersed they beheld with horror
Attilio, his feet still in the stirrups, thrown backwards on the saddle
of his good steed (who stood there motionless), a stream of blood
flowing from his throat, the undefended whiteness of which afforded a
welcome mark to the cruel weapon of his foe. The conqueror faced him
with his visor open, as though desirous to ascertain that his revenge
was thoroughly accomplished, and after casting one last look of
devilish hatred at his opponent, closed his helmet and rode, no one
applauding him, slowly away out of the lists and through the petrified
and horror-stricken crowds that could scarcely believe their eyes.

"Meanwhile Attilio's squire and the other attendants hurried into the
lists, lifted the groaning man out of the saddle, and spreading a
carpet on the sand laid him thereon. And then a loud wailing arose, all
order was over, the people rushed wildly over the barriers; those who
occupied the tribunes hurried from their seats; and scarcely could the
heralds succeed by remonstrance and blows to clear so much space about
the dying man, as that his parents, relations, and bride might be able
to reach him. He, however, lay still with eyes closed, and while some
lamented, and others cursed the fiendish malice of Lorenzaccio, some
called aloud for a leech, and others for a priest to afford the last
consolations to the soul of the parting hero, no sound of pain came
from his lips, nor of regret at having so early to join the heavenly
hosts above. Rather did this hard fate appear to him a rescue from
hated bonds; and when he heard his name called and recognized the voice
of his bride, he endeavoured to shake his head, as though to tell her
that he would not breathe away his last breath in a falsehood. Then all
at once the crowd that pressed round this spectacle of woe parted
asunder with a murmur of amazement, for they saw the fair Giovanna,
pale as a spectre, yet crowned by the thorn-crown of woe, queen over
all other women, advance and enter the circle. 'Go hence,' said she,
stretching out her hand towards the bride, 'this dying man belongs to
me, and as during life I was his, body and soul, so in death, too, I
will be with him, and no stranger shall rob me of one sigh of his!'

"Then she knelt down by her beloved, and gently lifted his powerless
head on to her knee, his blood streaming over her festal attire.
'Attilio,' said she, 'do you know me?' Instantly he opened his eyes and
sighed, 'O my Gianna, it is over! Death has not willed that I should
pledge to another the faith and truth that only belonged to thee. I
die; my wife, kiss me with the last kiss and receive my soul in thy
arms!'

"Then she bent down to his lips, and as her mouth rested on his, his
eyes closed and his head sank back on her lap. And so mighty was the
compassion felt by all for the noble pair, that no one, not even any of
the Scarpas, ventured to trouble the parting of the lovers. Nay, when
preparations began for carrying the lifeless form of the young hero
back into the city, the people divided into two processions, one of
which followed the dead, and the other the litter that bore his beloved
to her house, for she had swooned away by the side of her lost friend.
That same night the young Emilia returned with her mother to Vicenza.
Her father, however, Signor Tullio Scarpa, remained in the house of the
Buonfigli, in order to be present at Attilio's funeral, himself doubly
a mourner, for his daughter's sorrow and his son's disgrace.

"But when on the third day the beloved dead was borne to his grave in
the chapel of the Madonna degli Angeli, there was seen next to the
bier, and taking precedence of all blood relations, the tall form of
Giovanna, dressed in deepest black, and wearing a widow's veil. And
when she threw back the veil to kiss the brow of the departed, all the
people beheld with astonishment the marvel that had taken place, for
the gold of her hair which used to shine out from afar, had in a few
nights changed to dull silver, and her fair face was pale and faded
like that of an aged woman.

"And, indeed, many thought she could not longer endure life, but would
follow her beloved. Nevertheless she lived on for three years, during
which she never laid aside her widow's garb, and was never seen
in any public or festive place. In her retirement, however, she was
industrious at her work, for she had vowed to the chapel of the Madonna
degli Angeli, a large banner on which was represented the archangel
Michael, clad in white armour, and slaying the dragon. And it was
reported that the angel's coat of mail was worked with her own silver
hair. And this banner was placed next to the first which hung in the
chapel over Attilio's grave. This task completed, she held out no
longer; they bore the embroideress too to her rest, and granted her her
last petition, to be buried at the feet of him she loved. And that
grave was long the resort of inhabitants and strangers, who went to
admire the exquisite work of both banners, and to relate to each other
the story of Gianna the Fair, who in life and death gave to her beloved
all she possessed--even to her honour--though she might easily have
preserved it unblemished had she held her peace."

When the reader had ended, there was on interval of silence in the
saloon, and the rain, the pattering of which had formed a melancholy
accompaniment to the whole of the narrative, was now the only sound
heard.

At last the young doctor at the chess-table observed: "This story has
somewhat of the gold tone of the Venetian school. And this the palettes
of our moderns call no longer produce. Yet I own it seemed to me as if
the copyist had introduced here and there some bold touches of his
own."

"The copyist!" said he of the sofa, throwing away his cigar. "This
shews you know little of Erminus. He has only been taking us in, in
order to contrast a highly coloured picture with our faded hues. Who
will bet that this chronicle of San Niccolo is not a much later
production than the far-famed Ossian of Macpherson!"

Erminus seemed to turn a deaf ear to these remarks. "And how do you
estimate the morality of the story?" asked he, addressing himself to
Frau Eugenie.

The lady in question reflected for a moment, then said, "I do not know
that one could discuss so singular a case in the light of precedent or
example. Have not different times indeed different manners, and
different modes of feeling? I confess that a passionate self-surrender
which does not reckon upon eternal constancy, must always clash with my
own sense of right; and that it is only the tragic end that reconciles
me to the startling commencement. And yet, had the Fair Giovanna been
my sister, I should not have scrupled to walk with her hand in hand in
the funeral procession that followed Attilio's bier."

"A better testimony to the morality of the tale I could not desire,"
replied the narrator. "Allow me to kiss your hand in return."



                  END OF THE EMBROIDERESS OF TREVISO.



                                LOTTKA.



                                LOTTKA.


I was not quite seventeen years old, an over-grown pale-faced young
fellow, at that awkward and embarrassing age which, conscious, of
having out-grown boyish ways, is yet very unsteady and insecure when
seeking to tread in the footsteps of men. With an audacious fancy and a
timid heart; oscillating between defiant self-confidence and girlish
sensitiveness; snatching inquisitively at every veil that hides from
mortal eyes the mysteries of human life; to-day knowing the last word
of the last question, to-morrow confessing the alphabet has still to be
learnt, and getting comfort after so restless and contradictory a
fashion that one would have been intolerable to one's very self if not
surrounded by fellows in misfortune---that is in years--who were faring
no better, and yet continued to endure their personality.

It was at this time that I became intimate with a singular fellow who
was some two years older than I, but like myself doomed to spend nearly
another year as upper-class student. He did not attend the same
gymnasium, nor were his relations, who lived out of Berlin, at all
known to mine. I am really puzzled how to explain the fact that in
spite of these obstacles we two became so friendly, that scarcely a day
passed without his coming up the steep stairs that led to my rooms.
Indeed even then a third party seeing us together might have found it
hard to say what made us so essential to each other. He was in the
habit of entering with a mere nod, walking up and down the room, now
and then opening a book, or looking at a picture on the walls, and
finally throwing himself into my grandfather's armchair--my substitute
for a sofa--where, legs crossed, he would sit for hours, speaking not a
word, until I had finished my Latin essay. Often when I looked up from
the book before me I met his quiet, dreamy, brown eyes resting on me
with a gentle brotherly expression, which made me nod to him in return;
and it was a pleasure to me just to feel him there. If he chanced to
find me idle, or in a communicative mood, he would let me run on by the
hour without interruption, and his silent attention seemed to encourage
and comfort me. It was only when we got upon the subject of music that
he ever grew excited, and then we both lost ourselves in passionate
debate. He had a splendid deep bass voice, that harmonized well with
his manly aspect, dark eyes, and brown satin-smooth skin. And as he was
also zealously studying the theory of music, it was easy for him to get
the better of my superficial lay-talk by weighty arguments; yet
whenever he thus drove me into a corner he always seemed pained at my
defeat. I remember him, on one occasion, ringing me out of bed,
formally to apologise for having, in the ardour of controversy, spoken
of Rossini's _Barbiere_ which I had been strenuously upholding, as a
wretched shaver whose melodies, compared with those of Mozart, were of
little more account than the soap-bubbles in his barber's basin.

In addition too to the extreme placidity that characterized him, he was
always ready to do me a number of small services, such as the younger
student usually renders to his senior, and there were two other things
that helped to rivet our friendship: he had initiated me in the art of
smoking, and set my first songs to music. There was one, I remember,
which appeared to us at that time peculiarly felicitous both as to
words and melody, and we used to sing it as a duet in all our walks
together--

                 "I think in the olden days
                  That a maiden was loved by me;
                  But my heart is sick and troubled,
                  It is all a dream may-be.

                 "I think in the olden days,
                  One was basking in sunny bliss;
                  But whether I or another?
                  I cannot be sure of this!

                 "I think in the olden days
                  That I sang--but know not what;
                  For I have forgotten all things
                  Since I've been by her forgot."

Dear and ridiculous season of youth! A poet of sixteen sings of the
"old myth" of his lost love-sorrow, and a musician of eighteen with all
possible gravity, sets the sobbing strophes to music with a piano-forte
accompaniment that seems to foreshadow the outburst of the world's
denunciation on the head of the inconstant fair!

We were, however, as I have already said, so especially pleased with
this melancholy progeny of our united talents, that we were not long
content to keep it to ourselves; we burned with desire to send it forth
to the public. At that time the "Dresden Evening Times" under the
editorship of, as I believe the late Robert Schneider, admitted poems
over which my critical self-esteem could not but shrug its shoulders.
To him, therefore, we sent our favourite--anonymously, of course--in
the full persuasion that it would appear in the forthcoming number,
text and music both, with the request that the unknown contributor
would delight the Evening Times with other admirable fruits of genius.
Full of a sweet shyness, spite of our incognito, we accordingly took to
haunting the eating-houses where that journal was taken in, and
blushingly looked out for our first-born. But week after week passed by
without satisfying our expectations. I myself after twice writing and
dignifiedly desiring the manuscript to be returned, gave up all hope,
and was so wounded and humiliated by this failure, as first to throw
down the gauntlet to an ungrateful contemporaneous world, and
contribute to the pleasure of more enlightened posterity in the form of
a longer poem; and then gradually to shun all mention of our unlucky
venture, even requesting Bastel (my friend's name being Sebastian) to
leave off humming the tune which too vividly recalled to me the
mortifying history.

He humoured me on this point, but he could not refrain from privately
carrying on his investigations in pastry-cooks' shops, the more that he
was devotedly addicted to cakes and sweet things. It was then
midsummer, and the small round cherry tarts were wonderfully refreshing
to an upper class student's tongue, parched and dry with Latin and
Greek. Bastel most seriously asserted that sweets agreed with his
voice; he was only able to temper the harshness of his bass notes by
plenty of sugar and fruit-juice. I on the contrary, despised such
insipid dainties, and preferred to stick to wine, which at that time
did very little indeed to clear up any mind I had. But in virtue of my
calling I was bound to worship "wine, women, and song," and in the
volume of poems at which I was working hard, there was, of course, to
be no lack of drinking-songs.

We had now reached July, and the dog-days were beginning, when one
afternoon Bastel made his appearance at the usual hour, but in very
unusual mood. He lit his cigar indeed, but instead of sitting down to
smoke it, he stood motionless at the window for a full quarter of an
hour, drumming "_Non più andrai_" on the panes, and from time to time
sighing as though a hundredweight lay on his heart.

"Bastel," said I, "what's wrong?"

No answer.

"Are you ill?" I went on; "or have you had another row with the
ordinary? or did the college yesterday give you a bad reception?" (He
belonged to a certain secret society much frequented by students, and
wore in his waistcoat pocket a tricoloured watch-ribbon which only
ventured forth at their solemn meetings.)

Still the same silence on the part of the strange dreamer, and the
drumming grew so vehement that the panes began to ring ominously.

It was only when I left off noticing him, that he incoherently began to
talk to himself, "There are more things in heaven and earth--" but
further he did not carry the quotation.

At last I jumped up, went to him, and caught hold of his hand.
"Bastel!" I cried, "what does this fooling mean? Something or other is
vexing you. Tell it out, and let us see what can be done, but at least
spare my window-panes and behave rationally. Will you light another
cigar?"

He shook his head. "If you have time," said he, "let's go out, I may be
able to tell you in the open air. This room is so close."

We went down stairs and wandered arm-in-arm through quiet Behren
Street, where my parents lived, into Frederick Street. When he got into
the full tide of carriages and foot-passengers, he seemed to be in a
measure relieved. He pressed my arm, stood still a moment, and broke
out: "It is nothing very particular, Paul, but I believe that I am in
love, and this time for life."

I was far from laughing at the declaration. At the age of sixteen one
believes in the endless duration of every feeling. But I had read
my Heine and considered it bad taste to become sentimental over a
love-affair.

"Who is the fortunate fair?" I lightly enquired.

"You shall see her," he replied, his eyes wandering absently over the
crowd flowing through the street. "I will take you there at once if you
are inclined."

"Can one go thus unceremoniously without being better dressed? I have
actually forgotten my gloves."

"She is no countess," said he, a slight blush shewing through his dark
complexion. "Just think! yesterday when I wanted to look once more
through the Evening Times--yes, I know we are not to speak of it, but
it has to do with the whole thing--chance, or my good star led me to a
quite out-of-the-way little cake-shop, and there--"

He stopped short.

"There you found her eating cherry-tarts, and that won your affection,"
laughed I. "Well, Bastel, I congratulate you. Sweets to the sweet. But
have you already made such way as to be able to calculate upon finding
her again at the very same place?"

He gave no further reply. My tone seemed to be discordant with his
mood. So indeed it at once became with my own, but my principles did
not allow me to express myself more feelingly. Minor chords remained
the exclusive property of verse; conversation was to be carried on in a
harsh and flippant key, the more coldblooded and ironical the better.

We had walked, in silence for the most part, all the length of
Frederick Street to the Halle Gate, I, for all my air of indifference,
actually consumed with curiosity and sympathy, when my friend suddenly
turned up one of the last side streets that debouch into the main
artery of the great city. Here were found at the time I am speaking of,
several small one-storied private houses of mean exterior, a few shops,
little traffic, so that the rattling of cab wheels sufficed to bring
the inhabitants to their windows; and numbers of children who played
about freely in the street, not having to take flight before the
approach of any heavily-laden omnibus. When almost at the end of this
particular side-street we came to a halt before a small house painted
green, and having above its glass-door a large and dusty black board
with the word "Confectionery" in tarnished gilt letters. To the right
and left of this door were windows, with old brown blinds closely
drawn, although the house was not on the sunny side of the street. I
can see the landscape on those blinds to this hour! A ruined temple
near a pond, on which a man with effaced features sat in a boat
angling, while a peacock spread his tail on the stump of a willow tree.
The glass door in the middle looked as though it had not been cleaned
for ten years, and its netted curtain, white once no doubt, was now by
reason of age, dust, and flies, pretty much the colour of the blinds.

I was startled when Sebastian prepared to enter this un-inviting
domicile: however I took care not to ruffle him again, and followed his
lead in no small excitement.

We were greeted by a hot cloying smell, which under ordinary
circumstances would instantly have driven me out again, a smell of old
dough, and fermenting strawberries, mingled with a flavour of chocolate
and Vanilla, a smell that only an inveterate sweet-tooth or a youth in
love could by possibility have consented to inhale! Added to this, the
room was not much more than six feet high, and apparently never
ventilated, except by the chance opening of the door. How my friend
could ever have expected to find the Dresden Evening Times in such an
out-of-the-way shop as this was a puzzle to me. Very soon, however, I
discovered what it was that had lured him again--spite of his
disappointment--into this distressing atmosphere. Behind the small
counter on which was displayed a limited selection of uninviting tarts
and cakes, I could see in the dusky window-seat behind the brown blind,
a young girl dressed in the simplest printed cotton gown possible, her
thick black hair just parted and cut short behind, a piece of knitting
in her hands, which she only laid down when after some delay and
uncertainty we had determined upon the inevitable cherry-tarts. My
friend who hardly dared to look at her, still less to speak, went into
the narrow, dark, and most comfortless little inner room, where the
"Vossische Journal," and the "Observer on the Spree" outspread on a
round table before the faded sofa, kept up a faint semblance of a
reading-room. A small fly-blinded mirror hung on the wall between the
two wooden-framed lithographs of King Frederick William III. and Queen
Louise, over which was a bronzed bust of old Blücher squeezed in
between the top of the stove and the low ceiling and looking gruffly
down.

Sebastian had thrown himself in feverish haste into one corner of the
sofa, I into the other, when the young girl came in with the small
plates for the tarts. I was now able to look at her leisurely, for she
waited to light a gas-burner, it being already too dark to read. She
was rather short than tall, but her figure was so symmetrical, so
round, yet slender, that the eye followed her every movement with
rapture, spite of her unbecoming, and almost ugly dress. Her feet,
which were made visible to us by her standing on tip-toe to reach the
gas burner, were daintily small as those of a child of ten, her little
deft snow-white fingers looked as if they had always rested on a silken
lap. What white things she had on, a small upright collar, cuffs, and a
waitress's apron, were so immaculately clean as to form a striking
contrast with the stained carpet, dusty furniture, and traces of the
flies of a hundred summers visible on all around.

I ought, I am aware, to attempt some sketch of her face, but I despair
beforehand. Not that her features were so incomparably beautiful as to
defy the skill of any and every artist. But what gave the peculiar
charm to this face of hers, was a certain spirituality which I found it
no easy matter to define to myself, a calm melancholy, a half-shy,
half-threatening expression, a springtide bloom, which, having suddenly
felt the touch of frost, no longer promised a joyous fruitful summer;
in short, a face that would have puzzled and perplexed more mature
decipherers of character, and which could not fail to make an
irresistible impression upon a dreamer of sixteen.

"What is your name, Fräulein, if I may venture to ask?" said I, by way
of opening the conversation, my friend seeming as though he had no more
important object than the mere consuming of tartlets.

"Lottka," replied the girl without looking at me, and already preparing
to leave the room.

"Lottka!" cried I. "How do you come to have this Polish name?"

"My father was a Pole."

And then she was back again in the shop.

"Would you have the kindness, Miss Lottka, to bring me a glass of
_bishop_." I called after her.

"Directly," was her reply.

Sebastian was studying the advertisements in the "Vossische Journal" as
though he expected to meet with the real finder of his lost heart
there! I turned over the "Observer." Not one word did we exchange.

In three minutes in she came again, bringing a glass of dark red wine
on a tray. I could not turn my eyes away from her white hands, and felt
my heart beat while gathering courage to address her again.

"Will you not sit a little with us, Fräulein?" said I. "Do take my
place on the sofa, and I will get a chair."

"Thank you, sir," she replied, without any primness, but at the same
time with almost insulting indifference, "my place is in the shop. If
there is anything I can do for you--"

"Do remain where you are," I insisted, venturing to catch hold of one
of her hands which felt cool and smooth, and instantly slipped out of
my grasp. "These newspapers are horribly dull. Allow us to introduce
ourselves. My friend here, Mr. ----"

At that moment the shop-door opened, a little girl pushed shyly in,
with two copper coins in her small fist, for which she wanted some
sweeties. Our beauty availed herself of this opportunity of declining
our acquaintance, and after having served the child, sat down again in
her window-corner and took up her knitting.

Our position grew more and more unbearable. As to the tarts they were
eaten long ago, and I had, partly out of embarrassment, and partly to
give myself the air of an experienced wine-bibber, tossed off my glass
of bishop at a draught, and now sat with burning brow and wandering
mind, looking at the flies crawling along the glass's edge, and
intoxicating themselves with the crimson drops. Sebastian was as silent
as an Indian Fakir, and seemed to be listening intently to what was
going on in the shop, where indeed there was not a sound to be heard,
except now and then the click of the knitting-needles against the
counter.

"Come, you trappist," said I at length, "we will pay our bill and get
some fresh air. My lungs are as it were candied. For any one but a fly
this atmosphere is insupportable."

"Good-bye, pretty child," said I at the counter with all the importance
of a roué of sixteen, who has a volume of lyrical poems at home written
in the style of Heine, and ready for the press. "I hope that we may
improve our acquaintance at some future time when you are less
absorbed. Au revoir!"

I should no doubt have indulged in greater absurdities, but that she
looked at me with so strangely absent an expression that I suddenly
felt ashamed of my impertinence, made her a low bow, and hurried out
into the street. Sebastian followed me instantly; he had hardly dared
to look at her.

"Now then," he said, as we rushed along through the silent street,
"what do you say?"

"That the bishop is very fair, but the tarts execrable. I cannot
understand how you forced your portion down as well as half of mine. I
suspect that confectioner's shop of only selling old cakes bought
second-hand."

"What of that?" growled he. "I did not ask about such things. I want to
know what you think of _her_."

"My good friend," I returned in an authoritative and fatherly tone.
"What can one say about a girl who is able to breathe in that
atmosphere! Woman is ever an enigma as you well know."

(He nodded assent and sighed; I had contrived--God knows how--to pass
with him as a great discerner of feminine spirits, and was fond of
introducing into my generalisations the word "Woman," which has always
a mystical charm for youths of our age.)

"This monosyllabic creature--that she is enchanting it is impossible to
deny! But I warn you against her, Bastel. Believe me, she has no
heart."

"You think so?" he interpolated in a horrified tone without looking at
me.

"That is to say she has either never had one, or destiny has changed it
into stone in her breast. Otherwise would she so coldly have turned
away when I addressed her? She has a past I tell you, perhaps a present
also, but no future."

This stupendous sentence of mine thrown off in mere thoughtlessness
produced an unexpected effect upon my chum. He started as though a
snake had bitten him, snatched his arm out of mine and said--

"You think then that she--that she no longer--in a word you doubt her
virtue?"

I saw now the mischief I had done. "Be easy, child," said I, throwing
my arm over his shoulder. "Come, we must not have a scene here. We have
agreed woman is an enigma. But as to character I have no grounds for
suspecting hers. I only meant to say, take care that you do not get
involved in an unpromising affair. For she looks like one from whom a
victim would not easily escape! If you like I will keep an eye upon
her, and I promise to render you every assistance that one friend can
to another."

We had now reached a dark and deserted street-corner. Suddenly he
embraced me, squeezed my hand as though bent on fusing it with his own,
and instantly vanished up the nearest side-street.

I for my part walked home very slowly in order to grow cool and
collected, but the singular form I had seen never left me for a moment.
I was so feverishly abstracted at the home tea-table that my good
mother grew alarmed, and sent me early to bed. When I went to my class
the following morning, I found I had not prepared my Plato, and was
obliged to put up with many mocking remarks from the lecturer on
history in consequence of my having pushed the date of the battle of
Cannæ a good century too far back. The day was wet, and I lounged down
the street full of depression and _ennui_. Sebastian kept himself out
of sight. I stood an hour at the window on which he had drummed "_Non
più andrai_" the day before, and looked meditatively at the rain-pools
in the street below, out of which the sparrows were picking a few
oat-husks. I heard the horses stamping in the stable, and the
stable-boy whistling Weber's "Jungfern Kranz" and found myself suddenly
whistling it too, and stamping the while. I felt so absurd and pitiable
that tears nearly came. At length I armed myself with an umbrella, and
ran out into the wet and windy street.

I had been invited to a party at a friend's house for that evening, but
I had an hour to spare. And this hour, I thought, could not be better
spent than in sauntering through the street where the confectioner's
shop stood, and patrolling a short time on the other side to watch who
went in. As it was already growing dusk I felt pretty well concealed
under my umbrella, but all the same I was conscious of a certain
agreeable mysterious sensation as though playing an important part in
some deed of honour. In point of fact, however, there was nothing
remarkable to be seen. The shop seemed to be pretty well frequented,
but only by a humble class of customers, children, schoolboys intent
upon devouring their pocket money, coughing old women going in for a
penny-worth of lozenges. Dangerous young men did not seem aware that
behind those brown blinds lurked a dangerous young girl.

Much relieved by the result of my observation, I finally crossed
the street just to find out whether there were any possibility of
peeping in. The gas was lit in both rooms, but the shop-window was so
well-protected that one could see nothing whatever from without. But on
the other hand the blind of the reading-room had a crack just across
the back of the angler. So I stood and looked in, a good deal ashamed
of myself for spying. And there, on the very same corner of the sofa
that he occupied yesterday, sat my poor friend Sebastian before an
empty plate covered with flies, his eyes wandering beyond the newspaper
into empty space. A singular thrill came over me, half jealousy, half
satisfaction, at his having got on no further. Just as I was watching
him, he made a movement as if to take up his cap and leave. I drew back
from the window, and crept along the houses like a thief who has had
the narrowest escape of capture. When I got to the house where I was
expected, I had of course to collect my wits. I was more lively than
usual, and paid my court to the daughters of the house with all the
awkward nonchalance of a man of the world of sixteen, nay, I even
allowed myself to be persuaded to read out my last poem, and drank
several glasses of strong Hungarian wine, which made me neither wiser
nor more modest. When ten o'clock struck, I suddenly took my departure
under the pretext of an appointment with a friend. To keep late hours
seemed to me congruous with the character of a youthful poet. Had
people but known that the real engagement was the copying out fair a
German essay, all the halo would have vanished!

And as it was that luckless essay fared badly enough. The night was
wondrously beautiful. After long-continued rain, the air was as
soft and exquisitely still as a human heart just reconciled to a
long-estranged friend (I involuntarily fall back into the lyrical style
of those early days!), and the sky sparkled and shone with thousands of
newly-washed stars. In spite of the lateness of the hour, girls and
women went chattering through the streets without hat or shawl, with
merely a kerchief thrown over their heads, as though the lovely night
had enticed them out just to inhale, before going to bed, one draught
of fresh air after the discomfort of the day. Every window stood open,
the roses gave out their fragrance; one heard Mendelssohn's "Songs
without words" played on the piano, or some sweet female voice quietly
singing to itself.

How it happened I did not know, but all of a sudden there I was again
at the little shop, and had hold of the door handle before I could make
out even to myself what it was that led me there.

As I entered, Lottka raised her head from the counter where it had been
resting on her arm. Her eyes shewed that she had been asleep. The book,
over which she had been tiring herself, fell from her lap as she rose.

"I have disturbed you, Miss Lottka," said I. "Forgive me, I will go
away at once. I happened to be passing by--and as the night was so
beautiful--as since yesterday you--Would you be so kind as to give me a
glass of bishop, Miss Lottka?"

Strange that my usually reckless eloquence should so regularly fail me
in the presence of this quiet creature!

"What have you been reading?" I began again after a pause, walking the
while up and down the shop. "A book from the lending library? Such a
torn shabby copy is not fit for your small white hands. Allow me--I
have a quantity of charming books at home--romances too--"

"Pardon me," she quietly rejoined. "I have no time to read romances.
This is a French Grammar."

"You are studying by yourself then?"

"I already speak it a little, I wish to understand it more thoroughly."

She relapsed into silence, and began to arrange the plates and spoons.

"Miss Lottka," said I after an interval, during which I had regained
courage from a contemplation of the gruff old Blücher in the smaller
room. "Are you happy in the position that you occupy at present?"

She looked at me out of her large weary eyes with the amazement of a
child in a fairy-tale when suddenly addressed by a bird.

"How come you to put such a question?" she enquired.

"Pray do not attribute it to heartless curiosity," I went on, in my
excitement upsetting a small pyramid of biscuits. "Believe that I feel
a genuinely warm interest in you-- If you need a friend--if anything
has happened to you--you understand me-- Life is so sad, Miss
Lottka--and just in our youth--"

I was floundering deeper and deeper, and the drops stood on my brow. I
would have given a good deal if that old Blücher had not encouraged me
to make this speech.

However I was spared further humiliation. The door leading from the
interior of the house opened, and the person to whom the shop belonged
made her appearance. She seemed a good-natured square woman, with a
thick cap-border, who explained to me as civilly as she could, that I
had already remained a quarter of an hour beyond the usual time of
shutting up, for that she was in the habit of putting out the gas at
half-past ten. Accordingly I paid in all haste for my half-emptied
glass, threw an expressive and half-reproachful glance at the silent
girl, and went my way.

That night my couch was not one of roses. I made a serious attempt to
finish my German essay:--"Comparison between the Antigone of Sophocles
and the Iphigenia of Goethe," but what were either of these Hecubas to
me? I began to scribble verses on the margin of the book, and their
melody had so lulling an effect that not long after midnight I fell
asleep in my chair, and in spite of the uncomfortable position never
woke till morning, though in my verses I had confessed myself once more
in love; and what of all the untoward circumstances of the case was the
darkest, in love with the heart's choice of my best friend!

This too was my first waking thought on the following morning. I
remember distinctly, however, that the misfortune which I clearly saw
to be ours, did not after all make me actually miserable, nay that it
rather exalted my self-complacency and rendered me very interesting in
my own eyes, as I had now a chance of personally experiencing all that
I had hitherto merely read of. I was never tired of conjuring up the
disastrous and heartrending scenes to which this complication must
necessarily lead, and an indefinably pleasurable kind of pity for
myself, for Sebastian, and for the innocent source of our woes suffused
all my thoughts.

Instead of going to the gymnasium, where I should have had to appear
without the German essay, I preferred to visit the "hedge-school" as
the French say, that is to lounge about the park, and there on a lonely
bench in the most out-of-the-way corner, commit my youthful sorrows to
paper. Heine and Eichendorff were at that time contending for my
immortal soul. On that particular morning I was not yet ripe for the
irony of the "Buch der Lieder," and the tree-tops rustled too
romantically above my head for the utterance of any tones but such as
suited a youthful scapegrace. About noon I saw with melancholy
satisfaction that the poem entitled "New Love," begun that morning,
would form a very considerable addition to my volume, if it went on
long at this rate.

In the afternoon when I sat, thinking no evil, in my room, and
attempting to draw the profile of my secretly beloved one from memory,
I heard Sebastian's step on the stair. I hastily hid away the sheet of
paper, and dipped my pen in the ink-stand to seem as though I were
interrupted at my work. When he entered I had not the heart to look up
at him.

He too gave me a very cursory greeting, stretched himself out as usual
in my arm chair, and began to smoke a short-pipe.

In about half-an-hour he asked,

"Have you been there again?"

"Yes," I replied, and seemed to be very busy looking out a word in my
lexicon.

"And what do you think of her now?"

"What I think? I have not yet found out the riddle. So much, however, I
know, that she is not a flesh and blood girl, but a water-nixie, a
Melusina, 'cold even to her heart,' and who knows whether her very
figure does not end like a mermaid's '_desinit in piscem_?'"

He sprang up. "I must beg you not to speak in such a tone!"

"Patience, old boy," said I. "Do not go and suppose that I think
lightly of her. A past history she has that is quite clear. But why
need there be any harm in it? Suppose there were only some misfortune,
a great grief, or a great love?"

"You think so?" and he looked at me anxiously and sadly.

"I should not be at all surprised," I continued, "if she, with those
precocious eyes and that wonderful composure, had already traversed the
agonies of hopeless love. Do not forget her Polish father. Polish girls
begin early both to excite and to feel passion. How the poor child ever
got into that fly-trap, God knows. But you and I together should find
it difficult to deliver her out of it."

After that followed a silent quarter of an hour, during which he turned
over my MS. poems.

"I should like to copy out this song," he suddenly said, reaching out a
page to me.

"What for?" asked I. "Bastel, I half suspect you want to pass it off as
your own."

"Shame upon you!" returned he with a deep flush, "_I_ give myself out
for a poet! But I have a tune running in my head; it is long since I
have composed anything."

"Look out something better and more cheerful. What could you make of
that feeble-minded whimper? That song is half a year old" (dated from
that 'olden time' that I could not myself distinctly remember!)

He had taken back the sheet, and was now bending over it, being
somewhat short-sighted, and singing in a low voice the following verses
to a simple pathetic melody:

           "How could I e'er deserve thee,
            By serving long years through;
            Though thou wert fain to own me,
            Most stedfast and most true.
            Or what though high exalted,
            Though glory were my meed:
            Love is a free gift from above,
            Desert it will not heed.

           "Thou tree with head low bending,
            Thy blossoms may prove vain;
            Who knows if God will send thee
            The blessing of his rain?
            Thou heart by joy and anguish
            Proved and refined indeed:
            Love is a free gift from above,
            Desert it will not heed."

He sprang up, just gave me an absent nod, and rushed out of the room.

Not long after I went out myself. I had no particular object, except to
quiet the tumult in my veins by bodily fatigue.

After walking with great rapidity about the town for an hour or so, I
found myself unintentionally in the neighbourhood of the mysterious
street. It attracted and repelled me both. I had a dim consciousness of
not having played a very creditable part the night before. I was pretty
sure that the young stranger who had so zealously offered himself as
her knight, would be greeted by a satirical smile by Lottka. But that
was reason the more, I argued, for seeking to give her a better
impression of me. And therefore I plucked up courage, and rapidly
turned the corner.

At the same moment I was aware of my friend and rival, his cap pressed
down on his brow, advancing with great strides towards the small green
house, from a contrary direction. He too was aware of me, and we each
of us came to a halt and then turned sharp round the following moment
as though we had mistaken our way.

My heart beat wildly. "Shame upon our ridiculous reserve and suspicion
of each other!" I inwardly cried, feeling that if this went on I should
soon hate my best friend with my whole heart.

I was in the angriest of moods while retracing my steps, and reflected
whether the wisest and most manly course would not be to turn round
again and take my chance even if a whole legion of old friends stood in
my way. Had I not as much right as another to make a fool of myself
about the girl? Was I timidly to draw back now after speaking out so
boldly yesterday and offering myself as champion to the mysterious
enchantress? Never! I'd go to her at once though the world fell to
pieces!

I turned in haste--there stood Sebastian. In my excitement I had not
even heard his quick steps following me.

"You here!" I cried in counterfeit amazement.

"Paul," he replied, and his melodious voice slightly trembled. "We will
not act a part. We--we have been fond of each other, you and I. But
believe me if this were to go on I could not stand it. I know where you
are going: I was bound the same way myself. You love her--do not
attempt to deny it. I found it out at once."

"And what if I do love her?" cried I, half-defiant and half-ashamed. "I
confess that the impression she has made on me--"

"Come here under the gateway," said he. "We are blocking up the way,
and you speak so loud you will attract attention. You see I was right;
indeed I should have been surprised if it had not turned out thus. But
you will agree that it is impossible to go on. One or other must
retire."

"Very well," returned I, endeavouring to assume an inimical and dogged
expression. "One of us must retire. Only I do not see why it should be
I. Just because I am the younger by two stupid years, though as
advanced a student as yourself."

I had hardly spoken the hasty heartless words before I regretted them.
At that moment they sounded like a humiliating boast.

"Besides," I hastily added, "it does not signify so much which of us
takes precedence, as who it is she cares for. At present you and I seem
to have equally poor prospects."

"That is true," he said. "But none the less I cannot find it in my
heart to enter into a contest with you; and then you are the bolder,
the more fluent, I should give up the game beforehand if we were both
to declare our feelings for her: you know what I mean."

"If this be so," I rejoined, looking with artificial indifference
through the dark gateway into a garden where a lonely rose-tree
blossomed; "if you have not more confidence in yourself than this, you
cannot after all be so much in love as you suppose, and as I can fairly
say I am. I have spent a sleepless night" (I did not reckon those seven
hours snatched in a chair) "and a wasted day. And so I thought--"

I could not end my sentence. The pallor of his good, true-hearted face
shewed me how much more deeply he was affected by this conversation
than I, for whom indeed it had a certain romantic charm. I felt fond of
him again.

"Listen," said I, "we shall never get on this way. I see that neither
of us will retire of his own free will. Fate must decide."

"Fate?"

"Or chance if you prefer it. I will throw down this piece of money. If
the royal arms are uppermost, you have won; if the inscription--"

"Do so," he whispered. "Although it would be fairer--"

"Will you cry done?"

"Done!"

The coin fell to the ground. I stooped down in the dim light we were
standing in to make sure of the fact.

"Which is uppermost?" I could hear him murmur, while he leaned against
the door-post. He himself did not venture to look. "Bastel," said I,
"it cannot be helped. The inscription is uppermost. You understand that
having once appealed to the decision of Providence--"

He did not move, and not a sound escaped his lips. When I drew myself
up and looked at him, I saw that his eyes were closed, and that he
stood as if in a trance.

"Don't take it so to heart," said I. "Who knows but that in two or
three days I may come and tell you that she does not suit me, that the
field is open for you, and that--"

"Good night," he suddenly whispered, and rushed away at full speed.

I only remained behind for a moment. At this abrupt departure the
scales fell from my eyes. I was conscious that my feelings for the
mysterious being were not to be compared with his, and that I should be
a villain if I were to take advantage of this foolish appeal to chance.

In twenty yards I had caught him up, and had to employ all my strength
to keep hold of him, for he was bent on getting away.

"Hear me," I said. "I have changed my mind. Nay, you _must_ hear me, or
I shall believe you were never in earnest in your friendship for me. I
solemnly swear, Bastel, that I make way for you. I resign utterly and
for ever, every wish and every hope. I see it all clearly. You could
not recover it if she were to prefer me. I--why I should make up my
mind! You know one does not die of it even if all one's dream-blossoms
do not come to fruit. Give me your hand, Bastel, and not another word
about it."

He threw himself on my breast. I meanwhile feeling very noble and
magnanimous, as though I had renounced a kingdom to which I was heir,
in favour of some cousin belonging to a collateral line. Any one who
had seen us walking on for an hour hand in hand, and been aware that we
were disposing of a fair creature who had probably never given either
of us a thought, could hardly have refrained from laughing at so
shadowy an act of generosity. I insisted upon accompanying him at once
to the shop. I was bent upon proving that my sacrifice did not exceed
my strength. "Success to you!" I cried, as he turned the handle of the
door, and I shewed him a cheerful face. And then I went away wrapped in
my virtue, whose heroic folds were full compensation for all that I had
resigned.

I slept so soundly that night, that I felt ashamed of myself the next
morning for not having dreamed of her. Could it be that the flame of
this "new love" had gone out thus suddenly, not leaving so much as a
spark behind? I would not allow it to myself, and thereby diminish the
importance of so tragic a collision. As it was Sunday I had plenty of
time to give myself up undisturbed to my happy-unhappy sensations. A
few verses written down that morning still linger in my memory:

           "Sad and consumed by envious desire,
            A Cinderella sits beside the fire:
            The hearth grows cold, the ashes fly about,
            There is no sunshine in the air without.

           "Oh strange that friendship should so cruel prove
            As to inflict a pang on yearning _Love_:
            Pale and half-blind she weeps the long hours thro',
            Yet are they children of one mother too!

           "Love decks herself and proudly lifts her head;
            More and more glows her cheek's soft rosy red:
            The pale one bears the weight of household care,
            In games and dances never claims a share.

           "Yet when her sister comes home late at night,
            Poor Cinderella laughs and points with spite:
            'Blood's on your shoe for all you're gaily drest,'
            And thus she robs the proud one of her rest!"

And yet people persist in calling youth the time of unclouded
bliss--youth, which through mere mental confusions and self-invented
tortures lets itself be cheated out of heaven's best gifts;
counterfeits feelings in order to achieve unhappiness, and passionately
presses the unattainable to its heart!


                           *   *   *   *   *


About a fortnight may have sped away without my ever seeing my
fortunate rival except by accidental glimpses. From some delicate
scruple, for which I gave him full credit, he left off climbing the
stair to my study as heretofore, and if we met in the streets we soon
parted with a commonplace word or two, and a pretty cool shake of the
hand.

However, by the time we reached the third week, this estrangement
became intolerable to me. It was holiday time; the days were too hot
for work or exercise, and I even found the Castalian fount run dry. I
became aware that the silent presence of my friend had grown to be a
positive want. I longed even to hear his deep voice sing once more, "I
think in the olden days," and was as uncomfortable in my isolation as
Peter Schlemihl when he had lost his shadow.

At last I determined to seek him out. He lived the other side of the
Spree in an upper room of a house belonging to a tailor's wife, by whom
his cooking was done, and his few wants attended to. I must just
mention here that he received a very small allowance from his family,
and made up the deficit by giving music-lessons, for which indeed he
was but poorly paid.

When I entered his little room he was sitting at an old, hired piano,
and writing down some notes in a music-book on his knee. He jumped up
with an exclamation of pleasure, let the book fall, and caught hold of
my hand in both his. He made me sit down on the hard sofa and light a
cigar, and spite of all I could say, would have me drink a glass of
beer which the tailors wife fetched from the nearest tavern. At first
we said but little, as was our wont, but often looked at each other,
smiled, and were heartily glad to be together again.

"Bastel," said I at length, shrouding myself as completely as I
possibly could in tobacco-smoke, "I have a confession to make. You need
no longer keep up any reserve with me about--you know what. The wound
inflicted by a certain pair of eyes" (again the old lyrical style, this
time with a touch of Spanish colour), "either was not so deep as I at
first believed it, or else absence has done wonders. Suffice it that I
am perfectly recovered, and if you have turned these last weeks to good
account and been made happy, I shall rejoice with you unqualifiedly."

He looked at me with beaming eyes. "Is it really so?" he said. "Well,
then, I can tell you, you remove a great weight from my heart. I have
reproached myself a hundred times for accepting your sacrifice, and my
best hours with her have been embittered by the thought of having done
you wrong. I did not indeed feel sure that you would have been
satisfied with what made me so happy. And besides I felt that it would
have been wholly impossible for me to have renounced her. But now--now
all is right."

And again he pressed my hand, his joy so genuine and touching that I
felt myself and my artificially excited feelings, very small indeed in
comparison.

He then went on to tell me how far matters had advanced. It certainly
did require a modest nature, and a very sincere affection, not to be
rather disheartened than encouraged by the amount of progress made in
the course of three entire weeks. He had gone evening after evening, to
spend an hour in that small reading-room. It was plain that his silent
reverential homage had touched her, and the last few evenings she had
permitted herself to sit with him, and keep up an innocent chat. Once
even, when he was two hours later than usual, she received him with
evident agitation, and confessed that his delay had made her anxious.
She had become, she said, so accustomed to their daily talk, and as
there was no one else who took the least interest in her; and then she
stopped--perhaps because he too vehemently expressed his delight at
this her first kind word. He, for his part, had told her all about his
relations, and everything connected with himself that could in any way
interest her. But she had not confided to him the very slightest
particulars about her family or her past history, had only said how she
was pining in this dark shop-corner, and longed to go far away into
foreign lands. She had been putting by, she told him, for a year past
to meet travelling expenses; and privately teaching herself both French
and English in order to go into the wide-world at the first
opportunity. "If you had only seen her, Paul," said he at the end of
his narrative, "and only heard her voice, how sadly and resignedly she
told me all this, you would have pledged your life that no evil thought
had ever stirred her heart, that she was as pure and innocent as saints
and angels are said to be, and you would understand my resolve to leave
nothing undone in order to make her happy."

"You really then mean to marry her?"

"Can you doubt it? That is if she will accept me. She must have plainly
seen that my intentions were honourable, although, as to any formal
declaration, you know that my heart overflows least when it is fullest.
And besides there is no hurry. She cannot be thinking of leaving for
some time to come, and as for me--if I make great efforts in four or
five years--"

"Four or five years? Why, you will scarcely have passed your legal
examination."

"True," he rejoined. "But I have given up the idea of it. I shall not
seat myself on the long bench of law students, which is but a rickety
one after all. I think I can in a shorter time make something of music,
and at the worst if we are not able to get on here--and indeed my
parents would hardly be pleased at the marriage--we can seek our
fortune in America."

I looked at him sideways with pride and amazement. He seemed to me to
have suddenly grown ten years older, and I confessed to myself that all
the lyrical enthusiasm of my views of life, would not have rendered me
capable of so bold a plan.

"And she," I asked; "will she consent to this?"

"I do not know," he replied, looking straight before him. "As I told
you before, I have never asked her point-blank. Our talk once turned on
marriage. She said most positively she should never marry. 'Not if the
right man appeared?' I ventured to put in. 'Then least of all,' said
she suppressing a sigh. So one of us is wise it seems."

"Nonsense," said I. "All girls say the same to begin with. Afterwards
they think better of it."

"It seems, too, that she is a year older than we thought--only a month
younger than I am. Apropos, I have a request to make to you; that is,
if you are able--"

"Come, no preamble. You know that I am never shy of asking you to do me
a favour."

"To-morrow is her birthday. I had just contrived to find out the date,
when she said that she already felt herself very old, and was weary of
life. That if she knew she were to die on the morrow it would give her
no regret. I was busy just when you came in, writing out the air of one
of your songs: you know the one beginning, 'How could I e'er deserve
thee?' and I meant to give her a nosegay with it. But it does grieve me
to think that I have nothing better to offer her. She has her dress
fastened with an old black pin, and its glass head is cracked. A little
brooch would be sure to please her--only unluckily my piano and singing
lessons are over just now, most of my pupils are away, and so I cannot
get at some fees that are owing; and to sell any of my effects is
impossible, since all the superfluities I had--"

He looked with sad irony around his bare apartment.

"We must contrive something," I said. "It stands to reason that the
birthday must be duly honoured. Certainly I am no Cr[oe]sus at this
moment,"--and therewith I drew out a very small purse from my pocket,
in which rattled only a few insignificant coins--"but at all events I
have some superfluities. It now occurs to me that I have not used the
great _Passow_ for some months, never indeed, since I accidentally
discovered little _Rost_ at my father's, in which one can hunt out
words so much more conveniently. Come! The old folios will help us out
of a difficulty."

After a few weak endeavours to prevent my laying this offering upon the
altar of friendship, he accompanied me to my room, and then we each
loaded ourselves with a volume of the thick lexicon. And an hour later,
richer by five dollars, we betook ourselves to the shop of a small
working-goldsmith, as we had not courage to make our intended purchase
at one of the great jewellers of _Unter den Linden_.

It is probable that our man taxed us no less heavily. But, however, he
treated us like two young princes, who in Haroun-al-Raschid mood had
chosen to knock at a lowly door. For a gold snake which after a few
coils took its tail into its mouth, and glared at us with two square
ruby eyes, he asked ten dollars, but let himself be beat down to seven,
the pin being probably worth about half that sum. It was I who had to
carry on the whole transaction. Sebastian was so embarrassed, and
absorbed himself so persistently in the contemplation of the other
ornaments on the counter, that the shopkeeper evidently grew
suspicious, and kept a sharp look out after him, as though he might be
having to do with pickpockets.

"Here is the trinket," said I, when we got into the street, "and now
good night, and I say--you may just congratulate her from me too
to-morrow. But indeed I ought to hope that she has forgotten all about
me. I certainly did not display my best side to her. Let me see you
again soon, and come and tell me what effect the snake has produced in
thy Paradise, happy Adam that thou art."

And so I left him, conscious of a faint glimmer of envy. But I manfully
trod out the first sparks, and as I walked along the park in the cool
of the evening, sang aloud the following song, which apart from the
anachronism of budding roses in the dog-days, gave a pretty faithful
description of the mood I was then in:

           "The roses are almost full-blown,
            Love flings out his delicate net:
            'Thou butterfly fickle and frail
            Away thou shalt never more get.'

           "'Ah me! were I prisoner here,
            With roses all budding around,
            Though satisfied Love wove the bands,
            My Youth would repine to be bound.

           "No musing and longing for me--
            I stray thro' the woods as I will.
            My heart on its pinions of joy
            Soars beyond and above them still!'"

The following evening I was sitting innocently and unsuspiciously with
my parents at the tea-table, when I was called out of the room: a
friend it seemed wished to speak to me. It was about ten o'clock, and I
wondered who could be paying me so late a visit.

When I entered my room I found Sebastian as usual in the grand-paternal
arm-chair, but I started when, turning the light on his face, I noticed
his pallor and look of despair.

"Is it you?" cried I. "And in such agitation? Has the birthday
celebration come to a tragic end?"

"Paul," said he, still motionless, as though some heavy blow had
stretched him out there. "All is over! I am a lost man!"

"You will find yourself again, my good fellow," I replied. "Come, let
me help to look for you. Tell me all about it to begin with."

"No jesting if you would not drive me out of the room. I tell you it is
all too true. I have only now fully discovered what an angel she is,
and I have seen her for the last time."

"Is she gone away--gone to a distance?"

He shook his head gloomily. Only by very slow degrees could I extort
from him the cause of his despair. Briefly it was as follows: He had
found himself in the presence of his beloved at the usual hour, and
after eating an extra tart and drinking a glass of bishop in honour of
the day, he had brought out the gifts with which he meant to surprise
her in a sequence which seemed well advised. First he had freed the
bouquet from its paper coverings, and she had thanked him with a kindly
glance, and put it at once in a glass of water. Then he gave her the
song, and sang it for her under his voice, she sitting opposite with
downcast eyes, and giving not the slightest sign by which to judge
whether she saw its application or not. Only when he had ended she held
out her hand--a favour of which she was chary--and said in a cordial
tone: "It is very kind of you to have thought of my birthday, and to
have brought me such beautiful flowers and such a charming song. There
is nothing I love so much as flowers and music, and I very seldom come
in for either. I shall soon know the tune; indeed I half know it now."
He could not part with the hand given him, and as her graciousness had
inspired him with courage, he now brought out the serpent-pin, and
placed it in her hand. "Here is something else," he said; "it is but a
humble offering, but I should be very happy if you would not disdain to
wear it."

She looked full at him, opened the little case slowly and with evident
reluctance, and as soon as she saw the shining of the gold, dropped it
on the table as though the metal had been red-hot. "Why have you done
this?" she said, hastily rising. "I have not deserved it from you--at
least I do not think I have behaved in such a way as to authorise you
to make me a present like this. I see I have been mistaken in you. You,
too, think meanly of me because I am poor and dependent. I cannot
conceal that this pains me, from you of all people," and her eyes grew
moist. "Now I can only request that you will instantly leave me, and
never return," and with that she laid the flowers and song down before
him on the table, and spite of his distracted assurances and
entreaties, with burning face and tearful eyes she contrived to elude
him, and not only left the little inner room, but the shop as well.

It was in vain that he awaited her return; in her stead the
square-built woman entered, but apparently without the least idea of
what it was that had scared the young girl away. A full half-hour he
continued in a most miserable state of mind to occupy his accustomed
seat on the sofa. But as she remained invisible, he at length took his
departure, and once in the street, plucked the nosegay to pieces, and
tore up the song into shreds, and--"There," he cried, "is that wretched
pin that has made all the mischief, you may take it, and give it to
whom you will! I could hardly resist the temptation as I came along to
open a vein with it."

"And is that all?" enquired I coolly, when he had come to an end of his
shrift.

He sprang up as if to rush away. "I see I might have spared myself this
visit!" he cried. "You are in so philosophical a mood that a friend
expiring at your side would seem nothing to wonder at. Good-night."

"Stay," I remonstrated. "You ought to be very glad that one of us at
least has the use of his five senses. The story of the pin is a mere
trifle. Who knows whether she did not reject it after all from the
superstitious fancy that pins pierce friendship. Or even if there were
more in it, if she actually felt a suspicion that you meant it as a
bribe, that is still no cause for desperation; on the contrary she has
proved that she is a good girl, and respects herself; and if you go to
her in the morning as though nothing had happened, and in your own
true-hearted way explain--"

"You forget she has forbidden me to return."

"Nonsense! I would bet anything that she is already very sorry she did
so. Such a faithful Fridolin is not to be met with every day, and
whatever she may think she feels for you--whether much or little--she
would be conscious of missing something if you left off eating your two
cherry tarts daily, and she no longer had to strew the sugar over them
with her little white hand. Teach me to understand women indeed!"

He gazed for a long time at the lamp. "You would do me a kindness by
going there with me and explaining matters for me. She would at least
allow you to speak; and if you were to bear witness for me--"

"Willingly. I shall say things to her that would melt a heart of stone.
Trust me, this serpent will not long exclude thee from thy Paradise, or
Miss Lottka is not that daughter of Eve, which hitherto much to her
honour I have held her to be."

He pressed my hand as if somewhat relieved, but was still gloomy, and I
soon lighted him down the stairs.


                           *   *   *   *   *


I had a very beautiful and touching address all ready composed when we
set out the next evening on our common mission, and my poor friend gave
me plenty of time to rehearse it, for he never said a word. When we
approached the shop he drew his arm out of mine, I was not to find out
that he was beginning to tremble!

I myself was not thoroughly at ease. To see her again after so long an
interval, and now to address her on behalf of another--I was fully
conscious of the difficulty of the position, but my honour was pledged
to play my part well, and to guard against any selfish relapse into my
old folly.

When we entered she was not alone. For the first time we found a
fashionable-looking man in the shop, sitting on a stool close to the
counter, and while drinking a glass of lemonade, trying apparently to
make himself agreeable to the young attendant. Sebastian's melancholy
visage darkened still more at this spectacle, although the calm manner
and monosyllabic replies of the girl might have convinced him that the
conversation of this coxcomb was as displeasing to her as to us.

"We shall soon drive him away," whispered I, and ordering wine and
cakes with the air of an habitual customer, I together with my mute
companion took possession as usual of the familiar inner-room.

I had, however, reckoned without my host. The stranger, who now carried
on his conversation in a lower tone, appeared to have no idea of
vacating his place in our favour. I was able to contemplate him at
leisure in the small mirror that hung between the royal pair. His hair
cut short round a head already bald at the top, his light whiskers, and
the gold spectacles on his pinched nose, were all highly objectionable
to me; and I wondered too at the insolent familiarity of his manner,
and the careless way in which he crumbled a heart-shaped cake in his
white effeminate hands, as if to typify his facility in breaking
hearts. I took him for a young nobleman or landed proprietor, and
little as I feared his making an impression upon the girl, yet it was
annoying to me to see her exposed in her position to the attentions of
such a man. I was even concocting some bold plan of getting rid of this
incumbrance, when I felt Sebastian convulsively clutch my arm.

"What is the matter?" I said. "Are you going mad?" Instead of
answering, he pointed to the mirror, in which he too could see a
portion of the shop reflected. "Impudent fellow!" he muttered between
his teeth, "he shall not do that a second time."

I had just time to see that the stranger was bending over the counter,
and trying to take the girl--who had retreated as far as ever she
could--under the chin, when my friend, having noisily pushed away the
table before us, confronted him with flushed cheeks and flashing eyes.

"What do you mean, sir!" he began, and his deep voice put out all its
strength. "Who are you that you dare to take a liberty with a blameless
girl--a girl who--"

His rage actually choked him. He stood with hand raised, as if
determined to punish any fresh act of audacity on the spot, while the
stranger, who had drawn back a step, measured this unexpected champion
from top to toe with a look, half amazement, and half compassion.

"The bishop is too strong for your head, young friend," said he in a
sharp tone, while he twirled his smart cane between finger and thumb.
"Go home before you talk further nonsense, and be more careful another
time, for you may not always meet with persons who can take your
greenness into proper account. What I was saying to you, Lottka--'"

And therewith he turned as if his opponent had already vanished out of
sight and mind, and addressed the girl, who, pale as death and with
eyes closed, was leaning back in the furthest corner between the window
and the wall.

I had followed Sebastian, and whispered to him to take care what he was
about, but he never heard me.

"I only wanted to ask you, Fräulein," he said in a hollow voice,
"whether it is with your consent that this gentleman allows himself to
take such liberties with you as are not generally permitted by
respectable young ladies; whether you know him sufficiently well to
justify him in using your Christian name, and whether it is agreeable
to you that he should remain talking to you so long?"

She did not answer. She only raised her large eyes entreatingly to the
angry lover who did not understand their glance.

"Who is this amiable youth, who plays the part of your knight, Lottka?"
now asked the stranger in his turn. "I begin to suspect that I have
interfered with some tender relations between you. I am sincerely sorry
for it, but still, my child, without venturing to impugn your taste, I
would advise you in future to pay more attention to solid advantages in
the choice of your adorers. The declamations of schoolboys are no doubt
pretty to listen to, but they may lead as you see to awkward
consequences. What do I owe?"

He threw a dollar on the table.

"You can give me the change another time. I will not disturb you
further just now."

He took his hat and was about to leave when Sebastian barred the way.

"You shall not go," said he in a constrained voice, "before you have in
my presence apologised to this young lady, and given your word of
honour never again to forget the respect due to her. I hope you
understand me."

"Perfectly, my young friend," replied the other, his voice now
trembling with excitement. "I understand that you are a crazy
enthusiast, and take the world for a raree-show. I do not grudge you
your childish amusement, and esteem you accordingly; but I have no wish
further to prosecute your acquaintance, lest a joke should turn to
earnest, and I should be forced--spite of the lady's presence--to treat
you like a young whippersnapper who--"

Here he made a pretty unequivocal movement with his cane. I had just
time and sense enough to interfere.

"Sir," said I, "I have to request your card; we can best settle this
matter in another place."

He laughed loud, drew out his pocket-book with an ironical bow, and
reached me a visiting-card. Then he nodded familiarly to the girl,
shrugged his shoulders, and pressing his hat low down on his brow, left
the shop.

We three remained for several moments in the same position as if we had
been touched by a magic wand.

I as the least deeply implicated was the first to recover myself.

"For God's sake, Fräulein," said I to the pale statue in the window,
"tell us who this man is. How comes he to behave so to you? Since when
have you known him?" Then in a lower tone. "I pray you by all that is
good, speak, if but one word. You see the state my friend is in; this
concerns him more deeply than you are aware. You do not perhaps know
that there is nothing more sacred to him than yourself; you owe it to
him--"

He seemed to have heard what I said. With a sudden gesture as though
shaking off some heavy weight, he tottered to the counter, behind which
she stood entrenched and unapproachable.

"Only one word, Lottka," he murmured. "Do you know that insolent man?
Have you ever given him cause so to think of and speak to you? Yes or
No, Lottka?"

She was silent, and her hands hung down helplessly by her side. I could
plainly see two great tears forcing their way between her lashes.

"Yes or No, Lottka," he repeated more urgently, and his breast heaved
fast. "I wish to know nothing further. Do not imagine that the first
rude fellow I come across, has any power to shake my holiest
convictions. But how was it you had not a word to crush him with? Why
are you silent now?"

A convulsive shiver passed over the young girl's frame. With eyes
still closed she felt for her chair in the window, but did not seat
herself--sank down on her knees beside it, and hid her face against it.
"I beseech you," she murmured in an almost inaudible voice, "do not ask
anything about me--go away--never come here again. If it can in any way
comfort you, I am innocent so surely as God lives; but so unfortunate
that it is almost worse than if I were a sinner too. Go away. I thank
you for all you have done, but go, and forget that I am in the world. I
would I were in another!"

"Lottka!" cried Sebastian wildly, about to rush in and raise her up,
but that she put out her hands to ward him off with such a lamentable
gesture that I held him back; and after a struggle, during which I
represented to him that they were both too excited at present to
understand each other, I persuaded him to leave the poor child to
herself, and we went off, promising to return on the morrow.

We walked in silence through the streets. It was impossible to tell him
that the scene we had witnessed had considerably shaken my faith in his
beloved. For the rest I was perfectly satisfied with the part he had
played, and owned to myself that I should have done just the same in
his place.

It was only when we reached the door of my house that he broke silence.
"You must do me the favour," he said, "to go to that man very early in
the morning" (we had read his name and address on his card; he was an
assessor at the Town Court). "I leave all details to you."

"Of course," I returned, "it stands to reason that I should do all I
can for you; but in this matter--I have never delivered a challenge,
and have only twice seen a duel of any kind; and in this case, as I
believe, we must employ pistols. If you knew any one more conversant
with such matters?--one would like to do things in the regular way with
a fellow like this, who treats us both like schoolboys."

"You are probably right," said he. "But there is no help for it. I can
have no third party admitted into this affair. It is possible that he
may make some disclosures to you--invent more calumnies--how should I
know? So everything must be kept to ourselves. I shall be at home all
the morning, and as soon as you have done with him you will come
straight to me, will you not."

That I promised, and we parted. What my parents must have thought of me
that evening, when I gave crooked answers to every question put, Heaven
only knows.


                           *   *   *   *   *


That night in good truth I really slept very little. I kept thinking of
all that might ensue, hearing pistol-shots fired, and seeing my poor
friend fall. But I was also much engaged in puzzling over Lottka's
conduct, and came more and more strongly to the belief that she was not
worth an honest true-hearted youth throwing down the gauntlet in her
cause, and answering for her virtue with his life.

The day had scarcely dawned before I was up, but on this occasion I had
no idea of verse-making. I dressed myself at first entirely in black
like an undertaker's assistant; then it occurred to me it might be
better to be less carefully got up, and rather to treat the matter with
indifference, as though such things daily occurred to me. So I merely
put on a comfortable summer attire, just substituting a black hat for
the cap I usually wore, and drawing on a pair of perfectly new gloves.
When I looked in the glass, I viewed myself as decidedly grown up, and
also decidedly easy-going and dignified. But for all that I could make
nothing of my breakfast. I had a bitter taste on my tongue.

About nine o'clock I set out. The house in which our enemy lived stood
in the best part of the town, and the porter told me he did not think
it would be easy to get an interview with the assessor. Nevertheless a
footman, although certainly treating me rather _de haut en bas_,
ushered me into a small room, and signified that his master would soon
appear.

I had plenty of time to look about me, and firmly resolved as I was not
to be cowed by outward circumstances, I could not help feeling, while
silently comparing this elegant bachelor's snuggery with the four bare
walls of my friend's room, that the game was very unequal. Two raw
half-fledged novices pitted against a thorough man of the world, and
not even perfectly certain that we had the right on our side. I owned
to myself that we were in a fair way to act a ridiculous part, and all
my lyrical idealism was powerless against the awkwardness of prosaic
facts.

The longer I waited, the more I made up my mind to see our enemy enter
with a mocking smile, and asked myself how to meet it with becoming
dignity. But to my surprise there was nothing of the kind.

In about ten minutes the door opened, and the assessor just put in his
head, saying in the most urbane tone possible, that he was very sorry
to be obliged to keep me waiting, not being quite dressed, but that he
begged me in the meantime to use his cigars and make myself at home.

Another five minutes, and in he came, shook my hand like an old
acquaintance, and begged me to be seated on his silk-covered divan. I
had to light a cigarette, but declined to share his breakfast which the
footman brought in on a silver tray, and I was looking out for the
pleasantest introduction possible to our affair, when he anticipated
me, and while pouring out his tea began in quite a friendly tone--

"I am very glad you have come. I can easily imagine what brings you,
and I may frankly tell you that yesterday's scene to which I owe your
acquaintance, made upon me a most painful impression. You will easily
understand that it is by no means pleasant to have a youth--an utter
stranger--fall upon one out of a clear sky with a perfect torrent of
invective. But on the other hand, I am sufficiently versed in human
nature to be able to explain the very peculiar conduct of your Hotspur
of a friend. He is in love with the little girl, and in that shows very
fair taste. He has diligently read romances and old legends, and thinks
he has gained from them a knowledge of the world. This sweet illusion
will vanish all too soon, but while it lasts it makes so happy, that it
is positive cruelty to blow away its soap-bubbles prematurely. I at
least would never deprive any one of his innocent enjoyment. And so I
am sincerely sorry to have disturbed any tender tie. I hope your friend
will be content with this explanation, and for my part I wish him
pleasant dreams, and when the time comes as gentle a waking as
possible. The cigar does not seem to draw well? Try another. What are
you studying if I may ask? You are still a student, are you not?"

I felt myself blush crimson. For a moment I doubted whether I would not
deny my position. However I stuck to the truth. "We shall pass our
final examination at Easter," I said.

He was magnanimous enough not to misuse his superiority.

"So young," he said, with a good-natured shake of the head, "and
already such Don Juans! You seem entitled to fair hopes, my
young friend, and if you would only accustom yourself to more
self-restraint--"

"Forgive me," said I, "but I must return to the matter in hand. My
friend, as you rightly perceive, has a serious affection for this girl,
and feels himself deeply aggrieved by the disrespectful manner in which
you behaved to her. I believe he might be satisfied by a few lines in
your handwriting, expressing your regret for your conduct to Fräulein
Lottka. If not--"

He looked askance at me with such amazement, that I felt suddenly
paralysed.

"Are you really in earnest?" he said. "You look too intelligent for me
to believe that you can approve of this commission you have undertaken
for your friend. My conduct to Fräulein Lottka! That is going a little
too far! No, my good friend, let us make ourselves as little absurd as
we can. Have you considered what you are proposing to me? With all the
respect to the honourable feelings and true-heartedness of a student of
the upper class, can he seriously imagine that I owe him reparation,
because in a public shop I chanced to stroke a girl under the chin." He
burst out laughing, and threw the end of his cigarette out of the
window.

I rose. "I doubt," I said, "that this will satisfy my friend. If you
would at least declare that you know nothing of Fräulein Lottka, which
casts a shadow on her reputation."

"Just sit down, and hear me out," he broke in.

"Now that I see you are really in earnest, it is my duty to tell you
the truth in the interests of your friend who takes up the case so
tragically, that he is sure to commit himself to some folly. About ten
years ago I was acquainted with a lady of a certain character here in
Berlin. She was a German, but bore a Polish name, that of her first
lover, a Polish nobleman, who had left her, _plantée là_, with one
child. As she was beautiful and not inconsolable, she found plenty of
adorers, and lived in wealth, keeping a small gambling-house too; and I
can well remember the strange impression it made on me when first I
entered it, to see a child of eight years old sitting at the faro
table, looking at the gold heaps with her great sleepy eyes, and then
at her mother and her friends, till the Champagne, of which she seemed
to like a sip, took effect, and she fell asleep on a sofa amidst
laughter, the rattling of money, and very free talk indeed. I was sorry
for the pretty child, and it crossed my mind that she could have little
respect for her mother, who exercised no sort of self-control even in
her presence. After a few years I broke off the connection, which
proved a very expensive one, but I heard in a roundabout way that the
Polish Countess--as we used to call her--went on still in her old
course, except that she relied less on her own attractions, and called
in younger faces to her aid. I enquired casually after her daughter,
but the conversation had turned, and I received no answer.

"Well--yesterday as I chanced to be passing by that miserable
cake-shop, thinking of anything else than of this old story, I saw an
old lady getting into a cab at the door, while the shop-girl put in the
various parcels of purchases. When she turned round to re-enter the
shop, I recognized the child with the weary eyes, now grown up into a
beauty, who might, if she chose, enter into formidable competition with
her mother. As I had nothing particular to do, I followed her into
the shop, reminded her of our old acquaintance, and was not a
little surprised to find her just as rigid and unapproachable
as her lady-mamma was the reverse. With all my long practice in
cross-examination, I was only able to get out from her that she had
parted from her mother three years ago, but as to what she had been
doing since, or through how many hands she had passed, or whether her
icy manners were artificial or natural, that I had not been able to
unravel, when our Orlando Furioso, your excellent friend, suddenly
burst in upon us. And now, after I have given you this explanation, you
may yourself judge, whether the idea of my coming forward to vouch for
the poor child's character or having to fight with an enthusiastic boy
about her virtue is not quite too absurd!

"No, no," he continued, "if you have any influence over your friend, my
dear fellow, do warn him not to go too far. For even if the daughter
were as yet perfectly pure, what good could come of it with such
antecedents, and such a mother? Your friend is the son of respectable
people, tell him that he must not compromise his parents and himself--a
mere passing liason, _à la bonne heure!_ but to stake his very heart's
blood, and to interfere with fire and sword, _allons donc!_--I do hope
you may be able to bring him to reason; and now you must excuse me, I
have a case coming on."

He had risen, while I still sat petrified by such a revelation; then he
called his servant, and after reciprocal assurances of high esteem, had
me shewn out. I tottered down the steps like a drunkard.


                           *   *   *   *   *


It was not for an hour afterwards--I needed a long circumbendibus
before I could take heart to bring this melancholy business to an
end--that I found myself knocking at Sebastian's door. A faint voice
bade me come in, and then I found the unhappy fellow lying dressed upon
his bed, and one glance at his disordered hair and attire shewed that
he had spent the night in that fashion. Before I could say a word, he
held out a letter that was open beside him on the pillow. A boy had
brought it very early in the morning, but had not waited for an answer.

Of course I do not pretend to give the exact words in which it was
couched, but their purport was as follows:

"You had scarcely left me when the idea struck me that the dispute of
which I was the miserable cause, might have fearful consequences. I
write to you to entreat and beseech you, if there were any earnestness
in the feelings you professed for me, to let the matter drop, and to
believe that in reality _I am not worthy_" (these words were doubly
scored) "that you should sacrifice yourself for me. Promise me that you
will try to forget me utterly. I am a poor lost creature, and only
death can deliver me. But I shall not die yet, so have no anxiety on
that head. I will try whether it be possible for me to live without my
misfortune dogging every step I take. I thank you for all your love and
kindness, and I never shall forget you. But do not attempt to find me
out. I am firmly resolved never to see you again, and you will only
increase my misery if you do not obey my wishes, but attempt to force a
meeting."

The letter had neither address nor signature, it was firmly written,
and there was not a mistake throughout.

I silently returned him the letter, not liking at that moment to tell
him that under the circumstances nothing could be more propitious than
such a decided step on her part. But I gradually discovered that
nothing in the letter impressed him so much as the pretty clear
confession of her own liking for him. This it was he dwelt on; their
separation seemed to him comparatively unimportant, probably not
seriously resolved upon, and practically impossible.

I therefore felt myself bound no longer to keep back my information,
and gave him an exact account of my interview with his enemy. To my
surprise it did not seem to produce on him the overwhelming effect I
had dreaded. He told me he had himself conjectured something of the
kind, and much as he regretted it, it could in no way change his
feelings, rather it could only increase his love to positive worship to
find that she had worked herself free from such degrading relations,
and was high-hearted enough to wish to bear alone a sorrow she had
never deserved. He knew indeed, that he should have some obstacles to
confront, as regarded his parents, friends, home, &c. But since she had
plainly told him that he was dear to her, no cowardly scruples would
prevent his making up to her for the sufferings brought on her by a
cruel fate. If the world bespattered her pure life, he would wash it
all away in his heart's blood.

He ran on in this half-feverish way, and his high-wrought enthusiasm,
his innocent brave spirit so carried me along, that not only did I keep
all objections to myself, but actually became of opinion that this was
all exactly as it should be, and the one important matter now was to
find out the young girl, and induce her to change her mind. I threw
myself into a cab, and drove to the shop, hoping to get upon her track
there. Sebastian remained at home; he did not venture contrary to her
expressed command, to take any part in the search. We had settled to
meet again at noon. Alas! I came back as ignorant as I went. The
mistress of the confectionery business had only been apprised of the
departure of her young shopwoman early that morning by an open note
found on her table. None of the neighbours had seen her go away. Most
of her effects were left behind, she had only taken with her some linen
and a travelling-bag which the good woman knew her to possess, and
could not now find. She had instantly given information to the police.
But all in vain as yet--the poor child had utterly disappeared.

It was now that grief and the after effects of the excitement of weeks,
began to tell severely upon my poor friend. He was in such utter
despair that I at first feared for his reason; not because of his
frantic outbursts, or delirious grief, but from a certain suppressed
wildness that tried to smile while the teeth chattered, a quite aimless
way now of walking, now standing still; speaking to himself and
laughing loud, while the tears, of which he seemed unconscious, rolled
down his cheeks. It was the first time that I had ever seen the
elemental throes of a true and deep passion, and I was so shocked that
I forgot all besides, and at all events never presumed to attempt
consoling the poor fellow by commonplaces.

I remained with him the whole day and a good part of the night. It was
only about midnight, when I saw that he was quite exhausted (he had not
closed his eyes the previous night), that I yielded to his entreaties,
and consented to leave him alone, after exacting a solemn promise from
his landlady to listen how he went on, for that he was very ill. I knew
he had no weapons of any kind, and I hoped that sleep would do him some
good.

The next morning, however, I could not rest, reproached myself for
having left him, and anxiously hurried to his lodgings. But there he
was no longer to be found. His landlady gave me a note of two lines, in
which he bade me farewell for the present. He could not rest till he
had found her, but he would do nothing rash, for he was not unmindful
of his other duties, and so I might confidently expect his return.

He had packed his knapsack, and taken his walking-stick with him. And
the landlady told me he seemed to have had two or three hours sleep,
for that his eyes looked clearer.

This was but meagre information, but I had to content myself with it.
And moreover I was about to accompany my parents on a tour which kept
me absent for several weeks. To the letters I wrote--for I was always
thinking of him--no answers ever came, so on my return when my first
walk led me to his lodgings, I was fully prepared to find an empty
nest. I was the more rejoiced, therefore, when he himself opened the
door, and I met a sad face, it is true, but free from the morbidly
strained expression which had so much pained me.

That he had failed to meet with any traces of the lost one I guessed
rather than actually heard from him. A melancholy indifference seemed
to pervade him; he set about whatever was proposed, as one who took no
part in it, whether for or against,--and what to me was most striking
of all, his passion for music seemed completely over. He never sang a
single note, never alluded to any composition, and would willingly have
given up his music-lessons, had he been able to live without them. The
mainspring of his nature seemed hopelessly broken, something had got
wrong which there was no repairing.

In the following spring, when we both went to the University, I used to
see him almost daily. He regularly attended law lectures, and had
become member of a society in which his admirable fencing and his now
proverbial taciturnity rendered him prominent, and I was hoping that
the incident which had so deeply affected him would after all leave no
bad results in his healthy nature, when something occurred that tore
open every wound anew.

I will for the sake of brevity relate the sad tale consecutively, and
not as I learned it from him, bit by bit, and at long intervals.


                           *   *   *   *   *


It was the Christmas of 1847. He had resolved upon spending the
holidays--not as usual, in paying a visit to his parents, but in the
strenuous study of his law-books, a long indisposition having thrown
him back considerably. I had in vain attempted to coax him to come to
us for this Christmas Eve. Indeed as a rule he avoided parties, and if
he ever did appear at a social gathering, he usually made an
unfavourable impression, especially on ladies, because of his silence
and his obstinate refusal to sing.

On this particular 24th of December, he spent the whole day hard at
work in his own room, got his landlady to give him something to eat,
and only went out at five o'clock when it had grown too dark to write,
leaving instructions to keep up his fire, as he should only spend an
hour or so looking at the Christmas market, and then return, and go on
writing late into the night. When he got into the street, he felt the
winter breeze refresh him. The intense cold of the last few days had
somewhat abated, snow was falling lightly in large flakes, which he did
not shake off, but liked to feel melting on his flushed face. His
beard, which had grown into a very handsome one during the last year,
and much improved his looks, was white with them.

Slowly he went through Königsstrasse to the Elector's Bridge. There
were crowds of well-wrapped figures flitting about, who having made
their purchases at the last moment, were now hurrying home fast, for
already the windows were beginning to shine with Christmas candles. The
solitary student worked his way through the throng, without that
melancholy yearning for home which would, on this particular evening,
have oppressed most youths, if compelled to spend it away from their
own people. He had sent off presents to his parents and sisters two
days ago, and this very evening expected a Christmas box from them,
which, however, he felt no impatience about. No one could care less for
any addition to his possessions than he did; indeed, since he had lost
the one thing to which he had passionately clung, he had grown
indifferent to all besides.

He stood for a while before the equestrian statue of the great elector,
who in his snow mantle looked even more majestic and spectral than
usual against the pale winter sky. Below, the stream, hemmed in by ice
on either side, flowed darkly and silently on, and in one of the barges
the bargeman had already lighted up a small Christmas tree, which sent
out a radiance through the open door. A couple of red-cheeked children
were standing by the lowly table, one blowing a penny trumpet, the
other eating an apple, and the solitary observer on the bridge might
have stood there long in contemplation of this humble idyll but that
the human stream swept him along with it, and landed him in the very
centre of the busy noisy Christmas market going on in the Schlossplatz.

He walked awhile up and down the chief passages between the booths,
looking at the cheerful traffic of buyers and sellers, listening to the
chattering of the monkeys, and the shrill screams of boys advertising
their various wares; and silently he sighed, reflecting that he had
positively no connection with the world in which the festival was so
joyously kept, that it would be all one to him if he were suddenly
transported to Sirius, amongst whose inhabitants he could not feel more
alone than here. Then he suddenly resolved to cheer up, and actually
hummed the tune "I think in the olden days." A garrulous saleswoman in
a booth of fancy-goods now interrupted him, entreating him to look out
some pretty trifle for his "lady-wife." At that he hurriedly turned
off, and made for one of the less frequented alleys where small dealers
were offering their penny-worths as bargains.

He had not proceeded far when a singular spectacle caught his eye.
Before a booth of cheap toys stood a lady in an elegant fur-trimmed
polonaise, such as were then worn, a square Polish hat on her head, and
a thick veil drawn over her face to protect her from the snow, so that
there was no seeing her features. She had put down her large muff on
the counter before her, and with tiny hands in daintiest gloves was
busy picking out various toys, and dividing them amongst a number of
street-children who crowded closely about her, and struggled for these
unexpected gifts in a very tumult of delight. A few expressive words on
the part of the seller in the booth reduced them to something like
order, and at length they all dispersed, their treasures tightly
clutched in their little fists, but it was only a minority that said
"thank you" to the giver.

"And now what have I to pay you for them all?" said the lady.

Her voice ran like an electric shock through the youth, who had
approached unobserved.

"Lottka," he said in a whisper.

The lady turned round quickly, and her first impulse was to draw her
veil closer about her face. Then, however, by the light of the booth
lamps and the glare from the snow, she was able to recognize the figure
that only stood two paces off. She hurriedly paid the sum required,
turned to Sebastian, and held out her hand.

"It is you," she said, without showing any special excitement. "I had
not expected ever to see you again. But I am only the more glad of it.
Have you any engagement? Are you expected anywhere this evening? No?
Then give me your arm. I too am free--quite free," she added with a
singular expression. "It is so pleasant to walk about in the snow, and
see so many happy faces. It seems to me sometimes as though it could
not be necessary to take any great pains to be happy since so many are
so, and so cheaply too. Do you not agree with me?"

He did not reply. The utterly unexpected meeting had positively
stupefied him, and the quick way in which she spoke and moved was
perplexing. She had at once hung upon his arm, whereas formerly she
carefully avoided every touch, and now she walked on beside him,
daintily putting down her little feet in the snow, her head bent, with
a bright thoughtful expression, as though planning some mysterious
surprise. He only dared to steal glances at her now and then. She had
evidently grown, her features were rather more marked, but that added
to her beauty, and her fur cap was wonderfully becoming.

"Fräulein Lottka," said he at length, "that I should find you here! You
do not know--you would not believe how I have sought for you--how ever
since--"

"Why should I not believe it?" she hastily replied. "Do you suppose I
have not known that you were the only human being in the world who ever
really loved me? That was the very reason why I was obliged to part
from you. Your love and goodness deserved something better than to be
made unhappy for my sake. It is enough that one wretched life should be
destroyed, and even that is not very intelligible when one thinks that
there is a Providence--but why should we talk of such melancholy
subjects? Tell me what you have been doing all this while. Do you know
that you are much better looking than you were? Your beard becomes you
so well, and with it you have the same innocent eyes that would better
suit a girl's face, and yet they can look brave and resolute enough too
when they flash out at a villain.

"Forgive me," she went on, "for being so talkative, but you cannot
guess how long I have been silent--almost _always_, since we parted. I
had too much to think about. But now I have arranged it all, and since
then I am quite happy. It is not very long ago that I have done so.
Last night even I had quite too horrible thoughts; they actually
pierced my brain like needles of ice. So I said to myself, 'there must
be an end to this.' Neither man nor God can require any one to live on
with thoughts like these. And after becoming quite clear about that, my
spirits returned, and even my tongue is loosed again. But you are all
the more silent. What is the matter with you? Are not you a little tiny
bit glad that we can wander about together so confidentially, and feel
the snow on our faces, and see so many poor men enjoying their
Christmas Eve? I too wanted to make a festival for myself, and so I
spent my last two dollars in an improvised Christmas gift. But it did
not answer so very well either: unless one loves the person one gives
to, there is not much pleasure in giving. Now I am sorry that I have no
more money. You and I might so well have made presents to each other."

"O Lottka," said he, "now that I have found you again--that you are so
kind to me--that you know how I love you--"

"Hush!" interposed she, "this may be felt, but not spoken of. For
to-day everything is as sad as it ever was, and as utterly hopeless."

He stopped suddenly and looked full at her. "Hopeless," he groaned.
"But are you aware that I know everything, and no more heed it than if
it were some story going on in the moon. That I have no one in the
world to consult but myself, and if my own father and my own mother--"

"For God's sake do not go on," she cried, with a look of distress, and
placing her hand on his lips. "You do not know what you are saying, how
horrible it is, and how you would one day repent it. You have a mother
whom you can love and revere, and who loves nothing on earth better
than you, and who is proud of you, and you would bring sorrow and shame
on her? If you had rightly considered what that means--but we will say
no more about it. Come--I will confess to you that I am hungry; since
yesterday evening I have eaten nothing out of sheer disgust. I thought,
indeed, I should never have a pure taste in my mouth any more, but
since I have chatted so pleasantly with you, I feel much better. Take
me where there is something to eat. And then we can still go on
chatting away for a couple of hours, and you really must treat me, for
as I said I have spent the last money I had in those toys."

At once he turned off into a side street, and rapidly led her to a
small eating-house that he knew, which was generally empty at this
hour. They were both lost in thought, and he was wondering, half in
terror, half in rapture, at the way things had come about, and asking
himself what turn they would take now. For although her dark allusions
made him very anxious, yet on the other hand he found comfort in her
free and frank manner towards him, and her clear recognition of his
feelings for her.

"Here," said he, throwing open a small door over which a blue lamp was
burning.

They entered a bright comfortable dining-room in which was only an
elderly waiter with a green apron of the good old fashion, sitting
half-asleep in a corner. He looked at the pair with some surprise, and
then hastened off to bring what Sebastian had ordered.

"He takes us for brother and sister," whispered the young girl.

"Or for a newly-married pair on their travels. Ah, Lottka!" and he
seized one of her little hands which she had just ungloved.

She heartily but without any embarrassment returned his passionate
pressure. "It is charming here," said she, beginning to free herself
from her warm wraps. "I do so rejoice to be for once with you thus
before I--" She stopped short.

"What are you thinking of?" he enquired in great agitation. "This is
not _really_ to be the last time--"

"Do not ask me," said she. "I am provided for, you need have no anxiety
for me. When I wrote you that little note I really did not know what
would become of me. It was only at first that I was safe. While you and
perhaps others were looking everywhere for me, I sat up in the attic of
an old friend not far from that shop--the only friend I had, an
asthmatic sempstress who used often to buy cough-lozenges from me, and
got fond of me because I would put in a stitch for her now and then.
The poor thing when at her worst was unable for weeks together to earn
anything. It was at her door that I knocked in the night, and actually
I remained a couple of months hidden there, for no one concerned
himself about her, and I used to help her with her sewing, and to cook
our frugal meals; but at last I could no longer endure life in such a
cage. I had saved a little money, and meant to cross over into France,
where no one would have known me. But I was stopped on the way, there
was something wrong in my passport, and so I was of course transported
back like a vagrant; and here in Berlin--but we will say nothing about
it. I already feel that nausea coming back, and here is our supper, and
I must not let that be spoiled."

He poured out for her a glass of the wine the waiter had brought, and
pledged her. "Thou and I," he whispered gently.

"No, thou alone," she replied, and sipped at the glass.

"Is the Rhine wine too strong for thee?" asked he. "Shall I order
Champagne?"

She shook her head vehemently. "I could not touch a drop of it. I drank
it too early, and in too bad company. But you must eat with me if I am
to enjoy my supper."

He put something on his plate, though he could not get a morsel down,
and kept watching her while she did full justice to their simple meal.
Her hair was cut as short as ever, her dress was quite as plain, her
form so full and so supple that each movement she made was enchanting
to contemplate. Every now and then she apologized for her appetite.

"It is only," she said, "because I am for once happy, and everything is
so good, and we are so delightfully alone--you and I. There"--and she
put a bit of game from her plate on to his--"you must positively eat
that, or I shall believe you have a horror of eating from the same dish
even as I. If things had been different, and we could really have
travelled off together through the world--that would have been
beautiful! But it cannot be, and some day you will be happy with some
one else, and she with you; lots are very unequally divided, and one
must put up with one's own till it gets too bad. But do pour me out
some wine--I drank that last glass off unconsciously. Thanks--and
now--to thy mother's health! And that shall be the last."

She emptied the glass, and as she put it down again, he noticed that
she shuddered as if some ice-cold hand had suddenly grasped hold of
her.

"Let us go," she said.

He paid the bill and again offered her his arm. When they got out they
found that the large soft flakes had changed into a driving snow-storm,
that met them full in the face.

"Where shall we go now?" asked he.

"It is all the same to me. I have no longer any home. I thought
indeed--but it is quite too boisterous and wretched to take leave of
each other in the open air. Are we far from your lodgings?"

"I am in the old quarters still. Over the bridge, and then only a
hundred yards. Come."

"That is--" said she, holding him back as if considering. "What will
the people you lodge with think if you suddenly bring a girl back with
you?"

"Have you not your veil on!"

"I? I do not care about myself. To-morrow I shall be--who knows how far
away, where I can defy all comments. But it might get told to your
mother, and give you trouble hereafter."

"Have no fear," he said, pressing the hand that rested on his arm. "My
room has a private entrance, and the people of the house burn no light
on the stairs. We shall not meet any one."

With rapidly beating heart, he led her along the now deserted streets,
and often they were obliged to stand still and lean against each other,
while the icy blast swept by. Once when he turned his back to the storm
and drew her closer to his breast, he bent down and hurriedly kissed
her through her veil. She made no resistance--only said, "I think the
worst is now over, we may go on." After that they did not speak another
word till they reached the house.


                           *   *   *   *   *


The steep staircase was--as he had said it would be--quite dark, and as
they went up it, on tip-toe, he first, holding her hand so that she
might not miss a step, no one came across them. Only they heard
children's voices through the door, and saw a light shine through the
key-hole of the room in the upper story, telling of a Christmas tree
there.

He carefully closed his door, and let her precede him into the small
dark room, which was only lit by the glow in the stove, and the
reflection of the snow. He then bolted both doors. "The kitchen is next
to us," he said, "but there is no one there now. We need not talk in a
whisper. But the landlady may just come back once to enquire whether I
want anything."

She answered nothing; she had placed herself on a chair in the window,
and was looking out at the whirls of snow.

When he had lit his small student's lamp with its green shade he
noticed a box on the table. "Look," said he, "that is my Christmas box
from home, we can put that in a corner for the present. Will you not
take off some of your wraps, and seat yourself here on the sofa? You
must be too warm in your furs."

"I shall soon be going," said she. "But thou art right, the stove does
burn well." And she began to draw off her polonaise, and put away her
fur cap and gloves--he helping her.

"But now shall we not begin to unpack?" said she, shaking back her
hair. "I should much like to know what is in the box."

"I am in no hurry," he laughingly replied. "I have just been unpacking
something far more precious to me."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," returned she, suddenly assuming
a colder tone (she had been saying _thou_). "You do not deserve that
people should be planning how to give you pleasure. I--if a mother had
sent _me_ such a Christmas box from a distance--give it me--I will undo
the string."

She hastily began cutting open the cover with a little knife of hers,
and he gazed in carefully suppressed emotion at every movement of her
exquisite hands.

"Lottka," said he; "if you and I were both together in America, and
this box had come over the sea--"

She shook her head. "No box would have come then."

"And why not, Lottka? If my mother knew thee as I know thee, dost thou
suppose she would hold thee guilty for circumstances over which thou
art powerless. Naturally she has her prejudices--like all good mothers.
But I know that she loves me more than any of her prejudices."

The girl left off her unpacking, and with her little knife cut all
sorts of patterns on the lid of the box.

"Do you call that a prejudice?" said she, without looking at him.
"Could you eat an apple that you had found lying in the dirt of the
streets? You might wash it ten times over, the repugnance would be all
the same. And who knows what foot might have trodden on it, who knows
that some slime might not have penetrated the rind, even though it
should still be sound at the core? No, no, no! It is so once for all,
bad enough that so it should be--but it must not be made even worse."

He wound his arm about her, but rather like a brother than one
passionately in love. "Lottka," he said, "it is impossible that this
can go on. You cannot waste your life in unavailing regrets." He
stopped short--he could not find words that expressed his meaning
without fearing to pain her.

"In regrets," she repeated, looking at him firmly and sorrowfully. "Oh
no! Who is thinking of it? I have already told you that you may be
quite easy about my future. I am provided for. I am not so forsaken as
I appear, provided my courage does not desert me--my courage and my
disgust. And why must every one be married? If I chose I might be so,
and very well too. All possible pains have been taken to make me fall
in love, and I have had a choice of very desirable wooers, rich, young,
and handsome, and some were really willing regularly to marry me in a
regular church, with a regular clergyman in gown and bands. There was
only one hitch."

"What was that?" he eagerly asked.

"It is unnecessary to mention it. But no--I will tell it to you
straight out, that you may never judge me wrongly. Do you know what has
given me a horror of all men except perhaps yourself! I will whisper it
in your ear. It is because I did not know whether the proposed
bridegroom might not have stood too high in the mother's favour before
he concerned himself about the daughter."

She turned away and went hastily to the window.

After a time she again felt his arm around her. "What you must have had
to endure, dear heart!" he faintly whispered.

She nodded slowly and significantly. "More than you would suppose so
young a creature could have survived. About seven years ago, when I
first understood it all, I still thought I could change my lot. I would
not remain another day in the house. I went out to service. I cut off
all my beautiful long hair to prevent any one admiring me, and the
ugliest clothes were good enough for me so only they would restore my
respectability. How little it has availed me thou knowest. Later, when
I was taken up as a vagrant, I was brought back to the house, to _her_
who naturally had a legal right over me. I had to bear it. I was
powerless against the law. But I at once declared that I would destroy
myself if I were not left in peace. And so I have sat nearly a year in
my own room, and as soon as any one came near it I bolted the door. But
still as I was obliged sometimes to breathe the air, people saw me, and
she herself--though I never would speak a word to her--pretended that
she loved me very much, and only yesterday--it was to be a Christmas
treat--she sent me in a letter; guess from whom?"

"How can I guess?"

"You are right. No mortal ever could suppose it. But you remember the
creature with whom you quarrelled on my behalf?"

"Lottka!" he cried beside himself. "Is it possible--"

She nodded. "It was a very affectionate letter, the most beautiful
things were promised me in it--the paper smelt of Patchouli: since then
I have had that nausea, that loathing which only passed off when you
and I met again. But I have but to think of it, and--fie!--there it
comes again!"

She wiped her lips, and the same strange shudder passed over her. He
seized her hands--they were stiff and damp.

Suddenly she shook her head as if to get rid of some importunate
thought. "But we were going to unpack," said she. "Pretty subjects
these for Christmas Eve! Come to our box--_ours_ I say. You have
bewitched me with your dream about America."

"We will make it come true," he impetuously cried. "I shall remind you
on some future day of our first Christmas Eve, and then you will be
obliged to confess that I have more courage, and am a better prophet
than you."

She made no reply, but cut the last string and opened the box. All
sorts of small presents came to view, a pair of woollen gloves that his
eldest sister had knitted for him, a watch-chain woven of the fair hair
of the younger, with a pretty little gold key hanging to it, home-made
gingerbread, and finally a large sealed bottle.

"Have you vineyards?" asked she playfully.

He laughed in spite of all his sadness. "It is elder wine, and the
grapes grow in our little garden. As a child I thought it the best of
all things, and ever since my good mother believes she cannot please me
better than by sending me on every Christmas Eve, and every birthday, a
sample at least of her last year's making."

"I hope it tastes better to you than the most costly Rhine wine," said
she earnestly, "or you would not deserve it. Look--there are letters."

"Will you look them over? I am too much distracted. I should not know
what they were about if I read them."

She had seated herself on the sofa, and taken the letters on her knee;
one after the other she read them with most devout attention, as though
their contents were wonderful and sublime, yet they were only made up
of sisters' chat; little jests, apologies for the insignificance of
their offerings; and in the lines written by the mother, there was
traceable, together with her pride in having so good a son, her sorrow
at being unable to embrace him at such a time, and her anxious fear
that it was not so much work that kept him away, but rather the
melancholy unsocial mood which even made his letters short.

"Are you still reading them?" he at length asked. "They are simple
people, and when they write, the best that is in them does not always
get put on paper. Good God! thou art weeping, Lottka!"

She laid the letters on the box, rose hurriedly, and pressed back the
tears that still welled from between her long eye-lashes. "I will go
now," she faintly said. "I shall be better out of doors."

"Go? now? and where? The storm would blow you down. Remain here for
to-night, and if you like--the kitchen is close by--two chairs will do
for me--and besides I have not a thought of sleeping."

She shook her head, and looked down. Then she suddenly raised her eyes,
and looked full at his with an expression that made his heart beat
wildly.

"Not so," she said. "But it is true that the storm without would blow
me down, and where too could I go? Is this not Christmas Eve, and the
last that we shall ever spend together. And I must give thee something,
my presents to the children gave me no real pleasure, and why should I
not on this day at least think of _myself_ as well? Am I not right,
Sebastian?"

She had never before called him by his name.

"Thou wilt give me something?" enquired he, amazed and uncertain.

"The only thing I still possess--myself," she gasped, and wound her
arms about his neck.


                           *   *   *   *   *


When he woke in the dark on the morrow, and half raised himself from
bed, still uncertain whether it had been real or only the most wondrous
of dreams, the chamber was empty, not a trace remained of the last
night's visitor. He felt all round his little sitting-room, called her
gently by name, thinking she had perhaps stolen into the kitchen just
for a freak, and would soon return. But all was silent. The intense
cold overcame him, and with teeth chattering he slipped back into bed,
and there, propped by pillows, tried to collect his thoughts.

Before long a horrible fear sprung up within him. With burning brow,
despite the icy air, he hastily drew on his clothes, and kindled a
light. The Christmas gifts of his family were still on the table, and
he suddenly discovered a sheet written over in pencil pushed between
the letters from his mother and sisters. The characters were uncertain
and tremulous, as though written in the dark. The words ran as
follows:--"Farewell, my beloved friend, my _only_ friend! It grieves me
much that I must grieve you so, must leave you so! But there is no
other way. You would never let me go there where I needs must go,
unless both are to be made unhappy. I thank thee for thy true love. But
all the sweetness in thy soul can never wash away the bitterness from
mine. Sleep well--farewell! I kiss thee once more in sleep. I know not
whether thou wilt be able to read this. Do not grieve; believe that all
is well with me now. Thy own loving one even in death."

The maid who was in the habit of coming about this time to light the
kitchen-fire, heard a hollow cry in the next room, and opened the door
in her terror. She there saw the young student lying on the sofa as
though prostrated by some heavy blow. When she called him by name, he
only shook his head as if to say she need not concern herself about
him, and then stooped to pick up the paper that had fallen out of his
hand.

"What o'clock?" he enquired.

"It has just struck six."

"Give me my cloak and stick. I will--"

He tottered to the door.

"You are going out bare-headed in all this cold? All the shops are
closed, there is not a creature in the streets: you know this is a
holiday?"

"A holiday," he said, repeating the syllables one by one as though
trying to make out their meaning. "Give me--"

"Your cap? Here it is. Will you not first of all have a cup of coffee?
The water will soon boil."

He made no further reply, but went out with heavy steps, and stumbled
down the dark staircase. The snow crunched under his feet, and thick
icicles hung in his beard. Far and near there was not a living creature
to be seen in the dim streets; the sentinels in the sentry-boxes looked
like stiff snow men. As he passed the bridge he saw that the river had
frozen over during the night. He followed its course a long way, his
eyes riveted on the ice as though looking for something there. Then he
plunged into the neighbouring streets, quite aimlessly, like one
walking in his sleep. For he could not expect to find what he was
searching for by any pondering or thinking of his own. But the fever of
an immeasurable agony drove him restlessly on, until he was utterly
exhausted.

He might have been wandering a couple of hours or more, for the streets
were beginning to look alive, when he reached the Potsdam Gate. He
there saw a cab stopping in front of the small toll-house, coming as it
seemed from the park. The toll-keeper came out in his furs, and as he
reached out his snuff-box to a policeman who sat by the driver, asked
laughingly--

"Anything that pays duty?" pointing to the closed cab windows.

"Not anything that pays duty here," was the reply. "I must give up my
contraband to the proper authorities. She has smuggled herself--not
into, but out of the world, but she is a rare piece of goods all the
same. I was making my first round this morning yonder there by
Louise-island, when I saw a well-dressed lady sitting on a bench, her
head drooping as though she were asleep. 'My pretty child,' said I,
'look out some warmer place than this to sleep in, in such bitter cold
as this.' But there was no waking her. Her hand still held a small
bottle--it smelt like laurel leaves. She must have drunk it off, and
then _tout doucement_ have fallen to sleep! Good morning. I must make
haste to deliver her up!"

The driver cracked his whip. At that very moment they again heard the
toll-keeper's voice.

"Stop!" (he called out). "You can take another passenger. A gentleman
looked into the cab window--and bang!--there he lies in the snow. Do
get down, comrade, he is quite a young man; he must have weak nerves
indeed to be knocked down in a second at the sight of a dead woman! How
if you put him in beside her? They seem much of a muchness."

"No," returned the policeman, "that is contrary to regulations. Dead
and living are not to be shut in together. Wait, we will carry him into
the toll-house. If you rub his head with snow, and give him something
strong to smell at, he'll come round in five minutes. I am up to these
cases."

They bore the unconscious figure into the house: then the cab set out
on its way again. But the policeman's prognostics were not fulfilled.
Sebastian's consciousness did not return for five weeks instead of five
minutes. It was only when the last snow had melted away that the
miserable man began to creep about a little with the aid of his stick.
Then he went off to his parents, who never knew what a strange fate had
desolated his youth, and cast a shadow over his manhood, that was never
entirely dispelled. When he died at the age of five-and-thirty he left
behind him neither wife nor child.



                             END OF LOTTKA.



                             THE LOST SON.



                             THE LOST SON.


About the middle of the seventeenth century there lived in the town of
Berne a worthy matron named Helena Amthor, the widow of a very rich and
respected burgher and town councillor, who after twelve years of happy
married life, left her with two children while she was still in the
prime of her age and beauty. Nevertheless she declined all the
advantageous and honourable offers of second marriage made to her,
declaring on every such occasion that she had now only one thing to do
on earth, and that was to bring up her children to be good and worthy
members of society. But as it often happens that too great anxiety
defeats itself and achieves the very reverse of what it aimed at, so it
proved here. The eldest child, a boy, who was eleven when his father
died--an intelligent but very self-willed fellow--rather required the
discipline of a man's strong hand than the tender but too indulgent
care of a mother who positively idolised him as the image of the
husband she had prematurely lost, and who never knew how to oppose any
of his impetuous wishes. The consequence was that the older the young
Andreas grew, the worse he behaved, and rewarded his mother's unwise
love by almost breaking her heart. When she first came to some
recognition of his faults it was already too late. The remonstrances
and admonitions of his uncles were all in vain, and even the grave
censure and heavy fines he incurred, from the town authorities, owing
to his irregular conduct, tamed his rude nature as little as did his
mother's tears. At length Frau Helena made up her mind to the greatest
pang she had known since her husband's death--to a parting with her
son, whom a cousin in Lausanne, a wealthy merchant, now offered to take
into his house, in the hope that change of scene and regular work might
exercise a healthy influence on the reckless youth. Andreas, who was
twenty years old at the time, consented willingly enough to leave the
old-fashioned "bear-garden," as he called his native town, for a
strange place, where he promised himself, spite of his cousin's
_surveillance_, a far freer and more amusing life. Neither did
he show the least tender feeling on parting from his mother and his
little sister of twelve, Lisabethli, but kept his large stock of
travelling-money far more carefully in his belt than his mother's
counsels in his heart. No wonder, therefore, before six months were
over, news came from Lausanne that Andreas had secretly quitted the
town, leaving behind him disgraceful debts at gambling-houses and
taverns, and making off with money entrusted to him for the business,
in lieu of which a heavy bill drawn on his mother was found in a corner
of his desk.

That bill and all other debts Helena Amthor paid without delay; she
said not a word about them to anybody, and always gave one answer to
whatever enquiries might be made about her son, that he was well and
upon his travels, and that he wrote to her from time to time. Nor was
this statement untrue, for as soon as his money ran short--which often
happened--he turned to his mother, who at that time never refused him.
But as to what there was in his or her letters no mortal creature ever
knew. She left off speaking of him, never introduced his name, so that
at length people grew shy of touching on the sorrow of her life, and
Andreas was virtually dead as far as the whole town of Berne was
concerned. He himself seemed quite content to be so, nor ever expressed
any wish to see his home again. When he came of age and had to settle
matters with his guardian, he curtly sent the latter word what day and
hour he was to meet him at the "Vine-tree," in Strasburg, there to make
over the fortune inherited from his father. But his guardian, a man
already in years, neither could nor would travel so far on his ward's
account. Therefore Frau Helena resolved upon undertaking the sorrowful
journey herself, probably with a last unspoken hope that this meeting
might have some softening effect upon his estranged affections. When,
however, she returned after a ten days' absence, the traces of
confirmed sadness on her fine face were more marked than before, and
from that time forth no one could say that they ever saw her laugh.

And yet fate that had laid this heavy burden on her, had also granted
her consolation in another direction, that might well have gladdened a
less deeply-wounded heart. Her other child Lisabethli, who was about
eight years younger than the lost son, was as admirably endowed, as
obedient and loving, and as completely the delight of every one who
saw her, as her brother was the reverse. And these sweet and lovely
characteristics, though originally a matter of temperament no
doubt, were in no small measure owing to her own self-training and
self-culture; for her mother--more particularly during the years when
Andreas was at home--had erred quite as much on the side of severity
towards her youngest child as on that of indulgence towards her
favourite. Even when Lisabethli was quite a small thing in the
school-room, she had shed many hidden tears over the reproofs and
constant putting-down she received; and pitied herself for her
inability by all her love and duty to win from her mother one of the
fond words or caresses which the else stern lady lavished upon her
unruly boy. All her anxiety on his account seemed but to estrange her
from her sweet girl, about whom, by the way, her brother no more
concerned himself than though she had not been in existence. And yet
the child continued to be gentleness and brightness itself, and was
soon wise enough to estimate the misery that disturbed the balance of
her mother's mind, and to resolve to treat all injustice towards
herself as she would the mood or caprice of a suffering invalid.

Later--after the flight of Andreas from Lausanne, and while the rumour
of it was spreading more and more amongst the inhabitants of Berne--the
relations between mother and daughter improved. Indeed the former had
never been blind to the pure beauty of her child's nature, though, like
one under an evil spell, she wrought out her own wretchedness by her
partiality. Her mortally wounded maternal pride still forbade her to
betray to her daughter, even by a sigh, the pangs her son inflicted on
her. But in all other respects she now seemed to give the young girl
the next place in her affections, and was even anxious to make up for
all that in her earlier days she had inflicted or withheld. Still she
was sparing of her caresses. If she but passed her delicate white hand
over the girl's brown head when wishing her good night, still more if
she kissed her eyes and said, "my good child," Lisabethli would blush
crimson for joy, and the happy beating of her heart would keep her
awake a whole hour.

At the same time, Frau Amthor endeavoured so far as was compatible with
her stern character, to procure for her daughter all the pleasures and
amusements of her age, and was in the habit of inviting her friends on
Sundays to the quiet home, behind which lay a beautiful terraced
garden, and during the summer time the young people used to enjoy
little excursions, and out-door parties; but she forbade them most
strictly to go to any dances however respectably carried on, or in
accordance with long established custom, they might be. It seemed that
some innermost feeling of her nature shrank from the idea of the sister
dancing while the brother, homeless and friendless, might at that very
moment be driven by despair to end his life. For that it would come to
this at last, was the one spectral thought that cast its shadow over
the mother's soul both in her waking and sleeping hours.

The house that had belonged to the Amthors for many generations, was a
narrow three-storied antique building, with wainscoted walls and
ceilings, and handsomely furnished with old silk tapestry and heavy
hangings. On the ground-floor were the offices and the room in which
dwelt the old man-servant and the faithful maid by whom the work of the
house was done. Above were the rooms inhabited by the mother and
daughter, which opened at the back upon the garden; and in the third
story were what had been the late councillor's library and study, and
of later years rooms entirely devoted to Andreas. The chamber where his
bed stood had not since his departure been entered by any one but the
old maid-servant. His mother never set her foot in it, and if his
sister crept by it to take a book from the library, she held her breath
as she passed the door as though it were haunted.

Our story begins on a September evening--on the very day that
Lisabethli had completed her nineteenth year. In honour of the
anniversary, her mother had invited some half-dozen of the girl's
favourite companions and what with singing and other amusements, which
the grave matron left the young people to carry on alone, the hour of
ten had struck unobserved. Indeed the girls, who after a very sultry
day were still pacing the garden walks arm in arm, deep in important
confidential talk, might easily have forgot time till midnight, if a
storm that had gathered on the other side of the river had not scared
them in. And once in, they found that their respective attendants had
come for them with lanterns, and so kisses and good-byes were heartily
exchanged, and in the great room looking out on the terrace the usual
stillness prevailed, when the first roll of thunder resounded through
the darkness.

Frau Helena had joined her daughter, who stood in the open doorway
looking down, beyond the dark steps leading into the garden, to the
river Aar, lost in vague, dream-like thoughts, such as are wont to
succeed a festive day when the soul is once more free to retire into
itself. She gently laid her hand on her daughter's hair, and the sweet
child silently leaned her head down on the mother's shoulder, as though
to seek shelter from the vivid flash of lightning that suddenly rent
the black cloud above them. "Come in, child," said the mother, "we
shall soon have rain."

The daughter shook her head without saying a word. She was now gazing
steadily on the clear space of sky at the horizon, where the snow peaks
of the Oberland far away from the range of the thunder-cloud, rose
glittering in the moonlight, a wondrous spectacle indeed. "Dear little
mother," at length she said, "how vast the earth is! Yonder they
neither see nor hear anything of the storm that rages here. And yet
still further off, in that star just above the Rothhorn, they would
know nothing of it if our earth were to be shivered to atoms!"

Her mother made no reply. Her thoughts were--she herself did not know
where, but well she knew with whom--with the one they had always flown
to at the approach of bad weather for many years past; because, while
the sky was growing dark, she could not tell whether her boy had a roof
over his head or not.

"How the river feels and answers to the storm!" resumed the girl. "One
might really fancy one saw the surface shudder with terror as the
lightnings flash down. And yet they can go on dancing and fiddling in
the tavern on the little island yonder. They must be a godless set."

"They will soon leave off," said the mother, "it will be too bad even
for them. No human being is so hardened but what the hour comes when he
hearkens if God warns him. But let us come in. The drops that fall are
large as hazel-nuts."

"Look, mother," said the daughter holding her back, "there is something
not right going on there. The door of the tavern is suddenly thrown
open--people are rushing out--there is a girl in their midst--something
flashes like a sword-blade--listen! they are quarrelling--oh, what wild
unruly creatures!"

The thunder now paused, and a sound of angry voices as well as of
breaking glass was plainly audible, while a single clarionet,
undisturbed by all the noise and confusion, went shrilly on playing gay
dancing tunes.

"I would give a hundred crowns," said Frau Helena with brows knit, "if
that sink of iniquity yonder were removed from the town. I really might
be driven to think of changing my house in my old days, merely to
escape hearing and seeing such things as these."

"And just at this sweetest of all hours," interposed the girl, "when
everything else is so peaceful, and one might for once dream and think
at will. Just look, they are all crossing the bridge now. For God's
sake--why they are actually fighting--one is being pushed against the
railings--the woman throws herself between them--his arms are free
again--if they should push him into the river--"

"Come, that is enough," said the mother authoritatively, "now let us go
in. It is no sight for Christians to gaze at when men attack each other
more cruelly than wild beasts would do. Just read me the evening lesson
and then we will go to bed."

A brilliant flash now suddenly lit up the houses by the side of the
Aar, the tavern on the island, and the high sweltering current of the
river.

For a moment the dark group massed on the narrow bridge was distinctly
seen: a tall youth with a red feather in his cap in their midst,
struggling against them, with only a woman with white head-gear on his
side. The clash of swords was heard, and a shrill female cry for help,
and then with a terrific thunder-clap like the fall of some mighty
tower, the clouds sent down sheets of rain, darkness swallowed up the
wild doings on the bridge, and nothing remained visible but the red
light in the window of the island tavern.

The two women had retreated into the house horrified, and while the
mother slowly walked up and down the carpeted floor, Lisabethli sat at
the table, her hands folded on the open book before her, and her eyes
fixed upon a large nosegay which stood in a beautiful Venetian glass, a
present from her godfather on this her birthday. As to reading, that
was not to be thought of, the thunder would have drowned her voice;
still less was sleep possible, for the scene of violence was too
vividly present to her mind. She kept listening intently for what might
be going on without. "Oh God!" she almost unconsciously prayed, "have
pity upon them all, and let no harm be done!" Just then another flash
shone through the window and the door which had been left ajar that the
fresh night-air might enter the room, and she fancied that she saw a
shadow on the upper terrace show through the pane for one moment, and
then vanish. "Mother," she faintly called out, "let us lock the door,
someone has climbed over the wall, and--"

She could not end her sentence, for the door was pushed open and a man
rushed into the room. "For the sake of God's mercy," cried he, sinking
half from exhaustion, half in the attitude of entreaty at the knees of
Frau Helena. "Whoever you be, noble lady, save an innocent man! They
are on my track. Where--where--" and he looked around, and with
blood-stained hands pushed his dripping hair from his eyes. "Where can
I hide myself! What can I say to move your heart to pity? If you knew
how it had all come about, how entirely without fault of mine I have
fallen into this horrible strait--am hunted down as a murderer--oh
noble maiden--" and he turned to the pale girl who gazed with a shudder
at the red feather in the stranger's cap; "if you have a brother who is
dear to you--who may perhaps at this moment be asking hospitality in
some strange land--implore your lady-mother not to thrust me out into
the night where Heaven knows what disgrace may overtake me. By the head
of your own son, noble lady--"

"Silence!" interrupted Frau Amthor in a hollow trembling tone, more
awful in the ears of the suppliant than the roar of the thunder.
Meanwhile she looked at him with such an absent far-away expression
that her daughter flew to support her in case she should swoon. But it
passed over.

"Close the terrace-door," she hastily said, leaning back in her chair,
"then call Valentin. But make haste! I seem to hear voices in the
garden below."

The young girl bolted the heavy door in the twinkling of an eye, and
hurried off. The stranger remained a moment or two alone with the
mother.

"You are saving my honour and liberty!" he stammered out, "perhaps my
life. But believe, noble lady, that what you do is not done for one
unworthy or reprobate, and my own mother, who would ransom the life of
her son with all she has, were he to fall among bandits, will in return
for your noble-hearted deed--"

"Not another word," broke in the matron, "what I do is not done for
your sake. But you are bleeding," she suddenly said, and paused--her
glance falling upon a spot on his shoulder where great drops were
oozing through his black silk doublet.

"It is nothing," returned he, hastily pressing his glove on the place.
"I hardly feel it. Would to God that the blow I dealt in return may not
be more dangerous! But I fear--"

Lisabethli now returned with the old servant. "Valentin," said the
lady, "take this stranger gentleman to the upper story, and then see
him to bed--in the room--you know which. No one is to know that he is
in the house. I will give my own instructions to Donate. You understand
how to foment. Look to the gentleman's wounds; there is linen in the
cupboard; there are shirts in the press---he is to be treated _as
though he were my own son_. Go--I hear footsteps."

They all listened with beating hearts. In spite of the noise of the
rain, voices were audible in the garden. The next moment the old
servant had pushed the stranger out of the room, and mother and
daughter were alone.

"My child," said the mother, "go for a time downstairs to Donate. I
shall have to lie, and I would not that your ears should hear me."

"Mother," returned the girl, "I pray you to let me remain with you. I
should die of terror down there. Never believe that anything you do can
seem wrong in my eyes; and you are doing it to save a human life."

Meanwhile there were three knocks at the bolted door. "In the name of
the law, open," a deep voice called out.

"Who knocks at this late hour?" returned Frau Amthor, and her voice
sounded as unconstrained as though nothing had happened.

"The sergeant, with the train band," was the reply. "Open, or we burst
the door."

"Go, Lisabethli," said the lady in so loud a tone that every word was
audible without. "I must say that customs are changing in our old town
of Berne: the idea of the watch breaking into a peaceable private
dwelling in the dark night-time! I hope you have some satisfactory
explanation to give of this visit of yours, sergeant," this in a
majestic tone to the intruder, "you know who I am, and that my house is
not likely to contain any disreputable character whom the bailiffs are
after."

The sergeant who had cast a hasty glance all round the room, now stood
confounded opposite the lofty figure of the matron, and his eyes fell
before the steady gaze of hers. "Forgive me, Frau Amthor," he mumbled,
while he beckoned to his followers to stay where they were, and kept
awkwardly turning the handle of his dagger round and round. "We are on
the track of a dangerous fellow who has taken part in riotous,
murderous doings on the island yonder. When I and my men were
approaching the tavern the people in it saw him flying in this
direction, leaping over hedges and walls, and we traced his foot-marks
to your garden, and even found one of his gloves below the window.
Therefore I held it to be my duty--"

"To break into my house as though it were a likely refuge for
murderers," interposed the matron, looking at him with so undaunted a
gaze that the bearded man stared down at the carpet much embarrassed by
the wet foot-prints he had left on its pattern. "Go your way," she
continued, "and be more careful another time at what door you knock.
To-morrow I shall go to the Town Council and lay a complaint before
them about their endurance of the disorder and riot that goes on on the
island, exposing even the quietest householder in the neighbourhood to
an invasion of the watch by night on a charge of unlawful concealment!"

The sergeant would fain have broken out into further apologies, but an
imperative gesture of the lady, in the direction of the door, prevented
his uttering a word. He retired with head sunk low, and had scarcely
crossed the threshold, when Lisabethli shot the bolts after him, and
then sunk down on a seat, with a deep-drawn sigh, so much had the short
scene affected her.

"Remain here," said the mother after a pause. "Light a taper for me. I
will go upstairs."

"Dearest mother," pleaded the girl timidly, "would you not
rather-- Indeed you are too pale--it will distress you too much."

Frau Helena made no reply, but taking the light out of her hand, left
the room with face rigidly set, as though no worse thing could happen
to her. She was a sternly virtuous woman, a proud woman, who had always
felt too much self-respect to condescend to a lie. Now she had degraded
herself in her own estimation and in the presence of her child, and
this for the sake of a stranger who had no other claim to such a
sacrifice than that of having adjured her by her deepest grief.

The door through which she had passed remained half open, and
Lisabethli could hear with what slow and heavy steps she went up the
stairs, and how often she rested on the way, as though needing to
gather breath and courage for the painful entrance into her lost son's
room, which she had not visited for years.

"He is in a swoon," said old Valentin, meeting her on the threshold. "I
have bound up his wounds, but as I was putting a clean shirt on him he
fell lifeless from under my hands. I will fetch some cold water: there
is no danger--it is only faintness from loss of blood."

He hurried down stairs, and the lady entered the room.

There lay the stranger on the bed, his eyes closed, his mouth half open
from pain, and showing his white teeth. His light hair still dripping
with blood and rain, was pushed back from his pale brow. His cap and
silken doublet lay on the ground, as well as the blood-soaked shirt
which the old servant had replaced by a clean one. Frau Helena trembled
all over when she saw this stranger clothed in the fine linen she
herself had spun for her son, and marked with his initials. That she
might avoid seeing anything else in the room, she fixed her eyes on the
young face that in spite of its deadly pallor had a boyish, harmless,
good-natured expression. She saw at once from his clothing that he was
the son of respectable parents, and the tone in which he had implored
her to save him, still rung pathetically in her ears. A motherly
feeling overcame her, and great tears rolled down her faded face.

Then the old servant returned with a pitcher of cold water, and
prepared to wash the temples of the unconscious youth. "Leave that to
me," said his mistress, taking the sponge out of his hand. "Bring the
best vinegar out of the side-board, and a flask of our old wine. When
he comes to himself he will need a cordial." Then she washed the blood
out of his hair, and held the ice-cold sponge to his lips. This brought
him round: he opened his eyes, and on seeing the noble lady who had
saved him bending over his couch, he tried to sit up and speak to her.
But she gently constrained him to lie down again, and to let her go on
with her ministrations. "I am better already," he gasped out, while he
took hold of her hand to carry it to his lips. "O how much you are
doing for me! And you do not know me, and must think ill of me. Let me
just tell you how it all came about."

"Not another word to-night," interposed the lady, gently laying her
hand on his lips. "You have lost too much blood to exert yourself
safely. I leave you in the care of my old servant who will sit up with
you. I hope that you will get some sleep, and to-morrow be on the way
to recovery. Good night."

She left the room without casting a look around at any of the things
that evoked such bitter memories. But as soon as she found herself in
the dark lobby, she leant her head against the wall, and sobbed in
secret. This burst of grief lasted but a few minutes, then she raised
her head again, and with her usual lofty bearing went down to her
daughter. "Valentin thinks that there is no danger," she said. "Let us
go to our rest."

"Mother," asked the girl, "do you believe that he is a murderer? There
is something about him that seems as if he would not hurt the meanest
thing that lives, let alone a fellow creature."

"Yet on the other hand how did he get to that tavern on the island?"
said the mother, as if speaking to herself.

"Because he was a stranger," hastily broke in the daughter. "He does
not speak the German of Switzerland. Did you not notice that, mother
dear?"

"It is useless to theorise about it," abruptly replied Frau Amthor.
"Come to bed, child, the storm has passed over."

And so after the daughter had read the evening prayers, they went to
their rest. But it was long after midnight before either of them closed
an eye. Lisabethli kept constantly seeing before her the true-hearted
terror-stricken gaze of the stranger, when he appealed to her to help
to soften her mother's heart, the blood on his forehead, the red
feather in his cap, while the scream of the woman who threw herself
between the combatants on the bridge, still sounded in her ears. Frau
Helena for her part was listening anxiously to what went on overhead.
For the room where the wounded man lay was immediately above her
chamber, and she thought of all the nights she had lain awake till
morning expecting the return of Andreas from his orgies, and how when
at length she heard his unsteady step, she used to turn on her pillow,
not to sleep, but to shed bitter tears. Now everything was silent
enough, only from time to time Valentin gave a short cough. The poor
lady sat up in bed, and tried to pray; "Oh Lord God," so ran her
prayer; "let him in foreign lands meet a mother to stand by him in all
time of need; and if no one will have pity on him, let him find his way
back to his own mother, that I may not die before I have once more held
his hand in mine."


                           *   *   *   *   *


The morning was just breaking pale and cloudy through the small round
panes, when Frau Helena left her room, and hastily dressed herself.
"Sleep another hour," said she to Lisabethli, who at once bestirred
herself too. "I will just go upstairs, and see how our guest is
faring."

The girl, however, had no wish for further rest. Very quietly she too
rose and dressed, and crept on tip-toe after her mother. On the stair
she met Donate carrying a small tray. "He has not made much of his
breakfast," said the faithful old servant. "Fearfully weak he still is,
and his hand shakes so if he tries to hold the spoon. But for the rest
a very fine handsome creature, and I would rather bite my tongue out
than betray him."

The young girl made no reply, but went on to the top of the staircase.
Once there, as the door had been left ajar, she could see the stranger
lying in bed, but raising his head a little to greet Frau Helena, who
was bending over him and enquiring how he had slept.

"I really hardly know, noble lady," answered the youth. "My faithful
watcher there will be better able to tell you whether I was quiet or
talked nonsense and threw my hands and feet about. But I dreamed a
great deal, and such lovely dreams--nothing in them of blood or wounds.
And this morning when I came to myself it gave me a sudden stab in the
heart to think how I must have alarmed you last night, and that you do
not even know to whom you have been so unspeakably kind. Nay,"
continued he, seizing hold of her hand on seeing that she was again
going to impose silence, "I will not let you go, even though it should
be better for me to remain four-and-twenty hours without speaking. It
makes me wild to lie here and let that good Samaritan, and yourself
above all, feel that you are wasting your time and trouble upon a
fellow who better deserves to lie on the straw of a hospital amongst
brawlers and swashbucklers whom the beadle picks up half-dead on the
streets. I owe my present plight to my greenness and presumption,
having always held that with a good conscience and good courage, nobody
need fear to face the devil. My father has often enough shaken his head
at me warningly and said, 'Touch not pitch if thou wilt keep clean
hands; and don't mix with wolves if thou dost not mean to howl with
them.' And when I left Augsburg how my mother charged me only to enter
respectable houses and keep good company! The egg, however, thought
itself wiser than the hen. For you see, noble lady, I am naturally a
restless sort of a fellow, and beautiful as my native town is, and
cheerful too at times, I found it too confined, and wanted to see the
world, Switzerland more especially, because I had heard so much of it
from my father. He served his apprenticeship here in Berne in the house
of the rich master-clothier, Aufdembühel, whom you doubtless know.
Afterwards he settled in Augsburg, and married my mother and set up a
great fabric of his own; and yet he has always thought fondly of
Berne, so that when I told him my wish to visit it he made no
objection. I almost think he had some idea of a daughter-in-law from
that house, which suited my notions too, for I have grown to the age of
five-and-twenty in Augsburg, and all the blue and brown, eyes there
have left me scathless. And so for about a fortnight I rode southward
in highest spirits, and crossed the beautiful Lake of Constance in a
boat, and last evening when it was getting rather late I came through
the gates by the bear-pits, thinking no evil; but I did not like to
come down at once upon Herr Aufdembühel, bag and baggage as they say,
so put up my horse at the 'Stork,' and then set out strolling about the
town to take a general survey of it, as I always do on first getting to
any new place. Yesterday, however, it was unfortunate that I did not
first of all have a meal at the inn. For owing to the long ride and
great sultriness while the storm was gathering, I suddenly became
intolerably thirsty, and felt that I should turn to tinder unless I
could get a draught of wine. I was looking about me, therefore, for a
tavern, just as I passed the one on the island where I heard music and
dancing going on, and I asked a well-dressed burgher whether one could
get tolerable wine there. 'The wine was good enough,' he said, 'much
better than the company. If he were to judge me by my dress he should
say I should not find people of my own class there.' 'I would go into a
stable full of cows and goats,' I laughingly replied, 'if I could find
red wine in one of the milk-pails.' And there I left my worthy,
standing, looking rather anxiously after me, and crossed the bridge to
the tavern.

"When I opened the door, however, I saw that my friend had not
cautioned me for nothing, and that in a stable with brute beasts I
should have found better manners and customs than there. Whether it be
a haunt of thieves I cannot say, but most of the people looked to me as
if they had narrowly escaped the gallows, or were on the high way
thither, men and women both, and when I entered they nudged each other
with surprise. But I who did not like to show the white feather, and
held that a stranger might safely do what an inhabitant of the place
could not, boldly seated myself in a corner, and ordered a measure of
wine. And as I kept quiet, they seemed to be getting used to me, at
least most of them had either drunk themselves stupid, or else were
taken up with their female companions. Amongst the last class, was one
better dressed, and with hair neater than the others, but a bold hussy
like the rest. She neither danced nor sang, nor seemed to care for
drink. She sat on the knee of a tall strong man, whose clothes looked
as if they had originally been good, but were now stained with rain and
wine. His face too might once have been handsome, before he got the red
scar across his forehead, or his red eyelids and straggling beard. I
could not help watching the pair--he throwing down the dice
disdainfully, as though good or bad luck were all the same to him, and
when he won giving a push to the girl to collect the money, whereupon
she would take a long dagger that lay on the table, and with the bare
blade just sweep the coins to one side as if they were so much dirt.
Neither of them spoke a word, while their partners--rough young churls
with red faces and glassy eyes--cursed freely in Spanish and French,
and struck the table with their clenched fists. The girl seemed at
length to tire of the game, and looking round her with a yawn, chanced
to spy me out for the first time, for when I entered she was dozing on
the man's shoulder. I suppose my dress took her fancy, or the ring on
my finger; suffice it to say that she began to cast meaning glances at
me, and to make signs with her hand behind her lover's back, which I
neither understood nor attended to, but gulped down my wine the more
quickly that I might slip away, when all of a sudden she sprang from
the knee of the gloomy gambler, and seated herself on the bench beside
me as if intending to sleep, but in reality she kept ogling me all the
time. The man with the scar seemed aware of something wrong, for he
loudly called to her in French to come back at once, but she pretended
to be asleep, and not to hear him. At that he started up in a rage and
bade me go my ways at once--said he had seen me making signals to the
girl, and luring her from his lap. I who was inwardly furious at his
brutality, put on a careless semblance, and said that no one had a
right to bid me leave, that I was interfering with nobody, and paying
for my wine like the rest. At that he grew frantic, dragged the girl
from the bench, and called out to the host to know why he did not keep
his house clear of suspicious characters who only came to spy, called
me all sorts of opprobrious names, and when the girl took my part,
seized hold of my doublet, and tore my collar. I saw now pretty plainly
what I had brought upon myself, for all the rest of the gamblers joined
in the outcry, and the landlord, who got his livelihood through men of
that class, and did not want decent customers, rudely told me that I
was out of place in a house like his where people knew their manners.
'Very good,' I said, 'I will no longer disturb you.' I threw my money
on the table and moved away. But as I was opening the door, the girl
suddenly clung to me and begged me to take her with me for a walk, as
she was sick of the company. '_Allez-vous-en_,' cried I. '_Je ne veux
pas de vous_,' and what else of bad French I could muster. Just then
the storm began, and the uproar within got worse and worse, for the
lover wanted to tear her away, and the others screamed and stormed, and
she clung to me like a wild cat to a tree, and I could not help
thinking in my anger and vexation, 'What if thy good mother saw thee?'
Then came so dazzling a flash, that even those rude beings were quieted
for a moment, the music stopped, and the landlady put up a sort of
prayer. I took advantage of this interval to shake off my troublesome
fair one, and slip out of the house. But while I was on the bridge,
thanking God for having got off with only a black eye, the whole
of them rushed out upon me with drawn blades, and had they not been
half-drunk, my last hour would inevitably have struck! The French
girl too came to my aid, and when she saw her lover--the man with the
scar--drive his dagger into my shoulder, she yelled like a maniac,
pushed me against the railing, and covered me with her own body.
Meanwhile, seeing my life was at stake, I drew out my short sword, and
laid about me so lustily, that all fell back with the exception of my
chief foe who was maddened with jealousy and wine. He actually ran in
upon my sword, gave a roar like a bull, and then fell speechless on his
face. Instantly all was so still one only heard the thunder and
the rush of the river. But then came two flashes and showed us the
train-band marching towards the island. 'Get him into the boat,' said
one of the fellows to another. 'He is already in,' was the reply; 'the
best way were to throw him into the river.' Meanwhile they had caught
hold of the whimpering girl, and were pushing her off by the shoulders.
'_Allons, depêchez-vous_,' she cried. '_Voilà les gendarmes! On nous
attrapera tous._' And then there was such a rush along the narrow
bridge that no one took any notice of me, and under cover of the
darkness and pelting rain I made my escape. The rest, you know, noble
lady. And now just picture to yourself my fate if Heaven had not
touched your heart, if you had refused me your protection. Indelible
disgrace must have attached to me as a brawler, if not as a murderer;
found in a disreputable house; no worthy man to bear witness to my
innocence, and Herr Aufdembühel, instead of writing word to my father
that he rejoiced to renew their old friendship by welcoming his son,
would but have come to see me in prison, and have shaken his head
incredulously over my self-justification, whereas I read in your eyes
that you do not hold me an empty liar, but feel compassion for my
reckless youth, and will not withdraw your hand from me."

After this impetuous narrative, which evidently excited him much, the
youth sank back on his pillows with a deep sigh, and closed his
eyelids. "Be of good cheer," said Frau Helena, her black eyes moist
with tears. "You shall want for nothing under my roof, and since I have
had you laid in this bed, I should look upon you as my son, even if
everything about you did not assure me that I might give credence to
your words. Valentin thinks that in about a week you may be able to
rise. Till then I shall only ask one thing from you, to be a tractable
patient, and not through impatience or anxiety to retard your recovery.
If you wish, as you cannot move your arm, I will write word to your
mother how you are, and that she need fear no danger for you."

"Oh, my gracious hostess," cried the youth, catching hold of the sleeve
of her dress and pressing it to his lips; "you are indeed like a mother
to me, for you offer of your own accord what I scarcely dared ask. And
yet I know what a favour you will be conferring upon my dear mother.
For indeed both parents are now sitting anxiously together like two
birds in a nest whose young one has just taken his first flight, and I
had promised to send them tidings as soon as I reached my journey's
end. But now, if you are good enough to write to Frau Martina Brucker,
Augsburg, will you make light of my hurt and keep back from her the way
I got it, until I can send her a circumstantial account. For she is
very easily frightened, and as I am her only child, she has always
taken as much care of me as though I were a girl, and hitherto I have
tried to give her as little uneasiness as possible. If she were to know
what a scrape her Kurt got into on the very first night of his arrival
at Berne, she would not have an hour's peace until she could get him
out of this dangerous atmosphere. But you will see at once what to do.
You will know perfectly what to say to a mother so as to comfort even
more than alarm her."

He grew so pale while uttering these last words, that Valentin hurried
to the bed-side with a cordial, and gave his mistress plainly to
understand that her interview had been too long. So after a few further
directions, she crept softly out on tip-toe, and in the lobby came upon
Lisabethli.

"You have been listening?" said she sternly.

"Dearest mother, forgive me," returned her child. "I could not help it.
I needs must know how it all happened. God be praised and thanked--I
was right--he is innocent."

"Come down, child, you have nothing to do up here. Should any one call
I am engaged. I must sit down at once and write to his mother."


                           *   *   *   *   *


But nevertheless a visitor came whom neither Donate could send away,
nor Lisabethli receive alone. It was no other than the chief sergeant,
the greatest man in the town next to the mayor, and distantly related
to Frau Helena. He came on the part of the Town Council to apologise
for the intrusion of the previous night, and also to say that the
disorders on the island should now be effectually put a stop to by the
closing of the tavern, which had long been a thorn in the side of the
civic authorities. As to the savage doings of yesterday evening, a
mystery lay over them which up to the present hour no one had been able
to penetrate. Both combatants had disappeared as completely as though
the earth had swallowed them up, their bloody traces had been washed
away by the heavy rain, and nothing was known of their names or their
antecedents. Only a boat usually fastened to the bridge had been found
two or three miles from the town keel uppermost, and the landlord of
the Stork stated that a horse had been left in his stable last evening,
whose rider had never made his appearance since.

During this communication Frau Helena had often changed colour, but did
not utter a syllable which could have betrayed her secret knowledge,
nay, she was even careful not to speak a word of any kind, as it must
needs have been at least indirectly untrue. As soon as she was alone
again, she wrote to Frau Martina Brucker in Augsburg, judiciously
keeping back all that might have made her uneasy as to her son's
conduct, and concluding by a cordially expressed promise to nurse
him as a real mother might, since she--this she added with silent
tears--was not so favoured by Heaven as to have her own son under her
roof.

This letter she herself took in the afternoon to the post, accompanied
by her daughter, without whom, indeed, she seldom left the house.
Neither of them said a word about their hidden guest, and yet neither
thought of anything else. So it was in the evening too when they
silently sat at their spinning wheels. It was only when Donate came in
at a late hour to announce that the fever was higher, the patient
unable to sleep, and delirious, calling constantly for his mother, and
wanting to get up and ride off homewards, that they held a council as
to whether it was any longer possible or justifiable not to call in a
chirurgeon, but trust to the skill and experience of old Valentin, who
had served half his time as apprentice to a leech before Herr Amthor
took him into his service. At last Frau Helena went up herself to
inspect the wound. There was nothing in its aspect to alarm, and the
old man assured her that the rambling, Donate had been frightened by,
merely resulted from the full-bloodedness of youth, and that in
four-and-twenty hours all danger would be perfectly over. Frau Helena
knew that her faithful servant was accustomed to weigh his words before
he spoke positively. She stood for a while by the side of the feverish
sufferer, who did not know her, but when he felt the touch of her hand
called her "mother," and then with a sudden brightness in his face
began to talk to her in a tone of affectionate confidence, telling her
she was not to suppose he had set his heart on Herr Aufdembühel's
daughter--that she knew he would never marry unless he found some one
like her. Then he would break out into French, as if violently
remonstrating with the bold girl of the tavern, telling her not to hang
about his neck, since though she might stain his doublet with wine, she
could not ogle the ring off his finger--and all sorts of delirious
fancies. To all which the judicious matron listened attentively, for
she well knew men, and was silently touched by the evidence thus
afforded of a good and innocent nature. She felt her motherly
partiality for the young stranger grow hour by hour, till she was
almost angry that this youth should assert a claim to a place in her
heart, long entirely filled by sorrow for her lost one.

The night was again restless, and so was the day. But just as Valentin
had foretold, on the third night came a refreshing sleep, and when Frau
Helena paid her morning visit to her guest, he looked at her with clear
intelligent eyes, and even tried to move his wounded arm, which was
still helpless, but going on as well as possible. The lady shook her
head lovingly at him, and bade him not play any pranks, or fancy
himself well before the time, and the youth, although in the highest
spirits, gravely assured her that he would be passive as an unweaned
child. But that very evening, as mother and daughter were sitting in
their saloon by candlelight, and Lisabethli practising some foreign
tune upon the spinett, there came a knock at the door, and in answer to
a somewhat nervous "Come in,"--for the ladies were not accustomed to
such late visitors--their young guest appeared leaning on the arm of
Valentin, who by silent shrugs, gave them to understand that this was
no doing of his, and that he washed his hands of the consequences of
such imprudence. Kurt, however, over whose pale cheeks a flush of
pleasure passed at this escape from the sick room, gaily and gracefully
bent his knee before the grave matron, and prayed her forgiveness for
having ventured once more to stand on his own feet contrary to her
command. He only wanted to wish his benefactress good-night, and to
thank the young lady too, whom he had not seen since that terrible
evening, for the trouble she had taken in making lint and sewing
bandages together. It was impossible to resist his lively cordial
manner: and even Lisabethli, who had been more startled by his
unexpected appearance on this occasion than on the first, soon regained
her natural ease and replied playfully and intelligently to his
friendly talk. At a signal from her mother she brought in a tray of
fruit and pastry, and their guest who had fasted for some days (first,
however, asking and obtaining leave from Valentin), was soon biting
with his white teeth into the juicy early pears.

"Noble lady," he said, "I cannot describe to you how pleasant it is to
me to find myself at this table. When I first saw your lights shine
from the terrace below, and directed my fugitive steps hither, how
little I dreamed that I should ever sit here safely and happily, and
that you would be so very kind to me! You must know that I am a
thoroughly spoilt child, and on my journey here, much as I enjoyed the
freedom and novelty of it, yet in the wretched hostelries, spite of
good food and fiery wine, I used to long for the clean tablecloth laid
by our maid at home for our simple fare. I never ventured to sleep in
any of their beds without spreading my cloak over the sheets. Now here
I find everything just as it is at my own mother's--only better
appointed--and that there I have to be son and daughter in one, while
here I sit merely on sufferance, because, as my old friend tells me,
your son is on his travels, while a daughter is left to you such as my
mother has long vainly wished for."

At these words the old servant slipped away, for this reference to the
absent son distressed him, but Lisabethli came to her mother's rescue.
"Often," she playfully observed, "did people wish themselves a cross,
and if her mother would be candid, she would admit that she not seldom
found herself desiring better companionship than that of a silly little
daughter, her head full of freaks and fancies, who strummed on the
spinet half the day through, roasted the meat too brown, and made the
soup too light, and cost more than she was worth in ribands and
tuckers." At this the mother with a faint smile, observed that the
picture was certainly like, though somewhat darkly shaded; but that
even were it a correct one, each must accept the punishment Heaven
adjudged him. And so saying her face grew very sad, for she thought
that in her case this was but too true. The young people, however, paid
no attention, but went on chatting in the liveliest manner, and
becoming so thoroughly at home with each other that they felt like old
acquaintances; and when Lisabethli had risen from her instrument after
playing three or four national airs to their guest, the minster tower
struck twelve before any of them knew that they had been more than an
hour together.

There is little to record about the following days and evenings, except
that both the young people, and even the mother, daily thought the time
longer until--the house-door being barred and bolted--they were able to
receive their guest in safety, and chat half the night away in the
cheerful, well-lit sitting-room. They seemed to fall into this state of
things as if it always had been and must always continue, and the very
fact of having a secret to keep and a peril to avert, gave to these
innocent meetings an excitement and a charm against which even Frau
Helena herself was not quite proof. She was wise enough, however, to
foresee that there was another danger besides that of the discovery of
her hidden guest and of her own untruth. Lisabethli, who until the
present time had very seldom, and only for short periods, been in the
company of young men, had already spent eleven days under the same roof
with this stranger; and if, since she had fathomed his candid and
upright nature, the mother had learnt to love him, was it not expecting
too much to suppose the daughter blind to all his gifts and virtues?
He, indeed, confidential and friendly as he was, appeared to have taken
good care of his own heart, and in all the unchecked playfulness of
their talk throughout the long evenings, not a word escaped his lips
that sounded other than brotherly in its tone. But if it were really
so, if this bird of passage had no thought of nest-building, it would
be all the worse for the child, and a mother's duty was to put an end
to it at once. She blamed her own weakness and inability to remind her
guest (who was really now quite able to travel) of the journey he no
longer seemed anxious to take. She felt how much she should miss him,
when she had him no longer to expend her motherly care upon, and no
more heard his frank loving voice call her "lady-mother," or even vie
with her little daughter in devising pet names for her. Then, too, she
had a sense of the ungraciousness and unfitness of hastening a guest's
departure. And so she was glad and sorry both, when a letter arrived
from Augsburg, written by his parents, who at its close enjoined their
son not to trespass too long upon the hospitality of the noble lady to
whom he owed his life, but to set out as soon as ever his wound was
healed and journey homewards; as so only could his anxious mother be
fully convinced that he was really out of danger, and that the
punishment of his recklessness had been on this occasion a lenient one.

When young Kurt had read out this letter to his two friends, not a word
was spoken by any of the three for a long time, and afterwards the talk
turned only on grave or indifferent subjects. For the sense of this
being their last evening was heavy upon the hearts of all, though none
chose to confess it. After midnight--when he had left them--mother and
daughter went on sitting up, pretending to have something to do, for
neither felt able to sleep. Then Lisabethli left the room to give some
last directions to Donate. On her return she held a sheet of paper in
her hand, and her face was as white as the paper.

"Dear mother," she stammered out, "Donate has just given me this. It is
from _him_. Will you read it."

"Read it yourself," said her mother, "there can be no harm in it."

"Oh mother," whispered the girl, "I cannot see to read it. There is a
cloud before my eyes--I know that it is a farewell!"

"Give it me," said Frau Helena. "He asks you," she said, after a pause,
"whether you have any objection to his applying to me for my consent to
give you to him. He does this in writing because if you do not love
him, which he fears is but too likely, as you have always seemed so
cheerful and unconcerned--he would prefer not to see you again, but to
set out without any leave-taking, and take his unhappy heart as far as
possible from hence."

The girl did not answer, and her mother too was silent. Suddenly Frau
Helena felt her child's arms around her neck, her tears on her cheek,
while her soft little mouth whispered in her ear. "I should have died,
dearest mother, if he had not loved me." Then her mother took her upon
her knee as she had not done since she was a child, pressed her closely
to her heart, and said with trembling voice, "God bless you, my good
children: you have to make up to me for much."

That night no one closed an eye till morning, when they snatched an
hour or two, and the daughter, who woke first, glad as she was that her
mother should have more rest, could yet hardly wait patiently until she
rose and went to return an answer to the young lover's letter.

When Frau Helena went upstairs, she found her guest--who had like
herself only closed his eyes a short time before--fast asleep, and so
she sat by his bedside contemplating the good innocent countenance that
beamed with hope and happiness even in its sleep. But as still he did
not wake, she called him by his name. At that he started, and in his
confusion could find no words, especially as he did not know what she
would say to his letter. But though her face remained grave, her words
at once gave him comfort and confidence. "Dear son," said she, "you
must not remain here any longer. After what you have written to my
child, it would not be fitting that I should persuade you to go on
accepting our well-meant though poor hospitality. As soon as you are
ready to set out we must part, and Valentin will let you out at the
garden door, from whence you must make your way to the 'Stork,' and
there get your horse, explaining your long absence in the most credible
way you can. And further I must insist that you do not before your
departure say a word to my daughter that might not be spoken to a
stranger. She loves you dearly, and I may truly say that I could wish
nothing more than to have so worthy a son, since my own son," and here
she sighed from the depths of her heart, "is alas! lost to me, as I
shall tell you later. But I do not choose your parents to think that
after nursing you here we have taken advantage of your gratitude to
procure a husband for my daughter; and you yourself, when you go off
and mix with the world again, may wonder at the especial charm you
found in my simple child, when she was your only companion. Therefore
you must part without one binding word on either side, and thus my
child, too, will have time to examine her young heart, and to find out
whether compassion and the interest of an adventure may not have
produced an illusory belief that you are her Heaven-appointed
bridegroom. If when you have spoken to your parents and obtained their
consent you are still of the same mind as now, you can let us know by
letter or in person, and God will then give his blessing if this
marriage be really made in Heaven. And now, dear son, I leave you, and
shall expect you at breakfast, for you shall not leave my house fasting
and unrefreshed, although I must still impose abstinence upon your
yearning heart."

She rose and pressed a mother's kiss on the brow of the youth, who had
listened in speechless rapture. But if he drew from this token of
affection any hope that she would not be so stern as to prevent him
pressing his loved maiden to his heart once at least before they
parted, he did not know the strong character of this mother, in whose
nature severity and tenderness were strangely blended. The farewell had
to take place exactly in the manner prescribed, and if Lisabethli had
not in reaching out her hand given him a look that was one long
confession of the deepest love and fidelity, he might have gone away,
not in joyous hope, but in uncertainty as to whether or not he had
found a heart that was his for life and death. He left a ring on the
table of his room, wrapped in paper, with just one line to the mother.
"Will you keep this token for me till you allow me to offer it to your
child." As to Valentin and Donate, he rewarded their care so liberally
that in their amazement they came to tell Frau Helena that Herr Kurt
must surely have made some mistake. But when they saw the traces of
tears in Lisabethli's eyes, they silently went their way, and began to
put many things together.

This was about noon, when most persons were at home, and Kurt could go
through Frau Amthor's garden-gate with least risk of being observed.
Some hours passed by without the mother and daughter opening their lips
even to speak on indifferent subjects. They were more occupied with
each other than ever, and showed it in a hundred little loving ways,
only they hardly dared to allow their eyes to meet, for each had a
secret to keep. When the day got cooler, the mother was just going to
invite her child, who was walking alone in the garden, to put on her
hat and take a turn with her through the town, when Valentin suddenly
appeared with an anxious visage, and hastily announced that the chief
sergeant, who had paid his mistress a visit twelve days before, now
requested to know whether she was at home. He had something, he said,
of importance and urgency to communicate. Frau Helena--whose first idea
was some fresh imprudence on the part of Kurt--had just time to make a
sign to Valentin, enjoining silence towards Lisabethli, when in came
the stately dignitary, looking far more solemn and mysterious than he
had done on the former occasion, and requesting a private interview.
After she had led him into a small study, where he took his seat facing
her, coughed several times, and re-arranging the tags on his dress, he
began in evident embarrassment to address her as follows:--

"I need not to premise, worthy Frau Amthor, how not only your family
and house, but also your own character are held in honour by every
person, public or private, in our good town, and your virtues, as well
at the name and memory of your departed husband, looked up to as a
Christian example. It is, therefore, the universal wish to keep sorrow
far from you, and to offer you whatever consolation lies within human
power for such trial as Heaven has appointed. It will not have escaped
you that all as by common consent have long avoided touching the wound
that your son's conduct has inflicted, and I indeed as your friend and
relative, should have been especially bound never to name your lost
Andreas in your presence, if my official duty had not required me so to
do. Will you, therefore, not render my painful duty still harder to me
by suppression or evasion, but openly tell me what accounts of your son
you have lately had, and where you have reason to believe him now to
be?"

"If you ask me thus earnestly," replied the mother, without betraying
either in look or tone how fast her heart was beating; "I must, alas!
return you for answer, that it will be four years next All Saints'
since I saw my unhappy son for the last time, and that since then I
have had no manner of communication from him. But now let me enquire
what leads you and the rest of the Town-Council to make such enquiries
about the absent one who--whatever his offences may be--has at least
not given his native town any cause for complaint for a space of nine
years?"

The sergeant coughed again, and resumed after a pause, during which he
was evidently in search of the most appropriate words possible. "Hear
me out patiently, my worthy friend and relative, and do not be startled
if my communication should sound strange and alarming. Up to the
present time it is only a surmise which may--God grant it!--prove to be
entirely unfounded. You remember the night on which the train-band
intruded upon you, and the disorderly conduct on the island, respecting
which I waited upon you the following day, bearing the apologies of the
Council. The tavern which caused you so much annoyance, was closed at
once, and the scene of much nightly misdemeanour removed. Neither since
that night had any trace of the chief offenders been found, so that I
began to suspect the watchmen must have been bewildered with new wine,
and seen phantoms. But last evening, just as we were breaking up, a
young female was brought before us, who had gone to the sexton of St.
Ursula to request him to give private burial to a corpse then in her
room, since she feared--the fatal wound having been received in a
brawl--that she might else as a stranger in the place be held in some
way amenable to the law. The little money the girl possessed--she
seemed to be no better than a French courtesan, and could scarcely put
ten German words together--she had offered the sexton as a bribe for
secrecy, but when he, as his duty was, gave information of the death,
and took her with him to the Court, she seemed inspired with sudden
courage, and being thoroughly cross-examined by us, was yet able to
establish her innocence in this tragic matter. The dead man, who had
been her lover and brought her with him from Lyons, had on the night of
the storm picked a quarrel on the island with an unknown youth, and had
been stabbed by the latter during a struggle on the bridge. When the
train-band was seen approaching, she had just had time with the help of
two of their travelling companions, to get the unconscious man into a
boat, and to bring him to the obscure inn where they had arrived on the
previous day. The two other men seeing that there was nothing more to
be made, got themselves out of the scrape, but she had faithfully
tended the wounded man by night and day, and persuaded the host that he
was getting better, and would if secrecy were maintained reward him
liberally by-and-by. It was only when he had drawn his last breath that
she thought of herself with any anxiety, for during his illness she had
been obliged to spend all the money he had won at play, and the few
ornaments she had, she had sold to a Jew in hopes of getting him
quietly buried. As to her future maintenance, however, she continued
with brazen assurance, she should have no fear, as she was young
and--thank God!--not ugly, if only she were acquitted by us, and could
get to a country where people understood her. The dead man had, indeed,
treated her liberally as regarded dress, food, and presents, but she
had not had much pleasure with him, for he was of a sulky temper, and
not a thorough Frenchman, spite of his name. She rather thought he must
have been an Alsatian. He called himself Laporte, had travelled through
many lands, had served in the Dutch army, and was not fond of speaking
about his past. The idea of travelling in Switzerland occurred to him
when he had exhausted all his means. She had never found out whether he
had a treasure buried in this country, or friends who were in any way
bound to him, and at whose door he had only to knock in order to be set
on his legs again. This was the simple truth, and more she did not
herself know, and therefore could not tell us, even if she were put to
the torture.

"After this declaration of Fleurette,--which was the female's name--the
mayor ordered that the body should be moved from the inn (where as yet
the death had not transpired) to the hospital, and last night it was
borne upon a bier into the dead house, and a protocol was made previous
to the interment of the stranger--as such--close to the churchyard
wall. The foreign hussy was meanwhile confined for a season in the
tower of the hospital. When we betook ourselves this morning to the
dead house, and the inspector had given us his report, namely, that
the wound had been dealt by a German sword between the fourth and
fifth ribs, and that it was a marvel such a wound had been so long
survived--there came a judicial investigation of the clothes and few
effects found, the result of which in no way contradicted, but rather
confirmed, the young woman's statement. We found that in his commission
as officer in the Dutch army, he was entered as a Monsieur Laporte or
De la Porte; there were no other papers. The clerk had indeed already
finished the protocol, when the surgeon called our attention to a
seal-ring on the dead man's clenched left hand. It was a thick gold
ring of curious make, with a blood-red cornelian, and it was impossible
to get it off. But as I chanced--being fond of antiques--to bend down
closer with a candle in order to examine the style of it, I saw to my
surprise and horror, that it was exactly--but you must not be alarmed,
it may as I said be merely accidental--_exactly_ I repeat, like the
family arms of the Amthors, two beams supporting a cornice with an open
door in the middle and a star above. The candle shook in my hand, all
the more that at the same moment I saw in the pale bearded face, which
had at first seemed to me that of a perfect stranger, an expression--I
pray you, my good cousin, to forgive me if I pain you--an expression
such as I had seen on the dead face of my excellent and honoured
friend, your late husband, when on the day of his burial I stood for
the last time beside his open coffin."

The worthy man, having got so far in his narrative, made a pause,
during which he did not venture to look at the matron opposite him,
though indeed he could but poorly estimate the amount of the woe that
hung over her. He had no idea that the fate of both children might
depend on whether the stranger proved to be her own son or not.

"Be comforted, my beloved friend," he at length resumed, wiping away
the cold drops from his brow. "I have taken upon myself not to say a
word of this discovery to any one but the mayor, whom you know to be an
honourable man heartily devoted to your family. I asked him whether
this melancholy supposition had not better be buried in our hearts. It
is not probable, but yet it is possible, that a branch of the Amthors
may have migrated to foreign lands, there changed their name to Laporte
or De la Porte for the sake of convenience, retaining, however, the
family arms. As to that look in the dead face, which is a good deal
disfigured by a deep scar, I said nothing about it to him, as he had
declared he saw no likeness whatever to Andreas, whom he remembered to
have often met nine or ten years ago. Nevertheless he was of opinion
that so singular a coincidence ought not to remain a secret to you. If
indeed, contrary to all probability, it should prove to be your poor
son who has met with so tragical an end, no one would deny a mother the
bitter consolation of blessing to its eternal rest, the head she had
carried beneath her heart. Again, as regards official formalities, it
is unfitting that we should satisfy ourselves with the declaration of a
vagabond female, when we have the most convincing witness at hand; for
it may prove desirable hereafter, with regard to future demises,
inheritances, and the like, to have some certain knowledge to go upon.
Therefore I determined to come to you, to lay the whole case before
you, and persuade you, if I can, to pay a visit to the hospital--as
secretly as you will--in order to prevent all useless suspense or
suspicion."

So saying he rose and went to the window to give Frau Helena time to
collect herself and come to a decision. A quarter of an hour passed
away, during which nothing was audible in the small room but the
ticking of the great clock--a wedding present from Lisabethli's
grandfather to his daughter-in-law, bearing on its metal face the
family arms of the Amthors. Out of doors, too, all was still--nothing
to be heard but the cawing of a flight of rooks wending their way over
the terrace, or the muffled thud of an over-ripe apple on the grass.

At length the lady rose and approached her old and tried friend, who
met her rigid gaze with an expression of sorrowful sympathy. "I thank
you," she said, "for having come to me, and performed this painful duty
with so much consideration. Say to the highly respected mayor that I
shall find myself at about nine o'clock at the side-door of the
hospital, and should wish to be met there by some trustworthy person,
and this painful step concealed from all who might be likely to talk of
it. The rest I leave in God's hand--He will order it aright."

"I shall be there myself to meet you," replied the sergeant. "May our
Lord God strengthen your heart, and your frame, and grant us the
fulfilment of our hope that this may prove merely an accidental
coincidence!"

"Amen!" said Frau Helena in a hollow voice, in which was no hope
whatever.

Thereupon her visitor left her. As soon as she was alone she sank down
on her knees in the place where she had been standing, and waves of
anguish closed over her mother's heart.


                           *   *   *   *   *


It was already getting dusk, when her daughter's voice speaking in the
garden to old Donate, roused the mourner from her trance. Soon after
Lisabethli entered, and found her mother sitting at her desk, as though
evening had overtaken her at her accounts and letters.

"Dearest mother," said the girl, "he has sent me another letter--a boy
brought it to Donate; he wrote it as soon as he had got beyond the
gates, because you said he might write when far away. Will you read it?
He says that I am to be as sure of his truth as of your love, and that
nothing can ever part us but death."

She held the letter out to her mother, but the latter did not take it.
"Leave me alone, awhile, child," she replied. "I have got something to
think over."

The girl went away, happy to keep her treasure all to herself. The
mother remained an hour longer in the darkening room, absorbed in
darkest thoughts, through which pierced not one heavenly ray. She never
for a moment doubted that the ring on the finger of the dead man, was
the same that she had placed on the finger of her Andreas the first
time that he went to Holy Communion. As to any accident which had
transferred this ring to the hand of some one else, she never
entertained the idea. He who lay in the dead house of the hospital with
that sword-thrust in his breast was none other than her much-loved,
much-wept son. And he who had killed this son--in self-defence it is
true--was one to whom she had promised her daughter, who would probably
return in a few weeks as a happy bridegroom to the desolate house, and
with laughing face carry off her daughter, so that through him she
should be bereaved of both her children. She hated him at that moment,
she cursed the hour in which he entered her house, cursed her own
tongue that had promised him protection and ratified that promise with
a falsehood, when saving him from his pursuers. And yet the next moment
her heart recalled that curse, for in her mind's eye she saw again the
candid face of the innocent fugitive, heard his clear tones, remembered
her own words when she vowed to be a mother to him, and her daughter's
voice when she came to her on the previous evening with her letter, and
said, "I should have died, dearest mother, had he not loved me." She
knew her child, and that these words were not lightly spoken. She felt,
moreover, what she owed to this child, who had been for years defrauded
of her due share of maternal love. Would she not have cause of bitter
complaint against a brother who, after years of long wild wandering,
had only returned to his country to bring fresh misery on his mother's
head, and to destroy the whole happiness of his sister's life? "No,"
said the stronghearted woman, "it must not be. No one is guilty here
but I. I am the real cause of his miserable end, I with my foolish
indulgence and subservience from excess of love! No one shall
suffer--ought to suffer, but I. I shall not have any joy in the son
whom God seemed to have given me to replace my lost one; my other
child will go away, and I shall be left solitary, with only my own
misery--misery purchased by a double falsehood!"

She sank again into gloomy brooding, till the minster clock struck
nine. Then she started, and gathering together all the strength of a
desolate soul, she called to Lisabethli to bring her her coif, as she
had a necessary errand that took her out. The girl wondered at her
going so late, but did not like to ask any questions, having indeed in
her early days too many experiences of unusual proceedings on her
mother's part to dwell much upon this wonder, especially now she had
such happy thoughts of her own. But old Valentin could not refrain from
enquiring whether he might not light the lantern and accompany his
mistress. She shook her head in silence, doubled her veil over her
face, and left the house.

It was no great distance to the hospital, but she often felt as though
she should never be able to reach it. "O Lord God!" she inwardly
prayed, "take me away from earth! It is too much--Thou visitest Thy
servant too severely!" And yet something too seemed to draw her onwards
to the place where she should behold for the last time the long yearned
after face of her lost son!

When she reached the site of the old pest-house, with its handsome
chapel, a man dressed in black drew near and whispered her name. It
was, she knew, her friend the chief sergeant, but they did not exchange
words, and he led her through the side-door, which he unlocked, into
the interior of the building. They entered a dimly-lighted hall, where
the hospital attendant on duty had fallen asleep on a bench. Their
footsteps wakened him, but at a signal from the sergeant he remained
where he was, while the former lighted another taper, and preceded the
lady. They went up some steps, and through a long passage to a kind of
cellar-door which stood half open. "If you prefer to go in alone," said
he, "take the taper. I will wait for you in the passage."

She bowed assent in silence, took the tin sconce into her hand, and
entered the chamber of the dead.

It was a low stone-roofed room, with bare walls blackened by smoke and
time, and entirely devoid of furniture. In its midst stood the coffin,
roughly made, and stuffed with nothing but half mouldy straw. In it
rested the corpse, beneath a grey pall, scarcely long enough to cover
the tall frame of the dead, who had been laid down in the clothes he
wore in life. At the lady's entrance two rats who had been gnawing at
his boots, jumped out of the straw into their holes. She did not notice
them. Her eyes were fixed upon the head of the coffin, where the pall
just showed a high white forehead with a deep scar down to the very
eyebrows. She placed the taper in a niche of the wall, and with her
remnant of strength approached to raise the pall. One glance at the
rigid face furrowed by the conflict of life and of death--and she sank
down beside the coffin.

Yet it was no swoon that mercifully shrouded her senses. It was only
that her legs would no longer support her; her mind was fully awake,
and her heart felt all its old wounds open, and begin to bleed and burn
afresh. She had fallen on her knees, her hands folded, her eyes fixed
on the pale face of her dead son, averted as it seemed from her in
indifference, in almost anger, and upturned to the black arch of the
roof. Oh! she would have given her life, the last poor remnant of her
days on earth, if those eyes could but have opened once more for one
farewell look, if those discoloured lips could once--only once--have
called her "mother!"

The sergeant who was waiting in the passage, was under the impression
that he heard a groan proceed from the chamber of the dead. What it
meant he did not know. If indeed it were her son he would not disturb
the mortal anguish of the mother. Suddenly he heard her steps approach
the door, and saw her coming out, the light in her hand, her head erect
as if no shock had bowed her down, her eyes strained and strange, but
meeting his.

"I have kept you waiting," she said, "which was unnecessary. One glance
is sufficient to reveal the truth to a mother: but it has shaken me. I
had to rest a little."

"So it is not he!" cried her faithful friend. "God be praised!"

"To all Eternity!" said she. "Let us go. The place is ghastly."

She went on hastily with the taper, and steadily descended the steps.
In the hall where the watcher sat, she put down the taper on the table,
and her hand no longer trembled.

"You will see," said the sergeant to the sleepy official, "that
to-morrow, not later than five, the sexton comes and bears the body to
its rest."

"The grave is already dug, sir," was the reply, "near the place where a
year ago Hans Frisdolin, the parricide was laid."

"Not so," returned the sergeant, "he shall have no dishonourable
burial, only as a stranger he must lie next to the wall. His French
girl has offered to pay the sexton. You can remind her, Killian."

"What I wanted to ask," the man broke in, "is whether the foreign lady
may have wine, and also a roast pigeon for which she longs. She will
pay for it, she says, and indeed she is a very good little thing, and a
pair of foreigners have been to pay her a visit in the tower and spent
three hours there. The warder turned them away at night, but the lady
was sadly put out, and she sent the warder to ask whether I would not
pay her a visit, for she found the time hang heavy."

"She must conform to the regulations," growled the sergeant. "To-morrow
she will be free, and then she can recommence her godless trade, as she
too surely will so soon as she is beyond our jurisdiction. Good-night,
Killian."

He turned to Frau Helena, who had gone to the door of the hall, and
there in deep shadow leant against the wall. While he led her out, and
on the way to her house, whither he accompanied her, he kept railing
against the dissolute creature, who might well have the unfortunate
dead on her conscience instead of throwing out baits for fresh victims
before the earth had closed over the last. He protested it removed a
stone from his heart to know that this Laporte was no Amthor, and he
hoped that the real Andreas might yet live to make up to his mother for
all that she had so christianly endured. The Council, however, was
truly indebted to the worthy matron for having given herself the
trouble of this late walk.

And so saying he took leave of the silent lady, and wished her a night
of refreshing sleep.

That wish was most certainly not realised. A storm arose that filled
the night with such wild uproar, that it seemed as if the very
earth trembled. In the room which had once been that of Andreas, a
window-shutter had been blown open, and now kept beating and flapping
against the wall. Lisabethli, who had fallen asleep, woke up in terror
at the sound. She saw her mother leave the room without a light, and
heard her go upstairs, and there was an end to that source of
disturbance as she fastened the shutter again. The young girl waited
awhile for her return, but fell asleep before it, and indeed she would
have waited in vain. For Frau Helena remained in the dark room above,
as though it were more tolerable to her to listen to the storm than to
the breathing of her child, who, in her happy dreams spoke of her Kurt,
and called him loving names.

About dawn the wind went down, and in its place came a cold rain which
got heavier and heavier, and at length veiled town and river in a grey
mist. The sexton who, with two companions to help him, had by five
o'clock dug a grave by the churchyard wall, and lowered a rudely-made
coffin into it, was quicker than ever over his work, and the coffin
rested slantingly in the shallow pit. Then, since the clergyman who was
to have blessed it, omitted his duty in consequence of the terrible
weather, the man of the spade himself said a Paternoster for the poor
soul, and hastily shovelled in the coarse clods, leaving the rest to be
finished by his companions. He was about to hasten home and catch a
short morning-nap in his warm room, when he noticed a female figure
kneeling by a head-stone not far from the new grave, her head, covered
by a black veil, resting against the stone. That stone had long been
deserted, the family of the one who slept there having removed to
another country. What could the lady be doing there? As, however, she
remained quite still, and spite of the rain seemed absorbed in her
devotions, he did not venture to disturb her. For an instant it flashed
across him that it might be the foreign hussy who had paid for the
grave of the murdered man, but he heard afterwards that she had slept
till a late hour, and had, indeed, only awaked when the beadle came to
march her out of the town.

A few days later there reached him from an unknown source, a
considerable sum of money, which purported to be payment for a
forgotten burial. He for his part gave himself no thought about the
matter, and pocketed the unexpected windfall as though it had dropped
from the sky.


                           *   *   *   *   *


What follows is soon told. In the next spring the marriage of Kurt
Brucker and Elizabeth Amthor was, according to custom, celebrated at
the home of the bride, and the Augsburg relations came in great state
to do all honour to the bride's mother, and the family of the Amthors.
Nothing which could be looked for on such an occasion was left undone,
and Lisabethli had no cause to complain of her dower, her outfit, or
the wedding banquet. One thing only was lacking--the smile of joy on
the face of the bride's mother. She was kind and courteous to all, to
strangers and relatives alike, and bowed assent when the guests
remarked to her how completely made for each other the young couple
were, and that both houses might well be congratulated on so fitting
and honourable an alliance. But amidst all the loud cheer of the bridal
banquet, she sat pale and silent as a ghost, and though the rest of the
family of the bridegroom who had not known her before, gradually grew
reconciled to this, and whispered to each other that it was the sorrow
for her absent son which pressed so hardly upon her on this joyous
day--yet Kurt had not been wont to see his mother-in-law thus, and it
struck him as strange that she never once gave him her hand, or
pressed him in her arms as she had done the stranger-guest when, but
half-recovered, he had ventured to woo her child. It was only when the
youthful pair set out to their new home, that the mother kissed her
daughter with such a violent burst of tears, it seemed as though her
heart would break and melt away, and then laid her damp hand on her
son-in-law's brow, murmuring words that no one could understand. Then
she turned hurriedly away, and even before they left the house, locked
herself up in the solitude of her own room.

There she spent the few years that she had to live, avoiding all
society, reading religious books, and only opening her door to the poor
and the sorrowful. When, in a year's time, letters came from Augsburg,
pressingly inviting her to the christening of a grandson, she excused
herself on account of her age and infirmities which unfitted her to
travel. Yet she was often seen to walk with vigorous step in solitary
roads outside the town--old Valentin a few paces behind her. But she
never addressed him and seemed, indeed, almost to have lost the habit
of speech. It was only on her death-bed, when she felt her end drawing
near, that she sent for the parish priest, who spent some hours with
her. What she then imparted was told by him to one of her daughter's
children who travelled to Berne to see his grandmother's grave. That
she had ordered to be dug by the churchyard wall, close to the
long-ago-levelled mound under which her lost son had found his last
resting-place.



                          END OF THE LOST SON.



                             THE FAIR KATE.



                             THE FAIR KATE.


"It is incontestably true," said the old landscape-painter B----,
slowly stroking down his grey or rather mouse-coloured beard, "women
will be women, that is, sex dominates in the best as in the worst; and
though they are often obstinate enough in taking things into their
head, yet after all it is but seldom a head with any special or
original character, is only a feminine head. A genuine individuality
that can be measured by itself alone is far more rare among them than
among us men, and positively I do not know if the fact gives us
anything to boast of. Very often our peculiarity is only peculiar
folly--a departure from nature, whether through culture or mutilation;
while women, for whose training or spoiling less is done from without,
seldom become unnatural either in good or evil, seldom exceed the
average. But when they do so I have always found something to marvel
at.

"For instance one case remains indelibly fixed on my memory, when I
actually witnessed a thing unheard of and unparalleled, a lovely girl
who had an actual hatred of her own beauty, not merely a conceited,
coquettish, pretended indifference to it, or even an over-strained,
saintly, nun-like renunciation of it, but what one might call an
honourable enmity against it, which had, indeed, its good grounds.

"I became acquainted with the story in question in the following way.

"At that time--it's now more than twenty years ago--I was very intimate
with a long-forgotten Dutch painter, Jan van Kuylen or Kuyden--you will
not find the name in any catalogue of known artists.

"In the course of the usual journey to Rome, he had remained hanging
about Munich, the real reason being that Raphael and Michael Angelo
were secretly oppressive to him, crushed his own small personality, and
disgusted him with the neat Dutch style by which he made a good deal of
money. He was a curious fellow, the oddest mixture of humour and
phlegm, ideality and cynicism, sentimental tendencies and caustic
irony. And so, too, in his studio you found the oddest medley; there
were exquisite specimens of Venetian glass for which he had a great
love, costly instruments inlaid with silver and mother of pearl, for he
played the guitar and lute well; then again on some heavily embroidered
cloth you would see a tin-plate with bits of cheese-rind, or a quart
of beer in an ugly mug, and the room would be filled with thick,
strong-smelling, cheap tobacco which he had sent to him from Holland,
and smoked in a small black clay pipe the whole day through.

"In his pictures, however, everything was so neat, clean, and accurate
that at the first glance there was not much to distinguish them from
those of the old masters--Netscher, Mieris, and Gerard Dow. But when
you looked closer you saw they betrayed a most eccentric vein, various
displays of a humour, which, however, chiefly delighted to disport
itself in caricature or parody. This was not the fashion then as now,
and therefore in Munich, where the pathetic or the simply naïve was
still in the ascendant, Jan van Kuylen's too often profane performances
did not go down well. The first picture that he exhibited there was one
of Paradise, where Adam, a gaunt, lean, yellow-visaged fellow, was
digging the ground in the sweat of his brow, while Eve darned an old
jacket, and glanced up in evident ill-humour at the forbidden fruit,
while the first person of the Trinity looked smilingly over the hedge.
The picture was at once removed, for naturally the clergy took umbrage
at it. And indeed Jan did not fare much better with the second, which
also showed the cloven foot. He called it the Temptation of St.
Anthony. It is true that this new version widely departed from the
simple honest absence of all propriety with which the worthy Teniers
has illustrated the legend. A young peasant woman--evidently returning
from a wedding or christening feast, as she was carrying a basket
filled with meat, cakes, and a bottle of wine--had let herself be
induced by the cool of the evening hour, and probably her own heavy
head, to take a nap in the shade of the wood. St. Anthony, a very
sturdy youth, with his cowl thrown back, had evidently been coming
unsuspectingly along, and at the sudden sight stood rooted to the spot,
looking now at the young woman, now at the basket of good things, and
manifestly waging a violent warfare with his conscience, during which
he scratched his head in absurd perplexity. The expression of his face
was so irresistibly droll, that on this occasion even the clergy could
not avoid winking at it with a smile.

"But I have not yet mentioned the strangest part of it all: this Saint
in two minds, and the Adam in the picture of Paradise, were both exact
portraits of the painter himself. And this added immensely to the
drollery of the thing. For in point of fact my friend's appearance was
a perfect study for a humorist. He might have been painted entirely in
different shades of yellow, his complexion of the tender tone of a
fresh Edam cheese, his hair and beard like overgrown dusty stubble, his
grey eyes almost hidden by thick pale eyelashes. And to make the
matter more complete he always dressed himself from top to toe in
sand-coloured cloth for winter, in nankeen for summer, and was fond of
bringing forward and ridiculing his own personal peculiarities by the
most far-fetched comparisons. So, too, in his pictures, where he
regularly and as prominently as possible introduced himself moderately
caricatured, but always in positions that were half-comic and half-sad,
half-expressive of self-contempt, and half of resignation. It seemed as
if he wished to show that he did not take in ill-part, but rather was
the first to laugh over, the practical joke played him by the step-dame
Nature.

"Well, it was Whit Monday, my wife had a party of her friends to
coffee, and the buzz and hum of female voices--which I could hear
through double doors--drove me out. As it was a beautiful afternoon,
with everything in its early freshness, and plenty for me to study on
the banks of the Isar, I determined to invite Van Kuylen to take a
walk. He was living at that time in Theresa-meadows, in a small house
with a room to the north, that he had fitted up for a studio. You
entered it by a little garden, in which of course the inevitable tulips
were not now wanting, but which equally abounded with lilacs and
jessamine. Next you turned into a small court where a fountain was
playing, which the eccentric artist had adorned with a misshapen
Triton, the work of his own hands, for he dabbled in modelling. Then
you came to the studio door, which was seldom open, for Jan painted
away with unwearied diligence from morning to night, and neither sought
amusement nor society.

"I was, therefore, surprised on the present occasion, to find the door
open, and for a moment thought he must have gone out, and that his maid
might be busy arranging the room, when I heard his voice saying to some
one, 'If you are weary, we will leave off for to-day, and besides it is
a high festival. Let us hope your father confessor will not be angry at
our being engaged with such worldly subjects, instead of keeping it
holy!'

"No answer was returned, or at all events none that I heard. I was
amazed. To have a model sitting with an open door was no more usual or
befitting at that time than it is now. And that the strong smell of the
Dutch tobacco should not come through that door, bordered on the
miraculous.

"When, however, I drew a step nearer, I soon saw why my good Jan had
given up smoking, and though I was only a landscape painter, I did not
at all wonder at him. For such a model was worth while losing one's
head for, to say nothing of one's pipe.

"The colours on the face of the young girl who sat there in the best
light, as motionless as a picture, with a red damask curtain behind
her, were really so brilliant, that they exceeded all probability, and
made me perfectly stupid with amazement. Such a white satin-skin, just
tinged with faintest rose-colour, and here and there with blue, such
vividly red lips, such velvety brown eyes and silky hair of the same
colour growing rather low on a superbly arched brow, I have never
before nor since seen, except, indeed in pictures, where they make
little impression because they are exaggerated. Nature can certainly
venture upon much that Art can never safely aspire to. When I had
somewhat got over the first shock of this sensational style of
nature-painting, I saw that in the drawing, too, the very best possible
had been done; done with a grandeur and solidity which were almost
prodigal, for it is not wise to expend every resource, colour and form,
both in perfection, on any one figure. Even a sculptor must have
confessed that only in the best antiques had he seen anything of the
kind. Above all I was amazed at the contour of the cheeks, the noble,
massively-rounded chin, the half-opened lips that seemed to breathe out
a very overflow of life, and the perfect shape of the straight,
scornful little nose, which was just a trifle too broad, perhaps,
for modern taste. It was only the eyes that afforded any room for
fault-finding, if after seeing those calm and melancholy stars beaming
on one, one had the heart for it. At least I found out later that the
line of the eyelids might have been more curved, and they themselves a
degree broader.

"For the first ten minutes I stood there actually spell-bound, did not
even say 'Good-day,' and was--as people often stupidly call it--all
eyes. And indeed no one spoke. Van Kuylen, his extinct pipe in his
mouth, had merely given me a side nod, and continued painting hard. The
motionless beauty queened it before her red curtain on an old satin
ottoman with gilt lions' heads, her eyes fixed upon the great
half-darkened window, her hands--which were very slender and white,
but not small--carelessly folded on her lap. She wore a common
dark-coloured cotton gown, with an old tulle frill crammed in at her
throat, but had neither ear-rings, rings, nor ornaments of any kind.

"Beside her on a low stool, sat a little girl of about seven, slowly
and reluctantly knitting away at a coarse blue stocking.

"At length I found it necessary to make some remark.

"'I am disturbing you, Mynheer,' said I, though for a quarter of an
hour past I had seen that he did not permit himself to be disturbed by
me. We painters used to call him Mynheer in jest.

"'Send me away at once,' I went on, 'if I am in any way inconvenient
either to you or the young lady. Though indeed when one has hit upon
such a discovery, it is but a man's Christian duty to share it with his
neighbours.'

"Van Kuylen muttered a Dutch word or two between his teeth; the girl
looked gloomy as though I had said something to offend her; the child
with the stocking yawned heartily, and dropped a dozen stitches.

"'My good friend,' I at length resumed in Dutch, in which he had taught
me to jabber a little, 'tell me honestly whether you wish me at the
Devil, or whether I may remain a little longer to stare at this really
quite unreasonably exquisite face that your lucky star has led you
to--Heaven knows how--and which, to speak plainly, is infinitely too
good for you. Such a subject--begging your pardon--is not appropriate
for your foot-square canvas, and your finickin genre-brush. Life-size,
indeed, and faithfully and humbly copied--as it pleased God to make
her--in the manner of the old Venetians, that would be a different
thing. But I know you too well, with your worthy visage; you would want
to be peeping down upon her from some window-corner or other, or giving
scope to some of your antic humour, and that would be an insult to such
a paragon of Grecian perfection, with whose face that wretched cotton
gown is no more in keeping than a modern crinoline with the Juno
Ludovisi.'

"I had no scruple in thus crudely speaking my mind to him; he was
rather fond of pungent personal remarks, and did not remain long in my
debt.

"He rose to get something that he wanted for his work, and answered
without removing his empty pipe from his lips: 'I can well imagine your
mouth watering after such an exceptional morsel. You would like,
perhaps, to paint her as another pigeon-breasted Diana emerging from a
pool under a German oak-tree, and setting horns on the brow of an
Acteon who has stolen his legs from the Apollo Belvedere? The girl
seems to you good enough for that, does she not? But that's not to be
done. You will never get her to consent to any mythological
ambiguities. Do you suppose I have ever seen an inch more of her than
what she is gracious enough to shew us both at this present moment? And
even for this I have had to run after her long, and almost despaired of
her ever sitting to me at all. But hunger is the best of go-betweens.
And so I have had to give in to all her severe conditions. The door is
always to stand open, the little school-girl is always to sit there,
and if I ever venture to visit her at her own abode, there is to be an
end of us both! Of course I agreed to everything she chose; I was so
besotted by her face, I could have committed one of the seven deadly
sins just to see her once in this light, sitting on that seat, and so
to be able to study her to my heart's content. As to what I am to make
of it afterwards that is immaterial. But if I secretly hoped gradually
to melt the ice between us--at all events to a kind of brotherly
friendship and regard--why, I was much mistaken. It is no great wonder
after all. I am not to her taste, and I think none the worse of her for
that. But there have been others who accidentally turned in--this is
the third sitting--who were thoroughly discomfited, very showy
audacious gentry--handsome Fritz, and Schluchtenmüller, and our Don
Ramiro, with his languishing tenor voice. They were all tinder at once,
but after a little burning and glowing had to retire, extinguished as
if by a gush of cold water. Is it not so, Miss,' said he suddenly in
German to the silent beauty, 'it is perfectly useless to pay you
compliments? This gentleman--who is only a landscape-painter it is
true, but still a connoisseur in women--would willingly express his
wonder and admiration. But I have told him that you would rather not
hear anything of the sort.'

"'You are right,' she replied with the utmost indifference. 'It is the
fact, I know, and I cannot alter it. But God knows if I had had
anything to do with it, I should never have chosen the face He has
given me.'

"Her manner of saying this perfectly amazed me. It had not a touch of
that mock modesty, which says the very reverse of what it thinks, in
hopes of being contradicted. No, it expressed a weary, but unalterable
contempt for the gift of beauty; it was the tone of one who has to drag
a sack of gold through a desert, and sighs from the very core of his
heart, 'I would give it all for one morsel of bread.'

"Then, too, her way of expressing herself, showed more culture than you
usually find amongst girls who hire themselves out to be painted. It
was easy to see that the fair creature had some strange story connected
with her.

"'Nay, nay,' said I, 'if you had chosen your own face you would not
have shown bad taste in the matter. And though, indeed, beauty is
transient, while ugliness endures, and there may be inconveniences, or
even dangers in the impressions it makes on those who see you, still
you would hardly convince me, young lady, that you are seriously
annoyed at having such a face. You would be quite unique if it were
so.'

"'You may think what you like,' she replied negligently, and her lovely
full upper lip assumed a scornful expression. 'I know perfectly well
what men are. If a poor thing is vain of her little bit of pink and
white, _that_ does not suit them, and if she is not vain at all, but
rather curses the beauty which has cost her so dear, why that will not
please them either! But after all I have nothing to do with setting
other people right, it is enough that I know what I know.'

"After this unflattering declaration came a long pause. Mynheer van
Kuylen sat at his easel, and attempted by the tenderest glazing to
convey the smoothness of that skin, and the lustre of those moist eyes;
the child had laid down her stocking, and was turning the pages of a
picture-book, and by way of putting a good face on my embarrassment I
lit a cigar.

"'You have no objection, Miss?' I enquired in my most ingratiating
tones.

"She slightly nodded, and in so doing gave a sigh, and her delicate
nostrils quivered.

"'May one venture to ask your name, Fräulein?' I resumed after a while.

"'My name is Katharine,' she replied in the same curt, out-spoken way.
'But all who know me call me Kate. As to my parent's name that would
not interest you.'

"'Miss Kate,' I said, 'I notice from your manner of speech that you do
not belong to Munich."

"'No.'

"'Your accent has something Rhinelandish about it.'

"'Very possibly.'

"'Have you any reasons for objecting to speak of your home?'

"'Why do you ask?'

"'I should like one of these days to go and see whether there are many
faces there like yours.'

"'Only one,' she replied in the most matter-of-fact tone. 'But that is
painted on glass in St. Catharine's Church.'

"'Then you sat for it?'

"'No,' returned she; 'it was just the other way.'

"I looked at Van Kuylen to see whether he could make anything of this
strange speech, but he seemed so taken up with his work as not even to
hear our conversation.

"'You must not be offended with me, Miss Kate,' said I after an
interval, 'if I put a few more questions to you. Your answers are so
many riddles. I am not prompted believe me by mere curiosity, but by
sincere interest in knowing what circumstances can have led you to
leave your home, and after so good an education, and with so beautiful
a face, to adopt here--'

"'You mean that I seem to have been brought up for something better
than to make money of my looks. That may be. But this is what things
have come to, and since it is my face that has brought me into trouble,
it must help me out of it--at least so far as it can do creditably.'

"A cloud passed over her eyes; she looked before her even more
steadfastly than her wont, with an expression between anger and sorrow
that rendered her more enchanting than ever. We were silent. Suddenly
she resumed--

"'I really do not know why I should make any mystery about my story.
There is no disgrace in it, and you two gentlemen would only imagine
something far worse. Besides you both look thoroughly good and
trustworthy,' (Van Kuylen gave a short cough) 'and if you were ever to
hear any slander about me I could appeal to you. Babette, dear,'
turning to the little girl, 'go into the garden and make yourself a
very smart wreath of lilac and jasmine--do not gather any tulips. It is
only,' she went on in a low voice as soon as the child had left,
'because there is no need the people I lodge with should know
everything, and that little creature--young as she is--has already very
long ears, and repeats whatever she picks up. Not, indeed, that I need
to be ashamed of my past, but that they would look upon me as crazy if
they knew all its ins and outs, whereas as things stand now, they are
sorry for me, believing that I have only had some common unfortunate
love-affair, and therefore consider myself unworthy that the sun should
shine upon me.'

"She was once more silent, and seemed to have forgotten all about her
intended narration. There was a Sabbath stillness all around; we only
caught through the open door the sound of little Babette's heavy shoes
on the gravel walks, and the twittering of birds in the meadows. Van
Kuylen had risen and gone to a carved cupboard, in which he had a habit
of keeping all sorts of odds and ends; he now brought out of it a
wicker-covered flask of curious shape, filled three small glasses from
it, and presented them on an old china-tray, first to the young girl,
then to me. After we had both declined, he tossed them all three off in
succession, and then sat down before his easel, not painting, but
resting his head on his hand.

"'What surprises me,' said I, breaking silence at length, 'is that I
have never met you before, Miss Kate. Yet I am a pretty constant
lounger in our streets, and not unobservant; indeed, my dear wife
reproves me for looking over-boldly under the bonnets of pretty girls.
You must live like a mole in some underground dwelling, or you never
could have escaped me.'

"'Nay,' said she with a slight smile, the first which had lit up her
melancholy; 'I walk out every day. I cannot sit still. I find time hang
so heavy, as I am not skilled in work. But then I wear a very thick
veil, the everlasting staring is so hateful to me, particularly in a
strange place. There was only one evening, when standing before a
bright shop-window, that I did venture to throw back my veil--at that
very moment Herr van Kuylen chanced to pass, and since then he has
often and often recognized me, though I am wrapped up like a nun.
Besides I always have Babette with me. I should be afraid of going out
alone, for though it is now more than a year since I left home, I still
feel so desolate and forlorn, and my heart aches so, that I am often
tempted to jump into the first deep water I come across, and get rid of
myself, and my whole useless existence.'

"Her smile had vanished, and instead, tears stood in her eyes.

"'Were you not then beloved in your home?' I enquired. 'So beautiful
and sweet a child must--'

"'Loved! Yes, indeed, if only there had been sense in their affection.
I was loved sometimes too much, sometimes too little. If I had had
another face it would all have been right enough. But they expected all
sorts of wonders, and out of sheer vanity must make me unhappy. There
were six brothers and sisters older than myself--I am the youngest and
last--and all the rest, who had quite common-place human countenances,
are now contented and well provided for, married unnoticed folk of whom
no bad or good is said, and about whom no one troubles himself to
enquire. But as for me, no sooner was I out of my swaddling-clothes
than I was pronounced a little wonder of the world, and all the aunts
and cousins lifted their hands in amazement at the sight of me, and
told my mother no princess need be ashamed of having brought such a
child into the world. And there was something wonderful in it, too. My
father was a poor schoolmaster, my mother a sexton's daughter, neither
of them particularly handsome; only through my maternal grandmother,
pretty hands and feet, and beautiful long hair, had come into the
family. But as it happened, while I was coming into the world, Count
F----, the patron of our church, put up a magnificent new window
in St. Catharine's, representing the Saint kneeling by the wheel, a
palm-branch between her folded hands, and painted in such beautiful
vivid colours, people were never tired of looking at it. Our whole
village, Catholics and Protestants, crowded to see it, and for weeks
nothing else was spoken of, at least in our house. My eldest brother,
who already drew very well, copied it at once, but my good mother
especially saw the picture--as she afterwards told us--constantly
before her day and night, whether her eyes were open or shut; and when
I was born, she insisted upon it that I must be baptised by the name of
Katharine. It was not long before they all took to calling me "the fair
Kate," and all agreed that I had stolen my face from the picture on the
window.

"'You may suppose that when I first came to understand this, trotting
about as a little child, I had no cause to regret it. Everybody coaxed
and praised me, and if the kissing and stroking was at times rather too
much of a good thing, yet on the whole it had its advantages. As the
last of the batch, too, I was better treated in every way than my
brothers and sisters, nor had I anything to endure from their jealousy,
for they really, as well as my parents, did consider me a thing apart,
a special gift and grace of God to the family, reflecting some glory on
its other members. It was a thing, of course, that I--so far as our
poverty permitted it--should be well dressed, have the best food kept
for me, and receive more instruction than the rest. My father used to
devote his two hours of leisure to me; I must needs learn French and
pianoforte playing, and it was evident to all that not only must I take
no share in the house-work, but that my delicate fingers must not be
spoilt by sewing or knitting. I only wonder that I did not become more
idle and vain than I actually was. But indeed to me, too, it seemed so
much a thing of course that I did not give it any particular thought.
Apricots have different flavours to wild pears, and cost different
sums. That is all very natural. One man has a hundred thousand dollars,
another a voice in his throat that bewitches people, a third is so
learned that all take off their hats to him, and _I_ was "the fair
Kate," with whom everybody fell in love. What the exact value of _that_
was--I mean the falling in love--I did not know; I had not found out
that I too had a heart, I was not even very fond of my own family,
because I found it tiresome to be always so much made of, and as to
falling in love with myself, that couldn't well happen, as I had been
used to my bit of red and white, and all the rest that people made such
a fuss about, from a child.

"'I had only one playfellow that I cared at all for, and for the very
reason that he was rather cross than kind to me; a youth different to
the rest, but neither particularly handsome or lively, and one of the
poorest. His father shipped charcoal up and down the Rhine, and worked
very hard; his mother was a quiet sickly woman, always at home or in
the church, with a sorrowful face that made me feel ashamed of my smart
clothes. Her son, too--he was about five years older than I, and had
often to help his father--would look more crossly than ever out of his
eyes if he met me on a Sunday, when my mother had decked me with all
sorts of colours. He made no remarks, but he always avoided me on those
occasions, and childish as I was, and vain, too, of being the fair
Kate, this never failed to give me a pang. I would contrive to get into
my every-day clothes to creep down about twilight to the banks of the
Rhine where his cottage stood, and I was quite happy if Hans Lutz would
only be good-natured to me and say, "Now you look like a human being
again, and not like a doll." He had a way--silent as he was--of amusing
me better than anybody else, would cut me out little boats of bark that
rode at anchor in a little harbour that he built; he could play me my
favourite airs on a reed-pipe, and it was often night, and I had to be
scolded away before I would consent to part from him.

"'You see already what that was leading to. I could no longer do
without him, although others held him cheap as being inferior to
them all, because he had had the small-pox and went about in the
coarsest and most thread-bare jacket. I almost think there was some
vanity in it. I seemed to myself to be a princess condescending to the
charcoal-burner; then again in my better hours I noticed that I had an
especial respect for him, more indeed than for any other human
creature, and that I never respected myself so much as when he had
given me a kind word.

"'Our years of childish play were nearly over; he was fifteen, I ten,
when a legacy came to his parents, not, indeed, enough to set them up
with carriage and horses, but to make them much more comfortable than
before. The father gave up the charcoal-loading business, and became--I
really do not quite know what--a sort of factor or agent. The eldest
son, my Hans Lutz, was sent off to a school for artisans; he was to be
an engineer, and was indeed made for it. His younger brother, who was
about my own age, remained at home and took to violin playing, in hopes
of gaining admission into the Ducal Chapel; they had a distant cousin
there who played the bassoon.

"'Time went on: at first I missed my companion dreadfully, I did
not know what to do with myself on Sundays, and found out fully how
much he had been to me. However, I gradually got accustomed to his
absence, to going about again dressed like a doll, to being serenaded
by the students who passed through the town, or to reading poems and
love-letters which were thrown in to me through the window, but which I
never answered. For my mother was pretty strict with me, and after my
first Communion, I was never allowed to leave the house alone. I
believe she was afraid that one of the mad Englishmen, who stared at me
worst of all, would carry me off, or that the Rhine water-sprites would
draw me down out of envy and spite. Now and then real wooers would make
their appearance, very respectable people, quite able to support a
wife. But they had a pretty reception! My father was not going to part
with me on such easy terms; he would hear of nothing under a Count, as
I overheard him telling my mother, or else a man so rich as to be able
to lay down my weight in money. It was all one to me, the privilege
that I enjoyed of being the beautiful Kate, and treated as the most
remarkable and important person in our district quite satisfied me, and
since the departure of Hans Lutz I did not so much as know that I had a
heart.

"'He never wrote to me, never sent me a message. It was only seldom
that I heard from his mother how well he was doing, how industrious he
was, and how much he was praised by his instructors. I used to wonder
that he never came over for a visit. The distance from Carlsruhe was
not so great after all, and however sparing of his time or his money,
he might, I thought, have made the effort if he cared about seeing me
again.

"'But the most wonderful thing of all, and to me wholly
incomprehensible, was that he _did_ once come over, spent a whole long
day with his parents, and seemed to think that there was nothing else
to be seen in the neighbourhood. I never so much as got a distant
glimpse of him, nor did he leave a single message for me. Naturally I
was very much offended, and determined if I ever saw him again to make
him rue it. A year or so later there came an opportunity of doing this.
I was just seventeen years old, he, therefore, was two-and-twenty, when
it was rumoured that he had passed through all the schools with great
honour, and was now looking out for some post or other which he was
sure to get. That he should in the first instance pay a visit to his
parents, stood to reason, but he had not fixed the day and hour. I was,
therefore, not a little startled one afternoon, when sitting with my
sister in the wood behind the old castle and sketching the view,--for
I, too, took drawing-lessons, though I had no particular talent--just
when I was about to pronounce his name and to ask Lina if she knew the
day of his return, I saw a tall, slender, dark young man emerge from
the bushes, take off his hat, and prepare to go down the hill without a
word. I knew him instantly; he had still his old face, only with the
addition of a dark beard, and he was much better-looking. The marks of
the small-pox had almost disappeared. "Good Heavens!" cried I springing
from my seat, "it is you, Hans Lutz! How can you startle one so!" "I
beg your pardon," he said, in a formal polite way, "I had no idea that
I should be disturbing young ladies here; I will no longer intrude upon
them," and therewith he again took off his hat, the abominable man, and
went straight away as if he had only met an old woman picking sticks,
and not the playfellow of his childhood, the paragon of beauty whom
other people took long journeys to admire, and who had such a fine
lecture to read him, too.

"'I do believe I should have burst into tears if I had been alone, but
before Lina I restrained myself, only saying, "He has indeed grown
haughty and rude," and tried to go on with my drawing. To no purpose. I
could not put in another stroke, my eyes swam so in tears.

"'And in the midst of all my disappointment and vexation, the worst
part of it was that I could not be angry with him, that I would have
done anything to get a friendly look from him; and my shame at this
weakness made me so thoroughly unhappy, that at that moment, spite of
my much-extolled beauty, I seemed to myself the most wretched human
creature in the whole world.

"'I could not go on keeping up appearances much longer, but threw my
arms round my good sister's neck, and with many tears confessed to her
how deeply hurt I was, and that I must find out the reason of his
estrangement, or my heart would break. The kind soul comforted me as
well as she could, and when evening came, helped me to invent a pretext
to induce our mother to let us both go down together to the river, to
the very place where in former days our little harbour used to be.
There Lina left me alone, found out that she had something to do at
Hans Lutz's home, and whispered into his ear that I was waiting outside
under the willow, and had something to ask him. At first, as she told
me afterwards, he had looked very gloomy, and left her in doubt as to
what he would do. Then he seemed to relent, and a little later I saw
him coming down the road straight towards me, and I do not yet know how
I had courage to stand still and wait for him.

"'But at least I was rewarded for my courage. For he was by no means as
chilling as before, he even gave me his hand and said, "It is very kind
of you, Katharine, still to remember an old playfellow, and what is it
you have to say to me?" "Nothing," I said, "only that I wanted to know
what I had done to offend him, or whether anybody had been gossiping
about me that he should treat me as if I was not worth a word or a
look. That was all I asked to know, and then I would go away again
immediately." Upon which he told me in his quiet way as if it did not
signify to _him_ in the least, that he had heard I had grown into a
vain conceited little princess, held my head very high, did nothing but
look in the glass, or let myself be stared at by foreign fools, and as
he was not the man to come in to that, and had, indeed, other things to
do than to be always swinging incense before such a Madonna, he thought
I should have no loss of him, and that it would be better for us both
if he kept out of my way.

"'All that he said to me, and still more the way in which he said it,
hurt me so cruelly that I had not a word to answer, but burst into a
flood of tears that I could not check, that got worse and worse, till I
was shaken by such a convulsion of sobs that I thought I must have died
on the spot. When he saw this, he was suddenly transformed; he embraced
me, and in the tenderest voice said a thousand things that at first,
owing to the confusion in my head, I only half understood. He told me
he had behaved so rudely merely to guard against his own heart, that
through all these years he had had no other thought but me, and had
only kept away in order not quite to lose his senses, and that if it
were true that I cared at all for him--well, you can imagine the rest!
That evening we pledged ourselves to live only for each other, and when
at last Lina came and drew me away, that our parents need not scold, I
had quite forgotten that I was the _fair_ Kate, and only thought that a
_happier_ Kate was not to be found in all Rhineland, or anywhere under
the sun.'

"When she had got so far, she rose and went to the door, as if to look
after the child, who was quietly sitting on a garden-seat, and weaving
her garland. When Kate turned round to us again, I noticed the traces
of tears. Van Kuylen, however, did not seem to observe them; he had got
hold of an old cork and was carving away at it, his cold pipe still in
the corner of his mouth.

"'And how was it,' said I after a while, 'that fortune deserted you,
and that what began so well had so melancholy an issue? I find it hard
to believe that he was not true to you!'

"'_He!_' returned she with an indescribable tone and expression. 'If it
had only all depended upon him! But you see the misfortune was just
this, that I was such a wonder of the world they needs must make the
most of me, however unhappy I myself might be. My elder sisters--if
Hans Lutz had taken a fancy to one of them, why he would have had her
with all the pleasure in the world, and indeed the husbands that they
did get were not fit to hold a candle to my lover. But _I_, that he
should aspire to _me_, he who was neither a Count nor made of money,
that was such audacity that he could hardly be supposed to be right in
his mind. True he did not himself think of marrying at the present
time, all that he wanted was our betrothal, and then a couple of years
to try his fortune in, and I--to wait ten years for him would have been
as nothing to me. But you should have heard my father! The Emperor of
China, if some crazy sailor were to apply for his daughter's hand,
could not put on a more majestic aspect, or pronounce a more
compassionate "No." He was not even angry, he treated the whole thing
as a mere stupid jest. It was only when my mother--who well knew how my
heart stood--ventured to address him on the subject, and to represent
Hans Lutz as not after all a quite despicable suitor, that he was
roused to indignation and silenced her at once. As for me, when I
declared that I never would have any one else for my husband, I was
locked up, and sat for eight days like an imprisoned princess in the
best room, only visited by my mother and sister. To be sure I still had
my pretty face, but what was that to me, I was made to feel that I
myself had no right to it.

"'I sent through Lina, a letter to Hans Lutz, declaring that I would
remain true to him, and begging for God's sake, that he would not
punish me for my father's vengeance and anger. To which he wrote me
back word that he had no hope, that he was going far away, perhaps to
America, and did not know that he should ever return. I was to give up
all thought of him, and he formally returned both my word and my ring.
For well he knew what would be the end of it all; my parents would look
me out some husband after their own heart, and at last I too should get
tired of waiting, and so he would not bind me, and add to all other
sorrow, the weight of a broken promise on my heart. You may well
imagine with how many tears I read that letter, when Lina told me that
the writer was already no one knew how far away, and had not wished her
to give it me till after his departure.

"'After this all went on apparently in the old way, with this
exception, that though I was still "the fair Kate," and estimated as
such, there stole over me a silent and unconquerable detestation of my
own face, since it had cost me my dearest happiness. But for my father,
who was bent upon cutting a figure with me, I should never have come
down from my upper room, and as it was I only did so when I could not
possibly help it. I never sat in the open window except with my back
turned, no power on earth could get me on a steamer where the English
stared so, and when artists came to draw or paint me, I never _would_
sit still, let my father be as angry as he liked.

"'But all my indoor life, and fretting and grieving did nothing for me;
I grew handsomer day by day, and since I had become indifferent to what
I wore, I seemed to be more admired than ever, most people having
probably thought before with Hans Lutz that I was an over-dressed doll.
But no letter came from the one I loved best, and no news of any kind;
and so from three to four years passed by, and I found that life is a
most wretched pastime when one has not got one's heart's desire.

"'Then, besides, there were constant disputes at home, for every fresh
offer of marriage was a new bone of contention. There were many of
these suitors--though, indeed, none of them were Counts--to whom my
father would most willingly have given me; there was a rich Russian,
who swore he would jump into the Rhine if he did not get me, but
afterwards preferred to drown himself in Champagne, and went about
Wiesbaden with ladies of all kinds. Then there was a young baron, who
was master of the horse to some prince, and was wild about horses as
well as about me, and there were numbers of worthy well-to-do people
who were all intolerable to me because I secretly compared them with my
Hans Lutz. My sister Lina was long ago married and happy, and I still
sat useless at home, and as my father was not the best of managers, and
my mother was sickly, we were often straitened enough, and while one
rich suitor after another went away rejected, want began to stare us in
the face. Now nothing sours the temper so much as not having enough to
eat, and what with unkind words and spiteful remarks, you may believe I
spent wretched days, and cried my eyes red at night.

"'At last my father lost all patience, and when another suitor appeared
who seemed to him worthy to carry away the jewel of beauty, since he
was able to bid high for it, he declared to me either I must consent,
or he would make me feel the whole weight of his anger. What he exactly
meant by that I really did not know, but I was glad of a change myself,
for I could no longer endure my father's anger and my mother's grief.
So I said that I would give my hand to Mr. So-and-so, provided no
message came from Hans Lutz in the course of the next three months.
This contented my parents, and made the bridegroom more than blessed;
he was actually idiotic with rapture, said the craziest things to me,
and in spite of my misery, it made me again feel proud and childish to
find that I had such power over any human being. He was a young and
very rich tanner from the neighbouring town of M----, not so bad as to
face or figure; indeed he passed for a handsome man; but it made me
positively ill if I had to sit by him longer than a quarter of an hour,
first because his love rendered him so silly and mawkish, and then
because he had a habit of deluging himself with scents, probably to get
rid of the smell of the tan-yard. I will not weary you with the history
of this horrible engagement. I get goose-skin all over at the very
recollection of it; the visits here, there, and everywhere; the
congratulations at which I had to smile when I would much rather have
cried; the day when he took me over his house and factory, and I
thought the smell of the dyes and skins would have suffocated me. Well,
it went on as long as it could go on, that is till it came to the
point. On the day before the wedding day, my bridegroom gave a party to
my favourite friends and my parents at his own house; the actual
marriage was to be solemnized at my parent's house. He was so
inordinately happy, foolish, and scented, that I suddenly said to
myself, "Better suffer anything than please such a simpleton as this,"
and that very night when they were all asleep, I actually left the
house, only taking with me a few necessaries in a bundle, and leaving
behind a letter to my parents saying they must forgive the sorrow I had
caused them, but that marry I could not and would not, and so in order
to be no longer a burden to them, I had gone off to my aunt at Speyer,
and would see whether I could not do something to support myself.

"'I was helped in my flight by the brother of my Hans Lutz, who
happened to be on a visit to his parents at the time, and would have
gone through fire and water for me. He took me safely to where I wanted
to go, to my aunt Millie's, her real name was Amelia, but so we
children always called her. She was an old widow-woman, lived upon her
small means, and had always been very fond of me, though she used to
shake her head at the way in which my family idolised me. When I told
her all that had happened she neither praised nor blamed me, but wrote
to my parents and tried to bring them round. That, alas, was in vain.
My father answered very curtly that if I did not marry the young tanner
I was no child of his; my mother tried persuasion. I now found out that
it was only my unfortunate beauty that they had really loved, that a
red-and-white mask stood between my own parents' hearts and that of
their child. Out of sheer admiration and worship, they had less
fondness for me than for any of their other children.

"'But for this would they not have found time in the course of the
whole year since I have left them, to comprehend that what I had run
away from could not have made me happy, and that I was not necessarily
a bad daughter, because unable to gratify them in that respect? But no,
they have remained as hard as stone, hard as no one could be to any
living creature who had a soul, but only towards a soulless picture
such as they had long considered me, and as such set me up for show. It
is true that while I remained at Speyer they might have hoped that I
should change my mind. But my stay there was but short. My old aunt was
accustomed to a very quiet life. Now when a beauty suddenly made her
appearance in the house, whom all young men followed, and that visits
and enquiries became incessant, and this person and that were always
bringing me an offer from some one or other, it was too much for the
good woman to bear. She told me one day that I could not remain any
longer with her, but that she had found me a very good situation with a
baroness who lived on her estates near Munich, and wanted a governess
for her two little daughters; and as I had been well educated, could
speak French and play the pianoforte, my aunt had arranged it all, and
I was to set off the next day but one.

"'I was very much pleased at this; I longed to begin life on my own
account, and earn my own bread. But this too was to be a failure, and
again there was no one to blame but this hateful face that I cannot get
rid of. Well, to make a long story short, the baroness and the children
took to me and I to them, and during the first days when we were alone,
everything went well. Then came the baron from the city to pay us a
visit, and instantly the sky changed; he behaved, indeed, very
politely, only that he made the usual face of amazement which I am so
sick of, and that all people make who see me for the first time. I,
indeed, am accustomed to it, take no notice, and go my way quietly, but
the gracious lady, who had not seen that expression on her husband's
face before, could not take it so easily, and the end of the matter
was, that on the following day, after a very lively discussion between
the master and mistress of the house, I was sent for to her boudoir,
and told that she much regretted being unable to keep me, but needed
the room that I occupied for a young relative who had suddenly
announced herself for the whole winter. However, she was conscientious
enough to give me, without my demanding it, my salary for that whole
winter.

"'There I was again on the wide world! I had a great mind to buy myself
a black mask, like the lady with the death's head, and hide my face
once for all, that it might not get me into any further trouble.

"'And indeed if I could only have foreseen what I had yet to endure I
should have done so, or something madder still. I should have become a
Catholic just to go into a nunnery.

"'Three times in this town I have had to change my rooms because people
would not leave me alone. I can assure you, if I had stolen or forged,
or done any other disgraceful thing that I feared might come out, I
could not live in greater anxiety and uncertainty than now, when I have
no one to stand by me in the right way and guard me from wicked men and
my unfortunate fate: but I will spare you all details; you can imagine
them. And then to have nothing to do, and not rightly to understand
anything, to read half the day, the other half to wonder what is to
become of me when my money and my patience come to an end, as they
must. The people with whom I lodge at present--Babette's parents--have
all been sorry for me since they saw that I was no worthless runaway
creature, but had only been afflicted with that church-window face. But
what can _they_ do? I help a little in the house, I have learnt some
sewing, as the man is a regimental tailor; I teach Babette to read and
write, but the good souls are too poor to keep a governess. So this
last March when I had had to give up a situation in a jeweller's
shop--of course on account of my face--I was obliged to write again to
my parents, and ask them to take me back. No doubt they thought they
need only remain hard for a little time in order perfectly to soften
me. They wrote me word, therefore, that the tanner was still waiting
for me, and that all would be forgiven if I came to my senses at last,
but if I did not do so, I might just remain where I was. My aunt Millie
sent me a little money, but not much; she has herself been swindled
latterly out of great part of her means. And so there I had to sit
again, my hands in my lap; and if I accidentally saw myself in the
glass, I was so angry and wild with the unlucky face that looked back
at me, that I should have scratched my eyes out if only my nails and my
courage had had strength for it.

"'Meanwhile the tailor's wife had often advised me to make a
maintenance by sitting as a model. A relation of hers lived that way,
who was no real beauty, but only well-grown. Looks were a gift of God
like everything else, and if a singer hired out her beautiful voice for
gold, why should not I let the same face that had brought me into
trouble help me out of it again? But to all such propositions I always
returned the same answer; I knew that nothing could be so bitter to my
lover as to hear that I had let myself be looked at for money like a
show at a fair, and had gone to serve as lay figure first to one and
then to another. That I knew he would never forgive. "_He_ forgive,
indeed," said the woman, "he ought to think himself very happy if you
forgive him for having taken himself off, and never making a sign
since." However, I remained quite resolute, till at length I was at the
last gasp, and did not know how I was to pay my next month's lodgings.
If Herr van Kuylen had not come forward--whom I could trust to have no
bad intentions--God knows I have many a time walked through the English
garden, and thought if I took a cold bath there, it would be the best
and quickest way of escape!

"'And now forgive me for telling you such a long story from beginning
to end. But you have done me a real kindness by listening without
laughing or shaking your heads. For most people will not believe that
one can be unhappy except through his own fault, and least of all
unhappy through what is considered the greatest good fortune. Babette,'
said she to the child, who just then brought in her wreath, 'take up
your knitting and put the book back in its place. We must go, it has
struck five, and your mother will be waiting.'

"Van Kuylen jumped up as if some one had shaken him out of sleep.

"'Will you come to-morrow at the same time, Miss Kate?' said he,
without looking at her.

"'To-morrow my landlady goes to a wedding,' she replied, tying on a
little black bonnet that framed her face most exquisitely. 'I must
stay at home with the children, but the day after to-morrow if it suits
you--'

"He silently bowed, and prepared to help her on with her dark woollen
shawl, which, however, she declined. She muffled herself up so
completely in it that her slender form was hardly apparent, even to an
artist's eye; then she tied on an almost impervious black veil, and
curtsied to me with a bewitching blush. I smiled and heartily shook
hands with her. 'I am much indebted to you, my dear young lady,' said
I, 'for having acquainted me with your singular story. I am a married
man, and, thank God! still in love with my wife, so that there can be
no fear of jealousy in our case; therefore, if ever you need counsel or
help, my house is--so-and-so--and I should be delighted if you had
confidence in us and allowed us to render you some slight service. For
the rest I cannot look upon the matter so despairingly. Who knows
whether you will not have to apologise to your face for all the hard
words you have bestowed upon it? He who wins the first prize in a
lottery may have indeed some perplexities in consequence, but for all
that the first prize is no bad thing, and makes up to us for many a
drawback. Everywhere there is light and shade'--and so forth, for I do
not suppose that the cheap wisdom with which I sought to console the
poor child would be tolerable repeated.

"Indeed I was aware even at the time that it did not produce much
effect. On the contrary the beautiful face grew sad and weary, as if
she was at confession, and she went away without saying another word;
only I heard a sigh under the thick veil, which fell, and produced a
total eclipse.

"I was alone with Van Kuylen, and for a short time we each went on
silently puffing out thick clouds, for the little Dutchman lit his
clay-pipe the moment the beautiful girl disappeared.

"'Well, Mynheer,' said I at last, 'I must congratulate you; you are a
lucky dog.'

"'I!' he returned, with a short ironical laugh. 'Through what sort of
glasses do you look upon the world that you can utter such a prophecy?'

"'Through my own unaided eyes,' returned I. 'Are you not indeed
enviable enough in this, that you have caught in your net the shy bird
after which so many have followed in vain. If you only set about it
rightly, the bird will grow so tame that you will be able to cage it at
last.'

"He turned away: he did not wish me to see the vivid red that suffused
his yellow face.

"'You don't know her,' he muttered, 'she is quite different to all
others, and if I were the fool you take me to be--'

"'You would be no fool at all,' I continued, exciting myself as I went
on. 'You need not of course repeat it to my wife, but by St. Katharine
I swear to you, Master Jan, that were I in your place I should not long
play St. Anthony's part. I would do everything on earth to deliver that
poor child from her purgatory--'

"'And to lead her into a Paradise where such an Adam--get off with
you,' said he, with a very unpolite gesture.

"But I knew how to take him; I drew nearer and placed my hand on his
shoulder.

"'If it is disagreeable to you, I will not say another word, but can
you suppose that a certain Hans Lutz--'

"He sprang from his low seat and ran distractedly up and down the
studio.

"'Don't make me mad,' he cried. 'If you have noticed that I am over
head and ears in love with the girl--as far as _that_ goes there is no
disgrace in it; but I am not such an insane idiotic ape as to imagine
for a moment that my respectable visage will drive the sweet child's
first love out of her heart, and that a mere settlement in life will
not decoy her you have yourself heard. Why then come and blow upon the
coals with the bellows of your common-place philosophy? Am I not
already wretched enough, in that I plainly see how hopeless the whole
matter is, and yet cannot leave off gazing at her by the hour, just to
burn in that cruel face of hers upon my memory? And now, forsooth,
you must come and prate of solid possibilities, and congratulate me,
and--the devil take it! It is just as if you were to hold the pin on
which a living cockchafer is impaled in a candle, and make it red-hot.'

"He threw himself down on a low ottoman in the corner with such
vehemence, that he broke off the neck of a costly Florentine lute lying
there, without even noticing it.

"I would now gladly have recalled my thoughtless words.

"'If the case is really so, Mynheer,' said I, 'I own there is nothing
to congratulate you upon. But I do not understand why a man like you
should so utterly despair. You have no tannery, but you are a famous
artist; you do not smell of scents, but as a man should, of strong
Porto Rico; and all the rest is mere matter of taste. Women are women,
and it is impossible to reckon upon their fancies. That she is not
exactly set upon an Adonis is evident--'

"I might have gone on for some time putting forth these platitudes,
with the best intentions, if he had not suddenly turned upon me with
a quite phlegmatic air, and asked me--not without a quiver in his
voice--what o'clock it was, and whether the 'Muette de Portici' was not
going to be performed that night. I then saw plainly how things stood,
swallowed down my annoyance at having so stupidly interfered in so
tender a matter, and took leave under the pretext that my wife was
waiting for me to pay a visit.

"A visit on Whit Monday afternoon when no one is at home! but so one
stumbles on from one discrepancy to another.

"Accordingly the series of my mortifications was not yet over for that
particular day; for when I had got home to my good wife, and given her
a true and faithful account of where I had been, and what I had seen
and heard, and finally (though indeed her silence in listening
foreboded no good), added: 'It would be a real comfort to me if I could
do something for the pretty child, and might it not be as well to offer
her our spare room as it chanced to be empty,'--a small matrimonial
tempest burst at once, which I had passively to endure. My wife had,
indeed, long been upon the point of telling me that this Van Kuylen
exercised the worst influence over me, and was the most unfit
companion; a frivolous bachelor who had no respect for holy things,
and had already infected me with his mocking and blasphemous spirit.
She had supposed, when she married a landscape painter, that her
house would at least be free from such a disreputable set as models
generally are, lost to all sense of decency and shame, and of whom the
most horrible stories were heard. And now I had returned from that
trumpery Dutchman, not only with my clothes reeking of the very worst
tobacco-smoke, but in such a wholly perverted state of mind, and with
such entire forgetfulness of what was due to a virtuous young wife,
that I could actually propose to her to receive into our family this
suspicious person, who had turned my head with her bit of prettiness
and her dubious adventures. Rather than consent to such a step, she
would take her innocent children in her arms, and at once leave the
field clear; for it was too plain to see from the fervour with which I
had proposed this fine plan, what must eventually come of it. And so
saying, she caught up our little Christopher who had tripped in, with
such a passionate burst of tears, and pressed his small fair head so
closely to her breast, it seemed as if she would fain save the poor
harmless child from the evil eye of a sinful father who had irrevocably
made over his soul to him who shall be nameless.

"I had no small difficulty in allaying the excitement of my dear
better-half; she was generally patience and self-abnegation itself, but
there is one point on which women are not to be trifled with, which
makes hyenas of them, as Schiller says, and I inwardly called myself a
confounded ass for having displayed my aesthetic enthusiasm for the
beautiful girl in so wrong a quarter.

"Of course I took good care not to revert to the dangerous subject, but
remained at home the whole of the next day, and devoted myself to
painting an old oak-forest, as if the riven and rugged bark of the
secular trees was far more bewitching than the smoothest satin-skin of
a maiden of twenty, and a gnarled oak-branch more ensnaring than the
exquisite little Venus-like nose of our poor persecuted beauty.

"The next day I even accomplished a greater triumph over myself, in
that I withstood the temptation of looking in--quite accidentally, of
course--at Van Kuylen's studio, there to play the part of comforter to
a distressed child of humanity. I was certainly a little absent-minded
all the afternoon, and as we walked to Nymphenburg, our children pushed
along in the perambulator by the maid, failed to get up any very
animated conversation. I apologised somewhat lamely for it, on the plea
that I was studying atmospheric effects, though indeed there was
nothing very noticeable in the sky. But my wife found it much
pleasanter than if I had indulged my bad habit of too earnestly
studying the faces of the girls and women we passed. There is
indisputably about the sex this one weakness, that they have themselves
no conception of a purely artistic standpoint, and therefore never
allow for it in others.

"At last after four or five days, I found it intolerable to my manly
self-respect, thus suddenly to withdraw from my worthy Dutchman, merely
because he was in my wife's bad books. Consequently, after washing my
brushes, I set out just about twilight, when I knew that though he
could paint no longer, he was sure to be at home; and in this was most
perfectly justified in my own eyes, since I could not possibly be
expecting to find the fair Kate there, but only my small and unjustly
calumniated friend.

"And to be sure I saw from a distance the shining of his lamp through
the window: nevertheless I had to be told by the old servant that her
master was gone out. Neither did I fare any better on the following day
when I knocked at his studio during his hours of work. I called out my
name as loud as I could, but he wouldn't open. When I enquired from the
old servant whether he was occupied with a model, she shook her head,
and shrugged her shoulders; then tapping her forehead with a very
significant gesture, she sighed and said, 'Things had not been right
with the good gentleman for some days past; he ate and drank nothing to
speak of, walked up and down his bed-room half the night, and spoke to
no one.' I asked whether the young lady who was with him on Whit Monday
had been there since. The answer was that she had not, but that he
still went on painting her, out of his head, and the good woman herself
had already thought that love might have something to do with her
master's silence and absence of mind.

"The truth flashed in upon me too plainly, and I tacitly reproached
myself with having poured oil on the flame by speaking of his
attachment to the lovely being as something quite reasonable and by no
means hopeless. Truly, if we always reflected the serious mischief our
jesting words might make, we should be at least as cautious in uttering
them, as we are in ascertaining upon what we are about to throw the
burning end of our cigar.

"Meanwhile there was nothing to be done. I knew my eccentric Mynheer
Jan too well. If he had taken it into his head to eat a whole Edam
cheese for his breakfast, no one could have dissuaded him. I made two
other attempts to get at him, but in vain; and one evening when I
accidentally met him by the 'Aukirche'--we had almost run up against
each other--he was off like a shot, and all my calling, and scolding,
and running after him did no good; he _would_ not have anything to do
with me.

"By-and-bye I came to take the matter more quietly, and to say to
myself, 'If he can do without thee, thou canst get on without him.'
This mood of mine won me approving looks from my dear wife. I willingly
allowed her the triumph--of which, by-the-way, she did not boast
ungenerously--of believing that her remonstrances had weaned me from
that soul-destroyer, Jan, and brought me back to the paths of virtue
and landscape-painting. When my oak forest was done, we broke up our
tent in the town, to pitch it, as we annually did, in the mountains. I
wrote a kindly note to wish my friend good-bye, but got no answer in
return. And so most of the summer passed away without my knowing
whether he were dead or alive. The fair Kate seemed to have been
swallowed up by an earthquake. Of all my friends and colleagues, who
were generally not long in tracking out anything rare, none had
discovered the slightest trace of our poor wonder of the world.

"When, however, the middle of September came, and I had got a little
tired of painting studies, and perhaps, also, of the monotonous fare of
our country abode, and began to long for a return to the amenities of
town life, I became conscious of a lively desire to know what had
become of my Dutchman and his beauty. My first walk in Munich was to
his studio, where I found the nest empty indeed, but left upon his
little slate my name and a hearty greeting. After that I went with my
wife to the exhibition, for where one has been so long face to face
with nature, it is a pleasure to see how art has been getting on in the
meantime. But what was my amazement, when the first picture my eyes
fell upon, was nothing else than an unmistakable genuine Van Kuylen, in
which his unfortunate studies of Kate were turned to account in his
well-known manner, and certainly so questionably, that I at first
pretended not to notice it, in order to get my wife safely past. But
she with her lynx-eyes instantly made out the whole story.

"'But do look,' she said, in a tolerably calm voice, in which, however,
I could detect a satirical tone; 'here is a picture by your Dutch
painter of holy subjects, and on a larger scale than any we have seen
before. I must say, if the subject were not so objectionable, it would
go far to reconcile me to him. It seems to me that he has made great
progress: one might almost call this picture beautiful; not only the
colouring, but the whole composition has something grandiose,
historical as you call it, a style--' (You may see that the little
woman had not consorted with artists for the last six years for
nothing, and could deliver her art-criticisms as confidently as any
newspaper writer, only rather more intelligently.) 'But I believe,' she
continued, 'that the Bathsheba who is there undressing to take a bath
in a very shallow reservoir, is your marvellous creature from the
Rhine. At all events, she does not look like any of the other studies
in the room, and the little King David who peeps from an upper window,
and naturally shows us the beautiful cheese-coloured face of the
painter, looks at the lady with a genuine artist's eye, such as I have
seen in other people's heads when staring under the bonnets of pretty
girls,' (with that, a side glance at her faithful husband.) 'Well! I
must say she is not bad-looking, if he has not idealised his model too
much; but was I not right to refuse to take that persecuted innocence
into our house? A pretty snake, indeed, I should have warmed in my
breast! _She_ helpless! I think one who lets herself be painted thus,
knows very well how to help herself. And really I do not know which I
ought to wonder at most, at my good unsuspicious husband, who was so
easily taken in by an experienced adventuress, or, if indeed he were
not so entirely harmless in the matter, at his sanguine hope of
humbugging me. At all events I am very glad that things have taken this
turn.'

"After this attack and these imputations clothed in the most discreet
and proper language, to which I had not so much as a word to answer, my
domestic guardian angel drew me hastily away, as if fearing that
dangerous person might even in her picture exercise some witchcraft
over me. And really there was nothing out of the way in the idea, for
all that my eccentric friend possessed of taste and love of beauty, had
been expended on the figure of the young woman, who, already undraped
to the hips, sat on a low stool in the act of taking off her little
shoe. While so doing she turned to the left the well-remembered
profile, which was drawn with the tenderest contour, not a single
feature altered, and a striking likeness; her hair, which seemed to
have been just loosened, fell in bewitching confusion over her lustrous
neck. Her back and arms were so beautifully drawn, that I knew not how
to give the good 'genre' painter credit for them. But what specially
attracted me was the sad impassive expression with which the fair being
bent her head, and cast her long-lashed eyes on the ground. King David
up there in his balcony did not appear to me at that moment to be such
a great sinner after all; or at least the extenuating circumstances
under which that abominable letter anent Uriah was written, came before
me more impressively than they had ever done in the presence of any
painting of the subject before.

"I confess that I spent the rest of the day in a somewhat perturbed
mood; my old creed, namely, that women _were_ women, was once more
confirmed, and the apparent exception turned out to be an illusion.
Whether it were through vanity, or distress, or mere apathy, the
beautiful girl had not maintained her inviolability. But although it is
very pleasant to be proved right, and though I ought, besides, to have
rejoiced that the poor _innamorato_ should in this not unusual way be
healed of his madness, and probably at this moment happily betrothed,
if not already a husband, there nevertheless lurked a certain
uncomfortable feeling in my mind, and I caught myself involuntarily
shaking my head as though there were something not quite right about
it. My quick-witted wife seemed to discern what was going on within me,
but as though the subject of my musings were too low and common to bear
discussion, she never referred to the picture, and treated me with a
gentleness and consideration befitting a penitent; in the spirit, in
short, of the beautiful axiom, 'If a man have fallen, let love bring
him back to duty.'

"On the following morning I was anxious to go to work, with fresh
energies, at a new picture which I had already mentally composed; but I
discovered that there was something wrong with me--there was still that
story to unravel. What I should have liked best would have been to have
gone at once to Mynheer Jan, and heard the truth, but he never got up
before ten o'clock in the morning; so I lounged off again to the
exhibition, that I might study the picture I had too hurriedly looked
at the previous day, and was not a little annoyed at being reminded by
the closed door that it was Saturday, the day when the pictures are
hung and the public excluded. The official told me that Herr van
Kuylen's picture had been taken back to his studio in the course of the
previous evening.

"To while away the hours till ten, I turned off through the arcades,
and betook myself to the English garden, where I never found time long.
It is so celebrated that I need not praise it; but I venture to say
there are not many, even among our good old Munich inhabitants, who
know it at the time of its very greatest beauty, and that is early on
an autumn, or late-summer morning, when it is as solemn and deserted
as a primeval forest, and you can wander along the lofty avenues
of shade without meeting a human creature. The gold-daisied meadows
are luxuriant in the sun, the trees have lost none of their gorgeous
foliage, the sun-light falls, I might say, in _pasto_ on the
mirror-like ponds, and the magical dreamy silence thrills with the
quiet rushing of the Isar, and the light and noiseless hopping of birds
and squirrels from branch to branch. There was no one to be seen on the
lonely benches, unless, perhaps, a student preparing for his
examination, or some poor poet meditating his love-songs. As to my
colleagues the landscape painters, I have never met one of them here.

"Accordingly as I said, I was lounging on this particular morning in
the well-known paths, but not in a particularly good mood for making
studies, for Van Kuylen's picture, and what could have happened to
enable him to paint it, was constantly running in my head. When I had
dreamingly sauntered on to the vicinity of the famous waterfall, which
the grateful inhabitants prepared at so much expense as a surprise for
King Ludwig, I saw a lady on the bench upon the little hill overlooking
it, sitting motionless, and having nothing about her to excite my
interest, till all at once it struck me that she had a black veil down.
I thought, however, 'she has some reason for not wishing to be
recognized except by the one for whom she is waiting, and I will pass
quickly by,' when a strange impulse led me to turn round and give her
another look. The veiled figure made a little start, as though it
recognized me, but the next moment sat as motionless as before. But
there was a something in the turn of the head which seemed to me so
familiar, that I involuntarily turned back a step or two, and--'Good
Heavens! It is you, Miss Kate,' I cried, 'and what brings you here?'
and I held out my hand in cordial greeting. But she did not take it,
and seemed on the point of running off. 'Stop,' said I, 'I have not
bargained for this,' and in a friendly way I detained her. 'One is not
to fly from an old friend in this manner, but to tell him where one has
been for so many months past.' Meanwhile some uncomfortable terror was
creeping over me, partly by reason of her strange silence and her
looking about her as if for a way of escape, and partly because I had
seen her hide a bottle under her shawl. It was, therefore, so plainly
my duty not to leave her, that even my wife must have allowed it.

"'I shall not go away, Miss Kate,' I began, 'till you restore me a
little of that confidence you showed at our first interview. You know I
have only friendly intentions. You have something on your mind; it is
vain to deny it; and I believe there is no one who can be so unselfish
a confidant and adviser as I. Come, my dear young lady, let us seat
ourselves on this bench. And now tell me why you seemed so shocked at
seeing me again, and what sort of a cordial you are carrying there, and
hiding from me. Fie, fie, Miss Kate, are you going to take to drinking
secretly in your early youth?'

"She made no reply, but allowed herself to be led back to the bench,
where I seated myself beside her.

"In order to give her time to compose herself, I began to talk of quite
indifferent subjects: of the weather, and how beautiful it was here by
the waterfall, and of how I had spent my summer, purposely dwelling a
good deal upon my wife and children, as it always makes a good
impression when doctors and spiritual pastors are affectionate husbands
and parents.

"She seemed to be deaf to everything. There was no help for it, then, I
must take the bull by the horns.

"'Miss Kate,' I said, 'is it long since you have seen Herr van Kuylen?
My first expedition yesterday was to his house, but as I found no one
at home--'

"She started at the sound of his name. Aha! I thought, there is
something wrong here.

"'He must have been very industrious these last months,' I continued,
as unconcernedly as I could; 'I myself have only seen one picture of
his in the exhibition, but--'

"No sooner were the words spoken than from beneath the veil of the
silent girl beside me, there burst such heart-rending sobs that I
jumped up in horror.

"'For God's sake!' I cried, 'what is the matter with you? Here is a
secret that will break your heart if you don't give it words. Tell
me--explain to me--'

"'Let me go,' she cried out passionately, and again tried to make her
escape. 'I am so unhappy that nobody can help me, and even if you do
really wish me well--still it is too late. Nothing remains for me now
but to--'

"Die--she would have said, but her sobs choked her. Meanwhile I had
availed myself of the opportunity to get hold of the bottle, which she
had put down on the bench beside her. With one quick gesture I at once
hurled it into the little cascade below us.

"'So then,' said I, 'that was it! You are a little fury, Kate, and in
your present heroic frame of mind, you were on the point of drinking
off that little bottle, and making me your executor!'

"She shook her head. 'You are mistaken,' she said, 'it was not poison,
it was only common _aquafortis_, not intended for internal use. If you
must know everything, I was only going to wash my face with it.'

"'Kate!' I cried in horror. 'Are you mad?'

"'Not at all,' she gravely replied. 'The expedient would be rather
rough, but efficient. I should then get rid of this accursed face which
has been the cause of all my misery, and now, too, at length--of my
shame.'

"These last words were scarcely audible, her face being hidden in her
hands. I misunderstood their purport, and consequently did not at once
know what to reply.

"It was she who solved my perplexity.

"She suddenly left off sobbing, and looked me full in the face with a
singularly resolute expression.

"I could therefore contemplate her at my leisure, and found that if
possible she was more beautiful than ever, her features still more
delicate and refined, the tears on her fair cheeks--altogether she was
the most enchanting and touching spectacle that a man could behold.

"'You think a good deal of what you have done,' she said in her
quietest tones. 'However if it is not in this hour it will be in some
other; carried out my purpose will surely be, for I am sick of life. If
you knew all you would certainly not blame me, but in the main you do
know; you have been yourself at the exhibition, you have there seen how
a wicked and cruel-hearted man has dared to behave to a poor, virtuous,
unhappy girl who would have nothing to say to him.'

"'What!' I cried, and the solution of the mystery flashed across me;
'he has then--you have not sat to him once for it?'

"'I!' she cried, with all the offended dignity of a little queen. 'I do
not so much as know what it looks like. I have only been told of it by
my landlady, who has not herself seen it, but an officer, to whom she
carried back a uniform yesterday evening, said to her: "Your lodger,
the pretty girl, who is so vastly coy whenever one comes to propose
anything to her, and always locks herself up, does not seem to be so
inaccessible to civilians; there she is at the exhibition, painted just
as God made her; to be sure Dutch ducats are more valuable than our
uniform buttons." At this the tailor's wife asked further questions,
and told me again all that she learnt. She herself is quite furious,
and never would have believed it of Herr van Kuylen. And all because I
had refused to go again to his studio after he had come the third day
of Whitsuntide to pay me a visit, when he knew I should be alone with
the children, and made me an offer of marriage in French that Babette
might not understand him; for which very reason I answered in German
that I did not mean to marry, and that he knew very well why, and that
now after his declaration I could no longer sit to him as he must
perfectly understand. But he seemed to understand nothing, he was like
a maniac, and I had great difficulty to get him out of the room at all,
for he always broke out anew, now with jests, now with the most fearful
adjurations. Since then I have never spoken a word to him, nor let him
in when he knocked at my door, and in the street I always got out of
the way so speedily, that he could have no hope at all. And then what
does he go and do? Out of revenge and wickedness he puts me as it were
in the pillory, so that every one may point their finger at me, and I
no longer dare look up in the presence of respectable women. Oh, what
men are! And I had thought that he, at least, was an exception, because
he did not prate, and had a kind of appearance which was not likely to
lead any one into folly and shame for his sake. Now I have had to pay
for my stupid confidence by the misery of my whole life.'

"Then again she burst into tears.

"I now attempted to comfort her, and also to defend my friend Jan, by
representing to her that painters think very differently on these
matters to what ladies do; that he had most certainly not done it out
of revenge; and that she could lose nothing in the eyes of any rational
beings if this picture--like all the rest of Van Kuylen's--were
destined for the gallery of some Amsterdam merchant, who knew as little
of the existence of 'the fair Kate,' as she did of his.

"But it was all in vain. With the active imagination of all
self-torturers, she pictured to herself that the picture might be
engraved or lithographed, and then hung up in the windows of all the
print-shops, and in all the public-rooms of the hotels along the Rhine,
and that then everybody would say, 'Only see what our coy little
schoolmaster's daughter has come to! A pretty face may lead a person
great lengths indeed!' and what would her parents and sisters think of
her--and suppose that such a print ever got as far as America, and came
one day to the eyes of Hans Lutz. No, no, she would much rather--having
rendered herself unrecognizable so far as she could--leap into the
Isar, than day and night imagine such fearful things.

"'Do you know what?' said I at length. 'All these desperate
lamentations and resolutions have no practical sense in them, and do
not lead us any nearer the goal that you wish to reach--the nullifying
as much as possible the mischief done. Be reasonable, Miss Kate, and
accompany me at once to our common friend, who has certainly no idea
how evil-disposed you are towards him. There you can at all events
obtain a written assurance from him that he painted the picture in
question entirely out of his own head, that you never sat to him except
for a most unexceptionably decorous portrait, and even then were not
alone with him. I will also try to induce him either to remove the
likeness of the lady Bathsheba to you, or to put an honest drapery over
her back. Come now, will not this be much more to the purpose than your
spoiling your complexion either with the water of the Isar, or
_aquafortis_? Only think what people would say about it; that you had
done yourself a mischief out of an unfortunate attachment to our little
Dutchman to whom you had sat!'

"This last quite too appalling idea seemed to remove all her
objections; she saw that a rational measure taken now, need not prevent
her doing the most despairing things by-and-bye, and as an empty cab
happened to be coming up the great avenue, we both got into it, with
the intention of at once bringing Van Kuylen to book.

"During the whole of the way she was silent, only answering Yes and No
to my questions. Indeed I did not say much either, and pushed myself
back as far as I could into the corner of the half-open vehicle; for we
had to pass through the street in which I lived. If my good wife should
chance to be looking out of the window, or were out walking, and met
her husband driving with a veiled lady! As I have said she is one of
the best of women, but all have a spot where they are vulnerable, and
appearances would have been decidedly against me; for what could induce
a landscape-painter to engage a female model in the English garden, and
to get into a cab with her?--his own family may well suffice _him_ as
lay figures!

"Meanwhile we had safely arrived at Van Kuylen's house in the meadows.

"An empty cab waiting in the street showed we had been preceded by some
other visitor. As we passed through the little garden and approached
the studio, we plainly heard the sound of voices within.

"'Sit down for a few moments on this bench, Miss Kate,' said I, 'I will
just listen whether I know the other voice, and whether there seems any
prospect of the person soon going away.'

"So saying, I went up to the door, which certainly was closed, but as
it was only a very thin one--in winter another door was added--one
could distinctly hear every word, unless, indeed, the speakers lowered
their voices intentionally.

"The girl was far too excited and impatient to think of sitting down;
she came and stood immediately behind me.

"'I have already explained to you,' we now heard Van Kuylen say, 'that
I am not going to sell the picture, and as for the copy you wish for, I
never copy any of my pictures. I am only too glad when I have once got
myself expressed, however poorly it may be, and I lack the mercantile
genius necessary for picture-multiplying.'

"'If you yourself do not intend to repeat it,' said a rather rough
manly voice which was entirely strange to me, 'perhaps you will allow
another to copy it for me, or at least let me have a photograph of it.'

"'I am sorry,' repeated Van Kuylen, 'that I cannot consent to have that
picture reproduced in any way. The circumstances are quite peculiar,'
and then he murmured something that we did not catch.

"'He is making short work of him,' said I, turning round to the girl.
'It is our time to appear on the scene,' I was going to add, but the
words stuck in my throat. Pale as death, with wide-staring eyes, as
though she saw a spectre, I do believe the poor child would have fallen
if I had not thrown my arm around her and supported her in the very
nick of time.

"'What is it? What is it?' I cried. 'Let me take you in to Van Kuylen's
sofa. Are you ill?'

"She, however, shook her head in silence, and made a sign signifying,
'Hush! I must listen,' and now we heard the stranger speak again. 'I
must request you at least to answer me one more question. Had you a
model for the female figure?'

"'Certainly,' replied Van Kuylen, 'I never paint a stroke but from
nature.'

"'Then you must know this girl intimately; you know where she lives,
and can tell me--'

"'Give yourself no further trouble, sir,' interrupted Van Kuylen. 'I
can well understand that this picture may excite other than artistic
admiration, but as for telling who sat to me for it--no, sir. My studio
is no bureau of enquiry, and besides--' then came some more muttered
words.

"'Forgive me,' said the stranger, his voice all the more raised; 'I can
comprehend that under the peculiar relation in which you seem to stand
to your model--'

"At this moment the girl tore away from me like lightning, rushed to
the door, and before I could try to hold her back, had burst in, and
now stood--the most exquisite little fury that ever defended her good
name--between the two men.

"I followed her instantly, and was just opening my mouth to interpose,
when I heard the stranger give a hollow groan, and saw him reel back a
step or two. I looked at him more closely. He was really a fine-looking
man, remarkably well-dressed in black, with a resolute somewhat
sunburnt face, in which I at once detected a few slight marks of
small-pox.

"'Excuse me,' I stammered out in much embarrassment; 'I have the
honour, Mr. Hans Lutz--'

"But Kate did not let me finish my speech; one quick glance at the
picture, which stood on an easel in the middle of the studio, had sent
all the blood back to her face. 'That is scandalous,' said she, going
straight up to Van Kuylen, who with his straw-coloured face and nankeen
attire cut a most unfortunate figure on this occasion. '_That_, then,
is your gratitude to me for making an exception in your case, and
consenting to sit for my portrait to you; and because I would consent
to nothing else, you would degrade me in this way before the whole
world, and represent me as a bad bold girl who lets herself be seen for
money, and has no objection to her shame being openly exhibited!
Declare now once for all before these two witnesses, whether you have
ever seen me as I am painted there, whether I was ever alone with you,
whether I did not show you the door when you came to me at my lodgings
and begged and entreated me to be your wife.'

"Her eyes flashed, and now that she was silent, her nostrils quivered,
and I noticed that she pressed her clenched fist closely to her side,
as though she feared she might be tempted to commit an assault upon the
little yellow man.

"I for my part, marvelled that he took it all so calmly.

"'I find out now,' he said at length with the utmost phlegm, and laying
down his pipe, 'who it is I have before me. You are no doubt the
engineering gentleman of whom the young lady has already told us. I
congratulate you on your return, which will probably set all things to
rights. If they went wrong it was your own fault. A person who allows
so long a time to pass without being heard of, cannot be surprised at
others coming forward in his absence. For the rest, I am prepared to
give the lady whatever spoken or written assurance she may require. The
best explanation, perhaps, will be found in _this_!

"So saying he went to a corner of the room, where all sorts of sketches
and unfinished pictures were heaped up together, and after a short
search, produced a study painted on paper, a female figure in the
precise position of Bathsheba, and although the face was merely an
outline, one saw at a glance that a quite different model must have sat
for it--a coarse common-place person with black hair whose back and
shoulders were widely celebrated amongst artists.

"'I thank you,' said the stranger, who seemed somewhat to have
recovered the unexpected meeting. 'I believe every word you have said,
but I hope you will not consider me too importunate if I repeat the
request that the picture may be mine. You understand--'

"'I understand it all,' drily returned Van Kuylen, while lighting his
clay-pipe with a large match; 'and as I have something to apologise
for, and very much wish that the lady should not eternally resent my
inconsiderate freak, I give you the picture for your new establishment.
And now--you will excuse me. I have some business which cannot be
postponed. A good journey to you.'

"Before one of us could find a word to reply, he made us an abrupt bow,
and passed through a door leading into the interior of the house.

"We three who remained behind stood there in utter helplessness. I felt
that I was one too many, and was planning how best to leave the pair
alone, when suddenly the lovely girl came up to me, held out her hand,
and with apparent composure said:

"'Farewell, dear sir; I thank you for all the kindness you have shown
me. I will now go home and trouble you no further.'

"With that she turned round without casting one glance at her sun-burnt
lover, and moved towards the door.

"'Katharine!' cried the young man, rushing towards her.

"'Leave me!' said the incensed beauty. 'We have no longer anything to
do with each other. One who could believe _that_ of me--who could
suppose that I should ever degrade myself so far--'

"'Listen to me, dear Kate,' I interposed, for I saw that both the proud
high-tempered creatures were just in the mood to part as suddenly as
they had met; 'if you really believe that I am a friend to you, do try
to follow me and consider the question more calmly. Just put yourself
in the place of your Hans Lutz, (you will forgive me, my dear sir, for
using your Christian name though we have not even been introduced,) and
ask yourself whether a lover is very likely to retain his five senses,
when he chances to enter a picture-gallery, and sees the girl of his
heart turn her back upon him in that fashion. And yet supposing you had
really been Frau van Kuylen, and your husband _had_ painted you behind
your back, as our greatest artists have been wont to do with their
wives and mistresses, that would have been nothing so very out of the
way either. Instead, therefore, of treating the matter so tragically,
you ought rather to thank God for having brought things so happily
round; to be reconciled to your lover; to my poor friend, who after all
is the one to be pitied, for he goes empty away; and to your own face
with which you were so very angry. It has, indeed, been an infliction
to you, but at last it is to it that you are indebted for the happiness
of having Mr. Hans Lutz again. For if Mrs. Bathsheba had not stolen
your bewitching profile, who knows whether your lover would ever have
come on your track here in Munich, and finally carried off picture and
original both!'

"Such was the gist of my address, and my eloquence had the happiest
results. There ensued a most affecting reconciliation, an embracing,
kissing, and handshaking, whereof--as regards the last at all events--I
had my due share, and in another five minutes I saw the happy pair
drive off in the cab, radiant with delirious bliss, and had scarcely
time to invite them to pay a visit to my house, and to call after the
driver to go through the English garden, that being the best scene for
such an idyll.

"Van Kuylen did not show himself again. But as I slowly followed the
cab, and turned round once more, I thought I saw from the upper window
of the small house, a resigned cloud of smoke eddy up from a white
clay-pipe. He had not spared himself the pain of looking after the
lovers from his lonely watch-tower.

"I need not say that I instantly went home, and accurately repeated the
whole remarkable story to my dear wife. Alas! I failed to produce the
desired effect thereby. There lurked in the soul of that excellent
woman a prejudice against a girl who presumed to be so beautiful that
all men ran after her, and even the steadiest landscape painters took
in her an interest--fatherly, indeed, but dangerously warm. The
suspicion that all might not have been so very right after all, seemed
to gain confirmation, when day after day passed without bringing the
happy pair to pay their promised visit. My wife went about again with a
well-known air of magnanimously suppressed triumph, and treated me with
such compassionate indulgence, that it almost drove me wild. But what
was to be done? I must needs put up with it, and had only the choice of
passing as a bad judge of character, or a secret sinner.

"However, in a fortnight's time the tide turned. I was sitting quietly
over my work about noon, when in ran my little Christopher, and called
out to me that I was to come instantly to mamma, that there was a most
beautiful lady there with a gentleman, and that they had asked for me.
There they were then, husband and wife, on their marriage trip through
Italy to New York. On the day I had last seen them they had set out
homewards to present themselves to their parents, and as Hans Lutz--his
real name was Johann Ludwig Weinmann--was making a quantity of money
over there in America, it was probably much the same to the father of
the fair Kate, whether the result was attained by railway-making and
bridge-building, or the tanning of leather. My good wife had at
first--she afterwards confessed to me--sat rather monosyllabically
there, but when I came in, and neither the young woman nor I blushed,
nor exchanged any sign whatever of a private understanding, she finally
resumed her equipoise, and was obliged to believe in me: more--in the
course of the next half-hour she fell so completely in love with the
beautiful world's wonder, she did not know how to let her go, and
finally parted from her with the tenderest embraces. Later she said to
me, 'It really is a very good thing she is gone to America.'

"The same evening brought another leave-taking, but only in the form of
a letter. My good mynheer sent me a note, in which he after his own
fashion, and with divers humorous marginal illustrations, announced his
journey to Italy. He enclosed a small pen-and-ink drawing as a
keepsake; which was very highly finished and in all respects a genuine
Van Kuylen. Before a hut in a primeval forest sat a young pair under
the shade of palms, bananas, and bread-fruit trees, a couple of fine
children playing about their feet, the wife occupied with needle-work,
the husband reading to her. Above them on the branch of a majestic tree
squatted a small thin ape who was just about to throw a date into the
beautiful young woman's lap. Whom the faces of the wedded pair
resembled, and who had sat to the artist for the odd, pinched, resigned
countenance of the ape it were needless to particularise."



                         END OF THE FAIR KATE.



                         GEOFFROY AND GARCINDE.



                         GEOFFROY AND GARCINDE.


About the time of the second crusade, there lived near Carcassonne in
Provence, a nobleman, Count Hugo of Malaspina, who after the death of
his fair and virtuous wife, sent his only daughter Garcinde, then ten
years old, accompanied by her foster-sister Aigleta, to be educated at
the convent of Mont Salvair, and recommenced himself, spite of
grizzling hair, a wandering bachelor life. He was a stately knight, and
popular both with men and women, so he had no lack of invitations to
merry-making tournaments, and banquets at the castles of the wealthy
nobles, far and near. But, however, his delight in military exercises
and minstrelsy grew cool with years, so that he left the palm in both
to be carried off by younger aspirants, developing, at the same time,
an increasing love for wine and dice, and falling from his former
character of a wise manager of himself and of his substance, to that of
a degraded night-reveller, who even occupied the castle of his fathers
as tenant to his creditors, and had nothing left to call his own but
his unstained knightly courage, and the heart of his child. In order
not to grieve that child, Count Hugo took the greatest care to prevent
the rumour of the low state of his finances reaching the convent. He
was in the habit of twice a year visiting his daughter, and the young
girl, who up to this time had devoted all the power of loving she as
yet had to her father, and admired him as the ideal of every human and
knightly virtue and perfection,--did not fail to notice that the eyes
of the fast aging man, had for some time back lost their open and
joyous expression, that his cheeks were sunk, and his lips habitually
compressed. But as she knew the way to cheer him, and for the time to
make him forget the world outside the cloister-walls, she naturally
attributed his depression to his solitude, and lovingly urged him to
take her back, and keep her near him. At which the Count would sigh,
gloomily shake his head and declare that it would not be consistent
with her fair fame to live in a castle inhabited by men only, without
better protection than he could offer. He could not, therefore, remove
her from the cloister until she should exchange the companionship of
the pious sisters for that of some worthy husband. This was not
pleasant hearing to the intelligent girl, for although her life had not
been otherwise than happy with the nuns, who were cheerful and busy,
and though she had had, moreover, the companionship of the bright-eyed
Aigleta--a lively girl and full of whatever fun was possible in a
convent--yet Garcinde yearned to know and enjoy something of the world
without, and above all to devote her loving heart entirely to her
father. But he persisted that the honour of his house allowed of no
other arrangement than the present, and after every conversation on the
subject--as though stung by some secret vexation--he would abruptly
take leave of his lovely child, who on such occasions sat in the turret
of the convent-garden wall, lost in thought, and gazing on the road her
father had taken.

Thus year after year passed by: the Count's daughter had long out-grown
childhood, and the good nuns, reluctant as they might have been to part
with their charge, yet began to wonder that nothing was said about
marrying her. For they had no idea that Count Hugo, shrinking from
confessing to a son-in-law that he was a beggar, spoke as little about
his daughter as though she had been changed in her cradle, and a fairy
bantling placed there in her stead.

Now it happened that early one morning, when no one was expecting
him at his own castle, the Count returned quite alone on his roan mare,
and gave a faint knock as a man mortally sick might give at a
hospital-gate. The porter, growling over the untimely guest who roused
him from his morning sleep, looked through the grating in the iron
court-door, and was so startled by what he saw, that his trembling
hands could scarcely draw the heavy bolt in order to admit of his
master's entrance. For the face of the Count was pale as that of the
dead, and his eyes hollow, fixed, and expressionless, as if, instead of
having returned from a merry-making at the castle of his rich
neighbour, the Count Pierre of Gaillac, he might have been emerging
from the cave of St. Patrick, or from a still more terrible place where
he had spent the night with spectres. He threw the bridle of his horse
(the animal was covered with foam, and greedily drank the rain-water on
the ground,) to the alarmed domestic, and uttered one word only,
"Geoffroy." Then he ascended the winding-stair to his lonely room,
shaking his head when the servant enquired whether the Count would have
any refreshments, and whether he should wake up the other retainers.

The porter, who had never seen his master in such a plight, would have
been slow to recover from the shock he had received, had not the horse,
with a shrill neigh of distress, sunk on the ground. With some
difficulty he got it to its feet again, and led the utterly exhausted
animal to the stable, where he rendered it every care; then still
talking to himself, and calling upon all saints and angels, he ran to
the Geoffroy whom the Count had demanded.

The youth who bore this name dwelt in a lonely ivy-grown turret close
to the moat, and as the dawn had hardly broken, he still lay in the
sound sleep beseeming his health and early years. He was only twenty, a
nephew of the Count's, the offspring of the unfortunate love between
the high-born Countess Beatrix and a wandering minstrel, who knowing
the proud spirit and the customs of the house of Malaspina, had no way
of winning, except persuading her to elope with him. Count Rambaut her
father, when he discovered the disgrace that had befallen his family,
took no one into his counsels but his son Hugo; and father and brother
rode forth by night to follow the track of the offenders. In seven days
time they returned, walking their horses, a closed litter between them,
in which the young Countess lay with snow-white face, more like a waxen
form than a living woman. Her brother had killed her lover, her father
had cursed the dying man. From that time she never spoke another word
to either of them, but lived a widow in a detached turret, where she
brought her boy into the world. She made no complaint, but resisted all
attempts at reconciliation, though on their father's death, her
brother, who had always been deeply attached to her, endeavoured by all
the means in his power, to conciliate her. He himself bore her son to
the font, and when he married, he imposed upon his wife the duty of
daily visiting the lonely one, who never of her own accord left her
self-elected prison. Both ladies had now departed this life; the young
man Geoffroy--he was named after his father--was brought up almost as
the Count's own son, and truly the proudest might have gloried in such
a son. He was a beautiful youth, broad-shouldered, dark-complexioned,
with great earnest eyes, and a sweet sad mouth almost feminine in form,
which seldom smiled. For although he had in abundance all that a young
heart could desire, gay garments, finely-tempered weapons, horse,
falcon, and leisure enough for every knightly practice, and though,
too, from his earliest infancy no one had ever spoken an unkind word to
him, or reproached him with his birth, yet for all that a shadow hung
over him. Unless he were wandering in the forest--which bordered on the
moat, and was reached by a narrow bridge in ten paces or so--he would
keep himself apart from all joyous company, in the same room where his
mother had brought him into the world, as though there were no other
place on earth where he had a right to be. In his mother's lifetime he
had planted the little tower about with roses, and he still kept her
chamber, bed, and wardrobe, just as she had liked them to be. He for
his part had but few wants, and always held himself prepared to leave
even this corner where he was tolerated, at the first insulting word.
However, no one thought of such an event less than did Count Hugo,
whose heart the boy had entirely won, for he had transferred his love
for his sister, to her fatherless child. But as spite of all the
kindness and care shown him, the son could never force himself to
return the friendly grasp of the hand that had slain his father, all
that the Count could do was to leave his nephew in perfect freedom. He
never required any service from him, thanked him as for a favour
conferred if Geoffroy tamed a falcon, or broke a horse for him, and
when his means began to fail, he would rather himself dispense with a
necessary than that Geoffroy should be disappointed of a wish. However,
he never took him with him on a visit, not that he wished to deny this
illegitimate sprout of the family tree--especially since his
unfortunate mother was no longer there to blush for him--but rather
that he did not wish the youth to witness his own reckless mode of
life, or to be corrupted by the loose manners and dissolute society of
the neighbouring nobles.

Therefore it was that the nephew, who had never received an order from
his uncle, was surprised to be thus suddenly disturbed at so unusual an
hour by the porter, who breathlessly told him what had happened, and
summoned him to the castle. He did not, however, delay to dress and
obey the call. When he entered the chamber, dimly lighted by the
dawning day, he saw the Count sitting at a table with a taper before
him, by the aid of which he had evidently been writing a letter. He now
sat motionless, his head resting on his hands, which were buried deep
in his grey hair. Geoffroy had to call him three times before he could
rouse him from his trance, then when he saw the haggard face and
lifeless eyes he, too, was shocked, although he did not love his uncle.
But he made an effort, enquired whether he was ill, and whether he
should ride to Carcassonne to fetch a leech.

"Saddle a horse, Geoffroy," returned Count Hugo, slowly rising, folding
the letter he had written, and sealing it with his signet-ring. "You
must take this letter to-day to the Lady Abbess of the Convent of Mont
Salvair, and to-morrow she must send me off my daughter Garcinde, for I
have something to say to her. And as I myself cannot reach her--my ride
this night has done me harm, and my gout admonishes me to get into bed
rather than into the saddle--I could wish that you should escort your
cousin, and see to her safe journey hither. Take a servant with you who
will bring back, on a baggage-horse, whatever may be personally needed,
till the abbess can send the rest. The convent will lend Garcinde a
horse. I have requested this to be done in my letter. You will rest for
a night half-way, at the farm of La Vaquiera, my daughter being
unaccustomed to riding, and the summer heat great. On the evening of
the third day I shall expect to see you here."

The youth received the letter, lingered for a moment on the threshold
as though some question were burning on his lips, then merely said, "It
shall be done, my lord," and with a slight inclination, took his
departure. When he got outside the door, he fancied that he heard
himself recalled, and stood still a moment to see whether it really
were so, but hearing nothing further he ran down the winding-stair, got
his horse out of the stable, gave the requisite orders to one of the
few servants that remained about the fallen house, and as the man was
sleepy and slow in his movements, ordered him to follow after, while he
himself sprang through the gate past the wondering porter, to whose
questions as to what the Count wanted, and whether it really were all
over with him, he merely replied by a shrug of the shoulders.

The reason of his haste in fulfilling his mission, was a fear that the
Count might change his mind and call him back, for during the eight
years that his cousin had been away from her father's house, whenever a
message had to be sent to her, he was never the one appointed to carry
it, and there seemed to be a deliberate purpose to prevent their
meeting. It is true that when they were both children there had been
no one of whom the little Countess was so fond as of her silent,
proud-spirited playfellow, the wandering minstrel's son, who at that
time already led a strange and solitary life in the small tower where
his mother had died. The servants had concluded that it was on account
of young Geoffrey that Sir Hugo had sent his daughter to a convent,
instead of taking a duenna into his house as many a widower had done,
so as not to be separated from his child; and now here was the cousin
sent to bring back the young lady, who had meanwhile, according to
common report, grown up into unparalleled beauty. Had some suitor made
his appearance on the previous evening, so that it was no longer
necessary to guard the girl against an unsuitable attachment? Or had
Death on his spectral horse accompanied the Count on his last night's
ride, so that all earthly considerations having now fallen off from
him, he merely thought of making his peace with God, and leaving his
child free to be happy or unhappy in her own way? There was no solving
the mystery.

As soon, however, as the turrets of the Castle of Malaspina were out of
sight, Geoffroy threw away all care and sadness, and only suffered
pleasant thoughts--rare guests in his mind--to go forth to meet the
playfellow of his childhood, whose delicate face with its laughing
white teeth and large dark eyes, shone out as plainly before him as
though he had seen them but yesterday. The day was cloudless, the woods
resounded with the song of birds, the beautiful fields of Provence
spread before him golden with the ripening corn, and for the first time
life appeared to him to be indeed a heavenly boon. He took to singing
the song with which his father had won his mother's heart; he had found
it in a music-book with the words written in the margin by her own
hand.

                 "Le donz chans d'un auzelh,
                  Tue chantava en un plays,
                  Me desviet l'autr'ier
                  De mon camin--"

He knew not why this particular song should come to his mind: he had
never till now thought of it but with sorrow, but to-day he sang it
with clear voice and joyous heart.

As he approached the convent at evening, his mood became quieter, and
his brow clouded. With fast beating heart he knocked at the gate, and
delivering the letter through a grating to a lay-sister, awaited a
message from the abbess. Before long the answer came, saying the
command of the Count would be obeyed, that with the dawn of morning
both the young girls would be given over to the messenger's charge, and
that meanwhile he might spend the night at the house of the convent
bailiff, who was accustomed to receive strangers, and dwelt in the
vineyards of Mont Salvair.

The night, however, seemed long to the youth, for his trusty friend
sleep came not as usual to speed it away; he envied the servant (who
had only arrived about midnight with the baggage-horse,) the influence
of the strong convent wine, and the deep unconsciousness that followed.
In Geoffroy there was something awake which was stronger than wine or
fatigue.

Once more it was day: they saddled their horses, took leave of the
bailiff, and rode to the gate of Mont Salvair, there to await the
youthful Countess. They were not there long before the door opened, the
abbess came out, her train of nuns behind her, and in their midst the
young Garcinde and her foster-sister, who were about to enter upon life
and liberty, while the sisters returned to their pious bondage. There
were so many tears and sighs, embraces and benedictions, that Geoffroy
had still to wait some time before he could see the face of his cousin,
now lost to him under one veil after another. But one glance of her
black eyes, and the sheen of her fair hair, had wrought such an effect
upon him, that he stood by his horse in utter confusion of mind, and
hardly heard the abbess, who enquired in evident wonder whether he were
really the messenger who yesterday brought Count Malaspina's letter,
and to whom his daughter was to be confided. The servant, who was
standing by with folded hands and open mouth, staring at the holy
women, had to nudge the youth with his elbow before he came to himself,
and reverentially bowed assent to what he had only imperfectly heard.
"Sir Hugo himself," he said, his eyes still fixed on his cousin's fair
hair, "had been prevented coming. He had charged him to ride slowly,
and to spend the night at La Vaquiera." By mentioning this prudent
plan, he hoped to remove any scruple the abbess might have in confiding
the maiden to so young an escort. He seemed however, to have produced a
quite contrary effect, for after one perturbed heavenward look, the
noble lady turned away to some of the older nuns, and began in a low
voice to take counsel with them. Then when the bailiff had led out the
horses for the young women, and while some of the lay-sisters helped
the servant to load the baggage horse with clothes and provisions, a
lively face emerged from the living hedge of black and white veils. It
belonged to Aigleta, the child of Garcinde's nurse, who had grown up to
be a blooming maiden, and who now approached the mute messenger,
holding out a small but vigorous hand, and exclaiming, "In God's name
be welcome, Sir Geoffroy! Is it you?" After which she went up to the
abbess and whispered a word or two in her ear which seemed to dispel
all anxiety. The pious lady depended too fully on the lessons of wisdom
and virtue, which her charge had imbibed with conventual milk, to hold
it possible that she should give her heart to a nameless illegitimate
cousin, especially at a time when, in all probability, a distinguished
alliance awaited her. Accordingly she clasped Garcinde--who burst into
tears--in her motherly embrace, herself helped her to mount the old
convent grey, while Aigleta was lifted by Geoffroy on to a spirited
pony, and with much sobbing and waving of hands and handkerchiefs, the
small cavalcade was at last sent off from the old arched gate of Mont
Salvair, through which the band of the Brides of Heaven slowly and
mournfully returned.

But the young travelling-companions, too, proceeded on their way more
silently and thoughtfully than might be expected, when a knightly
youth, on the fairest of summer days, guides two fair maidens mounted
on fresh horses upon their first expedition into a smiling world. After
a hasty question as to how her father was, Garcinde had not again
addressed Geoffroy, influenced, perhaps, by the curt although
reverential manner in which he had seemed to avoid entering into
further details. But Aigleta, who for her part had not allowed the
departure from Mont Salvair to weigh the least upon her spirits, took
up a livelier tone, and after a sigh of gratitude for being at last
delivered from the pious monotony of cloistered life, began to give
Geoffroy an amusing account of its course from day to day. She was an
excellent mimic, and counterfeited the voices of the different sisters,
their mild whispers, and downcast eyes, their unrestrained laughing and
screaming as soon as they were unobserved, their petty spiteful
quarrels, their cloying affectionateness to each other, ready at a
moment's notice to turn into deadly enmity. In the midst of all this
she introduced the solemn bass voice of the abbess, exhorting to peace,
and painting the dangers of the world; and finally she concluded with a
wild medley of pious and godless speeches, in which the nuns were
supposed to express their feelings on the departure of the young
Countess, their envy, their fear that Satan with all his crew might be
waiting for them outside the gates; lastly the prayer of the abbess for
their deliverance from all dangers, especially from the temptations of
bold knights, and suspicious young cousins.

Garcinde who had been riding a yard or two in advance, now cut short
this burst of spirits, and with her gentle voice--without, however,
turning towards Aigleta--rebuked her frivolous tone. It was sinful, she
said, after all the love and kindness they had enjoyed, to expose to
view the weaknesses of the poor and sadly limited life, and she at
least should never forget that when orphaned, she had found there a
second home. Whereupon the pert girl, who in Geoffroy's presence did
not at all approve of having this well-merited sermon addressed to her,
only replied with a couple of proverbs, "Each bird sings according as
it is fed," and--

                 "To tell the simple truth I ween,
                  May be unwise, but 'tis not sin."

But she was all the more vexed and put out because the handsome youth
by her side treated her as so perfect a stranger, while she for her
part remembered him so well, and how glad she used to be when their
childish games were so arranged that "Jaufret"--so they called him
then--should be on her side to deliver her from a dragon, or to wake
her by a kiss out of magic sleep. And while she now engaged the servant
in commonplace talk, she could not help stealing frequent glances at
her other companion, noticing how handsome and manly he had become; how
with a slight turn of the wrist he could rein in a fiery horse, and yet
had such a sad and earnest beauty in his eyes as would have become the
very saints in the church of Mont Salvair. What could make him so
silent, she kept wondering; and if she were below the attention of so
noble a gentleman, how was it that he abstained from all attempt to
find favour in the eyes of his lady-cousin? All this perplexed her so
much that she gradually left off talking, and entirely forgot the
slight anger she had felt at the admonition received. Meanwhile the
youth on his side, who had so impatiently watched for this day, wished,
as the sun rose higher, that it had never dawned upon him at all,
instead of looking down on his joy and sorrow with so heartless a
splendour. It is true that from his boyish years he had preserved the
image of his cousin as his ideal of all beauty and loveliness, but the
spark had smouldered on as a quiet memory in a well-guarded portion of
his heart; but now at the first greeting from her lips, at the perfume
that floated over to him from her hair, this spark burst out into a
mighty flame, and he suffered tortures such as he had never known
before. And then her apparent estrangement from him increased his
anguish, for although he did not know whether it were disinclination to
him personally, or the calm contempt of the Count's daughter for her
father's poor retainer which closed her lips and kept her eyes averted,
he had leisure enough in these silent hours to estimate with miserable
accuracy the social gulf between them, and the duty of crushing every
foolish hope. Then, again, his thoughts turned to conjectures as to
what possessor he would have to make over the jewel entrusted to him,
whether her hand would be given away without her heart, or whether her
father in the gloom of sickness had so yearned for his only child, as
suddenly to recall her to his deserted home. Even were it so, would his
case be less hopeless if he had longer time to learn the full
preciousness of the treasure which must at length be surrendered to
another?

Thus he sank more and more into a profound melancholy, so that even
Garcinde, who was not herself joyous, remarked it, and asked him
whether he were suffering, whether he would rest and refresh himself
with a draught of wine? Geoffroy, crimsoning to the roots of his hair,
excused himself for his absent mood, accounted for it by a sleepless
night, and did all he could to appear more cheerful. And at noon when
they halted in a wood beside a spring to recruit themselves with the
provisions with which the pious sisterhood had laden the baggage-horse,
his spirits in a measure revived, while Aigleta, who had long got over
her fit of sullenness, recovered the audacity of her mood, and
flavoured the mid-day meal with the drollest freaks of fancy. Garcinde
sat in the shadow of a tall black-thorn, and patiently endured that the
little witch who could not rest a moment, should adorn the whole party
with garlands, even to the servant and the grazing horses, singing
merry songs the while, not always of spiritual import, at which even
the servant laughed, so that the young Countess rose with a grave air,
removed the wreath from her brow, and proposed that they should ride on
again. The last to rise from the green grass was Geoffroy; to him the
spot seemed a Paradise where he would willingly have dreamed his days
away, yet when he lifted his cousin into her saddle, he did not dare to
bestow on the little foot that she placed in his hand, anything more
than the very slightest pressure. She turned her face away from him,
and he was for an instant's space veiled in the flow of soft tresses
that fell down to her girdle. Then she put her horse into a gentle
canter. Thus they all rode on for a while, men and beasts refreshed by
their hour's repose, and even Geoffroy carried his head higher, as
though the red wine that Aigleta had given him in a cup garlanded with
flowers, had put new life into his veins, and inspired him with energy
to enjoy the bliss of the present hour.

La Vaquiera, which they reached early in the afternoon, was a
dairy-farm, beautifully situated between richest pastures and wooded
grounds; until late years in the possession of the house of Malaspina,
but staked and lost at play, by the Count to a neighbouring noble,
Pierre de Gaillac, who had, however, something else to do than to look
after herds of cattle and flocks of sheep in this quiet corner. The
farmer himself and his wife, who lived here with a troop of shepherds
and milkmaids, and whom Sir Hugo greeted as usual whenever he rode
past, had not a notion that they no longer held under him, and they
received his daughter--whom they well remembered in her childhood--with
all the reverence and attention due to their young mistress. They had
only a small house, as the servants slept in the stables, but they at
once gave up their one sleeping-chamber to the two girls, and
themselves found a resting-place in the kitchen. Geoffroy had to put up
with a loft reached by a ladder, fortunately an airy one having plenty
of fresh hay. It was late, however, when he betook himself to it, for
the best part of the starry night had been spent in such earnest and
serious converse, that his impetuous feelings were somewhat subdued,
and spite of the vicinity of Garcinde, he made up for the lost sleep
of the night before. The two girls, on the contrary, although they
too--what with the long ride and the strong wine--owned to being very
tired, yet enlivened themselves during their unrobing, by much of that
seeming confidential talk common to maidens who share the same couch,
and yet would fain conceal their heart's secrets from each other. For
girls believe there is no better way of holding their tongue on one
subject than letting it run on unguardedly on every other. "Why have
you been so little glad all day long, and are you sure you are not
still angry with me for all the nonsense I have talked, out of sheer
delight at getting back into the world?" said Aigleta to her friend,
while helping her to braid and bind her hair. "Not so, dear heart,"
replied her thoughtful companion, letting her delicate arms drop into
her lap. "I envy you your light-heartedness, I do not censure it. But
my heart is heavy. Oh, Aigleta, I used to have such happy dreams of
returning to my father, of breathing free air, and seeing the world as
it lay beyond the hill of Mont Salvair. And now--"

"Does not the world seem to you fair enough, the sky blue enough, the
meadows green enough, the stream clear enough to reflect back your
beauty?" laughed Aigleta.

"How can you mock at my anxiety and gloom?" returned the Count's
daughter. "Just think--on the very day when I re-enter the world, my
dear father is absent from me. I cannot grasp his hand or hear his
voice. Oh believe me, there is something mysterious, dark, perhaps
appalling, that is kept back from me, the foreboding of which
has--spite of all the sunshine--darkened for me this much longed for
day."

"Nonsense!" said Aigleta. "Shall I tell you where the cloud lay that
threw its dull shadow over you? On the brow and in the eyes of that
simple Sir Jaufret. Deny it as you will I know what I know, and have
not got eyes in my head for nothing. And have you not, indeed, every
right to be offended with his uncourteous, indifferent manner? Fie! To
make such a melancholy face when one has the good fortune to serve as
knight to two sweet young ladies, one of whom, moreover, is a high-born
countess and his own first cousin! And this evening, too, when we
walked round the pastures, could he not have found something more
lively to talk of than the stars above us, and whether we went to them
after death, and horrid subjects of that kind? I think he might have
found some stars nearer at hand, and only to talk about dying we need
not have left Mont Salvair! He is certainly--as one can see--likely to
die of love, but that is no excuse. Such gloom may do very well for
poems when he writes you them, but while you were together and
alone--for as for me, I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep--"

"What art thou prating about, foolish one?" said Garcinde, trying to
look angry, although a sweet emotion sent the blood tingling to her
cheeks. "Dost thou not know why he is so grave and sad, and never,
indeed, will be quite happy all his life long? Not though that he need
take his birth thus to heart. If he would only go to the court of some
foreign prince, and there gain renown, no one would reproach him with
what he could not help; and he might win wealth, and land, and fame,
and be a fit wooer for any count's daughter. But even though he be a
dreamer, and does not understand his own advantage, he is not so
foolish as to turn his thoughts towards me, for well he knows my father
would never give me to him. Nay I rather think that he hates me as
being my father's daughter--above him in position--though I for my part
would always behave to him as in our childish days, and do everything
in my power to renew the old intimacy."

"Hm," said Aigleta, as she unlaced her bodice, "it may be that you are
right, and yet I wish he hated _me_ in the way he hates _thee_. I
should desire nothing better, but I am a servant's daughter. Who would
give himself the trouble to look and see whether I deserve love or
hate? And yet I think," and so saying she shook her thick hair over her
white shoulders, "it might be well worth their while too, and whether
high-born or not, you shall see, _Domna Comtessa_, in the net of these
black hairs. I shall catch gay-plumaged birds as well as you with your
gold threads, and even if that black crow Jaufret keeps out of them--"

"Any one who heard you speak," interposed Garcinde, "would think that
you came from some quite other place than a convent. But now we will go
to sleep. I wish morning were come and that I had embraced my father."

They lay quiet for an hour, yet neither of them closed an eye; the bed
at the farm was certainly harder than their Mont Salvair couch, but
that alone would not have troubled the repose of girls of eighteen.
They both held their breath, and kept motionless, till Aigleta suddenly
sat up and said, "I never believed the nuns when they said the outer
world would steal away our rest; and now see, we have hardly put our
foot outside their gates, and already sleep flies from us. And yet we
are not even in love, I at least am not. Oh, Blessed Lady of Mont
Salvair, what _will_ happen when it comes to that! You of course will
have some distinguished husband, and then lovers as many as you will,
but I--suppose one took my fancy whom I could not have--I believe I
should set a wood on fire and jump into the midst of it!"

"What are you dreaming about?" answered Garcinde, without raising her
head from the pillow. "Do you suppose that I would take a husband whom
I did not love, or that my father would give me to any one against whom
my heart rebelled? Do you not know that he loves nothing on earth so
well as me, and could have no greater sorrow than to see me suffer? Go
to sleep--the wine has got into your head. I think you have been let
out of the convent too soon."

"Amen," said the merry girl in the deep voice of the abbess; then she
laughed out loud, but left off talking, and was asleep before her young
mistress.

The next morning the horses had stood saddled and pawing the ground in
the courtyard, for a good hour before the girls appeared on the
threshold. They nodded familiarly to Geoffroy, and chatted a little
with the good people of La Vaquiera. Then they spurred their horses in
order to get over the four hour's ride to Malaspina, before the mid-day
heat.

Again but little was said on the way; the youth, spite of his sound
sleep, was still paler and sadder than on the previous day; even
Aigleta seemed lost in thought, bit her full lip, and now and then
sighed. Moreover they had difficulty to keep up with the young
Countess, who urged her horse as though the wild huntsmen were on her
track. Once she turned to Geoffroy, who kept near her for fear the
over-urged palfrey should make a false step. "Do you think my father
will ride to meet us?" she enquired, and anxiously waited for his
answer. "I should think so," replied the youth without daring to look
at her, for his mind, too, was full of gloomy forebodings.

When they first came in sight of the Castle of Malaspina, Garcinde
suddenly drew bridle, and shading her eyes with her hand gazed for
several moments at the well-remembered ancient pile. The road wound
like a bright narrow ribbon through the short-cut grass, and they could
see every pebble on it. But of any horseman crossing the drawbridge and
hastening to meet them, nothing was to be seen; even when they came so
near that the warder blew his horn, everything remained unchanged, and
there was no sign of the festal reception of which the girl had
dreamed. The porter appeared in the open gateway, and behind him a few
shabby-looking retainers, who stood round as if confused, and for the
first time aware how high the grass and nettles grew between the flags
in the courtyard. Geoffroy had made some pretext for remaining behind,
for his heart bled at the idea of witnessing such a return home. For
although the innocent, inexperienced girl could not take in the whole
extent of the change--as she had only a childish recollection of the
place, and it was not written over the gateway that scarcely the bare
walls remained in her father's possession--yet the paucity of
domestics, and their thread-bare attire, might well startle her; and
above all, that her own parent had not the heart to welcome his beloved
child in front of the ancestral dwelling!

"Is my father ill?" she cried, as without awaiting help she leapt from
her saddle.

"It is only a sharp attack of gout, lady," replied the porter, glancing
up at an arched window that looked into the court, as if expecting that
at least his master would beckon from thence to his daughter, even
though his ailments might prevent his descending the stairs. But the
window was empty, and a blush suffused Garcinde's face as her glance,
which had taken the same direction, came back unsatisfied and
distressed. "I will go upstairs to him, Aigleta," she whispered, "wait
here till I call you."

She went, the others descended from their horses and made them over to
the servants. Geoffroy after exchanging a few rapid words with the
porter: "Anything new?" "All as it was," took his own horse to the
stable, unbridled him, and then crossed the courtyard on his way to his
little turret without taking any notice of Aigleta, who, lost and
forsaken, sat on a stone bench amongst the menials, and could have wept
heartily over so disappointing a return to the much desired home, had
there not been too many lookers on. She saw the young man take his way
to the well-known rose-embowered tower, but his head hung down so
dejectedly that she did not venture to address him, or ask him to let
her go with him to their old play-ground. As for him, he seemed to have
forgotten that he was in the world, or that he walked among men.
Although he had only had a little bread and wine in the early morning,
and it was now past noon, he had no thought of eating or drinking, but
sat in his turret-chamber on his mother's bed, motionless like one
struck by lightning, his widely-opened eyes fixed on his father's
song-book, which on his entrance he had taken down from the shelf and
opened out on his knee. Yet he did not seem to be reading, but rather
listening to some words that his own heart was setting to the music,
whether glad or sorrowful none could have guessed from his stony
aspect. All at once, however, he started back into life, and his dark
face flushed deeply; he sprang so hastily from the bed that the
song-book slipped from his knee and fell open upon the flags, then he
held his breath, and listened to some sound in the garden of roses
below. Yes, it was her step, no other human being's was like it, and
now her hand was upon the turret-door, now she crossed the dark and
narrow hall, now she opened the inner door and stepped over its
threshold into his small chamber.

As she entered, his eyes involuntarily fell, and he sought to disguise
his emotion by lifting from the floor the parchment-book that lay
between her and him, and now that he raised his eyes to her he started,
horror-stricken. For her face but lately blooming with youth and
health, had so changed in one short hour that she seemed to have
traversed years of hopeless grief.

"I disturb you, cousin," she said in a voice from which the music had
fled, "but I come to you because I think you are my friend--perhaps the
only one I have. Let me sit down, I am mortally weary. No, not on the
bed; my dear aunt died there. Oh, Jaufret, if I only knew that it would
be my death-bed too--and that my heart would grow still the moment I
lay down there--God is my witness I would throw myself upon it at
once!"

She sank down on the seat that he offered her, hiding her face in her
hands, and tears streaming between her white fingers. "For God's sake,
cousin," he cried, "you break my heart. What has happened? What has
your father said?"

Then she removed her hands from her face, pressed back her tears, and
looked steadfastly at him. "I will not weep," she said, "it is
childish. If all is true that I have heard, tears are too weak for such
sorrow. But I want to hear it from you, cousin. Is it indeed the case
that the Count of Malaspina is a beggar, and that his daughter has
nothing to call her own except the clothes she wears? You are silent,
Jaufret. Be it so then; what should I care for that? I have long had a
foreboding that there was trouble before me, and as to poverty, I have
seen _that_ in the convent, and know it, and it does not affright me.
But shame, Jaufret, shame--"

"By the blood of our Lord," he exclaimed. "Who dares to say that shame
threatens you so long as I can bear a sword, and lay a lance in rest?"

She did not appear to hear him. Then after a pause in which she, as if
unconsciously, drew her rosary through her hands, she shudderingly
enquired, "Do you know the Count de Gaillac?" The youth started as
though he had trodden upon a snake, he muttered a curse between his
teeth, and convulsively clutched the silken coverlet.

"You seem to know him," the maiden continued, "and I know him too.
About two years ago a hunting-party came to Mont Salvair, a great
gathering of knights and fair dames. They all sat themselves down to
feast in the wood that bordered the convent garden, and we from
our shrubbery could see what was going on; the drinking, the
banqueting; and could hear the songs that the Count's mistress--a tall,
proud-looking woman--sang to her lute. Oh cousin, what dreadful human
beings there are! Even then I felt a terror come over me, and was glad
when the abbess came to drive us out of the garden, and set us down in
the refectory to our spinning-wheels. There nothing was heard but the
whispering of the nuns, every one of whom knew something of the
wildness and godlessness of the Count de Gaillac. For they know
everything in the convent, know all about the outer world and its ways,
otherwise they would die of tedium. Then the abbess came in, told me
that the Count was standing at the grating, and desired to see me, as
he was the bearer of a message from my father. I do not know how I had
strength enough to rise, and walk across the long hall to her; then,
however, she took my hand in her mother-like clasp, and whispered,
'Remember that thou art here in a consecrated place; here the evil one
himself could have no power over thee.' So saying she led me to where
the godless man with his hawk's eyes in his wolf's face, was waiting
behind the grating, the handsome, bold-looking woman by his side. They
were laughing loud when we appeared, but suddenly grew silent. I heard
the Count say something in Italian to the lady that I perfectly
understood, but could not contradict. What his message to me was I
never knew, but it cut me to the heart to hear him name my father, and
call him his best friend. A cloud darkened my eyes,--when I came to
myself again, they were gone. The abbess never alluded to this visit,
and forbade the nuns ever to name Pierre de Gaillac before me. Thus I
never heard of him again, till to-day, when my own father has told me
that on one wretched night, after gambling away the remnant of his
possessions to this man, he had staked the hand of his daughter upon
the last throw of the dice, and lost that too."

A sound forced its way from the young man's breast, a hollow cry of
horror and of rage, but his limbs seemed paralysed, and his tongue
bound, for he did not speak a word, and there was such stillness in the
small chamber, that the grinding of the sand beneath his feet was
plainly heard.

"You hate my father," the girl at length continued with downcast eyes
but calm voice. "Oh, Jaufret, I have known this for many years, and it
has grieved me enough. But what I have now told you ought not to
increase your hatred, for if there be one miserable being on earth, who
in the burning torture of his soul already endures hell-fire, and
expiates his sins, believe me, cousin, it is the Count of Malaspina,
who would gladly change places with the dropsical cripple at his castle
gate, if only he could undo what he has done. He writhed as though
impaled at the stake, and buried his face in the pillows that I might
not see him while he told me how it all came about; how they clouded
his mind with hippocras; how at every throw they pressed the goblet
into his hand, till at length the mocking laughter of the Count seemed
to awake him from a dream, and he gazed with sheer horror at the abyss
into which he had hurled his last possession, the happiness of his
child. He did everything he could to propitiate his malicious enemy and
conqueror, nay he offered to be his serf, his bondservant, if only he
might pay the fearful debt thus. But the Count had merely laughed and
said, 'A Jew's bargain indeed you would make with me, my friend, to
offer me a plucked old cock for a plump young hen. I have more servants
to feed than I care for, but a young wife I do want, for you know that
I am getting old, and I am not so fond of my mistress as to wish to
leave her my lands and castles after my death. Moreover, I fear she
might make me a very bad return, and before my eyes were closed, drink
with some younger fellow to my approaching end. But your daughter has
been chastely and piously brought up, and will convert me--grey in sin
as I am--to an orderly life. Therefore I would not take all the
treasures on earth in exchange for her small hand, which can alone open
the door of Heaven to me; and so I charge you by your honour that
within three weeks you bring her to celebrate the marriage here in
Gaillac. I on my part, as my gift on the morning after the nuptials,
will make over to you all the woods and lands that I have won from you
of late years, in order that your child need not provide for you like a
beggar, but that you may live out your old age in state and comfort.'
And so saying he called for his servants to light him to bed, and left
my father alone."

At this moment Geoffrey made a gesture as though about to speak; but
she rose quickly, advanced towards him, and laid her small, cold,
trembling hand beseechingly on his clenched fist. "Cousin," said she,
"do not speak yet. I know what you would say: that it would be better
to go forth as a beggar from home and hearth, and to wander through the
wide world, than to endure disgrace, and give up body and soul to a
demon. But consider that my father has nothing on earth besides his
honour, his sacred, inviolable, knightly word, and that it would ill
become me, his daughter, to counsel him to break it. At the same time,
I feel that if there were no other means of fulfilling the pledge
given, and paying this debt than by giving my hand to this abhorred
suitor, I should prefer what is honourable in the sight of God, to what
men call honour. But let us hope, my friend, that this last alternative
may be spared me. I propose to write a letter to the man who has us in
his power, and you--if you are really my friend--you must take it this
very day to Gaillac, for until I know the answer I cannot lay me down
to sleep. But do you rest here awhile and take some food. I will go and
write the letter; they always commended my skill in writing at the
convent; God grant that it may stand me in good stead now! See, I leave
you much calmer than I was when I came, although you have not spoken
one word of comfort to me; but here in this place where we were so
happy as children, here where it seems as if no bad spirits had power
over me, here--I cannot persuade myself that the hideous dream is true,
and the father's honour pledged to the child's disgrace."

She paused for a moment, but when the youth bent before her with a deep
sigh, and pressed her hand to his lips in token that she might depend
upon him, she laid her other hand affectionately on his shoulder, and
took leave of him, saying, "Aigleta will bring you the letter.
Farewell, dear friend, and God go with you," and then on the threshold
of the door, folding her hands after kissing the image of the Virgin on
the wall, she repeated in a low voice the following prayer:

                 "Maires de Crist, ton filh car
                  Prega per nos, quens ampar
                  E quens gardo de cazer
                  A la fin en desesper."

Then she left him alone.


                           *   *   *   *   *


A day and night passed away, and yet another day and night. Geoffroy
did not return.

Sir Hugo never missed him; he was, indeed, accustomed to the youth
going his own way, and weeks often passed without his seeing him, and
at the present time he hated the sight of any human being. He would sit
for hours in one place in his room. The food carried in to him remained
untouched, but he drank wine greedily, as though seeking forgetfulness
from it; forgetfulness of himself, of the past, and the future.

On the evening of the first day, when Garcinde had gone to see him, he
could not even face his own child, but when she approached him, and
gently threw her arm over his shoulder, his whole frame was convulsed,
and slipping from his chair on to the stone floor, sobbing he clasped
her knees and pressed his brow against her feet, so that she had
difficulty in raising him and leading him back to his couch. Since then
she avoided his chamber, for if she had tried to comfort him by telling
him the reason of Geoffroy's absence, her own desponding heart would
have contradicted her words.

The third morning she woke early out of a painful dream, and called to
Aigleta who shared her couch: "Do you hear nothing, dear? I thought I
caught the sound of horses' hoofs beyond the drawbridge--no, I was only
dreaming. Oh, Aigleta! if I have also made _him_ unhappy--sent _him_ to
his ruin. But hark! the sound comes nearer--I hear the gate creak on
its hinges--it is he. Mother of God! What does he bring--Life or
Death!"

She had sprung up and thrown a cloak around her. Aigleta, too, hastily
rose and bound up her hair; the rosy morning light shone into the room,
and coloured the pale, worn face of the Count's daughter. She would
have gone to meet Geoffroy had her knees supported her; as it was she
was standing in the middle of the room when he entered. He, too, was
pale, and as he bent before her, it struck Aigleta that he did not
raise the leathern cap which covered one-half of his brow. But Garcinde
saw nothing but his eyes which sought to avoid hers.

"You bring no comfort?" she said. "I knew it." Then seating herself on
a bench in the window, she listened impassively to what he narrated
with a faltering voice.

He reached Gaillac that same evening, for he had not spared his horse.
When he was ushered into the hall where the Count was, he found him at
supper, a couple of his riotous companions with him, and the one of his
mistresses who just then was highest in his favour. On a low stool at
his feet crouched a mis-shapen dwarf, who played the part of fool and
fed his dogs. The beautiful bold woman sat by his side, and poured him
out red wine into a silver goblet, putting her lips to it before he
drained it at a draught. "They all looked at me," said Geoffroy, "as
though I arrived very opportunely to divert their dulness by some
novelty or other, for none of them appeared in spirits except the fool,
who with shallow jests that waked no laughter, went on throwing
fragments of food to the dogs. I delivered your letter without speaking
a word, and while the Count unfolded and read it, I could not but think
how she who wrote it would have been received at such a table. The
thought made the blood rush to my head, and such a giddiness came over
me that I was obliged to lean upon my sword. One of the guests who
noticed this ordered that wine should be brought me, for I must be
weary and thirsty after my rapid ride, but I shook my head and said I
would only await the answer, and then return at once. Meanwhile the
Count had read the letter, and made it over in silence to his
neighbour; she had scarcely run her eyes over the first few lines
before she burst out into loud laughter. 'A sermon!' she cried, 'God's
death! You are going to get a saint for a wife,' and then she began to
read the letter aloud, line for line; and the words that would have
made stones weep and moved the gates of hell, waked only mocking echoes
here. Blasphemies and impious jests broke out, interrupting the
reading. Then the woman rose, and casting a proud look upon the Count,
said with curled lip, 'The saint may come and welcome. I was averse to
her, thinking she might turn your heart from us all and rule here
alone, but now that I have read her letter I am not afraid of her. You,
Pierre de Gaillac are not the man to wear a hair-shirt and a prickly
girdle. You are accustomed to the fires of hell, and the air of
heaven would but chill you. In hell, however, there is more joy over
one who sickens of penance and returns to his evil ways than over
ninety-and-nine lost souls. Whereupon I empty this goblet to the last
drop, and call upon you to pledge me.' She drank, the Count drew her
closer to his side, and whispered something into her ear that made her
laugh loud. They all seemed to have forgotten the messenger who had
brought the letter; the letter itself was handed to the others, and
when it came back to the Count, the dwarf snatched at it and cried,
'You have not read it rightly, godmother. Now listen how it ought to be
sung to move you all to laughter,' and he began to read it once more
aloud in the manner in which they chant litanies in church, wagging
head and hands like a preacher giving out the blessing, and if they had
all laughed the first time, they knew not now what to do, they held
their sides and groaned out responses. At last rage got the better of
me. I sprang upon the shameless fellow, tore the letter from him, and
struck him such a blow that he rolled over backwards, and upset the
silver vessel that held the food for the dogs. 'If I am to obtain no
answer,' I cried, 'worthy of the lady who has sent me here, I will at
least silence the daring mouth that has mocked at a noble virgin, and
dragged the words of a pure and lofty soul through the mire!'

"For a moment there was silence. I even thought I might pass through
the hall unhindered, but I had reckoned without my host. Servants
rushed in, the guests raged and railed at me, the dogs howled, but the
Count still sat in his place, pale as death, and motionless with fury,
and the woman by his side shot fiery looks at me. When--a quarter of an
hour later--I found myself on damp straw behind a bolted door, a wound
in my head, and darkness before my eyes, I thanked my Saviour that I
was delivered from the neighbourhood of those brutal men, and could no
longer hear them blaspheme the name dearest to me. I do not know how I
passed the night and the following day. I think I must have slept
through them, but about the middle of the second night, I was gently
waked by a soft hand passing over my face, and the light of a small
lamp shone into my eyes. It was the Count's mistress who stood before
me there, and signed to me to be silent; gently she led me up the
broken stairs, through empty passages and halls to a narrow door of
which she had the key. 'I cannot let you starve to death in unbroken
darkness down there,' said she. 'Outside you will find your horse and
something to eat at the saddle-bow. Fly! if ever thou needest a friend
come to Carcassonne, and ask for Agnes the Sardinian. You will easily
find me out.' She waited an answer, perhaps she had even dreamed of a
tenderer farewell, but as I was silent she opened the door, and again
passed her hand over my blood-stained hair. 'Poor youth,' said she,
'thou deservedst a better fate.' Then I leapt into the saddle, and
spurred my horse hard, and thus I rode on without stopping, for in the
night air my senses gradually awoke and the fever of my wound left me.
And here I am--and this is all the answer that I bring back."

So saying he bared his head, and showed his brow--a thick curl of his
hair lay upon the wound and seemed to have stanched its bleeding.

Then Garcinde rose from her seat and advanced towards him as though she
had something to say, but she stopped short and remained speechless
with downcast eyes before him. Aigleta was the one to speak. "I will go
and bring linen and salves to dress the wound properly," said she; then
she looked at her friend as though she had some quite other thought,
secretly sighed, and left the two alone. And scarcely had she turned
away when Geoffroy fell on his knees before the fair and silent
mourner, and cried as he seized her hands' and pressed them
passionately to his heart: "Command me--what shall I do? For my life is
worthless to me unless I can offer it up to thee. Never should I have
betrayed the sweet pangs I endured, if sorrow had not overshadowed
thee. But now thou art no longer the Countess, the proud daughter of
Malaspina, at whom I gazed as at a star far above me. Thine is a poor
unfortunate tortured heart which will not despise another heart which
devotes itself to thee for life and death. Oh, cousin! loveliest love,
say but one word, and I mount again the horse that still stands saddled
in the courtyard, to ride back to Gaillac, and plunge this dagger into
the breast of the enemy of thy honour and peace, in the midst of all
his boon companions, even though his dogs should tear me to pieces the
next moment!"

Then she bent down towards him, and for the first time a smile played
over her pale face. "Jaufret," said she, pressing her lips to his
blood-stained brow; "the fever of thy wound shows in thy speech. Go and
lie down, and let Aigleta--who understands such tasks--wash away the
blood and dress thy wound, and then refresh thyself with sleep and
food. For by our dear lady of Mont Salvair I accept the life you offer
me. I am no rich countess to disdain such a gift, and yet I am rich
enough to repay it. While you were relating your adventure--hideous and
cruel enough to destroy all hope--I was considering what I would and
could do. But this is not the time for talking. See, here comes your
doctress, I make you over to her, and you must do all she tells you,
and if you are tractable and obedient, be sure, cousin, you shall not
rue it! See that he sleeps and gets strong, Aigleta," she said to her
friend, who nodded, and looked as though she understood more than was
uttered. Meanwhile, the youth who still gazed at Garcinde in utmost
perplexity, had risen from his knees, and loosed her hands. He could
not understand how she could be so composed since he had brought her no
hope. But half from the exhaustion of his wound, and half from his
blind confidence in her strong and lofty nature, he parted from her
with a lightened heart, and followed Aigleta who had now lost all her
gaiety. "What can she be planning?" said he to the girl, as they both
went down the stair together. "Who can tell--obey and sleep," said
Aigleta with a quick hoarse voice, and then turning her head away, she
added, "The Lord gives to those He loves in sleep."

She led him into his turret hermitage; she saw to his wound, which was
indeed but slight, and already disposed to heal; she furnished him with
all that he could need for refreshment, and then seeing that his eyes
were growing heavy she left him.

She herself, however, did not instantly return to Garcinde; she still
lingered among the roses, made a nosegay, pulled it to pieces again,
and when at last she returned to the castle, her eyes were red, and she
washed them long with cold water that no one should observe it.

Geoffroy only slept a few hours: then he awoke a new man, with brow
cool, thanks to Aigleta's salve, and heart on fire, thanks to the
mysterious hope-encouraging words of his cousin. Like a wanderer on
whom the fairy of the woods has bestowed the wishing-rod, by which at
the hour of midnight he may find and possess himself of a treasure, and
who dreams away the intervening time, so the youth sat hour after hour,
gazing only at the sunbeam which slowly moved along the stone floor,
and listening only to the song of the birds around his turret. No one
came to disturb him: the servants lay yawning in shady corners of the
court, the horses were stamping in the stable to shake off the flies;
both girls had locked themselves up in their castle chamber, and did
not appear all day. Once only through his narrow window did he catch
sight of Sir Hugo, who stepped out on the balcony before his chamber,
and looked down into the castle moat as though considering whether it
would not be better for him to dash himself to pieces there. His hair
and beard had become white as snow, his face was worn to a shadow; soon
he vanished again like a restless ghost. And now the sun went down, and
the moon rose above the wood, and silvered the rose-garden around
Geoffrey's tower. The birds were silent, but the bull-frogs in the moat
seemed to croak the louder, and in the distance a nightingale's song
was heard. It was so light in the tower that the youth could read every
letter in his parchment book, but he knew not what he was reading.

Another hour passed away, and yet another, and then light and rapid
steps along the narrow path woke the listener out of his trance. He
rushed to the door and threw it open wide, and saw with amazement not
only the one that his heart foretold, but her friend also beside her on
the threshold. They greeted him with a silent nod, and it was only when
they had passed into his narrow chamber that Garcinde shyly spoke, "You
see that I keep my word, cousin, but have you not in the course of the
day changed your mind? Do you not regret what you said to me this
morning?" and as he looked at her with mute enquiry she blushingly
continued: "That you loved me, Jaufret, loved me more than your life,
and would devote that life to me in sorrow until death. You may speak
out your heart openly, this faithful friend knows all. She knew even
earlier than I did myself that my heart belonged to thee, as thine to
me. Oh, Jaufret, even at La Vaquiera, when we spoke by night about the
stars, what made me so still and so sad was that I kept saying to
myself, Is there no place amongst those countless orbs where he and I
may belong to each other? Must I lose him whom I have only just
regained? For I foresaw too clearly that my heart and my hand would not
long remain my own. And God is my witness I was resolved to obey my
father, had he betrothed me to any worthy husband, however distasteful
he might have proved. But to fall a victim in an unholy hour to the
mere chance of the dice, that cannot be God's will, though he has
commanded us to honour father and mother; for I have in dreams seen my
mother weeping over me, and I know that were she still living, she
would go with me into poverty rather than give me to such a husband.
And therefore am I come to thee, my beloved, and if thou art in earnest
as I believe and know thou art, I will in this very hour before God and
this witness, take thee for my husband, and fly forth with thee into
the wide world. And sure am I that when our flight is discovered, my
father will not mount his horse and follow us to punish the son as he
did the father; he knows that he dare not judge, that a judge should
have a guiltless heart. But we--where shall we fly? Are not all places
home to us, so I am with thee, Jaufret, and thou with thy Garcinde?"

With these words she gave him her little hand, but while he, in a
transport of silent rapture, took it and held it fast, Aigleta stepped
forward and said in her lively way, and with a smiling face. "Just look
at this coy gentleman, Garcinde. Can this be the son of the man whose
lips overflowed with sweetest sayings, and not a single poor word falls
from _his_ mouth; even when one brings him the fairest of count's
daughters, who whistles all the castles and lands of Gaillac down the
wind, in order to beg her way through the world with this helpless
lover. But come, come, we cannot wait till a miracle is wrought, and
the dumb regains his speech. You must exchange rings, and pronounce the
marriage-vow, and then go forth and far away, and I--poor forsaken
one--have only to make the sign of the cross behind you; for to me you
are dead and buried, that I know all too well. I shall--"

Her voice broke down, spite of all her self-control and her effort to
smile, and she had to stoop and pretend to adjust her shoe, that her
tears might drop unnoticed. Geoffroy, meantime, had collected himself
and now drew a ring from his finger.

"Do you know it?" he said to Garcinde. "With this little ring my father
betrothed himself to my mother, and as in his case it betokened the
firmest constancy--a constancy that was sealed by death--I now give it
to thee, my passionately loved bride, and swear in presence of the Holy
Trinity, and before our true friend, I will never be the husband of any
other woman than Garcinde of Malaspina."

"And I will never be the wife of any other man than my Geoffroy," said
the bride.

"Amen. So be it," said Aigleta, in corroboration of their vow,
laying--after the exchange of rings--their hands together. Then the
pair knelt down before the picture of the Mother of God, and remained
for a short season, in silent prayer. But when they rose again and sank
into each other's arms, and with heart on heart, and mouth on mouth,
ratified their holy vow, the witness slipped softly away. By-and-bye,
they found her outside amongst the roses, of which she had woven two
garlands. "No wedding without a garland," said she, and smiled, though
her eyes were wet, while she crowned them both. Then the youth hurried
to the stable and noiselessly saddled his horse and led him to the
garden, where Garcinde lay on the breast of her friend, and whispered
amidst her tears: "I know why thou weepest. God make thee as happy as
thou hast been brave, and true to me."

They set off quietly, Geoffroy leading the horse, who with dilated
nostrils snorted at the moonlight, the girls following him over the
bridge; then he lifted his young wife into the saddle, sprang up
himself behind her, and waving his hand to Aigleta, spurred his
faithful charger on. It did not feel the weight it bore too heavy, for
with the exception of his sword and dagger, Geoffroy had taken nothing
with him but his father's song-book, and Garcinde only a few ornaments
which she had inherited from her mother, and which her father had never
touched. Thus, then, they rode through the moonlit forest. They did not
say much: every now and then when the horse was slowly crossing boggy
ground, she would turn half round to him, and then he kissed her cheek,
and her black eyes smiled while she whispered, "My dearest husband."

She rested in his arms so sweetly, and the good horse trod so securely,
that they hardly realised their circumstances--a hasty flight by
night--a dark future before them--but enjoyed their bliss as though no
shadow of care and danger hung over their love.

But when they got out of the wood and reached the hill from whence
Garcinde a few days ago had first beheld again her father's castle, she
suddenly pulled the rein and turned the horse round.

"What ails thee, sweet wife? And why dost thou halt here?" asked
Geoffroy.

She did not reply, but gazed over the wide plain towards the dark pile
with its leaden-roofed turrets that shone in the moonlight.

"What is it that you see, dearest?" asked the youth, who felt her
tremble on his breast, as though a frosty chill had overtaken her on
the warm summer night. "Let us look forwards, not back. Our happiness
lies before us." But she only shook her head sorrowfully, turned away
when he wished to kiss her, and said not a word. All of a sudden she
had seemed to see in the deserted castle her father with a taper in his
hand wandering from room to room, and crying, "Where is my daughter
Garcinde? I have pledged my honour, she must redeem my pledge. Where is
my child, and where is my honour? I was a beggar. I had nothing but my
unstained name, and now that is lost. The last of the Malaspina has
destroyed the good fame of the house, for she knows that I can no
longer pursue her as in former years I should have done. I am old and
sick, and a sinful man. Now, therefore, I must go down disgraced to the
grave, for mine enemy will say I have connived at this, and that to
avoid paying my debt, I have preferred even to give my last jewel to a
beggar, than to the creditor I hated!" Then again this image vanished,
and she now saw herself and her lover pursued on strange roads by an
angry band, Pierre de Gaillac at their head, resolved to claim his
bride from her ravisher. She saw her Jaufret fight with the energy of a
despairing man, and yet at length conquered by numbers, shed his life's
blood on the green grass, and she heard the mocking conqueror laugh,
"So thou enviest me my gains at play, thou player's son; the creditor
reclaims the debt the debtor would have withheld from him!" Then a
deadly shudder passed over her; she thought for a moment that her heart
had ceased to beat. All the joys of her young love seemed crushed by an
icy hand. She knew now that what had appeared to her in her trouble a
way of escape and an immeasurable bliss was a false dream; that she
should but bring death and ruin to both the beings whom she supremely
loved!

"For the love of the Saints!" cried Geoffroy, who felt her cherished
form grow heavy as a lifeless body in his embrace, "come to thyself
again. What fearful thoughts hast thou in thy mind that thus thy lips
move silently as though speaking with the departed? Give me the bridle
and let us turn to life, to liberty. The spirits that hover over those
towers will have no power over thee when once thou art the other side
of this hill. Wilt thou make us both wretched? Wilt thou even--"

He stopped when he saw the stony eyes of his young wife from which
every beam of hope and joy had utterly vanished. But this did not last
long, the convulsion was now over. She gave a deep sigh, turned on him
eyes of yearning love, and said, while endeavouring to smile:

"I have scared thee; forgive me, my beloved. What have we two to fear
from any spirits that may hover over that house and envy us our bliss.
Thou, my husband, and I, thy wife, eternally one, body and soul! But I
have been thinking about our flight, that it is not the will of Heaven;
and if we persisted, Jaufret, against my conscience, we should be
punished, and should end as miserably as did thy father and my dear
aunt. Trust to me, I have another idea which thou shalt know tomorrow
early. Thou wilt praise thy wife when thou seest how she has contrived
both to pay the debt to the creditor, and yet to be the wife of no man
except her dearest cousin, to whom she has given herself in the
presence of God. Lift me down from the saddle, I do not wish to ride
any longer. If it pleases you, my husband, let us walk back through the
wood, there are still many hours before day, and a fairer wedding-night
no count's daughter could ever wish for. And now kiss me, so that I may
again see a smile on thy lips; for truly this poor life is too short
for us to spoil even one moment of it by care and gloom." He
reluctantly did what she required of him; but when he took her into his
arms and their lips met, he could not refrain from asking, "Oh
Garcinde! What art thou thinking of? Hast thou not too much confidence
in thyself, and wilt thou not if thy plan fails make us both eternally
wretched?" But she smiled at him with bright eyes, laid her finger on
his mouth, and said, "You are the happiest married man on earth, Sir
Geoffrey; you have a wife who knows how to keep a secret. But now do
not press me any further. What have we to do with the morrow? To-day
are we already such old married people that we can find more important
subjects to speak of than our love? Say, Jaufret, do I really please
thee better than Agnes of Sardinia, and was her hand when she stroked
thy hair not softer than mine? Nay, but thou must not embrace me so
ardently here, the moon looks too boldly down, and after all she does
not know that thou art my dear husband. Come into the wood, I am weary
with our ride and would fain rest awhile. I know a bank where a brook
runs through the moss, numbers of flowers bloom there, and I will weave
them into fresh garlands, for those Aigleta made are quite crushed.
Poor Aigleta! Dost thou know that she loved thee too well? But that
cannot be helped now: no one can be the husband of two women; that is
against God's law. And I, though I be not indeed better than she, I am
the more unhappy of the two, or at least I should have been if thy
heart, my beautiful love, had not been mine."

With such words as these, which intoxicated the youth like strong wine,
they went down the hill and entered the wood. Their gentle horse
followed them of his own accord, and peacefully grazed near them in the
flowery glade where they laid them down. Through the whole of the night
the brook rippled and the nightingales sang, and the moon shone so
brightly that no one could have thought of sleep, not at least two who
had so much to confide to each other, and knew not whether there would
be time for it on the following day. When the morning drew near, and
the dew began to fall, and a cooler air swept through the wood,
Garcinde arose and said, while a shudder passed over her, "It is
growing cold, my husband. I think we ought to go home." "Where?" asked
he, looking at her in amazement, but she smiled.

"Only come," said she, "I will show you. Can I have any other home than
thine?" With that she took his arm and led him out of the wood, and
over the bridge back into his tower.

"Here let me rest," said she, as she seated herself on his mother's
bed. "Here I would fain sleep for an hour until the sun rises. But
leave me alone, my beloved, otherwise we shall go on talking, and I
shall not be able to close an eye. And give me your song-book too, I
should like to read a verse or two before I fall asleep. And now, one
good-night kiss, and then go! Oh, Jaufret, I love thee more than my
life! Are we not two happy beings to have enjoyed such bliss that
nothing can trouble us. And if we lived a hundred years, could time
make us richer in joys when we have drunk from the cup of eternal
blessedness?" Once more he embraced the lovely one, and kissed her long
and fervently on her mouth. Then he left her alone.

An hour later the cock crew. But it did not wake the youth who lay in
the rose-garden, his cloak thrown over him, smiling in his dream as
though he were inwardly happy, and murmuring the name of his young
wife. Neither did it wake the sleeper in the turret-room, whose lips
were half-open as though they, too, would pronounce a name, but all was
still as death in the dim chamber.

It was only when the sun had already risen over the tops of the trees,
that Aigleta came by with weary eyes and pale face, listless and
absorbed in her own thoughts. When she saw Geoffroy lying in the
garden, she was horror-stricken as though she had seen a ghost, and it
was only when she ascertained that he was breathing that she bent down
to wake him. "You still here?" she whispered. "And where is--your
wife?"

He sprang up in haste, and without answering a word, rushed to his
turret. When he opened the door, he gave a cry like a man mortally
wounded, and fell upon the bed. There lay his young bride, one hand
pressed to her heart, from which a little stream of blood still flowed,
her other hand rested on the song-book, which was open at its last
page, and the white fingers pointed to a newly written line that ran
thus in the language of Provence:

Lo deuteire paqua al crezedor tot lo deute.

The debtor pays to the creditor all the debt.


                           *   *   *   *   *


It was noon before the servants ventured carefully to apprise Count
Hugo of the heart-rending truth. He listened to the tidings as though
he did not rightly understand their purport; even when they led him
down to where his child, like a proud and beautiful statue of whitest
marble, lay outstretched on the bed he knew so well, he gave no token
of what he felt, spoke not a word, shed not a tear. All night he shut
himself up with the dead. The next morning he ordered a bier to be
prepared. He would redeem his word, he said, and carry the bride to her
bridegroom. The servants silently obeyed. Geoffroy--who might else have
put in his claim--lay in a raging fever, tended by Aigleta; his wound
on the forehead had burst open afresh, and no salve availed to close
it.

When the procession came to Gaillac, Count Hugo at its head, the dead
bride on a high bier borne by his servants, a great crowd of peasants
and retainers behind, the bride's father sent a herald in advance to
blow his trumpet three times, and cry with a loud voice, "The debtor
pays to the creditor all that he owes him!" At this cry, Count Pierre
de Gaillac appeared on the balcony of his castle; but when he saw the
lamentable spectacle he turned away horrified, and violently signed to
them to go back, that he would have no such wedding. Then he flung
himself on his horse and rode far away, and only returned after many
days a broken-down man who had forgotten how to laugh.

Count Hugo, however, without giving one sign of grief, next ordered the
bearers to carry the bier to a chapel that stood in the open country,
and was dedicated to the blessed Lady of Mont Salvair. There on the
land and property belonging to the Count de Gaillac, to whom he had to
pay his debt, he buried the beautiful body of his child. And no one
dared to touch a spade, for he determined with his own hands to prepare
her last resting-place. When this ceremony had been performed amidst
the tears of the crowd, all went away and left him. He remained alone
in the chapel; no one knew whether he was praying or speaking with the
dead. But when they went to look after him the next day, and to offer
him food and drink, he was no longer living, and they buried him beside
his child.

Of Geoffroy the chronicle tells nothing further, except that in the
autumn of the same year he joined the crusaders, and travelled towards
Jerusalem, from whence he never came back. But any one turning over the
old records of the Convent of Mont Salvair would there find that
towards the end of the century, there was an abbess of the name of
Aigleta von Malaspina--in religion named Sor Sofrenza (in modern French
S[oe]ur Souffrance,)--who only at an advanced age entered into eternal
rest.



FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1:
            Sack that's torn will not hold grain.
            To poor men good advice is vain.]



                                THE END.



                                 *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *
                                 PRINTING OFFICE OF THE PUBLISHER.





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