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Title: Riven Bonds. Vol. I. - A Novel, in Two Volumes
Author: Werner, E., 1838-1918
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 "Riven Bonds. Vol. I. - A Novel, in Two Volumes" ***

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Transcriber's Notes:
   1. Page scan source:
      http://books.google.com/books?pg=PA284&id=e94BAAAAQAAJ#v

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



                              RIVEN BONDS.

                                A Novel,


                            IN TWO VOLUMES.


                             TRANSLATED BY
                              BERTHA NESS,


                    _FROM THE ORIGINAL OF E. WERNER_,

                 Author of "SUCCESS AND HOW HE WON IT,"
                          "UNDER A CHARM," &c.



                           *   *   *   *   *
                                VOL. I.
                           *   *   *   *   *



                                London:
                           REMINGTON AND CO.,
                    5, Arundel Street, Strand, W.C.

                                 1877.

                        [_All Rights Reserved_.]



                              RIVEN BONDS.



                               CHAPTER I.


The curtain fell amid thunders of applause from the whole house. Boxes,
pit, and gallery unanimously demanded the reappearance of the singer,
who, in the finale of the act just concluded, had carried all away with
her. The whole audience became excited, and would not be calmed, until,
greeted with applause, which broke forth with renewed vigour,
overwhelmed with flowers, wreaths, and homage of all kinds, the object
of this ovation showed herself, in order to thank the public.

"This is quite like an evening in an Italian theatre," said an elderly
gentleman, entering one of the boxes in the first tier. "Signora
Biancona seems to understand the art of filling the otherwise quiet and
smoothly-flowing patrician blood of our noble Hanseatic town with the
fire of her Southern home. The infatuation for her begins to be quite
an epidemic. If it continue to increase in this way, we shall see the
Exchange voting her a torchlight procession, and the Senate of this
free town, appearing before her _in corpore_, to lay their homage at
her feet. Were I in your place, Herr Consul, I should make this
proposition to both these Corporations. I am sure it would meet with an
enthusiastic reception."

The gentleman to whom these words were addressed, and who was sitting
by a lady, apparently his wife, in the front of the box, seemed unable
to withdraw himself from the universal excitement. He had applauded
with an energy and perseverance worthy of a better cause, and turned
round now, half-laughing, half-annoyed.

"I was sure of it; the critic must place himself in opposition to the
general voice. Certainly, Herr Doctor, in your abominable morning
paper, you spare neither Exchange nor Senate; how, then, could Signora
Biancona hope to find mercy?"

The Doctor smiled a little maliciously, and drew near to the lady's
chair, when a young man, who had been sitting beside her, rose politely
to make way for him.

"Herr Almbach," said the lady, introducing them, "Herr Dr. Welding, the
editor of our morning paper, whose pen--"

"For Heaven's sake, my dear madam," interrupted Welding, "do not throw
discredit on me, at once, in the gentleman's eyes. One has only to be
introduced as critic to a young artist, and immediately one gains his
deepest antipathy."

"Possibly," laughed the Consul, "but this time your keenness has failed
you. Herr Almbach, thank goodness, can never be in a position to come
before your judgment seat. He is a merchant."

"Merchant!" a look of astonishment was turned towards the young man,
"then I certainly apologise for my mistake. I should have taken you for
an artist."

"There, you see, dear Almbach, your forehead and eyes do you a bad turn
again," said the Consul, playfully. "What would your people at home say
to the exchange? I almost fear they would look upon it as an insult."

"Perhaps. I do not consider it as such," said Almbach, bowing slightly
to Welding. The words were intended to carry on the joking tone that
was begun, but there lay in them a half-concealed bitterness, which did
not escape Dr. Welding. He fixed his eyes searchingly on the young
stranger's features; but just at that moment the lady turned towards
him, and resumed the interrupted topic.

"You must allow, Herr Doctor, that Biancona was quite ravishing
to-night. This young, dawning talent is indeed, a new star in our
theatrical firmament."

"Which will some time become a shining sun, if it carry out what to-day
it promises. Certainly, dear madam; I do not deny it at all, even
although this future sun shows a few spots and imperfections at
present, which naturally escape so enthusiastic a public."

"Well then, I advise you not to lay too much stress on these
imperfections," said the Consul, pointing to the pit. "There, below,
sits an army of knights, infatuated about the Signora. Take care, Herr
Doctor, or you will receive at least six challenges."

The malicious smile played round Welding's lips again, as he cast a
glance of irony towards young Almbach, who had listened silently, but
with darkly lowering brow, to the conversation.

"And perhaps a seventh, also! Herr Almbach, for instance, seems to look
upon the opinion which I have just expressed as a species of high
treason."

"I regret, sir, to be so much behind you as regards criticism," coolly
replied the one addressed. "I--" hereupon his eyes flashed almost
passionately, "I am accustomed to worship genius unconditionally."

"A very poetical style of criticism," sneered Welding. "If you were to
repeat that in person to our beautiful Signora, and in the same tone, I
could promise you her most complete favour. Besides, I am this time in
the pleasant position of being able to tell her in the article which
will appear to-morrow, that hers is indeed a talent of the first order,
that her faults and failings are only those of a beginner, and that it
lies in her power to become eventually, a musical celebrity. She is not
one at present."

"In the meanwhile, that is praise enough from your lips," said the
Consul; "but I think we must retire now; the brilliant part of Biancona
is over, the last act offers nothing for her _rôle_, she hardly appears
again upon the stage, and our duties as hosts call us to our reception
evening. May I offer you a seat in our carriage, Herr Doctor? Your
critic's duty is also about at an end; and you, dear Almbach, will you
accompany us, or shall you remain to the last?"

The young man had also risen. "If you and your gracious lady will allow
it--the opera is new to me--I should like--"

"Very well then, remain without ceremony," interrupted the other in a
friendly manner, "but be punctual to-night. We count positively upon
your coming."

He gave his arm to his wife, to lead her away. Dr. Welding followed
them.

"How could you think," scoffed he, when in the corridor, "that your
young guest would move from the spot so long as Biancona had only one
more note to sing, or that he would be debarred from helping to form a
guard to her carriage with the rest of our gentlemen? The beautiful
eyes of the Signora have done much harm already--he has caught fire
worse than the others."

"We must hope not," said the lady, with a touch of concern in her
voice. "What would his father and mother-in-law, and, above all, his
young wife say?"

"Is Herr Almbach married already?" asked Welding, astonished.

"Two years since," replied the Consul. "He is nephew and son-in-law of
my business correspondents. The firm is Almbach and Co., not a very
important, but a most substantial, respectable house. Besides, you do
the young man injustice with your suspicions; at his age one is easily
carried away, particularly when, as here, one so seldom enjoys a
musical treat. Between ourselves, Almbach has rather middle-class
views, and keeps his son-in-law tightly by the head. He will take care
that any harm which those eyes could do, shall be kept far from his
house. I know him well enough on that point."

"All the better for him," said the Doctor, laconically, as he seated
himself by the married pair in the carriage, which took the direction
of the harbour, where the palaces of the rich business men were
situated.

An hour later, a numerous company was assembled in the merchant's
drawing-rooms. Consul Erlau was one of the richest, most influential
men in this wealthy commercial town, and even although this
circumstance was sufficient to ensure him an undisputed position, he
made it, in addition, a point of honour, to hear his house called the
most brilliant and hospitable in H----. His reception evenings gathered
together every notability which the town had to offer. There was never
a celebrity who did not appear several times, and even the star of the
present season--_prima donna_ Biancona, who was here with the temporary
Italian Opera Company, had accepted the invitation which she had
received, and appeared after the end of the performance. The young
actress, after her evening's triumph in the theatre, was of course the
centre of attraction for all the company. Besieged by the gentlemen
with every species of homage, overwhelmed with compliments from the
ladies, distinguished by the host and his wife with most flattering
attentions, she was unable to escape from the stream of admiration
which flowed towards her from all sides, and which, perhaps, was due as
much to her beauty as her genius.

Both were indeed united here. Even without her highly-worshipped
talent, Signora Biancona was not likely ever to be overlooked. She was
one of those women, who, wherever they appear, know how to attract,
and, oft to a dangerous degree, retain eye and senses; whose entrancing
charms do not lie only in their beauty, but far more in the singular,
almost witch-like magic, which certain natures exercise, without any
one being able to account for its cause.

It seemed as if a breath of the glowing South, full of colour, lay upon
this apparition, who, with her dark hair and complexion, her large,
deep, black eyes, out of which shone such an ardent, full life,
contrasted go strangely with these Northern surroundings. Her manner of
speaking and moving was, perhaps livelier, less constrained than the
rules of '_convenance_' demanded, but the fire of a Southern nature,
which broke forth with every emotion, had an entrancing grace. Her
light ethereal-looking costume was not at all conformed to the reigning
fashion, but it appeared to be especially invented to display the
advantages of her figure in the best light, and held its own
triumphantly amongst the more magnificent toilets of the ladies around
her.

The Italian was a being who seemed to stand above all the forms and
trammels of everyday life, and there was no one in the company who did
not willingly accord her this distinction.

Almbach, too, had found his way here after the close of the theatre,
but he was quite a stranger to the circle, and evidently remained so,
notwithstanding the well-meant attempts of the Consul to make him
acquainted with one or another of the guests. All fell through, partly
on account of the young man's almost moody silence, partly on account
of the gentlemen's manners to whom he was introduced, and who,
belonging almost entirely to the circles of the Exchange and Finance,
did not think it worth while to take much trouble about the
representative of a small firm. He was standing quite isolated at the
lower end of the room, looking apparently indifferently at the
brilliant crowd, but his eyes always turned to one point, which
to-night was the magnet for all the assembled gentlemen.

"Now, Herr Almbach, you make no attempt to approach the circle of the
sun of the drawing-room," said Dr. Welding, coming up to him, "shall I
introduce you there?"

A slight uncomfortable blush, at his secret wish having been divined,
covered the young man's face.

"The Signora is so occupied on all sides that I did not venture to
trouble her also."

Welding laughed, "Yes, the gentlemen all seem to follow your method of
criticism, and equally to admire genius unconditionally. Well, art has
the privilege of inspiring all with enthusiasm. Come, I will present
you to the Signora."

They crossed to the other side of the drawing-room where, the young
Italian was, but it really gave them some trouble to penetrate the
circle of admirers surrounding the honoured guest, and to approach her.

The Doctor undertook the introduction; he named his companion, who,
to-day, had for the first time the pleasure of admiring the Signora on
the stage, and then left him to set himself at ease in the "sun's
circle." This designation was not so badly chosen; there really was
something of the scorching glow of this planet, at its midday height,
in the glance which she now turned upon Almbach.

"Then you were also in the theatre this evening?" asked the Signora,
lightly.

"Yes, Signora."

Tie answer sounded curt and gloomy; no other word, none of those
compliments which the actress had heard so plentifully to-day, but the
look in the young man's eyes must have made up for his monosyllabic
reply. It is true that he only met Signora Biancona's for a moment, but
their lighting-up was seen and understood; it said much more than all
spoken flatteries.

The other gentlemen might receive no high opinion of the new arrival's
social talents; who did not even understand how to make a pretty speech
to a lady. They ignored him thoroughly. The conversation, in which the
Consul now took part, became more general; they spoke of music, of a
known composer and his new work, just now causing great sensation, as
to whose conception Signora Biancona and Dr. Welding had a difference
of opinion. The former was full of enthusiasm for it, while the latter
accorded it very little value. The Signora defended her opinion with
Southern vivacity and was supported therein by all the gentlemen, who
took her side from the commencement, while the Doctor persisted coolly
in his own. The battle grew more determined, until at last the Signora
became somewhat annoyed, and turned away from her opponent.

"I regret very much that our Conductor was prevented from accepting
to-day's invitation. He plays this composition perfectly, and I fear it
requires a performance to enable the company to judge which of us two
is right."

The guests were of the same opinion, and regretted the Conductor
exceedingly, none offered to replace him. The playing of this music did
not appear to keep pace with the very remarkable enthusiasm for it,
until Almbach came forward suddenly and said, "I am at your disposal,
Signora."

She turned quickly towards him and said with evident appreciation, "You
are musical, Signor?"

"If you and the rest of the company will bear with the attempt of an
'amateur,'" he made a gesture of enquiry to the master of the house,
and as the latter agreed eagerly, he went to the piano.

The composition under discussion, a modern show-piece in the fullest
sense of the word, owed its general popularity less to its real
worth--of which it had indeed very little--than to its great difficulty
of execution. Even the simple possibility of playing it at all,
required a masterly power over the instrument. People were accustomed
only to hear it performed by high-standing professionals, and therefore
looked half-astonished, half-contemptuously at the young man who
volunteered his services with so little concern. He had certainly
apologised for being an amateur, but still it was presumptuous to
attempt this in Consul Erlau's house, where the playing of so many
celebrities had been heard and admired.

The guests were so much the more astonished that Almbach showed himself
perfectly equal to all these difficulties, as, without even a note of
music before him, he overcame them by playing at once, with an ease and
certainty which would have done honour to a regular artist. At the same
time he understood to put such fire into his performance as carried
away even the older and more expectant hearers. The piece of music
under his hands seemed to acquire quite a different form; he gave it a
meaning, which no one, perhaps not even the composer himself, had
attached to it, and especially the finale, rendered in a somewhat
stormy _tempo_, brought him most plenteous applause from all sides.

"Bravo, bravissimo, Herr Almbach!" cried the Consul, who was the first
to come up, and who shook him heartily by the hand, "we must really be
grateful to the Signora and Doctor, whose musical dispute assisted us
to the discovery of such a talent. You modestly announce an attempt,
and give us a performance of which the most finished artist need not be
ashamed. You have helped our Signora to a brilliant victory; she is
right--unconditionally right, and the Doctor this time remains, with
his attack, decidedly in the minority."

The singer had also approached the piano.

"I, too, am grateful to you for having responded to my wish in so
knightly a manner," she said, smiling; now lowering her voice, "but
take care; I fear my critical enemy will still fight with you as to the
mode in which you proved my opinion. Was the playing, above all the
finale, quite correct?"

A treacherous gleam shot across the young man's countenance, but he
also smiled.

"It accorded with your views, and received your applause, Signora--that
is enough for me."

"We will speak of it later," whispered the Signora quickly, as now the
lady of the house drew near to pay some civilities to her young guest,
and the greater part of the company followed her example. A stream of
phrases and compliments swept over Almbach, his playing was charming;
his execution--where had he studied music? The less he had been noticed
before--the less he was known to them, the more he had astonished all
by suddenly coming forward, added to the young man's modesty, which
hardly permitted him to reply to all the questions addressed to him;
every one present felt himself involuntarily to be a sort of Mecænas,
and was prepared to give the young genius his complete protection. Was
it really modesty that closed Almbach's lips? Sometimes a species of
mockery flashed in his eyes, as again and again this exquisite
performance was extolled; and it was declared that this composition had
never been heard in perfection before. He seized the first opportunity
to escape from the attention paid him, and in this attempt was taken
possession of by Dr. Welding.

"Is it possible to reach you at last? You are regularly besieged with
compliments. Just one word, Herr Almbach; shall we go in here?"

He pointed to an adjoining room, into which both had scarcely entered,
before the Doctor continued in a somewhat sharp tone--

"Signora Biancona was right: that is, according to your performance. My
attack was directed against the composition as it exists in the
original. May I ask where you found this very peculiar arrangement of
it? Until this moment it was quite unknown to me."

"How do you mean, Herr Doctor?" asked the young man, coolly. "I only
know the piece of music in that form."

Welding looked him up and down, an expression of annoyance struggled
with one of undisguised interest in his face, as he replied--

"You appear to gauge the musical knowledge of your audience quite
correctly, if you venture to offer them such things. They hear the air,
and are contented; but sometimes there are exceptions. For instance, it
would interest me very much to know from whom certain variations
emanate, which utterly change the character of the whole; and as
regards the finale, entirely; was this daring improvisation, perhaps,
the attempt of an amateur also?"

Almbach raised his head somewhat defiantly, "And if it were, what
should you say to it?"

"That it was a great mistake of your people to make you a merchant."

"Herr Doctor, we are in a merchant's house."

"Certainly," answered Welding, calmly, "and I am the last to depreciate
that class, especially when, like our host, it begins with earnest,
ceaseless work, and ends in reposing on millions; but it does not suit
all. Above everything, it requires a clear, cool head, and yours does
not appear to me to be quite made to devote itself to the grasping
debit and credit. Excuse me, Herr Almbach! that is only my candid
opinion; besides, I do not blame you at all for your daring. What would
one not do to make a beautiful woman's obstinacy appear right! In this
case, the man[oe]uvre was even _most agreeable_, any other person with
the best will could not have carried it out; I congratulate you upon
it."

He made a half-ironical bow, and left the room; it adjoined the
drawing-room, but the half-closed _portières_ divided it from the
former; quite lonely and dimly-lighted, it offered a momentary solitude
to whomsoever desired it. The young man had thrown himself upon a seat,
and gazed dreamily before him. Of what he was thinking, perhaps he did
not dare to confess to himself, and yet it was betrayed by his starting
up at the sound of a voice, which said in a tone of slight
astonishment--

"Ah, Signor Almbach, you here!"

It was Signora Biancona; whether, on entering, she had really not
perceived who was already there, could not be decided, as she continued
with perfect ease--

"I was seeking relief for a moment from the heat and whirl of the
drawing-room. You, too, have soon withdrawn from the company after your
triumph."

Almbach had risen, quickly. "If it is a question of triumph, there is
certainly no doubt who gained it to-day. My improvised performance
cannot be compared, in ever so slight a degree, with that which you
offered to the public."

The Signora smiled. "I only produced sounds, like you, but I confess,
candidly, it has surprised me, never, until to-night, and here, to meet
an artist who surely long since--"

"Excuse me, Signora," interrupted the young man, coldly, "I have
already declared in the drawing-room that I only lay claim to being a
_dilettante_. I belong to the commercial world."

The same look of astonishment which he had seen on Welding's
countenance in the theatre, was turned towards Almbach's face for the
second time.

"Impossible! you are joking."

"Why impossible, Signora? Because I could play a difficult _bravura_
piece with facility?"

"Because you could play it so, and because--" she looked at him fixedly
for a moment, and then added, with great decision--"because your face
bears the stamp one always imagines genius must carry on its brow."

"You see how deceptive appearances sometimes are."

Signora Biancona did not seem to agree with this; she sat down on the
couch, her pale-coloured dress lay airily and lightly, as a cloud, on
the dark velvet.

"I admire you," she began again, "that you are able, with such artistic
qualities, to devote yourself to an every-day calling. It would be
impossible for me; I have grown up in a world of sounds and tones, and
cannot understand how there is room in it for any other duties."

This time there lay an undisguised bitterness in the young man's voice
as he answered----"Also, your home is Italy; mine, a North-German
business town! In our every-day life, poetry is a rare, fleeting guest,
to whom a place is often refused. Work, striving after gain, stands
ever in the foreground."

"With you, also, Signor?"

"It should, at least, stand there; that it is not always the case, my
musical attempt will have shown you."

The singer shook her head doubtfully. "Your attempt! I should like to
become acquainted with your finished work. But surely it cannot be your
intention to withdraw this talent entirely from the public, and only
exercise it in your home circle?"

"In my home circle!" repeated Almbach, with singular emphasis, "I do
not touch a note there--least of all in my wife's presence."

"You are married already?" asked the Italian quickly, as a momentary
pallor spread over her face.

"Yes, Signora."

This "yes," sounded dull and cold, and the half-mocking expression
which played for a moment on the singer's lips, as she looked at the
man of barely four-and-twenty years, disappeared at this tone.

"People marry very young in Germany, it appears," she remarked,
quietly.

"Sometimes."

The young Italian seemed to find the pause which followed these words
somewhat painful; she changed rapidly to another topic--

"I fear you have already been subjected to the examination of which I
warned you. All the same, the company was charmed with your
performance."

"Perhaps!" said the young man, half-contemptuously, "and yet it
certainly was not intended for the company."

"Not! and for whom, then?" asked Signora Biancona, directing her glance
firmly towards him. And he looked at her; there seemed to be something
alike in both pairs of eyes which now met one another--both large,
dark, and mysterious. In Almbach's glance, too, shone the same light as
in the actress'; here also burned an ardent, passionate soul; also
here, in the depths, slumbered the demonlike spark which is so often
the heritage of genial natures, and becomes their curse when no
protecting hand restrains it, and when it is fanned into flame, then no
more brings light, but only destruction.

He came a step nearer and lowered his voice; its great excitement,
however, still betrayed itself.

"Only for her, who, for me and for us all, a few hours since, embodied
the highest beauty and the highest poetry, borne by the notes of an
undying master-work. You have been worshipped a thousand-fold to-day,
Signora. All that enthusiasm could offer was laid at your feet. The
stranger, the unknown, also wished to tell you how much he admired you,
and he did it in the language which alone is worthy of you. It is not
quite strange to me either."

In his admiration there lay something that raised it above all
flattery, the tone of real true enthusiasm, and Signora Biancona was
actress enough to recognise this tone, woman enough to suspect what was
hidden beneath it; she smiled with enchanting grace.

"I have seen, indeed, how very fluent you are in this language. Shall I
not often hear it from you?"

"Hardly," said the young man, gloomily. "You return, as I hear, to
Italy shortly, I--remain here in the North. Who knows if we shall ever
meet again."

"Our manager intends to remain here until May," interrupted the
Signora, quickly. "So our meeting to-day will surely not be our last?
Certainly not--I count positively on seeing you again."

"Signora!" This passionate outbreak of Almbach's lasted only for a
second. Suddenly a recollection or warning seemed to shoot through him;
he drew back and bowed low and distantly.

"I fear it must be the last--farewell, Signora."

He was gone before it was possible for the singer to utter one word
regarding this strange adieu, and he seemed to be in earnest about it,
as not once during the whole evening did he approach the dangerous
"circle of the sun."



                              CHAPTER II.


"That is too bad. This mania really begins to surpass all limits. I
must forbid Reinhold all cultivation of music if he continues to pursue
it in so senseless a manner."

With these words, the merchant Almbach opened a family council, which
took place in the parlour, in his wife's and daughter's presence, and
at which, fortunately, the special object of the same did not assist.

Herr Almbach, a man about fifty, whose quiet, measured, almost pedantic
manner, generally served as a pattern for all the office people,
appeared to have quite lost his equilibrium to-day, by the above-named
mania, as he continued, in great excitement--

"The bookkeeper came home this morning about four o'clock from the
jubilee, which I had left directly after midnight. From the bridge he
sees the garden house lighted up, and hears Reinhold raving over the
notes, and lost to all sense of sight and hearing. Of course he could
not accompany me to the feast! he declared himself to be ill; but his
'unbearable headache' did not hinder him from maltreating the piano in
the icy-cold garden-room until morning's dawn. I shall be hearing again
from my partners that my son-in-law has been doing his utmost in
uselessness as well as in carelessness. It is hardly credible! The
youngest clerk understands the books better, and has more interest in
the business, than the partner and future head of the house of 'Almbach
& Co.' My whole life long have I worked and toiled to make my firm
secure and respected, and now I have the prospect of leaving it, at
last, in such hands."

"I always told you that you should have forbidden his associating with
the Music-Director, Wilkins," interrupted Frau Almbach, "he is to blame
for it all; no one could get on with that misanthropical, musical fool.
Everyone hated and avoided him, but with Reinhold that was all the more
reason to form the most intimate friendship with him. Day after day he
was there, and there alone was laid the foundation of all this musical
nonsense, which his master seems to have bequeathed to him at his
death. It is hardly bearable since he had the old man's legacy--the
piano--in the house. Ella, what do you say, then, to this behaviour of
your husband?"

The young wife, to whom the last words were addressed, had so far not
spoken a syllable. She sat in the window, her head bent over her
sewing, and only looked up as this direct question was addressed to
her.

"I, dear mother?"

"Yes, you, my child, as the affair affects you most. Or do you really
not feel the irresponsible manner in which Reinhold neglects you and
your child?"

"He is so fond of music," said Ella, softly.

"Do you excuse him also?" said her mother, excitedly. "That is just the
misfortune, he cares for it more than for wife or child; he never asks
for either of you if he can only sit at his piano and improvise. Have
you no idea of what a wife can and must demand from her husband, and
that, above all, it is her duty to bring him to reason? But to be sure,
nothing is ever to be expected of you."

The young wife certainly did not look as if much were to be expected of
her. She had little that was attractive in her appearance, and the one
thing about her that could perhaps be called pretty, the delicate,
still girlishly slender figure, was entirely hidden under a most
unbecoming house dress, which in its boundless plainness was more
suggestive of a servant than of the daughter of the house, and was made
so as to disguise any possible advantages which there might be. Only a
narrow strip of the fair hair, which lay smoothly parted on her brow,
was visible, the rest disappeared entirely under a cap more suited to
her mother's years, and offering a peculiar contrast to the face of the
barely twenty-years-old wife. This pale face with its downcast eyes,
was not adapted to arouse any interest; it had no expression, there lay
in it something stolid, vacant, that nearly approached to stupidity,
and at this moment, when she let her sewing drop and looked at her
mother, it betrayed such helpless nervousness and senselessness, that
Almbach felt obliged to come to his daughter's assistance.

"Leave Ella alone!" said he in that half-angry, half-compassionate tone
with which one rejects the interference of a child, "you know nothing
is to be done with her, and what could she effect here?"

He shrugged his shoulders and continued bitterly; "That is the reward
for the sacrifice of adopting my brother's orphan children! Hugo throws
all gratitude, all reason and education in my face, and runs away
secretly; and Reinhold, who has grown up in my house, under my eyes,
causes me the greatest anxiety, with his good-for-nothing hankering
after all fancies. But with him, at all events, I have kept the reins
in my hand, and I shall draw them so tightly now, that he shall lose
all inclination to chafe against them any more."

"Yes, Hugo's ingratitude was really outrageous!" Frau Almbach joined
in. "To fly from our house at night, in a fog, and go to sea, 'to try
his luck alone in the world,' as he said in the impudent letter of
farewell which he left behind him! Two years since there actually came
a letter to Reinhold from the Captain; and the former hinted only
lately, quite openly, about his probable return. I fear he knows
something positive about it."

"Hugo shall not cross my threshold," declared the merchant, with a
solemn motion of his hand. "I know nothing of this interchange of
letters with Reinhold, and will know nothing. Let them correspond
behind my back, but if the unadvised youth should have the audacity to
appear before me, he will learn what the anger of an offended uncle and
guardian is."

While the parents prepared to discuss this apparently often-treated
theme, with the wonted details and ire, Ella had left the room
unnoticed and now descended the staircase leading to the office,
situated on the ground floor. The young wife knew that now, at midday,
all the people would be absent, and this probably lent her courage to
enter.

It was a large gloomy room; whose bare walls and barred windows caused
it somewhat to resemble a prison. No trouble had been taken to impart
any comfort or even a pleasant appearance to the office. And what for?
What belonged to work was there; the rest was luxury, and luxury was a
thing that the house of Almbach and Co., notwithstanding its
notoriously not inconsiderable wealth, did not allow itself.

At present no one was to be found in the room, excepting the young man,
who sat at a desk with a big ledger open before him. He looked pale and
as if he had been up late; his eyes, which should have been busy with
figures, were fixed on the narrow strip of the sun's rays which fell
slantingly across the room. In his gaze was something of the longing
and bitterness of a prisoner, to whom the sunshine, penetrating into
his cell, brings news of life and freedom from without. He hardly
turned his head at the opening of the door, and asked indifferently--

"What is it? What do you want, Ella?"

Every other wife at the second question would have gone to her husband
and put her arm round his shoulder. Ella remained standing close to the
doorway. It sounded far too icily cold, this "What do you want?" she
evidently was not welcome.

"I wished to ask how your headache is?" she began, shyly.

"My headache?" Reinhold recollected himself suddenly. "Ah, yes, I think
it has gone."

The young wife closed the door and came a step or two nearer.

"My parents are very furious again, that you were not at the feast
yesterday, and were playing, instead, the whole night long," she told
him hesitatingly.

Reinhold knitted his brows. "Who told them? you perhaps?"

"I?" her voice sounded half like a reproach. "The bookkeeper saw the
garden house lighted up, and heard you playing as he returned this
morning."

An expression of contemptuous scorn played around the young man's lips,
"Ah! I certainly had not thought of that. I did not believe that those
gentlemen, after their jubilee, would have time or inclination left for
observations. To be sure for spying they are always ready enough."

"My father thinks--" began Ella, again.

"What does he think?" shouted Reinhold. "Is it not enough for him that
from morning to evening I am bound to this office; does he even grudge
me the refreshment I seek at night in music? I thought that I and my
piano had been banished far enough; that the garden house lay so
distant and so isolated, that I could run no risk of disturbing the
sleep of the righteous in the house. Fortunately no one can hear a
sound."

"Not so," said the young wife, softly, "I hear every note when all is
still around, and I alone lie awake."

Reinhold turned round and looked at his wife. She stood with downcast
eyes and thoroughly expressionless face before him. His glance swept
slowly down her figure as though he were unconsciously drawing some
comparison, and the bitterness in his features became more plainly
displayed.

"I am sorry for it," he replied coldly, "but I cannot help your windows
looking into the garden. Close your shutters in future, then it is to
be hoped that my musical extravagances will not disturb your sleep any
more."

He turned over the pages of his book, and appeared to lose himself
again in his calculations. Ella waited about a minute longer, but as
she saw that not the least notice was taken of her presence, she went
away as noiselessly as she came.

She had hardly left before Reinhold flung the ledger from him
with a passionate movement. His glance, which fell upon the
contemptuously-treated object, and was cast around the office, showed
the most bitter hatred; then he laid his head on both arms and closed
his eyes, as if he wished to see and hear no more of the whole
surroundings.

"God greet you, Reinhold!" said a strange voice suddenly, quite close
to him.

He started up, and looked bewildered and inquiringly at the stranger in
sailor's clothes, who had entered unnoticed and now stood before him.
Suddenly, however, a recollection seemed to shoot through him, as with
a cry of joy, he threw himself on the new-comer's breast.

"Is it possible, Hugo!--you here already?"

Two powerful arms embraced him firmly, and a pair of warm lips were
pressed again and again upon his.

"Do you really know me still? I should have picked you out from amongst
hundreds. Certainly you do look rather different from the little
Reinhold I left behind here. Well, with me I suppose it is not much
better."

The first words still sounded full of deep emotion; but the latter
already bore a somewhat merrier tone. Reinhold's arm still lay fondly
round his brother's neck.

"And you come so suddenly, so completely unannounced? I only expected
you in a few weeks' time."

"We have had an unusually quick voyage," said the young captain,
cheerfully, "and once I was in the harbour, I could not stay a minute
longer on board, I must come to you. Thank God, I found you alone! I
was afraid I should have to pass the purgatorial fire of domestic anger
and to fight my way through the united relatives in order to reach
you."

Reinhold's face, still beaming with the pleasure of meeting again,
became overcast at this recollection, and his arm fell slowly down.

"No one has seen you surely?" he asked, "you know how my uncle feels
towards you, since--"

"Since I withdrew myself from his _all-wise_ rule, which wished to
screw me absolutely to the office table, and ran away?" interrupted
Hugo. "Yes, I know; and I should have liked to look on at the row that
broke loose in the house when they discovered I had fled. But the story
is nearly ten years old. The 'good-for-nothing' is not dead and ruined,
as the family have, no doubt, prophecied hundreds of times, and wished
oftener; he returns as a most respected captain of a most splendid
ship, with all possible recommendations to your principal houses of
business. Should these mercantile and maritime advantages not at last
soften the heart of the angry house of Almbach and Co.?"

Reinhold suppressed a sigh, "Do not joke, Hugo! you do not know my
uncle--do not know the life in his house."

"No, I went away at the night time," asserted the Captain, "and that
was most sensible; you should do the same."

"What are you thinking about? My wife--my child?"

"Ah yes!" said Hugo, somewhat confused. "I always forget you are
married. Poor boy! they chained you fast by times. Such a betrothal
altar is the safest bolt to thrust before all possible longing for
freedom. There, do not fly out at once! I am quite willing to believe
they did not regularly force you to say 'yes.' But how you came to do
it, my uncle will probably have to answer for; and the melancholy
attitude in which I found you, does not say much for the happiness of a
young husband. Let me look into your eyes, that I may see how it really
is."

He seized him unceremoniously by his arm, and drew him towards the
window. Here in broad daylight, one could see, for the first time, how
very unlike the brothers were, notwithstanding an undeniable
resemblance in their features. The Captain, the elder of the two, was
strongly, and yet gracefully built, his handsome, open countenance was
browned by sun and air; his hair curled lightly, and his brown eyes
sparkled with love of life and courage; his carriage was easy and
firm, like that of a man accustomed to move in the most varied
surroundings and circumstances, and his whole bearing had a species of
self-confidence which broke forth at every opportunity, with, at the
same time, such a fresh, open kindliness, that it was difficult to
resist him.

Reinhold, his junior by a few years, made a totally different
impression. He was slighter, paler than his brother; his hair and eyes
were darker, and the latter had a serious, even gloomy expression. But
there lay on this brow, and in those eyes, something which attracted
all the more, as they did not disclose all which lay behind them. Hugo
was, perhaps, the handsomer of the two, and yet a comparison was sure
to be drawn unconditionally in favour of the younger brother, who
possessed, in the highest degree, that rare and dangerous charm of
being interesting, to which, often the most perfect beauty must give
way.

The young man made a hasty attempt to withdraw from the threatened
inspection. "You cannot remain here," he said, decidedly, "uncle may
enter at any moment, and then there would be a terrible scene. I will
take you to the garden house for the present, which I have had fitted
up for my sole use. You will hardly dare to appear before the family,
and your arrival must be known. I will tell them."

"And bear all the storm alone?" interrupted the Captain. "I beg your
pardon, but that is my affair! I am going up at once to my uncle and
aunt, and shall introduce myself as their obedient nephew!"

"But Hugo! are you out of your senses? You have no idea of the state of
affairs here."

"Exactly! The strongest fortresses are taken by surprise, and I have
long looked forward to one day entering like a bomb amongst the stormy
relations, and to seeing what sort of a grimace they would make. But
one thing more. Reinhold, you must give me your promise to remain
quietly below until I return. You shall not be placed in the painful
position of witnessing how the weight of the family wrath is poured
upon my erring head. You might wish to catch some of it out of
brotherly self-sacrifice, and that would disturb all my plans of
campaign. Jonas, come in!"

He opened the door and admitted a man, who, until now, had waited
outside in the passage. "That is my brother. Look well at him! You have
to report yourself to him, and pay him your respects. Once more,
Reinhold, promise me not to enter the family parlour for the next
half-hour. I shall bring all to order up there by myself, if I have
even to take the whole barrack by storm."

He was out of the door before his brother could make any remonstrance.
Still half-bewildered by the rapid changes of the last ten minutes, he
looked at the broad, square figure of the new arrival, who set a
good-sized portmanteau down on the floor, and planted himself close
beside it.

"Seaman Wilhelm Jonas, of the 'Ellida,' now in the service of Herr
Captain Almbach!" reported he, systematically, and attempted a movement
at the same time, probably intended to be a bow, but which did not bear
the least similarity to the desired courtesy.

"All right," said Reinhold, abruptly, "you can leave the luggage here
at present! I must first hear how long my brother proposes remaining."

"We are to stay here a few days with his uncle," assured Jonas, very
quietly.

"Oh! is that decided already?"

"Quite positively."

"I do not understand Hugo," murmured Reinhold. "He appears to have no
idea of what is before him, and yet my letters must have prepared him
for it. I cannot possibly let him bear the storm alone."

He made a movement towards the door, but this was quite blocked up by
the sailor's broad figure, who, even at the young man's displeased
glance of enquiry, did not move from his position.

"The Captain said that he would bring all to order up yonder by
himself," he explained laconically, "so he will do it. He succeeds in
everything."

"Really?" asked Reinhold, somewhat struck by the insuperable confidence
of the words, "You seem to know my brother well."

"Very well."

Hesitating whether he should accede to Hugo's wish, Reinhold went to
the window which looked into the court, and became aware of three or
four faces, expressive of boundless curiosity, belonging to the
servants, who were trying to obtain a peep into the office. The young
man allowed a sound of suppressed annoyance to escape him, and turned
again to the sailor.

"My brother's arrival seems to be known in the house already, said he
hastily. Strangers are not such a rarity in the office, and the
curiosity is evidently directed to you."

"It does not matter," muttered Jonas, "even if the whole nest becomes
rebellious and stares at us. That sort of thing is nothing new. The
savages in the South Sea Islands do just the same when our 'Ellida'
lies-to."

The question may remain undecided, as to whether the comparison just
drawn was exactly flattering to the inhabitants of the house.
Fortunately no one but Reinhold heard it, and he considered it
necessary to remove the object of this curiosity. He desired him to
enter the adjoining room and wait there; he himself remained behind and
listened uneasily if quarrelling voices were to be heard, but to be
sure the family parlour lay in the upper story and at the other side of
the house. The young man debated with himself as to whether he should
remain true to the half-promise which he had made to Hugo, and leave
him to manage alone, or if he should not, at least, attempt to cover
the unavoidable retreat, as, that such lay before Hugo, he believed to
be certain. He had too often heard the condemning verdict accorded to
his brother by the family, not to dread a scene, in which even the
former would be unable to hold his own, but he also knew his own
position towards his uncle too well, not to say to himself that his
interference would merely make matters worse.

More than half-an-hour had passed in this painful anxiety, when at last
steps were heard and the Captain entered.

"Here I am, the affair is settled."

"What is settled?" asked Reinhold, hastily.

"Well, the pardon of course. As much-beloved nephew, I have this moment
lain alternately in the arms of my uncle and aunt. Come upstairs with
me, Reinhold! you are missing in the reconciliation _tableau_, but you
must be prepared for endless emotion; they are all crying together."

His brother looked at him doubtfully. "I do not know, Hugo, if this be
meant for fun, or--"

The young Captain laughed mischievously. "You seem to have little
confidence in my diplomatic talents. But all the same, do not think
that the affair was easily settled. I was certainly prepared for a
storm. But here raged a regular tornado--bah, we sailors are accustomed
to such things--and when at last I could obtain speech, which
certainly was not for some time, the victory was already decided. I
represented the return of the lost son with a masterly hand; I called
heaven and earth as witnesses of my reformation. I ventured upon
falling at their feet--that took, at least with my aunt--I now made
sure of the hesitating female flank, in order to storm the centre in
conjunction with it, and the victory was brilliant. Forgiveness in due
form--general emotion and embraces--group of reconciliation--my Heaven,
do not look so incredulous. I assure you I am speaking in all
seriousness."

Reinhold shook his head, yet unconsciously he drew a breath of relief.
"Comprehend it, who can! I should have thought it impossible! Have
you"--the question sounded peculiarly uncertain--"have you seen my
wife?"

"To be sure," said Hugo, slyly. "That is to say, I have certainly not
seen much of her, and heard even less, as she remained quite passive
during the scene, and did not even cry like the rest. The same little
cousin Eleonore still, who always sat so quietly and shyly in her
corner, out of which even our wildest boyish teasings did not drive
her--and she has become your wife! But now, above all, I must admire
the representative of the house of Almbach! Where is he?"

Reinhold looked up, and for a moment a bright gleam drove all the
gloominess away from his face. "My boy? I will show him to you. Come,
we will go up to him."

"Thank God, at last a sign of happiness in your face," said the
Captain, with a seriousness of which one would hardly have deemed his
merry nature capable, and he added in a lowered voice, "I have sought
for it in vain so far."

                           *   *   *   *   *

The firm of Almbach and Co. belonged to that class whose names on the
Exchange, as well as in the commercial world generally, were of some
position, without being of conspicuous importance. The relations
between its head and Consul Erlau were not only of a business nature;
they dated from earlier times, when both, equally young and meanless,
were apprenticed in the same office, the one to raise himself until he
became a rich merchant, whose ships sailed on every ocean and whose
connections extended to every quarter of the globe--the other to found
a modest business, which never reached beyond certain bounds. Almbach
avoided all more daring speculations, all greater undertakings, which
he was by no means the man to superintend or guide; he preferred a
moderate, but steady gain, which also fell to his share to the fullest
extent. His social position was certainly as different from that of
Consul Erlau as was his old-fashioned gloomy house in Canal Street,
with its high gables and barred office windows, from the princely
furnished palace at the Harbour. The friendship between the former
youthful companions had gradually diminished, but it was certainly
Almbach who was principally to blame for it. He could not be reconciled
to the Consul after the latter had become a millionaire, living in the
style suited to that position. Perhaps he could not forgive him for
occupying the first place, while he himself only stood in the third or
fourth rank, and well as he knew how to utilise the advantages which
the intimate acquaintance with the great firm of Erlau opened to him,
yet he held, all the more, to his strictly middle-class, and somewhat
old-frankish household, and kept aloof from all communication with that
of the Consul. The latter's invitations had ceased when he saw that
they were never accepted; for years the mutual meetings had been
restricted to those occasional ones on Exchange or some chance place,
and lately Almbach had even, when any business matters required a
personal interview, let his son-in-law represent him. It was decidedly
disagreeable to him, that on this occasion the young man had received
the invitation to the opera and the succeeding evening party, and
impossible as it was to refuse this civility, the merchant did not
attempt to disguise from his family his dissatisfaction at Reinhold's
introduction into the "nabob's life," the designation with which he
usually honoured his old friend's household.

Notwithstanding all this, Almbach was a well-to-do, even, as was
maintained by many, a very rich man, and on this account the centre and
support of numerous relations not blessed with over-much fortune. In
this manner the care of his two orphaned nephews, whom their father, a
ship's captain, had left quite without resources, fell to his charge.
Almbach had only one child, to whose existence he had never attached
very much importance, as she was a girl. The Consul and his wife were
the little one's god-parents, and it might always be considered as an
act of self-conquest, that Almbach gave his daughter Frau Erlau's name,
as he particularly hated the aristocratic, romantic-sounding "Eleonore"
and soon changed it for the much simpler "Ella." This designation was
also more suitable, as Ella Almbach was considered by every one to be,
not only a simple, but even a very contracted-minded being, whose
horizon never was extended beyond the trifling domestic events of
housekeeping. The child had formerly been very sickly, and this may
have had a crippling effect upon the development of her mental
faculties. They were indeed of a very inferior order, and the very
prejudiced, strictly domestic education in her father's house,
excluding every other circle of ideas and thought, did not appear
adapted to give them a higher direction. Thus, then, the girl had
grown up quiet and shy, always overlooked, everywhere set aside, and
without the least value, even amongst her nearest relations. They
were wont to consider her quite incapable of self-dependence, even
half-irresponsible, and her eventual marriage did not change things at
all.

Neither of the young people raised any objection to the long-cherished,
and to them long-known, plan of a union. A girl of seventeen and a man
of twenty-two have certainly not much self-decision, least of all when
they have grown up under such repressed circumstances. Besides, in this
case, there was also the habit of always living together, which had
created a sort of liking, although in Reinhold it was really only
pitying tolerance, and in Ella secret fear of her mentally superior
cousin. They gave their hands obediently at the betrothal, which was
followed, after a year's reprieve, by the wedding. Almbach's sceptre
swayed over both as much after as before it, he allowed his new
son-in-law, who, as far as the name went, was literally his partner, as
little independence in the business as his wife did the young mistress
in the household.



                              CHAPTER III.


It was Sunday morning. The office was closed, and Reinhold at last had
a free morning before him, which certainly was seldom his good fortune.
He was in the garden house, to the entire and special possession of
which he had at last attained, to be sure only after many struggles and
by repeated reference to his musical studies, which were considered
highly disturbing in the house. It was here alone that the young man
was in any degree safe from the constant control of his parents-in-law,
which extended even into the young couple's dwelling, and he seized
every free moment to take refuge in his asylum.

The so-called "garden" was of the only description possible in an old,
narrowly-built, densely populated town. On all sides high walls and
gables enclosed the small piece of ground, to which air and sunshine
were sparingly given, and where a few trees and shrubs enjoyed but a
miserable existence. The garden's boundary was one of those small
canals, which traversed the town in all directions, and whose quick,
dark stream formed a very melancholy background; beyond this, again,
walls and gables were to be seen; the same prison-like appearance,
which clung to Almbach's whole house seemed to reign over the only free
space belonging to it.

The garden house itself was not much more cheerful--the single large
room was furnished with more than simplicity. Evidently the few
old-fashioned pieces of furniture had been set aside from some other
place as superfluous, and been sought out in order to fit up the room
with what was absolutely necessary. Only in the window, round which
climbed some stunted vines, stood a large, handsome piano, the legacy
of the late Music Director, Wilkens, to his pupil, and its magnificent
appearance contrasted as singularly and strangely with the room as did
the figure of the young man, with his ideal brow and large flashing
eyes, behind the barred office windows of the dwelling-house.

Reinhold was sitting writing at the table, but to-day his face did not
wear the tired, listless expression, which rested upon it whenever he
had the figures of the account books before him; his cheeks were
darkly, almost feverishly red, and as he wrote a name rapidly on the
envelope, lying on the table, his hands trembled as if with suppressed
excitement. Steps were heard outside, and the glass door was opened;
with a quick gesture of annoyance the young man pushed the envelope
under the sheets of music lying on the table, and turned round.

It was Jonas, servant of the Captain, who for a few days only had
accepted the hospitality offered by his relations, and then had
migrated to a dwelling of his own. The sailor saluted and entered in
his peculiarly rough and somewhat uncouth manner, and then laid some
books on the table.

"The Herr Captain's compliments, and he sends the promised books from
his travelling library."

"Is my brother not coming himself?" asked Reinhold astonished. "He
promised surely."

"The Captain has been here some time," replied Jonas, "but they have
got hold of him in the house; your uncle wished to have a conference
with him on family affairs; your aunt requires his help to make some
alteration in the guest room, and the bookkeeper wants to catch him for
his society. All are fighting for him; he cannot tear himself away."

"Hugo appears to have conquered the whole house in the course of a
single week," remarked Reinhold ironically.

"We do that everywhere," said Jonas, full of self-consciousness, and
appeared inclined to add more about those conquests, when he was
interrupted by his master's entrance, who greeted his brother in the
most cheerful humour.

"Good morning, Reinhold! Now Jonas, what are you staying here for? You
are wanted in the house. I promised my aunt that you should help at the
dinner to-day. Go at once to the kitchen!"

"Amongst the women!"

"Heaven knows," said Hugo, turning laughingly to his brother, "where
this man has learned his hatred for women. Certainly not from me; I
admire the lovely sex uncommonly."

"Yes, unfortunately, quite uncommonly," muttered Jonas, but he turned
away obediently and marched out of the room, while the Captain came
quite close to Reinhold.

"To-day there is a large family dinner!" he began, imitating his Uncle
Almbach's pedantic, solemn voice so well as almost to deceive any one.
"In my honour of course! I hope you will pay proper respect to this
important ceremony, and that you will not again behave in such a
manner, that I can at the utmost use you as a butt for my too developed
amiability."

Reinhold knitted his brows slightly--

"I beg you, Hugo, do be sensible for once! How long do you intend to
continue this comedy, and amuse yourself at the expense of the whole
house? Take care, lest they find out what your amiability consists of,
and that you are really only ridiculing them all."

"That would indeed be bad," said Hugo, quietly, "but they will not find
me out, depend upon that."

"Then do me the kindness, at least, of ceasing your horrid Indian
tales! You really go too far with them. Uncle was debating with the
bookkeeper yesterday about the battle with the monster serpent, which
you served up for them lately, and which, even to him, appeared unheard
of. I became extremely confused in listening to them."

"It put you to confusion?" mocked the Captain. "If I had been there, I
should immediately have given them the benefit of an elephant hunt, a
tiger story, and a few attacks of savages, with such appalling effects,
that the affair of the giant snake would have appeared highly probable
to them. Be easy! I know my hearers; the whole house oppresses me
almost, with its acts of sympathy."

"Excepting Ella," suggested Reinhold, "it is certainly remarkable that
her shyness towards you is quite invincible."

"Yes, it is very remarkable," said Hugo with an offended air. "I cannot
allow any one in the house to exist who is not entirely persuaded of my
perfections, and have already set myself the task of presenting myself
to my sister-in-law in all my utterly irresistible charms. I do not
doubt at all that she will thereupon immediately join the majority--you
are not jealous, I hope."

"Jealous?--I? and on Ella's account?" The young man shrugged his
shoulders half-pityingly, half-contemptuously.

"What are you thinking of?"

"Well, there is no danger! I have sought an interview with her already,
but she was entirely occupied with the young one. Tell me, Reinhold,
where does the child get those wonderful, blue, fairy-tale-like eyes
from? Yours are not so, besides there is not the least resemblance,
and, excepting his, I do not know any in the family."

"I believe Ella's eyes are blue," interrupted his brother
indifferently.

"You believe only? Have you never convinced yourself then? Certainly it
may be somewhat difficult; she never raises them, and, under that
monstrous cap, nothing can be seen of her face. Reinhold, for Heaven's
sake, how can you allow your wife such an antediluvian costume? I
assure you, for me that cap would be grounds sufficient for a divorce."

Reinhold had seated himself at the piano, and let his hands glide
mechanically over the notes, while he answered with perfect
indifference--

"I never trouble myself about Ella's toilet, and I believe it would be
useless to try and enforce any alterations there. What does it matter
to me?"

"What it matters to you how your wife looks?" repeated the Captain, as
he seized some sheets of music on the table, and turned them over
lightly, "a charming question from a young husband! You used to have a
sense of beauty, too easily aroused, and I could almost fear--what is
this then? 'Signora Beatrice Biancona on it.' Have you Italian
correspondents in the town?"

Reinhold sprang up, confusion and annoyance struggled in his face, as
he saw the letter, which he had pushed under the music, in his
brother's hands, who repeated the address unconcernedly.

"Beatrice Biancona? That is the _prima donna_ of the Italian Opera, who
has made such a wonderful sensation here? Do you know the lady?"

"Slightly," said Reinhold, taking the letter quickly from his hands. "I
was introduced to her lately at Consul Erlau's."

"And you correspond with her already?"

"Certainly not! The letter does not contain one single line."

Hugo laughed aloud, "An envelope fully addressed, a very voluminous
sheet of paper inside it, with not a single line! Dear Reinhold, that
is more wonderful than my story of the giant snake. Do you expect me
really to believe it? There, do not look so savage, I do not intend to
force myself into your secrets."

Instead of answering, the young man drew the paper out of the unsealed
envelope, and held it to his brother, who looked at it in astonishment.

"What does it mean? Only a song--notes and words--no word of
explanation with it--just your name below. Have you composed it?"

Reinhold took the paper again, closed the letter and put it in his
pocket.

"It is an attempt, nothing more. She is _artiste_ enough to judge of
it. She can accept or reject it."

"Then you compose also?" asked the Captain, whose face had become
serious all at once. "I did not think that your passionate liking for
music went so far as creating it yourself. Poor Reinhold, how can you
bear this life, with all its narrow, confined ways, wishing to stifle
every spark of poetry as being unnecessary or dangerous? I could not do
it."

Reinhold had thrown himself upon the seat before the piano again.

"Do not ask me how I endure it," he replied, with suppressed feeling.
"It is enough _that_ I do it."

"I guessed long since that your letters were not open," continued Hugo;
"that behind all the contentment with which you tried to deceive me,
something quite different was concealed. The truth has become plain to
me, during one week in this house, notwithstanding that you gave
yourself all conceivable trouble to hide it from me."

The young man gazed gloomily before him. "Why should I worry you, when
far away, with anxieties about me? You had enough to do to take care of
yourself, and there was a time, too, when I was contented, or at least
believed myself so, because my whole mental being lay, as it were,
under a spell, when I allowed everything to pass over me in stupid
indifference, and I offered my hand willingly for the chain. I have
done it; well, yes! But I must carry it my whole life long!"

Hugo had gone towards him, and laid his hand upon his brother's
shoulder.

"You mean your marriage with Ella? At the first news of it, I knew it
must be my uncle's work."

A bitter smile played round the young man's lips as he answered
scornfully--

"He was always a splendid master of calculation, and he has shown it
again in this case. The poor relation, taken up out of kindness and
charity, must consider it happiness that he is raised to be son and
heir of the house, and the daughter must be married some time; so it
was a case of securing, by means of her hand, a successor for the firm,
who bore the same name. It was neither Ella's nor my fault that we were
bound together. We were both young, without wills, without knowledge of
life or of ourselves. She will always remain so--well for her. It has
not been so fortunate for me."

One would hardly have credited those merry brown eyes with the power of
looking so serious as at this moment, when he bent down to his brother.

"Reinhold," said he, in an undertone, "on the night when I fled to
save myself from a caprice, which would have ruined my freedom and
future, I had planned and foreseen everything, excepting one, the most
difficult--the moment when I should stand by your bed to bid you
farewell. You slept quietly, and did not dream of the separation; but
I--when I saw your pale face on the pillow, and said to myself that for
years, perhaps never again, should I see it, all longing for freedom
could not resist it--I struggled hard with the temptation to awake and
take you with me. Later, when I experienced the thorny path of the
adventurous homeless boy, with all its dangers and privations, I often
thanked God that I had withstood the temptation; I knew you were safe
and sound in our relation's house, and now"--Hugo's strong voice
trembled as with suppressed anger or pain--"now I wish I had carried
you with me to want and privation, to storm and danger, but at any rate
to freedom; it had been better."

"It had been better," repeated Reinhold, listlessly; then rising as if
reckless, "Let us cease! What is the use of regrets, which cannot
change what is past. Come! They expect us upstairs."

"I wish I had you on my 'Ellida,' and we could turn our backs on the
whole crew, never to see them again," said the young sailor, with a
sigh, as he prepared to follow his brother's bidding. "I never thought
things could be so bad."

The brothers had hardly entered the house, when Hugo's indispensability
began to show itself again. He was in request, at least on three sides,
at once. Every one required his advice and help. The young Captain
appeared to possess the enviable power of throwing himself directly
from one mood into another, as, immediately after his serious
conversation with his brother, he was sparkling with merriment and
mischief, helped every one, paid compliments to each, and at the same
time teased all in the most merciless manner. This time it was the
bookkeeper who caught him, as Jonas expressed it, to explain the
affairs of his society; and while the two gentlemen were discussing it,
Reinhold entered the dining-room, where he found his wife busied with
preparations for the before-named guests.

Ella was in her Sunday costume to-day, but that made little alteration
in her appearance. Her dress of finer material was not more becoming;
the cap, which inspired her brother-in-law with such horror, surrounded
and disfigured her face as usual. The young wife devoted herself so
assiduously and completely to her domestic duties, that she hardly
seemed to notice her husband's entrance, who approached her with rather
lowering mien.

"I must beg you, Ella," he began, "to have more regard for my wishes in
future, and to meet my brother in such a manner as he can and would
expect his sister-in-law to do. I should think that the behaviour of
your parents, and every one in the house, might serve as an example for
you; but you appear to find an especial pleasure in denying him every
right of relationship, and in showing him a decided antipathy."

The young wife looked as timid and helpless at this anything but kindly
expressed reproof, as she did when her mother desired her to interfere
about her husband's musical "mania."

"Do not be angry, dear Reinhold," she replied, hesitatingly, "but I--I
cannot do otherwise."

"You cannot?" asked Reinhold, sharply. "Of course, that is your
never-failing answer when I ask anything of you, and I should have
thought it was seldom enough that I do address a request to you. But
this time I insist positively that you should change your demeanour
towards Hugo. This shy avoidance and consequent silence whenever he
speaks to you is too ridiculous. I beg seriously that you will take
more care not to make me appear too much an object of pity to my
brother."

Ella appeared about to answer, but the last unsparing words closed her
lips. She bowed her head, and did not make any further attempt to
defend herself. It was a movement of such gentle, patient resignation
as would have disarmed any one; but Reinhold did not notice it, as at
the same moment the old bookkeeper was heard taking leave in the next
room.

"Then we may count upon the honour of your membership, Herr Captain?
And as regards the election of a President, I have your word that you
will support the opposition?"

"Quite at your service," said Hugo's voice, "and of course only with
the opposition. I always join the opposition on principle whenever
there is one; it is generally the only faction in which there is any
fun. Excuse me, the honour is on my side."

The bookkeeper left, and the Captain appeared in the room. He seemed
inclined to redeem the promise he had given to his brother, and at the
same time to convince the young wife of his perfections, as he
approached her with all the boldness and confidence of his nature, with
which a certain knightly gallantry was mingled.

"Then I owe it to chance that at last I see my sister-in-law, and she
is compelled to remain with me a few moments? Certainly she never would
have accorded me this happiness of her own free will. I was complaining
bitterly to Reinhold this morning about your repelling me, which I do
not know that I have merited in any way."

He wished to take her hand, even to kiss it, but Ella drew back, with
a, for her, quite unwonted decision.

"Herr Captain!"

"Herr Captain!" repeated Hugo, annoyed. "No, Ella, that is going too
far. I certainly, as your brother, have a right to the 'thou' which you
never refused to your cousin and childish companion, but as you, from
the first day of my arrival, laid so much stress on the formal 'you,' I
followed the hint you gave me. However, this 'Herr Captain' I will not
stand. That is an insult against which I shall call Reinhold to my
assistance. He shall tell me if I must really bear hearing myself being
called 'Herr Captain' by those lips."

"Certainly not!" said Reinhold, as he turned to leave, "Ella will give
up this manner of speaking to you, as well as her whole tone towards
you. I have just been speaking distinctly to her about it."

He went away, and his glance ordered his wife to remain, as plainly as
his voice demanded obedience. Neither escaped the Captain.

"For goodness sake, do not interfere with your husband's authority!
Would you command friendliness towards me?" cried he after his brother,
and turned again quickly to Ella, while he continued, gallantly, "that
would be the surest way to prevent my ever finding favour in my
beautiful sister-in-law's eyes. But that is not required between us, is
it? You will permit me, at least, to lay the due tribute of respect at
your feet, to describe to you the joyful surprise with which I received
the news--"

Here Hugo stopped suddenly, and seemed to have lost his train of ideas.
Ella had raised her eyes, and looked at him. It was a gleam of quiet,
painful reproach, and the same reproach lay in her voice as she
replied, "At least leave me in peace, Herr Captain. I thought you had
amusement enough for to-day."

"I?" asked Hugo, taken aback. "What do you mean, Ella? You do not
think--"

The young wife did not let him finish. "What have we done to you?" she
continued, and although her voice trembled timidly at first, it gained
firmness with every word. "What have we done to you that you always
scoff at us, since the day of your return, when you acted a scene of
repentance before my parents, until the present moment, when you make
the whole house the target for your jokes? Reinhold certainly tolerates
our being daily humiliated; he looks upon it as a matter of course. But
I, Herr Captain--" here Ella's voice had attained perfect steadiness,
"I do not consider it right that you should daily cast scorn and
contempt over a house in which you, after all that has passed, have
been received with the old love. If this house and family do appear so
very meagre and ridiculous to you, no one invited you here. You should
have remained in that world of which you are able to relate so much. My
parents deserve more respect and mercy even for their weaknesses; and,
although our house may be simple, it is still too good for the scoffs
of an--adventurer."

She turned her back upon him, and left the room without waiting for a
single word of reply. Hugo stood and gazed after her, as if one of the
impossible scenes out of his own Indian stories had just been acted
before him. Probably, for the first time in his life, the young sailor
lost, with his presence of mind, the power of speech also.

"That was plain," said he at last, as he sat down, quite upset; but the
next moment he sprang up as if electrified, and cried--

"She has them in truth; the child's beautiful blue eyes. And I
discovered them only now! Who, indeed, would look for this glance under
that horrible cap? 'We are too good for the scoffs of an adventurer.'
Not exactly flattering, but it was merited, although I expected least
of all to hear it from her! I shall often try that."

Hugo moved as if going into the guest room, but he stopped again on the
threshold, and looked towards the door, by which his sister-in-law had
retired. All signs of mockery and mischief had entirely vanished from
his face; it bore a thoughtful expression as he said, gently, "And
Reinhold only _believes_ she has blue eyes! Incomprehensible!"

                           *   *   *   *   *

In the large concert-room of H----, all the _elite_ of the town seemed
to be gathered on the occasion of one of those concerts which, set on
foot for some charitable purpose, were patronised by the first
families, and whose support and presence there was considered quite a
point of honour. To-day the programme only bore well-known names, both
as regarded the performances as well as performers; and besides, it was
arranged by means of the highest possible prices that the audience
should consist principally, if not entirely, of persons belonging to
the best circles of society.

The concert had not commenced, and the performers were in a room
adjoining, which served as a place of assembly on such occasions, and
to which only a few specially favoured of the outside world had the
right of entrance. Therefore the presence was the more remarkable of a
young man who did not belong either to the favoured or the performers,
and who kept aloof from both. He had entered shortly before and
addressed himself at once to the conductor, who, although he did not
appear to know him, yet must have been informed of his coming, as he
received him very politely. The gentlemen around only heard so much of
the conversation, that the conductor regretted not to be able to give
Mr. Almbach any information: it was Signora Biancona's wish; the
Signora would appear directly. The short interview was soon over, and
Reinhold drew back.

The group of artists, engaged in lively conversation, broke up
suddenly, as the door opened and the young _prima donna_ appeared; she
had not been expected so soon, as she usually only drove up at the last
moment. Every one began to move. All tried to outdo one another in
attentions to their beautiful colleague, but to-day she took remarkably
little notice of the wonted homage of her surroundings. Her glance on
entering had flown rapidly through the room, and had at once found the
object of its search. The Signora deigned to reply to the greetings
only very slightly, exchanged a few words with the conductor, and
withdrew at once from all further attempts at conversation with the
gentlemen, as she turned to Reinhold Almbach, who now approached her,
and went towards the farthest window with him.

"You have really come, Signor?" she began in a reproachful tone, "I did
not believe, indeed, that you would accept my invitation."

Reinhold looked up, and the forced coldness and formality of the
greeting began already to melt as he met her gaze for the first time on
that evening.

"Then it was your invitation," he said. "I did not know if I was to
consider the one sent by the conductor in your name, as such. It did
not contain a single line from you."

Beatrice smiled. "I only followed the example set me. I, too, have
received a certain song, whose composer added nothing to his name. I
only retaliated."

"Has my silence offended you?" asked the young man, quickly. "I dared
add nothing. What--" his eyes sank to the ground--"what should I have
said to you?"

The first question was indeed unnecessary; as the devotion of the song
seemed to have been understood, and Signora Biancona looked the reverse
of offended as she answered--

"You appear to like the wordless form, Signor, and always to wish to
speak to me in notes of music. Well, I bowed to your taste, and have
determined to answer also only in our language."

She laid a slight but still marked emphasis upon the word. Reinhold
raised his head in astonishment.

"In our language?" he repeated slowly.



                              CHAPTER IV.


Beatrice drew a paper out of the roll of music which she held in her
hand. "I have waited in vain for the author of this song to come to me,
in order to hear it from my lips and receive my thanks for it. He has
left to strangers that which was his duty. I am accustomed to _be
sought_, Signor. You seem to expect the same."

There certainly lay some reproach in her voice, but it was not very
harsh, and it would have been hardly possible, as Reinhold's eye
betrayed only too plainly what this staying away had cost him. He made
no reply to the reproach, did not defend himself against it, but his
glance, which seemed magnetically bound by the brilliantly beautiful
apparition, told her that his self-restraint was caused by anything
rather than indifference.

"Do you think I have sent for you to hear the air which is put down in
the programme?" continued the Italian, playfully. "The audience always
desires this air _da capo_; it is too trying for a repetition; I
propose, therefore, instead of this, to sing--something else."

A deep glow covered the young man's features, and he stretched out his
hand, as if with an unconscious movement, towards the paper.

"For mercy's sake! surely not my song?"

"You are uncommonly alarmed about it," said the singer, stepping back,
and withdrawing the music from him. "Are you afraid for the fate of
your work in my hands?"

"No, no!" cried Reinhold passionately, "but--"

"But? No objections, Signor! The song is dedicated to me, is handed
over to me for good or evil. I shall do with it what I choose. Only one
more question. The director is quite prepared; we have practised the
performance together, but I should prefer seeing you at the piano when
I appear before the audience with your music. May I count upon you?"

"You will trust yourself to my accompaniment?" asked Reinhold, with
trembling voice. "Trust yourself entirely without first trying it? That
is a risk for us both."

"Only if your courage fail, not otherwise," explained Beatrice. "With
your power over the piano I have already made acquaintance, and there
is certainly no question as to whether you are sure of the
accompaniment to your work. If you are as sure of yourself before this
audience as you were lately at the party, we can perform the song
without hesitation."

"I will risk all, if you are at my side," Reinhold exclaimed,
passionately. "The song was written for you, Signora. If you decide
differently for it, its fate lies in your hand. I am ready for all."

She answered only with a smile, proud and confident of success, and
turned to the conductor who at that moment drew near. Then ensued a
low, but lively conversation in the group, and the other gentlemen
regarded with undisguised displeasure the young stranger who quite
monopolised the attention and conversation of the Signora and, to their
great annoyance, occupied her until the signal for the commencement of
the concert was given.

The room, in the meanwhile, had filled to the very last seat, and the
dazzlingly-lighted place, in conjunction with the rich toilets of the
ladies, offered a brilliant sight. Consul Erlau's wife sat with several
other ladies in the front part of the room, and was engaged in
conversation with Dr. Welding, when her husband, accompanied by a young
man, wearing a captain's uniform, came up to her seat.

"Herr Captain Almbach," he said, introducing him, "to whom I owe the
rescue of my best ship and all its crew. It was he who came to the help
of the 'Hansa,' when already almost foundered, and it is entirely to
his self-sacrificing energy--"

"Oh pray, Herr Consul, do not let Frau Erlau immediately anticipate a
storm at sea!" interrupted Hugo, "we poor sailors are always so
maligned as regards our adventures, that every lady looks forward with
secret horror to their inevitable relation. I assure you though,
Madame, that you have nothing to fear with me. I intend my
conversational attempts to be confined to the mainland."

The young sailor appeared indeed to understand very thoroughly the
differences of the society in which he moved. It never entered his head
here, when the opportunity was offered him, to recount adventures,
which in his relative's house he lavished so liberally. The Consul
shook his head a little dissatisfied.

"You appear wishful to laugh away all recognition of your services,"
responded he. "I am not the less in your debt, even if you do make it
impossible for me to discharge it in any way. Besides, I do not believe
the relation of this adventure would injure you with the ladies, quite
the contrary. And as you refuse all account of it so positively, I
shall reserve it myself for the next opportunity."

Frau Erlau turned with winning friendliness to Hugo.

"You are no stranger to us, Herr Captain Almbach, even for your
family's sake. Only lately we had the pleasure of seeing your brother
at our house."

"Yes--only once," added the Consul, "and then merely by chance. Almbach
appears unable to forgive me that my mode of living varies so from his
own. He purposely keeps himself and all his family at a distance, and
for years has stopped all visits from our godchild--we hardly know what
Eleanor looks like."

"Poor Eleanor!" remarked Frau Erlau, compassionately. "I fear she has
been intimidated by a too strict bringing up, and being kept much too
secluded. I never see her otherwise than shy and quiet, and I believe
in the presence of strangers she never raises her eyes."

"She does though," said Hugo, in a peculiar voice. "She does sometimes,
but certainly I doubt if my brother has ever seen her do so."

"Your brother is not here, then?" asked the lady.

"No. He declined to accompany me. I do not understand it, as I know his
infatuation for music and especially for Biancona's singing. I am to
see this sun of the south, whose rays dazzle all H----, rise to-day for
the first time."

The Consul cautioned him laughingly with his finger.

"Do not scoff, Captain; rather protect your own heart against these
rays. To you, young gentleman, such things are most dangerous. You
would not be the first who had succumbed to the magic of those eyes."

The young sailor laughed confidently.

"And who says then, Herr Consul, that I fear such a fate? I always
succumb in such cases with the greatest pleasure, and the consolatory
knowledge that the magic is only dangerous for him who flees it.
Whoever stands firm, is generally soon disenchanted, often sooner than
he wishes."

"It appears you have had great experience already in such affairs,"
said Frau Erlau, with a touch of reproof.

"My God, Madame, when year after year one flies from country to
country, and never takes root anywhere, is nowhere so much at home as
on the rolling, ever-moving sea, one learns to look upon constant
change as inevitable, and at last to love it. I expose myself entirely
to your displeasure with this confession, but I must really beg of you
to look upon me as a savage, who has long forgotten, in tropical seas
and countries, how to satisfy the requirements of North German
civilisation."

Yet the manner in which the young Captain bowed and kissed the lady's
hand as he spoke, betrayed a sufficient acquaintance with these
requirements, and Dr. Welding remarked, drily, as he turned to the
Consul--

"The tropical barbarism of this gentleman will not distinguish
itself very badly in our drawing-rooms. So the hero of the much
talked of 'Hansa' affair is really the brother of the young Almbach to
whom Signora Biancona is just now according an interview in the
assembly-room?"

"Whom? Reinhold Almbach?" asked Erlau, astonished. "You heard just now
that he is not here."

"Certainly not, according to the Herr Captain's views," said Welding,
quietly. "According to mine, he positively is. Pray do not mention it!
To-night's concert seems intended to bring us some surprise. I have a
certain suspicion, and we shall see if it be well-founded or not. The
Signora likes theatrical effects, even off the stage; everything must
be unexpected, lightning-like, overwhelming; a prosaic announcement
would spoil everything. The conductor is, of course, in the plot, but
was not so easily persuaded. We shall await it."

He ceased, as Hugo, who until now had been talking to the ladies, came
to them, and immediately after the concert commenced.

The first part and half of the second passed, according to the
programme, with more or less lively interest for the audience. Only
towards the close did Signora Biancona appear, whose performance,
notwithstanding all that had so far been heard, formed the point of
attraction of the evening. The audience received and greeted their
favourite, whose pale features were more charming than ever, with loud
applause. Beatrice was indeed radiantly beautiful as she stood under
the streaming light of the chandelier, in a flowing gauze dress strewn
with flowers, and roses in her dark hair. She acknowledged it with
smiling thanks on all sides, and, when the conductor, who undertook the
accompaniment, had seated himself at the piano, began her recitative.

This time it was one of those grand Italian _bravura_ airs, which at
every concert and on every stage are certain of success, and demand the
audience's applause without at the same time fulfilling higher
requirements. A number of brilliant passages and effects made up for
the depth, which was really wanting in the composition, but it offered
the Italian an opportunity for perfect display of her magnificent
voice. All these runs and trills fell clearly as a bell from her lips,
and took such entrancing possession of the hearers' ears and senses,
that all criticism, all more serious longings, vanished in the pure
enjoyment of listening. It was a charming playing with tones--to be
sure, only playing, nothing more--but combined with the finished
certainty and grace of the performance, it acted like electricity upon
the audience, who overwhelmed the singer more lavishly than usual with
applause, and stormily encored the air _da capo_.

Signora Biancona seemed also inclined to accede to this wish as she
came forward again, but at the same moment the conductor left the
piano, and a young man, who had hitherto not been observed among the
other performers, took his place. The spectators stared in
astonishment, the Consul and his wife gazed at him in surprise; even
Hugo at the first moment looked almost shocked at his brother, whose
presence he had not suspected, but he began to guess at the connection.
Only Dr. Welding said quietly, and without the least surprise, "I
thought it!" Reinhold looked pale, and his hands trembled on the keys;
but Beatrice stood at his side--a softly-whispered word from her mouth,
a glance out of her eyes, gave him back his lost courage. He began the
first chords steadily and quietly, which at once told the audience it
was not to be a repetition of their favourite piece. All listened
wonderingly and eagerly, and then Beatrice joined in.

That was certainly something very different from the _bravura_ air just
heard. The melodies which now flowed forth had nothing in common with
those runs and trills, but they made their way to the hearers' hearts.
In those tones, which now rose as in stormy rejoicing, and again sank
in sad complaint, there seemed to breathe the whole happiness and
sorrow of a human life; a long-fettered yearning seemed at last to
struggle forth. It was a language of affecting power and beauty, and if
it was not quite understood by all, yet all felt that there was a sound
of something powerful, everlasting in it; even the most indifferent
superficial crowd cannot remain void of feeling when genius speaks to
it.

And here genius had found its mate, who knew how to follow and perfect
it. There was no more talk of a risk for both, as the one met the idea
of the other. The most careful study could not have given so perfect a
mutual understanding as was here created in a moment and by
inspiration. Reinhold found himself comprehended in every note, grasped
at every turn, and never had Beatrice sung so enchantingly, never had
the spirit of her singing displayed itself so much. She took her part
with glowing _abandon_; the talent of the singer and the dramatic power
of the actress flowed together. It was a performance which would have
ennobled even the most insignificant composition--here it became a
double triumph.

The song was ended. The breathless silence with which it had been
listened to continued a few seconds longer; no hand moved, no sign of
applause was heard; but then a storm broke forth, such as even the
_fêted prima donna_ had seldom heard, and at any rate is unknown in a
concert-room. Beatrice seemed only to have waited for this moment; in
the next she had stepped to Reinhold, seized his hand, and drawn him
with her to the foot-lights, introducing him to the audience. This one
movement said enough; it was understood at once that the composer stood
before them. The storm of applause for both raged anew, and the young
musician, still half-bewildered by the unexpected success, holding
Beatrice's hand, received the first greeting and first approbation of
the crowd.

Reinhold only returned clearly to consciousness in the assembly-room,
whither he had accompanied Signora Biancona; a few moments of solitude
still remained to him; beyond, in the concert-room, the orchestra was
playing the finale to a most indifferent audience, which was still
completely impressed by what it had just heard. Beatrice withdrew her
arm which lay in that of her companion.

"We have conquered," she said, softly; "were you satisfied with my
song?"

With a passionate movement, Reinhold seized both her hands, "Ask not
this question, Signora! Let me thank you, not for the triumph, which
was more yours than mine, but that I was also permitted to hear my song
from your lips. I composed it in the recollection of you--for you
alone, Beatrice. You have understood what it says to you, otherwise you
could not have sung it in such a manner."

Signora Biancona may have understood it only too well, but in the
glance with which she looked down at him there lay still more than the
mere triumph of a beautiful woman, who has again proved the
irresistibility of her power. "Do you say that to the woman, or the
actress?" asked she, half-playfully. "The road is now open, Signor,
will you follow it?"

"I will," declared Reinhold, raising himself determinedly, "whatever
opposes me, and whatever form my future may take, it will have been
consecrated for me, since the Goddess of Song herself opened the gate
to me."

The last words had the same tone of passionate adulation which Beatrice
heard from him once before; she bent closer towards him, and her voice
sounded soft, almost beseeching, as she answered--

"Do not then avoid the Goddess any more so obstinately as hitherto. The
composer will surely be allowed to come to the actress from time to
time. If I study your next work, Signor, shall I have to discover its
meaning alone again, or will you stand by me this time?"

Reinhold gave no reply, but the kiss which he pressed burningly
hot upon her hand, did not say no. Nor did he this time bid her
farewell--this time no recollection tore him away from the dangerous
proximity. Whatever arose in the distance that time with gentle
warning, had now no place in a single thought of the young man's
mind. How could, indeed, the faint, colourless picture of his young
wife exist near a Beatrice Biancona, who stood before him in all the
witch-like charms of her being, this "Goddess of Song," whose hand had
just conducted him to his first triumph! He saw and heard her only.
What for years had lain hidden within him--what, since his meeting with
her had struggled and fought its way out, this evening decided the
beginning of an artist's career, and of a family drama.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The following days and weeks in the Almbachs' house were not the most
agreeable. It could naturally not remain concealed from the merchant
that his son-in-law had appeared before the public with his
composition, and for this reason, that Dr. Welding, in the morning
paper, gave a detailed account of the concert, in which the name of the
young composer was mentioned. But neither the praise which the usually
severe critic accorded in this instance, nor the approval with which
the song was everywhere received, nor even the intervention of Consul
Erlau, who, taking Reinhold's part very eagerly and decidedly, upheld
his musical gifts, could overcome Almbach's prejudices. He persisted in
seeing in all artistic efforts an idling as useless as it was
dangerous--the real ground of all incapacity for practical business
life, and the root of all evil. Knowing as little as most people that
it had been almost an act of compulsion by which Signora Biancona
had forced Reinhold to appear publicly, he regarded the whole as a
pre-arranged affair, which had been undertaken without his knowledge
and against his will, and which made him almost beside himself. He
allowed himself to be so carried away, that he called his son-in-law to
account like a boy, and forbade him, once for all, any farther musical
pursuits.

That was, of course, the worst thing he could have done. At this
prohibition, Reinhold broke out into uncontrollable defiance. The
passion which, despite all that fettered it outwardly and held it in
bounds, formed the groundwork of his character now broke out into a
truly terrific fury. A fearful scene ensued, and had Hugo not
interposed with quick thought, the breach would have become quite
irremediable. Almbach saw with horror that the nephew whom he had
brought up and led, whom he had tied to himself by every possible bond
of family and business, had outgrown his control completely, and never
thought of bending to his power. The strife had ceased for the time
present, but only to break out afresh at the first opportunity. One
scene succeeded another; one bitterness surpassed another.

Reinhold soon stood in opposition to his whole surroundings, and the
defiance with which he clung more than ever to his musical studies, and
maintained his independence out of the house, only increased the anger
of his father and mother-in-law.

Frau Almbach, who shared her husband's opinion entirely, supported him
with all her strength; Ella, on the contrary, remained, as usual, quite
passive. Any interference or taking a part was neither expected nor
desired; her parents never thought of crediting her with the very least
influence over Reinhold, and he himself ignored her in this affair
altogether, and did not even seem to grant her the right of offering an
opinion. The young wife suffered undeniably under these circumstances;
whether she felt the sad, humiliating part which she, the wife,
played--thus overlooked by both factions--set aside and treated as if
incapable--could hardly be decided. At her parents' bitter and excited
discussions, and her husband's constant state of irritation, which
often found vent at trifling causes, and was generally directed against
her, she always showed the same calm, patient resignation, seldom
uttered a beseeching word, never interfered by any decided
partisanship, and when, as usual, roughly repulsed, drew back more
shyly than ever.

The only one who remained now, as before, on the best terms with all,
and kept his undisputed place as general favourite, was, strange to
say, the young Captain. Like all obstinate people, Almbach resigned
himself more easily to a fact than to a struggle, and forgave more
easily the direct but quiet want of regard for his authority, such as
his eldest nephew had shown him, than the stormy opposition to his will
which was now attempted by the younger one. When Hugo saw that a hated
calling was forced upon him, he had neither defied nor offended his
uncle; he had simply gone away, and let the storm rage itself out
behind his back. Certainly, he did not hesitate later to enact the
return of the prodigal son to ensure his entrance into the house to
which his brother belonged, and his restoration to his relations'
favour. Reinhold possessed neither the capability nor the inclination
to play with circumstances in this way. Just as he had never been able
to disguise his dislike to business life, and his indifference to all
the provincial town interests, so he now made no secret of his contempt
for all around him, his burning hatred for the fetters which confined
him--and it was this which could not be pardoned. Hugo, who espoused
his brother's side positively, was permitted to take his part openly,
and did so on every occasion. His uncle pardoned him this, even looked
upon it as quite natural, as the young Captain's mode of treatment
never let it come to a rupture, while with Reinhold, the subject only
needed to be touched upon in order to cause the most furious scenes
between him and his wife's parents.

It was about noontide, when Hugo entered the Almbachs' house, and met
his servant, whom he had sent before with a message to his brother, at
the foot of the stairs. Jonas was really nominally only a sailor in the
"Ellida;" he had long had his discharge from the ship, and been
appointed solely to the young Captain's personal service, whom he never
left, even during a lengthy stay on shore, and whom he followed
everywhere with constant, unvarying attachment. Both were of about the
same age. Jonas was truly far from ugly; in his Sunday clothes he might
even pass for a good-looking fellow, but his uncouth manner, his rough
ways and his chariness of speech never allowed these advantages to be
perceived. He was almost on an enemy's footing with all the servants,
especially the women of Almbach's household, and none of them had ever
seen a pleasant expression on his face, nor heard a word more than was
absolutely necessary. Even now he looked very sour, and the four or
five dollars he was just counting in his hand seemed to excite his
displeasure, judging from the savage way he looked at them.

"What is it, Jonas?" asked the Captain, approaching, "are you taking
stock of your ready money?"

The sailor looked up, and put himself in an attitude of attention, but
his face did not become more pleasant.

"I am to go to the nursery garden and get a bouquet of flowers," he
grumbled, as he put the money in his pocket.

"Oh! are you employed as messenger for flowers?"

"Yes, here too," said Jonas, emphasising the last word, and with a
reproachful glance at his master, added, "I am used to it, to be sure."

"Certainly," laughed Hugo. "But I am not used to your doing such things
for others than myself. Who has given you the commission?"

"Herr Reinhold," was the laconic reply.

"My brother--so?" said Hugo, slowly, while a shade flitted across his
features, so bright just now.

"And it is a sin the sum I am to pay for it," muttered Jonas. "Herr
Reinhold understands even better than we how to throw away dollars for
things which will be faded to-morrow, and we at any rate are not
married, but he--"

"The bouquet is of course for my sister-in-law?" the Captain
interrupted shortly. "What is there to wonder at? Do you think I shall
give my wife no bouquets when I am married?"

The last remark must have been very unexpected by the sailor, as he
drew himself up with a jerk, and stared at his master in the most
perfect horror, but the next minute he returned reassured to his old
position, saying confidently--

"We shall never marry, Herr Captain."

"I forbid all such prophetic remarks, which condemn me without further
ado to perpetual celibacy," said Hugo quickly, "and why shall '_we_'
never marry?"

"Because we think nothing of women," persisted Jonas.

"You have a very curious habit of always speaking in the plural,"
scoffed the Captain. "So I think nothing of women; I thought the
contrary had often roused your ire?"

"But it never comes to marriage," said Jonas triumphantly, in a tone of
unconquerable conviction, "at heart we do not think much of the whole
lot. The story never goes beyond sending flowers and kissing hands,
then we sail away, and they have the pleasure of looking after us. It
is a very lucky thing that it is so. Women on the 'Ellida'--Heaven
protect us from it!"

This characteristic account, given with unmistakable seriousness,
although again in the unavoidable plural, appeared to be full of truth,
as the Captain raised no objection to it. He only shrugged his
shoulders laughingly, turned his back upon the sailor, and went
upstairs. He found Reinhold in his own rooms, which lay in the upper
story, and a single glance at his brother's face, who was walking
angrily up and down, showed him that something must have happened again
to-day.

"You are going out?" asked he, after greeting him, while looking at the
hat and gloves lying on the table.

"Later on!" answered Reinhold, recovering himself. "In about an hour.
You will stay some time?"

Hugo overlooked the last question. He stood opposite his brother, and
gazed searchingly at him.

"Has there been a scene again?" he asked half-aloud.

The moody defiance, which had disappeared for a few moments from the
young man's face, returned.

"To be sure. They have attempted once more to treat me like a
schoolboy, who, when he has accomplished his daily appointed task, is
to be watched, and made to render an account of every step he takes,
even in his hours of recreation. I have made it clear to them that I am
tired of their everlasting guardianship."

The Captain did not ask what step the quarrel was about; the short
conversation with Jonas seemed to have explained all that sufficiently;
he only said, shaking his head--"It is unfortunate that you are so
completely dependent upon our uncle. If later on it end in a regular
rupture between you, and you leave the business, it would become a
question of existence for you--your income goes entirely with it. You,
yourself, might trust wholly to your compositions, but to think they
could support a family yet would be making your future very uncertain
from the beginning. I had only myself to act for; you will be compelled
to wait until a greater work places you in the position of being able
to turn your back, with your wife and child, upon all the envy of a
small provincial town."

"Impossible!" cried Reinhold almost madly. "By that time I shall have
foundered ten times over, and what talent I possess with me. Endure,
wait, perhaps for years? I cannot do it, it is the same thing to me as
suicide. My new work is completed. If only in some degree it attain the
success of the first, it would enable me to live at least a few months
in Italy."

Hugo was staggered.



                               CHAPTER V.


"You are going to Italy? Why there particularly?" asked the Captain.

"Where then?" interposed Reinhold impatiently. "Italy is the school of
all art and artists. There alone could I complete the meagre, defective
study to which circumstances confined me. Can you not understand that?"

"No," said the Captain, somewhat coldly. "I do not see the necessity
that a beginner should go at once to the higher school. You can find
opportunity enough for study here; most of our talented men have had to
struggle and work for years before Italy at last crowned their work.
Supposing, however, you carry out your plan, what is to become of your
wife and child in the meanwhile? Do you intend to take them with you?"

"Ella?" cried the young man, in an almost contemptuous voice. "That
would be the most certain method of rendering my success impossible. Do
you think, that in the first step I take towards freedom, I could drag
the whole chain of domestic misery with me?"

A slight frown was perceptible between Hugo's eyes--

"That sounds very hard, Reinhold," he answered.

"Is it my fault, that I am at last conscious of the truth?" growled
Reinhold. "My wife cannot raise herself above the sphere of cooking and
household management. It is not her fault, I know, but it is not
therefore any less the misfortune of my life."

"Ella's incapacity, certainly seems settled as a sort of dogma in the
family," remarked the Captain quietly. "You believe in it blindly, like
the rest. Have you ever given yourself the trouble to find out if this
accepted fact be really infallible?"

Reinhold shrugged his shoulders--

"I think it would be unnecessary in this case. But in none can there be
a question of my taking Ella with me. Naturally she will remain with
the child in her parents' house until I return."

"Until you return--and if that do not happen?"

"What do you say? What do you mean?" said the young man angrily, while
a deep colour spread over his face.

Hugo crossed his arms and looked fiercely at him--

"It strikes me you are now suddenly coming forward with ready-made
plans, which have certainly long been arranged, and probably well
talked over. Do not deny it Reinhold! You, by yourself, would never
have gone to such extremities as you do now in the disputes with my
uncle, listening to no advice or representations; there is some foreign
influence at work. Is it really absolutely necessary that you should go
day after day to Biancona?"

Reinhold vouchsafed no reply; he turned away, and so withdrew himself
from his brother's observation.

"It is talked of already in the town," continued the latter. "It cannot
continue long without the report reaching here. Is it a matter of
perfect indifference to you?"

"Signora Biancona is studying my new composition," said Reinhold
shortly, "and I only see in her the ideal of an actress. You admired
her also?"

"Admired, yes! At least in the beginning. She never attracted me. The
beautiful Signora has something too vampire-like in her eyes. I fear
that whoever it be, upon whom she fixes those eyes with the intention
of holding him fast, will require a powerful dose of strength of will
in order to remain master of himself."

At the last words he had gone to his brother's side, who now turned
round slowly and looked at him.

"Have you experienced that already?" he asked, gloomily.

"I? No!" replied Hugo, with a touch of his old mocking humour.
"Fortunately I am very unimpressionable as regards such-like
romantic dangers, besides being sufficiently used to them. Call it
frivolity--inconstancy--what you will--but a woman cannot fascinate me
long or deeply; the passionate element is wanting in me. You have it
only too strongly, and when you encounter anything of the sort, the
danger lies close by. Take care of yourself, Reinhold!"

"Do you wish to remind me of the fetters I bear?" asked Reinhold,
bitterly. "As if I did not feel them daily, hourly, and with them the
powerlessness to destroy them. If I were free as you, when you tore
yourself away from this bondage, all might be well; but you are right,
they chained me by times, and a bridal altar is the most secure bar
which can be placed before all longing for freedom--I experience it
now."

They were interrupted; the servant from the house brought a message
from the bookkeeper to young Herr Almbach. The latter bade the man go,
and turned to his brother.

"I must go to the office for a moment. You see I am not in much danger
of coming to grief by excessive romance; our ledgers, in which,
probably, a couple of dollars are not properly entered, guard against
that. Adieu until we meet again, Hugo!"

He went, and the Captain remained alone. He stayed a few moments as if
lost in thought, while the frown on his brow became still darker; then
suddenly he raised himself as with some resolve, and left the room, but
not to go to the lower floor to his uncle or aunt; he went straight to
the opposite apartments inhabited by his sister-in-law.

Ella was there; she sat by the window, her head was bent over some
needlework, but it seemed as if this had been seized hurriedly when the
door opened unexpectedly; the handkerchief thrown down hastily, and the
inflamed eyelids betrayed freshly dried tears. She looked up at her
brother-in-law's entrance with undisguised astonishment. It was
certainly the first time he had sought her rooms; he came half-way
only, and then stood still without approaching her seat.

"May the adventurer dare to come near you, Ella? or did that condemning
verdict banish him entirely from your threshold?"

The young wife blushed; she turned her work about in her hands in most
painful confusion.

"Herr--"

"Captain!" interrupted Hugo. "Quite right--thus do my sailors address
me. Once more this name from your lips, and I shall never trouble you
again with my presence. Pray Ella, listen to me to-day!" he continued
determinedly, as the young wife made signs of rising. "This time I
shall keep the door barred by which you always try to elude my
approach; fortunately, too, there is no maid near whom you can keep by
your side for some task. We are alone, and I give you my word I shall
not leave this spot until I am either forgiven, or--hear the
unavoidable 'Herr Captain' which will drive me away once for all."

Ella raised her eyes, and now it was plainly evident that she had wept.

"What do you care for my forgiveness?" she replied quickly. "You have
wounded me least of all; I only spoke in the name of my parents and all
the household."

"For them I do not care," said Hugo with the most unabashed candour,
"but that I have hurt you I do regret, very much regret; it has lain
like a nightmare upon me until now. I can surely do no more than beg
honestly and heartily for forgiveness. Are you still angry with me,
Ella?"

He put out his hand towards her. In the movement and words there lay
such a warm, open kindliness and frankness, that it seemed almost
impossible to refuse the petition, and Ella actually, although somewhat
reluctantly, laid her hand in his.

"No," said she, simply.

"Thank God!" cried Hugo, drawing a long breath. "So at last my rights
as brother-in-law are conceded. I thus take solemn possession of them."

The words were followed by the deed, as he drew forward a chair and sat
down beside her. "Do you know, Ella, that since our late encounter you
have interested me very much?" continued he.

"It seems one must be rude to you in order to arouse your interest,"
remarked Ella, almost reproachfully.

"Yes, it appears so," agreed the Captain, with perfect composure. "We
'adventurers' are a peculiar people, and require different treatment to
ordinary mankind. You have taken the right course with me. Since you
read me my lecture so unsparingly, I have left all the house in peace;
I have behaved towards my uncle and aunt with the most perfect respect
and deference, and even robbed my Indian stories of all their appalling
effects, simply from fear of certain rebuking eyes. This can surely not
have escaped your notice?"

Something like a half-smile crossed Ella's countenance as she asked--

"It has been very hard for you, then?"

"Very hard! Although the state of affairs in the house should have made
it somewhat easier for me, they have not been of a description lately,
on which one could exercise one's love of joking."

The passing gleam of merriment vanished immediately from Ella's face at
this allusion; it bore an anxious, beseeching expression, as she turned
to her brother-in-law.

"Yes, it is very sad with us," she said, softly, "and it becomes worse
from day to day. My parents are so hard, and Reinhold so irritated, so
furious at every occurrence. Oh, my God, can you do nothing with him?"

"I?" asked Hugo, seriously, "I might put that question to you, his
wife."

Ella shook her head in inconsolable resignation. "No one listens to me,
and Reinhold less than any one. He thinks I understand nothing about it
all--he would repulse me roughly."

Hugo looked sorrowfully at the young wife, who confessed openly that
she was quite wanting in power and influence over her husband, and that
she was not permitted to share his longings and strivings in the least.

"And yet something must be done," said he decidedly. "Reinhold
irritates himself in this struggle; he suffers tremendously under it,
and makes others suffer too. You had been crying, Ella, as I entered,
and in the last few weeks not a day has passed without my seeing this
red appearance about your eyes. No, do not turn aside so timidly!
Surely the brother may be allowed to speak freely, and you shall see
that I do more than talk nonsense. I repeat it; something must be
done--done by you. Reinhold's artistic career depends upon it, his
whole future; and in the struggle his wife must stand at his side,
otherwise others might do it instead, and that would be dangerous."

Ella looked at him with a mixture of astonishment and alarm. For the
first time in her life she was called upon to take a side openly, and
some result was looked for depending upon her interference. What could
be meant by "others" who might take her place? Her face showed plainly
that she had not the slightest suspicion of anything.

Hugo saw this, and yet had not the courage to go any farther; as going
farther meant planting the first suspicion in the mind of the so-far
quite unconscious wife--being his brother's betrayer--and unavoidably
calling forth a catastrophe, of whose necessity he was nevertheless
convinced. But the young Captain's whole nature rebelled against the
painful task; he sat there undecided, when chance came to his help.
Some one knocked at the door, and immediately Jonas entered, carrying a
large bouquet of flowers.

The sailor was surely more prudent when he executed such commissions
for his master. He knew from experience, that the latter's offerings of
flowers, although received with pleasure by the young ladies, were not
always treated the same by their fathers and protectors, and although
with possible secret annoyance, he always took care to go to the right
address. But this time Hugo's casual remark that the flowers were
intended for his sister-in-law, caused the mistake. Jonas never doubted
that the Captain's remark, meant merely to shield his brother, was made
in earnest; he therefore went straight to the young Frau Almbach, and
presented the flowers to her, with the words--

"I cannot find Herr Reinhold anywhere in the house, so had better
deliver the flowers here at once."

Ella looked down in surprise at the beautiful bouquet which, arranged
with as much skill as taste, showed a selection of the most perfect
flowers.

"From whom are the flowers?" asked she.

"From the garden," answered Jonas. "Herr Reinhold ordered them, and I
have brought them; but as I cannot find him--"

"That will do. You can go," broke in Hugo, as he stepped quickly to his
sister-in-law's side, and put his hand on her arm as if to stop her. A
sign gave more stress to his order, and Jonas rolled away, but could
not help wondering that the young Frau Almbach received her husband's
attention in so peculiar a manner. She had started suddenly, as if she
had been seized with a pain at her heart, and become ashen white. But
the Captain stood there with knitted brows, and an expression on his
face as if he should have liked best to throw the expensive flowers out
of the window. Fortunately, Jonas was too phlegmatic to trouble himself
much about the state of affairs in the Almbachs' house; owing to the
warlike footing on which he stood to the servants he learned but little
about it; so, after wondering slightly, he gave it up, and being
satisfied he had executed his orders conscientiously, troubled himself
no more about the giver of them.

Deep silence reigned a few seconds in the room. Ella still held the
bouquet convulsively in her hand, but her usually quiet, listless
countenance, with its vacant, almost stupid expression, had changed
curiously. Now every feature was dilated as if in agonising pain, and
her eyes remained fixed and immovable upon the gay, blooming beauty,
even when she turned to her brother-in-law.

"Reinhold gave the order?" she asked, as if striving for breath, "then
the flowers only came by mistake to me!"

"Why then," said Hugo, with a vain attempt to soothe her, "Reinhold
ordered the flowers; well, surely they are for you?"

"For me?" Her voice sounded full of pain. "I have never yet received
flowers from him; these are certainly not intended for me."

Hugo saw he could not hesitate any more; chance had decided for him;
now he must obey fate's signal. "You are right, Ella," he replied
firmly, "and it would be useless and dangerous to deceive you any
longer. Reinhold did not say for whom the flowers were, but I know that
this evening they will be in Signora Biancona's hands."

Ella shivered, and the bouquet fell to the ground. "Signora Biancona,"
repeated she, in a dull tone.

"The actress who sang his first song in public," continued the Captain,
impressively, "for whom, also, his new composition is intended; to whom
he goes daily; who enters into all his thoughts and feelings. You know
nothing of it as yet, I see in your face, but you must learn it now,
before it is too late."

The young wife made no reply; her face was as colourless as the white
blossoms which formed the outer circle of the bouquet; silently she
stooped, picked it up, and laid it on the table, but no sound, no
response came from her lips. Hugo waited for one in vain.

"Do you believe the cruelty of disclosing that which one always hides
from every wife has given me any pleasure?" asked he, with suppressed
emotion. "Do you think I could not, by some pretence, have covered the
man's stupidity, and given myself out as the sender of the unlucky
flowers? If I do not act thus, if I discover the whole truth
unsparingly, I do it because the danger has become extreme--because
only you can still save him; and this you must see clearly. Signora
Biancona is about to return to her home, and Reinhold explained to me
just now that he must and will continue his studies in Italy. Do you
comprehend the connection?"

Ella started. Now, for the first time, a desperate fear broke through
the stolid calm of her nature.

"No, no!" she cried, as if beside herself, "He cannot! he _dare_ not.
We are married!"

"He dare not?" repeated Hugo. "You know men but little, and your own
husband least of all. Do not trust too much to the right which the
Church gave you; even this power has its limits, and I fear Reinhold
already stands beyond them. To be sure, you have no conception of that
burning fiendish passion, which enchains and makes a man powerless--so
surrounds him with its bonds, that for its sake he forgets and
sacrifices everything. Signora Biancona is one of those demonlike
natures which can inspire such passions, and here she is connected with
everything which makes up Reinhold's life--with music, art and
imagination. Nor Church nor marriage can protect, if the wife cannot
protect herself. You are wife, and mother of his child. Perhaps he will
listen to your voice, when he will to nothing else."

The young wife's heavily-drawn breath showed how much she suffered, and
two tears, the first, rolled slowly down her cheeks as she replied,
almost inaudibly, "I will try it."

Hugo came close to her side. "I know I have thrown a lighted brand into
the family to-day, which will, perhaps, destroy the last remains of
peace," he said, earnestly. "Hundreds of wives would now rush
despairingly to their parents, so as, with them or alone, to call their
husbands to account, and cause a scene which would break the last bond,
and drive him irretrievably from the house. You will not do this, Ella;
I know it, therefore I dared do with you what I should not have
ventured on so easily with any other woman. What you may say to
Reinhold--what you may insist upon, rests with yourself; but do not let
him leave you now; do not let him go to Italy!"

He ceased, and seemed to expect an answer--in vain; Ella sat there, her
face buried in her hands. She hardly moved as he said good-bye to her.
The young Captain saw that she must overcome the blow alone, so he
went.

When, half-an-hour later, Reinhold returned from the office, he saw the
bouquet of roses lying on the writing-table in his own room, and took
it up under the firm impression that Jonas had put it there. In the
meanwhile Ella sat in her child's room and waited, not for a farewell
from her husband, she had not been used to such tendernesses ever since
her marriage; but she knew he never left the house without first going
to see his boy. The wife felt only too well that she herself was
nothing to her husband, that her only value for him lay in the child;
she felt that the love for his child was the only point by which she
could approach his heart, and therefore she waited here for him in
order to hold the terribly difficult and painful interview. He must
surely come; but to-day she had to wait in vain. Reinhold did not
come. For the first time he forgot the farewell kiss on his child's
brow--forgot the last and only bond which chained him to his home. In
his heart there was only room now for one thought, and that was
Beatrice Biancona.

The opera was over. A stream of people flowed out of the theatre,
dispersing in all directions, and carriages rolled by on every side to
take up their respective owners. The house had been filled to
overflowing, as the Italian Opera Company had given their farewell
performance, and all H---- had tried to show the singers, especially
the _prima donna_, how much charmed it was with their efforts, and how
sorry it was to lose them now the hour of parting had arrived. The
stairs and corridors were still crowded; below in the vestibule people
were closely packed, and at the places of egress the numbers increased
to an uncomfortable, almost dangerous degree.

"It is almost impossible to get through," said Doctor Welding, who,
with another gentleman, descended the stairs. "One's life is imperilled
in the crush below. Rather let us wait until the rush is over!"

His companion agreed, and both stepped aside into one of the deep, dark
niches in the corridor, where a lady had already taken shelter. Her
dress, although simple, betokened that she belonged to the upper
classes; she had drawn her veil closely over her face, and appeared to
avoid the crowd, also to feel quite strange in the theatre, from the
manner in which she pressed herself with evident nervousness firmly
against the wall, when the two gentlemen approached, and, without
paying any attention to her, resumed their interrupted conversation.

"I prophesied it from the commencement that this Almbach would make a
great sensation," said Welding; "his second composition surpasses his
first in every respect; and the first was great enough for a beginner.
I should think he might be satisfied with its reception this time; it
was, if possible, more enthusiastic. Certainly, every one has not the
luck to find a Biancona for his works, and to inspire her for them, so
that she exerts her utmost power. It was altogether her idea to sing
this newest song of Almbach's as introduction to the last act of the
opera, to-day, too, at her farewell; when applause was a matter of
course, she made sure, by those means, of success at once."

"Well, I don't think he is wanting in gratitude," scoffed the other
gentleman. "People say all sorts of things. So much is certain, all her
circle of adorers is furious at this interloper, who hardly appears
before he is on the high road to be sole ruler. The affair, besides,
seems rather serious and highly romantic, and I am really anxious to
see what will be the end of it, when Biancona departs."

The Doctor buttoned his overcoat quietly--

"That is not difficult to guess; an elopement of the first order."

"You think he will elope with her?" asked the other incredulously.

"He with her? That would be objectless. Biancona is perfectly free to
decide what she likes, as to the choice of her residence. But she with
him; that would be more like the case--the fetters are on his side."

"To be sure, he is married," rejoined his companion. "Poor woman! Do
you know her personally?"

"No," said Welding, indifferently; "but from Herr Consul Erlau's
description, I can form a truly correct picture of her. Contracted
ideas, passive, unimportant in the highest degree, quite given up to
the kitchen and household affairs--just the woman in fact to drive a
genial, fiery-headed fellow like Almbach to a desperate step; and as it
is a Biancona who is set up against her, this step will not have to be
waited for very long. Perhaps it would be fortunate for Almbach if he
were torn suddenly out of these confined surroundings, and thrown on to
the path of life, but certainly the little family peace there is would
be entirely ruined. The usual fate of such early marriages, in which
the wife cannot in the smallest degree raise herself to her husband's
importance."

At these last words he turned round somewhat astonished; involuntarily
the lady behind them had made a passionate movement, but at the same
moment as the Doctor was about to observe her more narrowly, a side
door was opened, and Reinhold Almbach appeared, accompanied by Hugo,
the conductor, and several other gentlemen.

Reinhold here was quite a different being from what he was at home. The
gloom which always rested on his features there, the reserve which made
him so often unapproachable, seemed thrown off with one accord; he
beamed with excitement, success, and triumph. His brow was raised
freely and proudly, his dark eyes flashed with conscious victory, and
his whole manner breathed forth passionate satisfaction, as he turned
to his companions.

"I thank you, gentlemen. You are very kind, but you will excuse me if I
retire from these flattering acknowledgments. The Signora wishes for my
company at the entertainment, where the members of the opera assemble
once more as a farewell meeting. You will understand, I must obey this
command before all others."

The gentlemen seemed to understand it perfectly, and also to regret
they had not to obey a similar command, when Doctor Welding joined the
group.

"I congratulate you," he said, giving his hand to the young composer.
"That was a great, and what is more, a merited success."

Reinhold smiled. Praise from the lips of a critic usually so exacting
was not indifferent to him.

"You see, Herr Doctor, I have to appear at last before your judgment
seat," replied he pleasantly. "Herr Consul Erlau was unfortunately
wrong when he considered me quite safe from any such danger."

"None should be considered happy before the end," remarked the Doctor
laconically. "Why do you rush so headlong into danger, and turn your
back upon the noble merchant's position? Is it true we are to lose you
with Signora Biancona? Shall you take flight to the south at the same
time?"

"To Italy, yes!" said Reinhold positively. "It has been my plan for
long. This evening has decided it, but now--excuse me gentlemen, I
cannot possibly allow the Signora to wait."

He bowed and left them, accompanied by his brother. The usually not
quite silent Captain had observed a remarkable reticence during the
conversation. He started slightly, when at Welding's approach the niche
was disclosed in which the woman's dark figure was pressed back in the
shadow of the wall, as if not wishing to be seen on any account, and no
one else did see her, at least no one took any notice of her; she could
not leave her place of refuge without passing the group, which kept its
place after the departure of the brothers. The gentlemen all knew one
another, and took advantage of this meeting to exchange their opinions
about the young composer, Signora Biancona, and the suspected state of
affairs between the two. The latter especially was subjected to a
tolerably merciless criticism. The scoffing, witty, and malicious
remarks fell thick as hail, and some time elapsed before the group
separated at last. Now that the corridor was quite empty, the lady in
the recess raised herself and prepared to depart, but she tottered at
the first few steps, and seized the banisters of the staircase as if
about to fall, when a powerful arm supported, and held her up.



                              CHAPTER VI.


"Come into the fresh air, Ella!" said Hugo, standing suddenly beside
her. "That was torture of the rack."

He drew her hand within his arm, and led her down by the nearest way
into the street. Only here, in the cool, sharp night air did Ella
appear to regain consciousness; she threw back her veil and drew a long
breath, as if she had been nearly suffocated.

"If I had dreamed that my warning would have brought you here, I should
have withheld it." continued Hugo, reproachfully. "Ella, for heaven's
sake, what an unfortunate idea!"

The young wife drew her hand away from his arm. The reproach seemed to
pain her.

"I wanted to see her for once," replied she softly.

"Without being seen yourself?" added the Captain. "I knew that the
moment I recognised you, therefore I said nothing to Reinhold, but I
felt as if standing on hot coals here below, while the criticising
group above was holding forth before your place of refuge, and giving
free course to their amiable remarks and opinions. I can fancy pretty
well what you had to listen to."

During the last words he had hailed a cabman, told the street and
number of house, and helped his sister-in-law into the carriage; but as
he showed signs of taking a seat beside her, she declined his doing so,
quietly but firmly.

"Thanks, I shall go alone."

"On no account!" cried Hugo, almost excitedly. "You are much agitated,
almost fainting; it would be unpardonable to leave you alone in this
state."

"You are not responsible for what becomes of me," said Ella, with
uncontrolled bitterness, "and to others--it does not matter. Let me
drive home alone, Hugo, I beseech you."

Her eyes looked at him entreatingly through their veil of tears. The
Captain did not say another word; he shut the door obediently, and
stepped back; but he watched the carriage as it rolled away until it
was out of sight.

It was long past midnight when Reinhold returned, and, without entering
his house, he went at once to his garden room. The house and
outbuildings lay still and dark; nothing was moving around, all who
lived and worked here were accustomed to be occupied in the daytime,
and required the night for undisturbed repose. It was fortunate that
the garden-house lay so distant and isolated, otherwise his companions
and neighbours would have been much less patient with the young
composer, who could not refrain, however late he might return home,
from always seeking his piano, and often morning's dawn surprised him
at his musical phantasies.

It was a quiet, moonlight, but sharp raw northern spring night. In the
dawning light, the walls and gables which enclosed the garden looked
even more gloomy and prison-like than by day; the canal appeared darker
in the pale moon's rays, which trembled over it, and the bare leafless
trees and shrubs seemed to tremble and shudder in the cold night wind,
which passed mercilessly over them. It was already April, and yet the
first buds were hardly to be seen. "This miserable spring, with its
tardy growth and bloom, its dreary rainy days and cold winds!" Reinhold
had heard these words spoken a few hours since, and then such a glowing
description followed of endless spring, which blossoms forth as by
magic in the gardens of the south, those sunny days, with ever blue
sky, and the thousandfold glorious colours of the earth; the moonlight
nights full of orange perfume and notes of song. The young man must
indeed have head and heart still full of this picture; he looked more
contemptuously than usual on the poor bare surroundings, and
impatiently pushed aside a branch of elderberry whose newly opening
brown buds touched his forehead. He had no more feeling for the gifts
of this miserable spring, and no more pleasure in growing and living as
miserably as these blossoms, ever fighting with frost and wind. Out
into freedom, that was the only thought which now filled his mind.

Reinhold opened the door of the garden room and started back with
sudden alarm. A few seconds elapsed before he recognised his wife in
the figure leaning against the piano standing out clearly in the
moonlight as it fell through the window.

"Is it you, Ella?" he cried at last, entering quickly. "What is it?
What has happened?"

She made a movement of denial. "Nothing, I was only waiting for you."

"Here? and at this hour?" asked Reinhold, extremely distantly. "What
has entered your head?"

"I hardly ever see you now," was the soft response, "at least only at
table in my parents' presence, and I wished to speak to you alone."

She had lighted the lamp at these words, and placed it upon the table.
She still wore the dark silk dress which she had on at the theatre this
evening; it was certainly plain and unornamented, but not so coarse and
unbecoming as her usual house dress. Also her never failing cap had
disappeared, and now, that it was missing, could be seen for the first
time what a singular wealth was hidden beneath it. The fair hair, of
which at other times only a narrow strip was visible, could hardly be
confined in the heavy plaits which showed themselves in all their
splendid abundance; but this natural ornament, which any other woman
would have displayed, was in her case hidden carefully day after day,
until chance disclosed it, and yet it appeared to give her head quite a
different mould.

As usual, Reinhold had no eyes for it; he hardly looked at his young
wife, and only listened slightly and abstractedly to her words. There
was not even the slightest trace of reproach in them, but he must have
felt something of the sort lay there as he said impatiently--

"You know I am occupied on all possible sides. My new composition which
was completed a few weeks since, was brought out publicly to-night for
the first time--"

"I know it," interrupted Ella. "I was in the theatre."

Reinhold seemed taken aback. "You were in the theatre?" asked he
quickly and sharply. "With whom? At whose instigation?"

"I was there alone--I wished--" she stopped, and continued
hesitatingly; "I too wished to hear your music for once, of which all
the world speaks and I alone do not know."

Her husband was silent and looked enquiringly at her. The young wife
did not understand the art of deceiving, and an untruth would not pass
her lips. She stood before him, deadly pale, trembling in all her
limbs; no especially keen sight was required to guess the truth, and
Reinhold did so at once.

"And only for this reason you went?" said he slowly at last. "Will you
deceive me with this excuse, or yourself, perhaps? I see the report has
found its way to you already! You wished to see with your own eyes,
naturally. How could I think it would be spared me and you?"

Ella looked up. There was again the darkly lowering brow she was always
accustomed to in her husband, the look of gloomy melancholy, the
expression of defiant, suppressed suffering, no longer a breath of
that beaming triumph which had lighted up his features a few hours
before--that was when away, far from his own people; only the shadow
remained for home.

"Why do you not answer?" he began afresh. "Do you think I should be
coward enough to deny the truth? If I have been silent towards you so
far, it was done to spare you; now that you know it, I will render
account. You have been told of the young actress, to whom I owe the
first incitement to work, my first success, and to-day's triumph. God
knows how the connection between us has been represented to you, and
naturally you look upon it as a crime worthy of death."

"No, but as a misfortune."

The tone of these words would surely have disarmed any one; even
Reinhold's irritation could not resist it. He came nearer to her and
took her hand.

"Poor child!" said he, pitifully. "It certainly was no happiness what
your father's will decided for you. You, more than any other, required
a husband who would work and strive from day to day in the quiet
routine of daily life without even having a wish to step beyond it, and
fate has chained you to a man whom it draws powerfully to another
course. You are right; that is a misfortune for us both."

"That is to say, I am one for you," added the young wife, sadly. "She
will, perhaps, know better how to bring you happiness."

Reinhold let her hand fall and stepped back. "You are mistaken," he
replied, almost rudely, "and quite misconstrue the connection between
Signora Biancona and myself. It has been purely ideal from the
beginning, and is so still at this moment. Whoever told you differently
is a liar."

At the first words, Ella seemed to breathe more easily, but at the
following her heart contracted as if with cramp. She knew her husband
was incapable of speaking a falsehood, least of all at such a moment,
and he told her the connection was spiritual. That it was so still she
did not doubt, but how long would it be so? This evening, in the
theatre, she had seen the flash of those demon-like eyes, which nothing
could resist; had seen how that woman, in her part, had run through the
whole scale of feelings to the greatest passion; how this passion
carried away the audience to a perfect storm of approbation; and she
could easily tell herself that if it had pleased the Italian so far
only to be the gracious goddess whose hand had led the young composer
into the realms of art, the hour was sure to come in which she would
wish to be more to him.

"I love Beatrice," continued Reinhold, with a cruelty of which he
seemed to have no real conception; "but this love does not injure nor
wound any of your rights. It only concerns music, as whose embodied
genius she met me, concerns the best and highest in my life, the
ideal--"

"And what is left for your wife, then?" interrupted Ella.

He remained silent, struck dumb. This question, simple as it was,
sounded nevertheless peculiar from the lips of his wife, deemed so
stupid. It was a matter of course, that she should be satisfied with
what still remained--the name she bore and the child, whose mother she
was. Strange to say, she did not appear inclined to understand this,
and Reinhold became quite silent at the quiet but yet annihilating
reproach of the question.

The wife rested her hand on the piano. She was visibly fighting with
the fear she had always cherished for her husband, whose mental
superiority she felt deeply, without, at the same time, ever venturing
on an attempt to raise herself to him. In the knowledge that he stood
so high above her, she had ever placed herself completely under him,
without ever attaining anything by it excepting toleration, which
almost amounted to contempt.

Now that he loved another, the toleration ceased; the contempt
remained--she felt that plainly in his confession, which he made so
quietly, so positively; his love for the beautiful singer "neither
injured nor wounded any of her rights." She had indeed no right to his
spiritual life. And she should keep firm hold of that man now, when the
love of a beautiful, universally admired actress, when the magical
charm of Italy, when a future full of renown and glory beckoned to him,
she, who had nothing to give excepting herself--Ella was conscious for
the first time of the impossibility of the task which had been
appointed to her.

"I know you have never belonged to us, never loved any of us," she
said, with quiet resignation. "I have always felt it; it has only
become clear to me since I was your wife, and then it was too late. But
I am it now, and if you forsake me and the child, you will give us up
for the sake of another."

"Who says so?" cried Reinhold, with anger, which exonerated him from
the suspicion that such a thought had really entered his mind.
"Forsake? Give up you and the child? Never!"

The young wife fixed her eyes enquiringly upon him, as if she did not
understand him.

"But you said just now you loved Beatrice Biancona?"

"Yes, but--"

"But! Then you must choose between her and us."

"You suddenly develope most unusual determination," cried Reinhold,
roused. "I must? And if I will not do it? If I consider this ideal
artist love quite compatible with my duties, if--"

"If you follow her to Italy," completed Ella.

"Then you know that already?" cried the young man, passionately. "You
seem to be so perfectly informed, that it only remains for me to
confirm the news others have been so kind as to tell you. It is
certainly my intention to continue my studies in Italy, and if I should
meet Signora Biancona there--if her vicinity give me fresh inspiration
to compose--her hand open me the door to the world of art, I shall not
be fool enough to reject all this, just because it is my fate to
possess a--wife!"

Ella shuddered at the unsparing hardness of the last words.

"Are you so ashamed of your wife?" she asked, softly.

"Ella, I beg you--"

"Are you so ashamed of me?" repeated the poor wife, apparently calmly;
but there was a strange, nervous, trembling inflection in her voice.
Reinhold turned away.

"Do not be childish, Ella," he replied, impatiently. "Do you think it
is good or elevating for a man, when he returns home after his first
success, there to find complaints, reproaches, in short, all the
wretched prose of domestic life? So far you have spared me it, and
should do the same in future. Otherwise you might discover that I am
not the patient sort of husband who would allow such scenes to take
place without resistance."

Only a single glance at the young wife was required to recognise the
boundless injustice of this reproach. She stood there, not like the
accuser, but like the condemned; indeed she felt that in this hour the
verdict was spoken upon her marriage and her life.

"I know well that I have never been anything to you," said she, with
trembling voice, "never could be anything to you, and if I only were
concerned, I would let you go without a word, without a petition. But
the child is still between us, and therefore"--she stopped a moment,
and breathed heavily----"therefore you can comprehend that the mother
should pray once more for you to remain with us."

The petition came out shyly, hesitatingly; in it could be heard the
effort it cost her to make it to the husband, in whose heart no chord
throbbed for her, and yet in the last words there rang such a touching,
frightened entreaty, that his ear could not remain quite deaf. He
turned to her again.

"I cannot stay, Ella," he replied, more mildly than before, but still
with cool decision. "My future depends on it. You cannot conceive what
lies in that word for me. You cannot accompany me with the child.
Besides this being quite impossible in a tour undertaken for study, you
would soon be very miserable in a foreign country whose language you do
not understand, in circumstances and surroundings for which you are
quite unsuited. You must, indeed, now accustom yourself to measure me
and my life with another measure than that of narrow-minded prejudice
and middle-class contracted ideas. You can stay here with the little
one, under your parents' protection; at latest I shall return in a
year. You must resign yourself to this separation."

He spoke calmly, even pleasantly; but every word was an icy rejection,
an impatient shaking off of the irksome bond. Hugo was right; he lay
already too firmly under the influence of his passion to listen to any
other voice--it was too late. A cold, pitiless, "You must resign
yourself," was the only answer to that touching prayer.

Ella drew herself up with a determination at other times quite foreign
to her, and there was also a strange sound in her voice; there lay in
it something of the pride of a wife, who, trampled upon and kept down
for years, at last revolts when extremities are resorted to.

"To the separation, yes," replied she, firmly. "I am powerless against
it. But not to your return, Reinhold. If you go now, go with her,
notwithstanding my prayers, notwithstanding our child, so do it. But
then, go for ever!"

"Will you make conditions?" roared Reinhold, passionately. "Have I not
borne the yoke which your father's so-called kindness forced upon me
for years, which embittered my childhood, destroyed my youth, and now,
at the threshold of man's estate, compels me to conquer, only by means
of endless struggles, what every one requires as his natural right,
free decision for himself? You all have kept me apart from everything
that by others is called freedom and happiness; have bound me to a
hated sphere in life with all possible fetters, and now think
yourselves sure of your property. But at last the hour has come for me
when it begins to dawn, and if it penetrates like lightning to my soul,
and shows in flaming clearness the goal, and the reward at the goal,
then one awakes out of the dream of long years, and finds oneself--in
chains."

It was an outbreak of the wildest passion, most burning hatred, which
welled forth without restraint, without asking if it were poured over
the guilty or the innocent. That is the horrible fiendishness of
passion, that it turns its hatred against everything which it
encounters, even if this hatred meet the nearest, most sacred--if it
even meet bonds voluntarily made.

A long pause, still as death, followed. Reinhold, overpowered by
excitement, had thrown himself on a seat and covered his eyes with his
hands. Ella still stood on the same spot as before; she did not speak
or move; even the tremor which, during the conversation, had so often
passed through her, had ceased. Thus passed a few moments, until at
last she approached her husband slowly.

"You will leave me the child, though?" said she, with quivering lips.
"To you it would only be a burden in your new life, and I have nothing
else in the world."

Reinhold looked up, and then sprang suddenly from his seat. It was not
the words which moved him so strangely, not the deadly, fixed calm of
her face; it was the look which was so unexpectedly and astoundingly
unveiled before him as before his brother. For the first time he saw in
his wife's face "the beautiful fairy-tale blue eyes" which he had so
often admired in his boy, without ever asking whence they came; and
these eyes, large and full, were now directed towards him. No tear
stood in them, neither any more beseeching; but an expression for which
he never gave Ella credit, an expression before which his eyes sank to
the ground.

"Ella," said he, uncertainly, "if I was too furious--What is it, Ella?"

He tried to take her hand; she drew it back.

"Nothing. When do you intend leaving?"

"I do not know," answered Reinhold, more and more struck. "In a few
days--or weeks--there is no hurry."

"I will inform my parents. Good-night." She turned to go. He made a
hasty step after her as if to detain her. Ella remained.

"You have misunderstood me."

The young wife drew herself up firmly and proudly. She appeared all at
once to have become a different person. This tone and carriage, Ella
Almbach had never known.

"The 'fetters' shall not press upon you any longer, Reinhold. You can
attain your object unhindered, and your--prize. Good-night."

She opened the door quickly and went out. The moonlight fell brightly
on the slight figure in the darkness, upon the sad pale face and the
blond plaits. In the next moment she had disappeared. Reinhold stood
alone.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"This house is miserable now," said the old bookkeeper in the office,
as he put his pen behind his ear, and closed the account book. "The
young master away for three days without giving any signs of his being
alive, without enquiring for wife or child. The Herr Captain does not
set his foot across the threshold; the principal goes about in such a
rage that one hardly dares to go near him; and young Frau Almbach looks
so wretched that one's heart aches to see her. Heaven knows how this
unhappy story will end."

"But how, then, did this disturbance come so suddenly?" asked the head
clerk, who also--it was the hour for closing the office--put his
writing aside and shut his desk.

The bookkeeper shrugged his shoulders. "Suddenly? I do not believe it
was unexpected by any of us. It has been smouldering in the family for
weeks and months; only the spark was wanting in all this inflammable
matter, and it came at last. Frau Almbach brought the news home from
some lady's party, and thus her husband learned what half the town knew
already, and what no one hears willingly, of his son-in-law. You know
our chief, and how he always looked upon all this artist business with
dislike; how he fought against it--and now this discovery! He sent for
the young master, and then there was such a scene--I heard part of it
in the next room. If Herr Reinhold had only behaved sensibly and given
in in this case when he really was not innocent, perhaps the affair
might have been set aside, instead of which he put on his most
obstinate manner, told his father-in-law to his face that he would not
remain a merchant, would go to Italy, would become a musician; he had
endured the slavery here long enough, and much more of the same kind.
The chief could not contain himself for rage; he forbade, threatened,
insulted at last, and then, of course, came the end. The young master
broke out so wildly that I thought something would happen. He stamped
his foot like a madman, and cried--'And if the whole world set itself
in opposition, it will still be. I will not be domineered over anyhow,
nor allow my thoughts and feelings to be prescribed for me.' And it
went on in this tone. An hour later he stormed out of the house, and
has not let himself be heard of since. God protect everyone from such
family scenes."

The old gentleman laid his pen aside, left his seat, and wished the
others good-night, while he prepared to leave the office. He had hardly
gone a few steps along the passage when he met Herr Almbach, who turned
in quickly from the street. The bookkeeper struck his hands together in
joyful alarm.

"Thank God that you, at least, are to be seen again, Herr Captain," he
cried. "We are indeed wretched in this house."

"Is the barometer still pointing to stormy?" asked Hugo, with a glance
at the upper story.

The bookkeeper sighed. "Stormy! Perhaps you will bring us sunshine."

"Hardly," said Hugo, seriously. "At this moment I am seeking Frau
Almbach. Is she at home?"

"Your aunt is out with the chief," said the former.

"Not she. I mean my sister-in-law."

"The young mistress? Oh dear, we have not seen her for three days. She
is sure to be upstairs in the nursery. She hardly leaves the little one
for a moment now."

"I will seek her," said Hugo, as with a rapid adieu he hastened
upstairs. "Good-evening."

The bookkeeper looked after him, shaking his head. He was not used to
the young Captain's passing him without some joke, some chaff; and he
had also remarked the cloud which to-day lay on the young man's usually
cheerful brow. He shook his head once more, and repeated his former
sigh, "God knows how the affair will end."

In the meanwhile Hugo had reached his sister-in-law's apartments.

"It is I, Ella," he said, entering. "Have I startled you?"

The young wife was alone; she sat by her boy's little bed. The rapid,
youthful steps outside, and the quick opening of the door, might well
have deceived her as to the comer. She had surely expected another. Her
painful start and the colour in her face, which suddenly gave way to
intense pallor, as she recognised her brother-in-law, showed this.

"My uncle carries his injustice so far as to forbid me the house also,"
continued the latter, as he came nearer. "He persists in thinking I had
some share in this unhappy breach. I hope, Ella, that you exonerate me
from it."

She hardly listened to the last words. "You bring me news from
Reinhold?" asked she quickly, with fleeting breath. "Where is he?"

"You surely did not expect that he would come himself," said the
Captain, evasively. "Whatever blame may be due to him in the whole
affair, the behaviour on my uncle's part was such that every one would
have rebelled against it. On this point I stand on his side, and
understand thoroughly that he went with the intention not to return. I
should have done the same."

"It was a terrible scene," replied Ella, with difficulty keeping back
the tears which were gushing out. "My parents learned elsewhere what I
would have hidden at any cost, and Reinhold was awful in his wild rage.
He left us, but he might have let me receive one word at least, during
the three days, through you. He is surely with you?"

"No," replied Hugo, shortly, almost roughly.

"No," repeated Ella, "he is not with you? I took it as a matter of
course that he would be there."

The Captain looked down. "He came to me, and with the intention of
remaining, but a difference arose between us about it. Reinhold is
unboundedly passionate when a certain point is touched upon; I could
and would not hide my feelings about it, and we quarrelled for the
first time in our lives. He thereupon refused to be friends; I have
only seen him again this morning."

Ella did not reply. She did not even ask what was the cause of the
quarrel; she felt only too well that in her brother-in-law, esteemed so
frivolous, mischievous, and heartless, she possessed the most energetic
protector of her rights.

"I have tried my utmost once more," said he, coming close beside her,
"although I knew it would be in vain. But you, Ella, could you not keep
him?"

"No," replied the young wife, "I could not, and at last I would not."

Instead of any response, Hugo pointed to the sleeping babe; Ella shook
her head violently.

"For his sake I conquered myself, and begged the husband, who wished to
tear himself away from me at any price, to remain. I was repulsed; he
let me feel what a fetter I am to him--he may then go free."

Hugo's glance rested enquiringly on her countenance, that again showed
the energetic expression which was once so foreign to her features.
Slowly he drew forth a note.

"If then you are prepared, I have a few lines to bring you from
Reinhold. He gave me them two or three hours since."

The wife started. The firmness she had just shown could not continue
when she saw her husband's handwriting on the envelope; only his
handwriting, while with mortal agony she had clung to the hope that he
would come himself, if it had merely been to say farewell. With
trembling hand she took the letter and opened it; it contained only a
few lines--

"You witnessed the scene between your father and myself, and will
therefore comprehend that I do not enter his house again. That scene
has changed nothing in my decision. It only hastens my departure, as
the want of tact on your parents' part has given the affair a publicity
which does not make it appear desirable for me to remain an hour longer
in H---- than is absolutely necessary. I cannot bid you and the child
good-bye personally, as I shall not set foot again across a threshold
from which I was driven in such a manner. It is not my fault if a
separation, which I was resolved to obtain for a time, now becomes a
lengthened one that is brought about by a violent quarrel. It was you
who made the condition, that I should either remain or go for ever.
Well, then, I go! Perhaps it will be better for us both. Farewell!"



                              CHAPTER VII.


The Captain must have known what the letter contained, as he stood
close by Ella's side, apparently ready to support her, as in the
theatre; but this time she betrayed no weakness. She looked silently
down at the icy words of farewell with which her husband freed himself
from wife and child. With what haste had he seized the excuse which her
father's harshness and her own words offered him; with what relief had
he shaken off the irksome bonds! This blow did not fall unexpectedly
now. Since that last interview she knew her fate.

"He is gone already?" asked she, without raising her eyes from the
letter, which she still held in her hand.

"An hour ago."

"And with her?"

Hugo was silent; he could not say "No" to this question. Ella rose,
apparently calm, but she leaned heavily on the boy's bed.

"I knew it. And now--leave me alone, I implore you!"

The Captain hesitated. "I came, also, to bid you adieu," replied he.
"My departure was decided without this, and now, in my brother's
absence, nothing keeps me. I shall make no attempt to remove my uncle's
absurd prejudice against me, but I should like to take a word of
farewell from you, Ella, away with me. Will you refuse it me?"

The young woman raised her eyes slowly; they met his, and as if
following an involuntary impulse, held out both hands to him--

"I thank you, Hugo, farewell!"

With a quick movement he caught her hands in his--

"I have ever only been able to bring you pain," he said softly. "By me
came the first news which utterly destroyed your peace; it came too
late, and to-day it was again my hand which brought you the last. But
if I pained you, Ella, must pain you--my God, it has not been easy for
me."

His lips rested for a moment on her hand, then he let it fall, and left
the room quickly; a few moments later he was in the open air.

It was a raw, regular northern spring evening. The rain fell steadily;
mist hung heavily and densely in the streets; even the lamp light only
shone dimly red in the grey atmosphere. The rolling train bore Reinhold
Almbach away in this fog to the south, where fame and love, where his
future beckoned brightly to him; and in the same hour his young wife
lay at home on her knees by her child's cradle, pressing her head in
the pillow to smother the cry of despair, which now, that she knew
herself to be alone, broke forth at last. He had not come once to say
adieu; he had not one kind last word for her; not one farewell kiss for
his child. They were both forsaken, given up--probably forgotten
already.

                           *   *   *   *   *

The blazing glory of the sunset seemed to bathe heaven and earth in a
sea of fire, and illumination. All the wonderful colouring of the south
lighted up the western horizon, and the flood of light poured itself
far away over the town, with its cupolas, towers, and palaces. It was
an incomparable panorama stretching around the villa, which lay outside
the town on a slight elevation visible from afar, with its terrace and
colonnades, surrounded by the lower lying gardens, in which the most
luxuriant southern vegetation displayed itself. There sombre cypresses
raised their gloomy heads; pines waved in the gentle evening wind;
white marble statues peeped forth through laurel and myrtle bushes;
the waters from the fountains rippled and fell on the carpet of
turf; and thousands of flowers sent forth their intoxicating sweet
perfume--everywhere beauty and art, scent and flowers, light and
dazzling colours.

A numerous party was assembled on the terrace and in the adjoining
parts of the park, preferring the enjoyment of this beautiful evening,
and the wonderful view outside, to remaining in the rooms. It seemed
principally to consist of the aristocracy, yet many a figure might be
seen there which undoubtedly betrayed the artist, and here and there
appeared the dark habit of a priest near the light toilettes of the
ladies or brilliant uniforms. The most different elements seemed to be
united here. They walked, chatted, and sat or stood together in
unconstrained groups.

In one of these groups, which had gathered at the foot of a terrace
close to the great fountain, the conversation was conducted with
unusual vivacity; it must be about some subject of general interest.
The few words and names mentioned appeared to rouse the attention of
one of the guests, and he, coming from the terrace, passed close by the
group. He was clearly a stranger, as was denoted by his light brown
hair, eyes, and indeed his whole face, which, although tanned by sun
and air, still did not show the dark colouring of the southerner. The
uniform of a captain set off his strong manly figure very
advantageously, and in his bearing and movements was a happy
combination of the free, somewhat easy manner of a sailor with the
forms of good society. He stopped near the gentlemen who were talking
so eagerly, and listened to their conversation with evident interest.

"This new opera is, and will be the chief event of the season," said an
officer in the uniform of the carbineers, "and therefore I do not
understand how it can be so easily postponed. The performance is
already arranged, the rehearsals have begun, all preparations are
nearly finished, when suddenly everything is interrupted, and the whole
performance postponed until the autumn, and all this without any
apparent reason."

"The reason lies alone in the sovereign pleasure of Signor Rinaldo,"
replied another gentleman, in a somewhat ill-natured tone. "He is
accustomed to treat the opera and public according to his humour and
fancy."

"I am afraid you are mistaken, Signor Gianelli," interrupted a young
man of distinguished appearance, somewhat excitedly. "If Rinaldo
himself demanded the postponement, there is sure to be some cause for
it."

"Excuse me, Marchese, it is not so," replied the former. "I, as
conductor of the grand opera, know best what endless trouble, and what
immense sacrifice of time and money it has cost to meet Rinaldo's
wishes. He brought the whole theatrical world into confusion with his
conditions and requirements, as he demanded changes in the company such
as had never been made before, and everything in the same way. As
usual, all was acceded to, and all expected at last to be sure of his
approval; but now, on arriving from M----, he finds nothing but what is
far beneath his anticipations, he orders alterations and dictates
improvements in the most inconsiderate manner. In vain was it attempted
to dissuade him, through Signora Biancona; he threatened to withdraw
the entire opera, and--" here the maestro shrugged his shoulders
satirically, "his Excellency the Director would not take the
responsibility of such a misfortune upon his shoulders. He promised
everything, conceded everything, and as it was quite impossible to
carry out the so peremptorily demanded additions in such a short time,
even although ordered by the sovereign Signor Rinaldo, the performance
was obliged to be postponed until the next season."

"The Director in this case was quite right to give way to the wish, or,
if you like it, whim of the composer," said the young Marchese
decidedly. "The company would never have forgiven it if bad management
had robbed them of one of Rinaldo's operas. It is known that he would
be capable of carrying out his threat, and really withdrawing his work,
and with such an alternative before him, nothing remained but to give
way unconditionally."

"Certainly; my objection only concerns this species of terrorism which
a strange composer allows himself here, in the heart of Italy, inasmuch
as he compelled the inhabitants to content themselves with his
essentially German ideas of music."

"Especially when these same inhabitants have twice made a _fiasco_ of
an opera, while every new creation of Rinaldo's is greeted with
tempestuous applause by the audience," whispered the Marchese to his
neighbour.

The latter, an Englishman, looked much bored. He only understood
Italian imperfectly, and the rapid, vivacious conversation was
therefore greatly lost to him. Nevertheless he answered the Marchese's
low spoken and contemptuous remark with a solemn nod, and then looked
attentively at the maestro, as if the latter had become an object of
curiosity for him.

"We are speaking of Rinaldo's new opera," said the officer, turning
and explaining politely to the stranger, who so far had remained a
silent listener, and now replied in foreign sounding, but yet fluent
Italian--"I just heard the name. No doubt some musical celebrity."

The gentlemen looked in speechless astonishment at the inquirer; only
the maestro's face betrayed unmistakable satisfaction that there was at
least one person in the world who did not know this name.

"Some celebrity!" repeated Marchese Tortoni. "Excuse me Signor
Capitano, but you must have been a long time at sea, and perhaps come
from another hemisphere?"

"Direct from the South Sea Islands!" said the Captain with a pleasant
smile, notwithstanding the ironical tone of the question, "and as
there, unfortunately, they are not so well acquainted with the artistic
productions of the present times as might be desired in the interests
of civilisation, I beg to receive assistance in my deplorable
ignorance."

"We are speaking about the greatest and most charming of our present
composers," said the Marchese. "He is certainly by birth a German, but
since some years has belonged to us exclusively. He lives and works
only on Italian ground, and we are proud to be permitted to call him
ours. It will be easy for you to make his personal acquaintance this
evening. He is sure to appear!"

"With Signora Biancona--of course!" interrupted the officer, "have you
had an opportunity already of hearing our beautiful _prima donna_?"

The Captain made a gesture of denial. "I only arrived a few days since;
however, I saw her some years previously in my home, where she gained
her first laurels."

"Ah, she was a rising star then," cried the others. "To be sure she
laid the foundation of her fame in the north. She returned to us as a
known actress. But now she stands undoubtedly at the height of her
power. You must hear her, and hear her in one of Rinaldo's operas, when
you can admire her in all her glory."

"To be sure, as then one fire ignites the other," added the young
Marchese. "At any rate you will find in the Signora of to-day a
brilliantly beautiful apparition. Do not delay an introduction and
interview with her."

"Provided it be agreeable to Signor Rinaldo," said the maestro, joining
in again. "Otherwise you may attempt to approach her in vain."

"Has Rinaldo power to decide such points?" asked the Captain lightly.

"Well, at least he takes the right to do so. He is so used to being
master and ruler everywhere that he tries it here also, and, alas, not
without result. I do not understand Biancona. An actress of her
importance, a woman of her beauty, to allow herself to be so completely
ruled by a man."

"But he is Rinaldo," laughed the officer, "and that is saying enough.
Let us confess it, Tortoni, we can none of us compete with his
successes. All hearts fly towards him, wherever he appears; so at last
it is no wonder if even a Biancona bows willingly before the magic
which this man seems to bear about him."

"Hum, it is not done quite so willingly," said Gianelli, grimly.
"Signora is passionate in the highest degree, but Rinaldo, if possible,
even surpasses her. Between them it is quite as often storm as
sunshine, and furious scenes are the order of the day."

"This Rinaldo appears to govern all society as well as his audiences,"
said the Captain, now turning exclusively to the conductor. "Do people
submit to such a thing from one single man, and he a stranger?"

"Because all are blind, and will be to every other merit," cried the
maestro with suppressed violence. "When society once raises an idol to
a throne, it carries on its adoration until it becomes ridiculous.
They regularly worship Rinaldo, so it is no wonder if his pride and
self-appreciation become boundless, and he thinks he can trample on all
with impunity who do not pay him homage."

The Captain looked steadily and with a peculiar smile at the excited
Italian.

"It is a pity that such talent should have so dark a side! But after
all, it is not so much talent as fashion, whim of the public, unmerited
success; do not you think so?"

Gianelli would probably have agreed with all his heart, but the other
gentlemen's presence put some restraint upon him.

"The public generally decides in such cases," he replied, prudently,
"and here it is extravagant in its favours. For my part, I maintain,
without wishing in the least to detract from Rinaldo's fame, that he
might compose the most meritless work and they would extol it to the
skies, because it came from him."

"Very probably," agreed the stranger. "And possibly this new opera is
meritless. I am certainly of your opinion, and shall assuredly--"

"I advise you, Signor to withhold your opinion until you have become
acquainted with Rinaldo's works," interrupted the Marchese, sharply.
"He has certainly made the unpardonable mistake of attaining the summit
of fame in one unbroken course of triumph, and of acquiring greatness
to which no other can reach so easily. This cannot be forgiven him in
certain circles, and he must do penance for it on every occasion.
Follow my advice."

The Captain bowed slightly. "With pleasure, and all the more as it is
my brother whom you have defended so eloquently, Marchese."

This explanation, made with a most pleasant smile, naturally created a
great sensation in the group. Marchese Tortoni took a step backwards in
astonishment, and examined the speaker from head to foot. The maestro
became pale and bit his lips, while the officer with difficulty
refrained from laughing. The Englishman this time understood enough of
the conversation to comprehend the trick which had been played, and
which seemed to arouse his entire satisfaction. He smiled with an
expression of extreme contentment, and with long strides crossed over
immediately to the Captain, at whose side he placed himself silently,
thus giving him an unmistakable sign of approval.

"The musical name of my brother appears only to be known to these
gentlemen," continued Hugo unabashed, "mine doubtless sounded too
foreign to you in the general introduction. We have, indeed, no reason
to deny our relationship."

"Ah, Signor Capitano, I had heard already of your intended arrival,"
cried the Marchese, offering his hand with evident heartiness, "but it
was not fair to cheat us with an _incognito_. To one, at least, it has
caused bitter confusion, although he richly deserved the lesson."

Hugo looked round at once for the maestro, who had preferred to retire
unnoticed. "I wished to reconnoitre the ground a little," retorted he,
laughing, "and that was only possible so long as my _incognito_ lasted.
But it would soon have reached its termination, as I expect Reinhold
every moment; he was detained in the town, while I drove on in advance.
Ah, he is there already."

He really appeared at that moment on the terrace, and the maestro would
have had fresh opportunity to give vent to his anger at the "adoration,
which became ridiculous," as the sudden cessation of all conversation,
the interest with which all eyes were directed to one point, the
movement which spread through all the company, was only due to
Reinhold's entrance.

Reinhold himself had become quite different in these years--quite
different. The young genius who had once fought so impatiently against
the confining limits and prejudices of his surroundings, had raised
himself to be a renowned composer, whose name extended beyond the
boundaries of Italy and his home, whose works were familiar on the
stages of all capitals; to whom fame and honour, money and triumph,
flowed in richest abundance. The same mighty change had also been
carried out in his exterior, and this alteration was not at all
disadvantageous, as instead of the pale, serious youth, there now stood
a man in whom it was evident that he was at home with life and the
world, and only in the man did the always peculiarly attractive style
of his beauty manifest itself entirely. The proud self-consciousness
which now rested upon his _spirituel_ brow, and showed itself in all
his features and his whole bearing, became them well, but there lay
also a heavy shadow on this brow and on those features which happiness
had surely never placed there. His mouth curved with harsh mockery,
with contemptuous bitterness, and the former spark slumbered no more in
the depths of his eyes; now a flame shone there, burning, destroying,
flashing almost demonlike at every emotion. Whatever this face might
have gained outwardly, _peace_ spoke no more from within.

He conducted Signora Biancona on his arm, no longer the youthful _prima
donna_ of a second-rate Italian opera company, which gave wandering
performances in the north, but a star of European renown, who, after
having gathered laurels and triumphs in all important places, now
occupied the first position at the theatre of her native town. Marchese
Tortoni was right; she was dazzlingly beautiful, this woman; there was
the old burning glance, which once understood how to set on fire the
honourable patrician blood of the noble Hanseatic town, only now it
appeared to have become more glowing, more scorching; there was still
the countenance, with its witch-like entrancing magic, the figure with
its noble plastic limbs, only everything seemed fuller, more
voluptuous. The flower had developed to the ripest, almost over-ripe
splendour; she still bloomed, her beauty was still at its zenith, if
even one could not but acknowledge that perhaps in the course of the
next few years the limits would be already passed beyond which she
would be tending irrecoverably to her descent.

Both, especially Reinhold, were seized upon the moment they arrived.
All crowded around him; all sought his vicinity, his conversation. In a
few moments he had become the centre of the assemblage, and some time
elapsed before he could withdraw from all the attentions and flatteries
in order to look round for his brother, who had stood somewhat aloof.

"There you are at last, Hugo," said he, approaching, "I missed you
already. You make one seek you?"

"It was not possible to break through that triple circle of admirers,
which surrounds you like a Chinese wall; I have not attempted such a
piece of daring, but indulged in contemplating what happiness it is to
possess a celebrated brother."

"Yes, this everlasting crush is really oppressive," said Reinhold, with
an expression which showed not contented triumph, but, on the contrary,
unmistakable weariness; "however come now, I will introduce you to
Beatrice."

"Beatrice?--Ah, Signora Vampire! _must_ I, Reinhold?"

His brother's look became overcast. "Certainly you must. You cannot
avoid seeing her in my company, much and often. She is beautiful, and
with reason wonders it has not already been done. What is it, Hugo? You
appear wishful to evade this introduction altogether, and yet you do
not know Beatrice even."

"I do, though," replied the Captain shortly. "I have seen her already
at a concert on the stage at H----."

"But never spoken to her. It is odd one must almost compel you to do
what any other would look upon as a privilege! Usually you are the
first, when acquaintance with a beautiful woman is in question."

Hugo replied nothing, but followed without farther protest. Signora
Biancona, as was her custom, was surrounded by a circle of gentlemen,
and engaged in most lively conversation, which she, however, broke off
immediately the two appeared. Reinhold presented his brother to her.
Beatrice turned to the latter with all her fascinations.

"Do you know, Captain, I have been angry with you already, without
knowing you?" she began. "Reinhold was beside himself when he received
the news of your arrival. He left me in M---- in the most ungallant
manner, in order to hasten towards you. I had to undertake my return
journey alone."

Hugo bowed politely, but more distantly than was his wont to a lady,
nor did he appear to notice that Beatrice's beautiful hand was extended
confidently to Rinaldo's brother, at least he utterly resisted the
temptation of kissing it, which was certainly expected.

"I am very unhappy, Signora, at having roused your ill-will. But one
who disposes so exclusively of Reinhold's presence and company, should
possess liberality enough to forego it a short time in favour of his
brother."

He looked round for Reinhold, but the latter was already engaged.

"I resign myself," said Beatrice, still with charming friendliness, "or
rather I must still resign myself, as, since you came, I have seen
little enough of Rinaldo. There will remain no other remedy than to beg
you to accompany him when he comes to see me."

Hugo made a somewhat measured gesture of thanks--

"You are very kind, Signora. I shall seize with pleasure the
opportunity of becoming better acquainted with my brother's
admired--Muse."

Signora Biancona, smiled--

"Has he called me so to you? To be sure the name is not strange in our
circle of friends. Rinaldo gave it me once, when I led his first steps
to the path of art. A somewhat romantic designation, especially
according to German views, is it not, Signor? You hardly have such in
your north?"

"Sometimes," said the Captain quietly, "only with a slight difference.
With us, muses are ideal, floating in unattainable heights. Here they
are--beautiful women. An undeniable advantage for the artist!"

The words sounded like a compliment, and adhered steadily to the
playful tone which Beatrice herself had commenced; nevertheless she
cast a quick searching glance at the speaker's face--perhaps she saw
the sparkling scorn in it--as she answered sharply--

"For my part, I confess to have no sympathy with the north. Simply
because compelled, did I pass some short time there, and could only
breathe again when Italy's sky rose above me. We southerners cannot
succeed in submitting to the icy, pedantic rules which confine society
there, to the fetters which they would wish even to impose upon
artists."

Hugo leant with perfect indifference against the marble balustrade.

"Good God, that is of no importance. They are easily broken, and then
one is free as the birds in the air. Reinhold proved that sufficiently,
and now he has foresworn home and pedantic rules for ever, which is
entirely due to you, Signora."

Beatrice used her fan violently, although at this moment the evening
breeze blew refreshingly cool.

"How do you mean, Signor?" asked she, quickly.

"I? Oh, I mean nothing, excepting, perhaps, that it must be an
elevating sensation to have thus the entire fate of a man--or even a
family--in one's hands; in tearing him away from his 'fetters,' one
must feel in such a case something like an earthly providence. Is it
not so, Signora?"

Beatrice had started slightly at these words, whether from astonishment
or anger was not easy to decide. Her eyes met his; but this time they
measured one another, as two antagonists do. The Italian's glance
flashed; but the Captain bore it so firmly and quietly, that she felt
it was not such an easy game opposite those clear brown eyes, which
dared fearlessly to break a lance with her.

"I believe Rinaldo has every cause to be grateful to this providence,"
replied she, proudly. "Perhaps he would have sunk amid circumstances
and surroundings which were unworthy of him, if it had not aroused his
genius and shown him the path to greatness."

"Perhaps," said Hugo, coolly. "But people maintain that real genius
never does sink, and the more difficulties it has to penetrate the more
do they strengthen its power; however, that, of course, is also one of
the northern pedantic views. The result has decided in favour of your
view, Signora, and success is a god to which all bow."

He inclined his head and retired. He had said all this in the lightest
conversational tone, apparently quite unmeaningly, but Signora Biancona
must surely have felt the bitterness which lay in the Captain's words,
for she pressed her lips together in most intense internal irritation,
and her fan was moved almost furiously.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


Meanwhile Hugo had sought his brother, whom he found in conversation
with Marchese Tortoni; both stood a little apart from the rest of the
company.

"No, no, Cesario," said Reinhold, at that moment, refusing something.
"I have only shortly returned from M----, and cannot possibly think of
leaving town again. Perhaps later--"

"But the opera is postponed," interrupted the young Marchese, in a
beseeching tone, "and the heat begins to be oppressive. You are sure to
select some _villegiatura_ in a few weeks. Come to my assistance,
Captain," said he, turning to Hugo, just then approaching. "You intend,
surely, to become acquainted with our south, and there is no better
opportunity than in my Mirando."

"Do you know the Marchese already?" asked Reinhold. "Then I need not
introduce you."

"Certainly not," replied Hugo, mischievously. "I introduced myself
personally to these gentlemen, just as they were sitting in judgment
upon you, and I had the harmless pleasure, as an unknown listener, of
rousing them against you by casual remarks. Unfortunately it only
succeeded with one. Marchese Tortoni, on the contrary, took your part
most passionately; I had to feel the whole weight of his displeasure,
as I allowed myself to doubt your talent."

Reinhold shook his head. "Has he been playing his tricks already,
Cesario? Take care, Hugo, with your jokes! We are here on Italian
ground, where people do not take such things so lightly as in our
home."

"Well, in this case the name was only required to reconcile us," said
the Marchese, smiling. "But we are losing the thread of our discussion
entirely," continued he, impatiently. "I have still received no reply
to my request. I count positively upon your visit, Rinaldo; naturally
on yours also, Signor."

"I am my brother's guest," exclaimed Hugo, to whom the last words were
addressed. "Such a decision depends upon him and--Signora Biancona."

"Upon Beatrice! How so?" asked Reinhold, quickly.

"Well, she is already greatly annoyed that my presence keeps you so
much from her. It is decidedly a question whether she will set you at
liberty for any time, as Marchese Tortoni seems to wish."

"Do you think I should allow myself to be so entirely governed by her
whims?" Reinhold's voice betrayed rising irritation. "I shall have to
show that I can form a decision without her leave. We will come,
Cesario, next month, I promise you."

An expression of great pleasure passed over the young man's face at
this rapid, impetuous assent; he turned politely to the Captain.

"Rinaldo knows my Mirando well, and has always praised it. I hope also
to be able to make your stay agreeable to you. The villa is beautifully
situated, close to the sea shore--"

"And isolated," said Reinhold, with a peculiar mixture of melancholy
and longing. "One can breathe there while one is almost suffocated in
the drawing-room atmosphere. But our friends are going to dinner," said
he, turning the conversation, with an upward glance to the terrace. "We
must, I suppose, join the others. Will you take Beatrice to dinner,
Hugo?"

"No, thank you," declined the Captain, coolly. "That is surely your
exclusive right. I do not wish to dispute it."

"Your conversation with her was remarkably short," said Reinhold, as
together they ascended the steps of the terrace. "What was the matter
with you both?"

"Nothing particular. A little outpost skirmish; nothing more. Signora
and I have taken up our positions towards one another at once. I hope
you do not object."

He received no answer, as Signora Biancona's silk dress rustled close
by them, and the next moment stood between the brothers. The Captain
bowed low, with consummate gallantry, before the beautiful woman. It
would indeed have been impossible to find the least fault with this
mode of greeting, and Beatrice acknowledged it with an inclination of
her head, but the glance which she shot towards him showed sufficiently
that she also had taken up her position. The intense hatred of the
roused southerner blazed in her eye, only for a moment to be sure; the
next she turned round, laid her hand on Reinhold's arm, to let him lead
her into the dining-room.

"That seems to me neither more nor less than a declaration of war,"
murmured Hugo, as he followed the pair. "Wordless, but sufficiently
comprehensible. The enmity has begun--at your commands, Signora."

                           *   *   *   *   *

Marchese Tortoni was not wrong in his remarks; the heat,
notwithstanding the early season of the year, began to be oppressive.
The season was not over yet, but many families had already exchanged
their residence in the town for the usual _villegiatura_ in the
mountains or by the seaside, and the rest of the society was also on
the point of dispersing itself earlier than usual to all points of the
compass, until autumn brought them together once more.

In Signora Biancona's house no preparations had been made so far which
might lead to the inference of a speedy departure, and yet one seemed
to be under discussion in the interview which had just taken place
between her and Reinhold Almbach. The two were alone in the singer's
brilliantly and dazzlingly illuminated saloon; but Beatrice's beautiful
face bore an expression of unmistakable excitement. Leaning against the
cushions of the divan, her lips pressed angrily together, she plucked
to pieces one of the beautiful bouquets which ornamented the celebrated
actress' reception-room so plentifully; while Reinhold was walking up
and down the room with folded arms and gloomily clouded brow. It only
required a single glance to guess that one of those stormy scenes was
being enacted which Maestro Gianelli declared were as frequent between
the two as was sunshine.

"I beg you, Beatrice, spare me any more of these exhibitions," said
Reinhold, with great violence. "You cannot alter an affair already
determined upon. Marchese Tortoni received my promise, and our
departure for Mirando is arranged for to-morrow."

"Well, then, you must retract this promise," replied Beatrice, in the
same tone. "You gave it without my knowledge, gave it weeks ago, and
then we had already decided to spend our _villegiatura_ in the
mountains this year."

"Certainly! And I shall follow you there as soon as I return from
Mirando."

"As soon as you return! As if Tortoni would not try every means to
chain you there as usual, and if now, in addition, you go in your
brother's company, it is a matter of course that you will be kept away
from me as long as possible."

Reinhold stopped suddenly, and a dark look was turned towards her.

"Will you not have the goodness to leave this wearisome, exhausted
subject at last?" asked he, sharply. "I know already quite well enough
that there is no sympathy between you and Hugo; but he, at any rate,
spares me any dissertations upon it, and does not require me to share
his sympathies and antipathies. Besides, you must allow that he has
never been impolite towards you."

Beatrice threw her bouquet aside and rose. "Oh, yes, I allow that,
certainly; and it is just this courteousness which annoys me so much.
The agreeable conversations, with the everlasting, scornful smile on
his lips; the attentions, with contempt in his eyes; that is quite the
German manner, from which I suffered so much in your north, which
governs and rules us in the so-called circles of society, which knows
how to restrain us there, even when fighting ever so bitterly with any
one. Your brother understands that perfectly; nothing hits him, nothing
wounds him; everything glances off from his everlasting, mocking smile.
I--I hate him, and he me not less."

"With difficulty," said Reinhold bitterly, "as you are such a mistress
of the art, as few others can be. I have often enough seen that, when
you have imagined yourself insulted by anyone. With you it overflows
all bounds at once. But this time, you will remember, that it is my
brother against whom this hatred is directed, and that through it I am
not disposed to let myself be robbed of our first short meeting for
years. I shall endure no insult, no attack, upon Hugo."

"Because you love him more than me," cried Beatrice, wildly. "Because I
count for nothing beside your brother. To be sure, what am I to you?"

And now the way was opened to a regular flood of reproaches,
complaints, and threats, which finally ended in a torrent of tears. All
the passion of the Italian broke forth; but Reinhold seemed to be moved
to nothing less than concession by it. He attempted to restrain her
several times, and as he did not succeed, he stamped furiously with his
foot.

"Once more, Beatrice, cease these scenes. You know that you never gain
anything with me by them, and I should have thought you had already
found by experience that I am not such a slave without a will, that a
word or a caprice from you is a command. I shall not put up with these
continual exhibitions any longer, which you call forth on every
occasion."

He went furiously to the balcony, and, turning his back upon the room,
looked down into the street, where the busy movement of the Corso was
visible. For a few minutes Beatrice's passionate sobs were heard in the
saloon; then all was still, and immediately after she placed a hand on
his shoulder, as he stood at the window.

"Rinaldo!"

Half-reluctantly he turned round. His glance met Beatrice's glowing
dark eye; a tear still stood in it, but it was no longer a tear of
anger, and her voice, just now so excited, had a soft, melting ring in
it.

"You say I am a mistress in the art of hating. Only in hating, Rinaldo?
You have often enough experienced the contrary."

Reinhold now turned completely to her, and returned from the balcony.

"I know that you can love," replied he, more mildly, "love warmly and
wholly. But you can also torment with this love; that I have to feel
every day."

"And you would wish to flee this torment, at least for a time?"

A deep reproach sounded in her voice. Almbach made an impatient
movement.

"I seek peace, Beatrice," said he, "and that I do not find at all near
you. You can only breathe in constant heat and excitement, both are
your conditions of life, and you drag your entire surroundings with you
in the everlasting fire of your nature. I--am tired."

"Of society or of me?" asked Beatrice, with freshly rising fury.

"Can you not cease from seeking a stab in every word?" asked Reinhold,
angrily. "I see we do not understand each other again to-day. Adieu!"

"You are going!" cried the Italian, half-frightened,
half-threateningly. "And with this farewell for a separation of weeks!"

Reinhold, who was already at the door, thought a moment and turned
slowly round.

"Ah, yes; I forgot the departure. Farewell, Beatrice!"

But he was not permitted to make his farewell so easily. Signora
Biancona had long since learned not to defy for any time the man who
now understood how to bend her otherwise capricious will to his own,
and when he again drew near to her all farther opposition was at an
end. Her voice trembled as she asked softly, "And you will really go
alone, without me?"

"Beatrice--"

"Alone, without me?" repeated she, more passionately. Reinhold made an
attempt to withdraw his hand from her, but it remained only an attempt.

"Cesario expects me positively," he said, deprecatingly, "and I have
already explained that you cannot accompany me--"

"Not to Mirando," interrupted Beatrice, "I know that. But what prevents
my altering the original plan, and making my first summer stay in
S---- instead of in the mountains, the great resort of all strangers?
It is near enough to Mirando, half-an-hour by boat would bring you
across to me. If I were to follow you--may I, Rinaldo?"

This tone of flattering entreaty was irresistible, and her glance
begged still more. Reinhold looked down silently at the beautiful
woman, the possession of whose love once appeared to him the highest
prize of happiness. The magic still exercised its old power, and
exercised it now most strongly when he was attempting to escape from
it. The concession was not made in words, but Beatrice saw, as he bent
towards her, that she had conquered this time. When he really left her,
half-an-hour later, the change in the plan of her journey was quite
decided upon, and their farewell was not for a separation of weeks, but
only of days.

It was already becoming dark, and the moon was rising slowly, when
Reinhold reached his own abode, which lay at some distance, in a more
open part of the town. On entering his reception-room he found the
Captain there, who appeared just to have been giving his servant an
impressive lecture, as Jonas stood before him with a most rueful
countenance, which was comically mixed with suppressed indignation, to
find words for which his master's presence only prevented him.

"What is it?" asked Reinhold, somewhat astonished.

"An inquisitorial enquiry," replied Hugo, annoyed. "For years I have
taken trouble in vain with this obstinate sinner and incorrigible
woman-hater, but neither teaching nor example--Jonas, you are to go
instantly up to the Padrona, beg her pardon, and promise to be more
mannerly in future. March! go along!"

"I shall be obliged to send him back to the 'Ellida' at last,"
continued he, turning to his brother, when Jonas had left the room. "The
ship's cat is the only female person there which he has near him; and
it is to be hoped he will not quarrel with it."

Reinhold threw himself on a seat. "I wish I had your unconquerable
humour, your happy gift of taking life like a game. I never could do
it."

"No, the ground notes of your being were always elegiac," said the
Captain. "I believe you never looked upon me as quite equal to yourself
in birth, as I could not take such ideal romantic flight to the
heights, nor penetrate to the depths, like your artistic natures. We
sailors are happy on the surface, and if now and then a storm should
disturb the deep, it does not matter to us, we remain above."

"Quite true," said Reinhold, gloomily. "May you always, stay on your
sunny, bright surface! Believe me, Hugo, it is only muddy below in the
depths, where people seek for treasures; and an icy breath blows above
in the height, where one dreamed of nothing but sunlight. I have tasted
both."

Hugo looked searchingly at his brother, who lay more than sat on his
seat, his head leaning back, as if tired to death, while his gloomy
eyes wandered out over the gardens of the neighbourhood, and at last
remained fixed on the faintly illumined horizon, where the last rays of
daylight just disappeared.

"Listen, Reinhold; you do not please me at all," he broke forth
suddenly. "After years I come to see my brother again, whose name fills
the whole world, to whom fate has given everything it can give to one
man. I find you at the height of renown and success--and I expected to
find you different."

"And how, then?" asked Reinhold, without raising his head or turning
his eyes from the darkening evening sky.

"I do not know," said the Captain, earnestly. "But I know that after a
fortnight only I cannot endure this life, which you have led for years.
This restless rushing from pleasure to pleasure, without any
satisfaction; this constant wavering between wild excitement and deadly
exhaustion does not suit my nature. You should put a bridle on yours."

Reinhold made a half-impatient movement. "Folly. I have become
accustomed to it for long; and besides, you do not understand it,
Hugo."

"Possibly. At any rate I do not require to deaden my feelings."

Reinhold started up. A glance of burning anger met his brother, who
attempted to pierce so far into his innermost thoughts, and who
continued, quite unmoved--

"It is only a means of deadening your feelings which you struggle for
day after day, which you seek everywhere without finding. Give up this
life, I entreat you. You will ruin yourself, body and mind, by it; you
must succumb to it at last."

"How long is it since the joyous Captain of the 'Ellida' has become a
preacher of moralities," scoffed Reinhold, with as much scornful
expression as he could use. "Who would have thought long ago that you
would lecture me in this manner. But do not take any trouble about my
conversion, Hugo. I have foresworn all the pious ideas of my youth,
once for all."

The Captain was silent. This was again the tone of wounding scorn with
which Reinhold made himself unapproachable the moment such topics were
touched upon; this tone, which made all influence impossible, which
jarred so upon every recollection of youth, and made the formerly warm
bond between the brothers strange and cold. Hugo did not even try
to-day to alter it; he knew that it would be in vain. Turning away, he
took up a book which was lying on the table, and began turning over its
leaves.

"I have never heard a single word from you about my compositions,"
began Reinhold, again, after a momentary silence. "You have had an
opportunity here of becoming acquainted with my operas. How do you like
them?"

"I am no connoisseur of music," said Hugo, evasively.

"I know that, and therefore I lay some value on your opinion, because
it is that of the unprejudiced, but acute public. How do you like my
music?"

The Captain threw the book on the table.

"It is agreeable and--" he stopped.

"And?"

"Unbridled as yourself. You and your tones go beyond all bounds."

"An annihilating criticism," said Reinhold, half-struck by it. "It is
well that I should hear it; you would fare badly in the circle of my
admirers. How then do you allow that there is anything agreeable in
it?"

"When you, yourself speak--yes!" explained Hugo, decidedly, "but that
is seldom enough. Generally this strange element predominates which has
given the turn to your talent, and still rules it. I cannot help it,
Reinhold, but this influence which from the commencement you have
followed, which all the world prizes as so elevating, has brought no
good, not even to the artist. Without it you might not have been so
celebrated, but undoubtedly greater."

"Truly, Beatrice is right, when she dreads you as her implacable
opponent," remarked Reinhold, with undisguised bitterness. "Certainly,
she only thinks of a personal prejudice. That you do not even allow the
value of her artistic influence upon me would indeed be new to her."

Hugo shrugged his shoulders. "She has quite drawn you into the Italian
style. You always storm when others only play, but it is all the same.
Why do you not write German music? But what am I talking about? You
have turned your back upon home and all its belongings for ever."

Reinhold rested his head on his hand. "Yes certainly--for ever."

"That almost sounds like regret," hazarded the Captain, looking with
fixed scrutiny at his brother's face. The latter looked up darkly.

"What do you mean? Do you perhaps think I regret the old chains,
because I have not found the happiness dreamed of in freedom? If I
tried any communication it would--"

"Ah, you did attempt some communication with your wife?"

"With Ella?" asked Reinhold, and there was again the old mixture of
pity and contempt, which betrayed itself in his voice the moment he
spoke of his wife. "What good could that have done? You know how I
left; it was done by a complete rupture with her parents, and therefore
naturally a narrow, dependent nature like Ella's would join in the
verdict of condemnation if it were ever even able to raise itself to a
verdict of its own. If the breach between us was formerly wide, now,
after all that has happened, it has become impassable. No, there could
be no talk of that, but I wished to receive news of my child. I could
not bear longer to have my boy so far away, not to be able to see him,
not even to possess a picture of him. I wanted his at any price,
therefore I chose the shortest means, and wrote to the mother."

"Well, and--?" asked Hugo, with interest.

Reinhold laughed bitterly--

"T might have spared myself the humiliation. No answer came--that
certainly was answer enough, but I wanted just to know how the child
was; I thought of the possibility of a mistake, of its being lost--what
does one not think of in such a case?--and wrote again. The letter came
back unopened"--he clenched his fist in wild anger--"unopened, to me!
It is my uncle's work; there is no doubt of it. Ella would never have
dared to offer it to me."

"Do you think so? You do not know your wife. She certainly has 'dared'
to offer it, and she alone could dare it, as her parents have been dead
some years."

Reinhold turned round quickly--

"How do you know that? Are you still in communication with H----?"

"No," said the Captain, quietly; "you may imagine that the state of
mind which existed in the family towards you was also partly carried
over to me. Since I left H---- at that time, a few days after you did,
I have never revisited it, but I correspond still with the former
bookkeeper of the firm of Almbach, who has taken over the business, and
continues it on his own account. I heard a few things from him."

"And you only tell me this now, after being together for nearly a
fortnight?" cried Reinhold, almost furiously.

"I have naturally not wished to touch upon a subject which it seemed to
me you wished to avoid," answered Hugo coolly.

Reinhold walked up and down the room a few times--

"Her parents are dead, then? And Ella and the child?"

"You need not be anxious about them; my uncle left a good fortune, much
more than people thought."

"I knew he was richer than he wished to be deemed," said Reinhold
quickly, "and this certainly alone gave me perfect freedom of action in
my departure. I was not necessary for my wife and child. They were safe
from any change of fate, without even my presence. But where are they
now? Still in H----?"

"Herr Consul Erlau was appointed the boy's guardian," informed Hugo,
rather shortly and distantly. "He appears also to have taken very
active interest in the deserted wife, as directly after expiration of
the time of mourning she moved into his house with the child. There
both were still living, half-a-year ago; so far my news extends."

"Indeed?" said Reinhold thoughtfully, "only I do not understand how
Ella, with her education and her habits, can possibly exist in the
splendid establishment of the Erlaus. I suppose she will have arranged
a few back rooms so as never to appear, or, notwithstanding her
fortune, have undertaken the post of housekeeper. She will never be
able to rise above this ambition. Had it not been so, I should have
borne much, indeed all--for the child's sake."

He went to the window, pushed it open, and leant out. The evening air
blew cool into the close room, where now a long silence ensued, as even
the Captain seemed to have no more inclination to prolong the
conversation. After a time he arose.

"Our departure in the morning is arranged rather early; we must be
awake betimes. Good night, Reinhold!"

"Good night!" replied Reinhold, without turning round.

Hugo left the room. "I wish this Circe of a Beatrice could see him at
such moments," muttered he, shutting the door. "You have conquered,
Signora, and torn him to yourself as your indisputable property--you
have not made him happy."

Reinhold remained a few moments longer immovable, at his place; then he
raised himself and went over to his work room. He had to pass through
several apartments in order to reach it. This abode, which occupied the
entire ground floor of the roomy villa, was not so brilliant as that of
Signora Biancona, but yet more extravagantly furnished, as the
magnificence which reigned there was here ten times surpassed by the
artistic decorations of the rooms; so there pictures hung on the walls,
statues stood in the window niches, whose value could only be estimated
by thousands; here were produced masterly copies of the most splendid
art treasures of Italy. Wherever the eye turned, it met vases, busts,
drawings and beautiful works, which elsewhere would have been each
alone the ornament of any drawing-room, and which here, scattered
everywhere, only served as additional decorations. Everywhere was
wealth of beauty and art such as only a Rinaldo could gather around
him in so lavish a manner, to whom gold as well as fame flowed in
never-ceasing plenty, and who was accustomed to throw the former away
quite recklessly.

In the middle of the study there stood a splendid piano, the gift of an
enthusiastic circle of admirers, who wished to offer a visible
testimony of their thanks to the master; the writing-table was covered
with cards and letters, which bore the names of the first people in the
kingdom, both as regards birth and genius, and which here were
indifferently thrust aside, without the recipient placing the least
value on them; from the principal wall, a life-sized picture of
Beatrice Biancona looked down, painted by a celebrated hand, most
charmingly represented, a really speaking likeness. She wore the
fanciful costume of one of her chief parts in an opera of Rinaldo's,
through the successful representation of whose works she herself had
only risen to be an actress of the first order. The painter had
succeeded in embodying the utterly infatuating magic, the glowing charm
of the original, in this portrait. The beautiful figure appeared
half-turned to the piano in an inimitably graceful pose, and the dark
eyes gazed with deceptively life-like truth down upon the man whom they
had kept so long already in indissoluble bonds, as if even here, in the
sacred place of his works and labour, they would not leave him alone.



                              CHAPTER IX.


Reinhold sat at his piano, improvising. The room was not lighted, only
the moon's rays, streaming fully in, hung over the flood of tones,
which now rose as if the storm were raging in its waves, now rolling up
mountains high, and then again disclosing the depths of an abyss. The
melodies flowed forth passionately, glowing, intoxicatingly, and then
suddenly they would start and change as if to harsh dissonance, to
jarring discord. Those were the tones with which Rinaldo for years had
reigned in the realms of music, with which he carried the crowd away to
admiration; perhaps because they lent language to that demon-like
element which slumbers in every one's breast, and of which every one is
conscious, partly with dread, partly with secret shuddering. There lay,
too, in these melodies something of that wild rush from pleasure to
pleasure, of that rapid change from feverish excitement to deadly
exhaustion, from that striving to benumb all feeling, which, sought for
ever, is never found; and yet there rang forth something powerful,
eternal, which had nothing in common with that element with which it
fought, and which was raised above it, only to be wrecked within it at
last.

The perfume of oranges rose from the gardens and streamed in through
the widely-opened doors on to the balcony, and was wafted
intoxicatingly through the apartments. Clear, full of great beauty and
intense peace, lay the moonlight above the old town, and the dim
distance disappeared in the blue, misty vapour. The fountain rustled
dreamily amongst the blooming trees, and the light which shone in the
falling drops illuminated with powerful distinctness the whole row of
apartments, with their marble treasures of art; it illuminated the
picture in the richly gilt frame, so that the witch-like, beautiful
figure above seemed to live; and the same light fell upon the
countenance of the man, whose brow, amid all this beauty and all this
peace, remained so heavily overcast.

How many years, and, indeed, much besides which weighed more heavily
than years only, lay between those long northern winter nights on which
the young musician created his first compositions, and this balmy
moonlight night of the south, on which the world-renowned Rinaldo
repeated, in endless variations, the principal theme of his newest
opera. And yet all vanished in this hour. Softly, recollection passed
before him, and let long-forgotten days live again, long-forgotten
pictures stand before him; the little garden house, with its
old-fashioned furniture, and the stunted vines over the window, the
miserable little strip of garden with its few trees and shrubs, and the
high, prison-like walls around it; the narrow, gloomy house, with the
so intensely hated business-room. Faint, colourless pictures--and yet
they would not give way, as above them floated smilingly a pair of
large, deep, blue child's eyes, which only there had shone for the
father, and which here, in this orbit, full of poetry and beauty, he
sought for in vain. He had seen them so often in his child's face, and
also once--somewhere else. The remembrance of this was certainly but
dim, almost forgotten; they had only then shown themselves to him for a
moment, before being veiled again immediately, as they had been for
years; but it was still those eyes, which hovered before him, as now,
out of the storming and rolling tones, a magically sweet melody arose.
An endless longing spoke in it, a pain which his lips would not utter,
and thus formed a bridge across into the far distant past. Now had
genius burst the fetters which then oppressed and confined him; now he
stood aloft on the once dreamed-of heights. All that life and success,
fame and love could give had become his portion, and now--again like a
storm, it swept over the notes, wild, passionate, bacchante-like, and
through it ever again that melody came plaintively, with its touching
pain, its restless longing, which could not be pacified.

                           *   *   *   *   *

"I fear our captain will not endure Mirando much longer. It is
dangerous having the sea thus ever before his eyes; he gazes over it
with such longing, as if the sooner that he could sail away from us the
better."

With these words Marchese Tortoni turned to his guest, who, for the
last quarter of an hour had taken hardly any part in the conversation,
and whom the young lord just caught in the act of a surreptitious yawn.

"Indeed not," said Hugo, defending himself. "I only feel myself so
utterly unimportant and ignorant in these ideal art discussions, and so
deeply impressed with the sense of my ignorance, that I have just gone
hurriedly through all the words of command during a storm, in order to
obtain for myself the consolatory conviction that I do understand
something."

"All evasion!" cried the Marchese. "You miss the female element
here, which you adore so much, and now appear unable to forego.
Unfortunately, my Mirando cannot offer you that charm, as yet. You know
I am not married, and have not been able to resolve upon sacrificing my
freedom."

"Not resolve upon sacrificing your freedom," intimated Hugo. "My God,
that sounds shocking. If you have not yet ascended the highest ladder
of earthly happiness, as books express it--"

"Do not believe him, Cesario," broke in Reinhold. "Notwithstanding all
his gallantry and knightliness, at heart he is of an icy nature, which
nothing warms too easily. He plays with all--has no feeling for any;
the ever-recurring romance, which he even sometimes calls passion,
lasts just so long as he is on shore, and disappears with the first
fresh breeze which wafts his 'Ellida' away on the sea. Nothing has ever
yet stirred his heart."

"Abominable character!" cried Hugo, throwing away his cigar. "I protest
against it most solemnly."

"Well you, perhaps, maintain that it is untrue?"

The Captain laughed and turned to Tortoni. "I assure you, Signor
Marchese, that I too can be unimpeachably true to my beautiful blue
ocean bride"--he pointed towards the sea--"to her I am pledged with
heart and hand. She alone understands how to chain and hold me fast
again and again, and if she do allow me now and then to look into a
pair of beautiful eyes, she never tolerates serious faithlessness."

"Until you look at last into a pair of eyes which teach you that you
also are not proof against the universal fate of mortals," said
Reinhold, half-jokingly, half with a bitterness which was intelligible
only to his brother. "There are such eyes."

"Oh, yes, there are such eyes," repeated Hugo, looking out over the sea
with an almost dreamy expression.

"Ah, sir, the tone sounds very suspicious," said the Marchese,
teasingly. "Perhaps you have already met with those kind of eyes?"

"I?" The Captain had at once thrown off the momentary seriousness, and
was again full of the old mischief. "Folly! I hope to defy long enough
yet the 'universal doom of mortals.' Do you hear?"

"What a pity you can find no opportunity here of proving this
determination," said Cesario. "The only neighbours whom we have keep
themselves so secluded that no attempt ever could be made. The young
Signora even--"

"A young Signora? Where?" Hugo jumped up eagerly.

The Marchese pointed to a country house, which, barely a mile distant,
lay half-hidden in an olive grove.

"The villa Fiorina yonder has been inhabited for some months. So far as
I hear they are also countrymen of yours, Germans, who have settled
there for the summer; but they appear to make the most perfect solitude
and invisibility their law. No one is received, no one allowed to
enter. Visitors from S----, taking advantage of their acquaintance at
home, were dismissed, without exception, and, as the family confine
their walks chiefly to the park and terrace, it is impossible to
approach them."

"And the Signora--is she beautiful?" asked Hugo, with most lively
eagerness.

Cesario shrugged his shoulders. "With the best will I cannot tell you.
I only saw her once slightly, and at some distance. A slight, youthful
figure; a head covered with beautiful golden plaits; unfortunately her
face was not turned towards me, and I rode pretty quickly past her."

"Without having seen her face? I admire your stoicism, Marchese, but
guarantee myself solemnly against the suspicion of doing likewise. By
this evening I will bring you and Reinhold information as to whether
the Signora be beautiful or no."

"You may find it difficult," laughed the Marchese. "Do you not hear,
all entrance is forbidden?"

"Bah! as if that would prevent me!" cried Hugo, confidently. "The
affair only now begins to be interesting. An unapproachable villa, an
invisible lady, who is, besides, fair and a German. I will enquire into
it, thoroughly examine into it. My duty as a countryman requires it."

"Thank God that you put him upon this scent, Cesario," said Reinhold.
"Now let us hope that his ill-concealed yawns will not disturb us any
more, when we talk of music. I wished to discuss the parts with you
again."

The young Marchese had risen and laid his hand entreatingly on
Rinaldo's shoulder.

"Well, and the opera? Do you stand immovably by your ultimatum? I
assure you, Rinaldo, it is almost impossible to carry out all these
alterations by the autumn; I have convinced myself of it. A new
postponement will be required, and the public and company have been
waiting for months already."

"They must wait longer." The words sounded haughty, and short in their
decision.

"Spoken like a dictator," remarked Hugo. "Are you always so autocratic
towards the public? The picture which Maestro Gianelli sketches of you
appears to possess some very striking traits of resemblance. I believe
it was not really so absolutely necessary to bring the entire opera
company, including his Excellency the intendant, into such despair as
you have done this time."

Reinhold raised his head with all the pride and indifference of the
spoilt, admired artist, who is accustomed to see his will obeyed as if
it were law, and to whom opposition is considered equal to an insult.

"I dispose of my work and its performance. Either the opera shall be
heard in the form I wish, or not at all. I have left them the choice."

"As if there were any choice!" said Cesario, shrugging his shoulders,
as he turned to his servant to give him an order, and left the two
brothers alone.

"Unfortunately, there appears to be none in this case," said Hugo,
looking after his young host. "And Marchese Tortoni will have you on
his conscience also, if you become thoroughly spoiled at last with this
senseless worship of you. He does his utmost, like the rest of your
adoring circle! They set you up in their midst like a Llama, and group
themselves respectfully around you to listen to the remarks of your
genius, even if it should please your genius to maltreat your
infatuated, surrounders. I am sorry for you, Reinhold. You are driving
yourself with certainty to the rock on which already so many valuable
powers have been wrecked--self-adoration."

"Hum! in the meanwhile you take care that this should not occur,"
replied Reinhold, sarcastically. "You appear to like the part of the
faithful Eckhard in a remarkable degree, and rehearse it at every
opportunity; but it is the most thankless of all. Give it up, Hugo! It
does not suit your nature in the least."

The Captain knit his brows, but he remained quite calm at the tone,
which might easily have irritated another, threw his fowling-piece over
his shoulder, and went out. A few minutes later he found himself by the
shore, and only when the fresh sea breeze cooled his head, did the
Captain's seriousness leave him; he struck at once into the road to the
Villa Fiorina.

To tell the truth, Hugo began to be wearied of Mirando and the
prevailing artistic atmosphere which the Marchese's inclination and his
brother's presence created there. The paradise-like situation of the
property was nothing new to the sailor, who knew so well the beauties
of the tropical world, and the solitude to which Reinhold gave himself
up with an almost sick longing did not at all suit Hugo's joyous
nature. Certainly S----, so much frequented by strangers, lay pretty
near, but he could not sail over to it too frequently, and thus
indicate to the young host that he missed companionship. Therefore this
probably beautiful, and at any rate interesting and mysterious
neighbour was very welcome, and Hugo resolved immediately to utilise
it.

"Let some one else endure these art lovers and art enthusiasts!" said
he, annoyed, as he followed the road by the sea. "Half the day long
they sit at the piano, and the rest of the time talk of music. Reinhold
always is in extremes. From the midst of the wildest life, out of the
most senseless excitement, he rushes head over heels into this romantic
solitude, and will hear and know of nothing but his music; I only
wonder how long it will last. And this Marchese Tortoni? Young,
handsome, rich, of a most noble line; this Cesario does not know what
better to do with his life than to bury himself for months in his
lonely Mirando, to play the _dilettante_ in grand style, and, with his
endless worship, turn Reinhold's head still more. I know how to spend
my time better than that."

At these last words, spoken with great self-satisfaction, the Captain
stopped, as the end of his walk was already, so far, attained. Before
him lay the Villa Fiorina, shaded by high fir trees and cypresses, and
buried almost in blooming shrubs. The house itself appeared magnificent
and roomy, but the chief façade as well as the terrace turned towards
the sea, and were so thickly overgrown and surrounded by roses and
oleander bushes that even Hugo's hawk's eye was not able to penetrate
the balmy fortification. A high wall, covered with creeping plants,
enclosed the park-like grounds, which terminated in the olive grove
which surrounded the estate. It might formerly have been, judging by
the size of the grounds, the property of some great family, then, like
so many others, have often changed owners, and now served as temporary
residence for rich strangers. At all events, in beauty of situation, it
did not yield the palm to Marchese Tortoni's highly prized Mirando.

The Captain had already formed his plan of campaign; he therefore only
scanned the country slightly, made a vain attempt to obtain a better
view of the terrace from the seaward side, measured the height of the
garden walls with his eye, in case of accident, and then went direct to
the entrance, where he rang the bell, and demanded to see the owners,
without hesitation.

The porter, an old Italian, appeared to have received his instruction
for the like cases, as, without even asking the stranger's name, he
explained shortly and decidedly that his master and mistress received
no visits, and he regretted that the Signor had troubled himself in
vain.

Hugo coolly drew out a card. "They will make an exception. It is
concerning an affair of importance, which requires a personal
interview. I will wait here in the meanwhile, as I am sure to be
received."

He sat down quietly on the stone bench, and this immovable confidence
impressed the porter so much that he really began to believe in the
importance of the pretended mission. He disappeared with the card,
while Hugo, quite unconcerned as to the possible consequences, awaited
the result of his impudent man[oe]uvre.

The result was unexpectedly favourable, as in a short time a servant
appeared and addressed the stranger, who had introduced himself by a
German name, in that language, and begged him to enter. He conducted
the Captain into a garden parlour and there left him alone, with the
intimation that his master would appear immediately.

"I must be a lucky man," said Hugo, himself somewhat surprised at this
unexpected, rapid success. "I wish Reinhold and the Marchese could see
me now. Inside the 'unapproachable' villa, expecting the lord and
master of the same, and only a few doors apart from the blonde Signora.
That is certainly enough for the first five minutes, and what my
charming brother could not have attained, although all doors fly open
before him. But now I must be charming,--in lies, that is to say--what
in the world shall I say to this nobleman, to whom I have had myself
announced concerning some important affair, without ever having heard a
syllable about him, or he of me? Ah! some one or other, on some of my
voyages has given me some commission. In the worst case I can always
have mistaken the person; in the meanwhile the acquaintance has been
begun, and the rest will follow of itself. I will arrange the
improvisation according to the character of the person; at any rate I
shall not leave the place without having seen the beautiful Signora."

He sat down and began to examine the room in a perfectly calm state of
mind. "My respected countrymen appear to belong to the happy minority,
who have at their disposal an income of several ten thousands. The
entire villa, with the park, rented for their exclusive use--the
arrangements made at great cost; one does not find this comfort in the
south--brought their own servants with them; I see no fewer than three
faces outside, on which German descent is written. Now the question
remains, have we to do with the aristocracy or the exchange? I should
prefer the latter; I can then pretend it is about some mercantile
affairs, while before some great nobleman, in the nonentity of a
citizen, I--how, Herr Consul Erlau!"

With this exclamation, made in boundless astonishment, Hugo started
back from the doorway in which the well-known figure of the merchant
now appeared. The Consul had certainly aged much in the course of
years; the once luxuriant dark hair appeared grey and scant; his
features bore an expression of unmistakable suffering, and the friendly
good will which formerly enlivened them had given way, momentarily at
all events, to a distant coldness, with which he drew near to his
guest.

"Herr Captain Almbach, you wish to speak to me?"

Hugo had already recovered from his astonishment, and resolved at once
to take every advantage in his power of this unexpectedly favourable
chance. He put forth all his capacities for pleasing.

"I am much obliged to you, sir. I hardly dared hope to be received
personally by you."

Erlau sat down, and invited his guest by a sign to do the same.

"I am also medically advised to avoid visits, but at the mention of
your name, I thought I ought to make an exception, as probably it
concerns my guardianship of your nephew. You come on your brother's
behalf?"

"On Reinhold's behalf?" repeated Hugo uncertainly, "How so?"

"I am glad that Herr Almbach has not attempted any personal
intercourse, as he did once already in writing," continued the Consul,
still in the same tone of cold restraint. "He appears, notwithstanding
our intentional seclusion, to know of his son's presence here. I
regret, however, being obliged to inform you, that Eleonore is not at
all disposed--"

"Ella? Is she here? With you?" exclaimed Hugo so eagerly, that Erlau
gazed at him in utter amazement.

"Did you not know it? Then Herr Captain Almbach, may I ask what has
really caused me the honour of your visit?"

Hugo considered for a moment; he saw plainly that Reinhold's name,
which had opened the doors for him, was nevertheless the worst
recommendation which he could bring, and made his decision accordingly.

"I must first of all clear up a mistake," replied he, with thorough
frankness. "I neither come as my brother's ambassador, which you seem
to imagine, nor am I here, indeed, in his interest or with his
knowledge. I give you my word for it, at this moment he has no
suspicion that his wife and son are in the neighbourhood, or, still
less, that they are even in Italy. I, on the contrary"--here the
Captain thought it necessary to mix a little invention with the
truth--"I on the contrary was put by chance on the track, and wished
first of all to satisfy myself of its correctness; I came to see my
sister-in-law."

"Which had better remain undone," said the Consul, with remarkable
coldness. "You will comprehend that such a meeting could only be
painful for Ella."

"Ella knows best how I have ever stood as regards the whole affair,"
interrupted Captain Almbach, "and she will certainly not refuse me the
wished for interview."

"Then I do so in my adopted daughter's name," declared Erlau
positively. Hugo rose--

"I know, Herr Consul Erlau, that you have gained a father's rights
towards my nephew, and also his mother, and honour these rights.
Therefore I entreat you to grant me this meeting. I will not wound my
sister-in-law with one word, with one recollection, as you appear to
dread, only--I should just like to see her."

Such a warm appeal lay in the words, that the Consul wavered; perhaps
he remembered the time when young Captain Almbach's courage had saved
his best ship, and how politely, but positively, he had rejected the
gratitude which the rich merchant was ready to bestow so oppressively.
It would have been more than thankless to have persisted in his sturdy
refusal towards this man--he gave way.

"I will ask if Eleonore be inclined for this interview," he said
rising; "she is already informed of your being here, as she was with me
when I received your card. I must ask you to be patient for a few
moments only."

He left the room. A short period of impatient waiting passed, when at
last the door was again opened, and a lady's dress rustled on the
threshold. Hugo went quickly towards the new comer.

"Ella! I knew you would not--" he stopped suddenly; his hand, stretched
out in welcome, dropped slowly, and Captain Almbach stood as if rooted
to the ground.

"You do not seem to recognise me quite," said the lady, waiting in vain
for the rest of the greeting, "am I so much altered?"

"Yes, very much," said Hugo, whose glance still hung in intense
astonishment on the figure of the lady before him. The impudent,
confident sailor, who had hitherto always shown himself equal to every
circumstance in his life, stood now dumb, confused, almost stupified.
Who, indeed, could ever have deemed this possible!

This was what his brother's former wife had become, the shy, frightened
Ella, with the pale unlovely face, and the awkward timid manner! Now
only could one see how the dress had sinned, in which Eleanor Almbach
always appeared like the maidservant, and never like the daughter of
the house, and also that enormous cap, which, as if made for the brow
of a person of sixty, had covered the youthful woman's head day after
day. Every trace of all this had entirely disappeared. The light airy
morning dress let the still girlishly, slight, delicate figure display
itself in its full beauty, and the rich ornament of her fair plaits,
which were now worn uncovered, encircled her head in all their heavy,
glimmering, golden glory. Marchese Tortoni had not seen the face of the
"blonde Signora," but Hugo saw it now, and during this contemplation of
some seconds' duration, he asked himself, again and again, what had
really taken place in these features, which were once so stolid and
vacant that one reproached them with stupidity, and which now appeared
so full of intellect and thought, as if a ban had been lifted from off
them, and something, never suspected in them, awakened to life.
Certainly around the mouth there lay a line of tender, unconquered
pain, and her brow was shaded by a sadness it had formerly not known,
but no more did her eyes seek the ground timidly, as if veiled; now
they were clear and open, and they had truly forfeited none of their
former beauty. Ella appeared to have learned not to hide any longer
from the gaze of strangers that with which nature had endowed her. When
she was eighteen, every one asked, shrugging his shoulders, "how does
this wife come by that husband's side?" At eight and twenty, she was an
apparition, fitted to compete with any one. How heavily must the burden
and chains of her parents' house have rested upon the young wife, when
only a few years in freer, nobler surroundings had sufficed to remove
the former shroud, to the very last morsel, and to loose the wings of
the butterfly. The almost incredible alteration proved of what her
youthful education was guilty.

"You wished an interview with me, Herr Captain Almbach?" began Ella, as
she seated herself upon an ottoman, "May I offer you a seat." Words and
bearing were as assured and easy, as if coming from a perfect woman of
the world receiving a visitor, but also distant and cool, as if she had
no deeper concern in this visit. Hugo bowed, a slight colour tinged his
cheeks, as he, following the invitation, sat down beside her.

"I begged for it. Herr Consul Erlau thought himself obliged to deny me
this interview in your name, but I persisted in a direct appeal to you.
I had more confidence in your goodness, my dear Madame."

She looked inquiringly with open eyes at him, "Are we become such
strangers? Why do you give me this name?"

"Because I see that my visit here is considered as an intrusion to
which I have no right, which I was not utterly denied, only on account
of the name which I bear," replied Hugo, rather bitterly. "Herr Consul
Erlau made me feel that already, and now I experience it a second time,
and yet I can only repeat to you, that without the knowledge or on
behalf of another, am I here, and that the other up to this moment has
no suspicion of your vicinity."

"Then, I beg you to allow this vicinity to remain still a secret," said
the young wife earnestly. "You will understand that I do not wish my
presence to be betrayed, and S---- is far enough to make that
possible!"

"Who told you that we are staying in S----?" asked Hugo, somewhat
struck by the certainty of this conviction.

She pointed to some newspapers lying on the table--

"I read this morning that two of the greatest musical celebrities were
expected there. The news has been delayed, as I see, and you are your
brother's guest."

Hugo was silent; he had not courage to tell her how much nearer her
husband was, and he could easily explain the notice in the papers to
himself, as he knew of Beatrice's intended arrival. People were
accustomed always to name her and Reinhold together, and although the
latter was now even staying in Mirando, they considered his coming
as certain, the moment she arrived in S----. Indeed it was also a
pre-arranged meeting between the two, and could not be denied.

"But why this concealment?" asked he, leaving the dangerous point quite
untouched. "It is not you, Ella, who have to avoid or flee from a
possible meeting."

"No! but I will protect my boy at any cost from the possibility of such
a meeting."

"With his father?" Hugo laid a reproachful stress upon the last word.

"With your brother--yes!"

Captain Almbach looked up surprised. The tone sounded freezingly cold,
and a stony, icy look lay on the young wife's countenance, which all at
once displayed the expression of an unbending will, such as no one
would have expected in so pleasing an apparition.

"That is hard, Ella," said Hugo softly. "If you now render yourself
unapproachable--I can understand it, after all that has happened; but
why the boy also? Reinhold tried once already to communicate with his
child; you repulsed him."

Ella interrupted him--

"You have told me that you come without any commission, Hugo, and I
believe you; therefore this subject need not be discussed between us,
let it rest! I was greatly astonished to see you again here, in Italy.
Do you purpose remaining long?"

Captain Almbach took the hint given him, although somewhat taken aback
by it. He was so unaccustomed for his young sister-in-law, whom he had
almost always known as a silent, frightened listener, to govern the
conversation so entirely, and lead it with such decision and ease to
another topic when the former one had become painful to her.

"Most likely longer than I thought at first," said he, replying to her
question. "My stay was originally only intended to be a short one, but
a storm which caught us on the open sea, so dismantled the 'Ellida,'
that I only reached the Italian harbour with great difficulty, and for
the present cannot think of another voyage. The repairs will occupy
some months, and my leave has therefore been prolonged indefinitely. I
certainly never anticipated finding you here."

A shadow passed over the lady's face.

"We are here by medical advice," she replied sadly. "Weakness of his
chest, obliged my adopted father to seek the south; his wife has been
dead some years, and you know that he is childless. I had long since
received all the privileges of a daughter, so that, of course, I also
undertook the duties of one. The doctor insisted particularly upon this
place, which indeed seems to exercise a most beneficial effect, and
however much I might have desired to avoid Italy, I could not persuade
myself to allow the invalid, to whom my presence is a necessity, to
travel alone. We hoped to escape any painful meeting by avoiding the
town in which Signor Rinaldo lives, and chose the most lonely, retired
villa in order to obtain the greatest seclusion possible. Our
precautions were in vain, as I see; you were no sooner in my vicinity
than you discovered my whereabouts."

"I? Yes certainly," said Hugo with involuntary confusion. "And you
reproach me with it."

Ella smiled.

"No, but I wondered that Herr Captain Hugo still entertained sufficient
interest in the little cousin Ella, to insist so obstinately upon
seeing her, when he was at first refused. We thought we had guarded
amply against strange visits. You knew, nevertheless, how to force your
entrance, and this shows me that I even possessed friends in my former
life. Until to-day, I doubted it, but it is a fact which does me good,
and I thank you for it, Hugo."

She raised her eyes clearly and openly to him; and with a charming
smile, which made her face appear intensely lovely, she stretched out
her hand to him. But the kindly thanks met with no response. Captain
Almbach's brow burned deeply red, then he sprang up suddenly and pushed
her hand aside.



                             END OF VOL. I.





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