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Title: The Breaking of the Storm, Vol II.
Author: Spielhagen, Friedrich, 1829-1911
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/breakingstormtr01spiegoog

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



                                  THE

                         BREAKING OF THE STORM.



                                   BY
                         FRIEDRICH SPIELHAGEN.



                       Translated from the German
                                   BY
                        S. E. A. H. STEPHENSON.



                           IN THREE VOLUMES.
                                VOL. II.



                                LONDON:
                        RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON.
                                 1877.

                        (_All Rights Reserved_.)



                       THE BREAKING OF THE STORM.


                        BOOK III.--_Continued_.



                              CHAPTER III.


Philip had whispered to Reinhold that he would look him up presently;
Reinhold trembled for the result of a meeting between father and son,
which could not have occurred at a more unfortunate moment; but it
could not be helped, and he determined to employ the interval in saying
a few words of comfort, after the scene that had just taken place, to
the old clerk whom he had spoken to several times during the last few
days, and had learnt to look upon as certainly a peculiar but an
excellent and upright man. He found the old man in the little arbour at
the end of the narrow walk, between the garden and the building, in the
upper story of which he and Anders lived. He was sitting quite broken
down on the bench, while Cilli, who was with him, wiped the drops of
perspiration from his brow. She recognised Reinhold's step at once, and
said, as he entered the arbour:

"Thank God that you have come, sir! You were present. How did Herr
Schmidt take my father's confession? From what my father says, I
conclude very badly."

"On the contrary, Fräulein Cilli, my uncle is of opinion that between
two such old friends as himself and your father, a merely theoretic
difference is of no consequence."

"But if it should not stop at theory," exclaimed the old man, "if the
practical consequences are carried out by everybody--"

"But not by you, my dear Herr Kreisel! Answer me one question: would
you take advantage of any crisis in business to force from your
employer an increase of salary?"

"Never!" exclaimed the old man, "never!"

"You see for yourself! Though you may be perfectly right in theory,
between it and practice there lies, in the minds of educated people
like yourself, a long and rough road, into which you will never enter,
or on which, after the first few steps, you will stand still in
horror."

"Ah! yes, my nerves!" murmured the old man; "my nerves are not strong
enough for it. I am worn out; I believe he is right after all; an
hour's sleep would do me good."

He was persuaded by Reinhold and Cilli to go into the house; Reinhold
went a little way with him; when he returned to the arbour, Cilli was
sitting with her hands before her, and such an expression of deep
sorrow and trouble on her pure, gentle face, that it went to Reinhold's
heart.

"Dear little Cilli," said Reinhold, sitting down by her and taking her
hands in his "do not be so anxious. I give you my word that my uncle
does not dream of parting with your father; matters remain between them
exactly as before."

"Not exactly," answered Cilli, shaking her head; "since Thursday my
father has been quite changed. He has scarcely eaten or slept; and this
morning, quite early, he came to my bedside and said that he had no
longer any doubts, that he also was a Socialist, and he must tell Herr
Schmidt. That was quite right, as we ought always to tell the truth,
even in this case, when your uncle will not allow any Socialists on his
works. And although, as you tell me, and I believed before, your uncle
will make an exception in favour of my father, because he is old and
feeble, my father is proud, and will not endure to be merely tolerated,
all the more that he is undoubtedly in the right."

"How, my dear Cilli?" asked Reinhold, astonished. "Your father is in
the right?"

"Certainly he is," answered Cilli warmly; "is it not wrong that even
one man should suffer when others can prevent it? Did not Christ tell
us to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the
naked, to comfort the oppressed and heavy-laden? And if Christ had not
commanded it, does not every good man's heart command it?"

"In that case, my dear Cilli, all good men must be Socialists, and even
I myself may lay claim to the title; but between the love of our
neighbours, as you describe it, and Socialism as these people desire
it, there is a wide difference."

"I see none," said Cilli.

Reinhold looked at the sightless eyes upraised with an expression of
gentle enthusiasm.

"I can well believe that you do not see it, poor child," he said to
himself.

"And on that point I am quite easy," continued the blind girl; "men
must live up to their convictions, and bear the consequences patiently.
And my father and I can do so the more easily, that at the worst we
shall not have to bear them long."

"What do you mean, dear Cilli?"

"I know that my father will not live long; the doctor has always feared
that he would sink under one of his nervous attacks; and once, when he
was very bad, he told me so, that I might be prepared. I am prepared.
And if my father could only believe that I should not outlive him long,
he would be more easy in his mind. He thinks so much of you; perhaps he
would believe you if you assured him of it."

"But how can I, dear Cilli?"

"Because it is only the truth. I am ill; dying of a nervous illness. My
blindness, which came on when I was three years old, is only the result
of this disease, which I doubtless inherited from my father. When I was
eight years old, and had a very bad illness, my parents called in two
doctors, and one said to the other as they went out--they said it in a
whisper, and probably did not intend me to hear, but they did not know
how sharp my hearing is--it would be a miracle if the child lived to be
sixteen. I shall be sixteen next spring, and--I do not believe in
miracles."

"Doctors often make mistakes; I hope they have made one in your case."

"I do not hope it--I do not wish it."

"But you love life."

"Only because I know that I must die soon, as you all say that I think
the world so beautiful only because I am blind. And when my dear father
is gone, whom shall I have to live for?"

"For your friends--myself, for example; for Justus, whom you love, and
who loves you."

"Who loves me?"

The blind girl's sweet mouth quivered. She drew two or three deep
breaths, but the tears would not be kept back; they streamed from the
poor blind eyes, and trickled through the slender white fingers with
which she tried to hide them.

"Cilli! Cilli! what is the matter?" exclaimed Reinhold, seized with a
painful foreboding.

"Nothing, nothing," murmured the blind girl. "You see yourself that I
am ill--very ill. Hark! whose is that strange step in the courtyard?"

Reinhold looked up and recognised Philip, who came rapidly along the
walk in search of him without looking into the arbour. He could not
bear the idea of being found here by Philip at this moment, he must
therefore make up his mind to leave Cilli, who herself implored him to
go.

"Leave me! leave me! before you I am not ashamed of my tears. You alone
may see me weep."

It was high time. Philip had already turned back and came towards him.

"Where the devil have you been? I have been looking for you in your
room, and all over the place."

"Your interview with your father cannot have lasted long."

Philip laughed bitterly.

"As if it were possible to talk to him! But I swear this shall be the
last time. No man in the world would endure it if he were a hundred
times his father."

Philip was furious; he stormed at his father's blindness and obstinacy.
From what he could gather about the course of the interview, Reinhold
could not quite justify his uncle, but he could not let pass the
outrageous expressions of which the angry man made use.

"Are you going to begin now?" exclaimed Philip. "It is partly your
fault. All that the old man said was only what you said to me yourself
yesterday. What in the world induced you to set him against a project
of which neither of you understand a word? He, in spite of his
knowledge of business; you, in spite of your seamanship. What does it
signify to you whether the harbour is east or north? Whether it is
choked up in one place or goes to the devil in the other? Do you intend
to invest your money in it? If others wish to do so, let them. Every
one can use his own eyes, and if he comes to grief it is his own
look-out. The best of it is that none of you who set your faces against
it can hinder the matter from coming to a conclusion; in fact, it is as
good as concluded now. Count Golm has joined the Provisional Board; and
it would be a good joke if a harbour on the east were decided upon, and
Golm and the daughter of our principal opponent, General Werben, who is
as obstinate as my father--good heavens! there is young Werben! I hope
he did not hear!"

This conversation had taken place while they walked up and down between
the blocks of marble in the courtyard. Ottomar had learnt at the house
from Grollman that Reinhold was in the courtyard, and now came suddenly
towards him from behind one of the blocks. He had heard nothing,
although Reinhold feared at first that he had from his gloomy and
embarrassed air. But his handsome young face cleared the next minute;
he held out his hand to him with the greatest cordiality, and then to
Philip with less cordiality.

"He had been meaning to come every day, but the worries of military
duty! Quite unbearable, my dear fellow! You have no conception what it
is; you, especially, my dear Schmidt; you never were in the army, for
reasons best known to the doctors. If I had a hand in the matter you
should serve your time yet in the Guards. But what brought me here in
this hand-over-head fashion was to bring you this invitation from my
father and the ladies, with a thousand excuses, but the card had
somehow been mislaid yesterday; for this evening--quite a small
party--a good many officers, of course, a few ladies, of course also.
There will be a little dancing, my sister says, who counts upon you. Of
course you dance; and my father, as he told me yesterday, wants very
much to talk to you on important matters of which I know nothing; some
question about the harbour, I fancy. You see it is absolutely necessary
that you should accept. You will accept?"

"With much pleasure."

"That is capital."

Ottomar had during the last few words completely turned his back on
Philip; he now turned round.

"It will not be quite so lively as it was the other day at your house,
my dear Schmidt; it was quite delightful. I heard from Golm that there
was no end of a row afterwards, and the ladies were quite off their
heads. So sorry I could not come; but I had a fearful headache; and
headache, champagne, and pretty girls I have never yet been able to
stand in that order, though in the reverse order I have suffered from
them only too often."

"Bertalda was in despair," said Philip, who was inwardly greatly
irritated at the off-hand manner of the young guardsman.

"Dear little thing!" said Ottomar, shrugging his shoulders. "She says
just what comes into her head. She is a jolly little girl. I hope Golm
will behave well to her. But is not Herr Anders' studio in this
courtyard? His Satyr with the young Bacchus--or is it Cupid?--has made
a tremendous sensation. I have never been in a sculptor's studio; would
it be too much, my dear fellow, to ask you to get me admitted?"

Reinhold was quite willing. Philip remarked carelessly that if the
other gentlemen had no objection he would take the opportunity of
inquiring about the four marble statues which he had ordered of Anders
for his staircase, and of which two must be finished by this time. He
had inwardly hoped that Ottomar would be impressed by "the four marble
statues." Ottomar did not even appear to have heard him. He walked on
in front, with his arm in Reinhold's, to whom he spoke in so low a tone
that Philip could not hear what he said, probably was not meant to
hear.

"Generous to remind me of it--a _petit souper_--in honour of Count
Golm, who appears to be very susceptible of such ovations--slipped in
quite by chance--came away immediately. Don't say anything about it."

"Can you suppose----"

"One drops a word sometimes without thinking of it--and it arouses
suspicion--the ladies and--_ces dames!_--a very different matter, thank
goodness! My sister--your cousin--had the honour casually a few days
ago. Should be in despair if a word--the young lady is an artist, my
sister tells me. One can hardly picture to oneself an artist, and a
lady artist. After you, I beg!"

Reinhold, who knew by experience that in consequence of the noise of
hammers and chisels in Justus's studio, a knock at the door was seldom
heard, had gone before and opened the door at once, and had got some
way into the room before he saw, in a corner before a cast at which
Justus was working, the latter standing with Ferdinanda. Ottomar and
Philip had followed him so quickly, that they had all got into the
middle of the large room before the two, who were engaged in earnest
conversation and bewildered by the noise around them, heard them come
in, till Justus's Lesto--a shaggy little monster, of whom it was
difficult to tell which was his head and which was his tail--flew with
a loud bark at Philip, whose polished boots seemed to arouse his wrath.
In the tumult caused by this bold attack--while Philip, fearing for his
trousers, took refuge on a stool, and Justus, nearly dying of laughter,
vainly called "Lesto! Lesto!" and the four or five assistants, with
Antonio amongst them, moved a few obstacles out of the way, and brought
chairs--Reinhold had not noticed the deep blush that overspread
Ferdinanda's beautiful face when she perceived Ottomar, and the
embarrassment with which the latter greeted her. By the time the
confusion was somewhat allayed, and Lesto had subsided into quiet, the
two had recovered their presence of mind, and the more easily that the
first glance that passed between them was one of reconciliation. He had
returned to her after three long anxious days, which she had passed in
longing and despair. Now all was made up--all was forgiven and
forgotten. After the first happy and tremulous glance, she had not
again looked at him, and was now chatting with Reinhold and Philip; but
to Ottomar, the fact that she remained, that she did not after the
first greeting retire into her studio, the door of which stood open,
was an infallible proof of her penitence perhaps, certainly of her
love. And then the full, somewhat deep tone of her voice--he seemed to
hear it for the first time; and he did hear it for the first time. Till
to-day they had only exchanged hasty whispered words. Her laugh--he had
never thought that she could laugh--it seemed to him a very miracle;
her figure, whose classical form appeared more beautiful in the
straight, clinging, grey working dress than it could have done in the
most coquettish attire; the rich brown hair, drawn simply back from her
brows and loosely knotted together low down in her neck--he had never
known how beautiful she was! He stood before finished and unfinished
works--they might have been the slides of a magic-lantern; he spoke to
one and the other, chatted and joked; he had no idea what he said or
what they answered; he was in a dream--a sweet and delicious dream--but
for a few minutes only; then he awoke to a sense of the situation in
which he found himself--a situation which he could hardly have wished
more favourable, and the advantages of which he was determined to
profit by with rapid soldier-like courage and rashness.

And Ferdinanda was also dreaming the sweet, delicious dream of happy
love, while she chatted and laughed with the others; only she never
forgot or mistook the danger of the situation. From Reinhold, Justus,
and Philip she feared nothing; a little prudence, a little clever
acting, would suffice to protect her from any shadow of suspicion as
far as they were concerned. But what prudence, however cunning, what
acting, however clever, would protect her from Antonio's gleaming black
eyes? It was true, he had returned to his work in the farthest corner
of the room, and hammered and chiselled away, apparently quite
unconcerned with anything that passed around him. But this very
quietness, which was only apparent, alarmed her a thousand times more
than if his glittering eyes had been continually upon her. What he did
not see he heard. She knew the incredible sharpness of his senses; if
he did not look round before, he would do so at the moment which she
saw approaching. And that moment had come. Ottomar, thinking himself
safe, approached her and whispered a word that she did not understand,
so low was it breathed. But what matter? She read it in his eyes, on
his lips: "I must speak to you alone--in your studio!"

But how was it to be managed? The moments were passing; there was so
much to be seen in Justus's studio, and the talk seemed endless. There
were the four life-sized allegorical figures for Philip's staircase.

"Trade, a bearded man of Oriental appearance and dress, calling to mind
Nathan on his journey home. Industry, as you will perceive, rather
vaguely represented by a female figure of the present day, with some
half-dozen emblems, which may mean anything you please--all possible
things--exactly as Industry herself makes everything possible out of
all possible things. This Greek youth, gentlemen, with his winged
sandals and hat, may be recognised at any distance as the genius of
railroads, as Hermes, if he had lived long enough, would undoubtedly
have been appointed Postmaster-General in Olympus. The tall, beautiful,
stately lady, in the dress of a Nuremberg lady of rank of the fifteenth
century, will be recognised by the mural crown on her head and the
square and level in her hand, as patroness of architecture--a neat
allusion to the suburban streets which the worthy possessor has had to
pull down, in order to build for himself in the middle of the town the
house the vestibule of which these masterpieces are to adorn."

"You are responsible for at least half a street, Anders!" cried Philip,
laughing.

"Ah!" said Justus, "that is the reason then that the lady looks so
gloomy and melancholy under her mural crown! I could not imagine what
was the meaning of the expression that, without my intending it--and
even against my will--would come out clearer and clearer; the good lady
has a pang of conscience which I ought to have had! Will any one say
now that we do not bestow our best heart's blood on our creations?"

"This last figure strikes me as being particularly beautiful, if I may
venture to make an observation on a matter on which I am profoundly
ignorant," said Ottomar, with a glance at Ferdinanda, who strikingly
resembled the lady with the mural crown, both in figure and in the
haughty expression of the features.

Justus, who had caught the glance, laughed. "You are not so ignorant as
you pretend, Herr von Werben! You appear to know very well where we get
our inspirations. But that you may see that other people can not only
inspire forms, but also create very beautiful ones--may we, Fräulein
Ferdinanda?" and Justus pointed to the door of her studio.

"Certainly," said Ferdinanda, while her heart beat fast. Now or never
was the time. Antonio had not looked round; perhaps he had not heard.
It might be possible to go in with Ottomar while the others lingered
behind. And so it happened. Philip and Reinhold were disputing about
one of the symbols assigned to Trade; Philip, annoyed and irritated by
the contradiction that met him on all sides to-day, in a loud, excited
voice. Justus, however, was following her and Ottomar closely. As she
got to the door, she turned and whispered to him, "Philip is unbearable
to-day; do try and make peace between them?"

Justus answered, "Oh! it means nothing," but turned back.

Ferdinanda entered quickly, followed by Ottomar. She walked a few steps
to the left, till she was quite concealed from those in the other
studio. Her arms encircled him, while she felt his arms around her.
Their lips met, while he tasted the sweetness of her first kiss.

"This evening?"

"As you will."

"Eight o'clock, in the Bellevue Gardens!"

"As you will."

"Darling!"

"Darling!"

They did not venture on a second kiss, fortunately, as Justus appeared,
bringing with him, for greater security, the disputants.

They stood before the "Reaper," while Justus explained that it had been
begun in the spring and intended at first for a pendant to the kneeling
"Roman Shepherd Boy" in the Exhibition--a girl, who, in the solitude of
her maize field, deep in the Campagna, hears the Ave Maria ring out
from the neighbouring convent, and who, laying aside her sickle and her
sheaf, folds her hands for a moment in prayer; that the figure was
nearly completed, attitude, gesture and expression, all quite
admirable, and would have done honour to the greatest sculptors; that
the greatest sculptors in Berlin had expressed their admiration; the
Milanese Enrico Braga, who had been there on a visit in the summer, was
quite overpowered. "And now, gentlemen, I ask you whether it is possible
for any woman, even the most gifted, to carry out persistently a
clearly defined aim! The statue is almost finished, only a few touches
are wanted, but those touches are not given; we are not in the vein, we
will wait for a more favourable day. One, two months pass, the day does
not come; the clay dries up in the most unfortunate manner, breaks and
splits everywhere--we have lost all inclination for the work. I had
made up my mind, at the risk of the deepest displeasure, to have the
'Reaper' secretly cast at night before it quite fell to pieces; when
about four weeks ago, one fine morning, I entered the studio--the
sweet, dreamy face, was changed into a Medusa head, whose terrible
eyes, under the hand that had in the meantime been laid on her brow,
stared into the distance, apparently expecting some one. I should not
like to be that some one. Would you, Captain?"

Reinhold nodded to the sculptor; the statue had made exactly the same
curiously mingled impression upon him, and he had almost expressed it
in the same words. He said, smiling: "No, indeed!"

"Put it to the vote!" exclaimed Justus eagerly. "Would you, Herr von
Werben?"

Ottomar did not answer. The work was begun in the spring; in the spring
he had exchanged the first tender love-tokens with Ferdinanda; then had
ensued a long, weary interval, during which she had altogether avoided
him; and though four weeks ago she had given way to his imploring
glances and resumed again their secret understanding, it had acquired
in the interval a totally different character; a gloomy, passionate
character, from which even he sometimes shrank. Was this the image of
her love? Was it he who was here waited for?

All this passed through his brain with the speed of lightning, but his
fixed glance had betrayed something of what was in his mind.

"Why say so much about it?" exclaimed Ferdinanda; "a work that must be
put to the vote is not worthy to exist."

She had seized the heavy mallet which lay on the table amongst her
other tools and swung it towards the statue. Justus caught hold of her
arm.

"Are you mad, Fräulein Ferdinanda? Cannot you understand a joke? I
swear to you that it was only a joke! That I admire it even more than
the former one! That you have surpassed yourself and me."

Justus was quite pale with excitement; the others hastened to assure
her that they were quite of the master's opinion, that they thought the
statue surpassingly beautiful, that they did not wish to see one
feature altered. Ottomar was foremost with his praises, and his
beautiful eyes entreated for forgiveness; but Ferdinanda was not to be
appeased.

"It is too late," she said, "the sentence has gone forth, and I am too
proud, I confess, to accept praise which comes as an afterthought. Calm
yourself, Anders; I will not destroy the statue, but I will never
finish it, that I swear!"

"And I am to be calm?" exclaimed Justus; "may I break stones in the
road if I do, if I--what is it, Antonio?"

Antonio had entered, whispered a few words to Anders and then retired;
as he went out he cast a gloomy look at the statue of the "Reaper."

"A gentleman from the committee," said Anders, "there is always
somebody coming; they will drive me wild. I will be back directly."

He hurried into his studio; Ottomar suggested that they had already
troubled the young lady too long: he expected that Ferdinanda would
press them to stay, but she did not; he bowed. "I hope, Ferdinanda,"
said Reinhold, "that you will not distress us, I mean all of us, by
carrying out your threat and leaving the statue unfinished."

"If you knew me better," said Ferdinanda, "you would know that I always
keep my word to myself and to others."

These last words she had, as if accidentally, addressed to Ottomar, and
accompanied it with a glance which Ottomar understood and returned.
Whatever became of the "Reaper," she would come that evening.

The door had closed behind the gentlemen; Ferdinanda bolted it and then
turned slowly round. Her fixed glance rested first on the spot where
she had kissed Ottomar for the first time, and then passed on to the
"Reaper." Was it an effect of light, or was it that others' words had
first made it plain to her what she had produced? A shudder passed
through her.

"I keep my word when I have given it--but I wish I had not given it!"



                              CHAPTER IV.


Ferdinanda had long ago emancipated herself from all control on the
part of her aunt. She was accustomed to go and come as she pleased; the
only point on which it was necessary to be attentive was punctuality at
meals. Her father was very particular about this, only Aunt Rikchen
declared, in order that he might worry her out of her five senses if
she ever happened to be delayed by her household duties or other
matters, as could hardly be avoided by such a poor creature. Ferdinanda
was aware also that her father avoided every opportunity of being alone
with his sister, and that it was therefore an especial annoyance to him
if she herself stayed away from meals on any pretence. Under such
circumstances her father always took his meals by himself in his own
room. But this had very rarely happened, even in former days, and
scarcely ever happened now. Ferdinanda had almost entirely withdrawn
herself from all her friends; she said often that she had no friends,
only acquaintances, and that she did not care much about them.

To-day she must pretend to visit some friend, and leave word at home
that she should not probably be back to supper, which was always served
at nine o'clock punctually. Her pride revolted at the necessity of the
lie, and such an improbable one, but she had given her word; whether
good or evil came of it, her fate was decided--the deed must be done.

She went therefore at half-past seven, with her bonnet and cloak on,
down to her aunt, who was invariably to be found at that hour in the
sitting-room behind the dining-room, where, in her seat near the
window, she could count her stitches by the fading light, watch the
passers-by without trouble, and, as Uncle Ernst said, indulge her
fancies quite undisturbed. The latter employment was the most
successful to-day; the stitches were very difficult to count, in
consequence of the gloomy weather, and the same cause had diminished
the number of passers-by, "as if they were all on strike, like those
abominable work-people;" besides the butcher had brought for the next
day a miserable leg of veal, which, that silly Trine, the cook, ought
never to have taken in, and for her punishment must take back again,
although Heaven only knew how she was to get the supper ready all
alone, for as for Trine being back in less than an hour, she knew the
idle thing better than that. And now Ferdinanda was going out--was
going to spend the evening out! Aunt Rikchen in despair snatched her
spectacles from her nose, and let her stocking, with the stitches she
had only just picked up, fall into her lap.

"Good gracious! has everything combined against poor me to-day?" she
exclaimed. "Reinhold has just been in to say that he will not be at
home either."

"Where is Reinhold?"

"Oh! did not he tell you? Quite a large _soirée_--that is what you call
it? He supposed he must put on his uniform."

"At whose house?"

"At the Werbens'! Young Herr von Werben came here himself this morning.
You saw him in your studio, by-the-bye! I know nothing about it!--of
course I know nothing about it. At eight o'clock. It must be half-past
seven already."

Ferdinanda's countenance fell. "At the Werben's! At eight o'clock! How
could that be!"

"And where are you going, if I may venture to ask?"

Ferdinanda told the lie she had prepared. She had spoken to Fräulein
Marfolk the artist at the Exhibition; Fräulein Marfolk had given her
such a pressing invitation to go and see her again; she had some
curiosities and photographs to show her, which she had brought from
Rome; this evening she happened to be disengaged. Professor Seefeld
from Karlsruhe would be there also, who was most anxious to make
Ferdinanda's acquaintance. She had accepted, and could not draw back
now.

"And poor I must eat my supper alone again!" said Aunt Rikchen; "for he
had rather eat a live crocodile with its skin and bones, in company
with seven Hottentots, than a comfortable mutton-cutlet with his poor
old sister. Well, I must bear it. I must bear everything. If the whole
business stands still, my poor intellect can stand still too, and my
poor old heart with it." Her misery was too great; Aunt Rikchen burst
into tears.

"What is the good of exciting yourself so unnecessarily?" asked
Ferdinanda impatiently.

"Exciting myself so unnecessarily!" exclaimed Aunt Rikchen. "Of course
you think everything unnecessary. But I see it coming. I noticed the
people as they went away this morning, how they stood there in the
street and stared up at the house, and shook their fists threateningly,
and abused the police who were dragging away those two wretches,
Schwarz and Brandt, and that silly boy Carl Peters; and they abused
your father, too. It was shocking to hear them! It makes me shudder
when I think of it, and of what may still happen, for we have not seen
the end yet--of that you may be sure. But you don't excite yourself of
course--not you!"

"I could not prevent it, and can do nothing against it," said
Ferdinanda.

"You might have prevented it, and you could still do something before
matters come to the worst, and they burn the roof over our heads!"
exclaimed Aunt Rikchen; "but I cannot see my hand before my eyes; I
cannot distinguish a church-tower from a knitting-needle."

"The old song!" said Ferdinanda.

"Every bird sings as he has learned," exclaimed Aunt Rikchen; "and if
my ways do not please you, it is only because in these days every
chicken is wiser than the hen; for if I am not your mother, I have
worried myself as much as two mothers about you, and have asked myself
a hundred thousand times what is to come of it? But perhaps Providence
may have willed it so; it is always, one way or another, kinder to you
than to other people. And I am not at all sure that your father has not
always intended it so, for I always had my suspicions of that thick red
pencil, when no one else was allowed to touch his plans with a finger;
and any old woman can see how highly he thinks of him, and he is
extremely brave and good, and it would keep the family together, if you
were wise and married him before in these bad times everything flies up
the chimney."

"Reinhold?"

"Did you think I meant the Emperor of Fez and Morocco? But you only
pretend to be astonished, and jump up off your chair in order to make a
poor old thing like me tremble in all her limbs, as if my nerves were
not already sufficiently dérangés--that is what you call it, is not
it?"

"I got up because it is high time for me to go," said Ferdinanda.
"Good-bye, aunt."

She had gone a few steps towards the door, when the portière which
covered it was slowly drawn aside.

"Mi perdona, Signora! Signora Frederica, your most obedient servant!"

Ferdinanda stood still in horror.

"What did Antonio come for at this moment?"

"Mi perdona!" repeated Antonio. "I fear that the ladies did not hear me
knock at the door, so I ventured to walk in."

And he pointed carelessly in his easy Italian fashion to some books
which he held in his hand.

"This is not the day for our lesson," said Ferdinanda.

"I cannot come to-morrow, signora, so I ventured--"

"I have no time to-day. You see I am just going out."

She said it in a hasty tone, for which there was apparently not the
smallest occasion, and which was a wonderful contrast to the Italian's
courteous, "Mi ritiro, e le domando perdona--buona sera, signora," and
the low bow with which he passed again through the portière.

"Why were you so sharp with the young man?" asked Aunt Rikchen.

Ferdinanda did not answer; she was listening for the soft footstep as
it retired, and for the sound of the closing door. Would it be the
glass door leading to the garden, or the other one which led to the
entrance hall? It was the glass door; he had not gone out then. And
yet. Why had she said that she was going out? Should she give it up?

But there was no time to think. With a half-murmured: "Good-bye, aunt,
I will make haste back," she had left the room and was standing in the
street, almost without knowing how she had got there.

She had intended to take a cab at the corner of the street, but the
stand was empty; she must make up her mind to walk along the
Springbrunnenstrasse as far as the Parkstrasse, where she hoped to find
one. Perhaps it would be better; she could more easily make sure of not
being followed than in a close carriage. As she walked hastily along
she looked back two or three times; a few people met her; no one was
behind her; she breathed more freely; he had not followed her. She
feared no one but him.

But he whom she feared to see behind her was at that moment far in
front.

Since this morning Antonio had felt certain that the relations between
the handsome young officer and Ferdinanda had entered on a new stage,
and probably something was going to take place, something that he must
know at any price, that he would know, however secretly they might go
about it. He had, therefore, made the lesson which he gave her once a
week in his own language, an excuse for approaching her, in order to
find fresh food for his jealous curiosity, which imagined all possible
things. He had found her, who so seldom left the house in the evening,
ready to go out, without having ordered the carriage as she usually
did. She had sharply rebuffed him, as if she suspected his motive; and
what at another time would have irritated him, now delighted him; his
suspicions had taken a definite form; a rendezvous was in question! His
determination to follow on her track was made even before the portière
had closed behind him.

He had purposely shut the garden door loudly in order that Ferdinanda
might believe that he had not left the grounds. But when he got into
the garden he had turned to the right and passed through an iron gate
into the court-yard, and in a few steps was in the entrance hall,
through which he passed into the street. The cab-stand at the corner
was his first aim also; he was obliged to pass the window at which Aunt
Rikchen sat; but if he stooped his head would be hidden by the elder
bush in the front garden. It was a disappointment to find the cab-stand
empty, but she would experience the same disappointment, but not before
she got to the corner of the street. At this corner there was a small
public-house which the workmen belonging to the studio were in the
habit of frequenting. He sprang down the steps, and stationed himself
at the window opposite the cab-stand. It was a mere chance--she might
go towards the town, or might already have done so; but no! there she
was! She paused a few moments exactly as he had done himself, and came
then past the window behind which he was concealed; his eyes were on a
level with the pavement; he could see her slender feet as she walked
quickly along, with her dress slightly raised. He let her get a little
in advance, then emerged again, assured himself that she was walking
down the street, dashed across the street and ran up the Kanalstrasse
towards a private path that ran between villas and gardens parallel
with the Springbrunnenstrasse and led also to the Parkstrasse. This
narrow lane was now, as almost always, quite deserted; he could run
along it without exciting any attention--not that he would have cared
about that; he should reach the Parkstrasse some minutes before she
did. Arrived there, he flew across the street, and stationed himself
between the shrubs in the Thiergarten, in such a manner that he could
command the opposite side of the Parkstrasse and the opening of the
three side streets. The opening of the private path immediately before
him was no longer of any consequence to him, but she must come along
the Springbrunnenstrasse on the left, and at the corner of the last
side street to the right there was a cab-stand. She might, it was true,
turn to the left, towards the town, but he would still see her, and he
was convinced that she would turn to the right. And she did turn to the
right. She emerged from the Springbrunnenstrasse and walked quickly
along the opposite side by the houses, past the cross street to where
the cabs stood. There were two cabs, she took the first; the driver of
the second politely shut the door after her, and then as the first
driver drove off, seized the reins and drew his horse forward. The next
moment Antonio was by his side.

"Where to?" asked the driver,

"Where that cab goes."

"To the Grosse Stern, then."

Antonio drew back his foot which was already on the step. The Grosse
Stern, at the opposite side of the Thiergarten, where the
Charlottenburg Avenue is crossed by several other paths, was not a
favourable place for a pursuit in a carriage, which in the great Platz,
and indeed on the way there, must excite remark and suspicion. There
was a surer way. What signified to him the energetic curse which the
disappointed cab-driver sent after him, as Antonio hastened past him
along the road into the Thiergarten! The Grosse Stern Avenue, a broad
ride, shadowed by old trees, by the side of which were foot-paths, led,
as he knew, right across the Thiergarten to the Grosse Stern;
Ferdinanda's cab must go round by the Corso Avenue. It was not much out
of the way, and her cab went unusually quickly; but he was in the
direct path, and could depend upon his muscles and sinews. He ran the
several thousand yards that he had to go with wonderful rapidity,
heeding as little the beating of his heart as the bloodhound heeds it
when on the track of a stag; in fact, the immense exertion seemed to
refresh him by overpowering for the moment his pangs of jealousy. He
had reached his destination; the Platz lay before him; an omnibus
coming from Charlottenburg rattled by without stopping; a few carts
were coming from the town; between them, and then in front of them, a
cab came rapidly along. It must be he! Antonio had hidden himself
amongst the bushes--he would be quite safe here: behind him was the
entire park, where he could, at the worst, at any moment retreat into
the darkness; and the bushes were so thick that the danger of being
detected from the Platz was very slight, while he could see everything
that passed there. The cab from the town had stopped; a gentleman
sprang out. The cab immediately turned round and drove back to the
town; the gentleman walked slowly along the Platz without stopping,
looking around him on all sides. Antonio was startled at the first
glance; the gentleman was not in uniform. Then with a scornful
"Bestia!" he struck his forehead; and now that the gentleman passed his
hiding-place at a short distance, he recognised his detested enemy by
his slight figure and easy movements. It was too dark to see his
features distinctly. But what matter? He knew quite well who was before
him, and his hand grasped more firmly the handle of his stiletto, which
he had drawn out, as a huntsman takes aim even when he knows that he is
not within shot; and he gnashed his white teeth as at this moment the
cab which he had passed came round the corner of the Corso Avenue,
turned on to the Platz, and there stopped, but only for a moment, only
that the man he hated might say a few words through the open door, then
jump in and close the door behind him. The cab went on across the
Platz, along the road to the Bellevue Schloss, and then disappeared
amongst the trees.

Antonio murmured through his teeth the bitterest curse that he knew.
The pursuit was at an end. He could not take a short cut, because he
did not know what direction they would take; he could not follow them,
that was impossible along the public road. It mattered little, either,
where the pursuit ended--for to-day!

But he could not make up his mind to go back or quit the Platz. It was
a splendid place for brooding over his revenge, while the darkness sank
deeper and deeper, and the leaves around him hissed like serpents'
tongues, and above him in the tops of the mighty trees there were
sighings and groanings as of a victim lying mortally wounded on the
ground.



                               CHAPTER V.


In the meantime the cab had only proceeded a short distance, to the
entrance of the Bellevue Garden.

"We are quite secure here, I swear to you," Ottomar had whispered, as
he helped Ferdinanda to alight. The driver contentedly pocketed his
thaler and immediately drove off. Ottomar gave Ferdinanda his arm and
led her, bewildered, frightened, and half stunned, into the garden. He
could hear her gasping for breath. "I swear it!" he repeated.

"Swear that you love me! I only ask that!"

Instead of answering he put his arm round her. She encircled him with
both hers. Their lips met in a long, burning kiss. They then hastened,
hand in hand, deeper into the park, till they were concealed by trees
and shrubs and then sank again into one another's arms, exchanging
burning kisses and words of love, intoxicated with the bliss of which
they had so long been dreaming, and which was now more precious than
they had ever imagined in their wildest dreams.

So at least thought Ferdinanda, and so she said, while her lips again
sought his, and so said Ottomar; and yet, at the very moment that he
returned her burning kisses, there was a feeling in his heart that he
had never known before, a dread of the flames that surrounded him, a
sensation as of powerlessness in the presence of a passion which raged
around and overpowered him with the irresistible might of a tempest. He
had until now played at love, had looked upon his easy conquests as
triumphs, had accepted the mute homage of beautiful eyes, the
flattering words of gentle lips, as a tribute due to him, and not
demanding any gratitude. Here, for the first time, he was the weaker.
He would not acknowledge it to himself, and yet he knew it, as an
experienced wrestler knows at the first touch that he has found his
master, and that he must succumb, unless some accident gives him the
advantage. Ottomar was already looking out for this accident, for some
event to occur, some circumstance that should give him the advantage;
then he blushed at his own cowardice, at his mean ingratitude towards
this beautiful, gifted being, who so confidingly, so devotedly, and
with such self-forgetfulness threw herself into his arms, and he
redoubled the tenderness of his caresses and the sweet flattery of his
loving words.

And then, that uneasy feeling might be a delusion; but she who had done
what he had so often, so pressingly implored of her, who had at length
granted him an interview, in which he could put before her his plans
for the future, she would and must expect that he would at length trace
out that sketch of the future over which he had so long delayed, and
which at this moment seemed to him as uncertain as ever. He did not
believe what she assured him, that she wanted nothing more than to love
him, to be beloved by him, that everything of which he spoke--his
father, her father, circumstances which must be taken into
consideration, difficulties which must be overcome--all, all was only a
mist, which would disperse before the rays of the sun; trifles not
worthy that they should expend upon them one moment of precious time,
one breath! He did not believe her; but he only too willingly took her
at her word, even now silently absolving himself from the
responsibility of the consequences which might, which must follow such
a neglect of the simplest rules of prudence and wisdom.

And then he, too, forgot everything but the present moment, and she had
to remind him that time was flying, that he was expected at home, and
must not arrive too late for the party.

"But will you take me with you?" she asked. "Will you enter the room
with me on your arm, and present me to all present as your bride? You
have no need to be ashamed of me; there are not likely to be many women
there whom I cannot look down upon, and I have always considered that
to be able to look down upon others is half way at least towards being
a fine lady. To you I shall always look up. Tall as I am, I must
stretch myself higher to reach your dear lips."

There lay a wonderful proud charm in these jesting words, and deep love
in the kiss which her smiling lips breathed upon his. He was
intoxicated and bewitched by this loving gentleness, this proud love;
he said to himself that she was right, and he told her so, that she
could bear comparison with any queen in the world, that she deserved to
be a queen; and yet--and yet--if it had been no jest, if she had
demanded in earnest what one day she would demand.

"That was the last kiss," said Ferdinanda. "As usual, I must be the
most reasonable always. And now give me your arm, and come with me to
the nearest cab, and then go straight home, and be very charming and
amiable this evening, and break a few more hearts in addition to those
you have already broken, and which you will hereafter lay at my feet in
return for my heart, which is worth more than all of them put
together."

It was nearly dark when they quitted the silent, deserted park; the sky
had clouded over, and heavy drops were beginning to fall. Fortunately
an empty cab came by, in which Ferdinanda could go as far as the
Brandenburg Gate, where she would take another, and thus destroy every
trace of her road. She only allowed Ottomar to kiss her hand once more,
as he helped her into the cab. Then she leaned back in the corner,
closed her eyes, and dreamed over again the happy hour. Ottomar looked
after the carriage. It was a miserable vehicle, drawn by a wretched
screw, and as it swayed backwards and forwards in the feeble light of a
few lamps, and disappeared in the darkness, a strange sensation of
horror and loathing came over him. "It looks like a hearse," he said to
himself. "I could hardly bear to touch the wet handle. I could not have
brought myself to get into it. The whole affair gets one into very
uncomfortable situations. The walk home is no joke, either; it is
nearly nine, and beginning to rain pretty hard."

He turned into the Grosse Stern Avenue, which was his shortest way
home. Under the great trees it was already so dark that he could only
just distinguish the foot-path along which he hastily walked; on the
other side of the broad road, along which ran a narrower foot-path, the
trunks of the trees were hardly perceptible in the darkness. How many
and many times had he ridden along this grand avenue--alone--with
brother officers--in a brilliant company of ladies and gentlemen--how
often with Carla! Elsa was right, Carla was a splendid rider, the best
probably of all the ladies, certainly the most graceful. They had been
so often seen and spoken of together--after all it was quite impossible
to draw back now; it would make such a frightful scandal.

Ottomar stood still. He had walked too fast. The perspiration was
streaming from his brow; he felt stifled, and tore open his coat and
waistcoat. He had never before experienced the sensation of physical
fear, but now he started and his eyes peered anxiously into the
darkness, as he heard behind him a slight rustle--probably a twig that
had broken in its fall.

"I feel as if I had committed a murder, or as if in another moment I
should be murdered," he said to himself, as almost running he continued
on his way.

He did not suspect that to the breaking of that twig he owed his life.

Antonio had lingered, as if under the influence of a spell, at the
entrance of the avenue, now sitting on the iron railing which separated
the ride from the foot-path, now pacing up and down, now leaning
against the trunk of a tree, always revolving the same dark thoughts,
concocting plans of revenge, delighting himself with the idea of the
torments he would inflict on her and on him, as soon as he had them in
his power, from time to time directing his glance across the Platz
towards the entrance of the other avenue, along which the carriage had
disappeared with them, as if they must reappear in that direction, as
if his revengeful soul had the power of compelling them. He could have
spent the whole night there, as a beast of prey, furious at the loss of
his victim, remains obstinately in his lair, in spite of the pangs of
hunger.

But what was that? There he came across the Platz directly towards him.
His eyes, accustomed to the darkness, recognised him as if it had been
bright day. Would the bestia be such a fool as to venture into the
avenue, to give himself into his hands? Per Bacco! he would--there.
After a short pause he turned into the avenue; on the other side of the
road, true, but so much the better, he could the more easily follow him
on this side; he had only to dash across the ride when the moment came;
in the deep sand his first steps would not be heard, and then in a few
bounds he would reach him and bury the stiletto in his back, or if he
should turn round, drive it up to the hilt under the seventh rib!

And his hand closed on the hilt as if hand and hilt were one, and with
the finger of the other hand he repeatedly tried the sharp point, while
he glided with long steps from tree to tree--softly, softly--the
tiger's velvet paw could not have fallen and been raised more softly.

They had reached the centre of the avenue. The darkness could not get
more intense; it was just light enough to see the blade of the
stiletto. One moment more, to assure himself that they were alone in
the dark wood--that other and himself--and now, crouching low, he
crossed the soft sand, behind the thick trunk which he had already
selected.

But, quickly as he had crossed, the other had gained some twenty paces
in advance. This was too much; they must be diminished by half. And it
would not be difficult. He was in the soft sand of the road, to the
right of the trees, while the other was on the hard foot-path to the
left, where the sound of his steps would overpower any accidental
noise. But, maledetto di Dio--his foot touched a dry twig, which broke
with a snap. He stepped behind a tree--he could not be seen; but the
other must have heard; he was standing still--listening, perhaps
awaiting his assailant--at all events no longer unprepared. Who
knew--he was a brave man and a soldier--perhaps he was turning to defy
his assailant. So much the better! only one spring from behind the
tree, and--he was coming!

The Italian's heart throbbed as if it would choke him, as he now with
his left foot advanced prepared for the spring; but his murderous
thoughts had affected his usually sharp hearing. The steps were not
coming towards him, but going away from him! By the time he became
aware of his mistake, the distance between them was quite doubled; and
trebled before, in his consternation, he could decide what was to be
done.

Give up the chase? There was nothing else to do. His prey was now
almost running, and a late cab rolled along the drive which crossed the
avenue, and on the other side of the drive were cross paths right and
left--he had no certainty of being able to carry out his intention or
of escaping afterwards; the moment was past--for this time, but the
next time!

Antonio murmured a fearful curse as he replaced his dagger in its
sheath and concealed it in his coat pocket.

The other man had vanished; Antonio followed slowly along the same
path, out of the park, along the Thiergartenstrasse, into the
Springbrunnenstrasse, and to the house in which the man he hated lived,
the windows of which were brightly lighted. A carriage drove up, an
officer and some ladies in evening dress, wrapped in their shawls, got
out; a second carriage followed. He, above, was now laughing and
feasting, and whispering at that moment to one of the pretty girls who
had just arrived what ten minutes before he might have whispered to
Ferdinanda. If he could only pour into her heart the poison of jealousy
which burnt in his own! If he could put some impossible barrier between
her and him! If the whole affair could be betrayed to the stern
_signor_, her father, or to the haughty _capitano_, his father, or to
both----

"Hallo!"

A man coming along the pavement had run up against him, as he leaned
with folded arms against the iron railing of the front garden, and had
called out rudely.

"Scusi!" said the Italian, lifting his hat. "I beg your pardon!"

"Hallo!" repeated the man, "is it you, Antonio?"

"Ah! Signor Roller, the overseer!"

"Signor Roller! overseer! No more signors and overseers for me," said
the man, with a loud laugh, "for the present at least--till we have
served out the old man; he and his nephew and the whole lot of them! If
I only had them by the throat! If I could only do them some injury! I
would not mind what it cost me, so it were not money! That is all
gone."

The man laughed again; he was evidently half drunk.

"I have money," said Antonio quickly--"and----"

"We'll have a drink then, Signor Italiano!" exclaimed the other,
clapping him on the shoulder; "una bottiglia--capisci!--ha, ha! I have
not quite forgotten my Italian!--Carrara marble--capisci, capisci?"

"Eccomi tutto a voi," said the Italian, taking the man's arm. "Where
to?"

"To drink, to the devil, to the public-house!" exclaimed Roller,
laughing and pointing to the red lamp over the public-house at the
corner of the Springbrunnenstrasse.



                              CHAPTER VI.


The three moderate-sized rooms in the upper floor of the small villa
inhabited by the General, in the Springbrunnenstrasse, were got ready
for the reception of the company; the larger room at the back was for
the present closed. The supper was to be served there, and later it
would be used as the dancing-room. Elsa went once more through the
rooms to see that everything was in order. She did not usually do this,
as she could quite depend upon the care and attention of the perfectly
trained August; to-day, for the first time, he seemed to have taken his
duties more easily. Or was it only her fancy? She asked herself this
while she moved a few candlesticks and put them back again, and altered
the arrangement of some nicknacks without being any better pleased with
their appearance. "I do not know what is the matter with me to-day,"
said Elsa.

She stepped before the looking-glass and contemplated her reflection
with the greatest attention: she did not think herself looking the
least pretty to-day. She was disappointed in her new blue dress; her
hair was done much too loosely, the rosebuds were decidedly too dark,
and were put in too far back; her eyes were not the least bright, and
her nose was perceptibly red on the left side. "I really do not know
what is the matter with me to-day," said Elsa.

She sank into an arm-chair, laid her fan and gloves in her lap, and
rested her head on her hand.

"I was looking forward so to this evening; but it is all Ottomar's
fault. How can any one marry without love?--it happens often enough
though. Wallbach certainly does not love Louise, any more than she
loves him; but Ottomar, who is so tender-hearted and can be so good and
dear! That detestable money! how can one man spend such a sinful
amount? I can't think how they manage it. Horses!--they always say they
have sold them for so many guineas more than they gave for them; I
don't believe it; I am sure they always lose; but even that would not
come to so much. I do not know; they say Wartenberg cannot manage with
twenty thousand, and, that Clemda, with fifty thousand, incurs debts to
that amount every year--it is incredible! What good would my poor five
thousand do him, and he would have to wait, one way and another, nearly
five years for it. And if I fell in love with somebody who was not
noble, and lost my portion--I should not care, of course not, but I
could not give him anything if I had not got it myself--to say nothing
of papa, who would certainly not allow it, though he is always talking
about him; but it is all about the harbour, which is never out of his
head--but I am so glad that he always talks so kindly of him--so
glad--"

"Good heavens, child, what are you doing?"

"What is it?" exclaimed Elsa, starting up from her dreams, and looking
with a startled expression at her aunt, who, no less startled, stood
before her.

"Your new tarlatane dress! You are completely crushing it."

"Is that all?" exclaimed Elsa, drawing a deep breath.

"Oh, it is nothing to you!" exclaimed Sidonie. "You do not care about
things that I care about very much, but I am getting accustomed to that
by degrees!"

"Dear aunt!"

Elsa had thrown her arms round her aunt and kissed her; the kind
creature wanted nothing more. "Well, well," she said, "you careless
child! You will quite spoil your pretty dress."

She had freed herself from Elsa's embrace, and was smoothing and
arranging her darling's dress. "There, step back a little; you look
charming this evening, Elsa."

"I don't think so at all."

"Like my Princess! The evening that the Duke, her present illustrious
husband, was to be presented to her for the first time, 'I don't think
I look at all pretty to day,' said she."

"But I am not going to be presented to a Duke," said Elsa.

"How you do mix things up, child! As if you could marry a reigning
prince, except by the left hand! Besides, we shall only have a member
of a former reigning house here. Prince Clemda, and he is already
betrothed. So I could not be thinking of him."

"And of no one else, I hope, aunt."

"I must be very much mistaken, Elsa, or your blushes--yes, you are
blushing, my dear child, and you blush more and more, though it is
quite unnecessary before your aunt. I can assure you, on the contrary,
that I consider the match in every respect a most proper and desirable
one, and the chance--if it is not a crime against Providence to speak
of chance in such important matters----"

"For heaven's sake, aunt, if you love me, say no more," exclaimed Elsa.
The terror that seized her at the idea of hearing her aunt speak of
Count Golm, after Ottomar had already alarmed her in the morning on the
same subject, was too evident in the tone of her voice to escape even
Sidonie.

"Good gracious!" she said, "can I really have been mistaken! I had been
thinking over the extraordinary dispute which we had this morning, and
could only account for it by the explanation that you wished to conceal
the inclination you have for the Count by an affectation of
indifference, and even of want of consideration towards him."

"I did not intend anything of the kind," said Elsa.

"I am really sorry for it," said Sidonie, who now, under the pressure
of her disappointment, seated herself--though with due regard to her
brown silk gown--while Elsa walked up and down the room in some
agitation; "really very sorry; I know nothing that would have given me
greater pleasure, next to Ottomar's betrothal to Carla, which, in my
opinion, has been too long delayed. The Count is thirty--a very good
age for a man of his position to marry--he must and will marry one of
these days, and he might seek long before he would find a young lady
who would so entirely satisfy all the pretensions he has a right to
make, and no doubt does make. His circumstances are somewhat
embarrassed, but that is almost always the case nowadays with large
properties; men always settle down when they are married. Besides, he
will gain enormously by the new railroad, so Schieler says, who told me
all these particulars. The Councillor was with me yesterday, and I
almost fancied he must have come on purpose to tell me, and to hear
what I said about it, as he has always had a great regard for my
opinion. He is a charming man, and discretion itself; so I did not
hesitate to tell him exactly what I thought; in these cases openness is
always the best diplomacy, and when advances are made there is no harm
in meeting them half way."

"It is too bad, aunt!" exclaimed Elsa, turning round and standing with
her lace handkerchief crushed between her hands, while burning tears of
shame and anger started to her eyes.

Sidonie was so startled by this outburst, for which she was not in the
least prepared, that she sat motionless and speechless with wide open
eyes, while Elsa, instead of immediately begging her pardon, or calming
herself, continued with flaming cheeks and sparkling eyes: "To talk me
over like that with a stranger! and with Schieler, of all people, whom
I detest as much as I do the other whom you have chosen for me, and
whom I would never marry, not if he had a crown to lay at my feet,
never--never!"

"What is the matter, Elsa?" asked the General, who entered the room at
that moment and had heard the last words.

"A slight difference of opinion between me and my aunt," answered Elsa,
hastily wiping her eyes.

"Well, well," said the General, "I thought you ladies left that sort of
thing to us men. Is Ottomar not here?"

He left the room again to inquire after Ottomar.

"Forgive me, aunt," said Elsa, holding out her hand; "it was very wrong
of me. You do not know, but--I do not know myself, what is the matter
with me this evening."

It was with some hesitation that Sidonie took her hand; the General
came in again.

"It is too bad," he said; "Ottomar went out again quite an hour ago and
has not yet returned."

"He must be delayed by some important matter," said Sidonie.

"No doubt!" said the General, frowning, and pulling his grey
moustaches.

"Councillor Schieler!" announced August, opening the folding-doors.

The Councillor kissed Sidonie's hand and bowed low to Elsa, then turned
to the General:

"I have heaps of news for you, my dear friend."

"Few things happen now to interest me, and still fewer that give me any
pleasure," answered the General, with a courteous yet melancholy smile.

"I fear I cannot promise that my news will give you any pleasure," said
the Councillor; "but at least it is interesting even to you, ladies,
that the Baroness, instead of arriving on the 1st as she originally
intended, will arrive on the 10th, and will therefore be here in three
days."

"I had a letter this morning which said nothing about it," said the
General.

"My letter arrived this afternoon, and is, therefore, doubtless the
latest; it is not from herself, however, but----"

The Councillor was interrupted by a slight cough.

"You may say the name out, my dear friend," said the General; "it
cannot be avoided when once our meetings begin."

"You are right!" exclaimed the Councillor; "and I am happy----" The
widowed Countess von Fischbach arrived at this moment with her two
daughters; the ladies were engaged with their guests, and the
Councillor was able to draw the General aside. "I was about to say that
I am happy to find you so well prepared for what awaits you from
Munich. I know how painful everything connected with the subject is to
you, and yet I must ask your patience for a few minutes before you are
called away by your other guests. My second piece of news is that the
concession is granted."

"Impossible!" exclaimed the General.

"As good as granted."

"We had a meeting only this morning; it is true we were engaged upon
other matters, but his Excellency would at least----"

"He knows your dislike to the project; I repeat, as good as granted,
and that 'as good' is at the present moment better than good. I implore
you, my honoured friend, to listen to me patiently; the matter is of
the greatest importance, not only to me, who have only an indirect
interest in it, but more especially and directly to you. The concession
will of course only have been granted for a harbour on the north,
against which you have no immediate objection; is not that true? Good.
Now I know for certain that, behind your back, there was to the very
last moment a hesitation between the North and the East Harbour, and
that the pressure used has only just failed in turning the scale to the
East. I need not tell you by whom pressure was put; you know better
than any one the interest that Golm, who by the way will join the
management, has in the existence of the railroad; and his connections
in a certain region are better, very much better than I could have
dreamt of. I tell you it only wanted the merest trifle. And just
imagine, Signor Giraldi--I must mention his name now--has written to me
to-day that the sale of part of the property appears to him advisable
for the better regulation and easier administration of the rest; and
that the Baroness--that is to say he--for here as everywhere he is the
mouthpiece of the Baroness--will propose the sale at our meeting.
Wallbach is in favour of it as he always has been; as a man of business
I cannot oppose it; in short, the property will, as far as I can see,
be sold. It is almost impossible, or at least most improbable, that
Giraldi should know the state of affairs here, and that an eager
purchaser is ready to hand in Golm. But if Golm sees a possibility of
concluding the bargain, he will move heaven and hell to carry through
the East Harbour at the last minute. And now, my honoured, my excellent
friend, allow an old friend, of whose devotion you are aware, one word
in confidence--a bold one if you will: you are not rich; Ottomar is
extravagant; it is no small matter for Ottomar to see his portion with
one stroke doubled if not quadrupled in value with the rest, and
Fräulein Elsa will be richer in the same proportion; and if at the
death of the Baroness they inherit the remaining half, and Fräulein
Elsa makes a suitable marriage--with Count Golm for instance, to name
the first that occurs to me--you may close your eyes--God in His
providence grant not for many a long day--with the comforting
reflection that the external well-being of your family is secured for
all futurity, so far as man's foresight can determine. Be wise then, my
honoured friend. You need do nothing. You have only to refrain from
opposition and give in to what you cannot prevent. Lastly, you must
remember the good old saying: 'Well to endure what cannot well be
cured;' which you will doubtless remember in your youth."

The General had listened without a sign of the impatience that was
usual with him when an adverse opinion was put before him; his brow had
not clouded; there was even an unusually gentle, almost sad, tone in
his deep voice, as he now, without raising his eyes, said, as if to
himself: "I remember the saying well. It dates from the time of the
wars, of liberation, and many an oppressed heart derived comfort from
it in those troubled times, and many a broken courage has been
supported by it. It hung framed and glazed on the wall of my father's
best room; I can still see my dear mother standing before it and
reading what she had read a thousand times before:


          "'To triumph not in joy nor dread the storm,
            Well to endure what cannot well be cured,
            To do good actions and rejoice in beauty,
            To love our lives and not to fear death,
            Firmly to trust in God and a better future,
            This is to live, yet rob death of his sting.'"


The General looked thoughtfully before him. What an inconveniently
retentive memory the man has! thought the Councillor.

"And look, my dear friend," continued the General--and his eyes now
rested so steadily on the Councillor that the latter, in spite of all
his efforts, was forced to turn away his own--"according to the true
meaning of the proverb and my own feelings it would not be doing a good
action. Indeed, according to my own feelings I could no longer live,
and should with justice shrink with terror from death, like a
dishonoured coward, if, for the sake of outward advantage, were it a
thousand times as great as it here appears to be, I neglected my
positive duty and obligation, and did not resist, by every means in my
power, a project the accomplishment of which I am firmly persuaded
would be a manifest injury to our military strength, and an
unprincipled squandering of our means, which we have the strongest
reasons to be careful of. I have already nearly neglected my duty when
I threw the burden of the report of this odious affair on Sattelstädt's
shoulders; although I knew that his opinions were the same as my own.
After what I have just heard from you, I cannot do otherwise than bring
forward the subject on my own responsibility at the board, and in any
case acquaint the Minister with my disapproval. And now, my dear
friend, excuse me! I must help the ladies to do the honours."

He turned towards the large drawing-room; the Councillor looked angrily
after him.

"He is incorrigible. I almost wonder he did not turn me out of the
house. That will be the next thing. Do not fatigue yourself so much,
Count. It is of no use."



                              CHAPTER VII.


The Count had entered a few minutes before, in his deputy's uniform,
with the Cross of St. John. The room was by this time nearly full, and
he had had some difficulty in making his way to the ladies of the
house. Elsa had not helped him in his efforts; at the moment that he
appeared in the doorway she continued so eagerly the conversation
already begun with Captain von Schönau, that the Count, after bowing to
Sidonie, had stood for half a minute behind her without attracting her
attention, till Schönau at last felt bound with "I think" and a
movement of the hand to draw her notice to the newly-arrived guest.

"I am happy--" said the Count.

"Ah! Count Golm!" exclaimed Elsa, with well-acted astonishment. "I beg
your pardon for not having seen you sooner, I was so absorbed. May I
introduce you? Captain von Schönau, on the staff--a great friend of
ours--Count von Golm. Have you seen papa, Count Golm? I think he is in
the other room. You were saying, Captain von Schönau----"

The Count stepped back with a bow.

"That was rather strong, Fräulein Elsa," said Schönau.

"What?"

Schönau laughed.

"Do you know that if I were not the most modest of men I might imagine
all possible and impossible follies?"

"How so?"

"Why, did not you see that the Count held out his hand, and drew back
with a face as red as my collar? A young lady with such sharp eyes as
Fräulein Elsa von Werben could only overlook such a thing if she did
not wish to see it; which can hardly be the case here, or if she--I am
afraid to go on.--Who is that?"

"Who?"

"That officer--to the left, near Baroness Kniebreche--you are looking
to the right! He is speaking to your father now--a fine-looking man--he
has got the cross, too. Where did you meet with him?"

Elsa was forced to make up her mind to see Reinhold, though her heart
beat fast, to her great annoyance. She was vexed already at having laid
herself open to Schönau's sharp-sighted eyes, and almost betrayed
herself to him by her behaviour to the Count. It should not happen
again.

"A Herr Schmidt," she said, arranging the rosebuds in her hair--"a
merchant-captain. We made his acquaintance when we were travelling.
Papa likes him very much."

"A very fine-looking man," repeated Schönau; "just the sort of
handsome, manly face that I admire; and a very good manner, too, though
one recognises the officer of the reserve at the first glance."

"In what way?" asked Elsa, whose heart began to beat again.

"You ought to know that as well or better than I do, as you see more of
the Guards. Compare him with Ottomar, who is late as usual, and is
trying to repair his faults by making himself doubly agreeable! Look at
the finished courtesy with which he kisses old Countess Kniebreche's
bony hand, and now turns and makes a bow to Countess Fischbach, for
which the great Vestris might have envied him--_Allons, mon fils,
montrez votre talent_; and how he speaks now to Sattelstädt, not a
shade too much or too little. It is really unfair to compare one of the
reserve with the model of all knightly graces! Do not you agree with
me?"

Elsa only looked straight before her. Schönau was right; there was a
difference. She had liked him better as he walked up and down the deck
in his rough pilot jacket. She had envied him the firmness and freedom
of his movements. And when later he sat in the boat and steered it as
calmly as a rider governs his fiery steed, then he had appeared to her
as the model of a brave man conscious of his strength. If only he had
not come now, just now!

At that moment Reinhold, who had all this time been talking to her
father, and was now dismissed with a friendly nod, turned, and seeing
Elsa, came straight towards her. Elsa trembled so violently that she
was obliged to support herself by laying her hand on the back of a
chair; she wished to act a little comedy before the quick-witted
Schönau, and to appear perfectly cool and unconcerned; but as he now
stepped towards her, his bright, honest eyes still beaming at the
recollection of her father's kind reception of him, in the open, manly
features a certain embarrassment, which seemed to ask, 'Shall I be
welcome to you also?' her heart leaped up warmly and generously; and
though one hand still rested on the chair, she held out the other
towards him. Her dark eyes glowed, her red lips smiled, and she said:
"Welcome to our house, my dear Herr Schmidt!" as cheerfully and frankly
as if there were no finer name in the world.

He seized her hand and said a few words which she only half heard. She
turned towards Schönau, the Captain had vanished; the colour mounted
into her cheeks.

"It does not matter," she murmured.

"What does not matter?"

"I will tell you by-and-by if-- We are going to dance a little after
supper. I do not know----"

"Whether I dance! I am very fond of it."

"Even the Rheinländer?"

"Even the Rheinländer. And notwithstanding your incredulous smile, not
so badly that Fräulein von Werben need be afraid to give me the
honour."

"The Rheinländer then! I have already promised all the others. Now I
must go and entertain the company." She nodded kindly to him and turned
away, but came back immediately. "Do you like my brother?"

"Very much."

"I wish so much that you should be friends. Do try to see more of him.
Will you?"

"With all my heart."

She was now obliged to go; and Reinhold also mixed with the rest of the
company, without any of the embarrassment that he had felt on first
entering a circle so brilliant and so strange to him. His hosts had
received him as a dear friend of the house. Even the eyes of the
dignified aunt had glanced at him not without a certain good-natured
curiosity, stately as her curtsey had been; but the General had shaken
him warmly by the hand, and after the first words of greeting, drawing
him confidentially aside, had said: "I must introduce you to Colonel
von Sattelstädt and Captain von Schönau, both on the staff. They are
anxious to hear your opinion on the Harbour question. Pray speak your
mind quite freely. You will be doing me a favour. I shall also have a
special favour to ask of you with regard to this affair, which I will
tell you later. Au revoir, then."

That was flattering to the lieutenant of the reserve, said Reinhold to
himself as he turned towards Elsa; and now she, too, had been so kind
and friendly. He felt like one of Homer's heroes, who in silence hopes
that the goddess to whom he prays will be gracious to him, and to whom
the divinity appears in the tumult of battle and looks at him with her
immortal eyes, and in words which only he can hear, promises him her
assistance. What mattered to him now that old Baroness Kniebreche's
gold eye-glass was so long fixed upon him with such a disagreeable
stare, and then let fall with a movement that plainly said: It was
hardly worth the trouble! What mattered to him that Count Golm avoided
seeing him as long as he could possibly do so, and, when it was no
longer possible, walked past him with a snappish "Ah, Captain!
delighted to see you!" That young Prince Clemda's bow when they were
introduced might have been somewhat less careless. What did it all
signify? And those were the only marks of coldness which had been shown
him during the hour that he had already passed in the somewhat numerous
assembly. He had met with scarcely anything but good-natured, open
friendliness on the part of the ladies, and almost all the men, who
were mostly officers, cordially received him as one of themselves.
Even Prince Clemda seemed inclined to make up for his previous
carelessness by suddenly coming up to him and murmuring a few
sentences, amongst which Reinhold only distinguished clearly the words:
Werben--Orleans--Vierzon--confounded ride--sorry.

But what pleased him most was his acquaintance with Herr von
Sattelstädt and Herr von Schönau. They came up to him almost at the
same moment, and begged him, if it was not troubling him too much, to
give them his views on the practicability and utility of a harbour to
the north of Wissow Head. "We are both well acquainted with the
locality," said the Colonel, "and are both--the Captain even more than
myself--opposed to the project; we have of course discussed the matter
often at the Admiralty, but none the less, or rather all the more, it
would be of the greatest interest and importance to us to hear the
opinion of an intelligent sailor, who, while thoroughly well acquainted
with the circumstances of the case, is at the same time quite
unprejudiced, more especially when he possesses at the same time the
soldierly eye of a campaigner. Let us sit down in the study here--there
is another chair, Schönau! And now I think it would be best if you
would allow us to ask you a few questions. It is the easiest and surest
way of arriving at our object. We will not trouble you long."

"I am quite at your orders," said Reinhold.

The gentlemen intended only to take a discreet advantage of the
permission; but as Reinhold, against his will, was obliged frequently
to enter into details, in order to answer the questions put to him, the
conversation prolonged itself further than either of them had intended,
though no one seemed aware of it but himself. Flattering though the
respectful attention might be with which the two officers listened to
his explanations, and sincerely as he admired the sagacity and
knowledge displayed by every question, by every word they said--he
could not refrain from casting from time to time a longing glance
through the door of the study into the larger drawing-room, where the
company were still circulating as before, and through the drawing-room
into the second small room on the other side of the drawing-room, in
which apparently a group of young people had assembled, amongst whom he
perceived Ottomar and the lady who had been pointed out to him at the
Exhibition as Fräulein von Wallbach, Count Golm, and finally Elsa.

A lively dispute was going on, as could be heard right across the
intervening drawing-room, though naturally the actual words could not
be distinguished. Even Schönau's attention was at length caught by it.
"I would bet anything," he said, "that they are quarrelling over
Wagner; where Fräulein von Wallbach presides, Wagner is sure to be the
subject of discussion. I would give anything to hear what she says
about him this evening."

"That is to say, my dear Schönau, if I am not mistaken, I would give
anything if Sattelstädt would hold his tongue," said the Colonel,
smiling. "Well, we have already taken an unconscionable advantage of
Captain Schmidt's patience."

He rose and held out his hand to Reinhold. Schönau protested that he
meant nothing of the kind; the Colonel shook his finger threateningly
at him. "For shame, Schönau, to deny your liege lady! She, you must
know, Captain Schmidt, is Divine Harmony. For her he would go through
fire and water, and let the harbour matters take care of themselves. Be
off, Schönau!"

Schönau laughed, but went, taking with him Reinhold, who followed not
unwillingly, as he was thus enabled to return to Elsa and to Ottomar,
to whom he had only spoken in passing.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Ottomar had been fully occupied in making up for lost time. He went
from one to the other, here whispering a compliment, there accompanying
a shake of the hand with a jest, this evening more than ever
overflowing with life and spirits and good-humour, the accomplished
favourite of the Graces, and king of society. So said Baroness
Kniebreche to Carla, who had just appeared in the drawing-room, with
her brother and sister-in-law, and was immediately taken possession of
by the old lady, one of whose "_mignons_" she was. "Look, my dear
Carla! he is just speaking to Helene Leisewitz--how happy the poor
thing is! It is not often that she is so singled out. Mon Dieu! he is
positively paying attentions to her. Do look!"

Carla was in despair. She could see nothing without her eye-glass, but
did not like to make use of it while with the Baroness whose pince-nez,
with glasses as big as thalers, were fixed to her almost sightless
eyes. Besides the old lady screamed so loud that she might be heard
half across the room, and she expected to be answered equally loudly,
being quite deaf of the right ear and almost deaf of the left.

"Ah! at last he has fluttered off to Emilie Fischbach--_à la bonne
heure!_ She has been making eyes at him for ever so long, charming
little creature! She really grows more charming every day. And how she
chatters and wriggles. A little too much simplicity, but she will
improve. You will have another rival next season, my dear Carla. What,
going already! No, no, my dear, not so fast; I have not spoken to you
for ages. You owe me a world of confidences. Do you think that an old
woman like me is to go about in society as ignorant as a new-born baby,
while the whole world is _au courant_? Out with it! When is the
betrothal to be? Not speak so loud? Why I am hardly speaking above a
whisper--this ear, please! It is not yet settled! Don't be angry with
me, my dear Carla; but what in the world are you thinking about? Do you
imagine an Ottomar von Werben is always to be had?"

"Do you want me, Baroness?" said Ottomar, who had heard his name.

"I want you to sit down by me here, on my left side, you faithless
butterfly!"

"Is there such a thing as a faithful butterfly, Baroness?"

"Now none of your jokes; I am a serious, practical old woman, and want
you both--why what has become of Carla?"

Carla had seized the opportunity, and, rising with an expression of
delighted astonishment on her animated countenance, had hastened
towards Count Golm, whom, by a hasty glance through her eye-glass, she
had perceived at the other side of the room engaged in conversation
with Countess Fischbach, and who now turned towards her. She was
determined to punish Ottomar for the neglect with which he had in the
most open manner treated her. Ottomar looked after her with gloomy
eyes, and his glance did not clear while the old Baroness took him to
task, as she expressed it. "Yes, yes, my dear Ottomar, it is only the
truth; and from whom should you hear it if not from an old woman, who
knows the world thoroughly and has known you ever since you were born?
I have seen other affairs come to nothing that looked quite as
promising as yours. Everything has its limits, even the patience of
society. If this patience is tried too long, society says nothing will
come of it; and when society has said so for a certain length of time
nothing does come of it, simply because it has said so. People do
everything as society decides; are betrothed, marry, separate, fall in
love, fall out of it again, fall in love a second and a third time,
fight duels, shoot their friends, shoot themselves--society is always
right."

"And supposing society should be right in our case?"

The old lady let her pince-nez fall in horror: "_Mais vous êtes fou,
monsieur, positivement fou!_"

She seized her large black fan, and fanned herself violently and
noisily; replaced her pince-nez, cast a sharp glance at Ottomar, who
stared moodily before him, and said, while she motioned to him to put
his ear near her mouth--

"Now listen patiently, like a good child, for you are children, both of
you; you who sit here looking like an ensign who has had twenty marks
too few at his examination for lieutenant; and Carla who is flirting
over there with Count Golm, on purpose to provoke you. Don't play with
fire. You might burn your fingers badly. If the affair comes to nothing
it will be the greatest scandal of the season. And now go and make your
peace with Carla, and tell her from me that I have known the Counts
Golm for three generations, and that the present one--well, I had
rather tell her myself."

She rapped Ottomar on the knuckles with her fan. Ottomar rose quickly
and moved a few paces towards Carla, in the full conviction that his
approach was all that was necessary to appease her, as she had watched
the whole progress of his conversation with the old lady, and now
turned her eye-glass on him. But Carla let him come a few steps nearer
and then turned completely round towards the Count, with the defiant
movement of an actress who wishes to give the audience an opportunity
of admiring the back of her dress. Ottomar started back and turned on
his heel, murmuring between his teeth: "A formal provocation! Thank
heaven!"

But when he now again mixed with the company, laughing and jesting even
more gaily than before, in his heart was dark night. What the Baroness
had murmured in his ear he had said to himself over and over again as
he hastened home through the Thiergarten, and the mighty trees over his
head could as little overpower with their sighings and groanings the
warning voice within him, as the hum and rustle of the company could
now overpower the harsh voice of the toothless old lady. Was she only
the mouth-piece of society? So, exactly so, would and must society
speak, perhaps did speak already, though he could not hear. Let it!
What did society know of the tall, slender figure which he had but now
held in his arms, of the throbbing heart that had rested on his breast,
of the wealth of kisses that still burned on his lips? If the four
charming girls with whom he was talking could combine all their charms
into one, they would still not make a Ferdinanda. And as for Carla, he
had never admired her as much as the rest of the world did, and now he
thought her positively ugly, with her coquettish airs, her eternal
laugh and her everlasting eye-glass. Let her marry the Count; let them
say and do what they would! And what could they do? A duel with
Wallbach? Well, it would be the fourth within four years, and if he
were killed, so much the better! There would be an end to the whole
affair; he need no longer trouble his head with his debts, or his heart
about the women! Debts, women--he would have done with them all!

"Oh, Herr von Werben! how intensely amusing you are this evening!"

"I feel intensely amusing, I assure you."

"I don't wonder, under the circumstances."

"Of course not!"

"Then do us a favour."

"A thousand."

"Do bring us your brother officer from the reserve; what is his name?"

"Schmidt!"

"Really?"

"Really!"

"How funny!"

"Why?"

"How cross you look! It is not our fault. Emilie Fischbach says he is
quite delightful! We want to know the delightful Herr Schmidt. Do
please bring Herr Schmidt here!"

"Oh, do!" exclaimed the other young ladies, "bring Herr Schmidt here!"

"I fly."

The titter of the girls, which was not ill-meant, sounded after him
like an intentional scoff. His cheeks burnt with anger and shame; that
name--it was hers also.

"One word, Werben."

Clemda touched him on the shoulder.

"What do you want?"

"I have had a letter from Brussels, from the Duke, and also one from
Antonia. The Duke is now free. Our wedding is to be in four weeks.
Antonia is very anxious that your betrothed should be one of her
bridesmaids. You must of course take me under your wing; I dare not
write and tell her that you are not yet betrothed. You are not angry
with me for the hint?"

"Why should I be?"

"Because you look so serious over it. Where are you off to in such a
hurry?"

"The ladies want me to take Lieutenant Schmidt to them."

"Ah! not a bad fellow--in his way!"

Clemda had let the last words slip out carelessly after the others--as
one might open a chink of a door one had just shut, in order to let the
dog in, thought Ottomar.

"And what I wanted to say besides, Ottomar--of course, as host, one has
certain duties, but then certain duties are owed to the host also; and
entre nous, I consider Golm's flirtation as rather a want of
consideration towards you, as he must know your situation with regard
to Fräulein Wallbach as well as anybody."

"He is quite a stranger in our circle."

"Then you should explain matters to him; and Golm----"

"My dear Werben! can you spare me a moment?"

"At your orders, Colonel!"

"Ah!" said Clemda, retiring with a bow before his commanding officer.

"Only a moment," repeated Colonel von Bohl, drawing Ottomar a little on
one side; "I have just been speaking to Wallbach; he was very pressing,
but, with the best will in the world, I cannot give you leave before
the spring. Clemda will want a long leave; Rossow must be away at least
three months, as his wound threatens to break out again. I cannot spare
all my best officers at once. His Excellency must understand that."

"But there is no hurry, Colonel."

"You want to marry, and I am not devoted to newly-married young
officers; I grant you willingly, therefore, a year's leave for
diplomatic service in St. Petersburg. And then, my dear Werben----"

The Colonel cast a glance behind him and said in a lower voice:

"I should not be sorry if you could find some excuse for a short
absence,"--the Colonel made a significant gesture; "those matters might
be better and easier arranged from St. Petersburg than here--believe
me, my dear Werben!"

"But everything is arranged, Colonel; since this morning."

"Everything?"

The Colonel looked Ottomar full in the face.

"All but a trifling matter----"

"I should like even that trifling matter to be got over. His Majesty
is very particularly sensitive on those matters just now, and with
reason. Now, my dear Werben, we have all been young once, and you
know my feelings towards you. I speak for your own sake, and may tell
you in confidence that Wallbach, if not exactly prepared for any
sacrifice--that would be saying too much--is ready to help you as far
as he can in making any arrangement. You understand!"

The Colonel held out his hand, and turned quickly away to put an end to
the interview. He had in the kindest and friendliest manner said his
last word, his ultimatum. Ottomar had quite understood. The blood ran
hot and cold through his veins; his temples throbbed violently.

He stopped a servant who was passing with a tray, tossed down several
glasses of wine and then laughed, as one of his brother officers called
out to him: "Leave a little for me!"

"Do you find it so hot too?"

"Tolerably! But I believe we are going to dance,"

"After supper; I don't know why it is so late. I will ask my sister."

"She is in that room."

Ottomar plunged into the room, into the midst of a circle which had
grouped itself round Carla. An extraordinary feeling of perversity came
over him. In this little room almost all his most decisive meetings
with Carla had taken place; here it was the custom, when the company
was smaller, to withdraw in order to talk more at ease; and here were
now gathered together all his most intimate friends: a few of his
favourite brother officers--Wartenberg, Tettritz--only Schönau was
absent--few of Elsa's particular friends, Elsa herself, even old
Baroness Kniebreche had made her appearance, as she always did wherever
she expected an interesting conversation, and, preventing Carla from
rising off the small, blue silk sofa, had sunk into an armchair, in
which, leaning forward, with her hand to her left ear, she listened
eagerly to Carla's words. The only one of the party who was a stranger,
as Ottomar himself had said a few minutes before to Clemda, was Count
Golm; and this stranger stood, with one hand on the back of the small
sofa, close to Carla, where he himself ought to have been standing,
instead of remaining in the doorway, without the possibility of
advancing a step farther into the crowded room, and not daring either
to withdraw, after Baroness Kniebreche, turning her pince-nez angrily
on him, had exclaimed: "There you are at last, when our dear Carla has
been enchanting us with her clever talk--yes, yes, my dear Carla,
positively enchanting us. Let your brother stand, Elsa; he has richly
deserved it. For heaven's sake go on, my dear Carla!"

Carla had hastily glanced towards the door through her eye-glass. "I
cannot say any more without repeating what I have said already."

"Then repeat it!" exclaimed the Baroness. "One cannot hear often enough
that Wagner is the master of all masters who have ever lived or ever
will live."

"I did not say that, Baroness," said Carla, laying her hand on the old
lady's; "only of those who have lived! It is not for nothing that the
master calls his music that of the future; and the future is so called
because it is yet to come. But who can venture to predict what will
come?"

"Is it not magnificent?" exclaimed the old lady--"positively
magnificent?"

"For," continued Carla, "deep as is my admiration for the master, I
cannot conceal from myself, though with some trembling--only too
natural in face of such incomparable greatness--that the mystical
connection between word and sound--the Eleusinian mystery--proclaimed
by the master, though only to the initiated, produces a deeper, more
heart-felt satisfaction, in which the last remains of that barbarous
separation which has hitherto existed between poetry and music entirely
and for ever disappear."

"Positively stupendous!" exclaimed the Baroness.

"Magnificent!" growled Lieutenant von Tettritz.

"But Wagner himself allows that," said Von Wartenberg.

"And that speaks in my favour," answered Carla. "When we see how this
splendid genius goes further and deeper with every work, how he
advances with giant strides from 'Rienzi' and the 'Fliegende Holländer'
to 'Tannhäuser' and 'Lohengrin;' from these to the 'Meistersinger;'
from the 'Meistersinger' to 'Tristan and Isolde,' which I have only
glanced at as yet, and now to what the 'Ring des Nibelungen' is to
bring us--can we, dare we say, in opposition to the most modest of men,
who looks upon every height that he has reached as only the stepping
stone to a greater one, that with the 'Ring' the ring is closed?
Impossible! 'Art,' says Goethe, who, if he understood nothing of music,
always deserves to be listened to on the universal principles of
æsthetics--'Art has never been possessed by one man alone;' and,
god-like though he is, we must still look upon the master as a man."

"I must kiss you--I positively must kiss you!" exclaimed the Baroness.
"What do you say to it, Count Golm--what do you say to it?"

"I bow my head in admiration and--silence," answered the Count, laying
his hand on his heart.

"And you, Ottomar?" exclaimed the Baroness, turning in her chair
with almost girlish activity, and fixing her pince-nez like a
double-barrelled pistol on him.

"I consider Wagnerism, from beginning to end, to be an abominable
humbug!" answered Ottomar defiantly.

The company were horror-struck. "Good heavens!" "Unheard of!"
"Abominable!" "Positive blasphemy!" was heard on all sides.

"What did he say?" asked the old lady, her hand to her ear, bending
towards Carla.

Carla shrugged her shoulders. "You really cannot expect me to repeat
Herr von Werben's words. Baroness?"

"Which Ottomar did not mean seriously," said Elsa, with an imploring
look at her brother, which Ottomar answered by a shrug of the
shoulders.

"I thought myself bound," he said, "as the Baroness did me the honour
to appeal directly to me, to give my opinion, though it can be of no
importance in this 'noble circle.'" He emphasised scornfully the last
words.

"Humbug!" exclaimed the old lady, who, while the others were all
talking at once, had made Herr von Tettritz repeat the fearful word in
her ear. "It is too bad! You must withdraw it!--you must positively
withdraw it! Do you hear, Ottomar?"

"Perfectly, Baroness," answered Ottomar; "but I am unfortunately unable
to comply with your command."

"It is an insult--a positive insult!" exclaimed the Baroness, waving
her enormous fan violently up and down--"to us all, to Carla in
particular--on my honour, my dear Carla!"

Carla appeared not to hear; she was leaning back on the sofa, and
laughing with Count Golm, who, leaning on his elbow, bent low over her.

Elsa was greatly disturbed. She knew that her brother did not in the
least care about music, and that under any other circumstances he would
have put an end to the disagreeable scene with one of the light jests
that came so easily to him; and that if he did not do so now--if, as
was evident from his gloomy countenance, he was determined to continue
it, he could only have one reason for doing so--the wish to bring about
a crisis, to break with Carla irrevocably and for ever, in the presence
of their friends! She did not wish for the marriage; she had spoken
eagerly against it that very day; had opened her anxious heart to her
brother. But Carla had not deserved this; she was only behaving today
as she always did, and her laughter at this moment was doubtless
forced. What could she say or do?

"Will you at least honour me with an answer?" exclaimed the angry old
lady, half rising from her chair.

"Let me answer for him, Baroness?" said a voice.

Elsa almost exclaimed in joyful astonishment. It was Schönau, who,
laying his hand on Ottomar's shoulder, stepped into the doorway. Behind
them she saw another bearded countenance, whose large, honest eyes
rapidly surveyed the group, and finally rested on her. He could do no
good here; but his very presence was a comfort, while Schönau's wits
would bring help.

Half a dozen voices at once made him acquainted with the crime Ottomar
had committed.

"Now, Werben, Werben!" said Schönau, shaking his head at him. "How
could you let your rash daring lead you into such danger, even if you
were as much at home in logic as you are on horseback? But to confuse
cause with effect--to call Bark giddiness because it produces
giddiness, singing in the ears, and headache, is really unheard of!"

"You hear him!" exclaimed the old lady triumphantly, having only caught
the last words. "Unheard of--positively unheard of! Get up, Tettritz;
let Schönau sit down here. Go on, Schönau. Wagner is the greatest
musician--eh?"

"And the greatest dramatist also," said Schönau, taking the place
willingly left free for him by the Baroness.

"Go on, go on!" exclaimed the Barones, tapping Schönau on the hand with
her fan.

"Undoubtedly," continued Schönau, with a smile, "it is the mission of
every poet to hold a looking-glass to nature; but with a difference.
'_J'ai vu les m[oe]urs de mon temps, et j'ai publié ces lettres_,'
wrote Rousseau in the preface to his 'Nouvelle Héloise;' that may
suffice for the novelist, the poet's half-brother, as Schiller calls
him. We must be content if he presents to us good photographs of
reality--instantaneous pictures; and more than content if these
photographs come out stereoscopically, and appear almost like
life--almost. For only the dramatist fulfils, and can fulfil, his
mission in earnest, his aim having been from the first, and being
still, to leave the impress of his style on the age and on the material
world. The first thing necessary for this, however, is Shakespeare's
golden rule--'Be not too tame.' And it is just because Wagner is not
too tame--because he has the courage, which his enemies call audacity,
to allow the salient points in the character of his age to appear, to
allow the excrescences to grow out of the material world--it is this
which raises him so far above his rivals in the estimation of all who
have ears to hear and eyes to see."

"I should like to kiss you!" exclaimed the Baroness. "Go on, my dear
Schönau--go on!"

Schönau bowed.

"What are, however, the salient points of our age? Ask our
philosophers--Schopenhauer, Hartmann----"

"This will please you, Carla!" exclaimed the Baroness.

"They will answer, the deep conviction of the insufficiency,
wretchedness, misery--let me say the word--worthlessness of this our
earthly life; and combined with this, the conscious-unconscious longing
after the Nirvana, the sweet Nothing--the beginning and foundation of
things, which appears to our troubled nature as the only deliverance
and last haven of refuge from the desolation and error of this life,
and to which we should undoubtedly fly were it not for our will--our
gigantic, invincible, indestructible will--that cares for nothing more
than to live, to enjoy, to drink down the foaming cup of life, of love,
to its last bitter drops. Renunciation there, enjoyment here, both to
overflowing; because each is aware of the other, each hates the other,
like the hostile brothers. And in this constantly renewed contest
between irreconcilable contradictions; in this sensation of being
torn backwards and forwards in the wildest confusion, the maddest
tumult, the most entangled whirl; in this witches' Sabbath, this
will-o'-the-wisp dance, and this halo of falling stars of modern
humanity, hurrying from hell to heaven, from heaven to hell, raging and
vanishing into mist; in this everything, and something more, turned
into endless sing-song and eternal clang--the most horrible Past
painted into a rosy-red caricature of the Present, while the eyes of a
spectral Future stare from the empty sockets--the flute-notes of soft
enjoyment, the violin-tones of fading bliss, drowned by the crashing
cymbals and the shrill sound of the trumpets--here you have the
'Venusberg' and the 'Penitent,' the 'Wedding-night' and 'Monsalvat,'
the chronic sorrows of love and the magic drink from a prescription;
here you have, taking it all in all, him whose like has never been
seen, and never will be seen--here you have Richard Wagner! And now,
Baroness and ladies, allow me to withdraw before the enchanted silence
into which I have lulled you breaks into words, which might hurt my
modesty, though not that of nature."

Schönau kissed Baroness Kniebreche's hand and disappeared, taking
Ottomar with him. A few laughed, others cried "Treachery." The Baroness
exclaimed:

"I don't know what you mean; he is quite right!"

Lieutenant von Tettritz, who, as an enthusiastic Wagnerite, felt
himself seriously offended, and was considering whether he ought not to
call out Schönau for this insult, tried to explain to her that the
Captain had mystified and laughed at her in the most outrageous manner.

"Without my finding it out!" exclaimed the old lady. "You must not say
that, my dear child; old Kniebreche knows better than that when she is
laughed at, I can assure you."



                              CHAPTER IX.


Fortunately at this moment supper was announced; it was served from a
buffet which had been prepared in the hitherto closed room, on two
small tables which had in the meantime been laid.

"Are you not yet engaged?" asked Elsa of Reinhold as she passed him;
"make haste, then; Fräulein Emilie von Fischbach is waiting for you;
she is indeed, though you look so astonished! It is all settled; she is
standing near the looking-glass with Fräulein von Rossow whom Schönau
has engaged. I do not intend to engage myself--I shall follow you
in--we are going to sit at the small round table in the window! Now
make haste, for fear anybody should get there before us." Reinhold
hastened to fulfil so agreeable a command; Elsa stopped Ottomar, who
was passing her. "Do, dear Ottomar, take Carla in to supper; I am sure
she is waiting for you. You really have got a fault to make up for."

"Which I shall not do by committing another."

"I do not understand you; but you owe something to her and to us all."

"I shall never be able to pay all my debts. Well, to please
you--there!" and he glanced at Carla, who just then passed on Golm's
arm to the nearest table; "you see how she has waited for me!"

"Paula!" exclaimed Elsa to a young lady, "my brother is anxious to take
you in to supper, but does not dare ask you because you refused him the
other day. At that table!--Prince Clemda, at that table, please, near
Count Golm and Ottomar--there are just four places empty--every seat
must be occupied."

"At your orders," said Clemda; "_allons_, Werben!"

Ottomar, with the lady on his arm, still stood undecided.

"Will a Werben allow a Golm to say that he left the field clear for
him?" whispered Elsa in his ear.

She regretted the words as soon as they were spoken: how could any
cause prosper that was fed from the spring of injured vanity? But
Ottomar had already led away her friend, and it was high time for her
also to take her place. She was too late already. She had hoped that
Reinhold would sit by her; but room must be made for another couple who
had been wandering from table to table, and the whole arrangement was
thus disturbed. Still he was opposite to her, and she had the
satisfaction of seeing him--of noticing his eyes so often, it could
hardly be unintentionally, turned towards her--if only for a moment; of
hearing his hearty laugh, which had so enchanted Meta, and which she
herself, as she secretly acknowledged, found so enchanting; the calm
clearness of his words when he joined in the conversation, the modest
silence with which he readily allowed the witty Schönau to take the
lead in the conversation. The latter, now that he thought it worth his
while, spoke his real opinion of Wagner and Wagnerism, and explained
how he saw in Wagner, not the prophet of the future, but, on the
contrary, the last exponent of a great past; how the mixing and
mingling of arts, which Wagner held up as their highest development,
had everywhere and at all times prepared and accompanied their
downfall; how the blind fanaticism of his supporters, and the
tyrannical intolerance with which they cried down every opposite
opinion, was for him not a proof of their strength, but, on the
contrary, of their weakness, the overpowering consciousness of which
they sought to drown in this manner; and how, to his eyes, the only
comfort to be derived from the whole affair was that the despotism
usurped by the Wagnerites hung on one life only, namely, that of the
master himself, and that his empire must fall into ruins as soon as he
abandoned the scene, because his so-called theory did not rest on true
principles of art, did not result necessarily from the essence of art,
but was nothing more than the abstraction of his own highly-gifted,
energetic but capricious and exceptional nature, of which it might
truly be said that its like would hardly be seen again.

"Believe me, my friends, to his helpless disciples Mephistopheles'
saying will be carried out; they will have the parts in their hands,
but the spiritual bond that united them will be gone for ever."

Schönau had addressed his words chiefly to Elsa, but Elsa's thoughts
were wandering, and yet she generally listened to him with so much
pleasure; and he was talking to-day even better than usual, with a
certain passion which was very striking in the usually quiet, reserved
man. Her friends had often teased her about Captain Schönau, and she
had never denied that she liked him; and now, while he was speaking,
and her eyes wandered from him to Reinhold and back again, and she
compared, almost against her will, these two men who were so unlike one
another, she asked herself how it could be that one should like one man
so much and yet like another a great deal better, even though the
former had undoubtedly far more brilliant ideas beneath his broad,
sharply-chiselled brow, than the other who listened to him with such
respectful attention; besides, how curious it was, that while the one
had for years frequented their house as an intimate friend, she had
never troubled herself to think whether he enjoyed himself there, while
her head was now constantly troubling itself with the question whether
the other, who was their guest for the first time to-day, had come
willingly and would wish to come again, and she rejoiced to see how
contentedly he was chatting with pretty Emilie Fischbach, and how he
now, in his open-hearted way, lifted his glass to her and drained it,
while his eyes looked so kindly and so steadily into hers. Yes, she was
happy, and would have been entirely so if the talk at the long table
near them had been somewhat less loud and excited, and if Ottomar's
voice had not several times rung out so loudly that she started in
terror, and was relieved when the sounds of laughter and the clinking
of glasses drowned his clear tones. She knew that it was always
particularly noisy and jolly at the table at which Ottomar sat.

To-day more than ever. "A Werben will not leave the field clear for a
Golm!" The words sounded in Ottomar's ear as he sat at table by his
partner, opposite to Golm and Carla, and they re-echoed in his
passion-filled heart; and, if no one else remarked it, to Carla there
was a tone in his voice as he now plunged into the conversation already
started, in which he took and maintained the lead, as if it were a
race, thought Carla, in which he was determined to be the victor in
spite of all the efforts of his rivals. And Count Golm strove in every
imaginable way--but in vain. Ottomar was inexhaustible in his amusing
fancies, absurd jokes, and witty answers; Carla had never seen him so
brilliant.

Carla was enchanted; she knew what prize was being ridden for in this
race, and why the foremost rider took the highest hedges and the widest
ditches with such temerity, and that it was from her hands the winner
would receive the prize. Poor Golm, he did all he could, and more than
all; it was not his fault if he remained farther and farther behind,
and at length seemed inclined to turn out of the course. But that could
not be allowed; he must be cheered and encouraged, he must be allowed
to receive at least the second prize, and be persuaded that it was only
an unlucky accident that vanquished him this time, and that it was not
impossible that another time he might win the first.

But this must be done very carefully, by an encouraging smile, by a
kind, rapid glance; before the company Ottomar must be crowned; to
Ottomar she addressed herself as they rose from table, and holding out
her hand, said, loud enough to be heard by the bystanders:

"You really surpassed yourself, Herr von Werben."

"You are too kind," answered Ottomar, with so low a bow that it was
almost mocking.

The mockery was not heartfelt. He was intoxicated by his success, and
not by his success only. He had desired to forget his cares and
troubles by drowning them in wine, and he had succeeded. The dark wood,
and the beautiful girl whom a few hours back he had folded in his arms
in that dark wood, it was all a dream--a wild, confused dream which he
had dreamt, heaven only knew when; here were pleasure and mirth, and
light and brightness, whichever way he looked; and whichever way he
looked bright eyes sparkled, rosy lips laughed, white shoulders
glistened, and all sparkled, laughed, and glistened for him! Here was
his empire; here he was king; he had only to hold out his hand and the
hand of the lady most courted here would be laid in his! Was there a
to-morrow? Let it come; the present belonged to him; pleasure and mirth
for ever! Bright eyes, and rosy lips, and white shoulders for ever!

And as if all the spirits of pleasure and mirth were surrounding him,
Ottomar flew through the rooms to apologise to the elder guests, if in
the interests of the young people who wanted to dance a little they
were somewhat crowded till the supper-room could be cleared, begging
his brother officers not to waste precious time, but to engage their
partners if they had not been wise enough to do so already, giving the
young ladies the delightful information that the evening would wind up
with a cotillon, with orders to be given by the ladies, and that there
was room on his breast for more than one. And now the doors were
re-opened, from the empty room resounded the notes of a merry polka,
and----

"You will dance this with me, Carla?" exclaimed Ottomar, and without
awaiting her answer--putting his arm round her--he flew with her into
the dancing-room, followed by the other couples who had anxiously
awaited this moment.

"Are you not dancing?" asked a deep voice behind Reinhold.

Reinhold turned. "No, General."

"Do you not dance?"

"Oh yes; but you did me the honour to say you wished to speak to me. I
was just about to----"

"That is very good of you. I was coming to fetch you."

"I am at your orders, General."

"Come, then."

The General, however, did not move. The aspect of the room, which was
almost filled with dancers, appeared to interest and absorb him.
Reinhold, who had unconsciously turned in the direction in which the
General was looking, saw that the eyes of the latter were fastened on
Ottomar, who with Carla was engaged in the centre of the room in
performing the skilful evolutions demanded by the polka. A smile passed
over his grave, stern face; then, as if rousing himself from a dream,
he passed his hand over his forehead, and said again, "Come, then."

He put his arm through Reinhold's, and crossed with him the large
drawing-room in front of a group that had assembled round Baroness
Kniebreche. The Baroness suddenly stopped speaking; the round glasses
of her pince-nez seemed to flash forth angry flames at the sight of the
confidential manner of the General towards the young officer of the
reserve.

"Look away!" thought Reinhold, while his heart beat proudly, "and
heaven grant that I may prove worthy of the honour!"

They entered the small room in which a little while before Wagner had
been so warmly discussed. The room was empty.

"Sit down," said the General, taking possession of an arm-chair and
motioning to Reinhold to sit by him; "I will not keep you long."

"I am really in no hurry. General; I am only engaged once for a later
dance with your daughter."

"That is right," said the General. "Elsa is in your debt, and here am I
going to take advantage of your good-nature again. In one word, you
have spoken to Colonel Sattelstädt and to Schönau, and have given them
your decided opinion upon the matter you know of. They both say that
your explanations have put the matter in quite a new light, which they
consider most important, and which ought to decide the question in the
eyes of all who can see in our favour; that is to say, in mine and
these two gentlemen's, who unfortunately stand pretty nearly alone in
our views, and have every reason to look about us for allies. I ask you
now, in our joint names, if you will be that ally, and if you will draw
up for us a written statement of the circumstances of which we can make
unrestricted use? Schönau will willingly provide you with maps and any
other assistance you may want, if you will put yourself in
communication with him. The first question now is, will you do us this
kindness?"

"Most certainly, General, and will do it to the best of my ability."

"I felt sure you would; but I must draw your attention to one important
point. President von Sanden has told me that he has you in his mind,
and Elsa confided to me that you were not disinclined to agree to the
President's wish, and accept the situation in question. The post is not
in the gift of the Minister of War, but your report will cause ill
feeling in more than one department, and we might find ourselves
compelled to give up the name of our informant. Have you thought of
that?"

"No, General; but I have never been ashamed of my name, and, thank God,
have never had reason to be. From the moment that it is named in such
company and in this affair, I shall be proud of it."

The General nodded.

"One thing more: the matter is pressing, very pressing. When do you
think you can have the report ready?"

"If I can communicate with Herr von Schönau to-morrow morning, it shall
be ready the morning after."

"But you would have to work all night."

"I am a good sleeper, General, and I can keep awake too when
necessary."

The General smiled.

"Thank you, my dear Schmidt."

It was the first time that he had spoken to Reinhold in the
unceremonious manner usual from superior officers to their younger
comrades. He had risen, and his usually stern glance rested with almost
fatherly kindness on the young man who stood before him, colouring with
pleasure and pride.

"And now go and amuse yourself for a little while with the young
people; you are still young enough yourself, thank God. There comes my
son, probably to fetch you."

"Just so," said Ottomar, who appeared hurriedly and excitedly in the
doorway. "I apologise; but Elsa----"

"Off with you!" said the General.

Ottomar drew Reinhold away.

The General looked thoughtfully after the two young men.

"It is a pity," he said, "but one cannot have everything at once, and
if Ottomar--what do you want!"

"This letter has just been left."

"A letter, now? How can that be?"

"The hall door is open, sir. The man who brought it said it was lucky,
as otherwise he would have had to ring. It was very important."

"Very odd!" said the General, contemplating the letter which he had
taken from the servant.

It was a large, business-like looking letter, and the direction was in
a clerk's hand.

"Very odd!" said the General again.

He had opened the letter mechanically and began to read it. What was
this? He passed his hand over his eyes and looked again; but there it
stood quite plain, in clear, bold words. His face became purple.

"Have you any orders, sir?" asked August, who was anxiously waiting.

"No, no! nothing, nothing! You can go," murmured the General, as he put
the letter down and pretended to fold it. But the servant had hardly
left the room before he took it up again to read to the end. And then
the strong man trembled from head to foot, while with a cautious glance
around he quickly folded the letter, and tearing open his uniform, put
it in his pocket.

"Unhappy boy!" he murmured.



                               CHAPTER X.


The last carriage had driven away; the servants were arranging the
rooms under Sidonie's directions. Elsa, who generally spared her aunt
all household cares, had withdrawn under pretext of feeling a little
tired, that, in her quiet room, she might let the soft echoes of this
happy evening die out of her heart, undisturbed by the clatter of
chairs and tables. It had not needed that he should dance the
Rheinländer so admirably; she would still have brought him in the
cotillon the large blazing order which she had placed at the bottom of
the basket, and which, when her turn came, she boldly and successfully
drew out, and then with trembling hands fastened it beside the iron
cross on his breast. Yes; her hands had trembled and her heart had
fluttered as she had done the great deed, and then looked up in his
sparkling eyes; but it was from happiness, from pure happiness and joy.
And it was happiness and joy which now kept her awake, after she had
laid her greatest treasures--the album with his portrait and the little
compass--on the table by her bedside, and had extinguished the candle,
which she lighted again in order to cast a glance at the box containing
the compass, and to assure herself that "it was still faithful," and
"turned towards its master," and then opened the album at the place at
which it always opened, and looked at his portrait once more; no, not
at the portrait--that was detestable--but at the inscription, "With all
my heart," and softly breathed a kiss upon it, and then quickly put the
light out again, laid her head on the pillow, and sought in her dreams
him to whom she was faithful waking and sleeping, and of whom she knew
that he was faithful to her sleeping or waking.

Ottomar had also, as soon as the last guests were gone, retired, with a
"Good-night; I am tired to death; what has become of my father?" and
had gone downstairs without waiting for the answer. In the passage
leading to his room, he must pass his father's door. He stood still for
a moment. His father, who had gone downstairs a few minutes before, was
doubtless still up, and Ottomar was accustomed under similar
circumstances to knock and, at least, wish him good-night through the
open door. This evening he did not do so. "I am tired to death," he
repeated, as if he wished to apologise to himself for this breach of
his usual habit.

But arrived in his room, he did not think of going to bed. It would
have been useless so long as the blood coursed through his temples,
"like mad," said Ottomar, while he tore off and threw down his uniform
with the cotillon orders, and tore open his waistcoat and cravat,
and put on the first garment that he laid his hand upon--his
shooting-coat--and stationed himself at the open window with a cigar.

The night was very fresh, but the cold did him good; a drizzling rain
was falling from the black clouds, but he did not heed it; he stood
there looking out into the dark autumn night, and smoking his cigar,
confused thoughts whirling through his troubled brain, and the beating
of the veins of his temples and the sighing of the wind in the trees
prevented his hearing a twice-repeated knock at the door. He started
like a criminal when he heard a voice at his ear. It was August.

"I beg pardon, sir. I knocked more than once."

"What do you want?"

"The General begs you will go to him at once."

"Is my father ill?"

August shook his head. "The General has not yet undressed, and does not
look exactly ill, only a little----"

"Only a little what?"

The man scratched his head. "A little odd, sir. I think, sir, the
General----"

"Confound you, will you speak out?"

August came a step nearer, and said in a whisper, "I think the General
had a disagreeable letter a little while ago; it may have been about
half-past eleven. I did not see the man who brought it, and Friedrich
did not recognise him, and I believe he went away again immediately.
But I was obliged to take the letter to the General myself, and the
General made a curious face when he read the letter."

"From a lady?"

August could not help smiling, in spite of his sincere anxiety for his
young master.

"Oh no!" said he. "They look different, one finds that out by
experience; an important looking letter."

"Those infernal Jews!" muttered Ottomar. He could not understand what
it meant; the next bill was only due in a week's time; but what else in
the world could it be? His father would be in an awful rage again.
Well, he would only have to propose a few days earlier, if he must
propose, were it only to put an end to these everlasting worries, which
left a man no peace even to smoke his cigar quietly in his own room at
night.

He tossed the cigar out of window. August had picked up his uniform
coat, and was taking off the cotillon orders.

"What is that for?"

"Won't you put on your uniform, sir?" asked August.

"Nonsense!" said Ottomar. "It would only--" He broke off; he could not
say to August, "It would only make this tiresome business longer and
more solemn." "I shall simply tell my father that I do not mean to
trouble him with these matters in future, but prefer to allow Wallbach
finally to settle my affairs," said he to himself, while August went
before him along the passage with the lamp, the gaslights having been
extinguished, and stopped at his father's door.

"You may put the light down on the table and go to bed, and tell
Friedrich to wake me at six o'clock."

He had spoken louder than was necessary, and it struck him that his
voice sounded strange, as if it were not his own voice. Of course it
was only because the house was quite quiet, so quiet that he again
heard the blood coursing through his temples, and the beating of his
heart.

"Those infernal Jews!" he muttered again through his teeth as he
knocked at the door.

"Come in!"

His father stood at his writing-table, above which a hanging lamp was
burning. On the console before the looking-glass also the lamps were
still burning. The room seemed disagreeably light and formal-looking,
although it was exactly as Ottomar had always seen it, as long as he
could remember. He had better have put on his uniform after all.

"I must apologise for my dress, father; I was just going to bed, and
August seemed to think you were in such a hurry."

His father remained standing at the table, leaning on one hand, with
his back towards him, without answering. The silence lay like a
mountain on Ottomar's soul. With a great effort he shook off his vague
dread.

"What do you want, father?"

"First that you should read this letter," said the General, turning
round slowly, and pointing to a paper that was spread out before him on
the table.

"A letter to me?"

"In that case I should not have read it; and I have read it."

He had stepped back from the table, and paced slowly up and down the
room with his hands behind his back, while Ottomar, standing where
his father had stood just before, without taking the letter in his
hand--the handwriting was legible enough--read as follows:


"Honoured Sir,--I trust your honour will forgive your humble servant,
the undersigned, for venturing to call your honour's attention to a
circumstance which threatens seriously to endanger the welfare of your
honoured family. It concerns the relations which have for some time
subsisted between your son, Lieutenant von Werben, and the daughter of
your neighbour, Herr Schmidt, the owner of the great marble-works. Your
honour will excuse the undersigned from entering into details, with
which he is thoroughly conversant, but which are better consigned to
the obscurity in which the parties in question seek in vain to remain,
and if the undersigned begs you to ask your son where, and in whose
company he was this evening between eight and nine, it is only to prove
to your honour how far the said relations have been carried.

"It would be both foolish and unpardonable to suppose that your honour
is acquainted with all this, and has connived at it till your son is on
the point of being betrothed to the daughter of an ultra-radical
democrat. On the contrary, the undersigned can imagine beforehand the
painful astonishment which your honour will experience on reading these
lines; but, your honour, the undersigned has also been a soldier, and
knows what military honour is, as indeed all his life long he has
cherished it, and he cannot endure any longer to see the honour of such
a brave officer so criminally trifled with behind his back, by him who
more than any other appears called to protect that honour.

"The undersigned feels he need say no more in assertion of the great
veneration with which he is of his honour and his honour's whole family

                             "The obedient, humble servant."


The General did not interrupt his son for some minutes, but as Ottomar
still remained motionless, staring in front of him, his teeth pressing
hard on his white lip, he stopped in his walk at the far end of the
room, and asked:

"Have you any idea who wrote that letter?"

"No."

"Have you the slightest suspicion that the lady whom it concerns----"

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Ottomar impetuously.

"I beg your pardon, but I am under the painful necessity of asking
questions, as you do not appear disposed to give me the explanations
which I expected."

"What am I to explain!" asked Ottomar half defiantly; "the thing is
true."

"Short and conclusive," answered the General, "but not quite clear. At
least, some points still require clearing up. Have you anything to
reproach this lady with--I may call her so?"

"I must beg you to do so."

"Well, then, have you anything in the least to reproach this lady with,
which, setting aside outward circumstances of which we will speak
later, could prevent you from bringing her into Elsa's company? On your
honour!"

"On my honour, nothing!"

"Do you know anything of her family, again setting aside outward
circumstances, even the smallest fact, which would and ought to hinder
any other officer who was not in your peculiar position from forming a
connection with her family! On your honour!"

Ottomar hesitated a moment; he knew absolutely nothing dishonourable of
Philip; he only had the inborn instinct of a gentleman against a man
who, in his eyes, is not a gentleman; but he would have considered it
cowardly to shelter himself behind this vague feeling.

"No!" said he moodily.

"You have acquainted the lady with your circumstances?"

"In a general way, yes."

"Amongst other things, that you are disinherited if you marry a woman
who is not of noble birth?"

"No."

"That was somewhat imprudent; however, I can understand it. But in a
general way you say that she is aware of the difficulties which, under
the most favourable circumstances, must stand in the way of a union
between you and her?"

"Yes."

"Have you ever let her perceive that you have neither the will nor the
power to remove these difficulties?"

"No."

"Rather have allowed her to believe, have probably assured her that you
can and will set aside these obstacles?"

"Yes."

"Then you will marry her."

Ottomar started like a horse touched by the spur. He had felt that this
must and would be the end; and yet, as the words were spoken, his pride
chafed against the pressure put upon his heart even by his own father.
And in the background lurked again ghost-like the horrid sensation that
he had had in the park; that he was weaker than she who so confidingly
nestled in his arms. Was he to be always the weaker, always to follow,
whether he would or no, always to have his path traced out for him by
others?

"Never!" burst from him.

"How! never!" said the General. "Surely I am not speaking to a
headstrong boy who breaks the toy that he no longer cares about, but to
an officer and a gentleman who is accustomed to keep his word
strictly."

Ottomar felt that he must give a reason, or at least the shadow of a
reason.

"I mean," he said, "that I cannot make up my mind to take a step in one
direction that would compel me to do wrong in another."

"I think I understand your position," said the General; "it is not an
agreeable one, but a man who pays attention in so many quarters should
be prepared for the consequences. I must, however, do you the justice
of admitting that I begin now to understand your behaviour to Fräulein
von Wallbach, and that I only find wanting in it that consistency to
which you have unfortunately never accustomed me on any point. In my
opinion it was your duty to draw back once for all, the instant that
your heart became seriously engaged in another direction. No doubt,
considering our intimate acquaintance with the Wallbachs, this would
have been extremely difficult and disagreeable, still a man may be
deceived in his feelings, and society accepts such changes of mind and
their practical consequences, provided everything is done at the right
time and in a proper manner. How you are now to draw back, without
bringing upon yourself and us the most serious embarrassment, I do not
know; I only know that it must be done. Or have you carried your
misconduct to its highest point and bound yourself here as you are
bound there?"

"I am bound to Fräulein von Wallbach by nothing that the whole world
has not seen; by no word that the whole world has not heard, or might
not have heard, and my feelings for her have been from the first as
undecided----"

"As your behaviour. Let us say no more about it, then; let us rather
face the situation into which you have brought yourself, and deduce the
consequences. The first is, that you have destroyed your diplomatic
career--you cannot appear at the Court of St. Petersburg or any other
court with a wife of low birth; the second, that you must exchange into
another regiment, as you would never see the last of the collisions and
rubs that must happen to you in your present regiment if you had a
Fräulein Schmidt for your wife; the third, that if the lady does not
bring you a fortune, or at least a very considerable addition to your
means, you will have for the future to live in a very different way
from what you have been hitherto accustomed to, and one which I fear
will not be in accordance with your tastes; the fourth consequence is,
that in forming this connection, were it as honourable in one sense as
I wish and hope it may be, you will, according to the literal words of
the will, lose all right to your inheritance. I mention this only in
order to put the whole matter clearly before you."

Ottomar knew that his father had not said everything, that he had been
generously silent with regard to the five-and-twenty thousand thalers
which he had in the course of the last few years paid for his son's
debts, that is to say, all but a small remnant of his own property, and
that he could not soon repay his father the money as he had fully
intended to do; perhaps would never be able to repay it. His father
would then only have his pay, and later his pension, to depend upon,
and he had often spoken lately of retiring.

His eyes, which in his confusion had sought the ground, now turned
timidly towards his father, who, as before, slowly paced up and down
the room. Was it the light, or was it that he looked at him more
closely than usual? his father seemed to him aged by ten years, for the
first time he looked like an old man. With the feelings of respect and
affection that he had always entertained towards him were mixed a
sensation almost of pity; he would have liked to throw himself at his
feet, and clasping his knees, to cry: "Forgive me the sins I have
committed against you!" But he felt rooted to the spot; his limbs would
not obey him, or go the way he wished; his tongue seemed glued to the
roof of his mouth; he could utter nothing but: "You have still Elsa!"

The General had remained standing before the life-sized pictures of his
parents, which adorned one of the walls; an officer of rank in the
uniform worn in the war of liberation, and a lady, still young, in the
dress of that time, who strikingly resembled Elsa about the forehead
and eyes.

"Who knows?" said he.

He passed his hand over his forehead.

"It is late; two o'clock; and to-morrow will have its cares also. Will
you be so good as to extinguish the gas-light above you? Have you got a
light outside!"

"Yes, father."

"Good-night, then."

He had himself extinguished the lamp in front of the looking-glass and
taken up the other one. "You may go."

Ottomar longed to ask for his hand, but he dared not, and with a
good-night that sounded defiant, because he was ready to burst into
tears, he moved towards the door. His father stopped at the door of his
bedroom: "One thing more! I had forgotten to say that I reserve to
myself the right of taking the next step. As you have delayed so long
in taking the initiative, you will not refuse to grant me this favour.
I shall of course keep you _au courant_. I beg that you will meantime
take no step without my knowledge. We must at least act in concert, now
we have come to an understanding."

He said the last words with a sort of melancholy smile that cut Ottomar
to the heart. He could bear it no longer and rushed out of the room.

The General also had his hand on the door; but when Ottomar had
disappeared he drew it back, carried the lamp to the writing-table, and
took out a casket in which he kept, amongst other ornaments of little
value that had belonged to his dead wife and his mother, the iron rings
that his parents had worn during the war of liberation.

He took out the rings.

"Times have altered," he said, "not improved. What, ah! what has become
of your piety, your dutifulness, your chaste simplicity, your holy
self-sacrifice? I have honestly endeavoured to emulate you, to be the
worthy son of a race that knew no fame but the courage of its men and
the virtue of its women. How have I sinned that I should be so
punished?"

He kissed the rings and laid them in the casket; and took from amongst
several miniatures on ivory, one of a beautiful brown-eyed,
brown-haired boy about six years old.

He gazed long and immovably at it.

"The male line of the Werbens would die out with him, and--he was my
darling. Perhaps I am punished because I was so unspeakably proud of
him."



                              CHAPTER XI.


"Why did my brother ring for his coffee at four o'clock!" asked Aunt
Rikchen in the kitchen.

"I do not know," answered Grollmann.

"You never do know anything," said Aunt Rikchen.

Grollmann shrugged his shoulders, took the tray on which the second
breakfast was prepared for his master and left the room, but came back
in a few minutes and set down the tray, as he had taken it away, on the
dresser.

"Well?" asked Aunt Rikchen irritably, "is it wrong again?"

"My master is asleep," said Grollmann.

Aunt Rikchen in her astonishment almost dropped the coffee-pot from
which she had just poured Reinhold's coffee. "Good heavens!" she
exclaimed, "how can my brother sleep at this hour! He has never in his
whole life done such a thing before. Is he ill?"

"I don't think so," said Grollmann.

"Has anything happened this morning?"

"This morning, no."

"Or yesterday evening?" asked Aunt Rikchen, whose sharp ears had
detected the short pause which Grollmann had made between "this
morning" and "no."

"I suppose so," said Grollmann, staring before him, while the wrinkles
in his weather-beaten face seemed to deepen every moment.

"Miserable man, tell me at once!" exclaimed Aunt Rikchen, seizing the
old man by the arm and shaking him, as if she wished to shake his
secret out of him.

"I know nothing," said Grollmann, freeing himself; "is the coffee ready
for the Captain?"

"Why does my nephew want it in his room to-day?" asked Aunt Rikchen.

"I don't know," answered Grollmann, slipping away with the coffee, as
he had done before with the breakfast-tray.

"He is a horrid man," said Aunt Rikchen; "he will be the death of me
some day, with his mysteries. He shall tell me when he comes back."

But Grollmann did not come back, although Aunt Rikchen almost tore down
the bell-rope. Aunt Rikchen was very angry, and would have been furious
if she had heard Grollmann relating above to Reinhold unasked, with the
minutest details, what he would not have told her for any money.

"For you see, sir," said Grollmann, "she is so good in other respects,
Fräulein Frederike; but what she knows she must tell, sooner or later,
if it cost her her life; and the master cannot bear that, especially
from his sister, and we are the sufferers."

"What did happen?" asked Reinhold.

"This was it," said the old man. "About twelve o'clock last night he
came back from the second meeting of the manufacturers; I lighted him
to his room, as usual, turned up the lamps in his study, and went into
his bedroom to shut the windows, which always stay open till he goes to
bed, winter and summer; and there, close to the window, on the floor,
lay, what I took at first for a piece of paper, till I took it up and
found that it was a regular letter, which somebody must have thrown in
from the street, and the small stone that had been fastened to it by a
bit of packthread lay close by. I hesitated for a minute or two whether
I would not hide the letter, without saying anything to the master,
till it occurred to me that the letter might possibly be from a friend,
and contain information of something which the master ought to know--a
fire, an attempt at murder, or God knows what, of which the rabble are
quite capable; so I took it in to the master and told him where and how
I had just found it. The master just looked at the address and said:
'That is written in a disguised hand; I will have nothing to do with
it; throw it into the fire.' But I urged him so that he at length gave
way and opened the letter. The master was standing at one side of the
table and I at the other, and of course I could see his face while he
was reading; and I was terribly alarmed, for the blood rushed to his
head, and the hand in which he held the letter trembled so, that I
thought, begging your pardon, that he was going to have a fit. But it
passed off; the master only let fall the letter and said: 'It is
nonsense; I knew it before. They will not burn the house over our
heads; you may go to bed in peace.' I went, but I was not in peace, and
was not much surprised when the master rang for me this morning at
half-past three--he is always particularly early when he has had any
trouble or annoyance in the evening, or if he has anything in
particular on his mind. This time it must have been something very bad;
the master was in exactly the same dress in which he had come home
yesterday evening, and the bed had not been touched. On the other hand,
the bottle of wine which I always put in his room at night, and out of
which he generally drinks only a glass or two, sometimes nothing at
all, was empty to the very last drop; and he looked so wild and strange
that I was naturally alarmed, and asked the same question that the
Fräulein asked just now, if he was ill. He denied it however, said he
had been very much vexed yesterday evening, and added something about
the gentlemen who would not hear reason and were going to spoil all by
their cowardice, and so on; but it all sounded confused and strange, as
if, begging your pardon, he were not quite right in his head. I asked
him if he would sleep now for a few hours, and was relieved when he lay
down on the sofa and let me cover him up, saying, 'I wish to be woke at
half-past eight, Grollmann.' And at half-past eight I went back again,
but the coverlet lay on the ground near the sofa, and I saw at a glance
that the master had not slept a minute. He had however washed and
dressed himself, and now looked very ill. He said he had not been able
to sleep, and had no time now. He wanted his breakfast in half an hour;
at ten he had to be at another meeting, to which the workmen were going
to send delegates. 'I promised to be there,' he said, 'though I had
rather not go; I might meet some one there whom I had rather not meet
to-day.' I did not dare to ask who the some one was, but I thought to
myself, I am glad it is not me, for he gave a look, Captain, that
filled me with terror. If he would only go to sleep now, thought I to
myself, for while he was speaking he had sat down on the sofa and
stared before him as if he were half asleep already. Well, Captain, and
sure enough when I went in just now with the breakfast, quite quietly,
he was sitting asleep in the corner of the sofa. For heaven's sake, let
him sleep, thought I, slipping gently out of the room with my
breakfast; and now I only ask, Captain, shall I wake him when it is
time, or shall I let him sleep? He wants it, God knows."

"Let him sleep, Grollmann," said Reinhold, after a short pause; "I will
take the blame on myself."

"He won't blame you," said Grollmann, passing his hand through his grey
hair; "he thinks too much of you; I will risk it."

"Do so," said Reinhold, "on my authority, and do not trouble yourself
any more about it. I am convinced that your first idea was correct, and
that it was a threatening letter. You know my uncle; he fears nothing."

"God knows it," said Grollmann.

"But it has vexed and excited him still more, when he had already come
back vexed and excited from the meeting. These are troublesome times
for him, which must be gone through. We must be prepared for bad days
till the good ones come again."

"If they ever do come," said Grollmann.

The old man had left the room; Reinhold tried to return to the work he
had begun, but he could not collect his thoughts. He had tried to
comfort the old man, yet he himself now felt uneasy and troubled.

If his uncle did not learn to moderate himself, if he continued to look
and to treat in this passionately tragical way an affair which, near as
it lay to his heart, was in fact a matter of business and must be
considered from a sober, business-like point of view, the bad days
might indeed last long, inconveniently long, for all concerned--"to
whom I myself belong now," said Reinhold.

He stood up and went to the window. It was a raw, disagreeable day.
From the low-hanging clouds was falling a fine, cold rain; the tall
trees rustled in the wind, and withered leaves were driven through the
grey mist. How different had it looked when a few days ago--it was only
a very few, though it seemed to him an eternity--he had looked down
here one morning, for the first time. The sky had been such a lovely
blue, and white clouds had stood in that blue sky so still, it seemed
as if they could not weary of contemplating the beautiful sun-lighted
earth, on which men, surrounded, indeed, by the smoke of chimneys and
distracted by the noise of wheels and saws, must earn their bread in
the sweat of their brow, though the sun shone brightly and the birds
sang cheerily in the thick branches--that earth on which there was so
much pleasure, and love, and blessed hope, even in the heart of a poor
blind girl, and a thousand times more for him who saw all this beauty
spread out before him, doubly glorious in the reflection of the love
which shone and glittered through his heart as the sun through the
dewdrops on the leaves. And because the sun was now for a time hidden
behind a cloud, was all the glory passed away? Because a few hundred
idle men had cast their tools from their horny hands, must every one
feel life a burden, and refuse to carry that burden any longer? No; a
thousand times no! The sun will shine again; the men will return to
their duty; and you, happy man--thrice happy man--for whom the sun
shines in spite of all in your innermost heart, return to your work,
which for you is no hard duty, but rather a joy and an honour.

Reinhold greeted with eyes and hand the neighbouring house, one window
of which he had long ago discovered between the branches of the plane
trees, which he watched more eagerly than any star; and then hoped that
Ferdinanda, whom he suddenly perceived in the garden, would take his
greeting to herself if she had seen him.

She could hardly have seen the greeting, and could not even have seen
him at the window as she walked up and down between the shrubs, under
the rustling trees, without appearing to notice the rain which was
falling on her. At any rate she was without hat, without umbrella, in
her working dress, without even a shawl; sometimes standing still and
gazing up into the driving clouds, then walking on again, her eyes
turned to the ground, evidently sunk in the deepest thought.

"Curious people, those artists," thought Reinhold, while he seated
himself again at his work. "What a fool you were to think that her
heart could beat for any creature of flesh or blood, or, indeed, for
anything but her Reaping Girl and Boy, if she has a heart at all."

In the meantime Grollmann was standing undecided at the top of the
staircase, before the door leading to his master's room.

His conscience was not quite satisfied by Reinhold's assurance that he
would take the responsibility on himself, if the master overslept
himself. Should he go downstairs? should he go in? He must make up his
mind; it was a quarter past nine. "If only something would occur to
oblige me to wake him," said Grollmann.

At that moment he heard the door open on the lower floor, and some one
came up the stairs. Grollmann looked over the banisters; an officer--a
general--the old General from over the way. "That is curious," thought
Grollmann, and stood at attention, as was fitting in an old servant who
had been a soldier.

The General had come up the stairs. "I wish to speak to Herr Schmidt;
will you announce me?"

"It is not exactly his hour for receiving," said Grollmann; "and----"

"Perhaps he will receive me, however, if you tell him that I have come
on most important business; here is my card."

"It is not necessary, General. I have the honour, General----"

"Take the card, all the same."

Grollmann held the card undecided in his hand; but, if the business was
so important--and he could not very well send a general unceremoniously
away. "Will you excuse me a minute. General?"

The old man slipped through the door. The General looked gloomily
around on the broad carpeted marble steps with their gilt banisters, on
the dark, gilded folding-doors which led on three sides out of the
gallery in which he stood, while the fourth wall, in which was the
window, was decorated with magnificent plants; on the polished stucco
walls, on the richly decorated ceiling.

"I wish the man lived in a plainer house," murmured the General.

"Will you step this way, sir?" Grollmann had his hand on the door. "He
has not slept all night," he whispered, as if he must apologise for his
master, who would probably not do so for himself.

"I have not slept either," answered the General with a melancholy
smile, as he walked with a firm, quiet step through the door, which the
old man now opened and shut after him.



                              CHAPTER XII.


The two men stood opposite one another, each measuring the other's
strength, like two athletes who are about to fight to the death, and
yet cannot resist admiring each other's noble appearance, and thinking
that whichever falls will have succumbed to a worthy adversary. And yet
the General had all the time the sensation that, strong and powerful as
was the man who stood before him, he himself was in that moment the
more composed, the calmer, and therefore the stronger. He saw it in the
sullen fire that smouldered in the man's eyes, in the trembling of the
hand with which he pointed to a chair; he heard it in the deep voice
which now said: "I did not expect your visit, General; but it does not
surprise me."

"I conjectured as much," answered the General; "and it is for that
reason that you see me here. I thought that every hour which passed
unused by us, would diminish the probability of a friendly arrangement
of the affair which brings me to you, as it would leave time for the
miserable writer of this letter to spread his poison further and
further. May I venture to give you the disagreeable task of reading
this document?"

"Will you at the same time take the trouble of casting a glance at this
production?"

The two men exchanged the letters which they had received. That which
the General now read with calm attention, ran thus:


"This then is the man who dismisses his work-people because they have
not kept their word, as he says. Does he then keep his, he whose mouth
is always full of the words liberty, equality, and fraternity; and
boasts that he alone has held firmly by the old democratic flag of '48,
and who now shuts his eyes while his son buys estates and builds
palaces with the money he has stolen from honest people, and while his
daughter runs after an officer of the Guards, who has a new mistress
every six months, and leads the wildest of lives, but who will
ultimately make Fräulein Schmidt into Frau von Werben? Or does Herr
Schmidt know this? does he wish this? It is not unlike the great man of
progress; for to think one thing and speak another, and to speak one
thing and act another, has always been the practice of these gentlemen,
which they carry on till at last some one finds them out and stops
their dirty work, as in this case is resolved by one who is determined
to stop at nothing."


The General gave back the letter and received his own.

"The man does not seem to have thought it necessary to put on any mask
with you," said the General, "except in the handwriting."

"Which, however, I recognised at the first glance," answered Uncle
Ernst; "it is that of a certain Roller, who was for several years
overseer at my works, till I was obliged a few days ago to dismiss him
for disobedience, under the circumstances to which he alludes at the
commencement of his letter."

"I had heard of it," said the General, "and that explains sufficiently
the man's brutal vindictiveness; and as for the way in which he has
discovered what has up to this moment been a secret to both of us, we
should not wish to follow him there if we could. Let us therefore set
that point aside. Another appears to me more important. This man has
not attempted to conceal his handwriting in the letter which he has
written to me; he evidently concluded, therefore, that we should not
communicate with one another."

The General, at these words, raised his eyes, as if accidentally; but
his glance was sharp and piercing as that of the commander of a battery
counting the seconds as he looks out for the spot to which the first
shot shall be directed.

"That is the only point on which he and I agree," said Uncle Ernst.

His voice, which had become calmer, trembled again, and he had cast
down his eyes. The General saw that it would probably be easy for him
to provoke an explanation which would relieve him from all further
explanation on his part, but he had laid his plan, point by point, and
he was accustomed to carry his plans out. He said therefore:

"Before I proceed further, will you kindly allow me to give you a
slight description of my views, socially and morally, and of the
situation in which I and my family are placed? Imagine, I beg of you,
that this is necessary for some unimportant purpose, that I must speak
and you must listen, although the one had rather be silent and the
other had rather not hear."

The General gave Herr Schmidt no time to deny him the desired
permission, but continued, without pausing:

"I am descended from a very old family, and can trace my descent
authentically through many generations, though we appear never to have
been rich, and for the last two centuries must reckon ourselves as
belonging to the poorer, not to say to the poor nobility. It is no
doubt a consequence of this poverty that the male descendants of the
family, which was never very widespread, and has often depended only on
one life, have almost without exception passed their lives at Court,
and in attendance on their princes, particularly the military ones, and
even the women have often devoted themselves to the service of their
princesses. I consider it again as a result of this consequence, that
fidelity to their liege lords, or, to express it in modern language,
devotion to the royal family, the feeling of duty, and the obligation
of showing themselves grateful for favours received, have been handed
down and held from generation to generation in my family as their
dearest, and often as their only heritage; the almost countless names
of the Werbens in the annals of war and in the army lists, the names of
the many who have fallen honourably and nobly before the enemy, are a
proof of this.

"And as it usually happens in old families that the children who have
been brought up by their parents in the same ideas in which the latter
were brought up by their parents, and not only in the same ideas, but
also in the same habits, morally, socially, and professionally,
resemble their parents, both bodily and mentally, more than is the case
under other circumstances, and this resemblance is at first looked upon
as a curiosity, and then, after the fashion of mankind, as an
advantage, so it has been with us. I know that this family pride is in
the eyes of others laughable, if not wrong. I have no intention of
justifying it; I have, as I told you at first, no other object than to
give you an insight into the innermost life and habits of the family
from which I descend, and thus to facilitate the explanation of certain
peculiarities of character and of the rule by which I regulate and have
regulated what I do or leave undone in all cases, as, for example, in
the following:

"One of my two sisters--there are three of us--married to a rich landed
proprietor, had the misfortune to have been mistaken in her choice, and
committed the fault of bearing her unhappiness unworthily, and even of
making it an excuse for a passion which she conceived for a man whom
she had met abroad, and who was wanting, not only in noble birth, but
also in all those virtues and qualities which I require in every man
whom I am to respect. Death brought about the separation to which my
brother-in-law had refused his consent. His large property was to
descend to my children. After long resistance and deep consideration,
in order not to embitter the unhappy man's dying hours, I accepted the
half for my children, under the same conditions which were imposed upon
my sister for the possession of the other half, namely, that the
inheritance should pass from her if she ever made a marriage contrary
to the traditions of our family; I mean a marriage with a man not of
noble birth. I may mention, by-the-way, that I myself had and have no
resources but my pay, with the exception of what, to modern ideas, is a
very small sum which I have saved out of that pay in the course of
years. Even that small portion I no longer possess. My son has not
inherited my economical habits; perhaps the spirit of the times, which
is so unfavourable to the moderation which was recommended to us old
people as the highest virtue is in fault. Perhaps I myself made a
mistake when I allowed him to enter a regiment in which, as matters
stand now, all the officers should be rich men; enough that my son has
incurred debts which I have paid as long as it was in my power. For the
reasons before mentioned, I can do this no longer, and I have
unfortunately cause to suspect that my son's position is a very
precarious one if he loses the revenues of the inheritance on which he
entered a year and a half ago. There would result for him from a
marriage contrary to the habits of his rank and the traditions of his
family, other more or less great worldly disadvantages which I will
pass over, as my intention is only to point out to you in a general way
our moral and financial situation; to suggest the sensations with which
I read that letter; and lastly, to denote the course of the
conversation which I had last night with my son immediately after the
receipt of the letter, and which led to the result which I will now,
with your permission, communicate to you."

"I am sorry to be obliged to interrupt you, General," said Uncle Ernst.
"If you thought it right to justify beforehand the result of your
considerations, whatever it may be, I think I may reasonably claim for
myself the same favour. I might possibly be suspected of having formed
my resolution consequently upon yours. The possibility of this
suspicion would be unbearable to me; I shall avoid it if you will allow
me to state my circumstances as clearly as you have just done yours;
the conclusion will follow naturally."

"I cannot refuse," said the General; "though I should have wished that
you would allow me to add the few important words which I still have to
say. I have a conviction that it would be better for all parties."

"I must insist, however, on my request," said Uncle Ernst.

The General had again fixed his clear, steady glance on his opponent.
His plans were crossed. "I ought to have proceeded more rapidly," said
he to himself, "now I shall be forced to take the defensive, and the
attack will apparently be hot enough."

"Pray proceed," he said, leaning back in his chair.

Uncle Ernst did not answer immediately; when the General was announced,
he had determined to be calm; and while the General was speaking he had
constantly repeated this determination. He knew that he should have
remained so if he had found the haughty aristocrat whom he expected, if
the aristocrat had from the first explained to him with cold scorn, or
with brutal warmth, that a union between his son and a girl of low
birth was not to be thought of, and that he must request the father in
future to keep his daughter under better control, if he wished to avoid
scandal, and more to the same effect. But he had been deceived in his
expectations. All that the man brought forward were only circumstances,
explanations, insulting enough in reality, but the manner was
courteous, was meant to be courteous, and he for his part was forced to
swallow and choke down these polite insults with no less politeness. He
was really half choked. And it was just this that threatened to deprive
the passionate man of the last remains of his calm, that forced him to
be silent for a few minutes longer, till he had so far subdued his
raging heart, that he could at least preserve outward composure, and
not betray himself by his first words. And now for it!

"I have no family history to relate, even briefly, General. In the
ordinary sense of the word, I have no family to speak of at all; I do
not even know who my grandfather was. My father never spoke of him; he
appears to have had no reason to be proud of his father. My father was
proud, but only of himself, of his herculean strength, of his untiring
energy, of his dauntless courage. My father was the owner of a river
boat: if an opportunity occurred at the bursting of a dyke to risk his
life for that of others, or in the times of the French War to carry a
dangerous message, or to undertake anything which no one else would
undertake, my father did it, and carried it out. He was as passionate
as he was proud. When the superintendent of dykes, a man of high rank,
on one occasion had a quarrel with him and ventured to lay his hand
upon him, my father knocked him down on the spot, and paid for his
violence by a year's imprisonment.

"It seems that even people of no family have a right to talk of
hereditary virtues and vices. My brother, the father of my nephew, who
has the honour to be known to General von Werben, appeared to have
inherited only the virtues; an intelligent, prudent, brave man, who
left his home early, in order to seek his fortunes in the wide world,
and died many years ago in the exercise of his calling as captain of a
mail steamer at Hamburg. I, on the contrary, had inherited, besides the
few advantages of which my father could boast, nearly all his
weaknesses; I was proud, arrogant, haughty, and passionate, like him. I
have never been able to understand how men could endure any restraint
which they were able to throw off, I mean an unjust restraint, which
does not necessarily result from the nature of man, such as sickness or
death, or from the nature of society, such as law and order, but which
one set of men have exercised over another, from arbitrariness, avarice
or hard-heartedness, and which the others have borne out of stupidity,
denseness or cowardice. I have therefore always instinctively hated the
rule of kings and princes as an institution which only suits a people
that is yet in its infancy, or a worn-out and aged people, but which
must be rejected with horror by a strong nation, conscious of its
strength; and I have especially hated the nobility as the refuse and
chips of the material from which the idol is made; and I have hated all
institutions which in principle tend towards royalty and nobility. To
endure as little as possible of these restraints, to place myself in a
position in which I could live according to my convictions, has been,
as long as I can remember, the most absorbing passion of my mind. That
I have not remained as ignorant as I came out of the village school,
that I have worked my way up from my position as cabin-boy and
steersman to be a man of property, I may thank that passion. It ran a
little wild at first, before reason came to its aid and showed it ends
to which it could attain, instead of the unattainable ones for which it
struggled in its first heat; for instance, a free commonwealth, a
republic of equal men, not enslaved or dishonoured by the exemptions or
privileges of any one man."

Uncle Ernst paused; he must once more conquer the stream that rushed
roaring and raging from his heart to his brain. He must remain calm,
now especially.

Outside the rain was falling, a dull twilight reigned in the room.

The General sat, his head resting on his hand, sunk in thought. There
could only be a question now of an honourable retreat; the how would
settle itself.

"Proceed, I beg!" said he.

"A day came," continued Uncle Ernst, "when this ideal appeared no
longer to float in the clouds, but to be ready to descend upon the
earth. I regret deeply to have to awaken recollections which must be
painful and bitter to you, General; but I cannot unfortunately avoid
it, as you will see.

"On the 18th of March I had been directing, in the heart of the
Königsstadt, the erection of some barricades, against which, because
they were in reality made with greater art and upon a settled plan, and
also no doubt were better defended, the might of our opponents failed,
in spite of the obstinacy and bitterness with which they fought,
especially here, under the command of an officer whose fearless courage
must have excited the most sluggish to emulation. In fact he constantly
exposed himself almost as if he wished to meet death. He would
undoubtedly have found it here and in this hour had not our people been
miserable marksmen, who could only fire into the mass, but invariably
missed any single object. There was only one good marksman behind the
barricade; that one was the leader, myself. The wild duck that swift as
an arrow bursts through the sedges on the bank, had not been safe from
my gun, and the officer sat for a full minute as quietly on his horse,
in the midst of the hottest shower of balls, as if man and horse had
been carved in stone. More than once was my rifle pointed; I said to
myself that I must kill the officer, that this one man was more
dangerous to the cause for which I was fighting than whole regiments;
in fact that he was the personification of the cause for which he
fought. I could not make up my mind. It was doubtless the respect that
one brave man has for another--this time to my cost, for I was
convinced that this man, if ever I were in his power, would kill me
without mercy, like a poisonous snake; and he confirmed my
expectations. The battalion that he commanded was ordered to retire; I
saw that he exchanged warm words with the officer who brought the
order; I fancied I could see that he debated within himself whether he
should or should not obey the command, which he considered at once as
stupid and disgraceful--and from his point of view rightly; we could
not have held out five minutes longer. Military discipline conquered;
he rode close in front of the barricade, and said, while he thrust his
sword into the scabbard: 'I have orders to retire; if it depended upon
me I would overthrow you all and put every man of you to the sword.'
Then he turned his horse and rode back at a foot's pace. Even death by
a shot from behind had no terrors for him in this moment. A few balls
did indeed whistle past him, but the bullets which had spared his brave
breast did not touch his back."

Uncle Ernst was once more silent. The room had become almost dark; the
drizzling mist had turned into heavy rain; the large drops beat against
the window-panes, and the clock on the chimney-piece ticked loudly.

The General had leaned his head heavily on his hand, and he did not
raise it while he said, as before, in a curiously low, almost broken
voice:

"Go on, I beg!"

The battle was at an end here; but from the centre of the town was
still heard the thunder of cannon and rattle of musketry. I hastened to
the spot where there seemed to be still something to do. I had to cross
the Königsstrasse if I did not wish to go a long way round; I made the
attempt, although I was told that it was in the hands of the troops
already almost as far as the Alexanderplatz. My attempt failed; a
quarter of an hour later I was a prisoner in the cellars of the King's
palace.

"I pass over the horrors of that night; a man must have experienced it,
when the close poisonous air, around the hundreds that were huddled
together, seemed to transform itself into grinning devils, which
whispered and mocked ceaselessly: 'In vain! in vain! Fool, fool! The
cause for which you fought is hopelessly lost--lost! A man must have
experienced that!

"About four o'clock we were led away, driven, hunted to Spandau. My
strength was not yet broken, but weaker men gave way. Near me was a
pale youth, a delicate young student, in spectacles. He had held out
bravely as long as he could, but he could bear no more. Though he
clenched his teeth, the tears would burst forth when a blow in the back
from the butt-end of a musket forced him to exertions of which he was
no longer capable. Blood flowed from his eyes and mouth; I could no
longer bear the sight of his sufferings, I rushed forward, throwing
down all before me, towards an officer who rode alongside, and cried to
him: 'If you are a man do not suffer such unmanly cruelties to be
perpetrated close to you!' I was frantic; I believe I had seized his
horse by the bridle. The officer may have thought it was a personal
attack; he spurred his horse which reared and threw me down. I started
up again immediately: 'If you are a man!' I cried again, once more
throwing myself before him. 'Democrat!' and he gnashed his teeth, 'then
die if you will have it so!' He raised himself in his stirrups, his
sword whistled over me. My broad-brimmed hat and my thick hair lessened
the force of the blow, but I sank on my knee, and for a moment lost
consciousness. It could only have been a moment. The next I stood there
again, determined to sell my life dearly, when another officer hastened
up, bringing a message to the first, an order--I do not know what--on
which the latter, exclaiming 'Is it possible?' turned his horse. At
that moment the moon, which had been hidden behind black clouds, shone
out; by its light I recognised distinctly in the officer my opponent at
the barricade. He galloped away. 'We shall meet for the third time!' I
cried after him, while I was forced back into the ranks with blows;
'perhaps it will be my turn then, and'--I swore a deep oath--'then I
will not again spare you.'

"Since that night four and twenty years have passed; I have seen the
officer often and often; naturally he did not know me; I should have
known him among millions. Since that time our hair and beards have
grown grey; I swear to God that I wished and hoped that that third time
would be spared me. It was not to be; he and I now stand here for the
third time face to face."

Both men had risen in their excitement. Neither dared to look at the
other; each shrank from saying the next word. The heavy drops rattled
against the windows; the clock on the chimney-piece prepared to strike.
The General knew the word that was to come as well as he knew the hour
that was about to strike; still it must be spoken.

"And now," he said, "for the conclusion; I think it is my turn."

Uncle Ernst looked up, like a lion whose victim has stirred again; the
General answered his dark and threatening glance by a melancholy smile,
and his deep voice sounded almost soft as he continued:

"It seems to me that we have exchanged the parts which are usually
taken by the man of the people and the aristocrat. The man of the
people remembers minutely a wrong that was done him a generation back,
and has forgiven nothing; the aristocrat has not indeed forgotten, but
he has learnt to forgive. Or do you think that he has nothing to
forgive? You said one must have experienced what you did on that night,
in order to understand it. Well! can you, on the other hand, place
yourself in the position of a man who saw, on that night, all that he
held honourable and holy, all for which he had lived and for which his
ancestors had shed their blood, fall to pieces in shameful ruin, and
chaos take its place? But he has learnt more than merely to forgive; he
has learnt to value the good qualities of his opponents wherever he can
find them; he has learnt no longer to shut his eyes to the weaknesses
of his own party; he has seen that the struggle must be fought out on
different ground, on the ground of right and justice, and that the
victory will remain with that party which understands how to seize
first on this ground and to take the strongest root. For this reason
the excesses committed by his party find no more inflexible judge than
himself; for this reason he demands that every one shall be in private
life an example and pattern of conduct and morals, and shall act
justly, let it cost him what it will. What it has cost me to make this
advance to you to-day, you must leave me to decide with myself and with
my God--it is more and less than you can understand. Enough that I am
here, and ask you to forgive my son, if on this matter, from a false,
culpable, but not unnatural regard to the circumstances in which he is
born, he has allowed himself to deviate from the straight road that led
him to the father of the woman he loved. I ask you not to let the
children suffer because the fathers have stood face to face with
weapons in their hands; I ask you, in the name of my son, for your
daughter's hand for my son."

Uncle Ernst started back like a traveller before whom a piece of rock
falls, blocking his path, while the precipice gapes near him, and no
return is possible.

Without, the storm raged; the clock struck the hour of ten. Uncle Ernst
collected himself; the rock must be removed--it must!

"I have sworn that this hand shall wither sooner than that it shall
touch the hand of General von Werben."

"But hardly by the God of goodness and mercy?"

"I have sworn it."

"Then remember what is written, 'That man is like the grass, that
to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven.' We are neither of us
any longer young; who knows how soon the morrow will come for us?"

"May it come soon, is my wish!"

"Mine also, perhaps, but till then? Remember that the father's blessing
builds the children's house; but that we have no power to loose
the bonds of two hearts that have found one another without our
help--perhaps against our wish and will. Consider that the
responsibility of the curse which must ensue from these unhallowed
bonds henceforth rests on your head."

"I have considered it."

"And I have done my duty."

The General bowed in his usual stately and dignified manner, and moved,
courteously escorted by Uncle Ernst, towards the door. There he stood
still:

"One thing more; the failure of consent on the part of the fathers
hinders a marriage at least in this case, in which a portionless
officer is the suitor. None the less will my son consider himself bound
till your daughter herself releases him. I take it for granted that
your daughter will not do this, unless her father exercises compulsion
over her."

"I take it for granted also that General von Werben has exercised no
compulsion on his son, in obtaining authority from the latter to make
the proposal with which he has just honoured me."

The stern eyes flashed, he had his opponent in his grasp; the crisis
must come now. A look of pain passed over the General's face.

"The supposition would not be quite correct; the sense of duty was
stronger in the father than in the son."

He was gone. The wild fire in the eyes of him who remained behind had
changed to a joyful gleam.

"I knew it! The brood are always the same, however they may boast of
their virtue. Down! down! down with them!"

He stood there, bending forward, moving his powerful arms, as if his
enemy in reality lay at his feet. Then he drew himself up. His arms
sank, the gleam disappeared from his eyes. The victory was not his yet;
another struggle was before him, the hardest, the struggle with his own
flesh and blood.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


For Ferdinanda the night had had no terrors, the morning no darkness.
In her soul was brightest day, for the first time for many months; for
the first time, indeed, she thought, since she knew what a passionate,
proud, ambitious heart beat in her bosom. They had often told her--in
former days, her mother; later, her aunt, her friends, all--that it
would one day bring her unhappiness, and that pride went before a fall;
and she had always answered scornfully, "Then I will be unhappy; I will
fall, if happiness is only to be had at the mean price of humility,
which always grovels in the dust before fate, and sings hymns of praise
if the wheels of envious fate have only grazed and not crushed her. I
am not like Justus or Cilli."

And she had been unhappy, even in the hours when the enthusiastic
artists--Justus's friends--had done homage in unmeasured terms to the
blooming beauty of the young girl; when these men praised her talents,
told her she was on the right road to become an artist; finally, that
she was an artist--a true artist. She did not believe them; and if she
really were an artist, there were so many greater ones--even Justus's
hand reached so much higher and further than hers; laughing, and
apparently without trouble, he gathered fruits for which she strove
with the most intense effort, and which, as she secretly acknowledged
to herself, must always be beyond her reach.

She had told her woes to that great French artist, on whom her beauty
had made such an overpowering expression. He had for some time only put
her off with courteous and smiling words; at last he had said
seriously:

"Mademoiselle, there is only one highest happiness for woman, and
that is love; and there is only one talent in which no man can equal
her--that is again love."

The words had crushed her; her artistic talent was then only a childish
dream, and love! Yes, she knew that she could love--unspeakably,
boundlessly! But the man was still to be found who could awaken that
love to its heavenward soaring flame; and woe to her when she found
him! He would not comprehend her love, he would not realise it, and he
would certainly be unable to return it; perhaps would shrink back
before its fire, and she would be more unhappy than before.

And was not this gloomy foreboding already sadly fulfilled? Had she not
already felt herself unspeakably unhappy in her love for him who had
come to her as if sent from heaven--as if he himself were one of the
heavenly ones? Had she not already, countless times, with hot tears,
with bitter scorn, with writhing despair, complained, exclaimed, cried
out, that he did not understand or realise her love, never would
understand or realise it? Had she not clearly seen that he trembled and
shrank back, not from the danger which threatened him on the dark path
of his love--he was as bold and dexterous as man could be--but before
her love, before her all-powerful, but also all-exacting, insatiable
love?

She had experienced this again yesterday, at the very instant that
followed that happy moment when she had received and returned his first
kiss! And to-day; to-day she smiled at her doubts amidst tears of joy;
to-day she asked pardon of her beloved, amidst a thousand burning
kisses that she pressed in thought on his beautiful brow, his tender
eyes, and his dear mouth, for every harsh or bitter word or thought she
had ever had against him, and which she never, never would say or think
again.

She had tried to work, to put the finishing touches to the "Reaping
Girl," but her hand had been hopeless, powerless, as in her first
attempts, and she had recollected, not without a shudder, that she had
vowed not to finish the group. The vow had been--contrary to her
anticipations--a forerunner of happiness. What was to her this
miserable image of jealous revenge? How worthless appeared to her all
this extensive apparatus of her work--this lofty room, these pedestals,
these mallets, chisels, modelling-tools; these casts of arms, hands,
feet; these heads, these busts from the originals of old masters; her
own sketches, attempts, completed works--childish strivings with
bandaged eyes for a happiness that was not to be found here--that was
only to be found in love, the sole, true talent of woman--her talent,
of which she felt that it was unique, that it outshone everything that
had till then been felt as love and called love!

She could not bear her room this morning; even her studio seemed too
small. She stepped into the garden, and wandered along the paths,
between the shrubs, under the trees, from whose rustling branches drops
of the night's rain fell upon her. How often had she hated the bright
sunshine, the blue sky, that had seemed to mock at her anguish! She
looked in triumph now up into the grey clouds that passed, dark and
heavy, above her head. What need had she of sun and light--she in whose
heart was nothing but light and brightness? The drizzling rain that now
began to fall would only serve to cool the internal fire that
threatened to consume her. Driving clouds, drizzling rain, rustling
trees, whispering shrubs, even the damp, black earth--all was
wonderfully beautiful in the reflection of her love!

She went in again and seated herself in the place where he had kissed
her, and dreamed again that happy dream, while near at hand was
hammering and knocking, and, between whiles, chattering and whispering,
and the rain rattled against the tall window--dreamed that her dream
had the power to draw him to her, who now opened the door softly
and--it was only a dream--came towards her with the tender smile on his
dear lips and the beautiful light in his dark eyes, till suddenly the
smile died on his lips, and only the eyes still gleamed, but no longer
with tender light, but with the gloomy, melancholy depths of her
father's eyes. And now they were not only her father's eyes; it was
more and more himself--her father. Good God!

She had started out of her doze; her limbs trembled; she sank back in
the chair, and drew herself up again. She had seen at once in the
glance of his eyes, in the letter which he held in his hand--seen
with the first half-waking glance why he had come. She said so, in
half-awake, wild, passionate words.

He had bent his head, but he did not contradict her; he answered
nothing but "My poor child!"

"I am your child no longer if you do this to me."

"I fear you have never been so in your heart."

"And if I have not been so, whose fault is it but yours? Have you ever
shown me the love that a child is entitled to ask from its father? Have
you ever done anything to make the life you gave me a happy one? Has my
industry ever drawn from you a word of praise, or my success a word of
acknowledgment? Have you not rather done everything to humble me in my
own eyes, to make me smaller than I was in reality, to insult my art,
to make me feel that in your eyes I was no artist and never should be
one--that you looked on all this as nothing better than a large doll's
house, which you had bought for me in order that I might trifle and
idle away my worthless time here! And now, now you come to tear my love
from me, only because your pride wills it so--only because you consider
it an insult that such a poor, useless creature should will, or wish
anything that you do not wish and will! But you are mistaken, father; I
am, in spite of all, your daughter. You may repudiate me, you may drive
me to misery, as you might dash me in pieces with that hammer, because
you are the stronger; but you cannot tear my love from me!"

"I both can and will."

"Try!"

"To try and to succeed are one. Would you be the mistress of Lieutenant
von Werben?"

"What has that question to do with my love?"

"Then I will put it in another form. Have you the face to make yourself
the equal of those wretched, foolish creatures who give themselves to a
man, whether without marriage or in marriage--for marriage does not
mend matters--for any other price than that of love, for which they
give their own in exchange? Herr von Werben has nothing to give you in
exchange; Herr von Werben does not love you."

Ferdinanda laughed scornfully. "And he has come to you, of whom he knew
that you pursue him and his kind with blind hatred, to tell you that?"

"He has not come; his father was forced to take the hard step for him,
for which he himself had not the courage, for which the father had to
force the son's consent."

"That is----"

"Not a lie! On my oath. And further, he did not even go to his father
of his own free will; he would not have done so to-day, he would
perhaps never have done it, if his father had not sent for him to ask
him if it were true what the sparrows said on the housetops, and what
insolent wretches wrote in anonymous letters to the unsuspecting
fathers, that Lieutenant von Werben had a love affair on the other side
of the garden-wall, or--what do I know!"

"Show me the letters!"

"Here is one; the General will doubtless willingly let you have the
other. I doubt whether his son will lay claim to it."

Ferdinanda read the letter.

She had taken it for granted that only Antonio could have been the
traitor; but this letter was not from Antonio, could not be from
Antonio. So that other eyes than the love-inspired, jealous eyes of
Antonio had seen through her secret. Her pale cheek glowed in angry
shame. "Who wrote the letter?"

"Roller; in the letter to the General, he has not disguised his hand."

She gave the letter hastily back to her father and struck her hands
together, as if she wished to remove all trace of its touch: "Oh, the
shame, the shame!" she murmured; "oh, the disgrace! the horror of it!"

The dismissed overseer had been at first received in the family, till
Ferdinanda saw that he had dared to raise his eyes to her; she had
taken advantage of a dispute he had had with her father first to loosen
and then to put an end altogether to his relations with the family. And
the insolent, evil eyes of this man--"Oh, the shame! oh, the disgrace!"
she murmured again.

She paced rapidly up and down, then hastened to the writing-table,
which stood at the far end of the long room, wrote a few hurried lines,
and then came back with the note to her father, who had remained
motionless on the same spot: "Read it!"

And he read:


"My father is ready to sacrifice his convictions for my sake and
consents to my marriage with Lieutenant von Werben. I, however, for
reasons which my pride refuses to write down, reject this marriage now
and for ever as a moral impossibility, and release Lieutenant von
Werben from any obligation which he has, or thinks he has, towards me.
This determination, which I have made of my own free will, is
irrevocable; any attempt on the part of Lieutenant von Werben to
overthrow it, I shall regard as an insult.

                                        "Ferdinanda Schmidt."


"Is that right?"

He nodded. "Am I to send him this!"

"In my name."

She turned from him, and, with a modelling-tool in her hand, went up to
her work. Her father folded the letter and went towards the door. There
he remained standing. She did not look up, but appeared quite absorbed
in her work. His eyes rested on her with an expression of deep sorrow.
"And yet!" murmured he, "and yet!"

He closed the door behind him and walked slowly across the yard,
through whose wide, empty space the storm was raging.

"Deserted and empty!" he murmured, "all deserted and empty. That is the
burden of the song for her and me."

"Uncle!"

He started from his gloomy musings. Reinhold came hurriedly from the
house towards him--bareheaded and excited.

"Uncle, for heaven's sake!--the General has just left me. I know
all--what have you decided?"

"What must be."

"It will be the death of Ferdinanda."

"Better death than a life of dishonour."

He stepped past Reinhold into the house. Reinhold did not venture to
follow him; he knew that it would be useless.



                                BOOK IV.



                               CHAPTER I.


In a magnificent _salon_ of the Hôtel Royal--a few days later--the
Baroness Valerie von Warnow was pacing restlessly backwards and
forwards. She had, by Giraldi's advice, sent this morning to the
General's house to announce her arrival the evening before, adding that
she was unfortunately too much fatigued to present herself in person,
but hoped in the course of a few days, if not the next day, to make up
for her delay.

"You must not expose yourself to the affront of being refused
admittance," Giraldi had said: "I have every ground for suspecting that
he has laid himself out more than ever for his favourite part of the
knight with the helmet of Mambrinus; but virtuous fools are as little
to be depended upon as other fools; possibly the unhoped-for happiness
of seeing his _mauvais sujet_ of a son at last betrothed may have
softened him, and it will please him to act a part of magnanimity and
forgiveness. We shall hear how he takes your message, and we can take
our measures and make our arrangements accordingly."

Valerie knew too well that her brother acted no part, that he always
was what he seemed; and that if he ever forgave her, it would not be in
consequence of a momentary impulse, but from the conviction that she
could live no longer without his forgiveness, and that she deserved it
if the deepest remorse, the most ardent wish to atone, as far as was
possible for the past, entitled her to it. But that day would never
come; to-day, as ever, he would reject with cold politeness her attempt
at a reconciliation, would answer her through Sidonie that he regretted
to hear of her indisposition and hoped it would soon pass off, so that
she might as speedily as possible be able to resume her journey to
Warnow, which he trusted might be a prosperous one.

And only five minutes ago the answer had come; not in Sidonie's stiff,
formal hand, but in a small, graceful writing, the very sight of which
did Valerie good, even before, with eyes fixed and expectant, which at
last filled with tears, she read:


"Dear Aunt,--We are so glad that you are here at last! Papa, who sends
you his best love, has another meeting to attend this morning--the War
Office is like a beehive just now--but we, that is Aunt Sidonie and I,
will call upon you at twelve o'clock, if convenient to you, to ask you
how you are, and I especially to make acquaintance at last with a dear
relation, whom I have never seen, and whom I have often longed to see.

                                               "Elsa.

"P.S. Ottomar had gone out when your note came: I will leave word for
him, and will send also to the Wallbachs, in case, as is probable, he
has gone there, in which case he will probably call upon you with Carla
and the Wallbachs."


"Dear, good child!" sobbed Valerie; "I have to thank you for his
yielding, I am sure! I can see it in your dear, loving words!"

She kissed the letter again and again. "Oh, if you knew how thankful I
am to you, if I could tell you so on my knees as before God. Be my good
angel. You do not know how much I need a good angel, with his pure,
strong hand to save me from this fearful slavery. But you will not be
able to save me if you would. What could you do against him? Your
innocence, your goodness, your wisdom--even your courage, and you must
be both wise and courageous to have braved and coaxed this from that
obstinate, unapproachable man--he would throw it all into the dust, and
tread it under his cruel feet, as he has thrown and trampled me in the
dust."

She wandered thus through the spacious room, now throwing herself into
an arm-chair because her limbs threatened to fail her, and the next
moment springing up and hurrying to the window to look at a carriage
which had just stopped before the hotel; then again stepping before one
of the large mirrors, and eagerly and anxiously examining her
countenance; it must not betray her excitement when he came in--a
quiver of the mouth, an unwonted degree of colour or of pallor in her
cheeks, a brighter glance, a fainter light in her eyes--he saw and
remarked everything, he had the key of her soul. How gladly would she
have received the dear writer alone, how gladly would she at least have
concealed the letter from him. But she dared not do even that; now less
than ever, when her lips must say yes, while her heart cried no; when
her lips must smile while hell raged in her bosom; when she must and
would practise the lesson that had been taught her.

She rang the bell and desired the servant who waited in the anteroom,
which connected her rooms and Giraldi's, to beg the Signor to come to
her for a minute. She gave the order in the most careless tone. The
man, a young Frenchman, whom Giraldi had engaged in Rome, had only been
a few weeks in her service; but he had no doubt been at least as long
in Giraldi's pay as his predecessors.

Hardly a minute had elapsed when she heard his step in the anteroom; he
was today, as ever, ready to fulfil her slightest wish. She passed her
hand once more hastily over her brow and eyes, and tried whether her
voice sounded natural. "Dear friend, I have----" François opened the
door to him at that moment. "Dear friend, I have already received an
answer from my niece, so extremely kind that it can only be a trap."

She had handed him the letter, which he appeared only to glance at,
though he would know it by heart a year hence, as Valerie said to
herself, and now, returning her the letter, sat down at the table by
her.

"The letter could only be a trap if you took it seriously, in which
case it would be a very dangerous one."

"What do you mean?"

"The young lady has written it on her own account; I mean without her
father's knowledge, who had probably left the house before she wrote
it."

"Impossible!"

"Why?"

"She would not have dared to do it."

"What does a girl not dare when she thinks it becomes her? Do not you
see that her hand faltered as she wrote the words, 'Papa, who sends you
his best love,' and only became steady again when she had got to the
truth, 'he has another meeting this morning?' It is interesting and
promising to see that the girl cannot even lie with the pen in her
hand. We shall be able to learn from her everything we want to know."

"But what do we want to know?"

"What?"

The faintest glimmer of a smile passed over Giraldi's dark eyes.

"Mi fai ridere, cara mia--we! Why, you do not yet know half."

"Then it must be your fault, my dear friend, for only telling me half.
What could I know without your telling me?"

He bent over her and took her hand which he pressed to his lips.

"Could I know anything, soul of my soul, that I should not immediately
impart to you, as the eye and the ear impart their impressions to the
mind, whose servants and slaves they are? And as faithful servants,
because they are faithful, do everything for the best interests of
their master, so I come this morning with the rich spoils of the four
and twenty hours that have passed since I was last with you, to lay
them at your feet and receive my reward in the smile of your lips."

"And why only this morning, faithless slave?"

"Yesterday evening, lady, my pockets were still almost empty; since
then----"

"A miracle has happened?"

"Scarcely less."

Giraldi looked at the clock. "Half-past eleven; I have just time; in a
quarter of an hour I expect Councillor Schieler. I only want to speak
to him for a few minutes--in continuation of a long conversation which
I had with him yesterday evening--so I shall be at hand when your
relations arrive, and shall be able to lighten for you the
unpleasantness of the first meeting."

"And the Councillor is the miracle-worker?"

"The Councillor is a useful tool--_voilà tout!_ so much the more useful
that he is used by many, and in his vanity and stupidity, which are not
the same thing, though they produce the same effect, always shows the
traces of the hand that has last used him, as a trophy of his supposed
importance and wisdom. It is as well that a certain person does not
appear quite conscious that such a tool cuts both ways, or he would be
more prudent in the use he makes of it. But that is not to the purpose.
For the rest, we owe him gratitude so far as one can owe gratitude to a
person who does one a great service without being aware of it. It was
he who made us aware of the favourable opportunity of selling the
property to Count Golm, when it became apparent to him and his company
that they could obtain the Count, whom they wanted particularly, for no
less a price. The Count snapped as eagerly at the tempting bait as they
snapped at the Count; they do not see the angler who looks complacently
on at the game, in order, when the right moment comes, to land the
silly fish with one jerk of his line on the dry land at his feet, where
it may gasp out its life. But this does not interest you."

"It does--it does!" exclaimed Valerie.

"I see by the absent smile on your lips and the fixed look of your eyes
that you have hardly heard me. Luckily I have something else _in
petto_, which may excite your interest."

"The miracle?"

"Not yet; I have only to tell you of natural events as yet. For what is
more natural than that Count Golm wishes to obtain as cheaply as
possible the property which he is so anxious to possess in order to
round off his estate and arrange his affairs? And how could he get it
cheaper than by receiving a third part as the dowery of his future
wife, and another third as the probable inheritance of the said wife,
that is to say both as good as given? There remains only one third,
which unfortunately appears, since yesterday, to be irrevocably lost.
Does my lady see now? It is only necessary to bring a little love into
the game, the interest of the women is excited at once."

Valerie's heart beat. How true had been her foreboding! The dear child,
whom she had but now looked up to as to an angel, in the next moment
drawn away, dragged down into the sordid game of intrigue by this
cruel, inexorable hand!

"Does Count Golm love my niece?"

"I did not say that; in fact, without wishing to detract from the
charms of the young lady, I am convinced that it is not the case. He
has only known her a very short time--since the General's journey at
the end of last month. Your North German country people are in general
not very subject to the dangers of a Romeo-like passion; besides, a too
strikingly material advantage is not very favourable for the blossoming
of the tender plant, love, and therefore the young lady is either
really affronted by the too evidently mercenary intentions of her
suitor, or pretends to be so, in order to keep herself disengaged in
another direction; I shall come to that presently. At least the Count
complains bitterly of her behaviour towards him, and threatens, to the
Councillor's alarm, to withdraw, only he has fortunately committed the
imprudence of accepting from the Councillor earnest-money for the
projected alliance in the form of a considerable advance, and is
consequently bound for the present."

Valerie's astonishment was great. Four and twenty hours had not yet
passed since Giraldi, on receipt of the letter in which Sidonie
informed them of Ottomar's betrothal to Fräulein von Wallbach, had
burst into a furious rage, although they had long foreseen and expected
this event; and to-day he appeared to encourage a second union, which
would destroy, if not his fixed plans, at any rate, hopes that he had
silently cherished and fostered.

Giraldi read these thoughts on her countenance. He continued with a
smile:

"I said, for the present, my dear friend; only till the simpleton--he
is a simpleton, I had already spoken to him yesterday evening before
you came--only till he has pulled the chestnuts out of the fire for us;
then he may go, and the more he burns his fingers the better pleased I
shall be. He must, however, for the present be bound to us, for the
following reasons: We do not require the consent of General von Werben
for the sale of the property, as he is already doubly outvoted by Herr
von Wallbach and our friend the Councillor; but what we do positively
want, if the bargain is to be struck, is the consent of the Government
to the making of the line; and, the Councillor is here again my
informant, if this consent is obtained, it will only be because the
Count is mixed up in the affair and rejoices in special protection in
certain high circles, whose influence in important ministerial regions
is particularly powerful just now. I am again unfortunate in not having
your attention."

"I am all attention."

"To reward you I will strike the chord of love again: it is for our
most pressing interest, and it is my most particular wish, that you
should casually--I mean at some opportunity which your cleverness will
readily seize upon--give your niece to understand that you think this
marriage a particularly suitable one; and only wish, in order to avoid
the appearance of desiring to derive a personal benefit from it in the
sale of the property, that the affair should not be at once made
public, or even settled--between ourselves let us say, not binding.
This will make the young lady pause. I want no more till we are clear
on the other side, and can then, as a reward for her obedience, perhaps
do something to help on her particular inclinations. Do you quite
understand?"

"Perfectly; to the minutest detail. You hinted before that my niece had
a real inclination in another direction that would not interfere with
us?"

"Which, in fact, when the time comes, I intend to forward by every
lawful means, if it were only in order to pay the General back in the
same coin for his past and present conduct towards a certain Signor
Gregorio Giraldi, and a certain Signora Valerie--widowed Frau von
Warnow, born Fräulein von Werben."

The man's lips smiled, but his black eyes glittered like the blade of a
dagger when it flashes out of the sheath. Valerie suppressed the
shudder that passed over her. She said, with a smile:

"I know your sagacity, your powers of divination; but here you have
really surpassed yourself. All that is now wanting is the name of the
happy man, where they first met, and when they last met."

Giraldi bowed.

"The name may wait, signora! But before I tell you more about your
charming niece, I must tell you a little anecdote about your excellent
nephew, which may serve as a proof of the reward which Providence
grants to those who trust in it."

"The miracle, then?"

"Decide for yourself."

The expression of his face had changed suddenly, the smile of
superiority had vanished and had given place to deep earnestness; in
the black eyes brooded melancholy night; even his voice sounded
different--softer, more fervent--as he now, in his native tongue (he
had hitherto spoken only German), continued in the tone of one who
wishes to speak with all possible calm and clearness on a subject that
moves him deeply.

"I went yesterday, after I had paid and received a few visits, to the
Exhibition, and turned at once into the sculpture gallery. I had
promised Guarnerio, Braga, and a few more of our friends in Milan and
Rome, who had sent works there, to go at once and look after them, to
see how they were placed, what impression they made, and whether the
German sculptors bore comparison with them. They are wretchedly placed,
and consequently produce little effect, and the German sculptors can
quite hold their own with them. Your countrymen have progressed; they
may boast of several talents of the very first order, such as Reinhold
Begas, Siemering, and a third, whose name I read for the first time on
a marvellous group of a Satyr, to whom a mischievous Cupid is holding a
looking-glass--Justus Anders. I beg you will remember the name; it will
appear again in my little history.

"Close to it, in a window, a life-sized figure first attracted my
attention, because it was one of the few that was in a really good
light. Doubtless a masterpiece, I thought, of which they are specially
proud. But I was mistaken, it was not at least a work of the highest
rank; finely conceived, but not so well carried out; a certain want of
freedom in the technical part, which betrayed the pupil who has not
long left school, and has for the first time attempted a higher flight.
The subject also was not one to excite my interest--a young shepherd
boy of the Campagna, in the ordinary costume, saying his Ave Maria,
with raised eyes and clasped hands; but nevertheless the statue
attracted me in a remarkable degree. Dare I acknowledge it? I thought I
saw myself five-and-twenty, thirty years ago, as I so often roved
through the Campagna and dreamed dreams over which I now smile; and
looked up ecstatically into the glowing sky, which in my thought was
peopled by bands of angels, and offered up ardent prayers, which I
believed would be heard. And more curious still, the next moment I saw,
not myself, but you, as I saw you on that memorable day when I was
presented to you and your Princess in the park--the two Leonoras as you
were then jestingly called--and with the first glance into your eyes I
knew that I had lost myself in you, without dreaming that at that
moment you were already lost to me."

He passed his hands over his downcast eyes, which he then, as if
accidentally, raised to her. She also had drooped her eyelids; but a
pink tinge was on her pale cheeks. Was it the reflection of the
sunlight of that evening? Giraldi hoped so; he did not suspect how
wonderfully mixed were the feelings that these memories awakened in the
heart of the unhappy woman. He hoped also that her eyes would be raised
to his with a glance in which might still gleam a ray of the old love:
but her eyelids were not raised. He must touch a deeper chord.

"And then again I saw neither you nor myself, or rather I saw us both
in a third figure, the peasant figure--in which, in spite of all, by
God's decree, and the will of the Holy Virgin, he perhaps now wanders
on the earth."

"No! no! no!" she cried.

She had started from her chair, but immediately sank back again, her
slender hands pressed to her brow and eyes, while repeated shudders
shook her tender frame.

"No! no! no!" she murmured again; "the righteous God could not permit
that!" Then recollecting how fearfully ambiguous her words were, she
added: "In peasant's dress! my son!"

"And mine!" said Giraldi softly. "Valerie, remember; is not life sweet
because it is life; because it is sunshine and the chirping of the
cicala, and moonlight, and the sound of the lute! Ah! how often I have
wished I had never seen any other light, I had never heard any other
music!"

"But he is no longer alive!" she exclaimed; "cannot be alive after all
we heard! Who was it then who proved it to me with such terrible
clearness at that time when I would have given all I had for a smile
from him?"

"At that time? and now no longer?"

A voice within her repeated, "No! no! no! for then the fetters which
bind you to him would be unbreakable!" But she did not dare to speak
the words, and once more bowed her head silently in her hands.

His dark eyes were fixed firmly on her bowed figure. "And now no
longer?" The question had not been answered. "Was it in reality only
the pain of the wound which had taken so long to heal, and which she
did not wish now to have torn open again? Was it the doubt that is
quenched in despair, or did treason lurk in her silence? Was it one of
those signs of which he had observed more than one lately; a sign of
silently planned desertion, of secret rebellion against his mastery?"

His dark glance sought the clock. "At this very moment I am still
working and planning for her. Let her beware lest the time come when I
do so for myself, and then necessarily against her! Let her beware of
saying 'Now no longer!'

"May I continue, Valerie?"

She nodded without speaking.

"I am almost afraid to do so. It is so seldom that I allow myself to be
carried away by my feelings, when sober reason, which smooths the
troubled work of life, should alone reign. I know it does not become
me."

In his voice there was not the slightest trace of the dark thoughts
that were passing through his mind: there was rather a tone of pain,
which he would have wished to conceal, a tone of reproach which resigns
its rights and asks for pardon.

"When after a little while I turned away from the statue, I saw a few
paces distant from it, leaning against the window-frame, a youth,
evidently the original of the figure; the same height, at that moment
even in the same attitude, with the same luxuriant curly hair, the same
brow and mouth, and especially the same eyes--magnificent deep black
velvet eyes, which were fastened with a curious expression of fixed
melancholy on his own likeness. I saw at the first glance that the
young man was an Italian, and in the first words he spoke I recognised
a native of the Campagna. They were spoken in answer to the question
whether the statue were his! It was not; he had only stood several
times as a model for it. 'But you are an artist?' I asked again. 'I do
not know,' he answered; 'I sometimes think so, and sometimes again I
think not. I only know one thing for certain, that I am miserable, the
most miserable of men.' He had murmured the last words to himself, as
turning suddenly from me he was about to hasten away. I do not believe
he meant me to hear them, but I had heard them and held him back by the
arm. 'We are fellow-countrymen,' I said, 'fellow-countrymen should
always stand by one another; doubly so in a strange land; trebly so
when it is a case of bearing misfortune or giving help.'

"He looked at me with his large eyes, which gradually filled with
tears. 'No one can help me,' he said. 'Even confession is a help, and
often the greatest, most effectual to a heavy-laden heart.' 'Are you a
priest?' 'Did the wounded man ask that who lay bleeding on the ground,
when the Samaritan bent charitably over him?' Two large tears ran down
his beautiful face, on which, while I spoke, the colour had come and
gone. I had won him over. He promised--as I could not wait then--to
meet me that evening in an Italian wine-shop, which he pointed out to
me. We could talk better in a wine-shop than in a smart hotel.

"He was awaiting me impatiently, when, having been delayed by your
retarded arrival, I at length went in search of him, drawn by that
mysterious power which often compels me, against my inclination, even
against my will, to do one thing or to leave another undone. So it was
in this case. My passing interest in the young man had already
vanished; my head was full of quite different things, so that I
listened to the history of his life, with which he thought it necessary
to preface his confession, with only half an ear. His name is Antonio
Michele, and he is the son of miserably poor vine-dressers, in, or in
the immediate neighbourhood of, Tivoli. A monk--his parents'
confessor--has always behaved with particular kindness towards him. I
suspect that the holy man is his father. Scarcely less poor than the
parents, he could do little more for his favourite than teach him to
read and write, and was forced in other matters to leave him to his
fate. It was that of other poor and handsome boys in the immediate
neighbourhood of Rome. He tended his goats on the hills of the
Campagna. Some wandering artists found him, and enticed him to the city
to act as model for their sketches. He idled about in the studios of
painters and sculptors, on the Scala di Spagna, and the Piazza
Barberini, till the day came when the fame of being the handsomest
model in Rome--to which he could justly lay claim--no longer satisfied
his ambition, and he wanted to become an artist himself. This was not
so easy as he appears to have hoped; still in the course of time he
might have become a good stone-carver, at least I conclude so, from the
fact that a German artist, who had known him in Rome, invited him two
years ago to come and work in his studio here. Antonio, who had no
longer anything to bind him to Rome and his native place--his parents
had fallen victims to the cholera in 1868--obeyed the call, provided
only with the good brother's blessing and money for his journey, obeyed
it as a man must obey his destiny.

"The artist in question was that very Justus Anders whom I mentioned
before as one of the most distinguished of your countrymen. Antonio,
however, does not consider him so, as he denies him originality,
inspiration, and in a word, all the higher qualities of an artist, and
describes him, on the other hand, as filled with envy and ill-will
towards all real geniuses, amongst which he doubtless considers himself
to hold the first place. I am of course unable to decide how far the
latter is true, but I suspect that an artist of such undoubted powers
as Anders judges the young man quite rightly, and that if he does not
allow him any great gifts, but continues to employ him as a mere
workman, he has good reason for so doing. At any rate, this supposed
neglect has not prevented our young countryman from remaining two years
with the envious master, probably, as I gather, in order to be near a
lady with whom he fell violently in love from the first moment in which
he saw her, and who, if his rapturous description may be trusted, must
be a marvel of beauty and grace.

"This lady is the daughter of a Herr Schmidt, who it appears carries on
a very flourishing trade in marble and marble goods. She is herself an
artist, and no insignificant one. The 'Shepherd Boy' came out of her
studio, which is only separated by a door from Signor Anders's studio.
I willingly spare you the details of the romance which was carried on
from one studio to the other. It appears that Antonio, in spite of his
assurances to the contrary, never had any cause to believe in the
fulfilment of his extravagant hopes; it appears however, also, that the
beautiful lady permitted the love of the handsome youth, perhaps only
because she could not prevent it, without giving importance to a matter
which was of no importance in her eyes; perhaps, also, because she
dreaded his passionate jealousy. Her fears were not unfounded. She
loved another, and was beloved by him. The immediate neighbourhood of
their houses was favourable to the secret of their relations, which was
only penetrated by Antonio's eyes, sharpened by jealousy. He followed
with the cunning and craftiness of a native of the Campagna their
secret traces, till, only a few days ago, he obtained undoubted proofs.
With the assistance of a man who, for some reason, was willing to make
common cause with him, he gave up these proofs into the hands of the
fathers, who, besides being in very different ranks of life and also
political opponents, as the accomplice knew, were divided by an old
personal enmity. The well-aimed blow took effect unexpectedly deeply,
on both sides. The fathers came to an explanation, at which were
probably some high words. An hour later the lady was found lying
insensible on the floor of her studio; another hour, and she was raging
in a violent fever. In the neighbouring house nothing can have been
known of this that day or the next, or a more suitable time would have
been chosen to send out the announcement of a betrothal which had been
long expected in the higher circles of society. The news of this
betrothal reached us at Munich, and was that of Fräulein Carla von
Wallbach with Lieutenant Ottomar von Werben."

"Good God!" exclaimed Valerie.

"It must have been God's will," answered Giraldi, with a dark smile;
"otherwise the affair, which has been so long delayed, would doubtless
have remained a little while longer in suspense. I should have made the
young man's acquaintance before the catastrophe, which is as much as to
say that the catastrophe would never have occurred. Instead of
interfering blindly with the flame of jealousy and the sword of
revenge, in a state of affairs that was so wonderfully favourable to
us, I should have recommended it to the protection of the Blessed
Virgin, and should have done, for my part, all that human wisdom can do
to help it on and bring it to a successful termination. I should
doubtless have succeeded, but some people would say it was not to be. I
do not say so. I know only one opponent before whom I sheath my weapon,
and that is Death. So long as I can count upon life I do count upon it,
I hope all from it; and for the present the beautiful Ferdinanda still
lives. What does my friend say to this second history?"

"That I wish my friend had known nothing of it."

"For what reason?"

"Because I know it will awaken in his restless mind a thousand hopes
that can never be realised; it will give him a world of trouble which
will all be useless."

"Not useless, if it be the will of the Blessed Virgin, and if my friend
does not refuse me her assistance."

"What can I do in this matter!"

"Almost everything; everything at least that can be done at present. I
mean, observe the parties in question, first and foremost the betrothed
couple; see how they bear their happiness, whether with the modesty
which would be appropriate under the circumstances in which it was
born, or with that scornful pride which, according to your proverb,
goes before a fall. A fugitive glance, a gesture, a turn of the
eyes--what will they not say to one who is so well prepared as my
talented friend? I recommend to her in particular the clever Carla, who
will meet her with open arms; _les beaux esprits se rencontrent_; but,
to return to my first story, and, like a good narrator, to weave it
properly into the second, I recommend also to your kind care the more
modest Elsa. With regard to this young lady, I have also a special
request to make, that you will observe whether she shows particular
interest when the name of a certain Herr Reinhold Schmidt is mentioned
in her presence."

"What new idea is this, my friend?"

"The last instalment of my news, for which I have to thank the dear
Councillor, who learnt it, in his turn, from Count Golm. A little
episode of jealousy, to which I attach particular importance, although
I am still rather behindhand as regards the details. Still it is an
interesting fact, that the gentleman in question, whose acquaintance
your niece only made quite lately on the much-talked-of journey, is a
cousin of the beautiful Ferdinanda, whose beauty had nearly made you
the richer by half a million. The jealousy of the nobleman, and the
angry contempt with which poor Antonio speaks of the Captain, lead me
to suppose that the cousins are not unlike one another. You will agree
with me that so delightful a family should be cultivated. I am dying to
make their acquaintance."

Giraldi had risen and gone a few steps to meet the servant, who had
just come into the room with a visiting card. "Ah!" he exclaimed,
taking the card from the waiter, "beg his Excellency to walk into my
room. I will follow in a minute."

He turned once more to Valerie.

"That is a happy yet unhappy coincidence--at the very moment when we
were expecting your relations. I could send away the Councillor if
necessary, the easier, that he is already behind his time. This
gentleman is one of those who must be received at all hours and under
all circumstances."

He held the card to Valerie. "Who is it?" she asked, reading a name
which in her bewilderment she could not recognise.

"But, cara mia!" exclaimed Giraldi, "who that is? The man who, half
blind as he is, sees clearer than most men do with both their eyes; the
man who, divested of all official authority, gives the Chancellor of
the German Empire more to do than the plenipotentiary of a large state
would do; the man, in a word, on whose feeble form the weight of the
struggle which we have to fight in Germany rests almost wholly! But I
am quite content that my lady should have no very lively sympathy for
the troubles of our Holy Church, if she will bear her own sorrows with
patience, if only the unhoped for, miraculous prospect of revenging the
injustice of long years, perhaps at one blow, can allure her! There are
thousands and thousands of brave men ready to take up the weapons which
fall from the hands of the exhausted champions of the Almighty; here in
this struggle I stand alone, and the Blessed Virgin will forgive me if
even her cause is not dearer to me than that of the mother of my
child!"

There was a metallic ring in the man's soft, melodious voice, a curious
fire burnt in his dark eyes, the slender elastic figure appeared to
grow taller, as he now stood drawn to his full height, with one arm
raised as if for the combat. Then, as if by magic, all the heroism
vanished from voice, countenance, attitude and gesture. He bent down to
the sitting figure, took her hand, on which he pressed his lips with
respectful tenderness: "Addio, carissima! addio, anima mia dolce!"

He was gone, again nodding a greeting to her at the door with a
graceful movement, which she returned with an obedient smile, then sank
back, as if shattered, into her seat.

"In vain! in vain!" she murmured. "I can never free myself, never. He
is a thousand times the stronger, and he knows it only too well! That
was the glance of the tiger at the deer that is in his grasp; those
were the eyes of the serpent, fixed on the bird in its nest. Lost!
lost! his sure prey, his obedient tool; forced to act, to speak, to
smile, to breathe as he will! Do I know my lesson? alas for me if I
have forgotten one word! He would find it out at once. 'Did you not see
that? Why where were your eyes? Did you not hear that? Why, my dearest,
it might have been heard with half an ear!' He, ah! he, with whom the
demons are in league, whom they all obey with all their might, for whom
they smooth his path along which he paces with the proud step of a
conqueror driving his victim before him! What else is that Antonio but
such a slavish demon, a messenger from hell, who is at hand when he is
summoned? Here I am, master; what does my master command? To sow
dissension between father and son, between father and daughter, between
the lover and the beloved? I have done it already, at least tried to do
it; pardon, master, your unskilful servant, who struck too soon with
the whip; teach me how to chastise with scorpions; I shall soon learn
in your service, I shall become worthy of you! And is there more to be
done; to draw from a maiden's heart its tender secret and to give it up
to you, that you may taint and defile it, may break and tear it to
pieces with your unhallowed, cruel hands? No, that is already cared
for; that is best understood by a woman, the well-trained accomplice of
your hellish art. It is true she is related to your victim, could, and
in the natural course of events ought to, be a second mother to her; so
much the better! She will be able the better to creep into her secrets,
the finer to spin threads in which the poor bird will flutter. Oh, my
God, my God! how boundlessly must I have sinned, that you will not
forgive me, that you have so utterly deserted me!"

She pressed her hands to her face, her heart beat violently; but the
weight did not become lighter, no tears came to cool her burning
cheeks. She sat thus alone, in the spacious, sumptuous room, solitary,
deserted, helpless, broken, longing for a word of comfort, of love--a
singular, touching, moving picture in the eyes of a young girl, who had
stood already for half a minute at the door, which she had gently
opened and shut behind her, fearing to approach nearer, to give
offence, to startle, and who now, casting timidity and fear from her,
following the impulse of her heart, hastened with quick steps to the
bowed-down form, and before the other could rise from her seat, or even
understand clearly what had happened, or how it happened, was kneeling
before her, and, seizing her hands, while she exclaimed: "Aunt, dear
aunt! here I am! Don't be angry, I have so longed to see you; have you
no kind word for me!"

Valerie could not speak; her eyes were fixed on the young girl's face,
which was glowing with tender shame and heartfelt pity. She suddenly
flung her arms round her like a drowning man, who in the whirl of the
stream grasps at the slender willow-stem; her head sank on the shoulder
of the kneeling girl, and the tears which had been so long shut up in
her troubled heart burst forth unrestrainedly.



                              CHAPTER II.


The outburst was so violent, and lasted so long, that Elsa became
painfully embarrassed. How likely it was that the man of whom Aunt
Sidonie had just said that he was sure to be present at their reception
would come into the room--how soon Aunt Sidonie herself must follow
her! She had only hastened up the staircase before her aunt, while the
latter entered into conversation with the Councillor, who met them in
the hall. While they were on their way to the hotel, she had been
dreading all the time the solemn ceremoniousness of the good lady's
behaviour on so important an occasion--the long-winded address, the
offensive condescension with which she would meet her sister. She had
silently regretted that she had persuaded her aunt to an immediate
visit, and that she had not rather fulfilled her threat and gone alone.
Now, thanks to her prompt decision, everything had happened so
favourably; but now, too, poor Aunt Valerie must calm herself--must
stop crying, and dry her tears, even if they were tears of joy--if
she were really her good angel. So much the more indeed! Her good
angel--she would try to be it, most certainly, and, oh, so willingly!
She would never leave her again, at least in her thoughts and in her
heart--would always be in thought and in heart near her, to comfort
her, to help her, where she could, as much as she could; only now--now
she must compose herself, and, quick, quick! let the black lace veil be
arranged on her beautiful soft hair, and become again the great,
dignified, proud lady that Aunt Sidonie had told her off, whom Aunt
Sidonie must find there, or lose all belief in the penetration and
knowledge of character on which she prided herself so highly.

Thus Elsa comforted and coaxed and jested, till she had the pleasure of
bringing a smile to the delicate pale lips and the mild brown eyes--the
true Werben eyes, said Elsa; a melancholy smile, thought Elsa,
but still a smile. And it came just in time, for the next moment
the curly-headed young man in black coat, silk stockings, and
knee-breeches, whose assiduity Elsa had with some difficulty escaped in
the anteroom, opened the door and announced, in polite respect for the
stately appearance of the lady whose card he held in his hand--"Madame
Sidonie de Werben!"

Sidonie rustled through the door, and found herself face to face with a
slight, pale lady, who, supporting herself on Elsa's arm, held out her
slender white hand, and who must be her sister Valerie, only that she
did not in the least resemble the Valerie whom she had known, and whom
she had last seen seven and twenty years ago. Not that the lady who
stood before her was not still elegant and distinguished looking--she
was even more so than formerly, Sidonie thought--she was still handsome
too in her way, very handsome indeed; but the brilliant glance of the
dark eyes, the rich carnation of the fair cheeks, the fascinating
smile of the small red mouth, the luxuriant masses of her splendid
chestnut-brown hair, which had formed a rich crown over her brow, and
knotted loosely together at the back, had fallen in a few scented locks
over her round, white shoulders, where were gone those magical charms
over whose worldliness and sinfulness she had so often sighed and
lamented?

Sidonie was bewildered, almost dismayed. The little speech which she
had prepared on the way was meant for the vain, pretentious, coquettish
Valerie of former days, and was evidently quite unsuited to the Valerie
of to-day. But her hurried efforts to think of something else to say
were quite unsuccessful. Besides, the longer she gazed on the pale,
noble countenance that was turned with a gentle smile towards her, and
at every moment discovered an expression that brought back to her the
former Valerie, the more she was overcome by a curious mingled
sensation of the old love and of a new pity, so that, interrupting
herself in the midst of the formal phrases through which she was
labouring with a heartfelt "Dear Valerie, dearest sister!" she
opened her arms, kissed Valerie on both cheeks, and then, as if
terrified at this unjustifiable ebullition, sat down in stiff
dignity in an arm-chair, and looked as severe and unapproachable
as her short-sighted, good-humoured eyes would allow her.

But the ice was broken, and Elsa took care that it should not form
again, although there were some difficult points to be got over still.
When Aunt Sidonie had mentioned casually that her brother had already
left the house when Valerie's letter came, and consequently knew and
could know nothing of their visit, "though he would doubtless have
given his permission for it," Elsa blushed for Aunt Sidonie when she
saw how painfully Aunt Valerie's lips quivered at the thoughtless
words. She hastened to say that, after the letter received yesterday
from her aunt, her father had only expected her on the evening of this
day, when it occurred to her that her father's message would now seem
very improbable, and, blushing again at the contradiction in which she
had involved herself, she was silent.

"Never mind, dear Elsa," said Valerie, kindly pressing her hand, "I am
grateful enough as it is. Everything cannot come right at once;" and
she added, to herself, "Nothing will come right so long as I am in the
power of my tyrant, who has once again seen, with one glance of his
unerring eyes, what was hidden from my longing heart."

In the meantime, Aunt Sidonie had entered on a subject which had
occupied all her attention since the day before yesterday, and which
she talked of now with the greater pleasure that she considered it a
perfectly safe one:

"Though I hardly know, my dear Valerie, how far your long absence may
have influenced your interest in the joys and sorrows of your family.
Here it is only a question, of joys. You need not raise your eyebrows,
Elsa--it does not improve your looks; besides that, it shows a want of
confidence in my discretion, which, to put it mildly, is not very
flattering to me, and is so much the more out of place that you ought
by this time to be convinced of the groundlessness of your doubts and
fancies. It is certainly not saying too much if I declare that I
guessed the truth before any one, not even excepting Ottomar himself.
The worldly advantages of the connection, its suitableness from all
points of view--good heavens! no reasonable person could doubt it or
ever has doubted it, as Baroness Kniebreche assured me yesterday, and
she would certainly know if the contrary were the case, and if any one
voice had been raised against it. The Baroness, dear Valerie, born a
Countess Drachenstein, of the Drachenstein-Wolfszahn branch, the
widow of the Lieutenant-General, a comrade and friend of our late
father--eighty-two years old, but still astonishingly fresh, an
extremely clever, delightful old lady, whose acquaintance you would be
charmed to make--very intimate with the Wallbachs, and whose particular
favourite our Carla always was. You have upset my ideas with your
unnecessary grimaces, my dear Elsa, and it is your fault if I appear to
your Aunt Valerie as absent as I am usually collected. You know me of
old, Valerie, and Elsa herself knows best what strong concentration of
thought is necessary for the conception and carrying out of my 'Court
Etiquette.'"

Elsa here tried to keep her aunt to her usually favourite topic, but in
vain.

"There are moments," said Sidonie, "even in the lives of those who,
like myself, most perfectly estimate the whole moral and political
necessity of the growth and prosperity of the smaller courts, in which
the firmly-rooted love and fidelity to the highest personages must not,
indeed, be overpowered by family interests--that would be an improper
expression--but allow the latter somewhat more liberty than usual; and
in my mind that moment has now arrived."

Sidonie now went on to describe the happiness that she felt at the
aspect of the betrothed pair, who were themselves so happy, if they
delicately refrained from giving to their happiness that expression
which to less observant eyes might seem necessary or at least
desirable, but for those who, during a long life at court, had learnt
the requisite knowledge of humanity was neither necessary nor
desirable. She, at least, must confess that Ottomar's modest gratitude
and Carla's timid reticence moved her to the bottom of her heart, and
all the more that she was constantly reminded by it of the bewitching
idyl of the budding love of her Princess towards the then hereditary
Prince, now the reigning sovereign; and if Elsa, as it seemed, intended
to make the objection that the marriage in question had to be broken
off later on account of higher interests, they were higher interests
which had nothing to do with the present question, and never could
have.

Elsa had given up the attempt to stem her aunt's inexhaustible flow of
words; she hardly dared, for fear of drawing upon herself fresh
reproaches for her unkindness and frivolity, even to raise her eyes to
Aunt Valerie, who, leaning back in her chair, listened with an
attention which Sidonie pointed out to Elsa as "exemplary." Neither she
nor Elsa suspected what feelings were tearing the heart of the poor
woman, while her smiling lips from time to time put in a courteous,
kindly word of interest. She must take notice of every turn of the
conversation if she would go through the examination which her
inexorable tyrant would impose upon her later. Woe to her if she had
overlooked or failed to hear anything! Woe to her if she contradicted
herself! Thrice woe to her if she had exclaimed what her heart cried
within her: "I know it all already, better than you, foolish sister, or
you, dear child! Poor things, do you not see that you are in the
tiger's den, to which there are many tracks that lead, but none that
come out again?"

And then her anxious glance turned to the door. How did it happen that
he left her alone for so long? What was his intention, he who never did
anything without intention?



                              CHAPTER III.


It had not been Giraldi's intention to remain away go long. He had
expected the visit to be only one of civility, in return for that which
he had paid his Excellency the day before; but the clever, loquacious
gentleman had still so much to say, so much to add with regard to the
business that they had apparently concluded the day before, even when
he stood at the door with his hand on the lock, sometimes putting the
hat which he held in the other hand before his half-blind eyes, hidden
behind large grey spectacles, to protect them from the light that
streamed too dazzlingly through the window opposite.

"It seems foolish to warn the most prudent of men," he said, with a
sarcastic smile which looked like a tearful grimace on his odd face.

"Particularly when the warning comes from the bravest of men," answered
Giraldi.

"And yet," continued his Excellency, "he is wise too; you undervalue
his wisdom. He too is brave, even to rashness; he gives proof of it
daily. I do not think men like him can be understood at a distance; at
least half the magical power that they exercise over their
contemporaries lies in their personality. One must know such people
personally, quarrel with them in the Chambers, see them enter at a
court reception, to understand why the beasts grovel in the dust before
this lion, and even where they mean to oppose him, only get so far as
to wag their tails. Believe me, my honoured friend, distance in space
is as unfavourable to the estimation of such real historical greatness
as distance in time. You in Rome think you can explain by the logic of
facts all that depends solely on the overwhelming personality of the
man, exactly as all-wise philosophers of history quite calmly construe
the wonderful deeds of an Alexander or a Cæsar even to the minutest
details by the necessity of the circumstances of the time, as if
circumstances were a machine which completes its task all the same,
whether set in motion by the master or by a workman."

Giraldi smiled: "I thank your Excellency in the name of his Holiness,
for whose ears this witty little lecture was doubtless meant. And it is
no doubt as well that his Holiness should occasionally be shown the
reverse side of the medal, in order that he may not forget the fear
which is the beginning of all wisdom, and may be mindful of the
necessity of our counsels and of our support. Only at this moment, when
the shadows of the clouds which threaten our horizon on all sides lie
dark on his soul, I would not willingly represent to him the situation
as more difficult, or the man of the situation as more dangerous, than
we ourselves see them to be who have learnt to see. Therefore I
purposely took advantage of my farewell audience to raise his failing
courage a little. May I give your Excellency a proof of the necessity
of this? Well, then, his Holiness spoke in almost identically the same
words of the demoniacal power of the arch-enemy of our Holy Church; he
called him in turns a robber, a giant with a hundred arms, a murderer,
a Colossus whose feet trod the two hemispheres, as that of Rhodes did
the two sides of the harbour. Can your Excellency guess what I answered
him? 'I see already the pebble falling from the skies, which will
shatter the feet of the Colossus.' His eyes gleamed, his lips moved; he
repeated to himself the words; before long he will proclaim them, _urbi
et orbi_, as he does everything that we whisper to him. Our enemies
will laugh, but it will comfort the feeble spirits amongst us, as it
evidently sufficed to comfort the poor old man."

"I wish it were as true as it is comforting," said his Excellency.

"And is it not true?" exclaimed Giraldi. "Does not the Colossus in
reality stand on feet of clay? Of what avail are all the boasting
speeches about the power and splendour and civilising historic mission
of the German Empire? The end of the song, which he purposely
suppresses, or at least only allows to be heard quite faintly, is
always and only the powerful kingdom of Prussia. What avails him that
he restlessly throws himself from one character into another, and
to-day proclaims universal suffrage, to-morrow thunders against
Socialism, the day after again reprimands the puffed-up middle classes
like so many ill-behaved school-boys? He is and will always remain the
majordomo of the Hohenzollern, though he may strive against it in
moments of impatience at the occasional prudent hesitation of his
gracious master, of anger at the intrigues of the courtiers, or
whatever else may chafe his proud spirit. Believe me, your Excellency,
this man, in spite of his perpetual display of liberalism, is an
aristocrat from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, and in
spite of his vaunted enlightenment is full of the romantic fancier of
the middle ages, and never can and never will from his heart wish for
anything but a kingdom by the grace of God. But while he wishes for a
kingdom by the grace of God, he works for one by the grace of the
people. What else is it, when he uproots from the people all reverence
for the priesthood, not the Catholic alone? the interests of all orders
of the priesthood have always been identical, and the sympathy which
the ill-used Catholic clergy obtain from the Protestant priesthood will
soon be seen. Without priests, however, there can be no God, and no
kingdom by the grace of God; in other words, he is sawing off the
branch on which he sits. Or if he does not take the matter so
seriously, if he is, what I do not believe, so narrow-minded and
frivolous that he only sees the whole matter in the light of a dispute
about etiquette, a quarrel for the precedence which he wishes to claim
by the power he has arrogated to himself as head and chief over the
priests, the affair will again lead him _ad absurdum_, as there is no
doubt that the priests will never accept this subordination, will at
least only endure it if they cannot help themselves. We are what we
always were and always shall be. And, your Excellency, his vulnerable
point is that he does not grasp this, that he believes that he can
frighten us by threatenings and terrors and make us the creatures of
his will. As soon as he perceives that he cannot succeed by this
means--and I hope he will not perceive it yet--he will try to temporise
with us, and step by step will be drawn into the reaction; will be
forced ever more and more openly to expose the contradiction between
his aim--the kingdom by the grace of God--and his means which he has
borrowed from the armoury of the revolution; and this contradiction
into which he is being hopelessly driven, and from which must proceed
the revolution--for no people will endure the long continuance of so
contradicting a rule--is the pebble that is already rolling, and which
will loosen the avalanche and shatter the Colossus."

"Serve him right! and good luck go with him," said his little
Excellency, with his sarcastic laugh; and then, after a short pause, "I
only sometimes fear that we shall make the _salto mortale_ with him,
and--"

"Shall stand firmer than ever on our feet," interrupted Giraldi
quickly. "What have we to fear from the revolution or from the
people?--nothing, absolutely nothing. If to-day they dance round the
golden calf, to-morrow they will prostrate themselves the deeper in the
dust before Jehovah; if to-day they place the Goddess of Reason on the
throne, tomorrow like frightened children they will fly back again into
the bosom of Mother Church. And if in reality, as you said yesterday,
Darwinism is to be for Germany the religion of the future, so be it; we
will be the Darwinians _par excellence_, and with holy zeal will teach
the new faith from the chairs of the universities. We know that nature
draws her veil the closer, the more impatiently the too-forward scholar
tries to lift it. And when he has gazed into the hollow eyes of
Nothing, and lies shattered on the ground, we will come, will raise up
the poor fool, and comfort him with the words--Go, and sin no more.'
And he will go, and will sin no more in the foolish thirst for
knowledge, for the burden of ignorance is lighter and her yoke is
easier--_quod erat demonstrandum_."

The corners of his Excellency's mouth were drawn as far apart as
possible; even Giraldi smiled.

"I wish I had you always here," said his Excellency.

"To tell your Excellency things which you have long ago proclaimed from
the tribune."

"I generally speak from my place."

"And always in the right place."

"It is often nothing but empty sound, and no one knows that better than
myself; one counts upon the echo."

"And not in vain; for us beyond the mountains the little silver bell is
the great bell of a cathedral, whose iron clang reminds loiterers of
their duty and spurs the brave to fiercer struggles."

"And that reminds me that at this moment I am a loiterer myself, and
that a fiercer struggle awaits me in the Chamber to-day."

His Excellency, who had some time before seated himself on a chair near
the door--Giraldi remained standing--rose again.

"Your Excellency will not forget my little request," said Giraldi.

"How could I?" answered his Excellency; "in fact, I hope soon to have
an opportunity of setting the affair in motion. Of course, it cannot be
done without a small _douceur_. Nobody does anything there for nothing.
Happily we have the means always ready. The promise to give one turn
less to the screw in Alsace-Lorraine, not to disturb the childish
pleasure of the old Catholics in Cologne too rudely, not to sound the
alarm too loud in the impending debate on the courageous Bishop of
Ermeland, any one of these small favours is worth a General,
particularly when the latter has such unpractical antediluvian ideas of
State, society and family."

"And it can be done without scandal?"

"Quite without scandal. Ah! my worthy friend, you must not consider us
any longer as the honest barbarians described by Tacitus; we have
really learnt something since then. Good-bye!"

"Will your Excellency allow me to escort you to your carriage?"

"On no account. My servant waits in the anteroom. Will you let him come
in?"

"Will your Excellency permit me to be for the moment, as ever, your
devoted servant?"

Giraldi was in the act of offering his arm to the half-blind man, when
a fresh visitor was announced.

"Who is it?" asked his Excellency, with some anxiety; "you know I must
not be seen here by everybody."

"It is Councillor Schieler, your Excellency."

"Oh! only him. However, do not trust the sneaking fellow more than you
can help! He has got some very useful qualities, but must be handled
with care. Above all, do not trust him in the matter in question; it
would be quite useless. His great protector can do nothing in the
matter."

"And therefore it was that I took the liberty of applying to your
Excellency."

"Advice to you always comes too late. One thing more. For the little
family war which you have to wage here with these North German
barbarians you require three times as much of the needful as for the
great war. Are you fully provided?"

"I have always considered that war should maintain itself. However, I
can draw on Brussels to any extent if it should be necessary."

"Perhaps it may be necessary. At any rate, keep the game in your own
hands. In spite of your sanguine hopes for the future, in which I fully
concur, there are a series of lean years impending; we shall have to
live like marmots, and the prudence of the marmot is more than ever
necessary to us. You will keep me _au courant_?"

"It will be for my own interest, your Excellency."

The Councillor had entered. His Excellency held out his hand: "You come
just as I am going--that is unfair. You know there is nobody I like
better to talk with than you. How blows the wind to-day in the
Wilhelmstrasse? Have they slept well? Did they get out of bed on the
right side? Nerves down, or steady? Country air asked for, or no
demand? For heaven's sake do not let me die of unsatisfied curiosity."

His Excellency did not wait for the answer of the smiling Councillor,
but again pressed the hands of both gentlemen, and, leaning on the arm
of the servant who had entered meanwhile, left the room.

"Is it not wonderful!" said the Councillor; "such incredible
elasticity, such marvellous promptitude, such quickness of attack, such
sureness in retreat! The Moltke of guerilla warfare! What an enviable
treasure does your party possess in that man!"

"Our party, Councillor? Pardon me, I always have to remind myself that
you do not belong to us. Will you not sit down?"

"Many thanks, but I have not a minute to spare. I can only hastily tell
you what is most important. In the first place, they are furious at the
Ministry of Commerce at a vote just passed by the General Staff on the
harbour question, which, as I am told by a colleague--I have not yet
seen it myself,--is as good as a veto. The report is by a certain
Captain von Schönau, but the actual author--did you ever hear of such a
thing?--is himself a member of the War Office, and is of course no
other than our friend the General. This throws us back I do not know
how far or for how long. I am furious, and the more so that I can see
no way of getting over this difficulty. To be sure, a man has
influence, and could, if necessary, bring this influence to bear even
against an old friend; but one would not like to do it except in the
direst necessity. What do you advise?"

"That we should not tarnish the purity of our cause by mixing in it
such odious personalities," answered Giraldi. "If you think yourself
bound to spare an old friend, you know that there exists between the
General and me an enmity of long standing; and everything that I should
do or allow to be done against him would appear justly in the eyes of
all as an act of common revenge, which God forbid! If it is His will He
will surely bring about an event which will make our opponent harmless,
and that need not be an accident because men call it so."

"You mean if he were to die?" asked the Councillor, with a hesitating
glance.

"I mean nothing positive, and certainly not his death. As far as I am
concerned, may he live long!"

"That is a noble and Christian-like wish," answered the Councillor,
rubbing his long nose, "and no doubt spoken from your heart; still his
opposition is and remains a stumbling-block to us, and I wish that were
our only hindrance. But now, Count Golm tells me--I have just come from
him; he will have the honour almost immediately; I only hurried on
before him because I have something to say about him presently--Count
Golm tells me that his efforts--he went over there in his present
semi-official capacity as future chairman of the board--that his
efforts with the President in Sundin have been quite useless. He had
made up his mind and could not alter it, however willingly he would
give way to the Count, for a thousand reasons of neighbourly feeling
and personal good-will, and so forth. Golm, who between ourselves is
clever enough and certainly not bashful, naturally allowed the great
sacrifice to be perceived that we have determined to make--all in vain.
In fact Golm thinks that he has rather done harm than good in the
matter."

"As is the case with all half measures," said Giraldi.

"With half measures, my dear sir. How do you mean?"

"What was he offered?"

"Fifty thousand thalers down and the first directorship of the new
railway, with six thousand a year fixed salary, besides an official
residence, travelling expenses, and so forth."

"Then about half what he demands?"

"He demands nothing."

"A man does not demand under those circumstances; he lets it be offered
to him. Authorise the Count to double it, and I bet you anything the
business is done."

"We cannot go so far as that," answered the Councillor, rubbing his
closely-cropped head; "our means do not allow it. Besides the rest of
us--and then Count Golm himself is satisfied with fifty thousand for
the present, we cannot offer the President twice as much without
offending Golm. He is not particularly pleased with us as it is, and
that is the point I want to talk to you about before he comes. Is it
really impossible for you--I mean for the Warnow trustees--to sell the
property directly to us, the provisional board?"

"Over the Count's head!" exclaimed Giraldi. "Why I fancy, Councillor,
that you are bound to the Count in that matter by the most positive
promises."

"True, true, unfortunately! But Lübbener, our financial adviser
and----"

"The Count's banker--I know."

"You know everything! Lübbener thinks we might find some pretext in the
case of a gentleman who, like the Count, is always getting into fresh
difficulties and is always inclined or forced to sell his birthright
for a mess of pottage. At the same time we do not wish or intend to act
contrary to your intentions, and if you insist----"

"I insist upon nothing, Councillor," answered Giraldi; "I simply obey
the wishes of my client, which are on this point identical with those
of Herr von Wallbach."

"Good heavens!" said the Councillor impatiently. "I can quite
understand that for the sake of appearances you would prefer to sell to
a man of position rather than to a provisional board, although the man
of position in question is a member of that very board; but you must
not forget that we should pay you as much, or nearly as much, directly
as we must afterwards pay to the Count."

"The Count will not get off so cheaply either as you seem to think."

"Then he will sell so much the dearer to us," said the Councillor; "and
it will be so much the worse for us."

"Nevertheless I must refuse my support in this matter, to my great
regret," answered Giraldi decidedly.

The Councillor looked very much disgusted. "The best of it is," he said
sulkily, "that he cannot find the money--not even a hundred thousand,
and still less the million or whatever sum we decide upon as the price
of the land. He must come to us then; I know nobody else who would
advance him so much at once, or even in instalments. I can tell him,
however, beforehand, without being Merlin the Wise, that we shall not
let him have the money cheap, so it will come to the same thing in the
end. But now, my honoured patron, I must make room for the Count and
take leave of you. Give my best regards to the lady, whom unfortunately
I have not yet the honour of knowing, but for whom I have always had
the deepest respect, and for whom I have broken many a lance in
knightly fashion. And not in vain, for this family visit--I met
Fräulein Sidonie in the hall, Fräulein Elsa had hastened on in
front--is a concession which I may, without vanity, look upon as the
result of my powers of persuasion. Apropos of my dear old friend
Sidonie, you wished to know yesterday what it was that had actually
decided the matter of the betrothal and put an end to Ottomar's
obstinate resistance."

"Well!" asked Giraldi, with unfeigned curiosity.

"I do not know," said the Councillor, with his finger on his long nose;
"that is to say, my dear friend does not know, or she was sure to have
told me. According to the servant's evidence--that was all she could
tell me--an interview took place the night before between the father
and son; but I have every reason to suspect that the subject was no
romantic one, but on the contrary, the equally prosaic and
inexhaustible one of Ottomar's debts. Farewell, my dear and honoured
patron!--You will keep me informed?"

"Be assured of it."

The Councillor was gone. Giraldi's dark eyes were still fixed on the
door; a smile of the deepest contempt played upon his lips.
"_Buffone!_" he murmured.



                              CHAPTER IV.


He stood sunk in the deepest thought, his slender white fingers
stroking his dark beard. "It is amusing to be the only well-informed
man amongst the ignorant; amusing and sad. I feel it for the first
time, now that I can no longer share my thoughts and plans with her.
She has brought it on herself, and she is heaping wrong upon wrong. A
little while ago and the measure was nearly full. If a spark of the old
love remained in her she must have taken it differently. That pallor,
that terror, that 'no!' at the mere vision of what formerly her soul
thirsted for, as the thirsty traveller in the desert longs for the
stream of water in the oasis. Only because it was a vision? Because it
was not the truth? And if it were made truth?" Giraldi slowly paced the
apartment. "His parents are dead, the monk may be disposed of, and the
handsome youth can have no objection; he is vain and false, and in
love; any one of the three would suffice to induce him to play the
part. And then the likeness--it is not very striking, but she cannot
convict me of falsehood when she sees him; and she must see him."

In the anteroom was a stir as of several people moving; Giraldi, who
was near the door, advanced a step nearer and listened; doubtless the
visit announced in the niece's note. They were all pressing round her
now; they who had formerly avoided Valerie as an outcast and castaway
hastened to her now that she was their equal and doubly as powerful.
They would try to make up by the flatteries and caresses of one hour
for what they had for long years committed against her in their stupid
shortsightedness. She had said once that she longed for this hour, in
order that she might set her foot on the necks of her persecutors, and
pay them back in their own coin for their treatment of her. He had just
now repeated the words that had often been mentioned between them, but
she had not taken them up. The old German love of family was moving in
her towards her blood-relations, while her own flesh and blood--his
own--

He struck his forehead with his clenched fist. "That was the only
foolish action of my life. What would I give if I could undo it!"

All was quiet again in the anteroom; Giraldi opened the door and
beckoned in François, who handed him a number of visiting cards.

"I brought them out again, monsieur," said François; "I was not sure of
being able to remember those German names."

"You must practise," said Giraldi, letting the cards run through his
fingers; "Privy Councillor Wallbach, Frau Louisa von Wallbach (née
Herrenburg Semlow), Ottomar von Werben, Carla von Wallbach--_mon Dieu!_
it is not so very difficult--I can remember twenty names that I have
heard mentioned."

"Oh yes, you, monsieur!" said François, bowing with a cringing smile.

"I expect the same of you. How did madame receive the lady who came
first, the young Fräulein Elsa von Werben!"

"Mademoiselle shut the door when I wanted to follow her. I could not do
it with the best will in the world. Mademoiselle seems to be very
determined."

"You are a fool. And the second lady, the older one, Fräulein Sidonie
von Werben, or were you out of the way again?"

"Oh! no, monsieur! She is a great lady who gives herself airs; there
was no difficulty with her. She walked ten paces forward and then made
her curtsey. Oh, monsieur! such a curtsey! I could not help thinking of
Madame la Duchesse de Rosambert, from whose service I came into
monsieur's."

"Good! and madame?"

"Madame could not help smiling--a melancholy smile, monsieur, that went
to one's heart."

And François laid his hand with a hypocritical look on his dazzlingly
white closely-plaited shirt-front with its large gold studs.

"You may dispense with those grimaces in my presence! Go on."

"Madame, who had passed her left arm through mademoiselle's, and did
not let it go now, held out her right hand and said: 'Ah, que
nous----'"

"In French?"

"No, monsieur, in German."

"Then repeat it in German; the same words, if you please."

"Do we meet again thus after eighty-seven years?"

"Twenty-seven, idiot! But the actual meeting?"

"It was such a confusion, monsieur! I could not distinguish anything in
particular; it was impossible, monsieur!"

Giraldi shrugged his shoulders impatiently.

"If Count Golm calls, tell him that I am at home to him, and add that
monsieur can only spare him a few minutes because he is himself
expected in madame's salon. Then mention, casually, who is in the
salon. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly, monsieur."

"One thing more; I do not pay two hundred francs a month to people to
whom anything is impossible. You must perfect yourself if you wish to
remain any longer in my service."

"I will do everything to satisfy monsieur, and to prove myself worthy
of the confidence with which monsieur honours me."

François bowed himself out of the door.

"That is to say," said Giraldi, "you have confided too much in me
already to dare to send me away at a moment's notice. It is our
misfortune that we cannot live without these creatures. In
Machiavelli's time people took the precaution of not letting them live
long. In these days one has to pay double without assuring one's
safety. Ah! the Count."

François had opened the door to Count Golm; the Count entered with
hurried steps. He looked out of temper and absent; his attitude and the
tone of his voice showed the carelessness of the man of rank, who does
not think it worth his while to conceal his dissatisfaction.

"I am sorry to disturb you," he said; "but I will not take up your time
for long; I have only come to tell you that in all probability nothing
will now come of our bargain."

"I should be sorry for that for your sake, Count," answered Giraldi.

"Why for my sake?"

"We make nothing by the bargain, Count Golm."

"Which is as much as to say that I should gain by it! I should be much
obliged, sir, if you would tell me what."

"If the Count, who proposed the bargain, does not know, we cannot
pretend to do so."

"And who are 'we,' if I may venture to ask, in this case; the trustees
of the Warnow property, or yourself?"

"In this case the Baroness von Warnow, whom I have the honour to
represent."

There was so much calm superiority in the Italian's coolly courteous
manner, his black eyes shone with such a steady light, that the Count
could not bear their glance and looked confusedly on the ground.

"I beg your pardon," he said; "I--I did not mean to offend you."

"And I am not offended," answered Giraldi; "I never am when I see that
people vent on me the vexation which I have not caused; it is like a
letter that has been addressed to me by mistake. Shall we sit down?"

The Count accepted the invitation unwillingly.

"I cannot, however, consider you exonerated from all blame; it was you
who told me yesterday that it would not be difficult for me to raise
the first instalment of the purchase-money. As I take it for granted
that you are in a general way acquainted with my circumstances, and on
the other hand, you have been so long intimate with the Councillor, I
could not but believe that between him and you on the one side, and him
and Herr Lübbener on the other, some conversation had taken place upon
the matter in question, and that you were authorised by those gentlemen
to make an advance to me in their names, which could not be made by the
gentlemen themselves to whom I am to sell again, though only in their
capacity as directors of the new railroad. Good! I went this morning to
Lübbener; he professed great astonishment, said it was very strange,
might create bad feeling if it were known that he had advanced the
money, still--to please me, as I was determined to be the seller--in
short, he made conditions--impossible, degrading conditions, I tell
you--for which I could have horsewhipped the--the fellow! I went away
furious, and went straight to Herr Philip Schmidt. Herr Schmidt, you
must know--"

"I know--a merchant-captain, much thought of by the Werbens. The
Councillor spoke to me about him."

Giraldi played with his watch-chain while he said these words in a
careless, conversational tone, and looked up in astonishment when the
Count exclaimed eagerly:

"Heaven forbid! What could I have to do with him! Herr Philip Schmidt
is, as I learnt unfortunately too late, a cousin of that otherwise
utterly insignificant fellow, who has, with incredible audacity, forced
himself into the best circles; a man of no birth----"

"I beg your pardon; Herr Philip Schmidt then, to whom you went----"

"Is the contractor for the Berlin-Sundin Railroad, and is to build our
line also--a successful man, fairly presentable, and immensely rich.
Polite reception, as I expected, assurance on assurance of meeting my
wishes; but his money was tied up in every possible undertaking; his
new house had cost him fearful sums; he must keep a balance in hand for
the contract for our new railroad, and--in short, scarcely better
conditions than those of Lübbener. Now you see how easily I can raise
the half million which you demand as an instalment."

The Count pulled at his fair moustache; his pale blue eyes looked
angrily at Giraldi. He made a motion to rise, but on a sign made by the
latter with his white hand, remained sitting, as if rooted to his
chair.

"I must again ask your pardon," said Giraldi "I thought I had made
myself clear enough yesterday. I had forgotten that German ears are--I
will not say duller than Italian, but different to them. I could
otherwise have spared you an unpleasant morning; for what could be more
unpleasant for a nobleman than to be obliged to deal with crafty men of
business, still more when these men, as is apparent, are in collusion!
I hope that with us you will be relieved from this and any other
unpleasantness."

"'With us?' With you?" asked the Count in the greatest astonishment.

"I must again say 'we' and 'us,'" answered Giraldi, smiling; "for
if I am myself only the manager, still the savings of an income of
ten thousand thalers could not have increased to so large a sum
without--what shall I say--some speculation by a lucky hand. For the
last few years the money has been really lying idle, and I herewith
offer it to the Count in the name of the Baroness."

The Count stared at Giraldi; but the man's dark eyes shone as calmly as
before. It could not be a joke.

"In the name of the Baroness?"

"If it so pleases you."

"The entire half million?"

"As it appears to us--this time I mean the trustees--that the payment
of half the purchase-money at once is necessary for the better
regulation of the property."

"And the conditions?" asked the Count, after a short pause, with a
somewhat hesitating voice.

Giraldi stroked his dark beard.

"We make really none, with the exception of one special condition,
for the registration of the debt as a first mortgage on the
property--which, as the Count knows, is quite free from debt--and the
low interest of four per cent, can hardly be called conditions, but
rather natural securities, which the Count----"

"Certainly, certainly," said the Count; "quite natural. And the special
condition?"

"That the Count pledges his word of honour not to tell any one, be they
who they may, or even to hint from whom he has obtained the money."
Giraldi held out his hand with a pleasant smile. "It is the hand of a
friend, not of a usurer, that we hold out to you."

The Count was ashamed of his momentary hesitation. "There you have my
hand and my word!" he exclaimed, laying his hand in that of the
Italian. "I will speak of it to no one."

"Not even to the Baroness," continued Giraldi "She wishes to be
entirely unconcerned; that is to say, quite free. The Count will
understand this womanly delicacy, not to say weakness."

"Perfectly," said the Count.

"Even her name--that is her particular wish--must not appear in any
part of the transaction; so that the mortgage must be made out in my
name. Do you agree!"

"Of course," said the Count.

Giraldi dropped, with a friendly pressure, the hand which he had till
then held in his, and leaned back in his chair.

"Then we are agreed," he said. "I on my side consider myself fortunate
in having delivered a nobleman, whose intelligence and energy had won
my entire sympathy even before I had the happiness of making his
personal acquaintance, from the unclean hands of these roturiers, and
in having placed him in a position which, as it appears to me, confers
on him that leading position in this affair which in every way is his
right. I at least see the road quite clear before him. To raise the
second half of the purchase-money--let us for the present fix the
1st of March as the term--I say to raise the second half of the
purchase-money cannot be the least difficult, as by that time you will
have long ago sold the property to your associates for double the
money; you must not on any account agree for less than two millions.
And now, Count, if it is agreeable to you, allow me to conduct you to
the Baroness, who is longing to make your acquaintance, as I am sure
you will be happy to become acquainted with a lady whom no one can know
without loving and honouring her."

Giraldi had risen; the Count stood embarrassed and undecided.

"You will easily believe that I should prize the happiness proposed
to me at its fullest value; but--your servant--there are a lot of
people--nearly all the family--in the salon. I fear I should be looked
upon as a stranger and an intruder at such a moment."

"But if," answered Giraldi, "it should just be in the presence of her
family that the Baroness especially needs the friendship of men of
position and weight? If she lays the greatest stress on showing that
wherever she appears the friendship of those men is secured to her."

"Let us go!" exclaimed the Count.

"One word more," said Giraldi.

In the hitherto calm eyes of the Italian a deeper fire burned. The
Count stood breathless; he had an undefined feeling that now he was to
hear the solution of the riddle which, in spite of all, was still a
mystery to him.

"And if," continued Giraldi slowly, as if weighing every syllable, "the
Count should imagine that the Baroness does not expect to buy his
friendship by doing him a service in a matter of business, but rather
by using all her influence in his favour, in case he should have the
wish, once for all, to make the reproach of being a stranger and
intruder in the family impossible. I need say no more, if the Count
understands, and I dare say no more if he has not understood me."

The blood mounted into the Count's face.

"If he dared to understand you!" he exclaimed, seizing the hand of the
Italian and pressing it warmly--"if he dared!"

"That would be my smallest fear," answered Giraldi, with a crafty
smile; "but I feel neither that nor any other. Only let prudence go
hand in hand with courage, and let Count Golm kindly trust in this
delicate business to the experience and knowledge of the world of an
older man."

"I will not take a step without you--not a step!"

They had already reached the door when François entered with a card,
which Giraldi, after glancing at it, handed to the Count.

"You see. Count Golm! II n'y a que le premier pas qui coûte! The cost
is not counted on that side! Ask Herr von Werben to come in."

François opened the door for Ottomar.

"I come at the general wish of the ladies," said Ottomar.

For the first time he saw the Count, The sarcastic smile left his
delicate lips; his bright eyes took a gloomy shade.

"I beg pardon," said he; "I thought I should find you alone, or I would
have chosen a better time----"

"To me any time is right at which I make the acquaintance of the nephew
of my highly revered friend," answered Giraldi. "Besides, the Count and
I were on the point of going to join the ladies in the drawing-room;
now, indeed, I must ask the Count's permission to enjoy the honour of
Herr von Werben's society here for a few minutes more."

"_Au revoir_, then!" said the Count, leaving the room, and considering
as he crossed the anteroom, accompanied by François, whether he ought
to be affronted or amused at Ottomar's distant manner. He came to the
conclusion that he had more cause for the latter. Ottomar, indeed, had
now reached the important goal; but it was extremely probable that he
never would have reached it at all if a certain other person had
arrived in Berlin a few days earlier. Everybody said so; and that
it was only jealousy which had brought Ottomar's indecision and
faint-heartedness to an end. Faint-heartedness, indeed! To satisfy a
woman like Carla von Wallbach, a man must have very different
qualifications to any that Ottomar von Werben could boast--must, in
short, be a Count Golm. Well, he had kindly released the family from
the anxiety which he had caused them--Fräulein Elsa, too, who had
evidently trembled for her brother. They owed him some gratitude, and
all of them, excepting Ottomar, would feel that--they would be eager to
show him that gratitude. And if when he rose that morning he had not
quite made up his mind about the other matter, he had done so now.
Favoured by the lady here, whom the whole family had hastened to visit
the very morning after her arrival, the remaining difficulties would
vanish that opposed themselves to his entering that family as a highly
desirable member--if he chose to do so! Of course, he should reserve
his liberty of decision to the last moment!

The Count lingered a little at the door to follow up his agreeable
train of thought to the end, and to arrange his fair wavy hair and long
moustache to the best advantage, before he desired François, who was
waiting respectfully, to open the door for him; no special announcement
was needed as he was expected.

François obeyed with a low bow the order given him in French, and then
behind the closed door, with a still lower bow, said: "Monsieur le
Comte, vous parlez français--comme une vache espagnole---je vous rends
cette justice, ah!" and drawing himself up the man shook his fist: "que
je déteste ce genre là!"



                               CHAPTER V.


It was not so much the wish of the ladies, as the request of Carla that
Ottomar had acceded to when he came in search of Giraldi. Carla was
burning with curiosity to become personally acquainted with the man, of
whom she had heard such an "immense number of the most interesting
things;" it would be dreadful to lose such a pleasure! Could not Signor
Giraldi get rid of his Excellency or of the Councillor? Could not
Ottomar make a diversion by going in himself, and cutting short the
Catholic question, or whatever other matter of high importance they
might be discussing? Ottomar was so clever! Do ask him, Elsa! He will
do anything for you! Elsa could do no less than say, "Pray oblige
Carla!" and even then Ottomar had sat still, muttering that he did not
speak Italian, till the Baroness said with an absent smile, "That need
not prevent you, my dear Ottomar; Signor Giraldi speaks most European
languages, and German in particular like a native." "Oh! why can't I go
myself!" cried Carla. "If you wish it, my dear aunt," said Ottomar, and
went.

With very mixed feelings, however. He had only joined in paying this
visit because Elsa seemed to wish it so much, and the Wallbachs had
asked him so pressingly. But that he who, after his father, represented
the family, should be the first to seek out the man whose name his
father would never pronounce; the man who, if he might believe his
father, had brought such sorrow and shame upon the family--this was too
much for his pride. And yet in this very circumstance lay a demoniac
charm which Ottomar, as he crossed the anteroom, with grim satisfaction
allowed to take effect upon him. Had not his father just now forcibly
interfered in his life, robbed him by his imperious proceedings of the
woman he loved--now more than ever, made that life miserable, and
brought her to the edge of the grave, perhaps to the grave, itself?
Should he bow here again before the mere threatening shadow of paternal
authority, or not rather rejoice that an opportunity was given him to
set it at defiance?

And this defiance had curled his lips in an ironical smile as he met
the much-abused man.

It seemed like an evil omen that instead of the Councillor whom he
expected to find here, he should meet the Count, the last man he would
have wished for as witness to a step which was almost a crime against
the family honour, and was at least very hazardous. The words he would
have spoken died on his lips, and the dark look with which he followed
the retreating figure could hardly have been misinterpreted by a less
shrewd observer.

"You have no love for that gentleman," said Giraldi, waving his hand
after the Count.

"I have no cause to love him," answered Ottomar.

"No, indeed," said Giraldi; "for two more opposite natures could hardly
be brought together. In the one, openly expressed, supreme satisfaction
with noble qualities which exist only in his imagination; in the other,
perpetual gnawing doubt of the admirable gifts which Nature has so
freely lavished upon him; in one, the miserable narrowness of a hard
heart divided between vanity and frivolity; in the other, an overflow
of love, falling into despair because all its blossoms do not ripen."

Ottomar looked up, startled. Who was this man whom he now saw for the
first time, and who read his inmost heart as if it had been an open
book; who at the first moment of meeting not only could, but dared to
say this, as quietly as if it were a matter of course, as if it were
not worth while to respect the miserable fetters of social
conventionalism even for a moment; as if he could wave them away with a
single movement of the slender, white hand?

He looked into the black eyes as if asking for an explanation, and as
he did so there crossed his mind the recollection, of a woodland pool
by which he had often played as a boy, and which was said to be
unfathomable.

"I have surprised you," said Giraldi. "I might perhaps make use of your
astonishment to appear to you--if only for a short time--in a
mysterious light, and steal into your confidence by pretending to be in
possession of heaven knows what secrets of yours. But I am no
charlatan; I am not even the adventurer to whom you have come
half-unwillingly, half-curiously; I am only a man whose dearest hopes
and warmest wishes have been so long crushed and broken that he has
forgotten how to hope or wish, and that only one feeling is left to
him, that of pity for all sorrows wherever he may meet them, and
especially when the sorrow is so plainly expressed on a young man's
face, at a moment when other faces are beaming with joy and gladness.
And now, son of the man who is my enemy because he does not know me,
give me your hand and tell me that you are not offended at my freedom!"

He extended both hands with a fascinating gesture half of entreaty,
half of command, and Ottomar seized them with passionate eagerness. He
had suffered so much in the last few days, and had had no one whose
band he could grasp, no one to whom he could unburden his overfull
heart! And now from the eloquent lips of this handsome, strong,
singular man came the first words of comfort! Were miracles possible
then--or, as the man himself said, did the miracle only consist in the
fact that one must be unhappy oneself to understand those who suffer?

His heart overflowed; his beautiful eager eyes filled with tears, of
which he was ashamed, but which he could not check. Giraldi released
his hands and turned away, passing his hand across his eyes. When after
a brief pause he turned back, there was a look of humble joy upon his
expressive countenance, and his voice sounded softer than before as he
said: "And now, my dear young friend, you will not forget this hour,
nor what I now say; I am a poor man in spite of what people say; but
anything in my power shall be done for you, for a glance of the eyes so
wonderfully like those for which I would go to meet death this day as
cheerfully as I would go to a feast. Come!"

He put his arm familiarly within Ottomar's, and led him to the door
which he opened and let his guest precede him. Ottomar did not turn; if
he had he would have been appalled at the convulsively distorted face
of the man who was holding the handle of the door in his left hand,
while he raised the outstretched fingers of the right hand like a
vulture's claws as he strikes down his victim from behind.

The Count's entrance into the drawing-room had greatly surprised the
Baroness; but a moment's reflection had been enough for her quick wits
to guess at the state of affairs, and that this surprise was the work
of Giraldi, the result of which she was to observe and by-and-by to
report upon. Such an incentive was not needed, indeed; Elsa had become
so dear to her in this one hour; every look of the joyous brown eyes,
which, she well knew, could look so earnest too, every word that
came from the little mouth, every movement of the slender, graceful
figure--all, all was balm to her aching heart, that was languishing for
true affection, for beautiful, undefaced humanity. How far behind the
tender grace of her favourite must the brilliant Carla stand! Carla,
with whom everything, every tone, every gesture, every turn of her
eyes, every movement was called into play by an insatiable thirst for
admiration, which did not by any means always attain its object, and
often far outstripped its aim. She had closely compared the two girls,
and each time told herself that a man who had Elsa for a sister could
not really love Carla, and that no good would come of the engagement
for Ottomar, even if he had not passed the threshold to it, so to
speak, over the body of the forsaken beauty who was breaking her heart
now in despair. To her who had been initiated into the secret by her
tyrant, the remorse which devoured him spoke only too plainly in the
nervous glitter of his beautiful eyes, in his sullen silence or the
forced speech to which he again roused himself, and in the constant
gnawing of the delicate lip between his sharp teeth. And she, who had
given her hand and her word to the unhappy man, seemed to see and
suspect nothing of all this! She could chatter and laugh, and flirt
with the Count exactly as she had done a minute before with her
betrothed, only that her frivolous game was evidently not wasted now,
but eagerly and sincerely admired, and gratefully responded to to the
best of the man's ability. And then her observant look returned to Elsa
and met a pair of eyes which she had already learned to read so well,
and in which she now thought she could perceive the same feelings that
moved herself; sorrow, pity, astonishment, blame--all indeed in a
lesser degree, as was natural in the young girl, who probably did not
know the sad secret of her brother's engagement. And this sisterly
sympathy was certainly not mixed with any selfish feelings. When the
Count entered so unexpectedly, he had been welcomed by no joyful
lifting of the eyes in which every thought was reflected, no brighter
crimson in the cheek on which the colour always came and went so
quickly; nothing but a look of astonishment which was little flattering
to the new-comer, and which proved to Valerie how well her tyrant was
kept informed by his spies, Everything that she had seen and heard in
this last hour tallied in every particular with what he had foretold.
And now he would appear, accompanying poor Ottomar, whom in these few
minutes he would have won, fascinated, enchanted as he did all who came
within his reach--he would enter like a sovereign who appears last,
when well-trained officials have appointed each guest his place, so
that the eye of the ruler need not wander inquiringly, but may glance
with a satisfied smile over the assembly which only waits for him.

He came in at last, only leaning on Ottomar's arm long enough for every
one to have time to remark the confidential relations that already
existed between him and the nephew of their hostess; and then hastening
his step and leaving Ottomar behind him, he advanced to the party
grouped round the sofa, whose conversation died away at once, as all
raised their eyes curiously and wonderingly to the man they had been so
eagerly expecting. And however many proofs Valerie had already received
of the man's tact, she was again forced against her will to admire the
consummate art with which--she could hardly herself have said how--he
became almost immediately the centre round which everything else
revolved, from whom came every impulse and interest, to whom every
thought and feeling returned. Even Frau von Wallbach had raised herself
from the comfortable attitude in her arm-chair which she had taken
after the first words of civility and had retained unchanged till now,
and stared with half-open mouth and eyes which looked almost wide awake
at the strange apparition. Elsa had evidently forgotten for the moment
everything that had been troubling her before; and as she turned after
a little while to her aunt and drew a long breath, there lay in her
countenance the silent acknowledgment: "This is more, far more than I
had expected." Carla had the same feeling, and took care by her looks
and gestures to let everybody know it, even before she openly expressed
it.

"In these days," cried she, "when the want of lively sensibilities and
of courage to express the little that still exists is doubly felt, I
have reserved to myself the child-like habit of naïve admiration
wherever and however I find what is admirable, and the privilege of
Homer's heroes of giving unveiled expression to my admiration. And when
among the insipid faces of the north--present company, gentlemen, is
always excepted--I see a face for whose description even the sun-bathed
portraits of a Titian, a Raphael or a Velasquez do not suffice, which I
can compare to nothing but that miraculous picture to which I owe my
most sublime impressions, to that indescribably dignified and yet most
divinely benignant Head of Christ over the high altar in the Cathedral
of Monreale at Palermo--I must speak it out though Signor Giraldi does
raise his hand so deprecatingly, thereby increasing his resemblance to
the picture, which will be to me henceforward indeed only a portrait."

"I am delighted to offer a humble theme to so lofty an artistic
imagination as undoubtedly inspires Fräulein von Wallbach," answered
Giraldi.

"I think we must be going," said Frau von Wallbach, with an absent look
at the ceiling.

"Good heavens! Half-past two!" cried Carla, starting up; "how time
flies in such interesting company!"

The company dispersed; Giraldi, who had gone with them to the door,
came back slowly, his head raised, his dark eyes gleaming with triumph,
and a smile of contempt curling his lip. Suddenly, in the centre of the
room, he stood still, and for a moment his face grew dark as night, but
the next he was smiling again, and with a smile he asked:

"Is that the look of a victor after the battle?"

Valerie had sunk back, with closed eyes, utterly exhausted in her
chair, believing that he had left the room. At the first sound of his
voice she started.

"Which you have won!"

"For you!"

He bent down to her as he had done before and raised her hand to his
lips.

"My lady's hand is cold, however warm I know her heart to be. The noise
of the battle is not fit for her sensitive nerves. We must take care
that she retires betimes to a quieter spot, where she may await the end
in peace."

"What do you mean?" asked Valerie with a smile, though a shudder ran
through her.

"It is a plan which has just taken shape in my mind, and which--but no,
not now, when you need repose! not now; to-morrow, perhaps, when these
eyes may shine more boldly, when the blood will run more warmly in this
dear hand--the day after to-morrow--there is no hurry; you know that
Gregorio Giraldi does not make his plans for a day."

"I know it," answered Valerie.

He now really left the room; Valerie listened, she heard his door shut,
she was alone. She rose trembling limbs and tottered to the chair in
which Elsa had sat, and there fell upon her knees, pressing her
forehead against the back.

"And Thou knowest it, Almighty God! Thou hast sent me Thy angel, in
token of Thy grace and mercy. I will trust in Thee faithfully. Thou
wilt not suffer that this tyrant shall destroy Thy beautiful world."



                              CHAPTER VI.


Autumn had come, and was boisterously asserting his authority; the
weather was dark and gloomy, even in Reinhold's eyes. "The gloomiest
and darkest I ever experienced," he said each morning to himself as the
same spectacle always presented itself when he opened his window: dark,
lowering clouds, trees swaying to and fro, from whose branches
blustering winds were stripping the brown leaves and whirling them
through the moist, foggy atmosphere across the roofs of the workshops,
which looked so drenched and miserable that one would only have
expected tombstones to be made there.

"And yet I have got through darker and gloomier days without losing
heart," philosophised Reinhold further; "it is not the weather out of
doors, it is that whichever way I turn I see people in need and
trouble, as if I were on board a ship that must sink shortly and could
do nothing to save it, but must sit with my hands before me, and look
on idly at the catastrophe."

Reinhold could do nothing; of that he had only too soon convinced
himself ever since that terrible morning when the General had come to
his room, and in the deepest agitation, which even his iron strength
could hardly master, had informed him of the conversation he had just
had with Herr Schmidt, and its miserable results.

"T made every advance to your uncle," said the General, "which was
possible to a man of honour. I offered to him and to your family the
reparation which, at least in the eyes of the world, would put
everything straight, and would secure to the young people the
possibility of that happiness which they have so recklessly pursued. If
they will find it in this way, God only knows, but that is their
affair, and must be theirs. What I feel about it, what hopes I bury
here, what a sacrifice I make of my personal convictions, is a matter
that lies between my God and me. May God guide your uncle's heart, that
he may put his trust in Him, as I do, in the inward conviction that our
own wisdom will not help us here. I have come to you, my dear Schmidt,
to say all this to you, not that I wish that you should try to
influence your uncle; according to my judgment of him, that would be
labour lost; but because I cannot endure the thought of being wrongly
judged by a man whom we all think so highly of, and who, besides, is
connected with me as a brother soldier, even if only for a short time."

Reinhold had, notwithstanding, followed the impulse of his heart, and
attempted the impossible. He had been, for the first time since they
had been together, harshly repulsed by his uncle, and had been forced
to own to himself that neither he nor any other man could persuade the
fiery-tempered old man to retract a decision once made "because he
must." But when Aunt Rikchen, unable to rest from fear of the terrible
_something_ in the air which yet she could not comprehend, found
Ferdinanda an hour later lying senseless on the floor of her studio;
when the unfortunate girl was raving in high fever, and the family
doctor came and went with anxious looks, and soon returned in company
with a colleague, and in the evening the two were joined by a
third physician, who seemed no less helpless before this strange
seizure--then, when Reinhold's first words, "It will kill her!" seemed
likely to be so terribly soon fulfilled, he bethought himself of the
General's fervent prayer that God might guide his uncle's heart, and
sought his uncle, who had not left his room again since the morning,
and asked him whether he would really allow his child to die when it
was in his power to save her.

"I am convinced that you can save her," he cried; "that a word from you
would pierce to her troubled mind through all the horrors of a fevered
fancy, and that she would awake to a new life."

"And what would that word be?" asked Uncle Ernst.

"If your heart does not tell you, you would not understand it if I
spoke it."

"My heart only tells me that it would be a lie," replied Uncle Ernst;
"and as I understand life, no lie will restore it. What life would it
be to which she would awake! Life at the side of a man whose courage
holds out just so long as the darkness in which he has followed his
course of intrigue; who only steps forth from that darkness when a
villain tears off his mask, and he cannot endure his father's eye upon
his miserable face; who would do what he must to-day, driven on by the
reproaches of his conscience and fear of the world's opinion, only to
repent it tomorrow from the same fear, and to hint it to her at first
in a thousand different ways, and say it at last to her face. Is that a
lot for a father to prepare for his child? No, never! Better a thousand
times death, if she must needs die. Every man has his own way of
looking at life, and this is mine; and no general officer, with I know
not what confused ideas of honour and love, and no relation, however
dear he may be to me, who in his good-nature would like to accommodate
what never can be put straight, will ever teach me another. And if God
Himself came and said to me, 'You are wrong,' I should answer, 'I do
right in my own eyes,' and no God can demand more of man."

"But you ought not to have urged Ferdinanda to a decision which cannot
possibly have come from her heart."

"Are not you attempting something of the same kind at this moment?"

"I have no authority over you, and your mind is not torn by conflicting
feelings as Ferdinanda's must have been in that unhappy hour."

"So much the better, that one of us at least should know what he wishes
and wills."

That had been Uncle Ernst's last word, and he had said it with a
calmness that to Reinhold was more terrible than the wildest outburst
of passion would have been.

And yet not so terrible as the smile with which the stubborn old man a
few days later received the news that Ferdinanda was, in the doctor's
opinion, out of danger.

Reinhold could not forget that smile; it haunted him even in his
dreams. He had never seen the like on any human face; he could not even
describe it to Justus, to whom he had repeatedly mentioned it, till one
day he stopped with a sudden exclamation at a face that stared at him
from the wall in a remote corner of the studio.

"Good heavens, Anders, what is this!"

"The mask of the Rhondonini Medusa," said Justus, looking up from his
work.

"That was my uncle's smile."

"I dare say it was something like it," said Justus, coming up with his
modelling-tool in his hand, "although I cannot quite reconcile Uncle
Ernst's beard with the Medusa; but one sees sometimes such diabolical
resemblances."

Justus's friendship was invaluable to Reinhold in these dark days; when
he was almost giving way, the artist's perpetually cheerful temper
would keep him up. "I cannot understand you," said Justus; "I certainly
have every possible respect for Uncle Ernst's splendid qualities, and I
take really a sincere interest in Ferdinanda, to say nothing of Aunt
Rikchen, poor soul, who will soon have cried her eyes out; but sympathy
and pity and all that sort of thing, like everything else in the world,
must have its limits, and if anything of the kind affects my own life
and incapacitates me from working--why, then, you see, Reinhold, I say
with Count Egmont: 'This is a foreign drop within my veins!' and--out
with it! Have you written to the President?"

"Three days ago."

"That's right. Heaven knows how sorry I shall be to lose you; but you
have been here too long already. You ought to have a ship's planks
under your feet again, and a northeaster whistling in your ears; that
would soon blow your melancholy and hypochondria and all that well out
of you, and clear your brain and your heart--you may take my word for
it!"

"If only it comes to anything," said Reinhold; "I almost fear, as the
answer is so long in coming, that my report may have roused bad
feelings in the other department as well, as the General prophesied it
would."

"Then we must think of something else," answered Justus; "so smart a
vessel must not be left to rot in the stagnant waters of a port. For
the present you can sit to me occasionally as a model for my
bas-relief; not that I want you yet, but one must gather the roses ere
they fade. I will take your head now at once, life-size, to be sure of
you in any case." Justus set aside all other work, and busied himself
over the designs for his bas-reliefs from morning till night, which
came only too early for the busy worker. Two of them, the "March out"
and the "Battle," were already finished, and the "Ambulance
preparations" had made great progress; but what was to be done about
the "Return"? Heaven only knew! "And the idea was such a splendid one,"
cried Justus. "You had been promoted to be an officer meanwhile, and
were to be standing at attention in the right corner, your eyes left
towards the charming burgomaster's daughter, who, with the wreath in
her hand, also turned her eyes right towards the smart lieutenant,
while the two elders exchanged the most beautiful sentiments about
union, peace, fraternity, and the like. Heaven help us! beautiful
sentiments they have exchanged certainly! Those confounded politics!
for after all they are at the bottom of all this trouble. Why must that
old Berserker go running about upon the barricades in '48! And he calls
himself a Liberal now, and bottles up his anger for four and twenty
years, and so spoils my splendid idea, for the idea was fairly embodied
in those two. Who the devil is to make bas-reliefs from disembodied
ideas! I, for one, can't do it; I gladly renounce the doubtful glory of
being an inventor; my motto is: 'Seek, and you shall find!' I have held
by it, and it has held by me. I have always found just what I wanted
for the moment; it has fairly fallen in my way, I must have been blind
not to see it; and this time it was just as if Abdallah's wonderful
cave had opened before me: 'Diamonds, emeralds, rubies, only the way
between them is narrow ... the camels laden almost beyond their
strength;' and now--just turn a little more to the right, my good
fellow!--'one only, the last, remained to the dervish.' Admirable, my
dear Reinhold, but, excepting you, every one of my splendid models has
left me in the lurch; Uncle Ernst, the General, Ferdinanda--absolutely
impossible! Aunt Rikchen declares that in such a time of trouble she
cannot have anything to do with such nonsense--it would be quite
wicked!--is not that good? Old Grollmann's face, I positively cannot
see through his melancholy wrinkles; our worthy Kreisel, since he has
given up Socialism and taken to speculation, has shrivelled up into a
mere grasshopper; dear Cilli even has only occasionally the sweet smile
with which, gift in hand, she was to grope for the superintendent's
table; and among the new workmen I cannot find a single decent
model. A parcel of stupid, coarse, sullen faces; and all comes from
politics--those confounded politics!"

Thus Justus lamented, and between whiles laughed, over his own
"splendid" idea, while he kneaded and moulded the wet clay incessantly
in his busy hands, whose dexterity seemed miraculous to Reinhold, and
then stepped back a few paces, nodding his half-bald head backwards and
forwards, and shaking it gravely if he did not think he had succeeded,
or whistling softly and contentedly if he was satisfied--which he
generally had reason to be--in any case taking up again outwardly the
work which he had not for a moment ceased mentally to carry on.

"I never know which to be most amazed at," said Reinhold; "your skill
or your industry."

"It is all one," answered Justus; "a lazy artist is a contradiction in
terms, at the best he is only a clever amateur. For what is the
difference between artists and amateurs? That the amateur has the will
and not the power--the will to do what he cannot accomplish; and the
artist can accomplish what he will, and wills nothing but what he can
accomplish. But to this point--to comparatively perfect mastery over
the technicalities of his art and knowledge of its limits--he attains
only through unremitting industry, which is no special virtue in him,
but rather his very self, his very art. Or, to put it differently, his
art is not merely his greatest delight, it is everything to him; he
rises with his work as he went to bed with it, and if possible dreams
of it too in the night. The world vanishes for him in his work, and
it is just, therefore, that he creates a new world in his work. Of
course this makes him one-sided, narrows him in a hundred other
directions--you must have discovered long ago that I am insufferably
stupid and ignorant; but ask the ants, who pursue their way, because it
is the shortest, right across the beaten tracks, or the bee who commits
murder so jovially in the autumn, and roves about in such idyllic
fashion in the spring, or any of the other artistic creatures--the
whole tribe of them is stupid, and narrow-minded, and barbarous, but
they accomplish something. Look at my Antonio; he will never accomplish
anything but hewing a figure out of the marble after a finished model,
and working it up till it is ready to receive the last touches at the
artist's hands, that is to say, being a first-class workman. Why?
Because he has a thousand follies in his head, and in the front rank
his own precious, conceited self. And then a feeling heart! Goethe, who
was a real, true artist, though he did draw and paint some bad things,
had his thoughts about that. The fellow--I don't mean Goethe, but
Antonio--was good for nothing during the first days of Ferdinanda's
illness, so that I had to send him away from his work altogether. What
is Ferdinanda to him? Or, at any rate, what is she to him more than to
me? and I have been able to work splendidly all these last days. And
Ferdinanda herself! such a pity! She was absolutely standing on the
threshold of the sanctuary, and yet she will never enter because she
cannot grasp the stern saying over the door: 'Thou shalt have none
other gods but me.' She has begun to work again, indeed, since
yesterday; but defiance, and despair, and resignation, and all that--it
may be all very fine; but it is not the muse. And neither is love the
muse of art--let people say what they will. All this yearning of heart
to heart, it is all very well, but just let a man try to work with a
yearning heart, and see how soon his art gives way to the yearning! The
artist must be cool to the centre of his heart. I have kept it so till
now, and intend so to continue, and if ever you see the name of Justus
Anders in a register of marriages, you need no longer look for it in
the golden book of art; you would see a line drawn through the space
where it may once have stood in alphabetical order."

Reinhold would not allow this, any more than he would accept Justus's
theory of the necessary one-sidedness of artists. He saw in the artist
rather the complete, perfect man, to whom nothing in humanity was
strange; the more than complete man even, who poured out his exuberant
wealth, which otherwise must have overwhelmed him, in his works, and
thus, beside the real world in which ordinary men dwelt, created for
himself a second ideal world. And if Justus maintained that he had
never loved, it might be true, although for his part he ventured
slightly to doubt the strict truth of his assertion; but even if it
were so, this great finder had merely not yet found the right object,
and as he boasted of always finding the right object at the right
moment, here, too, at the right moment the right object would certainly
present itself.

"That is a most unartistic view of the matter, my dear Reinhold!" cried
Justus. "We, who according to your ideas are something of demi-gods,
know better with what groans and creaks these beautiful creations are
brought into life, and that at the best of times, when things go as
smoothly as possible, you cannot boil anything without water. And as
for love, you certainly have more experience in that, and experience,
said Goethe's grey friend at Leipzig, is everything; but very often it
is better to be without that experience."

And Justus hummed the tune of "No fire, no coals, no ashes," as, with
his modelling-tool grasped in both hands, he worked at the forehead of
his clay figure.

"Do not give expression to such profane notions this evening at the
Kreisels'," said Reinhold.

"Why not? It is the simple truth."

"May be so; but it hurts good little Cilli to hear such things,
especially from your mouth."

"Why especially from my mouth?"

"Because she sees in you her ideal."

"In you, I should think."

"Don't talk such nonsense, Justus!"

"Not at all. She fairly raves about you; she talks about nothing but
you. Only yesterday she said to me that she hoped to live to see you as
happy as you deserved to be, on which I ventured to observe that I
considered you as one of the happiest men under the sun,
notwithstanding your temporary want of employment, whereupon she shook
her pretty head and said, 'The best indeed, but happy?' and shook her
head again. Now I only ask you! You not happy!"

And Justus whistled the tune of "Happy only is the soul that loves,"
and exclaimed, "There, now I have got rid of the wrinkles in your
forehead, and now we will stop for today, or we shall make a mess of it
again, as we did yesterday evening."

He sprinkled his figures with water, wrapped Reinhold's half-finished
head in wet cloths, and wiped his hands.

"There, I am ready!"

"Won't you at least shut your desk?" said Reinhold, pointing to a
worm-eaten old piece of furniture, on and in which Justus's letters and
other papers were wont to lie about.

"What for?" said Justus. "No one is likely to touch the rubbish.
Antonio will put it all in order; Antonio is order itself. Antonio!"

The other workmen had already left the studio; only Antonio was still
busying himself in the twilight.

"Put these things a little tidy, Antonio. Come!"

The two young men left the studio.

"Do not you leave too much in Antonio's hands?" asked Reinhold.

"How so?"

"I do not trust that Italian; so little indeed that I have repeatedly
fancied that the fellow must have had a hand in betraying Ferdinanda."

Justus laughed. "Really, my dear Reinhold, I begin to think that Cilli
was right, and that you are an unhappy man! How can a happy man torment
himself with such horrid ideas? I will just run up and make myself
tidy. You go on, I will follow you in five minutes."

Justus was just hastening away, when the door of Ferdinanda's studio
opened, and a lady came out dressed entirely in black, and muffled in a
thick black veil. She hesitated for a moment when she saw the two, and
then with hasty step and bent head passed them on her way to the yard.
The two friends thought at the first moment that it was Ferdinanda
herself; but Ferdinanda was taller, and this was not her figure or
walk.

"But who else could it have been?" asked Reinhold.

"I do not know," said Justus. "Perhaps a model--there are shy models. I
hope at any rate that it was one. It would be the best sign that she
was going to work again, that is to say to come to her senses."

Justus sprang up the steps which led to his apartment. Reinhold
continued on his way. As he turned the corner of the building, the
black figure was just disappearing through the entrance to the house.

Antonio also, who had begun to tidy Justus's desk as soon as the two
friends had left the studio, had observed the lady in black as she
glided past the window. He threw the papers which he held in his hand
into the desk, and was about to rush out, but remembered that he could
not follow her in his working dress, and stopped with much annoyance.
The lady in black had been with Ferdinanda at the same hour yesterday,
but as the studio was full, he had not been able to make his
observations through the door. She was no model--he knew better than
that! But who could it be, if not an emissary from the man he hated?
Perhaps she would come for the third time at a more convenient hour. He
must find out!

He returned to the desk. "Bah!" said he, "what is there to be found
here? accounts, orders--the old story! And what use is it to listen to
their conversation? Always the same empty chatter. I can't think why he
wants to know what the Captain talks about to the maestro!"

He knew that Ferdinanda was no longer in her study, but yet his
gleaming eyes remained fixed on her door as he sat here brooding in the
twilight.

"I will do everything that he commands. He is very wise, very powerful,
and very wealthy; but what good can he do here? Is not she now even
more unhappy than she was before? And if she should ever find out that
it was I--but the signer is right there, one thing always remains to
me--the last, best of all--revenge!"



                              CHAPTER VII.


Latterly, while Ferdinanda still kept her bed, Uncle Ernst hardly left
his room, and the Schmidt family circle therefore was to a great extent
broken up, the two friends had divided their evenings between it and
the Kreisels pretty regularly as they said, or very irregularly as Aunt
Rikchen said. Reinhold was forced to agree with his aunt, and attempted
no further excuses, as he did not want to tell any untruths, and could
not acknowledge the true reason. The real truth was that his aunt's
perpetual complaints threatened to destroy his last remnant of
cheerfulness, while on the contrary he found the comfort and
consolation that he so greatly needed in the atmosphere of sunshine
which the sweet blind girl diffused around her. Latterly, indeed, even
this sunshine had been a little clouded. The two friends had a
suspicion, which they did not however impart to the poor girl, that the
eccentric old gentleman, having made up his mind, as he said, that he
could no longer with honour remain a Socialist, had sacrificed his
dislike to speculation to the darling wish of his heart, to provide for
Cilli after his own death, and had been speculating eagerly with the
scanty means that he had toilsomely scraped together in the course of
years. He was very mysterious about it indeed, and denied it roundly
when Justus laughingly taxed him with it; but Justus would not be
deceived, and even thought he could gather, from a casual expression
the other had let fall, that it was the doubtful star of the
Berlin-Sundin Railway to which the old man had confided the fragile
bark of his fortunes. It seemed some confirmation of this opinion that
latterly, when the almost worthless shares had become, in consequence
of the new and dazzling prospectus, an object of the wildest
speculation, and had consequently risen to double their value, the old
gentleman's cheerfulness had returned also, and he had even ventured
upon some of the dry witticisms which he only uttered when he was in
the brightest spirits. Cilli said that now everything went well with
her, and Reinhold, as she asserted this with her sweet smile, tried to
stifle another and much worse anxiety--an anxiety which he had once
hinted to Justus, whereupon the latter had replied in his careless
fashion: "Nonsense! Love is a weakness, angels have no weaknesses;
Cilli is an angel, and so--basta!"

He found Cilli alone in the modest little sitting-room, in the act of
arranging the tea-things on the little round table in front of the
hard, faded old sofa. She performed such small household duties with a
confidence which would have quite deceived a stranger as to her
infirmity, and with a grace which always had a fresh charm for
Reinhold. She would not permit any assistance either. "It is cruel,"
said she, "not to let me do the little that I can do."

So he sat now in the sofa corner, which was always his place--the other
belonged to her father when he came in from the office--and looked on
as she came and went with her gliding step, and as often as she
returned to the table seemed smilingly to bid him welcome again and
again.

"Where is Justus!" asked she.

"He has just gone to dress."

"How far has he got with you?"

"I shall be finished to-morrow, or the day after."

"Then it will be my turn; I am looking forward to it so--I mean to the
portrait. I should so like to know what I look like. However often I do
so"--she drew her soft finger slowly along her profile--"and that is
just like looking in the glass, yet you never know how you look till a
great artist shows it to you in your portrait. Justus is going to do me
in life-size too."

"But he might have given you that small satisfaction long ago."

"It is not a small thing, even though he does work so wonderfully
quick," answered Cilli eagerly; "every hour, every minute is precious
to him; he owes them all to his work. Now that he can make use of me
for his work, it is different of course."

"Do you know then, dear Cilli, what we all look like?"

"Perfectly; you are a tall man, with curly hair and beard, and a broad
forehead, and blue eyes. Justus is not so tall, is he?"

"He is a little shorter, dear Cilli."

"But only a very little," Cilli went on triumphantly; "and his hair is
not so thick, is it?"

The last words were said with some hesitation.

"Not at the temples, dear Cilli."

"Only not at the temples, of course!" said Cilli quickly; "but his
great beauty is in his eyes--great, flashing artist's eyes, which can
take in a whole world! Oh, I know what you both look like, and my
father too! I could draw his portrait!"

She laughed happily and then suddenly became grave.

"That is why I am distressed, too, when the faces I love are not
cheerful. Justus's face is always cheerful, but then he is an artist,
and can only live in sunshine; my father, too, has recovered his old
cheerfulness, and now you must return to what you were at first--do you
remember?"

"Indeed I do, dear Cilli. So many things have happened since then; you
know what I mean. They have troubled me, and trouble me still. And then
Justus is right, I am an idler; I must manage to get to work again."

"How did the General receive your work?"

Reinhold looked up in astonishment; there was nothing surprising indeed
in the question. He had mentioned the subject, as he had nearly all,
excepting one, the most important--often enough at the tea-table here;
but the tone in which Cilli had asked was peculiar.

"How do you mean, dear Cilli?" he asked in return.

"I only wanted to remind you that you had not been idle even here,"
said Cilli.

She was standing opposite to him at the other side of the tea-table,
and the light of the lamp fell full upon her pure features, on which
was expressed some uneasiness. She seemed to be listening for the step
of her father or Justus on the stairs. Then, as everything remained
still, she felt her way round the table, sat down on the edge of the
sofa, and said, while a deep colour suffused her whole face: "I did not
tell you the truth; it was for another reason that I asked you. I have
something else to ask you--a very great, very bold request--which you
will perhaps grant me, if you are sure, as you ought to be, that it is
not idle curiosity that prompts me, but heartfelt sympathy in your weal
and woe."

"Tell me, Cilli; I believe there is nothing in the world that I would
deny you."

"Well then, is it Elsa von Werben?"

"Yes, dear Cilli."

"Thank God!"

Cilli sat still, with her hands in her lap; and Reinhold was silent
too; he felt that he could not have spoken at the moment without tears.
Cilli knew that he was not ashamed of his confession, but she had to a
certain degree forced it from him, and as if in apology, she said: "You
must not be angry with me. Good as Justus is, one cannot confide such
things in him. I think he would hardly understand it. And you have no
one else here excepting me; and I thought perhaps it would not be so
hard for you if you could speak openly of your feelings even to blind
Cilli."

Reinhold took her hand, and carried it to his lips.

"I am as grateful to you, dear Cilli, as a wounded man is when balm is
poured upon his wounds, and I know no one in whom I would rather
confide than in you, purest, kindest, best!"

"I know that you like me and trust me," said Cilli, warmly returning
the pressure of Reinhold's hand; "and I am well punished for my
cowardice in having, notwithstanding, kept silence so long; for, only
think, Reinhold, I believed at first----"

"What did you believe, dear Cilli?"

"I believed at first that it was Ferdinanda; and I was very, very
unhappy about it, for Ferdinanda may be as beautiful as you all say,
and as talented, but you would never have been happy with her. You are
so kind and so good-tempered, and she is--I will not say ill-tempered,
but haughty. Believe me, Reinhold, I feel it, as a beggar feels whether
what is given him is from kindness or only to get rid of him. I have
never put myself in her way, God knows; but He knows also that she has
never gone a step out of her way to say one of those kind words to me
which fall so readily from your lips, because your heart is overflowing
with them. For some time, too, I trembled for Justus, till I learned
to understand his nature, and saw that an artist--inasmuch as he
is unlike other men--cannot love either like other men. But you, with
your tender, loving heart, how should you not love--and love
immeasurably--and be immeasurably unhappy if your love is misplaced! I
have said this often to Justus when we were talking about you--at
first; now I do not do so any more, for he chatters about everything
that comes into his head, and I have observed how carefully you have
guarded your secret."

"That I have indeed!" cried Reinhold. "I might almost say from myself;
and I cannot think how you have discovered it."

"It seems almost a miracle, does it not?" said Cilli; "and yet it is
not one, if you seeing people knew how well the blind hear, how they
pay attention to every trifle, and to the tone in which you mention a
particular name, as you bring it in at first shamefacedly, and then a
little more boldly, as soon as you feel secure, till at last all your
conversation is full of the music of the loved name, as in the East the
dawn is filled with the name of Allah, cried by the Muezzins from the
roof of the minaret. And ah! what sadness there often was in the tone
in which you spoke it! What trembling hope of joy breathed in it, when
you told me the other day that you were going to spend the evening with
her, to pass hours in her company at that large party! They were your
only happy hours, my poor Reinhold, for the very next day fell the
frost upon the young green shoots, and since then the beloved name has
never passed your lips. Are you then quite in despair now?"

"No, dear Cilli," answered Reinhold; "I only see a happiness which I
thought I might grasp with my hand, as a child thinks it may grasp a
star, vanish from me in grey distance."

And Reinhold related everything from the beginning, and how he was
certain, though she had never spoken a word of love to him, not even on
that delightful evening, that she understood him; and that so noble and
high-minded a creature could never trifle with a man's silent,
respectful devotion, and therefore the favour with which she
distinguished him--her kind words and friendly looks--could not be mere
trifling, and if not love was yet a feeling that under happier
circumstances might have blossomed into true, perfect love. But
circumstances could hardly be more unfavourable than they were at
present. So melancholy an event as that which had occurred would in any
other case have united the other members of the two families in
sympathy; in fact it could only have occurred between two families, the
heads of which were so utterly opposed in their social views as were
the General and Uncle Ernst. He was himself quite independent of his
uncle, and should always assert that independence, particularly in his
love-affairs; but Elsa was most especially the child of the house, the
daughter of a father she so justly and highly honoured, and he feared
the reaction which such an event might produce upon the General, who
otherwise--from affection for his daughter and regard for him--might
perhaps have sacrificed his class-prejudices, but now--and who could
blame him?--would intrench himself doubly and trebly behind these very
prejudices, which in his eyes were none. And there was another thing I
From some remarks made by the General, at the dinner-table at Golmberg,
he had taken the Werbens for one of the many poor noble families; and
now Elsa suddenly appeared to him as a wealthy heiress, to whom, if she
were really prepared to sacrifice her inheritance to her love, as would
be necessary, he had nothing to offer but a faithful heart, and such a
modest livelihood as a man like him could at best provide. Under these
circumstances every prospect seemed so closed to him, every hope so
crushed and forbidden to him by the feelings of simple propriety, that
there could be no question of wooing on his part, and that it would
require a positive miracle to change for the better the present
miserable state of affairs.

Cilli's face had reflected every sentiment that Reinhold expressed, as
the crystal surface of a calm mountain lake reflects the light and
shadows of the sky. But now the last shadow faded before the sunny
smile with which she said:

"Love is always a miracle, Reinhold; why should not a second happen?
Did you not tell me that Elsa understood and did not resent the silent
language of your eyes? And even if, as I suppose, the late sad events
have been concealed from her, she must have known the conditions of the
inheritance, and also her father's character and views, and yet she had
no fear and saw nothing impossible in it, but believed, and so surely
still believes, that all things work for the best with true love."

"A pious belief, Cilli, such as well beseems a woman, but very ill
beseems a man who is expected and rightly to understand and respect the
world and the laws which regulate the world."

"Understand!" said Cilli, shaking her head, "yes! But respect them! How
can any one respect what is so senseless, so godless, as that must
necessarily be which will not allow he union of two hearts that God has
formed for each other? What God has joined together let not man put
asunder!"

"Ferdinanda and Ottomar might say that for themselves too, dear Cilli."

"Never!" cried Cilli. "God knows nothing of a love which believes in
nothing, not even in itself, and therefore bears nothing: no delay, no
remonstrance, however just; no obstacle, however unavoidable; and
proves thereby that it is itself nothing but pride, arrogance, and
adoration of self. No, Reinhold, you must not do yourself the injustice
of comparing your modest, noble love, with that dark, unholy passion!
And you ought not either to have such a difficult road before you as
those unhappy people. Your path must be free and light as your love;
you owe that to yourself and to the woman you love."

"Tell me what I ought to do, Cilli. I will believe in you as if an
angel spoke to me!"

"Only be yourself, Reinhold; neither more nor less. You, who have so
often opposed a bold front to the merciless, raging elements, must not
stoop your head before your fellow-men; you must, when the hour comes,
as it perhaps soon will, speak and act as your pure brave heart prompts
you. Will you?"

She put out her hand to Reinhold.

"I will," said Reinhold, taking her hand.

"And, Reinhold, as surely as these eyes will never see the light of the
sun, will that sun shine on your path, and you will live to be a joy to
yourself and a blessing to mankind."

"Good gracious, Cilli!" said Justus, opening the door and standing
still on the threshold; "are you celebrating Christmas in November?"

"Yes, Justus!" cried Reinhold; "Christmas, for Christmas it is when the
heavens open and the messengers of love come down to announce peace."

"Then," said Justus, shutting the door, "I strongly recommend to them
my Memorial Committee, which will not hold its peace, but is always
plaguing me with suggestions of which each one is wilder and more
impossible than the last. I have just found another letter four pages
long, which I have answered in as great a heat as it put me into. And
now, Cilli, give me a cup of tea with a little rum in it to cool me,
for such--ah! here comes Papa Kreisel! and in the best spirits, as I
can see by the twinkle of his eye. Berlin-Sundins have gone up another
half per cent.; now we shall have a jolly evening!"

And a jolly evening it was, and when Reinhold went to his room late at
night, he found a letter from the President, containing the official
announcement that the Minister approved of his appointment, and he must
present himself at once at the place in question, as he must enter upon
his duties on the 1st of December at latest.

Reinhold let the letter slip from his hand musingly.

"The hour may soon come, she said, and here it is already; it shall
find me worthy of her who is purity and truth personified."



                             CHAPTER VIII.


"Must I really pay the driver twenty silver groschen for my small self
and my small box?" asked Meta, bursting into Elsa's room.

"Good gracious, Meta!"

"First answer my question!"

"I do not know."

"Fräulein Elsa does not know either, August!" cried Meta into the
passage; "so pay him what he asks. And now, you dear, darling, best of
creatures, tell me if I am welcome!"

Meta threw her arms round Elsa's neck, laughing and crying both at
once. "You see, here I am at last, without any letter, after announcing
my arrival fifty times. I could not bear it any longer. As often as
papa said, 'You can have the horses tomorrow,' it never came to
anything; for when to-morrow arrived the horses were always wanted for
somebody or something else. So when he said it again this morning, as
we were having our coffee, I said, 'No! not to-morrow, but to-day,
immediately, on the spot, _tout de suite!_'--packed my box--that is why
it is so small, my clothes had not come home from the wash--you must
help me out--and here I am. And as for the cabman, that was only
because my papa said: 'Take care you are not cheated!' and my mamma
said: 'Cheated! nonsense! if only she has her wits about her!' And so
on the way I vowed most solemnly to be desperately wise and not to
disgrace you, and so I began at once with the cabman, you see."

And Meta danced about the room and clasped Elsa round the neck again,
and exclaimed: "This is the happiest night of my life, and if you send
me away again early tomorrow morning it will still have been the
happiest night!"

"And I hope that this evening will be followed by many happy ones for
both of us. Oh! you do not know, dear Meta, how glad I am to see you!"
cried Elsa, taking Meta in her arms and heartily returning her kiss.

"Now that I know that," said Meta, "I do not in the least want to know
about anything else; that is to say I should like it dreadfully, but it
is a point of honour with me now to be wise and discreet, you know; and
you do not know that side of my character yet--neither do I myself. We
must make acquaintance with me together, that will be awfully amusing.
Good gracious! what nonsense I am talking just from sheer happiness!"

Meta's presence was for the house in the Springbrunnenstrasse like a
sunbeam penetrating a chink in the shutters of a dark room. It is not
broad daylight, there are heavy shadows enough still; any one who
happens to pass a looking-glass starts at the dim reflection of his own
sad face; and people move carefully so as not to stumble, and speak
with bated breath for fear of what may yet be hidden in the darkness.
But still they move and speak; there is no longer the former silent
darkness with all its terrors.

Hardly a week had gone by, then, before the bright, talkative little
girl had become the favourite of one and all. The General, who had
almost entirely shut himself up in his own room lately, now spent a few
hours every evening, as he used to do, with the rest of the family,
unless, as had happened several times already, they were going out. He
allowed himself to be instructed by Meta in agricultural matters, in
which she declared herself to be an authority even with her papa--and
that was saying a great deal--and permitted her to question him as to
"what a battle really was like?" "Did Moltke sometimes yawn when it
lasted too long?" and "Might a lieutenant wear varnished boots in
battle?"

"It makes me shudder when I hear it all, Elsa; your friend is quite an
_enfant terrible_," said Sidonie; but was calmed and consoled at once
when Meta expressed the greatest interest in her "Court Etiquette," and
declared that it was a very different sort of thing from Strummin
etiquette. One found oneself always in the best society with highnesses
and serene highnesses; and if one did sometimes come down to the
backstairs, in her eyes a page of the backstairs was a person highly to
be respected.

"She really has very considerable talents," said Sidonie, "and a great
desire for instruction. I have given her the first part of Malortie's
'High Chamberlain;' you might read it aloud together for half an hour
this evening, instead of chattering till two o'clock in the morning.
Heaven only knows what you find to talk about!"

Even Ottomar, who since his engagement was hardly ever seen at
home--"He is not with us," said Carla--appeared again now, if he knew
that his father would not be there, and made so merry with the
mischievous girl, "that it cuts one to the heart," thought Elsa.

The servants even were enchanted with the strange young lady. Ottomar's
man protested that she would suit the Lieutenant ten times better; the
lady's-maid praised her because one could at any rate quarrel with her,
which was quite impossible with Fräulein Elsa; and August said she was
A 1.

In society, too, Meta made many conquests. Old Baroness Kniebreche
thought her _tout à fait ridicule, mais délicieuse_. The saying went
the round, like all that came from that toothless old mouth, and _la
délicieuse ridicule_ was welcomed everywhere. Wartenberg was of opinion
that the girl "always brought life into the place." Tettritz was always
reminded by her of the shepherd's flute in "Tristan;" Schönau said she
was an original; and Meta, in return, found everybody and everything
charming. She had never thought there were so many charming people;
"but you are the best of all, Elsa, and nothing else really signifies!"

And indeed while the kindhearted girl seemed to give herself up
entirely to the enjoyment of the gay bustle of society, and often
indeed to be quite absorbed in it, she really had only one serious
interest, and that was to love and please Elsa. She had come because
the melancholy tone of Elsa's last letters had startled and distressed
her, and she thought she knew better than any one else the cause of
this depression. That her brother's engagement, however much against
Elsa's wish, should distress her friend so deeply, she could not
believe; that the differences between her father and her Aunt Valerie
and their consequences could depress and discourage the usually
cheerful brave temper, she could not make up her mind to, either. Elsa,
however, had put forward no other reasons, and either could not or
would not give any others, as the actual connection of the tragical
circumstances attending Ottomar's betrothal was happily a secret to her
and to Aunt Sidonie, and her own secret was carefully guarded by her
modest pride.

So carefully, that even now in the confidential talks which to Aunt
Sidonie's horror extended so far into the night, when after tea with
the family, or on coming home from a party, they retired to their
rooms, no word passed her discreet lips, and Meta began to doubt her
own acuteness. All the more as the engagement which distressed Elsa so
much, really did look much more serious when looked at closely than it
had seemed to Meta from the brief, written accounts. Meta had now made
acquaintance personally with Ottomar and Carla; Ottomar, although Elsa
said he was only a shadow of his old self, had fascinated her, and
Carla was the only lady of their whole acquaintance whom she thoroughly
disliked. She too began to think that the union of such a dissimilar
couple could not possibly bring happiness, that Ottomar indeed was
already unhappy. Added to this was the uncomfortable state of affairs
which according to Elsa had certainly existed even before the
betrothal, between the father and son, but which now, when everything
was apparently put straight, had grown much worse, and for which Elsa
could discover no reason excepting Ottomar's still doubtful, perhaps
desperate, financial condition.

Meta had been taken also to see the Baroness Valerie, had learned to
sympathise with Elsa in her feeling for the interesting, and evidently
most unhappy woman, and here too stood with Elsa on the threshold of a
dark and terrible mystery. What were the relations between this woman
and the man whom she must have passionately loved, when she sacrificed
to him what is most dear to a woman; whom she must love still, as she
still made such sacrifices to him, sacrifices which yet seemed to be so
difficult to her! Had she not again and again said to Elsa that she
could no longer live without Elsa's love, or without her brother's
forgiveness? And yet in Giraldi's presence she did not venture to show
the smallest sign of love to Elsa, she did not venture to fulfil the
condition imposed by the General, if there was to be any questions
between him and her of a real reconciliation, of anything more than a
mere superficial renewal of social intercourse--did not venture to
separate from Giraldi, but seemed rather to stand now as ever under the
absolute dominion of that hateful man!

"It is a dreadful state of things of course," said Meta; "but I do not
see why you are to wear out your bright young life over it. Dear me!
there is something of the kind, after all, in every family. I do not
like my sister-in-law at all; my brother is a true Strummin, always
jolly and light-hearted, and she is a real wet blanket, who drives the
poor man wild with her dry matter-of-factness and perpetual
considerations. And as for one's uncles and aunts--there I really may
speak. Uncle Malte--at Grausewitz, you know, ten miles from us--we only
see once in three years, and then he and papa quarrel dreadfully; Uncle
Hans--he was a soldier, went into the Austrian service later, and
afterwards into the Brazilian--we have not heard of him these six
years; Aunt Gusting--who married a Baron Carlström in Sweden--has grown
so fine that she only stayed half a day with us when she came to
Strummin last autumn; she wrote afterwards that the combined smell of
tobacco-smoke and plum-jam had been too disagreeable to her, and I
could tell you a thousand other heart-breaking stories of our family.
My papa always says: 'If a man is to be responsible for all his
relations, there is an end of all pleasure.'"

So spoke Meta to comfort her friend, as she plaited her long red-gold
hair, of which she was rather vain now since Signor Giraldi had said,
at a large party at Aunt Valerie's, that it was of the true Titian
colour; or sat prattling coaxingly by the side of Elsa's bed as she had
done on the first evening at Golmberg.

Meta often recurred to that evening. "It had been the birthday of their
friendship," said Meta; and the sight of Count Golm, whom they met at
every party, and who had even lately once or twice joined their family
circle at tea-time, kept the dear remembrance always fresh.

But though Meta seemed inclined to be always indulging in
recollections, she had no idea of doing so in reality, and her
supposition that Elsa did not care a bit about the Count had been
confirmed every time she saw the two together; but when she spoke of
all that had happened at Golmberg, of the evening meal and the morning
walk, it was quite natural, quite unavoidable that amongst others a
name should be mentioned which Elsa never voluntarily allowed to pass
her lips, and which Meta was convinced sounded day and night in Elsa's
heart.

Just because it never passed her lips. "There must be a reason for
that," said Meta to herself; "and also for his never appearing here
where he has been invited and, as I hear from Aunt Sidonie, was so
kindly and even warmly received; and the reason must be one and the
same, and can only be a sorrowful one, and that must be why Elsa is so
sad."

But any remaining doubt of the justice of this conclusion vanished when
one day, quite accidentally--she had not been looking for it, really
not, but her clothes had the most obstinate disposition to get mixed up
with Elsa's--she felt a hard substance in the pocket of the blue
tarletane dress that Elsa had worn the evening before at the
Sattelstädts', which she took at first for a purse, and as she did not
quite trust the lady's-maid she thought it best to take it out; and
when she had taken it out she found to her great surprise that it was a
pocket-compass in a pretty little ivory box. And in the inside of the
box was engraved in very small, but quite legible, golden letters, a
certain name which Elsa seemed quite to have forgotten. Meta had
thought that as wisdom and discretion were now a point of honour with
her, she could not do better than keep silence as to her discovery; had
closed the box again--not without a most indiscreet smile--slipped it
back into the pocket, and sat down in the window to write to her mamma,
and was so deeply absorbed in her writing that she never looked up once
when Elsa, who had only gone to look after her household affairs,
returned and walked up and down the room two or three times without
saying a word, each time coming a little nearer to the tarletane
dress, which was hanging carelessly over the back of a chair; and at
last--Meta had again got into trouble with her writing and could not of
course look up--took the dress from the chair and hung it up in the
wardrobe. And in doing so the case must have fallen out, though Meta
heard nothing drop; at any rate, there was nothing now in the pocket,
as Meta assured herself when Elsa again went out--not by accident this
time. "I must know how matters stand," said Meta, "for her sake!"

During the next few days Meta was most palpably false to her rule. Very
contrary to her custom, she was silent and absent in society, and, on
the other hand, exhibited a most indiscreet curiosity towards the
servants concerning the circumstances and customs of the neighbours,
particularly of the Schmidts, carrying her indiscretion even so far as
to talk of her approaching departure, and that it was high time to pay
various visits to friends of her parents whom she had most shamefully
neglected until now. She did, in fact, go out several times without
Elsa, and on the afternoon of the third day in particular disappeared
for several hours, and, though she came back to tea, was so
extraordinarily agitated that even Aunt Sidonie observed it, and Elsa
began to be seriously uneasy.

But she was horrified when, both having retired earlier than usual,
Meta flung her arms round her, and with a flood of tears exclaimed,
"Elsa, Elsa! you need have no more fear or trouble! I swear it to you
by what is to me most sacred--by our friendship--he loves you! I know
it from his own lips!"

The first effect of these words did not seem to be that wished and
hoped for by Meta, for Elsa too burst into tears; but Meta, as she held
her friend in her arms, and pressed Elsa's head against her bosom, felt
that her tears, however hot and passionate, were not tears of grief;
that the dull anguish that had so long oppressed Elsa's poor heart had
been removed at last, and that she might be proud and happy to have
done this service to her friend, and broken the spell.

"And now let me tell you how I set about it," said she, as she drew
Elsa down to the sofa beside her and took her hands in hers. "The whole
difficulty, you see, was in speaking to him; for how could I speak to a
man who never comes here, whom we never meet anywhere, either in
society or in the streets, although we live next door to each other,
and whom one cannot visit, even with the best intentions in the world?
So I laid myself out to hear what the servants had to say. August gave
me the most information; he is some sort of cousin to the old servant
over the way, and I heard from him, in addition to what I knew already,
that he always spends the morning at work in his room, and the
afternoon in the studio of a sculptor called Anders, who is
'modulating' him, according to August. I thought it might be modelling,
although for my part I did not know what that was either. Well, perhaps
you will remember that on Thursday evening, at your Aunt Valerie's,
there was a great discussion about art, and Signor Giraldi repeatedly
mentioned Herr Anders, and that he had long intended to visit Herr
Anders some day in his studio, and look at his newest production,
since, unfortunately, the Satyr and Cupid was already sold. I hardly
paid any attention at the time, but now I remembered it all word for
word, and my plan was made. I paid a visit yesterday to Aunt Valerie,
brought the conversation again round to art, and said how immensely I
should like to see a sculptor at work for once, and would Signor
Giraldi take me some day to a studio, and if possible to that of Herr
Anders, because he lived so near us and my time was getting so short
now? Signor Giraldi, I must allow him that, is more courteous than any
of the other gentlemen, so he was ready at once; and your aunt agreed
to go too, but only, I thought, because Signor Giraldi wished it. And I
was right; for when this afternoon, punctually at four o'clock--that
was the time settled--you are not angry with me now, are you, that I
ran away from you?--I went there. Signor Giraldi received me alone. I
must put up with him--your aunt had got a headache; all said with his
polite smile that you know so well. But his eyes looked wickedly dark:
I thought at once, 'There has been a scene.' I was dreadfully sorry,
and the thought of making the expedition alone with Signor Giraldi was
not particularly consoling; but you were in question, and I would have
gone through the Abruzzi with Rinaldini--keeping my eyes open, you
know. However, it was not so bad after all, for just as we were going
out, who should appear but your heavenly aunt, with red eyes, alas! and
looking very ill, but dressed and ready to go out. Signor Giraldi
kissed her hand--Ottomar himself could not have done it so well--and
whispered a few words in Italian at which your aunt smiled. I tell you,
he can twist her round his little finger. So out we went; and now pay
attention, you dear, sweet, darling creature!"

Here the two friends embraced each other tearfully, till Meta, in her
wisdom, sobbed out: "I am sure I do not know why you are crying, and
you do not know either, you see; and if you get so excited and spoil
the thread of my story I cannot tell it properly, you see! So now, were
you ever in a studio? Of course not. Imagine to yourself a room, like
our church at Strummin--you do not know it, by the way; imagine, then,
a room as wide and high as you please, and the whole high wide room
full--no, it is indescribable, particularly for a young girl. I assure
you I did not know sometimes where to turn my eyes; but he--no, you
really must be a little sensible now--he helped me safely over
everything, and only took me about wherever it was quite, or at least
very nearly proper; and then we had--oh, dear! I had arranged
everything so nicely while we were at tea, and now I have forgotten it
all. I only know that when we came in, quite unexpectedly, you know, he
jumped up from his chair as if he had been electrified, and turned
quite red with pleasure; and when at last we were able to say a few
words quietly together, he said nothing but, 'Fräulein von Strummin!
how is it possible! how is it possible!' Dear me, Elsa, it was really
quite unnecessary for him to say anything more; I knew all about it
now! But of course we did not stop there. I had to tell him how it was
possible, and that I had been here for a fortnight with you--and--you
must not think, Elsa, that I was foolish or indiscreet--we talked about
you, of course, and why he never showed himself now--I was obliged
to ask that! And then he said, 'How gladly I would come I need
not assure _you_'--with an emphasis on the _you_, Elsa, you
know--'unfortunately'--now listen, Elsa!--'there are circumstances so
powerful that with the best will in the world we cannot set them aside;
and I beg you to believe that I suffer more from these circumstances
than I can or dare say.' And then he passed his hand across his brow
and said, 'I will certainly come once more, however, before I go away.'
'Where?' 'I had a letter yesterday evening from'--you will never guess,
Elsa; he had a letter from the dear President, and--only think,
Elsa!--he really has got the post of Superintendent of Pilots at
Wissow--at Wissow, Elsa! I really did not know what to say for joy, but
he read my feelings in my face, and smiled and said, 'We shall be
almost neighbours, then, Fräulein von Strummin.' 'And we will be
neighbourly,' said I. 'That we will,' said he. 'And if we ever get a
visit from Berlin,' said I--'And you honour me with an invitation,'
said he--'you will come?' said I. And then he said,--no, then he said
nothing, Elsa; but he pressed my hand! There, Elsa, take it back, for
it was not meant for me, but for you, you dear, dear sweet thing!"

The two friends held each other in a long embrace, and then there
ensued a searching investigation of the important question: What could
Reinhold have meant by "circumstances!"

"We shall never get to the bottom of it," said Meta at last; "the
circumstances are just the circumstances that you are called Elsa von
Werben and he is called Reinhold Schmidt, and that you are a wealthy
heiress and might if you pleased marry the richest and most
distinguished man, and that he is poor; and wife of the Superintendent
of Pilots certainly does not sound so well as baroness or countess.
Perhaps he has heard, too--people hear everything in Berlin--that you
would lose your inheritance if you followed the dictates of your heart,
and so he really is right in talking of 'circumstances,' dreadful
circumstances."

Elsa agreed with her in it all, but still could not see any reason why
he had not come again to see them, and why even her father apparently
avoided his name. She would confess now for the first time that three
days ago she had been rejoicing exceedingly at the thought of the
Sattelstädts' party, because she knew that Reinhold had also been
invited, and even there he had sent an excuse--a proof how he avoided
every possibility of meeting her even on neutral ground.

"I will get to the bottom of it," said Meta.

"How would it be possible?"

Meta laughed; "I never do anything by halves, to-morrow I shall go
there again. Will you come with me?"

"Meta!"

"You would not do, either," said Meta; "it must be an old lady, and a
lady of some position. We have got one, however; tomorrow morning I
shall pay her a visit, and to-morrow afternoon, as I said, we will
begin."

"But for goodness' sake, Meta, what are you talking about?"

Meta said it ought to have been a surprise; but she could not manage it
under three sittings at the best, and she could not keep it secret so
long, so that after all it might be better to confess everything at
once.

"We were obliged, you see," said Meta, "to break off our conversation
at last, and take a little notice of the others, who, meanwhile, had
been wandering about the studio and talking Italian together, which
Herr Anders speaks beautifully, Signor Giraldi says. There was an
Italian there too, such a handsome man, with a paper cap on his
raven-black hair. 'They all wear paper caps on account of the marble
dust,' said Herr Anders, who certainly is not handsome himself. I never
could have believed that an artist, and such a great one as he is said
to be, could look so little dignified and be so small. And when you
hear him speak, you cannot believe it at all; for the way he chatters,
Elsa, is just like me, you know; and he laughs, Elsa, I cannot describe
how he laughs, so that one laughs too with all one's heart only to see
and hear him laugh. You never saw anything so funny, excepting his
little curly poodle, which is just as funny as himself. We were
standing then before Reinhold's portrait--round, you know, and
raised--in relief they call it, and such a likeness! fit to be kissed,
I assure you.' 'For whom is that?' asked I. 'For the future wife of the
original,' said Herr Anders; 'she can wear it on a black velvet ribbon
round her throat as a locket.' Just think, Elsa, what nonsense! a
locket as large as a small carriage-wheel! he always talks like that.
'It is a study for that design,' said Reinhold. So then we looked at
the designs--exquisite, I assure you. A battle, that would suit your
papa! and 'Ambulance preparations,' with an old gentleman sitting
behind a table, and a blind girl coming up with her gifts--I nearly
cried when I saw that, and your aunt had tears in her eyes--and other
women and girls. 'How delightful to be one of them,' cried I, quite
from the bottom of my heart. 'You might have that pleasure at any
moment, and give me the greatest possible satisfaction at the same
time,' said Justus--that is his Christian name--funny one, is not it?
'How so?' said I. 'Look, here is a splendid place still,' said he--he
says splendid, you must know, at every third word--'for a really bright
cheerful face, such as I have been wanting for a long time, because the
thing was getting too sentimental to please me, only I had no good
model for it; do, please, be my model!' Dear me, Elsa, I did not know
in the least what that might be, and as I told you before, there were
some wonderful things in the studio; but I just looked at your
Reinhold, and he said, 'Yes, do it,' with his eyes, like that, you
know! and so I said quite boldly, 'Yes, I will do it;' and Signor
Giraldi said that a queen might envy me the honour of being
immortalised in such a work of art, and so the day after to-morrow I am
to be immortalised!"

Elsa could have listened all night long; but Meta, who had gone through
such an eventful day, and had never quite got over the habit of being
tired to death at ten o'clock at latest, could hardly keep her eyes
open while she talked, so Elsa put her to bed and kissed the good
little thing, who put her arms round her neck and murmured sleepily:
"Is it not, Elsa--blue tarletane--compass--one more kiss!" and before
Elsa had drawn herself up again was fast asleep.



                              CHAPTER IX.


Meta carried out her heroic design without allowing herself to be
intimidated by anything, even by Aunt Rikchen's spectacles, "And they
are no joke," said Meta, when in the evening she reported the result of
the first sitting. "I could easier hold out against Baroness
Kniehreche's eye-glasses. Behind those there is nothing but a pair of
old blind eyes, of which I feel anything but fear; but when Aunt
Rikchen allows her spectacles to slip to the end of her nose, she then
begins really to see so clearly, that one would feel anxious and
uneasy if one had not so good a conscience. And do you know, Elsa,
that something particular must have occurred between you and the
Schmidts--what, I am quite in the dark about, as the good lady mixes
everything together higgledy-piggledy; but she is very angry with you
Werbens, as papa is with the Griebens, our neighbours, who are always
trespassing on his boundaries, he says; and you must have been
trespassing on the Schmidts, and that is the reason, you may depend
upon it, why Reinhold has got so distant. We shall hear nothing from
him; but Aunt Rikchen never can keep anything to herself, and we are
already the best of friends. She says I am a good girl, and that after
all I really had nothing to do with it, and the dove who brought the
olive branch from the earth did not know either what it had in its
beak: and then I saw that Reinhold, who was in the studio with me,
looked at her, and Herr Anders also looked quite grave, and glanced
again at Reinhold. They three know something, that much is clear, and I
will find it out, you may depend upon it."

But Meta did not find it out, and could not do so, as Aunt Rikchen did
not herself know the exact state of affairs, and the others were most
careful to keep her in ignorance. Meta's communication therefore by no
means contributed to Elsa's peace of mind, and if Elsa had at first, at
least, had the happiness of hearing of Reinhold through Meta, how he
had come to the studio and kept her company for a long time, and what
he had said, and how he had looked, even this source of consolation was
now decreasing, and seemed gradually to be drying up altogether. One
day he had scarcely been there for five minutes, another time only just
passed through the studio, a third time Meta had not seen him at all, a
fourth time she could not even say whether she had seen him or not.
Elsa thought she knew the meaning of this apparent negligence. Meta had
found out something which she could not tell her, or had in some other
way become convinced of the hopelessness of her love; and the ample
details which she gave from her other experiences and observations in
the studio, only served to conceal her embarrassment.

It was therefore with a very divided heart that Elsa heard how Meta
daily grew in favour with Aunt Rikchen, who was really a most excellent
old lady, and whose heart was in the right place, if her spectacles did
always get crooked, or slipped to the end of her nose. And how there
was something especially touching to her in the good lady, for she
herself would look just like that fifty years hence. But far more
touching to her was a lovely young blind girl, who now came every day,
because Herr Anders wished to bring the two together in one group. "When
she spoke it was just as if a lark were singing high up in the blue sky
on a Sunday mornings when all is still in the fields; and Justus said
that Nature had never before produced such a contrast as she and Cilli
made, and if he succeeded in reproducing it, no one could speak to him
again save hat in hand. There was also next to Justus's studio another
which aroused all her curiosity, because the owner of it never allowed
herself to be seen, and she could form no idea of what a lady could be
like who modelled in clay or hammered at the marble, least of all of
such a beautiful, elegant lady as Justus said Fräulein Schmidt was, for
you know, Elsa, a sculptor looks like a baker, only that he has clay in
his fingers instead of dough, and is powdered with marble-dust instead
of flour, and you would hardly take such a queer-looking creature for a
respectable gentleman, much less for a great artist, and Justus says
the one who looks cleanest and most elegant in spite of his working
blouse, and is handsomer than any one I ever saw in my life, is no true
artist, as he can do nothing more than point and block out; but you,
poor child, do not know what pointing is. Pointing, you must know, is
when you take a thing like a stork's bill, you know--"

And then followed a very long and very complicated explanation, out of
all which Elsa only gathered Meta's desire to talk of everything
excepting what alone lay near her own heart. "The work will soon be
finished," said Elsa to herself, "and the whole result of the fine plan
will be that I can no longer consider Reinhold's holding back as a mere
chance," But the work did not seem likely to be finished.

"Such a countenance had never before come under his notice," said
Justus. "You might as well model the spring clouds, which every moment
change their form." And again, when the portrait for the bas-relief was
finished, "You can have no idea how dreadfully absurd I look, Elsa,
like a Chinese!" Justus had begun to work at the completion of the
"Ambulance preparations." "And I cannot leave the poor man in the lurch
after all his trouble, for you know, Elsa, it is no longer a question
of the head only--that is done--but of the whole figure, the attitude,
gesture, in a word, a new subject, you know; but I really believe, poor
child, you do not know what a subject is. A subject is when a man has
no idea what he shall make, and then suddenly sees something, where in
reality there is nothing to see--say a cat or a washing-tub--"

This was the longest, but also the last explanation which Meta gave to
her friend out of the fulness of her newly-acquired knowledge.

For the next few days Elsa had more than usual to do in the household,
and another matter imperiously claimed her attention. The final
conference over the future management of the Warnow estates took place
at her father's house, after two months of discussion backwards and
forwards over it, and the three votes of Herr von Wallbach, Councillor
Schieler, and Giraldi, as the Baroness's proxy, in opposition to the
General's single voice--who recorded his dissentient view in a
minute--had determined the sale of the whole property at the earliest
possible opportunity, and Count Axel von Golm had been accepted as the
purchaser in the event of his agreeing to the conditions of sale
settled at the same by the trustees.

Her father appeared after the long conference paler and more exhausted
than Elsa had ever seen him.

"They have done it at last, Elsa," he said. "The Warnow property, which
has been two hundred years in the possession of the family, will be
sold and cut up. Your aunt Valerie may justify it if she can, since she
and she alone is to blame that an old and honourable family falls
miserably to the ground. Had she been a good and faithful wife to my
friend--but what use is it harping upon bygone things? It is folly in
my own eyes, how much more so then in those of others, to whom the
present is everything! And I must confess the gentlemen have acted
quite in the spirit of the age, cleverly, rationally, and in your
interests. If the results are as brilliant as the Councillor flatters
himself, you will be at least twice as rich as before. It is very
unnatural, Elsa, but I hope he triumphs too soon. The Count--whom he
proposes as purchaser--can only pay the outrageous sum named--for the
entire property is really scarcely worth half a million, let alone a
whole million--if he is certain that so great a burden will be
immediately lifted off his shoulders; that is to say, if the scandalous
project is carried out, the danger and folly of which I so strongly
urged with the help of the staff and Captain Schmidt. If it does,
however, come to anything, if the concession is granted, it would be an
affront to that small authority which I can lay claim to, but which I
do claim, so that I should look upon it in the same light as if I had
been passed over in the approaching promotions. I should at once send
in my resignation. The decision must be made soon. For Golm it is a
question of life and death. He will either be utterly ruined or a
Cr[oe]sus; and I shall be his Excellency or a poor pensioner--all quite
in the spirit of the age, which is always playing a game of hazard.
Well, God's will be done! I can only win, not lose, since no one and
nothing can rob me of the best and highest--my clear conscience--and
the knowledge that I have always stood to the old colours, and have
acted as a Werben should act."

So said the father to Elsa in a state of agitation, which, hard as he
tried to control it, quivered and broke out in his words, and in the
very vibrations of his deep voice. It was the first time that he had
given her such a proof of his confidence, as to let her be a witness of
a struggle which formerly he would have fought out in silence in his
proud soul. Was it chance? Was it intentional? Was it but the
outpouring of the overflowing vessel? Or did her father suspect or know
her secret? Did he mean to say to her, "Such a decision may soon be
awaiting you also. I trust and hope that you, too, will stand to the
colours which are sacred to me, that you also will prove yourself a
Werben."

This had taken place in the morning. Meta, after another sitting, had
unexpectedly received an invitation to dinner from a friend of her
mother's. She should not return till the evening. For the first time
Elsa scarcely missed her friend. She was glad to be alone, and to be
able to give way to her thoughts in silence. They were not cheerful,
these thoughts. But she felt it a duty to think them out, so as to see
her way clearly if possible. She thought she had succeeded, and found
in it a calm satisfaction, which, as she said to herself, was truly her
whole compensation for all she had renounced in secret.

And in this resigned frame of mind she received with tolerable
composure the news which Meta brought on her return home, which
otherwise would have filled her with sorrow, that Meta was going--must
go. She had found at the lady's to whom she had gone a letter from
mamma, in which mamma made such terrible lamentations over her long
absence, that she could not do otherwise than go at once--that was to
say, the first thing tomorrow morning. What she felt she would not and
could not say. It was an extraordinary frame of mind, in any case, as
whilst she seemed to be drowned in tears, she broke into a smile the
next moment, which she in vain attempted to suppress, until the smiles
again merged into tears; and so she went on for the rest of the
evening. The next morning this state of mind had reached such a pitch
that Elsa became really uneasy about the extraordinary girl, and begged
her to postpone her journey until she was somewhat calmer. But Meta
stood firm. She was quite determined, and Elsa would think her quite
right if she knew all; and she should know all, but by letter; by word
of mouth she could not tell her without dying of laughter, and she did
not wish to die just yet, for reasons which she also could not tell her
without dying of laughter.

And so she carried on the joke till she got into the carriage, in which
August was to take her to the station. She had absolutely forbidden any
one else to accompany her, "for reasons, Elsa, you know, which--there!
you will see it all in the letter, you know, which--good-bye, dear,
sweet, incomparable Elsa!" And off drove Meta.

In the evening August, not without some solemnity, gave Elsa a letter
which the young lady had given him at the last moment before starting,
with strict injunctions to deliver it punctually twelve hours later, on
the stroke of nine in the evening. It was a thick letter, in Meta's
most illegible handwriting, from which Elsa with difficulty deciphered
the following:


                                              "6 o'clock p.m.

"Dearest Elsa,

"Do not believe a word of what, when I return home, I--ah! that is no
use. You will not read this letter till--I write it here at Frau von
Randon's, so as to lose no time--August will give it to you when I am
gone. Well, it is all untrue! My mother has not written at all. For the
last week I have deceived and imposed upon you abominably, as since
then I have no longer been on your behalf, and it would have been quite
useless if I had; for it is now clear to me that your Reinhold has
discovered long since how matters stood with us, and kept out of the
way, even before we ourselves had a suspicion; for you may believe me,
Elsa, that when two men are such good friends, they stand by one
another in such matters as well as we girls could. And before dear
blind Cilli we did not think it necessary either to have any reserve,
because she always smiled so merrily when we teased each other; and
then she could not see, and in such cases, you know, the eyes play a
great part. It began, indeed, with the eyes, for till then everything
had gone on quite properly; but when he came to them he said, 'I shall
now have an opportunity of finding out exactly what colour your eyes
are; I have been puzzling my brains about it all this time.' I
maintained they were yellow, Aunt Rikchen said green, he himself brown;
and Cilli, to whom the decision was left, said she was certain they
were blue, because I was so cheerful, and cheerful people always had
blue eyes. So we went on joking about it; and every day he began again
about my eyes, and as you cannot very well talk about eyes without
looking into them, I looked into his eyes while he looked in mine,
and--I don't know whether you have made the same discovery, Elsa, but
when one has done so for a few days, one begins to see more and more
clearly--quite down to the bottom of them--quite curious things, I can
tell you, which makes one turn hot and cold, and one often does not
know whether to laugh and to give the man who looks at you like that a
box on the ear, or to burst into tears and fall on his neck.

"I had felt like this already once or twice, and to-day again, only
rather worse than before. The assistants had gone to dinner, and Aunt
Rikchen to see after her household affairs; there were only he and I,
and Cilli, and Justus wished to go on working if we did not mind, that
he might finish once for all. But he did not work so industriously as
usual, and because I saw that, I also did not sit so still as usual;
and we--that is, he and I--played all sorts of tricks with Lesto, who
must lie down and pretend to be dead, and who barked furiously at me
when I pretended to beat his master, and other nonsense, until we
suddenly heard the sound of the door shutting which leads to the
garden, and--good gracious, Elsa! how can I tell you?--Cilli had gone
away without our having noticed it. We thought we must have gone rather
too far then, and so became quite quiet--as still as mice--so that you
might have heard a pin fall; and I was so embarrassed, Elsa--so
embarrassed, you know--and getting every moment more so, when he
suddenly knelt down right before me--my knees were trembling so, that I
had sat down--and again looked so into my eyes, and I--I was forced to,
Elsa--I asked quite softly what he meant. 'I mean,' said he--but also
quite softly--'that you must do what I ask you.' 'I shall box your ears
if you do not get up directly,' said I, still more softly. 'I shall not
get up,' said he, but so close to me that I could no longer box his
ears, but instead fell upon his neck, upon which Lesto, who evidently
thought that his master's life was in danger, began to bark furiously;
and I, just to quiet Lesto and to make Justus get up off his knees,
said 'Yes' to everything he asked--that I loved him, and would be his
wife, and everything else that one says in such a terrible moment.

"And now only think, Elsa, Elsa! when, in the course of five minutes,
we had quieted Lesto and were going out--as I said I had sworn to be
discreet and to do you credit, and that I would not remain a second
longer with so dangerous a man in so lonely a place, with all those
dreadful marble figures--and as we went out arm-in-arm, Cilli suddenly
stepped towards us from between two of the statues, herself as white as
marble, but with the most heavenly smile on her sweet face, and said we
must not be angry with her, as the door had shut itself and she could
not get out, and she had heard all--her hearing was so acute, and there
was such an echo in the studio. Oh, Elsa, I almost sank into the floor,
for I think there had not been words only. But that divine creature, as
if she had seen how red I grew, took me by the hand and said I need not
be ashamed; there was no need to be ashamed of a true, honourable love;
and I did not yet know how happy I was, how proud I ought to be; but I
should learn it gradually, and then I should be grateful for my proud
happiness, and love Justus very, very much, as an artist needed far,
far more love than other men. And then she took Justus's hand, and
said, 'And you, Justus, you will love her like the sunshine, without
which you cannot live.' And as she said so, a ray of sunshine fell
through the studio window right upon the dear thing, and she looked
transfigured--so marvellously beautiful, with the poor blind eyes
turned upwards, that at last I could not help crying, and she had great
difficulty in quieting me. And then she said: 'You must not remain here
in this state of agitation; you must at once return home and tell your
mother, and no one before her, for my knowing it is a mere chance for
which you are not to blame.' And I promised her all she wished, and I
feel now how right the dear angel was, as I am quite mad with delight,
and should certainly have done some folly for very joy; and that I must
not do, since I have sworn to be sensible and to do you credit. I shall
start to-morrow morning, and shall be home to-morrow evening at eight
o'clock, by half-past shall have told mamma all, and at nine August
will give you this letter, as after mamma you are, of course, the next.
I told Cilli so at once, and she quite agreed to it; and her last words
were, 'Pray to God that your friend may be as happy as you are now.'
And I will do so, Elsa, you may depend upon it; and in all other
respects also depend upon your ever loving, wise

                                                      "Meta.

"P.S.--Of course, 'he' is an exception to the 'all.' I am very sorry,
but it cannot be helped, you know."


"The dear, foolish child!" said Elsa, as she finished the letter, with
a deep sigh; "I congratulate her with all my whole heart."

And as she sat there and thought over how wonderfully it had all come
about, and how happy the two must be in their love, her eyes became
more fixed, her breathing ever harder, and then she covered her eyes
with her hands, bent her head upon Meta's letter, and cried bitterly.



                               CHAPTER X.


Three days later--the autumn sun was going down, and it was already
getting dusk in the large room--Giraldi sat at his writing-table near
the window, reading the letters which had arrived for him. A
considerable number had accumulated in the course of the day, which he
had spent since early morning in important business in the town, for
the sale of the property to the Count had taken place to-day; there
were political letters from Paris and London, ecclesiastical matters
from Brussels and Cologne, a detailed report from a trusty friend at
Strasburg upon the state of affairs in Alsace-Lorraine, business
letters of the most varied kind--English, French, Italian, German.
Giraldi read one as easily as the other; he even made his marginal
notes always in the same language as his correspondent wrote in. "It
grows and grows," murmured he: "we are not far now from the crisis; and
how delightful it is to hear from the mouths of others as extraordinary
news, things that could not have happened without us. Unfortunately
they are beginning to find out here the importance of the untitled and
undecorated Signor, the mere private secretary to a lady of rank, and
the best part of my working powers will be lost. So long as one is a
nobody one can hear everything and hear it correctly; but the moment
people begin to point at one, one learns very little, and that little
wrong. That is the curse of royalty."

He took up a letter, which he had before thrown on one side, taking it
from its shape to be one of the begging letters which he constantly
received from poor fellow-countrymen, or from native _chevaliers
d'industrie_. "It is a priest's hand," he said. "Ah! from my
correspondent at Tivoli. Well! the worthy man has kept me a long time
waiting for an answer." He hastily opened the letter, ran through the
contents, and then leaned back in his chair with a look of annoyance.

"H'm!" he muttered, "the old fox will not fall into the trap. He has
understood me, that is clear. He admits that there are many wonderful
dispensations of Providence, he even hints that the boy's birth is
shrouded in mystery, which means, in Italian, that he is not the son of
his parents, only that circumstances are too much against my paternity.
Idiot! He must himself know that best; or is he not so stupid? Have I
not offered him enough? I ought to have left the price to himself. I
would pay anything. I----"

He had got up, and slowly paced up and down through the darkening room.
"That is to say, I do not care to throw away my money, and the first
experiment has miserably failed. Her reluctance to see the boy was
decided enough, and she will not even discover a trace of likeness;
says he is the type of the Roman peasants, such as are found at Albano,
and Tivoli, and everywhere. Not even his beauty will she allow. There
is no soul in the countenance, only the commonplace, brilliant stamp of
a strong, sensual nature. And to that she holds with an obstinacy which
she has never shown in anything else. It seems that the mother's
instinct cannot be deceived. Bah! what deception cannot be carried out,
if a man only sets about it in the right way! I have been too hasty,
that is what has startled her. I must allow that I have been, too
sanguine, must play at resignation, and then perhaps like a woman, out
of sheer caprice, she will come round herself--

"What is it, François?"

"The lady in black, monsieur."

"Once for all, she is to be shown in to me by the other passage."

"They are working in the other passage to-day, monsieur."

"Never mind. You will take her back by the other passage."

"Very well, monsieur; can she come in?"

"One moment. Madame dines at home. I dine out, at Herr von
Wallbach's--the carriage for me at half-past five. Let madame know, and
that at a quarter-past five I will come and take leave of her. Has
Signor Antonio been here in the course of the day?"

"No, monsieur."

"No one else is to be admitted. Let the lady come in."

Giraldi did not get up as the lady entered, and now only gave her a
sign to take a place near him at the writing-table.

"I was expecting you. How are we getting on?"

"No better than on the first day."

"That is bad."

"It is very wearisome," said Bertalda, throwing back her veil, "very
wearisome. I have come to tell you so; I am sick of the whole thing."

She lay back in her chair, with a look of ill-humour, knocking the tips
of her boots against each other.

"Bah!" said Giraldi, "how much do you want?" and he stretched out his
hand to a casket which stood before him on the table.

"I want nothing," said Bertalda. "I told you at once, the first time
you sought me out, that I only did it out of pity for poor Werben, and
because I have a weakness for him, and because I wish to annoy that
fine Philip, who behaved so abominably to Victorine, and I wish from my
heart that his sister should be no better."

"I have told you already that it was not from Herr Schmidt that I
learnt that Herr von Werben is visiting you again."

"Then you heard it from Count Golm, and I cannot abide him; he will
have to wait a long time before I give him a good word, and now----"

"My dear child, permit me to observe that you are not very judicious,"
said Giraldi, smiling. "You have half a dozen personal reasons for
doing what you are doing; I pay you besides, and beg you moreover to
consider me at your disposal in that matter, and you want to give the
whole affair up because----"

"It bores me! I can bear anything except being bored."

"What is it that bores you? Explain that to me."

"What is there to explain?" cried Bertalda; "it is just tiresome. If
one is foolishly in love with a man, and he comes and weeps in one's
arms, and one hears from others why he weeps, why should one not do him
a kindness and help him to gain the woman he loves? Why, goodness me,
there is nothing very hard in that; I am a good-natured creature, and
if there is a little acting to be done--why one learns to cut a few
capers in the ballet, and it is all the more amusing. And the acting
you suggested was very pretty so far, and there is no great harm in
standing as a model for a couple of days, when there is nothing to be
done but to hold up your bare arms, and half the time is spent in
talking too; but on the third day one ought to be able to say,
So-and-so is waiting for you at such a place, and make an end of it!"

"I gave you permission yesterday to hint at the real state of affairs."

"Oh yes, hint!" cried Bertalda. "I told her the whole story to-day.
There!"

Giraldi half started from his chair, but immediately recovered himself,
and asked in his quiet way:

"What do you mean by the whole story, my dear child?"

"Why, that I am not a model, and that I have come on Herr von Werben's
account--"

"Sent by Signor Giraldi----"

"What! as if I would have allowed myself to be sent if I had not
chosen."

"Of your own accord then--so much the better! And how did she take it?"

Bertalda burst into a ringing laugh.

"My goodness!" cried she, "it was a farce! She did not know whether to
thank me on her knees, or to trample me under her feet. I think she
mentally did first one and then the other, whilst with clasped hands,
and crying as I never saw a girl cry before, she stood in front of me,
and then raged about the room with uplifted arms, as I never saw any
one rage before either. First she called me a saint, a penitent
Magdalen, I don't know what all, and a moment after a hussy, a--well, I
don't know what either. It went on so for at least an hour without
pause, and the end of the story was----"

"That you were not to presume to return?"

"Heaven forbid! To-morrow I was to return, and then it would all begin
over again, and it really is too wearisome, I say, and I shall not go
there again to-morrow." Bertalda got up with one last energetic tap of
her boots. Giraldi remained sitting, stroking his beard.

"You are right," he said; "do not go there again to-morrow, nor the
next day; on the third day she will come to you."

Bertalda bent forward to look more closely at the man, who said this
with such certainty, as if he were reading it from a paper which lay on
the table before him.

"Supposing, of course," continued Giraldi, "that you do not answer the
letter which she will write to you on the second day, and that
altogether you play at drawing back a little as a person whose kindness
has been misunderstood, and so on. If you can and will do this we
remain friends; if you will not--it is not well to make an enemy of me,
believe me."

Bertalda rose and went behind her chair, and leant both her elbows on
the back.

"If I only knew," she said, "what you have to do with it all?"

"And if you knew?"

"Then I should know what to do myself. I am not afraid of you--what can
you do to me? but I fear for poor Ottomar. I do not wish that any harm
should happen to him."

Giraldi got up also, seated himself sideways in the chair on which
Bertalda leant, and took her hands in his.

"Good girl!" he said; "and if I swear to you that I am Ottomar's best
friend, that he has no secrets from me, not even that of his debts;
that it is I who have just now helped him up again, that it is from me
that he has the hundred-thaler notes, of which, perhaps, one or two
have found their way into your pocket; and if in case you will not
believe me, I show it to you in black and white, in Ottomar's own hand,
what would you say then?"

"Nothing at all," answered Bertalda. She had, while he still held her
hands, come round the chair, and suddenly sat down on his lap, with her
hands, which she now freed, stroking his soft black beard. "At most,
that you are a charming uncle, such as are scarce, and that you deserve
a kiss, and--there, you have one."

She had wound her arms round his neck, and kissed him, first teasingly,
then with a passion which seemed to surprise even herself, and which
also deprived him for the moment of the full use of his faculties, so
that he did not hear the knock at the door, and only let Bertalda slip
off his knee when François was already in the room. Bertalda gave a
shriek of surprise, and hastily drew her veil over her face.

"What do you want?" cried Giraldi hotly.

"Monsieur Antonio, monsieur!" said François in a whisper; "he begs so
urgently."

"All right," said Giraldi. "Show mademoiselle out. I will let in the
young man myself. I shall hear from you, mademoiselle. For the present,
adieu."

He walked hastily to the door of the anteroom, whilst Bertalda,
conducted by François, rushed to another door leading into his bedroom,
and from thence into the second corridor, and only opened it as
Bertalda was on the point of disappearing behind the portière, one side
of which François had drawn back for her. Antonio, who, standing close
to the door and listening, had heard Bertalda's shriek, and whose mind
was filled with the image of Ferdinanda, had immediately concluded that
he recognised her voice, and at once stepped in; Bertalda could not so
quickly get out. In her embarrassment she had run against the side of
the portière which was down, and entangled herself in it, and it was a
moment or two before, with François' help, she was free, long enough
for the sharp-eyed Antonio to discover that the lady whom he was
putting to flight was not Ferdinanda herself, but the mysterious
unknown who had lately come so regularly to Ferdinanda's studio, and
whom he had taken for an ambassador from his deadly enemy. So she did
not come from him, but from here! And why should she run off so hastily
the moment he was admitted? If the signor mentioned the lady--well,
perhaps it was all right--he would try and trust him still, as
heretofore; if he did not mention her, he would never believe another
word that passed his lips--never!

These thoughts flew through Antonio's mind as he made his bow;
meanwhile Giraldi had recovered from his surprise, and taken his
resolution. He had taken it for granted that Antonio, from the
studio in which he worked, would remark the coming and going of the
black-veiled lady to the other studio, and had consequently enjoined
the utmost circumspection upon Bertalda. Antonio was not to learn who
she was, least of all that she had any connection with him. Now, in
consequence of the youth's hasty entry, the secret was within a
hair's-breadth of escaping; but that he should have seen, or in any way
recognised Bertalda, was quite impossible. The end of the great room
was buried in almost total darkness, and as his own attention had been
entirely centred on the door by which Antonio would enter, the delay in
Bertalda's departure by the other had escaped his notice. "A second
later would have been too late," he thought to himself, as he took the
youth's hand and--now completely master of himself--said in his usual
quiet, friendly tone:

"Welcome, my dear Antonio--no, no, my son--I am not consecrated yet."

Antonio, bending low, had raised the hand which Giraldi had offered him
to his lips. "The less you trust him the more submissive must you be,"
said Antonio to himself.

"You are sacred to me, signor," he said aloud. "The good Brother
Ambrose, the benevolent guardian of my wretched youth, is not in my
eyes more revered and sacred than you are."

"I am glad to hear it," answered Giraldi. "The best ornament of youth
is a grateful disposition. As a reward for it I can impart to you the
good brother's blessing. I have just received a letter from him. But of
that later. First, as to your business here. Have you at last again
seen and spoken with her?"

"Only seen, signor--as she left her studio just now to go home. I do
not venture to speak to her. She talks, they say, to no one, and no one
dares go into her studio except----"

"Her father, probably."

"A lady, signor, in black, and thickly veiled, who goes to her studio
regularly every afternoon. The students take her to be a model."

It must be decided now; Antonio's heart beat till Giraldi's answer
came.

"A lady in black and thickly veiled," repeated Giraldi slowly, as if he
was deeply considering the matter; "and only a model? That is surely
very unlikely, and very suspicious. We must try to get to the bottom of
this."

He lied. It flashed like lightning through Antonio's mind that to this
man he had confided his secret, the treason which he contemplated, his
criminal desires, the very plan of his revenge; he had given all--all
into his hands, as to the priest in the confessional, and he lied!

"I have tried to get to the bottom of it, signor," he said, "but in
vain. As she comes and goes while our studio is full of men, I cannot
watch her through the door, nor absent myself without causing a
sensation. Yesterday I tried under some pretext, but I was too late. A
carriage--not an ordinary cab, signor, but a fly--was standing a few
yards from the house under the trees near the canal; the unknown got
in, and vanished from me in a moment."

"He will be more cunning next time," thought Giraldi; "she must on no
account go again."

"At what time does she come?" he asked.

"Between five and six at first; now, I suppose on account of greater
security, between four and five."

"Good! To-morrow I will myself keep watch in my carriage; she shall not
escape us, you may depend upon it. And now to continue, has nothing of
importance transpired in the conversations between your maestro and the
Captain? The name in question not been mentioned?"

"No, signor; on the contrary, since the young lady went away----"

"I know, three days ago."

"They have been very prudent, and speak so low, that it is impossible
to catch more than a word here and there. But instead I have just found
this letter, which the maestro received to-day and has read through at
least a dozen times, and also showed it to the Captain, who came in the
middle of the day."

"It was dangerous to steal a letter which awakens such interest."

"The maestro threw it into his desk, as he does all his letters, and
when he went out, locked it up, and took the key with him; but I have
long known how to open that frail lock without a key. To-morrow he will
find the letter again in his desk."

"Who is it from?"

"From the young lady, I think. It is an abominable handwriting,
signor."

"Give it to me!"

Giraldi took the letter out of Antonio's hand, and stepped to the
window to get the advantage of the last gleam of daylight.

A superstitious dread ran through Antonio, as he saw the extraordinary
speed with which the man at the window ran through the sixteen pages of
the letter, of which he, who so prided himself on his knowledge of
German, had hardly been able to read a line. How could he venture to
enter into a struggle of cunning and skill with him, who saw through
everything, knew everything as if he were in league with the evil one?
And yet, one thing he did not know, that he would have pierced him with
his dagger as he stood in the window, with the evening light shining
like an aureole round his head with its black locks, did he venture to
deceive and betray him, as he had undoubtedly deceived and betrayed all
the world besides.

Giraldi had read the last two pages more slowly than the first ones. He
now read them over again. Then without saying a word, he lighted the
candle which stood on his writing-table, sat down, and began as it
appeared to copy out these two last pages. The pen flew over the paper
almost as quickly as his eyes before over the pages. In a few minutes
it was done, and he gave the letter back to Antonio. "There! now return
it again to its place with the greatest care, and bring me every letter
in the same handwriting. You will thereby be doing me the greatest
service, and my gratitude will keep pace with your willingness to help
me."

"I do what I do for your sake, signor," said Antonio; "without hope or
expectation of reward. The only one for which I care, even you cannot
give me."

"You think so," answered Giraldi. "Boy, what do you know of what I can
or cannot do? I tell you that kings tremble when they feel that
Gregorio Giraldi's hand is upon them; that the Holy Father in Rome
even, only knows himself to be infallible so long as I am near him. And
shall I not fulfil the desire of your heart? Not give into your arms
that beautiful woman, whom you may possess at any moment you choose?
Are you not young and handsome? Are you not strong and courageous? What
is impossible to a handsome and young man who is strong and courageous,
where a woman is in question? I tell you that the times of Saul are not
yet gone by, who went out to seek his father's asses, and found a
kingdom. The letter in your pocket might prove it to you. Do you fancy
yourself worth less than that clumsy German sailor? Surely not. And he
has won the love of a German maiden, to whom men of his position would
not generally dare to lift their eyes. And now you! Do you not know
that God has ever specially loved shepherds and shown Himself gracious
to them? Have you never, as you drove your goats on the mountains near
Tivoli, heard a voice out of the thundering cataracts of the Arno, or
out of the sighing of the wind in the oak trees of Arsoli, which said,
'Poor sunburnt, ragged boy, in a few years you, a beautiful youth,
dressed like the gentlemen who approach yonder in their smart carriages
over the dusty roads, shall walk through streets of the capital of the
northern barbarians, whose very names you do not yet know?' Believe me,
my son, such voices may be heard by all, only one must understand them,
as I have always understood those which speak to me. Or if you will not
trust my guidance, let me speak to you through the mouth of the worthy
man who protected your tender youth, and whom you may thank, that you
do not still tend your goats. I had written to him about you, and how
wonderful it was that you, favoured with these gifts of mind and body,
should be of such low birth as are the people you have respected as
your parents. And what does he reply?"

Giraldi had seized the priest's letter, and read: "'A miracle, truly,
my dear sir, but are we not surrounded by miracles, so that they often
appear no miracles just because they are so near us? And has God lost
His omnipotence because the serpent of doubt and unbelief lifts its
head now higher than ever? Can He not breathe His Spirit into a clod if
He will? make the dead to live again? lighten the darkness in which the
origin of so many men, and--I must admit--of our good Antonio also, is
enveloped? Can He not raise up for a man who stands solitary and pines
for love, a dear relation in a seeming stranger?' Look, Antonio! there
it stands, written in your honoured friend's own hand."

He held out the letter to Antonio---just long enough for the youth to
be certain that it really was his old preceptor's hand. He might not
see what immediately followed; that according to all human calculation
Antonio could not possibly be the son that Giraldi had so long lost,
and whom he had so eagerly sought after, and still sought in spite of
all disappointments, and for whose recovery no reward was too great.

As if overcome with emotion, he had thrown the letter into the drawer
and stretched out both his hands: "Now go, in God's name, my son, and
remember that no father could more truly mean well towards you than I
do!"

Antonio bent down and kissed the outstretched hands, moved and
conquered by the superior mental power of the man, his mind filled with
a confusion of ambitious hopes and dazzling dreams of satisfied love,
as quickly followed by the fear that all was but a dream and an
illusion, and that this great magician was playing with him, as he
himself as a boy had often, enough done with a bird fluttering on a
string.

He was gone. Giraldi touched the bell. François came in.

"I told you that no one was to come in, without exception!"

"Monsieur had always received the young man, and he was so pressing."

"It may pass for this time; the next time you commit such a blunder,
you are dismissed without appeal--mind that."

He locked his letter into his drawer.

"I will dress without assistance; see that the carriage is ready in ten
minutes."

He went into the next room through which Bertalda had previously taken
flight. François shook his fist behind him, and then again smiled his
fawning smile, as if he would not admit even to himself that he had
ventured to threaten the mighty man.



                              CHAPTER XI.


"You will see, Carla, he will not come to-day either," said Frau von
Wallbach, trying to find if possible a more comfortable position in her
arm-chair.

"Je le plains, je le blâme, mais----"

Carla, who was sitting at the piano, played a scale very softly with
her right hand.

"And Fräulein von Strummin has also gone away without paying us a
farewell visit."

"Silly little thing," said Carla, repeating her scale.

"And Elsa has never once been here to apologise for the omission."

"So much the worse for her," said Carla.

"I wash my hands of the blame," said Frau von Wallbach, slowly rising
and going into the reception-room which some of the dinner guests were
entering.

Carla was also getting up, but remained sitting when she heard that it
was a lady, and moreover one of little importance. She let her hands
fall into her lap, and looked thoughtfully down before her.

"He is not half so clever, he often evidently does not understand what
I say; I think even he is _un peu bête_. But he--adores me. Why should
I give up my adorers for a betrothed who never troubles himself about
me? He would soon drive them all away."

The door behind her into the anteroom was opened. Only intimate friends
at small entertainments ever entered through this apartment--her room.
The new-comer must be either Ottomar or the Count. She had heard
nothing, and as the steps came nearer over the thick carpet, let her
fingers wander dreamily over the keys, "Already sends the Graal to seek
the loiterer----"

"Fräulein von Wallbach!"

"Ah! my dear Count," said Carla, looking up a little, and giving the
Count her left hand over her shoulder, whilst the right played "My
trusty Swan." "Will you not go first and say 'how do you do' to Louisa?
She is in the drawing-room with Frau von Arnfeld."

The Count lifted the carelessly-given hand to his lips, "And then?" he
asked.

"You can return here--I have something to say to you."

The Count came back in half a minute.

"Draw that chair here--not so near--there--and don't let my strumming
disturb you. Do you know, my dear Count, that you are a very dangerous
man!"

"My dear Fräulein von Wallbach!" cried the Count, as he twirled his
moustaches.

"You must be so, when even Louisa already thinks so. She has just
preached me the most charming sermon."

"But what have I done? All the world worships you; why should I not
dare what all the world may do?"

"Because you are not all the world."

"Because----"

Carla lifted her eyes; the Count was always bewitched when he could
look into those blue eyes, unhindered by glasses, under whose weary,
drooping eyelids a secret world of tenderness and archness seemed to
him to be concealed.

"Because I have come too late," he whispered passionately.

"A man should not be too late, my dear Count; it is the worst of faults
in war, in politics, in everything. You must bear the consequence of
this fault--_voilà tout_."

She played:


           "Only one year beside thee,
            As witness of thy bliss, I asked."


The Count gazed before him in silence.

"He takes it for earnest," thought Carla. "I must rouse him up again a
little."

"Why should we not be friends?" she said, reaching out her right hand
to him, whilst the left played:


           "Return to me! and let me teach
            How sweet the bliss of purest truth."


"Certainly, certainly!" cried the Count, imprinting a long, burning
kiss on the offered hand; "why should we not be friends?"

"Friendship between pure souls is so sweet, is it not so? But the world
is not pure. It loves to blacken all bright things. It requires a
security. Give it the best possible under the circumstances. Marry!"

"And that is your advice to me?"

"Mine more especially. I shall gain immensely by it; I shall not quite
lose you. More, I cannot--more, I do not expect."

And Carla played, with both hands:


           "Let me convert thee to the faith,
            One bliss there is, without remorse."


"Good God, Carla--my dear Fräulein von Wallbach! do you know that
something similar--almost in the same words----"

"You have heard from Signor Giraldi," said Carla, as the Count paused,
embarrassed. "You may say it out, I do not mind. He is the cleverest of
men, and one can keep nothing secret from him, even if one wished to do
so, and--I do not so wish; you also--need not wish it. He is very fond
of you. He wishes you well; believe me and trust in him."

"I believe it," said the Count, "and I should trust him implicitly, if
the engagement which is in question did not also include just a little
touch of business. You are aware that I have to-day bought the Warnow
estates, I should hardly have taken such a tremendous risk upon myself,
indeed could not have done so, if it had not appeared that at least
half the money in the form of dowry----"

"_Fi donc!_" said Carla.

"For heaven's sake, do not misunderstand me!" cried the Count. "It is
evident that this suggestion could only come from Signor Giraldi, and
from no one else. The thing is simply that Signor Giraldi, as the
Baroness's agent----"

"Spare me anything of that sort, my dear Count," cried Carla. "Once for
all, I understand nothing about it. I only know that my sister-in-law
is a delightful creature, and that you are a terribly _blasé_ man, whom
every well-behaved girl must really be afraid of. And now go into the
drawing-room, I hear Baroness Kniebreche, and she would never forgive
you if you have not kissed her hand within the first five minutes."

"Give me courage to go to execution," whispered the Count.

"How?"

The Count did not answer, but took her hand off the keys, covered it
with passionate kisses, and hurried in a state of emotion which was
half affected and half real, into the drawing-room.

"He is a good creature after all," murmured Carla, turning, and looking
after him with her glass in her eye.

"That he is," said a voice close to her.

"Mon Dieu! Signor Giraldi!"

"Always at your service."

"Always at an opportune moment. You have not yet been into the
drawing-room? Of course not. Come! let us have a few minutes' chat. A
_tête-à-tête_ with you is a much envied privilege, which even Baroness
Kniebreche herself would respect."

"And then this respectable _tête-à-tête_ is not quite so dangerous as
the preceding one," said Giraldi, sitting down by Carla on a little
sofa, which stood at the end of the room beneath a candelabra on the
wall. "Did you speak to him?"

"Just now!"

"And what did he answer?"

"He understands everything--except----"

"Not everything then?"

"Do not smile ironically; he is not quite a nonentity. He is clever
enough, for example, to ask what the special interest is which you can
have in his engagement with Elsa."

"Do not be angry if I still smile a little," said Giraldi. "What, the
Count inquired as to the interest I have in the matter--he, on whose
side the whole profit lies! But there! I confess the sale would have
been delayed for a long time, as the General out of sheer obstinacy
would not consent at all, and your brother, from some reasons of
propriety, would not sell direct to the provisional board, and insisted
upon a go-between; I further admit that the Count is not only in every
other respect more convenient and more suitable than any one else, but
he is also more lucrative to us, because as a neighbour he can really
pay more than any one else. But that is an advantage on our side, which
we fully compensate to him by granting him other advantages, with the
details of which I will not trouble you. Believe me, my dear Fräulein
von Wallbach, that the Count knows all this as well as I do, and he
only affects ignorance and consequently hesitation for reasons which I
will set before you. Firstly: It is always well not to see the hand
which throws fortune into your lap; you can then, if convenient, be as
ungrateful as you please. Secondly: He loves you, and--who can blame
him?--he does not consider the matter quite hopeless, so long as you
remain unmarried. Thirdly: It is not absolutely certain that Fräulein
von Werben will accept him, and he has in fact better reasons for this
uncertainty than his philosophy and vanity combined will allow him to
imagine."

"You are again referring to the fancy that Elsa is supposed to have for
the handsome merchant-captain," said Carla. "Much as I admire your
acuteness, my dear Giraldi, here you pass the limits of my belief."

"But supposing I have unquestionable evidence? supposing I have it in
black and white, from the hand of Elsa's most intimate friend, that
little Fräulein von Strummin, who went off in such headlong haste, to
startle us, from the security of her island, with the news of her
engagement to the sculptor, Justus Anders. Pray do not laugh. What I am
telling you is absolutely true. Herr Justus Anders, again, is the
Captain's most intimate friend; the two pairs of friends it appears
have no secrets of any sort between them; Fräulein von Strummin also
has none from her betrothed, and she writes in her letter, which
arrived this morning, word for word--"

Giraldi had taken an elegant pocket-book from his coat pocket, and out
of it a paper, which he unfolded.

"If any one comes in, it is supposed to be a letter from the sculptor,
Enrico Braga, from Milan. She writes the following, word for word--I am
not responsible for the peculiar style:

"'One thing more, dearest man, over which Lesto would howl himself to
death with joy if he could understand it, and you also will rejoice
like a child, as you always are. My Elsa loves your Reinhold with all
her heart and soul, and that is saying something for any one who knows
as I do that she is all soul, and has the most divine heart in the
world. I have no permission, still less any commission, to tell you
this. But we are never again to play at hide-and-seek with one another,
you know, and must also inspire our poor friends with courage, and the
best way to do that is to be always saying to them, "He," or in your
case, "She loves you!" I have proved it at any rate with Elsa. Ah! my
dearest heart, we ought indeed to feel ashamed of being so happy, when
we think how unhappy our friends are, and only on account of these
horrible "circumstances." If I only knew who had devised these
"circumstances" I should just like to have a few words with him, you
know.'"

"This is wonderfully interesting," said Carla; "and it will interest
the Count extremely."

"Without doubt," said Giraldi, returning the letter to his pocket-book.
"By the way, what a wonderful woman you are, never once to have asked
where I got this. In the meantime, I propose that we do not communicate
this until you are certain of one thing."

"And that is!"

Giraldi bent towards Carla and looked straight into her eyes.

"That you do not finally prefer to bestow your hand upon Count Axel
Golm, instead of on Ottomar von Werben."

"You are really too bad. Signor Giraldi, do you know?" said Carla,
flicking him on the hand with her pocket-handkerchief.

"If you say so! But look here, my dear young lady! any communication
with regard to Elsa's maritime fancy would in the end determine the
Count to give up his suit; and until now it has appeared to us most
convenient for all parties to marry him to Elsa. If you want him for
yourself, and it seems so, well, that may also be managed; but in your
place I would not be too hasty. We can keep the game going as long as
we like. Why not drain the sweetness of courtship to the last drop? The
more so that Ottomar--great minds are never shocked at truth--scarcely
appears to appreciate, at its true worth, the happiness which awaits
him in the arms of the cleverest and most agreeable of women."

"Which means, if I am not mistaken," said Carla, "that Ottomar must do
as you wish; you have got the whip-hand of him. Well I know, dear
friend, how powerful your hand is; but I confess that in this case
I do not understand where the power lies. That Ottomar has had
mistresses--very likely has them still--well! I have read Schopenhauer,
who says nothing about monogamy, because he could nowhere discover it,
and I should not like to be the first woman to find her beloved the
less interesting because he is pleasing to other women. His debts? Good
gracious! name any one to me who has none! and my brother says they are
really not so bad. My brother urges our hastening on our wedding, and
so does my sister-in-law now. The General is, as you know, most
inconveniently obstinate in carrying out his plans; and society will be
greatly injured if we are not on our wedding tour by the beginning of
March; on the 15th Ottomar must enter upon his office at St.
Petersburg."

"Let us make our arrangements accordingly then, if we are otherwise
agreed," answered Giraldi. "By the middle of February you will discover
that your finely organised nature will no longer stand the strain of
the season, and that, before you enter upon the new period of your
life, you absolutely require quiet and repose, which you cannot procure
in town, and can only find in the retirement of the country. And then
it falls in admirably, that at that very time the Baroness, my dear
friend, impelled by the necessity of rest, seeks a shelter in quiet
Warnow. I have for this purpose reserved the castle and park from the
Count, who this morning became the possessor of the property. He will
be delighted that Fräulein von Wallbach should share the retirement of
her betrothed's aunt. Not alone! The Baroness, at her own urgent
request--mark that--will be accompanied by Fräulein Elsa. The Count,
whose business at that time--and particularly the harbour works at
Warnow--makes his residence in the country a duty, will do everything
to cheer and enliven the ladies' solitude. Your brother--I myself--will
come and go. What a spectacle, to watch the spring awaking in the
country, on the shores of the ocean, perhaps to see the further
blossoming of dear Elsa's quiet fancy for the man of her choice, who
has gone to his new post--he has lately been made Superintendent of
Pilots--I think they call it so--at Wissow, just the same distance from
Warnow as the Count is at his house. How do you like my little plan?"

"Charming," said Carla, "_à deux mains_. But is it practicable?"

"Leave that to me. Give me your two pretty hands upon it, that you will
support me."

"There, you have them."

"And I impress my lips upon both of them in confirmation of the
agreement."

"I really must venture to disturb your _tête-à-tête_," said Herr von
Wallbach, entering from the drawing-room. "The company have all
arrived. Only Ottomar, whom we must again give up, and the Baroness
still fail us."

"I forgot to tell you," said Giraldi, as he greeted Herr von
Wallbach, "that the Baroness begged me to make her apologies--an
indisposition--her nerves are so shaken----"

"What a pity," said Herr von Wallbach. "Will you have the kindness,
Carla, to tell Louisa? It makes no difficulty, as I was to have taken
in the Baroness. Baroness Kniebreche claims you. Signor Giraldi."
Giraldi bowed. Carla had gone. "One moment," whispered Wallbach,
holding back Giraldi by the arm. "I am glad, very glad, that the
Baroness is not coming. This is a day of surprises. To-day, to our
inexpressible astonishment--Lübbener cannot get over it at all--Golm
paid the half million down! The concession, for the publication of
which we feared we should have weeks to wait, as there was still some
difficulty about the security, will appear to-morrow in the _Gazette_.
Yes, my dear sir, you may rely upon it. I know it for certain from Herr
von Stumm, who implored me not to betray him. It was to be a delightful
surprise, on the part of the Ministers, for us; and--and--my dear
friend, I am not easily put out of countenance, but _c'est plus fort
que moi_--from the same unquestionable source I have learnt that the
General's name does not appear in the _Military Gazette_ which will be
published to-morrow."

"Which means?" asked Giraldi.

"Which means that he is passed over, and that, according to our ideas,
he will be forced to send in his resignation."

"How extraordinary!" said Giraldi.

"There is no doubt about it," continued Wallbach excitedly; "I could
certainly understand the step, even see its necessity, if it had been
the only means by which our affair could have been carried through; but
as we have the concession in our pocket without that, it is----"

"An unnecessary cruelty."

"Is it not? and one which will have further consequences. I prophesy
that Ottomar will not go to St. Petersburg."

"But that would be more than cruel, it would be absurd," said Giraldi.

"You do not know our ways. There is great consistency in such things
with us."

Giraldi was spared an answer. In the doorway to the drawing-room
appeared, supported on Carla's arm, the bent form of an old lady who
was waving an immense black fan up and down, and cried out loudly in a
cracked voice:

"If Signor Giraldi will not come to old Kniebreche, old Kniebreche must
go to Signor Giraldi."

"I fly, my dear madam!" said Giraldi.



                              CHAPTER XII.


Elsa's old cook sat on her stool, with her elbows resting upon her
knees, staring at the brick floor; August, who was leaning against the
window, went on silently cutting his nails with his knife; and
Ottomar's servant was perched upon the table, swinging his long legs.

"It has just struck twelve," said the cook, with a despairing look at
the hearth, on which the kettle still hung in solitary state over the
fire, as it had done since early morning. "Can neither of you at least
open your mouths?"

"What is there to say?" answered August "It will always be likely to
happen with us soldiers."

"It's a sin and a shame!" said the cook.

"A 1," affirmed August.

The Dutch clock ticked, the kettle bubbled. Friedrich let himself slide
off the table, and stretched his arms.

"I can't say that I am generally much in favour of these parades," he
said, "but it is my opinion that to-day we servants might as well have
joined it."

"Yes; the young master always has the best of it," said the cook. "It
is well to be out of range of the firing. If I had been in his place, I
would have paraded them to-day."

She smoothed down her apron. August shook his head.

"With us military men, that would----"

"Oh, stuff!" interrupted the cook. "Military here, military there! If
any one dismissed my father, I should dismiss him, and that pretty
sharp, too!"

She gave her apron another energetic pull, stood up, walked to the
hearth, turned the kettle round, and then, as that manifestly did not
help matters, began to cry vehemently, from a sense of her
helplessness.

"Hullo!" said the lady's-maid, who just then stepped into the kitchen,
"have the lamentations broken out here also?"

She sat down on the stool from which the cook had risen, and stroked
down her black silk apron as the other had her coarse kitchen one.

"There, I've had enough of it! I can't stand playing at nursing old
women who faint every time anything goes wrong in the house! And to be
turned out of the room by the young lady because one treads too
heavily, and told to send that stupid goose Pauline, doesn't suit me
any better! And, moreover, I am not accustomed to a party once a
fortnight at the outside, and now I suppose even that will come
to an end! No, I thank you! To-morrow they may look out for another
lady's-maid, if such like require another lady's-maid, indeed! And----"

"There, I've had enough of that!" said the cook.

"I may talk, I suppose, if I like!" said the lady's-maid.

"But not in my kitchen!" cried the cook, sticking her still strong arms
akimbo, and walking up to the audacious speaker. "What! you will talk
about 'such like' here, in the face of an old, respected servant, who
has been twenty years in the house, or eight years like August, to say
nothing of Friedrich, although he also is a respectable man, and would
rather have gone to the parade to-day than sit here and see such
misery! Do you know who 'such like' are? All your tag and rag, from
whom you ran off to us--they are 'such like,' with their yard-long
trains, and fallals and crinolines! And you are 'such like,' you
shameless hussy, you! and if you don't leave off grinning this very
minute, and get up off my stool, and clear out of my kitchen, I'll give
you a couple of boxes on the ear that will make you remember 'such
like' to the end of your days!"

"I shall not dispute with you," said the lady's-maid, getting up in
haste, and slipping towards the door from under her antagonist's raised
arm. "You are too----"

"Out with you!" said the cook.

"Too vulgar!"

And the lady's-maid slammed the door behind her.

"That is one of the A 1's," said August.

"A regular one," said Friedrich.

"And you are dunderheads," cried the cook, "to put up quietly with such
a thing!"

"One should not enter into any discussion with such a person," said
Friedrich.

"The house-door bell has rung," said August, delighted to be able to
break off the conversation, which was taking so disagreeable a turn.
"Our master can hardly be back yet? And we cannot receive any one
to-day?"

"That depends," said the cook. "Our poor young lady has not seen a soul
to-day, and the poor thing must want to speak out. But it must be to a
real friend."

"Of course," said August, buttoning his livery-coat, "one of the A 1's.
Herr von Schönau or----"

"Well, make haste and go upstairs."

"Ah! the Captain!" cried August, seeing Reinhold in the anteroom.

The Captain stood high in August's favour, and the Captain, who always
looked so amiable, looked so grave to-day.

"The Captain, of course, knows all about it already," said August.

"For heaven's sake!" cried Reinhold, "what has happened? Is any one ill
in the house?"

"Ill--yes," said August, "but only from fright. Fräulein Sidonie
fainted immediately, and so of course we heard all about it. The
Lieutenant is, of course, gone to the parade, and will not be back till
evening, as he is on duty afterwards at the barracks; and I had to put
all the General's orders on his uniform, and he went to his Excellency
the Minister and the other Excellencies to say so-and-so; and our young
lady is with Fräulein Sidonie; but she will certainly wish to see you,
and if you will come in here and wait----"

August had ushered Reinhold, who, in his bewilderment, followed him
mechanically, up the stairs, and opened the door of the drawing-room.

Reinhold remained alone for a few anxious moments. What could have
occurred to have caused the family such a shock as he saw reflected
even in the servant's face? And to-day, of all days! As if his heart
were not heavy enough already!

A light step crossed the floor of the dining-room and over the carpet
in the next room, and Elsa stepped in, holding out her hand to him.

"You have come to take leave. I know all from Fräulein--from Meta."

"I have come to take leave," answered Reinhold; "but before we speak of
that, tell me, if you can, what misfortune has happened to you? It must
be some misfortune."

He still held her hand in his, and gazed, himself pale from emotion and
sympathy, into her pale lovely face, with the beloved brown eyes,
which, formerly so bright and happy, now looked so anxious and
sorrowful.

"My father would reproach me if he heard me call that a misfortune of
which he affirms himself to be proud. And yet--who knows how it appears
to him in his heart, or how he bears it in his heart, and how he will
bear it?"

She suppressed her sorrowful emotion with a deep-drawn breath, and
offering Reinhold a chair, and herself taking a place on the sofa,
continued in a calm voice:

"My father has been passed over in the promotion for which he stood
next! You know what that means. He has just gone to offer his
resignation in person to the Minister!"

"Good God!" said Reinhold, "an officer of his high character, of his
vast services to the nation--is it possible!"

Elsa sat there, her fixed burning eyes looking down, a bitter smile
trembling on her lips, while she slowly nodded her head once or twice.
Reinhold saw how forced was the self-command with which she had come to
meet him, how deeply she felt the insult which had been offered to her
father.

"And to think," he said in a low voice, "that I myself assisted to
bring about this catastrophe. Your father has repeatedly impressed upon
me what difficulties he had to struggle with, how precarious, how
insecure his position was, and that a mere trifle might suffice to make
it untenable----"

Elsa shook her head. "No, no!" she said, "it is not that. My father was
determined to retire if ever this unhappy concession was carried
through against his will. But that they should not even have waited,
even given him time to carry out his resolution, that is what he
resents, and what I fear will make his proud heart bleed."

The tears ran from her fixed eyes down her pale cheeks. Reinhold's
heart was full to overflowing with love and sympathy. A voice within
him cried out, "My poor, poor darling," but he dared not speak out yet.

Elsa had dried her tears with her handkerchief.

"You must not look so miserable," she said, trying to smile; "my father
has done his duty, and you have done your duty. Is not the
consciousness of this the best, the only consolation in such a case as
this, which we must accept whether we will or no?"

"Certainly," said Reinhold; "and yet how sad it sounds from such lips."

"Because I am a girl," said Elsa. "I think it is just we girls who can
do so little for ourselves, who are often so helpless in the face of
circumstances, who are not early enough impressed with this idea. What
would have become of me in these last few days if I had not done so. If
I had not at least tried to do so, so far as lay in my power. And now
to-day, when I have heard every thing from my father about Ottomar----"

Reinhold looked up startled.

Elsa's eyes had fallen, a burning colour had come into her cheeks; she
went on slowly in a low voice, "I have learnt everything!"

"Could not that, at least, have been spared you?" said Reinhold after a
silent pause.

"I think not," said Elsa, again looking up. "I think that my father
followed a right impulse this morning when he told me everything, as to
a friend (and, oh! how thankful I am to him for it, and proud!), told
me of his position, of our position--confided to me even that. Oh! I
cannot get rid of the thought that it would have been better, that it
would have turned out better--for us all, if I had known it, if not
from the beginning, at least after that terrible morning. Only a
woman's hand could, had it still been possible, have smoothed out the
entangled threads of all the faults and follies there and here. What
would I not give for the minutes that have been irreparably lost. Ah! I
know I should have found the words to touch Ottomar's and your cousin's
hearts. Poor Ferdinanda! What must she have suffered? What must she
suffer? And my poor Ottomar, too! He is really not so guilty as he
perhaps appears to you. It is not your fault that you have not
learnt to know him better, that the wish of my heart has not been
fulfilled--that you might become true friends. We know now why he
shunned you, as indeed he did even his best friends, Schönau and the
others--even myself--all of us. And so he has strayed so far, so
helplessly away in the loneliness of his heart. And yet I know him from
earlier, better days, how tender, how loving and affectionate his heart
was; how susceptible he was to all that was beautiful and good, even if
he had not the strength to let it ripen in him, to live for that alone.
But it must be very difficult in the life that he leads, that he must
lead, which I also have led in my way, and have enjoyed myself in
it--all these prejudices of rank, these social fetters, which we no
longer feel as such, because we have grown up amongst them and can
never free ourselves without a hard struggle. And if he failed in this
struggle, the strange circumstances of our family will certainly have
contributed to it; and, lastly, the rebuff which he has experienced in
the person of his father, whom, I know, in the bottom of his heart he
deeply reverences. I will not defend him, when, passionate and
hot-headed as he is, he rushed out of the house--we none of us knew
what he intended--and returned engaged to Carla; but he must not, he
cannot be utterly condemned."

She gazed anxiously, with clasped hands, into Reinhold's face, a bitter
feeling was stirring in him. If she spoke so eloquently of the singular
position in which her brother was at the decisive moment, was not this
position hers also? Would not she so speak at the last moment for
herself? So decide for herself? or was it already on her account that
she spoke? Had she so decided? Was he to read her decision between the
lines?

"I always find it difficult," he said, "to condemn any one--in men's
hearts there are so many depths, which no lead can reach--and I have
not condemned your brother. On the contrary, I have for his sake and--I
cannot deny it--for yours----"

His voice shook, but he collected himself by a strong effort and went
on quietly, "Done every thing which a brother would at such a time do
for a brother. I have even set my uncle's friendship and affection,
which are very dear to me, at stake, and I fear, lost them. That it was
all in vain, that I must let that be, which I foresaw would be to those
most nearly concerned a deadly blow, which would more or less recoil
upon us all without exception--I do not know whether I need tell you
how hard this has been to me, how hard it is!"

"You do not need," said Elsa. "Take the thanks of the sister for the
brother. You do not perhaps believe how grateful I am to you, and how
your words have comforted me. Since this morning, through all the
trouble which has come upon us, I have continually asked myself how you
would be affected by it. I have longed to hear these words from you.
Now that I have heard them my heart feels lighter, and now, between us
two at least, all will be again as it was."

"Do you believe that? do you really believe it?" asked Reinhold.

The smile died away upon her lips. She gently drew back the hand which
she had given him, and which he firmly held; the blood flew again into
her cheeks, which then became whiter than before.

"Have I been mistaken?" stammered Elsa.

"I do not think so," said Reinhold, "because, forgive me, I cannot
think that at this moment you have been quite sincere. And--you have
yourself said it--what brought ruin upon your brother, and upon my
cousin, save that they were not open, neither to themselves, nor to
each other, nor to their friends--that they never had the courage of
their opinions--that they never had the true courage of their love?
Well! I, for my part, will not and dare not burden my soul with this
reproach. I will keep my conscience free, however heavy my heart may
remain. May I speak out what is in my heart? and will you answer me as
your heart dictates?"

She sat there, pale and motionless, only the hand which she had given
him, and which now lay in her lap, trembled.

"I will," she said, in a low voice.

"Well then," said Reinhold, "I came to take leave of your father, and
before I took leave of him, to thank him from the bottom of my heart,
for the kindness with which he had overwhelmed me, and for the
confidence with which he honoured me. Perhaps, thought I, since I still
remain in your neighbourhood, and my duties will also often bring me
here, he would then have said that he hoped and wished to see me again.
And I must have replied, that as an honourable man I could only take
advantage of this permission under one condition. And I should have
said 'That condition, General, is impossible. I have had the fullest
opportunities in this unfortunate business, and in the many
confidential conversations with which you have honoured me, of entering
into your thoughts and feelings; you have condescended even to initiate
me into the circumstances of your family, and I am convinced that you
will never of your own free will, grant me the hand of your daughter
whom I love.'"

Elsa neither answered nor stirred, only her bosom rose and fell wildly.

"'Whom I have loved,'" continued Reinhold, in a voice trembling with
emotion, "'I may say from the first moment that I saw her. Since then I
have thought of her every hour of the day; and when I lie awake at
night, her image stands out before my soul, clear, steadfast,
immovable, like the north star; and I am as sure as that I am a living
man, that this love can only end with my life.' That is what I should
have said to your father."

"And then," said Elsa softly, "then should you have come to me?"

"Yes," said Reinhold, "then I should have come to you."

A lovely colour lay upon her cheeks; her eyes resting full and
steadfastly upon him, gleamed through tears, whilst her voice seemed as
if it would cry out for joy, and again trembled with emotion.

"I should have said to you, that I was unutterably happy in the
knowledge that I was loved by you, and that I love you with my whole,
whole heart, and will so love you for evermore."

They held one another in a close embrace. He kissed her hair, her
forehead, her lips; she leant her head, sobbing, on his shoulder.

"Oh! my God! is it possible? This morning--even when I came in at the
door--here, see! see! I wanted to give you this--my treasure! I meant
to part with it, to renounce all happiness. And now, now! I may keep
it, may I not, and look to my lord, as the needle does to the pole? I
have learnt it from it."

She kissed the compass and let it slip again into her pocket, and threw
her arms again round Reinhold, and said:

"And now, my dearest, that you know that I will be true to you, waking
and sleeping, and will be your wife, and will follow you to the ends of
the world whenever you call me, do not call me yet, but leave me here
with my father, whose support and comfort I am in this affliction, with
my Aunt Valerie, who clings to me in the anguish of her heart. Ah!
there is so much suffering which I only partly guess, but which does
not therefore the less exist, and which I know will overflow so soon as
I turn my back. It will perhaps come even now, and I cannot check it,
but I shall have done my duty, you know, as Meta would say."

The old sweet smile gleamed in the brown eyes which shone upon him. "We
must just have patience and be sensible, and love each other very, very
much, and then everything must come right, will it not, my darling?"

"The man who knows himself beloved by you," whispered Reinhold, "can
only fear one thing in this world--not to deserve your love."



                             CHAPTER XIII.


The two friends wandered up and down the brightly-illuminated platform
of the station, waiting for the train. Uncle Ernst's carriage which had
brought them, had come very quickly, the train was only just being made
up, they had still nearly half an hour.

"You will not stop in Sundin?" said Justus.

"Only to-morrow," answered Reinhold; "I hope that will suffice to
present myself before the President, and my immediate superiors, the
Government surveyor, and the other gentlemen, and to receive my
instructions."

"I think the President has been here," said Justus, "for the last four
days. He is to be Chairman of the Board for the new railway. They made
him the most splendid offer, I am told."

"So the papers say, but I do not believe it," answered Reinhold. "A man
like the President could not agree to such a project, and moreover, if
he were here, he would certainly have sent for me."

"And the day after to-morrow you will be at your post with a
north-easter whistling in your ears, and will swagger about in your
pilot coat. What a lucky man you are!"

Justus sighed; Reinhold looked at his friend, who, with downcast eyes
walked dejectedly beside him, and then burst into a fit of laughter.

"It is all very well to laugh," said Justus; "'laden with foreign
treasures, he returns to his former home,' but how do I stand? A
leafless stem."

"Do not cry yourself down, Justus."

"Ah! cry myself down!" said Justus; "do you mean to say that it is not
enough to drive a poor fellow mad! I meant to have spared you this
to-day, so as not to disturb your happiness and joy; but perhaps it is
better for me to tell you now, instead of writing to you as I intended.
You will be in his immediate neighbourhood, and will surely do me the
kindness to go over some day and appeal to the old gentleman's
conscience--though I don't believe he is old."

"Alack!" said Reinhold, "blows the wind in that quarter?"

"And how it blows!" cried Justus, "so that one can neither see nor
hear. You know that Meta wrote to me on her arrival that every thing
was going capitally. Mamma was, as she foresaw, entirely on her side,
but papa, of course, made a tremendous row--only then, as she also
foretold, to give in utterly a little while after, supposing that the
'stone-cutter' could maintain his daughter suitably, as he could give
her nothing--not a shilling--he was a poor, ruined man. Good! I accept
the ruined father-in-law, and he accepts me upon my showing that I had
already for some years made--but you know all about that, and I only
repeat it now to set before you in its proper light the abominable
treachery of this man."

Justus had halted under a lamp, and took a letter out of his pocket.
"If the spelling leaves something to be desired, the letters are big
enough, as you see, and the interpretation is clear enough from one
point of view at any rate."

Justus struck the crumpled leaf with the back of his hand, and read:


"'Sir' (the first time I was 'Dear Sir'),

"'In consequence of a telegram that I have just received from Berlin,
the state of my affairs is so completely altered, my daughter's future
prospects are so entirely changed, that the position which you can
offer her at the best no longer appears sufficient to me; and before I
give a final answer'--as if he had not done so already, the Jesuit!--'I
must, as a conscientious man and provident father, beg for a few weeks
delay, until the fortunate conjuncture of circumstances which has just
occurred for me can be completely gone into.

                      "'Sincerely yours,

                            "'Otto von Strummin,

          "'Lord of the Manor of Strummin,
              Member of the Assembly, Vice-President
              of the Agricultural Society of ----'


"I can't read that--but it is enough!"

And Justus crumpled up the unfortunate letter, and with a scornful
snort stuffed it again into his pocket.

"Am I not right, Reinhold? Every possible difficulty stands in your
path, I admit, but through it all, at the worst, you have to deal with
a man who is the very soul of honour, and on whose word once given--and
he will give it--you may rely. You can build your house upon a solid
foundation, but how can a man build a house upon sand--treacherous
quicksand, which, when he thinks he is as firmly fixed as the
Colossus of Rhodes, gives way under his feet? If I only knew what
the 'Lord of the Manor' really means! It is my belief that the whole
story--telegram, conjuncture, every thing--is all dust which he wants
to throw into my eyes to get rid of me--don't you think so?"

"Of course he wants to get rid of you," answered Reinhold, "and the
man's meaning is pitiful enough; but the matter to which he alludes has
some truth in it, and I think I can tell you what it all means. Herr
von Strummin has probably, for some reason or another, been kept in the
dark as to the position of the question of the concession, so as to
shut him out of a share of the first rich booty, possibly has been
persuaded that the concession will not be granted. Disordered as his
affairs appear to be, perhaps in a desperate condition, he was
delighted to see his daughter provided for, and shut both eyes (which,
by the way, are somewhat prominent) to the 'stone-cutter's' position.
Now he has been informed that the concession is a _fait accompli_, some
additional promises--God knows what--have been made to him, and
everything looks bright to him. He reminds himself that he is lord of
the manor and so forth, and that it is his duty to protect his daughter
from a mesalliance. You see it is again the old pitiful bargaining with
men's hearts, sticking to insane prejudices at the expense of all sound
morality. But console yourself, Justus, it is not you, but Herr von
Strummin who has built his house upon sand. He will find it out soon
enough, and he will come to you and say, 'My dear sir, I have been
terribly in the wrong, and here is my daughter's hand.'"

"That would be splendid," said Justus, smiling in spite of his trouble,
"only--I do not believe in it."

"Justus! Justus!" cried Reinhold; "do I hear this from you? From whom
have I learnt that sandstone is hard to work, but marble much harder,
and that whoso works all his life in sandstone and marble must take
life easy, if he would not have the devil take possession of him. Do
you really mean him to take possession of you?"

"You may well say that," answered Justus; "I do not recognise myself
any longer. It is as if gipsies had stolen me in the night, and left a
miserable, dismal, incapable sneak in my place. All that I have lately
done has been rubbish, which I would undo were I not certain that I
should make it still worse. Oh! this love! this love! I have always
foreseen it, I have always said it would be fatal to me; it always has
been fatal to every artist. To-day, whilst you were paying your visit,
I glanced into Ferdinanda's studio. She is working at a Bacchante--in
her present mood! but there is genius in it, only it is carried to
madness, to absolute caricature. That is what she has got by it, that
glorious creature! Uncle Ernst is all right again. He has allowed
himself to be elected delegate of the city, because he has not got
enough to do, and next year will have himself elected to the Chamber of
Deputies and the Imperial Diet, and will stupefy himself with work,
which is at any rate more wholesome than wine. But poor, poor
Ferdinanda! I think, Reinhold, you must get in."

The platform had meanwhile filled with travellers, some of whom hurried
into the opened carriages, or after taking possession of their places,
stood chatting at the doors. Amongst the latter was a party of young
men in shooting dress, whom the two friends had just passed.

"I don't think he will come," said one of them, in whom Reinhold
thought he recognised Herr von Tettritz.

"Seems so," said another--Herr von Wartenberg, as Reinhold, turning his
head, convinced himself.

From the door of the waiting-room hastily appeared a gentleman, also in
shooting-dress, followed by a soldier-servant carrying the game-bag and
gun over his shoulder. It was Ottomar.

And Ottomar, for all his haste, had at once recognised the two friends.
They saw how he started, and then, as if he had remarked nothing,
passed on, but suddenly turned round.

"I am not mistaken. Good-evening, gentlemen. You are coming with us?"

"I am," said Reinhold, "to Sundin."

"Ah! I heard as much from my sister, who, I think, had it from Fräulein
von Strummin, and also at Wallbach's, from whom I have just come. You
have got the post; I congratulate. Sorry I was not at home this
morning. Parade, barracks--nonsense! You may be thankful that you have
nothing more to do with such stuff. I envy you, by Jove! It's shameful
that we have seen so little of each other lately. It's a little your
fault too; you might have let yourself be seen again. I shall heap
coals of fire on your head, and visit you at Wissow--next spring. Golm
has invited me to shoot snipe--best in all Germany, so he says, and I
believe him--for once. My sister will very likely come earlier--to
Warnow; perhaps Fräulein von Wallbach also. My aunt Valerie, who finds
this place too noisy, has invited both the young ladies. _Au revoir_,
then, or will you--but that will not do--we are already six. We are
only going as far as Schönau, a property belonging to an uncle of the
Captain's. _Au revoir_, then. I will soon pay you a visit too, if you
will allow me--it was delightful in your studio. I must also see
Fräulein von Strummin; I hear she is wonderfully----"

"Take your seats, gentlemen!" said the guard.

"Werben, Werben!"

"Coming! Good-bye, good-bye!"

Ottomar shook hands with the friends in passing, and hurried to his
clamouring companions.

"Does he know?" asked Justus.

"No--by-and-by, perhaps; it is, for the present, a strict secret
between Elsa and me. I shall write to the General from Wissow."

"It is better so," said Justus.

Reinhold did not answer. The evening of his arrival stood out suddenly,
with all its details, in his memory. How eagerly Ottomar had then
sought his friendship, how heartily Uncle Ernst had received him,
how Ferdinanda herself had welcomed him! And now! It was not his
fault--that was at least a consolation.

"Here is an empty carriage," said Justus.

"Farewell, my dear Justus! Say goodbye again to Cilli for me, and Herr
Kreisel, and tell him not to trust in the Sundin-Wissow; and hearty
thanks for your friendship and affection."

"Not a word more, or--I am desperately sentimental to-day. This
love--this horrible----"

Justus smothered the rest of his blasphemy in a mighty embrace, pulled
his broad-brimmed hat over his eyes, and rushed away.

"Good fellow!" said Reinhold to himself, as he arranged his goods in
the carriage. "I never should have credited him with it. Strange! What
has restored to me courage, and the old feeling of security, has robbed
him of his ready creative power and his cheery humour. And yet the
impediments which lie in his way are child's-play compared to those
that surround us. God grant he may soon smile again! Cilli is right--he
cannot live without sunshine."

Reinhold had seated himself. The signal for starting had already been
given, when the door was again thrown open, and a gentleman was hastily
bundled in by the guard.

"Here, please, I have no more empty carriages. Your ticket at the next
station!"

The guard shut the door.

"Good-evening, President; allow me," said Reinhold, taking the
President's great travelling-bag and putting it in the net.

"Good gracious! is it you?" cried the President. "Where are you going?"

"I would not fail to present myself before you in Sundin on the 1st of
December, according to your orders," answered Reinhold, rather
surprised.

"Yes, yes, of course!" said the President. "Pardon me--such a stupid
question! I am so worried, so perplexed--once more, forgive me!" And he
stretched out his hand to Reinhold with his accustomed gracious
friendliness.

"It is quite unnecessary, President," said Reinhold; "I know that you
are busied about more important things and men."

"Yes, yes, more important things," said the President--"evil things!
And the men--these men, these men--pray sit opposite to me! One can
talk so much better, and I am very glad to see an honest face again."

The President wrapped his rug round his knees. His fine, clever face
looked pale and worn, and the touch of quiet irony and sarcastic humour
which Reinhold had noticed at their first meeting had altogether failed
him.

"I have been four days in Berlin," said the President, "and should
certainly have begged you to come and see me, only, to confess the
truth, I have been skulking about like a criminal with the police after
him, so as not to be seen by any respectable men, if I could avoid it.
Perhaps you know what took me to Berlin?"

"The papers, President----"

"Yes, yes, the papers. Unfortunately there is no longer any decent
obscurity. Everything will come out, and if it were only confined to
the truth!--but unfortunately it is generally neither the whole truth,
nor even the half. What falsehoods have not people--that is to say, the
gentlemen concerned in the matter--told about me! I was concerning
myself actively in the existence of the railroad, working for
it, dinning into the Minister's ears that the concession must be
granted--I, who have fought against it from the first, and warned the
Minister most strenuously against it! Then, as that would not do, they
attacked me from the other side. I had been an opponent, a determined
opponent--I had been convinced at last--Saul had become Paul. That
sounded more probable, but not probable enough. I was not convinced--I
was simply bought. That was believed at once--it spoke for itself. A
President, with his few thousand thalers salary, notoriously devoid of
private fortune, the father of six children--how could he withstand
such inducements! It is a shame and disgrace that it was believed, as
it will be believed to-morrow, that there was not enough offered! The
crafty fellow knows only too well what he is worth; he will quietly
bide his time, watch for his opportunity, and feather his nest well!'
That is the worst, you see. Confidence, is shaken in the honour and
integrity of our officials. It is the beginning of the end for me--the
threatening cloud which foreshadows a future which I pray God I may
never live to see!"

The President tugged here and there at his rug which he was generally
so careful to keep smooth, unfastened his kid gloves which he had just
buttoned, and drew them off his trembling hands. Reinhold himself was
moved by the intense emotion of a man usually so cautious and so
shrouded in diplomatic mists.

"It would be presumption in me," he said, "if I ventured to contradict
a man of your great experience and judgment. Nevertheless I cannot
refrain from suggesting that, just because the case concerns you so
nearly, you may perhaps see it in too black a light."

"May be, may be!" said the President, "but this is no isolated case;
there are others which unfortunately speak on my side, where high
officials have succumbed to the temptation put before them. And
then----"

He was silent for a few minutes, and then continued even more
excitedly:

"If the higher powers only had tact, I say--only tact not to strengthen
this most dangerous, and I confess exaggerated, tendency of the public
mind to suspicion and distrust. But you will feel it painfully--the
slightest acquaintance was sufficient to make one honour and respect
the man--General von Werben----"

"I know, President," said Reinhold, as the President again became
silent; "and my acquaintance with that excellent man has not been a
transient one."

"Well then, what do you say to this?" cried the President. "Differences
have existed between him and the Minister, I know; differences which
must have been settled by a superior authority. It is difficult, it is
almost impossible to work with any one who is determined not to act in
concert. One must give way, and of course the inferior; but just at
this time that should have been avoided. It will throw fresh oil into
the fire, as if it did not burn fiercely enough already, as if matters
had not already been made easy enough for these promoters! They will
laugh in their sleeves: 'Do you see that? do you hear that? We had
just intended, modest as we are, to take our shares into the market
to-morrow at 75; but now we ask 80--85! Paper that can send a General
von Werben flying, cannot be difficult to float!'

"You will see, my dear sir, they will trumpet it in all the papers,
and--even if it is all false--if the General's position were untenable,
the mob goes by outward appearance, judges by outward appearance,
and--outward appearance is against us."

The rug slipped from his knees, but he never seemed to observe it.

"And if that were all! But we, of whom our illustrious sovereign has so
rightly said that we are appointed by fate to eat our bread in the
sweat of our brow, we begin to desire to live for show, for glittering
useless show. Take this railway business; it is all show whichever way
you look at it--good high roads, decent communal roads are all that we
need for the moderate requirements of our island, which the prospectus
boastfully calls the 'granary of Germany.' Show is the security upon
the ground of which alone the concession can be obtained; I know that
they could not raise even the few hundred thousand thalers. The
subscriptions according to rule from 'good and substantial houses,' are
show--shameful show; the only real subscription is from Prince Prora,
through whose territory nearly a third of the railway passes; the other
ten million are from Count Golm, and Co.--and not one thaler is paid
up, or ever will be paid. So it goes on, so it must go on. You can't
gather figs from thistles, and as to what is to be expected from that
magnificent harbour which is to crown the whole, well, you know all
about that as well as or better than I do."

The President stood up and went to the window, through which the lights
of the town were already disappearing. Then he came back to his place
and said as he leant over towards Reinhold, in an almost mysterious
voice:

"Do you remember a conversation on the evening when I had the pleasure
of making your acquaintance at the Count's table at Golmberg? I have
so often thought of it lately. Your storm--I hope to God it may not
come--but if it comes as you have prophesied, I should take it for a
parable of what is hanging over us. Yes! for a sign from heaven! to
awaken us, to startle us out of our criminal intoxication, out of our
empty, visionary life, to withdraw the glittering show from our eyes,
to show us, as Fichte says, 'that which is.' Ah! where is the hand
which would now write us 'Speeches to the German nation?' I would bless
that hand. Instead of it our philosophers prate about the intellect,
which is meant for nothing but to lead the will into absurdities, and
to crush and destroy all joy and cheerfulness which is yet the mother
of all virtues; and our poets are disciples of the French school, and
learn how to be frivolous and disreputable to the heart's core without
offending external proprieties, or wander, poor creatures, with their
beggar's staves in the ruins of the age, and try to make us believe
that the clouds of dust that they raise are creatures of flesh and
blood; and our composers show forth the _blasé_ impudence, the
shameless sensuality of the age in music which fairly bewilders the
moral and æsthetic feelings of the great and small world, or heats the
fevered blood to madness.

"It cannot remain so. It is impossible; a nation cannot continue to
dance before the golden calf and sacrifice to Moloch. Either it will be
overwhelmed in the flood of its sins, or it must cling to the saving
Ararat of honest, manly, and middle-class virtue. God grant that our
people may have strength for the latter. There are times when I despair
of it."

The President leant back and closed his eyes. Did he wish to break off
the conversation? Was he too much exhausted to pursue it further? At
any rate, Reinhold did not venture to express the thoughts with which
his heart was full. Each sat silent in his corner. The last lights of
the town had long disappeared. Over the broad, dark plain, through
which the train rushed, lay a light covering of snow, from which the
woods rose up gloomily. Above, in the darkening sky, sparkled and
shone, in countless numbers, the eternal stars.

Reinhold's eyes were gazing upwards. How often had he so gazed from the
deck of his ship on stormy winter nights with an anxious, fearful
heart! And his heart had again beat high with courage, if only one of
the loved and trusted lights illuminated his lonely path. And now, when
they all beamed upon him, those silver stars--and greater, mightier
than all, the star of his love--now, should he lose courage? Never! The
storm might come--it would find him ready; it would find him at his
post.



                                BOOK V.



                               CHAPTER I.


Dinner had been over an hour at Castle Warnow. Frau von Wallbach, Elsa,
and Count Golm, who had been invited to dinner, were sitting in the
drawing-room round the hearth, on which but a small fire was burning.
Although only just the end of February, the day had been wonderfully
sultry. François even had to open the window, and it was not to be
wondered at that the Baroness should have been seized with one of her
bad headaches at dinner, and directly they got up from the table should
have begged leave to withdraw. Carla had gone to put on her habit, not
wishing to lose the opportunity of riding once more, escorted by
several gentlemen. Herr von Strummin, who had paid a neighbourly
morning visit and remained to the early country dinner, now wished, or
was obliged, to return home, and had gone to see after the horses.
Count Golm, who had really intended to spend the evening at Warnow, now
thought it would be better, in consideration of the Baroness's
indisposition, to return to Golm after the ride without again
dismounting, and at once took leave of the ladies.

He had hoped that Elsa, to whom he had addressed himself, would have
protested, at least with some polite phrase, which he might have
accepted as genuine.

But Elsa was silent, and Frau von Wallbach with difficulty concealed a
fit of yawning, as she leaned back in her arm-chair, and with her hand
before her mouth, seemed to be making a minute inspection of the
ceiling.

The Count bit his lip.

"I am afraid we have not been very lively company for the ladies," he
said. "Strummin was really unbearable. I believe he drank three bottles
to his own share, and spoke about as many words. I think such silence
must be catching, or is it in the air? It is really just like May, when
the first thunderstorms come. What a pity that Captain Schmidt did not
accept your aunt's invitation, Fräulein Elsa! he might, perhaps, have
told us the meaning of this wonderfully sultry state of the atmosphere.
I wonder why he did not come?"

The Count seldom missed an opportunity of reflecting upon Reinhold in
what he imagined to be a peculiarly sarcastic and witty manner. It
could only be the consequence of the blind hatred with which, from the
first he had honoured him.

Reinhold had once visited Warnow during the last week, and that for an
hour only. They had certainly never given any one the slightest
indication by which a clue could be found to the nature of their mutual
relations, yet the Count's last remark sent the blood up into Elsa's
cheek.

"Captain Schmidt only expressed his regret that he had no time to avail
himself of our invitation to-day," she said.

"I should like to know what a man like that has to do," returned the
Count. "He does not, so far as I know, manage the boat himself, but
looks on comfortably from the shore. A mere sinecure, it seems to me."

"Perhaps you do not clearly understand the duties and cares of a man in
such a position, Count Golm?"

"Very likely. For instance, I cannot understand why it is his duty, or
why he gives himself the trouble to interfere in the strangest and most
perverse way with my harbour works. Amongst other things, I know it for
a fact that we owe to his suggestion, or rather his denunciation----"

"Forgive me for interrupting you," said Elsa; "the gentleman of whom
you are speaking possesses the regard, I may say the affection, of my
father; he is my--friend, received by my aunt at Warnow. I do not think
it right to allow him to be cried down here--in his absence."

"But," cried the Count, "you completely misunderstand me. I had not the
slightest intention of maligning that gentleman. I call it a
denunciation, because----"

"Perhaps you will be so kind as to take some opportunity of mentioning
the matter before him; I am certain that he will give you a
satisfactory answer. Dear Louisa, will you excuse my going to see after
my aunt? she may want me."

Elsa bent over Frau von Wallbach's chair, then, drawing herself up,
made the Count a civil but cold bow, and left the drawing-room.

"This is too much!" said the Count, looking after her; "what do you
think of that, Frau von Wallbach? To make such a fuss about this man,
who cavils at everything. Just imagine that he may manage to bring
matters to such a pass, that we shall not dare to demolish the dunes on
the left of Ahlbeck, in spite of the position being absolutely
necessary to us as a depôt for our materials! He asserts that the dunes
are a protection for the whole coast. Just fancy! Sixty feet of beach
at the narrowest part, and then to talk of protecting the coast!
Absurd! And our dear President of course----"

"My dear Count," said Frau von Wallbach, turning her head towards the
Count, "what does it all matter to me?"

"Pardon me, my dear lady," said the Count; "I thought----"

"And I am already bored to death," exclaimed Frau von Wallbach; "good
gracious, how bored I am! This week--oh! this week! If I could only
write to Wallbach to come and fetch me back!"

"We should miss you dreadfully," said the Count.

"I think you would get on very well without me," said Frau von
Wallbach; "and besides, my dear Count, this cannot go on any longer.
Either you must make up your minds, or you must give it up. Do you
think Elsa is blind?"

"Bah!" said the Count, "Fräulein Elsa has got her interesting
Superintendent of Pilots!"

"Yes," said Frau von Wallbach; "you are always talking about that; but
I have lately watched them both closely, and I tell you it is
nonsense."

"I have it on the best authority."

"From Signor Giraldi, of course; he knows everything! And yet it was
Signor Giraldi who originally interested himself in your engagement to
Elsa. I cannot understand it. It is such a bore to be groping in the
dark like this."

The Count, for whom there were also many obscure points in this
delicate affair, thought it high time to break off the conversation.

"I think the horses must have been brought round," he said, rising and
kissing Frau von Wallbach's hand; "excuse me for to-day; to-morrow, if
you will permit it, I will call again. I want to show Fräulein Carla
the harbour works. She interests herself very much about them. I hope
that you will be of the party. _Au revoir!_"

He hurried away without waiting for the lady's answer.

As he passed hastily through the anteroom, from which doors opened on
all sides, Carla came towards him, holding her whip in one hand and in
the other her hat and gloves.

"Your sister-in-law is still in the drawing-room," he said out loud.

"Thank you," replied Carla equally distinctly.

He made her a sign with hand and eye.

"Have you examined this charming old painting yet?"

"Which one!"

"This one, here! look!"

They had moved so far on one side that they could not well be seen from
the drawing-room, of which the portières were open.

"One only," whispered the Count.

"You are mad!"

"The first--and last to-day."

She put up her lips to him.

"Angel!"

"Really charming!" said Carla out loud; and then in a whisper, "For
heaven's sake, go away!"

She vanished into the drawing-room, and the Count rushed into the
corridor. Neither had remarked, their whole attention being directed to
the drawing-room, that at the moment when their lips met the portière
of a second door, which led to the inner apartments, was lifted, and as
quickly dropped again.

"Is Elsa gone?" asked Carla. "I wanted to say good-bye to her."

Frau von Wallbach turned her head so far as to be able to see Carla if
necessary. "I have spoken to him."

"What did you say?" asked Carla eagerly.

"That it is too boring here, and I cannot stand it any longer."

"That was all?"

"It was enough for me. You must manage for yourself."

"But Edward himself thinks your presence necessary here."

"Your brother cannot expect that I should bore myself to death for
you."

Carla shrugged her shoulders. "You will be in a better temper
to-morrow. Good-bye!"

"I go to-morrow, you may depend upon that."

To hear a decided resolution from her sister-in-law was something so
extraordinary, that Carla, who was already at the door, turned round
again. "But, Louisa----"

"Well, I do not see it at all," said Frau von Wallbach. "Elsa is always
amiable to me, much more so than you are. I was really sorry for the
Baroness to-day, to see the trouble she took without receiving the
slightest thanks from you, and I am sorry for poor Ottomar. Whatever
he may be, he does not show me that he thinks me a fool, as you do,
and I do not think it seemly that behind his aunt's back in her own
house----"

"Warnow has long belonged to the Count," said Carla.

"It is all the same. We are staying here with the Baroness, and not
with the Count. If you wish to stay with the Count, marry him--for all
I care. But I think you would be sorry if you gave up Ottomar, and I do
not see how it would be possible now. However, do as you please--I go!"

The unheard-of obstinacy of her sister-in-law began to make Carla
really uneasy. She laid her things down on a chair, knelt by Louisa's
side, and as she held and stroked her hand, said in a soft coaxing
voice, "My sweet pet will never hurt me so. She will not leave poor
Carla in her need. Ottomar is too bad. I know now, from Giraldi, why he
proposed to me, because he was refused by Ferdinanda Schmidt, and he is
still madly in love with her, and is making use of his former mistress
to win her back. And Giraldi says that he has so many debts that his
whole inheritance would not pay them, even if Elsa--and Giraldi knows
everything, everything, I tell you--married that man; and you yourself
would hardly wish to have the wife of a Superintendent of Pilots for a
sister-in-law--would you, my sweet pet!"

"That is all nonsense," said Frau von Wallbach, with a feeble and
fruitless attempt to draw her hand away from Carla's. "You never had
scruples about Ottomar's mistresses formerly. I am certain that the
Count also has his mistresses--all men have; and the same with regard
to his debts. The Count has certainly as many--and perhaps more."

"But not such bad ones," said Carla hastily. "He has terrible debts,
Giraldi says."

"The fact is," said Frau von Wallbach, "you are over head and ears in
love with the Count."

"And if I say yes, will my sweetest Louisa remain here?" whispered
Carla, suddenly throwing her arms round her sister-in-law and laying
her head on her shoulder.

"You will see, no good will come of it."

François looked into the room. "I beg pardon, but the Count has sent to
ask if mademoiselle----"

"I am coming," cried Carla, stretching out her hand for her hat. "You
will, will you not, sweet pet?--please fasten the elastic of my hat
behind--you will remain! Thanks! Adieu, sweet pet!"

She once more embraced her sister-in-law, took her gloves from the
chair, and hastened away, her skirt trailing far behind her.

"If it were only not such a bore!" said Frau von Wallbach, sinking back
in her chair.

When the Count came down, the horses had just been brought round. Herr
von Strummin was sitting on a bench which encircled the trunk of a
wide-spreading lime-tree, and playing with the point of his riding-whip
in the fine gravel.

"You have come at last?" he said, looking up angrily.

"Fräulein von Wallbach wishes to say good-bye again to the ladies,"
said the Count, seating himself by the side of his friend, "and it is
rather a long business. We shall still have some little time to wait."

"So much the better," said Herr von Strummin; "I have not for a long
time had the pleasure of speaking to you for a minute alone. So,
without any beating about the bush--I am very sorry, but I must have
back my five thousand thalers."

"I am very sorry too, my dear Strummin," replied the Count, laughing,
"because I cannot repay them."

"Cannot repay me!" exclaimed Herr von Strummin, as the colour grew
still deeper in his red face. "But you told me that I could count upon
it at any time."

"Because I naturally supposed that you would not choose just the most
unsuitable time. You know that I must pay off that mortgage to-morrow."

"Why did you give notice to pay it off? It was most imprudent. I told
you so from the first."

"I wanted to save the interest; and if you can get back two million for
one--in the meantime--of course--as things stand at present----"

"You may be thankful that the directors have postponed the date of
payment of the second instalment, which was due to-morrow."

"Certainly," said the Count; "it is very kind of the gentlemen. I
should have been in a terrible position; but it has not made my
situation even now particularly pleasant. That confounded mortgage! My
creditor is most disagreeably pressing; he says he must have the money
back."

"Perhaps it may now transpire who this creditor really is whom you make
such a mystery about?"

"I have given my word of honour----"

"Then say nothing. It is all the same to me, moreover; and if you can
pay half a million to-morrow to the gentleman in question, you can also
raise my five thousand!"

"I do not know yet whether I shall be able to pay!" cried the Count
impatiently--"Lübbener--Haselow and Co.--I could not stand Lübbener any
longer--unlimited orders to sell; but if to-morrow our shares go down
still further--they stood the day before yesterday at forty-five----"

"And yesterday at twenty-five!"

"Impossible!" cried the Count.

"Good heavens, man! have you never troubled yourself to inquire, then?"

"I--I--my letters lately--the presence of the ladies here--there are so
many claims upon me----"

"So it seems," replied Herr von Strummin, taking a letter out of his
pocket. "I got my banker to write to me yesterday, as I saw what was
impending, and have carried his letter about with me since this
morning. I have already been over to Golm, too, to tell you of it." He
unfolded the letter: "Sundin-Wissows were offered freely to-day at
thirty-five; no buyers. They then rose to forty-five on large
purchases. When it became known, however, that Lübbener himself was the
buyer, merely to keep up the price, they fell rapidly, and closed at
twenty-five! Please telegraph distinct orders whether to sell at any
price. A further fall is inevitable.' There you have the whole affair."

"It is certainly bad," murmured the Count.

"And whom have we to thank for all this?" cried Herr von Strummin.
"You--you only! You first led us into the affair, and promised all
sorts of things, and then prudently left us in the dark until you had
pocketed your profits as promoter. Then we fell further into the trap,
and had to pay up heavily; and finally you throw half a million into
the market, and bring down the value of our own shares. And I, like a
fool, gave you the last penny I had; and instead of looking after your
own affairs, as it was your bounden duty to do, you hang about here
with the women, and----"

"I think that last clause has nothing to do with the matter." said the
Count, getting up.

"Nothing to do with it!" cried the other, also springing to his feet.
"Very well! very well! ruin yourself if you please, but at least leave
other people out of the game. And I tell you, that if by twelve o'clock
the day after to-morrow my five thousand thalers, which I lent you on
your word of honour, are not lying on my table at Strummin to the
uttermost farthing----"

"For heaven's sake do not speak so loud," said the Count; "you shall
have your money, although I am convinced that the great trousseau is
only a pretext----"

"A pretext? a pretext?" cried Herr von Strummin, raising his rough
voice if possible still louder; "pretext indeed! when Meta is herself
gone this morning to Berlin, to----"

"This morning?" said the Count, with a jeering laugh; "excuse my
remarking, _mon cher_, that was very imprudent of you! Our shares may
rise again, and--the stone-cutter will not run away."

Herr von Strummin's light blue eyes almost started out of his burning
face. He became suddenly hoarse with passion.

"What, what, what!" he snarled. "A stone-cutter? An artist! and a great
artist, who every year makes his six to ten thousand--a stone-cutter?"

"I only say it because you always call him so yourself."

"I can call my son-in-law anything I choose, but if any one else
permits himself to do so, he shall eat his words as sure as I----"

"You gentlemen must certainly have grown very impatient," said Carla,
who came out of the door just at this moment.

"Not at all," said the Count, turning on his heel and hastening towards
her.

"Yes, very impatient!" cried Herr von Strummin, who had suddenly
recovered his voice. "I was only waiting to take my leave; I must be at
Strummin in half an hour. I hope the conversation will get on better
without me; I have the honour----"

He snatched the reins of his great strong-boned black horse out of the
groom's hand, swung himself into the saddle, and sticking his spurs
into the animal's sides, galloped out of the courtyard.

"Good gracious!" whispered Carla, "what does it mean?"

"A little row," said the Count, hiding the excitement into which the
altercation had thrown him as well as he could under a forced smile;
"nothing uncommon between old friends."

"And the cause?"

"A last attempt, it seemed to me, to get a Count for a son-in-law,
before accepting a sculptor."

The Count had assisted Carla into her saddle, put the riding-whip into
her hand, and was now arranging her skirt.

Carla bent towards him: "You bad man, I will give you a lecture on the
way."

"Pity it cannot be without a witness," whispered the Count, with a look
towards the groom, who was holding the reins of the other two horses.

"You are really too bad!"

"At your service," said the Count out loud, and he stepped back and
signed to the groom. He swung himself on to his horse, and started off
with Carla, followed by the groom at a considerable distance. He had
had some trouble in getting into his saddle.



                            END OF VOL. II.



                           *   *   *   *   *
             BILLING AND SONS, PRINTERS, GUILDFORD, SURREY.





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