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Title: 'Gloria Victis!' - A Romance
Author: Schubin, Ossip, 1854-1934
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "'Gloria Victis!' - A Romance" ***

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Transcriber's Note:
   1. Page scan source:
      http://books.google.com/books?id=g9o9AAAAYAAJ

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



                             GLORIA VICTIS!



                               A ROMANCE



                                   BY
                             OSSIP SCHUBIN
                        Author of "Our Own Set."



                                     "Alas! poor human nature!"

                                                    _Chesterfield_.



                    From the German by MARY MAXWELL



                                NEW YORK
                   WILLIAM S. GOTTSBERGER, PUBLISHER
                            11 MURRAY STREET
                                  1886



         Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1886
                       by William S. Gottsberger
       in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington



                                Press of
                         William E. Gottsberger
                                New York



                             GLORIA VICTIS!



                               CHAPTER I.


"There is no help for it, I must do it to-day," the Baroness Melkweyser
murmured with a sigh breathed into the depths of the toilet-glass,
before which, she was sitting while her maid dressed her hair. "It is
now just a week," she went on to herself, after having uttered the
above words aloud, "quite one week since Capriani entrusted the affair
to me. I have met him three times, and each time was obliged to tell
him that there had been no favourable opportunity as yet. He is
beginning to take my delay ill. Come, then, _courage!_.... _en
avant!_.... Truyn certainly ought to be glad to marry his daughter as
soon as possible, and I cannot see why Gabrielle should make any
objection to becoming the sister-in-law of the Duke of Larothiére. To
be sure, most Austrians have such antediluvian ideas! _Nons verrons!_ I
will, as Capriani desires, see how the land lies."

She shrugged her shoulders as though shifting off all responsibility
and turning to her maid exclaimed: "_mais dépêchez vous donc_,
Euphrosine, will you never remember how much I always have to do!"
Whereupon the impatient lady, snatched from her maid the head-dress
which she was arranging, and, quite in the style of Napoleon I.,
crowned herself.

                               *   *   *

The scene lies in Paris. The short after-season which, like an echo of
the carnival, is wont to follow Lent, that holy intermezzo crowded with
charity-bazaars, musical soirées and other elegant penitential
observances, is rather duller than usual this year. Easter came too
late and although _Figaro_ continues its daily record of balls and
routs, Paris takes very little heed. All genuine enthusiasm for such
entertainments is lacking. Paris thinks of nothing now save the races,
the last auction at the Hôtel Drouôt, the latest change of ministry,
and the newest thing in stocks.

It is the beginning of May. Two weeks ago, rather later than usual,
spring made its appearance--like a young king full of eager
benevolence, and generous promises, with green banner held aloft and
crowned with sunshine--thus it swept above the earth which sullenly and
reluctantly opened its weary eyes. "Awake, awake, I bring with me joy!"
called spring in sweet siren tones sometimes low and wooing and anon
loud and imperious. And a mysterious whisper thrilled and stirred the
land, the trees stretched their black branches, the buds burst. Men
felt a pleasant languor, while their hearts beat louder.

The spring advanced quickly, working its lovely miracles--loading the
trees with blossoms and filling human hearts with joy--and upon those
for whom its lavish hand had left nothing else, it bestowed a smile, or
it granted them a dream.

There are, indeed, some unfortunates for whom its brilliant splendour
never does aught save reveal the scars of old wounds, which in its
careless gayety it formerly inflicted; and while others flock abroad to
admire its beauty, these hide away their misery. But when daylight's
haughty glare has faded, and spring has modestly shrouded its
loveliness in a veil of grey, these wretches inhaling its fragrance in
their seclusion come forth from their concealment, into the soothing
twilight, among the dewy blossoms, and once more give utterance to the
yearning that has so long been mute, rejoicing with tears in their old
anguish, crying: "Oh Spring, oh youth--even thy falsehood was lovely--"
thus doing it homage by their grief, for spring has no enemies.

                               *   *   *

Somewhat apart from the aggressive brilliancy of the Avenue
l'Imperatrice wind a couple of quiet streets like detached fragments of
the Faubourg St. Germain. Everything here breathes that charming and
genuine elegance which is almost an instinct, and rules mankind
despotically. It is not a grimace artificially assumed for show.

One of the prettiest of the small hotels standing between its
court-yard and garden, in the Avenue ----, formerly it was called the
Avenue Labédoyère, tomorrow it may perhaps be the Avenue Paul de
Cassagnac, and the day after the Avenue Montmorency--was occupied by
Count Truyn with his young wife and his daughter.

This evening the family had assembled in a pleasant drawing-room on the
rez-de-chaussée, and one after another each expressed delight in the
repose and relief of such an hour after the social exertions of the
day. The husband and wife as they sat opposite each other near the
fireplace--he with his _Figaro_, and she busy with the restoration of
some antique embroidery--were evidently people who had attained the
goal of existence and were content. It was plain that their thoughts
did not range beyond the present.

Not so with Gabrielle. Twice during the last quarter of an hour she has
changed her seat and three times she has consulted the clock upon the
chimney-piece.

At last she goes to a mirror and arranges her breast-knot of violets.

"Our Ella is beginning to be pretty," said Truyn opening his eyes after
a doze behind the _Figaro_.

"Have you just discovered that?" Zinka asked smiling.

"Do you think my gown is becoming, Zini?" Gabrielle asked as gravely as
if the matter were the Eastern question.

"Very becoming," her step-mother kindly assured her.

"Oho!" said Truyn banteringly, "our Ella is beginning to be vain."

Whereupon Gabrielle blushed deeply and to hide her confusion went to
the piano and began to strum "Annette and Lubin." She did not play well
but her hands looked very pretty running over the keys.

"I am surprised that Ossi does not make his appearance," said Truyn,
laying aside his _Figaro_. Like all Austrians residing in Paris he had
a special preference for that frivolous journal. "I met him this
afternoon on the Boulevard, and he asked me expressly whether we were
to be at home this evening."

Gabrielle looked, as her father observed with surprise, rather
embarrassed. He had spoken thoughtlessly, and in masculine ignorance of
the state of affairs. He was just beginning to teaze the girl about her
behaviour when the footman announced the Baroness Melkweyser.

Her head-dress of red feathers sat somewhat askew upon the
old-fashioned puffs of hair that framed her sallow face. She wore a
gown of flowered brocade, the surpassing ugliness of which showed it to
have been purchased at a bargain at some great bazaar as a "_fin de
saison_." She squinted slightly, winked constantly, was entirely out of
breath, and sank exhausted into an arm-chair, before uttering a word of
greeting.

"Ah, if you only knew all I have done this blessed day!" she exclaimed.

The Truyn trio looked at her in smiling silence.

"Confessed and received the sacrament very early," the baroness began
the list of her achievements, "always on the second of every month--I
never can manage it on the first--then at the Pierson sale I bought six
things marked with Louis Philippe's cipher, then I went to see Ada de
Thienne's trousseau,--then to a breakfast at the new minister's--too
comical--his wife made herself perfectly ridiculous, in a bare neck at
two o'clock in the daytime!"

"That is the inevitable consequence of a change of ministers," Zinka
remarked. Her manner of speech, quiet, and rather inclined to irony,
was that of those who, with rigid self-control have for years endured
with dignity some great grief.

The baroness, meanwhile, rattled on, unheeding. "Then I went my
round of charities, then looked for a wedding-present for my niece
Stefanie...."

"Heavens, Zoë!" Truyn groaned.

"Yes, I lead a most fatiguing existence," the baroness wailed. "Just as
I sat down to supper,--I missed my dinner--it occurred to me that it
really would be better not to let to-day pass without making you a very
important communication--that is--hm--discussing--a most important
matter with you--and--here I am. Pray, Zinka, let me have a sandwich,
for I am dying of hunger."

"Ring the bell, Erich," Zinka said with a smile.

"And now to business," said the baroness, "_je tiens une occasion_--it
really is the most advantageous opportunity!"

"You shall have your sandwich, Zoë," said Truyn, quietly stretching out
his hand to the bell handle, "but pray spare me your advantageous
opportunities. If I had availed myself of all your boasted
'opportunities,' I should now be the proud possessor of fourteen
rattle-trap Bühl pianos and at least twenty-five tumble-down country
houses. As it is I have bought for love of you three holy-water pots of
Mme. Maintenon's, an inkstand of the Pompadour's, and I can't tell how
many nightcaps of Louis XVI., warranted genuine."

"And an excellent bargain you had of them," the baroness declared.
"Louis Sixteenth's nightcaps have latterly been going up in price. But
this time there is no question of purchase," she went on to say, "and
that is the best of it."

"That certainly is very fine," muttered Truyn.

"The question is,--I suppose I ought to ask Gabrielle to leave the
room, that used to be the way, girls never were allowed to be present
while their parents disposed of their future, but I .... _j'aime à
attaquer les choses franchement_. The question is, in fact, with regard
to--Gabrielle's marriage."

Zinka with a smile took the hand of the young girl standing beside her
in her own, and tenderly laid it against her cheek.

"Gabrielle's beauty produced a sensation at the last ball at the
Spanish embassy's," the baroness continued.

"I must entreat you not to make such a fatal assault upon my daughter's
modesty," exclaimed Zinka.

"Bah!" the baroness shrugged her shoulders, "stop up your ears,
Gabrielle. Produced a sensation is the correct phrase. It is
remarkable--the _succés_ that the Austrian women always have in Paris.
I have a suitor for Gabrielle--the most brilliant _parti_ in Paris."

"Stop, stop, Zoë, I beg you," said Truyn, provoked, "you make me
nervous! You always forget how your French way of arranging marriages
goes against the grain with us and our old-fashioned Austrian ideas.
You say I have a rich husband for your daughter in just the same tone
in which you say I have a purchaser for your house! And I seriously
entreat you to consider that a jewel like my dear comrade yonder, may
be bestowed, upon one deemed worthy of such a possession, but can never
be sold."

"Ah, here is my sandwich!" exclaimed the baroness, paying no attention
to his words in her satisfaction over the tea-tray. Whilst Gabrielle
was occupied with making tea the visitor applied herself to the
refreshments, whispering meanwhile confidentially and mysteriously to
Truyn. "I thought that your new domestic relations might make you
desirous to have Gabrielle mar ...."

An angry flash in Truyn's blue eyes, usually so kindly, warned her that
she was on the wrong track; she lost countenance and consequently
proceeded rather too precipitately in her investigations as to 'how the
land lay.'

"At least my proposition is worth being taken into serious
consideration," she said hastily. "Count Capriani commissioned me to
ask you whether there was any prospect of his obtaining Gabrielle's
hand for his only--remember, his only son."

"Count Capriani, I do not know who he is," Truyn said coldly.

"Well then, Conte Capriani," Zoë explained impatiently.

"Ah, indeed, Conte Capriani," Truyn said significantly,--"the railroad
Capriani!"

"Yes."

"And he dares to ask my daughter's hand for his son?"

Perfect silence reigned for a moment. Gabrielle's little nose expressed
intense disdain.

"Zoë, you are insane," Truyn said at last, very contemptuously. "This
is not, I believe, the first of April."

"I cannot understand your irritation," the baroness rejoined, with the
bravado that is the result of great embarrassment. "You are always
proclaiming yourself a Liberal with no prejudices!"

Truyn coloured slightly. He had grown more decided than he had been a
few years before, and his shirt collars were perhaps a little higher
and stiffer. His whole bearing expressed the dignified content that
distinguishes the man of conservative views of life. He gently twitched
his high collar as he began: "I am a Liberal--at least I fancy that I
am. If my daughter had set her heart upon marrying a man her inferior
as regards birth and family, I should certainly consent to her doing
so, provided the man were one whose character and attainments atoned
for his low origin."

Zinka smiled sceptically with a scarcely perceptible shrug. Truyn's
colour deepened. "I do not deny," he admitted, "that it would be very
hard for me, but all the same I should consent and should do all that I
could to assist such a son-in-law to attain a position worthy of my
daughter--that is suitable to her mode of life."

"Do not be afraid, papa. I have not the slightest desire to fall in
love with a deputy on the extreme Left," Gabrielle observed.

"In young Capriani's case there would be no need for you to trouble
yourself about your son-in-law's position," said the baroness loftily.
"_Sa position est toute faite_. All Paris was at the ball the night
before last in the Capriani Hôtel--all the _rois en exil_ appeared
there, and even some Siberian magnates, and all--that is very many--of
the Austrians at present in Paris."

"You know just as well as I do why all these magnates appeared at
Capriani's," Truyn rejoined angrily. "But indeed I care nothing for
this speculator's position--the man himself is odious--a common parvenu
with a boor of a son."

"Have it your own way," said the baroness. "Perhaps you know that a
daughter of Capriani's is married to the Duke of Larothière?"

"Yes, I know it."

"And that the Conte's property is estimated at a hundred million?"

"It may be a hundred billion for all I care."

"He is incontestably one of the most influential financiers in Europe."

"Unfortunately, and one of the most corrupt and corrupting," Truyn
rejoined with emphasis.

"You have not, however, asked Gabrielle's opinion," persisted the
baroness.

Gabrielle tossed her head, but her answer was unuttered, for just at
this moment the servant flung open the door, and the interesting
conversation was interrupted by the announcement of fresh visitors.



                              CHAPTER II.


Two young men entered--two Counts Lodrin. They bore the same name; they
were the sons of brothers--and as unlike each other as possible.

With regard to Oswald--the "Ossi" of whom Truyn made mention a while
before.--Gabrielle was convinced that no sculptured classic god, none
of Raphael's cherubim could compare with him in beauty and distinction.
She was perhaps alone in this view, although it must be confessed that
few mortal men surpassed him in these two respects. About six and
twenty, tall, slender--very dark--a gay, good-humoured smile on his
handsome, aristocratic face--with an eager, ardent manner--and with
what might be called the gypsy-like distinction that characterizes an
entire class of the Austrian aristocracy he was the embodiment of
chivalric youth. With all the attractiveness of his face, his eyes
struck you at once--it would be hard to say what was wrong about them,
whether they were too large, or too dark.

They certainly were very beautiful, but they produced the impression of
not suiting the face--of having been placed there by accident. But the
incongruous impression made by those large, dark eyes upon almost every
one who saw the young man for the first time was extremely fleeting,
and passed away as soon as Oswald began to talk--as soon as his look
became animated.

His cousin Georges was at least a dozen years his elder, and nearly a
head shorter than he. Many persons declared that he looked like a
jockey; they were wrong. He looked like what he was, a prodigal son,
very well-born. Spare in figure, his face smoothly shaven, except for a
long sandy moustache, his hair quite gray, and brushed up from the
temples after a vanished fashion, his features keen and mobile, his
eyes round as a bird's, his carriage rather stooping and with motions
characterized by a certain negligence, he produced the impression of a
man who had seen a great deal of the world, and who now took a
philosophic view of his life and of his position.

Oswald is the heir, Georges is the next to inherit.

Scarcely were the usual formal greetings over when Oswald made an
attempt to join his pretty cousin Gabrielle, with the laudable purpose
of helping her to pour out tea. His design was cruelly frustrated,
however, by Count Truyn, who instantly engaged him in a brisk
discussion of the latest anti-Catholic measures on the part of the
Republic. Oswald sat beside his uncle restlessly drumming on the brim
of his opera-hat, the image of politely-concealed youthful impatience,
now and then adding an "abominable!" or a "disgusting," to the
indignant expressions of the elder man, and all the while glancing
towards Gabrielle. Certain personal matters interested him far more
just now than the deplorable excesses of the French government. He had
not read the article in the _Temps_ to which his uncle alluded, he did
not take the French Republic at all in earnest, he considered it in
fact no Republic at all, but only a monarchy gone mad; French politics
interested him from an ethnographical point of view only, all which he
calmly confessed to his uncle, by whom he was scolded as "unpardonably
indifferent," and "culpably blind." The elder man's conservative
philippics grew more eager, and the younger one's courteous admissions
more vague, until at last Zinka succeeded in releasing the latter by
asking Gabrielle to sing something. Gabrielle, of course, declared that
she was hoarse, but Oswald who was, by the way, about as much
interested in her singing from a musical point of view as in the
trumpet-solos of the emperor of Russia, smiled away her objections and
rising, with a sigh of relief, went to open the grand piano.

No one seemed to have any idea of according a strict silence to the
young girl's music, and whilst Gabrielle warbled in a sweet, but rather
thin voice, some majestic air of Handel's, and Oswald leaning against
the cover of the instrument looked down at her with ardent intentness,
Georges, his hands upon his knees, his body inclined towards the
Baroness Melkweyser who, still busied with her refreshments, was
disposing of sandwich after sandwich, said: "You are wearing yourself
out in the service of mankind. Have you allowed yourself one
half-hour's repose to-day?--No, not one--as any one may see who looks
at you. _A propos_, who was the Japanese woman dressed in yellow at whose
side I saw you to-day sitting in a fainting condition in a landau--in
front of Gouache's was it?--on the Boulevard de la Madeleine?"

"Adeline Capriani."

"_Ah tiens!_ That was why I seemed to have seen her before."

"A very queer figure was she not?"

"She is not ugly," said Georges. "It is a pity that she dresses so
ridiculously."

"Her dress costs her a fortune every year--the first artists in Paris
design her gowns," Madame Zoë declared.

"Indeed----? Now I understand why she always looks as if she had been
stolen from a bric-a-brac shop," said Georges. "Explain to me, however,
why this wealthy young lady is still unmarried. Perhaps the Conte
thinks another son-in-law too expensive an article ... Did you know
that Larothière lost 300,000 francs again yesterday at baccarat at the
Jockey Club?"

"That is of no consequence," Zoë said loftily. "Gaston loves his
wife--it is all that Capriani requires of his sons-in-law."

"_Sapperment!_" Georges exclaimed, "that's the right kind of a
father-in-law; what if you should negotiate a marriage, Baroness,
between me and Mademoiselle Capriani?"

"Do not indulge in such sorry jests," Truyn interposed disapprovingly.

"I am in solemn earnest; the financial ground beneath my feet is very
shaky at present, and having one's debts paid by such a good fellow as
Ossi palls upon one in time. I am undecided whether to turn Hospitaller
or to marry an heiress."

"Ah, if Oswald heard you!" Zinka said with her quiet smile.

"Ossi at this moment, if I am not greatly mistaken, is listening to the
songs of angels in Heaven, and takes precious little heed of us
ordinary mortals," replied Georges, glancing with a certain dreaminess
in his eyes towards the youthful pair who had left the piano and were
standing in the deep recess of an open balconied window.

"Happy youth," murmured Georges.

Yes, happy youth! They were standing there, he very pale, she blushing
slightly, mute, confused, the sparkling eyes of each seeking, avoiding
the other's. He has led her to the recess to show her the moon, to lay
his heart at her feet, but he has forgotten the moon, and he has not
yet dared to pour out his heart to her.

The fragrant breath of the spring night was wafted towards them,
fanning their youthful faces caressingly.

All nature was thrilling beneath the first gentle May shower. The large
white panicles of the elder in the little garden in front of the house
gleamed brightly through the gray twilight. The small fountain murmured
monotonously, its slender jet of water sparkling in the light from the
drawing-room windows. They were dancing in the house opposite; like
colourless phantoms the different couples glided across the lowered
shades of the windows. The "Ecstasy" waltz played by a piano and a
violin mingled its frivolous sobs and laughter with the modest song of
the fountain and the whispers of the elder-bushes. All else was quiet
in the Avenue-Labédoyère, but from the distance the restless roar of
the huge city invaded the silence of night--mysterious, confused, as
the demoniac restlessness of Hell may sometimes invade the divine peace
of Heaven.

"Gabrielle!" Oswald began at last with hesitation and very gently, "I
have come very often of late to the Avenue-Labédoyère. Can you guess
why?"

"Why?" The blush on Gabrielle's cheek deepens. "Why?--since you were in
Paris for three weeks without coming near your relatives you ought to
make up for lost time," she murmured.

"True, Gabrielle--but--do you really not know for whose sake I have
come so often, so very often?"

She was silent.

His breath came more quickly, the colour rose to his cheek. Surely he
must have divined Gabrielle's innocent secret from the young girl's
tell-tale shyness, but yet at this decisive moment the words died in
his throat as they must for every genuine, honest lover who would fain
ask the momentous question of her whom he loves.

"Gabrielle," he murmured hastily and somewhat indistinctly, "will you
take the full heart I offer you--can you accept it, or...." he
hesitated and looked inquiringly into her lovely face. "Ella, all my
happiness lies in your hands!"

Her heart beat loudly, the lace ruffles on her bosom trembled,
as she slowly lifted her eyes to his.--How handsome he was, how
well the tender humility in his face became him! His happiness
lies in her hands! Her eyes filled with tears. "I do not
know ... I ... Oswald ... Ossi!" she murmured disconnectedly, and then she
placed her slender hand in the strong one held out to her.

Truyn with his back to the window, noticed nothing, but the baroness
who had been observing this romantic intermezzo through her eyeglass
with cold-blooded curiosity, said drily to herself: "_J'en suis pour
mes frais_;" then turning for the last time to Truyn, she said, "I have
communicated to you Capriani's proposal."

"And you are at liberty to tell him how I received it," Truyn replied
stiffly.

"_J'arrangerai un peu_," the baroness said as she rose, "do not disturb
the young people, I will slip out on tiptoe. Adieu." And with a
courteous glance around, she hurried away.

"Well, what do you think?" exclaimed Truyn, as he returned to the
drawing-room, after escorting her to the hall. "What do you think,
Georges?" and sitting down beside the young man he tapped him on the
knee. "Capriani sends that goose Zoë in all seriousness to ask for my
daughter's hand for his son. What do you say to that?"

"Audacious enough," said Georges shrugging his shoulders, "but what
would you have--'tis a sign of the times!"

This dry way of judging of the matter did not please Truyn at all.
"Ossi!" he called.

"What, uncle?" The young people advanced together into the room.

"I have an interesting piece of news for you. A secret agent of the
_Maison Foy_ has made a proposal to-day for Ella's hand for Capriani,
jr! What do you say to that?"

"Ella's hand for the son of that railway Capriani!" exclaimed Oswald
angrily. "Impossible! The secret agent deserves .... and he made an
expressive motion with his hand. His indignation became him extremely
well, and Truyn's glance rested with evident admiration upon the young
fellow's athletic figure as he stood with head slightly thrown back,
and eyes flashing scornfully.

"Unfortunately it was a lady--Zoë Melkweyser," the elder man explained.

"Then she deserves at least six months of Charenton," said Oswald,
"'tis incredible!" and he clinched his hand. "Your daughter, uncle,
and the son of the Conte--I suppose he is a Conte--or a Marchese
perhaps--Capriani! You know that little orang-outang, Georges?"

"Of course, one meets him everywhere. He addressed me by my first name
yesterday," Georges replied calmly. "Ah, my dear friends, you entirely
misconceive this extraordinary proposal. For my part, I see in it no
personal insult to the Countess Gabrielle, but simply a symptom of an
approaching social earthquake. The triumph of the tradesman is manifest
everywhere. Zola in his most prominent work has celebrated the
apotheosis of the bag-man and the shop-girl; Chapu has designed the
façade of the latest millinery establishment; Paris will yet see the
Bourse hold its sessions in _La Madeleine_, and the _Bon Marché_ will
set up a branch of its trade in _Notre Dame_."

"Likely enough," said Truyn with a troubled sigh, "I am only surprised
that Capriani has not tried to be President of the French Republic."

"He has not thought the position at present a favourable one for his
speculations," said Georges, "but what is not, may be."

"Ah, I am proud of my Austria," said Truyn, suddenly becoming stiff and
wooden of aspect. "Such adventurers have at least no position there."

"Do not be too proud of your Austria," rejoined Georges, "I heard
something at the embassy to-day that will hardly please you. _Id est_,
Capriani has bought Schneeburg and will be your nearest neighbour in
Bohemia."

Truyn started to his feet. "Capriani .... Schneeburg .... impossible! How
could Malzin bring himself to such a sacrifice!"

"It must have gone hard with the poor fellow, God rest his soul! The
night after the contract had been signed he died of apoplexy."

"Good Heavens!" murmured Truyn, pacing restlessly to and fro. "Good
Heavens!"

"And there is another interesting piece of news," Georges went on.

"Well?"

"Fritz--do you remember him?"

"Certainly. The only Malzin now left, a very amiable lad who
unfortunately made an impossible marriage."

"Yes, he married an actress, and just at the time when every one else
was tired of ...."

"Georges!" exclaimed Oswald frowning and glancing towards Gabrielle. He
was evidently of the opinion that such things should not be mentioned
in the presence of young girls.

"Hm--hm," muttered Georges, "and he has accepted the post of Capriani's
private secretary."

"Frightful!" exclaimed Oswald.

"He must have become morally corrupt to some degree, before he could
make up his mind to submit to such a humiliation," interposed Truyn
indignantly.

"Poor devil!" said Oswald.

"What would you have?" the philosophic Georges remarked and hummed
ironically the air of '_Garde la reine_.' "_Ce n'est pas toujours les
mêmes qui ont l'assiette au beurre_. I tell you it is all up with us."

All preserved a melancholy silence for a while, then Truyn favoured the
party with a few grand political aphorisms, and Oswald at last said to
himself perfectly calmly, and as if impromptu, "Gabrielle and
Capriani's son!"

The melancholy mood vanished and they talked and laughed so that there
was a sound as of merry bells through the silence of the night.



                              CHAPTER III.


Zoë Melkweyser was an Austrian and a distant relative of Truyn's. Very
well-born, but in very narrow pecuniary circumstances, she had grown up
on her widowed father's heavily-mortgaged estate, condemned through
want of means to a continued residence there, restless as was the
temperament with which nature had endowed her. As a school-girl she had
no greater pleasure than imaginary journeys from place to place upon
the map, and one day she confided to her governess, Mrs. Sidney, under
the seal of secrecy, that she would consent to marry any man, even were
he a negro, who would promise to indulge her restlessness and allow her
to travel to her heart's content.

It was no negro, however, but a banker from Brussels, who finally
fulfilled her requirements. She met him at a watering-place, whither
she had gone under the chaperonage of a wealthy and compassionate
relative. In spite of her thirst for travel she could hardly have made
up her mind to marry an Austrian banker, but a Belgian Cr[oe]sus was
quite a different affair in her opinion.

All the objections and remonstrances of her aristocratic connections in
Austria upon her return thither betrothed, she cut short with, "What
would you have? Of course I never should have met him here, but he was
received at court in Brussels."

And in fact Baron Alfred Melkweyser was not only received at court in
Brussels, but what was still more extraordinary, by the Princess L----,
being admitted to the most exclusive Belgian circles, 'among the people
whom everyone knows.'

It would have been difficult to find any fault with him except for his
brand-new patent of nobility, and Zoë never had any cause to repent her
marriage. His manners were perfectly correct, he rode well, had a
laudable passion for antiquities, ordered his clothes at Poole's,
always used _vous_ in talking with his wife, paid all her bills without
even a wry face, patiently travelled with her all over the world, and
at her desire removed with her to Paris.

After ten years of childless marriage he died suddenly, of his first
and unfortunately unsuccessful attempt to drive four-in-hand. As this,
his first ambitious folly, was also his last, society forbore to
ridicule it, and even after his death he enjoyed the reputation of an
'_homme parfaitement bien_.'

His widow bewailed his loss sincerely, and purchased all her mourning
of _Cyprès_ at reduced prices. Bargains had always been a passion with
her, and scarcely had her year of mourning passed, before, thanks to
her expensive taste for cheap, useless articles, she had disposed of
half the source of her income. Among other things she purchased at low
prices various stocks which turned out badly. She owed her familiarity
with financial affairs entirely to her speculative vein, and not at
all, as her aristocratic relatives and country-folk erroneously
imagined, to her deceased husband, who had, in fact, held himself
persistently aloof from former financial acquaintances.

It was not acquisitiveness that spurred Zoë on to her various
undertakings, but the restlessness of her temperament. She delighted in
everything novel and fatiguing, whether it were a pilgrimage to
_Lourdes_, a bargain day at the _Bon Marché_, or a first representation
at the _Français_, to which, by persistent wire-pulling and constant
appeals to one and another person of influence, she was able to obtain
tickets of admission not only for herself but for all her most intimate
friends. She had one means, however, far more entertaining than all
others, of procuring the excitement needed by her temperament, and this
was the introduction to 'the world,' of American or European financial
magnates. She extorted for them invitations to the most distinguished
routs, she designed the balls which these wealthy people were to give
to dazzle Paris withal, and she expended an incredible amount of
cunning and energy in inducing the aristocratic world to appear at
these entertainments. Her tactics were those of genius; instead of
contenting herself after the fashion of less skilful mortals with
inviting the poorer and more modest members of Paris society, she bent
all her efforts to securing the presence of some legitimist duchess at
the ball, if only for an hour. She succeeded in doing this in most
cases by placing at the duchess' disposal a large sum of money for
charitable purposes. When she had gained over two or three of these
fixed stars, the planets of Parisian society began to appear at these
balls.

Planets, in their social relations, are notably much more fastidious
than fixed stars, as is but natural; they are forced to reflect a light
not their own.

The entire scheme was usually most successful; the balls were beautiful
and everything went excellently well. Sometimes, indeed, not one of the
assembled guests had the civility to invite the mistress of the mansion
to dance, and many of those present affected to mistake the host for a
footman, but none the less was everyone content and pleased when the
ball was over. Zoë Melkweyser was glad that she had enjoyed so
brilliant an opportunity of getting out of breath; the givers of the
ball were pleased to read the long list of their distinguished guests
in _Figaro_; and _le monde_ rejoiced in having something to laugh at,
and spent three days in ridiculing the extravagance of the Cotillon
favours.

The latest and most brilliant of Zoë's protégés was Conte Capriani.

Who was he? What was he? 'A poisonous fungus that the sultry
storm-laden atmosphere had bred upon heaven only knows what muck-heap.'

A clever statesman had made use of this phrase not long before to
define the innate characteristics of this Cr[oe]sus. The phrase had
been laughingly caught up and repeated, and no one had troubled
themselves further about Capriani's antecedents. In a smaller city they
would soon have been investigated, but Paris never busies itself long
with the solution of such commonplace mysteries; on the contrary it
takes care not to pry into the past of an adventurer whom it finds of
very great use. Thus the antecedents of this financial Jove remained,
like those of most deities, shrouded in myth.

Among the many legends that had at first been circulated concerning
him, was one that he had formerly been a lady's physician and that he
had been most successful with his aristocratic patients.

Whether this were or were not true, certain it was that his air and
manner suggested that adulatory, fawning servility which characterizes
those physicians whose professional efforts are, for lack of other
occupation, chiefly directed to soothing the nerves of hysteric
women. His exterior was that of a man who has once been handsome,
_cidevant-beau_, spoiled only by the piercing glance of his large black
eyes, and the cynical droop of his loose under-lip. He carried his head
well forward, as if listening, and around his mouth and eyes there were
strange lines and wrinkles in the yellow skin which had of late grown
flabby,--lines suggesting that some of the figures with which he played
the despot had flown angrily into his face and embedded themselves
there.

That he had begun life with nothing he himself was wont to declare,
whenever he gave way to the fit of rage that seized him upon any
offence offered to his vanity; but how he had gained his immense
fortune he never told. He made profit out of every thing that afforded
gain, most of all out of the credulity of indolent inexperienced
avarice. His success as a 'bear' was famous, and notorious; it
sometimes seemed as if ill-luck existed only for his advantage, and it
was well known that he had emerged from great financial crises which
ruined thousands, not only unharmed, but with an increase of wealth.

There were various whispers afloat concerning his speculations, but no
one had been able to attach any direct blame to him. Once only, in
connection with his construction of a Spanish railway he had laid
himself open to a couple of disgraceful charges. The times were
unpropitious; the public, exasperated by various huge swindles,
demanded a victim; but whilst several lesser individuals, were brought
to trial and subjected to a public investigation, all legal proceedings
against Capriani were suddenly quashed. Why?.... No one knew or at
least no one told aloud what was known.

He was a '_personnage tare_,' but the stain upon his name was of so
peculiar a nature that prudence required of many well-known and eminent
men that they should not see it. Poor devils who stood outside the
demoniac spell of his financial magic art called him an unprincipled
swindler: people who had penetrated within the conjuror's circle called
him a financial genius, flattered him almost servilely in their longing
to share in his colossal enterprises, and if they did so procured for
him in return a slight social recognition. And it was curious to
observe how much at heart the magnate had this same social recognition,
how he sued for the favour of every lofty dignitary, of every capital
letter in the social alphabet. He persisted unweariedly in hurling his
golden bomb-shells into the stronghold of Parisian society, and at last
the fortress capitulated. He was received, as an enemy to be sure, with
closed shutters and in silence, but he was received everywhere, at all
the embassies, throughout the entire official representative world, and
even in some drawing-rooms of the Faubourg. Everywhere he met those
who, while he smiled at them in the most friendly way, looked over his
shoulder without seeing him, but this he endured serenely. The hour for
revenge will come, he said to himself, and almost always it did come!

Thanks to an ostentatious benevolence backed by millions, he had of
late contrived to improve perceptibly his social standing; at his last
ball, several crowned heads had been present. Zoë was right; he was
undoubtedly one of the most influential financiers in Europe; she might
almost have described him as one of the most influential men.

In Paris he was one of the celebrities that are shown to strangers.
When he walked past, or rather drove past, for he was physically
indolent and avoided all bodily exertion, he was pointed out as
Monsieur Grévy or Mdlle. Bernhardt is pointed out. He occupied a vast
hotel that he had built after the model of the castle of Chenonceau,
but two stories higher, in the neighbourhood of the Park Monceau; in a
quarter of an hour after leaving the Avenue Labédoyère the Baroness
Zoë's _fiacre_ drew up before this mimicry of vanished feudalism
erected by a modern Cr[oe]sus.

"Gabrielle's betrothal will make everything smooth," she said to
herself. "I am glad to be well rid of the affair!"

A Maître d'Hôtel, who, it was said, had formerly been chamberlain to
the Duc de Morny, and one of whose duties it was to instruct his
present master in the laws of aristocratic etiquette, conducted the
baroness with dignified solemnity to the 'small drawing-room' where the
Contessa Capriani was wont to receive on quiet evenings.

The 'small drawing-room' was a very large, and very
brilliantly-furnished apartment, which, in spite of landscapes by
Corot, in spite of gold-woven Japanese hangings, old inlaid cabinets
and a thousand articles of value, produced a dreary in-harmonious
impression. It was evident that nothing here was devised for the
pleasure and comfort of the inmates of the house, but that everything
was arranged with a view of impressing visitors. It almost seemed as if
millions run mad had tossed all these splendours together aimlessly,
insanely shouting, "something more costly, something more costly
still!"

Here sat the Contessa busied with some fancy work. She appeared
well-bred, but shy, and embarrassed by her wealth, as she advanced a
few steps to welcome the baroness, made a few conventional remarks, and
then begged with a sigh to be excused for going on with her work, which
work consisted in cutting all sorts of flowers and birds out of a piece
of cretonne in order to sew them on a piece of satin. She devoted
several hours a day to this occupation, and since her own rooms, as
well as those of her acquaintances, were far too splendidly furnished
to have any place in them for this sort of work, the result of her
diligence was bestowed every year upon some charity-bazaar.

Zoë Melkweyser thought the Contessa unusually depressed. Excited voices
were heard in the next room, and every time that there was a
particularly loud explosion the mistress of the mansion winced.

"Can the 300,000 francs which the Duke of Larothière lost last night be
a bitter pill for even King Midas?" Zoë asked herself.

This supposition proved, however to be erroneous. Madame Capriani moved
her chair rather nearer to Zoë, and whispered, "My husband is terribly
agitated,--my poor son--that article in _Figaro_,--you saw it of
course ...."

"I? I have not seen _Figaro_ to-day," Zoë reassured her. It was true,
she had not seen _Figaro_ but she had heard of the article to which the
countess alluded; the excitement in the _casa_ Capriani was quite
intelligible to her now. No, Capriani never even pulled a wry face at
the sums lost at play by his son-in-law; he enjoyed smiling away such
losses; everything was allowable in the duke. For the comparatively
petty extravagances of his own son he had much less forbearance, in
fact he showed very little tenderness for this scion of his, whose name
was Arthur, and who was far from satisfactory to his father. The
Croesus could forgive his son's noble scorn of everything relating to
business, for positively refusing to have a desk in his father's
counting-room and for devoting his entire existence to sport,--but it
drove him frantic to have Arthur held up to ridicule by the sporting
world.

Hitherto Arthur's grandest achievements in the sporting world had
culminated in a couple of broken collar-bones and a quantity of lost
wagers,--today their number had been increased by a trifling _fiasco_.

A very trifling _fiasco_, but of a highly delicate nature. Two
Austrians, an attaché and one of his friends at present in Paris, both
belonging to extremely aristocratic families, had lately out of wild
caprice, and amid much laughter, undertaken to run a foot-race
backwards.

Several French journals had taken immediate occasion to write articles
on this eccentric wager, describing backward races as a traditional and
very favourite sport among the youthful aristocrats of Austria. These
journalistic rhapsodies had incited Arthur Capriani to arrange a
similar race with brilliant accessories, music, torchlight, and a large
assemblage of young dandies, and ladies of every description. He lost
the race, got a severe contusion on his head, and the next day appeared
the article in _Figaro_ which so exasperated the Conte.

"If you were only capable of something in the world beside making
yourself ridiculous!" Zoë distinctly heard the father's excited voice
say, "but you can do nothing else, nothing! And to think of my toiling
for you,--making money for you!"

"_Mon Dieu!_ you make money because you delight in nothing else,"
retorted young Capriani.

"And for you--for _you_, I am contemplating one of the most brilliant
matches in Austria," the Conte fairly shouted, "'tis ridiculous!"

"I fancy that Count Truyn agrees with you there," was Arthur's
repartee.

"Ah, you would, would you?--you dare to sneer at your father?" Capriani
burst forth, after the illogical fashion of angry men, "the father to
whom you owe everything! I should like to see you begin life as I did,
bare-footed, with only one gulden in your pocket!"

"What's the use of these recriminations?" drawled the son, "your
antecedents mortify me enough without them, and ...."

There was a incoherent cry, a savage word ....!

The Contessa, very pale, put down her scissors; she trembled violently.

"I think it would be better to separate them," Zoë remarked very
calmly.

"I will try to," gasped Madame Capriani, and opening the door into the
next room, she called, "_Mon-ami_, the Baroness Melkweyser is here--I
believe she brings you some news ...."

"_Il s'agit de votre fameuse affaire, mon cher comte_," Zoë called
coaxingly.

Her words produced a magical effect; both men made their appearance,
the father with a honeyed smile, the son, a short thick-set fellow with
handsome features but a rude ill-tempered air, frowning and sullen.

"_Bon soir baronne_."

"_Bon soir_."

"_Eh bien?_" and settling himself in an arm-chair, his legs
outstretched, and toying with his double eyeglass in the triumphant
attitude with which he was wont to contemplate the favourable
development of some particularly clever business transaction, Capriani
began, "So you have at last found a favourable opportunity."

"No,--no, not at all!" said Zoë, "but I thought best not to leave you
in uncertainty any longer, and so I came to you this evening."

"You know I gave you no authority to make a direct proposal," said the
Conte.

"How can you suppose me capable of such want of tact!" Zoë rejoined
hypocritically, "unfortunately I have not been able even to find out
how the land lies. If you had commissioned me a little sooner--just a
little sooner,--but there is nothing to be done now, for Gabrielle
Truyn is already betrothed!"

"_Nom d'un chien!_" muttered Arthur; he had been no less impressed by
Gabrielle's beauty than by her lofty descent--"_nom d'un chien!_"

"Indeed, already betrothed," his father said coldly, slowly putting his
eyeglass upon his nose and scanning the baroness mistrustfully as he
asked, "betrothed to whom?"

"To her cousin, Oswald Lodrin."

"To Oswald Lodrin," he repeated quickly. "You cannot, indeed, enter the
lists against him, my poor Arthur!"

"Perhaps not as far as arrogance is concerned," growled the Vicomte,
"he is the haughtiest human being I ever came across."

"That may be, but--" the Conte smiled oddly, "he is also one of the
handsomest and most distinguished of Austrians, and he is renowned as
such."

Whilst Arthur continued to mutter unintelligibly, but in evident
ill-humor, Capriani senior left his arm-chair and taking a low seat
beside Zoë, said, "To-morrow the X---- railway stock is to be issued.
The shares will be in great demand; shall I save you a couple of
hundred?"



                              CHAPTER IV.


The fragrance of the elder blossoms floated sweet and strong upon the
air in the dim warm stillness of the Avenue Labédoyère. The poetry that
breathes in the odour of flowers no words can reproduce, music alone
can sometimes translate it; it ascended from the full white panicles in
the little garden before the Hôtel Truyn and breathed through the open
window into Gabrielle's chamber like an exultant yearning, like a song
filled with love's delicious pain.

Zinka sat on the edge of the little white bed where the young girl was
lying, her golden hair rippling about her brow and temples, while upon
her pale face lay the melancholy of illimitable joy; her eyes were
moist.

"And you are not surprised, Zini ... not at all?" she whispered.

"No, my child," replied Zinka tenderly, "not in the least; I knew you
were destined for each other from the first moment that I saw you
together."

"Ah," Gabrielle sighed, "I cannot comprehend it yet. It all seems to me
like a delicious dream from which I must waken, but even if I must,
even if the dear God takes from me all that He has given me, I shall
thank Him on my knees as long as I live for this one lovely dream."

"Calm yourself, my darling," Zinka whispered, lovingly stroking the
young girl's cheeks, "how your cheeks burn!" And she poured a few drops
of essence of orange flowers into a glass of water, "drink this, you
little enthusiast."

"It will do no good, dear little mother," said Gabrielle, obediently
lifting the composing draught to her burning lips. "Ah, you cannot
imagine how I feel, it seems as if--as if my heart would break with
happiness!"

Zinka kissed her, made the sign of the cross upon her forehead, drew
the coverlet over her shoulders, once more admonished her to be calm,
and left her.

Thunder rumbled without; Zinka started and as a second clap resounded
she turned back. "Are you afraid of the storm, Ella, shall I stay with
you?" she asked gently.

"Ah no, dear little mother," Gabrielle replied in the intoxication of
her happiness, "I hardly hear the thunder."

And Zinka departed. "I do not know why I cannot rejoice in this as I
ought," she said to herself, "it seems to me as if we had forgotten to
invite some one of the twelve fairies to this betrothal."

And whilst the thunder crashed above the Champs Elysées she suddenly
recalled an old fairy story that a fever-stricken peasant from the
Trastevere had once told her in Rome.

It was a gloomy story, one of those legends in which the popular
imagination, boldly overleaping all chronological and historical
obstacles, bestows upon Pagan gods the wings of Christian angels, and
arms God the Father with the lightnings of angry Jove. It ran somewhat
thus:

"There was once a beautiful maiden who was good as an angel, so good
that it gave her unutterable pain to see any one sad and not to be able
to help; and once when she had cried herself to sleep over the woes of
mankind she had a wonderful vision. A dark form with a veiled face
approached her and said, 'If you have the courage to cut your heart out
of your breast and plant it deep in the earth, there will spring from
it a flower so glorious, so wonderful, that whoever inhales its
fragrance will feel a bliss so intense that he would gladly purchase it
with all the torture of our mortal existence.'

"And the maiden cut her heart out of her breast and planted it deep in
the brown earth, and watered it with her tears, and there sprang from
it a magically-beautiful flower, with luxuriant green leaves, and large
white blossoms with blood-red calyxes, and whoever inhaled the breath
of these blossoms felt an intoxicating delight course through his
veins, so that in his wild ecstasy he forgot all earthly care and
trouble. The flowers unfolded to more and more enchanting loveliness,
and through the thick foliage sighed the sweetest music.

"Now when the angels in Heaven heard of this strange plant they
entreated the Almighty Father to allow them to go get it and to plant
it in Paradise.

"The Lord granted their request. Then they fluttered down from Heaven,
but when they approached the wondrous plant a voice spoke from it,
saying, 'Let me alone, I blossom for the consolation of the earth, I
could not live in Paradise; the soil in which I flourish must be
watered with heart's blood and tears!'

"But the angels did not heed these words, and, beguiled by the
delicious fragrance, they tried to tear away the roots from the lap of
earth; their efforts were vain, they had to return with their purpose
unfulfilled.

"When mankind saw this it exulted in its blissful possession. Happy
mortals laughed at the angels' futile envy. Then the angels prostrated
themselves anew at the feet of the Almighty, and implored Him to
revenge them upon the blasphemers. And the Almighty gave ear to their
prayer; He hurled a thunderbolt at the plant, and it was swept from off
the face of the earth.

"But its roots still slumber underground, and sometimes when in mild
spring nights a mysterious fragrance steals upon the air, a fragrance
wafted from no visible blossom, these roots are stirring to life, and
green leaves shoot upward into the spring. But the sweet perfume still
moves the angels to anger, and it scarcely rises aloft before the
thunder rolls over the earth and the lightning blasts the green leaves.
The flower will never blossom again."



                               CHAPTER V.


Oswald and his cousin Georges were sitting at breakfast in their
pleasant room in the Hotel Bristol by a window that looked out upon the
Place Vendôme, and down the brilliant Rue de la Paix, the perspective
of which was lost in a hurly-burly of omnibuses, orange carts, flower
wagons, advertising vehicles painted fiery red, fiacres, sun-illumined
dust, and human beings rushing madly hither and thither. Whilst Georges
was drinking his tea in sober comfort with a brief remark as to the
incomparable excellence of the Paris butter, Oswald, who although
endowed by nature with an excellent appetite had paid but scant
attention to his meals of late, recounted for the tenth time to his
cousin the extraordinary combination of circumstances which had brought
together Gabrielle and himself. He was a victim of the lovers' delusion
that sees in the most ordinary occurrences the finger of the Deity, and
that regards their happiness as a special marvel wrought by Providence
for their benefit.

It was, so Oswald narrated, in April, on the second day of the Auteuil
races, the first faint tinge of green was perceptible on the landscape.
He was on horseback, riding a magnificent Arabian steed which one of
his friends had lent him, and which he was handling with the excessive
care which an Austrian always bestows upon a horse that is not his own.
Suddenly he saw walking across the race-course a young lady in a dark
green dress; a ray of sunlight that turned her hair to gold attracted
his attention to her. She walked quickly past with an elderly gentleman
and Oswald turned to look after her. His horse was a little restless,
his rider's spurs were rather too sharp; with the sudden movement he
scratched the animal's silken skin, and instantly exclaimed, "_Ah,
pardon!_" a piece of courtesy for which his companions ridiculed him
loudly. In the meantime the young lady with the gray-haired gentleman
had vanished.

"Who is that exquisitely beautiful girl?" he asked, and Wips Siegburg,
secretary of the Austrian Legation, replied laughing, "Do you not know
her, she is your cousin!"

"Gabrielle Truyn!" exclaimed Oswald; and Siegburg said sagely, "this
comes of enjoying one's self too busily in Paris, and consequently
finding no time to visit one's nearest relatives."

Oswald peered in every direction but he could not discover her again.
After the race, under the leafless trees of the Champs Elysées rolled
crowds of carriages, victorias, all sorts of coaches, four-in-hands,
lumbering roomy omnibuses,--all veiled in the whirling, sunlit dust as
in golden gauze, while everywhere, alike in the omnibuses and in the
more elegant vehicles, reigned a uniform air of dull fatigue.

Paris had lost another battle with ennui.

In the motley throng Oswald was almost forced to walk his horse,
pondering as he went upon the best way of excusing his discourtesy to
his uncle. He had now been four entire weeks in Paris, and had not yet
presented himself in the Avenue Labédoyère. Fortunately he had gone so
little into society that he had not yet met the Truyns; Paris is so
huge, perhaps they had not yet heard that he was there. Yes, Paris is
huge, but 'society' everywhere is small. No, he could hardly venture to
appear at his uncle's yet.

He was growing quite melancholy over these reflections, when he
suddenly observed that his horse had coolly poked his nose over the
hood, which had been thrown back, of a low carriage in front, and was
nibbling at a bouquet of white roses that he found there. Oswald
shortened his bridle, and just then a lady sitting in the carriage
turned round; it was Gabrielle Truyn. With no attempt to conceal her
displeasure she observed what had been done, and when Oswald, hat in
hand, humbly stammered his excuses, she bestowed upon him the haughty
stare which an insolent intruder would have merited, and turned away.
She knew perfectly well who he was, as he afterwards learned, and that
he had been four weeks in Paris. The gentleman beside her now turned
round, his eyes met Oswald's; he smiled, and said with good-humoured
sarcasm ... "Ossi!--what an unexpected pleasure!"

"Uncle--I--I have long been intending to pay you my respects...."
Oswald stammered.

"Apparently your resolutions require time to ripen," said Truyn drily.

"Ah uncle!--I--may I come to see you now?"

"You do us too much honour," said Truyn provokingly, "we will kill the
fatted calf and celebrate the Prodigal's return." Then taking pity upon
his nephew's embarrassment he added. "Don't be afraid, we shall not
turn you out of doors, we have some consideration for young gentlemen
who are in Paris for the first time; we know that they have other
things to do besides looking up tiresome relatives, what say you,
Ella?"

"My cousin has forgotten me," the young man murmured, "have the
kindness to present me to her."

"It is your cousin, Oswald Lodrin, an old playmate of yours."

At her father's words Gabrielle merely turned her exquisite profile
towards her cousin and acknowledged his low bow by a slight inclination
of her head. Then she stretched out her hand for her bouquet,
murmuring, "My poor roses! they are entirely ruined." And she suddenly
tossed them away into the road. There was an opening in the blockade of
carriages before them; Gabrielle's golden hair gleamed before Oswald's
eyes for a flash, then all around grew gray; the twilight had absorbed
the last glimmer of sunshine.

That same evening Oswald ordered at a large flower shop, on the
Madeleine Boulevard, the most exquisite bouquet of gardenias, orchids
and white roses that Paris could produce and sent it to his cousin to
replace her ruined roses.

All this he retailed. His first visit, too, in the Avenue Labédoyère,
the visit when he did not find Truyn at home, and when Gabrielle did
not make her appearance, but Zinka, whom he had not known before,
received him. There had been much discussion in Austria over this
second marriage of his uncle, and Oswald had brought to Paris a violent
antipathy to Zinka. But it soon vanished, or rather was transformed
into a very affectionate esteem.

And then the first little dinner, a very little dinner (just to make
them acquainted, Truyn said) strictly _en famille_--no strangers, only
Oswald and Siegburg. The brightly-lit table with its flowers, glass,
and sparkling silver, in the middle of the dim brown dining-room, the
delicate fair heads of the two ladies in their light dresses standing
out so charmingly against the background of the old leather hangings,
Truyn's paternal cordiality, and Zinka's kindly raillery,--he thought
he had never had so delightful a dinner.

Gabrielle, to be sure, held herself rather aloof. She evidently
resented his tardy appearance in the Avenue Labédoyère; she hardly
noticed his beautiful flowers. She talked exclusively to Siegburg who
was odiously entertaining, and who glanced across the table now and
then, his eyes sparkling with merry malice, at Oswald. Then as they
were serving the asparagus, he took it into his head to ask Gabrielle,
"Do you know who is the most courteous man in Paris, Countess
Gabrielle?"

"No, how should I?"

"Your charming cousin there," rejoined the young diplomat.

"Indeed!" Gabrielle said with incredulous emphasis, bending her head a
little on one side as is the fashion with pretty women when they
undertake the inconvenient task of eating asparagus.

"Yes, verily, he says '_pardon_' even to his horse, when he scratches
it with his spurs."

"Ah! Apparently he lavishes all his courtesy upon horses," Gabrielle
said pointedly.

"In the case to which I allude, he really did owe some consideration to
his horse, for the poor animal could not possibly know why he was made
to feel the spur. The fact was that at the races the other day Lodrin
saw a lady the sight of whom so electrified him that he turned
positively all round on his horse, and in doing so scratched the poor
beast with his spur."

"Ah, and who, if one may ask, was this remarkable lady?" asked
Gabrielle.

"Ella, since when have you become conscience keeper for young
gentlemen?" asked Truyn.

She blushed to the roots of her hair, but Oswald said with perfect
composure, looking her directly in the face: "Certainly--it was
Countess Gabrielle Truyn."

She bit her lip angrily.

"It serves you right," said Truyn smiling, "why do you ask about
matters that do not concern you? The jest, however, is a little stale,
Ossi."'

"I should not venture to jest; I simply told the truth," rejoined
Oswald. In view of the young girl's evident agitation he had regained
entire calm.

"One is not always justified in telling the truth," Gabrielle observed
with the pettish frankness in which even the best-bred young ladies
will indulge, when irritated by the accelerated beating of their
hearts.

"Indeed? Not even in reply to a question?" Oswald said very quietly,
and Truyn frowned after the fashion of affectionate papas, whose
daughters' behaviour does not exactly gratify their paternal ambition.
Zinka interrupted the fencing of the young people by an inquiry as to
the new vaudeville which Gabrielle wished to see, but of which Zinka
was not quite sure she should approve.

Oswald took no further notice of Gabrielle that evening, but devoted
himself to Zinka. He sat beside her for nearly an hour, and enjoyed it
extremely; she had a charming way of listening, assenting to his
observations by a silent smile, and inciting him to all kinds of small
confidences, without asking any direct questions.

When he afterwards reflected upon what had been the interesting subject
of their conversation, he discovered that she had led him to speak only
of himself, that he had told her everything about his life that a young
man can tell to a young woman whom he has seen but twice.

She listened attentively, and when he took his leave she had grown
almost cordial.

"Now that you have broken the ice, I hope we shall see you frequently.
_A propos_, to-morrrow is our night at the opera; if you have nothing
more agreeable in prospect and have not heard '_La Juive_' too
often...."

                               *   *   *

And then the charming, uncertain, hoping, exulting, despairing time
that ensued! Gabrielle's pique slowly vanished; then without any
reasonable cause returned; her behaviour towards her cousin vacillated
strangely between naive cordiality and proud reserve; some days she
seemed to misconstrue everything that was said, and then all at once a
single cordial word would mollify her.

And the dances, the cotillon at the Countess Crecy's ball in the pretty
little Hôtel, Rue St. Dominique,--the cotillon in which all had paid
homage to Gabrielle as to a young queen, and in which when, of all the
favours that she had to bestow only one remained, she suddenly became
confused, looking from the favour to her cousin, and seeming more and
more undecided until at last he advanced a step towards her and
whispered, "Well, Gabrielle, am I to have the Golden Fleece or not?"

That was two days before the betrothal. To the day of his death he
should wear that favour and no other on his heart. It should be buried
with him!

Although not given to writing much he had kept a diary in Paris. Long
since he had torn out the first pages; its contents now extended
exactly from the first meeting to the first kiss. After his marriage
the book was to be sealed up, to be given to his eldest son upon his
twenty-first birthday.

Whilst Oswald, borne upon a lover's wings that knew no boundary line
between heaven and earth, between the future and the past, at one time
eulogized his betrothed, and at another made arrangements for his own
burial, and his eldest son's twenty-first birthday, Georges, who had
gradually finished his breakfast, leaned back in his chair watching the
fantastic wreaths of smoke ascending from the bowl of his tschibouk.
When at last Oswald paused and fell into a reverie he took occasion to
utter the following profundity. "Living is very dear in Paris!" Twice
was he obliged to repeat this brilliant aphorism, before Oswald seemed
to hear it. Then glancing at his cousin reproachfully, the young fellow
put his hand in his pocket, "would you like the key, Georges?" he said
offering it to him.

"No," replied Georges, taking Oswald's hand, key and all in his own,
and pressing it down upon the table. "No, my dear fellow, many thanks.
Do you remember what Montaigne says about _le désir qui s'accroist par
la malaysance_."

"Montaigne?--I am not very intimate with the old gentleman," Oswald
replied with a laugh, "how came you pray to make his acquaintance?"

"Why you see, Oswald, there have been times when my means were not
sufficient to provide me with amusements befitting my station in life,
and I was obliged to have recourse, _faute de mieux_, to reading. But
to recur to _plaisirs de la malaysance_, Montaigne proves as clearly as
that two and two make four that if there were no locks there would be
no thieves! Now,--hm--one thing is certain; since your strong box has
been open to me I no longer have the smallest desire to possess myself
of its contents. Do you know, Ossi, that I have grown very fond of you
in these few weeks? Do not overturn the pepper cruet," he admonished
his cousin, who suddenly extended his hand to him with somewhat awkward
shyness. "Yes, very fond, you have effected a radical change in me; I
should really like to go back with you to Bohemia, perhaps you could
find me something to do there. Will you take me with you to Bohemia?"

"With the greatest pleasure, Georges."

"Reflect a little. What would your mother say to your introducing an
unbidden guest into her household?"

"My dear Georges, my mother, if I were to take home Karl Marx--or--" he
did not conclude for at that moment his servant brought in a small
salver upon which lay his newspapers and letters.



                              CHAPTER VI.


A couple of cards of invitation were after a fleeting examination stuck
into the frame of the mirror, then came two Austrian newspapers, then
three letters from Austria; one addressed in a firm, bold hand he
opened instantly with a smile of pleasure and the exclamation "from my
mother! at last! I am very curious to know what she says to my
betrothal--I began to be anxious--she has taken so long to write."

But the light in his eyes faded, he frowned, angrily crushed the letter
together, and propping his elbows on the table leaned his head upon his
hands. "I could not have thought this possible," he murmured.

"Is not your mother satisfied?" Georges asked.

"Satisfied--?" growled Oswald, "satisfied--? she couldn't be
dissatisfied if she tried ever so hard, but she does not rejoice with
me. There, read that. 'Dear child, I agree to everything that will make
you happy, and pray for every blessing upon yourself and your
betrothed, whom, moreover, I remember as a charming little girl ....'"

"Well, what more can you ask?" said Georges, elevating his eyebrows.

"What more can I ask?" Oswald very nearly shouted, "what more can I
ask? why, I am not used to having such conventional phrases served up
to me by my mother!"

"Do you and your mother live upon perfectly good terms with each
other?" asked Georges, mechanically brushing away a few crumbs on the
table-cloth, and without looking at his cousin.

Oswald opened his eyes wide. "My mother and I? Why, yes, what can you
be thinking of?"

Georges made no reply, he remembered perfectly well that years
previously, before he had left home the Countess Lodrin had been
anything but tender to her charming little son, nay, that she had been
the downright fine-lady mother who figures in romances, but who
fortunately is found but seldom in real life.

He thought it unnecessary, however, to remind his cousin of this.

In the meanwhile Oswald had somewhat cooled down. "My poor unreasonable
mother!" he said half-aloud to himself, "it is so hard for her to give
me up, in all her life she has had me only. Well, I shall soon bring
her round. Ah, Georges, Georges, it seems but a poor arrangement in
this life that we must so often take from one person to give to
another! I only hope that my mother's letter to my betrothed is more
cordial. Ah, here are two more epistles," and in no cheerful mood he
opened one after the other of the two very business-like envelopes,
read their contents, compared them with each other, threw both upon the
table and, quite pale, with very red lips and flashing eyes, began to
pace to and fro, from time to time passing his hand angrily across his
forehead. "Everything disagreeable is sure to happen all at once!" he
exclaimed.

Georges knowing his cousin's impetuousity watched his excitement with
smiling composure. "Is Vesuvius again in a state of eruption," he said
kindly, "or what is the matter, man alive?"

"Siegl is an ass!"

"Ah?--and your man of business besides?"

"Yes."

"Then this present affair is a matter of business?"

"No!" Oswald said gloomily, "an affair of honour. The matter is that I
am forced to break my word--_voilà tont!_ But I cannot understand
Siegl, he ought to know ...." Suddenly he went to his secretary, opened
it, rummaged nervously among a chaos of letters, at last finding a
closely-written sheet, which he read through carefully, then grew
very quiet, and seating himself opposite Georges at the uncleared
breakfast-table, said "I am wrong, it is my fault."

"Pray explain yourself," said Georges, "my counsel, and my experience
are at your service."

"The matter is simple enough. Before I came away from home I gave Siegl
a power of attorney to conclude an unfinished sale, the sale of a
couple of insignificant building lots in W----. In practical business
matters I can thoroughly rely upon him. Well, the other day I had this
letter from him asking whether I would agree to the winding up of the
affair under certain conditions, and at the end of the letter he asked
me in this case to telegraph him. His handwriting is execrable and his
style most tedious,--and--and I hurried off to the Avenue Labédoyère. I
was going to ride in the Bois with Gabrielle,--in short I skimmed over
the letter, never noticing that he asked about another far more
important sale, and telegraphed, 'I agree to everything; do as you
think best.'"

"_Eh bien!_"

Oswald cleared his throat. "You remember Dr. Schmitt? He was our family
physician, a true man if ever there was one, my father valued him
highly. Well, he leased an estate from us, Kanitz, it lies in one
corner of the Schneeburg grounds; after the old man's death his son
held the lease, he is a very good fellow, we served together in the
same regiment in our volunteer year. He married, and set great store by
the lease, which would run out in three years. Before his marriage he
came to me to know whether he might depend upon an extension of the
lease; of course I promised it to him, thereby relieving him of immense
anxiety. And now Siegl has sold the property at a high price to
Capriani, and is very proud of the transaction, and it is all because
of my thoughtlessness, because I thought it too tedious to read through
his roundabout epistle and .... and young Schmitt, poor devil, is quite
beside himself, and writes me this letter! I cannot understand Siegl,
he might have asked me again, he knows me perfectly well, he ought
to have known that I could never have contemplated anything of the
kind ....! But it's just the way with all my people! If they can make a
few gulden for me, no matter how, they pride themselves upon it hugely;
no one seems to understand that I care precious little for the
augmentation of my income; what I want is, to alleviate as far as lies
in my power the existence of as many men as possible!"

"How old are you, Ossi?" Georges asked with an oddly-scrutinizing
glance at his cousin.

"Twenty-six. What makes you ask?"

"Your transcendental views of life, my child. Men and ants are born
with wings, but both rub them off in the struggle for existence,--men
usually do so before they are twenty-four."

"That goal is passed," rejoined Oswald, "and the winged ants do not
lose their wings, they only die young," and he became again absorbed in
study of the two letters. "I cannot blame Siegl this time, try as hard
as I can, it is _my_ fault; 'tis enough to drive one mad!"

"I can understand how it goes against the grain, but--well, you must
indemnify Schmitt with another property."

"That of course, but it does not help the matter," Oswald grumbled, "he
has a special love for Kanitz--he was born there, his parents are
buried there in a pretty little churchyard on the edge of the woods by
the Holtitzer brook. He takes care of their graves himself--they are
perfect beds of flowers. And his wife!--I paid her a visit last
Autumn,--she is a dear little shy thing, and she looked at me out
of her large eyes as if I were Omnipotence itself. There is such an
old-fashioned loyalty, so poetic a content about those people; upon
whom shall we depend if we heedlessly destroy the devotion of such as
they? Schmitt must keep Kanitz, even although I buy it back at double
the price paid for it!"

"My dear fellow you can do nothing with money where Capriani is
concerned," Georges observed calmly, "but I am convinced that he is
very desirous of standing well with all of you. If you make a personal
request of him he certainly will not object to annul his purchase. If
the matter is really important to you go and call upon Capriani,
and...."

Oswald tossed his head angrily. "What? ask me to have any personal
intercourse with that man--no--in an extreme case indeed----but there
must be some legal way out of the difficulty, it is a matter for our
agents--_Ça!_ A quarter of twelve and I breakfast at Truyn's."

"You must make haste. Can I do anything for you?"

Oswald went to the writing-table and in large bold characters
wrote a couple of lines on a sheet of paper. "Pray see that this
telegraph to Schmitt goes off immediately, and then one thing
more--if it does not bore you too much--please leave a card for me at
the places on this list. Do not take any trouble, but if you should be
passing.... Good-bye old fellow--remember we are to go home together."

"Hotspur!" murmured Georges as the door closed after his cousin. "Well,
after all, I do not grudge him his position; he becomes it well."



                              CHAPTER VII.


If Oswald Lodrin might be regarded as the chivalric embodiment of the
old-time '_noblesse oblige_,' his cousin Georges was on the contrary
the personification of the modern axiom '_noblesse permet_.'

He had made use of the credit of the Lodrins, the accumulation of
centuries, to screen his maddest pranks. True, he had never overdrawn
this credit, he had never by any of his numberless eccentricities
raised any barrier between himself and his equals in rank. He had grown
to manhood discontentedly convinced that Count Hugo Lodrin, his
father's elder brother, had done him great wrong, and this wrong was
his marriage late in life with the beautiful Princess Wjera Zinsenburg.

Georges was barely eight years old at the time, but he remembered as
long as he lived how angrily his father, after a life of careless
extravagance led in the certainty of inheriting the Lodrin estates, had
received the announcement of the betrothal, and how hardly he had
spoken of Wjera Zinsenburg.

The boy grew up, his heart filled with a hatred none the less vehement
because it was childish, first for his aunt, and afterward for his
cousin.

His hatred for his aunt grew with his growth, but as for his hatred for
his cousin?... It was difficult to cherish resentment against his
loving, helpless little cousin with his big black eyes and pretty rosy
mouth. And in the summer holidays, which he spent every year in Tornow
with his father, he struck up a friendship with the little fellow.

It was a lasting friendship. One day after his father's death when he
had for several years been an officer of hussars, and always in
pecuniary difficulties, Georges received a letter, which upon very
slanting lines evidently ruled in pencil by Ossi, himself, and in very
sprawling clumsy characters, ran thus:


"Dear Georges,

"Papa says you need money, I don't need any, so I send you my pocket
money, and when I'm big you shall have more. The donkeys are given
away. Papa got angry with Jack because he bit me. Now, for a
punishment, he has to carry sand for the gardeners. I have a pair of
ponies now; they are very pretty and I ride every day. I can ride quite
well and I am not afraid, but I stroke Jack whenever I see him, and I
think he is ashamed of himself.

                                   "Your Ossi."


Yes, he needed money--a great deal of money; his father had left him
next to nothing, and the small allowance which his uncle made him,
always seasoning it with good advice, did not nearly suffice him.

His uncle paid his debts upon condition that he should exchange from
the hussars into the dragoons, then held in rather high estimation as
heavy cavalry. Georges needed money quite as much as a dragoon,
however, as when a hussar. Then came feminine influences--a quarrel
with his colonel--a duel. He resigned his commission with honour and to
the regret of the entire staff. Once more, and, as he was solemnly
informed, for the last time, his uncle paid his debts, and wishing to
have no further concern in his nephew's money matters he also paid out
a handsome sum as a release from all further demands.

Georges manifested his repentance after this settlement by an immediate
excursion to Paris with a pert little French concert-saloon singer.
This was the finishing stroke in the eyes of his strictly moral, nay,
even bigotted uncle. From that time onward the young man's letters to
the old count were returned to him unopened. Georges vanished from the
scene. The rumour ran that after he had tried his luck and failed in
the California gold diggings, he had been a rider in a circus; there
was also a report that he had served mahogany-coloured Spaniards and
jet-black negroes as waiter at Rio Janeiro, that he had been an omnibus
driver in New York--this last fact was vouched for. Still, he contrived
to impress the stamp of spontaneous eccentricity upon every one of the
expedients to which he resorted in his pecuniary embarrassments.

One day after Oswald had attained his majority he received a letter in
which his cousin, after appealing to the old boyish friendship,
described his present condition. Oswald, who was kindheartedness
itself, and, moreover, enthusiastically eager to discharge his duties
as head of the family, did not delay an hour in arranging his cousin's
affairs and in settling upon him an income suitable to his rank.

Thus Georges returned to his old sphere of life and to his former
habits, smiling calmly, but testifying no special delight, and not the
slightest surprise at the change in his circumstances. The honest
friendship which he felt for the cousin whom as a child he had petted,
quite destroyed his old grudge against his fate.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Picture a sleepy little market-town lying, at a respectful distance,
near a very large castle, where the clock in the tower has not gone for
twenty years; a ruggedly uneven market-place, thickly paved with sharp
stones and no sidewalk, queer old-fashioned houses with high-gabled
roofs and small windows, and here and there a faded-out image of
the Virgin above an arched gateway, a tradesman's shop serving as
post-office as well as for the sale of tobacco, and adorned over the
doorway with a wreath of wooden lemons and pomegranates, and the
imperial double-eagle, a corner where stands a piled-up carrier's van
covered with black oilskin, a smithy sending forth from its dark
interior a shower of crimson sparks, while from the low passage-way of
the opposite inn, 'The Golden Lion,' a waiter with a dirty apron, and
bare feet thrust into old red slippers, is gazing over at the smithy
where a crowd of dripping street boys are collected about two
thoroughbreds and a groom liveried in the English fashion--picture all
this and you see Rautschin,--Rautschin on a dark afternoon in May in a
pouring rain with an accompaniment of thunder and lightning.

Somewhat apart from the gaping urchins a young man is walking to and
fro in front of the row of houses; his quick impatient step testifies
to his having been detained by some untoward mishap and also to his
being quite unused to such delay.

The rain descends from heaven in fine, regular, grey sheets. The young
man's cigar has gone out, he is cold, and thoroughly annoyed he passes
the unattractive waiter and enters the inn.

The room in which he takes refuge is low and spacious with bright blue
walls, and a well-smoked ceiling. Limp, soiled muslin curtains
reminding one of the train of an old ball-dress, hang before the
windows where are glass hanging-lamps, and flower-pots of painted
porcelain filled with mignonette, cactuses, and catnip. The furniture
consists of two chromos representing the Emperor and his consort, of a
number of yellow chairs, of several green tables, and of an array of
spittoons.

At one of the tables sit three guests evidently much at home; one of
them is tuning a zither, while the other two are smoking very
malodorous cigars, and drinking beer out of tankards of greenish glass.
Engaged in eager conversation none of them observed the entrance of the
stranger who, to avoid attracting attention, seated himself in a dark
corner with his back to the group.

"A couple more truck-loads of all sorts of fine furniture have arrived
at Schneeburg," remarked one of the trio, a young man with red hair,
and unusual length of limb. He is a surveyor's clerk, his name is
Wenzl Wostraschil, but he is familiarly known as 'the Daily News' from
the amount of sensational intelligence which he disperses. "Count
Capriani ...."

"I know of no Count Capriani," interrupted an old gentleman with white
hair and a red face; he is Doctor Swoboda, by profession district
physician, in politics just as strictly conservative as Count Truyn
became as soon as he had proclaimed his socialism by taking to himself
a bourgeoise bride--"I know of no Count Capriani, you probably mean
Conte!"

"It is the same thing," observed the zither player, Herr Cibulka.

"In the dictionary, perhaps," the old doctor rejoined sarcastically.

"The two titles are synonymous in my opinion," said Herr Cibulka as he
laid aside his tuning-key and began to play 'The Tyrolean and his
child,' while with closed lips he half-hummed, half-murmured the air to
himself, his big fat hands groping to and fro on the instrument as if
trying to aid his memory.

Herr Cibulka--this sonorous Slavonic name signifies _onion_ in
Bohemian--Eugène Alexander Cibulka--he is wont to sign his name with a
very tiny Cibulka at the end of a very big Eugene Alexander--assistant
district-attorney, transcendentalist, and Lovelace, is the pioneer of
culture in the sleepy droning little town. He is a tall young fellow
inclining to corpulence, with an uncommonly luxuriant growth of hair on
both his head and face, and with the flabby oily skin of a man who has
all his life long been fed upon dainties.

Evidently much occupied with his outer man he dresses himself as he
says, 'simply but tastefully;' he pulls his cuffs well over his
knuckles, and delights in a snuff-coloured velvet coat with metal
buttons. He fancies that he looks like the Flying Dutchman, or at least
like the brigand, Jaromir. In reality he looks like an advertisement
for 'the only genuine onion ointment for the beard.' He is considered
by the Rautschin ladies as quite irresistible and fabulously cultured.
He criticises everything--music, literature and politics, being
especially great in the domain of politics, and he discourses at length
whenever an opportunity presents itself, combating with admirable
energy perils that have long ceased to terrify any one. It is not clear
as to what party he belongs, but since he berates the clergy, hates the
nobility, and despises the lower-classes, consequently pursuing the
straight and narrow path of his subjective vanities and social
aspirations, he probably considers himself a Liberal. His uncle is in
the ministerial department and _he_ dreams of a portfolio.

Meanwhile the red-haired man with an air of indifference has taken up
his tankard. "Count or Conte, as you please," he said, giving the
disputed point the go-by, and continuing as he put his beer glass down
on an uninviting little brown table, "at all events he must be
accustomed to live in fine style, for he declared that it was
impossible for a man used to modern conveniences to live in Schneeburg
in the condition in which Count Malzin had occupied it. So the house
has been entirely newly furnished. Immense! the doings of these
money-giants--the world belongs to them!"

"Unfortunately, and our poor nobles must go to the wall," sighed the
old doctor, whose platonic love for the nobility keeps pace with the
red-haired man's equally platonic affection for money. "Except a couple
of owners of entailed estates here and there none of them will be able
to compete with these great financiers."

"The law of entail cannot be allowed to exist much longer, it is a
stumbling block in the path of national progress .... My uncle in the
ministerial department ...." Eugene Alexander began in a deep bass
voice, which suggested a sentimentally guttural rendering of 'The
Evening Star' at æsthetic tea-parties.

"Spare me the remarks of your uncle in the ministerial department,"
interrupted Dr. Swoboda angrily.

"The law of entail must be abolished," Herr Cibulka said, as another
man might say, "that new street must be opened."

"Have you got your liberal seven-league boots on again?" Swoboda
rejoined. "How you stride off into the future! You evidently suppose
that if the law of entail were abolished to-day or to-morrow, this
'stumbling-block in the path of national progress' being removed,
various districts of Tornow and Rautschin would find their way into the
pockets of yourself and of your hypothetical children? You are
mistaken, my dear fellow, hugely mistaken. Heaven forbid! Trade would
monopolize the real estate, and that is all you would get by it,
nothing more. The supremacy of money would be confirmed."

"I should prefer, it is true, the supremacy of mind!" Eugène Alexander
said didactically.

"Ah! you think you would come in for a share there," growled the old
doctor under his breath.

Without noticing the irony, Eugene Alexander went on, "The supremacy of
money, of individual merit, is certainly more to be desired than the
supremacy of fossilized prejudice."

"Indeed?... now tell us honestly," said the doctor, "do you really
believe that the masses, whose sufferings are real and not imaginary,
would gain anything thereby?"

"There certainly would be a fresh impetus given to culture,--a freer
circulation of capital," began Cibulka.

"Listen to me a moment," broke in the doctor. "Circulation of capital?
A financier's capital circulates inside his pockets, not outside of
them except on certain occasions on 'Change. The art of spending money
does not go hand-in-hand with the art of making it,--few things in this
world delight me more than the spectacle of a millionaire who, having
ostentatiously retired from business, contemplates his money-bags in
positive despair, not knowing what to do with them and bored to
death because the only occupation in which he takes any delight,
money-getting, is debarred him by his position."

"No one can say of Conte Capriani that he does not know how to spend
his money," the red-headed 'Daily News' affirmed, "everything is being
arranged in the most expensive style, the rooms hung with silk shot
with silver, the carpets as thick as your fist, and the paintings and
artistic objects,--why they are coming by car-loads. I am intimate with
the castellan, and he shows me everything; the outlay is princely."

The doctor shrugged his shoulders. "The extravagance of a financier is
always for show, it is never a natural expenditure. There's no free
swing to it, and I am not at all impressed by your Conte; one day he
may take it into his head to paper his room with thousand-gulden
bank-notes, and the next he will haggle like the veriest skinflint;
just ask the Malzin servants; he discharged them at a moment's notice
without a penny."

"They were a worthless old lot," Eugène Alexander rejoined, "and
besides it was Count Malzin's duty to provide for his people."

"Poor Count Malzin!" exclaimed the doctor, "he pleaded for his
servants, as I know positively; but provide for them--how could he
provide for them when he could not provide for his own son! When I
think of our poor Count Fritz! A handsomer, sweeter-tempered, kindlier
gentleman never lived in the world! And when I reflect that Schneeburg
is now in the hands of strangers, that Count Fritz cannot live
there....!"

"Oh, I beg your pardon," the red-head insisted, wriggling on his chair
like an eel, "he is going to live there, in the little Swiss cottage in
the park where the young people used to be with their tutor and
drawing-master in the hunting season, away from the bustle in the
castle."

"Frightful!" murmured the doctor. "This whole Schneeburg business is
too--too sad. The old bailiff is ill of typhus fever brought on by
sheer grief and anxiety, and his whole family would go to destruction
were it not for the generous support of the Countess Lodrin."

"Don't tell us of the generosity of the Countess Lodrin," sneered
Cibulka, or of the generosity of any of the Lodrins. "You need only look
at their estates; the peasants are huddled there in pens like swine."

The stranger, who had until now remained motionless in his dim corner,
apparently paying no heed to the talk, here turned his head to listen.

"That seems very improbable," Dr. Swoboda replied to the last
assertion, "The young count treats all his dependants with a kindly
consideration that it would be difficult to match. If his people suffer
from any injustice it certainly is without his knowledge; Count Oswald
is one of the old school. Hats off to so true a gentleman!"

"You are, and always will be a truckler to princes," said Eugène
Alexander, offended. "I must say that a man like Capriani who has won
for himself a position in society among the greatest by his personal
merit, by the work of his hands, seems to me more worthy of
consideration than a petty Count, who has had everything showered upon
him from his cradle."

"What trash you are talking about personal merit," thundered the
doctor. "Capriani has grown rich on swindling--swindling, on
'Change--swindling in women's boudoirs. He was formerly a physician,
and as such insinuated himself into distinguished houses, and wormed
out political secrets which he made use of in his speculations. Finally
he married a rich banker's daughter; they say his wife is a good woman.
I never saw him but once, but I cannot understand how a woman with a
modicum of taste could ever consent...."

"Oh they say that in his time he has enjoyed the favour of all kinds of
ladies, very great ladies...." the red-head interposed with an air
of importance. "I know from the widow of the late Count Lodrin's
valet--there was a game carried on down there in Italy between the
Countess Wjera...."

He had no time to conclude. The stranger sprang up and like a
flash of lightning struck the speaker twice across the face with his
riding-whip; then without a word he left the room.

"Who was that?" asked Cibulka pale with terror, while the red-headed
man, bewildered, rubbed his cheek.

"Count Oswald Lodrin," said the doctor. "It serves you right for your
insolence!"

"I shall not submit to such brutality--I will appeal to the courts,"
snarled red-head.

"And what can you say?" said the old doctor. "'I have wantonly repeated
low, scandalous gossip--I have slandered a lady who is blessed and
worshipped by all the country round, I have spit in the face of a
saint'--this is what you can say. Let me advise you not to stir, my
worthy Wostraschil."

This 'my worthy Wostraschil' was uttered by the simple old doctor in a
tone which he must have caught unconsciously and involuntarily from
some aristocratic patient.

He arose and stood at the window, looking with a smile of satisfaction
after Oswald, who with head held haughtily erect, face pale, and eyes
flashing angrily, was striding directly across the square to the
smithy.

"A splendid fellow--a true gentleman," the old man murmured. He was
proud of this Austrian, product, and would gladly have paid a tax for
the maintenance of this national article of luxury.



                              CHAPTER IX.


Arrived in Tornow only that morning, Oswald hardly finished his
breakfast before he rode over to Kanitz, where, after his good-humoured
despotic fashion he adjusted the whole affair with a smile, and soothed
the anxious young tenant.

On the way back his horse lost a shoe, and his groom was well scolded
by his impetuous young master for the carelessness resulting in such an
accident. The riders had been forced to abate their speed and to take a
roundabout way through Rautschin, that the nervous, high-bred animal
might be relieved as soon as possible.

On the way they were overtaken by the storm. Perhaps Oswald would not
have endured the very smoky atmosphere of the inn room so long, had he
not been unconsciously interested in the talk of its three guests.

By no means indifferent to Doctor Swoboda's enthusiastic appreciation
of his merits, he had enjoyed playing the part of the Emperor Joseph in
the popular song and was meditating some pleasantly-devised way of
surprising the old man with his thanks for his loyalty, when the vile
insinuation made by the red-head drove everything else out of his mind.

The horse was shod; he flung himself into the saddle and galloped out
of the town.

The rain had ceased, the clouds were broken. Steaming with moisture,
its outlines glimmering in the light of the setting sun, Rautschin was
left behind. Long streaks of violet cloud with golden edges, lay just
above the horizon, and where the sun was setting, the sky glowed dully
red. The storm had torn the bridal wreath from the head of spring; on
the surface of the water lying in the ruts and hollows of the roads
glinted snowy, fallen blossoms, and the apple-trees and pear-trees
trembled softly in their tattered white array, like young people
awakened from a dream. By the roadside stretched a sheet of water, its
shores bristling with rushes, its surface bluish-gray and gloomy, like
a large pool into which the sky had fallen and been drowned. A couple
of ravens were flapping heavily above it.

The golden edges of the clouds grew narrower, the glow of the sunset
was consumed in its own fire, the colours faded, and profound
melancholy brooded over all the plain.

Oswald's blood was still in a ferment. "Rascally dog!" he muttered
between his teeth ...."and to have to drop the matter for my mother's
sake, not to be able to thrash him within an inch of his life, and
drive him from the country! No human being is safe from such envious
liars, they would drag down everything above them, even the Lord God
Himself! Bah, _cela ne devrait pas monter jusque à la hauteur de mon
dèdain_. But,"--he shook himself,--"it takes more than one's will to
calm the blood."

Twilight had set in when he reached Tornow Castle.

It was a spacious, clumsy structure with several court-yards, one
portion with pointed Gothic archways was ancient, irregular and
picturesque, another part was of a later rococo style with conventional
decoration. In front, fringed by tall alders lay a romantic little
lake, the park stretched far to the rear of the castle. The iron gate
with its quaint scroll work, above which was suspended the Lodrin
escutcheon, between two time-stained sandstone urns, turned upon its
rusty hinges, and Oswald rode up to the castle and dismounted. Two
lackeys, who seemed to have little to do save to wear their blue
liveries and striped waistcoats with due dignity, and self-complacency,
were standing in the gateway, peering into the gathering darkness. The
young Count ran hastily up the broad, flat hall-steps.

The last pale ray of daylight penetrated into the hall, through the
tiny panes of the huge windows; here and there the metallic lustre of
some old weapon on the wall gleamed among the dusky shadows.

"Ossi, is that you?" called a voice almost masculine in its deep tone,
but musical withal and in evident anxiety, as a tall female figure
advanced to meet him.

"Yes, mother," he replied gently.

"How late you are! We have been waiting dinner an hour for you."

"Forgive me, mother,"--he carried her hand with reverent affection to
his lips,--"it really was not my fault."

"Fault--fault! I am not reproaching you, Ossi! No, but my child, I was
half dead with anxiety. You are always so punctual, and one quarter of
an hour after another passed and you did not come.--And then the storm.
The lightning struck near here in several places, and your John Bull is
skittish,--you do not think so,--but I know the beast well. If it had
gone on for one more quarter of an hour .... but what detained you, my
child?"

Oswald smiled tenderly and considerately, as tall chivalric sons are
wont to smile at the exaggerated anxieties of their mothers. "Give me
only five minutes to change my dress and I will tell you all," he said,
and once more kissing her hand he hurried away.

Oswald's was one of those impetuous temperaments which are always
stirred to the depths morally and physically by a violent outburst of
anger; even when its cause is forgotten every pulse and vein will still
thrill.

Although he joined his mother in the drawing-room some minutes later in
a perfectly cheerful mood, she instantly saw from his face that
something must have provoked him excessively.

"Anything disagreeable?" she asked drawing him down beside her upon a
sofa, "did you have a distressing scene with Schmitt? did he reproach
you? or ...."

"Heaven forbid, mamma!" broke in Oswald. "Schmitt and reproach?--he is
the most devoted soul--humiliatingly devoted and faithful! Poor
Schmitt! No, no, my horse cast a shoe. I was terribly vexed, I had to
ride slowly, and take the roundabout way through Rautschin." He spoke
quickly and with forced gayety.

"You are concealing something, lest it should annoy me," the countess
said decidedly. "When will you learn that nothing in the world annoys
me as much as your considerate reticence! I lie awake half the night
when I see that you have some vexation to bear which you will not share
with me. You ought to have no secrets from me."

"In a certain way every honourable man must have secrets from her whom
he respects as I respect you," Oswald said half-annoyed, half-tenderly,
while he puzzled his brains to discover a way of pacifying his mother
without telling either a falsehood or the whole truth. A brilliant idea
then occurred to him. "In fact the matter is a very stupid affair. In
the inn where I stopped during the storm I suddenly heard one of three
men who were in the room speak with contempt of the Lodrin generosity;
the fellow asserted that on the Lodrin estates the labourers lived in
pens like pigs, and,--er--my temperament is not exactly stoical, and
I,--in short I got angry. It is hard to hear such things when one
honestly tries to treat his people well! And there may be some truth in
it; I will make inquiries to-morrow, no, I will find out for myself. I
can learn nothing from my bailiffs, they only cajole me. Last year
there was typhus fever in Morowitz, the people died like flies, and I
knew nothing of it; when at last I did learn about it I went there
immediately, but the epidemic was well nigh at an end. _A propos_,
mamma, I cannot but forgive you if it be so, but was it not all
concealed from me at your request? You knew that I should go over there
at once, and you were afraid of contagion."

"No, my dear child," the countess said gravely, "foolishly anxious as I
am about you upon trifling occasions,--and I have just shown how
foolishly anxious I can be,--I never would lift a finger to seclude you
from a peril if such peril lay in the path of duty. I would rather die
of anxiety than hamper you or exert a detracting influence upon you in
your line of conduct. I would be broken on the wheel to save your life,
but----" she shuddered and moved closer to him,--"I would rather see
you dead, than anything else save what you are--my pride, and a
blessing to all around you!" She looked him full in the face, the
mother's large, earnest eyes gleaming with exultant enthusiasm. "If you
only knew how I suffered during that stupid storm! I am so glad to have
you again, my boy, my fine, noble boy!" And drawing his head down to
her she kissed him on the brow.

The rustle of a newspaper attracted Oswald's attention, and for the
first time he observed Georges, who, buried in the depths of a
luxurious arm-chair, had been watching from behind his newspaper the
little scene between mother and son.

A servant appeared at the door--dinner was announced.



                               CHAPTER X.


"Very remarkable!" Georges said a few hours later as, smoking a cigar,
he entered his cousin's bedroom, where Oswald was already in bed.

"What is very remarkable?" Oswald asked drowsily as he lay on his back,
his hands clasped under his head.

"The change in your mother," said Georges, sitting down on the edge of
the bed, "I should hardly have known her again."

"I can't understand that," Oswald rejoined. "Her hair has grown
gray--it grew gray when she was quite young,--but her features are the
same. I think her very beautiful still."

"I think her more beautiful than ever," Georges said gravely, "but...."
he thoughtfully blew the smoke from his cigar upwards to the
ceiling--"how old is your mother?"

"Fifty-six."

"Only fifty-six--and yet she seems an old woman."

"An old woman....! What are you thinking of? My mother can do nearly as
much as I can, she can ride for five hours at a time, and can take long
walks and never...."

"My dear fellow," interrupted Georges impatiently. "I did not mean to
say that your respected mamma seemed at all decrepit, but only that her
features, her whole bearing, wear the stamp of that calm, kindly
cheerfulness that belongs to those who have done with life. She asks
nothing more--she bestows. And that, Ossi, is not a characteristic of
youth--no, not of even, the most generous youth."

"There you are right," Oswald rejoined thoughtfully. "Many a woman of
her age would still go into society and enjoy its distractions, she,
since my father's death, has had no thought of anything except my
education and the management of my property. It is wonderful, the
knowledge she has of business. You would laugh if I should tell you of
what large sums she saved up for me during my minority. Such strict
economy was not to my taste, and I put a stop to it, but it must be
forgiven in a mother."

"And the gentleness and kindness of her manner!" Georges continued,
"her unreasoning maternal nervousness! I assure you it was no easy
task, the hour spent in trying to allay her anxiety. Her feeling for
you is positive idolatry."

"Try to be patient with this weakness of hers."

"My dear boy, he would be a worthless fellow who did not respect this
weakness. It only surprises me in your mother; I had not expected
anything of the kind. Before I left home she kept you at such a
distance. I could not then understand why she always treated you so
coldly and harshly, and, to tell the truth, I took such, lack of
affection on her part, very ill."

Oswald leaned upon his elbow among the pillows. "That was while my
father was alive," he said softly, "yes, I have often thought of that,
and have thought also that I could explain her conduct. You see my
father's foolish fondness for me irritated her, and she suppressed the
manifestation of her own affection. Between ourselves, Georges, my
mother was wretched in her marriage; her poor heart was always upon the
rack, it could no more beat freely and naturally than a man with a rope
tight about his neck can sing. I respected my father immensely,
but ... well, Georges, look there...." he pointed to a large painting
above his bed, the portrait of the countess in the proud splendour of
her youthful beauty, "and then, look there...." and he pointed to a
white plaster death-mask framed in black velvet hanging on the wall
opposite. "As far back as I can remember, my father looked just like
that; they were never congenial. And now let me go to sleep, old fellow,
good-night!"



                              CHAPTER XI.


No, 'congenial' they never had been and never could have been.

Although the painting was far from portraying the charm of the Countess
Lodrin's beauty in the bloom of youth, the repulsive death-mask
opposite did full justice to the deceased count. The face that it
represented was almost horse-like in its length; smoothly shaven as
that of a monk, with a sharp-pointed nose, little round eyes, a mouth
like the slit in a child's money-jug, and seamed with innumerable
wrinkles, it resembled one of those bloodless aged heads which abound
in pictures by Memmling or Van Eyck.

It would be an error to suppose that illness and the final agony had
distorted the face before it had been perpetuated in the plaster cast.
Count Lodrin had never looked otherwise, he had always looked like a
corpse, and Pistasch Kamenz boldly maintained that 'the old gentleman
looked his best in his coffin.'

Not only Count Pistasch, but everybody else ridiculed Count Lodrin; few
men have ever lived who have been more ridiculed. One fact, however, no
ridicule could affect--Count Lodrin was a gentleman through and
through.

That he possessed a tender heart and a sense of duty, which, in spite
of the vacillations of a timid temperament, always triumphed in
important crises, no one had ever denied who had seen him in any grave
emergency,--and that this sense of duty, with a mild admixture of pride
of rank, belonged to him more as a gentleman than as a human being, did
not detract from his merit.

Given over in his youth to the ghostly influence of priestly tutors, he
had led a melancholy, misanthropic existence. His delicate constitution
made impossible any participation in the manly sports of his equals in
rank. Therefore there was developed in him, as in many another recluse,
an intense devotion to art; he was indefatigable in sifting and
enlarging his collections.

People of his rank usually marry young. It was not so with him. As with
several historic characters, the timidity of his temperament culminated
in an aversion to women, which rendered futile all the bold schemes of
ambitious mammas. In his solitude he had come to be forty-five years
old; it was an article of faith in Austrian society that he never would
marry, when suddenly his betrothal to Wjera Zinsenburg was announced.

His brother's creditors made wry faces; society laughed. Two months
afterwards the strange couple were united in the chapel of the palace
of the Zinsenburgs. Among those present at the ceremony there were some
who envied the bridegroom, many who ridiculed him, and a few who pitied
him.

As the pair stood beside each other before the altar they presented a
strange contrast.

The face of the bride, nobly chiselled, and with an indignant curve of
the full, red lips, recalled to the minds of all who had been in Rome a
beautiful but unpleasing memory,--the profile of the Medusa in the
Villa Ludovisi, that wondrous relievo in which the pride of a demon
seems contending with the suffering of an angel.

The bridegroom looked as he did fifteen years afterward on his bier,
only more unhappy, for upon the bier his face wore the expression of a
man who had just been relieved of an old burden; at the altar his
expression was that of one who bends beneath the weight of a burden
just assumed.

It was shortly manifest that no late-awakened passion had decided him
to contract this alliance. A weaker will had been forced to bow before
a stronger.



                              CHAPTER XII.


But what had induced the exquisitely-beautiful girl to choose such a
husband as this, every one asked; and no one answered. The question had
to be dismissed with a shrug, and, 'She is a riddle!'

The same thing had been said four years previously, when with an air of
proud indifference, and with cold, 'level-fronting eyelids,' she had
appeared in Vienna society. There was about her an exotic air always
irresistible to the genuine Austrian temperament. Her father was a
diplomatist, her mother a Russian. Wjera's Russian blood betrayed
itself in everything about her, in her deep, almost harsh voice, which
was, nevertheless, capable of exquisite modulations, in the hybrid
combination of Oriental nonchalance and northern energy that
characterized her whole bearing, her gestures, her figure.

When she reclined upon a divan or leaned back in an arm-chair there was
a suggestion of the odalisque in her attitude; but in her walk there
was a short, sharp rhythm; it was firm and despotic like that of a
race-horse, and yet light as the fluttering of a bird. She was tall and
not too slender--the beauty of her shoulders and bust was so great that
it had become famous--her head was small and faultlessly poised upon
her neck--her features were not perfectly regular, but how charming was
her face! pale, with ripe red lips, and brown hair with a shimmer of
gold about the temples and the back of the neck. The cheek-bones were
rather too high, the face not quite oval enough; the brow was low; the
profile haughty, and delicately modelled.

The most remarkable feature of Wjera's face was her eyes. Long in their
openings, but usually half-closed and shaded by dark eyelashes, they
were as changing in colour as in expression, and there was in them
something uncanny--mysterious--no one dared to look full into their
depths.

Of course she created a sensation in Vienna, and yet she had almost no
suitors--they were afraid of her and--she had a history, neither
disgraceful nor dishonourable, but yet a history.

In St. Petersburg, where she had been with her father, she had been
distinguished by the homage of a prince of the blood, and was finally
betrothed to him. For a year the betrothal was kept up, and then the
tie was suddenly snapped. The world discovered the reason in the fact
that Wjera could not consent to a morganatic marriage; her ambition had
been defeated. The true significance of the breach the world at large
did not divine. Only very few suspected that Wjera had loved the
man--so much her inferior in all save rank and birth--with all the
fervour and poetic purity that are found in Russian girls alone. She
did not see him as he really was, handsome, with a superficial air of
distinction, but mentally coarse--alternating between brutish excesses
and superstitious penances--at once cynical as a roué and sentimental
as a school-miss,--no, she endowed him nobly in her imagination.

Of all poets in the world the hearts of young girls are the most highly
gifted. There are women whose illusions are so tough that they carry
them to their graves undamaged; there are others who voluntarily patch
up the rents, made by their understanding in their illusions, in order
that an ideal--of which they would perhaps be ashamed if it stood
unveiled before them, and to break with which they yet have neither the
desire nor the force--may not be without a decent garment to cover it.

It was not so with Wjera; when doubt had once sown discord between her
head and her heart, she fought out the battle unflinchingly,
inexorably, in strict honesty, and when the conflict was over her dream
had vanished. In this wondrously lovely illusion she had exhausted all
the ideality of her nature. Her reason gained the upperhand at last,
and ever after she analyzed her fellow-mortals with sharp precision;
judging them with harsh justice, and speaking of the affections with an
unaffected, contemptuous coolness very rare in a girl so young.

Time passed by. She came to be twenty-six years old. She was the eldest
and the handsomest of five daughters, and her distaste for marriage
increased the difficulty of providing for the other sisters, and
excited unpleasant remark among her family circle. Chance introduced
Count Lodrin to her acquaintance, and perhaps because he seemed to her
a respectable nullity, she selected him for her husband.

No one could remember ever having seen so ill-matched a pair. She,
aglow with life, delighting in physical exercises, a reckless and
indefatigable horsewoman--to whom a steeple-chase was no more than is a
waltz to other women,--and he, paying with an attack of illness for
every unusual physical effort, not even daring to take a long drive
without an extra cushion at his back.

Whilst his thoughts moved slowly in a traditional roundabout way, 'her
woman's wit flew straight and did exactly hit,' before the Count had
cleared his throat for his first 'consequently.'

Her quick wit bewildered him; her outspoken acuteness of discernment
offended him. There was a world-wide dissimilarity between her views
and his. The Count was a strict Catholic; the Countess was inclined to
scepticism; although cast in a loftier mould, in her daring mockery and
her graceful eccentricity she recalled the fine ladies of the
eighteenth century--of that time when social and mental freedom, made
fashionable by philosophers, had not yet been degraded to vulgarity by
demagogues. His wife's wicked wit shocked poor Count Lodrin. Much
ridicule was cast upon the couple, but every one was none the less glad
to belong to the brilliant circle which the Countess drew around her,
and daily the wonder grew that calumny could not touch the beautiful
wife of this dead-and-alive dotard.

Three years passed; now and then women hinted innuendoes about Wjera
Lodrin, but the other sex continued to speak of her with that mixture
of admiration and irritation which bears the truest testimony to the
blamelessness of a very beautiful woman. At last society was content to
shrug its shoulders and to repeat, 'She is a riddle.'

The Countess was unutterably bored. The only occupation that she
pursued with inexhaustible interest, though at the same time with
reckless intrepidity, was riding.

"She has no sphere of activity; hers is the grand, fiery nature of a
gifted man beating against the petty barriers of feminine existence.
What is to come of it?" a sagacious student of human nature once said,
in speaking of her.

All at once there was a decided change for the worse in Count Lodrin's
health, and the physicians prescribed a sojourn in the South.
Reluctantly enough the Countess consented to accompany her husband.

They set out, and the world maliciously compared Wjera to Juana of
Castile, because she travelled with a corpse, and a father-confessor.

The Count found Nice quite too gay, and therefore took refuge in a
secluded villa in the Riviera.

The Countess nearly died of ennui in the gray, sultry, sirocco-like
monotony of an autumn heavy with the fragrance of roses, and in the
tedium of an Italian winter. In spring the pair returned to Bohemia,
the Count in somewhat better health, the Countess as cold and hard as
ever, but irritable to a degree until now quite foreign to her.

In the August after their return Oswald was born. The old Count could
not contain himself for joy; the Countess cared but very little for the
child.

This was the woman whom Georges had known fifteen years before, and
now,--he could hardly believe his senses!

Before he went to bed on the first night of his return to Tornow, he
stood for a long while at the window of his room looking thoughtfully
out into the night. The moon was high in the heavens; everything was
still, save for a low rustle now and then in the huge lindens growing
on the border of the pond in front of the castle. The ancient trees
seemed to stir and stretch themselves in their sleep. His gaze wandered
over the compact angular architecture of the high, black-gabled roofs,
the rows of houses with tiny windows, in the little town,--all bathed
in bluish moonlight. It was hardly changed since he had last seen
it,--in the castle everything was changed. What had become of the
social distractions in which the Countess Lodrin had been wont to
delight?--Vanished, as by magic. The entire castle impressed him as
having recovered from a restless fever.

Had the Countess's former cold, harsh demeanour been but the mask for
the intense hunger of a strangely dowered nature that could find no fit
nourishment? And had love for her child filled up at last the fearful
rift made in her inmost life by an early disappointment?

Georges asked himself these questions. Once more his glance wandered to
the pond in whose waters the moon was mirrored. "Strange!" he
murmured,--"today it was but a dark pool, and now in the moonlight it
gleams a silver disk! Hm! Extraordinary, how true maternal love will
hallow every woman's heart! Strange exceedingly! what must she not have
suffered in her life ...!"



                             CHAPTER XIII.


The bright spring sunshine streamed through the open bow-window of the
Countess's boudoir and stretched a broad band of light at her feet. She
was sitting in an arm-chair knitting with very thick wooden needles and
coarse brown worsted, something evidently destined for a charitable
purpose.

The boudoir, an irregular square room and with a picturesque
bow-window, was furnished with no regard to uniformity of style, and
therefore had the charm which characterizes rooms which have been as it
were gradually evolved from the habits and tastes of a cultured
occupant, until they are the frame or setting of an individuality. A
delightful confusion of comfort and feminine taste reigned here, and
the two or three trifling articles that offended all artistic sense,
struck the eye only as piquant beauty spots. The cabinets, filled with
rare old porcelain, threw into strong relief the ugly inkstand and
candlesticks of modern dark-blue Sèvres upon a writing-table. They
were a memento,--a marriage gift from a Russian cousin and youthful
playmate who fell in the Crimean war. Among some old pictures, an
Andrea del Sarto, a Franz Hals, and two Wateaus, hung in triumphant
self-complacency a portrait by Lawrence--a man's head and bust,--a
crimson-lined cloak was thrown around the shoulders, the shirt collar
was open, black hair fell low on the brow, the eyes were large and
wild, the frankly smiling mouth was exquisitely chiselled. It hung just
over the writing-table, lord of all, and was the portrait of Oswald
Zinsenburg, an uncle of the Countess, a gifted fellow, who, when
Secretary of Legation in England, had been intimate with Lord Byron,
and in all the romantic ardour of a young aristocrat fighting for
freedom, had died of brain fever at Missolonghi at the age of
twenty-seven, shortly after Lord Byron's death.

This portrait the Countess Wjera loves, principally because it is so
like her son, and upon it her gaze rested as she dropped the long
wooden-needles in her lap, and fell into a revery.

The air of the room was penetrated with the delicious fragrance of the
roses, and lilies of the valley that filled the various vases.
Everything was quiet,--the birds were taking their siesta, the faint
pattering of the horse-chestnut blossoms could be heard as they fell
upon the gravel path, before the castle.

The drowsy midday stillness was suddenly broken by a softly whistled
Russian gipsy melody and an elastic young footstep. The Countess turned
her head. She knew the air well--how often she had sung it! The
whistling came nearer, then ceased, and the door of the boudoir opened.
"May we come in?" a cheery voice asked.

"Always welcome!" replied the Countess, and Oswald, followed by a large
shaggy Newfoundland, entered, his curls wet and clinging to his
forehead, a bunch of waterlilies in his hand, and looking more than
ever like the portrait by Lawrence.

"Good morning, mamma; how are you? Make your bow, Darling--so, old
fellow--so!" And as the Newfoundland gravely lowered his fine head, a
performance for which he was duly caressed by his master, Oswald sank
into a low seat beside his mother.

"You have been bathing," she observed, stroking back his wet hair.

"Yes, I have been swimming in the lake at Wolnitz, and I have brought
you these waterlilies," he replied, laying the flowers in her lap,
"they are the first I have seen this year, and they are your favourite
flowers, are they not? How fair and melancholy they are! Strange that
these pure white things should spring from such slimy mud! May I?"
taking out his cigar-case.

"Of course, my child. What have you been about to-day? I have not seen
you before."

"I went out very early. I had sent for the forester to come to me at
seven, and I went with him to the new plantations. The young firs are
as straight as soldiers. And then I dawdled about in the woods--it was
so lovely there!--'tis the earth's honeymoon, and when I see everything
blossoming out in the sunshine, I think of all that lies in the near
future for me, and I feel like shouting for joy! Apropos, mamma, I have
found a site for the Widow's Asylum that you want to found. I have been
puzzling over the best situation for it, and I have decided to put the
old Elizabeth monastery at the disposal of your benevolence. Is this
what you would like?"

She held out her hand to him with a smile. "Have you found time to
think of that too? I thought you had forgotten my scheme long ago."

"Ah yes, I am in the habit of forgetting your wishes!" he said gaily.

"No, Heaven knows you are not," the Countess murmured, "you have always
been loving and considerate to me."

"And what else could I be, mamma?" he said affectionately. "Ah, on a
glorious spring day like this, when the world is so beautiful, and my
blood goes coursing in my veins with delight, I am tempted to kneel
down before you and thank you for the dear life you have bestowed upon
me--what is the matter, mamma, you have suddenly grown so pale?"

"It is nothing--only a slight pain in my heart--it has gone already,"
the Countess whispered, turning aside her head.

"Quite gone?--is it my cigar smoke?"

"Not at all, dear child!"--

In spite of this assertion he tossed his cigar out of the window. "You
used to smoke yourself," he observed.

"Yes," she said, looking down at her knitting, "but since I have
learned to employ my hands, I have given up smoking."

"You knit instead--It seems odd to me to see _you_ knitting. Georges
thinks you very much altered."

"I have grown old, _voilà!_"

"And he thinks too that you spoil me tremendously, that no mother in
all Austria spoils her son as you do me."

"No other mother has such a son," the Countess said proudly.

"Oh, oh!" he laughed and took his seat beside her again.

"Nevertheless, I am not blind to your faults," she continued, "I know
them all."

"And love every one of them."

"Because they are the faults of a noble nature--men of lower tendencies
are obliged to show more self-control."

"Indeed! God bless your aristocratic prejudices! and now for a piece of
news. The Truyns reach Rautschin to-morrow by the four o'clock train.
Will you drive with me to meet them?"

"Certainly, if you wish me to."

"If I wish you to--if I wish you to!"--he softly snapped his fingers,
"and you look all the while as if I had asked you to attend an
execution with me. I cannot quite understand you, mamma, you used to
take delight in every little pleasure that chance threw in my way, and
now will you not rejoice in my great happiness? As soon as there is any
allusion made to my betrothal, your whole manner changes; you grow so
distant and reserved, that I hardly like to mention my betrothed."

"I really did not know, Ossi ..." began the Countess with constraint.

"Oh, yes, mother, I felt in Paris that you were not pleased with my
betrothal, and I have racked my brain to discover what there can be
about it that you do not like, and I can not imagine what it is. There
can be no objection to make to Gabrielle." Then suddenly smiling in the
midst of his irritation, and curbing the impetuous flow of his words,
he asked in a lower tone and more calmly, "Ah, _ça_, mamma, perhaps you
dislike the connection with my darling's stepmother? I assure you
that ...."

"Nonsense!" replied the Countess, growing still more disturbed, "from
what you and Georges both tell me of the young woman, she seems to
adapt herself very well to her position. A residence abroad and foreign
associations are much better means of training than ...."

"Yes, mamma," interrupted Oswald in some surprise, having followed out
his own train of thought, "but if you are so kindly disposed towards
Zinka, I cannot possibly conceive what exception you can take to my
betrothal. There never was a purer, more noble creature than my little
Gabrielle. Highly as I rank you, mother, she is every way worthy of
you."

The Countess changed colour, "I do not understand what you wish," she
exclaimed, "do not distress me, I have no objection to the girl!...."

"Well then,--you could not possibly expect me to remain unmarried."

The Countess cast down her eyes and was silent.

Oswald sprang up, called his dog and left the room, his face very pale,
his eyes very dark.

Impetuous and hasty as he was with others, he had always controlled
himself in his mother's presence. Leaving the room was the extreme
point to which he allowed his displeasure to manifest itself when with
her. If he wished to vent his anger, he did it in seclusion, he never
had spoken an angry word--scarcely a loud one to her. And his
disagreeable mood never lasted long.

"I am myself again, mamma!" with these words, in which he was wont to
announce his return to a better frame of mind, he presented himself
half an hour afterward in his mother's boudoir. She was sitting just as
he had left her, the waterlilies in her lap, very pale, very erect,
with the set features that veil distress of mind.

Pushing his chair close up to her he laid his hand upon her shoulder,
and said with the winning tenderness of all impetuous men after bursts
of anger: "Forgive me, mamma, I was very wrong again!" She smiled
faintly and murmured some half inaudible words of affection--"I was
odiously egotistical," he went on, "I had quite forgotten what a change
my marriage will make in your life, what a trial it must be to you, you
poor, foolish, jealous little mother! But whatever change there may be
outwardly in our relations, we must always be the same in heart; and if
I must deprive you of something," he added gaily, "my children shall
requite you. It had to come sooner or later, mamma; or could you really
wish me to renounce the fairest share of existence?"

She trembled in every limb, and suddenly taking his hand, before he
could prevent it, she carried it to her lips, "No, you shall renounce
no joy, my child, my noble child!" she exclaimed,--"but--leave me now
for a while, for only a little while--I am tired!"



                              CHAPTER XIV.


Truyn had insisted that the betrothal of his daughter to Oswald Lodrin
should be celebrated in Bohemia. Zinka had yielded with great
reluctance and sorrow, and had at last resolved to bid farewell to her
dear foreign home.

"Why," she persisted in asking him, "cannot the ceremony take place, as
in our own case, at the Austrian Embassy?"

But Truyn would not hear of it. "Dear heart," he replied, "it would go
against the grain. The betrothals of all my sisters and of my aunts
were celebrated at Rautschin, why should I depart from the traditions
of my family?"

"As if you had not already departed from them, and in the most vital
regard," said Zinka, with arch tenderness.

"That is a very different thing,--if there were any good reason,
then--then--!"

"Ah, dear friend, you have grown insufferably conservative, you would
have shouted on the first day of the creation of the world: '_Conserves
le chaos, seigneur Dieu, conservez le chaos!_'"

Whereupon Truyn, kissing her hand, made reply. "That comes of living in
France, dear child."

And so the pretty house in the Avenue Labédoyère was deserted. The
shutters were closed, the carpets rolled up, the bric-à-brac stowed
away; only in some roundabout fashion did a bluish beam of light slip
into the vault-like obscurity, and the restless motes pursue their
fantastic dance among the shrouded shapes of the furniture.

The Truyn family were rapidly approaching their home. Nearly thirty
hours had passed since Paris had faded from their eyes in the misty
blue distance--since the last gigantic announcement of the '_Belle
Jardinière_,' and of the '_Pauvre diable_' had flitted past them. The
Bavarian boundary, with its stupid Custom House formalities lay behind
them. Truyn was reading a Vienna newspaper with great interest,
Gabrielle was gazing abstractedly at the crimson coupé cushions
opposite, with the far-away look in her eyes of young lovers. Zinka was
leaning back in her corner, her veil half drawn aside, her hands folded
in her lap, the latest impressions of her Paris life hovering
kaleidiscopically before her mental vision, her heart oppressed by a
strange melancholy.

"Ah, this defamed, delightful Paris! how it captivates the heart with
its good-for-nothing beauty, and its corrupt, sickly sentiment!"

She was still mentally rehearsing the last days before her departure,
the going to and fro from shop to shop, the interesting consultations
with Monsieur Worth, the affected face with which that eminent artist
put his finger to his lip, while attending the ladies to their
carriage, and continued to 'compose' Gabrielle's wedding dress,
murmuring to himself with his English accent: "_Oui, oui, une
orginalité distahnguée c'est ce qu'il fant_," while sleek young clerks,
and young girls faultless in figure, displayed to the best advantage
the richest costumes, trailing about silks and satins of fabulous
elegance.

"_Ce n'est pas cela, qui ferait votre affaire, Madame la Comtesse je le
sais bien_," said Mons. Worth pointing to certain monstrosities devised
for American parvenus, "ah, Madame la Comtesse cannot imagine, how hard
it is for an artist to have to work for people of no taste! _Ah oui,
une originalité distahnguée!_"

The man-milliner's, monotonous refrain kept sounding on in Zinka's
ears. Then she thought of the farewell visits, the daily heap of cards
filling the great copper salver in the vestibule, the wearisome
farewell entertainments, and of her husband's toast--the toast which he
proposed at the magnificent banquet, given in his honour, by the
Austrian Hungarians in Paris. Unutterably distasteful as it always is
to men of his stamp, to be conspicuous, he at last made up his mind to
propose this toast; he worked at it for an entire week, and subjected
it to the criticism, not only of his wife and of his daughter, but of
every one whose judgment he respected in Paris. It was a masterpiece of
a toast, a toast designed to unite in brotherly affection all the
Austrians in Paris, and which ultimately, with its well-meant,
many-sided compliments gave occasion for dissatisfaction to every
member of the Austrian-Hungarian colony, whether conservative or
liberal. Zinka laughed to herself as she recalled that poor
misunderstood toast. She laughed outright, started, and--awoke--rubbed
her eyes and looked out.

Yes, Paris lay far behind her, very far. She was in Austria, beautiful,
dreamingly-drowsy Austria, and, in spite of the reluctance with which
she returned to her fatherland, it affected her.

A low blue chain of hills lay on the western horizon like a vanishing
storm-cloud. The landscape around was level and extended. Large, quiet
pools, surrounded by tall rushes, and covered with a network of
fragrant waterlilies, gleamed here and there among the emerald meadows.

The sun was near its setting. The shadows of the telegraph poles
stretched out indefinitely. Little towns contentedly sleeping away
their dull lives among green lindens, showed their old-fashioned
silhouettes, black against the sunlit evening clouds.

Truyn laid aside his newspaper, and his face grew eager and animated,
every knotted gnarled willow, every half-ruinous garden wall here
interested him.

A forest of firs, their trunks glowing red in the last rays of the sun,
bordered the railway. "There, just by that stunted fir, I shot my first
deer," Truyn exclaimed, and in his eyes sparkled the memory of a happy
boyhood; then, drawing Zinka to him, he whispered tenderly: "You are at
home, Zini; we are travelling upon our own soil."

"Ah," replied Zinka, nestling close to him, timid as a child afraid of
ghosts.

"How nervous you are!" he said, gently stroking her cheek--"you silly
little goose you!"

"It is not for myself," she whispered, "so long as you love me, you and
Ella, I can bear anything. But I know you--it would grieve you to the
very heart, if ...."

"Tickets, if you please!"

A breathless panting--a shrill whistle.

"Rautschin--five minutes stay!"

"Aunt Wjera!" Gabrielle exclaimed, joyously hurrying out of the coupé.

There was something like defiance in Zinka's heart, but when she saw
the woman, who in all her exquisite beauty, all the distinguished grace
of manner inspired by kindness and cordiality, advanced to meet them,
her defiant mood vanished in admiration, and with a feeling of almost
childlike reverence, she bowed to the superiority of the elder lady,
who greeted her most cordially.

After the first excitement of meeting was over, Countess Wjera's
attention was naturally concentrated upon her son's betrothed.

"I can but congratulate you from my heart, Ossi," she said earnestly,
looking full into the young girl's eyes--eyes that shone like two blue
violets under the clearest skies--violets that had suffered nothing
from late frosts or too ardent sunshine. "You are a favourite of
fortune, my child."

Gabrielle blushed, and buried her face in the bunch of white roses,
which Oswald had brought her; and Oswald was touched, and smiled his
thanks to his mother, as he whispered a tender word to his betrothed.

"Do you know who came in the same train with us?" Truyn suddenly asked,
interrupting the happy moment.

"Capriani, father and son, I saw them," said Oswald, "look at him,
mamma, there is my rival, the enterprising young spark, who sued for
Gabrielle's hand. A mad idea, was it not? Gabrielle, and a son of
Capriani!--we shouted with laughter, when the Melkweyser announced the
proposal."

The flurry of the arrival had subsided, and the Countess leisurely
inspected through her eyeglass the sallow young man who was talking
with Georges Lodrin. Gabrielle said something about his dark blue
travelling-suit, shot with gold; Zinka made inquiries, all in a breath,
of her husband, and of the two lady's-maids, whether this or that
article of luggage had not been left in Paris or in the railway coupé.

When at last all her anxieties on this point had been relieved, and
they had passed through the station to the carriages, they observed a
magnificent four-in-hand, the harness decorated with a coronet.

"By Jove!" Truyn exclaimed with delight, "superb, Ossi, superb! I have
rarely seen four such beauties together!"

"Nor have I," said Oswald, examining the horses critically,
"unfortunately they are not mine--they belong to Capriani."

"Impossible!" Truyn said disdainfully, "speculator that he is, he may
bore through the isthmus of Panama, for all I care, but he cannot get
together such a four-in-hand as that."

"Fritz Malzin selected and arranged it for him," Oswald explained.
"Poor Fritz!"

"I cannot understand him," Truyn said in an undertone, and hastily
changing the subject, he asked: "Have you come to terms with Capriani,
about the Kanitz affair, Ossi? Could not the sale be revoked?"

"The matter would have been very difficult to adjust, I am told--of
course I understand nothing of such things,--" replied Oswald, "but
Capriani--what will you say to this, uncle?--yielded the point, 'out of
special regard' for me, as his lawyer informed Dr. Schindler. Between
ourselves, it was--what word shall I use?--audacious, for I have never
spoken to him in my life, and yet I had to accept his uncalled-for
courtesy, for Schmitt's sake."

"Remarkable, very!" said Truyn, "We usually have to pay dear for the
courtesies of a Capriani and his kind!"

"Have you everything, Ella?" asked Zinka, "shall we start?"

"I should like to have my hand-bag, Hortense has left it with the large
luggage."

Meanwhile, with an unpleasant smile and hat in hand, a sallow-faced,
grey-haired, elderly man, with the look of a bird of prey, approached
the Countess Wjera, and held out his right hand. "I am immensely
gratified, your Excellency, after so long a time ....!"

The Countess, her eyes half closed, measured him haughtily. "With whom
have I the pleasure ...?"

"Conte Capriani."

The Countess silently shrugged her shoulders, and turning half away,
called in an irritated tone, "Are we ready to go at last, Ossi?...."

A whirling cloud of dust was soon the only trace left of the bustle of
the arrival.

The short drive was spent by Truyn in reminiscences, by the betrothed
pair in sentiment.

At the tea, which was awaiting the travellers, and of which the
Lodrin's stayed to partake, there was much laughter over the _chic_ of
the Caprianis, over their wealth, and--their obtrusiveness. Oswald
suddenly grew thoughtful.

"Did you ever before meet these people, mamma?" he asked.

"I never knew any Conte Capriani in my life,--who are these Caprianis?"
asked the Countess.

"Nobody knows," said Oswald. "Some say he is a Greek, some that he
comes from Marseilles, and others that he is a Turk."

"They are all wrong," Georges said drily, "he comes originally from
Bohemia; he was formerly a physician, and his name was Stein."



                              BOOK SECOND.



                               CHAPTER I.


Rautschin, still Rautschin!--the tiny town lying at the feet of the
huge castle on the tower of which the clock has stopped for twenty
years--but no longer in pouring rain with thunder and lightning, but
Rautschin beneath skies of sapphire blue, upon a hot July afternoon.

The sun was still high in the heavens. The crooked little row of houses
on one side of the Market Square, cast short, black shadows, the
national red kerchiefs, with broad borders of gay flowers hanging at
the door of the principal shop, fluttered gently in the summer breeze.
A melancholy hubbub of discords, struggling in vain for a solution, was
heard through the open window of one of the newest and ugliest houses.
Eugéne Alexander Cibulka, and the wife of the district commissioner,
were playing Wagner's 'Walküre,' arranged for four hands, and each had
again 'lost the place.' They regularly lose the place every time a leaf
is turned, and so the one who gets first to the bottom of the page,
very kindly waits for the other.

Rautschin Castle stands proudly superior to every structure about it,
ensconced behind all kinds of farm-buildings and additions, at the
extreme end of the Market Square, to which it turns its shoulder, as it
were. Except for its imposing dimensions, it is in no wise remarkable.

Standing at the entrance of a very extensive park, it dates from the
time of Maria Theresa, when the present clumsy edifice, its prim façade
defaced by grass-green shutters, was built upon the remains of a feudal
fortress. The court-yard is not perfectly square, and the arches of the
arcade rest upon granite pillars. Its interior is quite in accordance
with its exterior; it is anything but splendid, and has an air of
empty, dignified distinction.

Before the western side of the Castle, Count Truyn with his young wife
was sitting beneath the shade of a red and gray striped marquee; behind
them in a garden-room, the glass doors of which were wide open, Oswald,
standing on a step-ladder, was busy hanging on the wall a piece of
gold-embroidered Oriental stuff, and Gabrielle was handing him the
nails.

"Well Zini, are you beginning to like our home?" said Truyn, propping
his elbows upon the white garden table, between himself and his wife.
He looked so contented, so proud of his possessions, so triumphant,
that Zinka could not refrain from teasing him a little.

"Taken all in all, yes," she said indifferently, "but then taken all in
all, I should like Siberia, with you and Ella."

"Zinka! I must confess,"--Truyn's face assumed a disturbed and almost
offended expression, "I must say that I cannot understand how any one
can compare Rautschin to a place of exile!"

"I did not mean to do so, rest assured," Zinka said, "I think your
Rautschin very delightful, I should only like to alter a few details."

"I cannot abide improvements," growled Truyn, "it is only the Caprianis
and Company, who must always be beautifying everything old--that is
destroying it. I think an old place should be left as it is, with all
its characteristic defects--to try to improve them, seems to me like
trying to correct the drawing of a Giotto or a Cimabue."

"I can understand a respect for the old mis-drawings," Zinka rejoined
quietly, "but does one owe the same respect to modern retouching, to
the vandalism that has made clumsy additions to an old picture?"

"Hm!" Truyn gazed thoughtfully around him--"no, in fact. It is
remarkable that you are always right, you little witch. Now be frank
Zini; what exactly would you like to have different? So far as my
veneration and my finances permit, you shall have your will."

Zinka pointed to the lawn that lay before them, terribly disfigured by
bright red and yellow arabesques. "I think that confectioner's
ornamentation there almost as ugly as the carpet-gardening at the Villa
Albani," she said, "don't you?"

Truyn ran his hands through his hair, "Well, yes,"--he meekly admitted
after a pause, "but I cannot possibly alter that. Old Kraus, to
surprise me, has taken infinite pains to portray our crest on the
lawn--I had to praise him for his brilliant idea, however hideous I
thought the thing, don't you see, Zini?"

"That alters the case entirely," Zinka admitted. "I would not hurt
faithful old Kraus for the world. But"--she pointed to the basin of a
fountain, the shape of which was particularly ugly--"old Kraus could
not have designed that basin--that might be cleared away!"

Truyn looked thoroughly discomfited. "The basin is a horror," he
confessed, "but I cannot help saying a good word for it. It is endeared
to me by youthful associations--if only because when I was a boy of
twelve, I was very nearly drowned in it."

"Oh then indeed ...." Zinka shrugged her shoulders, with a humourous air
of resignation. "I now hardly dare to object to the green shutters,"
she went on, "for if, as in view of their colour is highly probable, they
gave you opthalmia, some thirty years ago--it would ...."

"No, no, no, I give up the shutters," exclaimed Truyn laughing, "let
them go. And now I have something to tell you that you will not
relish--no need to change colour, the matter is an inconvenience, not a
trial. While I have been away--for the last ten years in fact--the park
has been open to the public. The little town has no other public
garden. I have, indeed, in view of this, placed an extensive tract of
land at the disposal of the town Council, but it is not yet laid out,
and until it is, I should not like entirely to deprive the public of
the freedom of the Park. Therefore I should like to have you point out
as soon as possible what part you would prefer to have reserved
entirely for yourself, that it may be portioned off. Indeed I cannot
help it, Zini."

"You will be as condescending at last as a crowned head," Zinka said
laughing. "You have already relinquished a corner of the park, because
the new road, laid out for the convenience of the public, must run
directly beneath your windows--and ..."

"I know--I know," Truyn interrupted her impatiently, "but one owes
something to the people. Of course you think 'my husband is a perfect
simpleton, he'll put up with anything'--but ...."

"Have you really no better idea of what I think of my husband, than
that?" Zinka asked in a low tone, looking at him with tender raillery
in her eyes.

"Oh you sweet-natured little woman!" he said, attempting to chuck her
under the chin.

"What are you about?" she exclaimed, thrusting his hand away, "this
wall here on the street is so low, that every little ragamuffin can see
us. And let me tell you that this wall has seemed more odious than
anything else to-day. Between ourselves--move your chair a little
nearer, Erich--I have been all this while tormented by a desire to
throw myself into your arms--you dear, good, whimsical fellow--but the
wall!"

"Confound the wall!" Truyn exclaimed, angrily clinching his fist.

"Tell me," Zinka asked caressingly, "is the lowness of the wall also a
question of humanity? Do you find it impossible to deny the townsfolk
the satisfaction of conveniently observing the castle-folk?"

"Pshaw! I was vexed about the height of the wall ten years ago--that is
when the road was laid out, but--well, I cannot myself say why it
is--but unless we have a rage for building, nothing is done. We
complain for ten years about the same evil, and ..."

"And to part with an evil about which one has complained for ten long
years," interrupted Zinka laughing, "would be almost as distressing as
to clear away the basin of a fountain, in which one had been nearly
drowned, thirty years before, eh, Erich?"

The broad July sunshine lay upon the red and yellow splendour of the
Truyn escutcheon, shimmered brilliantly about the foremost of the
mighty trees, whose dark foliage contrasted with the emerald of the
lawn where they stood, beyond the open, flower-decked portion of the
park, and penetrated boldly into their thick shades, limning fanciful
arabesques of light upon the darker green.

From the garden-room floated Gabrielle's sweet, childlike voice, "_Io
so una giardiniera_," she sang. Oswald had finished his upholstering,
and was bending over the piano. He combined a sincere enjoyment of
music with a deplorable preference for sentimental popular ballads.

The creaking of wheels intruded upon the dreamy monotony of the hour.
Truyn leaned forward and started to his feet. "Ah, old Swoboda, the
doctor who attended Ella with the measles," he exclaimed joyfully,
recognising Dr. Swoboda, in his comical little vehicle drawn by a white
horse spotted with brown. "Is he still alive? I must call him in.
Holla! Doctor, how are you?"

The doctor started, looked round, and took off his hat with a smile of
delight, "your servant, Count Truyn."

"Come in and have a chat," said Truyn, "it was hardly fair not to have
been to see us before."

"But, my dear Count, how could I suppose ..."

A few minutes later, the old doctor was seated opposite to Truyn,
underneath the marquee, imparting to the Count exact information as to
the weal and woe of a multitude of people belonging to the town, and to
the country round, whom the proprietor of Rautschin remembered with
wonderful distinctness.

Some had died, one or two were insane--a couple were bankrupt.

"Infernal swindling speculations! is my dear old Rautschin beginning to
be carried away by them?" said Truyn, "certain epidemics cannot be
arrested. Sad--very sad! And now the _phylloxera_ has taken up its
abode in Schneeburg."

"Is there much illness about here?" Zinka asked the doctor, in hopes
perhaps of staving off a conservative outburst from her husband.

"None of any consequence. My business is at a low ebb, your
Excellency."

"Where have you just been, doctor?" Truyn asked.

"I have just come from Schneeburg."

"Ah? anything seriously amiss in the Capriani household?--I could not
shed a tear for King Midas."

"The Herr Count cannot suppose that those magnificoes would call in a
poor country doctor, like myself."

"My dear Swoboda, we all have the greatest confidence in you!" Truyn
said kindly.

"I thank you heartily, Herr Count, but this confidence is an old
custom, and the Caprianis consider old customs as mere prejudices, and
propose to do away with them. I have just come from our poor Count
Fritz."

"Indeed? are the children ill?"

"No, not ill, but ailing; there is something or other the matter with
them all the time--they are city children;--however, I am not really
anxious about them, they'll come all right. But I am sick at heart for
poor Count Fritz, he is far from well."

"Ah, indeed? what is the matter with him?" Truyn asked in a tone of
evident irritation.

"His unfortunate circumstances are killing him," the doctor replied
gloomily.

"Ah--hm,--I must confess to you--er--my dear doctor,
that--er--I take it very ill of Fritz, that he, er--accepted
a position,--er--with--that,--er--adventurer."

The old doctor looked the irritated gentleman full in the eyes. "When
one is homesick and sees his children, who cannot bear the city air,
hungering for bread, one will do many things, which could not be
contemplated for an instant, under even slightly improved
circumstances."

"Ossi always told you ...." began Zinka.

"Oh pshaw! Ossi is an enthusiast, whose heart is always drowning out
his head."

The old doctor sighed. "Well, I will intrude no longer," he said. He
had often enough seen his noble patients yawn, as the door was closing
upon him after a prolonged visit.

"Not at all,--not at all--wait a moment; I must call the children;
Gabrielle! Ossi!"

The young people appeared from the garden-room.

"Ah--it is the friend who saved my life," Gabrielle exclaimed,
cordially extending her hand.

Oswald too greeted him kindly, but suddenly he, as well as the old
physician became slightly embarrassed--each remembered the unpleasant
scene in the inn.--The conversation did not flow very freely.

"Now, I really must go," the doctor insisted in some confusion.

"Come soon again," said Truyn, shaking hands with him, "give my
remembrance to Fritz, and--er--tell him to come and see me soon." He
walked towards the court-yard with the old man, and when he returned he
observed that Oswald, as he was silently rolling up a cigarette, was
frowning furiously, evidently angry.

"Where does the shoe pinch, Ossi?" he asked.

"I cannot understand, uncle, how you can be so hard upon Fritz!"
exclaimed Oswald throwing away his cigarette. "You are wont to be the
softest-hearted of men, but to that poor devil ...."

"Don't excite yourself so terribly," Truyn said kindly, but in some
surprise at the young man's violence. How could he divine the
disturbance of mind that was at the root of his indignation? "You are
so irritable ...."

"I am perfectly calm," Oswald boldly asserted, "only .... how could you
send messages to Fritz by the doctor, and ask him to come to you? Have
you no idea of his miserably sore state of mind?--and physically too he
is so wretched that he cannot last six months longer; I have begged you
to go and see him."

"Papa! If Ossi begs you!" Gabrielle whispered, looking up at her father
with the large pleading eyes of a child.

"Ah, you can't understand how any one can possibly refuse Ossi
anything," Truyn said, smiling in the midst of his annoyance.

She blushed and cast down her eyes.

"What can you find to like in this fellow, Ella?" her father rallied
her. "A man ready to take fire, and clinch his fist upon the smallest
provocation. What would you say if I should put my veto upon this
foolish betrothal with a young savage who is only half-responsible?"

Gabrielle's blush grew deeper, she looked alternately at her father and
at her lover, and finally deciding in favour of the latter gently laid
her hand upon his arm.

"You see, uncle!.... completely routed," exclaimed Oswald, his anger
entirely dispelled by this little intermezzo. His voice rang with
exultant happiness as he added, "nothing can part us now, Ella--not
even a father's veto!"

And Ella clung silently to his arm and looked blissfully content.

"Poor little comrade!" said Truyn tenderly. Mingled with his emotion
there was something of the pity which men of ripe years and experience
always feel at the sight of the perfect happiness of young lovers.

"Poor little comrade!--well, to win back some share of your favour I
will e'en put a good face upon it and comply with the wishes of your
tyrant."



                              CHAPTER II.


"How can a respectable household put up with such a servant!" thought
Truyn, as he waited in the hall of the little Swiss cottage which stood
between the park at Schneeburg and the vegetable garden, and had been
appropriated to the son of the late owner of the soil. A slatternly
woman with a loose linen wrapper hanging about her stout figure had
come towards him, and after an affirmative reply to his inquiry if the
Count were at home, screamed shrilly: "Malzin! Some one to see you!"
and vanished in the interior of the house.

An unpleasant suspicion assailed Truyn. "Can that be...." The next
moment all else was forgotten in distress at the changed appearance of
a fair, pale young man who rushed up to him exclaiming: "Erich!--you
here!"

"Fritz, Fritz!" said Truyn in a broken voice, fairly clasping his
unfortunate cousin in his arms.

Of all mortals he who has voluntarily resigned the position in which he
was born is the most embarrassing to deal with. He has by degrees
broken with his fellows, and, almost like an outcast, seems scarcely to
know how to comport himself when accident throws him among his former
associates; when he meets one of 'his people' he usually alternates
between intrusive familiarity and embittered reserve.

There was nothing of all this, however, about Fritz. He was so simple
and cordial, that Truyn felt ashamed of having avoided a meeting.

Fair, with delicate, slightly pinched features, and large melancholy
gray eyes, exquisitely neat and exact in his apparel, he looked from
head to foot like a cavalry officer in citizen's dress, and in poor
circumstances, that is like a man who knew how to invest with a certain
distinction even the shabbiness to which fate condemned him.

"You cannot imagine what pleasure your visit gives me! When I see one
of you it really seems almost as if one of my dear ones had descended
from heaven to press my hand," he said with emotion and Truyn replied:

"I should have come before, but I expected certainly that
you .... that ...."

"That I ...." Fritz smiled significantly, "no, Erich, you could
hardly ...."

"Well, well, and how are you? How are you?" said Truyn quickly.

"I still live," Fritz replied, and looked away.

Just then a voice was heard outside inquiring for "Count Malzin."

"I am not at home, Lotti, do you hear, not at home to any body," Malzin
called into the next room. "Come, Erich!" and he conducted his guest
out of what answered as a drawing-room into a very shabbily-furnished
apartment which he called his 'den,' and where Truyn at once felt quite
at home.

"That was young Capriani," Fritz explained hurriedly, "he probably came
to talk with me about the burial vault. Perhaps you know that my late
father had the vault reserved for us in the contract for the sale of
Schneeburg. Capriani, whom usually nothing escapes, oddly enough
overlooked the fact that the vault is in the park, and now he wants me
to sell it to him. Let him try it--the vault he shall not have--it is
the last spot of home that is left to me. I choose at least to lie in
the grave with my people! But let us talk of something pleasanter. You
are all well, are you not?--but there is no need to ask, I can see it
by looking at you. And I know all about your domestic affairs from
Ossi."

"He comes to see you often?"

"Yes," said Fritz, "and every time with a fresh scheme for my complete
relief from all difficulties, which he always unfolds with the same
fervid enthusiasm. The schemes are impracticable, but never mind!
Existence always seems more tolerable to me while I am talking with
him, and when he has gone, it is as if a soft spring shower had just
passed over, purifying and freshening the air. There really is
something very remarkable about the fellow. With all his fiery energy,
he is so unutterably tender; ordinarily when a man situated as I am
comes in contact with such a favorite of fortune, he inevitably feels
annoyed--it is like a glare of light for weak eyes. But there is
nothing of the kind with him--he warms without dazzling,--he
understands how to stoop to misery, without condescending to it."

"Yes, yes, he has his good qualities," Truyn grumbled, "very good
qualities. But he has stolen from me my little comrade's heart, and I
cannot say I am greatly pleased."

"You do not expect me to pity you on the score of your future
son-in-law?" said Fritz, laughing.

"Not exactly--if I must have one, then ...."

"Then thank God that just these young people have come together," Fritz
said in that tone of admonition, which even young men, when forsaken of
fortune, sometimes adopt towards their happier seniors. "Do you know
what he has done for me--among other things--just a trifle?"

"How should I? He certainly would never tell me."

"Of course not! We had not seen each other for years, but he came to
see me as soon as he knew that I was at Schneeburg, and asked me if he
could do anything for me. I thought it kind, but did not take his words
seriously and so thanked him and assured him he could do nothing. He
came again, bringing presents for the children with kind messages from
his mother, and asked me to dinner. When we retired to the smoking-room
after that dinner he said to me with the embarrassed manner of a
generous man, about to confer a benefit: 'Fritz, tell me frankly; does
no old debt annoy you?' Of course, at first I did not want to confess,
but at last I admitted that a couple of unliquidated accounts did
trouble me. An unstained name is a luxury that is the hardest of all to
forego. He arranged everything, and now I am perfectly free from debt.
He has such a charming way of giving, as if it were the merest pastime.
I once asked him how a man as happy as he, found so much time to think
for others? He answered that happiness was like a rose-bush, the more
blossoms one gives away, the more it flourishes!"

"Yes, yes, he certainly is a fine fellow.--We quarrel sometimes, but he
is a very fine fellow!" said Truyn, "he suits the child--you must know
her. And what about your children? Ossi says they are very pretty--you
have three, have you not?"

"No, only two," Fritz replied, and his voice trembled as he took a
little photograph from the wall--"only two; my eldest died. Look at
him--" handing the picture to Truyn, "he was a pretty child, was he
not?--my poor little Siegi--but too lovely, too good for the life that
had fallen to his lot. He is better dead--better!" he uttered in the
hard tone in which the reason asserts what the heart denies.

From the park the vague, dreamy fragrance of the fading white rocket
was wafted into the room. The light flickered dimly through the leafy
screen of the apricot tree before the open window that looked out upon
the vegetable garden. On Fritz's writing-table the old Empire clock,
wheezing in its struggle for breath, struck five times. Truyn knew the
old timepiece well, but formerly it used to swing its pendulum as
merrily on into eternity as if it expected a fresh delight every hour.
It seemed as if by this time it had almost lost its voice from grief,
so asthmatic was the sob with which it counted the seconds. And not
only with the clock, with everything around him Truyn was familiar. The
entire shabby apartment betrayed a fanatical worship of the past. The
chairs were the same monstrosities with lyre-shaped backs and crooked
legs, which had been wont to endure the angry kicks of the little
Malzins, when their tutor kept them too long at their lessons. Even the
pattern of the wall-paper, with its apocryphal birds and butterflies
among impossible wreaths of flowers, was the same which a travelling
house-painter had pasted up there thirty years before.

But what most struck Truyn, was the decoration on one of the low doors
in the thick wall--it was marked all over with lines in pencil and
scribbled names. Upon that door the young Malzins used to record their
growth from year to year.

"Pipsi, 14," he read, "and something over," "Erich,"--he smiled
involuntarily, and read on,--"Oscar 12," and then far below in
uncertain characters looking as if an elder sister had guided the hand
of a very little child, "Fritzl."

And through Truyn's memory there sounded the crumpling of copy-book
leaves--of childrens' voices, of Cramer's Exercises, and of sleepily
recited Latin verbs. Yes, even the peculiar fragrance of lavender and
fresh linen, formerly exhaled from the light chintz gown of his pretty
cousin, came wafting to him over the past.

"This is your old school-room!" he exclaimed.

"Of course it is," said Fritz, "can you guess whom I have to thank for
keeping it intact?"

"The avarice of your principal?"

"No, the delicacy of his wife. Before I moved in here she said to me,
'my husband wished to have the house put in order for you, Herr Count,
but I thought that perhaps you liked old associations, and I therefore
beg you to make only what changes you think best.'"

"A good woman!" Truyn murmured.

Just then an extraordinary figure entered the room,--the same female
that Truyn had encountered in the hall, but splendidly transformed,
tightly laced, with cheeks covered thick with pink powder--Fritz
Malzin's wife!

"Very good of you," she began after Fritz had presented Truyn to her.
Her voice had the forced sweetness of stage training. "Very good to
honour our humble dwelling with a visit. May I take the liberty of
offering you a cup of coffee, that is, Herr Count," as Truyn evidently
hesitated, "if you can put up with our simple fare; in the country, you
know, when one is not prepared ...."

Fritz pulled his moustache nervously.

Although he had reached the age of gastronomic fastidiousness, and
especially abhorred spoiling the appetite between meals, Truyn
good-naturedly accepted this pretentiously humble invitation.



                               CHAPTER III.


The dining-room, a long narrow apartment with three windows, smelled of
fresh varnish and fly-poison; the walls were decorated with dusty
laurel wreaths wound about with ribbons covered with gilt inscriptions,
and with several photographs of the hostess in tights. The long table
was loaded with viands. Malzin's children, a girl and a boy,
respectively five and three years old, shared the meal. They were pale,
and sickly, but extremely pretty with a wonderfully sympathetic
expression about the mouth and eyes, reminding one of their father. It
was easy to see from the shy gentleness of their demeanour that Fritz
had taken great pains with their training. He exchanged little tender
jests with his small daughter, but he evidently made a special pet of
the boy who sat beside him in a high chair, and to whose wants he
himself ministered.

There was nothing about Fritz of the amusing awkwardness of
aristocratic fathers, who now and then in an amiable dilettante fashion
interest themselves in the care of their offspring. On the contrary it
was easy to see from the way in which he set the child straight at the
table, tied on the bib, and put the mug of milk into the little hand,
that the care of the child was a real occupation of his life.

Truyn sat beside his hostess murmuring threadbare compliments, touching
his lips to his coffee-cup, and crumbling a piece of biscuit on his
plate.

"You do our fare but little honour," the actress said more than once,
"try a piece of this cake, Herr Count. Count Capriani who has a French
cook, and is accustomed to the very best, always commends it."

Fritz blushed. "Try this cherry cake," he said hastily. "Lotti
makes it herself. She used always to feast me upon it when we were
betrothed--eh, Lotti?"

This cheery reference to her housewifely skill, offended the actress,
and before Truyn could make some courteous rejoinder she exclaimed,
flushed with anger, "You know, Herr Count, that where the means are so
limited the mistress of the house must lend a hand."

Truyn stammered something and Fritz smiled patiently as he stroked his
little son's fair curls.

It was a painfully uncomfortable hour.

Truyn looked from the photographs to the glass fly-traps beneath which
innumerable flies were lying on their backs, convulsively twitching out
their lives, and his glance finally rested upon his hostess. She was
strongly perfumed with musk, and was painted around the eyes. Her stout
arms were squeezed into sleeves far too tight, and her bust almost met
her chin. After this keen scrutiny, however, Truyn discovered that she
was certainly handsome, that her face although disfigured by too full
lips, was strikingly like that of the capitoline Venus.

The intrusive humility of her manner, seasoned as it was with vulgar
raillery, was insufferable.

"For this woman!" he repeated to himself again and again. "For this
woman!" His eye fell upon a photograph portraying the Countess as '_la
belle Héléne_,' in a costume that displayed her magnificent physique to
great advantage, and he suddenly remembered that he had seen her in
that rôle; that her acting was bad; but that she produced a dazzling
impression on the stage.

"Did you recognize that picture, Herr Count?" she asked suddenly.

"Instantly," he assured her.

"Did you ever see me play?"

"I once had that pleasure."

"Ah!" A remarkable transformation was immediately manifest, her languid
air grew animated, thirst for the triumphs of the past glittered in her
eyes. She moved her chair a little closer to Truyn and coquettishly
leaning her head upon her hand whispered, "Were you one of my adorers?"

Fritz frowned and glanced angrily towards her, twisting his napkin
nervously.

His attention was suddenly distracted however, by the noise of the
blows of an axe resounding slowly and monotonously through the heavy
summer air. Fritz changed colour, sprang up and hurried to the window.

"What is the matter?" the actress asked him negligently.

"They are cutting down the old beech," he said slowly, turning not to
her, but to Truyn.--"The Friedrichs-beech; planted by one of our
ancestors, Joachim Malzin, with his own hands after the liberation of
Vienna; we children all cut our names upon it. Don't you remember how
Madame Lenoir scolded us for it, and declared that it was not _comme il
faut_, but a pastime befitting prentice boys only? Good Heavens--how
long ago that is!--and now they are cutting it down. Capriani insists
that it interferes with his view."



                              CHAPTER IV.


"If one could only help him!--but there is nothing to be
done--absolutely nothing!"

Thus Truyn reflected, as distressed and compassionate, he rode home on
his sleek cob, followed by his trim English groom.

There are many varieties of compassion not at all painful, which, when
well-seasoned with a charming consciousness of virtue, may serve
sensitive souls as a tolerable amusement. There is, for example, an
artistically contemplative compassion that, with hands thrust
comfortably in pockets, looks on at some melancholy affair as at the
fifth act of a tragedy, without experiencing the faintest call to
recognize its existence except by heaving sundry sentimental sighs.
Then there is a self-contemplative compassion which, quite as inactive
as the artistically contemplative, culminates in the satisfactory
consciousness of the comparative comfort of one's own condition; then a
decorative compassion, which is displayed merely as a mental adornment
upon solemn occasions when the man marches forth clad in full-dress
moral uniform.

But there is one compassion which is among the most painful sensations
that can assail a delicate-minded human being--a compassion, always
united to the most earnest desire to aid, to console, and yet which
knows itself powerless in presence of the suffering; that longs for
nothing in the world more ardently than to aid that which it cannot
aid! And this it was that oppressed Truyn, as he rode home from
Schneeburg,--this vain compassion lying like a cold, hard stone upon
his warm, kind heart!

"If one could only help him, could but make life at least tolerable for
him,--poor Fritz, poor fellow!" he muttered again and again.

The tall poplars, standing like a long row of gigantic exclamation
points on the side of the road, cast strips of dark shade upon the
light, dusty soil. The crickets were chirping in the hedges; in the
wheat-fields to the right and left the ears nodded gently and gravely;
red poppies and blue cornflowers--useless, picturesque gipsy-folk,
amidst the ripening harvest--laughed at their feet. The clover-fields
had passed their prime,--they were brown and a faint odour of faded
flowers floated aloft from them. The transparent veil of early twilight
obscured the light and dimmed the shadows.

How thoroughly Truyn knew the road! The inmates of Schneeburg and
Rautschin had formerly been good neighbours.

A throng of laughing, beckoning phantoms glided through his mind. Out
of the blue mist of the morning of his life, now so far behind him,
there emerged a slender, girlish figure with long, black braids, and a
downy, peach-like face--dark-eyed Pipsi, for whom Erich, then an
enthusiast of sixteen, copied poems--and a second phantom came with
her, merry-hearted Tilda, who with the pert insolence of her thirteen
years used to laugh so mercilessly at the sentimental pair of lovers;
and Hugo, a rather awkward boy, always at odds with his tutor and his
Greek grammar.

Where were they all? Hugo went into the army, and was killed in a duel;
dark-eyed Pepsi married in Hungary, and died at the birth of her first
child; Tilda married a Spanish diplomatist--Truyn had heard nothing of
her for years;--not one of the Malzins was left in their native
land, save Fritz, who at the time of Truyn's lyric enthusiasm was a
curly-headed, babbling baby, before whose dimples the entire family
were on their knees, and who of his bounty dispensed kisses among them.

Truyn's thoughts wandered on--he recalled Fritz as an dashing officer
of Hussars. He was one of the handsomest men in the army, fair, with a
sunny smile and the proverbial Malzin conscientiousness in his earnest
eyes, very fastidious in his pleasures, almost dandified in his dress;
spoiled by women of fashion.

"Who would have thought it!" Truyn repeated to himself, as he gazed
reflectively between his horse's ears. Suddenly he became aware of a
cloud of dust,--and of a delightful sensation warming his heart. He
perceived Zinka and Gabrielle sitting in a low pony-wagon, and behind
them in the footman's seat was Oswald. Zinka was driving, being the
butt of much laughing criticism from the other two. How pleased Truyn
was with the picture, and how often was he destined to recall it, the
fair, lovely heads of the two women, the dark, handsome young fellow,
who understood so well how to combine a merry familiarity with the most
delicate courtesy! How happy they all looked!

"You are late, papa!" Gabrielle called out.

"Have I offended you again, comrade?"

"But papa--!"

"I was beginning to be a little anxious," said Zinka, "Ossi laughed at
me, and said I was like his mother, who if he is half an hour late in
returning home from a ride always imagines that he has been thrown and
killed on the road, and that the only reason the groom does not make
his appearance, is because he has not the courage to tell the sad
tidings."

Oswald laughed. "Yes, my mother's fancy runs riot in such images,
sometimes," he admitted, stretching out his hand for the reins, that he
might help Zinka to turn round. "And how is poor Fritz?"

"Wretched--such misery is enough to break one's heart--and no getting
rid of it."

"And you are no longer angry with him?" Oswald asked with a touch of
good-humoured triumph.

"Heaven forbid! but--," Truyn rubbed his forehead--"Oh, that
stock-jobber--that phylloxera!"

Just then there appeared in the road an aged man, spare of habit and
somewhat bent, but walking briskly; his features were sharp but not
unpleasant, his arms were long, and his old-fashioned coat fluttered
about his legs.

"Good-day, Herr Stern," Oswald called out to him in response to his
bow.

Truyn doffed his hat and bowed low on his horse's neck.

"Who is it whom you hold worthy of so profound a bow, papa?" Gabrielle
asked.

"Rabbi von Selz," Truyn made answer, "in times like these such people
should be treated with special respect, if only for the sake of the
lower classes who always regulate their conduct somewhat by ours."

"Oho, uncle, your bow was a political demonstration, then," Oswald
remarked.

"To a certain degree," Truyn replied, "but Stern is, moreover, a very
distinguished man."

"He is indeed," Oswald affirmed, "he is a particular friend of mine--if
any one among the people about here maltreats him, he always applies to
me. Poor devil! The Jews are a very strange folk. I always divide them
into two families, one related directly to Christ, the other to Judas
Iscariot. Poesy, the Seer, has produced two immortal types of these
families, Nathan and Shylock."

"Aha, Ella, I hope you are duly impressed by your lover, he really
talks like a book," Truyn rallied his daughter who, her fair head
slightly bent backward, was looking over her shoulder at Oswald, with
rapt admiration in her large eyes. "I invited Fritz to dine with you,
comrade, the day after to-morrow. He is almost as madly enthusiastic
about your betrothed as you are yourself, and you can sing your
Laudamus together."



                               CHAPTER V.


"There is nothing to be done with the fellow.--I never encountered such
weakness of mind," exclaimed Capriani to his wife.

The hour was three, and just before dinner; in accordance with Austrian
custom, or rather with the national bad habit, they dined at Schneeburg
at half-past three, although the whole family, especially those of the
second generation, accustomed to late foreign hours, found this earlier
hour very inconvenient.

"Of whom are you talking?" Madame Capriani asked in her depressed
tone; she was sitting erect upon a small gilt chair, she wore a gray,
silk-muslin gown, rather over-trimmed, _gants de Suéde_, and an air of
constraint.

"Of whom are you talking?" she asked a second time, smoothing her
gloves.

"Of whom?--of that blockhead, Malzin," growled Capriani.

"I told you from the first that he would never be able to fill that
position," his wife rejoined.

"Fill--!" Capriani shrugged his shoulders contemptuously, "fill--! it
takes him two hours to write a business-letter. But I was prepared
for that. His office is a sinecure; the salary that I pay him is an
alms,--but Alfred Capriani can do as he pleases there,--and at least
the fellow understands something about horses. What outrages me is to
see how he squanders my money, the money that I give him. He ransacks
the country round to buy back from the peasants relics of his parents.
First an old clock, that struck twelve just as he was born, then an old
piano, upon which his sisters used to strum the scales. 'Tis enough to
drive one mad!"

Frau von Capriani looked distressed. "That is a matter of sentiment,"
she suggested.

"A matter of sentiment--a matter of sentiment," Capriani repeated
sarcastically. "It would be a matter of sentiment and conscience to
think of saving up something for his children."

"You are right, you are right," the Countess rejoined, in her emphatic
yet not unmelodious Russian-German, "but this time you are in some
measure to blame for his folly. I begged you a hundred times to ask him
what he would like to keep for himself of the furniture which was
entirely useless to us. Instead, you had it all put up at auction."

"And the proceeds of the sale are to be devoted to the building of a
new school, to be entirely independent of ecclesiastical influence,"
said Capriani, "the old rubbish shall aid, willy-nilly, in the spread
of modern liberal ideas. It is my aim to root out prejudices not to
foster them. Would you have me minister directly to Malzin's folly? It
would be nonsense. It makes me shudder to see this man, who owns
nothing, positively nothing, except what I give him out of sheer
kindness, and who ought to look ahead, keeping his eyes fixed upon the
past, and sentimentally collecting empty bon-bon boxes, the contents of
which his forefathers have devoured to the last crumb. He is the
personification of the invincible narrowness of his class."

"He is a good honest man," the Contessa said gently.

"Honest,--honest!" Capriani repeated impatiently, "a man whose desires
have been anticipated from his childhood, upon whose plate the
pheasants have always fallen ready trussed and roasted, would naturally
not contemplate picking pockets. To be sure, he might be tempted to try
it, but he can't do it--he is too unpractical to be dishonest. There is
nothing praiseworthy in that, for all the honesty that you ascribe to
him he is a thorough selfish egotist; without the smallest scruple he
robs his own children of thousands."

"Malzin!" Frau von Capriani exclaimed, "why he would let his ears be
cut off for his children, and if he refused to lose his hands too, it
would only be because he needed them to work for his family."

"To work!" rejoined Capriani ironically. "If he would only sacrifice
for their sakes his miserable pride of rank he could do far more for
them than by his work! He--and work! Do you know what reply he made to
my splendid offer for his family vault? 'The vault is not for sale, it
is the only spot of home that is left me. I will at least lie among my
people when I am dead!' Can you conceive of greater insolence?"

"Insolence--poor Malzin--he is as modest....!"

"Modest!" sneered Capriani, interrupting her, "he is fairly bristling
with arrogance. A starving pauper, living on my bounty, and all the
while thinking himself superior to all of us. Intercourse with us is
not at all to his taste."

"He is always exquisitely courteous to me. I like him very much," Frau
von Capriani declared. Her husband's constant attacks upon Malzin were
beyond measure painful to her.

"Men of his stamp are always gracious to ladies," snarled Capriani.

Meanwhile his two children had entered the room, Arthur and Ad'lin,
both in faultless toilettes, and both out of humour. The self-same
weariness weighs upon both, the weariness of idlers who do not know how
to squander time gracefully. Perhaps Georges Lodrin is not far wrong
when he maintains that to idle away life gracefully is an art most
difficult to acquire, and rarely learned in a single generation.

Both asked fretfully whether the post had come, and then each sank into
an arm-chair and fumed. One by one the various guests then staying in
the castle appeared. Paul Angelico Orchis, a conceited little
versifier, (lauded in the Blanktown Gazette as 'the first lyric poet of
modern times') and the possessor of a dyspepsia acquired at the expense
of others. A farce by him had been produced in Blanktown, and for ten
years he had been promising the public a tragedy. Meanwhile his latest
effort was the invention of a picturesque waterproof cloak. Frank, the
famous tailor carried out his idea in dark brown tweed, in which the
poet draped himself upon every conceivable occasion. After him followed
two men of the kind which Georges Lodrin describes as 'gentlemen at
reduced prices,' stunted specimens of the aristocracy, who played a
very insignificant part in their own circles, and from time to time
fled to their inferiors in rank to enjoy a little admiration. One,
Baron Kilary, is a sportsman, insolent in bearing, lewd in talk; the
other, Count Fermor, is a dilettante composer and pianist, affected and
sentimental.

Malzin and his wife also entered; while he bowed silently, and then
respectfully kissed the hand of the hostess, Charlotte congratulated
the two ladies upon the splendour of their attire, and lavished
exaggerated admiration upon a couple of costly pieces of furniture
which she had often seen before.

Last of all appeared our old acquaintance, the Baroness Melkweyser, who
had been at Schneeburg for a week. What was she doing there? The
Caprianis looked to her for their admission into Austrian society,
she looked to King Midas for the augmentation of her diminished
income,--and something too might be gained from country air and regular
meals for her worn and weary digestion.



                              CHAPTER VI.


It is really melancholy for people who have been accustomed in Paris to
entertain crowned heads, to be obliged in Austria to put up with a few
sickly sprigs of nobility.

The Menu was very elaborate; the clumsy table service came from
_Froment-Munice_ and the china was Sèvres of the latest pattern, white,
with a coronet and cipher in gilt; the butler looked like a cabinet
minister, and the silk stockings of the flunkies were faultless.
Nevertheless the entire dinner produced a sham, masquerading effect,
reminding one more or less of a stage banquet when all the viands are
of papier-maché.

The hostess, with Baron Kilary on her right, and Fritz Malzin on her
left, devoted herself almost exclusively to the latter, asking him
kindly questions about his children.

The host, seated between the Baroness Melkweyser, and the Countess
Malzin, contented himself with seeing that the actress's plate was kept
well supplied, and with exchanging jests with her which were merely
silly during soup, but which grew more objectionable at dessert.

The Baroness Melkweyser studied the Menu, Paul Angelico Orchis
complained of his dyspepsia and asked advice of his neighbour, Ad'lin
Capriani, as to his diet. Moreover he testified his gratitude for
Capriani's hospitality by praising everything enthusiastically. He
remarked that he had visited Schneeburg formerly, but that he should
hardly have recognised the castle again, absolutely hardly have
recognised it, it was so wonderfully improved, he could not see how
Count Capriani could have effected so much in so short a time.

Whereupon the master of the mansion replied with aristocratic
nonchalance: "The place had to be made habitable, but there's not much
that can be done with it, it is nothing but an old barracks, an
inconvenient old barracks." He then held forth at length upon the
improvements which he still contemplated, concluding with, "But I have
no room--the Schneeburg domain is so contracted, so insignificant!
Unfortunately all the estates which would serve my purpose are owned by
people unwilling to sell."

Madame Capriani tried several times unsuccessfully to check her
husband, and Fritz looked gloomily down into his empty plate.

He had always been so proud of his Schneeburg, and that it should not
be good enough for this swindler, forsooth!----

Fermor looked discontented, and talked to Adeline about his
compositions, betraying at every word the sentimental arrogance of a
narrow-minded, lackadaisical, provincial aristocrat, greedy for
adulation, and salving his conscience for his new associations, by
making himself as disagreeable as possible to the people whose bread he
eats.

Malzin, albeit in a subordinate position, manifested from habit the
instinctive reserve of a true gentleman, fearful of wounding the
susceptibilities of his inferiors. The conduct of his fellows was in
striking contrast to his own. Fermor ignored him. Kilary on the
contrary continually tried to draw him into familiar talk upon subjects
of which none of the others knew anything, a course evidently
irritating to the host.

Malzin was, moreover, the only one at table towards whom Kilary
conducted himself courteously. To the poet he was especially insolent.
At dessert he read aloud with sentimental emphasis a couple of
bonbon-mottoes, and then asked, "My dear Orchis, are these immortal
lines your own?" at which the poet vainly tried to smile. The rumour
ran that when his finances were at a low ebb he did sometimes place his
genius at the disposal of a Vienna confectioner.

After dinner the gentlemen retired to the smoking-room to smoke, the
ladies to the drawing-room to yawn.

"I cannot cease looking at you, this evening, Comtesse," Charlotte
Malzin exclaimed, seating herself on a sofa beside the daughter of the
house, "your gown is enchanting."

"Very much too picturesque for this part of the world, they can't
appreciate these contrasts of colour in this barbarous country," Ad'lin
said crossly, as she was wont to receive the actress's advances. "They
are far behind the age in Austria! _Dieu, qui l'Autriche m'ennuie!_"

The actress fell silent, in some confusion.

"What had the poet to say to you, Ad'lin?" asked the Baroness
Melkweyser, after she had inspected through her eye-glass each piece of
furniture in turn in the drawing-room.

"That he could not digest truffles, and that he means to dedicate his
next work to me."

"Ah! the first item is highly interesting, and the last uncommonly
flattering," the Melkweyser rejoined.

"Yes, it means that I must order at least fifty copies of the
interesting effusion," Ad'lin said fretfully, adding with a half smile,
"People in our position have to encourage literature--_noblesse
oblige_!"

The Baroness bit her lip and resumed her voyage of discovery, turning
to a cabinet filled with antique porcelain.

"You really cannot think," Ad'lin began, leaving her sofa to join her
friend, "how I have longed for you! You are the only link here in
Austria between ourselves and civilization. I depend upon your forming
an agreeable circle for us here."

It was noteworthy that since Zoë's return to her native land, Adeline's
familiarity had seemed far less acceptable to her than it had been in
Paris. "An agreeable circle!" she exclaimed, "that is easily said,
but you make it very hard for me. You do not want to know our
financiers ...."

"The Austrian financiers have no position; even the Rothschilds are not
received at Court."

"And the Austrian aristocracy is excessively exclusive on its own
soil--!" said Zoë.

"Ah that exclusiveness is a _fable convenue_," Ad'lin insisted, "I am
convinced that if Austrian society knew us ...."

Instead of replying, the Melkweyser directed her eye-glass towards the
porcelain on the shelves of the cabinet. "That is the Malzin old-Vienna
tea-service."

"Yes, but it cannot be used--it is not complete."

"I know it, Wjera Zinsenburg has the other half."

"If it would give the Countess the slightest pleasure to complete the
set, I should be perfectly ready to place this half at her disposal!"
Capriani's voice was heard to say.

The gentlemen had left their cigars and had come to the drawing-room
for their coffee. Fermor who was too nervous to allow himself the
indulgence of a cup of Mocha, sat down at the piano, and began to
prelude in an affected manner.

Leaning in a languishing attitude against the raised cover of the
piano, Ad'lin murmured, "No one but you invents such modulations. You
ought to indulge me with a grand composition, Count; have you never
completed one?"

"I am busy now with a work of some scope for a grand orchestra," Fermor
lisped, dabbing his limp, bloodless hands upon the keyboard like a
nervous kangaroo.

"Ah! A sonata?--An opera?"

"No, a requiem; that is a kind of requiem--more correctly a morning
impromptu, the last thoughts of a dying poacher."

"Oh how interesting! Pray let me hear it."

"It is a rather complicated piece of music, Fräulein Capriani," Fermor
always ignores the Capriani patent of nobility--"if you are not
especially fond of our German classic masters ...."

"I adore Wagner and Beethoven."

"Then, indeed, I will .... but the harmony is very complicated!"

Whereupon he began, with closed eyes, after the fashion of pretentious
dilettanti, to deliver himself of a piece of music, the beginning of
which reminded one of a piano-tuner, and the intermediate portion of
the triumphal march of an operetta, and which, after it had lasted half
an hour, and the audience had given up all hope of relief, suddenly,
and without any apparent reason stopped short, a common termination
where there has been no reason for beginning.

"_C'est divin!_" Ad'lin exclaimed. "Your composition, Count, reminds me
of the intermezzo of the Fifth symphony."

"You are mistaken, Fräulein Capriani, my composition recalls no other
music!" Fermor said, greatly irritated.

With his eyes glowing, his full red underlip trembling, and his manner
insolently obtrusive, Capriani threw himself down beside Charlotte
Malzin upon the sofa and stretched his arm along the back of it behind
her shoulders.

"Come and help me with my work, Count Malzin," Frau von Capriani called
kindly from her pile of cretonne. "You have so steady a hand."

And while Fritz took his place beside her, and began to cut a bird of
Paradise out of the stuff with great precision, Kilary took Arthur by
the buttonhole and said, "You ought to know all about it young man, how
must one begin who wants to grow rich?"

"You must ask my father," Arthur replied insolently. "All that I
understand of financial matters is, how to make debts."

A servant brought in the letters and papers upon a silver salver.

Whilst Arthur opened a dozen begging letters, and tossed them aside,
ironically remarking, "Three impoverished Countesses--two Barons--a
captain ..." and whilst Ad'lin hailed with enthusiasm two letters from
a couple of French duchesses whom she counted among her friends, the
Conte hurriedly ran his eye over an unpretending epistle which he had
instantly opened. His hands trembled, a strange greed shone in his
eyes, and quivered about his lips. Quite pale, as one is apt to be
in a moment of victory he paced the room to and fro once or twice
and then stepping directly up to Malzin he exclaimed, "What do you
think--coal--! Schneeburg is a coal-bed. Extraordinary! Your father
tried after madder, and I--have found coal!"

Malzin shuddered slightly, but merely said, "I congratulate you!"

"Malzin would never have forgiven himself if your bargain had turned
out a poor one," sneered Kilary.

There was something in his irony that irritated Capriani, a rebellion
of caste against the autocracy of money, which he chose to punish. As
he was powerless with Kilary he turned to Malzin and said in a tone of
insolent authority, "Malzin, get me the map of Bohemia that lies on my
writing-table." At a moment like this the thin varnish of refinement
which contact with the world had imparted was rubbed off entirely, he
showed himself in all his coarseness, and this not through any
recklessness, but intentionally, in the consciousness that he, Alfred
Capriani might do as he chose. At a moment like this he delighted in
treading beneath his feet all who did not prostrate themselves before
his millions.

Malzin had attained a height where such insults did not reach him. But
the blood mounted to the cheek of the mistress of the mansion. "Arthur,
go and get the map!" she said gently.

Fritz languidly prevented him. "You do not know where the thing is," he
said good-humouredly and left the room.

Capriani went on pacing the spacious apartment in long strides. "They
are all alike, these blockheads," he muttered, "when they take it into
their heads to work they are more stupid than ever. Old Malzin tried
everything; he ruined himself in artificial madder-red, in lager beer,
in sugar and in stocks,--and it never occurred to him that millions
were lying in the ground beneath his feet."

Malzin returned with the map and as every table was overcrowded with
bibelots and jardinières, it was spread out upon the piano. Capriani
eagerly travelled over it with his pudgy forefinger. "The track of the
new railway must go here, between the iron works and Schneeburg."

"Then it must go a very long round," Arthur remarked, "can you obtain
the permit?"

Capriani stuck a thumb in an arm-hole of his waistcoat and smiled.

"Malzin, you know the estates around here; to whom does that belong?"
pointing to a spot upon the map.

"That belongs to Kamenz," said Malzin bending forward, and fitting his
eye-glass in his eye.

"And that?"

"To Lodrin."

"Then it comes to whether the interests of these gentlemen jump with
your own," Arthur observed. "If they should work against you, you never
can obtain the permit."

"Pshaw! I understand tolerably well how to deal with these gentlemen."

"Kamenz will give you no trouble, he is up to his neck in
embarrassments, and would be glad to dispose advantageously of a piece
of his land," drawled Kilary, looking at the map and giving his opinion
with lazy assurance.

"Lodrin's affairs cannot be in a very brilliant condition," Arthur
remarked; "ever since his majority he has been making no end of
improvements, and he is hard up financially."

"With such an enormous property as the Lodrin estate there can be none
save temporary embarrassments," Kilary said drily, "and in no case
would Lodrin allow himself to be influenced by personal considerations.
If you cannot demonstrate to him that the new railway will conduce to
the universal benefit of the whole country he never will agree to it,
and unless he does you can do nothing with the present ministry. A
comical fellow Lodrin--a perfect pedant in some ways."

"No," said Malzin, "not the least of a pedant, but a hot head with a
heart of gold, and when duty is concerned, he is just like his father."

"The old idiot," Capriani muttered below his breath, slowly as, with an
air that was almost tender he stroked his long whiskers, while an odd
smile played about his lips. "In fact you are right, Malzin,--a
charming fellow, Ossi--a superb creature; not one of your Austrian
nobility can hold a candle to him. But I--you'll see, Malzin,--I'll
twist Ossi Lodrin around my thumb."

Half an hour afterwards the guests separated. Frau von Capriani, more
depressed than usual, retired to her room.

The gentlemen went to the garden, and shot at a target; Conte Capriani,
who never could bring down a pheasant on the wing, proved more
successful than any of the others in hitting the bull's-eye.

When the Melkweyser, who had been indulging in a short nap, entered the
library half an hour afterwards to look for a 'sanitary novel' she
found Ad'lin deep in the study of a small thick volume.

Zoë looked over her shoulder; the book was the 'Gotha Almanach,' the
Bradshaw of the Austrian aristocracy.

"What are you looking for?" the Baroness asked.

"For the Fermors--I want to know who the Count's mother was. She is not
in this year's list. She was a Princess Brack, was she not?"

"No, his mother was a Fräulein Schmitt, the daughter of a rich
tavern-keeper."

"Ah!"



                              CHAPTER VII.


The Malzins walked home through the park. Fritz looked perturbed. His
wife held her head high, and in no agreeable mood chewed at the stalk
of a rose which the Conte had cut for her.

"Lotti," Fritz began after a while, "I know that you act without
reflection; you were a little imprudent to-day; it would be of no
consequence with a man of breeding, but from a man like Capriani a lady
must not allow the least familiarity."

"You always find something to lecture me about," she replied sharply.
"I have long known that I am not good enough for you. But I must
confess that I have never observed that the ladies of your circle are
more reserved than those of mine."

"You know none of them," Fritz rejoined with incautious haste.

"You certainly have afforded me no opportunity of knowing them,"
Charlotte retorted, reddening with anger, "although you probably would
have done so, had you not been ashamed of me from the first. Count
Truyn has managed to give his wife a position,--but you--you would
rather have died than have stirred a finger for me."

This was not literally true, for Fritz had once knocked off the hat of
an acquaintance who had forgotten to remove it in Charlotte's presence;
on one occasion he had fought a duel on her account, and on another had
horsewhipped a slandering editor, but it was substantially true that he
had made not the smallest effort to introduce her to his world. He made
no reply now to her reproaches, hung his head, and pulled at his
moustache. She went on with angry volubility. "You were ashamed to walk
in the street with me, and when you took me to the theatre you always
hid yourself in the back of the box, and every day you had some fault
to find with my ways. I have watched your aristocratic ladies at the
races, at the theatre, and at artist's festivals--and their manners are
as free--and it must out--as ill-bred ...."

"The ill-breeding of a lady of rank," Fritz interrupted her impatiently
"extends usually only as far as the good-breeding of the man with whom
she chances to be."

"I don't know what you mean," the opera-bouffe singer replied.

"Our ladies know that the men whom they honour with their gay talk
recognise their little whims, and merry extravagances as tokens of
confidence which they would never dream of abusing. We never allow
ourselves to step beyond the line which the lady herself draws.
Familiarities like those which Capriani allowed himself toward you
to-day are impossible among people of refinement. Of course from him
nothing better can be expected; low fellow that he is!"

"And you are his hired servant," said Charlotte.

"Yes!" he replied, "I am his servant; it is my duty to select his
horses and to write his letters, but I am not obliged to dine with him;
that is not in the contract. And from this time I shall accept no more
of his invitations. I will not expose myself a second time to the
annoyance to which you and he subjected me to-day."

Charlotte began to cry. "You are cruel to me--and rough," she sobbed.
"I have put up with poverty for your sake, sacrificed a brilliant
career to my love for you----"

"Yes--yes, I know--I know--I am very sorry for you--but what can I do?"
said Fritz.

"The only pleasure I can enjoy, you want to deprive me of, when I look
forward to it from Sunday to Sunday."

"You enjoy it?--What, for Heaven's sake do you enjoy about it?" asked
Fritz, to whom everything at these Sunday dinners was an offence,
except the gentle eyes and soft voice of the hostess.

"I enjoy mingling at last in fine society," she said stubbornly, and as
he only stared at her in silence, she went on, "I know that you despise
modern fine folk. But my views are broader and freer, and I have no
feeling for aristocratic chimeras!"

She had indeed no feeling for chimeras with or without the adjective,
no feeling for moral and social subtleties, no feeling for honourable
traditional superstitions, for fine inherited weaknesses and illusions,
no feeling for all that constitute the moral supports of a caste,
although they cannot be expressed in words or grasped with the hand.
How could this woman comprehend Fritz, Fritz who had grown up with
chimeras, who had made playmates of them in the nursery?

He shrugged his shoulders and was silent. Just then the wailing of a
weak childish voice fell upon the warm evening air. Fritz hurried
forward; in front of the small arbour, with his little son in her lap,
sat an old woman; it was old Miller, his nurse in childhood, who had at
last found an asylum in a corner of his house. "The little fellow is
crying for his father," she said while the boy smiling through his
tears stretched out his tiny arms. "The Herr Count ought not to spoil
him so."

"Never mind that, Miller," Fritz said taking the child in his arms.
"Oh, my pale darling, what should we do without each other, hey?"

Fifteen minutes afterwards Fritz was sitting on the edge of a small bed
on which his boy was kneeling with folded hands, looking in his snowy
night-gown, that fell in straight folds about him, like a veritable
Luca della Robbia.

"Come, Franzi, have you forgotten your prayer?"


           "In my small bed I lay me here,
            I pray Thee dearest Lord be near,
            About me clasp Thy loving arm,
            And shelter me and keep me warm."


the child murmured sleepily, then offered his lips to his father and
lay down.

It was a childish prayer--but Fritz learned it at his mother's knee
from her dear lips--reason enough for teaching it to his son.

And until the little man fell asleep, his hand under his cheek, Fritz
still sat on the edge of the bed and dreamed.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Yes, of a truth, Fritz had grown up with chimeras; they had been his
playmates, born and bred and domesticated in Schneeburg.

To them it was due that Fritz had married a second-rate actress; that
Fritz, under all the most distressing circumstances, had still suffered
from homesickness, and had taken refuge 'at home;' that he had always
possessed a character not merely respectable, but thoroughly noble;
never forfeiting the esteem of his equals although stricken from their
visiting lists; and that, when in fulness of time he should make ready
for the final journey, he might boldly face these very chimeras and
say: "Often have I sinned against myself, and my own best happiness,
but never, never against you; come therefore and help me to die."

His father was a gentleman, a philosopher, a freethinker,--a visionary,
if you will. He raved about the new gospel of 1789, as one raves about
an exotic flower, because of its unparalleled oddity, and from the
conviction that it never can endure our climate. He had all kinds of
bourgeois intimates and the "Contrat social" was his favourite book.
But when his son, not from blind passion, but to satisfy conscientious
scruples, married an actress, he was beside himself. When Fritz, not
without a hint as to the circumstances that had led him to the fatal
step, announced his marriage, his letter was sent by the old Count to
his lawyer to answer. He himself refused any further intercourse with
his son.

Had Fritz's mother been living, all might perhaps have been different.
His wife would have been personally more distasteful to her than to his
father, the fact of the connection would have seemed to her more
miserable than to the old Count; but compassion for her child would
have triumphed finally over every other consideration, her heart
might have bled, but she would have taken home the distasteful
daughter-in-law, and have tried to educate her for her position. At all
events she would have known that when a man has trifled away 'the
world,' his own home is his true place of refuge.

To all this the old Count gave never a thought, although he was
kind-hearted, and Fritz had always been avowedly his favourite. He saw
nothing but the misery and degradation of it all; his heart was
benumbed by anger. All that was bestowed upon Fritz when he married,
was his father's curse, the property which he inherited from his
mother, and his share of what had belonged to an elder brother who had
died. Although he had from the outset belonged among the "_forçats du
mariage_," he did not for some time feel the burden of his chain and of
the enforced companionship. Of an intensely sanguine temperament he had
a positive genius for looking on the bright side of life. What annoyed
him most at first was being obliged, on account of his marriage, to
quit the service. He was terribly bored by having to spend the entire
day without his comrades or his horses. His yearly income at this time
amounted to the modest sum of six thousand gulden. After he had made
out a list of necessary expenses,--that is, added up certain figures
upon a visiting card with a gold pencil, he came to the conclusion,
with a shrug, that a married man could not possibly live upon six
thousand gulden a year, and that therefore, under the circumstances, he
might allow himself the privilege of contracting debts.

Of course he would have thought it niggardly to save up anything while
in the army; yet he had never been extravagant, he had always at the
end of the month had something left over with which to help out a
comrade.

He hoped to be able to curtail his household expenses; but there were
so many things that no respectable man 'could go without,' and still
more, which his wife could not deny herself.--

When Fritz was quite a little boy, his father had often admonished him
as to the serious nature of life, and had impressed him as a younger
son with the necessity of restricting his needs as much as possible,
and even of earning his own living. His narrow circumstances in the
future, had occupied the boy's mind, and one day he opened his heart to
his sister's governess, at that time his confidante. He said to her,
"Madame! Papa yesterday told of a contractor who employed people for
fifty kreutzers a day.--Is that fair?"

"Certainly, _mon bijou_. Why do you ask?"

The boy looked very important, and began to reckon on his small
fingers, "Fifty kreutzers a day--hm--that makes five gulden for ten
persons--if I marry, and my wife keeps a maid, and I a man--and if we
have six children beside--five gulden a day--I can afford that at
least."

At twenty-six years of age Fritz's ideas with regard to economy were
not much more practical. A household with neither man-servant nor
maid-servant did not come within his range of possibilities.

He spent a couple of weeks with his young wife at the Hotel Munsch; a
hostelry now out of fashion, but having for generations enjoyed the
patronage of the Malzin family, and after that he hired a pretty suite
of second-story rooms in a retired street, and arranged it according to
his taste, and as he honestly believed, as moderately as possible. He
had none of the snobbishness of an impoverished parvenu, who is ashamed
of being obliged suddenly to retrench, and hides his economies as a
crime. On the contrary, he exulted boyishly when he had succeeded in
procuring at a moderate price some pretty piece of furniture, an old
oriental rug, or a carved chest, nor did he ever hesitate to lend a
hand himself; he hammered and tacked with his slender fingers, as if he
had been bred to such work all his life.

And it must be admitted that, with the exception of the drawing-room,
which his wife in spite of his remonstrances persisted in disfiguring
with green damask hangings, purchased at an auction with her savings,
his little home was a masterpiece of tasteful comfort. His former
comrades liked to drop in often for a game of cards with him. There was
no high play, and the drinking was very moderate, but the supper, the
style of the company, and the company itself, were always alike
exquisite.

The only disturbing element at these unostentatious gatherings was the
mistress of the household, who sat opposite her husband at supper,
affected and peevish in manner, and really bored by the high-bred and
respectful courtesy with which she was treated.

At first Fritz had indulged in ideal schemes of educating his wife, but
they all came to grief. There was no trace in the wife of the docile
devotion of the betrothed. A woman whose whole heart is her husband's
never feels humiliated by his superiority. Her whole being aspires to
him, her perceptions become all the more acute, and in a very short
while she learns to divine, to avoid, whatever may offend him.

This was, however, by no means the case with Charlotte. Her love for
Fritz was of a very humdrum kind, and comprehension of him she had
none. She did not acknowledge his superiority. All his good-humoured
little preachments upon manners, she listened to with stubborn
irritability. She was characterized to an extreme degree by the
obdurate narrow-mindedness which sneers conceitedly at everything
unlike itself, and absolutely refuses to learn. Fine clothes and
pedantic affectations awed her, but she had no appreciation for
the simple good-breeding of a man whose manners are the natural
outgrowth of the habits of his class. Genuine good-breeding is like a
mother-tongue which is spoken from childhood unconsciously as to its
source, and correctly, without a thought of conjugations and
declensions.

This she neither knew nor understood; she was far better pleased with
the artificial manners which are acquired when one is grown up, like a
foreign tongue from the grammar, and which are continually seasoned
with pretentious quotations, from modern dictionaries of etiquette. The
difference between Count Fritz and a smugly-dressed bagman, lay in her
eyes solely in the title.

Before long Fritz grew tired of trying to educate her, and confined
himself merely to the most necessary admonitions.

Time passed--and there was a cradle hung with green silk in the
Countess's room, and within it lay a boy of rare beauty. Charlotte
petted and caressed her child with the instinct of tenderness shown by
the lower animals towards their young, an instinct which fades out
gradually, as soon as the offspring can forego its mother's physical
care. Fritz rejoiced over the little fellow and had him christened
Siegfried after the old Count his father, to whom he announced the
birth of his grandson, hoping that it might help to bring about a
reconciliation with the angry parent.

But the Count took no notice of the announcement.

At first Fritz's paternal sentiments were by no means enthusiastic, and
if at times he caressed the little man, it was more out of kindness
towards the mother than out of real interest in the child.

On one occasion, however, he happened to enter the nursery just before
going out, his hat on his head. The little one was in his bath, an
expression of absolute physical comfort in his half-closed eyes, and on
his plump little body, every dimple of which could be seen distinctly
beneath the clear water.

Fritz stopped, and playfully sprinkled a few drops of water upon the
pretty baby-face. The child opened wide his eyes, and when his father
repeated the play, the little one chuckled so merrily that it sounded
like the cooing of doves, while throwing back his head and clinching
his rosy fists upon his breast.

A few days afterward Fritz went again to the nursery; this time the boy
was just out of his bath and was being dried in the nurse's lap. He
recognised his father and stretched out his plump arms to him. Fritz
could not help tickling him a little, touching his dimples with a
forefinger, and catching hold of the wee hands; a strange sensation
crept over him at the touch of the pure warm baby-flesh.

From that time he went into the nursery every day, if only for a
moment. The child grew more and more lovely. His little pearly teeth
appeared, and soft, golden hair hung over his forehead. He soon began
in his short frocks to creep on all-fours over the carpet, and even to
rise to his feet, holding by some article of furniture; and once, as
Fritz was watching him with a languid smile, the boy suddenly left the
chair against which he was leaning, and proudly and laboriously putting
one foot before the other, advanced four steps towards his father, upon
whose knee he was placed triumphantly quite out of breath with the
mighty effort.

When a little girl appeared as a claimant for the green-draped cradle,
a pretty diminutive bedstead was placed in Fritz Malzin's room.

What good comrades they were, Papa, and Siegi! Fritz talked to the
little fellow of all sorts of things that he never mentioned to any one
else, of his loved ones, of his home! And Siegi would look at him out
of his large eyes, as earnestly as if he understood every word. Long
before he could put words together, the boy learned to say "grandpapa,"
and when his father, pointing to the photograph of an old castle, that
hung framed in the smoking-room, asked "Siegi, what is that?" the
little fellow would reply "Neeburg."

The child was his father's friend, his companion, and was loved with an
idolatry such as only those fathers can know who are estranged from
their wives, and have no other interest in life.

Of course the child had a French bonne, but her post was almost a
sinecure. Fritz scarcely lost sight of the child for a moment.

Shortly after his removal to Wiplinger street he had become convinced
by certain calculations, that, in view of the high price demanded by
hack-drivers, it was a great economy to keep horses.

The result of these calculations was attained after the fashion of the
clever man who demonstrated clearly that it is far cheaper to live in a
first-class Hotel than in one of the second class.

When Siegi was barely three years old, Fritz used to put him on the
seat beside him in his dog-cart, and drive with him in the Prater. For
greater security the child was tied fast to the back of the seat with a
broad, silken scarf.

Count Malzin's dog-cart was soon one of the best-known turn-outs in the
Prater; the picturesque, lovely child beside the handsome,
distinguished man could not fail to attract notice. Siegi was always
dressed in good taste, and his soft curls lay like gold upon his
shoulders. From time to time his little face was turned up eagerly to
his father with some childish question. Then Fritz would bend over him
with a smile, and sometimes put his arm around him.

It was a positive delight to see them thus together. Many a lady who
since Fritz's marriage had returned his bow but coldly, now nodded to
him kindly as they gazed after the child.

Once on a lovely day in April, Fritz alighted from his dog-cart with
his little son and took him to walk, as was customary in Vienna, in the
Prater. He was surrounded in a few minutes by a group of ladies with
whom he had formerly been acquainted. Siegi had a triumphant success,
every one wanted a kiss or a pat from his little hand.

"Exquisite!" exclaimed one after another. "What a little angel! Malzin,
you must bring the child to see us."

"Fritz, do bring him to see me to-morrow at five, my children take
their dancing-lesson then. You will come, won't you? You know the way."

And Fritz, flattered, smiled and bowed.

                               *   *   *

Since his marriage he had not gone into society; but for his boy's sake
he accepted these invitations; the little fellow must learn to
associate with his equals. Fritz resolved that he himself should alone
endure the consequences of his folly, his son should not suffer from
it.

Although well-bred people of rank in their normal condition usually
train their children to a conventional modesty of demeanour, Fritz, on
the contrary, took pleasure in making his son almost haughty, he, whose
own lack of all pretention had been a by-word!

When pride stands on the defensive, it always deteriorates somewhat.

                               *   *   *

In spite of the modest scale of his household expenses, Fritz found to
his surprise that during the first year he had spent just double his
income. "It is always so the first year," he consoled himself by
thinking, but when the second year was no better but much worse, the
matter began to annoy him.

At his card-parties, which were still kept up, although Charlotte but
seldom appeared at them, (a relief usually purchased by Fritz with a
box for her at the theatre,) one of the guests was a certain Baron
Schneller, a good-natured, well-to-do fellow, who had no taste for
earning money, and was in consequence rather in disgrace with his
family, who showed great diligence in that direction. He squandered his
income among antiquities and ballet-girls. His volunteer year he had
served in Fritz's squadron.

In his embarrassment Fritz applied to Schneller, and asked whether he
knew of any more profitable investment for money than Austrian
government bonds? Whereupon the banker's indolent son replied that he
himself always invested upon principle in mortgages, but if Fritz
wanted to know, he would ask his brother, who was at the head of his
father's banking-firm.

The next day he came, in his good-natured way, to see Fritz, bringing a
list of 'safe stocks,' which were just then paying enormous dividends,
and saying "My brother sends his regards, and begs you to consider him
entirely at your service in any financial operation."

With characteristic carelessness, Fritz delivered over his property to
the banker, and the banker protested that it was an honour to oblige
the young gentleman.

After this Fritz felt free to spend three times as much as before. His
property swelled and swelled without his comprehending the mysterious
reasons for its increase. At last it began to assume the most
unexpected dimensions. This lasted for some time.

One day the banker informed the young Count that he was a millionaire,
and asked him at the same time if he did not wish to realize.

"Where is the use?" said Fritz, "there is no hurry,--er--I'll have a
talk with you about it one of these days. I have no time just now."

He had promised the children to take them to the circus; of course he
had no time for business.

He was dining with Schneller, when he suddenly heard a young government
official, who did not belong exactly to financial circles, say. "A
sorry prospect--the evening papers say that the Sternfeld-Lonsbergs are
shaky."

Fritz was startled. Little as he troubled himself about business
affairs, he knew that the greatest part of his property was invested in
Sternfeld-Lonsbergs. He looked fixedly at his host, who, however, only
shrugged his shoulders, and remarking, "merely an insignificant
depression," scraped a piece of turbot from the half-denuded vertebrae
of the fish which the servant was handing him.

Fritz continued to talk to his fair neighbour with the self-possession
of a thoroughly well-bred man, while the Japanese dinner-service, with
the cut glass, and flowers on the table danced wildly before his eyes.

After dinner, his eye-glass in his eye, and a pleasant smile on his
lips, he took occasion to glance furtively at a paper, lying on a
little table. His blood fairly ran cold; suddenly Baron Schneller stood
beside him. "You are entirely wrong to be worried," he asserted, and
Fritz laughed and shrugged his shoulders as if the affair in question
were a mere bagatelle. But the next day he wrote a note to the banker
begging him to dispose of his stock for him. The banker dissuaded him
from selling, the market was unfavourable; for the present he insisted
the only thing to do was to wait.

Fritz complied; shortly afterwards the banker advised him to take part
in a complicated transaction which Fritz took no pains to understand,
but which Schneller assured him positively would result in enormous
profits.

It was simply a reckless piece of stock-gambling.

Fritz agreed to everything--what did he know about it? His financial
affairs began to inconvenience him more and more. He wanted to be rich.

Just at this time he had to pay a couple of large bills, which had not
been presented for three years. He thought of his father. Good Heavens!
The old Count could not be angry still. But, after years of alienation
he could not in a financial difficulty make up his mind to appeal to
him without further preface.

"No, no, that will not do," he said to his small confidant, Siegi. "We
must first see whether grandpapa cares for us, and if he does then we
will make our confession; if not--_vogue la galère_."

He never guessed the terrible misery that menaced him. Poverty was a
phantom of which he had heard, without believing in it--it was as
incomprehensible to him as death to a perfectly healthy man.

And so Siegi's bonne had to dress the boy in his newest sailor suit,
and his father took him to be photographed.

The picture was excellent. Fritz took a boyish delight in it, and
showed it to all his acquaintances. He thought it impossible that the
grandfather could resist that cherub face. He wrote the old Count a
letter, every word of which came warm from his heart, telling him how
he longed to see him, and then he guided Siegi's hand--the boy had just
begun to write the alphabet large between pencilled lines--to write
upon the back of the photograph: "Dear grandpapa, love me a little--I
send you a kiss and I am your little grandson.              Siegi."

He awaited an answer in feverish but almost unwavering hope. The fourth
day brought a letter from Schneeburg. Fritz recognised his father's
handwriting and hurriedly tore open the envelope. It contained nothing
save Siegi's photograph, which the old Count had returned without a
word.

Fritz clinched his fist and stamped his foot. Then he lifted his little
son in his arms, kissing and caressing him as if to atone to the boy
for the insult cast on him.

It was impossible to ask any favour of one who could act thus, even
were he his father.

This was at the end of September, and shortly afterwards came ruin,
utter inevitable ruin! Not modest poverty which privately plucks our
sleeve and whispers, "retrench--economize!" no, but downright brutal
poverty, that seizes us by the collar with a dirty hand and wrenching
us out of the warm soft nest of our daily habits, casts us out into the
cold barren street with "Starve! vagabond! freeze!"

The million had disappeared, and when the banker, Schneller, announced
to Fritz his ruin, he added, "of course you cannot be forced to meet
your obligations, Herr Count. The matter lies partly in your own
hands."

Fritz stared at him! The worst of it all was that his property was not
sufficient to cover his indebtedness!

A multitude of petty creditors suddenly flocked around, saddlers,
tailors, shoemakers, upholsterers, whose bills mounted to thousands.
Fritz was beside himself. Small tradesmen must not lose by him. He
broke up his entire household, and disposed of everything, from the
oriental rugs in his smoking-room, to Siegi's black velvet suit and
Venetian lace collar.

But with all that he could do he could not pay every one. Some of the
lesser creditors were coarse and pressing, but most of them only meekly
twirled their caps about in their hands, murmuring, "We can wait, Herr
Count; we rely entirely upon the Herr Count."

He lived through each day dully, almost apathetically. The dreariness
and emptiness of his house made no impression upon him. When the time
came for him to part with his horses--a member of the _jeunesse dorée_
of Vienna bought them at a high price--he took Siegi and went down into
the stable, where he fed the beautiful creatures with bread and sugar,
and stroked their heads and patted their necks; and when he turned and
left them neighing and snorting with delight--it seemed to him that a
piece of his heart were being torn from out his breast!....

                               *   *   *

Every day his wife asked him when he was going to appeal to his father,
but he made no reply. After the insult that the old Count had offered
to his darling, nothing should ever induce him to make another appeal.
Nothing? So he thought then. "My father must have heard of my
unfortunate circumstances," he said to himself, "and if it does not
occur to him to help me, there is nothing that I can do."

He determined to find a situation,--of course one befitting his name
and station. If every ancient noble name to-day in Austria cannot lay
claim, as in France in Louis the Fourteenth's time, to an office at
court, or to a salary, there are at least a hundred kinds of sinecures
that can afford the means of living suitably for their rank, to young
scions of the nobility who have not sinned against the prejudices of
their caste.

His fatal marriage aggravated the difficulties of Malzin's position.
The horizon of his existence contracted and darkened more and more.

The dogged determination which, closing accounts with the past,
resolutely clears away the débris of a ruined life from the path which
is to lead to a new existence, Fritz did not possess. His was the
passive endurance of pride, which calmly bows beneath the burden, and
drags on with it to the end, simply because it scorns to complain or to
appeal to compassion.

_One_ feeling only was stronger within him than pride, and that was
love for his children.

Were he alone concerned, he would rather have starved than prefer a
second request after the first had been refused, but he could not bring
himself to see his children slowly starve.

He applied to several individuals who had always been on terms of great
intimacy with his family, but after some had refused to receive him,
and others had ignored his request with a forced smile, he felt
paralysed, and resigned himself for a while to melancholy, brooding
inactivity. There must come a change sooner or later, he thought. In
the meanwhile he lived upon--debt, and could not comprehend why
professional usurers should need so much urging to induce them to lend
him, the probable heir of Schneeburg, a paltry couple of hundred
gulden.

Had he been more exactly informed of his father's circumstances, this
would not have surprised him so much. But he had heard nothing of the
old Count for years. A strange repugnance had prevented his speaking of
him to strangers,--it would only expose his own unfortunate
estrangement from his father to their indiscreet curiosity. Every day
he had a secret hope, although he hardly admitted it to himself, that
the old Count would take pity upon him, and suddenly appear
providentially.

But his father did not appear, and thus it was that finally he, Fritz
Malzin, with his wife and children occupied two dingy third-story
rooms in Leopold street, rented from his mother-in-law, who kept a
lodging-house for gentlemen.

Charlotte from morning until night bewailed her husband's
unconscionable heedlessness, but in reality she was much happier than
in Wipling street. To lounge about all the morning in a slatternly
dishabille, to help prepare the breakfast for the lodgers, to gossip a
little and flirt a little, and then in the evenings to array herself in
the finery which she had contrived to smuggle into her present
quarters, and to go to Ronacher's or some other beer-garden, where half
a dozen second and third-rate coxcombs addressed her as 'Frau
Countess,' and paid court to her,--such a life was bliss after the
tedium of her former existence. She went out every evening, leaving
Fritz at home with the children, revolving all kinds of improbable
possibilities which might suddenly improve his condition, and devising
schemes dependant upon lucky accidents that never happened.

Sometimes a little warm hand was thrust into his; and a soft voice
whispered to him: "Papa, tell me a story!"

Then rousing himself from his sad reveries, he would try to make up
some merry tale, but Siegi would shake his head, and nestling close to
his father with his arms clinging about his neck and his head leaning
against his father's cheek would beg, "Tell me about Schneeburg, Papa."

The winter with its long nights wore on in close rooms poisoned by
coal-gas, and pervaded by the cramping sensation of wretched
confinement. Spring came; Siegi had lost his rosy cheeks, and his merry
laugh. Every afternoon towards sunset his father took him out to walk.
The child coughed a little.

One warm day in April the clouds were hanging low, while ever
and anon in the narrow street a swallow skimmed anxiously to and fro.
Siegi was weary, and his little feet dragged one after the other,
when suddenly he pulled his father's hand, joyously shouting: "Papa,
papa--look--don't you see?--there is our Miesa!"

Fritz looked. It did not take an old 'cavalry man' an instant to
recognize in an animal harnessed to a fiacre, one of his handsome
horses of aforetime.

"Miesa! how are you, old girl?" he said caressingly.

The creature recognised him instantly, and whinnied her delight. Fritz
patted her neck and lifted Siegi up that he might kiss the white star
on the animal's forehead, as he used to do.

Then they resumed their walk. Without saying a word Fritz stroked his
little son's cheek;--it was wet with tears. The poor little fellow was
crying silently, for fear of grieving his father!

Fritz felt a strange, choking sensation. He took the boy to a
confectioner's, but the child could eat nothing.

That night Siegi was taken ill. The physician pronounced it
inflammation of the lungs. Lying in his father's arms for three days
and nights, the boy suffered fearfully, and then the crisis was over.
At the end of three weeks the little fellow could leave his bed, but he
was paler and weaker than ever.

During Siegi's illness Fritz borrowed a hundred gulden from a former
friend. Shortly afterwards he saw this friend in the street and was
advancing to meet him when he saw him cross over the way with the
evident intention of avoiding him. Fritz's blood was stirred at this,
and blind, reckless rage seized him. The paltry hundred should be
repaid at any cost. He sold his winter overcoat, and the golden
chronometer which his father had given to him on his sixteenth
birthday, and which was to have been an heirloom for Siegi.

He paid the hundred gulden--but ah, how often he repented it!



                              CHAPTER IX.


Among the lodgers at the widow Schmitt's, as Charlotte's mother was
called, was a sallow-faced old woman, whose room was a small, dark,
comfortless hole, and who wore the same shabby, green gown, summer and
winter, year in and year out. She was known as Frau Pick, and she was a
professional beggar.

One day, on returning from some humiliating errand, Fritz heard one of
his sisters-in-law call to his wife: "Pick is waiting."--"I am ready,"
was the reply, and Charlotte came out into the passage with a letter in
her hand. Fritz sprang to meet her, snatched the letter from her,
forced her back into the room and, entering, closed the door behind
them.

The letter was addressed to the archbishop of Vienna.

"What does this letter contain?" he asked angrily, seizing her so
rudely by the wrist, that she screamed and fell upon her knees before
him; she did not answer his question, however.

"Is it a begging-letter?"

"Yes."

He thrust her from him indignantly. "Shame upon you!" he exclaimed.

"It is all your fault!" she replied scornfully, "if you won't work, I
must beg."

"Ah!"--he staggered as if from a blow full in the face, snatched up his
hat and went out.

Before night he had a situation in the office of a tramway company, at
a hundred gulden a month.

The summer was more sultry than usual. The air in Vienna seemed
fever-laden. The trees in Ring street no longer rustled dreamily as in
Spring, there was a sound among their parched leaves as of a low cough.
If a rose bloomed out in the public gardens in early morning, before
evening it looked dry and withered, like a reveller returning from a
masked ball; the blue Danube was as tawny as a canal, and Vienna
reminded one more than ever of Manzanares.

The theatres were deserted, the tramways overcrowded, all who could
went out into the country. Pedestrians hugged the wall on the shady
side of the street; the skies were one monotone of blue. The glare of
the house-fronts made the eyes ache.

The pestilent summer atmosphere of cities hung over Vienna, saturated
with decay, and reeking with filth. A deadly epidemic broke out; in
almost every block one met a sad litter, borne by silent sanitary
officials.

                               *   *   *

Siegi grew weaker and more weary day by day; he coughed a little but
never complained. Fritz consulted his old family physician who merely
prescribed nourishing food and country air.

Fritz insisted upon knowing whether any danger was to be
apprehended--the old man remained silent, and of a sudden the father
felt that freezing thrill that comes of touching a corpse. For the
first time he recognized the possibility of the child's death.

All his pride broke down at the thought; he wrote immediately to his
father, unfolding to him his own need and the child's condition, and
imploring permission to bring the boy to Schneeburg.

Days passed into weeks; his letter was unanswered. He lived on
mechanically with sufficient mental force to fulfil his duties at the
office. He performed them slowly and with difficulty, but he was
treated with consideration. Even had there been a way close at hand out
of the misery he could hardly have found it now.

Every morning Siegi's weak little voice sounded weaker, as he said,
when his father left him, "Come back soon!"

Why had he repaid that hundred gulden? There was no conceivable
humiliation to which he would not gladly now have submitted could he
but procure for Siegi the comforts that were needed! But to have to
haggle over the price of an orange or of an ice!

There were moments, when he ground his teeth, and in his heart avowed
that he was ready and willing to beg, to steal for Siegi. But not every
one who will, can be a rogue. Once or twice he met a 'friend' who still
lingered in Vienna. He advanced towards him--with words of begging on
his lips--only to be seized with a fit of trembling--no, he could
not--he could not--it was impossible!

And scarcely had his 'friend 'passed by before he cursed himself for
his--cowardice. Weaker and weaker grew the child. Once Fritz took it to
the Prater to amuse it. The gay music of the band, the carriages, all
that the summer had left, in which the boy had once found such delight,
now cut him to his little heart.

They sat together upon a bench, beneath the dusty trees. The child
looked at the throng of vehicles with eyes wide and fixed--the father
looked at his son. "Does it amuse you? Do you like it, Siegi?" he
asked, bending tenderly over him; the boy smiled faintly and said,
"Yes, Papa!" But, in a few moments he leaned his tired little head
against the father's breast and lisped, "Let us go home."

Only a little while longer and Siegi could not leave his bed--and Fritz
heard the dread word 'consumption!'

He knew that it could be only a question of weeks, and sometimes said
to himself that it would be better for the child if death would come
quickly. But he thrust the thought from him. No, no, he yearned to hear
as long as possible the little voice, and to stroke the thin cheek. The
rosy childish face was wan and pinched, the arms looked like little
brown sticks, the delicate tracery of the blue veins about the temples
grew daily more distinct, the brow grew more like marble....

Then came mornings when Fritz, going early to his office, feared that
he should not find the child living upon his return in the evening. As
he mounted the stairs when he came home his heart would seem to stand
still--he would enter the room very softly. The little head would move
on the pillow, a hoarse little voice would gasp: "Papa!" and the
father's heart would leap for joy!

It came towards the end of August--in a heavy, stifling, sultry night.
He was alone with his child.

Charlotte had retired; she could not look upon death. The heat was
intolerable. The windows were wide open, but they looked out upon a
court where the air was no cooler than in the sick-room. The fragrance
of the roses and mignonette, which Fritz had brought home with him to
perfume the air a little, floated sadly through the small room. It
seemed as if the death struggle of the flowers mingled with the death
struggle of the child. Siegi lay in his little bed, propped up with
pillows. His breathing was so short and quick that it could hardly be
counted. "Papa!" he gasped from time to time.

"What, my darling? Do you want anything?"

"No,--only--when are we going to Schneeburg?"

"Soon, my pet--very soon!"

The child became half unconscious, tossed from side to side, and
plucked vehemently at the sheet with his emaciated little hands.
Delirium set in, he laughed aloud, chirrupped to imaginary horses, and
then with a thin, quavering little voice, began to sing an old French
nursery song that his bonne had taught him:

"_Il était un petit navire_...."

Poor Fritz's blood ran cold, he took the child in his arms, and clasped
him close. The cooler air of dawn breathed through the room--the light
of the poor candle flickered strangely. Gray shadows danced on the wall
like phantoms--the low chirp of a bird was heard in the distance.

Suddenly the flame of the candle leaped up and died out. Fritz started
and gazed at the child--it was dead!



                               CHAPTER X.


The next morning Fritz received a letter from his father enclosing a
draft for a thousand-gulden note, coupled with the old Count's cordial
and anxious words. His son's last letter had reached him in the most
complicated roundabout way; he had just returned from a voyage to
Australia, and had known nothing of Fritz's unfortunate circumstances.

In reply Fritz merely wrote, "The child is dead."

                               *   *   *

It was the afternoon after the funeral, and Fritz was all alone in the
house. Charlotte had taken the children for a little walk; there was a
sharp ring at his door. He rose and opened it. A white-haired old
gentleman of distinguished mien, asked, "Is Count Malzin----"

"Father!" stammered Fritz.

The old man advanced a step, eagerly scanned the face that had grown
wan and haggard almost past recognition, then opened wide his arms and
clasped his son to his heart. All anger, all bitterness on both sides
was forgotten.

They sat down in the dim, sordid room in which Siegi had died, and
Fritz laid bare his heart.

They sat close enough to read the deep sympathy in each other's eyes,
and to hear each other's low tones, and in the midst of his
inconsolable grief, Fritz rejoiced in being once more with some one who
understood him, some one to whose loving compassion he could confide
the wretchedness of his life.

He told his father everything; of his marriage, of his imprudence--of
his misery. He soon perceived that the old Count had believed Charlotte
to be worse than she was, and therefore had refused to acknowledge
Siegi as his grandson.

But that was all past and gone! He made his son bring out all the
likenesses of the dead boy, and was absorbed in every detail concerning
him; he asked endless questions, and seemed as if he would thereby fain
have assumed a share of his son's overwhelming grief, relieving Fritz
of it to that extent at least.

At last steps were heard outside, and Charlotte entered with the
children. Fritz winced.

"Father, this is my wife."

The grand old Count advanced to meet her as if she were a princess,
called her "daughter" and kissed her forehead. He could not
sufficiently caress and pet the children.

The next morning Fritz with the children paid him a visit at the Hotel
Munsch, and they took leave of each other with affectionate cordiality.

"Of course you will come to Schneeburg with your family as soon as
possible," the old Count said anxiously, as they parted. "You need your
home, my poor boy."

And Fritz rejoiced--in the midst of all his grief,--at the thought of
home.

They had already begun to get ready to leave Vienna, when a letter
arrived from Schneeburg.


"Dear Fritz,

Hard as it is to write it, I must ask you not to give up your situation
in Vienna for the present. My poor, dear boy, I can do nothing for you
until my affairs are arranged. Only have patience and all will soon be
well, etc...."

                               *   *   *

When the hoped-for arrangement was completed it was discovered that the
old Count was penniless. In his costly expedients to raise money he had
begun frittering away his property and then--it seemed incredible--he
became infected with the general mania for finding millions on the
highway, and had entangled himself in a colossal speculation in
Australian gold mines. Conte Capriani, with whom he had become
acquainted in Vichy, had convinced him of the certainty of gain in the
affair. Capriani's name alone was sufficient warrant for the value of
the stock. The old Count was made president of the company; his name
was used to inspire the public with confidence,--his noble old name
which he had borne so honourably for sixty-five years! The first year
the company paid enormous dividends--out of their capital. In the
second year matters began to look suspicious. The Conte slowly withdrew
from the scheme--he found that certain things were different from what
he had supposed; he had been falsely informed.... He advised the Count,
who went to Paris to consult him, to dispose of his stock slowly
without exciting suspicion. But the Count would not listen to anything
of the kind. He had pledged himself to the public, his easy confidence
had induced hundreds of men to buy the stock, he had urged many of them
to do so thinking it was for their advantage. Among them were poor
people, impoverished relatives, nay even old servants, his children's
former tutors who had invested all their savings in this unfortunate
scheme, upon his recommendation. He was beside himself, bought up as
much of the stock as he could, and went himself to Australia to
investigate matters. He, who in his whole life from his school-days up
had never known anything of figures beyond what enabled him to keep the
reckoning at whist, now ciphered and calculated, bringing all his
powers of mind to bear upon the possibilities of profit.

He found matters by no means as desperate as had been represented in
Europe--the affair might have been made a success with prompt energetic
management; what was needed was more capital. But the confidence of the
stockholders was shaken; the Count upon his return to Europe tried in
vain to issue fresh stock, he applied fruitlessly to the Conte
Capriani, representing to him that as the originator of the entire
speculation he was bound to help. The Conte maintained that he was
powerless.

The stock fell lower and lower, fell with bewildering rapidity.

One day Fritz received a letter: "Schneeburg must be sold."

The poor fellow felt as if his sore heart had been struck with a
hammer. His sad yearning for his home was turned to a burning thirst--a
consuming desire. He was as homesick as a peasant, nay--as a Slav.

Men who live in cities and change their dwelling-place three or four
times, never strike root anywhere, and consequently can have no
conception of the homesickness that attacks a man who is separated from
the soil upon which he and his ancestors for generations have been born
and bred. A man thus bred has become acclimated like a plant, to this
special air, this special soil, and however long the years of absence,
wherever he may have lived meanwhile, he will always yearn for 'home.'

Fritz had caught a cold upon leaving Wipling street, at the same time
that Siegi had been taken with the illness that ended in his death.
Fritz recovered, but his health was shattered, his voice was husky, and
h» had feverish nights which in spite of weariness were wakeful. For
hours he would pace the wretched room where stood Siegi's empty little
bed, which he had not brought himself to have removed, and would
conjure up visions of Schneeburg.

Sell Schneeburg! In his pain at this fresh blow he forgot for a moment
his grief for his child. Memories of 'home' thronged about him with a
vividness that savoured of mental hallucination. He saw the morning sun
glitter in the dewy moss that lay green on the thatched roofs of the
village, he saw the very puddles before the houses wherein the swine
wallowed, and a flock of fowls scratching on a muck-heap, and a group
of shivering children cowering beneath the cross before the smithy.

He saw the pond in the middle of the village; the little dusky waves
swelled and rippled beneath the nipping wind of autumn and a single
rugged elm cast its long reflection across the broken surface. He saw
the soft black soil on the edge of the pond stamped with countless
impressions of webbed feet. He saw the geese themselves, hissing and
flapping their wings while the sunlight played upon the rough pink
surface of their plucked breasts. Thatched roofs, swine, and geese had
certainly never interested him much--these detailed impressions had
been made upon his mind all unconsciously--they belonged to the whole.

He saw long transparent wreaths of mist like ghostly shrouds, floating
above the freshly-ploughed fields, and the crows flapping above the
brown leafless trees, in gloomy processions, mourners for the dead
summer,--a dun-coloured cow was standing between two gnarled
apple-trees by the way-side, looking inquisitively out of her dark-blue
glazed eyes.

The pictures grew confused, and again distinct. He saw the park with
its broad emerald meadows where the venerable trees grew in large dense
clumps. He knew the voice of every single tree, the rustle of the oak
differed from the murmur of the copper-beech; he knew the very tree
which would turn orange-coloured in autumn, which one only yellow,
edged with black, and which one dark crimson. They stirred their grand
old heads and broke into a chant; it sounded like a magnificent choral
through the still autumn air, while single leaves, frosted with dew, as
with delicate molten silver, loosed their hold and sank slowly
fluttering down upon the grass.

And the kitchen garden, that Paradise of childhood, with its hoary
apricot-trees, whose mellow fruit always dropped on the old-fashioned
sage beds. Ah, what fruit it was, so big, and so yellow, and so juicy!

Then he laughed softly at something that had happened twenty years
before, and--waking from his visions, and his reverie, passed his hand
across his brow. Where was he? Sitting in the room of a miserable
lodging-house, beside the empty little bed of his dead child.

He lay down very weary. The last thing that he saw distinctly before
falling asleep was a large circle of red gravel in front of Schneeburg
Castle, furrowed with delicate ruts. These ruts formed the figure of
eight--the first figure of eight which he, a boy of fifteen, had drawn
in the gravel with his father's four-in-hand--the delicate fragrance,
not perceptible to every one, of wild strawberries floated past him,
and then all faded. Sleep compassionately laid her hand upon his heart
and brain. He slept the sleep of the dead for a couple of hours, and
the next morning his torture began afresh.

He could have wandered barefoot like a beggar to Schneeburg, only to be
able to fling himself down on that dear earth, and kiss the very soil
of his home.

The sale was long in concluding,--purchasers chaffered as usual, when
in treaty for an impoverished estate. There were fears that it would be
brought to the hammer. But in the spring Capriani appeared and offered
a price for Schneeburg which was at least sufficient to cover the
Count's indebtedness. His lawyer urged the old man not to delay
accepting this offer, but Siegfried Malzin still hesitated. For three
days he wandered about Schneeburg like one distraught, then he began to
yield conditionally, but all conditions vanished before Capriani's
energy. Malzin lost his head, and made many injudicious concessions. He
sold with the estate very many valuable articles that he ought to have
kept for himself. He forgot everything--and as a man at a fire will
finally rescue in triumph an old umbrella, and a child's toy, so he
rescued from his property, in addition to the family vault, which from
the first he insisted upon keeping, nothing, save--the stuffed charger
which stood in the hall, and which a Malzin had bestridden on the
occasion of the liberation of Vienna by Sobiesky.

The morning after the deed of sale had been signed, the former
possessor of Schneeburg was found dead in his bed--heart-disease had
delivered him from misery.

                               *   *   *

On one and the same day Fritz heard of the sale of Schneeburg and of
his father's death;--he was crushed.

Capriani had a weakness for taking into his service impoverished men of
rank. They worked but indifferently well, as he knew; but nevertheless
he preferred to employ them. He paid them well, and treated them
cruelly.

One day he offered Fritz the post of private secretary. To the
astonishment, nay, to the horror, of all his friends, Fritz accepted
the position.

On a cool evening in May he took possession with his wife and children
of the little cottage on the borders of the park, close to the kitchen
garden, and a sense of delight mingled with pain, thrilled through him,
as he hurried along the paths of the dear old home that now belonged to
another.

He had to warn his children not to run on the grass, not to pull the
flowers, and upon his own land!--yes, his own by right--he never could
appreciate that this land had ceased forever to be his.

He could not look upon Capriani except as a temporary usurper. He could
not but believe in counter revolutions--what was to bring them about he
could not tell.

Sometimes when he suddenly came upon old Miller, his former nurse who
had found an asylum with him, he would say: "Miller, do you remember
this--or that?" and upon her "yes, Count," he would smile languidly.

All the fire, all the impetuosity of his nature was extinct.

Sometimes he roused himself to feel that it was his bounden duty to do
something to reinstate his son in his rights. But what?

Conte Capriani, to be sure, had begun life with a single gulden in his
pocket, but that was quite a different thing. It was not for Fritz
Malzin to enter the lists with the stock-jobber, who knew so well how
to keep just within the letter of the law.

And so he continued to live, sadly resigned, dreaming of old times,
hoping for wonderful strokes of fortune that never took shape. All the
while he indulged in visions, and every evening, when he laid his
cards for Patience he consulted them, always asking the self-same
question--"Will Schneeburg ever revert to my children?"



                              BOOK THIRD.



                               CHAPTER I.


A jingling of bells, a clatter of hoofs from five spirited bays
harnessed in Russian fashion, and hardly seeming to touch the earth as
they fly along, a rattle of wheels, a whirling cloud of dust,--and
Oswald Lodrin's five-in-hand came sweeping round a corner in one of the
old-fashioned streets in Rautschin. People ran from everywhere to
stare,--a housemaid cleaning a window, leaned out at the risk of her
neck, to follow the gay equipage; two small boys going home from
school, paused and vented their delight in waving their caps and
cheering; Oswald nodded to them kindly. His eyes were aglow with
happiness, he had a white rosebud in his button-hole. His future
father-in-law sat beside him in the driver's seat, and Georges was on
the seat behind.

It was the day before the election. Oswald had just come from Castle
Rautschin, where, according to agreement, he was to pick up his uncle
to drive with him to the railway station, and he had taken this
opportunity to display his new five-in-hand to his betrothed. The five
horses clattered along gaily, as if to the races, instead of to a
railway station.

"We must hurry, there is the signal," said Georges half rising from his
seat, to gaze in the direction of the station.

"Don't be afraid," rejoined Oswald, "it is an Express, to be sure, but
if it sees us coming, it will wait!"

"True! I forgot we were in Austria," said Georges laughing.

The bays flew like birds along the avenue of ancient poplars. The
sun shone on their trim, plain harness, upon their glossy hides;
white and blue butterflies were fluttering above the earliest
wayside-flowers. A few minutes later Oswald drew up before the station,
built Austrian-wise, after the ugly fashion of a Swiss cottage.

"Sapristi! He too is going to the election," exclaimed Georges, as he
observed Capriani's equipage.

"You may be very sure he will not hide his light under a bushel,"
grumbled Truyn.

"And I quite forgot to have a railway coupé reserved for us. Did you
remember it, uncle?" asked Oswald.

Time passed. Oswald's servant hurried off to get the tickets, and when
the gentlemen went to take their places, they found that there were but
two first-class coupé's, one occupied by a lady with her invalid
daughter, the other by the Caprianis, father and son. What was to be
done? It was most vexatious; the three gentlemen, with their servants
bearing portmanteaux and dust-coats, the station master and the
conductor, all stood on the platform in consultation, while the train
patiently waited.

The third signal whistled, Conte Capriani appeared at the door of his
coupé with a smile of invitation.

Georges calmly shifted his cigar from one corner to the other of his
mouth.

"Better open an empty second-class for us," said Truyn frowning.

"I have none quite empty," the conductor explained; "but this gentleman
will get out at the third station."

"It is the cattle-dealer from Kamnitz," whispered Oswald with a little
grimace, after glancing through the window of the coupé. But it made no
difference to his uncle who immediately sprang in and took his seat,
followed by the young men. What if the man were a cattle-dealer? Truyn
remembered having seen him before, and at once entered into
conversation with him upon the price of meat, a conversation in which
Oswald, remarkably well up as he always was in all agricultural
matters, took part. The cattle-dealer alighted at his destination,
greatly impressed by the affability of the noblemen, and convinced that
all he had heard of their arrogance was false.

"If the coupé only did not smell so insufferably of warm leather!"
exclaimed Truyn after the dealer's departure, "and ugh! the man's cigar
was positively--"

"It often happens now-a-days," interposed Georges, "that a gentleman is
forced to travel second-class to avoid a stock-jobber. The question in
my mind is, when will our civilization be so far advanced that the
stock-jobber will travel second-class to avoid one of us."

"We shall never live to see that," said Oswald.

"The insolence of those people waxes gigantic," said Georges.

"It is our own fault; if we had not danced hand-in-hand with them
before the golden calf, they would not now be so presuming," observed
Truyn, "remember --73."

"Hm,--our worship of that idol showed simplicity, to say the least,"
remarked Georges, "the golden calf returned so much gratitude for our
homage."

"So much gratitude," growled Truyn. "I did not share in the worship,
but I do in the disgrace!--But enough of that! Can Capriani vote? He
has not owned Schneeburg for a year yet."

"No, but has he not another estate in Northern Bohemia?" asked Georges.

"You are right, he has," said Truyn. "I suppose he will vote with the
Liberals."

"In all probability!" replied Oswald. "_Tous les républicains ne sont
pas canaille, mais toute la canaille est républicaine_."

"I do not think that Capriani openly ranks among the Liberals,"
remarked Georges, "I know of a certainty that not long ago he placed
large sums of money for charitable purposes at the disposal of several
ladies of the Faubourg St. Germain."

"That was when he was a candidate for the Jockey Club," rejoined
Oswald. "I heard about that. Ever since he was black-balled there, he
sings a different song. He is organizing Liberal schools at Schneeburg,
and has a great deal to do with universal enlightenment."

"Confound universal enlightenment!" railed Truyn.

Oswald shrugged his shoulders, "I should not shed a tear for it," said
he, "in the first ardour of my charitable schemes I took some interest
in it, but I soon detected the wretched business, masked by that
high-sounding phrase;--it means universal distribution of rancid scraps
of learning sure to provoke an indigestion which as surely will develop
into an enlargement of the spleen. That kind of knowledge never widens
the horizon of the masses--it does nothing, except pick holes in their
illusions."

"Widen the horizon--pretty stuff that!" said Truyn, the reactionary.
"In my opinion a contracted horizon is the condition of happiness for
the masses."

"My dear fellow, if you attempt to advocate such views ...." began
Georges, half laughing, half indignant.

"My views, remember," interrupted Truyn, "are the result of years of
experience; I have lived here all my life, and know the people better
than any freshly imported Herr Capriani, blown hither, Heaven only
knows whence. What we want is a contented, well-fed, warmly-clad
people, that will play merrily with the children on Saturday evening,
go piously to church on Sunday morning, and not discuss too much on
Sunday afternoon."

"Yes, of course," assented Georges. "What you want, first and foremost,
is a people that won't disturb your peaceful enjoyment of life. There's
no denying that."

"I am perfectly open to conviction," asserted Truyn with dignity. "As
soon as you prove to me that these disturbers of the public peace
promote the happiness of the masses, I will ground arms before them."

"Happiness!--I don't believe that those people care as much as they
pretend for the happiness of the masses," said Oswald, looking up from
his note-book in which he had begun to scribble rapidly. "Happiness is
conservative--they would gain nothing from that. As far as I can see,
all they want is to rouse the discontent of the people by constant
irritation," and he turned to his note-book again. His scribbling did
not seem to run as smoothly as before.

"There you are right," agreed Truyn. "Their aim is to arouse the
discontent of the people--the discontent of the masses is the tool of
their entire party, and they will go on sharpening it until some fine
day they'll cut their fingers off with it, and serve them right."

"Decry the degenerate portion of the species as much as you choose,"
replied Georges, "you cannot but acknowledge that modern democracy has
been of immense service to mankind."

"_Verité de monsieur de La Palisse_," muttered Oswald, without looking
up.

"Don't talk to me of your 'modern democracy,' I made its acquaintance
in France--this 'modern democracy' of yours," thundered Truyn in a
rage. He drew a deep, shuddering breath, lighted a cigar and gazed out
of the coupé-window, apparently to allay his political anxiety by the
sight of his dearly-loved fatherland.

He did not succeed, however, for before a minute had passed, he turned
to Georges again and exclaimed angrily, "How delightful to contemplate
the next generation; what a charming prospect! A people all ignorant
atheists. I ask no severer punishment for the agitators who have
wrought the mischief in this generation, than to be obliged to govern
the next.

"I suppose they themselves would desire nothing better," said Oswald
smiling.

"That's perfectly true; all they are struggling for, is power,"
muttered Truyn.

"Excuse me, my dear friend; but what are you struggling for?" asked
Georges.

"What are _we_ struggling for," repeated Truyn, looking at him
compassionately, "what are we struggling for?--I will tell you;--for
the Emperor and our fatherland, which means for order and justice,
for the dignity of the throne, for the sanctity of home, for the
fostering of beauty and nobility, for all the wealth of human
achievement which we have inherited from the past, and ought to
bequeath to the future--in a word, Georges,--we are protecting
civilization."

"Bursts of applause from the Right--aha--congratulations to the orator
from the Left!" said Georges laughing, then turning to Oswald who was
still scribbling, he observed, "I rather think you have been taking
short-hand notes of your uncle's speech. We will send them to Otto
Ilsenbergh, he will be delighted."

"Nonsense!" said Oswald. "I am composing a telegram."

"In verse?" Georges asked innocently.

"Georges! As head of the family I desire to be treated with more
respect," said Oswald, laughing.

"Oh, it occurred to me, only because you were making so many
corrections," rejoined Georges.

"The thing is quite difficult--it must be so worded that Gabrielle
shall understand it,--and the telegraph operators shall not; I cannot
manage it."

"Suppose you refresh your powers with a glass of sherry," proposed
Georges, taking down an appetizing lunch-basket from the rack above his
head, and drawing forth a bottle and three wine-glasses.

The wine had a decidedly soporific effect upon the three travellers.
Truyn's political excitement was soothed, and after drinking to a
better future, all three leaned back in silence.

Truyn pondered upon the shy, timid confession that his wife had made to
him that morning early, very early, as they were sauntering together in
the park, while the sun's first slant rays were breaking through the
shrubbery, and the morning-dew was still glittering on the meadows.
"The whole earth seems bathed in tears of delicious joy," his young
wife had whispered, and then through her own happy tears she had begged
him to give her a 'really large sum' from her own money that she might
make some of the poor people on the estate happy too.

Gradually his thoughts wandered, and grew vague; the sounds of railway
bells, and the shrill whistle of the engine, the grating voices of
conductors, and the monotonous whirr of wheels mingled, subsided, and
died away; his latest impressions faded, and, instead of the green park
of Rautschin, a dim Roman street rises upon his mental vision, with a
procession of masked torch-bearers accompanying a coffin;--the picture
changes, the Roman street is transformed to a lofty hall so tragically
solemn that the sunbeams lose their smile as they enter the high
windows and glide pale and wan through the twilight gloom to die at the
feet of ancient statues. He looks about him, lost in surprise and
wondering where is he?--in the tomb of the Medici?--or among the
monuments of the melancholy gray church of Santa Croce? No, he suddenly
recollects it is the Bargello, and yon white marble, that gleams
through the dim religious light in such lifelike, or rather deathlike,
beauty, revealing, as it lies outstretched, such clear-cut, nay, such
sharp outlines, and the noble attenuation of youth, eager and fiery, is
Michael Angelo's 'dead Adonis,' the ideal embodiment of the springtime
of manhood crushed in its bloom. Anon vapour curls upward, and the
crimson flicker of torches plays over the white statue, the masked
torch-bearers stand around it, a wailing chant echoes through the
hall--who is it lying there listlessly, with the ineffable charm of a
fair young form, which death has suddenly snatched, before the poison
of disease has wasted and deformed it?--

Truyn started, broad awake, every pulse throbbing.--Merciful God! how
could he dream anything so horrible! Oswald sat opposite, with eyes
half-closed, an extinguished cigarette in his hand. His face wore the
expression of absolute content which is so often strangely seen on the
face of the dead and which none except the dead ever wear, save the
few, who, by God's grace, have been permitted to behold Heaven upon
earth. Truyn could not away with a sensation of painful anxiety.

"For Heaven's sake, Ossi, open your eyes!" he exclaimed.

"What is the matter?" asked Oswald.

"Nothing," said Truyn, "only...." at that moment the train stopped.

"Pemik!" shouted the conductor, "ten minute's stop," and then opening
the coupé door he politely informed the travellers that another coupé
was now at their service.



                              CHAPTER II.


Pernik is the junction of several railway lines, trains coming from two
separate watering-places connect here with trains from Prague, and set
free the travellers who have tried the virtue of the various baths.
Ladies with faded faces, and bouquets of faded flowers, were wandering
about looking for hand-bags gone astray or for waiting-maids, men were
busily munching, glad to forget over their first sandwich, the dietetic
limitations to which they had been forced to submit while undergoing a
course of the baths; locomotives were hissing and puffing like monsters
out of breath after a race; the sunshine glittered on the flat roofs of
the railway-carriages, the whole atmosphere reeked with coal-dust, and
hot iron; there was the usual bustle of hand-cars piled with luggage
pushed along the rails, of the shifting of cars on the tracks, and of
vendors of fresh water and Pernik beer, with newspaper boys loudly
extolling their various wares.

Escorted by the obsequious conductor, and followed by the servants, the
three conservatives were making their way through the hurly-burly when
they nearly ran against a young man, who, with his hands in the pockets
of his rough coat, was striding through the crowd, never turning to the
right or the left, in a line as straight as that of the railway between
St. Petersburg and Moscow.

"Pistasch!" exclaimed Oswald.

"Ah, I thought I should meet you somewhere."

All began to talk at once, when suddenly Pistasch turned, and said,
"Good-day!" to Conte Capriani, who was coming towards him with extended
hand, and an air of great cordiality.

Oswald and Truyn held themselves very erect, looked straight before
them, and, passing Pistasch and Capriani, entered their coupé.

"I do not understand Kamenz," said Truyn, after they had installed
themselves comfortably, and Georges had called from the window for a
glass of Pernik beer. Oswald, his elbows propped on the frame of his
window, was taking a prolonged observation of the interview between
Capriani and Pistasch Kamenz.

The third bell rang--the speculator and the nobleman shook hands and
separated; then Pistasch approached the coupé where sat the three
conservatives, and asked, "Any room in there for me?"

"Room enough, but we're not sure that we ought to let you come with us,
you renegade!" said Oswald, unlatching the coupé door. "Are you too
going to Prague for the election?"

"No," said Pistach lazily, "not if I know it, in this heat. I am going
to the races--but I shall vote."

"Such indifference, nowadays, is culpable," said Truyn gravely. "This
is a serious time."

"Bah! it is all one to me, who goes to the Reichsrath;--moreover,
whoever he may be, he exists principally for the benefit of the
newspapers," replied Pistasch apathetically.

Only a few years previously, Truyn himself had defined the Reichsrath,
as a 'circus for political acrobats'--but his political views were now
daily gaining in consistency.

An interest in politics is usually aroused in men of his stamp, when
they are between forty and fifty years of age--at a time when the taste
for champagne begins to yield to that for claret. Almost all men are
thus aroused at two different periods of life; in early youth and in
late middle age.

That which ten years before Truyn had ridiculed, was now invested for
him with a sacred earnestness.

"We must be true to our convictions for our country's sake!" he
exclaimed.

"Has any one really any convictions,--political ones I mean?" asked
Pistasch, "my conviction is that it is all up with us, but the country
will last as long as I shall--after that I take no interest in it."

"And is this your latest creed?" asked Truyn indignantly.

"It is a very time-honoured creed, uncle," said Georges, "if I am not
mistaken it was the fundamental article of faith of that lugubrious
Solomon in a full-bottomed wig, who played such unholy pranks in
France, under Voltaire's reign. '_Apres nous le déluge!_'"

"Louis Fifteenth, do you mean?" asked Truyn.

But Pistasch observed, "You have become fearfully erudite while you
have been abroad, Georges. I fancy you are preparing to apply for a
professorship of history, in the event of the social cataclysm that
seems at hand."

All the while the train is rushing onwards, past pastures seamed by
narrow ditches, past turnip-fields, past villages with ragged thatched
roofs, and tumble-down picket fences upon which red and blue garments
are hanging to dry, while lolling over them are sunflowers, with yellow
haloes encircling their black velvet faces. Nowhere is there a trace of
romantic exuberance, everything tells of sober, practical thrift.

A white, dusty road winds among slender plum-trees, and along it is
jolting a small waggon, drawn by a pair of thirsty dogs, their tongues
hanging from their mouths; a labourer, half through his swath in a
clover-field, fascinated by the whizzing train, stops mowing and stares
with open mouth and eyes.

Truyn has become absorbed in the contents of 'The Press' which he holds
stretched wide in both hands. Oswald, Georges, and Pistasch have
improvised a table out of a wrap laid across their knees, and are
indulging in a game of cards.

"What's the news, uncle?" Oswald asked as he shuffled the cards.

"The authorities have forbidden the importation of rags at any Austrian
port; and a Jew has been butchered somewhere in Russia," Pistasch
replied incontinently. Truyn paid no heed to Oswald's question but all
at once he dropped the newspaper.

"What is the matter?" asked the young men.

"Wips Seinsberg has died suddenly!" said Truyn.

"Poor devil!" said Oswald, with about as much sympathy as we feel for
people not particularly congenial. "He was a good fellow, but somewhat
vacillating! Ever since his marriage I have seen very little of him."

"Was he married?" asked Truyn, who, during his stay abroad, had lost
sight of Wips Seinsberg.

"He married into trade," Oswald said curtly.

It is odd; elsewhere the daughters of tradesmen marry into the
nobility;--in Austria the sons of the nobility marry into trade!

"Into trade?" Truyn repeated slowly, and interrogatively.

"What did he die of?" asked Pistasch.

"It does not say," replied Truyn re-reading the notice in the
newspaper.

"Hm!--that looks suspicious," said Pistasch.



                              CHAPTER III.


The election is over. Pistasch has shaken hands with all the
middle-class land-owners, and has done wonders with that haughty
condescension of his wherewith he was wont to charm the hearts of such
people. Truyn has been enlightened by his political friends as to the
state of Bohemian affairs, and Oswald has been cordially congratulated
by every one. He is one of those universally popular men before whom
even envy and malice lower their weapons. His career has been hitherto
like the triumphal march of a young king--let him but appear, and lo!
an illumination, and flowers strewed before him.

After the election Truyn went to dine at the chief restaurant in
Prague with some friends whom he had met for the first time for
years;--Georges, Pistasch, and Oswald with the indifference of youth
took their lunch at 'The Black Horse,' whither they went from the
station. Then Georges departed to revive old associations in various
quarters of ancient Prague. Oswald's father had been wont to pass his
winters in Vienna, but his younger, poorer brother had his winter
quarters in the comparatively humble Moldavian town. Georges looked up
the confectioner who had been his first creditor, wandered dreamily
through the gray precincts of the public school where he had studied
for two years, after his tutors could do nothing more for him, walked
across the picturesque Carl's bridge to the Lesser-town, the hoary old
Lesser-town, the home of the aristocracy of Prague, cowering in pious
veneration at the feet of the Kaiserburg, like a grey-haired child who
still believes in fairy stories. There, in one of the angular,
irregular squares, just opposite two tall narrow church windows, stood
the small palace where Georges passed his boyhood, and which his father
finally sold to a wealthy vinegar manufacturer. He scarcely recognised
it again. The old stucco ornamentation had been painted a staring red;
and a dealer in hams and sausages had his shop in the lower story.

"_Tempera mutantur!_" muttered Georges.

                               *   *   *

In a spacious room, tolerably cool, the shades all drawn down, the
furniture consisting of dim misty mirrors in shabby gilt frames, of
cupboards with brass hinges, and of green velvet chairs and sofas,
Oswald lay back, in an arm-chair, laughing heartily at Pistasch's
account of a late adventure.

Pistasch went to one of the three windows, and drawing the shade half
up looked out into the street.

The front of 'The Black Horse' looks out on the _Graben_, the _Corso_
of Prague.

All whom cruel fate had compelled to remain in town during the
intolerable heat of the season, were lounging about in the late
afternoon upon the heated pavement of the square.

Students with the genuine High-German swagger, over-dressed misses,
round-shouldered government clerks, a wretched poodle scratching at his
muzzle, an officer with jingling sabre, hack drivers, dozing peacefully
on their boxes while their horses, with forelegs wide apart and heads
in their nose-bags, dreamed of the 'good old times' when they caracoled
beneath the spurs of gay young cavalry officers,--those 'good old
times' whose chief charm for hack horses as for mortals, may perhaps
consist in the fact that they are irrevocably past.

The sultry heat beats down on all, debilitating, oppressive.

"How long have you known that Capriani," Oswald asked his light-hearted
friend, after a pause.

"I really cannot tell you," was the reply, "he once did me a favour
without knowing me, except by sight, and then--then he came to me one
day with some trifling affairs that he desired I should arrange for
him, and referred to the former kindness he had shown me."

"And ever since then you have been upon friendly terms with him?"

"Not quite all that," replied Pistasch, shrugging his shoulders, "but
what would you have? He consults me about his horses--his ambition is
to win at the Derby;--and I consult him about my investments, the
purchase of stock, etc."

"And each overreaches the other?" said Oswald, smiling.

"Up to this time I have the advantage," affirmed Pistasch, "and I have
a prospect too, of a sinecure as the President of the Grünwald-Leebach
stock company."

"With which of course you will have nothing to do except to inspire the
public with confidence, and rake in money," said Oswald.

"Incidentally," Pistasch rejoined calmly.

Oswald drummed upon the arms of his chair, sitting erect, and looking
very grave.

"Take care, Pistasch; 'those who lie down with dogs, are sure to get up
with fleas.'"

"You are a reactionary martinet," growled Pistasch. "Am I the first to
associate with speculators? Barenfeld, Calmonsky, Hermsdorf--are all
men very different from myself, but you see their names at the head of
all kinds of banks and stock companies."

"Unfortunately;" said Oswald, "that charlatan of a Capriani has
infected you all--you all want to learn from that gentleman the secret
of manufacturing gold. But you will learn nothing, and will inevitably
all burn your fingers. I should think you might take warning from poor
old Count Malzin."

"Oh, Malzin was such an unpractical man, he looked at everything from
an ideal point of view," replied Pistasch.

"So much the better!" exclaimed Oswald eagerly. "That was why
throughout the whole business it was his property alone that was
sacrificed. You cannot imagine the harm done by this dabbling in
speculation. It undermines our whole social order. We are at best not
much else than romantic ruins. So long as the ruins can succeed in
inspiring the public with respect, just so long they may remain
standing. But let them once lose their prestige, and they will be
regarded as useless rubbish, and as such be cleared away as soon as
possible. What preserves us is a strict sense of honour, and a
contempt for ignoble methods of money getting. Pride without a
chivalric back-ground is but a shabby characteristic, and if ...."

Some one knocked at the door, and the waiter entering handed Oswald a
visiting-card.

"_Le comte_ Alfred de Capriani," read Oswald, "it must be for you," he
said contemptuously, without noticing the few words written under the
name, as he tossed the card to Pistasch.

"No," said the latter, "it is for you--look there--read,--'begs Count
Lodrin for a brief interview.'"

"Extraordinary presumption!" grumbled Oswald, and then, with a shrug,
he told the waiter to show the Conte in.

"You consent to receive him?" asked Pistasch.

"Good Heavens, yes!" replied Oswald, smiling, "he has just done me a
kindness, my dear Pistasch, and has come for his pay. There are people
who play the usurer with their kindnesses as well as with their money.
I will tell you the story by-and-by."

"Very well. Adieu, for the present; in half an hour I'll come and take
you to the theatre;--she's not bad,--Giuletta as _Gretchen_."

And Pistasch departed; a minute afterward Capriani entered the room.



                              CHAPTER IV.


There are two ways of manifesting haughtiness,--that of Count Pistasch,
and that of Oswald. If Pistasch had to receive an obnoxious visitor, he
kept his cigar in his mouth, and his hands in his pockets;--Oswald, on
the other hand, at such times observed the most marked and the most
frigid politeness.

He received Capriani with a slight inclination of the head, and the
conventional form of greeting, invited him to be seated, and took a
chair opposite, naturally supposing that the Conte, with business-like
promptitude, would immediately begin to speak of the purpose of his
visit;--but no!--the Conte remained mute, only rivetting his large eyes
upon the young man. Why should Oswald find those eyes so annoying? How
came it that he seemed to have seen them before in some familiar face?
There was nothing bad in them--on the contrary at that moment they
expressed only intense admiration, an expression, however, by no means
to Oswald's taste. There might be reasons why he should condescend to
discuss business-matters with Conte Capriani, but he thought it
entirely unnecessary to subject himself to the Conte's admiration. He
therefore broke the silence.

"You have done me a great favour," he began drily, "I shall be glad to
show my gratitude for it."

"Ah, such a trifle is not worth mentioning," said Capriani. "I was
exceedingly delighted to have a chance to testify the cordial regard
that I have always entertained for you."

"Quite insane," thought the young man. Then aloud. "I confess that this
regard is rather incomprehensible to me,--moreover,--I believe you
wished to speak with me upon business."

"Certainly!" replied Capriani, "but the business was merely a
pretext,--imagine it,--a pretext for me,--a business-man _par
excellence_--to obtain an opportunity of conveying my personal
sentiments ...."

"The obtrusiveness of these creatures passes all belief," thought
Oswald. "I beg you," he said, "to take into consideration the fact that
my time is,----unfortunately, not at my own disposal, and that
consequently it would be well to come to the point. I think I can guess
the purpose of your visit. Count Malzin informed me not long ago of
your wishes. They are, so I understand, that I should give my support
in an application to the government for a railway franchise, or rather
that the plan of the railway, already projected, should be modified to
meet your requirements--am I right?"

"A trifle,--a trifle," said Capriani taking a compendious map of
Bohemia out of his pocket and spreading it out upon the table between
Oswald and himself. "The projected track lies here--and here," he
explained drawing his finger along the map.

With something of a frown Oswald attentively followed the course of
that pudgy, sallow forefinger, saying in an undertone, "Pernik,
Zwilnek, Minkau,--that track seems to me entirely to conform to the
present pressing need of the country,--will you now show me the
alterations that you desire."

Capriani's forefinger began to move again, "Tesin, Schneeburg,
Barenfeld."

Oswald's face grew dark. "That track would be very disadvantageous for
the X---- district," he observed.

"You have estates in X----" said Capriani hastily, and imprudently.
Cautious and diplomatic as he was in business, his caution could go no
further than his comprehension of human nature. The circle of his
experience had hitherto comprised only those human weaknesses in
manipulating which he had always shown such consummate skill. He had no
faith in genuine disinterestedness; he held it to be hypocrisy, or, at
best, only traditional habit,--aristocratic usage. He had no idea of
how his words grated upon Oswald's sensitive ear. "You have estates in
X----, Herr Count."

Oswald's lips curled indignantly. "That seems to me a secondary
consideration," he rejoined sharply.

"Not at all," asserted Capriani, "I would not for the world run counter
to your interests, I have them almost as near at heart as my own...."

"That really is...." Oswald began to mutter angrily between his
teeth,--and then controlling his impatience by an effort, he said
coldly, lightly tapping the map as he spoke. "A little while ago you
did me a favour, and it would be a satisfaction to me to testify my
appreciation of your courtesy as soon as possible, but I think your
projected alteration of the railway very disadvantageous for the
country. However, I am quite ready to consult an expert."

The blood of the Cr[oe]sus tingled to his very finger ends. There
was something profoundly humiliating in Oswald's pale proud face. He
did not comprehend the young man's moral point of view, he perceived
only the haughtiness that rang in his words, and it aroused his
antagonism. Suddenly he remembered,--and there was a kind of bliss in
the thought,--the pecuniary embarrassments in which Oswald was probably
involved. This was the only ground upon which he could show
superiority, and make the young man aware of it. "Consult an expert? an
empty formality!" he said in a changed, harsh voice.

"Let us be frank--the interests of the country in this whole affair are
of very little consequence--private interests are at stake--yours and
mine; I grant that the X---- district will be damaged by the new track,
but on the other hand Tornow wilt gain immensely. And such trifles are
not to be despised even by a Count Lodrin,--the track passes
principally over very unproductive land in your estates my dear Count.
You have only to name your price for that land, and I am entirely at
your service."

For a moment there was absolute silence. An angry gleam flashed from
Oswald's eyes as he fixed them on the Conte.

The ticking of the two men's watches could almost be heard, the
lounging steps of the passers-by in the street below were distinctly
audible. At last Oswald said contemptuously and clearly: "The sale of
my pastures is not of the slightest importance to me in comparison with
public interests. Moreover, we, you and I, do not speak the same
language, we might talk together a long time and fail to understand
each other. Therefore it seems useless to prolong this conversation."
With which he arose.

Capriani, however, did not stir, but calmly returned the young man's
look. Something like triumphant scorn, something that was almost a
menace shone in his eyes.

"You refuse then to speak a word to the ministry in favour of my
scheme?" he asked slowly and with a sneer.

"Decidedly," replied Oswald.

With head slightly thrown back, twisting his watch chain around his
forefinger, he looked down at the Cr[oe]sus. He was one of the few to
whom haughtiness is becoming.

Was it possible that Capriani, the least imaginative, the most
avaricious of men, could succumb to this personal charm?

The Conte suddenly arose, gathered up the map, crushed it together, and
dashing it on the floor, stamped on it. "I could carry it out, and it
is my favourite scheme," he cried, "but what of that, I give it up,
Alfred Stein can do as he chooses. I throw away millions for your sake!
For your sake, Count Oswald!"

His agitation was terrible and extreme, as he held out both hands to
the young man.

Oswald angrily retreated a step. Had the man escaped from a lunatic
asylum?

Just then the door opened.

"Well, Ossi?" Pistasch called.--"Ah!"--perceiving the Conte--"beg
pardon for intruding."

"Not at all," said Oswald decisively, without looking at Capriani, "we
have finished."

The Conte bowed and withdrew. But he turned in the doorway and said,
"Might I beg you, Herr Count, to carry my remembrances to your honoured
mother. For although she does not know Conte Capriani--she will surely
be able to recall Doctor Alfred Stein." Whereupon he disappeared.

Oswald went to a marble table whereon stood a caraffe of water, and as
he took it up he met his own glance in the mirror hanging above the
table. A shudder crept icily over him. He poured out a glass of water,
and drank it at a draught.

"What is the matter?" asked Pistasch.

"Nothing," Oswald replied slowly, and almost dreamily. "Talking with
that--that scoundrel has agitated me. I feel as if I had just got rid
of some loathsome reptile."



                               CHAPTER V.


"Is smoking allowed, I should like to know?"

Three times Pistasch made this impertinent little remark as he gazed
about him in 'The Temple of National Art.' It was a temporary temple,
neither unsuitable, nor wanting in taste, but built in the rapid,
superficial manner of a circus, constructed over night as it were, and
it was now filled to overflowing with Bohemian lovers of music.

The four gentlemen were sitting in a proscenium box; Truyn and Georges
in front, Pistasch and Oswald behind them. The opera was Faust, the
_mise en scène_ was rather primitive, and the tenor had a cold; but the
principal part was sung by an Italian prima donna who had not only a
magnificent voice, but also a pair of uncommonly fine eyes.

It was during the third _entr'acte_ after the cantatrice had been
enthusiastically applauded that Pistasch allowed himself the foregoing
impertinent observation.

"Do you want to be turned out?" asked Georges.

"I spoke quite innocently, and seriously," said Pistasch.

Immediately afterwards he recognised in the next box a young man as a
certain Doctor of Law, with whom he had been associated a few years
before on the committee of a charity ball. He extended his hand to him
round the front of the box, asked respectfully after the health of a
deaf aunt, and after a talented sister, and even made inquiries about a
cross cat, a pet of the doctor's, all in faultless idiomatic Bohemian,
thus establishing his reputation as a thoroughly genial and national
nobleman.

Truyn looked extremely dignified, repeatedly expressed his great
pleasure in the progress made by his beloved countrymen, in the course
of the last fifteen years, as well as in the advancement of the
national cause. Once during the conversation he attempted to make use
of the Bohemian idiom, but he only excited the merriment of his
auditors.

Oswald was pale and silent.

"What is the matter with you, my boy?" asked Truyn, observing with some
anxiety, his weary air, and the dark rings round his eyes.

"I am not quite up to the mark," said Oswald.

"I hope you're not going to be ill," remarked Truyn.

"Bah! He hasn't yet recovered from his conversation with Capriani,"
said Pistasch. "For my part I cannot understand how you can be in the
slightest degree affected by what such a man as that says or leaves
unsaid."

"We are not all such philosophers as you," Georges observed, glancing
anxiously at his cousin.

The door of the box opened--a slender, dark-complexioned man entered.
"Good evening! How are you?"

"It was Sempaly, younger brother of Prince Sempaly, to attend whose
marriage he had just returned from the East. He was much tanned and his
sharp features wore an air of languid weariness. Prince Sempaly had a
few days previously married Nini Gatinsky. The new-comer was warmly
welcomed, and then, of course, inquiries were made concerning the
bridal pair, Truyn declaring his pleasure in their marriage.

"It pleases me too, exceedingly," said Sempaly, with more warmth than
he was wont to display. "They are both to be congratulated. Nini was
always a dear creature, and she is prettier now than ever; and a nobler
character than my brother's I have never known."

"One thing however surprises me," observed Pistasch, the indiscreet,
looking inquisitively at Sempaly, "your brother has been a widower for
five years; it cannot be that he has spent all that time in bewailing
the loss of the Princess. Why did he not grasp his happiness before?"

"I cannot enlighten you on that point," replied Sempaly with a shrug.

But Truyn said, smiling, "Perhaps it did not depend altogether upon
Oscar; Nini may possibly have had a voice in the matter."

"You too are going to have a wedding soon," said Sempaly, apparently
desirous of changing the subject. "How these young people are growing
up! If the resemblance to his mother were not so striking, I should
hardly recognise your future son-in-law. Let me congratulate you," and
he held out his hand to Oswald, "congratulate you most sincerely. And
how are you at home?" he added, turning suddenly to Truyn.

"All well," Truyn replied a little stiffly.

"Pray, carry to your wife and daughter the regards of--one who shall be
nameless," said Sempaly with bitterness.

A short pause ensued; then he began, "What do you think of Seinsberg's
suicide?"

"Suicide?" exclaimed Truyn.

"Did you not know it?" asked Sempaly.

"I suspected something of the kind," said Pistasch.

"What was the cause of it?" asked Truyn.

"Too intimate an acquaintance with the Conte Capriani?" surmised
Pistasch.

"You have about hit the nail on the head, Pistasch," said Sempaly,
turning his back to the stage and speaking towards the interior of the
box. "It is terrible to think how many of us have fallen victims in
quick succession to the rage for speculation."

"It is all over with us!" said Pistasch.

"Do have done with that eternal refrain of yours,"' said Truyn
indignantly.

"Well, Georges agrees with me, and even Ossi seems to be infected with
our disheartening ideas," rejoined Pistasch, "he declared to-day that
we were nothing but romantic ruins."

"Ah, the ruins in Austria stand firm;" rejoined Truyn, always the same
reactionary idealist, "of course we must consider how to adapt the
ancient structure to the needs of the age."

"Do you think so?" said Sempaly, twirling his moustache. "Would you
turn the Coliseum into a gas-works? For my part I am not greatly in
favour of the practical adaptation of historical monuments. Bah! leave
us as we are! The ruins will remain standing for some time yet, and in
virtue of their time-worn uselessness, will manage to overawe the
practical modern architecture that is springing up all around them,
until the next earthquake, and then--crash--" he made a quick,
characteristic gesture--"and after the downfall those who carp at us
the most now will perceive how large a share of poetry and civilisation
lies beneath the wreck. It is all over with us, but what is to come
hereafter?"

"What is to come hereafter? That is easy enough to foretell;" said
Georges quietly, "the universal dominion of the Caprianis!"

"You do Capriani by far too much honour," rejoined Truyn.

"Do not be too sure," said Sempaly, "he is more dangerous than you
imagine. It makes me fairly shudder to see how he encroaches upon us,
how he hates us, and how much mischief he can do us."

"I wish I knew how he contrived to scrape together so much money in so
short a time," sighed Pistasch plaintively.

"I have heard that like Sulla, and various other great men, he owes his
rapid success to the fostering protection of the other sex;--they say
he has had immense good fortune in that direction, and in spheres where
it was least to be expected," said Sempaly.

"What! such a low cad as he!" The elegant Pistasch shrugged his
shoulders incredulously.

"Well--" Sempaly gazed into space in a characteristic way; then still
twirling his moustache he said with a melancholy cynicism all his own:
"There are certain clumsy night-moths who are strangely skilled in
brushing the dew from weary flowers in sultry nights."

Oswald, who had been bestowing but a languid attention upon
the conversation, now exclaimed angrily, "I detest such vague
imputations,--no one has any right to sully the fame of a number of
unknown women by a suspicion that--that--" Confused by Sempaly's
surprised, searching glance, he stopped short.

"What is he thinking of?" asked Sempaly, looking round at the others.

"A betrothed lover cannot tolerate any aspersion cast upon the fair
sex," said Georges.

"_Qu'a cela ne tienne_," rejoined Sempaly, "the betrothed of Gabrielle
Truyn ought to be above such sensitiveness. Gabrielle comes from the
corner of the earth, which Love Divine sheltered beneath angels' wings,
when the devil showered his poison over all creation. Happy he who
meets with such a girl!"

"You do not know her," said Truyn, whose eyes, nevertheless, sparkled
with gratified paternal pride.

"I knew her as a child," said Sempaly slowly, "and I know who completed
her education."

For a moment they were all silent, and then Truyn began, "I must tell
you a delicious bit of gossip, Sempaly;--only fancy, in the spring, in
Paris, Capriani, one fine day, sent that goose, Zoë Melkweyser, to sue
for Gabrielle's hand! What do you think of that?"

"Incredible!" exclaimed Sempaly.

"Was it not?" said Truyn, who took special delight in recounting this
tale, and turning to Oswald, he went on, "Our Gabrielle and a son of
Capriani,--was there ever such a joke?"

But Oswald was silent.

"You seem inclined to take your rival extremely tragically," rallied
Pistasch.

"This is the tenth time, at least, that I have heard the story," said
Oswald angrily.

"You'll have an irritable son-in-law, Truyn, at all events," interposed
Sempaly with a sneer.

At this moment Pistasch, whose rage for popularity was always on the
alert, called out over the heads of Sempaly and Truyn, "Good evening,"
to a tall, red-haired young man who had slowly made his way to the
front of the pit. With delight in his eyes and a succession of nods,
the red-head acknowledged the greeting.

"Who is that?" asked Georges.

"The surveyor's clerk who assisted at the polls to-day--an old
acquaintance of mine," said Pistasch.

Oswald's glance fell upon the red-head. He had recognised in the man at
the polls the same whom he had struck in the face with his riding-whip,
in the dingy little inn-parlour. The encounter in the morning had made
no impression upon him, but now....

"Good Heavens, how ill you look!" exclaimed Truyn.

"I feel wretchedly," said Oswald in a forced voice, putting his hand to
his head, "do not let me disturb you, I will go home."

"You make me anxious, my boy," said Truyn, "wait a moment, and I will
go with you."

"No, no, pray uncle, it is really not worth the trouble, I can easily
find a fiacre," remonstrated Oswald, in a strained unnatural voice. But
Truyn, always anxious about those dear to him, could not be deterred
and the two left the box together.

"What is the matter with Lodrin to-night?" asked Sempaly as he took
Truyn's seat. "I could not understand him. Eight years ago, when I saw
him last, in Vienna, he was such a bright, merry fellow...."

"Well--" and Pistasch drew a long breath, "he is just beginning to
suffer from the Phylloxera."

Georges replied to Sempaly's further inquiries, for Pistasch had become
absorbed in an endeavour by sundry little grimaces to put out of
countenance the Siebel of the performance, who was skipping awkwardly
about the stage in boots much too tight. In this interesting amusement
Pistasch forgot all else beside.



                              CHAPTER VI.


"You really do not know what you wish," said Truyn in surprise when
Oswald changed his mind for the third time about leaving Prague. After
going with Truyn to the races on the first day succeeding the election,
he would not hear of attending them with Georges and Pistasch on the
second day. It was settled that he was to return home with Truyn; then
he began to waver and fidget, and at last he telegraphed,
countermanding the carriage that had been ordered to meet him, and got
up a sudden interest in the horses of the Y---- stud which were to race
for the first time. Before long, however, this interest subsided, and
to Truyn's great surprise Oswald informed him at a moment's notice,
that after all he was going home with him.

"You will send me over to Tornow, uncle--or shall I telegraph for the
horses?" asked Oswald.

"Good Heavens, no! You can spend an hour with us, at Rautschin and take
a cup of tea, and then I will send you home, you whimsical fellow,
you," replied his uncle, and so they drove together through the quiet
summer morning to the station.

The streets were deserted except by the street sweepers, with their
watering-pots busily laying the dust. The wheels of the hack rumbled
noisily over the uneven pavement past brilliant cafés and shop windows,
finally by the fine new National Bohemian Theatre, until their sound
was deadened by the wooden planks of the Suspension Bridge. As usual
the bridge is undergoing repairs; and this delays the hack, which, in
addition is impeded by a battalion of infantry and two lumbering ox
carts; there is a strong smell of mouldy planks, and hot pitch, by no
means adding to the fragrance of the morning air. But these trifling
annoyances cannot provoke Truyn, or destroy his pleasure in gazing on
his native town.

The Moldau, slaty grey in hue, with silvery reflections, flows among
its green, feathery islands, and, parallel with the modern suspension
monstrosity, the mediaeval Königsbridge, picturesque, and clumsy,--the
statues on its broad balustrade black with age like the primitive
illustrations in some old Chronicle,--spans the stream with its solemn
arches.

The Kaiserburg, surrounded by haughty palaces with an unfinished gothic
cathedral, looks down from the summit of the Hradschin, upon its image
mirrored in the water in waving lines, and columns tinged with green.
The morning sun glows on the five red glass stars before the green St.
John on the Karlsbridge, and far away on the left and right, far into
the receding distance, until all objects are mellowed and blent,
stretch the banks of the river like a long drawn symphony of colour
dying away in palest violet.

"After all, it is a fine, a magnificent city!" exclaimed Truyn with
enthusiasm.

"Pistasch said yesterday that Prague was a dismal hole," was Oswald's
reply, "you may both be right--it all depends upon how you look at it."

The phrase falls keen and chilling upon Truyn's enthusiasm, like ice
into boiling water. Surprised, and well nigh irritated, he turned to
his future son-in-law. As, however, he is far less sensitive than
good-natured, a glance at Oswald converts irritation into eager
compassion: "I wonder where you can have caught it?" he sighed, shaking
his head.

"Good Heavens, what?" asked Oswald.

"I wish I knew," said Truyn, "either intermittent fever or a slight
touch of jaundice,--for a man of your age and with your constitution
there's no cause for alarm, but your mother will reproach me with your
looking so ill!" Then Truyn leaned out of the window of the hack to
admire the Hradschin once more, before subsiding into a corner with a
sigh of content, and lighting a cigar.

Oswald's nature is certainly as poetic as Truyn's, and never before had
he driven over the suspension bridge, on a summer's morning, without
revelling in the beauty of the Bohemian capital. But to-day everything
is metamorphosed, beauty is ugliness. For him the world within two days
had undergone a transformation.

The human mind is like a mirror, upon the quality whereof depends the
character of the reflection in its depths; in one mirror all things are
reflected yellow, in another green, in a third every line is vague,
shadowy and undecided; one shows objects lengthened, another broadened,
and should the mirror be cracked, everything that it reflects will be
distorted.



                              CHAPTER VII.


Zinka and Gabrielle were at the railway station to meet Truyn, both
gay, cordial and surpassingly lovely. The sight of them, and their
merry talk at first brightened Oswald's mood. But suddenly at tea,
which on the travellers' account was a substantial meal, a wretched
sense of discomfort attacked him anew.

As he had often laughingly boasted of his punctilious fulfilment of any
commission from a lady, Gabrielle, before he left for Prague, had
entrusted to him, to have repaired, a gold clasp of Hungarian
workmanship set with rare, coloured stones.

When at the table she asked him, "How about my clasp--did you bring it
with you, or is the jeweller to send it?" he started, saying, "Forgive
me, I forgot all about it."

Gabrielle stared--"Forgot--my commission?"

"Good Heavens! I am not the only man who ever forgot anything!"
exclaimed Oswald irritably.

It was the first unkind word he had ever uttered to his betrothed.
Astonished and grieved she cast down her eyes. But Truyn, who, as long
as Oswald was well and merry, was continually finding fault with him,
being now seriously concerned about the young man's health took his
part.

"Have a little patience with him, comrade," said he to his daughter,
"he is not well,--look at him, a man who looks as he does must not be
scolded. When he is himself again we will both scold him roundly."

"Forgive me, Ella," entreated Oswald humbly, holding out his hand to
her. "I have an intolerable headache, uncle. Please have the carriage
brought round, I must go home."



                             CHAPTER VIII.


The road from Rautschin castle to Tornow goes directly through the
village, across the market-place, and past the inn, 'The Rose.'

Involuntarily Oswald glanced towards the unpretending front of the
tavern. Conceited and bedizened, with a dirty coat, and with bare feet
thrust into morocco slippers down at the heel, the same waiter is
standing in the doorway, just as he stood there on that rainy afternoon
in spring, when Oswald took refuge in the inn-parlour.

Was everything to be forever reminding him of that odious scene?--In
Prague he had fancied that he should soon be able to shake off the
hateful sensation produced by the interview with Capriani, just as we
all overcome the nervous shudder, caused by some revolting spectacle.
But no! for three days it had lasted and he could not rid himself of
it,--on the contrary this hateful sensation was growing more defined.

Of course he did not frame his suspicion in words, he was ashamed of
it; he called it an _idée fixe_, resulting from nervous irritability
still remaining from a slight sunstroke which he had had the year
before, but for all that, he could not away with it. Countless memories
of trifling events, dating from earliest childhood, crowded upon his
mind, all pointing, with a sneer, one way. There was a lump in his
throat, a weight as of lead upon his heart; the pain waxed more and
more intolerable. He could have leaped out of the carriage and have
flung himself down in the road with his face in the very dust, in an
agony of shame and horror!

For the first time in his life he was reluctant to go home; he was
afraid of meeting his mother. There was a kind of relief in the thought
that she was not expecting him, and would not come to meet him. He
clinched his hands tightly, and gazed abroad, striving by the sight of
distinct, familiar objects, to exorcise the evil phantoms that
possessed his soul. But everything that his eyes beheld was stamped
with ugliness and dejection. The leaves on the trees were limp and
dusty. The grain, lodged by the storms, lay on the ground, half rotted
in its own luxuriance. The farmers could recall no former year so rich
in promise, so poor in fulfilment.

When at length he reached the castle, he could hardly bring himself to
ask after his mother, or to go and look for her. How could he, while
his mind was filled with such vile abomination? He went up to his room,
where the first object that met his eyes was the white death-mask upon
the wall. He grew dizzy, a black, crimson-edged cloud seemed to rise
before him; he flung open the window,--the air cooled by the sunset,
and laden with the fragrance of flowers, played about him, and
refreshed him,--he breathed more freely.

Just then a soft, gentle sound fell upon his ear--his mother's voice!
He shivered nervously from head to foot. How sweet, how noble was that
voice!

"So, so, old friend; fine, good Darling! Bravo, old dog, bravo!"

These words spoken with caressing tenderness, reached him through the
silence. He leaned out of the window--there she sat in a large wicker
garden-chair, playing with his Newfoundland, that, with huge forepaws
upon her lap, was looking familiarly into her face. Her full, elegant
figure, about which some soft, black material fell in graceful folds,
stood out against the background of a clump of pale purple phlox in
luxuriant bloom. Oswald watched her in silence; the beautiful placid
expression of her features, the rich harmony of her voice, the tender
grace of her movements, as she passed her hands lovingly over the
dog's head and neck,--all appealed to him. He never could tire of
watching those hands. So slender and delicate that a girl of eighteen
might have coveted them, there was something more about them than mere
physical beauty, something clinging, pathetic, which is never found
in the hands of young girls or of childless women. They were true
mother-hands,--hands with an innate genius for soothing caresses;
Oswald recalled the time when he had been extremely ill, and those
delicate, white hands had tended him day and night with untiring
patience and unsurpassable skill;--he could even yet feel their touch
upon his suffering, weary limbs.

And this saint,--his mother, his glorious, incomparable mother,--he had
presumed to sully by such vile suspicions! He, her son!

Without another thought he hurried down into the park. He saw her at a
distance. The dog was lying quiet at her feet; she sat with hands
clasped in her lap, and in her half-closed eyes there lay the look of
the visionary, dim or far-seeing, always beholding more, or less than
the actual. The dog heard his master's step and began to wag his tail,
then rose, barking with joy, and ran to meet Oswald.

"Ossi!" and the Countess opened her arms to him. Not even from his
betrothed had he ever heard a tone of welcome so fervent, and as his
mother clasped him close, and kissed him, he felt as if God Himself had
laid His hand upon his sore heart and healed it. Gone were all his evil
surmises, all fled, leaving only a sensation of angry self-reproach.

"You are a day sooner than you said," she exclaimed, kissing him
affectionately. "Well, I shall not complain, I am a few hours richer
than I thought."

"How so, mamma?"

"Do you not understand? Do you really not yet know that I am counting
the thirty-three days before your marriage--the last days that I shall
have you to myself--and that to each one as it goes, I bid a sad
farewell? Let me look at you,--my poor child, how you have come back to
me! you look as if you had had an illness."

"I have felt miserably, really wretchedly ever since I went away," he
admitted, speaking slowly and without looking at her. "Uncle Erich
diagnosed either the jaundice or intermittent fever, but it does not
amount to anything, I am well again."

"You do not look so," said the Countess, shaking her head. "Take an
arm-chair, that seat is very uncomfortable."

He had seated himself upon a low stool at her feet.

"No, no, mamma," he replied smiling, "this seat is all right, and now
tell me of what you were thinking as I came towards you. Your thoughts
must have been very pleasant!"

"Must you know everything," she replied gaily, "I had no thoughts,--my
dreams...." she patted him lightly on the cheek and whispered--"were of
my grandchildren."

"Indeed? Perfectly reconciled, then, to my marriage?"

"We must learn to acquiesce in the inevitable, and--and--it really
would be delightful to have a chubby little Ossi, in miniature, to pet,
and cosset."

He did not speak, but leaned a little forward and pressed the hem of
her gown to his lips.

"You goose!" she remonstrated; but when he raised his head she
perceived that his eyes were filled with tears. "What is the matter?"

"A momentary weakness, as you see," he said with forced gaiety; adding
earnestly,--"I am not ashamed of it before you. Of the evil that is in
us, we are more ashamed before those whom we love than before all the
rest of the world; but of our weaknesses we are ashamed only before
those to whom we are indifferent!"

Paler and paler grow the blossoms of the sweet rocket, sweeter and
sweeter their fragrance rises aloft, like a mute prayer,--twilight
hovers over the meadows and the leafy summits of the lindens grow
black. The quiet air is stirred by the village bells ringing the
Angelus. The Countess folded her hands,--of late years she has grown
devout. Oswald is overcome by intense lassitude, the lassitude that
follows the sudden relaxation of nervous tension in men upon whom
severe physical exertion has no effect.--He lays his head upon his
mother's knee, and recalls the time when, only twenty years old, and
smarting under a severe disappointment, he had taken refuge there. Then
he had lain his head upon her lap, and sleep, wooed in vain through
feverish nights, had fallen on him.--He remembers how, regardless of
her own discomfort, she had let him sleep there for hours, never
moving, lest he should be disturbed. And how many other instances of
her love and self-sacrifice fill his memory! She strokes his hair, and
for a moment he wishes he might die, thus, now, and here,--yes, it
would be far better, a hundredfold better to die thus at her feet, his
heart filled with filial adoration, than to have to live down again the
anguish of the last three days.



                              BOOK FOURTH.



                               CHAPTER I.


After all, what had induced Conte Capriani to spend his summer in
Austria? His wife and his children were unutterably bored in their
exile, and he--he was consumed with secret chagrin. He had intended to
astound the earth whereon he had once run barefoot, but nothing had
fulfilled his expectations, absolutely nothing. The Austrian climate
did not agree with him, decidedly not. Instead of the intoxicating
consciousness of triumph wherein he had hoped to revel, he was
tormented, from morning until night, by a sensation of rasping
humiliation. His arrogance sickened, shrivelled up; even his
possessions suddenly seemed to him insignificant. His wealth was, to be
sure, more easily convertible into cash, more available than that of
the Austrian aristocrats. But what availed his airy, fleeting millions
compared with these well-nigh indestructible possessions, rooted for
centuries in native soil?

                               *   *   *

Many, many years before, on a muddy road the sides of which were
spotted with patches of dirty snow fast melting in the early spring,
little Alfred Stein had run behind a high old-fashioned green coach
hung on spiral springs, and had tried to steal a ride on the hind axle.
The bearded coachman--a stout, patriarchal coachman with a broad fur
collar--looked back, saw him, and snapped his whip at him, so sharply
that the boy, frightened, let go the axle, and fell off into a puddle.
A chubby child, at the carriage window, leaned far out to see him, and
laughed, without any malice, loud and heartily, as all healthy children
laugh at anything comical. But rage seized young Alfred, and when he
could do it unobserved, he clenched his fist, and shook it at the
carriage.

At that time his envy did not reach higher than to a green coach, with
a stately fur-clad coachman who could cut at all barefoot boys who were
clinging on behind. How many miles his envy had travelled since then,
how many ragamuffins his coachman had since then whipped off from his
carriages, and yet at times it seemed to him that in reality he had not
gained a step since that warm damp day in spring, when he had fallen
into the puddle, and had been laughed at by the saucy little boy.

The child of poor parents, his extraordinary beauty had attracted the
notice of a Bohemian Countess, who oddly enough was the owner of that
same green coach. He was the best scholar in the village school, and
the Countess befriended him. He became the playmate of her proud,
good-natured, indolent children. By-and-by he shared their lessons, and
his progress was remarkable. He was patted on the shoulder, his
diligence was commended, and at last, by dint of flattery and
servility, he obtained the means to study in Vienna. The years of his
student life were most wretched. He possessed neither the dullness nor
the imagination that can make poverty tolerable, but his were the
endurance and the cunning that overcome poverty. Averse to no secret
infamy, he, nevertheless made a parade of morality, and was an adept in
what a witty Frenchman calls _le charlatanisme du désintéressement_.
Although a Sybarite by nature, and susceptible to all physical
enjoyment, the instant that the attainment of his aims was at stake, he
became a pattern of abstinence. He knew how to allow himself to be
heaped with benefits, without acquiring the reputation of a parasite on
the one hand or of a man who used his friends without any show of
gratitude on the other.

From the outset of his career he owed his success, not alone to his
personal beauty, but to his faculty for intuitively detecting the evil
propensities of others, and for privately pandering to them, yet always
preserving a show of indulgent charity withal. His medical practise
opened to him the doors of certain social circles which would else
probably have been forever closed to him. He practised medicine for a
while at fashionable watering places, and he had many distinguished
patients among the fair sex; at last, however, his marriage to a rich
Russian girl relieved him from the necessity of pursuing his
profession, and led his speculative mind into other paths.

His wife's fortune, however, was soon but a small part of that which he
accumulated and added to it. Always restless, often unprincipled, he
heaped up his millions, seeming fairly to conjure money out of other
men's pockets. His greed of gain was no petty passion, there was in it
something of the heroic. Wealth was not his end, but a means to his
end, a weapon,--power.

In Paris this power had not failed him, but in Austria no one was
dazzled by it except those towards whom he felt utterly indifferent.
Day by day he grew more irritable, more bitter; what did his millions
avail with these Austrian aristocrats who, had, with indolent elegance
dragged after them for centuries, in spite of all levelling tendencies
of any age, the burden of their ancient traditions--called by the
Liberals prejudices--and who had grown weary at last of justifiable
carping at their official and unofficial prerogatives, and had taken
refuge upon an island as it were of determined exclusiveness, where,
entrenched as behind the wall of China, they loftily ignored all the
revolutionary hubbub around them.

He had succeeded in much, why should he not succeed in making a breach
in this wall of China? This was the aim of all his efforts. He was one
of those who would fain destroy what they cannot attain. By a thousand
enticing temptations he had striven to arouse the avarice of the _Right
Honourables_, as he called them, that the base, degrading greed of gain
might bruise the strict sense of honour that was like a 'hoop of gold
to bind in' Austrian exclusiveness. To brand an aristocrat as a
swindler would be a keener joy than to make him a beggar.

He had hitherto had only a few petty triumphs in this direction, but he
was too ambitious, too clear-sighted to be contented in the long run
with these trifling victories.

                               *   *   *

One consciousness of terrible import to others had at times afforded
Capriani some consolation, but of late even this consciousness had lost
somewhat of its soothing charm.

When, after his return from Prague, Kilary had asked him, with a sneer,
if he had really succeeded in twisting Oswald Lodrin around his finger
the Conte had replied with some embarrassment, "We have not done with
each other yet, but I rather think that what I said to him will have an
effect."

And while he was making private marks with coloured pencils upon his
business letters, or telegraphic despatches which arrived in large
numbers for him every day, he repeated to himself, again and again: "It
will have an effect!"



                              CHAPTER II.


It is evening in the drawing-room at Tornow, and the air breathes soft
and fragrance-laden through the open window; the monotonous chirp of
the crickets sounds loud and shrill as if to drown the sweet plaint of
the nightingale. Beyond the circle of light cast by the lamps more than
half of the spacious room is quite dark.

The Countess Lodrin is bending over an embroidery frame, busied in
working the Zinsenburg crest upon a hassock; Oswald, Georges, and
Pistasch, who, when the races were over had accepted an invitation to
come to Tornow with Georges, are eagerly discussing a false start.
Oswald, the quietest of the three, glances from time to time at his
mother.

He has, to be sure, succeeded in shaking off his ugly _idée fixe_, and
in regaining his former cheerfulness; but yet, by fits and starts, he
is assailed by a paralysing sensation of dread. Then he takes refuge
with his mother; by her side the odious fancies have no power. There
are times when he is possessed by a wild impulse to deliver Capriani's
message, to ask his mother whether she ever really knew Doctor Stein
and to watch the effect; but at the critical moment his heart has
always failed him, and he has been ashamed of yielding even thus much
to his disgraceful weakness.

When they have exhausted the false start, Georges and Pistasch enter
upon a discussion of the best method of shoeing horses. This
interesting topic absorbs them so entirely that neither perceives that
for several minutes the Countess has been searching for something which
she has mislaid,--finally even stooping to look for it on the floor. It
is Oswald who rises and asks, "What are you looking for, mamma?"

"A strand of scarlet silk."

The two gentlemen of course feel it their duty to offer their services,
but too late; Oswald has already picked up the silk. This trifling
diversion, however, puts a stop to the sporting talk.

"Mimi Dey came to see me this morning; I asked her to dine with us on
Thursday."

"Is Elli Rhoeden coming too?" asked Oswald.

"If I am not mistaken she has gone to Kreuznach," observed Pistasch.

"Yes," said the Countess, "unfortunately we cannot depend upon her, but
you will probably enjoy the society of Fräulein von Klette. Mimi will
do her best to make her stay at home, but she cannot promise."

"Is she living still,--that Spanish fly?" asked Georges, surprised.

"Indeed she is, and with the same enormous appetite," Pistasch calmly
declared, "I believe she is qualifying herself for the post of Minister
of Finance; her talent for levying taxes is more brilliantly developed
every year. Unfortunately her sphere of action is limited to the circle
of her most intimate friends."

"It appears that she has just embarked in a novel and very interesting
financial enterprise," remarked the Countess with a smile, "she is
raffling a sofa cushion."

"Oh, that famous negro head," observed Pistasch, "she has been working
at it for two years, and she issues a fresh batch of chances every
three months."

"Before I forget it," said the Countess half to herself, "would you not
like to write to Fritz to come to dinner day after to-morrow, Ossi? we
shall be entirely by ourselves. He will feel at home, and I am always
glad to entice him to forget his sorrows, if only for a few hours."

"I paid him a visit yesterday," said Georges, "he is going down hill
very fast in health. He asked eagerly after you, Ossi, and mentioned
that he had not seen you for a long while."

"Ossi avoids Schneeburg, for fear of an encounter with the _Phylloxera
vastatrix_ who, as he prophesies, is to be the ruin of us all," said
Pistasch banteringly.

Oswald had risen to light a cigarette at the lamp; his hand trembled a
little. "I will write to Fritz, mamma," he said, "I am afraid I have
rather neglected him of late."



                              CHAPTER III.


"Our poor Count Fritz is going fast," said old Doctor Swoboda every
time that he returned from Schneeburg to Rautschin and stopped at the
inn to drink a glass of beer; this time he remarked it to Herr
Alexander Cibulka, who always took a lively interest in Schneeburg.

"Ah, indeed? Well, he has not much to lose in this life," rejoined
Eugène Alexander, "if I had to depend for my living upon alms, as he
does, I'd put a bullet through my brains!" and Herr Cibulka ran his
stubby fingers through his bushy hair. He was very proud of such
unfeeling expressions, which he considered, Heaven only knows why, as
particularly fashionable. "And how is the Conte Capriani?" he
continued, "and the charming Ad'lin,--a superb creature, eh?" and
Eugène Alexander affectedly wafted abroad a kiss from his finger tips.

"Don't know," growled the old doctor, "I don't associate with them."

"Ah, true," said Herr Cibulka compassionately, "I quite forgot, you do
not associate with them."

Eugène Alexander Cibulka was the only man among the _haute volée_ of
the market-town who had enjoyed the honour of an invitation from
Capriani. The invitation,--there was but one,--was to a _déjeûner_, and
inspired him with not a little pride. He described it as a most
memorable, 'brilliant episode,' in his monotonous existence, and he
celebrated it in lyric phrases. What had so charmed him it would be
hard to tell; Madame Capriani had found it impossible to understand
him, although she had good-humouredly tried to do so,--his sentences
were so interlarded with compliments,--and consequently she was obliged
to confine herself to phrases of conventional courtesy; Adeline had
spoken only in French, which of course excluded him from conversation
with her, and when he picked up her handkerchief she thanked him as
haughtily as if she resented his not presenting it on a salver; the
Conte had urged him to partake of the various dishes, ringing the
changes upon one invariable theme. "You had better take some--you don't
get such a chance every day."

Modern culture had certainly treated him ill, but all the more was he
convinced of its immense superiority. There was but one adjective that
in his opinion, could in any wise fitly characterize the new household
at Schneeburg, and that was, 'Sublime!'

Two years previously, in old Malzin times, he had also on some occasion
or other dined at Schneeburg. The old Count had received him with
distinguished, though formal, courtesy, had insisted upon his preceding
him into the dining-hall, and had taken great pains to find subjects
for conversation that should not exclude his guest. He had been very
much better treated at Schneeburg then,--but no raptures came of it. On
the contrary he had declared, with a shrug, that Count Malzin's style
of living was very 'middle-class,'--that it was a pity too, that the
Count spoke so low that it was difficult to understand him, and that
really there had not been enough to eat.

In spite of the old Count's courtesy and of the simplicity of the
dinner, Cibulka had somehow on that occasion been keenly sensible of
the gulf between himself and the master of Schneeburg, and it seemed to
him now that Capriani's millions had avenged him of the affront caused
by the personal superiority of the former possessor of the Castle; this
delighted him. It flattered his self-importance to hear Capriani--no
one knew why,--call Castle Schneeburg a little hunting box, nothing but
a hunting box, and then to hear him say: "Oh, Malzin, _apropos_, did
you write to the saddler? You must make haste--indeed you are very
dilatory!" And then, when Fritz had departed, to have the Cr[oe]sus
suddenly turn to him, to Cibulka, and remark confidentially, "that
fellow, Malzin, is really an incumbrance, but what can one do?--he must
be provided for."

Eugène Alexander, a despicable specimen of a despicable class,
servilely rubbed his hands, and murmured, "The Herr Count is most
generous, but indeed that is an easy matter for the Herr Count. Poor
devil! I really am sorry for Malzin."

Poor devil indeed! The old doctor was right, Fritz was going fast.
Every afternoon at the same hour he had a high fever,--he looked
like a ghost. In speaking he had a habit of contracting his underlip,
which gave to his face the hard, pain-begotten lines with which the
pre-Raphalites portrayed the dying Christ. Ready at any minute to drop
from fatigue, he was yet driven forth by constant restlessness to go
dragging over forest and field, obliged at ever-lessening intervals to
rest upon a stile, or upon the steps of some way-side cross. There he
would sit gazing abroad and repeating to himself, with the exaggerated
appreciation that men always cherish for that of which they are
deprived, that Schneeburg was the finest estate in Bohemia. When he
strode through the golden stubble fields, the reapers would gather
about him and with many a merry, kindly word encircle his limbs, in
accordance with an ancient Bohemian custom, with wreaths of straw. He
would respond with some friendly jest, and purchase his release by a
gratuity more in accordance with his former means than with his present
circumstances.

The people were still loyal to him, to the peasants and day labourers
he was always "_Our_ Herr Count." Whenever he appeared among them they
ran to him, kissed his hands, and invoked countless blessings upon him.
There had been a time when he protested impatiently against these
rather obtrusive demonstrations, but now he took pleasure in them. He
knew the people almost all by name, and frequently talked with them,
when to be sure they never failed to make some complaint against their
new master, under whom in point of fact they were very well off; but
they none the less complained of him just to please their Herr Count.

But though the peasants and labourers were thus loyal to him, the new
servants and superintendants showed no such respect. The Conte had not
retained in Schneeburg a single one of the former servants; he had
dismissed them all without pensions. The knowledge of this had added
bitterness to the old Count's last moments. He had interceded for his
people, and when he could obtain nothing save vague promises, he had
intended to use his influence elsewhere for their protection, but death
had intervened and put an end to his good intentions. Probably none of
the dismissed were worth much--the housekeeping at the Castle had been
slipshod and easy-going,--all things had been allowed to take their own
course. No provision for the old servants had been included in the
original contract when they were first hired, and the income from
Schneeburg had not been large enough to warrant the reservation of a
pension fund, but no one had ever been dismissed on account of
increasing age, or of physical infirmity. Almost all of them had been
born upon the estate, and had expected to die there. And now, suddenly,
Schneeburg was 'swept clean' of them, as the Conte expressed it. Some
of them were plunged into hopeless poverty; Fritz discovered this, and
the misery of not being able to provide for _his_ people was an added
pang.

Meanwhile there was a horde of new servants at Schneeburg, all young
people, with modern ideas, fresh from industrial schools, stocked with
correct views of their multifarious duties, and with independent
opinions in politics.

At first, whenever Fritz met them, he greeted them with the kindly
affability with which he was wont to treat inferiors, but this
condescension from one in his circumstances seemed to them ridiculous;
they laughed among themselves at his courtesy. He did not observe this
for some time, and when he did so he simply took no notice of the
menials. They however continued to ridicule him, and to clear away,
pull down, and alter ruthlessly.

Whilst Fritz sat wearied and worn in his gloomy room, among his shabby
relics, teaching his little daughter French, or his boy the alphabet,
he could hear the thud of the falling stones, as the time-honoured
out-buildings were being demolished, and every sound struck a direct
blow at his poor, sore, foolish heart.

The Conte's behaviour towards him daily grew more intolerable,
especially ever since his return from the election. Every petty
disappointment was wreaked upon Fritz. Of course! Fritz was the only
member 'of the caste' upon whom the Conte could vent his anger. His
brutalities Fritz could endure, but what outraged him beyond measure
was to have the Conte assume an air of frankness, and behind the
mask of friendly interest presume to ask all sorts of personal
questions,--the bitterest of pills for Malzin!

"Oh Heavens, how long am I to be in gaining the summit of Calvary?" the
poor fellow sometimes asked himself.

To-day he had been visited by a ray of light, emanating from the
cordial, affectionate note, in which Oswald invited him to the
family-dinner at Tornow. "Forgive me for not having seen you for so
long," Oswald concluded, "only remember all that I have to do. The
castle is turned upside down in anticipation of a certain coming event,
but, nevertheless, we shall be heartily glad to keep you with us for a
couple of days. But we will discuss this to-morrow."

Of course Fritz accepted the invitation. He knew that it would bring on
a scene with his wife--but what, after all, did he care for that? He
could not but anticipate the morrow with pleasure, and after he had
dispatched his reply by the Tornow messenger, he walked out into the
park.

It was early in August, and the floods of rain which had fallen in June
and July had been followed by stifling sultriness. Fritz was both
stimulated and wearied by the state of the atmosphere, without being
conscious of any special degree of heat. His disease had made such
progress that he was subject to chilly sensations, even when the
thermometer stood very high. As usual, he sought out the most retired
paths of the park, paths where he felt sure of meeting no one, and of
being able to indulge unmolested in his customary day-dreams.

He reached a miniature lake, embosomed among proud, old firs, its
surface glassy as a mirror held aloft by the nixies to the sky. Tall
reeds with brown heads fringed its shores, and nodded to the white
waterlilies reposing among their flat, green leaves. Perfect silence
reigned; not only did the stately firs preserve their customary,
dignified quiet, but even the leafy trees were too listless to-day to
exhale their wonted 'murmur mixed with sighs.' Each leaf drooped
wearily. No bird uttered a note, the stillness was as profound as in
mid-winter. Nature lay motionless, no audible pulse throbbing, sunk, as
it seemed, in a mysterious swoon.

Fritz sat down upon a bench rudely constructed of birch boughs, and
gazed dreamily around. As always when alone, his thoughts reverted to
the past, and now he smiled at a memory of langsyne. He recalled how as
a child he had tried here to learn from the gardener's sons how to skip
pebbles on the surface of the water. He had succeeded but ill; his
pebbles all sunk directly to the bottom. He remembered too that very
near this small lake there was once a little hut with a mossgrown,
shingled roof, resting upon four fir-tree trunks. There the little
Malzins had played Robinson Crusoe; the hut had been a fort besieged by
savages. Perhaps it was no longer in existence; Capriani might have had
it cleared away; Fritz arose to look for it.

It was still there; he could see the gilt crescent sparkling on the
gable of the old, shingled roof. As he approached it he heard voices,
and would have withdrawn, had he not recognized them as those of his
wife and Capriani. In some irritation he drew nearer, but found nothing
to justify any interference; Charlotte was sitting busy with some
sewing, while the Conte was talking to her,--that was all.

When Fritz, with his pale face of disapproval appeared in the doorway
of the summer-house, an ugly smile passed over the features of the
Conte. "You come in the nick of time," Capriani said carelessly, and
without the least embarrassment. "Sit down, we were just talking about
you."

"Indeed? very kind," murmured Fritz, taking a seat, and glancing rather
sternly at his wife.

"We were just speaking of your children. Hm, my dear Malzin,"--the
Conte stroked his long whiskers,--"have you laid by anything for those
youngsters?"

Fritz cast down his eyes. "How could I have done so?" he rejoined in a
monotone.

"You certainly might lay by something from your present salary," the
Conte said with emphasis.

"You seem entirely to forget that I have only had my present salary for
two months," said Fritz bluntly.

The Conte bit his lip. "Oho!" he exclaimed, "have I offended you again?
I assure you I mean well, very well by you. Tell me your views with
regard to the future of your children."

Fritz shrugged his shoulders. "I really have none; the poor things will
have to shift for themselves," and his voice trembled.

"Of course you mean then to give them a good education, to enable them
to earn their own living," continued the Conte. "That is all right, but
allow me to ask how you mean to do this?"

Fritz passed his hand--the white, transparent hand of
consumption--wearily across his forehead. "I hope to send my little
girl to Hernals," he began, "where she can be educated for a
governess."

"Ah--!" the Conte looked disapproval--"a very unpractical scheme, it
seems to me, very unpractical. She will become very pretentious in her
ideas at Hernals, and will gain but little that can be of real service
to her. Remember your circumstances, my dear fellow, remember your
circumstances,--we will discuss them by-and-by. And what do you think
of doing with your son?"

"Oh Franzi is still so little," said Fritz in hopes of cutting short
the conversation, the Conte's arrogant, domineering tone was most
irritating, it stung him like nettles.

"All the more reason for providing for his future," the Conte insisted,
"in consideration of the chance of your being suddenly taken from him."

"True, true," sighed Fritz. "Well then, I hope to live long enough to
place him in a government school for Cadets, after which through the
influence of my relatives, he can obtain a commission."

The Conte laughed contemptuously. "Just like you!" he exclaimed, "the
same haughty, aristocratic idler as ever! You'll learn sense after a
while, my dear fellow. I have thought of something for Franzi; your
wife is quite agreed to it." Charlotte who had seemed to be absorbed in
her sewing, nodded.

"The Countess always takes a sensible view of affairs, she looks things
in the face," continued the Conte; "begging your pardon, my dear
fellow, there is more common-sense in her little finger than in your
whole body. We will find Franzi a place in a dry-goods establishment.
The business is neither unhealthy, nor confining, and if it goes
against your grain to put him in such a situation here in Austria (to
speak frankly I think any such objection very petty,--my views in this
respect are more enlightened) why I will see that he gets one in Paris
at the _Louvre_ or at the _Printemps_; a clerk in one of those great
houses often gets a yearly salary of from fifteen to twenty thousand
francs!"

Fritz started to his feet and made several attempts to interrupt the
Conte, but his voice failed. A singing was in his ears, his blood was
coursing hotly, wildly through his veins. "My son!" he gasped hoarsely,
"my son, clerk in a dry-goods shop! I'd rather kill him myself!"

He felt a terrible oppression in his chest, and then came sudden
relief; in an instant he grew deadly pale with bluish tints about his
eyes and temples. He stretched out his hands aimlessly as if to ward
off some catastrophe, not knowing why he did so,--then mechanically
felt for his handkerchief, pressed it to his lips, and fell senseless
on the floor.



                              CHAPTER IV.


The Lodrins dined early during the warm summer months; they wished to
have the cooler hours of the late afternoon for riding, driving or
walking. The dinner on Thursday at which Fritz was to have been present
was at two o'clock, but at the last moment he sent an excuse without
any special cause assigned.

Of course Fräulein von Klette had not been persuaded to stay at home.
Erect as a grenadier, and with an enormous reticule to contain her
sewing, her headdress, and any chance presents that she might receive,
she made her appearance with Mimi Dey, who good-humouredly assured the
Countess Lodrin, for the tenth time that Ossi and Gabrielle were
incomparably the handsomest betrothed couple in Austria, and then
greeted Zinka with perhaps rather exaggerated cordiality. Thanks to the
imitative instinct that rules the world, all the ladies of the vicinity
modelled their behaviour towards Zinka upon that of the Countess
Lodrin. Mimi Dey had declared lately to several of her acquaintances
who were asking about Erich Truyn's marriage, "Zinka is as much of a
lady as I am," and this significant verdict had its share in
establishing upon a firm basis Zinka's social position.

Pistasch watched Zinka curiously; with all his languid insolence, he
was possessed of sufficient tact to perceive what she was and to
comport himself towards her accordingly. As usual, when not in the
bosom of her family, she was rather silent; her gentle voice was heard
only occasionally; she looked very pretty, and seemed to be occupied
with anything rather than her own beauty, with every one else rather
than with herself.

The two topics of the hour were the upset that had befallen young
Capriani and his four-in-hand the day before, and the murder of an old
widow in a village near Schneeburg. The accident to the four-in-hand of
course afforded all the gentlemen the liveliest satisfaction; they were
unanimous in their surprise that the catastrophe had been delayed so
long; the murder in Karlowitz opened for Truyn a wide field of moral
and political considerations. As this murder was the first that had
occurred within the memory of man in all the country round, he did not
hesitate for a moment to ascribe it to the demoralizing influence of
Capriani.

There is probably no evil, from a murder to an epidemic, which Truyn
would not have liked to trace directly or indirectly to the sinister
influence of Conte Capriani. Oswald who had been merry enough at first
gradually grew taciturn and monosyllabic.

"Capriani's ears must tingle," he exclaimed at last, no longer
controlling his impatience, "can we talk of nothing else but that
scoundrel!"

"Do not grudge us this innocent amusement," rejoined Truyn
good-humouredly, and Pistasch added, "I cannot see why it should make
you nervous. The mere sound of Capriani's name affects you as an
allusion to the cholera affects other men." Oswald changed colour, and
Georges proposed a toast to the betrothed couple.

After dinner, whilst they were all drinking coffee in the drawing-room,
Pistasch contrived a _tête-à-tête_ with his cousin Mimi Dey for the
purpose of asking all sorts of questions about Zinka, which he could
not well put directly to the Lodrins. "Is she the same Sterzl about
whom there was so much talk in Rome? The girl who--etc.,--etc.?--a very
delightful person, really charming." It was beginning to be the fashion
to declare Zinka charming.

In the meantime the heroine of the Roman romance, was sitting beside
the Countess Lodrin on a small divan in a dim corner of the spacious
room, and whispering, "Have you heard?"

"Of course I have! Ossi learned it from your husband; I congratulate
you with all my heart," replied the Countess in a low tone, taking the
young wife's hand in her own.

"And you understand how very glad I am," whispered Zinka, blushing, and
brushing away a tear.

The Countess smiled her own grave beautiful smile, and nodded assent;
Zinka moved a little closer to her. "Who should understand it better
than you?" she whispered. She felt a positive reverence for the
Countess, whose kind and tender treatment of her she could not but
regard as a special mark of favour and distinction. The childlike
deference of her manner towards the elder lady was very graceful and
very winning.

"If--if the good God should grant me a son," she whispered more softly
still, and with a deeper blush, "I should like to learn from you how to
educate him."

Countess Wjera laid her hand kindly on Zinka's shoulder. "Your husband
will be a better teacher there than I can be; that Ossi is what he is
is due to the grace of God,--not to me."

"And is it by God's grace alone, that Ossi has preserved so profound
and filial a veneration for his mother?"

The Countess took her hand from Zinka's shoulder; the younger woman,
startled, gazed into her face.

"It is nothing," said Wjera, with a forced smile, "a pain in my
heart--it will soon pass."

Mimi Dey, with Pistasch, was approaching the corner where the Countess
and Zinka were sitting, and noticing Wjera's sudden pallor, inquired as
to its cause, instantly vaunting the merits of a certain specific, in
which she had implicit confidence. As soon as Fräulein Klette observed
that the conversation was taking a medical turn, she too joined the
group. "Wjera, I know a wonderful remedy; a Swiss physician, gave me
the prescription,--it really will cure everything,--everything."

"From scrofula to 'despised love,'" added Pistasch. He knew the famous
prescription well, and knew, too, that it was the basis of one of
Fräulein Klette's numerous financial man[oe]uvres.

"It really is an extraordinary remedy, Wjera, and it would do you good,
too, Mimi;--it would be the very thing for Zinka I am sure," Fräulein
Klette rattled on. "I have wrought wonders with it. Do let me have a
few bottles of it put up for you."

"You needn't take that trouble, Carolin," said Pistasch maliciously, "I
have two or three quarts of your specific on hand, and it will give me
pleasure to supply the ladies."

"As you please, I do not insist," said the Fräulein chagrined;
whereupon she drew from her reticule the famous negro's head and with
great energy and a very long thread began to embroider a sulphurous
gleam on his ebony nose.



                               CHAPTER V.


The fierce heat of the day is over, the rays of the westering sun cast
mildly gleaming bands of gold here and there amid the pleasing
confusion of furniture in the drawing-room, where both coverings and
hangings of Flemish stuff made the prevailing colour a dim, cool green.

The world forgetting, the betrothed pair were standing by a little
table whereon was a large, blue Sèvres vase, filled with crimson
Jacqueminot roses, a vase, whereof the depressing shape was that of a
funeral urn, and whereof the decorations were after the pedantic taste
of the first Empire, with medallions of gaudy flowers upon a dark-blue
surface. Oswald and Gabrielle had just agreed in declaring the vase
almost as hideous as the pretentious monstrosity placed in the library
of the Vatican as a memorial of Napoleonic generosity.

"Mamma's Russian relatives have a positive passion for blue Sèvres
vases, and green malachite table tops upon gilded tripods," said
Oswald, "but one cannot throw a well-meant gift out of doors!"

And then they went on to talk of the future, of their wedding-trip
which was to be to the East, and to laugh over certain events of the
first days of their young affection, in that fair spring-time in Paris.
Suddenly Gabrielle interrupted their talk with "Now you are yourself
again, but at dinner you looked so cross, I was absolutely afraid of
you!"

"Oh, you foolish little girl, how could you be afraid of me?"

"You mean that a great lion like you, is far too noble to hurt a poor
little King Charles!"

He shook his head, saying, "I never should think of comparing you to a
King Charles."

"To what would you compare me then?" she asked, lifting her large,
shining eyes to his.

"Are you angling for flattery, Ella?" he said banteringly.

"Flattery from you?" was her half-offended reply.

"Ah, I did not mean that,--I will tell you to what I love to liken
you," he whispered very softly, leaning towards her,--"to a white lily,
Ella,--you are just as pure and fair, with a golden heart deep down in
your breast."

Her dark-blue eyes glittered with tears of tenderness.

"Oh Ella, if you only knew how I long to clasp you in my arms this
moment, and kiss away the tears from those dear eyes! But ...." and he
gave a glance around.

"No one is looking," she said saucily.

It was true; the ladies were absorbed in teazing Pistasch about his
last conquest, and Truyn and Georges were again at it in argument over
the internal policy of the government; but none the less did the sound
of her own audacious little speech startle Gabrielle, and when Oswald
with a merry glance whispered "Say that again, Gabrielle," she turned
away.

"How Papa is shouting!" she observed in order to change the subject as
quickly as possible. And in fact Truyn's voice is tolerably loud as he
utters the significant, momentous words: "It is our mission to protect
the people from the influence of ambitious political theorists, and
from its own folly!"

"He is in a downright fury," assents Oswald, "let us try to calm him,
Ella." And as they went together towards the two politicians, Oswald
said, "Would you not like to have a rubber, uncle, before you carry out
your mission?"

Truyn, as became his age, had a weakness for whist, quite as pronounced
as for politics, and therefore accepted the proposal. The ladies were
politely invited to play, but no one accepted save Fräulein Klette, and
since Pistasch refused point-blank to have her for a partner, the four
gentlemen sat down to the game by themselves.

The sunbeams slant more and more, one long, level ray is now shining
directly through the bouquet of crimson roses in the ugly Sèvres vase,
the flowers glow like strange, weird jewels.

A carriage stopped before the castle. "Who can it be?" said Countess
Lodrin.

It was the Baroness Melkweyser. The customary greetings over, she
begged the gentlemen not to let her interrupt their game, and sank into
an arm-chair beside the Countess Lodrin. "I hope I do not disturb you!"
she exclaimed. "I really could not stand it another hour over there. I
was perfectly wild!"

"Aha!" Mimi Dey smiled provokingly. "I cannot pity you as much as you
seem to expect, Zoë; I thought you would repent it, when I heard you
were staying with those queer people."

"What would you have?" said the Baroness meekly enough, "I have known
those Caprianis ever so long, they live magnificently in Paris."

"Indeed?" asked Mimi, "does any one visit them?"

"Oh yes, crowned heads even," said Zinka, "and especially Princes of
the blood travelling incog."

"Oh, they--why, they go even to the _Mabille_," said Mimi,
"and--well--perhaps there is a certain similarity between ....!"

"Oh, no, no," interrupted Zoë, "they have very decent manners; Capriani
even turned out of his house lately a person who came without an
invitation."

"Really?" said Zinka, "that, certainly, shows great progress; but is it
true that at the Conte's last ball neither the eldest daughter, nor her
husband was present?"

"Yes," Zoë admitted. "Those are some of the insolent airs with which
Larothière contrives to awe his father-in-law."

"Go on," said Mimi.

"I do not say that only the _élite_ appear at these balls. _C'est
toujours le monde à côté_, as they say in Paris, but,--good Heavens!
these Caprianis have been of service to me, and they always heaped me
with attentions, but here they are beginning to behave positively
disagreeably to me."

"Perhaps your services in your native country have not answered their
expectations," said Mimi, "Pistasch told me that you had been invited
to Schneeburg on purpose to introduce the Caprianis into Austrian
society. Was that only one of his poor jokes, or ...."

"I really did promise to do my best ...."

"My dear Zoë'," exclaimed Mimi Dey horrified, "had you clean forgotten
your Austria?"

"No, I had not forgotten it, only I fancied that in the last
twenty-five years you might have conformed somewhat to the spirit of
the age; but no, you are precisely the same as ever. When will you
cease to entrench yourselves behind triple barriers?"

"When we feel sure that no suspicious individual will try to invade our
realm," said Mimi; "our circle, moreover, is quite large enough, and if
we are asked to admit a stranger, at least we have a right to discover
beforehand whether he will or will not be an acquisition."

That this didactic little speech was uttered principally for her
edification, the Countess Truyn was perfectly aware. She merely smiled
calmly.

"I have no prejudices," asserted Fräulein Klette boldly. "I am
perfectly ready to be introduced to the Caprianis."

"Yes, you are a great philosopher," replied Mimi, gravely patting her
on the shoulder, "we all know that."

"I shall not fail to represent to Capriani the advantage to be derived
from your acquaintance," said Zoë drily. "And now I must make haste and
execute a commission; I should really prefer to extricate myself from
these associations, but since I have got into the claws of this vulture
I must keep him in good humour at least until he has gotten my finances
into a better condition. And that brings me to what I have to ask of
you, Wjera; I want you to do me a great favour." Up to this point the
Countess Lodrin had taken no part in the conversation, but had
continued, apparently lost in thought, to work away with her large
wooden needles at her woollen piece of knitting. Zinka, who had been
watching her, thought her unusually pale. "A favour? What is it?" asked
the Countess.

"It is about your 'old Vienna' set of china, which you used to be so
anxious to complete. The other half was at Schneeburg, and now belongs
to Capriani. When he learned from me that you--er--were very fond of
the set, he--er--asked me,--very kindly, as you must admit,--to offer
you his half."

The Countess's large wooden needles clicked louder, and more busily
than ever, but she said not a word in reply.

"You really would do me a very great favour, Wjera," persisted the
baroness, "three weeks ago he asked me to say this to you, and I have
only to-day brought myself to do it. You will embarrass me exceedingly
by rejecting the china."

Then Wjera with a quick angry gesture dropped her work, and looked up.
Her face in its stern pallor was like chiselled marble, but a dark glow
shone in her eyes; Zinka thought that she had never beheld anything
more beautiful or more haughty than that face at that moment. "What
price does your Herr Capriani ask for the china?" she asked curtly.

"Price?--Price?--he will deem himself only too happy by your acceptance
of it...!"

"Ossi, that's a revoke!" exclaimed Pistasch spreading out two tricks
upon the whist-table.

"He is playing very carelessly," remarked Truyn.

"Every allowance must be made for a man in love," said Georges kindly
as he shuffled the cards.

Oswald, whose back was towards his mother, heard her say: "Your
Monsieur Capriani's officiousness seems to me to pass all bounds. Pray
tell him _de ma part_ that I am quite ready to buy the service of him,
at any price that he may name, however high, but that it is not my
habit to accept gifts from those with whom I neither have nor wish to
have any social intercourse."

"But, good Heavens! I had forgotten one half of my message," said Zoë,
striking her forehead. "He expressly hoped that you would see in this
little attention nothing more than a proof of respectful esteem from a
former servant,--he would not venture to say friend,--of your family.
He assures me that he attended yourself and your husband years ago
while you were in the Riviera, and he declares that if you do not
recognise Conte Capriani, you will surely remember Doctor--Doctor--I
have forgotten the name--but at any rate the doctor that you had
there."

"Why it must be Stein!" exclaimed Fräulein Klette.

"Yes, that was the name," said Zoë.

"Why, I knew him," Fräulein Klette went on eagerly. "You must remember
me to him; he was practising at Nice, when I spent the winter with the
Orczinskas. The women raved about him--he was a very handsome man then,
and he had invented a hygienic corset, all the women wore it.--You must
have known him too, Wjera. I am certain that I met him once at your
villa, that winter that you and your husband passed in the Riviera."

"He declares that he attended your husband," said Zoë.

There was a brief--a very brief pause, and then the Countess said
clearly and distinctly, "Possibly, but it does not interest me, and you
can tell him from me that I do not remember it!"

"How young you look when you're angry, Wjera," said Mimi Dey, laughing,
"the old demon flashes in your eyes when you're vexed."

"There's a deal of pleasure in playing whist with you, Ossi," exclaimed
Truyn at the same moment,--he was Oswald's partner,--"that's five
trumps that you have thrown away--I had a slam in my hand."

"How could I guess that you had anything in diamonds?"

"I led."

"Clubs."

"No, diamonds! Just look."

"Don't you think that Ossi, when he puts on that gloomy face, looks
astonishingly like young Capriani?" observed Pistasch.

No longer master of himself Oswald threw his cards down on the table.

"Come, come, behave yourself, Ossi," said Truyn.

"There's no use in trying to jest with you: you are as sensitive as a
commoner," grumbled Pistasch.

"Let us rather say as irritable as a crowned head," said Georges
laughing, "_Les extrèmes se touchent_."

"I really believe it is the reappearance of your old family spectre
which must have affected your nerves lately, Ossi," Pistasch said
innocently.

"Which family spectre are you talking of?" asked Oswald hoarsely.

"Have you several of them then?" asked Pistasch. "I know only of the
blind one that laughs--my man told me to-day while I was dressing that
it has been heard laughing again. The butler had told him so."

"The gardener was talking to me of it to-day too," said Georges, "but I
told him that there have been no ghosts since '48; ghosts as an
institution were quite done away with by the March revolution,
whereupon, as he is an aspiring person addicted to free thinking he
replied that he had arrived at that same conclusion himself."

"Stupid superstition!" muttered Oswald; then controlling himself by an
effort he said very quietly, but pale as ashes. "Shall we not have
another rubber?"



                              CHAPTER VI.


The world of spirits is a favourite topic with your aristocratic
dilettanti, and every Austrian family _qui se respecte_ has its
spectre.

The Zinsenburgs have their White Lady, the Truyns their magnificent
four-in-hand, which, as the fore-runner of any terrible domestic
calamity, rattles past the windows of the Truynburg in the Bohemian
forest--no one knows whither or whence.--The Kamenz family have only a
black hand that inscribes weird characters of fire on the walls; the
Lodrins have their blind woman who is heard laughing when disgrace or
misfortune threatens the family. Of all the family spectres in Bohemia
this laughing, blind woman is the most grisly. Her origin dates from
dim antiquity. The legend runs that in the eleventh or twelfth century
a knight, Wolf von Lodrin, married in accordance with a family
arrangement, but with no love on the bride's part, a beautiful and
noble maiden. Inflamed with passion for her, and finding it impossible
to win her affection, in an evil hour, and in a fit of devilish rage,
he struck her across the face with his riding-whip, and blindness
followed the blow. Overcome by horror at what he had done the knight
fell into a brooding melancholy, and at last killed himself. When his
blind widow was told of it, she laughed; she herself lived to be a
hundred years old, but after the knight's suicide she never spoke a
single word,--only every time that any calamity befell the family, or
one of its sons suffered disgrace she could be heard laughing. It was
this blind spectre that still haunted Tornow. Formerly she had been
seen frequently, it was said, a tall figure in grey, with a black
bandage over her eyes, and an uncanny smile upon her pale lips, and the
apparition always preceded some dire family misfortune. Her laugh had
last been heard the day before Oswald's birth, wherefore it was feared
that either the mother or the child would die, or that the Countess
would give birth to some monster. But when a beautiful boy was born,
and the mother recovered after her confinement much sooner than had
been predicted, the blind Cassandra rather fell into disrepute,
especially as both the Count and Countess set their faces against any
belief in her existence, the Count because of his devout religious
faith, and the Countess because she was too enlightened to encourage
any such superstition.

Oswald had never bestowed much thought upon the spectre, merely smiling
in a superior way when it was mentioned, but in the present excited,
irritated state of his nerves even the superstitious gossip of his old
servants made an impression upon him. During the rest of the evening,
however, he put forth all his force to obliterate the impression that
his irritability at the whist-table had made upon Truyn and Pistasch.
And he succeeded; but when, after all the guests had departed, he
retired to his room for the night his strength was exhausted. The old
torture assailed him, only it was even keener and more agonizing than
that which he had brought with him from Prague. He tossed his head from
side to side on his pillow in feverish sleeplessness. Endowed from
boyhood with that faultless courage which is rather a matter of
temperament than of education, to-night for the first time in his life
he was thrilled with a vague dread. Every noise, however slight, made
him catch his breath with a suffocating sense of oppression.

At last his eyes closed in troubled and restless sleep, but his anguish
pursued him in his dreams. He seemed to be lying upon a meadow of
emerald green, with bright flowers blooming all around, and gay
butterflies fluttering here and there, while above him arched the
cloudless blue, lit up by golden sunshine. Suddenly he felt the earth
beneath him move, and he began slowly to sink into it. Overcome with
horror he tried to arise, but the more he tried the deeper he sank into
what was loathsome, slimy mud. He awoke, bathed in cold perspiration,
gasping for breath, his heart beating wildly.

He gazed around; everything wore a weird unwonted look in the
half-light of the summer night that encircled every object with a halo
of grey mist. Through the open windows the heavy, sultry air floated in
and out. He listened,--everywhere was silence, all nature lay as under
the ban of an evil spell. Then a stir broke the silence,--did something
rustle softly?--he seemed to hear the very wings of the night-moths
fluttering above the flowers. His father's death mask glared white
through the gloom; it grew longer and longer as if fain to descend from
where it hung---- What was that----? a low chuckle seemed to sound
behind the very wall beside him! The bodiless shadows floated hither
and thither and suddenly grouped themselves in one spot; a tall grey
figure with bandaged eyes and white lips drawn into a scornful smile
stood leaning against the wall--it moved! It glided to his bed;
uttering a cry he grasped at it; it vanished and he fell back on his
pillow.

A few minutes afterward a light step approached his door, the latch was
cautiously lifted, and his mother in a long white dressing-gown,
holding a lighted candle in a little flat candlestick, entered. Her
bedroom was just beneath his, and she had heard his cry. "Ossi!" she
called gently.

"Yes, mother!"

"What was the matter?"

"I had a bad dream."

She lit the candles upon his table and leaned over him, scanning his
features, startled by their ghastly pallor. "What is the matter with
you, Ossi?--I cannot endure any longer to see you silently suffering
such pain and distress."

"Nothing," he said dully--"nothing."

"Nothing! Can you--will you say that to me,--to me, your mother! A
while ago, when you returned from Prague, I thought you changed, but
you soon recovered; yet all last evening I was conscious that you were
tormented by some secret anguish. For God's sake, tell me what it is."
As she spoke she stroked his arms soothingly from the shoulder
downwards. "If you only knew what torture it is to me to see you suffer
without being able to help you, or at least to share your pain with
you!"

The nameless magic of her presence affected him more powerfully than
ever--her tender caress produced in him the delightful, languid
sensation of convalescence. For a moment he half-resolved to tell her
everything, that she might once for all allay his pain. But his cheek
flushed,--how could he?--no, he must master it of himself. He pressed
both her hands to his lips.--"Do not ask me, mother, I pray you," he
murmured, "how often must I repeat that I cannot, try as I may, tell
you everything."

The Countess gravely shook her head. "That excuse does not satisfy me;
I can understand that it is easier to speak of certain things to a
father than to a mother, but don't you know that never since your
boyhood have I tried to keep you in leading-strings? When did I ever
play the spy upon your actions, or meddle with what did not concern a
mother?"

"Never, mother dear, so long as I was well and happy," he assented,
involuntarily adopting a tone of tender raillery, "but, if I happened
to hang my head,--oh, then, you were sometimes very indiscreet."

"A son who is ill or unhappy is always about two years old for his
mother," she said. "Come now, confess; I am an old woman, you can speak
out before me. I am convinced that your exaggerated conscientiousness
is leading you to magnify some very commonplace affair;--an old love
scrape is perhaps casting a shadow over your betrothal...."

"You are mistaken, mamma, there is nothing to trouble me in my past; it
is all as if it had never been."

"Well, then, what troubles you?"

For a moment he did not speak, then he said in a low tone rather
hastily, "A wretched nervousness--sorry fancies! Can you believe
it?--just before you came in, I saw plainly, as plainly as I see you,
the laughing blind woman come towards me!"

"Are you beginning to suffer from the Lodrin hallucinations?" the
Countess exclaimed.

The 'Lodrin hallucinations,'--she uttered the words carelessly, without
reflection. His soul drank them in thirstily.

"Apparently, mamma, but I shall get rid of them, I shall certainly get
rid of them," he replied in a clear, joyous voice.

"And what other fancies did your nerves suggest?" she asked,
scrutinizing his face anxiously.

"Loathsome imaginings which sullied my heart and soul, and which I
tried in vain to banish, foul suspicions of those whom I venerate most.
I was free from them in your presence only, mother, and that is why I
have come to you so often of late; these phantoms never dare to assail
me when I am with you!"

The Countess arose and extinguished the candles; for a while there was
silence.

"Mother," he said softly, and almost overpowered by sleep as he took
her hand in his, "tell me what it is that rays out from your hallowed
eyes, with power to chase all shadows from my soul?"

Again there was silence. For a few minutes she listened to his calm
regular breathing. He had fallen asleep.

With hands folded in her lap, deadly pale, and with a look of horror in
her eyes, she remained seated on the edge of the bed. The day had just
dawned when she arose. Oswald half awoke and opened his eyes. "You here
still, mamma? Oh what a delicious sleep I have had!"

"Sleep on, my child," she whispered, leaning over him and kissing his
brow, before she left the room. She glided slowly along the corridor,
her hand upon her heart. "Shall I have the strength," she murmured,
"shall I have the strength?"



                              CHAPTER VII.


If he could only have got hold of these Lodrins,--if he could only have
found an opportunity to speak with them, he could have humbled their
pride before now, the Conte said to himself. He was still endeavouring
to find some such opportunity; yesterday he had positively forced his
friend the Baroness Melkweyser to drive over at last to Tornow to lay
at the feet of the Countess Lodrin the antique set of china, albeit not
in the name of the Conte Capriani, but of her humble servant, Doctor
Alfred Stein. He was curious to hear what Zoë would have to tell, but
after her return from Tornow Zoë had incontinently retired to her
apartment with a violent headache, and the request that a cup of strong
tea might be sent to her.

The headache lasted all through the next forenoon to the great vexation
of the Conte, who was, moreover, in extreme bad humour. He was annoyed
by a trifle, a perfectly absurd trifle, but it had sufficed to stir up
all the gall in his nature. His _maître d'hôtel_ had given him warning
this morning, or, as that worthy expressed it, had handed in his
resignation. When the Conte, who set great store by him, asked him his
reason for so doing, and whether his salary was not sufficiently large,
Monsieur Leloir, with the respectful air proper to the well-trained
servant that he was, but with a distinctness that left nothing to be
desired, replied that the salary corresponded to his wishes, and he had
nothing to object to in the treatment that he had received, but--he
felt too lonely, secluded,--"_Monsieur le Comte voit trop peu de
monde_."

Two highly satisfactory messages, brought him shortly afterwards by the
telegraph that connected his study at Schneeburg with the business
world, did not suffice to drive this vexatious occurrence from his
mind. He looked considerably sallower than usual when he appeared at
lunch. All the rest were seated at table when the Baroness Melkweyser
appeared. In her character of convalescent she wore a gorgeous, brocade
dressing-gown upon which was portrayed a forest of gigantic sunflowers
against an olive-green background. Otherwise she betrayed no indication
of feeble health; her appetite was particularly reassuring.

"You are very subject to headache nowadays," said the Conte, in a tone
of reproof.

Instead of replying Zoë helped herself for the second time to omelette
with truffles, and Parmesan cheese.

"Perhaps the long drive was too fatiguing," suggested the mistress of
the house, always kindly desirous of atoning for her husband's
rudeness.

"Had you a pleasant visit at Tornow?" asked Fermor.

"It is always pleasant to see dear old friends again," said Zoë curtly.
Her mood was undeniably irritable; apparently she had laid in a stock
of arrogance at Tornow, that would last her several days.

"I really must go over to Tornow," said Fermor, "I trust, Baroness,
that you did not mention my having been here so long; the Countess
might well think it very strange that I had not been over to see her."
Kilary smiled, and Fermor went on in his affected, drawling way. "Very
admirable people, the Lodrins, but they are not very interesting to
me;--they are too matter-of-fact;--they have too little feeling for
art."

After lunch, whilst Fermor was testifying to the depth of his feeling
for art, by improvising on the grand piano an accompaniment to a new
ode by Paul Angelico, who, in his immortal waterproof, draped like
Sophocles, stood opposite and read the ode aloud in a sonorous voice
out of a little volume bound in red morocco, Capriani took occasion to
draw Zoë Melkweyser aside that he might ask: "Did you have any
opportunity yesterday to deliver my message to the Countess Lodrin?"

"Yes," replied Zoë drily.

"And what answer have you brought me?"

"The Countess says she is quite ready to purchase the china of you."

"To purchase it of me!" repeated the Conte, pale with anger, "but my
dear Zoë,"--in moments of great excitement the Conte was wont to call
the Baroness by her first name,--"but my dear Zoë what did you propose
to her?"

"Exactly what you told me."

"Indeed?"--the Count drew closer to her, and leaned forward,--"did you
tell her that I laid the china at her feet, not in the name of the
Count Capriani, but of the Doctor Stein whom she knew years ago in the
Riviera?"

"Yes, and I told her that you said you had formerly attended the Count,
her husband."

"Well?"

"She replied--do you really wish to hear her reply."

"Yes."

"Well, then, she replied, 'that may possibly be so, but I do not
remember it.'"

The Conte grew still paler, and his face wore an ugly expression;--he
picked up a paper-knife of beautiful oriental workmanship, and began to
toy with it restlessly.

"I beg you to observe," Zoë began, "that I am entirely innocent in this
matter. You certainly remember that I postponed for weeks the delivery
of your message, and that I fulfilled your commission reluctantly at
last. I told you beforehand what the result would be; but you were so
perfectly sure that the Countess would remember the name of Stein...."

"What's the matter?" asked Kilary approaching them. "What agitates you
so, my dear Capriani."

"The Conte is determined to prove to me that nothing can withstand his
power, not even a paperknife," said Zoë sharply, pointing to the one
which the Conte was bending.

"Or the Lodrin arrogance," observed Kilary, "eh? My dear Capriani, in
my native town in Upper Austria they have an old proverb, 'What can't
be lifted must be let alone.' Now if you would only take this proverb
to heart you would save yourself a vast amount of time and vexation."

Just then the paper-knife snapped in two, and the Conte threw the
pieces on the floor.

"Who is riding past?" asked the baroness, with undisguised curiosity,
leaning out of the window by which she had been standing.

"It must be Count Kamenz," said Ad'lin, who had been busy encouraging
by her applause the united, artistic efforts of Fermor and Paul
Angelico, "I am surprised that he has not paid us a visit before now."

"No, it is the Lodrin cousins," said Kilary, "they are evidently going
to see Malzin."

Ad'lin looked disappointed. And the Conte turning away from the
Baroness and Kilary began to pace the room slowly to and fro. After a
while he paused in front of his wife, who with a sadder face than usual
was cutting out her cretonne flowers. "You went to see the Malzins
to-day,--how is he?"

"Very ill; unlike other consumptives, he is perfectly aware of his
condition, and consequently the future of his children lies heavy on
his heart. I did my best to comfort him--but that was little enough."
"Do you know whether he still proposes to go to Gleichenberg?" her
husband interrupted her.

"Yes, he is getting ready to go. Müller, the old nurse voluntarily
offered to accompany him; she could not find it in her heart to have
him waited upon and tended by strangers."

But Müller's touching devotion did not interest Capriani in the least.
"This is evidently just the time to talk with him about the vault," he
said as if to himself.

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Frau von Capriani startled out of her
usual submissive gentleness,--"with an invalid!" ....

"Come, come, let us have no sentimentality!" he interrupted her
sharply. "You know I understand nothing of the kind."



                             CHAPTER VIII.


In his childhood, beside his father's sick-bed, Oswald had learned how
to treat an invalid with rare tenderness; but what he never had been
taught nor could have been taught,--what was his very own nature,--was
his impetuous, untiring kindheartedness, a kindheartedness that was
never content with passively theorizing, but always refused to
discontinue effort even in the case of the most distressing
emergencies, and always longed to soothe with hope the pain which it
could not cure.

Fritz, on the day after the dinner, had sent a note to Tornow, telling
of his sad condition and of his projected journey to Gleichenberg, and
Oswald and Georges had instantly ridden over to Schneeburg, where they
found Fritz coughing incessantly, propped up with pillows in a large
easy-chair before his writing-table, painfully endeavouring to write
out his last will. Ten minutes of Oswald's presence sufficed to cause
life to wear a different aspect for Fritz. Oswald scolded him for
giving them all such a fright with that desponding note of his,
protested that a man looking as well as he did had no right to depress
his friends with melancholy forebodings, told of the miracles wrought
by Gleichenberg on many of his acquaintances, and declared that 'a mere
hemorrhage' was of very little consequence, particularly in cases like
Fritz's where consumption was not in the family.

"I had one, when I was a volunteer, after parade one day," he
concluded, "and I never should know it to-day."

"That must have been something different, Ossi," said Fritz, laughing
at his friend's earnestness;--the laugh brought on a violent fit of
coughing. Oswald put his arm around him and supported his head;--"it
will soon be over, hand him a glass of water, Georges, there...."

"However low down a fellow may be, it lightens his heart to look into
your eyes, Ossi," said Fritz, taking breath after the cough had gone.

"You're right there, Fritz," Georges agreed, "and yet there's no more
inflammable, and momentarily unjust man in the world, than he."

"Yes, but then...." began Fritz.

"Now be quiet," Oswald ordered, "the best thing for you to do would be
to lie down for a while, and we will do our best to entertain you
without making you laugh."

"Thanks," said Fritz, "but I .... I should like to say something to you.
When a man stands on the brink of the grave...."

"Aha, you are posing again as an interesting invalid," Oswald rallied
him; "well--Georges, go down stairs and pay your respects to Pipsi,
there's a good fellow; I hear her chattering with her little brother
beneath the window;--I know how pleased Fritz is with your visit, but,
just now, you are a little in the way."

Georges laughed, and withdrew bowing low.

They were left alone in the long, low room; against the windows the
leaves of the old apricot-trees rustled dreamily, and the air was
fragrant with the scent of the last flowers of summer. The portraits of
Fritz's parents and of their Imperial Majesties looked down from the
wall, their outlines rather vague in the darkened apartment, and on the
old door-jamb, scored with the children's names a prismatic sunbeam was
playing.

"Now tell me, Fritz, what is the matter? You know there is no need of
any beating about the bush between us," said Oswald leaning towards the
sick man, "speak low, I can hear you."

Fritz fixed his gaze upon the door-jamb where among the old names two
new ones had been written, 'Pipsi five, Franzi three years old.' "God
knows, I have no reason to cling to life," he said with a sigh, "and
yet my heart is sore at the thought that next year I shall--make no
mark there!--Poor children!--who will care for them when I am gone?"
His voice broke, and it was with difficulty that he kept back the
tears. "I have taken a great deal of pains with them, and hitherto they
have been good little things,--at least so they seem to me ...."

"Your children are charming," was Oswald's warm assurance.

"Are they not?" gasped Fritz, and his hollow eyes sparkled, "but they
are still so little--when I am dead they will run wild. Capriani will
not let them starve--assuredly not; but _how_ will he provide for
them?--and my wife agrees with him in everything--that is the worst of
it;--Ossi, in my will I have expressed a wish that my children should
be separated from their mother. She does not care for them very much; I
think she would be glad to be rid of the burden of bringing them
up .... and I have begged you--you will not take it ill of me, Ossi,...."
he hesitated.

"Would you like me to be their guardian?"

"Ah, Ossi!"

"Then that is settled," said Oswald, holding out his hand, "and,
moreover, my mother told me to tell you that when I am married she
should have nothing more to do, and would take pleasure in attending to
the education of your little ones. You can hardly ask anything better
for them."

"Ah, Ossi, your mother is an angel!"

"Indeed she is," said Oswald gravely.

"She is well?"

"No, she was very weary to-day at dinner, she had a sleepless night
from anxiety on my account--my poor mother! And now since your mind is
easy on all points, old fellow, it is to be hoped that you'll torment
yourself no longer with gloomy forebodings, but do your best to get
well and strong. Let us recall our poor exiled Georges, shall we
not--_ça_! who's there? some one knocked!"

"Come in!" said Fritz.

Conte Capriani entered, a roll of parchment in his hand.

Oswald winced.

"For Heaven's sake stay," panted Fritz, holding his friend fast by the
wrist.

"Yes, pray stay, my dear Count," said Capriani, who must have heard
Fritz's words, or had understood his gesture. "I knew that I should
meet you here, but what I have to arrange with our friend, Malzin,
might as well be discussed before a hundred witnesses. I am really glad
to see you again--our last conversation came to so sudden a
termination," and the Conte familiarly held out his hand to the young
man.

Oswald measured him from head to foot with a haughty glance, and put
his hand in his pocket. Then leaning his elbow upon the high back of
Fritz's easy-chair, he stood motionless while Capriani angrily pushed a
chair near to the table and sat down.

"So, my dear Malzin, you are off for Gleichenberg," he began, with his
left thumb stuck into the arm-hole of his waistcoat, and his right hand
resting on the roll of parchment on his knee.

Oswald's gaze was fixed with a strange curiosity upon the face of the
stock-gambler; all the loathsome ideas which had sullied his soul of
late recurred to him; how disgraceful, nay how ridiculous his foul
suspicions seemed when confronted with the flesh and blood Capriani.

Meanwhile the Conte, irritated to the last degree by the young Count's
cold stare, continued, "You must, of course, be desirous of settling
your affairs, Malzin, before your departure. Under present
circumstances you ought to be glad to be able to provide for the future
of your children."

"Certainly; I have discussed it fully with my relatives," murmured
Fritz, trembling with agitation, and clasping his thin hands on the
table.

"Discussed?--that can lead to nothing," Capriani asserted, "I see, I
see, the same loose way of attending to business. A matter of such
importance ought to be definitely settled. It is time for you to listen
to reason, as regards that vault; of course we all hope that you will
return from Gleichenberg sound and well, but we must be prepared for
the worst. If you close your eyes to this you leave your children
unprovided for, and you, you alone will be to blame, seeing that by
merely executing this deed of sale for that burial-vault--downright
rubbish--you will receive the extremely handsome and liberal sum of
thirty thousand gulden. Now, pray be reasonable."

The Conte spread the parchment out on the table before Fritz, dipped a
pen in the ink, and handed it to him.

The tears came into the wretched man's eyes. "My poor children!" he
groaned and took the pen.

On the instant Oswald snatched the fateful parchment from the table,
and threw it on the floor; "You shall not sign it, Fritz!" he
exclaimed, his voice hoarse with indignation; then turning to the
Conte, he said sharply, "You see that my cousin is not equal to the
excitement of an interview like the present. May I beg you to leave
us?"

The Conte sprang up, his breath came in quick gasps, and a dark menace
shot from the eyes that he rivetted upon the young man's face.

"May I beg you to leave the room," Oswald repeated with icy disdain.

"You show me to the door?"--the Conte said, beside himself with
rage,--"you dare to do this to me--you--were not my hints the other day
plain enough?...."

Oswald lost all self-control; "Scoundrel! Liar!" he gasped hoarsely.
His riding-whip lay on the table--he seized it and pointed to the door;
"Begone!" he thundered.

For an instant Capriani hesitated, baleful threatening flashing in his
eyes. "I am going," he said, "but you shall hear from me!" and the door
closed behind him.

Quivering with rage, Oswald turned about. "My God! Fritz ....!" he
exclaimed in terror. Fritz had risen from his chair, and after
advancing a step, had fallen drenched in blood beside his couch!



                              CHAPTER IX.


The hemorrhage had at last been arrested, the doctor sent for, and the
sick man put to bed. Oswald was sitting beside him, awaiting the
arrival of the physician. From time to time he whispered a comforting
word to the invalid or gave him a bit of ice. Some one gently lifted
the latch of the door. "Ossi!" Georges called softly.

"Well?"

"Capriani has sent this note to you."

"To me? Let me have it."

Oswald took the note and retired to the bedside again. Shortly
afterward he appeared in the adjoining room where Georges was, his eyes
filled with gloom, his face ghastly pale.

"What does the dog say?"

"He asks where his second can find me, as I might not like to receive
him beneath my mother's roof. He is right--!"

"Second?" Georges interrupted him. "Have you quarrelled?"

"Yes, he was insolent to me and to Fritz, and so I called him a
scoundrel and turned him out of the room."

"And you are going to accept his challenge?"

"Yes!"

"You, you mean to fight with Conte Capriani--with a wretched swindler,
with no claim to the satisfaction of a gentleman? Are you insane? Do
you not see how such a duel must degrade you?--Show me his letter that
I may know what to do, and then let me go to him. I assure you that the
matter can be settled in a quarter of an hour; it is nothing but empty
brag on his part."

"I tell you that I insist upon this duel," exclaimed Oswald, beside
himself.

"Upon a duel with an adventurer who, with his money, comes from no one
knows where? It is impossible, downright impossible! Show me his
letter."

Oswald changed colour, felt in his pocket--"I have not got it,--I threw
it away--" he stammered disconnectedly, "moreover, the letter has
nothing to do with the matter. Go to him,--it is against all rule,--but
I will not have his seconds cross my threshold. One second is enough
for me, I will not have another dragged into this disgusting affair.
Arrange everything with Kilary, and as soon as possible--pistols!"

"Pistols?--at thirty-five paces?"

"Fifteen if he chooses,--or for all I care across a handkerchief!"

Georges went close up to his cousin, and looked into his eyes as if to
read his very soul; then he drew a long breath and said, "You are not
alone in the world, Ossi,--you have a mother and a betrothed who
idolize you! and yet you would hazard your life for the sake of a
single angry outburst, for a mere whim; you would accept the challenge
of a man who, spurred on by envy and wounded vanity, is capable of
anything, and to die by whose hand could only disgrace you? And all
because--because you are possessed for the moment by some fixed
delusion which makes life intolerable to you!" Oswald winced. Georges
went on, "The only one who could gain anything by your death is
myself,--and God knows I would give my life at any moment to save
yours! I do not grudge you the position that you occupy."

"What do you mean? What stuff are you talking," Oswald interrupted
him imperiously; his face was still ashy pale, and his voice sounded
harsh--"'You do not grudge me the position that I occupy!'--Perhaps you
think you have a right to it?"

"But, Ossi!--How can you--? you are beside yourself--you are insane!"
ejaculated Georges, utterly confounded.

"Yes, yes,--I have known it for some time, Georges, I am losing my
reason!" Oswald murmured in broken, weary tones. He groped for support,
sank into a chair, and covering his face with his hands, sobbed like a
child.

There was a long pause. At last Oswald raised his head. "Now, go!" he
said in a sharp tone of command, such as he had never before used to
his cousin. "Go to him--pistols--and soon. If you will not go, I will
send Pistasch,--judge for yourself whether that would improve matters!"

And Georges shrugged his shoulders and went.



                               CHAPTER X.


As soon as he was alone Oswald took the Conte's fateful letter from his
pocket, and read it through once more.

No! he had read it aright, there it stood in black and
white!.... "After what I have thus told you," so the letter concluded,
"it is evident that a duel between us two can be nothing but a mere
formality--it is, however, a formality which I demand as due to my
honour as a man ...."

He must go to his mother and show her the letter; there was nothing
else to be done--nothing--! He must know whether he had the right to
shoot him down like a dog, or .... He was overcome by a sudden
dizziness, and the thought occurred to him, 'What if I should faint
away, and some one should find this letter here and read it--!' He
rose, lit a match and burnt the letter, with a feeling akin to relief
when nothing remained of the disgraceful document, save a few ashes.

George's words recurred to him; evidently Georges suspected something
wrong, that was clear,--but what? the contents of that letter he could
not suspect. But what if it were true? What if some one should discover
it? Every one would flee from him, even those who had loved him most.
And on a sudden he himself felt a fearful, paralysing disgust at the
blood in his veins! A dull lump seemed to rise in his throat,--it
choked him. 'But it cannot be,' he said to himself, 'it cannot be.'
Then he sat still for a long time, scarcely daring even to think; he
himself did not know for how long, but when at last the door opened and
Georges entered, he noticed that it had begun to grow dark.

"Well--the affair is settled!" began Georges gloomily.

"For when?"

"To-morrow morning at six o'clock--devil that he is, it could not be
soon enough for him; he pretended that he must leave for Paris in the
evening; probably he thought that if the duel were delayed you might
reconsider it, and instead of giving him satisfaction for the insult of
which he complains, add to it the thrashing which he deserves."

Oswald sat leaning his head on his hand and did not speak.

"God knows, I would not have gone to him," Georges went on, "if I had
not hoped to arrange matters amicably, even against your will,--if I
had not thought I could persuade him to withdraw his crazy challenge!
But the swindler has resolved to fight you; it is the greatest social
triumph that he has achieved in all the years that he has been trying
to climb. Kilary told me, in so many words, that it was only for show,
that it was to be a mere formality,--but--. Even that cynic, Kilary,
declares that he cannot understand your condescension. Well, you rank
so high in public opinion, that people will only wonder at your
eccentricity. Will you say good-bye to Fritz, or shall we go
immediately?"

Fritz had fallen asleep, Oswald would not disturb him, and so they rode
off.

There must have been a storm in the neighbourhood; the air had grown
cooler, a light wind whirled the dust aloft. Heavy broken clouds were
driving overhead, and where the sun had set there was a glow as of a
conflagration, as if the sun in descending had set fire to the clouds.
The red light slowly faded, and all colours were merged in melancholy,
uniform gray.

The two men rode on in silence, which was broken at last by Oswald;
"Georges, I know that if this affair turns out badly to-morrow you will
be blamed for your share in it, blameless though you be. Wherefore I
will leave a letter behind me, telling how I absolutely forced you to
be my second."

"What an idea!" exclaimed Georges angrily; then he added
affectionately--"if so terrible a misfortune should occur, I should
have neither heart nor head to care what people said! Moreover, after
what Kilary told me, there can be no chance of any tragical conclusion
to the affair."

"One never can tell," rejoined Oswald.

Georges was startled, and after a short pause began. "Don't be
childish, Ossi! It depends entirely upon you whether this duel ends
harmlessly or not;--there's not much honour to be gained in provoking a
mad dog. Since you condescend--to my utter mystification--to fight with
Capriani, do not irritate him by disdainful conduct on the ground. A
very minute portion of courtesy will suffice to satisfy him,--but thus
much is absolutely necessary!"

Oswald made no reply. After a while he turned his horse. "Where are you
going?" asked Georges.

In a constrained, unnatural voice Oswald replied. "You ride on towards
home, I should like to go to Rautschin to see Gabrielle, before...."

Georges, who had failed to understand so much in his cousin's behaviour
through the day, thought this desire at least quite natural. He let
Oswald go, and rode on alone to Tornow. He looked round once after
Oswald, and was surprised to see him ride so slowly,--he was walking
his horse.

What the young man wanted was,--not to clasp his betrothed in his
arms,--all that he wanted by this prolongation of his ride was the
postponement of the interview with his mother. When he reached
Rautschin he stopped short and looked up at the windows of the castle.
He thought of the first happy days of his betrothal in Paris; image
after image passed before his mind with beguiling sweetness;--for a
moment he forgot everything.

The windows of the corner drawing-room where the family were wont to
pass their evenings were open;--he listened. He could hear them
talking, and could distinguish Zinka's soft, somewhat veiled tones, and
the sweet, childlike voice of his betrothed, but without catching her
words;--once he heard her laugh merrily, almost ungovernably. When was
it that he had last heard that very laugh? He shuddered,--it was on the
evening of his betrothal in the Avenue Labédoyère--when Zoë Melkweyser
had unfolded her ridiculous mission.

And from out the past resounded distinctly on his ear; "Gabrielle and
the son of the Conte Capriani--! Gabrielle and the son of Capriani!"

He struck his forehead with his fist.--Over the low wall on this side
of the castle, that separated the park from the road, hung the branch
of a rose-bush heavy with Marèchale Niel roses. Oswald plucked one,
kissed it, and tossed it through the open window of the drawing-room.
"Good-night, Gabrielle!" he called up.

When she came to the window to bid him welcome, she saw only a horseman
enveloped in a cloud of dust trotting quickly past the castle in the
direction of the little town.



                              CHAPTER XI.


Night had set in, and Oswald had not yet returned to Tornow. The
Countess was waiting for him, sitting beside a table whereon stood a
lamp with a rose-coloured shade. Georges had told her that her boy had
gone round by the way of Rautschin, which she had thought quite
natural, but none the less was she anxious for his return.

The clock struck a quarter past ten; perhaps he had returned after all
and had not come to her. But no, he would certainly have come to ask
after her health; he had thought her looking ill to-day, and had been
anxious about her, had tenderly begged her to lie down for a while to
recover the sleep that she had lost on his account. She had tried to
smile at him unconcernedly, but it had been a hard task; a casual
remark by Pistasch that morning had informed her of Oswald's interview
with Capriani in Prague, at which no one else had been present, and
which had agitated him excessively. She divined his misery. His love
for her, and his confidence in her were so unbounded that he regarded
his torturing suspicion as an _idée fixe_. Perhaps this temporary
distress of his would pass away without its cause ever being mentioned
between them. God grant it might! But if not? If he should come to
her to-day or to-morrow and say 'Mother I cannot of myself be rid of
this,--forgive me, mother, if I lay down at your feet this burden that
oppresses me, and beg you to soothe my pain!'

She shuddered as this possibility occurred to her. What answer should
she make? 'Shall I have the strength to lie?' she asked herself, and
then she told herself, 'I must find the strength; what do I care about
myself? My whole life for years has been falsehood and deceit,--but he
must have peace--his life I must save!'

She knew that if she could succeed in uttering this lie calmly, his
suspicion would be laid at rest forever, that no evidence in the world
would prevail with him against her word. How she should continue to
live on after this lie, was quite another thing, but she could die, and
God knew she would willingly lay down her life for her child.

She tried to shake off these evil forebodings. All that she dreaded
might never come to pass; surely she might succeed, by preserving a
calm, circumspect demeanour, in slaying his doubt, in destroying his
suspicion without recurring to a direct falsehood.

Poor woman! Upright to a rare degree as was her nature in its essence,
it became distorted beneath the terrible burden weighing on her, and
she was ready to resort to every petty artifice that could afford her
any stay in her miserably false position! She had buried her sin deep,
deep, and had reared above it a wondrous temple sacred to all that is
fairest, noblest, and most unselfish in the world. So grand and firm
was this temple towering aloft to the blue skies, that she dreamed it
would endure forever. She trusted it would. Out of love for her child
she had grown devout. For years she had prayed the same prayer every
evening: "Oh God! I thank Thee for my dear, noble child--accept his
excellence, as an atonement for my sin!"

She believed that God had heeded her prayer, nay, she even believed, in
her boundless affection for her child, that God had wrought a miracle
in her behalf! She forgot that the great mysterious Power that shapes
our destinies never transgresses the laws that it has made, and that
the consequences of our guilt inexorably pursue their way, until their
natural expiation is fulfilled. In this case that expiation took a
shape far different from any that a mother's tender heart could have
devised.

The clock had struck eleven. Her anxiety increased although she could
not have defined her dread. Her windows were open, she listened;--at
last there was the sound of hoofs, the jingle of a bit and bridle. She
breathed a sigh of relief.

A few moments elapsed, and then a weary, lagging step came along the
corridor to her door;--why did that step instantly reveal to her that
the decisive moment had come? There was a knock at her door,--Oswald
entered. "Forgive me for disturbing you so late, mamma," he said in a
tone lacking all animation, "I saw your light from below...."

"Late?--it is hardly eleven o'clock; you know that you never disturb
me, dear child. Since when have you learned to knock at my door? The
next thing you will send in your name."

The forced gayety of her tone did not escape him. "Oh, I did not
know--I--" he murmured vaguely, dropping, without kissing, the hand
which she extended to him; then he took a seat near her, but outside of
the little oasis of light shed by the lamp on the table beside the
Countess.

"You came home by the way of Rautschin?"

"Yes."

"Are they all well there?"

"I do not know; I did not go in, it was too late."

"And Fritz? How is the poor fellow?"

"Very ill!"

"Did you give him my message?"

"Yes, he sends you his thanks."

Oswald seemed metamorphosed. Never before had he answered her so
curtly; she glanced at him anxiously, he was sitting leaning forward,
his elbows on his knees, his head resting on his hand like one longing
to carry out a terrible resolve.

A distressing silence ensues. He feels as if he were about to ask of a
competent authority whether or not there be a God. He cannot bring
himself to do it, and then too how shall he shape the fearful
question?--how can he utter anything so vile in her presence?--he who
all his lifelong would rather have blasphemed in a church than have
spoken an evil syllable before his mother!

The minutes pass; tick, tick, goes the antique watch with the silver
face on the Countess's writing-table. He clears his throat.

"Mother!" he begins.

She interrupts him. "I feel very ill, Ossi!" she says, rising with
difficulty from her arm-chair, "give me your arm, I should like to go
to bed."

But he gently urges her back in her chair again. "Only a moment,
mother; I have something to say to you,--I cannot spare you!"

"Well--say it then!" She sits erect, deadly pale, clutching the arms of
her chair; he stands before her, one hand resting on the table, his
eyes cast down.

"It will not pass my lips," he murmurs, "it will not;--my _idée fixe_
has assailed me again with a strength that I cannot master, try
as I may,--it perverts and absorbs my sense of duty, my
conscientiousness.--Mother....!" the blood rushes to his face,
"Mother--could you forgive me if, in a fit of madness, I struck you in
the face?"

Can she ever forget the imploring, despairing tone of his voice?

"Yes, what do you wish?--I cannot understand--" she stammers.

He gazes at her in surprise. "Mother!" he exclaims--his breath comes
short and quick, when, as though repeating memorised phrases, he says,
"Capriani and I have quarrelled--to revenge himself upon me he has
written me a letter in which he says that you----" he sees her sudden
start--"Great God! can you dream of what he accuses you?"

She gasps for breath, her lips part, she tries with all her strength to
say "no!"--has God stricken her dumb? Struggle as she may only a faint
gasp issues from her lips, no word can she speak!

"Mother!" he moans, "Mother!" She is mute.

The ground seems to rock beneath his feet, the outlines of every object
grow indistinct, dissolve into undefined spots of colour which fade and
mingle.

For a moment he stands as if turned to stone; then he turns towards the
door, walking slowly as if under a crushing weight,--on a sudden he
hears the rustle of skirts behind him, two frail, ice-cold hands clasp
his arm;--half-fainting his mother crouches beside him on the floor.
"My son! my child!" she gasps "Have mercy!"

But he loosens the clasp of her hands, without impatience, without
anger, with the apathy of a man whose heart has been slain in his
breast, and leaves the room.



                              CHAPTER XII.


It was over,--over and gone,--sentence had been pronounced,--her
child's life was destroyed. This she repeated to herself again and
again, without any clear comprehension of the fact, as she lay, still
half-stunned, on the floor where she had sunk down when he left her.
After a while she staggered to her feet, and began to move aimlessly to
and fro, steadying herself at times by grasping a chair or table. At
last she sank into a seat, her memory had given way;--she asked herself
the meaning of the dull weight at her heart, her eyes wandered vaguely
around, her thoughts dazed by agony groped backward through the past,
and forward through the future, finding no resting-place. She recalled
her child's birth, and how every one rejoiced in it, except herself;
when the doctor showed her the little thing as a perfect model of a
baby, did she not thrust it from her impatiently? Farther back, beyond
Oswald's birth, all light faded--everything was dark. That within her
which had sinned had been so long, so completely dead; a woman capable
of such a lofty ideal, whom maternal affection had so entirely purified
and refined, could not but lose all comprehension of her past. All her
inner life preceding the hours of Oswald's life, was to her mental
consciousness misty and undefined; the birth of her child had revealed
a new world to her, and though for years she had denied it, and had
crushed down the mother in her, it was none the less true that after
his birth she had no interest save her child. Urgent regard for her
health prompted the physician to order that she should nourish
the boy herself, if only for the first two months of his life; she
obeyed him fretfully, eyeing the child suspiciously--nay, well-nigh
malignantly,--when it was first placed in her arms, and then .... then
she enjoyed it, and longed for the hours when her baby was to be
brought to her, and when the two months were over, and the physician
informed her that she could now without detriment to her health hand
over the child to a hired nurse, she was angry, and felt strangely
vexed with the man, who after all had thought only to please her in
relieving her of what he supposed was an intolerable burden. What was
intolerable to her was the idea of laying her child on the breast of a
stranger, and for an instant she was on the point of flatly refusing to
do it. But no, that would have been too eccentric, and she gave the boy
up. For a couple of days she feared she should lose her reason, so
consumed was she with restless jealousy; she could not sleep at night,
and when the hours came round at which her baby had usually been
brought to her, she trembled from head to foot, and sometimes burst
into tears of agitation and longing. She could not forget the warm
little bundle that had lain upon her knees, and the boy had thriven so
well in her arms, had begun to be so pretty, to smile back at her and
to gaze slowly about him in solemn surprise, after the fashion of such
human atomies, to whom everything around is strange, and a deep
mystery. Still she conquered herself and avoided all sight of the
child, trying to divert her mind, but--'the wine of life was drawn.'

The child's existence caused her infinite torment; she was not one whom
shams could satisfy. She called everything by its right name, and this
foisting of a false heir upon the Lodrins she called, in her soul a
crime. Sometimes she wished he would die--that would have untangled
everything;--good Heavens! how many children die! but he--was never
even ill, he throve and grew strong.

The Count, who had never before ventured upon the slightest
remonstrances with his headstrong wife, now reproached her continually
for her neglect of the child. She listened to him with brows gloomily
contracted and lips compressed, but said not a word in reply. In winter
she could contrive never to see the boy, but in summer this was more
difficult, especially at times when her husband declared that he could
receive no guests at the castle, that he wished to be alone. She
could hardly set foot in the park without hearing soft childish
laughter, or without seeing some plaything, or the gleam of a little
white dress among the bushes. Once, on a lovely day in June, after a
thunder-shower, as she was walking in the park she suddenly noticed two
tiny footprints on the damp gravel. She stood still, her eyes riveted
upon the delicate outlines, when from the shrubbery close at hand a
little creature toddled up to her, grasped her dress with his chubby
hands and looked up roguishly at her out of his large dark eyes. But
she extricated herself, and hurried past the little man so quickly and
impatiently, that he lost his balance and fell down. What else could
she do but turn and look at him....? Had he cried like other children
of his age it would probably have made no impression upon her; but he
sat stock-still, his little legs stretched out straight, and gazed at
her in indignant surprise like, a little king to whom homage had been
denied. He could not understand it. He was a comical little fellow,
with tiny red shoes, a white frock that did not reach to his bare
knees, and a broad-brimmed, starched, linen hat tied beneath his chin,
shading his charming little face. In a flash her heart was conscious of
a consuming thirst; she stooped and lifted him in her arms.

Some children there are who dislike to be caressed, and will fretfully
turn away their heads from their mother's kisses, but little Ossi was
of a different stamp, and responded with a bewitching readiness to his
mother's tenderness, nestling his head on her shoulder with a satisfied
chuckle, and pressing his little lips to her cheek. For just one moment
she resolved to yield, she would forget everything, and take her fill
of kisses, and of delight in his beauty, in his bright eager looks, and
in the droll way in which words, robbed of every harsh consonant by
rosy little lips, came rippling like the twittering of birds.

"Papa!--Papa!" the child shouted. She looked round,--there stood the
old Count watching her in mute delight.

"Has he conquered you too at last?" he exclaimed, "there's no finer
little fellow in all Austria than our Ossi!" And he held out his hands
to the child. She let him be taken from her, and without a word walked
away toward the castle. Ah, what a wretched night she passed after this
episode! No, she would not think of him, it hurt too much.

Time passed; for weeks she would not look at him; then suddenly she
would appear when he was taking his lessons, and for a couple of days
she would watch him with a morbid intensity which sometimes degenerated
into lurking distrust; then finding nothing to justify the distrust she
would again turn from him.

In spite of his excellent disposition the boy might perhaps have grown
up a good-natured but inconsiderate egotist, had not Count Lodrin taken
an unwearied interest in his training, guiding him aright with the most
affectionate gentleness. The influence of the frail old man upon the
child was invaluable. In the society of an invalid so tender and so
loving, the boy learned what he could have learned nowhere else,--to
bow before weakness, and helplessness, the only two potentates whose
sway natures as proud as Oswald's acknowledge. He learned to refine his
innate haughtiness by the most considerate delicacy towards his
inferiors, and to consider his pride as inseparable from devotion to
duty and an impregnable sense of honour.

Sometimes the Countess would steal to the door of the library, where
the father and son were wont to talk together, and would listen. She
did so once when the old man was seriously reproving the boy for some
rudeness that he had shown towards his tutor.

"I know it, papa, I am wrong, but Herr Müller is a coarse kind of man,
and I cannot abide coarseness," she heard the boy say, and the old man
rejoined gently, "He is unfortunate, Ossi, remember that before all.
How, think you, could he endure his lot if in his veins ran such blood
as yours?"

All things swam before the mother's eyes, as with downcast looks she
hurried away, locked herself in her room and wrung her hands.

                               *   *   *
She never addressed a kind word to him, treating him with studied
indifference, with almost malignant severity. Under such treatment the
boy suffered, grew pale, thin, and nervous. Then came a damp, warm
autumn, the skies were every day veiled behind leaden clouds,--it
drizzled continually without actually raining, and the leaves instead
of falling rotted on the trees. A terrible epidemic broke out in the
country around Tornow, and raged like a pestilence, carrying off victim
after victim, until at last it appeared in the market town itself.

The Count, fanatically faithful as ever to the duties of his position,
would not leave Tornow for fear of increasing the panic, but he
entreated his wife to go away and take the boy with her, but this she
obstinately refused to do, not even allowing Oswald with his tutor to
be sent to her relatives.

One morning the Count came to her saying, "Ossi has the fever! The
disease is of a malignant and contagious character; it is quite
unnecessary that you should expose yourself to it, Schmidt and I can
take care of him." Whereupon he left her.

She was fearfully agitated; the hour of her liberation was perhaps
about to strike; she determined not to lift a finger to save the
child's life. She forced herself to keep away from his sick-room for
several days; the boy rapidly grew worse; for his recovery the Count
had mass said in the chapel of the castle, although he himself was not
present at it,--he would not leave the child's bedside; but of course
the Countess attended at the religious celebration. She was very
generally beloved by her servants, but on that day she could see on
their faces ill-concealed surprise, nay, scarce-repressed indignation,
beneath their conventional expression of respect.

After the Elevation the chaplain delivered a short discourse in which
he praised the sick boy's amiable qualities, and requested all to join
him in imploring God's grace for the heir of the house. Tears ran down
the cheeks of all the old servants while the priest prayed, but the
Countess kneeled on her _prie-dieu_, her face pale, her eyes tearless,
her lips scarcely moving.

The day wore on; hour after hour passed into eternity, the early
autumnal twilight descended from the gray clouds upon the earth, and
gradually deepened to black night; throughout the castle reigned
unbroken silence, and not even outside was heard the sound of a falling
leaf. The Countess's pulses throbbed with a feverish longing for her
child, that nearly drove her mad. She wondered if he in turn did not
feel a yearning for her presence?--if his grief at her absence from his
sick-bed did not aggravate the disease?--how if it were killing him?
She pictured him borne away upon the dark, swiftly-rushing stream of
eternity so close beside her that she might have stretched forth her
hand to save him,--and she dared not! Oh, that she could have commanded
fate, "Take him, I will not keep him, but take me too!"

Minutes grew to hours; perhaps at that very instant he was breathing
his last. She sprang up,--she would not nurse him back to life, no, but
she must see him once more, once more clasp him to her heart before he
died.

She hurried to the door of the sick-room, listened, and heard the low
monotonous moan that is wrung from a half-conscious sufferer. She
entered; at the foot of the bed sat the old Count, bent and weary.
Schmidt, Oswald's old nurse, was applying a cold, wet towel to the
boy's forehead. The Countess took it from her, thrust her aside with
jealous haste, and herself laid the wet cloth upon her son's head.
Strange! at the touch of her hand he opened his eyes, and even in his
half-unconscious state, recognised her with a faint, wondering smile.

From that hour she never left his bedside. The famous physician in whom
she had great confidence, and for whom she telegraphed to Vienna,
frequently declared afterwards: "Never have I seen a child nursed with
such devotion by a mother!"

She tended him like a sister of charity,--like a maid-servant. She
gloried in his refusal to allow any one else to wait upon him, that he
screamed with pain when another hand than hers touched him, that he
turned from his medicine if she did not administer it.

The crisis passed; the physician pronounced all danger over if no
unforeseen relapse occurred. This he made known to the Count and
Countess in the antechamber of the sick-room, whither they had
withdrawn to hear his opinion. When the Count feelingly thanked him for
saving his child's life, Doctor M .... denied that any credit was due to
him, "my share," said he, "in this fortunate result is but trifling;
the recovery of our little patient is owing solely to the wonderful
nursing that he has been blessed with," and turning to the Countess he
added respectfully, "Your Excellency may say with pride that your child
owes his life to you for the second time."

The ground seemed to reel beneath her,--she could have shouted for joy,
and yet never in her life had she been so wretched as at this blissful,
terrible moment. Without a word she returned to the sick-room, and sat
down by the little white bed; she motioned to Schmidt who had been
watching the boy's sleep, to retire, she wanted to be alone with her
child. He was sleeping soundly, his breath came and went regularly, and
his brown head rested comfortably on the pillow. She could not look
long enough at the dear little emaciated face, wearing now a smile in
sleep. He was like herself, his every feature resembled hers, his
straight, broad brow, the short, delicately chiselled nose, the finely
curved mouth, firm chin, nay, even the gleam of gold in the dark hair
about the temples, all were her own. Even his hands lying half-closed
on the coverlet resembled hers; they were longer and more muscular, but
they were shaped like hers. How she admired him, how proud she was of
him in her inmost soul! She had not been able to let him die,--he _owed
his life to her for the second time!_ It was useless to combat a
feeling that always gained the upper-hand; but how was she to adjust
herself to her false position?--what was her duty? This question she
asked herself in desperate earnest, honestly ready to atone for her
guilt by any sacrifice. Her stern, cold duty was perhaps to go to her
husband, confess to him the terrible truth, and then, with her child,
and with all the means that was her own, depart for some quarter of the
world where amid strangers she could provide a tolerable existence for
her boy. She shuddered!--her own disgrace was of no consequence;
she suffered so fearfully beneath the weight of the falsehood of her
life, that it would have been a relief to burst its bonds,--but her
child!--Why, in comparison with the torture to which her confession
would subject him, it would be merciful to stab him to the heart. He
was too old and too precocious not to appreciate fully the disgrace of
his position; he was too proud and too sensitive to find any
consolation or support under such fearful circumstances in the love of
a dishonoured mother.

She must continue to carry out the lie. Who would thus be the
sufferer?--Her own conscience; hers must be the torture! A confession
would ruin the existence of her husband, and her son, and would
overwhelm two families with disgrace, while now ....! The only being who
had any claim to the Lodrin estates was a good-for-naught, who never
could be to his people what Oswald promised to be. And suddenly she
seemed to see her duty clear before her, a noble sacrificial duty!

She would so train Oswald that he should fill the station that he
occupied better than any other could possibly fill it,--his excellence
should justify her deceit.

She solemnly vowed, by her child's bedside, to watch over his heart and
soul, to guard his fine qualities like a priceless treasure, to see
that no breath of evil should ever taint them. Then she bent over him
and kissed his hands gently. He woke and smiled, whispering, "Mamma,
will you go on loving me when I am well?"

                               *   *   *

Love him indeed! Ah, how she petted and indulged him during his long
convalescence, how willingly she complied with all his little whims,
how gladly she submitted to the exactions of his affection, half
selfish though they were at times, as those of an invalid on the road
to recovery are so apt to be! How well she knew how to amuse, and
occupy him! how many games of chess and of cards she played with him!
how she read aloud for his entertainment, albeit unused to such
exertion, Cooper's Leatherstocking Tales, and Dumas' _Trois
Mousquetaires_!

When he had fully recovered, her treatment of him was more serious. She
kept the vow she had made to herself, she watched his every impulse,
his every breath, spared no pains to train him to be,--what he must be
to satisfy her conscience, her pride,--a blessing to all around him.
She even did what was for her the hardest task of all, she repressed
her tenderness for him, lest it should make him effeminate. She made it
her duty, when the time came for him to resume his studies, to engage a
new tutor for him, and, quite out of patience with the cringing,
fawning candidates for the position that had hitherto made their
appearance in Tornow, she wrote to a foreign Professor of her
acquaintance asking him to aid her in procuring the person whom she
needed. A month later there came to Tornow a young fellow with the
lightest possible hair standing up like a brush above a very
intelligent face, not at all handsome, ruddy, clean-shaven, and with a
very sympathetic expression. He carried himself erect, and his manner,
while it was perfectly easy, was never obtrusive. He was much
interested in his profession of tutor, although he fully recognised its
difficulties, and it never occurred to him to regard it simply as a
provision for impecunious scholars whose hopes were bounded by the
prospect of a future pension. Oswald ridiculed the Prussians, until
this particular Prussian not only compelled his respect, but won his
friendship.

                               *   *   *

The Countess's social relations dwindled to a point; everything that
interfered with her care for her child wearied her. She was often
present while his lessons were going on, she rode with him daily, and
he and his tutor always took their meals with the Count and Countess.

                               *   *   *

She adjusted her life by her boy in every respect. One word from Ossi
sufficed, where her mother's and her brother's entreaties had failed,
to produce a change in her hard, impatient bearing towards her invalid
husband. It was long before she perceived how her conduct in this
respect wounded Ossi's feelings; she sometimes wondered what depressed
the boy. It made her anxious, and one day she asked him about it.
Taking his face tenderly between both her hands she said, "How sad your
eyes are, Ossi, does anything trouble you?" For a moment he hesitated,
and then he spoke out bravely. "Mother, dear, you are so very kind to
every one else; be a little kind to papa!"

She started, turned pale, and left the room without a word; he looked
after her anxiously. Had he alienated her affection again?

                               *   *   *

No! that which all the arguments and representations of her mother and
brother had failed to accomplish a couple of words from boyish lips had
achieved. From that hour she testified towards her invalid husband the
unvarying respect, the careful regard of a dutiful daughter, and
although his various, and increasing infirmities,--he lost his
hearing, and very nearly his eyesight,--becoming at last a complete
paralytic,--made her tendance upon him most distressing, she was
never again betrayed into uttering an impatient word. Hers was a hard
task--especially at the beginning--a very hard task! But what of that?
Ossi was pleased with her, and that was reward enough! She had learned
to read his eyes; for love of him she altered everything in herself
that could displease him, although he himself could not have explained
why; she purified and strengthened her character day by day, and really
became the mother that he dreamed her.

The old Count died; Georges Lodrin had disappeared. An American
newspaper announced his death, and as the announcement was not
contradicted it was held to be true. Georges was the last heir; at his
death the property would have escheated to the government; thus the
Countess need no longer be tormented by the thought that she was
depriving another of his rights.

                               *   *   *

Days of cloudless delight ensued; Ossi grew to manhood, left her
protecting arms, and launched forth upon the broad, perilous stream of
life, while she, gazing after him anxiously, was forced to stay upon
the shore. The time was past when tenderly, delicately, and yet with a
certain shyness of the son already a head taller than herself, she
could ask to know all of his life, could extort from him his small
confessions. She had to leave him to himself, with, at times, a secret
tremor. Only secret, however; she would not interfere with his freedom
of action. Praise of him greeted her on all sides; she was satisfied
with her work.

He was like her in every way, even in his faults; but those faults
which had wrought her ruin,--pride, and passionate blood--became him
well. There was no throne upon earth that she did not consider him
worthy to fill, and which should not have been his if she could have
given it to him; there was no conceivable torture that she would not
have borne willingly if thereby she could have added to his happiness.

His excellence was her justification; her maternal love was her
religion.

                               *   *   *

She still sat in the same arm-chair where she had resolved to utter the
falsehood, which, after all, her lips had refused to speak! Her heart
seemed to have burst in twain, and from it had fallen the whole
treasury of fair memories which she had stored within it; her slain
joys lay about her in disarray, shattered, dead. She tried to collect
them, groping for them in memory; all at once her thoughts hurried to
the future,--the confusion subsided,--she understood!

She moaned, and stroked back the hair from her temples; her wandering
glance fell upon a newspaper lying on her table. The date caught her
eye,--the sixth of August,--she started, the morrow was his birthday!
She remembered the little surprise she had prepared for him; she had
selected from among her jewels something very rare and beautiful which
he could give to his betrothed. Rising from her chair, she said to
herself aloud, "The marriage is impossible!" Then followed the
question, "What will he do, how will he live on?"--"Live?" she
repeated, and on the instant a wild dread assailed her. "For God's
sake!" she groaned, "that must not be, I must prevent it."

Again her thoughts hurried confusedly through her mind. She would go to
him, and on her knees before him entreat, "Despise me, curse me, but be
happy, live to bless those whose fate lies in your hands, and who could
find no better master. The injustice of it I will answer for here, and
before God's judgment-seat! Or--if you cannot sustain the burden of
these unlawful possessions, cast it off. Let my name be blasted, I
deserve nothing better. But you,--you live, take everything that is
mine and that is yours of right, and found a new existence for yourself
wherever it may be!"

She hurried out into the corridor, wild, beside herself. Before his
door she paused, overcome by a horrible sense of shame,--she could
never again look him in the face! What would have been the use? Another
might perhaps compromise philosophically with circumstances. But
he,--detestation of the blood flowing in his veins, would kill him! She
raised her arms, and then dropped them at her sides, like some wounded
bird, that, dying in the dust, makes one last vain effort to stir its
wings to bear it to its lost heaven. Then she kneeled down and pressed
her lips upon the threshold of his door before groping her staggering
way back to her room.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


The mood in which Conte Capriani took his place beside Kilary in the
victoria that was to carry him to the place of meeting, was a very
strange one. Never had he felt such pride of victory; his thoughts
reverted to his first meeting with the beautiful Countess Lodrin at the
beginning of his career, when with his keen scent for all that was
lowest in human beings, he had divined her passionate nature, a nature
held in check with despotic resolution after the great disappointment
of her early life.

With calculating cunning he had plotted and schemed to get her into his
power. But when at last he thought he had quelled and broken her pride,
she suddenly reared her head more haughtily than ever, and thrust him
from her.--He had not believed such audacity possible!

And now the woman whom he had thought to tread beneath his feet stood
at so unattainable a height above him, that his treachery was of no
avail as a weapon against her. How his heart had been consumed by
futile rage! Only the day before yesterday she had dared to send him
word by Zoë Melkweyser that she did not remember him.

"But it is my turn now," he thought, "this duel has forced an
explanation between herself and Oswald,--she has had to humble
herself before her child!" A fiendish exultation thrilled him to his
very finger-tips. "At last they must bow before me," he said to
himself.--"Mother and son, the two haughtiest of the whole haughty
crowd!"

It never occurred to him that this explanation which he had forced so
relentlessly upon the mother and son could have results other than
those which he contemplated. Absolutely content, for the first time in
his life, he leaned back among the cushions slowly puffing forth big
clouds of smoke into the fresh morning air, as the carriage approached
the old monastery of St. Elizabeth.

It was a large building blackened by time, standing quite isolated at
about half a league from Tornow upon fallow land. Formerly a monastery,
afterwards a hospital, and then a poor-house, it was now one of those
melancholy ruins that only await the pickaxe of demolition. The walls
were dirty, the windows black, with half the panes broken and patched
up with paper.--Two grape-vines trailed over the grass where once had
been a garden, and a couple of knotty mulberry-trees grew close to the
ruinous walls.

Leaning against one of these walls stood an ancient black, wooden
crucifix; the nail that had held fast the right hand of The Crucified
had fallen out and the arm hung loose, lending to the rudely-carved
image a strange reality. It looked as if the Saviour in the death
struggle had torn away his bleeding hand from the cross to bless
mankind with it once more.

Beneath the figure of Christ was a tablet with an inscription, the gilt
letters of which, much faded by time, still glistened in the morning
sunlight.

The atmosphere was unusually clear, the skies cloudless. Oswald,
Georges, and old Doctor Swoboda arrived before Capriani; whilst Georges
and Doctor Swoboda walked about the old building discussing various
parts of it to keep themselves cool, Oswald leaned against the doorway
of the old cloister, and gazed silently into the distance. Not a trace
was perceptible of the irritability which Georges had observed on the
previous day. His was the repose of one who sees the goal where the
terrible burden with which destiny has laden him can be cast off.--His
soul was filled with anguish, but was conscious of the remedy at
hand.--Release went hand in hand with duty.

Dear old memories arose upon his mind,--vaguely as if obscured by thick
vapour. His mother's image hovered before him; he clasped his hands
tightly, stood erect, threw back his head and looked upwards as
desperate men always do before final exhaustion. His glance fell upon
the Christ; the tablet at His feet attracted his attention, he
approached it.

"What have you found there?" asked Georges, with forced carelessness.

"I am only trying to decipher the inscription," replied Oswald.

"The inscription?--'God--God--have....'" Georges spelled out.

"'God have mercy upon us all!'" Oswald read, and at that moment the old
iron-barred gate of the monastery garden creaked on its hinges,--Kilary
entered first and Oswald returned his bow with friendly ease. But when
the Conte, following Kilary closely, bowed with a sweet smile Oswald
scarcely touched his hat.

The Conte glanced keenly at him; for an instant his eyes encountered
those of the young man and gazed into their depths, but found nothing
there save immeasurable disgust.

The conditions of the duel called for thirty paces with an advance on
each side of ten paces. The seconds measured off thirty paces and at
the distance of ten paces apart laid two canes down on the grass.

The whole proceeding was to Georges a disgusting farce; he seemed to be
acting as in a dream, without any will of his own. It was impossible
that his cousin Oswald Lodrin should condescend to fight with this
adventurer.

Oswald and the Conte took their places, the seconds gave the signal. On
the instant Oswald shot wide of the Conte. A brief, dreadful pause
ensued; the Conte hesitated. With utter disdain in his eyes, his head
held erect, Oswald advanced; the Conte had never seen him look so
haughty.

The sight of the handsome set face recalled to the adventurer the
manifold humiliations that he had been obliged to endure all his
lifelong at the arrogant hands of 'these people.' All his hatred for
the entire caste blazed up within him,--all power of reflection gone he
blindly discharged his pistol!

Oswald felt something like a hard cold blow on his breast,--a crimson
cloud seemed to rise out of the earth before him, he staggered and
fell.

"Good God!" exclaimed Georges quite beside himself, as he raised the
dying man in his arms and held him there while the old Doctor bent over
him.

Oswald opened his eyes. His mind was somewhat astray,--everything about
him seemed wavering vaguely; then, in the midst of the terrible,
chaotic confusion of every sense that precedes dissolution he made a
mighty effort to grasp and hold a thought that glided indistinctly
through his half-darkened mind. "Georges," he gasped, "what day of the
month is it?"

"The seventh of August."

"My birthday."--Suddenly his mind grew clear once more, and there came
over him the incredible celerity of thought, the wonderful illumination
of vision of the dying, who in a moment of time grasp the memory of an
entire life. As the earth slipped away from him he was able to judge
human weaknesses in the light of eternity.

"Georges!" he began.

"Yes, dear old fellow!" said Georges softly, in a choked voice.

"Tell my mother--and for God's sake do not forget--that for the happy
twenty-six years that are past I thank her, and that I kiss her dear,
dear hands in token of farewell!"

He was silent, he breathed with difficulty,--his lips moved again,
and Georges put his ear down to them that he might understand
him--"Georges,--if I have ever done you wrong,--you or any one else in
my life--without knowing it,--then...."

"Ah Ossi, would to God that I could ever lay down my head as calmly and
proudly as you can," whispered Georges, clasping him closer in his
arms.

The dying man smiled--possessed by a great calm. He knew that what had
been his secret was his own forever.

He tried to raise himself a little, rivetting his eyes upon the
crucifix;--the gilt letters gleamed in the morning light. He lifted his
hand by an effort, to make the sign of the cross,--Georges guided his
hand. A bluish pallor appeared upon his features,--twice a tremor ran
through his limbs, his hands fell clinched by his side--his lips moved
for the last time. "Poor Ella!" he murmured scarcely audibly.

                               *   *   *

God have mercy upon us all!



                              CHAPTER XIV.


The Countess Lodrin had passed the night without lying down. When her
maid appeared to see if her mistress were not ill, she had been
dismissed by a mute wave of the hand. At last, towards morning, sitting
beside her writing-table, she had fallen into the leaden sleep that is
wont to follow terrible mental agitation.

The sun was high in the heavens when she awoke with stiffened limbs and
a dull pain at her heart, but without any distinct consciousness of
misfortune. She looked around her, and started, perceiving that some
strange commotion was astir in the castle; she could hear footsteps
overhead, and outside her door.--She hurried out, the corridor was
filled with people--people who had no claim to be up here. And all the
servants were hurrying hither and thither in the confusion of a
household where some catastrophe has occurred, all weeping, trembling,
not one showing unsympathetic curiosity, and amongst them was Pistasch,
vainly trying to quiet the loud howling of Oswald's Newfoundland.

"What is the matter?" the Countess shrieked,--"what has happened?"

But no one had the courage to answer her. She ran to Oswald's
bedroom--all gazed after her in horror-stricken compassion; they might
have restrained her, but who could dare to do so? At the door she met
Georges.

"What is it?" she gasped, clutching his arm, "where is Ossi?"

"In there," he murmured hoarsely, "but ...!"

"'But'--for God's sake tell me what has happened?"

"A duel," said Georges with an effort,--he would fain have detained
her, would fain have found the conventional phrases with which men
attempt to break bad news, he could not recall any, and he stammered.

"A duel?" she asked sharply, "with whom?"

"With Capriani;--he...."

Before he could say another word she had opened the door and had
entered Oswald's room.

They had lain him on his bed,--the noble outlines of his stalwart
figure were distinctly visible beneath the white sheet;--his face was
uncovered, and bathed in all the ideal charm of dead youth.

The Countess staggered, tried to hold herself erect, tripped over her
dress, and fell; then dragged herself on her knees to the bed of her
dead child. At its foot she lay, her face buried in her hands.

When, two hours afterward, Truyn who had been informed of the frightful
catastrophe entered the room with Georges Lodrin, she was still
kneeling in the same place, her head still in her hands.

Profoundly shocked Truyn bent over her, and gently begged her to leave
the room. She arose mechanically, and leaning upon his arm went to the
door. There she paused, turned, and hurried back to the bed. They
feared that force would be necessary to separate her from the dead
body, when Georges remembered the message entrusted to him by the dying
man. In the tumult, the horror, in his own terrible grief he had
forgotten it. "Let me try to persuade her, wait for me here," said he
to Truyn, and going to the bedside where the Countess was again
kneeling he whispered: "Aunt, I have a message for you from him; he
died in my arms, and while dying he thought of you!"

She shrank away from him.

"To-day is his birthday," Georges continued, "he remembered it in his
last moments and begged me to tell you, and, for God's sake not to
forget it, that he thanked you for the past happy twenty-six years, and
that he kissed your dear, dear hands in token of farewell."

The wretched woman, who had hitherto seemed carved out of marble, began
to tremble violently; a hard hoarse sob burst from her lips.

It was the first warm breath of spring breaking up the ice. She
instantly rose and threw herself in an agony of tears upon the corpse,
exclaiming: "My child, my fair, noble boy!"

Georges withdrew; the moment was too sacred to be intruded upon.
Shortly afterwards she tottered, bent and bowed, from the room. Truyn,
whom she had not seemed to perceive, offered her his arm, and she
quietly allowed herself to be led to her own apartment.



                              CHAPTER XV.


The death of the young man excited universal sympathy. He was mourned
not only by his relatives and friends, but by all his dependants, the
peasants on his estates, nay, even by strangers to whom he had only
been pointed out as he passed by. And on the day when he was buried,
with all the honours befitting the noble name which he had borne so
worthily, there was in the whole country round no little child whose
hands were not folded in prayer for him, no poor labouring woman who
had ever met him in the road, and whose existence his kindly smile had
helped to lighten, who did not wear a black apron or a black kerchief,
in loving memory of him. No one, perhaps, could have told what he or
she had expected of the young Count, but all felt that with him some
hope had died, some sunshine had been buried.

Fritz Malzin, the only witness of the insult offered to the Conte, died
the night before the duel; nothing therefore was known save what the
Conte chose to tell; the versions of the reasons that had induced
Oswald's rash acceptance of the Conte's challenge were many and widely
differing, but not one of them bore the least relation to the truth.

As Oswald had foreseen, his relatives overwhelmed Georges with
reproaches for the part he had borne in a duel between his cousin and a
parvenu. But the letter to Truyn which Oswald left behind, exculpated
Georges completely.

People declared, to be sure, that Georges ought to have restrained the
folly of his hot-tempered cousin, but the unaffected grief evinced by
the man, hitherto regarded as careless and indifferent, disarmed every
one. His devotion to his dead cousin revealed itself in his every
action, in the exquisite tenderness of his treatment of Oswald's
wretched mother, and his management of the estates thus suddenly fallen
to him, absolutely in accordance as it was with all Oswald's wishes,
soon won him the warmest sympathy from all.

Of course the Conte was denounced; Oswald's associates in his own rank
regarded the man as no better than a murderer. But he coldly defied
public opinion, and held his head higher than ever; he seemed even to
pride himself upon his deed, and several newspapers defended him.



                              CONCLUSION.


When in May a white-edged, black cloud discharges a storm of hail upon
the fresh, green wheat, the tender blades break and are buried out of
sight beneath heavy sleet; when the storm is past, and the ice melted,
and the sun once more beaming bright and warm in cloudless skies, the
bruised blades think they cannot bear the light, and lying close upon
the ground would fain die. Then over the fields thus laid waste many a
head is shaken, and many a sigh is breathed for the broken promise of
the harvest.

But some there are who, seeing farther and knowing better, shrug their
shoulders, and say "A hailstorm in spring prostrates, but does not
kill!" and they look forward hopefully to the future.

Gradually, and very slowly, the warm sunshine penetrates the crushed
blades, awakening and strengthening within them the benumbed forces of
youth. Before the summer is fully abroad in the land, the wheat stands
erect and tall, to the inexperienced eye all unharmed, but the
husbandman can detect the callous ring where the blade was bent, and
says: "The wheat has been shot in the knee."

Thus it is with youthful souls, crushed to the earth in the spring-time
of life by some fierce tempest. Slowly but surely the spirit, well-nigh
wounded to death, recovers, and God grants to the hearts of those whom
he loves a glorious resurrection.

Gabrielle recovered from the fearful blow that had befallen her,--very
slowly, and painfully to be sure, but at last. At first indeed, her
grief was so profound, she suffered so silently, so tearlessly, that
they feared for her reason, and then, when all seemed darkest to her,
she was suddenly possessed by an intense, inexplicable yearning to
return to the pretty home in the Avenue Labédoyère in which the fairest
hours of her shattered bliss had been spent.

Her desire was complied with; and for many a long winter night Zinka
sat beside her by the same little white bed where the girl had once
whispered to her in the delirium of her happiness that it seemed as if
her heart would break with joy. With tenderest sympathy the young
stepmother talked of the departed unweariedly with the girl, allowing
her tears free course, without ever cruelly attempting to restrain the
expression of her grief. And when Truyn, in despair over such endless
grieving, unreasonably taxed his wife with exciting Ella's emotion, and
with hindering her from forgetting, Zinka replied gently, "Let me
alone; I know what I am doing. There is nothing more terrible, more
dreadful than the spectre of a grief that has been violently stifled;
it lurks in wait for us, and persecutes us all the more persistently,
the more resolutely we thrust it from us. The memory of our beloved
dead must not be banished, it must be tenderly welcomed and cherished,
until in time it loses all bitterness, and is ever with us, sad, but
very dear."

Truyn listened incredulously, but a few weeks later he perceived with
surprise, and with trembling delight that Gabrielle's pale cheeks began
to show a faint colour, and that her weary gait grew more elastic. Then
when he was alone with Zinka he kissed her gratefully, saying "I see
you understand better than I how to comfort."

"And from whom did I learn the art?" she asked in reply, with a loving
glance, "do you not see that I am only repaying old debts?"

With the first snowdrops in February came a golden-haired little
brother for Gabrielle, who, by Zinka's desire was christened "Ossi."
Thus Gabrielle learned to utter her dead lover's name without tears.
She idolizes the little one, and sometimes smiles when she has him in
her arms; he has given her a fresh interest in life. Georges who came
to Paris the last of May, only to see the Truyns, and to find out
especially how Gabrielle was, perceived this with pleasure, and said
much that was encouraging to Truyn, who is still anxious about his
sorrowing child. A hailstorm in spring prostrates, but does not kill.

                               *   *   *

But when a storm of hail just before harvest beats down the ripened
ears, the grain never recovers. Bowed down to the earth, broken and
blasted by the weight of the hailstones, the crop lies prostrate in the
fields, only awaiting the hand that shall clear it away.

                               *   *   *

Never again will the Countess Lodrin rally. Had her health been less
vigorous she might have died of agony, had her mind been less strong,
she might have forgotten. But her health is perfect, and her mind clear
as daylight.

She occupies her modest suite of apartments at Tornow, which Georges
has prayed her always to consider as her home. Her rooms are but a
shrine for relics and memorials of the dead. Every object which
Oswald's hand ever touched is sacred for her. Every benevolent scheme
devised by Oswald in his generous desire, 'to brighten the existence of
as many people as possible,' she promotes. She heaps his former
servants with benefits, his faithful Newfoundland is her constant
companion. She tried to employ her widow's jointure in buying back
Schneeburg for poor Fritz's children, but her agent could effect
nothing against Capriani's obstinacy and millions. At least she
succeeded in buying Malzin's children of their mother.

Charlotte married again, another secretary of Capriani's. The little
Malzins live at Tornow under the care of an English governess, and
thrive apace. The Countess attends to every detail of their education
and training, and sees them every day although only for a short time;
there is no close tie between them. In spring when she hears their
sweet voices resounding with merriment in the park, she winces, and
grows paler than usual. She avoids them, but if she encounters them by
chance she never fails to speak a kind word to them, or to bestow upon
them a gentle caress. She is no longer capable of a fervent affection
for any living being. Her heart is a tomb, completely filled by a
single, idolized, dead son, but for his dear sake she does all the good
that she can to the living. Thus, even after his departure, she seems
striving for his approval.

She devotes the greatest part of her income and of her time to the most
self-sacrificing benevolence. There is no misery in all the country
round which she does not search out, and try to alleviate, going from
hut to hut, and never shrinking from even the most menial services to
the sick. She is revered as a saint throughout the district. In her
social intercourse with her peers, which grows less year by year, her
son's name never passes her lips; if others mention it she turns the
conversation. But when the country-people utter his name with
blessings, and recall his constant kindliness and readiness to
aid;--when the peasants and day-labourers kiss the hem of her dress,
with tears, saying, "God give him his reward in Heaven, we shall never
have another such master!" she lifts her head and her eyes gleam with
intense, sacred pride. Those who meet her then walking erect and with
beaming looks on her way back to the castle, think her wonderfully
recovered, and never dream how utterly shattered her life is. But could
they see her later, when, exhausted by the temporary exaltation, she
takes refuge in her chamber and sinks into the arm-chair wherein she
fell asleep on that horrible night, they would be horror-struck by the
fearful misery of her expression.

There she sits for hours, erect, her elbows close pressed, her hands
folded in her lap. Her whole life is but a protracted, lingering agony;
with fixed gaze she seems listening for the rustling wings of the
messenger who shall release her: the Angel of Death.





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