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Title: O Thou, My Austria!
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 "O Thou, My Austria!" ***

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Transcriber's Note:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/othoumyaustria00schuiala

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



                         "O THOU, MY AUSTRIA!"



                       TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN

                                   OF

                             OSSIP SCHUBIN



                                   BY

                           MRS. A. L. WISTER



                              PHILADELPHIA
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                                 1897.



                           *   *   *   *   *
             Copyright, 1890, by J. B. Lippincott Company.
                           *   *   *   *   *



                               CONTENTS.


                               CHAPTER I.

A Manuscript Misappropriated.

                              CHAPTER II.

The Contents of the Manuscript.

                              CHAPTER III.

An Arrival.

                              CHAPTER IV.

A Quarrel.

                               CHAPTER V.

Baroness Paula.

                              CHAPTER VI.

Entrapped.

                              CHAPTER VII.

An Invitation.

                             CHAPTER VIII.

The Secret.

                              CHAPTER IX.

An Encounter.

                               CHAPTER X.

A Garrison Town.

                              CHAPTER XI.

An Old Friend.

                              CHAPTER XII.

A Graveyard in Paris.

                             CHAPTER XIII.

At Dobrotschau.

                              CHAPTER XIV.

Olga.

                              CHAPTER XV.

Comrades and Friends.

                              CHAPTER XVI.

Lato Treurenberg.

                             CHAPTER XVII.

Mismated.

                             CHAPTER XVIII.

A Friend's Advice.

                              CHAPTER XIX.

Frau Rosa's Birthday.

                              CHAPTER XX.

Komaritz Again.

                              CHAPTER XXI.

"Poor Lato!"

                             CHAPTER XXII.

Harry's Musings.

                             CHAPTER XXIII.

Zdena to the Rescue.

                             CHAPTER XXIV.

A Sleepless Night.

                              CHAPTER XXV.

The Confession.

                             CHAPTER XXVI.

The Baron's Aid.

                             CHAPTER XXVII.

Baron Franz.

                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

A Short Visit.

                             CHAPTER XXIX.

Submission.

                              CHAPTER XXX.

Persecution.

                             CHAPTER XXXI.

Consolation.

                             CHAPTER XXXII.

Interrupted Harmony.

                            CHAPTER XXXIII.

Early Sunrisee.

                             CHAPTER XXXIV.

Struggles.

                             CHAPTER XXXV.

A Slanderer.

                             CHAPTER XXXVI.

Failure.

                            CHAPTER XXXVII.

A Visit.

                            CHAPTER XXXVIII.

At Last.

                             CHAPTER XXXIX.

The Dinner.

                              CHAPTER XL.

A Farewell.

                              CHAPTER XLI.

Resolve.

                             CHAPTER XLII.

Found.

                             CHAPTER XLIII.

Count Hans.

                             CHAPTER XLIV.

Spring.

                              CHAPTER XLV.

Old Baron Franz.



                         "O THOU, MY AUSTRIA!"



                               CHAPTER I.

                     A MANUSCRIPT MISAPPROPRIATED.


"Krupitschka, is it going to rain?" Major von Leskjewitsch asked his
servant, who had formerly been his corporal. The major was leaning out
of a window of his pretty vine-wreathed country-seat, smoking a
chibouque; Krupitschka, in the garden below, protected by a white
apron, and provided with a dark-green champagne-bottle, was picking the
Spanish flies from off the hawthorn-bushes. At his master's question,
he looked up, gazed at a few clouds on the horizon, replied, "Don't
know--maybe, and then again maybe not," and deftly entrapped three
victims at once in the long neck of his bottle. A few days previous he
had made a very satisfactory bargain with the apothecary of the
neighbouring little town for Spanish flies.

"Ass! Have you just got back from the Delphic oracle?" the major
exclaimed, angrily, turning away from the window.

At the words "Delphic oracle," Krupitschka pricked up his ears. It
annoyed him to have his master and the other gentlemen make use of
words that he did not understand, and he determined to buy a foreign
dictionary with the proceeds of the sale of his cantharides. Meanwhile,
he noted down, in a dilapidated memorandum-book, "delphin wrackle,"
muttering the while, "What sort of team is that, I wonder?"

Unable to extort any prognosis of the weather from Krupitschka, the
major turned to the barometer; but that stood, as it had done
uninterruptedly for the past fortnight, at 'Changeable.'

"Blockhead!" growled the major, shaking the barometer a little to rouse
it from its lethargy; and then, seating himself at the grand piano, he
thundered away at a piece of music familiar to all the country round as
"The Major's Triumphal March." All the country round was likewise
familiar with the date of the origin of this effective work,--the
spring of 1866.

At that time the major had composed this march with the patriotic
intention of dedicating it to the victorious General Benedek, but the
melancholy events of the brief summer campaign left him no desire to do
so, and the march was never published; nevertheless, the major played
it himself now and then, to his own immense satisfaction and to the
horror of his really musical wife.

This wife, a Northern German by birth, fair and dignified in
appearance, sat rocking comfortably in an American chair, reading the
latest number of the _German Illustrated News_, while her husband
amused himself at the piano.

The major banged away at the keys in a fury of enthusiasm, until a
black poodle, which had crept under the piano in despair, howled
piteously.

"Ah, Paul," sighed Frau von Leskjewitsch, letting her paper drop in her
lap, "are you determined to make my piano atone for the loss of the
battle of Königgratz?"

"Why do you have a foreign piano, then?" was the patriotic reply; and
the major went on strumming.

"You make Mori wretched," his wife remarked; "that dog is really
musical."

"A nervous mongrel--a genuine lapdog," the major muttered,
contemptuously, without ceasing his performance.

"Your march is absolutely intolerable," Frau von Leskjewitsch said at
last.

"But if it were only by Richard Wagner--" the major remarked,
significantly: "of course you Wagnerites do not admit even the
existence of any composer except your idol."

With this he left the piano, and, with his thumbs stuck into the
armholes of his vest, began to pace the apartment to and fro.

There was quite space enough for him to do so, for the room was large
and its furniture scanty. Nowhere was he in any danger of stumbling
over a plush table loaded with bric-à-brac, or a dwarf arm-chair, or
any other of the ornaments of a modern drawing-room.

The stock of curios in the house--and it was by no means
inconsiderable, consisting of exquisite figures and groups of
Louisburg, Meissen, and old Viennese porcelain, of seventeenth-century
fans, and of thoroughly useless articles of ivory and silver--was all
arranged in two antique glass cabinets, standing in such extremely dark
corners that their contents could not be seen even at mid-day without a
candle.

Baroness Leskjewitsch hated everything, as she was wont to express
herself, that was useless, that gathered dust, and that was in the way.

In accordance with the severe style of the furniture, perfect order
reigned everywhere, except that in an arm-chair lay an object in
striking contrast to the rest of the apartment,--a brown work-basket
about as large as a common-sized portmanteau. It lay quite forlornly
upon one side, like a sailing-vessel capsized by the wind.

The major paused, looked at the basket with an odd smile, and then
could not resist the temptation to rummage in it a little.

His wife always maintained that he was something of a Paul Pry; and
perhaps she was right.

"Ah!" he exclaimed, dragging to light a piece of embroidery upon
Japanese canvas. "The first design for a cushion--the 17th is
my birthday. What little red book is this?--'Maximes de La
Rochefoucauld'--don't know him. And here--why, only look!" He pulled
out a package tied with blue ribbon. "A manuscript! It seems that Zdena
has leanings to authorship! H'm--h'm! When a girl like our Zdena takes
to such ways, it is usually a sign that she feels impelled to confide
in a roundabout way, to paper, something which nothing could induce her
to confess frankly to any living being. H'm! I really am curious to
know what goes on in that whimsical, childish brain.

"'My Memoirs!'" The major pulled aside the blue ribbon that held the
package together. "A motto! Two mottoes!--a perfect _luxe_ of mottoes!"
he murmured, and then read out aloud,--


         'Whether you marry or not, you will always repent it.'

                                                           Plato.


Then comes,--

           'Should you marry, then be sure
            Life's sorest ills you must endure.'

                                                Lermontow.

     'L'amour, c'est le grand moteur de toutes les bêtises humaines.'

                                                          G. Sand.


I really should not have supposed that our Zdena had already pondered
the marriage problem so deeply," he said, gleefully; then,
contemplating with a smile the mass of wisdom scribbled in a bold,
dashing handwriting, he added, "there seems to be more going on in that
small brain than we had suspected. "What do you think, Rosel? may not
Zdena possibly have a weakness for Harry?"

"Nonsense!" replied the Baroness. She was evidently somewhat
annoyed,--first, because her husband had roused her from a pleasant
nap, or, rather, disturbed her in the perusal of an article upon
Grecian excavations, and secondly, because he had called her Rosel. Her
real name was Rosamunda, a name of which she was very proud; she really
could not, even after almost twenty years of married life, reconcile
herself to her husband's thus robbing it of all its poetry. "Nonsense!"
she exclaimed, with some temper. "I have a very different match in view
for her."

"I did not ask you what you had in view for Zdena," the major observed,
contemptuously. "I know that without asking. I only wish to know
whether during your stay in Vienna you did not notice that Zdena had
taken a liking to----"

"Oh, Zdena is far too sensible, and, if I am not greatly mistaken, also
too ambitious, to dream of marrying Harry. She knows that Harry would
ruin his prospects by a marriage with her," Frau von Leskjewitsch
continued. "There's no living upon love and air alone."

"Nevertheless there are always some people who insist upon trying it,
although the impossibility has long been demonstrated, both
theoretically and practically," growled the major.

"And, aside from all that, Harry is not at all the husband for your
niece," Frau Rosamunda went on, didactically. "She is wonderfully well
developed intellectually, for her age. And he--well, he is a very good
fellow, I have nothing to say against him, but----"

"'A very good fellow'! I should like to know where you could find me a
better," cried the major. "In the first place, he is as handsome as a
man can be----"

"As if beauty in a man were of any importance!" Frau von Leskjewitsch
remarked, loftily.

Paying no attention to this interruption, the major went on reckoning
up his favourite's advantages, in an angry crescendo. "He rides like a
centaur!" he declared, loudly, and the comparison pleased him so much
that he repeated it twice,--"yes, like a centaur; he passed his
military examinations as if they had been mere play, and he is
considered one of the most brilliant and talented officers in the
army. He is a little quick-tempered, but he has the best heart in the
world, and he has been in love with Zdena since he was a small boy;
while she----"

"Let me advise you to lower your voice a little," said Frau Rosamunda,
going to the window, which she partly closed.

"Stuff!" muttered her husband.

"As you please. If you like to make Zdena a subject for gossip, you are
quite free to do so, only I would counsel you in that case to consult
your crony Krupitschka. He has apparently not lost a single word of
your harangue. I saw him from the window just now, staring up here, his
mouth wide open, and the Spanish flies crawling out of his bottle and
up his sleeves."

With which words and a glance of dignified displeasure, Frau Rosamunda
left the room.

"H'm! perhaps I was wrong," thought the major: "women are keener in
such matters than we men. 'Tis desirable I should be mistaken, but--I'd
wager my gelding's forefoot,--no--" He shook his head, and contemplated
the manuscript tied up with blue ribbon. "Let's see," he murmured, as
he picked it up and carried it off to his smoking-room.



                               CHAPTER II.

                    THE CONTENTS OF THE MANUSCRIPT.


Major Paul Von Leskjewitsch, proprietor of the estates of Lauschitz and
Zirkow in southwestern Bohemia, had been for twenty years on the
retired list, and was a prosperous agriculturist. He had formerly been
a very well-to-do officer, the most steady and trustworthy in the whole
regiment, always in funds, and very seldom in scrapes.

In his youth he had often been a target for Cupid's arrows, a fact of
which he himself was hardly aware.

"What an ass I was!" he was wont to exclaim to his cousin, Captain Jack
Leskjewitsch, when on occasion the pair became confidential at midnight
over a glass of good Bordeaux. The thought of his lost opportunities as
a lover rather weighed upon the worthy dragoon.

In his regiment he had been very popular and had made many friends, but
with none of them had he been so intimate as with his corporal
Krupitschka. There was a rumour that before the major's wooing of his
present wife, a Fräulein von Bösedow, from Pomerania, he had asked this
famulus of his, "Eh, Krupitschka, what do you think? Shall we marry or
not?"

Fortunately, this rumour had never reached the ears of the young lady,
else she might have felt it her duty to reject the major, which would
have been a pity.

In blissful ignorance, therefore, she accepted his proposal, after
eight days of prudent reflection, and three months later Baron
Leskjewitsch led her to the altar.

Of course he was utterly wretched during the prolonged wedding
festivities, and at least very uncomfortable during the honey-moon,
which, in accordance with the fashion of the day, he spent with his
bride in railway-carriages, inns, churches, picture-galleries,
and so forth. In truth, he was terribly bored, tided himself over the
pauses which frequently occurred in his conversations with his bride
by reading aloud from the guide-book, took cold in the Colosseum,
and--breathed a sigh of relief when, after all the instructive
experiences of their wedding-tour, he found himself comfortably
established in his charming country-seat at Zirkow.

At present the Paul Leskjewitsches had long been known for a model
couple in all the country round. Countess Zelenitz stoutly maintained
that they were the least unhappy couple of her acquaintance,--that they
were past-masters of their art; she meant the most difficult of all
arts,--that of getting along with each other.

As every piece of music runs on in its own peculiar measure, one to a
joyous three crotchets to the bar, another to a lyrically languishing
and anon archly provocative six-quaver time, and so on, the married
life of the Leskjewitsches was certainly set to a slow four crotchets
to the bar,--or "common time," as it is called.

The husband, besides agriculture, and his deplorable piano performances,
cultivated a certain hypochondriac habit of mind, scrutinized the
colour of his tongue very frequently, and, although in spite of his
utmost efforts he was quite unable to discover a flaw in his health,
tried a new patent tonic every year.

The wife cultivated belles-lettres, devoted some time and attention to
music, and regulated her domestic affairs with punctilious order and
neatness.

The only fault Leskjewitsch had to find with her was that she was an
ardent admirer of Wagner, and hence quite unable to appreciate his own
talent as a composer; while she, for her part, objected to his intimacy
with Krupitschka and with the stag-hounds. These, however, were mere
bagatelles. The only real sore spot in this marriage was the luck of
children.

The manner in which fate indemnified these two people by bestowing upon
them a delightful companion in the person of a niece of the major's can
best be learned from the young lady herself, in whose memoirs, with an
utter disregard of the baseness of such conduct, the major has
meanwhile become absorbed.



                              MY MEMOIRS.

                                   I.

It rains--ah, how it rains! great drops following one another, and
drenching the garden paths, plash--plash in all the puddles! Never a
sunbeam to call forth a rainbow against the dark sky, never a gleam of
light in the dull slaty gray. It seems as if the skies could never have
done weeping over the monotony of existence--still the same--still the
same!

I have tried everything by way of amusement. I curled Morl's hair with
the curling-tongs. I played Chopin's mazurkas until my brain reeled. I
even went up to the garret, where I knew no one could hear me, and, in
the presence of an old wardrobe, where uncle's last uniform as a
lieutenant was hanging, and of two rusty stove-pipes, I declaimed the
famous monologue from the "Maid of Orleans."

"Oh, I could tear my hair with vexation!" as Valentine says. I read
Faust a while ago,--since last spring I have been allowed to read all
our classics,--and Faust interested me extremely, especially the
prologue in heaven, and the first monologue, and then the walk. Ah,
what a wonderful thing that walk is! But the love-scenes did not please
me. Gretchen is far too meek and humble to Faust. "Dear God! How ever
is it such a man can think and know so much?"

My voice is very strong and full, and I think I have a remarkable
talent for the stage. I have often thought of becoming an actress, for
a change; to--yes, it must out--to have an opportunity at last to show
myself to the world,--to be admired. Miss O'Donnel is always telling me
I was made to be admired, and I believe she is right. But what good
does that do me? I think out all kinds of things, but no one will
listen to them, especially now that Miss O'Donnel has gone. She seemed
to listen, at all events, and every now and then would declare, "Child,
you are a wonder!" That pleased me. But she departed last Saturday, to
pay a visit to her relatives in Italy. Her niece is being educated
there for an opera-singer. Since she went there is no one in whom I can
confide. To be sure, I love Uncle Paul and Aunt Rosamunda dearly,--much
more dearly than Miss O'Donnel; but I cannot tell them whatever happens
to come into my head. They would not understand, any more than they
understand how a girl of my age can demand more of life than if she
were fifty--but indeed----

Rain--rain still! Since I've nothing else to do, I'll begin to-day to
write my memoirs!

That sounds presumptuous--the memoirs of a girl whose existence flows
on between Zirkow and Komaritz. But, after all,--


           "Where'er you grasp this human life of ours
            In its full force, be sure 'twill interest;"


which means, so far as I can understand, that, if one has the courage
to write down one's personal observations and recollections simply and
truthfully, it is sure to be worth the trouble.

I will be perfectly frank; and why not?--since I write for myself
alone.

But that's false reasoning; for how many men there are who feign to
themselves for their own satisfaction, bribing their consciences with
sophistry! My conscience, however, sleeps soundly without morphine; I
really believe there is nothing for it to do at present. I can be frank
because I have nothing to confess.

Every Easter, before confession, I rack my brains to scrape together a
few sins of some consequence, and I can find nothing but unpunctuality
at prayers, pertness, and too much desire for worldly frivolities.

Well! Now, to begin without further circumlocution. Most people begin
their memoirs with the history of their grandparents, some with that of
their great-grandparents, seeming to suppose that the higher they can
climb in their genealogical tree the more it adds to their importance.
I begin simply with the history of my parents.

My father and mother married for love; they never repented their
marriage, and yet it was the ruin of both of them.

My father was well born; not so my mother. Born in Paris, the daughter
of a needy petty official, she was glad to accept a position as
saleswoman in one of the fashionable Paris shops. Poor, dear mamma! It
makes me wretched to think of her, condemned to make up parcels and tie
up bundles, to mount on stepladders, exposed to the impertinence of
capricious customers, who always want just what is not to be had,--all
in the stifling atmosphere of a shop, and for a mere daily pittance.

Nothing in the world vexes me so much as to have people begin to
whisper before me, glancing at me compassionately as they nod their
heads. My ears are very acute, and I know perfectly well that they are
talking of my poor mother and pitying me because my father married a
shop-girl. I feel actually boiling with rage. Young as I was when I
lost her, she still lives in my memory as the loveliest creature I have
ever met in my life.

Tall and very slender, but always graceful, perfectly natural in
manner, with tiny hands and feet, and large, melancholy, startled eyes,
in a delicate, old-world face, she looked like an elf who could not
quite comprehend why she was condemned to carry in her breast so large
a human heart, well-nigh breaking with tenderness and melancholy. I
know I look like her, and I am proud of it. Whenever I am presented to
one of my couple of hundred aunts whose acquaintance I am condemned to
make, she is sure to exclaim, "How very like Fritz she is!--all Fritz!"
And I never fail to rejoin, "Oh, no, I am like my mother; every one who
knew her says I am like mamma."

And then my aunts' faces grow long, and they think me pert.


Although I was scarcely six years old when Uncle Paul took us away from
Paris, I can remember distinctly my home there. It was in a steep
street in Montmartre, very high up on the fourth or fifth floor of a
huge lodging-house. The sunlight shone in long broad streaks into our
rooms through the high windows, outside of which extended an iron
balcony. Our rooms were very pretty, very neat,--but very plain. Papa
did not seem to belong to them; I don't know how I discovered this, but
I found it out, little as I was. The ceilings looked low, when he rose
from the rocking-chair, where he loved to sit, and stood at his full
height. He always held his head gaily, high in the air, never bowing it
humbly to suit his modest lodgings.

His circumstances, cramped for the time, as I learned later, by his
imprudent marriage, contracted in spite of his father's disapproval,
apparently struck him as a good joke, or, at the worst, as a passing
annoyance. He always maintained the gay humour of a man of rank who,
finding himself overtaken by a storm upon some party of pleasure, is
obliged to take refuge in a wretched village inn.

Now and then he would stretch out his arms as if to measure the
smallness of his house, and laugh. But mamma would cast down her large
eyes sadly; then he would clasp her to his breast, kiss her, and call
her the delight of his life; and I would creep out of the corner where
I had been playing with my dolls, and pluck him by the sleeve,
jealously desirous of my share of caresses.

In my recollection of my earliest childhood--a recollection without
distinct outlines, and like some sweet, vague dream lingering in the
most secret, cherished corner of my heart--everything is warm and
bright; it is all light and love!

Papa is almost always with us in our sunny little nest. I see him
still,--ah, how plainly!--leaning back in his rocking-chair, fair,
with a rather haughty but yet kindly smile, his eyes sparkling with
good-humoured raillery. He is smoking a cigarette, and reading the
paper, apparently with nothing in the world to do but to enjoy life;
all the light in the little room seems to come from him.

The first four years of my life blend together in my memory like one
long summer day, without the smallest cloud in the blue skies above it.

I perfectly remember the moment in which my childish happiness was
interrupted by the first disagreeable sensation. It was an emotion of
dread. Until then I must have slept through all the hours of darkness,
for, when once I suddenly wakened and found the light all gone, I was
terrified at the blackness above and around me, and I screamed aloud.
Then I noticed that mamma was kneeling, sobbing, beside my bed. Her
sobs must have wakened me. She lighted a candle to soothe me, and told
me a story. In the midst of my eager listening, I asked her, "Where is
papa?"

She turned her head away, and said, "Out in the world!"

"Out in the world----" Whether or not it was the tone in which she
pronounced the word "world," I cannot tell, but it has ever since had a
strange sound for me,--a sound betokening something grand yet terrible.

Thus I made the discovery that there were nights, and that grown-up
people could cry.

Soon afterwards it was winter; the nights grew longer, the days
shorter, and it was never really bright in our home again,--the
sunshine had vanished.

It was cold, and the trees in the gardens high up in Montmartre, where
they took me to walk, grew bare and ugly.

Once, I remember, I asked my mother, "Mamma, will the trees never be
green again?"

"Oh, yes, when the spring comes," she made answer.

"And then will it be bright here again?" I asked, anxiously.

To this she made no reply, but her eyes suddenly grew so sad that I
climbed into her lap and kissed her upon both eyelids.

Papa was rarely with us now, and I was convinced that he had taken the
sunshine away from our home.

When at long intervals he came to dine with us, there was as much
preparation as if a stranger had been expected. Mamma busied herself in
the kitchen, helping the cook, who was also my nurse-maid, to prepare
the dinner. She laid the cloth herself, and decorated the table with
flowers. To me everything looked magnificent: I was quite awe-stricken
by the unwonted splendour.

One day a very beautiful lady paid us a visit, dressed in a velvet
cloak trimmed with ermine--I did not know until some time afterwards
the name of the fur--and a gray hat. I remember the hat distinctly, I
was so delighted with the bird sitting on it. She expressed herself as
charmed with everything in our home, stared about her through her
eye-glass, overturned a small table and two footstools with her train,
kissed me repeatedly, and begged mamma to come soon to see her. She was
a cousin of papa's, a Countess Gatinsky,--the very one for whom, when
she was a young girl and papa an elegant young attaché, he had been
doing the honours of Paris on that eventful afternoon when, while she
and her mother were busy and absorbed, shopping in the _Bon Marché_, he
had fallen desperately in love with my pale, beautiful mother.

When the Countess left us, mamma cried bitterly. I do not know whether
she ever returned the visit, but it was never repeated, and I never saw
the Countess again, save once in the Bois de Boulogne, where I was
walking with my mother. She was sitting in an open barouche, and my
father was beside her. Opposite them an old man sat crouched up,
looking very discontented, and very cold, although the day was quite
mild and he was wrapped up in furs.

They saw us in the distance; the Countess smiled and waved her hand;
papa grew very red, and lifted his hat in a stiff, embarrassed way.

I remember wondering at his manner: what made him bow to us as if we
were two strangers?

Mamma hurried me on, and we got into the first omnibus she could find.
I stroked her hand or smoothed the folds of her gown all the way home,
for I felt that she had been hurt, although I could not tell how.


The days grow sadder and darker, and yet the spring has come. Was there
really no sunshine in that April and May, or is it so only in my
memory?

Meanwhile, the trees have burst into leaf, and the first early cherries
have decked our modest table. We have not seen papa for a long time. He
is staying at a castle in the neighbourhood of Paris, but only for a
few days.

It is a sultry afternoon in the beginning of June,--I learned the date
of that wretched day later. The flowers in the balcony before our
windows, scarlet carnations and fragrant mignonette, are drooping,
because mamma has forgotten to water them, and mamma herself looks as
weary as the flowers. Pale and miserable, she moves about the room with
the air of one whom the first approach of some severe illness half
paralyzes. Her pretty gown, a dark-blue silk with white spots, seems to
hang upon her slender figure. She arranges the articles in the room
here and there restlessly, and, noticing a soft silken scarf which papa
sometimes wore knotted carelessly about his throat in the mornings, and
which has been left hanging on the knob of a curtain, she picks it up,
passes it slowly between her hands, and holds it against her cheek.

There!--is not that a carriage stopping before our door? I run out
upon the balcony, but can see nothing of what is going on in the
street below; our rooms are too high up. I can see, however, that the
people who live opposite are hurrying to their windows, and that the
passers-by stop in the street, and stand and talk together, gathering
in a little knot. A strange bustling noise ascends the staircase; it
comes up to our landing,--the heavy tread of men supporting some
weighty burden.

Mamma stands spellbound for a moment, and then flings the door open and
cries out. It is papa whom they are bringing up, deadly pale, covered
with blankets, helpless as a child.

There had been an accident in an avenue not far from Bellefontaine, the
castle which the Countess Gatinsky had hired for the summer. Papa had
been riding with her,--riding a skittish, vicious horse, against which
he had been warned. He had only laughed, however, declaring that he
knew how to manage the brute. But he could not manage him. As I learned
afterwards, the horse, after vainly trying to throw his rider, had
reared, and rolled over backwards upon him. He was taken up senseless.
When he recovered consciousness in Bellefontaine, whither they carried
him, and the physician told him frankly that he was mortally hurt, he
desired to be taken home,--to those whom he loved best in the world.

At first they would not accede to his wishes; Countess Gatinsky wanted
to send for mamma and me,--to bring us to Bellefontaine. But he would
not hear of it. He was told that to take him to Paris would be an
injury to him in his present condition. Injury!--he laughed at the
word. He wanted to die in the dear little nest in Paris, and it was a
dying man's right to have his way.

I have never talked of this to any one, but I have thought very often
of our sorrow, of the shadow that suddenly fell upon my childhood and
extinguished all its sunshine.

And I have often heard people whispering together about it when they
thought I was not listening. But I listened, listened involuntarily, as
one does to words which one would afterwards give one's life not to
have heard. And when the evil words stabbed me like a knife, it was a
comfort to be able to say to myself, "It was merely the caprice of a
moment,--his heart had no share in it;" it was a comfort to be able to
say that mamma sat at his bedside and that he died with his hand in
hers.

I do not remember how long the struggle lasted before death came, but I
never can forget the moment when I was taken in to see him.

I can see the room now perfectly,--the bucket of ice upon which the
afternoon sun glittered, the bloody bandages on the floor, the
furniture in disorder, and, lying here and there, articles of dress
which had not yet been put away. There, in the large bed, where the gay
flowered curtains had been drawn back as far as possible to let in the
air, lay papa. His cheeks were flushed and his blue eyes sparkled, and
when I went up to him he laughed. I could not believe that he was ill.
Mamma sat at the head of the bed, dressed in her very prettiest gown,
her wonderful hair loosened and hanging in all its silken softness
about her shoulders. She, too, smiled; but her smile made me shiver.

Papa looked long and lovingly at me, and, taking my small hand in his,
put it to his lips. Then he made the sign of the cross upon my
forehead. I stood on tiptoe to kiss him, and I embraced him with all
the fervour of my five years. Mamma drew me back. "You hurt him," she
said. He laughed,--laughed as a brave man laughs at pain. He always
laughed: I never saw him grave but once,--only once. Mamma burst into
tears.

"Minette, Minette, do not be a coward. I want you to be beautiful
always," said he. Those words I perfectly remember.

Yes, he wanted her to be beautiful to the last!

They sent me out of the room. As I turned at the door, I saw how papa
stroked mamma's wonderful hair--slowly--lingeringly--with his slender
white hand.

I sat in the kitchen all the long summer afternoon. At first our
servant told me stories. Then she had to go out upon an errand; I
stayed in the kitchen alone, sitting upon a wooden bench, staring
before me, my doll, with which I did not care to play, lying upon the
brick floor beside me. The copper saucepans on the wall gleam and
glitter in the rays of the declining sun, and the bluebottle flies
crawl and buzz about their shining surfaces.

A moaning monotonous sound, now low, then loud, comes from my father's
room. I feel afraid, but I cannot stir: I am, as it were, rooted to my
wooden bench. The hoarse noise grows more and more terrible.

Gradually twilight seems to fall from the ceiling and to rise from the
floor; the copper vessels on the wall grow vague and indistinct; here
and there a gleam of brilliancy pierces the gray gloom, then all is
dissolved in darkness. In the distance a street-organ drones out
Malbrough; I have hated the tune ever since. The moans grow louder. I
lean my head forward upon my knees and stop my ears. What is that? One
brief, piercing cry,--and all is still!

I creep on tiptoe to papa's room. The door is open. I can see mamma
bending over him, kissing him, and lavishing caresses upon him: she is
no longer afraid of hurting him.

That night a neighbour took me home with her, and when I came back, the
next day, papa lay in his black coffin in a darkened room, and candles
were burning all around him.

He seemed to me to have grown. And what dignity there was in his face!
That was the only time I ever saw him look grave.

Mamma lifted me up that I might kiss him. Something cold seemed
to touch my cheek, and suddenly I felt I--cannot describe the
sensation--an intense dread,--the same terror, only ten times as great,
as that which overcame me when I first wakened in the night and was
aware of the darkness. Screaming, I extricated myself from mamma's
arms, and ran out of the room.----

(Here the major stopped to brush away the tears before reading on.)

----For a while mamma tried to remain in Paris and earn our living by
the embroidery in which she was so skilful; but, despite all her
trying, she could not do it. The servant-girl was sent away, our rooms
grew barer and barer, and more than once I went to bed crying with
hunger.

In November, Uncle Paul came to see us, and took us back with him to
Bohemia. I cannot recall the journey, but our arrival I remember
distinctly,--the long drive from the station, along the muddy road,
between low hedges, or tall, slim poplars; then through the forest,
where the wind tossed about the dry fallen leaves, and a few
crimson-tipped daisies still bloomed gaily by the roadside, braving the
brown desolation about them; past curious far-stretching villages,
their low huts but slightly elevated above the mud about them, their
black thatched roofs green in spots with moss, their narrow windows gay
with flowers behind the thick, dim panes; past huge manure-heaps, upon
which large numbers of gay-coloured fowls were clucking and crowing,
and past stagnant ditches where amber-coloured swine were wallowing
contentedly.

The dogs rush excitedly out of the huts, to run barking after our
carriage, while a mob of barefooted, snub-nosed children, their breath
showing like smoke in the frosty air, come bustling out of school, and
shout after us "Praised be Jesus Christ!"

A turn--we have driven into the castle court-yard; Krupitschka hastens
to open the carriage door. At the top of the steps stands a tall lady
in mourning, very majestic in appearance, with a kind face. I see mamma
turn pale, shrink--then all is a blank.



                                  II.

At the period when I again take up my reminiscences I am entirely at
home at Zirkow, and almost as familiar with Uncle Paul and Aunt Rosa as
if I had known them both all my life.

Winter has set in, and, ah, such a wonderful, beautiful winter,--so
bright, and glittering with such quantities of pure white snow! I go
sleighing with Uncle Paul; I make a snow man with Krupitschka,--a monk
in a long robe, because the legs of the soldier we tried to make would
not stand straight; and I help Krupitschka's wife to make bread in a
large wooden bowl with iron hoops. How delicious is the odour of
the fermenting dough, and how delightful it is to run about the long
brick-paved corridors and passages, to have so much space and light and
air! When one day Uncle Paul asks me, "Which is best, Paris or Zirkow?"
I answer, without hesitation, "Zirkow!"

Uncle Paul laughs contentedly, but mamma looks at me sadly. I feel that
I have grieved her.

Now and then I think of papa, especially before I go to sleep at night.
Then I sometimes wonder if the snow is deep on his grave in the
churchyard at Montmartre, and if he is not cold in the ground. Poor
papa!--he loved the sun so dearly! And I look over at mamma, who sits
and sews at a table near my bed, and it worries me to see the tears
rolling down her cheeks again.

Poor mamma! She grows paler, thinner, and sadder every day, although my
uncle and aunt do everything that they can for her.

If I remember rightly, she was seldom with her hosts except at
meal-times. She lived in strict retirement, in the two pretty rooms
which had been assigned us, and was always trying to make herself
useful with her needle to Aunt Rosa, who never tired of admiring her
beautiful, delicate work.

Towards spring her hands were more than ever wont to drop idly
in her lap, and when the snow had gone and everything outside was
beginning to stir, she would sit for hours in the bow-window where
her work-table stood, doing nothing, only gazing out towards the
west,--gazing--gazing.

The soiled snow had vanished; the water was dripping from roofs and
trees; everything was brown and bare. A warm breath came sweeping over
the world. For a couple of days all nature sobbed and thrilled, and
then spring threw over the earth her fragrant robe of blossoms.

It was my first spring in the country, and I never shall forget my
joyful surprise each morning at all that had been wrought overnight. I
could not tell which to admire most, buds, flowers, or butterflies.
From morning till night I roamed about in the balmy air, amid the
tender green of grass and shrubs. And at night I was so tired that I
was asleep almost before the last words of my childish prayer had died
upon my lips. Ah, how soundly I slept!

But one night I suddenly waked, with what seemed to me the touch of a
soft hand upon my cheek,--papa's hand. I started up and looked about
me; there was no one to be seen. The breeze of spring had caressed
me,--that was all. How had it found its way in?

The moon was at the full, and in its white light everything in the room
stood revealed and yet veiled. I sat up uneasily, and then noticed that
mamma's bed was empty. I was frightened. "Mamma! mamma!" I called, half
crying.

There was no reply. I sprang from my little bed, and ran into the next
room, the door of which was open.

Mamma was standing there at the window, gazing out towards the west.
The window was wide open; our rooms were at the back of the castle, and
looked out upon the orchard, where nature was celebrating its
resurrection with festal splendour. The huge old apple-trees were all
robed in delicate pink-white blossoms, the tender grass beneath them
glittered with dew, and above it and among the waving blossoms sighed
the warm breeze of spring as if from human lips. Mamma stood with
extended arms whispering the tenderest words out into the night,--words
that sounded as if stifled among sighs and kisses. She wore the same
dress in which she had sat by papa's bedside when he wished her to be
beautiful at their parting. Her hair hung loose about her shoulders. I
gasped for breath, and threw my arms about her, crying, "Mamma! mamma!"
She turned, and seemed about to thrust me from her almost angrily, then
suddenly began to weep bitterly like a child just wakened from sleep,
and crept back gently and ashamed to our bedroom. Without undressing
she lay down on her bed, and I covered her up as well as I could.

I could not sleep that night, and I heard her moan and move restlessly.

The next morning she could not come down to breakfast; a violent
nervous fever had attacked her, and ten days afterwards she died.

They broke the sad truth to me slowly, first saying that she had gone
on a journey, and then that she was with God in heaven. I knew she was
dead,--and what that meant.

I can but dimly remember the days that followed her death. I dragged
myself about beneath the burden of a grief far too great for my poor,
childish little heart, and grew more and more weary, until at last I
was attacked by the same illness of which my mother had died.

When I recovered, the memory of all that had happened before my illness
no longer gave me any pain. I looked back upon the past with what was
almost indifference. Not until long, long afterwards did I comprehend
the wealth of love of which my mother's death had deprived me.



                                  III.

It really is very entertaining to write one's memoirs. I will go
on, although it is not raining to-day. On the contrary, it is very
warm,--so warm that I cannot stay out of doors.

Aunt Rosamunda is in the drawing-room, entertaining the colonel of the
infantry regiment in garrison at X----. She sent for me, but I excused
myself, through Krupitschka. When lieutenants of hussars come, she
never sends for me. It really is ridiculous: does she suppose my head
could be turned by any officer of hussars? The idea! Upon my word!
Still, I should like for once just to try whether Miss O'Donnel is
right, whether I only need wish to have--oh, how delightful it would be
to be adored to my heart's content! Since, however, there is no
prospect of anything of the kind, I will continue to write my memoirs.

I have taken off my gown and slipped on a thin white morning wrapper,
and the cook, with whom I am a great favourite, has sent me up a
pitcher of iced lemonade to strengthen me for my literary labours. My
windows are open, and look out upon a wilderness of old trees with wild
roses blooming among them. Ah, how sweet the roses are! The bees buzz
over them monotonously, the leaves scarcely rustle, not a bird is
singing. The world certainly is very beautiful, even if one has nothing
entertaining to do except to write memoirs. Now that I have finished
telling of my parents, I will pass on to my nearest relatives.----

("Oho!" said the major. "I am curious to see what she has to say of
us.")

----Uncle Paul is the middle one of three brothers, the eldest of whom
is my grandfather.

The Barons von Leskjewitsch are of Croatian descent, and are convinced
of the antiquity of their family, without being able to prove it. There
has never been any obstacle to their being received at court, and for
many generations they have maintained a blameless propriety of
demeanour and have contracted very suitable marriages.

Although all the members of this illustrious family are forever
quarrelling among themselves, and no one Leskjewitsch has ever been
known to get along well with another Leskjewitsch, they nevertheless
have a deal of family feeling, which manifests itself especially in a
touching pride in all the peculiarities of the Leskjewitsch
temperament. These peculiarities are notorious throughout the
kingdom,--such, at least, is the firm conviction of the Leskjewitsch
family. Whatever extraordinary feats the Leskjewitsches may have
performed hitherto, they have never been guilty of any important
departure from an ordinary mode of life, but each member of the family
has nevertheless succeeded in being endowed from the cradle with a
patent of eccentricity, in virtue of which mankind are more or less
constrained to accept his or her eccentricities as a matter of course.

I am shocked now by what I have here written down. Of course I am a
Leskjewitsch, or I never should allow myself to pass so harsh a
judgment upon my nearest of kin. I suppose I ought to erase those
lines, but, after all, no one will ever see them, and there is
something pleasing in my bold delineation of the family
characteristics. The style seems to me quite striking. So I will let my
words stand as they are,--especially since the only one of the family
who has ever been kind to me--Uncle Paul--is, according to the
universal family verdict, no genuine Leskjewitsch, but a degenerate
scion. In the first place, his hair and complexion are fair, and, in
the second place, he is sensible. Among men in general, I believe he
passes for mildly eccentric; his own family find him distressingly like
other people.

To which of the two other brothers the prize for special originality is
due, to the oldest or to the youngest,--to my grandfather or to the
father of my playmate Harry,--the world finds it impossible to decide.
Both are widowers, both are given over to a craze for travel. My
grandfather's love of travel, however, reminds one of the restlessness
of a white mouse turning the wheel in its cage; while my uncle Karl's
is like that of the Wandering Jew, for whose restless soul this globe
is too narrow.

My grandfather is continually travelling from one to another of his
estates, seldom varying the round; Uncle Karl by turns hunts lions in
the Soudan and walruses at the North Pole; and in their other
eccentricities the brothers are very different. My grandfather is a
cynic; Uncle Karl is a sentimentalist. My grandfather starts from the
principle that all effort which has any end in view, save the
satisfying of his excellent appetite and the promotion of his sound
sleep, is nonsense; Uncle Karl intends to write a work which, if
rightly appreciated, will entirely reform the spirit of the age. My
grandfather is a miser; Uncle Karl is a spendthrift. Uncle Karl is
beginning to see the bottom of his purse; my grandfather is enormously
rich.

When I add that my grandfather is a conservative with a manner which is
intentionally rude, and that Uncle Karl is a radical with the bearing
of a courtier, I consider the picture of the two men tolerably
complete. All that is left to say is that I know my uncle Karl only
slightly, and my grandfather not at all, wherefore my descriptions
must, unfortunately, lack the element of personal observation, being
drawn almost entirely from hearsay.

My grandfather's cynicism could not always have been so pronounced as
at present; they say he was not naturally avaricious, but that he
became so in behalf of my father, his only son. He saved and pinched
for him, laying by thousands upon thousands, buying estate after estate
only to assure his favourite a position for which a prince might envy
him.

Finally he procured him an appointment as attaché in the Austrian
Legation in Paris, and when papa spent double his allowance the old man
only laughed and said, "Youth must have its swing." But when my father
married a poor girl of the middle class, my grandfather simply banished
him from his heart, and would have nothing more to do with him.

After this papa slowly consumed the small property he had inherited
from his mother, and at his death nothing of it was left.

Uncle Paul was the only one of the family who still clung to my father
after his _mésalliance_,--the one eccentricity which had never been set
down in the Leskjewitsch programme. When mamma in utter destitution
applied to him for help, he went to my grandfather, told him of the
desperate extremity to which she was reduced, and entreated him to do
something for her and for me. My grandfather merely replied that he did
not support vagabonds.

My cousin Heda, whose custom it is to tell every one of everything
disagreeable she hears said about them,--for conscience' sake, that
they may know whom to mistrust,--furnished me with these details.

The upshot of the interview was, first, that my uncle Paul quarrelled
seriously with my grandfather, and, second, that he resolved to go to
Paris forthwith and see that matters were set right.

Aunt Rosa maintains that at the last moment he asked Krupitschka to
sanction his decision. This is a malicious invention; but when Heda
declares that he brought us to Bohemia chiefly with the view of
disgracing and vexing my grandfather, there may be some grain of truth
in her assertion.

Many years have passed since our modest entrance here in Zirkow, but my
amiable grandfather still maintains his determined hostility towards
Uncle Paul and myself.

His favourite occupation seems to consist in perfecting each year, with
the help of a clever lawyer, his will, by which I am deprived, so far
as is possible, of the small share of his wealth which falls to me
legally as my father's heir. He has chosen for his sole heir his
youngest brother's eldest son, my playmate Harry, upon condition that
Harry marries suitably, which means a girl with sixteen quarterings. I
have no quarterings, so if Harry marries me he will not have a penny.

How could such an idea occur to him? It is too ridiculous to be thought
of. But--what if he did take it into his head? Oh, I have sound sense
enough for two, and I know exactly what I want,--a grand position, an
opportunity to play in the world the part for which I feel myself
capable,--everything, in short, that he could not offer me. Moreover, I
am quite indifferent to him. I have a certain regard for him for the
sake of old times, and therefore he shall have a chapter of these
memoirs all to himself.


----At the end of this chapter the major shook his head disapprovingly.



                                 IV.

                          MY DEAREST PLAYMATE.

The first time that I saw him he was riding upon a pig,--a wonder of a
pig; it looked like a huge monster to me,--which he guided by its ears.
One is not a Leskjewitsch for nothing. It was at Komaritz---- But I
will describe the entire day, which I remember with extraordinary
distinctness.

Uncle Paul himself took me to Komaritz in his pretty little dog-cart,
drawn by a pair of spirited ponies in gay harness and trappings. Of
course I sat on the box beside my uncle, being quite aware that this
was the seat of honour. I wore an embroidered white gown, long black
stockings, and a black sash, and carried a parasol which I had borrowed
of Aunt Rosa, not because I needed it,--my straw hat perfectly shielded
my face from the sun,--but because it seemed to me required for the
perfection of my toilet.

I was very well pleased with myself, and nodded with great
condescension to the labourers and schoolchildren whom we met.

I have never attempted to conceal from myself or to deny the fact that
I am vain.

Ah, how merrily we bowled along over the white, dusty road! The ponies'
hoofs hardly touched the ground. After a while the road grew bad, and
we drove more slowly. Then we turned into a rough path between high
banks. What a road! Deep as a chasm; the wheels of the vehicle jolted
right and left through ruts overgrown with thistles, brambles, and wild
roses.

"Suppose we should meet another carriage?" I asked my uncle, anxiously.

"Just what I was asking myself," he replied, composedly; "there is
really no room for passing. But why not trust in Providence?"

The road grows worse, but now, instead of passing through a chasm, it
runs along the edge of a precipice. The dog-cart leans so far to one
side that the groom gets out to steady it. The wheels grate against the
stones, and the ponies shake their shaggy heads discontentedly, as much
as to say, "We were not made for such work as this."

In after-years, when so bad a road in the midst of one of the most
civilized provinces of Austria seemed to me inexplicable, Uncle Paul
explained it to me. At one time in his remembrance the authorities
decided to lay out a fine road there, but Uncle Karl contrived to
frustrate their purpose; he did not wish to have Komaritz too
accessible--for fear of guests.

A delicious pungent fragrance is wafted from the vine-leaves in the
vineyards on the sides of the hills, flocks of white and yellow
butterflies hover above them, the grasshoppers chirp shrilly, and from
the distance comes the monotonous sound of the sweep of the mower's
scythe. The sun is burning hot, and the shadows are short and
coal-black.

Click-clack--click-clack--precipice and ravine lie behind us, and we
are careering along a delightful road shaded by huge walnut-trees.

A brown, shapeless ruin crowning a vine-clad eminence rises before us.
Click-clack--click-clack--the ponies fly past a marble St. John, around
which are grouped three giant lindens, whose branches scatter fading
blossoms upon us; past a smithy, from which issues a strong odour of
wagon-grease and burnt hoofs; past a slaughter-house, in front of which
a butchered ox is hanging from a chestnut-tree; past pretty whitewashed
cottages, some of them two stories high and with flower-gardens in
front,--Komaritz is a far more important and prosperous village than
Zirkow; then through a lofty but perilously ruinous archway into
a spacious, steeply-ascending court-yard, through the entire length
of which runs a broad gutter. Yes, yes, it was there--in that
court-yard--that I saw him for the first time, and he was riding upon a
pig, holding fast by its ears, and the animal, galloping furiously, was
doing its best to throw him off. But this was no easy matter, for he
sat as if he were part of his steed, and withal maintained a loftiness
of bearing that would have done honour to a Spanish grandee at a
coronation. He was very handsome, very slender, very brown, and wore a
white suit, the right sleeve of which was spotted with ink.

In front of the castle, at a wooden table fastened to the ground
beneath an old pear-tree, sat a yellow-haired young man, with a bloated
face and fat hands, watching the spectacle calmly and drinking beer
from a stone mug with a leaden cover.

When the pig found that it could not throw its rider, it essayed
another means to be rid of him. It lay down in the gutter and rolled
over in the mud. When Harry arose, he looked like the bad boys in
"Slovenly Peter" after they had been dipped in the inkstand.

"I told you how it would be," the fat young man observed,
phlegmatically, and went on drinking beer. As I afterwards learned, he
was Harry's tutor, Herr Pontius.

"What does it matter?" said Harry, composedly, looking down at the mud
dripping from him, as if such a bath were an event of every-day
occurrence; "I did what I chose to do."

"And now I shall do what I choose to do. You will go to your room and
translate fifty lines of Horace."

Harry shrugged his shoulders contemptuously. I now think that he was
posing a little for our sakes, for we had just driven up to the castle,
but then his composure made a great impression upon me. After he had
bowed respectfully to Uncle Paul from where he stood, he vanished
behind a side-door of the castle, at the chief entrance of which we had
drawn up. A dignified footman received us in the hall, and a crowd of
little black dachshunds, with yellow feet and eyebrows, barked a loud
welcome.

We were conducted into a large room on the ground-floor,--apparently
reception-room, dining-room, and living-room all in one,--whence a low
flight of wooden steps led out into the garden. A very sallow but
otherwise quite pretty Frenchwoman, who reminded me--I cannot tell
why--of the black dachshunds, and who proved to be my little cousin's
governess, received us here and did the honours for us.

My cousin Heda, a yellow-haired little girl with portentously good
manners, relieved me of my parasol, and asked me if I had not found the
drive very warm. Whilst I made some monosyllabic and confused reply, I
was wondering whether her brother would get through his punishment and
make his appearance again before we left. When my uncle withdrew on the
pretext of looking after some agricultural matter, Heda asked me if I
would not play graces with her. She called it _jeu de gráce_, and, in
fact, spoke French whenever it was possible.

I agreed, she brought the graces, and we went out into the garden.

Oh, that Komaritz garden! How clumsy and ugly, and yet what a dear,
old-fashioned garden it was! Lying at the foot of the hill crowned by
the ancient ruin and the small frame house built for the tutors,--who
were changed about every two months,--it was divided into huge
rectangular flower-beds, bordered with sage, lavender, or box, from
which mighty old apricot-trees looked down upon a luxuriant wilderness
of lilies, roses, blue monk's-hood, scarlet verbenas, and whatever else
was in season. Back of this waste of flowers there were all sorts of
shrubs,--hawthorns, laburnums, jessamines, with here and there an
ancient hundred-leaved rose-bush, whose heavy blossoms, borne down by
their own weight, drooped and lay upon the mossy paths that intersected
this thicket. Then came a green lawn, where was a swing hung between
two old chestnuts, and near by stood a queer old summerhouse, circular,
with a lofty tiled roof, upon the peak of which gleamed a battered
brass crescent. Everywhere in the shade were fastened in the ground
comfortable garden-seats, smelling deliciously of moss and mouldering
wood, and where you least expected it the ground sloped to a little
bubbling spring, its banks clothed with velvet verdure and gay with
marsh daisies and spiderwort, sprung from seed which the wind had
wafted hither. I cannot begin to tell of the kitchen-garden and
orchard; I should never be done.

And just as I have here described it as it was fourteen years ago the
dear old garden stands to-day, with the exception of some trifling
changes; but--they are talking of improvements--poor garden! What
memories are evoked when I think of it!

Again I am six years old and playing with Heda,--I intent and awkward,
Heda elegantly indifferent. If one of her hoops soars away over my
head, or falls among the flowers in one of the beds, she shrugs her
shoulders with an affected smile, and exclaims, "_Monstre!_" At first I
offer to creep in among the flowers after the lost hoop, but she
rejects my offer with a superior "_Quelle idée!_" and assures me that
it is the gardener's business.

Consequently, we soon come to the end of our supply of hoops, and are
obliged to have recourse to some other mode of amusing ourselves.

"I am quite out of breath," says Heda, fanning herself with her
pocket-handkerchief. "'Tis a stupid don't you think so?"

"But if I only could do it!" I sigh.

"It is quite out of fashion; nothing is played now but croquet," she
informs me. "Do you like to play croquet?"

"I do not know what croquet is," I confess, much mortified.

"Ha, ha!" she laughs. "Mademoiselle," turning to the governess, who is
now seated on the garden-steps, "only think, _ma petite cousine_ does
not know what croquet is!--delicious! Excuse me," taking my hand, "it
is very ill bred to laugh, _mais c'est plus fort que moi_. It is a
delightful game, that is played with balls and iron hoops. Sometimes
you strike your foot, and that hurts; but more often you only pretend
that it does, and then the gentlemen all come round you an pity you: it
is too delightful. But sit down," pointing with self-satisfied
condescension to the steps. We both sit down, and she goes on: "Where
did you pass the winter?"

"At Zirkow."

"Oh, in the country! I pity you."

Heda--I mention this in a parenthesis--was at this time scarcely ten
years old. "No winter in the country for me," this pleasure-loving
young person continues. "Oh, what a delightful winter I had! I was at
twelve balls. It is charming if you have partners enough--oh, when
three gentlemen beg for a waltz! But society in Prague is nothing to
that of Vienna--I always say there is only one Vienna. Were you ever in
Vienna?"

"No," I murmur. Suddenly, however, my humiliated self-consciousness
rebels, and, setting my arms akimbo, I ask, "And were you ever in
Paris?" The Frenchwoman behind us laughs.

Down from above us falls a hard projectile upon Heda's fair head,--a
large purple bean,--and then another. She looks up angrily. Harry is
leaning out of a window above us, his elbows resting on the sill, and
his head between his hands. "What an ill-bred boor you are!" she calls
out.

"And do you know what you are?" he shouts; "an affected
braggart--that's what you are."

With which he jumps from the window into the branches of a tree just
before it, and comes scrambling down to the ground. "What is your
name?" he asks me.

"Zdena."

"I am happy to make your acquaintance, Zdena. Heda bores you, doesn't
she?"

I shake my head and laugh; feeling a protector near me, I am quite
merry once more. "Would you like to take a little ride, Zdena?" he
asks.

"Upon a pig?" I inquire, in some trepidation.

He laughs, somewhat embarrassed, and shrugs his shoulders. "You do not
really suppose that I am in the habit of riding pigs!" he exclaims; "I
only do it when my tutor forbids it--it is too ridiculous to suppose
such a thing!" and he hurries away.

I look after him remorsefully. I am vexed to have been so foolish, and
I am sorry to have frightened him away.

In a few minutes, however, he appears again, and this time on
horseback. He is riding a beautiful pony, chestnut, with a rather
dandified long tail and a bushy mane. Harry has a splendid seat, and is
quite aware of it. Apparently he is desirous of producing an impression
upon me, for he performs various astounding feats,--jumps through the
swing, over a garden-seat and a wheelbarrow,--and then, patting his
horse encouragingly on the neck, approaches me, his bridle over his
arm.

"Will you try now?" he asks.

Of course I will. He lifts me into the saddle, where I sit sideways,
buckles the stirrup shorter, quite like a grown-up admirer; and then I
ride slowly and solemnly through the garden, he carefully holding me on
the while. I become conscious of a wish to distinguish myself in his
eyes. "I should like to try it alone," I stammer, in some confusion.

"I see you are brave; I like that," he says, resigning the bridle to
me. Trot, trot goes the pony. "Faster, faster!" I cry, giving the
animal a dig with my heel. The pony rears, and--I am lying on the
ground, with scraped hands and a scratched chin.

"It is nothing," I cry, bravely ignoring my pain, when Harry hurries up
to me with a dismayed face. "We must expect such things," I add, with
dignity. "Riding is always dangerous; my father was killed by being
thrown from his horse."

"Indeed? Really?" Harry says, sympathetically, as he wipes the gravel
off my hands. "How long has he been dead?"

"Oh, a long time,--a year."

"My mother has been dead much longer," he says, importantly, almost
boastfully. "She has been dead three years. And is yours still living?"

"N--no." And the tears, hitherto so bravely restrained, come in a
torrent.

He is frightened, kneels down beside me, even then he was much taller
than I,--and wipes away the tears with his pocket-handkerchief. "Poor
little thing!" he murmurs, "I am so sorry for you; I did not know----"
And he puts his arm round me and strokes my hair. Suddenly a delightful
and strange sensation possesses me,--a feeling I have not had since my
poor dear mother gave me her last kiss: my whole childish being is
penetrated by it.

We have been fond of each other ever since that moment; we are so
to-day.

"Come with me to the kitchen-garden now," he says, "and see my
puppies." And he calls to the gardener and commits to his charge the
pony, that, quite content with the success of his man[oe]uvre, is
quietly cropping the verbena-blossoms.

My tears are dried. I am crouching beside the kennel in the
kitchen-garden, with four charming little puppies in my lap. There is a
fragrance of cucumber-leaves, sorrel, and thyme all about. The bright
sunshine gleams on the dusty glass of the hot-bed, on the pumpkins and
cucumbers, on the water in the tub under the pump, beside which a
weeping willow parades its proverbial melancholy. Harry's fair, fat
tutor is walking past a trellis where the early peaches are hanging,
smoking a long porcelain pipe. He pauses and pinches the fruit here and
there, as if to discover when it will be ripe. I hold one after another
of the silken, warm dog-babies to my cheek, and am happy, while Harry
laughs good-humouredly at my enthusiasm and prevents the jealous mother
of the puppies from snapping at me.


----"We have been fond of each other ever since." The major smiles
contentedly as he reads this.



                                   V.

                               KOMARITZ.

I was soon at home at Komaritz, often passed weeks there, feeling
extremely comfortable amid those strange surroundings,--for the life
led in the clumsy, unadorned old house upon which the mediæval castle
looked down was certainly a strange one.

In fact, the modern structure was no whit superior to the castle except
in the matter of ugliness and in the fact that it possessed a roof.
Otherwise it was almost as ruinous as the ruin, and had to be propped
up in a fresh place every year. The long passages were paved with worn
tiles; the ground-floor was connected with the upper stories by a steep
winding staircase. The locks on the doors were either broken or the
keys were lost, and the clocks, if they went at all, all pointed to
different hours.

In a large room called the drawing-room, where the plaster was
crumbling down from the ceiling bit by bit, there stood, among
three-legged tables and threadbare arm-chairs, many an exquisite
antique. In the rooms in use, on the other hand, there was no article
of mere luxury: all was plain and useful, as in some parsonage. And yet
there was something strangely attractive in this curious home. The
rooms were of spacious dimensions; those on the ground-floor were all
vaulted. The sunbeams forced their way through leafy vines and creepers
into the deep embrasures of the windows. The atmosphere was impregnated
with a delicious, mysterious fragrance,--an odour of mould, old wood,
and dried rose-leaves. Harry maintained that it smelled of ghosts, and
that there was a white lady who "walked" in the corner room next to the
private chapel.

I must confess, in spite of my love for the old barrack, that it was
not a fit baronial mansion. No one had ever lived there, save a
steward, before Uncle Karl, who, as the youngest Leskjewitsch,
inherited it, took up his abode there. He had, when he was first
married, planned a new castle, but soon relinquished his intention,
first for financial reasons, and then from dread of guests, a dread
that seems to have become a chronic disease with him. When his wife
died, all thought of any new structure had been given up. From that
time he scarcely ever stayed there himself, and the old nest was good
enough for a summer residence for the children. With the exception of
Heda,--besides Harry there was a good-for-nothing small boy,--the
children thought so too. They had a pathetic affection for the old
place where they appeared each year with the flowers, the birds, and
the sunshine. They seemed to me to belong to the spring. Everything was
bright and warm about me when they came.

Harry was my faithful knight from first to last; our friendship grew
with our growth. He tyrannized over me a little, and liked to impress
me, I think, with a sense of his superiority; but he faithfully and
decidedly stood by me whenever I needed him. He drove me everywhere
about the country; his two ponies could either be driven or ridden; he
taught me to ride, climbed mountains with me, explored with me every
corner of the old ruin on the hill, and then when we came home at
night, each somewhat weary with our long tramp, he would tell me
stories.

How vividly I remember it all! I can fancy myself now sitting beside
him on the lowest of the steps leading from the living-room into the
garden. At our feet the flowers exhale sweet, sad odours, the pale
roses drenched in dew show white amid the dim foliage; above our heads
there is a dreamy whisper in the boughs of an old apricot-tree, whose
leaves stand out sharp and black against the deep-blue sky, sown with
myriads of sparkling stars. And Harry is telling me stories. Ah, such
stories! the most terrible tales of robbers and ghosts, each more
shudderingly horrible than its predecessor.

Oh, how delightful it is to feel one shudder after another creeping
down your back in the warm summer evening! and if it grows too fearful,
and I begin to be really afraid of the pale, bloodless phantoms which
he conjures up before me, I move a little closer to him, and, as if
seeking protection, clasp his hand, taking refuge from my ghostly fears
in the consciousness of his warm young life.



                                  VI.

                            HARRY'S TUTORS.

Every Sunday the Komaritzers come to us at Zirkow, driving over in a
tumble-down old coach covered with faded blue cloth, hung on spiral
springs, and called Noah's ark.

The coachman wears no livery, except such as can be found in an
imposing broad gold band upon a very shabby high hat.

Of course the children are always accompanied by the governess and the
tutor.

The first governess whom I knew at Komaritz--Mademoiselle Duval--was
bright, well-bred, and very lovable; the tutor was the opposite of all
this.

He may have been a proficient in ancient languages, but he spoke very
poor German. His nails were always in mourning, and he neglected his
dress. Intercourse with good society made him melancholy. At our table
he always took the worst place. Uncle Paul every Sunday addressed the
same two questions to him, never remembering his name, but regularly
calling him Herr Paulus, whereas his name was Pontius. After the tutor
had answered these questions humbly, he never again, so long as dinner
lasted, opened his mouth, except to put into it large mouthfuls, or his
knife. Between the courses he twirled his thumbs and sniffed. He always
had a cold in his head. When dinner was over he pushed his chair back
against the wall, bowed awkwardly, and retired, never appearing among
us during the rest of the afternoon, which he spent playing "Pinch"
with Krupitschka, with a pack of dirty cards which from long usage had
lost their corners and had become oval. We often surprised him at this
amusement,--Harry and I.

As soon as he disappeared Aunt Rosamunda always expressed loudly and
distinctly her disapproval of his bad manners. But when we children
undertook to sneer at them, we were sternly repressed,--were told that
such things were of no consequence, and that bad manners did not in the
least detract from a human being's genuine worth.

On one occasion Harry rejoined, "I'm glad to hear it," and at the next
meal sat with both elbows upon the table.

Moreover, I soon observed that Herr Pontius was by no means the meek
lamb he seemed to be, and this I discovered at the harvest-home. There
was a dance beneath the lindens at the farm, where Herr Pontius whirled
the peasant-girls around, and capered about like a very demon. His face
grew fierce, and his hair floated wildly about his head. We children
nearly died of laughing at him.

Soon afterwards he was dismissed, and in a great hurry. When I asked
Harry to tell me the cause of his sudden disappearance, he replied that
it was love that had broken Herr Pontius's neck. But when I insisted
upon a more lucid explanation, Harry touched the tip of my nose with
his forefinger and said, sententiously, "Too much knowledge makes
little girls ugly."

He was not the only one among Harry's tutors whose neck was broken
through love: the next--a very model of a tutor--followed the example
in this respect of the dance-loving Herr Pontius.

His name was Ephraim Schmied; he came from Hildesheim, and was very
learned and well conducted,--in short, by long odds the best of all
Harry's tutors. If he did not retain his position, it may well be
imagined that it was the fault of the position.

As with every other fresh tutor, Harry set himself in opposition to him
at first, and did his best to discover ridiculous traits in him. His
efforts in this direction were for a time productive of no results, and
Herr Schmied, thanks to his untiring patience combined with absolute
firmness, was in a fair way to master his wayward pupil, when matters
took an unexpected and unfortunate turn.

Harry, in fact, had finally discovered the weak place in Herr Schmied's
armour, and it was in the region of the heart. Herr Schmied had fallen
in love with Mademoiselle Duval. To fall in love was in Harry's eyes at
that time the extreme of human stupidity (he ought to have rested in
that conviction). Uncle Paul shared it. He chuckled when Harry one fine
day told him of his discovery, and asked the keen-sighted young
good-for-naught upon what he founded his supposition.

"He sings Schubert's 'Wanderer' to her every evening, and yesterday he
brought her a vase from X----," Harry replied: "there the fright
stands."

Uncle Paul took the vase in his hands, an odd smile playing about his
mouth the while. It was decorated with little naked Cupids hopping
about in an oval wreath of forget-me-nots.

"How sentimental!" said Uncle Paul, adding, after a while, "If the
little wretches only had wings, they might pass for angels, but as they
are they leave something to be desired." Then, putting down the vase,
he told me to be a good girl (he had just brought me over to stay a
little while at Komaritz), got into his dog-cart, and drove off.

Scarcely had the door closed behind him when Harry brought from the
next room a long quill pen and a large inkstand, and went to work
eagerly and mysteriously at the vase.

At about five in the afternoon all assembled for afternoon coffee.
Finally Herr Schmied appeared, a book in his hand.

"What are you doing there?" he asked his pupil, unsuspectingly.

"I am giving these naughty boys swimming-breeches, Herr Schmied. Uncle
Paul thought it hardly the thing for you to have presented this vase to
a lady, and so----"

The sentence was never finished. There was a low laugh from the other
end of the room, where Mademoiselle Duval, ensconced behind the
coffee-equipage, had been an unobserved spectator of the scene. Herr
Schmied flushed crimson, and, quite losing his usual self-control, he
gave Harry a sounding box on the ear, and Harry--well, Harry returned
it.

Herr Schmied seized him by the shoulders as if to shake and strike him,
then bit his lip, drew a long breath, released the boy, and left the
room. But Harry's head drooped upon his breast, and he ate no supper
that night. He knew that what had occurred could not be condoned, and
he was sorry.

At supper Herr Schmied informed Mademoiselle Duval that he had written
to Baron Leskjewitsch that unforeseen circumstances made imperative his
return to Germany. "I did not think it necessary to be more explicit as
to the true cause of my sudden departure," he added.

Harry grew very pale.

After supper, as I was sitting with Heda upon the garden-steps, looking
for falling stars that would not fall, we observed Herr Schmied enter
the room behind us; it was quite empty, but the lamp was lighted on the
table. Soon afterwards, Harry appeared. Neither of them noticed us.

Slowly, lingeringly, Harry approached his tutor, and plucked him by the
sleeve.

Herr Schmied looked around.

"Must you really go away, Herr Schmied?" the boy asked, in distress.

"Yes," the tutor replied, very gravely.

Harry bit his lip, seemed undecided what to do or say, and finally,
leaning his head a little on one side, asked, caressingly, "Even if I
beg your pardon?"

Herr Schmied smiled, surprised and touched. He took the boy's hand in
his, and said, sadly, "Even then, Harry. Yet I am sorry, for I was
beginning to be very fond of you."

The tears were in Harry's eyes, but he evidently felt that no entreaty
would be of any avail.

In fact, the next morning Herr Schmied took his departure. A few days
afterwards, however, Harry received a letter from him with a foreign
post-mark. He had written four long pages to his former pupil. Harry
flushed with pride and joy as he read it, and answered it that very
evening.

Herr Schmied is now Professor of Modern History in a foreign
university, his name is well known, and he is held in high honour. He
still corresponds with Harry, whose next tutor was a French abbé. The
cause of the abbé's dismissal I have forgotten; indeed, I remember only
one more among the numerous preceptors, and he was the last,--a German
from Bohemia, called Ewald Finke.

His name was not really Ewald, but Michael, but he called himself Ewald
because he liked it better. He had studied abroad, which always
impressed us favourably, and, as Uncle Karl was told, he had already
won some reputation in Leipsic by his literary efforts. He was looking
for a situation as tutor merely that he might have some rest from
intellectual labours that had been excessive. "Moreover," his letter of
recommendation from a well-known professor went on to say, "the Herr
Baron will not be slow to discover that he is here brought into contact
with a rarely-gifted nature, one of those in intercourse with whom
allowance must be made for certain peculiarities which at first may
prove rather annoying." Uncle Karl instantly wrote, in reply, that
"annoying peculiarities" were of no consequence,--that he would accord
unlimited credit in the matter of allowance to the new tutor. In fact,
he took such an interest in the genius thus offered him that he
prolonged his stay in Komaritz to two weeks, instead of departing at
the end of three days, as he had at first intended, solely in
expectation of the new tutor.

By the way, those who are familiar with my uncle's morbid restlessness
may imagine the joy of his household at his prolonged stay in Komaritz.

Not knowing how otherwise to kill his time, he hit upon the expedient
of shooting it, and, as the hunting season had not begun, he shot
countless butterflies. We found them lying in heaps among the flowers,
little, shapeless, shrivelled things, mere specks of brilliant dust.
When weary of this amusement, he would seat himself at the piano and
play over and over again the same dreary air, grasping uncertainly at
the chords, and holding them long and firmly when once he had got them.

Harry assured me that he was playing a funeral march for the dead
butterflies, and I supposed it to be his own composition. This,
however, was not the case, and the piece was not a funeral march, but a
polonaise,--"The Last Thought of Count Oginski," who is said to have
killed himself after jotting down this music.

At last Herr Finke made his appearance. He was a tall, beardless young
man, with hair cut close to his head, and a sallow face adorned with
the scars of several sabre-cuts, a large mouth, a pointed nose, the
nostrils quivering with critical scorn, and staring black eyes with
large round spectacles, through which they saw only what they chose to
see.

Uncle Karl's reception of him was grandiloquent. "Enter," he exclaimed,
going to meet him with extended hands. "My house is open to you. I
delight in grand natures which refuse to be cramped within the limits
of conventionality."

Herr Finke replied to this high-sounding address only by a rather
condescending nod, shaking the proffered hand as if bestowing a favour.

After he had been refreshed with food and drink, Uncle Karl challenged
him to a fencing-match, which lasted upward of an hour, at the end of
which time my uncle confessed that the new tutor was a master of fence,
immediately wrote to thank the illustrious professor to whom he owed
this treasure of learning, and left Komaritz that same evening.

Herr Finke remained precisely three weeks in his new situation. So far
as lessons went he seemed successful enough, but his "annoying
peculiarities" ended in an outbreak of positive insanity, during which
he set fire to the frame house on the hill where he was lodged, and was
carried off to a mad-house in a strait-waistcoat, raving wildly.

Uncle Karl was sadly disappointed, and suddenly resolved to send Harry
to a public school, being convinced that no good could come of tutors.

From this time forward the young Leskjewitsches came to Komaritz only
for the vacations.



                                  VII.

We were very good friends, Harry and I,--there's no denying that. We
told each other all our secrets,--at least I told him mine,--and we
divided all our bon-bons with each other. Sometimes on Sunday
afternoons we played at marriage, the ceremony giving occasion for a
deal of delightful "dressing up." Moreover, we had long been agreed
that, sooner or later, this play should become earnest, and that we
would marry each other. But when the first down became perceptible on
Harry's upper lip, our mutual friendship began to flag. It was just
about the time that Harry went to a public school.

His indifference grieved me at first, then I became consoled, and at
last I was faithless to him. A cousin of Harry's, who came to Komaritz
to spend the holidays, gave occasion for this breach of faith. His name
was Lato, Count Treurenberg. The name alone kindled my enthusiasm. He
had scarcely been two days in Komaritz, where I too was staying at the
time, when Hedwig confided to me that she was in love with him.

"So am I," I replied. I was firmly convinced that this was so.

My confession was the signal for a highly dramatic scene. Hedwig, who
had frequently been to the theatre in Prague, ran about the room
wringing her hands and crying, "Both with the same man! both!--it is
terrible! One of us must resign him, or the consequences will be
fearful."

I diffidently offered to sacrifice my passion.

She shrieked, "No, I never can accept such a sacrifice from you! Fate
shall decide between us."

Whereupon we put one white and one black bean in a little, broken,
handle-less coffee-pot which we found in the garret, and which Hedwig
called an urn.

The decisive moment made my heart beat. We cast lots for precedence in
drawing from the urn. It fell to me, and I drew out a black bean! The
moment was thrilling. Heda sank upon a sofa, and fanned her joyful face
with her pocket-handkerchief. She declared that if she had drawn the
black bean she would have attempted her life. This declaration
dispelled my despair; I shuddered at the idea of being the cause of
anything so horrible.

From that day Heda never spoke to Lato von Treurenberg without drooping
her head on one side and rolling her eyes languishingly,--conduct which
seemed to cause the young fellow some surprise, but which he treated
with great courtesy, while Harry used to exclaim, "What is the matter
with you, Heda? You look like a goose in a thunder-storm!"

My behaviour towards Lato underwent no change: I had drawn the "black
ball," and, in consequence, the most cordial friendship soon subsisted
between us.

It would have been difficult not to like Lato, for I have never met a
more amiable, agreeable young fellow.

He was about seventeen years old, very tall, and stooped slightly. His
features were delicately chiselled; his smile was quite bewitching in
its dreamy, all-embracing benevolence. There was decided melancholy in
his large, half-veiled eyes, which caused Hedwig to liken him to Lord
Byron.

His complexion was rather dark,--which was odd, as his hair was light
brown touched with gold at the temples. His neck was too long, and his
arms were uncommonly long. All his appointments, from his coats to his
cigar-case, were extremely elegant, testifying to a degree of
fastidiousness thitherto quite unknown in Komaritz. Nevertheless, he
seemed very content in this primitive nest, ignoring all discomfort,
and making no pretension. Heda, who was quick to seize upon every
opportunity to admire him, called my attention to his amiable
forbearance, or, I confess, I should not have noticed it.

From Hedwig I learned much concerning the young man; among other
things, she gave me a detailed account of his family circumstances. His
mother was, she informed me, a "mediatisirte."[1] She uttered the word
reverently, and, when I confessed that I did not know what it meant,
she nearly fainted. His father was one of the most fascinating men in
Austria. He is still living, and is by no means, it seems, at the end
of his fascinations, but, being a widower, hovers about from one
amusing capital to another, breaking hearts for pastime. It seems to be
a wonderfully entertaining occupation, and, when one once indulges in
it, the habit cannot be got rid of,--like opium-eating.

While he thus paraded his brilliant fascinations in the gay world, he
did not, of course, find much time to interest himself in his boy, who
was left to the care of distant relatives, and who, when found to be
backward in his studies, was placed, I believe by Uncle Karl's advice,
under the care of a Prague professor by the name of Suwa, who kept, as
Harry once told me, a kind of orthopædic institution for minds that
lacked training.

Beside Lato, during that vacation there were two other guests at
Komaritz, one a very distant cousin of Harry's, and the other a kind of
sub-tutor whose duty it was to coach Harry in his studies.

We could not endure the sub-tutor. His name was Franz Tuschalek; he was
about nineteen, with hands and feet like shovels, and a flat, unmeaning
face. His manner was intensely servile, and his coat-sleeves and
trousers were too short, which gave him a terribly indigent air. One
could not help regarding him with a mixture of impatience and sympathy.
By my radical uncle's express desire, he and Harry called each other by
their Christian names. Still, obnoxious as poor Tuschalek was to us, he
was more to our minds than the distant cousin.

This last was a Pole, about twenty years old, with a sallow face and
long oblique eyes, which he rolled in an extraordinary way. His hair
was black, and he curled it with the curling-tongs. He was redolent of
musk, and affected large plaid suits of clothes. His German was not
good, and his French was no better, but he assured us that he was a
proficient in Chinese and Arabic. He was always playing long and
difficult concertos on the table, but he never touched the piano at
Komaritz, declaring that the instrument was worn out. He was always
short of funds, and was perpetually boasting of the splendour of his
family.

He frequently sketched, upon some stray piece of paper, a magnificent
and romantic structure, which he would display to us as his Polish
home,--"our ancestral castle."

Sometimes this castle appeared with two turrets, sometimes with only
one, a fact to which Harry did not fail to call his attention.

His distinguished ancestry was a topic of never-failing interest
to him; he was never weary of explaining his connection with
various European reigning dynasties, and his visiting-cards bore
the high-sounding names "Le Comte Ladislas Othon Fainacky de
Chrast-Bambosch," although, as Harry confided to us, he had no right to
the title of comte, being the son of a needy Polish baron.

Although Franz Tuschalek was almost as obnoxious to Harry as the
"braggart Sarmatian," as Lato called the Pole, he never allowed his
antipathy to be seen, but treated him with great consideration, as he
did all inferiors, scarcely allowing himself to give vent to his
distaste for him even in his absence. But he paraded his dislike of
Fainacky, never speaking of him as a guest, but as an "invasion," and
always trying to annoy him by some boyish trick.

At length, one Sunday, the crisis in Harry's first vacation occurred.
We had all been to early mass, and the celebrant had accompanied us
back to Komaritz, as was his custom, to breakfast. After a hasty cup of
coffee he took his leave of us children, and betook himself to the
bailiff's quarters, where we more than suspected him of a quiet game of
cards with that official and his underlings.

The door of the dining-room leading out into the garden was wide open,
and delicious odours from the moist flower-beds floated in and mingled
with the fragrance of the coffee. It had rained in the night, but the
sun had emerged from the clouds and had thrown a golden veil over trees
and shrubs. We were just rising from table when the "braggart
Sarmatian" entered, booted and spurred, smelling of all the perfumes of
Arabia, and with his hair beautifully curled. He had not been to mass,
and had breakfasted in his room in the frame house on the hill, which
had been rebuilt since the fire. After he had bidden us all an affected
good-morning, he said, turning to Harry,--

"Has the man come with the mail?"

"Yes," Harry replied, curtly.

"Did no registered letter come for me?"

"No."

"Strange!"

"Very strange," Harry sneered. "You have been expecting that letter a
long time. If I were you, I'd investigate the matter."

"There's something wrong with the post," the Pole declared, with an air
of importance. "I must see about it. I think I had best apply to my
uncle the cabinet-minister."

Harry made a curious grimace. "There is no need to exercise your powers
of invention for me," he observed. "I know your phrase-book and the
meaning of each individual sentence. 'Has no registered letter come for
me?' means 'Lend me some money.' My father instructed me to supply you
with money if you needed it, but never with more than ten guilders at a
time. Here they are, and, if you wish to drive to X----, tell the
bailiff to have the drag harnessed for you. We--in fact, we will not
look for you before evening. Good-bye."

"I shall have to call you to account some day, Harry," Fainacky said,
with a frown; then, relapsing into his usual languid affectation of
manner, he remarked, over his shoulder, to Mademoiselle Duval, "_C'est
un enfant_," put away the ten-guilder piece in a gorgeous leather
pocket-book, and left the room.

Scarcely had the door closed behind him when Harry began to express in
no measured terms his views with regard to the "Polish invasion." Then
he set his wits to work to devise some plan of getting rid of Fainacky,
but it was not until the afternoon, when we were assembled in the
dining-room again, that a brilliant idea occurred to him while reading
Heine's "Romancero," a book which he loved to read when Heda and I were
by because it was a forbidden volume to us.

Suddenly, starting up from his half-reclining position in a large
arm-chair, he snapped his fingers, waved his book in the air, and
exclaimed, "Eureka!"

"What is it?" Lato asked, good-naturedly.

"I have found something to drive the Pole wild!" cried Harry, rubbing
his hands with delight. Whereupon he began to spout, with immense
enthusiasm and shouts of laughter, Heine's "Two Knights," a poem in
which he pours out his bitterest satire upon the Poles, their cause,
and their country. This precious poem Harry commanded Tuschalek to
write out in his finest round hand upon a large sheet of paper, which
was then to be nailed upon the door of Fainacky's sleeping-apartment. I
did not like the poem. I confess my Polish sympathies were strong, and
I did not approve of ridiculing the "braggart Sarmatian's" nation by
way of disgusting him with Komaritz; but nothing that I could say had
any effect. The poem was written out upon the largest sheet of paper
that the house afforded, and was the first thing to greet the eyes of
Fainacky when he retired to his room for the night. In consequence, the
Sarmatian declared, the next morning, at breakfast, that the insult
thus offered to his nation and himself was not to be endured by a man
of honour, and that he should leave Komaritz that very day.

Nevertheless, he stayed four weeks longer, during which time, however,
he never spoke to Harry except upon three occasions when he borrowed
money of him.

Tuschalek departed at an earlier date. Harry's method for getting rid
of him was much simpler, and consisted of a letter to his father. As
well as I can recollect, it ran thus:


"My Dear Father,--

"I pray you send Tuschalek away. I assure you I will study diligently
without him. To have about you a fellow hired at ten guilders a month,
who calls you by your Christian name, is very deleterious to the
character.

                             "Your affectionate son,

                                                     "Harry.

"P.S.--Pray, if you can, help him to another situation, for I can't
help pitying the poor devil."


About this time Lato sprained his ankle in leaping a ditch, and was
confined for some days to a lounge in the dining-room. Heda scarcely
left his side. She brought him flowers, offered to write his letters
for him, and finally read aloud to him from the "_Journal des
Demoiselles_." Whether he was much edified I cannot say. He left
Komaritz as soon as his ankle was strong again. I was really sorry to
have him go; for years we heard nothing more of him.----


"The gypsy!" exclaimed the major. "How fluently she writes! Who would
have thought it of her! I remember that Fainacky perfectly well,--a
genuine Polish coxcomb! Lato was a charming fellow,--pity he should
have married in trade!"

At this moment a loud bell reminded the old cavalryman that the
afternoon coffee was ready. He hurriedly slipped his niece's manuscript
into a drawer of his writing-table, and locked it up before joining his
family circle, where he appeared with the most guileless smile he could
assume.

Zdena seemed restless and troubled, and confessed at last that she had
lost her diary, which she was quite sure she had put into her
work-basket. She had been writing in the garden, and had thrust it into
the basket in a hurry. The major seemed uninterested in the loss, but,
when the girl's annoyance reached its climax in a conjecture that the
cook had, by mistake, used the manuscript for kindling, he comforted
her, saying, "Nonsense! the thing will surely be found." He could not
bring himself to resign the precious document,--he was too much
interested in reading it.

The next day, after luncheon, while Frau Rosamunda was refreshing
herself with an afternoon nap and Zdena was in the garden posing for
the Baron von Wenkendorf as the goddess of Spring, the major retired to
his room and locked himself in, that he might not be disturbed.

"Could she possibly have fallen in love with that Lato? Some girls'
heads are full of sentimental nonsense. But I hardly think it--and
so--" he went on muttering to himself whilst finding the place where he
had left off on the previous day.

The next chapter of this literary _chef-d'[oe]uvre_ began as follows:



                                 VIII.

I had a long letter to-day from Miss O'Donnel in Italy, full of most
interesting things. One of the two nieces whom she is visiting is
being trained as an opera-singer. She seems to have a brilliant career
before her. In Italy they call her "_la Patti blonde_," and her
singing-teacher, to whom she pays thirty-five francs a lesson, declares
that she will certainly make at least a hundred thousand francs a year
as a prima donna. What an enviable creature! I, too, have an admirable
voice. Ah, if Uncle Paul would only let me be trained! But his opinions
are so old-fashioned!

And everything that Miss O'Donnel tells me about the mode of life of
the Misses Lyall interests me. They live with their mother in Italy,
and receive every evening, principally gentlemen, which, it seems, is
the Italian custom. The elder Miss Lyall is as good as engaged to a
distinguished Milanese who lost his hair in the war of '59; while the
younger, the blonde Patti, will not hear of marriage, but contents
herself with turning the head of every man who comes near her.

Ah! I have arrived at the conviction that there can be no finer
existence than that of a young girl in training for a prima donna, who
amuses herself in the mean time by turning the head of every man who
comes near her.----

("Goose!" exclaimed the major at this point.)

----To-day I proposed to Uncle Paul that he should take me to Italy for
the winter, to have me educated as a singer. There was a great row.
Never before, since I have known him, has he spoken so angrily to
me.----

("I should think not!" growled the major at this point.)

----The worst was that he blamed Miss O'Donnel for putting such "stuff"
(thus he designated my love for art) into my head, and threatened to
forbid her to correspond with me. Ah, I wept for the entire afternoon
amid the ruins of my shattered hopes. I am very unhappy. After a long
interruption, the idea has occurred to me to-day of continuing my
memoirs.



                                  IX.

                        HARRY BECOMES A SOLDIER.

Uncle Karl finally yielded to Harry's entreaties, and allowed him to
enter the army. That very autumn after the summer which Lato and
Fainacky passed at Komaritz he was to enter a regiment of hussars.

It had been a problem for Uncle Karl, the taming of this eager young
nature, and I think he was rather relieved by the military solution
thus afforded.

As Harry of course had nothing to do in town before joining his
regiment, he stayed longer than usual this year in Komaritz,--stayed
all through September and until late in October. Komaritz was quite
deserted: Lato had gone, the Pole had gone; but Harry still stayed on.

And, strange to say, now, when we confronted our first long parting,
our old friendship gradually revived, stirred, and felt that it had
been living all this time, although it had had one or two naps. How
well I remember the day when he came to Zirkow to take leave of us--of
me!

It was late in October, and the skies were blue but cold. The sun shone
down upon the earth kindly, but without warmth. A thin silvery mist
floated along the ground. The bright-coloured leaves shivered in the
frosty air.

On the wet lawn, where the gossamers gleamed like steel, lay myriads of
brown, red, and yellow leaves. The song-birds were gone, the sparrows
twittered shrilly, and in the midst of the brown autumnal desolation
there bloomed in languishing loveliness a white rose upon a leafless
stalk.

With a scarlet shawl about my shoulders and my head bare I was
sauntering about the garden, wandering, dreaming through the frosty
afternoon. I heard steps behind me, and when I looked round I saw Harry
approaching, his brows knitted gloomily.

"I only want to bid you 'good-bye,'" he called out to me. "We are off
to-morrow."

"When are you coming back?" I asked, hastily.

"Perhaps never," he said, with an important air. "You know--a
soldier----"

"Yes, there is a threatening of war," I whispered, and my childish
heart felt an intolerable pang as I spoke.

He shrugged his shoulders and tried to laugh.

"And, at all events, you, when I come back, will be a young lady
with--lovers--and you will hardly remember me."

"Oh, Harry, how can you talk so!"

Rather awkwardly he holds out to me his long slender hand, in which I
place my own.

Ah, how secure my cold, weak fingers feel in that warm strong hand! Why
do I suddenly recall the long-past moonlit evenings in Komaritz when we
sat together on the garden-steps and Harry told me ghost-stories, in
dread of which, when they grew too ghastly, I used to cling close to
him as if to find shelter in his strong young life from the bloodless
throng of spirits he was evoking?

Thus we stand, hand in hand, before the white rose, the last which
autumn had left. It droops above us, and its cheering fragrance mingles
with the autumnal odours around us. I pluck it, stick it in Harry's
button-hole, and then suddenly begin to sob convulsively. He clasps me
close, close in his arms, kisses me, and murmurs, "Do not forget me!"
and I kiss him too, and say, "Never--never!" while around us the faded
leaves fall silently upon the grass.



                                   X.

                             MY EDUCATION.

Now follow a couple of very colourless years. There was nothing more to
anticipate from the summers. For, although Heda regularly appeared at
Komaritz as soon as the city was too hot or too deserted, she did not
add much to my enjoyment. Komaritz itself seemed changed when Harry was
no longer there to turn everything upside-down with his good-humoured,
madcap ways.

And there was a change for the worse in our circumstances; affairs at
Zirkow were not so prosperous as they had been.

To vary the monotony of his country life, my uncle had built a brewery,
from which he promised himself a large increase of income. It was to be
a model brewery, but after it was built the startling discovery was
made that there was not water enough to work it. For a while, water was
brought from the river in wagons drawn by four horses, but, when this
was found to be too expensive, the brewery was left to itself.

For years now it has remained thus passive, digesting in triumphant
repose the sums of money which it swallowed up. The monster!

Whenever there is any little dispute between my uncle and my aunt, she
is certain to throw his brew-house in his face. But, instead of being
crushed by the mischief he has wrought, he declares, "The project was
admirable: my idea was a brilliant one if it had only succeeded!"

But it did not succeed.

The consequence was--retrenchment and economy. My aunt dismissed two
servants, my uncle kept only a pair of driving horses, and my new gowns
were made out of my aunt Thérèse's old ones.

The entire winter we spent at Zirkow, and my only congenial friend was
my old English governess, the Miss O'Donnel already mentioned, who came
shortly before Harry's entrance into the army, not so much to teach me
English as to learn German herself.

Born in Ireland, and a Catholic, she had always had excellent
situations in the most aristocratic English families. This had given
her, besides her other acquirements, a great familiarity with the
curious peculiarities of the British peerage, and with social
distinctions of rank in England, as to which she enlightened me, along
with much other valuable information.

At first I thought her quite ridiculous in many respects,--her general
appearance,--she had once been a beauty, and still wore corkscrew
curls,--her way of humming to herself old Irish ballads, "Nora Creina,"
"The harp that once through Tara's halls," etc., with a cracked voice
and unconscious gestures, her formality and sensitiveness. After a
while I grew fond of her. What quantities of books she read aloud to me
in the long evenings in January and December, while my wooden needles
clicked monotonously as I knitted woollen comforters for the poor!--all
Walter Scott's novels, Dickens and Thackeray, many of the works of
English historians, from the academic, fluent Gibbon to that strange
prophet of history, Carlyle, and every day I had to study with her one
act of Shakespeare, which bored me at first. She was so determined to
form my literary taste that while my maid was brushing my hair she
would read aloud some lighter work, such as "The Vicar of Wakefield" or
Doctor Johnson's "Rasselas."

As Uncle Paul was very desirous to perfect my education as far as
possible, he was not content with these far-reaching efforts, but, with
a view to further accomplishments on my part, sent me thrice a week to
X----, where an old pianiste, who was said to have refused a Russian
prince, and was now humpbacked, gave me lessons on the piano; and a
former _ballerina_, at present married to the best caterer in X----,
taught me to dance.

This last was a short, fat, good-humoured person with an enormous
double chin and a complexion spoiled by bad rouge. When a
ballet-dancer she had been known as Angiolina Chiaramonte; her name now
is Frau Anna Schwanzara. She always lost her breath, and sometimes the
buttons off her waist, when she danced for her pupils, and she prided
herself upon being able to teach every known dance, even to the cancan.
I did not learn the cancan, but I did learn the fandango, the czardas,
and the Highland fling, with many another national dance. Waltzes and
polkas I did not learn, because we had no one for a partner to practise
with me; Frau Schwanzara was too short-breathed, although she was very
good-humoured and did her best.

Sometimes I thought it very hard to have to get up so early and drive
between high walls of snow in a rattling inspector's wagon (Uncle Paul
would not allow his last good carriage to be used on these journeys)
two long leagues to X----, but it was, at all events, a break in the
monotony of my life.

If I was not too sleepy, we argued the whole way, Miss O'Donnel and I,
usually over some historic event, such as the execution of Louis XVI.
or Cromwell's rebellion. Sometimes we continued our debate as we walked
about the town, where we must have been strange and yet familiar
figures. Miss O'Donnel certainly was odd in appearance. She always wore
a long gray cloth cloak, under which, to guard against dirt, she kilted
up her petticoats so high that her red stockings gleamed from afar. On
her head was perched a black velvet bonnet with a scarlet pompon, and
in summer and winter she carried the same bulgy green umbrella, which
she called her "Gamp." Once we lost each other in the midst of a
particularly lively discussion. Nothing daunted, she planted herself at
a street-corner, and, pounding the pavement with her umbrella, called,
lustily, "Zdena! Zdena! Zdena!" until a policeman, to whom I described
her, conducted me to her.

In addition to Miss O'Donnel's peculiarities, the extraordinary
structure of our vehicle must have attracted some attention in X----.
It was a long, old-fashioned coach hung on very high springs, and it
looked very like the shabby carriages seen following the hearse at
third-class funerals. Twin sister of the Komaritz "Noah's Ark," it
served a double purpose, and could be taken apart in summer and used as
an open carriage. Sometimes it fell apart of itself. Once when we were
driving quickly through the market-square and past the officers' casino
in X----, the entire carriage window fell out upon the pavement. The
coachman stopped the horses, and a very tall hussar picked up the
window and handed it in to me, saying, with a smile, "You have dropped
something, mademoiselle!" I was deeply mortified, but I would not for
the world have shown that I was so. I said, simply, "Thank you; put it
down there, if you please," pointing to the opposite seat,--as if
dropping a window out of the carriage were the most ordinary every-day
occurrence. Upon my reply to him he made a profound bow, which I
thought all right. He was a late arrival in the garrison; the other
officers knew us or our carriage by sight. Every one of them, when he
came to X----, paid his respects to my uncle, who in due course of time
returned the visit, and there was an end of it. The officers were never
invited to Zirkow.

Sometimes the roads were so blocked with snow that we could not drive
to town, nor could we walk far. For the sake of exercise, or what Miss
O'Donnel called our "daily constitutional," we used then to walk
numberless times around the house, where the gardener had cleared a
path for us. As we walked, Miss O'Donnel told me stories from the
Arabian Nights or Ovid's Metamorphoses, varied sometimes by
descriptions of life among the British aristocracy. When once she was
launched upon this last topic, I would not let her finish,--I besieged
her with questions. She showed me the picture of one of her pupils, the
Lady Alice B----, who married the Duke of G---- and was the queen of
London society for two years.

"'Tis odd how much you look like her," she often said to me. "You are
sure to make a sensation in the world; only have patience. You are born
to play a great part."

If Uncle Paul had heard her, I believe he would have killed her.

Every evening we played a rubber of whist. Miss O'Donnel never could
remember what cards were out, and, whenever we wished to recall a card
or to transgress some rule of the game, Aunt Rosamunda always said,
"That is not allowed at the Jockey Club."

Once my uncle and aunt took me upon a six weeks' pleasure-tour,--or,
rather, an educational excursion. We thoroughly explored the greater
part of Germany and Italy on this occasion, travelling very simply,
with very little luggage, never speaking to strangers, having
intercourse exclusively with pictures, sculptures, and valets-de-place.
After thus becoming acquainted, in Baedeker's society, with a new piece
of the world, as Aunt Rosamunda observed with satisfaction, we returned
to Zirkow, and life went on as before.

And really my lonely existence would not have struck me as anything
extraordinary, if Hedwig had not been at hand to enlighten me as to my
deprivations.

She had been introduced into society, and wrote me of her conquests.
Last summer she brought a whole trunkful of faded bouquets with her to
Komaritz,--ball-trophies. Besides this stuff, she brought two other
acquisitions with her to the country, a sallow complexion and an
adjective which she used upon every occasion--"impossible!" She tossed
it about to the right and left, applying it to everything in the dear
old nest which I so dearly loved, and which she now never called
anything save "Mon exil." The house at Komaritz, the garden, my
dress,--all fell victims to this adjective.

Two of her friends shortly followed her to Komaritz, with a suitable
train of governesses and maids,--countesses from Prague society, Mimi
and Franziska Zett.

They were not nearly so affected as Heda,--in fact, they were not
affected at all, but were sweet and natural, very pretty, and
particularly pleasant towards me. But we were not congenial; we had
nothing to say to one another; we had no interests in common. They were
quite indifferent to my favourite heroes, from the Gracchi to the First
Consul; in fact, they knew hardly anything about them, and I knew still
less of the Rudis, Nikis, Taffis, and whatever else the young gentlemen
were called, with whom they danced and flirted at balls and parties,
and about whom they now gossiped with Heda.

They, too, brought each a trunkful of faded bouquets, and one day they
piled them all up on the grass in the garden and set fire to them. They
declared that it was the custom in society in Vienna thus to burn on
Ash Wednesday every relic of the Carnival. To be sure, it was not Ash
Wednesday in Komaritz, and the Carnival was long past, but that was of
no consequence.

The favourite occupation of the three young ladies was to sit in the
summer-house, with a generous supply of iced raspberry vinegar, and
make confession of the various _passions funestes_ which they had
inspired. I sat by and listened mutely.

Once Mimi amiably asked me to give my experience. I turned my head
away, and murmured, ashamed, "No one ever made love to me." Mimi,
noticing my distress, put her finger beneath my chin, just as if she
had been my grand-aunt, and said, "Only wait until you come out, and
you will bear the palm away from all of us, for you are by long odds
the prettiest of us all."

When afterwards I looked in the glass, I thought she was right.

"Until you go into society," Mimi had said. Good heavens!  into
society!--I! For some time a suspicion had dawned upon me that Uncle
Paul did not mean that I should ever "go into society." When, the day
after Mimi's portentous speech, I returned to Zirkow, I determined to
put an end to all uncertainty upon the subject.

After dinner--it had been an uncommonly good one--I put my hand
caressingly within my uncle's arm, and whispered, softly, "Uncle, do
you never mean to take me to balls, eh?"

He had been very gay, but he at once grew grave, as he replied,--

"What good would balls do you? Make your eyes droop, and your feet
ache! I can't endure the thought of having you whirled about by all the
young coxcombs of Prague and then criticised afterwards. Marriages are
made in heaven, Zdena, and your fate will find you here, you may be
sure."

"But I am not thinking of marriage," I exclaimed, indignantly. "I want
to see the world, uncle dear; can you not understand that?" and I
tenderly stroked his coat-sleeve.

He shook his curly head energetically.

"Be thankful that you know nothing of the world," he said, with
emphasis.

And I suddenly recalled the intense bitterness in my mother's tone as
she uttered the word "world," when I waked in the dark night and found
her kneeling, crying, at my bedside in our old Paris home.

"Is it really so very terrible--the world?" I asked, meekly, and yet
incredulously.

"Terrible!" he repeated my word with even more energy than was usual
with him. "It is a hot-bed of envy and vanity, a place where one learns
to be ashamed of his best friend if he chance to wear an ill-made coat;
that is the world you are talking of. I do not wish you to know
anything about it."

This was all he would say.

It might be supposed that the unattractive picture of the world drawn
by Uncle Paul would have put a stop at once and forever to any desire
of mine for a further acquaintance with it, but--there is ever a charm
about what is forbidden. At present I have not the faintest desire to
visit Pekin, but if I were forbidden to go near that capital I should
undoubtedly be annoyed.


And day follows day. Nearly a year has passed since that unedifying
conversation with my uncle.

The only amusement that varied the monotony of our existence was a
letter at long intervals from Harry. For a time he was stationed in
Salzburg; for a year he has been in garrison in Vienna, where, of
course, he is absorbed in the whirl of Viennese society. I must confess
that it did not greatly please me when I first learned that he had
entered upon that brilliant worldly scene: will he not come to be like
Hedwig? My uncle declares that the world is the hot-bed of envy and
vanity; and yet there must be natures upon which poisonous atmospheres
produce no effect, just as there are men who can breathe with impunity
the air of the Pontine marshes; and Harry's nature is one of these. At
least so it would seem from his letters, they are so cordial and
simple, such warm affection speaks in every line. A little while ago he
sent me his photograph. I liked it extremely, but I did not say so; all
the more loudly, however, did my uncle express his admiration. He
offered to wager that Harry is the handsomest officer in the entire
army, and he shouted loudly for Krupitschka, to show him the picture.

Harry told us one interesting piece of news,--I forget whether it was
this winter or the last; perhaps it was still longer ago, for Harry was
stationed in Enns at the time, and the news related to our old friend
Treurenberg.

He had married a girl in the world of trade,--a Fräulein Selina von
Harfink. Harry, whom Lato had bidden to his marriage, and who had gone
for old friendship's sake from Enns to Vienna to be the escort in the
church of the first of the eight bridesmaids, made very merry in his
letter over the festivity.

We were all intensely surprised; we had not heard a word of Lato's
betrothal, and the day after Harry's letter came the announcement of
the marriage.

Uncle Paul, who takes most of the events of life very philosophically,
grew quite angry on learning of this marriage.

Since Lato has married for money, he cares nothing more for him.

"I should not care if he had made a fool of himself and married
an actress," he exclaimed, over and over again, "but to sell
himself--ugh!"

When I suggested, "Perhaps he fell in love with Selina," my uncle
shrugged his shoulders, and seemed to consider any such possibility
entirely out of the question.

We talked for two weeks at Zirkow about Lato Treurenberg's marriage.

Now we have almost forgotten it. Since Lato has been married he has
been quite estranged from his former associations.


To-day is my birthday. I am nineteen years old. How kind my uncle and
aunt are to me! How they try to give me pleasure! My heap of presents
was really grand. Arrayed about my cake, with its lighted candles,
I found two new gowns, a hat which Heda had purchased for me in
Prague,--and which, by the way, would be highly appreciated upon the
head of a monkey in a circus,--several volumes of English literature
sent me by Miss O'Donnel from Italy, and, in a white silk sachet upon
which Mimi Zett had embroidered a bird of paradise in the midst of a
snow-scene (a symbol of my melancholy condition), a card, upon which
was written, "A visit to some watering-place, by the way of Vienna and
Paris." I uttered a shriek of delight and threw my arms around my
uncle's neck.

The three young girls from Komaritz came over to Zirkow to dine, in
honour of the occasion; we drank one another's health in champagne, and
in the afternoon we had coffee in the woods, which was very
inconvenient but very delightful. Then we consulted the cards as to our
future, and Heda lost her temper because the oracle declared that she
would marry an apothecary.

What nonsense it was! The cards prophesied to me that I should marry
for love;--I! As if I should think of such a thing! But I was not in
the least vexed, although I knew how false it was.

Towards eight o'clock the girls drove home, and I concluded the evening
by taking my new bonnet to pieces and then scribbling here at my
writing-table. I cannot make up my mind to go to bed. I am fairly
tingling to my finger-tips with delightful anticipations. To think of
seeing Paris once more,--Paris, where I was born, the very centre of
the civilized world! Oh, it is too charming!

Something extraordinary will happen during this trip,--I am sure of it.
I shall meet some one who will liberate me from my solitude and set me
upon the pedestal for which I long; an English peer, perhaps, or a
Russian prince, oh, it will of course be a Russian prince--who spends
most of his time in Paris. I shall not mind his not being very young.
Elderly men are more easily managed.----

(At this point the major frowns. "I should not have thought it of her,
I really should not have thought it of her. Well, we shall see whether
she is in earnest." And he goes on with his reading.)


                                                    June 10, ----.

I have a piece of news to put down. The Frau von Harfink who bought
Dobrotschau a while ago--the estate that adjoins Zirkow, a fine
property with a grand castle but poor soil--is no other than Lato
Treurenberg's mother-in-law. She called upon us to-day. When
Krupitschka brought the cards of the Baroness Melanie von Harfink and
her daughter Paula, Aunt Rosa denounced the visit as a presumption upon
the part of the ladies. She had been engaged all day long in setting
the house "to rights," preparatory to our departure, and had on a very
old gown in which she does not often appear; wherefore she would fain
have denied herself. But I was burning with curiosity to see Lato's
mother-in-law: so I remarked, "Uncle Paul and I will go and receive the
ladies, while you dress."

This made my aunt very angry. "It never would occur to me to dress for
these wealthy _parvenues_. This gown is quite good enough for them."
And she smoothed the faded folds of her skirt so that a neatly-darned
spot was distinctly conspicuous. The ladies were immediately shown in;
they were extremely courteous and amiable, but they found no favour in
my aunt's eyes.

There really was no objection to make to Mamma von Harfink, who is
still a very handsome woman, except that her manner was rather
affected. The daughter, however, was open to criticism of various
kinds, and subsequently became the subject of a serious dispute between
my aunt and uncle. My aunt called Fräulein Paula disagreeable,
absolutely hideous, and vulgar; whereupon my uncle, slowly shaking his
head, rejoined,----

"Say what you please, she may not be agreeable, but she is very
pretty."

Upon this my aunt grew angry, and called Fräulein Paula a "red-haired
kitchen-maid." My uncle shrugged his shoulders, and observed,
"Nevertheless, there have been kitchen-maids who were not ugly."

Then my aunt declared, "I can see nothing pretty about such fat
creatures; but, according to her mother's account, you are not alone in
your admiration. Madame Harfink had hardly been here five minutes when
she informed me that Professor X----, of Vienna, had declared that her
daughter reminded him of Titian's penitent Magdalen in the Borghese
Gallery in Rome, and she asked me whether I was not struck with the
resemblance."

My uncle grinned--I could not see at what and said, "H'm! the Magdalen,
perhaps; but whether penitent or not----" and he pinched my cheek.

The dispute continued for a while longer, and ended with my aunt's
emphatic declaration that men always had the worst possible taste with
regard to young girls. My uncle burst into a laugh at this, and
replied, "True. I gave proof of it on the 21st of May, 1858." It was
his marriage-day.

Of course my aunt laughed, and the quarrel ended. The subject was
changed, and we discussed Lato Treurenberg's marriage, which had
puzzled us all. My aunt declared that since she had seen the family
Treurenberg's choice appeared to her more incomprehensible than ever.

My uncle shook his head sagely, and observed, "If Selina Treurenberg at
all resembles her sister, it explains much to me, especially when I
recall the poor fellow's peculiarities. It makes me more lenient
towards him, and--I pity him from my heart." They evidently did not
wish to say anything more upon the subject before me.


                                                     June 20.

This afternoon we start. I am in a fever of anticipation. How
delightful! I seem to have come to the turning-point of my existence.
Something wonderful is surely going to happen.

Meanwhile, I take my leave of my little book,--I shall have no time to
write in it while we are away.


                                                     July 30.

Here we are back again in the old nest! Nothing either wonderful or
even extraordinary happened upon the journey; on the contrary,
everything was quite commonplace. I did not meet the Russian prince,
but I have brought home with me a conviction of the beauty and delights
of the world, and the certainty that, if fate would only grant me the
opportunity, I could play a most brilliant part in it. But my destiny
has nothing of the kind to offer.

I am restless and discontented, and I have great trouble in concealing
my mood from my uncle and aunt. I am likewise disgusted with my
ingratitude. I know that the expenses of our trip weighed heavily upon
my uncle. He has bought himself no new horses, although the old ones
are lame in all four legs; and my aunt has given up her pilgrimage to
Bayreuth, that I might go to the baths. She expected so much for me
from this trip, and now----

Still, prosaic and commonplace as it all was, I will put it down here
conscientiously in detail. Various pleasant little circumstances may
recur to me as I write which have escaped me in my general discontent
that has tinged everything.

Our few days in Vienna were the pleasantest part of the entire trip,
little as I liked the city at first.

We arrived at ten in the evening, rather exhausted by the heat, and of
course we expected to see Harry at the railroad-station, my uncle
having advised him of our arrival. But in vain did we peer in every
direction, or rather in vain did Aunt Rosamunda thus peer (for I did
nothing of the kind); there was no Harry to be seen.

While my aunt loudly expressed her wonder at his non-appearance, I
never uttered a word, but was secretly all the more vexed at what
seemed to me Harry's laziness and want of consideration. Of course, I
attributed his absence to the fact that a young man who passed his time
in flying from one fête to another in the world (which I was not to
know) could hardly be very anxious to meet a couple of relatives from
the country. Perhaps he had come to be just like Heda, and I shrugged
my shoulders indifferently at the thought. What could it possibly
matter to me? Meanwhile, my aunt had given our luggage-tickets to
a porter and got with me into an open carriage, where we quietly and
wearily awaited our trunks.

Around us the lights flickered in the warm, dim, night air, which was
almost as close as an in-door atmosphere, and smelled most unpleasantly
of dust, dried leaves, and all sorts of exhalations. On every hand
crowded houses of indescribable clumsiness and ugliness; I was
depressed by the mere eight of them, and suddenly experienced the most
painful sensation of shrivelling up. The deafening noise and bustle
were in harmony with the houses: I never had heard anything like it.
Everybody jostled everybody else, all were in a hurry, and no one paid
the slightest regard to anybody. It seemed as if they were one and all
bound for some great entertainment and feared to be too late.

At the hotel the reason for Harry's absence was explained. We found two
beautiful bunches of roses in our rooms, and a note, as follows:


"I am more sorry than I can tell, not to be able to welcome you at the
station. I am, unfortunately, on duty at a garden-party at the Archduke
S----'s.... I shall report myself to you, however, at the earliest
opportunity.

                                                     "Harry."


I supped with a relish, and slept soundly.

My aunt had breakfasted in our sitting-room and was reading the paper,
when I had scarcely begun to dress. I was just about to brush my
hair,--I have very long hair, and it is quite pretty, light brown with
a dash of gold,--in fact, I was standing before the mirror in my white
peignoir, with my hair hanging soft and curling all around me, very
well pleased with my reflection in the glass, when suddenly I heard the
jingling of spurs and sabre, and a voice which was familiar and yet
unfamiliar. I trembled from head to foot.

"Zdena, hurry, and come!" called my aunt. "Here is a visitor!"

I knew well enough who it was, but, as if I did not know, I opened the
door, showed myself for a moment in my white wrapper and long, loose
hair,--only for a moment,--and then hastily retreated.

"Come just as you are. 'Tis only Harry; it is not as if it were a
stranger. Come!" called my aunt.

But I was not to be persuaded. Not for worlds would I have had Harry
suspect that--that--well, that I was in any great hurry to see him.

I dressed my hair with the most scrupulous care. Not before twenty
minutes had passed did I go into the next room.

How plainly I see it all before me now,--the room, half drawing-room,
half dressing-room; a trunk in one corner, in another an old
piano, the key of which we were obliged to procure from the kellner; in
an arm-chair a bundle of shawls, over the back of a sofa our
travelling-wraps, our well-polished boots in front of the porcelain
stove, great patches of misty sunshine lying everywhere, the
breakfast-table temptingly spread near the window, and there, opposite
my aunt, his sabre between his knees, tall, slender, very brown, very
handsome, an officer of hussars,--Harry.

I like him, and am a little afraid of him. He suddenly springs up and
advances a step or two towards me. His eyes--the same eyes that had
glanced at me as I appeared in my wrapper--open wide in amazement; his
gaze is riveted upon my face. All my fear has gone; yes, I confess it
to this paper,--I am possessed by an exultant consciousness of power.
He is only my cousin, 'tis true, but he is the first man upon whom I
have been able to prove my powers of conquest.

I put my hands in his, so cordially extended, but when he stooped as if
to kiss me, I shook my head, laughing, and said, "I am too old for
that."

He yielded without a word, only touching my hand respectfully with
his lips and then releasing me; whereupon I went directly to the
breakfast-table. But, as he still continued to gaze at me, I asked,
easily,----

"What is it, Harry? Is my hair coming down?"

He shook his head, and said, in some confusion, "Not at all. I was only
wondering what you had done with all your magnificent hair!"

I made no reply, but applied myself to my breakfast.

It was really delightful, our short stay in Vienna. Harry was with us
all the while. He went about with us from morning till night; patiently
dragged with us to shops, picture-galleries, and cathedrals, and to the
dusty, sunny Prater, where the vegetation along the drive seemed to
have grown shabby. We drove together to Schönbrunn, the huge, dreamy,
imperial summer residence, and wandered about the leafy avenues there.
We fed the swans; we fed the monkeys and the bears, while my aunt
rested near by, Baedeker in hand, upon any bench she could find. She
rested a great deal, and grew more tired with every day of our stay in
Vienna, and with very good reason; she can hardly endure the pavement
in walking, and she refuses, from fastidiousness, to take advantage of
the tramway, and, from economy, to hire a carriage.

The sunset has kindled flames in all the windows of the castle, and we
are still wandering in the green avenues, talking of all sorts of
things, music, and literature. Harry's taste is classic; mine is
somewhat revolutionary. I talk more than he; he listens. Sometimes he
throws in a word in the midst of my nonsense; at other times he laughs
heartily at my paradoxes, and then again he suddenly looks askance at
me and says nothing. Then I become aware that he understands far more
than I of the matter in hand, and I fall silent.

The sun has set; the rosy reflection on the grass and at the foot of
the old trees has faded; there is only a pale, gray gleam on the castle
windows. All nature seems to sigh relieved. A cool mist rises from the
basins of the fountains, like the caress of a water-nymph; the roses,
petunias, and mignonette exhale delicious fragrance, which rises as
incense to heaven; the lisp of the leaves and the plash of the fountain
interpose a dreamy veil of sound, as it were, between us and some
aggressive military music in the distance.

The twilight falls; the nurses are all taking their charges home. Here
and there on the benches a soldier and a nursemaid are sitting
together. It is too dark to see to read Baedeker any longer. My aunt
calls to us: "Do come, children; the carriage has been waiting ever so
long, and I am very hungry."

And the time had seemed so short to me. My aunt is so easily fatigued,
and her aversion to tramways is so insurmountable, that she stays at
home half the time in the hotel, and I make many a little expedition
with Harry alone. Then I take his arm. We stroll through the old part
of the city, with its sculptured monuments, its beautiful gray palaces
standing side by side with the commonest lodging-houses; about us
people are thronging and pushing; we are in no hurry; we should like to
have time stand still,--Harry and I; we walk very slowly. I am so
content, so filled with a sense of protection, when I am with him thus.
It is delightful to cling to him in the crowd.

It seems to me that I should like to spend my life in slowly wandering
thus in the cool of the evening through the streets, where the lights
are just beginning to be lighted, where a pair of large, kindly eyes
rest upon my face, and the sound of distant military music is in my
ears.

The last evening before our departure arrived. We were sitting in our
small drawing-room, and Harry and I were drinking iced coffee. My aunt
had left hers untouched; the fever of travelling was upon her; she
wandered from one room to another, opening trunks, drawers, and
wardrobes, and casting suspicious glances under the piano and the
sofas, sure that something would be left behind.

The kellner brought in two cards,--Countess Zriny and Fräulein
Tschaky,--a cousin of Uncle Paul's, with her companion.

We had called upon the Countess the day before, and had rejoiced to
find her not at home. My aunt now elevated her eyebrows, and murmured,
plaintively, "It can't be helped!"

Then she hurriedly carried two bundles of shawls and a hand-bag into
the next room, and the ladies were shown in.

Countess Zriny is a very stout, awkward old maid, with the figure of a
meal-sack and the face of a portly abbot. Harry maintains that she has
holy water instead of blood in her veins, and that she has for ten
years lived exclusively upon Eau de Lourdes and Count Mattei's
miraculous pills. It is odd that she should have grown so stout upon
such a diet.

There is nothing to say of Fräulein Tschaky.

Aunt Rosamunda received the ladies with a majestic affability
peculiarly her own, and presented me as "Our child,--Fritz's daughter!"

The Countess gave me her hand, a round, fat little hand that felt as if
her Swedish glove were stuffed with wadding, then put up her eyeglass
and gazed at me, lifting her eyebrows the while.

"All her father!" she murmured,--"especially her profile." Then she
dropped her eyeglass, sighed, "Poor Fritz! poor Fritz!" seated herself
on the sofa with my aunt, and began to whisper to her, looking steadily
at me all the while.

The sensitive irritability of my nature was at once aflame. If she had
pitied my father only for being snatched away so early in his fair
young life, for being torn so suddenly from those whom he loved! But
this was not the case. She pitied him solely because he had married my
mother. Oh, I knew it perfectly well; and she was whispering about it
to my aunt before me,--she could not even wait until I should be away.
I could hear almost every word.

My heart suddenly grew heavy,--so heavy with the old grief that I would
fain forget, that I could hardly bear it. But even in the midst of my
pain I observed that Harry was aware of my suffering and shared it.

Of course my cousin Zriny--for she is my cousin, after all--was
otherwise extremely amiable to me. She turned from her mysterious
conversation with Aunt Rosamunda, and addressed a couple of questions
to me. She asked whether I liked country life, and when I replied,
curtly, "I know no other," she laughed good-humouredly, just as some
contented old monk might laugh,--a laugh that seemed to shake her fat
sides and double chin, as she said, "_Elle a de l'esprit, la petite;
elle n'est pas du tout banale_."

How she arrived at that conclusion from my brief reply, I am unable to
say.

After a quarter of an hour she rose, took both my hands in hers by way
of farewell, put her head on one side, sighed, "Poor Fritz!" and then
kissed me.

When the door had closed behind her, my aunt betook herself to the next
room to make ready for a projected evening walk.

I was left alone with Harry. As I could not restrain my tears, and did
not know how else to conceal them, I turned my back to him and
pretended to arrange my hair at the pier-glass, before which stood a
vase filled with the La France roses that he had brought me the day
before.

It was a silly thing to do. He looked over my shoulder and saw in the
mirror the tears on my cheeks, and then--he put his arm around my waist
and whispered, "You poor little goose! You sensitive little thing! Why
should you grieve because a kindhearted, weak-minded old woman was
silly?"

Then I could not help sobbing outright, crying, "Ah, it is always the
same,--I know it! I am not like the other girls in your world. People
despise me, and my poor mother too."

"But this is childish," he said, gravely,--"childish and foolish. No
one despises you. And--don't scratch my eyes out, Zdena--it is not your
heart, merely, that is wounded at present, but your vanity, the vanity
of an inexperienced little girl who knows nothing of the world or of
the people in it. If you had knocked about in it somewhat, you would
know how little it signifies if people in general wink and nod, and
that the only thing really to care for is, to be understood and loved
by those to whom we cling with affection."

He said this more gently and kindly than I can write it. He suddenly
seemed very far above me in his earnest kindness of heart and his sweet
reasonableness. I was instantly possessed with a feeling akin to
remorse and shame, to think how I had teased him and tyrannized over
him all through those last few days. And I cannot tell how it happened,
but he clasped me close in his arms and bent down and kissed me on the
lips,--and I let him do it! Ah, such a thrill passed through me! And I
felt sheltered and cared for as I had not done since my mother's
clasping arms had been about me. I was for the moment above all petty
annoyances,--borne aloft by a power I could not withstand.

It lasted but a moment, for we were startled by the silken rustle of my
aunt's gown, and did he release me? did I leave him? I do not know; but
when Aunt Rosamunda appeared I was adjusting a rose in my breast, and
Harry was--looking for his sabre!----. (When the major reached this
point, he stamped on the floor with delight.)

"Aha, Rosel, which of us was right?" he exclaimed aloud. He would have
liked to summon his wife from where he could see her walking in the
garden, to impart to her his glorious discovery. On reflection,
however, he decided not to do so, chiefly because there was a good deal
of manuscript still unread, and he was in a hurry to continue the
perusal of what interested him so intensely.)

----I avoided being alone with Harry all the rest of the evening, but
the next morning at the railway-station, while my aunt was nervously
counting over the pieces of luggage for the ninety-ninth time, I could not
prevent his leaning towards me and saying, "Zdena, we were so unfortunately
interrupted last evening. You have not yet told me--that----"

I felt myself grow scarlet. "Wait for a while!" I murmured, turning my
head away from him, but I think that perhaps--I pressed his hand----

I must have done so, for happier eyes than those which looked after our
train as it sped away I have never seen. Ah, how silly I had been! I
carried with me for the rest of the journey a decided regret.----

(The major frowned darkly. "Why, this looks as if she would like to
withdraw her promise! But let me see, there really has no promise
passed between them."

He glanced hurriedly over the following leaves. "Descriptions of
travel--compositions," he muttered to himself. "Paris--variations upon
Baedeker--the little goose begins to be tiresome----Ah, here is
something about her parents' grave--poor thing!  And here----" He began
to read again.)


----A few hours after our arrival we drove to the graveyard at
Montmartre, an ugly, gloomy graveyard, bordering directly upon a
business-street, so that the noise and bustle of the city sound
deafeningly where the dead are reposing. The paths are as straight
as if drawn by a ruler, and upon the graves lie wreaths of straw
flowers or stiff immortelles. These durable decorations seem to me
heartless,--as if the poor dead were to be provided for once for all,
since it might be tiresome to visit them often.

My parents' grave lies a little apart from the broad centre path, under
a knotty old juniper-tree.

I heaped it with flowers, and amid the fresh blossoms I laid the roses,
now faded, which Harry gave me yesterday when we parted.


I was enchanted with Paris. My aunt was delighted with the shops. She
spent all her time in them, and thought everything very reasonable. At
the end of four days she had bought so many reasonable articles that
she had to purchase a huge trunk in which to take them home, and she
had scarcely any money left.

She was convinced that she must have made some mistake in her accounts,
and she worked over them half through an entire night, but with no
consoling result.

The upshot of it was that she wanted to go home immediately; but since
the trip had been undertaken chiefly for my health and was to end in a
visit to some sea-side resort, she wrote to my uncle, explaining the
state of affairs--that is, of her finances--and asking for a subsidy.

My uncle sent the subsidy, but requested us to leave Paris as soon as
possible, and to choose a modest seaside resort.

The next day we departed from Babylon.

After inquiring everywhere, and studying the guidebook attentively, my
aunt finally resolved to go to St. Valery.

The evening was cold and windy when we reached the little town and drew
up in the omnibus before the Hôtel de la Plage.

The season had not begun, and the hotel was not actually open, but it
received us.

As no rooms were taken, all were placed at our disposal, and we chose
three in the first story, one for my aunt, one for me, and one for our
trunks.

The furniture, of crazy old mahogany, had evidently been bought of some
dealer in second-band furniture in Rouen, but the beds were extremely
good, and the bed-linen, although "coarse as sacking," as Uncle Paul
would have expressed it, was perfectly clean and white.

From our windows we looked out upon the sea and upon the little wooden
hut where the safety-boat was kept, and also upon the little town park,
about a hundred square yards in extent; upon the Casino, quite an
imposing structure on the shore; upon the red pennons which,
designating the bathing-place, made a brilliant show in the midst of
the prevailing gray, and upon a host of whitewashed bath-houses waiting
for the guests who had not yet arrived.

How indeed could they arrive? One had need to have come from Bohemia,
not to go directly home, in such cold, damp weather as we had; but we
wanted to get value from our expensive trip.

The Casino was no more open than the hotel, it was even in a decided
_négligé_, but it was busily dressing. A swarm of painters and
upholsterers were decorating it. The upholsterers hung the inside with
crimson, the painters coloured the outside red and white.

The proprietor, a broad-shouldered young man answering to the
high-sounding name of Raoul Donval, daily superintended the work of
the--artists. He always wore a white cap with a broad black visor, and
a stick in the pocket of his short jacket, and plum-coloured
knickerbockers; and I think he considered himself very elegant.

They were draping and beautifying and painting our hotel too.
Everything was being painted instead of scrubbed,--the stairs, the
doors, the floors; everywhere the dirt was hidden beneath the same
dull-red colour. Aunt Rosa declared that they seemed to her to be
daubing the entire house with blood. Just at this time she was wont to
make most ghastly comparisons, because, for lack of other literature,
she was reading an historical romance in the _Petit Journal_.

She was in a far more melancholy mood than I at St. Valery. Since it
had to be, I made up my mind to it, consoling myself with the
reflection that I was just nineteen, and that there was plenty of time
for fate, if so minded, to shape my destiny brilliantly. Unfortunately,
my aunt had not this consolation, but, instead, the depressing
consciousness of having given up Bayreuth. It was hard. I was very
sorry for her, and did all that I could to amuse her.

I could always find something to laugh at in our visits to the empty
Casino and in our walks through the town, but instead of cheering
her my merriment distressed her. She had seen in the French journal
which she studied faithfully every day an account of a sensitive
trombone-player at the famous yearly festival at Neuilly who had broken
his instrument over the head of an arrogant Englishman who had allowed
himself to make merry over some detail of the festival. Therefore I
could scarcely smile in the street without having my aunt twitch my
sleeve and say,--

"For heaven's sake don't laugh at these Frenchmen!--remember that
trombone at Neuilly."

During the first fortnight I had the whole shore, with the bath-houses
and bathing-men, entirely to myself. It was ghastly! The icy
temperature of the water seemed to bite into my flesh, my teeth
chattered, and the bather who held me by both my hands was as blue as
his dress. Our mutual isolation had the effect of establishing a
friendship between the bather and myself. He had formerly been a
sailor, and had but lately returned from Tonquin; he told me much that
was interesting about the war and the cholera. He was a good-looking
fellow, with a fair complexion and a tanned face.

After my bath I ran about on the shore until I got warm, and then we
breakfasted. My aunt did not bathe. She counted the days like a
prisoner.

When the weather permitted, we made excursions into the surrounding
country in a little wagon painted yellow, drawn by a shaggy donkey,
which I drove myself. The donkey's name was Jeanne d'Arc,--which
horrified my aunt,--and she had a young one six months old that ran
after us as we drove along.

For more than two weeks we were the sole inmates of the Hôtel de la
Plage. The manager of the establishment--who was likewise the head of
the kitchen--drove to the station every day to capture strangers, but
never brought any back.

I see him now,--short and enormously broad, with a triple or quadruple
chin, sitting on the box beside the coachman, his hands on his thighs.
He always wore sky-blue trousers, and a short coat buckled about him
with a broad patent-leather belt. The chambermaid, who revered him,
informed me that it was the dress of an English courier.

One day he brought back to the host, who daily awaited the guests, two
live passengers,--an old woman and a young man.

The old woman was very poor, and took a garret room. She must have been
beautiful formerly, and she looked very distinguished. She positively
refused to write her name in the strangers' book. By chance we learned
afterwards that she was a Comtesse d'Ivry, from Versailles, who had had
great misfortunes. She had a passion for sunsets; every afternoon she
had an arm-chair carried out on the shore, and sat there, wrapped in a
thick black cloak, with her feet on a hot-water bottle, to admire the
majestic spectacle. When it rained, she still persisted in going, and
sat beneath a large ragged umbrella. Upon her return she usually sighed
and told the host that the sunsets here were not nearly so fine as at
Trouville,--appearing to think that this was his fault.

At last the weather brightened and it grew warm; the sun chased away
the clouds, and allured a crowd of people to the lonely shore. And such
people! I shudder to think of them.

We could endure the solitude, but such society was unendurable.

The next day I took my last bath.

On our return journey, at Cologne, an odd thing happened.

It was early, and I was sleepy. I was waiting for breakfast in
melancholy mood, and was contemplating a huge pile of elegant
hand-luggage which a servant in a very correct dark suit was
superintending, when two ladies, followed by a maid, made their
appearance, one fair, the other dark, from the dressing-room, which
had been locked in our faces. In honour of these two princesses we had
been obliged to remain unwashed. Ah, how fresh and neat and pretty they
both looked! The dark one was by far the handsomer of the two, but she
looked gloomy and discontented, spoke never a word, and after a hurried
breakfast became absorbed in a newspaper. The fair one, on the contrary,
a striking creature, with a very large hat and a profusion of passementerie
on her travelling-cloak, talked a great deal and very loudly to a short,
fat woman who was going with her little son to Frankfort, and who addressed
the blonde as "Frau Countess."

The name of the short woman was Frau Kampe, and the name of the
Countess, which I shortly learned, shall be told in due time. The
Countess complained of the fatigue of travelling; Frau Kampe, in a
sympathetic tone, declared that it was almost impossible to sleep in
the railway-carriages at this time of year, they were so overcrowded.
But the Countess rejoined with a laugh,--

"We had as much room as we wanted all the way; my husband secures that
by his fees. He is much too lavish, as I often tell him. Since I have
been travelling with him we have always had two railway-carriages, one
for me and my maid, and the other for him and his cigars. It has been
delightful."

"Even upon your wedding tour?" asked her handsome, dark companion,
looking up from her reading.

"Ha, ha, ha! Yes, even upon our wedding tour," said the other. "We were
a very prosaic couple, entirely independent of each other,--quite an
aristocratic match!" And she laughed again with much self-satisfaction.

"Where is the Herr Count?" asked Frau Kampe. "I should like to make his
acquaintance."

"Oh, he is not often to be seen; he is smoking on the platform
somewhere. I scarcely ever meet him; he never appears before the third
bell has rung. A very aristocratic marriage, you see, Frau Kampe,--such
a one as you read of."

The Countess's beautiful companion frowned, and the little Kampe boy
grinned from ear to ear,--I could not tell whether it was at the
aristocratic marriage or at the successful solution of an arithmetical
problem which he had just worked out on the paper cover of one of
Walter Scott's novels.

I must confess that I was curious to see the young husband who even
upon his marriage journey had preferred the society of his cigars to
that of his bride.

My aunt had missed the interesting conversation between Frau Kampe and
her young patroness; she had rushed out to see the cathedral in the
morning mist. I had manifested so little desire to join her in this
artistic but uncomfortable enterprise that she had dispensed with my
society. She now came back glowing with enthusiasm, and filled to
overflowing with all sorts of information as to Gothic architecture.

Scarcely had she seated herself to drink the coffee which I poured out
for her, when a tall young man, slightly stooping in his gait, and with
a very attractive, delicately-chiselled face, entered. Was he not----?
Well, whoever he was, he was the husband of the aristocratic marriage.

He exchanged a few words with the blonde Countess, and was about to
leave the room, when his glance fell upon my aunt.

"Baroness, you here!--what a delight!" he exclaimed, approaching her
hastily.

"Lato!" she almost screamed. She always talks a little loud away from
home, which annoys me.

It was, in fact, our old friend Lato Treurenberg. Before she had been
with him two minutes my aunt had forgotten all her prejudice against
him since his marriage,--and, what was more, had evidently forgotten
the marriage itself, for she whispered, leaning towards him with a sly
twinkle of her eye and a nod in the direction of the ladies,--

"What noble acquaintances you have made!--from Frankfort, or Hamburg?"

My heart was in my mouth. No one except Aunt Rosamunda could have made
such a blunder.

The words had hardly escaped her lips when she became aware of her
mistake, and she was covered with confusion. Lato flushed scarlet. At
that moment the departure of our train was announced, and Lato took a
hurried leave of us. I saw him outside putting the ladies into a
carriage, after which he himself got into another.

We travelled second-class, and therefore had the pleasure of sharing a
compartment with the man-servant and maid of the Countess Lato
Treurenberg.

My aunt took it all philosophically, while I, I confess, had much ado
to conceal my ungrateful and mean irritation.

I succeeded, however; I do not think my aunt even guessed at my state
of mind. She went to sleep; perhaps she dreamed of Cologne Cathedral.
I--ah, I no longer dreamed; I had long since awakened from my dreams,
and had rubbed my eyes and destroyed all my fine castles in the air.

The trip from which I had promised myself so much was over, and what
had been effected? Nothing, save a more distinct appreciation of our
straitened circumstances and an increase of my old gnawing discontent.

I recalled the delightful beginning of our trip, the long, dreamy
summer days in Vienna, the evening at Schönbrunn. Again I saw about me
the fragrant twilight, and heard, through the plash of fountains and
the whispering of the linden leaves, the sound of distant military
music. I saw Harry--good heavens! how plainly I saw him, with his
handsome mouth, his large, serious eyes! How he used to look at me! And
I recalled how beautiful the world had seemed to me then, so beautiful
that I thought I could desire nothing better than to wander thus
through life, leaning upon his arm in the odorous evening air, with the
echo of distant military music in my ear.

Then ambition rose up before me and swept away all these lovely
visions, showing me another picture,--Harry, borne down by cares, in
narrow circumstances, his features sharpened by anxiety, with a pale,
patient face, jesting bitterly, his uniform shabby, though carefully
brushed. Ah, and should I not love him ten times more then than now! he
would always be the same noble, chivalric----

But I could not accept such a sacrifice from him. I could not; it would
be unprincipled. Specious phrases! What has principle to do with it? I
do not choose to be poor--no, I will not be poor, and therefore I am
glad that we were interrupted at the right moment in Vienna. He cannot
possibly imagine--ah, if he had imagined anything he would have written
to me, and we have not had a line from him since we left him. He would
have regretted it quite as much as I, if----

It never would occur to him to resign all his grandfather's wealth for
the sake of my golden hair. Young gentlemen are not given to such
romantic folly nowadays; though, to be sure, he is not like the rest of
them.

The result of all my reflections was an intense hatred for my
grandfather, who tyrannized over me thus instead of allowing affairs to
take their natural, delightful course; and another hatred, somewhat
less intense, for the brewery, which had absorbed half of Uncle Paul's
property,--that is, much more than would have been necessary to assure
me a happy future. When I saw from the railway the brew-house chimney
above the tops of the old lindens, I shook my fist at it.

My uncle was waiting for us at the station. He was so frankly rejoiced
to have us back again that it cheered my heart. His eyes sparkled as he
came to me after greeting my aunt. He gazed at me very earnestly, as if
he expected to perceive some great and pleasant change in me, and then,
putting his finger under my chin, turned my face from side to side.
Suddenly he released me.

"You are even paler than you were before!" he exclaimed, turning away.
He had expected the sea-bathing to work miracles.

"Do I not please you as I am, uncle dear?" I asked, putting my hand
upon his arm. Then he kissed me; but I could see plainly that his
pleasure was dashed.


Now we have been at home four days, and I am writing my memoirs,
because I am tired of having nothing to do. It does not rain to-day;
the sun is burning hot,--ah, how it parches the August grass! The
harvest was poor, the rye-straw is short, and the grains of wheat are
small. And everything was so promising in May! My uncle spends a great
deal of time over his accounts.


                                                         August 8.

Something quite extraordinary has happened. We have a visitor, a cousin
of Aunt Rosamunda's,--Baron Roderich Wenkendorf. He is a very amiable
old gentleman, about forty-five years old. He interests himself in
everything that interests me,--even in Carlyle's 'French Revolution,'
only he cannot bear it. Moreover, he is a Wagnerite; that is his only
disagreeable characteristic. Every day he plays duets with Aunt
Rosamunda from the 'Götterdämmerung,' which makes Uncle Paul and
Morl nervous. Besides, he paints, of course only for pleasure, but
very ambitiously. Last year he exhibited one of his pictures in
Vienna--Napoleon at St. Helena--no, Charles the Fifth in the cloister.
I remember, he cannot endure the Corsican upstart. He declares that
Napoleon had frightful manners. We had a dispute about it. We often
quarrel; but he entertains me, he pleases me, and so, perhaps----


                                                        August 10.

It might be worth while to take it into consideration. For my sake he
would take up his abode in Bohemia. I do not dislike him, and my aunt
says that marry whom you will you can never get used to him until after
marriage. Harry and I should always be just the same to each other; he
would always be welcome as a brother in our home, of course. I cannot
really see why people must marry because they love each other.



                              CHAPTER III.

                              AN ARRIVAL.

When the major reached this point in his niece's memoirs, he rubbed his
forehead thoughtfully. "H'm!" he murmured; "why must people marry
because they love each other? By Jove! On the whole, it is well that I
now have some idea of what is going on in that insane little head."
After this wise the major quieted his scruples as to the unpardonable
indiscretion he had committed.

The reading of Zdena's extraordinary production had so absorbed his
attention that he had failed to hear the approach of some heavy vehicle
which had drawn up before the castle, or the rhythmic beat of the hoofs
of two riding-horses. Now he was suddenly startled by a firm step to
the accompaniment of a low jingling sound in the corridor outside his
room-door, at which there came a knock.

"Come in!" he called out.

A young officer of hussars in a blue undress uniform entered.

"Harry! is it you?" the major exclaimed, cordially. "Let me have a look
at you! What has put it into your head to drop down upon us so
unexpectedly, like the _deus ex machinâ_ in the fifth act of a
melodrama?"

The young fellow blushed slightly. "I wanted to surprise you," he said,
laughing, in some confusion.

"And you will stay a while with us? How long is your leave?"

"Six weeks."

"That's right. And you're glad to be at home once more?" said the
major, smiling broadly, and rubbing his hands.

He seemed to his nephew to be rather _distrait_, which he certainly
was, for all the while he was thinking of matters of which no mention
was made.

"My uncle has either been taking a glass too much or he has drawn the
first prize in a lottery," Harry thought to himself as he said, aloud,
"Hedwig has just come over, and Aunt Melanie."

"Ah, the Zriny: has she quartered herself upon you?" the major asked,
with something of a drawl.

"I escorted her here from Vienna. Aunt Rosamunda deputed me to inform
you of our relative's arrival, and to beg you to come immediately to
the drawing-room."

"H'm, h'm!--I'll go, I'll go," murmured the major, and he left the room
apparently not very well pleased. In the corridor he suddenly turned to
his nephew, who was following at his heels. "Have you seen Zdena yet?"
he asked, with a merry twinkle of his eye.

"N--o."

"Well, go find her."

"Where shall I look for her?"

"In the garden, in the honeysuckle arbour. She is posing for her
elderly adorer that he may paint her as Zephyr, or Flora, or something
of the kind."

"Her elderly adorer? Who is he?" Harry asked, with a frown, his voice
sounding hard and sharp.

"A cousin of my wife's, Baron Wenkendorf is his name, an enormously
rich old bachelor, and head over ears in love with our girl. He calls
himself a painter, in spite of his wealth, and he has induced the child
to stand for some picture for him. He makes love to her, I suppose,
while she poses."

"And she--what has she to say to his homage?" asked Harry, feeling as
if some one were choking him.

"Oh, she's tolerably condescending. She does not object to being made
love to a little. He is an agreeable man in spite of his forty-six
years, and it certainly would be an excellent match."

As the major finished his sentence with an expression of countenance
which Harry could not understand, the paths of the two men separated.
Harry hurried down into the garden; the major walked along the corridor
to the drawing-room door.

"H'm! I have warmed him up," the major said to himself; "'twill do no
harm if they quarrel a little, those two children: it will bring the
little goose to her senses all the sooner. There is only _one_ healthy
solution for the entire problem. You----!" he shook his forefinger at
the empty air. "Why must people marry because they love each other?
Only wait, you ultrasensible little goose; I will remind you of that
one of these days."



                              CHAPTER IV.

                               A QUARREL.


Meanwhile, Harry has rushed out into the garden. He is very restless,
very warm, very much agitated. It never occurs to him that his uncle
has been chaffing him a little; he cannot suspect that the major has
any knowledge of his sentiments.

"She cannot be so worthless!" he consoles himself by reflecting, while
his eyes search for her in the distance.

With this thought filling his mind, the young officer hurries on. He
does not find her at first; she is not in the honeysuckle arbour.

The sultriness of the August afternoon weighs upon the dusty vegetation
of the late summer. The leaves of the trees and shrubs droop wearily;
the varied luxuriance of bloom is past; the first crop of roses has
faded, the next has not yet arrived at maturity. Only a few red
verbenas and zinnias gleam forth from the dull green monotony.

At a turn of the path Harry suddenly starts, and pauses,--he has found
what he is looking for.

Directly in the centre of the hawthorn-bordered garden-path there is an
easel weighted with an enormous canvas, at which, working away
diligently, stands a gentleman, of whom Harry can see nothing but a
slightly round-shouldered back, the fluttering ribbons of a Scotch cap
set on the back of a head covered with short gray hair, and a gigantic
palette projecting beyond the left elbow; while at some distance from
the easel, clearly defined against the green background, stands a tall,
graceful, maidenly figure draped in a loose, fantastic robe, her arms
full of wild poppies, a large hat wreathed with vine-leaves on her
small head, her golden-brown hair loose upon her shoulders,--Zdena! Her
eyes meet Harry's: she flushes crimson,--the poppies slip from her arms
and fall to the ground.

"You here!" she murmurs, confusedly, staring at him. She can find no
more kindly words of welcome, and her face expresses terror rather than
joyful surprise, as a far less sharp-sighted lover than Harry
Leskjewitsch could not fail to observe.

He makes no reply to her words, but says, bluntly, pointing to the
artist at the easel, "Be kind enough to introduce me."

With a choking sensation in her throat, and trembling lips, Zdena
stammers the names of her two adorers, the old one and the young one.
The gentlemen bow,--Harry with angry formality, Baron Wenkendorf with
formal amiability.

"Aunt Rosa tells me to ask you to come to the drawing-room," Harry
says, dryly.

"Have any guests arrived?" asks Zdena.

"Only my sister and Aunt Zriny."

"Oh, then I must dress myself immediately!" she exclaims, and before
Harry is aware of it she has slipped past him and into the house.

Baron Wenkendorf pushes his Scotch cap a little farther back from his
forehead, which gives his face a particularly amazed expression, and
gazes with the same condescending benevolence, first at the vanishing
maidenly figure, and then at the picture on the easel; after which he
begins to put up his painting-materials. Harry assists him to do so,
but leaves the making of polite remarks entirely to the "elderly
gentleman." He is not in the mood for anything of the kind. He sees
everything at present as through dark, crimson glass.

Although Zdena's distress arises from a very different cause from her
cousin's, it is none the less serious.

"Oh, heavens!" she thinks to herself, as she hurries to her room to
arrange her dishevelled hair, "why must he come before I have an answer
ready? He surely will not insist upon an immediate decision! It would
be terrible! Anything but a forced decision; that is the worst thing in
the world."

Such, however, does not seem to be the opinion of her hot-blooded
cousin. When, a quarter of an hour afterwards, she goes out into the
corridor and towards the drawing-room door, she observes a dark figure
standing in the embrasure of a window. The figure turns towards her,
then approaches her.

"Harry! ah!" she exclaims, with a start; "what are you doing here? Are
you waiting for anybody?"

"Yes," he replies, with some harshness, "for you!"

"Ah!" And, without looking at him, she hurries on to the door of the
drawing-room.

"There is no one there," he informs her; "they have all gone to the
summer-house in the garden. Wenkendorf proposes to read aloud the
libretto of 'Parzifal.'" He pauses.

"And did you stay here to tell me this?" she stammers, trying to pass
him, on her way to the steps leading into the garden. "It was very kind
of you; you seem destined to play the part of sheep-dog to-day, to
drive the company together."

They go into the garden, and the buzz of voices reaches their ears from
the summer-house. They have turned into a shady path, above which
arches the foliage of the shrubs on either side. Suddenly Harry pauses,
and seizing his cousin's slender hands in both his own, he gazes
steadily and angrily into her eyes, saying, in a suppressed voice,--

"Zdena, how can you hurt me so?"

Her youthful blood pulsates almost as fiercely as does his own; now,
when the moment for an explanation has come, and can no longer be
avoided, now, one kind word from him, and all the barriers which with
the help of pure reason she has erected to shield her from the
insidious sweetness of her dreams will crumble to dust. But Harry does
not speak this word: he is far too agitated to speak it. Instead of
touching her heart, his harshness irritates her pride. Throwing back
her head, she darts an angry glance at him from her large eyes.

"I do not know what you mean."

"I mean that you are letting that old coxcomb make love to you," he
murmurs, angrily.

She lifts her eyebrows, and replies, calmly, "Yes!"

The young officer continues to gaze searchingly into her face.

"You are thoughtless," he says, slowly, with emphasis. "In your eyes
Wenkendorf is an old man; but he does not think himself so old as you
think him, and--and----" Suddenly, his forced composure giving way, he
bursts forth: "At the least it is ridiculous! it is silly to behave as
you are doing!"

In the entire dictionary Harry could have found no word with which to
describe Zdena's conduct that would have irritated her more than
"silly." If he had called her unprincipled, devilish, odious, cruel,
she could have forgiven him; but "silly!"--that word she never can
forgive; it makes her heart burn and smart as salt irritates an open
wound.

"I should like to know by what right you call me thus to account!" she
exclaims, indignantly.

"By what right?" he repeats, beside himself. "Can you ask that?"

She taps the gravel of the pathway defiantly with her foot and is
obstinately silent.

"What did you mean by your treatment of me in Vienna? what did you mean
by all your loving looks and kind words? what did you mean when you--on
the evening before you left----"

Zdena's face is crimson, her cheeks and ears burn with mortification.

"We grew up together like brother and sister," she murmurs. "I have
always considered you as a brother----"

"Ah, indeed! a brother!" His pulses throb wildly; his anger well-nigh
makes him forget himself. Suddenly an ugly idea occurs to him,--an
odious suspicion. "Perhaps you were not aware there in Vienna that by a
marriage with you I should resign my brilliant prospects?"

They confront each other, stiff, unbending, both angry, each more ready
to offend than to conciliate.

Around them the August heat broods over the garden; the bushes, the
flowers, the shrubbery, all cast black shadows upon the smooth-shaven,
yellowing grass, where here and there cracks in the soil are visible.
Everything is quiet, but in the distance can be heard the gardener
filling his large watering-can at the pump, and the jolting along the
road outside the garden of the heavy harvest-wagons laden with grain.

"Did you know it then?" he asks again, more harshly, more
contemptuously.

Of course she knew it, quite as well as she knows it now; but what use
is there in her telling him so, when he asks her about it in such a
tone?

Instead of replying, she frowns haughtily and shrugs her shoulders.

For one moment more he stands gazing into her face; then, with a bitter
laugh, he turns from her and strides towards the summer-house.

"Harry!" she calls after him, in a trembling undertone, but his blood
is coursing too hotly in his veins--he does not hear her. Although he
is one of the softest-hearted of men, he is none the less one of the
most quick-tempered and obstinate.

We leave it to the reader to judge whether the major would have been
very well satisfied with this result of his cunning diplomacy.

Whilst the two young people have been thus occupied in playing at
hide-and-seek with their emotions and sentiments, the little
summer-house, where the reading was to be held, has been the scene of
a lively dispute. Countess Zriny and Baron Wenkendorf have made mutual
confession of their sentiment with regard to Wagner.

The Countess is a vehement opponent of the prophet of Bayreuth, in the
first place because in her youth she was a pupil of Cicimara's and
consequently cannot endure the 'screaming called singing' introduced by
Wagner; secondly, because Wagner's operas always give her headache; and
thirdly, because she has noticed that his operas are sure to exercise
an immoral influence upon those who hear them.

Wenkendorf, on the contrary, considers Wagner a great moral reformer,
the first genius of the century in Germany,--Bismarck, of course,
excepted. As he talks he holds in his hand the thick volume of Wagner's
collected librettos, with his forefinger on the title-page of
'Parzifal,' impatiently awaiting the moment when he can begin to read
aloud.

Hitherto, since the Countess and Wenkendorf are both well-bred people,
their lively dispute has been conducted in rather a humorous fashion,
but finally Wenkendorf suggests a most reprehensible and, in the eyes
of the Countess, unpardonable idea.

"Whatever may be thought of Wagner's work, it cannot be denied," he
says, with an oratorical flourish of his hand, "that he is at the head
of the greatest musical revolution ever known; that he has, so to
speak, delivered music from conventional Catholicism, overladen as it
is with all sorts of silly old-world superstition. He is, if I may so
express myself, the Luther of music."

At the word 'Luther,' uttered in raised tones, the bigoted Countess
nearly faints away. In her eyes, Luther is an apostate monk who married
a nun, a monster whom she detests.

"Oh, if you so compare him, Wagner is indeed condemned!" she exclaims,
flushing with indignation, and trembling through all her mass of flesh.

At this moment Zdena and her cousin enter. Countess Zriny feels it her
duty to embrace the girl patronizingly. Hedwig says something to her
about her new gown.

"Did you get it in Paris?" she asks. "I saw one like it in Vienna last
summer,--but it is very pretty. You carry yourself much better than you
used to, Zdena,--really a great improvement!--a great improvement!"

At last all are seated. Baron Wenkendorf clears his throat, and opens
the portly volume.

"Now we can begin," Frau Rosamunda observes.

The Baron begins. He reads himself into a great degree of enthusiasm,
and is just pronouncing the words,--


           "Then after pain's drear night
            Comes morning's glorious light;
            Before me gleams
              Brightly the sacred wave,
            The blessed daylight beams,
              From night of pain to save
            Gawain----"


when Frau Rosamunda, who has been rummaging in her work-basket, rises.

"What is the matter, Rosamunda?" the Baron asks, impatiently. He is the
only one who addresses her by her beautiful baptismal name unmutilated.

"Excuse me, my dear Roderich, but I cannot find my thimble. Zdena, be
so kind as to go and get me my thimble."

While Zdena has gone to look for it, Frau von Leskjewitsch turns to her
cousin, who is rather irritated by this interruption, and exclaims,
"Very interesting!--oh, extremely interesting! Do you not think so?"
turning for confirmation of her opinion to the other listeners. But the
other listeners do not respond. Countess Zriny, who, with her hands as
usual encased in Swedish gloves, is knitting with thick, wooden needles
something brown for the poor, only drops her double chin majestically
upon her breast, and Harry--usually quite unsurpassable in the
well-bred art of being bored with elegance and decorum--is tugging
angrily at his moustache.

Zdena shortly returns with the missing thimble. The reading begins
afresh, and goes quite smoothly for a time; Wenkendorf is satisfied
with his audience.

"Oh, wonderful and sacred one!" he is reading, with profound emotion.

Everyone is listening eagerly. Hark! A scratching noise, growing louder
each minute, and finally ending in a pounding at the summer-house door,
arouses the little company from its rapt attention. A smile lights up
Frau Rosamunda's serene features:

"It is Morl. Let him in, Harry." Morl, the hostess's black poodle, is
admitted, goes round the circle, laying his paw confidingly upon the
knee of each member of it in turn, is petted and caressed by his
mistress, and finally, after he has vainly tried to oust the Countess
Zriny from the corner of the sofa which he considers his own special
property, establishes himself, with a low growl, in the other corner of
that piece of furniture.

Wenkendorf, meanwhile, drums the march from 'Tannhäuser' softly on the
cover of his thick book and frowns disapprovingly. Harry observes his
annoyance with satisfaction, watching him the while attentively, and
reflecting on the excellent match in view of which Zdena has forgotten
her fleeting attachment for the playmate of her childhood.

"A contemptible creature!" he says to himself: "any man is good enough
to afford her amusement. Who would have thought it? Fool that I was!
I'm well out of it,--yes, really well out of it."

And whilst he thus seriously attempts to persuade himself that, under
the circumstances, nothing could be more advantageous for him than this
severance of all ties with his beautiful, fickle cousin, his heart
burns like fire in his breast. He has never before felt anything like
this torture. His glance wanders across to where Zdena sits sewing,
with bent head and feverish intentness, upon a piece of English
embroidery.

The reading is interrupted again,--this time by Krupitschka, who wants
more napkins for afternoon tea. Wenkendorf has to be assured with great
emphasis that they all think the text of 'Parzifal' extremely
interesting before he can be induced to open the book again. Suddenly
the gravel outside crunches beneath approaching footsteps. The major's
voice is heard, speaking in courteous tones, and then another, strange
voice, deep and guttural. The summer-house door is opened.

"A surprise, Rosel," the major explains. "Baroness Paula!"

The first to go forward and welcome the young lady cordially is Harry.



                               CHAPTER V.

                            BARONESS PAULA.


The unexpected entrance of the famous beauty produces two important
results,--the final cessation of the reading of 'Parzifal,' and a
temporary reconciliation between Wenkendorf and Countess Zriny.

Whilst Frau Rosamunda receives her guest, not without a degree of
formal reserve, the two aforesaid worthy and inquisitive individuals
retire to a corner to consult together as to where these Harfinks come
from, to whom they are related, the age of their patent of nobility,
and where they got their money.

Since neither knows much about the Harfinks, their curiosity is
ungratified. Meanwhile, Baroness Paula, lounging in a garden-chair
beside the majestic hostess, chatters in a lively fashion upon every
conceivable topic, as much at her ease as if she had been a daily guest
at Zirkow for years. Her full voice is rather loud, her fluent
vocabulary astounding. She wears a green Russia linen gown with Turkish
embroidery on the skirt and a Venetian necklace around her throat,
with an artistically-wrought clasp in front of her closely-fitting
waist. The effect of her cosmopolitan toilet is considerably enhanced
by a very peaked Paris bonnet--all feathers--and a pair of English
driving-gloves. She has come in her pony-carriage, which she drives
herself. Not taking into account her dazzling toilet, Paula is
certainly a pretty person,--very fully developed and well grown,
with perhaps too short a waist and arms a trifle too stout. Her
features are regular, but her face is too large, and its tints of red
and white are not sufficiently mingled; her lips are too full, the
dimples in her cheeks are too deep when she smiles. Her hair is
uncommonly beautiful,--golden, with a shimmer of Titian red.

Her manner corresponds with her exterior. There is not a trace of
maidenly reserve about her. Her self-satisfaction is impregnable. She
talks freely of things of which young girls do not usually talk, and
knows things which young girls do not usually know.

She is clever and well educated,--left school with honours and
listened to all possible university lectures afterwards. She scatters
about Latin quotations like an old professor, and talks about
everything,--the new battle panorama in Vienna, the latest greenroom
scandal in Pesth, the most recent scientific hypothesis, and the last
interesting English divorce case. One cannot help feeling that she has
brought a certain life into the dead-and-alive little company which had
failed to be enlivened by the reading of 'Parzifal.'

"_Quelle type!_" Wenkendorf remarks to Countess Zriny.

"_Épouvantable!_" she whispers.

"_Épouvantable!_" he responds, staring meanwhile at the brilliant
apparition. "Her figure is not bad, though," he adds.

"Not bad?" the Countess repeats, indignantly. "Why, she has the figure
of a country bar-maid; involuntarily one fancies her in short
petticoats, with her arms full of beer-mugs."

The Baron shakes his head, as if reflecting that there is nothing so
very unattractive in the image of the young lady in the costume of a
bar-maid; at the same time, however, he declares with emphasis that
these Harfinks seem to be odious _canaille_, which, although it is
perhaps his conviction, does not hinder him from admiring Paula.

All the gentlemen present admire her, and all three, the major, the
Baron, and Harry, are soon grouped about her, while the ladies at the
other end of the room converse,--that is, make disparaging remarks with
regard to the Baroness Paula.

Harry, of the three men, is most pressing in his attentions, which
amount almost to devotion. Whatever he may whisper to her she listens
to with the unblushing ease which makes life so smooth for her.
Sometimes she represses him slightly, and anon provokes his homage.

The ladies hope for a while, but in vain, that she will go soon. She is
pleased to take a cup of afternoon tea, after which all return to the
house, where at Harry's request she makes a display of her musical
acquirements.

First she plays, with extreme force and much use of the pedals, upon
the venerable old piano, unused to such treatment, even from the major,
the ride of the Valkyrias, after which she sings a couple of soprano
airs from 'Tannhäuser.'

Harry admires her splendid method; Countess Zriny privately stops her
ears with a little cotton-wool. Hour after hour passes, and Krupitschka
finally announces supper. Baroness Paula begins hurriedly to put on her
driving-gloves, but when Frau Leskjewitsch, with rather forced
courtesy, invites her to stay to supper, she replies, "With the
greatest pleasure."

And now the supper is over. Harry's seat, meanwhile, has been next to
Paula's, and he has continued to pay her extravagant compliments, which
he ought not to have done; and, moreover, without eating a morsel, he
has drunk glass after glass of the good old Bordeaux of which the major
is so proud. All this has produced a change in him. The gnawing pain at
his heart is lulled to rest; his love for Zdena and his quarrel with
her seem relegated to the far past. For the present, here is this
luxuriant beauty, with her flow of talk and her Titian hair. Without
being intoxicated, the wine has mounted to his brain; his limbs are a
little heavy; he feels a pleasant languor steal over him; everything
looks rather more vague and delightful than usual; instead of a severe,
exacting beauty beside him, here is this wonderful creature, with her
dazzling complexion and her green, naiad-like eyes.

Countess Zriny and Hedwig have already ordered their old-fashioned
coach and have started for home. Harry's horses--his own and his
groom's--are waiting before the entrance.

It is ten o'clock,--time for bed at Zirkow. Frau Rosamunda rubs her
eyes; Zdena stands, unheeded and weary, in one of the window embrasures
in the hall, looking out through the antique, twisted grating upon the
brilliant August moonlight. Paula is still conversing with the
gentlemen; she proposes a method for exterminating the phylloxera, and
has just formulated a scheme for the improvement of the Austrian
foundling asylums.

They are waiting for her pony-carriage to appear, but it does not come.
At last, the gardener's boy, who is occasionally promoted to a
footman's place, comes, quite out of breath, to inform his mistress
that Baroness Paula's groom is in the village inn, so drunk that he
cannot walk across the floor, and threatening to fight any one who
interferes with him.

"Very unpleasant intelligence," says Paula, without losing an atom of
her equanimity. "There is nothing left to do, then, but to drive home
without him. I do not need him; he sits behind me, and is really only a
conventional encumbrance, nothing more. Good-night, Baroness! Thanks,
for the charming afternoon. Goodnight! good-night! Now that the ice is
broken, I trust we shall be good neighbours." So saying, she goes out
of the open hall door.

Frau Rosamunda seems to have no objections to her driving without an
escort to Dobrotschau, which is scarcely three-quarters of an hour's
drive from Zirkow, and even the major apparently considers this
broad-shouldered and vigorous young woman to be eminently fitted to
make her way in the world alone. But Harry interposes.

"You don't mean to drive home alone?" he exclaims. "Well, I admire your
courage,--as I admire every thing else about you," he adds, _sotto
voce_, and with a Blight inclination of his head towards her,--"but I
cannot permit it. You might meet some drunken labourer and be exposed
to annoyance. Do me the honour to accept me as your escort,--that is,
allow me to take the place of your useless groom."

"By no means!" she exclaims. "I never could forgive myself for giving
you so much trouble. I assure you, I am perfectly able to take care of
myself."

"On certain occasions even the most capable and clever of women lose
their capacity to judge," Harry declares. "Be advised this time!" he
implores her, as earnestly as though he were praying his soul out of
purgatory. "My groom will accompany us. He must, of course, take my
horse to Dobrotschau. Have no scruples."

As if it would ever have occurred to Baroness Paula to have "scruples"!
Oh, Harry!

"If you really would be so kind then, Baron Harry," she murmurs,
tenderly.

"Thank God, she has gone at last!" sighs Frau Rosamunda, as she hears
the light wagon rolling away into the night. "At last!"



                              CHAPTER VI.

                               ENTRAPPED.


Before Harry seated himself beside the robust Paula in the
pony-carriage, a slender little hand was held out to him, and a pale
little face, half sad, half pouting, looked longingly up at him.

He saw neither the hand nor the face. Oh, the pity of it!

The night is sultry and silent. The full moon shines in a cloudless,
dark-blue sky. Not a breath of air is stirring; the leaves of the tall
poplars, casting coal-black shadows on the white, dusty highway, are
motionless.

The harvest has been partly gathered in; sometimes the moonlight
illumines the bare fields with a yellowish lustre; in other fields the
sheaves are stacked in pointed heaps, and now and then a field of rye
is passed, a plain of glimmering, silvery green, still uncut. The
bearded stalks stand motionless with bowed heads, as if overtaken by
sleep. From the distance comes the monotonous rustle of the mower's
scythe; there is work going on even thus far into the night.

The heavy slumberous air has an effect upon Harry; his breath comes
slowly, his veins tingle.

Ten minutes have passed, and he has not opened his lips. Paula Harfink
looks at him now and then with a keen glance.

She is twenty-seven years old, and, although her life has been that of
a perfectly virtuous woman of her class, existence no longer holds any
secrets for her. Endowed by nature with intense curiosity, which has
been gradually exalted into a thirst for knowledge, she has read
everything that is worth reading in native and foreign modern
literature, scientific and otherwise, and she is consequently
thoroughly conversant with the world in which she lives.

Harry's exaggerated homage during the afternoon has suggested the idea
that he contemplates a marriage with her. That other than purely
sentimental reasons have weight with him in this respect she thinks
highly probable, but there is nothing offensive to her in the thought.
She knows that, in spite of her beauty, she must buy a husband; why
then should she not buy a husband whom she likes?

Nothing could happen more opportunely than this drive in the moonlight.
She is quite sure of bringing the affair to a satisfactory conclusion.

Click-clack--the ponies' hoofs beat the dusty road in monotonous
rhythm, tossing light silvery clouds of dust into the moonlight. Harry
is still silent, when--a plump hand is laid upon his arm.

"Please," Paula murmurs, half laughing, and handing him the reins,
"drive for me. The ponies are so fresh to-night, they almost pull my
hands off."

Harry bows, the ponies shake their manes, snort proudly, and increase
their speed, seeming to feel a sympathetic hand upon the reins.

"And I fancied I could drive!" Paula says, with a laugh; "it is a
positive pleasure to see you handle the reins."

"But such toys as these ponies!" he remarks, with a rather impatient
protest.

"Can you drive four-in-hand?" she asks, bluntly.

"Yes, and five-in-hand, or six-in-hand, for that matter," he replies.

"Of course! How stupid of me to ask! Did you not drive five-in-hand on
the Prater, three years ago on the first of May? Three chestnuts and
two bays, if I remember rightly."

"Yes; you certainly have an admirable memory!" Harry murmurs,
flattered.

"Not for everything," she declares, eagerly; "I never can remember
certain things. For instance, I never can remember the unmarried name
of Peter the Great's mother."

"She was a Narischkin, I believe," says Harry, who learned the fact on
one occasion when some foolish Narischkin was boasting of his imperial
connections.

Heaven knows what induces him to make a display to Paula of his
historical knowledge. He usually suppresses everything in that
direction which he owes to his good memory, as a learned marriageable
girl will hold her tongue for fear of scaring away admirers. Harry
thinks it beneath his dignity to play the cultured officer. He leaves
that to the infantry.

"You distance me in every direction," Paula says; "but as a whip you
inspire me with the most respect. I could not take my eyes off your
turn-out that day in the Prater. How docile and yet how spirited those
five creatures were under your guidance! And you sat there holding the
reins with as much indifference apparently as if they had been your
shake at a state ceremony. I cannot understand how you contrive to keep
the reins of a five-in-hand disentangled."

"I find it much more difficult to understand how a man can play the
guitar," Harry says, dryly.

Paula laughs, though with a sense of vexation at being still so far
from the attainment of her purpose. She takes off her tall hat, tosses
it carelessly into the seat behind them, and slowly pulls the gloves
off her white hands.

"That is refreshing!" she says, and then is silent. For the nonce it is
her wisest course.

Harry's eyes seek her face, then take in her entire figure, and then
again rest upon her face. The moon is shining with a hard, bluish
brilliancy, almost like that of an electric light, and it brings into
wondrous relief the girl's mature beauty. Its intense brightness
shimmers about her golden hair; the red and white of her complexion
blend in a dim, warm pallor. Her white hands rest in her lap as she
leans back among the cushions of the phaeton.

Click-clack--click-clack--the hoofs of the horses fly over the smooth,
hard road; duller and less regular grows the beat of the horses' hoofs
behind the wagon,--of Harry's steed and that of his groom.

The fields of grain have vanished. They are driving now through a
village,--a silent village, where every one is asleep. The dark
window-panes glisten in the moonlight; the shadows of the pointed roofs
form a black zigzag on the road, dividing it into two parts,--one dark,
one light. Only behind one window shines a candle; perhaps a mother is
watching there beside a sick or dying child. The candle-light, with its
yellow gleam, contrasts strangely with the bluish moonlight. A dog bays
behind a gate; otherwise, all is quiet.

And now the village lies behind them,--a chaos of black roofs,
whitewashed walls, and dark lindens. To the right and left are
pasture-lands, where countless wild chamomile-flowers glitter white and
ghostly among the grass, in the midst of which rises a rude wooden
crucifix. The pungent fragrance of the chamomile-flowers mingles with
the odour of the dust of the road.

Then the pastures vanish, with the chamomile-flowers and the oppressive
silence. A forest extends on either side of the road,--a forest which
is never silent, where even in so quiet a night as this the topmost
boughs murmur dreamily. It sounds almost like the dull plaint of
human souls, imprisoned in these ancient pines,--the souls of men
who aspired too high in life, seeking the way to the stars which
gleamed so kindly when admired from afar, but which fled like
glittering will-o'-the-wisps from those who would fain approach them.

The moonlight seems to drip down the boles of the monarchs of the wood
like molten silver, to lie here and there upon the underbrush around
their feet. A strong odour rises from the warm woodland earth,--the
odour of dead leaves, mingling deliciously with all other forest
fragrance.

"How wonderful!" Paula whispers.

"Yes, it is beautiful," says Harry; and again his eyes seek the face of
his companion.

"And do you know what is still more beautiful?" she murmurs. "To feel
protected, safe,--to know that some one else will think for you."

The road grows rough; the wheels jolt over the stones; the little
carriage sways from side to side. Paula clutches Harry's arm. Her
waving hair brushes his cheek; it thrills him. She starts back from
him.

"Pardon me," she murmurs, as if mortified.

"Pardon me, Baroness," he says. "I had no idea that the forest-road was
so rough; it is the shortest. Did you not come by it to Zirkow?"

"No."

"You ought to have warned me."

"I had forgotten it."

Again the wheels creak; tire ponies snort their dissatisfaction, the
little vehicle sways, and Paula trembles.

"I am afraid it will be rougher yet," says Harry. "How stupid of me not
to have thought of it! There!--the mud is really deep. Who could have
supposed it in this drought? We are near the Poacher's ditch: I can
perceive the swampy odour in the air."

"The Poacher's ditch?" Paula repeats, in a low tone. "Is that the
uncanny place where the will-o'-the-wisps dance?"

"Are you afraid?"

"Yes."

"So brave an Amazon--afraid?"

"Yes, for the first time in my life. I do not know what has come over
me," she whispers.

"A poor compliment for me!" he says, then pauses and looks at her.

She turns away her head as if she were blushing.

The tall pines crowd closer and closer on either side of the road; the
strip of moon-lit sky grows narrower overhead; the damp odour of
decaying vegetation poisons the air. The gloom is intense, the
moonbeams cannot find their way hither. In particular the road and the
lower portion of the tree-trunks are veiled in deep shade. A tiny blue
flame flickers up from the ground, dances among the trees,--then
another--and another----

"Ah!" Paula screams and clings like a maniac to Harry. He puts his arm
round her, and soothes her, half laughing the while. Did his lips
actually seek hers? A sudden, lingering kiss bewilders him, like the
intoxicating perfume of a flower.

It lasts but a second, and he has released her.

"Forgive me!" he cries, distressed, confused.

Does she really not understand him? At all events she only shakes her
head at his words, and murmurs, "Forgive?--what is there to forgive? It
came so unexpectedly. I had no idea that you loved me, Harry."

His cheeks burn. The forest has vanished, the road is smooth;
click-clack--the ponies' hoofs fly through the dust, and behind comes
the irregular thud of eight other hoofs along the road. Harry looks
round, and sees the groom, whom he had forgotten.

The dim woodland twilight has been left far behind; the moon floods the
landscape with silvery splendour. All is silent around; not a leaf
stirs; only the faint, dying murmur of the forest is audible for a few
moments.

Ten minutes later Harry draws up before the Dobrotschau castle. "You
will come to see mamma to-morrow?" Paula whispers, pressing her lover's
hand. But Harry feels as if he could annihilate her, himself, and the
whole world.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                             AN INVITATION.


"My dear Baroness,--

"Will you and all your family give us the pleasure of your company at
dinner on Sunday next, at six o'clock? We wish to surprise you with the
revelation of a secret that will, we think, interest you.

"I hear you have a friend with you. It would, of course, be an added
pleasure if Baron Wenkendorf would join us on Sunday.

"Hoping for a favourable reply, I am

                                   "Sincerely yours,

                                         "Emilie Harfink."


This note the Baroness Leskjewitsch takes from an envelope smelling of
violets and adorned with an Edelweiss, and reads aloud in a depressed
tone to her husband, her niece, and her cousin, all of whom listen with
a more or less contemptuous expression of countenance.

Not that the note is in itself any more awkward and pretentious than
other notes of invitation,--no; but the fact that it comes from
Baroness Harfink is quite sufficient to make the Zirkow circle
suspicious and ironical.

Three days have passed since the afternoon when Harry and Zdena
quarrelled, and Zdena has had time thoroughly to repent her experiment.

The little company is assembled at the breakfast-table in a small
summer-house whence there is a view of a tiny fountain leaping about a
yard into the air from an oval basin.

Frau Rosamunda thinks the view of this fountain refreshing; the major
despises the plaything, calls this breakfast-arbour the "wash-house,"
or, when he means to be particularly disagreeable, "Wash-Basin Hall,"
assuming the attitude, as he so designates it, of a kangaroo,--his
elbows pressed to his sides, the palms of his hands turned
outwards,--and availing himself of his most elegant German accent,
which is unfortunately rather unnatural.

"Surprise us? What surprise can the Baroness Harfink prepare for us in
which we shall take any interest?" Frau Rosamunda says, musingly,
laying the note down beside her plate.

"Oh, leave me out! She knows that you are prone to curiosity, and
she is doing what she can to attract you to her house," the major
declares. "The 'surprise' is the bit of cheese in the Dobrotschau
mouse-trap,--that is all. It may be a new service of old china, or some
Japanese rug with golden monsters and chimeras sprawling about on it."

"No; there is a tone of exultation about the note which indicates
something far grander," says Frau Rosamunda, thoughtfully, buttering a
piece of bread. "I rather think there is a new son-in-law to the fore."

"H'm! Fräulein Paula's betrothal would certainly be a matter of special
importance to us," the major says, contemptuously. "Perhaps it might
make Harry ill. He made violent love to her the other day!" and the old
cuirassier glances at Zdena. She is sipping a cup of tea, however, and
her face cannot be seen.

"I thought perhaps," Frau Rosamunda observes, "that Harry might----"

"No, Rosa. Your genius is really too great," the major interrupts her,
"if you can fancy for a moment that Harry meant anything serious by his
attentions to that village bar-maid."

Zdena has put down her teacup; her delicate nostrils quiver
disdainfully, her charming mouth expresses decided scorn. How could
Harry suppose----? Nonsense!

"Well, stranger things have come to pass," observes Frau Rosamunda,
sagely. "Do not forget that Lato Treurenberg has married into the
Harfink family."

"Oh, he--he was in debt--h'm!--at least his father was in debt," the
major explains. "That is entirely different. But a man like Harry would
never risk his colossal inheritance from his uncle for the sake of
Paula Harfink. If it were for some one else, he might do so; but that
red-cheeked dromedary--ridiculous!"

"I really do not understand you. You seemed perfectly devoted to her
the other day," rejoins Frau Rosamunda. "You all languished at her
feet,--even you too, Roderich."

Baron Wenkendorf looks up from a pile of letters and papers which he
has been sorting.

"What is the subject under discussion?" he asks. Dressed in the extreme
of fashion, in a light, summer suit, a coloured shirt with a very high
collar, a thin, dark-blue cravat with polka-dots, and the inevitable
Scotch cap, with fluttering ribbons at the back of the neck, he would
seem much more at home, so far as his exterior is concerned, on the
shore at Trouville, or in a magnificent park of ancient oaks with a
feudal castle in the background, than amidst the modest Zirkow
surroundings. He suspects this himself, and, in order not to produce a
crushing effect where he is, he is always trying to display the
liveliest interest in all the petty details of life at Zirkow. "What is
the subject under discussion?" he asks, with an amiable smile.

"Oh, the Harfink."

"Still?" says Wenkendorf, lifting his eyebrows ironically. "The young
lady's ears must burn. She seems to me to have been tolerably well
discussed during the last three days."

"I merely observed that you were all fire and flame for her while she
was here," Frau Rosamunda persists, "and that consequently I do not
understand why you now criticise her so severely."

"The impression produced upon men by that kind of woman is always more
dazzling than when it is lasting," says the major.

"H'm!--she certainly is a very beautiful person, but--h'm!--not a
lady," remarks Wenkendorf; and his clear, full voice expresses the
annoyance which it is sure to do whenever conversation touches upon the
mushroom growth of modern _parvenues_. "Who are these Harfinks, after
all?"

"People who have made their own way to the front," growls the major.

"How?"

"By good luck, industry, and assurance," replies the major. "Old
Harfink used to go regularly to his work every morning, with his
pickaxe on his shoulder; he slowly made his way upward, working in the
iron-mines about here; then he married a wealthy baker's daughter, and
gradually absorbed all the business of the district. He was very
popular. I can remember the time when every one called him 'Peter.'
Next he was addressed as 'Sir,' and it came to be the fashion to offer
him your hand, but before giving you his he used to wipe it on his
coat-tail. He was comical, but a very honest fellow, a plain man who
never tried to move out of his proper sphere. I think we never grudged
him his wealth, because it suited him so ill, and because he did not
know what to do with it." And the major reflectively pours a little rum
into his third cup of tea.

"I do not object to that kind of _parvenu_," says Wenkendorf. "The type
is an original one. But there is nothing to my mind more ridiculous
than the goldfish spawned in a muddy pond suddenly fancying themselves
unable to swim in anything save eau de cologne. H'm, h'm! And that
plain, honest fellow was, you tell me, the father of the lovely Paula?"

"God forbid!" exclaims the major, bursting into a laugh at the mere
thought.

"You have a tiresome way of beginning far back in every story you tell,
Paul," Frau Rosamunda complains. "You begin all your pedigrees with
Adam and Eve."

"And you have a detestable habit of interrupting me," her husband
rejoins, angrily. "If you had not interrupted me I should have finished
long ago."

"Oh, yes, we all know that. But first you would have given us a
description of old Harfink's boots!" Frau Rosamunda persists.

"They really were very remarkable boots," the major declares, solemnly.
"They always looked as if, instead of feet, they had a peck of onions
inside them."

"I told you so. Now comes the description of his cap," sighs Frau
Rosamunda.

"And the lovely Paula's origin retreats still further into obscurity,"
Wenkendorf says, with well-bred resignation.

"She is old Harfink's great-grand-daughter," says Zdena, joining for
the first time in the conversation.

"Old Harfink had two sons," continues the major, who hates to have the
end of his stories told prematurely; "two sons who developed social
ambition, and both married cultivated wives,--wives who looked down
upon them, and with whom they could not agree. If I do not mistake,
there was a sister, too. Tell me, Rosel, was there not a sister who
married an Italian?"

"I do not know," replies Frau Rosamunda. "The intricacies of the
Harfink genealogy never inspired me with the faintest interest."

The major bites his lip.

"One thing more," says Wenkendorf. "How have you managed to avoid an
acquaintance with the Harfinks for so long, if the family has belonged
to the country here for several generations?"

"Harfink number two never lived here," the major explains. "And they
owned the iron-mines, but no estate. Only last year the widow Harfink
bought Dobrotschau,--gallery of ancestral portraits, old suits of
armour, and all. The mines have been sold to a stock company."

"Not a very pleasing neighbourhood, I should say," observes Wenkendorf.

"'Surprise you with the revelation of a secret,'" Frau Rosamunda reads,
thoughtfully, in a low tone from the note beside her plate.

And then all rise from table. Zdena, who has been silent during
breakfast, twitches her uncle's sleeve, and, without looking at him,
says,--

"Uncle dear, can I have the carriage?"

The major eyes her askance: "What do you want of the carriage?"

"I should like to drive over to Komaritz; Hedwig will think it strange
that I have not been there for so long."

"H'm! don't you think Hedwig might do without you for a little while
longer?" says the major, who is in a teasing humour.

"Oh, let her drive over," Frau Rosamunda interposes. "I promised to
send the housekeeper there a basket of Reine-Claudes for preserving,
and Zdena can take them with her. And, Zdena, you might stop at
Dobrotschau; I will leave it to your diplomatic skill to worm out the
grand secret for us. I protest against assisting on Sunday at its
solemn revelation."

"Then shall I refuse the invitation for you?"

"Yes; tell them that we expect guests ourselves on Sunday. And invite
the Komaritz people to come and dine, that it may be true," the major
calls after the girl.

She nods with a smile, and trips into the castle. It is easy to see
that her heart is light.

"Queer little coquette!" thinks the major, adding to himself, "But
she's a charming creature, for all that."



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                              THE SECRET.


An hour later Zdena, a huge red silk sunshade held over her handsome
head, is driving rapidly towards Dobrotschau. She intends to make peace
with her cousin.

The exaggerated attentions which he paid to Paula vexed her for the
moment, but now she remembers them with only a smile of contempt. "Poor
Harry!" she murmurs, in a superior, patronizing way. "Poor Harry! he is
a thoroughly good fellow, and so devoted to me!"

The carriage rolls swiftly along the smooth road, upon which the last
traces of a recent shower are fast fading beneath the August heat. The
sky is blue and cloudless. The sun is rising higher; the stubble-fields
to the right and left lie basking in its light; the shadows of the
trees grow shorter and blacker, and the dark masses of the distant
forests stand out in strong contrast with the sunny fields.

Avoiding the rough forest road, the coachman takes the longer course
along the highway. An hour and a quarter passes before Zdena drives
through an arched gate-way, surmounted by a crest carved in the stone,
into a picturesque court-yard, where between two very ancient lindens
stands a Saint John of Nepomuk, whose cross has fallen out of his
marble arms, and at whose feet an antique fountain, plashing dreamily,
tells of long-gone times,--times that possess no interest for the
present inmates of the castle.

Zdena does not waste a glance upon the picturesque beauty of her
surroundings. Two riding-horses, very much heated, and led up and down
the old-fashioned court-yard, at once engage her attention. Are those
not Harry's horses? What is Harry doing here? A slight sensation of
anxiety assails her. Then she smiles at her nonsensical suspicions, and
is glad that she shall thus meet Harry sooner than she had hoped.

A footman in a plain and tasteful livery hurries forward to open her
carriage door; the ladies are at home.

Zdena trips up the steps to the spacious, airy hall, where, among
antique, heavy-carved furniture, a couple of full suits of armour are
set up, sword in gauntlet, like a spellbound bit of the Middle Ages, on
either side of a tall clock, upon whose brass face the effigy of a
grinning Death--his scythe over his shoulder--celebrates his eternal,
monotonous triumph. On the walls hang various portraits, dim with age,
of the ancestors of the late possessor, some clad in armour, some with
full-bottomed wigs, and others again wearing powdered queues; with
ladies in patch and powder, narrow-breasted gowns, and huge stiff
ruffs.

"If these worthies could suddenly come to life, how amazed they would
be!" thinks Zdena. She has no more time, however, for profound
reflections; for from one of the high oaken doors, opening out of the
hall, comes Harry.

They both start at this unexpected encounter; he grows deadly pale, she
flushes crimson. But she regains her self-possession sooner than he can
collect himself, and while he, unable to utter a word, turns his head
aside, she approaches him, and, laying her hand gently upon his arm,
murmurs, in a voice sweet as honey, "Harry!"

He turns and looks at her. How charming she is! With the arch
condescension of a princess certain of victory, she laughs in his face
and whispers,--

"Are you not beginning to be sorry that you said such hateful things to
me the other day?"

He has grown paler still; his eyes alone seem blazing in his head. For
a while he leaves her question unanswered, devouring her lovely,
laughing face with his gaze; then, suddenly seizing her almost roughly
by both wrists, he exclaims,--

"And are you not beginning to be sorry that you gave me cause to do
so?"

At this question, imprudent as it is, considering the circumstances,
Zdena hangs her golden head, and whispers, very softly, "Yes."

It is cold and gloomy in the hall; the two suits of armour cast long
dark-gray shadows upon the black-and-white-tiled floor; two huge
bluebottle flies are buzzing on the frame of an old portrait, and a
large moth with transparent wings and a velvet body is bumping its head
against the ceiling, whether for amusement or in despair it is
impossible to say.

Zdena trembles all over; she knows that she has said something
conclusive, something that she cannot recall. She is conscious of
having performed a difficult task, and she expects her reward.
Something very sweet, something most delicious, is at hand. He must
clasp her in his arms, as on that evening in Vienna. Ah, it is useless
to try to deceive herself,--she cannot live without him. But he stands
as if turned to stone, ashy pale, with a look of horror.

A door opens. Paula Harfink enters the hall, tall, portly, handsome
after her fashion, in a flowered Pompadour gown, evidently equipped for
a walk, wearing a pair of buckskin gloves and a garden-hat trimmed with
red poppies and yellow gauze.

"Ah! have you been waiting for me up-stairs, Harry?" she asks; then,
perceiving Zdena, she adds, "A visitor!--a welcome visitor!"

To Zdena's amazement and terror, she finds herself tenderly embraced by
Paula, who, looking archly from one to the other of the cousins, asks,
"Shall we wait until Sunday for the grand surprise, Harry? Let your
cousin guess. Come, Baroness Zdena, what is the news at Dobrotschau?"

For one moment Zdena feels as if a dagger were plunged into her heart
and turned around in the wound; then she recovers her composure and
smiles, a little contemptuously, perhaps even haughtily, but naturally
and with grace.

"Oh, it is not very difficult to guess," she says. "What is the news?
Why, a betrothal. You have my best wishes, Baroness; and you too,
Harry,--I wish you every happiness!"



                              CHAPTER IX.

                             AN ENCOUNTER.


No one can bear pain with such heroic equanimity as can a woman when
her pride or her sense of dignity is aroused. Full twenty minutes have
elapsed since the light has been darkened in Zdena's sky, her thought
of the future embittered, and every joy blotted out of her existence.
During these twenty minutes she has talked and laughed; has walked in
the park with Paula and Harry; has pointed out to the betrothed couple
the comically human physiognomy of a large pansy in a flower-bed; has
looked on while Paula, plucking a marguerite, proceeds, with an arch
look at Harry, to consult that old-fashioned oracle, picking off the
petals one by one, with, "He loves me, he loves me not." Yes, when
urged to partake of some refreshment, she has even delicately pared and
cut up with a silver knife a large peach, although she could not
swallow a mouthful of it. How could she, when she felt as if an iron
hand were throttling her!

And now she is in the carriage again, driving towards home. As she
drove off she had a last glimpse of Paula and Harry standing side by
side in the picturesque court-yard before the castle, beside the
fountain, that vies with the lindens in murmuring its old tales,--tales
that no longer interest any one. They stood there together,--Paula
waving her hand and calling parting words after the visitor; Harry
stiff and mute, lifting his cap. Then Paula put her hand upon his arm
to go back into the castle with him,--him, her lover, her property!

And Zdena is alone at last. The pain in her heart is becoming torture.
Her breath comes short and quick. At the same time she has the
restless, impatient sensation which is experienced by all who are
unaccustomed to painful emotion, before they can bring themselves
to believe in the new and terrible trouble in which they find
themselves,--a sensation of being called upon to shake off some burden
unjustly imposed. But the burden can neither be shifted nor shaken off.

Her consciousness is the burden, the burden of which she cannot be rid
except with life itself. Life,--it has often seemed to her too short;
and, in spite of all her transitory girlish discontent, she has
sometimes railed at fate for according to mankind so few years in which
to enjoy this lovely, sunny, laughing world. But now her brief earthly
future stretches out endlessly before her,--an eternity in which joy is
dead and everything black and gloomy.

"Good God! will this torture last forever?" she asks herself. No, it is
not possible that such pain can last long: she will forget it, she
must! It seems to her that she can at least be rid of some of it if she
can only weep her fill in solitude. Yes, she must cry it out before she
goes back to Zirkow, before she meets again the keen, kindly eyes that
would fain pry into her very soul.

Meanwhile, she has told the coachman to drive to Komaritz. The carriage
rolls through the long village. The air tastes of straw and hay; the
rhythmic beat of the thrashers' flails resounds from the peasants'
small barns. Zdena stops her ears; she cannot bear the noise,--the
noise and the garish, cruel light. At last the village lies behind her.
The sound of flails is still heard in the distance; to Zdena they seem
to be beating the summer to death with clubs.

The carriage drives on, drives towards the forest. On the edge of the
wood stands a red-and-white signpost, the two indexes of which point in
opposite directions through the depths of the leafy thicket: one
pathway is tolerably smooth, and leads to Komaritz; the other, starting
from the same point, is rough, and leads to Zirkow.

She calls to the coachman. He stops the horses.

"Drive on to Komaritz and leave the plums there," she orders him, "and
I will meanwhile take the short path and walk home." So saying, she
descends from the vehicle.

He sees her walk off quickly and with energy; sees her tall, graceful
figure gradually diminish in the perspective of the Zirkow woodland
path. For a while he gazes after her, surprised, and then he obeys her
directions.

If Krupitschka had been upon the box he would have opposed his young
mistress's order as surely as he would have disobeyed it obstinately.
He would have said, "The Baroness does not understand that so young a
lady ought not to go alone through the forest--the Herr Baron would be
very angry with me if I allowed it, and I will not allow it."

But Schmidt is a new coachman. He does as he is bidden, making no
objection.

Zdena plunges into the wood, penetrates deeper and deeper into the
thicket, aimlessly, heedlessly, except that she longs to find a spot
where she can hide her despair from human eyes. She does not wish to
see the heavens, nor the sun, nor the buzzing insects and wanton
butterflies on the edge of the forest.

At last the shade is deep enough for her. The dark foliage shuts out
the light; scarcely a hand's-breadth of blue sky can be seen among the
branches overhead. She throws herself on the ground and sobs. After a
while she raises her head, sits up, and stares into space.

"How is it possible? How could it have happened?" she thinks. "I cannot
understand. From waywardness? from anger because I was a little silly?
Oh, God! oh, God! Yes, I take pleasure in luxury, in fine clothes, in
the world, in attention. I really thought for the moment that these
were what I liked best,--but I was wrong. How little should I care for
those things, without him! Oh, God! oh, God! How could he find it in
his heart to do it!" she finally exclaims, while her tears flow afresh
down her flushed cheeks.

Suddenly she hears a low crackling in the underbrush. She starts and
looks up. Before her stands an elderly man of medium height, with a
carefully-shaven, sharp-cut face, and a reddish-gray peruke. His tall
stove-pipe hat is worn far back on his head, and his odd-looking
costume is made up of a long green coat, the tails of which he carries
under his left arm, a pair of wide, baggy, nankeen trousers, a long
vest, with buttons much too large, and a pair of clumsy peasant shoes.
The most remarkable thing about him is the sharp, suspicious expression
of his round, projecting eyes.

"What do you want of me?" stammers Zdena, rising, not without secret
terror.

"I should like to know what you are crying for. Perhaps because you
have quarrelled with your cousin Henry," he says, with a sneer.

He addresses her familiarly: who can he be? Evidently some one of
unsound mind; probably old Studnecka from X----, a former brewer, who
writes poems, and who sometimes thinks himself the prophet Elisha,
under which illusion he will stop people in the road and preach to
them. This must be he. She has heard that so long as his fancies are
humoured he is perfectly gentle and harmless, but that if irritated by
contradiction he has attacks of maniacal fury, and has been known to
lay violent hands upon those who thus provoke him.

Before she finds the courage to answer him, he comes a step nearer to
her, and repeats his question with a scornful smile which discloses a
double row of faultless teeth.

"How do you know that I have a cousin?" asks Zdena, still more alarmed,
and recoiling a step or two.

"Oh, I know everything, just as the gypsies do."

"Of course this is the prophet," the girl thinks, trembling. She longs
to run away, but tells herself that the prudent course will be to try
to keep him in good humour until she has regained the path out of this
thicket, where she has cut herself off from all human aid. "Do you
know, then, who I am?" she asks, trying to smile.

"Oh, yes," replies this strange prophet, nodding his head. "I have long
known you, although you do not know me. You are the foolish daughter of
a foolish father."

"How should he have any knowledge of me or of my family?" she reflects.
The explanation is at hand. She remembers distinctly that the prophet
Studnecka was one of the eccentric crowd that Baron Franz Leskjewitsch
was wont to assemble about him for his amusement during the three or
four weeks each year when the old man made the country around unsafe by
his stay here.

"You know my grandfather too, then?" she continues.

"Yes, a little," the old man muttered. "Have you any message to send
him? I will take it to him for you."

"I have nothing to say to him!--I do not know him!" she replies. Her
eyes flash angrily, and she holds her head erect.

"H'm I he does not choose to know you," the old man remarks, looking at
her still more keenly.

"The unwillingness is mutual. I have not the least desire to know
anything of him," she says, with emphasis.

"Ah!--indeed!" he says, with a lowering glance from beneath his shaggy
eyebrows. "Shall I tell him so, from you?"

"If you choose!" she replies. Suddenly an idea strikes her; she
observes him in her turn more keenly than hitherto, his face, his
figure, his hands, tanned and neglected, but slender and shapely, with
almond-shaped nails. There is something familiar in his features.

Is he really the brewer Studnecka, the fool? And if no fool, who can it
be that ventures thus to address her? Something thrills her entire
frame. A portrait recurs to her memory,--a portrait of the elder
Leskjewitsch, which, since the family embroilment, has hung in the
lumber-room at Zirkow. There is not a doubt that this crazy old
creature is her grandfather.

He sees that she has recognized him.

Her bearing has suddenly become haughty and repellent. She adjusts her
large straw hat, which has been hanging at the back of her neck.

"Then I am to tell him from you that you do not wish to have anything
to do with him?" the old man asks again.

"Yes." Her voice is hard and dull.

"And besides," he asks, "have you nothing else to say to him?" He looks
at her as if to read her soul.

She returns his look with eyes in whose brown depths the tears so
lately shed are still glistening. She knows that she is putting the
knife to her own throat, but what matters it? The gathered bitterness
of years overflows her heart and rises to her lips.

"And besides,"--she speaks slowly and provokingly,--"besides, I should
like to tell him that I consider his conduct cold-hearted, petty, and
childish; that after he has tormented to death two people, my father
and my mother, he might, in his old age, attempt by love and kindness
to make some amends for his wickedness, instead of going on weaving
fresh misery out of his wretched hatred and obstinacy, and--that never
whilst I live will I make one advance towards him!" She bows slightly,
turns, and leaves him. He looks after her graceful figure as it slowly
makes its way among the underbrush and is finally lost to sight.

"A splendid creature! What a carriage! what a figure! and what a
bewitching face! No wonder she has turned the brain of that silly lad
at Komaritz. He knows what's what. The child shows race," he mutters;
"she's a genuine Leskjewitsch. All Fritz.--Poor Fritz!"

The old man passes his hand across his forehead, and then gazes after
her once more. Is that her blue dress glimmering among the trees? No,
it is a bit of sky. She has vanished.

Zdena manages to slip up to her own room unobserved when she reaches
Zirkow. She makes her first appearance at table, her hair charmingly
arranged, dressed as carefully as usual, talkative, gay. The most acute
observer would hardly suspect that a few hours previously she had all
but cried her eyes out.

"And did you bring us the piece of news from Dobrotschau?" asks Frau
Rosamunda during the soup, which Zdena leaves untasted.

"Oh, yes. And most extraordinary it is," she replies. "Paula Harfink is
betrothed."

"To whom?"

"To Harry," says Zdena, without the quiver of an eyelash, calmly
breaking her bread in two as she speaks.

"To Harry? Impossible!" shouts the major.

"Not at all," Zdena declares, with a smile. "I saw him with her. She
already calls him by his first name."

"I do not understand the world nowadays," growls the old soldier,
adding, under his breath, "That d--d driving about in the moonlight!"

Frau von Leskjewitsch and her cousin Wenkendorf content themselves
during the remainder of the meal with discussing the annoying
consequences for the family from such a connection, partaking,
meanwhile, very comfortably of the excellent dinner. The major glances
continually at his niece. It troubles him to see her smile so
perpetually. Is it possible that she is not taking the matter more
seriously to heart?

After dinner, when Frau von Leskjewitsch has carried her cousin off to
the greenhouse to show him her now gloxinias, the major chances to go
into the drawing-room, which he supposes empty. It is not so. In the
embrasure of a window stands a figure, motionless as a statue,--quite
unaware of the approach of any one. The major's heart suffers a sharp
pang at sight of that lovely, tender profile, the features drawn
and pinched with suppressed anguish. He would like to go up to his
darling,--to take her in his arms. But he does not dare to do so. How
can one bestow caresses upon a creature sore and crushed in every limb?
He leaves the room on tiptoe, as one leaves the room of an invalid who
must not be disturbed.

"God have mercy on the poor child!" he murmurs.



                               CHAPTER X.

                            A GARRISON TOWN.


As was formerly remarked at the sale of the effects of Mademoiselle
Pauline C----, "Very little body-linen and very many diamonds," so it
may be said of the population of X----: very few inhabitants, but very
many hussars.

The town consists of a barracks and a Casino; the post-office, church,
and school-house, as well as all the big and little houses, new and
tasteless, or old and ruinous, are merely a secondary affair.

The ugly square barracks, painted red, is situated upon what is called
"The Ring," a spacious, uneven square, unpaved but trodden hard, and,
besides, covered with dust, straw, remains of bundles of hay, and all
kinds of dirt pertaining to a stable.

Opposite the barracks is the Casino, also called "_Hostinee u bylé
ruze_," or "The White Rose Inn." The barracks stands alone, haughtily
exclusive. Adjoining the Casino and the post-office, however, are
various ugly or half-ruinous structures, and opposite the post-office
there is a line of unedifying building, describing a spacious
circle,--low huts, two-storied houses, houses with mansard roofs,
houses painted yellow, light green, or light pink, with a saint in a
blue niche over the front door, and houses with creaking weathercocks
on the roof, all half ruinous, but clinging affectionately to one
another, like drunken recruits bent upon mutual support.

It is noon. From the open windows of the most pretentious of these
houses come the notes of a waltz, with a loud sound of shuffling and
scraping, alternating with screaming and laughter. The story goes that
the wife of the steward of the Casino, Frau Albina Schwanzara, former
_prima ballerina_ at Troppau, is teaching the cancan behind those same
windows to one of the celebrities of the little town, the wife of a
wealthy tallow-chandler, and that the lady in question, for the
entertainment of the corps of officers now stationed at X----, is to
dance the aforesaid beautiful dance at the next "sociable," dressed as
a chimney-sweeper. "Fast at any price!" is the device of the celebrity.
The lively music is the only animate circumstance in "The Ring;" the
sultry August heat has stricken dead everything else. The kellner at
the door of the Casino, the sentinel at the gate of the barracks, are
nodding where they stand. In a corner of the square is the wagon of a
troupe of strolling players,--a green-painted house on wheels,--to
which is harnessed a one-eyed steed with very long legs and a tail like
a rat's. The prima donna of the troupe, a slovenly woman in shabby
dancing-slippers, is squatting on a bundle of hay, flirting with a
cavalry sergeant. A lank youth with long, straight, fair hair is
thrashing with his suspenders a pig tied at the back of the wagon,
while he holds up his trousers over his stomach with his left hand.
Several other children of Thespis lie stretched out snoring, among
various drums and ropes, in the dust.

All the people who happen to be in the square stare at them.

The universal interest is shortly diverted, however, by the arrival of
two equipages and a luggage-wagon, all three driving down a side street
to rein up before the post-office. In the first of the two vehicles, a
large convenient landau, two ladies are seated with a young man
opposite them. The second carriage is occupied by a valet and two
maids.

They have come from the nearest railway-station, and have merely
stopped at the post-office for any letters and papers that may be
awaiting them. While the servant is procuring these within the
building, the young man alights from the landau and enters into
conversation with the postmaster, eagerly inquiring what regiment is at
present in garrison at X----.

The curiosity of an increasing public becomes almost morbid. All crowd
around the post-office. The young actress has lost her admirer,--the
sergeant has rushed up to the young man.

"Oh, Herr Lieutenant!" he calls out, eagerly; then, ashamed of his
want of due respect, he straightens himself to the correct attitude
and salutes with his hand at his cap. Two officers, each with a
billiard-cue in his hand, come hastily out of the Casino, followed by a
third,--Harry Leskjewitsch. The stranger receives the first two with
due courtesy; Harry he scans eagerly.

"You here, Harry!" he exclaims, going up to him with outstretched
hands.

The lady on the right in the landau lowers the red Bilk parasol with
which she has hitherto shielded her face from public curiosity, and
takes out her eye-glass; the other leans forward a little. Both ladies
are in faultless travelling-dress. The one on the right is a beauty in
her way, fair, with a good colour, a full figure, and regular features,
although they may be a trifle sharp. Her companion is beautiful, too,
but after an entirely different style,--a decided brunette, with a pale
face and large eyes which, once gazed into, hold the gazer fast, as by
the attraction one feels to solve a riddle.

"Treurenberg!" Harry exclaims, grasping the stranger's hands in both
his own.

"I thought you were in Vienna," Treurenberg replies. "I cannot tell you
how glad I am to see you! When did we meet last?"

"At your marriage," says Harry.

"True! It seems an eternity since then." Treurenberg sighs. "Only
fancy, I had to shoot my 'Old Tom' last winter!"

At this moment a little cavalcade passes across the square to reach the
barracks,--an Amazon in a tight, very short riding-dress, followed and
accompanied by several gentlemen.

Treurenberg's attention is attracted by the horse-woman, who, although
much powdered, rather faded, and with a feverish glow in her large,
dark eyes, shows traces of very great beauty.

"Is not that Lori Trauenstein?" Lato asks his new-found friend.

"Yes,--now Countess Wodin, wife of the colonel of the regiment of
hussars in garrison here."

"An old flame of mine," Lato murmurs. "Strange! I scarcely recognized
her. This is the first time I have seen her since----" he laughs
lightly--"since she gave me my walking-ticket! Is Wodin the same as
ever?"

"How could he be anything else!"

"And is she very fast?"

"Very," Harry assents.

The ladies in the landau have both stretched their necks to look after
the Amazon. But while the face of the blonde expresses merely critical
curiosity, in her companion's dark eyes there is sad, even horrified,
surprise.

The Amazon and her train disappear beneath the arched gate-way of the
barracks.

"Lato!" the portly blonde calls to Treurenberg from the landau.

He does not hear her.

"Do you remember my 'Old Tom'?" he asks his friend, returning to his
favourite theme.

"I should think so. A chestnut,--a magnificent creature!"

"Magnificent! A friend,--an actual friend. That fat Rhoden--a cousin of
my wife's--broke his leg in riding him at a hunt. But, to speak of
something pleasanter, how are they all at Komaritz? Your cousin must be
very pretty by this time?" And Treurenberg looks askance at his friend.

"Very," Harry replies, and his manner suddenly grows cold and
constrained. "But allow me to speak to your wife," he adds. "By the
way, who is the young lady beside her?"

"H'm! a relative,--a cousin of my wife's."

"Present me, I pray," says Harry.

He then pays his respects to the Countess Treurenberg and to her
companion, whose name he now learns is Olga Dangeri.

The Countess offers him her finger-tips with a gracious smile. Olga
Dangeri, nodding slightly, raises her dark, mysterious eyes, looks him
full in the face for a moment, and then turns away indifferent. The
servant comes out of the post-office with a great bundle of letters,
which the Countess receives from him, and with two or three packages,
which he hands over to the maids.

"What are you waiting for, Lato? Get in," the Countess says.

"Drive on. I shall stay here with Leskjewitsch for a while,"
Treurenberg replies.

"Mamma is waiting breakfast for us."

"I shall breakfast in the Casino. My respects to your mother."

"As you please." The young Countess bows to Harry stiffly, with a
discontented air, the horses start, a cloud of dust rises, and the
landau rolls away. With his eyes half closed, Harry looks after the
heavy brown carriage-horses.

"Lato, that off horse is spavined."

"For heaven's sake don't notice it! My mother-in-law bought the pair
privately to surprise me. She paid five thousand guilders for them."

"H'm! Who persuaded her to buy them?"

"Pistasch Kamenz. I do not grudge him his bargain," murmurs Lato,
adding, with a shake of the head, "'Tis odd, dogs and horses are the
only things in which we have the advantage over the financiers."

With which he takes his friend's arm and crosses the square to the
Casino.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                             AN OLD FRIEND.


They are sitting in the farthest corner of the smoky dining-hall of the
Casino, Harry and his friend, by a window that looks out upon a little
yard. Harry is smoking a cigar, and sits astride of a chair; Lato
contrives to sprawl over three chairs, and smokes cigarettes, using
about five matches to each cigarette. Two glasses, a siphon, and a
bottle of cognac stand upon a rickety table close by.

The room is low, the ceiling is almost black, and the atmosphere
suggests old cheese and stale cigar-smoke. Between the frames of their
Imperial Majesties a fat spider squats in a large gray web. At a table
not far from the two friends a cadet, too thin for his uniform, is
writing a letter, while a lieutenant opposite him is occupied in
cutting the initials of his latest flame, with his English penknife, on
the green-painted table. Before a Bohemian glass mirror in a glass
frame stands another lieutenant, with a thick beard and a bald pate,
which last he is endeavouring artistically to conceal by brushing over
it the long thick hair at the back of his neck. His name is Spreil; he
has lately been transferred to the hussars from the infantry, and he is
the butt for every poor jest in the regiment.

"I cannot tell you how glad I am to see you," Treurenberg repeats to
his friend. As he speaks, his cigarette goes out; he scrapes his
twenty-fourth match in the last quarter of an hour, and breaks off its
head.

"The same old lack of fire!" Harry says, by way of a jest, handing him
his lighted cigar.

"Yes, the same old lack of fire!" Treurenberg repeats.

Lack of fire! How often he has been reproached with it as a boy! Lack
of fire; that means everything for which fire stands,--energy,
steadfastness, manly force of will. There is no lack of passion, on the
other hand; of dangerous inflammable material there is too much in his
nature; but with him passion paralyzes effort instead of spurring to
action. One need only look at him as he half reclines there, smiling
dreamily to himself, scarcely moving his lips, to know him for what he
is, indolent, impressionable, yet proud and morbidly refined withal; a
thoroughly passive and very sensitive man. He is half a head taller
than Harry, but carries himself so badly that he looks shorter; his
face, framed in light brown hair and a soft pointed beard, is sallow;
his large gray eyes are veiled beneath thick lids which he rarely opens
wide. His hands are especially peculiar, long, slender, soft, incapable
of a quick movement; hands formed to caress, but not to fight,--hardly
even to clasp firmly.

It is said that the colonel of the regiment of Uhlans, in which Lato
served before his marriage to Selina Harfink, once declared of him,
"Treurenberg ought to have been a woman, and then, married to a good
husband, something might perhaps have been made of him."

This criticism, which ought to have been uttered by a woman rather than
by a logical, conventional man, went the round of Treurenberg's
comrades. "The same old lack of fire," Lato repeats, smiling to
himself. He has the mouth and the smile of a woman.

Harry knows the smile well, but it has changed since the last time he
saw it. It used to be indolent, now it is sad.

"Have you any children?" Harry asks, after a while.

Treurenberg shivers. "I had a boy, I lost him when he was fifteen
months old," he says, in a low, strained tone.

"My poor fellow! What did he die of?" Harry asks, sympathetically.

"Of croup. It was over in one night,--and he was so fresh and healthy a
child! My God! when I think of the plump little arms he used to stretch
out to me from his little bed every morning," Lato goes on, hoarsely,
"and then, as I said, in a few hours--gone! The physician did all that
he could for the poor little fellow,--in vain; nothing did any good. I
knew from the first that there was no hope. How the poor little chap
threw himself about in his bed! I sometimes dream that I hear him
gasping for breath, and he clung to me as if I could help him!"
Treurenberg's voice breaks; he passes his hand over his eyes. "He was
very little; he could hardly say 'papa' distinctly, but it goes
terribly near one's heart when one has nothing else in the world,--I--I
mean, no other children," he corrects the involuntary confession.

"Well, all days have not yet ended in evening," Harry says, kindly, and
then pauses suddenly, feeling--he cannot tell why--that he has made a
mistake.

Meanwhile, the lieutenant at the table has finished his initials, and
has, moreover, embellished them with the rather crude device of a
heart. He rises and saunters aimlessly about the large, low room,
apparently seeking some subject for chaff, for boyish play. He kills a
couple of flies, performs gymnastic exercises upon two chairs, and
finally approaches the cadet, who, ensconced in a corner, behind a
table, is scribbling away diligently.

"Whom are you writing to?" he asks, sitting astride of a chair just
opposite the lad.

The cadet is silent.

"To your sweetheart?"

The cadet is still silent.

"I seem to have guessed rightly," says the lieutenant, adding, "But
tell me, does your present flame--here the sun called Wodin--tolerate a
rival sun?"

"I am writing to my mother," the cadet says, angrily. At the mention of
the name of Wodin he flushes to the roots of his hair.

"Indeed!--how touching!" the lieutenant goes on. "What are you writing
to her? Are you asking her for money? or are you soothing her anxiety
with an account of the solid character of your principles? Do show me
your letter."

The cadet spreads his arms over the sheet before him, thereby blotting
the well-formed characters that cover it. "I tell you what, Stein----!"
he bursts forth at his tormentor, his voice quivering with anger.

Meanwhile, Lato turns towards him. "Toni!" he exclaims, recognizing a
relative in the irate young fellow,--"Toni Flammingen!--can it be? The
last time I saw you, you were in your public-school uniform. You've
grown since then, my boy."

Stein turns away from this touching family scene, and, taking his place
behind Lieutenant Spreil, who is still occupied in dressing his hair,
observes, in a tone of great gravity,--

"Don't you think, Spreil, that you could make part of your thick beard
useful in decorating that bald head of yours? Comb it up each side and
confine it in place with a little sticking-plaster. It might do."

Spreil turns upon him in a fury. "It might do for me to send you a
challenge!" he thunders.

"By all means: a little extra amusement would be welcome just now,"
Stein retorts, carelessly.

Spreil bows, and leaves the room with majesty.

"For heaven's sake, Stein, what are you about?" Harry, who has been
observing the scene, asks the idle lieutenant.

"I have made a vow to rid our regiment of the fellow,--to chaff him out
of it," Stein replies, with the sublime composure which results from
the certainty of being in the right. "We do not want the infantry cad.
If he is determined to mount on horseback, let him try a velocipede, or
sit astride of Pegasus, for all I care; but in our regiment he shall
not stay. You'll be my second, Les?"

"Of course, if you insist upon it," Harry replies; "but it goes against
the grain. I detest this perpetual duelling for nothing at all. It is
bad form."

"You need not talk; you used to be the readiest in the regiment to
fight. I remember you when I was in the dragoons. But a betrothed man
must, of course, change his views upon such subjects."

At the word "betrothed" Harry shrinks involuntarily. Treurenberg looks
up.

"Betrothed!" he exclaims. "And to whom?"

"Guess," says the lieutenant, who is an old acquaintance of
Treurenberg's.

"It is not hard to guess. To your charming little cousin Zdena."

The lieutenant puckers his lips as if about to whistle, and says, "Not
exactly. Guess again."

Meanwhile, Harry stands like a man in the pillory who is waiting for a
shower of stones, and says not a word.

"Then--then--" Treurenberg looks from the lieutenant to his friend, "I
have no idea," he murmurs.

"To the Baroness Paula Harfink," says the lieutenant, his face devoid
of all expression.

There is a pause. Treurenberg's eyes try in vain to meet those of his
friend.

From without come the clatter of spurs and the drone of a hand-organ
grinding out some popular air.

"Is it true?" asks Treurenberg, who cannot rid himself of the idea that
the mischievous lieutenant is jesting. And Harry replies, as calmly as
possible,--

"It is not yet announced. I am still awaiting my father's consent. He
is abroad."

"Ah!"

The lieutenant pours out a thimbleful of brandy from the flask
on the table, mixes it with seltzer-water and sugar, and, raising
it to his lips, says, gravely, "To the health of your betrothed,
Leskjewitsch,--of your sister-in-law, Treurenberg."

"This, then, was the news of which my mother-in-law made such
mysterious mention in her last letters," Lato murmurs. "This is the
surprise of which she spoke. I--I hope it will turn out well," he adds,
with a sigh.

Harry tries to smile. From the adjoining billiard-room come the voices
of two players in an eager dispute. The malicious lieutenant pricks up
his ears, and departs for the scene of action with the evident
intention of egging on the combatants.

"Lato," Harry asks, clearing his throat, "how do you mean to get home?
I have my drag here, and I can drop you at Dobrotschau. Or will you
drive to Komaritz with me?"

"With the greatest pleasure," Treurenberg assents. "How glad I shall be
to see the old place again!"

He is just making ready for departure, when several officers drop in at
the Casino, almost all of them old friends of his. They surround him,
shake hands with him, and will not let him go.

"Can you wait a quarter of an hour for me?" he asks his friend.

Harry nods. He takes no part in the general conversation. He scarcely
moves his eyes from the spider-web between the Imperial portraits. A
fly is caught in it and is making desperate efforts to escape. The
bloated spider goes on spinning its web, and pretends not to see it.

"Have a game of bézique? You used to be so passionately fond of
bézique," Harry hears some one say. He looks around. It is Count Wodin,
the husband of the pretty, coquettish horsewoman, who is speaking. Lato
turns to Harry.

"Can you wait for me long enough?" he asks, and his voice sounds
uncertain and confused. "One short game."

Harry shrugs his shoulders, as if to say, "As you please." Then,
standing with one knee on a chair in the attitude of a man who is about
to take leave and does not think it worth while to sit down again, he
looks on at the game.

The first game ends, then another, and another, and Treurenberg makes
no move to lay the cards aside. His face has changed: the languid smile
has gone, his eyes are eager, watchful, and his face is a perfectly
expressionless mask. His is the typical look of the well-bred gambler
who knows how to conceal his agitation.

"_Cent d'as_--double bézique!" Thus it goes on to the accompaniment of
the rustle of the cards, the rattle of the counters, and from the
adjoining room the crack of the ivory balls against one another as they
roll over the green cloth.

"Well, Lato, are you coming?" asks Harry, growing impatient.

"Only two games more. Can you not wait half an hour longer?" asks
Treurenberg.

"To speak frankly, I am not much interested in listening to your 'Two
hundred and fifty,'--'five hundred,'--and so on."

"Naturally," says Lato, with his embarrassed smile. He moves as if to
rise. Wodin hands him the cards to cut. "Go without me. I will not
keep you any longer. Some one here will lend me a horse by and by.
Shall we see you to-morrow at Dobrotschau?" With which Treurenberg
arranges his twelve cards, and Harry nods and departs.

"Tell me, did you ever see a more blissful lover?" asks the teasing
lieutenant, who has just returned from the billiard-room. As the
disputants, in spite of all his efforts to the contrary, have made up
their quarrel, there is nothing more for him to do there. "He seems
inspired indeed at the thought of his beloved." And he takes a seat on
the table nearest the players.

"Every point in trumps," says Treurenberg, intent upon his game.

"It is my impression that he would like to drink her health in
aconite," the lieutenant continues.

"That betrothal seems to me a most mysterious affair," mutters Wodin.
"I do not understand Leskjewitsch: he was not even in debt."

The lieutenant bites his lip, makes a private sign to Wodin, and takes
pains not to look at Treurenberg.

Lato flushes, and is absorbed in polishing his eyeglass, which has
slipped out of his eye.

"I lose three thousand," he says, slowly, consulting his tablets.
"Shall we have another game, Wodin?"



                              CHAPTER XII.

                         A GRAVEYARD IN PARIS.


Paris, in the middle of August.

At about five in the afternoon, an old gentleman in a greenish-black
overcoat that flutters about his thickset figure almost like a soutane,
trousers that are too short, low shoes with steel buckles, and an
old-fashioned high hat beneath which can be seen a rusty brown wig,
issues from a quiet hotel much frequented by strangers of rank.

His features are marked and strong. His brown skin reminds one of
walnut-shells or crumpled parchment. Beneath his bushy eyebrows his
prominent eyes glance suspiciously about him. It would be difficult to
guess at this man's social position from his exterior. To the
superficial observer he might suggest the peasant class. The ease,
however, with which he bears himself among the fashionably-dressed men
in the street, the despotic abruptness of his manner, the irritability
with which he disputes some petty item in his hotel bill, while he is
not at all dismayed by the large sum total, give the kellner, who
stands in the door-way looking after him, occasion for reflection.

"He's another of those miserly old aristocrats who suppress their title
for fear of being plundered," he decides, with a shrug, as he turns
back into the hotel, stopping on his way to inform the _concierge_
that, in his opinion, the old man is some half-barbaric Russian prince
who has come to Europe to have a look at civilization.

The name in the strangers' book is simply Franz Leskjewitsch.

Meanwhile, the stranger has walked on through the Rue de Rivoli to the
corner of the Rue Castiglione, where he pauses, beckons to a fiacre,
and, as he puts his foot heavily and awkwardly upon its step, calls to
the driver, "_Cimetière Montmartre!_"

The vehicle starts. The old man's eyes peer about sharply from the
window. How changed it all is since he was last in this Babylon,
twenty-two years ago, while the Imperial court was in its splendour,
and Fritz was still alive!

"Yes, yes, it is all different,--radically different," he murmurs,
angrily. "The noise is the same, but the splendour has vanished. Paris
without the Empire is like Baden-Baden without the gaming-tables. Ah,
how fine it was twenty-two years ago, when Fritz was living!"

Yes, he was not only living, but until then he had never been anything
but a source of pleasure to his father; the same Fritz who had
afterwards so embittered life for him that the same father had stricken
him from his heart and had refused him even a place in his memory. But
it is dangerous to try to rid ourselves of the remembrance of one whom
we have once loved idolatrously. We may, for fear of succumbing to the
old affection, close our hearts and lock them fast against all feeling
of any kind. But if they do not actually die in our breasts, there
will, sooner or later, come a day when memory will reach them in spite
of our locks, and will demand for the dead that tribute of tears which
we have refused to grant.

There are few things more ghastly in life than tears shed for the dead
twenty years too late.

"Yes, a frivolous fellow, Fritz was,--frivolous and obstinate," the old
man says to himself, staring at the brilliant shop-windows in the Rue
de la Paix and at the gilded youths sauntering past them; "but when was
there ever a man his equal? What a handsome, elegant, charming fellow,
bubbling over with merriment and good humour and chivalric generosity!
And the fellow insisted on marrying a shop-girl!" he mutters, between
his teeth. The thought even now throws him into a fury. He had been so
proud of the lad, and then--in one moment it was all over; no future to
look to, the young diplomat's career cut short, the family pride
levelled in the dust.

The old rage had well-nigh filled his soul, when a lovely, pallid face
rises upon his memory. Could Manette Duval have really been as charming
as that golden-haired girl he had met awhile ago in the woods? The
little witch looked as like Fritz as a delicate girl can look like a
bearded man, and she had, withal, a foreign grace, the like of which
had never hitherto characterized any Leskjewitsch child, and which
might perhaps be an inheritance from her Parisian mother.

And suddenly the father's conscience, silenced through all these long
years, asserts itself. Yes, the marriage had been a folly, and Fritz
had ruined his career by it. But suppose Fritz had, through his own
fault, broken both his arms, or put out his eyes, or done anything else
that would have destroyed his future, would it have been for his father
to turn from him, reproaching him angrily for his folly, saying, "You
have annihilated your happiness by your own fault; you have blasted the
hopes I had for you; henceforth be as wretched as you deserve to be; I
will have none of you, since I can no longer be proud of you!"

The old man bites his lip and hangs his head.

The carriage rolls on. The weather is excessively warm. In front of the
shabby cafés on the Boulevard Clichy some people are sitting, brown and
languid. Behind the dusty windows of the shops the shop-girls stand
gazing drearily out upon their weary world, as if longing for somewhat
of which they have read or dreamed,--something fresh and green; long
shadows upon moist, fragrant lawns; gurgling brooks mirroring the sun.

An emotion of compassion stirs in the old man's breast at sight of
these "prisoners," and if one by chance seems to him prettier, paler,
sadder than the rest, he asks himself, "Did she perhaps look so? No
wonder Fritz pitied the poor creature! he had such a warm, tender
heart!"

The fiacre stops; the old man rubs his eyes. "How much?" he asks the
driver.

The man scans his fare from head to foot with a knowing glance:

"Five francs."

Baron Leskjewitsch takes four francs from the left pocket of his
waistcoat, and from the right pocket of his trousers, where he keeps
his small change, one sou, as a gratuity. These he gives to the driver,
and sternly dismisses him. The man drives off with a grin.

"The old miser thinks he has made a good bargain," he mutters.

The 'miser' meanwhile paces slowly along the broad, straight path of
the cemetery, between the tall chestnuts planted on either side.

How dreary, how desolate a church-yard this is, upon which the
noise and bustle of the swarming city outside its gates clamorously
intrude!--a church-yard where the dead are thrust away as troublesome
rubbish, only to put them where they can be forgotten. It is all so
bare and prosaic; the flat stones lie upon the graves as if there was a
fear lest, if not held down in such brutal fashion, the wretched dead
would rise and return to a world where there is no longer any place for
them, and where interests hold sway in which they have no part. Urns
and other pagan decorations are abundant; there are but few crosses.
The tops of the chestnut-trees are growing yellow, and here and there a
pale leaf falls upon the baked earth.

A gardener with a harshly-creaking rake is rooting out the sprouting
grass from the paths; some gossiping women are seated upon the stone
seats, brown, ugly, in starched and crimped white muslin caps, the gaps
made by missing teeth in their jaws repulsively apparent as they
chatter. A labouring man passes with a nosegay half concealed in the
breast of his coat, and in his whole bearing that dull shamefacedness
which would fain bar all sympathy, and which is characteristic of
masculine grief. The old Baron looks about him restlessly, and finally
goes up to the raking gardener and addresses him, asking for the
superintendent of the place. After much circumlocution, gesticulation,
and shouting on both sides, the two at last understand each other.

"_Monsieur cherche une tombe, la tombe d'un étranger décédé à Paris?_
When? Fifteen years ago. That is a very long time. And no one has ever
asked after the grave before? Had the dead man no relatives, then? Ah,
such a forgotten grave is very sad; it will be difficult to identify
it. Maybe--who knows?--some other bodies have been buried there. Here
is the guard."

"For what is Monsieur looking?"

"A grave."

"The name?"

"Baron Frédéric Leskjewitsch." The old man's voice trembles: perhaps it
is too late; perhaps he has again delayed too long.

But no: the guard's face immediately takes on an intelligent
expression.

"_Tres bien, monsieur; par id, monsieur_. I know the grave well. Some
one from the Austrian embassy comes every year to look after it on the
part of the relatives, and this year, not long ago,--oh, only a short
time ago,--two ladies came and brought flowers; an elderly lady, and
one quite young--oh, but very lovely, monsieur. _Par ici, par ici_."

Following the attendant, the old man turns aside from the broad,
principal path into a labyrinth of narrow foot-ways winding irregularly
in and out among the graves. Here the church-yard loses its formal
aspect and becomes pathetic. All kinds of shrubbery overgrow the
graves. Some flowers--crimson carnations, pale purple gillyflowers, and
yellow asters--are blooming at the feet of strangely-gnarled old
juniper-trees. The old man's breath comes short, a sort of greed
possesses him, a wild burning longing for the bit of earth where lies
buried the joy of his life.

The labouring man with hanging head has reached his goal the first. He
is already kneeling beside a grave,--tiny little grave, hardly three
feet long, and as yet unprovided with a stone. The man passes his hard
hand over the rough earth tenderly, gently, as if he were touching
something living. Then he cowers down as if he would fain creep into it
himself, and lays his head beside the poor little nosegay on the fresh
soil.

"_Par ici_, monsieur,--here is the grave," calls the attendant.

The old Baron shivers from head to foot.

"Where?"

"Here."

A narrow headstone at the end of another stone lying flat upon the
ground and enclosed by an iron palisade fence,--this is all--all! A
terrible despair takes possession of the father. He envies the
labourer, who can at least stroke the earth that covers his treasure,
while he cannot even throw himself upon the grave from which a rusty
iron grating separates him.

Nothing which he can press to his heart,--nothing in which he can take
a melancholy delight. All gone,--all! A cold tombstone enclosed in a
rusty iron grating,--nothing more--nothing!



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                            AT DOBROTSCHAU.


It is the day after Treurenberg's meeting with Harry in the dusty
little garrison town.

Lato is sitting at his writing-table, counting a package of
bank-notes,--his yesterday's winnings. He divides them into two packets
and encloses them in two letters, which he addresses and seals and
sends by a servant to the post. He has thus wiped out two old debts. No
sooner have the letters left his hand than he brushes his fingers with
his handkerchief, as if he had touched something unclean.

Poor Treurenberg! He has never been a spendthrift, but he has been in
debt ever since his boyhood. His pecuniary circumstances, however, have
never been so oppressive, never have there been such disagreeable
complications in his affairs, as since he has had a millionaire for a
wife.

He leans his elbows on his writing-table and rests his chin on his
hands. Angry discontent with himself is tugging at his nerves. Is it
not disgusting to liquidate an old debt to his tailor, and to pay
interest to a usurer, with his winnings at play? What detestable things
cards are! If he loses he hates it, and if he wins--why, it gives him a
momentary satisfaction, but his annoyance at having impoverished a
friend or an acquaintance is all the greater afterwards. Every sensible
disposition of the money thus won seems to him most inappropriate.
Money won at cards should be scattered about, squandered; and yet how
can he squander it,--he who has so little and needs so much? How often
he has resolved never to touch cards again! If he only had some strong,
sacred interest in life he might become absorbed in it, and so forget
the cursed habit. He has not the force of character that will enable
him to sacrifice his passion for play to an abstract moral idea. His is
one of those delicate but dependent natures that need a prop in life,
and he has never had one, even in childhood.

"What is the use of cudgelling one's brains till they ache, about
what cannot be helped?" he says at last, with a sigh, "or which
I at least cannot help," he adds, with a certain bitterness of
self-accusation. He rises, takes his hat, and strolls out into the
park. A huge, brown-streaked stag-hound, which had belonged to the old
proprietor of the castle and which has dogged Lato's heels since the
previous evening, follows him. From time to time he turns and strokes
the animal's head. Then he forgets----

At the same time, Paula is sitting in her study, on the ground-floor.
It looks out on the court-yard, and is hung with sad-coloured leather,
and decorated with a couple of good old pictures. She is sitting there
clad in a very modern buff muslin gown, with a fiery red sash,
listening for sounds without and with head bent meanwhile over
Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet.'

The noise of distant hoofs falls upon her ear, and a burning blush
suffuses her plump cheek. Upon the white shade, which is pulled down,
falls the shadow of a horse's head, and then the upper portion of his
rider's figure. The hoofs no longer sound. Through the sultry summer
stillness--breaking the monotonous plashing of the fountain and the
murmur of the old linden--is heard the light, firm pat of a masculine
hand upon a horse's neck, the caress with which your true horseman
thanks his steed for service rendered; then an elastic, manly tread,
the clatter of spurs and sabre, a light knock at the door of Paula's
room, and Harry Leskjewitsch enters.

Paula, with a smile, holds out to him both her hands; without smiling
he dutifully kisses one of them.

A pair of lovers in Meissen porcelain stands upon a bracket above
Paula's writing-table,--lovers who have been upon the point of
embracing each other for something more than a century. Above their
heads hovers a tiny ray of sunshine, which attracts Harry's attention
to the group. He and Paula fall into the very same attitudes as those
taken by the powdered dandy in the flowered jacket and the little
peasant-girl in dancing-slippers,--they are on the point of embracing;
and for the first time in his life Harry wishes he were made of
porcelain, that he might remain upon the point.

His betrothal is now eight days old. The first day he thought it would
be mere child's play to loosen the knot tied by so wild a chance, but
now he feels himself fast bound, and is conscious that each day casts
about him fresh fetters. In vain, with every hour passed with his
betrothed, does he struggle not to plunge deeper into this labyrinth,
from which he can find no means of extricating himself. In vain does he
try to enlighten Paula as to his sentiments towards her by a stiff,
repellent demeanour, never lying to her by look, word, or gesture.

But what does it avail him to stand before her like a saint on a
pedestal? Before he is aware, she has drawn his head towards her and
kissed him on both eyes, whereupon both lovers sigh,--each for a
different reason,--and then sit down opposite each other. Paula,
however, does not long endure such formality. She moves her chair
closer to his, and at last lays her hand on the young officer's
shoulder.

Harry is positively wretched. No use to attempt to deceive himself any
longer: Paula Harfink is in love with him.

Although she brought about the betrothal by means of cool cunning and
determination, daily intercourse with the handsome, chivalric young
fellow has kindled a flame in her mature heart, and her passion for him
grows with every hour passed in his society.

It is useless to say how little this circumstance disposes him in her
favour. Love is uncommonly unbecoming to Paula. It is impossible to
credit her with the impulse that forgets self and the world, or with
the amount of ideal stupidity which invests all the nonsense of lovers
with grace and naturalness. Involuntarily, every one feels inclined to
smile when so robust and enlightened a woman--enlightened in all
directions--suddenly languishes, and puts on the semblance of
ultra-feminine weakness. Harry alone does not smile; he takes the
matter very tragically.

Sometimes, in deep privacy he clinches his fist and mentally calls his
betrothed "a love-sick dromedary!"

Naturally he does not utter such words aloud, not even when he is alone
in his room, not even in the dark; but--thought is free!

"What have you been doing all this time?" Paula asks at last, archly,
thus breaking the oppressive silence.

"This time? Do you mean since yesterday?" he asks, frowning.

"It seemed long to me," she sighs. "I--I wrote you a letter, which I
had not the courage to send you. There, take it with you!" And she
hands him a bulky manuscript in a large envelope. It is not the first
sizable billet-doux which she has thus forced upon him. In a drawer of
his writing-table at Komaritz there reposes a pile of such envelopes,
unopened.

"Have you read the English novel I sent you yesterday?--wonderful, is
it not?--hero and heroine so like ourselves."

"I began it. I thought it rather shallow."

"Oh, well, I do not consider it a learned work. I never care for depth
in a novel,--only love and high life. Shall we go on with our
Shakespeare?" she asks.

"If you choose. What shall we read?"

"The moonlight scene from Romeo and Juliet."

Harry submits.


Meanwhile, Lato, with his brown attendant, wanders along the shady
paths of the Dobrotschau park. Now and then he pays some attention to
his shaggy companion, strokes his head, sends him after a stick, and
finally has him take a bath in the little reed-encircled lake on the
shores of which stand weather-stained old statues, while stately swans
are gliding above its green depths. These last indignantly chase the
clumsy intruder from their realm.

"Poor fellow! they will have none of you!" Treurenberg murmurs,
consoling the dog as he creeps out upon the bank with drooping tail and
ears.

Suddenly he hears the notes of a piano from the direction of the
castle. He turns and walks towards it, almost as if he were obeying a
call.

Pausing before an open glass door leading into the garden, he looks in
upon a spacious, airy apartment, the furniture of which consists of a
large Gobelin hanging, a grand piano, and some bamboo chairs scattered
about.

At the piano a young girl is seated playing a dreamy improvisation upon
'The Miller and the Brook,' that loveliest and saddest of all
Schubert's miller-songs. It is Olga. Involuntarily Lato's eyes are
riveted upon the charming picture. The girl is tall and slim, with
long, slender hands and feet. If one might venture to criticise
anything so beautiful as her face, its pure oval might be pronounced a
thought too long.

Her features are faultless, despite their irregularity; the forehead is
low, the eyebrows straight and delicately pencilled, the eyes large and
dark, and, when she opens them wide, of almost supernatural brilliancy.
The mouth is small, the under lip a trifle too full, and the chin a
little too long.

Those irregularities lend a peculiar charm to the face, reminding one
of certain old Spanish family portraits,--dark-eyed beauties with high
collars, and with huge pearls in their ears. The facts that Olga
neither wears a bang nor curls her hair upon her forehead, but has it
parted simply in the middle to lie in thick waves on either side of her
head, and that her complexion is of a transparent pallor, contribute
still further to her resemblance to those distinguished individuals.
She wears a simple white gown, with a Malmaison rose stuck in her belt.
Lato's eyes rest upon her with artistic satisfaction. The tender melody
of the Miller's Song soothes his sore heart as if by a caress. He
softly enters the room, sits down, and listens. Olga, suddenly aware by
intuition of his presence, turns her head.

"Ah!--you here?" she exclaims, blushing slightly, and taking her hands
from the keys.

"I have made so bold," he replies, smiling. "Have you any objection?"

"No; but you should have announced yourself," she says, with a little
frown.

"Ah, indeed!" he rejoins, in the tone in which one teases a child.
"Well, the listening to a musical soliloquy is generally considered
only a harmless indiscretion."

"Yes; when I am playing something worth listening to I have no
objection, but I prefer to keep my halting improvisations to myself."

"Well, then, play something worth listening to," he says,
good-humouredly.

She turns again to the instrument, and begins, with great brilliancy of
touch, to play a bravura-scherzo, by some Viennese composer at present
in fashion.

"For heaven's sake," Treurenberg, whose feeling for music is as
delicate as his appreciation of all beauty, interrupts her, "do not go
on with that ghastly Witches' Sabbath!"

"The 'ghastly Witches' Sabbath' is dedicated to your cousin, Countess
Wodin," Olga replies, taking up a piece of music from the piano. "There
it is!" she points to the title-page "'Dedicated to the Frau Countess
Irma Wodin, _née_ Countess Trauenstein, by her devoted servant, etc.' I
thought the thing might interest you."

"Not in the least. Be a good girl, and play the Miller's Song over
again."

She nods amiably. Again the dreamy melody sighs among the strings of
the piano. Lato, buried in thought, hums the words,--


           "Where'er a true heart dies of love,
            The lilies fade that grave above."


"Do you know the words too?" Olga exclaims, turning towards him.

"If you but knew how often I have heard that song sung!" he replies,
with the absent air of a man whose thoughts are straying in a far past.

"At concerts?"

"No, in private."

"By a lady?" she asks, half persistently, half hesitatingly.

"Yes, grand inquisitor, by a lady; by a lady for whom I had a little
_tendresse_--h'm!--a very sincere _tendresse_. She sang it to me every
day. The very evening before her betrothal she sang it to me; and how
deliciously sweet it was! Would you like to know who it was?"

"Yes."

"The Countess Wodin."

"The Countess Wodin!" Olga exclaims, amazed.

Lato laughs. "You cannot understand how any one could take any interest
in such a flirt?"

"Oh, no," she says, thoughtfully, "it is not that. She is very pretty
even yet, and gay and amusing, but--he is horrible, and I cannot
understand her marrying him, when----"

"When she might have had me?" he concludes her sentence, laughing.

"Frankly, yes." As she speaks she looks full in his face with
undisguised kindliness.

He smiles, flattered, and still more amused. "What would you have?
Wodin was rich, and I--I was a poor devil."

"Oh, how odious!" she murmurs, frowning, her dark eyes glowing with
indignation. "I cannot understand how any one can marry for money----"
She stops short. As she spoke her eyes met his, and his were instantly
averted. An embarrassing pause ensues.

Olga feels that she is upon dangerous ground. They both change
colour,--he turns pale, she blushes,--but her embarrassment is far
greater than his. When he looks at her again he sees that there are
tears in her eyes, and he pities her.

"Do not vex yourself, Olga," he says, with a low, bitter laugh. And
taking one of her slender hands in his, he strokes it gently, and then
carries it to his lips.

"Ah, still _aux petits soins_?--how touching!" a harsh nasal voice
observes behind the pair. They look round and perceive a young man,
who, in spite of his instant apology for intruding, shows not the
slightest disposition to depart. He is dressed in a light summer suit
after the latest watering-place fashion. He is neither tall nor short,
neither stout nor slender, neither handsome nor ugly, but thoroughly
unsympathetic in appearance. His very pale complexion is spotted with a
few pock-marks; his light green eyes are set obliquely in his head,
like those of a Japanese; the long, twisted points of his moustache
reach upward to his temples, and his hair is brushed so smoothly upon
his head that it looks like a highly-polished barber's block. But all
these details are simply by the way; what especially disfigures him is
his smile, which shows his big white teeth, and seems to pull the end
of his long, thin nose down over his moustache.

"Fainacky!" exclaims Treurenberg, unpleasantly surprised.

"Yes, the same! I am charmed to see you again, Treurenberg," exclaims
the Pole. "Have the kindness to present me to your wife," he adds,
bowing to Olga.

"I think my wife is dressing," Treurenberg says, coldly. "This is a
young relative,--a cousin of my wife's.--Olga, allow me to introduce to
you Count Fainacky."


In the mean time Paula is occupied with her betrothed's education. In
tones that grow drowsier and drowsier, while his articulation becomes
more and more indistinct, Harry stumbles through Shakespeare's immortal
verse.

Paula's part is given with infinite sentiment. The thing is growing too
tiresome, Harry thinks.

"I really have had enough of this stuff for once!" he exclaims, laying
aside his volume.

"Ah, Harry, how can you speak so of the most exquisite poetry of love
that ever has been written?"

He twirls his moustache ill-humouredly, and murmurs, "You are very much
changed within the last few days."

"But not for the worse?" she asks, piqued.

"At last she is going to take offence," he says to himself, exultantly,
and he is beginning to finger his betrothal-ring, when the door opens
and a servant announces, "Herr Count Fainacky."

"How well you look, my dear Baroness Paula! Ah, the correct air,
beaming with bliss,--_on connaît cela!_ Taking advantage of your Frau
mother's kind invitation, I present myself, as you see, without
notification," the Pole chatters on. "How are you, Harry? In the
seventh heaven, of course,--of course." And he drops into an arm-chair
and fans himself with a pink-bordered pocket-handkerchief upon which
are depicted various jockeys upon race-horses, and which exhales a
strong odour of musk.

"I am extremely glad to see you," Paula assures the visitor. "I hope
you have come to stay some days with us. Have you seen mamma yet?"

"No." And Fainacky fans himself yet more affectedly. "I wandered around
the castle at first without finding any one to announce me. Then I had
an adventure,--ha, ha! _C'est par trop bête!_"

"What was it?"

"In my wanderings I reached an open door into a room looking upon the
garden. There I found Treurenberg and a young lady,--only fancy,--I
thought it was his wife. I took that--what is her name?--Olga--your
_protégée_--for your sister,--for the Countess Selina, and begged
Treurenberg to present me to his wife,--ha, ha! _Vraiment c'est par
trop bête!_"

At this moment a tall, portly figure, with reddish hair, dazzling
complexion, and rather sharp features, sails into the room.

"Here is my sister," says Paula, and a formal introduction follows.

"Before seeing the Countess Selina I thought my mistake only comical. I
now think it unpardonable!" Fainacky exclaims, with his hand on his
heart. "Harry, did the resemblance never strike you?" He gazes in a
rapture of admiration at the Countess.

"What resemblance?" asks Harry.

"Why, the resemblance to the Princess of Wales."



                              CHAPTER XIV.

                                 OLGA.


"And pray who is Fräulein Olga?"

It is Fainacky who puts this question to the Countess Treurenberg, just
after luncheon, during which meal he has contrived to ingratiate
himself thoroughly with Lato's wife.

He and the Countess are seated beneath a red-and-gray-striped tent on
the western side of the castle; beside them stands a table from which
the coffee has not yet been removed. The rest of the company have
vanished.

The Baroness Harfink is writing a letter to her brother, one of the
leaders of the Austrian democracy, who was once minister for three
months; Paula and Harry are enjoying a _tête-à-tête_ in the park, and
Treurenberg is taking advantage of the strong sunlight to photograph
alternately and from every point of view a half-ruinous fountain and
two hollyhocks.

"Pray who is this Fräulein Olga?" Fainacky asks, removing the ashes
from the end of his cigarette with the long finger-nail of his little
finger.

"Ah, it is quite a sad story," is the Countess Selina's reply.

"Excuse me if I am indiscreet; I had no idea----" the Pole begins.

"Oh, you are one of the family, quite one of the family," Selina
assures him, with an amiable smile. "I might have thought the
question embarrassing from any one else, but I can speak to you without
reserve of these matters. You are perhaps aware that a sister of my
father's,--is only sister,--when quite an old maid,--I believe she was
thirty-seven,--ran off with an actor, a very obscure comedian; I think
he played the elderly knights at the Rudolfsheim Theatre, and as the
bandit Jaromir he turned her head. She displayed the _courage de ses
opinions_, and married him. He treated her brutally, and she died,
after fifteen years of wretched married life. On her death-bed she sent
for my father, and bequeathed her daughter to his care. This was Olga.
My father--I cannot tell how it happened--took the most immense fancy
to the girl. He tried to persuade mamma to take her home immediately.
Fancy! a creature brought up amid such surroundings, behind the
foot-lights. True, my aunt was separated from her bandit Jaromir for
several years before her death; but under such strange circumstances
mamma really could not take the little gypsy into the house with her
own half-grown daughters. So she was sent to a convent, and we all
hoped she would become a nun. But no; and when her education was
finished, shortly before papa's death, mamma took her home. I was
married at the time, and I remember her arrival vividly. You can
imagine how terrible it was for us to admit so strange an element among
us. But, although he seldom interfered in domestic affairs, it was
impossible to dispute papa's commands."

"H'm, h'm!" And the Pole's slender white fingers drum upon the top of
the table. "_Je comprends_. It is a great charge for your mother, and
_c'est bien dur_." Although he speaks French stumblingly, he
continually expresses himself in that tongue, as if it is the only one
in which he can give utterance to the inmost feelings of his soul.

"Ah, mamma has always sacrificed everything to duty!" sighs Selina;
"and somebody had to take pity upon the poor creature."

"Nobly said, and nobly thought, Countess Selina; but then, after
all,--an actor's daughter,--you really do not know all that it means.
Does she show no signs of her unfortunate parentage?"

"No," says Selina, thoughtfully; "her manners are very good, the spell
of the Sacré C[oe]ur Convent is still upon her. She is not particularly
well developed intellectually, but, since you call my attention to it,
she does show some signs of the overstrained enthusiasm which
characterized her mother."

"And in combination with her father's gypsy blood. Such signs are
greatly to be deplored," the Pole observes. "You must long to have her
married?"

"A difficult matter to bring about. Remember her origin." The Countess
inclines her head on one side, and takes a long stitch in her
embroidery. "She must be the image of her father. The bandit Jaromir
was a handsome man of Italian extraction."

"Is the fellow still alive?" asks the Pole.

"No, he is dead, thank heaven! it would be terrible if he were not,"
says Selina, with a laugh. "_À propos_," she adds, selecting and
comparing two shades of yellow, "do you think Olga pretty?"

"H'm! _pas mal_,--not particularly. Had I seen her anywhere else, I
might perhaps have thought her pretty, but here--forgive my frankness,
Countess Selina--no other woman has a chance when you are present. You
must be conscious of that yourself."

"_Vil flatteur!_" the young wife exclaims, playfully lashing the Pole's
hand with a skein of wool. The pair have known each other for scarcely
three hours, and they are already upon as familiar a footing as if they
had been friends from childhood. Moreover, they are connections. At
Carlsbad, where Fainacky lately made the acquaintance of the Baroness
Harfink and her daughter Paula, he informed the ladies that one of his
grandmothers, a Löwenzahn by birth, was cousin to an uncle of the
Baroness's.

The persistence with which he dwelt upon this fact, the importance he
attached to being treated as a cousin by the Harfinks, touched Paula as
well as her mother. Besides, as they had already told Selina, they
liked him from the first.

"One is never ashamed to be seen with him," was the immediate decision
of the fastidious ladies; and as time passed on they discovered in him
such brilliant and unusual qualities that they considered him a great
acquisition,--an entertaining, cultivated man of some talent.

He is neither cultivated nor entertaining, and as for his talent, that
is a matter of opinion. If his singing is commonplace, his performance
on the piano commonplace, and the _vers de société_ which he scribbles
in young ladies' extract-books more commonplace than all, in one art he
certainly holds the first rank,--the art of discovering and humouring
the weaknesses of his fellow-mortals, the art of the flatterer.

To pursue this art with distinguished ability two qualifications are
especially needful,--impudence and lack of refinement. With the help
of these allies the strongest incense may be wafted before one's
fellow-creatures, and they will all--with the exception of a few
suspicious originals--inhale it eagerly. Experience has taught Fainacky
that boldness is of far more avail in this art than delicacy, and he
conducts himself accordingly.

Flattery is his special profession, his means for supporting his idle,
coxcomb existence,--flattery and its sister art, slander. A successful
epigram at another's expense gives many of us more pleasure than a
compliment paid to ourselves.

He flutters, flattering and gossiping, from one house to another. The
last few weeks he has spent with a bachelor prince in the
neighbourhood, who, a sufferer from neuralgia in the face, has been
known, when irritated, to throw the sofa-cushions at his guests. At
first Fainacky professed to consider this a very good joke; but one day
when the prince showed signs of selecting more solid projectiles for
the display of his merry humour, Fainacky discovered that the time had
come for him to bestow the pleasure of his society elsewhere.

Dobrotschau seemed to offer just what he sought, and he has won his
hostess's heart a second time by his abuse during luncheon of his late
host's cook.

While he is now paying court to the Countess Selina, a touching scene
is enacting in another part of the garden. Paula, who during her walk
with her betrothed has perceived Treurenberg with his photographic
apparatus in the distance, proposes to Harry that they be photographed
as lovers. The poor young fellow's resistance avails nothing against
Paula's strong will. She triumphantly drags him up before the
apparatus, and, after much trying, discovers a pose which seems to her
sufficiently tender. With her clasped hands upon Harry's shoulder, she
gazes up at him with enthusiastic devotion.

"Do not look so stern," she murmurs; "if I did not know how you love
me, I should almost fancy you hated me."

Lato, half shutting his eyes in artistic observation of the pair, takes
off the shield of the instrument, saying, "Now, if you please!"

The impression is a failure, because Harry moved his head just at the
critical moment. When, however, Paula requires him to give pantomimic
expression to his tender sentiments for the second time, he declares
that he cannot stay three minutes longer, the 'vet' is waiting for him
at Komaritz.

"Oh, that odious 'vet'!" sighs Paula. "This is the third time this week
that you have had to leave me because of him."

Harry bites his lip. Evidently it is high time to invent another
pretext for the unnatural abbreviation of his visits. But--if she would
only take offence at something!

"Can you not come with me to Komaritz?" he asks Lato, in order to give
the conversation a turn, whereupon Lato, who instantly accedes to his
request, hurries into the castle to make ready for his ride. Shortly
afterwards, riding-whip in hand, he approaches Selina, who is still
beneath the red-and-gray tent with Fainacky.

"Ah, you are going to leave me alone again, faithless spouse that you
are!" she calls out, threatening him with a raised forefinger. Then,
turning to the Pole, she adds, "Our marriage is a fashionable one, such
as you read of in books: the husband goes one way, the wife another.
'Tis the only way to make life tolerable in the long run, is it not,
Lato?"

Lato makes no reply, flushes slightly, kisses his wife's hand, nods
carelessly to Fainacky, and turns to go.

"Shall you come back to dinner?" Selina calls after him.

"Of course," he replies, as he vanishes behind the shrubbery.

Fainacky strokes his moustache thoughtfully, stares first at the
Countess, then at the top of the table, and finally gives utterance to
an expressive "Ah!"

Lato hurries on to overtake his friend, whom he espies striding towards
the park gate.

Suddenly Olga approaches him, a huge straw hat shading her eyes, and in
her hands a large, dish-shaped cabbage-leaf full of inviting, fresh
strawberries.

"Whither are you hurrying?" she asks.

"I am going to ride to Komaritz with Harry," he replies. "Ah, what
magnificent strawberries!"

"I know they are your favourite fruit, and I plucked them for you," she
says.

"In this heat?--oh, Olga!" he exclaims.

"The sun would have burned them up by evening," she says, simply.

He understands that she has meant to atone for her inadvertence of the
morning, and he is touched.

"Will you not take some?" she asks, persisting in offering him the
leaf.

He takes one. Meanwhile, his glance encounters Harry's. Olga is
entirely at her ease, while Lato--from what cause he could not possibly
tell--is slightly embarrassed.

"I have no time now," he says, gently rejecting the hand that holds the
leaf.

"Shall I keep them for your dessert?--you are coming back to dinner?"
she asks.

"Certainly. I shall be back by six o'clock," he calls to her. "Adieu,
my child."

As the two friends a few minutes later ride down the long poplar
avenue, Harry asks,--

"Has this Olga always lived here?"

"No. She came home from the convent a year after my marriage. Selina
befriends her because Paula cannot get along with her. She often
travels with us."

"She seems pleasant and sympathetic," says Harry, adding, after a short
pause, "I have seldom seen so perfect a beauty."

"She is as good as gold," Lato says, quickly, adding, in a rather lower
tone, "and most forlorn, poor thing!"



                              CHAPTER XV.

                         COMRADES AND FRIENDS.


The clumsy Komaritz mansion casts its huge shadow upon the
old-fashioned garden, upon the large rectangular flower-beds
bordered with sage and parsley, wherein bloom in gay companionship
sweet-smelling centifolia roses, dark-blue monk's-hood, scarlet
verbenas, and lilac phlox; upon the tangle of raspberry- and
blackberry-bushes that grow along the garden wall; and upon the
badly-mown lawn. Ancient pear-trees and apple-trees mingle their shade
with that of the old house.

An afternoon languor broods over it all. The buzz of bees above the
flower-beds sounds languid; languid sounds the rustle of the leaves
when, after a prolonged slumber, they awake for an instant, shiver, and
then fall silent again; languid is the tone of the old piano, upon
which the youngest Leskjewitsch is practising the 'Cloches du
Monastere,' under the supervision of a teacher engaged for the summer
holidays,--a Fräulein Laut.

Nothing is for the present to be seen or heard of the other inmates of
the castle. Hedwig is consulting with her maid, and the Countess Zriny
is endeavouring to repair a great misfortune. On her journey from
Vienna to Komaritz she relieved her maid, who was overladen with
hand-bags, of two objects particularly dear to her soul,--a carved,
partly-painted and partly-gilded St. John, and a large bottle of eau de
Lourdes. In changing trains at Pernik, she slipped and fell at full
length upon the platform; the bottle of eau de Lourdes flew one way and
the St. John another; the bottle was broken, and St. John not only lost
his head and one hand, but when the poor Countess gathered up his
remains he proved to be injured in every part. His resuscitation is at
present the important task of the old lady's life. At this moment she
is working away at the folds of his garment with much devotion--and
black oil paint.

Harry and Lato have told no one of their arrival. They are lying upon a
grassy slope beneath a huge apple-tree, smoking, and exchanging
reminiscences.

"How homelike all this is!" says Treurenberg, in his soft voice, and
with a slightly drawling intonation. "I grow ten years younger here.
The same flowers, the same trees, the same fragrance, the same
world-forgotten solitude, and, if I am not mistaken,"--he smiles a
little,--"the same music. You used to play the 'Convent Bells' then."

"Yes," Harry replies, "'Les Cloches du Monastere' was the acme and
the point of departure of my musical studies. I got rid of my last
music-teacher and my last 'coach' at the same time."

"Do you mean Tuschalek?" asks Treurenberg.

"That was his name."

"H'm! I can see him now. Heavens! those hands!" Treurenberg gazes
reflectively into space. "They were always as red as radishes."

"They reminded me rather of carrots that had just been pulled out of
the ground," Harry mutters.

"How the old times rise up before me!" Lato muses, letting his glance
wander anew over the garden, where there is buzzing of innumerable
bees; over the clumsy façade of the mansion; over the little eminence
where still stand the quarters of Tuschalek and the Pole; then up to
the old ruined castle, which stands out against the dark-blue August
skies an almost formless shape, brown and grim, with its old scars from
fire, and hung about with wreaths of wild climbing vines.

"'Tis odd,--something has seemed to me lacking about the dear old
nest," Lato begins again, after a pause. "Now I know what it is."

"Well?"

"The little figure of your cousin Zdena. I am always looking for her to
come skipping from among the flowers like a wayward little fairy."

Harry frowns, plucks a buttercup growing in the grass, and is mute.

Without heeding his friend's mood, Treurenberg goes on: "As a child,
she was most charming and unusually intelligent and gifted. Has the
promise of her childhood not been fulfilled?"

Harry pulls another buttercup out of the grass, and carefully deposits
it beside the first.

"That is a matter of opinion," he remarks, carelessly, without looking
at his friend.

"'Tis strange! Many a girl's beauty vanishes suddenly at about fourteen
without leaving a trace; but I would have wagered my head that your
cousin would have been beautiful," remarks Lato.

"I have not said that she is ugly," Harry growls.

"But you do not like her!" Lato now rivets his eyes full upon the
gloomy face of his former playmate.

Harry turns away his head.

"I did not say I did not like her," he bursts out, "but I can't talk of
her, because--because it is all her fault!"

"What is 'all'?" asks Lato, still looking fixedly at his friend.

Harry frowns and says nothing.

Lato does not speak again for a few moments. Then, having lighted a
fresh cigar, he begins: "I always fancied,--one so often arranges in
imagination a friend's future for him, particularly when one's own fate
is fixed past recall,--I always said to myself that you and your cousin
would surely come together. I liked to think that it would be so. To
speak frankly, your betrothal to Paula was a great surprise to me."

"Indeed? Well, so it was to me!" Harry blurts out, then turns very red,
is ashamed of his unbecoming confession; and then--then he is glad that
it has been extorted from him; glad that he can speak frankly about the
affair to any one with whom he can take counsel.

Treurenberg draws a long breath, and then whistles softly to himself.

"Sets the wind in that quarter?" he says at last. "I thought so. I
determined that you should show your colours. And may I ask how you
ever got into such a confounded scrape?"

Harry groans. "What would you have?--moonlight, nervous
excitement,--all of a sudden there we were! I had quarrelled with my
cousin Zdena--God bless her! In spite of her whims and fancies,--one
never knows what she would be at,--she is the dearest, loveliest
creature----! But that is only by the way----"

"Not at all, not at all; it interests me extremely," Treurenberg
interrupts him, laughing.

"That may be, but it has very little to do with my explanation," Harry
rejoins, dryly. "The fact is, that it was a warm night in August, and I
was driving alone with Paula,--that is, with no coachman, and only my
groom, who followed with my horse, and whom I entirely forgot,--from
Zirkow to Dobrotschau, along that rough forest road,--you
remember,--where one is jolted against one's companion at every step,
and there is opportunity for a girl to be becomingly timid--h'm! She
suddenly became frightened at a will-o'-the-wisp, she never struck me
before as having such weak nerves,--and--well, I was distraught over my
quarrel with Zdena, and I had taken perhaps a glass too much of Uncle
Paul's old Bordeaux; in short, I kissed her. In an instant I
recollected myself, and, if I am not mistaken, I said, 'Excuse me!' or,
'I beg pardon!' She cannot have heard this extremely sensible remark,
however, for in the twinkling of an eye I was betrothed. The next day I
was determined to put an end to such nonsense, and I sat down at my
writing-table--confound it all! I never was great with the pen, and the
model of such a letter as I wanted to write was not to be found in any
'Complete Letter-Writer.' Everything I tried to put on paper seemed to
me so terribly indelicate and rough, and so I determined to tell the
mother. I meant to bring forward a previous and binding attachment; to
plead in my excuse the superlative charms of the Baroness Paula--oh, I
had it all splendidly planned; but the old Baroness never let me open
my lips, and so matters came to be arranged as you find them."

Through the open glass doors of the dining-room, across the
flower-beds, comes the faint voice of the old piano. But it is no
longer echoing the 'Cloches du Monastere,' but a wailing canzonetta by
some popular local composer upon which the youngest Leskjewitsch is
expending a most unnecessary amount of banging upon keys and pressing
of pedals. With a grimace Harry stops his ears. Treurenberg looks very
grave.

"You do not, then, intend to marry Paula?"

"God forbid!" Harry exclaims.

"Then,"--Lato bites his lip, but goes on calmly,--"forgive an
old friend who is aware of the difficulty of your position, for
the disagreeable remark,--but if you do not intend to marry my
sister-in-law, your conduct with regard to her is not only very
unbecoming but also positively wrong."

"Why?" Harry asks, crossly.

"Why?" Lato lifts his eyebrows. "Why, because you compromise her more
deeply with every visit you pay her. You cannot surely deceive yourself
as to the fact that upon the superficial observer you produce the
impression of an unusually devoted pair of lovers."

"I do not understand how you can say such a thing!" Harry exclaims,
angrily, "when you must have seen----"

"That you are on the defensive with Paula," Treurenberg interrupts him,
with a wan smile. "Yes, I have seen it."

"Well, she ought to see it too," Harry mutters.

Lato shrugs his shoulders.

"She must lose patience sooner or later," says Harry.

"It is difficult to exhaust the patience of a young woman whose
sensibilities are not very delicate and who is very much in love,"
his friend replies. "You must devise some other, and--forgive my
frankness--some more honest and straightforward means for attaining
your end."

Harry puffs furiously at his cigarette, sending a cloud of smoke over
the flower-bed. "Lato, you are rough upon me, but not rougher than I am
upon myself. If you knew how degraded I feel by my false position, if
you knew how the whole matter weighs upon me, you would do something
more for me than only hold up a candle by the light of which I perceive
more clearly the misery of my position. You would----"

"What?" Lato asks, disturbed.

"Help me!"

Lato looks at him in dismay for a moment, and then stammers, "No,
Harry, do not ask it of me,--not of me. I could do you no good. They
never would let me speak, any more than my mother-in-law would allow
you to speak. And even if I finally prevailed upon them to listen, they
would blame me for the whole affair, would believe that I had excited
your mind against the family."

"How could they possibly imagine that you could conduct yourself so
towards a friend?" Harry asks, with a grim smile.

Lato turns his head aside.

"Then you will not do me this service?"

"I cannot!" Treurenberg murmurs, faintly.

"I might have known it!" Harry breaks forth, his eyes flashing with
indignant scorn. "You are the same old fellow, the very same,--a good
fellow enough, yes, sympathetic, compassionate, and, as long as you are
allowed to remain perfectly passive, the noblest of men. But as soon as
anything is required of you,--if any active interference is called for
at your hands, there's an end of it. You simply cannot, you would
rather die than rouse yourself to any energetic action!"

"Perhaps so," Lato murmurs, with a far-away look in his eyes, and a
smile that makes Harry's blood run cold.

A pause ensues, the longest of the many pauses that have occurred in
this _tête-à-tête_.

The bees seem to buzz louder than ever. A dry, thirsty wind sighs in
the boughs of the apple-tree; two or three hard green apples drop to
the ground. At last Treurenberg gathers himself up.

"You must take me as I am," he says, wearily; "there is no cutting with
a dull knife. I cannot possibly enlighten my mother-in-law as to the
true state of your feelings. It would do no good, and it would make an
infernal row. But I will give you one piece of good advice----"

Before he is able to finish his sentence his attention is arrested by a
perfect babel of sounds from the dining-room. The piano music is
hushed, its discord merged into the angry wail of a shrieking feminine
voice and the rough, broken, changing tones of a lad,--the rebellious
pupil, Vladimir Leskjewitsch. The hurly-burly is so outrageous that
every one is roused to investigate it. Countess Zriny rushes in, with
short, waddling steps, the paint-brush with which she has been mending
St. John's robe still in her hand; Hedwig rushes in; Harry and Lato
rush in.

"What is the matter? What is the matter?"

"You poured that water on the keys intentionally, to prevent your
playing," the teacher angrily declares to her pupil.

"I do not deny it," Vladimir rejoins, loftily.

The spectators suppress a smile, and are all, as is, alas! so
frequently the case, on the side of the culprit, a tall, overgrown lad
of about fourteen, with a handsome dark face, large black eyes, a
short, impertinent nose, and full, well-formed lips. With hands thrust
deep into the pockets of his blue jacket, he gravely surveys the
circle, and tosses his head defiantly.

"You hear him! you hear him!" Fräulein Laut screams, turning to the
by-standers. Then, approaching Vladimir, she asks, angrily, "And how
can you justify such conduct?"

Vladimir scans her with majestic disdain. "How can you justify your
having ruined all my pleasure in music?" he asks, in a tragic tone, and
with a bombastic flourish of his hand. "That piano has been my dear
friend from childhood!"--he points feelingly to the instrument, which
is yellow with age, has thin, square legs, and six pedals, the use of
which no one has ever yet fathomed,--"yes, my friend! And today I hate
it so that I have well-nigh destroyed it! Fräulein Laut, justify that."

"Must I be subjected to this insolence?" groans the teacher.

"Vladimir, go to your room!" Harry orders, with hardly maintained
gravity.

Vladimir departs with lofty self-possession. The teacher turns
contemptuously from those present, especially from Harry, who tries to
appease her with a few courteous phrases. With a skilful hand she takes
the piano apart, dismembers the key-board, and spreads the hammers upon
sheets of tin brought for her from the kitchen by Blasius, the old
servant, that the wet, swollen wood may be dried before the fire.

"Take care lest there be an _auto-da-fé_," Harry calls after her.
Without deigning to reply, she vanishes with the bowels of the piano.

Blasius, meanwhile, with imperturbable composure, has spread the table
for the evening meal at one end of the spacious room, in which there is
now diffused an agreeable odour of fresh biscuits. A mountain of
reddish-yellow almond cakes is flanked on one side by a plate of
appetizing rye bread, on the other by butter garnished with ice and
cresses. There is a fruit-basket at either end of the table, filled
with peaches, early grapes, and all kinds of ripe green and purple
plums, while a bowl of cut glass holds whipped cream cooled in ice.
Finally, old Blasius brings in a tray fairly bending beneath the burden
of various pitchers and flagons, the bewildering number of which is due
to the fact that at Komaritz the whims of all are consulted, and
consequently each one orders something different, be it only a
different kind of cream.

"As of old, no one is in danger at Komaritz of death from starvation,"
Lato remarks, smiling.

"Help us to be rid of the provision," Harry says.

Hedwig repeats the invitation rather affectedly, but Lato, looking at
his watch, discovers that he has already overstayed his time by an
hour.

All express regret, and bid him farewell.

"And the good advice you were about to give me?" Harry says,
interrogatively, as he takes leave of his friend, having accompanied
him to the gate of the court-yard.

"Cut short your leave of absence; go away," Lato replies. "You will at
least be relieved for the time from any necessity for dissimulation,
and such affairs are better adjusted by letter."

Harry gazes gloomily into space; Lato springs into the saddle. "Adieu!"
he calls out, and is gone.



                              CHAPTER XVI.

                           LATO TREURENBERG.


Ding-dong--ding-dong! the Angelus bells are ringing through the evening
air with their message of rest for weary mortals.

The long shadows of the trees grow paler, and vanish, taking with them
all the glory of the world and leaving only a dull, borrowed twilight
to hover above the earth.

The sun has set. Ding-dong! rings the bell of Komaritz, near at hand,
as Lato rides past; the bells of the other villages echo the sound
dreamily, to have their notes tossed back by the bells of the lonely
chapels on the mountain-sides across the steel-gray stream, whose
waters glide silently on ward. Ding-dong! each answers to all, and the
tired labourer rejoices in unison.

The hour of rest has come, the hour when families reassemble after
the pursuits and labours of the day have ceased to claim and separate
them,--when mortals feel more warmly and sensibly the reality of family
ties. Thin blue smoke is curling from the chimneys; here and there a
woman can be seen standing at the door of a cottage, shading her eyes
with her hand as she looks expectantly down the road. Upon the doorstep
of a poor hut sits a brown, worn labourer, dirty and ragged, about to
eat his evening meal with a leaden spoon from an earthen bowl; a young
woman crouches beside him, with her back against the door-post, content
and silent, while a chubby child, with bare legs somewhat bowed, and a
curly head, leans against his knee and, with its mouth open in
expectation, peeps into the earthen bowl. The father smiles, and from
time to time thrusts a morsel between the fresh, rosy lips. Then he
puts aside the bowl and takes the little fellow upon his knee. It
is a pretty child,--and perhaps in honour of the father's return
home--wonderfully clean, but even were this not the case---- Most of
the children tumbling about before the huts on this sultry August
evening are neither pretty nor clean; they are dirty, ragged,
dishevelled; many are sickly, and some are crippled; but there is
hardly one among them to whom this hour does not bring a caress.

An atmosphere of mutual human sympathy seems to brood in silence above
the resting earth, while the bells ring on,--ding-dong, ding-dong.

Lato has left the village behind him, and is trotting along the
road beneath the tall walnuts. The noise of wagons, heavily laden
with the harvest, and the tramp of men upon the road fall upon his
ear,--everything is going home.

There is a languor in the aromatic summer air, somewhat that begets in
every human being a desire for companionship, a longing to share the
burden of existence with another. Even the flowers seem to bend their
heads nearer to one another.

Now the bells are hushed, the road is deserted; Lato alone is still
pursuing his way home. Home? Is it possible that he has accustomed
himself to call his mother-in-law's castle home? In many a hotel--at
"The Lamb," for example, in Vienna he has felt much more at home.
Where, then, is his home? He vainly asks himself this question. Has he
ever had a home?

The question is still unanswered. His thoughts wander far back into the
past, and find nothing, not even a few tender memories. Poor Lato! He
recalls his earliest years, his childhood. His parents were considered
the handsomest couple in Austria. The Count was fair, tall, slender,
with an apparent delicacy of frame that concealed an amount of physical
strength for which he was famous, and with nobly-chiselled features.
His duels and his love-affairs were numerous. He was rashly brave, and
irresistible; so poor an accountant that he always allowed his
opponents to reckon up his gains at play, but when his turn came to pay
a debt of honour he was never known to make an error in a figure. It is
scarcely necessary to mention that his gambling debts were the only
ones the payment of which he considered at all important. He was
immensely beloved by his subordinates,--his servants, his horses, and
his dogs; he addressed them all with the German "thou," and treated
them all with the same good-humoured familiarity. He was thought most
urbane, and was never guilty of any definite intentional annoyance;
but he suffered from a certain near-sightedness. He recognized as
fellow-mortals only those fellow-mortals who occupied the same social
plane with himself; all others were in his eyes simply population,--the
masses.

There is little to tell of his wife, save that she was a brilliant
brunette beauty, with very loud manners and a boundless greed of
enjoyment. She petted little Lato like a lapdog; but one evening, just
as she was dressed for a ball, she was informed that the child had been
taken violently ill with croup, whereupon she flew into a rage with
those who had been so thoughtless and unfeeling as to tell her such a
thing at so inopportune a moment. Her carriage was announced; she let
it wait while she ran up-stairs to the nursery, kissed the gasping
little patient, exclaimed, with a lifted forefinger, "Be a good boy, my
darling; don't die while mamma is at the ball!" and vanished.

The little fellow was good and did not die. As a reward, his mother
gave him the largest and handsomest rocking-horse that was to be found
in Vienna. Such was the Countess Treurenberg as a mother; and as
a wife--well, Hans Treurenberg was satisfied with her, and her
behaviour was no one else's affair. The couple certainly got along
together admirably. They never were seen together except when they
received guests.

Peace to her ashes! The Countess paid a heavy price for her short-lived
joys. When scarcely twenty-six years old, she was attacked by a mortal
disease. Her condition was all the more painful because she persisted
in concealing her malady from the world, even denying its existence. Up
to the last she went into society, and she died in full dress, diamonds
and all, in a glare of light, on a lounge in her dressing-room.

The widower at first took her death so terribly to heart that his
associates remarked upon it.

"Treurenberg is really a very good fellow!" they said, and so he was.

For a time he kept little Lato with him constantly. Even on the
evenings when gambling was going on, and they played long and high at
Hans Treurenberg's, the boy was present. When hardly twelve years old
he was fully initiated into the mysteries of all games of chance. He
would sit silent and quiet until far into the night, watching the
course of the game, trembling with excitement at any sudden turn of
luck. And how proud he was when he was allowed to take a hand! He
played extremely well for his age, and his luck was constant. His
father's friends made merry over his gambling ability. His father would
pat his cheeks, stroke his hair off his forehead, take his face between
his hands, and kiss him. Then, with his fingers beneath the lad's chin,
he would turn his face this way and that, calling his guests' attention
to the boy's beauty, to his eyes sparkling with eagerness, to his
flushed cheeks. Then he would kiss the boy again, make him drink a
glass of champagne, and send him to bed.

Then was sown the seed of the evil passion which was in after-years to
cause Lato so many an hour of bitter suffering. Calm, almost
phlegmatic, with regard to all else, as soon as he touched a card his
excitement was intense, however he might manage to conceal it.

When Count Hans grew tired of the constant companionship of his son, he
freed himself from it after a perfectly respectable fashion. He sent
him to Prague, a city renowned for the stolidity of its institutions,
committing him to the care of relatives, and of a professor who
undertook to supply the defects of the boy's neglected education. When
Lato was eighteen he entered a regiment of hussars.

Hereafter, if the father took but little pains about his son, he
certainly showed him every kindness,--paid his debts, and laughed while
he admired the young man's mad pranks. Moreover, he really loved him,
which did not, however, hinder him from contriving to have Lato
declared of age at twenty, that the young fellow might have possession
of his maternal inheritance, since he himself needed money.

It was at this time that the elder Treurenberg's view of life and the
world underwent a remarkable change. He became a Liberal, and this not
only in a political sense, but socially, a much rarer transformation.
He appeared frequently at the tables of wealthy men of business, where
he was valued not merely as an effective aristocratic decoration, but
as a really charming companion. His liberal views took on more
magnificent dimensions: he announced himself a heretic with regard to
the exclusiveness of the Austrian aristocracy, smiled at the folly of
Austrian court etiquette, and then, one fine day he made friends with
the wealthy _parvenu_, Conte Capriani, and, throwing overboard as
useless ballast impeding free action the '_noblesse oblige_' principle,
he devoted himself blindly and with enthusiasm to stock-gambling. The
result was hardly encouraging. When Lato applied to his father one day
for a considerable sum of money, it was not to be had. Melancholy times
for the Treurenbergs ensued; thanks, however, to the friendship of
Conte Capriani, who sometimes helped him to a really profitable
transaction, Count Hans was able to keep his head above water. And he
continued to hold it as high as ever, to preserve the same air of
distinction, to smile with the same amiable cordiality in which there
was a spice of _hauteur_; in a word, he preserved the indefinable
prestige of his personality, which made it impossible that Conte
Capriani's demeanour towards him should ever partake of the nature of
condescension. The only thing required of Count Hans by Capriani was
that he should spend a couple of weeks with him every year in the
hunting-season. This the Count seemed quite willing to do, and he
therefore appeared every year, in August or October, at Heinrichsdorf,
an estate in West Hungary, where Capriani had preferred to live since
his affair with young Count Lodrin had made his castle of Schneeburg
impossible for him as a place of residence.

One year the Count asked his son to accompany him to Heinrichsdorf.

Will Lato ever forget the weeks he spent there, the turning-point as
they were of his existence? How foreign and tiresome, how hard and
bald, it all was! how uncomfortable, how uncongenial!--the furniture,
among which here and there, as was the fashion, some costly antique was
displayed; the guests, among whom were various representatives of
historic Austrian nobility; the Conte's secretary, a choleric
Hungarian, who concealed the remnant of a pride of rank which ill
became his present position beneath an aggressive cynicism, and who was
wont to carry in his pocket, when he went to walk, a little revolver,
with which he shot at sparrows or at the flies creeping upon some wall,
by way perhaps of working off the bitterness of his soul. There, too,
was the master of the house, showing the same frowning brow to all whom
he met, contradicting all with the same rudeness, hunting to earth any
stray poetic sentiment, and then, after a violent explosion of pure
reason, withdrawing gloomily to his cabinet, where he could give
himself over to his two passions,--that for money-making, and that for
setting the world at naught.

The only person in the assemblage whom Lato found attractive was the
mistress of the mansion, with whom he often talked for hours, never
ceasing to wonder at the melancholy grace and quiet dignity of her
bearing, as well as at the well-nigh morbid delicacy and high moral
tone of her sentiments.

Above all did Lato dislike those among the guests of a like rank with
his own, men who were like himself in money difficulties, and who
hovered about this deity of the stock market in hopes of obtaining his
blessing upon their speculations.

Count Hans moved among all these aristocratic and un-aristocratic
luminaries with the same unchanging grace that carried him victoriously
over all annoyances,--always genial and courtly; but the son could not
emulate his father's ease of mind and manner; he felt depressed and
humiliated.

Then the Baroness Harfink and her daughters made their appearance. The
two striking, pleasure-loving girls had an enlivening effect upon the
wearied assemblage.

Paula was the cleverer of the two, but she talked too much, which was
tiresome, and then she had a reputation for learning, which frightened
men away. Selina, on the other hand, knew how to veil her lack of
cleverness beneath an interesting taciturnity; she had a fashion of
slowly lifting her eyelids which appealed to a man's fancy. With a
degree of prudence frequently displayed by rather dull girls, she
forbore to appeal to the crowd, and concentrated her efforts to charm
upon Lato. She accompanied him in the pheasant-shooting parties, took
lessons from him in lawn-tennis,--in a white dress, her loosened
hair gleaming in the sunlight,--or simply lay quietly back in a
rocking-chair in the shade in front of the castle, gazing at him with
her large, half-closed eyes, while he, half in jest, half in earnest,
said all sorts of pretty things.

There was always play in the evenings at the castle, and usually very
high play. The atmosphere about the gaming-tables was hardly agreeable,
and the Conte moved about among them, taking no share in such "silly
waste of time," while every one else was eager to win. Lato took part
in the unedifying pastime, and at first fortune befriended him; then he
lost. His losses embarrassed him, and he withdrew from playing. He was
not the only one to avoid the gambling-tables after a short trial of
luck; several gentlemen followed his example. The Conte took triumphant
note of this, and arranged a party for five-kreutzer whist, in which he
joined.

Lato bit his lip. Never before had his unfortunate pecuniary
circumstances so weighed upon him. The thirst for gold--the prevailing
epidemic at Heinrichsdorf--demanded a fresh victim.

There had been a hunting-dinner; Conte Capriani's wine had been
unusually fiery; every one was gay; Heinrichsdorf could remember no
such brilliant festivity. The windows of the drawing-room where the
company were assembled were open and looked out upon the park. The
intoxicating fragrance of the sultry August night was wafted into the
room; the stars sparkled above the black tree-tops, twinkling
restlessly, like deceitful will-o'-the-wisps, in the blue vault of
heaven; the sweet, wild music of a band of Hungarian gypsies came
floating into the apartment with the fragrance of the night. Selina
looked wonderfully beautiful on that evening, a sultana-like beauty,
nothing more, but she harmonized with the spell of the August night.
She wore a red crape gown, red as flickering fire, red as benumbing
poppy-blossoms, very _décolletée_, and its decided colour heightened
the white, pearly lustre of the girl's neck and arms. The lines about
her mouth had not then settled into a stereotyped smile; her nose was
not sharp; the sheen of her hair had not been dimmed by perpetual
powdering. Essentially commonplace as she was, for the moment there was
about her a mingling of languor and excitement, which betrays an
accelerated movement of the heart. Selina Harfink was in love. Lato was
perfectly aware of it, and that she was in love with him. He bestowed
but little thought upon this fact, however. What could come of it? And
yet, whenever he was with her, a cold shiver ran through him.

The mysterious shades of night were invaded by music and the summer
breeze; wherever Lato was he saw that red gown. A hand was laid upon
his arm, and when he turned he gazed into a pair of eyes veiled yet
glowing.

"Why do you avoid me?" Selina whispered.

"Southern Roses!" one of the gentlemen standing near a window called to
the musicians, and immediately there floated out into the night, to
mingle with the low whisper of the linden leaves, the notes of the
first bars of that most beguiling of all Strauss's beguiling waltzes.

He danced with her, and then--almost rudely--he left her. It was the
only time he had danced with her that evening, and now he left the
room, hurrying away to be somewhere where that red dress was not before
his eyes. And yet he had the sensation of overcoming himself, of
denying himself at least a pleasant excitement.

Why? What could ever come of it?

For the first time in several days he joined the gamesters. He played
high, with varying luck, but when he left the gaming-table he carried
with him the consciousness of having lost more than he was at present
in a condition to pay.

He went to his room and began mechanically to undress. A fever
seemed burning in his veins; how sultry it was! through the open
windows he could see black thunder-clouds gathering in the skies. The
air was damp and laden with a fragrance so sweet as to be almost
sickening. A low murmur sighed among the leaves of the shrubbery in the
park,--melancholy, mysterious, alluring, yet mingled with a soft
plaint, breathing above the late summer roses. "Enjoy! enjoy! life is
brief!" He turned away, lay down, and closed his eyes; but still he
seemed to see the red dress. He could not think of marrying her. A girl
from such a family and with such a crowd of insufferable connections!
Had she only been a poor little thing whom he could snatch away from
her surroundings; but no, if he married her, he was sufficiently clear
in his mind for the moment to understand, he must adjust himself to her
social position. The power was hers,--money!

Oh, this wretched money! At every turn the lack of it tormented him; he
had tried to retrench, to economize, but how paltry such efforts seemed
to him! What a good use he could make of it if he had it! She was very
beautiful----

A light footfall made itself heard in the passage outside his door. Was
not that his father's step? Lato asked himself. The door opened; Count
Hans entered, straight, tall, and slender, with haughty, refined
features and sparkling blue eyes, very bald, very gray; but what
vitality and energy he showed in his every movement! At this moment
Lato felt a great admiration for his father, beside whom he himself
seemed pitiably weak. He took shame to himself; what would his father
say could he know of the ideas which he, Lato Treurenberg, had just
been entertaining?

"Still awake, Lato?" the knightly old man asked, kindly, sitting down
on the edge of his son's bed. "I saw from below your light still
burning, and I wanted to ask if anything were troubling you. You are
not wont to suffer from sleeplessness."

Lato was touched, and doubly ashamed of the low, mean way of
extricating himself from his difficulties which had but now seemed to
him almost possible.

"One's thoughts run such riot, sometimes," he murmured.

"H'm!" The father put his cigar between his lips and puffed forth a
cloud of smoke to float upward to the ceiling. "I think you lost at
baccarat to-night," he remarked.

"Yes."

"Much?"

"More than I can pay at present," Lato replied, with a weary smile.

"As if that were of any moment!" Count Hans consoled him. "I am at your
service, and am, besides, your debtor."

"But, father----"

"Yes, yes, I tell you it is so. I am your debtor. Do you think I forget
it? Indeed I do not. I am sorry that I cannot help it; but 'tis the
fault of circumstances. The estates yield absolutely nothing; they
require money enough, but when it comes to looking for any return I
look in vain. No one who has not tried it knows what a sinking-fund
land is. It cannot go on thus; we must make a fundamental effort, or we
shall be ruined!"

"Yes, father," Lato murmured, "we must be in earnest, instead of
enjoying ourselves thoughtlessly and with a dread of work. We have lost
our force; we have been faithless to our principles; we must begin a
new existence, you and I." As he uttered these high-sounding words,
Lato had the unpleasant sensation of repeating something learned by
rote; the big phrases confused him; he was embarrassed by the
consciousness of his father's too ready satire. He looked up at him,
but the old Count did not seem to have heard him. This was a relief; he
sighed, and was silent. Suddenly the red dress fluttered before his
eyes again.

Count Hans raised his head, and murmured, "She looked very lovely this
evening."

"Who?" asked Lato, slowly. He did not need to ask; he knew that his
father had shared his thoughts. He was terribly startled. Something
seemed to be crumbling away which he had believed would always stand
firm.

"Selina, of course,--the only really pretty woman in the house," said
Count Hans. "Her beauty has expanded wonderfully in the last few days.
It is always becoming to pretty women to be in love."

"In love?" Lato repeated, his throat contracted, his tongue dry.

The old Count laughed. "Ah, you're a sly fellow, Lato."

Lato was mute.

His father continued: "They are all jealous of you, Lato. Did you not
see what happened this evening in the conservatory, just after dinner?
Pistasch Kamenz proposed to her, and she refused him. He told me of it
himself, and made light of it; but he was hard hit. I can quite
understand it. She is an exceedingly beautiful woman; she does not
carry herself well, 'tis true,--with women of her class the physical
training is sure to be neglected,--but all that can be changed."

Lato was still mute. So, then, Pistasch Kamenz had tried that of which
he, Lato, had been ashamed, and had failed. He should not fail.

The old Count waited a moment, and then went on: "I am sorry for
Kamenz; the match would have been an excellent one for him; he would
have settled down."

"Settled down--upon his wife's money!" Lato muttered, without looking
at his father.

"Is there anything new in that?" exclaimed the Count, with unruffled
composure. "A man of honour can take nothing from a woman whom he
loves, but everything from his wife. 'Tis an old rule, and it is
comical,"--Count Hans laughed softly,--"how here in Austria we require
that a rich wife should always belong to the same sphere with her
husband; he is forgiven for a _mésalliance_ only if he marries a
beggar. It is pure folly! We shall never amount to anything unless we
toss aside the entire burden of prejudice which we drag about with us.
It weighs us down; we cannot keep step with the rest; how can a man run
sheathed in mail? With the exception of a few magnates among us who are
able to enjoy their prestige, we are wretchedly off. We spend our lives
sacrificing ourselves for a position which we cannot maintain
respectably; we pamper a chimera to be devoured by it in the end. Most
of all do I admire the _bourgeoisie_, whom we impress, and whose
servility keeps bright the nimbus about our heads. Bah! we can do
nothing more with the old folly! We must mingle in the fresh life of
the present."

"Yes," Lato muttered again, but more indistinctly than at first, "we
ought to work, to achieve somewhat."

Count Hans did not, perhaps, hear this remark; at all events he did not
heed it.

"All the huge new fortunes in England marry into the aristocracy," he
said.

Outside, the same strange alluring murmur breathed above the thirsty
flowers; the breeze of the coming storm streamed into the room.

"To marry a woman for the sake of her money is detestable," Count Hans
began afresh, and his voice was almost as soft and wooing as that of
the summer night outside; "but, good heavens! why should one refuse to
marry a girl whom he loves just because she is rich?"

He paused. Lato had closed his eyes.

"Are you asleep?" his father murmured.

Lato shook his head, without speaking. The old Count arose,
extinguished the candle on the table, and softly withdrew.



                             CHAPTER XVII.

                               MISMATED.


About four months afterwards Lato stood with Selina Harfink before the
altar, in a large splendidly-decorated church filled with a crowd of
people, among whom Lato, as he walked towards the altar, mechanically
sought some familiar face,--at first in vain. At last he found some
one,--his old English teacher; then a horse-dealer with whom he had had
transactions; and then there in the background--how could they have
escaped him?--about a dozen ladies of his own circle. Some of them held
their eye-glasses to their eyes, then crowded together and whispered
among themselves. He turned away his head.

How dared they whisper about him! He had not sold himself; he was
marrying a girl whom he loved, who was accidentally rich!

The long train moved slowly up to the altar. Lato felt as if he were
dragging after him a burden that grew heavier with every step. He was
glad to be able to kneel down before the priest. He looked at his
bride. She knelt beside him, brilliantly beautiful, glowing with
passion, supremely content. In vain did he look for the shimmer of
tears in her eyes, for a trace of virginal shyness in her features, for
aught that could arouse sympathy and tenderness. No; about her full red
lips there was the tremor of gratified vanity and of triumphant--love!
Love?

From her face Lato's gaze wandered among the wedding-guests.
Strangers,--all strangers. His family was represented by his father and
the Countess Zriny, a distant cousin of Count Hans, who had once been
in love with him. Lato shivered. Solemn music resounded through the
church. Tears rose to his eyes. Suddenly a strange wailing sound
mingled with the strains of the chant. He looked up. Behind the tall
church windows fluttered something black, formless, like a mourning
banner. It was the broken top of a young tree, not quite torn from the
parent stem, waving to and fro in the wind.

And then the priest uttered the words that decided his future fate.


Before the departure of the young couple, and whilst Selina was making
ready for their journey, Count Hans had an opportunity for emotion. He
paced restlessly to and fro in the room where with Lato he was awaiting
the bride, trying vainly to say something cheering to the bridegroom,
something to arouse in him a consciousness of the great good fortune in
which he himself was a sharer. At last the voices of the bride and her
friends were heard approaching. The old nobleman went up to his son,
laid his hands tenderly upon his shoulders, and exclaimed, "Hold up
your head, old fellow: your life is before you, your life is before
you!"

And Lato repeated, "My life is before me----" The next instant the door
opened.

"The carriage is waiting!"

The last words that Selina said to her friends out of the window of the
carriage just before driving off were, "Do not forget to send me the
newspapers, if there is anything in them about our marriage."

The horses started, the carriage rolled on. How swiftly the wheels flew
over the stones! In the twilight, illumined only by the glare of the
carriage lamps, Lato could see the outline of Selina's figure as she
sat beside him, and the pure red and white of her face, only partially
concealed by her veil. He put his arm around her, and she nestled close
to him and raised her lips to his. His ardour was chilled by an
annoying sensation which he could not at first trace to its source. It
was produced by the strong perfume which Selina used. It was the same
perfume that had been a favourite with the actress who had been Lato's
first love, a handsome, fair woman, with an incomparable complexion. He
was suddenly reminded that Selina looked like her, and it vexed him.


Selina had long since forgotten it,--women almost always forget such
things,--but in the early times of her marriage it would not have
pleased her to think it a "distinguished one." She was desperately in
love with Lato, served him like a slave, racked what brain she had to
prepare surprises for him in the way of costly gifts, and left entirely
to him the disposal of her property. Not a penny would she call her
own. It all belonged to him,--all. It was quite touching to see her
penitent air when she applied to him, whispering, "I am a terrible
spendthrift, Lato. Do not be angry; but I want some more money. Will
you not pay my milliner's bill for me? And then, if I am very good,
you'll give me something to put in my portomonnaie,--a hundred
guilders,--only a hundred guilders, Lato darling?"

At first such scenes annoyed him terribly, and he tried hard to prevent
them. Then--well, he got used to them, even felt flattered, touched;
almost forgot whence came the money that was now so abundant with
him,--believed, at all events, that others had forgotten it,--and
played the lavish husband with his wife, bestowed costly gifts upon
her, and was pleased with her admiration of them.

All this time he lived in a kind of whirl. He had accustomed himself to
his young wife's endearments, as he had accustomed himself to travel
with a train of servants, to occupy the best rooms in the best hotels,
to drink the best wines, to smoke the best cigars, to have enormous
bills at the tailor's, to gratify all his expensive tastes, to spend
time in devising costly plans for the future, and, half involuntarily,
to do it all as if he no longer remembered a time when he had been
obliged to consider well every outlay.

In after-years his cheeks burned when he recalled this part of his
life,--but there was no denying the fact--he had for a time been
ostentatiously extravagant, and with his wife's money. Poor Lato!

Two years the whirl lasted; no longer.

At first he had tried to continue in the service, but the hardships of
a military life became burdensome to him as he yielded to the new sense
of luxury, and Selina, for her part, had no taste for the annoyances
that fell to her share in the nomadic life of a soldier's wife. He
resigned. They planned to purchase an estate, but could not agree upon
where to purchase; and they zigzagged about, travelling from Nice to
Rome, and from Rome to Paris, everywhere courteously received and
fêted.

Then came their child. Selina, of course, passed the time of her
confinement in Vienna, to be under her mother's protection, and nearly
paid for her child's life with her own. When she recovered, her entire
nature seemed changed; she was always tired. Her charm had fled. Her
nose grew sharp, there were hard lines about her mouth, her face became
thin, while her figure broadened.

And her feeling for Lato underwent a fundamental alteration. Hers was
one of those sensual, cold-hearted natures which, when the first
tempest of passion has subsided, are incapable of any deeper sentiment,
and her tenderness towards her husband decreased with astonishing
celerity. Henceforth, vanity became her sole passion, and in Vienna she
was best able to satisfy it. The greatest enjoyment she derived from
her foreign travel and from her intercourse with distinguished people
lay in being able to discourse of them to her Vienna circle. She went
into the world more than ever,--the world which she had known from
childhood,--and dragged Lato with her. She was never weary of
displaying in financial society her new title, her distinguished
husband, her eccentric Parisian toilets.

Her world sufficed her. She never dreamed of asking admission to his
world. He made several melancholy attempts to introduce his wife among
his relatives; they failed lamentably. No one had any particular
objection to Selina. Had she been a poor girl all would have vied with
one another in doing something for her "for dear Lato's sake." But to
receive all that loud, vulgar, ostentatious Harfink tribe, no one could
require of them, not even the spirit of the age. Why did not Lato take
his wife to the country, and separate her from her family and their
influence? Then after some years, perhaps---- It was such an
unfortunate idea to settle in Vienna with his wife!

Yes, an unfortunate idea!

Wherever he showed himself with his wife, at the theatre, on the
Prater, everywhere, his acquaintances greeted him cordially from a
distance, and avoided him as if he had been stricken with a contagious
disease. On the occasion of the death of one of his aunts, he received
kind letters of condolence from relatives who lived in the next street!

Selina was not in the slightest degree annoyed by all this. It always
had been so in Austria, and probably always would be so. She had
expected nothing else. And Lato,--what had he expected? he who
understood such matters better than she did? A miracle, perhaps; at
least an exception in his favour.

His life in Vienna was torture to him. He made front against his former
world, defied it, even vilified it, and was possessed by a hungry
desire for what he had lost, for what he had prized so little when it
was naturally his own. If he could but have found something to replace
what he had resigned! Sincerity, earnestness, a deeper grasp of life,
elevation of thought,--all of which he might have found among the best
of the _bourgeoisie_,--he had sufficient intellect and refinement to
have enjoyed. Perhaps under such influences there was stuff in him of a
kind to be remodelled, and he might have become a useful, capable man.
But the circle in which he was forced to live was not that of the true
_bourgeoisie_. It was an inorganic mass of rich people and idlers
tossed together, all with titles of yesterday, who cared for nothing in
the world save money-getting and display,--a world in which the men
played at languid dulness and the women at frivolity, because they
thought it '_chic_,' in which all wanted to be 'fast,' to make a
sensation, to be talked of in the newspapers,--a world which, with
ridiculous exclusiveness, boasted of its anti-Semitic prejudices, and
in which the money acquired with such unnatural celerity had no room
for free play, so that the golden calf, confined within so limited an
arena, cut the most extraordinary capers. These people spent their time
in perfecting themselves in aristocratic demeanour and in talking
alternately of good manners, elegant toilets, and refined _menus_. The
genuine patrician world of trade held itself aloof from this tinsel
society, or only accidentally came into contact with it.

Lato's was a very unpleasant experience. The few people of solid worth
whom he met at his mother-in-law's avoided him. His sole pleasure in
life was his little son, who daily grew plumper, prettier, merrier. He
would stretch out his arms to his father when the merest baby, and crow
with delight. What a joy it was for Lato to clasp the little creature
in his arms!

The boy was just fifteen months old when the first real quarrel took
place between Lato and his wife, and estranged them for life.

Hitherto Lato had had the management and right of disposal of his
wife's property, and although more than one disagreeable remark anent
his extravagance had fallen from her lips he had taken pains not to
heed them. But one day he bought a pair of horses for which he had been
longing, paying an amateur price for them.

He was so delighted with his purchase that he immediately drove the
horses in the Prater to try them. On his return home he was received by
Selina with a very cross face. She had heard of his purchase, and asked
about the horses.

He praised them with enthusiasm. Forgetting for the moment all the
annoyances of his position, he cried, "Come and look at them!"

"No need," she made answer. "You did not ask my opinion before buying
them; it is of no consequence now whether I like them or not."

He bit his lip.

"What did you pay for them?" she asked. He told her the price; she
shrugged her shoulders and laughed contemptuously. "So they told me,"
she said. "I would not believe it!"

"When you have seen the horses you will not think the price too high,"
Lato said, controlling himself with difficulty.

"Oh, the price may be all right," she rejoined, sharply, "but the
extravagance seems great to me. Of course, if you have it----"

Everything swam before his eyes. He turned and left the room. That
very day he sold the horses, fortunately without loss. He brought the
bank-notes to his wife, who was seated at her writing-table, and put
them down before her. She was startled, and tried to compromise
matters. He was inflexible. For half a day the apple of discord in the
shape of a bundle of bank-notes lay on the writing-table, a bait for
dishonest servants; then it vanished within Selina's desk.

From that moment Lato was not to be induced to use a single penny of
his wife's money. He retrenched in all directions, living as well as he
could upon his own small income, derived from his maternal inheritance,
and paid him punctually by his father.

He was not in the least annoyed by the shabby part he was consequently
obliged to play among his wealthy associates, but when he recalled how
he had previously appropriated his wife's money his cheeks and ears
burned furiously.

There was no longer any talk of buying an estate. Instead, Selina's
mother bought one. The Treurenbergs could pass their summers there. Why
squander money on an estate? One magnificent castle in the family was
enough.

Shortly after Lato's estrangement from his wife his little son died of
the croup. This was the annihilation of his existence; the last sunbeam
upon his path faded; all around and within him was dark and cold.


He ponders all this as he rides from Komaritz to Dobrotschau. His
horse's pace grows slower and slower, his bridle hangs loose. Evening
has set in. Suddenly a sharp whirr rouses the lonely man. He looks up,
to see a belated bird hurrying home to its nest. His dreamy gaze
follows the black fluttering thing, and he wonders vaguely whether the
little wanderer will find his home and be received with affection by
his feathered family. The idle fancy makes him smile; but, "What is
there to laugh at?" he suddenly reflects. "Good heavens! a life
that warms itself beside another life, in which it finds peace and
comfort,--is not this the central idea of all existence, great or
small? Everything else in the world is but of secondary interest."

For him there is no human being in whom he can confide, to whom he can
turn for sympathy; for him there is only cheerless solitude.

The moon is setting; above the low mountain-spur its silver crescent
hovers in the liquid light green of the summer evening sky. The castle
of Dobrotschau looms up in the twilight.

"What is that? Along the road, towards the belated horseman, comes a
white figure. Can it be Selina? His heart beats fast; he is ready to be
grateful for the smallest proof of affection, so strong is the yearning
within him for a little human sympathy. No, it is not Selina; it is a
tall, slender girl. She has seen him, and hastens her steps.

"Lato!" calls an anxious, familiar voice.

"Olga!" he exclaims, and, springing from his horse, he approaches her.
Yes, it is Olga,--Olga in a white dress, without hat or gloves, and
with a look of anxiety in her eyes.

"Thank heaven!" she exclaims.

"My child, what is the matter?" he asks, half laughing.

"I have been so anxious," she confesses. "You are an hour and a half
late for dinner, and you know how foolish I am. All sorts of fancies
beset me. My imagination works swiftly."

"You are a dear child, Olga," he whispers, softly, taking her hand and
kissing it twice. Then they walk together towards the castle. He leads
his horse by the bridle, and listens to all the trifling matters of
which she tells him.

The world is no longer dreary and empty for him. Here is at least one
person who is not indifferent to his going and coming.

At Dobrotschau he finds the entire party in the garden-room. Selina and
the Pole are playing a duett. Dinner is over. They could not wait for
him, Selina explains, because the cook was trying to-day for the first
time a soufflé of Parmesan cheese and truffles, which would have been
ruined by delay. But his hospitable mother-in-law adds,--

"Your dinner is all ready in the dining-room. I gave orders that it
should be served as soon as you came."

And Lato goes to the dining-hall, a magnificent oak-wainscoted room, in
which the chandelier, lighted in his honour, represents a round island
of light in a sea of black darkness. The soup-tureen is on the
sideboard: a servant lifts the cover, and the butler ladles out a
plateful of the soup and places it before Lato.

He takes a spoonful discontentedly, then motions to the butler to take
the plate away. Olga suddenly appears.

"Have you left any for me?" she asks. "I am fearfully hungry, for I
could not eat any dinner."

"From anxiety?" asks Lato.

"Yes," she says, laughing, "from anxiety." And she takes a seat
opposite him.

"Oh, you silly girl!" says Treurenberg, watching her with satisfaction
as she sips her soup. Lato himself suddenly has an access of appetite.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.

                           A FRIEND'S ADVICE.


Few things in this world are more unpleasant than to be obliged to
admit the excellence of a friend's advice when it runs counter to all
our most secret and decided inclinations.

Harry Leskjewitsch finds himself thus disagreeably situated the evening
after Lato's visit to Komaritz.

While Lato, "gens-d'armed" by two lackeys, is eating his late dinner
with Olga, Harry is striding discontentedly to and fro in the steep,
uneven court-yard at Komaritz, muttering between his teeth,--

"Lato is right, quite right. I am behaving unpardonably: no respectable
man would play this double part. I must go away."

Yes, away; but how can he go away while he knows that Baron Wenkendorf
is at Zirkow? It appears to him that he can still do something to
prevent Zdena from giving ear to her elderly suitor, for such he
certainly seems to be. Harry has been often at Zirkow of late,--no
fewer than three times since his entanglement,--and he has consequently
had opportunity to watch Zdena's behaviour. Her feeling for the man has
certainly reached another stage; she conducts herself with more gravity
towards him, and with more cordiality; she often turns to him with
trifling questions, and seems to take a kind of pleasure in his
society.

"Who knows?" Harry says to himself, clinching his hand and almost mad
with jealousy, as he paces the court-yard to and fro.

The crescent moon in the August sky creeps over the dark roof of the
brew-house. The air is freshened by the fragrance of the group of
walnuts; but another and more penetrating odour mingles with it,--the
odour of old wood impregnated with some kind of fermenting stuff.
There, against the uneven wall of the old brew-house, stands a row of
huge casks.

The casks recall to Harry memories that fill him with sweet and bitter
sensations. Into one of them he had crept with Zdena, during a storm,
in the early years of their acquaintance. Ah, what a bewitching little
creature she was then! He can see her distinctly now, with her long,
golden hair; her large, brown eyes, that had so truthful a gaze; the
short upper lip of the childish mouth, that seemed always on the point
of asking a question; yes, even the slender, childish hands he can see,
with the wide, white apron-sleeves; the short skirt and the bare little
legs, usually, it must be confessed, much scratched. He recalls the
short, impatient movement with which she used to pull her skirts over
her knees when she sat down. In one of those casks they had taken
refuge from a shower,--he and she,--and they had sat there, close
together, looking out upon the world through the gray curtain of the
rain. How comically she had peered out, now and then holding out her
hand to make sure that it was still pouring! It would not stop. Harry
can hear at this moment the rustle of the rain through the foliage of
the walnuts, its drip upon the cask, and the cackling of the agitated
geese in the court-yard. He had told the child stories to amuse her,
and she had gone to sleep with her head on his shoulder, and finally he
had taken off his jacket to wrap it about her as he carried her through
the rain into the house.

Oh, what a lecture they had had from Mademoiselle, who, meanwhile, had
been sending everywhere to find the children, and was half crazy with
anxiety!

"I cannot conceive why you should have been anxious, mademoiselle," he
had said, with all the dignity of his twelve years. "You ought to know
that Zdena is well taken care of when she is with me."

Twelve years have passed since then, but it seems to him suddenly that
it all happened only yesterday.

"Well taken care of," he mutters to himself,--"well taken care of. I
believe that she would be well taken care of with me to-day, but--good
heavens!"

His lips are dry, his throat feels contracted. Up to the present moment
he has regarded his betrothal to Paula as a disagreeable temporary
entanglement; never has he viewed it as a serious, enduring misfortune.
Lato's words have thrown a vivid light upon his position; he sees
clearly that he is no longer a free agent, and that every hour passed
with Paula rivets his fetters more securely. Yes, Lato is right; he
must go away. But he must see her once more before he goes,--only once.



                              CHAPTER XIX.

                         FRAU ROSA'S BIRTHDAY.


High festival is being held at Zirkow in honour of Frau Rosamunda's
birthday, which is observed this year with even more ceremony than
usual. Thanks to a fortunate combination of circumstances, the major
has it in his power to bestow a costly gift upon his wife this year. He
has lately concluded a very profitable bargain: he has sold the entire
interior arrangements of the brew-house as old iron and copper to a Jew
for the magnificent sum of fifteen hundred guilders. With such wealth
much can be done. Nothing now prevents the devoted husband from
fulfilling Frau Rosamunda's two ardent desires,--a trip to Bayreuth and
the thorough repair of the much-defaced decorations on the Zirkow walls
and ceilings. On her birthday-table Frau Rosamunda finds, in the midst
of a tasteful arrangement of flowers, first, a kind of sign in
miniature,--_i.e_., a square black card, upon which is written, in red
letters, "Good for house-decorators,"--and a large earthenware prize
pig with stiff, straddling legs and a beautifully-rounded body, upon
which is written, also in red letters, "A steed to carry you to
Bayreuth." A bouquet of four-leaved clover (Zdena gathered it at dawn)
is stuck like a green plume between the animal's projecting ears. A
pin-cushion covered with a delicate imitation in needle-work of
Irish guipure, the piano arrangement of 'Tristan and Isolde' and a
potpourri from 'Parzifal,' both for four hands, complete the number of
birthday-gifts. The Irish guipure is Zdena's work; the music comes from
Wenkendorf. All these things even the house-decorator are of secondary
importance to Frau Rosamunda. Her whole attention is absorbed by the
pig, at which enigmatic monster she gazes in wonder.

"A steed to carry you to Bayreuth." It sounds like a poor jest, a very
poor jest.

The major looks at his wife with a broad smile.

"Take up the pig and shake it a little," he says at last. Frau
Rosamunda obeys. There is a clink of coin. She understands, and runs to
her husband with a cry of delight.

She celebrates the remainder of her birthday by playing duets with her
cousin from 'Tristan and Isolde' and 'Parzifal' alternately. The major
walks about with his hands clasped behind him, deep in thought and well
content, like a man who is about to carry out a carefully-devised plan.

The afternoon sun is casting long shadows, and Krupitschka, who has
just finished furbishing up the silver,--in honour of the birthday six
more silver dishes than usual have been brought out to-day,--is sitting
on a bench at the back of the castle, refreshing himself with an
examination of the foreign dictionary which he has purchased with the
money for his cantharides,--and which, by the way, he finds highly
unsatisfactory,--when a young officer of hussars upon an English
chestnut mare with a hide like satin comes galloping into the
court-yard.

At sight of the horse and its rider all clouds vanish from
Krupitschka's horizon; in his opinion there is no finer sight in the
world than a "handsome officer upon a handsome horse."

He is not the only one to admire Harry Leskjewitsch on his mare
Frou-Frou. At one of the windows of the castle a pale, girlish face
appears, and a pair of bright brown eyes look down into the court-yard,
for a moment only. But Harry has seen the face, quickly as it
disappears, and his heart beats fast.

"Are the ladies at home?" he asks Krupitschka, as he gives his steed in
charge to a groom who hurries up, clad in a striped stable-jacket very
much darned at the elbows, and a cap with a tarnished silver band.

"They are, Herr Baron." And Krupitschka shows Harry up the steps and to
the door of the drawing-room, which he opens with dignity, not because
such ceremony is at all necessary, but because the young man has been
his favourite from childhood, and he loves to perform any service for
him.

When Harry enters, Frau Rosamunda and Wenkendorf are still at the
piano, working away at 'Parzifal,' and do not seem over-pleased by the
interruption. The major is lying back in a rocking-chair, smoking a
cigarette and upon his nephew's entrance springs up with undisguised
delight and goes towards him with extended hands.

"Tell the Baroness Zdena that a visitor has arrived!" he calls out to
Krupitschka; then, turning to Harry, he says, smiling, "And so you have
come to congratulate?"

"Congratulate?" Harry repeats, surprised and preoccupied.

"Oh, you have forgotten, then?" the major rejoins.

Harry slaps his forehead. "Dearest aunt, forgive me! how thoughtless I
am!" And he kisses Frau Rosamunda's hand.

"I do not take it at all ill of you," she assures him. "At my age
people would rather have their birthday forgotten than remembered."

"Oh--ah! I have not observed that," the major declares.

"Oh, it is different for you. You may be allowed to take notice of my
being each year one year older, always provided that you give me upon
all my birthdays as great a pleasure as to-day."

"You cannot reckon upon that, my dear; all years are not alike," the
major replies. "This was a lucky chance."

"Have you had a stroke of good fortune, uncle?" Harry asks, trying to
take an interest in the matter.

"Yes," the major informs him; "I have just concluded a brilliant
transaction. I have sold the iron from the interior of the brew-house."

"For how much, may I ask?"

"Fifteen hundred guilders," the major declares, triumphantly. "I would
not abate one penny. The superintendent was surprised at the sum, I can
tell you."

"I do not understand such matters," Harry rejoins, thinking of the
enormous expense of fitting up the brew-house some years ago. His
uncle's 'brilliant transaction' reminds him of the story of 'Hans in
Luck.' "And in consequence your birthday-gifts have been very superior,
aunt?"

"Yes."

Frau Rosamunda displays with delight the prize pig. The green plume
between its ears is slightly faded, but the coins in its body clink as
triumphantly as ever.

"'A steed to carry you to Bayreuth,'" Harry reads. "I am so glad, my
dear aunt, that your wish is to be fulfilled."

"Tickets for two performances besides the journey," the major proudly
declares.

"And my cousin has surprised me with some delightful music which I have
long wanted."

"Not worth mentioning, Rosamunda," Wenkendorf says, deprecatingly.

"My wife's birthday has really turned out a Wagner festival," the
major declares. "Since ten o'clock this morning these two artists have
been playing nothing but Wagner, for their own pleasure and the
conversion of their hearers. Zdena ran away, but I stood my ground, and
I have become quite accustomed to the noise."

"That is a good sign," Wenkendorf assures him.

"You ought to hear Wagner's compositions very often. What do you say,
Roderich, to our playing for Harry some of the loveliest bits of
'Parzifal'? We are just in the mood."

"Do not let me interrupt you; pray go on; it will give me the greatest
pleasure," Harry murmurs, glancing towards the door. Why does she not
come?

Meanwhile, the two amateurs have begun with untiring energy.

"Kundry's Ride!" Frau Rosamunda calls out to her nephew, while her
hands dash over the keys. Harry does not hear her. He has seated
himself beside the major, and absently takes a cigarette from the case
which his uncle offers him.

"I came to bid you good-bye," he says, in an uncertain voice.

"Indeed!" says the major, looking at him scrutinizingly. "Is your leave
at an end?"

"No, but----" Harry hesitates and pulls at his moustache.

"H'm!" A sly smile quivers upon the major's broad face. "Have you
quarrelled with your betrothed?"

"No, but----"

The door opens, and Zdena enters, slender and pale, dressed in a
simply-fashioned linen gown. She has lost her fresh colour, and her
face is much thinner, but her beauty, far from being injured thereby,
is heightened by an added charm,--a sad, touching charm, that threatens
to rob Harry of the remnant of reason he can still call his.

"How are you, Zdena?" he says, going to meet her, while the warmest
sympathy trembles in his voice. "You look pale. Are you well?"

"The heat oppresses me," she says, with a slight forced smile,
withdrawing the hand which he would fain have retained longer in his
clasp than was fitting under the circumstances.

"The Balsam motif," Frau Rosamunda calls from the piano.

After a while Zdena begins:

"How are they all at Komaritz? Heda sent her congratulations to-day
with some lovely flowers, but said nothing with regard to the welfare
of the family."

"I wonder that Heda did not remind you of the birthday, Harry!" remarks
the major.

"Oh, she rejoices over every forgetfulness in those around her," Harry
observes, with some malice: "she likes to stand alone in her extreme
virtue."

"Motif of the Redeemer's Sufferings," Frau Rosamunda calls out. Zdena
leans forward, and seems absorbed in Wagner. Harry cannot take his eyes
off her.

"What a change!" he muses. "Can she--could she be suffering on my
account?"

There is an agreeable flutter of his entire nervous system: it mingles
with the sense of unhappiness which he drags about with him.

"Oh, what a double-dyed fool I was!" a voice within him cries out. "How
could I be so vexed with her scrap of childish worldly wisdom, instead
of simply laughing at her for it, teasing her a little about it, and
then, after I had set her straight, forgiving her, oh, how tenderly!"

"Zdena is not quite herself. I do not know what ails her," said the
major, stroking the girl's thin cheek.

"You have long been a hypochondriac on your own account; now you are
trying it for other people," says Zdena, rising and going to the
window, where she busies herself with some embroidery. "I have a little
headache," she adds.

"Earthly Enjoyment motif," Frau Rosamunda calls out, enthusiastically,
in a raised voice.

The major bursts into Homeric laughter, in which Zdena, whose
overstrained nerves dispose her for tears as well as laughter, joins.
Harry alone does not laugh: his head is too full of other matters.

"Is Zdena also going to Bayreuth?" he asks.

"No," the major replies; "the finances are not equal to that."

"'Tis a pity," Harry remarks: "a little change of air might do her
good."

"So it seems to me," the major assents, "and I was about to propose a
plan. By the way, when do you take your departure?"

"Are you going away?" asks Frau Rosamunda, rising from the piano, aglow
with enthusiasm and artistic zeal, to join the trio. Wenkendorf also
rises and takes a seat near the rest.

"He is going away," the major replies.

"Yes," assents Harry.

"But what does your betrothed say?"

"I have already put that question to him," said the major.

"One of my comrades has suddenly been taken ill," Harry stammers,
frowning; "and so--of course it is very unpleasant just now----"

"Very, very," murmurs the major, with a hypocritical show of sympathy.
"When do you start?"

"Oh, the day after to-morrow."

"That suits me remarkably well," the major remarks. "There will be a
vacant room at Komaritz, and Zdena might go over for a couple of days."

Wenkendorf frowns disapprovingly. "It is a great pity that you are not
going with us to Bayreuth," he says, turning to the young girl.

"That would be a fine way to cure the headache," the major observes.

"I would rather stay at home with you, uncle dear," Zdena assures him.

"That will not do. Friday evening my wife starts for Bayreuth; Saturday
I expect the painters; the entire house will be turned upside-down, and
I have no use for you. Therefore, since there is room for you at
Komaritz----"

"There is always room at Komaritz for Zdena," Harry eagerly declares.

"Yes,--particularly after you have gone. It is decided; she is going. I
shall take her over on Saturday afternoon," the major announces. "You
can tell Heda."

"And who will go to Bayreuth with my aunt?" asks Harry.

"Her musical cousin Roderich. By the way, Wenkendorf, you will come
back to Zirkow from Bayreuth?"

"Of course I shall escort Rosamunda upon her return."

"We shall be glad to welcome you for the hunting. I take it for granted
you will give us a long visit then?"

"That will depend upon circumstances," says Wenkendorf, with a
significant glance towards Zdena, which does not escape Harry.

Meanwhile, the August twilight has set in. Krupitschka brings the
lamps. Harry rises.

"Will you not stay for supper?" asks Frau Rosa.

"No, thank you; I have a deal to do."

"No wonder, before leaving," says the wily major, not making the
slightest effort to detain the young fellow. "You are looking for your
sabre?--there it is. Ah, what a heavy thing! When I reflect upon how
many years I dragged such a rattling tool about with me!"

Harry has gone. The major has accompanied him to the court-yard, and he
now returns to the room, chuckling, and rubbing his hands, as if at
some successful trick.

"What an idea! So sudden a journey!--and a betrothed man!" Frau Rosa
remarks, thoughtfully.

"If I were his betrothed I would hurry and have the monogram
embroidered on my outfit," drawls the major. "Let me come there, if you
please." These last words are addressed to Wenkendorf, who is about to
close the piano. The major takes his place at it, bangs away at his
triumphal march with immense energy and a tolerably harmonious bass,
then claps down the cover of the much-tortured instrument, locks it,
and puts the key in his pocket. "There, that's enough for to-day!" he
declares.



                              CHAPTER XX.

                            KOMARITZ AGAIN.


The major carried out his plan. On Saturday the painter made solemn
entry into Zirkow with his train of workmen, their ladders, paint-pots,
and brushes, to turn the orderly household upside-down,--whereupon
Baron Paul drove Zdena to Komaritz, in the same drag in which the child
of six had first been driven thither by him.

More than a dozen years had passed since that afternoon, and yet every
detail of the drive was vividly present in the young girl's mind. Much
had changed since then; the drag had grown far shabbier, and the fiery
chestnuts had been tamed and lamed by time, but the road was just as
bad, and the country around as lovely and home-like. From time to time
Zdena raised her head to gaze where the stream ran cool and gray on the
other side of the walnut-trees that bordered the road, or at the brown
ruin of the castle, the jagged tower of which was steadily rising in
the blue atmosphere against the distant horizon. And then she would
pull her straw hat lower over her eyes and look only at the backs of
the horses. Why did her uncle keep glancing at her with such a sly
smile? He could not divine the strange mixture of joy and unrest that
was filling her soul. No one must know it. Poor Zdena! All night long
she had been tormented by the thought that she had yielded too readily,
had acceded too willingly to her uncle's proposal to take her to
Komaritz during the bustle made by the painters, and she had soothed
her scruples by saying to herself, "He will not be there." And, yet,
the nearer they came to Komaritz the more persistent was the joyous
suggestion within her, "What if he were not yet gone!"

Click-clack! The ancient St. John, whose bead is lying at his feet
precisely as it was lying so many years ago, stands gray and tall among
the lindens in the pasture near the village; they have reached
Komaritz. Click-clack!--the horses make an ambitious effort to
end their journey with credit. The same ox, recently butchered,
hangs before the butcher-shop on an old walnut; the same odour of
wagon-grease and singed hoofs comes from the smithy, and before it the
smith is examining the foot of the same horse, while a dozen village
children stand around gazing. The same dear old Komaritz!

"If only he might be there!"

With a sudden jolt the drag rolls through the picturesque, ruinous
archway of the court-yard. The chestnuts are reined in, the major's sly
smile broadens expressively, and Zdena's young pulses throb with
breathless delight.

Yes, he is there! standing in the door-way of the old house, an
embarrassed smile on his thin, tanned face as he offers his hand to
Zdena to help her down from her high seat.

"What a surprise! You here?" exclaims the old dragoon, with
poorly-feigned astonishment, in which there is a slight tinge of
ridicule. "I thought you would be miles away by this time. It is a good
thing that you were able to postpone your departure for a few days. No,
I can't stop; I must drive home again immediately. Adieu, children!"

Baron Paul turns his tired steeds, and, gaily waving his hand in token
of farewell, vanishes beneath the archway.

There they stand, she and he, alone in front of the house. The old
walnuts, lifting their stately crests into the blue skies along one
side of the court-yard, whisper all sorts of pleasant things to them,
but they have no words for each other.

At last Harry asks, taking the black leather travelling-bag from his
cousin's hand, "Is this all your luggage?"

"The milkman is to bring a small trunk," she replies, without looking
at him.

"We have had your old room made ready for you."

"Ah, my old room,--how delightful!"

They cross the threshold, when Harry suddenly stands still.

"Are you not going to give me your hand?" he asks, in a tone of
entreaty, whereupon she extends her hand, and then instantly withdraws
it. She seems to herself to be doing wrong. As matters stand, she must
not make the smallest advance to him,--no, not the smallest: she has
resolved upon that. In fact, she did not expect to see him here, and
she must show him that she is quite annoyed by his postponing his
departure.

Yap, yap, yap! the rabble of dachshunds, multiplied considerably in the
last twelve years, comes tumbling down the steps to leap about Zdena;
Harry's faithful hound Hector comes and puts his paws on her shoulder;
and, lastly, the ladies come down into the hall,--Heda, the Countess
Zriny, Fräulein Laut,--and, surrounding Zdena, carry her off to her
room. Here they stay talking with her for a while; then they withdraw,
each to follow her own devices.

How glad the girl is to be alone! She is strangely moved, perplexed,
and yet unaccountably happy.

It is clear that Harry intends to dissolve the engagement into which so
mysterious a chain of circumstances has forced him. The difficulty of
doing this Zdena does not take into consideration. Paula must see that
he does not care for her; and then--then there will be nothing left for
her save to release him. Thus Zdena concludes, and the world looks very
bright to her.

Oh, the dear old room! she would not exchange it for a kingdom.
How home-like and comfortable!--so shady and cool, with its deep
window-recesses, where the sunshine filters in through the green,
rustling net-work of vines; with its stiff antiquated furniture forming
so odd a contrast to the wild luxuriance of extraordinary flowers with
which a travelling fresco-painter ages ago decorated walls and ceiling;
with its old-fashioned embroidered _prie-dieu_ beneath an ancient
bronze crucifix, and its little bed, so snowy white and cool, fragrant
with lavender and orris!

The floor, of plain deal planks, scrubbed to a milky whiteness, is
bare, except that beside the bed lies a rug upon which a very yellow
tiger is rolling, and gnashing his teeth, in a very green meadow, and
on the wall hangs one single picture,--a faded chromo, at which Zdena,
when a child, had almost stared her eyes out.

The picture represents a young lady gazing at her reflection in a
mirror. Her hair is worn in tasteless, high puffs and much powdered,
her waist is unnaturally long and slim, and her skirts are bunched up
about her hips. To the modern observer she is not attractive, but Zdena
hails her as an old acquaintance. Beneath the picture are the words
"_Lui plairai-je?_" The thing hangs in one of the window-embrasures,
above a marquetrie work-table, upon which has been placed a nosegay of
fresh, fragrant roses.

"Who has plucked and placed them there?" Zdena asks herself. Suddenly a
shrill bell rings, calling to table the inmates of Komaritz in house
and garden. Zdena hurriedly picks out of the nosegay the loveliest bud,
and puts it in her breast, then looks at herself in the glass,--a tall,
narrow glass in a smooth black frame with brass rosettes at the
corners,--and murmurs, smiling, "_Lui plairai-je?_" then blushes
violently and takes out the rose from her bosom. It is a sin even to
have such a thought,--under existing circumstances.



                              CHAPTER XXI.

                              "POOR LATO!"


Five hours have passed since Zdena's arrival in Komaritz. Harry has
been very good; that is, he has scarcely made an appearance; perhaps
because he is conscious that when he is with Zdena he can hardly take
his eyes off her, which, "under existing circumstances," might strike
others as, to Bay the least, extraordinary.

After dinner he goes off partridge shooting, inviting his younger
brother, who is devoted to him and whom he spoils like a mother, to
accompany him. But Vips, as the family prefer to call him instead of
Vladimir, although usually proud and happy to be thus distinguished by
his elder brother, declines his invitation today. In fact, he has
fallen desperately in love with Zdena. He is lying at her feet on the
steps leading from the dwelling-room into the garden. His hair is
beautifully brushed, and he has on his best coat.

The Countess Zriny is in her room, writing to her father confessor;
Fräulein Laut is at the piano, practising something by Brahms, to which
musical hero she is almost as much devoted as is Rosamunda to her
idolized Wagner; and Heda is sitting beside her cousin on the
garden-steps, manufacturing with praiseworthy diligence crochetted
stars of silk.

"What do you really think of Harry's betrothal, Zdena?" she begins at
last, after a long silence.

At this question the blood rushes to Zdena's cheeks; nevertheless her
answer sounds quite self-possessed.

"What shall I say? I was very much surprised."

"So was I," Heda confesses. "At first I was raging, for, after all,
_elle n'est pas de notre monde_. But lately so many young men of our
set have married nobodies that one begins to be accustomed to it,
although I must say I am by no means enchanted with it yet. One's own
brother,--it comes very near; but it is best to shut one's eyes in such
cases. Setting aside the _mésalliance_, there is no objection to make
to Paula. She is pretty, clover, frightfully cultivated,--too
cultivated: it is rather bad form,--and for the rest, if she would only
dress a little better, she would be quite presentable. And then she
makes such advances; it is touching. The last time I dined at
Dobrotschau I found in my napkin a butterfly pendant, with little
sapphires and rubies in its diamond wings. I must show it to you; 'tis
delicious," she rattles on.

"And what did you find in your napkin, Vips?" asks Zdena, who seems to
herself to be talking of people with whom she has not the slightest
connection, so strange is the whole affair.

"I? I was not at the dinner," says the boy.

"Not invited?" Zdena rallies him.

"Not invited!" Vips draws down the corners of his mouth scornfully.
"Oh, indeed! not invited! Why, they invited the entire household,--even
her!" He motions disdainfully towards the open door, through which
Fräulein Laut can be seen sitting at the piano. "Yes, we were even
asked to bring Hector. But I stayed at home, because I cannot endure
those Harfinks."

"Ah! your sentiments are also opposed to the _mésalliance_?" Zdena goes
on, ironically.

"_Mésalliance!_" shouts Vips. "You know very well that I am a Liberal!"

Vips finished reading "Don Carlos" about a fortnight ago, and even
before then showed signs of Liberal tendencies.

The previous winter, when he attended the representation, at a theatre
in Bohemia, of a new play of strong democratic colouring, he applauded
all the freethinking tirades with such vehemence that his tutor was at
last obliged, to the great amusement of the public, to hold back his
hands.

"Ah, indeed, you are Liberal?" says Zdena. "I am delighted to hear it."

"Of course I am; but every respectable man must be a bit of an
aristocrat," Vips declares, grandly, "and I cannot endure that Harry
should marry that Paula. I told him so to his face; and I am not going
to his wedding. I cannot understand why he takes her, for he's in
love----" He suddenly pauses. Two gentlemen are coming through the
garden towards the steps,--Harry and Lato.

Lato greets Zdena cordially. Heda expresses her surprise at Harry's
speedy return from his shooting, and he, who always now suspects some
hidden meaning in her remarks, flushes and frowns as he replies, "I saw
Treurenberg in the distance, and so I turned back. Besides, the
shooting all went wrong to-day," he adds, with a compassionate glance
at the large hound now stretched out at his master's feet at the bottom
of the steps. "He would scarcely stir: I cannot understand it, he is
usually so fresh and gay, and loves to go shooting more than all the
others; to-day he was almost sullen, and lagged behind,--hey, old
boy?" He stoops and strokes the creature's neck, but the dog seems
ill-tempered, and snaps at him.

"What! snap--snap at me! that's something new," Harry exclaims,
frowning; then, seizing the animal by the collar, he shakes it
violently and hurls it from him. "Be off!" he orders, sternly. The dog,
as if suddenly ashamed, looks back sadly, and then walks slowly away,
with drooping ears and tail. "I don't know what is the matter with the
poor fellow!" Harry says, really troubled.

"He walks strangely; he seems stiff," Vladimir remarks, looking after
the dog. "It seems to hurt him."

"Some good-for-nothing boy must have thrown a stone at him and bruised
his back," Harry decides.

"You had better be careful with that dog," Heda now puts in her word.
"Several dogs hereabouts have gone mad, and one roamed about the
country for some time before he could be caught and killed."

"Pray, hush!" Harry exclaims, almost angrily, to his sister, with whom
he is apt to disagree: "you always forebode the worst. If a fly stings
one you are always sure that it has just come from an infected horse or
cow."

"You have lately been so irritable, I cannot imagine what is the matter
with you," lisps Hedwig.

Harry frowns.

Lato, meanwhile, has paid no heed to these remarks: he is apparently
absorbed in his own thoughts, as, sitting on a lower step, he has been
drawing with the handle of his riding-whip cabalistic signs in the
gravel of the path. Now he looks up.

"I have a letter for you from Paula,--here it is," he observes, handing
Harry a thick packet wrapped in light-blue tissue paper. While Harry,
with a dubious expression of countenance, drops the packet into his
coat-pocket, Lato continues: "Paula has all sorts of fancies about your
absence. You have not been to Dobrotschau for two days. She is afraid
you are ill, and that you are keeping it from her lest she should be
anxious. She is coming over here with my wife tomorrow afternoon to
look after you--I mean, to pay the ladies a visit." After Lato has
given utterance to these words in a smooth monotone, his expression
suddenly changes: his features betoken embarrassment, as, leaning
towards Harry, he whispers, "I should like to speak with you alone. Can
you give me a few minutes?"

Shortly afterwards, Harry rises and takes his friend with him to his
own room, a spacious vaulted chamber next to the dining-room, which he
shares with his young brother.

"Well, old fellow?" he begins, encouragingly, clapping Lato on the
shoulder. Lato clears his throat, then slowly takes his seat in an
arm-chair beside a table covered with a disorderly array of Greek and
Latin books and scribbled sheets of paper. Harry sits opposite him, and
for a while neither speaks.

The silence is disturbed only by the humming of the bees, and by the
scratching at the window of an ancient apricot-tree, which seems
desirous to call attention to what it has to say, but desists with a
low rustle that sounds like a sigh. The tall clock strikes five; it is
not late, and yet the room is dim with a gray-green light; the sunbeams
have hard work to penetrate the leafy screen before the windows.

"Well?" Harry again says, at last, gently twitching his friend's
sleeve.

"It is strange," Treurenberg begins; his voice has a hard, forced
sound, he affects an indifference foreign to his nature, "but since my
marriage I have had excellent luck at play. To speak frankly, it has
been very convenient. Do not look so startled; wait until you are in my
position. In the last few days, however, fortune has failed me. In my
circumstances this is extremely annoying." He laughs, and flicks a
grain of dust from his coat-sleeve.

Harry looks at him, surprised. "Ah! I understand. You want money. How
much? If I can help you out I shall be glad to do so."

"Six hundred guilders," says Lato, curtly.

Harry can scarcely believe his ears. How can Lato come to him for such
a trifle?

"I can certainly scrape together that much for you," he says,
carelessly, and going to his writing-table he takes a couple of
bank-notes out of a drawer. "Here!" and he offers the notes to his
friend.

Lato hesitates for a moment, as if in dread of the money, then takes
it, and puts it in his pocket.

"Thanks," he murmurs, hoarsely, and again there is a silence, which
Lato is the first to break. "Why do you look at me so inquiringly?" he
exclaims, almost angrily.

"Forgive me, Lato, we are such old friends."

"What do you want to know?"

"I was only wondering how a man in your brilliant circumstances could
be embarrassed for so trifling a sum as six hundred guilders!"

"A man in my brilliant circumstances!" Lato repeats, bitterly. "Yes,
you think, as does everybody else, that I am still living upon my
wife's money. But you are mistaken. I tried it, indeed, for a while,
but I was not made to play that part, no! It was different at first; my
wife wished that I should have the disposal of her means, and I half
cheated myself into the belief that her millions belonged to me. She
came to me for every farthing. I used to rally her upon her
extravagance; I played at magnanimity, and forgave her, and made her
costly presents--yes--good heavens, how disgusting! But that is long
since past; we have separate purses at present, thank God! I am often
too shabby nowadays for the grand folk at Dobrotschau, but that does
not trouble me." He drums nervously upon the table.

Harry looks more and more amazed. "But then I cannot see why--" he
murmurs, but lacks the courage to finish the sentence.

"I know what you wish to say," Lato continues, bitterly. "You wonder
why, under these circumstances, I cannot shake off the old habit. What
would you have? Hitherto I have won almost constantly; now my luck has
turned, and yet I cannot control myself. Those who have not this cursed
love of play in their blood cannot understand it, but play is the only
thing in the world in which I can become absorbed,--the only thing that
can rid me of all sorts of thoughts which I never ought to entertain.
There! now you know!"

He draws a deep, hoarse breath, then laughs a hard, wooden laugh. Harry
is very uncomfortable: he has never before seen Lato like this. It
distresses him to notice how his friend has changed in looks of late.
His eyes are hollow and unnaturally bright, his lips are dry and
cracked as from fever, and he is more restless than is his wont.

"Poor Lato! what fresh trouble have you had lately?" asks Harry,
longing to express his sympathy.

Lato flushes crimson, then nervously curls into dog's-ears the leaves
of a Greek grammar on the table, and shrugs his shoulders.

"Oh, nothing,--disagreeable domestic complications," he mutters,
evasively.

"Nothing new has happened, then?" asks Harry, looking at him keenly.

Lato cannot endure his gaze. "What could have happened?" he breaks
forth.

"How do you get along with your wife?"

"Not at all,--worse every day," Treurenberg says, dryly. "And now comes
this cursed, meddling Polish jackanapes----"

"If the gentlemen please, the Baroness sends me to say that coffee is
served." With these words Blasius makes his appearance at the door.
Lato springs hastily to his feet. The conversation is at an end.



                             CHAPTER XXII.

                            HARRY'S MUSINGS.


"What are you doing there, you young donkey,--your lessons not yet
learned, and wasting time in this fashion?"

These were Harry's words addressed to his young brother. The boy was
standing on an old wooden bench, gazing over the garden wall.

"I am looking after the girl who was here to-day with the people from
Dobrotschau."

"Whom do you mean?"

"Why, the beauty; Olga--Olga Dangeri is her name. Come here and see for
yourself if it is wasting time to look after her."

With an involuntary smile at the lad's precocity, Harry mounted upon
the bench beside his brother, and, through the gathering twilight,
gazed after a couple--a man and a girl--slowly sauntering along the
road outside the garden. The man walked with bent head and downcast
look; the young girl, on the contrary, held her head proudly erect, and
there was something regal in her firm gait. The man walked in silence
beside his beautiful companion, who, on the other band, never stopped
talking, chattering away with easy grace, and turning towards him the
while. The silhouette of her noble profile was clearly defined against
the evening sky. The last golden shimmer of the setting sun touched her
brown hair with a reddish gleam. She had taken off her hat and hung it
on her arm; her white gown fell in long, simple folds about her.

"There! is she not lovely?" Vips exclaimed, with boyish enthusiasm. "I
cannot understand Lato: he hardly looks at her."

Harry hung his head.

"They have vanished in the walnut avenue; you can't see them now," said
Vips, leaving his post of observation. "I like her; she is not only
beautiful, she is clever and amiable," the boy went on. "I talked with
her for quite a while, although she is not so entertaining as our
Zdena,--she is not half so witty. Let me tell you, there is no one in
all the world like our Zdena." As he spoke, Vladimir, the keen-sighted,
plucked his brother by the sleeve of his blue military blouse, and eyed
him askance. "What is the matter with you, Harry?" For Harry shook the
boy off rather rudely.

"Oh, hold your tongue for a while!" Harry exclaimed, angrily; "I have a
headache."

Thus repulsed, Vladimir withdrew, not, however, without turning several
times to look at his brother, and sighing each time thoughtfully.
Meanwhile, Harry had seated himself on the old bench whence Vips had
made his observations. His hands in his pockets, his legs stretched out
before him, he sat wrapt in gloom, digging his spurs into the ground.

He had passed a hard day,--a day spent in deceit; there was no help for
it. How mean he was in his own eyes! and yet--how could he help it?
Paula had carried out her threat, and had driven over with Selina,
bringing Olga and Lato, "to pay the ladies a visit." After the first
greetings she had paid the ladies little further attention, but had
devoted herself to her betrothed, drawing him with her into some
window-recess or shady garden nook, where she could whisper loving
words or lavish tender caresses, which he could not repulse without
positive rudeness. Oh, how long the visit had seemed to him! Although
Paula had withdrawn him from the rest of the company as far as
possible, he had found opportunity to observe them. Olga, who could not
drive backwards in a carriage comfortably, but with whom neither of the
other ladies had offered to exchange seats, had arrived rather pale and
dizzy. Zdena had immediately applied herself to restoring her, with the
ready, tender sympathy that made her so charming. Vips was right: there
was no one like Zdena in the world, although Olga was more beautiful,
and also glowing with the charm to which no man is insensible,--the
charm of a strong, passionate nature. Not even Harry, whose whole soul
was filled at present with, another, and to him an infinitely more
attractive, woman, could quite withstand this charm in Olga's society;
it made the girl seem to him almost uncanny.

It had rather displeased Harry at first--he could not himself say
why--to see how quickly a kind of intimacy established itself between
Olga and Zdena. As the two girls walked arm in arm down the garden path
he would fain have snatched Zdena away from her new friend, the pale
beautiful Olga, whom nevertheless he so pitied.

Meanwhile, Heda had done the honours of the mansion for Selina, in
which duty she was assisted by the Countess Zriny, who displayed the
greatest condescension on the occasion. Then the ladies asked to see
the house, and had been conducted from room to room, evidently amazed
at the plainness of the furniture, but loud in their praises of
everything as "so effective." Paula had begged to see Harry's room, and
had rummaged among his whips, had put one of his cigars between her
lips, and had even contrived, when she thought no one was looking, to
kiss the tip of his ear. The Countess Zriny, however, accidentally
looked round at that moment, to Harry's great confusion. Towards six
o'clock the party had taken leave, with many expressions of delight and
attachment.

Before they drove off, however, there had been a rather unpleasant
scene. Lato had requested his wife to exchange seats with Olga, since
the girl could not, without extreme discomfort, ride with her back to
the horses. Selina had refused to comply with his request, asserting
that to ride backwards was quite as unpleasant for her as for Olga.

Then Olga had joined in the conversation, saying she had heard that the
path through the forest to Dobrotschau was very picturesque, and
declaring that if Lato would accompany her she should much prefer to
walk. To this Lato had made various objections, finally yielding,
however, and setting out with his head hanging and his shoulders
drooping, like a lamb led to the sacrifice.

Harry's thoughts dwelt upon the pale girl with the large, dark eyes.
Was it possible that none of the others could read those eyes? He
recalled the tall, slim figure, the long, thin, but nobly-modelled
arms, the slender, rather long hands, in which a feverish longing to
have and to hold somewhat seemed to thrill; he recalled the gliding
melancholy of her gait, he was spellbound by the impression of her
youthful personality. Where had he seen a figure expressing the same
yearning enthusiasm? Why, in a picture by Botticelli,--a picture
representing Spring,--a pale, sultry Spring, in whose hands the flowers
faded. Something in the girl's carriage and figure reminded him of that
allegorical Spring, except that Olga's face was infinitely more
beautiful than the languishing, ecstatic countenance in the old
picture.

Long did Harry sit on the garden bench reflecting, and his reflections
became every moment more distressing. He forgot all his own troubles in
this fresh anxiety.

He thought of Treurenberg's altered mien. Olga had not yet awakened to
a consciousness of herself, and that was a comfort. She was not only
absolutely pure,--Harry was sure of that,--but she was entirely unaware
of her own state of feeling. How long would this last, however? Passion
walks, like a somnambulist, in entire security on the edge of profound
abysses, so long as "sense is shut" in its eyes. But what if some rude
hand, some unforeseen chance, awake it? Then--God have mercy!

Harry dug his spurs deeper into the gravel. "What will happen if her
eyes should ever be opened?" he asked himself, with a shudder. "She is
in no wise inclined to wanton frivolity, but she is a passionate
creature without firm principles, without family ties to restrain her.
And Lato? Lato will do his best to conquer himself. But can he summon
up the strength of character, the tact, requisite to avoid a
catastrophe and to preserve the old order of things? And if not, what
then?"

Harry leaned his head on his hands and his elbows on his knees. To what
it would all lead he could not tell, but he dreaded something terrible.
He knew Lato well, the paralyzing weakness, as well as the subtile
refinement, of his nature. Stern principle, a strict sense of duty, he
lacked: how could it be otherwise, with such early training as had been
his? Instead, however, he possessed an innate sense of moral beauty
which must save him from moral degradation.

"A young girl, one of his home circle!" Harry murmured to himself. "No,
it is inconceivable! And, yet, what can come of it?" And a sobbing
breeze, carrying with it the scent of languid roses from whose cups it
had drunk up the dew, rustled among the thirsty branches overhead with
a sound that seemed to the young fellow like the chuckle of an exultant
fiend.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.

                          ZDENA TO THE RESCUE.


But Harry ceases to muse, for the shrill clang of the bell summons him
to supper. He finds the entire family assembled in the dining-room when
he enters. All are laughing and talking, even Zdena, who is allowing
handsome, precocious Vladimir to make love to her after more and more
startling fashion. She informs Harry that Vips has just made her a
proposal of marriage, which disparity of age alone prevents her from
accepting, for in fact she is devoted to the lad.

"I renounce you from a sense of duty, Vips," she assures the young
gentleman, gently passing her delicate forefinger over his smooth brown
cheek, whereupon Vips flushes up and exclaims,--

"If you won't have me, at least promise me that I shall be best man at
your wedding!"

Harry laughs heartily. "What an alternative! Either bridegroom or best
man!"

"But you will promise me, Zdena, won't you?" the boy persists.

"It depends upon whom I marry," Zdena replies, with dignity. "The
bridegroom will have a word to say upon the subject." As she speaks,
her eyes encounter Harry's; she drops them instantly, her cheeks flush,
and she pauses in confusion.

As she takes her place at table, she finds a letter beside her plate,
post-marked Bayreuth, and sealed with a huge coat-of-arms. Evidently
startled, she slips it into her pocket unopened.

"From whom?" asks Heda, whose curiosity is always on the alert.

"From--from Bayreuth."

"From Aunt Rosa?"

Zdena makes no reply.

"From Wenkendorf?" Harry asks, crossly.

The blood rushes to her cheeks. "Yes," she murmurs.

"How interesting!" Heda exclaims. "I really should like to hear his
views as to the musical mysteries in Bayreuth. Read the letter aloud to
us."

"Oh, it is sure to be tiresome," Zdena replies, heaping her plate with
potatoes in her confusion.

"I wish you a good appetite!" Vladimir exclaims.

Zdena looks in dismay at the potatoes piled upon her plate.

"At least open the letter," says Heda.

"Open it, pray!" Harry repeats.

Mechanically Zdena obeys, breaks the seal, and hastily looks through
the letter. Her cheeks grow redder and redder, her hands tremble.

"Come, read it to us."

Instead of complying, Zdena puts the document in her pocket again, and
murmurs, much embarrassed, "There--there is nothing in it about
Bayreuth."

"Ah, secrets!" Heda says, maliciously.

Zdena makes no reply, but gazes in desperation at the mound of potatoes
on her plate. It never decreases in the least during the entire meal.

Jealousy, which has slept for a while in Harry's breast, springs to
life again. One is not a Leskjewitsch for nothing. So she keeps up a
correspondence with Wenkendorf! Ah! he may be deceived in her. Why was
she so confused at the first sight of the letter? and why did she hide
it away so hastily? Who knows?--she may be trifling with her old
adorer, holding him in reserve as it were, because she has not quite
decided as to her future. Who--who can be trusted, if that fair,
angelic face can mask such guile?

Countess Zriny, as amiable and benevolent as ever,--Vips calls her
"syrup diluted with holy water,"--notices that something has occurred
to annoy the others, and attempts to change their train of thought.

"How is your dog, my dear Harry?" she asks her nephew across the table.

"Very ill," the young officer replies, curtly.

"Indeed? Oh, how sad! What is the matter with him?"

"I wish I knew. He drags his legs, his tail droops, and he has fever. I
cannot help thinking that some one has thrown a stone at him, and I
cannot imagine who could have been guilty of such cruelty."

"Poor Hector! 'Tis all up with him; he has no appetite," Vips murmurs.

"How do you know that?" Harry turns sharply upon the lad.

"I took him a piece of bread this afternoon," stammers Vips.

"Indeed?" Harry bursts forth. "Do that again and you shall suffer for
it. I strictly forbade you to go near the dog!" Then, turning to the
others, he explains: "I had to have the dog chained up, out of regard
for the servants' nonsensical fears!"

"But, Harry," Vips begins, coaxingly, after a while, "if I must not go
near the dog you ought not to have so much to do with him. You went to
him several times to-day."

"That's very different; he is used to me," Harry sternly replies to his
brother, who is looking at him with eyes full of anxious affection. "I
have to see to him, since all the asses of servants, beginning with
that old fool Blasius, are afraid of the poor brute. Moreover, he has
everything now that he needs."

Vips knits his brows thoughtfully and shakes his head.

Suddenly the door of the dining-room opens, and old Blasius appears,
pale as ashes, and trembling in every limb.

"What is the matter?" Harry asks, springing up.

"Herr Baron, I----" the old man stammers.

"What is the matter?"

"I told the Herr Baron how it would be," the old man declares, with the
whimsical self-assertion which so often mingles with distress in the
announcement of some misfortune: "Hector has gone mad."

"Nonsense! what do you know about hydrophobia? Let the dog alone!"
Harry shouts, stamping his foot.

"He has broken his chain."

"Then chain him up again! Send Johann here." (Johann is Harry's special
servant.)

"Johann is not at home. The Herr Baron does not know what he orders.
The dog rushes at everything in its path, and tears and bites it. No
one dares to go near him, not even the butcher. He must be killed."

"What, you coward!" Harry shouts; "my dog killed because of a little
epilepsy, or whatever it is that ails him!" Meanwhile, Harry notices
that his brother, who had vanished into the next room for a moment, is
now attempting with a very resolute air to go out through the door
leading into the hall. Harry seizes him by the shoulder and stops him:
"Where are you going?"

Vips is mute.

"What have you in your hand?"

It is Harry's revolver.

"Is it loaded?" he asks, sternly.

"Yes," Vips replies, scarce audibly.

"Put it down there on the piano!" Harry orders, harshly. The poor boy
obeys sadly, and then throws his arms around his brother.

"But you will stay here, Harry? dear Harry, you will not go near the
dog?"

"You silly boy, do you suppose I am to do whatever you bid me?" Harry
rejoins. And, pinning the lad's arms to his sides from behind, he lifts
him up, carries him into the next room, locks him in, puts the key in
his pocket, and, without another word, leaves the room. Blasius stays
in the dining-room, wringing his hands, and finally engages in a
wailing conversation with Vips, who is kicking violently at the door
behind which he is confined. Heda, the Countess Zriny, and Fräulein
Laut, their backs towards the piano, upon which lies the revolver, form
an interesting group, expressing in every feature terror and
helplessness.

"Perhaps he may not be mad," Countess Zriny observes, after a long
silence, resolved as ever to ignore unpleasant facts. "However, I have
my eau de Lourdes, at all events."

At this moment the rustle of a light garment is heard. The Countess
looks round for Zdena, but she has vanished. Whither has she gone?

The dining-room has four doors,--one into the garden, another opposite
leading into the hall, a third opening into Harry's room, and a fourth
into the pantry. Through this last Zdena has slipped. From the pantry a
narrow, dark passage leads down a couple of steps into a lumber-room,
which opens on the courtyard.

Zdena, when she steps into the court-yard, closes the door behind her
and looks around. Her heart beats tumultuously. She hopes to reach
Harry before he meets the dog; but, look where she may, she cannot see
him.

Wandering clouds veil the low moon; its light is fitful, now bright,
then dim. The shadows dance and fade, and outlines blend in fantastic
indistinctness. The wind has risen; it shrieks and howls, and whirls
the dust into the poor girl's eyes. A frightful growling sound mingles
with the noise of the blast.

Zdena's heart beats faster; she is terribly afraid. "Harry!" she calls,
in an agonized tone; "Harry!" In vain. She hears his shrill whistle at
the other end of the court-yard, hears him call, commandingly, "Hector,
come here, sir!" He is far away. She hurries towards him. Hark! Her
heart seems to stand still. Near her sounds the rattle of a chain; a
pair of fierce bloodshot eyes glare at her: the dog is close at hand.
He sees her, and makes ready for a spring.

It is true that the girl has a revolver in her hand, but she has no
idea what to do with it; she has never fired a pistol in her life. In
desperate fear she clambers swiftly upon a wood-pile against the
brewery wall. The dog, in blind fury, leaps at the wood, falls back,
and then runs howling in another direction. The moon emerges from the
clouds, and pours its slanting beams into the court-yard. At last Zdena
perceives her headstrong cousin; he is going directly towards the dog.

"Hector!" he shouts; "Hector!"

A few steps onward he comes, when Zdena slips down from her secure
height. Panting, almost beside herself, the very personification of
heroic self-sacrifice and desperate terror, she hurries up to Harry.

"What is it--Zdena--you?" Harry calls out. For, just at the moment when
he stretches out his hand to clutch at the dog's collar, a slender
figure rushes between him and the furious brute.

"Here, Harry,--the revolver!" the girl gasps, holding out the weapon.
There is a sharp report: Hector turns, staggers, and falls dead!

The revolver drops from Harry's hand; he closes his eyes. For a few
seconds he stands as if turned to stone, and deadly pale. Then he feels
a soft touch upon his arm, and a tremulous voice whispers,--

"Forgive me, Harry! I know how you must grieve for your poor old
friend, but--but I was so frightened for you!"

He opens his eyes, and, throwing his arm around the girl, exclaims,--

"You angel! Can you for an instant imagine that at this moment I have a
thought to bestow upon the dog, dearly as I loved him?"

His arm clasps her closer.

"Harry!" she gasps, distressed.

With a sigh he releases her.

In the summits of the old walnuts there soughs a wail of discontent,
and the moon, which shone forth but a moment ago so brilliantly, and
which takes delight in the kisses of happy lovers, veils its face in
clouds before its setting, being defrauded of any such satisfaction.

"Come into the house," whispers Zdena. But walking is not so easy as
she thinks. She is so dizzy that she can hardly put one foot before the
other, and, whether she will or not, she must depend upon Harry to
support her.

"Fool that I am!" he mutters. "Lean upon me, you poor angel! You are
trembling like an aspen-leaf."

"I can hardly walk,--I was so terribly afraid," she confesses.

"On my account?" he asks.

"No, not on your account alone, but on my own, too," she replies,
laughing, "for, entirely between ourselves, I am a wretched coward."

"Really? Oh, Zdena--" He presses the hand that rests on his arm.

"But, Harry," she says, very gravely this time, "I am not giddy now. I
can walk very well." And she takes her hand from his arm.

He only laughs, and says, "As you please, my queen, but you need not
fear me. If a man ever deserved Paradise, I did just then." He points
to the spot beneath the old walnuts, where the moon had been
disappointed.

A few seconds later they enter the dining-room, where are the three
ladies, and the Countess Zriny advances to meet Harry with a large
bottle of eau de Lourdes, a tablespoonful of which Heda is trying to
heat over the flame of the lamp, while Fräulein Laut pauses in her
account of a wonderful remedy for hydrophobia.

Harry impatiently cuts short all the inquiries with which he is
besieged, with "The dog is dead; I shot him!" He does not relate how
the deed was done. At first he had been disposed to extol Zdena's
heroism, but he has thought better of it. He resolves to keep for
himself alone the memory of the last few moments, to guard it in his
heart like a sacred secret. As Vips is still proclaiming his presence
in the next room by pounding upon the door, Harry takes the key from
his pocket and smilingly releases the prisoner. The lad rushes at his
brother. "Did he not bite you? Really not?" And when Harry answers,
"No," he entreats, "Show me your hands, Harry,--both of them!" and then
he throws his arms about the young man and clasps him close.

"Oh, you foolish fellow!" Harry exclaims, stroking the boy's brown
head. "But now be sensible; don't behave like a girl. Do you hear?"

"My nerves are in such a state," sighs Heda.

Harry stamps his foot. "So are mine! I would advise you all to retire,
and recover from this turmoil."

Soon afterwards the house is silent. Even Vips has been persuaded to go
to bed and sleep off his fright. Harry, however, is awake. After
ordering Blasius to bury the dog, and to bring him his revolver, which
he now remembers to have left lying beside the animal's body, he seats
himself on the flight of steps leading from the dining-room into the
garden, leans his elbows on his knees and his head on his hands,
and dreams. The wind has subsided, and the night seems to him lovely
in spite of the misty clouds that veil the sky. The flowers are
fragrant,--oh, how fair life is! Suddenly he hears a light step; he
rises, goes into the corridor, and finds Zdena putting a letter into
the postbag. He approaches her, and their eyes meet. In vain does she
attempt to look grave. She smiles, and her smile is mirrored in his
eyes.

"To whom was the letter?" he asks, going towards her. Not that there is
a spark of jealousy left in his heart for the moment, but he delights
to coax her secrets from her, to share in all that concerns her.

"Is it any affair of yours?" she asks, with dignity.

"No, but I should like to know."

"I will not tell you."

"Suppose I guess?"

She shrugs her shoulders.

"To Wenkendorf," he whispers, advancing a step nearer her, as she makes
no reply.

"What did he write to you?" Harry persists.

"That is no concern of yours."

"What if I guess that, too?"

"Then I hope you will keep your knowledge to yourself, and not mention
your guess to any one," Zdena exclaims, eagerly.

"He proposed to you," Harry says, softly.

Zdena sighs impatiently.

"Well, yes!" she admits at last, turning to Harry a blushing face as
she goes on. "But I really could not help it. I did what I could to
prevent it, but men are so conceited and headstrong. If one of them
takes an idea into his head there is no disabusing him of it."

"Indeed! is that the way with all men?" Harry asks, ready to burst into
a laugh.

"Yes, except when they have other and worse faults,--are suspicious and
bad-tempered."

"But then these last repent so bitterly, and are so ashamed of
themselves."

"Oh, as for that, he will be ashamed of himself too." Then, suddenly
growing grave, she adds, "I should be very sorry to have----"

"To have any one hear of his disappointed hopes," Harry interposes,
with a degree of malicious triumph in his tone. "Do not fear; we will
keep his secret."

"Good-night!" She takes up her candlestick, which she had put down on
the table beside which they are standing, and turns towards the winding
staircase.

"Zdena!" Harry whispers, softly.

"What is it?"

"Nothing: only--is there really not a regret in your heart for the
wealth you have rejected?"

She shakes her head slowly, as if reflecting. "No," she replies: "what
good would it have done me? I could not have enjoyed it." Then she
suddenly blushes crimson, and, turning away from him, goes to the
staircase.

"Zdena!" he calls again; "Zdena!" But the white figure has vanished at
the turn of the steps, and he is alone. For a while he stands gazing
into the darkness that has swallowed her up. "God keep you!" he
murmurs, tenderly, and finally betakes himself to his room, with no
thought, however, of going to bed.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.

                           A SLEEPLESS NIGHT.


No, he could not sleep; he had something important to do. At last he
must pluck up courage and establish his position. This wretched
prevarication, this double dealing, could not go on any longer. It was
ten times more disgraceful than the most brutal frankness. He seated
himself at the very table where, scarcely more than a day before, he
had listened to Lato's confessions, and began a rough sketch of his
letter to Paula. But at the very first word he stopped. He was going to
write, "Dear Paula," but that would never do. Could he address her thus
familiarly when he wanted to sever all relations with her? Impossible!
"Honoured Baroness" he could not write, either; it sounded ridiculous,
applied to a girl with whom he had sat for hours in the last fortnight.
He decided to begin, "Dear Baroness Paula." He dipped his pen in the
ink, and wrote the words in a distinct hand: "Dear Baroness Paula, I
cannot express to you the difficulty I find in telling you what must,
however, be told. I had hoped until now that you would discover it
yourself----"

Thus far he wrote hurriedly, and as if in scorn of mortal danger. He
paused now, and read over the few words. His cheeks burned. No, he
could not write that to a lady: as well might he strike her in the
face. It was impossible. But what should he do? At last an idea
occurred to him, how strange not to have thought of it before! He must
appeal to her mother. It was as clear as daylight. He took a fresh
sheet of paper, having torn the other up and tossed it under the table,
then dipped his pen anew in the ink. But no; it would not do. Every
hour that he had spent with Paula, every caress he had allowed her to
bestow upon him, was brought up before him by his conscience, which
did not spare him the smallest particular. Lato's words recurred to
him: "You cannot disguise from yourself the fact that you--you and
Paula--produce the impression of a devoted pair of lovers."

He set his teeth. He could not deny that his conduct had been shameful.
He could not sever his engagement to her without a lack of honour.

"Oh, good God! how had it ever come to pass?" What had induced him to
ride over to Dobrotschau day after day? He had always been sure that an
opportunity for an explanation would occur. When with Paula he had
endured her advances in sullen submission, without facing the
consequences; he had simply been annoyed; and now---- He shuddered.

Once more he took up the pen, but in vain; never before had he felt so
utterly hopeless. Every limb ached as if laden with fetters. He tossed
the pen aside: under the circumstances he could not write the letter;
Paula herself must sever the tie, if it could be severed.

If it could be severed! What did that mean? He seemed to hear the words
spoken aloud. Nonsense! If it could be severed! As if there were a
doubt that it could be severed! But how? how?

His distress was terrible. He could see no way to extricate himself.
Paula must be compelled to release him of her own accord; but how was
it to be done? He devised the wildest schemes. Could he be caught
flirting with a gypsy girl? or could he feign to be deeply in debt? No,
no more feigning; and, besides, what would it avail? She would forgive
everything.

Suddenly Vips cried out in his sleep.

"Vips!" Harry called, to waken him, going to his brother's bedside.

The lad opened his eyes, heavy with sleep, and said, "I am so glad you
waked me! I was having a horrible dream that you were being torn to
pieces by a furious leopard."

"You foolish boy!"

"Oh, it was no joke, I can tell you!" Then, pulling his brother down to
him, he went on, "Zdena took the revolver to you, I saw her through the
keyhole; not one of the others would have raised a finger for you. No,
there is no one in the world like our Zdena." Vips stroked his
brother's blue sleeve with his long, slender hand. "Do you know," he
whispered very softly, "I have no doubt that----"

Harry frowned, and Vips blushed, shut his eyes, and turned his face to
the wall.

The first gleam of morning was breaking its way through the twilight;
a rosy glow illumined the eastern horizon; the stream began to
glimmer, and then shone like molten gold; long shadows detached
themselves from the universal gray and stretched across the garden
among the dewy flower-beds. The dew lay everywhere, glistening like
silvery dust on the blades of grass, and dripping in the foliage of the
old apricot-tree by the open window at which Harry stood gazing sadly
out into the wondrous beauty of the world. The cool morning breeze
fanned his check; the birds began to twitter.

The young fellow was conscious of the discomfort of a night spent
without sleep; but far worse than that was the hopeless misery that
weighed him down.

Hark! what was that? The sound of bells, the trot of horses on the
quiet road. Harry leaned forward. Who was that?

Leaning back in an open barouche, a gray travelling-cap on his head, a
handsome old man was driving along the road.

"Father!" exclaimed Harry.

The old gentleman saw him from the carriage and waved his hand gaily.
In a twinkling Harry was opening the house-door.

"I have surprised you, have I not?" Karl Leskjewitsch exclaimed,
embracing his son. "But what's the matter with you? What ails you? I
never saw you look so sallow,--you rogue!" And he shook his forefinger
at the young fellow.

"Oh, nothing,--nothing, sir: we will talk of it by and by. Now come and
take some rest."



                              CHAPTER XXV.

                            THE CONFESSION.


Baron Leskjewitsch was in an admirable humour. He brightened up the
entire household. The Countess Zriny, to be sure, lamented to Fräulein
Laut his tireless loquacity, but perhaps that was because his loquacity
displayed itself principally in the utterance of anti-Catholic views.

At breakfast, on the first morning after his arrival, he cut the old
canoness to the heart. When he rallied her upon the indigestible nature
of her favourite delicacy, raspberry jam with whipped cream, she
replied that she could eat it with perfect impunity, since she always
mixed a teaspoonful of eau de Lourdes with the jam before adding the
cream.

Whereupon the Baron called this preservative "Catholic quackery," and
was annoyed that she made no reply to his attack. Like a former emperor
of Russia, he longed for opposition. He did what he could to rouse
Countess Zriny's. After a while he asserted that she was a heathen.
Catholicism in its modern form, with its picturesque ritual and its
superstitious worship of the saints, was nothing more than cowled
Paganism.

The Countess, to whom this rather antiquated wisdom was new, shuddered
with horror, and regarded the Baron as antichrist, but nevertheless
held her peace.

Then he played his last trump. He informed her that he regarded the
Darwinian theory as much less irreligious than her, Countess Zriny's,
paltry conception of the Deity. Then the Countess arose and left the
room, to write immediately to her father confessor, expressing her
anxieties with regard to her cousin's soul, and asking the priest to
say a mass for his conversion.

"Poor Kathi! have I frightened her away? I didn't mean to do that,"
said the Baron, looking after her.

No, he had not meant to do it; he had merely desired to arouse
opposition.

"A splendid subject for an essay," he exclaimed, after a pause,--"'the
Darwinian theory and the Catholic ritual set forth by a man of true
piety.' I really must publish a pamphlet with that title. It may bring
me into collision with the government, but that would not be very
distressing."

Privately the Baron wished for nothing more earnestly than to be
brought into collision with the government, to be concerned in some
combination threatening the existence of the monarchy. But just as some
women, in spite of every endeavour, never succeed in compromising
themselves, so Karl Leskjewitsch had never yet succeeded in seriously
embroiling himself with the government. No one took him in earnest;
even when he made the most incendiary speeches, they were regarded as
but the amusing babble of a political dilettante.

He eagerly availed himself of any occasion to utter his paradoxes, and
at this first breakfast he was so eloquent that gradually all at the
table followed the example of Countess Zriny, in leaving it, except his
eldest son.

He lighted a cigar, and invited Harry to go into the garden with him.
Harry, who had been longing for a word with his father in private,
acceded readily to his proposal.

The sun shone brightly, the flowers in the beds sparkled like diamonds.
The old ruin stood brown and clear against the sky, the bees hummed,
and Fräulein Laut was practising something of Brahms's. Of course she
had seated herself at the piano as soon as the dining-room was
deserted.

Harry walked beside his father, with bent head, vainly seeking for
words in which to explain his unfortunate case. His father held his
head very erect, kicked the pebbles from his path with dignity, talked
very fast, and asked his son twenty questions, without waiting for an
answer to one of them.

"Have you been spending all your leave here? Does it not bore you? Why
did you not take an interesting trip? Life here must be rather
tiresome; Heda never added much to the general hilarity, and as for
poor Kathi, do you think her entertaining? She's little more than a
_mouton à l'eau bénite_. And then that sausage-chopper," with a glance
in the direction whence proceeded a host of interesting dissonances.
"Surely you must have found your stay here a very heavy affair. Kathi
Zriny is harmless, but that Laut--ugh!--a terrible creature! Look at
her hair; it looks like hay. I should like to understand the aim of
creation in producing such an article; we have no use for it." He
paused,--perhaps for breath.

"Father," Harry began, meekly.

"Well?"

"I should like to tell you something."

"Tell me, then, but without any preface. I detest prefaces; I never
read them; in fact, a book is usually spoiled for me if I find it has a
preface. What is a preface written for? Either to explain the book that
follows it, or to excuse it. And why read a book that needs explanation
or excuses? I told Franz Weyser, the famous orator, in the Reichsrath
the other day, that----"

"Father," Harry began again, in a tone of entreaty, aware that he
should have some difficulty in obtaining a hearing for his confession.

"What an infernally sentimental air you have! Aha! I begin to see. You
have evidently fallen in love with Zdena. It is not to be wondered at;
she's a charming creature--pretty as a picture--looks amazingly like
Charlotte Buff, of Goethe memory; all that is needed is to have her
hair dressed high and powdered. What can I say? In your place I should
have been no wiser. Moreover, if you choose to marry poverty for love,
'tis your own affair. You must remember that Franz will undoubtedly
stop your allowance. You cannot expect much from Paul; and as for
myself, I can do nothing for you except give you my blessing. You know
how matters stand with me; and I must think of your sister, who never
can marry without a dowry. I cannot entirely deprive myself of means: a
politician must preserve his independence, for, as I lately said to
Fritz Böhm, in the Reichsrath----"

In vain had Harry tried to edge in a word. With a bitter smile he
recalled a passage in a Vienna humorous paper which, under the heading
of "A disaster prevented," set forth the peril from drowning from which
the entire government had been saved by the presence of mind of the
president of the Reichsrath, Herr Doctor Smolka, who had contrived just
in the nick of time to put a stop to a torrent of words from Baron Karl
Leskjewitsch.

Suddenly the Baron stumbled over a stone, which fortunately caused him
to pause.

"It has nothing to do with Zdena!" Harry exclaimed, seizing his
opportunity.

"Not? Then----"

"I have become betrothed," Harry almost shouted, for fear of not making
his father hear.

"And what do you want of me?"

"You must help me to break the engagement," his son cried, in despair.

At these words Karl Leskjewitsch, who with all his confusion of ideas
had managed to retain a strong sense of humour, made a grimace, and
pushed back the straw hat which he wore, and which had made the ascent
of Mount Vesuvius with him and had a hole in the crown, so that it
nearly fell off his head.

"Ah, indeed! First of all I should like to know to whom you are
betrothed,--the result, of course, of garrison life in some small town?
I always maintain that for a cavalry officer----"

Harry felt the liveliest desire to summon the aid of Doctor Smolka to
stem the tide of his father's eloquence, but, since this could not be,
he loudly interrupted him: "I am betrothed to Paula Harfink!"

"Harfink!" exclaimed the Baron. "The Harfinks of K----?"

"Yes; they are at Dobrotschau this summer," Harry explained.

"So she is your betrothed,--the Baroness Paula? She is handsome; a
little too stout, but that is a matter of taste. And you want to marry
her?"

"No, no, I do not want to marry her!" Harry exclaimed, in dismay.

"Oh, indeed! you do not want to marry her?" murmured the Baron. "And
why not?"

"Because--because I do not love her."

"Why did you betroth yourself to her?"

Harry briefly explained the affair to his father.

The Baron looked grave. "And what do you want me to do?" he asked,
after a long, oppressive silence.

"Help me out, father. Put your veto upon this connection."

"What will my veto avail? You are of age, and can do as you choose,"
said the Baron, shaking his head.

"Yes, legally," Harry rejoined, impatiently, "but I never should dream
of marrying against your will."

Karl Leskjewitsch found this assurance of filial submission on his
son's part very amusing. He looked askance at the young fellow, and,
suppressing a smile, extended his hand after a pompous theatric fashion
and exclaimed, "I thank you for those words. They rejoice my paternal
heart." Then, after swinging his son's hand up and down like a
pump-handle, he dropped it and said, dryly, "Unfortunately, I have not
the slightest objection to your betrothal to the Harfink girl. What
pretext shall I make use of?"

"Well,"--Harry blushed,--"you might say you cannot consent to the
_mésalliance_."

"Indeed! Thanks for the suggestion. I belong to the Liberal party, and
do not feel called upon to play the part of an aristocratic Cerberus
defending his prejudices." Here the Baron took out his note-book.
"Aristocratic Cerberus," he murmured; "that may be useful some day in
the Reichsrath. Besides," he continued, "it would just now be
particularly unpleasant to quarrel with the Harfinks. If you had asked
me before your betrothal whether I should like it, I should have
frankly said no. The connection is a vulgar one; but, since matters
have gone so far, I do not like to make a disturbance. The brother of
the girl's mother, Doctor Grünbart, is one of the leaders of our
party. He formerly conducted himself towards me with great reserve,
suspecting that my liberal tendencies were due merely to a whim,
to a fleeting caprice. I met him, however, a short time ago, on
my tour through Sweden and Norway. He was travelling with his
wife and daughter. We travelled together. He is a very clever man,
but--between ourselves--intolerable, and with dirty nails. As for his
women-folk,--good heavens!" The Baron clasped his hands. "The wife
always eat the heads of the trout which I left in the dish, and the
daughter travelled in a light-blue gown, with a green botany-box
hanging at her back, and such teeth,--horrible! The wife is a
schoolmaster's daughter, who married the old man to rid herself of a
student lover. Very worthy, but intolerable. I travelled with them for
six weeks, and won the Doctor's heart by my courtesy to his wife and
daughter. I should have been more cautious if I had been at
housekeeping in Vienna, although the most violent Austrian democrats
are very reasonable in social respects, especially with regard to their
women. They are flattered by attention to them on a journey, but they
are not aggressive at home. This, however, is not to the point."

It did indeed seem not to the point to Harry, who bit his lip and
privately clinched his fist. He was on the rack during his father's
rambling discourse.

"What I wanted to say"--the Baron resumed the thread of his
discourse--"is, that this democrat's pride is his elegant sister,
Baroness Harfink, and the fact that she was once invited, after great
exertions in some charitable undertaking, to a ball at the Princess
Colloredo's--I think it was at the Colloredo's. I should like to have
seen her there!" He rubbed his hands and smiled. "My democrat maintains
that she looked more distinguished than the hostess. You understand
that if I should wound his family pride I could not hope for his
support in the Reichsrath, where I depend upon it to procure me a
hearing."

Harry privately thought that it would be meritorious to avert such a
calamity, but he said, "Ah, father, that democrat's support is not so
necessary as you think. Depend upon it, you will be heard without it.
And then a quarrel with a politician would cause you only a temporary
annoyance, while the continuance of my betrothal to Paula will simply
kill me. I have done my best to show her the state of my feelings
towards her. She does not understand me. There is nothing for it but
for you to undertake the affair." Harry clasped his hands in entreaty,
like a boy. "Do it for my sake. You are the only one who can help me."

Baron Karl was touched. He promised everything that his son asked of
him.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.

                            THE BARON'S AID.


The Baron never liked to postpone what he had to do; it was against his
principles and his nature. The matter must be attended to at once. As
soon as the mid-day meal was over, he had the carriage brought, put on
a black coat, and set out for Dobrotschau.

The fountain plashed dreamily as he drove into the castle court-yard.
The afternoon sun glittered on the water, and a great dog came towards
him as he alighted, and thrust his nose into his hand. He knew the old
dog.

"How are you, old friend? how does the new _régime_ suit you?" he said,
patting the animal's head. Two footmen hurried forward in drab breeches
and striped vests. To one of them Baron Karl gave his card, and then
awaited the mistress of the mansion in the spacious and rather dark
drawing-room into which he had been shown.

He looked about him, and was very well pleased. The tall windows of the
room were draped with pale-green silk; the furniture, various in shape
and style, was all convenient and handsome; vases filled with flowers
stood here and there on stands and tables; and in a black ebony
cabinet, behind glass doors, there was a fine collection of old
porcelain. The Baron was a connoisseur in old porcelain, and had just
risen to examine these specimens, when the servant returned to conduct
him to the Baroness's presence.

Baron Karl's heart throbbed a little fast at the thought of his
mission, and he privately anathematized "the stupid boy" who had been
the cause of it.

"Since he got himself into the scrape, he might have got himself out of
it," he thought, as he followed the lackey, who showed him into a small
but charming boudoir, fitted up after a rural fashion with light
cretonne.

"I'm in for it," the Baron thought, in English. He liked to sprinkle
his soliloquies with English phrases, having a great preference for
England, whence he imported his clothes, his soap, and his political
ideas of reform _en gros_. In the Reichsrath they called him "Old
England."

As he entered the pretty room, a lady rose from a low lounge and came
towards him with outstretched hands. Those hands were small, soft, and
shapely, and the rings adorning the third finger of one of them--a ruby
and a large diamond, both very simply set--became them well. Baron Karl
could not help carrying one of them to his lips; thus much, he thought,
he owed the poor woman in view of the pain he was about to inflict upon
her. Frau von Harfink said a few pleasant words of welcome, to which he
replied courteously, and then, having taken his seat in a comfortable
arm-chair near her favourite lounge, the conversation came to a
stand-still. The Baron looked in some confusion at his hostess. There
was no denying that, in spite of her fifty years, she was a pretty
woman. Her features were regular, her teeth dazzling, and if there was
a touch of rouge on her cheeks, that was her affair; it did not affect
her general appearance. The fair hair that was parted to lie in smooth
waves above her brow was still thick, and the little lace cap was very
becoming. Her short, full figure was not without charm, and her gown of
black _crêpe de Chine_ fitted faultlessly. The Baron could not help
thinking that it would be easier to give her pain if she were ugly.
There was really no objection to make to her. He had hoped she would
resemble his friend Doctor Grünbart, but she did not resemble him.
While he pondered thus, Frau von Harfink stretched out her hand to the
bell-rope.

"My daughters are both out in the park; they will be extremely glad to
see you, especially Paula, who has been most impatient to know you. I
will send for them immediately."

Karl Leskjewitsch prevented her from ringing. "One moment, first," he
begged; "I--I am here upon very serious business."

Her eyes scanned his face keenly. Did she guess? did she choose not to
understand him? Who can tell? Certain it is that no woman could have
made what he had come to say more difficult to utter.

"Oh, let 'serious business' go for the present!" she exclaimed; "there
is time enough for that. A mother's heart of course is full----"

In his confusion the Baron had picked up a pamphlet lying on the table
between Frau von Harfink and himself. Imagine his sensations when, upon
looking at it closely, he recognized his own work,--a pamphlet upon
"Servility among Liberals,"--a piece of political bravado upon which
the author had prided himself not a little at the time of its
publication, but which, like many another masterpiece, had vanished
without a trace in the yearly torrent of such literature. Not only were
the leaves of this pamphlet cut, but as the Baron glanced through it he
saw that various passages were underscored with pencil-marks.

"You see how well known you are here, my dear Baron," said Frau von
Harfink, and then, taking his hat from him, she went on, "I cannot have
you pay us a formal visit: you will stay and have a cup of tea, will
you not? Do you know that I am a little embarrassed in the presence of
the author of that masterpiece?"

"Ah, pray, madame!"--the democrat _par excellence_ could not exactly
bring himself to an acknowledgment of Frau von Harfink's brand-new
patent of nobility,--"ah, madame, the merest trifle, a political
_capriccio_ with which I beguiled an idle hour; not worth mentioning."

"Great in small things, my dear Baron, great in small things," she
rejoined. "No one since Schopenhauer has understood how to use the
German language as you do. So admirable a style!--precise, transparent,
and elegant as finely-cut glass. And what a wealth of original
aphorisms! You are a little sharp here and there, almost cruel,"--she
shook her forefinger at him archly,--"but the truth is always cruel."

"A remarkably clever woman!" thought Baron Karl. Of course he could not
refrain from returning such courtesy. "This summer, in a little trip to
the North Cape"--Leskjewitsch was wont always to refer to his travels
as little trips; a journey to California he would have liked to call a
picnic--"in a little trip to the North Cape, I had the pleasure of
meeting your brother, Baroness," he cleared his throat before uttering
the word, but he accomplished it. "We had known each other politically
in the Reichsrath, but in those northern regions our acquaintance
quickly ripened into friendship."

"I have heard all about it already," said the Baroness: "it was my
brother who called my attention to this pearl." She pointed to the
pamphlet. "Of course he had no idea of the closer relations which we
are to hold with each other; he simply described to me the impression
you made upon him. Ah, I must read you one of his letters."

She opened a drawer in her writing-table, and unfolded a long letter,
from which she began to read, then interrupted herself, turned the
sheet, and finally found the place for which she was looking:

"Baron Karl Leskjewitsch is an extremely clever individual, brilliantly
gifted by nature. His misfortune has been that in forsaking the
Conservatives he has failed to win the entire confidence of the
Liberals. Now that I know him well, I am ready to use all my influence
to support him in his career, and I do not doubt that I shall succeed
in securing for him the distinguished position for which he is fitted.
I see in him the future Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs."

A few minutes previously Baron Karl had been conscious of some
discomfort; every trace of it had now vanished. He was fairly
intoxicated. He saw himself a great statesman, and was already
pondering upon what to say in his first important conference with the
Chancellor of the realm.

"Pray, give my warm regards to Doctor Grünbart when you next write to
him," he began, not without condescension, when suddenly a young lady
hurried into the room,--tall, stout, with Titian hair and a dazzling
complexion, her chest heaving, her eyes sparkling. In the Baron's
present mood she seemed to him beautiful as a young goddess. "By Jove!
the boy has made a hit," he thought to himself. The vague sense of
discomfort returned for a moment, but vanished when Paula advanced
towards him with outstretched hands. He drew her to him, and imprinted
a paternal kiss upon her forehead. Selina and Fainacky now made their
appearance. It was quite a domestic scene.

The Baroness rang, and the tea-equipage was brought in for afternoon
tea. Olga made her appearance, but Treurenberg was absent; Selina
remarked, crossly, that he was again spending the afternoon with the
officers at X----. Baron Karl was throned upon roses and inhaling sweet
incense, when finally the Baroness, lightly touching his arm, asked
before all present,--

"And the 'serious business' you came to consult me about?" He started,
and was mute, while the lady went on, archly, "What if I guess its
import? You came in Harry's behalf, did you not?"

Baron Karl bowed his head in assent.

"To arrange the day, was it not?"

What could the poor man do? Before he had time to reflect, the
Baroness said, "We have considered the matter already; we must be in no
hurry,--no hurry. It always is a sore subject for a mother, the
appointing a definite time for her separation from her daughter, and
every girl, however much in love she may be,"--here the Baroness
glanced at her stout Paula, who did her best to assume an air of
maidenly reserve, "would like to postpone the marriage-day. But men do
not like to wait; therefore, all things considered, I have thought of
the 19th of October as the day. Tell Harry so from me, and scold him
well for not doing his errand himself. His delicacy of sentiment is
really exaggerated! An old woman may be pardoned for a little
enthusiasm for a future son-in-law, may she not?"

Shortly afterwards Baron Leskjewitsch was driving home along the road
by which he had come. The shadows had lengthened; a cold air ascended
from the earth. Gradually the Baron's consciousness, drugged by the
flattery he had received, awoke, and he felt extremely uncomfortable.
What had he effected? He was going home after a fruitless visit,--no,
not fruitless. Harry's affairs were in a worse condition than before.
He had absolutely placed the official seal upon his son's betrothal.

What else could he have done? He could not have made a quarrel. He
could not alienate Doctor Grünbart's sister. The welfare of the
government might depend upon his friendly alliance with the leader of
the democratic party. His fancy spread its wings and took its flight to
higher spheres,--he really had no time to trouble himself about his
son's petty destiny. His ambition soared high: he saw himself about to
reform the monarchy with the aid of Doctor Grünbart, whose importance,
however, decreased as his own waxed great.

He drove through the ruinous archway into the courtyard. A light wagon
was standing before the house. When he asked whose it was, he was told
that it had come from Zirkow to take home the Baroness Zdena. He went
to the dining-room, whence came the sound of gay voices and laughter.
They were all at supper, and seemed very merry, so merry that they had
not heard him arrive.

Twilight was already darkening the room when the Baron entered by one
door at the same moment that Blasius with the lamp made his appearance
at the other. The lamplight fell full upon the group about the table,
and Baron Karl's eyes encountered those of his son, beaming with
delight. Poor fellow! He had not entertained a doubt that everything
would turn out well. Zdena, too, looked up; her lips were redder than
usual, and there was a particularly tender, touching expression about
her mouth, while in her eyes there was a shy delight. There was no
denying it, the girl was exquisitely beautiful.

She had guessed Baron Karl's errand to Dobrotschau. She divined----

Pshaw! The Baron felt dizzy for a moment,--but, after all, such things
must be borne. Such trifles must not influence the future 'Canning' of
Austria.

Blasius set down the lamp. How comfortable and home-like the
well-spread table looked, at the head the little army of cream-pitchers
and jugs, over which the Countess Zriny was presiding.

"A cup of coffee?" the old canoness asked the newcomer.

"No, no, thanks," he said. Something in his voice told Harry
everything.

The Baron tried to take his place at table, that the moment for
explanation might be postponed, but Harry could not wait.

"Something has occurred to-day upon the farm about which I want to
consult you, sir," he said. "Will you not come with me for a moment?"
And he made a miserably unsuccessful attempt to look as if it were a
matter of small importance. The two men went into the next room, where
it was already so dark that they could not see each other's faces
distinctly. Harry lit a candle, and placed it on the table between his
father and himself.

"Well, father?"

"My dear boy, there was nothing to be done," the Baron replied,
hesitating. For a moment the young man's misery made an impression upon
him, but then his invincible loquacity burst forth. "There was nothing
to be done, Harry," he repeated. And, with a wave of his hand implying
true nobility of sentiment, he went on: "A betrothal is a contract
sealed by a promise. From a promise one may be released; it cannot be
broken. When the Harfinks refused to see the drift of my hints, and
release you from your promise, there was nothing left for me save to
acquiesce. As a man of honour, a gentleman, I could do no less; I could
not possibly demand your release."

Baron Karl looked apprehensively at his son, with whose quick temper he
was familiar, expecting to be overwhelmed by a torrent of reproaches,
of bitter, provoking words, sure that the young man would be led into
some display of violence; but nothing of the kind ensued. Harry stood
perfectly quiet opposite his father, one hand leaning upon the table
where burned the candle. His head drooped a little, and he was very
pale, but not a finger moved when his father added, "You understand
that I could do nothing further?"

He murmured, merely, "Yes, I understand." His voice sounded thin and
hoarse, like the voice of a sick child; and then he fell silent again.
After a pause, he said, in a still lower tone, "Uncle Paul has sent the
wagon for Zdena, with a note asking me to drive her back to Zirkow. It
has been waiting for an hour and a half, because Zdena did not want to
leave before your return. Pray, do me the favour to drive her home in
my place: I cannot."

Then the young fellow turned away and went to a window, outside of
which the old apricot-trees rustled and sighed.

Baron Karl was very sorry for his son, but what else could he have
done? Surely his case was a hard one. He seemed to himself a very
Junius Brutus, sacrificing his son to his country. And having succeeded
finally in regarding in this magnanimous light the part he had played,
he felt perfectly at peace with himself again.

He left the room, promising to attend to Zdena's return to Zirkow. But
Harry remained standing by the window, gazing out into the gathering
gloom. The very heart within his breast seemed turning to stone. He
knew now that what he had at first held to be merely a ridiculous
annoyance had come to be bitter earnest,--yes, terrible earnest! No
escape was possible; he could see no hope of rescue; a miracle would
have to occur to release him, and he did not believe in miracles.



                             CHAPTER XXVII.

                              BARON FRANZ.


Every year, towards the end of August, Baron Franz Leskjewitsch, the
family scarecrow and Cr[oe]sus, was wont to appear at his estate,
Vorhabshen, near Zirkow, to learn the condition of the harvest, to
spend a few days in hunting, and to abuse everything and everybody
before, at the end of a couple of weeks, vanishing as suddenly as he
had appeared.

On these occasions he avoided his brother Paul with evident
determination. If any of the family were at Komaritz, he invited them
to dinner once or twice, at such times taking pains to make himself
particularly offensive to Heda, whom he could not endure.

He had never spent any length of time at Vorhabshen since the family
quarrel, and in consequence the dwelling-house, or castle, upon which,
miser that he was, he never would spend a penny for repairs, had come
to be tumble-down and sordid in appearance, both inside and out. It was
a huge structure, with numerous windows, in which many of the sashes
were sprung and some destitute of panes, never having been reglazed
since the last hail-storm had worked ruin among them.

Among the family portraits, which hung in a dark, oak-wainscoted
gallery, the pigeons built their nests.

Like many another Bohemian castle, the mansion at Vorhabshen was built
close to the farm-yard, and its front faced an immense, light-brown
manure-heap.

The inmates of this unpicturesque ruin--whose duty it was to keep it
ready for its master's brief visits--were, first, the housekeeper,
Lotta Papoushek; then the Baron's court-fool, the former brewer
Studnecka, who at times imagined himself the prophet Elisha, and at
other times a great musical genius; then the superintendent, with his
underlings; and finally, any young man who might be tempted to come
hither to study modern agriculture, and whose studies were generally
confined to allowing himself to be pampered by the housekeeper Lotta,
who had all the admiration of her class for courteous young people.

Frau Lotta had been in the Baron's service for more than forty years.
Her large face was red, dotted with brown warts, and her features were
hard and masculine. Although she certainly was far from attractive in
appearance, there was a report that she had once been handsome, and
that Baron Franz, when he received the news of his son's marriage with
Marie Duval, had exclaimed, "I'll marry my housekeeper! I'll marry
Lotta!" How this would have aided to re-establish the family prestige
it is difficult to say, and it is doubtful whether the speech was made;
but twenty years afterwards Lotta used to tell of it, and of how she
had replied, "That would be too nonsensical, Herr Baron!"
Notwithstanding her peculiarities and her overweening self-conceit, she
was a thoroughly good creature, and devoted heart and soul to the
Leskjewitsch family. Her absolute honesty induced the Baron to make her
authority at Vorhabshen paramount, to the annoyance of the
superintendent and his men.

It was a clear afternoon,--the 1st of September; the steam thresher was
at work in the farm-yard, and its dreary puffing and groaning were
audible in Lotta's small sitting-room, on the ground-floor of the
mansion, where she was refreshing herself with a cup of coffee, having
invited the student of agriculture--a young Herr von Kraschinsky--to
share her nectar.

She had been regaling him with choice bits of family history, as he lay
back comfortably in an arm-chair, looking very drowsy, when, after a
pause, she remarked, as if in soliloquy, "I should like to know where
the master is; I have had no answer to the long letter I sent to him at
Franzburg."

"Oh, you correspond with the Baron, do you?" murmured the student, too
lazy to articulate distinctly.

"Of course I do. You must not forget that my position in the
Leskjewitsch family is higher than that of a servant. I was once
governess to our poor, dear Baron Fritz; and I have always been devoted
to them."

In fact, Lotta had been Fritz's nurse; and it was true that she had
always been much valued, having been treated with great consideration
on account of her absolute fidelity and her tolerably correct German.

"Yes," she went on, careless as to her companion's attention, "I wrote
to the Baron about the wheat and the young calves, and I told him of
Baron Harry's betrothal. I am curious to know what he will say to it.
For my part, it is not at all to my taste."

"But then you are so frightfully aristocratic," said her guest.

Lotta smiled; nothing pleased her more than to be rallied upon her
aristocratic tendencies, although she made haste to disclaim them. "Oh,
no; I am by no means so feudal"--a favourite word of hers, learned from
a circulating library to which she subscribed--"as you think. I never
shall forget how I tried to bring about a reconciliation between Baron
Fritz and his father; but the master was furious, called the widow and
her little child, after poor Fritz's death, 'French baggage,' and
threatened me with dismissal if I ever spoke of them. What could I do?
I could not go near the little girl when Baron Paul brought her to
Zirkow; but I have watched her from a distance, and have rejoiced to
see her grow lovelier every year, and the very image of her father. And
when all the country around declared that Baron Harry was in love with
her, I was glad; but our master was furious, although the young things
were then mere children, and declared that not one penny of his money
should his nephew have if he married the child of that shop-girl. I
suppose Baron Harry has taken all this into consideration." The old
woman's face grew stern as she folded her arms on her flat chest and
declared again, "I am curious to know what the master will think of
this betrothal."

Outside in the farm-yard the steam thresher continued its monotonous
task; the superintendent, a young man, something of a coxcomb, stood
apart from the puffing monster, a volume of Lenau in his hand, learning
by heart a poem which he intended to recite at the next meeting of the
"Concordia Association," in X----. The court-fool, Studnecka, was
seated at his harmonium, composing.

Suddenly a clumsy post-chaise rattled into the courtyard. The
superintendent started, and thrust his Lenau into his pocket. Lotta
smoothed her gray hair, and went to meet the arrival. She knew that
"the master" had come. It was his habit to appear thus unexpectedly,
when it was impossible to be prepared for him. His masculine employees
disliked this fashion extremely. Lotta was not at all disturbed by it.

Studnecka was the last to notice that something unusual was going on.
When he did so, he left the harmonium and went to the window.

In the midst of a group of servants and farm-hands stood an old man in
a long green coat and a shiny, tall hat. The court-fool observed
something strange in his master's appearance. Suddenly he fairly
gasped.

"The world is coming to an end!" he exclaimed. "Wonders will never
cease,--the Herr Baron has a new hat!"



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.

                             A SHORT VISIT.


Lotta, too, noticed the master's new hat, but that was not the only
change she observed in him. The expression of his face was not so stern
as usual. Instead of sneering at the coxcombical superintendent, he
smiled at his approach; his complexion was far less sallow than it had
been; and, above all, he allowed the superintendent to pay the driver
of the post-chaise without an inquiry as to the fare.

After nodding right and left, he asked Lotta if his room were ready.

"Of course," the housekeeper replied, and at once conducted him to a
spacious and exquisitely clean and neat apartment, rather scantily
furnished with spindle-legged chairs and brass-mounted cabinets dating
from the time of the First Empire. Not a speck of dust was to be seen
anywhere. The Baron ordered coffee, and dismissed Lotta.

When she had gone he looked about him keenly, as if in search of
somewhat, from the arm-chair into which he had thrown himself. Not
finding what he sought, he arose and went into the adjoining room. Yes,
there it was!

On the wall hung two portraits, in broad, tasteless gilt frames. One
represented a fair, handsome woman, with bare shoulders and long, soft
curls; the other a dark-browed man, in the red, gold-embroidered
uniform of a court chamberlain. He smiled bitterly as he looked at this
picture. "Done with!" he muttered, and turned his back upon the
portraits; with those words he banished the memory of his past. A
strange sensation possessed him: an anticipation of his future,--the
future of a man of seventy-three! He walked about the room uncertainly,
searching for something. A dark flush mounted to his cheek; he loosened
his collar. At last he turned the key in the door, as if fearful of
being surprised in some misdeed, and then went to his writing-table, a
large and rather complicated piece of furniture, its numerous drawers
decorated with brass ornaments. From one of the most secret of these he
took a small portfolio containing about a dozen photographs. All
represented the same person, but at various stages of existence, from
earliest infancy to boyhood and manhood.

"Fritz!" murmured the old man, hoarsely; "Fritz!"

Yes, always Fritz. The father looked them through, lingering over each
one with the same longing, hungry look with which we would fain call to
life the images of our dead. There was Fritz with his first gun, Fritz
in his school-uniform, and, at last, Fritz as a young diplomat,
photographed in Paris, with a mountain view in the background.

This picture trembled in the old hands. How he had admired it! how
proud he had been of his handsome son! and then----

There was a knock at the door. Buried in the past, he had not heard the
bustle of preparation in the next room, and now he thrust away the
pictures to take his seat at his well-furnished table, where Lotta was
waiting to serve him.

"Sit down, sit down," the Baron said, with unwonted geniality, "and
tell me of what is going on here."

Lotta seated herself bolt upright at a respectful distance from her
master.

"Well?" began the Baron, pouring out the coffee for himself.

"I wrote all the news to the Herr Baron; nothing else has happened,
except that the English sow which the Herr Baron bought at the fair
littered last night,--twelve as nice fat little pigs as ever were
seen."

"Indeed! very interesting. But what was in the letter? Since I never
received it, it must be lying at Franzburg."

"Oh, all sorts of things,--about the short-horn calves, and the weight
of the hay, and Baron Harry's betrothal; but of course the Herr Baron
knew of that."

The Baron set down his cup so hastily that it came near being broken.
"Not a word!" he exclaimed, doing his best to conceal the delight which
would mirror itself in his face. Harry betrothed? To whom but to the
golden-haired enchantress he had met in the forest, Fritz's daughter
Zdena? To be sure, he had threatened to disinherit the boy if he
married her, but the fellow had been quite right to set the threat at
naught. The old man chuckled at the fright he would give them, and
then---- Meanwhile, he tried to look indifferent.

"Indeed? And so the boy is betrothed?" he drawled. "All very
fine--without asking any one's advice, hey? Of course your old heart is
dancing at the thought of it, Lotta. Oh, I know you through and
through."

"I don't see any reason for rejoicing at the young master's betrothal,"
Lotta replied, crossly, thrusting out her chin defiantly.

The old man scanned her keenly. Something in the expression of her face
troubled him.

"Who is the girl?" he asked, bluntly.

"The younger of the two Harfink fräuleins; the other married Count
Treurenberg."

"Harfink, do you say? Impossible!" The Baron could not believe his
ears.

"So I thought too, but I was mistaken. It is officially announced.
Baron Karl has been to see the mother, and there is shortly to be a
betrothal festival, to which all the great people in the country round
are to be invited."

"But what is the stupid boy thinking about? What do people say of him?"
thundered the Baron.

"Why, what should they say? They say our young Baron had interested
motives, that he is in debt----"

The Baron started up in a fury. "In debt? A fine reason!" he shouted.
"Am I not here?"

Whereupon Lotta looked at him very significantly. "As if every one did
not know what those get who come to the Herr Baron for money," she
murmured.

The old man's face flushed purple. "Leave the room!" he cried, pointing
to the door.

Lotta arose, pushed back her chair to the wall, and walked out of the
room with much dignity. She was accustomed to such conduct on her
master's part: it had to be borne with. And she knew, besides, that her
words had produced an impression, that he would not be angry with her
long.

When the door had closed after her, the old man seated himself at his
writing-table, determined to write to Harry, putting his veto upon the
marriage of his nephew with the "Harfink girl;" but after the first few
lines he dropped the pen.

"What affair is it of mine?" he murmured. "If he had yielded to
a foolish impulse like my Fritz,"--he passed his hand over his
eyes,--"why, then I might have seen things differently, and not as I
did twenty years ago. But if, with love for another girl in his heart,
he chooses to sell himself for money, he simply does not exist for me.
Let him take the consequences. My money was not enough for him, or
perhaps he was afraid he should have to wait too long for it. Well, now
he can learn what it is to be married without a penny to a rich girl
whom he does not love."

He pulled the bell furiously. The young gamekeeper who always filled
the position of valet to the Baron upon these spasmodic visits to
Vorhabshen entered.

"Harness the drag, Martin, so that I can catch the train."

That very evening he returned to Franzburg, where he sent for his
lawyer to help him make a new will.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.

                               SUBMISSION.


Yes, affairs had reached a terribly grave point, an Harry now fully
appreciated. He felt like a man under sentence of death whose appeal
for mercy has been rejected. The day for his execution was appointed;
he had given his promise, and must keep it.

The day after his father's visit to Dobrotschau the young man presented
himself there, and informed the ladies that pressing business obliged
him to return to Vienna; but Paula, who was perfectly aware of the
duration of his leave, routed from the field every reason which he gave
for the necessity for his presence in Vienna. A betrothal festival had
been arranged for a day early in September; he could not possibly be
absent. And Paula, the robust, whose nerves were of iron, wept and made
a scene; and Harry stayed, and conscientiously paid at least three
visits a week at Dobrotschau. He was changed almost past recognition:
he had grown very thin, his voice had a hard, metallic sound, and his
eyes had the restless brilliancy of some wild creature in a trap. He
ate scarcely anything, and his hands burned with fever. His betrothed,
whose passion was still on the increase, overwhelmed him with tender
attentions, which he no longer strove to discourage, but which he
accepted with the resignation of despair.

His bridges were burned behind him; he saw no escape; he must accept
what life had in store for him. Now and then he made a pathetic attempt
to blot out of his soul the pale image of the charming girl which never
left him. He even made every effort to love his betrothed, to penetrate
her inward consciousness, to learn to know and value her; but he
brought home from every such psychological exploring trip a positive
aversion, so rude and coarse, so bereft of all delicacy, were her modes
of thought and feeling. He pleased her; his quixotic courtesy, his
unpractical view of life, she took delight in; but her vanity alone was
interested, not her heart,--that is, she valued it all as "gentlemanly
accomplishment," as something aristocratic, like his seat on horseback,
or the chiselling of his profile. She was an utter stranger to the best
and truest part of him. And as her passion increased, what had been
with him at first an impatient aversion changed to absolute loathing,
something so terrible that at times he took up his revolver to put an
end to it all. Such cowardice, however, was foreign to his principles;
and then he was only twenty-four years old, and life might have been so
fair if---- Even now at rare intervals a faint hope would arise within
him, but what gave birth to it he could not tell.

Meanwhile, the days passed, and the betrothal _fête_ was near at hand.
Fainacky, who had installed himself as _maître de plaisir_, an office
which no one seemed inclined to dispute with him, was indefatigable in
his labours, and displayed great inventive faculty. Every hour he
developed some fresh idea: now it was a new garden path to be
illuminated by coloured lamps, now a clump of shrubbery behind which
the band of an infantry regiment in garrison in the neighbourhood was
to be concealed.

"Music is the most poetic of all the arts, so long as one is spared the
sight of the musician," he explained to Frau von Harfink, in view of
this last arrangement. "The first condition of success for a _fête_ is
a concealed orchestra."

He himself composed two stirring pieces of music--a Paula galop and a
Selina quadrille--to enrich the entertainment. The decoration of the
garden-room was carried out by a Viennese upholsterer under his special
supervision. He filled up the cards of invitation, ordered the wine for
the supper, and sketched the shapes for the plaques of flowers on the
table. The menus, however, constituted his masterpiece. Civilized
humanity had never seen anything like them. Beside each plate there was
to lie a parchment roll tied with a golden cord, from, which depended a
seal stamped with the Harfink coat of arms. These gorgeous things were
Fainacky's _chef-d'[oe]uvre_. All his other devices--such as the torch
dance at midnight, with congratulatory addresses from the Harfink
retainers, the fireworks which were to reveal the intertwined
initials of the betrothed pair shooting to the skies in characters of
flame--were mere by-play. Yet, in spite of all his exertions in this
line, the Pole found time to spy upon everybody, to draw his own
conclusions, and to attend to his own interests.

By chance it occurred to him to devote some observation to Olga
Dangeri, whom hitherto he had scarcely noticed. He found her a subject
well worth further attention, and it soon became a habit of his to
pursue her with his bold glance, of course when unobserved by the fair
Countess Selina, with whom he continued to carry on his flirtation.
Whenever, unseen and unheard, he could persecute Olga with his insolent
admiration and exaggerated compliments, he did so. Consequently she did
her best to avoid him. He was quite satisfied with this result,
ascribing it to the agitation caused by his homage. "Poor girl!" he
thought; "she does not comprehend the awakening within her of the
tender passion!"

In fact, a change was perceptible in Olga. She was languid, not easily
roused to exertion; her lips and cheeks burned frequently, and she was
more taciturn than ever. Her beauty was invested with an even greater
charm. Upon his first arrival in Dobrotschau, the Pole had suspected a
mutual inclination between Treurenberg and the beautiful "player's
daughter," but, since he had seen nothing to confirm his ugly
suspicion, he had ceased to entertain it. Every symptom of an awakening
attachment which he could observe in Olga, Ladislas Fainacky
interpreted in his own favour.



                              CHAPTER XXX.

                              PERSECUTION.


September has fairly begun. The harvest is gathered in, and the wind is
blowing over the stubble,--a dry, oppressive wind, calling up clouds
which float across the sky in fantastic masses every morning and vanish
at noon without a trace. All nature manifests languor and thirst; the
dry ground shows large cracks here and there, and vegetation is losing
its last tinge of green.

Nowhere in all the country around are the effects of the drought more
apparent than at Dobrotschau, where the soil is very poor. Not even in
the park is there any freshness of verdure. The fountains refuse to
play; the sward looks like a shabby, worn carpet; the leaves are
withering on the trees.

Everything is longing for a storm, and yet all feel that relief, when
it comes, will bring uproar with it; something must go to ruin and be
shattered in the change. The great life of nature, spellbound and
withheld in this sultry languor, will awake with some convulsion,
angrily demanding a victim. It is inevitable; and one must take comfort
in the thought that all else will flourish, refreshed and strengthened.
Anything would be preferable to this wasting and withering, this
perpetual hissing wind.

To-day it seems finally lulled to rest, for the barometer is falling,
and livid blue clouds are piling up on the horizon, as distinct in
outline as a range of mountains, and so darkly menacing that in old
times men would have regarded them with terror. Now every one says, "At
last! at last!"

But they mount no higher; the air is more sultry, and not a cooling
drop falls.

In the shadiest part of the park there is a pond, bordered with rushes
and surrounded by a scanty growth of underbrush, in the midst of which
stand the black, skeleton trunks of several dead trees. During the
winters preceding the coming to Dobrotschau of the Baroness Harfink,
and shortly after the purchase of the estate, some of the most ancient
of the trees--trees as old as the family whose downfall necessitated
the sale of Dobrotschau--had died. Their lifeless trunks still pointed
to the skies, tall and grim, as if in mute protest against the new
ownership of the soil.

The pond, once a shining expanse of clear water, is almost dried up,
and a net-work of water-plants covers its surface. Now, when the
rosebuds are falling from their stems without opening, this marshy spot
is gay with many-coloured blossoms.

At the edge of the pond lies an old boat, and in it Olga is sitting,
dressed in white, with a red rose in her belt, one of the few roses
which the drought has spared. She is gazing dreamily, with half-shut
eyes, upon the shallow water which here and there mirrors the skies. An
open book lies in her lap, Turgenieff's "A First Love," but she has
read only a few pages of it. Her attitude expresses languor, and from
time to time she shivers slightly.

"Why is Lato so changed to me? why does he avoid me? what have I done
to displease him?" These are the thoughts that occupy her mind as she
sits there, with her hands clasped in her lap, gazing down into the
brown swamp, not observing that Fainacky, attracted by the light colour
of her dress among the trees, has followed her to the pond and has been
watching her for some time from a short distance.

"She loves," he says to himself, as he notices the dreamy expression of
the girl's face; and his vanity adds, "She loves me!"

He tries, by gazing fixedly at her, to force her to look up at him, but
he is unsuccessful, and then has recourse to another expedient. In his
thin, reedy tenor voice he begins to warble "Salve dimora casta e pura"
from Gounod's "Faust."

Then she looks round at him, but her face certainly does not express
pleasure. She arises, leaves the skiff, and, passing her obtrusive
admirer without a word, tries to turn into the shortest path leading to
the castle. He walks beside her, however, and begins in a low voice:
"Fräulein Olga, I have something to say to you."

"Tome?"

"Yes, I want to explain myself, to correct some false impressions of
yours, to lay bare my heart before you."

He pauses after uttering this sentence, and she also stands still, her
annoyance causing a choking sensation in her throat. She would fain let
him know that she is not in the least interested in having his heart
laid bare before her, but how can she do this without seeming cross or
angry?

"You have hitherto entirely misunderstood me," he assures her. "Oh,
Olga, why can you not lay aside your distrust of me?"

"Distrust?" she repeats, almost mechanically; "I am not aware of any
distrust."

"Do not deny it," he persists, clasping his hands affectedly; "do not
deny it. Your distrust of me is profound. It wounds me, it pains me,
and--it pains you also!"

Olga can hardly believe her ears. She stares at him without speaking,
in utter dismay, almost fearing that he has suddenly lost his wits.

"You must hear me," he continues, with theatric effect. "Your distrust
must cease, the distrust which has hitherto prevented you from
perceiving how genuine is the admiration I feel for you. Oh, you must
see how I admire you!"

Here Olga loses patience, and, with extreme _hauteur_, replies, "I have
perceived your very disagreeable habit of staring at me, and of
persecuting me with what I suppose you mean for compliments when you
think no one is observing you."

"It was out of regard for you."

"Excuse my inability to understand you," she rejoins, still more
haughtily. "I cannot appreciate regard of that description." And with
head proudly erect she passes him and walks towards the castle.

For a moment he gazes after her, as if spellbound. How beautiful she
is, framed in by the dark trees that arch above the pathway! "She
loves! she suffers!" he murmurs. His fancy suddenly takes fire; this is
no fleeting inclination, no!--he adores her!

With a bound he overtakes her. "Olga! you must not leave me thus,
adorable girl that you are! I love you, Olga, love you devotedly!"
He falls at her feet. "Take all that I have, my name, my life, my
station,--a crown should be yours, were it mine!"

She is now thoroughly startled and dismayed. "Impossible! I cannot!"
she murmurs, and tries to leave him.

But with all the obstinacy of a vain fool he detains her. "Oh, do not
force those beauteous lips to utter cruel words that belie your true
self. I have watched you,--you love! Olga, my star, my queen, tell me
you love me!"

He seizes the girl's hands, and covers them with kisses; but with
disgust in every feature she snatches them from him, just as Lato
appears in the pathway.

Fainacky rises; the eyes of the two men meet. Treurenberg's express
angry contempt; in those of the Pole there is intense hatred, as,
biting his lip in his disappointment, he turns and walks away.



                             CHAPTER XXXI.

                              CONSOLATION.


"What is the matter? What is it?" Treurenberg asks, solicitously.

"Nothing, nothing," Olga replies; "nothing at which I ought to take
offence." Then, after a short pause, she adds, "On the contrary, he did
me the honour to offer to make me Countess Fainacky. The idea, it is
true, seemed to occur to him rather tardily, after conducting himself
impertinently."

Lato twirls his moustache nervously, and murmurs, in a dull,
constrained voice, "Well, and could you not bring yourself to consent?"

"Lato!" the girl exclaims, indignantly.

The bitter expression on Lato's face makes him look quite unlike
himself as he says, "A girl who sets out to marry must not be too nice,
you see!"

His head is turned away from her; silence reigns around; the sultry
quiet lies like a spell upon everything.

He hears a half-suppressed ejaculation, the rustle of a robe, short,
quick steps, and, looking round, sees her tall figure walking rapidly
away from him, offended pride and wounded feeling expressed in its
every motion. He ought to let her go, but he cannot, and he hurries
after her; almost before she is aware of his presence, he lightly
touches her on the arm.

"Olga, my poor Olga, I did not mean this!" he exclaims, gently. "Be
reasonable, my child; I did not mean to wound you, but to give you a
common-sense view of the affair."

She looks away from him, and suddenly bursts into irrepressible sobs.

"You poor child! Hush, I pray you! I cannot bear this! Have I really
grieved you--I--why, 'tis ridiculous--I, who would have my hand cut off
to serve you? Come, be calm." And he draws her down upon a rustic bench
and takes a seat beside her.

Her chest heaves as does that of a child who, although the cause of its
grief has been removed, cannot stop crying at once. He takes her hand
in his and strokes it gently.

A delightful sensation of content, even of happiness, steals upon him,
but mingling with it comes a tormenting unrest, the dawning
consciousness that he is entering upon a crooked path, that he is in
danger of doing a wrong, and yet he goes on holding the girl's hand in
his and gazing into her eyes.

"Why are you not always kind to me?" she asks him simply.

He is confused, and drops her hand.

"For a whole week past you have seemed scarcely to see me," she says,
reproachfully. "Have you been vexed with me? Did I do anything to
displease you?"

"I have had so much to worry me," he murmurs.

"Poor Lato! I thought so. If you only knew how my heart aches for
you! Can you not tell me some of your troubles? They are so much easier
to bear when shared with another."

And before he can reply she takes his hand in both of hers, and presses
it against her cheek.

Just at that moment he sees the Pole, who has paused in departing and
turned towards the pair; the man's sallow face, seen in the distance
above Olga's dark head, seems to wear a singularly malevolent
expression.

As soon, however, as he becomes aware that Treurenberg has perceived
him, he vanishes again.

Lato's confusion increases; he rises, saying, "And now be good, Olga;
go home and bathe your eyes, that no one may see that you have been
crying."

"Oh, no one will take any notice, and there is plenty of time before
dinner. Take a walk with me in the park; it is not so warm as it was."

"I cannot, my child; I have a letter to write."

"As you please;" and she adds, in an undertone, "You are changed
towards me."

Before he can reply, she is gone.

The path along which she has disappeared is flecked with crimson,--the
petals of the rose that she had worn in her girdle.


Lato feels as if rudely awakened from unconsciousness. He walks
unsteadily, and covers his eyes with his hand as if dazzled by even the
tempered light of the afternoon. The terrible bliss for which he longs,
of which he is afraid, seems so near that he has but to reach out his
hand and grasp it. He stamps his foot in horror of himself. What! a
pure young girl! his wife's relative! The very thought is impossible!
He is tormented by the feverish fancies of overwrought nerves. He
shakes himself as if to be rid of a burden, then turns and walks
rapidly along a path leading in an opposite direction from where the
scattered rose-leaves are lying on the ground.

As he passes on with eyes downcast, he almost runs against the Pole.
The glances of the two men meet; involuntarily Lato averts his from
Fainacky's face, and as he does so he is conscious of a slight
embarrassment, which the other takes a malicious delight in noticing.

"Aha!" he begins; "your long interview with the fair Olga seems to have
had a less agreeable effect upon your mood than I had anticipated."

Such a remark would usually have called forth from Lato a sharp
rejoinder; to-day he would fain choose his words, to excuse himself, as
it were.

"She was much agitated," he murmurs. "I had some trouble in
soothing her. She--she is nervous and sensitive; her position in my
mother-in-law's household is not a very pleasant one."

"Well, you certainly do your best to improve it," Fainacky says,
hypocritically.

"And you to make it impossible!" Lato exclaims, angrily.

"Did the fair Olga complain of me, then?" drawls the other.

"There was no need that she should," Treurenberg goes on to say. "Do
you suppose that I need anything more than eyes in my head to see how
you follow her about and stare at her?"

Fainacky gives him a lowering look, and then laughs softly.

"Well, yes, I confess, I have paid her some attention; she pleases me.
Yes, yes, I do not deny my sensibility to female charms. I never played
the saint!"

"Indeed! At least you seem to have made an effort to-day to justify
your importunity," Treurenberg rejoins, filled with contempt for the
simpering specimen of humanity before him. "You have offered her your
hand."

Scarcely have the words left his lips when Treurenberg is conscious
that he has committed a folly in thus irritating the man.

Fainacky turns pale to the lips, and his expression is one of intense
malice.

"It is true," he says, "that I so far forgot myself for a moment as to
offer your youthful _protégeé_ my hand. Good heavens! I am not the
first man of rank who, in a moment of enthusiasm and to soothe the
irritated nerves of a shy beauty, has offered to marry a girl of low
extraction. The obstacle, however, which bars my way to her heart
appears to be of so serious a nature that I shall make no attempt to
remove it."

He utters the words with a provoking smile and most malicious emphasis.

"To what obstacle do you refer?" Lato exclaims, in increasing anger.

"Can you seriously ask me that question?" the Pole murmurs, in a low
voice like the hiss of a serpent.

Transported with anger, Treurenberg lifts his hand; the Pole scans him
quietly.

"If you wish for a duel, there is no need to resort to so drastic a
measure to provoke it. But do you seriously think it would be well for
the fair fame of your--your lovely _protégeé_ that you should fight for
her?" And, turning on his heel, Fainacky walks towards the castle.

Lato stands as if rooted to the spot, his gaze riveted on the ground.



                             CHAPTER XXXII.

                          INTERRUPTED HARMONY.


Dinner is over, and the gilt chandelier in the garden-room, where
coffee is usually served, is lighted. Selina is sitting at the piano
accompanying Fainacky, who is singing. Paula is in her own rooms with
her mother, inspecting the latest additions to her trousseau, just
arrived from Vienna. Lato has remained in the garden-room, where he
endures with heroic courage the sound of Fainacky's voice as he whines
forth his sentimental French songs, accentuating them in the most
touching places with dramatic gestures and much maltreatment of his
pocket-handkerchief. After each song he compliments Selina upon her
playing. Her touch reminds him of Madame Essipoff. Selina, whose
digestion is perfect so far as flattery is concerned, swallows all his
compliments and looks at him as if she wished for more.

On the wide gravel path, before the glass doors of the room, Olga is
pacing to and fro. The broad light from door and window reveals clearly
the upper portion of her figure. Her head is slightly bent, her hands
are clasped easily before her. There is a peculiar gliding grace in all
her movements. With all Treurenberg's efforts to become interested in
the newspaper which he holds, he cannot grasp the meaning of a single
sentence. The letters flicker before his eyes like a crowd of crawling
insects. Weary of such fruitless exertion, he lifts his eyes, to
encounter Olga's gazing at him with a look of tenderest sympathy. He
starts, and makes a fresh effort to absorb himself in the paper, but
before he is aware of it she has come in from the garden and has taken
her seat on a low chair beside him.

"Is anything the matter with you?" she asks.

"What could be the matter with me?" he rejoins, evasively.

"I thought you might have a headache, you look so pale," she says, with
a matronly air.

"Olga, I would seriously advise you to devote yourself to the study of
medicine, you are so quick to observe symptoms of illness in those
about you."

She returns his sarcasm with a playful little tap upon his arm.

Fainacky turns and looks at them, a fiendish light in his green eyes,
in the midst of his most effective rendering of Massenet's "_Nuits
d'Espagne_."

"If you want to talk, I think you might go out in the garden, instead
of disturbing us here," Selina calls out, sharply.

Lato instantly turns to his newspaper, and when he looks up from it
again, Olga has vanished. He rises and goes to the open door. The
sultry magic of the September night broods over the garden outside. The
moon is not yet visible,--it rises late,--but countless stars twinkle
in the blue-black heavens, shedding a pale silvery lustre upon the dark
earth. Olga is nowhere to be seen; but there---- He takes a step or two
forward; she is walking quickly. He pauses, looks after her until she
disappears entirely among the shrubbery, and then he goes back to the
garden-room.

It is Selina's turn to sing now, and she has chosen a grand aria from
"Lucrezia Borgia." She is a pupil of Frau Marchesi's, and she has a
fine voice,--that is to say, a voice of unusual compass and power,
which might perhaps have made a reputation on the stage, but which is
far from agreeable in a drawing room. It is like the blowing of
trumpets in the same space.

His wife's singing is the one thing in the world which Lato absolutely
cannot tolerate, and never has tolerated. Passing directly through the
room, he disappears through a door opposite the one leading into the
garden.

Even in the earliest years of their married life Selina always took
amiss her husband's insensibility to her musical performances, and now,
when she avers his indifference to her in every other respect to be a
great convenience, her sensitiveness as an artist is unchanged.

Breaking off in the midst of her song, she calls after him, "Is that a
protest?"

He does not hear her.

"_Continuez done, ma cousine_, I implore you," the Pole murmurs.

With redoubled energy, accompanying herself, Countess Selina sings
on, only dropping her hands from the keys when she has executed a
break-neck cadenza by way of final flourish. Fainacky, meanwhile,
gracefully leaning against the instrument, listens ecstatically, with
closed eyes.

"Selina, you are an angel!" he exclaims, when she has finished. "Were I
in Treurenberg's place you should sing to me from morning until night."

"My husband takes no pleasure in my singing; at the first sound of my
voice he leaves the room, as you have just seen. He has no more taste
for music than my poodle."

"Extraordinary!" the Pole says, indignantly. And then, after a little
pause, he adds, musingly, "I never should have thought it. The day I
arrived here, you remember, I came quite unexpectedly; and, looking for
some one to announce me, I strayed into this very room----" He
hesitates.

"Well?--go on."

"Well, Nina, or Olga--what is your _protégeé's_ name?" He snaps his
fingers impatiently.

"Olga! Well, what of her?"

"Nothing, nothing, only she was sitting at the piano strumming away at
something, and Lato was listening as devoutly as if she----"

But Selina has risen hastily and is walking towards the door into the
garden with short impatient steps, as if in need of the fresh air. Her
face is flushed, and she plucks nervously at the lace about her throat.

"What have I done? Have I vexed you?" the Pole whines, clasping his
hands.

"Oh, no, you have nothing to do with it!" the Countess sharply rejoins.
"I cannot understand Lato's want of taste in making so much fuss about
that slip of a girl."

"You ought to try to marry her off," sighs the Pole.

"Try I try!" the Countess replies, mockingly. "There is nothing to be
done with that obstinate thing."

"Of course it must be difficult; her low extraction, her lack of
fortune,----"

"Lack of fortune?" Selina exclaims.

"I thought Olga was entirely dependent upon your mother's generosity,"
Fainacky says, eagerly.

"Not at all. My father saved a very fair sum for Olga from the remains
of her mother's property. She has the entire control of a fortune of
three or four hundred thousand guilders,--quite enough to make her a
desirable match; but the girl seems to have taken it into her head that
no one save a prince of the blood is good enough for her!" And the
Countess actually stamps her foot.

"Do you really imagine that it is Olga's ambition alone that prevents
her from contracting a sensible marriage?" Fainacky drawls, with
evident significance.

"What else should it be?" Selina says, imperiously. "What do you mean?"

"Nothing, nothing; she seems to me rather exaggerated,--overstrained.
Let us try this duet of Boito's."

"I do not wish to sing any more," she replies, and leaves the room.

He gazes after her, lost in thought for a moment, then snaps his
fingers.

"Four hundred thousand guilders--by Jove!"

Whereupon he takes his seat at the piano, and improvises until far into
the night upon the familiar air, "In Ostrolenka's meads."



                            CHAPTER XXXIII.

                             EARLY SUNRISE.


It is early in the morning of the day before the famous betrothal
festivity. The town-clock of X---- strikes three as Treurenberg, his
bridle hanging loose, is riding along the lonely road towards
Dobrotschau. He has passed the night with a few officers at the rooms
of the Countess Wodin, his cousin and former flame, who "threw him
over" because her views of life were more practical than his,--that is
to say, than his were at that period; for he soon followed her example,
and was very practical too. But it does not suit every man to be so.

The assemblage at the Countess Wodin's was unusually lively. She was
the only lady present, with the exception of the major's wife, an
insignificant, awkward woman, who was usually endowed with the
Countess's cast-off gowns. A large number of men made up the
gathering,--almost the entire corps of officers, and a couple of
gentlemen from the neighbourhood. The time was whiled away with cards.
At first Lato did not join the players, simply looking on at one and
another of the tables; but by and by he took the cards for his cousin,
who, suddenly possessed by an intense desire to dance, rose from her
place, "just to take a couple of turns around the room." She waltzed
until she was breathless with Ensign Flammingen, Treurenberg's
relative, who was apparently head over ears in love with her. An
officer of dragoons meanwhile droned out the music for them upon a
little drawing-room hand-organ. When the Countess again took her place
at the card-table Lato had won a small fortune for her. She
congratulated him upon his luck, and advised him to try it in his own
behalf. He did so.

Between the games a good deal of wine had been drunk, and various
questionable witticisms had been perpetrated. Treurenberg laughed
louder than the rest, although all such jesting was distasteful to him,
especially when women were present. But the Countess had expressly
requested to be treated as a man; and the major's wife, after an
unfortunate attempt to smoke a cigarette, had retired to a sofa in the
adjoining room to recover from the effects of the experiment.

In the absence of this victim of an evil custom for which she was
evidently unfitted, the merriment grew more and more boisterous, until
suddenly young Flammingen, who had but a moment before been waltzing
gaily with the hostess, fell into a most lachrymose condition. The rest
tried, it is true, to regard it as only an additional amusement, but it
was useless: the mirth had received a death-blow. Some one began to
turn the hand-organ again, but without cheering results. All were
tired. They found the air of the room suffocating; the smoke was too
thick to see through. Then the unfortunate idea occurred to one of the
party to open a window. The fresh air from without wafted in among the
fumes of wine and cigar-smoke had a strange effect upon the guests:
they suddenly fell silent, and in a very short time vanished, like
ghosts at cock-crow.

Lato took his leave with the rest, disappearing from his cousin's
drawing-room with the consciousness of being a winner,--that was
something. He rode through the quiet town, and on between the desolate
fields of rye, where not an ear was left standing, between dark
stretches of freshly-ploughed land, whence came the odour of the earth
with its promise of renewed fertility. The moon was high in the
colourless sky; along the eastern horizon there was a faint gleam
of yellow light. The dawn enveloped all nature as in a white
semi-transparent veil; every outline showed indistinct; the air was
cool, and mingled with it there was a sharp breath of autumn. Here and
there a dead leaf fell from the trees. The temperature had grown much
cooler in the last few days; there had been violent storms in the
vicinity, although the drought still reigned at Dobrotschau.
Treurenberg felt weary in every limb; the hand holding the bridle
dropped on his horse's neck. On either side stood a row of tall
poplars; he had reached the avenue where Olga's white figure had once
come to meet him. The castle was at hand. He shivered; a mysterious
dread bade him turn away from it.

The half-light seemed to roll away like curling smoke. Lato could
clearly distinguish the landscape. The grass along the roadside was
yellow and dry; blue succory bloomed everywhere among it; here and
there a bunch of wild poppies hung drooping on their slender stalks.
The blue flowers showed pale and sickly in the early light; the poppies
looked almost black.

On a sudden everything underwent a change; broad shadows stretched
across the road, and all between them glowed in magic crimson light.
From a thousand twittering throats came greetings of the new-born day.

Treurenberg looked up. Solemn and grand, in a semicircle of
reddish-golden mist, the sun rose on the eastern horizon.

Yes, in a moment all was transformed,--the pale empty skies were filled
with light and resonant inspiration, the earth was revivified.

Why languish in weary discouragement when a single moment can so
transfigure the world? For him, too, the sun might rise, all might be
bright within him. Then, at a sharp turn of the road, the castle of
Dobrotschau appeared, interposing its mass between him and the sun. The
crimson light, like a corona, played about the outlines of the castle,
which stood out hard and dark against the flaming background.
Treurenberg's momentary hopefulness faded at the sight,--it was folly
to indulge in it: for him there was no sunrise; there was nothing
before him but a dark, blank wall, shutting out light and hope, and
against which he could but bruise and wound himself should he try to
break through it.



                             CHAPTER XXXIV.

                               STRUGGLES.


As Lato trotted into the court-yard of the castle a window was suddenly
closed, the window above his room,--Olga's. She had been awaiting his
return, then. He began to shiver as in a fever-fit.

"There must be an end to this," he said to himself, as he consigned his
horse to a sleepy groom and entered the castle.

His room was on the ground-floor; when he reached it he threw himself,
still dressed, on the bed, in a state of intolerable agitation; by
degrees he became calmer, his thoughts grew vague; without sleeping
soundly he dreamed. He seemed to be swimming with Olga in his arms
through a warm, fragrant lake, upon the surface of which pale
water-lilies were floating. Suddenly these pale lilies turned to greedy
flames, the lake glowed as with fire, and a stifling smoke filled the
air. Lato started up, his heart beating, his brow damp with moisture.
His fatigue tempted him to try again to rest, but he tossed about
restlessly; thinking himself still awake, he listened to the ticking of
his watch, and looked at Lion, who lay crouched beside his bed, when
suddenly Olga stood there gazing at him, her eyes transfigured with
heavenly compassion, as she murmured, "Will you not share your woe with
me?" She stretched out her arms to him, he drew her towards him, his
lips touched hers--he awoke with a cry. He rose, determined to dream no
more, and, drawing up one of his window-shades, looked down into the
courtyard. It was barely six o'clock. All was quiet, but for one of the
grooms at work washing a carriage. The fountain before the St. John
rippled and murmured; a few brown leaves floated in its basin. The
silvery reflection from the water dazzled Lato's eyes; he turned away,
and began slowly to pace the room. The motion seemed to increase his
restlessness; he threw himself into an arm-chair, and took up a book.
But he was not in a condition to read a line; before he knew it the
volume fell from his hand, and the noise it made in falling startled
him again. He shook his head in impatience with his nervousness; this
state of affairs could not be longer endured, he must bring about some
change; matters could not go on thus. He thought and thought. What
could be patched up from the ruins of his life? He must try to stand on
a better footing with his wife, to leave Dobrotschau as soon as
possible. What would be his future? could he ever become reconciled to
his existence? Oh! time was such a consoler, could adjust so much,
perhaps it would help him to live down this misery.

Then, like an honourable merchant who sees bankruptcy imminent, he
reckoned up his few possessions. His wife had certainly loved him once
passionately. It was long since he had recalled her former tenderness;
he now did so distinctly. "It is not possible," he thought to himself,
"that so strong a feeling can have utterly died out;" the fault of
their estrangement must be his, but it should all be different. If he
could succeed in withdrawing her from the baleful influences that
surrounded her, and in awakening all that was honest and true in her,
they might help each other to support life like good friends. It was
impossible to make their home in Vienna, where his sensitive nature was
continually outraged and at war with her satisfied vanity. Under such
circumstances irritation was unavoidable. But she had been wont to talk
of buying a country-seat, and had been eloquent about, the delights of
a country life. Yes, somewhere in the country, in a pretty, quiet home,
forgotten by the world, they might begin life anew; here was the
solution of the problem; this was the right thing to do! He thought of
his dead child; perhaps God would bestow upon him another.

What would, meanwhile, become of Olga? Like a stab, the thought came
to him that with her fate he had nothing to do. Olga would miss him,
but in time, yes, in time she would marry some good man. He never for
an instant admitted the idea that she could share his sinful affection.

"I must let the poor girl go," he murmured to himself. "I cannot help
her; all must look out for themselves." He said this over several
times, nervously clasping and unclasping his hands,--hands which, long,
narrow, and white, suggested a certain graceful helplessness which is
apt to distinguish the particularly beautiful hands of a woman. "Yes,
one must learn to control circumstances, to conquer one's self."



                             CHAPTER XXXV.

                              A SLANDERER.


The others are seated at the breakfast-table when Treurenberg enters
the dining-room, all except Fainacky, who, true to his self-imposed
task, is still busy with the decorations of the garden-room. That
enterprising _maître de plaisir_ has a deal to do, since there is to be
a rehearsal, as it were, in the evening of the morrow's festivities.
Various guests from far and near are expected to admire and to enhance
this prelude of coming glories.

A seat beside Selina is empty. Lato goes directly towards it. Nothing
about him betrays his inward agitation or the sleeplessness of the past
night. Rather pale, but refreshed by a long walk, and dressed with
exquisite care, he looks so distinguished and handsome in his light
summer array, that Selina is struck by his appearance. He has a rose in
his hand, and as, bending over his wife, he places it among her curls,
and then kisses her hand by way of morning greeting, she receives him
quite graciously. She is inclined to be proud to-day of her
aristocratic possession, which she is shortly to have an opportunity of
displaying before so many less-favoured friends. Half returning the
pressure of his hand, she says, "To what do I owe these conjugal
attentions?"

"The anniversary of our betrothal, Selina," he says, in the
half-jesting tone in which married people of a certain social standing
are wont to allude before witnesses to matters of sentiment, and then
he takes his seat beside her.

"True, our anniversary!" she rejoins, in the same tone, evidently
flattered. "And you remembered it? As a reward, Lato, I will butter
your toast for you."

Here the Pole comes tripping into the room. "_Changement de
décoration_. You have taken my place to-day, Treurenberg," he says, not
without irritation. "Since when have modern couples been in the habit
of sitting beside each other?"

"It is permitted now and then _en famille_," Selina informs him,
placing before Lato the toast she has just prepared for him. She
glances at Fainacky, and instantly averts her eyes. For the first time
it occurs to her to compare this affected trifler with her husband, and
the comparison is sadly to Fainacky's disadvantage. The petty
elegancies of his dress and air strike her as ridiculous. He divines
something of this, and it enrages him. He cares not the slightest for
Selina, but, since their late encounter in the park, he has most
cordially hated Lato, whom he did not like before. The friendly
demeanour of the pair towards each other this morning vexes him
intensely; he sees that his attempt to cast suspicion upon Lato has
failed with Selina; nay, it has apparently only fanned the flame of a
desire to attract her husband. It irritates him; he would be devoured
by envy should a complete reconciliation between the two be
established, and he be obliged to look on while Lato again entered into
the full enjoyment of his wife's millions. He takes the only vacant
place, and looks about him for somewhat wherewith to interrupt this
mood upon the part of the pair. Finally his glance rests upon Olga, who
sits opposite him, crumbling a piece of biscuit on her plate.

"No appetite yet, Fräulein Olga?" he asks.

Olga starts slightly, and lifts her teacup to her lips.

"Do you not think that Fräulein Olga has been looking ill lately?" The
Pole directs this question to all present.

Every one looks at Olga, and Fainacky gloats over the girl's confusion.

Treurenberg looks also, and is startled by her pallor. "Yes, my poor
child, you certainly are below par," he says, with difficulty
controlling his voice. "Something must be done for your health."

"Change of air is best in such cases," observes the Pole.

"So I think," says Treurenberg; and, finding that he has himself better
in hand than he had thought possible awhile ago, he adds, turning to
his mother-in-law, "I think, when everything here is settled after the
old fashion----"

"After the new fashion, you mean," Paula interposes, with a languishing
air.

"Yes, when all the bustle is over," Treurenberg begins afresh, in some
embarrassment this time, for his conscience pricks him sorely whenever
Paula alludes to her betrothal.

"I understand, after my marriage," she again interposes.

"About the beginning of November," Treurenberg meekly rejoins, again
addressing his mother-in-law, "you might take Olga to the south. A
winter in Nice would benefit both of you."

"_Tiens! c'est une idée_," Selina remarks. "Such quantities of people
whom we know are going to winter in Nice this year. Not a bad plan,
Lato. Yes, we might spend a couple of months very pleasantly in Nice."

"Oh, I have other plans for ourselves, Lina," Treurenberg says,
hastily.

"Ah, I begin to understand," Frau von Harfink observes: "we are
to be got out of the way, Olga, you and I." And she smiles after a
bitter-sweet fashion.

"But, Baroness!" Lato exclaims.

"You entirely misunderstand him, Baroness," Fainacky interposes: "he
was only anxious for Fräulein Olga's health; and with reason: her want
of appetite is alarming." Again he succeeds in attracting every one's
attention to the girl, who is vainly endeavouring to swallow her
breakfast.

"I cannot imagine what ails you," Paula exclaims, in all the pride of
her position as a betrothed maiden. "If I knew of any object for your
preference, I should say you were in love."

"Such suppositions are not permitted to the masculine intelligence,"
the Pole observes, twirling his moustache and smiling significantly,
his long, pointed nose drooping most disagreeably over his upper lip.

Olga trembles from head to foot; for his life Lato cannot help trying
to relieve the poor child's embarrassment.

"Nonsense!" he exclaims; "she is only a little exhausted by the heat,
and rather nervous, that is all! But you must really try to eat
something;" and he hands her a plate. Her hand trembles so as she takes
it that she nearly lets it fall.

Frau von Harfink frowns, but says nothing, for at the moment a servant
enters with a letter for Treurenberg. The man who brought it is waiting
for an answer. Lato hastily opens the missive, which is addressed in a
sprawling, boyish hand, and, upon reading it, changes colour and
hastily leaves the room.

"From whom can it be?" Selina soliloquizes, aloud.

"H'm!" the Pole drums lightly with his fingers on the table, with the
air of a man who knows more than he chooses to tell. A little while
afterwards he is left alone with Selina in the dining-room.

"Have you any idea of whom the letter was from?" the Countess asks him.

"Not the least," he replies, buttoning his morning coat to the throat,
an action which always in his case betokens the possession of some
important secret.

"Will you be kind enough to inform me of what you are thinking?" Selina
says, imperiously, and not without a certain sharpness of tone.

"You are aware, Countess, that ordinarily your wish is law for me," the
Pole replies, with dignity, "but in this case it is unfortunately
impossible for me to comply with your request."

"Why?"

"Because you might be offended by my communication, and it would be
terrible for me were I to displease you."

"Tell me!" the Countess commands.

"If it must be, then----" He shrugs his shoulders as if to disclaim any
responsibility in the matter, and, stroking his moustache affectedly,
continues: "I am convinced that the letter in question has to do with
Treurenberg's pecuniary embarrassments,--_voilà_!"

"Pecuniary embarrassments!" exclaims the Countess, with irritation.
"How should my husband have any such?"

She is vexed with the Pole, whose affectations begin to weary her, and
she is strangely inclined to defend her husband. Her old tenderness for
him seems to stir afresh within her. Fainacky perceives that his game
to-day will not be easily won; nevertheless he persists.

"Then you are ignorant of the debts he contracts?"

"If you have nothing more probable to tell me, you need trouble
yourself no further," the Countess angrily declares.

"Pardon me, Countess," the Pole rejoins, "I should not have told you
anything of the kind were I not sure of my facts. Treurenberg has
accidentally had resort to the same usurer that transacts my little
affairs. For, I make no secret of it, I have debts, a necessary evil
for a single man of rank. Good heavens! we gentlemen nowadays----" he
waves his hand grandiloquently. "Yet, I assure you, my friendship with
Abraham Goldstein is a luxury which I would gladly deny myself. I pay
four per----"

"I take not the slightest interest in the percentage you pay,"
interposes Selina, "but I cannot understand how you venture to repeat
to me a piece of gossip so manifestly false."

Her manner irritates him extremely, principally because it shows him
that he stands by no means so high in her favour as he had supposed.
The fair friendship, founded upon flattery, or at least upon mutual
consideration for personal vanity, is in danger of a breach. Fainacky
is consumed by a desire to irritate still further this insulting woman,
and to do Treurenberg an injury.

"Indeed!--a manifestly false piece of gossip?" he drawls,
contemptuously.

"Yes, nothing else," she declares; "apart from the fact that my
husband has personal control of a considerable income,--my father made
sure of that before he gave his consent to my marriage; he never
would have welcomed as a son-in-law an aristocrat without independent
means,--apart from this fact, of course my money is at his disposal."

"Indeed! really? I thought you kept separate purses!" says the Pole,
now--thanks to his irritation--giving free rein to his impertinence.

Selina bites her lips and is silent.

Meanwhile, Fainacky continues: "I can only say that my information as
to Treurenberg's financial condition comes from the most trustworthy
source, from Abraham himself. That indiscreet confidant informed
me one day that the husband of 'the rich Harfink'--that was his
expression--owed him money. The circumstance seemed to gratify his
sense of humour. He has a fine sense of humour, the old rascal!"

"I cannot understand--it is impossible. Lato cannot have so far
forgotten himself!" exclaims the Countess, pale and breathless from
agitation. "Moreover, his personal requirements are of the fewest. He
is no spendthrift."

"No," says the Pole, with an ugly smile, "he is no spendthrift, but he
is a gambler! You may perhaps be aware of this, Countess, ignorant as
you seem to be of your husband's private affairs?"

"A gambler!" she breaks forth. "You are fond of big words, apparently."

"And you, apparently, have a truly feminine antipathy to the truth. Is
it possible that you are not aware that even as a young man Treurenberg
was a notorious gambler?"

"Since his marriage he has given up play."

"Indeed? And what carries him to X---- day after day? How does he pass
his mornings there? At cards!" Selina tries to speak, but words fail
her, and the Pole continues, exultantly, "Yes, he plays, and his
resources are exhausted,--and so is Abraham Goldstein's patience,--so
he has taken to borrowing of his friends, as I happen to know; and if I
am not vastly mistaken, Countess, one of these days he will swallow
his hidalgo pride and cry _peccavi_ to you, turning to you to relieve
his financial embarrassments; and if I were you I would not repulse
him,--no, by heaven! not just now. You must do all that you can to keep
your hold upon him just at this time."

"And why just at this time?" she asks, hoarsely.

"Why?" He laughs. "Have you no eyes? Were my hints, my warnings, the
other evening, not sufficiently clear?"

"What do you mean? What do you presume to----" Selina's dry lips refuse
to obey her; the hints which had lately glanced aside from her armour
of self-confidence now go to the very core,--not of her heart, but of
her vanity.

Drawing a deep breath, she recovers her voice, and goes on, angrily:
"Are you insane enough to imagine that Lato could be seriously
attracted for one moment by that school-girl? The idea is absurd, I
could not entertain it for an instant. I have neglected Lato, it is
true, but I need only lift my finger----"

"I have said nothing," the Pole whines, repentantly,--"nothing in the
world. For heaven's sake do not be so angry! Nothing has occurred, but
Treurenberg has no tact, and Olga is the daughter of a play-actor, and
also, as you must admit, and as every one can see, desperately in love
with Lato. All I do is to point out the danger to you. Treat
Treurenberg with caution, and then----"

"Hush! Go!" she gasps.

He rises and leaves the room, turning in the doorway to say, with a
voice and gesture that would have won renown for the hero of a
provincial theatre at the end of his fourth act, "Selina, I have ruined
myself with you, I have thrown away your friendship, but I have perhaps
saved your existence from shipwreck!"

Whereupon he closes the door and betakes himself to the garden-room to
have a last look at the decorations there. He does not think it worth
while to carry thither his heroic air of self-sacrifice; on the
contrary, as he gives an order to the upholsterer, a triumphant smile
hovers upon his lips. "It will surprise me if Treurenberg now succeeds
in arranging his affairs in that quarter," he thinks to himself.

Meanwhile, Selina is left to herself. She does not suffer from wounded
affection; no, her heart is untouched by what she has just heard. But
memory, rudely awakened, recalls to her a hundred little occurrences
all pointing in the same direction, and she trembles with rage at the
idea that any one--that her own husband--should prefer that simpleton
of a girl to her own acknowledged beauty.



                             CHAPTER XXXVI.

                                FAILURE.


The clever Pole had, however, been quite mistaken as to the contents of
Lato's letter. Abraham Goldstein's patience with the husband of the
"rich Harfink" was not exhausted,--it was, in fact, inexhaustible; and
if, nevertheless, the letter brought home to Lato the sense of his
pecuniary embarrassments, it was because a young, inexperienced friend,
whom he would gladly have helped had it been possible, had appealed to
him in mortal distress. His young cousin Flammingen was the writer of
the letter, in which he confessed having lost at play, and entreated
Lato to lend him three thousand guilders. To the poor boy this sum
appeared immense; it seemed but a trifle to the husband of the "rich
Harfink," but nevertheless it was a trifle which there would be
great difficulty in procuring. And the lad wanted the money within
twenty-four hours, to discharge gambling-debts,--debts of honour.

Treurenberg had once, when a young man, been in a like situation, and
had been frightfully near vindicating his honour by a bullet through
his brains. He was sorry for the young fellow, and, although his misery
was good for him, he must be relieved. How? Lato turned his pockets
inside out, and the most he could scrape together was twelve hundred
guilders. This sum he enclosed in a short note, in which he told
Flammingen that he hoped to send him the rest in the course of the
afternoon, and despatched the waiting messenger with this consolation.
His cousin's trouble made him cease for a while to ponder upon his own.

Although he could not have brought himself to apply to his wife for
relief in his own affairs, it seemed to him comparatively easy to
appeal to her for another. He did not for an instant doubt that she
would comply with his request. She was not parsimonious, but hard, and
he could endure that for another's sake. He went twice to her room, in
hopes of finding her there, but she was still in the dining-room.

He frowned when her maid told him this, and, lighting a cigar, he went
down into the garden, annoyed at the necessity of postponing his
interview with his wife.

Meanwhile, Olga, out of spirits and unoccupied, had betaken herself to
the library. All day she had felt as if she had lost something; she
could not have told what ailed her. She took up a book to amuse
herself; by chance it was the very novel of Turgenieff's which she had
been about to read, seated in the old boat, when Fainacky had intruded
upon her. She had left the volume in the park, whence it had been
brought back to her by the gardener. She turned over the leaves, at
first listlessly, then a phrase caught her eye,--she began to read. Her
interest increased from chapter to chapter; she devoured the words. Her
breath came quickly, her cheeks burned. She read on to where the hero,
in an access of anger, strikes Zenaide on her white arm with his
riding-whip, and she calmly kisses the crimson welt made by the lash.

There the book fell from the girl's hand; she felt no indignation at
Zenaide's guilty passion, no horror of the cruel rage of the hero; no,
she was conscious only of a kind of fierce envy of Zenaide, who could
thus forgive. On the instant there awoke within her a passionate
longing for a love which could thus triumph over all disgrace, all ill
usage, and bear one exultantly to its heaven!

She had become so absorbed in the book as to be insensible to what was
going on around her. Now she started, and shrank involuntarily. A step
advanced along the corridor; she heard a door open and shut,--the door
of Selina's dressing-room.

"Who is there?" Selina's voice exclaimed.

"I." It was Treurenberg who replied.

Selina's dressing-room was separated by only a partition-wall from the
library.


It was well-nigh noon, and Selina's maid was dressing her mistress's
hair, when Treurenberg entered his wife's dressing-room for the first
time for years without knocking. She had done her best to recover from
the agitation caused her by Fainacky's words, had taken a bath, and had
then rested for half an hour. Guests were expected in the afternoon,
and she must impress them with her beauty, and must outshine the pale
girl whom Lato had the bad taste to admire. When Treurenberg entered
she was sitting before the mirror in a long, white peignoir, while her
maid was brushing her hair, still long and abundant, reddish-golden in
colour. Her arms gleamed full and white from out the wide sleeves of
her peignoir.

"Who is it?" she asked, impatiently, hearing some one enter.

"Only I," he replied, gently.

Why does the tone of his soft, melodious voice so affect her to-day?
Why, in spite of herself, does Lato seem more attractive to her than he
has done for years? She is irritated by the contradictory nature of her
feelings.

"What do you want?" she asks, brusquely.

"To speak with you," he replies, in French. "Send away your maid."

Instead of complying, Selina orders the girl, "Brush harder: you make
me nervous with such half-work."

Treurenberg frowns impatiently, and then quietly sends the maid from
the room himself. Selina makes no attempt to detain her,--under the
circumstances it would be scarcely possible for her to do so,--but
hardly has the door closed behind Josephine, when she turns upon Lato
with flashing eyes.

"Why do you send away my servants against my express wish?"

"I told you just now that I want to speak with you," he replies, with
more firmness than he has ever hitherto displayed towards her,--the
firmness of very weak men in mortal peril or moral desperation. "What I
have to say requires no witnesses and can bear no delay."

"Go on, then." She folds her arms. "What do you want?"

He has seated himself astride of a chair near her, and, with his arms
resting on the low back and his chin in his hands, he gazes at her
earnestly. Why do his attitude and his way of looking at her remind her
so forcibly of the early time of their married life? Then he often used
to sit thus and look on while she arranged her magnificent hair
herself, for then--ah, then----! But she thrusts aside all such
reflections. Why waste tenderness upon a man who is not ashamed to--who
has so little taste as to----

"What do you want?" she asks, more crossly than before.

"First of all, your sympathy," he replies, gravely.

"Oh, indeed! is this what you had to tell me that could bear no delay?"

He moves his chair a little nearer to her. "Lina," he murmurs, "we have
become very much estranged of late."

"Whose fault is it?" she asks, dryly.

"Partly mine," he sadly confesses.

"Only partly?" she replies, sharply. "That is a matter of opinion. The
other way of stating it is that you neglected me and I put up with it."

"I left you to yourself, because--because I thought I wearied you," he
stammers, conscious that he is not telling quite the truth, knowing
that he had hailed the first symptoms of her indifference as a relief.

"It certainly is true that I have not grieved myself to death over your
neglect. It was not my way to sue humbly for your favour. But let that
go; let us speak of real things, of the matter which will not bear
delay." She smiles contemptuously.

"True," he replies; "I had forgotten it in my own personal affairs. I
wanted to ask a favour of you."

"Ah!" she interposes; and he goes on: "It happens that I have no ready
money just now; what I have, at least, does not suffice. Will you
advance me some?"

She drums exultantly upon her dressing-table, loaded with its apparatus
of glass and silver. "I would have wagered that we should come to this.
H'm! how much do you want?"

"Eighteen hundred guilders."

"And do you consider that a trifle?" she exclaims, provokingly. "If I
remember rightly, it amounts to the entire year's pay of a captain in
the army. And you want the money to--discharge a gambling-debt, do you
not?"

"Not my own," he says, hoarsely. "God knows, I would rather put a
bullet through my brains than ask you for money!"

"That's very easily said," she rejoins, coldly. "I am glad, however, to
have you assure me that you do not want the money for yourself. To pay
your debts, for the honour of the name which I bear, I should have made
any sacrifice, but I have no idea of supporting the extravagancies of
the garrison at X----." And Selina begins to trim her nails with a
glittering little pair of scissors.

"But, Selina, you have no idea of the facts of the case!" Treurenberg
exclaims. He has risen, and he takes the scissors from her and tosses
them aside impatiently. "Women can hardly understand the importance of
a gambling-debt. A life hangs upon its payment,--the life of a
promising young fellow, who, if no help is vouchsafed him, must choose
between disgrace and death. Suppose I should tell you tomorrow that he
had shot himself,--what then?"

"He will not shoot himself," she says, calmly. "Moreover, it was a
principle with my father never to comply with the request of any one
who threatened suicide; and I agree with him."

"You are right in general; but this is an exception. This poor boy is
not yet nineteen,--a child, unaccustomed to be left to himself, who has
lost his head. What if you are right, and he cannot find the courage to
put an end to himself,--the hand of a lad of eighteen who has condemned
himself to death may well falter,--what then? Disgrace, for him, for
his family; dismissal from the army; a degraded life. Have pity,
Selina, for heaven's sake!"

He pleads desperately, but he might as well appeal to a wooden doll,
for all the impression his words make upon her, and at last he pauses,
breathless with agitation. Selina, tossing her head and with a scornful
air, says, "I have little sympathy for young good-for-naughts; it lies
in the nature of things that they should bear the consequences of their
actions; it is no affair of mine. I might, indeed, ask how it happens
that you take such an interest in this case, did I not know that you
have good reason to do so,--you are a gambler yourself."

Treurenberg starts and gazes at her in dismay. "A gambler! What
can make you think so? I often play to distract my mind, but a
gambler!--'tis a harsh word. I am not aware that you have ever had to
suffer from my love for cards."

"No; your friendship with Abraham Goldstein stands you in stead. You
have spared me, if it can be called sparing a woman to cause her
innocently to incur the reputation for intense miserliness!"

There is some truth in her words, some justice in her indignation. Lato
casts down his eyes. Suddenly an idea occurs to him. "Fainacky has told
you, then, of my relations with Abraham Goldstein?"

"Yes."

"Ah!" he exclaims; "I now understand the change in you. For heaven's
sake, do not allow yourself to be influenced by that shallow, malicious
coxcomb!"

"I do not allow myself to be influenced by him," the Countess replies;
"but his information produced an impression upon me, for it was, since
you do not deny it, correct. You are a gambler; you borrow money at a
high rate of percentage from a usurer, because you are too arrogant or
too obstinate to tell me of your debts. Is this not so?"

Treurenberg has gone towards the door, when he suddenly pauses and
collects himself. He will make one more attempt to be reconciled with
his wife, and it shall be the last. He turns towards her again.

"Yes," he admits, "I have treated you inconsiderately, and your
wounding of my pride, perhaps unintentionally, does not excuse me. I
have been wrong,--I have neglected you. I play,--yes, Selina, I
play,--I seek the society of strangers, but only because I am far, far
more of a stranger at home. Selina," he goes on, carried away by his
emotion, and in a voice which expresses his utter misery, "I cannot
reconcile myself to life amid your surroundings; call it want of
character, weakness, sensitiveness, as you please, but I cannot. Come
away with me; let us retire to any secluded corner of the earth, and I
will make it a paradise for you by my gratitude and devotion; I will
serve you on my knees; my life shall be yours, only come away with me!"

Poor Lato! he has wrought his own ruin. Why does he not understand that
every word he speaks wounds the most sensitive part of her,--her
vanity?

"You would withdraw me from my surroundings? And, pray, what society do
you offer me in exchange?" she asks, bitterly. "My acquaintances are
not good enough for you; I am not good enough for the atmosphere in
which you used to live."

He sees his error, perceives that he has offended her, and it pains
him.

"Selina," he says, softly, "there shall be no lack of good friends for
you at my side; and then, after all, what need have we of other people?
Can we not find our happiness in each other? What if God should bless
us with an angel like the one He has taken from us?"

He kneels beside her and kisses her hand, but she withdraws it hastily.

"Do not touch me!" she exclaims; "I am not Olga!"

He starts to his feet as if stung by a serpent. "What do you mean?"

"What I say."

"I do not understand you!"

"Hypocrite!" she gasps, her jealousy gaining absolute mastery of her;
"I am not blind; do you suppose I do not know upon whom you lavish kind
words and caresses every day, which fall to my share only when you want
some favour of me?"

It seems to him that he hears the rustle of feminine garments in the
next room. "For God's sake, Selina, not so loud," he whispers.

"Ah! your first emotion is dread of injuring her; all else is
indifferent to you. It does not even occur to you to repel my
accusation."

"Accusation?" he murmurs, hopelessly. "I do not yet understand of what
you accuse me."

"Of your relations with that creature before my very eyes!"

Transported with indignation at these words, he lifts his hand,
possessed by a mad impulse to strike her, but he controls himself so
far as only to grasp her by the arm.

"Creature!" he exclaims, furiously. "Creature! Are you mad? Olga!--why,
Olga is pure as an angel, more spotless than a snowflake before it has
touched the earth."

"I have no faith in such purity. If she has not actually fallen, her
passion is plainly shown in her eyes. But there shall be no open
scandal,--she must go. I will not have her in the house,--she must go!"

"She must go!" Treurenberg repeats, in horror. "You would turn her out
of doors,--a young, inexperienced, beautiful girl? Selina, I will go,
and the sooner the better for all I care, but she must stay."

"How you love her!" sneers the Countess.

For a moment there is silence in the room. Lato gazes at his wife as if
she were something strange which he had never seen before,--gazes at
her in amazement mingled with horror. His patience is at an end; he
forgets everything in the wild desire to break asunder the fetters
which have bound him for so long, to be rid of the self-control which
has so tortured him.

"Yes," he says, raising his voice, "I love her,--love her intensely,
unutterably; but this is the first time that I have admitted it even to
myself, and you have brought me to do so. I have struggled against this
passion night and day, have denied its existence, have done all that I
could to stifle it, and I have tried to the utmost to be reconciled
with you, to begin with you a new life in which I could hope to forget
her. How you have seconded me you know. Of one thing, however, I can
assure you,--the last word has been uttered between you and myself; it
would not avail you now though you should sue for a reconciliation on
your knees. A woman without tenderness or compassion I abhor. I have a
horror of you!" He turns sway, and the door closes behind him.


"Where is the Count?" Frau von Harfink asks a servant, at lunch, where
Treurenberg's place is vacant.

"The Herr Count had his horse saddled some time ago," the man replies,
"and left word that he should not be here at lunch, since he had urgent
business in X----."

"Indeed!" the hostess says, indifferently, without expending another
thought upon her son-in-law. She never suspects that within the last
few hours, beneath her roof, the ruin has been completed of a human
existence long since undermined.

Lunch goes on,--a hurried meal, at which it is evident that the
household is in a state of preparation for coming festivities; a meal
at which cold dishes are served, because the entire culinary force is
absorbed in elaborating the grand dinner for the evening; a lunch at
which no one talks, because each is too much occupied with his or her
own thoughts to desire to inquire into those of the others.

Frau von Harfink mentally recapitulates the evening's _menu_, wondering
if nothing can be added to it to reflect splendour upon the Harfink
establishment.

Paula's reveries are of her coming bliss; her usually robust appetite
is scarcely up to the mark. In short, the only one who seems to eat
with the customary relish is the Pole, who, very temperate in drinking
and smoking, is always ready for a banquet. He is also the only one who
notices the want of appetite in the rest. He does not waste his
interest, however, upon the Baroness or Paula, but devotes his
attention exclusively to Selina and Olga.

The Countess is evidently in a very agitated state of mind, and,
strange to relate of so self-satisfied a person, she is clearly
discontented with herself and her surroundings. When her mother asks
her whether two soups had better be served at dinner, or, since it is
but a small family affair, only one, she replies that it is a matter of
supreme indifference to her, and will certainly be the same to the
guests, adding,--

"The people who are coming will probably have some appetite; mine was
spoiled some days ago by the mere _menu_, which I have been obliged to
swallow every day for the last fortnight." These are the only words
spoken by her during the entire meal.

The Pole finds her mood tolerably comprehensible. She has had a scene
with Treurenberg, and has gone too far,--that is what is annoying her
at present. But Olga's mood puzzles him completely. The depression
she has manifested of late has entirely vanished, she holds her head
erect, her movements are easy, and there is a gleam in her eyes of
transfiguring happiness, something like holy exultation.



                            CHAPTER XXXVII.

                                A VISIT.


Meanwhile, Treurenberg is riding along the road to X----.

The landscape is dreary. Autumn is creeping over the fields, vainly
seeking the summer, seeking luxuriant life to kill, or exquisite beauty
to destroy. In vain; the same withering drought rests upon everything
like a curse, and in the midst of the brown monotony bloom succory and
field-poppies.

Treurenberg gazes to the right and left without really seeing anything.
His eyes have a glassy, fixed look, and about his mouth there is a hard
expression, almost wicked, and quite foreign to him. He is not the same
man who an hour ago sought his wife to entreat her to begin a new life
with him; not the same man who at dawn was so restless in devising
schemes for a better future.

His restlessness has vanished with his last gleam of hope; sensation is
benumbed, the burning pain has gone. Something has died within him. He
no longer reflects upon his life,--it is ended; he has drawn a black
line through it. All that he is conscious of is intense, paralyzing
weariness, the same that had overcome him in the early morning, only
more crushing. After the scene with his wife he had been assailed by a
terrible languor, an almost irresistible desire to lie down and close
his eyes, but he could not yield to it, he had something to do. That
poor lad must be rescued; the suffering the boy was enduring was
wholesome, but he must be saved.

Fainacky's assertion that Treurenberg was in the habit of borrowing
from his friends had been a pure fabrication; he had borrowed money of
no one save of Harry, with whom he had been upon the footing of a
brother from early boyhood, and of Abraham Goldstein, upon whose
secrecy he had supposed he could rely. It would have wounded him to
speak to any stranger of the painful circumstances of his married life.
Now all this was past; Selina could thank herself that it was so. He
could not let the boy go to ruin, and, since Selina would not take pity
upon him, he must turn to some one else; there was no help for it.

For a moment he thought of Harry; but he reflected that Harry could
hardly have so large a sum of ready money by him, and, as time was an
important item in the affair, there was nothing for it but to apply for
aid to Wodin, the husband of his cousin and former flame.


The trees grow scantier, their foliage rustier, and the number of
ragged children on the highway greater. Now and then some young women
are to be seen walking along the road, usually in couples, rather oddly
dressed, evidently after the plates in the journals of fashion, and
with an air of affectation. Then come a couple of low houses with
blackened roofs reaching almost to the ground, manure-heaps, grunting
swine wallowing in slimy green pools, hedges where pieces of linen are
drying, gnarled fruit-trees smothered in dust, an inn, a carters'
tavern, with a red crab painted above the door-way, whence issues the
noise of drunken quarrelling, then a white wall with some trees showing
above it, the town-park of X----. Lato has reached his goal. On the
square before the barracks he halts. A corporal takes charge of his
horse, and he hurries up the broad, dirty steps, along the still
dirtier and ill-smelling corridor, where he encounters dragoons in
spurs and clattering sabres, where the officers' overworked servants
are brushing their masters' coats and their mistresses' habits, to the
colonel's quarters, quarters the luxurious arrangement of which is in
striking contrast to the passages by which they are reached. Count
Wodin is not at home, but is expected shortly; the Countess, through a
servant, begs Lato to await him. He resolves to do so, and pays his
respects meanwhile to his cousin, whom he finds in a spacious, rather
low-ceilinged apartment, half smoking-room, half drawing-room,
furnished with divans covered with Oriental stuff's, pretty buhl chairs
and tables, and Japanese cabinets crowded to excess with all sorts of
rare porcelain. An upright piano stands against the wall between two
windows; above it hangs a miniature gondola, and beside it, on the
floor, is a palm in a huge copper jar evidently procured from some
Venetian water-carrier. Two china pugs, the size of life, looking like
degenerate chimeras, gnash their teeth at all intruders in life-like
hideousness. The door-ways are draped with Eastern rugs; the walls are
covered with a dark paper, and two or three English engravings
representing hunting-scenes hang upon them. In the midst of these
studies in black and white hangs a small copy of Titian's Venus.

The entire arrangement of the room betrays a mingling of vulgarity and
refinement, of artistic taste and utter lack of it; and in the midst of
it all the Countess reclines on a lounge, dressed in a very long and
very rumpled morning-gown, much trimmed with yellowish Valenciennes
lace. Her hair is knotted up carelessly; she looks out of humour, and
is busy rummaging among a quantity of photographs. She is alone, but
from the adjoining room come the sound of voices, as Treurenberg
enters, and the rattle of bézique-counters.

The Countess gives him her hand, presses his very cordially, and says,
in a weary, drawling tone, "How are you after yesterday, Lato?"

"After what?"

"Why, our little orgie. It gave me a headache." She passes her hand
across her forehead. "How badly the air tastes! Could you not open
another window, Lato?"

"They are all open," he says, looking round the room.

"Ah! You have poisoned the atmosphere with your wine, your cigars, your
gambling excitement. I taste the day after a debauch, in the air."

He nods absently.

"I admire people who never suffer the day after," she sighs, and waves
her hand towards the door of the next room, through which comes a
cheerful murmur of voices. Lato moves his head a little, and can see
through the same door a curious couple,--the major's wife, stout,
red-cheeked, her hair parted boldly on one side, and dressed in an old
gown, enlarged at every seam, of the Countess's, while opposite her
sits a young man in civilian's clothes, pale, coughing from time to
time, his face long and far from handsome, but aristocratic in type,
his chest narrow, and his waistcoat buttoned to the throat.

"Your brother," Lato remarks, turning to the Countess.

"Yes," she rejoins, "my brother, and my certificate of respectability,
which is well, for there is need of it. _À propos_, do you know that in
the matter of feminine companionship I am reduced to that stout Liese?"
The Countess laughs unpleasantly. "I have tried every day to bring
myself to the point of returning your wife's call. I do not know why I
have not done so. But the ladies at Dobrotschau are really very
amiable,--uncommonly amiable,--they have invited me to the betrothal
_fête_ in spite of my incivility. _À propos_, Lato, will any one be
there,--any one whom one knows?"

"I have had nothing to do with the list of guests," he murmurs,
listening for Wodin's step outside.

"I should like to know. It would be unpleasant to meet any of my
acquaintances,--they treat me so strangely. You know how it is." Again
she laughs in the same unpleasant way. "But if I could be sure of
meeting no one I would go to your _fête_, I have a new gown from Worth:
I should like to display it somewhere; dragging my trains through these
smoky rooms becomes monotonous after a while. I think I will come."

The voices in the next room sound louder, and there is a burst of
hearty laughter. Lato can see the major's wife slap her forehead in
mock despair.

"Easily entertained," the Countess says, crossly. "They are playing
bézique for raisins. It makes a change for my brother; his physician
has sent him to the country for the benefit of the air and a regular
mode of life. He has come to the right place, eh?" Again she laughs;
her breath fails her; she closes her eyes and leans back, white as a
corpse.

Lato shudders at the sight, he could hardly have told why. His youth
rises up before him. There was a time when he loved that woman with
enthusiasm, with self-devotion. That woman! He scans her now with a
kind of curiosity. She is still beautiful, but the wan face has fallen
away, the complexion all that can be seen of it beneath its coating of
violet powder--is faded, the delicate nose is too thick at the tip, the
nostrils are slightly reddened, the small mouth is constantly distorted
in an affected smile, the arms from which the wide sleeves of the
morning-gown have fallen back are thin, and the nails upon the long,
slender hands remind one of claws. Even the white gown looks faded,
crushed, as by the constant nervous movement of a restless,
discontented wearer. Her entire personality is constrained, feverish.

Involuntarily Lato compares this woman with Olga. He sees with his
mind's eye the young girl, tall and slender as a lily, her white gowns
always so pure and fresh, sees the delicately-rounded oval of her
girlish face, her clear, large eyes, the innocent tenderness of her
smile. And Selina could malign that same Olga! His blood boils. As if
Olga were to blame for the wretched, guilty passion in his breast! His
thoughts are far away from his present surroundings.

"Seven thousand five hundred," the triumphant voice of the major's wife
calls out in the next room. "If this goes on, Count Franz, I shall soon
stop playing for raisins! Ah!" as, turning her head, she perceives
Treurenberg; "you have a visitor, Lori."

"Yes," Countess Lori replies, "but do not disturb yourselves, nor us."

The rattle of the counters continues.

"I must speak with your husband," Lato says presently; "if you know
where he is----"

"He will be here in ten minutes; you need have no fear, he is never
late," Lori says. "_À propos_, do you know what I was doing when you
came in? Sorting my old photographs." She hands him a picture from the
pile beside her. "That is how I looked when you fell in love with me."

He gazes, not without interest, at the pale little picture, which
represents a tall, slender, and yet well-developed young girl with
delicate, exquisitely lovely features, and with eyes, full of gentle
kindliness, looking out curiously, as it were, into the world from
beneath their arched eyebrows. An old dream floats through the wretched
man's mind.

"It was very like," he says.

"Was it not? I was a comical-looking thing then, and how badly dressed!
Look at those big sleeves and the odd skirt. It was a gown of my elder
sister's made over. Good heavens! that gown had a part in my resolve to
throw you over. Do you remember?"

"Yes, Lori."

"Only faintly, I think," she laughs. "And yet you seemed to take it
sadly to heart then. I was greatly agitated myself. But what else was
to be done? I was tired of wearing my sister's old gowns. Youth longs
for splendour; it is one of its diseases, and when it has it--pshaw!
you need not look so, Lato: I have no intention of throwing myself at
your head. I know that old tale is told for both of us. And we never
were suited for each other. It was well that I did not marry you, but,
good heavens, I might have waited for some one else! It need not have
been just that one--that----" with a hasty gesture of disgust she
tosses aside a photograph of Count Wodin which she has just drawn from
the heap. "What would you have? If a tolerably presentable man appears,
and one knows that he can buy one as many gowns, diamonds, and horses
as one wants, why, one forgets everything else and accepts him. What
ideas of marriage one has at seventeen! And our parents take good care
not to enlighten us. 'She will get used to it,' say father and mother,
and the mother believes it because she wants to, and both rejoice that
their daughter is provided for; and before one is aware the trap has
fallen. I bore you, Lato."

"No," he replies; "you grieve me."

"Oh, it is only now and then that I feel thus," she murmurs. "Shall I
tell you the cause of my wretched mood?"

"Utter fatigue, the natural consequence of yesterday's pleasures."

"Not at all. I accidentally came upon the picture of my cousin Ada
to-day. Do you remember her? There she is." She hands him a photograph.
"Exquisitely beautiful, is it not?"

"Yes," he says, looking at the picture; "the eyes are bewitching, and
there is such womanly tenderness, such delicate refinement, about the
mouth."

"Nothing could surpass Ada," says Countess Lori; "she was a saint,
good, self-sacrificing, not a trace in her of frivolity or
selfishness."

"And yet she married Hugo Reinsfeld, if I am not mistaken?" says Lato.
"I have heard nothing of her lately. News from your world rarely
reaches me."

"No one mentions her now," Lori murmurs. "She married without
love; not from vanity as I did, but she sacrificed herself for her
family,--sisters unprovided for, father old, no money. She was far
better than I, and for a long time she honestly tried to do her
duty,----and so she finally had to leave her husband!"

The Countess stops; a long pause ensues. The steps of the passers-by
sound through the languid September air; an Italian hurdy-gurdy is
grinding out the lullaby from "Trovatore," sleepy and sentimental. The
clatter from the barracks interrupts it now and then. A sunbeam slips
through the window-shade into the half-light of the room and gleams
upon the buhl furniture.

"Well, she had the courage of her opinions," the Countess begins
afresh at last. "She left her husband and lives with--well, with
another man,--good heavens! you knew him too, Niki Gladnjik, in
Switzerland; they live there for each other in perfect seclusion. He
adores her; the world--our world, the one I do not want to meet at your
ball--ignores Ada, but I write to her sometimes, and she to me. I have
been reading over her letters to-day. She seems to be very happy,
enthusiastically happy, so happy that I envy her; but I am sorry for
her, for--you see, Niki really loves her, and wants to marry her--they
have been waiting two years for the divorce which her husband opposes;
and Niki is consumptive; you understand, if he should die before----"

Lato's heart throbs fast at his cousin's tale. At this moment the door
opens, and Count Wodin enters.



                            CHAPTER XXXVIII.

                                AT LAST.


Flammingen's affairs are satisfactorily adjusted. Treurenberg is
relieved of that anxiety. He can devote his thoughts to his own
complications, as he rides back from X---- to Dobrotschau.

The dreamy lullaby from "Trovatore" still thrills his nerves, and again
and again he recalls the pair living happily in Switzerland. He sees
their valley in his mental vision enclosed amid lofty mountains,--walls
erected by God Himself to protect that green Paradise from the
intrusion and cruelty of mankind,--walls which shut out the world and
reveal only the blue heavens. How happy one could be in that green
seclusion, forgotten by the world! In fancy he breathes the fresh
Alpine air laden with the wholesome scent of the pines; upon his ear
there falls the rushing murmur of the mountain-stream. He sees a
charming home on a mountain-slope, and at the door stands a lovely
woman dressed in white, with large, tender eyes filled with divine
sympathy. She is waiting for some one's return; whence does he come?
From the nearest town, whither he is forced to go from time to time to
adjust his affairs, but whither she never goes; oh, no! People pain
her,--people who despise and envy her. But what matters it? He opens
his arms to her, she flies to meet him; ah, what bliss, what rapture!

His horse stumbles slightly; he rouses with a start. A shudder thrills
him, and, as in the morning, he is horrified at himself. Will it always
be thus? Can he not relax his hold upon himself for one instant without
having every thought rush in one direction, without being possessed by
one intense longing? How can he thus desecrate Olga's image?


Meanwhile, the expected guests have arrived at Dobrotschau. They came
an hour ago,--three carriage-loads of distinction from, Vienna, some of
them decorated with feudal titles. A very aristocratic party will
assemble at table in Dobrotschau to-day. Countess Weiseneck, a born
Grinzing, wife of a rather disgraceful _mauvais sujet_, whose very
expensive maintenance she contests paying, and from whom she has been
separated for more than a year; Countess Mayenfeld, _née_ Gerstel, the
wife of a gentleman not quite five feet in height, who is known in
Vienna by the _sobriquet_ of "the numismatician." When his betrothal to
the wealthy Amanda Gerstel was announced, society declared that he had
chosen his bride to augment his collection of coins. His passion for
collecting coins enables this knightly aristocrat to endure with
philosophy the cold shoulders which his nearest relatives turned to him
after his marriage; moreover, he lives upon excellent terms with his
wizened little wife. One more couple with a brand-new but high-sounding
title; then an unmarried countess, with short hair and a masculine
passion for sport,--an acquaintance made at a watering-place; then
Baron Kilary, the cleverest business-man among Vienna aristocrats, who
is always ready to eat oysters and _pâte de foie gras_ at any man's
table, without, however, so far forgetting himself as to require his
wife and daughter to visit any one of his entertainers who is socially
his inferior. The famous poet, Paul Angelico Orchys, and little Baron
Königsfeld, complete the list of arrivals.

The first greetings are over; ended also is the running to and fro of
lady's-maids looking for mislaid handbags, with the explanations of
servants, who, having carried the trunks to the wrong rooms, are trying
to make good their mistakes. All is quiet. The ladies and gentlemen are
seated at small tables in a shady part of the park, drinking tea and
fighting off a host of wasps that have attacked the delicacies forming
part of the afternoon repast.

The castle is empty; the sound of distant voices alone falls on Lato's
ear as he returns from his expedition to X---- and goes to his room,
desirous only of deferring as long as possible the playing of his part
in this tiresome entertainment. The first thing to meet his eyes
on his writing-table is a letter addressed to himself. He picks
it up; the envelope is stamped with a coronet and Selina's monogram.
He tears the letter open; it encloses nothing save a package of
bank-notes,--eighteen hundred guilders in Austrian currency.

Lato's first emotion is anger. What good will the wretched money do him
now? How rejoiced he is that he no longer needs it, that he can return
it within the hour to Selina! The address arrests his attention; there
is something odd about it. Is it Selina's handwriting? At first sight
he had thought it was, but now, upon a closer inspection can it be his
mother-in-law's hand? Is she trying to avoid a domestic scandal by
atoning thus for her daughter's harshness? He tosses the money aside in
disgust. Suddenly a peculiar fragrance affects him agreeably. What is
it?--a faint odour of heliotrope. Could it be----? His downcast eyes
discover a tiny bunch of faded purple blossoms lying on the floor
almost at his feet. He stoops, picks it up, and kisses it passionately:
it is the bunch of heliotrope which Olga wore on her breast at
breakfast. It is she who has cared for him, who has thought of him!

But instantly, after the first access of delight, comes the reaction.
How could Olga have known? Selina, in her irritation, may have
proclaimed his request to the entire household; the servants may be
discussing in the kitchen Count Treurenberg's application to his wife
for eighteen hundred guilders, and her angry refusal to grant them to
him. He clinches his fist and bites his lip, when on a sudden he
recalls the rustle of a robe in the next room, which he thought he
heard at one time during his interview with Selina. The blood mounts to
his forehead. Olga had been in the library; she had heard him talking
with his wife. And if she had heard him ask Selina for the money, she
had also heard---- Ah! He buries his face in his hands.

The afternoon tea has been enjoyed; the ladies have withdrawn to their
rooms to "arm themselves for the fray," as Paul Angelico expresses it;
the gentlemen have betaken themselves to the billiard-room, where they
are playing a game, as they smoke the excellent cigars which Baron
Kilary has ordered a lackey to bring them.

Lato has wandered out into the park. He is not quite himself; the
ground beneath his feet seems uncertain. He leans against the trunk of
a tree, always pondering the same question, "What if she heard?"

He turns involuntarily into the garden-path where, but a short time
since, he had soothed her agitation and dried her tears. There, on the
rough birchen bench, something white gleams. Is it----?

He would fain flee, but he cannot; he stands as if rooted to the spot.
She turns her face towards him, and recognizes him. A faint colour
flushes her cheek, and in her eyes, which rest full upon him, there is
a heavenly light.

"Lato!" she calls. Is that her voice sounding so full and soft? She
rises and approaches him. He has never before seen her look so
beautiful. Her slender figure is erect as a young fir; she carries her
head like a youthful queen whose brow is crowned for the first time
with the diadem. She stands beside him; her presence thrills him to his
very soul.

"Olga," he murmurs at last, "was it you who left the money on my table?
How did you know that I wanted it?" he asks, bluntly, almost
authoritatively.

She is silent.

"Olga, Olga, were you in the library while----?"

She nods.

"And you heard all,--everything?"

"Yes."

"Olga!" His eyes are riveted upon her face in what is almost horror.

"Olga,--what now?"

"I cannot bear to see you suffer," she murmurs, scarce audibly.

Did he extend his arms to her? He could not himself tell; but what he
has dreamed has happened,--he clasps her to his breast, his lips meet
hers; his anguish is past; wings seem to be given him wherewith to soar
to heaven.

But only for an instant is he thus beguiled; then reality in its full
force bursts upon him. He unclasps the dear arms from his neck, presses
one last kiss upon the girlish hand before he releases it, and then
turns and walks away with a firm tread, without looking round, and in
the full consciousness of the truth,--the consciousness that no wings
are his, and that the heavy burden which has weighed him down is doubly
heavy now.



                             CHAPTER XXXIX.

                              THE DINNER.


Taken altogether, Fainacky may be but a very ordinary pattern of a man,
but as a _maître de plaisir_ in the arrangement of a _fête_ he is
unrivalled. A more exquisite table than that around which the twenty
people are assembled who form the rehearsing party for Harry's
betrothal festival it would be difficult to imagine. The only criticism
that can be made is that the guests are rather far apart; but who could
have foreseen that at the last moment four people would be lacking? The
Paul Leskjewitsches, with their niece, sent regrets, and Olga, just
before dinner, was obliged to retire with a severe headache, to which
she succumbed in spite of her aunt's exhortations to her "not to mind
it." Lato is present; he is indifferent as to where his hours drag
past. He is determined to prevent Olga's being made the subject of
discussion, and his social training, with the numbness sure to ensue
upon great mental agitation, stands him in stead; he plays his part
faultlessly. Now and then the consciousness of his hopeless misery
flashes upon him, then it fades again; he forgets all save the present
moment, and he scans everything about him with keen observation, as if
he had no part or parcel in it, but were looking at it all as at
another world.

Yes, the table is charmingly decorated; anything more tasteful or more
correct in every respect could not be imagined; but the people gathered
about this sparkling board, never before has he seen them so clearly or
judged them so severely.

His contempt is specially excited by his social equals. Fritz
Mayenfeld, "the numismatician," does not long occupy his attention. In
spite of his rank, he has always manifested thoroughly plebeian
instincts; his greed of gain is notorious; and he looks, and is,
entirely at home in the Harfink domestic atmosphere. The descent of the
other aristocrats present, however,--of Kilary, of the short-haired
Countess, and of the affected Count Fermor,--is tolerably evident in
their faces, and they all seem determined to assert their aristocratic
prestige in the same manner,--by impertinence.

Lato is conscious of a horror of his own caste as he studies these
degenerate members of it. He turns his attention to the three guests
from Komaritz,--the Countess Zriny, Hedwig, and Harry. The old
canoness, who is seated on his right, provokes his smile. The superb
condescension with which, for love of her nephew, she treats "these
people;" the formal courtesy with which she erects an insurmountable
barrier between them and herself; the morsels of liberalism which she
scatters here and there in her conversation for their comfort and
delectation,--all are worthy of the most enthusiastic praise.

Poor old woman! How important she is in her own eyes! Her gown is the
ugliest and shabbiest there (the one the sporting Countess wears was
given her by Selina), but six strings of wonderful pearls which she
wears around her neck make her all right. Hedwig,--well, she is a
little more affected than usual; she is flirting with little Baron
Königsfeld, who took her in to dinner, playing him off against her
neighbour on the other side, Count Fermor. And Harry,--with profound
sympathy and intense compassion Lato's eyes rest upon his friend.
Simple, without pretension or affectation, very courteous without
condescension, a little formal, perhaps, withal,--as the most natural
of men must be where he feels himself a stranger,--with that in his
face and bearing that distinguishes him above every one present, he is
the only specimen of his own caste there with whom Lato feels
satisfied.

"They may abuse us as they please," he thinks to himself,--"nay, I even
join them in abusing,--but if one of us gives his word he stands to
it." And then he questions whether in any other rank could be found
such an example of noble and manly beauty, or of such quixotic,
self-annihilating, chivalrous honour. "Good heavens! why not?" he makes
reply to himself. "So far as moral worth is concerned, assuredly; only
in form it would probably be less refined."

Lato has had much experience of life. He has laid aside all the
prejudices of his class, but the subtile caste-instinct still
abides with him. He asks himself whether his family--the Harfink
family--notice the difference between Harry and the other aristocrats
present; whether the Harfinks will not be finally disgusted by the
impertinence of these coxcombs; whether they do not feel the offensive
condescension of the Countess Zriny. It would seem not. The Harfinks,
mother and daughters, are quite satisfied with what is accorded them;
they are overflowing with gratified vanity, and are enjoying the
success of the festival. Even Selina is pleased; Olga's absence
seems to have soothed her. She informs Lato, by all kinds of amiable
devices,--hints which she lets fall in conversation, glances which she
casts towards him,--that she is sorry for the scene of the morning, and
is ready to acquiesce. She tells her neighbour at dinner, Baron Kilary,
that to-day is the anniversary of her betrothal.

Lato becomes more and more strongly impressed by the conviction that
her severe attack of jealousy has aroused within her something of her
old sentiment for him. The thought disgusts him profoundly; he feels
for her a positive aversion.

His attention is chiefly bestowed upon Harry. How the poor fellow
suffers! writhing beneath the ostentatious anxiety of his betrothed,
who exhausts herself in sympathetic inquiries as to his pallor,
ascribing it to every cause save the true one.

"What will become of him if he does not succeed in ridding himself of
this intolerable burden?" Lato asks himself. An inexpressible dread
assails him. "A candidate for suicide," he thinks, and for a moment he
feels dizzy and ill.

But why should Harry die, when his life might be adjusted by one word
firmly uttered? He might be saved, and then what a sunny bright future
would be his! If one could but help him!

The dinner is half over; punch is being served. The tall windows of the
dining-hall are wide open, the breeze has died away for the time, the
night is quiet, the outlook upon the park enchanting. Coloured lamps,
shaped like fantastic flowers, illumine the shrubbery, whence comes
soft music.

All the anguish which had been stilled for the moment stirs within
Lato's breast at sound of the sweet insinuating tones. They arouse
within him an insane thirst for happiness. If it were but possible to
obtain a divorce! Caressingly, dreamily, the notes of "Southern Roses"
float in from the park.

"Ah! how that reminds me of my betrothal!" says Selina, moving her fan
to and fro in time with the music. Involuntarily Lato glances at her.

She wears a red gown, _decoletée_ as of old. Her shoulders have
grown stouter, her features sharper, but she is hardly changed
otherwise; many would pronounce her handsomer than she had been on that
other sultry September evening when it had first occurred to him that
he--loved her--no, when he lied to himself--because it seemed so easy.

He falls into a revery, from which he is aroused by the poet Angelico
Orchys, who rises, glass in hand, and in fluent verse proposes the
health of the betrothed couple. Glasses are clinked, and scarcely are
all seated again when Fainacky toasts the married pair who are
celebrating to-day the sixth anniversary of their betrothal. Every one
rises; Selina holds her glass out to Lato with a languishing glance
from her half-closed eyes as she smiles at him over the brim.

He shudders. And he has dared to hope for a divorce!

The clinking of glasses has ceased; again all are seated; a fresh
course of viands is in progress; there is a pause in the conversation,
while the music wails and sighs outside, Fainacky from his place at
table making all sorts of mysterious signs to the leader.

Treurenberg's misery has become so intense within the last few minutes
that he can scarcely endure it without some outward sign of it, when
suddenly a thought occurs to him, a little, gloomy thought, that slowly
increases like a thunder-cloud. His breath comes quick, the cold
perspiration breaks out upon his forehead, his heart beats strong and
fast.

"Is anything the matter, Lato?" Selina asks, across the table; "you
have grown so pale. Do you feel the draught?"

He does not answer. His heart has ceased to beat wildly; a soothing
calm, a sense of relief, takes possession of him; he seems to have
discovered the solution of a huge, tormenting riddle.

Presently the wine begins to take effect, and conversation drowns the
tones of the music. Culinary triumphs have been discussed, there has
been some political talk, anti-Semitic opinions, in very bad taste,
have been expressed, and now, in spite of the presence of several young
girls, various scandals are alluded to.

"Have any of you heard the latest developments in the
Reinsfeld-Gladnjik case?" Kilary asks.

Treurenberg listens.

The sporting Countess replies: "No: for two years I have seen nothing
of Ada Reinsfeld--since the--well, since she left her husband; one
really had to give her up. I am very lenient in such affairs, but one
has no choice where the scandal is a matter of such publicity."

"I entirely agree with you, my dear Countess," says the Baroness
Harfink. "So long as due respect is paid to external forms, the private
weaknesses of my neighbours are no concern of mine; but external forms
must be observed."

"My cousin's course throughout that business was that of a crazy
woman," says "the numismatician," with his mouth full. "She was
mistress of the best-ordered house in Gräz. Reinsfeld's cook was----!
never in my life did I taste such salmi of partridges--except on this
occasion," he adds, with an inclination towards his hostess. The next
moment he motions to a servant to fill his glass, and forgets all about
his cousin Ada.

"Poor Ada! She was very charming, but she became interested in all
sorts of free-thinking books, and they turned her head," says the
Countess Zriny. "In my opinion a woman who reads Strauss and Renan is
lost."

"The remarks of the company are excessively interesting to me," Kilary
now strikes in, with an impertinent intonation in his nasal voice, "but
I beg to be allowed to speak, since what I have to tell is quite
sensational. You know that Countess Ada has tried in vain to induce her
noble husband to consent to a divorce. Meanwhile, Gladnjik's condition
culminated in galloping consumption, and two days ago he died."

"And she?" several voices asked at once.

"She?--she took poison!"

For a moment there is a bush in the brilliantly-lighted room, the soft
sighing of the music in the shrubbery is again audible. Through the
open windows is wafted in the beguiling charm of an Hungarian dance by
Brahms.

There is a change of sentiment in the assemblage: the harshness with
which but now all had judged the Countess Ada gives place to
compassionate sympathy.

Countess Zriny presses her lace-trimmed handkerchief to her eyes. "Poor
Ada!" she murmurs; "I can see her now; a more charming young girl there
never was. Why did they force her to marry that old Reinsfeld?"

"He had so excellent a cook," sneers Kilary, with a glance at "the
numismatician," from whose armour of excellent appetite the dart falls
harmless.

"Forced!" Paula interposes eagerly, in her deep, guttural tones. "As if
nowaday's any one with a spark of character could be forced to marry!"

Harry twirls his moustache and looks down at his plate.

"I am the last to defend a departure from duty," the old canoness goes
on, "but in this case the blame really falls partly upon Ada's family.
They forced her to marry; they subjected her to moral force."

"That is true," even Kilary, heartless cynic as he is, admits. "They
forced her, although they knew that she and Niki Gladnjik were attached
to each other. Moreover, I must confess that, in spite of the admirable
qualities which distinguish Reinsfeld,--as, for example, his excellent
cook,--it must have been very difficult for a delicate-minded, refined
young creature to live with the disgusting old satyr--my expressions
are classically correct."

"Niki took her marriage sorely to heart," sighed the sporting Countess.
"They say he ruined his health by the dissipation into which he plunged
to find forgetfulness. In that direction Ada certainly was much to
blame; she was carried away by compassion."

Meanwhile, Fainacky has made another sign for the music. The dreamy
half-notes die away, and the loud tones of a popular march echo through
the night.

All rise from table.

Treurenberg's brain spins, as with the Countess Zriny on his arm he
walks into the garden-room, where the guests are to admire the
decorations and to drink their coffee.

"The fair Olga is not seriously ill?" he hears Kilary say to Selina.

"Oh, not at all," Selina replies. "You need not fear anything
infectious. Olga is rather overstrained and exaggerated; you cannot
imagine what a burden papa left us in the care of her. But we have
settled it to-day with mamma: she must leave the house,--at least for a
time. My aunt Emilie is to take her to Italy. It will be a great relief
to us all."



                              CHAPTER XL.

                              A FAREWELL.


While some of the guests are contented merely to admire the decorations
of the garden-room, others suggest improvements. They cannot quite
agree us to where the musicians should be placed, and the band migrates
from one spot to another, like a set of homeless fugitives; in one
place the music is too loud, in another it is not loud enough. Hilary's
nasal, arrogant voice is heard everywhere in command. At last the band
is stationed just before the large western window of the room. Some one
suggests trying a waltz. Kilary waltzes with Selina. Treurenberg
watches the pair. They waltz in the closest embrace, her head almost
resting on his shoulder.

Once Lato might have remonstrated with his wife upon such an exhibition
of herself; but to-day, ah, how indifferent he is to it all! He turns
away from the crowd and noise, and walks beyond the circle of light
into the park. Here a hand is laid on his shoulder. He turns: Harry has
followed him.

"What is the matter, old fellow?" he asks, good-humouredly. "I do not
like your looks to-day."

"I cannot get Ada Reinsfeld out of my head," Treurenberg rejoins, in a
low tone.

"Did you know her?" asks Harry.

"Yes; did you?"

"Yes, but not until after her marriage. I liked her extremely; in
fact, I have rarely met a more charming woman. And she seemed to me
serious-minded and thoroughly sincere. The story to-day affected me
profoundly."

"Did you notice that not one of the women had a good word to say for
the poor thing until they knew that she was dead?" Treurenberg asks,
his voice sounding hard and stern.

"Yes, I noticed it," replies Harry, scanning his friend attentively.

"They may perhaps waste a wreath of immortelles upon her coffin,"
Treurenberg goes on, in the same hard tone, "but not one of them would
have offered her a hand while she lived."

"Well, she did not lose much in the friendship of the women present
to-day," Harry observes, dryly; "but, unfortunately, I am afraid that
far nobler and more generous-minded women also withdrew their
friendship from poor Ada; and, in fact, we cannot blame them. We cannot
require our mothers and sisters to visit without remonstrance a woman
who has run away from her husband and is living with another man."

"Run away; living with another man: how vulgar that sounds!"
Treurenberg exclaims, angrily.

"Our language has no other words for this case."

"I do not comprehend you; you judge as harshly as the rest."

They have walked on and have reached a rustic seat quite in the shade,
beyond the light even of the coloured lamps. Harry sits down; Lato
follows his example.

"How am I to judge, then?" Harry asks.

"In my eyes Ada was a martyr," Treurenberg asserts.

"So she was in mine," Harry admits.

"I have the greatest admiration for her."

"And I only the deepest compassion," Harry declares, adding, in a lower
tone, "I say not a word in blame of her; Niki was the guiltier of the
two. A really noble woman, when she loves, forgets to consider the
consequences of her conduct, especially when pity sanctifies her
passion and atones in her eyes for her sin. She sees an ideal life
before her, and does not doubt that she shall attain it. Ada believed
that she should certainly procure her divorce, and that all would be
well. She did not see the mire through which she should have to
struggle to attain her end, and that even were it attained, no power on
earth could wash out the stains incurred in attaining it. Niki should
have spared her that; he knew life well enough to be perfectly aware of
the significance of the step she took for him."

"Yes, you are right; women never know the world; they see about them
only what is fair and sacred, a young girl particularly."

"Oh, in such matters a young girl is out of the question," Harry
sharply interrupts.

There is an oppressive silence. Lato shivers.

"You are cold," Harry says, with marked gentleness; "come into the
house."

"No, no; stay here!"

Through the silence come the strains of a waltz of Arditi's "_La notte
gia stendi suo manto stellato_," and the faint rustle of the dancers'
feet.

"How is your cousin?" Lato asks, after a while.

"I do not know. I have not spoken with her since she left Komaritz,"
Harry replies, evasively.

"And have you not seen her?" asks Lato.

"Yes, once; I looked over the garden-wall as I rode by. She looks pale
and thin, poor child."

Lato is mute. Harry goes on:

"Do you remember, Lato? is it three or four weeks ago, the last time
you were with me in Komaritz? I could jest then at my--embarrassments.
I daily expected my release. Now----" he shrugs his shoulders.

"You were angry with me then; angry because I would not interfere,"
Lato says, with hesitation.

"Oh, it would have been useless," Harry mutters.

Instead of continuing the subject, Lato restlessly snaps a twig hanging
above his head. "How terribly dry everything is!" he murmurs.

"Yes," says Harry; "so long as it was warm we looked for a storm; the
cool weather has come without rain, and everything is dead."

"The spring will revive it all, and the blessing of the coming year
will be doubled," Lato whispers, in a low, soft tone that rings through
Harry's soul for years afterwards.

"Harry! Harry! where are you? Come, try one turn with me." It is
Paula's powerful voice that calls thus. She is steering directly for
the spot where the friends are seated.

"Give my love to Zdena, when you see her," Lato whispers in his
friend's ear as he clasps Harry's hand warmly, and then vanishes among
the dark shrubbery before the young fellow is aware of it.



                              CHAPTER XLI.

                                RESOLVE.


Lato now stands in need of all the energy with which Providence has
endowed him. All the excellence and nobility that have hitherto lain
dormant in his soul arouse to life, now that they can but help him to
die like a man. He cannot sever the golden fetters which he himself has
forged; he will not drag through the mire what is most sacred to him;
well, then----

Upon reaching his room he seated himself at his writing-table and wrote
several letters,--the first to his father, requesting him to see that
his debts were paid; one to Paula, one to his mother-in-law, and one to
Harry. The letter to Harry ran thus:


"My dear good old Comrade,--

"When this note reaches you, you will be already freed from your
fetters. I have never forgiven myself for refusing to perform the
service you asked of me, and I have now retrieved my fault. I have
written to Paula and to my mother-in-law, explaining your position to
them, telling them the truth with brutal frankness, and leaving no
course open to them save to release you. You are free. Farewell.

                             "Yours till death,

                                   "Lato Treurenberg."


He tossed the pen aside.

The others were still dancing. The sound of the music came softly from
the distance. He rested his head on his hands and pondered.

He has seen clearly that it must be. He had written the letters as the
first irrevocable step. But how was it to be done?

He looked for his revolver. It might all be over in a moment. He caught
up the little weapon with a kind of greed. Suddenly he recalled a
friend who had shot himself, and whose body he had seen lying on the
bed where the deed had been done: there were ugly stains of blood upon
the pillow. His nature revolted from everything ugly and unclean. And
then the scene, the uproar that would ensue upon discovering the
corpse. If he could only avoid all that, could only cloak the ugly
deed. Meanwhile, his faithful hound came to him from a corner of the
room, and, as if suspicious that all was not right with its master,
laid its head upon his knee.

The way was clear,--Lato had lately frequently risen early in the
morning to stalk a deer, which had escaped his gun again and again; he
had but to slip out of the house for apparently the same purpose,
and---- and It would be more easily done beneath God's open skies. But
several hours must elapse before he could leave the castle. That was
terrible. Would his resolve hold good? He began to pace the room
restlessly to and fro.

Had he forgotten anything that ought to be done? He paused and
listened, seeming to hear a light footfall in the room above him. Yes,
it was Olga's room; he could hear her also walking to and fro, to and
fro. His breath came quick; everything within him cried out for
happiness, for life! He threw himself upon his bed, buried his face
among the pillows, clinched his hands, and so waited, motionless.

At last the steps overhead ceased, the music was silent; there was a
rustling in the corridors,--the guests were retiring to their rooms;
then all was still, as still as death.

Lato arose, lit a candle, and looked at his watch,--half-past two.
There was still something on his heart,--a discontent of which he would
fain disburden himself before the end. He sat down again at his
writing-table, and wrote a few lines to Olga, pouring out his soul to
her; then, opening his letter to Harry, he added a postscript: "It
would be useless to attempt any disguise with you,--you have read my
heart too clearly,--and therefore I can ask a last office of friendship
of you. Give Olga the enclosed note from me,--I do not wish any one
here to know of this,--my farewell to her. Think no evil of her. Should
any one slander her, never believe it!--never!"

He would have written more, but words failed him to express what he
felt; so he enclosed his note to Olga in his letter to Harry and sealed
and stamped it.

His thoughts began to wander vaguely. Old legends occurred to him.
Suddenly he laughed at something that had occurred ten years before, at
Komaritz,--the trick Harry had played upon Fainacky, the "braggart
Sarmatian."

He heard himself laugh, and shuddered. The gray dawn began to glimmer
in the east. He looked at his watch,--it was time! He drew a long,
sighing breath, and left his room; the dog followed him. In the
corridor he paused, possessed by a wild desire to creep to Olga's door
and, kneeling before it, to kiss the threshold. He took two steps
towards the staircase, then, by a supreme effort, controlled himself
and turned back.

But in the park he sought the spot where he had met her yesterday,
where he had kissed her for the first and only time. Here he stood
still for a while, and, looking down, perceived the half-effaced
impress of a small foot upon the gravel. He stooped and pressed his
lips upon it.

Now he has left the park, and the village too lies behind him;
he has posted his letter to Harry in the yellow box in front of the
post-office. He walks through the poplar avenue where she came to meet
him scarcely three weeks ago. He can still feel the touch of her
delicate hand. A bird twitters faintly above his head, and recalls to
his memory how he had watched the belated little feathered vagabond
hurrying home to its nest.

"A life that warms itself beside another life in which it finds peace
and comfort," he murmurs to himself. An almost irresistible force stays
his steps. But no; he persists, and walks on towards the forest. He
will only wait for the sunrise, and then----

He waits in vain. The heavens are covered with clouds; a sharp wind
sighs above the fields; the leaves tremble as if in mortal terror; for
the first time in six weeks a few drops of rain fall. No splendour
hails the awakening world, but along the eastern horizon there is a
blood-red streak. Just in Lato's path a solitary white butterfly
flutters upon the ground. The wind grows stronger, the drops fall more
thickly; the pale blossoms by the roadside shiver; the red poppies do
not open their cups, but hang their heads as if drunk with sleep.



                             CHAPTER XLII.

                                 FOUND.


Olga had remained in her room because she could not bring herself to
meet Treurenberg again. No, she could never meet him after the words,
the kiss, they had exchanged,--never--until he should call her. For it
did not occur to her to recall what she had said to him,--she was ready
for everything for his sake. Not a thought did she bestow upon the
disgrace that would attach to her in the eyes of the world. What did
she care what people said or thought of her? But he,--what if she had
disgraced herself in his eyes by the confession of her love? The
thought tortured her.

She kept saying to herself, "He was shocked at me; I wounded his sense
of delicacy. Oh, my God! and yet I could not see him suffer so,--I
could not!"

When night came on she lay dressed upon her bed for hours, now and then
rising to pace the room to and fro. At last she fell asleep. She was
roused by hearing a door creak. She listened: it was the door of Lato's
room. Again she listened. No, she must have been mistaken; it was folly
to suppose that Lato would think of leaving the house at a little after
three in the morning! She tried to be calm, and began to undress, when
suddenly a horrible suspicion assailed her; her teeth chattered, the
heart in her breast felt like lead.

"I must have been mistaken," she decided. But she could not be at rest.
She went out into the corridor; all there was still. The dawn was
changing from gray to white. She glided down the staircase to the door
of Lato's room, where she kneeled and listened at the key-hole. She
could surely hear him breathe, she thought. But how could she hear it
when her own pulses were throbbing so loudly in her heart, in her
temples, in her ears?

She listened with all her might: nothing, nothing could she hear. Her
head sank against the door, which was ajar and yielded. She sprang up
and, half dead with shame, was about to flee, when she paused. If he
were in his room would not the creaking of the door upon its hinges
have roused him? Again she turned and peered into the room.

At the first glance she perceived that it was empty, and that the bed
had not been slept in.

With her heart throbbing as if to break, she rushed up to her room,
longing to scream aloud, to rouse the household with "He has gone! he
has gone! Search for him! save him!"

But how is this possible? How can she confess that she has been in his
room? Her cheeks burn; half fainting in her misery, she throws wide her
window to admit the fresh morning air.

What is that? A scratching at the house door below, and then a
melancholy whine. Olga hurries out into the corridor again, and at
first cannot tell whence the noise proceeds. It grows louder and more
persistent, an impatient scratching and knocking at the door leading
out into the park. She hastens down the stairs and opens it.

"Lion!" she exclaims, as the dog leaps upon her, then crouches before
her on the gravel, gazes piteously into her face, and utters a long
howl, hoarse and ominous. Olga stoops down to him. Good God! what is
this? His shoulder, his paws are stained with blood. The girl's heart
seems to stand still. The dog seizes her dress as if to drag her away;
releases it, runs leaping into the park, turns and looks at her. Shall
she follow him?

Yes, she follows him, trembling, panting, through the park, through the
village, out upon the highway, where the trees are vocal with the
shrill twittering of birds. A clumsy peasant-cart is jolting along the
road; the sleepy carter rubs his eyes and gazes after the strange
figure with dishevelled hair and disordered dress, hastening towards
the forest.

She has reached it at last. The dog's uneasiness increases, and he
disappears among the trees. Olga stops; she cannot go on. The dog howls
more loudly, and slowly, holding by the trees, she totters forward.
What is it that makes the ground here so slippery? Blood? There,--there
by the poacher's grave, at the foot of the rude wooden cross, she finds
him.

A shriek, wild and hoarse, rings through the air. The leaves quiver and
rustle with the flight of the startled birds among their branches. The
heavens are filled with wailing, and the earth seems to rock beneath
the girl's feet.

Then darkness receives her, and she forgets the horror of it all in
unconsciousness.



                             CHAPTER XLIII.

                              COUNT HANS.


There was a dinner at Count Capriani's, and Count Hans Treurenberg,
slender and erect, the embodiment of elegant frivolity, had just said
something witty. One of his fellow-aristocrats, a noble slave of
Capriani's, had been discoursing at length upon the new era that was
dawning upon the world, and had finally proposed a toast to the union
of the two greatest powers on earth, wealth and rank. All present had
had their glasses ready; Count Hans alone had hesitated for a moment,
and had then remarked, with his inimitable smile,--

"Well, let us, for all I care, drink to the marriage of the Golden Calf
to the Chimera." And when every one stared in blank dismay, he added,
thoughtfully, "What do you think, gentlemen, is it a marriage of
expediency, or one of love? Capriani, it would be interesting to hear
your views upon this question." Then, in spite of the lowering brow of
the host, the aristocrats present burst into Homeric laughter.

At that moment a telegram was brought to the Count. Why did his hand
tremble as he unfolded it? He was accustomed to receive telegraphic
messages:


"There has been an accident. Lato seriously wounded while hunting.

                                               "Selina."


An hour afterwards he was in the railway-train.

He had never been to Dobrotschau, and did not know that the route which
he had taken stopped two stations away from the estate. The Harfink
carriage waited for him at an entirely different station. He had to
send his servant to a neighbouring village to procure a conveyance.
Meanwhile, he made inquiries of the railway officials at the station as
to the accident at Dobrotschau. No one knew anything with certainty:
there was but infrequent communication between this place and
Dobrotschau. The old Count began to hope. If the worst had happened,
the ill news would have travelled faster. Selina must have exaggerated
matters. He read his telegram over and over again:

"There has been an accident. Lato seriously wounded while hunting."

It was the conventional formula used to convey information of the death
of a near relative.

All around him seemed to reel as he pondered the missive in the bare
little waiting-room by the light of a smoking lamp. The moisture stood
in beads upon his forehead. For the first time a horrible thought
occurred to him.

"An accident while hunting? What accident could possibly happen to a
man hunting with a good breechloader----? If--yes, if--but that cannot
be; he has never uttered a complaint!" He suddenly felt mortally ill
and weak.

The servant shortly returned with a conveyance. Nor had he been able to
learn anything that could be relied upon. Some one in the village had
heard that there had been an accident somewhere in the vicinity, but
whether it had resulted in death no one could tell.

The Count got into the vehicle, a half-open coach, smelling of damp
leather and mould. The drive lasted for two hours. At first it was
quite dark; nothing could be seen but two rays of light proceeding from
the coach-lamps, which seemed to chase before them a mass of blackness.
Once the Count dozed, worn out with emotion and physical fatigue. He
was roused by the fancy that something like a cold, moist wing brushed
his cheek. He looked abroad; the darkness had become less dense, the
dawn was breaking faintly above the slumbering earth. Everything
appeared gray, shadowy, and ghost-like. A dog began to bark in the
neighbouring village; there was a sound of swiftly-rolling wheels. The
Count leaned forward and saw something vague and indistinct, preceded
by two streaks of light flashing along a side-road.

It was only a carriage, but he shuddered as at something supernatural.
Everywhere he seemed to see signs and omens.

"Are we near Dobrotschau?" he asked the coachman.

"Almost there, your Excellency."

They drove through the village. A strange foreboding sound assailed the
Count's ears,--the long-drawn whine of a dog,--and a weird,
inexplicable noise like the flapping of the wings of some huge captive
bird vainly striving to be free. The Count looked up. The outlines of
the castle were indistinct in the twilight, and hanging from the tower,
curling and swelling in the morning air, was something huge--black.

The carriage stopped. Martin came to the door, and, as he helped his
former master to alight, informed him that the family had awaited the
Count until past midnight, but that when the carriage returned empty
from the railway-station they had retired. His Excellency's room was
ready for him.

Not one word did he say of the cause of the Count's coming. He could
not bring himself to speak of that. They silently ascended the
staircase. Suddenly the Count paused. "It was while he was hunting?" he
asked the servant, bluntly.

"Yes, your Excellency."

"When?"

"Very early yesterday morning."

"Were you with him?" The Count's voice was sharper.

"No, your Excellency; no one was with him. The Count went out alone."

There was an oppressive silence. The father had comprehended. He turned
his back to the servant, and stood mute and motionless for a while.
"Take me to him," he ordered at last.

The man led the way down-stairs and through a long corridor, then
opened a door. "Here, your Excellency!"

They had laid the dead in his own room, where he was to remain until
the magnificent preparations for his burial should be completed. Here
there was no pomp of mourning. He lay there peacefully, a cross clasped
in his folded hands, a larger crucifix at the head of the bed, where
two wax candles were burning--that was all.

The servant retired. Count Hans kneeled beside the body, and tried to
pray. But this Catholic gentleman, who until a few years previously had
ardently supported every ultramontane measure of the reigning family,
now discovered, for the first time, that he no longer knew his Pater
Noster by heart. He could not even pray for the dead. He was possessed
by a kind of indignation against himself, and for the first time he
felt utterly dissatisfied with his entire life. His eyes were riveted
upon the face of his dead son. "Why, why did this have to be?--just
this?"

His thoughts refused to dwell upon the horrible catastrophe; they
turned away, wandering hither and thither; yesterday's hunting
breakfast occurred to him; he thought of his witty speech and of the
laughter it had provoked, laughter which even the host's frown could
not suppress. The sound of his own voice rang in his ears: "Yes,
gentlemen, let us drink to the marriage of the Golden Calf to the
Chimera."

Then he recalled Lato upon his first steeple-chase, on horseback, in a
scarlet coat, still lanky and awkward, but handsome as a picture,
glowing with enjoyment, his hunting-whip lifted for a stroke.

His eyes were dry, his tongue was parched, a fever was burning in his
veins, and at each breath he seemed to be lifting some ponderous
weight. A feeling like the consciousness of a horrible crime oppressed
him; he shivered, and suddenly dreaded being left there alone with the
corpse, beside which he could neither weep nor pray.

Slowly through the windows the morning stole into the room, while the
black flag continued to flap and rustle against the castle wall, like a
prisoned bird aimlessly beating its wings against the bars of its cage,
and the dog whined on.



                             CHAPTER XLIV.

                                SPRING.


A few days afterwards Lato's body was consigned to the family vault of
the Treurenbergs,--not, of course, without much funereal pomp at
Dobrotschau.

With him vanished the last descendant of an ancient race which had once
been strong and influential, and which had preserved to the last its
chivalric distinction.

The day after the catastrophe Harry received a letter from Paula, in
which, on the plea of a dissimilarity of tastes and interests which
would be fatal to happiness in marriage, she gave him back his troth.
As she remained at Dobrotschau for an entire week after the funeral, it
may be presumed that she wished to give her former betrothed
opportunity to remonstrate against his dismissal. But he took great
care to avoid even a formal protest. A very courteous, very formal,
very brief note, in which he expressed entire submission to her decree,
was the only sign of life his former captor received from him.

When Paula Harfink learned that Harry had left Komaritz and had
returned to his regiment in Vienna, she departed from Dobrotschau with
her mother and sister, to pass several months at Nice.

In the beginning of January she returned with the Baroness Harfink to
Vienna, heart-whole and with redoubled self-confidence. She was loud in
her expressions of contempt for military men, especially for cavalry
officers, a contempt in which even Arthur Schopenhauer could not have
outdone her; she lived only for science and professors, a large number
of whom she assembled about her, and among whom this young sultaness
proposed with great caution and care to select one worthy to be raised
to the dignity of her Prince-Consort.

Selina did not return with her mother to Vienna, but remained for the
time being with a female companion in Nice. As is usual with most
blondes, her widow's weeds became her well, and her luxuriant beauty
with its dark crape background attracted a score of admirers, who,
according to report, were not all doomed to languish hopelessly at her
feet.

Fainacky, however, was never again received into favour.

Olga retired to a convent, partly to sever all ties with the world,
which had misunderstood and maligned her in her relations to the part
she had played in the fearful drama enacted at Dobrotschau, partly to
do penance by her asceticism for Lato's suicide, which was to her deep
religious sense a fearful crime, and of which she considered herself in
some measure the cause.

Moreover, Lato's suicide produced a profound impression upon all his
friends. Harry could hardly take any pleasure in his freedom, so dark
was the shadow thrown upon his happiness by grief for the fate of his
life-long friend and comrade. Under the circumstances, until, so to
speak, the grass had grown over the terrible event, his betrothal to
Zdena could not be thought of; the mere idea of it wounded his sense of
delicacy. He contented himself, before returning to Vienna, with a
farewell visit to Zirkow, when he informed the entire family of the
sudden change in his position. The major, whose sense of delicacy was
not so acute as his nephew's, could not refrain from smiling broadly
and expressing a few sentiments not very flattering to Fräulein Paula,
nor from asking Harry one or two questions which caused the young
fellow extreme confusion.

The major's efforts to force a _tête-à-tête_ upon the young people were
quite vain. Zdena, when Harry left, accompanied the young officer
openly, as she had often done, to the court-yard, where she stroked his
horse before he mounted and fed him with sugar, as had ever been her
wont.

"Good-bye, Zdena," Harry said, simply kissing her cold hand, just as he
had often done when taking leave of her. Then, with his hand on the
bridle, ready to mount, he gazed deep into her eyes and asked, "When
may I come back again, Zdena?"

She replied, "In the spring," in a voice so low and trembling that it
echoed through his soul, long after he had left her, like a caress. He
nodded, swung himself into the saddle, turned once in the gate-way for
a farewell look at her, and was gone. She stood looking after him until
the sound of his horse's hoofs died away, then went back to the house
and remained invisible in her room for the rest of the forenoon.


The winter passed slowly. In the cavalry barracks in Vienna a change
was observed in Harry Leskjewitsch. He began to be looked upon as a
very earnest and hard-working young officer. His name stood first among
those for whom a brilliant military career was prophesied. And, oddly
enough, while there was a great increase in the regard in which he was
held by his superior officers, there was no decrease in his popularity
with his comrades.

The youngest good-for-naughts did, it is true, reproach him with having
become tediously serious, and with great caution in spending his money.
But when by chance the cause of his sudden economy was discovered, all
discontent with his conduct ceased, especially since his purse was
always at the service of a needy comrade.

When, after the Harfinks had returned from Nice, he first met Paula in
the street, he was much confused, and was conscious of blushing. He
felt strangely on beholding the full red lips which had so often kissed
him, the form which had so often hung upon his arm. When, with some
hesitation, he touched his cap, he wondered at the easy grace with
which the young lady returned his salute. His wonder was still greater
when, a few days afterwards, he encountered Frau von Harfink, who
accosted him, and, after inquiring about his health, added, with her
sweetest smile,--

"I trust that my daughter's withdrawal from her engagement to you will
not prevent you from visiting us. Good heavens! it was a mistake; you
were not at all suited to each other. We shall be delighted to welcome
you as a friend at any time. Come soon to see us."

If Harry were changed, Zdena was not less so. She was more silent than
formerly; the outbreaks of childish gaiety in which she had been wont
to indulge had vanished entirely, while, on the other hand, there was
never a trace of her old discontent. Indeed, there was no time for
anything of the kind, she had so much to do.

She had developed a wonderful interest in household affairs; spent some
time each day in the kitchen, where, engaged in the most prosaic
occupations, she displayed so much grace that the major could not help
peeping at her from time to time. And when her uncle praised at table
some wondrous result of her labours, she would answer, eagerly, "Yes,
is it not good? and it is not very expensive."

Whereupon the major would pinch her cheek and smile significantly.

Frau Rosamunda was not at all aware of what was going on about her. She
frequently commended the girl's dexterity in all that her awakened
interest in household affairs led her to undertake, and after informing
the major of his niece's improvement, and congratulating herself in
being able to hand her keys over to the girl, she would add, with a
sigh, "I am so glad she never took anything into her head with regard
to Roderick. I must confess that I think his sudden disappearance very
odd, after all the attention he paid her."

The major would always sigh sympathetically when his wife talked thus,
and would then take the earliest opportunity to leave the room to
"laugh it out," as he expressed it.

Thus life went on with its usual monotony at Zirkow.

Harry's letters to the major, which came regularly twice a month, were
always read aloud to the ladies with enthusiasm by the old dragoon,
then shown in part to Krupitschka, and then left lying about anywhere.
They invariably vanished without a trace; but once when the major
wished to refer to one of these important documents and could not find
it, it turned out that Zdena had picked it up--by chance.

At last the spring made its joyous appearance and stripped the earth of
its white robe of snow. For a few days it lay naked and bare, ugly and
brown; then the young conqueror threw over its nakedness a rich mantle
of blossoms, and strode on, tossing a bridal wreath into the lap of
many a hopeless maiden, and cheering with flowers many a dying mortal
who had waited but for its coming.

Zdena and the major delighted in the spring; they were never weary of
watching its swift work in the garden, enjoying the opening of the
blossoms, the unfolding of the leaves, and the songs of the birds. The
fruit-trees had donned their most festal array; but Zdena was grave and
sad, for full three weeks had passed since any letter had come from
Harry, who had been wont to write punctually every fortnight; and in
his last he had not mentioned his spring leave of absence.

In feverish impatience the girl awaited the milkman, who always brought
the mail from X---- just before afternoon tea. For days she had vainly
watched her uncle as he sorted the letters. "'The post brings no letter
for thee, my love!'" he sang, gaily.

But Zdena was not gay.

This afternoon the milkman is late. Zdena cannot wait for him quietly;
she puts on an old straw hat and goes to meet him. It is nearly six
o'clock; the sun is quite low, and beams pale golden through a ragged
veil of fleecy clouds. A soft breeze is blowing; spring odours fill the
air. The flat landscape is wondrous in colour, but it lacks the sharp
contrasts of summer. Zdena walks quickly, with downcast eyes. Suddenly
the sound of a horse's hoofs falls upon her ear. She looks up. Can it
be? Her heart stands still, and then--why, then she finds nothing
better to do than to turn and run home as fast as her feet can carry
her. But he soon overtakes her. Springing from his horse, he gives the
bridle to a peasant-lad passing by.

"Zdena!" he calls.

"Ah, it is you!" she replies, in a weak little voice, continuing to
hurry home. Not until she has reached the old orchard does she pause,
out of breath.

"Zdena!" Harry calls again, this time in a troubled voice, "what is the
matter? Why are you so--so strange? You almost seem to be frightened!"

"I--I--you came so unexpectedly. We had no idea----" she stammers.

"Unexpectedly!" Harry repeats, and his look grows dark. "Unexpectedly!
May I ask if you have again changed your mind?"

Her face is turned from him. Dismayed, assailed by a thousand dark
fancies, he gazes at her. On a sudden he perceives that she is sobbing;
and then----

Neither speaks a word, but he has clasped her to his breast, she has
put both arms around his neck, and--according to the poets, who are
likely to be right--the one perfect moment in the lives of two mortals
is over!

The spring laughs exultantly among the trees, and rains white blossoms
upon the heads of the fair young couple beneath them. Around them
breathes the fragrance of freshly-awakened life, the air of a new,
transfigured existence; there is a fluttering in the air above, as a
cloud of birds sails over the blossom-laden orchard.

"Zdena, where are you?" calls the voice of the major. "Zdena, come
quickly! Look! the swallows have come!"

The old dragoon makes his appearance from a garden-path. "Why, what is
all this?" he exclaims, trying to look stern, as he comes in sight of
the pair.

The young people separate hastily; Zdena blushes crimson, but Harry
says, merrily,--

"Don't pretend to look surprised; you must have known long ago that
I--that we loved each other." And he takes Zdena's hand and kisses it.

"Well, yes; but----" The major shrugs his shoulders.

"You mean that I ought to have made formal application to you for
Zdena's hand?" asks Harry.

The old officer can contain himself no longer; his face lit up by the
broadest of smiles, he goes to Zdena, pinches her ear, and asks,--

"Aha, Zdena! why must people marry because they love each other, hey?"



                              CHAPTER XLV.

                            OLD BARON FRANZ.


Old Baron Franz Leskjewitsch had changed greatly during the past
winter. Those who saw most of him declared that he was either about to
die or was growing insane. He moved from one to another of his various
estates more restlessly than ever, appearing several times at
Vorhabshen, which he never had been in the habit of visiting in winter,
and not only appearing there, but remaining longer than usual. There
was even a report that on one occasion he had ordered his coachman to
drive to Zirkow; and, in fact, the old tumble-down carriage of the grim
Baron had been seen driving along the road to Zirkow, but just before
reaching the village it had turned back.

Yes, yes, the old Baron was either about to die or was "going crazy."
There was such a change in him. He bought a Newfoundland dog, which he
petted immensely, he developed a love for canary-birds, and, more
alarming symptom than all the rest, he was growing generous: he stood
godfather to two peasant babies, and dowered the needy bride of one of
his bailiffs.

In the beginning of April he appeared again at Vorhabshen, and seemed
in no hurry to leave it.

The day after Harry's sudden arrival at Zirkow, the old man was
sitting, just after breakfast, in a leather arm-chair, smoking a large
meerschaum pipe, and listening to Studnecka's verses, when the
housekeeper entered to clear the table, a duty which Lotta, the despot,
always performed herself for her master, perhaps because she wanted an
opportunity for a little gossip with him.

Studnecka's efforts at entertainment were promptly dispensed with, and
the old Baron shortly began, "Lotta, I hear that good-for-naught Harry
is in this part of the country again; is it so?"

"Yes, Herr Baron; the cow-boy met him yesterday on the road," replied
Lotta, sweeping the crumbs from the table-cloth into a green lacquered
tray with a crescent-shaped brush.

"What is he doing here?" the old man asked, after a pause.

"They say he has come to court the Baroness Zdena."

"Oh, indeed!" The Baron tried to put on a particularly fierce
expression. "It would seem that since that money-bag at Dobrotschau has
thrown him over, he wants to try it on again with the girl at Zirkow,
in hopes I shall come round. Oh, we understand all that."

"The Herr Baron ought to be ashamed to say such things of our Master
Harry," Lotta exclaimed, firing up. "However, the Herr Baron can
question the young Herr himself; there he is," she added, attracted to
the window by the sound of a horse's hoofs. "Shall I show him up? or
does the Herr Baron not wish to see him?"

"Oh, send him up, send him up. I'll enlighten the fellow."

In a few moments Harry makes his appearance. "Good-morning, uncle! how
are you?" he calls out, his face radiant with happiness.

The old Baron merely nods his head. Without stirring from his
arm-chair, without offering his hand to his nephew, without even asking
him to sit down, he scans him suspiciously.

With his hand on his sabre, Harry confronts him, somewhat surprised by
this strange reception, but nowise inclined to propitiate his uncle by
any flattering attentions.

"Do you want anything?"

"No."

"Indeed? You're not short of money, then?

"On the contrary, I have saved some," Harry replies, speaking quite
after his uncle's fashion.

"Ah! saved some, have you? Are you growing miserly?--a fine thing at
your age! You probably learned it of your financial acquaintances," the
old Baron growls.

"I have saved money because I am going to marry, and my betrothed is
without means," Harry says, sharply.

"Ah! for a change you want to marry a poor girl! You display a truly
edifying fickleness of character. And who is the fair creature to whom
you have sacrificed your avarice?"

"I am betrothed to my cousin Zdena."

"Indeed?--to Zdena?" the Baron says, with well-feigned indignation.
"Have you forgotten that in that case I shall disinherit you?"

"You will do as you choose about that," Harry replies, dryly. "I should
be glad to assure my wife a pleasant and easy lot in life; but if you
fancy that I have come here to sue for your favour, you are mistaken.
It was my duty to inform you of my betrothal. I have done so; and that
is all."

"Indeed? That is all?" thunders old Leskjewitsch. "It shall be all!
Wait, you scoundrel, you good-for-naught, and we'll see if you go on
carrying your head so high! I will turn the leaf: I will make Zdena my
heiress,--but only upon condition that she sends you about your
business. She shall choose between you--that is, between poverty--and
me!"

"It will not take her long. Good-morning." With which Harry turns on
his heel and leaves the room.

The old Baron sits motionless for a while. The mild spring breeze blows
in through the open windows; there is a sound in the air of cooing
doves, of water dripping on the stones of the paved court-yard from the
roof, of the impatient pawing and neighing of a horse, and then the
clatter of spurs and sabre.

The old man smiles broadly. "He shows race: the boy is a genuine
Leskjewitsch," he mutters to himself,--"a good mate for the girl!" Then
he goes to the window. Harry is just about to mount, when his uncle
roars down to him, "Harry! Harry! The deuce take you! are you deaf?
Can't you hear?"


Meanwhile, the major and his niece are walking in the garden at Zirkow.
It was the major who had insisted that Harry should immediately inform
his uncle of his betrothal.

Zdena has shown very little interest in the discussion as to how the
cross-grained, eccentric old man would receive the news. And when her
uncle suddenly looks her full in the face to ask how she can adapt
herself to straitened means, she calmly lays her band on the arm of her
betrothed, and whispers, tenderly, "You shall see." Then her eyes fill
with tears as she adds, "But how will you bear it, Harry?"

He kisses both her hands and replies, "Never mind, Zdena; I assure you
that at this moment Conte Capriani is a beggar compared with myself."

Just at this point Frau Rosamunda plucks her spouse by the sleeve and
forces him, _nolens volens_, to retire with her.

"I cannot understand you," she lectures him in their conjugal
_tête-à-tête_. "You are really indelicate, standing staring at the
children, when you must see that they are longing to kiss each other.
Such young people must be left to themselves now and then." At first
Frau Rosamunda found it very difficult to assent to this rather
imprudent betrothal, but she is now interested in it heart and soul.
She arranges everything systematically, even delicacy of sentiment. Her
exact rules in this respect rather oppress the major, who would gladly
sun himself in the light and warmth of happiness which surrounds the
young couple, about whose future, however, he is seriously distressed,
lamenting bitterly his own want of business capacity which has so
impoverished him.

"If I could but give the poor child more of a dowry," he keeps saying
to himself. "Or if Franz would but come to his senses,--yes, if he
would only listen to reason, all would be well."

All this is in his thoughts, as he walks with his niece in the garden
on this bright spring forenoon, while his nephew has gone to Vorhabshen
to have an explanation with his uncle. Consequently he is absent-minded
and does not listen to the girl's gay chatter, the outcome of intense
joy in her life and her love.

The birds are twittering loudly as they build their nests in the
blossom-laden trees, the grass is starred with the first dandelions.

Harry is expected at lunch. The major is burning with impatience.

"One o'clock," he remarks. "The boy ought to be back by this time. What
do you say to walking a little way to meet him?"

"As you please, uncle," the girl gaily assents. They turn towards the
house, whence Krupitschka comes running, breathless with haste.

"What is the matter?" the major calls out.

"Nothing, nothing, Herr Baron," the man replies; "but the Frau Baroness
desires you both to come to the drawing-room; she has a visitor."

"Is that any reason why you should run yourself so out of breath that
you look like a fish on dry land?" the major bawls to his old servant.
"You fairly frightened me, you ass! Who is the visitor?"

"Please--I do not know," declares Krupitschka, lying brazenly, while
the major frowns, saying, "There's an end to our walk," and never
noticing the sly smile upon the old man's face.

Zdena runs to her room to smooth her hair, tossed by the breeze, while
the major, annoyed, goes directly to the drawing-room. He opens the
door and stands as if rooted to the threshold. Beside the sofa where
Frau Rosamunda is enthroned, with her official hostess expression,
doing the honours with a grace all her own, sits a broad-shouldered old
gentleman in a loose long-tailed coat, laughing loudly at something she
has just told him.

"Franz!" exclaims Paul von Leskjewitsch.

"Here I am," responds the elder brother, with hardly-maintained
composure. He rises; each advances towards the other, but before they
can clasp hands the elder of the two declares, "I wish, Paul, you would
tell your bailiff to see to the ploughing on your land. That field near
the forest is in a wretched condition,--hill and valley, the clods
piled up, and wheat sown there. I have always held that no military man
can ever learn anything about agriculture. You never had the faintest
idea of farming." And as he speaks he clasps the major's hand and
pinches Harry's ear. The young fellow has been looking on with a smile
at the meeting between the brothers.

"I understand you, uncle: I am not to leave the service. I could not
upon any terms," the young man assures him,--"not even if I were begged
to do so."

"He's a hard-headed fellow," Baron Franz says, with a laugh; "and so is
the girl. Did she tell you that she met me in the forest? We had a
conversation together, she and I. At first she took me for that fool
Studnecka; then she guessed who I was, and read me such a lecture! I
did not care: it showed me that she was a genuine Leskjewitsch. H'm! I
ought to have come here then, but--I--could not find the way; I waited
for some one to show it to me." He pats Harry on the shoulder. "But
where the deuce is the girl? Is she hiding from me?"

At this moment Zdena enters. The old man turns ghastly pale; his hands
begin to tremble violently, as he stretches them out towards her. She
gazes at him for an instant, then runs to him and throws her arms
around his neck. He clasps her close, as if never to let her leave him.

The others turn away. There is a sound of hoarse sobbing. All that the
strong man has hoarded up in his heart for twenty years asserts itself
at this moment.

It is not long, however, before all emotion is calmed, and affairs take
their natural course. The two elderly men sit beside Frau Rosamunda,
still enthroned on her sofa, and the lovers stand in the recess of a
window and look out upon the spring.

"So we are not to be poor, after all?" Zdena says, with a sigh.

"It seems not," Harry responds, putting his arm round her.

She does not speak for a while; then she murmurs, softly, "'Tis a pity:
I took such pleasure in it!"



                               FOOTNOTE:

[Footnote 1: One of a princely family who, although subject to royal
authority, is allowed to retain some sovereign privileges.]



                                THE END.



           Printed by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.



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