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Title: Castle Hohenwald - A Romance
Author: Streckfuss, Adolph, 1823-1895
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Castle Hohenwald - A Romance" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:
   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/3429917

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



                            CASTLE HOHENWALD


                               A ROMANCE


                            AFTER THE GERMAN
                                   OF
                           ADOLPH STRECKFUSS
                       AUTHOR OF "TOO RICH," ETC.



                          BY MRS. A. L. WISTER
    TRANSLATOR OF "THE OLD MAM'SELLE'S SECRET," "THE SECOND WIFE,"
             "TOO RICH," "MARGARETHE," "ONLY A GIRL," ETC.



                              PHILADELPHIA
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
                                  1906



                           *   *   *   *   *
               Copyright, 1879, by J. B. Lippincott & Co.
                           *   *   *   *   *
                   Copyright, 1906, by A. L. Wister.



                           CASTLE HOHENWALD.



                               CHAPTER I.


The music ceased. The gentlemen led their partners to their various
chaperones, and then crowded out upon the balcony to enjoy the cool
spring breeze, giving no attention to the remonstrances of their host,
the President, who, when he found how little heed was paid to his
warning against imprudence, turned away, declaring to his friend the
colonel that there really was nothing to be done with the heedless
young people of the present day. "They trifle with their health as if
their nerves were of iron and illness impossible," he added, a little
out of humour, perhaps, at the neglect of his advice.

"Why then, old friend, do you give a ball in April?" the colonel asked,
laughing.

"Could I help being born on the 20th of April? My son and daughter
insist upon my keeping up the old custom and celebrating the occasion
by a ball. This year it is perfect folly, but then no one could
foretell this early warm spring."

"Come, never trouble yourself about those young people; my officers
have often braved more sudden changes of temperature in the field
without being any the worse."

"But the Assessor? His constitution is none of the strongest."

"And suppose he does take cold; 'twill do him no harm. Come, come, let
the young people alone. We were once not a whit more prudent
ourselves."

And as he spoke the colonel took his old friend's arm and led him back
into the ball-room, while the young officers upon the balcony, who had
overheard all that had been said, laughingly grouped themselves about
the Assessor, rallying him upon the anxiety with regard to his health
manifested by the President.

"The President is right," said a black-bearded cuirassier, inclining
his tall figure towards the slightly-built Assessor. "You ought to take
care of yourself, my dear Assessor; the sensitive nature of which you
so often tell us can never endure what our coarser constitutions brave
with impunity. Put an end to the anxiety of your future father-in-law
and leave the balcony, I beseech you."

"Herr von Saldern, I beg----"

"Do not make the fair Adèle a widow before she is a wife," chimed in
another officer.

"Herr von Arnim, such remarks are very much out of place. It is true
that I am peacefully disposed. I make no boast of it, for the gifts of
nature----"

"Are variously distributed," Herr von Arnim interrupted the Assessor by
completing his sentence. "Do we not frequently hear from your own lips
how lavishly mother nature has endowed you, denying you the gift of a
robust constitution alone? Spare your precious health,--preserve
yourself for the fair Adèle, and for us, your tenderly attached
friends; follow the kind President's advice."

The Assessor gazed helplessly at the laughing faces about him; he was
the only civilian among these reckless young fellows, and he knew that
any serious remonstrance would but provoke anew Arnim's love of chaff.
The more prudent part was to laugh too and yield the field. This he
did, leaving the balcony and re-entering the ball-room.

To his astonishment he here recognized an acquaintance whom he had not
met for a long time, and he hastened across the room to greet him,
doubly pleased, since, if Arnim should chance to rally him upon his
flight, he could now declare that he had left the balcony to welcome
the arrival of Count Styrum.

The Count, a man of about the age of thirty years, was standing in the
background of the ball-room, in the doorway of one of the antechambers,
thoughtfully contemplating the brilliant scene. The élite of the large
provincial town was assembled in the President's rooms to-night, men
high in office, with their wives and daughters, the officers of the
garrison, and the most aristocratic of the county gentry.

The President enjoyed giving splendid entertainments, and his wealth
and position entirely justified him in gratifying his taste in this
direction. The hospitalities of his house were quite famous,--his balls
had been mentioned with favour by royalty itself,--had not the Prince,
upon a visit to the town, accepted an invitation to one of these
birthday fêtes, and declared afterwards that he had never attended a
more brilliant entertainment or seen a more charming collection of
lovely women?

Count Styrum, too, thought that he had rarely seen so many lovely faces
assembled in one room, and he gazed with delight at the charming groups
laughing and jesting on all sides, wondering while he gazed whom he
should pronounce fairest among so many that were fair. His doubt on
this head vanished, however, as his eye fell upon a young girl seated
upon a low divan near him.

He was quite lost for a moment in admiration of her beauty; the
features might, it is true, have been more regular, but the face was
indescribably lovely and attractive. The slightly pouting lips could
surely smile charmingly, although now there were pensive lines about
the mouth which accorded well with the melancholy expression of the
large and eloquent brown eyes.

The Count felt an immediate and lively interest in this lovely girl; he
had never seen her before, and yet he longed to know why she, the
fairest among this gay throng, should look so sad and take apparently
so little interest in what was going on around her.

She could hardly number twenty years; could she be preyed upon by any
secret grief? What was she thinking of at this moment? Scarcely of the
whispered words of the man on the low seat beside her, for she never
looked at him, and even turned away from him with a gesture betokening
that his conversation was anything but agreeable to her.

"I see I am right! It is really yourself, my dear Count. I thought you
were in Rome or Naples, and am most heartily delighted to welcome you
here!"

It was thus that the Assessor addressed the Count, who, in
contemplation of the beautiful girl on the divan, had not noticed his
approach. Now, however, he held out his hand, saying, not unkindly, and
with a smile, "You here in the provinces, my dear Hahn? I had not
expected to meet the lion of the metropolis here; how does it happen?"

The Assessor, greatly flattered by the question, conceitedly twirled
his light moustache and tried to look as much as possible like a
flaxen-haired lion of the metropolis; not very successfully, however.
His face would look boyish in spite of the moustache, and his head
barely reached to his distinguished friend's shoulder, as he replied,
"I have been here two years. Just after your departure, when I had
passed my third examination, I was appointed to the post of assessor
here. It is true that we forego much in the provinces, where however
the heart finds truer contentment than amid the whirl of the capital,
and therefore I am abundantly satisfied with my present life, which,
unfortunately, I must shortly resign, for I am ordered to Altstadt. It
is difficult to tear one's self away from loved surroundings and
companionship. I am endowed with more than my share of sensibility, I
know; not that I would make a boast of it, for it is mine from the hand
of nature, and her gifts are variously bestowed."

A smile hovered upon the Count's lips as he replied, "I am glad to find
you unchanged, my dear Hahn. Of course you are entirely at home in this
society, where I am a total stranger. Not a soul in the room do I know
except my uncle Guntram and my cousins Adèle and Heinrich. You will
tell me who all these delightful people are."

"With pleasure. I know all your uncle's guests. You know the poetry of
my nature. I make no boast; nature's gifts are various, but as a poet
nothing interests me more than the study of human feeling and
aspiration. You have applied to the right quarter for information with
regard to the character and circumstances of all these people."

"I am sure of it. I have always admired your obliging amiability no
less than your profound study of character."

"You do me honour. I am obliging by nature, but I make no boast of it.
Question me; I am quite at your service."

"To put you instantly to the test, tell me who is the charming girl
dressed simply but elegantly in white, there, on the divan to my left,
with brown hair and the wreath of snow-drops; the beautiful creature
who evidently cares not one whit for all that the fellow with the black
beard, leaning over her, is pouring so eagerly into her ear."

The Assessor listened with a smile to this enthusiastic description.
"Evidently hit, my dear Count," he said.

"Not at all; but the melancholy on that charming face interests me
excessively."

"Poor Frau von Sorr! She may well be melancholy."

"Frau? Impossible! You do not know whom I mean."

"Ah! yes I do. No one could fail to know from your description, and it
is not to be wondered at that you take Frau von Sorr for a young
girl: it is the same with every one who first sees her. She is just
twenty-two and looks much younger."

"And the man talking to her is, I suppose, her husband."

"Not at all. That is Count Repuin, an enormously wealthy Russian, a
bosom-friend of Herr von Sorr, and a gambler and spendthrift, who
throws away his money by thousands. They say Herr von Sorr knows how to
pick it up, and that is the secret of the friendship between them, and
also why Sorr allows Repuin to pay such court to his wife."

"And does she encourage it?" Count Styrum asked. "How deceived one may
be by a face! I thought hers so innocent and refined in expression."

"And the expression does not belie her," the Assessor rejoined. "Herr
von Sorr is a despicable fellow enough, and bears the worst possible
reputation; but scandal itself could not touch his charming wife. It is
only on her account that he is endured in society in spite of his
notorious past and his more than doubtful present. Your uncle would
never have invited him here to-night except for the sake of his wife,
who is the dearest friend of Fräulein Adèle."

"But the Russian----"

"Is desperately in love with her. He throws away incredible sums upon
her worthless husband, while she sternly refuses to accept any of his
attentions. My observation is naturally very keen. I make no boast of
it, but it is; and I am convinced that at this moment that poor woman
is suffering agonies because, without exciting observation, and for the
sake of her good-for-nothing husband, she cannot repulse that fellow
indignantly."

The Assessor's words increased the interest with which the beautiful
Frau von Sorr had inspired the Count, and it was still further
heightened by a little scene that passed unobserved by any eyes in the
ball-room except his own and the Assessor's.

Frau von Sorr, who had hitherto endured, rather than heard, in perfect
silence what her neighbour was saying to her, never even varying by a
look the cold indifference of her bearing, suddenly turned upon him
eyes flashing with indignation. The delicate colour in her cheek
deepened to crimson, the beautiful lips unclosed as if to speak, when
suddenly second thoughts seemed to assert their sway, and rising, with
a look of inexpressible contempt at Repuin, she turned from him and
walked slowly across the ball-room to join a group of young girls
gathered about the daughter of the house, Adèle von Guntram.

"What does that mean, do you think?" Count Styrum asked the Assessor.

"It means that the fellow went too far, and she turned her back upon
him."

"Poor young creature! she interests me, and I must hear more of her;
pray tell me, my dear Hahn, what you know of her husband."

"Certainly. What I know everybody knows, and there can be no
indiscretion in relating it; for the world I would not be indiscreet.
In fact, I am discretion itself. I make no boast of it, but I am. Of
course I may tell you what all the world knows. Well, then, Herr von
Sorr is utterly worthless. In the last few years he has squandered his
own considerable property and his wife's fortune upon all sorts of
follies, and worse, in the capital. What he now lives upon no one
knows. All sorts of strange stories are told about that. They may not
all be true, of course, but there must be some foundation for them,
since Lieutenant von Arnim lately declared that he would not play when
Herr von Sorr kept the bank, and that he did not like to have him for
next neighbour when he kept it himself, for it was so disagreeable to
have to keep a sharp eye upon the pile of money before him."

"Rather strong, I should say."

"It was indeed; but no one expressed any surprise at Arnim's
declaration; indeed, I heard it whispered that one night when he sat
next Sorr at play a hundred-thaler note had unaccountably disappeared;
as I said, the man's character, or want of it, is such that were it not
for his lovely wife every respectable house in the town would be closed
against him."

"But how did the fellow come to have so lovely a wife?"

"Six years ago, when he married Fräulein Lucie Ahlborn, his reputation
was good; he was held to be a wealthy man of rank, and such he was,
although even then he had squandered a large part of his property. Herr
Ahlborn, his wife's father, was a rich manufacturer; he never thought
of saying 'no' when Sorr applied for his daughter's hand,--he was
probably flattered by the proposal,--and if he thought the young man
rather wild, supposed that marriage would cure all that. Fräulein
Ahlborn brought her husband a fine estate, which she had inherited from
her mother."

"Was she forced into the marriage by her father?"

"Not at all. I do not know that she was very devoted to her bridegroom,
but possibly she was, for he was a handsome enough young fellow,--his
wild life has told upon him now,--but then he might easily have
captivated the fancy of a girl of sixteen. This I grant, although I was
a student then, visiting very frequently at Herr Ahlborn's, and a
little in love with the fair Lucie myself, which did not prepossess me
in favour of my fortunate rival. Neither I nor any one else dreamed
that Sorr would ever sink so low as he has done. Everybody thought the
match an excellent one, and regretted that the charming couple withdrew
to the retirement of Frau von Sorr's estate to enjoy their conjugal
felicity. Their seclusion, however, did not last longer than a few
months. They then returned to town, where Sorr played like a madman,
kept a costly racing stud, and spent huge sums upon a notorious
ballet-girl, scandalously neglecting his poor wife, who, however, bore
her sad fate with divine patience. Fortune dealt her its heaviest
blows, for she lost her father, with whom she might have sought a
refuge from her husband. Herr Ahlborn was ruined by the bankruptcy of a
large business firm, and failed. There might have been some composition
with his creditors, but being a man of an even exaggerated sense of
honour, he gave up everything. Not one of his creditors lost a penny,
but he forfeited his entire fortune. His business friends offered him
money and credit wherewith to re-open his manufactory, but he could not
endure the thought of beginning life again in a place where he had
occupied so high a position. He became gloomy and misanthropic, even
refusing to accept assistance from his daughter, who would gladly have
given it to him. Taking with him but a small sum of money, the remnant
of his large fortune, he left the scene of his former activity,
ostensibly to sail for America. They say he never took leave of one of
his old friends, but went, without even bidding good-bye to his
daughter. This was more than four years ago, and nothing has since been
heard of him; he has never written to his daughter, and she does not
even know the name of the vessel in which he sailed from Germany.
Shortly before his departure he declared that he would either return as
a wealthy man or not at all. If he really went to America, which is
doubtful, he may not have been successful; perhaps he is dead,--no one
knows anything about him. His daughter mourned him deeply; but she soon
needed to mourn still more deeply for herself for her miserable
husband, after spending all his own fortune, did the same by hers,
mortgaging her estate until it had to be sold. Since that took place,
how he lives is a mystery. I have told you some of the current
explanations of it, and I am sure you must now find it very natural
that there should be an expression of melancholy upon Frau von Sorr's
lovely face."

The doors of the adjoining supper-room were here opened, and the
Assessor broke off his long narrative, saying, "Excuse me, my dear
Count, for leaving you, but duty calls. Your charming cousin, Fräulein
Adèle, has promised to allow me to take her to supper."

And bowing, he hurried towards the group of ladies, of which Adèle was
the centre. He need not have been in any haste, however, for she
herself, accompanied by Frau von Sorr, advanced to meet him, saying,
with an enchanting smile that transported the little man to the seventh
heaven, "I have a request to make of you, Herr von Hahn, and I am sure
you will grant it."

"Ask what you will, Fräulein Adèle. You cannot ask what I shall not be
proud to grant."

"I will not put your amiability to any severe test," she rejoined; "the
fulfilment of my request brings with it its own reward. Pray take my
dear Lucie, instead of myself, in to supper."

The Assessor was not altogether charmed, since he had engaged his fair
partner for supper a week previously; but he was too courteous to allow
a shade of disappointment to appear in his countenance, and his
momentary annoyance vanished when Adèle continued, "We must be
neighbours at supper, however; keep two places for me at your table,
and I will follow you with my cousin, Count Styrum, who, not knowing
the customs of our house, has, I fear, engaged no one to go with him to
supper."

The Assessor was made supremely happy by her words and manner. Never
had this charming creature, to whom for the time he was devoted heart
and soul, treated him with such a degree of amiable confidence. He knew
better than any one else how far he was from the attainment of his
hopes, and therefore the badinage of his military friends had for him a
peculiar sting; but now on a sudden his fair one's manner was such as
seemed to him to justify his aspirations.

It was the custom at the President's to have the supper-room arranged
with many small tables, accommodating each from four to eight persons,
at which the guests seated themselves in groups selected among
themselves beforehand. This obviated the necessity for caution lest the
rules of precedence should be infringed,--a very important
consideration in a provincial town,--and greatly promoted the ease and
comfort of the guests.

With his head proudly erect, the Assessor conducted Frau von Sorr into
the adjoining room, into which other couples were thronging. He soon
found an unoccupied table, and was looking round for Count Styrum and
Adèle, when Count Repuin approached, and, without according him any
salute or attention, addressed Frau von Sorr. "Surely, madame, you
cannot have forgotten that you promised me the honour of your society
at supper?"

The Count uttered these words in a tone almost of menace, scarcely
consistent with the rules of polite society. He was, as was evident
from his flashing eyes and his dark frown, controlling himself with
difficulty, and the Assessor was very much embarrassed. He was
perfectly conscious of the obligation laid upon him to assert his right
to escort to supper Frau von Sorr, whose hand still rested upon his
arm, but such assertion was by no means easy,--the Russian's gleaming
black eyes were so wrathful, and just at the moment the Assessor could
not but remember the man's reputation as an unerring pistol-shot, and
his great readiness to send a challenge.

Poor Herr von Hahn! He had a most uncomfortable sensation about the
throat, somewhat as if his cravat had been suddenly tightened. He
cleared it, but could scarcely utter a word; nevertheless something
must be ventured, else what would Fräulein Adèle, what would all his
acquaintances say? "Count Repuin, excuse me, but I have the honour of
being this lady's escort----"

Count Repuin looked down upon him with undisguised contempt as he
rather stammered than uttered these words, and then haughtily replied,
with a coldness that was almost insulting, "I did not address you, sir.
It was not of your mistake that I spoke, but of Frau von Sorr's. Of
course you will yield me the right I desire as soon as madame accords
it to me."

"Which I shall not do," Frau von Sorr interposed.

She had relinquished the support of the Assessor's arm, and stood tall
and stately before the Count, meeting his eye with calm resolve,
evidently ready to brave his anger.

Repuin's face flushed crimson,--he bit his lip, and said, with forced
calmness, "Have you forgotten, madame, that by your husband's
permission I this morning requested to be allowed to conduct you to
supper to-night, and that you consented to my request?"

"I have forgotten nothing. Count Repuin, not even the words you
addressed to me a few moments ago; let me beg you to leave me."

"I refuse to yield my right," the Count angrily retorted. "If you deny
me thus, I must appeal to Herr von Sorr to support my claim."

"I think not, Count Repuin. My friend Frau von Sorr is, I trust, secure
from all insult beneath my father's roof."

The words were Adèle von Guntram's. She had arrived, leaning upon Count
Styrum's arm, just in time to hear Repuin's angry threat, and now,
stepping to her friend's side, she turned to Count Repuin with a degree
of dignity and resolution that added much to the Assessor's already
great astonishment at such a manifestation on the part of so gentle and
amiable a girl, and said, "You have permitted yourself to be carried
away by your annoyance, Count, to the extent of addressing a lady in
terms inconsistent with our German ideas of courtesy. I must beg you to
apologise to my friend."

Count Repuin angrily compressed his lips, but he perfectly understood
that he had gone too far, and that upon this antagonist he had not
reckoned. If he would not entirely lose the game he was playing he must
control himself, and, difficult although it might be, comply with
Adèle's demand. He therefore smothered his rage, and, taking Adèle's
hand and kissing it with respectful humility, he said, "You shame me,
Fräulein von Guntram, yet I cannot but be grateful to you for recalling
me to a sense of the duty which, according not only to German ideas,
but also to those entertained in Russia and throughout the world, every
gentleman owes to a lady whom he has been so unfortunate as to offend.
I beg Frau von Sorr's pardon from my soul, and venture to hope for her
forgiveness, the more confidently as my irritation was the consequence
of my great disappointment at losing a pleasure which she will admit I
had some right to anticipate."

Frau von Sorr heeded his apology no more than his threat, but turned to
Adèle, who replied to his words and farewell bow by a cool and
dignified curtsey.

As soon as he was out of hearing the young girl gave a sigh of relief
"Thank Heaven, he is gone! He actually terrifies me, and I had to
muster up all my courage to become my poor Lucie's defender. The man is
indescribably odious,--Russian from head to foot,--rough, coarse, and
brutally passionate one moment, courteous, smooth, and smiling the
next, but always false and untrustworthy. However, he has gone, and we
will not spoil our pleasure by thinking of him an instant longer.
Cousin Karl, let me present you to my dearest friend, Frau von Sorr. My
cousin, Count Karl Styrum, Lucie dear; and now let us enjoy our supper
together."



                              CHAPTER II.


Count Karl Styrum had never been very fond of large entertainment, and
had accepted his uncle the President's invitation on this evening only
because he did not wish to be rude to a relative whom he had not seen
for years. The ball had hitherto been rather a bore; he did not dance,
and, stranger as he was in this society, he took little interest in
watching others dance. The only figure that his eyes followed with any
pleasure in the waltz was his cousin Adèle's, and he had intended to
slip from the room unobserved, when her gracious and cousinly
invitation to him to conduct her to supper frustrated his unsocial
plan.

He could not refuse so amiable a proposal, but he promised himself but
little entertainment in her society, since, although cousins, they were
now almost entire strangers to each other. He had last visited his
uncle, his mother's brother, ten years before, when Adèle was a pretty
little girl with fair curls, whom he had made a pet of and called his
little sweetheart. In the busy years that ensued he had almost
forgotten her; indeed, he had hardly remembered her name. Now he had
come to M---- to arrange a personal adjustment with his uncle of a
lawsuit between them concerning an inherited estate. It had been the
cause of a not quite friendly correspondence, and the Count had not
looked forward to a renewal of intercourse with his relatives without
some misgivings. He was all the more pleased, therefore, by the
cordiality with which his uncle received him, and begged him to forget
the odious lawsuit entirely, except when it absolutely demanded
attention as a matter of business.

"I think, my dear Karl," the President said, when the Count first
presented himself at his house a few days before the birthday ball, "we
can manage to leave all quarrelling over mine and thine to our lawyers;
let us do all we can to aid in the settlement of the question, but if
this settlement be delayed, do not, for Heaven's sake, let it disturb
the friendliness of our relations with each other any more than should
our difference in politics, which latter, most unfortunately,
embittered your father towards me during the last years of his life; to
the day of his death he could not forgive me because we Prussians were
victorious in 1866. I trust that you, Saxon soldier though you be, are
more placable, and will reflect, as I do, that your dear mother was my
favourite sister, and that we loved each other faithfully as long
as she lived. It was not our fault, as we both thought, that our
grand-uncle involved us in a lawsuit by an ambiguous will."

Count Styrum could not possibly fail to reciprocate so kind an
expression of good will on his uncle's part. He did not, it is true,
accept the pressing invitation extended to him to leave the hotel and
make the President's house his home while in M----, but he promised to
spend every spare hour beneath his roof. He did this the more readily
since his cousins welcomed him as cordially as their father had done.
On Adèle's part this amiability was certainly sincere, while Heinrich,
who was an assessor in his father's office, probably acted in mere
compliance with his father's wish in the matter. Adèle was thoroughly
pleased with her cousin,--she knew nothing of the lawsuit, and cared
nothing for politics,--Karl was to her simply the son of an aunt whom
she had dearly loved, and with whom she could remember passing happy
weeks, in Dresden, in her childhood, when "Cousin Karl" had always been
so kind to her. During all the long years of absence she had never
forgotten him, and she treated him now with a degree of sisterly
familiarity which greatly pleased him. He would gladly have availed
himself of his uncle's kindness to pay frequent visits to his
relatives, but his stay in M---- was very short, and most of his time
was occupied in interviews with his lawyers, who would not listen to a
friendly adjustment of the matter in hand, so that until this evening
he had scarcely done more than exchange a few cursory remarks with
Adèle. He had been favourably impressed by her frank and easy gayety of
manner, but she had not aroused in him any deeper interest, and he had
accepted with some reluctance her invitation to be her escort to
supper, since this would of necessity detain him longer than he had
proposed to stay at the ball. Suddenly, however, his feeling with
regard to her changed entirely, upon witnessing her spirited opposition
to Count Repuin. How beautiful she was as she confronted the Count with
indignation flashing from her eyes! and how lovely was the change in
her expression when she turned to her friend with such tender
affection! Involuntarily he compared the two young creatures before
him.

A few minutes previously he would have pronounced Frau von Sorr the
more beautiful of the two,--the most beautiful woman, indeed, whom he
had ever seen; but now there was no doubt that the golden-haired Adèle,
with her earnest eyes sparkling with anger and then melting with
tenderness, was, if not the more beautiful, by far the more attractive.
It was strange that never until this instant had he been impressed by
this exquisite development of the pretty child into the lovely woman.

And now, when, after Count Repuin's departure, she gayly entreated her
friends to forget the unpleasant scene they had witnessed, and when,
seated at the supper-table, she did all that she could to dissipate
Frau von Sort's melancholy and win a smile from her, she seemed to her
cousin more enchanting than ever. She so managed the conversation that
neither Frau von Sorr, who could not soon forget what had just
occurred, nor the Assessor, who was rather ashamed of the part he had
played, was obliged to talk much, while Count Styrum was drawn on to
speak of his travels, and this all the more willingly as he felt he was
seconding Adèle's efforts in so doing.

The Count had resigned from the army at the close of the war, and, that
he might be prepared for the management of the large estates to which
he was heir, had spent a year in attending the lectures at Tharandt.
Then, in company with a former comrade in the army, who had been his
fellow-student also, Baron Arno von Hohenwald, he had travelled for a
year in Belgium, Holland, England, and Italy, being finally called home
by the death of his father.

The Count was an admirable narrator as well as observer: no one could
throw more interest than he into the details of his travels, and on
this occasion he surpassed himself. Not only did Adèle listen with
sparkling eyes, now and then asking an eager question, but Frau von
Sorr was gradually aroused to attention and interest. The Assessor
alone was very silent and not at all comfortable. In addition to the
mortifying consciousness that he had failed entirely to undertake the
defence of Frau von Sorr against Count Repuin, he could not help
experiencing a decided envy of Count Styrum, who was thus monopolizing
the conversation, and evidently making a favourable impression upon
Adèle.

Although he enjoyed the proud consciousness that among the gifts with
which kind nature had endowed him, and of which he would not boast, a
talent for conversation which had frequently stood him in stead was
most conspicuous, here he was undeniably thrown into the background,
and this, too, in the presence of his adored Adèle. He several times
attempted to divert the talk from these overrated adventures of travel,
but without success, until at last, upon the frequent mention by the
Count of the name of his companion, Arno von Hohenwald, he broke into
the conversation with, "Do I understand you, Count? Are you really
speaking of Baron Arno von Hohenwald? I can scarcely credit that you
travelled for a year with that gloomy misanthrope, that inveterate
woman-hater. And yet it must be so, for to my knowledge there is but
one family of Hohenwalds in Saxony, and I ought to know, for I am
distantly connected with them myself. I never judge others with
severity,--it is not my nature,--but I cannot help pronouncing the
Hohenwalds, that is, the old Baron and his son Arno, haughty,
disagreeable, inaccessible people, who have very little intercourse
with any one, not even their nearest relatives. The best of them all is
Arno's brother Werner, the Finanzrath;[1] it is possible to get along
with him; but my cousin Arno?---- Really, I cannot understand how you
managed to travel with him for a whole year."

"Your judgment of my friend is very harsh and unjust," Count Styrum
replied, gravely. "And yet I cannot blame you for it, for there are few
who know how to value Arno von Hohenwald, or who, indeed, have any
knowledge at all of him."

"Of course; he is absolutely inaccessible. Can you deny that he is a
perfect misanthrope, refusing to mingle in any society, and repulsing
discourteously every advance made to him?"

"Arno is no misanthrope, but the warmest-hearted fellow and the truest
and most loyal of friends. I grant that it is not easy to win his
confidence, and that to the superficial observer he may seem to shun
intercourse with others; he has no small change of conversation for
that society where you, my dear Assessor, are in your element. In the
army he had but few intimates, And took no part in our card-parties and
the like entertainments. Nevertheless he was a good comrade whom every
one liked, for all knew that when there was need of a friend's
assistance it was sure to be found at the hands of Arno von Hohenwald,
and we forgave his burying himself among his books while we pursued our
pleasures. I alone of all his comrades could boast of any real intimacy
with him, and I am proud to think that he considered me worthy of his
friendship--his confidence."

"Oh, then he has certainly told you the story of his notorious
love-affair with the rope-maker's pretty daughter, which ended in his
being the furious woman-hater that he is! You must ask the Count to
tell you that story, madame. I assure you it made quite a noise at the
time at the Court of Saxony, where the Hohenwalds stood very high."

"I am not curious," Frau von Sorr observed.

"But I am!" Adèle interposed. "I confess, Karl, that I take great
interest in your friend. I have heard much of him. Madame von Kleist is
a cousin of the late Frau von Hohenwald, and the other day, at an
afternoon party, she had such wonderful things to tell of the
eccentricities of the old Baron and his son Arno, that the entire
conversation finally turned upon the Hohenwalds, their lives and their
peculiarities. Several of the ladies present were distantly connected
with them, and they not only confirmed all that Madame von Kleist said,
but contributed various anecdotes to show that the old Baron was no
better than an ogre, and that the son Arno was following worthily in
his father's footsteps. The old Baron, they said, lives in perfect
solitude in Castle Hohenwald, never seeing a visitor, nor indeed any
one beside his two sons and his daughter, except, perhaps, the village
priest, who is the young girl's tutor. All sorts of tales are told of
the way in which the old man has repelled his relatives' advances, as
well as of his quarrel with his son Arno, whom he threatened to
disinherit because he had betrothed himself to a pretty girl of the
bourgeoisie. When the engagement was broken off Arno was reconciled to
his father, having become a more terrible misanthrope and woman-hater
than the old man himself. So you may readily imagine, Cousin Karl, how
I should like, after all these stories, to hear as much of your friend
as you can tell us without indiscretion."

Count Styrum looked annoyed. The gossiping Assessor had given a turn to
the conversation that necessitated explanations which he would gladly
have avoided. Since this turn had been given, however, he felt it due
to his friend to disprove the false reports current with regard to the
Hohenwalds. "There can be no indiscretion," he said, "in relating facts
known to many, although I certainly would rather avoid doing so since I
know my friend Arno's dislike of any discussion of his private affairs.
However, the truth had better be told about them, that it may
counteract these silly rumours with regard to the family, rumours which
some of their connections, indeed, are not ashamed to circulate."

The Assessor turned red, feeling that the Count's words might well
apply to himself, but he judged it wisest to take no notice of the
reproof conveyed in them.

"The Hohenwalds," Karl began, "have furnished food for gossip to the
Saxon aristocracy for many years. They are a singular race; their
peculiarities have been inherited for generations, but the haughty
Barons troubled themselves little as to what the world might say of
them, and lived out their convictions with unshaken fidelity. It was a
Hohenwald who, in Augustus the Strong's time, stood forth at the Saxon
Court as the champion of good old German morality in social life,
scourging with bitter words the wanton frivolity of the lovely court
dames, and denouncing the extravagant luxury that ruined poor Saxony.
All that saved him from persecution and perhaps imprisonment in
Königstein was Augustus the Strong's own declaration that the
Hohenwalds had always been fools--it was best to let them wag their
tongues and pay them no heed. So Werner von Hohenwald was not sent to
Königstein, but to his own castle, which he never left for many years,
leading much the same hermit-life there as is led by his great-grandson
to-day. Another Hohenwald, the father of the present Baron,
distinguished himself in the early part of this century as a warm
friend of Prussia and a bitter opponent of the Franco-Saxon alliance
and of the first Napoleon, who would have had him shot but for the
interposition of the king, who declared, as Augustus the Strong had
done, that the Hohenwalds were fools, not to be too severely dealt
with. He, too, was sent to live in undisturbed retirement in his own
castle. The present lord, Baron Werner, resembles his forbears; like
them he is unyielding, keen in word and in action, a steadfast, severe
man, living according to his own convictions, and holding himself aloof
from a world that does not share them. I do not know him personally,
but I have heard so much of him from my friend Arno and from my own
father, who was intimate with him many years ago, that I have a very
vivid idea of him, I can see him in my mind's eye,--a tall, stout old
man, his stern face framed in beard and hair of silver, from which the
black eyes can flash terribly when he is angry, although they beam
mildly enough when their gaze rests upon his darling, his daughter. It
is said that in his youth, departing from the traditions of his family,
he was a gay and genial man of fashion. As a wealthy landed proprietor,
he passed his summers at Hohenwald, his winters in Dresden. At that
time my father knew him well, and their friendship lasted for a number
of years after the Baron married a Countess Harrangow. He seemed to
live very happily with his beautiful wife, keeping open house, as well
in Dresden in the winter as in summer upon his estate of Hohenwald,
which is not far from the Prussian boundary. His wife's relatives
visited him frequently, and often spent weeks beneath his roof, where
they were upon the best of terms with the lord of the castle, although
they were Prussians, and he a bitter enemy of Prussia and a great
friend of Austria, never hesitating to declare his anti-Prussian
sentiments in the presence of his Prussian guests.

"A few months after the birth of his youngest child--a daughter--there
was a sudden and complete transformation in the Baron's manner of life,
the cause of which was entirely unknown. He separated from his wife,
who returned to her paternal home, where she received from the Baron a
large yearly income, but whither she was not permitted to take her
children, two sons and the baby daughter, who remained in Hohenwald. No
one knows the reason for this separation; the Baron has never by so
much as a word alluded to it, and all the reports concerning it
circulated in Dresden society, where the affair of course made a great
deal of noise, are utterly without foundation. Even the Baroness, who
died within a year after the separation, without seeing either husband
or children again, never assigned to her parents any reason for her
expulsion--for that is the only term to be applied to it--from
Hohenwald. The relatives of the Baroness, who had hitherto always found
a welcome at the castle, did all they could to effect a reconciliation
between husband and wife, but they were repulsed by the Baron with such
harshness and severity that they never renewed their efforts. My
father, too, fared no better. Relying upon the claims of long
friendship, he complied with the wishes of the king, who regretted that
the Baron should have so treated his wife's relatives, and expressed a
wish that my father would use his influence with his friend, so that if
no thorough reconciliation could be brought about, at least the public
scandal of a separation without a divorce might be avoided. With some
reluctance my father undertook the task thus assigned him. He could
hardly refuse to do so, although he had but small hope of any good
result. He went to Castle Hohenwald, where the manner of his reception
showed him the hopelessness of his mission.

"The Baron met him with a dark frown. 'What is your business with me,
Count?' he asked, without offering his hand. My father, embarrassed by
a reception in such marked contrast to the terms of friendship upon
which he had felt himself with the Baron, could not, of course,
immediately explain the real cause of his appearance at Hohenwald, and
spoke courteously of his desire to see a friend from whom he had been
separated for some time; but the Baron interrupted him with, 'Pray take
no unnecessary pains, Count. I am not fond of idle phrases, and declare
to you once for all that I will suffer no one to meddle in my affairs.
If you have been sent hither, repeat this to whoever sent you; if you
are here of your own free will, take my words to heart. If in
consideration of our former friendship you are inclined to do me a
kindness, pray shield me from any further attempt to influence me. Say
in Dresden that the gates of Castle Hohenwald are in future closed to
all visitors; that I have irrevocably and forever broken with all my
former acquaintances and friends!'

"It may easily be imagined that my father after this made no attempt to
speak with the Baron, but left Castle Hohenwald immediately, never to
return to it. From that day the gates of the castle have been closed to
every one. One or two attempts were made by near relatives to see the
Baron, but they were entirely unsuccessful,--the servants denied him to
every one. So completely did he isolate himself from his former world
that he answered no letters addressed to him except those relating
solely to business. From that time he has led the life of a hermit in
his castle, never leaving his estate, seeing no one except the pastor
and the doctor. In spite of all this, his servants and the labourers
employed upon the estate, as well as the poor of the neighbouring
villages, will stoutly deny that he is a misanthrope; they represent
him as the kindest of masters, the best of landlords. Therefore I would
advise you, Herr von Hahn, to lay stress upon this fact in your future
narratives with regard to the life of the Baron von Hohenwald."

"I shall most assuredly do so, my dear Count," said the Assessor;
adding, "Justice demands it, and I could not do otherwise, for a love
of justice is one of my characteristics. I make no boast of it, for the
gifts of nature are various; but so it is, and I am indebted to you for
your information with regard to the old Baron von Hohenwald, while I
await with eagerness what you have to tell of the son, Baron Arno."

"You will have occasion to modify your judgment of him also, for, in
spite of some eccentricities, Arno is one of the best and noblest of
men. You have already laid perhaps more than sufficient stress upon the
faults which prevent mere acquaintances from rightly estimating his
excellence. There is nothing, therefore, for me to do but to explain
how he came to share his father's eccentricity and to withdraw himself
from society."

"He is a woman-hater, then?" Adèle asked, curiously.

"I cannot exactly contradict you. He shuns the sex for the fault of an
individual, but I am sure you will judge him gently when you hear his
story. I told you just now that he was a silent and reserved officer.
One of our regiment who had been with him at school described him to me
as the merriest of lads, always ready for any school-boy prank. But the
separation of his parents seems to have made a profound impression upon
him, destroying in him all the joyousness and geniality of youth. After
his mother's return to her father, Baron von Hohenwald recalled Arno to
Hohenwald from school in Dresden, and engaged as tutor for him the
pastor of the village, a very earnest and learned man. Thus the boy
grew up sharing his father's solitude; perhaps his father confided to
him the cause of his lonely life; certain it is that never during our
years of intimacy has Arno mentioned to me his mother's name. His
relations with his father were most intimate and affectionate. Whatever
cause the old Baron had for repudiating his wife, his anger was never
visited upon her children. To them he has always been the most kind and
indulgent of parents,--even to Arno's elder brother, who was much more
of a stranger to him than the others, since he, Werner, was already a
student in the university when Arno was recalled from school. The
visits to Castle Hohenwald of the elder son, who embraced a diplomatic
career, have been of necessity infrequent, so that naturally his
father's heart does not cling to him as to the constant inmates of his
household.

"His solitary life at Hohenwald fostered in Arno a love of retirement,
which was manifest during his military life in Dresden, whither he went
to join the army, by his father's desire, at the conclusion of his
studies. He would have preferred to embrace one of the learned
professions, but his father's wish was his law in this respect; and he
made a capital officer, gaining both the respect and the esteem of
his comrades and his superiors. He took lodgings in the house of a
rope-maker, and, as he spent all his evenings at home, only leaving it
to fulfil his military duties, he saw more of his hostess and her
pretty daughter than would otherwise have been the case. The daughter,
Rosalie, a young girl of sixteen, had been educated for a teacher, and
her associates at school had taught her the air and bearing of a higher
social rank than her own. How could a young man, who knew nothing of
society and the world, fail to be attracted by a girl of extraordinary
beauty and a fair degree of culture, and with manners far above those
of her class? How could he suspect the utter want of moral training
beneath so fair an exterior, or dream of the arts that were practised
to attract him? You spoke, Herr von Hahn, of a 'love-affair with the
pretty daughter of a rope-maker;' a very grave 'love-affair' it was for
Arno, for he asked the girl in marriage of her parents, and of course
received from them a glad consent to his wishes. Not only this, but, to
the extreme surprise of Rosalie's parents, the old Baron von Hohenwald
did not refuse to sanction the marriage. When Arno went to Hohenwald to
tell his father of his betrothal, the old man was naturally enough
dismayed at the prospect of such a misalliance. He represented to his
son all the consequences of so fatal a step, the disapproval it would
meet with in all quarters, the annihilation of all prospect of
advancement in his profession, the scandal it would cause in
aristocratic circles. But when Arno declared that his word was pledged,
and that nothing would induce him to recall it, his father withdrew all
opposition. He consented to the union, though he refused point-blank to
repair to Dresden to see his son's betrothed, declaring that he should
have time enough to make her acquaintance after the marriage.

"In Dresden the betrothal made a most disagreeable talk; Arno's
comrades were beside themselves; they adjured him to resign all
thoughts of the girl, hinting that she was quite unworthy of the
sacrifice he was making for her. All that they said was to no purpose,
however; and in several cases Arno was with difficulty prevented from
calling to a bloody account those who dared to remonstrate with him.
The colonel of our regiment, by advice from very high quarters, called
upon Lieutenant von Hohenwald, but his representations availed nothing
against my friend's obstinacy. Arno professed himself ready to request
his dismissal from the army, but not to break his plighted faith. This
offer on his part would doubtless have been accepted but that war with
Prussia was imminent, and the services of so brave an officer as Arno
von Hohenwald could not be spared. It was therefore intimated that the
royal consent to his marriage would be accorded him provided he would
accede to the king's wish that it should be postponed for a year. To
this condition he consented, although the pretty Rosalie pouted and
sighed, and her father and mother were quite indignant at the delay.

"During the short campaign that now took him from Dresden, Arno wrote
frequently to his betrothed, without, however, receiving a word in
reply, a circumstance for which his trusting nature found abundant
explanation in the irregularity of the Bohemian postal arrangements. At
Königgratz he was severely wounded; indeed, the newspapers reported him
killed, and as such they mourned him for weeks at Castle Hohenwald.
Meanwhile, he was lying unconscious in the hospital. I was in the same
ward with him, only slightly wounded, however; I was soon sufficiently
recovered to go to Dresden, on leave, to regain my strength there. When
I left Arno his condition was still very critical; in one of his
intervals of consciousness he sent a message by me to his betrothed,
which I of course made it my duty to deliver as soon as possible. I
found only the mother at home when I paid my visit to the rope-maker's,
and she shocked and disgusted me by the want of feeling she displayed
upon hearing that Arno was not dead, as had been supposed, but only
dangerously wounded. She even appeared glad to learn that, in the event
of his recovery, it must be months at least before he could come to
Dresden. On the same day, however, all that was strange in her
behaviour was fully explained to me by the physician whom I consulted
with regard to my wound, and who had been a fellow-lodger of Arno's and
his warm friend. As such he felt it his duty to acquaint me, the poor
fellow's most intimate friend, with the wretched story that so closely
concerned him, and that filled me with consternation and disgust. Arno
had been infamously deceived both by his betrothed and by her parents,
whose sole thought had been how to enrich themselves at whatever
expense of honour and honesty. Some time before her betrothal to Arno,
Rosalie had been secretly under the protection of a wealthy
manufacturer in Dresden, her connection with whom, when the report of
Arno's death seemed to her to free her from the necessity for
concealment, became a day's theme for public gossip. She flaunted her
disgrace abroad, meeting with no opposition from her parents in her
downward career. There is no need to dwell upon the details of this
miserable business; the investigations I felt it my duty to my friend
to prosecute fully confirmed the physician's story. This being the
case, what was I to do? Of course, I ought to acquaint Arno with the
facts I had learned, and yet the knowledge of them might kill him in
his present precarious state. I needed advice in the matter, and I
turned for it to my friend's father. I wrote to him telling him all,
begging him to come to Dresden to receive personal confirmation of the
truth of what I wrote, and offering, if he desired it, to go
immediately to Arno and inform him of his betrothed's worthlessness. I
supposed that the Baron would reply to my letter in person, but he did
not come to Dresden; by return of post I received a letter from him,
expressing heart-felt gratitude to me. 'I need,' he wrote, 'no further
confirmation: it is for my son to investigate this matter. Of course he
will not condemn his betrothed without hearing her in her own defence.
I suffer greatly from the gout, and cannot come to Dresden; besides, I
do not think myself justified in forestalling my son in this matter.'
He then begged me to fulfil my promise to go to Arno as soon as
possible and tell him all. 'Do not be afraid,' he said, in conclusion,
'that you will retard my son's recovery in thus performing your duty as
his friend. We Hohenwalds come of a tough stock, and know how to bear
pain; it may perhaps bend, but it will not break us. Believe me when I
tell you this.'

"He was right, as I found when a few days later, sitting at Arno's
bedside, and finding him quite himself again, I tried to prepare him
gently for what I had to say. He perceived instantly that I was the
messenger of evil tidings, and briefly and firmly bade me speak out and
tell him all that was to be told. I did so, and he listened in gloomy
silence, with downcast eyes, asking no question, giving no sign, except
the convulsive clinching of the hand that lay on the coverlet, of the
storm of emotion raging within him. When I had finished, he looked up
with eyes that seemed to read my very soul. 'I do not thank you,' he
said. 'I cannot tell, before I have seen and learned for myself,
whether you have rendered me the greatest service that one friend can
render to another, or whether I must call you to account as my mortal
foe. Until then we must part. Leave me now. I shall soon seek you out
in Dresden, either to thank or----'

"I tried to soothe him, but he repulsed me sternly, and I returned to
Dresden without seeing him again. His surgeon informed me that he
considered his condition very alarming, that he feared the worst, and
that at all events it must be months before he could leave the
hospital. So I left him, filled with remorse for having followed the
old Baron's advice; but scarcely four weeks had passed when one day
Arno entered my room in Dresden. He looked terribly,--his dark eyes
gleamed with unnatural brilliancy in his wasted countenance, his right
arm was in a sling, while, although he supported himself upon a stout
cane, he could scarcely stand. When I hurried towards him he sank, half
fainting, into my arms, and I carried rather than led him to a lounge.
He pressed my hand, and, as soon as he could speak, said, 'I thank you;
you told me nothing but the truth, and yet not all the truth. You have
saved me from a horrible fate, and I never will forget it. Add still
further to my obligations to you by granting me one request: I entreat
you never, never again to make the faintest allusion to that wretched
girl.' I promised, and since that day not one word with regard to her
has passed Arno's lips. How he parted from her I never knew. He had
spent two days in ascertaining the truth of the story I had told him,
and then came to my room, which it was long before he left again. His
strength of will had sustained him until his purpose was fulfilled, and
then he was utterly prostrated. For many a night I watched by his bed,
hopeless as to his recovery, but in the end his vigorous constitution
conquered. The old Baron was right.

"During his convalescence we often discussed our plans for the future.
We both resolved to send in our resignations. I spare you our reasons
for this course of action, for I know that you, my dear Assessor, are
one of Prince Bismarck's most enthusiastic supporters, and that my
lovely cousin Adèle, as the daughter of a Prussian official high in
rank, could hardly appreciate the feeling that made it impossible for
us to continue in the army after peace was concluded. Arno's political
opinions so closely coincided with my own that our plans for the future
were the same. For him, as for me, it was simply impossible to accept
office under government, and so we determined to withdraw altogether
from public life, to study the management of estates and to find our
calling in the future in administering our own.

"I wrote to my father, and received his speedy approval of my
resolution. Arno, as soon as he was strong enough, set out for
Hohenwald. I proposed to accompany him, but to this he objected,
telling me frankly that he could not invite even his dearest friend to
Hohenwald; that his father's seclusion must be invaded by no stranger.
He attained his wish, however; his father had no objection to make to
his plans; and so we both went to Tharandt to study, and later
travelled through Europe together, until my father's death called me
home. Since then Arno has been living in Hohenwald, where, as he writes
me, he has undertaken the management of his estates. I have not seen
him, for Hohenwald is closed to every one; but we correspond
constantly, and he has promised to pay me a visit shortly."



                              CHAPTER III.


The ladies had listened eagerly to Count Styrum's narrative. Frau von
Sorr, indeed, was so impressed and interested by all that she heard of
the Freiherr that she forgot for the moment the late disagreeable
encounter with Count Repuin.

Adèle was no less interested. So absorbed was she in her cousin's
account that she did not notice a certain restlessness that had begun
to pervade the guests seated at the numerous small supper-tables. It
was the invariable custom at the President's balls for the daughter of
the house to give the signal for the renewal of dancing, by leaving the
supper-room escorted by her cavalier. This duty the young girl, usually
so attentive a hostess, had wellnigh forgotten, and she would have
continued to question her cousin upon the subject that so interested
her, had not her brother Heinrich reminded her that their guests were
awaiting with some impatience the return to the ball-room. He left the
table where he had been playing the part of host, and, standing behind
his sister's chair, whispered in her ear, "You seem to have forgotten,
Adèle, that it is high time the dancing began again."

"Why are you in such a hurry? You are not used to be so eager to
dance," Adèle replied, in a tone of some annoyance.

"I speak for our guests, who have been looking impatiently for your
leaving the supper-room, as you would have seen yourself had not
interest in your conversation with our cousin made you blind and deaf
to everything else. Let me beg you now to bestow a little attention
upon others."

Although her brother's reproof might have been more amiably
administered, Adèle felt the justice of what he said, and, rising
instantly, begged Count Styrum to conduct her to the ball-room. The
other couples followed her immediately, and the supper-room was soon
emptied of all the guests with the exception of the elderly gentlemen,
for whom the President now produced his choicest Havanas, and whose
enjoyment of the evening only rightly began when, supper finished, they
could linger over their wine with closed doors.

For those younger men who were not enthusiastic dancers, but who were
fond of high play, Heinrich von Guntram had his own sanctum prepared.
The gaming-table was set out, the champagne duly iced, and he only
waited until the dancing should have begun to assemble there the chosen
few. His father discountenanced gaming, and therefore there had been no
mention of play before supper, but now that the President was occupied
with his special friends, Heinrich dutifully danced once with his
partner at supper, and then led the way to his room, followed by all
those for whom gaming always formed part of an evening's entertainment.

"Are you tired of dancing, Count Repuin?" he asked the Russian, who
stood in a doorway, gloomily watching Frau von Sorr as she was waltzing
with the Assessor. "Come to my room and you will find a cigar."

"And cards?"

"Of course."

"Have you asked Sorr?"

"No; you know----"

"Yes, I know; but you will do me a great favour if you will ask him to
join us."

This request embarrassed Heinrich; he did not like to spare the Russian
from the card-table, for he always lost, when he did lose, with great
equanimity, but he was naturally disinclined to extend his invitation
to Sorr. "I have already asked Arnim," he said, hesitating, "and I am
afraid----"

"Of his making a scene with Sorr," the Russian completed his sentence.
"You need not be afraid. Whatever Arnim might say at the club with
regard to Sorr, be sure that beneath your roof he will respect him as
your guest. Indeed, you will greatly oblige me, Herr von Guntram, by
asking Sorr."

"If you really wish it, of course I will do so," Heinrich replied; "but
I would far rather that the invitation should come from you than from
me. I could then excuse myself to Arnim, upon the plea that not I, but
you, introduced him."

"Be it so," said the Count. "I will bring him with me, with your
permission. All that Herr von Arnim said was that he would not play
when Sorr kept the bank, and we can easily arrange that. I will not
follow you with Sorr until half an hour has elapsed, and your game will
have been begun when we arrive."

Heinrich assented; he left the Russian, and, as he passed through the
ball-room, observed that Count Styrum was standing alone, looking on at
the dancers. "You are no dancer, Count," he said, addressing him. "I
think you did not dance before supper either."

"No, I never dance much; and just now, as you know, I am in mourning."

"It must bore you to look on at all this spinning and whirling. If you
have not forsworn cards, cousin, you will find in my room a good cigar,
excellent champagne, and a few very clever fellows."

"Do you play high?"

"Not at all, not at all. Count Repuin stakes rather large sums
sometimes, but no one else among us does so, except perhaps Herr von
Sorr, when he has any money, which is not often. The rest of us stake
but little; we play merely to kill time."

Count Styrum cared very little for play. He had now and then won and
lost small sums at a public gaming-table, but it had been more out of
compliance with the wish of some friend who desired his companionship
than from any interest in the game. He would have refused his cousin's
invitation but that he was curious to know more of Herr von Sorr, and
thought that no better opportunity could offer for meeting the man who
was husband to the beautiful woman who had so interested him. He
therefore followed Heinrich, who led the way to the room which he
called his study, and presented him to the young men, mostly officers,
there assembled. Count Repuin and Herr von Sorr were not yet present.

"Who is to keep the bank?" asked Herr von Saldern, who, impatient to
begin, was already shuffling the cards.

"Let us take turns; each put in twenty-five thalers."

"Twenty-five thalers is too little. There are but ten of us, and that
would only make two hundred and fifty thalers,' Herr von Saldern
objected.

"Come, come, Saldern, you shall not insist upon high play," said Herr
von Arnim. "Let us have a comfortable evening, and not dip too deep in
one another's pockets. I agree to Guntram's proposal, but upon
condition that the bank is kept only by one of those now present."

"But why?"

"Because I suspect that Sorr will find his way here before long; he has
a wonderful scent for cards. I have declared that I will not play when
he keeps the bank, and I will run no risks."

"You ought to be more careful in speaking of Herr von Sorr, my dear
Arnim," Heinrich von Guntram remonstrated.

"Bah! I don't care that whether or not he hears what I say," said
Arnim, snapping his fingers. "Besides, he ought to feel flattered by my
fear of him. At all events, I am superstitious, and feel sure I shall
lose my money if Sorr keeps the bank; so I repeat my condition, and
will not take part in the game unless it be accepted."

"Well, well, it is accepted. Let us begin, and let Guntram be banker
first!" the rest cried, impatiently, as they seated themselves at the
table; and Guntram, after receiving twenty-five thalers from each of
the players, began the game as banker. He had hardly drawn the first
card when Count Repuin and Herr von Sorr made their appearance.

"I knew it!" Herr von Arnim whispered to Count Styrum. "Sorr scents
cards ten miles off; no vulture could be keener. Pray, Herr von Sorr,"
he added, aloud, as the latter seemed inclined to take a seat between
Arnim and Count Styrum, "be good enough to find a place the other side
of the Count. I do not like to lose so agreeable a neighbour, and there
really is no room on this side."

All eyes were turned upon Sorr, and every one looked for some hasty
reply to Arnim's words, which were almost insulting from their tone and
the manner in which they were uttered; but Sorr either did not or would
not perceive intentional offence in them, and, merely saying, "You are
right; there is more room here," placed a chair on the right of Count
Styrum and took his seat in it.

This propinquity was not undesirable to the Count, who now had the best
possible opportunity for observing the man of whom he had heard so much
from the Assessor. As he did so he could not help saying to himself,
"How could this man ever have won the affection of that charming
woman?" Never had he been more disagreeably impressed by any one, and
yet he could hardly tell why this was so. Herr von Sorr's features were
regular; his fair full beard and curling light hair became him well;
his blue eyes were fine in form and colour; but the expression of both
features and eyes was to the Count most repulsive. An artificial smile
constantly played about his finely-chiselled lips. His eyes never
looked fairly into those of the man whom he addressed; there was an air
of utter weakness and want of character about him; defects which,
beyond all others, Count Styrum despised.

The game began, and was very moderately conducted. Count Repuin, who
was seated opposite Sorr, beside Heinrich von Guntram, now and then
staked a large sum, which he usually lost. Sorr staked but little;
between him and Count Styrum on the table there was a little heap of
silver and paper money, from which he took his stakes and to which he
added his winnings; beside it lay the pocket-book of the Count, who,
for want of small notes, had one of larger amount changed by the
banker. The game interested him but slightly, and he had abundant
opportunity to watch the players, who, in spite of the small stakes,
gradually displayed an eagerness which was by no means allayed by the
champagne with which the servant in attendance plied them.

The company began to grow noisy. Heinrich von Guntram, who had handed
over the bank to Herr von Arnim, and who began to stake larger sums,
cursed his luck loudly, and was laughed at by Arnim, who had a ready
word of ridicule for all, and bidden to imitate the composure of Herr
von Sorr, who won or lost with equal grace.

Herr von Sorr did not seem to hear Arnim's persiflage; his attention
all appeared to be given to the game, and he showed a moderation in
drinking which contrasted strikingly with the conduct of his friend
Count Repuin, who emptied glass after glass of the champagne, which
Sorr refused, confining himself to a few glasses of seltzer water. The
wine, however, appeared to produce no effect upon the Russian; he
seemed not at all excited and observant only of the game. But Styrum,
who watched him narrowly, perceived that this was only seeming; that in
reality Repuin's whole attention was given to Styrum's neighbour, Sorr.

Thus the game lasted for about an hour, when Repuin rose from the
table. "I have had enough for to-night," he said, gathering up his
money; "and you too, Count Styrum, seem but little interested. Shall we
not, without disturbing the others, take a quiet cigar together in the
next room and discuss--our Italian experiences, for example? I think we
were at Naples at the same time."

Count Styrum was greatly surprised at being thus addressed. He did not
know the Russian, to whom he had been but formally introduced. What
could be his reason for desiring to converse privately with an entire
stranger in the next room? He must have some special aim in view,
although what this was Styrum could not divine. He hesitated to accept
the invitation of the man whose behaviour towards Frau von Sorr had so
disgusted him, but curiosity to know what the Russian contemplated
conquered his reluctance, and, taking his offered arm, he accompanied
him into the adjoining room, the door of which Repuin closed behind
them.

"I thank you for accepting my invitation, Count," said the Russian,
from whose face the courteous smile vanished as soon as they were
alone. "You guess, of course, that I have sought this interview with
you for a graver object than any discussion of Italian experiences. I
shall therefore, without circumlocution, come to the point at once with
a question which will doubtless strike you as very strange. Do you know
how much money there was in the pocket-book which lay before you on the
table, and which you have just put into your pocket?"

"Your question is indeed a strange one!"

"I will explain it immediately, if you will be so kind as to give me an
answer."

"I cannot see what possible interest the amount of money that I carry
in my pocket-book can have for you, Count Repuin, but, since you wish
it, I can tell you about how much there was. When I sat down to
play I had five one-hundred-thaler notes in my pocket-book; one of
these I exchanged for two fifties; one of these again I put into my
pocket-book, using the other for the game, so that, besides some small
notes, the amount of which I cannot tell you, since I do not know how
much I won or lost, my pocket-book must contain four hundred-thaler
notes and one fifty."

"Thank you. I pray your patience for a moment, and you shall understand
my apparently indiscreet question. Be so obliging as to take out your
pocket-book and see whether it contains the sum you have mentioned."

"Count Repuin, this is a most extraordinary request!"

"It is; and if you insist, I will instantly explain it to you, but you
would greatly oblige me by first glancing at the contents of your
pocket-book; my demand can easily be complied with."

Styrum could not avoid granting a request couched in terms so
courteous; he opened his pocket-book and counted his notes, finding, to
his great astonishment, that they numbered only three hundred-thaler
notes in addition to the fifty and the smaller sums.

"Well, is your money all right?" asked Repuin, who was watching him
with eager interest.

"No; a hundred-thaler note is missing. It must have dropped on the
floor when I changed the other. I will go look for it."

"Do not trouble yourself, Count; you will find nothing," the Russian
calmly rejoined. "I will find it for you, and, in doing so, will
entirely explain my apparently unjustifiable curiosity."

He awaited no reply from Styrum. Opening the door leading into the next
room, he called, in an imperious tone, "Herr von Sorr, one word with
you. Count Styrum wishes to speak to you."

A livid pallor overspread Sorr's countenance. Did he suspect what was
coming? He started, and one hand sought his breast-pocket, but before
it could reach it it was seized by Count Repuin and held as if in a
vice. "Leave the contents of your pocket untouched," the Russian
whispered in his ear. "Follow me instantly,--I command you!"

Sorr obeyed, following the Russian like a trembling slave.

"What is the matter?" was the question that hovered upon the lips of
all, and that was uttered aloud by one of the young men at the table.
Although Repuin's last words had been spoken in a tone so low as to
reach Sorr's ears alone, all had heard his first authoritative summons
and had seen Sorr's confusion as the Count had seized his hand, and all
wondered what was the matter, although only one uttered the question.

"Something very disagreeable, most certainly," Heinrich von Guntram
made reply. "In my opinion, gentlemen, we had better finish the game
and go back to the ball-room as soon as possible. Let those three end
their business as seems to them best; the less we know of it the
better."

"But our bank!" Herr von Saldern exclaimed.

"Arnim, who is banker, will attend to all that, and see that each one
receives his due proportion; will you not, Herr von Arnim?"

"'Tis already done, my dear fellow. You will take charge of Count
Styrum's share," replied Arnim. "Be quick, gentlemen; here is your
money. I agree with Guntram that the less we hear of what is going on
in the next room the better. Let us go back to the ball-room. This
scandalous scene will at all events convince our friend Guntram how
unfit Sorr is to be admitted to the society of gentlemen, and we shall,
I hope, be spared any association with him in future."

Count Repuin closed the door of the next room after Sorr, and then,
turning to Count Styrum, said, "I will now give you the solution of the
riddle I have just read you, Count." As he spoke he leaned against the
closed door, and looked with disdainful contempt at the miserable
wretch before him, who would evidently have fled from the room had not
the Russian's tall form barred his egress.

Styrum had already taken a thorough dislike to Count Repuin, from
witnessing his behaviour towards Fran von Sorr. Now, as he marked the
triumphant malice that mingled with the contempt expressed in his face,
this dislike deepened to what was almost a horror. He divined what
would be the solution of the riddle of the lost money; he remembered
all that the Assessor had said of Sorr, and, recalling the keen
scrutiny that Repuin had bestowed upon Sorr's movements at the
gaming-table, he could not doubt why the Russian had summoned the pale,
trembling wretch before him. Still, he could not understand the triumph
with which Repuin was regarding the detected thief. Was he not,
according to the Assessor's report, the man's intimate friend? What
reason could he have for sacrificing him merely to restore some lost
money to a stranger? This riddle Styrum could not solve, for it was
incredible that Repuin should act thus, simply from indignation at
Sorr's dishonesty.

After a moment's pause the Russian turned to Styrum: "Do you now
guess, Count, where your hundred-thaler note will be found? You do not
reply? Well, I will tell you; it is at present in Herr von Sorr's
breast-pocket, whither it was conveyed from your pocket-book, with
immense dexterity it is true, but not dexterously enough to elude my
vigilance. He is the thief,--does he dare to deny it?"

He did not dare. Repuin's words seemed to annihilate him, all the more
that they were uttered by a man whom he had thought his friend. Pale
and trembling, unable to articulate a word in self-defence, he bowed
before the terrible fate that had thus overtaken him. All power of
resistance seemed crushed out of him. In silence he awaited his
sentence.

"Give back the stolen note to Count Styrum," the Russian ordered.

Again he obeyed; he was incapable of thought,--Repuin's iron will ruled
him irresistibly. Automatically be put his hand into his breast-pocket,
took out the note, and handed it to Count Styrum.

"I have kept my word," Repuin continued. "You are again in possession
of the missing note. We must now consider what is to be done with this
scoundrel. It is your part, as the sufferer by his theft, to decide
this. Shall we deliver him over to justice and a jail? He is ripe for
it; this is not his first crime of the kind, as his skill in committing
it testifies. Let us take the gentlemen in the next room into council,
and send for the police. What say you, Count?"

"For God's sake, have mercy upon me!" With this cry Sorr threw himself
at the Russian's feet. But Repuin thrust him from him. "Hands off,
scoundrel! To me you appeal in vain. There stands your judge!"

He pointed as he spoke to Count Styrum, and to him the wretched Sorr
turned with clasped hands. "Spare me, Count!" he implored. "I have
given you back the note. Have pity!"

Pity for the worthless creature who crawled thus in the dust after his
detection Count Styrum could not feel. Why should he have any
compassion upon the miserable worldling who had squandered his means in
every kind of low dissipation and was now nothing more nor less than a
common thief? He deserved mercy less than did the criminal whom want
and misery had driven to steal. It was his duty to banish him from the
society of honest men and deliver him over to a just punishment.

And yet, just at this moment, there presented itself to Count Styrum's
mind a vision of the lovely young creature who, without a suspicion of
the horrible fate impending over her, had but a short time before
listened to his words with such interest. Would not a just sentence
pronounced upon her husband crush her also? And Adèle,--Frau von Sorr
was her dearest friend. What a blow her misery would inflict upon
Adèle!

Thus Styrum was still undecided between the consideration he felt for
Frau von Sorr and for his cousin's peace of mind and the evident duty
of delivering over a thief to justice, when suddenly an idea occurred
to him that caused him to waver no longer. What reason had Count Repuin
for convicting his friend of a theft? Was he weary of a friendship
which, as the Assessor reported, cost him so much money? Had the
disdainful repulse he had but now received from Frau von Sorr incited
him to revenge? Or did he hope by ruining the husband to plunge the
wife into such misery that she would in the end be accessible to his
degrading advances? He looked quite capable of so devilish a scheme.

"Decide, Count!" Repuin said, hastily. "What is done must be done
quickly!"

"I have decided," Count Styrum replied. "We owe it to the hospitality
extended to us beneath this roof to avoid a scandal which would be most
painful to my uncle and to my cousin Adèle."

"And you will let the fellow go scot-free?" Repuin asked, gloomily.

"If we allow him to escape the legal penalty of his villainy, his sole
punishment must be the memory of this hour, which, I trust, may serve
him as a warning."

"Oh, Count Styrum, how shall I thank you!" exclaimed Sorr, to whose
cheeks the colour began to return, as he attempted, but vainly, to take
Styrum's hand.

"Spare me your acknowledgments," said Styrum, turning from him with
disgust. "It is owing to no sympathy for you, but to consideration for
the society in which I find you, that you are spared the punishment you
deserve. Go,--take my advice, and leave my uncle's house on the
instant. I trust I shall never meet you again beneath his roof."

Sorr would immediately have followed this counsel, but it was
impossible, for Repuin, who was still leaning with folded arms against
the closed door, did not stir. The Russian's eyes were gloomily fixed
on the ground; evidently he was dissatisfied with Styrum's decision,
and was considering whether or how he should combat it. As Sorr
approached him he looked up. "You are in too great a hurry," he said,
disdainfully. "You and I are not yet quits; we have a few points to
discuss that would hardly interest Count Styrum. I left the decision in
this matter to you, Count, since you were the injured party, and I bow
to it, but I cannot suffer this man longer to frequent a society in
which he is regarded as my friend, and where I must continually
encounter him. The means that I shall use to prevent this will depend
upon the result of a private conversation, which I must insist upon
having with Herr von Sorr."

There was in these words so direct a request to be left alone with Sorr
that Count Styrum could not but comply; he had no right to remain,
although an imploring look from Sorr seemed to entreat him to do so.
With a slight inclination to Repuin, who instantly made way, and even
opened the door, he left the room.

Scarcely was he gone when Sorr raised his head. The degradation of the
moment when his villainy had been unmasked in the presence of a
stranger had robbed him of all power of self-defence; now that he found
himself alone with the Russian he was once more able to speak; his
wrath he might hope to appease. Although Repuin's savagely passionate
nature had always impressed him with a kind of terror, he thought he
could devise a means to pacify him, difficult as it might be. Extreme
caution was necessary,--in Count Styrum's presence this means could not
be mentioned, but now, let him but soothe his antagonist with hopes of
the fulfilment of his wild desires and all might yet be well.

"How could you--you of all men--act as you have just done, Count?" Sorr
began. "How have I deserved such treatment at your hands? You know how
devoted I am to your interests, how grateful for all you have done for
me,--that I should think no sacrifice too great to testify this
gratitude to you, and yet you--you it is who would ruin me!"

Repuin looked down with haughty contempt upon the cringing figure
before him. He had spent months in studying this man, and his servile,
degraded soul was as an open book before him; he knew the precise value
of all these asseverations.

"Spare me your protestations, Herr von Sorr," he replied, "they will
avail you nothing. I did not detain you here to listen to your
assurances of friendship and gratitude, but to put a stop to any such.
I have lost my interest in the game which you and your beautiful wife
have been playing with me. I must be done with it. Understand me,--I
refuse to be any longer either your dupe or your wife's."

"I do not understand you. I----"

"You shall learn to do so. I know you. I have scrutinized your every
action for months past; your very thoughts are laid bare to me; I knew,
when I brought you to Guntram's room to-night, that you would deliver
yourself into my hands, either by cheating or, as has been the case, by
theft. I knew when Count Styrum left his pocket-book open before you
how it would all end."

There was an expression of absolute horror on Sorr's face as he
listened to these words. That Repuin's treatment of him was due to no
sudden impulse, no outbreak of passion, but was the result of a cool,
well-considered scheme, robbed him of all hope, and he stood before his
savage persecutor and judge an image of despairing guilt.

A cruel smile hovered upon Repuin's lips; he was satisfied with the
effect his words had produced; without awaiting a reply, he continued:
"You thought to play with me, Herr von Sorr; you were but a tool in my
hands,--a tool to be thrown away whenever it pleased me. I should have
done so long since, but for certain considerations. I might have
unmasked the thief in the little affair with that other lost note of
Herr von Saldern's, which I see you remember, but the fruit was not
quite ripe, and I disdained to shake the tree. I am not fond of violent
measures. I prepare them for my use, but I use them only in cases of
absolute necessity. So long as I hoped to win your wife to listen to my
suit, and to purchase her husband's easy compliance with money and a
show of friendship, I allowed you to go your way. I thought you wise
enough to use your influence with your wife in my favour. I paid you
well for such service; but to-day she has shown me that it is vain to
attempt to proceed upon a friendly footing. She has offended, insulted
me; the consequences be upon her head. For what has happened to-night
you may thank your beautiful wife."

"What--what has happened?" Sorr exclaimed, marking with terror the
savage gleam in the Russian's eyes.

"Your wife repulsed me with scorn and left me, when, after the dance
to-night, I whispered a few passionate words in her ear; and although
by agreement with you she was engaged to me for supper, she refused my
escort, and took the arm of that fool, Von Hahn!"

"Impossible!" exclaimed Sorr. "When she promised me so faithfully! She
shall atone for it; she shall make you ample reparation!"

"If your influence with your wife is so powerful, you should have
exerted it earlier," Repuin said, with cruel scorn.

"How was I to know that Lucie would break her word? But you shall have
satisfaction; I swear you shall. I do not deserve that you should
punish me thus for Lucie's actions. I am your most devoted friend; ask
of me what you will, and you shall be obeyed."

"I look for no less from you," Repuin replied, "though I certainly do
not reckon upon your friendship or gratitude, but upon your fear. That
you may know clearly what you have to expect, I will tell you plainly
what I meant, and still mean to do. Entire frankness is the best policy
between us. I love your wife passionately, madly; I have sworn that she
shall be mine at all hazards. Though I should commit murder in pursuit
of her, she shall be mine. You must separate from your wife. She must
be left to me."

Sorr fairly staggered. He had, indeed, long known that Count Repuin
loved his beautiful wife; he had built upon this love his hopes of
mollifying the Count; but for this infamous demand he was not prepared.
He had often made shameful capital of his wife's exquisite beauty
when young men of fortune were to be decoyed to his house and to the
gaming-table; his dissipated life had long since destroyed in him all
ennobling affection for her; he felt no jealousy upon seeing her
surrounded by admirers; he had even exulted when the wealthy Russian
had been evidently conquered by her charms. And yet he was horrified by
Repuin's demand; to comply with it would banish him from the world in
which he had hitherto lived; who would take the slightest notice of him
if Lucie were no longer his wife?

"What you ask is impossible!" he gasped, at last.

"Do not dare to talk of 'impossible' to me!" the Russian angrily
exclaimed. "I require obedience of you, and if you refuse I will hand
you over to justice. Count Styrum, if summoned to court as a witness,
must tell what he knows, however unwilling he may be to do so. Your
fate in such a case is certain. Your only alternative would be to send
a bullet through your brains before you were arrested. If, however, you
consent to my will, I will not only be silent, and engage that Count
Styrum shall be silent, but I will also pay you ten thousand thalers
down. You shall receive the money on the day when your wife becomes
mine and we start for the Italian tour. You see I am magnanimous.
I buy your wife of you when I might force you to give her up to me.
Choose,--your fate is in your own hands!"

As Sorr looked up at the Count's face filled with savage resolve, he
felt that all hope was lost. "My wife will never consent to it," he
said, with hesitation.

"That would be unfortunate for you; but I am sure she will yield if you
tell her the true state of the case. Describe to her her future as the
wife of a convict. How will she live when her present support is
closely confined behind bolts and bars? Upon the other hand paint to
her the delights of a life by my side. There is no wish that she can
frame that it will not be my joy to gratify. If the fair Lucie is not
insane, I think that a just representation of the state of affairs--and
this must be your task--will soon convince her of what choice she had
best make."

"You do not know my wife," Sorr said, still hesitatingly,--he was
afraid of arousing the Count's anger, and yet he dared not keep back
the truth: "her pride transcends belief; she would prefer the most
fearful fate, even death itself, to a life with you."

"Exert all your eloquence, Herr von Sorr, and I am convinced you will
succeed. Remember the sword that is suspended above your head, and that
you alone can avert its fall. But enough for the present; you will now
return to the ball-room, only to leave it immediately with your wife
upon whatever pretext you may devise,--a sudden indisposition or
something of the kind. I owe it to Count Styrum that you spend not an
instant longer than is absolutely necessary beneath this roof. You will
inform your wife this very night of what has been agreed upon between
us. I will wait no longer than to-morrow morning for the result. Come
to me early and let me know what it is, and I will decide what is next
to be done."

"Count----"

"Not another word! Your part is to obey; woe upon you if you fail! I
shall expect you to-morrow morning by eight o'clock at the latest!"

With a haughty, scarcely perceptible nod, the Russian withdrew,
and finding Heinrich's room--whence the gamblers had long since
departed--empty, returned to the ball-room.



                               CHAPTER IV.


After supper there had not been the amount of gayety that was wont
to distinguish the President's balls. The young people had begun to
dance, and the elderly folk to enjoy the delights of card-room and
smoking-room, when there was whispered through the assemblage a rumour
that interfered greatly with the merriment of the evening. It was first
heard in the ball-room; whence it originated no one could exactly tell,
but there it was, flying from lip to lip. The younger men were seen to
crowd around Guntram and the officers from Heinrich's room, whom they
plied with questions, and although it had been agreed that no mention
was to be made of the disagreeable circumstance that had occurred
there, the dark rumour was not long in taking shape.

How it came about that first the elder ladies and then the younger
portion of the assemblage learned it no one could tell, but it
circulated everywhere in the ball-room, and finally penetrated to the
smoking-room, where the older men left their cigars and cards and
returned to the ball-room to ascertain what had happened.

They found the greatest excitement prevailing there; the band was still
playing, it is true, but there were only a few couples on the floor,
and these danced without enthusiasm, and apparently merely for form's
sake.

And what was it all about? No one could precisely say. Had Count Repuin
actually boxed Herr von Sorr's ears in Heinrich's room and called him a
cheat and thief? Oh, no! it was not Count Repuin. He had interfered
when Count Styrum, who had been robbed by Sorr, would have chastised
the thief, and high words had passed between the two Counts. It would
certainly end in a duel. This was the tale told to Adèle by the wife of
Major Gansauge; but Frau von Rose, who stood by, declared that she had
it from the best authority--her informant had begged that his name
might not be mentioned--that there was not a word of truth in the whole
story. It all came from Herr von Arnim's recklessly accusing Herr von
Sorr of playing unfairly. Poor Herr von Sorr was very likely not so
much to blame; he played high, to be sure, but, good heavens! plenty of
people did that nowadays, and Arnim was probably irritated because
Sorr's luck was better than his own. He had lost his temper, accused
Sorr of cheating; Sorr had naturally resented it; a duel was impending;
Count Styrum was to be Arnim's second, while Count Repuin was to act as
poor Herr von Sorr's friend. It was outrageous that such an affair
should disturb the gayety of one of the dear President's charming
balls. Poor dear Lucie von Sorr was most to be pitied, for every one
knew that Arnim was the best shot in the world and always killed his
man. But there was Count Styrum just come back to the ball-room; he
could tell all about it, if he only would.

Adèle listened with impatience to the contradictory statements of the
two ladies. They were both noted gossips, and equally untrustworthy,
but there must be something wrong, else how could the report of some
kind of scene in Heinrich's room have circulated everywhere, even
reaching the ears of Frau von Sorr, who, in some agitation, had begged
her friend to discover the truth of the matter for her?

Heinrich, to whom his sister had first turned for information, had
refused, somewhat roughly, to give her any satisfaction. "Old women's
gossip," was his only reply, as he turned his back upon her. His manner
only served to convince Adèle that there was some truth in the rumours
she had heard, and anxiety for her friend Lucie induced her to pay some
heed to the talk of the two old ladies in hopes of learning some fact
of consequence. Her only satisfaction had been in hearing that her
cousin, Count Styrum, could give her the information she desired. It
was not easy, however, to enter into conversation with him, for
immediately upon his return to the ball-room he was surrounded by eager
questioners, each curious to know all that he could tell. In her
friend's interest, however, Adèle was brave. She walked towards the
group of gentlemen, who instantly made way for the lovely daughter of
their host, and, accosting Styrum, said, "Cousin Karl, let me beg you
to conduct me to a seat."

The Count instantly offered her his arm, and, while conducting her
through the room, quietly remarked, "I suspect why you have sought me.
You want to know the truth with regard to the occurrence in Heinrich's
room, concerning which such wild rumours have got abroad with
inconceivable rapidity. Am I not right?"

"Yes, cousin; I implore you to tell me the whole truth. My poor Lucie
is quite beside herself with anxiety. Only see how pale she is! Never
was there a woman so self-controlled as she. Look, she is smiling now,
as she must so often when her heart is almost breaking; but she cannot
quite conceal her torturing fear that something terrible has occurred.
Take me to a seat beside her, that you may tell us both what has
happened."

"That I cannot do," the Count replied, gravely. "I will willingly tell
you all that I know, but I cannot describe to that most unfortunate
woman the disgraceful scene which I was forced to witness. You are her
most intimate friend, and yet I doubt if even you will be able to tell
her the whole truth. With this I can acquaint only yourself, your
father, and your brother."

Adèle looked around; she noted the curious eyes fixed upon the Count
and herself; she knew that it would create gossip if she indulged in a
longer _tête-à-tête_ with her cousin, if she withdrew with him from the
throng; but she would brave it all for the sake of her poor Lucie. "Let
us go out upon the balcony," she said; "there is no one there at
present; the gentlemen are all gathered about Heinrich and his
friends."

It excited no little observation in the ball-room when Styrum led his
cousin out upon the balcony.

"Look, look!" the major's wife whispered to her crony, Frau von Rose.
"That is a little too strong. I know they are relatives and all that,
but it is possible to presume too much upon such relationships. Out
alone on the balcony with him! Who would ever have thought it of the
little prude!"

"What are you thinking of, my dear?" Frau von Rose whispered in her
turn. "Adèle is as good as betrothed to the Assessor von Hahn. I have
it from a trustworthy source."

"Indeed! So much the more reason why she should not be out on the
balcony alone with her handsome cousin. It is scandalous! Who would
have thought of such things happening here at the President's! First
this terrible Sorr story, and then such conduct on Adèle's part."

"But, my dear, we advised her to ask information of the Count."

"We?---- I beg pardon; I never should have advised any such thing; and
if I remember rightly, you only mentioned that the Count could tell all
about the matter if he would; you never hinted a word of advice. But of
course Fräulein Adèle will blame you if her father scolds her for such
behaviour, and very unseemly behaviour it is for a young girl to talk
to a gentleman alone in a dark night upon a balcony."

"I myself do not think it exactly the thing, but there's no great harm
in it. The balcony is as light as day from the lights in this room. You
can see them both quite plainly. Look, Adèle is leaning against the
iron balustrade, and the Count is standing at a respectful distance
talking to her. He is telling her all about Herr von Sorr, it is plain
to be seen; and at any rate, my dear, what affair is it of ours if
Fräulein Adèle finds it convenient to talk more confidentially to her
cousin on the balcony than she could here in the ballroom? She will
know the particulars of the affair when she comes back, and we will
make her tell us all about it."

While the elderly ladies in the ball-room were thus unfavourably
discussing the interview on the balcony, Adèle was listening with
painful interest to her cousin's story. She had long known of the evil
reports circulated with regard to Sorr; they had been matter of
discussion in the President's family circle, and her father had often
declared that he could not ask to his house a man whose reputation was
so bad. It was only in compliance with Adèle's entreaty that Sorr had
been invited to this birthday ball, and this only when Heinrich, upon
being consulted, had insisted that the silly stories concerning Sorr
were false, that they were all inventions of Lieutenant von Arnim, who
hated Sorr.

Adèle, too, had hitherto given little credit to what was said of Sorr;
she knew that her friend led a very unhappy life with her husband, that
his habits were extremely dissipated, and that he neglected his wife
shamefully, but that he had ever been engaged in any dishonourable
transaction she did not believe. Nevertheless, at times, when Lucie
seemed oppressed with a sadness which no words of hers could relieve or
lighten, doubts had occurred to her; doubts which, however, since Lucie
never accused her husband, nor even alluded to him, the young girl had
resolutely banished, defending Sorr against her father's suspicions,
and treating all evil rumour concerning him as idle gossip.

Now she knew the truth; and her heart seemed to stand still as she
learned that all that had been hitherto whispered of evil against Sorr
was exceeded by the facts,--her Lucie's husband was a detected thief!

"My poor, poor Lucie!" she said, with infinite sadness, when Styrum had
finished his narrative. "What will be done now? What does that dreadful
Repuin mean to do?"

"I am not sufficiently familiar with the relations which have existed
hitherto between Sorr and Count Repuin to answer that question," Styrum
replied, "but I must confess that my first thought was that Repuin had
brought about this catastrophe intentionally. I may do the Count
injustice, for he acted as any man of honour would have done in his
place. He could not suppress his knowledge of Sorr's theft, but he
acquainted me with it with great tact, leaving it to me to spare the
thief or to bring him to justice, and he acquiesced in my decision,
that out of consideration for your father the fellow must be let alone.
And no one can blame him for wishing to adjust without my assistance
his own relations with Sorr, who has hitherto passed in society for his
friend. He has only done his duty, and that in the most honourable
manner. All this I admit, and yet I cannot help suspecting that he
acted in accordance with a deep-laid scheme and in furtherance of his
own evil designs. I can never forget the look the man cast upon Frau
von Sorr when you took your friend's part so bravely, and the memory of
it fills me with distrust of him. Therefore I had intended to tell you
as soon as possible all that happened, and am especially grateful to
you for this opportunity to do so, since you are in a position to judge
whether any danger threatens your friend. She certainly must have told
you much that will enable you to know this."

"Oh, if she only had!" said Adèle. "Unfortunately, it is not so. I love
Lucie like a sister. When we were at school together she confided
everything, even her very thoughts, to me: we had no secrets from each
other; but I no longer possess her confidence. I know she loves me as
well as ever, and if she could confide in any one, she would confide in
me and let me share and soothe her sorrow. Therefore I cannot but hope
for a return of the old intimacy. After her marriage I had not seen her
for a long time, and our correspondence had flagged, when something
more than a year ago she suddenly came here with her husband to live.
Her first visit was to me, and I was indescribably happy to see her
once more. She showed me all her old affection, but not her old
confidence. I soon perceived that she was very unhappy,--she could not
prevent my seeing that,--but to all my questions she returned evasive
answers, and I only judged from common report that her marriage was an
unhappy one, she has never spoken of it to me. And of her relations
with Count Repuin I know only what my own observation has taught me. He
has been for months Sorr's most intimate friend; they seemed
inseparable. Sorr lives very quietly, he never gives large parties, but
he frequently entertains a few friends, among whom, Heinrich has told
me, Repuin is always to be found. He has paid assiduous court to my
poor Lucie, never heeding the almost offensive coldness of her manner
to him. I know how abhorrent his attentions are to her, although she
has never mentioned him to me: I can read it in her eyes. This is all I
know; you were a witness of the odious scene at supper to-night, it
aroused in you the suspicion that troubles me also. My poor, dear
Lucie! I am in despair at not knowing how to advise or assist her. I
entreat you, dear Karl, to help me; my Lucie deserves to find faithful
friends in her terrible misery. Tell me, what will happen,--what can we
do?"

As she spoke, Adèle looked up at her cousin, her large, dark eyes
glowing with entreaty and filled with tears. How beautiful her eyes
were!--almost more beautiful now when their brilliancy was dimmed by
those "kindly drops" than when sparkling with youthful gayety.

Count Styrum was wonderfully impressed,--Adèle's cordial confidence
enchanted him. Frau von Sorr had already interested him; he was now
resolved to do everything in his power to aid her in her misery.
Adèle's friend could not be the accomplice of her unworthy husband.

But what could he do? He pondered this question in vain. "What will
happen?" To this he could make no reply; he could not imagine what
Repuin contemplated doing.

"You do not reply, Karl?" Adèle asked. "Will you not help me to protect
my poor Lucie from that horrible Count Repuin, to stand by her in her
misery?"

"With all my heart I will, my dear Adèle," he replied, taking her hand
and kissing it so fervently that the girl withdrew it with a blush.

"I accept your promise," she said; "we are now allies, and I am
convinced that you will be a help indeed. How we can aid my friend I do
not yet know, but I am sure that in her great need she will accord me
her full confidence, and appeal to me for help; then, Karl, I will
summon you and remind you of your promise."

"And I will come. Ask of me what you will, you shall not ask in vain."

"I thank you from my soul; you inspire me with courage and hope. But
look, cousin, there comes Repuin, followed by Sorr. Take me to Lucie
quickly,--I cannot leave her alone!"

Repuin, as he entered the ball-room, looked around for Heinrich von
Guntram. To reach him he was obliged to traverse the entire length of
the room, and he waited several minutes to do this, since he did not
wish to disturb the dancers. He paused in the doorway and let Sorr pass
him, saying as he did so, "Good-night, my dear fellow," in a tone
evidently intended to be heard by all about him. "I hope," he added,
"that your terrible headache will be gone by tomorrow. Indeed, you
ought to consult a physician. Pray give my regards to your wife."

He held out his hand to Sorr with a friendly nod, and then, turning to
Assessor von Hahn, he forestalled the question which that worthy was
about to address to him, by saying, "I am sorry for poor Sorr; he seems
to me in a very bad way. See, Herr von Hahn, how pale he is! He only
drank a couple of glasses of champagne, and they have given him a
racking headache."

"Is his present ghastly appearance entirely the effect of champagne?"
the Assessor asked, with a slight laugh.

"What else could it be? Do you think he can be seriously ill? I trust
not."

"It seems, Count, that your great kindness of heart prompts you to
endeavour to hush up this ugly story. I admire your amiability. I am
naturally kind-hearted myself. I make no boast of it,--the gifts of
nature are variously distributed; but it enables me to understand you,
Count, and it makes it all the more painful for me to tell you that you
never will succeed in crushing this scandal,--nothing else if talked of
throughout the room. See how every one looks at Sorr, how his most
intimate acquaintances avoid him, turning away as he passes them. Your
kindness can avail that man nothing, Count; he is lost, branded, and he
knows it; a guilty conscience speaks in every feature of his face."

Repuin had observed the same thing, and exulted to see the contempt
with which Sorr was treated by those of his acquaintance whom he was
obliged to pass in gaining his wife's side. What had taken place in
Heinrich's room was already known here, then. The young officers had
blabbed; they could not have told all, for they did not know all, but
enough had been said to affect greatly Sorr's reputation.

This was just what he had intended, that Heinrich and his companions
should suspect Sorr's guilt without being sure of it. He had hoped to
find the ball-room filled with dark rumours, and his wishes were
gratified. Sorr would now be convinced that it needed but a word from
Repuin to annihilate him, and that his only hope for the future lay in
implicit obedience to the Russian's commands.

He, however, feigned to be greatly amazed. "I do not understand you,
Herr von Hahn," he said. "What ugly story is it that my discretion is
to crush? Why should poor Sorr have a guilty conscience in addition to
a bad headache? What has he done?"

"That you know best, Count."

"I am but a poor hand at guessing riddles, and must beg you not to
propound them to me, but to tell me plainly what has happened. I must
request an explanation in the interest of my friend Sorr."

The Assessor looked at the Count with a very puzzled air. He really did
not know what to think. Arnim had given him a succinct account of what
had taken place in Heinrich's study, and had added his opinion that
"Sorr was now done for," since Repuin had doubtless detected him in
cheating at the game. Arnim's trustworthiness was not to be questioned,
but how did his story tally with the Count's behaviour? Surely Repuin
would not call a detected cheat his friend?

The Assessor did not know what to believe; he was in a very
disagreeable position. The only way out of it for him was to tell the
Count what reports were current in the ballroom, and thus justify his
over-hasty expressions.

"A most annoying misunderstanding," was the Russian's comment upon his
communication. "I cannot, Herr von Hahn, explain the occurrence to you,
since it concerns a private matter of Count Styrum's, to whom I have
promised silence, but this rumour must be contradicted. Pray come with
me, we will make use of this pause in the dance to seek out Herr
Heinrich von Guntram, and I will explain matters as far as I may in his
presence."

Repuin then walked directly across the room to Heinrich, the Assessor
following him, joined by several of the gentlemen, who guessed Repuin's
intention and were curious to know more of the scene in Heinrich's
study. Thus the Russian was surrounded by quite an audience when he
reached Heinrich, who was standing near the door of the balcony talking
earnestly with Arnim and Herr von Saldern.

Heinrich replied but coldly to the Count's friendly address. He was
very indignant that Repuin should have been the cause of so unpleasant
a scandal beneath his father's roof upon this special evening; a
scandal that had called forth a decided rebuke from the President with
regard to the gaming in his son's apartment. He was also annoyed at the
indiscretion that had given rise to such disagreeable rumours, and he
visited this annoyance upon the Count, although he had but just entered
the room and could not possibly have originated any of them.

Repuin took no notice of his cool reception. "I am sorry to disturb
you, Herr von Guntram," he said, in a loud voice, "but I am forced to
do so by a very unfortunate misunderstanding, which appears to be
wide-spread. It concerns a conversation which took place between your
cousin, Count Styrum, Herr von Sorr, and myself. May I beg you to ask
Count Styrum to step here for one moment, that I may have his
ratification of a declaration which I wish to make in your presence?"

Heinrich was surprised at the conciliatory tone adopted by the Russian,
and he could not refuse to accede to his request. He beckoned to Count
Styrum, who had returned from conducting Adèle to Frau von Sorr, and
was standing near the balcony quietly surveying the assemblage.

"I have to my regret learned from Herr von Hahn." Repuin began when
Count Styrum had drawn near, "that the aforesaid conversation between
the Count, Herr von Sorr, and myself has given rise to various
groundless reports, which I feel it my duty to contradict, in order
that the serenity of this charming entertainment may not be disturbed
by any silly gossip. I therefore declare, and beg all the gentlemen who
hear me to take notice of what I say, that the conversation between
Count Styrum, Herr von Sorr, and myself, which has given rise to all
this talk, related solely to private personal matters, and ended, I
trust, entirely to Count Styrum's satisfaction, so that we agreed to
forget the whole affair, and not to speak of it again. I beg Count
Styrum kindly to confirm this statement."

Styrum did not immediately reply. Could he confirm Repuin's words? They
contained no falsehood, and yet they were calculated to deceive the
hearers, who would infer from them that the question was of a personal
disagreement, which, after a friendly adjustment, was to be forgotten.
Did they not imply a justification of Sorr which Styrum neither could
nor would ratify? What was Repuin's motive in thus gently treating the
thief whom so short a time before he had seemed unwilling to allow to
escape?

"May I ask for the confirmation of my words, Count?" Repuin asked
again, on noticing Styrum's hesitation. "Have I not spoken truly?"

"What you have said is true," said Styrum, who could hesitate no
longer, "but it might give rise to a further misunderstanding, which is
under all circumstances to be avoided. I therefore add that there was
no question of any quarrel."

"I did not mean to imply that there was, and state expressly that there
was no talk of a quarrel between Count Styrum and Herr von Sorr. I
believe this affair may now be considered as dismissed."

"Not quite, Count," Lieutenant von Arnim here interposed. "The affair
has unfortunately acquired such publicity that it must be pursued a
little farther. If you desire to re-establish as a man of honour Herr
von Sorr, whom in the presence of many witnesses you treated as no
gentleman should be treated by another, you must do it rather more
formally. Your conduct towards Herr von Sorr exposed him to suspicions
which nothing that either Count Styrum or you have said suffices to
allay. I have no desire, Count, to meddle in your private affairs; I do
not care to know what was the nature of the conversation to which you
summoned Herr von Sorr after so unceremonious a fashion. I shall be
quite content--so shall we all--if you and Count Styrum will simply
declare 'We consider Herr von Sorr a man of honour.' Let me beg you to
make this declaration, Count Styrum."

"I do not feel justified in making such a declaration," Styrum replied.

"Nor do I," Repuin added, "since I do not admit that any one has a
right to demand of me a statement as to the honour of a gentleman."

"Your opinion is made sufficiently plain by your refusal," Arnim said,
very gravely. Then, turning to Heinrich von Guntram, he added, "I
think, Guntram, that you now owe it to yourself, to your family, and to
all of us to require this Herr von Sorr to leave a society where there
is no place for him."

"I protest against such a construction of my words!" exclaimed Repuin,
with a dark glance at the lieutenant.

"No quarrelling, gentlemen, let me entreat," Heinrich von Guntram
interposed. "We have had enough, and more than enough, annoyance for
to-night. Have some regard for my father and my sister, Arnim, and
recall your demand, compliance with which would only provoke a fresh
scandal."

"There is no occasion for farther discussion," said Repuin. "Herr and
Frau von Sorr are just leaving the room. I advised Sorr to go, he
complained of a headache."

"A very prudent proceeding on Herr von Sorr's part," sneered Arnim. "He
relieves our friend Guntram of a disagreeable duty. For the present the
matter is settled. You must decide for yourself, Guntram, how to act in
future with regard to this precious Herr von Sorr. Do not, gentlemen,
allow this miserable affair to disturb our enjoyment any longer. The
music is just beginning; let us at least have one more dance."

To this all were agreed, even Count Repuin, who was not sorry to be
relieved from duty as Sorr's champion. Everything was taking the course
he desired; his victim could no longer frequent this society; he was
delivered over into the hands of his enemy.

Herr and Frau von Sorr had indeed left the ball-room before Arnim's
last words. Their suburban dwelling was not far from the President's,
it took scarcely a quarter of an hour to drive thither, but to Lucie
the time appeared an eternity.

She leaned back among the cushions, whilst her husband looked out of
the carriage window. Not a word did he address to his wife during the
drive, nor did she once break the silence. She did not wish to question
him to provoke an explanation, she would fain have avoided any such
altogether. She knew nothing decided with regard to what had occurred
at the President's. A few remarks, not intended for her ear, had hinted
at a most disagreeable scene, in which her husband had been implicated,
and in her anxiety she had applied to Adèle for information. Her
friend, however, had no time to impart this, for scarcely had Count
Styrum conducted her to Lucie when Sorr made his appearance, stating
that he was not well, and that he wished to leave immediately, without
any formal adieux.

A few words only Adèle had contrived to whisper into her friend's ear,
few but significant. "Courage, dearest Lucie; remember, I am your
devoted friend; trust me; whatever happens, I will stand by you."

What did these words mean? Lucie ran over in her mind the events of the
evening, but found no explanation of them. Adèle could not know how
insulting had been Count Repuin's presumption, or how sharply he had
been reproved. But if she did not know, she perhaps suspected it, and
therefore had her championship of her friend been so eager.

Had the Count perhaps had a quarrel with her husband? They had returned
to the ball-room together, the Count with his head carried haughtily,
Sorr, on the contrary, with an air that seemed to Lucie to express
profound despair. Just so pale and downcast had he looked on the day
when he told her that the last remnant of his property had been lost at
the gaming-table, and that not his money only, but also his honour
would be sacrificed if he could not quickly find means to pay his
gambling debts. He threatened to put a bullet through his head if Lucie
did not sign a power of attorney that placed her maternal inheritance,
her whole fortune, at his disposal. He had promised then never to play
again, and to alter his whole manner of life.

Lucie had long known that he had broken his word, that he had played
away her property also, and she only called this scene to mind now
because he had the same air of utter despair that had characterized him
on this evening when he had followed Repuin into the ball-room.

What had happened? Should she ask him? No! Whither could such questions
lead? He had long ceased to tell her the truth; and even were he to do
so, she might well wish it untold. Even to guess at the dark ways by
which he maintained his position in society was misery enough. Why
should she wish to know the terrible truth? He must have been playing
again; Repuin had probably lost, and some quarrel had ensued,
which---- No, she would pursue such thoughts no further. She trembled
to think that her husband might have revelations to make to her that
would rob her of the last remnant of her peace of mind.

The carriage stopped; Sorr got out, and, without troubling himself
about his wife, unlocked the door and entered the house. She followed
him, and they ascended the stairs in silence. In the anteroom he
lighted the two candles left in readiness for them. When they returned
from an evening entertainment it was his custom, after lighting the
candles, to retire to his room with a curt "good-night," but this he
did not do. "I have something to say to you," he said, handing Lucie
one of the candles. "I will go with you into the drawing-room."

She made no reply; her hand trembled as she took the light. She had a
foreboding that a crisis in her destiny was at hand; that the
communication which Sorr was about to make to her would be momentous
both for her and for him.

He went first. In the drawing-room he placed the light upon the table,
and then sank upon the sofa as if exhausted. He sat for a long time in
silence, his head resting on his hand, his looks bent on the ground.

Lucie did not disturb him, but remained standing by the table in front
of the sofa, silently watching him, marking the convulsive twitching of
his lips, the terrible change in his countenance. She saw the struggle
going on within him.

At last he seemed to have come to a determination. He looked up, but
when he saw Lucie's dark eyes fixed searchingly upon him he instantly
averted his own. He sprang up from the sofa and paced the room with
hurried, irregular strides, pausing at last before his wife. He tried
to look at her, but he could not meet her eye. It was inexpressibly
difficult to speak the first word. He longed to have her question him,
that he might reply, but Lucie was silent. He felt her keen glance
watching his every movement, and at last he could endure it no longer.

This must end,--this terrible silence was not to be borne; he must
break it by some word, no matter what. "I am ruined!" he said.

"I know it; we have been so for a long while," was Lucie's reply, given
with forced calmness.

"You deceive yourself. I am far worse off than you think. I have lost
all,--everything! More than we ever possessed! I am overwhelmed with
debt; we are on the brink of an abyss from which there is but one means
of escape."

"We should have adopted it long since."

Sorr looked up in astonishment. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"That we must at last resign the life we have led hitherto. I have
often, but always in vain, begged you to do so. Now necessity will
force you to it, and if you really see this at last I shall bless this
hour. By honest labour we can regain what we have lost. We have
influential friends, by whose aid we can easily begin life anew in
another city. You can procure some official position, and I will give
lessons in music and drawing, or in French and English. With courage
and determination we can easily achieve a secure independence."

"You are mad!"

This was all the reply that Sorr had for Lucie's words. Then he laughed
aloud. "It is incredible," he said, more to himself than to her, "the
wild ideas that will fill a woman's brain! An official post with a few
hundred thalers of salary--too much to starve upon, too little to
procure enough to eat! Tiresome work, from morning until night, and
hectored by a superior officer, to whom one must cringe. Regarded
askance by gentlemen. A pretty position! No, rather a bullet through my
brains and the whole mummery at an end. No need to waste a word upon
such nonsense. If I cannot live as I have been accustomed to live, I
had rather not live at all. This is not the means of escape which I
have to propose to you." He paused a moment; it was difficult to say
what he had to, but he could delay no longer, and he continued, "We
must separate, Lucie!"

"You forget that this is impossible," Lucie replied, forcing herself to
speak calmly; "a Catholic marriage cannot be dissolved, or ours would
have been so long ago."

"Nonsense! I am not talking of a divorce, which is of course
impossible, but of a separation. I have a proposal to make to you; I
know that at first it will seem odious to you; I do not like it myself,
but upon calm reflection you will see that in it lies our only means of
salvation. You must first know how matters stand with me, and this I
will tell you in as few words as possible. Our need is such that in
my despair I was induced to--to--it must out, there is no help for
it--Count Styrum's pocket-book lay open before me, and I took from it a
hundred-thaler note."

Lucie recoiled; incapable of uttering a word, she stared at her
husband. A thief! No; for this she had not been prepared; this exceeded
her worst forebodings,--a thief! And he could confess his shameful deed
thus with cynical frankness; he did not even repent it; he was not
crushed and despairing. Had he not just expressed his contempt for
honest labour? A thief! And to this man she was bound by an
indissoluble tie!

Sorr expected no answer; he had now gained the courage to speak; after
the confession of the theft nothing was difficult, and he continued,
"Well, yes, I could not resist the temptation; the pocket-book lay open
before me; the opportunity was too tempting. I thought no one saw me,
but I was wrong; Repuin saw it all. Our fate lies in his hand; if he
speaks I shall be condemned as a thief, and you will share my
dishonour. The wife of the thief who has escaped punishment only by
voluntary death is an outcast from society. Your plan of honest labour
would prove futile, for none would intrust their children's instruction
to a woman at whom the world points the finger of scorn. You will sink
into utter misery; that will be your fate, as mine will be to die by my
own hand, if you refuse to accede to the proposal in which alone lies
safety for us. It is in your power," the wretch continued, speaking
rapidly and in a firmer tone, "to secure yourself a gay and joyous
existence, free from care, and provided with every luxury that wealth
can give, while you keep your conscience clear of the guilt of my
death, for it will be your act that drives me to suicide if you refuse
to accede to my proposal."

"And what do you ask of me?" Lucie inquired, in a low monotone.

"Count Repuin," Sorr began again, "is madly in love with you. You have
hitherto treated him very badly, although you owed it to me to smile
upon him, as I have often begged you to do. His love, however, has been
only increased by your reserve. He is ready to make any sacrifice for
you now. But if he is again repulsed he is resolved upon revenge; he
will then be our deadly foe; he will ruin both you and me. You see what
is before us. If, however, you consent to our separation. Count Repuin
will take you to Italy, or whithersoever you wish to go. He will load
you with the costliest gifts, every wish that you can frame will be
fulfilled. You will insure yourself a most brilliant position and save
my life. It would be worse than madness to say 'no.'"

Lucie's gaze was bent upon the ground. When her husband first began to
speak such shameful words, she thought she could not endure life until
he should have ended, but she summoned up all her strength of mind and
succeeded in conquering the terrible pain that tortured her; she
preserved an outward calm, while her heart seemed breaking with horror
and indignation.

Sorr patiently awaited her answer. He thought she was considering his
proposal, and that was a good sign. He had feared that she would
indignantly reject it, give utterance to her detestation of the
Russian, and overwhelm him with reproaches for having dared to suggest
such a scheme, but nothing of all this had occurred; she had listened
quietly. He had prepared himself to overpower her resistance with
threats and entreaties, but there seemed to be no need for these. Since
she was so calmly considering the matter she would certainly be
reasonable in the end. He exulted in so easy and unlooked-for a
victory.

At last she spoke: "You then desire that we should part? You yourself
would now declare me released for life from every obligation that a
wife owes to her husband? You distinctly consent to our separation, and
declare that you have no longer any claim upon either my life or my
fidelity. Answer me with a simple 'yes,' and I will consider whether to
accept your proposal, but before I decide I must be free."

"If you accept my plan, it follows as a matter of course that you are
entirely free by my desire," Sorr replied, who could not help thinking
her demand rather ambiguous.

"I asked for a simple 'yes' or 'no,' without any 'if.' I must be free
before I decide. Unless you say 'yes' unconditionally, I swear to you I
will die before I yield to your wishes and part from you."

"Well, then, 'yes,'--you are free. But now be reasonable, Lucie; tell
me what to say to Repuin; he expects me tomorrow morning by eight
o'clock. I dare not go one minute later."

"I will consider; you shall have my reply before eight to-morrow."

"But, Lucie----"

"You must wait. I will not decide to-night."

"Well, then, as you will. To-morrow morning early. Good-night, Lucie."

He held out his hand, but she turned from him with loathing, and,
without even looking at him, took up a candle and left the room. Sorr
heard the door of her own room bolted behind her.



                               CHAPTER V.


The Hohenwalds by no means belong to the old German imperial nobility.
It is said that in the forest-depths of the domain of a Saxon Prince
his trusty huntsman saved the life of his lord from the furious
onslaught of a wild boar, and that in gratitude the Prince bestowed
upon him the hunting castle where he had previously been overseer, and
in memory of his bravery gave him the name of Hohenwald,[2] which
gradually came to belong to the castle and the neighbouring village on
the estate. The title of Freiherr, or Baron, was bestowed much later by
the Emperor. Baron Werner von Hohenwald, who distinguished himself as a
colonel during the Thirty Years' War, was probably the first thus
honoured, and the founder of the family of _von_ Hohenwalds.

This old colonel, who added much to the estate, not a large one
originally, was passionately devoted to the chase; he took up his abode
in the old castle, surrounded on all sides by the forest, and his
example was followed by all his successors, although such a residence
by no means lightened the cares of the management of the extended
estates of Hohenwald. The solitude of the forest had an irresistible
attraction for the Hohenwalds, and although they had erected a
comfortable grange near the village, they always occupied the castle.
Around the comparatively new grange were gathered the farm buildings
and the dwellings for inspectors and other officials. The Hohenwalds
thought nothing of the inconvenience of riding a couple of miles to
reach the grange; they thought themselves amply compensated by the
wonderful beauty of the site of the castle, buried in the depths of a
magnificent forest. The love of solitude seemed inherrent in the
Hohenwalds. If some among them had in their youth frequented the Court,
of Dresden, they were sure to return finally to Castle Hohenwald, and
none of them ever left it in summer. They had lavished so much money
and taste in fitting it up for a home, that it would indeed have been
difficult to find one more charming and desirable. The imperial colonel
had first begun to improve and add to the old hunting-nest, and each of
his successors had done his part in giving fresh beauty and grace to
castle, to gardens, and even to the forest, a portion of which had been
converted into a magnificent park. If they loved solitude, they were
all the more determined to surround themselves in their solitude with
every luxury that wealth could procure. Some of the rooms of the castle
were furnished with princely splendour, especially those on the lower
story, in which the present Freiherr Werner had been wont to assemble
frequent guests before his separation from his wife. The walls were
hung with paintings by illustrious masters;--the collection of pictures
at Hohenwald, although for years it had been seen by none save the
inmates of the castle, was accounted one of the best and largest in the
country,--and the castle library exceeded many a public one in its
treasures of literature.

The ground-floor of the castle was less gorgeously fitted up than was
the first story. The present possessor, Freiherr Werner, had arranged
it for himself, and he thought more of solid comfort than of
superficial splendour. Nothing had been spared to make the rooms
pleasant and comfortable, but the hangings and furniture-covers were
not of silken damask, but of substantial woollen fabric, subdued in
colour, suiting well with the dark oak wainscoting and furniture.

The Freiherr's favourite retreat was a large apartment, at one end of
which lofty folding-doors of glass opened upon a terrace, whence a
flight of steps led into the garden. As the castle crowned an eminence,
from this terrace almost all the garden could be overlooked, as well as
part of the road leading to the castle from the village of Hohenwald.

The garden-room, as it was called, was the dwelling-room of Freiherr
Werner; he spent most of his time here, even in winter, and in summer,
when the tall doors were thrown wide open, the view from them partly
indemnified him for the loss of open-air exercise, from which he had
now been debarred for some years.

Every morning he was pushed into this room in his rolling-chair from
his bedroom, for his right foot was so lame from the gout that he could
not walk. Here he assembled his family about him, here the daily meals
were eaten, and only late in the evening was he rolled back again to
his bedroom by his servant or by his son Arno. Every day he sat at the
open doors, gazing out into the garden. In former years he had devoted
much time to his garden; he was enthusiastically fond of flowers, but
since the gout had confined him to his rolling-chair he had been forced
to content himself with merely superintending the gardeners, to whom
from time to time he would shout down his orders. It was but seldom
that he could be taken out into the garden among his flowers, for the
slightest motion occasioned him great pain.

On the afternoon of a lovely day in May the Freiherr was seated in his
favourite spot, looking abroad into the garden, where his beloved
flowers were budding gloriously, and delighting in their beauty and the
mild air of spring. He was in the most contented of moods; his book was
laid aside; he could read at any time; storms did not interfere with
that. His keen gaze wandered with intense enjoyment from shrub to
shrub; most of them he had planted himself, and his interest was
unflagging in watching their daily development from bud to blossom.

If the Assessor von Hahn could have seen the Freiherr at this moment he
would hardly have recognized the gloomy misanthrope in this kindly old
man with genial smile and gentle eyes; but the next moment the
expression of the mobile features changed, the genial smile vanished,
the brow was contracted in a frown, the dark eyes sparkled with
irritation.

It was the sound of a distant post-horn that caused this sudden change
in the Baron's expression. The old man listened. An extra post! He had
not heard the signal for a long time, but in former years his ears had
been familiar enough with it; he could not be deceived. A visit was
impending, for the road led only to Castle Hohenwald and ended there;
any traveller upon it must have the castle for his goal. Again the
signal sounded, rather nearer; the postilion was evidently determined
that the castle should be thoroughly apprised of the visitor at hand.

The Freiherr picked up a bell from the table beside him and rang it
loudly. A servant instantly appeared at the door leading into the hall.
"Did you hear that, Franz?" his master angrily exclaimed. "Did you hear
that? An extra post!"

"It cannot be, sir," old Franz calmly replied. "Who is there to come to
us?"

"That's just it. Who can have the insolence? But there; hear it for
yourself. The cursed postilion is blowing with all the force of his
lungs just to vex me."

"Can it be possible?" old Franz exclaimed, in the greatest
astonishment, as he hearkened to the postilion's horn now sounding much
nearer.

"No doubt of it! A visit! Such insolence is insufferable! Do they think
me old and childish? Whoever it may be will find himself mistaken.
Hurry, Franz, to the castle gate; you know what to say. I receive no
one; I'm sick,--I cannot see anybody. The carriage must turn round and
go back; whoever it may be, don't let them get out. Call the gardener
and old John to help you, if you need them. Go; be quick. In a few
minutes that carriage will be here."

The old man looked very angry as he shouted out these orders; his dark
eyes flashed from beneath the bushy snow-white eyebrows. With one hand
he stroked, as was his habit when vexed, his full silver beard, with
the other he rapped upon the small table beside him. "Well, what are
you waiting for?" he growled to the man, who still stood hesitating at
the door.

"What if it should be the Herr Finanzrath?"

"Werner? I positively never thought of him," replied the Freiherr,
mollified on the instant. "Of course he is an exception; but now to
your post. Go!"

Old Franz vanished, and the Freiherr leaned forward in his chair,
disregarding the pain the movement caused him, that he might better
overlook the road leading up the hill, for in a few moments the extra
post would emerge from the forest and be visible upon the road.

On came the horses and the vehicle, a light chaise, in which sat an
elegantly-dressed man leaning back among the cushions, and talking to a
horseman who was riding beside the carriage.

"Of course it is Werner!" muttered the Freiherr, relieved, sinking back
into his chair. And yet he did not seem particularly rejoiced at the
unexpected arrival of his eldest son, for the frown did not quite leave
his brow. He looked annoyed. "What does he want, coming thus without
letting us know? But perhaps he did announce his visit to Arno; he is
riding beside him. Well, well, we shall see."

The old man had not long to wait,--the post-chaise soon rattled
over the stones of the court-yard, and a few minutes later the
Finanzrath von Hohenwald, accompanied by his brother Arno, entered the
garden-room.

The Finanzrath was a tall, handsome man, something over thirty years
old; he, as well as his brother Arno, bore a decided resemblance
to the old Baron,--they had the same dark, fiery eyes, and the same
finely-chiselled mouth, which, when tightly closed, lent an almost hard
expression to the face. And yet, despite their likeness to their
father, the brothers were so unlike that it was only after long
familiarity with them, and a careful comparison of their features, that
any resemblance between them could be detected. Both were handsome men,
tall and shapely, but their air and bearing were entirely dissimilar,
Arno having preserved the erect military carriage of the soldier, while
the Finanzrath was distinguished by an easy, negligent grace of
movement. Although he was the elder of the two, he looked much younger
than Arno; his fresh-coloured, smooth-shaven face had a very youthful
expression, while Arno's grave, earnest eyes made him appear older than
he really was.

The old Baron's face cleared somewhat as the Finanzrath drew a chair up
beside his father's and greeted him most cordially. "I am delighted to
see you looking so well, father," he said, kindly. "I trust that
terrible gout will soon be so much better that you can get out among
your flowers. But where is Celia?" he asked suddenly.

"Yes, where is she? Who can tell the whereabouts of that
will-o'-the-wisp? In the forest, in the park, in her boat on the lake,
in the village,--everywhere at once!" the old man answered, with a
smile.

A slight shade flitted across the Finanzrath's countenance. "Just the
same as ever," he said. "I thought so; and perhaps it is as well that
Celia is not here at the moment, as it gives me an opportunity to speak
to you and Arno, father, of a matter that lies very near my heart, and
that I should like to have settled before I see her. I hope, sir, you
will not be angry with me if I speak frankly with you in regard to your
darling, whom you have just designated so justly a will-o'-the-wisp?"

"What do you want with the child? Have you any fault to find again with
Celia?" the Freiherr asked, crossly.

"Yes, father; I feel it my fraternal duty towards Celia to speak very
seriously to you and to Arno in regard to her. You both spoil the girl
so completely that a stop must be put to it. Celia is now fifteen years
old, she is almost grown up."

"She is grown up," Arno interposed.

"So much the worse. Then it is certainly high time that something were
done about her education, if she is not to run quite wild. She is a
charming, sweet-tempered creature, and I can hardly blame you, living
with her here in this lonely forest, for being content with her as she
is, nor can I wonder that you, my dear father, can scarcely grasp the
idea of allowing her to leave you."

"What do you mean?" the Freiherr exclaimed, angrily. "What are you
thinking of? I let Celia leave me? Never!"

"I knew what you would say, father," the Finanzrath replied; "but I
hope, nevertheless, that after calm consideration you will agree to a
plan that I have to propose to you. Celia has grown up here in the
castle without feminine companionship, for you will hardly call our old
Kaselitz, who has always spoiled the child to her heart's content, a
fit associate for a Fräulein von Hohenwald. The only person of
education with whom Celia comes in contact, with the exception of
yourself and Arno, is her tutor our good old pastor, Quandt, who, as
Arno wrote me, has taught her well in various branches of science and
literature, but can of course teach her nothing of what a young girl of
rank should know when she goes out into the world."

"She never shall go out into the world!" the Freiherr indignantly
exclaimed.

"Do you wish Celia to pass her entire life here in the solitude of
Castle Hohenwald? Will you run the risk of hearing her one day say to
you, 'You have robbed me of the joys of life, father! I might have been
a happy wife and mother, but since you chose to keep me by your side, I
am become a weary, unhappy old maid!' You cannot be so selfish as to
wish that your darling should sacrifice to you her entire youth?"

"Nonsense! What would you have?" growled the Freiherr. "But go on. I
should like to know what you really want."

"You shall soon learn. I spoke of Celia's education; she is well
grounded in science and literature; she rides like an Amazon,--not
badly perhaps; she handles a fowling-piece with the skill of a
gamekeeper. So far so good; but does she understand how to conduct
herself in society? does she possess the talent for social
intercourse,--a knowledge of those forms which, worthless in
themselves, are nevertheless indispensable accomplishments for a young
lady of rank?"

"I have not brought her up to be a fine lady!" the Freiherr said,
peevishly.

"I think, sir, if you will pardon me, that you have not brought her up
at all. I detest a fine lady and modern artificial culture, but a
Baroness von Hohenwald should not be utterly ignorant of the forms of
society. Celia must learn to conform to the rules that govern the
society of to-day, and it is high time that she began to do so. Arno
will admit that I am right."

"I cannot deny it," said Arno, who had been an attentive listener as he
paced the room to and fro, and who now paused before his brother and
nodded assent. "I, too, have pondered upon what was to be done for
Celia. Something must be arranged for her further culture, but I have
vainly tried to devise what it shall be."

"And yet the matter is simple enough. Two methods are open to you. Let
my father choose which he prefers. The first, which I myself think the
best and would therefore most strongly recommend, is perhaps the one
that will prove least pleasing to my father. Frau von Adelung's school
in Dresden has the best of reputations, and Frau von Adelung herself is
a woman of refinement and culture, who moves in the first society. I
made an excursion to Dresden before I came hither, saw Frau von Adelung
myself, and spoke with her regarding Celia, whom she is quite willing
to receive among her pupils."

"Deuce take you for your pains!" cried the Freiherr, with a burst of
anger. "I know without being told that if I choose to pay for it the
best boarding-school in the country will be thankful to have my Celia,
but I tell you, once for all, I will not hear of it. I cannot part with
the child. Celia is my sunshine in this gloomy house. My heart rejoices
at the sight of her. The pain that tortures me is forgotten when I look
into her laughing eyes. I am a sick old man. You ought not to be so
cruel, Werner; leave me my jewel for the few years that I have to
live."

The Freiherr's tone from one of angry reproach had become that of
almost humble entreaty.

The Finanzrath nodded and smiled. "I hope you will rejoice for many
years in your jewel, and one day see her a happy wife and mother," he
said; and then continued: "If you will not part with Celia, she must
have the training here in Hohenwald which she could indeed procure more
easily at school; all that remains to be done is to engage a good
governess for her."

Arno suddenly paused in his pacing to and fro in the room.
"Impossible!" he exclaimed. "What are you thinking of, Werner? A
governess here in the house! Live with the pedantic, insufferable
creature day after day, week after week, and always have her
interfering between our Celia and ourselves! Our entire life would have
to be changed. If so pretentious a person were to come here she would
require to be amused; we should have visitors, and would be forced to
pay visits in return. The peaceful repose that has hitherto reigned in
Hohenwald would be gone if a strange inmate were introduced among us."

"Would you rather send Celia to school? I confess I should prefer it
myself."

"But I should not!" the old Freiherr exclaimed, with decision. "I do
not like womenfolk, but sooner than part with Celia I will endure a
governess in the house. After all, she will be only a superior sort of
servant. We get along with Frau Kaselitz, and we can get along with her
too!"

"Frau Kaselitz does not pretend to sit at table with us, nor to join
our family circle," said Arno.

"That would be insufferable," the Freiherr said, reflectively.

"Then let us have recourse to the school."

"Don't say another word about that cursed school," growled the
Freiherr; "let us have the governess and be done with it!"

Arno would have made some further objection, but his father cut it
short by declaring that not a word more should be said upon the subject
until Celia was by; the girl was old enough to have an opinion
concerning her own affairs.

To this decision the Finanzrath assented, rather unwillingly, to be
sure, since he would have preferred to have the matter settled on the
instant. He saw, however, that his father was coming round, and he
feared to injure his cause by any insistance. And Celia herself
prevented the possibility of continuing the conversation in her
absence.

A shower of syringa blossoms suddenly rained down upon the Finanzrath,
who was seated near the open door leading to the garden, and a
charming young girl appeared upon the threshold. It was Celia,--the
will-o'-the-wisp, as her father loved to call her,--who always appeared
when least expected.

With a merry laugh she flew to the Finanzrath, sealing her
flower-greeting with a light kiss upon his cheek, and then turning to
the old Baron, she threw her arms around his neck. "You are a dear,
darling old papa!" she cried, gayly. "You will not let your Celia be
sent to school like a little child; you will not let me be disposed of
without consulting me! Thank you, my own dear papa; but as for you,
Werner, I shall not forget that you would have banished me from
Hohenwald."

The Finanzrath shook off the syringa blossoms, and, leaning back in his
chair, contemplated his sister with increasing satisfaction. He had not
seen her for nearly a year; he had not been at Hohenwald since the
Freiherr's last birthday, and during this time Celia had changed
wonderfully. He had left a child, he found a maiden; the tall, lithe
figure had gained a certain roundness and grace.

Celia was developed physically far beyond her years; mentally, she was
still the gay, careless child; the happy spirit of childhood laughed in
her large brown eyes, was mirrored in the bright smile that lit up her
lovely features, and in the gay defiance with which, after having
fairly smothered her father with kisses, she confronted the Finanzrath
with folded arms. "Well, my sage brother," she said, laughing, "here I
am, in my own proper person, prepared to listen to your highly valuable
advice with regard to my future training."

"Have you been listening, Celia?" the Finanzrath asked.

"Of course I have. I saw you arrive, and by way of welcome plucked a
whole apronful of syringa flowers to surprise you after a sisterly
fashion, and then crept up to the door on tiptoe. There, to my horror,
I heard how the redoubtable Finanzrath had the impudence to tell my
darling old papa that he had not brought me up. Was it not my duty to
listen? You are a detestable monster, Werner! Look at me and tell me
what fault you have to find with me."

At this moment the Finanzrath certainly had no fault whatever to find
with his charming sister; he thought her lovely, and owned to himself
that if no one had brought Celia up, mother Nature had done the best
that was possible for her. Her every movement was graceful, her bearing
that of a lady, and even in the stormy embrace she had bestowed upon
her father there had been nothing rude or unfeminine, but only an
impulsive warmth that became her admirably.

"Why do you not speak?" Celia went on, as the Finanzrath continued to
look at her with a smile but without replying. "You were ready enough
just now to prate about my want of social elegance, and Herr Arno, in
the character of a dignified echo, added his 'I cannot deny it.' Only
wait, Arno; you shall atone to me for that!"

"That's right!" the Freiherr cried in high glee. "The little witch has
you both on the hip."

"And, papa, I am a little angry with you, too. You were nearly talked
over by that odious Werner. Now let me tell you, if you ever send me to
boarding-school I will run away immediately. Even if I have to beg my
way back to Hohenwald I never will stay in Dresden with that horrid
Frau von Adelung, to whom Werner would sell me like a slave."

"You would not talk so, child, if you had ever seen Frau von Adelung,"
the Finanzrath observed.

"I am not a child, and I will not let you treat me as such. Remember
that, Werner. I will never consent to be sent to school."

"Assure yourself on that point, little one. You heard me say that I
never will permit such an arrangement: that I cannot and will not be
parted from you," said the old man.

"Yes, I heard that, you dear old papa, and I could have shouted for joy
when you refused to listen to Werner's odious plan. You cannot live
without me, nor can I without you. So let Arno talk as he pleases. You
and I know that I am very well brought up. Neither you nor Arno has
ever found any fault with my manners, and as for what Werner has to say
about marriage, it is all nonsense. I shall never marry, but live here
with you two at Hohenwald. Upon that I am resolved."

"Ah, indeed?" the Finanzrath asked, smiling. "So elevated a resolve
adopted by a girl of fifteen of course alters the case."

"You are detestable! In two months I shall be sixteen."

"A most venerable age, I admit; fortunately, however, not so advanced
but that you may still have something to learn. How, for example, does
your music come on?"

Celia blushed, and replied, rather dejectedly, "I have not practised
much lately. Our good old pastor is so deaf that he never hears my
mistakes."

"And therefore you prefer not to practise at all, but to forget the
little you have learned, although you have considerable talent, and
might give my father a great deal of pleasure if you had a good
teacher. Think, father, how you would enjoy having Celia give you an
hour or so of delicious music every evening."

The old man looked fondly at his darling: "Yes, yes, I should like it
very well, but if it tires the child to practise, I can do very well
without it."

"Oh, no, papa; I will turn over a new leaf, and practise well, if it
really will please you."

"Practice is not enough," said the Finanzrath; "you never will improve
without a teacher. I consulted Frau von Adelung upon the subject, for I
foresaw that my plan of sending you to school would meet with
invincible opposition from you and my father. Therefore I asked Frau
von Adelung if she knew of any one whom she could recommend as a
governess for Celia."

"Ah, now we are coming to the governess!" cried Celia, laughing. "You
are a born diplomatist, Werner. This is why you praised my 'talent' and
talked about my music. But no, my cunning brother, I am not to be
caught in your net. Am I, grown up as I am, to be ordered about by an
ugly old governess in green spectacles? I can hear her now: 'Fräulein
Celia, sit up; you are stooping again! Fräulein Celia, no young lady
should climb a chestnut-tree. Fräulein Celia here, Fräulein Celia
there! You must not do this, and you must not do that.' Oh, a governess
is always a horror! and I tell you, Werner, that if you send one here,
I will contrive that she is tired of her post in a week."

"We will see about that," the Finanzrath rejoined, coolly. "Frau von
Adelung has recommended to me very highly an accomplished young person,
who, so far as I know, neither wears green spectacles nor is a horror.
She is very musical, plays the piano charmingly, and speaks French as
well as English."

"She must be a prodigy, indeed!" Arno said. "Is it possible that such a
combination of the arts and sciences can condescend to come to Castle
Hohenwald? Celia is right; the lady could not stay here a week. Our
lonely castle is no place for such a wonder, nor is Celia any pupil for
her. Neither my father nor I could alter our mode of life for a
governess. Women, in fact, are so little to my mind, that it is only by
an effort that I can bring myself to speak to them."

"Pray let me thank you in the name of the sex," Celia said, with a low
courtesy to her brother.

"Nonsense! you are an exception, you little will-o'-the-wisp. No need
to talk artificial nonsense to you; you are not greedy for admiration,
and do not expect to be flattered."

"And how do you know that Fräulein Müller, the lady recommended by Frau
von Adelung, expects it?" asked the Finanzrath.

"All these modern governesses expect it. Most of them are pedantic, and
all of them are greedy for admiration."

"You are certainly mistaken in this case. I described exactly to Frau
von Adelung the life that is led at Castle Hohenwald; I expressly told
her that no guest is admitted within its walls, that the governess
would have no companionship save Celia's, that my father was ill, and
therefore unfit for social intercourse, that Arno was a woman-hater,
who would never, probably, exchange three words with her, and that
therefore the position of governess here would not suit any one with
any social pretensions."

"And what was Frau von Adelung's reply?" Arno asked.

"That it was just the kind of situation that Fräulein Müller wanted."

"That seems to me a rather suspicious circumstance. Why should such a
woman as you describe, talented and accomplished, desire to bury
herself in the solitude of Castle Hohenwald?" Arno objected, and his
father, too, shook his head doubtfully.

But the Finanzrath was prepared for this objection; he said, "Frau von
Adelung, in whose sincerity and truth I place perfect reliance,
explained what seemed to me, too, an anomaly. Fräulein Müller has had
much to endure in her life; her father was a wealthy merchant, and she
was brought up in the greatest luxury. But all the young girl's hopes
in life were disappointed: her father lost his entire fortune. Frau von
Adelung hinted that he had committed suicide, probably in despair at
his losses, and gave me to suppose, although for the young lady's sake
she did not say so directly, that the poor girl was betrothed, and that
the loss of her money broke her engagement. Alone, and dependent
entirely upon her own exertions, the unfortunate girl is anxious to
earn an honourable livelihood. The solitude of Castle Hohenwald, Frau
von Adelung maintains, would make the situation here peculiarly
desirable to Fräulein Müller. I expressly stated, also, that my father
would be quite ready to indemnify her by an unusually high salary for
the disadvantages of her position here; and I have so arranged matters
that it only needs a note from me to Frau von Adelung to secure
Fräulein Müller for Celia. She might be here in a few days. It is for
you to decide, father, whether we shall embrace the opportunity thus
offered us of procuring a suitable companion and teacher for Celia, or
whether we shall let it slip."

The Freiherr was convinced by his son's representations. There was
still a conflict going on within him between his distaste for having
his quiet life disturbed by the intrusion of a stranger and his desire
that Celia's education might be complete. But he was so far won over to
the Finanzrath's views that he would not say 'no' to his plan. Celia
must decide. "Well, little one," he said, "what do you think now of
Werner's scheme? Shall he write to Frau von Adelung to send us this
Fräulein Müller, or do you still declare that you will not have her?"

Celia looked thoughtful. She must decide, then. She thought of the
delicious liberty she had hitherto enjoyed, of the restraint that would
be laid upon her in the future. But she thought also of her father's
pleasure in her progress in music, and more than all, it quite broke
her heart to think that her "no" would destroy the hopes of an
unfortunate girl who was seeking a position as governess.

Her brother's account had excited her profound sympathy. She could not
say "no." "You are an odious fellow, Werner!" she said, after a short
pause for reflection. "You do just what you please with us; but you
shall have a kiss, and you may write to Fräulein Müller to come, and I
will try not to tease her."

So the Finanzrath had his kiss, but he could not keep her by his side.
She had been serious long enough, and she ran laughing into the garden,
leaving her father and brothers to farther consultation.



                              CHAPTER VI.


The Prussian-Saxon boundary defines also the bounds between the
Hohenwald estates, that lie entirely on Saxon territory, and the
Prussian domain of Grünhagen. The boundary-line here makes a great
curve into Saxony, so that the Grünhagen lands are almost shut in by
the Hohenwald forests and fields. The Grünhagen forest indeed forms a
continuation of the magnificent woods of beech and oak that surround
Castle Hohenwald, the boundary-line between them being only marked out
by a narrow path, so overgrown with moss and underbrush that only
careful observation can detect its course.

The vicinity of the two estates has always been, since the memory of
man, a fruitful cause of quarrel between the respective proprietors of
Hohenwald and Grünhagen, each being strictly jealous lest his neighbour
should infringe upon his rights. At times some of the Hohenwald cattle,
when the herd-boy was not sufficiently on the alert, would stray into
the Grünhagen fields and be taken into custody by Herr von Poseneck's
people, and on one occasion the Hohenwald forester had actually
sequestrated the fowling-piece of Herr von Poseneck, when that
gentleman, who was devoted to the chase, had in his hunting attempted
to make a short cut through the Hohenwald forest. There had also been
various trespasses upon the rights of the chase which were hardly to be
distinguished from poaching committed on both sides of the boundary by
enthusiastic Posenecks and Hohenwalds.

These innumerable quarrels had begotten a hostility between the Barons
of Hohenwald and Poseneck, which had been handed down from generation
to generation, and which was by no means lessened by the fact that,
since the annexation of Saxony with Prussia, the Posenecks had become
Prussian noblemen. No Hohenwald ever visited Grünhagen, and even in the
days when Hohenwald had been renowned for its brilliant entertainments,
at which were assembled all the country gentry and many families from
beyond the border, no Poseneck was ever invited within its gates.

The hatred of the Hohenwalds for the Posenecks was so great that
Freiherr Werner, although he was not wanting in a certain amiability,
could not suppress a sentiment of exultation when, in 1849, Kurt von
Poseneck, who had allied himself with great enthusiasm to the
revolutionists, was forced to sell Grünhagen to his brother-in-law, the
Amtsrath Friese, and emigrate to America with his family to escape the
trial for high treason that threatened him as a member of the extreme
left of the Frankfort National Assembly.

Since then, however, the animosity between Grünhagen and Poseneck had
slumbered, for the new possessor of Grünhagen was a man who detested
litigation, and who did all that he could to avoid giving cause for
offence to the Hohenwalds, while he overlooked any slight trespass on
their part. Thus open strife was avoided, but the old dislike only
smouldered. Freiherr Werner had transferred it to the Poseneck's near
relative, the Amtsrath, whom he detested for his Prussian extraction.

Like master like man! All the inmates of the castle and the inhabitants
of the village of Hohenwald hated everything relating to Grünhagen. The
Hohenwald servants, from the steward and inspector to the commonest
stable-boy, held the "Grünhagen Prussians" for an odious race of men,
and, as they had received strict orders from the Freiherr not to be led
into any disputes, avoided all association with the Grünhagen people.

Thus the road from Grünhagen to the village of Hohenwald wellnigh
disappeared beneath weeds and grass, for there was not the slightest
intercourse between the two places. Was it to be wondered at, then,
that a Hohenwald plough boy, driving his team in the meadow bordering
upon the Grünhagen lands, stopped his horses and stared in surprise at
a young, well-dressed man sauntering slowly along the disused road,
crossing the boundary, and then, when near the village of Hohenwald,
striking into a by-path leading directly to the Hohenwald oak-forest?
The fellow looked after the stranger until he was lost to sight in the
forest, and then whipped up his horses, resolving to acquaint the
inspector that very evening with the remarkable occurrence.

The stranger noticed the ploughboy's wonder, but it merely provoked a
smile as he slowly loitered along the meadow-path. Now and then he
paused and looked around, surveying with evident pleasure the lovely
landscape spread before him, the fertile fields and meadows, girdled by
the glorious oaken forest, now clothed in the delicious green of early
spring. As he reached its borders he paused again to look back at the
charming village of Hohenwald, nestled on the edge of the forest, and
at the stately mansion of Grünhagen, overtopping the farm-buildings,
granaries, stables, and cottages about it.

How near the two estates were to each other and yet how wide apart! A
smile hovered upon the young man's handsome face as he called to mind
the strange hatred of the two proprietors for each other. He had
laughed aloud when the Amtsrath Friese had told him of it at Grünhagen,
and he could not now suppress a smile, for such an inherited aversion
was entirely inconceivable to him; it was a folly for which there was
no possible explanation.

Entering the wood, he pursued the narrow path through the thick
underbrush, and gazed about him with intense admiration. Nowhere else
in Europe had he seen such magnificent old oaks; they belonged
exclusively to the Hohenwald domain, whose proprietor cared for them
most tenderly, and never allowed any of the giant trunks to be felled
except those which nature had decreed should yield to time. The Baron
could well afford to cultivate his love for his oaks; and whatever
might be done in distant parts of the forest, no axe was ever allowed
to work havoc near the castle among his old oaks and beeches in his
dear "forest depths." The narrow foot-path crossed a broad road through
the wood; here the stranger paused irresolute and looked about him
searchingly. To the right the road wound through the forest, in whose
depths it vanished; to the left it led through rows of trees up a
gentle incline to Castle Hohenwald, one of the wings of which the
stranger could discern in the distance. He had not thought himself so
near the castle; the foot-path must have led him astray. According to
the directions of the Grünhagen inspector, he should be upon the path
which, cutting off a corner, was a more direct road to the Grünhagen
woods than the one leading from the mansion; but if this were so, it
ought not to have brought him so near to Castle Hohenwald. He
hesitated, pondering whether to follow the path on the other side of
the road or to turn round, when his attention was arrested by a
charming sight. Galloping upon a magnificent and spirited horse, there
suddenly appeared upon the road from the castle a girl scarcely more
than a child. She managed her steed with wondrous case and security;
the mad gallop gave her no fear; she sat as firmly and even carelessly
in the saddle as though the horse were going at an ordinary pace;
indeed, she even incited him to greater speed with a light touch of her
riding-whip.

How lovely she was! A young girl, judging by her slender, well-rounded
figure, and yet only a child. There was a bright smile upon her
charming face, her eyes beamed with happiness, and her dark curls,
blown backwards by the breeze, escaped from beneath her light straw
hat.

She was very near the stranger when the horse suddenly started and
shied, probably frightened by the young man's light summer coat among
the trees.

A practised horseman might well have lost his stirrup through such an
interruption of the swift gallop, but the young Amazon kept her seat
perfectly, punished her horse by a smart cut with her whip, as she
exclaimed, "What are you about, Pluto?" and then, as with a strong
steady hand she reined him in, looked to see what had caused his
terror.

A stranger in the Hohenwald forest! Celia had reason enough for
astonishment, for she could scarcely remember ever having seen any save
the people of Hohenwald upon her father's estate. And this was an
elegantly-dressed stranger, no forester or peasant, but a young man
evidently from the higher walks of society. Now a well-educated young
lady would certainly have found it becoming in such an unexpected
encounter with a stranger in the lonely forest to display a certain
amount of embarrassment, perhaps of timidity. Not so Celia. She scanned
the intruder upon her father's domain with a long, searching look,--the
sensation of fear she knew only by name, and there was no cause for
embarrassment. She was at home here, upon her native soil. She had a
perfect right to ask the stranger bluntly, "How came you here? Who are
you?"

The stranger bowed very respectfully. "I think," he replied, "that I
have the honour of addressing Fräulein von Hohenwald."

He was evidently a very polite and agreeable young man,--"the honour of
addressing Fräulein von Hohenwald." Celia suddenly felt very much grown
up. Hitherto she had been only Celia. Even the servants, who had known
her from infancy, called her nothing but Fräulein Celia. Fräulein von
Hohenwald sounded delightful. She quite forgot to pursue her inquiries,
and answered, "Yes, I am Cecilia von Hohenwald."

Again the stranger bowed low, and taking a little card-case from his
breast-pocket, produced a visiting-card, which he handed to her,
saying, "I must pray your forgiveness for presenting myself in this
informal manner as your nearest neighbour."

Celia read the card. "Kurt von Poseneck!" she exclaimed, and the tone
of her voice as well as the expression of her eyes manifested such
surprise and even terror, that for Kurt all the inherited hatred of the
Hohenwalds for the Posenecks found utterance in this brief mention of
his name.

When the Amtsrath Friese, his uncle, had told him of the fierce hatred
between the Hohenwalds and the Posenecks that had been handed down
through generations, Kurt had laughed heartily, but now when he thought
he saw that this insensate hate had taken root in the heart of this
lovely child, he was filled with a sense of painful regret. "What have
I done to you, Fräulein von Hohenwald," he said, sadly, "that my name
should so startle you?"

"It does not startle, it only surprises me," Celia replied, quickly, as
she looked with increased interest and a greater degree of attention at
this young man, who did not in the least resemble the picture she had
formed from the tales of Frau Kaselitz of a member of the evil-minded,
cross-grained quarrelsome Poseneck family.

Certainly Kurt von Poseneck looked neither cross-grained nor
quarrelsome as his frank eyes met her own kindly and yet sadly.

Her first inspection had inclined her in the stranger's favour, and
Celia now decided that he was a very fine-looking man, almost as tall
as her brother Arno and far handsomer, for Arno looked stern and
gloomy, while Kurt smiled kindly. His full brown beard and moustache
became him admirably. Celia thought his expression exceedingly
pleasing; she had never supposed that a Poseneck could have so frank
and honest a smile.

The girl was quite incapable of dissimulation,--her thoughts and
sentiments were mirrored in her eyes,--and Kurt perceived to his great
satisfaction the first startled expression vanish from her face as she
looked at him with a very friendly air.

"I thank you, Fräulein von Hohenwald," he said, "for those simple
words. I was afraid you shared the melancholy prejudice that has been
the cause of so many terrible disputes between our families in former
times, and this would have specially pained me in you."

"Why specially in me?"

The question was simple and natural, but yet not easy to answer.
"Because--because--well, then, honestly and frankly, Fräulein von
Hohenwald, because as soon as I saw you I said to myself, 'Let the
Hohenwalds and the Posenecks quarrel and hate one another as they
choose, Fräulein Cecilia von Hohenwald and Kurt von Poseneck never
shall be enemies!' Forget the mutual dislike that has divided our
families. Will you not promise me this? I know it is a strange request
to make of you, but you must forgive my bluntness. I returned to Europe
only a few months ago, and cannot forget the fashion learned upon our
Western farm in America. I hope you will not blame me for it."

"Oh, no; on the contrary, I like frankness. Werner always scolds me for
having my heart upon my lips; he is odious, but papa and Arno take my
part."

"Who is Werner?"

"My brother, the Finanzrath. I thought you knew; but indeed you cannot
know much about us if you are only lately come from America."

"More than you think. My father used often to tell me of Grünhagen and
Hohenwald, and my uncle Friese has talked of you to me also. I knew and
admired you, Fräulein von Hohenwald, from his description, and I am
doubly rejoiced that chance has brought us together. But you have not
yet answered me. Will you grant my request and promise me that for us
the old family feud shall not exist?"

"With all my heart!" said Celia; and in ratification of her promise she
held out her hand to Kurt, although her horse seemed to take the
stranger's approach very ill, and grew restless.

Kurt took the little proffered hand. "Peace is formally concluded,
then," he said, gayly. "We are to be good friends, and I trust,
Fräulein von Hohenwald, that if you should meet me again in the
Hohenwald forest, bound for the Grünhagen wood by the shortest way, you
will permit me to exchange a few friendly words with you."

This Celia promised readily; but at the same time she pointed out to
Kurt that he never would reach the Grünhagen wood by pursuing a path
leading directly to the lake in the Hohenwald park, and offering to
show him the path he was seeking, she walked her horse beside him.

She never dreamed that there could be anything unbecoming in her
readiness to show him the right way through the lonely wood; she
thought it very natural that she who was at home here should direct a
stranger aright, and quite at her ease, she chatted on to Kurt as to an
old acquaintance.

He told her of his life in America, and spoke with such affection of
his parents, who had been dead now for some years, and with such loving
tenderness of his sisters, who were married in America, that Celia
could not but be interested and attracted by him. He told her how he
had served in the Northern army in the war with the South, attaining
the rank of major before it was over. He had then resigned, and, after
his father's death, had disposed of the American property, and had now
returned to Germany to assist in the management of the Grünhagen
estates, which, as his uncle's declared heir, would one day be his. He
had spent a few months in travelling in England, France, and Italy, and
had arrived only three days before in Grünhagen, where his uncle had
given him the warmest of welcomes.

All this Kurt detailed to his guide on their way through the forest,
and he also expressed to her his sincere regret that, as his uncle had
told him, there was no possibility of establishing friendly relations
between Hohenwald and Grünhagen, and that he himself could not even
venture to pay a visit to Hohenwald to show that he had inherited
nothing of the old family hatred.

"Oh, no, it would never do," Celia said, sadly. "Papa would be terribly
angry; his orders are positive that no visitor shall ever be admitted
to the castle. Arno would have liked so much to ask his dearest friend,
a Count Styrum, to stay with us; but, although papa thinks very highly
of the Count, and says himself that he must be an excellent man and a
worthy son of his father, who was once papa's dear friend, he could not
be induced to let Arno send him an invitation."

"Of course, then, I cannot venture to come, but I hope at least to make
your brother Arno's acquaintance; this will surely be facilitated by
his being an intimate friend of my cousin, Karl Styrum."

Celia shook her head dubiously. Arno was just as dear and good as papa,
but just as disinclined to come in contact with strangers. He never
left Castle Hohenwald except when some inspection of the estate was
necessary; he spent all his time in studying learned books.

"Are you, then, quite alone in the lonely castle?" Kurt asked,
compassionately, but Celia laughed aloud at his question. "I alone and
lonely!" she cried. "What can you be thinking of? I have my own darling
papa, and Arno, who is so kind; you cannot conceive how kind he is.
Then I have my tutor, dear old Pastor Quandt, to whom I go every
morning from nine to eleven; that is, I always have gone to him until
now,--how I shall do in the future I cannot tell, for only think, now
in my old age I am to have a governess."

Kurt laughed, and Celia laughed too, but the laugh did not come from
her heart. "You must not laugh at me," she said, with some irritation.
"I am afraid I have said something that I ought not. Tell me frankly
and honestly, are my manners so odd that I really need a governess?"

"What a very strange question, Fräulein von Hohenwald!"

"Answer it by a simple 'yes' or 'no.' Ought I to have a governess or
not?"

Kurt looked at her, with a smile. "Do you really want a frank answer?"
he replied.

"Of course I do; it would provoke me very much not to have it!"

"I am afraid you will be provoked with me for giving it, but I will do
as you ask. In truth, I think you might learn much of a really good
governess, and that she would do you no harm in spite of your 'old
age.'"

"How odious of you!"

"Did I not say that I should provoke you by my frankness?"

"No; I am not provoked with you, quite the contrary. I see now that
Werner was right. If you, who have only known me a quarter of an hour,
see that I need a governess, it must be so. But here we are on the
borders of Grünhagen, and there is the path that will lead you back to
the house."

She stopped her horse, and pointed out to Kurt with her riding-whip a
narrow path, so grass-grown that it could have been detected only by
some one very familiar with the locality.

"And you really are not angry?" Kurt asked, unpleasantly surprised by
his abrupt dismissal.

Celia looked thoughtful, and after an instant's pause held out her hand
to Kurt. "No, I am certainly not angry with you," she said, cordially.
"I was provoked, I do not deny it, that you should have thought Werner
right; but you meant no unkindness, I am sure, or you would not have
been so frank."

"I assuredly meant nothing but kindness!"

"I am sure of it, and it makes me all the more sorry that you cannot
come to Hohenwald. It would be so pleasant to have you tell me more
about America and your adventures there. But that cannot be, and it
will be long before we see each other again, unless we should meet by
chance in the forest."

"I trust in my good fortune."

"Well, we may possibly chance to meet again soon, since I take my ride
almost every afternoon about this hour, and am very fond of the broad
road leading towards the Grünhagen woods. Adieu, Herr Kurt von
Poseneck."

"Au revoir, Fräulein von Hohenwald."

She gave him a friendly little nod, touched her horse with the whip,
and vanished in a minute along the road leading to Castle Hohenwald.

Kurt looked after her vanishing figure, and then resigned himself to
delightful reflections. Was it not something more than chance that had
decreed that he, who had found his way so often in American forests,
should lose it here, and thus make the acquaintance of this charming
girl?

The next day about four o'clock Kurt was seized with an irresistible
desire to inspect the forests; he could not stay in the house; it drove
him forth, much to his uncle's surprise, who, however, ascribed it to
the love of nature engendered by his life in the open air in America.
Kurt did not this time, however, pursue the path he had taken on the
previous day; he remembered the ploughboy's gaping wonder, and did not
choose to become a theme for gossip to the Hohenwald servants; he
followed, instead, the more direct course across the Grünhagen fields
to the woods, but scarcely had he reached it, when chance guided him to
the very spot upon the broad road leading from Castle Hohenwald where
he had been so unfortunate as to frighten Celia's horse. The same
chance that led Kurt to this place arranged that Celia also, who had
hitherto been very careless about the time at which she took her
afternoon ride, suddenly required her horse to be saddled on the stroke
of four. Old John, the groom, could not imagine why Fräulein Celia
should all at once be "so very particular." She never had seemed to
care whether the horse were brought to the door a quarter of an hour
sooner or later, and now she insisted sharply upon punctuality,
although it was the Baron's birthday, and the old servant had had a
great deal to do, as Fräulein Celia knew. She could scarcely restrain
her impatience to be gone, and as she galloped off down the road, the
old man looked after her with a thoughtful shake of the head.

"We may possibly chance to meet again soon," Celia had said to Kurt as
she took leave of him, and chance conducted her to the very spot where
she had met him yesterday, and where she now met him again. From afar
she espied his light coat among the trees, and her lovely face was lit
up with a happy smile.

Had she expected him? Impossible! She had made no appointment with him.
She knew enough of social rules to understand that a young lady could
not appoint a rendezvous with a young man whom she had seen but once,
and then only for a short time. Of course it was chance that had
brought them both to this spot at the same time, but she was very glad
of it, and greeted Kurt with a charming smile.

It was quite natural that she should now walk her horse that Kurt might
walk beside her, although it cost her a struggle with Pluto to induce
him to agree to this new order of things. Kurt walked beside her,
looking up at her with admiration. How graceful was her every movement
as she reined in and controlled her impatient horse! She held the curb
in a firm grasp, but there was nothing unfeminine in the strength thus
put forth. For a while her whole attention was given to her horse, but
when she had reduced him to a state of obedient quiescence she replied
kindly to Kurt's greeting, and when he expressed his pleasure that a
fortunate chance had again brought them together, she answered, with
perfect freedom from embarrassment, that she also was much pleased. As
she spoke, her smile was so arch that he could not but laugh. And then
they laughed together like two children. They knew well what made them
laugh, although they said no more about it.

It sounded almost like an excuse when Celia said that she had come from
home nearly a quarter of an hour later than usual this afternoon, old
John had been so long saddling Pluto, but that she could not scold him,
for he was very old now, almost seventy, and he had been up half the
night helping her to hang oaken garlands all about her father's beloved
garden-room, that he might be surprised by their beauty when Franz
rolled him in from his bedroom at five o'clock on his birthday morning.
And her father had been very much delighted,--he so loved his
oaks,--and he had been specially pleased with a tobacco-bag that she
had embroidered for him as a birthday gift. He was not very fond of
embroidery, but he knew how hard it was for her to sit still at any
kind of work, and he had been touched by the trouble she had taken for
him.

Thus Celia talked on, and Kurt listened with rapt attention, as if she
were imparting to him the most important secrets. Her delight in the
garlands of oak-leaves and in the completion of her gift for her father
charmed him. He thought her almost more lovely now than when, a few
moments before, her eyes had sparkled and flashed in her struggle with
her horse. He did not know which to admire more, the blooming girl or
the lovely child; he only knew that both were adorable.

On the day previous, Kurt had told of his adventures in the war and his
life in America; to-day he begged Celia to describe to him her life in
Castle Hohenwald, and she did so willingly. She was glad that Kurt
should have in his mind a true picture of her dear old father, whom
strangers could never portray truly, for no one knew how dear and good
he was. Arno too, Frau Kaselitz and Pastor Quandt had often told her,
was just as little known or appreciated as his father. She had seen
yesterday, from the compassionate way in which Kurt had spoken of her
solitude at Castle Hohenwald, how false was his conception of the life
there; now, strangers might think what they pleased of it, but Kurt von
Poseneck must know what happy days she led there with her kind papa and
her dear Arno.

And so she described it to him, beginning with her father, so truly
kind, although a little hasty perhaps now and then, bearing pain so
patiently, never requiring any sacrifice of his people, but always
ready to befriend them. All who knew him loved him. The old servants
declared that there never was a better master; even the Herr Pastor had
a great respect for him, and only regretted that he had withdrawn from
the world, and was in consequence so misjudged. Arno, too, was as
kind as he could be. He might look stern and gloomy, but he was not
so,--only very sad,--and for this he had good cause. He had been
betrothed, and had lost his love, of whom he was inexpressibly fond.
Celia did not know how it had happened. Frau Kaselitz would not tell
her anything about it, and she could not ask Arno, for when the
engagement had been broken some years before, her father had forbidden
her ever mentioning the subject to her brother. He had travelled for a
long time, but travel could not make him forget his grief; that was why
he seemed so stern and gloomy, although he was always gentle and kind
to his father, to her, and to the servants and villagers. If any of
them were in trouble they always came to Arno for help; and even when
it was impossible to help them he always had a kind word for them.

Celia's praise of her eldest brother was by no means so enthusiastic.
He was a very good fellow, but then he was not Arno; still, he was very
wise, and could always persuade his father to do as he chose. She had
been told that in his boyhood Werner was very irritable and passionate,
but he had quite conquered this fault. Now he rarely allowed himself to
be carried away by anger; his self-control was so great that even when
he was deeply irritated he could preserve a perfect calmness of manner,
and this was why he had such influence with his father, that whatever
he wished to have done at Hohenwald was done. If he did not succeed in
one way he tried another. Thus he had contrived that in spite of his
father's dislike of having a stranger in the house he had consented to
the engagement of a governess.

As she said this Celia could not suppress a little sigh, although she
instantly laughed, and added, "Well, it may be best,--you think so, and
I will do what I can, and receive Fräulein Müller as kindly as
possible."

Werner, she went on to say, came but seldom to Hohenwald, usually only
once a year, to be present on his father's birthday, when he stayed
only two, or at most three weeks. He was always very good and kind, but
she could not love him as she did papa and Arno; she could not tell
why, but so it was, and she could not deny that she was always a little
glad when he went away again. She was quite sure that papa and Arno
felt just as she did, although neither of them had ever said one word
to that effect, but she had observed that papa breathed more freely
after the carriage had rolled away with Werner.

Then Celia described the few people, not her relatives, with whom she
had daily intercourse--Pastor Quandt, her tutor, an old bachelor nearly
eighty years of age, but still hale and hearty, and dear and good, and
Dr. Bruhn, the village physician, also an amiable old bachelor, and
Frau Kaselitz, the housekeeper, who could not do enough to show her
love for her darling Fräulein Celia. She, Frau Kaselitz, was the
childless widow of one of the former stewards of Hohenwald, and had
passed her entire life either in the village or at the castle. She was
as good as gold; far too kind; she, Celia, knew that Frau Kaselitz
spoiled her and made a governess so desirable--as he had thought it,
the girl added, with an arch glance at her companion. She could not
deny herself the pleasure of this little thrust.

Celia's lively description soon made it possible for Kurt to have in
his mind a vivid picture of the simple life at Castle Hohenwald, and
his admiration for the lovely speaker was increased tenfold. What a
treasure of simple content she must possess, to preserve such a
cheerful gayety of mind with so little in her surroundings to induce
it!

A long conversation followed upon Celia's narrative; she required, in
her turn, to be told of Grünhagen and its inmates. She asked about his
uncle Friese, and was amazed to learn that he was an amiable, kindly
old man, who only desired to live at peace with all men. According to
Frau Kaselitz and the Hohenwald servants, he was a cross, quarrelsome,
purse-proud old person.

In such mutual explanations the time sped rapidly, and Celia, as well
as Kurt, was surprised to find that they had reached the Grünhagen
woods and the end of the broad road that led through the Hohenwald
estate.

"It is time for me to turn back," said Celia, with a slight sigh.

Kurt did not venture to remonstrate, although he felt as if he should
have liked to talk on with her forever, and although in Celia's manner
there was an indirect appeal to him to ask for a prolongation of the
conversation.

"Indeed I must turn round," Celia added, with an interrogatory glance.

"I am afraid you must," Kurt replied, suppressing his desire, and
yielding to more prudent suggestions. Then, holding out his hand to
Celia, he continued: "Chance has been so kind to-day that I trust it
will prove no less so in the future, and so I do not say 'farewell' to
you, Fräulein von Hohenwald, but 'till we meet,' and may that be
speedily!"

Celia smiled as she nodded her farewell to him, and rode back along the
forest road; and on the following day chance was again so amiable as to
bring about a meeting between the young people at the same spot in the
woods. Yes, chance here proved steadfast and true, and day after day
the pair passed slowly along the forest road to the Grünhagen woods,
deep in innocent but profoundly interesting conversation. Kurt was on
the spot with unfailing punctuality at four o'clock, and a few minutes
later Celia would appear on Pluto, who now greeted Kurt with a neigh,
and was no longer impatient at the slow walk along the road to the
Grünhagen woods. For ten days the skies smiled upon Kurt's forest
walks, but then May, which had hitherto shown him such favour,
justified the reputation for variability which she shares with April.

At Grünhagen a cold rain pelted against the window-panes, through which
Kurt disconsolately watched the skies, covered with dull gray clouds
that gave no hope that the weather would clear that day, nor perhaps
for several days to come.

The Amtsrath had just finished his after-dinner nap and lighted his
long pipe. Sitting in his arm-chair and comfortably sipping his coffee,
he was not in the least incommoded by the rain that so interfered with
Kurt's good humour; on the contrary, he thought it good growing
weather, for


           "Whenever May is wet and cool,
            The farmer's store-house will be full."


He had often lately looked up to the sky in hopes of rain, and he was
glad that it had come at last to scatter abroad its blessings over
field and fell.

"A fine soaking rain," the old man said, with a smile, to Kurt, who, he
felt sure, must agree with him.

"Soaking indeed," Kurt replied, not by any means so pleased as his
uncle had expected; but then the old man was thinking of his meadows
and Kurt of Celia, whom the soaking rain would surely prevent from
taking her daily ride.

The clock in the Grünhagen church-tower struck four; Kurt took his hat.

"Where are you going?" asked his uncle.

"To take a walk in the woods."

"In such weather?"

"A few drops of rain will do me no harm."

The Amtsrath shook his head, for the few drops of rain were, as Kurt
himself had admitted, a steady, soaking downpour. Still there is no
accounting for tastes, and if forest walks in a pelting rain were among
Kurt's American habits, his uncle had no objection to make.

As Kurt stepped out into the open air, and the huge drops were driven
into his face by the wind, he hesitated a moment. There was no
possibility of meeting Celia in the forest in such a storm. Still,
suppose she should persist in taking her ride? It was possible; no, it
was impossible; nevertheless, Kurt would not fail to be upon the
appointed--no, it had never been appointed--spot in the forest; he
could then tell her the next day that he had been there in spite of the
storm and rain, that he had not, indeed, expected her, but that he had
thought of her. He knew that she would laugh at him and tease him about
his walk in the rain, but he so liked to hear her laugh, she was so
wonderfully charming in her gayety.

In spite of the increasing rain that soon penetrated his light summer
dress, the way did not seem long; he thought of her, and perhaps
because he had no hope of seeing her that day her image was all the
more present to his mind. During the past ten days a very peculiar
relation had been developed between Kurt and Celia. While Kurt
sauntered along the forest road beside Pluto they talked together like
brother and sister. Celia was never tired of hearing all that Kurt
could tell her of America and the life he had led there, and his
conversation had opened to her an entire new world of thought and
emotion. Brought up in a narrow home-circle, whence all strangers were
excluded, the girl had had no idea that people of culture could
entertain any views and opinions save those shared by her father, by
Arno, and by the old pastor her tutor. It was, for example, one of her
articles of faith that across the boundary, just beyond that strip of
meadow in Prussia, evil reigned triumphant. Prussian! The word stood
for all that was contemptible,--rapacity, low ambition, greed of gain,
and arrogant conceit. Like a good Saxon, Celia hated the Prussians from
her very soul, and worst and most to be hated among them all was
Bismarck, whose name her father never uttered without coupling it with
some opprobrious epithet. Kurt was the first to present to her mind
other views with regard to the state of affairs in Germany, and she
listened to him with profound interest. It was exquisite enjoyment to
Kurt to talk with Celia, and to note her rapt attention to all that he
said, her quick espousal of any cause advocated by him. He loved her,
and he knew that he loved her, but not for the world would he have
addressed to her one word of love; it would have been a sin against her
childlike innocence. His experience of life, spite of his youth, had
been so wide and varied that he could not but be aware what risk there
was for Celia in these daily interviews with a young man in the
solitude of the forest; and could he have seen her anywhere else, could
he but have sought her at Hohenwald, he would have abstained from his
daily walks for Celia's sake. But they offered him his only opportunity
for meeting the girl, and he had not the strength to refuse to embrace
it. He could not but yield to the spell that lured him daily to the
forest road, but he pledged his honour to himself that he would be
nothing to Celia save a friend and brother, that he never would betray
the childlike trust she reposed in him.

Now first he felt what an absolute necessity for him the daily meeting
with Celia had become,--now, as he walked on in the wind and rain,
constantly repeating to himself that she certainly could not leave the
house to-day. In spite of this repetition, a yearning desire for a
sight of her spurred him on along the accustomed path. He never heeded
that in pushing through the trees and bushes he had become fairly
drenched with rain. He reached the broad castle road: the distant wing
of the castle, a glimpse of which could be had from here in fine
weather, was veiled in mist. Sadly he leaned against the trunk of a
giant oak, conscious that until this moment he had cherished a hope
that perhaps in spite of the rain Celia might take her afternoon ride;
she was no city-bred fine lady, but a strong, healthy child of nature,
who was not afraid of the rain. Now, however, as he looked forth into
the comfortless, white, impenetrable fog, his last hope vanished.

But what sound was that? Surely something like the distant neighing of
a horse. And now--yes, there was no mistaking Pluto's loud neigh, close
at hand, as a tall figure emerged from the fog, and the next moment
Celia reined in her horse beside Kurt.

"I thought so!" she cried, triumphantly. "I knew you would not mind the
rain!" Then, as she looked at him, she burst into a merry laugh. "Good
heavens! how you look, poor fellow! You could not be wetter if you had
fallen into the lake!"

Kurt laughed with her. How odd it was that the huge waterproof that she
wore detracted not a whit from her beauty and grace! A gray waterproof
can scarcely be called an elegant garment, but Celia looked lovely in
this one. Her fresh rosy face smiled enchantingly from out of the hood
that she had drawn over her head, and from beneath which tiny curls
were rebelliously fluttering out into the wind and rain.

"It certainly is a 'fine, soaking rain,' as my uncle says," Kurt
rejoined, laughing. "It has drenched me, but I have many a time tramped
through a wood in worse weather than this, and even slept soundly on a
hill-side in just such a pour, with only a soldier's blanket over me.
The rain can do me no harm, but you, Fräulein von Hohenwald, are very
wrong to come abroad in such weather."

"And yet you expected me to do it."

"No; I was sure you would prudently stay at home. It is no weather for
you to ride in."

"No? Still, here I am, you see. Neither Pluto nor I ever mind the rain;
but then we are neither of us at all prudent. And besides, you do not
tell the truth. Why are you here if you thought I should not come? I
had more confidence in you. I knew I should find you here, and I should
have been terribly angry if you had stayed away for the rain. For
indeed I had to see you to-day. I have so much to tell you. Only think,
the new governess is really coming this evening!"

"Indeed? Then the Finanzrath has carried his point."

"Of course; just as he always does. He wrote to Fräulein Müller, and
sent the letter to Frau von Adelung in Dresden. I could not help hoping
that the Fräulein would decline to come, for papa consented to Werner's
plan only upon condition that he should truthfully describe the life
she would have to lead at Castle Hohenwald. Werner did so. He read his
letter aloud to papa, Arno, and me, and I must confess he did not
flatter any one of us. If I had been Fräulein Müller I never would have
said 'yes' to such a letter."

"Did he give so terrible a description of the castle and its inmates?"

"The castle and all of us. He made Arno out a gloomy woman-hater, and
called me a spoiled child. Was it not odious of him?"

"He meant no wrong."

"Oh, I know you agree with him! Now, confess honestly that you think me
a spoiled child, or rather do not confess it, or we shall be sure to
quarrel. Let me tell you more. Werner told Fräulein Müller that at
Castle Hohenwald she would be cut off from all social intercourse, that
she could neither receive nor pay visits, and that the family circle
there could not indemnify her for such seclusion, since neither papa
nor Arno was an agreeable companion. In short, he painted existence
here in such gloomy colours that papa said Fräulein Müller must be a
very extraordinary person if she accepted such a situation. But she has
accepted it. Her answer came to-day,--a very odd reply. Papa and Arno,
as well as Werner, shook their heads over it. They could not make it
out. So it is no wonder that I cannot comprehend it either. I have
brought it to you to read, that you may tell me what you think of it."

"You have brought me the letter?" Kurt asked, in surprise.

"Why, yes; I know you always tell me the truth when I ask you for it,
and when Werner gave me the letter I thought to myself, 'Herr Kurt von
Poseneck shall read it;' so I kept it and brought it with me. There,
read it; but be careful not to let it get wet. Wait a moment; I will
hold my waterproof out so as to shield it from the rain."

Celia handed Kurt the letter and protected it with her cloak while he
read it.

"An excellent hand," he said, as he opened it: "firm and clear. They
say that the handwriting shows the character of the writer; if that be
true, this letter should impress one greatly in Fräulein Müller's
favour."

"That is just what Arno said; only he added, 'Only to be the more
bitterly undeceived afterwards.' But read, read, I beg you,--I am so
anxious to know what you think of the letter."

Kurt read the short note, which ran as follows:


"Dear Sir,--Your description of the life at Castle Hohenwald so
perfectly accords with my wishes and inclinations that I accept with
pleasure the honourable position offered me of companion and teacher
to Fräulein Cecilia von Hohenwald. I shall arrive at the station at
A---- by the afternoon train, at a quarter-past eight on the
seventeenth, hoping to meet the carriage which you tell me will be sent
for me from Hohenwald.

                             "With much respect,

                                               "Anna Müller."


"Well, what do you think of it?" Cecilia asked, eagerly. "It does not
seem odd to me at all. I think it simple, clear, and decided."

"But what does she mean by saying that Werner's ugly description of the
life here accords with her views and inclinations? Arno says that must
be a falsehood; that no girl could like such a place, and that Fräulein
Müller must be a false, exaggerated person to say that she accepts such
a position with pleasure. Papa thought the same; and even Werner said
that the brevity of the note impressed him disagreeably, while Arno
insisted that its short, decided tone, its want of all conventional
courtesy, was the only thing in it to recommend it. What do you think?"

"I think we should be overhasty in adopting a prejudice against the
lady upon reading her short note, which to my mind contains nothing to
inspire it. Why should we distrust her declaration that the life in
Castle Hohenwald is to her taste? If it were not so, could she not
decline the position offered her? It certainly speaks well for her that
she makes use of no stupid conventional phrases, and she shows a
correct appreciation of her duties towards you, Fräulein von Hohenwald,
in calling herself not your governess, but your companion and teacher.
I really cannot see any reason why you should form an unfavourable
opinion of Fräulein Müller. Take my advice and receive her after your
own frank, cordial fashion. Do not be swayed by your brother Arno's
(pardon me) unjustifiable prejudice, but see and judge for yourself,
and you will be sure to judge rightly."

"Yes, I will," Celia said, cheerfully. "I knew you would give me good
counsel, and I shall follow it. But now," she continued, with a sudden
gravity, "we must discuss one point which I have never ceased to think
of since the letter arrived to-day. What will become of my beloved
liberty? Is it not lost from the moment that Fräulein Müller arrives at
Castle Hohenwald?"

"It may be somewhat restricted, and is it not perhaps best that it
should be so, Fräulein von Hohenwald?"

"Ah, you are thinking again that I need a governess. You will make me
seriously angry. I am not a child, and I will not have my liberty
restricted! I am willing to learn. I will sit still for hours and play
the piano every day, but I will not be put into leading-strings. It is
not kind of you to wish it for me, Herr von Poseneck. What will become
of my afternoon rides if Fräulein Müller thinks it unbecoming for a
young lady to roam about the forest alone?"

Celia's words told a joint in Kurt's armour; had he not often reflected
that the propriety of these rides was questionable? It was hard for him
to carry out his resolve of always being frank and true towards Celia,
but he did it. With a sigh, he replied, "Fräulein Müller would not be
far wrong if she did think so."

Celia suddenly reined in her horse, and looking down at Kurt with eyes
large with wonder, she said, in a tone expressing painful regret, "And
you tell me this?"

"Yes, Fräulein Celia," and for the first time he avoided the formal Von
Hohenwald; "yes, I tell you so, because I always will be honest and
true to you."

Celia made no reply; she urged Pluto into a walk again, and rode beside
Kurt in silence. She had never reflected whether these meetings in the
forest were becoming. She had made no appointments with Kurt, but
chance--no, it had not been chance entirely after the first meeting;
she knew that she should meet him, but she could not reproach herself
with having made any appointments. She was quite blameless. Quite? Why,
then, had she never mentioned these daily meetings at home in Castle
Hohenwald? Why had she never uttered the name of Kurt von Poseneck to
her father or Arno, and never even said a word when Arno had casually
mentioned the fact that a son of the Poseneck who had emigrated to
America had returned, and was living at Grünhagen with the Amtsrath,
whose heir report said he was to be? Her father, Arno, and Werner had
discussed the Posenecks at some length; why had she never said a word,
although she could easily have set them right upon several points?
Hitherto she had simply followed her impulse to see Kurt, whom she
liked so much, daily; but now, suddenly, she became aware that
something about these meetings was not just as it should be.

After a long pause, she said, dejectedly, "I think you are right, Herr
Kurt; I have acted very unbecomingly; but then we never made any
appointments, and it was so pleasant to meet by chance. You have told
me so much to interest me, I could always listen to you for hours; but
if you think it improper, I will not ride on the forest road again. It
will be hard, for lately I have looked forward all the forenoon to this
hour of talk with you."

The girl's childlike, innocent frankness enchanted Kurt; he yielded to
an irresistible impulse to seize and kiss the hand that hung down near
him. Then, startled at what he had done, he instantly dropped it, while
Celia, not in the least startled, looked at him with a happy smile.

"Is it really so wrong for us to spend one short hour here every day
talking together?" she asked, looking down kindly into his face.

He could not withstand the magic of her look; all the wise rules that
he had laid down for himself melted in the light of her eyes like snow
before the sun. "No, dearest Celia! A thousand times no!" he cried,
rapturously. "I swear to you by my honour that you never shall have any
cause to regret your confidence in me. I will not ask you to continue
your rides,--you shall not promise me to do so,--but I will be here
awaiting you every day; nothing shall prevent me. Although you should
stay away for weeks, you will find me here whenever you come at this
hour."

"And you shall not await me in vain," Celia replied; and as she leaned
down towards him their lips met for one instant in a fleeting kiss.
Then she suddenly wheeled her horse about and was gone.

Kurt stood for a while motionless. Long after the lovely rider had
vanished in the gloom he still saw her in spirit, and felt her kiss
upon his lips. He hardly noticed that the rain, which had ceased for a
few minutes, was pouring down with renewed violence; that a sharp wind
was blowing, colder than before. He stood like one entranced in the
lonely forest, and, when unconsciously he turned towards home, he never
heard the howling of the tempest. Not until the bough of an oak-tree,
torn off by the wind, fell directly across his path did he waken from
his revery.



                              CHAPTER VII.


"Station A----. One minute's stop!"

The conductor hastily opened the door of a second-class carriage and
helped out a young lady, civilly handed her her travelling-bag and
railway wrap, clambered into his place again, and in a few moments the
train was out of sight.

The young lady was the only passenger who had left the train; therefore
the gentleman who had been walking to and fro on the platform for a
quarter of an hour easily recognized her as the person for whom he had
been waiting. He approached her, and, raising his hat, said,
courteously, "Have I the honour of addressing Fräulein Anna Müller? I
am the Finanzrath von Hohenwald."

"Have you come yourself, Herr Finanzrath, in spite of this terrible
weather? It is really too kind."

There was surprise as well as great satisfaction in the smile with
which Werner looked at the young lady; he was in truth deeply impressed
by her striking beauty.

Fräulein Müller was by no means equally pleased. She had supposed the
Finanzrath to be a much older man; his fresh, smooth-shaven face looked
to her very youthful, and she was not agreeably impressed by the
satisfied smile with which he contemplated her.

It was but a moment that Werner devoted to his scrutiny of the lady; he
now bowed even lower and more respectfully than at first, and said,
with extreme politeness, "I was too much rejoiced, Fräulein Müller,
that I had been able to induce you to come to Hohenwald to allow
another than myself to be the first to welcome you here. Moreover, I
felt it my duty to meet you, since I was the cause of your accepting a
position for the difficulties of which you are perhaps not fully
prepared. Before you enter Castle Hohenwald you ought to have a more
vivid idea of those with whom your life there will be passed than it
was possible to give you in my short letter. I described as impartially
as I could the difficulties of your position, but there is much that
you should know, which I shall be able to tell you during our drive to
the castle, which in this weather, and from the consequent state of the
roads, must needs be a slow one. And now let me conduct you to the
carriage as quickly as possible; it will, I fear, be quite late and
very dark by the time we reach Hohenwald."

Then taking her travelling-bag, and offering her his arm, which after a
moment's hesitation she accepted, he led her through the station-house
to where a close travelling carriage was awaiting them.

The wind howled, and the rain poured in torrents. The Finanzrath was
assiduous in his attentions, holding his umbrella over his companion as
she got into the carriage, then hurrying to see that the porter
fastened her luggage securely in its place behind the carriage. Not
until all was arranged to his satisfaction did he take his seat beside
her in the well-cushioned vehicle. The rattling of the carriage over
the stones while the road led through the town of A---- prevented all
conversation, and enabled the Finanzrath to observe his companion
attentively without attempting any of his promised communications.

He was impressed anew by the girl's extraordinary beauty; an expression
of melancholy that vanished when she spoke, but which characterized her
features in repose, made her still more attractive, while it afforded
the Finanzrath--who remembered all that Frau von Adelung had hinted to
him of Fräulein Müller's misfortunes--an explanation of her readiness
to accept the offer of a position at Castle Hohenwald. At length the
carriage left the paved streets and entered upon the country road
leading to the castle. Although the wind howled about the vehicle and
the rain pelted against its windows, conversation had become possible.

The Finanzrath was a clever man; it was but natural that his lively
portrayal of the inmates of the castle should interest Fräulein Müller
extremely. She listened eagerly, only interrupting him now and then by
brief questions, which he answered readily. With an impartiality which
was surely worthy of all praise, Werner entered upon a detailed account
of the characteristics of his nearest relatives,--his father, his
brother, and his sister; he warmly extolled their good qualities--his
father's kindness of heart and simple truth, Arno's stern sense of
justice, his earnestness, his industry, his varied acquirements,
Celia's gay good humour and childlike simplicity; but at the same time
he concealed none of their faults. As he discoursed, the daylight had
vanished and darkness had succeeded the short twilight. The sky was
black with clouds, and within the carriage it was so dark that Anna
could scarcely see the outline of her companion's figure, although he
leaned towards her as he repeatedly assured her that in him she would
find a friend ready to aid her in any way during her life at the
castle, and begged her to confide frankly to him any wish with which he
could comply.

He said not one word that circumstances did not fully warrant, and yet
Anna was excessively uncomfortable. The _tête-à-tête_ with him in the
dark carriage seemed to her almost insufferable. She shrank away from
him at the very time when he was speaking so gently and kindly to her
that there could not be the slightest reasonable cause for her distaste
of his society.

Suddenly the carriage stopped. Anna drew a long breath of relief when
the Finanzrath broke off his discourse and, opening the window, asked,
anxiously, "What is the matter, John? Why do you not drive on?"

"I do not know, Herr Finanzrath," a voice from the box replied, "but I
think something is wrong."

"What can be wrong?" It seemed to Anna that the Finanzrath's voice
trembled as he asked the question. Was he, strong man as he was, so
fearful of an accident that his fear betrayed itself in his voice? The
sign of weakness instantly put an end to all Anna's dread of the
Finanzrath. She felt strong, indeed, in view of his timidity. No
possible danger of the road in the dark night had power to alarm her.
All she had dreaded had been the _tête-à-tête_ with her companion.

The coachman did not immediately answer; he slowly descended from the
box, and not until the Finanzrath asked in a tone of still greater
anxiety, "What has happened, John?" did he reply, sullenly, "Nothing
has happened, Herr Finanzrath, but the devil himself could not find the
way in this storm; you can't see your hand before your face. I thought
we had got off the road and were going towards the Grünhagen quarry,
but it is all right, and we can drive on."

"No, no, don't try, for Heaven's sake, John!" the Finanzrath exclaimed,
in evident terror.

"Oh, it's all right," the coachman said, with great composure. "We must
drive on; we can't spend the night here in this weather."

He mounted the box again and whipped up his horses, but the next
instant there was a jolt, a crash! The wheels on one side of the
carriage rolled over a stone, while those on the other sank deeper and
deeper into the mud, the carriage leaned more and more to one side and
finally upset.

Anna felt herself tossed to one side; her head struck against some hard
object. She experienced a burning pain in her temple, and was near
fainting, but the next moment recalled her to herself; she did not
choose to faint, and her will was victorious.

The carriage had fallen upon the side where sat the Finanzrath. Anna
heard him groan as he struggled to rise.

"Are you hurt?" she asked, anxiously.

"My foot pains me terribly; I fear it is broken," he replied, in a
loud, distinct voice which soothed Anna's apprehensions that his
injuries might be mortal.

"I will try to open the door that is uppermost," she said; and this,
after several attempts, she succeeded in doing. The rain poured down
upon her, but she braved it, and exerting all her strength, she climbed
out upon the side of the carriage and thence got down to the ground. At
first she sank ankle-deep in the mud, but in a minute she found firm
footing. "Can you possibly get out, Herr Finanzrath?" she asked.

"I will try," a voice from the carriage replied, and immediately
afterward the Finanzrath looked out of the open door. He gazed about
him, but in the gloom could see nothing. Anna's figure was hardly
distinguishable, although she was but a few paces off. "John! John!
Where are you?" Werner called loudly, but, although he repeated the
call several times, there was no reply.

"I am afraid the poor fellow has had a bad fall," said Anna.

"So it seems, since he does not answer," rejoined the Finanzrath. There
was not much sympathy in the tone of his voice, and still less was
there in the remark that followed. "The clumsy scoundrel cannot even
hold the horses after upsetting us. This is horrible! Suppose the
horses should run off just as I am climbing out?"

This fear was groundless. The horses had stopped the instant the
vehicle overturned. They did not stir, and the Finanzrath climbed out
upon the carriage, but did not attempt to descend from it.

"Is your foot so painful that you cannot step upon it?" Anna asked,
compassionately. "Can I help you? Take my hand, I pray you!"

"Thank you," he replied; "but my foot will not permit me to climb
farther. What are we to do? We cannot sit here all night in the rain."

"I will seek help," Anna replied, resolutely. "The road must lead to
some house or village. Wait for me here. I shall soon return with men,
who can right the carriage."

"For Heaven's sake, do not go one step!" Werner cried, in great
agitation. "We are close upon the quarry; there must be a deep chasm
just at hand!"

"I will be very careful. At all events help must be procured. Something
must be done for the poor coachman, who has given no sign of life yet;
and you too, Herr Finanzrath, need assistance."

"Yes, yes; but you must not leave me. Let us both shout for help. We
shall perhaps be heard. There must be labourers' cottages near the
quarry. Help! help!" he thereupon shouted with all the force of his
powerful lungs. And in fact scarcely had the sound died away when a
distant "Halloo!" was heard.

"Thank Heaven, they have heard us!" Werner said, and then shouted
again, "Help! help!"

The answering shout came nearer, and in a few moments a dark figure
approached. "What is the matter here?" a rough voice asked. "A carriage
upset, as I live! What the devil were you doing in the quarry at this
hour?"

"We lost the road, and are greatly in need of assistance," replied
Werner.

"Lost the road? Were you going to Grünhagen?"

"No; to Castle Hohenwald."

"To the castle? Then you belong to Hohenwald?"

"I am the Finanzrath von Hohenwald; but this is not the time for
talking. I beg you, my friend, to help me to reach some place of
security."

A burst of discordant laughter was the only reply vouchsafed to this
request. After indulging in his ill-timed merriment, the new-comer
inquired, "Have you ever heard of Carter Jock?"

"No; but, my friend----"

"No friend of yours! I would rather eat my head than help a Hohenwald.
Any of the castle people can tell you about Carter Jock. Finely they
treated him indeed; and, by way of thanks, he wishes you a pleasant
night!" With another scornful laugh the man turned on his heel and
would have gone, when Anna approached him, and, laying her hand on his
shoulder, said, "You will not be so cruel as to desert us in our need?"

"The deuce! There's a woman in the scrape, and not the madcap Celia
either!" the man exclaimed, in amazement, after having lighted a couple
of matches, which the rain, to be sure, instantly extinguished, but not
before he had perceived that it was not Celia who addressed him.

"A lady! a stranger!" he muttered to himself. "She must not be left all
night in the quarry. The devil take the Hohenwalds; but I must let the
folks at Grünhagen know what has happened."

For one moment he stood reflecting, and then, without heeding the
Finanzrath's entreaties, he turned away and vanished in the darkness.

For a while Werner von Hohenwald sat silent as if in utter despair. At
last a red spark of light appeared in the distance; again he shouted as
loud as he could for help, and to his joy the voice that answered him
was Arno's.

In a few minutes Arno, followed by several men with lighted torches,
reached the overturned carriage. "I was afraid," he said, "that John
would miss the road, and so came out to meet you with torches; not soon
enough, unfortunately, to prevent an accident. But why do you sit up
there on the carriage, Werner? Why don't you jump down?"

"The chasm must be close by, Arno."

"Nonsense! there is no chasm here. Give me your hand and spring down."

Werner grasped the hand extended to him and sprang out upon the road.
His foot could not have been severely injured, since he accomplished
this with apparent ease.

"Where is Fräulein Müller? I hope nothing has happened to her."

"Nothing has happened to me, Herr von Hohenwald," said Anna, who was
standing in the shadow, "but I am afraid the coachman has received some
injury."

Arno turned hastily, and stepped aside so that the torchlight fell full
upon Anna's face. Its great beauty astonished him also, but he was
shocked at the sight of a dark-red streak that extended from beneath
the chestnut curls on her temple to the white kerchief about her
throat, which was stained crimson. "You are bleeding?" he exclaimed,
"you are hurt?"

"It is nothing. Never mind me; but let us search for the unfortunate
coachman. I fear he is terribly hurt."

"Where is he? John, where are you?"

There was no reply, and Arno became alarmed. He took one of the torches
from the men, and was not long in finding poor old John, who was lying
unconscious by the roadside, with a terrible wound on his forehead.
Arno kneeled beside him, and laid his hand upon his heart. "He is
alive," he instantly declared, "but I am afraid he is very badly hurt."

"Oh, is he?" said Werner, who was seated on a stone, calmly watching
his brother's proceeding. "I thought it must be so when he did not
answer. But what are we to do, Arno? My foot is terribly painful."

"Indeed? It cannot be very bad, since you easily jumped from the
carriage."

"Nevertheless it pains me terribly. I never can walk to the castle. Can
the carriage not be righted?"

"We will see." Arno examined the carriage, but found the axle broken.
"This is bad," he said. "We cannot, then, drive poor old John to
Hohenwald, but we can make a litter comfortable with the carriage
cushions, and you, my men, can carry him to the village."

The men assented eagerly, but the Finanzrath was not satisfied. "I
should suppose," he said, peevishly, "that I might be attended to
before John. I cannot possibly walk. When the men have carried me to
Hohenwald they can return and fetch John."

His brother greeted this speech with a glance of contempt. "If you
cannot walk," he said, coolly, "you can sit here! The old man's life,
perhaps, depends upon his having surgical aid speedily."

"I cannot stay here in the pouring rain; I shall catch my death of
cold!"

"Death is not easily caught of cold!" Arno rejoined, unsympathetically.
"Make haste," he said to the men, who were busy constructing the
litter. "Poor old John must be moved as quickly as possible."

"How far are we from Hohenwald?" the Finanzrath asked, when the litter
was nearly completed.

"Three-quarters of a league from the castle and half a league from the
village."

"Then the manor-house of Grünhagen must be close at hand."

"Grünhagen is not ten minutes' walk."

"Indeed? Then, Arno, I think it would be much wiser to carry John
there, and I could manage to hobble there myself."

"You would go to Grünhagen?" Arno asked, and there was surprise as well
as disapproval in his tone. "What business has a Hohenwald in
Grünhagen? Am I to ask shelter for old John and for you of the Amtsrath
Friese or young Kurt von Poseneck, only to meet with a rude refusal,
or, what would be worse, with a condescending compliance, which would
burden me with an obligation to them?"

"What folly!" Werner declared. "You ought to be above such prejudice,
Arno. It speaks ill for your humanity that you insist upon dragging
poor old John to Hohenwald."

Here one of the men whom Arno had brought with him advanced, and,
taking off his hat, respectfully said, "No offence to the Herr
Finanzrath, but we cannot take old John to Grünhagen."

"What do you mean?" the Finanzrath angrily inquired. "Would you disobey
orders?"

"Certainly not," the man replied, exchanging a glance with his fellows.
"We are old soldiers, and know how to obey always, but indeed we could
not answer it to the master or to old John himself if we took him to
Grünhagen. If he had his senses he would be sure to say that he would
rather die than be carried to Grünhagen. And, besides, if we do take
him farther, we get the doctor sooner, for our Dr. Brühn in Hohenwald
would not go to Grünhagen for the world; when they want a doctor there
they have to send to A----, and that is too far."

Arno nodded approvingly to the man. "You are right, Kunz; we will take
John to the Hohenwald village. Lift him carefully and lay him on the
cushions, and let us be off instantly."

"But, Arno, what is to become of me and of Fräulein Müller?" Werner
asked, plaintively.

Anna had been no idle spectator during this time; she had helped the
men to arrange the cushions on the litter, and was holding a torch to
light them as they lifted the unconscious John upon it, listening the
while with surprise to the conversation between the brothers. She had
been disgusted with the Finanzrath's selfishness in desiring to be
carried when his foot was evidently not severely hurt; and Arno's stern
refusal to carry the wounded man to Grünhagen had also impressed her
disagreeably. She had no desire to take any part in the discussion, but
now, when the Finanzrath asked of Arno what was to become of her, she
hastily interposed with, "I shall carry one of the torches, since I
cannot, unfortunately, render any more important assistance; there is
no occasion to waste any thought upon me."

Arno looked at her with a surprised but kindly air. "Brava!" he said.
"You are brave, and I trust can walk the half-league to the village; if
you are very tired I will assist you. You, Werner, must help yourself.
If you cannot walk with us, creep back into the carriage and shelter
yourself from the rain until I can send you assistance. And now on to
Hohenwald!"

"No, Herr von Hohenwald; to Grünhagen," a strong, manly voice was now
heard to say.

The voice was Kurt von Poseneck's; he emerged from the darkness into
the torchlight, and, advancing towards Arno and the Finanzrath,
courteously informed them that he had just heard the news of the
accident in the quarry, and had instantly given orders to have a
carriage prepared, while he had hurried hither to entreat the gentlemen
to turn towards Grünhagen, where they would be cordially welcome, and
where apartments were already prepared for them. The injured coachman,
too, should have every care bestowed upon him, and a carriage should be
instantly sent to fetch Dr. Brühn to Grünhagen.

Kurt spoke so kindly, so cordially, that even Arno could not help for a
moment forgetting his prejudice against the Posenecks as he thanked the
young man for his proffered hospitality, which, however, he declined.
In vain did Werner add his entreaties to Kurt's. Arno refused to yield,
and cut short all further discussion by ordering the men to proceed
with the litter.

Werner was very indignant at his brother's obstinacy. "Such
unreasonableness is inconceivable!" he exclaimed; "but you shall not
force me, Arno, to share your folly. I accept your invitation
gratefully, Herr von Poseneck, for Fräulein Müller and myself; we will
return with you to Grünhagen and accept your hospitality."

"You must not speak for me, Herr Finanzrath," Anna protested. "I
promised to be at Hohenwald this evening, and I shall keep my word."

"But, Fräulein Müller, you cannot surely persist in walking to
Hohenwald in this weather? I will engage to excuse your delay to my
father."

"I need no excuse, Herr Finanzrath," Anna replied.

In vain did Werner expend his eloquence in entreaties and
representations. She carried one of the torches and walked beside the
litter towards Hohenwald. She stoutly braved the storm; the wind
blowing in her face cooled her burning temples, and she experienced a
sense of strange satisfaction when, upon looking back, she found that
the quarry was already so far in the distance that the light of the
torch left with the Finanzrath gleamed like a faint spark in the black
darkness of the night.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The castle clock had struck eleven, and the Freiherr von Hohenwald, who
was usually rolled into his bedroom at ten precisely, was still sitting
in the spacious garden-room. He was not in a good humour, as was
manifested by the frown upon his forehead, which even Celia's
cajoleries could not smooth. The girl was seated on a low chair beside
him, endeavouring in vain to win him to cheerfulness. Sure as she
usually was of an affectionate reply to her questions, to-night he
would not be amiable. She had been reading aloud to him; but even that
did not please him. He took the book from her, grumblingly declaring
that she was inattentive, that her emphasis was all wrong; she was
thinking, of course, of the new governess, on whose account the whole
house was turned upside down.

As he spoke, the Freiherr glanced angrily at the table in the centre of
the room spread for four people. "It capped the climax," he added,
peevishly, "for Werner to tell me it was not the thing to smoke in
ladies' society, I am not to be hectored after that fashion, however.
Bring me my meerschaum!"

Celia sprang up and brought him his large meerschaum, with a lighted
match. He usually rewarded her for this service with a loving smile,
but to-night he sat puffing out clouds of smoke without a word, until
he drew out his huge gold watch and said, "Ten minutes after eleven!
This household is topsy-turvy. It was not enough that Werner should
insanely go to meet the woman at the station himself, but that fool
Arno must needs run after him. There stands the table waiting,--nine
o'clock is the supper-hour, and it is now nearly midnight."

"But you had your supper at the right time, papa," said Celia.

"How would it have helped matters to have me kept waiting? It is enough
that all the rest of the household suffers because of you and this
governess. It was the stupidest thing I ever did to listen to Werner.
What's the use of your having a governess? Your manners are quite fine
enough for Castle Hohenwald, for Arno, and for me."

"Still it was very wise in you, papa, to follow Werner's advice. I can
learn a great deal from a good governess, and some time, I suppose, I
shall meet those who demand more than Arno or you."

"Oho! the wind has changed, then? So Werner has converted you too!"

Celia blushed. Werner had not even attempted the conversion of
which his father accused him; but she did not say one word in his
defence,--she could not tell her father that it was Kurt von Poseneck
who had caused her change of opinion.

"Where can they be?" the Freiherr exclaimed, impatiently; "they ought
to have been here by ten o'clock at the latest."

"I hope there has been no accident."

"Nonsense! The road is perfectly good, and since Arno chose to go and
meet them with torches an accident is impossible. There is just as much
pother about this governess as if she were a lady of distinction."

"Do not be unjust, papa! If old John, who has not driven over that road
for so long, should have missed the way and got into the Grünhagen
quarry, and any accident had happened to Werner or the lady, you never
would forgive yourself for scolding Arno for going to meet them, Only
hear how the wind howls and the rain beats against the windows. For my
part, I am almost dead with anxiety lest an accident has happened. But,
thank Heaven, no--there they are; I hear the carriage rattling over the
stones of the court-yard."

Celia started up, and would have hurried out to meet the arrivals, but
a peremptory word from her father detained her. "Stay here!" he
exclaimed. "There is such a thing as being too kind. It is more than
enough that Werner brings her from the station, that Arno goes to meet
her, and that the table and you all are kept waiting for her. As she
herself wrote, she is to be your paid companion and teacher. Remember
that, child. Any undue familiarity is very undesirable."

Celia tossed her head and a reply was upon her tongue, but as she
looked at her father she thought it wiser not to provoke him further,
so she bit her lips and obeyed in silence. At the same time she
privately determined that neither her father's command nor her
brother's advice should influence her conduct towards the governess.

Her patience was put to the proof, for several minutes elapsed before
the hall-doors were thrown open and Arno appeared, ushering in a lady,
whom he presented. "Fräulein Anna Müller. My father, my sister Celia."
This introduction he evidently considered quite sufficient, for he
instantly turned from her, and, taking his father's hand, said, "We
have kept you waiting a long while, father--you shall hear why when you
have welcomed Fräulein Müller. I have much to tell."

The Freiherr made no reply; during the presentation he had not removed
his pipe from his mouth, but when Anna approached with a slight
courtesy, and, in a soft, rich voice, said, "Forgive me, Herr Baron,
for having been the involuntary cause of so much disturbance," he
instantly laid it aside and made an attempt to rise from his chair in
answer to her words. It was many years since he had exchanged a word
with a lady, but the memory of the time when he lived in society
stirred within him as he looked at Anna. He had supposed that a
negligent word of greeting would suffice for a governess, after all
only a kind of upper servant, but he saw before him a lady to whom he
involuntarily paid a mach greater degree of respect. It was not Anna's
extraordinary beauty that thus impressed him, although he found it
admirable, but a certain indescribable something which characterized
her, and which her unsuitable dress could not conceal. She had left her
drenched clothing at Inspector Hauk's, in the village of Hohenwald, and
had borrowed a dark woollen dress of his wife's, which, although much
too large for her slender figure, could not disguise its beautiful
proportions.

A few minutes previously the Freiherr had not been by any means
inclined to receive kindly the disturber of his domestic peace, but as
he looked into Anna's pale face, and thought he saw an entreaty for
kindness in her fine eyes, the expression of irritation vanished from
his features, and he said, very kindly and simply, "You are heartily
welcome, Fräulein!"

These were the first words that Anna heard from the dreaded
woman-hater, the stern Freiherr. Her future pupil's reception of her
was far more effusive; she had taken Celia's heart by storm. While Anna
was speaking to the old Baron, the girl stood rapt in admiration of the
stranger's exquisite smile and melodious voice, and when she turned
from the father to the daughter, the latter threw her arms around her
in a sudden burst of girlish enthusiasm, which conveyed a far more
cordial welcome than could have been given in words. Anna gently kissed
her brow and felt inexpressibly pleased by the manner of Celia's
greeting, founding upon it the brightest hopes for the future.

And what did the Freiherr say to this infringement of the rule he had
laid down but a few short minutes before? He was not in the least
angry; he smiled benignantly, and watched with great satisfaction the
two charming girls, the governess, apparently but a few years the elder
of the two, and his darling, his will-o'-the-wisp. Paternal pride
whispered to him that, beautiful as the stranger was, she was no
lovelier than Celia.

Arno by no means shared his father's satisfaction. His face grew dark
as he looked at Anna. What magical charm did this stranger, whom Werner
had introduced among them, possess, to enable her thus, by a single
word, to transform his father, prompting him to utter that "heartily
welcome," and now so completely winning over Celia, who had naturally
rebelled against the idea of a governess? Had she not even made a far
deeper impression upon himself than he was willing to admit? She must
be an adept in the art of pleasing.

"Now you shall have supper," said the Freiherr; and Arno rang the bell
to have it served immediately, and then pushed his father's chair up to
the table. It was only when old Franz had placed the dishes on the
table that Celia observed that Werner's place was empty. Her father
noticed this at the same time, and they asked, simultaneously, "Where
is Werner?"

"Where you would least suspect him to be, father," replied Arno. "The
Finanzrath is so far exalted above the traditional prejudices of his
family that he has accepted Herr Kurt von Poseneck's invitation, and is
at this moment either calmly supping with the Amtsrath Friese and Herr
von Poseneck, or comfortably tucked in bed at Grünhagen."

This announcement produced very different effects upon Celia and her
father. Celia blushed crimson; but so far from seeming shocked at
Werner's transgression, she laughed merrily, and asked, "How did it
happen?"

The Freiherr, on the contrary, would have risen hastily from his chair
had not his gout prevented; he muttered an oath, and exclaimed, "What a
devil of a story is this? Werner at Grünhagen with those scoundrels of
Posenecks!"

"Why should you speak so harshly of Herr von Poseneck, papa?" Celia
asked, indignantly.

The Baron gazed at his child in amazement. "What is the child thinking
of?" he asked. "Actually taking me to task! Since when have you become
the champion of the Posenecks, little one?"

"It seems to me unjust to abuse the absent, who do not deserve it, and
cannot defend themselves!"

"How do you know what the Posenecks deserve? Would you send your old
father to school? Truly, it seems high time that your education were
looked after, child."

Celia's cheek grew more crimson still, but she made no reply to her
father's reproof. Arno had listened to the brief war of words with a
smile. "Positively," he said, "I shall henceforth believe in signs and
wonders. A Hohenwald partakes of the hospitality of Grünhagen; Celia
appears as the champion of the Posenecks; my father scolds his darling,
and she makes no reply! Who can discredit miracles after all this?"

"Nonsense!" the Freiherr rejoined, peevishly. "Rather tell me how
Werner came to meet that Poseneck fellow."

In answer Arno gave a narrative of the evening's adventures. He had
determined to state the simple facts to his father, alluding as little
as possible to Fräulein Anna Müller, but as he proceeded, his
remembrance of the scene at the quarry was so vivid that he went
farther than he had intended. He could not forbear, for mere justice'
sake, to enlarge somewhat upon the courage and unselfishness of Anna's
conduct, in contrast with Werner's weakness and egotism, when he told
how, although wounded herself, she had declined his aid and had begged
him instantly to bestow it upon old John. He did not utter one word of
praise, but in his description of what had occurred there was much
commendation implied, while he did not spare his sarcasm in speaking of
Werner's very slight injury.

Anna was not a little embarrassed by his account; she would have liked
to disclaim Arno's praise, but what could she say while he confined
himself to a narrative of facts? When Celia, however, turned to her
with a warm caress, saying, "Good heavens, you are wounded, and have
said nothing to us about it!" she smilingly lifted the dark-brown curls
upon her forehead, and said, "You see it is a mere scratch; the village
doctor attended to it, and told me that it would be perfectly healed in
a few days. It really is nothing."

Arno confirmed her words, and went on to reassure his father as to old
John's condition, which Dr. Brühn pronounced to be not at all
dangerous, although his injury had at first seemed grave. He then gave
a detailed account of Werner's desire from the first to go to
Grünhagen, and of how he was not to be dissuaded from accepting Kurt
von Poseneck's invitation, which, Arno admitted, was most amiably and
courteously tendered.

The Freiherr nodded, well pleased, when he heard how the Hohenwald
people had refused to carry old John to Grünhagen, but he was all the
more irritated by the Finanzrath's acceptance of Kurt's invitation. "It
is disgraceful!" he exclaimed. "How could a Hohenwald forget himself so
far as to accept hospitality at the hands of a beggarly Poseneck!"

"It is not at all nice of you, papa!" Celia instantly declared, with
flaming cheeks and flashing eyes. "How can you, who are usually just
and good, speak so unkindly of Herr von Poseneck, who has never done
anything to you? It is poor thanks to him for hurrying out to the
quarry in the storm to help Werner. And Werner was perfectly right to
accept the invitation; what had he to do with an old worn-out feud?
Herr Kurt von Poseneck certainly had no share in it; he has only lately
arrived from America."

"Why, what an eloquent advocate the Posenecks have in our little one!"
Arno rejoined, before his father, who was quite speechless with
astonishment, could frame a reply. "And in truth she is partly right,
for the young Herr von Poseneck certainly conducted himself excessively
well on this occasion; nevertheless, I did not wish to accept his
invitation, nor did Fräulein Müller; Werner, however, is superior to
all Hohenwald prejudice. The Finanzrath knows far better how to conduct
himself than we, who rust here in Castle Hohenwald, possibly can. His
father and brother ought to be banished to the lumber-garret,--eh,
Celia?"

"Come, come; have done with sneering, Arno. Go on with your story," the
girl replied.

"You are right. Disputing cannot change matters; that neither my
father, nor Werner, nor I can do. You and I belong to the old order of
affairs, father; we must be content to find others leaving us; and it
is but natural that Celia should vow allegiance to modern ideas; so I
will not waste another word upon the Posenecks, although I confess I
practise self-denial in not doing so." And he finished his narrative,
describing Anna's courageous braving of the storm and rain on their way
to the Inspector's at the village of Hohenwald, where they found warmth
and shelter, and whence a messenger was despatched for Dr. Brühn, who
soon pronounced upon old John's case and dressed the cut upon Fräulein
Müller's forehead. Then, after Arno had exchanged his wet clothes for a
suit of the Inspector's, and Fräulein Müller had been provided with
garments from his wife's wardrobe, a village wagon had brought them
both to the castle.

The old Baron was greatly interested in Arno's account; even Werner's
visit to Grünhagen was almost forgotten as he eagerly listened to his
son's narrative. The new governess was evidently no spoiled city lady.
He briefly expressed to her his admiration and gratitude, and it
pleased him still more that Anna quietly declined to accept any thanks
for what was merely a matter of course and of no consequence.

Meanwhile, it had grown late, and still, contrary to his custom, the
Freiherr leaned comfortably back in his rolling-chair and said not one
word of retiring, so interested was he in discussing the events of the
evening. Suddenly, however, he happened to glance at the clock, and
discovering that it was just about to strike one, he remembered how
fatigued Fräulein Müller must be. Directing Celia to show her to her
apartment, he had himself rolled into his bedroom by Arno, after
wishing the new governess a courteous good-night.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


"My dear Arno,--You have a right to scold. I can see you frown when you
learn that this letter would have reached you two weeks ago, if I had
fulfilled my promise of writing to you about my visit to my uncle
Guntram soon after my arrival in M----.

"But man proposes, and a charming, smiling little blonde disposes.
Indeed she is charming enough to make a man forget even the sacred
claims of friendship, and so I confess my fault, and pray your
forgiveness. But I can see the frown deepen on your brow, you
incorrigible woman-hater, and you are less inclined than ever to
forgive upon such a plea. What will you say, then, when you know the
worst? Listen, and wonder, Arno. I am betrothed,--the happy lover of
the aforesaid lovely little blonde. I beg leave to present to you the
betrothed pair, Adèle von Guntram--Karl, Count Styrum. There! Do not
throw the letter angrily aside, or you will not learn how it has all
come about so quickly, and, besides, you must accustom yourself to the
idea of receiving, upon your promised visit to Altenheim, a welcome
from a charming little Countess Styrum. That your welcome from her will
be of the warmest I can assure you, for my betrothed takes the keenest
interest in Arno von Hohenwald, about whom she is never weary of
hearing. I might almost be jealous of him did I not know his views with
regard to women.

"And now let me tell you what is stranger than all, that it is owing to
this interest of Adèle's in you that I am now her accepted lover, or
rather that I am so much sooner than I could otherwise have been; and I
will tell you as briefly as I can, without breaking a promise I have
made, how this came about.

"You know I visited M---- on account of the vexatious lawsuit with my
uncle Guntram which I inherited from my father, and concerning which I
hoped to effect some sort of compromise. My uncle received me with the
greatest cordiality, and we should speedily have arranged matters had
it not been for my cousin Heinrich, who, being a newly-fledged lawyer,
would not hear of any adjustment of the affair. I believe I could not
have offended him more deeply than by voluntarily relinquishing my
claims. Now he must put up with this offence, although it is given in a
manner different from any that he could have foreseen. His zeal
for litigation was of the greatest service to me, for it kept me in
M---- when I thought my presence necessary at Altenheim. Thus weeks and
even months passed, and I was no nearer the goal than at first, that
is, so far as the lawsuit was concerned, otherwise my stay in M---- was
entirely delightful to me. My uncle Guntram was all that he could be in
the way of affectionate kindness, Heinrich extremely amiable in a
cousinly way, and Adèle--no, I will not write about Adèle, for you
would only laugh at me and call me a love-sick fool. Wait until you
come to M----, as friendship demands you should do, to be present at my
marriage, and you will understand how welcome any pretext was to me for
a protracted stay here, and how willingly I spent day after day beneath
my uncle's roof, passing the most of my time talking with Adèle. She
treated me in the kindest manner, but her innocent familiarity, which
was almost like that she might show to a brother, made me anxious. A
distant connection of yours, a certain Assessor von Hahn, frequents my
uncle's house, and was evidently suing for my cousin's favour. I heard
reports from all sides of a private betrothal between them, which was
not to be announced until the Assessor had obtained the position of
circuit judge, since my uncle greatly disapproved of long engagements.

"I really could not perceive that Adèle favoured the pretensions of the
Assessor, who is a very well-disposed but rather ridiculous little man;
but as all the world declared that it was a settled affair, and as even
the Assessor himself let fall several hints to the same effect, I
thought I should be forced to accept my fate. I should never have dared
to tell my charming cousin how dear she was to me had not you, Arno,
without knowing it, lent me your aid.

"I had often talked of you to Adèle, telling her of our delightful
travels, and even describing to her your father, your sister Cecilia,
and your surroundings at Castle Hohenwald, as I had learned to know
them from yourself.

"When I went to my uncle's this morning at the usual time, I found
Adèle alone; she received me more kindly than usual; she even owned
frankly that she had for an hour been longing for my coming. Flattering
as this reception was, I founded no hopes upon it, for I saw that my
cousin was desirous to acquaint me with some plan, in the execution of
which she looked to me for assistance. She was in a state of feverish
agitation; at times she would look at me with an expression of intense
entreaty, and then, just when I hoped she was about to speak frankly of
what was nearest her heart, she would introduce some indifferent topic
of conversation. At last she evidently summoned up courage sufficient
to enable her to bestow her confidence upon me. 'Cousin Karl,' she
said, in her sweet, gentle voice, 'I have a very, very great favour to
ask of you.' I need not tell you how fervently I assured her that she
could not ask what it would not be my delight to grant. She then
proceeded to tell me that her dearest friend, a Fraulein Anna Müller,
who had been her schoolmate at Frau Adelung's, in Dresden, was forced
by dire misfortune to seek a position as governess. Frau von Adelung
had recommended the young lady to your brother Werner for your sister
Celia, and Fraulein Müller was to start for Hohenwald this very day.
The mighty favour that Adèle asked of me was to write to you and exert
my influence with you to insure the young lady a favourable reception
at Castle Hohenwald. I never can tell so evil-minded a woman-hater as
yourself how exquisitely lovely Adèle was as she thus pleaded with me
for her friend, nor how it happened that I retained the hand I took in
mine and forgot all the silly stories about the Assessor von Hahn.
Indeed, I do not know where I found the courage to tell her how
inexpressibly dear she was to me, and how life had no greater joy for
me than the hope of keeping for my very own forever the hand I then
held. I was afraid she would instantly withdraw it, but she did not,
and--no, I will only tell you that I am the happiest fellow in the
world. Uncle Guntram, when he came from his study shortly afterwards,
found us betrothed, and gave us his blessing, assuring me that his
dearest wish was fulfilled in our betrothal, and adding that Adèle
should have the lawsuit for her dowry, so that if I wished to continue
it I could do so with my wife. Heinrich made a wry face at this, but
there was no help for it, and he offered us his brotherly
congratulations.

"Thus, you see, I owe my being the happy lover that I am to you, Arno,
for had it not been for Adèle's request I never should have had the
courage to confess to her that I loved her. The bugbear of her
betrothal to Herr von Hahn would have prevented my speaking frankly to
her. Adèle laughed at me when I told her this, and rallied me upon
lending an ear to such silly gossip.

"And now, Arno, that my confession is made, my next duty is to fulfil
my love's request, and cordially to recommend her friend to your
kindness. I do this with a good conscience; she is a cultivated,
highly-gifted person. I congratulate your sister that your brother
succeeded in inducing her to come to Castle Hohenwald. I as well as
Adèle am convinced that Fraulein Müller's talents and acquirements will
achieve for her an honoured position in your father's household, and
Adèle hopes for more yet; she trusts that her friend in the solitude of
Hohenwald, in a refined family circle, may in time forget the
misfortunes that have befallen her, and that your kindness may assist
her to do so. I know your magnanimity and delicacy of sentiment, and
that you only need be told that Fraulein Müller, owing to no fault of
her own, is very unhappy, and that any allusion to her past, any
question with regard to it, would be extremely painful to her. To
alleviate her sorrow she only needs cordial kindness, confidence which
she deserves in fullest measure, and considerate regard. All these I
know she will find at Castle Hohenwald, and among you she will not be
subjected to a curiosity to which she would be specially sensitive. You
will forgive me for communicating no further particulars to you with
regard to the lady's past when I tell you that I am bound by a promise.
I know that you will be content with my declaration that I vouch for
Fraulein Müller's blameless integrity and purity of character. When you
receive this she will already be beneath your roof; let me pray you not
to let her know that I have written to you, and my Adèle will thank you
for not doing so when you come to M---- to our marriage.

"One thing more before this long letter is concluded: with regard to
your nearest neighbor, my cousin, Kurt von Poseneck. I have heard
something of an hereditary feud between the Hohenwalds and the
Posenecks, but I know you too well to suspect you of giving heed to any
such folly, and therefore I cordially commend my cousin to your
kindness. Kurt's life in America has been the best of training for him;
he is a fine fellow. I learned to know him well when he paid me a visit
at Altenheim not long ago, and I assure you that I have rarely seen a
young man so greatly to my mind, as I know he will be to yours.
Although we are antagonistic in politics (he is a democrat, as was his
father before him), I enjoyed every moment of his stay with me at
Altenheim, for even in a political discussion Kurt never forgets that
he is a gentleman. He defends his views with spirit, but with such
calmness and moderation that he is never offensive. I am sure you will
soon be friends, if you will only consent to break the spell of your
solitude so far as to become acquainted with him.

"And now adieu! God bless you! Woman-hater though you be, your
congratulations are confidently expected by

                             "Yours always,

                                         "Karl Styrum."


Arno laid the letter aside, after he had read it, with a sigh. He had
found it with his other letters by the day's post upon his table after
he had left the garden-room, as we have seen, long after midnight. "He,
too!" he muttered to himself, with another sigh, and then he read the
letter for the second and third time, his face darkening as he read.
After the third perusal he sat for a long time lost in thought, and
finally took up a pen and wrote:


"My Dear Karl,--You expect congratulations from your friend; it is
indeed an ancient custom to offer kind wishes to the newly betrothed,
and I follow it all the more readily as in my case I employ no empty,
idle phrase when I wish you happiness with all my heart. We have always
agreed to be frank and true in our dealings with each other, and never
to shun entire openness through fear of giving offence. I now fulfil my
share of our compact. Indeed, after reading your letter three times I
cannot but reply to you, my only intimate friend, as my heart dictates
upon the impulse of the moment, not as I might after long and cool
consideration. Therefore this is no formal letter of congratulation,
but the true and faithful reply of a friend. Yes, I wish you all
happiness, but I do so with a heavy heart, for I know how much I lose
by your betrothal,--I, who have hitherto held the foremost place in
your regard, must content myself with the second, and I shall shortly,
as mournful experience teaches, lose this also, for love is the mortal
foe of friendship. Both cannot exist together in the same heart. Thus I
know that I have already half lost you, and shall soon lose you
entirely, for I shall never be content with the cold modicum of regard
which is all that the bridegroom and husband has for an every-day
acquaintance. This pains me profoundly. You were the only man in whom I
could thoroughly confide,--the only one to whom I could look for entire
comprehension and sympathy. Nevertheless, I wish you happiness, and my
wish is all the more fervent since I dread its non-fulfilment. Yes, my
pain in losing you is augmented by my fears for your future. I know
you, and I know that you never can content yourself as can so many
unless your marriage brings you full sympathy of heart and mind. You
are in love, and I know from sad experience that love drugs the
intellect and bewilders the judgment. You will, therefore, doubtless
regard my doubts as to your future as a positive crime against your
betrothed, but I must be frank with you, my regard for you demands it.
I repeat, I wish you joy; you need all good wishes, and if I could I
would close this letter with mine, for my head and heart are so full of
your betrothal that there is hardly room in them for another thought,
but you have made a request of me to which I must reply.

"Fraulein Müller, your betrothed's friend, has been for several hours
in Castle Hohenwald, to which I myself introduced her after a most
extraordinary fashion. Of this I will write you shortly. I will only
tell you now that I have already had abundant opportunity to admire the
lady's rare courage. She has by her beauty and her frank attractive
bearing already taken Celia's heart by storm and conquered my father's
prejudice against her. I received your letter _after_ her arrival here,
and therefore could not comply with your request as to her reception,
but rest assured that the lady herself insured its cordiality far
better than I could have done. I could not have believed it possible
that my father should treat a stranger with such urbanity, although a
few hours before Fraulein Müller's arrival he had scouted the idea of
any friendly familiar intercourse with the new governess, and had
declared that while Celia's companion and teacher was entitled to a
courteous and respectful reception in Castle Hohenwald, she could lay
no claim to admission within our family circle. Fraulein Müller can
have no cause to complain of any want of the cordiality you desire in
my father's or Celia's welcome, but the requirement of such from me is,
unfortunately, a demand with which I cannot comply. You know how I
value your opinion, how highly I rate your recommendation; it is a
warrant to me that the lady is deserving of all regard. I promise you
that she shall be annoyed by no curiosity as to her past, and that I
will do all that I can to conceal from her the discomfort that her stay
among us causes me. More I cannot promise. You would not ask me to be
false to my nature, and I tell you frankly that I have an invincible
repugnance to all intercourse with this young person, which is rather
increased by the fact that she is beautiful, cultured, and amiable, and
that I cannot refuse to accord her a certain degree of esteem in view
of the admirable courage she displayed this evening under exceedingly
trying circumstances.

"To treat her with cordiality is impossible for me; I will keep out of
her way as far as I can. I will always observe every rule of
conventional courtesy in my unavoidable intercourse with her, and, in
deference to your request, will endeavour to make her position in the
household as pleasant as it can be under the circumstances; you will
not ask more of me. Enough for to-night. In a few days I will write you
a detailed account of my adventures in bringing Fraulein Müller to
Castle Hohenwald, and of my encounter with your cousin Kurt von
Poseneck, whom I saw for a moment upon the same occasion. Farewell, and
do not be angry with me for perhaps mingling one bitter drop in your
cup of happiness,--I could not help it. I must always be utterly frank
and true with you.

           "Always and all ways your faithful friend,

                                   "Arno von Hohenwald."


The letter was finished; but when Arno read it over he was not
satisfied with its contents. He had meant to tell his friend in
heartsome words how he feared for his future; but now that they were
there on the paper in black and white they seemed cold and insulting.
It was but a poor reply to Karl's warm-hearted letter. And he was no
better pleased either with what he had written about Fräulein Müller.
He had meant to be perfectly candid and true to his friend. Had he not
promised always to be so? and this surely justified all he had said.
But was what he had written quite true? Did he feel an invincible
repugnance to any familiar intercourse with Fräulein Müller? Had she
not, on the contrary, inspired him with an inexplicable interest which
he vainly tried to suppress? While he was writing she was perpetually
in his mind. He had been obliged once to lay down his pen because her
image so flitted before him; he saw her walking beside him through the
night and the tempest, braving the storm so boldly, and yet without
doing violence to a true feminine nature. Even on the road to the
village of Hohenwald he had tried to resist the impression that the
first sight of this charming girl had made upon him, but in vain,
although he conjured to his aid the ghosts of a vanished past. He would
gladly have detested this stranger thus thrust into his life; he heaped
her with all kinds of accusations, and yet confessed to himself that
they were all unjust. What reason had he for crediting her with a
desire for admiration? had she sought by look or by gesture to attract
him? Would Styrum have commended her so warmly if she had not been
worthy of all praise? Still, why should she alone of all women be
careless of admiration? No; Styrum was in love; he saw with his
betrothed's eyes. He was credulous, and had not purchased with his
heart's blood the sad experience that the most innocent of smiles upon
lovely lips is but a prearranged means to some desired end. Poor Karl!
he had not seen through the game they were playing with him, or he
would not have fallen into their toils so easily. The rich Count,
belonging as he did to the foremost of the Saxon nobility, would at any
time have been considered by the President Guntram as an excellent
parti for his daughter; but the prospect of a happy conclusion to the
lawsuit had doubtless made the match doubly desirable. Therefore it was
that the engagement between the fair Adèle and the Assessor had been
dissolved, and no means had been neglected to bring the Count to a
declaration. Interest for her friend had afforded Adèle an excellent
opportunity to treat her cousin with flattering confidence, and she had
won the game. Poor Karl! in his noble trust in innocence and purity he
had fallen a victim to an excellently-laid plan, and was now made use
of by Adèle to insure her friend a firm footing in Castle Hohenwald.
Arno could not but laugh at himself. Had he really been in danger of
proving false to his principles? He had seen through the game at the
right moment, however,--the suspicion that had been aroused on the road
to Hohenwald now became a certainty, and what he had written to his
friend was the truth. Yes, he now felt an invincible repugnance to any
closer intercourse with this intriguing stranger, who had selected
Castle Hohenwald as the theatre for her schemes. The letter should be
despatched just as it was. He folded and sealed it, and then betook
himself to rest. The day's exertions had wearied him, and he soon
slept, but the image of the lovely stranger mingled in his dreams.

The stranger herself stood at the window of the room to which Celia had
shown her, and gazed out into the gloomy night; she heard the howling
of the wind and the beating of the rain against the panes, but she did
not heed them, for before her mind's eye rose a form that made her
oblivious of the present. She shuddered as she looked back to that last
terrible night spent beneath the same roof with the wretch who would
have bartered his wife's honour for a release from poverty and
detection. She had clung to him faithfully, had always conscientiously
fulfilled her duty to him, hoping that she might perhaps in the end
influence him for good. She had forgiven him for squandering her
property, for plunging her into poverty, although she no longer loved
him, and was bound to him only by a sense of duty; but that he could so
dishonour her as actually to wish to sell her to the Russian was a sin
never to be forgiven,--it separated her from him forever.

He had spoken the decisive word himself, he had restored to her her
freedom, lured by false hopes perhaps, but he had done so
unconditionally, and she was now her own mistress; she no longer felt
the chains that had bound her to her wretched husband; they might exist
for the world, but no longer for herself, for her own conscience. When
on that dreadful night she had bolted herself into her bedroom, her
resolution was already taken. Without hesitation she proceeded to carry
it out. She exchanged her ball-dress for a simple stuff gown; she
packed a few necessary articles of clothing in a travelling-bag, and
hastily wrote these lines: "You have given back to me my freedom; I
accept it. It is your desire that we should part; it shall be
fulfilled: you will never see me again. Should you dare to persecute
me, you will force me to denounce you publicly and to give to the world
the reasons that justify my conduct. The detected thief, who would
barter his wife's honour, has forfeited the right to control her
destiny.--LUCIE."

Her hand did not tremble as she wrote these words. She folded the
sheet, sealed it and placed it where its address could be plainly seen
by any one entering the room.

It was done! She was parted from him forever. A shudder ran through her
as she thought of his threat of suicide if she refused to accede to his
wishes, but the thought did not for an instant deter her. Only the
coward, whose courage is never equal to the commission of the deed, can
threaten suicide; if he could have preferred death to disgrace he never
would have been a detected thief.

She cautiously unbolted her door and crept through the drawing-room to
the hall, upon which the door of Sorr's sleeping-room opened. Here she
paused and listened,--he was wont to breathe heavily in his sleep,--but
she could hear nothing: a proof that he was still awake. What if he
should hear her and come from his room to prevent her departure? What
then? The wonted gentleness of her look gave place to stern
determination; involuntarily she clinched her hand; the struggle had
begun, and should under all circumstances be carried on.

Fortunately, however, she encountered no obstacle to her progress down
the stairs to the house-door, which she softly opened and as softly
closed behind her. The streets were deserted; she passed a watchman
asleep on a doorstep, and walked as quickly as possible towards the
President's mansion without being seen by a human being. The windows of
the house were still gleaming with light, and there was a long line of
carriages in the street before it. Lucie paused and hesitated for a
moment. The ball was not yet over. She had hoped this would be the
case; else it would have been difficult for her to obtain an entrance
to the house. But how was she to pass the line of carriages? So late a
wanderer would be sure to be noticed by the coachmen and lackeys, and
she might be the object of coarse jests. Perhaps the little gate
leading from the garden into a side street was open: it was seldom
locked; and even should it be so, she could easily climb the low
garden-fence. She was not to be stopped by such an obstacle; from the
garden, the wing in which was Adèle's room was easily entered by a
back-door, which was, of course, still open, and once in the house she
could soon make her way to Adèle's room.

She hurried into the side street. The garden-gate was not locked, nor
was the back-door even closed. Fortune favoured her; not a servant did
she encounter as she hurried up a narrow staircase and along the
passage leading to her friend's room, which she reached without being
observed. Arrived here, she sank down upon the little lounge where she
had so often sat conversing gayly with Adèle, upon whose aid she now
relied in her plan of flight.

An hour passed slowly; the music floated in from the ball-room; but at
last it ceased; there was a bustle of departing guests, servants ran to
and fro in the house, and the rattle of carriages told Lucie that the
ball was at an end. Another half-hour went by; the house grew quieter,
the bustle entirely subsided; there were steps in the passage, and
Heinrich von Guntram's voice said, "Good-night, Adèle. Shall I light
your candle for you?"

"Oh, no; there are matches on the table Good-night, Heinrich."

"Good-night."

The door opened. Adèle entered, bolted it behind her, and then, going
to the table in front of the sofa, lighted a match, by the flickering
light of which she distinguished a dark figure sitting on the sofa. She
gasped with terror and ran towards the door, but was instantly arrested
in her flight by the gentle tones of a familiar voice, whispering,
"Don't be frightened, dearest Adèle; it is I,--Lucie!"

"You--you here at this hour?"

"I need your help, Adèle. In my extremest misery I seek refuge with
you, my dearest friend."

In an instant Adèle's arms were about her, and the tenderest assurances
of sympathy and aid were poured into her friend's ear. Then she drew
the curtains close and lighted the candles, before seating herself
beside Lucie and entreating her to tell her all.

Lucie complied; she told her of her wretched past with her worthless
husband, and of the incidents of the last few hours, remaining
perfectly calm amid the storm of indignation with which her friend
greeted her narrative. Anger was dead within her, slain by the thorough
contempt she now felt for Sorr.

"And now, dear Adèle," she concluded, "I come to claim your aid. Your
last words to me this evening when I left the ball-room were, 'Trust in
me; whatever happens, I will stand by you.' This has given me courage
to take this decided step to break the fetters that bound me to one so
unworthy. I knew I should not be quite alone, that you would not desert
me, and therefore I come to you."

"Never, Lucie dear, never; and not only I,--there is another whose aid
will be of more use to you than that of a poor weak girl. My cousin
Karl told me every detail of the miserable scene in Heinrich's room; he
suspected you would soon need protection and assistance, and is ready
to give it to you. You may trust him; he is a noble, true-hearted man,
and has promised me to befriend you at your need. Be sure he will keep
his promise. He will advise us what is best to be done."

"I do not need any advice," Lucie gravely rejoined; "my resolution is
taken, my plans for the future are arranged. I need the help of
faithful friends only in their execution. I shall be grateful for Count
Styrum's help; but later, when I am no longer here."

"What do you propose to do?"

"Herr von Sorr has given me my freedom. I will employ it in beginning a
new life. For years I have foreseen that I should one day be obliged to
turn to account for my support the accomplishments acquired during my
girlhood, and I have continued to study with this end in view. I am
perfectly qualified to fill a position as governess. Such a position I
shall endeavour to find in some retired country-seat, but in order to
obtain it I need testimonials, with which so young a man as Count
Styrum cannot furnish me. I have therefore thought of writing to our
dear old teacher, Frau von Adelung, in Dresden. I remember that she was
constantly applied to for governesses. But I am afraid to confide
wholly in her. With the best intentions she is something of a gossip,
and would find it difficult to keep my secret, and yet her
recommendation I must obtain. When Herr von Sorr finds my letter
to-morrow and discovers that I am fled, he will, I know, together with
Count Repuin, leave no stone unturned to discover my retreat. He will
not be deterred even by the threat in my letter, and he must learn
nothing, and therefore I cannot confide in good Frau von Adelung. You
must write to her and bespeak her good offices for a friend of yours;
you were always one of her favourites, and she will not hesitate to
comply with your request. I am sure, dearest Adèle, you will do this
for me."

Lucie's scheme seemed to her friend admirable, and she declared herself
ready to do all that she could to further it: but when Lucie went on to
state that she intended to leave M---- the next morning by the five
o'clock train, to await in some retired village the result of her
friend's action, Adèle reused to entertain any such idea. Nowhere, she
said, could Lucie be so safe from Sorr's persecution as in M----, where
he certainly would never expect to find her. The arrival of a lady
alone and unattended in any little village would surely excite remark,
while Lucie might stay for weeks in Adèle's room and her presence
beneath the President's roof never be suspected. Adèle never received
her friends in her bedroom or dressing-room, and neither her father nor
her brother ever came to her there. All that was to be done was to take
Lina, Adèle's special maid, into their confidence,--she had lived in
the house for years, and a more faithful, trustworthy creature there
could not be. Adèle's representations overcame her friend's scruples,
and it was agreed to admit the maid to a full knowledge of the state of
the case. And when the dawn was at hand the two friends retired to bed,
Adèle happier with regard to Lucie than she had been for a long while.

The next morning when Lina came to call her young mistress her surprise
was great at finding a new inmate in the room, of whose coming no one
had been aware. Adèle told her the true reason for Frau von Sorr's
flight from her husband's roof, and Lina, flattered by the confidence
shown her, promised to keep such guard over the fugitive that no one
should dream of her whereabouts, while she should daily fare like an
honoured guest, without arousing the suspicions of the other servants.

She kept her word, which she would have done out of her faithful
devotion to Adèle alone, even if Frau von Sorr's gentleness and
misfortunes had not excited her sympathy and spurred her on to
redoubled watchfulness. The scheme was eminently successful. Neither
the President nor Heinrich nor any of the other inmates of the house
ever suspected that Lucie von Sorr, whose sudden disappearance was the
town-talk of M----, was concealed in Adèle's room.

The President, at the dinner-table, expressed his surprise that so
beautiful a woman could have contrived to vanish utterly without a
trace. He told how Herr von Sorr had applied to the police for
assistance in his search for his wife; that inquiry had been made of
all the hack-drivers of the town and the porters at the railway
stations. No one could remember having seen the fugitive; an
extraordinary fact in view of the lady's remarkable beauty. Herr von
Sorr was beside himself, and feared that his wife might have been
driven to suicide by the strange reports circulating in the town.

Adèle listened to all this in silence, and reported it to her friend
afterwards.

In a few days many visitors made their appearance at the President's,
in hopes of learning something satisfactory from Adèle, who was well
known to be Frau von Sorr's nearest friend. Among them were Madame
Gansauge and Frau von Rose, the Messrs. von Saldern and von Arnim,
Assessor von Hahn, and others, all craving information.

Adèle listened to all that they had to say, but had nothing to tell
them. She could not imagine why her friend had left M---- so suddenly;
she could not look upon her disappearance as a flight, and she feigned
a fresh interest in every repetition of the reports circulating
in M----.

It was positively certain, the wife of Major Gansauge asserted, that
Frau von Sorr had destroyed herself,--a peasant had seen her at five
o'clock in the morning near the Marble Gate, close by the large pond.
The body had not yet been found, but doubtless would be shortly. Count
Repuin was quite inconsolable, far more so than Herr von Sorr, who bore
his trial with more equanimity.

Frau von Rose knew from the very best authority--she was not at liberty
to mention names--that Count Repuin and Herr von Sorr had a violent
quarrel. The Count would not believe that Sorr was ignorant of his
wife's whereabouts. The affair was certainly very odd, for the Count
behaved precisely as though his wife, and not Herr von Sorr's, had run
away, and had threatened the husband with some dire revenge if the
fugitive were not shortly discovered.

The Assessor von Hahn was more cautious in his expressions; he hinted
that Frau von Sorr had made a profound impression upon Count Styrum,
and that the Count had perhaps been willing to shield her from Count
Repuin's persecutions. The Assessor remarked that he was too discreet
to say more; he did not boast of it, for discretion was a gift of
nature, and her bounties were variously distributed; discretion was one
of his natural endowments, therefore he would be silent.

All these contradictory reports which Adèle heard from the gossiping
friends of the family she faithfully recounted to Lucie, and the
friends congratulated themselves that no attempt had been made by Frau
von Sorr to leave M----.

Adèle had written immediately to Frau von Adelung, telling her that one
of her dearest friends, a Fräulein Anna Müller, was very desirous to
procure a situation in the country as governess. She expatiated upon
the talents, acquirements, and culture of the young lady, who regretted
that, never having dreamed of being obliged to support herself, she
possessed no testimonials to her ability. Now, however, she was in
great distress; her father had died brokenhearted at the loss of his
large fortune, and Fräulein Müller had been very unfortunate also in
other ways, so that she craved retirement from the world, and would
prefer a situation in the solitude of the country.

An answer to this letter arrived by return of mail. Frau von Adelung
expressed her pleasure at being able to do anything for her dear Adèle,
whose friendship for Fräulein Müller was a sufficient recommendation in
her eyes. At present she knew of no situation for her, although there
was no doubt that one could shortly be found, and she promised to write
again as soon as this was the case.

More than a week elapsed before Frau von Adelung was again heard from.
Lucie continued to live in her concealment in her friend's room,
hearing from her all that was going on in M----. Count Repuin and Sorr
had both suddenly left town, the latter deeply in debt. Whither they
had gone no one knew. Count Repuin had left orders that his letters
should be sent to Berlin _poste restante_.

At last, when Lucie was beginning to chafe under her enforced idleness,
a second letter arrived from Frau von Adelung, asking whether Fräulein
Müller would be willing to accept the position of governess to the
Baroness Cecilia von Hohenwald, or rather, as the young lady was
sixteen years old, that of companion and teacher. Lucie and Adèle were
greatly surprised by this letter; they well remembered the description
given by Count Styrum on the evening of the ball of the secluded life
at Castle Hohenwald, and this remembrance decided Lucie at once to
accept the offered position. In the solitude of Castle Hohenwald, where
no guest ever found admission, surely she might look for the seclusion
she so earnestly desired.

In a short time a third letter was received from Frau von Adelung,
enclosing the one addressed to Fräulein Müller by the Finanzrath, of
which we have already heard. His dreary picture of the castle and its
inmates, far from deterring Lucie from accepting the post offered her
there, only made her the more desirous to accept it, and she acceded
instantly to the Finanzrath's request that she would, if she could,
return a favourable reply and inform him of the day of her arrival at
the station A----.

Thus the die was cast. Two days more were all that she could spend with
the dear friend who had so aided and sheltered her. Adèle now wished to
intrust Lucie's secret to her cousin, that he might write and insure
her a friendly reception at Castle Hohenwald, but this Lucie permitted
her to do only upon condition that she should wait until she had
actually departed from M---- before she spoke to Count Styrum upon the
subject.

The day of departure arrived,--an agitating day for Lucie. Hitherto
Lina's fidelity and caution had made concealment possible; not one of
the household even dreamed that the vanished Frau von Sorr was quietly
living in Adèle's apartments; but how could she steal away unobserved?

The gossiping Assessor had reported that Count Repuin had bribed all
the railroad officials, who were to give him immediate notice of the
appearance at any one of the M---- stations of the well-known Frau von
Sorr. The police also were in his pay, and it seemed to Lucie almost
impossible to leave the President's house without discovery.

Here, too, the faithful Lina rendered most efficient aid. She had come
to seek service in M---- years before from an Altenburg village, and
the ugly national dress of the Altenburg peasantry, although long since
discarded by her, was still reposing neatly folded in her trunk. She
was about Lucie's height, and, with a few alterations, the peasant's
dress was made to fit the lady perfectly, so that when, one morning
towards four o'clock, a neatly-dressed Altenburg peasant-girl walked
out from the President's garden into the side street, the most
experienced detective would hardly have suspected her of being the
admired Frau von Sorr.

At the Marble Gate Lina was awaiting her in a covered wagon, driven by
one of her cousins, an Altenburg peasant lad, whom she had sent for to
take her to her native village, where she had received permission from
her master to spend a week's holiday. The peasant lad was rather
surprised that his cousin Lina should have stopped him, when they had
driven no farther than the Marble Grate, to wait for a young girl, who
shortly arrived and got into the vehicle. Still greater was his
surprise when, at a little wayside inn some miles from M----, Lina made
him wait much longer, while she went into the house with the young
girl, who must have remained there, for when Lina got into the wagon
again it was in company with a very fine lady, who paid him for driving
her to the nearest railroad station, where she took a kind leave of his
cousin.

Once in the railway carriage bound for A---- Lucie had no farther fear
of discovery, and we have already heard of her safe arrival there, and
of her adventurous drive with the Finanzrath.

How different her reception at the castle had been from any she had
anticipated! She had looked forward with a heavy heart to meeting the
old Baron; but he had welcomed her so kindly, so cordially, that she
felt sure that in him she should find a friend.

But Arno? Even if Count Styrum had written to him beseeching his kind
offices for the new governess, this morning, after his visit at the
President's, he could not have received the letter; his conduct had
been characterized only by the coldest courtesy. Still, she was
prepared for this; she knew his sentiments with regard to women. He had
behaved precisely as she had expected him to do, and his manner was
certainly far preferable to the Finanzrath's. As she called him to mind
a burning blush overspread her cheek, and she leaned her forehead
against the cool glass window-pane. She could not tell what it was in
his behaviour to her that so aroused her repugnance. He had been all
that he should be, and no more, and yet his courtesy inspired her with
dread; this man was antipathetic to her. But why trouble herself about
him in any way? He was but a guest at the castle, where everything
seemed so much more encouraging than she had hoped to find it; he would
be gone in a few days, and Celia, this charming, lovely Celia, who had
evidently conceived a sudden affection for her new companion, would
still be with her. How entirely unnecessary had been Lucie's fear of
the "wayward, spoiled child"! Celia could not feign; in her clear,
honest eyes the genuine welcome she had given to her new governess
was plainly to be read. How happy she had seemed upon noting the
pleasant impression produced by the pretty and luxurious bedroom and
dressing-room to which she had shown Lucie! How cordially she as well
as Frau Kaselitz had begged to know if anything were wanting for the
comfort of the new inmate! and how caressing had been the kiss with
which she had said good-night!

Yes, everything was far, far more pleasant than Lucie had expected;
surely she could find repose and forgetfulness amid these surroundings,
and in the fulfilment of a duty so interesting as the instruction of
this sweet young girl; and yet she could not look forward into the
future with any degree of buoyancy; the driving rain, the dark night,
the moaning wind, seemed to her to symbolize her destiny.



                              CHAPTER IX.


The tempest had spent its fury in the night, and the sun shone warm and
bright into Lucie's bedroom when she awaked at a rather late hour the
next morning. She was habitually an early riser, but the fatigue of the
previous day and evening had prevented her from sleeping until towards
morning, and she did not awake until eight o'clock from her dreamless
and refreshing slumber. She gazed around her in some bewilderment, and
could not at first remember where she was; but in an instant all the
past, her parting from her dear Adèle, her journey hither, and last
night's adventures, flashed upon her mind, and brought with them the
consciousness that she was actually in Castle Hohenwald. If her room
had looked pretty and comfortable by candle-light on the previous
evening, it was positively charming now, with a bunch of fresh spring
flowers, which she had not seen the night before, upon a little table
between the windows, and the sunlight glorifying the landscape without.
Lucie hastily left her bed, and was proceeding to dress, when there
came a low knock at her door. "Who is there?" she asked.

"I,--Celia. I waited until I heard you stirring, to tell you that your
trunk has been brought over from Grünhagen, and is here in the next
room--our morning room--with your dry dress from the Inspector's. I
will come to take you to breakfast in half an hour."

When Lucie opened the door into the next room Celia had vanished, but
her trunk stood near, and her travelling-dress, brushed and dry, hung
across a chair. She made haste to perform her simple toilet, and then
went again into the apartment which Celia had called "our morning
room." This room, then, she was to share with her pupil. It was a
delightful and luxurious retreat; its windows opening upon an
enchanting prospect of the garden, the mighty oaks in the park, and the
distant mountains; near one window was a table, upon which lay a
half-finished piece of embroidery, while another table, evidently new,
and prettily furnished with writing materials, was plainly destined for
the new governess. Upon it was a small vase filled with flowers
evidently plucked but an hour ago, the dew not yet dry upon the petals
of the roses. Flowers! So little, and yet so much! They made a welcome
where they stood. Lucie bent over them to inhale their cool fragrance,
and when she raised her head looked into Celia's laughing eyes. "How
can I thank you for placing these here, Fräulein von Hohenwald?" she
said, with emotion.

"By never again calling me Fräulein, but Celia. Every one who cares for
me calls me Celia, and I want you to care for me very much."

Such a request, accompanied as it was by a kiss and a caress, could not
be refused. The girl's frank tenderness was inexpressibly soothing to
Lucie.

"And now come with me to the garden-room," Celia went on, putting
Lucie's hand within her arm. "Papa is waiting for us; he drank his
morning cup of coffee long ago, but he wants us to take our breakfast
in the garden-room all the same."

The Freiherr had indeed been awaiting the appearance of the ladies to
breakfast in the garden-room for more than an hour. Seated in his
rolling-chair in his favourite spot, he was rejoicing in the beauty of
the lovely morning and inhaling the mild air of spring, while, as he
sipped his coffee, he received his morning visit from his son.

Arno seated himself beside his father's chair and began, as was his
wont in the early hour of talk, to discuss matters connected with the
estate, agricultural schemes, etc., which did not, however, appear to
have the power to interest him today as deeply as usual. It almost
seemed as if he were thinking of other things as he expatiated upon the
new ploughs and the building of fresh stables. He now and then paused
in his talk, and seemed to lose the thread of his discourse. The case
seemed the same with the Freiherr. He could think of nothing but what
had already occupied his mind since he arose,--the pleasant talk of the
previous evening. For years he had not conversed with a lady. Celia,
Frau Kaselitz, and the servant-maids were the only women with whom he
ever exchanged a word. His conversation with the governess had
therefore the added charm of novelty, and he had greatly enjoyed it.

Celia's appearance to wish her father good-morning interrupted, to the
Baron's satisfaction, the agricultural discussion, and gave him an
opportunity to ask after Fräulein Müller. Celia announced that she had
listened several times at the door of her bedroom, but that she was not
yet stirring.

"Evidently accustomed to late hours," Arno observed.

His words sounded like sarcasm, and instantly aroused Celia's
combativeness. "Do you suppose," she said, indignantly, "that a
delicately-framed woman, not used like you to hunting all night long,
can endure without fatigue such a walk through the storm as Fräulein
Müller took last evening? It was almost three o'clock when we went to
bed, and it is now just seven. Four hours' sleep is not much after such
fatigue, although you may think it sufficient for yourself. Besides,
you are used to such early rising that you should not judge for
others."

"Don't quarrel, children," the old Freiherr interposed; "although you
are quite right, child, to take up the cudgels for your governess; she
certainly has well earned a few hours of sleep. Even you, Arno,
expressed your wonder last evening at her quiet endurance of so much
fatigue."

"Yes, papa; is it not odious of Arno to be so unjust to Fräulein
Müller, when she is so charming, so divinely beautiful, and so
amiable?"

"The child is all fire and flame!" Arno remarked. "Well, well, it is
nothing to me; believe that your governess is an angel of light and a
miracle of amiability if you choose, only do not require me to agree
with you. Your enthusiasm lightens the duty with which my friend Styrum
has charged me. I found a letter from him among my papers last night
announcing his betrothal to his cousin, Adèle von Guntram, and telling
me that Fräulein Müller is his betrothed's most intimate friend. Here
is his letter; read aloud to my father what he says of Fräulein Müller,
Celia, if you like."

This Celia did most willingly. As she returned it to Arno she said
reproachfully to her brother, "You do not deserve the confidence, Arno,
that Count Styrum reposes in your friendship. I cannot conceive how you
can judge Fräulein Müller so harshly and unjustly after such a
recommendation from your dearest friend."

"Bah! his recommendation is utterly worthless; he sees with the fair
Adèle's eyes, and would recommend the devil's grandmother to us if his
betrothed desired it. What I did promise him was that the lady shall be
annoyed by no inquiries or allusions to her past. In this respect
Karl's word is all-sufficient, for not even the entreaties of his
betrothed could induce him to vouch for Fräulein Müller's purity of
character if the slightest blame attached to her. I know my promise
will be kept by all."

"Most certainly it shall," the old Freiherr rejoined. "Styrum's word is
quite enough for me; he is a man of honour, as was his father, once my
intimate friend. I respect the young fellow, although I do not know him
personally. You remember, Arno, how well he conducted himself upon a
former occasion, with what tact and delicacy----"

"Let the past be forgotten, father!" Arno interrupted him; and, turning
to his sister, he added, "I hope you will be discreet, Celia, and not
ask any idle questions of Fräulein Müller."

"I am not curious, and I certainly will be careful," Celia replied, as
she left the room.

The Freiherr called after her, "Beg Fräulein Müller, if she is up, to
take her breakfast here in the garden-room. I am expecting her."

It was not long before his darling reappeared with the governess, whose
cheerful good-morning the old man returned after his most genial
fashion. Then, ringing the bell, he desired Franz to have Fräulein
Müller's breakfast served immediately, and to roll his chair nearer to
the table that he might take part in the conversation.

This he found exceedingly entertaining. Whatever was the subject under
discussion Fräulein Müller bore her part charmingly. The Baron found
her possessed of a far higher degree of culture than he had thought
possible in a woman, and he was specially pleased to find her at home
in his beloved classical literature.

When the meal was ended she seated herself, at his request, at the fine
grand piano, which had been his last gift to Celia, and, after a lovely
prelude, sang a little national melody, in a rich, deep contralto, with
such pathos that Celia embraced her enthusiastically with eyes swimming
in tears, and the old Freiherr was inexpressibly delighted. It
certainly was a fact that Werner had found a treasure; his advice,
after all, had been worthy of all gratitude. The old man was in an
admirable humour, as was plainly shown when his sons unexpectedly
entered the room together. He had intended on the previous evening to
greet the elder upon his return from Grünhagen with a thunder-blast;
but he was now half inclined to condone his transgression of the family
traditions. "Why, here we have the Herr Finanzrath," he said, as Werner
approached him. "Have you had a comfortable night at Grünhagen with the
Posenecks? I am pleased to see that your broken leg is mended again. I
certainly should not imagine from your walk that anything had ailed
it."

Werner had expected a much harsher reception, therefore he quietly
accepted the raillery. "It was not so very bad," he replied, with a
smile, "although it certainly pained me so much last evening that I
could not have undertaken the long walk to the village."

"Which Fräulein Müller courageously accomplished, in spite of her
evident fatigue," Arno interposed.

"I admire Fräulein Müller's courage," the Finanzrath continued, with a
courteous bow to Lucie; "but she would hardly have been able to walk so
far had her injury been of the foot instead of the temple. I positively
could not, and, as Herr von Poseneck was polite enough to invite me to
Grünhagen, I saw no reason for declining his kindness; it might have
offended him."

"So you preferred to offend your father by accepting it," the old Baron
said, angrily, his good humour already disturbed by Werner's words.

"I knew of no reasonable grounds why you should be offended by my doing
so. Young Herr von Poseneck, who has only lately come to reside at
Grünhagen, has certainly never insulted you, nor had any desire to
insult you. He assured me that he had the highest respect for you, and
that only your express refusal to receive visits at Hohenwald had
prevented him from paying his respects to you."

"Let him try it! let him try it!" the old Baron said crossly.

"I hope, father, that calm reflection will induce you to change your
mind," the Finanzrath quietly rejoined. "I can assure you that young
Kurt von Poseneck in no wise deserves the dislike which you have
transferred to him from his late father, and that he really desires to
testify his respect for you. I cannot sufficiently extol the cordial
hospitality extended to me at Grünhagen, and which can be ascribed only
to the fact of my being your son."

"Nonsense!" growled the Freiherr.

"The Amtsrath Friese, as well as Herr Kurt von Poseneck, repeatedly
expressed his pleasure in being able to render any little service to a
Hohenwald. Both lamented your seclusion, and wished they might convince
you of their friendly regard. Both treated me with distinguished
hospitality, for which I am greatly obliged to them. Herr von Poseneck,
after he had conducted me to Grünhagen, went back with horses and men
to the quarry to extricate the carriage and horses and get them under
shelter; he sent over Fräulein Müller's trunk at daybreak this morning,
and when I expressed a wish to return home, the Amtsrath placed his own
carriage at my disposal. Common courtesy requires that I should drive
to Grünhagen to-morrow to call, and to tell Herr Kurt von Poseneck that
he will gratify me by visiting me in return at Hohenwald."

Celia's eyes sparkled as she heard the Finanzrath thus announce his
intentions, but her joy quickly fled as she looked at her father, upon
whose forehead the frown had deepened as Werner spoke, and whose rage
now burst forth with, "I'll have the dogs set on him if he dares to
enter the court-yard! No Poseneck shall show his face in Hohenwald so
long as I am master here!"

"Papa, that is very disagreeable of you," Celia ventured to say; "you
do yourself great injustice!"

"Is the girl out of her senses?" the Freiherr asked, angrily. "What are
the Posenecks to you, that you should defend them against your own
father?"

Celia flushed crimson; she could not answer this question.

Fortunately, Werner came to her assistance, saying, "Celia's words,
although they are perhaps to be reprehended, are prompted by her innate
sense of justice. She could not help exclaiming against your threat of
requiting the courtesy of a visit by setting the dogs on the visitor. I
think, upon calmer consideration, you will find her conduct but
natural. I am very sorry, sir, that I should so have provoked you, and
will try to avoid doing so again. Of course I am not to be deterred by
the unfortunate prejudice entertained by you against the Posenecks from
fulfilling the duty enjoined upon me by common politeness. I must call
at Grünhagen, but I will not invite Herr von Poseneck to Hohenwald. I
will convey to him your thanks, and tell him you regret your inability
to receive him at Hohenwald, since your health does not admit of your
receiving visitors."

"Then you will tell him a lie; my health admits of my receiving any
visitors whom I care to see."

"I think my conscience can endure the weight of a lie of that kind,"
the Finanzrath rejoined, with a smile.

"Do as you please, but let me hear no more of the Posenecks!" growled
the old Baron. His relations with his eldest son were peculiar; he
constantly disputed with him, but in spite of his father's angry
vehemence Werner usually gained his end, because he never lost his
temper. The old Baron felt now that he had been wrong, and, although he
did not frankly admit this, he yielded.

Werner seemed not to notice this; he was too wise to insist upon his
father's acknowledging himself in error. To change the conversation he
turned to Lucie, who, still seated at the piano, had been an
involuntary listener to the dispute between father and son. Approaching
her, the Finanzrath took her hand, and saying, with the air of
protection which had so annoyed her on the previous evening, "Permit
me, dear Fräulein Müller, to bid you cordially welcome to Castle
Hohenwald," would have carried it to his lips had she not hastily
withdrawn it.

Why she did so she could not herself have told. She had frequently
allowed her hand to be kissed by way of greeting; it was a received
custom in the society to which she had belonged, and yet she could not
endure that this man should avail himself of it; it seemed to her an
unbecoming familiarity on his part. She acted upon an impulse, and she
did not observe the fleeting smile that passed over Arno's face as he
noticed the intentional withdrawal of her hand. She replied to the
Finanzrath's courtesy by a simple inclination of her head.

Celia, too, had seen that Werner's salutation was not received with
favour, and with ready tact came to her new friend's aid. "You must
reserve all your fine speeches for another time, Werner," she said,
stepping to Lucie's side; "Fräulein Müller belongs entirely to me
to-day. I am burning with desire to take my first lessons of her, to
show her what a good scholar I can be."

Lucie's grateful glance as she arose and followed Celia from the room
showed the young girl that she had done right.

From this time Celia devoted herself to her studies with ardour.
Lucie's hardest task was to induce her to moderate her zeal. The
"will-o'-the-wisp" quite forgot its errant nature; for hours the girl
would sit at the piano practising wearisome exercises, and at other
times she would bury herself in a book,--an entirely new experience for
Celia. It needed but a few weeks of intercourse with her new friend to
arouse within her a genuine literary taste. The old Baron and Arno were
astounded at the change; the former feared that his darling, whom he
saw thus tamed, might perhaps become too tame; he shook his head as he
reminded Celia that she must not study too hard, lest her health should
suffer; she ought to continue to take her daily exercise in the open
air.

To such admonitions the girl was not at all deaf. True, she no longer
roamed about the garden as she had done: it took too much time; she
confined herself to a morning's walk there with Fräulein Müller to
visit the green-houses and the shrubberies; but her afternoon ride was
never omitted. When the hour for this arrived she could no longer fix
her attention upon her book: her thoughts flew forth to the forest.
Fräulein Müller smiled at her enthusiasm for her daily ride, ascribing
it in great part to the force of habit, since no weather was too stormy
to keep her at home.

Celia always rode alone. Formerly, old John had sometimes accompanied
her, but, although he soon recovered from the effects of his fall, his
young mistress never now desired his attendance. She could not so
easily have declined Lucie's companionship, but Fräulein Müller had
never been a horsewoman, and did not care to learn to ride.

Thus, then, Celia rode alone. A happy smile illumined her features and
her dark eyes sparkled as she daily caught the first glimpse of the
light straw hat among the trees, and found Kurt at the appointed place
in the forest waiting to walk along the woodland road by her side. Then
the girl would drop the bridle on her horse's neck, and Pluto, who was
now on the best of terms with Kurt, knew perfectly well that before he
was urged to greater speed than a leisurely walk an hour would elapse.
An hour! How quickly it flew by! how much had both Celia and Kurt to
say in that brief space of time! Celia told of her studies, of the
delightful hours she now owed to her friend Anna, whose beauty and
loveliness, clearness of head and goodness of heart, she described in
such glowing terms that Kurt could not at times suppress a smile, for
which Celia would instantly reprove him as implying a doubt of the
accuracy of her descriptions.

Kurt, on the other hand, would tell of his life at Grünhagen: how he
was becoming more at home in Germany, how his uncle's hospitality and
social qualities made his house delightful, a resort for the country
gentry and for the principal people in the neighbouring town of A----.
He often spoke also of the Finanzrath, who was now frequently at
Grünhagen. Kurt, who was always candid and unreserved towards Celia,
admitted to her that, although for her sake he should always treat her
brother with the utmost politeness, he had very little liking for the
exaggerated polish of his manners and bearing.

Thus they talked in the most innocent manner. At parting Celia always
offered her hand to Kurt, and smilingly permitted him to imprint upon
it an ardent kiss, but not again did she bend over him as when she once
had yielded to an irresistible impulse. If he had uttered one tender
word she would hardly have refused him a second kiss, but this word was
not spoken; he withstood with manly determination the temptation to
utter it. He had registered a vow that never should this innocent girl
have cause to regret the frank confidence she had shown him.

Lucie had no suspicion of the attraction that took Celia to the forest,
nor that the simple-hearted girl could have a secret from her. She took
delight in her charming pupil's tender affection for her, which indeed
she reciprocated with all her heart.

The old Freiherr had greatly changed since Lucie's coming to Castle
Hohenwald: he had grown social. True, his sociability was confined to a
desire for the society of his immediate family circle, among whom he
reckoned, of course, Fräulein Anna Müller; but with them he developed a
genial courtesy that astonished his sons.

Arno, on the other hand, preserved the same attitude towards his
sister's governess that he had adopted upon her first arrival at the
castle; he was conscious of an involuntary thrill of delight when, in
the course of conversation, or upon an accidental encounter in their
walks, Fräulein Müller bestowed upon him one of her rare sweet smiles;
but the next moment he would rouse himself to renewed hatred of the
entire sex, bethinking himself that this very enchanting smile was bit
a trap set by overweening love of admiration, and could avail nothing
with him. And yet he could not avoid her. When Lucie, occupied with
some bit of feminine work, seated herself at the table beside the
Baron's rolling-chair and talked pleasantly with the old man and Celia,
Arno would join the circle, placing his chair where, unobserved, he
could watch every change of expression on the lovely face. He spoke but
little, but not a word of hers escaped him,--especially did he watch
and listen when, as was but rarely the case, she appealed to Werner.

Why was he so pleased at the coldness and reserve of her usual manner
towards his brother? Why should he be so much annoyed when one day
Werner announced that he had just received a favourable reply from his
chief in office to his request for a prolongation of his leave of
absence? Wherefore should Werner have seemed to him absolutely
insufferable since he had taken to paying such marked court to Fräulein
Müller?

Arno had never been upon terms of close intimacy with his
brother,--theirs were antagonistic natures; but now he felt an absolute
repugnance to him for which there was no accounting; surely it was
nothing to him if Werner chose to pay court to Celia's beautiful
governess.

No; it was not "nothing to him." He excused himself for this by
reflecting that Werner's superficial, frivolous manner was unworthy a
Hohenwald. What views could he entertain with regard to Fräulein
Müller? Had he not often declared that in the choice of a wife he
should consult his head, and not his heart? Wealth was of no
consequence; but the future Freifrau von Hohenwald must belong to a
family through whose influence the Hohenwalds might recover the
importance they had lost with the government. Arno thought he knew well
that Werner, keenly devoted as he was to his own interests, never
carried away by sentiment, would not be false to these expressed
principles of his. It was inconceivable that he should sacrifice his
ambition to love for a poor bourgeoise girl, his sister's governess! He
could scarcely cherish honest intentions with regard to her, and Castle
Hohenwald should never be profaned by the reverse! And this was why, as
Arno tried to convince himself, he watched Werner and Fräulein Müller
so narrowly.

Often when riding alone in field or forest it would suddenly occur to
him to wonder whether Werner were at the moment talking with Fräulein
Anna in the library, or walking with her in the garden. Then resistance
was useless; he was forced to succumb to the impulse that drove him to
plunge the spurs into his horse and gallop furiously to the castle,
where his calm was restored only when convinced of the groundlessness
of his alarm.

Lucie found nothing to offend or displease her in his manner towards
her. When she had resolved, in defence of her honour, to undertake the
battle of life under a maiden name, she had not been unmindful of the
dangers that might beset her path, and she had gladly accepted the
position offered her at Castle Hohenwald, since she knew from Count
Styrum and Adèle that there she should have nothing to fear from
obtrusive admirers. She had reckoned upon Arno's hatred of her sex, and
she had not been deceived. From her first meeting with him his manner
had been not only indifferent, but even repellent. It was what she had
hoped for, and she was glad of it; but her gladness was not heartfelt.
Count Styrum's recital of his misfortunes had awakened Lucie's interest
in the misanthrope, and this interest had grown since she had known him
personally. His coldness and reserve did not irritate her; they were
but natural after the terrible experience that life had brought him. He
had--how could it be otherwise?--lost all faith in mankind; but still
he might have shown a trifle less animosity towards her. Sometimes a
severe remark of his would bring a warm flush to her cheek, and she was
tempted to as severe a retort; but if she yielded to the temptation she
always reproached herself afterward. He was so unhappy! What a blessed
task it would be to heal the wounds from which he was still bleeding!
But such ministry was forbidden in her sad case.

Here was a dark spot in Lucie's otherwise contented life at Castle
Hohenwald, and there was one still darker in the anxiety she felt at
the Finanzrath's demeanour towards her. There was surely no sufficient
cause for this anxiety, for the cultured man of the world never
transcended conventional bounds. He was attentive and polite, but never
officious; his courtesy and kindness never degenerated into any
familiarity which Lucie could be justified in resenting. When he
extolled her beauty and amiability, her delightful singing, her
admirable instruction of Celia, and spoke of the excellent influence
she exerted over her pupil, it was all done after so refined a fashion
that she could not take exception to what was said. The old Freiherr
said precisely the same things, though far more bluntly. And yet Lucie
could not away with a feeling of uneasiness with which the Finanzrath's
manner always inspired her. The news of the prolongation of his leave
of absence was very unwelcome to her; it made her really unhappy.



                               CHAPTER X.


"There comes Werner again!" Arno said to his father, when an extra post
was again seen approaching Castle Hohenwald; and the announcement did
not seem particularly to delight the old Freiherr.

The Finanzrath had spent a few days in Dresden about the end of May in
arranging for another prolongation of his leave of absence. He had been
successful, and upon his return had remained at the castle only a few
days when a letter arrived for him from Paris. He immediately declared
that he must go to Berlin, where a friend whom he had not seen for a
long while was awaiting him. He departed, remaining away but a few
days, when he returned, only to leave again after two days, this time
to see an old college friend in Hanover, and to take a trip to Cassel,
where another of his friends resided. Even after this journey he was
not content to stay quietly at home. He had scarcely been at the castle
for a week when he left it again for a somewhat longer tour; he wished
to visit the South German capitals, Stuttgart and Munich, passing
several days in Vienna, and returning by way of Dresden.

The Freiherr received Werner's announcement that this time he should be
absent two weeks, and could not return to the castle before the
beginning of July, with a smile of satisfaction; he was not at all
displeased that his eldest son should break in upon his prolonged stay
at Castle Hohenwald with these frequent journeys. He as well as the
other inmates of the castle felt relieved when the carriage with the
Finanzrath inside rolled out of the court-yard.

"Werner makes the atmosphere dense; he kicks up a dust wherever he
goes," the old man was wont to say in excuse of his evident relief at
his son's departure; and was it therefore to be wondered at that he
greeted with a sigh Arno's exclamation, "There comes Werner again!"

Arno, too, frowned when old Franz announced the Herr Finanzrath's
arrival a few moments before Werner himself entered the garden-room.

He paid his respects to his father and greeted his brother with his
usual quiet courtesy, in which, however, there was never any genuine
cordiality, and then he dropped into a comfortable seat beside the old
Baron's rolling-chair. "Home again at last!" he said. "I travelled all
night to reach Hohenwald as quickly as possible, and I bring news of
vivid interest, especially for you, Arno. Not only for Arno, however,
but for every one who carries a good Saxon heart in his bosom. To arms,
Arno! It is time that you girded on your sabre again. I hope you will
write to the king this very day to ask for your appointment to your
former military rank, for I tell you beforehand in confidence that
France is about to humble the arrogance of Prussia, and I need not say
what side we Saxons should take in the fray; the time has come to
revenge ourselves for Königgratz and Sadowa!"

"Are you mad, Werner?" burst out the old Freiherr, who really thought
that his son had taken a little too much wine.

"I mad? Do you think madness or the love of change has driven me away
upon these various journeys lately?" the Finanzrath exclaimed in his
turn. "I must tear the veil from your eyes and rouse you from your
fancied security; the time for action has come,--a time that calls upon
you, Arno, in especial. You must re-enter the army immediately, for it
is eminently advisable that the number of right-minded Saxon officers
should be as large as possible, that Saxony may not fail to do her duty
at the right moment. There is a wide-spread secret alliance in process
of formation against Prussia. War will immediately ensue upon its
completion. The question is not of months, perhaps not of weeks, but
only of days, for every preparation is concluded, and our action must
be prompt and sure."

"From what source have you gathered this wondrous information?" Arno
asked, incredulously. "Since when have you linked yourself with those
who decide the destiny of nations?"

"Spare your sarcasm, Arno!" the Freiherr said, crossly; "and you,
Werner, come to the point. I should like to know something of this
wonderful mess you seem to have been helping to cook."

"You shall be informed, father, in a very few words of the present
condition of political affairs." Werner began by ascribing the quarrel
between Prussia and France to the choice of a Hohenzollern prince for
king of Spain, and then continued, "Napoleon will compel William to
choose between a humiliating compliance, that will deprive him of all
prestige, and war. Now, relying upon the power of the North German
alliance, upon the military treaty with the South German states just
concluded, upon the friendship of the Emperor of Russia, and upon that
of England, Bismarck, who has no suspicion of the secret alliance
against Prussia, to which, in addition to the dispossessed princes,
Austria, Bavaria, Würtemberg, and the hereditary princes of Russia
belong,--Bismarck, I say, will undoubtedly choose war. This you will
see by next week, perhaps sooner. We can rely upon Russia absolutely;
this I have learned in conference lately with my friend Count Repuin.
The heir to the throne of Russia hates Bismarck, and the Emperor's
voice is powerless in the matter; the anti-Prussian party at the
Russian court is too large and too powerful. The French preparations
are all complete. Immediately after war is declared a French army will
invade the very heart of Germany, and will be received by the
acclamations of the liberated Hanoverians."

"And what part have you assigned to me in the struggle which you
describe as so near at hand?" asked Arno, who during the preceding glib
explanations had been pacing the apartment with eyes fixed upon the
ground, but who now paused and confronted his brother.

"The one marked out for you by your duty as an enemy of Bismarck, as an
officer of the Saxon army which was so shamefully defeated in 1866,
and, above all, as a true Saxon patriot," the Finanzrath replied. "If
Saxony is to hold its own as the equal of Bavaria and Würtemberg after
the downfall of Prussia, if it is to have its full share in the
distribution of the Prussian provinces, this unnatural Prussian
alliance must be dissolved, and that speedily. Now our king will hardly
be in a condition to do this; at the beginning of the war he will be
deterred by considerations that have no weight, however, with Saxon
patriots. As in 1813, York, by his independent action, decided the
destiny of Prussia and earned the gratitude of his king--as Saxon
troops then, following the ignorant leading of the common people, went
over to the German army with flying colours, so must they now, in the
coming conflict, act independently for their fatherland. It will
produce a tremendous impression upon the entire German people, and
conduce essentially to the speedy overthrow of Prussia, if the Saxon
regiments sunder the Prussian alliance and turn their bayonets against
Prussians. The animus of our troops is good, but it will avail nothing
unless their officers take the initiative, and, unfortunately, many of
these are not to be relied on. Our corps of officers is tainted with a
Prussian mania; they must be recalled to their duty. Let this be your
task, Arno. You can easily influence your old comrades; you can arouse
their Saxon patriotism, inflame their slumbering hatred of Prussia. You
must instantly apply for reinstatement in your old rank. I have
provided that your application should receive immediate attention."

"Treason, then! You would incite me to degrading perjury and treason?"
Arno exclaimed, looking at his brother with flashing eyes. "Matters
have gone far indeed when a Hohenwald can make such proposals to his
brother!"

The Finanzrath was quite unprepared for such a reply. He had never
imagined that Arno could refuse to undertake the task assigned to him,
and therefore had he explained his schemes and hopes with such reckless
frankness. He suddenly found himself exposed to a danger of which he
had not dreamed. What if Arno should misuse the knowledge thus gained!
He grew pale, but speedily recovered his composure. He must show no
sign of fear; the game might yet perhaps be won.

"Who talks of treason?" he rejoined, with forced calmness. "Is it
treason for a Saxon officer to obey his king's command? Is it treason
to break an alliance that was framed by mere brute force? Was York
guilty of treason in 1813? Has not posterity honoured him as the
saviour of his country? Do not judge too hastily, my dear Arno, do not
yield to a momentary emotion, but ask yourself, after calm reflection,
whether you are justified in refusing your services to your country at
her sorest need. Can you ever forget that you are a Saxon? Our king and
country are to be delivered from the Prussian yoke; remember that,
Arno, before you decide."

Arno looked at his brother with profound contempt. "I will hear no
more!" he said, sternly. "What your share may be in the disgraceful
intrigue of which you speak I do not know, nor do I wish to know. Go
your own dark way, but do not think to mislead me by your sophistry. I
know my duty. You reckon upon my hatred of Prussia, upon my love for
our own little Saxon land; your reckoning is false from beginning to
end. Yes, I do hate the arrogant, ambitious Prussian, but I have a
fiercer hatred for the arch-enemy of all Germany, and it fills me with
shame and indignation that a Hohenwald should dream of inciting his
brother to a disgraceful league with France in a war with Germany. This
is the error in your prudent calculations: you reckon upon the hatred
of Prussia in South Germany, in Hanover and Saxony, but that hatred
will vanish like chaff before the wind when it comes to be a question
of defending Germany against French lust of conquest. Neither you nor
your noble Russian friend Count Repuin can use the German love of
country as a factor in your calculations, for you do not appreciate its
existence, nor that there are happily but few scoundrels in Germany so
ready as yourself to satisfy their own selfish ambition by giving over
their fatherland to French greed of territory."

The Finanzrath sprang up in a rage, but his brother, without waiting
for a reply, left the room. "Insulting!" Werner exclaimed, quite beside
himself.

"Not one word against Arno!" the old Freiherr said, sternly. "Every
word that he uttered found its echo in my soul, and I thank God that
there is at least one Hohenwald who retains within him a sense of right
and honour and a genuine love of his country. Not a word, Werner! I
will hear no more of your disgraceful schemes; not now, at all events.
I must be more myself than I am now when I speak with you again. Now
leave me; I wish to be alone."

Werner hesitated for a moment, but judged it wisest to make no attempt
at present to recover the ground he had lost. "I obey your commands,
sir," he said; "I hope calm reflection will induce you to change your
mind, and that it will also have its effect upon Arno."

After the angry dispute with his brother, Arno walked out into the
garden, and, feeling the need of quiet to collect himself, took his
seat upon a rustic bench nearly hidden in a clump of shrubbery. It was
a favourite retreat of his, and from its seclusion he could overlook
almost the entire garden. Here, then, he sat down, and resigned himself
to thought. So buried was he in reflection that, although he was aware
that Fräulein Müller and Celia came from the castle to take their
morning walk, and passed quite near him, he did not heed them: his mind
was filled with Werner's dark schemes.

Thus he remained for he could not tell how long, when he was suddenly
roused from his reverie by the sound of the voice that never reached
his ear without thrilling him to the heart. He looked up. Walking along
a leafy side-path came Werner and Fräulein Müller; she was speaking,
and looking, not at Werner, but upon the ground. Arno thought he
perceived that her voice trembled, although he could not distinguish
what she was saying.

Werner's reply was made in so low a tone that not a sound reached
Arno's ear; he could only perceive its effect upon Fräulein Müller, and
it aroused within him a feeling of indignation. There was pain that was
almost agony expressed in Anna's face as she listened eagerly to her
companion's whispered words. Werner spoke long and persistently,
bending above Fräulein Müller the while, and devouring with passionate
admiration the lovely downcast face. As the pair passed his retreat
Arno caught two words from his brother's lips, "Count Repuin," and
marked how colourless was Anna's cheek, down which a tear was trickling
from beneath the drooping eyelid.

They passed, and at the end of the woodland path turned into a walk
leading to the castle. Celia here joined them. Near the castle gate
they paused. Fräulein Müller, with a slight inclination to Werner, left
him and entered the castle with Celia. The Finanzrath turned into a
side-path leading to the forest and disappeared from Arno's sight.

What had passed between Werner and this girl? Was there a secret
understanding between them? Arno felt his blood boil at the thought.
Had Werner really induced Anna, who had hitherto treated him with cool
reserve, to grant him a private confidential interview? She had begun
her morning walk, accompanied by Celia, and had sent away her pupil
that she might speak alone with Werner. Arno sprang from his seat in
uncontrollable agitation; but he grew calm again as he remembered the
pained expression of Anna's features, the tear that had rolled down her
pale cheek. If there were some private relation between them, it
certainly was not a friendly one. Still the mere thought that Werner
by some fine-spun scheme had induced the girl to accord him this
_tête-à-tête_, and to listen with eager attention to his words, was
torture to Arno. If he had succeeded thus far, what might not be the
result? She must be warned, warned against the vile arts of the
betrayer! Thus much was certain. But who should warn her? To whom could
he confide his fears? To his father? Impossible! The Freiherr was not
overfond of Werner, but he would indignantly have rejected the idea
that his son, that a Hohenwald could be guilty of such infamy. Celia,
then? An innocent child of sixteen? No! Celia never must dream that her
eldest brother could harbour a thought that could wrong her dear
companion. And there was no one else in the castle who could speak one
word to Anna upon such a subject; he had held himself so aloof that he
never could advise her in so delicate a matter.

To Styrum he would turn in this need; but first he would narrowly
observe Anna and Werner, that he might be able to give his friend a
clearer idea of the relations between them than he had yet been able to
gain for himself.

The result of his observation during the next few days could scarcely
be called favourable,--it strengthened his suspicions as to Werner's
dishonourable intentions, but he arrived at no decided conclusion.

There was evidently a change in the relations between Werner and Anna.
She no longer avoided casually meeting the Finanzrath; she did not cut
short her morning walks with Celia when he joined them, but Arno never
again saw them alone together.

The political horizon darkened daily,--the newspapers were read with
avidity. None of the Hohenwald household could resist the conviction
that a political convulsion was at hand; there were constant
discussions at table and in the evenings in the domestic circle as to
public affairs. On these occasions Celia's governess, who took an eager
interest in the conversation, proved herself as enthusiastic an admirer
of Bismarck as was the Finanzrath his bitter opponent.

One morning, in the library, Arno was eagerly discussing the news of
the day with Fräulein Müller. Celia's teacher was unusually interested;
she declared that her hopes for her country were centred on Bismarck.
"His enemies," she said, with ardour, "conspire in secret; in their
foolish conceit they believe him blind to their man[oe]uvres, deaf to
their machinations, but I am convinced that he clearly sees through
their dark dealings. A Bismarck is not to be hoodwinked by such men as
the Herr Finanzrath."

Scarcely were the words uttered when she seemed to regret them,--they
had evidently escaped her unawares.

Arno listened surprised. "You know of my brother's schemes, then?" he
asked.

There was nothing for it but to reply. "They are not difficult to
divine; he has made no secret of his desires and hopes; but he and all
his associates will find themselves deceived. Your brother in his
miserable plans reckons upon the pitiable jealousies of all petty
governments; but he is out in his reckoning,--the German people is not
yet so degraded as to lend itself to so frivolous a game. If war should
really be declared, Germans will, with a few disgraceful exceptions,
rally promptly around the banner that will wave in the front of the
battle to vindicate German honour and faith against all rude assaults.
The very attempt now made to retard Germany in its march towards
internal unity will but bear it more swiftly to its goal of unity and
freedom!"

As she spoke her dark eyes sparkled, her cheeks glowed, and Arno
thought he had never seen her so enchantingly beautiful.

"I trust from my soul that you are a true prophet!" he rejoined.

She rewarded him for these words by a brilliant glance of appreciation.
"I knew that you must think thus," she said, with emotion; "you will be
among the first to forget an ancient grudge when the time comes to
stand forth for German honour and German right. The Freiherr Arno von
Hohenwald will be at hand when the German people is summoned to the
defence of the fatherland; of that I am convinced from my very soul."
She held out her hand to him: he seized it and pressed it to his lips:
for the moment he scarcely knew what he was doing; his past, his
prejudices, were all forgotten; it was as if a dark cloud which had
enveloped him were suddenly rent asunder, revealing to his mental
vision a bright, sunlit future. "Your trust shall not be deceived," he
said, with enthusiasm. "Be sure that when the battle begins I shall be
ready. And when I return from the field, will you not give me a kindly
welcome?"

He had not released Anna's hand; he bent over it to kiss it once again,
when it was suddenly withdrawn. He looked up, and was shocked by her
altered looks. Her cheeks were deadly pale, the light of enthusiasm in
her dark eyes was gone: they were veiled in tears. "This must not be,
Herr Baron," she said, in a low monotone.

"Have I offended you?" Arno asked, startled.

"No--but--I must leave you, Herr Baron; I must not and will not listen
any longer!"

She would have turned and left the room, but Arno took her hand again
and held it fast. "But you must listen," he said, gravely; "there must
be truth between us. You will not yield to an over-sensitive delicacy
of feeling that is unworthy of you, you will not leave me without
letting me tell you that the light of your candid eyes has banished the
mists that hung about me; your words have broken the spell that parted
me from you. My heart is filled with sunshine; I know now that I love
you with my whole soul, that I have loved you from the first moment
that I saw you in the quarry. I have struggled with this love, I have
even tried to hate you; have in my blind folly often shocked and
offended you, because I would have it that the deception which so
blasted my first youthful passion had killed all power to love in my
heart. I know now how grossly I deceived myself. I am in your eyes a
gloomy, irritable misanthrope; you can accord no liking to one who has
so often wounded you by his severity; but it is my dearest hope that
one day your love may be mine, and in this hope I shall leave you when
duty calls me to the field. It will henceforth be the star of my life."

Anna had listened in silence to this torrent of words; her hand still
rested in his: she did not withdraw it until he had ended; then first
she raised her eyes and looked him full in the face with an expression
of profound sadness. She did not reply at once; she could not for a few
moments sufficiently master her emotion to attain an external calm.
When she spoke at last, it was with an evident tremor in her voice.
"There must be truth between us," she said; "you require it, Herr
Baron, and I owe perfect truth both to you and to myself. Your sudden
and unlooked-for declaration has destroyed the hope in which I had
found peace. I hoped to regard Castle Hohenwald as my home; I hoped to
pass years here, sheltered from the sorrows which have poisoned my
life; but your words drive me forth into the world again!"

"Anna! I conjure you----"

"No more, Herr Baron! I must not listen to you; must not permit hopes
that can never be fulfilled. You say that the hope of one day winning
my love will be the guiding star of your life; banish the idle thought,
for never,--I swear it by Almighty God,--never may I return your love."

"You love another, then?" Arno exclaimed.

"No, Herr Baron."

"Then I will not resign the hope you call idle. I implore you not to
turn from me; I ask for so little, for no promise, only for permission
to love you."

"And this little I must not grant. I pray you leave me, Herr Baron; we
must part forever. I must not again expose myself to a danger from
which I thought myself safe with you; my duty as well as my honour
forbids me to listen to you. Once more I entreat you to leave me!"

"You rob me of all hope?" Arno asked, gently.

"All!"

She spoke so calmly, and with such absolute firmness, that Arno
despaired of moving her; he did not venture to add a single word of
entreaty; after so decided a rejection he could no longer refuse to
accede to her request. He took her hand once more, kissed it
passionately, and hurried from the room.

He never looked back, and therefore could not see how, even before the
library door had closed upon him, Lucie's hardly-won composure utterly
forsook her. She sank into a seat, buried her face in her hands, and
burst into a passion of tears.

Half an hour afterward she was seated at her desk in her room, writing
to her dearest, her only friend, Adèle.

"I must leave here immediately,--every hour of my stay at Castle
Hohenwald is a period of unspeakable torment for me. I had feared and
hoped so much from this place; both fears and hopes are unfulfilled,
and I must leave Hohenwald, where I was so content. I love the old
Freiherr like a father, and I know he is fond of me; scarcely a day
passes that he does not tell me that the sun has shone more brightly in
Hohenwald since I came here. And I love my darling Celia, dear,
innocent child; with my whole heart do I return the tender affection
she lavishes upon me,--her progress delights me, but I must go.

"Do not, dear Adèle, think me variable and fickle,--my heart bleeds at
the thought of leaving these dear people, but it must be; you will say
so yourself when you hear all. You know I have faithfully described my
life here to you. I have told you of the distaste with which the
Finanzrath's attentions inspired me. I did all that I could by the cold
reserve of my manner to impress him with this fact. I did not think he
would ever succeed in forcing me to grant him a private and
confidential interview, and yet this he has done. About a week ago he
came into the garden where Celia and I were taking our usual morning
walk. He had just returned from one of his frequent journeys, and I
could not avoid replying to his courteous greeting. He joined us and
entered into conversation with us. He talks extremely well, and even I
could not help being amused by his lively descriptions of his
travelling adventures, while Celia, who is not very fond of her eldest
brother, was much entertained. Suddenly he paused, and, turning
directly to me, said, 'But I have not told you the most interesting
experience of my trip, Fräulein Müller.' Then, with a searching glance,
he added, 'I have seen several friends of yours, and have talked of you
a great deal.'

"I felt the blood mount into my face at these words. I could not
conceal the terror with which they inspired me; whereupon the
Finanzrath, with a satisfied smile, went on, 'I need only mention the
name of one of my friends, of Count Repuin, to convince you how
interesting was our conversation about you.' The detested name of that
terrible man produced upon me all the effect that the Finanzrath had
doubtless expected. It was only by a strong effort that I could keep
myself from fainting. Celia noticed my pallor; she had not heard her
brother's words,--he had chosen a moment for them in which she was
lagging behind to pluck a flower. 'What is the matter, dear Anna?' she
exclaimed, in terror; 'you are deadly pale.' In fact, had she not put
her arm about me I think I should have fallen, although I soon
recovered myself. The Finanzrath offered me his arm, and despatched his
sister to the castle for a vinaigrette. I did not dare to refuse his
proffered aid, lest I should offend him, and thus I found myself alone
with him, forced to continue my walk leaning upon his arm. 'I thank
you, Fräulein Müller,' he said, as soon as Celia had left us, 'for your
readiness to grant me this _tête-à-tête_. It gives me a precious proof
of your confidence in me,--a confidence which, I promise you, you never
shall regret. Chance has revealed to me your secret; but I give you my
word of honour it shall remain buried in my breast.' He then told me
how he had learned who I was. Repuin is his friend,--he had seen him in
Munich, and one day, while Repuin was engaged in writing letters, had
whiled away the time by looking over some photographs in a book upon
the Russian's table. Many of these he was familiar with; but his
astonishment was great when in one of them he recognized his sister's
governess. He waited until Repuin was at leisure, and then his first
thought, so he told me, was to ask the Count whether he was acquainted
with Fräulein Anna Müller, the original of the photograph; but,
reflecting that Count Styrum had made it a request that no curiosity
should be shown regarding my past, he suspected that I should prefer
the Count's remaining in ignorance as to my whereabouts, and therefore
he took up the book of photographs again, as if casually, and suddenly
exclaimed, 'A pretty face, Count; who is this girl?' showing my
likeness as he spoke.

"'Not a girl, but a married woman,' Repuin replied. 'Sorr's runaway
wife!'

"'I could not so command my features,' the Finanzrath continued his
narrative, 'as not to show the surprise I felt at this information.
Fräulein Anna Müller the wife of that Herr von Sorr whom Repuin had
presented to me! It seemed impossible!

"'And then the shameful words which Repuin had uttered, "Runaway wife."
I could not rest without some explanation. Can you wonder at it,
Fräulein Müller? "The picture reminds me of a lady whom I saw not long
ago," I said.

"'Scarcely had I uttered these words when Repuin sprang up in great
agitation. "You have seen her?" he cried. "There is no other face that
resembles hers; tell me where you saw her. I have been searching for
her for months, but she has vanished utterly."

"'What was I to tell him? I saw instantly that he must be put upon a
false track, and on the spur of the moment replied that I had shortly
before travelled in a railway carriage with a young lady who closely
resembled the picture.

"'My answer was so prompt that Repuin was fortunately deceived. He
never suspected that I was misleading him, and questioned me further
with the greatest eagerness. I told him that the young lady had been my
travelling companion from Berlin to Cassel, but that of course I had
not exchanged a word with her.

"'"I will go to Cassel this very night!" Repuin exclaimed, in the
greatest excitement. "I must find her! I have sworn to do it though it
should cost me half my fortune. Now that I have traced her she shall
not escape me."

"'He was completely deceived by my invention, and I could no longer
doubt that it was to destroy all trace of your existence that you had
taken refuge in Castle Hohenwald under a feigned name. I remembered
your enigmatical letter to me, and was convinced that I had found its
explanation. Let me assure you that it was entirely owing to my
profound sympathy for you that I now begged the Count for further
particulars concerning you. What I heard filled me with horror and
indignation. With cynical candour he informed me that he had spent
fabulous sums upon Sorr that he might be near his charming wife, who at
last, when he had actually purchased her of her wretch of a husband,
vanished without a trace.'

"Such, dearest Adèle, was the Finanzrath's story, which he concluded
with assurances of his profound secrecy.

"I cannot describe my sensations while he was speaking, of mingled fear
lest he should betray my secret and give Count Repuin some clue to my
retreat, and aversion for the man himself. I quivered with anger when
he called me, as he did repeatedly, 'dear Fräulein Müller,' and yet I
did not dare to show him that it offended me, lest I should provoke his
resentment. Celia, who came from the castle with the salts, at last
relieved me from my embarrassment. The Finanzrath left us. Then I
determined to leave Hohenwald, but, as the days slipped by and the
Finanzrath made no further allusions to my secret, I decided to remain,
since the noble old Freiherr would surely grant me his protection in
case of any disagreeable advances from his son. Each day the shadow
that the Finanzrath's revelations had thrown upon my peaceful life here
faded still more; my courage returned to me. I believed myself quite
safe in my beloved Hohenwald with my dear Celia, when one wretched
moment blasted all my hopes.

"I must go; I cannot stay here, for Arno has just told me that he loves
me. I thought his heart was dead to all affection, and he has just
declared his passionate attachment for me.

"I suffered indescribably when all that I could do in answer to his
frank avowal of affection was calmly and coldly to crush his hopes
forever. I wept bitter tears when he left me, and yet--yet the
consciousness of his love brought happiness with it as well as misery.

"Strength was given me to fulfil my duty; not by look or word did I
betray what I felt in rejecting him, but could I resist him a second
time? I must flee from my own weakness.

"I can write no more, dear Adèle, and must close. I am filled with but
one desire,--to go away from here as soon as may be. I rely upon your
aid again, my dear, kind friend; try to find me another asylum. I do
not care where it is or what it is, only let it be far, far away from
here and from all of you.

"Help me, dear Adèle; protect your

                                               "LUCIE."



                              CHAPTER XI.


Celia peered into the forest on either side of the road; she had ridden
from the castle more quickly than usual, that she might not be
unpunctual, and for the first time Kurt was not at his post. She
listened with bated breath, but no sound was to be heard except the
rustling of the boughs overhead and the soft note of a woodland bird.

What could have happened? He had hitherto always been awaiting her at
their place of meeting. How could he allow anything to curtail, even by
a few moments, the short hour to which they both looked forward so
eagerly? Although he could not be to blame, still she felt aggrieved.
Pluto, too, seemed to find his absence very unnatural. He pawed the
ground impatiently with his fore-foot and shook his black mane; then
pricked his delicate ears with a neigh as a distant crackling of the
underbrush was heard, and a minute afterwards Kurt made his appearance.
He was very warm and quite out of breath with the haste he had made to
atone for his want of punctuality.

"Now this I call scant courtesy!" exclaimed Celia, who had intended to
punish him by a cool reception for his tardiness. She was quickly
appeased, however, when she saw how warm he looked from his hasty walk.
She held out her hand to him, and when he took it leaned down towards
him. "You do not deserve a kiss for keeping me waiting so long, but I
will temper justice with mercy. Poor fellow! you are terribly warm; you
ought not to have walked so fast!"

What had become of Kurt's good resolutions? They had shared the fate
that awaits such resolutions generally. How could he resist when Celia
smiled so bewitchingly upon him? The temptation was too great. Besides,
he had only resolved never by a single word to betray Celia's childlike
trust in him, to treat her as a brother would treat a tenderly-loved
sister, and is it not perfectly allowable for a brother to kiss a dear
sister? He was not wrong in kissing her. Had he been wrong several
weeks before, when Celia, after some slight dispute, offered him her
rosy lips in token of reconciliation, not to refuse the precious gift?
Celia, in her innocent purity, never could have comprehended such a
refusal, and would have been deeply grieved by it.

Since then it had become a custom for the young girl to receive him
daily with a kiss, and to take leave of him with a kiss, and they
called each other by their first names. It would have been ridiculous
in Kurt, after becoming so intimate with Celia, to adhere to the formal
"Fräulein von Hohenwald" in addressing her. It had vanished; neither
Kurt or Celia could tell when or how; it had done so so naturally.

Still, after that kiss of reconciliation Kurt had not felt perfectly
comfortable as he walked home to Grünhagen; he was dissatisfied with
himself. Cool reflection told him that he had been false to his
resolve,--he, a man to whom life and its perils were familiar, should
have conquered himself; he should have been a guide to Celia, who was
half a child, and who had no idea that there could be any danger in her
guileless familiarity. But his heart bore away the victory from his
understanding. Kurt quieted his conscience when it would have
reproached him. Was it his fault that he did not go directly to Celia's
father and declare his love for her, and that she loved him in return?
Ah, how gladly would he, if he could, have done this! But the miserable
family feud, the invincible prejudice of the old Freiherr, forbade all
approach. Should Kurt, then, sacrifice the happiness of his life, his
love for Celia, to such a phantom? Should he reject the dear girl's
confidence because the old Baron in his obstinacy had an unaccountable
hatred for the name of Poseneck? No; he could not and he would not. He
never had asked Celia whether she loved him and would be his; but there
was no need of such words between them. He knew that her heart belonged
to him, and his determination to win her hand was absolute, although he
vainly sought in his imagination for some means to attain this end.

Castle Hohenwald was surrounded for him by an insurmountable wall;
there was no possible way by which he could approach Celia's father.
Did not the Finanzrath whenever he came to Grünhagen loudly lament that
it was impossible for him to invite Herr von Poseneck to return his
visit? The attempt, too, which Count Styrum had made to influence Arno
had been without result. Arno was as inaccessible as his father. Castle
Hohenwald was closed against Kurt.

Yet he would not resign hope; he was resolved that his life should not
be ruined by a silly prejudice. Although Celia was now too young to
bestow her hand where she chose, perhaps, in direct opposition to her
father's will, it would not always be so. Thus Kurt hoped in the future
for some lucky chance that would make it possible for him to surmount
the barriers that kept him from Castle Hohenwald.

With these hopes he soothed his conscience when it reproached him for
yielding to the spell that Celia's confidential familiarity cast around
him. He knew that no unholy thought stained his devoted love for the
dear girl, and knowing this, he believed himself justified in enjoying
the bliss of the present.

"But you were angry with me, Celia," he said, as, after her kiss, he
walked slowly along beside Pluto. "You were angry with me for keeping
you waiting. Confess it; your first words hardly sounded kind."

"Well, yes; I will not deny," Celia replied, "that I was a little vexed
and hurt. I had been thinking of you all day long, and you were not
here; I did not know what to think. You never kept me waiting before;
indeed, you spoil me, Kurt, as does every one,--you, and my father, and
Arno, and my dear Anna. You all spoil me, and ought not to be surprised
when I am impatient."

"I am only surprised that you forgave me so quickly."

"Oh, I was so glad to have you here, although I ought to have scolded
you for walking so fast in this terrible heat. You look warm still."

"I could not help it. I was afraid you would think I was not coming and
would ride home again. In my heart I cursed that tiresome Assessor for
detaining me, and when at last I escaped from him, I walked straight
across the Hohenwald fields to meet you here."

"You need not have done that, you dear, kind Kurt. I should have waited
an hour here for you at least." Again she held out her hand to him, and
surely it was but natural that he should kiss it passionately.

"Have you another visitor at Grünhagen?" Celia continued, without being
put at all out of countenance by the tender kiss imprinted upon her
hand. "You said something of a tiresome Assessor who had detained you."

"Yes, an Assessor von Hahn, who has lately been transferred to the
courts at A----, saw fit to pay my uncle a visit this morning. With his
usual hospitality my uncle invited him to stay, and to my horror he
accepted the invitation. He is a commonplace, tiresome man, and
incredibly inquisitive. He has only one good quality, which is that he
is a distant relative of yours."

"Yes, the Hahns are remotely connected with my mother's family, but I
never heard anything of them, and did not even know of the existence of
an Assessor von Hahn."

"I assure you it would mortify him excessively to hear you say so. He
has already told my uncle and myself much with regard to his
relationship to the Hohenwalds, and has deeply lamented that Castle
Hohenwald is closed even to near connections. When he heard that your
father had consented to have a governess for you he was overwhelmed
with astonishment, and asked every imaginable question concerning
Fräulein Müller, where she came from, who she was, how she looked;
whether she were ugly or pretty, young or old, learned or ignorant. He
wanted to know all about her, and I could see was greatly dissatisfied
with the scanty information he gathered from us. He tormented me with
questions about you and your brothers and your father, and I escaped
from him only by slipping off when he was engaged for a moment with the
newspaper. My uncle told him that I was in the habit of taking a
solitary walk in the forest every afternoon, upon which he offered to
accompany me, and was not at all dismayed by the terrible picture I
drew of the difficulties of the path through the underbrush. I could
not get away from him except by secret flight."

"My precious cousin seems to be a very agreeable man," said Celia,
laughing.

"He is insufferable, and yet I ought to be glad of his visit. In his
loquacity he supplied my uncle and myself with some important
information which made it especially desirable that I should see you
this afternoon."

"Information that concerns me!----"

"That concerns your brother Werner," Kurt replied, very gravely. "I am
afraid he has allowed himself to be drawn into certain schemes which
may place your father and Arno in a very embarrassing situation,
although I do not believe that, as the Assessor hinted, they have any
share in them. I never regretted so deeply as to-day that your father's
and Arno's wretched prejudice against our family made it impossible for
me to hasten to Hohenwald to warn your father, and to entreat him to
turn a deaf ear to Werner's insidious whispers. I long to do this, but
how would he receive one of the hated Posenecks? He would not credit my
information, just because it came from me; he would repulse me as an
unauthorized intruder. My warning would probably do more harm than
good, and Arno is just as inaccessible as your father."

"Unfortunately, you are right," Celia said, sadly. "You would not be
kindly received at Hohenwald. But can you not tell me what you wish to
say to my father and Arno? I am afraid that neither of them would pay
me much heed, but I will induce Anna to help me, and my father at least
will be influenced by her. Arno, to be sure, is incorrigible; even Anna
has no effect upon him."

"Has Fräulein Müller any influence with Werner?"

"I do not know," Celia replied, thoughtfully. "I have sometimes thought
so; at all events, the relations between them seem to me very odd and
quite incomprehensible. She cannot endure him, and avoids him whenever
she can, and yet he pays her devoted attention. I cannot understand
it."

"It might be dangerous, then, to trust Fräulein Müller?"

"Now you are unkind, Kurt!" Celia exclaimed, indignantly. "You must not
speak so of my Anna."

"But you yourself said----"

"I never said or thought anything that could imply a want of confidence
in her. I trust her entirely. But you have told me nothing of these
mysterious schemes of Werner's. I know nothing as yet."

"You shall know all that I know myself, although it may be wrong for me
to acquaint a young girl of sixteen with political intrigues existing
perhaps only in the diseased fancy of this garrulous Assessor."

Celia hastily withdrew the hand which Kurt had held in his own as he
slowly walked along beside Pluto. "You are very disagreeable, Kurt,"
she said. "I am no longer a child; girls are far more precocious than
boys, and at sixteen I may surely be trusted. And I am very much
interested in politics: I read the papers daily; have we not often
discussed them together? I continually scold papa and Arno for abusing
Bismarck as they do."

Kurt could not but smile at her indignation. "Do not be angry with me,
dearest Celia," he said. "I will tell you all I know, which,
unfortunately, is not much; the Assessor's hints were rather vague and
confused. Since you read the daily papers you know well how imminent is
the danger of a war with France. At such a time it is the duty of every
German to be true to the fatherland, and yet there is a large party in
Germany who ignore this, and who, because they are opposed to the
Prussian government, wish for a war with France and the overthrow of
Germany and Prussia. To this party your brother Werner unfortunately
belongs."

"Unfortunately!" Celia said in confirmation of his words.

"Those belonging to it," Kurt continued, "know nothing of true
patriotism. Prompted by mean self-interest and by silly hatred of
Prussia, they are ready to ally themselves with the Frenchman, the
arch-enemy of Germany, who believes that when war is declared all the
enemies of Prussia in Southern Germany, in Saxony, and in Hanover will
flock to his banner. There are at present French agents scattered
through Germany employed in plotting and arranging for this disgraceful
treachery. These agents are of every nation; some of them are even
Germans of rank, who believe that their names shelter them from
suspicion, and that they can pursue their dark designs unobserved. But
they are mistaken; the leader of Prussian polities is not so easily
hoodwinked as they think; he knows his treacherous opponents, and will
know how to bring them to the punishment they deserve."

"And you are going to tell me that Werner is one of these treacherous
agents," Celia interrupted Kurt, "I suspected it; this is why he has
taken these frequent journeys. Werner is sufficiently unprincipled to
lend himself from vanity and ambition to such treachery, but Arno, I
assure you, Kurt, is incapable of it. He is stern and hard, but he
never would dream of aiding in treason against his country. You must
not suspect him for an instant."

"I do not suspect him, but others do, and therefore I fear both for him
and for your father. The gossiping Assessor hinted to my uncle and
myself that Castle Hohenwald is the centre of various treasonable
intrigues, that Werner is in constant communication with the most
dangerous French agents, with a certain Count Repuin, for example; nay,
that he is himself such an agent, working in the French interest among
the Saxon nobility, and that he is probably assisted by your father and
Arno, whose hatred of Prussia is well known. The Assessor implied
further that Castle Hohenwald is under strict surveillance, and that it
is only a question of time when these treasonable intrigues are to be
crushed out by the arrest of all the Hohenwalds. Your father and Arno
must be put upon their guard against Werner, but how it is to be done I
do not know."

"I will warn them!" Celia said, decidedly.

"Will they believe you? Will not your father's first question be whence
came your information?"

"Of course it will, and I know he will be terribly angry when he knows
all; still, I must not mind that if he and Arno are in danger of
arrest. He will get over it in time. The worst is, that until he does
he will forbid my riding out, or will always send Arno with me, so that
we shall not see each other. But I must bear that too. It has perhaps
been wrong for us to have these meetings here every day. I have never
been able to look papa full in the face when the Posenecks were
mentioned, or any allusion made to my afternoon rides. I never before
had a secret from my dear old father, and he has a right to be angry
that I have concealed from him what he ought to have known long ago.
But if I should hesitate now from fear of his anger to tell him that
danger threatens him, and that you have informed me of it, how could I
ever forgive myself if anything should really happen to him? Tell me,
dear Kurt, am I not right?"

"Yes, you are right, darling courageous child that you are. I do not
know how I can bear to lack the sight and sound of you every day; I
shall be wretched without this hour of delight; but you are right. We
must not think of ourselves, but of how to avert the danger that
threatens your father and Arno."

"You are the dearest and the best fellow in the world!"

As she spoke, Celia allowed Kurt to lift her from her horse and conduct
her to a rustic bench, which he had himself constructed, just upon the
borders of the Grünhagen forest, where they usually parted from each
other. Many a time lately they had sat here side by side, but to-day
every moment seemed more precious than ever, the future was so
uncertain.

They sat silent for a long while, his arm about her waist and her
lovely head reclined upon his shoulder, while her eyes were downcast;
she was reflecting upon the coming parting.

"Will your father believe you when he knows that your warning comes
from me?" Kurt asked, suddenly. "Will he not suspect me of giving it
with a view of arousing his gratitude, and thus obtaining an entrance
into Castle Hohenwald? If I did not fear that this would be so, I would
go to him myself, his commands to the contrary notwithstanding; but, as
I told you before, I dread his transferring his doubt of him who warns,
to the warning itself to the extent of rejecting it incredulously. The
same thing will happen if you tell him that it is I who warn him; he
will even be more suspicious and mistrustful in his anger at our
intimacy, which has become such without his knowledge and against his
will."

Celia's eyes sparkled. Hard as she knew it would be to put a stop to
these meetings by a frank confession, she was still resolved to make
the sacrifice, but Kurt's words showed her that it would be useless;
she was quite ready in a moment to convince herself that for the
present it was best that her father should be ignorant of her meetings
with Kurt, lest he should regard the warning with suspicion.

She raised her head, and looking at Kurt with a happy smile, said,
"Anna will help us; we will tell her all. If she puts my father upon
his guard and tells him that she cannot mention the source whence comes
her information, but that she knows it to be correct, he will pay heed
to her; he has the greatest confidence in her, and it never will occur
to him that she could deceive him."

Kurt had no objection to urge to this. He consented that Celia should
confide everything to her friend, both as regarded their daily
meetings, and as to what Kurt had heard from the Assessor von Hahn.

Thus conversing, the time flew by so quickly that the lovers did not
suspect the lateness of the hour. The outer world was forgotten, when
suddenly they were recalled to it by an unfamiliar voice, that gayly
interrupted their confidential talk with, "Found at last! I beg ten
thousand pardons for disturbing you; I never suspected that I should
find Herr von Poseneck in such charming society. Now I understand his
sudden disappearance; but pray don't let me disturb you; I am
thoroughly discreet; I will not boast of it, for discretion is a gift
of nature; I possess it, and would not for worlds interrupt a
delightful _tête-à-tête_."

Kurt and Celia, as soon as the voice fell upon their ears, started up
from the bench, Celia looking down blushing, greatly confused, while
Kurt, with anger flashing in his eyes, confronted the Assessor, who, in
the best of humours, did not seem to perceive how unwelcome was his
presence. This first appeared to occur to him when Kurt approached him,
saying sternly, "Sir, what do you mean? how dare you thus follow me
without my permission?"

The Assessor retreated a step, taught by the angry gleam in Kurt's eyes
that his jesting remarks had been quite out of place. In much confusion
he stammered, "I beg pardon; indeed nothing was farther from my
intention than to intrude; I am inconsolable at having disturbed you."

The poor little man, as he shrank from Kurt's indignant glance and
poured out his terrified excuses, cut so odd a figure that Celia could
not help smiling, although she was anything but pleased with the
present aspect of affairs. She could see that Kurt's indignation was
still further aroused by the intruder's apology, and she whispered to
him as gently as possible "Be calm, dearest Kurt, I pray you, for my
sake."

Her words produced an instant effect. Kurt's brow grew smooth, the
angry look vanished from his eyes, which sparkled strangely as he
looked at Celia, and then turned with an air of sudden determination to
the Assessor, saying, in a much gentler tone, "It is not to me, Herr
von Hahn, that you should excuse yourself, but to my betrothed,
Fräulein Celia von Hohenwald." As he spoke he cast at Celia a quick
glance of inquiry, afraid lest his words might offend her; but no, she
did not even look surprised; an arch smile quivered about her lips for
a moment, and she nodded to him assentingly.

The Assessor's amazement, however, was unbounded; his large and rather
prominent blue eyes grew larger and more prominent as he looked from
Kurt to Celia. "Ah--really--indeed"--he stammered, bowing low--"I had
no idea--I humbly beg the lady's pardon--permit me to offer my cordial
congratulations--indeed--I am so surprised that I hardly know what to
say."

Celia laughed; she could not help it: the flaxen little Assessor was
too comical; and Kurt smiled; he was no longer angry, but inexpressibly
happy. Celia's hand was in his and returned his pressure. How could he
be angry with the Assessor, who had been the cause of his sudden
resolve? "Never mind, Herr Assessor," he said, kindly. "We will credit
you with the most heartfelt good wishes. But"--and he suddenly changed
his tone to one of grave admonition--"since chance has willed that you
should be the recipient of our confidence, I must pray you not to
misuse it. You know that there exists an hereditary feud between the
Hohenwalds and the Posenecks, which some of the members of the families
have not yet agreed to forget, therefore we, my betrothed and myself,
do most earnestly enjoin upon you to be silent as to what you have
learned. Any allusion to it to others would be an indiscretion for
which I should be obliged to call you to account. I am sure we may rely
upon you."

"Absolutely. I swear it!" the Assessor eagerly replied. "Not a word
shall escape my lips. I am silent as the grave!"

"I am quite sure that your promise will be kept. And now we will no
longer detain you from the enjoyment of your walk. This broad road
leads to Castle Hohenwald; by pursuing it until you reach three huge
oaks in a group you will find a by-path on the right, which will give
you a pleasant stroll through the forest and lead you out into the
open, whence you will perceive Grünhagen in the distance."

The Assessor bowed. Clearly he was dismissed. He would have liked to
exchange a few words with his relative Celia, whose voice even he had
not heard, but there was something in Kurt's manner that told him it
was hardly advisable to linger here longer. In a few choice phrases he
expressed to Celia his delight at this chance meeting with so charming
a cousin, and his sorrow that circumstances over which he had no
control would prevent him from calling upon her at the castle. Then
imagining that Herr von Poseneck was growing impatient, he took his
leave, turned in the direction that had been pointed out to him, and
was soon out of sight.

"Are you angry with me, dearest Celia?" Kurt asked so soon as this was
the case.

"Why should I be angry with you?"

"I could not help it; I had to decide on the instant what to do, and it
was only by presenting you as my betrothed to the Assessor that I could
prevent him from speaking of having seen us."

"And why should I be angry with you? It was perfectly natural; you only
said what we have both long known. I am glad you said it; I only wish I
could tell my dear kind father how very, very happy I am. But," she
added, with a little sigh, "it would not do,--it would not do at all;
he would be terribly angry, for he does not know you, Kurt, does not
know how dear and good you are, and if I should tell him we were
betrothed he never would give his consent. Anna must help us. I will
tell her everything to-day; she has more influence than any one else
over him, and she will contrive to have you come to Hohenwald,--she is
so good and so wise!"

Kurt shook his head doubtfully, but he could not shake Celia's
confidence in Anna's power over the old Baron. Meanwhile it had grown
late; they had been together much longer than usual. Pluto was
evidently impatient; still, Celia had more to say than ever before.
Kurt put her on her horse again, and, when she begged him to turn back
with her for a little way, walked slowly beside her along the broad
forest road.



                              CHAPTER XII.


Lucie's resolve was a hard one. Castle Hohenwald was to her as a home.
The thought of leaving Celia and the old Freiherr gave her intense
pain, but it must be done,--she could not stay. She had written her
letter to Adèle with feverish haste, almost immediately after Arno had
left her; but now that it lay before her sealed and addressed she
hesitated to despatch it. She shrank from so decisive a step.

Did stern duty really require of her to leave this loved asylum and
brave the world again and the danger of Repuin's persecution? Here she
was safe both from the Russian and from Sorr; both the old Freiherr and
Arno would extend protection to her, and must she give it all up just
because Arno loved her? No; not for that. Had she been sure of her own
heart she might have remained. She had not felt the need of fleeing
from Werner's distasteful devotion.

But Arno! She had summoned up strength to utter the words that
annihilated his hopes; but she felt that in so doing she had almost
exhausted her self-control. Could she have withstood his pleading a
moment longer? Even while writing to Adèle the thought would not be
banished from her mind that she was actually free, bound by no
obligation to the wretch who himself on that terrible night had
sundered the tie that had linked her to him!

But could he sunder it? No; it must still remain a brazen fetter
chaining her to her unworthy husband, although she were forever parted
from him. As she had herself said, her marriage could not be dissolved;
she was free only in spirit,--only the death of the dishonoured thief
could make it possible for her to form another tie.

Her heart rebelled against so unnatural a chain; but cool reason told
her that she could not disregard it without dishonour. Sorr's wife must
not listen to Arno's words of affection; if she could not slay within
her the love she now knew that he had awakened there, he must never
know it.

The sealed letter trembled in her hand; if it were to be sent it must
go instantly. From her window Lucie saw already saddled and standing in
the court-yard the horse upon which the groom was to take the daily
mail from the castle to A----. Frau Kaselitz stood upon the steps just
about to close the post-bag. One minute more and it would be too late.
A day at least would be gained, a day for reflection, and a day, too,
of imminent peril, a day in which Arno might repeat his protestations,
his entreaties!

She hastily threw open the window. "Wait one moment, Frau Kaselitz; I
have a letter to go!" she called out into the court-yard, and then
hurried down the great staircase to the hall-door. She could not trust
herself, and it was only when she had seen the groom gallop away
bearing her letter with him that she breathed freely again.

The die was cast, and she could think clearly and calmly. Her strength
of will returned, and she knew that she could brave any struggle
which the next few days might bring her. She had regained the calm
self-control that would enable her to fulfil her duties towards the
Freiherr and Celia during the time she should yet remain in the castle,
and this fulfilment should instantly be put into action. Celia should
suspect nothing during lesson-hours of the mental agony that had so
tortured her teacher.

But where was Celia? She had not made her appearance, although the time
had long passed at which she usually returned from her afternoon ride.
Lucie inquired of old John, who was on his way to the stables, and
learned that Fräulein Celia was still out in the forest. She never had
stayed so late before, the old man added; indeed, she had had time to
ride up and down the broad forest road to Grünhagen at least twenty
times. Of course that was where she was; she always rode there. John
could not see why she never tired of that road. Lucie was not ill
pleased to hear that the girl was still in the forest: she longed for
its cool depths; and since John assured her that she could not fail to
meet Fräulein Celia, she determined to go in search of her. She
declined John's attendance, for she felt perfectly secure in the
vicinity of the castle. Quickly tying on her hat she sallied forth.

Her walks hitherto had never extended beyond the castle garden and the
park. This was her first flight into the "forest depths," from which
the castle took its name. She gazed in wonder at the mighty oaks and
beeches. Around her brooded the mystery of the primeval forest; in the
vicinity of the castle no axe had rung a discord in the poetry of
woodland life. The deep silence, broken only by the low notes of the
woodland birds, harmonized with Lucie's mood; she sauntered dreamily
along the path, passing in mental review the events of the day, and
particularly the struggle with herself, in which--and there was a
measure of content in the consciousness--she had come off conqueror.

Lost in thought, she almost forgot that she had come out to look for
Celia; her gaze wandered unconsciously over the wealth of foliage on
every side of her. She did not observe, when she had reached the
loneliest part of the forest, a solitary stranger walking towards her,
and hastening his steps with every sign of amazement upon seeing her.
Not until he had approached her very nearly did she look up and start
in terror. Could she believe her eyes? The Assessor von Hahn, whose
element was fashionable society, here alone in the woodland solitude?
She could not be deceived; the Assessor stood before her as elegant as
if bound upon a round of morning visits, staring at her out of his wide
blue eyes, and twirling, as was his wont when startled or surprised,
his flaxen moustache; it was indeed Herr von Hahn as large as life.

The good Assessor was no less startled than was Lucie. "Is it
possible?" he exclaimed; "am I awake or dreaming? Frau von Sorr here in
the forest! This is a surprise indeed,--a most agreeable surprise of
course. I am enchanted to meet you, madame."

As he spoke he held out his hand, and Lucie was obliged to place her
own within it and to allow him to kiss it; she could not show him how
unwelcome was his presence here. Of all her former acquaintances she
would have preferred to have almost any one invade her retirement
rather than the gossiping Assessor, but she could not let him perceive
this; she banished all surprise and terror from her face and said, not
unkindly, "A most unforeseen meeting. I never should have expected to
find you in this remote corner of Saxony, Herr von Hahn."

"My presence here is easily explained, madame. I have been transferred
to A----, and, as there is scarcely any society in the tiresome little
town, I beguile my leisure by visits to the neighbouring gentry. I am
at present enjoying the Amtsrath Friese's hospitality, in Grünhagen,
and was just taking a woodland walk. But you, madame,--how happens it
that I meet you here? You must be living either at Grünhagen or in
Castle Hohenwald. Oh, I see, I see. My cousin, the old Freiherr, has
overcome his antipathy to your charming sex and has admitted into his
household a governess for my lovely cousin Celia. You are this
governess of course. This is why you vanished so suddenly from the face
of the earth. It must be so; my keen perception has penetrated the
mystery. I do not boast, for keenness of perception is one of the gifts
of nature, and her gifts are variously bestowed, but I possess it.
Confess, madame, that I am right."

The Assessor, who had now succeeded in twirling the ends of his
moustache into two long thin points, stayed the torrent of his words
for a moment to regard Lucie with a triumphant look of inquiry.

What should she reply? Chance had revealed to him her retreat in Castle
Hohenwald; he now knew too much to admit of his not being told more.
She dreaded his loquacity, but perhaps he might be induced to curb it
if she appealed to his honour. And, besides, he need keep silence only
for a short time; in a few days she hoped her friend Adèle would have
provided another refuge for her, and then the good Assessor's love of
gossip could do no harm. "Your keen perception has not been at fault,
Herr Assessor," she replied. "I live in Castle Hohenwald as governess
to Fräulein Celia von Hohenwald, but I need hardly tell you that in
order to obtain such a situation I have been obliged to change my name.
The consequences would be disastrous to me if any one in Castle
Hohenwald should learn my real name, and still more so if any one save
yourself, Herr Assessor, whom I trust implicitly, should suspect that I
have taken refuge in Castle Hohenwald. Your perceptions are too keen to
make any explanations necessary as to the painful circumstances that
have driven me thus to change my name and to take refuge in the deepest
seclusion. I rely upon your honour, and am convinced that you will not
abuse the knowledge you have gained by accident, and that you will
mention to no one our meeting to-day."

The Assessor bowed profoundly, feeling immensely flattered. He seized
Lucie's hand and kissed it with fervour, "Your gratifying confidence is
not misplaced. I swear it by my honour!" he exclaimed, his hand on his
heart. "I will be torn limb from limb sooner than that Herr von Sorr or
Count Repuin or any enemy of yours, dear madame, shall learn where you
have found an asylum. Rely upon me, madame, and if you should need
counsel or aid I am always at your service."

"Thank you, Herr von Hahn. I knew I could trust you, and therefore I
have bestowed upon you my entire confidence. If I need your assistance
I shall certainly apply to you, but at present I ask only your silence
and your forgiveness for concluding this interview; I must not be seen
in your society."

"I understand and respect your wishes, madame; I am discreet; I make no
boast of it, but----"

"I know it, Herr Assessor, and I thank you for it. But before we part
let me ask one question. Have you encountered upon this road a young
lady on horseback?"

"Ah, you mean my fair cousin, Celia von Hohenwald."

"Do you know Celia?"

"Certainly; that is, I have seen her."

"Did you meet her?"

The question was a simple one, and yet it confused the Assessor. He
remembered Herr von Poseneck's words and felt very uncomfortable. True,
he had not been told not to mention meeting Celia. Kurt's prohibition
had borne reference only to his betrothal, but he had expressly
declared that he should call the Assessor personally to account for any
indiscretion, and Herr von Poseneck seemed to be a man very likely to
keep his word. Would he not consider it an indiscretion to direct Frau
von Sorr to where she would find the lovers together? He would not run
any risk, and so answered with some hesitation, "I really do not know,
madame; I hardly remember----"

"Whether you have met Celia in the forest? You can hardly have
forgotten it."

"Certainly not, but--some one is coming. You desire that we should not
be seen together; I hasten to comply with your wishes. Adieu, madame!"

He bowed very low, glad to have any pretext for his flight, and walked
away so quickly that he was in danger of overlooking the group of
mighty oaks near which was the by-path to which Kurt had directed him.
Fortunately, he discovered it in time and was soon lost to sight.

Lucie looked after him, at a loss to understand his conduct. Why should
he find such difficulty in answering her simple question with regard to
Celia, and hurry away in such confusion? He must have seen Celia; why
not say so? She quickened her pace and soon reached a turning-point in
the road that opened a long vista before her. Here her glance instantly
encountered Celia, who was riding slowly towards her, attended by Kurt,
whom Lucie instantly recognized, having seen him upon the evening of
her arrival at Castle Hohenwald. Celia held her bridle negligently in
her left hand; her right was clasped in that of Kurt, towards whom she
was leaning, talking so earnestly that at first she did not perceive
Lucie, who stood still transfixed with astonishment.

This, then, was the reason of the Assessor's mysterious behaviour; this
was the explanation of Celia's devotion to her daily rides in the
forest.

Pluto was the first to become aware of Lucie's presence; he tossed his
head and neighed; this attracted Celia's attention, and she perceived
her friend. "Anna!" she exclaimed in a tone of delighted surprise, in
which there was not the slightest trace of terror. She withdrew her
hand from Kurt's and urged her horse to where her friend stood. "Anna,
my darling Anna!" she said, tenderly. "I am so rejoiced to see you! Now
you shall learn all. Kurt himself can tell you all about it. Yes, Kurt,
tell Anna everything,--how we first came to know each other, that we
are betrothed, and that nothing now can separate us; tell her, too,
what you told me awhile ago of Werner. Ah, how glad I am that chance
has brought you two together! Now, Kurt, you will know my dearest Anna,
and will see how wise it is to confide in her absolutely. Adieu, my
darling Anna! Au revoir, dear Kurt!"

She kissed her hand to Lucie and Kurt, then gathered up her reins and
galloped towards the castle.

Lucie looked after her very gravely. She was inexpressibly pained by
the discovery she had so unexpectedly made. It had never occurred to
her that Celia, gay, innocent, frank child that she seemed, could be
engaged in any secret love-affair; she would have rejected any such
idea with indignation.

And yet here was the proof. She felt grieved and ashamed; grieved
because she had believed herself possessed of Celia's entire
confidence, and ashamed that her care of her pupil had been so
negligent that the girl had been able to deceive her from the first day
of her arrival at Hohenwald.

Her anger, however, was not for Celia, but for Kurt; Celia was an
inexperienced child, who did not and could not know the peril of such
secret entanglements; Kurt's was all the blame.

It was therefore a very stern and forbidding look with which she
received Kurt, who approached her with some embarrassment in his
greeting. He knew that her judgment of him could hardly be a favourable
one. She had seen him but once, when his courtesy in proffering
assistance and his whole air and manner had made a very pleasant
impression upon her, an impression in which she had been strengthened
by what she had learned of him from the Finanzrath and from Adèle's
letters. Even now, as she looked at him with severe scrutiny, she could
not but admit to herself that his appearance was greatly in his favour.
He was not, strictly speaking, handsome, his features were not
perfectly regular; but his countenance was frank and manly in
expression, his fine eyes were honest and true, and about the firm
mouth there were lines that betokened great gentleness and kindliness
of nature. Lucie easily understood how a young man of so pleasing an
exterior could win the heart of the inexperienced Celia, who was
debarred all society, and her indignation was the deeper that Kurt
should have so unscrupulously used his power over an innocent child.

"You will have the goodness, Herr von Poseneck, to give me the
explanation to which Celia has just alluded," she said, gravely and
sternly.

Kurt bowed, and not without some confusion, for his conscience was not
quite clear, he replied: "You have a right, Fräulein Müller, to ask
this explanation of me, and I give it you the more readily, since my
betrothed was about to give you her entire confidence this very
evening. Even without this chance meeting you would have learned from
her what you are now to learn from me."

"Your betrothed?" Lucie repeated the words with sharp emphasis. "Your
betrothed? Are you not aware, Herr von Poseneck, that a child of
sixteen cannot be betrothed without her father's consent? So far as I
know, the Freiherr von Hohenwald has not given his paternal consent to
your betrothal to his daughter, nor will he, for reasons with which you
doubtless are familiar, ever be likely to do so."

"You condemn me without hearing me!" Kurt said, sadly.

"I have heard from Celia and from you that you are betrothed to my
pupil, although you know that the Freiherr is hostile to your family,
and that you can never hope for his consent. Was it right, was it
honorable, that you, a man of ripe knowledge of the world, should
induce a young, innocent girl, almost a child, to grant you private
meetings in the forest, and finally to betroth herself to you against
her father's will?"

"You are right, Fräulein Müller; I cannot deny it; I have often said
just the same thing to myself; but my heart was stronger than my head.
I hope, however, that you will judge me less severely when you have
heard that I came to know Celia by chance, and that my love for her
soon grew to a consuming passion that was beyond heeding the sage
suggestions of reason. Only grant me a short interview; I promise you
that I will be absolutely frank with you. Will you not hear me?"

Lucie consented, and the short interview ended in a long conversation
between the two as they slowly paced to and fro in the woodland road.

Kurt kept his promise to be entirely frank and candid; he began with
his first accidental meeting with Celia, who had won his heart at once,
although he had determined that he would entertain for her only
brotherly friendship. He described eloquently how this love had grown
within him, until he had been carried away by it so far as to reveal it
to Celia, and how he had been, as it were, forced by the Assessor's
intrusion to utter the decisive word that betrothed them on this very
day. He went on to tell Lucie how he had agreed with Celia that she was
to acquaint her dearest friend with their secret, and ask her for aid
and counsel; that he had at first been resolved to go to the old
Freiherr and confess everything to him, but that he had been deterred
from doing so by Celia's entreaties and representations. He informed
Lucie of all that he had heard with regard to Werner's schemes, and of
the danger threatening the Freiherr, adding that Celia looked to her to
aid in averting it. "And now," he said, in conclusion, "you know
everything. Judge for yourself whether I am as culpable as you thought
me at first. I confess that my only excuse is my passionate affection
for my darling Celia."

Lucie did not reply immediately,--she pondered well upon all that Kurt
had said; his candour and integrity she could not doubt,--truth shone
in his eyes; she could not help believing him. "I cannot approve your
conduct," she said, after a long silence, "but neither will I judge you
too harshly. What is done cannot be undone; we can do nothing with the
past, but I demand that you atone in the future, as far as in you lies,
for the wrong you have committed. There must be an end to these
meetings with Celia; this you must promise me,--this duty you must
fulfil, however hard it may seem to you. Do not answer me immediately,
but reflect. I know that at this moment you think it impossible to
comply with my demand; nevertheless it must be done. You must have
sufficient self-control to enable you to resign a fleeting moment of
happiness. If you love Celia truly and honestly, and would not separate
her from her father, you must sacrifice thus much for her sake. You
ought not to see Celia again unless by the Freiherr's consent. If you
promise me this, Herr von Poseneck, I will promise you to do all that I
can to influence the Freiherr in your favour. I will try to combat his
unjustifiable hatred of you; I will be silent with regard to what I
have seen to-day, although it is perhaps my duty to put him on his
guard. Will you make me the promise that I ask, Herr von Poseneck?"

"Can I make it? Would not Celia doubt my faith and affection if she
should not find me in the forest at the accustomed hour?"

"Celia will never again, while I am at Castle Hohenwald, ride in the
forest alone, and she shall learn from me with what a heavy heart you
make the sacrifice to your love which I have asked of you. It is very
likely that she, too, will rebel against this sacrifice, and will blame
both you and me; but this consideration ought not to deter you from
doing your duty; thus only can you enable me to keep silence to the
Freiherr, who, if he should learn now, without any preparation, that
his daughter is secretly betrothed to a Poseneck, never would forgive
you!"

"You demand an impossibility!" Kurt replied. "I cannot make a promise
which I may be forced to break. If Celia should call me, should need my
help, should I not hasten to her aid? And how easily this might happen!
Am I not Celia's natural protector? You know what danger threatens the
Freiherr through the Finanzrath's intrigues; if he, with his two sons,
should be placed under arrest, to whom could Celia turn for aid and
counsel? Ought I then, bound by a promise, to refuse her this aid? I
could not!"

"Nor do I ask this. Your promise is not to be held binding in so
extreme a case. Give it me with this condition."

"You are very cruel."

"I am only doing my duty, and requiring that you should do yours."

Lucie's firmness conquered, and Kurt submitted after much hesitation.
He could not but admit to himself that Lucie was right, and that in her
influence with the Freiherr lay his only hope for the future. He gave
the required promise.



                             CHAPTER XIII.


Away into the open air, to field or forest, wherever nature offers
solitude! This was Arno's thought; he longed to be alone, to collect
himself, after the fearful blow he had received. He crossed the
court-yard and hurried through garden and park into the depths of the
forest. Arrived there, where he felt sure of encountering no one, he
threw himself down upon the moss-carpet at the foot of a giant oak. The
quiet soothed him; he needed it to aid him to control the storm of
emotion within him. What had he just undergone? To his humiliation he
had been harshly rejected,--rejected in a manner that wounded his pride
as well as his heart. What folly his former suspicions of Anna had
proved to be! He had preserved towards her a cold and chilling
demeanour to convince her that her feminine arts to attract him were
vain. How she must have smiled at the silly vanity for which he was now
paying so dearly! And he had asked for so little, for only one ray of
hope, only for permission to love her, and even this she had coldly and
firmly denied him. He had thought his heart desolated by the deceit
from which he had suffered years before, but the contrary was proved in
the bitter pain that now tortured him. He loved, and she whom he loved
scorned his affection. Was her heart no longer free? Did she love
another? She had denied this; but could he believe her? He remembered
all that Werner had told of her, that she had been betrothed and
forsaken by her lover when her father's wealth had vanished. Could she
still cling to one so worthless? No; it was impossible. She must
despise such a man, and she was too noble to give affection where she
could not esteem. Had Werner's studied attentions produced any
impression upon her? No; her tone, in speaking of him, had been that of
contempt; she saw through him,--he never could touch her heart. And yet
how could "duty and honour," of which she had spoken, demand that she
should reject forever a genuine devotion, and that she should declare,
"We must part forever!" The claim of another upon her affection could
alone make it her duty to refuse to listen to his protestations. The
thought was torture. He could endure everything save that. He was a
prey to a savage jealousy of this unknown who robbed him of all that
could make life fair, and he had to force himself to reflect that he
had not an atom of foundation for this jealousy, which, nevertheless,
he could not crush out of his heart. There it was, and it would assert
itself, laughing to scorn the arguments of sober reason.

The sun was low in the heavens when Arno was roused from his long
brooding reverie by the crackling of the underbrush, caused as he
thought by some animal making its way through the thicket. But no; in a
few moments there emerged upon the open space, in the midst of which
stood the giant oak at whose feet he was reclining, Hauk, the chief
inspector of the Hohenwald estate.

The man was much surprised at encountering thus his young master, whom
he had never supposed to be addicted to daydreams in the depth of the
forest, and he evidently reflected that his presence here, instead of
in the fields superintending the labourers, might seem strange to Baron
Arno. He approached him, hat in hand, with an air of some
embarrassment. "I beg pardon for disturbing you, Herr Baron," he said,
"but I never dreamed of finding you here."

"True, Herr Hauk," Arno replied, recalled to the actual world by the
Inspector's presence, "nor could I have expected to find you here
instead of in the fields."

The Inspector's embarrassment was increased by the reproof conveyed in
the young Baron's words; and it suddenly seemed to him that the reasons
for which he had undertaken his walk through the forest were mere
folly. "I beg pardon, Herr Baron," he said, meekly, "I should not have
left my work with the men, but I saw Herr von Poseneck again, and I
wanted to know what the young gentleman is after on our land. Something
must be wrong when a Poseneck tramps about our forest!"

"You are dreaming. Inspector!" Arno rejoined, harshly. "What could
bring Herr von Poseneck to Hohenwald? Go back to your men, and refrain
from woodland rambles while harvesting is going on."

The Inspector had never before received so stern a rebuke from the
young Baron, and the faithful fellow felt aggrieved. "Of course, if the
Herr Baron orders it I will return immediately, but it is a pity that I
should not discover what Herr von Poseneck is continually after in our
forest. Still, it is no business of mine why he is sneaking here, if
the Herr Baron does not care about it."

Arno's curiosity was aroused; he had thought at first that the man's
story was an invention to cover his neglect of duty, but he now saw
clearly that he had wronged Hauk, who had been a faithful servant for
many years. Therefore, in a much gentler tone, he asked, "What is it
you are saying about Herr von Poseneck? Explain your meaning, Hauk."

"I mean only, if the Herr Baron will excuse me, what I say. Young Herr
von Poseneck, who lives at Grünhagen with the Amtsrath, has been for a
long time sauntering about in our forest every day; what he is after I
do not know, but since he is a Poseneck, it can be no good. He usually
takes the path along the Grünhagen boundary, and gets into the forest
that way; but to-day I saw him hurry directly across the Hohenwald
meadow. Early in the spring, Kunz, who was ploughing near the Grünhagen
boundary, saw him do just the same thing. I watched him enter the
forest to-day with my own eyes, and I came through it from the other
side, thinking to strike the very path he must have taken, and catch my
fine gentleman in the act, if, as I suspect, he is at any poaching
work."

This was a strange piece of news. It was folly to suspect Kurt von
Poseneck of poaching; the idea was begotten in the Inspector's mind by
the universal mistrust of the Posenecks that was rife among the
Hohenwald tenantry and servants; still Arno wondered what could bring
the young gentleman daily to the Hohenwald forest, and he thought the
matter called for an explanation. "Are you sure, Hauk, that you are not
mistaken in the man?"

"Perfectly sure, Herr Baron; besides, all the men at work saw him as
well as myself."

"Strange! And you say that he has been in the habit for some time of
wandering about in our forest daily?"

"Yes, Herr Baron; he has often been seen, mostly by the women when they
were gathering sticks, but they said nothing about it, for they
themselves were on forbidden ground."

"Mere old women's gossip then!"

"No, Herr Baron; the forester has seen him too, but he did not speak to
him, because the Freiherr has ordered us to avoid all quarrels with the
Grünhageners; and Kunz saw him, as I said, long ago."

"Long ago? That is very vague. How long ago?"

"I cannot tell exactly, but it must have been about the time that
Fräulein Müller came to Hohenwald, for Kunz was with the Herr Baron
that night in the quarry, and he told me shortly afterwards that he had
seen young Herr von Poseneck cross our field to the forest; that he had
not been sure it was he until he saw him that night in the quarry; but
that then he was perfectly certain of him. So he must have been seen
first about that time, and since then scarcely a day has passed that he
has not been seen by some of the people in the wood."

Arno's brow darkened. Kurt was no poacher, but he thought he had
discovered the reason for his walks in the Hohenwald forest. Following
the path by which he had been seen to enter it, he would reach the lake
in the park, upon the shore of which, hidden among the shrubbery, was a
bench, whence there was a lovely view of the little sheet of water.
This spot was a favourite one with Fräulein Anna Müller. Whenever, as
was, to be sure, but rarely the case, she walked in the park during
Celia's absence upon her afternoon ride, this bench was always her
goal, for she knew that even Werner would not venture to intrude upon
her there. Her reason for seeking this retreat was now plain, as was
also Kurt's attraction for the Hohenwald forest.

And yet Anna had said that her heart was free! Could she lie? Why had
she not frankly confessed the truth? He would have had no right to
blame her; her avowal would, indeed, have pained him, but the pain
would have been easier to bear than distrust of her. He suffered in the
thought that she was no better than the rest, that she could descend to
a falsehood when the happiness of a man who loved her devotedly was at
stake.

"Is it the Herr Baron's commands that I should return to the
harvesters?"

The Inspector's question aroused Arno from his confused imaginings.
"Yes, Herr Hauk," he said, with hardly-won composure. "You had best do
so." Then seeing the man's discontented expression, he added, "I will
myself endeavour to encounter Herr von Poseneck, but I do not desire
any one to spy upon his movements. Let him walk as much as he pleases
in the Hohenwald forest; I am sure that no ill will towards us brings
him here, and I will not have him interfered with. Tell this to the
people, Hauk, and bear in mind what I say. My father's desire that all
disputes with the Grünhageners shall be avoided must be strictly
complied with. Good-afternoon, Hauk."

"As you please, Herr Baron," the Inspector replied, with a bow, as he
took his departure.

Long after he was gone Arno stood leaning against the trunk of the oak,
uncertain what to do. Was Kurt at this very moment perhaps seated
beside Anna on the bench near the lake? Jealousy impelled him to
discover whether his suspicions were correct. In vain did he represent
to himself that he had no right to spy upon Anna's actions. He strode
through the wood and soon reached the borders of the broad Hohenwald
forest road, which he was obliged to cross in order to reach the lake.
Here, as he was making his way through the bushes that lined it on
either side, he heard a voice that thrilled him; it was Anna's. He
could not distinguish what she said, nor the words of the reply, which
was given in clear, manly tones. He cautiously proceeded a few steps
farther, until, parting the bushes, he obtained a clear view of the
broad road. His worst fears were confirmed: Kurt and Anna were slowly
walking along it engaged in earnest conversation. They approached the
spot where Arno stood concealed; a few more steps and he should hear
every word that was said, for they did not suspect a listener near. For
a single instant a wild desire possessed Arno to penetrate Anna's
mystery; he leaned forward as far as was possible without discovering
himself, but the next moment he rose superior to the disgraceful
temptation. His cheek flushed at the thought that he had been deaf
though but for an instant to the dictates of honour. Silently and
hastily he withdrew, moderating his pace only when he could no longer
hear the sound of voices. As he returned to the castle he felt that
although he had heard nothing he had seen enough.

Lucie parted from Kurt as his friend, and as she slowly walked back to
the castle she reflected upon the perils encompassing the people who
had become so dear to her. She pondered how to put the Freiherr upon
his guard without betraying Celia's secret, and how at the same time to
influence the old man to relinquish his foolish prejudice against Kurt.
She could hardly warn him directly, but could it not be done indirectly
through Werner, perhaps? If she should inform the Finanzrath that his
connection with Repuin and other French agents was no longer a secret,
that his movements were watched, that he was in danger of arrest, and
that his presence in Castle Hohenwald imperilled the safety of his
father and brother,--if she begged him to leave the castle, would he
not comply with her advice?

Celia hastened to meet her friend; she had not been able to remain
within-doors. Arrived at the castle, the girl threw Pluto's bridle to
old John and hurried to her room to change her dress, thinking that she
would await Anna in their sitting-room; but, although the windows there
were all wide open, the confinement seemed to stifle her; she wanted
air,--not the air of park or garden, but that of the cool, fragrant
forest. As she issued from the gate of the court-yard and was just
about to turn into the broad forest road she encountered Arno, and was
hurrying past him, longing to see Anna and hear what she had said to
Kurt, when he detained her, saying sternly, "Where are you going?"

"That is not your affair," she pertly answered her brother's harsh
question. "I might as well ask you, Where have you been?"

"I have been in the forest."

"And I am going to the forest."

She would have passed him, but he still detained her. "Do you usually
select this road for your afternoon ride?"

Celia blushed. What did he mean by the question? Did Arno know anything
of her meetings with Kurt? With feminine evasion she hastily rejoined,
"Why should I always choose this tiresome broad road?"

"Why, indeed? How long since you returned from your ride?"

"About a quarter of an hour ago," she answered, frankly.

"And did you ride on the broad road to-day?"

"What a foolish question! Let me go, Arno! How can it possibly interest
you when or whore I ride?"

But Arno still held her hand fast, seeming not to notice her
embarrassment. He gazed darkly down the forest road. If Celia pursued
it she would meet Kurt and Anna together. Such a discovery would be but
a merited punishment for Anna, but what impression would it produce
upon his innocent sister? A second glance along the road reassured
him,--Anna was slowly approaching the castle alone. He let go Celia's
hand, relieved of an ugly dread lest Anna should have confided to her
pupil her love-affair with Poseneck. That Celia knew nothing about it
was clear from her replies to him; the "will-o'-the-wisp" was so frank
a creature.

So soon as she found herself free, Celia ran towards Anna, bestowing
not another thought upon Arno, who went his way. Throwing her arms
around her friend, she whispered, as she caressed her tenderly, "At
last you are come! My darling, darling Anna! Now all is well, and my
conscience is once more clear."

"You ought to have had confidence in me," Anna said, in a tone of
gentle reproof.

"Oh, I have often said that to myself. I have repeatedly determined to
tell you all, but I was so afraid lest you would be angry, and perhaps
forbid my meeting Kurt, and so--I cannot live without just saying a few
words to him every day."

"You must try it, my dear Celia; you must not meet Herr von Poseneck in
the forest again."

"I thought you would say that!" Celia exclaimed. "I knew it, but you
are mistaken if you think I shall obey you. I am not a child; I know
what I am doing. Kurt is my betrothed, and I have a right to meet him.
But no, Anna dear, I will not be angry with you, only do not ask
that of me. If you think it wrong for me to see Kurt alone in the
forest,--and I have sometimes been afraid that it was,--then come with
me; we have no secret from you; only you must not ask me not to see him
again,--I cannot obey you: and if you will not go to the forest with me
I must go by myself."

"It will be of no use. Herr von Poseneck has promised me that he will
not meet you in the forest again."

"That is detestable of you,--detestable!" Celia exclaimed, indignantly.
She had been so utterly unused to control that she was really angry,
and it was only after a long and grave explanation upon Lucie's part
that the girl was brought to see that her friend's counsel was dictated
by the truest motives and an earnest desire for her happiness. At last,
however, she agreed to be guided entirely by her "darling Anna," and
the compact was sealed with a kiss.

Relieved to have been successful with Celia, Lucie now applied herself
to the second task she had undertaken, and, instead of entering the
castle, turned into the garden, where the Finanzrath was usually to be
found towards evening.

"Are we going to the garden?" Celia asked, surprised. "We cannot talk
together there, for Werner, as you know, will instantly join us, and we
shall not be able to get rid of him."

"I am going purposely to meet him this afternoon," Lucie replied, "and
I beg you to leave me with him when he joins us."

"Have you more secrets with him?" Celia asked, fretfully.

"I must speak with him," was Lucie's calm reply. "I promised Herr von
Poseneck to warn your father of the danger that threatens him. I cannot
do this directly, since I cannot say whence comes my information."

"And you are going to warn him through Werner?" the girl asked, shaking
her head. "Don't attempt it, Anna dear; you do not know Werner,--he
will not believe you; he thinks he knows more than any one else. Do not
have any confidences with Werner; speak to Arno,--he is true and
trustworthy; he will find a means to put papa on his guard and to force
Werner to go away."

"I must speak with the Finanzrath," Lucie insisted; "do not try to
dissuade me, dear child; I cannot help it."

Celia said no more; she silently accompanied Lucie into the garden, and
walked beside her along the winding paths until, as had been foreseen,
Werner joined them, when she lingered behind to pluck a flower, and
then, turning into a side-path, left her brother and her friend to
themselves.

Werner greeted Lucie after his usual smooth, courteous fashion; but she
interrupted the flow of his complimentary speeches by saying, in a very
grave tone, "Our meeting this afternoon, Herr Finanzrath, is owing to
no chance. I came into the garden expressly to find you, for I have an
important communication to make to you."

Werner's attention was aroused; Lucie frankly admitted that she had
come in search of him. What could she have to tell him? And Celia had
evidently left them together intentionally. She could have done so only
by Lucie's desire. A secret hope that his endeavours to obtain the
beautiful woman's favour were about to prove more successful flashed
across his vain soul, but vanished as he looked into his companion's
grave and even stern face. "I am extremely happy, madame, in receiving
this proof of your confidence," he said, "and await with eagerness what
you have to tell me."

"It is of no agreeable nature," Lucie went on; "but I will go directly
to the point. You are in great peril, Herr Finanzrath; your connection
with Count Repuin has aroused suspicion that you are of the number of
French agents who are at work here, in the interest of the French
Emperor, endeavoring to effect the dissolution of the treaty that
unites the South German states and those of the North German alliance,
with Prussia, and who are plotting against Prussia among the people as
well as in the army."

Werner stayed his steps and looked searchingly into Lucie's face. His
cheek grew a trifle paler, and his voice was not quite so firm and
clear as usual, as he replied, with forced composure, "Your information
is indeed startling, madame; I am excessively grateful to you for it,
but you must permit me one question. Whence comes your knowledge that
so foolish and ungrounded a suspicion attaches to me?"

"There are all-sufficient reasons, Herr Finanzrath, why I cannot answer
your question and reveal to you the source of my information, but I can
assure you that my warning is sent you by a sincere friend of yours and
of your family, who is well aware of the necessity for it. But let me
proceed, and then you can judge for yourself of the magnitude of the
peril menacing you."

"I am all ear, madame."

There was a dash of contempt in his tone, and Lucie saw that her
refusal to mention the source of her information had shaken his belief
in its truth; but she went on quietly: "The suspicion of which I have
told you, whether it be well founded or not----"

"Do you doubt me, madame?"

"I have no right to form an opinion, and there is no reason why, if
formed, I should express it. Of course, since you declare the suspicion
unfounded, I have no choice but to believe you; nevertheless, it
exists, and it attaches not only to you, but to your father and
brother. The authorities are convinced that your relatives know of your
schemes, and aid and abet them, and that Castle Hohenwald is a centre
for treasonable plots and conspiracies. The castle is already under
surveillance; how strict this is I cannot say, nor whether it extends
to the letters sent from here, but I know that it exists, and that the
authorities have it in mind to crush any treasonable scheming before it
becomes dangerous, by the arrest of the entire Hohenwald family. I
think, Herr Finanzrath, that under these circumstances you will see
that you owe it both to your family and to yourself to leave the castle
as soon as possible. Your presence here imperils your father's safety.
He will, on the other hand, be left undisturbed, though not unobserved,
if you, the cause of this _groundless_ suspicion, absent yourself from
Castle Hohenwald for a while. Your father's age and infirmity, his
seclusion from the world, will shield him from all annoyance as soon as
you are away, since it certainly must be the aim of the authorities to
avoid exciting indignation in Saxony by any useless arrests. This
is all that I had to say to you, Herr Finanzrath. I hope that my
well-meant warning will effect its purpose, and that you will, by a
speedy departure from Castle Hohenwald, both protect your relatives
from the danger of arrest and insure your own safety."

Werner had listened in silence, an evil sneer playing about his lips
the while. "Then my departure from Castle Hohenwald is the purpose of
your communication, madame?" he asked, watching Lucie with keen
scrutiny.

"It is; I confidently hope that your departure will remove all danger."

"Indeed? You are extremely kind. I really cannot be sufficiently
grateful to you for your care, but I must pray you to fill the measure
of your kindness by telling me to what good friend you owe your
information, which has the air of proceeding directly from the
Chancellor himself, if, indeed, it be not the fabrication of an idle
fancy or of a well-laid scheme."

"I do not understand you, Herr Finanzrath," Lucie asked, amazed. "Do
you really imagine I could wish to deceive you?"

"Let me beg you again for the name of your informant."

"Let me repeat that I cannot, or rather will not, give it to you; you
have no right to demand it of me."

"I do not demand it, madame; I do not even desire it, but perhaps you
will allow me to mention it to you myself."

"You cannot know it!"

"But I can guess it. I see through the game that is playing with me.
Have a care, madame, that the bow is not too tensely bent; the string
might break."

"I do not understand you."

"Then I must speak more clearly. You shall have your will and
understand perfectly. Yours be the consequences of allowing me a
glimpse into your heart,--of ruthlessly annihilating my fairest hopes.
You shall not escape unpunished from the intrigue which you have spun
to drive me from Castle Hohenwald."

Werner's eyes flashed fire and his cheek was crimson as he spoke. His
agitation Lucie could not understand, and it terrified her. She had
never seen the calm, easy Finanzrath thus moved. "You speak in riddles,
Herr Finanzrath," she said, looking frankly in his face. "I do not
understand your anger. What do you mean by your threat, and by accusing
me of intriguing to drive you from Castle Hohenwald?"

"Am I not yet sufficiently clear?" Werner continued, even more angrily.
"Do you still imagine you can deceive me? You are mistaken. I see
through your game. You choose that I should speak it out plainly? Well,
then, so be it! I am weary of the restraint that I have put upon myself
for months I will no longer be your plaything! I have loved you
passionately since the day when I brought you to the castle; to win
your love in return was my highest aim in life, my fondest hope----"

"I must not listen to you. I must leave you!" Lucie exclaimed,
indignantly.

"You must listen; I will force you to hear me!" Werner declared.

"You are mad!"

"You have made me so. Thank yourself that my passion asserts itself,
that I cast aside the fetters that have bound me for months. As long as
I hoped to win your love I endured their restraint; now, since I see
through your schemes, I will do so no longer. I suspected it all long
since. I have often told myself that you were but playing with my love,
but never until now did I know it surely. Do you think I have been
blind,--that I have slumbered through these long weeks? No, jealousy
has spurred me on to constant watchfulness; not a look exchanged
between Arno and yourself has escaped me. I have been insane with
jealousy when you were alone with him in the library, but I would not
believe that you could prefer him to me, and so I deceived myself and
you deceived me. You may well desire my absence. I could by a single
word put a stop to all your loving dalliance. Arno is your informant;
he would thrust from his path the brother in whom he suspects a rival,
and he thinks to drive me away by the threat of an imaginary danger.
Fool! I see through his game."

Lucie listened in blank amazement to the accusations thus heaped upon
her, which, in their suddenness and strangeness, bewildered her
comprehension. Was this Werner, the polished, easy man of fashion,
confronting her now with angry eyes and laying bare before her the
inmost secrets of his soul? What should she reply to so disgraceful an
attack? A contemptuous silence was all that it deserved. And she was
silent, but this Werner regarded in the light of a confession; he
thought she was trembling at his anger and unable to reply. He laughed
scornfully, and continued, "Am I sufficiently clear now, madame? Now
you know, I imagine, that you can no longer deceive me. You are right
not to attempt it by any denial. One thing, however, you have
forgotten, that I know your past, and that one word from me can put an
end to your brief dream of love. My precious brother is an idealist who
might indeed bestow his heart upon Celia's poor governess, the lovely
Anna Müller, but who would turn with aversion and disgust from the
runaway wife of Herr von Sorr! Hitherto I have kept your secret
faithfully, but I might easily be tempted to forget to do so in future.
Herr von Sorr has not resigned his rights; he is still searching for
you, and it is owing to my silence alone that he is not now here
asserting those rights in defiance of which you would vainly seek
protection from Arno. Your safety here you owe only to the love which,
spite of all the offence it has received at your hands, still glows
within me, a consuming flame. Have a care that you do not convert it to
hatred, Frau von Sorr. Continue to reject my devotion, to play with my
jealousy, and you shall bitterly repent!"

Not a word could Lucie utter. Amazement, shame, and indignation
overwhelmed her. Werner no longer awaited a reply; he left her not as
was his wont with a low bow, but with head proudly erect, hurrying
towards the castle, and not even looking back at her whom he had so
insulted. He did not see the intense scorn and disgust expressed in her
face as she gazed after him, nor hear the word "wretch!" that passed
her lips as she did so.



                              CHAPTER XIV.


For a few moments after leaving Lucie Werner's features wore a smile of
triumph; he thought the proud beauty subdued and terrified by his
threats; but when he reached his own apartment, and had time for
reflection, he felt by no means so sure of his victory. As his
excitement subsided he became greatly discontented with himself, and
bitterly regretted having yielded to one of the outbursts of passion
which had cost him dear in his boyish years, but which he had lately
learned to control. Pacing his room to and fro, he pondered upon the
occurrences of the past hour. While in Lucie's presence, rage at the
thought of his brother's successful rivalry had bewildered his
understanding; he could not think clearly. Reason had returned, and he
confessed to himself that he had played the part of a jealous fool. His
brother was no intriguer, his ways were never those of a schemer. But
whence, if not from Arno, could Fräulein Müller have received her
information? She saw no one but the inmates of the castle, and she had
lately received no letters, as no one knew better than Werner, who
distributed the letters from the post-bag every morning. He grew very
uncomfortable; Lucie had known of his acquaintance with Repuin, and she
had now learned of what nature this acquaintance was; she still
maintained a correspondence with influential people in Prussia, Adèle
von Guntram, President von Guntram's daughter, was her most intimate
friend, and any information forwarded to them would soon reach the
Chancellor's office.

The longer the Finanzrath reflected the more grave did the situation
appear to him. Vague pictures of an examination of his papers, of an
arrest, and possible trial for high treason presented themselves to his
imagination. Finally, he seated himself at his writing-table, and
thought he would write to inform Repuin of what he had heard. This,
however, proved to be by no means an easy task; he could scarcely do it
without implicating Lucie, and should he mention her relations with
Adèle von Guntram the Russian's suspicions would surely be aroused; he
would make his appearance at the castle with Sorr, who would enforce
his marital rights. Should this occur, Lucie would be restrained by no
considerations from betraying him. At present she would feel obliged to
have some regard for the man who knew her secret and held her fate in
his hands. He tore up his letter to Repuin, and decided to attempt to
avert in another way the danger that menaced him. Lucie was not
implacable; she had no reason for bringing distress upon the Hohenwald
family by betraying him; only a desire for revenge or to defend herself
from attack could prompt her to do this; he would ask her pardon for
expressions used in the heat of passion, and would not allow his love
for the beautiful woman or his jealousy to carry him so far again.
Soothed by these reflections, Werner began to look to the future with
confidence.

What now? Lucie had asked herself, when left alone in the castle
garden. To answer this question was not easy. Suppose that Werner,
impelled by anger and jealousy, should discover her retreat to Count
Repuin, would not her best course be to leave the castle immediately,
and await in some secluded village the result of Adèle's efforts to
procure her another situation? The thought of the consequences of
Werner's betrayal of her secret filled her with horror. What if Sorr,
summoned by the Finanzrath, should appear at the castle and require her
to return to him! She felt sure that the old Freiherr would grant her
his protection, but what would it avail her against her husband! And
Arno? Lucie's heart died within her as she thought of the pain that a
knowledge of her secret would cause him. Nothing was left her but a
hurried flight. But no, she would not leave Hohenwald; had she not
promised Kurt and Celia to use her influence with the old Freiherr to
induce him to forget the wretched feud with the Posenecks? Could she
disappoint Celia's confidence in her by forsaking her at her need, in
selfish care for her own safety? Would not Kurt in that case have a
right to recall the promise he had given her? And what mischief might
ensue! No, it was her sacred duty to watch over Celia; she would not
leave the castle for some time yet. But she had written to Adèle
begging her to procure another situation for her as soon as possible.
The letter had gone; should she not write another and revoke her
request?

In the midst of her uncertainty, Celia, who had seen from her window
that Werner had returned to the castle, joined her again, eager to know
the result of the interview with her eldest brother. "Well?" she asked.

"You were right, I ought not to have spoken to your brother," Anna
replied; "he does not believe me. I cannot tell you more, Celia; it is
enough that my appeal to him was quite in vain."

"I knew how it would be," the girl said, sadly; "I wish you had taken
my advice, but it is not yet too late. Let me call Arno; he is in his
room, I saw him go to it; he will be here in a few minutes. Indeed,
dear Anna, Arno has the best heart in the world. He is not so amiable
and agreeable as Werner, he cannot pay compliments, but you can rely
upon him. I have often watched him when he thought no one was observing
him, and I am quite sure that he likes you very much. He will believe
you, and soon devise some way of shielding our dear old father from
danger. Do speak with Arno, dearest Anna. Let me call him. May I?"

"Yes; I will await him here."

Celia's gratitude was shown by a fervent kiss, and she flew towards the
castle, returning in a few moments with Arno, whose hand she held in
hers.

"Here he is!" she exclaimed as she approached Anna. "Only think, the
miserable fellow refused to come at first. Scold him well, Anna dear;
although he does look so grim, he is really dear and good. There, he is
smiling; now you need not be afraid of him. Adieu!"

And she was gone, tossing a kiss to her friend as she vanished in the
shrubbery.

The smile which her merry talk had called forth faded from Arno's grave
face as he bowed formally to Lucie. "I await your commands, Fräulein
Müller," he said. "You must forgive my momentary hesitation to follow
my sister. I thought her jesting when she told me you wished to speak
with me."

"Celia was not jesting, Herr Baron. I requested an interview with you,
and I thank you for complying with my wishes."

A low bow was Arno's only reply.

Lucie had thought it would be easier to begin a conversation with Arno.
As he now walked beside her, grave and serious, without smoothing the
way for the opening of their talk by a single word, she felt
exceedingly uncomfortable. Her last words to him in the library had
deeply offended him, as was evident from the formality of his manner.
She had determined to make no allusion to their previous interview; but
how could she help it? And she longed to say one kind word to him.

"You are angry with me, Herr Baron," she began, and her fair face
flushed slightly; she could not look up at him as she spoke,--her eyes
sought the ground. "I regret deeply if what I was forced to say to you
offended you. I did not mean that it should. It was my duty to tell you
the perfect truth; if I did this too harshly, I pray you not to be
angry with me. I told you to-day that your words would drive me from
Castle Hohenwald; I was overhasty. After calm consideration, I have
decided not to go away. I know that Baron Arno von Hohenwald is too
proud and too noble to repeat words that could pain me; I know that
although I was forced to offend him, he will still be my friend. May I
not cherish this conviction, Herr Baron?"

As she spoke the last words Lucie looked up at Arno and held out her
hand, but he did not take it. He replied, coldly and with a low bow,
"You are very kind, Fräulein Müller. I am glad that you do me justice;
I am, indeed, too proud ever again to intrude upon you after the harsh
rejection I have experienced. I assure you that you shall never hear
from me a word that could cause you to leave Hohenwald sooner than you
would otherwise intend. May I hope that this assurance is satisfactory
to you, and that you will inform me to what I owe the honour of this
interview?"

Lucie slowly let fall her hand; Arno's cold refusal to take it, and his
measured politeness, convinced her that she had nothing to fear from
him, and yet she was not glad that he was thus able to command his
feelings; his cold words grieved her. But he must not suspect this; she
forced her composure to equal his own as she explained to him that she
had a duty to fulfil towards the Freiherr and himself in telling him of
the warning sent to them from a perfectly trustworthy source. His
brother's plots were discovered, Castle Hohenwald was under
surveillance, and such suspicion rested upon his father and himself of
sharing in the Finanzrath's schemes that they were threatened with
arrest. "I trust you, Herr Baron," Lucie concluded, "to devise means
for averting the threatened danger. I had hoped that the immediate
departure of the Finanzrath would effect this, and therefore I first
appealed to him, told him what I have told you, and begged him to leave
the castle, but he would not believe in my information, refused to be
guided by it, and thus forced me to turn to you, Herr Baron."

"Which you would not otherwise have done," Arno rejoined, bitterly.
"Nevertheless I am grateful to you for your warning; but you must
excuse me for putting one question to you. You tell me that Werner
refused to believe in your information. Did he tell you his reason for
doubting it?"

Lucie hesitated to reply. She had not expected this question, and yet
it was a very natural one. How could Arno expect to induce his brother
to depart if he were not informed of the entire state of the case? He
must know that the Finanzrath mistrusted him, and this Lucie could tell
him only by letting him know of Werner's jealousy. It offended her
sense of delicacy to inform Arno of this; but it was her duty to
overcome her scruples and let him know what insane folly possessed
Werner.

"You do not answer," Arno continued, after a short pause, "and yet my
question is a very simple one."

"It shall be answered, Herr Baron. The Herr Finanzrath thinks that I
have been induced by you to acquaint him with a fictitious tale of
danger, in hopes that terror may drive him from Castle Hohenwald."

"Indeed? The suspicion is like him!" Arno exclaimed, indignantly. "And
why should I wish to drive him from the castle, and why should you lend
yourself to second me by a falsehood? I do not perceive the connection
here."

Lucie's cheeks were crimson; but, hard as it was to reply, she did it
bravely. "The Herr Finanzrath explained this in a manner very insulting
to me. He thinks that it is my desire as well as yours to banish him
from Castle Hohenwald, that we may escape his observation. You will not
require me to explain further the disgraceful suspicions aroused in his
mind by an unfortunate passion."

"Shameful!" Arno exclaimed. "I have long known of his passion for
you,--his cold, calculating nature is incapable of a genuine affection;
his love is an insult to you. I did not believe that he would dare to
offend you by such unworthy suspicions; he is more worthless than I
thought him. I thank you from my heart for bestowing your confidence
upon me; rest assured you shall not repent it."

For a few minutes they walked on in silence, Arno thinking of Werner's
silly suspicion that he was the author of Anna's warning. Who was its
author? The answer that instantly occurred to him to this question
disturbed the satisfaction that Anna's frankness had afforded him. Her
information could proceed from but one person, from him with whom he
had so lately seen her in earnest conversation; from Kurt von Poseneck.

But a moment ago he had regarded with profound contempt Werner's
groundless jealousy, and yet now he suddenly felt a like sensation with
regard to the rival who had robbed him of Anna's love. Her warning lost
all credibility in his eyes; he rebelled against receiving it from a
man whom he hated, and felt inclined, as Werner had done, to believe
that it had been given with some unworthy aim. He must have certainty
upon this point.

All that was genial vanished from his manner as he turned to Lucie, and
with the same icy courtesy that had characterized his first address to
her, said, "I owe you a debt of gratitude, Fräulein Müller, but let me
pray you to complete your information. It is very important that I
should know the source of your warning. Tell me frankly, do I owe it to
Herr Kurt von Poseneck?"

"How did you know? What made you think of him?" Lucie asked, greatly
surprised.

"Thank you, Fräulein Müller; I am answered. You do not deny, then, that
Herr von Poseneck has commissioned you to communicate with me?"

"Why should I deny it? But I really cannot understand how----"

"How I arrived at the knowledge of your intimate relations with Herr
von Poseneck? Chance revealed to me your secret. I saw you to-day in
the forest engaged in confidential discourse with him. I now know why
you refused me all hope in the future."

"Herr Baron!----"

"Say no more! Why should you blush because I allude to your relations
with Herr von Poseneck and to our interview? You never gave me a right
to hope for your love; it was my fault if in my conceit I cherished
hopes which you crushed as they deserved. I reproach myself, not you. I
deserved the harsh repulse which I received, but I did not deserve that
you should deceive me at the very time when my heart was laid bare
before you. Had you but told me frankly that you loved another it would
have pained me deeply, it is true, but my confidence in you would have
been unshaken. At such a time you should not have told me a falsehood."

"Herr Baron, I assure you----"

"Would you still deceive me? That first falsehood was enough, and more
than enough. Let us break off this conversation. Let me give you one
last piece of advice in return for your warning. You know the dislike
that my father entertains for the Posenecks. For this reason, perhaps,
you have refrained from any mention of your intimacy with thus
gentleman, and you certainly are right, for even your powerful
influence would hardly avail, I fear, to conquer the hereditary hatred
of a Hohenwald for a Poseneck; but if you would keep your secret, let
me advise both you and Herr von Poseneck to be more circumspect in
future. The people on this estate have noticed his daily visits to a
certain part of the Hohenwald forest, and will shortly discover to whom
these visits are paid unless you are more careful."

It was positive torture to Lucie to hear Arno's icy tone as he gave her
this advice. She perceived how he suffered; he had betrayed his pain
when he showed her how deeply he felt the suspicion of her untruth.
This wretched mistake! But could she undeceive him without betraying
Celia? And if she did,--if she proved to him that it was solely upon
Celia's account that Kurt came daily to the Hohenwald forest, might
there not be danger of reviving hopes which he had resigned? Still, she
could not bear that he should leave her with a doubt in his mind of her
integrity.

As he turned to go, with a formal bow, she lightly touched his arm. "We
must not part thus, Herr Baron," she said, gravely. "You owe it to me
at least to listen to me."

"What can you have to say, Fräulein Müller?" Arno asked as he paused.

"You have brought a grave accusation against me," Lucie continued, "and
you have done so deceived by appearances."

"Was I deceived when I saw you scarcely an hour ago in the forest with
Herr von Poseneck?"

"No; you saw correctly."

"Is it not true that Herr von Poseneck has, since your arrival at
Castle Hohenwald, daily sought a certain spot in the Hohenwald forest?"

"This, too, is true."

"Is it not true that in the forest he sought the seat hidden in
shrubbery near the lake, where you are so fond of dreaming away a
solitary hour?"

"That is not true, at least so far as I know."

Arno's face expressed doubt and amazement, but Lucie's eyes flashed. "I
have never given you cause to doubt my truth," she said, more sternly
than he had ever heard her speak. "My word must suffice; I assure you
that I have seen Herr von Poseneck but twice in my life, once upon the
night of my arrival here, and this afternoon for the second time. I
stand in no relation whatsoever with him, and our meeting to-day was
entirely accidental."

"But you were talking to him so earnestly."

"And about most important matters. I esteem Herr von Poseneck very
highly, I do not deny. He, inspired by the purest friendship for the
Hohenwalds, begged me to warn you as I have done."

"Was this all you were talking of?"

"This and something else no less important. What it was is my secret,
and I feel under no obligation to give you farther information, as you,
Herr Baron, have no right to doubt my truth. This is all I wished to
say; I will no longer detain you."

Arno was dismissed; he bowed in some confusion as Lucie left him, and
yet, in spite of the severity of her words and manner, his heart felt
lighter than before, and hope began to stir within him. "She does not
love him," he repeated to himself. "There is no falsehood in those
eyes."

Lucie hurried to her room before joining the family circle, according
to daily custom, in the garden-room, where the old Freiherr was already
looking for her,--she wished to write a few lines to Adèle. This she
did hastily, delivering her letter herself to the Inspector when it was
sealed, and begging him to see that it was put into the bag for the
next morning's post.

A few moments after Lucie had left the Inspector's room Werner entered
it. He had watched her from his window, had seen the letter in her
hand, and had been filled with vague misgivings. "That letter I must
see!" he had said to himself.

"Can a messenger be sent on horseback to A---- to catch the evening
mail?" he asked of the Inspector, who was just putting Lucie's letter
into the bag.

"Certainly, Herr Finanzrath, very easily," Hauk replied. "Old John can
go on Fräulein Celia's Pluto; there is plenty of time."

"Give me the post-bag then,--I have an important letter to send; and
tell John to saddle Pluto, and I will have it ready for him."

The Inspector handed him the bag, which Werner instantly carried with
him to his room and opened. With a triumphant smile he took from it
Lucie's letter addressed to Fräulein Adèle von Guntram. "I thought so,"
he muttered to himself. "I am just in time." Then tearing off the
envelope he read:


"What will you think of me, dear Adèle, if a few hours after writing my
last letter I tell you not to heed the request it contained? I hope
soon to be able to let you know why I do this, but I cannot tell you
to-day. I cannot leave Castle Hohenwald, and so you are relieved of the
burden of looking for another situation for me. Farewell, dear; you
will soon hear further from your           LUCIE."


Werner dropped the letter disappointed. "Nothing more?" he muttered. "I
need not have opened this letter, although I had better know what she
intends to do." He tried to put the letter in its envelope again, but
it could not be done, the latter was too much torn. There was nothing
for it but to destroy it. He tore it up therefore, and threw it into
his waste-paper basket. Then putting several unimportant letters into
the post-bag, he took it out to John, and despatched the old man upon
his useless errand.



                              CHAPTER XV.


The time at which the old Freiherr expected his family to assemble
about him every evening in the garden-room had come. Werner on his way
thither encountered his brother, who was awaiting him at the foot of
the staircase. In a few indignant words Arno informed him that Fräulein
Müller had acquainted him with the manner in which her well-meant
warning had been received, and said all that was possible in so short a
time to induce his brother to leave Hohenwald as quickly as he could.
"In the castle," he added, "there are none who do not look upon your
fine-spun schemes as treasonable plotting, and it is unjust that peril
should threaten all on your account."

Werner, however, who had now entirely recovered his usual self-control
and ease of manner, treated his brother's words with contemptuous
indifference, and thus the two men entered the garden-room together,
the elder dissembling his jealousy and rage beneath an easy amiability
of manner, the younger vexed and indignant at his failure to influence
the brother whose ambitious vanity and want of principle were abhorrent
to him.

The Finanzrath evidently felt perfectly secure, and exerted himself
to prove to Fräulein Müller his sincere regret for his late want of
self-control. He begged her for one of her charming songs, and meeting
with a curt refusal, acquiesced in it without a word. He was all that a
courteous, high-bred cavalier should be; and yet, in spite of his
efforts to maintain the conversation, it flagged continually, for each
member of the little circle felt a secret oppression, which made it
impossible to join in it with any interest.

Arno was unusually taciturn; he possessed none of the versatility
that enabled Werner so quickly to forget the serious matters that
had lately occupied him. Even Celia seemed to have lost all her
wonted sprightliness; she sat buried in thought beside her father's
chair,--her stool placed so that he could not see her face, for she
could not look him frankly in the eyes to-night, and her heart was too
full to allow her to take any part in the conversation. This would soon
have become monosyllabic in spite of Werner's exertions had he not
casually mentioned a visit that he had paid a few days before to
Grünhagen. So favourable an opportunity of turning the conversation
upon Kurt did not escape Lucie; she asked Werner, with evident
interest, how young Herr von Poseneck liked Grünhagen, and whether he
was readily adapting himself to the European mode of life. Werner could
not understand why Lucie should take so vivid an interest in Kurt, but
he was glad to have found a topic upon which he could command her
attention. He expatiated willingly upon Kurt's excellent capacity as a
landed proprietor, and upon the admirable understanding that seemed to
exist at Grünhagen between uncle and nephew.

The Freiherr listened silently; that the topic was not an agreeable one
to him the frown gathering on his brow told plainly.

Arno, too, said not a word, but sat glancing now and then at Lucie with
displeasure in his look. What could be Fräulein Müller's aim in this
show of interest in Kurt? If it were intended as a punishment for his
jealousy, it seemed but a petty revenge.

Celia, however, sat quite still, with sparkling eyes and glowing
cheeks; she said nothing, but not a word that was spoken escaped her.
Werner suddenly appeared kind and amiable in her eyes as he thus
praised Kurt.

For a while the Freiherr endured Lucie's continued inquiries about
Grünhagen and Kurt; but at last his patience was exhausted. "You seem
to take a remarkable degree of interest in this fellow Poseneck,
Fräulein Anna," he said, crossly; "for Heaven's sake leave him to
himself in Grünhagen,--the less I hear of him the better I am pleased!"

This was the very outbreak for which Lucie had been hoping. She turned
to the Freiherr and, pushing her chair nearer to his, said, "What has
poor Herr von Poseneck done to you, Herr Baron, that you should be so
angry with him?"

"He has done nothing to me, but I hate the Posenecks one and all," was
the harsh reply.

"I am quite sure that you would like Kurt von Poseneck if you knew him,
Herr Baron," Lucie rejoined.

"I don't want to know him!" the Freiherr exclaimed, discontentedly.

Nevertheless Lucie continued, boldly, "He is the very man to please
you. Honest and true, earnest in character, but with the enthusiasm of
youth, a thorough gentleman, but no fop, he has won golden opinions
from every one during the short time that has passed since his arrival
in Europe."

The Freiherr stared at her in amazement; her unexpected praise of Herr
von Poseneck did not at all please him, but as she spoke she looked at
him with so charming an air of entreaty that he could not be angry with
her,--he even smiled as he shook his finger at her, saying, "Aha!
Fräulein Anna seems quite infatuated with the young man. I had no idea
that she knew him so intimately."

"Oh, yes, I know him very well, although I have really seen him but
once; my opinion of him is based upon that of a far more competent
judge than I am. Count Styrum, my friend Adèle's lover, is a relation
of Herr von Poseneck; his word is the best warrant for the young man's
excellence. A man to whom Count Styrum gives his friendship and esteem
is certainly deserving of them."

"Make your acknowledgments for the compliment, Arno! Count Styrum is
your friend too," the Freiherr said, with a laugh; and he then
continued, half in jest and half in earnest, "The friendship of the
Count, for whom I have a great regard, is certainly a recommendation
for the young man, but fortunately I am entirely indifferent as to
whether this Herr von Poseneck deserves your praise or not, for I have
nothing to do with any of the Poseneck crew. One thing strikes me,
however, and that is, that I must stop abusing them when Fräulein Anna
is by. Well, well, we shall not quarrel about them, only, if she
persist in singing this young fellow's praises, she will make her old
adorer jealous."

Lucie smiled in reply; she had done enough for to-day, and Celia's
grateful look thanked her. She arose, and going to the piano unasked,
sang one of the old man's favourite songs, which would have won him to
forgiveness even had he been angry.

The tones of her voice had just died away when old Franz entered the
room with the post-bag, which he said had just been brought to the
castle by an extra messenger, and must contain news of importance.

The Freiherr eagerly opened it, and seizing the newspapers, which, with
a few letters for the Finanzrath, were all that it contained, searched
them for the expected news of importance. This he found in the first
one that he opened; it contained the telegram reporting the abdication
of the Crown Prince of Hohenzollern. With eyes sparkling with joy the
Freiherr read it aloud. "Thank God!" he exclaimed. "I trust we have
done with this miserable war. Franz, bring a bottle of champagne in
honour of the good news!"

"I must leave you this evening; my duty recalls me to Dresden, as I
learn from this letter," Werner said, after having eagerly looked over
his letters.

"What! this evening?" the Freiherr asked, and, although the question
expressed surprise, there was no regret in his tone.

"I must obey the call of duty," Werner replied. "While Franz orders the
carriage I will pack my portmanteau, and I hope I shall be in time to
catch the night train."

He shook hands with his father, and then turned to Lucie, who was
standing near the window. "I comply with your wish, and leave you;
forgive me," he whispered; adding aloud, "Have you any commands for
Dresden, Fräulein Müller? No?" as she answered by a gentle shake of the
head. "I am sorry, but pray remember that you may always command me as
you please. Adieu, Celia; be diligent and good, you little romp. Adieu,
Arno; I trust you will forget, as I do, that there have lately been
some differences of opinion between us; upon reflection I see that you
were right in the last conversation we had together, this letter has
convinced me."

He offered Arno his hand, but the latter refused to take it. "I have no
confidence in you," he said, in too low a tone to be heard by the
others. "I do not know your reason for this sudden departure, but I am
sure that it is not regard for the safety of your family."

"Are you then implacable?"

"I refuse to reply to deceit with deceit."

"What is the matter, boys? Do not quarrel when you are taking leave of
each other," the old Freiherr interposed; and Werner, with a shrug, let
fall the hand he had offered his brother, and, with another general
"adieu," left the room.

In his own apartment, he packed a few necessaries in his portmanteau,
devoting all the time he had to a careful disposition of his papers. It
was not until he was certain that not a scrap of writing was left
either in desk or writing-table that he locked his portmanteau and gave
it to old Franz, who came to announce that the carriage was waiting.

As he drove off, just in time to catch the night train, those whom he
left behind him at Hohenwald by no means experienced the usual relief
felt in his absence. They did not believe in the reason assigned by him
for his hasty departure, and it aroused in his father's mind suspicions
that he was more deeply implicated in rebellious plots than he had
hinted. No one of the little circle could throw off the gloom that
oppressed all, and the old Freiherr was rolled into his bedroom much
earlier than usual.

In the course of the next few days the political horizon again
darkened; all Germany keenly felt the insult offered to the King of
Prussia by the French Emperor, and was ready to resent it.

"Disgraceful!" Arno exclaimed, after reading the account of it aloud in
the newspapers, "This is enough to make every German forget all petty
jealousies and prejudices. We should be one nation in the struggle that
France thus forces upon us. I am quite sure, father, that you will
gladly see me leave you to take my part in the war that now seems
inevitable for the fatherland."

"Go, and God speed you, my son! Only cowards and traitors can hesitate
now!"

The Freiherr spoke with profound emotion, regarding with paternal pride
the while the son in whom he delighted. Celia threw her arms around her
brother's neck and kissed him tenderly. "You are my own darling Arno!"
she exclaimed; "the best and truest fellow in the world!"

And Lucie? She bestowed upon Arno a smile that fairly intoxicated him
and impelled him to offer her his hand, in which for one fleeting
instant she placed her own.

The small circle at Castle Hohenwald presented a picture in miniature
of the sentiments of the entire country at this time, and every day's
developments served but to increase the patriotic enthusiasm
everywhere. No sooner did the cry resound from Paris, "On to Berlin!"
than it was decided that as soon as war was formally declared Arno
should apply for re-admission to the army, and with a view to so doing
he set about arranging affairs on the estate so that his absence might
cause his invalid father as little annoyance as possible. Those cares
kept him from home almost every day,--it was only in the evenings that
he could make one in the family circle; but these evenings, when his
father's welcome was so affectionate, Celia's so enthusiastic, and
Lucie's so fall of gentleness and sympathy, more than indemnified him
for the hard labour of the day. Only one drawback marred the pleasure
they gave him, and this was the manner in which he was constantly
reminded by Lucie herself of his last _tête-à-tête_ with her. What
reason could she have for perpetually dragging in Kurt von Poseneck as
a subject for conversation, when she could not but perceive that it was
distasteful both to the old Freiherr and to himself? This the Freiherr
frankly declared many times, but considerate as Lucie usually was of
his wishes, on this point she paid no regard to them. With persistent
obstinacy she made use of every available opportunity to refer to Kurt,
to extol his admirable qualities, to describe his adventures in
America, in short, to depict him as a young man of distinguished
qualities both of mind and of heart.

Of course Arno never dreamed that Celia had supplied Fräulein Müller
with her accurate knowledge of Herr von Poseneck's life, and it seemed
to him excessively strange that she should be so well informed
concerning a man whom, according to her own declaration, she had seen
but twice. This contradiction struck the Freiherr also, and he
expressed his surprise at it, but Lucie only smiled and replied, "Oh, I
have a private source of information which I know just how far to
trust. I do not mean to describe Herr von Poseneck as an actual angel
in beard and moustache, but he certainly is a charming fellow, whom
you, Herr Baron, would especially like if you only knew him, as I
sincerely wish you did."

Celia grew crimson at this reply, but, fortunately, no one save Lucie
noticed this. The old Freiherr shook his head and declared that he felt
"no desire to know any Poseneck," but, nevertheless, it was plain to be
seen that Lucie by her persistency had aroused in him a species of
interest, and finally one evening, when she had been recounting some of
Kurt's war adventures in America, he remarked that that Poseneck must
be a brave fellow since he had attained the rank of major so soon.

Arno was not so easily cured of his prejudice against Kurt, Lucie's
constant reference to whom was utterly inexplicable, and at times
roused within him the bitterest jealousy. He was worried and anxious,
too, with regard to Werner, from whom nothing was heard after his
departure. Whether the Finanzrath were really in Dresden neither his
father nor his brother knew, and when Arno at times saw accounts in the
newspapers of the arrest of persons suspected of being agents of the
French government here and there in Germany, he could not but fear lest
a like fate might overtake Werner, and he knew that such a disgrace
would crush his father to the earth.



                              CHAPTER XVI.


On one of the last days in July an unusual crowd thronged the platform
of the railway station of A----, looking eagerly for the train, in
which, so crowded was it sure to be at this time with troops, it was
difficult for civilians to find places. On this particular occasion
there were only three passengers for A----, and these had been obliged
to content themselves with places in a baggage-wagon, every carriage
being crowded with troops in process of transportation. As soon as
these three stepped upon the platform they were besieged with questions
of all kinds from the throng of men waiting there,--questions which
seemed especially annoying to one of the three, an apparently choleric,
elderly gentleman, who elbowed his way right and left through the
crowd, now and then giving vent to his irritation in a good round oath,
as he declared, "I know nothing and care less!" and all the while
evidently on the lookout for some one whom at first he could not find.

At length his face cleared. "Hollo, Assessor!" he called; and then,
with another struggle to clear himself of importunate questioners,
"Deuce take you all!" he exclaimed, "I have something better to do than
to answer every fool's questions!"

The people about him grumbled, but perceiving that there was no
satisfaction to be gained from him, turned their attention to the other
two passengers, and the elderly man was left to pursue his way
successfully to where the Assessor von Hahn stood awaiting him. "Here I
am at last!" he said, holding out to him the hand unencumbered by his
travelling-bag. "I have been trying to get to you for the last three
days, but not even standing-room could I find in the railway-trains,
which are nothing but military transports. I had to pay an enormous
price to-day for a place in a baggage-wagon."

The two men were now quite clear of the crowd, and the Assessor shook
the new-comer cordially by the hand. "I am rejoiced to see you!" he
said. "You know how entirely I am at your service, Herr----"

"Fernheim!" the stranger interrupted him before he could pronounce the
name.

"Fernheim? Really, I do not know----"

"Call me Fernheim. It is as good a name as any other," the stranger
said, in a tone only to be heard by the Assessor. "I do not wish these
curious people to know who I am, or what I want. The news of my coming
might else reach Castle Hohenwald sooner than I desire that it should."

"You are right, Herr Fernheim. I never thought of it; but you are
right, you were perhaps in more danger than you thought. Do you know by
sight the Finanzrath von Hohenwald or Count Repuin?"

"No, I have no knowledge of the scoundrels!"

"Then you do not know that they were your fellow-passengers in the
train?"

"Not an idea of it. But thanks for the information. I shall know them
again when I see them. The bearded fellow is the Russian of course.
Pity that Sorr is not with them; the noble trio would then be
complete."

"He is not here."

"I know that; I am familiar enough with the rascal's face. I suppose
those two precious rogues are bound for the castle, so the sooner we
are on our way there the better. You have kept your promise, Herr
Assessor, to prepare everything for a visit to Hohenwald?"

"Of course; I have awaited you at every train since I received your
despatch. The carriage is here to take you instantly to Grünhagen,
Herr----"

"Fernheim. Do not forget the name. And no one in Hohenwald suspects my
arrival?"

"No one."

"A thousand thanks, Herr Assessor. We will leave instantly, since so
much depends upon our arriving before those two worthy gentlemen." And
preceded by the Assessor, he passed through the station-house, and
getting into the carriage waiting for them, they were well on their way
before the Finanzrath and Count Repuin had extricated themselves from
the crowd of eager inquirers on the platform.

The Finanzrath had good reasons for answering all questioners civilly,
here so near his home, where there was special need that he should
preserve a character for patriotism. During the last few days several
of his friends who had dared in Munich, Leipsic, and elsewhere to
express unpatriotic sentiments had been roughly handled by the enraged
populace. In fear, therefore, of a like fate, Werner judged it wisest
to answer all questions with the greatest amiability, re-echoing
bravely the curses of the French heard on all sides, and even his
companion, Count Repuin, thought it prudent to follow his example.

The Finanzrath informed his hearers that war had been declared the day
before; that Bismarck had announced this officially in the Reichstag,
and that the enthusiasm in Berlin was boundless,--any amount of funds
for the prosecution of the war would be voted unanimously. Werner bore
his part admirably in the wild shouts of exultation that followed this
intelligence, waving his hat with the foremost, hurrahing for Bismarck,
and even adding his fine bass voice to the yelling rather than singing
of "Die Wacht am Rhein," in which the enthusiasm of the mob culminated.

By degrees, however, the crowd dispersed, and the two men were left
alone on the platform. "Low-lived canaille!" the Russian exclaimed,
giving vent to his suppressed indignation. "I would have every
scoundrel of them well thrashed!"

"You do them too much honour, my dear Count, in allowing them to ruffle
you!" Werner calmly rejoined. "Let them roar their 'Wacht am Rhein' as
they please. I am annoyed only by Sorr's non-appearance. He cannot have
arrived, as he is not awaiting us here."

"True, I had forgotten the rascal in the midst of their shouts; but you
are right. Baron, he should have been here if he obeyed my commands and
left for A---- two days ago. What can have happened to him?"

"Nothing; we have seen the difficulty that exists now in getting from
one place to another. He will come by the next train,--but it is very
unfortunate for me to have to wait here at the station. I am so well
known in A---- that people will wonder why I do not go immediately to
Castle Hohenwald."

"Unfortunately, there is no help for it."

"Why should not you await him here while I go on to Hohenwald alone?"

"Impossible; you know that I cannot appear at Hohenwald, and that Sorr
must accompany you thither, since, if introduced there by you, his wife
cannot refuse to give him a hearing. Then when he swears that he has
broken off all connection with me, she cannot refuse to follow him, and
should she, your father would refuse protection to a wife so false to
her duty. Sorr will do as I say, swear what I dictate to him, and the
result is certain."

"But what, after all, Count, can the result avail you? You know Frau
von Sorr detests you. Will she not instantly return to Hohenwald when
she finds that she has been deceived?"

"That is my affair, my dear friend," Count Repuin replied, with an ugly
smile. "There are means to tame the wildest bird, and of those means I
shall avail myself."

What means, the Finanzrath asked himself, would the Russian use to bend
the young wife's will, to conquer her hatred of him? Brutal force spoke
in the Count's words and gleamed in his treacherous eyes. And to such
villainy he, Werner von Hohenwald, was lending himself!

A few days previously, in a burst of indignation at hearing that he had
been denounced to the government, the Finanzrath, believing that Lucie
had caused this, had revealed to the Russian the place of her retreat;
now he bitterly repented having done so, and blushed for the part he
was playing. He would gladly have warned her of the danger threatening
her, but the ties that bound him to the Russian were of such a nature
that he dared not provoke the man's resentment, and every precaution
must be taken lest his suspicion should be aroused. With as easy an air
as he could assume he said, "I suppose you will find means to attain
your object, but I would advise you to take care. The lovely Frau von
Sorr would, I imagine, hesitate at nothing if driven to extremes, and
might appeal to the law. If I go on now to the castle I can prepare my
father's mind for Sorr's visit, and insure his refusal to grant her his
protection in case she should rebel against her husband's authority."

As he spoke Repuin eyed him with a contemptuous smile. "Counsel for
counsel, my dear Baron," he replied, with a composure equal to
Werner's. "Take care that I do not suspect your good faith towards me.
In your delay in informing me of Frau von Sorr's whereabouts there has
been quite enough to put me on my guard. I mistrust you. I will not
have you going to Castle Hohenwald alone, nor will I permit you one
word with Frau von Sorr, except in her husband's presence."

"Your suspicion is insulting, Count Repuin."

"You can allay it by making no attempt to provoke it. I do not wish to
offend you; we are allies, and I desire that we may continue friends,
but I swear to you that any obstacle laid by you in the way of my plans
here, will transform me into your mortal foe. Candour for candour,
then; is it to be peace or war between us?"

What could Werner reply? He had no choice. Lucie must be sacrificed to
save himself. He adopted an aggrieved tone and answered, "I shall
remain here until Sorr arrives, and upon your head be the consequences
of your imprudence."

Several hours passed, and it was afternoon before Sorr arrived in a
crowded train, in which he was the only civilian. During the last
months he had greatly changed. There was in his appearance not a trace
of the elegance that had formerly characterized it. His dress was
neglected, his beard unshaven, his face bloated. He looked like a man
given over to drink and debauchery.

When he emerged from the railway-carriage he looked eagerly about for
the Count, whom he did not immediately perceive, but who greeted him
upon his approach with the air of a master addressing his slave.

Sorr, however, interrupted the imperious commands of the Russian with,
"One moment, Herr Count; I have most important news for both Baron von
Hohenwald and yourself, which will doubtless affect your plans. We are
betrayed! You as well as the Herr Finanzrath are not safe for a moment.
Your arrest is already ordered; your intention to visit Castle
Hohenwald is known, and it is there that you are to be arrested."

The Finanzrath turned pale and his voice trembled as he exclaimed, "I
am warned from all sides; this news must be true!"

"It may still only be over-anxiety on the part of our friends," said
Repuin. "Where did you get your information, Sorr?"

"From Herr von Waltershausen."

"Then we must indeed be upon our guard. By the infernal gods, this is
danger! What else did Waltershausen tell you?"

"He has received trustworthy intelligence that Castle Hohenwald is to
undergo a thorough search to-day. The Finanzrath von Hohenwald and
Count Repuin, if they are found there, are positively to be arrested,
the old Freiherr and his son Arno only in case circumstances require
it. The prisoners are to be taken to Königstein. That the matter is
considered of importance in Dresden and Berlin is shown by the fact
that the arrests are to be made under the command of Count von
Schlichting, colonel in the army, and formerly an intimate friend of
the old Freiherr von Hohenwald. The notorious Geheimrath Steuber is
associated with him in the search of the castle. When I went to the
railway depot this morning, Count Schlichting was standing on the
platform eagerly conversing with some officers. I was afraid that he
was to come down by the very train in which Waltershausen had procured
me a place, and he knows me. Waltershausen, who was with me, feared
this too. He is extremely well acquainted with the Count, and no one
suspects him of any connection with Count Repuin, so he did not
hesitate to address Schlichting, who spoke to him without reserve of
his plans.

"It appears that the colonel has been waiting since yesterday evening
for the Berlin Chief of Police, the Geheimrath Steuber, and was
determined that if he did not arrive by this afternoon he would take
the train for A---- without him, and would make a requisition here for
the military force needed to carry out his orders. Herr von
Waltershausen enjoined it upon me to beg you both, gentlemen, not to
delay an instant in escaping the threatened arrest. He is convinced,
from matters being placed in charge of an officer so high in rank, that
a court-martial will immediately ensue, and he is further convinced
that there would be no hope for you under such circumstances at this
juncture. Life and death are at stake, he bade me tell you!"

"He is right," the Finanzrath said, eagerly. "Let me conjure you.
Count, to desist from your insane schemes, which may ruin us all. We
can still save ourselves by flight into Hanover, where we can be
concealed until we find means of getting to England. It would be
madness to persist in going to Hohenwald."

Sorr's news had made Repuin anxious, but Werner's words enraged him.
"No power in the world," he exclaimed, "shall force me to turn back
when I have so nearly reached the goal of my desires! Yes, I will fly
with you, but only if Frau von Sorr accompany us. And if by word or
even by look you attempt to thwart me, look to yourself, Herr
Finanzrath. I will not spare you if you refuse to fulfil your promise
to me. I will not rest until you have reaped the harvest of your
treachery if you fail me now."

"But how can our putting our heads into the trap at Castle Hohenwald
aid you, Count?" Werner cried, in deep agitation.

"I do not ignore the danger," Repuin replied; "but I am determined to
meet it, and have no doubt that we shall succeed in escaping it if you
will stand by me. We still have several hours in which to act. Follow
the plan that I will mark out for you, and to-night will see us in
safety. As quickly as possible have at our disposal two vehicles and a
trusty messenger on a good horse, and the rest is very simple. While
you drive in one of these vehicles to the castle with Sorr, I will wait
here at the station. I know Count Schlichting by sight, although he
does not know me; it therefore cannot excite his attention for me to
leave the platform as soon as he arrives and despatch the messenger to
you at Hohenwald, while I get into the other carriage and drive to
R----, where I will await you. Before Count Schlichting has obtained
the military aid he requires I shall be miles from here and in perfect
safety. You, in the mean time, will have time enough at the castle to
explain matters to your father and to employ every means to induce Frau
von Sorr to follow her husband, for not until you receive by my
messenger the empty envelope, which is all I shall send, addressed to
you, will there be any occasion for haste on your part, and even then
it will be several hours before Schlichting with his dragoons can reach
Hohenwald. Of course you will not return here with Sorr and the lady,
but drive directly from the castle to Baron Kronburg's at R----, whence
we will pursue our journey together. This is my plan; you must admit
that it is simple and deals with certainties only, not probabilities.
Are you agreed?"

Werner found some difficulty in replying. "It would be much more
prudent," he said, "to fly at once; but if Herr von Sorr consents----"

"Herr von Sorr must consent. His opinion is not asked; all I wish is to
know yours."

Sorr seemed not to hear the insulting words. "I shall do just as you
please," he said, with the air of a slave before his master.

Repuin hailed Werner's compliance with a triumphant smile. "You never
shall regret your amiable readiness to further my plan," he said; "but
now to action! We must be prompt!"

Matters were soon arranged according to the Russian's directions.
Werner, with his companion, drove off towards Castle Hohenwald, leaving
a trusty messenger, who had formerly been an inspector on the Hohenwald
estate, and a second carriage at the disposal of the Russian, who took
his stand upon the railway platform to await the next train from L----.

He supposed that several hours would elapse before its arrival; but
here he was mistaken,--it made its appearance much earlier than he had
expected, and as it rolled slowly into the station Repuin recognized in
one of the carriages Count Schlichting in earnest conversation with
Count Styrum. This startled the Russian, and he feared instant
recognition; but Styrum was so absorbed in what Schlichting was saying
that he did not look up until Repuin had left the platform. Before the
guards had opened the doors of the railway-carriages the Russian had
despatched his messenger to warn Werner at the castle, and was himself
seated in the carriage he had retained for his own use, driving rapidly
towards R----. An evil smile hovered about his lips as he reflected
that he should shortly see the lovely Fran von Sorr again. He never
doubted his power to bend her will to his, and, leaning back among the
carriage-cushions, he resigned himself to pleasing dreams of the
future.



                               CHAPTER XVII.


Lucie had withdrawn after dinner to the library, to pore over the
newspapers, now so filled with exciting intelligence. She was alone,
for Celia was in the garden usually at this hour, and since her harsh
rejection of Arno he never sought the library when Fräulein Müller was
there. She sat for a while lost in thought. Arno had applied the day
before for re-admission into the army; he was to leave for Dresden on
the following day, and her heart told her that this would be a
separation forever. She was so absorbed in her revery that she did not
notice old Franz's entrance, and looked up startled when he held
towards her a note and announced, with a grim air of discontent, "For
Fräulein Müller."

"For me, Franz?" she asked, in great surprise. "Who could have brought
it?"

"The Fräulein may well be surprised at the fellow's impudence. A
servant-man from Grünhagen brought it, and refuses to return without an
answer!" was the reply. After which Franz left the room with the air of
having made his protest, although vainly, against some crying sin.

Lucie paid him but little heed; she opened her note and read:


"Dear Fräulein Müller,--I am to leave Grünhagen to-night for I cannot
say how long, perhaps forever. I am going to Berlin to obtain
permission to enter the Prussian army as a volunteer. Must I go without
seeing my dearest Celia once more? May I not bid her good-bye and tell
her how dear she is to me? I promised you not to see Celia again until
you consented to our meeting, and I will keep my promise if you refuse
to release me from it upon this one occasion; but I pray you to allow
us to see each other once more, perhaps for the last time in this
world.

"I do not ask to see my darling alone. Pray come with her to the old
place of meeting in the forest, where I will await you. Let me hope
that you will grant my request. I need not tell you with what
impatience I look for your answer, a simple 'yes' or 'no,' by the
bearer of this.

                 "With the greatest regard, yours,

                                     "Kurt von Poseneck."


Lucie was profoundly touched by Kurt's note. Celia too, then, was to
suffer the pain of seeing her lover depart for the war. Poor, and yet
happy Celia! She might hope that if he whom she loved returned alive
the old Freiherr would relent, and her love be crowned with happiness;
while if Arno returned, if he should ever seek her again, what then?
For her hope did not exist.

She took up a pen and wrote hurriedly:


"I will be at the appointed spot at the usual time; whether Celia will
accompany me or not depends upon the decision of the Freiherr von
Hohenwald.                                Anna Müller."


She sealed her note, addressed it to Herr von Poseneck, and hurried
down to the court-yard to deliver it herself to the Grünhagen
messenger, upon whom she enjoined the utmost despatch. She did not
observe that as she spoke with the man Franz was watching her from the
hall, while Arno, who was crossing the court-yard, paused in
astonishment as he heard her words. Was she really so intimate with
young Poseneck that she corresponded with him? Perhaps the letter after
all might not have been for Kurt von Poseneck; but all doubts on this
head were set at rest by Franz, who, exercising his prerogative as a
privileged servant, said grumblingly, as his young master passed him in
the hall, "Fine doings in Hohenwald, when the Fräulein receives letters
from Herr von Poseneck, and even condescends to answer them!" This was
enough to arouse once more within Arno's heart the demon of jealousy,
which Lucie's words to him should have killed forever.

Meanwhile, entirely unconscious of the suffering she had caused, Lucie
walked slowly towards the garden-room, to carry into effect the plan
she had hastily formed. The Freiherr greeted her with a smile of
welcome. "Why, here we have Fräulein Anna!" he said, in great
satisfaction. "Have you come to bestow your charming society upon an
old fellow at this unwonted hour? But what is that?" he added, pointing
to Kurt's letter, which she held in her hand. "I owe the pleasure of
your visit to business, I see, not to my own attractions. Never mind, I
am always delighted to see you, whatever brings you."

"Indeed, Herr Baron? May I rely upon that?" Lucie asked, meaningly, as
she drew a chair to his side and sat down. "Are you sure that you will
not drive me away indignantly if I come to prefer a request that does
not please you?"

"A request? 'Tis granted before 'tis asked; I know of nothing that I
could refuse you."

"I might take you at your word, Herr Baron, but that I will not do. You
shall not be bound by a promise to grant my request, you must do it of
your own free choice."

"Why, this sounds quite solemn. I am curious; out with your request,
whatever it is. What do you ask?"

"Nothing for myself, Herr Baron. My request concerns Herr von
Poseneck."

The Freiherr was not made in the least angry, as would formerly have
been the case, by this mention of the name of Poseneck; on the
contrary, he laughed, saying, as if in badinage, "Always Poseneck!
Really, child, I believe you are in love with this infernal Poseneck,
who must be a tremendously fine fellow to excite such an interest in
you."

"That he certainly is, Herr Baron, although I just as certainly am not
in love with him. He is a noble-hearted fellow, who now, after having
served with honour in America, is going off to Berlin to enter the army
there as a volunteer. His life in America never lessened his honest
love for his German fatherland."

"He is a fine fellow then, and I honour him. I never would have
believed it of a Poseneck," the Freiherr said, with a kindly nod at
Lucie.

"You may believe anything that is good and true of him," Lucie
continued; "his self-devotion costs him more than it does most men. He
not only has to conquer his ambition as a former major in thus entering
the army as a common soldier, but he sacrifices his whole future
happiness. He passionately loves a young girl, whose father is a bitter
enemy to Prussia, and who never will give his daughter to a man who
fights for Prussia in this war."

"Who is the scoundrel?" the Freiherr exclaimed, indignantly.

"You do an excellent old man great injustice, Herr Baron," Lucie
replied, with a smile. "He is a man of honour, but the victim of a
prejudice which so possesses him that he cannot conquer it sufficiently
to call a Prussian his son-in-law."

"Then he does not love his child!" the Freiherr eagerly asserted, and
then suddenly paused and eyed Lucie suspiciously. "Stop! stop, child!"
he said. "I begin to suspect that you have been playing your own little
game with me. Honestly, what has all this to do with your request?"

"Will you really not be angry with me, Herr Baron, if I speak perfectly
frankly to you?" Lucie asked, laying her little hand on the old man's
brown, wrinkled fist, and bestowing upon him one of her charming
smiles.

"Little flatterer, how can any one be angry with you? Oh, you have the
old bear fast in your toils, and now come, tell me all about it."

"You shall hear, Herr Baron. First read this note which I received not
an hour ago from Herr von Poseneck; it will tell you all, and when you
have finished I will tell you how it came to be written."

The Baron read Kurt's note, while Lucie noted with keen anxiety every
change in his features as he read. She saw his face darken, and then a
smile dawned about his mouth; he was not very angry. She could have
shouted for joy at her victory.

"A most interesting production!" the Freiherr said, he handed the note
back to her. "Really, this Herr von Poseneck----"

"Wait until you hear all, Herr Baron, and then judge," Lucie
interrupted him.

And she went on to tell the old Freiherr how Celia had accidentally
made the young man's acquaintance; how, in her childlike innocence and
trust, she had grown to love him, and how, at last, chance had betrayed
her secret. She told how Kurt had given his promise never to see Celia
without her governess's consent, and how faithfully he had kept his
word. "And now for my request, Herr Baron," she said, in conclusion. "I
know it will be hard for you to grant it, but I hope everything from
your magnanimity. Let me take Celia with me; she knows nothing of this
note, and if you refuse me she shall know nothing; but you will not be
so cruel. There must be a farewell,--a last farewell. May not Celia go
with me?"

"You are a white witch, and know how to wind the old ogre round your
finger," the Freiherr said, shaking his finger at Lucie. "In fact, I
ought to be excessively angry with you, but as this is impossible I may
as well take my pill without a wry face. The will-o'-the-wisp had
certainly better see the young man under your auspices than run off,
perhaps through the night and storm, to take leave of him; the child
might do it if she should hear that Poseneck was going away. But one
very serious word I must speak. Your Poseneck certainly is an honest,
honourable young fellow, his note and his whole conduct show that.
Celia in her unsuspicious innocence might have fallen into bad hands.
You cannot expect me to be quite content, but time will bring counsel.
Only there must be no more of it all for the present; no talk of a
betrothal as yet, no tender exchange of letters and such stuff. Celia
is as yet little more than a child. If the young man ever comes back
from the war he may come and see me here and we will talk it over
together. But before then I'll not listen to another word about it. Do
you agree, you white witch?"

"Your will shall be my law in the matter, Herr Baron, and I thank you
from my very heart for conquering for your child's sake your dislike of
a Poseneck."

"You may spare your thanks, child, or rather keep them for yourself,
who honestly deserve them for taking care that my dislike should
gradually subside. Have you not hammered away at my heart with your
Poseneck every evening, for weeks, until at last the tough old muscle
has grown quite tender?"


The Freiherr had caused his rolling-chair to be pushed near the open
glass doors of the garden-room, that he might inhale the fragrance
which now towards evening was borne in upon the delicious breeze from
the garden, already lying in shadow from the lofty forest. The papers
lay upon the table beside him. His thoughts were busy with the
occurrences of the day. "Where can Werner be?" he suddenly asked
himself. Several letters that had arrived at the castle for the
Finanzrath and had been forwarded to his address in Dresden had been
to-day returned, with the notice on the envelopes that he had left
Dresden. Hence the question that the father asked himself. He nearly
started from his chair when old Franz flung wide the folding-doors
leading into the hall and announced, "The Herr Finanzrath!"

His visit was not welcome, and when Werner entered, not alone, but
daring to introduce a stranger without permission, the old man's
patience was too sorely tried. The look with which he regarded his son
was by no means amiable, but that with which he greeted his companion
was darker still. He was very unfavourably impressed by this man from
the first instant of his appearance. In spite of his long seclusion
from society the Freiherr had always retained the greatest neatness,
and withal an old-fashioned elegance, in his dress. Nothing was more
distasteful to him than a want of cleanliness or an air of neglect, and
both of these characterized the former fastidious Herr von Sorr, whom
Werner now presented to his father. And Sorr's countenance did not
belie his dress. The pale flabby cheeks, the watery eyes, the whole
expression indeed of the man, bore witness to his degraded, debauched
character and made him odious to the old Baron. For such a guest no
consideration was necessary.

"What in thunder do you mean?" he said angrily to Werner. "How dare you
bring a stranger here? Don't you know that I receive no visitors?
Whoever you are, sir, learn that I permit no invasion of my seclusion!
There is the door!"

Sorr, trained though he had been by Repuin to submit to all sorts of
contemptuous treatment, was nevertheless abashed by this reception, and
might perhaps scarcely have ventured to persist in his intrusion had
not Werner come to his aid.

"Before you express yourself so angrily, sir," he said to his father,
"you should hear the reasons that exist for my transgression of your
commands and my introduction to you of Herr von Sorr. I appeal to your
sense of justice, sir, in informing you that Herr von Sorr has no
desire to intrude upon you, but has come hither because I have assured
him that no Freiherr von Hohenwald ever refused what another had a
right to claim, and that his just demand must be made directly to
yourself."

"What have I to do with this man?" the Freiherr asked, crossly.

"This you can only learn, sir, by granting a hearing to Herr von Sorr,
not by repulsing him in a manner that cannot but be offensive to a
gentleman who comes hither at the request of your eldest son."

Again, as often before, the Finanzrath's imperturbable composure
asserted its sway over his father's passion. The old man gave his son a
dark look, but yielded, and turning to Sorr, said, with forced
calmness, "Approach, sir; I regret it if my hastiness offended
you,--such was not my intention. I can make no exception to the rule
which I have observed for years of denying myself to visitors, and
therefore I beg you to tell me as briefly as possible what you desire."

Sorr complied with the invitation in spite of the ungracious manner in
which it was conveyed, and took a chair near the old man, but when he
met his dark, searching eye the words which he had committed to memory
that they might serve him in this need would not at first be uttered.
He cleared his throat in a vain endeavour to begin with some fitting
introductory phrase.

"Well, sir?"

The Baron's impatient tone admitted of no further delay, and Sorr
began, overcoming his first stammering hesitation as he proceeded.
"Herr Baron," he said, "you see in me a wretched man, who appeals to
you for aid in recovering his lost happiness. In the terrible
misfortunes that have overwhelmed me I have not been guiltless, but I
assure you on my honour that I repent the wrong I have done, and that I
am determined to begin a new life if through your aid I succeed in
attempting it."

"What is it that you want of me? What business have you to ask me for
your lost happiness?" the Freiherr interrupted Sorr's studied speech.

"Forgive me, Herr Baron, if, carried away by my emotion, I fail to use
the right words in which to convey my request. Bear with me for a
little while and you shall learn all. I will be as brief as possible, A
few years ago I was a happy man, my fortune was considerable, I enjoyed
the esteem of my friends, an exalted position in society, and I
possessed a charming wife, to whom I was ardently attached. I lacked
but one thing,--the strength to withstand temptation. One passion ruled
my life,--the love of gaming. Although I was usually fortunate, my
success in winning large sums destroyed in me all appreciation of the
value of money. I indulged in the wildest extravagances, and my income
was always exceeded by my expenses. Thus my property dwindled almost
without my knowledge. My wife, who loved me tenderly, warned me,
entreated me, but even her prayers, all-powerful in every other
direction, availed nothing to induce me to resist the fatal temptation
offered me by cards. It dragged me down into an abyss that engulfed my
fortune and that of my wife also. I found myself at last a beggar, my
fortune, friends, position in society, and, worse than all, the
affection of a wife whom I idolized, all gone. Meanwhile, one of my
friends had, with inconceivable cunning and treachery, abused my
confidence. The evenings that I spent at the gaming-table he passed
with my wife, representing himself as having been sent by me to beguile
her solitude. He was enormously wealthy, and no sacrifice being too
great in his eyes where the attainment of his vile ends was concerned,
he at times forced upon me large sums for the payment of my debts, and
I--with shame I confess it--was weak enough, when my wife complained to
me of the persistent attentions of this treacherous friend, to entreat
her not to offend him by any harsh rejection of them. I had utter
confidence in my wife, and never suspected to what depths of infamy my
false friend would descend."

"What the devil have I to do with all this?" the Freiherr burst out,
more and more disgusted with Sorr, who had hoped his theatrical pathos
was producing a very different impression. "For Heaven's sake, come to
the point!"

"I am about to do so. My treacherous friend, Count Repuin----"

"Stay! What name was that? Count Repuin, the Russian, Werner's friend
and confidant,--was he the man?"

"The same, Herr Baron. I lost the greater part of my fortune to him; he
systematically contrived my ruin, believing that when I found myself a
beggar, my wife, with destitution staring her in the face, would lend
an ear to his vile proposals. When I had lost all, so that I knew not
where to turn for the barest necessaries of existence, he carried to my
wife the false report that I was dishonoured, that I had been detected
in cheating at cards, and that it was in his power to send me to a
jail. It was a bold falsehood, but it found credence with my wife,
whose esteem for me my passion for play had destroyed; and when he
further informed her that, in consideration of a large sum of money, I
had resigned to him all claim upon her duty, in short, that I had sold
her to him, in her despair the wretched woman believed this lie also."

"Infamous! incredible!" the Freiherr indignantly exclaimed,
involuntarily interested at last in Sorr's recital.

"But the scoundrel failed in his schemes, although he has plunged me
into misery. Devilish though his cunning was, he failed to take into
account one thing,--in which, indeed, he had no faith,--that a woman
might be impregnably virtuous. He did not know my Lucie. What was his
wealth to her in comparison with her honour? She spurned his offers
with contempt, and yet she believed him, and driven by despair almost
to madness, she secretly left my house. When on the morning after
the fearful night in which I had sacrificed my last hope at the
gaming-table I sought my wife's apartment to pray for her forgiveness
and to make her the promise for which she had so often implored me,
that never again would I touch a card, I found upon her table this
terrible letter. Read it, Herr Baron; it will explain to you better
than any words of mine the depth of my misery." And Sorr handed to the
Freiherr the letter that Lucie had left behind her on the evening of
her flight. The old Baron read:

"You have given back to me my freedom; I accept it. It is your desire
that we should part; it shall be fulfilled: you will never see me
again. Should you dare to persecute me, you will force me to denounce
you publicly, and to give to the world the reasons that justify my
conduct. The detected thief, who would barter his wife's honour, has
forfeited the right to control her destiny.--LUCIE."

An odious smile hovered upon Sorr's lips as he watched the Freiherr
while he read this letter aloud, and as he marked the impression that
it produced upon him. He exchanged a significant glance with Werner,
and then, when the reading was finished, continued: "I was beside
myself with grief and fury when I found that my adored Lucie had left
me. She had fled, that was clear, although I could understand neither
her threat nor her strange intimations that I had desired to part from
her, that I had sold her. She had vanished; no trace of her could I
find, although I even summoned the police to my aid. Surely, as a
forsaken husband, I had a right to do so. All was in vain. Again and
again I read her mysterious letter, and at last, upon a sudden impulse,
I hastened to Repuin, showed him Lucie's note, and demanded and
received its explanation. The wretch had the effrontery to tell me with
a smile, of the manner in which he had destroyed the happiness of my
life. We fought. I arose from the sick-bed, where a wound received in
the duel prostrated me for weeks, an altered man. I have taken a vow
never again to touch a card. I have since that day earned my daily
bread by honest toil, correcting proofs for publishers, and giving
lessons in French and English. I have now an assured although moderate
income. In this period of struggle one hope alone has sustained me,
that of finding my Lucie again. She is my wife by the indissoluble bond
of marriage, a marriage blest by the Church. I know that she will
gladly return to me and share my toil and my poverty when she knows of
my change of heart and life. And chance has befriended me, Herr Baron,
leading me to a knowledge of your son, the Herr Finanzrath, from whom I
have learned that, in order to secure herself from fancied persecution,
my wife has taken refuge in a feigned name, and that she dwells beneath
your roof as Anna Müller."

The Freiherr stared at Sorr in blank amazement. "Good God, sir! what do
you mean? Are you mad?" he exclaimed. "Fräulein Müller a wife, and your
wife!"

"Ask your son, Herr Baron," Sorr replied; "he will confirm my words."

"Herr von Sorr speaks but the truth, father; it is my duty to attest
this. Frau von Sorr has seen fit to undertake to fill the position of
Celia's governess under a feigned name. I had, of course, no idea of
this when I engaged her through Frau von Adelung. I learned her true
name only lately and by chance, and I felt it my duty to acquaint Herr
von Sorr with her place of abode."

When the first shock of his surprise had passed, the old Freiherr
looked from Werner to Sorr and from Sorr to Werner in a kind of fury.
He had no suspicion as to the truth of Sorr's story; he remembered
that, by Count Styrum's desire, no allusion was ever made to Fräulein
Müller's past; there could be no doubt that Anna was Sorr's unfortunate
wife, forced by a sad fate to fly from her husband. What the Freiherr
did doubt, what, indeed, utterly discredited, was the man's assertion
of an altered course of life. One glance at his bloated features, at
his watery, crimson-lidded eyes, proclaimed the fact that Sorr was
deeply plunged in debauchery and drunkenness. This man had never
aroused himself to a life of honest toil. It was no affection for his
wife that impelled him to seek her out.

The Freiherr's mind was filled with vague suspicion as to the man's
motives, suspicion that attached in a degree also to Werner, to whose
last words he sharply rejoined, saying,--

"So you have been playing the spy here that you might betray the poor
thing's confidence?"

"As Frau von Sorr never honoured me with her confidence I could not
possibly betray it," Werner replied coolly to his father's reproach.
"When I saw how great was her husband's misery, and how sincere his
resolution to amend, I judged it my duty to acquaint him with his
wife's retreat."

"I owe the Finanzrath an eternal debt of gratitude for bringing me
hither," Sorr interposed, "and for promising to set the crown upon his
kindness by doing all that lies in his power to induce my beloved Lucie
to fulfil the duty that she owes to an unfortunate husband."

The Finanzrath bit his lip. Sorr's words reminded him, as they were
meant to do, of the promise he had made the Russian to do all that lay
in his power to further his schemes. The part assigned him here was
odious enough, but the fear inspired by the Russian's threats conquered
his distaste for it. He had gone too far to retrace his steps, and he
therefore replied to Sorr, "I will certainly keep my word, although I
think there will be little need of any influence of mine. Frau von
Sorr, I feel assured, will willingly follow you; but should she refuse
to do so, my father will surely not sustain her in such a departure
from her duty. Castle Hohenwald cannot possibly be an asylum for a wife
who has deserted her husband in misfortune and refuses to return to
him."

As Werner spoke these words he did not look up; he did not dare to meet
his father's eyes, and therefore he did not see the contempt that shone
in them as the Freiherr turned from his son to Sorr and said, sharply,
"What you ask of me, then, Herr von Sorr, is that I shall force this
unhappy woman to return to you. Is this so? Speak out, sir; I want a
candid reply."

"Your words sound harsh, Herr Baron," was Sorr's humble reply. "I never
thought of force, but only that you would place no obstacle in the way
of an unfortunate man who only seeks to maintain his rights. I have
made an expensive journey hither from Munich in the confident hope that
it needed only an interview with my dear Lucie to induce her to take
her place once more beside me as my faithful wife whom I dearly love
and will never forsake. Surely the last sad months have atoned for my
wrong-doing. I have a right to demand that she should follow me when I
solemnly assure her that I have broken off all connection with Repuin.
She is my wife before God and man, and what God hath joined let not man
put asunder. You certainly, Herr Baron, would never protect a wife
against the claims of a husband."

The Freiherr did not immediately reply. This Herr von Sorr inspired him
with a disgust which his evident and nauseous hypocrisy only served to
increase, and yet he could not but admit to himself that the man's
claim, as he represented it, was a just one.

He rang the silver hand-bell upon his table and said to Franz, who
immediately made his appearance, "Beg Fräulein Müller kindly to come to
me as soon as she can."

Then, turning to Sorr, he said, "I will not listen to another word from
you until I hear the other side of the question. I reserve my decision
until then. Not until I have spoken to Fräulein Anna,--I always call
her so, and I have grown very fond of her under this name,--and until
she has confirmed your statement, will I accord it full belief."

"I am convinced, Herr Baron----"

"Not another word, Herr von Sorr! I will keep my judgment unbiassed.
You shall be confronted with the accused after I have first spoken with
her alone."

"I have accused no one but myself, Herr Baron."

"I attach no importance to that; it shall be as I say. I will hear what
Fräulein Anna has to say; I will talk with her alone,--she shall not be
influenced by the presence of any one. I am sure that she will tell me
the whole truth."

This arrangement was not at all satisfactory to Sorr. He feared that
Lucie might tell the Freiherr of his conversation with her on the
evening preceding her flight, and so destroy his web of specious
falsehood. He would at least make an attempt to prevent this. "I
entreat you, Herr Baron, to permit me to repeat in Lucie's presence
what I have told you. It wounds me that you should doubt my words.
Lucie's testimony shall prove to you that I----"

The Freiherr harshly interrupted him, "I will not hear another word. It
shall be as I say! Werner, take Herr von Sorr out upon the terrace; you
can walk up and down there until I call you; I wish to be alone."

"But, Herr Baron----"

"What the devil, sir,--will you do as I say or not? I am still master
in my own castle, I believe, and I will not be contradicted; I wish to
be alone. Your place for the present is out there on the terrace. If
you refuse to obey my orders, the servants will show you the shortest
way out of the castle."

When the old Baron fell into a downright rage there was nothing to be
done with him, as Werner knew, and as Sorr perceived; he did not dare
further to gainsay his will, and, with a low bow, he followed the
Finanzrath out upon the terrace.

The Freiherr sat alone, awaiting with the greatest impatience Anna's
appearance; but the minutes passed and she did not come, nor did old
Franz return to explain the reason why. The Freiherr rang his bell
again, and Werner and Sorr, who had been awaiting this summons,
instantly entered from the terrace.

The Freiherr received them with a good round oath. "I was ringing for
that old ass Franz!" he roared out to Werner. "Stay outside on the
terrace with your Herr von Sorr until I call you by name!"

The two men were obliged to withdraw. The Freiherr rang his bell a
second and a third time without any result, until at the end of a good
half-hour Franz appeared, with the intelligence that Fräulein Müller
was nowhere to be found. She was not in her room; Fräulein Celia said
that the Fräulein had gone for a walk in the garden or park; but he had
searched for her there in vain, and the gardener had helped him, and
was sure she could not be either in the park or in the garden.



                               CHAPTER XVIII.


"Oh, my darling, darling Anna, how can I thank you?" Celia laughed and
cried and kissed her friend amid tears and smiles, dancing about her
room like some wild sprite.

"Come, Celia; pray be reasonable, child!" Lucie at last admonished her.

"Anything but that, dearest Anna, you must not ask that; I am half mad
with delight. My dear, good old father! How unjust I have been to him!
How could I keep anything from him? It was shameful! oh, if I only had
told him all about it the very first day when I met Kurt!"

Lucie said nothing; but she had her own opinion as to whether the
result would have been a very happy one for Celia if she had told her
father of her first meeting with Kurt. The girl went on pouring her
innocent delight into Lucie's ears, and repeating that she owed it all
to her darling Anna.

The castle clock struck four.

"At last!" Celia exclaimed, and begged Lucie to make the greatest
haste, lest Kurt should have to wait. Her friend complied; it would
have been cruel to detain the girl longer than was necessary to hasten
along the broad road, down which Celia had so often galloped upon Pluto
to the appointed spot.

They soon espied the light straw hat, and an instant afterward Kurt
hurried towards them.

"I have fulfilled your wish, Herr von Poseneck," Lucie said, offering
her hand to the young man.

"How can I thank you sufficiently for so doing! for relinquishing your
purpose of referring my request to the Freiherr von Hohenwald----"

"No, no, dearest Kurt!" exclaimed Celia. "She did not relinquish it.
Yes, you may well be surprised, you unprincipled fellow, who would have
persuaded me to meet you again without the knowledge of my darling,
kind old father. But, oh, Kurt, we are so happy, and Anna has done it
all!" And the girl, amid tears and laughter, told her amazed lover of
the success of Anna's exertions in his favour.

In his joy that there was no longer an insurmountable barrier between
himself and his love, Kurt gladly promised to obey every condition
imposed upon him by the Freiherr, declaring that never would he write
so much as one word to his darling except under cover to her father.

When Lucie had explained to him all that she had promised in this way
on his behalf she took no further part in the conversation, wandering
along the grassy path a little in advance of the lovers, anxious that
Celia should enjoy to the full every moment of this short hour of
bliss, and lost in sad reflections as to her own future.

"I beg ten thousand pardons!"

Kurt and Celia, who had forgotten all the actual world, and Lucie, in
the midst of her sad dreaming, looked up startled. They had just
reached the spot where the footpath from Grünhagen crossed the broad
road, and confronting them stood the Assessor von Hahn. He took off his
hat with an exceedingly low bow to Celia in particular.

"I beg ten thousand pardons, Fräulein von Hohenwald, for intruding
again, but I am discreet; I make no boast----"

"There you are quite right, Herr Assessor, for surely there is not much
discretion in appearing where you have once been told that your
presence is an intrusion."

The Assessor grew crimson at Kurt's words; he retreated a few steps and
said, in great confusion, "You wrong me deeply, Herr von Poseneck; you
will, I am sure, retract your hasty words when I tell you that my
presence here has nothing to do with you or with my respected cousin,
but with Madame--that is--I mean, I wish the honour of a few words with
Fräulein Müller. I learned in Grünhagen, where I arrived half an hour
ago, that Herr von Poseneck had gone to the forest, and I suspected
that the two ladies would take their afternoon walk in the same
direction. Therefore, as it was highly important that I should speak
with Madame--that is, Fräulein Müller, I ventured to come hither."

Lucie bestowed upon the Assessor a glance of anything but welcome, but
she could not refuse to respond to his look of appeal. "You have
attained your purpose, Herr Assessor," she said. "You probably bring me
a message from my friend Adèle. The Assessor is an old acquaintance of
mine," she added to Kurt and Celia, who looked rather surprised, "and
is a constant visitor at the President von Guntram's."

The Assessor's courage returned upon hearing Lucie acknowledge his
acquaintance, and he went on with much more confidence than before:
"Certainly, Madame--that is, Fräulein Müller, I bring you a message
from Fräulein Adèle, and not merely a message. I am not alone; there is
a gentleman in the shrubbery who wishes to speak with you. I brought
him at Fräulein Adèle's express desire."

Lucie recoiled in terror. Had the gossiping Assessor betrayed her
secret? Had he brought hither either Repuin or Sorr? They were the only
persons who could have any interest in discovering her retreat. She
gazed towards the spot indicated by the Assessor, and, in dread of
encountering Repuin's detested form, moved closer to Kurt as if for
protection. "Whom have you brought here?" she asked.

"I cannot mention any name, Fräulein Müller," the Assessor replied. "I
promised not to do so, and I am a man of my word. But I can assure you
that you will rejoice to see my honoured companion. He wishes to meet
you alone, therefore I pray you step aside to where he is awaiting you
in the forest only a few steps from here."

"I will not go!" Lucie declared. "Whoever your companion may be, he has
no right to require that I should go into the forest to meet him."

"You do not know of whom you speak, Fräulein Müller," the Assessor
said, with unusual earnestness. "I entreat you not to refuse. I assure
you you will rejoice to see my companion, who longs to clasp you to his
heart."

Lucie shot at the little man a glance of flame. She turned in
indignation at such insolence to Kurt, saying, "I have nothing further
to say to this gentleman. May I beg you, Herr von Poseneck, to continue
our walk?"

"But, Madame--Fräulein Müller, I would say--you place me in the most
embarrassing position; there can be no reason why you should not see my
honoured companion. I give you my word of honour that he comes by
Fräulein Adèle's express desire; he is the only man in the world whom I
would have conducted hither. I was so glad to meet you here in the
forest, and not to be obliged to go to the castle to find you, and now
you refuse to go a few steps to meet him when he has come so many miles
to see you. Do you mistrust me? I do not deserve it of you!"

There was so much of honesty and good will stamped upon the Assessor's
face, he was evidently so aggrieved by Lucie's distrust of him, that
his words produced some effect upon her. She hesitated, and wondered
whether she were right in her refusal; but before she could reply an
elderly gentleman, the same whom the Assessor had received at the
railway station, emerged from the forest and hastened towards her.

She gazed at him for a moment, and then, with a shriek of joy, threw
herself into his arms, and, clasping her own about his neck, kissed him
again and again. "I have you again! Thank God! thank God!" she cried.
"This is too much joy! Now I will hold you fast. You must not leave
your child again."

The gentleman was much moved, and the tears stood in his eyes as he
returned Lucie's kisses. "My child! my dear, good child!" he whispered,
tenderly. "You are mine once more, and I shall know how to protect you
from your dastardly persecutors."

"We are not alone, we must remember that," Lucie said, at length,
extricating herself from her father's embrace.

The old man turned, with his daughter's hand still in his, and extended
his right hand to Kurt. "Forgive me, Herr von Poseneck," he said, "for
presenting myself so unceremoniously to Fräulein Cecilia von Hohenwald
and yourself. I had hoped that my daughter would comply with our friend
the Assessor's request and come to me in the forest; but her natural
reluctance to do so is the cause why you are the witnesses of a meeting
between a father and daughter who have been separated for years."

For a few moments the poor Assessor found himself upon a pinnacle of
glory. The modesty with which nature had endowed him was in danger of
great deterioration, so enthusiastic were Lucie's thanks to him for his
kind interest, so gratifying was the appreciation of his services by
his fair cousin and Herr von Poseneck. But alas, poor man! he soon
experienced the uncertainty of such a position, and felt himself no
better than the fifth wheel to a coach with the two couples, who
evidently desired to be left to themselves. Kurt and Celia paid him not
the least attention, and Lucie was so wrapped up in her newly-found
father that she soon seemed entirely to have forgotten Hahn's
existence. He was therefore fain to amuse himself by botanizing among
the forest flowers.

Lucie clung to her father's arm as if fearful of losing him again
should she leave him for an instant. They walked on in advance of the
lovers, and as soon as they were out of hearing the daughter gave words
to her delight. "I am so happy, my darling father; I can scarcely
believe the evidence of my senses that I am looking into your dear eyes
and feeling your strong arm support me. Oh, father, how could you stay
so long away from your child? All would have been different if you had
been here!"

"I could not have prevented Sorr from ruining himself and you," Ahlborn
gloomily replied. "Do not reproach me, my child. I did what I was
forced to do, and the result has crowned my work. When I left you
without even taking leave of you, I determined never to return unless
in possession of all, and more than all, I had lost. Even then I
suspected how bitterly we had been deceived in Sorr, and my only object
in life was to work for you, my darling, that your future might be
secure. With this one thought in my mind I went to America and plunged
into a life of toil, in which, when I might have faltered and fallen,
the thought of you sustained me. I added dollar to dollar with the
parsimony of a miser. I embarked, like a madman, in the boldest
speculations. All that I touched seemed to turn to profit. But why
dwell upon those wild years? I hate to think of them, for, although I
never stooped to what the world calls dishonesty, it galls me now to
remember how different was the system of mad speculation by which I
regained my lost fortune from the plodding industry by which I first
obtained it.

"Three months ago I arrived in Bremen, and hurried to Berlin, where my
worst fears with regard to Sorr were confirmed. His reputation was
gone, his property lost; and I was told that he had removed with you to
M----. When I reached M---- it was too late, you had vanished
unaccountably, and Sorr, too, was not to be found."

"Did not Adèle tell you where I was?" Lucie asked.

"I never thought of going to her, so wide-spread was the report that in
your despair you had destroyed yourself. I left M---- a broken-hearted
man; of what use was my wealth? My aim in life was gone.

"I tried to divert my mind by travelling aimlessly hither and thither;
and at Frankfort-on-the-Main, seeing by the papers that a fine estate
on the banks of the Rhine was for sale, I purchased it, in hopes of
finding relief from my misery in the care of it. But the peaceful
solitude to which I had looked to soothe my pain only increased it, and
again I began my wanderings, which suddenly found their close in
Berlin. Last Friday I was sauntering aimlessly along the street there
when I met the Assessor von Hahn. Remembering that in former days he
was in the habit of frequenting our house, where he was one of your
adorers, I did not rebuff him when he recognized me and with a cordial
welcome on his lips walked along by my side. I soon wearied of him,
however, and paid no attention to the gossip he continued to retail to
me, until I was aroused from my absence of mind by the question, 'Have
you been to see your daughter yet?' If he were conscious that your
friends mourned you as dead, why ask so cruel a question? I begged him
instantly to tell me all that he knew of you, and this threw the little
man into the greatest confusion; my joy was unbounded when he assured
me positively that you were still alive, although he refused to reveal
to me your retreat, and referred me to your friend Adèle. An hour later
I was in the train bound for M----, and the next morning I had an early
interview with your friend, who was in raptures at recognizing me. But,
ah, my child, what a tale she told me! My poor darling, to what a fate
did I resign you! Now, however, I know all,--all, for Adèle even gave
me your last letter to her to read, entreating me to go instantly to
your aid, to carry you to my home on the Rhine, far away from Castle
Hohenwald, where, as you said, each moment was torture to you."

"Did Adèle say that?" Lucie asked, in surprise. "Did she not show you
my second letter, which she must have received almost simultaneously
with the first?"

"I know nothing of any second letter; but your friend regretted deeply
that she had not yet been able to procure you the situation for which
you implored her, and added that she was upon the point of writing to
you, to insist that you should return to your old retreat beneath her
father's roof. We consulted together what was best to be done. We
agreed that you must leave the castle immediately, but in view of the
eccentricity of its lord, I judged it best to accept the friendly
offices, so frankly offered, of Herr von Hahn to procure an interview
with you, rather than to present myself in person to the Freiherr.

"I telegraphed to the Assessor at A---- to meet me at the station
there, and as soon as I was able to procure a place in the crowded
trains came hither. He was waiting for me on the platform, and before
we left the station he pointed out to me two gentlemen who had arrived
by the same train as Count Repuin and the Finanzrath von Hohenwald."

"Good heavens!" Lucie exclaimed. "Werner and the Count! This is,
indeed, wretched news. I feared it, I feared it, although I could not
conceive that the Finanzrath could be so basely treacherous. But let
Count Repuin come,--I am no longer defenceless; I will confront him
boldly in the presence of the old Freiherr." Then as she reflected that
her kind old friend was absolutely ignorant of her past, now probably
to be so misrepresented to him, she went on, in feverish agitation:
"But, oh! my father, there is a danger which you cannot avert. What if
my kind friend should be led to doubt me by the falsehoods that will
doubtless be poured into his ears? I will not lose his esteem and
affection; we must see him before the Finanzrath and the Count reach
the castle. Perhaps it is already too late. Protect me from them,
father, if they should be there, and stand beside me while I tell the
Freiherr my wretched story."

But to this her father was not inclined to agree. Had it not been for
the presence of Repuin he would gladly have allowed his child to
acquaint the Freiherr with all her past, but he could not doubt the
Russian's close association with Sorr, and from her husband even
Lucie's father could not protect her. Should Sorr require her to follow
him, nothing remained for her save to elude him by a secret flight from
the castle without even bidding the old Freiherr farewell. Only when
beneath her father's roof could she thank Baron von Hohenwald for all
his kindness and explain to him the grounds for her sudden and secret
flight.

When, however, Herr Ahlborn explained his wishes on this head to his
daughter, he encountered a determined opposition on her part; she was
so unwilling to leave without one word of explanation what had been to
her a dear asylum, that at last, trusting in Sorr's absence, the father
yielded to Lucie's entreaties and consented to accompany her to the
castle.



                               CHAPTER XIX.


The time passed with incredible swiftness for all save for poor Herr
von Hahn. Celia had so much to say to her lover that when Lucie
reminded her that it was time to return she begged for "one more
quarter of an hour, dearest Anna!" and was only pacified by the
permission given to Kurt to accompany her to-day on the walk back to
the castle.

Thus all turned their faces towards home. Celia wished the road were
miles long. She went first with Kurt, and Lucie and her father with
the Assessor followed them. The lovers paused at the gate of the
court-yard; Kurt could go no farther. As Celia was looking back for
Anna, her attention was diverted by the noise of a vehicle, and through
an opposite entrance came a carriage that drew up before the steps
leading into the castle hall. Two gentlemen descended from it,--one was
Werner, the other an entire stranger to Celia "Anna," the girl said to
her friend, who was still too far off to look into the interior of the
court-yard, "Werner has come, and he is not alone,--there is a stranger
with him."

The intelligence did not startle Lucie; she had feared that the
Finanzrath and Repuin would reach the castle before her, but in another
instant she stood by Celia's side, and recognized in the stranger not
Repuin, but her miserable husband.

"Sorr is there himself; you will not now return to the castle?" her
father, who instantly recognized his son-in-law, asked.

Lucie did not reply; she was too much dismayed to appreciate at first
the result which a meeting with her husband in Castle Hohenwald might
bring about.

"I yielded to your wish," said Herr Ahlborn, "when I supposed that
Count Repuin would be the Finanzrath's companion; but since Sorr
himself is here, doubtless with the intention of asserting a husband's
rights, you must not lose a moment, but must follow me instantly."

"Only let me say one word of farewell, father."

"No, you must not expose yourself to such peril."

"What will the Freiherr think of me if I fly thus without a word? Herr
von Sorr will not venture to malign me if I confront him in the Baron's
presence."

"But he will demand his rights, and, in spite of his baseness, he has
the law upon his side. You owe it to me, your father, as well as to
yourself, to come with me. Fräulein Cecilia will carry your farewell to
her father, and you can soon write to him and explain everything."

All that Celia, standing by in utter amazement at the words exchanged
between father and daughter, could understand was, that the stranger
with Werner, whom they called Sorr, threatened Anna with great danger,
from which her father was entreating her to fly, and that her friend
was unwilling to leave the castle without a word of farewell. Celia had
often pondered the mystery of her friend's past, and was firmly
convinced that whatever it might be Anna never could have been to
blame.

"What are you saying?" the girl exclaimed, in great agitation. "Are you
talking of leaving Castle Hohenwald without one word of farewell to
dear papa and Arno? Oh, no, Anna! Indeed, you must not think of doing
so. Whatever may be the evil intent of Werner and his companion, papa
and Arno will know how to protect you."

"Fräulein Cecilia, do you really love my daughter?" Ahlborn asked,
earnestly.

"Do I love her?" the girl rejoined. "She is my dearest friend. I owe to
her all the happiness of my life." And her glance sought Kurt.

"Then, if you really love her, you will not try to persuade her to
enter the castle, when I assure you solemnly that she will by so doing
imperil the happiness of her life. Trust me, I implore you. You shall
soon hear from us and learn all that want of time now forces us to
conceal. Everything depends upon her leaving here with me without a
moment's delay. Would you yet persuade her to remain?"

"No! no! you shall not stay, my darling Anna!" the girl exclaimed, more
impressed by the old man's tone and manner than by his words. "If your
happiness is at stake never think of us. I do not know how I shall live
without you now that Kurt and Arno are both going to leave us, but not
for worlds would I keep you. Go with your father, and I will tell papa
how sorry you are not to say good-bye to him, and that you will soon
write and explain everything."

Lucie was deeply agitated. Her heart rebelled at the thought of leaving
the castle thus, but her reason told her that it was her only chance of
safety, and she yielded to Celia's unselfish entreaty. At Herr
Ahlborn's request the girl promised not to acquaint her father with
Fräulein Müller's secret departure until late in the evening, and to
state in answer to any inquiries concerning her that she had complained
of headache and had gone to take a solitary walk.

The friends then took leave of each other with many tears, and Lucie,
with her father and the Assessor, struck into the foot-path leading
through the forest and village of Hohenwald to Grünhagen. Kurt lingered
for one moment for a last embrace of his darling, and then, joining
Lucie, walked silently by her side.

Lost in thoughts of Hohenwald and of what Arno would say when he heard
of her flight, Lucie walked on swiftly. Suddenly she paused with a
thrill of delighted surprise, for he of whom she was thinking stood
before her.

Arno was on his way from the village of Hohenwald, and owing to the
windings of the path was close beside the two gentlemen, who were in
front of Kurt and Lucie, before he saw them. His surprise was great on
beholding the Assessor, with whom he had formerly been slightly
acquainted, and who now bowed profoundly, while his elderly companion
accorded him a reluctant greeting by slightly raising his hat. Arno was
about to accost them when he perceived, to his still greater
astonishment, at some little distance, Fräulein Müller accompanied by
Herr von Poseneck.

There had been another meeting in the forest, then. It had doubtless
been arranged in the letter that had aroused his jealousy. His soul was
filled with bitterness. How great had been his folly in trusting Anna's
words rather than his own eyes! How she must have smiled at his futile
irritation when she persisted in reiterating Poseneck's praises! What
did she mean now? She suddenly stood still as she perceived him, and on
her lovely face there dawned a brilliant smile as she held out to him
both her hands. "What an unexpected pleasure!" she exclaimed.

He did not take her proffered hands, and would have passed on with a
bow, but this she prevented. She took his hand. "We must not part thus,
Herr Baron," she said, with so kindly a look that in a moment his
bitter mood was changed; he carried her hand tenderly to his lips, and
she did not withdraw it.

"You are displeased with me, Herr Baron," Lucie continued; "but you do
me great injustice. Now that I see you I can in some measure explain
the grief that my hasty departure from the castle causes me. I told my
father--but you do not know my dearest father yet. This, father dear,
is the Baron Arno von Hohenwald."

Herr Ahlborn was by no means pleased at this meeting in the forest; it
must lead to explanations which he would fain have avoided. He uttered
a few phrases of conventional courtesy, and regretted that the
necessity for reaching A---- that very evening would prevent any
prolongation of the interview. "I shall not fail," he added, "to
communicate shortly by letter the reasons which make my daughter's
sudden departure from Castle Hohenwald an imperative necessity."

All that Arno gathered from this was the fact--and it filled him with
dismay--that Anna was to leave Hohenwald. "What!" he cried, "are you
going, going to desert my father and Celia at the hour of their sorest
need? No, Fräulein Müller, I cannot believe this. Tell me you will
remain. My infirm old father and Celia cannot do without you, and
I--but no, I will not speak of myself, of the wretchedness that the
thought of not finding you here upon my return from the war would cause
me. I will plead only for my father and Celia. Stay with us! do not
forsake us!"

"It must not be. I cannot!" Lucie replied, in much agitation.

"Every moment is precious!" Ahlborn exclaimed, impatiently. "Farewell,
Herr Baron! Lucie, take my arm."

"No, father; you must grant me a few minutes of private conversation
with Baron von Hohenwald. I owe him some explanation of my conduct."

"Lucie, take care!"

"It must be, father; I cannot help it. I will follow you in a few
minutes."

"You are your own mistress," Ahlborn rejoined, grumblingly. "You must
do as you please, only I implore you to remember the danger that lies
in delay."

He touched his hat to Arno, and then taking the Assessor's arm and
accompanied by Kurt, he pursued the path until one of its windings
screened Lucie and the Baron from their sight, when they paused and
waited.

Lucie left alone with Arno, resolved not to leave him until she had
justified herself in his eyes, and yet she was irresolute how to begin.
Her cheeks glowed with shame at the idea of imparting to him the sad
mystery of her life, and yet the precious minutes were flying;
something must be said immediately.

"And you are really going to leave us?"

This simple question from Arno broke the silence and relieved Lucie's
hesitation. "I must, Herr Baron," she replied. "I had hoped to find a
home in Castle Hohenwald, but a sad fate has snatched it from me."

"Am I the cause of your flight?" Arno eagerly asked. "Do you so dread
the few hours that are all I can yet pass in the castle? I leave it
to-morrow. Do you hate me so bitterly?"

"I do not hate you," Lucie gently replied. And in her candid eyes, in
the pressure of the little hand that still rested in his, Arno saw that
she spoke the truth. "You are not the cause of my leaving Hohenwald.
Your brother, who is now at the castle, will tell you the reasons for
my flight."

"Werner? You have confided, then, in him?"

"No; an unfortunate chance betrayed to him my sad secret, and he has
made sad use of it. Even without his interference I should have
followed my father, who is restored to me after years of hopeless
separation, but I should not have been forced to steal away thus, like
a criminal, without one word of farewell to your father, who has
treated me with such paternal kindness."

"You speak in riddles. I do not comprehend you."

"I will solve them for you," Lucie sadly replied. "You will comprehend
all when I tell you that the man whom your brother has just introduced
at Castle Hohenwald is the cause of my misfortunes, is my miserable
husband, Herr von Sorr!"

Arno fairly staggered beneath the blow; he dropped Lucie's hand and
gazed at her in horror. "You are--you--you are----"

He could not finish the sentence; hope seemed slain within him; his
future was a blank.

"Do not be angry with me," Lucie said, taking his hand again. "I
implore you not to be angry with me. I am so wretchedly unhappy. I
could not part from you without telling you the whole truth. I have
longed to do this so often, and I have bitterly repented ever coming to
Hohenwald under a feigned name."

"Lucie, we are waiting!" Ahlborn called from the distance.

"Must I leave you without one word of forgiveness from you?" Lucie
continued. She still held Arno's hand in hers and gazed at him with
eyes of sad entreaty. Hitherto she had suppressed all expression of her
sentiments towards him. Never in the intercourse of daily life at
Hohenwald had she for an instant relaxed in the stern watch and ward
that she kept over every gesture, every look that might encourage any
hope in his mind. But this was a supreme moment; they were parting
forever, and her heart clamoured for its rights.

Arno was profoundly agitated. Heart and mind were filled with tumult.
Anna the wife of a wretch from whom she was forced to flee! He suddenly
comprehended why she had denied him all hope; and now, as he looked
into her imploring eyes and felt the soft pressure of her hand, the
thought thrilled him with sudden ecstasy that she returned his love,
that her lips and not her heart had rejected his affection, that she
had but fulfilled a duty. He drew her closer to him, and for an
instant, with a burning blush, she yielded to his embrace.

"Lucie! Lucie!" came Ahlborn's warning voice, in more impatient tones
than before.

"You love me!" Arno whispered, all else forgotten in the overwhelming
bliss of the moment.

Lucie extricated herself from his embrace. "We must part!" she said,
sadly. "Fate divides us forever, but in this last sad moment let me
implore you never to lose confidence in me, whatever you may hear upon
your return to the castle!"

"Lucie! it is time we were gone!"

"I must go. We must part," she said. Once more Arno clasped her to his
heart and kissed her passionately. She did not resist, but in an
instant turned and hurried to her father. As she reached the winding in
the pathway she turned, waved her hand, and then vanished in the
forest.

Arno gazed after her like one in a dream, conscious only that just at
the moment when the blissful certainty was his that she returned his
love, she was lost to him forever. She was the wife of another, and
Werner, his brother, had brought to Castle Hohenwald that other, her
unworthy husband, from whom she had been forced to flee under a feigned
name. In an instant he comprehended that it was his part to hasten to
his father and espouse Lucie's cause. As he entered the castle garden
he observed two persons walking to and fro on the terrace: one was his
brother, the other then was Sorr.

The garden-walk wound among shrubbery, whence Arno could watch the man
for a while without being perceived, and disgust stirred within him at
the thought that a man so evidently steeped in low dissipation should
be Anna's husband. He felt that he hated both him and Werner, who had
brought him hither. Resolved to defend his love against them both, he
soon reached the terrace.

Werner awaited his brother's approach, and intercepted his direct
entrance to the garden-room. A malicious smile played about his lips as
he laid his hand upon Arno's shoulder. "Are you in too great a hurry,
Arno, to spare me a word of greeting when we have not seen each other
for several days? I will only detain you for one moment, however, to
present to you in Herr von Sorr a guest whom you will doubtless be glad
to welcome when I tell you that he is so fortunate as to be the husband
of the beautiful Frau von Sorr whom we have learned to know by another
name. For reasons of which you shall be informed hereafter, Frau von
Sorr thought fit to select our house for her abode under a feigned
name. We know her as Fräulein Anna Müller."

Werner had arranged his sentence so that its conclusion should be a
sudden revelation to his brother. He had exulted in the prospect of
Arno's amazement and horror at the intelligence that Anna Müller was
Sorr's wife, but to his astonishment his brother did not betray the
slightest surprise, bestowing only a slight glance at the "guest," who,
hat in hand, but in evident confusion, stammered various conventional
phrases suitable, as he thought, to the occasion.

Werner could not understand Arno's unlooked-for composure, and when his
brother coldly rejoined, "Frau von Sorr has already informed me of your
bringing this gentleman to Hohenwald," he hastily exclaimed, "You have
spoken with Frau von Sorr?"

"Not long ago."

"And she told you that I was at the castle with her husband?"

"Yes."

"She must have seen us then as we drove hither."

"Very probably."

"Why, then, does she not come to my father? She is evidently avoiding
us. Where did you see her? My father has been waiting impatiently for
her for more than half an hour."

"Indeed? Then it will gratify him to learn tidings of her."

And with these words Arno passed on into the garden-room; but in the
doorway he observed that Werner and Sorr were following him; he paused
therefore, and, barring the way, said, gravely, "The tidings that I
bring of Fräulein Anna Müller are for my father's ear alone."

"Herr von Sorr certainly has a right to know where his wife is and what
you have to say to my father with regard to her."

"The devil he has!" the Freiherr angrily exclaimed. "I told you before,
Werner, that you are to remain out upon the terrace with your Herr von
Sorr until I call you. No man in the world, and this Herr von Sorr
least of all, has a right to hear what my son wishes to tell me alone.
Understand that, Herr Finanzrath. Now go! I wish to be alone with
Arno!"

Werner suppressed the angry retort that rose to his lips, and,
withdrawing once more, paced the terrace impatiently with Sorr. He knew
that when his father was as angry as at present there was nothing for
it but to obey.

"What have you to tell me of Fräulein Anna? I will still call her by
the name I love. I can hardly believe that she is the wife of that
low-looking scoundrel," the Freiherr said, when Arno had taken his
accustomed seat beside his chair.

His son as briefly and as simply as possible told of his interview with
her in the forest,--how she had presented her father to him and told
him that she was forced to flee from her unworthy husband. He also
delivered Anna's farewell to the Freiherr, and her entreaty that no one
would judge her harshly, but wait until a letter from her should
explain all.

The old Baron interrupted his son frequently with exclamations of
surprise and with questions, and when he had concluded, declared "It is
a most extraordinary story, and I can make nothing of it; but I am glad
you said nothing about her to those fellows outside, for Werner is
evidently hand in glove with this precious Herr von Sorr. What they
want I cannot imagine; perhaps you may guess when you hear that
fellow's story." The Freiherr then related as briefly as he could the
tale told him by Sorr, adding, finally, "I must do the man the justice
to say that he acknowledged that he alone was to blame in his quarrel
with his wife; he never accused her, and I might have put some faith in
his protestations if it had not been for the scoundrelly hang-dog look
of him. I don't believe one word of his repentance and change of life.
There is a screw loose somewhere in his story about Count Repuin. If he
had fought a duel with the Russian is it likely that Werner would bring
his friend's mortal foe here? I had hoped to hear the truth from
Fräulein Anna, but now that she has gone, what's to be done I don't
know."

"Celia may tell us something."

"True, she may; that's an idea!" the Freiherr exclaimed. "She went with
Anna into the forest. Go, Arno, and bring the child here."

Arno found Celia in her own room, and with difficulty persuaded her to
accompany him to her father's presence; where, until Arno finally told
her of his late interview with her dear Anna, she refused to give any
information with regard to Fräulein Müller's disappearance. Then,
however, she told the little that she knew; no more, indeed, than what
Arno had already learned, that Anna was forced against her will to
leave the castle instantly to escape a great peril, and that she would
shortly write and explain all.

"We are no wiser than we were before," the Freiherr declared, when
Celia had finished speaking. "We know that she has fled, but we do not
know why or whither; there is some comfort in the thought that she is
with her father, and the question now is, what is to be done with those
two fellows outside. I must give them some answer." As he spoke, the
Freiherr glanced towards Werner and Sorr, and observed to his surprise
that they were no longer alone. A man, hat in hand, was handing Werner
a letter. "Is that not Hesse, our old Inspector?" the Freiherr inquired
of Arno. "Look, Arno, how agitated Werner seems; he must have received
some important intelligence; yes, here he comes again, without waiting
for a summons."

Werner, followed by Sorr, now hurriedly entered. "I can wait no longer,
father," he said, approaching the Freiherr. "I must beg you to decide
instantly. Important information which I have just received forces me
to leave here immediately with Herr von Sorr. I trust Frau von Sorr
will accompany us. Surely you will not deny a husband his rights,--will
not compel him to have recourse to the law."

The Freiherr did not reply.

"I entreat you, sir, to delay no longer,--every moment is precious,"
Werner went on. "Any long stay here is fraught with peril for me."

"I will not delay you; go when you please."

"Shall I have come in vain? Will not Frau von Sorr accompany her
husband?"

"I have no right to detain her."

"But you allow her to reside in the castle, while duty calls her to
follow her husband. You sustain her in her disobedience to duty by
permitting her to remain beneath your roof."

"What a shameful accusation!" Arno cried, indignantly, but his father
interrupted him.

"Hush, Arno!" he said, authoritatively. "I will have no disputing
between you brothers. My decision is made; I will not interfere between
Herr von Sorr and his wife!"

"You will not shelter her, sir?" Werner asked.

"No!"

"Thank you. I expected no less of you."

A contemptuous smile played about the Freiherr's lips as he rejoined,
"I am greatly flattered. Thus the whole matter is ended. You can find
Frau von Sorr, and tell her from me that I can no longer permit her to
stay in Castle Hohenwald. The rest is your affair, or rather that of
Herr von Sorr, whom I must now beg to leave me. I am far from well, and
will hear nothing further; therefore adieu to both of you. Find Frau
von Sorr, compel her to go with her husband, or do what you please,
only leave me in peace. Success to you, Herr von Sorr; adieu, Werner!"

The old man leaned back in his chair, and by an imperious wave of the
hand dismissed his son.

Werner left the apartment, followed by Sorr, whose fulsome gratitude
the Freiherr cut short by another impatient wave of the hand. As soon
as they had left the room, Werner, still accompanied by Sorr, hurried
first to the library where he hoped to find Lucie, and then up-stairs,
where the maid informed them that Fräulein Müller had not been seen
since four o'clock, when she had gone for a walk with Fräulein Celia;
old Franz had searched both garden and park for her in vain.

Werner burst into a rage at this information of the maid's. "Arno saw
her!" he exclaimed, when he was once more alone with Sorr in the castle
court-yard. "He knows where she is, and must tell us where to find
her." He then returned to the garden-room alone, leaving Sorr to await
him in the court-yard. The reception he met with was of the coldest;
his father swore he would not hear a word from him, Arno refused to
answer any questions, and Celia continued her performance of one of her
father's favourite sonatas without deigning even to look at him. He
dared not linger longer in the castle,--there was nothing for it but to
return to the court-yard, where the vehicle in which he had arrived
stood ready for departure.

"We must go, Herr von Sorr," said Werner; "time flies. My father,
brother, and sister are evidently in league with your wife; they know
where she is, but utterly refuse to tell,--it would take hours to find
her, and every moment is priceless."

"We cannot leave without my wife; I do not dare to confront Repuin
without her."

"Then stay here; I am going," Werner resolutely declared. "I will not
imperil my freedom by a fruitless search, and besides we may chance to
meet her on our way. Will you come?" He opened the carriage-door and
sprang in. Sorr hesitated a moment, and then followed him; the coachman
whipped up his horses, and they galloped off at a rattling pace.


Not more than a quarter of an hour had elapsed when there appeared, on
the road to the castle along which they had so lately passed, a mounted
gendarme, preceding, by another quarter of an hour, an open barouche,
in which sat three gentlemen, two officers and a civilian. Colonel von
Schlichting, with his adjutant, Lieutenant von Styrum, and the famous,
or, as some would have it, the notorious police official, the
Geheimrath Steuber, from Berlin; a second civilian, his assistant, sat
on the box beside the coachman.

The gendarme, when in sight of the castle, awaited the barouche, behind
which came a detachment of mounted dragoons, and reported that he had
seen nothing suspicious, no carriage either going towards or coming
from the castle.

"The birds are probably not yet flown," the Geheimrath said, rubbing
his hands and chuckling. "The castle can be approached only in this
direction. I was afraid upon learning at the station that immediately
after our arrival a carriage and a horseman had left it at full speed
that they might have got wind of our coming, but now I rather think we
shall find the entire band of conspirators, including Count Repuin,
together."

The Geheimrath was evidently elated at the prospect of a good haul.
There was a smile upon his ugly face, which, to Count Styrum, made it
look uglier still, and his view was shared by Count Schlichting. Both
officers were fulfilling a disagreeable duty; they had received their
orders from the highest authority, and were instructed if the arrest of
the Freiherr von Hohenwald were really unavoidable, to proceed with the
greatest caution and delicacy. Count Schlichting and Count Styrum, the
latter of whom was but just re-admitted to military service, had
personally been informed by their august commander how painful it was
to him to issue orders for a search of Castle Hohenwald, which might
result in the arrest of the Freiherr and his son Arno in addition to
that of the Finanzrath and Count Repuin, which had already been
ordered. Stern necessity alone had overcome considerations which would
else have prevailed even with the highest authorities, and both search
and arrests were confided to the charge of the famous Geheimrath, who
was at the head of all investigations of the treasonable combinations
still existing after war had been declared. Thus the police official
was, in fact, the leader of this expedition to Hohenwald, although for
form's sake he appeared as the colonel's assistant, and this galled the
old soldier, for the Geheimrath's past was more than questionable; he
owed his lofty position entirely to his cunning. Schlichting would
gladly have replied harshly to the exultation of the man who, with his
old, wrinkled face and large, prominent eyes glaring through round
spectacle-glasses, looked like nothing so much as a malicious and
evil-minded kobold, but considerations of duty kept him silent. Styrum,
however, felt bound by no such considerations, and when the Geheimrath
went so far as to stigmatize all the inmates of the castle as
conspirators he indignantly repeated the obnoxious word, and added, in
a deeply offended tone, "You would do well, Herr Geheimrath, to be
better informed before you apply such an epithet to the old Freiherr
von Hohenwald or to my comrade and friend, the Freiherr Arno. As to the
latter, I can vouch for his patriotism and devotion to his country; he
is incapable of treason, and there is nothing but unfounded rumour, so
far as I can learn, that can cause you to regard the old Freiherr as a
conspirator."

The colonel nodded approvingly to the younger officer, while the
Geheimrath looked at him with a smile half of pity and half of contempt
as he replied, "It is the privilege of youth to trust and to hope; you
must not wonder, however, that with my experience I am readier to
believe in guilt than in innocence. This, however, shall not prevent me
from searching with equal vigilance for proof of the innocence as well
as of the guilt of those under suspicion. If your friend is, as you
believe, innocent, his fate is in good hands; I am terrible only for
the guilty."

"And you believe that Baron Arno may be guilty?"

"I believe nothing, Herr Count. I only know that there are
incontestable proofs that the Finanzrath von Hohenwald has treasonable
relations with Count Repuin and other French agents; that he has
employed leave of absence granted him from official duty to make
various expeditions from Castle Hohenwald to the large South German
cities, always returning thither again, and that in his letters he has
expressed the hope of winning over his father and brother to what he
calls the 'good cause.' I know further that he has lately developed a
feverish activity, and that this very morning he arrived at Station
A---- in company with Count Repuin, the most dangerous of all the
French agents, doubtless intending to visit Castle Hohenwald in order
to mature with their associates those arrangements that cannot be
confided to paper. Therefore you must not be offended, Herr Count, if
an old police official makes use of the word 'conspirator' in
designating these associates. If your friend Baron Arno is no
conspirator so much the better, but at present his case has an ugly
look, and I must warn you both, gentlemen, not to allow your belief in
his innocence to betray you into any action detrimental to the success
of our expedition hither."

"We know our duty, and need no reminder that it is to be fulfilled,"
the colonel haughtily replied.

"I am convinced of it, and beg to assure you that no 'reminder' was
intended," Steuber rejoined, after which, leaning back in the carriage,
he made no further attempts at conversation.

Arrived in the castle court-yard, the Geheimrath sprang out of the
barouche with youthful agility, and after a few whispered words to his
assistant, requested the colonel, who followed him somewhat less
briskly, to place guards at every point of egress from the castle into
the garden, and then to present him to the Freiherr von Hohenwald. "The
sooner the search is begun," he added, "the more secure we are of
results."

With the best grace he could muster the colonel ordered Styrum to place
guards as required.

Meanwhile, old Franz, hearing the clatter of the horses upon the stones
of the court-yard, made his appearance, staring in dismay at the
strangers who dared, against his master's commands, thus to invade
Castle Hohenwald.

"We wish to speak with the Herr Freiherr von Hohenwald. Conduct us to
your master!"

Franz gazed open-mouthed at the man who uttered these words in an
imperious tone. What, show a stranger into his master's room
unannounced, and no permission asked! It was inconceivable.

"The Herr Baron cannot see any one."

"He will see us!"

"No; the Herr Baron has expressly ordered that no strangers are to be
announced."

"You are not to announce us, but to conduct us to him!" And as he
spoke, the man with the spectacles had so threatening an air that old
Franz felt constrained to obey. "This way, then!" he said, sullenly,
leading the way to the garden-room, followed by the colonel and the
Geheimrath.


Fatigued and agitated, after Werner's departure the old Freiherr lay
wearily back in his rolling-chair, his thoughts busy with Anna, who had
so often sung him the very song that Celia was now beginning to play on
the piano. Arno sat beside him silent and sad, listening to his
sister's charming rendering of the well-known melody.

"It is past; and all is so different from what I had hoped," the
Freiherr said, after a long pause, taking his son's hand and pressing
it. "She has left us, and all my hopes are crushed."

"What were your hopes, father?"

"It is useless to speak of them." Another pause ensued; the old Baron
sadly gazing at his son, who was again lost in thought. Then he spoke
once more, "Tell me frankly, Arno, am I wrong in thinking that our Anna
had grown very dear to you?"

At this unexpected question Arno hastily started from his seat, and
paced the apartment to and fro, then paused and confronted his father.
"Why ask such a question?" he said, reproachfully. "What is to you,
father, or to any one, whether I loved or hated her? Our Anna, do you
call her? Have you forgotten that she is the wife of that wretch whom
Werner has chosen for his friend? She is Frau von Sorr! Do you know,
father, that at times I think the thought will drive me mad!"

"I thought so!" the old Baron rejoined, taking his son's hand as he
stood before him. "It has been so great a pleasure to me to watch you
during these last few weeks. My Arno will be happy after all, I
thought. I dreamed of her as the lovely mistress of Hohenwald, and
now--now it is all over."

Arno did not reply. Again he paced the room restlessly to and fro,
never heeding the unusual bustle that had arisen in the court-yard.

The Freiherr too was only aroused from his brooding reverie by the
sound of footsteps in the hall and the sudden flinging wide of the
doors to admit Count Schlichting, followed by the Geheimrath Steuber,
while almost at the same moment steps resounded upon the terrace, and
two dragoons with drawn sabres stationed themselves at the glass door
leading to the garden. At this sight the old Baron's sadness was
converted into violent anger. "Thunder and lightning, Franz! How dare
you introduce visitors unannounced!" he exclaimed, furiously, to the
old servant, who stood in the doorway quite uncertain which to fear
more, his master or the terrible man in spectacles.

"Don't scold your servant, old friend," said Count Schlichting,
approaching the Freiherr's rolling-chair and taking his reluctant hand.
"He conducted myself and this gentleman hither only upon compulsion.
And we do not intrude voluntarily upon your seclusion, but in obedience
to an august command, which, I am sure, will be respected by the
Freiherr von Hohenwald."

The Freiherr gazed at the colonel with flashing eyes. He had not seen
him for more than fifteen years, and had not at first recognized him.
Now he remembered his old friend well, but his anger was not diminished
thereby, and he had to put the greatest restraint upon himself to
suppress another outbreak. He looked from the colonel to the
Geheimrath, and then out upon the terrace at the two dragoons stationed
there, and the case suddenly became clear to him. He was not surprised
that suspicion should attach to him in consequence of Werner's
intrigues. True, he had never contemplated being arrested, but his
anger died away when he reflected that the colonel was merely
fulfilling his duty as a soldier, and he had no fear of consequences,
for he was conscious of his innocence.

Quickly regaining his composure, he returned the pressure of the
colonel's hand and said, "Those two blue fellows out there explain the
'august command' which brings my old friend here. It is not your fault
that you must fulfil your duty, which, however, may perhaps allow you
to inform me why the Freiherr von Hohenwald is arrested in his own
castle."

"Not quite that yet, old friend,--no fear of that," the colonel
replied, kindly. "My orders certainly are to arrest the Finanzrath,
your eldest son, and Count Repuin, your guest, and to assist this
gentleman, the Geheimrath Steuber, from Berlin, in the execution of his
orders, which are to search the castle for treasonable matter. Until
this is over I must indeed beg you not to leave this room."

"A request with which I shall have no difficulty in complying, since I
am, as you see, confined to my rolling-chair," the Freiherr replied,
with a smile.

"I see it with regret; but this gentleman also,--Baron Arno von
Hohenwald, if I do not mistake,"--Arno bowed in silence,--"and the
young lady,"--the colonel greeted Celia with chivalrous courtesy,--"I
must entreat to remain here until my disagreeable duty is finished. The
first and hardest part of it, unfortunately, concerns your eldest son
and Count Repuin, for whom I am forced to make search."

"It will be fruitless," the Freiherr quietly replied. "My son Werner
was in the castle, but he left it more than half an hour ago. Count
Repuin I do not know. He has never been my guest."

"That is not true!" the Geheimrath exclaimed. "The Count certainly
accompanied the Finanzrath to Hohenwald,--both must be concealed in the
castle!"

"Sir! how dare you accuse me of falsehood!" the Freiherr burst out; but
the colonel laid his hand upon the old man's shoulder and said, kindly,
"Be calm, old friend. The Herr Geheimrath has in his zeal for duty made
use of a wrong expression. He cannot mean to accuse of falsehood a
nobleman whom he has been ordered to treat with the greatest
consideration. He will apologize for his error."

This the Geheimrath immediately did, conscious that he was in the
wrong, and never reluctant to make use of smooth words. Nevertheless he
maintained that both the Finanzrath and Repuin were probably still in
the castle, although without the Freiherr's knowledge. He chose his
apologetic phrases so well that the old Baron was entirely appeased,
and even condescended so far as to explain that a certain Herr von
Sorr, and not Count Repuin, had been his son's companion, and that they
had left the castle together about half an hour previously.

"For this you have my friend's word," the colonel remarked.

"The word of honour of the Herr Freiherr von Hohenwald will suffice
me," the police official rejoined.

"My simple assertion must suffice you, sir," the old man burst forth
again.

The Geheimrath looked keenly at him for a moment, and then said, with a
courteous bow, "It is the word of a man of honour, and therefore a word
of honour; it suffices entirely. May I now beg the Herr Baron to allow
me to proceed in my search of the castle?"

"I have nothing to say; do your duty!"

"For the present, then, Herr Baron, I take my leave, only requesting
that the colonel will accord me the assistance of his adjutant in my
search, if he would himself prefer remaining here with his old friend,
I hope shortly to be able to report to you the result of what I feel
convinced will be a fruitless investigation."

This proposal was most welcome to the colonel, who rejoiced to pass the
time with his friend instead of assisting in searching the castle, a
duty that would have been extremely repugnant to the old soldier. He
therefore acceded to all the Geheimrath said, and Steuber left the
room.

Outside, his first care was to despatch his assistant upon a fleet
horse, taken from one of the dragoons, to intercept the flight of the
Finanzrath and Repuin, giving the man the most minute directions as to
how this was to be done, and how he should procure the assistance
necessary to his success in so doing.

Then he turned to old Franz, over whom two dragoons had mounted guard,
and demanded his guidance over the castle. Poor Franz was so completely
subdued by the martial array about him, and above all so terrified by
the glance of the eyes behind the spectacles, that he obeyed with
submissive promptitude. Encountering in the hall Count Styrum, who had
just concluded the posting of his dragoons, Steuber detained him as he
was about to pass on to the garden-room, and said, "May I pray you to
follow me, Herr Count? The colonel has permitted me to demand your
assistance in the search I am about to begin."

Styrum would gladly have refused to fulfil so disagreeable a duty; his
pride rebelled against assisting in a search in his friend's house, but
the Geheimrath, who suspected what was in his mind, soothed his wounded
sense of honour by adding, "I do not ask you, Count, to take any part
in this search, which indeed I now believe will be entirely fruitless.
The aid I need, and which your superior officer permits me to require
at your hands, consists simply in your presence as a witness during my
search. Thus you are a substitute, as it were, for your friend Baron
Arno von Hohenwald, to whom you may be able to render essential
service. May I look for your kind compliance with my wish?"

"I am ready," Styrum replied, and, with old Franz for a guide, they
betook themselves to Werner's apartment.



                               CHAPTER XX.


The Finanzrath, when he stayed at the castle, occupied a spacious room
in a retired wing, where, between the windows, stood his writing-table
with its many drawers and compartments. This immediately attracted the
Geheimrath's attention. Upon it lay an unopened letter, which Steuber
at once took possession of and coolly opened. Looking up as he did so,
he smiled at the expression of an outraged sense of honour on Styrum's
face, and then read the letter aloud. "Make no further attempt to win
over your father and brother,--it might be dangerous. Unfortunately,
some of our friends have been very imprudent. I have received
trustworthy information that many of us are under strict surveillance.
The greatest caution is necessary; a new associate could avail us
little,--one traitor might ruin us. Your brother's friend, Count
Styrum, has already applied for re-admission to the army; if your
brother should do likewise, he will rank among our foes, not our
friends. Therefore I must entreat you to acquaint neither your father
nor your brother with any of our plans. More when we meet; until then
be upon your guard!" "And this precious epistle is signed 'A,'" the
Geheimrath added. "It tells me nothing new of the Finanzrath or his
friends, but it hints strongly that neither the old Freiherr nor his
younger son knows anything of the Herr Finanzrath's schemes. Do you
still think I did wrong to open the letter, Count?"

Without waiting for a reply the Geheimrath went on to search in the
most careful manner every drawer and pigeonhole of Werner's desk, but
his trouble was vain. The drawers were all unlocked, but not one piece
of written paper was to be found anywhere. "Hm! the Herr Finanzrath has
been expecting me," Steuber muttered, impatiently. "There is nothing
here, and I have searched everything except the waste-paper basket."
Thereupon he proceeded to examine all the papers it contained,
worthless scraps, one and all, until nothing remained except some small
fragments at the very bottom of the basket. Then, while the Count
looked on in impatient wonder, he carefully assorted these, perceiving
that they consisted of two kinds of paper, one bluish and stiff, the
other creamy and delicate, murmuring, as he did so, "There can hardly
be more than two notes here, or the number of scraps would be greater."

Styrum's interest began to be aroused. Since the Geheimrath now seemed
inclined to believe in the innocence of Arno and his father he was no
longer so distasteful to the Count, who testified his awakening
interest by drawing a chair up to the table and closely watching the
arrangement of the fragments of paper. His attention flattered the
Geheimrath, who showed himself in the most amiable humour. "We will
first undertake the strong, bluish paper," he said; "there are fewer of
the scraps, and our work will be comparatively easy. I fear, however,
that we are very indiscreet; the writing here is a lady's, and I
suspect we have to do with a love-affair." In a short time the sheet
lay completely fitted together before the official, who rubbed his
hands with his peculiar chuckle and said, "It is no love-letter; I was
mistaken; but it is from a lady, and not even addressed to the Herr
Finanzrath, but to Fräulein Adèle von Guntram, in M----."

"A letter to Adèle!" Styrum exclaimed. "Do you know Fräulein von
Guntram, Count?" "Certainly; the letter is addressed to my betrothed."
"Then the contents, which are quite incomprehensible to me, will
interest you all the more; perhaps you may divine from them how the
note came to be torn up in the Finanzrath's waste-paper basket." And he
read:


"What will you think of me, dear Adèle, if a few hours after writing my
last letter I tell you not to heed the request it contained? I hope
soon to be able to let you know why I do this, but I cannot tell you
to-day. I cannot leave Castle Hohenwald, and so you are relieved of the
burden of looking for another situation for me. Farewell, dear; you
will soon hear farther from your

                                   "Lucie"


Styrum listened with the greatest attention, but, although his
betrothed had told him of the letter from Lucie in which she had
entreated that another position might be found for her, he could give
the Geheimrath no information as to why this letter, which had
evidently been written since, should be found in the Finanzrath's
waste-paper basket.

Steuber tossed it aside and began upon the creamy-coloured scraps, over
which he worked diligently for nearly an hour. When the letter lay
complete before him he uttered an involuntary exclamation of delight.
"This," he said, "is a very important document; it puts me upon a fresh
scent. It is addressed to Count Repuin, care of Colonel von Berngberg,
in Cassel. Colonel von Berngberg has never before been suspected of
hostility to the government; this is a reward for all the trouble we
have had." Again the malicious twinkle of his eyes, the joy he
evidently felt at the implication in treasonable schemes of a man
hitherto thought loyal, disgusted Count Styrum, who, on the spur of the
moment, said haughtily "I must pray you, Herr Geheimrath, to spare me
the contents of this letter; any prying into official secrets is of
course extremely distasteful to me as a soldier and officer."

Steuber looked up from his work for a moment and nodded kindly. "I
understand you, Count, but, unfortunately, I cannot relieve you from
the duty of listening. I am working under orders, and in the service
for the time of your superior officer, whom you now represent. Besides,
I will wager that you will not regret listening to the letter that now
lies before me. It was written by the Finanzrath, and afterwards, for
some unknown reason, destroyed by him; and it runs thus:


"I write in the greatest haste, my dear Count, to tell you that I have
received intimations, whether from a trustworthy source or not I cannot
say, that our correspondence is known and watched. It is better to be
careful: therefore do not intrust your letters to the post again. Send
them in the way you know of; it is more secure, although less speedy,
than the post. I will make one more attempt to win over my father and
my brother, but I tell you frankly that I fear it will be fruitless. My
father is no politician, and Arno is an idealist whose heart is set
upon a united Germany. If he should re-enter the service he will
probably fight against our friends. Indeed, he is so enthusiastic a
'patriot' that it is questionable whether it would be wise to attempt
to influence him.                   Always yours,

                                              "'W. Von H.'"


As he finished it the Geheimrath looked up to his companion with a
smile of triumph. "Are you satisfied now with my work, Count?" he
asked. "We may inform Count Schlichting that there can be no possible
pretext for arresting the Freiherr or his son Arno; not a shadow of
suspicion rests upon them. What do you think? For my part I consider
our search ended; there is nothing more to be found here. Let us go and
report to the colonel. My task at Castle Hohenwald is over."


Count Schlichting felt a sense of relief when the Geheimrath left the
garden-room and he found himself alone with his old friend and his
children.

"This is but a sorry errand of mine here, Hohenwald," he said, seating
himself beside the Freiherr's rolling-chair; "but you must not take it
ill of me, since I accepted the part assigned me in hopes that you
would rather see a friend than a stranger, odious although his duties
might make him in your eyes. I am rejoiced that Werner got wind of our
coming and has vanished; now my hope is that that cursed Geheimrath may
poke his infernal nose wherever he chooses in the castle without raking
up any evidence against you and Arno."

"Have you any doubts on that head?" the Freiherr asked, bitterly.

There was a degree of embarrassment in the colonel's air as he replied,
"No, not that; but politics nowadays are puzzling. I have the greatest
confidence in you; but who can judge for others? Here's the Finanzrath
doubtless an excellent fellow in other respects, has dabbled in plots
and schemes which are now thought treasonable, but which may, at
another turn of the wheel, lead him to a ribbon and star. To-day a
warrant of arrest is out against him, but who knows whether in another
month he may not be held in high honour in Saxony and Southern Germany?
I should be very sorry if you, old friend, and your son, who fought the
Prussians bravely four years ago, had been led into any indiscretions;
but indeed I could not blame you, for, God knows, it is hard enough for
us Saxons to fight shoulder to shoulder with our former foes, against
those to whom we owe it that we are not to-day in the position of the
poor Hanoverians and Hessians. I am an old soldier, and go wherever my
king sends me; but I cannot say that this time I unsheathe my sword
with any enthusiasm."

"I never rejoiced more to draw mine!" said Arno, whom the colonel's
expressions had evidently pained. "In 1866 I fought with bitterness, a
German against Germans, and I left the service with a savage hatred for
Prussia smouldering within me; to-day it is forgotten in love of
country, of the German fatherland, of which Prussia is now the
representative, standing foremost in the conflict with the arch-enemy
of German freedom, and as the defender of our German Rhine against
French greed of territory. If my brother can have forgotten the duty he
owes to his country, it is all the more incumbent upon me to do what I
can to wash away all stain of treason from the Hohenwald name."

"That you will surely do, my dearest brother!" Celia cried, with
glowing cheeks. "Your fidelity will atone for Werner's treachery, and
our father will bless you for vindicating the honour of his name."

The colonel looked at them with a smile as he stroked his gray
moustache, and said, "Aha, I see clearly that Steuber's long nose will
soon forsake Castle Hohenwald! You have cause to be proud of your
pretty daughter and your son, old friend; still, we will not judge
Werner; let every man be true to his own convictions. I hear with
pleasure, Herr von Hohenwald, that you wish to re-enter the army. I am
at your service in this matter; nothing would give me greater
satisfaction than to have so brave an officer in my regiment, and I
will, if you authorize me to do so, apprise the king of this when I
take him the news to-morrow of our fruitless errand to Castle
Hohenwald."

This offer Arno gladly accepted, and it was thereupon agreed that he
should accompany the colonel to Dresden that he might immediately join
his regiment. All of the little party in the garden-room, in the
interesting conversation that ensued, quite forgot the object of the
colonel's visit, and were only reminded of it after a long hour by the
entrance of Count Styrum with the Geheimrath.

While Arno was greeting his friend with cordial delight, Steuber set
the colonel's mind entirely at rest by his report, and by the request
that the dragoons might be sent back to A---- and himself relieved of
all further duty, since no possible suspicion could attach to any of
the present inmates of the castle.

A quarter of an hour later the obnoxious official took his departure,
while the colonel and Styrum, upon the Freiherr's earnest invitation,
remained in the castle a few hours longer, that Arno might conclude his
preparations for leaving, and accompany them to A----, there to take
the night train to Dresden.

The time for parting came. The colonel and Styrum took leave of the old
Baron and went down into the court-yard, where the carriage was in
waiting. Arno was left alone for a moment with his father and sister.
The old man was deeply moved. It evidently caused him an effort to
release his son's hand from the firm clasp in which he held it, while a
tear rolled down his wrinkled cheek upon his silver beard. "Farewell,
Arno! farewell, my dear son, pride and delight of my age," he said,
drawing his son gently down to him and, for the first time since that
son had grown to manhood, pressing his lips to his brow. "Farewell,
Arno!" he repeated. "Make me one promise before you go. If, when you
return, I am no longer here, be a father to my Celia. I place her
happiness in your hands. You must not sacrifice it to an hereditary
prejudice, but make good a promise I gave our Anna, and if you ever
meet Kurt von Poseneck in the war forget the family feud, and treat him
kindly. For Celia's sake look upon him as a brother, for I have
promised our Anna that when he comes back he shall be Celia's husband."

Celia threw her arms around her father's neck and burst into tears, but
the old man gently put her away from him, and, paying no heed to Arno's
look of startled inquiry, lay back in his chair. "Go, children!" he
said, in a feeble voice. "You must leave me. This parting is almost
more than I can bear. Celia, go with Arno to the carriage. Farewell, my
dearest son! Your father's blessing be upon you in the coming struggle
for the fatherland!"



                              CHAPTER XXI.


Months had passed since the beginning of the war; the German hosts had
overrun France, and were girdling Paris with an iron ring, making its
surrender but a question of time, while upon the ruins of the empire
that had crumbled to decay at Sedan the young republic had been born to
pursue with the energy of despair the strife that had been bequeathed
to it by imperial policy.

The pretty village of Assais was among the foremost to declare itself
devoted to the republic, following the lead of the Marquise de Lancy,
the widowed châtelaine of the castle of Assais, who, although a Russian
by birth, was an enthusiastic supporter of the new government. Towards
the end of September, however, the Marquise had departed for England,
leaving the castle in the charge of a cousin, the Baron de Nouart, who
had arrived at Assais only a short time previously in company with the
brother of the Marquise, a Russian count. The Baron was reported to
have been so busy in Germany in the French interest that an asylum in
the castle of Assais was exceedingly welcome to him. His reputation in
this respect stood him in good stead with the villagers, who otherwise
were by no means favourably impressed by the appearance and manner of
the substitute of their fair châtelaine, which were those of a man of
dissipated life given over to the vice of drinking.

Assais had hitherto escaped any visit from the Prussian soldiery, but
its time of immunity had passed. One morning in October an officer of
Uhlans, with a small detachment of Prussians, spread terror in the
village by galloping through its principal street towards the castle,
where he demanded to speak with the Baron de Nouart. The Baron, who had
been apprised of the approach of the Prussians, had prepared to receive
them after rather a singular fashion. Retiring to his apartment, he had
donned a fiery-red wig, with a false beard and moustache of the same
colour, while a pair of dark-blue glass spectacles made the colour of
his eyes entirely undistinguishable. Thus disguised he appeared before
the young officer of Uhlans in the court-yard of the castle. The
officer scanned the strange figure before him rather curiously as he
asked whether he had the honour of addressing the Baron de Nouart, and
whether he could speak German. Upon being assured of the Baron's
identity, as well as of his inability to speak German, although he
understood it perfectly, the young man continued the conversation in
French, informing the Baron that a regiment of infantry and a squadron
of Uhlans were about to occupy Assais; that quarters must be provided
in the castle for the colonel, officers, and part of the men,--the rest
could be accommodated in the village. The more willing the inhabitants
showed themselves to receive the Prussian soldiers the less cause
should they have for complaint. Having delivered himself thus, and
having been assured by the Baron that the castle should be at the
disposal of the colonel when he arrived, the Uhlan departed with his
men to inspect the village accommodations.

The Baron was as good as his word. Towards evening, when Colonel von
Schlichting, with his officers, arrived, the preparations for their
reception were far more complete than was required by the rules of war.
The Baron kept himself in the background, and was visible only to the
Uhlan commander and the colonel, who was by no means favourably
impressed with the man who, hat in hand, received him in the castle
court-yard and in execrable German declared that he would gladly do all
in his power for the comfort of the German officers, but must request
to be allowed to retire, as he was a very sick man, most of the time
keeping his bed by the physician's orders. His servile demeanour
disgusted Count Von Schlichting; but he was obliged to admit that he
did not promise too much, so admirable was every arrangement for his
comfort.

At dinner, several of the officers expressed their surprise at finding
such luxurious quarters and such excellent wines in so secluded a spot,
and loudest in his praise was the Uhlan captain of horse, who had been
ordered with his squadron to the support of the Saxon regiment in the
work of ridding the surrounding country of the bands of franctireurs by
which it was infested. "There are no such quarters in all France!" the
captain cried, with enthusiasm; "such rooms, such a kitchen, and such a
cellar! Indeed, gentlemen, the Baron de Nouart deserves a toast for his
hospitality. He is not handsome, that there is no denying; but here's
to his health!"

The Saxon officers joined, laughing, in the Prussian captain's toast,
and even the colonel did not refuse it, although he drank it with no
genuine cordiality. He turned to Count Styrum, beside whom he was
sitting at the large round table in the dining-hall. "Are you as much
pleased with our host, Count, as are our Prussian comrades?" he asked,
in a tone too low to be heard by the others; "although I must confess
that our reception here has exceeded my expectations, I am most
unpleasantly impressed by our host; he reminds me of some one whom I
have seen, I cannot remember whom."

"That's odd," Count Styrum replied; "my own experience is the same. I
only saw the man for a moment, and at a distance, and yet it seems to
me that I have seen him somewhere formerly, though where I cannot for
the life of me remember."

"Are you sure?" the colonel asked.

"No, colonel; such fancies are very little to be relied upon. It struck
me, however, that the Baron beat a hasty retreat as soon as he espied
me, although I may have been mistaken there, too."

"It is a singular coincidence, however, and I begin to think that
Monsieur may have some reason for requesting that we will in future
communicate with him through his factotum Gervais."

The conversation was interrupted by Captain von Hohenwald, who came to
report that the men had been peacefully distributed among the
inhabitants both of Assais and of the neighbouring villages. Arno had
scarcely taken the place at table indicated to him by the colonel, with
whom he was a favourite officer, when the young Uhlan lieutenant, who
had brought the news of the approach of the regiment to Assais in the
morning, entered the dining-hall, and was presented by his superior
officer, Von Säben, to Count Schlichting as Lieutenant von Poseneck.

Arno's attention was at once arrested upon hearing the familiar name.
He had never yet encountered Kurt von Poseneck,--Von Säben's squadron
had joined Count Schlichting's regiment only two days previously, Kurt
reported that he had made a reconnoissance in all directions and had
found no traces of the enemy. This information convinced the colonel
that, for the present at least, there was no risk in enjoying to the
full the repose and hospitality offered at Assais.

And this the young officers certainly did. The best possible
understanding seemed to exist between the Prussians and Saxons, and the
hall resounded with mirth and laughter from the various groups into
which the large assembly soon divided.

One of these consisted but of three, Count Styrum, Arno von Hohenwald,
and Kurt von Poseneck. They had withdrawn to a corner of the hall and
were engaged in earnest conversation. How much there was to hear and to
tell! Arno felt every trace of the foolish hereditary prejudice fade
within him as he looked at the handsome young fellow, who showed in
every word and glance his pleasure in thus meeting his Celia's brother.
Only from Celia's letters had Arno heard of Kurt, who had written of
his advancement to the old Freiherr. Now Kurt was not only begged for
the story of his experience since the beginning of the war, but Arno
drew from him the account of his first meeting with Celia, and of how
Frau von Sorr--Arno felt the blood mount to his cheek at the name--had
learned by accident of the intimacy between them.

To that noble woman, Frau von Sorr, Kurt declared, glad indeed to make
a confidant of Celia's brother, did he owe it that his love for Celia
was no longer a secret. He had faithfully kept his promise never to
write to Celia, but he had written to Frau von Sorr two letters to be
forwarded to the Freiherr. One of these he feared had miscarried, as
Frau von Sorr had not alluded to it in her last letter to him.

Arno's heart beat furiously as he asked, with all the indifference he
could assume, "You correspond, then, with Frau von Sorr?"

"Yes. Frau von Sorr permitted me to write to her, and promised to
forward my letters to your father when there were any tidings of me to
be transmitted to Castle Hohenwald."

"Then you know where Frau von Sorr is at present, and how she has been
since leaving the castle?"

Kurt, all unmindful of the suppressed eagerness with which this
question was put, replied by giving a detailed account of Frau von
Sorr's departure from Grünhagen for Berlin, whence she had retired with
her father to his beautiful estate, Kaltenborn, on the Rhine, not far
from S----, where she had found a secure retreat from her husband's
persecutions. On this score Herr Ahlborn was now quite easy, since Sorr
and the Finanzrath had both been obliged to flee the country as
proscribed traitors, and any return to Germany for them was impossible
until the war should be ended. In her last letter Frau von Sorr had
described her life with her father as all that she could desire,
telling Kurt that she, with various other women of S----, had
established a lazaretto for wounded soldiers, and that she had also
prepared accommodations at Kaltenborn for some few, for whom pure
country air might be specially desirable. She expressed a hope that
Kurt never might be wounded, but prayed him if he were and could
contrive it to be sure and be brought to her at Kaltenborn.

"And this," Kurt concluded, "I shall certainly do, if an unlucky bullet
should chance to lay me up for a time. I honour that woman from my very
soul; she is an angel!"

It was with difficulty that Arno restrained himself from chiming in
with Kurt's enthusiastic admiration; his respect for his sister rose on
the instant. What penetration and judgment she had shown in bestowing
her heart upon this excellent young fellow! As a reward he allowed Kurt
to read Celia's last letter,--a letter that transported the lover in
thought to the Hohenwald forest, so vividly did it bring his love
before him in all that makes girlhood bewitching.

Thus the hours flew by unheeded until the three friends found
themselves alone in the spacious hall, when, as they were not weary,
Kurt proposed a short walk before retiring to rest, and they all
sauntered out into the autumn moonlight that was flooding the garden
and park. They walked on aimlessly until, emerging from a thicket of
shrubbery, they saw before them one of the wings of the castle. All the
windows here were darkened except two upon the ground-floor directly
opposite them. The friends paused and gazed involuntarily into the
apartment thus revealed to them. It was a large room, luxuriously
furnished. In a cushioned arm-chair, beside a round table in the centre
of the apartment, sat the Baron de Nouart, and on the table, at his
elbow, stood a glass and a half-empty bottle.

Just as the officers emerged from the bushes some slight noise probably
attracted the Baron's attention. He raised his head, seemed to be
listening for an instant, and then arose hastily and drew close the
heavy curtains that had been open to admit the air.

"Let us turn round," Kurt said, in a low tone; "the Baron may else
suppose that we wish to spy upon him."

"Which would be a poor reward for the hospitality he has shown us,"
said Arno.

Styrum said nothing, but followed his companions, and not until they
had reached the open lawn before the balcony of the dining-hall did he
remark, "The Baron seemed in a great hurry to screen himself from
observation."

"Naturally," Arno rejoined; "he had good reasons for so doing. Unless I
am much mistaken, that was no wine-bottle at his elbow; it held good
cognac. A fellow at such night-work hardly likes to be seen."

"They told me in Nontron that he was an incorrigible drunkard; never
sober after noon," Kurt added.

Styrum shook his head; natural as was this explanation of the Baron's
conduct, it did not satisfy him. "He may be a drunkard," he said, "but
I am convinced that he had other reasons for drawing those curtains so
quickly,--the same probably that made him turn away this afternoon when
he saw me. I have surely seen that man somewhere; he knows me and fears
my recognition. What else did you hear about him in Nontron, Kurt?"

"Not much, but quite enough to justify any suspicion of his honesty. He
is said to be a distant relative of the widowed Marquise de Lancy, the
owner of the castle, where he made his appearance only a few weeks ago;
and although he is a zealous patriot, he is not, they say, a Frenchman,
but a Russian. They say, too, that he can speak German extremely well,
and yet this morning, when I addressed him in German, he could scarcely
reply in the same tongue, although he said that he understood it
perfectly. He is a suspicious character."

"I do not see any reason thus far for your distrust of him," Arno
observed.

"Nevertheless, the colonel shall learn what Kurt has told us," said
Styrum. "It is best to be upon our guard."

The friends then separated and betook themselves to repose.



                             CHAPTER XXII.


It had been a weary day for the Baron François de Nouart; he had not
even been able to have recourse to his usual stimulant, so impressed
was he with the necessity of keeping every faculty upon the alert in
the trying position in which he found himself. That this Saxon regiment
of all others should have been ordered to Assais was a stroke of
terrible ill luck! Not until Gervais reported to him that all was quiet
in the castle for the night did he venture to seat himself comfortably
at the table in his room with the brandy-flask at his elbow. And even
then five minutes had scarcely elapsed when a slight noise causing him
to turn his head, he plainly saw through the open window the three
officers on the moonlit lawn, and that one of them was the man whom he
so dreaded, Count Styrum. He started up and closed the hangings
instantly, hearing distinctly as he did so Kurt's words, "Let us turn
round; the Baron may else suppose that we wish to spy upon him." Then
through a chink in the curtains he watched the three men disappear
among the bushes, his heart beating violently the while from fear of
detection. After watching some minutes longer he crept softly to
Gervais's room, and having received the steward's assurance that the
young Uhlan officer with his two friends had returned from the garden,
and that all three were now locked in their rooms, he made a stealthy
round of the castle. All was quiet, and he once more returned to his
room to seek the forgetfulness that he so craved.

But the poor man had scarcely drained a few glasses of his favourite
beverage when he was once more disturbed, this time by a low tap upon
the window, which he had closed. Could it be a belated officer? Hardly;
he would not announce his presence thus. It must be some friend, who
for certain reasons did not dare to seek an entrance to the castle more
boldly.

Again the knocking came, quicker and more impatient; with uncertain
steps the Baron went to the window, and, as he looked through the
curtains, uttered an involuntary exclamation of horror, "Count Repuin!"
and in an instant the curtains were drawn aside and the window opened.
"Are you mad, Count? Do you not know that the castle swarms with
Germans?" he whispered, in dismay.

"Then give me your hand and help me to get in at this cursed window,"
whispered Repuin, who stood without in the disguise of a peasant.
"Quick! Am I to stay here until the guard discovers me?"

"I implore you to fly, Count. You will ruin both yourself and me; we
shall be shot if you are found in the castle."

"I will not be found. Do as I tell you, and give me your hand!"

The Baron had no choice but to obey. He extended his hand to the Count,
who seized it, and with but little difficulty clambered in at the
window, which was but a few feet from the ground.

Scarcely had he closed it and drawn the curtains behind him when he
turned with a look of scorn to the Baron, "What a coward you are,
Sorr!" he said; "your hand trembles like a woman's. Shame on you!
Why, I do believe the fellow is drunk again. There stands the empty
brandy-bottle. I wonder whether there is enough sense left in your
drugged brain to make it worth while to talk reason to you."

Repuin's insulting words made no impression on Sorr; he was too well
used to such from the Russian. But the fright that the Count's visit
caused him, and the sense of the danger with which it threatened him,
helped to sober him. He drank several glasses of cold water, and then
bathed his head and face, after which he was sufficiently himself to
turn to the Count and say, "What evil star brought you to Assais? Are
you resolved upon my ruin?"

"Bah! what is your ruin to me!" the Count rejoined, contemptuously.
"You run no greater danger than I do. Are you sufficiently collected
now to understand me?"

"Yes; what do you want?"

"I wish to convince myself by personal information how matters stand
here in Assais; there is no confidence to be placed in the reports
circulating everywhere; these French make mountains out of mole-hills.
You must give me exact intelligence with regard to the enemy."

"How am I to do that? Do you suppose that Count Schlichting makes me
his confidant?"

"Ah, Colonel Schlichting is here, then?"

"Yes; with his whole regiment, and a squadron of Prussian Uhlans."

"Hm! They are too many for us as yet, then,--we must wait a few days.
Is Count Styrum here? I suppose so from your disguise; you look like a
scarecrow."

"Yes, he is here, and also Arno von Hohenwald."

"Baron Arno, my rival with your lovely wife. Let him look to himself!"

"What can you do? The Germans are too strong for you."

"Just at present they are, but in a few days we shall outnumber them;
victory has made them over-bold; they are venturing too far northwest,
and they imagine that they have to do only with some scattering bands
of franctireurs. I have learned enough for to-day, but you must
contrive to keep me informed of all that is going on here. For a
messenger you must employ the village maire, Fournier; his boy Louis
was shot a few days ago by some of these very Germans, and the man is
thirsting for revenge; he will do all and venture all to bring
destruction upon these men."

"But they have placed their sentinels so that it will be impossible to
elude them, and, besides, how could anything of importance reach my
ears?"

"Leave the eluding of the sentinels to Fournier, and for important
information we must depend upon Gervais; let him listen well. These
officers can have no idea that he understands German perfectly?"

"Not the least; the colonel always speaks to him in execrable French."

"Then let him be constantly on the watch for news, and let me hear it
instantly through the maire. May I rely upon you?"

"You are playing a dangerous game, Count! We shall be discovered; and
if we are, we are lost, for Count Schlichting knows no mercy."

"Then none shall be shown him."

"He will need none. I implore you, Count, to moderate your zeal; you
will only plunge into ruin if you attempt to attack an enemy that so
outnumbers you. We, the maire and I, shall both be shot if we are
suspected of holding any communication with you."

The Count gazed sternly at Sorr. For a moment he seemed to bethink
himself; then he said, laying a sharp stress upon each word, "I am
almost tempted to believe you capable of playing the traitor, Herr von
Sorr. I would not advise you to contemplate such a course; one step in
that direction and Count Schlichting shall learn by a letter from me
whom your clumsy disguise conceals. Remember you are closely watched.
If you are true to me you shall have your reward; but if you are a
traitor, by Heaven! you shall meet a traitor's death. If you should
escape a German bullet, a French one shall find its way to your heart.
Now you know where you stand. One more piece of advice: for God's sake
avoid that cursed brandy-flask for the next week at least. Come, be a
man, Sorr; promise me that you will not drink a drop for the next eight
days."

Sorr promised, and Repuin took his departure, leaving, as he had come,
by the window. Sorr closed it softly behind him and stood at it for a
long while, dreading to hear a shot in the shrubbery, but all remained
quiet.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.


The next few days were gloomy with misty, rainy weather, and Count
Schlichting grumbled incessantly at the enforced idleness of his
command. Arno and Kurt employed the time in improving their knowledge
of each other, and passed many a pleasant hour together with Count
Styrum in exploring the park and gardens of the castle, which were
remarkably fine and spacious. On returning from one of these walks
about a week after their arrival at Assais, they found the castle
court-yard a scene of much bustle and excitement, and learned that
orders had arrived recalling the Saxon regiment to Nontron and
Chalus,--orders that had been received with enthusiasm, since they
pointed to a general massing of forces preparatory to a move upon the
French army of the north. The colonel came into the dining-hall with a
very cheerful countenance, and, taking his seat with the Uhlan captain,
Von Säben, and several officers, drank a bumper to an energetic
continuance of the war, and to its speedy victorious termination.

The Uhlan captain alone was depressed, and with good cause; for while
the Saxon regiment was to take up its march to Nontron on the following
morning, the squadron of Uhlans was to remain at Assais until further
orders, to prevent the formation of bands of franctireurs in the
surrounding country. Although this was an honourable service, it was
one that could be crowned by no laurels, and life in the castle, after
the departure of the Saxon officers, would be by no means attractive.
The captain's only hope was that the colonel might be right in
declaring that before many days the Uhlans also would be withdrawn from
so advanced a post.

Kurt von Poseneck too was greatly disappointed at the prospect of
losing sight of Arno von Hohenwald. He had so rejoiced in the
new-formed friendship with his betrothed's brother, and now it was to
be thus nipped in the bud. As soon as was possible without
churlishness, Styrum, Arno, and Kurt withdrew from the circle of their
comrades on this last evening and passed together a farewell quiet
hour. When they separated Arno pressed Kurt's hand. "We shall perhaps
not see each other to-morrow," he said; "let us say farewell to-night;
only for a short time, I trust. When you send a letter to the Rhine
remember to send my greetings in it, and in return I will send yours to
Celia, and tell her that the greatest pleasure I have had during the
campaign has been to learn to know and to cordially like my future
brother-in-law. Farewell, Kurt!"

The three had lingered longer together than they had intended, and when
they separated at the foot of the staircase leading to Styrum's and
Arno's apartments perfect quiet reigned throughout the castle. Kurt's
room was at the end of a long corridor on this second floor, and as he
walked along it his steps sounded so loud in the intense stillness that
he took care to make his tread as light as possible, lest he should
arouse his sleeping comrades. The corridor was very long, and his room
lay next to his captain's, the windows of both looking out upon the
court-yard. The night had grown cloudy, and the long window before him,
that would have given some light if the weather had been clear, was of
no use to illuminate the darkness around him, but Kurt cared little
since he could not possibly miss his door, the second from the end on
his right. He had reached about the middle of the passage when his
attention was roused by a noise upon his left; he thought he heard
approaching footsteps. He paused and listened; yes, he was right; a
door opened softly upon his left; he had a momentary glimpse of a
spacious, dimly-lighted apartment, and Monsieur Gervais stood before
him holding a lantern, the light of which fell full upon the young
officer. The man was evidently much startled, but quickly regaining his
self-possession, bowed with the courtesy he always displayed to the
Prussian officers, and offered to light the lieutenant to his room,
excusing himself for having, under the impression that every one in the
castle had retired to rest, extinguished the lights.

He then preceded Kurt with his lantern, and only left him when he had
lighted the candle in the young man's room.

Why had the Frenchman been so startled, so evidently frightened, at
first sight of a Prussian officer? and whence came Monsieur Gervais?
These were questions which Kurt asked himself as soon as he was left
alone,--questions which he could not answer. It occurred to him that,
confident in their numbers, the officers quartered in the castle had
neglected many precautions that prudence would have suggested. Not one
of them had hitherto thought it worth while to explore all the rooms
and passages of the huge old castle. All had been content with the
comfortable quarters assigned them by Monsieur Gervais, and had not
reflected upon the facilities that the other rooms might afford for
concealing spies and traitors. Kurt determined to use the first
unemployed hours of the following day in exploring the castle
thoroughly, and particularly in ascertaining whence the door led at
which Monsieur Gervais had appeared. As far as he could judge at
present, the large room, of which he had had a glimpse, must be
traversed to reach the wing built out into the park, at present
inhabited by the Baron de Nouart.

With the determination to atone for a neglected duty he ceased to think
of Monsieur Gervais or of danger threatening him; he dwelt rather upon
Arno's last words to him; his heart beat at the thought that he had
accepted him as a brother-in-law, and Celia's lovely image accompanied
him to the land of dreams.

He never suspected that Monsieur Gervais was standing outside his
bedroom-door listening with bated breath to every movement of the young
officer, and that his ear was not removed from the key-hole until the
long, regular breathing inside told him he had nothing to fear from the
Uhlan's wakefulness. The enemy slept. Monsieur Gervais could now pursue
his way unmolested, but he would guard against a second surprise. He
put the lantern on the floor, took off his boots, and in his stockings
glided swiftly to the grand staircase, which he mounted to the very
topmost story of the castle, then through a labyrinth of lumber-rooms
he reached the door of a retired apartment; here he knocked softly
three times; a bolt inside was drawn and the door opened. "Is all
secure?" was whispered in the steward's ear.

"Yes; they are all asleep at last," was the whispered reply. "There is
no time to waste; take off your boots; you must go in your stockings as
I do."

"Whither are you taking me?" the man asked.

"Down-stairs and through the blue room to the Baron."

"Why not down the back-stairs, as I came up?"

"Because two sentinels were placed there this very after noon. Quick!
quick! we have no time to parley; the Baron has been expecting you for
more than an hour."

The maire, for it was Fournier, of whom Repuin had spoken to Sorr,
obeyed. In his stockings he noiselessly followed his conductor, who
cautiously guided him down the grand staircase to the door of the blue
room, at which Gervais had appeared before Kurt. When it had admitted
them and was closed behind them, the steward gave a sigh of relief. No
officers were quartered in this wing; he paused and handed the lantern
to the maire, saying, in a low tone, "Now you can find your way to the
Baron without my help. I will slip back to my room in the darkness."

"Are you not coming with me to the Baron?"

"No; it is unnecessary; he knows all that I have been able to discover;
he will tell you what you ought to know. Farewell, Monsieur Fournier; I
will go and pray the saints to get you safely out of the castle."

"I shall get off safely; at least these cursed Germans shall never
capture me alive, and woe to the man who attempts to detain me! I will
not die unavenged!"

The two men separated, and the maire pursued his way to the door of the
Baron's room, where he found instant admittance.

De Nouart was pacing restlessly to and fro; he had been awaiting
Fournier for more than an hour, and had begun to fear that some
accident had befallen him. "At last you are come!" he exclaimed. "I was
almost crazed with terror lest you had been discovered!"

"No one suspects that I am in the castle."

"Thank God! If I could but know you once in the forest and on the way
to our friends, I should indeed bless my lucky star! We have all taken
our lives in our hands, maire."

"And what of that? To-day or to-morrow what matter? I would rather it
were to-day, but that I have some hope of vengeance upon these accursed
Germans."

"You will have abundant opportunity for that," the Baron rejoined; "but
you have a long journey to make to-night."

"Be quick, then; tell me my errand and let me be gone," the man said,
gloomily.

"You can serve your desire for revenge upon your boy's murderers in no
way more surely than by carrying the important intelligence to Count
Repuin that the enemy is to depart to-morrow morning early for Nontron
and Chalus; the Uhlans only are to remain in Assais, and this probably
only for a few days. All this Gervais has learned from the colonel
himself. If Count Repuin has collected a sufficient force to make an
attack, he must be quick about it or he will find no foes in Assais."

The thought that the hated Prussians might escape lent wings to the
maire's resolve; he leaped from the window, as Count Repuin had
formerly done, and vanished the next instant in the mist. Again, as
formerly, did the Baron listen, lest a shot should tell of the
discovery of the fugitive, whom in truth he cared for as little as for
that other, and yet for whose safety he trembled. His anxiety was
unnecessary, the deep silence of the forest was unbroken.

He turned from the window and gave himself up to reflection upon the
dangers that encompassed him. Had he done right in apprising Repuin of
the intended departure of the Saxons? If the Count should make the
attack and be repulsed, would not Prussian vengeance first strike the
French inmates of the castle? It had been folly to incite the Count to
an attack! But no, whatever came of it he must keep his word to the
Russian. Prussian vengeance he might escape; the Russian's never. He
was bound body and soul to this man whom he hated; he could not free
himself from the chain.

His head ached with the thoughts that crowded upon him; he was terribly
weary and exhausted. There was one way to cure this dull pain, one
means to scare away this terrible weakness; but he had promised not to
use it. A single glass of the fiery liquid in the flask on the
sideboard would send the blood dancing in his veins again; a single
glass! Repuin was far away, there was not the slightest danger
threatening for the moment; was he an utter slave to the Russian? No;
he would endure it no longer. He poured out a glass from the flask and
emptied it at a draught. Ah, this was strength and courage to face the
future! Another and another. He had not slept o'nights of late, now he
began to feel delightfully drowsy. By the time the flask was finished
he had slipped from his arm-chair to the floor, where he lay until the
following day.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.


Early the next morning, immediately after sunrise, the Saxon regiment
fell back upon Nontron. The weather was superb, and had its effect upon
both officers and men, although Count von Schlichting felt it his duty
to warn Captain von Säben before his departure that he must be upon his
guard against treachery. The old colonel did not like to leave so small
a force in so hostile a country, infested on all sides by franctireurs,
and not even the brilliant sunshine and the relief from inaction could
altogether dispel his regret at leaving them thus.

Kurt von Poseneck was at some distance from Assais when the Saxons left
it. He had, with a command of about a dozen Uhlans, been ordered to
make a reconnoissance in search of franctireurs, and he could not, of
course, take leave of his friends. When he returned in the afternoon
Arno and Styrum had both gone, and Kurt found only his captain, Von
Säben, and two comrades ready in the large dining-hall to partake of
the excellent dinner provided for them by Monsieur Gervais.

Had the sun not shone so brilliantly the large hall would have seemed
gloomy enough, and even as it was the emptiness and quiet of the
apartment, where lately so much noisy gayety had held sway, had a
depressing effect upon the Uhlan officers, which Kurt's report was not
calculated to dissipate. Even Von Säben looked grave, and was reminded
of the colonel's parting words.

Kurt had nowhere found an enemy; if there really were bands of
franctireurs in the vicinity they had withdrawn into the forest of
Assais, which afforded hiding-places from which cavalry were powerless
to drive them. This forest was a sort of continuation of the castle
park, and if danger there were, it lay in the probability of an attack
upon the castle from this direction. That such a danger existed Kurt
was convinced by the behaviour of the country-people in all directions.
They had shown no open hostility to the Uhlans, but their demeanour had
been that of men looking forward to a time near at hand when they might
take revenge upon their foes. At all events this had been the
impression produced upon Kurt's mind, and Captain von Säben so far
heeded it as to double the watch at various posts around the castle,
and to take other precautions to insure safety.

Kurt withdrew early from the dinner-table, intending to write letters
in his room, and as he passed along the corridor towards it his resolve
of the previous night suddenly occurred to his mind. He was directly
opposite the door at which Gervais had appeared, and the steward was at
present busy in the dining-hall, which he could not leave for some time
to come. There could be no time more favourable than the present for
his exploration of this part of the castle. He tried the door at which
he stood: it opened easily; he entered, and closed it behind him.

He found himself in a large room hung with blue, and somewhat dark, as
it was lighted by but one window; it was only a thoroughfare, as was
plain from the furniture, that consisted simply of cabinets placed
against the walls. Kurt went to the window, and found that he had been
correct in suspecting that the room led to the wing extending into the
park, in which were the Baron's apartments; before him was the lawn, in
front of the Baron's windows, and to the left was the park itself; he
could even see the path by which he, with his two friends, had on the
previous day visited the stables at the back of the gardener's house,
where the Baron kept a fine pair of riding-horses, belonging to his
cousin the Marquise.

Which of the four doors that opened into this apartment should he
select? He tried the one nearest him; it was unlocked, and he entered a
room furnished with the greatest luxury, and leading by an open door to
a bedroom as gorgeously fitted up. A writing-table stood beside the
window, and an open portfolio, from between the leaves of which, as
Kurt took it up, fluttered a torn envelope, addressed in German to the
"Herr Count Repuin." Count Repuin! Kurt knew the name but too well.
Herr Ahlborn had at Lucie's request told him his daughter's sad story,
and this name was branded in his memory as that of Lucie's unprincipled
persecutor. And he found it here upon an empty envelope postmarked
Brussels. The connection was easy to divine, Repuin was the brother of
the Marquise de Lancy, and the former inmate of this room. But he had
not fled to Germany alone: Sorr had accompanied him. There suddenly
occurred to Kurt an explanation of the fact that Styrum, Arno, and the
colonel, to all of whom Sorr was personally known, had been puzzled by
the resemblance of the Baron de Nouart to some one whose name they
could not recall. If all this were as he suspected, if Repuin, the
proscribed French agent, were really the brother of the Marquise de
Lancy, if his tool, Sorr, were here in the castle in disguise,
certainly the greatest caution was necessary; there was danger of
treachery on every hand, danger that perhaps could be averted only by
the instant arrest of the Baron de Nouart. And yet, could mere
suspicion justify such an arrest? The man would have to be taken to
Nontron, and tried there by a court-martial, which, under the direction
of the pitiless Count Schlichting, could end but in one way,--death.

Kurt thought of Celia's friend, of Frau von Sorr; the death of her
worthless husband would restore her to life. But in an instant he
spurned the unworthy thought. His friendship for Lucie should never
influence him where duty was concerned. This duty, however, bade him
reveal his discovery to his superior officer; it was for him to command
in this matter, Kurt's part was to obey.

The light was dying in the west, he had not time to continue his
explorations thoroughly, and, after satisfying himself that this room
was connected with De Nouart's apartments by a winding staircase, which
led past servants' rooms, Kurt returned unmolested to the blue room,
whence he issued unobserved into the corridor leading to his own and
Von Säben's quarters.

He found his captain just returned to his room from a tour of
inspection of the posts about the castle, and quite ready to listen to
all that he had to say. Of course Von Säben knew nothing of Repuin or
of Sorr. Kurt explained who they were, and their complicity in
treasonable plots in Germany, without in any way mentioning Frau von
Sorr. They were both proscribed French agents.

"The address on the envelope is, after all, your only ground for
suspicion that the proscribed Count Repuin is one and the same person
with the brother of the Marquise de Lancy, and that the Baron de Nouart
is a German, and the Herr von Sorr of whom you speak," the captain
said, when Kurt had finished his narrative.

"That and the resemblance observed by Count Schlichting, Count Styrum,
and the Baron von Hohenwald between the Baron de Nouart and some one
whom they had seen."

"But neither of these gentlemen was reminded of Sorr. Count Schlichting
has told me that he has an excellent memory for faces, and should
recognize one that he had once seen, even after twenty years. Would he
not instantly have known Sorr?"

"He probably never imagined that he should find him here in France
under the name of the Baron de Nouart. The Baron's avoidance of us, and
his pretended ignorance of the German language, seem to me very
suspicious circumstances." Kurt remarked.

"And yet they are hardly sufficient to warrant my arresting him and
sending him to Nontron," the captain replied. "The colonel is an
excellent man, but he is fond of a short shrift, and apt to take
suspicion for certainty. If he should discover Sorr and the Baron to be
one and the same person, he would have the poor devil shot without more
ado; and it may be that, even although he wishes to avoid us, he does
not meditate treachery. I am not fond of courts-martial, Herr von
Poseneck, and I do without them when I can. Your discovery is certainly
of importance, and it behooves us to be more upon our guard than ever.
We have been imprudent in instituting no thorough search of the castle.
This shall be undertaken to-morrow, and if we find proof of the Baron's
guilt he shall be brought to justice."


All the officers, Kurt with the rest, retired early on this evening,
Kurt imagining that the fatigue and excitement of the day would insure
him instant repose. But this was not so; he lay awake hour after hour;
sleep fled his eyelids. In vain did he woo her by all familiar means,
counting slowly to one hundred, reciting mentally verses learned in
childhood; he could not banish from his mind his last conversation with
his captain.

At last he sprang out of bed. Better to pace his room to and fro for an
hour than toss restlessly there. The moon was at the full. Kurt went to
the window, whence he had a clear view of the spacious court-yard of
the castle. Opposite lay the farm-buildings in which a part of the
Uhlans were quartered, the stalls being appropriated to their horses,
and back of those Kurt could in the brilliant moonlight get a view of a
portion of the broad road leading to the village. The court-yard was
empty; the two sentinels posted in front of the stables were slowly
pacing to and fro, their sabres resting negligently in their arms, and
one of them, as Kurt was looking, so far forgot his duty in his sense
of security as to lean against the house and rest. This was a culpable
want of the vigilance which the captain had enjoined upon the guards on
the previous evening. The lives of many might depend upon the
watchfulness of any one of the sentinels posted in the court-yard.

Kurt left the window and dressed, not hastily, but quite leisurely; he
would himself go down to the court-yard and make an example of any
soldier not vigilant at his post. He needed no light; the moonlight was
all that he required. When quite dressed he sat for a moment, his head
resting on his hand, reflecting whether it were not perhaps best to
visit the sentries placed in the park, when he was suddenly startled by
a shot; another and another came in quick succession, and then followed
a sharp rattle of musketry, apparently in the very court-yard.

Kurt rushed to the window. Where was the scene of repose and security
upon which he had looked out little more than a quarter of an hour
previously? A disorderly crowd of armed men, some hundreds strong, was
pouring in at the court-yard gates and rushing towards the farm
buildings and stables, while along the road from the village a dark
mass was moving quickly, the moonlight glinting here and there upon
polished rifle-barrels. In a few moments the assailants had attained
their end; the two sentinels were shot down, the doors of the farm
buildings and stables were forced; there were but a few scattered
carbine-shots in answer to the continuous rattle of musketry; victory
over the Uhlans quartered there was easy for such overpowering numbers.

One glance sufficed to show Kurt the danger threatening the entire
squadron. All in the farm buildings were lost; it might still be
possible, however, to save the officers in the castle and the men in
the village, but not a moment must be wasted, for already about thirty
franctireurs had turned from the farm buildings and were advancing
towards the castle. Kurt's presence of mind stood him in stead now as
it had done formerly in America. He saw plainly that there was but one
course by which death or capture could be evaded,--flight. Resistance
to such an overwhelming force would be madness. He could not even rouse
his brother officers on the ground-floor of the castle; the
franctireurs would be there before him. The captain he could rouse, and
together they might escape into the side wing of the castle, through
the room explored so short a time since by Kurt, and thence into the
park. If they could succeed in reaching the stables behind the
gardener's house, where they had seen the horses, they might perhaps be
able to ride by roundabout ways to the village in time to save the
Uhlans quartered there. In an instant Kurt had girded on his sabre and
armed himself with a revolver; then opening the door of the captain's
room, he found Von Säben just about to step out of it. He had been
unwilling, after his conversation with Kurt, to go to bed, but had
determined to inspect the various posts after midnight, and had thrown
himself into an arm-chair, where, however, he had slept soundly until
awakened by the noise of the struggle in the court-yard. He, too, had
recognized from his window, as Kurt had done, the folly of resistance
to so numerous a foe, but he was nevertheless about to go down to the
court-yard when Kurt rushed into his room. "You were right, Herr von
Poseneck," he said; "that villain Sorr has betrayed us! All is lost!
There is nothing for us but to die with our brave fellows; our place is
down there among them."

He spoke as quietly as though he were inviting Kurt to walk with him in
the park; he awaited no reply, but was striding on to the head of the
grand staircase when Karl detained him. "There is nothing to be done
down there captain," he said; "the castle is lost, but we may escape to
the village and muster our men."

"How? In one minute the rogues will be in the castle; the maire of the
village and Gervais--I recognized them both--are leading the band that
is evidently resolved upon capturing us in our rooms."

"Still there is no need to throw away our lives,--we must make an
attempt to save our fellows in the village; perhaps escape is possible
through the side-wing."

"Go on; I will follow you!"

Not another word was spoken; Kurt hurried on, revolver in hand, the
captain close upon his heels. When the two officers had reached the
blue room they could plainly hear the blows of the franctireurs upon
the doors of the rooms on the ground-floor; in another instant the two
men had entered the room, closed the door behind them, and hurried
through the other apartments towards the side-wing.

"Saved," whispered Kurt; "no one is quartered in this wing, we shall
encounter no enemy here." He was right; neither the Baron de Nouart nor
Gervais had dreamed that the German officers could escape through this
unknown wing and no precautions had been taken to prevent their doing
so. The wing was deserted and silent; the din of the struggle in the
court-yard sounded indistinct and muffled. Kurt, followed by his
captain, rushed down the winding staircase to the passage on the
ground-floor. By this the captain would have gained the park; but Kurt
again detained him. "That door can be seen from the court-yard," he
said, "and if we are perceived we shall have the whole rabble about our
ears. We must find a way into the park through the window of some one
of these rooms." He tried the first door they came to; it opened and
admitted the two officers to a lighter apartment. Here an unexpected
sight met their eyes. In an arm-chair before a table, upon which stood
his beloved brandy-flask, sat the Baron de Nouart. He had had recourse
to his favourite stimulant to steady his nerves while he sat in
terrified expectation of the attack. A revolver lay upon the table
ready, if he should be forced to take any part in the fray.

When the door was suddenly opened and he saw before him the two
Prussian officers, Kurt with a revolver, the captain with a drawn
sabre, the Baron sprang to his feet and glared at the intruders with
lack-lustre eyes. He was half intoxicated, he could hardly stand
upright, but he still had sense enough to clutch at his revolver to
defend himself.

But his hand never touched the weapon; before he could grasp it the
captain stretched him on the floor with a tremendous blow, delivered
with all his force, of his drawn sabre. He fell without a sound.

"Is he dead?" the captain asked.

"We cannot wait to see," Kurt replied; "at all events he cannot betray
us!" And he hurried to the window. The lawn between the wing and the
forest lay quiet in the moon light; not a man was to be seen. He
listened,--only the distant noise in the court-yard fell upon his ear.

He opened the window and lightly sprang out; the captain followed him,
confiding himself blindly to Kurt's guidance. They ran with lightning
speed across the lawn, and then in the shadow of the forest to the
gardener's house. All here was quiet,--every one had hurried to the
court-yard; the stable-door was open; there stood the two noble horses,
their saddles and bridles hanging upon the wall.

In less time than it takes to tell it the two cavalry officers were in
the saddle and galloping furiously by a back-road to the village.

A savage yell resounded from the castle. From one of the lighted
windows of the wing several shots were fired, but the bullets whistled
harmlessly past the riders' ears; the bewildering moonlight prevented
the marksmen from aiming truly.

"Our flight is discovered. The forest is our only chance. This way!"
Kurt cried, as he drove the spurs into his horse's sides and turned
towards a narrow forest road that led by a longer roundabout way to the
village.

The captain followed; but just as he entered the woods several shots
again flashed from the castle window; he wavered in his saddle: a
bullet had struck him in the side; he grasped his horse's mane with his
right hand, and managed to keep his seat and continue his furious
gallop after Kurt.

The fugitives succeeded at last in gaining the open beyond the wood,
but here Kurt first noticed his companion's convulsive grip of his
horse's mane and his failing exertions to keep himself upright in the
saddle. "Are you wounded?" he asked, anxiously.

There was no reply. Loss of blood had produced unconsciousness, and
Kurt caught his captain in his arms just in time to prevent him from
falling from his horse. He dismounted with his lifeless burden, and,
laying it upon the grass beneath a tree, looked about for help. He
remembered that a mounted sentinel had been stationed here, where the
forest road ended in the open; but there was no horseman to be seen. He
could not have deserted his post; a brief inspection of the surrounding
field in the moonlight showed him that the soldier had been true to his
duty; he was lying dead in a pool of blood at a little distance; his
horse was nowhere to be seen, probably his murderers had carried it
off.

What was to be done? Every moment of delay was ruin. The enemy had
discovered the flight of the two officers, there were horses enough to
be had for pursuit, and, although Kurt's short experience of his steed
had convinced him that he need not dread this for himself, he could not
desert his captain; how was he to be carried to a place of safety? Duty
called Kurt to Assais, where, as a few straggling shots informed him,
the fray had already begun, and duty forbade his abandoning his wounded
captain to the pursuing franctireurs. He could not delay, the moments
were priceless. "To Assais!" he exclaimed to himself. The outnumbered
Uhlans there needed a leader, who might perhaps save some few from
captivity and death; the captain himself would never have hesitated to
sacrifice his life for his men; had he been conscious he would surely
have ordered his lieutenant to leave him to his fate.

He swung himself into the saddle again and rode towards the village,
but reined in his horse as he reached the top of a small eminence,
whence he had a full moonlit view of Assais. A dark mass of combatants
was heaving to and fro between him and the nearest houses of the
village, whence came a sharp rattle of firearms; the crowd parted, and
a portion of it approached him rapidly. His heart beat high as he
recognized it to be a detachment of Uhlans that had escaped from the
village and was now galloping towards him. There were but a dozen of
them, and as he rode to meet them with a thundering "Halt!" they obeyed
instantly, and an old sergeant, who recognized the lieutenant, gave him
an account of an attack upon the village, which had taken place almost
simultaneously with that upon the castle. The outlying guard must have
been fallen upon unawares and murdered by the villagers, as not one
shot had been heard from them. The Uhlans had been surprised in their
quarters by an overwhelming force of franctireurs,--ten Frenchmen to
one Prussian,--but in the general confusion this little band had
managed to get to horse and cut their way through the enemy. "If the
cursed Frenchman had only known how to handle their chassepots better,"
the old man added, "not an Uhlan would have escaped." He did not fear
pursuit, "for the bumpkins had no idea of managing an Uhlan horse."

The sergeant's tale convinced Kurt of the tragic fate of the
squadron,--probably for the most part surprised in their beds, murdered
or taken prisoner; all thought of rescuing them was vain. And yet the
young officer was sorely tempted to make one dash into Assais at the
head of the fugitives to rescue any of their comrades who might be
prisoners there. It cost him a hard struggle to decide to leave Assais
without one blow struck at the foe; but he knew that duty called him to
Nontron. He ordered three men to ride on before as quickly as their
horses could carry them to announce the fate of the squadron, and with
the rest he rode back to where the captain was lying, that he also
might be safely transported thither.



                              CHAPTER XXV.


There was savage revelry in Assais. It was the first victory that these
men, but lately mustered into service, had gained over the dreaded
Prussians,--a victory all the more brilliant since it had been won at
so little loss. Only two franctireurs had fallen in the short
conflict,--five or six had been wounded, and the Baron de Nouart had
been found dead in his room with his skull cloven.

This was the entire loss suffered by the fortunate victors, who had
almost annihilated an entire squadron of those Uhlans of whose ferocity
such fearful stories were told.

The light-hearted conquerors paid no heed to the fact that a couple of
dozen of the enemy and several officers had escaped; they had no fear
of the fugitives, they had not even attempted to pursue them.

Intoxicated with victory, the exultant franctireurs rushed through the
village; the slight bonds of discipline that had restrained them at the
beginning of the attack were rent asunder, and Count Repuin, their
commander, with two or three French officers, attempted in vain to stem
the torrent; all commands were unheeded.

The franctireurs associated the villagers with them in a search for any
Prussians that might still be concealed in the village, murdering any
such when found, and dragging their corpses through the mud with savage
yells, that made night hideous. Even women, drunk with the desire for
revenge, aided their husbands and sons in this ferocious work,
mutilating the dead in their fury and inciting others to the same
horrors. But there were exceptions; here and there a wife or maiden of
Assais risked her life to conceal some Prussian fugitive from the fury
of husband or lover.

Count Repuin looked on aghast at the savagery of the insane mob, who
had thus thrown aside all law and order. He hated the Prussians from
his soul, he was their implacable foe; but this wholesale murder, this
cowardly mutilation of the dead, aroused his indignation; he felt that
he had conjured up spirits that he lacked the power to control.

Again and again he attempted to restore some degree of order, but his
commands were received with shouts of derision, and he owed it to the
interference of some of his officers that the rage of the franctireurs
was not turned against himself. There were scowling looks accompanying
muttered curses of the foreigner who dared to intercede for Prussians,
and he was obliged to look on inactive at the murderous work.

He was perhaps the only one of the victors who felt no joy whatever in
the victory. His plan had been to inspire his raw troops with courage
and confidence by an easy conquest, and he had intended to withdraw in
good order with his prisoners as soon as the victory was won. He
now withdrew, after a last vain attempt to restore order, to the
dining-hall of the castle, where, with one of his young officers, he
paced restlessly to and fro. At each outburst of exultation that
reached his ears from without he vented savage curses upon the
canaille, who did not deserve that a man of honour should command them.
He knew only too well that each hour as it sped past increased the
danger that the easy-won victory would be converted into a disgraceful
defeat.

The officers of the squadron had escaped; the two lieutenants on the
ground-floor had probably been awakened by the first shots and had fled
into the forest, leaving their uniforms behind them; from these there
was not much to fear, but the captain and his companion, who had slain
the Baron de Nouart when he had probably attempted to impede their
flight, had also escaped, and upon two fleet horses. The shots fired
after them had been unavailing; they could reach Nontron in a short
time and summon the colonel, Count Schlichting, to the rescue.

And then? Repuin cast a glance at the stiffened corpse of the Baron de
Nouart, which had been brought into the dining-hall and lay there on
the floor in a corner half covered with a piece of carpet. He thought
of his last conversation with him, of how he had been warned by him not
to attempt an attack upon a foe so much the stronger. "Count
Schlichting knows no mercy!" had been Sorr's words. Then the Count had
received them with a sneer; now, as he thought of the near future, they
filled him with horror. The colonel had already heard of the struggle
in Assais; he was even now at the head of his regiment on the way
hither from Nontron to rescue and to avenge.

Repuin was innately brave; he could laugh danger and death to scorn in
the heat of battle, but the idea of being taken prisoner and shot in
cold blood by the hated Germans drove the blood from his cheek. He
turned to the young officer at his side and confided his fears to him,
commissioning him to make one more attempt with a few experienced
soldiers to assemble the men in some degree of order.

The officer promised to do his best, but his efforts were fruitless
until it was too late.

The franctireurs, scattered through the village, refused to obey
the bugle-call; they were engaged in a wild orgie with some of the
country-people. Wine flowed in streams, and there were loud shouts of
"Vive la France! vive la victoire!" that never ceased until a
breathless messenger spread the news through the village with the speed
of lightning that a German host was marching upon Assais along the
roads from Nontron and Chalus, and that it would be upon them in less
than half an hour. This intelligence sobered in an instant those drunk
with wine and conquest. Now they hurried to obey the bugle-call, but it
was too late! An orderly retreat was no longer possible. This Repuin
perceived, as from the castle he marked the close ranks of the
approaching enemy, who, thanks to the mad neglect and want of
discipline of the franctireurs, was so near that he would reach the
village before the scattered Frenchmen could assemble together. Were
not fugitives already scouring the fields upon the horses of the slain
Uhlans? Should a panic ensue, rescue would be impossible; there might
be something, an honorable death at least, gained from a stubborn
defence of both castle and village.

The bitter conflict lasted several hours; the Frenchmen, so lately
taken from the plough and work-bench, the franctireurs, so despised by
the Germans, defended every house in the village, and last of all the
castle itself, with a courage and heroism worthy of better success.

The same franctireurs who, scorning all discipline, had been converted
into a mob of murderous savages by victory over defenceless Uhlans
surprised in sleep, returned instantly to their duty when a hard battle
was imminent. The example of a few cowards who escaped upon the Uhlan
horses found no followers. The young men with the villagers fought with
desperate courage; even the wounded refused to yield, and fell fighting
to the last in a hopeless struggle against the superior organization
and numbers of the Saxons, who, although at heavy loss, stormed every
house in the village, and finally gained possession of the castle
itself.

Only a very few of the French succeeded in escaping to the forest,
where they scattered; the rest atoned with their lives for their brief
period of conquest, and the crimes committed in Assais.


The conflict had been terrible, crushing for the conquered, and tragic
enough for the victors, who had sustained heavy losses. If the
franctireurs had been better marksmen and had not suffered from the
death of their leader, Count Repuin, early in the fray, they would have
prolonged the struggle, and the German losses would have been greater
still, for the French had the advantage of a sheltered position.

The village of Assais, when the battle was over, presented a ghastly
spectacle. Among the dead and dying that cumbered its streets the Saxon
soldiers were searching diligently for wounded comrades, who were
carried to the castle, where the regimental surgeons had their hands
full.

The wounded officers, of whom there were not a few, were carried into
the dining-hall, where pallets had been arranged, upon which they might
rest for the brief space of time that the regiment could remain in
Assais. Its work of vengeance completed, it must immediately fall back
again upon Nontron.

The colonel's face was grimly sad as he entered the hall for a personal
inspection of the wounded. "We have suffered heavily," he said to Count
Styrum, who, with his arm in a sling, approached him. "Much noble blood
has been shed, and I take blame to myself for it."

"What possible blame can attach to you, colonel?"

"I might have nipped the treachery here in the bud. From the first I
mistrusted that Baron de Nouart and his tool Gervais. But for my
weakness they would both have been brought to a court-martial, and then
all their villainous schemes would have come to light, your arm,
Styrum, would have been free from a sling, and your best friends,
Hohenwald and Poseneck, would not be lying there severely wounded. How
is it with Arno? What does the surgeon say?"

"He gives us good hope. The wound is serious; he is still unconscious,
but the surgeon says that he thinks careful nursing will bring him
round."

"Careful nursing!" said the colonel. "And where is he to get careful
nursing in this God-forgotten corner of France? In two hours at the
latest we must take up our march for Nontron, and even there our
wounded cannot rest. I must send them on farther. What nursing can they
have in the nearest hospital? They are all over-crowded. And can
Hohenwald bear the transportation to a hospital?"

"He can bear a farther journey than that if taken carefully. I believe,
colonel, that I can save Hohenwald's life if you will allow of my
undertaking his transportation to the only place where he will find
health for both body and soul."

"I do not understand you, Count."

"Upon a charming estate on the Rhine, near S----, a lady has
established a private hospital; beneath her care Arno will, I am sure,
recover."

"Aha! I see, an affair of the heart. Who would have suspected it of our
misogynist? But S---- on the Rhine is far from here."

"I will undertake to deliver him there safely with your permission,
colonel. My wound makes me incapable of service for some weeks, but I
have strength enough to superintend the transportation of poor
Hohenwald and of my cousin, Kurt von Poseneck, to S----. Your
permission is all that is needed, colonel."

"That you shall have. All that I can do for your friends shall be done.
How is Poseneck?"

"Doing fairly well. He has recovered his consciousness and can answer
for himself. His bed is the last; Arno's is next to the last."

The colonel walked down the row of beds, accompanied by Styrum, saying
a few kind words to each of the wounded officers. He paused for some
minutes beside Arno's couch, gazing sadly at the pale, unconscious
figure stretched there. "My poor old friend!" he murmured. "It will be
a hard blow for him to learn that his darling son is severely wounded.
I must write to him. Better hear it from me than from the papers. It
ought to console him to know how his son has distinguished himself
to-day."

"It will console him still further, colonel," Styrum observed, "if you
will add in your letter that by your permission I have taken Arno and
my cousin Kurt to Kaltenborn, near S----. He will be quite satisfied
that Arno will be preserved to him if he knows that he is to be tended
and nursed by one whom the old Baron honours and loves as he does Frau
von Sorr."

The colonel turned hastily and looked in surprise at Styrum. "What name
did you say?" he asked, eagerly.

"Fran von Sorr is the lady who has instituted a private hospital on her
father's estate of Kaltenborn."

"And you wish to take Arno to her; you would confide him to Frau von
Sorr's care?"

"Yes, colonel; Frau von Sorr lived at Castle Hohenwald for some time as
governess to Arno's sister; she is warmly attached to the family, and I
know that the old Freiherr holds her in high esteem."

"And Arno?"

"Esteems her no less than does his father."

"Hm! After a different fashion, perhaps," the colonel said, with a
smile. "Be assured I will do all that I can to further your wishes.
And, by the way, what has become of that scoundrel Sorr? Has Poseneck's
suspicion been confirmed? Is the Baron de Nouart, whom Captain von
Säben laid low with a sabre-stroke, found to be one and the same person
with Herr von Sorr?"

"There he lies," Styrum gravely replied! "I have no doubt upon the
subject, although the features seem greatly altered. I saw Sorr only
once at a ball, but I remember him perfectly, and recognized the dead
man's face, although it is disguised by a huge false beard."

The colonel turned and looked at the corpse of the supposed Baron. A
compassionate maid had washed the blood from the face, and in so doing
had loosened the false beard, which the colonel now tossed aside, and
all doubt as to the man's identity instantly vanished from the minds of
the two officers.

"It is indeed he," said Schlichting; "he has reaped the reward of his
treachery, as has also Repuin, who was shot dead early in the
engagement. I think, Styrum, that both you and Herr von Poseneck will
agree with me that it is best so; we are spared the dealing out to them
the death of traitors."

As he spoke he went up to Kurt's couch, and the young man was quite
able to express his thanks for the colonel's promised aid in
transporting him to Kaltenborn. The surgeon, however, at this moment
made his appearance and forbade further conversation, as Kurt's wound
was in the chest and he had suffered from loss of blood. Count
Schlichting therefore gave his hand a farewell pressure and left the
hall.


Several months have elapsed; how, during this time, those who have
played principal parts in our story have prospered may be gathered from
the following communications from the widowed Frau von Sorr to her
dearest friend:


                                   "Kaltenborn, December 18, 1870.

"Dearest Adèle,--What weeks of suspense have passed since I last wrote
you!--passed amid hopes and fears, terrible distress, and yet happiness
unspeakable. I could not write; every moment that was not spent in care
of him seemed wasted in disloyal neglect.

"At last the staff surgeon came to me yesterday with a beaming face and
the delicious words, 'Out of all danger!' Since then I have been in a
dream of happiness, and my first thought is to make you the sharer of
my joy.

"That Arno is spared to me I owe entirely to the self-devotion of your
Karl. He has, I know, written to you how he obtained permission to
bring Arno and Kurt von Poseneck across half France to be nursed here
by me. But he has not, I am sure, told you at what an expense of
trouble and strength he with his wound did this. I never shall forget
the moment, now just six weeks ago, when he came to meet me below in
the hall. A messenger on horseback, from S----, had brought word that
three wounded officers, among whom was Lieutenant Kurt von Poseneck,
had been by their desire transferred to Kaltenborn for lodgment and
nursing, and that they would arrive in an hour at the latest. I was
ready to receive them, too glad to take charge of Kurt, and little
dreaming how near the other two were to my heart. I never can tell you,
dear Adèle, of all that I suffered during those first few days. Count
Styrum's exertions in bringing his charge to this place had been
superhuman; his own wound, not serious at first, had been greatly
aggravated, and for a time he was utterly prostrated. But now the
dreadful days are all past when the angel of death lingered beside the
two so near to me, Arno and Kurt. As soon as your Karl recovered from
the disastrous effects of his journey he joined me in care of them, and
never shall I forget the consolation of his presence and his words.
When I gave up all hope of Arno's recovery, Count Styrum was always
ready to tell me how, in '66, he had recovered from a worse wound, and
to bid me rely upon his vigorous constitution. And during the long
hours when together we watched beside Arno's or Kurt's couch. Count
Styrum recounted to me the terrible events of which he was an
eye-witness at Assais. From him I learned the fate of my unhappy
husband,--that death had dissolved the tie that bound me to him.

"It would be hypocrisy, dearest Adèle, to attempt to conceal from you
that this knowledge brought with it a sense of relief to which I had
long been an utter stranger, and that I breathed still more freely when
I learned that I need no longer dread the persecutions of Count Repuin,
who also fell fighting at Assais. As to Herr von Sorr, I forgive his
sins against me, and when I think of him in future I will recall the
time when he certainly did not inspire me with terror."


                                                     "December 26.

"Arno is making rapid strides towards recovery. To-day he was able to
sit up for an hour; his voice is clear and strong, and when he looks at
me his eyes sparkle, as they did once at Castle Hohenwald."


                                                     "December 30.

"You see, dear, I write oftener. Kurt is nearly well; he took a walk in
the garden yesterday, and the doctor says he will be able to return to
his regiment in two weeks, when your betrothed also leaves us. I am
glad to know them so far recovered, and yet how we shall miss them!

"Arno will chafe at being obliged to take no share in the glorious
termination of the war, but he must submit; the doctor says he cannot
possibly be fit for service for some months yet. I will confess to you,
dear Adèle, that when the old doctor uttered this verdict I could have
kissed him. Arno had been so much pleased at his increasing strength
that he had entertained hopes of leaving Kaltenborn with your Karl and
Kurt, and of course he was disappointed at first. Then he looked at me;
I suppose my joy was evident in my face, for his brow cleared
instantly, and he said no more about leaving."


                                    "Kaltenborn, January 15, 1871.

"Adèle, my darling Adèle, I am the happiest woman in the world! I am
betrothed! Ah, how fair life is! You must hear all about it, although
no one else is to know of it for some time to come. Listen, I will tell
you all. Early this afternoon I was seated in my little drawing-room at
my writing-table, when I heard the door open behind me and some one
say, 'Excuse me, madame, I would not intrude. Modesty is a gift of
nature; I do not boast, but I possess it----'

"Of course there was no need to turn round to recognize the good
Assessor von Hahn, my former admirer. Yes, there he was, and the oddest
figure imaginable. Had not the red cross on his left arm informed me in
what capacity he had come to the Rhine, I should have supposed him
dressed as a brigand for a masquerade; his costume, with a huge sabre
dragging at his heels, was so comical.

"I could not but smile as I welcomed him to Kaltenborn, and told him
how glad I was to see by his red cross to what service he had devoted
himself.

"'Yes, madame,' he said, twisting his moustache after his old familiar
fashion, 'I serve the fatherland; this very evening I must take up my
journey to France; duty demands it, and I am a slave to duty; I do not
boast, but I am so. I have stolen a moment on the way to assure you of
my devotion to you, and to bring you some news which will, I am sure,
surprise you. I have the honour of being in charge of supplies for some
of our hospitals in France. Early this morning, as my train was about
to leave the station at Minden, as I stood upon the platform, my
attention was attracted by an old gentleman who was berating a railway
official in no measured terms. The official had just informed him that
this was a train bearing supplies, and that no places could be procured
on it for passengers, and the old man's anger found vent in a good
round oath; he was ready to pay any price for places, and have them he
must and would. He was supported on the arm of an old servant in
livery, and beside him stood a young girl. I could not see her face,
but her figure was charming. I passed around her and recognized--but
surely, madame, you have guessed whom I recognized----'

"I tried in vain to solve the riddle, mentioning the names of several
ladies known to each of us, but in vain.

"'Wrong, madame; I am sure your astonishment will equal mine when I
tell you that I recognized in the young lady with the charming figure
my lovely cousin, Celia von Hohenwald.'

"My astonishment was indeed great; the Assessor was delighted. 'Yes,
Celia von Hohenwald; she was with her father, my respected relative,
the Freiherr von Hohenwald. Fortunately, I met them upon the railway
platform at Minden, and was able to be of service to them.'

"'The Freiherr von Hohenwald!' I exclaimed, now amazed indeed. I could
hardly believe that my dear old friend had left his forest castle,
where he had so long been confined to his rolling-chair, but the
Assessor eagerly went on to explain it all to me.

"The Freiherr's health had improved wonderfully during the past summer,
as I knew from Celia's letters, but she had not told me that he had for
some time been able to walk in his beloved garden supported by old
Franz, and she herself had never dreamed that he would think of
undertaking a journey. He had heard first from Count Schlichting and
then from Kurt, as he told the Assessor, of his son's wound, and had
determined not to await his recovery, but to go himself to Kaltenborn,
that he might be near him. So, accompanied by Celia and old Franz, he
had set out, and felt better and stronger than he had done for years.
His desire to see his son again was intense, and hence his angry
outbreak when told that he could not leave Minden by this train. The
Assessor instantly offered both Celia and himself seats in his own
coupé, while old Franz was accommodated in a freight-wagon. The good
little man fairly glowed with enthusiasm as he described his delightful
journey and the charms of his fair cousin, to whom he has evidently
lost his too susceptible heart.

"Arrived at S----, the Assessor instantly came by extra post to
Kaltenborn to announce the arrival of the Baron and his daughter, that
Arno might be prepared to meet them. They were, the Assessor concluded,
awaiting his return at S----, whither he was to carry intelligence of
Arno's condition and my father's permission to visit Kaltenborn.

"You may imagine, dear, how happy the good Assessor's news made me. To
think of seeing once more my dear old friend and Celia! My heart beat
quickly as I went with the Assessor to Arno's room, where the little
man contrived with great tact to announce to him the arrival of such
dear friends.

"My father was out walking, but I sent in his name a cordial invitation
to the Freiherr, and the Assessor took leave of all of us in a state of
the most amiable self-complacency.

"After his departure I had too much to do in preparing for the
reception of my dear guests to leave time for reflection. I had just
finished arranging flowers in their rooms when their carriage stopped
at the hall-door. I really do not know how I got down-stairs, but I
found myself at the carriage-door. I felt Celia's ardent kisses, and
the next instant I was in the carriage and in the Freiherr's arms. He
kissed my forehead tenderly, and then, clasping both my hands in his,
held me off from him with a smile of perfect content on his dear old
face. 'You never thought, my dear child,' he said, 'that your old
adorer would leave his rolling-chair and come to look for you. I could
not help it; a longing for the sight of you and anxiety for my boy have
brought me here. No, not anxiety, for even when the Poseneck fellow
wrote me word that he was very ill I knew that my dear child's tender
nursing would preserve him to me; and so it was. I owe my Arno's life
to you.'

"I would have disclaimed his praise, but he would not let me speak. 'I
know better about it than you do, child; his heart needed healing, and
I knew his body would follow suit. You alone could be his true
physician. But never blush about it; postpone that, dear child, until
you and I have had a private talk together. Thunder and lightning! The
will-o'-the-wisp has rushed directly into the Poseneck fellow's arms!
Here's a pretty business!'

"The tone in which this outburst was uttered was far from grim, and the
words themselves were contradicted by the sparkle in the old man's eyes
as he looked out of the carriage. Kurt stood in the doorway with Celia
clinging to him. Clasped in each other's arms, for the moment the world
about the happy pair was forgotten; the Freiherr's exclamation recalled
Kurt to a sense of the present. He would have hurried out to the
carriage, but Celia only clasped him the closer, crying, amid tears and
laughter, 'No, no, Kurt, my dearest, I have you now, and you shall not
go; papa is not so angry as he pretends. Look how glad he is that we
are all happy together at last!'

"'Let go the Poseneck fellow, you romp!' the Freiherr called from the
carriage. 'Let him come here, I want to look at him.'

"Kurt sprang forward to offer his arm; before the Baron took it,
however, he scanned the young man with keen scrutiny. The result of it
must have been satisfactory, for he nodded complacently at Kurt, and
then, with his help and with Franz's support, descended heavily from
the carriage.

"When I handed him his crutch-handled cane from the carriage, he
let go of Kurt's arm. 'You would, of course, rather conduct the
will-o'-the-wisp than the old father,' he said to Kurt, with a laugh.
'Give your arm to your Celia, then, for she is yours; I can't prevent
that. My child here will take me to Arno,' he added, nodding towards
me.

"I was by his side in a moment; he put his arm in mine and, leaning
over me, whispered, 'Will you not promise, my darling, to support your
old father thus as long he lives?'

"I felt the blood rush to my cheeks. I could not speak; but he needed
no reply, as he looked at me with a happy smile.

"Thus we walked slowly through the hall, and were received at the door
of his room by Arno himself, leaning upon your Karl's arm, so strong
that he hardly needed its support.

"As the old man embraced his darling son the tears rolled down his
withered cheeks; he held him clasped in his arms for a moment, and then
turning to me, said, with profound emotion, 'We owe this happy moment
to our Anna. She has been the guardian angel of those two,' pointing to
Kurt and Celia; 'softening my old heart until I gladly receive Kurt as
a son. She has restored you to life, Arno. The dark cloud that divided
you has vanished, serene skies smile above your future. Have you
nothing to ask at her hands, Arno?'

"What Arno replied I cannot tell you. I felt his arm about me, his lips
upon mine, and heard the ecstasy in his whispered words, 'Mine,--mine
for all eternity!'

"This was our betrothal. My dearest father joyfully gave us his
blessing, and Kurt and Celia, Arno and I have just passed the happiest
evening of our lives, in the circle of those dearest to us, where only
you, my own faithful Adèle, were wanting. Count Styrum recounted to the
Freiherr his adventures in the castle of Assais, and the old Baron told
in his turn of how the danger that had threatened the Finanzrath had
fortunately been averted by the kind interference of influential
friends. Upon Werner's promise, made in writing, never to return to
Germany, the warrants out against him on a charge of high treason have
been withdrawn, and he is living in Vienna in great seclusion. The
thought of Werner, so different from his father, brother, and sister in
his whole character and nature, disturbed my happiness for a moment,
but only for a moment. One glance at Arno was enough to dissipate any
cloud called up in my mind by the remembrance of his unworthy brother.

"Darling Adèle, my heart is full. The shadows of the past lie behind
me, the future is brilliant with glorious sunshine. Farewell, my own
true friend; I know how you will rejoice with and for your     Lucie."


Spring had again returned, and with it the blessings of peace to the
fatherland. In the latter days of May there was joy indeed at Castle
Hohenwald, where a double marriage was celebrated. Of course Lucie and
Arno, Celia and Kurt, were the happy pairs, and Count Styrum, with his
charming young wife, was present on the auspicious occasion.



                               FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: Councillor of finance. It is best to give these titles in
German; they must always be awkward in English.   A. L. W.]

[Footnote 2: Forest-depths.]



                                THE END.



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unknown--or who appreciates a very well-written story."--_Brooklyn
Eagle_.

                               *   *   *

                 J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA



                           By "The Duchess."

                               *   *   *

      The Coming of Chloe.                      Lovice.
      12mo. Cloth, $1.25.                 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.

                               *   *   *

                           The Three Graces.

         With six full-page illustrations, 12mo. Cloth, $1.25.

                               *   *   *

      Peter's Wife.                       A Little Irish Girl.
      Lady Patty.                         The Hoyden.
      A Lonely Maid.                      An Unsatisfactory Lover.

                  12mo. Paper, 50 cents; cloth, $1.00.

                               *   *   *

      Phyllis.                            Mrs. Geoffrey.
      Molly Bawn.                         Portia.
      Airy Fairy Lilian.                  Löys, Lord Berresford, and
      Beauty's Daughters.                    Other Stories.
      Faith and Unfaith.                  Rossmoyne.
      Doris.                              A Mental Struggle.
      "O Tender Dolores."                 Lady Valworth's Diamonds.
      A Maiden All Forlorn.               Lady Branksmere.
      In Durance Vile.                    A Modern Circe.
      The Duchess.                        The Honourable Mrs. Vereker.
      Marvel.                             Under-Currents.
      Jerry, and Other Stories.           A Life's Remorse.

                         A Point of Conscience.
                   12mo. Bound only in cloth, $1.00.

                               *   *   *

"'The Duchess' has well deserved the title of being one of the most
fascinating novelists of the day. The stories written by her are the
airiest, lightest, and brightest imaginable; full of wit, spirit, and
gayety, yet containing touches of the most exquisite pathos. There is
something good in all of them."--_London Academy_.

                               *   *   *

                J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA.





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