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Title: The Breaking of the Storm, Vol. III.
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/breakingstormtr02spiegoog
     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. III.



                                LONDON:
                        RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON.
                                 1877.

                        (_All Rights Reserved_.)



                       THE BREAKING OF THE STORM.


                         BOOK V.--_Continued_.



                              CHAPTER V.


Frau Feldner, Valerie's old lady's-maid, told Elsa that her lady was in
a sound sleep, as was always the case with her after a violent attack
of headache, and out of which she would hardly awake before evening.
Elsa, who had herself suffered from the extraordinary sultriness of the
day, and from the uncomfortable conversation at dinner, and was also
put out and agitated by the scene with the Count, intended to employ
the time in taking a walk; and thinking that Carla and the Count were
already gone, was going, out of courtesy, to invite Frau von Wallbach
to accompany her. Hat and shawl in hand, she was coming out of the
Baroness's rooms, and innocently lifting the portière of the anteroom,
had become a very unwilling spectator of the little scene which took
place between the Count and Carla. In her consternation she had let the
curtain fall again, and without even thinking whether she had been
observed or not, had hastily run downstairs, and now wandered round
the garden trying to persuade herself that what she had seen was a
mistake--her eyes had deceived her. It was not possible that Carla
could have so far forgotten herself, that she could so shamefully
deceive her brother. But the more determinately she tried to drive back
and destroy the hateful picture, the more terribly distinctly it stood
out in her mind.

It must be so! The link that should have united Ottomar and Carla was
torn asunder for ever, even if what she had just seen were only the
sudden delirium of the moment. But how could that be, when she thought
of Carla's intense frivolity, which had often caused her such anxiety;
and of the Count's audacity, from which she had from the first
instinctively shrunk, and of which he had even now given such proof;
when she remembered the confidential whispering, the coquettish
flirting, the many, many things which had taken place between the two
in her very presence, and which had been so displeasing and offensive,
but, above all, so incomprehensible to her, and of which she now found
so terrible an explanation! What would Ottomar say? He must hear of it!
What would he do? Perhaps exult that the chain which fettered him was
broken--in good time! But that would not be like Ottomar. No man would
take it patiently--and he! so sensitive, passionate, and violent, who
had so often risked his life in a duel on the slightest provocation--a
disagreeable word, a look--which gave him offence! But, on the other
hand, had he really a right to feel himself offended? Had he really
tried to retain Carla's love, or even first to win it, as it was his
duty to do, after he became engaged to her? Had he not neglected her in
the eyes of the world? left her, unguarded and unsheltered, to throw
herself into that roaring whirlpool of social life in which she had
formerly moved with such fatal enjoyment, and in which she had gained
such brilliant triumphs? If so, he would have no betrayed love, only
wounded vanity to avenge--to risk his life for a thing in which he did
not himself believe, only because in the eyes of society this sad
comedy of errors needed a sanguinary end. Oh! this miserable slavery,
in which she had once fancied herself happy and free, only because she
had not learnt how a free heart beats, and for what a soul longs which
that heart has set free, and which now spreads out its wings to soar
away from all these wretched barriers of prejudice and illusion into
the clear atmosphere of a noble and unselfish love! She could no longer
bear to remain between the high, straight hedges and the interwoven
branches of the beech-walk, in which here and there appeared stone gods
and goddesses in odd and exaggerated attitudes, as if startled at the
sight of one who could think and feel so differently to those who had
their pride and joy in these quaint, old-fashioned splendours.

Away! away! to him she loved, if it might be, to seek shelter in his
strong arms from this hollow, unreal world, to weep out upon his
faithful breast her grief and indignation, to feel free in his presence
from all this self-made sorrow, this foolish misery, and never, never
again to leave him. And if this highest happiness were denied her, if
she must return to the slavery of these intolerable circumstances--out
into the open then, over the brown meadows, through the dark fields, to
the white dunes which peeped out in the distance, to have one look at
the sea--his beloved sea! Might it but bring her a greeting from her
beloved, a waft of his breath to cool her hot brow, to refresh her
burning eyes, were it only by a tear of unsatisfied longing!

Over the brown meadows and through the dark fields Elsa hurried, in the
direction of a farm which lay before her at some distance, and which
she must pass if she followed any further the sandy path, which looked
as if it would take her quickest to her goal. The path led her ever
nearer to the farm, and at last directly into it. Elsa did not like it;
she would rather have met no one, since she dared not hope to meet him
for whom she longed; but an attempt to get round the outside of the
barn was frustrated by wet ground here and a hedge there. She must turn
back or pass through the farm--a little, melancholy, quiet farm, a few
tumble-down out-buildings, from which the dwelling-house was only to be
distinguished by the windows--which looked dilapidated enough too--and
by the two lime-trees, which in summer made a pleasant shade before the
door, but whose bare, leafless branches now projected in a ghostly
manner over the decayed thatched roof against the grey sky.

A tall, broad-shouldered man came out from a barn-door, followed by a
little dog, who flew at the stranger, barking loudly. The man called
the animal back. At the first sound of his voice, Elsa, to whom the
whole scene had appeared wonderfully familiar, as if she must have seen
it before, recognised the honest farmer who had so kindly sheltered her
last autumn.

"Herr Pölitz!" she said, holding out her hand. "You have forgotten me."

A look of joy came over the sunburnt face. "Come, this is good of you
to pay us a visit!"

"You knew, then, that I was in Warnow?"

The farmer smiled in his melancholy way.

"How should the like of us not know such a thing? But that you should
have remembered us! My wife will be so pleased."

He went towards the house. Elsa was very sorry to spoil the pleasure of
these worthy people, but she could not permit herself even so trifling
an untruth. The farmer's face clouded, as she explained, with some
embarrassment, that during the week she had been at Warnow she had
never been beyond the garden, and had not now intended any visit; in
fact, that she had not known that these buildings, which she had often
enough seen from her window across the fields, were Herr Pölitz's farm.
"But," she added, "I should have come had I known, or as soon as I
discovered it. For that I give you my word."

"We could not have expected it," answered the farmer; "but since you
say so, I believe you. But will you not come in!" he added
hesitatingly.

"Yes, for a minute, to speak to your wife and to see the children."

"The children!"

As they now stood before the door, the farmer laid his brown hand on
her arm, and said in a low voice:

"Don't ask after little Carl. Since Christmas he has slept over there
in the churchyard. It was a sorrowful Christmas. But in a few days, if
God will, we shall again have two."

He left Elsa no time to answer, but opened the low house-door--how well
Elsa remembered the rattling bell!--called out to his wife, and showed
his guest into the parlour on the left. As she went in, the figure of a
woman rose up from a stool near the stove, whom Elsa in the dusk, which
already prevailed in the room, with its small, dull windows, took for
Frau Pölitz, but on coming nearer, saw that it was a young and pretty,
but pale and sickly-looking girl. She greeted her in a shy and
embarrassed manner, and went away without speaking a word.

"A sister of mine," said the farmer, answering Elsa's look, in a low
voice and turning away his head. "Will you not sit down? If you will
allow me, I will go myself and look for my wife."

He went out. Elsa would have preferred to follow him. The close
atmosphere in the little, over-heated room nearly took away her breath;
and worse than the atmosphere was the sense of misery which was so
palpable here, and spoke so distinctly in the farmer's melancholy
face, in the girl's white cheeks, in everything on which her glance
fell--even in the gloomy silence of the wretched farmyard and in the
dilapidated house. Had she fled from the splendid misery of the castle
only to find the same helpless sorrow in the little farmhouse! But at
least it was not self-made suffering, so that it must awaken
compassion, though it could not revolt the soul like what she had just
experienced. How could she refuse these poor people the only thing they
had asked of her--a tender word of compassion?

The farmer came in with his wife. He had already told her all--that the
young lady could only say a word in passing to-day, but that in a few
days she would come and spend a longer time with them. "Hardly in a few
days," said the farmer; "we are going to have bad weather. I must even
urge the young lady not to remain too long; it may break up this
evening."

He had been standing at the window, and now left the room, murmuring a
few words of apology, of which Elsa only understood "roof" and "cover."

"It is the roof of the barn," explained his wife; "it is so rotten he
has had to take down one corner, and must now cover it over as well as
he can, that the storm may not carry away the rest. To be sure it may
be all one to him. We must leave at Easter anyhow."

"How is that?" asked Elsa.

"Our lease is not renewed," answered the woman; "and no new farmer is
coming either. Everything here is to be pulled down and a big hotel
built, so they say. God knows what will become of us!"

The poor woman, who looked even paler and more worn in her present
condition than in the autumn, sighed deeply. Elsa tried to comfort her
with words of sympathy. "It would be easy for a man like Herr Pölitz to
find something else, and if capital was wanting to rent a new, and
perhaps larger and better farm, some means would be devised for that
also. The great thing was, not to lose courage herself. She must think
only of her husband, who took life hardly enough as it was, and whose
strength would be paralysed if she lost heart. She must think of the
child that remained to her, and of the other that was coming, and
everything would come right."

The woman smiled through her tears.

"Ah!" she said, "what a comfort it is to hear such words from kind
people! It does not last long, but for the moment one feels lighter;
and that is a great deal when one's heart is so heavy. That is what I
always say to the Captain. He is just like you."

A thrill of joy passed through Elsa. Reinhold had been here! He had
also sought the place to which her thoughts had so often returned.

"He has often been here already," said Frau Pölitz; "only the day
before yesterday he came on foot; but generally he goes in his boat to
Ahlbeck."

"How far is it to Wissow?" asked Elsa.

"About four or five miles if you go right over Wissow Head; three miles
to the Head, and half as much down to Wissow. You can see it there from
the top. It is very fine up there on a summer's day. We used to go
there very often formerly, but we never go now."

The pale girl here came in, took a key from a shelf near the door, and
went out again immediately.

"Your sister-in-law is here to nurse you?" said Elsa. "The poor girl
seems rather to need nursing herself."

"Yes, God knows?" said Frau Pölitz. She pulled at her apron with an
embarrassed look and drew nearer to Elsa on the little sofa, and went
on in a low voice, "I ought not to talk about it, but you are so kind
and good, and it lies so terribly heavy on my mind. If you would----"

"If your husband has forbidden you to speak, you had better not tell
me."

The woman shook her head.

"No, no, not that; he does not know--at least I hope not, although
since yesterday--perhaps it is as well----"

"Tell me then, it may calm you," said Elsa, who was frightened at the
woman's evident excitement.

"Yes, yes; true," said Frau Pölitz; "and you might also advise me as to
what I shall do. Marie is--she has--if you look at me like that I
cannot tell you--she has always been in all other respects a good,
industrious, clever girl, only sometimes a little high-flown, poor
thing. She was housekeeper over at Golm to the Count, for two years,
although my husband never approved of it, as in a large house like
that--you know well how it is--there are so many people, and in a
bachelor's establishment it is difficult to keep order and discipline.
But she had good wages, and all went on well till last Michaelmas, when
she suddenly gave warning, without saying a word to us, and went to
Sundin, also as housekeeper, to the President's. But that did not last
long, and the President's lady, who is a very good lady--may God reward
her!--looked after her; and we knew nothing about it all until the poor
infant died, in November. My husband was quite frantic, as he lays
great store by his family, which has seen better days, and especially
this sister, who had always been his pet. But what was to be done? What
is done is done, and when at Christmas our little Carl died, and I
could not well manage the household work, I wrote to the President's
lady and she sent her here to us, and wrote at the same time such a
kind letter. I will show it to you next time you come. Marie has been a
real help to me, and has cost us nothing. She has saved something, and
the President's lady also helped, and she has often offered me her
little store. Of course I have never taken it, although I am convinced
that it is honestly earned, and that he--the father--has never troubled
himself about the poor thing. She told me that herself, but always
added, 'He knew nothing of it--nothing at all.' But that is impossible
to believe, even if we, my husband and I, had no suspicion as to who
could be the father. The name should never pass her lips, the poor girl
said. And even yesterday it never did so." The woman paused for a few
moments, as if to gather strength for what she still had to relate.
Elsa's heart beat with sympathy, and with a dull fear, which increased
every moment, for which, however, she could not account. What possible
reference could the poor girl's story have to her! The woman had come
quite close to her, and went on in a still lower voice: "Yesterday
afternoon, just at this time, my husband was behind there at the barn,
Marie was ironing, with the child in the room next the kitchen, where,
if you remember, the window looks on to the garden, and I was here
washing, when some riders came up to the farm----" Elsa's heart gave a
leap, and she involuntarily turned away from the woman. "Good heavens!"
exclaimed the latter; "I trusted the Captain. He told me the day before
yesterday that there was not a word of truth in the report about here
that you were going to marry the Count. If it is true, I dare not say
another word!"

"Thank God it is not the case," said Elsa, by a strong effort
overcoming her emotion. "The Count is then the man!"

Frau Pölitz nodded. "She cannot any longer deny it, and indeed she
confessed as much to me, when I brought her to herself. They had
dismounted and come into the house; the Count said that the young lady
was unwell, and begged for a cup of coffee. May God forgive him, but it
was certainly untrue, as the young lady was not the least unwell; on
the contrary, did nothing but laugh, and they went through the house
straight into the garden. A few old trees stand in it, and the hedges
are also rather overgrown, so that it is quite sheltered; but Marie
must have seen more than the poor girl could bear; and as I stood there
by the stove she suddenly shrieked out, so that I thought she had let
the heater of the iron fall on her foot, or that the child had hurt
itself, and rushed in. There she lay on her back on the floor, and I
thought she was dead, as she neither moved nor stirred, and was cold as
ice and white as a sheet. You may easily imagine how frightened I was,
and I may thank God that it was no worse. I called out, and Rike, our
maidservant, came, and I sent her for my husband; and it was well I did
so, for Marie came to herself, looked all round her with a bewildered,
glassy stare, and then to the window, and asked timidly, 'Is he still
there?' I knew then for certain, and begged her, for God's sake, to
keep silence before Carl, my husband. But since then he has been so
odd; I am afraid he must have remarked something when he went into the
garden to tell the Count that they must wait a little for the coffee
and so forth. The Count would not hear anything more about the coffee,
and the young lady told me how sorry she was. She had had no idea that
we had an invalid in the house. Upon which my husband said, 'Excuse me,
ma'am, my sister is not an invalid, she has only just been taken ill;'
and he said it so strangely, with his eyes fixed as if some other
thought were in his mind. What shall I do? Shall I tell him? What do
you think?"

Frau Pölitz held both Elsa's hands clasped in hers and looked anxiously
into her eyes.

"I think--yes," said Elsa. "You cannot keep it from him in the end, and
a wife should have no secrets from her husband. It seems to me that all
the evil in the world comes from our keeping and concealing from one
another our most sacred feelings, as if we had reason to be ashamed of
them; as if we did not live in them--only in them!"

She stood up and seized her hat and shawl from the round table.

"You are going already?" said Frau Pölitz sorrowfully; "but indeed it
is a long way to Warnow."

"I have much farther to go," said Elsa, putting on her hat. "Three
miles, did you say?"

"Where to?"

"To Wissow Head." Frau Pölitz stared at Elsa, as if she were talking
nonsense. "Yes," said Elsa, "to the Head. I cannot miss the way?"

"A road goes from here straight through the marshes, but makes a great
bend at Ahlbeck on account of the brook. But, my dear young lady, for
heaven's sake what do you want to go there for?"

Elsa had put on her shawl, and now grasped Frau Pölitz by both hands.
"I will tell you. To have one look--one look only--at the place where
the man I love lives. You need not look at me so anxiously, dear Frau
Pölitz, He really lives at Wissow."

"The Superintendent of Pilots?" exclaimed Frau Pölitz.

She sat down and burst into tears of joy.

"You also love him," said Elsa with a proud smile.

"Oh! indeed I do," cried Frau Pölitz, sobbing; "and oh! how happy my
husband will be! May I tell him----"

"You may tell whom you will."

"Oh! how pleased I am! You could not have given me greater pleasure
than to tell me this. It makes me feel quite young again. Such a
charming gentleman as he is, and such a dear, dear young lady! I feel
sure that everything must go right now."

She kissed Elsa's hand again and again, with hot tears. Elsa gently
disengaged herself. "I will tell you everything next time. Now I must
go."

"No," said Frau Pölitz, standing up, "you must not walk such a long
way; my husband shall drive you."

"I am determined to walk," said Elsa.

"You cannot be back before dark. It is already beginning to get dark,
and we are certainly going to have bad weather."

Elsa would allow no objection to weigh with her. She was a good walker
and had eyes like a hawk. She feared neither the distance nor the
darkness.

With that she once more shook Frau Pölitz's hand, and the next minute
had left room, and house, and farm, and was walking quickly through the
fields along the road, of which the farmer's wife had spoken, towards
the headland, whose broad mass stood out from the wide plain.



                              CHAPTER III.


It was three miles, Frau Pölitz had to Wissow Head, but it seemed to
Elsa as if the long, winding road would never come to an end. And yet
she walked so quickly, that the little empty waggon which at first was
far ahead of her, was now as far behind. That wretched vehicle was the
only sign of human life. Besides that, only the brown plain, like a
desert waste, as far as her eye could reach. No large trees, only here
and there a few stunted willows, and some wretched shrubs by the
ditches which intersected each other here and there, and by the broad
sluggish stream which she now crossed by means of a rickety and
unprotected wooden bridge. The stream evidently flowed from the chain
of hills on her right hand, at the foot of which Elsa could see far
apart the buildings of Gristow and of Damerow, the two other properties
belonging to Warnow.

Taking a long circuit, she gradually ascended to Wissow Head, which lay
straight before her, whilst the plain to the left stretched without the
smallest undulation to the low-lying dunes, which only showed white
here and there over the edge of the moor. Only once, for a few minutes,
a leaden-grey streak showed through a gap by which the brook made its
way, which Elsa knew must be the sea, although she could scarcely
distinguish it from the sky, for the sky above her was the same leaden
colour too, only that towards the east, over the sea, it seemed
somewhat darker than over the hills to the west, and in the leaden
firmament hung here and there a solitary whitish speck like the smoke
of gunpowder, which in the motionless air remained always in the same
spot. Not the slightest breath was stirring, but from time to time a
strange murmur passed across the waste, as if the brown moor was trying
to rouse itself from its long slumber; and through the heavy, gloomy
atmosphere there came a sound as of a soft, long-drawn-out, plaintive
wail, and then again a death-like stillness, in which Elsa seemed to
hear the beating of her heart.

But more fearful almost than the stillness of this desert spot was the
shrieking of a great flock of sea-gulls, which she had startled from
one of the many hollows on the moors, and which now hovered hither and
thither in the grey atmosphere, their pointed bills turned downwards,
and followed her for a long time, as if in furious anger at this
intruder upon their domain.

Nevertheless she walked on and on, quicker and quicker, following an
impulse which she would allow no considerations of prudence to check,
which was stronger even than the dread which earth and sky whispered to
her with ghost-like breath, threatening and warning her with
supernatural voices. And then came another more terrible fear. Far
away in the distance, at the foot of the headland, which ever stood out
more majestically before her, she had fancied she saw dark moving
objects, and now that she approached nearer, she was convinced of it.
Labourers--many hundred--who were working at an apparently endless
embankment, which had already reached a considerable height.

She could not avoid crossing the embankment, even if she made a great
circuit; she must pass through the long line of workmen. She did so
with a courteous greeting to those who stood nearest to her. The men,
who were already working lazily enough, let their barrows stand, and
stared at her without returning her greeting. As she passed on, loud
shouts and coarse laughter sounded behind her. Turning involuntarily,
she saw that two of the number had followed her, and only stopped as
she turned, perhaps also checked by the noise made by the others.

She continued on her way, almost running. There was now only a narrow
path over the short withered grass and across the sandy tracts which
alternated on the slope of the hill. Elsa said to herself that she
should remain within sight of the men till she reached the top, and
might at any time be followed by them. But if she turned back in the
deepening twilight the men would perhaps have left off work; no
overseer would be there to keep their rudeness in check, and there
would be the whole endless plain as far as Warnow in which these rough
men might bewilder, terrify, and insult her. Should she turn back at
once, while it was yet time? beg for the escort of one of the
overseers? or take refuge in the waggon which she had before overtaken,
and which was now close to the workmen, or in another vehicle, which
from the height on which she stood she could now see in the distance,
and which must also have followed her, as there was no other road over
the plain.

Whilst Elsa was thus deliberating with herself, she hastened, as if
under a spell, with beating heart, up the incline, whose top stood out
sharply in a straight line against the grey sky between her and the
sea.

With every step the sea and the line of dunes stretched broader and
farther to the left, and her gaze wandered out to where the vapour of
the sea and sky mingled together, and over the beautifully curved line
of the coast to the wooded heights of Golmberg, whose purple masses
hung threateningly over.

Above the confused mass of crowded treetops rose the tower of the
castle. Between Golmberg yonder and the height on which she stood was
the brown plain over which she had passed--inhospitable as the sea
itself, from which it was only divided by the yellow outline of the
dunes. The only abode of mankind was the fishing hamlet of Ahlbeck,
which, close to the foot of the promontory, now lay almost directly at
her feet. There also, between the houses and the sea, on the broad
strand, were long moving lines of workmen as far as the two piers,
which, curving towards each other, ran out into the sea. At the piers
were two or three large vessels, which seemed to be unloading, whilst a
fleet of fishing-boats, all on the same course, were making for the
shore. Though all the sails were set, yet the boats were really only
moved by the oars. The uniform position of the brown sails and the
monotonous movements of the oars, formed a curious contrast to the
confused whirring of the white gulls, who, as before, circled
incessantly above her head, between her and the shore.

She saw it all with her clear-sighted eyes, as a traveller on the
railway mechanically observes the details of the landscape which the
train rushes through, while his thoughts are at home, tasting the
rapture which he will feel after his long separation from those he
loves. And she, alas! dared not hope to look into the dear eyes, to
hold the loved hands in hers, to hear the sound of that strong, yet
gentle and kind voice. She only wanted to see the place where he lived.

And it seemed as if even that small consolation was to be denied to
her. She had already wandered some way along the path on the top of the
hill, without gaining the slightest glimpse of the other side, where
Wissow must lie, only the sky looked leaden over the edge of the
plateau. Perhaps she might see it if she followed the broader road that
she had now reached, and that, coming from her right, led upwards along
the side of the hill to a heap of immense logs, above which rose a huge
signal-post, which must be erected on the topmost height of the
headland, and probably also on its extreme edge.

And in fact, as she now climbed higher and higher, a pale streak
appeared to her right--the shore of the mainland--and then again the
leaden surface of the sea, on which here and there a sail was seen, and
at last, immediately beneath her on this side, a white point of dune,
which spread gradually like a wedge towards the headland, until it
formed a little peninsula, in the centre of which lay a dozen or so of
houses of various sizes between the white sands and the brown moor.
That was Wissow! That must be Wissow!

And now, as she stood on the point which she had reached by the
exertion of all her physical and moral powers, and however lovingly she
stretched out her arms, felt that the object of her desires still lay
so far off, so utterly beyond her reach--now for the first time she
believed that she understood the dumb, terrifying voices of the
solitude and loneliness around her, the whispering and rustling of the
moor, the wailing spirit-voices in the air. Alone! alone!

Infinite sorrow welled up in her heart, her knees gave way, she sank
down upon a stone near the logs, buried her face in her hands, and
burst into tears like a helpless, lost child. She did not see that a
man, who was leaning against the signal-post behind the logs, watching
the sea, startled by the strange sound near him, stepped forward. She
did not hear his steps as he hastened towards her over the short turf.

"Elsa!"

She sprang up with a half-stifled cry.

"Elsa!"

And again she cried out--a wild cry of joy, which rang strangely
through the stillness, and she lay on his breast, clinging to him like
a drowning woman.

"Reinhold! My Reinhold!"

She wept, she laughed, she cried again and again: "Reinhold, my
Reinhold!"

Speechless with happiness and astonishment at the sweet surprise, he
drew her down to him on the stone on which she had been sitting.

She leaned her head on his breast. "I have so longed for you."

"Elsa, my darling Elsa!"

"I was forced to come, I could not help it; I was drawn here, as if by
invisible hands. And now I have you! Oh! do not leave me again. Take me
with you yonder to your home. My home is there with you. With you! Do
not drive me out again into the desolate, false and loveless world
which lies behind me. With you only is happiness, peace, joy, truth,
fidelity! Oh! how your true loving heart beats, I feel it. It loves me
as I love you. It has longed for me, as my poor, distracted heart has
longed for you."

"Yes, my Elsa, it has longed for you intensely, unspeakably. I came up
here because it gave me no peace. I wanted to have one look only to
where you were--one last look, before----"

"Before what--for heaven's sake!"

He had led her the few steps to the logs, and now stood, with his arm
round her, close to the edge of the hill, which sloped so precipitously
down from its frowning brow, that they seemed to be hanging immediately
over the grey sea in the grey sky.

"Look, Elsa! There comes the storm. I hear it, I see it, as if it were
already let loose. It may be hours first, but it will come, it must
come with terrible fury. Everything shows signs of it. That leaden sea
below us will be tossed in wild waves, whose spray will be thrown up
even to this height. Woe to the ships that are not already safe in
harbour, and perhaps even there they are not secure from its wild fury.
Woe to the low-lying lands beneath us. I meant to have written to you
this morning, because I saw it coming even yesterday, and to tell you
that you would do better to leave Warnow, but you would not have gone."

"Never! I am so proud that you trust me, that you have told me this.
And if the storm breaks, and I know that your dear life is in danger, I
will be firm; or if I tremble I will not fear, only to myself I will
say, 'He could not do his duty, he could not be the brave true man whom
I love, if he knew that I were weeping and wringing my hands, whilst he
must guide and command as on that evening;'  do you remember? Do you
know, my darling, that I loved you then! and do you remember you told
me that I had the eyes of a sailor? Oh! how I remember every word,
every look, and how pleased I was that I was not obliged to give you
back the compass directly! I did not mean to keep it, I meant you to
have it again."

"You were more honest then than I was, my darling. I was determined not
to give you back your glove. You had taken it off when you were looking
through my telescope; it lay on the deck and I took it up. Since then
it has never left me. See! it has been my talisman. We sailors are
superstitious. I have sworn never to part with it, until instead of the
glove, I hold your dear hand in mine for ever."

He kissed the little grey glove before he returned it to his
breast-pocket. They had again seated themselves on the stone--softly
whispering, caressing, jesting, in loving talk, heart to heart and lip
to lip, forgetting, in the paradise of their young love, the desert
which surrounded them, the darkness which was ever deepening, and the
storm which was brooding in the leaden air, over the leaden sea, like
the angel of destruction over a world which he hoped to annihilate for
ever, and to cast back into primeval chaos. A dull rumbling sound
quivering in the distance attracted their attention; followed
immediately by a sound of rushing through the air, without any motion
that they could feel even at this height, and then again followed the
deathlike stillness.

Reinhold sprang up.

"It comes quicker than I thought. We have not a moment to lose."

"What are you going to do?"

"To take you back."

"You cannot. You must be at your post. You did not come to Warnow this
morning on account of it. How can you now absent yourself so far, when
the danger is much nearer? No, no, my darling, do not look so anxiously
at me. I must learn to live without fear, and I will. I am quite
determined. From this moment there shall be no fear, even before the
world. I cannot live any longer without you, and you cannot live
without me. If I were still in ignorance--but now I know! And, believe
me, my dear father will be the first to understand. He must have known
already when he said to me, what he also wrote to you, 'I leave your
fate in your own hands.' Ottomar and my aunt may share my inheritance;
my proud father would have taken nothing from me, and you--you take me
as I am, and lead me to your home for ever. One more look at my
paradise! One more kiss, and now farewell! farewell!"

She embraced him fervently, and then would have freed herself, but he
held her hand fast.

"It is impossible, Elsa; it is already growing dark up here, and in
half an hour below it will be night. You cannot be certain of keeping
to the road, which can no longer be distinguished from the moor, and
that is full of deep bogs. It is really impossible, Elsa."

"It must be possible. I should despise myself if I kept you back from
your duty; and how could you continue to love me, and not to look upon
your love as a burden, if I did so? How do you know that you may not be
wanted at the shortest notice? At this moment possibly the men may be
standing helpless, and looking out for their leader. Reinhold, by your
love! am I right or not?"

"You are indeed right, but----"

"No 'but,' my darling, we must part." They were as they spoke hastening
hand-in-hand along the path by which Elsa had before reached the top,
and now stood on the cross way which led on one side to the Warnow
moor, and on the other to Wissow.

"Only to the foot. Till I know you are on the right path," said
Reinhold.

"Not a step farther. Hark! What is that?"

He had also noticed it already--a sound as of horses' feet, galloping
on the hard turf behind the slope of the hill which rose before them
and concealed from them any farther view of the other and more
precipitous side. The next moment a rider appeared in sight over the
hill. He had now reached the top, and pulling up his horse, rose in his
saddle and appeared to be looking round him.

"It is the Count," said Elsa.

A deep glow came into her face. "You must accompany me a little way
now," she said, drawing a deep breath. "Come."

She took his arm. At that moment the Count, who had been looking above
them, looked down, and saw the pair. He put spurs to his horse, and
galloping down the slope, was with them in a trice. He had no doubt
recognised Reinhold at once, for when he checked his horse and took off
his hat, his countenance did not show the slightest trace of wonder or
astonishment. He seemed in fact not to see Reinhold, as if he had met
Elsa alone.

"This is good luck indeed. How delighted your aunt will be. She is
waiting there; the carriage could not come any farther."

He pointed with the handle of his whip over the slope of the hill.

"I assure you it is so, though you seem so astonished. Your aunt was
very uneasy at your long absence--inquired in the neighbourhood--learnt
from Pölitz that you had come here--a strange fancy, by Jove!--your
aunt was determined to come herself--I had just returned with Fräulein
von Wallbach, and begged to escort her--was beginning to despair.
Awfully lucky! May I be allowed to accompany you to the carriage? it is
not a hundred yards off."

He had swung himself from his saddle, and held his horse by the bridle.

Reinhold looked straight into Elsa's eyes. She understood and answered
the look.

"We are much obliged to you, Count Golm," he said, "but we will not
trespass on your kindness one instant longer than is necessary. I will
myself conduct my betrothed to the Baroness."

"Ah!" said the Count.

He had pictured to himself beforehand the terrible embarrassment which,
in his opinion, the two culprits would feel on becoming aware of his
presence, and the shock that the Baroness would experience if he could
tell her in what company he had had the happiness of meeting her niece.
He took it for granted that on his arrival the fellow would take
himself off to Wissow, with some embarrassed words of explanation. And
now he could not believe his ears, and he could hardly trust his eyes,
as Elsa and this fellow, turning their backs upon him, walked off
arm-in-arm, as if he had not been there. With one spring he was again
in his stirrups.

"Allow me at least to announce the joyful news to the Baroness!" he
cried, as bowing sarcastically he galloped past and hastened up the
hill, behind which he almost immediately disappeared.

"Wretch!" said Elsa; "thank you, Reinhold, for having understood me,
for having freed me for ever from him and all. You cannot imagine how
thankful I am, nor why I am so thankful. I will not trouble your loving
heart yet with the hateful things I have learned. I will tell you
another time. Happen what will, I am yours, you are mine. That
happiness is so great, everything else is in comparison small and
insignificant."

At a slight distance from them stood the open carriage, and beside it a
horseman. They thought it was the Count, but on coming nearer they saw
that it was a servant. The Count had vanished. As soon as he had
imparted the great discovery, with a sneering laugh to the Baroness,
receiving no other reply than, "I am obliged to you, Count, for your
escort so far"--the two last words being pronounced with peculiar
emphasis--he again took off his hat and rode away over the hill.

The Baroness got out of the carriage and came towards the lovers. Elsa
dropped Reinhold's arm and hastened towards her aunt. Her impetuous
embrace told all that was necessary. As Reinhold stepped forward, the
Baroness held out her hand to him, and said in an agitated voice, "You
bring me my dear child--and yourself. I thank you doubly."

Reinhold kissed the trembling hand. "There is no time to make
speeches," he said, "and your kind heart knows what I feel. God bless
you!"

"And you also, my Reinhold," cried Elsa, throwing her arms round him;
"God bless you! Good luck and joy be with you!"

He had helped the ladies into the carriage, one more pressure of the
loved hand, and the vehicle started off, preceded by the servant. In
spite of the hilly nature of the ground, it was possible to go quickly,
as the soil was firm and the road good, even up here on the top, and
Reinhold had urged the utmost speed. Only a few minutes had passed,
therefore, before the carriage disappeared behind the hill, and half an
hour must elapse before it again came in sight on the plain. He had no
time to wait for that. He dared not lose another moment. The beacons
were already lighted below in Wissow. At that moment a light shone over
the sea, it was the signal for a pilot. It would be instantly obeyed,
he knew; but at any moment some new arrangements might be necessary
which would require his presence. He would take a quarter of an hour to
get there at his quickest pace. He sprang in great bounds down the
hill, when a horseman rose up right before him out of a dip in the
ground which lay in the direction of the hills to the right, and
remained standing on the path. He appeared so suddenly that Reinhold
nearly ran against the horse.

"You are in a great hurry now, it seems," said the Count,

"I am in a great hurry," answered Reinhold, breathless from his quick
run, as he tried to pass the horse. The Count turned it round so that
he now faced Reinhold.

"Make way!" cried Reinhold.

"I am on my own land," answered the Count.

"The road is free!"

"And you are for freedom in all things!"

"Once more! Make way!"

"When it suits me."

Reinhold seized the bridle, and the horse, struck sharply by the spurs
on either side, reared up. Reinhold started back.

The next moment he had drawn a long dirk, which, sailor-like, was
always at his side.

"I should be sorry for the horse," he cried, "but if you will have
it----"

"I only wished to say good-evening to you, Captain; I forgot it before.
Good-evening."

The Count took off his hat with a sneering laugh, turned his horse
round again, and rode off down into the hollow out of which he had
come.

"Such people never learn," murmured Reinhold, as he put up his knife.
It was a speech he had often heard from his uncle Ernst. His uncle
Ernst, who must have felt as he now did, in the terrible moment when
the sword descended upon him. Her father's sword. Good God! is it
really true that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children?
That this strife will last for ever, from generation to generation?
That we, who are blameless, must take it up against our will and our
convictions?

A clap of thunder, still in the distance, but coming nearer, rolled
through the heavy air, louder and more threatening than the last,
followed again by a tremendous gust of wind, not this time in the upper
strata of clouds, but already descending upon the heights and slopes,
and wailing and groaning as it died away in the hollows. The next gust
might strike the sea, and let loose the storm which would come up with
the tide.

Another struggle was impending before which human malice would seem as
child's play, and human hatred an offence, and only one feeling would
remain victorious--Love!

Reinhold felt this in the lowest depths of his heart, as he now tried
to make up for the moments lost in so painfully trifling a way, and
hastened down in spite of all to risk his life if necessary for the
lives of other men.



                              CHAPTER IV.


Few words passed between the ladies until they reached home. The aunt
appeared to be suffering from extreme exhaustion that was increased by
the rough drive over the bad road, which, as Reinhold had foretold,
they could hardly distinguish from the heath in the rapidly approaching
darkness; and to all this was added the oppressive sultriness of the
thick damp atmosphere, in which even Elsa herself found breathing
difficult. She also was silent though her heart was full, for she had
thankfully perceived that, come what might, her aunt would be on her
side. Had she not answered the announcement of Elsa's engagement to
Reinhold, startling as it must have been to her, unhesitatingly, with a
warm embrace which was more eloquent than any words? And now she
scarcely once let go her handy or if she did so for a moment it was
only to seize it again immediately as if she wished at least to assure
her of her sympathy and love, though in her weakness she could do no
more for her.

They reached the castle at last. The Baroness sank almost fainting into
her maid's arms, and was immediately conducted by her, with the help of
Elsa, to her own apartments. "Thank you a thousand, thousand times,"
said Elsa, as she wished her aunt good-night.

She was the less inclined to look for Carla in the drawing-room where
she would probably be, as she heard that Frau von Wallbach had already
gone to her room--to read, as she always gave out herself--to sleep, as
Carla maintained. The chattering lady's-maid told Elsa, without waiting
to be asked, that the Count had come there again shortly before their
return, but only for a few minutes, and had brought Fräulein von
Wallbach word that they would soon be back, probably with Captain
Schmidt. The girl smiled as she uttered the last word, not so much but
that she could have denied it if need were, but still just sufficiently
to show the young lady that she knew more, and was quite ready, if
asked, to place at her disposal her good advice and experience. The
Count then had made good use of his time. Let him! for whatever
reasons, whether out of hatred to Reinhold, out of jealousy (the ugly
word was only too good in this case), out of miserable offended vanity,
or only for the malicious satisfaction of himself and Carla, let him
tell all Berlin to-morrow, as he had to-day told the inhabitants of the
castle, what had happened. He would not certainly long have the
pleasure of spreading about so precious a secret under the seal of
mystery. The announcement of the engagement would soon enough break the
seal, and could no longer be delayed. The post from Jasmund to Prora
passed through Warnow at nine o'clock. There was just time. Elsa seated
herself at the little table in the deep bow which was her favourite
seat on account of the view from the window over the plain as far as
the sea and Wissow Head, and wrote with flying pen a few heartfelt
lines to her father. Neither she nor Reinhold had intended, since they
were assured of each other's love, to do otherwise than wait patiently
for brighter and happier days. But after what had happened she must be
careful; there must be no gossip connected with the name of her
father's daughter. No one could know that better, or feel it more
deeply, than the dear kind father in whose righteous hands she now laid
her righteous cause. She gave the letter into the care of an old and
faithful servant, who, during the long absence of the owners, had been
in charge of the castle, and now walked up and down her room in a
strange, half-frightened, half-joyful, but wholly overpowering state of
emotion. "Elsa von Werben--Reinhold Schmidt, Superintendent of Pilots.
Betrothed. Berlin--Wissow." A Superintendent of Pilots! How odd! What
is it exactly?--and Wissow! Does anybody know where Wissow is?--Wissow,
ladies and gentlemen, is a little sandy peninsula, with about twenty
houses, not one of which is a quarter the size of the shooting-box at
Golmberg, or of one of the out-buildings of the ancestral castle of
Golm, whose courtyard gate you pass on the road from Prora to Warnow.
How extraordinary! Really! But she always had extraordinary taste!--and
how wise of the Count to draw back in time from so unseemly a
competition. He is said to be otherwise an agreeable man. That is
always said afterwards. An officer of the reserve too. A la bonne
heure! In that case the General's daughter could really no longer
hesitate. And Elsa laughed and danced as she pictured to herself many
well-known voices in this little concert, to which old Baroness
Kniebreche beat time with her great black fan, but she started back as
she skipped past the window, when a dazzling flash of lightning lit up
the broad plain with a pale light, the Pölitz's farm lying there as
clearly as in broad daylight, and at the same moment a long rolling
peal of thunder made the windows rattle. And then it seemed as if an
earthquake shook the very foundations of the castle. The tiles rattled
from the high roof, shutters clapped to, doors banged, whole windows
must have been blown out, as the wind moaned and whistled and howled
round the walls and gables and through the joints and crevices.
Running, hurrying, and calling resounded through the castle; steps
approached her door. It was her aunt's elderly maid: "Would she come to
her aunt? she was so dreadfully restless and excited, and it was
impossible even for the young lady to think of sleep in such horrible
weather." Elsa was ready at once. She wanted to go to her aunt to thank
her for her kind consideration, and to beg her for her sake on no
account to deprive herself of the rest which, after such a trying day,
was so necessary to her. She said as much to the maid, who only shook
her head and answered nothing, but conducted Elsa in silence to her
lady's door.

Valerie came to meet Elsa at the door. Elsa was startled at the
deadly-white, tear-stained face. She could only imagine that the shock
of the tremendous thunderclap had increased her aunt's malady to this
pitch; she begged her to calm herself; to allow herself to be put to
bed; she would remain with her--the whole night. Her aunt would take
courage when she saw how courageous she herself was, who certainly had
sufficient cause for anxiety.

She led the tottering, trembling woman to the sofa, and would have rung
for her maid, but the other caught her hand convulsively, and pulled
her down by her on the seat. "No, no," she murmured, "not that; it is
you I want; you must stay, but not because I am afraid of the storm--I
fear something much worse than that."

She sprang up and began walking up and down, wringing her hands,
through the large room, which was but dimly lighted by a lamp on the
table.

"I cannot bear it any longer. Now or never is the time. I must speak
out--I must--I must."

She suddenly threw herself at Elsa's feet, as if struck down by the
thunder which just then pealed above them, and clasped her knees.

"It has been my hope and consolation all this time, to confess to you,
so pure, so good! To free myself from the thraldom in which my tyrant
holds me. To make the highest, greatest sacrifice that I can make of
the one bright spot in this dark world--your love!"

"You will not lose my love," said Elsa, "whatever you may confide to
me, that I swear to you!"

"Do not swear it; you cannot. See, I feel even now, how your dear hands
tremble, how your whole body shakes, how you are struggling to keep
calm, and as yet you have heard nothing."

"How can I be calm when you are so terribly excited?" answered Elsa.
"Look, aunt, I have long felt that something lies between you and me,
something more than the unhappy family dissensions, so far as I know
them--a secret which you have not ventured to tell me. I have often and
often longed to beg you to tell me all, but have never had the courage
to do so, though I have reproached myself for not having done it. But
lately it has seemed to me that you have been more reserved towards me
than at first, and that has made me still more anxious. And I also had
a secret on my mind, and did not venture to confess my love to you,
notwithstanding that every hour I spend with you only makes me more
certain that you--you above all others--would be just in the position
to set aside the prejudice with which even my dear father is
surrounded. Shall I confess it to you? Your relations with--with Signor
Giraldi, however much you must have suffered and still must suffer from
them--have seemed to me on this account to be comforting and
encouraging. Whether you approve of my love or not, you will at least
understand it, will be able to sympathise with what you must once have
felt yourself, that one may love a man for himself alone, because one
sees in him the ideal of all that appears to oneself to be worth
loving. And now chance, if it is not wrong to speak of chance here, has
snatched my secret from me. Take courage! Have confidence. Tell me all.
You say it is the right moment, and it certainly is so. It must not be
let slip. And now, dear aunt, rise up, and if I really am, as you said
the first moment we met and now repeat again--your guardian angel, let
me prove it--let me prove that in the midst of the happiness of my love
for the best and noblest of men, I have the strength to free you, to
restore to you the peace and joy for which your soul pines."

With gentle violence Elsa raised up her aunt, whose head had sunk upon
her bosom, dried the tears on the lovely pale face, which seemed
already somewhat calmer and more composed, threw her arms round her and
made her lie down on the sofa, reseating herself on the stool by her
side, after she had put the lamp out of the way on the console.

"I can only confess by the light of your dear eyes," said Valerie.
"From any other my secret would creep back into my heart."

Outside the storm raged and thundered against the old castle, in long,
unequal gusts, and whistled and howled round the walls, between the
gables, as if wild with fury at meeting with resistance, and at this
resistance defying its omnipotence.

"So will he rage," said Valerie, shuddering, "when he comes to-morrow
and demands his victim, and she does not and will not follow him, if he
does his worst, even if he annihilates her.

"Yes, Elsa, he is coming to-morrow; I found the letter when we came in.
The diabolical scheme is ripe, which is to be the destruction of you,
Ottomar--all of you. I myself only partly know this scheme. Hard as his
heart is, he has yet discovered that my heart has gone from him--how
much, how entirely, he does not know, he does not even suspect, or she
whom he once loved as well as he is capable of loving, and who so
passionately loved him, would certainly no longer be alive. Yes, my
dearest Elsa, I must begin with this terrible confession, or you would
not understand the worse things that remain for me to tell. You would
look upon me as the most degraded of our sex; even your loving heart
could not absolve me--if indeed it ever can do so!

"I loved him with an infinite, unholy love, the fiend, who to this day
entraps all who come under his pernicious influence, and whom you must
have known in the beauty and lustre of his youth, to conceive how even
good women found it hard to resist his fascinations.

"I was not absolutely bad, but neither was I good--not in my heart at
least, which longed eagerly for fuller joy; nor was my imagination so
pure as not to be allured and captivated by the world and its glory. I
may have been so unhappily constituted by nature, or the frivolity and
luxury of the court life to which I was so early introduced may have
corrupted my young heart, I do not know, but so it was that my heart
and imagination were alike undisciplined and uncontrolled. How
otherwise could it have been that the bride, whose wedding was to take
place in a few weeks, fell desperately in love in one moment with a man
whom she saw for the first time, and against whom, moreover, even her
dulled conscience warned her, and that, in spite of all and of the
utter hopelessness of this passion which she could not tear from her
heart and--shame and misery!--with this passion for a stranger in her
heart, she stood with her betrothed, in God's sight, before the altar,
to plight him that troth which she had already broken in her heart, and
which, indeed, she had already more than half resolved to break in
reality.

"Do you shudder, my poor darling? I can tell you she had friends who
would not have shuddered had they known! Yes, who knew it, and did not
shudder, who, laughing, pointed to one who had already done so, and
before whom no gentleman took off his hat the less respectfully, before
whom the nobles of the land did not bow less low, and to whom learned
men and artists did not the less render homage.

"Why should we not be allowed what was permitted to her? Were we less
beautiful, less agreeable and clever? She borrowed from us the lustre
which surrounded her. From whom did the fame of the Medician Court
proceed, if not from us and such as we? So might we also allow
ourselves the liberty, which she permitted herself behind the cloak she
borrowed from us.

"And now occurred what I never for one moment believed possible, had
never even thought of. My husband gave up his embassy, quitted the
public service for good, and wished to live here on his property with
me--to live for me. If the latter were not a mere form of words, it did
not mean much at least to my mind. The fact is, he had, in his usual
methodical way, made a regular programme for his whole life, and in it
was laid down, that after he had served the State for a certain number
of years he should marry and retire to his estates. He now intended to
live for me as formerly for the State; fulfilling his duty with anxious
care, without enthusiasm, without pleasure--marriage was to him a task
which must be got over like any other.

"He had concluded and arranged everything before he confided it to me.
I was horrified, rebellious, distracted, furious, and yet--dared not by
look or word betray my feelings. There was only one faint consolation
for me, that the mission on which Giraldi had been employed at our
Court (our duchess was a Roman Catholic, you know) was ended, and he
must at any rate return to Rome. We parted from each other with
promises of eternal love, 'Even if we never see each other again,' I
sobbed. 'We shall meet again,' said Giraldi, with that imperious smile
that you know.

"I did not believe it. I was in despair. And with despair in my heart I
arrived here.

"Was it really despair for the dreamed of happiness? Was it the
soothing influence which the solemn neighbourhood of the sea, the
melancholy solitude of the shore, exercised on my passionate heart? Was
it that my better self was really getting the dominion at last? Little
as I can say for myself, I may at least say this, that I took great
pains to do my duty as the mistress of this house--the wealthy country
lady. I tried even to love my husband, and there were moments when I
thought I did love him. But only moments. I must admit that he was
always and in all things a well-meaning man, who endeavoured to the
utmost to act up to his favourite saying, 'Give every man his due,' so
far as he understood it, and another woman would perhaps have been very
happy with him. I was not, and could not be so. The profound difference
between our characters could not be concealed, but seemed to show
more clearly, the harder I tried to overcome it. He was extremely
well-informed, I might even say learned, but with a want of sensibility
which provoked me, and with a poverty of imagination which drove me to
despair. Nothing was great, nothing was sublime to him. For him there
was nothing heroic, nothing divine. I tried to enter into his prosaic
view of the world, into his narrow-minded judgment of people and
things. I was forced sometimes to admit that he was right, that the
selfish motives which he discovered everywhere had in many cases played
a part, had contributed to bring about this or that result. But what
was there in this melancholy satisfaction of the intellect, in
comparison with all the noble spiritual qualities which were thus left
to lie fallow and perish miserably.

"I felt that I was deteriorating. That whatever blossoms my mind still
bore, were withering as they came under the influence of this dry
atmosphere in which he lived, in which he moved and spoke. I felt that
in the dry sands of this unvarying commonplace life the roots of my
mind were one after another dying down, that I began to hate this life,
which was no life to me, I who had so loved life!--that I began to hate
my husband, who imposed upon me this torturing existence in place of
life.

"It could not last so. I had become a mere shadow of myself. The
doctors shook their heads. Ah! if I had but died then. But I was still
so young, I wanted to live. I swear to you, Elsa, that was all I wished
for. In four such years of suffering one fancies one has learned to
give up even the faintest glimmer and hope of happiness. Strange
delusion! As if one could live without happiness; as if I could have
done so, with the ardent, insatiable heart I had; as if I were not at
that very time giving proof that I could not do it.

"But, truly, it is easy to see this on looking back, but when one looks
forward, one does not see it.

"My husband naturally considered it his duty to follow the doctor's
advice, and to set off on a journey with his young wife. Let me be
silent over the splendid misery of that journey. It brought change,
diversion, but neither peace nor happiness; at the utmost, it deadened
for a moment the wretchedness that reigned uninterruptedly in my
innermost heart, greatly as the young wife in her renovated beauty was
admired in the society of all the Courts which we visited. I may boast
that I victoriously withstood all the temptations with which I was
surrounded; and yet not altogether. For if I did so--if I remained cold
in presence of the passionate feelings which I roused in other
hearts--if I was not touched by the love with which I inspired men
whose worth I well knew, it was not conviction of the sacredness of
marriage that guarded me; it was not pride; it was, although I knew it
not, a deep, bitter grudge against fate which had denied me my
happiness--that happiness of which I had dreamed. It was, in a word,
the recollection of that great passion which filled my soul in my
dreams at night, so that I saw my daily waking life only through its
magic veil--the love which, unknown to myself, still filled my heart,
like the aroma of attar of roses, which long after it is gone scents
the crystal phial which it once filled.

"I discovered this when it was too late--when I had seen him again. It
was not my fault. I had learnt from an apparently unquestionable source
that he had for some years held an important post in South America, and
that he was at that moment in the far West, on the shores of the
Pacific Ocean. A command from the Pope--or, as he said, his star--had
brought him back. You will believe me, Elsa, that I speak the truth,
that the agreement which it is said we made together was an invention;
it is further said that I, whether by agreement or by chance, seized
the cleverly-arranged or unhoped-for happiness with eager hands, and
drank it down greedily.

"And I?

"I went that same evening on which we had met Giraldi at an
entertainment at the French Ambassador's to my husband, and told him
that I wished to return home--the next day. He had given no reason when
he threw up his post and brought me here into this solitude, and I
thought I might also keep silence on the reasons which took me from
Rome and the world into solitude. Neither did he inquire. He had
already seen--had, like all the world, perceived the extraordinary
charm which was even more remarkable in the man who had ripened to such
splendid maturity under a tropical sun, than in the fascinating youth
of former days; he probably remembered what kind friends then no doubt
had told him, and what in his pride and self-confidence he had
certainly not believed. And now this confidence was not broken; but it
was shaken. The past years, so empty and joyless, stood out before his
startled eyes in a strange and suspicious light. All I had suffered and
been deprived of must have come before him. But it was still not too
late, in his eyes. I wished to do my duty apparently by flying from
temptation. He accepted silently what in his opinion was a matter of
course. We left the next morning, and went home.

"And now commenced a dark and fearful drama which I shudder to look
upon, even now that the entangled threads have become clear before my
eyes. We had curiously changed our parts. Whilst I, proud of the
victory I had obtained over myself, held my head up and took a
melancholy pleasure in the renunciation to which I doomed myself, he
suffered more and more from the disquietude which had until now
possessed me; he was tortured by longings after a happiness which I had
resigned. He had married me because I was young, handsome, and
brilliant; perhaps had also fancied at the time that he loved me, after
his fashion. Now he loved me for the first time with all the passion of
which he was capable, and which must be the more fatal to him, that he,
to whom a calm bearing had always been the ideal of a gentleman, was
ashamed of his passion, and would certainly give no expression to it;
and, what was worse than all, he must see, or fancy he saw, that he was
too late in treading the path which led to my heart--which perhaps even
now would have led to it. It is so hard for a woman to shut her heart
against the charm which the knowledge that she is loved sheds around
her. I saw how he suffered. I suffered terribly under it; for I held it
to be impossible that I could ever return his sentiments; yet I
suffered with him, and pity is so near akin to love! If children had
played around us, perhaps everything would have happened differently,
and I truly believe that their gracious influence at this stage of our
affairs would have brought about a happier ending. But as it was, the
reckoning was not between father and mother, but always between man and
wife, and childless marriages are only too fruitful a source of
sorrowful home tragedies. And yet all would have gone, if not well, at
least better in time, which gradually buries so many raging flames
under its embers, had not my husband been taken possession of by an
unlucky thought, which became a fixed idea. What had appeared to him,
so long as he had not loved me, as a piece of wisdom and diplomatic
reserve--namely, our leaving Rome--now appeared to him in the light of
a shameful flight, a miserable cowardice, which he could never forgive
himself, which I could never forgive him, and which, infatuated as he
was, he now held to be the principal--the only reason, indeed--that I
remained cold to him, whilst he was consumed with love. He could not,
as usual, find any soothing, explanatory words for the agitated
condition of his heart.

"I should be in the dark now as to this portion of my unhappy history
had I not learnt the real circumstances from letters of your father,
which my husband on his second departure from Rome left in his desk,
and which afterwards were found by Giraldi and shown to me. It appeared
from these letters that my husband confided everything to his friend,
and had begged his advice especially with respect to the fatal plan
with which he deluded himself. Your father advised most strongly
against it; not that he doubted that I should be victorious in the
struggle to which I was to be exposed--a Werben would always, and in
all circumstances, do her duty--but because he took the whole thing for
a romance, that might do very well in a French play, but was altogether
out of place in the realities of German life, and particularly in the
case of a German nobleman and his wife. If we had not found happiness
in our marriage, he certainly deplored it with all his heart; but he
knew of no other remedy than the determination not to depart from the
good and right course; and should this means prove unavailing, there
was nothing for a man to do but to accept in all humility the fate
which he had assuredly prepared for himself, and bear it with dignity
as inevitable. We were not sent on earth to be happy, but to do our
duty.

"Oh, Elsa! with what sensations did I at that time read this letter,
which I took to be the perfect expression of a mind which had forgotten
all human emotions in the formalities of the service, and which
revolted me the more as I had clung to him who could so write with true
sisterly love, and believed myself beloved by him as by a brother. What
terrible experiences were needed before I understood what great though
bitter wisdom, and how much true love, was in these words!

"A second journey to Rome was announced to me, like all these
resolutions, in the most courteous manner, but with a tacit assumption
of my assent. It was not my fault that I also had meanwhile learnt to
conceal my feelings. In the company of taciturn people even sympathetic
minds become silenced at last, and then for ever. I saw beforehand what
would happen--yes, I was determined that it should happen. I have not
concealed from you the frivolous levity with which I approached the
altar. The evil disposition of my young and half-corrupted heart had
not been fulfilled. I had continued a better woman than I had believed
myself--yes, I may say I had grown better in time. Now that all my
honest efforts were fruitless, that I knew them to be slighted and
misunderstood, that I saw fate insolently challenged by the man who
should have been grateful to me for having preserved myself and him
from it by such great sacrifices of my own heart--now I became worse
than I had ever been--now I became truly bad. I scoffed in my inmost
heart at the madman who strove to gather grapes from thorns; I secretly
derided the vain fool who could imagine for a moment that he could
prevail in the struggle with the noblest of mankind; I triumphed
beforehand over his downfall.

"It is terrible to have to say all this to you; all the more terrible
as it did not remain the mere fancy of a distorted imagination, but was
all, all most horribly fulfilled."

Valerie, who sat crouched up on the sofa, hid her face shuddering in
her hands. A cold shiver ran through her slender form. Elsa would
willingly have begged her to leave off for that day, but she felt that
she could not take the bitter cup from the lips of the unhappy woman,
to whom it gave one drop of comfort that a sympathising human eye
should at last look down into the depths of her misery.

She comforted her with tender words, gave her a glass of water, which
the exhausted woman hastily drank with feverish lips, and then again
seized Elsa's hand, which she had all along held tightly in hers, and
went on with her sorrowful confession, whilst the storm howled without
like a band of demons whose victim was trying to escape them from the
gates of hell.

"Alas that I cannot relate further without offending your pure ears, as
I have already troubled your pure mind. But it must be. What is bad
cannot be expressed in good words; and from the moment when I again
touched Rome's venerable soil everything in my life was for long,
endless years soiled and tainted, until at last I looked almost with
envy upon the poor women in the streets. I was in the hands of one who
seemed to have risen from the bottomless pit to destroy both body and
soul. And yet it was years and years before this knowledge began to
dawn upon me; years before the abhorrence grew into secret rebellion,
and if this rebellion expresses itself in action, as I hope and pray to
God it may, it is you, you only, I have to thank. I owe it to the new
life that I have drunk from your loving looks, to the courage with
which your strong, noble love has inspired me, which without neglecting
one single duty, has looked steadfastly through all impediments to its
one lofty star. I owe it to my longing to win your love, to be worthy
of it as far as lies within my power, as far as the deepest repentance
may expiate the heaviest guilt. I might call it a sudden insanity that
threw me into the arms of this terrible man, in other words, that
brought me to my ruin; and many things conspired together, too, to dull
my feelings and judgment; the long torture which I had borne, and borne
in vain, the violence with which I had been torn from such a hard-won
act of resignation, the madness of a passion which, after having so
long been forcibly restrained, now overflowed all barriers; the unholy
charm which guilt offers to an undisciplined mind! How many have fallen
who had not such temptations! But that this insanity lasted so long!
that I should have known I was mad! that I chose to be so! It all
appears to me now like a dark dream, in spite of the golden sun of
Italy which illuminated it, of the perfume of orange blossom which
surrounded it, and of the gentle tides of the blue sea which flowed
about it. My husband had, after a few months, given up the futile
struggle; he had gone away, beaten, broken down, without even the
strength to come to any decision, only giving me permission in writing
to remain away as long as I pleased. Whether he hoped that this
apparent magnanimity would touch me, or that his absence would appeal
more strongly to my heart than his presence, that the separation would
teach me what I might lose in him--what I had already lost--I do not
know. I only know that I had nothing but scorn and derision for what I
called his pitiful flight, without a shadow of pity for him, even if I
thought of him at all, or of anything but of enjoying my freedom to its
fullest extent. And had I wished to follow him, as I did not wish, I
could not have done so. Even before he fled I was fettered to him from
whom he fled, by the strongest chains by which a woman can be bound to
the man of her choice. But what so often brings about a transformation
in a woman's life, what leads even the most frivolous to reflection,
and awakens in her nobler feelings, brought no repentance to me,
even--terrible to say--no joy. I needed no pledge of his love; and it
brought to him whose path I would have strewn with roses, only care and
perplexity.

"He had had no trouble in convincing me that my condition must remain a
profound secret to all the world. Our hope was that my husband would
himself insist upon a divorce, and as we--thanks to the devilish
ingenuity of that fearful man--had never openly violated public
decorum, as my husband had gone of his own free will, he leaving me,
not I him, the separation could only terminate in my--that is in
our--favour. Our fates were now irrevocably joined.

"And now came a circumstance which--Oh, Elsa! Elsa! have pity on me!
How can I tell you? We reckoned on, we hoped for, my husband's death.
From Giraldi's spies--he has them all over the world--we heard that my
husband was ill, then that his illness was taking a serious turn, at
last that the doctors gave no hope, even if the end did not come
immediately. We tremblingly awaited the messenger who should summon me
to his sick-bed; we thought over what excuses I should make if I did
not obey the call; but the messenger never came. But neither did that
come for which we waited in more intense suspense, as my time drew ever
nearer. Though indeed we should not have been easily found. We had
hidden ourselves deep in the mountains in a lonely place between Amalfi
and Salerno. My old Feldner was our only companion. The loveliest boy
was born, and as soon as I was able to move, was left in the hands of
the faithful woman. It was necessary again to show myself before the
world, and talk in the drawing-rooms of Naples about Sicily, through
which we had hurriedly passed, and where I was supposed to have spent
the last few months. And not one pang of remorse, not one wish to hear
of or see the innocent child, left up in the mountains! To say that I
was mad is perhaps the right word!

"But my husband still lived, and news came from Feldner that
travellers--acquaintances of ours--had passed through her mountain
retreat, and that she had only escaped discovery by the merest chance.
The faithful soul begged us to liberate her and the child from their
isolation. She asked if I did not wish to see the dear little creature
again. A queen would be proud of such a child!

"Intoxicated though I was with the poisonous draught of sinful passion
which none knew better than he how to mix, the cry for help from the
faithful woman pierced my obdurate heart. I wanted to see my child; I
wanted to have it with me. It was needed to fulfil my happiness.
Nothing short of a full, even overflowing happiness would now content
me. He had to bring all the force of his powers of persuasion to
keep me from a step which he assured me would overthrow all our
carefully-arranged plans. 'And if you do not consider yourself,' he
cried, 'whom such an open admission of your position would reduce to
beggary, think of our son, who would become a beggar with you. His
future depends upon our caution, our foresight, our prudence; but
prudence enjoins us to leave him in concealment until everything is
decided, even, as his present place of abode has been shown not to
afford sufficient security, to remove him to deeper concealment. It is
only a question of a short time, of a few weeks, perhaps days. Trust me
in this, as you have hitherto trusted me in all things. Leave it to me;
I have already considered and prepared everything.'

"He communicated his plan to me. We had visited P[oe]stum in the
spring. The young and handsome guide who had conducted us over the
ruins had left an agreeable impression on my mind, as well as the plump
little wife whom he had lately brought home there. I had envied both
these poor people their unconcealed happiness. 'Those are the people,'
said Giraldi, 'to whom to entrust our Cesare. The young wife will think
but little of such an addition to her cares, and the strong husband
will be an admirable protector to the child. Moreover, the presence of
a detachment of soldiers at P[oe]stum is sufficient to ensure his
safety.' He silenced my doubts, set aside every objection, and went to
carry out his plan--alone. I dared not at this moment, when a thousand
suspicious eyes watched us, when we were assuredly surrounded by
invisible spies, leave the town on any account.

"He was back by the evening of the next day. All had gone perfectly as
arranged. The child was well; the good Panaris (that was the name of
the guide) full of joy over the treasure confided to them, which to
these poor people became naturally a real treasure.

"Quite different indeed was the account of Feldner, who had accompanied
him on the expedition. She painted with the utmost horror the wilds
they had passed through, and over whose burnt-up surface malaria
breathed its poison, and the pale, fever-stricken countenances of the
poor inhabitants in the ruinous, dirty huts. The Panaris, too, had been
ready enough to undertake the charge of the child, but the man was not
without many doubts, which he had secretly imparted to her. The
brigands were just then gathered in unwonted force in the mountains,
and in spite of the soldiers posted in various places, and of the
military escorts which accompanied travellers from Salerno or
Battipagha to P[oe]stum, robberies had taken place in the immediate
neighbourhood of the ruins. He could the less answer absolutely for the
safety of the child, as he was himself never for a moment sure that his
own property, perhaps even his own life, was safe.

"Unfortunately, out of fear of Giraldi, Feldner only let out these
warnings gradually and cautiously. I myself, who had only been to
P[oe]stum in the spring, and seen the broad plains covered with tender
green, and gleaming in the mildest sunshine, naturally looked upon one
cause of this anxiety as exaggerated, and Giraldi laughed to scorn the
other objections. 'At the worst,' he said, 'it is an attempt on the
part of the Panaris to get higher pay, which moreover I am quite
willing to give them; and do you buy a silk dress and a coral ornament
from the Chiaja for your duenna, that is all she wants. Only patience
for a few days!'

"And as if fate itself were bound to serve him, a few days later news
came that my husband had breathed his last here in Warnow, and with the
announcement of his death came a copy of his will.

"I was distracted; I could have wished the world to come to an end,
when all the happiness for which I had hoped, in which I had already
revelled, lay shattered before me. I swear to you, it is the one bright
spot in the infernal darkness of my unhappy soul that I never thought
of myself. I lived only for him, lied for him, intrigued for him,
stifled the voice of nature for him. I would have lived in a hovel with
him, and in the sweat of my brow worked for the daily bread of us both.
I would--but let me keep silence upon what I would have done for
him--the infamy is too great as it is.

"He smiled his sarcastic smile. He did not believe in love in a
cottage. My husband's disbelief in all unselfish sentiments had
revolted me; here I only saw the right to a demand which so
finely-organised a nature made upon life; nay, must make if it would
not lose any of the charm which surrounded it. But if the will forbade
me, under penalty of disinheritance, to call the man I loved my husband
before all the world, there was no such penalty attached to a shame of
which he had never thought, it did not forbid me to recognise my child.
I would have my child at once. I had so much at least to retrieve.

"Now, I cried, that we are denied the luxury of a legitimate position,
now that we are driven back to the sources from which we have drawn so
deeply without asking anyone's permission--to nature and love--not one
link shall fail of the chain which nature and love can forge; now for
the first time I feel how only the pledge of our love can make our bond
complete and indestructible. Let us not lose one moment.

"A feverish impatience had taken possession of me, which he--and oh!
how thankful I was to him--appeared fully to share. I see him now, pale
and disturbed, pacing through the room, and then standing still and
spurring on Feldner, who in the hurry could not collect the child's
things, and myself even to greater haste.

"'We do not want to lose a moment,' he cried, 'and we are losing hours,
which are perhaps irretrievable.'

"We were getting into the carriage (there was no railway then), which
would take us by Battipaglia to P[oe]stum, when an old woman, who had
been crouched on the steps of the hotel, hobbled up, and in the cool
way of a Neapolitan beggar, pulled him back by the tail of his coat,
just as he had his foot on the step.

"He turned unwillingly, and--I have tried a thousand times in vain to
recall the particulars of this scene--Feldner and I must have been just
then arranging ourselves in the carriage. I only know that when I
looked round at him the old woman was disappearing round the corner of
the hotel, with greater activity than I should have given her credit
for, whilst he, with his back to us, was standing in the entrance of
the hotel apparently reading a letter. He then came out again. 'I had
another direction to give to the porter,' he said, as he sat down by us
and pressed my hand with a smile, saying, '_Coraggio, anima mia!
coraggio!_'

"'_Coraggio!_' I answered tenderly, returning the pressure. His face
was so pale, his eyes looked so gloomy, that he seemed to me to need
more encouragement than I did.

"It was evening before we reached Battipaglia. The little place, from
which travellers over the lonely plain were in the habit of taking
their military escort, was in great excitement. A company of
Bersaglieri had just marched hastily through, a second company was on
its way from Salerno to P[oe]stum, a third was lying in wait for the
robbers in the mountains. Such a measure had become really necessary.
The robbers had swarmed before the very gates of Salerno, and for days
past no one could venture out of Battipaglia into the country. From
P[oe]stum no news had come for the same time, and the worst was feared
for the poor dwellers there.

"An inexpressible terror came over me. The unhappy child in the midst
of this universal distress, in the very centre of the horrors! It was
in vain now that Giraldi attempted to calm me by arguing that the
approach of the troops gave promise of safety; I would not, I could not
listen to anything; I could say nothing but 'On! on!'

"The people said we should not get far, and in fact we had scarcely
gone a mile before we came up with a large body of soldiers, whose
young officer courteously but decidedly ordered us back. The carriage
had passed the lines against the distinct order of the colonel, and we
could go no farther, as the banditti had rendered the bridge over the
Sele impracticable for carriages and horses; very likely at this moment
there was fighting in the open field before P[oe]stum. To-morrow the
roads would be safer than they had ever been before; we must have
patience so long.

"No prayers, no supplications availed. Back to Battipaglia! The
impossibility of reaching the child, the fear of losing it, perhaps of
having already lost it, drove me almost frantic. For the first time
Giraldi had lost his power over me. He left me to my despair in the
miserable inn and wandered about out of doors. It was a fearful night!

"The next morning the roads were, as the officer had promised, free. He
thought it his duty to bring us the news himself, advising us, however,
to postpone to another time our romantic trip. We had wanted to see
P[oe]stum yesterday by moonlight! Good God! It looked melancholy in
P[oe]stum. The little hotel was a ruin, the house of the guide Panari
destroyed, he himself dangerously wounded in the defence of a strange
child, which had been entrusted to him, and which the banditti had
carried off to the mountains. This had taken place unfortunately the
evening before last, so that the robbers had had time to convey to a
place of safety their prey, on which indeed they must set great store,
as they had made the most tremendous efforts to attain it, and had put
themselves in such evident danger to place it in safety. There was,
however, still a hope of snatching their prey from them. The pursuit
was hot, and the precautionary measures well laid out. The lady might
for the present calm her compassionate heart, and moreover, even if the
child were to be pitied, the unnatural parents who had placed their
child in such danger deserved no pity. Who could tell that they had not
themselves planned the robbery, the better to hide the living witness
of their shame, and that the pursuit of their accomplices was more than
inconvenient to them? Such things had happened before.

"Oh! Elsa I Elsa! when the young man spoke these words so
unsuspiciously, I did not venture to look up for shame and horror; I
had provoked this fate. I 'deserved no pity!' and yet--and yet----

"But there was yet a possibility of escaping from this hell of anguish.
Bandits were almost daily brought in--men, women, and children! 'It is
not our Cesare,' said Feldner. I---- Good God! I should not have known
with certainty if it were my child. Feldner cried quietly to herself
night after night, that she had been robbed of her heart's-blood, her
sweet little Cesare. I forbade her to cry. I threatened to dismiss her.
I would not endure that he who appeared to suffer so terribly under the
blow should be still further distressed by her complaints. He had in no
way given up hope; prisoners had reported that a certain Lazzaro
Cecutti, one of their principal leaders, who had for reasons unknown to
them conducted the actual robbery of the child, with two others who had
fallen in the fight, and his mother, with whom he had sent the child
into the mountains, could alone give any information as to the
destination of the same. Why should not Lazzaro or old Barbara be taken
prisoners, like so many others? But they were not taken.

"'They are too cunning,' said Giraldi; 'they will not let themselves be
taken; but when the pursuit is over, and that will soon be, the ardour
of our authorities dies quickly, they will emerge in some distant spot
and demand the ransom, which is naturally the only thing they care for;
and on that very account we may be easy about our child, they will
treasure it as the apple of their eye. Everything for them depends upon
the child.'

"'But how will they find us?' I asked; 'we who by your direction have
never openly claimed the child, have never offered a reward for his
restoration?'

"'Those are measures,' said Giraldi, 'which would only have drawn upon
us the attention of the public and the officials; that is to say, would
have made it more difficult for the robbers to come to us unnoticed.
You do not know either the loquacity or the cunning of my country
people. The Panaris have assuredly not kept their counsel, and Lazzaro,
before he achieved the robbery, knew our address better even than the
police authorities; and when Italian bandits want to get a ransom they
can find their men, wherever they may be. And believe me, they will
find us.'

"The pursuit came to an end, very quickly too, astonishingly so, the
papers said. It was at an end, but Lazzaro and his mother appeared
neither here nor elsewhere. No one talked any more about the affair, it
was buried in profound silence; the silence of death! Lazzaro was
dead--he must be dead--he and his mother, and--my child! They, wounded
to the death, drawing out their last breath in some deep and lonely
mountain glen; the child, whom they no doubt kept with them to the end,
hungry and thirsty, perishing miserably.

"Giraldi himself had to give it up at last. Heaven, he trusted, would
send compensation. But Heaven, who had seen our firstborn given over to
be a prey to the fox and the eagle, would not confide a second to such
unnatural parents. The one so ruthlessly sacrificed remained the only
one.

"And here I anticipate my narrative by years, in saying, that I thank
God it remained the only one. More, I shudder at the thought that this
child of sin and shame may still be living, may one day step out from
the darkness which has so long enveloped him, may appear before me and
say, 'Here I am; Cesare, your son.' Oh! Elsa, Elsa, everything is
crushed and destroyed in me. How can my feelings be simple and natural
like other people's? How can I do other than shudder at the possibility
of finding him again when I think to myself how I must find him, who
has grown up amongst robbers and murderers? in whom I have no share,
save that I bore him, in whose soul I have no part? The son who would
only come to help his father to rivet again the worn-out chain at the
very time when I was in the act of breaking the last link? He feels and
knows this. And it is by no chance, therefore, that he now, at this
very time, has again and again conjured up that terrible picture--ah!
no one understands as he does that devilish art!--Cesare is not dead.
Cesare lives; wandering about the world in lowly guise, shortly to
throw off the peasant dress and stand before us in his bright beauty.

"And I am to believe him--I, who have long been convinced, with my
faithful Feldner, that what the young officer had thrown out as
conjecture and possibility, with soldierly bluntness, was the terrible
truth. He had taken the unhappy child to the foot of the mountains in
the wilds of P[oe]stum, from whose barren slopes the robbers descend on
to the plain, that he might be carried off at any time, that is, as
soon as I showed a serious intention of producing him before the world,
before the right time came. He--he himself had thrown the prey to these
villains. He had learnt from the woman who came to the carriage-door
that the villainous plot was carried into execution, at the moment when
he would have given anything not to have contrived it. And then it
unfortunately happened that at that very time the raid against the
robbers was taken in hand by the Government, but at any rate the crime
remained undiscovered; he could still raise his insolent eyes to mine
as before.

"It is terrible to have to relate this, and to feel that though it was
years and years before my blindness was in some measure removed, and I
began to estimate the depth of my misery, I still endured it so long.
But however slight the bond that unites bad men, that between a
thoroughly bad man and one who is not utterly lost to nobler impulses
is almost unbreakable, especially when that other is a woman. If she
has repented her sinful life, and would turn with horror and aversion
from her destroyer, fear prevents it; and if fear is forgotten in the
excess of sorrow, she is bound once more and for ever by the shame of
having to confess that she has so long been the companion of the
reprobate.

"Oh, Elsa! I have gone through all these horrible phases. I thank
heaven and you, whom heaven has sent to me, that at last I have come to
the end.

"When we came here in the autumn, my soul was filled with terror, like
a criminal who has escaped with noiseless tread from his prison, and is
terrified at the trembling of a leaf. I knew that the crisis was
approaching on all sides, that a word, a look, might betray me, the
more so that suspicion had certainly been roused in him. A sure sign of
this was that he no longer trusted his accomplices. All our servants
have always been such. Even my old Feldner had long been in his
pay--apparently. She takes the wages of sin, with which he pays her
betrayal of her mistress, and we give it to the poor. She says nothing
to him but what we have agreed upon beforehand. But since we have been
here, he no longer employs her. He must even have begun to suspect
François, a crafty bad man, who had at first promised to be a
particularly useful tool, and rightly. Whether Giraldi has offended
him, or the clever Feldner has won him over, he has come over to us.
But he also has no longer anything to tell. It seems that his last
commission, to accompany and watch me here, was only a pretext to get
him away from Berlin, where Giraldi is weaving the last meshes of his
net. Let him. I fear him and his devilish arts no longer, now that an
angel has spread its pure wings over me.

"He has long lied to me as he has to all the world. The last time that
he divulged his plans to me, and then only in part, was on the morning
after my arrival in Berlin, a few minutes before I saw your dear face
for the first time. I may not, and will not importune you with the
repulsive details; it is enough for you to know, that with the courage
to oppose him, I have also the power to frustrate his plans.

"The net, into the toils of which he thinks to bring you, will close
around his own guilty head. When he comes to me to-morrow, sneering at
the intelligence which the Count and Carla will hasten to impart to
him, that Elsa von Werben has forfeited her inheritance, he shall have
his answer, and if he announces in triumph that Ottomar has also
returned to his forsaken love, and equally forfeits his inheritance, he
shall not long await his answer; and if with lips trembling with
passion he asks how I, his tool, his slave, have dared to rebel against
my lord and master, I will seize you by the hand and say, 'Away from
me, tempter! back into the darkness of your hell, Satan! before this
angel of light!'"

With the last words, Valerie had slipped from the sofa to Elsa's feet,
her weeping face hidden in her lap, and kissing her hands and dress in
an excess of agitation, which only too clearly proved what terrible
anguish the dreadful confession had cost her, with what rapture her
poor heart, which so thirsted for comfort, was now filled. It was long
before Elsa could in any degree calm her, only at last through the
consideration that she must gather up all her strength for the
interview with Giraldi next day, and that a few hours' sleep after such
a day was indispensable. She would remain with her. She must allow her
good angel to watch even over her slumbers.

She got the exhausted, broken-down woman to bed. It was long before her
quicker breathing showed that Nature had asserted her rights. But at
last she lay really asleep. Elsa sat by the bed, and gazed with deep
sympathy upon that still lovely, noble, deathly-white face.

And then she thought of him whose image during her aunt's story had
ever stood out in her mind, as if it were to him and not to her that
the confession was being made. As if he and not she had here to decide,
to judge, and to absolve. And as another tremendous clap of thunder now
shook the old castle, and the sleeper moaned in terror, she folded her
hands, not in fear, but in thankful emotion that whilst her lover was
risking his dear life to save the lives of others, she was also
permitted to pilot a human soul out of the storm of passion and sin
into the haven of love, and that their works of salvation would succeed
for the sake of their mutual love.



                              CHAPTER V.


The storm was raging that night through the straight streets of Berlin
also.

Let it! What does one more discomfort signify to us, as we hurry along
the pavement? We are accustomed to discomforts of every sort; and if a
tile or a slate falls down occasionally at our feet, we have not been
struck yet, thank goodness! And if a chimney should be blown down, or a
new house fall in, or anything of that sort, we shall read about it in
the papers to-morrow. We have weightier matters to consider, truly! The
storm which raged through the Chambers to-day during the debates, will
also unroof many a fine edifice on the Stock Exchange in quite another
fashion, and many a great house which appeared this morning to stand
firm enough, and command the market, will be shattered to its
foundations, and will drag others down with it to disgraceful failure.
Like this one here for instance; it is just finished after years of
labour, having cost untold sums, and its magnificence having roused the
astonishment of everybody who was favoured with a view of it, and the
eager curiosity of the many who were obliged to content themselves with
a sight of the lofty scaffolding. Was it not to be opened to-night with
a great ball, of which for the last fortnight such wonders have been
related? To be sure! And it is really a curious coincidence that it
should take place just to-day, when the lightning has struck the
neighbouring houses, that stand upon the same insecure foundations,
have been erected from the same disgraceful materials, and are in every
respect the same miserable swindle from basement to roof. I should not
like to stand in that man's shoes.

Nor I either, my dear friend, but, believe me, our virtuous
indignation, if he could be aware of it, would only be an additional
satisfaction to this man. He has landed his goods in safety. What does
it matter to him if you, or I, or anybody be drowned in the rushing
stream from which there is no escape except for him and such as him?
Who asked us to venture into the water? You thought, perhaps, that if
he were not prevented from giving this feast by the black Care that
sits behind him, he must be so by very shame, especially today when he
and the whole brood of them have been branded with the mark of Cain
upon their brows. And now look I look up at this splendid façade, see
how the light from the innumerable wax candles streams through the
great plate-glass windows, with their crimson silk hangings, and shines
like daylight upon us out here in the dark! No contemptible gas except
in the passages and corridors! That is how it is in the Emperor's
palace, and he must have the same. That splendid awning before the
door, which is being blown about by the wind, the Brussels carpet which
is laid in the dirt of the street from the door to the carriages, will
be thrown into the dust-hole to-morrow in rags and tatters. Why not?
That is what they are for. But come--the police are already beginning
to look indignantly at us. They suspect our wicked doubts about the
sacred rights of order, which consist in plate-glass windows, marble
doorways, fringed awnings, and Brussels carpets. Or have you got a card
of invitation like Justus Anders there, who is lost in wonder over the
varnished boots which so seldom deck his feet, and is in trouble about
his new hat, with handsome Antonio following as his aide-de-camp,
hastening in without noticing us his best friends; but do not look
morosely at him, and hurl no anathemas at him out of the depths of your
injured, democratic conscience. The poet is the equal of the king, and
the artist must be the equal of the speculator. Those are laws which we
must respect. And now let us go and drink a glass to Lasker's health.
Only this one more carriage? Oh! you rogue! because there are ladies'
dresses--it serves you right! Old Kniebreche. _Sauve qui peut!_

The old Baroness was of course there. She was everywhere, it was said,
where anything was to be seen. She had been present at the creation of
the world, and would assist at its end. She had first intended to let
Ottomar get her an invitation, but eventually entrusted the honour to
Herr von Wallbach. The dissension between the Werbens and the Wallbachs
was no longer a secret, at least from her. Dear Giraldi, who was,
however, discretion itself, and really only repeated what could
absolutely no longer be concealed, had told her something--too
terrible, but still not so terrible as what that good Wallbach, who had
fetched her in his carriage, had related to her on the way.

"Poor, poor Carla! Absolutely deserted on account of a pretty girl of
no family, whom his former mistress had had to intercede with for him.
Wallbach was going to show her at this very ball the principal
performer in this pretty story, a dancer from an obscure theatre.
Wallbach must be sure to remember! She was so curious to see this
person. In such an utter scandal, it was impossible to be too careful
about the most trifling details. And if dear Carla had tried to comfort
herself in her grief--of course, my dear Wallbach, what was she to do?
It speaks for itself. And she had the dear Count there under her very
hand! _Oh! Mon Dieu!_ How I have been deceived in Ottomar, but they
have, none of them, been good for anything. I knew his grandfather,
and even saw his great grandfather when I was a little girl. But
the old gentleman would turn in his grave if he knew what his
great-grandchildren were doing. And Elsa--my dear Wallbach, I suppose I
must believe that story, but it is a strong measure for a General's
daughter. As to Ottomar drawing lots of bills of exchange--I know whole
regiments who do it; but there I stop--further than that I cannot go,
unless I heard it from his own lips."

"But, my dear lady, I conjure you by all that is sacred, be discreet."

"Do you take me for a baby--for a goose, for I don't know what? You
have no business to talk like that to old Kniebreche, who might be your
grandmother. Give me your arm, and point out a few interesting people.
Will Lasker be here, too? What do you say? One ought not to talk of the
hangman.-- What is it to me if tag and rag fall out together? But our
worthy host--do point him out to me--the big, broad-shouldered man with
the fine forehead and full chin? A fine-looking man. Bring him to me at
once!"

Philip was charmed, at last and in his own house, to become personally
acquainted with a lady who was reckoned amongst the few celebrities in
which Berlin rejoices. Now, for the first time, he could venture to say
that his entertainment had not proved a failure. Would her ladyship
allow him the honour of conducting her to the ball-room? Unfortunately
he had not been able to restrain any longer the young people's desire
to begin dancing, or he would certainly have asked her ladyship to have
led the polonaise with him. He flattered himself that she would not
feel herself too isolated at his house, though several illustrious
names would not appear in the list of those present; as, for instance,
that of Count Golm. One could not have everything and everybody at
once. He was, and always had been, a modest man; and that "a king's
glory was his state, and our glory was the labour of our hands," was a
saying which he had, all his life, held to, and hoped to continue to do
so. Were the pillars which supported the orchestra real marble?
Certainly. He was the son of a worker in marble. He might say that
everything her ladyship saw here was real, save, perhaps, a little of
the colour on the ladies' cheeks, about which, for his part, he had
secret doubts; and the nobility of a few barons and baronesses, which
might also seem a little doubtful to her ladyship. The Stock Exchange
seemed nowadays to be all-powerful, but after all, however long the
train might be, and whatever quantity of diamonds were worn in the
hair, or sewn on the dress, what a difference there was between
Baroness Kniebreche and Baroness---- He would name no names, but a
difference there must always be. Would her ladyship permit him to offer
her some refreshments? they were here close by.

"Quite a presentable man for a parvenu," whispered Baroness
Kniebreche into the ear of Baroness von Holzweg, whom she met in the
refreshment-room in the midst of a group of great ladies. "He
understands the art of living, it must be allowed. There is not a more
magnificent room in Berlin, even at his Majesty's, only here it is much
more comfortable. What a capital idea to put a refreshment-room so
close to the ball-room, and such good things too. What have you got
there, my dear! Oyster patties? Delicious! Young man, bring some oyster
patties and a glass of Chateau Yquem. How well that sort of man
understands bringing people together. Of course there are all the tag
and rag here--actors, dancers, heaven knows what! But if one does not
look too closely one might imagine oneself at a court ball. The
ballroom absolutely swarms with guardsmen. Well, young people, I cannot
blame you; you are cocks of the walk here. _À propos_, what brought you
here, dear Baroness?"

"Quite between ourselves, dear Baroness," whispered Baroness Holzweg.

"Of course between ourselves!" cried Baroness Kniebreche.

"Prince Wladimir is expected to be here for a moment."

"'You don't say so! Of course you and your niece could not fail. But
take care! The 'illustrious lovers' are getting quite common. Come,
come, I meant no harm; I readily allow the greatest latitude in the
upper circles, if only the proprieties are observed as regards the
lower ranks. But such things are going on now, dear Baroness--such
things!"

And Baroness Kniebreche began waving her gigantic fan with much energy.

"May I venture to ask, dear Baroness?" whispered Baroness Holzweg,
drawing nearer, in curiosity.

"Well, quite between ourselves, you know, dear Baroness."

"How can you imagine, dear Baroness--"

The heads of the two old ladies disappeared for a long time behind the
black fan.

"And these are all facts, dear Baroness?"

"Absolute facts. I have them from Wallbach, who is generally discretion
itself--but there are limits to everything. Is not that him there
behind the door? Actually! and talking to Signor Giraldi. I must go
there. That good man absolutely hears the grass grow."

The old lady got up with difficulty, and rustled off, with her glass to
her half-blind eyes, towards the two gentlemen, every one retreating,
scared, before the black fan.

Baroness Holzweg remained sitting, with an evil smile upon her pale,
puffy face.

"Ah!" she murmured, "how pleased Agnes will be. The haughty Herr von
Werben, who will not dance with her, because he can understand either
secret or open engagements, but not those that cannot be made public!
And his arrogant sister, whom he has forbidden to have anything to do
with Agnes, and who has now taken up with a merchant-captain.
Charming!"

"What is amusing you so, my dear?" asked Frau von Pusterhausen, coming
back again to her friend. "You were talking such secrets with Baroness
Kniebreche, and I could not get away from Madame Veitel, or whatever
she calls herself. She chatters and chatters--I only heard a few
words--you seemed to be talking about the Werbens? Am I right? And can
you tell me what it was about?"

"But it remains between ourselves, my dear?"

"You may be quite easy, my dear."

And the two ladies put their heads together, one maliciously listening,
the other spitefully retailing what she had herself just heard.

Giraldi, after he had wandered through the rooms for half an hour, met
Herr von Wallbach, who had luckily got away from the Baroness.

"I was just going," he said; "the heat, the noise, the everlasting talk
about Lasker----"

Herr von Wallbach passed his hand over his bald forehead with a gentle
sigh. "To be sure," he said, "Lasker! it is a terrible blow. Such a
splendid business. We shall never recover the blow, although he has not
directly attacked us. It is the beginning of the end, believe me."

"I do not think it looks so bad," said Giraldi. "It is only the first
shock; our Ministers have certainly behaved miserably, the mob will
triumph, but the reaction cannot be long in coming. They will find that
the sun of radicalism, which shines so brightly just now, is itself not
without a flaw. The Government, if only to anger the opposition, will
guarantee the interest for a sufficient loan for a time, and probably
afterwards take over the whole business. The promoters must have acted
worse than stupidly if a good slice does not fall to their share,
amongst others to our friend the Count."

"Nevertheless we--I mean the Warnow trustees--may have to wait a long
time for the payment of the second instalment," said Herr von Wallbach
thoughtfully.

"I am certain of that," answered Giraldi. "You may thank your
forbearance, which has lasted until the shares with which you paid him
have gone down so far. If I had only been listened to, he must have
paid the whole million at once, when the shares stood at seventy-five;
it would have been possible, and he would still have retained nearly
half a million."

"Yes, true," said Herr von Wallbach, "it has again been proved that you
are the best financier amongst us. It is lucky that we got the first
instalment. The money, if all happens as you say, is as good as the
Baroness's property already; but, nevertheless, we must one of these
days--I wanted to remind you of that--meet once more, as a matter of
form, to receive your report. You have still got the money at
Haselow's?"

"Where else?"

"I only mention it because we left the investment absolutely to you. I
wish to heaven the time had already come when I was quit of the whole
thing. At any rate I shall make Schieler represent me at the trustees'
meeting. When a man is on the point of breaking with the son, he cannot
very well be on friendly terms with the father."

"Pay Ottomar's bills to-morrow; close one eye to certain mistakes in
the signatures which must be amongst them--how should he have managed
otherwise?--shut the other to the fair Ferdinanda, and everything
remains as it was."

"Do not joke about it. At the best there will be a fearful scandal."

"Better too early than too late. And besides, if the public hear of the
new engagement at the same time that they hear of the breaking off of
the other, all will be well again."

Herr von Wallbach looked very thoughtful.

"Since this morning, since that terrible speech," he said, "the Count's
position has become much worse. I don't know what will become of him
now."

"Pardon me," answered Giraldi; "to my mind the affair looks quite
different. The respite is an immense gain for the Count. There are so
many chances. The shares may go up again, or the powerful hand which
enabled him to pay the first instalment may be held out to him again.
If it is not, why, the trustees must agree to a compromise--say
twenty-five per cent. off; that is to say, the Count can pay up
seventy-five. And after all he has always got the entailed estates."

"True, true," said Herr von Wallbach; "that would always remain to
him."

He passed his hand over his forehead.

"Have you seen Werben yet?"

"He will hardly come. He is more agreeably employed. Bertalda has again
lent her house to the loving couple, and is dancing away the sorrows of
her young widowhood. The polka is over. I will beg for a few more
details from the communicative little thing, in case they may be of use
to you. I shall see you perhaps to-morrow. For to-day, _Addio_."

Giraldi turned away at the very moment that Baroness Kniebreche came
up, and slipped into the ball-room, making as he passed a sign to
Bertalda, whom he met on the arm of a very smart officer. Bertalda
dismissed her partner, and soon overtook Giraldi, who had passed into
one of the less-crowded side-rooms.

"Well!" he asked, sitting down, and inviting Bertalda by a gesture to
take a place by him, "did you get the money, child!"

"Yes, and I am extremely obliged to you. I was really in great need of
it. My poor brother----"

"I do not want to know what you did with the money. So long as you
oblige me, that is sufficient. The important point is, are they happy
at last?"

The girl coloured. "I really did my best," she said hesitatingly.

"She never came?" asked Giraldi vehemently.

"Oh yes! I had told her so much about her brother's ball, and----"

"Your dress--and so forth."

"Yes, that also. But it was not needed. I saw in her eyes that she
could not hold out any longer, and was delighted that I had given her
such a suitable opportunity. She came, too, half an hour before the
time, and found everything very charming, just as it was the first time
she was there, in November, and helped me to dress, and--well, one
knows what it is when a girl, who is really in love, is waiting for her
lover. A ring was heard. 'Who can that be?' said I. 'Perhaps it is Herr
von Werben,' said Johanna, who naturally knows all about it. 'What
brings him here to-day? Perhaps a bouquet; he is always so attentive,'
said Johanna. She turned white and red in one moment, and trembled from
head to foot, then fell upon my neck and sobbed, 'No, no, I have sworn
it;' and before I could turn round myself, she was out of the room,
without hat or cloak, down the stairs, and into the carriage, which was
waiting at the door--br-r-r!--and she was gone. Next time she will not
run away, I am certain of that."

"Next time," cried Giraldi, with scarcely restrained fury, "as if I
could wait a hundred years. I had so set my hopes on it. Made so much
of it to him. How did he take it?"

"He was frantic. I had to spend half an hour in consoling him. There
never was anything like it. I really think he will do himself a
mischief, if he doesn't get the girl. It is no joke, I can tell you, to
deal with them both. If I were not so fond of Werben, and so sorry for
poor Ferdinanda, I would not do it for all the money in the world."

"Did not he want to come here with you?"

"He is lying full length on my sofa and would listen to nothing. But I
think he will come still. An hour or so of that sort of thing gets
tiresome, here it is delightful. There is the quadrille beginning, and
here comes my partner; may I----"

"Yes, go; and if you see him, tell him that I expect him to-morrow
morning between nine and ten. He will know why."

"I have been looking for you everywhere, Fräulein Bertalda."

The black-haired young dandy carried off his charming,
tastefully-dressed partner, who smilingly took his arm, blowing a kiss
to Giraldi over her shoulder as she went.

Giraldi remained seated. While the stream of gaiety rolled
uninterruptedly around him, he could snatch a few minutes to think over
his position. It was by no means so prosperous as it had been a few
days ago. Since midday he had had to give up all hope of the second
instalment upon which he had counted at least in part. He had moreover
reckoned with absolute certainty, that to-day the net which he had
woven with such untiring perseverance would entangle Ottomar and
Ferdinanda. He would have made better use of the interesting facts than
Antonio had done about the rendezvous in the park. Ottomar's and
Carla's engagement had been the consequence of that--this would have
been the cause of the breaking off of that same engagement. Who could
now blame Ottomar if, irritated by the girl's absurd prudery, frantic
and despairing, he returned to Carla--to Carla, who loved him as much
as she was capable of loving any one, and, frivolous as she was, would,
for the mere sake of change, turn back from the new love to the old?
And had not his conversation with Herr von Wallbach just now shown him
that there were at any rate waverings in that quarter as to whether
matters should be allowed to come to extremities? Herr von Wallbach had
from the first declared that he did unfortunately share Giraldi's
"suspicion" that there had been some ugly circumstances connected with
Ottomar's continual drawing of bills of exchange, but that he would
never directly interfere upon that point himself. If this suspicion
should be justified--possibly at the next final settlement of the
trustee business--he should of course be obliged to take notice of it;
all the more in proportion to the extent to which the report might
already have spread, but still he should only do so to express his
sorrow and his conviction that such ugly rumours must disappear as
absolutely as they had arisen mysteriously. On the other hand, if any
positive proof appeared of the relations that Giraldi maintained still
existed between Ottomar and Ferdinanda, he--Wallbach--was quite
determined to make the proper use of it on his sister's account, to
whom such a rivalry must, in the long run, be disagreeable. But this
positive proof was still not procurable. There remained the affair of
the bills of exchange! And if Ottomar came to grief to-morrow? and his
proud father took the burden upon himself to avert the fearful disgrace
which would recoil upon the whole family? He indeed knew the truth; but
could he in that case speak? Would he not have to look on silently,
while the father and son settled the matter amicably between them?
Twenty thousand thalers indeed would not be so easily procured; but in
such a case impossibilities might be overcome, and the General would be
sure to have good and powerful friends. At the worst, if Baroness
Kniebreche and the others who had been let into the secret should have
too completely broken the sacred seal of confidence, there might be two
or three duels, which would just suit Ottomar, who had laughingly
asserted the other day that he should soon have made up his dozen!

A duel between him and Herr von Wallbach indeed! That would be
decisive.

Only Herr von Wallbach, whose nerves were always a little unsteady, was
thinking of anything but a duel. How to provoke Ottomar against him?

There would be difficulty about that. It would be necessary to speak
more plainly, to mix himself up more directly in the business than
before, and it had been his well-weighed decision not to let the mask
fall, until----

The Italian's face grew still darker as he sat there brooding and
meditating, his head lightly resting on his gloved right hand, his
crush-hat on his knees, while from time to time joyous couples hastened
past him to the ball-room, where they were still being summoned to the
quadrille, which was more difficult to arrange now on account of the
number of dancers.

If Valerie to-morrow, as he still hoped, agreed to everything, as she
had always hitherto done, the mine could then, before it was fired, be
so deeply laid that not one stone upon another should remain of the
edifice of the Werbens' prosperity; the very bones even of the hated
race should be scattered here and there through the air.

But if she opposed him? If, after seven and twenty years of dumb
submission, she should rebel? and not now, and for once only, but for
ever, should refuse him obedience? If she should appear as the mistress
and superior? Well, she would do so at her peril! He was prepared for
it too. The time for temporising, waiting, diplomatising, would be over
at once; there would only be a very plain, very clearly-expressed
question: Yes, or no? But she would never have the courage. And she was
welcome to hate him, if only she feared and obeyed him.

A slight noise near him made him look up, and he started as he met the
fiery black eyes of his young countryman.

"Eccolo!" cried Giraldi, stretching out his hand with his most
bewitching smile; "how did you get here, my boy!"

"There was a lack of dancing-men," answered Antonio, pressing the
offered hand to his heart; "the maestro was desired to bring a few
young artists with him, and was good enough to think of me."

"And why are you not dancing?"

"I have not the happiness of being acquainted with so many beautiful
young ladies as Eccellenza."

Giraldi smiled, whilst he turned over in his own mind whether Antonio
could have recognised in Bertalda the veiled lady who came to see
Ferdinanda. It was extremely improbable, but he must give some
explanation of his intimate conversation with the pretty girl.

"Do you envy me my happiness, Antonio?" he asked.

"I do not grudge Eccellenza his happiness. Who can deserve it better?"
answered Antonio, with fawning humility.

"And since you are modest, you will be happier than all the gold in the
world can make me. You are young and handsome, and--you love; and that
your love may be crowned with success, you have but to leave it to me
and Brother Ambrosio. We are both busy on your behalf. Have a little
patience only, and your probation will be ended, and you will have
everything your heart can wish for--yes, more than you have dreamed of
in your wildest dreams; but, above all, revenge--the most brilliant,
triumphant, heart-stirring revenge--upon your enemy! I swear it to you
by the Sacred Heart and the Holy Virgin!" The two Italians crossed
themselves. "And now, my boy, I will talk to you in a few days. For
to-day forget the cares of love, and pluck the rose of pleasure,
without wounding yourself with the thorns."

He pointed towards the ball-room, again pressed Antonio's hand, and
went.

The young man looked after him with a gloomy brow, as he slowly walked
away. He had never for a moment doubted that the charming young girl
whom he had seen talking so earnestly and familiarly to the signor, was
the same whom he had met that evening in the dusk--that is to say, the
same who had at one time repeatedly visited Ferdinanda; he knew her
height and figure so well. She might be his mistress--well, but then
what had she to do with Ferdinanda? Why had he not told him the real
state of the case? Why did he not tell him the lady's name today? Why
had he passed as quickly as possible to another subject--or rather had
only repeated the same fine speeches with which he had so often
flattered his confiding companion, although to this day not one of his
promises had come true? And were these to suffice him? Was he to
prolong his miserable life for this--he whom the clever signor had long
ceased to trust? The signor had better beware of a person named Antonio
Michele, who, when the signor had sworn by the Sacred Heart and the
Holy Virgin, had also taken an oath which stood in the closest
connection with that of the signor. There was the signor's lady. He
would not approach her directly--Antonio Michele was not such a
fool--but he would try and find out her name, which could not be very
difficult; and, above all, he would not lose sight of her.

Meanwhile Giraldi had wandered farther through the over-crowded rooms,
looking round him from time to time to see if he could discover
Ottomar, uncertain whether he wished to do so, or whether he should
wait for him, whether it would not be better to go away now and leave
things to take their course. The train for Sundin started at one
o'clock. It was now twelve; he had still half an hour. Half an hour!
Half a minute would have been enough generally for him to decide the
most weighty matters. But a man grew stupid from dealing with fools.
And now that boy also must get in his way!

The sudden and quite unexpected meeting with Antonio had troubled
Giraldi greatly. He had not thought about the young man for a long
time; he had almost forgotten him, as he did all those whom he did not
require immediately, or might not require again, for the furtherance of
his plans. He required Antonio no longer. For the net which he was
weaving for Ottomar and Ferdinanda, Bertalda was a much more
accommodating and convenient tool. About Reinhold and Elsa he had long
known all that he wished to know; and over the ardour with which at
first he had followed up the idea of making out the handsome young man
to be the son who should restore the already shaken relations between
him and Valerie, he had himself smiled since. If Brother Ambrosio,
indeed, had entered willingly into the affair--if by his hints to
Valerie he had awakened her longing, if not hope, for the lost son! But
the experiment had entirely failed; it had even rather had the contrary
result, and had shown him more clearly than ever that her heart was
more and more, perhaps was entirely, turned against him. And even if,
perhaps under other circumstances, he returned to his plan, there was
no use thinking any more of Antonio, against whom Valerie's suspicions
had once been roused. She would not now believe in the strongest proof,
to say nothing of a more or less well-invented fiction. And it was for
this, for this hollow mockery, that he had inspired that passionate
spirit with brilliant hopes and ambitious dreams, which must soon prove
themselves an empty nothing, in which the young man himself perhaps no
longer believed. There was sometimes a wild glare in the black eyes
that had suggested to him that the young man would sooner or later go
mad--perhaps was already so; and at the moment in which he swore to him
that he should be revenged upon his mortal enemy, a smile had passed
like a flash across his usually firm-set lips, which only admitted of
one interpretation. If he ever learnt that the man who had promised to
help him to gain the woman he loved had driven her into the arms of his
rival, would it not be well while it was yet time to give the murderous
weapon another direction--the right direction--to the heart of their
mutual enemy? To say to Antonio, "I must confess to you, my son, that
what you have above all things feared is true--the woman you love is
now in his arms. I could not prevent it. Kill me! Or, if you would
avenge yourself and me, keep your dagger ready--I know you always carry
it with you. In a few minutes he will be here, still intoxicated with
his happiness. Strike him! strike him down!"

Giraldi had stood leaning against the door-post, lost in his
bloodthirsty fancies as in a dream, looking with fixed eyes upon the
throng, without seeing anything. Suddenly he started. There in front of
him, only separated by the width of the room, was Ottomar. He was
talking to one or two other officers, and still had his back to him. He
could still get away through the door against which he was leaning into
the next room, and out of the house. That would be best. After all his
arrangements were made, the manager might give up the stage to his
puppets. What need was there of a dagger in this domestic drama? A few
dishonoured bills, a good deal of gossip, truth cunningly mixed with
falsehood and cleverly insinuated in society, and the wished-for result
could not be long in coming, even if one or other of the wires failed
in its effect. "To be too busy is some danger," as Hamlet says over the
body of Polonius.

And Giraldi slipped back into the room from which he had come, and,
passing through some side-rooms and down the brilliantly-lighted marble
staircase, gained the vestibule and cloak-room.

Some guests were still arriving--a few ladies who to judge from their
remarks, had been kept late in the ballet, and an elderly gentleman,
who took off his fur coat whilst the servant was helping Giraldi on
with his. The Italian hastily turned up his collar, but the other had
already recognised him, and stopped him as he was going.

"What, Signor Giraldi! Are you going already?"

"I am tired to death. Councillor, and the heat and noise upstairs are
amazing."

"I have already been three times to-day to your house in vain. I must
talk to you at least for a moment. What do you think of it, my dear
friend--what do you think of it?"

"Of what?"

The Councillor almost let his crush-hat fall. "Of what? Good heavens!
Is it possible to talk about anything to-day except this abominable
speech?"

"It appears not," said Giraldi. "Every other man and every fourth lady
is talking about it upstairs. Fortunately it does not concern me."

"Not directly," said the Councillor eagerly, "but indirectly. How
clever you have been again. The only man who would not hear of a
postponement of the date of payment of the second half of the
purchase-money. You were only too right. The Count is ruined. He will
never pay the second half."

"One must reconcile oneself to the inevitable."

"Very philosophical! But indeed with your genius for finance, you will
soon make up for it. I only heard to-day that you--I presume on the
part of the Baroness, but it is the same thing--had lent the Count the
half million with which he----"

Giraldi's brows met together like a thundercloud.

"Had the Count been talking--against his word of honour?"

"The Count! the Count!" cried the Councillor. "As if he troubled
himself about anything. He throws his shares into the market,
depreciates their value, and in short amuses himself. I regret, by
every hair on my head, that we ever had anything to do with a fine
gentleman! Lübbener----"

"Ah!" said Giraldi.

"Of course, Lübbener," continued the Councillor, "he no doubt only
acted in the interests of the railway, when he paid you this afternoon
the half million of the mortgage, after you had declared your fixed
resolution in any other case to move for an immediate public sale. I
cannot blame you either for wishing to get back at once money which
seemed in such danger; but it is hard when friends and foes alike work
for our ruin----"

"I do not consider Lübbener's finances by any means exhausted."

"Because--pardon me, my dear sir,--this supposition suits you; I can
assure you I was with him a quarter of an hour after you had finished
your business with him. He was furious. He said it had done for him,
and for our whole enterprise. Lasker's speech this morning--shares went
down twenty per cent.; half a million to pay this afternoon, for which
he was not in the least prepared--it was the beginning of the end----"

"Just what Herr von Wallbach said," said Giraldi. "But pardon me,
Councillor, it is rather warm here----"

"You will not come up again!"

"On no account."

"Perhaps you are right," said the Councillor. "I would go with you if
it were not for Lübbener, who is sure to be up there----"

"I did not see him."

"You must have overlooked our little friend. I wanted to tell him
something that I have just heard from the Minister who sent for me, and
has only just set me free, and which I hope may be useful to him in
tomorrow's battle."

"Then I will take leave of you. I am really tired to death."

The Councillor had not yet let go the button of Giraldi's coat. Through
the comparative silence of these downstairs rooms sounded from above
the wild strains of a furious waltz, and the dumb rush and sweep of the
dancers, whose whirling steps made the magnificent building tremble as
if with ague.

"They are dancing over a volcano," said the Councillor in a low voice.
"Believe me, he cannot hold out; it is impossible. We have been obliged
to pay him with shares, of course, like all the world. How he is to
meet his engagements now that our shares have fallen to twenty--heaven
only knows. I calculate that the man will be ruined in three weeks at
the latest, and we with him."

"I regret it extremely, but if the world were coming to an end in half
an hour, I should go to bed now."

The Councillor let go the button almost terrified. Such a wicked look
had shot out of Giraldi's great black eyes, although he had spoken with
the tired smile of a completely worn-out man.

"One would think he might play an active part in the downfall of the
world," murmured the Councillor, as he brushed up his short, dry hair
before the big looking-glass. "Strange what odd ideas come into my head
when I am with that man! Such calmness at such a moment! He does
business to the extent of half a million, of which no human soul is
aware, loses another half million, and--goes to bed! Mysterious man!"

The Councillor put his brush in his pocket, pulled out once more his
white tie, seized his crush-hat, and was on the point of leaving the
cloak-room, when another guest stepped hastily in, and throwing his fur
coat on the table, called to the servant, in a voice apparently
trembling with haste, "Be good enough to keep them separate, I shall
only be here a short time. Ah, Councillor!"

"Good gracious, Lübbener, what is the matter with you?"

Lübbener signed to him to be silent, and laid his finger on his lips at
the same time, then drew the horrified Councillor into the farthest
corner of the cloak-room, and said, as he stood on the tips of his
toes, and stretched his short neck as far as possible out of his white
tie, "Is he still upstairs?"

"Giraldi?" asked the Councillor, whose mind was still full of the
Italian's image. "You must have met him at the door."

"He! Philip--Schmidt?"

Utterly absurd as the question seemed, the Councillor could not smile;
his friend's face, always grey, was now ashy-white; the little black
eyes, which generally twinkled so merrily, were now fixed; each one of
the short hairs, so thickly covering the low forehead, seemed to stand
up of itself.

"Do not stare at me so," exclaimed Lübbener. "I am quite in my right
senses; I only hope that other people see as clearly into their affairs
as I do with mine. I was with Haselow just before closing-time, to see
if he could not help me with a hundred thousand or so to-morrow, as I
had had a somewhat heavy payment to make, for which I was not prepared.
'It is just the same with me,' said Haselow. 'Signor Giraldi took away
the last fifty thousand of the Warnow money an hour ago--the whole half
million in three days.'"

"Extraordinary! most extraordinary!" said the Councillor; "as the agent
of the Baroness, to whom the half belongs, we certainly allowed him to
invest the whole, but still--"

"Beware! beware!" gasped the other. "There is something wrong--very
wrong. Yesterday Golm throws half a million into the market; I keep up
the price notwithstanding to thirty; this morning that abominable
speech of Lasker's--down they go to twenty; this afternoon I have to
pay Giraldi every farthing of the Golm mortgage. I have struggled, I am
struggling still desperately, but there are limits to everything."

"It is very hard," said the Councillor, sighing. "Our splendid,
splendid enterprise! The Minister, too, was quite in despair to-day;
but--shall we not go upstairs? We can go on with our conversation
there. I have several things of importance to communicate to you."

"Hush!" said Lübbener.

He stood listening intently, then walked quickly to the big window from
which he could see out of the cloak-room into the vestibule, shook his
head and came back to the Councillor, muttering unintelligibly between
his pale lips.

"What is the matter now?" said the Councillor anxiously.

The banker's little black eyes glanced towards the servants in the
cloak-room. They could hear nothing, and were moreover occupied in
arranging their numbers; then he made the Councillor a sign to stoop
his tall figure to him.

"I ought to have consulted you properly, but the danger that he"--the
banker pointed with his finger in the direction from which the noise of
the ball came--"was too great. Our four millions preference shares
which would have to be issued now--"

"Good heavens!" said the Councillor.

"It was a mere vague suspicion, but it left me no peace. He and I, you
know, have the keys, and when after the office was shut, I told the
clerk I had some business still to do--true enough"--the Councillor had
bent his head so low that the banker was whispering into his ear. Then
they looked fixedly into each other's eyes. The Councillor's long face
had turned as grey as the other's.

"But this is a matter for the police," he said.

An evil smile crossed the banker's compressed lips.

"It has cost me a great deal of trouble to convince them of it."

"So then----"

The banker nodded.

"And when?"

"I expect them every minute. They wanted me to show myself here,
because my remaining away altogether--"

"Quite right! Quite true!" said the Councillor. "It is very, very
painful--still--I will certainly--under these circumstances----"

And he made a step towards the cloakroom table.

"Councillor, you will not," cried Lübbener, holding fast by his
coat-tail.

At this moment a tremendous flourish of trumpets sounded in the
vestibule. The servants rushed from behind their table to the window.
The pretty girls who had been waiting upon the ladies ran past them;
"They are coming, they are coming."

The two gentlemen had also gone to the window, as the flourish sounded
a second time, from long trumpets, which eight men dressed as heralds
were blowing on the broad landing of the staircase. They turned their
instruments upwards to right and left, as if to summon the assembly
from above. And in fact they had scarcely uttered their call for the
third time, before the company, who had been prepared beforehand, began
to appear.

A splendid sight, whose magnificence even the Councillor, in spite of
his thoughts being full of anxiety and care, could not but allow,
whilst the servants broke out into loud cries of admiration; only Herr
Lübbener's grey countenance kept the look of a man who is too much
behind the scenes to take much pleasure in the play himself.

The guests came down the marble stairs from both sides, the width being
more than sufficient for two couples at once. The brilliant streams met
on the landing, but only to separate again, and swarm down the lower
stairs to the vestibule, which already began to fill, whilst the
staircase and surrounding passages were still swarming with the gay
crowd, which while waiting for the stairs to be free for them, could
meanwhile enjoy the brilliant spectacle from above all the longer.
Preceded by the trumpeting heralds they paraded the vestibule, which
was decorated by Justus's four statues, and brightly lighted by an
immense chandelier and numerous candelabra, while it was divided
from the outer hall by splendid columns, till suddenly the great
folding-doors were flung open, and, as the trumpets ceased, soft music
sounding from within invited to the pleasures of the table.

"Did you see him?" asked Lübbener, with a grim smile.

"How could I avoid it?" answered the Councillor, sighing; "with my old
friend Baroness Kniebreche on his arm. Wonderful! The man has nerves of
steel."

"I think you had better come in with me, Councillor," said Lübbener;
"if only for the reason that I suspect you could not get out of the
house now."

"Do you think so?" said the Councillor, sighing; "then there is really
nothing else to be done."

And he followed his resolute companion, with anything but a festive
countenance, into the vestibule, where they mingled with the last
comers, who, now that the ranks had been broken, were pressing most
impatiently into the supper-room.



                              CHAPTER VI.


Any anxiety about finding places proved quite unfounded. There would
have been room for the whole party in the gorgeous dining-room, if
every seat had been occupied at the little tables laid for eight or ten
people each. But as it had been foreseen that this would not be the
case, tables were also laid in the great conservatory, which stood at
right angles with the dining-room and connected this wing of the house
with the other. The last comers had the privilege of supping under palm
trees, as Justus laughingly remarked to Ottomar, both being amongst the
latest arrivals.

"Stay with us," said Ottomar, pointing to his table, at which three or
four officers and some ladies belonging to the theatre, amongst whom
was Bertalda, were trying to arrange themselves. "I think there is room
enough, if not we will make room."

"I am sorry," answered Justus; "but I am already engaged to a few
friends there in the corner, and if our garden is not quite so
brilliant as yours--yet you see we also have roses blooming."

"And magnificent ones. Who is the lady in silver grey? What a splendid
figure!"

Justus laughed. "You must not betray me. Perfect carnival freedom
reigns here. She is a cousin of my colleague Bunzel, alias--his model,
alias----"

"Werben! Werben!" resounded from the officers' table.

"Justus! Justus!" from that of the artists'.

"Hope you will enjoy yourself," cried Ottomar.

"Same to you," said Justus; and to himself he added, "poor boy!"

He knew the sad story, and had besides heard lately from Reinhold, with
whom he kept up a constant correspondence, new and worse things of
Carla, which Meta, who had arrived quite unexpectedly this morning,
fully confirmed.

"You will see," said Meta, "it will turn out badly. Dear Elsa suspects
nothing; but I have a pair of sharp eyes, you know, and I am sure that
the Count and Carla have got some understanding between them. If only
Ottomar would let her go! but he is the sort of man who, if any one
tries to take from him what he ought to be thankful to let go, says,
'No, not now.' He is not so sensible as we are, you know. And now make
haste and be off to your great party!"

How laughing and beaming were his Meta's eyes, who by her great good
sense had overcome all obstacles--"To-morrow we will order the
furniture to suit your artistic tastes, you know!"--and how darkly and
restlessly gleamed the eyes in which he had just looked! "The handsome
face sunken and wasted as if in the last ten weeks he had aged twice as
many years," thought Justus, "and in spite of his gay words, how bitter
a look there had been upon his lips! Poor boy!"

"What are you making such a wry face for?" cried Kille, the architect,
as the new comer approached the table.

"No mooning allowed here!" cried Bencke, the historical painter.

"He is thinking of the left hip of his 'Industry,' which is so much
awry that it is almost dislocated!" cried friend Bunzel.

"Or of Lasker's speech, which has been cutting everybody up!" cried the
architect.

"I am thinking just now of what you are always thinking of, nothing at
all!" said Justus, taking a place next to Bunzel's "cousin," and
passing his hand over his bald forehead to brush away the unpleasant
impression.

It would have been hard indeed for even a less cheerful disposition to
have given way to gloomy thoughts at this table and in such company.
They talked and laughed and joked in the most extravagant way. They had
all worked at the great building, especially the architect who had
drawn the plan and directed the execution, and now were showing up each
other's mistakes in good-humoured banter. And between whiles came
serious and weighty talk upon art and artists, or upon Lasker's speech,
which Justus, who in the sweat of his brow had sat out the whole
debate--"for reasons, you know, Meta"--thought splendid beyond all
belief, while the architect declared that the man might certainly be
right on the whole--there were stranger stories even connected with
some of the railroads--but of actual building he knew no more than a
new-born babe; till one or the other who thought the conversation was
getting too serious, threw in some wild joke, and the laughter that had
been for a short time checked resounded again louder and more heartily
than ever. And at the other tables, if there was perhaps less mirth,
there was no less noise. The champagne flowed in streams. The
innumerable servants had enough to do to renew the empty bottles in the
silver wine-coolers; and great irritation seemed to be felt at the
smallest neglect of the servants in this, matter. Everybody gave
orders; everybody wanted the best wine, the second best was good for
nothing, People passed the wine or the dishes from table to table,
"just as if it had been a public dinner," said Baroness Kniebreche,
surveying the crowd through her eye-glass; "quite like an hotel. I
never saw such a thing in a private house before. It is extremely
amusing. Do you know, Wallbach, that when you passed behind my chair
just now I was within an ace of addressing you as the head waiter."

"Ha! Very funny!" answered Wallbach absently. "You cannot expect to
find the good company and manners to which we are accustomed in such a
house as this. It is and will always remain the house of a parvenu. But
I was going to ask you, my dear Baroness, if you had kept your counsel
as to the last piece of information I gave you, as I asked you to do?"

"The last piece of information?" cried the Baroness; "but, my dear
child, you have told me so much, that I positively have forgotten which
is the first and which is the last. Why do you want to know?"

"Ottomar avoids me in a way which, notwithstanding that our relations
have been disturbed lately, is most marked. Just now he looked straight
over my head."

"Then look over his head, my dear child. I really can give you no other
advice. Besides, what is it you want? You can't wash fur without
wetting it. That's nonsense. If you want to have a row, have it--if
not, let it alone; but don't bother me any more about the matter. And
now give me some of that lobster salad--there, at your elbow--it is
delicious."

"The old woman is drunk," muttered Wallbach, as he returned to his
place at the next table.

Philip had excused himself for a quarter of an hour from the old lady
to go round the room, and was now going from table to table with his
glass, which had to be constantly replenished, in his hand, received
here with praises of the splendid feast, there with cordial shouts,
"Splendid, my dear fellow!" "Well done, my boy!" and at several points
with hurrahs and drinking of healths; while at others people seemed to
require a reminder that the gentleman in the white tie and waistcoat,
with the broad forehead, and the courteous smile on his red,
clean-shaven face, who stood there glass in hand before them, was the
master of the house.

Philip had gone the round of the room, and must now pay a visit to the
conservatory which opened out of the room. He came here at once upon a
large table surrounded by young men, who received him with such
enthusiasm that he seemed quite to overlook a smaller table close by,
and with a wave of his hand and a jesting word to the young men was
passing on farther, when a hoarse well-known voice said: "Now then,
Schmidt, are not we to have the honour?" Philip's face quivered, but it
was beaming as if in joyful surprise as he turned round and threw up
his arms, crying, "At last! Why, Lübbener, Councillor! Where the deuce
have you been hiding? I really thought I was to be deprived of this
pleasure. And you are quite alone, too! Like the lions, you keep
apart!"

"We were late comers," said the Councillor, touching Philip's extended
glass with his; "it was a mere matter of chance!"

"As long as you are amusing yourselves," said Philip.

"Certainly," answered Lübbener. "We can see here into both rooms. It is
the best place of all."

"Then it belongs to you by right," cried Philip. "The best place in the
room. The best in the house! Where would room and house be without you,
my good Hugo? Dear old man!"

And, as if overcome with emotion, he took the little man in his arms,
and held him, not daring to resist, pressed to his breast, when a loud
voice a few steps from them cried, "Gentlemen!"

"Oh, horror!" exclaimed Philip, letting Lübbener out of his embrace.

"Ladies and gentlemen--"

The speaker was a bank clerk from the young men's table, famed among
his companions for his extraordinary talent for after-dinner speeches.
He had so placed himself, glass in hand, between the dining-room and
the conservatory that he might have been heard in both rooms, if, in
the noise which increased every moment, one man's voice had not been as
much lost as a drop in the ocean.

"Stand on a chair, Norberg!"

"Hear, hear!"

"Stand on two chairs, Norberg; one is of no use."

"Ladies and gentlemen--"

"Louder, louder! Silence! Hear, hear!"

Nobody could hear anything, but here and there people could see some
one standing on a chair gesticulating, and apparently making an attempt
to speak; they drew the attention of their neighbours, and though
silence was not attained, Herr Norberg, with renewed hopes, exerted the
full force of his lungs, so far overpowering the noise as to make
himself audible, at least to the circle which had gathered round him,
and which was increasing every moment.

"Ladies and gentlemen! Our German proverb says that every man forges
his own fortune--"

"Bravo! hear, hear!"

"But, unfortunately, every one does not understand smith's work, and
the work fails in consequence. For the smith's work we need a
Schmidt--"[1]

"Very good! Hear! Silence there!"

"And if a smith forges his fortune, we may be assured that it is a work
which he need not be ashamed of before masters or apprentices."

"Capital! Bravo! Bravissimo!"

"And, ladies and gentlemen, the masters, and more particularly we young
apprentices who have still much to learn, and who wish to learn, will
watch his fingers in order to find out how and with what tools he
works; for the tools are the first consideration!"

"Bravo! Bravo!"

There was almost perfect silence. Herr Norberg, now sure of his effect,
continued in a pathetic tone of voice:

"But what are his tools? First, of course, the anvil--the immovable
anvil, formed of the cast steel of honesty--"

"Hear! hear!"

"Of honesty, which can bear every blow and shock, because it rests on
its own merits, and tested as it is by the enduring and flattering
confidence of the initiated, and, if I may so express myself, polished
by the good report of all honest people--"

"Bravo! bravo!"

"May laugh to scorn the rust of slanderous tongues which are raised
against it and its like, if such there be, even should it proceed from
the tribune of a certain great House--"

The last words were scarcely to be heard in the indescribable uproar
which arose at the first allusion to the great event of the day, with
which the minds of all were still filled, or at least occupied. Whether
the opprobrious word was approved or condemned by the majority of the
company, it was impossible to decide. Encouraging, even enthusiastic
acclamations, in which Norberg's particular friends were the loudest,
words of dissatisfaction, of disapproval, even of the greatest
indignation, all this buzzed, resounded, and reverberated, till almost
suddenly the storm abated, as if all, friends and foes, were curious to
hear what the man would utter further, as they all took it for granted
that he would not rest satisfied with this one sally.

But the prudent Norberg was careful not to stake the issue of his
well-considered speech by another impromptu. He spoke again in the
flowery language in which he had begun, of the "Heavy hammer of
Strength," which the master he honoured could wield better than any
other; of the indefatigable "Pincers of Energy," with which he held
fast to plans that he had once made; even of the "Bellows of strong
breathing Courage," which ever renewed in his own breast and in the
hearts of his fellow-workmen the flame of inspiration which belongs to
all creative power. Provided with these tools, and gifted with these
qualities, it had been possible for the master to attain to this
imposing result; to carry through his vast plans in spite of the
indifference of the public, in spite of the ignorant opposition of the
authorities; to make new roads for trade, convenient ways for commerce,
towards the completion of which he was now working, it might reasonably
be hoped not in vain, in spite of all and everything. Lastly, as the
keystone of the edifice of his fortune, or to keep to his simile, "as
the last link in the long chain of famous works which he has forged, to
erect this house, which he has made so great, so splendid, not for
himself, for he is the most retiring of men, but for his friends, whom
he has assembled around him to-day in hundreds, as representatives of
the remaining thousands, and who may now prove their representative
powers by three times three, as from the thousands, for the brave,
disinterested Schmidt, the smith of his own fortune."

The company acceded to the invitation, some from conviction, the
majority excited by wine, not a few out of mere politeness, with loud
hurrahs, accompanied by a noisy flourish from the band, while the
speaker descended from his chair and received, with proud modesty, the
thanks of his host and the congratulations of the guests. He had
surpassed himself to-day; he had been magnificent, it was only a pity
and a shame that he had not given it stronger to Lasker, who really had
deserved more.

"I do not think he will be too pleased as it is," answered Herr Norberg
complacently; "but now, Schmidt, old boy, up with you! You can't help
yourself!"

"No, you can't help yourself!" chimed in the guests; "up with you! fire
away!"

"But, gentlemen," exclaimed Philip, "after such a speech! Let me have a
few minutes to think at least."

"It won't do you any good!" said Herr Norberg encouragingly and
patronisingly, "I know all about it! Improvise as I did, it always
answers best."

"If you think----"

"Silence! listen! don't you see?"

The tall, broad-shouldered man who now stood on the chair was visible
enough; and as his appearance in that place was already expected, there
ensued at any rate sufficient quiet to enable him to begin with a
certain amount of dignity.

He would be brief, as fortunately he was in a position to be. The
gratitude he felt for the distinguished honour which had just been
shown him, for the kindness, the friendliness, yes, he ventured to say
the word--the affection which was showered upon him--such gratitude,
heartfelt as it was, could be expressed in a few words which, however,
came from the heart. Besides, it was not expected from the man of
deeds, in which capacity he had just been honoured, that he should be
an orator like his predecessor, whose speech it was easier to criticise
than to surpass; he had detected one defect. His strength, his courage,
his honesty had been praised; those were qualities which, the latter
especially, he expected from every man; and he therefore ventured to
accept a small portion of the exuberant praise lavished upon him.

"The whole of it!--without deduction--without discount--with interest!"
exclaimed the enthusiastic crowd.

"Well, well, gentlemen!" exclaimed Philip, "if you will have it so, the
full praise! But, gentlemen, what of the head, the mind and
understanding! Perhaps you will say they do not exist----"

"Oh, oh! I will take a hundred thousand shares in you!" shrieked the
enthusiastic auditors.

"No, no, gentlemen!" shouted Philip over the heads of the shouters;
"where nothing exists, the King himself must lose his rights. I am no
Prince and Imperial Chancellor, who has not only his heart, but his
head also in the right place."

Here Philip was compelled to pause, till the storm of applause which
his last words had called forth was somewhat abated.

"Yes, gentlemen, I acknowledge it; he is my ideal, but an unattainable
one! The qualities that a great man, world-renowned as he is, unites in
himself--the most opposite qualities, yet all equally necessary to
success--for these we small people must combine. And with me it is no
accidental chance, but a dispensation of Providence, and a sure
confirmation, that in this moment, without any previous agreement, as
you will believe me on my word, the two men who are my associates in
business and in every sense of the word, are standing near me; and in
this association if I am really the heart, they have unquestionably the
department of the head; here to my right, Councillor Schieler--to my
left, the banker, Hugo Lübbener."

Uproarious applause followed, which changed to shouts of laughter, in
which even the impartial spectators joined, when the next moment,
raised and held fast by the irresistible hands of the half-intoxicated
crowd, the two gentlemen named by Philip appeared in person on chairs
to his right and left. Philip, with quick presence of mind, seized the
hands of both, and cried:

"Here! I have you, I hold you, my two heads who are only one, and who
are all in all one with me; one heart and one soul! I was about to call
for a cheer for these two, without whom I were nothing; but as we three
are one, and cannot with the best wishes for health drink our own
healths, I ask you, we ask you for a cheer, a hearty cheer for those
whom we have to thank for the satisfaction of being here together this
evening, and I think I may say, of enjoying ourselves; the architect of
this house and the artists who have decorated it."

While the company willingly complied with his request, and the band
again accompanied them with a shrill flourish of trumpets; while Herr
Norberg embraced Philip and assured him that he himself could not have
done it better; while the two other gentlemen, who had sprung quickly
from their chairs, were overpowered with shaking of hands and
congratulations, great excitement reigned in the group of artists. Of
course somebody must answer, but who should it be? The historical
painter would just as soon have mounted the scaffold; one or two others
"could have done it, but it was not in their line;" the architect, as a
native of Berlin, freemason, and member of numberless societies, a born
and bred orator, did not see why he who had done the most should do
anything extra now.

"Justus must speak!" exclaimed Bunzel; "he can take the opportunity of
putting to rights that dislocated hip."

"As you will," said Justus; "there is something here that requires
setting to rights undoubtedly, of which your empty heads would never
think."

"Silence there! Hear! hear! Silence!" thundered the artists.

"Bravo! bravo! _da capo!_" shrieked the young men.

"I think once will be enough, gentlemen," said Justus, who was already
mounted on the chair.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I come before you as a boy before his
schoolmaster. For though it is only proper that we artists should
express our thanks for the kindness shown to us, I am neither the
eldest nor the youngest amongst us, neither the one who has the
greatest merit with regard to this beautiful house, nor perhaps the one
amongst us who has sinned most with regard to it; but as I am here, I
offer in all our names my most grateful thanks for your goodness, and
as I feel by no means steady on this rickety pedestal, and as I have
learnt from my predecessors----"

"Bravo! bravo!" exclaimed the artists.

"That if one wishes to leave this place one must first look out for a
successor, but feel that in this way the matter would never come to an
end, I have chosen for the purpose a person who is not in this company;
and I ask you to give a cheer for him, who has already spoken himself
to-day, and has spoken to my heart, and, I know, to the hearts of many
in this company; and to give a second cheer for him, because it would
ill become this company if a word were spoken against him here, as has
been done, without an answer being forthcoming from amongst us; and a
third cheer, and long life to him who requires three lives in order to
carry out the herculean labour he has undertaken!"

Justus drew up his slender figure, and his clear voice sounded like a
trumpet:

"Long live Edward Lasker!"

And his "Hip! hip! hurrah!" resounded in shouts from the artists,
whilst the astonished opponents remained silent, and all who had been
shocked at the previous offensive words, and they were many, cheered
with them, and the music sounded in the midst, so that the whole room
shook, and old Baroness Kniebreche shrieked out to Baroness Holzweg, "I
really believe I can hear again with both ears!"

The storm was still raging when Anton, the valet, came up to Philip,
who stood shrugging his shoulders and trying to smooth matters amidst a
group of gentlemen who were all talking to him at once, with violent
gesticulations, hoping and expecting that he would properly resent and
punish such a public insult. Anton must have had something very urgent
to say, as he pulled his master repeatedly by the sleeve, and dragged
him almost by force out of the group.

Philip's face had got very red, but at the first words which the
servant, as he unwillingly bent towards him, whispered in his ear, it
became white as ashes. He now himself hastily drew the man a few paces
farther on one side.

"Where is the gentleman?"

"He is close at hand, in the billiard-room," answered Anton; "here is
his card."

The servant was as pale as his master, and brought the words out with
difficulty from between his chattering teeth.

"Any one with him?"

"They are in the vestibule and out in the street and in the court--oh,
sir, sir!"

"Hush! Will you help me?"

"Willingly, sir."

Philip whispered a few words into the man's ear, who then went hastily
through the room into the vestibule, from which, unchecked, he
disappeared, through a door, into the cellar regions. Philip stood
there for a few minutes, his firm lips tightly compressed, and his
fixed eyes bent on the floor. He had not expected this; he had hoped to
have had at least another week's law. The devil must have prompted
Lübbener. However, the great haul must in the end have failed, and he
had got the ready money, at any rate, provided; but he must venture it!
If he could only get out of the house, they must be more than
cunning--he had had everything prepared for weeks in case of this
happening. As he again lifted his gloomy eyes, his glance encountered
Lübbener's, who, only a few paces off, apparently in eager conversation
with the Councillor and some other gentlemen, had closely observed the
short scene between the master and servant, and, as the former stepped
back to the group, now turned his back upon him.

"Excuse me for a few minutes, gentlemen," said Philip; "I have still
some arrangements to make for the cotillon, and then, if you please, we
will leave the table."

He said it in his usual loud and swaggering tone, whilst at the same
time he caught Lübbener by the wrist, as if in an overflow of hilarity,
and drew him out of the group.

"What do you want?" gasped Lübbener.

"To tell you," said Philip, grinding his teeth, "that you shall pay me
for this, sooner or later!"

He flung the little man from him so that he tumbled backwards into the
group, and making his way through the conservatory with a firm step,
passed into the billiard-room, to meet a gentleman who stood there
alone with folded arms, leaning on one of the tables, and apparently
studying the ornamentation of the door through which Philip entered.

"Inspector Müller?" said Philip, who still held the card in his hand.

"I have that honour," answered the inspector, unfolding his arms so
slowly that he could not well take Philip's outstretched hand.

"And what procures me this pleasure?" asked Philip.

"The pleasure is a very doubtful one, Herr Schmidt. I have a warrant
against you!"

The officer took a paper from his breast-pocket, and so held it that
Philip could easily have read it by the lamp over the billiard-table;
but Philip had taken up a ball, and was making a hazard.

"A warrant! How very strange! Look there! a double hazard too! Are you
a billiard player, Herr Müller?"

"Occasionally, when I have time, which I seldom have--for instance, not
at present. I must therefore beg of you to follow me without delay."

"And leave my guests? But, Herr Müller, just imagine--four hundred
people, and no host! It is absolutely impossible!"

"It must be possible."

"But it is not necessary. You are my guest. Toilette at this hour is of
no consequence; besides, you are got up regardless. Remain by my side,
of course--a cousin who has just arrived--what you will! Your men, in
plain clothes I take it for granted, can amuse themselves finely
meanwhile with my people. Afterwards we can drive together in my
carriage----"

"You are very kind, but a carriage is already provided, and now stands
in the courtyard amongst a number of equipages, so that we need not
again pass through the vestibule. You see, Herr Schmidt, I go to work
with the greatest consideration; but I must now really beg that you
will not put my patience to a longer test."

Philip rolled the ball which he held in his hand from him at random,
and turned round.

"Well, if nothing else will satisfy you; but I hope I may change my
dress?"

"I have no objection to that, only you must submit to my presence
meanwhile."

"No apologies, Herr Müller, between men! Will you be so good?"

And he led the way, the officer following on his steps. In the library,
which opened out of the billiard-room, an assistant officer was
waiting, who now joined them.

"You are very cautious, Herr Müller," said Philip over his shoulder,

"My duty, Herr Schmidt!"

He touched Philip's arm, and said in a low voice, "If you will give me
your word of honour to make no attempt at escape, which would moreover
be quite fruitless, I can"--and the inspector made a sign over his
shoulder--"spare you at least this escort."

"No attempt at escape!" said Philip laughing; "oh! Herr Müller, I can
think of nothing else. I would vanish through the floor or the walls if
I only could."

The officer could not help smiling.

"Go back into the vestibule again, Ortmann," he said.

"Thank you for your confidence," said Philip, as they went up a winding
staircase, guarded by a handsome richly-gilt railing, by means of which
the library was connected with the upper story of the right wing, which
was separated from the ball-room by the whole width of the courtyard,
that was partially glazed like the conservatory.

"The fact is, Herr Müller, that inconvenient as it certainly is to me,
I cannot take this episode really in earnest----"

Philip had opened a door in the corridor in which they now stood.

"This is a passage-room," he said in an explanatory tone; "I should
prefer to turn to the right, through that door into my living rooms,
which are to-day being used also as company rooms. But as there is no
help for it, we must go through the one on the left to my bedroom."

He pushed the door open. "Pray go first; for the time being, at least,
I am still the host here."

The officer did as he was asked, ready, if his prisoner should attempt
to shut the door upon him, which opened inwards, to stop it with his
outstretched foot. But Philip followed him close, shutting the door
behind him.

"My bedroom!" said Philip, waving his right hand, whilst the left still
played with the lock, to the magnificent apartment, which, like all
they had passed through, was brilliantly lighted with wax candles;
"furnished in French style, and as if it were for a young lady who had
just returned home from school! but these upholsterers are autocrats.
This way, please, Herr Müller--my dressing-room--the last in the
row--and dark--but that we can rectify."

Philip held up the branch candlestick, which he had taken from the
console under the looking-glass in the bedroom, and threw the light all
round as if to assure the Inspector that there was no second door in
the space left free by the carved oak wardrobes, and that the one they
had come in by was the only entrance and exit. He put the candlestick
down on a table, took off his coat, and opened one of the cupboards.

"I will wait in your bedroom while you are dressing; said the officer.

"Pray do," said Philip, as he took off his white waistcoat and undid
his tie; "I hope you will find the arm-chairs to your taste----"

The officer returned to the bedroom without quite shutting the door,
and took his place on one of the magnificent sofas.

"From Delorme in Paris," said Philip, opening and shutting the
cupboards in the dressing-room; "it is supposed to be something quite
out of the way, although I cannot see it. Only a few minutes, Herr
Müller; I am just as if I had come out of the river. My whole house is
ventilated after the newest principles, and yet this awful heat! _À
propos_, I suppose I may give notice downstairs that I have been taken
suddenly unwell, and so forth."

"I have no objection," said the officer. "I am only afraid that,
discreet as I have been, the rumour will have spread; it is generally
so at least."

"It can't be helped then," said Philip, who seemed busy with his boots;
"will the thing never come out? There, at last! What a pity that it is
midnight, and the magistrates cannot be got hold of, or I should
certainly be back again in half an hour. I have never asked what it is
about. I know without asking; it is some wretched trick of Lübbener's,
to drive me out of the board of directors. I knew that he had been for
some days in frightful difficulties, and was certain that our
preference shares were not safe from him. No respectable bank would
advance him a farthing upon the whole four million; but some swindling
firm--he knows plenty of them--might advance him six or eight hundred
thousand--a mere nothing in his position, but when there is nothing
better to be had the devil himself eats flies. So, thought I, they are
more secure in my hands than in the safe. In proof that I was right, he
has found me out. You must know from experience, my dear Herr Müller,
that no one thinks of looking for a man behind the bushes unless he has
been in hiding there once or twice himself. It was a bold thing to do,
I know, but mine is a daring nature. There! now another pair of boots,
and I am ready."

Herr Schmidt, who must have been going about in slippers for the last
five minutes, appeared to have gone again to one of the cupboards, in
which he was hunting about. "Varnished boots? Impossible! these are the
right ones--these," the officer heard him say, as if to himself. The
creaking of a chair--he was a heavy man--a smothered oath--the boots
apparently did not go on easily--then silence.

Absolute silence for a minute, during which Herr Müller got up from his
arm-chair and went to the window to look across the glass roof of the
courtyard, to the illuminated windows of the ball-room, behind which
one or two ladies and gentlemen could be seen. The supper had
apparently lasted too long for the lovers of dancing, and since the
master of the house had vanished, they wanted to set the ball going
again of their own will. And indeed the music began again now from
beyond, whilst beneath the glass roof sounded the stamping of horses,
and the talking and shouting of the coachmen.

"A terrible business for Herr Schmidt," thought the Inspector; "the
affair is certainly not literally as he represents it, but Lübbener is
perhaps the biggest swindler of the two. They generally get off free.
He might really be ready now."

Herr Müller stepped from the window back into the room. "Are you ready,
Herr Schmidt?"

No answer.

"Are you---- Good God! the man must have done himself an injury!"

The officer pushed open the half-closed door--the candelabra burnt on
the dressing-table--coats and linen were strewed about--the room was
empty.

"Don't play any foolish tricks, Herr Schmidt," said the officer,
looking towards the big cupboard, whose door stood partly open.

But he no longer believed in a joke, as after having hastily glanced
into the open cupboard, he threw the light of the candelabra right and
left over the hangings, which were leather coloured to represent wood.
No trace of a door! And yet there must be one! There, at last! This
scarcely perceptible crack, where the darker stripes of the hangings
met the lighter wainscoting--wonderfully done!--and here below, hardly
visible, the tiny lock. Herr Müller pushed and kicked against the door,
only to discover that it was made of iron and would defy his utmost
efforts. He rushed out of the dressing-room into the bedroom--the door
into the anteroom was locked! There, close to the handle, was the same
lock as that on the concealed door, no bigger than the key-hole in the
dial plate of a clock. He was a prisoner!

The infuriated officer threw open the window, and called as loudly as
he could to his men, of whom two should be in the courtyard. But on the
other side the fiddles squeaked and the violoncellos growled, and below
the horses stamped and the coachmen shouted and laughed. No one heard
the cries from above, until in his despair he took the first thing that
came to hand and flung it through the glass, so that the fragments fell
upon the heads of a pair of fiery horses, which, frightened out of
their wits, reared and backed, driving the carriage into another one
behind them, which rolling back again made the horses of a third
recoil. In the midst of the frightful confusion and the tremendous
noise that ensued, the shouts of the officer were overpowered, until at
last one of the policemen remarked them, but without being able to
understand a word his superior said. Nevertheless, he hurried out of
the court into the vaulted passage which, running on the right side of
the building and round behind the court, connected the latter with the
street, and was used for the exit of the carriages, those coming in
entering on the opposite side, to tell his comrades who were posted
there that something had happened, and that they must be on their
guard. He had done so in a few breathless words, and was in the act of
running back, when from one or other of the doors opening into the
passage, two servants rushed out, one an elderly man, who seemed to be
trembling from head to foot with excitement, and one younger and very
tall who nearly ran into his arms. The policeman connected the hurry of
these servants with what had just occurred, and he was confirmed in
this opinion by the fact of his remarking at the same moment, that a
narrow, steep stone staircase led up from the door which the servants
had in their haste left open.

"What has happened upstairs?" cried the policeman.

"Herr Schmidt has had a fit of apoplexy," answered the tall servant. "I
am going for the doctor, do not detain me. Here is the Inspector's
card."

"All right!" said the policeman, throwing a glance at the card. "Let
him pass. He is going for the doctor. How can I get upstairs?"

"Straight up these steps," was the breathless reply.

"Then be off with you!"

The man rushed breathlessly to the exit past the policeman, who
willingly made way for him, ran to the string of cabs which stood
before the house, only carriages being allowed inside the courtyard,
and sprang into the end one, calling to the driver to go as quickly as
possible; he should be well paid. It was a matter of life and death!

In the supper-room the confusion increased as the absence of the host
continued.

Amongst the few who still kept their place was Baroness Kniebreche,
although Herr von Wallbach urgently pressed her departure.

"Only a few minutes more," cried the Baroness, without taking her glass
from her eye; "it is so interesting. In spite of my eighty-two years, I
have never seen anything like it. Only just look, my dear Wallbach, at
that table where the little bald-headed man is sitting who a little
while ago proposed that man Lasker's health; tell me--I did not hear a
word of it for my part. The man with the long fair hair is positively
kissing his neighbour--an artist too of course--enviable people! Who is
the handsome young man with the black hair and fiery eyes; at the same
table? I have noticed him already this evening--a foreigner, we do not
grow such plants. He, moreover, never takes his eyes off Ottomar's
table. He seems to be struck by the pretty ballet-dancer. I cannot
understand how Ottomar can go on flirting with Ferdinanda, when he has
such a choice before him. But it is no use disputing about taste; it is
a wonderful thing. That faded Agnes Holzweg and Prince Wladimir. Well,
he cannot be very particular, and it seems to be going off too, as he
has not even been here for a few minutes. Take care of the old lady!
Pooh! She can hear me? I can hardly hear myself speak. That old woman
is a tremendous chatterer. She was talking just now for ever so long to
young Grieben of the Hussars, who I think is somehow related to her,
and has also paid attentions to Agues in his time, before the Prince
began to do so. There he is talking to Ottomar. If the old lady has
been chattering, Grieben will take the greatest satisfaction in boring
Ottomar with it, as he knows of his dislike to Agnes, whom Grieben, I
hear, in spite of all, still adores."

"But, my dear lady," cried the horrified Wallbach, "you have not told
that notorious gossip--"

"Look! look!" cried the Baroness, giving Wallbach a sharp blow with her
closed fan, "there, at the first--second--fourth table! The men are
coming to blows! it is really splendid! I never saw anything like it in
my life."

"It really is high time for us to go," said Herr von Wallbach; "it is
getting too bad. Allow me to send a servant for my carriage--"

"Well, if you really are determined," said the Baroness, "but I am
still amusing myself immensely."

Herr von Wallbach had stood up, but the servants who were hurrying
about with wine and ices seemed little inclined to do his errand, and
he was forced to look elsewhere through the room for some one more
accommodating.

Whilst he was still talking to the Baroness, Ottomar went up to Justus,
who was talking to his friend Bunzel as quietly as if the storm which
he had raised, and which increased in fury every minute, was not of the
slightest consequence to him.

"A word with you, Herr Anders,"

"Ten, if you like," rejoined Justus, jumping up; "but for heaven's
sake, Herr Von Werben----"

"What?"

"Pardon me! you did not look very cheerful before, but now--has
anything unpleasant happened to you?"

"Indeed there has. Tell me, Herr Anders, I am in a great hurry, and
cannot stop to explain--I know that you are very intimate with Captain
Schmidt, and I have just heard that there exists, some understanding
between him and--my sister. Do you know anything of this?"

Justus did not know what this meant. Ottomar's eyes, blazing with fury
and an excitement which rose above the fumes of wine, boded no good;
but no evasion was possible.

"Yes, Herr Von Werben; and I am convinced that only the lack of any
friendly advance on your part has made my friend hold back, and caused
him to leave you in ignorance of his understanding with your sister,
whilst, so far as I know, your father has long been acquainted with
it."

"Very likely, very likely," said Ottomar; "my family and I have long
been--but no matter! And in any case--I deeply regret that I did not
cultivate Captain Schmidt's friendship--however, I admire and esteem
him highly, very highly--I should always have considered it an
honour--everything might have been so totally different----"

He passed his hand over his brow.

"Is there still no possibility?" asked Justus quickly.

A melancholy smile passed over the handsome face.

"How I wish there were," he said. "I thought myself--but it is too
late, too late! I have found that out--this evening--just now--a man in
my position cannot allow his name to be in every one's mouth; and that
fact is used with great skill--the greatest skill--confounded skill!"

His teeth were gnawing hard at his lip, his angry eyes looked beyond
Justus into the room as if seeking some one, and they kept their
direction as he asked, even more hastily and abruptly than before:

"Perhaps you are also acquainted with Car--with Fräulein von Wallbach's
relations with--with--I see by your eyes that you know what I mean. And
you--but the others, who are talking of it all round, and reckoning
that for well-known reasons I must keep quiet about it; but I'll be
hanged if I do!"

"Only a man cannot have everything at the same time," said Justus.

"But I will keep quiet before those chatterers until it suits one of
them to speak out. I will settle it, believe me, in five minutes!"

Ottomar suddenly rushed away from Justus, "Like a falcon after its
prey," thought the latter, "Oh, this fatal honour! What sacrifices has
Moloch already required! Poor boy! I like him in spite of all the harm
that he has already done and that he still seems intent upon doing.
Well, I cannot hinder him with the best will in the world. Good
gracious!--already half-past one!"

Justus had of his own accord promised Meta to leave the party at twelve
o'clock punctually. He looked round for Antonio, who was talking
eagerly, near the table at which Ottomar and the other officers had
supped, with the piquante young lady whom one of the officers--not
Ottomar--had conducted to supper, and who, now that Ottomar was also
gone, appeared to have been left behind by the whole party.

"He is always making up to somebody, is Antonio," said Justus, as he
watched the insinuating manners of his handsome assistant and the
smiles of the young lady. "Let him be; I shall not get him to come home
with me."

He looked from Antonio to the tall painter who was in hot argument with
a few men who belonged to the "young men's table." "He will soon finish
them off," thought Justus, just as two or three men left the group and
came with angry faces towards him.

"You took upon yourself to wish long life to Lasker!" said a swarthy
youth.

"And I hope that he will long gratify that wish," answered Justus, with
a courteous bow, as he continued on his way past his astonished
interlocutor.

Ottomar, meanwhile, had gone up to the Baroness, and, without taking
the chair next to her, although it, as well as half those at the table,
had long been unoccupied, said in a loud voice, as was necessary to the
deaf old lady in the noise which prevailed around:

"Pardon me, Baroness, but will you allow me to trouble you with a
question?"

The Baroness looked at him through her immense glasses. She knew at
once what Ottomar wanted to ask, and that Baroness Holzweg must have
repeated what she had told her, and she was determined not to allow
herself to be mixed up in the matter.

"Ask anything you like, my dear child," she said.

"Certain rumours which are circulating in this company, about myself on
the one hand, and Fräulein von Wallbach on the other, and which have
come to my ears from Herr von Grieben amongst others, are traced hack
to you, Baroness, as Grieben has them from his aunt, Frau von Holzweg,
and she asserts that she had them from you."

"That is a long preamble, my dear child," said the Baroness, to gain
time.

"My question will be so much the shorter. From whom did you hear this
story?"

"My dear child, all the world is talking about it!"

"I cannot be content with that answer, my dear lady; I must know the
actual person."

"Then find him for yourself!" said the Baroness in her rudest tone,
turning her back upon him.

Ottomar bit his lip, and went straight up to Herr von Wallbach, who,
having vainly sought for some willing messenger through the whole room,
now returned to the Baroness to tell her that he would go and look for
the carriage himself.

"Baroness Kniebreche has commissioned me to discover the actual person
who has set in motion certain rumours about myself and your sister. Am
I to find him in the person of that sister's brother?"

"Really, Werben," said Herr von Wallbach, who had turned very pale,
"this is not the place to talk about such things."

"That comes rather late, it seems to me, from you, who have spoken of
it here, as it appears, not once, but often, and with many people.
However, I have naturally no desire to enter into a controversy, but
simply to make sure of the fact that this story, impossible as it
seems, emanates from you."

"But really, Werben, I may have--it is just possible--made some
communication to our old friend Baroness Kniebreche."

"Pardon me one moment, Herr von Wallbach. Herr von Lassberg, would you
be kind as to come here for a minute to hear an explanation which Herr
von Wallbach will be good enough to give me? You say, Herr von
Wallbach, that it is quite possible you may have made a certain
communication to our old friend Baroness Kniebreche. Will you oblige me
by going on?"

"I really do not know what communication you are thinking of!" cried
Herr von Wallbach.

"Do you mean to compel me to mention names?" asked Ottomar, with a
scornful movement of his lip, whilst his flashing eyes seemed to pierce
Herr von Wallbach's, who stood there helpless, in painful perplexity.

"I think this is sufficient," said Ottomar, turning to his companion;
"of course, I will put you _au courant_ at once. Herr von Wallbach, you
will hear more from me to-morrow, for to-day I have the honour----"

Ottomar took his companion by the arm, and walked back to his place
with him, talking to him with passionate eagerness, whilst Wallbach
was surrounded by several of his acquaintances, who from a distance
had watched the scene between him and Ottomar, and now wished,
with all discretion, to know what had passed between him and his
"brother-in-law."

"I cannot engage myself without first speaking to Herr von Werben,"
Bertalda was just saying, her eyes shining with the desire to dance
with the handsome young Italian.

"Are you engaged to that gentleman!" asked Antonio.

"No, but he brought me here in his carriage, and is to take me back
again. He wanted to go before. There he comes, ask him--or I will do so
myself."

Ottomar, who had just parted with his companion, with a shake of the
hand and the words, "To-morrow, then, at eight," was now close to them.

"This gentleman--Herr Antonio Michele, wishes to dance the next waltz
with me," said Bertalda. "They are dancing upstairs quite merrily."

Ottomar did not answer immediately. He had already once or twice looked
at Antonio, who had sat corner-wise to him at the artists' table,
without being able to recollect where he had seen that handsome dark
face before. Now as he looked into the black eyes, he knew it was in
Justus's studio. This was Justus's Italian assistant, whom Ferdinanda
had warned him against, of whom she had said that he persecuted her
with his love, that she trembled before his jealousy! In the black eyes
which were fastened upon him there gleamed, in spite of the courteous
smile upon the lips, an evil flame, as of hate and jealousy mingled. An
inexpressible mixed feeling of contempt, disgust and terror passed
through Ottomar. After all he had already suffered this evening, that
this should be added!

"I must beg you to excuse the lady," he said in his haughtiest tone; "I
was just going to offer her my carriage to return home in."

Antonio had discovered long ago from the artists, who were greater
frequenters of the theatre than himself, who Bertalda was.

"I will see the lady safely home by-and-by," he said, with an equivocal
smile.

The blood flew into Ottomar's face.

"Insolent fellow!" he cried between his teeth, as he lifted his hand.

Antonio started back and put his hand to his breast pocket. Bertalda
threw herself almost into Ottomar's arms, and drew him on one side. At
that moment, a perfect swarm of men, who had assembled for a game of
pool in the billiard-room, poured into the conservatory between the
disputants.

Their startled countenances, their violent gesticulations, their loud
and confused words, all proclaimed that something unusual had occurred,
and that they brought terrible news. But the terrible news had already
spread from the other side--from the vestibule into the supper-room. It
had already reached the dancers above, who were hastening down the
broad stairs, whilst many others met them from the supper-room. "Is it
possible?--Have you heard?--Good heavens!--Pretty work!--Who would have
thought it!--A man like that!--Let us get away--No one can get away
till the house has been searched!--We shall see about that!--Good
gracious! where is papa?--A glass of water. For heaven's sake! don't
you hear?"

No one heard. Neither the servants, nor the guests, who were streaming
out of the rooms into the vestibule and cloak-room, where there was
soon a positively dangerous crowd.

It was in vain that some calmer people attempted to quiet the mob; in
vain that the released police officer and his men tried to stem the
current. The terrified people crowded in confused masses from the
brightly-illuminated house, which was still echoing with the noise of
the festival, into the dark streets, through which the midnight storm
was howling.



                                BOOK VI.



                               CHAPTER I.


"Has Friedrich not come back yet!"

"No, General."

August, who had his hand already upon the door, was just leaving the
room.

"One moment!" said the General.

August obeyed with a face of much embarrassment; the General had come
close up to him, and there was in his countenance, not anger, as August
assured himself by one nervous glance upwards, but something peculiar;
while the deep tones of his voice did not sound peremptory but very
strange, thought August.

"It is of great importance to me to know where my son is at this
moment; Friedrich will perhaps not return immediately, and I am losing
precious time. You do not know where Friedrich was to take the things?"

The faithful fellow trembled, and his broad, honest face quivered as if
tears were not far off; it was only with an effort that he could
answer: "Yes, General; Friedrich told me, and he has already two or
three times had to take things there when the Lieutenant did not come
home; she is called Fräulein Bertalda, and lives in ---- Street, and
is, with all due respect, a person who----"

"Good!" said the General, "you need not send Friedrich to me now. It is
possible that I may require to send you out. Be ready, therefore!"

"Breakfast will be ready. General----"

"I shall not breakfast to-day."

"Fräulein Sidonie was coming to speak to you, sir; can she come now?"

"I am very sorry--I am busy--you must tell Fräulein Sidonie."

The General turned back into the room. August, in his heartfelt
anxiety, longed to say: "If only our young lady were here!" But he did
not venture, and so slipped out.

"Part of it was true then," murmured the General, "so I suppose the
rest will be also."

He went up to his writing-table, on which lay an open letter that he
had received a quarter of an hour before from Herr von Wallbach.
Bending over it in vague bewilderment, supporting himself by one hand
on the table, he almost mechanically perused it again, then raised
himself with a long-drawn breath and passed his hand over his bushy
brows, as if trying to sweep away from his mind, like a bad dream, the
fearful thing which he read there. Not merely what he read! between the
lines there flitted to and fro terrible things which he himself had
mentally inserted whilst he read, as in a bad dream the most dreadful
part is not in the images which a terror-stricken imagination calls up,
but in the expectation of horrors that are still to come. And yet! what
more could come, when an alliance with the Werben family was declined
as dishonourable! when satisfaction was denied to a Werben!

The latter point, as the most comprehensible, was that to which the
unhappy man's wandering thoughts returned and clung most persistently.

A betrothal broken off was a thing that had happened before and might
happen again; it was a trifle even, a mere nothing, if only honour were
untouched by it, if only Ottomar could stake his life upon his
unimpeachable honour. Might not Wallbach's cowardice--he had always
thought the man a coward--be taking advantage of Ottomar's
difficulties, which "had reached a height and assumed a character that
made it dubious, at least, if Herr von Werben were still entitled to
demand satisfaction as an officer and a gentleman, or even from the
standpoint of ordinary honesty."

This must be cleared away! He had thought since that last affair, when
in the autumn he had paid the bills which had come into his hands, that
everything was settled, since no more bills had been presented to
him--he had erred, grossly erred. Ottomar in his need had drawn more
bills--he himself was the cause of Ottomar being in such need!--why had
he at that time so sternly refused him any further assistance? Might he
not have known that such embarrassment cannot be at once ended? that
when a man's true friends refused their assistance he would turn to
false friends who would ruthlessly make profit out of his position, as
had evidently been the case here? No matter, no matter! all should be
forgiven and forgotten, if Ottomar would only confide in him again,
would only allow him to put things straight for him again, as he had so
often done. But could he do so? Counting all that he possessed, he
could not make up more than about ten thousand thalers. That might not
be enough; as much again might perhaps be wanted; it should be found
then, it must be found--it must! Ottomar had evidently sent his man for
his sash that he might make the necessary communication to his colonel
of what had occurred. Herr von Bohl would of course require that the
money difficulties should be settled before bringing the matter before
a court of honour. He himself would then become surety to the fullest
extent for Ottomar's debts; their old friend would for once--once more!
not look too closely into it; he would accept the surety and let the
matter rest till all was settled. If only Ottomar would not now, at
this very time, let himself be led into taking steps--that must be the
meaning of the obscure part of Wallbach's letter; what else could the
man mean?--steps which could only increase the difficulty of arranging
the business. That an officer should put his name to a bill with the
most exorbitant interest--that was, alas! for Ottomar no new thing! The
fact that he had sent for plain clothes as well as for his sash
appeared to point to some such intention. There was not a moment to
lose! he had lost only too many in his first bewilderment! The General
rang the bell. He was himself in plain clothes this morning, as he
usually had been since his retirement; he would put on his uniform. It
would take him a few minutes longer, but he always felt a little want
of confidence without his uniform, and there must be no want of
confidence to-day. As August still did not come after he had rung a
second time, he was about to go to his bedroom, when there came a knock
at the door, and on his irritable "Come in!" Captain von Schönau
entered the room.

"I beg your pardon, General," said Schönau, "for coming in unannounced,
but I did not find your servant outside, and my errand here will bear
of no delay."

The perfect calmness and concentrated energy which generally marked the
Captain's well-cut features had given place to an expression of the
deepest anxiety and trouble.

"You come about Ottomar's affairs?" said the General, mastering his
fears, and stretching out his hand to the Captain.

"Yes, General, and I beg and implore you to allow me to keep silence as
to how I obtained my knowledge of the state of his affairs. But the
state is this, that without any delay whatever, and before the matter
comes to Herr von Bohl's knowledge, those bills of Ottomar's which are
due to-day, and are in the hands of a banker here, whose address I
know, must be paid. I know also the total of them. The sum is large, so
large that so far as I know, General, neither you nor I alone could pay
it; but together we might find it possible if, as I do not doubt, you
will put at my disposal all that you can lay your hands upon, and will
allow me to take the further management of the affair into my own hands
and deal with it as if it were mine."

Schönau had spoken with decision, but in breathless haste, and the
General could not doubt but that the Captain's thoughts had taken the
same direction as his own. So long as Ottomar was left to himself, and
attempted to save himself in his usual fashion, any delay could only
increase the difficulties of his position, perhaps make it impossible
for his friends, with the best will in the world, to help him. However
painfully his pride was wounded by the conviction that he could not
avert the threatening danger by his own efforts, he had made up his
mind, even while Schönau was speaking, to accept the help so generously
offered to him, supposing that he found it possible to repay the debt
thus incurred. This he expressed in the fewest words, at the same time
explaining the state of his finances and naming the sum which at the
utmost could be raised upon the security of his interest in his house.

"Will that suffice!" he asked, "and for how much shall I be indebted to
you?"

"It will suffice," said Schönau; "and I only ask now for a line to your
banker, giving me full powers."

"You have not answered my last question," said the General, as with
rapid pen he wrote the required words.

"I must beg you to excuse me from answering," replied Schönau; "be
satisfied that the remainder does not surpass my means, and that it
will be an honour and a pride to me to be able to serve you and your
family."

The young man's steady clear voice faltered as he said the last words.

As the General continued writing, he remembered that amongst their
friends Schönau's and Elsa's names had been often coupled together in
jest, with the regret that it might not be done in earnest, as the two
were far too good friends ever to fall in love with each other. He had
shared this view, not without some regret. Could he have been mistaken?
Could Schönau--it would be no detraction from his generosity--be
offering help less to the father of his friend than to the father of
the girl he loved? In the excited state of his mind these thoughts had
taken no more time than was required to carry his hand from the end of
one line to the beginning of another; and moved by the sudden
consideration, he stopped in his writing, and looked up at Schönau who
stood by him.

A sad smile played round the Captain's firmly-closed lips.

"Do not stop, General," said he; "I desire and expect nothing, I assure
you, but the continuation of your friendship and that of your
belongings."

The General compressed his lips and went on writing. It was
bitter--most bitter to him to have to take everything from the full
hands of this generous friend, with no power of returning to him
anything from his own empty ones--it was too bitter! A cloud came over
his eyes; he was forced to break off.

"There is nothing but the signature wanting," urged Schönau, leaning
over his shoulder.

"I cannot do it, Schönau!" said the General.

"I implore you," cried the Captain, "life and death hang upon it--oh!
my God!"

Startled by a sound at the door, he had turned and saw Colonel von Bohl
enter the room.

"Too late!" muttered Schönau; and then, with a desperate effort to save
what was already lost: "Your signature. General!"

But the General had turned round, and had seen the Colonel. Ottomar
then had been to him already--had told him everything; the affair could
go no further without consultation with his commanding officer.

The Colonel's usually severe military aspect had the stamp of a solemn
gravity upon it now, as he said, after briefly apologising for his
intrusion:

"Have the goodness, my dear Schönau, to leave us. I have a
communication to make to the General which will admit of no delay, and
which I must make without witnesses."

A word trembled upon Schönau's lips, but he restrained himself, and
only bowed and said:

"Certainly, Colonel!" and then turning to the General: "May I ask
permission to pay my respects meanwhile to Fräulein Sidonie!" then,
after a little pause: "In case you should wish, however, to see me
again, I think my visit will be a long one."

He bowed again and went. The General looked after him with fixed,
terrified eyes. Evidently there was some understanding between Schönau
and the Colonel, although they had not spoken to one another yet;
evidently both knew something that Schönau had not said, and that the
Colonel had now come to say. He shuddered as before when he had laid
down Wallbach's letter; again there came upon him that agony of fear,
only now it was no longer lingering at the threshold; now it had come
close to him in the person of this iron soldier, in whom, though he had
never formed any intimacy with him socially, he had always seen and
honoured the pattern of a soldier after his own heart. The door was
shut behind Schönau.

"I know all," cried the General; and said to himself, at the same
moment, that he had spoken falsely.

The Colonel shook his head.

"You do not know all, General; Schönau could not tell you all, or
rather, as I suspect from his manner, would not tell you all."

"Then I am prepared for anything," said the General in a hollow voice.

Again the Colonel shook his head.

"I wish you were, but I think it is impossible. You must be prepared
for the worst; your son's bills, which fall due to-day, are all
forgeries."

The General fell back as if he had been shot, his hands convulsively
grasping the air. The Colonel sprang forward to save him from falling,
but with a frightful effort the unhappy man recovered himself before
the other could touch him, and stammered: "I--I thank you--it is
over--it is----"

He could say no more, he could bear no more, but fell back into his
chair, pressing his cold hands to his throbbing temples, and muttering
with bloodless lips: "It is all over--all over!"

The Colonel, who could only with great difficulty retain his own
composure, drew forward a chair, and said:

"It is terrible, I can offer you no word of consolation, for I know
only too well that you will not take it as an extenuating circumstance
that it was your name, his father's name, in and by which the fraud was
carried out."

"You are right, quite right," said the General; "the fact is
irrelevant--absolutely irrelevant."

Had he understood? Did he know what he was saying? The Colonel, who had
not taken his eyes off him, almost doubted; the dark eyes, usually so
steady, stared vacantly into nothing; the voice that had formerly been
so strong and decided, sounded harsh and wavering as if his mind were
giving way; the Colonel thought it best to recall him to a sense of the
reality, however terrible, by a relation of the circumstances.

He related, therefore, in his dry way, that Ottomar had come to him at
about ten o'clock, and had immediately on his entrance announced to
him, with the calmness of utter, hopeless despair, that he had that
morning sent a challenge by Herr von Lassberg to Herr von Wallbach, on
account of certain reports, now current in society, concerning on the
one hand his relations with Fräulein Ferdinanda Schmidt, and on the
other Fräulein von Wallbach's conduct with Count Golm, which reports
could only have originated with Herr von Walbach. That Herr von
Wallbach, without further reference to the truth or untruth of these
reports, or to his share in spreading them, had refused satisfaction,
until Herr von Werben had cleared himself from the suspicion of having
lately made use of improper methods to free himself from his money
difficulties. He, Herr von Wallbach, would of course be ready to give
satisfaction for this insinuation touching his honour in case it should
not be substantiated.

"Unfortunately," continued the Colonel, "Herr von Wallbach was but too
sure of his facts. His informant, whose name, I know not from what
consideration, he refused to mention even to Herr von Lassberg, could
only be, according to your son's assertion, the very man with whose
assistance this miserable fraud has been carried out; a man whose name,
if I remember rightly, has been often mentioned lately in the Wallbach
circle--Signor Giraldi."

"Impossible!" exclaimed the General. "My son could not--impossible!"

"I beg your pardon, General," said the Colonel, "I am repeating to you
exactly the account which I received from your son's mouth, and which I
believe to be perfectly truthful. According to him, from the first
moment of their acquaintance, Signor Giraldi manifested the most lively
interest in your son. Herr von Werben intimated also that Signor
Giraldi had known and encouraged his passion for a certain lady; but he
did not go further upon this point, only added that these, as he
believed, equally treacherous efforts had proved absolutely useless.
Although from his agitation Herr von Werben's account omitted some
details, I must suppose that he has been, with regard to his money
affairs, also the innocently guilty victim of a villain who has
mercilessly made use of his unsuspicious and blind confidence for ends
which escape my comprehension. It seems that Herr von Werben's evil
genius recommended him, as the easiest means of freeing himself from
his difficulties, to speculate on the Exchange, under a feigned name of
course; that he enticed him into the wildest speculations, allowed him
to win two or three times at first, till suddenly the luck changed and
turned more and more against him; and then, as usual, bills had to be
given, to which at first your son's name was put, and afterwards, as
the sums grew larger, yours, General, was forged, with the help of the
credit which Signor Giraldi enjoyed, although he declares himself to be
without any available means. That the bills might not come into your
hands too soon, they were lodged at first with various bankers, and
finally with one alone whose name has unfortunately escaped me. Signor
Giraldi undertook to meet them regularly as they fell due, and promised
of course to meet them also to-day when the enormous sum of twenty
thousand thalers is due. Herr von Werben of course went at once, on the
receipt of Herr von Wallbach's answer, to Signor Giraldi's hotel;
Signor Giraldi had left in the night. From that moment Herr von Werben
seems to have given up the case as hopeless. Signor Giraldi had, as you
may suppose, most distinctly engaged to receive him at this hour; the
people of the hotel declared that he had not so much as mentioned his
destination; it was only when Herr von Werben, whose suspicions were
aroused by the porter's manner, offered him a considerable bribe, that
he learned from the man that Signor Giraldi had gone to Warnow, where
letters were to be forwarded to him. With despair in his heart he
hastened to the banker, to hear only what he had expected: that Signor
Giraldi had made no arrangements for meeting the bills, which however
had not yet been presented, but on the contrary had withdrawn from the
bank yesterday afternoon the remainder of the very large sum--half a
million, if I mistake not--which he had deposited with them. Half an
hour later Herr von Werben was with me."

The Colonel paused; he could no longer endure the sight of the General,
who still stared straight before him like a man bereft of his senses.
What was he brooding over? Undoubtedly upon the final end of the story,
and undoubtedly also upon the same brief and bloody end which in his
innermost heart he felt to be unavoidable. But this man was the father!
he had not fully considered that before. He had not allowed himself to
put forward any extenuating circumstance; now he ransacked his mind for
any such circumstance, for any sincere word of comfort even in which he
could himself have faith.

But he found none.

"Shall we ask Schönau to come in again?" said he.

The General lifted his fixed eyes, evidently not understanding why the
Colonel should ask the question, having probably forgotten that Schönau
was still in the house.

The Colonel did not wait for his answer, but rang the bell and desired
August, who immediately appeared, having been in the kitchen giving
vent to his grief to the old cook, to summon Herr von Schönau. The
Captain meanwhile had been passing a most uncomfortable half-hour. With
the terrible certainty that he had come too late, and that Ottomar was
lost, now that he had officially informed his commanding officer of his
misconduct, and that the latter, as was to be expected from his
opinions and his ideas of honour, had acquainted Ottomar's father with
what had occurred; with the miserable anxiety which increased every
moment till it became an unspeakable terror, that now--now--at this
very moment might happen, perhaps had already happened, what must
plunge his loved and honoured friends into unutterable grief, it was
too painful to have to keep up a conversation with the good-humoured,
unsuspecting, and talkative old lady upon indifferent or tiresome
subjects, such as the bad weather, the next ball at court, or a
doubtful passage in "Malortie" which had already cost the compiler of
"Court Etiquette" several sleepless nights.

"And, before I forget it," said Sidonie, "have you heard yet of the
shocking thing that happened last night, and of which, people tell me,
the whole town is talking? I am sorry for our neighbour, poor Herr
Schmidt; he is a very respectable sort of man I am told, and he keeps a
man-servant who is--only think, my dear Schönau!--a cousin or something
of the sort of our August, and August told us--my brother and me--since
Elsa has been away he always takes his coffee with me, which he used
not to do, but he is always so kind and attentive-- What was I saying,
my dear Schönau? oh! yes; it is another proof to me that nothing but
harm and evil can come out of societies that have once imbibed the
poison of democratic tendencies. A young man who has been educated in
those pernicious principles has no safeguard in the critical moments of
his life such as religion and family honour, thank God, afford us. At
such moment he seizes--not I dare say without some struggles--for after
all we are all children of God, however few of us walk in His ways--but
still he seizes upon improper, doubtful, desperate, and even criminal
means. Millions, so I am told, he has stolen from a safe entrusted to
him; and then to take flight at the very moment when he was giving a
large party. What recklessness! what a want of the most ordinary
delicacy, although, quite between ourselves, my dear Schönau, I do not
think it particularly delicate of us to take part in festivities which
end in such a way. I indeed might triumph, for what in the world could
prove better than such occurrences how necessary is the existence of
well-ordered small courts, as schools of morals and manners, of
chivalry and true goodness, to our distracted and increasingly
democratic society? But heaven forbid that I should feel such pride! My
sentiments are those of silent grief and tender pity, all the more
that, as you know, Ottomar also could not deny himself this equivocal
pleasure. When the models of modern chivalry go and dance at Herr
Schmidt's, Herr Schmidt himself, indeed, is none the better for it, as
we see, since a crow will always remain a crow; but the swans, my dear
Schönau, I only ask you, can the swans retain their purity in such
company?"

Schönau was spared the necessity of answering, as August here came to
summon him, and he took his leave in a way which so little agreed with
his usual irreproachable demeanour, that Sidonie, as the door closed
behind him, shook her head, and opined that her little lecture would
not come amiss to the Captain.

"I beg your pardon, Captain," said August, as they crossed the hall to
the General's room.

Schönau looked round.

"I beg your pardon, Captain, but I am sure something has happened to
our young gentleman. Could not you let a faithful servant, sir, who has
been eight years in the family, and would go through fire and water for
the General, or the Lieutenant, or our young lady, know what it is?"

The tears were rolling over the honest fellow's cheeks, and Schönau's
own eyes were moist.

"No," said he, "I cannot tell you. We must hope that all may yet be
well."

He gave August his hand.

"God grant it!" said August, wiping his eyes with the other hand; "I
don't think man can do much. But I wanted to say, too, if you wished,
sir, to speak to our young gentleman, he will be at the lady's
in ---- Street--you know, sir."

When Schönau entered he found the two others sitting in silent
meditation. At a sign from the Colonel he sat down, but, as the
youngest, did not venture to break the unnatural stillness. At last the
General raised his head; he seemed to the Captain to have grown years
older, and his voice was dull and toneless like that of an old man.

"You are aware, Captain, what--on what account----"

The words came with difficulty from his throat.

"Yes, General," said Schönau. "Herr von Wallbach came to me this
morning, with the acknowledged purpose of justifying his conduct in the
eyes of Ottomar's friends and those of his family. He was evidently
playing a carefully prepared game. For while he skilfully avoided every
expression which could directly accuse Ottomar, I could plainly
perceive by every word that he was absolutely certain of his facts, and
that Signor Giraldi had initiated him into the minutest details of this
unfortunate affair. From him also I learned the sum at stake, and the
name of the banker who held the bills, who happens to be also my
uncle's banker, and with whom I am personally acquainted through
business which I have transacted for my uncle--Messrs. Haselow & Co, I
hastened there at once, but came too late; Ottomar had just been there.
I am sorry to say that his only too easily explained agitation and his
distracted questions have at least startled those gentlemen, but I am
convinced that I allayed any doubts by asserting positively--I was
obliged as matters stood to take the liberty, General--that before this
evening all bills due should be taken up. I intended then, when I had
collected the money with your assistance, sir, to pay these bills,
and--"

The Captain hesitated.

"To save a swindler from his just punishment," said the General,
without looking up.

"To save a man whom I venerate beyond all men, from unmerited
suffering," returned the Captain.

"That implies a reproach to me, Captain von Schönau!" said the Colonel,
knitting his brows.

"Pardon me, Colonel, if I differ from you. I had here no office but
that of friendship. You, sir, as Colonel, had received an official
communication, of which you were obliged to take notice, the more so
that the idea of an arrangement of the affair would not and could not
strike you as it would me."

"That is to say, if I understand you rightly, that as soon as the
arrangement was effected you would have considered the affair at an
end? I confess that, however painful it is to me, I cannot agree with
you in that view."

"Pardon me again, I did not intend to say that."

"I should be much obliged to you, Captain, if you would communicate
your opinion to me without reservation, in the presence of General von
Werben."

"I am obliged to you for the permission, Colonel; the whole thing
turned for me upon the question of sparing as much as possible the
General and his family, as they so fully deserve to be spared. This of
course would require also that my friend should be spared to a certain
degree. That is to say, the bills must be paid, as I hoped to be able
to pay them with the General's help, and they must be paid as the
General's bills. I should then of course have required that my unhappy
friend should leave the service, under some pretext that might easily
have been found, and should retire absolutely into private life."

Schönau had raised his keen eyes imploringly to the Colonel, who, on
his side, never turned his look from the speaker. He understood him now
for the first time. In explaining his own plans the Captain had at the
same time suggested the line which he wished his commanding officer to
adopt as a guide to his action if not to his views. Even in this light
the matter was one of great gravity, the Colonel felt and knew this
well; but the sight of the venerable man before him so utterly broken
down, the remembrance of Ottomar's thousand proofs of courage before
the enemy, and all the tender memories and compassionate feelings which
crowded upon his mind, all told him that he had already gone to his
utmost length, that he could do no more, that notwithstanding what he
felt to be his duty, he must accept the compromise suggested by the
Captain, at any rate must refrain from putting forward the reasons
against it.

"Thank you. Captain," said he; "I hope that, even as regards the claims
of the service, this most unhappy affair may be settled as you propose.
I am glad on this account, that in the first shock and bewilderment, as
I must confess, of what might happen next, I gave Herr von Werben three
days' leave of absence, which he had requested on account of private
affairs, though he entered into no particulars on the subject, nor did
he confide to me the object of the journey which he must undertake in
consequence. This leave of absence will be a very proper preparation
for sending in his papers, which must be done at the same time with a
notification of his wish to retire, and which I will undertake to
support with the authorities. I only require first that the bills
should meanwhile be settled by Captain von Schönau in the manner
suggested."

Schönau gave the Colonel a grateful look and rose. He would not hazard
the unexpectedly happy result of the interview, and he knew too well
that every word further spoken now might and would endanger it.

"I am already late for my work," said he, "and I must go down to the
Staff Office to ask leave of my chief for the day. I will then
immediately settle the matter of the bills, if the General will have
the goodness to give me his authority, and then, with your permission,
inform Herr von Werben, whom I think I know where to find, of what has
been decided here. May I ask you, General?" and Schönau pointed towards
the table on which lay the unsigned power of attorney.

The Colonel had risen also.

"One moment, gentlemen," said the General.

He walked up to the table, took the paper and tore it into two pieces,
which he threw into the waste-paper basket.

It was done without any visible emotion, without any apparent thought
of those present, as if some one alone in his study had torn up and
thrown away a letter that had now become worthless. The Captain
shuddered at the fall of the rustling paper, as a pitiful judge might
do as he puts on the black cap.

"I thank you, gentlemen," continued the General, who seemed to have
completely recovered his self-possession; "you, Colonel, for the
humanity which would have extended to another man's son the mercy you
would surely have denied to your own; you, my dear Schönau for the
affection which would lead you to sacrifice not merely your fortune,
but, like the Colonel, your conviction also.

"I cannot accept this sacrifice, gentlemen. One wrong figure spoils the
sum, one false premise nullifies the conclusion. You must allow a
father to draw the inference which you from friendship and compassion
would not draw. If with the assistance of Captain von Schönau--for
alone it would be impossible--I took upon myself my son's fraud and
thus--which God forbid!--allowed a man who is himself not rich, like
you, my dear Schönau, to impoverish himself for the sake of a swindler,
my son would then be allowed, there being nothing further against him,
to retire with honour. His Majesty, our gracious commander-in-chief,
would certify to the honour of a man, who, before God and his
conscience, before his father and you, gentlemen, who cannot at this
moment raise your eyes to me, is dishonoured. He could call to account
those who doubted his honour, and there would be enough of them--his
enemies would see to that--he who must acknowledge to himself that they
are in the right, and that in the very act of demanding and receiving
satisfaction he was perpetrating another deceit.

"And thus, gentlemen, the one lie--forgive me the word!--would call
forth a thousand new lies; and we who sit here should have spun this
web of deceit, and must leave those who become entangled in it without
warning or aid.

"The situation is impossible, gentlemen! Impossible--even for my son.
Guilty as he is, he cannot be so false to the blood of his ancestors as
to determine to exist at the mercy of even his best and most generous
friends; to live under the sword of the doubtful reputation that must
precede and follow him whichever way he turned; to endure the scorn
that any man might make him feel as he pleased, without the power of
defending himself.

"And it is impossible--to me. Suppose to yourselves that I were the
president of a court of honour which had to decide upon this case;
forget for a moment that I am a father--and you would, you must answer
me that it is impossible."

"I cannot forget it!" cried Schönau wildly; "I cannot!"

"You must," returned the General, "as the Colonel here has already
done."

The Colonel was in the most painful embarrassment. The General was
undoubtedly right, and he would thus be released from a very difficult
position; and yet! and yet!

"I have already expressed my most decided wish to arrange the affair
without letting matters proceed to extremities," said he, "I hope the
General may yet persuade himself of the possibility of so doing,
however difficult I allow such a solution may be. Meanwhile, Herr von
Werben is on leave of absence. Bills of exchange have, if I remember
rightly"--the Colonel attempted a smile--"three days' law. Let us make
use of this delay granted by the law; three days count for a great deal
under some circumstances in the life of a man. Shall we leave the
General alone now, my dear Schönau?"

The two officers went silently down the street, with their heads bent,
and from time to time pressing on their caps more firmly, which the
storm that raged through the streets threatened to blow away. At the
corner of the cross street Schönau said: "I must take a carriage from
here, Colonel."

"You are going to him?"

"Yes, sir."

"It is a hopeless case, my dear Schönau."

"I fear so."

"You will bring me news!"

"Certainly, sir."

"It is eleven o'clock now; I shall be at home till two."

The Colonel pressed the Captain's hand with a warmth very unusual for
him, turned up the collar of his overcoat, and went on down the street.
Schönau's cab drove quickly up the side street.

The General had remained standing at the door, to which he had
accompanied the others, and listened mechanically to their steps upon
the stone floor of the hall, then under the window of his room, and
passing away down the street.

Now he could hear nothing more, excepting the storm which was raging
without. They were gone, these men of the highest honour, the
representatives of his class, gone after pronouncing sentence upon the
dishonoured and unworthy member of that class.

And that sentence was--death.

Death by his own hand.

And his father must announce it to him.

No! not that; only confirm what he must have already said to himself;
only say: "Your father, agrees to what you have already decided upon,
and may God have mercy upon your soul!"

He pressed his hands together, and heavy cold drops of sweat stood on
his deeply-furrowed brow.

"Must it be? oh God, my God, have mercy upon me! must it be?"

But no word of comfort or hope came to him. All was dumb within him, in
his burning head, in his panting breast, and through that dumb silence
only the fearful words: "It must be!"

When August entered the room at the sound of the bell, the General was
sitting, turned away from him, at his writing-table, leaning his head
upon his hand. On the round table behind him, on which he used always
to put his finished papers, stood a box, and on the box lay a letter.

August turned cold all over; it was the box in which his master kept
the two beautiful old pistols which he had inherited from his father,
and on which he set such great store.

"My son is obliged to undertake a long journey," said the General; "and
he will require my pistols. The key is in the letter. You will go to
him at once, and take him the box and the letter; there is no further
message, the letter contains everything. Afterwards I shall go away
also; when you come back you will put up my things for a few days'
absence."

"Very well, General," said August, merely to say something, and so
perhaps to get free of the horror which oppressed him.

With mechanical obedience he had carefully taken up the letter and box,
and stopped at the door.

"Shall I say anything kind from you to the Lieutenant, sir?"

There was a few moments' pause before the answer came.

He mustered all his courage:

"Tell him, I hope to God to be with him soon again."

The faithful servant breathed again. He was satisfied now; whatever had
happened between the General and the Lieutenant must be something very
bad, much worse than it had ever been before, but if the General hoped
to meet the Lieutenant again, and that very soon too, there was nothing
to break one's heart over, and it would soon be all right, as the
Captain had said indeed.

But when August had left the room, the General let his head fall upon
his clasped hands, and so sat for a long time, while his whole frame
was shaken at times as if with ague, or at others a dull groan was
forced from his oppressed breast, as he prayed for his son's soul, and
took leave of that son of whom he had been so proud, and who might no
longer live now with the shame that he had brought upon himself; the
son whom he had so dearly loved, and whom he still loved, oh! how
dearly!

At last he rose, an old, broken-down man, with but one thing more for
him to do on earth.

For that, he knew that his strength would suffice.

And not trembling and with burning tears as he had loaded the pistol
which he sent to his son, but with a steady hand and rigid flaming eyes
did he load the second, with which to shoot down the scoundrel who with
devilish cunning had enticed his son to disgrace and death.



                              CHAPTER II.


Ferdinanda had gone to-day, as usual, at her accustomed hour to the
studio, and had even attempted to work; but, in spite of the
determination which she had long exercised in subduing her talent to
her will, and the success which had often attended her efforts, the
struggle was vain to-day, and she threw down her tools again.

"For the last time," said she to herself.

She had meant for to-day; but the words, as she spoke them aloud,
sounded strangely in the great, high room, as if not she but some one
else had said them--a ghostly, prophetic voice speaking from far off,
that left her standing and listening in terror lest the voice should
speak again.

What need was there of a prophetic voice to convince her of what her
own broken heart had said long since?

It was all in vain--her efforts, her struggles, her renunciation,
vain--even the tender remonstrances, the gentle warnings, the bright
example of the saintly Cilli herself!

How often and often, when that angelic being had left her, had she
thrown herself in the dust before the Pietà, which she had modelled two
months ago from her, and prayed that the all-merciful love with which
the heart of the blind girl overflowed might descend upon her heart
too, if it were only a drop! Even that would suffice to extinguish the
flames that raged there! But in vain.

Yesterday evening would have proved that, had proof been needed.

How she had debated whether she would accept that girl's invitation,
and see him again whom she had solemnly sworn never more to see! She
had kept her oath, and had fled at the last moment.

But was such a flight to be called a victory? Had she not been
conquered--did she not lie here helpless, shattered, bleeding? Her
deadly wound had never been healed, only insufficiently and with
difficulty bound up; and now she had torn off the bandages, and might
bleed to death! There was no more hope for her.

All else within was dull, dead, and insensible. She had fancied that
she felt a kind of respect for Philip's activity and daring--that she
was bound to him by at least a feeble bond of fraternal love. And yet
this morning, when Aunt Rikchen had brought the terrible news, and had
wept and lamented so that it might have moved a heart of stone, she had
not even been touched. She had received it like any other piece of
sensational intelligence which her aunt was in the habit of reading out
of the newspaper and making remarks upon. She seemed turned to stone in
the selfishness of her passion, so that it had not even occurred to her
to go to her father and say to him, "You have still one child, father."

But could she have said that without lying--was she still at heart the
child of the man who, in an hour of madness, had obtained from her that
letter of renunciation, every syllable of which had been like a
poisoned arrow in her heart? Had he attempted to compensate her, in
some measure at least, for so enormous, so unsurpassable a sacrifice,
by multiplying his own love to her a hundredfold? Perhaps his pride
forbade him that, or he shrank from hers, which he knew so well. Well,
then, she was well acquainted with his pride too. She could see his
expression if she went to him in his room; she could hear his voice
saying, "You have come to me about that wretched man; I wish to hear
nothing more about the matter than is, unfortunately, necessary for me
to hear. In my house at least I may be spared; so as you have come to
see me at last, talk of something else."

No, no, her father did not need her; and for herself! others might
importune him with their troubles, and humble themselves before
him--her proud father's prouder daughter would sooner die a martyr at
the stake!

Cilli was better off. She was sitting now beside her father's sick-bed,
and listening patiently to his childish complaints of how foolish he
had been to believe in Philip, and how just was the punishment that the
savings of many years, so carefully accumulated in a thousand frugal
ways, and by unceasing self-denial through so many long years, should
have been lost in one night, with the millions of the gambler on whose
cards he had staked his little fortune! Then she would comfort the old
man, and believe every word that came from her pure lips. And in secret
she had another comfort, at which she only hinted sometimes in
mysterious words, as if she were ashamed of such divine help--the
comfort of believing that, as one consecrated to early death, she
needed no earthly consolation.

She might well be secure of that consolation! How transparent her white
skin had grown in the last few weeks; how spiritually beautiful the
expression of her pure features; how unearthly the look of her great,
blind eyes!

Oh, how happy she was! To die so young, before the faintest stain had
marred even the hem of her white robes! To find above, if there was
anything above--and for her there must surely be--a heaven which she
had already created for herself on earth in her pure, humble heart! To
rise from joy to bliss--from light into glory! Oh, how happy she was!

And she herself, most miserable! That world above was only a beautiful
fable to her ever since her restless brain had begun to work behind her
burning brow. Her passionate heart had once desired to possess all
earthly joy as the sea receives into its bosom the streams which roll
gleefully and exultingly into it, and now it was pining away like the
barren desert under a sky of brass; and her vigorous form seemed made
to drag the weary burden of life through the never-ending years to a
far-distant, desolate grave, like some captive hero who, bending under
the heavy load bound upon his strong shoulders, may not hope to break
down or fall beneath the lash of his driver like his weaker companion,
but must throw away his load, and turn upon his tormentors, crying,
"You or I!"

But there was no alternative here. Death was very sure for those who
did not fear it!

Did she fear death?

She!

With this chisel, with the first tool from off her table, she would
accomplish it with her own hand, if----

If within her deepest, inmost heart, where some spring that she had
thought dried up must still be bubbling, a siren voice had not wailed
and whispered: "Do not die! for so you would kill me, the last and
mightiest of all the sisters. Only one moment is mine, and there is
night before me and after me; but this one moment surpasses the bliss
of eternity!"

In the next room to her had been noise and whistling and singing the
whole morning, louder than usual, as the master had been absent to-day;
and there had been much talk as to whether, when there was a Mrs.
Sculptor--some wit had suggested this--things would be quite so lively
in the studio. Now all was still, only the storm howled and raged round
the silent house, and shook and rattled the tall windows.

How had he endured the disappointment of yesterday? Was he raging like
the storm without? Was he the storm? Was it he who tapped at the
window-pane, and knocked at the door? Good heavens! there was really a
knock at the door! Was it possible! had he at last, at last broken the
final fetter, and come here to carry her away?

With trembling limbs she rose, her heart beating as if it would break
in joyful terror.

There again! at the closed window now! and was there not a cry,
"Ferdinanda?"

With a shriek she rushed forward, tore back the bolts, flung open the
door: "Bertalda! Good God! he is dead!"

"Not yet," said Bertalda, "but he is not far off it."

The girl's usually laughing rosy face was pale and changed; she was
breathless from the haste she had made, and could hardly bring out her
words, as with trembling knees she sank into the nearest chair.

"He is ill! where? in your house? for God's sake, Bertalda, speak!"

Ferdinanda stood before the girl, pressing her hands in hers, and
putting back the ruffled hair from her brow.

"Speak! speak!"

"There is not much to say," said Bertalda, raising herself up, "only
you must come with me at once, or he will shoot himself. He wanted to
do it before, and now his own father sends him a pistol to do it with!
There is an officer--Schönau is his name--with him now; but those sort
of people talk such nonsense--America! I dare say! He will never leave
my room if you do not come to him and tell him that you would remain
with him if he had forged his father's name for a hundred thousand
instead of this miserable twenty thousand. Why, my goodness! an
Englishman once offered me forty thousand, but I didn't like him, so
there was an end of it; but these men are all like children with their
foolish ideas of honour. I only tell you that you may not be startled
by anything, because you, too, are so absurd about such things, and if
you only look-- There! you are just like the others; you are heartless,
the whole lot of you."

Bertalda said all this behind Ferdinanda's back, as the latter after
her first words was moving wildly about the studio, looking for her
things, and now stood still with her hand pressed to her forehead.

"If only I were you," said Bertalda, "I would go with him to the devil
if he would take me. He is not wise, he would get more from me than
from you. Why did I sit with him and comfort him all night long, when I
was dead tired and might have been sleeping in my comfortable bed--or
on the sofa even, or the carpet?--it would be all the same to me, if
only the poor boy were at ease. And this morning again! I should like
to see the woman who would go through it for her husband! That would be
a fine fuss! and I, like a good-humoured fool, agree to everything, and
persuade him instead of shooting himself to go to Sundin, and farther
on--I don't know the name of the place--and shoot Count Golm, merely to
change the current of his thoughts, for he does not care one bit about
his so-called betrothed--and then I rush headlong here, and--well, what
do you want?"

Ferdinanda had hardly heard or understood a word of Bertalda's rambling
speech. She had been pulling out and ransacking drawers from the desk
which stood in a corner of her studio near the window, and now sitting
down opened her blotting-book.

"What are you about?" repeated Bertalda.

"I have enough to begin with," said Ferdinanda, still writing; "a
thousand thalers! There! take up the packet--thank God! I only received
it yesterday."

"That is always something to begin with," said Bertalda; "I had already
offered him what I had, but of course he would not take it from me. But
do let that scribbling alone. What are you doing now?"

"Here!" cried Ferdinanda.

She folded the paper on which she had been writing, and held it out to
Bertalda.

"What am I to do with it?"

"Take it to my father, whilst I go to Ottomar."

"Oh! I dare say!" said Bertalda. "I am not generally afraid of people,
but I won't have anything to do with your father. Just leave it there.
Some one will find it and give it to him, and if not it can't be
helped."

"I will give it to him," said a gentle voice.

Ferdinanda started up with a cry, as she saw Cilli, who had entered as
usual by the door which led from the studio into the narrow passage
between the house and garden, and unnoticed by the others had been
present for some minutes, and had heard with her quick ears every word
of the latter part of their conversation.

"Oh! my better self, my good angel," cried Ferdinanda; "you are come to
tell me that I am doing right, that I may, that I ought to follow him
as my heart tells me, through shame and grief, through misery and
death!"

"And may God be with you!" said Cilli, laying her hands on Ferdinanda's
head, who had thrown herself on her knees before her;--"with you both!
He only asks for love, and yet again for love, the love that beareth
all things. You can now--you can both now prove that your love is true
love! Give me the letter to your father! and farewell!"

She bent down and kissed Ferdinanda on the forehead, as the other rose
sobbing and gave the letter into her hand.

"You look so pale, Cilli, and your dear hands are cold as ice. Is your
father very ill?"

"He is very ill; but the doctor says he will get over it. He is asleep
now--Aunt Rikchen is with him, so I have plenty of time."

She smiled her own sad sweet smile.

"And now, farewell! for the last time!"

"Come," cried Bertalda impatiently; "come, we have lost only too much
time already! Whatever you want besides I can supply you with."

Ferdinanda was forced to tear herself away from Cilli. In her own
passionate way she had learned within the last few weeks to love, and
honour, and even worship the fair being who had come to her, as the
good Samaritan came to the wounded man in the burning desert sand. An
inward foreboding warned her that this was a farewell for ever, that
she should never again behold these angelic features. And to-day the
face in its transparent clearness seemed hardly that of an earthborn
creature.

Was she who seemed fragile as a breath, who was like a ray of light
from a better world upon this dark sinful earth, to take this earthly
burden upon her slender shoulders, to touch with her pure hands these
dark sorrows.

"I will go to my father myself!" cried Ferdinanda.

"Then you may just as well stay here altogether," said Bertalda.

"Go, go!" said Cilli.

And now again it was Ferdinanda who thought that Bertalda could not
quickly enough put on the cloak which she had thrown off in the hot
studio, or find the bonnet which she had flung down anywhere.

"I called a cab as I came," said Bertalda; "it is waiting at the door;
we shall be at my house in five minutes." At the house door there were
two cabs waiting.

Bertalda helped Ferdinanda to get into the first, and was in the act of
following her, when the driver of the second carriage asked whether the
gentleman was not coming.

"What gentleman?"

"The one who called me. Doesn't he belong to you?"

"I know nothing about him," said Bertalda, getting in and shutting the
door behind her.

The vehicle was hardly in motion before Antonio came out of the house,
with a broad-brimmed hat upon his black hair, and a large cloak over
his shoulders--he had brought them both from Italy, and they were the
first things which he had laid his hands upon--and with a small
travelling-bag under his cloak into which he had thrust a change of
linen. He rushed up to the driver of the second cab:

"I told you to wait at the corner!"

"I thought as there was another one at the door, and I had seen you run
in here--"

"No matter--follow that cab--at the same distance that we are now, not
a step nearer, and when the other stops, pull up!"

"All right," said the driver, "I understand."



                              CHAPTER III.


The door closed behind the retreating figures, and Cilli was left alone
in the studio. She sat down on a low stool, holding in her lap the
paper which Ferdinanda had given her, and supporting her head upon her
hand.

"He will not understand it," she murmured; "he will be very angry; no
one will understand it, not even Reinhold himself; even he could not
feel with me as I feel. Oh! my poor heart, why do you throb so wildly!
Can you not bear it a little longer, only a little longer! Let me
fulfil this, it may be your last service!"

She had pressed her two hands against her bosom, as with stoical
fortitude she bore the fearful pain, the agonising breathlessness
caused by her palpitating heart, as had so often happened in the last
few days. The terrible attack passed off, but the exhaustion which
followed was so great, that she made several vain efforts to rise. She
succeeded at last, and feeling for the table on which she knew a jug of
water and glasses always stood, drank some water.

"I can do it now," she murmured. And yet she often thought she must
break down, as she languidly put one weary foot before the other, and
slowly, slowly groped her way from the studio, and through the narrow
path between the house and garden. As she passed the door of her own
dwelling, she stood still and listened at the foot of the stairs which
led to their rooms above. All was still, and her father was sleeping
under good Aunt Rikchen's care. He would not miss her; her poor father
did not even know that her dearest wish, that she might die after him,
and so remain with him till he breathed his last, and spare him the
pain of seeing his child die, could hardly now be fulfilled. Her poor
father! and yet not so poor as the proud lonely man to whom she was
going.

She had reached the house and got as far as the carpeted marble stairs.
A step came down towards her, and she stood still, leaning against the
balustrade and smiling up at the new comer.

"Dear Grollmann!"

"Good gracious, Fräulein Cilli! How came you here? And how ill you
look! Dear me! you ought to go to bed at once!"

"I have no time for that, dear Grollmann, but I do feel very weak; will
you help me up the stairs?"

"Why, where do you want to go?"

"To him--to Herr Schmidt."

Grollmann shook his head.

"Dear Fräulein Cilli, you know that I would do anything in the world to
please you, and particularly to-day, when you are in such trouble about
your good father; but you really cannot possibly go to Herr Schmidt. If
you want anything for your good father--and he has been asking after
him already, although he has so many things on his mind--I will take an
opportunity of saying it--"

"It is not about my father," said Cilli, "nor about myself, but I have
such difficulty in speaking, dear Grollmann."

The old servant was awestruck as she raised her blind eyes to him. He
did not venture another word of reply, not even to ask her what was
that paper which she had slipped inside her dress, and led her silently
and carefully up the remaining steps to the master's door.

"Shall I announce you, Fräulein?" he whispered.

"Only open the door, dear Grollmann."

The old man hesitated for a moment, and then opened the door boldly,
guided the blind girl across the threshold with outstretched arm,
without himself entering, closed the door behind her, and dropped into
a chair close by, resting his chin upon his hands.

"I must take the poor child downstairs again," he muttered; "she will
not stay long."

Uncle Ernst, who was walking up and down the room with his hands behind
his back, lost in sullen meditation, had not heard the gentle opening
of the door. Now, having reached the farther end of the room, he turned
and started.

"Cilli!" he exclaimed with a long-drawn breath.

"Cilli," he repeated, as he went up to her, where she silently awaited
him.

He was standing before her, strangely moved by the contrast between the
dark and dismal thoughts in which he had been plunged, and the angelic,
radiant face into which he now looked; and his hand, which had taken
hers, trembled, and his voice shook, as he led her to a chair and said:
"What brings you to me, my child? Is your father worse?"

"I think not," answered Cilli, "although I know that he cannot last
long."

"That is all stuff and nonsense," said Uncle Ernst, the gentleness of
his tone contrasting oddly with the rough words. "Those three hundred
pounds would not have made you happy. And what have I done to him that
he should be afraid that I would not take care of him and you if it
came to the worst?--his Socialism--pooh! He will always remain for me
what he is--one of the few honest men in a world of rogues."

"I know how kind you are," answered Cilli, "and I had meant to come to
you this morning to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all that
you have done for us, and will do for my poor father when I am gone."

"I will not hear anything about that," said Uncle Ernst.

The ghost of a smile flitted over Cilli's pale face.

"Death has an eloquent voice," said she; "I trusted to that when I
dragged myself to you, and hoped that my voice, which comes from a
heart where Death has taken up his abode, might penetrate to your
heart, which, stern as it often seems, is so good and kind to the poor
and desolate, to the helpless and the unhappy."

Her voice was so low that Uncle Ernst had some difficulty in
understanding her. What did the poor child want? she had evidently
something still upon her mind.

"Tell me what it is, Cilli," said he; "you know that I can refuse you
nothing, however difficult it might be to me to grant it."

"You ought not to refuse me this, although it will be difficult
to you; for you are very proud, and the noblest of the angels fell
through pride, and your pride is bleeding already today from a deep
wound--forgive me if I touch it--I know it must be painful, but our
Lord upon the cross forgave His persecutors, forgave all men, and all
who sin, however wise they may be in worldly wisdom, they know not what
they do. But he who sins in men's eyes because he loves, not himself
but another, to whom his whole heart and soul belong, so that he no
longer feels his own pangs but suffers a hundredfold from those of
another--for such a poor loving soul every good man feels divine
compassion; how should not a father then, who ought to stand in the
place of the Father in heaven to His children on earth, and should be
perfect even as the Father in heaven is perfect! Oh! have compassion
upon Ferdinanda!"

She had slipped from her chair on to her knees, her hands crossed upon
her breast, her sightless eyes turned to him who had always moved about
in the darkness that surrounded her like a demon in his height and
stateliness, but fearful also as a demon. Had her feeble voice reached
the unattainable height where he was enthroned? or reached it only to
unloose the storm, the thunder of his wrath, which she had so often
heard rolling and raging above her head? Would he stoop down to her and
raise her up, as he had raised so many from the dust, with his strong
helpful hands? Then she heard--by his long-drawn breathing--that he was
bending over her, and she felt the strong hands raise her and replace
her carefully in her chair. She took his powerful hands in her own weak
trembling ones, and guided them to her quivering lips.

"No, no, my child! You have spoken the truth, but I am not angry with
you--not in the least. And that paper there, did she give you that!"

"I do not know what she has written," said Cilli, taking the paper from
her bosom, "You ought not to look at the words; they are wild, perhaps
bad words! but how can a poor human creature know at such a moment what
she does or says?"

He had hastily run his eye over the lines. "Ferdinanda has
eloped--when?"

"About half an hour ago--perhaps more; I do not know exactly."

"Did he carry her off?"

Cilli, from whom Ferdinanda had long had no secrets, mentioned
Bertalda's name and residence.

"So even this time it was not himself!" murmured Uncle Ernst with a
bitter smile. "Thank you, my dear child, thank you for your honesty. I
have always thought highly of you, I see that I did not think nearly
highly enough. And now let me call my sister to take you back and see
you into bed; I am sure you ought to be there."

"She is sitting at my father's bedside," said Cilli; "she has been
there these two hours. I can go very well alone."

"Then I will take you."

"If you are really grateful to me, if I am not to think that I have
been here in vain, you have something else to do now; pray let me go
alone."

She rose from her chair and folded her hands again upon her bosom.

"Go alone then, if you really wish it."

She moved slowly to the door, there stood still, and turning round
raised both hands with an imploring gesture to him, as he gazed sadly
and gloomily after her, then felt for the handle. The door opened from
the outside. Grollmann, as before, stretched out his arm without
crossing the threshold, received Cilli's groping hand in his, and shut
the door behind her.

"They are all leagued together against me for good or evil," murmured
Uncle Ernst; "Reinhold, Rike, that old man, all, all! And she, good
child, who is probably worth more than all of us, she brings me this
with her pure innocent hands--this!"

He stared fixedly at the paper which he held in his hand.

"I bid you farewell--for ever! You do not need my love, and yours I
have sufficiently experienced! You have crushed my heart and broken my
spirit; you have ruthlessly sacrificed my heart, my soul, my love to
your pride, as a fanatical priest slaughters the lamb at the altar of
his gods. And that other--his father! Truly when the spirit has been
killed, it is an act of mercy to kill the body! Wrap yourself then in
your pharisaic virtues, enjoy your arrogant pride! For us, welcome
disgrace! welcome shame! welcome death!"

"So be it then--death!"

He tore the paper in half, and tore the pieces again and again, flung
the fragments on the floor, put his hands behind his back, and began
once more to pace up and down the room as he had been doing when Cilli
came in.

As he thus moved, with burning downcast eyes, he set his foot upon one
of the fragments which were fluttering about here and there. He tried
to put it aside, but only ground it deeper into the soft carpet. "Bah!"
said he.

But yet he turned and took another direction through the room. At that
moment an insecurely fastened window was blown open by the storm, and
the fragments fluttered round about him like snow-flakes.

"They want to drive me mad," he cried out loud; "but I will not go mad!
Oh Lord, my God! what have I done that Thou shouldst so persecute me!
What more can we unfortunate men do than act according to our knowledge
and conscience! Have not I done so, so long as I can remember? If our
knowledge and our wisdom are imperfect, is that our fault? Why dost
Thou punish us for that of which we are not guilty? Surely Thou art
pledged to help us in time of need! If Thou hast spoken to me by the
mouth of this poor blind girl, I will sacrifice my conviction, my
understanding, I will be blindly obedient as a child--if Thou hast
spoken to me by her!"

He pressed his hands against his throbbing temples; everything grew dim
before his eyes; he staggered to the open window, offering to the storm
which raged against him his burning forehead and his breast, from which
he had torn open his shirt.

And through the raging storm he heard a voice crying: "Help! help!"

Did he only hear without, the echo of the cry within him?

But there--in the courtyard--was not that Grollmann rushing with
uplifted hands from the open door of Justus's studio towards the house?
while "Help! help!" sounded clearly in his ear!

"That poor girl! Is it Cilli?" he cried.

But Grollmann did not hear him, and ran into the house; Uncle Ernst
hastened out of his room.

"Lean well upon my arm, Fräulein," said Grollmann, as he took charge of
Cilli at the door. He would have given anything to know what she had
been talking about so long with his master, but she was so fearfully
pale, and her breathing was so quick and hurried, that he had not the
heart to ask her any questions, even if the answer could have been
given in one word. As they reached the top step she was obliged to
stop, however; but she pressed his hand almost imperceptibly, it was
all she could do, and smiled at him.

"That is as good as an answer," thought the old man, and aloud he said:

"Now, don't you speak another word, Fräulein Cilli; but if you would
like me to carry you, just nod. I am an old fellow, and you might be my
granddaughter."

She smiled again, and shook her head; but he did almost carry her down
the stairs and across the corner of the courtyard, into the narrow
passage between the garden and the neighbouring house, till they came
to the little back door leading into Herr Anders' studio.

"Here," said Cilli.

"Only a few steps more," said Grollmann.

"I have already taken leave of my father," said Cilli.

The old man did not know what she meant, and thought the poor child's
mind was wandering at last; but still he had not the courage to make
any further objection as she pointed, with an imploring gesture, to the
little door, as though wanting him to open it. He did so, and,
extending her hand to him, she said:

"You may leave me now, and may God bless you!"

"And you, Fräulein!" said Grollmann.

But he hardly knew what he said, as, unable to tear himself from the
doorway, he followed with his eyes the slender figure as, sometimes
raising her arms for a moment, like a bird about to take wing, thought
Grollmann, she moved amongst all the casts and models and the thousand
and one things which crowded the studio, as if she really could see,
thought Grollmann.

Near one of the two high windows, in the place where Herr Anders
himself generally worked, stood a white marble bust upon a small
pedestal. It was a portrait of Herr Anders' betrothed, and Grollmann,
who had lived so long among artists that he was something of a
connoisseur himself, had been delighted with the portrait, as it grew
more and more like every day--really a speaking likeness, Grollmann had
said.

She went up to the bust, and remained standing there, Grollmann at
first thought because she could go no farther, and must rest herself
there, for she was leaning against it as if she could not stand alone.
Then she raised her hands and stroked the face--her hands were as white
as the marble--and nodded to it just as if she were talking to the
bust, and kissed it as if it had been a living creature, and sat down
upon the stool which stood near, and on which Herr Anders used to stand
when he could not reach up to his figures, and leant her head upon the
pedestal, and did not move again.

"Poor child," said Grollmann, "she will fall asleep there and catch her
death of cold; it is quite cold now, and there will be no more fire
made up till the gentlemen come back at two o'clock. I must take her
upstairs."

So he came into the studio, and went up to her very gently--not that
that was necessary, for he was quite determined to wake her if she had
fallen asleep, but the nearer he came the more gently he moved.

And now he was standing by her.

"Poor thing," he thought to himself, "she really is asleep already,
with half-shut eyes, and how sweetly she is smiling! It really would be
a pity to wake her. If I had a cloak or--there is a rug lying there!"

Grollmann moved a step forward, and struck against a board, which made
a sudden noise. The old man turned round much annoyed--he had certainly
awoke her. But her eyes were still half shut, and she was smiling as
before.

"It is very odd," thought Grollmann, and stooped nearer to the sleeper,
and then raised himself, trembling in every limb, and ran as fast as
his old legs would carry him out of the studio into the house after
Aunt Rikchen, whom he had just seen going in, crying in wild terror,
"Fräulein Rikchen, Fräulein Rikchen! help, help!" while yet he was
saying to himself that no help could avail now.

But before he could get up to the good lady and communicate his
terrible news, Justus and Meta had entered the studio from the other
side.



                              CHAPTER IV.


They were returning from a long expedition into the very heart of the
town, where they had been wandering about since the morning, looking
for a wonderfully-carved oak wardrobe which Justus had heard yesterday
from his friend Bunzel, was to be found there in the possession of a
broker. Meta, indeed, had humbly suggested that it might be wiser to go
first to some large shop, there to choose and order their necessary
furniture, and then to look for the fanciful part; but Justus had
proved to her that the whole matter had begun with fancy, and that they
could not be wrong in pursuing the same road a little further--firstly,
because the road, on the whole, was particularly pleasant; and
secondly, because the temptation of getting, probably for a mere song,
a genuine Nuremberg wardrobe of the beginning of the sixteenth century,
was not to be resisted by a true artist mind. Meta's great good sense
had, happily, seen the force of his reasoning, and so they had gone
joyfully on their way.

But unfortunately this immensely-important conversation about the
unique and priceless wardrobe had taken place yesterday evening at a
period of the supper when friend Bunzel's communications had begun to
be somewhat wanting in lucidity, and the broker's direction had
consequently remained in an obscurity which Justus considered to be
highly appropriate to the whole affair, and which gave it quite a local
colour, but which still, in the interests of art, must be cleared up,
and, if they put their wits and their understandings together,
certainly soon would be cleared up.

So they drove on, at first through broad, straight streets, then
through narrower and more twisted ones, till their driver, whom they
had hired by the hour, declared that he had come as far as he could
with his horse and carriage, and that if his fare took the matter as a
joke, as they seemed to be doing, he did not see the fun of it; and
that as for the "old wardrobe" of which they were always talking as
they got in and out, he believed it to be nothing but a hoax.

"Heartless barbarian!" said Justus, as the cab rumbled on over
the antediluvian pavement. "No ray of light has illuminated his
benighted soul; he has no faith in the woodcarving of the sixteenth
century--perhaps not even in Isaac Lobstein! How do matters stand with
your heart, Meta?"

Meta replied that her heart was all right, but that she was beginning
to feel very hungry. They had better try this one street more, and if
Herr Isaac Lobstein did not live here, then she should certainly
propose to beat a retreat.

And behold! their heroic perseverance was crowned by success; Herr
Isaac Lobstein did live in the street, and was in possession of a
wardrobe for sale, indeed a whole row of wardrobes, which all had the
immense advantage over the cabinet that the young couple were looking
for, of being bran-new; while as for oak, that was quite out of
fashion, and not the right sort of wood either, as it made the
furniture much too heavy, which in the changes of residence that "young
couples" so often found necessary, according to all experience, was a
very important matter.

And Herr Isaac Lobstein smiled so benevolently as he said all this in a
tone of paternal remonstrance, that the "young couple," feeling quite
crushed, bought the first wardrobe that came to hand for a very
considerable sum, and when they found themselves in the street again,
looked at each other with very long faces.

"I think, Meta," said Justus, "our driver was not far wrong. Hang that
fellow Bunzel! but he shall pay me for this!"

And therewith he made so fearful and comically-furious a grimace, that
Meta burst into a fit of laughter, in which Justus, after a moment's
consideration, joined her.

And during their long drive back to the studio, where Justus had to
make some arrangements before spending the afternoon with Meta's
hostess, they were perpetually breaking into laughter again, although
between whiles they were talking in all seriousness of the most weighty
matters; Philip's flight which was simultaneous with the breaking up of
the company, and how with all the trouble which this break up had
brought to so many people, it had done this good, that it had at last
obtained consent to their marriage from Meta's father, as Reinhold had
foretold; and what effect the affair would have upon Reinhold and
Elsa's fate; and how poor Herr Kreisel, who had put his savings into
Sundin-Wissows, had been quite off his head this morning from the
shock, and trouble and anxiety for Cilli, whose future he now saw
unprovided for, so that he had had to go to bed; and how foolish it was
of the good old man, as he must know that his friends, and Uncle Ernst
especially, would never forsake him or his dear Cilli.

On this topic they gradually became quite grave, especially Meta, who
sat for some time quite still in her corner, till suddenly sitting up,
she said:

"Do you know, Justus, we must take care of Cilli, for you know if she
were not blind, dear thing, you would have married her, only that if
she were not blind and could see what a dreadfully ugly old darling you
are, she would not have been in love with you, for you know the poor
thing is very much in love with you, as I am a little, you know."

Herewith she threw herself into Justus's arms, and cried as if her
heart would break, and then laughed again as Justus suggested that she
had better have both windows shut, so that he had much trouble in
restoring her to anything like her natural self, as they crossed the
court to the studio.

"For you see," said Justus, "it is all nonsense, begging your pardon,
though Reinhold did suggest something of the kind. You know better than
other people that I am not over-modest, but as for Cilli, you see she
is simply an angel. She has shown herself so more than ever lately, in
the way she has borne with poor Ferdinanda, who really does not deserve
it, as only an angel could. And it was not because she was blind that I
did not fall in love with her, and would not have married her, but
because I could only fall in love with and marry a human being, and you
were the human being, and so----"

They had by this time entered the studio.

"Hush!" said Meta. "Don't speak so loud; it sounds as if we were in a
church here, you know, like that time when Cilli--oh! the poor dear is
sitting there; I think she must be asleep."

"Where?"

"There, under my bust."

But Justus needed but one glance to see with his sharp artist's eyes,
that the sleep in which the pale angel form was lying, was the sleep
that knows no waking.

His first idea was to spare Meta the sad sight, and he caught her hand
to lead her away, but the shock which she saw expressed in his varying
countenance had told her all more plainly than even the sight of the
sleeping figure. She trembled all over, but she held fast the hand
which he had given to her, and they went together up to the dead girl,
and looked in solemn silence into the smiling face.

"She has been praying for us," whispered Justus; "the last thought of
her pure soul."

Tears choked his voice. Meta threw herself sobbing on his breast.

"Oh! Justus, Justus, how we must love each other!"

A sound close by made them look up. It was Uncle Ernst, who had hastily
entered by the open studio door, and seeing the strange group had been
suddenly seized by a terrible misgiving of what had happened. He had
come nearer to them, and stood now close behind them with his arms
folded across his chest, and his eyes fixed upon the dead face.

Grollmann and Aunt Rikchen came next, Aunt Rikchen trembling, and often
sobbing aloud, but valiantly struggling with her sobs and tears as
often as they threatened to dim her eyes, proving the truth of what she
had always maintained of herself, that in spite of everything she was a
true sister of her brother, and that when there was any need for it,
she would always be found at her post.

It was she who took all necessary measures with due forethought
and decision; and only when the fair corpse had been laid upon a
hastily-contrived bier to be carried into the other house, and she was
about to follow, and her brother, who had let her do everything
quietly, took her hand, and said with a long-drawn breath, "Thank you,
Rikchen," was the warm brave heart suddenly stirred to its depths, and
she would have broken into loud weeping if Uncle Ernst had not said
peremptorily, but in a kindly tone such as she had never heard from his
mouth, "Let that be, Rikchen! There are so many things to be done
still."

"God knows there are!" thought Aunt Rikchen, but she did not say it,
and followed the procession which was moving to the door.

But Uncle Ernst was standing again as before, with his arms folded
across his breast, and looking fixedly at the spot where in his mind's
eye he still saw the same touching picture.

"Death was in her heart!" he murmured, "and she knew it. She said it so
meekly, and I did not understand it. There are no more miracles, but
there are signs given to those who have eyes to see. I asked for a
sign!"

His arms relaxed their pressure, and two burning tears dropped from his
eyelashes and rolled down his furrowed cheeks to his grey beard. He
looked round timidly, but no one had seen him weep.

With his stately head bent low, but a step as firm as ever, he left the
studio.



                               CHAPTER V.


An hour later--at a few minutes before twelve--a carriage drove up to
the departure-platform of the Berlin and Sundin railway station, and
August jumped quickly from the box to assist the General. The General
mounted the steps, while August looked round in vain for a porter.

"I told you so," called the driver, handing the small portmanteau to
August. "We ought to know!"

"Perhaps it is all the better so," thought August, hastening after his
master, who was standing in the empty hall at the booking-office,
before the closed windows of which the green curtains had been let
down.

"So the man was right after all," said the General.

"Yes, sir," said August.

A porter, who was passing by, confirmed the driver's information. The
day-train went at eleven o'clock since the first of this month. The
next through train was at midnight, as before. A superior official now
joined them, who had served in the regiment which the General had last
commanded as colonel.

"If the General were in a hurry, as he seemed to be, there was another
gentleman who had come too late a few minutes ago, and who had asked
for a special. There would be some difficulty about it, as all the
trains had been sent off to-day with two engines, on account of the
storm which was said to be raging fearfully towards Sundin. And they
were obliged to keep a few engines in reserve, in case of any accident
happening, particularly as the telegraphic communication with Sundin
was already broken off, and they could only get news in a roundabout
way. Still something might be managed perhaps. The gentleman had just
gone to speak to the stationmaster, who was out there by the goods
sheds, but he would be back again directly. Would the General be good
enough to wait till then?"

With these words the man opened the door of the first-class
waiting-room for the General, who followed him mechanically. The other
then said that he would himself go and see after the matter, and would
bring him back word, and so left the room. August, who had followed
with the portmanteau, asked if the General had any more orders.

The General told him to wait; he did not know yet what he should do,
and August went away greatly disturbed in mind; it was the first time
since he had been in the General's service that he did not know what he
was going to do.

The unhappy man was in fact in a state of mind bordering on madness.
After the terrible reckoning with his son, all his remaining strength
had been concentrated upon one idea--revenge, immediate, implacable
revenge upon the wily villain, the hypocritical scoundrel who--he felt
sure of it at heart, although his disturbed reason could not penetrate
the details of the plot--had now robbed him of his son, as formerly of
his sister, and heaped shame and disgrace upon the proud name of
Werben. At the moment when, with this one thought in his mind, he
entered the carriage which was to take him to the railway, two letters
arrived, one by the post in Elsa's handwriting, and a note brought by
Schönau's servant. He had opened Elsa's letter at once, and hastily
glanced at the few lines, but without really understanding the
contents. How could he? How could he have sense, feeling, or
understanding for anything in the world, before he knew what Schönau's
note contained? But he knew it already! It could be but one thing!
Schönau had not ventured to come himself to say, "He is dead!"

He sat thus a long time, with the fatal note in his trembling hand, and
at last, when they were close to the station, by a mechanical impulse
he tore it open and read it, only to crush the paper in his hand
afterwards, and thrust it into his pocket, while he leaned back in a
corner of the carriage with a ghastly smile upon his pale worn face.

He was walking up and down now in the great empty room, from the
looking-glass between the glass doors which led on to the platform, to
the door into the entrance hall, and then back again, stopping only
sometimes at the centre table in front of the little box which stood
there, once even stretching out his hand to it, and then with a shake
of the head pursuing his walk.

Was there any sense in it now? Might he not just as well have left at
home his pistol, the caps for which were in his pocket! Or better still
have remained at home himself, let things take their course, and people
have their own way? At any rate confess to himself his helplessness in
regard to things or men, and that he was a broken-down old man, good
for nothing but to look on idly at the battle of life as others fought
it out, however melancholy, perverse, and miserable the spectacle might
be!

Melancholy for him whose heart was crushed and broken, even where
formerly he would have looked with satisfaction--his Elsa's happiness.
It was not indeed the happiness of which he had dreamed for her, but to
that he was resigned; it was not a brilliant lot which she had chosen
for herself, but she loved the man, and, other considerations apart, he
was worthy of her love. And it could not be helped either when a
stranger knew her secret, that the whole world should know it at the
same moment that it was confided to her father.

And yet! and yet! Why should it have happened just now, just to-day?
She was not to blame, neither was he whom she would own as hers before
all the world; but upon her name and his their nearest relations had
heaped such shameful guilt, had so dragged both the humble and the
noble name through the mire, that every beggar might tread upon them
with impunity. Death would have atoned for so much, perhaps almost for
all! The worst part of the disgrace would have been hidden in the
darkness of the grave, and that which had been left behind on
earth--the whispers of malicious tongues--would soon have been
silenced! Had he required too much? Was death more bitter than the
agony of mind which he had endured in these last terrible hours? And if
it were, Ottomar must surely know how to die; he could not add to the
disgrace of his forgeries, the thousand times greater disgrace of a
cowardly flight. And could Schönau have given his consent to this
shameful course? He had not done so with goodwill evidently; he hinted
even at accompanying circumstances, which he could have wished omitted,
but which appeared to have been unavoidable, though he could not take
upon himself the responsibility of them. Could this man think and write
so, whom he had often, and not merely in jest, called a knight _sans
peur et sans reproche_? Had he so entirely misconceived his and the
Colonel's opinion? Did he remain the sole survivor of an earlier and
better time, incomprehensible to the present generation as they were
incomprehensible to him? What difference remained then between a
nobleman and officer and an adventurer who runs away from his
creditors, a clerk who flies with his master's strong box--what
difference between Ottomar von Werben and Philip Schmidt? There was
none; the bankrupt tradesman and the aristocratic forger stood on the
same level, only that the former might say, "I at least had not the
face to compromise an honest man's daughter, to morally compel my
father to go to the girl's father, and put himself in the humiliating
position of being refused--brightly and wisely, as the result shows!"

To the General's over-excited imagination the scene of that morning
suddenly presented itself as if it had only happened an hour before.
The day had been gloomy, like this day; the autumn wind had howled
round the walls as the March wind was doing to-day, and the rain had
pattered against the window just as it did now. It had been a terrible
hour, when he had been forced to humble himself so deeply before
the proud plebeian, even though the man himself bore the stamp of
nobility--which nature can give and which life often confirms--upon his
broad forehead, and on every feature of his fine and venerable
countenance. If he should ever again meet this man, should have to
endure the look of those deep, shining eyes, where, where could he turn
his own?

The General, who had been standing, hardly knowing where he was, with
his fixed eyes to the floor, looked up as one of the glass doors on to
the platform opened with some noise, and the man whom he had just been
seeing in his mind's eye entered, and closing the door came towards
him.

He passed his hand across his forehead. Had his senses really forsaken
him? Was that the reason why this vision so little resembled the
reality?--why the fire in the deep eyes was extinguished?--why the
head, which had been held so high, was now bent low?--why the voice
which now addressed him was not harsh with anger and hate, as it had
been that morning, but a deep, gentle voice, gentle as the words he now
began to understand, and which roused him to a sense of reality?

"I have just heard. General von Werben, that you also wish to go to
Sundin; I must suppose, for the same business that takes me there. I
have been promised a special train in half an hour. Will you do me the
honour of making use of it also?"

The General's stern, self-controlled countenance looked so distracted
and wild with grief, the clear, commanding eyes looked so bewildered,
so helpless, that Uncle Ernst could not but feel, as the other had done
before, that he was now the stronger and more collected. With a
courteous movement he pushed forward a chair to the General, who was
leaning unsteadily against the table, and when he mechanically followed
the suggestion, seated himself opposite to him.

"I take it for granted. General, that you have received Herr von
Schönau's letter, and that your presence here is the result of that
letter?"

The General appeared not to have understood him, and, indeed, he had
only heard the words. What did Herr Schmidt know of Schönau's letter?
He uttered the question as it crossed his mind. It was now Uncle
Ernst's turn to look up in surprise.

"Have you not received a letter from Herr von Schönau?"

"Yes."

"Mentioning that your son--has gone away?"

The General nodded.

"An hour ago--from this station--to Sundin?"

"To Sundin?" repeated the General. Strange that he had not guessed
that at once! If Ottomar intended to live, his first thought must
naturally be revenge upon that scoundrel--or was it rather the last
thing that he wished to accomplish before his death? He might have left
it to his father; but, still, here was a gleam of light in the terrible
darkness--a spark from the heart of the son, who was not, after all, so
entirely lost, into that of the father. "It was not mentioned in the
note," said he. He had raised his head a little, and a feeble fire
shone in his sad eyes; there was some look in him again of the iron
soldier with whom Uncle Ernst had had that terrible passage-of-arms the
other day.

"Not mentioned?" said Uncle Ernst; "but, good heavens----"

He broke off suddenly; his face darkened, and his voice sounded
harsher, almost as it had done that morning, as he continued:

"Then in his brief note. Captain von Schönau probably did not mention
the circumstance that Herr von Werben undertook the journey in question
with my daughter!"

The General drew himself up at these words, like a man who was about
sharply to resent an unexpected insult. The looks of the two men met;
but while Uncle Ernst's eyes blazed more fiercely, the General's sought
the ground, as, with a faint groan, he sank back in his chair.

"Miserable man!" he muttered to himself.

"You have to thank this circumstance--I mean the intervention of my
daughter--that he is still alive," said Uncle Ernst.

"I can feel no gratitude for that," replied the General in a hollow
voice.

"And that the father has not the son's death upon his head."

"The father would have been able to endure that responsibility."

"So I should suppose," muttered Uncle Ernst.

He sat for a few moments silent, and his looks also were now gloomy and
downcast; but this was neither the time nor the place to renew the
ancient feud. In a composed tone he said:

"If General von Werben did not know where Herr von Werben was gone, and
that he was with my daughter, may I ask what brought him here?"

"I had intended to call to account the man whom I must suppose has
brought ruin upon my son, as he has already brought ruin and shame upon
my family. I confess that I hardly see any sense in this project now,
and that I----"

The General made a movement as if to rise.

"Do not go, General," said Uncle Ernst. "If time had permitted, I
would have gone to you and asked the favour of an interview; now that
chance--if we may call it chance--has brought us together, let us make
use of this half-hour; it may spare us perhaps years of vain remorse."

The General shot from under his bushy brows a dark, uncertain glance at
the speaker.

"Yes, General," said Uncle Ernst, "I repeat it--remorse; though we have
neither of us had much opportunity yet of making acquaintance with such
a thing. I think we may both bear witness of ourselves, without
boasting, that we have all our lives long desired to do right,
according to the best of our knowledge and conscience; but, General,
since that first and only interview which I had with you, the words
have been constantly ringing in my ear, and I hear them at this moment
more plainly than ever, that I have indeed forgotten nothing, but have
also learned nothing. It was a hard saying to a man like myself, whose
highest pride had been to have striven from his youth up after a better
and purer experience, after truth and light; and I put it from me,
therefore, as an absolute injustice. But it has returned upon me again
and again, all through these dark and gloomy winter months, day after
day, and night after night, and it has gnawed at my heart till I almost
went mad over it, for I thought I could not believe those words without
giving up myself, without denying the sun at midday, or at least
admitting that that sun had dark, very dark spots, fearfully dark for
one who would joyfully have laid his head upon the block for its
spotless purity. And yet, General, it was so. However the tortured
heart might cry out against it, the relentless words would not be
silenced: 'You, who glory in having forgotten nothing, have lost the
better part, and you have learned nothing.'

"This hard battle, General, in which I have nearly perished, and which
has certainly shortened my life by many years, has continued till this
very day, till this very hour. Even the shameless and disgraceful act
of my son, with whom for years past I have lived in unnatural enmity,
could not break my pride. 'What is it to me,' I cried, 'if he drew
poison from the honey, if, when I had made respect for foolish
prejudices ridiculous to the boy, he later on lost all reverence for
the sacredness of law? If my teaching that it was every man's duty to
stand upon his own feet and trust in his own strength was perverted by
him into the doctrine that he who had the might had the right also to
take all that his hand could grasp, and to tread under foot whatever
was weak enough to allow itself to be trampled upon? He has been
corrupt from his childhood,' I cried, 'let Nature be answerable for all
that she has created in her dark recesses! What matters it to us who,
out of the chaos where right and wrong, reason and folly, are wavering
and mingling confusedly together, are striving after the light of
absolute self-dependence? What matters it above all to the plebeian, to
whom the aristocrat's pride in his forefathers seems ridiculous? Let
the children go their way! Why should the question of whither we go
seem to us more worthy of inquiry than of whence we come, concerning
which on principle we ask nothing? Pale spectre of family honour, write
thy Mene Tekel on the walls of the prince's palace, on the walls of the
noble's house, but attempt not to awe the free man who has no honour
and desires no honour, but that of remaining true to himself!'

"And then, General, as I thus strove with my God--I believe in a God,
General von Werben, Radical and Republican as I am--there crossed my
threshold an angel, if I may so call a being whose heavenly goodness
and purity seem to have no trace of earth, my clerk's daughter, a blind
girl, whom you have perhaps heard mentioned in your family circle. She
came to tell me that my daughter had fled--fled with your son, to save
him whom she loved with every fibre of her warm, passionate heart, to
shield him from the death to which his own father, for what reason I
knew not, had condemned him. But I had thrust the spectre from my door,
I would not listen now to the angel's soft voice, although a strange
awe, which I could not account for, thrilled through me. The meaning
was not long unexplained. The pure, pitiful words had been the last
which that noble being had drawn from the strength only of her
immeasurable love; a few minutes later the purest heart which ever
throbbed in human breast had ceased to beat."

Uncle Ernst pressed his hand to his eyes, and, suppressing his deep
emotion by a powerful effort, continued:

"I cannot require of you, General, that you should share my feelings,
and I will not waste the precious minutes in a detailed account of the
steps which I have now taken, moved by a force which I have neither the
power nor the wish further to withstand, in order to save what is
perhaps not yet utterly lost. Suffice it to you to know that I have
ascertained from the woman who has been your son's confidante lately,
and also, without knowing it, the tool of that dangerous man who is
such an arch-enemy of your family--I have ascertained, I believe,
nearly all that I need know of the sad history which has been played
beneath our eyes, unobserved by us.

"Suffice it to you that I am convinced, not of your son's innocence, it
would be a lie were I to say that, and to-day more than ever we must
have the courage to be sternly true to ourselves and to each other, but
that he is not more guilty than a combination of unhappy circumstances
may make a young man who, in spite of all his apparent knowledge of the
world, is absolutely inexperienced, and whose heart, though no longer
sinless, is not corrupt, but capable of noble impulses. And, General,
if I have made to you, in whom I have always seen the impersonation of
the principles most detested and abhorred by me, to you, above whom in
my own self-righteousness I stood so high, a confession which has not
been easy to my pride; if I have acknowledged that the principle of
unbounded liberty and absolute self-dependence when carried to its
extreme consequence may lead weaker spirits into error, must so lead
them perhaps, as I see my two children erring now, one irrecoverably
lost, the other only trembling on the edge of the abyss, into which
some mere accident may precipitate her; have you, too, General von
Werben, nothing to repent of, nothing to atone for? Have not the narrow
fetters of aristocratic and military routine, in which you have tried
to confine your son's easily-led disposition, been equally fatal to
him? To him who in a freer and lighter atmosphere might have happily
and naturally unfolded the bright gifts of his clear understanding, the
powers of enjoyment of his warm heart, and who now, compressed and
confined by prejudices on all sides, entangled in hopeless
contradictions, has gradually accustomed himself to look upon life so
completely and entirely as a series of necessary and unavoidable
contradictions, that his death at this moment would be only one more?

"A terrible and monstrous contradiction. For would it not be one? Death
by his own hand, at the moment when that hand is seized by the woman
whom this self-condemned suicide--from all that I now hear I am certain
of this--loves with all the force of which his heart is capable, and
certainly far more than his own life; and this woman, who is not
unworthy indeed of such love, says to him in tones which can only come
from a loving and despairing heart: 'Live, live! Live for me, to whom
you are all! I have left father, and house, and home, to live for you!
With you, without hoping for better days! With you, in shame and
misery, if need be--with you!'"

Uncle Ernst ceased, overpowered by the feelings of his noble, strong
heart, choked by the thoughts which surged in his powerfully working
mind. The General, who had been sitting in gloomy meditation, raised
his sorrow-dimmed eyes.

"If need be?--it must be!"

"Must be?" cried Uncle Ernst; "why? Because to the poor weary wayworn
wanderers it seems that the farther road for them can only be toiling
through the desert, through thorns and over stony ground? For them!
Good heavens! They who are young and strong, who will soon in the palmy
Eden of their love recognise their youth and strength, and with renewed
courage and refreshed hearts go out into life, which stretches
boundless and beautiful before them! Life, in whose immeasurable space
there is a thousand-fold room for the man who has erred, if he has but
courage and can rise firmly to his feet again to resume the battle, and
to conquer in a new sphere of work, a home for himself, for the woman
he loves--for his children! The children, General, with whom a new
world is born which knows nothing of the old, which needs to know and
should know nothing of the father's sin; that sin which, if the father
indeed has not atoned for by his sorrow, by his penance, by a single
noble deed, they may redeem by the simple fact of living, of being new
blossoms on the tree of humanity, at the foot of which we old people
with our ancient griefs and troubles shall long have gone to rest."

Uncle Ernst's great eyes were glowing with noble enthusiasm; but the
General's troubled face gave not the faintest response to it. He slowly
shook his grey head.

"I must ask you one question, which sounds very cruel, but is not meant
to be so, only to bring us down from this region of bright and, to my
thinking, fantastic dreams to this dark earth. Does the perspective
which you open to my son, extend also to your son?"

Uncle Ernst started, the fire of his glance was dimmed, and some
moments elapsed before his answer came.

"The cases are as far apart as heaven is from earth, as far as a
thoughtless act intended to injure no one, which he who committed it
hoped, I know, to make good, and to which he had been after all led
away by fiendish suggestions, differs from a proceeding which was
carried out with the most cold-blooded calculation, in the full
knowledge of the ruinous consequences to thousands of others."

"And for which meanwhile there can be no atonement in your eyes!"

Uncle Ernst moved restlessly, impatiently in his chair.

"What do you mean, General?"

"Only to remind you, that turn ourselves which way we will, we must
always judge life from our own point of view, and we can only measure
men's actions by the rule which birth, education, intellect and
reflection have given to us. Or do you think that the stockjobber, the
speculator, the reckless adventurer, would in their hearts, if such men
have hearts, condemn your son as the man of honour, the honest
manufacturer does, although he is his father? And can you blame an
honourable soldier because he condemns and brands the dishonourable
conduct of another soldier, although that soldier is his son, or rather
because he is his son? Can you suppose that I would deny my son, whom I
have loved as well as any father ever loved his son, whom even at this
moment I love with a love that rends my heart----"

The General's voice shook, and he drew a long breath, almost a groan,
that echoed shudderingly in the silent room.

"Can you suppose that I would deny him the life which you describe, if
I did not believe it to be impossible? It may be that the narrow bonds,
of which you spoke just now, have so cramped my mental horizon that
they have for ever checked the free flight of thought. But these
conditions of thought and feeling exist for the whole class, and must
so exist if it is not to be swept away; and so they exist also for my
son. Never, under any circumstances can he forget that he has cast a
stain upon the shield of his forefathers, that he has himself broken
the sword which he received from his commander-in-chief, that he has
disgraced his arms, that he could not look one of his old comrades in
the face even if they met in a desert, that he must carefully seek the
society of obscure men whom he would formerly as carefully have
avoided, he who once might stand freely and boldly before his king,
whom his king----"

And again the General drew a long, deep breath.

Uncle Ernst's lips were twitching. Here again there rose before him the
barrier which pride and arrogance had drawn straight across life's
bloom; the barrier which in his stormy youthful days he had thought to
conquer by one effort, and which he had afterwards tried through long
weary years to carry off stone by stone! And not one stone was missing
after all; it stood straight and strong, unapproachable and invincible
as ever! And he stood powerless on this side, and on the other side was
his child who must be lost now because pride and arrogance would have
it so. No, it should never be!

He sprang up.

"Then I must set to work alone."

"What was your plan?"

The General had risen also, but the mere movement seemed difficult to
the man who used to be so alert and active.

"Roughly this," answered Uncle Ernst; "not to allow my child to go out
unreconciled to me into a life whose varied changes no man can reckon
upon, and whose otherwise too hard path I desired as far as possible to
smooth by my advice and help. I gathered from the woman of whom I spoke
that in the first hurried agitation of his distracted thoughts, even
before his father's message arrived, your son had intended to hasten to
Warnow, to force an explanation from the traitor in the presence of his
aunt the Baroness, who according to this scoundrel's declaration had
taken upon herself the material responsibility, so to speak, of these
unhappy bills, at least had promised under all circumstances to make
good the deficiency. Herr von Schönau even, after many objections, had
agreed to this. When, therefore, the unhappy man wished to kill
himself, in spite of the presence of his friend, who felt his own
powerlessness and yet could advise my daughter to return home, as
flight with her at this moment would make it absolutely impossible for
him to intervene further on behalf of his brother-officer, when it
became the first consideration for her who wished to save her lover at
any cost, even that of the pitying contempt of his best friend, to
escape from the influence of this very cautious friendship, no matter
whither; then the adroit confidante brought forward again the idea of
Warnow, merely, I believe, because the train for Sundin was the first
to start. I, for my part, hoped and still hope to overtake them in
Sundin, to be able to tell your son that there is no object in the
continuation of his journey, as I claim for myself the right of paying
the debts of the man who has eloped with my daughter, and who will
therefore also marry her. Should they have gone on to Warnow I shall of
course follow them there, or anywhere else until I overtake them. At
Warnow too I promise myself the assistance of my nephew. He possesses
and deserves my daughter's highest respect, and I am convinced that he
would add to the father's blessing the good wishes of a friend who, in
turning the pages of the book of honour, does not omit the chapters
which treat of humanity."

The patience of the passionate spirit was exhausted; in the last words
might be traced even suppressed wrath. He buttoned his overcoat and
took up his hat, which stood on the table by the General's little box,
as the man who had before offered his services to the General entered
the room from the platform with the stationmaster. The stationmaster
went up to Uncle Ernst to inform him that the train was ready, while
the other handed a telegram to the General.

"I happened to be in the office," said he, "when it arrived, through
Stettin, having been handed in early this morning at Prora. I think the
contents are of importance."

The General took the paper, which in the hurry had not even been
folded:

"Come by the next train. Frightful storm. Must perhaps go to Reinhold.
Aunt alone then with that wretch. Come for my sake, Ottomar's,
and aunt's, who throws herself upon your mercy. Everything is at
stake.--Elsa."

Uncle Ernst came forward.

"I must wish you good-bye, General."

"I will come with you."

Uncle Ernst looked in astonishment at the General, who folded the
telegram, while August, who with old Grollmann, whom he had met
outside, had been looking after the two gentlemen's things, and had now
returned, seized the little box to carry it after his master to the
carriage in which he had taken his seat with Uncle Ernst. The two
servants were in the next carriage, which with the engine made up the
whole train.

"They seem to be of one mind so far," said Grollmann.

"Whatever is wanting still will be made up before we get to Sundin,"
said August.

"If only the storm does not blow us off the rails first," said
Grollmann.

"It really is A 1," said August.



                              CHAPTER VI.


Nobody had had any sleep at Castle Warnow excepting Frau von Wallbach.
And even she had been repeatedly awakened or nearly so by strange
noises of rolling and rattling, just as if she were at home in the
Behrenstrasse and a dozen big parties were breaking up at the same
moment, and an alarm of fire sounding between whiles. What could it
have been? The maid who brought her chocolate to her bedside told her
that it was the storm, which had been raging fearfully since her lady
went to bed last night.

"How odd!" said Frau von Wallbach. "But why have you come in so early?
I do not want to start before eleven."

"It is ten o'clock now, ma'am; it will be no lighter to-day."

"Of course not, if you do not open the shutters."

"They have not been shut, ma'am; we did not dare to do it even last
night. One shutter has already been torn off by the wind, as I saw from
the ground-floor window."

"How odd!" said Frau von Wallbach. "You have packed my things, I
suppose?"

"Oh, certainly, ma'am; but we shall not be able to travel to-day. Herr
Damberg has sent over to say that he is very sorry, but it can't be
done; there is no knowing what may happen, and he must keep all his
horses at the farm."

"Why, what could happen?"

"I don't know, ma'am, but they do say that it may be something very
bad. If you would only get up, ma'am, and see for yourself. One would
think the world was coming to an end. Every one is running about with
pale faces, and I am dreadfully frightened, ma'am."

"It is very foolish of you. Is Fräulein von Wallbach up yet?"

"Yes, ma'am, she has already inquired after you twice."

"You may tell her that I can see her now. And then take my compliments
to the Baroness, and ask her if she will be so kind as to lend me her
horses to drive to Prora; I will come and see her myself as soon as I
am dressed."

Carla came in just as Louisa was slipping on her dressing-gown. She was
already dressed for the day, and Frau von Wallbach thought her looking
very pale, with deep circles under her eyes. Carla assured her that
this was only the dreadful light, and besides, she had not slept quite
so well as usual; but this was certainly less the result of the storm
than of the communication that the Count had made to her when he rode
by yesterday evening; he had only remained five minutes, just long
enough to tell her this delightful story in a few hasty words.

"What story?" asked Louisa, sipping her chocolate.

"The same story," said Carla, "which my sweet pet would not believe
yesterday, but which she cannot help believing, now that the last
interesting chapter has been partly played out in presence of Count
Golm."

And Carla gave her, with all the additions and embellishments she
considered necessary for her purpose, an account of the events at
Wissow Head yesterday evening.

Frau von Wallbach meanwhile finished her second cup, which she usually
took on the sofa, and leaned back.

"Well, what do you say?" asked Carla.

"What should I say," answered Frau von Wallbach, "since you prepared me
for it yesterday? And I do not see either why you should pretend to be
so very much astonished to-day. What does it signify after all to you
or Golm? I should have thought you had both very good reason to be
satisfied that things have turned out so. He could only marry one after
all. It seems now that you will be the one."

"But what will Edward say?" cried Carla.

"I do not see what objection my husband can have. It seems to me
rather, the more I think of it, that he only sent us here to settle it
between you. Only I think it would have been more civil of him--and of
you too, by the way--if you had told me so beforehand instead of
leaving me in the dark; and I shall tell Edward so when we get home
today."

Carla had sat down on the sofa by her sister-in-law, and was playing
with one of the long ribbons of her dressing-gown.

"We, sweet pet?" said she. "I thought you meant to go home alone, pet?"

"And I think you are too foolish," answered Frau von Wallbach, "and I
should be ashamed of myself in your place, only I suppose you are too
much in love to know what you are talking about. How can you, now
that you have come to an understanding with Golm, as you seem to have
done--"

"But there is nothing decided between us!" cried Carla.

"It is all the same, besides--begging your pardon--I don't believe it.
But no matter, you cannot remain another day as a guest in the house of
Ottomar's aunt; it would be perfectly scandalous, and I will have
nothing to do with it, and if you do not come with me--what's that?"

The remaining shutter closed noisily, and a pane of glass fell with a
clatter into the room.

Carla jumped up with a scream of terror.

"Do you want us to travel in this weather?"

"If I can, so can you," said Frau von Wallbach; "and now have the
goodness to get ready; we shall start in an hour at latest."

Fortunately for Carla, who did not know how to avert the threatened
blow, the maid came back at this moment to say that the Baroness was
very sorry that she could not oblige Frau von Wallbach; she was herself
obliged to go out with Fräulein von Werben. But she had sent to inquire
in the village; perhaps one of the peasants might provide horses, but
it was not very likely.

"This is pleasant," said Frau von Wallbach, "I cannot go away on foot.
Where are the ladies going?"

The maid smiled. She could not say for certain, but Fräulein von
Werben's maid thought they might be going to Wissow.

"Very well," said Frau von Wallbach; "just see that that window is put
right. I will go myself to the Baroness, she will excuse my déshabillé.
Come with me, Carla!"

Carla would much rather not have gone, but Louisa was so intolerably
determined today, that she must do all she could to coax her back into
good humour. Besides, if, as now appeared probable, Louisa did not go
away, she had at least the pleasant prospect of seeing the two other
ladies out of the house, perhaps for the whole day. She could soon talk
over Louisa into not putting any insurmountable obstacle in the way of
the daring, delightful scheme which she had hastily concocted with the
Count yesterday. And as to the important question of her own stay,
there could hardly remain a doubt.

"But, my sweet pet," said she to her sister-in-law, as they passed
along the corridor to the Baroness's room, "you would  not do such a
thing by me as to make any allusion to Count Golm in my presence? So
long as they keep silence towards us, we really need not be the first
to speak."

"I thought nothing had been decided between you," said Frau von
Wallbach.

"All the more then," said Carla.

Valerie was alone when the two ladies came in, and already dressed
for her drive. She, too, looked pale and tired, so much so that the
good-natured Louisa exclaimed:

"You should go to bed again, my dear Baroness, instead of braving this
storm, which really seems to be frightful. I will go with Elsa, that
sort of thing does not hurt me; or, what would be the wisest thing, we
will all stay here and keep you company, even if my company is not too
amusing."

"Certainly," interposed Carla, "we will willingly remain with you, and
pass this dull day sociably together."

Valerie, without seeming to see Carla, took Louisa's hand.

"Thank you for your kindness, dear Frau von Wallbach, but forgive me if
notwithstanding I seem to slight the duties of hospitality. It can only
be for a few hours, as I expect another visitor to-day, Signor Giraldi,
with whom I have to speak of some most important business. He will be
surprised and disappointed, therefore, at not finding me, and so I
wanted to ask you to tell him that I have gone to Wissow with my niece,
whose betrothed--of course you have heard of it all from Fräulein von
Wallbach--is exposed to great danger in this fearful storm. We have
waited until now for news, but in vain, as was natural under the
circumstances; and have no hope of receiving any now, while we fear the
worst, at least I do; for my dear niece is still trying to inspire me
with courage, though hers must be inwardly failing her. Your kind heart
can feel for me--for us, I am sure."

"Of course, of course!" said Frau von Wallbach, in whose good-natured
eyes tears were standing; "go, my dear Baroness, and think no more of
us; and as for your commission--when do you expect Signor Giraldi?"

"He ought to have been here the first thing this morning, but no doubt
the violence of the storm has detained him; he may arrive at any
moment."

"It is all the same to me," said Frau von Wallbach; "I will do the
honours to him. The chief thing is that you should set off; and here
comes dear Elsa."

She met Elsa, who now came in ready for her drive, with a warmth to
which Elsa gratefully responded. It was a comfort to feel that all good
hearts would be on the same side in this conflict which was threatening
all around, and in which so many of the worst passions were let loose,
so many sordid motives were mingling. And she could not help admiring
the honesty with which this woman, whose insignificance had become a
byword, declared herself on the side which she considered right in the
decisive moment, even in Carla's presence, following the impulse of her
own heart with no thought for anything further. What Carla might think
of it, as she stood apart, trying to retain her usual company smile of
civility, but not venturing, in spite of her boasted self-possession
and presence of mind, to join in this painful scene by so much as a
word, Elsa did not desire to know; she was glad when she was in the
carriage with her aunt, and they had started.

It was unfortunately impossible to-day to choose the shorter road to
Wissow. The fields and meadows along the shore, through which Elsa had
passed the evening before, were too wet, the coachman said, in
consequence of the torrents of rain which had been falling since last
night. They saw traces of this as soon as they had left the
comparatively higher ground on which the castle with the park and home
farm were situated, and had reached the hollow which extended along the
side of the chain of hills on which the village stood, and which joined
at either end the plain. The wheels sank at once almost to the axles,
although the road was well gravelled and was in general quite dry; and
they had some trouble in getting through it though it extended for
barely two hundred yards.

It was dreadful, said Herr Damberg, the farmer, who met them on their
way to the village, and rode a little way back by the sides of the
carriage; and one couldn't tell yet whether it might not get much
worse, and if it would not be better to follow Captain Schmidt's
advice, who had sent word all round the coast yesterday that there
would be a frightfully high tide if the storm came up from the east,
which might reach far inland, and measures should be taken to prepare
for it. Well, the castle and the home farm lay high enough, unless
things got worse than bad; but the hollow here, whose bottom was on the
same level as, or even lower than the marshes, would at any rate be
flooded, and then at Warnow they would be on an island. And a pleasant
situation that would be, particularly as inland here they had got no
boats, and nobody could tell how long this state of things might last.
He was only glad that he had not signed the new agreement with the
Count. The wheatfields and meadows there were all very well, but they
could not yield enough to carry one through a calamity such as
threatened now, and the consequences of which were not to be foretold,
especially when rents were twice as high as they used to be.

"Ah! yes, my lady," said Herr Damberg, "your good husband was a just
man. He thought of other people, and not of himself alone, like some
other gentlemen. Well, my lady, I must go back now, and look after
things at home, before they all lose their heads there. I hope your
ladyship and the young lady will get safe to Wissow and back again, and
tell the Captain that he had better keep some boats ready for us, as he
may have work to do here before night."

The old man said this quite seriously, and then pulled his cap, which
he had taken off, well down upon his forehead, set spurs to his horse,
and rode down to the farm just as the carriage reached the first house
in the village.

Here, too, the excitement, which to-day had roused the most sluggish,
had taken hold of the people. Although they were themselves safe from
the flood in case it came, with the exception of a few cottages at the
foot of the hill, their comparatively lofty position had exposed them
all the more to the ravages of the storm. Both thatched and tiled roofs
had been partly or entirely destroyed, windows blown in, chimneys
knocked down, hedges overthrown, branches had been broken off in
quantities, and even the trees themselves blown down. On the little
green before the inn-door, about the highest spot in the place, lay the
great lime-tree, the pride of the village, torn up by the roots. It had
only happened half an hour before, and it was fortunate that the three
waggons which had come down from Jasmund, on their way to Prora, had
not already stood where they were waiting now, at the inn-door, for if
so horses and men must all have been killed. The men would not go any
farther, said the landlord, who had come to the carriage-door; they
were afraid that the waggon might be blown off the road in the storm.
And indeed the Baroness had much better turn back too; for though the
road to Wissow ran behind the hill for a part of the way, and so was to
some extent protected, it might be very bad when they got round the
point and down upon Wissow itself, where they would be fully exposed to
the storm again.

"Oh, go on, go on!" cried Elsa.

She had indeed summoned up all her strength, so that no one who did not
feel for her like Valerie could have guessed what was passing in her
mind. But now, when the fury of the elements, from which she had been
sheltered in the castle, broke upon her from all sides, and appeared to
her by a thousand terrible signs; when she saw written upon so many
faces, the terror which she, for her aunt's sake, had been hiding in
her trembling heart, even her courage wavered, and she laid her head
weeping upon her faithful friend's shoulder.

"Cry as much as you will, dear child," said Valerie kindly; "it will
relieve your poor anxious heart. They are pure and gentle tears, and
truly you need not be ashamed of them. You have struggled as not many
could have done."

"But I had promised myself and him to be brave," sobbed Elsa; "and I
always think he will find out if I am not, and then he will not be so
strong himself as is required of him by his duty and by his own brave
heart."

A wonderful smile flitted across Valerie's pale face.

"If all could rest as securely in their love and in their faith in
those they love as you can do! Oh, Elsa, Elsa, how unspeakably happy
you are in your sorrow!"

"I know it," said Elsa, "and am doubly ashamed of myself for burdening
your poor heart with fresh cares for me."

"And for whom else should I care?" answered Valerie. "Certainly not for
myself, I have told you all without losing your love; I want to carry
your love with me to the grave, and so end my life joyfully, as a wild,
fever-haunted night ends with a gentle morning dream. It might all be
over then; for the day so passionately hoped for through the long,
terrible years--the day when your father would say to me, 'Valerie, I
have forgiven you,' will never come now."

"What if it were to-day?" said Elsa, taking her aunt's hand in hers.
"Forgive me for what I have done without consulting you! As I sat by
you last night, and the storm raged more and more furiously, I felt
that I had over-calculated my strength, that I should have to leave you
to-day to hasten to Reinhold, and that I ought not to leave you without
sending for my father. I telegraphed to him early this morning; he will
come, I am sure. But he cannot be here before the evening, and that is
why, my dear aunt, I have let you accompany me. Everything fits in so
well with this arrangement: that dreadful man has not come as we
expected, and when we go home this evening, even if you go home alone,
you will not have to meet him by yourself; you will have one by you who
can and will protect you better than I could do. You are not angry with
me, aunt?"

Valerie smiled through the tears which ran down her pale cheeks.

"I cannot be angry with my good angel! May you have been my good angel
in this case also!--but I dare not hope it! Your father knows and
respects justice alone; the gracious, redeeming power of mercy he does
not know. I cannot but suppose that he despises it, and despises those
who plead for mercy. My imploring letters, which I was forced amidst a
thousand terrors to hide from spying eyes, as I hid the answers also,
have never moved him. Cold and repelling was the look with which he met
me after so long a lapse of time, which generally softens the sternest;
cold and repelling the few words which he deigned to address to me,
merely to tell me what was the first step I must take if there were to
be peace between him and me. He did not see what you, my darling,
perceived at the first glance, that I could not take this step as
matters now stood--that without the help of some compassionate heart I
never could take it. Oh, Elsa, Elsa! I will not blame your father,
especially before you; but, Elsa, many things would have happened
differently and more happily for me--for us all--for your father
himself--if he had ever really understood that profound saying, that
the proud will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

"But my father has been so kind to me," said Elsa, "although my
attachment has so completely destroyed all his hopes for my future. And
it was he, too, who made the first advance to Reinhold's proud uncle,
so that it was not his fault certainly that Ottomar's affairs turned
out so badly."

Valerie did not answer. She did not wish to tell her dear niece how
very differently the matter appeared to her; how she believed, on the
contrary, that it was just his father's intervention that had made
Ottomar's union with Ferdinanda impossible; and that even his consent
in Elsa's case was not the hearty approval of a loving father, but that
of a man who unwillingly allows what he cannot prevent, without
violating his highest principles of justice.

Elsa was silent also; her thoughts had flown forward in advance of the
carriage, which seemed hardly to make any progress, in spite of all the
efforts of their bold driver and powerful horses. They would have been
even slower in their movements over the ill-made road, which in some
places was almost destroyed by the rain, if the hill, along the side of
which they were driving, had not broken the force of the gale. Two or
three times only, on rising ground, they met its full power, and then
it seemed almost a miracle that the whole equipage was not blown over.

Still it held firm, and so did the horses, who repeatedly had to stand
still and stem the blast with the whole weight of their bodies. At such
moments when they could see over the plain to the left, right down to
the sea, the two ladies saw with terror, above the long waving line of
the grey dunes from Golmberg to the point, another white line rising
and falling, and here and there shooting up thirty or forty feet into
the air, and falling upon the land in dense clouds. They knew that this
was surf, the surf of that same sea whose waves generally rippled and
splashed on the smooth sand, fifty or a hundred yards away from the
foot of the dunes, as they had done on that rainy evening when Elsa
stood there wrapped in her cloak, and the waving grasses on the edge of
the dunes behind her seemed to entice her on farther to more delightful
adventures.

Ah! her mind was no longer full of adventures! Whither had fled that
bold and daring spirit which had thought it might defy fate? Whither
the sunny cheerfulness which had then so filled her whole soul that
that dark and rainy evening had seemed to her brighter than the
brightest day! Whither, ah! whither, the joyous heart that knew nothing
of love, nor wished to know anything excepting as the rose-scented,
nightingale-haunted idea reflected back from the enchanted mirror of
fancy and dreamland? Now the reality had come, in grim mockery of the
bright fable of old! And yet--and yet! poor tormented heart, you would
not resign it for Paradise, if you could not meet him there!

"And if I did not meet him again!"

She had exclaimed it aloud, horrified at the sight which presented
itself to her, when having surmounted the line of hills which now
descended from Wissow Head to the sea, Wissow itself lay below them.
The little peninsula, which might be at the outside a mile long and
about half as wide at the foot of the headland, looked with its small
houses, as seen from the moderate elevation at which they were, like a
narrow plank on which children had built their toy-houses, and had then
set afloat in a brawling stream. The surf, which till now they had seen
only from a distance, and always partly concealed by the dunes, here
rose between the open sea and the little strip of sand like a great
wall, whose upper edge, torn into zigzag lines, rose and fell, and rose
again, and was driven in foam and froth over the grey sand and amongst
the little houses.

And yet, strange as it seemed, these little houses on the grey sand
could still afford safe shelter! But how could she hope that he would
meet her on the threshold of one of them? That his boat would be one of
the twenty or thirty vessels of all sizes which were rocking at anchor
immediately below them, in the bay between the little peninsula and the
mainland? He would be out beyond, beyond where, as far as the eye could
reach, foaming waves towered above each other; beyond where sea and sky
mingled in one terrible darkness, as if they had met together for the
destruction of the world.

"There! There!"

But the words died on Elsa's trembling lips; the hand with which she
had pointed seawards fell heavily beside her.

Valerie took the cold, rigid fingers:

"He will return, Elsa!"

But Elsa shook her head.



                              CHAPTER VII.


It was about four o'clock in the afternoon. Frau von Wallbach sat in
the drawing-room, in her usual place by the fire, and stared at the
flames, which, after many vain efforts, had at last been successfully
kindled; and, notwithstanding the terrible uproar that raged round the
castle, was on the point of forgetting her annoyance in a refreshing
afternoon nap, when Signor Giraldi was announced, having only just
arrived.

"He might as well have stayed away another hour," said Frau von
Wallbach. "Well, it is all the same to me; let dinner be got ready for
him, François, and then ask him to come here."

"Signor Giraldi particularly wishes to see you at once, ma'am."

"Very well; it is all the same to me today."

Frau von Wallbach had just time to turn her head towards the door as
she leant back in her chair, when Giraldi entered. He was still in his
travelling dress, having only thrown down his wet cloak in the hall;
his black beard, which was usually so carefully arranged, was wild and
dishevelled; his calm, dark eyes glowed with a lurid fire; his usually
impassive face, that had seemed chiselled in yellow marble, was
furrowed and agitated.

"Dear me, how strange you look!" said Frau von Wallbach.

"I must apologise," answered Giraldi; "but I have been travelling since
last night, perpetually detained by the most provoking hindrances, and
I arrive here at last to learn that the Baroness, with whom I have to
talk upon the most important and urgent affairs, is not at home. You
can imagine----"

"Do sit down," said Frau von Wallbach. "You make me quite nervous by
standing about like that, and talking so quickly."

"I must apologise again," said Giraldi.

"Not at all. I only remained here to receive you, although I tell you
fairly that I had rather not have done so."

"Then I will not take up another moment of your valuable time----"

"Do sit still, and don't make any speeches. I never make any, as you
know, and am not at all inclined for them to-day. Oh yes, you may look
at me as scornfully as you please. I dare say you think me, as other
people do, half a child or a fool; but children and fools speak the
truth, and the truth, my dear Signor Giraldi, is, that if you had not
intermeddled and set everything at sixes and sevens, Carla would be
Ottomar's wife by this time, and everything would be properly arranged,
while now she is out in this dreadful weather--you must have met them I
should think--riding with the Count, although I told her to the Count's
face that it was scandalous, to say nothing of her catching her death
of cold."

"You cannot possibly hold me responsible for the irresistible impulse
which makes heart meet heart," answered Giraldi, with an attempt at his
usual supremely ironical smile, which only resulted, however, in an
evil grimace.

"Hearts!" said Frau von Wallbach; "stuff! The little heart that Carla
ever had was Ottomar's, and no one else's; and there would have been
quite enough for matrimony, at least I know some that have done very
well with less. And as for the Count, good heavens! at first she was
always telling me that he talked such nonsense, and my husband said so
too, and old Countess Kniebreche and every one; and then you came and
cried him up to the skies, and of course what you said must be true,
and so you have got your own way so far. And why? because it suited you
that Ottomar should not marry, but should continue his careless way of
living, and get into all sorts of troubles and scrapes, and that you
should have him in your power. And you have succeeded very nicely, as
Carla would say. But I don't think it nice at all, but perfectly horrid
of you; for Ottomar has always been pleasant and good-natured to me,
and I like him a thousand times better than the Count; and if I had
never respected Elsa before, I should now that I see she does not care
one bit for the Count, but has declared honestly, as the Baroness told
me and Carla this morning in Elsa's name, that she is going to marry
her sailor, although it is rather a strange proceeding for a Fräulein
von Werben; but that is her affair; and she has gone with the Baroness
to see him at Wissow, or whatever the name of the place is, which is
quite right, I think, under the circumstances. I was to tell you this,
and that they would be back in a few hours; and now I will add a few
words from myself. You think, perhaps, that you have done something
very fine by upsetting Ottomar's and Carla's engagement; and I dare say
you are not less pleased at Elsa losing her inheritance in this way,
but you are very much mistaken. The Baroness and Elsa are one, heart
and soul; and if Ottomar chooses to marry Captain Schmidt's cousin, the
Baroness will have no objection, and she will make the brother and
sister her heirs, whatever the trustees may say. If I were in her place
I should do the same thing. And now here comes François to tell you, I
suppose, that your dinner is ready. I wish you a good appetite."

Frau von Wallbach's last words were spoken without the least touch of
sarcasm, in the same lazily comfortable way as the former ones, with
her pretty head resting sideways against the back of her chair, and her
eyes turned away from Giraldi and looking at the ceiling, as if it were
all written up there and she were merely reading it off.

But not the most passionate warmth, nor the bitterest attack could have
so upset the composure of the man who had sat before her gnawing his
white lips, without interrupting her by a word, and who now rose to
leave the room with a silent bow, as this imperturbable calmness and
blunt sincerity affected him from a woman whom he had hitherto
considered a nonentity, as the emptiest of all empty-headed dolls, and
who now dared to tell him this to his very face; to unfold the web of
intrigue which he had toiled so hard to spin with all the energy of his
crafty mind, and to show him the gaps which his sharp eye had
overlooked, his most watchful art had not succeeded in covering, and
then calmly to tear it from top to bottom like some worn-out rag!

He had hardly entered the dining-room, where a place had been laid for
him at one corner of the large table, before he gave free vent to the
fury which had nearly choked him. He stamped, he swore, he tore his
beard, like a madman, thought François, who handed him his soup as
calmly as if monsieur's wild gestures had been a gymnastic exercise
which every gentleman was in the habit of practising before sitting
down to dinner after a fatiguing journey and a long drive.

"Why don't you speak?" shrieked Giraldi.

"I am waiting for monsieur's permission."

"Speak, then!"

"I have written all my observations to monsieur with such
minuteness----"

"You have written nothing that was worth reading! You did not write me
one word about the intimacy that has sprung up between madame and her
niece, and which you must have seen if you had eyes in your head. You
are either a fool or a traitor."

"I am unfortunate----"

"Don't let me hear any of your confounded long words! I have no time
for them. What else do you know?"

"Besides what I told monsieur on his arrival, I know absolutely nothing
of importance. Ah! by-the-bye, I had almost forgotten that!"

François slapped his forehead suddenly. He had not forgotten it for a
moment; he had been considering all the time that monsieur was in the
drawing-room with Frau von Wallbach, whether he should say it or not.
He could not speak without betraying madame as he had betrayed
monsieur, but for what purpose take money from both if not to betray
both? So far everything had gone on well; all he had to consider was
that each step to right or left should be well paid; and if he were not
greatly deceived, now was the moment to take another step on monsieur's
side.

"Will you speak?" cried Giraldi, shaking his fist at him.

"I have forgotten it after all," said Francois, looking with impudent
coolness into Giraldi's face, that was white with passion.

Giraldi dropped his arms,

"How much?" he ejaculated.

"I cannot do it cheaply, monsieur. The matter, in case I can recollect
it, is one of the utmost importance for monsieur, and as madame has
been lately so extraordinarily kind to me, and has given me, through
Madame Feldner, so many sterling proofs of her kindness, and monsieur
will of course not trust me in future, but this will undoubtedly be the
last service which I shall render monsieur----"

"How much!" shrieked Giraldi.

"Ten thousand francs, monsieur."

Giraldi pulled out a pocket-book from which he took a handful of
bank-notes, and threw them on the table.

"Count them!"

"There are three thousand thalers, monsieur."

"Take them and speak!"

François smoothed the notes carefully, put them no less carefully into
one side of his pocket-book, and said, as he took a paper from the
other side:

"Monsieur's generosity is adorable, as usual. I should be most deeply
ashamed if I were not convinced that monsieur would take this as a
fully sufficient equivalent."

And, with a low bow, he handed Giraldi the paper--a copy of Elsa's
telegram to her father.

François had hoped that the terror which must now be painted on
monsieur's expressive face would produce an interesting variety in the
scene; but he flattered himself in vain. Monsieur, who had been
trembling all over with rage and fury, and who had gesticulated and
raved like a madman, now stood, after glancing in his own rapid fashion
over the paper, looking as calm and composed as François had ever yet
seen him; and asked, in his usual low inquiring voice:

"When and where was this sent out?"

"This morning, at five o'clock, from Prora, by a man on horseback, whom
I sent myself, after I had taken a copy of the open note."

"Then your news is not worth a farthing. The telegraphic communication
between Berlin and Sundin has been interrupted since four o'clock this
morning."

"Just so, monsieur. That was what the clerk said who received the
telegram, after he had inquired at Sundin and received the answer that
he might telegraph through Grünwald; there might be some chance there.
Inquiry made at Grünwald. Reply, 'Yes, and on through Stettin.' The
messenger, an old trustworthy servant, one of the late Herr von
Warnow's, monsieur, took note of everything, and reported it all to
mademoiselle in my presence, adding that according to the clerk's
report the telegram would reach Berlin rather late, but certainly in
the course of the morning."

"In your presence, do you say? How came that?"

François shrugged his shoulders.

"Mademoiselle knows how to appreciate my knowledge in such matters--an
old courier, monsieur! To speak the truth, I had myself given the
messenger the necessary instructions."

"Why were you not sent?"

François smiled.

"The night was very stormy, monsieur; I am not fond of roughing it. I
said I could not ride, and did not know the way."

"But you can ride, and you know the way to Wissow?"

François bowed.

"How far is it, to ride?"

"If one rides fast, one may do it in half an hour."

"Even through the storm?"

"I think so, monsieur."

"And how long would the ladies be, driving?"

"Like the rider, they must take the longest road over the hill and
through the villages, monsieur; that could not take less than an hour,
monsieur."

Giraldi had taken out his watch and was making a calculation. He put
back the watch.

"It is just twenty minutes past four. You must be ready in ten minutes,
at latest, to take a letter from me to madame at Wissow."

"Impossible, monsieur; even this morning, at eleven o'clock, Frau von
Wallbach, who was bent upon going away, could not get horses; nobody
will supply them, monsieur."

"There are the horses which brought me."

"Impossible, monsieur; I saw them, and they are quite exhausted. It
must be a good, fresh horse, monsieur, a riding horse. There are none
such in the stable."

"You can find one if I give you another thousand thalers in case madame
is back at the castle before six o'clock."

"Two thousand, monsieur."

"Good. And now, paper and ink--quick!"

François brought the required materials in a moment from the next room,
and Giraldi was already writing at the table beside his untouched
dinner, when François left the dining-room to prepare to earn the
second sum, if possible, of which he had serious doubts.

Giraldi wrote:


"Your drive to Wissow is a subterfuge or a flight. I forgive your
vacillation, even your desertion, which can only be a passing error,
for the sake of the love which you bear me, and which I bear you. And
if your love is extinct (mine is not!) the accompanying letter, which I
copy for you (the original, which I cannot trust to the messenger, I
retain in my own hands), will awake new flames from the ashes, as he
has awoke to life for us, in whose death I could never believe. And as
my faith was the stronger, so am I in all things stronger, and would
make unrestrained and pitiless use of that strength, no longer for
myself, but for our son. You know me, Valerie! As the clock strikes
six, I leave the castle for ever, with the Warnow property, which I
carry about me to the last thaler, and which now belongs to mother and
son, or to the son alone if it should appear that he has no mother. But
it cannot, it will not be. I implore to this end the most holy, the
sorrow-laden Mother of God. She who bore all the pangs of maternity
will guide a mother's heart!

                                               "Giraldi.

"Warnow. Half-past four in the afternoon."


He took a letter from his pocket, which he had received last night when
he got home from Philip's party, and had first found time to read in
the waiting-room at the railway station, and wrote, with a hand that
flew like lightning over the paper:


"With failing hands, and eyes darkened by the shadow of death, I write
this: Antonio Michele is your son. A very aged woman in Arsoli, who has
been known since she suddenly appeared in this place, seven and twenty
years ago, under the name of Antonia Falcone, but whose real name is
Barbara Cecutti, and who was the mother of that Lazzaro who carried off
your child from P[oe]stum, confessed this to me yesterday on her
death-bed. She was found by the woman Michele in a ravine of the hills
above Tivoli, on the verge of starvation, the stolen child beside her
almost at the last gasp too, the wounded Lazzaro having breathed his
last an hour before, during their flight. The woman Michele took pity
upon these unfortunate creatures; the two women swore, on the Host, the
one never to say that she had received the child from Barbara, and the
other that she had given him to the Michele, so that Barbara might wear
out the end of her life undisturbed by the police, and that Father
Michele might make no inquiries after the parents of the child, whom
his wife pretended to have found on the hills, exposed, like Moses on
the shores of the Nile, by a poor girl whom she knew well, but whose
name she would not mention. She had never had any children herself,
though she had longed for them, and would not part with this one at any
price. She carried her secret with her to the grave. Barbara Cecutti
also is now no more; and you, my dear sir, receive this legacy from the
dead at the hand of a dying man. The ways of God are wonderful! Let us
praise His mercies! Amen!

                                         "Ambrosio."

"Dear Sir,

"From the hand of a dying man, indeed! Our good brother Ambrosio--but
just returned from his charitable mission--has this night departed, let
us hope, into eternal blessedness, as no purgatory can be needed for
him who was a saint on earth, I send you his bequest, and beg you to
transfer to my poor convent the expression of your gratitude for the
happy tidings which the grace of God has permitted you to receive by
means of our brother who is now with Him.

           "The Prior of the Convent of

                 "S. Michele at Tivoli,

                                   "Eugenio."


Giraldi had just written the last word as the door flew open, admitting
François, who wore a long cloak, below which appeared a pair of
riding-boots. As he entered he exclaimed:

"Really, monsieur, I am ashamed to have doubted for an instant the luck
of such a man! As I went into the courtyard, the Count's groom galloped
in, who had been sent back to fetch a pocket-handkerchief which
mademoiselle had forgotten! If it had only been an umbrella! In fact,
monsieur, they wanted to get rid of the man; we shall hear nothing of
either of them before to-morrow morning, you may take my word for it. I
know the style of thing! I explained this to the man after a fashion,
and he will let me have his horse. He says that neither man nor devil
shall drive him out into this storm again."

"You must remain in my service, François," said Giraldi, laying his
hand on the impudent fellow's shoulder. "And now--don't spare the
horse."

"Monsieur may depend upon me!" answered François, putting the letter in
safety. "_Au revoir_, monsieur!"

François hastened away, and Giraldi went to the deep bow-window which
overlooked the courtyard, and watched while he mounted the handsome
beast, whose bridle the groom was holding, and, waving his hand towards
the window, galloped out of the yard.

Giraldi went back to the table and broke off a piece of bread, which he
washed down with the glass of wine that François had poured out for
him. Then he began slowly to walk up and down the great room with his
arms folded across his chest.

How could he have allowed himself to be so carried away by his
passion just now? What had happened for which he might not have been
prepared--for which, in fact, he had not been long prepared? The
weather was to blame for the disturbance of his nerves--weather only
fit for northern barbarians and those in league with them! It could
only have been some unfriendly demon which in the morning twilight had
driven the little steamer, that was to have brought him over to the
island from Sundin, against a rudderless drifting wreck, and so had
forced it to turn back; an unfriendly demon who forbade the rude
sailors to take his money and to venture the passage in an open boat,
till at last, at half-past eleven, the steamer was repaired, and then
took an hour to do the distance--half a nautical mile! Fiend against
fiend! Gregorio Giraldi was the stronger. If the telegram had really
reached the General at Berlin in proper time--if he left Berlin by the
eleven o'clock train, he could not be at Sundin before three o'clock,
or at Warnow before six. An hour! Kingdoms had been lost and won in an
hour; and everything, everything else was on his side: Ottomar
irretrievably entangled in the net which he had cast over him, and
already at deadly feud with Wallbach, whose giddy sister was now in
love with the Count, to say nothing else! the proud Elsa betrothed to a
man of low degree, paying for her love with her inheritance!--the
course clear from all obstacles, and at its goal the rich treasures,
the great estates, which now fell to Valerie by law, and which she must
leave absolutely to her own son, who had risen from the dead--that is
to say, she must leave them to himself! Could she choose to do
otherwise? Did any choice remain to her? Must she not submit whether
she would or no? And if she wavered--one minute only alone with
him--here in this room, in which so often they had in fancy stood
together, which she had so minutely described to him that he knew every
piece of furniture, every picture on the wall--this especially, the
portrait of the man from whose arms he had scornfully torn her, that
some day his picture might hang here--the portrait of the new lord, who
would pull down this barbaric edifice and build a new castle--the new
lord!

He stood before the picture, and looked at it with an evil smile.

"You were the last of your race, with your narrow forehead and the
broad ribbon of some high order over your cold heart! and now you are
mouldering in the tomb of your ancestors! And he, whom in life you
could not vie with, stands still alive here, in his undiminished
strength--the peasant's son, who will now be the founder of a race of
princes for whom even the chair of St. Peter shall not be too high!"

A shock like that of an earthquake struck the castle. The windows
rattled, the doors flew open and banged to again. The picture, to which
he was looking up, and which had hung from its rusty nail for a
generation past, shook and fell, so that the mouldered frame broke into
fragments, and the picture itself, after standing upright for a moment,
fell forward under his feet.

He sprang back.

"Do you still move, accursed dust? Down into hell to his accursed
soul!"

And, as if in answer to the master's voice, from the depths of hell to
which he had called, howls and yells resounded round Castle Warnow.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


They looked back after the groom as he galloped back to the castle.

"Carla!" said the Count.

He had brought his horse close up to hers; she bent towards him, and he
put his right arm round her slender form and kissed her again and again
on lips and cheek.

"Bad man!" said Carla.

He hastily put up his hand to remove the veil which the wind was
blowing between their faces, and in so doing pulled off her hat.

"Axel, do be sensible!"

She dropped the reins on her horse's neck and tied her veil round her
hat.

"Sensible!" cried the Count; "when I am really alone for the first time
with the prettiest girl in all the world!"

"You are too bad," said she. She put on her hat again and secured it;
he tried to renew the charming game. "You shall not have another kiss!"
cried she, touching her horse with the whip and starting forward.

He soon overtook her, and for a short time they galloped on side by
side, lost in each other, eye meeting eye, and often hand touching
hand, unheeding the road till both horses suddenly stood still.

"Hallo!" cried the Count. The horses would go no farther; they had long
been hardly able to lift their feet out of the swampy ground in which
they had now sunk above the fetlock. They were frightened, and tried to
turn back. "Pooh!" said the Count; "we know all about that! Wallach has
carried me over much worse roads than this; and your horse is much
lighter made."

"Come along!" cried Carla.

They urged their horses on; the terrified brutes flew over the
uncertain ground, through pools of water, over a wooden bridge, through
water again, till the rising ground grew firmer under their feet.

"We have come across," said the Count laughing, "but how we are to get
back I do not know. We shall have to stay together for good, I believe.
Would that please you, my dear girl?"

They were riding now at a foot's pace to breathe their horses over the
higher ground between the brook, which they had just dashed through,
and Wissow Head, at the foot of which ran the long line of the railway
embankment towards Ahlbeck. The gale was right in their teeth now, so
that they felt its full power; and the panting horses were forced to
lean forward as if they had a heavy weight behind them, while their
riders let the reins hang loosely, not sorry to have their hands at
liberty.

"I would pass an eternity with you!" said Carla, as her glowing cheek
almost touched his; "but I must be back in an hour."

"Then, by Jove, we should have to turn back at once; I assure you we
cannot get through that brook again; I can hardly see the bridge now,
though it is only two minutes since we passed it! it is extraordinary!
We shall have to go round by Gristow and Damerow." He pointed with the
end of his whip back towards the chain of hills. "It is a terribly long
round."

"Louisa was so disagreeable."

"Let her be!"

"She will say such horrid things of us to Edward!"

"Let her!"

"You will have a dreadful scene with Edward!"

"So long as I have you----"

"And when you have me----"

"Carla!"

"Hush! Swear to me that when we get back you will declare our
engagement in the presence of the Baroness, of Elsa, and of Signor
Giraldi, and that this day month we shall be man and wife!"

"Does it need an oath?"

"I will have an oath."

She caught his hand and pressed it to her bosom.

"What shall I swear by? by this little hand? by that fair form? by your
own sweet self, which I could devour for love?"

"By your honour!"

The voice had no longer its former coaxing tone--the words came with an
effort, as if the raging storm oppressed her.

And his answer, too, came hesitatingly and forced: "Upon my honour!"

His eyes, which before had been raised full of passion towards her,
avoided hers; she drew her hand hastily out of his, turned her horse
sharply round, and galloped away.

The movement had been so sudden that it was not possible for him to
have prevented it. But now he even held back his horse, which had also
turned and wished to follow its companion.

"Shall I let her go?"

That was his first thought, followed by a stream of others: an
unavoidable duel with Ottomar, his own desperate financial position,
which would hardly be improved by Carla's hundred thousand thalers; the
recollection of a cousin in Silesia, who would have brought him a dowry
of a million, and a marriage with whom had been proposed to him the
other day most unexpectedly--he had been for years at daggers drawn
with that branch of the family. And then she who was riding away really
did not suit him at all; he was merely in love with her, and had never
contemplated marriage.

The spirited horse, already startled by the storm, and seeing its
companion disappearing in the distance, reared high, and as its rider
forced it down, darted forward like an arrow. The Count could not
perhaps at this moment have held it in, but he did not wish to do so;
he dug in his spurs, and in a few seconds--his hesitation had been only
momentary--had overtaken Carla.

"Carla, Carla!"

"Go! You do not love me!"

He spurred forward so that he could catch the bridle of her horse, then
turned and so stopped them both.

"You shall not escape me so!"

She looked at him almost with hatred.

"But, Carla, this is madness!"

"I am mad," murmured she.

"And I am--madly in love with you. But what matter?"

His beautiful white teeth glittered as, putting his arm round her, he
laughingly exclaimed: "Will you come with me now?"

"With you? Take me! Take me! I am yours, yours!"

"You foolish darling!"

He pressed kiss after kiss upon her burning lips, then gave back the
bridle into her hand, and both turning their horses suddenly round,
they rode on side by side in the teeth of the gale--as his horse was
the stronger and faster he could do as he pleased--along the gradually
sinking ground beside the railway embankment down to Ahlbeck.

They did not speak another word; there was no need.

In Ahlbeck, not far from the beach, stood an inn, which for some years
had provided decent entertainment for the summer guests who could not
find accommodation at the more important places along the coast, or who
were attracted by the quietness and cheapness of the place; and during
the last autumn, by the suggestion and greatly assisted by the money of
the Count, the little inn had been turned into a fashionable hotel. It
was kept by a young widow--a protégée of the Count's. In the upper
story of the house were two rooms, often used by the Count as night
quarters when he had stayed out shooting too late to get back to Golm
or Golmberg. If the lady and gentleman chose to have these rooms no one
would trouble themselves about it, least of all the landlady, who would
have quite enough to do with the other guests, the two engineers who
were superintending the Railway and Harbour works, the ship's captains
and revenue officers, and any one else who might be crowding the public
rooms as usual on such a day. And if, after waiting in vain for the
groom, he appeared at last, having missed them as they returned home,
he might just ride quietly back to Castle Warnow.

Immediately before reaching Ahlbeck the road, which till then had led
them over the open ground, suddenly narrowed between two dunes,
advanced posts of the chain of sand-hills along the shore, which formed
a sort of doorway, through which, on fine days, might be seen a
wonderful view of the village running down to the beach; and beyond the
village the beach itself, always covered with boats; and beyond again,
the boundless ocean. They had gained this spot by the utmost, exertion
of their horses, when the panting brutes suddenly fell back, and they
themselves, accomplished riders as both were, were nearly flung from
their saddles. The force of the storm had closed the space between the
two hills as if with iron gates.

"Let us turn back!" said Carla.

The Count did not answer at once; he saw the details of what, to the
short-sighted Carla, was only confused mist; the upper part of the
village lying nearest to them was half destroyed by the storm, so that
hardly a house retained its whole roof, while in the lower part only
here and there a house, amongst others the inn and the two great sheds
for smoking the herrings, appeared out of a cloud, which at first the
Count could not make out at all. It could not possibly be the foam and
froth of the storm-beaten surf? If this were the surf, where were the
houses which had stood there in a long line close to the beach? Where
were the hundred and fifty Ahlbeck fishing smacks which had come in
yesterday on account of the storm? Where the six boats laden with cut
stone from Sundin which had anchored yesterday evening at the
breakwater? Where the two breakwaters themselves, which had been begun
last autumn and during the mild, calm winter and the unusually low
tides had been almost finished? Where, above all, the million of
thalers which had been also almost entirely spent in the building?
Could that infernal Superintendent of Pilots, who was always coming
across his path, have been right here after all? That fellow who, at
this moment, perhaps, was embracing Elsa as his betrothed, whilst
he----

"Over it if we cannot get through it!" cried he, spurring his horse up
the hill to the right, while between his teeth he muttered: "I will get
something out of the business at any rate."

Carla had followed him.

From above, however, the view was not much more reassuring; it was
indeed so fearful that the Count himself, as they forced their horses
step by step through the broken bushes, doubted whether they had not
better turn back. And what seemed to him even more ominous than the
raging sea, was the crowd of people which his keen eyes could
distinguish swarming down below, and as he now perceived hastening in
small parties up the ridge of Wissow Head, at the foot of which stood a
part of the village. They might be the people who lived nearest to the
beach, the navvies, perhaps, who had run up their temporary huts on the
level sand. What did it matter to him? Let them help themselves as best
they might. The tide had certainly not reached the inn, and that was
the principal point. He had carried off Carla from her sister-in-law's
guardianship at the castle, under the pretext of showing her the full
effect of the storm; it would certainly be near enough to them from the
inn windows. And should he carry out his purpose amidst all this
tumult? It was madness. The maddest act of his whole life, perhaps, but
it should be done!

They were riding again now on the narrow sandy road between the first
outlying houses. The Count spurred forward. He was glad that the houses
hid the view below; he wanted to draw Carla on, who had again several
times anxiously inquired whether they had not better turn back. The
rest might be managed; it might not perhaps be so bad as it had seemed
to him from above; at any rate Carla had hardly seen anything, and was
only alarmed at the roar of the surf, which had been bad enough
certainly from the heights.

But what was that roar compared to the thunder which met them now, as
they turned from the narrow way between the first low huts into the
broad village street, at whose lower end stood the inn, and which led
directly down to the sea. It seemed to the Count strangely short; and
indeed the sea, which used to leave several hundred yards of smooth
sand uncovered, now flung its waves far up the street. And that street
was crowded with crying, shrieking, screaming women and children, and
shouting and halloing men, flinging out their goods pell-mell from the
houses, rushing back to fetch more, and strewing everything wildly over
the ground before the gale brought their houses down about their ears.

"Make way there, make way!" called the Count imperiously.

He did not feel particularly comfortable in this crowd, in which more
than one person glared angrily at him, and hardly moved out of the way
of the horses. It sounded like a curse, too, which the woman called
after him, whom by accident--why did she not get out of the way?--he
had knocked down, and who now in the door of her cottage shook both her
fists at him, and then pointing her finger at him called to her
neighbours; but the raging storm swallowed up the single human voice.

The Count could not even understand half of what the young engineer
called to him, who had suddenly--he could not see whence--rushed up to
him, as he persistently pointed down below:

"Breakwater--tremendous breakers--boats wrecked--people furious--get
back--happen----"

"What should happen to me?" screamed back the Count in answer.

"Mischief--the lady too--unpardonable of you--too late!"

The young man pointed no longer below, but in the direction from which
they had come.

The Count, startled more by the look of terror in the young man's
face than by the warning itself, turned in his saddle, and at the same
moment set spurs to his horse. He had seen a crowd of men and
women--foremost the one who had just threatened him--rushing down the
street, brandishing sticks, cudgels, and knives.

His first thought had been to take refuge in the inn, which must afford
him shelter till he could speak a few words to the people, perhaps from
the window--fear had evidently driven them wild. And with this purpose,
dashing on before Carla, he had almost gained the little open space in
front of the inn, when he suddenly discovered that he was only going
from bad to worse.

In the middle of the square, lying on its side, the keel turned towards
him, lay one of the Sundin boats, which some huge wave must have flung
up here, and around the stranded vessel, with the surf at their feet,
whose storm-beaten foam was blowing in clouds of spray over them, were
dancing and raging--as only madmen or men who had drunk to madness
could have raved--a crowd of navvies and sailors who had taken
possession of all the provisions the inn could give them, before the
approaching flood engulfed everything.

The idea flashed through the Count's head that it was his duty, if any
man's, to interpose here, and at least to attempt by his authority to
avert the terrible evils that must be brought upon the unhappy village
by these madmen, but he had already repeatedly had the most violent
scenes with these ruffians, who were always increasing their demands;
he would be torn to pieces if the men who were now pursuing him, urged
on by that miserable woman, should join these.

All this passed like lightning through his bewildered brain, but he
never thought of Carla for a moment; he was even astonished when,
having turned aside from the main street, and dashing at a venture down
a side lane to the left, he found himself galloping along the meadows
behind the dunes, he suddenly saw Carla again at his side.

"That was done in the nick of time!" cried he; "those scoundrels would
have murdered us."

Carla answered not a word. Notwithstanding her extremely short sight,
she had been able to form a tolerably correct idea of the danger they
had escaped; she knew from the gestures and shouts of the people she
had dashed past that it was a matter of life and death to escape them,
and she knew also that the man at whose side she now rode had deserted
her at the critical moment, and that she had to thank only the speed of
her horse and her own powers of riding for her life. Would Ottomar have
dashed forward in such a way, careless whether she succeeded in
following him or not; whether she escaped from the narrow lanes and
little gardens, to do which she had at last been forced to leap a
hedge, amidst the shower of stones and sticks which were hurled after
her? "He is a coward," her heart whispered to her; "he only cares for
himself; I should only have been his victim."

"This is a bad business," thought the Count. "She is affronted of
course, though after all, anybody else would have done the same in my
place.--You don't know how those fellows detest me!"

He spoke the last words aloud, by way of saying something at any rate.

Carla answered not a word.

"An infernal business," thought the Count, relapsing into silence.

So they galloped on, side by side, through the sand, which the
unceasing rain had fortunately somewhat hardened, along the inner edge
of the dunes, which were now the only barrier between them and the sea,
which thundered and roared on the other side, often tossing up the
broken edges of its waves high enough to shower down upon them in
torrents, Fortunately the wooden bridge still stood over the brook
which ran into the sea close by Ahlbeck, through a sharp cut in the
dunes; the brook even had not overspread its banks so much here as
above, where the lower ground offered no opposition to the water; but
the Count thought with a shudder of what might happen when they got to
the Pölitz farm, on the edge of the broad hollow which extended to the
sea almost entirely unprotected by the dunes. Behind the farm, towards
Golmberg, was a still broader and deeper hollow, but he did not trouble
himself about that. If once they reached the farm, which itself stood
on higher ground, they would find a road leading from it along the back
of the hills straight to Warnow. The Count knew the ground well, he had
ridden over it fifty times while hunting.

And now they came to the first hollow. On the right, where the hills
opened out, was a wall of surf, whose crest threatened at any moment to
topple over. More than one wave must have broken through already, which
had left smaller and larger pools in the lowest parts of the ground;
evidently not a moment was to be lost. But the Count saw that the
passage might be ventured, which was fortunate, as in any case it must
be tried.

"Follow me boldly, Carla!" he cried, as he again rode forward.

Carla answered not a syllable.

"It is all over between us," said the Count to himself; "she will never
forgive me as long as she lives."

They rode on quickly, and had already reached the middle of the hollow,
when the Count saw to his horror that the wall of surf, which had stood
in the opening of the dunes, was in movement and seemed to be advancing
towards them. For one moment he thought it was a delusion of his
excited imagination, but only for a moment.

"On! for heaven's sake, on!" he cried, urging his exhausted horse to
its utmost speed with whip and spur. He did not look round, he dared
not look behind him; he knew from the fearful roar that the wave had
flung itself far inland--behind him!

The panting horse staggered up the slope--saved!

He had no need to pull his horse up; it stopped of itself. Carla
stopped by his side. How had she got through? He could not tell, and
took care not to ask.

And now he looked back.

For a hundred yards at least of the hollow they had crossed, a single
stream now carried its dark waters foaming and roaring far inland. The
Count saw it with a shudder; there could hardly be a question that the
same wave must have broken through above also, on the other side of the
Pölitz's farm, and then in all probability the waters would have united
behind the farm. If this were the case, only two places of refuge
remained--the farm itself, or the lofty dune--called the White
Dune--between the two hollows. The dune stood higher, but was farther
off, and it was doubtful whether they could reach it as lower fields
lay between it and the farm; besides, what would become of them up
there?

"We will go to the farm," said he, "if it were only to give the horses
a rest in some sort of shelter; they can't get on any farther."

He rode slowly on in front, Carla followed. Her silence made him
furious.

"Little fool!" he muttered between his teeth; "at the very moment when
I am risking my life for her! And now to go to Pölitz--after the scene
we had yesterday!--a pretty wind up to the whole affair--possibly to
spend the whole night there!--I thought so!"

He had reached the highest point behind the farm garden, and for the
first time could see beyond; the whole immense space between the farm
and the Golmberg was one sea of wild waves! The sea must have broken
through here even earlier.

He could see now too how the stream behind him had joined on the left
with the sea before him. There was no communication possible now
between this place and Warnow; they were on a long, narrow island, one
end of which was lost in the waters towards Warnow, and whose highest
point was the White Dune, though it was probably divided again between
the farm and the hill.

The Count did not consider the position to be absolutely dangerous, but
it was confoundedly disagreeable; and all on account of this mute,
perverse young lady, who apparently honoured him with her hatred as
thanks for all that he had done for her!

The Count was in a desperate frame of mind, as they now turned the
corner of the outhouses towards the entrance to the farmyard. A man,
whose rough hair was being blown wildly about his head by the wind, was
vainly exerting his giant strength to shut the great wooden gate, the
left half of which--the right was already bolted--was fixed to the wall
as if by iron clamps by the force of the gale.

"I will help you, Pölitz!" called the County "only let us through
first!"

The farmer, who had not heard them coming, let go the door which he had
just freed, and sprang into the gateway, where he stood with his
gigantic form in his torn clothes, his dishevelled hair, his face
convulsed with despair and now with furious anger, and his bleeding
hand clenched--a terrible vision to the Count's guilty conscience.

"Come, be reasonable, Pölitz!" he cried.

"Back!" cried the farmer, catching hold of the horse's bridle. "Back!
we will die alone! Back with your mistress! I have got one of yours
already here!"

The man had thrust back the horse with such violence that it almost
fell. The Count pulled it up by a tremendous effort, so that it sprang
forward. Pölitz started back to seize the pickaxe with which he had
been working, and which lay behind him on the wall of the outhouse. At
the same moment the unfastened half of the door was shut between him
and those outside with such appalling violence, that the whole door was
shattered as if it had been made of glass, and as its splinters fell,
the beams of the falling roof of the barn crashed down just in front of
the horses, who started back in mad terror, and turning short round,
dashed across a fallow-field to the pollarded willows which used to
stand at the edge of the common, but behind which now eddied the turbid
waters of the invading flood; then turning off to the right, led by
their instinct, they followed the field to the dune which rose in dusky
whiteness before them. To have guided them would have been impossible,
even if the terrified riders could have thought of such a thing. They
were carried as if by the storm itself to the foot of the hill. The
panting horses climbed and climbed, and pressed deeper into the sand,
which gave way under their hoofs and rolled down into the stream, which
rushed from one hollow to the other where a moment before had lain the
fallow field between hill and farm.

Carla's horse fell. The Count urged his on a few paces farther, and
threw himself from the saddle at the instant when the animal under him
fell like a lifeless thing--perhaps really lifeless--into the depths
below. With hands and feet he worked his way up, up! cursing his ill
luck that had led him to the steepest part, and yet not daring to turn
farther to the left, since here at least there was grass and scrub to
cling to, while there the smooth sand offered no hold. Drops of anguish
trickled from his brow into his eyes--he could see nothing more, could
only hear the roaring of the sea as it broke on the other side of the
hill, as a confused ringing in his ears. He gained the summit and
staggered forward, as his groping hands found no resistance, gathered
himself up again, and looked wildly round him.

There, not far from him, lay a dark object.

Was it Carla? How came she here? Dead?

The dark object moved. He tottered forward to her side.

"Carla!"

She raised herself to her knees and stared fixedly at him, as he bent
down to lift her up.

But hardly had his hand touched her, than she started up and away from
him.

"Wretch!" she shrieked, "I too will die alone! Back to your other
mistress! You have one already at the farm!"

She laughed wildly, and the wind, which had carried away her hat, blew
her long hair about her, some locks crossing her deadly-white face,
distorted now to a ghastly smile.

"She is mad!" muttered the Count, drawing back as far as he could. He
could have wished it had been farther. They were on a miserably small
strip of ground, which in the centre was shaped like a trough, with
sides which yesterday had been at least five feet high, with sharp
clear edges, and which the storm had already reduced to two or three
feet of smooth surface. How long would it be before the last hand's
breadth of sand remaining would be blown into the trough, and they
would be left without the smallest shelter, even supposing that the
flood did not rise above the summit?

And should neither of these things happen--should this point remain
unsubmerged--the Count shuddered again and again. How could poor human
nature endure it all--the driving storm, the torrents of spray which
were unceasingly flung up over the hill, the long long night which now
began to close in? Already his keen eyes could only just distinguish
through the grey mist the dim outlines of the Golmberg, which was
hardly a mile off. Wissow Head had entirely disappeared; the farm
itself, barely three hundred yards from him, seemed every moment to
sink deeper in the water, which, as far as his eye could reach, covered
fields and meadows far inland, perhaps even as far as Warnow, which
only appeared at intervals out of the mist like a phantom castle. To
the right, the thundering, raging, roaring sea, around him the surf
creeping higher and higher up the dune, and here and there sending up
columns of spray over the already covered line of hills. And there--now
seeming so close to him that he drew back in terror, and in the next
moment so far off that she might have been on the Golmberg--the dark,
motionless figure of the woman whose lips had clung to his only an hour
before--no, no! no living, loved woman, but a spectre risen from depths
of horror, and sitting there, crouched together, immovable, only to
drive him mad!

And the wretched man cried aloud in his agony, and clasped his hands
before his face and sobbed and whimpered like a child.



                              CHAPTER IX.


"It is half-past four," said Elsa, "we must go."

"You might remain here."

"I am not sure whether my father will have arrived yet; indeed,
supposing he came by the midday train, he could not be at Warnow yet;
but that terrible man is certainly there, expecting you, and perhaps
may go away again without waiting for you---"

"I must speak to him," murmured Valerie.

"And you must not speak to him alone; I will not allow it; and so we
must go."

"Without taking with us any comfort for you, my poor child!"

"I am comforted, I am quite calm; you can surely perceive that by my
voice and manner." And Elsa bent down and kissed her aunt's pale lips.

They were sitting at the window of Reinhold's study, on the right hand
as you entered the one-storied house, which was imposing compared with
its neighbours, which were still smaller.

Elsa had entered almost all of them; the houses of the two chief
pilots, and some of those amongst which the four and twenty other
pilots were distributed; that of the chief revenue officer, who shared
his house with his subordinate; and she would have gone into the other
pilots' houses and the fishermen's huts, of which there might be
perhaps a dozen, only that it was not necessary, as the people were all
standing at their doors wherever she passed, and stretching out their
hands to her--the rough, hairy hands of two or three invalided old
sailors who crept out from the warm chimney-corners; powerful sunburnt
hands from strong, sunburnt women; hard little hands from ruddy,
flaxen-haired children, who looked up curiously with their blue eyes to
the beautiful strange lady, and could not believe what their mothers
told them, that she was no princess, but the Captain's betrothed, who
was coming to live here always, and was so pleased with everything! And
the Captain would come back, the women all said, though the storm was
very high--the worst that Clas Rickmann remembered, and he was
ninety-two years old, and so might be allowed to know something about
it! The Captain knew what he was about, and he had got six men with him
who knew what they were about; and last time they had been out three
times in the new lifeboat without being upset once, and it was not
likely to upset now, especially when his own sweetheart had come here
to receive him when he returned.

So spoke all the women, in almost identical words, as if they had
settled them together beforehand; and then they all had something
pleasant to say about the Captain, who was even better than the last
Superintendent, though he had been a good man too; and here again they
all said pretty nearly the same thing, almost in the same words, with
the same hearty expression and the same monotonous voices; but Elsa
could have willingly heard it all repeated a thousand times, and
thanked each one separately as if she heard it for the first time, and
as if it were an announcement from heaven.

And then quite a crowd of women and girls accompanied her, with a still
greater crowd of children running beside and after them, to the spot
nearly at the end of the peninsula, where, on a high dune, signal-posts
and beacons were erected, and behind the dune which still afforded some
shelter--stood a close group of men in high sea-boots and sou'westers,
looking out over the raging sea, who, as the young lady came up to
them, pulled off their hats, while Clas Janssen, as the eldest, took
upon himself to be spokesman, and to tell the young lady all about it;
and all bent their heads eagerly to listen, and nodded, and when they
turned away to spit, took great care to do it to leeward.

Then Clas Janssen related that this morning, as soon as it was light, a
vessel, which was now at anchor round there in the bay, had come in and
brought word that close to the Grünwald Oie a ship had run aground, and
was flying signals of distress. There was so much surf at the spot,
that only the mast was altogether visible, and the stern occasionally,
and they had seen men clinging to the yards. The vessel--a small Dutch
schooner--seemed well built, and might hold out for another hour or
two, as it was on smooth sand, if only the heavy sea did not wash off
the crew. From the Oie no one could get at them; an ordinary boat would
be swamped at once by the waves. Half an hour later the lifeboat had
been launched, with the Captain on board, and for three hours they had
kept it in sight, as it worked against the wind, and had seen it at
last in the surf near the Oie; but the sea was too high there, and the
weather very thick, and so they had lost sight of it, even from the
look-out above, and with the most powerful glass, and could not tell
whether the Captain had got on board; anyway, it must be a tough job,
as it had taken him so long; but the Captain would be sure to pull
through. And now if the young lady would go in and let Frau Rickmann
make her a cup of tea, they would bring her word when the boat came in
sight; and as for their coming back again, she might make herself quite
easy--the Captain knew what he was about, and the six men who were with
him knew what they were about.

Elsa had smiled, not because the man had repeated again in the same
words what the women had said to her, but because this confirmation
from the mouth of an experienced man brought sweet peace to her heart;
and she had shaken the man's rough hand and the hands of the other men,
and had gone back to the houses with her escort of women and children;
and while she talked to them--the storm blowing away half their
words--she had always repeated to herself, "He knows what he is about,
and the six men who are with him know what they are about!" half as a
prayer which she durst not utter with her lips, half as a song of joy
which she was ashamed to sing aloud.

Then she had gone to his house, which was soon to be hers; had drunk
tea with her aunt, and had made her lie down to rest--for she was quite
exhausted--in a small room, where as little as possible might be heard
of the storm, and with a beating heart, like a child whose mother is
leading it to the Christmas-tree, had gone over the whole house with
Frau Rickmann, old Clas Rickmann's elderly granddaughter, the childless
widow of a pilot, who managed Reinhold's house for him. It was a modest
house, and modestly furnished; but she admired everything, as if she
had been wandering through an enchanted palace. And how clean and tidy
everything was! And how tasteful, when Frau Rickmann's province of
kitchen and store-rooms was passed, and that of the Captain himself
began! The furniture, as if she herself had been consulted in the
choice of every article; the large writing-table, covered with books
and carefully-arranged papers and pamphlets; and the handsome bookcase,
with glass-doors, full of well-bound books, another case of mysterious
nautical instruments, and a third with splendid shells, corals, and
stuffed birds! Then Frau Rickmann opened the door of a little room
which adjoined the study, and Elsa nearly exclaimed aloud: it was her
own little room next to the drawing-room--the same carpet, the same
blue rep covering to the sofa, the same chairs, the same corner
looking-glass with a gilt console! And it had only one window too; and
in the window was a small arm-chair, and in front of the chair a little
work-table--all perfectly charming! And Elsa had to sit down in the
chair because her knees shook under her, and to lean her head on the
little table and shed a few joyful tears, and kiss the table for love
of the man whose tender care seemed enfolding her here like a mantle,
and who was now tossing about on the stormy sea which she could see
from the window, and risking his precious life for the lives of others!

Meanwhile four o'clock had struck--although it was already so dark that
it might have been six--and Frau Rickmann gave it as her opinion that
it was high time to see about the Captain's dinner, if the ladies
really would have nothing but tea and cakes. She said it as quietly as
if the Captain were only rather late in returning from a quiet row on
smooth water, though the storm at that moment was raging more wildly
than ever, and the little house was shaken to its foundations.

Aunt Valerie, who could not sleep, came out of her room in terror, to
be assured by Frau Rickmann that there was no cause for alarm, as the
house would stand a good shaking, and Wissow Head sheltered them from
the worst; and as for the flood, they stood like the other houses,
fifty feet above high-water mark, and they might wait some time before
the tide came up there!

Therewith Frau Rickmann went into the kitchen, after again ushering the
ladies into the Captain's study; and here they now sat at the window,
which also looked out to sea, each trying to turn her thoughts to that
of which she knew the other's heart was full, from time to time
exchanging a loving word or a pressure of the hand, till Elsa, noticing
the growing uneasiness on her aunt's pale face, pressed for an
immediate departure, if only on the ground that the darkness was
gathering rapidly, and they could not possibly take the perilous
journey back by night.

Frau Rickmann came in with her honest face glowing from the kitchen
fire, and took her modest part in the deliberations. The ladies might
as well wait another hour; it would not get darker now before sunset,
and the Captain must come in now soon, if her dinner was not to be done
to rags.

And Frau Rickmann had hardly spoken, when a finger knocked at the
window, and a rough voice outside called: "Boat in sight!"

And then, it was in a bewildering, delicious dream, that Elsa ran down
to the beach beside a man in high sea-boots and a curious-looking hat,
who, as they ran, told her a long story of which she understood not a
word, and she reached the place where she had gone on her arrival under
the shelter of the dunes, and then went up on to the dune, where the
beacon was now glimmering through the evening mist, amongst a number of
other men in high waterproof boots and odd hats, who pointed to the sea
and then spoke to her, without her again understanding a single word,
and one of whom hung a great pea-jacket over her shoulders and fastened
it securely, without her asking him for it or even thanking him. Then
suddenly she saw the boat, which she had been looking for persistently,
heaven knows where in the misty air, quite close to her; and then she
was in another place where the beach was flat and the surf did not roar
so fearfully, and she saw the boat again, which seemed now twice as big
as it had been before, and the whole keel was lifted out of the white
foam and sunk again, and rose a second time, while some dozens of the
men ran into the foam which closed over their heads in spray. And a man
came up through the ebbing waves, in high boots and just such another
odd hat, and she gave a cry of joy and rushed towards him and threw her
arms round him, and he lifted her up and carried her a little way, till
she could set her feet again upon the sand; and whether he carried her
again, or whether they flew, or walked on side by side, she never knew,
and only saw him really when he had changed his clothes and was sitting
at his dinner-table, while she poured him out glass after glass of
wine, and her aunt sat by smiling, and Frau Rickmann went in and out
and brought in mutton chops with steaming-hot potatoes, and ham and
eggs, and he, though he never turned his eyes from her, ate everything
with the hunger of a man who had not tasted food since seven o'clock
that morning. There had been no time for that; it had been a nasty bit
of work getting to the stranded vessel, and still worse to take off the
poor men through the surf; but it had been successful; they were all
saved, the whole eight of them. They had to be put ashore at Grünwald
then, which was another difficult job, and had kept them a long time;
but it could not be helped, the poor fellows who had been clinging to
the rigging all night were in such a deplorable condition, but they
would be all right now.

Intoxicated with the bliss of that flower of happiness which they had
plucked from the edge of the abyss, they remarked now for the first
time that Aunt Valerie had left them. Elsa, who had no secrets from her
Reinhold, explained to him in a few words the poor thing's position,
and that they had not now a moment to lose in starting on their
disagreeable journey homewards.

"Not a moment!" cried Reinhold, rising; "I will give the necessary
orders at once."

"They have already been given," said Valerie, who had heard the last
words as she entered; "the carriage is at the door."

The noise of the wheels had been inaudible in the deep sand to the
happy lovers, as had been also the approach of the rider, whom Aunt
Valerie had seen from the window, and to receive whom she had left the
room.

He was there; he ordered her to come! She knew it before she opened the
letter which François handed to her. She had read the letter--in the
little room to the left, standing at the open window, while François
stood outside--and then the enclosure; and as she read the letter she
had laughed aloud, and torn the paper into fragments, and thrown the
fragments scornfully from the window, out into the storm which in a
moment whirled them away.

"Madame laughs," said François, speaking French as he always did when
he wished to be impressive; "but I can assure madame that it is no
laughing matter, and that if madame is not back at the castle before
six o'clock, something terrible will happen."

"I will come."

François bowed, swung himself into the saddle again, and--to the
breathless astonishment of the village children who had been attracted
by the unusual spectacle of a horseman--set spurs to his horse, and,
with his head bowed almost to the saddle, dashed off, while Valerie
begged Frau Rickmann to send for the carriage which had been put into
the head pilot's barn up in the village, and then with a heavy heart
went to separate the happy pair. But if she made up her mind to a last
meeting with her dreaded, hated tyrant, it was only for the sake of
those she loved, and for whom in the threatening catastrophe she would
save whatever might still be possible to save! It would not be
much--she knew his rapacity--but enough perhaps to secure her Elsa's
future, to free poor Ottomar from his difficulties. And she smiled as
she thought that even Elsa could believe she was thinking of herself in
this matter, of her future!--Good God!

Elsa was ready at once, and Reinhold would not detain her by word or
look. He would have dearly liked to go with her, but that was not to be
thought of. He must not leave his post now for a single hour; at any
moment duty might call upon him again.

And before Elsa had got her cloak on a pilot came in to bring news of
the boat which had gone out at two o'clock after the steamer that had
been signalled from Wissow Head, asking for a pilot. They had got out
to sea in ten minutes and round the Head in half an hour; but the
steamer was no longer there, and must meanwhile have doubled the
Golmberg and got out to sea, as they had seen for themselves when they
had passed the Golmberg. On their way back--about half-past four--they
had been alarmed at seeing so much surf on the dunes between the Head
and the Golmberg, and had kept inshore as much as possible, to make out
if the sea had broken through there as the Captain had foretold. They
could not make quite certain at first, just on account of the heavy
sea; but when they went in closer still, so as to be sure, Clas
Lachmund first, and then all the rest too, had seen two people on the
White Dune, one of whom looked like a woman and had not moved, but the
other--a man--had made signs to them. They could not reach them,
however, try as they would, and might think themselves lucky that they
got off again even, for they had run aground close by the White Dune,
and had seen then for certain that the sea had broken in--north and
south of the White Dune, and probably at other points too--for they
could see nothing but water far inland. How far they could not say; the
weather was too hazy. They must be in a bad way at Ahlbeck too; but
they had not gone nearer in there, for the people there, with Wissow
Head hard by, could be in no danger of losing their lives; but the two
people on the White Dune would be in a very bad case if they could not
be brought off before night.

"Who can the unfortunate people be?" asked Valerie.

"Shipwrecked folk; what else could they be!" answered Reinhold.

"Good-bye, my Reinhold," said Elsa; and then clinging to him, half
laughing, half crying: "Take six more men with you who know what they
are about!"

"And you will pledge me your word," said Reinhold, "that the carriage
shall not drive down from the village to the castle, if from the height
above you cannot see the road absolutely clear through the hollow!"

The two ladies were gone, and Reinhold got ready for his second
expedition. It was not exactly his duty, any more than the morning's
work had been; only none of the men--not even the best of them--quite
knew how to handle the new lifeboat.

Those two people on the dune, however--he had not liked to say so to
Elsa--but they could not be shipwrecked people, for any vessel that had
gone ashore there would have been signalled long ago from Wissow Head.
They could not well be from Pölitz's farm either, though that was close
by, for Frau Rickmann had told him when he went to change his clothes,
that Pölitz had sent back word by the messenger he had despatched to
him, that he would send little Ernst and his men with the live stock to
Warnow; but he could not go away himself, neither could Marie, and
still less his wife, who had been confined last night, of a boy. Things
could not be so bad with them either.

But things were serious now--very serious--and even if the head pilot
Bonsak had a little exaggerated, as he did sometimes in similar cases,
there was danger any way; danger for poor Frau Pölitz, who was
kept to the house by the most sacred of duties; greater danger still
for the two of whom he asked to know nothing but that they were
fellow-creatures who without him must perish.



                               CHAPTER X.


The large room at the Warnow Inn, filled with the smoke of bad tobacco
and the odour of stale beer and spirits, was crowded with the noisy
waggoners who had arrived that morning, and who had been joined in the
course of the afternoon by two or three drovers, who also thought it
pleasanter to remain here. The landlord stood near, snuffing the
tallow-candles and bawling even louder than his guests, for he must be
the best judge whether a railway from Golm direct by Wissow Head to
Ahlbeck, without passing by Warnow, were a folly or not. And the Count,
who had ridden in that afternoon, would pull a long face when he saw
what havoc had been made; but if a man wouldn't hear reason anyhow, he
must suffer for it. There were terrible doings at Ahlbeck, he heard,
and murder and fighting too; it served the Ahlbeck people well right,
they had been bragging enough lately about their railway station, and
their harbour, and their fine hotels; they might draw in their horns
again now!

The landlord was so loud and eager in his talk, that he never noticed
his wife come in and take the keys of the best rooms upstairs from the
board on the door, while the maid took the two brass candlesticks from
the cupboard, into which she put candles, and then lighted them and ran
after her mistress. He only turned round when some one touched him on
the shoulder and asked where he could put up his horses, the ostler
said there was no more room.

"No more there is," said the landlord; "where do you come from?"

"From Neuenfähr; the gentlefolks I brought are upstairs now."

"Who are they?" asked the landlord. "Don't know; a young gentleman and
a young lady; something out of the common I should think. I couldn't
drive quick enough for 'em; but how's a man to drive fast in this
weather? We came a foot's pace. Two horses or one made no difference. A
one-horse carriage that was behind us might easily have got ahead. It
must have been a Warnow trap, it turned to the right as we came to the
village."

"Jochen Katzenow," said the landlord, "was at Neuenfähr this morning;
he's got a devil of a horse! Well, come along; we'll see what can be
done; but I don't think we can manage it."

The Neuenfähr man followed the landlord into the hall, where they
encountered the gentleman whom he had brought, who took the landlord on
one side and spoke to him in an under-tone.

"They won't have done in a hurry," thought the driver, and so went out,
unharnessed his horses, and, leaving the carriage standing for the
time, led them under the overhanging roof of a barn, where they would
be sheltered at any rate from the worst of the storm. He had just
spread some horse-cloths over the smoking animals when the gentleman
left the house and came up to him.

"I shall probably not remain long here," said the gentleman; "perhaps
not more than an hour, and then shall continue our journey."

"Where to, sir?"

"To Prora, or back to Neuenfähr; I do not know yet."

"It can't be done, sir."

"Why not?"

"The horses couldn't do it."

"I know better what horses can do; I will give you my orders
by-and-by."

The Neuenfähr man was irritated at the imperious tone in which the
gentleman spoke to him, but he did not venture to contradict him. The
gentleman, who now wore a greatcoat with metal buttons--during the
drive he had worn a plain overcoat--turned up the collar as he passed
round the shed towards the street. The light from the tap-room fell
full upon his face.

"Aha!" said the Neuenfähr man; "I thought as much. One doesn't forget
these things, however long one has been in the reserve. Where the devil
is the Lieutenant going to?"

Ottomar had obtained full directions from the landlord, and indeed the
road which led straight down through the village could not be mistaken.
He walked slowly, and often stood still; sometimes because the storm
which met him full would not allow him to continue, and sometimes
because he had to try and recollect what he wanted to do at the castle.
His head was confused with the long drive in an open carriage through
this fearful storm, and his heart felt dead within him; he felt as if
he had not energy left to tell the villain to his face that he was a
villain. Besides, it ought to be, it must be done in his aunt's
presence, if the scoundrel were not to be able to deny everything
afterwards, and entangle his aunt again in his web of lies as he had
entangled them all. Or was it all an arranged plot between him and his
aunt! It looked suspicious that she should have left the castle so
early to-day, when he must have been expected to come to call the
villain to account. She had gone with Elsa, it was true; but might not
the affection which she seemed to bestow upon Elsa--in secret, like all
the rest of these dark mysteries--be affection after the pattern of
Giraldi's? Perhaps his aunt had undertaken to allure and befool Elsa as
Giraldi had done by him; and they had both fallen into the snare, and
the crafty fowlers were laughing at their foolish prey. Poor Elsa! who
had also no doubt put her faith in these fair promises, and now would
have to try how she could get on as the wife of a Superintendent of
Pilots with a few hundred thalers, and her home in that miserable
fishing hamlet. "That was not what had been looked forward to for her,
poor Elsa! That was to have been our inheritance, the castle by the
sea, as we called it when we used to lay plans for our future; we were
to live there together, you in one wing and I in the other; and when
you married the prince and I the princess we were to draw lots which
should have it to themselves; we could not continue together because of
all the suite.

"And now, my dearest and best of sisters, you are far from me, waiting
for your lover who is out in the storm, perhaps, to save the precious
lives of a few herring-fishers; and I----"

At the spot where the road, leaving behind it the first houses in the
village, turned downwards through a narrow gorge which led to the
hollow whence it again began to rise towards the castle, he sat down
upon a stone which projected from the extreme edge of the gorge towards
the hollow, and was only held in its hazardous position by the roots of
a magnificent fir-tree, which must once have stood much farther from
the edge, and which now creaked and groaned as it bent backwards under
the pressure of the gale, as if trying to avoid falling into the
depths.

"There is no help for either of us," said Ottomar, "it has all crumbled
away bit by bit; and we are hanging with our roots in the air. The
stone that would gladly have held us up cannot do it; rather the
reverse. And if there come one great storm, such as this, we must both
fall. I wish to God we lay there, and that you would fall upon my head
and kill me, and that the flood would come and wash us out to sea, and
no one should know how we came to our end."

And she? She, whom he had just left in the miserable, dreary inn-room,
she, whose kisses he still felt upon his lips, and who, as he went out
at the door--thinking, no doubt, that he could not see her--threw
herself upon the sofa, and leaning her head upon the back covered her
face with her hands, weeping he was certain. For what? for her
miserable fate that bound her to a man weaker than herself. She was
strong, she would endure it all, come what would. But what could come
for her? She had repeated to him a hundred times on the road, that he
was not to trouble himself any more about that miserable money; that
her father was far too proud to refuse her entreaty, the first she had
made to him since she could remember, the last that she would ever make
to him. And she had written to her father from Neuenfähr, where they
had had to wait half an hour for the carriage. "The thing is done," she
had said, as she stroked his hair from his forehead as a mother might
have done to her boy, who had been playing truant from school.

She was the stronger; but then what did she lose? her father?--she
seemed never to have really loved him; her comfortable life in her
beautiful luxurious home?--what does a girl know of the things that
make up her life!--her art? that she could carry with her everywhere;
had she not said with a smile, "It will support us both." Of course!
she would have to support him now, the disgraced soldier!

The fir-tree, against which he leaned, creaked and groaned like some
tormented creature; Ottomar could feel how the roots heaved and
twisted, and the soil showered down the steep gorge, while in the
branches the wind whistled and howled and crackled like grape-shot or
musketry fire, and from the sea came a roar and thunder as if from an
endless line of batteries, whose fire was incessantly kept up.

"It would have been so simple then," said Ottomar; "my father would
have paid my few debts and would have been proud of me, instead of
sending me a pistol now, as if I did not know as well as he that it is
all over for Ottomar von Werben; and Elsa would have often and lovingly
talked of her brother, who fell at Vionville. Dear Elsa, how I should
like to see her once more!"

He had learned from the landlord that the carriage with the two ladies,
if they returned this evening as the driver had told him, must pass
this way, it being the only road still practicable; the shorter road
through the lower ground was no longer passable. Ottomar wondered what
the man meant by the lower ground. The situation was so entirely
different from what he had heard described; the sea seemed to be
breaking immediately behind the castle, though in the wet, grey mist
which was driving in his face he could no longer distinguish individual
objects. The castle itself, which must surely be close under his feet,
seemed to be a mile off; he could hardly have seen it sometimes, if
lights had not been constantly flickering in the windows. In the
indistinct masses of building to the left of the castle, which must
belong to the farm, lights also glimmered occasionally, shifting their
places as if people were running about with lanterns; and once or twice
he fancied that he heard men's voices and the lowing of cattle. It
might be all a delusion of his senses, which were beginning to fail
him, as he sat there unsheltered from the raging storm which was
freezing the very marrow of his bones. He must go on, if he were not to
die here like a straggler behind a hedge on the roadside.

And yet he remained; but through his bewildered brain wilder and more
confused images chased each other. There was a Christmas-tree with
lighted candles, and he and Elsa came to the door hand-in-hand, and
their father and mother stood at the table, on which there were dolls
for Elsa, and helmet and sword and sabretache for him, and he threw
himself joyfully into his father's arms, who lifted him high in the air
and kissed him. Then the Christmas-tree changed into a lofty pine, and
the crest of the pine was a blazing chandelier, under which he was
dancing with Carla, in defiance of the Count, who looked on with
furious glances, while the double bass boomed, and the violins
squeaked, and the dancing couples whirled in and out: Tettritz with
Emilie von Fischbach, that tall Wartenberg with little Fräulein von
Strummin. Then it was a bivouac fire with the trumpets sounding to the
attack at Vionville, against the batteries which thundered in return,
and he called laughingly to Tettritz and Wartenberg, "Now, gentlemen, a
bullet through the heart, or the cross on the breast!" and set spurs to
his charger, which dashed straight forward with a wild neigh. Ottomar
started to his feet and looked round him in bewilderment. Where was he?
at his feet there foamed and hissed a broad eddying stream, and now he
heard distinctly a horse neighing--close by him--in the hollow way, at
the edge of which he stood, and below him was a carriage which was
being backed by the resisting horses against the bank.

With one spring he was behind the carriage and helping the coachman to
turn the snorting horses; there was just room left.

"Where are the ladies!"

He had seen that the carriage was empty.

"They got out--above--in such a hurry, by the causeway in the meadows
to the park. Oh, Lord! oh, Lord! if only they can get across it! Lord
have mercy upon us!"

A wave of the stream which had broken through between the hill and the
castle, and which the coachman had nearly driven into, poured into the
hollow way, and eddied up under the horses' feet, who could no longer
be restrained but dashed up the road, the coachman running by them,
having fortunately caught up the reins, and doing his best to stop
them.

Ottomar had only understood so much from the coachman's confused words,
made almost unintelligible by the storm, as to gather that Elsa was in
danger. What was this causeway? Where was it? He ran after the
coachman, calling and shouting to him, but the man did not hear.



                              CHAPTER XI.


As Giraldi moved with restless steps up and down the deserted rooms of
the castle, there was added to the grey spectres of fear and anxiety
which lurked around and followed him, another, that as the twilight
deepened grew and grew, and seemed to come nearer and nearer with every
movement of the minute-hand of the watch that he never put down. Not
merely seemed. He could see it advancing from the windows which looked
towards the sea, from the roof of the round tower to which he had made
the old servant show him the way; he could see the tide advancing like
storming columns which, step by step, slowly but irresistibly, gained
ground, following up the skirmishers, which as soon as the main body
reached them were swallowed up in it. Over there, where an hour ago he
had seen a narrow line of water running through the lower ground--it
was the brook, the old servant said--the foaming waves of a broad gulf
were now tossing; there, straight before him, where, to right and left
of the little farmyard, he had seen half an hour before dark masses of
water in the hollows which he had at first taken for large ponds, was a
great lake out of which the farm appeared like a little island. And ten
minutes later the foaming lake had joined the gulf, and if this went on
for another half hour we should have the flood up here, and not a mouse
could creep out of house or courtyard--so said Herr Damberg.

This was said in the courtyard itself. Giraldi had seen the farmer
there from the window of the dining-room, and had gone out to question
the man.

"For you see," said Herr Damberg, "there is rising ground certainly
between us and Pölitz's farm, which reaches from the Golmberg almost up
to the brook right across the hollow; but behind it--towards us--the
ground sinks again pretty rapidly, to the height opposite where the
village stands, and between which and us again is the lowest part of
all. If the flood rises above that higher ground which has checked it
as yet the hollow will be filled to the brim like a basin; and I shall
think myself lucky if it does not get into my stables and barns,
particularly those on the park side, for that will go too. It is very
fortunate that the ladies are away; what could they do here? I told
Frau von Wallbach too that she had better go up to the village, but she
won't. My goodness! there goes another roof!"

The farmer rushed off to the endangered building, from whose thatched
roof the gale had torn off whole bales of straw and whirled them like
chaff over the courtyard. The terrified farm-servants came running up
from all sides, while the farmer grumbled that they had better keep
their wits about them now; what was to happen later if they had lost
their senses already?

Giraldi looked at his watch, it wanted twenty minutes to six. François,
who had returned half an hour before, had sworn that he was convinced
that madame would start immediately after him. The road was not so bad
as he had thought; they might very well be at the castle at six
o'clock.

Giraldi went into the house to question François once more. François
was not to be found; some one had seen him a short time before go
through the garden-door towards the park, with a cloak round him.

"The fellow is prudent," said Giraldi to himself; "he has got his money
and takes himself off. I am in the same position, I ought to follow his
wise example."

He must come to a decision; if Valerie came too late, or not at all, he
would find himself in about half an hour face to face with the General,
who must have heard this morning at any rate--perhaps from Ottomar
himself--of the affair of the bills, and, his suspicions once aroused,
would certainly make inquiries, and learn from the banker, to whom he
would of course apply first, that the Warnow money had been withdrawn,
from the bank. Elsa's telegram too! All these things coming together
would rouse the most sluggish of men, how much more one so active and
energetic! And yet everything was not lost, everything might still be
won, was won already, if Valerie were on his side; the half million of
mortgage money, which he had withdrawn from Lübbener's yesterday,
belonged to her by rights; and for himself, without overstepping by one
hair's breadth the powers given him by the other trustees, he could
withdraw the half million of purchase-money from Haselow, and keep it
in his desk, or carry it on his person if he did not think it secure
elsewhere; but Valerie must give her consent--she must, she must, she
must!

He cried it aloud, stamping his foot on the wet ground, while in the
branches of the trees overhead the wind whistled and howled, and louder
and louder grew the roar of the sea breaking against the barrier which
it only needed to surmount to fill the hollow like a basin. Even the
park would be swept away then.

He hardly knew why he had entered the park; perhaps to look for
François, perhaps because he had been told that from the balcony of the
summer-house in the south corner a long stretch of the road to Wissow
over the hills could be seen. If indeed in the darkness, which seemed
deepening at every moment, anything could be seen at a distance! And
where was this south corner? As if between the brambles of these
rustling hedges, and in the gloom of these creaking boughs, a man could
find his way as one would between the laurel bushes and the pines of
the Monte Pincio!

In this howling northern wilderness the image of the Eternal City stood
suddenly before his mind, as he had seen it that night when, for the
first time after years of separation, he saw Valerie again--by no
effort of his, against all expectation or hope--at a fête given by the
French Embassy in the enchanted gardens of the Villa Medici. There,
when a jealous husband had carried away his beautiful wife only too
soon, he himself had left the festive crowd, and ascended the stone
steps in the shade of the evergreen oaks till the lights of the
festival below him had been lost and the sounds had died away; there,
in the darkness and silence which surrounded him, he had mused as he
went yet farther and higher, and reached the Belvedere, where his
beloved Rome, bathed in moonshine, lay at his feet; there he had sworn
by St. Peter's, on whose gigantic dome streams of soft golden light
were pouring down from the blue heavens, that the love of this fair
northern woman should be the golden stepping-stone to his power, which
he, the layman, in the service of St. Peter's, and yet free--free as an
eagle here above the world--would extend over the whole earth. It had
taken him longer than he had then hoped--much too long; he had held
fast to his once formed plans with too obstinate tenacity; he might
have attained more brilliant results, quicker and more surely, by other
ways such as had a thousand times offered themselves; but it was the
star of his fate which he had followed, in which he had always trusted,
and would trust still when--at the last moment--everything seemed to
conspire against him to snatch his prey from him, the fruit of the
arduous labour of so many years, the noble fortune which he carried
about him close to his body, as if it were a part of himself, as it was
indeed a part of his life which he would give up only with that life.

He looked at his watch--he could no longer distinguish the numbers on
the dial-plate; he sounded the repeater--he could not hear the faint
stroke through the roaring of the storm which crashed and howled around
him. He would count five minutes more; if she did not come then--so be
it!

And there was the summer-house for which he had been looking so long, a
wooden erection on four slender columns, to which a narrow steep
staircase led up, at the extreme edge of the park, some ten or twelve
feet above the enclosing hedge, high enough as he could see from the
balcony to overlook the ground outside between the park and the hill; a
long trough-shaped bit of ground, some fifty or a hundred yards broad,
through which, from the hill to the park, a dark winding causeway led,
formed apparently of large stones arranged at even distances to
facilitate the crossing of the low-lying meadow-land.

He examined the position narrowly. In the meadow-land below he could
see larger and smaller pools of what must be water already accumulated
there; but the stone pathway was decidedly passable. In the comparative
lightness of his post of observation he could see his watch now; it
wanted ten minutes to six, and there was not a moment to be lost. He
would go back through the park to the castle and find out if Valerie
had arrived, or perhaps the General. Then, if necessary, back through
the park over the causeway to the village; he would hunt up a carriage
of some sort, and then--to the devil with this miserable country of
barbarians, he would leave it for ever!

He glanced once again over the hills without, along whose edge he ought
to have seen the carriage coming. Folly! who could have distinguished
anything there now, when over all a dark veil had spread itself which
was growing more dense at every moment! Even the stepping-stones in the
meadow were hardly visible, he should have trouble in finding them; the
dark line waved up and down, the stones seemed in movement. Something
was really moving there--that was not the stones. There were people
there--women--two--coming across the stones--she, no doubt, with that
detested girl--no matter! she was coming, obedient as ever! to tell him
that she would obey him in future as she had always obeyed him! What
else should she come for? For fear of him? For love of her newly-found
son? no matter!--no matter!--she was coming!

He would not need now to steal away like a thief with the stolen
treasure; he might lift his head proudly, he who always and everywhere
was master of the position which his ruling spirit had created. He
rushed down the steep steps, through the beech avenue, where it was
almost completely dark, to the little door which he had noticed before
at the entrance to the avenue, and at which he supposed the causeway
must end. And at the moment when with a powerful effort he shook the
locked or warped door from its rusty hinges, they stood without.

Valerie started back with a shudder, as she so suddenly saw before her
the terrible man, who seemed to belong to the darkness and the raging
elements. But he had already caught her hand and drawn her into the
path, while Elsa, at her aunt's entreating "Let me be alone with him!"
unwillingly obeyed her, and remained standing at the shattered door,
following with her keen eyes their retreating figures through the dark
pathway, ready and determined to hasten to the poor woman's assistance;
straining her ear through the rustling and crackling of the bushes, and
the roaring and creaking of the trees, and the raging and howling all
round her, for any cry for help.

She stood there gazing, listening--for some fearful minutes, of which
she could have counted each second by the beating of her heart. Now she
could see them both walking quickly up and down at the lower end of the
path; she thought she could catch a few broken words in Italian--an
entreating "_Il nostro figlio_" from him--a passionate "_Giammai!
giammai!_" from her. Then again the wild raving of the storm and the
tide drowned every sound; the figures vanished into the darkness. She
could bear her anxiety no longer, she hurried down the path--past
something that glided by her--past him, the traitor! the murderer!

She shrieked it aloud, "Traitor! murderer!" The wild scream sounded
no louder than an infant's cry. She rushed down the path to the
summer-house, crying: "Aunt! aunt!" though she expected to find nothing
but a dead body. There--at the foot of the stairs--was her aunt, her
dear aunt!

She crouched on the lower steps of the staircase, and lifted upon her
knees the fallen form, from whose icy forehead a warm stream trickled.
But she still lived! she had attempted to press with her slender
fingers the hand which had grasped hers; and now, now! thank heaven!
there came a few low words, which Elsa, bending low over her, tried to
catch.

"Do not be alarmed! It is nothing--a fall against the railing as he
flung, me from him; free--Elsa, free!--free!"

Her head sank again on Elsa's bosom, but her heart still beat; it was
only a swoon, the result of the terror and loss of blood; she tried to
rise and sank back again.

Elsa did not lose her courage; as she bound up the wounded forehead
with her own and her aunt's handkerchief and a strip torn from her
dress--she had had plenty of practice in the hospitals during the
war--she considered whether she should try to carry the slender figure
to the castle, or whether it would be better to hasten home alone and
procure assistance. She would lose a great deal of time either way; but
in the first case she would remain with the sufferer, and need not
leave her alone in this terrible situation, without, perhaps, being
able to make her understand that it was necessary to leave her.

Still she decided upon the second alternative as the safer. The bandage
was arranged; she was just about to raise her aunt gently from her lap
and arrange her as comfortable a couch as possible, when through the
bushes, through the hedges, between the trees, there came upon her what
seemed like thousands and thousands of serpents, whose hissing sounded
even through the howling of the storm, with a strange and horrible
noise that made Elsa's blood run chill. For a moment she listened
breathlessly, and then with a wild shriek started to her feet,
snatching up her aunt, and with the strength of despair dragging her up
the steps to save the helpless woman and herself from the flood which
had broken over the park. She had hardly reached the last step before
the water was pouring through the lower ones, and seeming to be
everywhere at once, foaming and roaring through the hedge which ran
from the summer-house to the castle, as if over a weir, rushing into
the hollow, which was no longer a valley but the bed of a broad stream
whose waters, pouring in from either side, met with a crash like
thunder, throwing up jets of water to the balcony, over the edge of
which Elsa leant with a shudder.

A bench ran round the inner side of the balcony. Elsa laid her aunt
here, who was falling from one fainting fit into another, after
wrapping her up as warmly as possible, for the greater part with her
own clothes.

And there she sat, with the poor thing's head again in her lap, as the
storm howled and the flood roared around her, and shook the frail
slender wooden edifice in every joint of its worm-eaten planks, praying
that God would send some one to them--the only man who could save them
in their fearful need.



                              CHAPTER XII.


As Ottomar's steps died away upon the creaking stairs and across the
hall, Ferdinanda sprang up, and wringing her hands, paced two or three
times up and down the little room; then she threw herself down again as
Ottomar had last seen her--her face in her hands, her head leaning
against the back of the sofa. But she had not cried then, neither did
she cry now; she had no tears to shed; she had no hope left, no wish
save one--to die for him since she could not live for him, since her
life could only be a burden and a torment to him. Why had she not
believed his brother officer, with the clear brow and keen, pitiful
eyes, who had said to her:

"You deceive yourself, my dear young lady! Your flight with Ottomar is
no deliverance for him from his difficulties, but another complication,
and that the most fatal. The worst point for Ottomar is the terrible
wound to his honour as an officer. Appearances at least must be saved
here, and this is still possible according to the arrangements I have
made. At the best his life can only be half a life, one which I do not
know how he will bear. I doubt even if he can bear it; but in such a
case as this one may perhaps stifle one's better judgment. There can be
no doubt, however, that if you now fly with him, and the circumstance
becomes known--as it must be--there will be no longer any possibility
for us, his friends, to save even appearances. That an officer should
be forced to retire from the service on account of debts, that his
betrothal should on this account be broken off, that he should even in
his delicate position neglect to call to account the gossips and
scandal-bearers--all this may occur, does occur unfortunately only too
often. But at the same time, forgive me for saying so, the door is open
wide for scandal. A man who at such a moment can think of anything but
of saving what still is possible out of the shipwreck of his honour,
or, if there is nothing left to save, of giving up with dignity perhaps
even life itself--who instead of this drags down with him another
person whom he professes to love, a stainless woman, a lady who has
always been highly respected--that man has thrown away every claim to
sympathy or fellow-feeling. Ottomar himself must see this sooner or
later. This journey of his to Warnow is, in my eyes, absolute folly.
What does he mean to do there? Call Giraldi to account? The Italian
will answer, 'You are no child, you must have known what you were
about.' Call out the Count? For what cause, when he travels with you?
But let him go if he will, only alone! only not with you! I conjure
you, not with you! Believe me, the love in whose power you trust to
save Ottomar from all his difficulties will prove itself absolutely
impotent, even worse; it will finally break down the remains of the
strength which Ottomar might otherwise still possess. For his sake--if
you will not think of yourself--do not go with him!"

Strange, when he had drawn her on one side at the last moment, while
Ottomar and Bertalda in the next room were arranging a few last things,
and spoken to her thus--hastily, yet so clearly--his words had passed
by her like an empty sound; she had hardly known what he was speaking
of; and now it all came back upon her memory word for word! It was all
coming true already, word for word! All-powerful love! Good heavens,
what a mockery! What answer had he had for the pictures of the future
which she had painted for him in colours whose glow was drawn from her
overflowing heart, but a sad, gloomy smile, or monosyllabic absent
words, evidently only spoken because he must say something, while his
spirit was weighed down with the burden of his thoughts about his angry
father, his pitiful or scornful brother officers, and of the
possibility of forcing a duel upon Herr von Wallbach or Count Golm. His
very caresses when, with a heart full of unutterable fear, she put her
arms round him--as a mother round her child whom she is carrying from
the flames--his very caresses made her shiver as she thought, "He
treats me like a love-sick girl, who must be humoured, like a mistress
whom he has taken on his journey, and from whom he wishes to hide that
he is weary of her before their first station is passed."

She! she! who had once dreamed that her love was an inexhaustible
spring, and had blamed herself that she had been so chary with it, and
had turned away her suitor from her door, had left him without in the
barren wilderness of life to despair and perish without her! She who
had been so proud! so proud, because she knew that she had boundless
wealth to give; that her love was like the storm now raging without,
throwing down all that was not stronger than itself--like the flood
rushing by, destroying, devouring all that did not rise into the
clouds!

That had been her fear all this time, that he too, even he, would never
quite understand her; there would always remain a gaping breach between
the real and the ideal, and she ought not therefore to sacrifice the
ideal, however yearningly her heart might throb, however stormily the
warm blood might rush through her veins. She had but this one best
thing to lose, to be for ever after poorer than the poorest beggar, she
for whom inexorable experience had once for all destroyed the fair
dream of so many years--that of being an artist by the grace of God!

How she had fought! how she had struggled through so many weary days,
so many wakeful nights passed in gloomy brooding, in writhing despair!
days and nights whose terrors would long since have brought even her
strength low, if his beloved, fascinating image had not flitted through
her feverish morning dreams, alluring her on to other weary days, to
other tortured nights.

It was no longer his image now, it was himself; no longer fascinating,
but still beloved as ever!

And oh, how dearly loved! more than ever! immeasurably more in his
helpless misery than in his brighter days.

If she could only help him! For herself she had no wish, no desires;
God was her witness! And if to-night she lay in his arms, and he in
hers, she could think of it without one more heart-beat, without for a
moment losing the despairing thought that weighed down her heart: "He
will breathe no new strength, no new life from my kisses! He will rise
from his bridal couch a weary, broken-down man!" How could she maintain
strength and courage to live--no longer for herself alone--for both of
them now?

If not strength and courage to live, then at least to die!

If she could die for him! could say to him with her dying lips: "See,
death is bliss and joy to me, if I can hope that from this hour you
will despise life, and because you despise it, will live a noble and
beautiful life, like one who lives only that he may die nobly and
gloriously!"

But to his weak soul even this would be no spur, no check, only one
more dark shadow amongst all the dark shadows that had fallen upon his
path; and upon that gloomy path he would wander feebly on, inactive,
inglorious, to an early and an inglorious grave! Thus she lay, sunk in
the depth of her grief, heedless of the howling of the storm, which
perpetually shook the house from roof to cellar; deaf to the noisy
uproar of the drunken guests just under her room, hardly raising her
head as her landlady now came in. The landlady came to ask her
ladyship--as the gentlefolks must mean to spend the night here now--how
she would like to have the beds arranged in the next room; but at the
strange expression of the beautiful pale face, which raised itself from
the sofa and looked at her so oddly, the question died away on the tip
of her tongue, and she only succeeded in bringing out her second
question: whether she should make a cup of tea for her ladyship? Her
ladyship did not seem to understand the question; at any rate she did
not answer, and the landlady thought to herself, "She will ring if she
wants anything," and went into the bedroom with the candle which she
had in her hand, half closing the door--which always took several
efforts to shut it--so as not to disturb her ladyship, and then took
the candle to the windows, to see if they were properly fastened. One
of them was not, the upper bolt had stuck fast, and as she pulled up
the lower one, the wind blowing through the narrow opening put the
candle out, which she had set upon the window-sill. "I can find my way,
however," thought the landlady, and turned in the dim light towards the
beds, but stopped as she came near the door, and heard the lady give a
faint cry. "Good gracious!" thought the landlady, "it is almost worse
with these fine people than it is with us." For the gentleman, who had
come in again, had begun to speak at once, not loudly but evidently
warmly. "What could be the matter between the two young people?"
thought the landlady, and glided on tiptoe to the door. But she could
understand nothing, whether of the many words spoken by the gentleman,
or the few interposed by the lady; and then it struck the landlady that
it was not the gentleman's clear voice, and that they were neither of
them speaking German; and she put her eye to the keyhole, and to her
astonishment and terror saw an absolutely strange man standing by the
lady in the next room, who as she looked let his brown cloak fall from
his shoulders without noticing it, while he violently gesticulated with
both arms, and talked faster, and louder and louder, in his
incomprehensible jargon--like a madman, thought the terrified landlady.

"I will not turn back," cried Antonio, "after I have run almost all the
way like a dog after his owner who has been carried away by robbers,
and the rest of the way have been lying crouched in the straw in a cart
like a beast led to slaughter. I will no longer be a dog, I will no
longer suffer worse than a beast. I know all now--all--all! how he was
faithless to you, the dishonourable coward, that he might go to
another, and again from her to you, and lay at your door whimpering for
mercy while they settled it for him--his mistress and that accursed
Giraldi, whose neck I will wring when and wherever I meet him again, so
surely as my name is Antonio Michele! I know all--all--all! And that
you will give your fair self to him, as you have given him your soul
already!"

The miserable man could not understand the half-scornful,
half-melancholy smile which curled the beautiful girl's proud lips.

"Do not laugh!" he shrieked, "or I will kill you!" And then, as she
half rose, not from fear, but to repel the maniac: "Forgive me! oh,
forgive me! I kill you!--you who are my all, the light and joy of my
life; for whom I would let myself be torn in pieces, limb from limb!
for whom I would give every drop of my heart's blood, if you would only
allow me to kiss the hem of your garment, to kiss the ground upon which
you have trod! How often--how often have I done it without your
knowledge--in your studio, the spot where your fair foot has stood, the
tool which your dear hand has touched! I ask for so little; I will wait
for years--as I have waited for years--and will never weary of serving
you, of worshipping you, like the blessed Madonna, till the day comes
when you will listen to my prayers!"

He had fallen on his knees in the place where he stood, his wild eyes,
his quivering hands raised to her.

"Rise!" said she. "You do not know what you say, nor to whom you say
it. I can give you nothing; I have nothing to give. I am so poor, so
poor--far poorer than you!"

She was wandering about the little room and wringing her hands, passing
by the kneeling man, who, as her dress touched his glowing face, sprang
to his feet as though moved by an electric shock.

"I am not poor," he cried; "I am the son of a prince; and more than a
prince--I am Michael Angelo; and a greater than Michael Angelo! I see
them coming in moving crowds, singing hymns in praise of the immortal
Antonio; bearing flowers, twining garlands, to adorn and encircle the
wonderful creations of the divine Antonio! Do you hear? do you hear!
There! there!"

From the broad village street there rose up the confused, tumultuous
cry of the people, who had been alarmed at the news of the advancing
flood, and were hastening to the scene of the catastrophe; from the
tower of the neighbouring church there rang out, broken by the storm,
the clang of the bells, now threateningly near, and again in trembling
distance.

"Do you hear!" cried the maniac. "Do you hear?"

He stood with outstretched arm, smiling; his eyes, lighted with joy and
triumph, fixed upon Ferdinanda, who gazed in terror at him.

Suddenly the smile changed to a fearful grimace, his eyes glared with
deadly hatred, his outstretched arm was withdrawn with a shudder, his
hand convulsively clutched at his breast, as immediately under the
window a voice rose, clear and commanding, above the raging of the
storm and the shouts of the crowd:

"A rope, a strong rope--the longest that you have got! And thinner
cord--as much as possible. There are some people there already! I shall
be there before you!"

A hasty step, taking three or four stairs at once, came up the creaking
staircase. The maniac laughed wildly.

The landlady, too, had heard the clear voice below, and the hasty step
on the stairs. There would be an accident, for sure, if the gentleman
came in now, when that strange, disagreeable man was with the lady! She
burst into the room at the moment when the gentleman opened the door on
the other side.

Uttering a howl of rage, and brandishing high his stiletto, Antonio
rushed upon him. But Ferdinanda had thrown herself between them before
Ottomar could cross the threshold, shielding her lover with outspread
arms, offering her own bosom to the fatal thrust, and falling without a
groan into Ottomar's arms, as the murderer fled past them in cowardly,
mad flight at sight of the crime that he had never intended, and that
had broken through the night of his insanity as if by a flash of
lightning--fled down the stairs, through the crowd below, who had been
summoned by the clang of the alarm-bell and the cries of terror of the
hasty passers-by from the tap-room and all parts of the house, and who
now drew back in terror from the stranger with the wild black hair,
brandishing a knife in his hand--out into the village street,
overthrowing all that came in his way in the confused, shrieking,
shouting crowd without--out into the howling darkness! And "Murder,
murder!" "Stop him!" "Stop the murderer!" rang through the house.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


"Heavens and earth!" cried the Neuenfähr man, "I must go in here! One
moment, sir!" and he ran into the house.

The gentleman who was just getting into the carriage drew back, and
stamped his foot furiously.

"Is hell itself let loose against me?" he cried, and gnashed his teeth.

As he had made his way cautiously through the darkness a few minutes
before to the inn, of which he had taken note as he drove through the
village in the afternoon, and where he hoped to find some vehicle to
convey him farther, he had met the Neuenfähr driver, who was just
harnessing his horses again, for which the landlord, with the best of
goodwill, could find no stable-room, at any rate not before a part of
the outhouse was cleared out.

"The horses will catch cold," the man had said to himself; "the best
thing after all will be to drive back."

He was still busying himself in the dark over the harness, which had
got twisted, when some one who suddenly appeared beside him asked:

"Will you give me a lift, my man?"

"Where to, sir?"

"To Neuenfähr."

"What will you pay, sir?"

"Anything you like."

"Get in, sir!" said the Neuenfähr man, delighted to find that instead
of taking his carriage back this long distance empty, he had found a
passenger who would pay him anything he liked to ask. He would not take
him for nothing, but he must see about this alarm of murder.

"He will not come back in a hurry," muttered the gentleman; "and I
shall run the risk of meeting him again; it is almost a miracle that he
did not see me."

He had been standing close to Ottomar as the latter gave his orders to
the people, and, to give more authority to his words, mentioned his
name, and that it was his aunt and sister who were in danger, and that
there was not a moment to lose or it would be too late.

The stranger moved farther into the shadow of the barn before which the
carriage stood. He would make sure of not being seen in any case. But
just then the Neuenfähr man came back in a state of great excitement.

The young lady had been stabbed and killed, whom he had brought here
with the young gentleman! Heavens and earth, if he had known that it
was Herr von Werben! and that the beautiful young lady, his wife, would
so soon be murdered by a foreign vagabond--the same no doubt whom he
had seen hanging about in Neuenfähr, when he drew up at the inn
by the bridge--a young fellow with black hair and black eyes; and
he had noticed the black hair again as the fellow rushed out of the
house--plainly--he could swear to it. The fellow might attack them on
the road; he was not afraid for himself--he did not fear the devil; but
if the gentleman preferred to remain here--

In his excitement the brandy he had been drinking before had got into
the man's head; he would have willingly remained; he was evidently a
person of importance here, and the gentleman had quite staggered back
when he spoke of the foreign vagabond, and had muttered something in
his black beard which he did not understand.

"Shall we remain here, sir?"

"No, no, no! Drive on! I will give you double what you ask!"

So saying he sprang into the carnage. The Neuenfähr man had meant to
ask five thalers, now he would not do it under ten, and so he should
get twenty.

For that one might leave even a murder behind one!

"Make way there! Make way!" cried the Neuenfähr man with an oath,
cracking his whip loudly over the heads of the dark figures who were
running towards him down the village street, and more than one of whom
he nearly ran over.

For twenty thalers it was worth while running over somebody--in the
dark too!

In the darkness and the storm! It really was worse than before, though
then it had been bad enough, and he had said a dozen times, "We had
better stop at Faschwitz, sir;" and then as they came to Grausewitz,
"We had better stop at Grausewitz, sir;" but the young gentleman--Herr
von Werben--had always called out, "Drive on, drive on! Farther,
farther!" If he had only known that half an hour later the lady would
have been dead as a door-nail! and he had taken the horse-cloths too to
cover her feet, here in this very place!

The fact seemed so important to the Neuenfähr man that he stopped to
show the gentleman the very spot, and to breathe his horses a little
too, for they could hardly make way at all against the storm. To the
right of the road was a steep clay bank some five or six feet high, at
whose edge stood two or three willows wildly tossed about by the wind;
to the left was level marshy ground reaching down to the sea, which
must be about a mile or so off, although they could hear it roaring as
if it were close by the roadside.

"On, on!" cried the gentleman.

"Are you in such a hurry, too?" said the Neuenfähr man, and grumbled
something about commercial travellers, who were not officers so far as
he knew, and need not snap up an old soldier of the reserve in that
way; but he whipped his horses up again, when suddenly the gentleman,
who had been standing up behind him in the carriage, clutched his
shoulder with his right hand, and pointing with the other to the left,
cried: "There, that way!"

"Where to?" said the driver.

"No matter where! That way!"

"We can pass it," said the Neuenfähr man, thinking only that the
gentleman was afraid that in the narrow road they could not get out of
the way of a carriage which had just appeared coming towards them
through the grey mist, and might still be a few hundred yards from
them.

The gentleman caught him by both shoulders.

"Confound it!" cried the Neuenfähr man. "Are you mad?"

"I will give you a hundred thalers!"

"I'll not be drowned for a hundred thalers!"

"Two hundred!"

"All right!" cried the driver, and whipped up his horses as he turned
them to the left from the sandy road down to the marshes. The water
oozed up under their feet, but then came firmer ground again. It might
not be so bad after all; and two hundred thalers! He called to his
horses, and whipped them up again.

They dashed forward as if the devil were behind them; he could hardly
keep them in hand. And meanwhile he had gone much farther than he had
intended; he had meant only to turn off a little way from the road, and
then come back to it again. But when he looked round, the road and the
trees had alike disappeared, as if all had been wiped out with a wet
sponge. And from the thick, dark atmosphere the mist was falling so
that he could not tell at last whether he ought to go straight on, or
turn to right or left. Neither could he trust his ears. Along the road
the roaring of the sea had been on his left hand, then in front of him;
now there was such an infernal din all round him--could they be already
so near the sea?

The fumes of the brandy suddenly vanished from the Neuenfähr man, and
instead of them a terrible fear took possession of him. Who was the
mysterious passenger who was sitting behind him in the carriage, and
who had promised him two hundred thalers if he would avoid the other
carriage which was coming towards them? Was he an accomplice of the
foreign vagabond? He had just the same black eyes and black hair, and a
long black beard too, and just such a curious foreign accent! Was it
the devil himself to whom he had sold his miserable soul for two
hundred thalers, and who had meant to wring his neck just now when he
took him by the shoulders, and who had enticed him out into the marshes
this fearful night to make an end of him in the storm and mist? And
there were his wife and children at Neuenfähr! "Good Lord! good Lord!"
groaned the man. "Only let me get out of this! I will never do it
again, so help me God! Oh Lord! oh Lord!"

The carriage was driving through water; the man could hear it splashing
against the wheels. He flogged his horses madly; they reared and
kicked, but did not move a step forward.

With one bound the man was off the box beside his horses. There was
only one means of safety now--to unharness them and dash forward at
their full speed. He had said nothing; the thing spoke for itself. He
had thought, too, that the man in the carriage would help him. He had
just got the second horse out, and raised his head, when--his hair
stood on end, as if all that had passed before were child's play to
what he saw now! There had been only one person in the carriage, and
now there were two; and the two were taking each other by the throat,
and were struggling and shouting together--one of them, his passenger,
as if he were asking for mercy, and the other yelling like the very
devil himself--and the other was the murderer of that afternoon.

The Neuenfähr man saw no more. With a desperate spring, he threw
himself on to the near horse, and dashed away, the other horse
galloping beside him. The water splashed over him, and then he was up
to his waist in water, and then up to his neck and the horses swimming;
and again he had dry land under him, and got on to firm ground, and the
horses stopped because they could go no farther, and the one on which
he sat had trembled so that he had nearly fallen off. And he looked
round to see what had happened and where he was.

He was on rising ground, and before him lay a village. It could only be
Faschwitz; but Faschwitz was two or three miles in a straight line from
the sea, and there behind him, from where he came--it was a little
clearer now, so that he could see some little distance--was the open
sea, rising in fearful waves, which roared and foamed, as they rolled
farther and farther--who could tell how far inland?

"They have been drowned like kittens, and my beautiful new carriage.
May the----"

But the Neuenfähr man felt as if he could not swear just then.

He dismounted, took the horses by the bridle, and led them, almost
exhausted, at a foot's pace into Faschwitz, his own knees trembling at
every step.



                              CHAPTER XIV.


"That won't do," cried the village Mayor; "haul it in again!"

"Ho! heave ho!" cried the thirty men who had hold of the rope. "Ho!
heave ho!"

They had hurriedly constructed a kind of raft from a few beams, boards,
and doors torn from the nearest houses, and let it go into the stream
experimentally. Instantly it had been whirled round and upset, and the
thirty men had enough to do to haul it on shore again.

For what had been the side of the hill was now the shore of a rushing,
foaming stream. And on the hill-side half the village was already
collected, and others were ever breathlessly joining the crowd. There
was no danger for the village; the nearest houses stood ten or fifteen
feet above the water, and it seemed impossible that it should rise so
much, more especially as in the last few minutes it had already gone
down about a foot. The gale had shifted more to the north, the incoming
flood would be driven towards the headland; and although the storm
still raged with unabated fury, it had grown a little lighter. The
first comers had no need now to point out the place to the new
arrivals; every one could see the whitewashed balcony on the other
side, and the dark women's figures--once there were two, then again
only one, who at first, said the first comers, had waved her
handkerchief constantly, but now sat crouched in a corner, as if she
had given up all hope, and was resignedly awaiting her fate.

And yet it seemed as if the work of deliverance must succeed. The
distance was so small; a strong man could throw a stone across. They
had even--foolishly--tried it, the best thrower amongst them had flung
a stone, fastened to the end of a thin cord; but the stone had not
flown ten feet, and with the cord had been blown away like gossamer.
And now a huge wave from the other side rolled through the park, broke
over the balcony, and, joining the stream, ran up to the top of the
bank. The women shrieked aloud, the men looked at each other with
grave, anxious faces.

"It won't do, boys!" said the Mayor; "long before we can get the raft
across, the thing over there will have given way. Another such wave,
and it must be knocked to pieces; I know it well, the pillars are not
six inches across, and worm-eaten besides."

"And if we got to the other side and ran against it we should go to
pieces and be upset ourselves," said Jochen Becker, the blacksmith.

"And there would be ten of us in the water instead of two," said Carl
Peters, the carpenter.

"There is no good talking like that," said the Mayor; "we can't let
them be drowned there before our very eyes. We'll take the raft thirty
yards higher up, and the men must go off at once; I'll go with it
myself. Haul away, my men. Ho! heave ho!"

A hundred hands were ready to drag the raft up stream. But thirty yards
were not enough, it would require twice as much. Half-a-dozen
courageous men had been found, too, to make the attempt; the Mayor
might stay behind; who else was to command those who held the ropes?
And that was the principal matter!

With long poles they steadied themselves on the raft. "Let go!" The
raft shot out like an arrow into the centre of the stream.

"Hurrah!" cried those on shore, thinking the object already attained,
fearing only that the raft would be carried into the park and driven
against the trees.

But suddenly they came to a standstill; not a foot farther would it go,
but danced about in midstream till the six men on board were forced to
throw themselves down and cling fast, then darted down like an arrow
against the near shore, to the spot where they had stood before. It
took all the strength of the fifty men there assembled to hold it in,
and it was only by the greatest exertion and with much apparent danger
that the six men got safely off the raft and up the steep bank.

"This won't do, boys!" said the Mayor. "I wish the Lieutenant would
come back; they are his relations. He drives us down here, and then
doesn't come himself."

The slight increase of light they had had, when the driving mist was
partly blown aside, had disappeared again. Hitherto the leaden sky and
dense storm-driven mist had made the evening seem like night; but now
the real night was drawing in. Only a very sharp eye could still
distinguish the black figure on the balcony, and even the balcony
itself was not visible to all. At the same time the gale decidedly
increased in violence, and had again veered from north-east to
south-east, while the water rose considerably in consequence of the
backward flow from Wissow Head. Now might have been a good opportunity,
as the velocity of the stream was thus diminished; but no one had the
heart to renew the hopeless effort. If there were no means of getting a
rope over to the other side and fastening it there, so that some men
might pass over the frail bridge to guide the raft over from that side,
there was no hope.

So thought the Mayor, and the rest agreed with him. But they had to
shout it into each other's ears; no word spoken in an ordinary tone
could have been heard through the fearful uproar.

Suddenly Ottomar stood amongst them. He had taken in the whole position
at a glance. "A rope here!" he cried, "and lights! The willows there!"

They understood him at once; the four old hollow willow-trunks close to
the edge! Let them be set on fire! It was true, if they could succeed
in doing it, there would be danger to the village; but no one thought
of that. They rushed to the nearest houses and dragged out armfuls of
fir-wood and pitch, and thrust it all into the hollow trunks, which
fortunately opened to westward. Two or three vain efforts--and then it
flamed up--blazing, crackling--sometimes flaming high, sometimes
sinking down again--throwing shifting lights upon the hundreds of pale
faces which were all turned with anxious gaze upon the man who, with
the rope round his body, was fighting with the stream.

Would he hold out?

More than one pair of rugged hands was clasped in prayer; women were on
their knees, sobbing, wailing, pressing their nails into their hands,
tearing their hair, shrieking aloud madly, as another fearful wave came
up and rolled over him, and he disappeared in the billows.

But there he was again; he had been thrown back nearly half the
distance which he had already won--in another minute he had recovered
it. He had been carried down some way, too; but he had chosen his point
of departure well, the summer-house was still far below him; he was
traversing the stream as if by a miracle.

And now he was in the middle, at the worst place; they had known it to
be that from the first. He did not seem to make any progress, but slid
slowly down stream. Still the summer-house was far below him; if he
could pass the centre, he might, he must succeed!

And now he was evidently gaining ground, nearer and nearer, foot by
foot, in an even, slanting line towards the balcony! Rough, surly men,
who had been at enmity all their lives, had grasped each other's hands:
women fell sobbing into one another's arms. A gentleman with close-cut
grey hair and thick grey moustache, who had just arrived, breathless,
from the village, stood close to the burning willows, almost touched by
the flames, and followed the swimmer with fixed gaze, and fervent
prayers and promises--that all, all should be forgiven and forgotten if
he might only receive him back--his beloved, heroic son. Suddenly he
gave a loud cry--a terrible cry--which the storm swallowed up, and
rushed down to the bank where the men stood who had hold of the rope,
calling to them to "Haul in, haul in!"

It was too late.

Shooting down the current came the great pine-tree, at the foot of
which the swimmer had sat half an hour ago, torn up by the storm,
hurled into the flood, whirled round by the eddying waters like some
monster risen from the deep, now showing its mighty roots still
grasping the stone, now lifting its head, now rising erect as it had
once stood in the sunshine, and the next moment crashing down over the
swimmer--upon him--then, with its head sunk in the foaming whirlpool
and the roots raised above, it went out from the realm of light down
into the dark night.

Strangely enough, the slender cord had not been broken, and they drew
him back--a dead man, at whose side, as he lay stretched on the bank,
with only one broad, gaping wound upon his forehead, like a soldier who
has met his death gallantly, the old man with the grey moustache knelt
and kissed the dead lips of the beautiful pale mouth, and then rose to
his feet.

"Give me the rope now! He was my son! And my daughter is there!"

It seemed insanity. They had seen how the young man had battled--but
the old one! He threw off coat and waistcoat. He might be an old
man--but he was still a strong man, with a broad powerful chest.

"If you feel that you can't keep up, General, give us a signal in good
time," said the Mayor.

And now there happened what, to the people who in this one hour had
seen such strange and terrible horrors, seemed a miracle. The blazing
willow-stumps, which were burning now from the roots to the stiff
branches, threw a light almost like day over the bank, the crowd, the
stream, and the summer-house opposite--far into the flooded park up to
the castle, whose windows here and there gave back a crimson reflection
of the flames.

And in this light, floating down the narrow stream, on whose grassy bed
the village children were wont to play, down the foaming current which
had just now whirled along the branching pine-tree, like a sea-monster
stretching out a hundred feelers for its prey, there came a slender
well-built boat, that had just landed a strange cargo at the back
entrance of the castle, as if at a quay. They had heard there how
matters stood, and the man sitting at the helm had said: "My men, she
is my betrothed!" And the six others, had shouted, "Hurrah for the
Captain! and hurrah for his betrothed!" And now they shot past with
lowered mast, and the crew holding their oars erect, as if they were
bringing the Admiral on shore in his own boat. And the flag fluttered
behind the man who sat at the helm, and with a light touch of his
strong hand guided the willing vessel through the eddying foam to the
goal which the clear keen eyes held fast, as the eagle his prey,
however wildly the brave heart might beat against his bosom.

So they shot past--past the crowd who gazed breathlessly at the
miracle, past the summer-house, but only a few yards. Then the man at
the helm turned the boat suddenly like an eagle in its flight; and
the six men took to their oars, at one stroke--and "Hurrah! hurrah!
hurrah!"--the oars were withdrawn again, and the boat lay alongside the
balcony, over which and over the boat an immense wave reared its
foaming crest towards the bank, and there breaking threw its spray up
into the burning trees, covering the breathless lookers-on with a cloud
of moisture.

And as the cloud dispersed, they saw in the dim light of the decaying
fire that the summer-house was gone, and there was only left a shadowy
boat that vanished into the darkness.

They drew a long breath then, as if from a single oppressed spirit
relieved from a weight of fear. And "Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!" resounded
as if from a single throat, rising above even the howling storm.

The boat might disappear in the darkness, but they knew that the man
sitting at the helm knew what he was about, and the six men who were
with him knew what they were about; and it would return in safety,
carrying the rescued from storm and flood.



                              CHAPTER XV.


The setting sun no longer stood high above the hills. In the magic glow
were shining the calm pools of water which covered the immense
semicircle between the Golmberg and Wissow Head. The slanting golden
rays shone dazzlingly in Reinhold's eyes, as he steered his boat from
the lake into the broad gulf close by the White Dune, against whose
steep sides the long incoming waves were washing, while the boat glided
over its broad surface, and the blades of the oars as they rose and
sank in regular cadence almost touched the edge.

The eyes of the rowers were turned towards the dune as they glided by,
while the scene of deliverance on the night of the storm must have
recurred to every man's memory, but no one spoke a word. Not because it
would have been a breach of discipline. They knew that the Captain
would always allow talk that was to the purpose at the right time, even
when as to-day he was in full uniform, with the Iron Cross on his broad
breast; but he had pulled his cocked hat low down upon his forehead,
and if he occasionally raised his eyes to see the course he was
steering, they did not look gloomy--they had never seen him look gloomy
yet, any more than they had ever heard a bad word from his mouth--but
very grave and sad. They would not disturb the Captain's meditations.

Grave and sad meditations--graver and sadder than the honest fellows
could imagine or comprehend.

What to them were the two people whom they had rescued from death on
this sand-hill, with untold efforts and at the repeated risk of their
own lives; what were they to them but a couple more fellow-creatures,
saved as a matter of duty, and added to the others whom they had
already saved that day? As to how Count Golm and the young lady had got
there, and the relation in which they stood to each other--what did
they care about that? But he!

He had shuddered when he found the brilliant Carla von Wallbach, whom
he had seen a few days before flirting and coquetting in the light of
the chandeliers, in the drawing-room at Warnow--now cowering on the
storm-beaten dune, a picture of utter misery, her clothes soaked
through with wet, her tender limbs shaken by icy cold, half out of her
senses with terror, and hardly resembling a human creature; as he
carried her to the boat, and at the moment when he laid her down, she
woke from her stupor, and recognising him, shrieked wildly: "Save me
from him! Save me!" and clung terrified to him--a stranger--as a child
might cling to his mother, so that he had to use force to free himself!

The Count was in a hardly less pitiable condition, when two of the men
carried him into the boat and laid him down near Carla; but then he
suddenly started up, and at the risk of falling overboard staggered to
the bow of the boat, and there sat lost in gloomy meditation, taking no
notice of anything that passed, till they had worked their way to the
Pölitz's farm, and prepared to take the poor wretches there into the
boat through the window of the attic in which they had taken refuge.
Then he had sprung to his feet, and shrieked like a madman that he
would not be packed in together with those people! he would not! and
had laid violent hands on the men, till he was cowed by the threat that
they would tie his hands if he did not implicitly obey the Captain's
orders; and then, covering his face with his hands, he had devoured his
wrath in silence.

There was the attic, there was the window opening--they had been
obliged to tear out the window and knock down a bit of the wall to make
room. It seemed to Reinhold himself almost a miracle that he had been
successful, that he had been able to save the poor creatures from this
abyss of misery, and carry the most fragile human blossom through night
and storm and darkness to the safe harbour of the castle where all
danger was over.

The passage from the submerged farm to the castle had only lasted a few
minutes--the gale had driven the boat before it like a feather--but
this was the only time when even his heart had trembled, not with fear,
but with tender care. His eyes grew wet as he recalled the memory now
of the mother as she lay in the boat, her little one in her bosom, her
head on her husband's knee, while poor Marie, full of compassion,
supported in her arms the senseless Carla. What would the wretched man
in the bow of the boat have thought of this sight if he ever raised his
eyes? When they laid the boat alongside the back entrance of the
castle, he sprang out and rushed away in furious haste, to hide himself
anywhere in the darkness--like Cain fleeing from the body of his
murdered brother.

And sadder and sadder grew Reinhold's thoughts. He had succeeded even
in his highest hopes--he had rescued his beloved from certain death,
and with her the unhappy woman who loved them both as if they had been
her children, and whom they both loved and honoured as a mother. So far
was all the deepest happiness; and yet! and yet!

How dearly had that happiness been bought! Could it be happiness that
cost so high a price? Was there still left any happiness on earth, when
sorrow in pitiless shape lay so close at hand--even as the purple
shadows yonder between the battlements and projections of the castle
lay close against the patches of sunlight? Did not the most apparently
firm ground quake, just as the waves here were dancing over the field
where the countryman used to drive his plough, over the meadow where
the shepherd had tended his flock? Must they needs die--so young, so
beautiful, so richly dowered with the noblest gifts and qualities? And
if they must die, since they could no longer--would no longer live,
since death was to them only a deliverance from inextricable
entanglements--what a doubtful good seemed life which brought with it
even the possibility of so terrible a fate! How could the two fathers
bear it? Nobly, no doubt. And yet! and yet!

They rowed round the castle and the park, and drew near the shore at
the spot where the willows had been burnt that night, and where the
blackened stumps still rose above the bank. Several large and small
boats lay there already from Ahlbeck, and even from villages farther
distant along the coast. From all parts--from miles around--they had
come, for everywhere for miles around had the story been repeated from
mouth to mouth, with many variations, yet always the same--the touching
story of the youth who loved a maiden; of how the two had fled from
home, but could find no happiness or peace; and now both were dead, and
were to be buried to-day.

Reinhold turned his steps from the shore to the village. The President
had written to him that he should be at Warnow at the appointed time,
and wished to speak to him before he met the family. He knew the worthy
man's punctuality; and, indeed, he had hardly reached the open space in
front of the inn, where a whole army of vehicles was already assembled,
before a carriage drove up, from which the President alighted, and the
moment he saw him came towards him with extended hand.

An expression of almost fatherly goodwill lay in his silent greeting;
for the good man was too much moved to be able to speak at once, until,
after walking a few steps side by side, he began, with a melancholy
smile:

"Prophets both of us! Yes, my dear young friend; and what would we not
give to have been found false prophets, and that our storm-floods had
never come! But here they are, however. Yours, thank God, has quickly
exhausted its fury; mine--God help us!--must rage for a long time yet.
I wish such another valiant St. George might arise there too, to fight
the dragon so boldly and save the poor victims! I am proud of you, my
dear friend; there can be few people who rejoice so heartily in the
gallant deeds which, by God's good help, you have performed. To have
saved so many human lives--even if your betrothed had not been of the
number--how happy you must be! It will not add to your happiness--I
mean it will not increase the joy with which your heart must be
full--but it is right and proper that such good service should meet
with its proper recognition in the eyes of the world. Neither has your
former conduct, which roused so much ill-feeling at the time, been
forgotten. Had your advice been followed, the unfortunate harbour works
at least would never have been begun, and millions and millions would
have been spared to our poor country, to say nothing of the damage
done. The Minister thinks that such heads should not be left idle; he
has telegraphed to me, in answer to my brief report of the events here,
desiring me to offer you, in his Majesty's name, the medal and ribbon
of the Order of Merit given for saving life, and to ask you, in his own
name, whether you are disposed to enter his office in any capacity--as
Naval Councillor, I imagine; but of that you would hear from himself
personally; or possibly in the Admiralty Office--the two gentlemen seem
inclined to dispute over you. I think I know your answer--you would
like to remain here for the present--and I should most reluctantly lose
you just now. But keep yourself disengaged for the future; you owe it
to the public good and to yourself. Am I not right?"

"Perfectly so," said Reinhold; "it is my warmest wish and firm resolve
to serve my king and country, by land or water, wherever or however I
can. Any summons that comes to me will always find me ready; although,
indeed, I do not deny that I should most reluctantly leave this place."

"I can believe that," said the President. "A man like you puts his
whole soul into everything, and is absorbed by his duties, be they
small or great; and you have proved that great things can be done in
comparatively insignificant positions. But the matter has its social
side too, which it would be false heroism to overlook. The thorough
appreciation of your services in the highest places will be gratifying
to your poor father-in-law, and he would feel himself, besides,
terribly lonely in Berlin without his daughter near him."

"How kind you are!" said Reinhold, much touched. "How you have thought
of everything!"

"Have I not!" said the President, responding warmly to the pressure of
Reinhold's hand. "It is wonderful! But I have the honour of being a
friend of the family; you yourself acknowledged me in that capacity,
when, at the same time with the official report of the events of the
flood, you sent me a private account of what had concerned yourself and
the family to which you now belong. I feel myself honoured by your
confidence; I need not say that it will all remain buried in heart. But
you did right; in such complicated affairs it is better not to trust to
oneself, but to make use of the experience and judgment of one's
friends. And who could be better placed than I to give advice and
assistance in this case? I have thought over everything already, and
settled a good deal in my own mind, and have even taken some
preliminary steps, which have met with the readiest concurrence on all
sides. We will speak of this more at length when you come to see me at
Sundin, which you must do shortly. For to-day, as I must return
immediately after the funeral, I will only say this: I am certain that
the estates of your aunt the Baroness may be saved, as both Golm and
the Company are bankrupt, and must be satisfied with any reasonable
conditions. I shall not offer them favourable ones, you may be sure!
These men, who have brought such untold misery upon thousands, deserve
no mercy! Even so there will remain only the ruins of a magnificent
property, for the principal part is lost for ever, I fear, with that
terrible man Giraldi. Or do you not think so?"

"Indeed I do," said Reinhold. "I supposed so from the first; and the
account given by the man who drove him, and whom I afterwards
thoroughly questioned and examined, confirmed my supposition. The
influx of the tide between Wissow Head and Faschwitz was so frightfully
violent that the waters that first entered the so-formed gulf must have
been emptied out by the succeeding waves as out of a basin, with
everything that was floating in it. The water thus forced out would
join the immense stream running westwards into the open sea between the
mainland and the island, and if the corpse should ever, weeks hence,
perhaps months hence, be carried to some distant shore----"

"It is a pity, a great pity," said the President; "such a magnificent
property! According to my calculations, and the expressions used by
that dreadful man in his last interview with the Baroness, not less
than a million. How much good might have been done with it! And in your
hands, too. But then it would be a terrible thing to come into such an
inheritance. And the Baroness, too; are the dreadful details known to
her?"

"She knows that Antonio was the murderer of my poor cousin; and she
knows also that the two Italians met in their flight, and were drowned
together. I hope the unutterable horror that the man's account reveals
to us will remain for ever hidden from her."

"She does not believe in the son?"

"Not in the least! It is as if God in His mercy had blinded her usually
quick eyes on this point. She takes the whole thing for an invention
and sheer lie of Giraldi's. You may suppose that we strengthen her in
this idea, and thank the fates on this ground at least for the darkness
that has swallowed up what never ought to see the light of day."

"True, true!" said the President; "that is a comfort, certainly. The
unhappy lady has suffered enough already. The fates have not been so
merciful to your poor uncle. It is terrible to lose such a daughter--so
beautiful and gifted--in such a way; but for a man such as your uncle
from all I hear must be, so high-minded and upright, to be haunted by
the vision of a son who is pursued whichever way he turns by warrants
and detectives; for such sorrow as that I think no greatness of mind,
no philosophy can be of any use; it is utterly horrible, without the
least hope of consolation. Such grief cannot be alleviated by even
time, which cures most troubles; death alone can bring relief; but the
man will not let himself die."

"I do not know," said Reinhold; "he is one of a family who do not fear
death. However differently in some points the poor man may see life, I
can easily imagine that even to him the question may present itself in
a form which he understands, and that he may then not hesitate for a
moment in his decision."

The faintest glimmer of a sarcastic smile played round the President's
delicately-cut lips; he was about to say, with some courteous
periphrases, that he quite understood family pride, even when as in
this case it clearly overshot the mark; but a loud shout from a rough
voice close by them left him no time. The shouter was Herr von
Strummin, who with Justus came so quickly down the lane which led from
the High Street of the village to the parsonage, that Reinhold, who had
already received notice of his friend's arrival early that morning, had
no time to explain to the President the connection between the two men.
However, before Herr von Strummin had offered his hand to the
President, he called out:

"Allow me the honour, President, to introduce my son-in-law--Herr
Justus Anders--celebrated sculptor! Gold medallist, President! Came
this morning from Berlin with my daughter, in company with your aunt,
Captain Schmidt. Has already by desire of the Baroness taken the
arrangements into his hands, cleared out the whole of the big
ground-floor saloon; looks like the church at Strummin. Yes, my dear
President, an artist you know; we must all give way to him. And now,
only think, President, the clergyman cannot, or rather will not, say
the last words over the grave! declines doing so at the last moment!
We--my son-in-law and I--have just come from him; he would not receive
us--can't speak to anybody--can't speak at all! Conveniently hoarse!
The parsonage of Golm, which the Count has promised him, sticks in his
throat, I dare say! And it is a good mouthful--three thousand thalers a
year, without the perquisites. But I should think the authorities would
refuse their sanction; the toad-eating, hypocritical----"

"But, my dear Herr von Strummin!" said the President, looking round
nervously.

"It is true enough!" cried Herr von Strummin; "the Count has forbidden
him; the Count and he are always laying their heads together. My
son-in-law----"

The two friends could not hear what Herr von Strummin, who at last, at
the President's repeated request, moderated his loud voice, brought
forward in further support of his views. They had dropped behind a
little way, to clasp each other's hands again and again with tears in
their eyes.

"Yesterday at the same hour we buried Cilli," said Justus.
"Ferdinanda's Pietà, which I will finish, is to adorn her grave, and to
make known to the world what a treasure of goodness, and love, and
mercy lies buried there; and I will erect a monument to the two here. I
told Meta my idea for doing it on the way here; she says it will be
splendid; but how gladly would I really break stones for the rest of my
life, as my father-in-law used to say of me, if I could awake to life
again the good, the beautiful, the brave.--Your naval uniform is
wonderfully becoming, Reinhold! I ought to have taken your portrait so;
we must repeat it some day; the large gold epaulettes are splendid for
modelling. And that parson won't read the funeral oration because the
General and Uncle Ernst have determined that the two shall rest in one
grave! He implored the General to alter the arrangement; they had not
even been publicly betrothed! only think! But the General stood firm,
and has asked your uncle to say a few words. Even that the parson won't
have; but the two old gentlemen will not give in; they hold together
like brothers. A telegram came just now for your uncle; I was with him
when he opened it, and saw how he started; I am certain it has
something to do with that unfortunate Philip, he has been arrested
probably. It is terrible that your uncle must have that to bear too, on
such a day as this; but he has said nothing to any one excepting the
General. I saw them go aside together, and he showed him the telegram,
and then they talked together for some time, and at last shook hands.
Uncle Ernst, who had vowed that the hand which pressed the General's
should wither! And to-day he has asked me half-a-dozen times if I
believe that Ottomar's brother officers, who are expected, will really
come--we have made the funeral so late on their account--it would be
too sad for the General if they stayed away! As if he had no sorrows
himself! He is really heroic! But your Elsa is admirable too. She
loved, her brother dearly, but how quietly she moves and speaks now,
and arranges everything, and has a willing ear and a kindly word for
every one. 'I could not do that, you know,' says Meta; 'there is only
one Elsa, you know.' Of course I know it! But there is only one Meta
too; don't you think so?"

"My dear son-in-law!" cried Herr von Strummin, looking back.

"He has called me that at least a hundred times already to-day!" said
Justus with a sigh, as he hastened on, lengthening his short steps.

They had reached the upper end of the deep narrow cutting, and saw the
castle now immediately in front of them. It was a strange sight to the
President, who had formerly known the place well, and whom Reinhold now
led a few steps forward to the precipitous edge of the bank. For the
stream had so washed and torn away the soil that here and there the
bank positively overhung, and Reinhold could no longer find and show to
the President the spot where the pine-tree had stood, whose fall had
been fatal to Ottomar. Below them, between the steep bank and the
castle, the stream still ran, no longer with the foaming waves and
roaring whirlpools of that night of terror, but in calm transparent
ripples, which met and joined together to form fresh ripples that
plashed against the keels of the five large boats on which had been
laid the temporary bridge that connected the head of the gorge with the
old stone gateway of the castle yard. The battlements of the gateway
and the great shield above, bearing the Warnow arms, shone in the
evening light, as did the round tower of the castle and the higher
roofs and gables, down to the sharply-cut line of the blue shadow
thrown by the hillside over the receding portion of the building. And
farther on to the right shone the tops of the trees in the flooded
park, and beyond castle and park the still water which filled the whole
immense bay, and seemed to flow without interruption towards the open
sea. Under the brilliant slanting rays of the sun, the few points of
the dunes still above water vanished even from Reinhold's sharp eyes;
he could hardly distinguish the roofs of the Pölitz's farm, and here
and there on the wide expanse the branches of a willow which formerly
stood by the side of a ditch.

The President stood lost in thought; he seemed to have forgotten even
Reinhold's presence.

"The day will come," Reinhold heard him murmur.

They crossed the bridge of boats, with the water gurgling and splashing
against the sharp keels; through the wide gateway sounded a subdued hum
of voices.

Now for the first time as they passed through the gate, they saw why
the village had looked deserted. The immense courtyard was filled,
particularly at the end nearest to the castle, with a crowd of nearly a
thousand people, standing about in large groups, who as they
respectfully made way for the gentlemen advancing to the door, took
note of them curiously, and made whispered remarks upon them behind
their backs. "The one next to the Captain was the President!" said
those who knew him, and they were the majority, to the others. "If the
President, who was the principal person in the whole province, and such
a good gentleman too, who was sure to act for the best, had come here
and was going to be present at the funeral, why then the parson could
not possibly stay at home. And if the parson had known that the
President would be here, he would never have been ill. He wouldn't get
the parsonage at Golm for a long time yet, and if the Count liked to
make him his domestic chaplain, why he might please himself; but
whether the Count and his chaplain would be any richer than the mice in
the chapel at Golm was another question. And if the Count meant to play
the master here, they would soon put him out of conceit with that; but
Herr Damberg said there was no chance of that; he might think himself
fortunate if he came off with his life, and at any rate his property
would be sequestrated!"

The four gentlemen had entered the castle. A more numerous and
brilliant group which now appeared on the bridge, attracted the
attention of the multitude. It was a party of officers in full uniform,
followed at a little distance by a larger number of non-commissioned
officers--belonging to Herr von Werben's regiment, said those who had
been in the army and who had seen Ottomar in his coffin. "And the
Colonel, who came first, he commanded his regiment too, and any one who
had served under him in France could see that he knew how to command,
by the look of his eyes and nose; and the Captain, who came next to
him, was one of the Staff who had been sent here by Field Marshal
Moltke himself; and the tall Lieutenant, also in the uniform of Herr
von Werben's regiment, was the young Herr von Wartenberg of the
Bolswitz Wartenbergs; and as for the old Bolswitz people, they had
arrived more than an hour ago in their carriage with three outriders
from their place ten miles off. And so how could a word be true of all
the nonsense talked about young Herr von Werben, that he had not been
taken to Berlin because he would not have had an honourable burial
there, and now here were people coming the whole way from Berlin to
assist at his funeral!"

Justus, who had readily undertaken the direction of the simple funeral
ceremonies, and who now saw the officers crossing the courtyard, waited
in the hall long enough to receive them, and to conduct them into the
room on the right hand where the company was assembled. Then he made a
sign to Reinhold to follow him, and led him through a door at the end
of the hall which he opened cautiously and immediately shut behind him.
"No one is allowed to enter now," said he. "What do you say to it,
Reinhold?"

The lofty and handsome room had its shutters closed, but was filled
with the soft light of innumerable wax candles in chandeliers and
branches on the walls, and in candelabra between masses of evergreen
plants and young fir-trees, which were beautifully arranged in a
semicircle opening towards the entrance to the room, and surrounding
the two coffins which stood on a high daïs, carpeted and covered with
flowers. The walls around were adorned with old armour which Justus had
rescued from the lumber-room, and fine casts from the antique, even
some originals collected by a former art-loving possessor of the
castle, and which he had brought together from the various rooms, and
also with bouquets of leafy plants and fir-trees, between which lights
were burning.

"Have not I made it splendid!" whispered Justus, "and all in these few
hours this morning! How they would both have liked it--he the armour,
and she the statues! But the most beautiful things here are themselves.
I must call the family now, Reinhold, before we close the coffins; do
you take your farewell now. You have not had so much opportunity yet as
the others."

Justus disappeared through a door which led to the inner apartments;
and Reinhold mounted the steps and stood between the coffins, in which
they slept the sleep that knows no waking.

Yes, they were beautiful! more beautiful than they had been in life.
Death seemed to have purified them from every earthly taint, that their
noble natures might show themselves in all their grandeur. How grand,
how fine was this maiden's face! how exquisitely sweet the youth's! And
as if in dying the union of their souls had been truly accomplished,
and each had lovingly given to the other what best adorned them in
life, on her lips that had been so proudly closed was a tender, happy,
humble smile, while from his delicate pure features death had wiped
away with the restless glance of the nervous eyes and the impatient
quiver of the delicate mouth, all that was imperfect and unfinished,
and left nothing but the expression of heroic determination with which
he had gone to his death, and to which a solemn seal was set by the
broad red scar on the white forehead. There was a slight rustle in the
leaves behind him; he turned and opened his arms to Elsa. She leant
against him weeping: "Only for a moment," she whispered, "that I may
feel your dear heart beat, and know that I have you living still, my
comfort, my help!" She raised herself again. "Farewell, farewell! For
the last time, farewell, my dear, dear brother! Farewell, my beautiful,
proud sister, whom I should have loved so dearly!"

She kissed them both on their pale lips; then Reinhold took her in his
arms and led her down from the side of the daïs, where he saw Justus
and Meta standing hand in hand a little way off between the shrubs,
while from the back appeared upon the daïs the General, Valerie, and
Sidonie, Uncle Ernst and Aunt Rikchen, to take leave of the dead. It
was a solemn yet exciting moment, the details of which Reinhold's
tear-filled eyes could not seize or retain, while to Justus's keen
artist's eye one touching and beautiful picture followed another--none
more touching or beautiful to him, who knew these people and their
circumstances so well, than the last which he saw: the General with
tender care almost carrying down the steps of the daïs the utterly
exhausted Valerie--she had only left her sick-room for this moment, and
had covered her head with a thick lace veil--while Uncle Ernst's
powerful figure, still standing above, bent down to good little Aunt
Rikchen, and he passed his strong large hand soothingly over her pale,
sorrowful, tear-stained cheek.

"Do you know," whispered Meta, "they are feeling now just what we did
when he stood by our sleeping angel, that they must love one another
very much now, you know."

Half an hour later the funeral procession moved from the gateway, from
whose battlements floated in the soft evening breeze on one side the
German flag, on the other a black flag, and passed over the bridge of
boats, up the gully, and from there turning to the right, entered the
gradually ascending road to the churchyard, which lay on the highest of
the hills that had now become the shore, a few hundred paces from the
village. It was a long, solemn procession.

First came village children, strewing with fir branches the sandy road
before the coffins, the one adorned with palms, in which lay hidden the
virgin form of the beautiful and heroic maiden, carried by sturdy
pilots and fishermen from Wissow, who insisted upon bearing their
Captain's cousin to her last resting-place; and the other with the
warlike emblems of the man for whom she had died, and whom a merciful
fate had permitted to die the death of a brave man, worthy of the
decorations he had won in presence of the enemy, and which the sergeant
of his troop carried behind him on a silk cushion, worthy that the
gallant soldiers who had known him in his brightest days, whose
shoulders his kindly hand had so often rested on in the heat of battle,
by the blazing camp-fire, on the weary march, should carry him now on
his way to answer to the great roll-call.

Behind the coffins came the two fathers, then Reinhold leading his
Elsa, Justus with his Meta,--Sidonie and Aunt Rikchen had remained with
Valerie,--the President and Colonel von Bohl, Schönau and the brilliant
company of other officers, the neighbouring gentry with their wives,
Herr and Frau von Strummin, the Wartenbergs, the Griebens, the
Boltenhagens and Warnekows, and all the rest of the descendants of the
old, long-established families; the innumerable following of landsmen
and sailors, the gigantic form of the worthy Pölitz, and the stalwart
figure of the head pilot, Bonsak, at their head.

A long, solemn, silent procession, accompanied step by step by the
monotonous sound of the tide washing against the steep banks, and now
and then the shrill cry of a gull, as skimming over the dazzling water,
it seemed curiously to watch the strange sight, or a whispered word
from some man to his neighbour, that even those nearest before or
behind could not hear.

Such was the word that the General spoke to Uncle Ernst, as the head of
the procession reached the graveyard, "Do you feel strong enough?" and
that which Uncle Ernst answered, "Now for the first time I feel myself
strong again."

But even Reinhold and Elsa, who walked behind them, would not have
understood it if they had heard. Uncle Ernst had not shown to any one
yet, excepting the General, the telegram of which Justus had spoken,
the fateful message, in the dry hard style of a police official.

"Philip Schmidt, on the point of embarking to-night on board steamer
'Hansa,' from Bremerhaven to Chili, recognised, and shot himself with a
revolver in his cabin; misappropriated money recovered untouched; will
be buried to-morrow evening at six o'clock."

Under the broad hand which he had thrust into his overcoat lay the
paper, and against it beat his mighty heart, beat in truth stronger and
with revived pride, now that he might say to himself that his unhappy
son was not at least one of the cowards who prized life above all
things; that even for him there had been a measure of infamy which
could not be over-passed, since at that moment he had spilt the cup of
life--a draught too insipid and miserable for even his dishonoured
lips.

The coffins had been let down into their common grave. At the head of
the grave stood Uncle Ernst bareheaded, and bareheaded stood the crowd
in a wide semicircle around him.

Bareheaded, silent, looking up to the stately man whose figure stood
out giant-like from the hill-side in the rosy evening light.

And now he lifted his great eyes, which seemed to embrace the whole
assembly in one glance, and now he raised his deep voice, whose
bell-like tones carried every word distinctly to the extreme edge of
the circle:

"My friends all! I may call you so, for in the presence of a great
sorrow all men are friends, and in this lies the healing and saving
power of a tragic fate, and also its necessity. As my shadow falls here
upon you, so does every one stand between other men and the sun of
fortune, and each envies the other his portion, which should, he
thinks, belong to him; and he forgets that it is only an outward show
that he so eagerly desires, a glittering show without warmth, and that
the warmth which he should indeed desire dwells in the heart of every
man, and is that alone which makes life worth having, or even possible.
Woe to us poor human creatures, that we forget this for long, loveless
years, forget the sublime words that love is above all, and drown the
pleadings of the heart that longs for love with the hollow tinkle of
our meagre knowledge and our paltry wisdom! Woe to the individual, and
woe to the nation!

"Woe to the nation that forgets it, and exists for generations and
centuries in crass selfishness and blind hatred, till the hereditary
foe breaks into its fields, and, waking the people from their dull
dreams, reminds them at length that they are brothers; and as brothers
they stand by one another, as we have done on innumerable battle-fields
in the most glorious and most righteous of all wars, only on returning
home to begin anew the struggle over mine and thine--the wild,
desolating struggle of self-advancement, that feels no shame and knows
no mercy, desires no peace and gives no pardon, and respects no right
but that of the victor, who scornfully tramples the conquered under
foot. Oh, my friends! we have experienced this! These last years will
remain noted as the most shameful, following immediately upon the most
glorious in our history--a melancholy memorial and sign how low a great
nation can sink.

"But our great German nation cannot, will not sink deeper.

"Let us, my friends, take this fearful storm with its desolating
horrors, which have now exhausted themselves and upon which this
sublime peace has come down from heaven, as a token that the storm
which is now raging through German society will sweep away the
poisonous vapours of self-love, and make the glorious German sun shine
brighter than before; that the barren waters which now cover so many
acres of young green grass will pass away, and offer a new land for
fresh honest labour and honest golden fruits.

"May this hope and this assurance soften the grief for the beloved dead
whom we now commit to the sacred bosom of the earth--this hope, this
assurance, and the certainty that they have not died in vain; that they
were blossoms struck down by the storm to warn the gardener that he
must tend and cherish the noble tree more carefully.

"The call comes thus to us the elders and old men. As they died gladly
and joyfully, without asking whether they might not still live,
hastening to death as to a feast, so must we live without asking
whether we had not rather die.

"The call comes thus to you who are younger, to you all the louder and
more urgently, the longer the road stretches before you, the more
powerful are the obstacles that rise in your path.

"Oh! thou bright star of day, whose last ray now shines upon us, and
thou holy sea, and thou reviving earth, I take you all to witness the
vow which we make at the grave of these too early dead: to renounce
from this hour all littleness and meanness, to live henceforth in the
light of truth, to love each other with the whole strength of our
hearts! May the God of truth and love overrule all to the honour of
man, and the glory of the German name!"

The voice of the speaker died away, but the echo of his words
reverberated in the hearts of the hearers as they pressed silently
round to offer the last honours to the dead, bathed in the reflection
of the rosy glow which the sun, now set, threw up to the sky, and which
the sky lovingly returned to the earth.



                               FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: No translation can give the full effect of the play upon
the word "Schmidt;" _Anglicè_, Smith.--_Translator's Note_.]



                                THE END.



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more solid matter, that if there were no stories at all there is enough
to interest the reader."--_English Independent_.

Besides many others, the following Serial Stories have appeared in the
pages of Temple Bar:--

    THE NEW MAGDALEN, by Wilkie Collins;
    RED AS A ROSE, by Miss Broughton;
    LADY ADELAIDE'S OATH, by Mrs. Henry Wood;
    LEAH: A WOMAN OF FASHION, by Mrs. Edwardes;
    UNCLE JOHN, by Whyte Melville;
    AURORA FLOYD, by Miss Braddon;
    OUGHT WE TO VISIT HER? by Mrs. Edwardes;
    THE FROZEN DEEP, by Wilkie Collins;
    PATRICIA KEMBALL, by Mrs. Lynn Linton;
    GOOD-BYE, SWEETHEART! by Miss Broughton;
    A VAGABOND HEROINE, by Mrs. Edwardes;
    JOHN MARCHMONT'S LEGACY, by Miss Braddon;
    THE POISON OF ASPS, by Mrs. Ross Church;
    THE WOOING O'T, by Mrs. Alexander;
    THE TWO DESTINIES, by Wilkie Collins;
    THE AMERICAN SENATOR, by Anthony Trollope;
    A RACE FOR A WIFE, by Hawley Smart;
    ARCHIE LOVELL, by Mrs. Edwardes;

               And many other Novels by eminent writers.



                           A NEW SERIAL STORY

                                ENTITLED

                             "CHERRY RIPE,"

                                   BY

                            MISS HELEN B. MATHERS

                 (Authoress of "Comin' thro' the Rye")

                          IS NOW APPEARING IN

                       _The Temple Bar Magazine_.



               RICHARD BENTLEY & SON, New Burlington St.

           _Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen_.





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