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Title: Only a Girl: - or, A Physician for the Soul.
Author: Hillern, Wilhelmine von, 1836-1916
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.

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Transcriber's Notes:

   1. Page scan source:
      http://www.archive.org/details/onlyagirlaroman00wistgoog

   2. This was published also in England under the title "Ernestine: A
      Novel", translated by S. Baring Gould.

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



                              ONLY A GIRL:


                       A PHYSICIAN FOR THE SOUL.



                               A ROMANCE

                            FROM THE GERMAN

                                   OF

                        WILHELMINE VON HILLERN.



                                   BY

                           MRS. A. L. WISTER.



                             PHILADELPHIA:
                         J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.
                                 1871.



                           *   *   *   *   *

      Entered, according to act of Congress, In the year 1870, by
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.,
    In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States
               for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

                           *   *   *   *   *



                               CONTENTS.


   CHAPTER

      I. "Only a Girl"

     II. The Story of the Ugly Duckling

    III. Atonement

     IV. The Sad Survivors

      V. Undeceived

     VI. Soul-Murder

    VII. Departure


                                PART II.

      I. "Only a Woman"

     II. The Swan

    III. The Village School

     IV. The Guardian

      V. Fruitless Pretensions

     VI. Emancipation of the Flesh

    VII. Emancipation of the Spirit

   VIII. "When Women hold the Reins"

     IX. Vox Populi, Vox Dei

      X. Nowhere at Home

     XI. Inharmonious Contrasts


                               PART III.

      I. The Strength of Weakness

     II. The Weakness of Strength

    III. Silver-armed Käthchen

     IV. Battle

      V. Science and Faith

     VI. Sentenced

    VII. The Orphan

   VIII. Blossoms on the Border of the Grave

     IX. It is Morning again

      X. Return

     XI. "Give us this Day Our Daily Bread"

    XII. The Third Power



                              ONLY A GIRL;

                                   OR

                       A PHYSICIAN FOR THE SOUL.



                               CHAPTER I.

                             "ONLY A GIRL."


In a level, well-wooded country in Northern Germany, not far from an
insignificant village, stood a distillery, such as is frequently to be
found upon the estates of the North German nobility, and in connection
with it an extensive manufactory,--the estate comprising, besides, a
kitchen-garden overgrown with weeds, a few fruit-trees overshadowing
the decaying remains of rustic seats long fallen to ruin, and a
dwelling-house, well built, indeed, but as neglected and dirty as its
guardian the lean, hungry mastiff, whose empty plate and dusty jug
testified to the length of time since the poor creature had had any
refreshment in the oppressive heat of this July day. No one who looked
upon this picture could doubt that the interior of the house must
correspond with its cheerless outside, and that the gentle, beneficent
hand was wanting there that keeps a house neat and orderly, cares for
the garden, and attends to the wants of even a dumb brute. Where such a
hand is wanting, there is neither order nor culture, no love of the
beautiful, nor sometimes even of the good,--too often, indeed, no joy,
no happiness. There was no one in the court-yard or garden; nothing was
stirring but a couple of cheeping chickens that were peeping around the
corner of the dog's kennel, in hopes of stray crumbs from his last
meal. They came on cautiously, their little heads turning curiously
from side to side, in fear lest the dog should make his appearance; but
he kept in his kennel, his head resting upon his paws, and his
bloodshot eyes blinking over the distant landscape. The hungry fowls,
grown bolder, pecked and scratched around his plate, but vainly: there
was nothing to be found but dry sand.

Beside the well stood a churn, and a bench upon which lay a roll of
fresh butter, which, neglected and forgotten, was melting beneath the
sun's hot rays, and dripping down upon the weeds around. Perhaps the
starving dog was suddenly struck by the thought how grateful this waste
would be to him were it only within his domain; for he started up and
ran out as far as he could from his kennel, dragging his rattling chain
behind him, as if to prove its length, then stood still, and finally
bethought himself and crept back with drooping head beneath his roof.
Outside of a window, upon the ground floor, stood a couple of dried
cactus-plants, and several bottles of distilled herbs; the cork of one
of them was gone, and its contents filled with flies and beetles.
Everything, far and near, betrayed neglect and dirt; but the excuse of
poverty was evidently wanting. The extensive stables and accommodations
for cattle, the huge out-houses and far-stretching fields of grain
testified to the wealth of the proprietor of the estate. A comfortable
rolling-chair standing in the court-yard, its leathern cushions rotting
in the sun, seemed to indicate the presence of an invalid or a cripple.
Only the lowest and uppermost stories of the house appeared to be
inhabited; the windows of the middle floor were all closed, and so
thickly festooned with cobwebs that they could not have been opened for
a long time. It seemed as if the swallows wee the only creatures who
could find comfort in such an inhospitable mansion; their nests were
everywhere to be seen. The chickens looked enviously up at them, and
hopped upon the low window-ledges of the lower story, as if to remind
the inmates of their existence and necessities. Suddenly they fluttered
down to the ground again, for from one of the open windows there came a
child's scream, so piteous and shrill that the large dog pricked his
ears and once more restlessly measured the length of his chain.

In a low room, the atmosphere of which was almost stifling from the
heat of an ironing-stove and the steam from dampened linen, that two
robust maid-servants were engaged in ironing, a little girl, about
twelve years of age, was standing before an old wardrobe. She was half
undressed, and the garments falling off her shoulders disclosed a
little body so wasted and delicate that at sight of it a mother's eyes
would have filled with tears. But there was no mother near, only an old
housekeeper, whose bony fingers had apparently just been laid violently
upon the child, who was crying aloud and covering one thin shoulder
with her hand, while she refused to put on a dress that the woman was
holding towards her.

"What is the matter now?" an angry voice called from the adjoining
room. The child started in alarm. The old woman went to the door, and
replied, "Ernestine is so naughty again that there is no doing anything
with her. She has torn her best dress, because she says she has
outgrown it, and it hurts her; but it isn't true: it fits her very
well."

"How can the miserable creature have outgrown any dress?" rejoined the
rough voice from within. "Put it on this moment, and go!"

The child leaned against the wardrobe, and looked obstinate and
defiant.

"She won't do it, sir; she does not want to go to the children's
party!" said the unfeeling attendant.

"I ordered you to go," cried the father. "When a lady like the Frau
Staatsräthin does you the honour to invite you, you are to accept her
invitation gratefully. I will not have it said that I make a Cinderella
of my daughter!"

Little Ernestine made no reply, but looked at the housekeeper with such
an expression in her large, sunken eyes, that the woman was transported
with rage; it seemed scarcely possible that so much contempt and hate
should find place in the bosom of a child. The housekeeper clasped her
hands. "No, you bad, naughty child! You ought to see how she is looking
at me now, Herr von Hartwich!"

With these words she tried again to throw the dress over Ernestine's
head; but the girl tore it away, threw it on the ground and trampled
upon it, crying in a transport of rage, interrupted by bursts of tears,
"I will not put it on, and I will not go among strangers! I will not be
treated so! You are a bad, wicked woman! I will not mind you!"

"Oh, goodness gracious! was ever such a naughty child seen!" exclaimed
the housekeeper, looking with a secret sensation of fear at the little
fury who stood before her with dishevelled hair and heaving chest.

"When are you going to stop that noise out there?" roared the father.
"Must I, wretched man that I am, hear nothing, all day long, but
children's and servants' squabbles? Ernestine, come in here to me!"

At this command, the little girl began to tremble violently; she knew
what was in store for her, and moved slowly towards the door. "Are you
coming?" called the invalid.

Ernestine entered the room, and stood as far as possible from the bed
where he was lying. "Now, come here!" he cried, beckoning her towards
him with his right hand,--his left was crippled,--and continuing, as
Ernestine hesitated: "You good-for-nothing, obstinate child! you have
never caused a throb of pleasure to any one since you came into the
world; not even to your mother, for your birth cost her her life. In
you God has heaped upon me all the sorrows but none of the joys that a
son might afford his father; you have the waywardness and self-will of
a boy, with the frail, puny body of a girl! What is to be done with
such a wretched creature, that can do nothing but scream and cry?"

At these words the child burst into a fresh flood of tears, and was
hurrying out, when she was recalled by a thundering "Stop! you have not
had your punishment yet!"

Ernestine knew then what was coming, and begged hard. "Do not strike
me, father! Oh, do not strike me again!" But her entreaties were of no
avail.

With lips tightly compressed, and her little hands convulsively clasped
together, she approached the bed. The sick man raised his broad hard
hand, and a heavy blow fell upon the transparent cheek of the child,
who staggered and fell on the floor. "Now will you obey, or have you
not had enough yet?" the father asked.

"I will obey," sobbed the little girl, as she rose from the floor.

"But first ask Frau Gedike's pardon!" ordered the angry man.

"No!" cried Ernestine firmly. "That I will not do!"

"How! is your obstinacy not yet conquered? Disobey at your peril!"

"Though you should kill me, I will not do it," answered the child, with
a strange gleam in her eyes, as her father, endeavouring to raise
himself in his bed, stretched put his hand towards her.

"Oh, fie! are you crazy?" suddenly said a melodious voice, just behind
Ernestine. "Is that the way for a man of sense to reason with a naughty
child,--playing lion-tamer with a sick kitten!"

Then the speaker turned to the little girl and said kindly, "Go, my
child, and be dressed; you will enjoy yourself with all those pretty
little girls."

Ernestine's long black eyelashes fell, and she obeyed silently.

The strange intercessor for the tormented child was a tall, slender,
almost handsome man, with delicate features and a certain air of repose
which might rather be called impassibility, but which was so refined in
its expression that it could not but produce a favourable impression.
His tone of voice was soft, melodious, and grave; his pronunciation
faultlessly pure. An atmosphere of culture which seemed to surround him
gave him an air of superiority. His dress was simple, but in good
taste, his step light, his manner and bearing supple and insinuating.
It would have struck the common observer as condescending, but the
closer student of human nature would have found it ironical and
treacherous.

In moments of passion such human reptiles exercise a soothing influence
upon heated minds, and check their violent outbreaks, as ice-bandages
will arrest a flow of blood. Upon his entrance the invalid became
quiet, almost submissive; the room seemed to him suddenly to become
cooler; he was, he thought, conscious of a pleasant draught of air as
the tall figure approached the bed and sank into the arm-chair beside
his pillow.

"It would be no wonder if I did become crazy!" Herr von Hartwich
excused himself. "The child exasperates me. When a man suffers tortures
for months at a time, and is crippled and confined to bed, how can he
help being irritable? He cannot be as patient as a man in full health,
who can get out of the way of such provoking scenes whenever he
pleases!"

"You could easily do that if you chose, by keeping the child in the
rooms above, which have been empty for years. Then you might be quiet,
and people would not be able to say that the rich Hartwich's delicate
child had to sit in the ironing-room in such hot weather,--it is worse
than unjust; I think it unwise!"

"What!" Hartwich suddenly interrupted him, "shall I leave the child and
the servants to their own devices above-stairs, whilst I lie here alone
and neglected? Or shall I hire an expensive nurse, and make every one
think I am dying, and let the factory-hands suppose themselves without
a master?"

"That last cannot happen, for they long ago ceased to regard you as
their master; they know that I am the ruling spirit of the whole
business. As for your talk about the expense of a nurse, such folly can
only be explained on the score of your incredibly avarice, which has
become a mania with you of late. For whom are you hoarding your wealth?
Not for your child; you will leave her no more than what the law
compels you to leave her; still less for me, for you have always been a
genuine step-brother, and have bequeathed me your property only because
I would not communicate to you the secrets of my discoveries without
remuneration; and you would rather give away all your wealth at your
death than any part of it during your lifetime. And I assure you that
if I am to be your heir, which perhaps may never be, I would far rather
go without a few thousand thalers than witness such outrageous neglect
of a child's education!"

The invalid listened earnestly. "You are talking very frankly to me
to-day, and are, it seems to me, reckoning very confidently upon my not
altering my last will and testament," he said, in an irritated tone of
menace.

Without a change of feature, the other continued: "With all your faults
and eccentricities, you are too upright in character to punish my
candour in the way at which you hint. You know well that I mean kindly
by you, and that I am an honest man. I might have required large sums
of money from you. Upon the strength of the increase of income accruing
from my exertions, I might have insisted upon your constituting me your
partner, and much else besides; but I have contented myself with the
modest position of superintendent, and with the certainty that by your
will (God grant you length of days!) a brilliant future may be prepared
for my child when I am no more. These proofs of disinterestedness, I
think, give me a right to speak frankly to you!"

"What is all this circumlocution to lead to?" asked Hartwich, who had
grown strikingly languid, while his speech was becoming thick. "Be
quick, for I am sleepy."

"Simply to this,--that you either remove Ernestine to the upper story,
or, what would be better still, away from the house."

"Away from the house! Where to?"

"Why, to some institution where she may be so educated that it need be
no disgrace hereafter to have to own her as a relative. The child will
be ruined with no society but that of servant-maids, grooms, and
village children."

"Bah!" growled the invalid, "what does it matter?"

"If you are indifferent as to what becomes of your daughter, I am by no
means indifferent as to my niece, or as to the influence that, if she
lives, she may exercise upon my own daughter. As Ernestine now is, the
thought that in a year or two she may be my child's playmate gives me
great anxiety. Should she remain here, I must send my little girl from
home, or she will be ruined also. But, setting all this aside, I wish
her sent away for your sake. You cannot control yourself towards the
obstinate, neglected child; and, as long as she is with you, such
scenes as have just occurred are unavoidable. And I have learned to-day
that the whole village resounds with your 'cruel treatment' of your own
child. This throws rather a bad light upon your character, just when
you wish our new neighbours to think well of you."

"That's all nonsense; if they think the factory worth fifty thousand
thalers, they'll buy it, whether they think me a rogue or an honest
man," said Hartwich.

"Think the factory worth--yes, that's just it," the silken-smooth man
continued; "but that they may think it worth so much, much may be
necessary,--among other things, some degree of confidence in the
present proprietor."

"And you have the sale very near at heart, because you would far rather
put the fifteen thousand thalers profit, that I have insured to you,
into your pocket than win your bread by honest labour," said the
invalid with sarcasm. "'Tis a fine gift for me to throw into your lap!"

"A gift?" his brother asked--"an indemnification for the loss of income
that the sale of the factory will occasion me, and without which
indemnification I shall certainly prevent any such sale. You are always
representing our business transactions as generous on your part. I
require no generosity at your hands. You pay me for my services: I
serve you because you pay me. Why pretend to a feeling that would be
unnatural between us?--we are step-brothers; it would be preposterous
sentimentality to try to love each other."

"Most certainly you take no pains to attach me to you," the invalid
remarked.

"Why should I?" his brother replied with a smile. "There must be some
reason for everything in the world--there would be none in that. You
would not give me a farthing for my amiability; whatever I get from you
must be earned by services very different from brotherly affection."

"You are a downright fiend, that no man, made of flesh and blood, could
possibly love! You always were so from a child: how you tormented my
poor mother! You know nothing of human feeling. In the warmest weather
your hands are always damp and cold, and your heart, too, is never
warm. I am cross and irritable, but I am not as utterly heartless as
you are, God forbid! You are one of those beings at discord with all
natural laws, who cast no shadow in the sunshine." The sick man closed
his eyes, exhausted, and large drops of moisture stood upon his brow.

His brother took a handkerchief and carefully wiped them away. "Only
see how you excite yourself, and all for nothing!" he said in the
gentlest, kindliest voice. "Because I have no sympathy with fictitious
sentiment and exaggerated outbursts, you call me unfeeling. Because I
am quiet by nature, not easily aroused, you picture me in your feverish
dreams as a vampire. I will leave you now, or I shall excite you. Lay
to heart what I have said about the child; for if the present course is
persevered in, it will bring disgrace upon us, and that would be to me
unendurable!"

Hartwich made no reply; he had turned his face to the wall, and did not
look around until his brother had noiselessly left the room.

During this conversation little Ernestine had allowed her dress to be
put on. When this was done, the housekeeper left the room, and the
child busied herself with lacing upon her feet an old pair of boots
that were really too small for her.

"That's right, Ernestine," one of the maid-servants whispered. "Frau
Gedike is a bad woman: none of us can bear her--it is good for her to
be vexed, and we are glad of it!"

"I do not want to vex her, but I hate her--and my father, too--he is
cruel to me," said the child, with the bitterness with which a
defenceless human being, when ill used, seeks to revenge itself.

"Indeed he is a dreadful father," Rieka, the elder of the maids,
whispered softly to her companion, but Ernestine heard all that she
said perfectly well. "He always wanted a son, and talked forever of
what he would do for his boy when he had one. And when the child was
born, and was not a boy after all, he was quite beside himself, and
cried furiously, 'Only a girl! only a girl!' and rushed out of the
house, banging the door after him so that the whole house shook. The
young mother--she was a delicate lady--fell into convulsions with
sorrow and fright, and took the fever, and died on the third day. Then
he was sorry enough, and raved and tore his hair over the corpse, but
he could not bring her to life again. He has been well punished since
he had his stroke, and perhaps it was to punish him that Ernestine has
grown so ugly; but he ought at least to show his repentance for what he
did, by kindness to the sickly little thing, instead of abusing her. It
isn't the child's fault that she's not a boy."

Ernestine listened to all this with a beating heart, and now slipped
out gently that the maid might not know she had overheard her. Outside
she stopped to stroke the dog, but the poor thirsty brute growled at
her. She saw that he had no water, and took his can to the well and
filled it. When she saw the water gushing so sparkling from the pipe,
she could not resist the temptation to let it run upon her burning
head.

"Ernestine, what mischief are you about now?" the housekeeper screamed
from the window; but the water was already dripping down from the
child's long hair upon her shoulders, breast, and back.

"The sun will dry it before I get to the Frau Staatsräthin's, she
thought, and carried the dog his drink; but when she attempted to pat
him, he growled again, because he did not wish to be disturbed while
drinking.

"Even the dog does not like me," she thought, and crept away. "Only a
girl! And my father is so cross to me because I am not a boy." And as
she went on she repeated the phrase to herself, and her step kept time
to it as to a tune, "Only a girl--only a girl!"


From the window of the upper story her uncle and his wife looked after
her. The wife presented an utter contrast to her husband. She was
uncommonly stout, and her jolly face was so flushed that if her husband
had really been a vampire she might have afforded him nourishment for a
long term of ghostly existence. But he was no such monster, although
his meagre body seemed to bask in his wife's warm fulness of life as
some puny, starving wretch does in the heat of a huge stove. Any more
poetical comparison is impossible in connection with Frau Leuthold;
for, in spite of her massive beauty, her thick bushy eyebrows, her
sparkling black eyes, her thick waves of dark hair, the whole
expression of her large face, with its double chin and pouting mouth,
was coarsely sensual. Yet there was something in this expression that
showed that, however great the dissimilarity between the husband and
wife in mind and body, there was still one thing in which they were
alike: it was the heart,--in his case ossified, in hers overgrown with
fat.

There are some persons whose mental organization can be excellently
well described by the medical term "fat-hearted." They are no longer
capable of any healthy moral activity, because an indolent sensuality
has taken possession of them, crippling their energies like fat
accumulating around the heart. Although the natures of husband and wife
were radically dissimilar, still in the results of their modes of
thought there was enough similarity to produce that sort of harmony
which is maintained between the receiver and the thief. The stout
brunette was a worthy accomplice of her slender, fair husband; and that
she possessed the art of sweetening existence for him after a fashion,
to which no one possessing nerves of taste and smell is altogether
insensible, a table, upon which were delicious fruits, biscuits, and a
bowl of iced sherbet, bore ample testimony. Thus the refined thinker
endured the narrowness and coarseness of his better half for the sake
of material qualifications, and of the ease with which she entered into
his projects for selfish aggrandizement. As a cook she possessed his
entire approbation, and the union between these utterly different
natures was universally considered a happy one.

"She's an ugly thing, that Ernestine," said the affectionate aunt,
looking after her pale little niece, who was walking slowly along with
drooping head. "Kind as I may be to her, she will have nothing to say
to me. They say dogs and children always know who likes them and who
does not; so I suppose the child knows I can't abide her."

"Whether you like her or not is not the question," replied her husband.
"You have not attached her to you, and that is a mistake; for it makes
us sharers in the common report of Hartwich's cruelty to the child. She
is considered in the village as the victim of unfeeling treatment. The
pastor thinks her a martyr, whose cause he is bound to adopt; the
schoolmaster talks about her clear head; and who can tell that all this
nonsense may not waken the conscience of my fool of a brother, and
induce him at the eleventh hour to make, Heaven only knows what changes
for her advantage! That would be a blow--such people easily fall from
one extreme into the other. Therefore the child must be separated from
him. If I cannot succeed in having her sent away, we must manage
somehow to attach her to us, and so stop people's mouths." An
involuntary sigh from his wife interrupted him. "I know it is
troublesome, up-hill work; but, Heaven willing, it cannot last long.
Hartwich is failing. He may live a year; but, if he should have another
stroke, he may go off at any moment; then, for all I care, you may
be rid of the disagreeable duty at once, and send Ernestine to
boarding-school. Still, appearances must be kept up, my dear. You know
how much I would sacrifice for the sake of my reputation. I cannot bear
a shabby dress or to dine off a soiled table-cloth; and just so I
cannot endure a stain upon my name."

While speaking, he had seated himself at the table and filled a goblet
of sherbet from the fragrant bowl. As he was sipping it delicately,
with his lips almost closed, his wife threw herself down upon the sofa
by his side with such clumsy violence that the springs creaked, and her
husband was so jolted that he lost his balance, and the contents of his
glass were spilled upon his immaculate shirt-front. Much annoyed, he
carefully dried his dripping garment with his napkin. "Now I shall have
to dress again," he said in a tone of vexation.

"To spill your glass over you just in the midst of such a conversation
as this means no good," said his superstitious wife.

"It means that you never will learn to conduct yourself like a lady,"
was the quiet reply.

"Indeed!" she cried with a laugh. "So I must learn aristocratic manners
that I may do more credit to your brother, who has drunk himself into
an apoplexy! A fine aristocrat he is!"

"Just because he disgraces his standing I will respect mine; and you
should assist me to do so, instead of laughing. And when his estate is
ours, I will show the world that it is not necessary to be born in an
aristocratic cradle in order to be an aristocrat. The dismissed Marburg
professor will yet play a part among the _élite_ of the scientific and
fashionable world that a prince might envy him. Wealth is all-powerful;
and where there is wealth with brains, men are caught like flies upon a
limed twig."

"Ah, how fine it will be!" cried his wife, excited by this view of the
subject; and she hastily filled a glass from the bowl and drank it
greedily.

"It is indeed such good fortune that a man less self-controlled than
myself might well-nigh lose his senses at the thought of it!" her
husband rejoined. And there was a dreamy look in his light-blue eyes.

"Then we can keep a carriage, and I shall drive out shopping, with
footmen to attend me, and Gretchen shall have a French bonne, and shall
be always dressed in white and sky-blue. We will live in the capital,
and you, Leuthold, need never do another day's work,--you can amuse
yourself in any way that pleases you."

And the wife tossed her head proudly, as though already lolling upon
the soft cushions of her carriage.

"Do you suppose I could ever be a robber of time?" he asked her with a
sharp glance. "No, most certainly not. If I had made the ten
commandments, the seventh should have been, 'Thou shalt not steal a day
from the Lord.' He who steals a day seems to me the most contemptible
of all thieves."

Ills wife laughed and displayed a double row of fine white teeth, whose
strength she was just proving by cracking hazel-nuts.

"Do you suppose," continued Leuthold, "that I should ever be content
with the reputation of a merely wealthy man? No; I long for other
honours. As soon as the means are in my power, I will resume my old
scientific labours, and will soon distance the miserable drudges who
daily lecture in our schools. I will have such a chemical and
physiological laboratory as few universities can boast. Ah! when I am
once free from all the hated servitude, the miserable toil day after
day, in that detestable factory, I will bathe in the clear, fresh
stream of science, and make a name for myself that shall rank among the
first of our time."

"Is that all the happiness you propose to yourself?" asked his wife
with a sneer.

"There is no greater happiness than to play a great part in the world
through one's own ability; and if my poverty has hitherto prevented my
doing so, my wealth, in making me independent, shall help me to my
goal. Make a man independent, and he has free play for the exercise of
his talents; while the hard necessity of earning his daily bread has
crushed many a budding genius before his powers were fully developed.
It is glorious to be able to work at what we love!--as glorious as it
is miserable to be forced to work at what we hate." He smoothed with
his hand his thin, glossy hair, and murmured with a sigh, "No wonder it
is growing gray; I wonder it is not snow-white, since for ten years
this miserable fate has been mine. It is enough to destroy the very
marrow in one's bones, and dry up the blood in the veins."

His wife stared at him with surprise. "Why, Leuthold, think what good
dinners I have always cooked for you!"

Leuthold looked up as if awakening from a dream, and then, with the
ironical expression which his unsuspicious fellow-men interpreted as
pure benevolence, he said, "You are right, Bertha! Your first principle
is 'eat and drink;' mine is 'think and work.' That yours is much the
more practical can be mathematically proved!" He glanced with a smile
at his wife's portly figure.

"Only wait until we are settled in the capital, and see what I will do
for you. Then you shall have dinners indeed!" said Bertha.

"Your skill will be needed, for we shall have plenty of guests. Men are
like dogs: they gather where there is a chance of a good dinner, and
the host is sure of many friends devoted to him through their palates.
'Tis true, such friends last only as long as the fine dinners last; we
can have them while we need them, and throw them overboard, like
useless ballast, when they can no longer serve our turn."

"Yes, you are right; what a knowing fellow you are!" cried Bertha.
"Heavens!" she added, clapping her hands with childlike naïveté, "if he
would only die soon!"

Her husband looked at her sternly. "I trust that in case of the event,
which will be as welcome to me as to you, no human eye will be able to
discern anything but grief in your countenance. Should you be too
awkward to simulate sorrow, I must invent some method for making you
really feel it; for appearances must be preserved at all costs!
Remember that!"

Bertha clasped her hands in dismay. "Mercy on me! I really believe you
would do anything to torment me into seeming sorry. It would be just
like you; for what people say of you,--or 'appearances,' as you call
it, are dearer to you than wife or child, or anything else in the
world."

She sprang up, and her breath came quick and angrily. Leuthold
contemplated her with a kind of satisfaction as she stood before him
with flashing eyes and curling lip. She displayed some emotion,--only
the emotion of anger, 'tis true; but as enthusiasm is always
passionate, so passion will sometimes seem enthusiasm, and lend a kind
of nimbus to insignificance.

"I like to see you so!" said Leuthold, drawing her down beside him and
laying his cool hand upon her shoulder.

Just then the cry of a child was heard in the adjoining apartment.
"Gretchen is awake," cried Bertha, forgetting her anger, and leaving
the room so quickly that the boards creaked beneath her heavy tread,
and the sofa upon which her husband was seated shook. She soon
returned, with a pretty child of three years of age in her arms. After
tossing it, notwithstanding its size and strength, up and down like an
india-rubber ball, she threw it with maternal pride into her husband's
lap. He caressed the little thing tenderly, and a ray shot from his
eyes like the gleam of a wintry san across a snowy landscape. For,
though there was no genuine paternal love in his heart, there
was at least in its place,--what is hardly to be distinguished from
it,--fatherly pride.

"How strange to think," said the mother, "that that should be your
child!"

"Why?" asked Leuthold with surprise.

"It is so odd that such a slim, delicate-looking man as you are should
have such a healthy, chubby little daughter. It is just as if a
wheat-stalk should bear penny rolls instead of wheat-ears." She laughed
immoderately at the idea, without perceiving that her husband was far
from flattered by the comparison. "They say," she continued, "'long
waited for is good at last,' and we waited long for the little thing,
and she is good." And she put up the child's plump little hand to her
mouth as though she would bite it. The little girl shouted with glee,
and the sound so sweet to maternal ears did not fail to awaken a
return. Bertha shouted too, until her husband's ears tingled. "If
Ernestine had only been a boy, she could have married Gretchen, and our
child would have been all provided for," she said, after a pause.

"Do not talk such nonsense," said Leuthold. "Hartwich would have loved
a son as thoroughly as he detests his daughter, and would have
bequeathed to him all his property. We owe our inheritance there to the
happy chance that made his child a girl. But even supposing that she
were a boy, with the inheritance still ours, do you think I would mate
her so unworthily? No! our Gretchen, lovely and rich as she will be,
can never marry a simple Herr von Hartwich. She will one day make me
father-in-law to some great statesman, some illustrious scholar, or, at
least, to some count!"

"And me mother to a countess!" cried his wife with glee.



                              CHAPTER II.

                    THE STORY OF THE UGLY DUCKLING.


In the mean time Ernestine had pursued her way. She walked slowly on
through the extensive fields in the glare of the four-o'clock sun,
whose rays were broken by no friendly tree or shrub. The waist of the
dress which she had outgrown was so tight that she was frequently
obliged to stand still and recover her breath. The perspiration rolled
down her poor worn little face. The sunbeams felt like dagger-points
upon her weary head; but she could not go back: fear of her father was
more powerful than the torments she was enduring. Better to be pierced
by the sun's rays than struck by her father's hard hand. Still, she
could not help weeping bitterly that every one seemed so unkind to her.
What had she done, that her father should hate her so? It was not her
fault that she was so ugly and not a boy. "Ah, why am I a girl?" she
sobbed, and sat down upon the hard, sun-baked clods of earth among the
brown, dried potato-plants. She clasped her knees with her arms, and
pondered why boys were better than girls, wondering whether she could
not learn to do all that boys could. The schoolmaster had often told
her that she had more sense and learned her lessons better than the
boys. What was it that she needed, then? Strength, boldness, courage!
Yes, that was a good deal, to be sure; but could she not make them hers
in time? She thought and thought. She would exercise her strength. She
had once read of a man who carried a calf about in his arms daily, and
was so accustomed to his burden that he never noticed how the calf
increased in size and weight, until at last he bore a huge ox in his
arms. She would do so too; she would accustom herself at first to the
weight of little burdens, and go on increasing them until at last she
could carry the very heaviest. And she could be bold too, if she only
dared, and if her shyness would only wear off. Then, she hoped, her
father would be quite content with her. She sprang to her feet
comforted and walked on. Her mind was made up. She would be just like a
boy.

At the end of an hour Ernestine reached a beautiful and extensive
grove, through which she passed, and entered a garden, at the end of
which stood a charming country-house. Upon the wide lawn in front, a
merry throng of children were running and leaping hither and thither,
and from the fresh green a sparkling fountain tossed into the air a
crystal ball. At the open doors of a room leading out into the garden
sat a company of elegantly-dressed ladies and gentlemen, and servants
in rich liveries were handing around refreshments upon silver salvers.
Ernestine stood as if dazzled by all this pomp and splendour. She dared
not approach. How could she? To whom could she turn? No one came
towards her; no one spoke to her. Her embarrassment was indescribable,
when suddenly the beautiful, gaily-dressed children on the lawn broke
off their play and looked towards her with astonishment. Ernestine saw
how the little girls nudged each other and pointed at her. She
distinctly heard some say to the others, "What does she want?" She was
almost on the point of turning round to run away, when she was observed
by the group of ladies and gentlemen, and a servant was dispatched to
ask whom she was looking for. Everything swam before her eyes as the
tall man with such a distinguished air stepped up to her and asked
sharply, "What do you want here?"

"Nothing," replied Ernestine; "I would not have come if I had known!"

"Who are you, then?" asked the servant

"I am Ernestine Hartwich."

"Ah, indeed!" he said, with a slight bow; "that's another affair; you
are invited. Permit me." With these words he conducted the passive
child to the ladies, and announced, "Fräulein von Hartwich!"

The looks that were now fastened upon Ernestine were more piercing and
burning, she thought, than the sun's rays. Those people never dreamed
that the quiet little creature standing before them was possessed of a
goal so delicate in its organization, so finely strung, that every
breath of contempt that swept across it created a shrill discord, a
painful confusion; they only looked with the careless disapproval,
which would have been all very well with ordinary children, at the
straight, black, dishevelled hair, the sunken cheeks, the wizened,
sharp features of the pale face, the deep dark eyes, with their shy,
uncertain glances, the lips tightly closed in embarrassment, and last,
the emaciated figure in its faded short dress, and the long, narrow
feet and hands. In the minds of most, an ugly exterior excites more
disgust than sympathy; and, to excuse this feeling to one's self, one
is apt to declare that the child or person in question has an
"unpleasant expression," thus hinting at moral responsibility in the
matter of the exterior, as if it were the result of an ugliness of soul
which would, in a measure, excuse one's disgust. This was the case with
all who were now looking at this strange child. It seemed as though
they were drinking in with their eyes the poison that had wasted
Ernestine's little body,--the poison of hatred which her being had
imbibed from her father and her unnatural surroundings, and as if this
poison reacted from them upon herself. The little girl felt this
instinctively without comprehending it, and as she met, one after
another, those loveless glances, it was as though a wound in her flesh
were ruthlessly probed. She could not understand what the ladies
whispered to each other in French, but their tones intimated
displeasure and contempt. She suddenly saw herself as in a mirror
through their eyes, and she saw, what she had never seen before, that
she was very ugly and awkward,--that she was meanly dressed; and shame
for her poor innocent self flushed her cheeks crimson. In that single
minute she ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil,--that fruit which has driven thousands, sooner or later, from the
Eden of childlike unconsciousness. She had entered upon that stage
of life where a human being is self-accused for being unloved,
unsought,--despises herself because others despise her,--finds herself
ugly because she gives pleasure to none. Hitherto, whatever she had
suffered, she had been at peace with herself; now she was at enmity
with herself and the world. She felt suffocated; everything swam before
her sight, and hot tears gushed from her eyes. Just then a tall,
stately woman came out of the drawing-room. "Frau Staatsräthin," one of
the ladies called to her in a tone of contempt, "a new guest has
arrived!"

"Is that little Ernestine Hartwich?" asked the hostess, evidently
endeavouring to conceal behind a kindly tone and manner her amazement
at the child's appearance. She held out her hand: "Good day, my child;
I am glad you have come. Will you not take some refreshment? You seem
heated. You have not walked all the way? Yes? Oh, that is too much in
such hot weather! Such a delicate child!" she said with a look of
sympathy. She sprinkled sugar over some strawberries and placed
Ernestine on a seat where she could eat them, but the rest all stared
at her so she could not move a finger; she could scarcely hold the
plate. How could she eat while all these people were looking on? She
trembled so that she could not carry the spoon to her lips.

She choked down the rising tears as well as she could, for she was
ashamed to cry, and said softly, "I would like to go home!"

"To go home?" cried the Staatsräthin. "Oh, no, my child; you have had
no time to rest, and you are so tired! Come, my dear little girl, I
will take you to a cool room, where you can take a little nap before
you play with the other children." She took Ernestine by the hand and
led her into the house and through several elegant rooms to a smaller
apartment, with half-closed shutters and green damask furniture and
hangings, where it was as quiet, fresh, and cool as in a grove. The air
was fragrant, too; for there was a basket of magnificent roses upon the
table.

Ernestine was speechless with admiration at all the beauty around her
here. She had never seen such a beautiful room in her life, never
breathed within-doors so pure an atmosphere. The Staatsräthin told her
to lie down upon a green damask couch, which she hesitated to do, until
at last she took off her dusty boots, heedless that she thereby exposed
stockings full of holes, and when the Staatsräthin, with a kindly "Take
a good nap, my child," left her, and she was alone, a flood of novel
sensations overpowered her. The pain of the last few moments, gratitude
for the kindness of the Staatsräthin, the enchantment that wealth and
splendour cast around, every childish imagination,--all combined to
confuse her thoughts. But the solitude of the cool room soon had a
soothing effect upon her. The green twilight was good for her eyes,
weary with weeping and the glare of the sun; she felt so far away from
those mocking, prying glances; everything was so calm and quiet here
that she seemed to hear the flowing of her own blood through her veins.
She thought of the ironing-room and her father's gloomy chamber at
home. What a difference there was! Oh, if she could only stay here
forever! How can people ever be unkind who have such a lovely home! How
can they laugh at a poor child who has nothing of all this!

But the Frau Staatsräthin, whose room this was, was kind. Ah, how kind!
Yet so different from every one at home--so--what? So distinguished!
Yes, every one at home seemed common compared with her, and Ernestine
herself was common, although the lady had not treated her as if she
were; she felt it herself; and was ashamed. What if the lady could have
seen how naughty she had been to-day, how she had torn off her dress
and stamped upon it, and scolded Frau Gedike?

She blushed at these thoughts, and resolved never again to conduct
herself so that she should be ashamed to have the Frau Staatsräthin see
her. A new sense was suddenly awakened in the child; but it fluttered
hither and thither like a timid bird, terrified by her late
surroundings, and not yet accustomed to all that was so novel about
her.

The child never dreamed of the innate refinement that distinguished her
from thousands of ordinary children; she was only crushed as she
compared herself with the gentle lady and the gaily-dressed children
upon the lawn; and this very feeling of shame, this disgust at herself,
was a proof how foreign to her youthful mind was the absence of beauty
in her exterior. In the midst of all these new, confusing thoughts,
sleep overpowered her; she stretched herself out comfortably upon the
soft couch. The beating of her heart, the painful pressure upon her
brain, and the singing in her ears, grew fainter and weaker, and
soothed her to slumber like a cradle-song.

On the lawn, in the mean time, nothing was talked of but the child, and
her family. It was thought inconceivable that a Freiherr von Hartwich
should allow his daughter to be so neglected. But then he had never
been a genuine aristocrat; for his mother was of low extraction, as was
proved by her return to her own rank of life after the death of her
husband Von Hartwich. She soon after married the widower Gleissert,
thus giving her son a master-manufacturer for a father, then purchased
her husband's heavily encumbered factory, which she had bequeathed to
her son with the condition that he should continue to keep it up,--a
condition most distasteful to the heir. Gleissert had a son by his
first marriage, named Leuthold, who had studied, but had not been much
of a credit to his brother, with whom he was living at present.

The conversation was interrupted by the arrival of an elderly
gentleman, who drove up in a very elegant but very dusty carriage. The
number of orders upon his breast testified to his high position, and
the haste with which the hostess went forward to receive him, and the
trembling of the hand which she extended towards him, showed of what
importance his arrival was to her.

"Vivat!" he cried out to her. "Your Johannes takes the first rank--a
splendid examination--there has not been such another for ten years!"

"Thank God!" said the Staatsräthin, with a long sigh of relief.

"Yes, yes!" the kindly voice continued. "A superb fellow! I
congratulate you upon such a son--not a question missed--not one! And
answered with such ease and confidence, yet without the slightest
particle of conceit. Deuce take it!--I wish I had married and had such
a son. Come," he said, turning to a boy of about fourteen years
of age, who had arrived with him, "perhaps you may one day be such
another,--keep your eyes steadily upon Johannes. Permit me, dear madam,
to present to you the son of my late friend, Ferdinand Hilsborn. He
lost his mother a few months ago, and is now my adopted son."

The Staatsräthin held out her hand to the boy, and said with emotion,
"Although I never knew your mother, it pains me deeply to know that she
left this world before she could enjoy such a moment as your adopted
father has just given me by his tidings."

The gentle boy's eyes filled with tears as she spoke.

"Only think, my dear friends," said the Staatsräthin, turning to the
company, "Johannes never told me that this was his examination-day,
that he might surprise me. I only learned it this afternoon from a few
thoughtless words of my brother's. Our kind Geheimrath Heim has just
brought me the tidings of his promotion."

The guests, with sympathy and congratulations, crowded around the proud
mother, whose heart was too full to do anything but reply mechanically
to their kind speeches.

"But, dear Frau Möllner," a Frau Landräthin remarked maliciously, "was
it not a little strange that your Johannes should not have told you of
his examination-day?--certainly a mother has a sacred right to share
such hours with her son."

"When a mother's claims are held as sacred as are mine by my son,"
replied the Staatsräthin, with dignified composure, "he may well be
left to do as seems to him best in such a matter. He wished to spare me
hours of anxiety; and I thank him."

"The woman is blindly devoted to her son," the Landräthin whispered to
a friend.

"She is growing perfectly childish with maternal vanity," remarked
another.

"But how can any one as wealthy as the Staatsräthin allow her son to
study?" said the Landräthin.

"Yes, yes!" several others joined in, "he certainly need never earn his
living in such a way. Why did she not buy him a commission? 'Tis too
bad for such a handsome young man!"

"Yes, yes!" the old Geheimrath called out to the ladies, as if he had
heard only their last words, "Johannes is a man,--a man, although
hardly twenty years old! Only such a mother could have such a son!" And
he laid his hand kindly upon the Staatsräthin's arm.

"I wish every woman, left alone in the world, had such a friend as you
are," she said, holding out her hand to him gratefully. "You are the
best legacy left me by my dear husband. But where is Johannes? Why did
he not come with you?"

"He sent me before to announce his arrival in the evening," replied the
old gentleman. "He was obliged to make a few visits this afternoon.
Ah," he sighed, as the Staatsräthin handed him some refreshments, "it
is a hot journey hither from town,--and a tedious one too,--but it is
all the cooler and more delightful when you get here." He wiped his
forehead and looked around the circle with the kindly, penetrating
glance of a man who sees through the weaknesses of his fellow-men, but
judges them with the gentleness of a superior nature. "Well, ladies,"
he asked good-humouredly, "did the old doctor interrupt a most
interesting conversation? I cannot believe that sitting here so silent
and serious is your normal condition. What were you talking of when I
arrived?"

"Of nothing very pleasant, Herr Geheimrath," said the Landräthin
venomously; "we were only speaking of Herr von Hartwich and of his
brother, who went wrong some years ago,--we don't know exactly how."

"I can tell you all about it, ladies," said the Geheimrath.

All instantly entreated him, "Oh, tell us; pray tell us!"

The Geheimrath began: "I was professor of medicine at Marburg when that
strange occurrence took place. It was about ten years ago. Gleissert
was then Extraordinarius in the university, and a young man of great
ability. By his diligence and insinuating manners, he had won for
himself the good-will of every one; and one of my colleagues, Hilsborn,
the father of the boy whom I brought with me to-day, was his intimate
friend. Their _spécialité_ was the same, and Hilsborn filled the
professorial chair which was the object of Gleissert's desire. Both
were physiologists, but Hilsborn had the chair of special physiology,
and Gleissert, as Extraordinarius, was occupied only with physiological
chemistry. One day Hilsborn confided to me that he was upon the track
of a new discovery. It would be of great importance to science if he
could only succeed in carrying it out and establishing it upon a firm
foundation. The difficulty in doing so lay principally in the procuring
of the necessary material for his experiments,--a species of fish found
only at Trieste, and which he could not procure alive. Hilsborn, a poor
widow's son, lamented his want of means to travel thither and prove his
hypothesis. I promised to obtain for him from my friend the minister,
by the next vacation, a sufficient sum to meet his expenses, and I did
so; but there was the same delay in the matter that is usual in such
cases, and the necessary sum came so late that the journey had to be
postponed until the following vacation, Hilsborn comforting himself
with the thought that, although he must wait another six months,
nothing but time would be lost. Suddenly Herr Gleissert married the
daughter of a wealthy innkeeper, and begged for leave of absence for
his wedding-trip. It was granted, and he was absent for four weeks.
Strangely enough, his friend never heard from him during all that time;
and, when he returned, we all noticed that he was unwilling to let us
know where he had been. We thought he had private grounds for such
unwillingness, and did not question him further. The term was over at
last, and Hilsborn set off for Trieste. There he worked night and day
with superhuman diligence. The result of his investigations was
perfectly satisfactory, and he came back with the materials for a work
which was sure to establish his fame and fortune. One day--I shall
never forget it--he was in my room when the publisher sent me several
new scientific papers. Hilsborn was looking through them carelessly,
when suddenly he grew ashy pale. Among the pamphlets was one by
Gleissert, embodying Hilsborn's idea. I was as shocked and astounded as
he was. It could not be chance which led two men at the same time to so
novel an idea, especially as Gleissert's course of study could not have
directed him to such investigations as Hilsborn's. After a long and
evident struggle with himself, Hilsborn confessed to me that he had
communicated his ideas to Gleissert, and had frequently from the
beginning discussed the matter thoroughly with him, without Gleissert's
ever hinting even that the subject had occurred to him before. On the
contrary, he was at work upon a paper upon a chemical subject, a paper
which had never appeared. Difficult as it was for my high-minded friend
to bring himself to it, the conviction was unavoidable that his friend
had basely deceived him; for we discovered, upon close inquiry, that
Gleissert's wedding-trip had been to Trieste, where he had pursued the
investigations proposed by Hilsborn, and hurried on the printing of
their results with the greatest haste. All outside proof of his
contemptible treachery was perfect, and we were all morally convinced
that he had _stolen_ Hilsborn's idea. As pro-rector, I called him to a
strict account. His defence was cunning, but not convincing. He did not
attempt to deny the principal accusation brought forward, namely, the
suspicious fact that he had induced Hilsborn to promise him not to
impart his discovery to any one else, 'lest it should be used to his
disadvantage.' He wished to be the sole depositary of the secret, that
there might be no witnesses to Hilsborn's proprietorship of the stolen
idea. I ask this worthy assemblage," the old gentleman here interrupted
himself with indignation, "if there can be any doubt of the baseness of
the man in the matter?"

"No, most certainly not, Herr Geheimrath, most certainly not," was the
unanimous reply.

"Well," the narrator continued, "so we thought. We, one and all,
determined to avenge poor Hilsborn, thus deprived of all his fair
hopes. It is true we had no legal weapon at our disposal. Our stupid
laws punish forgers and counterfeiters, but they cannot recognize the
theft of the coinage of the brain. There are jails for the hungry
beggar who steals a loaf; but the rogue who robs a man of his thought,
the painfully-begotten fruit of his mind after years of labour, goes
free. We professors undertook to do what the law does not. We published
the matter far and wide in the scientific periodicals, and all handed
in our resignations to the government, stating that we held it
inconsistent with our honour to remain the colleagues of such a man. Of
course Gleissert was instantly dismissed in disgrace, and an academic
career closed to him forever. I was called away from Marburg soon
after; and, since I have lived in the capital as royal physician, I
have lost sight of my former colleagues. Hilsborn died after some
years, and his son is now my adopted child. What became of Gleissert I
do not know."

"I can tell you," said a fine-looking man, whose resemblance to the
Staatsräthin declared him her brother. "I have informed myself about
matters here, because I propose to purchase Hartwich's factories for my
son. According to the schoolmaster, the fellow is playing a double part
here also. It cannot be denied that under his guidance, and owing to
his chemical discoveries, the factories have doubled in value since his
arrival, for Hartwich is a very narrow-minded man, incapable, from his
wretched avarice, of venturing upon any important speculation; but the
way in which his brother contrives to be paid for his services is, to
say the least, striking. For five years he contented himself with the
salary of an overseer and free lodging--he bided his time. It came at
last. One day Herr von Hartwich had a paralytic stroke, and the
physicians declared that he had but few years to live. Gleissert made
use of this time of helplessness, and threatened to leave the factory
immediately and dispose of his discoveries elsewhere if Hartwich did
not appoint him his heir. Hartwich, who of course stood more in need of
him than ever, accepted his conditions, set aside that poor little girl
as far as the law would allow it, and made a will in Gleissert's
favour."

"He's a thorough scoundrel, that Gleissert,--a legacy-hunter, then,
besides. I should like to know what the fellow holds sacred?"

"Let us ask the child about him," cried one of the ladies.

"Yes, yes," joined in several others. "It would be so interesting.
Pray, dear Staatsräthin, bring the little girl here."

The Staatsräthin looked at her watch, and, finding that Ernestine had
slept nearly an hour, went to fetch her. She soon returned with her,
and again the child had to run the gauntlet of those piercing glances.
But her rest had refreshed her, and she was not so timid.

She heard the old Geheimrath whisper to his next neighbour, "How did
that stupid Hartwich ever come to have such a clever child? Look--what
a remarkable head. Pity the little thing is not a boy! something might
be made of her!"

His words struck to her very soul. Again she heard the same
phrase,--this time from a perfect stranger, "Pity she's not a boy!"

She straightened herself, as though she had suddenly grown an inch
taller, and looked up at the thoughtless speaker as if to say,
"Something shall be made of me!" Then she glanced wistfully at the
children who were playing ball; if she were only among them now, she
would show that she could be like a boy. The Landräthin took her hand
and said, "Well, my dear child, tell us something of your father. How
is he now?"

Ernestine seemed surprised at the question.--"I did not ask him."

The ladies looked significantly at each other.

"Have you not seen him to-day?"

"Yes," she answered briefly.

"Do you not love your father very dearly?" the Landräthin asked
further.

Ernestine paused, and then said quietly and firmly, "No!"

Her interrogator dropped the child's hand as if stung by an insect. "An
affectionate daughter!" she sneered, while the rest shook their heads.
"Whom do you love, then?--your uncle?"

"I love no one at home; but I like my uncle better than my father--he
never strikes me!" Ernestine answered.

"Like likes like, as it seems," one of the ladies observed; the rest
nodded assent, and all turned away from Ernestine.

"She is an unfortunate child," said the Staatsräthin; and arose to lead
her to the children. "Angelika, here is Ernestine von Hartwich," she
cried to her own little daughter, who was about nine years old; "take
good care of her,--remember you are hostess!"

The children, towards whom the Staatsräthin led her protégé, scattered
like a flock of birds at the approach of a paper kite. Collecting then
in single groups, they whispered together, and stared at the stranger.
Ernestine found herself alone, avoided by all the gay crowd which she
had just so fervently admired. She played the part of a scarecrow, but
with the melancholy superiority that she was conscious that she was
one. She knew that she had scattered the gay circle, that she had
chased away the children, that they all avoided her; and again she felt
as if she should sink into the ground, her feeble limbs trembled
beneath the burden of derision and contempt that she was forced to
bear. The Staatsräthin cast a stern glance--which Ernestine noticed--at
little Angelika, and said, "Give your hand to your new friend!"

Two of the larger girls giggled, and Ernestine heard them whisper, "A
lovely friend!"

Angelika now approached Ernestine, and held out her soft little hand,
but instantly withdrew it, stood mute before her for a moment, looking
at the old brown straw hat that Ernestine held in her hand, then
ventured one look into her eyes, and nestled confused and shy against
her mother, who spoke seriously but kindly to the pretty child. She
spoke in French, and Angelika answered in the same language. Ernestine
was amazed. The little girl understood a strange tongue, and yet she
was smaller than herself! She, who wanted to be as clever as a boy, did
not even know as much as the little girl. And she had to endure their
speaking before her as if she were not present; there she stupidly
stood, well knowing that they were saying nothing good of her or they
would have said it in German. She was weighed down by a double
disgrace, that of her ignorance, and of knowing that they were speaking
of her as if she were not there.

"Frau Staatsräthin," she said in a quivering voice, "I will not stay
here; the children do not like me; I am too bad for them!" She turned
away, and would really have gone, but little Angelika's good heart
conquered.

She ran after her and held her fast: "No, no, dear Ernestine; you are
not too bad for us; you are only odd--different from the rest of us.
Come, we will play with you!"

Then the Staatsräthin took Angelika in her arms, and kissed her,
saying, "That's right; now you are my little Angelika again, my good
sweet child."

Ernestine looked on at this caress with amazement, and hot tears rose
to her eyes. No one had ever been so kind to her. What happiness it
must be to be so embraced and kissed! But it could never happen to her.
Why not? Why did no one love her? Angelika, too, was only a girl: why
was she not blamed for it? But she was so lovely, so beautiful; who
could help loving her? Then her heart gave a throb as though it had
been stabbed with a knife. "So beautiful," she repeated: "that is why
every one pets and fondles her. It is not only that I am a girl; I am
an ugly girl,--that is why no one loves me."

"Come," said Angelika. "Why do you look so? Come to the others." She
led her to the fountain, around which the little company had gathered
meanwhile. The children were amusing themselves with throwing stones at
the ball of glass which the water tossed up and down. No girl or boy
could hit it; the ball could only be struck while it was dancing on the
top of the spray, and always fell before it was reached. The children
laughed merrily at each other, and even the parents and grown people
were interested and drew near. Ernestine looked on after her usual
brooding fashion. She soon divined where the mistake lay. The stone was
longer in reaching its aim than the ball lingered in the air. She
quickly concluded that if a stone were aimed at the top of the fountain
while the ball was still below, the latter in ascending would strike
the stone. Hilsborn, the boy fourteen years old, had just declared that
he could not understand why they could not strike it. Ambition took
possession of her,--if she was ugly, she would show them that she was
clever,--if she was only a girl, she would show them that she had force
and skill. Involuntarily she looked across to the old Geheimrath, to
ascertain if he saw her, and, as this seemed to be the case, she
stooped down and hastily picked up a larger stone than the others, to
insure success,--took the attitude which she had often observed in the
village boys, and, with her feet planted firmly wide apart, swung her
arm round three times to take sure aim, and hurled the stone with all
her force towards the point in the air which the fountain reached in
its leaping. Fate was cruel enough to favour her; the stone met the
ascending ball, and so exactly that the latter was hurled out of the
column of water, and, flying over the heads of the nearest by-standers,
fell upon the head of a child, and the thin glass was shivered in
pieces. The child screamed, more from fright than pain,--a commotion
ensued,--the mother of the sufferer rushed towards her darling with
frantic gestures,--the "wound" was examined, embroidered handkerchiefs
were dipped in the basin of the fountain and bound around the head,
while like a dark cloud there hovered over the sympathetic crowd a fear
lest "some fragment of glass should have penetrated the skull."
Ernestine stood there like a culprit; she felt convicted of murder,
and when she heard from all sides, "What unfeminine conduct! How
savage and rude! How can they bring up the girl to be such a tom-boy?"
she was utterly confounded. She had been like a boy, and it was all
wrong,--what should she do to please people and make them like her a
little? Then the old Geheimrath approached her and unclasped the hands
which she was silently but convulsively wringing. "Be comforted, you
pale little girl,--there is no great harm done. In future you must
leave such exploits to boys." Then he left her and examined the wound,
and declared laughingly that he needed a microscope to see it. The
mothers of the party, however, showed all the more sympathy and anxiety
in the matter that they were chagrined that Ernestine had displayed
more skill than their own children.

Ernestine's delicate instinct surmised all this. She looked at the
buzzing throng of her enemies with aversion, as at a swarm of wasps
that she had disturbed. She listened to the noise that was made about
the slight accident with infinite bitterness, and thought how at home,
when her father's blows had bruised her, no one cared anything about
it. When a few days before she had fallen and cut her forehead, she had
had to wash it herself at the brook. And even the old gentleman had
said that she should leave such exploits to boys. Then must she not
contend even with boys if she could? Why not? Why were they so
superior? It was unjust! She clenched her little fists. When she grew
up she would show people how great the injustice was! That she was
resolved upon.

Then little Angelika came running up, calling the children together
for a game. "Come, Ernestine," she cried. "You did not mean to do
it,--come, play blindman's buff with us."

Ernestine did not venture to make any objection; she was so cowed that
she did just as they told her, and let them make her "blind man," and
tie the handkerchief over her eyes. She never complained, although when
they were tying on the bandage they pulled her hair so that she ground
her teeth with pain. And then they all began to tease her. One pulled
at one of her long locks; another terrified her by putting beetles and
caterpillars upon her neck,--the usual tricks of the game, that are
easily borne when they are understood among little friends, but enough
to drive a shy child, that does not know how to defend herself, to
despair. No one would be caught by the ugly stranger, who had only been
admitted to the game at the express desire of the hostess, and all felt
themselves justified in playing all manner of tricks upon her.
Ernestine caught no one, and ran hither and thither in vain. She was
too conscientious to raise the handkerchief a little that she might see
where she was,--that would have been acting a falsehood, and she never
told falsehoods. Suddenly a hand seized her straw hat, and the worn old
brim gave way, and fell upon her shoulders like a collar, to the great
delight of the rest. It was a terrible loss for the poor child; for she
knew that she should get no other hat at home, but would be punished
for her carelessness. She grasped after her tormentor, and seized her
by the skirt; but she was one of the larger girls, and tore herself
away, leaving a piece of her elegant summer dress in Ernestine's hands,
which had clutched it tightly. She could not see how the girl ran to
her mother, bewailing the injury to her dress; the bandage over her
eyes beneficently shielded her from perceiving the angry looks of the
ladies, and absorbed the tears which she was silently shedding for her
straw hat. She stood motionless in the middle of the lawn, and did not
know what to do,--for no children seemed to be near,--the game appeared
to be interrupted. Suddenly she received a sound box on the ear. The
younger brother of the aggrieved young lady had stolen up and avenged
his sister. Then the tormented child was filled with indignation and
rage that almost deprived her of reason. She seized the boy as he tried
to pass her, and began to straggle with him. He forced her backwards,
step by step. She could not free her hands to untie the bandage; she
did not know where she was; she would not let go her enemy, for her
sufferings had filled her little heart with hate and fury. There was a
scream, and at the same instant she stumbled over something and fell;
she kept her hold of her foe, but she felt that she was up to her knees
in water,--she had stumbled into the basin of the fountain. The guests
hurried up. First seizing the boy, who was still in Ernestine's grasp,
they placed him in safety, and then they helped out the trembling
child, who stood there with torn, dripping clothes, an object of terror
and disgust to herself and to everybody else.

What mischief the horrible creature had done! She had almost fractured
one child's skull, she had torn the expensive dress of another, and had
tried to drown a third!

"Pray, my dear Staatsräthin, have my carriage ordered," said one of the
injured mothers; "one's life is not safe here!"

"Supper is ready," replied the Staatsräthin. "Let me entreat you all to
go into the house. I will answer for the lives of your children as long
as they are my guests," she added with a slight smile.

The ladies all called their sons and daughters to them, to protect them
from the little monster, who still stood there, bewildered and crushed,
upon the lawn, looking on with a bleeding heart, as the children,
laughing and joking, clung to their parents, whom they kissed and
caressed with affectionate freedom. Every child there had a mother or a
father who fondled it. She--she alone was thrust out and forsaken,--no
one remembered that she was tired and wet through,--no one cared for
her. The charming little Angelika was everywhere in requisition, and
could not come to her,--the Staatsräthin was entreating her guests to
pardon her for inviting a child whom she did not know; how could she
possibly suppose that Herr von Hartwich had a daughter so neglected?
Ernestine heard it all. She could no longer stand,--she fell upon her
knees, and, sobbing violently, hid her face in her hands. The
Staatsräthin was now free to come to her, and hastily approached.

"Oh, you poor little thing, you are wet through, and no one has thought
of you," she cried kindly, at sight of Ernestine. "Go into the house
quickly, and put on a pair of my little girl's shoes and stockings; my
room is just to the right of the drawing-room. Go immediately,--do you
hear? I cannot stay away from my guests."

"Forgive me,--it is not my fault!" stammered Ernestine.

"Indeed it is not, my dear child," said the Staatsräthin gravely. "I
only pity you,--I am not angry with you! But hurry now and take off
your dress,--I will send you your supper to my room. I know you would
rather eat it alone."

And she hastened away to her guests just as a vehicle drove up and a
strikingly handsome young man about twenty years old sprang out and
hurried up to her. "My dear boy," she cried, "is it you? I did not
expect you yet!"

The youth kissed her hand and bowed courteously to the rest. The
Staatsräthin's eyes rested upon him with the pride with which a woman
during her life regards two men only,--a lover and a darling son. The
guests surrounded him with congratulations upon the day's success;
Angelika danced around him, and the other children all wanted a hand or
a kiss. There was quite a little uproar of delight.

Suddenly the Staatsräthin cried out in a startled tone, "Little
Ernestine has gone! Heavens, that poor child wet through in the cool
evening air! I cannot allow it! Johannes, my dear son, run quickly,
bring her back."

"Who,--what?" he asked in amazement.

"But, my dearest Staatsräthin," said the mother of the boy whom
Ernestine's shot had wounded, "how can you worry yourself about the
little witch? she is tougher than our children."

The Staatsräthin glanced at her contemptuously, and, turning to
Johannes, continued: "She is a pale, meanly-clad little girl, eleven or
twelve years of age; you cannot miss her if you take the path to
Hartwich's estate; she is his daughter. Hasten, Johannes, hasten!" He
obeyed, while she conducted her guests to their sumptuous repast.

Meanwhile Ernestine ran through the grove as quickly as she could, and
began to breathe freely as she lost sight of the house where she had
undergone so much. But her strength soon failed her. Her wet shoes and
stockings clung like heavy lumps of lead to her weary feet and impeded
her steps; she was conscious of gnawing hunger, and the first care for
the future that she had yet felt in her short life assailed her,--she
was afraid that it would be too late for her to get anything to eat
when she reached home; it was growing dark, and it would be ten
o'clock; Frau Gedike would be in bed. And that was not the worst that
she had to look forward to; the straw hat, whose brim was still having
around her neck,--the heavy, torn straw hat, would certainly bring her
a severe chastisement. She sat down upon a mound on the borders of the
grove, and took off the brim to see if she could contrive some way of
fastening it to the crown, which she carried in her hand. The tree
above her shook its boughs compassionately and threw down its leaves
upon her dishevelled locks. She never heeded them,--the conviction lay
heavy upon her childish heart that she could not possibly mend the hat
before Frau Gedike would see it. Tear after tear dropped upon the
fragments, and her large, swimming eyes glimmered in the moonlight from
out her pale face like glow-worms in a lily-cup. Suddenly she started
violently, for some one stood before her, and she recognized the young
man whose arrival had just enabled her to make her escape. He looked at
her silently for a while, and then said, "Are you the little girl who
came to us to-day, and then ran away secretly?"

"Yes," stammered Ernestine.

"Why have you done so?" he asked further.

Ernestine made no reply. She was more ashamed before Johannes than
before all the rest of the company. He was very different from every
one else there,--so proud and strong,--he would despise her more than
the others had done, for he was much handsomer and finer than they, and
worth more than all of them. She did not venture to look up at him; she
was afraid of meeting another of those glances that had so tortured
her. Then the young man took her hand and said kindly, "Well, you pale
little dryad, can you not speak? Will you go with me, or would you
rather spend the night in your tree?"

"I want to go home!" said Ernestine.

"I cannot let you go home. I must take you to my mother. She is afraid
you will take cold. Come!"

Ernestine shrunk back. "I cannot go there any more!"

"Why not? What have they done to you?"

"They laughed at me, and jeered me," cried the irritated child; "they
despised me; and I will not be despised! I will not!"

The young man looked at her thoughtfully.

"Even if I am ugly," she continued, "and poor, and badly taught, and
awkward, I will not be treated like a dog!" There was a tone of despair
in her voice, her chest panted within her narrow dress, her teeth
chattered with cold and excitement.

"Poor child!" said Johannes; "they must have used you ill,--but my
mother was surely kind to you?"

"Yes, she was kind, but she was vexed with me at last; I heard her
blaming me to the others. And I do not want to see her again,--not
until I am grown up and can be as dignified and gentle as she is."

"Are you so certain, then, that you will one day be as gentle and
dignified?" asked Johannes smiling.

"Yes, the schoolmaster says, and the old gentleman said too, that if I
were a boy something might be made of me. Oh, something shall be made
of me,--if I am only a girl. I will not always have boys held up to me;
when I am grown up, they shall see that a girl is as good as a boy; all
these bad, unkind people shall respect me; if they do not, I would
rather die!"

"You queer child!" laughed Johannes, "it would be hard to tame you. But
see, if you stay any longer here with me in the night air, you will
take cold, and then you may die before you have carried out all your
resolutions; think how bad that will be!"

With these words he attempted to lead the child away with him, but she
snatched her hand from him and clung to the tree beneath which she had
been sitting. "No, no," she breathlessly entreated, "dear sir, let me
go--do not take me back again--please, please, not there!"

"Obstinate little thing, you must come," laughed Johannes. "Do you
suppose I can go back without you, after having been sent to find you
like a stray lamb? My mother would shut me up for three days upon bread
and water if I did not bring you back; you would not like that, would
you?"

"Ah, you are laughing at me. I will not go back with you, I will not,"
sobbed Ernestine.

"Will not? What is the use of such words from a weak little girl
who can be easily carried in arms?" With these words Johannes
good-humouredly lifted Ernestine from the ground and placed her on his
shoulder to take her back to the castle. But she succeeded in grasping
an overhanging branch of the oak-tree just above her, and, before
Johannes could prevent it, she had swung herself up by it, and was
clambering like a squirrel from bough to bough.

"This is delightful!" cried Johannes, much amused; "you are really,
then, a dryad in disguise? Such a prize must not escape; to be sure, I
never dreamed to-day, when I passed my examination, that the new Herr
Doctor's first feat would be to climb a tree after a wayward little
girl; but the episode is much more poetic than marching up and down
stairs, making my best bow to my old examiners." Daring this soliloquy
be had taken off his coat and climbed into the tree.

But when he tried to seize Ernestine, she retreated to the extremity of
the bough upon, which she was sitting, and was quite out of his reach;
he could not follow her, for the slender branch creaked and drooped so,
even beneath the child's light weight, that he momentarily expected it
to break. The jest had become earnest indeed: if the little girl fell,
she would fall a double distance,--the height of the tree and of the
hill which the tree crowned. Quick as thought the young man swung
himself down to the ground, and took his station where he might, if
possible, receive Ernestine in his arms if she fell. For the first time
he now saw how high she was perched, and a cloud before the moon just
at the moment prevented his perceiving the exact direction that she
must take in falling. His anxiety was intense. The responsibility of a
human life was suddenly thrust upon him. If he did not succeed in
catching the falling child, she would shortly lie before him, if not a
corpse, at least with broken limbs. The steep hill, too, made it almost
impossible for him to maintain a firm footing; wherever he planted his
feet, they slipped continually. The blood rushed to his face; his heart
beat audibly; with outstretched arms he gazed up at the child, who sat
above him, all unconscious of her danger.

"Little one," he cried breathlessly, "the branch where you are sitting
will not bear you! scramble back again, or you will fall!"

"I will not come down until you promise me not to carry me back! I
shall not fall," she panted, and snatched at a stronger bough above
her, but it sprang back from her grasp, leaving only a few twigs in her
hand.

"I will promise anything that you want," cried Johannes in deadly
terror, "only go back quickly to the trunk--quickly--quickly!"

The bough cracked, just as the child swung herself towards the trunk,
and it fell to the ground,--leaving her clinging to the stump where it
grew from the trunk; and when Johannes climbed up to her and she could
at last reach his shoulder, she was trembling so with fright that she
willingly clasped her thin arms around his neck. With difficulty he
reached the ground again with his burden, his hands scratched and
bleeding and his shirt-sleeve torn. He put down Ernestine, and,
stepping back a pace or two, regarded her gravely; then, after wiping
the moisture from his brow, he began in a serious tone of voice, "Do
you know what I would do if I were your father?"

Ernestine looked up at him inquiringly.

"I would give you a taste of the rod, that you might learn not to
frighten people so just for your own wayward whims!"

These words, prompted by the young man's irritation at the anxiety to
which he had been subjected, had a fearful effect upon the child. She
gave a piercing cry, and threw herself upon the ground. "Oh, nothing
but blows, blows--he too, he too! Who will not strike me and abuse me?
who is there to take pity upon me?" and she sobbed uncontrollably.

"Good heavens," said Johannes, half compassionately and half annoyed,
"was there ever such a child! First you climb into a tree at peril of
your life, just that you may gratify your self-will, and then a single
word of blame crushes you to the earth. I never saw anything like it!"
Saying this, he lifted her up and held her out before him in the
moonlight, regarding her as one would some rare animal or natural
curiosity.

"Here is a thing," he said, more to himself than to Ernestine, "so
frail and delicate that you could crush it in your grasp, but there is
such strength of will in the little frame that one is forced to yield
to it, and such a wildly throbbing heart in the little breast that one
is carried away by it in spite of one's self. I should like to know
what odd combinations have produced this strange piece of humanity. Do
not cry any more, little one; I will not harm you--what eyes the
creature has! You are a remarkable child, but I would not like to have
the charge of you--you would puzzle one well, and force and blows would
have no effect upon you!"

With these words he put her down upon the ground again and picked up
his coat to put it on. As he did so, he felt something hard in the
pocket; he looked to see what it was, and drew out a book in a splendid
binding.

"Ah," he cried gaily, "I had forgotten this. Can you read?"

Ernestine nodded. She was glad that she had not to say no; how ashamed
she would have been!

"Come, that's right!" said the young man; and Ernestine was very proud
of those first words of commendation, and determined instantly to be
doubly diligent, that she might some time hear just such another
"That's right!"

Johannes put the book into her hand. "There, you shall have that, that
you may carry something pleasant home with you after such a dreary day.
The stories are charming. I brought it out for my little sister
Angelika, but I could not give it to her because I had to run after
you. Now I am glad that I have it still and can give it to you."

"Yes--but Angelika?" Ernestine asked hesitatingly.

"She shall have another to-morrow. Take it, and read the story of the
Ugly Duckling; that will comfort you when people are cross to you. Take
it--why do you hesitate?"

The child took the book as carefully and timidly as if it were in
reality a fairy book and would vanish at her touch. When she had it in
her hands and it did not disappear, and she could really believe in her
happiness in receiving such a present, she uttered a scarcely audible
"Thank you very much!" but the look that accompanied the words touched
Johannes.

"You do not often have presents?" he asked.

"Never!"

"Oh! you seem not to be very affectionately treated. Does not your
mother ever give you anything?"

"I have no mother. She died because I was not a boy."

"A most remarkable cause of death," observed Johannes, half dryly, half
compassionately.

"Ah, if I had a mother, everything would be different." And the large
tears rolled down over her cheeks.

"Listen, little one," said Johannes kindly, after a pause. "I have a
dear mother, and I will share her with you--half a mother's heart is
better than none at all. Come home with me. You shall be my little
sister, and you will be gentle enough when you know us better."

Ernestine shook her head decidedly. The thought of returning to the
castle again filled her with dismay. "No, no, never!" she cried in
terror. "Your mother would not love me--she could not! You promised me
a minute ago not to force me to anything, and if you think now that I
ought to do as you please, because you have given me the book, I would
rather not have it. There, take it--I will not have it!"

Johannes rejected the offered book with some vexation. "Keep it," he
said. "I gave it to you unconditionally. I only thought that my
kindness had made you gentler and more docile, but I was wrong. You are
not to be moved by kindness either. Sad to see a heart so early
hardened!"

Ernestine stood motionless, with downcast eyes--she scarcely breathed;
the emotions that agitated her were so novel, so different from
anything she had hitherto experienced, that she struggled in vain to
give utterance to them; her childish lips had no words to express them.
She was pained, and yet her pain, although deeper than any she had
already suffered, had no bitterness in it. She did not hate him who had
caused it--she could have kissed his hand, and, falling at his feet,
begged him to forgive her--but she did not dare to do so.

"Well," he asked, after a moment's silence, "shall I go home with you?"

Ernestine shook her head.

"Not that, either? Will you go alone?" he asked impatiently.

Ernestine nodded.

"Well, I have promised to do as you pleased, and I shall keep my
promise, although I do not think it right to leave you to go home alone
so late at night. Let me at least go with you across the fields? Are
you grown dumb?"

Ernestine lifted to his her large melancholy eyes so beseechingly that
he lost his composure. "You are enough to drive one insane, you
enigmatical little creature! Who taught you that look--the look of an
angel imprisoned by some evil magician in the body of a kobold? God
knows what will become of you! You will not let me come, then? No? Are
you not afraid? Nothing to be got out of you but a shake of the head!
Well, go! I cannot force you. Good-night, then!" He held out his hand;
she seized it, pressed it with passionate energy, and then ran across
the fields as fast as her feet could carry her. Johannes let her run
for some minutes, and then followed her at a distance; he could not
allow the helpless child to go home without watching over her safety.
She ran as if she had wings, without once looking round; but Johannes
noticed that she kissed the book several times, and pressed it to her
heart, as if it had been some living thing. When at last he came in
sight of Ernestine's home, he stopped. "Heaven be merciful to the man
who will one day take her for a wife!" he thought, and slowly turned
away.

Ernestine entered the garden of her dreary home with a throbbing heart.
A grumbling maid-servant opened the door for her. "You are late," she
scolded. "That is just like you--first you wouldn't go, and then you
don't want to come home. You always want to do something else than what
you should."

Ernestine made no reply. "Can I have something to eat?" she asked
briefly.

"To eat! Likely, indeed! Am I to go to the stable at ten o'clock at
night and milk a cow for you? for there is nothing else that I can get.
You know well enough that I have no keys!"

"Is Frau Gedike in bed, then?"

"If you were not so stupid, you might know that!"

"But I am hungry!"

"That serves you right; you should have eaten enough at the party. Of
course they gave you something to eat?"

Ernestine was silent, and followed the maid into the room, where she
hastily concealed her torn hat in the wardrobe. "My feet are wet," she
said, shivering. "Give me some dry stockings."

"Of course you have been dragging through all the puddles, and then
want dry stockings at this hour of the night! Get into bed as soon as
you can; you will have no other stockings to-night. Good-night--I am
going to bed myself." And the servant left the room, taking with her
the dim tallow candle that she had in her hand, and Ernestine was left
alone in the apartment, into which the moon shone brightly. Suppressed
rage at the servant's coarse harshness burrowed and gnawed in the
child's heart like a hidden mole. Everything that had lately happened
vanished at this rude contact. Her soul had expanded at the first touch
of a large, kindly nature, like a bud in the air of spring--the frost
that now fell upon it was doubly painful. She was again the same
forsaken, abused child whose vital energies were consumed by impotent
hate of her tormentors. Had she really lived the last hour! Had any one
really spoken so kindly to her--one, too, better and handsomer than all
the others?

She caught up her book as if it were a talisman; it was real; it
had not vanished; it was all true, then. And yet she had been so
self-willed and cross to the kind, kind gentleman, and had not even
told him how grateful she was; how he must despise her! He could not do
otherwise. She understood now how different she must be before she
could hope to win the liking of such a man as Johannes. How should she
do it? She could not tell; but something stirred within her that
exalted her above herself. She looked up to heaven in childlike
entreaty, and prayed, "Dear God, make me good!" Then she pressed the
book to her heart; it was her most precious possession, her first
friend; and the desire took hold of her to see now what this friend
would tell her. But she could not read by moonlight, and she dared not
get a candle, for she slept next to Frau Gedike, who allowed no reading
at night. She stood hesitating and looked sorrowfully at the beautiful
binding, with its gay arabesques. Suddenly it occurred to her that
there was always a night-lamp burning in her father's room; it was a
happy thought. She drew off her wet boots with difficulty, and crept
softly into Hartwich's apartment. The invalid was lying upon his back,
sound asleep. He breathed and snored so loudly that the child was
almost terrified; but she was determined to proceed, and slipped past
the bed. She seated herself cautiously, opened the book in a state of
feverish expectation, and of course turned to the story that Johannes
had mentioned to her. The book contained the charming, touching tales
of Hans Andersen. Ernestine, greatly moved, read the story of the Ugly
Duckling. She read how it was abused and maltreated by all because it
was so different from the other ducks, and how at last it came to be a
magnificent swan, far finer and more beautiful than the insignificant
fowls who had despised it. The impression made upon her by this story
is not to be described. The poor duckling's woes were hers also, and as
if upon swan's pinions the promise of a fair future hovered above her
from the page that she was reading. "Shall I ever be such a swan?" she
asked again and again. Her heart overflowed with new emotions of joy
and pain, she covered her eyes with her thin hands and sobbed as if she
would, as the saying is, "cry her soul out." Then her father awoke, and
called out, "Who is there?" Ernestine hastened to him and fell on her
knees at his bedside. She seized his hand and would have kissed it; he
snatched it angrily away, but the tears that she had shed had melted
her very heart. "Father, dear father!" she cried, "I have been very
naughty and self-willed. Forgive, and love me only a little, and I will
love you dearly!"

Hartwich turned his face to the wall, and growled, "Why did you wake
me? Where's the use of slipping in here at this hour? Do you think I
had rather listen to your stupid whining than sleep?"

"Father," cried Ernestine, taking his lame hand that he could not
withdraw from her. "Father, do not send me away from you. I will be
good,--help me to be so. I cannot be good if you are always harsh to
me. I saw to-day how all the children have parents who love them. I
only am disliked by every one, and yet I have a heart too, and would
love to see kind looks and hear kind words. I will not cry ever any
more, if you will not make me cry, and I will try my best to be just
like a boy, that you may not be sorry any more that I am a girl. Ah,
father, it seems to-day as if the dear God in heaven had told me what I
long for. Love, father, love,--ah, give me some, and take pity upon
your poor ugly child!"

The invalid had turned towards the child again, and was staring at her
in amazement, with lack-lustre eyes; it seemed as if some unbidden
feeling were struggling for utterance from the depths of his moral and
physical degradation; his breath came quick, he tried to speak.
Ernestine did not venture to look at him; a strong odour of brandy told
her that her father's face was near her own, but this odour was so
utterly disgusting to her that she involuntarily recoiled, and thus
avoided the lips that would perhaps have bestowed upon her the first
kiss that she had ever in her life received from them. The invalid must
have known this, for he turned away again, muttering something
unintelligible. After a long pause, he felt for a tumbler that stood on
a table beside his bed, but it was empty. "I'm thirsty!" he said
peevishly. "Shall I bring you some water, father?" asked Ernestine. The
sick man made a gesture of disgust "No! but you can go up to your uncle
and tell him to send me that medicine that he spoke of; he will know
what I want. But ask him only,--do you hear?--him only. And tell no one
that I sent you, or you shall suffer for it, I promise you. And now go
quickly: I'm tortured with thirst!"

Ernestine arose from her knees, and looked at her father with the grief
that we feel when we have lavished our best, our most sacred emotions
upon an unworthy object. Hitherto she had required nothing of him;
to-day, for the first time, as she looked around for some one to whose
love, in her loneliness, she possessed a right, it had occurred to her
that she had a father. She had turned to him with an overflowing heart,
and had found a drunkard, who had resigned all claims to respect, both
as a man and a father. Mute and crushed alike physically and mentally,
she slipped out and up the stairs to her uncle. She was to bring brandy
to the sick man, although she remembered that the physician had
forbidden all heating drinks; but she must fulfil her father's
commands, or receive the cruellest treatment at his hands. She entered
her uncle's room, slowly and timidly; she was afraid of his wife. But
Bertha had gone to bed; there was no one in the room but Leuthold, who
was standing by the open window, to the frame of which he had screwed a
long tube.

"Ah, little Ernestine, have you come so late to see your uncle?" he
said kindly.

"Uncle, what is that?" asked Ernestine, forgetting her errand in her
wonder at the strange instrument.

"That is a telescope," her uncle informed her.

"What are you doing with it?" she asked further.

"I am looking into the moon, my child."

"Ah! can you do that?" she cried, in the greatest amazement.

"Certainly I can. Would you like to look through it?"

"Ah, yes; if I only might!" whispered Ernestine, enchanted at the
offer.

Leuthold lifted her upon the window-sill and adjusted the telescope for
her. She was half frightened when she suddenly found the shining
sphere, which she had always seen hovering so far above her in the sky,
brought so near to her eyes. Her breast expanded to receive such an
inconceivable miracle. She gazed and gazed, looking, breathless with
the desire of knowledge, at the mountains, valleys, and jagged craters
that were so magically revealed. The warm night air fanned her burning
brow. Everything around her faded and was forgotten as the tired heart
of the child throbbed with fervent longing for the peace of that new,
distant world.



                             CHAPTER III.

                               ATONEMENT.


The day began slowly to dawn, for a dim, cloudy sky usurped the throne
of departing night. Drops of rain fell here and there,--it was a
cheerless morning. Not a cock crowed--not a bird was stirring. The dog
remained hidden in his kennel.

Now and then an early labourer, with his spade upon his shoulder,
would pass along the fence encircling Hartwich's estate, and would look
over it with surprise at the strange bustle prevailing in house and
court-yard. Doors were opened and shut; servant-maids, with eyes heavy
with sleep, were running hither and thither; water was brought from the
well; no questions or answers were exchanged. It was as if every one
avoided speaking of what had occurred. A groom brought a saddled horse
from the stable, mounted, and galloped furiously in the direction of
the estate of the Staatsräthin. "Is there a fire anywhere?" a couple of
peasants shouted after him, but he made no reply. Without a word, he
galloped across field and moor, never drawing rein until he reached the
garden of the Staatsräthin. He tugged violently at the bell until a
sleepy servant came to the door and asked him angrily what he wanted.

"Wake up the Geheimrath Heim, he is here on a visit. The village doctor
sent me,--a human life is at stake!"

The servant opened his eyes wide, and stared inquiringly at the groom.

"Yes, yes; quick, be quick! Hartwich has beaten his child so, we think
she is dying. The barber says perhaps the Geheimrath can save her."

"Good gracious, that is terrible!" cried the horrified servant, and ran
to call the old gentleman.

The Geheimrath was up in a moment; without losing time by a single
word, he dressed himself, mounted the groom's horse, and rushed off to
the scene of the disaster.

Before the door of the house, awaiting his arrival, stood the village
barber-surgeon, who received him with the deepest reverence. "Herr
Geheimrath, I pray you to excuse me,--but, as I knew you were in the
neighbourhood, I conceived it my duty to entreat your assistance before
sending for the physician, who lives three leagues off. The case seems
to me a serious one."

"Never excuse yourself," said Heim, taking off his hat and coat in the
hall; "it is my duty to aid wherever I can. But, in Heaven's name, how
did it happen? Where is the child injured?"

"She has a wound in her head, and I fear the skull is fractured,"
replied the barber, opening the door of the room leading to Hartwich's
apartment. The Geheimrath heard a loud sobbing as soon as the door was
opened. He entered, and before him lay the invalid, weeping and wailing
like a maniac, with the child stretched out stiff and corpse-like upon
the bed; her eyes were closed and deep-sunk in their large sockets; her
pale lips were slightly parted,--it was a sorry sight. Hartwich
supported her bandaged head upon his arm, and, weeping loudly, pressed
kiss after kiss upon her white brow.

"Ah, Herr Geheimrath!" he shrieked, "come here! I am a wicked,
miserable father. I have killed my child! I am a man given over to the
worst of all vices,--drunkenness; it is my only excuse. Accuse me; have
me sent, crippled as I am, to jail,--I care not; but bring my child to
life, or the sting of conscience will drive me mad!"

The Geheimrath took the passive hand of the child and felt the pulse.
"It is greatly to be regretted that your conscience was not as active
before the deed as it appears to be now that it is committed," he said
coldly and sternly, as he removed the bandage from the child's head.

"Oh, oh," wailed Hartwich, shutting his eyes, "do not do that here! I
cannot see the blood; I cannot see the wound; it will kill me!"

"What! you could make the wound and cannot look at it!" said the
Geheimrath inexorably, beginning to probe the wound. "It is a most
serious case," he said. "Has the child moved at all?"

"Yes, yes; oh, heavens, yes; until she grew so rigid!" gasped Hartwich,
seizing Ernestine's hand to kiss it. Then he looked up at the physician
in mortal terror. "How is it? must she--oh, Christ! must she die?" And
again he broke out into the loud childish weeping peculiar to persons
unnerved by sickness or drink.

"Control yourself," ordered the Geheimrath. "I cannot come to any
decision yet. The injury to the skull is not fatal; what the effect of
the concussion will be, I cannot tell. But, with the child's delicate
constitution----" He shrugged his shoulders.

"Ah, you give me no hope," moaned Hartwich. "Ernestine, wake up! only
look once at your father, your cruel, wicked father! Ah, Herr
Geheimrath, I disliked the child because she was so weak and ugly. If
she had only been a fine, healthy girl, I might perhaps have been
reconciled to having no son; but I was ashamed of her, and silenced the
voice of my heart. Oh, these hands, poor little hands, and these pale,
thin cheeks!--how could I ever strike them! God be merciful to me,
miserable sinner that I am!" And he beat his breast fiercely.

The Geheimrath looked at him and shook his head. "Do not excite
yourself so. It does your daughter no good, and only injures yourself."

"My daughter! my daughter!" repeated Hartwich. "Oh, I have never
treated her as such. She seemed to me a changeling, left in her cradle
by some spiteful witch in place of the boy I so coveted. Now, when I am
in danger of losing her, I feel that she is my child indeed."

"The truth is as old as the world, that nature avenges the
transgression of the least of her laws," replied the physician. "You
have sinned grievously against the mighty law of paternal affection,
and now it demands its rights with resistless authority. Let me entreat
you to testify your repentance by the tenderest care of the sick child,
and permit me to call some one to put her to bed,--it should have been
done long ago."

"Ah, must she be separated from me?" moaned Hartwich. "I long to beg
her forgiveness when she comes to herself."

"You will hardly be able to do that very soon," said the Geheimrath,
ringing the bell.

Frau Gedike made her appearance, as gentle and submissive as she had
previously been harsh and overbearing to Ernestine.

"Assist me in carrying this child to her bed," said Heim, carefully
placing his arm beneath the rigid little body to raise it up.

"Oh, I beg of you, Herr Geheimrath, do not trouble yourself," cried
Frau Gedike, evidently greatly humbled. "I can carry the poor child
without help."

Heim glanced at her keenly, and then quietly directed her to show him
the way.

Frau Gedike ran as quickly as she could across the hall to the door of
a back room. "Permit me," she said, and tried to slip past the
Geheimrath into the apartment. "Excuse me for one moment, that I may
put things a little to rights. Everything is in disorder, I rose so
early this morning."

But Heim said authoritatively, "Follow me!" and stepped past her into
the chamber, carrying his silent burden. Here he stood still in
astonishment. It was a kind of wash-room,--at least there was a huge
pile of soiled linen in one corner. Broken furniture and household
utensils were scattered about; there were no curtains to the windows;
hundreds of flies were buzzing about the dirty panes; the air of the
close room was stifling. In one corner stood a child's crib, which must
have dated from Ernestine's fifth or sixth year. It contained an old
straw bed, a dirty pillow, and a heavy, tawdry coverlet. Frau Gedike
bustled about, endeavouring to conceal us well as she could the
miserable condition of the room from the penetrating eye of the
Geheimrath, but in vain.

"Am I to lay the wounded child in this bed? Is she to be nursed in this
hole?" he asked in a tone which boded no good to the housekeeper.

"Gracious me!--we have no other room and no other bed. I have often
pitied the dear child, but Herr Hartwich is so saving--he never buys
anything new," she declared.

The Geheimrath went towards a half-open door leading into another and
larger apartment. Here the air was pure, the furniture decent, and
there was a comfortable bed in the corner.

"Is this your room?" asked the Geheimrath sharply.

"It is, Herr Geheimrath. It is just as my predecessor left it."

"Make up the bed instantly with clean linen."

Frau Gedike stared in surprise.

"Instantly!" repeated the Geheimrath, in a way that admitted of no
remonstrance, and seated himself, that he might more conveniently hold
his poor little charge. Frau Gedike brought clean sheets and made up
the bed.

"Where shall I sleep?" she asked with suppressed rage: "there is no
other sleeping-room in the whole house!"

"You can try Ernestine's bed, and see what it is to lie cramped up upon
a rack!" replied the old gentleman dryly. Then he wrinkled his bushy
brows sternly, and continued: "I doubt whether you will need a bed
here, for I will do my best to have you leave this house before night."

"Oh, Lord, have mercy on me! Herr Geheimrath, what have I done? What
fault can you find with me?" whined Frau Gedike as she smoothed the
pillows.

Heim arose, and, as he laid the lifeless little body carefully upon the
bed, said quietly, "Look at the room which you have allowed this frail
child to occupy, the bed in which you have cramped her poor little
limbs, and then say whether anybody of the least humanity could fail to
condemn you!" He then left her, and called the barber-surgeon that he
might take the necessary steps for providing careful attendance for the
child.

Frau Gedike ran out crying, and the Geheimrath continued to provide for
his patient's comfort with the quiet decision of an experienced
physician and the gentleness of a tender-hearted man.

After half an hour, Ernestine began to show signs of life; but she did
not return to consciousness. She cast a vague, wandering glance around,
then closed her eyes and muttered broken, unintelligible words. At last
she sank anew into a state of stupor resembling slumber. The Geheimrath
left the surgeon with her and went to Hartwich, who, in the mean while,
had been visited by Leuthold. Leuthold had been wakened at last by the
unwonted bustle in the house, and had stolen from his bed to see if his
brother were perhaps dying,--a piece of news which would have been a
grateful morning greeting to his wife. He was disappointed. The only
comfort was that all this excitement would inevitably accelerate
Hartwich's death; Ernestine's fate was a matter of perfect indifference
to him, but he was greatly disturbed by the intelligence that Heim had
been called in. He could not bear the man, whose presence brought out
clear and distinct, as with some chemical preparation, the stains upon
his name that had apparently faded away. He therefore determined to
leave home for a few days, in order to avoid a meeting with the witness
of his disgrace; but he would leave his wife on guard in the lower
story, under the pretence of helping to nurse Ernestine. Her presence
would naturally hinder the physician from saying anything to Hartwich
to his, Leuthold's, detriment. He slipped up-stairs to bid his wife
arise quickly; but the indolent woman was too long about it for his
wishes or his plans.

Scarcely had he left Hartwich when Heim entered the room. "What news do
you bring me?" Hartwich cried out.

"Nothing hopeful as yet. She showed signs of life when we applied
ice-bandages; but the lethargy into which she fell immediately is
alarming. I cannot give you any hope before the end of three days."

Hartwich struck his damp forehead in despair. "It will kill me! it will
kill me!"

The Geheimrath seated himself by his bedside, took a pinch of snuff
from a golden box adorned with a miniature of the king, and calmly
regarded the unhappy man. "Now tell me, Herr von Hartwich, how it all
occurred. I should like to know. Besides the wound on the head, the
child has bruises on her shoulders and arms that are by no means fresh.
She seems to have been most cruelly treated!"

The invalid was silent for awhile, and then said, "Yes,--ah, yes, we
have all abused her; but God knows I never intended this last! I was
sound asleep yesterday evening when Ernestine came home and crept in to
me here and waked me with her sobs."

"Poor child! she had cause to weep," the Geheimrath interrupted him.

"Yes, yes,--but I did not understand that yesterday. When I awoke, I
was thirsty, and sent her up to my brother to bring me a little--a
little--a few drops----"

"To bring you liquor," the Geheimrath completed the sentence.

"Yes, I confess it," Hartwich continued; "but in her uncle's room there
was a telescope, and she looked through it and forgot her father's
errand. I waited and waited, with my throat on fire, but she did not
come. I grew more and more impatient; and when, at the end of a full
half-hour, she came down without what I had sent her for, I seized hold
of her to beat her; she clung to my lame arm so that the pain made me
wild,--and in my senseless rage I flung her off and hurled her away
with my healthy arm;--may it be crippled forever! She fell backward,
and struck the back of her head first against the marble top of my
wash-stand,--you can see the blood there still,--and then upon the
floor, where she lay like one dead. Everything grew black before my
eyes, as it did when I had the stroke. I rang for my people; no one
came. I could not move,--could not leave my bed to go to the child. I
saw her blood flow, I heard her gasp as if in the death-agony, and I
lay here a miserable cripple, thinking that I had killed my child. Oh,
Herr Geheimrath, at such a time our inmost selves are revealed to as;
in such agony one learns to pray. At last, after repeated ringing and
calling, my good-for-nothing servants made their appearance. Herr
Geheimrath, I cannot tell you how I felt when they laid the child upon
my bed,--my poor, beaten child. As the little bleeding head lay on my
arm, it seemed as if my heart opened wide with the gaping wound, and,
for the first time, real, warm, paternal affection gushed from it.
Before, when I chastised the child, she was all defiance and
stubbornness; then I did not care if I hurt her; but now, as she lay
mute and crushed before me, she spoke to me in a language that recalled
me to myself. And, Herr Geheimrath, I have not been myself,--I have
drunk myself down to the level of a brute; and the poor victim of my
fury has recalled me from my degradation."

The Geheimrath listened to the speaker with growing sympathy. When he
had finished, he took his hand. "You are right, Herr von Hartwich, to
be frank with me. Men who are not evil by nature can best excuse their
evil deeds by frankness, for their intentions are seldom as bad as
their actions. Compose yourself,--your condition is indeed worthy of
compassion. If the physician might be allowed to usurp in a measure the
confessor's chair at such a time as the present, I would say for your
consolation, in the event of the worst termination to the child's
illness, that your irresponsible condition, which rendered you
incapable of appreciating the consequences of your act, and which would
excuse you before an earthly tribunal, should have some weight with
your inward judge. Besides, you have certainly acted paternally towards
the child in one respect," he added with significance. "You have
accumulated a fine property for her. That will enable her to occupy
such a position in the world as will make her life, if it is spared, a
happy one."

Hartwich seized Heim's hand and whispered quickly and anxiously "Ah, my
dear sir, I have not done this; it now lies heavy on my soul that I
have not been a father to the child in any way!"

"What do you mean?" cried Heim with apparent surprise. "You have not
set Ernestine aside in favour of another?"

Hartwich looked anxiously towards the door. The Geheimrath understood
his look, and opened it,--no listener was near. Hartwich then confessed
all to the Geheimrath that the latter already knew. Heim shook his
head. "It is incredible that a father should do so by his own child;
but, now that your sense of duty is aroused, you will of course atone
for your injustice?"

"Ah, Herr Geheimrath, if I only could, how gladly would I do so! If my
poor Ernestine recovers, I would gladly make over to her the whole
estate during my lifetime. Tell me, how shall I begin to make amends?
how shall I begin to atone to the child for all the misery I have
caused her? I will do anything, everything, if I only can. Assist me,
advise me!"

"I think," began the Geheimrath with quiet decision, "that the case is
very simple. You can make a new will and declare the other void. If
Ernestine recovers, it is very doubtful whether she will be anything
more than a poor, sickly invalid during her entire lifetime. Such an
unfortunate being needs money,--a great deal of money; for sickness is
an expensive affair. The child was naturally healthy. She has been
weakened by neglect and harsh treatment. You left her to a worthless
housekeeper, who denied her everything that a child should have in
order to be strong, and in her weakened condition you have dealt her a
death-blow from which she can hardly recover. You must be conscious
that, since you have almost destroyed Ernestine's life, you ought at
least to provide her with the means of making her invalid existence as
endurable as possible, and indemnify her for a neglected childhood by
every enjoyment that wealth can procure."

Again Hartwich broke out into loud lamentations. "Yes, yes, you are
right,--you are a man of honour, Herr Geheimrath. But how can I set
aside my will without encountering Leuthold's bitterest hate? Ah, you
do not know what a dangerous enemy he is."

"I know, I know," Heim interrupted him, nodding his head; "he is a bad
fellow; but tell me, Herr von Hartwich, what do you fear from him? Will
not the curse of your unfortunate child, if she lives, be harder to
bear than the hate of such a miserable wretch as your step-brother?"

Hartwich writhed and turned in his bed. "If I had only sold the
factory! If he should learn that I had disinherited him, he is quite
capable of preventing the sale out of sheer revenge, ruining the whole
business for me, and then the poor child would be deprived of half of
her property!"

The Geheimrath held his snuff-box in one hand, clasped the other over
it, and looked at Hartwich with a smile.

"If that is why you hesitate, there is no cause for fear. The factory
is as good as sold; for Herr Neuenstein, the brother of the
Staatsräthin Möllner, is most anxious to purchase it for his son, who
is a chemist;--he knows your brother, and would easily see through his
wiles. Besides, Gleissert need know nothing about it for the present.
Make the will secretly. I will give you pen and ink when I have written
a prescription for Ernestine. Send your housekeeper off immediately,
that we may have no spies about; for I believe her to be capable of any
treachery, and Ernestine must not be left in her charge. This afternoon
I shall come again, and you can put the document into my hands, where
it will be safe. Well--how does the plan please you?"

"Yes, yes," cried Hartwich passionately. "That is right. That I can do.
Ah, it is all that is left for me to do for my child, and it shall be
done. Send Gedike away;--get me pen, ink, and paper,--it must not be
delayed an hour longer than is necessary. I feel I may die at any
moment. Remove this burden from my soul, and I shall die more
peacefully!"

Heim went instantly to procure writing-materials, for he knew better
than the invalid himself that there must be no delay in the matter. The
servants brought him what he wanted, and he looked in upon Ernestine
for a moment, while the surgeon went for more ice for the bandages. She
was lying there moaning and groaning restlessly. He looked at her
lovingly, and said to himself, "Poor child! There are better days in
store for you." Then he repaired to Frau Gedike, whom he informed of
her dismissal, and appointed Rieka, the elder of the maid-servants,--a
girl whose face pleased him,--Ernestine's attendant.

When he returned to Hartwich, he found him in a state of great
excitement. His face was purple, the veins greatly swollen.

"Where have you been so long?" he cried out as the Geheimrath entered.
"I was in agony for fear I should have another stroke. I felt just as I
did before! There, give me the writing-materials--it would be terrible
if I were to die now, before I had atoned for my crime. Pray help me
up, Herr Geheimrath,--but do not touch my lame arm,--oh, this pain!
There, there,--thank you. Now the pen. I have thought it all over while
you were away. I will arrange it so that he cannot say I broke my word
to him, and he cannot harm Ernestine if I should die shortly. Ah,
air!--Herr Geheimrath,--open a window! After I have written--I shall be
easier. Then my mind will be relieved."

He spoke in breathless haste, while the perspiration stood in beads
upon his forehead.

"Be calm, be calm!" said the Geheimrath soothingly. "You are not going
to die now, but you will make yourself ill with this excitement."

"Ah, you are kind,--you wish to console me;--but I feel that last night
will be my death--there is no time to lose!"

He dipped the pen in the ink, and looked towards the door. "If only
Leuthold does not come,--all is lost if he does. Bolt it, I pray, that
he may not surprise us. Tell me, will it not be best to make him
Ernestine's heir? Then I shall not be quite false to my promise,--it
is, alas, alas, more likely that the poor little lamb will die than
that she will recover; then all will be as it was, and the property
will be his,--and, if she lives, he must have a good legacy."

"Yes, yes," said the Geheimrath good-humouredly, "give the fellow what
you think you owe him. But remember that he inherits from Ernestine
only in case of her dying unmarried; for if it be God's will that she
lives, marries, and has children, you must not deprive those children
of the property. That might make her very unhappy."

"Yes, you are right,--I will insert that clause. But the
guardianship,--what do you think? I must make Leuthold her guardian, or
he will be terribly angry!"

The Geheimrath shook his head. "I would not do that!"

"Oh, yes, Herr Geheimrath. It would look too ugly, and the child will
be in no kind of danger. He always liked Ernestine, and stood up for
her; and he will be afraid, too, not to fill his post of guardian
conscientiously, for he will be under the supervision of the orphans'
court."

"Then make her minority as short as possible. For my satisfaction, have
it expressly stated that she shall be of age at eighteen. Such
precaution is necessary with men of Gleissert's stamp. According to our
laws, a father can declare his child of age at eighteen. Her property
can remain in the orphans' court until then, when it can be placed at
her own disposal."

"Yes, yes, I agree to all that,--then it is all settled! God be
thanked!" Hartwich drew a long sigh of relief, and dipped the pen in
the ink. But scarcely had he attempted the first stroke when he dropped
the pen in despair and cried out, "Merciful Heaven! I cannot form a
letter!"

The startled Geheimrath looked at the paper. The letters were entirely
illegible.

For one moment the old gentleman lost all hope,--while Hartwich sobbed
and groaned like a child. Was he to fail thus, just when the goal was
reached? The Geheimrath regarded the invalid thoughtfully, pondering
how long a delay his condition would permit. Then he made up his mind,
and said with composure, "I will arrange it all; do not be at all
anxious. I will drive to the nearest town and procure the services of a
couple of lawyers, and you shall dictate your will. I will be back
again in two hours. Tell me when Leuthold is used to be away from home,
that he may know nothing of our plans."

"At the time of your return he will be at the factory. If you go on
foot as far as the corner of the wood, he will not see you. Herr
Geheimrath, you are a true man,--my child's benefactor and mine. How
shall I ever thank you?"

"There is no need of thanks,--no need at all! I am only doing my duty
as a man and a Christian." And the prudent old physician concealed the
writing-materials and hurried out.

Hartwich cast his blood-shot eyes upward and prayed, "Let me live until
it is complete, O God,--only until then!" These words he repeated again
and again, while his heart beat more wildly and irregularly, and his
veins grew blue and swollen. It was the mortal agony of a doomed wretch
who feels that a short time will bring him to the bar of an inexorable
judge, and who longs to throw off at least a part of his burden of
guilt. Of course such anguish would hasten his death.

Frau Bertha came down soon after the Geheimrath's departure, and would
have stayed in Hartwich's room, but his state terrified her. She saw
that the end was near, and she had not the courage to look on at the
death-agony. In her heart she felt herself a murderess, because she had
so ardently desired his death. Indeed, fate often makes us by our
silent desires accomplices in its severity, and we are stricken with
vain remorse when our secret hostility to another suddenly takes form
and shape in events. Who has not at some time in his life secretly
nourished a selfish desire, and, after it has been crushed down,
fervently thanked Heaven for not cursing him with a granted prayer? Or,
if the evil has been permitted, who has not in his remorse half
believed that his secret desire helped to work the mischief that has
been done? Frau Bertha's perceptions were not very delicate. She wished
for Hartwich's death that she might enjoy his wealth, and thanked
Heaven that it would shortly be hers; but she was too much of a woman
not to shudder at the moment of the fulfilment of her evil desires and
see an avenging demon in Hartwich's dying form. She resolved,
therefore, to disobey her lord and master, and avoid the death-bed. The
cogent reasons that Leuthold had for enjoining constant watchfulness
she could not comprehend; and therefore, as soon as Leuthold left for
the factory, she betook herself to her apartments again.

Hartwich was now left upon his burning couch, devoured by anxiety. The
minutes crept slowly on; every quarter of an hour, news of Ernestine
was brought him; there was no change for an hour, and then Rieka came
in suddenly and cried, "Ah, sir, Ernestine is awake and wants some
book; we cannot understand what one, or what she means, she speaks so
indistinctly, and whatever we get her is wrong. What is to be done?"

"Send a servant into town to buy every child's-book that is to be
had,--let her want for nothing,--do you hear? for nothing! Has she not
mentioned me?"

"Oh, no," replied the servant; "she is not herself,--she is continually
moaning for her book!"

"Then get her what she wants, as quickly as possible,--only be quick!"

The servant left the room, and the sick man was left to his brooding
thoughts again. It worried and tormented him that Ernestine would have
to wait several hours for what she wanted. In a few moments he rang
again for the maid, who reiterated that the child was still asking for
her book. The invalid grew still more restless, and at last sent for
the surgeon, who was still with Ernestine.

"Lederer," he called out upon his entrance, "bleed me! Don't you
remember how much good it did me?"

"Not for worlds, sir!" said Lederer. "I could not do it without a
physician's orders. There seems no reason at all at present for such an
extreme remedy!"

"What do you know about it?" cried Hartwich angrily. "I tell you I know
I need it. There is a perfect hammering going on inside my head. You
must bleed me, or I shall have another stroke!"

"Ah, sir, believe me, you are needlessly alarmed," said the barber.
"Have some compassion upon a poor man like myself, who cannot take upon
himself such a responsibility with a patient of your importance. I
would gladly do it if I could! Have patience, I pray you, until the
Geheimrath comes back!"

"You are a miserable coward!" screamed Hartwich, foaming with rage.

"For Heaven's sake compose yourself, sir," the terrified surgeon
interrupted him; "I will obey you, but I must first go home and fetch
my bandages. Perhaps by the time I get back the Geheimrath will be
here!"

"Then go," muttered Hartwich, who already repented his violence, which
he feared might prove an injury to him. "But first lift me up a little.
Ah! if I could only put my feet out of bed I should certainly feel
easier. Try if you cannot lift them out; take out the lame leg
first--so--that's right--oh, it's hard. 'Tis better to have wooden
legs--they can be unstrapped and taken off--but to have to drag about
everywhere a dead, useless limb is horrible! 'tis a dog's life, and I
care not how soon it is over, but not just yet--I must do my duty
first. Now go, Lederer, and come back soon."

The barber had helped him so that he was sitting upright in bed, with
his lame foot upon a cushion. He looked around the room, and noticed
Ernestine's book upon the table. "What is that?" he asked. Lederer
handed it to him. He turned over the leaves, and his face suddenly
brightened. "That must be the book that Ernestine is asking for--some
one must have given it to her yesterday at the party. Good heavens! now
I understand why the poor little thing crept in here so late last
night; she wanted to read by my lamp! Ah, how dearly she paid for her
innocent pleasure! Go, my good Lederer, and take the book to the child.
Tell Rieka to come and let me know what she says to it, and then you
will get the bandages--will you not?"

"Most certainly, sir, as soon as possible!" said Lederer, and hurried
away with the book.

A clock struck nine. Hartwich sighed profoundly. "Only nine. Heim
cannot come for an hour yet. The lawyers will need time for
preparation. O God--Thou wilt not punish that poor, innocent child so
severely as to let me die before her rights are secured--Thou wilt
not!" He tried in vain to fold his hands, and at last dropped them
wearily upon his crippled knees.

Suddenly he imagined that his right hand also was stiffening. His
incapacity to write could not have resulted merely from want of habit.
He moved his arm up and down to try it--whether in imagination or
reality, it certainly felt heavier. It was not the effect of gout, as
was the case with his left hand; this could only proceed from an
effusion of blood upon the brain. Cold drops of moisture stood upon his
forehead; he tried to wipe them away with his right hand; in vain, he
could not lift it so high. Thus he sat helpless and alone, every limb
crippled. He thought of his child's thin, white hands; how blest he
should be if they could now supply the place of his own to him, wipe
his damp brow and hand him refreshing drink! He thought how forsaken
and alone he sat there awaiting death, and that it was all his own
fault; and again he sobbed convulsively. Then Rieka entered.

"Well, was that the right one?" asked Hartwich.

"Oh, yes, sir."

"Thank Heaven! Did she not mention me?"

"No, sir; she said nothing. She only took the book and kissed it, then
folded it in her arms and went to sleep again."

"If the child does not forgive me before I die, I shall have no rest in
my grave!" moaned Hartwich. "Rieka, I am losing the use of my right arm
too. Look at me. Am I not altered?"

"Oh, no, you always look just as purple!" said Rieka consolingly.

"Give me a mirror and let me see myself!"

Rieka handed him a mirror, and he looked at himself long and anxiously.
"I look fearfully. Can you not hear how indistinct my speech is?"

Rieka put away the mirror. "Oh, your tongue is always heavy when you
have been drinking. Don't be worried about that."

"I have not drank a drop to-day, you insolent girl!" stammered Hartwich
irritated. "Go back instantly, and take good care of the child, or----"

"Yes, sir, I shall do my duty without threats, but I can't mend the
mischief that you have done!" And she slammed the door behind her.

"And I must bear this from an ignorant peasant!" wailed Hartwich. "How
they will abuse me to my child, if she recovers! Oh, oh, I deserve it
all; 'tis wretched,--wretched! But I must be calm. I must not be
excited." Thus he murmured, with trembling lips, exerting all his
energy to repress his excitement, and to force the breath regularly
from his laboring breast.

Again the clock struck--ten this time.

"They must soon be here now!" thought Hartwich. "If I can only keep my
head clear!"

The wretched man in his anguish now exercised his mental faculties in
every way that he could devise, repeating the formula which he had
composed for his will a hundred times, that it might be so stamped upon
his mind as to be forthcoming even in his last moments.

At last steps were heard in the hall.

"It is Lederer with the bandages," he thought, suddenly remembering his
desire to be bled. But there were several people there. It must be the
lawyers. The door opened. "Ah, thank God! thank God!" Hartwich
stammered, and fainted.

"I thought so!" cried the Geheimrath. "If you had only bled him, or at
least remained with him!" he continued to the terrified barber, who
entered at the same time. "Be quick now; give me that case; bring me
some ice from the child's room," he ordered; and, while he spoke the
lancet had done its work, and the dark blood was flowing from the arm.

"Pray be ready, gentlemen," he said as he was bandaging the arm; "I
believe the sick man will come to himself in a few moments. You will
find writing-materials there in the corner."

The gentlemen took their seats, and arranged a table for writing from
the sick man's dictation. The surgeon brought the ice; it was laid upon
Hartwich's head, and, as the Geheimrath had prophesied, he soon came to
himself. He looked around him with astonishment "Am I still living?" he
feebly asked.

"Certainly, certainly," said the Geheimrath, cheerfully; "it was only a
slight attack."

"God of mercy," gasped Hartwich, "Thou art all compassion! My memory is
still perfect. Are the lawyers here?"

One of them arose, and approached the bed.

"We are here, Herr von Hartwich, and await your directions."

"I am still of sound mind,--indeed I am," Hartwich insisted with
childlike eagerness.

"The intention with which you have summoned us would certainly not
indicate the contrary," said the lawyer gravely, signing to his
companion to prepare to write.

"And I declare that this last decision of mine is entirely my own,"
Hartwich continued.

"I am convinced that it is so. I should far rather suppose that your
previous will was a forced one," the official rejoined.

"Will it impair the authenticity of this document that I am unable to
sign it? I cannot, unfortunately, move my hand."

"Not at all," said the lawyer. "These two gentlemen, Herr Geheimrath
Heim and the surgeon Lederer, will have the kindness to affix their
signatures as witnesses, and the instrument will be legally correct. If
you are strong enough to dictate your will, there is nothing now to
prevent your doing so."

"Oh, yes! oh, yes!" gasped Hartwich, as the Geheimrath supported him;
"every moment is precious."

The preliminary sentences were written at Hartwich's request. The
Geheimrath closed the door, and the dying man began to dictate in such
feverish haste that the lawyer was obliged to entreat him to speak more
slowly. Some irregularities in the formula were arranged, and the will
was completed before the glimmering spark of life in the testator was
extinguished. Little Ernestine was made heir to a property of ninety
thousand thalers. The document was read aloud to Hartwich, and the
Geheimrath and Lederer affixed their signatures instead of his own.

"Now I can die!" said the sick man, with the air of a released captive;
and instantly his mental and physical powers failed him.

"Geheimrath!" he faltered, and a strange smile transfigured
his countenance, "lay the will upon my child's bed, as
her--father's--last--farewell--thanks--thanks." And his eyelids closed,
he muttered unintelligibly, and relapsed into unconsciousness.

The Geheimrath nodded to the lawyers, and said, "It was high time!"



                              CHAPTER IV.

                           THE SAD SURVIVORS.


The next day, at about the same hour, Frau Bertha was in her kitchen,
beating whites of eggs for a cake, her round cheeks shaking merrily
with the exercise. She had sent her maid into the garden with Gretchen,
and was supplying the maid's place. She turned the bowl upside down, to
convince herself that the eggs were sufficiently beaten; not a drop
fell,--they were all right. She set them aside with an air of great
satisfaction, and turned to a bag beneath the table, whence issued a
melancholy flapping and cooing. A white dove poked its head out of the
mouth of the bag, and Bertha thrust it back again, securing the opening
more tightly. A pot of water on the fire boiled over with a loud
hissing, and she hastened to roll up her sleeves over her large,
well-formed arms, and lift the heavy vessel from the glowing coals. She
was a beautiful sight, as the glare from the fire illuminated her
massive proportions; as she moved hither and thither, now arranging her
various cooking-utensils, now opening the door beneath the oven, to
thrust in huge pieces of wood, hastily picking up and tossing back the
bits of burning coal that fell out, she might have been Frau Venus, the
coarse Frau Venus of the popular German imagination, fresh from the
infernal regions in the Hörselberg, who, clad in a kitchen apron, was
here in the likeness of a cook-maid to seduce the calm, cold-blooded
Dr. Gleissert by the magic charms of her cookery. She tossed a net full
of crabs into a pot of cold water, and looked thoughtlessly on at their
slow death over the fire. She never dreamed that just at that moment a
human life was leaving its mortal tenement beneath her roof, and when,
a few minutes later, she was pounding ingredients in her huge mortar,
that the noise she was making was the death-knell of a departing soul.
She did not hear her husband's approach until he stood before her, and
seizing her by the arm, said breathlessly, "Wife, this is our last day
of torment!"

Frau Bertha looked at him with surprise, that was only half joy,
painted upon her heated face. "I have never seen you so delighted
before, except when you were examining those odd fishes at Trieste;
what has happened?"

"Can you not guess?" asked Leuthold.

"Is he dead?"

"He is; he has been dying for the last twenty-four hours."

"Thank Heaven!" said Frau Bertha, folding her plump hands.

"And if I believed in Heaven I should say so too," rejoined Leuthold,
throwing himself upon a kitchen chair. "Only conceive of the joy!
We are wealthy,--independent,--delivered from our ten years'
servitude,--delivered--ah!" He fanned himself with the pocket-handkerchief
that he had just used at the bedside of Hartwich's corpse to dry the
tears that he did not shed.

In spite of her good fortune, Frau Bertha looked uncomfortable. "I am
almost sorry he has gone," she said timidly. "It seems to me a sin to
rejoice so at any one's death,--he might appear to us."

"Don't talk such nonsense; you know I cannot endure it," said Leuthold
angrily. "You behave as if we had killed him. Wishes are neither poison
nor steel; and we are not rejoicing at his death, but at our
inheritance. It is but human."

"Yes, yes," said Bertha, comforted, "you are quite right. If we could
have had the money while he lived, we should not have wanted him to
die; he might have lived for a hundred years for all I would have
cared. It was his own fault that we wished him dead. Why did he keep us
so pinched?"

Leuthold nodded approvingly. "I see you are willing to listen to
reason; now have the kindness to come downstairs with me and pay the
proper respect to the body."

"What must I do that for?" asked Bertha, alarmed.

"Because it is becoming! I have instructed you sufficiently upon this
point; you know my wishes--come!"

These words, that cut like a knife in their utterance, made opposition
useless. Bertha took her casseroles from the fire, looked after the
doves in the bag, and followed her husband down stairs. On the way she
asked him, "What shall I say when we get there?"

"Not much," said Leuthold dryly. "There is not much to be said in such
stiff, silent society,--a couple of oh's and ah's will suffice; it is
very graceful in a woman to fall upon her knees by the bedside; but if
you should attempt it, pray restrain your usual impetuosity, or the
repose even of the dead might be disturbed."

"You are a fearful man," whispered Bertha. "I am actually afraid of
you. Will you make such joking speeches when I die?"

"I shall not outlive you, my good Bertha," said Leuthold, plaintively.
"If I should, be assured I will mourn for you as the nurseling for his
nurse!"

Frau Bertha looked doubtfully at her husband. She scarcely knew what to
make of this tender asseveration, and she said nothing. They had
reached the door of Hartwich's apartment.

"Where is your handkerchief--your pocket-handkerchief?" Leuthold asked
softly. Bertha sought it in vain; she had forgotten it. "How
thoughtless," whispered Leuthold, "to forget your handkerchief under
such circumstances!"

"Then give me yours," said Bertha.

"You fool! I want it for myself. Take your apron; put that up to your
eyes--so!" With these words he opened the door and entered slowly,
pushing Bertha before him. Hartwich lay extended upon the bed, his face
so changed that Bertha was glad to be able to hide her eyes in her
apron. Leuthold stood beside her, a picture of dignified manly grief;
his bearing impressed the bystanders; the surgeon, the men- and
maid-servants, who were all present, were convinced that Herr Gleissert
had really loved his step-brother, and that it was rank injustice to
accuse him of heartlessness. After a few moments, he laid his hand
gently upon his wife's shoulder, but its stern pressure reminded her
that she was to fall upon her knees. She sank down as carefully as she
could, and with her broad back and bending head was a beautiful and
moving image of woe. After awhile he bent over her and said gently,
"Come, my child, do not be so agitated; our tears cannot bring him back
to life--come!" Then he raised her, leaned her head upon his breast to
conceal her face, and conducted her from the room. The others looked
after them with amazement.

"I cannot understand it," said the surgeon. "Every one knows that the
woman never could endure Herr von Hartwich, and yet now she seems
almost dead with grief!"

"She isn't really sorry," growled a groom; "it's all sham!"

"Yes, yes," Rieka added, "she didn't shed a tear,--not a single tear,
for all she rubbed her eyes so with her apron!"

"That's true,--she is right," murmured the group; "neither he nor she
shed a single tear. Well, there's a pair of them. Do they suppose we
are so stupid as not to see how glad they are that the master is dead?
'Tis a pity that the money will not fall into better hands."

Then they separated, and went indifferently about their work.

"That was not so bad," said Leuthold, when he had reached his own room
with Bertha; "but still you certainly have no genius for the stage."

"You ought to be glad that I can never play a part before you," she
said, shaking herself as if to shake off the disagreeable impression of
what she had seen like dust from her clothes.

In the mean time the maid had brought the child in from the garden, and
had laid the table.

"We will have some champagne to-day," said Leuthold, taking down the
keys of the cellar. "We need something to support us under such
exciting circumstances. Send Lena for some ice." And he left the room.

Frau Bertha sent the girl for ice, and said to herself with
complacency, "That ice-house was the best thing I ever planned."

The little girl, who was too fat and chubby to move very steadily, had
crept under the table, and now, catching hold of the corner of the
table-cloth, tried to lift herself by it, thereby pulling down a couple
of plates and knives upon the floor. Bertha caught up the screaming
child, gave it two or three hard slaps, saying, "Now you know what you
are crying for," and then carried it to and fro to quiet it, well
knowing that her strict husband would not endure any noise. Gretchen
ceased crying just as her father entered with the champagne. Lena
brought the ice, and the bottles were arranged in it. When the husband
and wife were seated at table, Bertha had the fragments of the broken
plates cleared away. "Oh, heavens!" she muttered, "nothing but bad
signs. If our fortune should be destroyed like that china!"

"You unmitigated fool!" scolded her husband; "if everything that we
desire were only as secure as our legally devised inheritance,
Gretchen's future husband would be now tumbling about in a royal
nursery, and there would be a French cook in our kitchen."

"Oh, then," Bertha interrupted him with irritation, "you are not
satisfied with my cooking,--you want a Frenchman."

"Only a Frenchman could supply your place," replied her husband, quite
ready to practise himself in the delicate flattery which he intended to
make use of in future towards ladies in aristocratic circles. He kissed
her hand and said, "I would not have these rosy fingers any longer
degraded by contact with the rude utensils of cookery. Let all that be
left to the hard, rough hands of some skilful gastronome."

Frau Bertha stared at him in surprise.

"Why, can gastronomes cook?"

"Most certainly,--what else should they do?"

"I thought they looked at the stars through glasses!"

Leuthold clasped his hands in dismay, and cast a look towards heaven.
"Good heavens! when I think of your making such a speech among our
future friends, I am so profoundly humiliated that I could almost
determine to make over my property to some religious institution--some
monastery--and enroll myself among its members. Woman, woman, must I
teach you the difference between gastronomy, the science of cookery,
and astronomy, the science of the stars?"

"Gastronomy or astronomy!" said Bertha pettishly, as she ladled out the
soup, "it is a great deal better for me to understand cooking than the
long names you call it. Would you have liked, during all the ten years
that you were too poor to keep a regular cook, to have a wife who could
talk Latin with you, but whose dinners a dog could not have eaten?"

"No, no, indeed, my dear Bertha!" said her husband with a shudder; "but
the two can be united if you try. I do not ask you either to study
Greek and Latin, or to resign your masterly supervision of our kitchen
department; but you have hitherto performed many little household
offices, that could as well have been left to the servant, because you
had no pleasanter way of occupying your time. This must be otherwise
now; hitherto you have had the excuse of our straitened circumstances
that have compelled you sometimes to discharge a servant's duties. Now
there will be no such excuse; for you will have a suitable household in
town, and time to cultivate your mind and render yourself a worthy
member of the society to which I shall introduce you."

Bertha in her impatience let her spoon fall into the soup-plate, and
then wreaked her irritation upon the soup, which she poured hastily
back into the tureen.

"If you should do such a thing as that before strangers," said her
husband angrily, "you would stamp yourself as a person of no
refinement, and I should be disgraced."

Bertha brought her hand down upon the table so heavily that the glasses
rang again. "This is really too much! Can I no longer eat as I please?
As long as you were poor, and I spent my little all in procuring
delicacies for you, you found me all very well, and had plenty of fine
words for me; but now, that you are rich and I have nothing left, I am
not good enough for you, and you take quite another tone with me.
Heaven help me! There is no more pleasure in store for me. I really
believe you would send me out of the house if I should not succeed in
pleasing you. Oh, if I had only known!"

She was silent, because Lena appeared with the roast; but a couple of
large tears dropped into the soup-plate which she handed to the
servant.

"What exaggerated nonsense!" said Leuthold at last. "Be good enough to
carve the meat,--I am hungry. You know I am a respectable man,--slow to
adopt harsh measures if they can be avoided. I hope you will not force
me to them by stubborn conduct. You will recognize and fulfil the
duties which our wealth imposes upon us."

"Duties, duties? I thought that when I was rich I could begin really to
enjoy life and do as I pleased; but instead of that I must wear a
double face and worry about everything. It is just as if you gave me a
new sofa in the place of the old one, but forbade me to lie down upon
it for fear of injuring the cover. Of course I should long for the old
one, upon which I could stretch myself in comfort whenever I chose."

Leuthold smiled. "You are not forbidden to lie down upon the new sofa.
I only ask you to take off your muddy boots when you do so. Do you
understand?"

Bertha was so far consoled that she applied herself to devouring the
food upon her plate in silence. Her husband regarded her with a strange
mixture of humour and discontent.

"You must at least learn to hold your fork in your left hand," he said
at last.

"Mercy!" exclaimed Bertha again. "What matter is it about such a
trifle?"

"A great deal of matter, my dear. Such trifles show refinement, just as
the mercury in the thermometer shows the degree of heat and cold. If
you lay your knife aside and clutch your fork in your right hand like a
pitchfork, every one of any culture will say, 'That woman is a person
of no refinement. She has not been used to good society.' I grant it is
insignificant in itself and ridiculous to every thinking man; but it
serves a certain purpose. Such forms are marks of distinction between
cultivated and uncultivated people. Just because they are so
insignificant the uninitiated never pay any heed to them. But, although
clad in purple and fine linen, ignorance of such trifles betrays the
parvenu. Those who desire, like yourself, to enter circles to which
they do not belong by birth, must find out all their conventional
secrets, in order not to be disgraced."

"Oh, what a moral discourse!" sighed Bertha. "I have had enough for
to-day. You are a thoroughly heartless man, and were kind to me only as
long as you needed me. I must bear what comes, for I am poor and
helpless since I broke with my father,--but you have tired me out, I
assure you."

"And if this fatigue were an overpowering sensation, you would separate
yourself from me; but since you are fond of the rest that I can provide
you, there will be an enduring bond between us. I shall magnanimously
treat you as my wife as long as you give me no legal ground for
divorce; therefore, be composed; your future lot is a thousand times
more brilliant than you had any right to expect."

Bertha arose, and was about to reply, but her husband commanded silence
by so imperious a gesture that she swallowed down her anger and
hastened from the room, sobbing violently. In the kitchen the maid was
just taking the cake that she had made from the oven. It was
successful--it was most beautiful! The servant placed it near the open
window to cool. Bertha contemplated it mournfully. How much pains she
had taken! how stiff the eggs had been beaten! how well it had risen!
and no one cared anything about it! Did her cross husband deserve that
she should prepare such a delicacy for him? Should he devour this
masterpiece? Yet there it was,--so round and high, so brown and
fragrant, that she gradually dried her tears, and was filled with more
agreeable sensations and a pardonable pride. No one except herself
possessed the receipt for this cake. No one else could make it. She
thought with rapture of the delight of those who should in future
partake of it at her table,--of the consideration that she should enjoy
on account of it; and, thinking thus, her good humour returned, and she
determined not to hide her light under a bushel, and punish her husband
by withholding the cake from him, but to parade it before him; he
should see what a woman he had treated so unkindly could do. When he
tasted this cake he would repent his harshness! She took the plate and
carried it on high into the dining-room, where she placed it before her
husband with exultation.

"Yes, that is really beautiful," he said approvingly, looking first at
the round, beautiful cake, and then at the plump, pretty baker; and his
approbation exalted Bertha to the highest pitch of satisfaction, so
that she felt morally justified in asking for a glass of champagne. Her
husband removed the cork without allowing it to snap and disturb the
decorum of the house of mourning, and then poured out a sparkling
bumper for her.

"Come," she said, "we will clink glasses, and drink to the welfare of
the good Hartwich, who has made us rich!"

"Yes, now that he is dead, may he live forever," said Leuthold smiling,
and gently touching his wife's glass with his own,--"live forever in
that heaven where I trust he may experience all the delight that his
wealth will afford us here on earth."

They emptied their glasses, and Bertha ran into the adjoining room,
where Gretchen was taking her noonday nap. She snatched the sleeping
child from the bed, shook it, and cried, "Come, wake up, and you shall
have some cake!"

The little thing, interrupted in its nap, was frightened and began to
scream, refusing to be quieted until her father filled her mouth with
the promised delicacy and dandled her in his arms.

"You do not even understand how to take care of your own child,"
murmured Leuthold. "What will you do when our niece comes to us?"

"What!" cried Bertha, "must I have the care of the disagreeable
creature?"

"She will come to me--yes."

"But we will send her to boarding-school--you promised me!"

"If Ernestine recovers, as she may do under old Heim's care, she will
be too weak for months to be sent among strangers without incurring the
reproach of the world. You will be obliged, therefore, to submit to
having her with us until such time as we can be rid of her decently. I
assure you she shall stay no longer than is absolutely necessary. And
now pray be quiet, and do not embitter this day by complaints."

Frau Bertha looked utterly discomfited. She determined that, at all
events, Ernestine should never partake of the delicacies which she
alone knew how to prepare. Coarse natures always seek for a scape-goat
upon whom to wreak their irritation; and, as she did not dare to make
her husband serve this purpose, her choice fell upon Ernestine.

Leuthold, who was not used to see his wife lost in a reverie, softly
touched her shoulder. "Come; it really looks almost as if you were
thinking of something," he said dryly.

"Yes; I am thinking of something," she replied significantly. "I am
thinking of the dog's life I shall lead as long as that sickly, ailing
brat is under our roof, and no one will reward me for my pains."

She stopped, for Gretchen had grown restless, and required all her
attention, and Leuthold evidently refused to give any heed to her
complaints, but, as dinner was over, folded his napkin and rose from
the table. "I must write the notice of his death--it is high time it
were attended to," he said, while he washed his hands in the adjoining
room. "Sew a piece of crape around my hat." He re-entered the room, and
sat down at his writing-table. Bertha placed a candle and a cup of
_café noir_ upon it. He lighted a cigar, which he smoked as he
wrote, sipping his coffee comfortably from time to time. The servant
removed the dinner-table; Gretchen amused herself on the floor with
some paper, which she tore into a thousand fragments, to make a mimic
snow-storm; and Bertha tried on before the mirror several articles of
mourning-apparel, which she had had in readiness for some time. She was
delighted, for black was very becoming to her.

Peace and comfort reigned in the apartment. Leuthold emptied his cup
and laid aside his pen. "There--that is most touching and suitable.
Read it." He handed Bertha what he had, written, and she read:

"It has pleased Almighty God to release our beloved father, brother,
and brother-in-law, Herr Carl Emil von Hartwich, landholder and
manufacturer, from his protracted sufferings, and to transport him to a
better world. He died this day, at twelve M. Those who were acquainted
with the deceased, and with his active benevolence, will know how
profound must be our sorrow, and accord us their sympathy.

                                         "The Sad Survivors.

"Unkenbeim, 24 July, 18--."



                               CHAPTER V.

                              UNDECEIVED.


Ernestine was still lying motionless in Frau Gedike's huge bed, and by
her side sat a little nurse scarcely three feet high, swinging her
short legs, and thinking how charming it must be to lie in such a great
big bed, just like a grown person, and what a pity it was that poor
Ernestine slept so much, that she could not enjoy the pleasure. Now and
then she turned her fair head round towards the window behind her,
through the white curtains of which she could see a dark procession
moving away from the house towards the village. When it had disappeared
from sight, she gave a little sigh, and swung her feet rather more
violently than before,--although she sat very upright, with great
dignity of demeanour, for she was entirely conscious of the weighty
responsibility of her post. She had been intrusted with the charge of
watching Ernestine while the servants were attending the funeral
services performed over Bartwich's corpse. When they were concluded,
and the funeral procession had left the house, Rieka had begged the
little child to keep her place until the gentlemen returned from the
church-yard, in order that the maid might perform certain necessary
household duties. Angelika--for she it was--undertook the charge with
delight. She had given her uncle Neuenstein, who had determined to pay
the last honours to Hartwich's remains, no peace until he consented to
take her to Ernestine. True, she soon acknowledged to herself that she
had never, in her whole long life of eight years, seen any place so
tiresome as this quiet room, where nothing was heard but the buzzing of
a couple of flies around a spoon in which a drop or two of Ernestine's
medicine had been left; but she was not discontented; she sat as still
as a mouse, so that she might not disturb the invalid, and did not even
venture to look at her, for she had heard that sleepers could be
awakened by a look. Only now and then she cast a wistful glance at the
pretty book that was clasped tight in Ernestine's embrace. Suddenly the
sick child muttered, "I am lying turned round the wrong way in bed."
Angelika scrambled down in alarm from her high seat, and ran to the
door and cried, "Rieka, Ernestine is saying something!"

The maid hurried in, and Ernestine moved uneasily, and insisted that
she was lying with her head towards the foot of the bed. At last Rieka
remembered that Ernestine's crib had been placed against the opposite
wall, and suspected that she missed the old position. Rightly judging
this to be a favourable sign, she quickly and carefully turned the
child around in the bed; and when Ernestine stretched out her hand and
encountered the wall, where she had been accustomed to find it, she
seemed satisfied, and apparently fell asleep again. Then Rieka left the
room to finish her work; but, after a few moments, Ernestine opened her
eyes, in which for the first time shone the light of intelligence, and
looked around. "Angelika!" she said in amazement, and then stared
around the room. "Why, this is Frau Gedike's room! and what a large,
soft bed!"

"Yes, indeed," Angelika delightedly replied. "Isn't it comfortable? Ah,
you poor dear Ernestine, are you beginning to grow a little better? Is
your head mended again?"

Ernestine put up her hand to her bandaged head. "What is this?"

"You broke your head. Oh, it was terrible, I know from my
dolls,--although it doesn't hurt them, and you can put on new heads;
but they couldn't do that for you, and they said you must die; but you
haven't died!"

"Oh, yes," said Ernestine, recollecting herself; "now I remember; last
night my father struck me and threw me down. Yes, it hurt very much!"

"It was not last night, it was several days ago; but you slept the
whole time, and didn't you know that they cut off your hair?" asked
Angelika, running to the wardrobe and producing a thick bunch of long
black hair. "Look, here it is,--there is some blood on it still, but,
if you will only give it to me, I will wash it and make my large
walking doll a splendid wig of it. Do, do give it to me, you can't make
it grow on your head again."

"I'll give it to you willingly," said Ernestine; "but first ask Frau
Gedike whether you may keep it."

"Oh, she is not here any more,--Uncle Heim sent her away!" replied
Angelika, drawing the dark strands slowly through her fingers.

"Then ask my father."

This answer utterly discomfited Angelika. "I cannot ask your father,"
she said in a disappointed tone, putting the hair away regretfully. "He
is dead! They put him in the hearse a little while ago,--I saw them."

"Oh," said Ernestine, startled, "is he dead? Why, why did he die just
now?"

"I think because he was so angry with you," said Angelika with an air
of great wisdom. "Don't you know when I am naughty mamma shuts me up in
a dark room? and, because your father was a great deal naughtier than
I, God has shut him up in a dark hole in the ground, and he must stay
there always."

"Ah, for my sake, the dear God should not have done that, for my sake!"
said Ernestine, bursting into tears. "Now I have no father any more; I
have nobody; I am all alone in the world! My poor father! it is all my
fault that he is put into the narrow grave, where the worms will eat
him and there will be nothing left of him but bones. Oh, how horrible!
how horrible! I saw a skeleton once in a picture, and my poor, poor
father will look just like that!" And she wrung her thin hands and
writhed about in the bed, moaning loudly.

Angelika was in despair at the mischief she had done. She had quite
forgotten that she had been forbidden, if Ernestine should awake, to
speak to her of her father. In the greatest distress she walked to and
fro beside the high bed, and at last brought a tall stool, from which,
when she had mounted it, she could reach Ernestine. She kissed her, she
stroked her cheeks, and laid her chubby hand upon her mouth to silence
her, but in vain. At last she hit upon the idea of showing her the book
that lay beside her. She opened it at a picture and held it up before
her, saying, "Look, dear Ernestine, only look at your beautiful book!"
The sick child instantly brushed the tears from her eyes when she saw
the picture.

"The swan!" she cried, "the swan! that is the story of the Ugly
Duckling!" She hastily took the book out of Angelika's hands and turned
over the leaves. Gradually the fairy figures of the snow-queen, the
little mermaid, and the rest, obliterated the horrible image of her
dead father, and his narrow grave faded away to give place to the
shining garden of Paradise, and the clear, broad sea with the fairy
palaces beneath its crystal waves. Her sobs grew fainter and fainter,
and at last a smile played around her lips when she came to the story
of the dryad "Elder Blossom."

"Now I know what a dryad is," she said. "I am glad, I am very glad!"

"What is it that makes you so glad?"

"That a dryad is nothing bad, for--don't you know?--_he_ called me
that. I thought it was to mock me, and it hurt me, but it was not so."

"He? who?"

"I don't know his name, your brother, who gave me the book."

"Johannes?" laughed Angelika. "Do you like him?"

"Yes, oh, yes, he is so handsome and good, just like the prince in the
Little Mermaid." With these words a light shone in the child's dark
eyes. "I would far rather have turned into foam than done anything to
hurt him, if I had been the mermaid."

"That is charming! that is splendid!" Angelika declared with delight;
"we both love him! He is such a dear brother. It is a pity he has gone
away. If he were at home he would come and play with you; oh, he plays
so finely!"

"Has he gone away?" asked Ernestine sadly.

"Yes, he has gone to Paris to get me a wax doll; only think!--one that
can call 'Papa' and 'Mamma.'"

"Oh, there cannot be such dolls!" said Ernestine with a troubled look.

"Indeed there are, and when she comes I will show her to you. Remember
the doll in 'Ole Luckoie;' she could speak, and had a fine wedding."

"But that isn't a true story," said Ernestine wisely, putting her hand
to her head, which was beginning to ache badly.

"Only think what a charming thing it is to have a wedding," Angelika
ran on. "I once went to a real wedding, and it was almost finer than
the one in the story. Oh, the bride has a lovely time! Why, she sits
just in the middle of the table, and in front of her is a great, tall
cake, with a little house on top of it and a little man inside, a
little bit of a man, with a bow and arrows, but no clothes on at all.
She has the biggest piece of cake, and they put the dear little man
upon her plate, and she is helped first to everything. I was really
vexed with my cousin for eating hardly anything. And only think, last
of all came ice-cream doves sitting in a nest made of sugar, upon eggs
of marchpane! They looked so natural that I was too sorry when my
cousin cut off one of their heads; I could have cried, and I determined
not to eat any of it, but by the time it came to me, every one could
see that it was not a real dove, for it was all melting away, and you
had to eat it with a spoon. And there were quantities of champagne, and
all the gentlemen made long speeches to the bride, and you had to sit
perfectly still and not rattle your spoon at all while they were
talking, but when they had done you could scream as loud as you
pleased, and clatter your glasses, and the more noise you made the
better; and all were pleased and kissed one another; only my cousin sat
there so stupidly and cried. I wouldn't have cried when everything was
done to please me. And I'll tell you what, when my brother comes back
he must bring you a boy doll with a hat and waistcoat, and then he
shall marry my doll. He will come in six months, but that must be a
long time; for mamma cried when he went away. Perhaps we shall be grown
up by then, and can make our dolls' clothes ourselves. That would be
lovely."

"But we shall not be grown up in six months," said Ernestine. "First
winter must come, and then summer again, and then winter and summer
again, before we are grown up!"

"That is terribly long," cried Angelika. "I don't see how we can wait
so long."

"And when we are grown up we cannot play with dolls. Then I shall buy
myself a telescope like Uncle Leuthold's, and always be looking into
the moon, for I like it better than anything."

"Into the moon? Have you ever looked into the moon?" asked Angelika in
amazement.

"Indeed I have."

"How does it look there?"

"Oh, beautiful, most beautiful! It shines and gleams so silvery, and it
is so calm and quiet, and there are mountains and valleys there just
like ours, only they are not coloured, they are just pure light!"

"Did you see the man in the moon?"

"No, I didn't see him; Uncle Leuthold said there are no people in the
moon; but I don't believe him. They are only so far off that we can't
see them. And they must be much happier and better than we are here;
I'm sure they never beat children; and who knows whether perhaps the
dear God himself does not live there? If I could fly, I would fly up
there!" And she gazed upward with beaming eyes, and a long sigh escaped
from her little breast.

"No, dear Ernestine, you must not fly away; no one can tell that the
moon is as lovely near to, as it is so far off. And it is very nice
here, too, for when you grow up you can be either a mamma or an aunt,
and then no one can do anything to you. No one ever strikes my aunt or
my mamma--no one!"

But Ernestine was no longer conscious of the child's prattle; her eyes
closed, her beloved book dropped from her hands; Ole Luckoie, the
gentle Northern god of slumber, had arisen from its pages. He had
poured balm into her painful wound, and extended his canopy, with its
thousands of gay pictures, over her soul.

Angelika looked at her for awhile, and then asked, "Are you asleep
again?" and, upon receiving no answer, she was quite content, and got
softly down from the high stool, and seated herself again upon her
chair with the grave air of a sentinel. At last Heim, with Herr
Neuenstein, came home from the funeral, and the two gentlemen entered
the apartment together.

"She has been talking with me," Angelika announced.

"What! has she come to herself?" asked the Geheimrath in pleased
surprise.

"Oh, yes,--we talked about a great many things--and then she went to
sleep again."

The Geheimrath rubbed his hands.--"That's good! Did she seem to be
perfectly sensible?"

"Oh, yes; she was perfectly sensible," Angelika assured him.

"What a pity that I was not here! Now I hope we shall bring her
through," said the Geheimrath to Herr Neuenstein; but the latter stood
looking at the corpse-like figure of the sleeping child, and shook his
head.

"I see," continued the physician, "that it seems impossible to you, and
yet I believe she will recover. Who that sees such a faded blossom
lying there would suspect the wonderful recuperative energy hidden
within it? And I tell you this child possesses an immense amount of
vitality, or she would have succumbed to such brutal treatment as she
has received. She will recover; believe me, she will recover."

"I should rejoice indeed to think that your exertions will not prove in
vain. And you really wish to take her with you?"

"Yes, if her hypocritical uncle will let her go, I will deliver her
from his claws, and educate her as is best for her health and becoming
to her position as an heiress."

"You are a genuine philanthropist, Geheimrath."

"Yes, I am a philanthropist; but there is small merit in that. Some
people love puppies and kittens, others cultivate flowers with
enthusiasm,--I love to educate and train human beings. Whenever a pair
of melancholy eyes stare out at me from a child's face, I want to stick
the child in my herbarium like a rare flower. Yes, if it only cost as
little to cultivate children as plants, I should have had a human
hot-house long ago. But the taste is so confoundedly expensive."

"Yes, we all know that you spend your whole income in such good works.
You might have been a millionaire long ago, if it had not been for your
lavish generosity."

"What would you have? One man wastes his money upon one whim, and
another on another. This happens to be my whim, and I spend just as
much upon it as I can conscientiously in the interest of my adopted
son, who stands nearest my heart. But now do me the kindness to leave
the room, for our talk is disturbing the child's sleep. I will stay
here for an hour and watch her."

"Come, Angelika," said Neuenstein: "Uncle Heim is very cross
to-day,--let us go home." He took the child's hand, and nodded
affectionately to Heim. "Shall I send the carriage for you?"

"No, I thank you; I must return to the capital; the king has commanded
my attendance this afternoon. But I shall be here again to-morrow."

"Adieu, dear uncle," said little Angelika, standing on tiptoe, and
holding up her rosy lips to be kissed. "You won't be cross to me, will
you?" she asked, nestling her fair curls among his gray locks as he
bent down to her; "I have been so good!" And then she went softly out
with Herr Neuenstein.

When Heim was alone, he sat down by the bedside, and silently
contemplated the sleeping child. "I'll wager," he thought, "that she
will be very beautiful one of these days. Her face is older than her
years, and that is always ugly in a child, but when her age accords
with the earnestness of that brow, and her features lose their
sharpness under more kindly treatment, it will be a magnificent head.
To think of having such a child and beating it half to death! Such a
child!"

Something like a tear glistened in the old man's eyes, and he softly
took a pinch of snuff to compose himself, for these thoughts filled him
with the pain of an old wound, and well-nigh overcame him. But the
pinch was of no avail. He gazed upon the treasure before him, which had
fallen to one utterly unworthy such a gift, who had neglected and
despised it, and he thought what joy its possession would have given
him. And he remembered that such joy might have been his, had his heart
not clung unalterably to one who was not destined for him. Now it was
too late; and the past, in which he might have sown the harvest of love
that he longed to reap, was irrevocable. The passion that had so long
filled his heart was conquered and dead; but the longing for affection,
that is stronger than passion, still lived on in the old man's breast.
"When a man's wife dies and leaves him," he thought, "she lives again
in her children; but he who has neither wife nor child is doubly poor."
He had watched over many human lives, but not one could he call his
own; he had preserved the lives of many, he had given life to none. He
had seen the bitterest woes soothed by affection, and he should die
without leaving one child behind to mourn his loss. And, lost in such
thoughts, it seemed to him that he was actually lying upon his
death-bed, and that he felt a soft arm stealing around his neck, and
heard a sweet, caressing voice sob out, "Father."

It was Ole Luckoie who had granted him this bitter-sweet dream by
Ernestine's bedside; it vanished as quickly as it had appeared, and
left nothing behind but a tear on the old man's furrowed cheek.

Then the latch of the door began to tremble, as though a carriage were
driving by, and the heavy footsteps that caused the noise approached
the apartment. Before the Geheimrath could prevent it, the door was
flung open, and Bertha's colossal figure appeared upon the threshold.
She was dressed in a new shining black silk, and the stiff cambric
lining rustled so loudly as she approached the bed that the child
started up frightened, and the Geheimrath could not suppress an
exclamation.

"Good-morning, Herr Geheimrath; good-morning, Tina," she said with a
nod. "So, Tina, you're alive still, I see. There was no need of such a
great fuss about you, after all."

Ernestine, at this rude greeting, flung herself to the farther side of
the bed, and cried, "Oh, send my aunt away!--I do not want to see her.
I will not!"

The Geheimrath politely offered his arm to the intruder and conducted
her from the room without a word. Bertha, amazed, asked, "Why, what
have I done? Can't I see my niece?"

"If you yourself do not understand, madam, that this frail life needs
to be treated with the greatest possible tenderness, I, a physician,
must tell you that it will be your fault if my care of the child should
prove of no avail and she should die in spite of it. I must therefore
entreat you either to discontinue your visits to the child, or to
address her more gently."

"Why, goodness gracious!" cried Bertha, "I was only in jest. Mercy on
me! you may wrap her up in cotton-wool, for all I care."

The Geheimrath gave an involuntary sigh. "Poor child," he thought, "to
be in danger of falling into such hands!"

Suddenly the hall-door was opened, and a face appeared, so ashy pale,
so livid, that Bertha started in terror. It was Leuthold; but he was
hardly to be recognized. When he perceived the Geheimrath, he saluted
him with his usual courtesy, then, extending his hand to Bertha, said
in a low voice, "My dear Bertha, be kind enough to come up-stairs with
me."

She followed him in the greatest trepidation, for she had never before
beheld him thus; and on the joyful day of Hartwich's funeral, too! What
could have happened? He took her hand and conducted her up the
staircase, his fingers were as cold and clammy as those of a corpse.
She almost shuddered as they walked along together in such solemn
silence.

They reached the door of their own apartment. Leuthold entered, dragged
his wife in after him, closed the door, and, before she was aware of
what he was doing, she felt the icy hand around her throat like an iron
band.

"Shall I strangle you?" he gasped, with eyes like a serpent's when it
is wound around its victim.

"Merciful Heaven!" shrieked Bertha, falling upon her knees to extricate
herself. The cold hand grasped her throat still more tightly.

"Utter one sound that the servants can hear, and I will throttle you!"
hissed Leuthold. "Be quiet! or----" Bertha ceased struggling, and
almost lost her consciousness. He then released her and pushed her down
upon the sofa, where she sat utterly astounded.

He put his hand to his head, and then whispered, almost inaudibly, as
though speaking with the greatest difficulty, "On the day of
Ernestine's fall, when Heim came to the house, do you remember that I
strictly enjoined it upon you to observe narrowly whatever occurred in
the house?"

"Yes," stammered the frightened woman.

"Did you do it?"

No answer.

"You did not do it."

"I was so afraid of Hartwich that I went up-stairs again," Bertha
confessed with hesitation.

"And so,--" Leuthold's chest heaved, his breath came heavily, and he
clenched his hands convulsively, "and so it is your fault that Hartwich
has disinherited us and left all his property to Ernestine." His face
grew still paler, his slender figure tottered, he grasped at a chair
for support, and fell fainting upon the ground.

"Good God!" shrieked Bertha, shaking the prostrate man violently, "the
whole property? tell me, the whole property? Oh, you miserable man,
what folly to fall into such spasms! Speak, and tell me whether we have
nothing at all, or what we have!"

Leuthold slowly raised his head. Bertha carried, more than supported,
him to the sofa. She brought some eau-de-cologne and poured it over his
head so that it ran into his eyes. He uttered an exclamation of pain,
and tried to wipe away the burning fluid from his eyes. "Are you trying
to deprive me of my eyesight?" he groaned, and, when the pain was
relieved, he sat in a dejected attitude, staring into vacancy.

"For mercy's sake, speak!" cried Bertha. "You can, at least, open your
mouth. No legacy? Not an annuity?"

Leuthold looked at his unfeeling wife with an expression that, in spite
of herself, drove the blood to her cheeks. There was something
indescribable in the look,--a mixture of the pity and contempt with
which one contemplates the body of a suicide.

"An annuity of six hundred thalers," he murmured, and covered his eyes
with his hand, as if to shut out everything around him while he
collected his scattered senses.

"Too much to die upon, and too little to live upon!" moaned Bertha,
and, bursting into tears, she threw herself upon a chair in the
farthest corner of the room. Leuthold sat motionless for a long time,
his face hidden in his hands; he scarcely seemed to breathe. He
appeared to need all his physical strength to assist him to endure the
mental agony which was overpowering him,--to have no strength left to
stir a limb. The man of feeling tries to master his unhappiness by
raging and lamenting,--he combats his agony by physical exertion,--he
rushes hither and thither, beats his head against the wall, wrings his
hands, and lessens his woe in a degree by a certain amount of muscular
activity. The man of intellect struggles mentally, and stands in need
of entire physical repose. Such a man as Leuthold could only for a
moment be excited to violence against the hated cause of his
misfortune; he soon regained his exterior composure, and his misery
became an intellectual labour, which might produce loss of reason, and
was never-ceasing.

He sat lost in a profound reverie. Now and then, like lightning across
a cloud, some idea of help in his misery flashed across his brain, but
it vanished as soon as it appeared, leaving each time a blacker night
in his soul.

"The sacrifice of ten long years gone for nothing!" he said at last in
stifled accents. "My hair is bleached before its time with the slavery
to which I have submitted with this goal in view, and now the prize is
snatched from me just as it seemed within my reach. Again I must bow my
neck to the yoke, and, with a mind fitted to appropriate to itself the
most precious treasures of science, toil for my bread! I have wasted
the best years of my life, that I may now begin all over again--an old
man. It was indeed a losing game! When my powers began to fail me, I
comforted myself with hopes of a near release; but now what can sustain
me when that hope has deserted me? No release in future,--nothing but a
never-ending struggle for daily sustenance! Oh----!"

With a long-drawn sigh of mortal agony, the tortured roan buried his
face in the cushion of the sofa, and another long silence ensued,
broken only by Bertha's loud sobbing.

At last she could endure the silence no longer. "What is to be done
now?" she asked half sorrowfully, half defiantly.

"Let me alone," said Leuthold. "Leave me--you see how I am suffering
and struggling!"

"How did you know about the matter?" she insisted.

"That fellow Lederer whispered it to me on returning from the funeral.
He signed the will as a witness. We were separated in the crowd, and I
could not even ask him whether I was left guardian or not. If I were
only guardian----" He ceased, and sunk again into a profound reverie.

There was a slight noise in the adjoining room, and a lovely, smiling
child's face looked in, and a clear, musical voice cried, "Peep!" At
the sound Leuthold turned his head and looked with strange emotion
towards the place where his daughter was standing. The little girl
planted herself firmly upon her feet, and, after a couple of futile
attempts, managed, to her own great delight, to cross the high
threshold. This difficulty surmounted, she tripped gleefully across to
her mother, who sat nearest the door; but upon receiving a rude repulse
from her--a repulse that almost threw her down--she determined to
pursue her journey as far as her father. To insure her swifter
progress, she betook herself to all fours, and, when she reached her
goal, climbed up by her father's knees and smiled into his face.
Leuthold gazed for a few moments into her round, innocent eyes; his own
grew dim; he took the child in his arms and whispered, as he clasped
her to his breast, "Poor child!" His breath came quick--he clasped her
tighter and tighter in his arms, until suddenly a burst of tears
relieved his overburdened soul. The father's heart was filled for once
with pure human emotion.

Gretchen tried to wipe his eyes with her little apron, and patted his
cheeks with her chubby hands.

There is a wonderful power in the touch of a child's soft, pure hand,
soothing a wildly-beating heart and strengthening a soul sickened by
hope deferred. It seemed to Leuthold as if the wounds that had
tormented him were healed by that gentle touch. He kissed the rosy
little palms again and again. He would labour with all his might for
this child--she should have a brilliant future at any cost. He arose,
and, putting her gently down on the carpet, walked slowly to and fro
with folded arms, revolving in his busy brain a thousand plans for the
future. His thoughts were rudely disturbed by Bertha, who, for want of
any other object, wreaked her ill humour upon Gretchen. The child had
got hold of an embroidered footstool, and was engaged in the delightful
occupation of picking off the bugles and pearls fastened upon the
fringe. Bertha snatched it away, and was slapping the little hands
violently, when suddenly Leuthold seized her arm and held it in a firm
grasp, while anger flashed in his eyes; and his words, his bearing, his
whole manner, filled her with terror as he began: "Your nature is so
coarse that you cannot even appreciate the promptings of maternal
instinct. Had you possessed one atom of feminine feeling, you would
have seen what a comfort the child is to me, and would have lavished
tenderness upon her, instead of maltreating her. But of what
consequence are my sorrows to you? When I staggered and fell to the
ground beneath the weight of my misery, you thought only of yourself;
your gentlest word to me was 'miserable man.' Let me tell you, however,
that the weakness of an ailing man is not so repulsive as the rude
strength of a coarse woman. Therefore, be kind enough to moderate the
exhibition of your strength, at least towards this angel, who shall
never suffer for an hour as long as I draw breath."

Bertha put Gretchen on the ground, and stood with arms akimbo. "Oh!"
she began, trembling with rage, "is this the tone you begin to
take--talking in this way to me just when you ought to be grateful to
me for consenting to share your wretched lot?"

"My wretched lot?" repeated Leuthold, while his face grew deadly white
again. "Who has made my lot a wretched one?--who other than yourself?
Do you dare to increase its misery? Is not your disobedience, your
folly, the cause of the whole misfortune? If you had obeyed my
commands, and kept watch upon what was going on in the house, the
arrival of the lawyers would not have escaped you. You might have
informed me and I could, even at the last moment, have prevented the
making of that will. You, and you alone, have ruined my child's and my
own future; and, instead of falling at my feet and begging for
forgiveness, you dare to reproach me! It would be ridiculous, if it
were not so deplorable!"

"Of course." said Bertha, "it is all my fault. I expected that. Why
didn't you stay at home yourself and watch? Because you suspected
nothing, no more than I did, and because you wanted to get out of the
way of Heim, who knew all about your former disgrace. Is it my fault
that you have conducted yourself so in the past that you have to avoid
all your old acquaintances?"

Leuthold swelled with indignation. "Silence, wretched woman! Would you
drive me to extremities?"

"Yes," continued Bertha more angrily than ever,--"yes, I don't care now
what you do. The only satisfaction I can have now is speaking out the
truth to you for once. I will be reconciled to my father while there is
time. Perhaps he will make over the business to me. I understand how to
conduct it, and can make it pay. I shall have a better chance there, at
any rate, than in staying here to starve with you. My honest old father
was right when he warned me against you. Heaven only knows what
infatuated me so with your hatchet face. I saw from the first what you
were,--a heap of learning and mind, and a perfect icicle, with whom I
never could be happy. We had only been married two months, when there
was all that disgraceful fuss with Hilsborn; my father wanted me to be
separated from you then; but you stuffed my ears with stories of your
brother here, who would make you rich; and I believed you, and gave
up my old father, and came here to this hole to live with you. What did
I get by it? The little property that I inherited from my mother has
been frittered away in household expenses, that you might seem
disinterested to your brother. I gave up every things--concerts,
theatres, parties,--and willingly; for I depended upon a brilliant
future. I have waited patiently and obediently until your brother
should kill himself with the drink of which he was so fond; and, now
that he is dead, what have I got in exchange for time, youth, money,
and all? And now I am to make a grateful courtesy, and say, 'My dear
husband, 'tis true that you have robbed me of everything, you have
attempted to strangle me; but I will nevertheless take the liberty of
remaining with you, that you may continue to enjoy the pleasure of
calling me rough, coarse, and good for nothing, and that you may
instruct me with which hand I am to put in my mouth the potatoes that
are all we shall have to live upon.' This is what I am to say, is it
not? Yes----"

Leuthold had been listening attentively, and, in the course of this
long speech, had regained his former composure. He now interrupted her
with, "That is, in other words, that you contemplate adding to my
misfortunes the withdrawal of your amiable presence, leaving me to bear
my heavy lot alone. Your intention demands my gratitude; if you wish
for a divorce, I am entirely agreed to it, only pray furnish the ground
for it yourself, that my good name may not be compromised. We have
lived together hitherto in such outward harmony, it might be difficult
to convince a court of the impossibility of a longer union. There must,
therefore, be some legal ground for a divorce, and you can arrange all
that to suit yourself."

"What!" cried Bertha, "am I to conduct myself disgracefully that people
may despise me and pity you,--wolf in sheep's clothing that you are?
No, no; I'm not quite so stupid as that. And then my father would not
receive me, and there would be nothing left for me in this world."

Leuthold walked thoughtfully to and fro. "It was the mistake of my life
that ten years ago I married you to get money to make that journey to
Trieste. I thought you more harmless than you are. For ten long years I
have endured the annoyance of your coarseness and narrow-mindedness.
Such a wife as you are is a perpetual thorn in the side of such a man
as myself; my nerves have suffered terribly. And now I find you are not
even capable of maternal affection,--you cannot treat your child as you
should. If it were not for Gretchen, I would never see you again,--but
now----"

Bertha started. "Why, yes,--I never thought of Gretchen."

"You can easily understand that I shall not give up my child," Leuthold
went on, looking fondly at the lovely little creature, who was sitting
on the carpet prattling softly and unintelligibly to herself. "She is
all that is left to me of my shattered existence;--my last hopes in
life are centred in her--I will never give her up! The law gives her to
you if I should furnish grounds for a divorce: so, you see, I cannot
take the initiative. If, however, you consent to a separation, and will
leave Gretchen to me, you are free to leave my house whenever you
please. Consider what I say."

Bertha knelt down upon the carpet, and said in a complaining tone,
"Gretel, shall mamma go far away?"

The child, in whose mind the remembrance of the slaps that had made its
little hands so red was still very lively, avoided her caress, and
crept away as fast as it could to its father's feet.

"Its choice is made," said Leuthold, taking it in his arms.

"Of course you are quite capable of setting my own flesh and blood
against me," whined Bertha. "What shall I do! I cannot leave the child,
and I will not stay with you. What shall I do!"

She walked heavily up and down the room, wringing her hands. Leuthold
had carried Gretchen to the window, and was looking down into the
court-yard, where the broad, stalwart figure of Heim was just leaving
the house. He shot one glance of deadly hatred at his enemy, but it did
no harm; and with a profound sigh Leuthold leaned his cold forehead
against the window-frame and looked on whilst Heim stepped into his
carriage and took a pinch of snuff with a most cheerful air. The driver
clambered clumsily upon the box, and gathered up his whip and reins,
the horses started off, the chickens flew in all directions, their
old friend the watch-dog came barking out of his kennel, and the
old-fashioned coach, belonging to the Hartwich establishment, rattled
away.

As, after seasons of intense emotion, the exhausted mind slavishly
follows the lead of the ever-active senses, Leuthold, in his misery,
thus minutely observed every particular of Heim's departure.

"He is happy!" he thought; and then his eyes rested upon the fowls
devouring the remains of the oats that had been brought for the horses.
"Happy he to whom has been given the faculty of making himself beloved!
mankind follow him as those fowls follow in the track of Heim's
carriage. Is it any merit of his that wins him the hearts of all? Bah,
nonsense! it is a talent,--and the most profitable one for its
possessor. These benefactors of mankind, as they are called, thrive
upon it: who would not do likewise if he only could? But those who have
not the gift cannot do it. One man comes into the world with qualities
that make him useful and pleasing to his fellow-men; another with
propensities that make him an object of fear to his kind. Is the lapdog
to be commended because his agreeable characteristics qualify him to
spend his life luxuriously on a silken cushion? And is the fox to be
blamed because he does not understand how to ingratiate himself with
mankind, but must eke out his miserable existence by theft? Each
after his kind, and we human beings have senses in common with the
brutes,--and why not the peculiarities also of their several species?
Yes, there are lapdogs among us, and foxes, and wolves, cats, and
tigers! Struggle against it as we may, with all our babble of free
will, temperament is everything. How can I help it if I belong among
the foxes? Only a fool would look for moral causes in all this chaos of
chances. The activity of nature is shown in eternal creation,
destruction, and re-creation from destruction,--plants, brutes, and men
are the blind tools of her secret forces, creative and destructive, or,
as the moralist calls them, good and evil! But what do we call good?
What pleases us. What evil? That which harms us. And we are to judge
the world by this narrow egotistic scale of morals? Oh, what folly!
Creative and destructive forces--are they not alike necessary agents in
nature's great workshop? And if they work so steadily in unconscious
matter, are they dead in mankind, the embodiment of conscious nature?
Is our poor, patched-up code of morals strong enough to tear asunder
the chains that keep us bound fast to the order of the universe?
No,--it is miserable arrogance to maintain such a theory. Nature has
never created a species without producing another hostile to it; the
rule holds good in the world of humanity as well as among plants and
brutes. The parasite that preys upon its supporting plant, the insect
depositing its eggs in the body of the caterpillar, the falcon pursuing
the innocent dove, the tiger rending the mild-eyed antelope, and,
lastly, the man who preserves his own existence by preying upon his
fellow-men,--all are only the exponents of those hostile forces that
are indispensable to the economy of nature. Who can venture to talk of
good and evil? There is only one idea that we owe to our advanced
culture,--only one varnish that bedaubs and conceals the beast in
us,--regard for appearances! This is the corner-stone of our ethics,
the only thoroughly practicable discipline for the human race. Let a
due regard for appearances be observed, and we are distinguished,
lauded, and beloved among men,--the only reward of our virtue is the
recognition of it by our excellent contemporaries; their judgment
decides the degree of our morality; everything else is the exaggeration
of fancy."

He was aroused from this reverie by Bertha, who suddenly shook him by
the shoulder with an impatient "Well?"

Leuthold looked at her like a man awakened from a dream. "What is it?"
he inquired.

"I want to know what is to be done?" she replied angrily.

Leuthold laid the child, who had fallen asleep upon his shoulder, on
the sofa.

"Oh, yes, with regard to our separation."

"I suppose you had entirely forgotten it."

"I confess that I was thinking of something else at the moment; but the
matter is very simple. Go to your father and effect a reconciliation
with him. Gretchen will stay with me. You are free to go and come as
you please. If you find that you cannot do without the child, in a few
weeks you can return, if you choose. It would, at all events, be better
for you to be away for awhile until I have rearranged my miserable
affairs. I am going now to hear the will read. If I am appointed
Ernestine's guardian, my life will be connected for the future with
that of my ward." He suddenly gazed into vacancy, as if struck by a new
idea, then started and seized his hat. "Yes, yes, I must go. Perhaps I
am guardian!" And he turned away.

Bertha called after him, "Then I may get ready to go?"

"Do just as you please," he replied, turning upon the threshold with
all the old courtesy, and then disappeared. Bertha went to her wardrobe
and began to collect her possessions. "I am rightly paid for leaving a
good head-waiter in the lurch for the sake of a fine doctor. If I had
married Fritz, I should now have been the landlady of a hotel, while,
the wife of a doctor, I don't know where to lay my head!" She looked
across the room at the sleeping child. "If I only had not that child, I
should be easier! But, then, it is his child. She loves him far better
than me. It will be just like him one day, and a sorrow to me," she
muttered. Then, as if the last thought were repented of as soon as
conceived, she hastened up to Gretchen, and, weeping, kissed her pure
white forehead. "No, no, you cannot help me!" she sobbed, and snatched
the child to her broad breast.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                              SOUL-MURDER.


A fresh autumnal breeze was shaking the heavy boughs of the fruit-trees
in the Hartwich kitchen-garden. Beneath a spreading apple-tree a new
bench, painted green, had recently been placed. Some white garments,
hanging upon a line to dry, fluttered like triumphal pennons in the
direction from which a number of persons was slowly approaching the
apple-tree. Rieka was carefully pushing along the rolling-chair, which,
after so long affording shelter to the cats and chickens, had lately
been recushioned and repaired. By its side walked good old Heim and
Leuthold. Ernestine's frail little figure, with head still bandaged and
hands gently folded, reclined in the chair; and if her large, dark eyes
had not been riveted with an expression of utter enjoyment upon the
distant landscape, she might have been thought smiling in death, so
ashy pale was her emaciated countenance, so bloodless were the lips
which were slightly open to inhale the pure morning air. The signs of
returning and departing life are as wonderfully alike as morning and
evening twilight. The child lying there, silent and motionless, might
to all appearance be bidding farewell to the world, instead of greeting
it anew after her dangerous illness. For to-day Ernestine was, as it
were, celebrating her resurrection to life. It was the first time that
she had been permitted to breathe the pure, open air of heaven; and her
delight was so profound that she could only fold her little hands and
pray silently. She had not the strength even to turn herself upon her
cushions; but her youthful soul was preening its wings and soaring with
the birds into the blue autumn skies.

"How are you now, my child?" Leuthold asked in a tone of tender
sympathy.

"Oh, so well, dear uncle!" the little girl whispered with a long-drawn
sigh. "I think I could run about, if I might."

"Ah, you could not yet, even if you might," said Heim, looking not
without anxiety into the child's face, transfigured by an almost
unearthly expression. And he laid his finger upon her pulse, now
scarcely perceptible.

"Her spirit, as she recovers, is in advance of her body," he said,
lingering behind with Leuthold. "Physically such a child is soon
conquered and destroyed, but the heart is a wonderful thing in its
power of endurance. I never see an expression of real suffering upon a
child's face without the deepest sympathy. For when should we be really
gay and happy in this life, if not while we are children?"

"You are right," said Leuthold. "That melancholy mouth, shaping itself
now to an unaccustomed smile, those bright eyes, around which the
traces of tears are scarcely yet obliterated, touch me deeply."

Heim glanced keenly at the speaker expressing himself apparently with
emotion.

"Oh, what a pretty new bench!" said Ernestine in a weak voice, as they
reached the apple-tree. "And the boughs droop around it like an
arbour."

Her gaze roved hither and thither; the fluttering linen on the line
pleased her; the white butterflies, with spotted wings, hovering about
the beds, enchanted her; she thought the far stretch of country, with
its distant border of forest, magnificent,--everything was so new that
she seemed to see it for the first time, and admired it all with
intense delight. The long rows of irregular bean-poles opened
mysterious, attractive paths to her imagination. Even the tall
asparagus and the heads of cabbage, upon which large beads of morning
dew were still lying, seemed to her master-pieces of nature.

"Oh, how lovely the world is!" she said to the two gentlemen. "And no
one to punish me! You are so kind, Herr Geheimrath, and you, Uncle
Leuthold, and you too, Rieka, are so good to me! I thank you all so
much!" And she took and kissed the hands of Leuthold and Heim as they
stood beside her, while tears filled her eyes.

"You strange child, what Snakes you cry now?" asked Leuthold.

"I cannot tell; I am so happy!" sobbed Ernestine. "If I only had a
father or a mother!"

"But if your father were alive he would beat you again," said Rieka,
taking a strictly practical view of the matter. "You ought to be glad
that he is no longer here; it is much happier for you."

Ernestine's head drooped. "Oh, I am not longing for my father who is
dead; I want a father to love me."

"You have an uncle who loves you fondly, my child," said Leuthold.

"Uncle," the little girl began again after a short pause, "how did the
first people get here? Every one has a father and mother; but the first
men could not have had any. Where did they come from?"

Leuthold and Heim exchanged glances of surprise.

"Ah, now you are going to the very root of the matter, prying into the
deepest mysteries of creation!" said her uncle with a smile.

"There is stuff for a scholar in the child," said Heim; "she must be
educated."

"Most certainly!" cried Leuthold with unwonted vivacity; "something
must be made of her. In two years she will read Darwin." And he became
lost in reverie.

Heim plucked two pansies that were growing among the weeds, and handed
them to Ernestine. "Don't trouble your little brain with such
thoughts," he said with an attempt to laugh. "When you are grown up you
can learn all you wish to know. How few flowers you have here! Not
enough for a nosegay!"

"No matter for that, Herr Heim," said Ernestine gaily. "Although there
are so few flowers here, it seems to me as lovely as Paradise."

"The child is imaginative," Heim observed to Leuthold. "She finds
Paradise in a neglected kitchen-garden; there is poetry there." And he
pointed to her head and heart.

Leuthold took the child's hand. "If you wish for flowers, my darling,
you shall have them. You are now"--and a spasmodic smile hovered upon
his lips--"so rich that you need deny yourself nothing."

"I am rich!" Ernestine repeated, as though she could not grasp the
idea. "Does the chair in which I am sitting belong to me?"

"Most certainly."

"And this garden, and the fields?"

"Everything that you see."

"Oh, how delightful! But, uncle, have I money enough to buy me a
telescope like yours?"

Leuthold looked surprised at this question "Is that the end and aim of
your desires? Well, then, you shall have a far better one than mine.
You shall have an observatory, whence you can search the heavens far
and wide, and, if you choose, I will be your teacher. Would you like
that?"

"Oh, uncle!" sighed Ernestine, "God is so kind to me--how shall I thank
him for all he is giving me?"

An ugly smile appeared on Leuthold's face; she looked up at him in
surprise, and so fixedly that he involuntarily turned aside.

It was strange! Why had her uncle smiled at those words. Was what she
had said so stupid, then? Was he laughing at her, or at--what? Suddenly
there was an alloy in her happiness, as if she had found an ugly worm
in a fragrant rose or discovered a flaw in a clear mirror. A pang shot
through her heart. Yes, little Kay in the story-book must have felt
just so when a splinter of the evil mirror got into his eye and heart
and nothing seemed perfect or stainless to him any more. Instinctively
she looked up into the sky, as if to see the demon flying there with
the mysterious mirror that cast scorn and contempt upon the works of
the good God; and when she glanced again at her uncle, who had just
smiled so disagreeably, he seemed to her to look as she had fancied an
evil spirit must look, and she shrank from him in a way that she could
not herself comprehend. She leaned back in her chair exhausted, to rest
after all these wearisome thoughts that had chased one another through
her brain, and Heim, observing this, took Leuthold aside; she heard him
say, "Come, we will leave the child to take a little sleep."

Rieka sat down quietly upon the bench beside her. Ernestine nestled
comfortably among the yielding cushions, and the fragrant breeze
stroked her cheek like a gentle, caressing hand. The birds were softly
twittering in the boughs overhead. All nature breathed in her ear:
"Sleep, sleep on the tender breast of the youthful day. Rest! you are
not yet rested, after all that you have suffered!" And she closed her
eyes and tried to sleep, but she could not. Why had her uncle smiled
when she spoke of God? This question kept her awake, and scared away
rest from her trusting, childish soul.

Meanwhile Helm and Leuthold walked on through the garden. "Herr
Professor," the former began to his companion, who was lost in thought,
"I must speak with you about the future of our protégé. I have plans
for her, depending upon you for their fulfilment." Leuthold looked at
him attentively. "I had a desire," Heim continued, "the first time I
saw this strange child, to adopt her for my own; and this desire has
become stronger since chance has brought me into such intimate
association with her. My request of you now is: Abdicate--not your
rights, but--your duties as her guardian in my favour, and let me take
her to the capital with me, and have her educated and trained so that
full justice may be done to her physical and mental capacities."

Leuthold was silent for a few moments, and then said with some
hesitation, as he drew a long strip of grass through his slender white
fingers, "That looks, Herr Geheimrath, as if you did not give me credit
for the ability or the will to educate my ward suitably."

Heim shrugged his shoulders impatiently. "There shall be no
wire-drawing between us, Herr Gleissert; we both know what we think of
each other, and a physician has no time to waste in complimental
speeches. Be kind enough to signify to me, as briefly and decidedly as
possible, your acceptance or refusal of my proposal."

"Well, then," Leuthold replied with a keen glance, "I must reply to you
with a brief and decided 'No!'"

"Indeed!" was all that Heim in his chagrin rejoined.

"Look you, Herr Geheimrath," Leuthold began after some moments of
reflection; "I will be frank with you. You know the dark stain that
sullies my past, and the fault of my nature,--ambition. But, for all
that, Herr Geheimrath, I am not heartless! In my childhood I was
repelled on all sides, just as Ernestine has been. I was always cast in
the shade by Hartwich, the son of my wealthy step-mother. You, as a
student of human nature, well know what power there is in early
surroundings to mould a man's future,--perhaps this may make you more
lenient to my faults. Neither affection nor interest was shown me, and
so kindly feelings faded away within me,--I could not give what I never
received. Thus, Herr Geheimrath, I grew up an embittered, hardened man.
The severity and sternness with which I was treated caused me to
cultivate a sort of plausibility that won me friends, although I had no
qualities to enable me to retain them. Therefore I was accounted a
flatterer and a hypocrite. But the worst of all was, I was never taught
the nice distinction between honours and honour, and thus it was that,
in my blind grasp after honours, I sacrificed my honour!" He covered
his eyes with his hand and paused for a moment. Old Heim shook his huge
head, vexed with himself for the emotion of sympathy that he could not
suppress.

"My step-mother," Leuthold continued, "was an imperious, masculine
woman, who tyrannized over her husband and made him as unhappy as her
son and step-son. You have seen the effect of her training upon
Hartwich,--he became a drunkard, sinning in the flesh; I, of a less
sensual nature, sinned in spirit!"

"Forgive me for interrupting you," Heim interposed here; "but I am
constrained to observe that if you had sinned no further than in
robbing poor Hilsborn of his discovery, you would indeed have coveted
only spiritual things, and there might have been some excuse for you;
but you longed for earthly possessions,--you even grasped after the
property of the poor child who has been left to your care. Judge for
yourself whether such a helpless little creature can be confided
without anxiety to the charge of a guardian who has not scrupled to
endeavour to possess himself of her inheritance!"

Leuthold stood confronting Heim, without betraying, by a single change
of feature, the emotions of his mind. "Herr Geheimrath," he said with
dignity, "I understand perfectly how all that must appear to a stranger
entirely unacquainted with the circumstances of the case, and I cannot
wonder that you think your accusation of me well founded. So be it. I
did endeavour to possess myself of Hartwich's property, for two-thirds
of it were mine by right. Are you aware, Herr Geheimrath, that when I
first took my place in the factory here, Hartwich was on the brink of
bankruptcy? Are you aware that entirely through my exertions the
business is now free from debt, and that the income which in the course
of ten years made Hartwich a wealthy man was the result solely of my
improvements? He contributed nothing but the raw material, which my
efforts converted into a means of wealth. Had I not a sacred right to
the fruits of my exertions?"

Again the Geheimrath shrugged his shoulders and did not speak.

"Time is money," Leuthold continued; "and I frankly admit that I do not
belong to the class of men who give without any hope of a return. I am
a poor man, compelled to depend upon myself. I receive nothing
gratuitously; why should I give anything? Hartwich owed me for the time
I sacrificed to him. I do not claim too much when I aver that, with my
capacity, I could have earned three thousand thalers yearly as the
superintendent of any other extensive manufactory, while I received
from Hartwich the small salary of a mere overseer. And three thousand
thalers yearly amount in ten years to thirty thousand thalers, without
counting the interest. There you have one-third of the property that I
'coveted.'"

Heim assented with an expression of surprise.

Leuthold continued more fluently: "Now for the remaining third. The man
who is capable of introducing inventions and improvements into the
establishment, producing in ten years a dear profit of ninety thousand
thalers, can easily dispose of such inventions for twenty thousand
thalers; and if I add the accumulated interest of ten years, it amounts
to exactly thirty thousand thalers again. If my step-brother had paid
me this sum, he would still have possessed thirty thousand thalers
clear, which would have belonged of right to his daughter. I might have
offered my services elsewhere, but it seemed to me more fitting that I
should serve my brother than a stranger; I might have insisted upon
payment, but I knew well my brother's avarice, and that it would be
impossible to extort money from him except at the risk of such
excitement on his part as might cost him his life. Therefore!
thought it best, as I foresaw that he could not live long, to suspend
my claims and allow him to devise to me by will what was really my
due. How utterly I have been the loser by my--I do not scruple to
say--magnanimous conduct, you well know; and now pray point out wherein
I have unjustly claimed a single groschen!"

Heim, his hands crossed behind him and his head sunk upon his breast,
walked slowly along by the side of Leuthold, whose slender figure had
recovered all its former elasticity as he easily wound his way among
the tangled bushes and weeds in the neglected path.

"I cannot tell how a lawyer would designate your conduct," the old man
said meditatively. "I should not call it magnanimous; but you may be
able to justify it from your point of view. Still, one never knows what
to expect of such long-headed, calculating people."

"Yes, Herr Geheimrath, it is the destiny of those who depend upon
themselves alone for whatever of good life may bring them, to be
regarded as covetous,--they must grasp after what falls unsought for
into the lap of others. In this matter I not only did what I could for
myself, but for the future also. Herr Geheimrath, I am a father!"

"Yes, yes; but you were not a father at the time that you arranged with
Hartwich his testamentary dispositions," Heim briefly interposed.

"Only two months afterwards my wife gave birth to a dead son. From the
first moment when I dreamed of one day possessing a child for whom I
could prepare a future, I cherished a determination to hold fast to
whatever was mine by right. I think you cannot refuse to bear witness
that I have endured the destruction of all my hopes with fortitude. My
wife has left me, refusing to share with me my cheerless future. I
stand alone with my helpless child. You have heard no word of complaint
from my lips. Examine yourself, and your upright nature will compel you
to acknowledge that I do not deserve your distrust. And now, as regards
the last and weightiest consideration,--my relation to my ward,--ask
any one whom you may please to interrogate here, whether I have not
always been Ernestine's advocate and protector. Every servant in the
house--the child herself--will tell you that it has been so. Upon this
point my conscience cannot accuse me. For, look you, Herr Geheimrath,
this child is the only living being in this world, besides my own
daughter, whom I have to love. There is one spot in my nature, hardened
as it is by the rough usage of life, that has always remained
soft,--the memory of my unhappy childhood. In Ernestine I am reminded
of my own early youth, and there is a tender satisfaction in providing
her with so much that at her age I was obliged to deny myself. Leave me
this child, Herr Geheimrath; I am a poor, unhappy, disappointed man. Do
not take from me the last thing that stirs the better nature within
me,--it would be too hard!"

Heim stood still for an instant, and seemed about to speak. He
bethought himself and walked on a few steps, then paused again: "The
case is not psychologically improbable. You may feel as you say, and
you may invent it all. What guarantee have I for its truth?"

"I am sorry to say, none, if you do not find it in the honesty of my
confession. But, Herr Geheimrath, by what right--pardon me--do you
require such a guarantee from me?"

"My anxiety for the child's welfare, I should suppose, would be allowed
to give me such a right,--a right that, if you are not dead to human
feeling, you would respect even although it has no legal grounds."

"Oh, certainly, certainly,--I do respect it, and thank you for your
interest in the child. But I cannot deny that your persistent distrust
of me surprises me exceedingly, and prompts me to force you by my
conduct to a better opinion of me."

"That is, you will let me have the child?" Heim asked quickly.

"That is, I am more determined than ever to undertake the charge of her
education myself, that I may one day convince you of the injustice that
you are doing me."

Heim regarded the smiling speaker with a penetrating glance. "You rely
upon the fact that I can legally urge nothing against you. Well, then,
I can do no more. I confide the fate of this strange child, who has
become so dear to me, to a loving Providence, that will watch over her
and over you, sir, however you may contrive to withdraw yourself and
your designs from the eye of human scrutiny."

As Heim spoke these words, the two gentlemen reached Ernestine's chair.
The little girl sat perfectly still, lost in thought. Her uncle laid
his hand upon her white forehead, and said to himself, "I will keep
you!"


On the evening of the same day, Leuthold sat before his writing-table
at the open windows. The cool night air made the flame of the lamp
flicker behind its green shade. From the adjoining room came the low
sound of the plaintive air with which the nursemaid was soothing little
Gretchen to sleep. A cricket upon the window-sill chirped continually,
and a singed moth would now and then fall upon the white, unwritten
sheet that lay on the table before Leuthold. It was a calm, mild,
autumn night,--a night when darkness hides the yellow leaves and one
can dream that it is still summer. And yet the solitary man sat there
gazing into vacancy, with as little sympathy with nature as though he
had been banished utterly from her communion. In the corner of the
window-frame there fluttered a large cobweb, and its proprietor was
lying in wait for the insects that were attracted by the lamp. But the
man's brain was weaving still finer webs in the stillness of night, and
in the midst of them lurked the ugly spider of greed of gold, also
lying in wait for prey. Ernestine must be ensnared; but she had
protectors who were upon the watch. No human being must suspect that
her guardian was her worst enemy.

The will had been opened, and two clauses in it had given Leuthold
renewed life and hope. He was Ernestine's guardian,--and her heir in
case of her dying unmarried. By the time that his light began to fade,
he had laid all his plans, and arose from his seat with the feeling of
satisfaction experienced by an author who has just thought out
successfully the plot of a new work. Ernestine was no more to him than
a character in a novel is to its author,--a character which is
indispensable to the plot, and which the author treats with care as a
necessary evil, but never with affection. Thus he had planned with
great precision the child's future; and, unless he utterly failed in
his designs, the figure that now hovered before his imagination would
greatly conduce to the successful conclusion of the romance for his
child and himself.

The lamp died down. Leuthold slipped out upon tiptoe, and, undressing
in the next room in the dark, lay down in the bed beside which stood
Gretchen's crib. Soon after the child awoke, and stretched out her
hands towards her father. He drew her towards him, and laid her head
upon his breast, that was chilled as though from the influence of his
own icy heart. She nestled up to him, and put her little arms around
his neck. He listened to her quiet breathing as she fell calmly asleep
again, and gradually his own heart grew warm beside hers, beating there
so peacefully. He scarcely ventured to breathe himself, for fear of
wakening her. It was a happy moment for him. Upon the breath of the
slumbering child an ineffable delight was wafted into his soul. He held
in his arms the only being whom he loved and who really loved him,--his
child, his own flesh and blood! Suddenly there was a loud knocking at
his door, and Rieka's shrill voice cried, "Herr Doctor! Herr Doctor!
pray get up quickly and come to Ernestine!"

Leuthold started up and gently laid the child in her crib again. Every
nerve in his body vibrated, his heart beat wildly, and his hands
trembled as he dressed himself hurriedly. Something extraordinary must
have occurred: was Ernestine worse?--perhaps dying? Was fate to atone
so soon for Hartwich's injustice? Were his hopes to be--the thought
made him giddy, breathless, and, almost tottering, he reached the door
where Rieka was waiting to light him down the stairs.

"What is the matter?" he asked.

"Oh, Herr Doctor, it is our fault," Rieka began: "Theresa and I were
sitting by Ernestine's bedside and talking; we thought she was sound
asleep, we were talking about master who is dead; and we told about the
dairy-maid's refusing to sleep in the barn-loft any more, because she
says he walks. And we spoke of his death, how he called for his child,
and declared that he could not find rest in his grave if Ernestine did
not forgive him. And we said we were sure that he would appear to her
some day, for when any one dies with such a burden on his soul, there
is no rest for him until he has the forgiveness that he craves. Then
Ernestine suddenly began to cry, and we saw that she had heard
everything. We tried to quiet her, but she grew worse and worse, and
nothing would content her but that she must be taken this very night to
the church-yard, to her father's grave, that she might forgive him. We
can do nothing with her; she insists upon it; she is almost in
convulsions with crying and obstinacy!"

They entered Ernestine's room, where Theresa, the other maid, was
trying to keep the struggling, desperate child in bed. Leuthold went
softly up to her, and laid his cool, delicate hand upon her burning
forehead. His touch soothed her; she became quiet, and looked up at her
uncle with a piteous entreaty in her large eyes.

"Leave me alone with her," he said to the servants, who obeyed with a
mutter of discontent. He then trimmed the night-lamp so that it burned
brightly, and seated himself beside Ernestine's couch. "My child," he
began, in his low, melodious voice, "you are quite clever enough to
understand what I am going to say to you, but you must promise me that
you will never repeat it to any human being. Do you promise?"

"Oh, I will promise, uncle," sobbed Ernestine, "if you will only help
me to let my poor father know that I forgive him,--oh, with all my
heart!--and that my head is well again, and does not hurt me any more!
Oh, my poor, poor father,--your little Ernestine wants so to tell you
that she is not angry with you; but she cannot!"

"You are a good child, Ernestine, but you are only a child!" Leuthold
continued, while the same strange smile that had so troubled Ernestine
in the morning again played around his mouth. She looked up in
surprise. Was what she had said so foolish again?

"You are too clever, young as you are, to be allowed to fall into the
vulgar belief shared by the maids; and therefore I must tell you what
it would not be best for them to know,--that the dead do not live in
any form whatever."

Ernestine started, and gazed at her uncle.--"What?"

"Yes, yes; I tell you truly, whoever is dead is dead; that means, he
has ceased to be; he neither feels nor thinks; a few bones are all that
there is of him; and they are good for nothing but to convert into lime
or manure for the fields."

Ernestine hearkened breathless to his words. "But where then are the
spirits, uncle?"

"There are no spirits."

"Then shall we never go to heaven?"

"Of course not; those are all fables, invented to induce common people
to be good. They must believe in rewards and punishments after death,
to enable them to bear the trials and deprivations of their lot in
life. They would rebel against all control, and be in perpetual mutiny,
without the prospect of compensation after death. So there are wise
philosophers in every country, composing what is called the Christian
Church, who have invented many beautiful legends,--which you call the
Bible. Superstition is founded upon the weakness and folly of mankind,
upon ignorance of the true laws of nature; and the churches of every
age and clime have used it as the stuff of which they have made
leading-strings for the people. But the educated man, breathing only a
pure, intellectual atmosphere, is free from such fetters. Science leads
him with a loving hand to heights whence she points out to him the
natural laws of the universe, and, in place of the prop of which she
deprives him, gives him strength to stand alone."

Ernestine was ashy pale; her lips moved, but no sound issued from them;
she clenched her hands, and felt as if crushed by some terrible,
unheard-of mystery. She could hardly bear to listen to what her uncle
was saying, and yet she caught greedily at every word; she could not
bear to believe him, and yet she could not but distrust, now, what the
pastor had taught her. She was ashamed not to be as clever as her uncle
had called her: the poison that he had instilled into her mind worked
quickly.

"But, uncle, can what so many people believe be all false? Old people
and children, kings and emperors, beggars and rich men, all go to
church:--is there any one except you who does not go?"

Leuthold laughed louder than was his wont. "It is easy enough to answer
you, dear child. In the first place, there are multitudes of men
besides myself who belong to no church. In the second place, the number
of people who profess to believe a creed is no proof of its truth, but
only of the ignorance and narrow-mindedness of those professing such
belief. Millions of men have been pantheists, and counted all those who
did not share their faith criminal. Every religion condemns all others
as erroneous. Which is right? As long as all were ignorant of the
causes of the mighty and glorious operations of nature, these were
ascribed to supernatural agencies and regarded as revelations of the
divine. Thunder and lightning, light and air, all were governed,
according to the ancients, as among savages at the present day, by
their own several deities; every natural event was ascribed to some
being, half man, half god; and thus heaven and earth were peopled with
good and evil spirits, friendly or hostile to mankind. This
superstition fled at the approach of science, or at least it became
weakened,--etherialized. With increasing knowledge of natural laws, the
sensual gods of Greece and Rome lost form and substance, and finally
vanished, to be replaced by a true appreciation of the elements as
such, and a faith in a central Providence ruling all things wisely and
well. This is a great improvement; but it is not enough. We still have
a Trinity,--a Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; we still have angels,
demons, and saints,--a multitude of good and evil deities, who have
followed us down from old pagan times, and who, although more
respectably apparelled, are still prepared to work all kinds of
miracles. The more fully the laws of matter are laid bare to our
searching eyes, the dimmer grows our religious belief,--as the shadow,
which in the darkness we have taken for the substance itself, fades
before the first ray of sunlight, which reveals the substance
distinctly. The various gods of all ages and climes were only the
shadows cast by the operation of natural laws; as soon as the light of
science fell upon them, they vanished. Thus, religious fancy was driven
away from this physical world, as the laws ruling it were discovered,
and obliged to seek a more abstract domain; but even there it is not
secure; for scientific inquiry, climbing from height to height, and
gaining in vigour with every fresh advance, long ago began to follow it
thither; and it must consent to still greater concessions, if it would
not be driven from its last foothold,--its self-created heaven!"

Leuthold paused. Ernestine's vague look of wonder reminded him that his
habit of speech had carried him too far for the comprehension of a
child. Nevertheless, it excited him to hear his own voice speaking thus
once more, and his gray eyes glittered strangely as he observed the
effect of his words, only half understood as they were, upon Ernestine.

"Has the pastor told me falsehoods, then?" she asked at last.

"He did not lie intentionally. He is a very narrow-minded man, and
knows no better. He is not one of the deceivers, but of the deceived."

"But he is the wisest man in the village," Ernestine objected.

"In the village, yes! But do you think him wiser than your uncle?"

"No, certainly not!" she whispered almost inaudibly. It seemed to her a
crime to think a common man wiser than the pastor.

"Well, then, let me tell you that he is not nearly as clever as you
are!"

"Uncle!" exclaimed Ernestine alarmed.

"I tell you the truth, my child. You are now very young; but, when you
are as old as the pastor, you will know much more than he does, and
take a very different view of things."

"Are you in earnest, uncle?" Ernestine asked eagerly, for this first
flattery had not failed in its effect. "Do you think I can ever be as
clever as a man?"

"Most certainly! Unless I greatly err, you will be something
distinguished, one of these days!"

Ernestine sat bolt upright in bed, looking at her uncle with sparkling
eyes. Her pale face flushed, her breath came quick. Ambition kindled in
her childish nature to a burning flame. The fuel had been gathering
there since her first contact with those who had treated her with
contempt. Now the spark had fallen, and she was all aglow with the
insidious fire which gradually consumes the whole being unless some
terrible misfortune bursts open the floodgates of tears to quench the
unhallowed flame.

Leuthold gazed, not without secret admiration and delight, at the
illuminated and inspired countenance of the child. Thus, thus he would
have her look! He leaned towards her, and held out his hand. She
grasped it fervently.

"Uncle," she said with childish emphasis, "will you help me to be as
clever and to learn as much as a man? Will you teach me the sciences
which you said would make men so strong?"

"Yes," replied Leuthold with seeming enthusiasm, "I will, indeed."

"Promise me, dear uncle."

"I promise you with all my heart that I will teach you as no woman has
ever been taught before,--that I will guide and direct you until you
have soared far above the rest of your sex. But you must be diligent,
and discard all desires but the desire of knowledge."

"Oh, I will, dearest uncle. Why should I not? What else can I wish for?
I do not want to play with other children,--they laugh at me. I am too
ugly and grave for them. I will live alone, and learn with you; and one
day, when I know more than they, I will shame them. Oh, that will be
fine!"

"But I hope, my child, that you will remember your promise, and not
tell any one what I have said to you to-night."

"Not any one? not even Herr Heim?"

"Not for the world. If I should find that you cannot hold your tongue,
I will teach you nothing, and you will be as ignorant as those who
laugh at you."

"No, uncle, I will never tell anything; I will not, indeed!" Ernestine
cried, "But tell me one thing,--are there really no angels, then?"

"Angels!" and her uncle smiled. "Of what use has been all that I have
just said to you, if you can seriously ask such a question?"

"Then I have no guardian angel!" said the child, and her eyes filled
with tears. "And I loved my guardian angel so dearly!"

"My child," replied Leuthold, "you are your own guardian angel. Your
own strong mind will shield you from all danger far better than any
such imaginary creature with wings."

Ernestine was silent. She must take care of herself, then. But she felt
so weak and broken; how should she be supported unless she could lean
upon some higher power? No guardian angel, no father, no mother, not
even their spirits! It seemed to her that she was suddenly standing
alone, without prop or stay, upon a rocky peak, with a yawning abyss
just at her feet. The moment would come when she must fall headlong.
Then there arose before her the last hope of the soul in utter
misery,--God! He was all in all,--Father and guardian spirit; He was
love; He would not forsake her. Though all else that she had believed
in crumbled to dust, He still remained; she would cling to Him with
redoubled fervour. She looked up at her uncle; should she tell him her
thoughts? No! She could not speak that sacred name before Leuthold; she
dreaded the smile she had seen in the morning,--she could not tell why.

Her uncle then spoke, and the last drop of poison fell into her soul.
"We have in ourselves everything that modern religion has created
outside of ourselves," he began. "Angels, devils, God--" Ernestine
started and shrank,--"these are all only personifications of our good
and evil qualities. It is only the boundless self-conceit of mankind
that imagines that the grain of reason that distinguishes them from
the brutes is something entirely beyond the power of nature to
produce,--something supernatural, immortal, divine,--and that there
must be, enthroned somewhere above the universe, an omnipotent being,
who is in direct communication with us and has nothing to do but to
busy himself with our very important personal affairs! This belief in
God, with all its apparent humility and submission, is the veriest
offspring of the vanity and arrogance of mankind, and all worship of
God, my child, is, in fact, only worship of self. True humility is to
acknowledge that we are no 'emanation from the Divine Essence,' as
theosophists phrase it, but only nature's masterpieces, and that we can
claim no higher destiny than that common to the myriad forms of being
that bear their part in the universal whole."

Ernestine had sunk back among her pillows,--she felt annihilated; there
was no longer any God for her!

Her uncle arose, for two o'clock had just been tolled from the belfry
of the village church. He did not fail to observe the terrible
impression that his words had made upon Ernestine. He took her hand;
she withdrew it from his grasp. He smiled. "You are sorry, are you not,
to give up everything that your childish mind has believed in so
firmly? I can easily understand it. But, Ernestine, your powers of mind
are too great to allow you to find consolation for any length of time
in such delusions. Be sure that sooner or later you would have
extricated yourself from such bondage, as the expanding flower throws
off the confining hull. You have been ill, and your physical weakness
has depressed your mental energy; but, when you are well and strong
again, you will rejoice proudly in the consciousness that you are a
free, irresponsible being, not dependent upon the will and the doubtful
justice of a fancied Jehovah. Study yourself, my child; in yourself
lies your future. Believe in yourself, and plant your hopes deeply in
your faith in yourself. I will leave you now to sleep; and I am sure
that to-morrow I shall find you a little philosopher."

Long after her uncle had left the room and Rieka had retired upon
tiptoe to bed in the adjoining apartment, fully convinced that her
charge was sleeping, Ernestine was wide awake. She lay perfectly
motionless, as if shattered in every limb. She stirred for the first
time when Rieka had extinguished the light, so that no ray came through
the open door. Then the child drew a deep breath, and stretched her
arms out into the darkness as if to clasp the forms of her vanished
faith; but her arms encountered only the empty air. There was no more
pitiable creature upon earth than she at that moment. What is left for
a child without father or mother, who has lost her guardian angel and
her God? She is a bird fallen from the nest, stripped by cruelty of its
wings and left living on the ground. The child's foreboding soul,
precociously matured by misfortune, felt the entire weight of her
desolation; and she hid her face in the pillow, that Rieka might not
hear the convulsive sobs wrung from the depths of her misery. The tears
which she poured forth for her vanished God were all that her uncle had
left her,--the only prayer that she was capable of. She longed to
pray--but could not in words. "He does not hear me! He does not live!"
she cried to herself; and the hot tears burst forth again, and she wept
in agony. And, as she wept, her heart grew soft and tender, and as the
Crucified, after he had been laid in the tomb, was present invisibly
among his disciples, so the God who had just been buried away from her
mind came to life again in her heart; she did not hear nor see him, but
she felt his presence, and it gave her strength to pray. She kneeled in
her bed, folded her hands, and cried inwardly: "Dear God, let me keep
my belief in Thee--if Thou art and canst hear me--" --that terrible
"if" intruded. She paused to ponder upon it. And then there was an end
to her fervent prayer, and God vanished again.

Thus the struggle between faith and doubt continued feverishly, and her
soul thirsted for love as did her parched lips for water. Where was
there a kind, gentle hand to offer her a cooling draught, and with it
the kiss that should refresh her thirsty soul,--such a hand as only a
mother has? Ernestine gazed out into the darkness. Her breath came in
gasps, her heart beat audibly, but no more kindly tears came to her
burning eyes. "O God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" was the last
moan of her tortured heart; and then she sank into a feverish slumber.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                               DEPARTURE.


The autumnal gales had stripped the leaves from the trees; the tall
firs in the forest, bordering the spacious brown fields of the Hartwich
estate, were the only green on the landscape. Over the cheerless desert
plain wandered a lonely little figure, pale and sad as Heine's Last
Fairy. Ernestine had so far recovered that she was once more able to
brave the autumn wind. She extended her arms, and could not help
imagining that they might become wings, that would bear her far, far
aloft. She knew it could never really be so; but the thought was so
delightful! Up, up, far away from the earth,--it was so sad upon the
earth. She was a stranger here, and she felt that her home must be
elsewhere. In heaven? Oh, there was no heaven; but in the air--at
least, in the air. And she ran on--ran as fast as she could--and her
heart throbbed with excitement as the wind whistled in her ears and
tossed her clothes about, and her hair.

An insatiable yearning--she knew not for what--had driven her out of
the house--she knew not whither. There was nothing for her to crave
for, and yet she could not help it. She thought she should die of
longing! She wished she could dissolve into foam, like the little
mermaid, that the daughters of the air might bear her aloft into
endless space! And she stood still and gazed up into the gray clouds,
and took a long breath. There was no longer anything there for her to
aspire to, and she had not yet learned to look within. One vast void
around and above her, and forth into this immense void she was driven!

At last she reached the woods, and stood beneath the dark firs, in
whose boughs the wind was wildly roaring. It was the last time that she
should stand thus among these familiar scenes, for on the following day
she was to set out with her uncle for the south, that she might escape
the northern winter. She was sorry, for she clung to her home, bleak as
it had been. She must have something to cling to! She had looked
forward with pleasure to the ice and snow; the glittering form of the
snow-queen in the fairy book--the creature of Andersen's Northern
fancy--had transfigured winter for her. Like little Kay, she had lost
all delight in life, and, like him, she was perplexed in spirit at the
word "eternity." But she could not help loving the winter and the
solitude of her retired home. She walked on fearlessly, beneath the
whistling of the wind, deeper and deeper into the forest, until,
without knowing how, she emerged on the other side, and stood under the
oak where she had first seen Johannes. The bough, now entirely dead,
which had broken beneath her when she was trying to escape from him,
still hung there. There, too, was the spot where he had given her the
book--the wonderful book--that had peopled her fancy with such lovely
forms. And yet that interview with Johannes seemed in her memory far
more like enchantment than any fairy-tale, and she stood still, sunk in
a reverie, until a furious blast of wind tore at the boughs of the
majestic tree as if it longed to tear it down and scatter its fragments
through the forest. With a crash, the broken bough, only attached
hitherto to the trunk by a slender hold, was hurled to the ground, and
the wind wailed on through the bare branches in the forest depths.
Ernestine looked up startled. The boughs rustled and creaked, and the
scared ravens flew croaking hither and thither. Again the blast swept
howling across the plain, slowly, but with a mighty swell in its roar,
towards the wood, and again it stormed and raved in its first fury
about the isolated oak, which trembled and shook to its centre. But
Ernestine was startled only for an instant; she was used to the blasts
of a northern October, and she took delight in this wild might of
nature. It was almost as if she herself were shaking the tree, and
splitting its branches with her own hands. The exultation of a Titan in
the breast of a creature woven as it were out of moonlight and
lily-leaves! Only a divinely-related spirit could have had such
thoughts in so delicate a form,--a spirit that fraternized with the
elements, and, in an intoxication of delight, forgot the frail casket
in which it was confined.

Singing strange, wild songs, the child, with her wonted agility,
climbed the tree that had grown so dear to her, and cradled herself
exultingly amid its tossing branches. She ascended to the topmost
boughs, and gazed far over forest and plain; and the more the creaking
branches were tossed to and fro as she clung to them, the wilder grew
her delight. It was almost flying--to hover, thus hidden, above the
earth! She kissed the bough by which she held, and as she saw the young
branches breaking here and there beneath her, and the hurricane raged
so that it almost took away her breath, she looked up with inspired
eyes, and whispered involuntarily, "It is the breath of God!" Suddenly
she distinguished a sound as of human footsteps, and a shout came up
through the roar of the blast. She thought of the handsome stranger
youth! Could it be he--come to take her down from the tree? An
inexplicable mixture of joy and dread took possession of her. Was it
he? Would he stretch out his arms to her again? But it was not he. A
chill struck to her heart, and a shade gathered over the landscape. It
was her uncle! "Ernestine," he called to her, "thoughtless child! How
you terrify me! Running to the woods and climbing trees in such a
storm! You might kill yourself! Come down, I entreat you!"

"Let me stay here, uncle; I like it so much!" Ernestine begged.

"I must seriously desire you to come with me. What would people say if
I allowed you to be out in such weather? Be good enough to do as I tell
you."

Ernestine cast one more silent glance over her beloved forest, and
then, with a saddened face, began to descend. When she reached the spot
where the bough had been broken, and whence Johannes had rescued her,
she broke off a couple of withered leaves, hid them in her dress, and
slipped down the trunk lightly as a shadow. She turned to her uncle.
All her delight had vanished; she was upon the earth once more, and her
uncle's cold, keen eye disenchanted her utterly. Her look was downcast;
she felt almost ashamed. If he knew that she had just been thinking of
God, he would despise her. But why could she believe in God again while
she was up there, and not when she was down here with her uncle?

She walked on without a word by Leuthold's side, glancing neither to
the right nor the left, never heeding how the wind was well-nigh
tearing her dress from her back. She did not want to fly any more,--she
longed for nothing;--when her uncle was by, she was ashamed of every
emotion. When she came to the place where the path leading to her home
diverged from the road to the village, she asked permission of Leuthold
to go and say farewell at the parsonage. After some hesitation, he
granted it, and went on alone. Ernestine hurried along the well-known
road. The village children shouted after her, "Halloo, there goes
Hartwich's Tina,--proud Tina, with the whey face!" She paid no heed to
them,--she felt herself above the jeers of such creatures. With a
beating heart she reached the parsonage; then she suddenly stood still.
What did she want here? To bid good-by to the pastor and his wife! But
if the good old man should admonish her to love and fear God, as he was
so apt to do? Or if he should ask her if she believed in God? What
should she,--what could she answer him? Could she, doubter, apostate
that she was, enter the presence of the servant of God without placing
herself at the bar of judgment, or without lying? She stood like a
penitent, not daring to enter the door which had been so often flung
open to her. Twice she put her hand upon the bell-handle and did not
pull it. She knew that the old man would be grieved if she went away
without bidding him farewell; but she also knew that he would be still
more deeply pained could he guess at her present state of mind. Perhaps
he might despise her then; she could not bear that; and, just as she
was ashamed of her faith when her uncle was with her, she was now
ashamed of her doubts. How often had the pastor told her it was a sin
to doubt! she had committed--nay, was now committing--this sin. No, her
guilty conscience would not let her meet his eye, or kiss the soft,
gently folded hands of his wife. She slipped past the house, so that no
one could see her, and went into the grave-yard, where it was quiet and
lonely and she could hide her guilty little heart upon her parents'
graves. She knelt down beside them, and longed for tears to relieve
her; but no blessing arose from the graves over which no spirits
hovered, but which covered, as her uncle Leuthold had told her, nothing
but bones. And yet she so longed to do penance for all her doubts. "If
I could only have faith again this minute, and pray God to forgive me,
I could go in and see the pastor," she thought. She looked around her,
not knowing what to do;--there was the church, and the doors were open.
She would go into the house of God; perhaps in that sacred place she
might find again what she had lost. In profound self-abasement the
child entered, threw herself upon her knees before the altar, and
closed her eyes. "Now, now I can pray!" she thought; but, just as upon
that terrible night when she was robbed of her religion and peace of
mind, devotion seemed near her, but to be eluding her clasp. There lay
the guiltless little penitent, her soul full of piety, but unable to
pray,--her heart full of tears, but unable to weep. She sprang up in
despair. God was not here either. She had thought she heard him in the
tempest, and that the wind was his breath,--but on the way home her
uncle had explained to her that it was nothing but a current of air
occasioned by the change of temperature on the earth's surface, or by
violent showers of rain, and she was convinced that she had been wrong
and that her uncle knew very much more than the pastor. But if she
believed her uncle, she could not believe in God; it was not her fault,
and yet this doubt weighed upon her as the first crime of her life. Her
trusting soul was like the iron that glows long after the fire in which
it was heated is quenched; her faith was extinguished, but the
influence that her faith had exerted upon her endured and became her
punishment. It began to grow dark; yet still she stood with head bowed
and downcast eyes beside the wooden crucifix upon the tomb of her
parents. The Christ who had been nailed to the cross for the sake of
what her uncle called an illusion, seemed to regard her so
reproachfully that she did not dare to look up at him; he had shed his
precious blood for the faith which she denied; she almost thought he
would tear away the hand nailed to the cross and extend it in menace
towards her. An inexplicable shudder ran through her; again she fell
upon her knees.

"Forgive, forgive!" she cried; and the tears burst forth and relieved
the icy pressure upon her heart.

Then something grasped her shoulder and raised her from the ground. Was
it her uncle, or the foul fiend, who was standing beside her?

"You are here, then," he sneered, "in the dark, kneeling and weeping.
Aha! I came to look for my quiet little philosopher, and I find a
whimpering child praying to a wooden doll! Can you tell me where
Ernestine Hartwich is?"

"Uncle," cried Ernestine, driven to defiance in her despair, "why do
you persecute me so continually to-day? Can I not be alone for one
hour? and must I give an account of every thought and word? You have
taken from me everything in which I confided,--you have come between
myself and God, so that I dare not go to the pastor, but must slip
round his house as if I were a thief. Do you think all this does not
pain me, and that I feel no remorse? Whatever you may teach me, I shall
never be happy again. Why did you tell me there were no spirits, no
angels, no God? I did not wish to know it. I loved God, and, however
wretched I was, I could always hope that he would be kind and merciful
to me; if no human being loved me, I could always think that he did.
And now I must bear everything that happens to me, hoping nothing and
loving nothing,--no one,--not even you!"

Leuthold smiled, and stroked Ernestine's curls.

"I see now that I was wrong in treating a girl twelve years old
like a boy of twenty. Too strong nourishment will not strengthen an
invalid,--he cannot bear it; I ought to have thought of that, and not
burdened your girlish brain with so much. I can understand your dislike
of me as the innocent cause of your mental indigestion, and forgive you
for it. Pardon me for overestimating your intellect,--it is my only
injustice towards you."

Ernestine stood gloomily beside him, without a word; he could not guess
what was passing in her mind.

"I will leave you here, my dear child. Pray on,--you need fear no
further disturbance. Go, kiss the feet of your Christ,--it will relieve
your heart. Go, Ernestine; or are you embarrassed by my presence? Shall
I walk away? Well!"

He turned as if to go; but Ernestine held fast to his arm.

"I will go with you," she said sullenly. "I could not pray now if I
tried. And I am not so stupid as you think me. I understood everything
that you have taught me, and I do not believe any longer in--in--the
other. What else do you require? One can cry without being thought
silly; and I tell you I shall cry far oftener than I shall laugh. Oh, I
shall cry all my life long!"

And she covered her face with her hands and sobbed aloud.

"You are nervous, my child. These tears come from mere bodily weakness.
In a few years you will smile at what causes them now. Do not be
troubled that you cannot love any one,--not even me. All such childish
things are left behind in the nursery. Whoever will be truly free must
begin by standing alone. Every tie that links our heart to others,
however lovable they may be, is a fetter. Whoever will be strong must
cease to lean on others. Love knowledge alone,--all living things can
be taken from you, and your love for them is a source of pain. Science
is always yours,--an inexhaustible source of delight. Men are unjust.
They will estimate you not according to your mental powers, but your
exterior advantages, and these are too trivial to gain their homage.
Science gives you your deserts,--she measures her gifts according to
your diligence. Women will envy you; for your intellect will far
outsoar theirs. Men will slight you; for you are not, and never will
be, beautiful, and they require beauty beyond all else in a woman. You
will meet with nothing but disappointment among your kind, if you are
not resolved to expect nothing from them. If you would avoid every
grief that they can cause you, learn early not to depend upon them; and
to this end, science, the culture of the mind, alone can lead you.
Intellect will indemnify us for all the woes and necessities of
humanity,--through it we can rise to the true dignity of our nature.
Therefore, my child, seek out the true nourishment for the intellect,
and the blind instincts of your heart will soon die in the clear light
of the mind. You long for peace; trust me, it is to be found only in
your mind, not in love."

Ernestine walked silently beside her uncle. Her eyes gleamed strangely
in the twilight as she looked up at him. She did not understand all
that he said. But there came an icy chill from his words, and it was
owing to him that her feverish excitement of mind was allayed. Soft and
gently as falling snow in the night, his words had fallen into her
mind, and, without her knowledge, hidden the last blossoms of faith
there under a thick, cold pall. Beneath it her young heart grew torpid;
and she took this quiet, painless sleep for peace.

When they reached home, they found the Staatsräthin's carriage before
the door.

"Uncle," said Ernestine alarmed and disturbed, "go in and see if it is
the Frau Staatsräthin herself,--if it is, I would rather stay outside."

At this moment little Angelika looked out of the window, and called
Ernestine by name in a tone of delight. There was no help for it.
Ernestine had to go in and encounter, to her distress, the majestic
figure of the Staatsräthin. The great lady acknowledged Leuthold's low
bow by a slight inclination of her head, and held out her hand to
Ernestine.

"You have avoided me hitherto, my child. Have I, without intending it,
done anything to pain you?"

Ernestine stood silent in confusion. She could not have told, even had
she wished to do so, what the kind Staatsräthin had done to her, for
she did not know herself what it was. She could not understand, in her
childish inexperience, that it was her sense of shame at her own
insufficiency that embarrassed her in the Frau Staatsräthin's presence.

The lady's eyes rested kindly upon the shadowy little figure. She
stroked the child's thick, short curls, and then turned to Leuthold,
while Angelika, who had a large doll in her arms, drew Ernestine away
to a deep window-seat.

"My object here to-day, Herr Doctor, is to arrange a pressing matter of
business with you as speedily as possible."

"Madam," said Leuthold bowing, "I feel much honoured. May I offer you
one of these clumsy chairs? or will you have the kindness to go up with
me to my own apartments, where I can receive you in a more fitting
manner?"

The Staatsräthin glanced towards the children.

"I would like to speak to you alone for a few moments, Herr Doctor."

"Then, madam, let me request you to accompany me." With these words
Leuthold opened the door.

"Angelika," the Staatsräthin said to the child, "stay with Ernestine
until I come back."

She went upstairs with Leuthold; and, when seated upon the couch in his
study, she could not but observe the comfortable, cosy arrangement of
the room, the delicate cleanliness and order reigning in it; while upon
the table before her lay several exercise-books labelled "Ernestine von
Hartwich." Involuntarily she was inspired with a kind of confidence in
the grave, elegant man who had received her with so much grace. She
inspected him with the experienced eyes of a woman of the world. His
bearing was blameless, and his regular features bore an unmistakably
intellectual stamp. Far-sighted and clever as the Staatsräthin was, she
was too much of a woman not to be impressed by the good taste in
Leuthold's appearance and manner, and she was inclined to think Heim's
estimate of him as somewhat unjust. She did not belong to the class of
women ready to be imposed upon by a small hand with filbert-shaped,
carefully-kept nails; but the refinement of Leuthold's person and
surroundings was very agreeable in her eyes.

"The neatness and order that I see here surprise me, Herr Doctor," she
began, as Leuthold seated himself opposite her; "for I hear that your
wife is not with you at present."

"No, madam, I am alone; but I have an acute sense of fitness in
exterior arrangements, and probably pay more attention to such things
than is quite becoming in a man."

"Will your wife's absence be of long duration?" asked the Staatsräthin
with interest.

A shadow passed over Leuthold's countenance. "I fear, yes, madam. My
wife, unfortunately, had not sufficient affection for our child and
myself to endure the deprivations to which the disappointment of our
hopes of an inheritance from my brother subjected us. She returned to
her father for an indefinite time, and, as she has succeeded in keeping
away now from her little daughter for two months, I have great doubts
of her return."

"But that is very sad for you, Herr Doctor," remarked the Staatsräthin.

Leuthold passed his hand across his eyes. "It is sad indeed, madam,
that I should have made such a choice,--that I should have expended
years of love and pains in the attempt to cultivate and train a nature
incapable of culture. Mine is the same pain which is experienced by the
sculptor who finds a serious flaw in the marble upon which he has spent
years of labour. He exhausts himself in the endeavour to shape it
according to his ideal, and, just when he hopes for its completion, a
dark vein is laid bare by his chisel,--his work is worthless,--he has
hoped and laboured in vain!"

The Staatsräthin looked at him with interest, "That is rather coldly
put, and yet poetically conceived, sir."

"An artist would not call it cold, madam, for he would know how great
the suffering is to which I have ventured to compare my own."

The Staatsräthin assented. Leuthold's manner pleased her more and more.
Just then Lena entered, leading Gretchen by the hand, and carrying a
brightly burnished lighted lamp, which she placed upon the table.

"Oh, what a charming child!" exclaimed the Staatsräthin in unfeigned
surprise.

Her keenly observant eye noticed with pleasure the ray of delight that
illumined Leuthold's countenance. "Is she not lovely, madam?" he said,
actually glowing with gratified vanity. "You do indeed delight the
heart of a father who has seen his child forsaken by her own mother.
Yes, she is a treasure. She has the personal beauty that once so
attracted me in her mother, and will, I hope, develop a beauty of soul
which I failed to find in her mother. She will, in the future, repair
all that I have lost. While I have this daughter, I ask of life nothing
beside."

The large-hearted Staatsräthin was completely won by a declaration so
full of affection. "The man that idolizes his child thus cannot be
worthless," she thought.

Leuthold motioned to Lena to take Gretchen away again, and as she did
so the Staatsräthin remarked, as if casually, "There cannot be much
room in your heart, filled as it is with love for such an angel, for
poor, pale little Ernestine."

Leuthold looked steadily at her. "Madam, a lady like yourself, whose
loving heart finds room for so many, can hardly say that in earnest."

"You are right," said the Staatsräthin; "I ought to know how many one
can love without defrauding any of their due measure of affection. But
I am a woman, whose vocation it is to love; a man, and a scholar, like
yourself, is apt to confine his regard to what is nearest to him."

"It is natural; and I do not deny that my daughter is dearer to me than
my niece: nevertheless, I think I have sufficient affection for the
latter to satisfy her demands and to enable me to fulfil all my duties
as guardian. You can have no idea, madam, what anxious care the
extraordinarily precocious intellect of that child requires, and what a
weighty responsibility the training of such an uncommon nature
involves."

"I can easily believe you; and I am convinced that she could not
possibly be in better hands than your own. But Ernestine's physical
education must weigh heavily upon you just at this time, when you are
alone. I should very much like to relieve you somewhat in future of
your arduous duties. You leave to-morrow for the south, and I cannot
but rejoice, for the sake of Ernestine's health, that it is so. But I
hear that you intend returning hither at the end of six mouths, to
settle in this part of the country. If this be so, let me entreat you
to intrust your ward to me every year for some weeks or months,--you
will need some rest,--when you can give your undivided time to your
daughter. Will you not allow me to take this part in Ernestine's
education?"

Leuthold bowed. "Madam, you are one of those who scatter blessings
wherever they appear. Your sympathy does me too much honour; I am
unworthy of it. Therefore let me thank you, not for myself, but for my
niece. There is another name, also, in which I must offer you grateful
acknowledgments,--that of the unfortunate mother of the child. If she
could speak to you from the other world, she would repay your kindness
with far better thanks than my weak words can convey."

The Staatsräthin's eyes filled with tears; she thought, what would
become of her little Angelika without her mother, and, touched to her
heart, she grew still more reconciled to the strange man whose manner
contrasted so strongly with all she had heard of him.

"Then you consent to my plan?" she asked.

"I give you my word, madam, that, when I return with Ernestine, she
shall stay with you as long as you desire."

"I thank you," said the Staatsräthin, surprised at this ready assent.
She was now firmly convinced that Heim had done this singular man great
injustice.

"We have agreed so quickly in this matter," the Staatsräthin began
again, "that I cannot but hope that I shall be equally successful in
regard to the other affair that brings me here. I have come, in fact,
for the purpose of learning whether you will dispose of the Hartwich
estate."

A delicate flush overspread Leuthold's face.

"Indeed, madam, you take me greatly by surprise."

"You are aware that my brother Neuenstein has long been desirous of
possessing the factory; but serious losses in another direction
rendered it impossible for him to command the sum required for the
purchase. When I found how his heart was set upon giving his son a
position as possessor and head of the factory, I determined, with the
consent of my son Johannes and his guardians, to furnish him with the
necessary funds. Johannes' answer to my proposal has just arrived from
Paris. He entirely approves of my plan, and would willingly even run
the risk of a loss for his uncle's sake."

"I really cannot tell which to admire most, madam,--your determination
and energy, or your generous spirit! Happy the man who has such a
sister!"

"Oh, I pray you do not flatter me," said the Staatsräthin, as a shade
of embarrassment flitted across her face. "Such things are not worth
mentioning. I wish to keep my brother and my nephew near me; and I
could not do so if they were to buy property in another part of the
country. It is most fortunate that my country-seat is just where it is.
My motive is purely selfish. As you depart early to-morrow morning, we
had better arrange matters upon the spot. Then I can lay the deed of
purchase upon my brother's plate at tea this evening."

"A princely surprise," rejoined Leuthold, hastening to his
writing-table to make out the necessary agreement. The transaction met
his desires perfectly, for he wished above all things to be able to
reside in the south with Ernestine, that he might carry out his plans
with regard to her education, far from the scrutiny of her present
friends; and, by the disposal of this property, the last reason for
ever returning to the scenes of her childhood vanished.

In the mean time, Angelika and Ernestine were sitting in the
window-seat of what was formerly the laundry, engaged in earnest
conversation. Angelika had received that very day from her brother the
crying doll that she had thought he meant to bring her upon his return.
She was beside herself with delight, and could not imagine how
Ernestine could be so unmoved by the sight of such a miracle of
mechanism. She had made it say "papa" and "mamma," and open and shut
its eyes, repeatedly. Ernestine was entirely composed and cold. She
declared that the words "papa" and "mamma" were not very distinct, and
that the eyelids made altogether too much noise in opening and
shutting.

Angelika was not at all troubled by Ernestine's budding misanthropy,
for she did not observe it. But that her friend should not care for
dolls, was a bitter grief to the little girl. "You will never take any
pleasure in dolls if you do not like this one," she said.

"Why should I take any pleasure in them?" Ernestine said in a tone of
contempt.

"What? Why, don't you know? I suppose you think the poor things do not
feel it when you are unkind to them. But mamma says they feel it all,
and don't like it, although they don't show it."

"Do you believe all that your mother says?" asked Ernestine, shaking
her head.

"Certainly; of course. Mamma always tells the truth."

"How do you know that?"

Angelika stared at Ernestine. "How? Why, because I do."

"Yes, but who told you so?"

"No one; I know it myself."

Ernestine looked down and said nothing.

"I know it myself," she repeated thoughtfully, not comprehending why
the words struck her so oddly. "But suppose she should tell you what
you could not believe?"

"Oh, a child must always believe what her mother says."

"How if she cannot do it?"

"But she must!" cried Angelika angrily.

"She must? How can we believe anything because we must? It is not
possible," said Ernestine, and she thought Angelika very silly.
Suddenly it occurred to her that the pastor was no wiser when he said
that we must have faith and that it was a sin not to believe. What if
you could not,--what was the use of that _must_?

"Ernestine, don't stare so at nothing," said Angelika, interrupting her
reverie. "Just look how straight my doll can sit, all alone, without
anything to lean against! Oh, just give her one kiss; she is your
namesake--I christened her Ernestine."

"No, I don't want to,--it is nothing but a lump of leather, it cannot
feel, and I will not kiss anything that is not alive and does not
feel!"

"Oh, Ernestine, don't say that. She is not alive now, but perhaps she
may get alive. Mamma told me once of a man in Greece, called Pygmalion,
who made a marble doll for himself, and loved it so dearly that it grew
warm and came to life. And I believe that if I should love my doll
dearly she might get alive; and I am sure I shall love her very dearly!
She can say 'papa' and 'mamma' already, which Herr Pygmalion's doll
could not do at all; and in time I shall perhaps bring her on, just as
he did his!"

And she clasped the "lump of leather" to her little heart, gazed
tenderly and hopefully into its blue glass eyes, and was quite content.

Ernestine looked at her with mournful wonder; she understood now that
"Faith gives peace," and she envied the child her happiness.

"Would you not rather have a puppy or a kitten?" she asked gently. "It
could eat and drink, and you could feed it, and it would understand
what was said to it, and run after you, and love you? Would not that be
nicer?"

A shade of sorrow passed over Angelika's rosy face, like a cloud over
the sun. "Oh," she sighed, "we have a little dog; but I cannot feed it;
it does not eat nor drink!"

"Why not? Is it sick?"

"No; it is stuffed."

Ernestine smiled in spite of herself. "Then you have no dog!"

"Oh, yes, we have! he is called Assor. He only died, and mamma had him
stuffed, so that he lies perfectly quiet near the fire, and never
stirs. Mamma says he will not come to life again. Oh, Ernestine, it is
very sad,--when I stroke him, he never licks my hand any more! I call
him hundreds of times, and he used to turn his pretty black head round
towards me, but he does not do it now; he cannot see nor hear me, and
he used to love me so much."

The little girl covered her eyes with her hand and began to cry.

Ernestine tried to soothe her. "Your mother ought to have had the dog
buried. Then you would have forgotten him and not grieved after him."

"No! oh, no! I could not have borne that. What! have the faithful old
dog hidden in the ground! It would have been too hard! He was so
faithful; he never left our side; and when he could hardly walk, he
used to creep out of his basket to welcome us when we came into the
room, and when he was dying in my lap, he looked up at me so
mournfully, as if to say, 'I must leave you now.' And could I hide him
away and forget him? That would be dreadful. No, no! he shall lie by
the fire in the drawing-room; it is far more comfortable there than in
the cold ground, and I will always think how good he was. And I'll tell
you what,--when mamma dies she shall not be buried either. I will put
her dressing gown on her and let her lie in her soft bed. Then I will
pretend she is sick, and I will sit by her every day and talk to her,
and, even if she does not answer me, I shall know what she would say if
she could speak. And if she cannot kiss me, I will kiss her all the
more. That will be a great deal better than to have nothing left of
her; will it not?"

Ernestine shook her head. "That can't be done, Angelika; you can't keep
dead bodies; they decay. How can you think of such a thing?"

"Oh, you say, 'That can't be done,'--you say, 'That's nothing,' to
everything, and spoil all my pleasure; I tell you it is very unkind of
you!"

Ernestine felt ashamed. She had been treating Angelika as her uncle
Leuthold treated herself. The child was pained and unhappy when her
dolls were treated with contempt, and her childish fancies not
encouraged; and was she, Ernestine, to endure without a moan the utter
overthrow of the hopes of her entire existence, when her uncle dragged
down into the dust all that she had held most sacred? She leaned her
forehead, heavy with the weight of her thoughts, against the
window-pane, and looked up into the gray, storm-lashed clouds, through
which there beamed no star, not a ray of moonlight. The children had
not noticed the gathering darkness in the room, and Rieka almost
startled them when she entered with a light.

"Is not mamma coming soon?" asked Angelika with a sigh. "Pray tell her
that I want to go home."

"I will tell her," replied Rieka, and left the room.

"You are tired of being with me," Ernestine whispered sadly. "You
cannot love me either, can you?"

Angelika was confused, and did not answer. Ernestine looked
disappointed and bitter. "Very well, then--I need not like you either.
Uncle Leuthold would only scold me if I did."

"What for?" Angelika asked amazed.

"Because it is silly to love anything except science, and because
nobody loves me--nobody!"

As she was speaking, a carriage drove up, and old Heim alighted from
it. Ernestine was startled; she felt as if the pastor, whom she had
shunned, were coming. The door opened, and he entered the room.

"Well, here you both are!" he cried after his hearty fashion. "I wanted
to say good-by to you, my little Ernestine, before you leave us for so
long. But what is the matter? Have you been quarrelling about the doll?
Why, what a lovely creature she is!" He took the doll, seated himself
in a chair, and dandled it upon his knee; the machinery of the toy was
set in motion, and the doll screamed "mamma" and "papa" loudly. "Good
gracious, how frightened I am!" laughed the old gentleman. "But she is
very naughty,--you must train her better, Angelika. She ought not to
scream so at strangers."

Angelika clapped her hands with delight. "Oh, I knew that you would
like her, Uncle Heim. You will love her just as you do the rest of my
dolls, won't you?"

"Of course; she is really such a lovely creature, that I must bring her
some bonbons the next time I come."

"Oh, yes--do, uncle, do!" cried Angelika.

"But be careful not to let her eat too many, or she will have to be put
to bed like your old Selma, and I shall have to play doll's-doctor
again."

"Oh, no, uncle; I will eat some with her myself; bring them soon, pray
do."

Meanwhile Heim had been observing Ernestine, who stood mute at a little
distance.

"Well, what does our little Ernestine say to this wonderful new child?"

"Oh, uncle," Angelika complained, "she called it a lump of leather."

Heim looked gravely at Ernestine. "So young, and already such a
skeptic! Only twelve years old, and take no pleasure in dolls? Poor
child!"

Ernestine was silent. The words "Poor child" fell like molten lead into
an open wound. Heim gave back the doll to Angelika. "Come here,
Ernestine." She approached him shyly.

"What have you been doing? you look as if you had a guilty conscience?"

"Well, she has, Uncle Heim," Angelika interposed; "for she said, a
little while ago, that it was silly to love any one; and that is very
wrong!"

"Did you say that?" asked Heim astonished.

Ernestine felt as though she should sink into the ground. She
clasped her hands in entreaty. "Oh, forgive me! I have all kinds of
thoughts!--I do not know what I say or do! I only know that I am a
wretched, wretched child!"

Heim shook his head, and drew the trembling child towards him. "My
darling, tell me about it: is your uncle severe with you? does he treat
you unkindly?"

"No, oh, no! he is very kind,--he is never cross to me--it is not
that,--not that."

"I understand. In spite of his kindness, you feel that he is not near
to you; you have no father nor mother, and you need warmth and
sunshine, you poor frail little flower. Only be patient! when you get
to the lovely, sunny south, with its flowers and birds, you will be
better, and your heart will be lighter. I would have liked to keep you
with me, I would have brought you up lovingly, and would have tried to
fill a father's place to you. But it could not be,--God best knows
why,--and I am sure it is better for you, mind and body, to leave this
northern climate for a time."

These kind words melted Ernestine's very heart. She pressed Heim's
hands to her lips. She wanted to confess all to him. "Oh, do not speak
so to me!" she cried with streaming eyes,--"not so kindly!--I do not
deserve it."

"My poor innocent child, what can you have done, not to deserve
kindness? Ernestine, what is it? What disturbs you so?"

"Oh, if you knew--" cried Ernestine, and just then the door opened, and
Leuthold appeared, just in time to prevent what would have ruined all
his plans.

"Ah, Herr Geheimrath,--then I was not mistaken. It was your carriage
that drove up. The Frau Staatsräthin is with me upon business, and
requests your presence at the signing of a paper."

"I will come immediately," Helm said briefly, and went up-stairs with
Leuthold.

"Now uncle will drive home with us," cried Angelika delighted. "Isn't
he kind, Ernestine?"

"Yes, oh, yes," sighed Ernestine, standing motionless beside the chair
where Heim had been sitting. At last he returned with Leuthold and the
Staatsräthin.

"Angelika," said the latter, "we must hurry, so that Uncle Neuenstein
shall not wait for his tea. Good-by, my little Ernestine. Herr
Gleissert will tell you what we intend to do when you come back. Get
well and strong, my child, so that you may come back to us a healthy
little girl."

Angelika kissed Ernestine hastily, and drew her mother towards the
door.

Ernestine stood still with downcast eyes. Heim went up to her and
clasped her in his arms. He only said, "God bless you!" but these words
agitated her greatly, and, as he turned to go, she sank on the floor,
sobbing aloud.

The visitors had gone,--the carriages had rolled away. Leuthold had
been amusing himself for some time with Gretchen in his own room. But
Ernestine was still on her knees in the cheerless room below-stairs,
weeping over the grave of her childhood.



                                PART II.



                               CHAPTER I.

                            "ONLY A WOMAN."


Upon a bright, sunny day, at the house of Professor Möllner in N----
there were gathered the principal Professors of medicine and philosophy
in the town. The table provided for the guests was loaded with
everything that could rejoice the hearts of men who had spent the
morning in delivering lectures. Lunch was not the only end for which
this assemblage was gathered together. These learned gentlemen had
taken this occasion to discuss a very ludicrous matter,--nothing less
than an application from a lady for permission to attend the lectures
and to graduate at the University of the place.

Möllner had invited these gentlemen to his house for the purpose of
this discussion. There sat the physiologist Meibert, the anatomist
Beck, and the philosophers Herbert and Taun, leaning back in
comfortable arm-chairs,--their throats very dry,--regarding with
longing eyes the various bottles that stood as yet uncorked, as if
awaiting the magic word that should make them yield up their contents.
Hector, too, Möllner's large dog, was devouring with his eyes, at a
respectful distance, the delicacies upon the table, quite unable to
understand how the gentlemen could refrain so long from falling to. He
would have done very differently had he been a man.

The Staatsräthin entered the room, and with dignified repose and
kindliness of manner greeted the guests, who rose as she appeared. "I
have just learned that my son is not here to receive his friends," she
said. "Allow me to act his part. You must need refreshment after the
lectures."

"Thanks, thanks! you are most kind," was heard from all sides as the
Staatsräthin filled the glasses. Herbert, the philosopher, was foremost
in his acknowledgments; for he was a great favourite in society, and
aspired to unite the solidity of the scholar with the grace of the man
of the world. "We are greatly privileged in being allowed to kiss the
hand whose tasteful care we have already admired in the charming,
arrangement of this table."

"Professor Herbert's gallantry is well known," said the Staatsräthin
dryly.

"It is true," he replied, "that I endeavour always to give expression
to the sentiments of respect and admiration that I entertain for your
sex, madam, in spite of the failure of my attempts."

"Good-morning, mamma,--good-morning, gentlemen," cried a clear, ringing
voice, and there came tripping into the room a figure so full of life
and bloom that its joyousness was instantly reflected upon every face.

"Angelika," said the Staatsräthin, embracing her, "have you come
without your husband? What is the matter? You were not invited;--it was
_he_. Is it a mistake?"

"Oh, Frau Staatsräthin, we are entirely satisfied with the exchange,"
laughed the professors; and, Herbert taking the lead,--they gathered
about Angelika, enjoying the atmosphere of youth and grace that
encompassed her everywhere.

"I know perfectly well, mamma, that only Moritz was invited, but I have
come too. I so wanted to hear judgment passed in this august assembly
upon my former playmate. I may stay, may I not?"

"If your husband is willing, and these gentlemen do not object," said
the Staatsräthin.

"No, oh, no,--we certainly do not object," cried all the gentlemen,
with the exception of Herbert, who remarked softly, with a thoughtful
air, that he feared that their charming associate might hear some
observations on this occasion not flattering to her sex.

"Oh, I cannot fear anything of the sort from you, the acknowledged
champion of dames, the most gallant of men," laughed Angelika,--"and
the other gentlemen will not be too bard upon us."

Herbert shrugged his shoulders.

"Besides," Angelika continued gaily, "I have been a little hardened in
the matter by my stern lord and master, who has very little
consideration for our sex."

"Scarcely to be wondered at in a practising physician," Herbert said in
a low tone to his associates; then, turning with his sweetest
expression to Angelika, "Could you not have taught him better long
ago?"

"Oh, no," complained Angelika.

"He considers his wife an exception," interposed the Staatsräthin; "she
seems to have left no room in his nature for sympathy with the rest of
womankind. I have never seen a man so exclusive in his regard."

"Such a wife deserves it all," said Herbert, kissing Angelika's hand.

At this moment the door opened, and old Heim, his fine head crowned
with locks of silvery whiteness, entered. All bowed low to this "Nestor
of science," as he was called. After the death of his king he had
accepted a call to N----, and had for eight years occupied the chair of
pathology in the University there. He was followed by his adopted son,
for whom he had created a professorship for the cure of diseases of the
eye,--a fair, handsome young man, slender in figure and gentle in
demeanour, with hands so small and well shaped that they seemed formed
for the very purpose of handling such a delicate piece of mechanism as
the eye. The Staatsräthin and Angelika greeted them both with all their
old cordiality, and Professor Herbert said aloud, "How fresh and strong
our revered associate looks! he must teach us how to retain our youth."

"Yes, indeed," said Meibert, "if Bock could see him he would recall his
cruel assertion that man retains full possession of his mental powers
only until the age of fifty!"

"He will soon recall that when he has passed fifty himself," said a
deep, powerful voice. All turned to the new-comer.

"Ah, Möllner, have you been listening?"

"Oh, no; but I could not help hearing, as I came in, that you were
making pretty speeches to one another,--just as if you had cups of tea
before you, instead of glasses of good wine. Pray, what has made you so
sentimental?"

"Your protracted absence, probably," said Angelika, relieving her
brother of his hat and cane.

The strong, fine-looking man threw an affectionate glance at her.
"Indeed! let me entreat forgiveness, then. One of my experiments was
unsuccessful, and I was obliged to repeat it. That is why I am late!"

"I suppose, then, you have been torturing some unfortunate dog or
rabbit," said Angelika in a tone of distress. "Poor thing!"

"For shame, Angelika!" said her brother. "Those are not words for the
sister of a physiologist,--a woman who ought to understand the object
of science."

Angelika made no reply, but observed, well pleased, how tenderly
Johannes stroked Hector, who came to greet his master.

The door was flung violently open, and in rushed, in a great hurry,
Angelika's husband, Moritz Kern, Clinical Professor and practising
physician. His figure was not tall, but muscular,--his eyes were black
and sparkling, his features sharply cut, and his stiff black hair close
cropped around his head. "Morning, morning," he cried, quite out of
breath, but in high good humour, as he threw his hat and gloves upon a
table and himself into a chair. "Excuse me for my tardiness. Ah, my
dear,--kiss your hand,--love me? Yes? Not seen you since morning.
Walter with you? No? Was he good?"

"Yes, indeed," said Angelika, who stood beside her boisterous husband
like a rose upon a thorny stem; "but he fell off his rocking-horse and
has got a great bruise."

"Good, good,--harden him," he replied smiling. He looked for an instant
into Angelika's blue eyes, and the fire of his glance must have
penetrated her heart, for her fair brow flushed and her eyelids drooped
like those of a girl upon the day of her betrothal.

"Come, Moritz, you can make love to your wife another time," cried
Johannes; "it is late,--we must come to business. What detained you?"

"My dear friend, I couldn't help it. I had a girl at the clinic
that gave me no end of trouble. Old trouble with the
heart,--acute inflammation,--stoppage in the arteries of the left
foot,--mortification,--the leg must come off to-day."

"A splendid case!" said Helm approvingly.

"Heavens! what savages you are, to call that a splendid case!" said
Angelika horrified.

"My angel, if you choose to assist at a council of rude men, you must
not start at such innocent technical terminology," said her husband,
enjoying Angelika's pretty dismay.

"Yes, I too have been scolding her for sympathizing with the victims of
my experiments," said Möllner.

"You were wrong to blame her. I like to have her compassionate.
Continue to weep for the poor dogs, my child, and the yet more
unfortunate frogs. What have you to do with the reasons for torturing
them? I do not want you to imbibe any flavour of science from your
husband or brother. I like you just as you are; you suit me precisely.
I will not have you otherwise."

"For heaven's sake, mamma, carry Angelika away!" cried Johannes
laughing. "As long as this fellow has his wife by his side, there is
nothing to be done with him!"

"She shall stay!" said Moritz decidedly. "There is nothing of
importance to be done. The Hartwich woman asks to attend our lectures;
why waste any thought upon such a fool? Don't answer her request at
all, and be done with it!"

"Softly, softly, my young friend," cried old Heim very gravely, while
Moritz, with Angelika's hand in his, swallowed a glass of wine. "First
read this paper, which the girl sent to me, and which so enchained
Möllner's attention when I gave it to him to-day after lecture that--I
must betray him--it was the cause of his tardiness. The experiments
were over long before he made his appearance!"

A slight flush overspread Johannes' face as he handed Moritz the paper.
The latter read the title aloud--"_Reflex Motion in its Relation to
Free Agency_."

"By Jove! a good idea, if it is her own!"

"It is her own--that I'll vouch for!" cried Heim with warmth.

"That must be both philosophically and physiologically interesting,"
said the philosopher Taun to Herbert, who coldly shrugged his
shoulders.

"Let us see whether the article corresponds to the title," muttered
Moritz, turning over the leaves.

"Read us some of it aloud," said Heim; and Moritz selected, at random,
and read: "According to my opinion, the want of external self-control
proceeds from sluggishness of the inhibitory nerves in comparison with
the activity of the motor nerves, for the effort to control one's self
is certainly, in a degree, neither more nor less than a struggle for
mastery between these two sets of nerves. If the irritation acting upon
the one is stronger than the force of will which should excite the
other to activity, the reflex motion will take place in spite of what
is called 'best intentions,' whether the occasion be a start of alarm,
a desire to yawn, laugh, or weep at unfitting times, a scream, an angry
gesture, or even a blow bestowed upon the object whence proceeds the
incitement to wrath."

Moritz paused, and said smiling, "She has forgotten a kiss, which is
only a reflex motion under certain circumstances,--that is, when one
does not wish to kiss, ought not to kiss, and yet cannot help it." And
he drew his wife towards him, and kissed her. Angelika blushed deeply,
and, rising, greatly embarrassed, joined her mother, who sat quietly at
work by the window. The gentlemen laughed, and Moritz looked after her
with eyes full of tenderness.

"It certainly is strange that while the Hartwich has made due mention
of the reflex motion of terror--a start; of pain--tears; of fatigue--a
yawn; of anger--a blow, it does not seem to have occurred to her that
there are reflex motions of tenderness, also," remarked young Hilsborn.

"Probably," said Moritz laughing, "she has had no opportunity for
observing any such. I suppose that, like all blue-stockings, she is so
ugly that no one has ever bestowed any tenderness upon her."

"She is certainly not ugly," said Johannes with warmth. "She might have
admirers enough if she chose."

Moritz turned hastily round to Johannes, who sat almost behind him, and
stared as if a new idea had suddenly occurred to him. "What the deuce,
Johannes! do you know her? Oho! indeed! now I understand the interest
that you take in her. Well, you can teach her to make good her
omissions."

"I should really like to be present at such an interesting lesson!"
said Herbert.

"Laugh away," said Johannes calmly. "You may laugh at me as much as you
please, but have the goodness, Moritz, to spare your jests as far as
Fräulein Hartwich is concerned; and you too, friend Herbert. Pray heed
what I say. We have nothing to do here with the personality of this
girl; it is nothing to us. All we have to do is to pass judgment upon
her intellectual capacity, and to accede or not to her request. Go on,
Moritz!"

And Moritz read further: "Even the law, without knowing it, recognizes
this physiological fact, for it punishes less severely a murder
committed in the heat of passion than one that is premeditated. And
what is a murder committed in the heat of passion, in reality, but a
reflex motion in a broader sense? If this theory be correct, many a
poor criminal may escape not only a violent death at the hangman's
hands, but also the flames of the material hell to which bigoted
moralists have consigned him. Let us endeavour, therefore, to discover
what relation these facts sustain to Free Agency. All that we can do to
attain the self-control which is the germ of all the virtues is, from
earliest childhood, to exercise the inhibitory nerves in the discharge
of their functions. It is an undoubted fact that, from the beginning of
life, the mind must learn to use as its tools the various organs of the
body. We cannot understand the use of a tool to which we are
unaccustomed as we can one that we have frequently handled. Thus it is
with the mind and the nerves. Every nerve that is often called into
activity by the mind is strengthened by exercise. For example: the
sense of touch grows remarkably keen with blind people, who depend upon
it as a substitute for eyesight. By continual exercise of the nerves of
sensation in his finger-tips, the blind man achieves the greatest
perfection in his sense of touch. 'Practice makes perfect,' we often
hear said with regard to arts and occupations difficult of mastery. And
what is this practice but the custom of the mind to exercise this or
that nerve, bringing into play the required muscular activity,--the
exercise of certain nerve-fibres? Are the inhibitory nerves alone not
to be thus controlled? Certainly not! The mind can make them also
implicitly obedient to its will, if it neglects no opportunity for
exercising them,--and why should it not apply itself to this task with
the same zeal that is expended upon the attainment of an art or
handicraft? I, for example, was in the habit of screaming at the
unexpected discharge of a pistol. I had a pistol discharged daily in my
hearing, without warning, and in a short time I was able to suppress
the scream. It may be urged that I had gradually become accustomed to
the noise, and was no longer startled. But this was not the case. I was
as much startled as ever, but I had taught the appropriate inhibitory
nerve to cut off the reflex motion upon the larynx. I know that a
subjective experience of this kind proves nothing objectively; but such
a simple inference, I think, needs no proof. Here we come again to the
boundary-line separating the physiological from the psychological,
where free agency results from a material law, just as fragrance comes
from the chalice of a flower. Only let us be sure that our nerves are
but a key-board upon which, if we strike the right keys correctly, we
shall produce the harmonious accord of our whole being, and, if we do
not learn to do so, we are to be pitied or despised, according to the
school in which the lesson is needed."

"And so on," said Moritz, turning over the leaves. "The rest can be
easily imagined. Here is a special treatise upon the motor nerves,--it
seems pretty fair,--and rather a long essay upon nervous excitement,
but I think we have done our duty and read enough of the testimony. How
shall we decide? Shall we carry out the joke, and admit a student in
petticoats to the lectures and the dissecting-room?"

"Why not?" said Professor Taun with some humour. "We admit so many
stupid lads, why not one woman?"

"My dear friend," old Heim began, "I do not think we have ever had many
pupils more gifted than Fräulein Hartwich. And is not a talented woman
better than a stupid man?"

"That is a question," remarked Herbert, riveting his sharp eyes upon
Heim's honest face. "I do not believe that the most talented woman can
accomplish what is possible, with diligence and perseverance, for a man
of common ability. What aid can a woman lend to us, or to science? The
aid of her labour only, for no woman possesses creative force. And the
feminine capacity for labour is so weak, that it is hardly worth while
to commit an absurdity for the sake of making it ours."

"An absurdity?" asked Heim.

"Yes, I should call it absurd to admit a woman among our students, to
degrade science to a mere doll to amuse silly girls withal, until,
finally, there would be an Areopagus erected, before which we should be
expected to make our most profound bow, in every feminine tea-party.
There is competition enough already, without increasing it by the
admission among us of the other sex."

"That sounds strange," said old Heim; "it looks almost as if you were
afraid of the competition which you so thoroughly despise. Why speak of
competition in science? Leave that narrow-minded word to trade, which
is really confined within certain limits. In such a boundless and
abstract domain as science, there is no place for personal envy and
arrogance. Can there be any question of competition when we are
labouring for a cause which is to benefit the world? Whoever asks for
other rewards than are contained in knowledge itself, is no priest of
science. The true student exists for science, not science for him,--he
rejoices in every fresh advance, no matter by whom it is made, for the
honour of the cause that he serves is his own, and we can say
truthfully, Each for all, and all for each. If, therefore, we are
offered the labour of a pair of hands willing to share our pains, let
us not reject them because they are the delicate hands of a woman, but
accept them, and offer them a modest place, where they can achieve all
that lies in their power."

"But," cried Moritz, "let such hands do for us what we cannot do for
ourselves,--knit stockings, for instance,--instead of trying to assist
in what we can easily accomplish without them."

"My dear young friend," said Heim smiling, "the temple of science is
large, very large. I think neither we nor our posterity, however
numerous they may be, will be able to complete it."

"I think, gentlemen," said the philosopher Taun, in his gentle, refined
way, "that there are only two points of view from which the matter is
to be considered. Either we must base our decision upon the
intellectual capacity of the lady, and, if so, subject the paper before
us to conscientious criticism; or we must determine, once for all, that
no woman is to be admitted to our University,--in which case there will
be no question whatever of capacity or incapacity. Let us, then, come
to an agreement upon these points."

"That is true,--Taun is right," cried Heim. "I vote for the admission
of women of genius, like this one."

"And I against it," rejoined Herbert; "for I contend that there are no
women of genius!"

"For my part," said Taun, "I am not decidedly opposed to the admission
of a woman among our hearers, and, if I were, the originality of
Fräulein Hartwich's paper would have shaken my decision. I cannot judge
of the value of the physiological part of it,--I must leave that to our
friend Möllner; but the philosophical idea that is its basis I think
extremely suggestive, and that is more than can be expected from one of
the laity."

"I oppose the emancipation of women," cried Moritz, "principally
because I find the existing order of society quite rational, and will
do nothing to disturb it."

"I vote for Fräulein Hartwich," said young Hilsborn. "It will not
interfere with our social order to grant her request. She will not be
followed by crowds of imitators, for the simple reason that her talent
is extraordinary. I maintain that we have no right to deny any
opportunity for development to such a talent because it is accidentally
hidden in a woman's brain. A great mind requires strong nourishment,
and it is cruel to withhold such from it out of mere envy, and condemn
it to extinction among the commonplace occupations of women."

"Hilsborn is far from wrong," said Meibert; "but can such a mind quench
its thirst for knowledge nowhere but in a University? The lady has
certainly proved in the treatise before us that she has learned
something outside of the walls of the lecture-room. What does she want
of a degree? It must be vanity that suggests the want, and we are to
blame if we lend ourselves to the gratification of such a folly."

"That is my opinion also," added Beck.

But Hilsborn was not silenced. "It seems very natural to me that a
woman who feels herself possessed of the mental power of a man should
aspire to manly dignities, and her desire to espouse science, not as an
amusement, but as the occupation and end of her existence, is a proof
of her deep conviction of its grave importance. There is certainly
nothing here of the female vanity which resorts to bodily and mental
adornment merely for the sake of pleasing."

"You are a brave champion, Hilsborn," said Möllner, holding out his
hand to the young man.

"Then we are only three against four," said old Heim. "Möllner's vote
alone is wanting,--and if he gives it in favour of the Hartwich, there
will be a tie; so I propose that we give him the casting vote,
especially as he, as a physiologist, is best capable of judging of the
value of the essay before us."

"I should have thought," cried Moritz, "that any one of us could have
passed judgment upon such a piece of dilettanteism; it is only the
modern nonsense about the fibres. There is not much in it!"

All present looked eagerly towards Johannes, who was calmly leaning
back in his arm-chair. "It is no piece of dilettanteism. I grant that
it is hasty and one-sided to attempt to ascribe all self-control to the
impediments of reflex motion; nevertheless, Fräulein Hartwich's essay
evinces a comprehension of the physiology of the nervous system far
beyond what is usual, and I cannot deny that such a self-dependent
realization of scholarship is a proof of the most decided creative
faculty." Here he looked at Herbert.

"Indeed?" said the latter pointedly.

"Yes!" said Möllner with warmth; "but, nevertheless, I give my vote
against her admission; and of course that decides the matter,--we are
now five to three!" The gentlemen looked at one another, some with
surprise, some with annoyance.

"What do you mean?" cried Heim. "You were thoroughly delighted to-day
with the girl's talent."

"We relied upon you," said Hilsborn reproachfully.

"This is the first injustice of which I have ever convicted my friend
Möllner," said Taun, shaking his head.

Johannes looked at his dismayed associates with quiet amusement, and
did not observe that Herbert extended his hand to him to thank him for
his assistance.

"God be thanked," he muttered, "that you have given the fool her
discharge!" And he swallowed the contents of his glass with evident
satisfaction.

"Johannes! Johannes!" Hilsborn began again, "why have you treated the
girl and ourselves in this manner?"

"Why?" asked Johannes,--and there was a glow in his face that quite
transfigured it,--"because she is far more to me than to any of you."

"You have chosen a very odd method to show that it is so," Hilsborn
remonstrated.

"Do you think so, short-sighted man?" asked Möllner gravely.

"What harm can it do you to make the Hartwich happy?" grumbled
Hilsborn.

Möllner looked at him with a smile.--"When we take away from a child a
knife with which it is playing, we do so, not because we are afraid it
will harm us, but itself. True, the child will regard us as an enemy,
but we act for its own sake."

"Well, is the Hartwich the child that you feel so bound to protect?"

"Yes, Hilsborn! Woman, of whatever age, is intrusted to the
guardianship of man. It is ours to decide her future, to protect her;
and we are responsible for her development. Which of you, my dear
friends Heim, Taun, and Hilsborn, when I put it to your consciences,
can deny that the Hartwich is treading a mistaken path,--that she is
trespassing beyond the bounds that form the natural division-line
between the sexes? I have nothing to urge in opposition to the mental
activity of woman, provided it be exercised within the limits of her
proper sphere; and these limits I set far beyond the place assigned her
by our friend Herbert and my brother-in-law Moritz. But I have such a
reverence for true womanhood that I will lend my aid to no project
which can be carried out only at its expense."

"I think," said Moritz, "that the Hartwich must have already entirely
renounced the womanhood of which you speak, or she never would have
entertained such projects. There can't be much there to spoil."

"You judge hastily, Moritz, as you always do," said Johannes. "If you
knew under what influences this girl has grown up, you would understand
that it is not a want of delicacy, but lofty courage,--a passionate,
sacred enthusiasm,--that prevents her from shuddering at the horrors of
the study of physiology and enables her to look beyond the individual
to the universe. A dazzling light, flaming before our eyes, blinds us
to what lies nearest us. Thus was it with this gifted girl when the
light of science arose for her, enveloping with its glory the world of
reality around her."

Moritz's face, usually so gay in expression, suddenly grew grave: he
looked at Möllner with manifest anxiety.--"Johannes, you talk as if you
had a personal interest in this preposterous creature!"

"Why should I deny it?--Yes, I have!"

"Good heavens!" cried Moritz, "you are not going to stand in friend
Hilsborn's way? He seems to have serious intentions with regard to
her."

"Oh, you are wrong there, Moritz," said Hilsborn. "Her perilous
struggle for emancipation inspires me with sympathy, it is true, but
with no desire for a closer knowledge of her. I may surely like to have
her for a pupil without wanting to marry her."

"And there, Hilsborn," said Johannes gaily, "lies the difference
between us; for I should wish to have her not for a pupil, but for a
wife!"

An exclamation of dismay burst from the lips of all present. "How did
you come to know her?" "Where did he know her?" the gentlemen, with the
exception of Heim and Hilsborn, inquired.

"How the idea of my danger seems to startle you!" said Johannes
good-humouredly. "Is the girl an evil spirit,--a witch? No, she is only
a woman. How can you be afraid of a woman? What makes her terrible to
you makes her interesting to me; and where is the danger for me, even
if I should try to lead her out of her crooked path? Yes, even if she
should become my wife----"

"Heaven save you from such a wife!" the Staatsräthin interposed.

"Matters have not yet gone quite so far, mother; there is nothing in
the affair yet but pure human sympathy. But suppose it were to go
further,--what then? The husband who is made unhappy by his wife has
only himself to blame; for woman is just what we make her."

"Oh, presumptuous man!" exclaimed the Staatsräthin, "there are women
who would prove your error to you after a terrible fashion! This
Hartwich girl was to me a most disagreeable child,--what must she be
now?"

"A woman who seems strayed from another world,--an apparition once seen
never forgotten!"

"Heavens!" said the Staatsräthin, really alarmed, "where and when have
you met her? She vanished almost ten years ago; and if her
rationalistic books had not appeared last winter, every one would have
forgotten her."

"Did you know her before, then?" several gentlemen asked curiously.

"We were playmates for some time," said Angelika, "but in the end I
could not endure her, she was so old-fashioned and despised my dolls."

The gentlemen laughed.

"She was the most strangely interesting child I ever saw in my life!"
said old Heim.

"Indeed she was," said Möllner; "but there was something repellant
about her, for she had been embittered by cruel treatment, which had
developed her mind precociously, while it had stunted her body. Such
incongruity is always disagreeable, and therefore every one shunned
her, as she shunned every one. We soon forgot her, for she left our
part of the country when she was twelve years old, and we heard nothing
more either of her or of her guardian, who accompanied her. A year or
more ago, however, a couple of brochures from her pen appeared, that
excited a tempest of criticism, at least among women, on account of
their rationalistic tendency. I did not think it worth while to read
them, as the pale little Hartwich girl had almost faded from my memory.
No one knew anything about her, and we took no pains to know, for my
mother and sister had been deeply shocked by the child's atheism, and
had given her up. A short time since I went to see my friend Hilsborn,
and met him just as he was getting into his carriage to drive to the
village of Hochstetten, two miles off. He had been sent for to see the
village schoolmaster. Hilsborn asked me to go with him, and, as the day
was fine, I consented. When we arrived at the small castle that lies in
the outskirts of the village, we alighted. Hilsborn went to find the
schoolmaster,--I remained behind, to await his return, and walked
slowly past the large, neglected garden, that surrounds the castle. A
fresh breeze stirred the waving wheat-fields, and the setting sun shone
through the quivering air upon the distant landscape. Suddenly, painted
upon the flaming horizon, like the picture of a saint of the Middle
Ages upon a golden background, appeared the figure of a woman dressed
in black,--a woman so beautiful and sad that she might have been
Night's messenger commanding the sun to set. She stood with folded
arms, motionless, upon a little eminence in the garden, looking full at
the descending orb of light, while the breeze stirred the heavy folds
of her dress. The evening-red cast a glow upon her grave face, white as
marble, and the light in her large eyes seemed not to proceed from the
sun which they mirrored, but from within. I stared like a boy at the
beautiful, silent apparition, and forgot that my gaze might annoy her
should she become aware of it. And so it proved. As she took up some
coloured glasses lying beside her, I saw with surprise that she was
trying some optical experiment, and just then her glance fell upon me.
A shade of vexation passed over her face, now turned from the light,
and lent it a cold, stern expression. Without honouring me with a
second glance, she gathered together her optical instruments and walked
quietly down the little hill. Just then the sun disappeared below the
horizon, as if at her command, and gloomy twilight gathered above the
silent garden, in whose paths she disappeared. I could not picture to
myself a happy face among those rank, thick bushes behind that high
wall. I could not imagine a happy heart in the breast of that lonely,
gloomy figure. Night fell while I was still vainly looking after her. I
hurried on to the schoolmaster's, upon the pretence of finding
Hilsborn, and learned from him that my unknown was Ernestine Hartwich.
She had, a short time before, rented the Haunted Castle, as it was
called, and, as they were not very enlightened in the village, the
beautiful girl was regarded with a sort of supernatural terror,--for
certainly something must be wrong with one who lived so entirely cut
off from intercourse with human beings, and who, worse than all, never
went to church. There was some excuse to be found for her, to be sure,
in the evil influence of a step-uncle and guardian, who had had charge
of her since the early death of her parents, and who possessed entire
authority over her. He is that famous, or rather infamous, Doctor
Gleissert, of whom you have all heard."

"Oho! he!" murmured the gentlemen in a contemptuous tone, and old Heim
bestowed upon him a hearty "Scoundrel!"

"Well," Johannes continued, "I am sure you will not imagine me such a
fool as to have fallen in love at the first sight of a beautiful face,
but the apparition that I have just described presented a combination
of what is most attractive to a man,--'beauty, intellect, and virtue.'"

"Virtue!" Herbert repeated; "are you so sure of that?"

"Yes. If Fräulein Hartwich were not virtuous, she would not live
in such strict retirement. Those who have tasted the cup of
self-indulgence are too apt to return to it; the truly pure alone can
find contentment in seclusion and loneliness, inspired only by a grand
idea! I go still further, and, as a physiologist, upon the ground of
the preservation of force, maintain that a woman engaged in such
unusual and profound studies needs all her vital energy for her work,
and is dead to all the pleasures of sense. Hence we so often find
entire lack of sensibility in women accustomed to great mental
activity,--because their supply of vital force is not sufficient for
the double occupation of thinking and feeling. And therefore my only
fear is that there is no warm heart throbbing within that exquisite
form."

The professors looked significantly at one another, and the
Staatsräthin exchanged anxious whispers with Angelika.

"Well," said Herbert, as he arose from his chair, "I propose that we
leave our respected associate to his dreams, and wish for his sake that
his pupil may not be as accomplished upon the subject of the nerves of
sensation as upon the inhibitory nerves."

The gentlemen all arose.

Johannes looked fixedly at Herbert and said, "I am no dreamer, Doctor
Herbert, although I believe in the virtue that requires no certificate
of character. And, I repeat, I believe so firmly in this virtue, that I
denounce as a slanderer the man who dares to assail it by a single
word!"

"Sir!" cried Herbert with irritation, "your remark is insulting!"

"Only to him to whom it may apply!" said Johannes calmly.

Angelika ran to her brother and threw her arms around him. "Johannes!
Johannes! consider who it is that you are defending. You do not even
know her."

"Yes, yes, she is right!" added several of the gentlemen.

Johannes held up Ernestine's paper, and said with earnest gravity, "I
do know her."

Herbert took his hat, and, with a silent bow, was about to leave the
room, when the beadle of the University rushed in and handed Johannes a
letter. "Herr Professor! Herr Professor! this comes in haste from his
Honor, and concerns all the gentlemen."

Johannes opened the letter, and Herbert stood listening upon the
threshold. After reading it, Johannes looked around the circle with a
smile. "Gentlemen, we have been most strangely mystified. The prize
essay upon the '_Capacity of the Eye for Stereoscopic Vision_,' which
we all attributed to Hilsborn, is by--Fräulein Hartwich!"

An exclamation of surprise greeted this announcement. All present
crowded around Johannes to read the letter; even Herbert entered the
room again, to make sure that what he had heard was true. There was no
doubt of it,--the fact was indisputable that these gentlemen had
accorded the prize offered for the best essay upon the '_Capacity of
the Eye for Stereoscopic Vision_' to Ernestine, to whom they had just
denied admission to the University because she was a woman. It was a
fact not exactly pleasant to contemplate, and the professors exchanged
glances of chagrin.

"What is to be done?" asked some.

"This alters the case entirely," said Beck.

"Möllner," cried Meibert, "this is embarrassing enough. I think we
shall have to reconsider our decision."

"We can scarcely withhold a diploma from a woman to whom we have
awarded this prize," said Taun.

Heim nodded in high good humour, and growled, "Ah, yes, you sing a
different tune now!"

"Gentlemen," said Johannes with emphasis, "I pray you do not mistake
the point at issue. If the question had been of the capacity of the
applicant, the essay that we have already read would have influenced
our decision; but there is a social principle concerned, which we must
not violate for the sake of an individual. Must I remind you of what
you know so well?"

"Our colleague is still victorious," said Taun, offering his hand with
kindly dignity to Johannes. "We cannot think you in the wrong."

"The prize awarded to a woman!" muttered Herbert, as he left the room.
"It is enough to kill one with vexation!"

"It is a pity," said the others, when he had departed, "that our
pleasant morning should have been so spoiled by Herbert."

"Do not be disturbed by it, dear friends," laughed Johannes; "it did me
good to tell him the truth for once. He is one of those who sustain
their mental existence by continual conflict. 'Destroy, that you may
exist,' is their motto,--and of course they are the sworn enemies of
all rising talent. They must be so, because they are not conscious of
any power in themselves to soar above it; they need all the strength of
their nature to enable them to avoid being extinguished by the wealth
of vital force that is expended all around them. Those whose lot is
cast beyond the sphere of such individuals can afford to pity them, but
those who are within reach of their poisonous fangs must fear them as
the arch-enemies of all creation and growth. Although I could not
accede to Fräulein Hartwich's request, the envious malice with which he
criticised her pained me excessively."

"That is very true," said the philosopher Taun. "It is sad enough when
such embodied negations interfere with the free, joyous activity of
art,--doubly so when they meddle with science!"

"Who would have thought it," cried Angelika, "of the gallant Professor
Herbert, who is sure to propose 'the ladies' at every supper-party! I
am amazed!"

"One who pays court to 'the ladies,' my fair colleague, may very
possibly be no advocate for woman, since, according to my brother
Schopenhauer, what constitutes the modern lady is not the strength, but
the weakness, of her sex," replied Taun.

"True enough," said Johannes. "Such a man might show consideration for
weakness,--he can only contend with strength."

"Only wait awhile, Herr Professor Herbert!" cried Angelika, shaking her
plump little forefinger towards the door of the room. "I shall not
forget you,--only wait--I will strip the sheep's clothing from the
wolf's back, in full conclave of his lady friends! And you too,
Moritz,--I have a word to say to you, but not until we are alone."

The gentlemen laughed, and took their hats.

"Come, we must not deprive our friend Kern for one moment longer of
such a charming curtain-lecture," said Taun.

All took their leave, except Heim, Hilsborn, and Moritz.

"And so," began Angelika with a pout, "you miserable, detestable man,
we are to do nothing but knit stockings?"

"One thing beside," said Moritz, seizing both her hands,--"you may
kiss--that is a charming vocation."

"Nonsense! any stupid fool can do that,--the clever ones must do
something better."

"No woman with so pretty a mouth can do anything better! Only those who
are ugly or old shall knit stockings."

"There is no getting a serious word from you, Moritz, but I am sorry
for poor Ernestine, and it grieves me that you were so hard upon her."

One single stern glance from Moritz's black eyes encountered his
wife's; it was enough--it silenced her instantly.

"You know," he said kindly, but gravely, as if to a child, "that I do
not like to have you undertake to decide upon matters of which you
understand nothing."

Angelika looked down, and a tear trembled upon her long eyelashes.

"What is it?" asked Moritz soothingly, and drew her towards
him,--"tears? And why not? Nothing more than a dewdrop in the bosom of
a rose,--nothing more." He brushed away her tears, and she smiled at
him again.

"It is well for you, my son," said the Staatsräthin gently, but
gravely, "that your wife's heart is so warm that the frost made in it
by unkind words melts to tears and does no further injury."

Moritz looked at his mother-in-law, and then at his wife.--"Angelika,
was I unkind?"

Angelika shook her fair curls and said, in a tone which told all the
sweetness of her childlike disposition, "No, Moritz, you were right."

"There, mamma, that is a true woman as she comes from the hand of her
Creator to be a blessing to the man to whom she belongs," cried Moritz,
with a fond look at his wife.

The Staatsräthin stood beside them, her eyes resting with unspeakable
affection upon her child, but there was a strange mixture of delight
and anxiety in her heart.

"This youthful devotion is very beautiful, but, when its first fervour
has passed, nothing remains of the bridegroom but the lord and master
of the wife, who is oftentimes as unhappy a slave as she is now a happy
one." Such thoughts passed through the mother's mind, and she sighed.

Meanwhile, Johannes had been talking in a low voice with Heim and
Hilsborn about the contents of a letter which Heim had handed him to
read. "Then, Father Heim, that is settled," he said.

The Staatsräthin turned to them, and asked, "What have you there?"

"A letter from Fräulein Hartwich to Uncle Heim, mother."

Johannes handed her the letter, and the Staatsräthin read:


"Herr Geheimrath:

"I do not know whether you remember a little girl called Ernestine
Hartwich, whose life you once saved, but I do know that, even if you do
not remember her, you will not refuse aid to any one who appeals to
you. I have sent an application to the University here to be allowed to
attend the lectures. I did this without my guardian's knowledge, for he
disapproved of the plan. I therefore wish to keep the matter a secret
from him until results shall reconcile him to my mode of proceeding."


"Very considerate," interposed the Staatsräthin ironically; "but let us
proceed."


"My request to you is, my dear sir, that you will arrange matters so
that the reply of the faculty to my application shall reach me without
my uncle's knowledge, and, indeed, that you will convey it to me
yourself. I also need your medical advice, for I am far from well, and
my uncle has never permitted me to see a physician. I obeyed his wishes
until I learnt that you reside in my neighbourhood. Now I turn to you
with all my old confidence. If any one can help me, you can. I must
entreat you, if you would spare me a painful scene, to come to me on a
day when Doctor Gleissert is not at home. He goes to town on business
every Wednesday and Saturday. I pray you to come to me on one of these
days.

                             "With great respect,

                                   "Ernestine Hartwich."


"Well, that is certainly more brief and to the point than might be
expected from a blue-stocking," said Moritz.

The Staatsräthin looked troubled. "It is dry and cold,--scarcely
courteous,--certainly not cordial, as she might have been to her former
benefactor."

"Remember, my dear friend, that nearly ten years have passed since that
time,--a very long period for so young a girl," said Heim.

"Ah, Uncle Heim," cried Angelika, "you dandle my boy on your knee now,
just as you did my doll then. These years have passed like a dream for
me."

"Your nature is very different from Ernestine's, my child," replied
Heim.

"Yes, thank God!" ejaculated Moritz.

The Staatsräthin folded up the letter. "I cannot help pronouncing this
letter heartless,--there is no other word for it. And mingled cowardice
and defiance in regard to her uncle breathe from every line of it."

"Proving how her strong nature has been cowed by that scoundrel," cried
Johannes with warmth.

His mother looked at him anxiously. "How could she, if she is such a
strong, noble woman, submit to be cowed by such a man?"

"Why not, dearest mother?" replied Johannes. "However noble and strong
she may be, she is only a woman, after all."

At this moment a carriage thundered past the house. They all looked out
of the windows.

"The Worronska!"

"The fast countess!" cried Moritz. "What a model of an Amazon! How
beautiful she is, managing those four horses and looking up here! That
look is for you, Johannes. See! she is smiling at you."

"I shall not interfere with Herbert," laughed Johannes. "I hear he is
devoted to her."

"What! Herbert!--to the Worronska?" cried Moritz. "How did that
happen?"

"Why, he was tutor for some years to a friend of the count's in St.
Petersburg. He knew her there," replied Johannes.

"Now, that would be a charming daughter-in-law for you, my dear
Staatsräthin," said Helm. "Why, she would be even worse than the
Hartwich."

"Bah!" said Johannes. "She too is only a woman. If she fell, she owed
her ruin to a man,--and a man might have been her saviour."



                              CHAPTER II.

                               THE SWAN.


A dark, gloomy pile overlooked the village of Hochstetten, that lay
about two miles from the city, in the midst of a charming country. It
had once been called Hochstetten Castle; but since the direct line of
the noble family in which it had passed for a century from father to
son had died out, and only a castellan had dwelt there, to hold it in
possession for a distant branch of its ancient house, it had gone by
the name of the "Haunted Castle" among the people; for of course in
such an old house, where so many men had died, there must be ghosts,
and popular superstition declared that the spirits of the departed
still hovered about the spot where their earthly forms had been wont to
wander.

But in this last year it happened that the castle was really inhabited
by a spirit whose appearance inspired the vulgar, who suspect the
devil's agency in whatever they do not comprehend, with quite as much
horror as they had felt at the ghosts of their former lords,--although
this latter spirit still inhabited a young and very beautiful body.
Ernestine Hartwich had rented the castle, and, with her uncle, was
living her strange life there. Since her arrival the house and the
overgrown grounds within the high walls were certainly under a spell,
and were avoided by all who were not obliged to go that way. There lay
the old castle, in the midst of lovely hills and mountain-chains,
embosomed in green trees, bathed in the sunlight of a dewy summer
morning, and yet its gray, ancient walls looked abroad over the fresh
life of wood and plain as gloomily as if they hid within them only
death and decay.

Two strangers, driving past in a light vehicle, gazed gravely and
silently at the place. The road grew somewhat steep, and they descended
and walked beside the horse. A young peasant passed by, with scythe and
reaping-hook, and, seeing the pleasant faces of the strangers; nodded
kindly to them. The elder of the two stopped, as if prompted by a
sudden impulse, and asked, "What castle is that?"

"That?" was the reply. "That is the Haunted Castle."

"Who lives there?"

"The Hartwich lives there."

"Who is the Hartwich?"

"Why, the witch who has rented it."

"Why do you call her a witch?"

"Because there's something wrong about her."

"Walk on with us a little way, if you have time, and tell us something
of the lady," said the stranger.

"Oh, yes, I have time enough," replied the peasant, flattered by the
interest that his remarks had excited. "But, good gracious! I do not
know where to begin to tell about her. There is no beginning and no end
to it."

"How does she look?" asked the younger gentleman. "Is she pretty?"

"No, indeed! She is pale and thin, and has big, coal-black eyes. And
she looks so gloomy that you can tell as soon as you see her that she
has an evil conscience."

"It is characteristic of the degree of culture to which the common
people have attained," said the elder in an undertone to his companion,
"that they have no admiration for beautiful outlines, but only for
flesh and colour. They think a classic profile ugly if there is not a
plump cheek on either side of it. This rude taste for the raw material
is natural and excusable in peasants and common labourers, whose work
is principally with raw material. Where should they learn anything
better? But it is sad to think how many of the educated classes there
are whose taste is just as uncultivated, and who admire only the
beautiful embodiment, not the embodied beauty."

"Yes," added the other, "it is just so in spiritual matters. An
expression of thoughtfulness is always strange and gloomy in the eyes
of the common people; they are attracted only by thoughtless gaiety.
The stamp of mind upon a serious brow is in their eyes the sign-manual
of the evil one. But how many among ourselves are scarcely better than
the people in this respect! We do not share their prejudices,--eh,
Johannes?"

"No, Hilsborn, God knows we do not. This superficial idea of beauty
explains the fact that Fräulein Hartwich was called ugly as a child,
although she had a beautiful brow, a fine profile, and such eyes as I
never saw before or since in my life,--eyes, Hilsborn,"--and he laid
his hand upon his friend's arm,--"in which lay a world of slumbering
feeling, and the promise of bliss unspeakable for him who should awaken
it to life. I had forgotten the little girl whom I saw only once, but
when lately I encountered a glance from the eyes of that strange,
lovely woman, I recognized the child again,--the poor, forsaken child.
There was the old shy melancholy in those eyes, and they pierced my
heart with a foreboding pain. I could have taken her in my arms and
borne her away from the hill where she stood, as formerly from the
breaking bough to which she had fled from me!"

"God grant she be worthy of such a man as you!" said Hilsborn.

"Do not speak so, Hilsborn; you know I will not listen to such words.
Let us ask this fellow more about her."

He turned to the young peasant, who was walking whistling on the other
side of the road.

"Is she not at least kind to the poor?" he asked.

"God preserve any one to whom she is kind! No one wants anything from
her. Her uncle distributes some money every week, but only the very
poorest people take it, and they always cross themselves over it."

Johannes and Hilsborn looked at each other with a smile. "Then her evil
influence extends even to her charities?"

"Yes, that's what I mean,--wherever she goes she carries misfortune.
She pretends to know more than any one, and wants to introduce all
sorts of new-fangled ways. She wouldn't have people sick with a fever
covered up in good, thick feather beds, or give them a single glass of
good liquor. All that was wrong, she said. A poor widow in the village
had a sick child, which she nursed as well as she could. The Hartwich
went to see her, and overpersuaded the woman, so that she let her watch
with it one night. Scarcely had she seated herself by the cradle when
the child grew worse, and fell into convulsions. The Hartwich sent the
mother to the castle to send off a man on horseback for the doctor, and
was left all alone with the child. When the woman got back from the
castle the witch had the child on her lap, and the poor little thing
was dying. The woman, frantic with terror, tore the little body out of
her arms; but it was dead! and the Hartwich left her, as she would not
hear a word from her. When the doctor came, he talked all sorts of
stuff, and wanted to have the child dissected, as they call it; but of
course no Christian mother would allow such a thing, and no one knew
what the Hartwich had done to the poor little creature."

"But, you foolish people," began Johannes indignantly, "you do not
suppose----"

Hilsborn signed to him to be silent. "Hush!" he said in a whisper;
"will you attempt what the gods try vainly--to contend with stupidity?"

"You are right," replied Johannes. "This people needs the teaching of
centuries."

"Well, my good fellow," he said, again addressing the peasant, "what
happened then?"

"Why, that very night, after the doctor was gone, the Hartwich came to
the woman and offered her money,--I suppose to induce her to hold her
tongue,--but the poor thing showed her the door, and told her what she
thought of her."

"That was her thanks!" murmured Johannes.

"Since then she goes to see no one, and we are quit of her."

"Was this unfortunate instance the only one?" asked Johannes, "or has
she done any further mischief?"

"Oh, yes, quantities! Once she persuaded a man to go to the city and
have his leg taken off,--he had injured it ten years before. The man
died in the city, and left a wife and children. If that witch had not
sent him there, he would have been living still. He had managed to live
with the injury ten years, and he might have borne it ten more. The
poor widow heaped her with curses!"

Johannes exchanged glances with Hilsborn.

"Do you, too, believe that she is a witch?" he asked the peasant.

"Well, if I don't exactly believe that, I know well enough that no
blessing can attend her, for she does not love God."

"How do you know that?"

"Oh, there are a great many signs of it. She does not like to hear him
mentioned,--she never goes to church, and doesn't pray at home."

"You cannot be sure of that," said Johannes.

"Oho! yes, I can, for Harcher's Kunigunda is a maid at the castle, and
she tells us all about it. For one thing, there used to be a bell-tower
up there, and the bell was always rung for prayers, morning and
evening, in old times. It was right and good to hear the bell ringing
with the one in the village church, and we were used to it, and liked
it. Even when the last of the family up there died, the village
congregation gave the castellan two bags of potatoes every year that he
might allow the ringing to continue. But when the Hartwich came, what
did she do? Why, she tore down the bell-tower and made it into an
observatory, as she calls it, where she sits for nights long and counts
the stars."

"Well, if she looks up into heaven so much, she must surely think of
God and his works there," rejoined Johannes smiling, "and those who
love to pray do not need to be reminded of it by the ringing of bells."

"No, no! that is not so," the peasant obstinately maintained. "She does
not wish to be reminded of prayer, or she would have loved the clear
sound of the bell, as we did, and would have left it hanging where it
had rung out comfort and religion for a hundred years. She might have
built her star-chamber upon the old tower all the same, if she had
wanted to,--but she did not want to,--and so we hated her from the
first."

Johannes and Hilsborn looked grave.

"Books she has in plenty; she brought whole chestsfull with her, but
never a hymn-book or prayer-book, Kunigunda, who dusts them, says, and,
search as she may, she has never seen a Bible there yet. And the
Hartwich never mentions the name of God; and if any one does it before
her, she talks of something else instantly. But the worst of all is
that she has a room there that no one, except her uncle and herself, is
allowed to enter, and she always locks the door when she is there with
her uncle. What they do there no living soul knows, but Kunigunda tells
all sorts of strange stories about it, for she has often listened at
the door, and sometimes got a peep inside when the Fräulein was going
in or coming out. She says there are all kinds of strange things in
there, such as no honest man knows anything about,--black tablets, with
eyes and ears painted on them, and burning flames, and bellows, and
Heaven only knows what beside! And she has heard dreadful noises, that
were not of this world,--sometimes sounds as sweet as the organ plays
in the church, and then a rustle and roar as of a mighty wind, although
not a breeze is stirring outside, or blasts of a trumpet like the
trumpet of Jericho, so that she ran away in deadly fright."

"Those were experiments in sound," said Johannes, greatly amused, to
Hilsborn.

"And Kunigunda says that it is often so light in that room that the
rays through the keyhole dazzle her just like sunlight, although the
sun has long been set outside. Kunigunda declares that it is not common
light,--it burns quite blue, and she had to shut her eye quickly not to
be blinded by it. Now, what sort of light is that? What business has
she with fire and flames? And Kunigunda says she is almost always up
until morning, and scarcely sleeps at all. Oh, she leads a godless
life,--for, if God had not intended men to wake in the daytime and
sleep at night, He would not have made night dark and day light; and if
she were doing any good, why should she shun the daylight when she does
it? Kunigunda says, too, that she tortures poor dumb animals just for
pleasure, for she has often seen how she and her uncle carry rabbits
and such creatures into their secret chamber, and they never bring them
out again. Now, what do they do with the poor things? They cannot eat
the rabbits. And Kunigunda will swear that there are a couple of skulls
in the book-room, tumbling about among the old books. Now, I ask, what
Christian would take the head away from a dead man and spoil his rest
in the grave? Is it not just dishonouring a corpse out of devilish
wantonness?"

"There certainly is a whole mountain of charges towering between
Fräulein Hartwich and her neighbours," whispered Johannes to his
friend, "and I see clearly that the curse of singularity has pursued
her even hither, and that this rare creature is repulsed and isolated
here as she was as a child. It is high time that some strong arm should
bear her hence into the purer atmosphere of a warm, healthy existence,
from which her eccentricity has hitherto excluded her."

"Do you see that green balcony there?" said the peasant, when they were
quite near the house. "There she has hanging a kind of cittern that
plays of itself. I would not believe Kunigunda, when she told me of it,
at first; but then I hid myself here once, and heard it with my own
ears, the music softer and sweeter than any that human hands can make.
I could feel it beginning to bewitch me."

"Indeed! and how did it feel?"

"Oh, my heart grew so soft, so different from usual,--just--just as if
I had been drinking linden-blossom tea. I could not help thinking of
the girl I loved, who is dead, and I could have listened forever.
Suddenly I bethought me that there was a spell weaving around me, and I
ran away as fast as I could."

"That was an Æolian harp, my good friend," Johannes explained; "its
strings were stirred by no spirit hand, but by the wind. The spell that
you perceived was only the effect of the beautiful tones upon your ear
and heart; and if you had examined yourself, you would have found that,
when you were thinking of your dead sweet-heart, you were better than
when you are sitting in the village inn abusing the Hartwich. Consider
for a moment whether an evil spirit could inspire such good, tender
sensations. And listen as often as you can to the Æolian harp; it will
not bewitch you,--it will only do good to you."

The fellow looked in amazement at the kindly speaker.

"I don't exactly understand you, sir, but you seem to mean well."

"What makes you think so?" asked Johannes,--"you do not know me."

"Oh, why, you look honest and good, sir," said the peasant, looking
frankly into Johannes's face.

"Then believe what I say, when I tell you that you do Fräulein Hartwich
great wrong. I have known her from childhood, and I know that she is
good and kind!"

Johannes sent an earnest glance towards the castle, which they were
passing. An elderly woman was just opening a window in an upper story.

"Look!" cried the peasant, "that is her housekeeper, Frau Willmers. The
Fräulein is just getting up--it is nine o'clock."

"God bless your awakening!" Johannes breathed softly to himself.

And, borne on the breeze of morning and the fragrance of flowers, the
blessing was wafted up to the girl, who, weary with her night-watch,
was reposing by the open window. She laid her head upon the sill, and
the fragrant summer air fanned her brow. Johannes's words floated
around her in a sea of light and warmth, and she felt them without
hearing them. At last she opened her burning eyelids, and looked
abroad, seeing everything at first through the gray, misty veil which
weariness spread before her eyes,--but gradually was revealed in its
full splendour the sunny picture, above which arched the clear,
cloudless firmament. She arose and leaned out with a deep sigh of pain.
She knew no happiness but that of gratified ambition,--she could
imagine no other, and therefore desired no other, for we cannot desire
that of which we have no conception,--and yet, in the sunlight laughing
around her, in the gloom of night, in the beauty of the valley and the
grandeur of the mountains, a promise of a far different happiness
beckoned to her, and she pined in longing for it without recognising
it. Yes, from every voice of nature, from the song of birds, the murmur
of the brook, the roaring of the tempest, and the muttering of the
thunder, a call was ringing in her ears, she knew not whence or
whither, but she would willingly have plunged into the ocean to follow
it.

"There is no surer means of preventing all aimless desires than study,
nothing better to prevent all abstract dreaming than absorption in some
specialty," her uncle had told her when he suspected her of moods like
that we have just described. "If you long to grasp the whole, first
grasp a part,--if you thirst to fly to heaven, remember that the
observatory is the only way thither,--if you desire to feel the warm
throb of life, you can find it nowhere so satisfactorily as at the
dissecting-table."

And she had turned away silently, uncomplainingly, from her flight to
distant realms, to the telescope, and with a warm, swelling heart that
would have embraced a world, had busied herself with analyzing
microscopic organizations. Thus, in the course of long years, she had
grown used to suppress emotions such as she experienced to-day, and
they seldom came to the surface, just as the bells of the sunken city
are only heard above the sea on Sunday. To-day was not Sunday, but it
was an anniversary. Ten years ago to-day she had been sent to her first
and only party,--her father had almost killed her,--and the whole
current of her life had been changed. She knew the date perfectly, for
the next day was the anniversary of her father's death. The familiar
forms of those days hovered around her; they were the only ones that
had ever approached her nearly, for since that time she had had no
intimate relations with any one. She had studied mankind, but human
beings were strangers to her. And as she thought and pondered, she
wished herself again the child that ran races with the wind and cradled
herself among the storm-tossed boughs. Oh for one breath of hopeful
childhood, one throb of that love-thirsty heart, one tear of that
wrestling faith! All dead and silent now, every blossom of childhood
and youth faded: a woman, old at two-and-twenty, looking down from the
heights of passionless contemplation upon a life, lying behind her,
that she has never enjoyed, upon a time, now past, that she has never
lived. Sighing, she turned away from the sunny landscape. "Our life
lasts seventy--perhaps eighty--years," she said to herself, "and the
delight of it is labour and trouble." This reading, by a great modern
philosopher, of the golden words of the ancient writings, she had
adopted as her motto, and it still possessed its old charm for her.
What more could she desire of life than labour and trouble? What could
youth or age bring her beyond these? She turned away from the window,
and quickly arranged in thick braids around her head her loosened hair
which had fallen down like a black veil. Her glance, as she did so,
fell only passingly and indifferently upon the mirror. She never saw
the face that gazed at her from its depths,--a face as faultlessly
beautiful as an artist's fancy pictures those dark, melancholy female
forms with which the ancients peopled the night. She dressed herself in
simple white, and then her arms dropped wearied at her side. The
expression of strength that the word labour had called into her face
gave way to a profound melancholy, almost despair, and she sank
exhausted upon a couch. She sat still for one moment, her head sunk
upon her breast, and then the large tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Labour is a delight, when one has strength for it--but I have none!"
she said, clasping her knees with her small, transparent hands, while
she gazed despairingly towards the distant horizon.

The housekeeper, Frau Willmers, entered. "A gentleman is waiting below,
Fräulein Hartwich, who sends his card and says he comes from the
gentleman whose name is written upon it."

Ernestine read the name "Professor Heim," and below, in Heim's
handwriting, "earnestly recommends the bearer of this card."

"The gentleman is welcome!" she cried with awakened animation. "Show
him into the library."

"Will the Fräulein receive him without the knowledge of----" the woman
asked with hesitation and surprise.

"I will!" replied Ernestine firmly.

"Now, Heaven be praised!" muttered the old woman, "that you are to see
some one at last, and the gentleman is well worth a look. But you will
bear the blame with your uncle, so that I may have no responsibility in
the matter?"

"The responsibility is mine."

Frau Willmers hurried out and conducted the stranger into Ernestine's
library.

A pleasant bluish twilight reigned in the room as he entered it, caused
by the heavy blue damask curtains that draped the high bow-windows. It
was a spacious octagon apartment, in the style of the tower chambers of
the Middle Ages, opening on to a balcony, which was likewise separated
from the room by blue damask curtains. The Æolian harp, of which the
peasant had spoken, hung in the balcony, and some loosened tendrils of
a wild grapevine, growing outside, stirred by the breeze, touched the
strings and called forth from them broken stray notes, which a stronger
breeze would blend in harmony, as the fingers of a child, guided by its
teacher, plays vaguely upon an instrument until the practised hand of
its master produces a full, clear chord. In the dark boughs that
overshadowed the balcony, birds were singing, and now and then hopping
confidingly upon the rose-bushes with which it was decorated.

"She loves beauty," thought the stranger with a pleased glance around
the cool, quiet apartment, which breathed only contentment and peace.
And it must be true peace of mind that the inhabitant of this room
possessed,--wherever the eyes were turned, they fell upon the immortal
works of the great thinkers of modern times,--a costly library was
ranged upon shelves, in richly-carved oaken bookcases.

The stranger began to read the titles of the books, but the more he
read the more thoughtful he became. If the contents of these books
were, or were to be, crammed into one woman's brain, there could dwell
there not peace, but only torturing unrest, strife. At last his eye
rested upon a writing-table of dark oak, richly carved, as was all the
rest of the furniture of the room. Around the edge of the table, cut in
raised letters, he read the sentence, "Our life lasts seventy--perhaps
eighty--years, and the delight of it is labour and trouble!" He gazed
long and thoughtfully at this motto, so strangely grave for so young a
girl. A shade of melancholy passed over his handsome face as he turned
away and noticed the scores of sheets of paper scattered here and there
on the table, all containing either a few figures or written sentences,
evidently hurried beginnings of scientific labour of all kinds, tossed
aside, as it appeared, hastily and impatiently. Partly on the table,
partly on a desk, and partly on the floor, were piles of open books,
their margins filled with annotations, pamphlets, &c. Names like
Helmholtz, du Bois, Ludwig, Darwin, &c. showed what massive material
this bold aspiring mind was calling to its aid, over what mountains of
labour it was pursuing the path to its ambitious aims. "So much vital
force wasted in fruitless energy--so much noble zeal expended upon a
blunder. What a pity!" said the stranger with an involuntary sigh. Then
he noticed just in front of the writing-table a small open drawer, in
which Ernestine apparently kept her most precious and valuable books.
One of them was Möllner's latest work on Physiology; another, du Bois'
Eulogy upon Johannes Müller; and the third, _Andersen's Fairy Tales_.

The grave man's features showed signs of deep emotion at this sight.
Only a strong, true nature could so preserve the memories of its
childhood. He could not help taking the book in his hand to examine it
more closely. As he did so, he noticed a little marker of paper
yellowed with age. It was placed in the last pages of the story of the
Ugly Duckling, just where the children stand by the pond and cry,
"Look! there comes a new swan!" Was it this, then, that had made the
story so precious to her--the prophecy that the duckling would one day
be a swan, and not the memory of what had been dear to her childhood?
He put the book back in its place with a look that showed that the
question he had put to himself grieved him. Then he became so lost in
thought that he was almost startled when a door behind him opened, and
Ernestine approached him. As he saw the tall form, with its air of
royal dignity, standing there calm and silent in the noble
consciousness of mental superiority, he repeated involuntarily in
thought the words, "Here is a new swan!" Yes,--the ugly duckling had
unfolded its wings! For one moment his heart throbbed violently. It
cost him an effort to preserve his composure.

"I crave forgiveness, Fräulein Hartwich," he began, "for venturing to
offer my medical skill in place of his for whom you sent."

"If you come from Dr. Heim, you are welcome. Is he ill, that he sends
me a substitute, or is he angry with me?" And Ernestine looked gravely
and fixedly at the stranger.

"Neither the one nor the other, Fräulein Hartwich," was the reply. "He
has merely permitted me to use his name as the talisman to unlock this
enchanted castle."

"And why so?" asked Ernestine, regarding him still more attentively.

"Because I am convinced that I understand the treatment of your case
better than Dr. Heim."

Ernestine started, and turned away from the arrogant speaker. Her face
darkened with momentary displeasure,--but not long. She raised her
large eyes to him again and said frankly, "No, you are not in earnest.
Heim would not have sent me a physician as vain and conceited as these
words make you appear!"

Johannes offered her his hand with a smile. "Boldly spoken, Fräulein
Hartwich,--I thank you! Nevertheless, I must rest under the charge of
vanity and arrogance until you declare me innocent, for I only uttered
Dr. Heim's honest conviction and my own. You shake your head, and do
not comprehend me. I hope you will do so soon. How could I have had the
courage to challenge your displeasure by so bold an assertion, had I
not been sure that time would justify my pretensions?"

Ernestine motioned to him to be seated. "May I be permitted, sir, to
request your name before speaking further with you?"

Johannes cast at her a glance of kindly entreaty. "I pray you allow me
to suppress it for the present. I should so like to inspire you with
confidence in me for my own sake, without the aid of a name perhaps not
unknown to you. Such confidence would be so precious to me. Call it a
whim, if you will, but I beg you to indulge me!"

"As you please, sir," said Ernestine with some constraint, looking
keenly at him as she spoke. She seemed to be searching in his handsome
face for something,--she scarce knew what,--it seemed to suggest some
dim recollection to her mind. Then she dropped her glance, as if
comparing what she saw with some image in her memory, yet without
arriving at any satisfactory conclusion.

Johannes watched every expression of her countenance. No shade of
thought passing across that broad white brow escaped him. He gazed at
her and almost forgot to speak, she was so wondrously beautiful, this
shy, grave girl, pale and suffering from her devotion to the studies to
which she was sacrificing herself with such religious zeal. The saddest
error would be touching in such a form,--yes, we must bow before it,
instead of laughing at it. So thought Johannes as he sat silent before
her, and something of what was passing in his mind must have been
mirrored in his features, for Ernestine turned away with a shade of
embarrassment, and asked suddenly, "Well, sir, and what news do you
bring me of Father Heim? Is he still vigorous in mind and body?"

The indifference of her tone rather nettled Johannes. "Yes, Fräulein
Hartwich, he is indeed. Beloved and revered by his associates, as well
as by his patients, the evening of his days is calm and cheerful."

"I am very glad to hear it. I am bound to him by ties of gratitude, he
has done much for me, at one time he saved my life. Therefore I hoped
for benefit now from his prescriptions. He is a great practitioner,
although he has not quite kept pace in his old age with the march of
modern science."

"He certainly is. But he can do nothing for your gravest malady, and
therefore he has sent me in his place."

"You are, then, famous for some _spécialité_. But how can Dr. Heim know
that I need such a physician?"

"He does know it, for you were attacked as a child by the malady of
which I speak, and Dr. Heim was powerless to effect a cure. Now that he
is convinced that my method of cure is efficacious, he has adopted me
as his assistant. Therefore I ask you frankly and openly, Will you have
me for your physician? Yes or no!"

For a moment Ernestine made no answer, and then said firmly, "Yes, if
Dr. Heim believes that you can restore me to health, it is sufficient,
and I will follow your prescriptions implicitly."

"I thank you," said Johannes; "but I warn you beforehand, I am a strict
physician, and my medicines are bitter!"

"Scarcely as bitter as disease?" said Ernestine inquiringly.

"Who can say? To speak with perfect sincerity, Fräulein Hartwich, the
malady from which I come to relieve you, the disease that poisons your
past and your future, is your uncle's influence!"

Ernestine stood up. "Sir!"

"Hear me before you condemn me! I assert nothing that I cannot prove."

"No, sir, I will not hear you. You do my uncle gross injustice;
whatever proofs you may adduce. A life of self-sacrifice and devotion
far outweighs the accusation of a stranger. What do I not owe to him?
What has he not done for me? I owe to him my scientific culture. He has
made me what I am."

"And may I be so bold as to ask if you are so very sure that you are
what you should be?"

A pause ensued. Ernestine retreated a step, and, offended and confused,
cast down her eyes.

Johannes continued. "What if I were come to prove that you are not?"

Ernestine looked sullenly at him. "I certainly cannot answer you here;
but your depreciation of me forces me to ask whether you have read
anything that I have written, and so have come to form so poor an
opinion of my abilities?"

"On the contrary, Fräulein Hartwich, your essay upon Reflex Motion is
full of talent, and your article upon the Capacity of the Eye for
Stereoscopic Vision has won the prize."

Ernestina started. Her face flushed, her eyes sparkled. "Why have you
waited until now to tell me? My essay won the prize! Do I wake, or am I
dreaming? Oh, how can I thank you for this intelligence? I have no
words. But let your reward be the consciousness that you have given me
the greatest happiness my life has ever known! And do not attempt to
malign to me the man to whose disinterested care for my education I owe
it."

"Poor girl, if this is your greatest happiness! You are betrayed
indeed, if you owe no other enjoyment to your uncle!"

"Oh, sir, what can there be beyond fame and honour?"

Johannes looked gravely at her. "Something of which your uncle has
never told you."

In the flush of her gratified ambition, Ernestine did not hear him. She
walked a few steps to and fro, then seated herself again, and said with
a beating heart, "Perhaps you also bring the answer to my application
for admission to the lectures at the University."

"I do, but it has been rejected decidedly, Fräulein Hartwich."

Ernestine's arms dropped at her sides. "Rejected! Was it known, when
they rejected it, that the prize essay was mine?"

"It was."

Ernestine stood for one moment as if stunned. At last she began slowly
and dejectedly, "Ah, I understand it all! the gentlemen took the author
of that treatise for a man, and awarded it the prize, but my
application was refused because I am so unfortunate as to be a woman.
It is only natural, why should a woman be permitted to vie with the
lords of creation?"

"Your disappointment makes you unjust," said Johannes. "Your essay
received the prize because it accomplished what it aimed at. The
application of the woman was rejected because in the University no
woman can accomplish what should be her aim."

"How can you prove that?" asked Ernestine with bitterness.

"Because she has deserted the sphere which nature has assigned her, and
cannot fulfil the requirements of the one that she has selected for
herself."

"You, then, are one of my opponents?"

"I am, Fräulein Hartwich."

"Oh, I am sorry!"

"Why? Of what consequence can the opinion of a stranger be to you?"

Ernestine looked down. "The impression that you make upon me, sir, is
such that it pains me to find that you are one of those narrow-minded
persons who deny to women the possession of any but the humblest
ability."

"You are mistaken, I think them, and especially your self, possessed of
very great ability."

Ernestine looked at him with surprise. "But how can this ability avail
us, if we are not allowed to enlarge the bounds of the sphere within
which we are so unkindly confined at present?"

"That sphere does not seem to me contracted. I think it so noble, so
elevated, that the loftiest talent may well content itself within it,
if it be rightly understood."

"But if a woman, if I--forgive my presumption,--am especially endowed
beyond other women, should I not, with the power, possess also the
privilege of transcending the usual bounds?"

"You would then possess the privilege of ennobling your sex, of showing
it what it could accomplish within its own sphere,--you would possess
the power to be first among women, but not to become a man."

Ernestine looked down sadly. "Have you read my essay?"

"Yes."

"Do you think it deserved the prize?"

"Yes."

"And yet you would deny me the right to accomplish tasks usually
assigned to men."

"You have accomplished one such. How far your kind uncle may have
assisted you in your labor we will not ask."

Again Ernestine's eyes drooped.

Johannes continued: "Probably you yourself are not aware of the answer
to such a question,--at all events, the victory over the other
competitors for the prize was slight, and by no means difficult. But do
you imagine, Fräulein Hartwich, because the instinct of your genius has
answered this one question, that you can lord it over the boundless
domain of science? Have you the least suspicion of the magnitude of
what you propose?"

"I believe I have learned enough to know what there is for me to
learn."

"Do not deceive yourself with regard to your aim. You wish to learn
that you may teach,--not as every schoolmaster teaches, to tell what
has been told you before,--you wish to educe new truths from what you
learn,--in other words, you wish to produce, to create!"

"And you deny me the requisite ability?"

"Not at all," replied Johannes; "but I grant only one domain for the
creative faculty of woman,--the domain of art,--because, in works of
art, the heart shares in the labour of the understanding; because, in
the creation of beauty, a profound inner consciousness and soaring
fancy can replace masculine acuteness of thought--and these belong
especially to the gifted woman. But science presents tasks for the
thinking power. I deny to woman not the ability to grasp the grand
results of science, but the mental endurance, the technical facility,
to arrive at them unassisted."

Ernestine clasped her hands in entreaty. "Do not destroy the hope and
aim of my life!"

Johannes bent towards her and said gently, "My dear Fräulein Hartwich,
may your life have other aims than this that you can never attain!"

"Never attain!" cried Ernestine, sitting proudly erect "I can see
nothing to justify those words. If I were only well and strong, if my
body were only a more, obedient tool of my mind, I would show what a
woman can do! I would show that we are not merely domestic animals,
endowed with some degree of reason, as a certain class of men designate
us, but free, independent, equal beings! If you only knew how my whole
soul revolts at our social oppression, our intellectual slavery! Oh,
believe, believe, sir, that I am not actuated by vain ambition, but I
am wrung with anguish for those wretched souls who, like myself, have
chafed so painfully in the fetters of commonplace conventionalities,
or, like those born blind, have dreamed in their darkness of the
light that floods the world with joy and freedom, but from which they
are excluded! I long to break the yoke under which my whole sex
languishes, to avenge their wrongs. For this I will give my money
and my blood!--for this I resign all claims to the happiness of
woman!--yes, for this I would sacrifice life itself!"

Johannes sat listening to her with his arms folded. He now began
quietly: "I understand and admire you,--but you exaggerate. The social
position of woman is determined by her capacity and her desires. Women
like yourself are rare exceptions; your sex, as a general rule, is at
so low a stage of development that they neither can claim nor desire
any higher position."

"And whose fault is this?" Ernestine interrupted him eagerly.
"Yours,--you masters of the world. If we are intellectually your
inferiors, why not educate us more thoroughly? Why not elevate us to a
higher degree of intelligence? It is for your strong hands to form us
as you will. And nowhere in Christian lands is the position of woman
more depressing than in this country. Look at Russia, the land that so
long retained serfdom and the knout,--even there the number of learned
women is perceptibly increasing, and the Russian high schools do not
reject female pupils. Look at France, at England,--women are everywhere
employed and the sphere of their capabilities enlarged, and the sex is
held in higher estimation. Unfortunately, I cannot deny that the mass
of German women are either mere household drudges, with never a thought
beyond the material interests of the kitchen and nursery, or glittering
dolls, with no idea of anything but the adornment of their persons.
They understand little or nothing of politics, of the interests of
their native land, of science, or of poetry; they go to art for
amusement, not for instruction and refreshment. Such mothers can never
implant the seeds of patriotism in the breasts of their sons, or
educate the minds of their daughters; such wives can never share the
thoughts and aims of their husbands. Who is to blame? Those men alone
who would exclude woman from their world, and, denying her all claim to
intellectual ability, banish her to the kitchen, or force her to
indemnify herself for exclusion from their spiritual life by rendering
herself necessary to their material existence!"

Johannes made no reply. It was enjoyment enough for him to look at her
and hear her. He wished her, before attempting to reply to her, to
finish all that she had to say.

Ernestine continued: "All this constitutes the ignominy of my sex,--an
ignominy that must be overcome, or its revenge will be terrible; for
luxury and self-indulgence have been the ruin of those nations who
rendered no homage to the spiritual nature of woman. We must force this
reverence from you, at any risk, before it is too late. Smile, if you
will, at my presumption in arrogating the place of a feminine Arnold
von Winkelried, breaking a path for our spiritual freedom through the
lances of contempt and prejudice. I know what lies before me. No
commonplace woman feels any pride in her sex; when one of her sisters
achieves distinction, she is only all the more galled by the
consciousness of her own inferiority, and takes her revenge, if
she knows no better, with the wretched weapons of conventional
prejudices,--casting the odium of indelicacy upon the woman who dares
to be free; and men contemptuously close their doors upon her. My lot
must be to struggle and suffer. Still, I do not hesitate. If I can
effect nothing here, I will seek other lands, where woman striving
after better things is treated with humanity and true chivalry."

"Where humanity and chivalry assist woman to lay aside the very crown
of her being,--her womanhood!" Johannes now interrupted her; "for how
can you preserve it, if in anatomical studies you harden yourself to
everything that shocks a compassionate woman, if you are forced into
contact with things at which all maidenly delicacy must revolt? I have
not interrupted you hitherto, because I wished thoroughly to understand
you, and because your sacred zeal touched and delighted me. With much
that is crude and exaggerated, there is truth, and beauty, in what you
have just said. But, believe me, the physical frame of a woman is as
little suited as her intellect to certain scientific pursuits. I
directed you to the broad domain of the beautiful,--of art,--but you
would not listen to me--there you would have to share your fame among
too many. Your ambition craves something entirely new and unheard-of.
But, Fräulein Hartwich, this ambition will be your ruin! If you long to
create, create forms for your ideas that will speak for themselves,
clothe them in poetic language, or give them local habitation and a
name in art--you can complete such work, and your soul can find rest in
it from its labours. A poetical idea can be fully embodied in a work of
art; but a scientific hypothesis is inexhaustible, because, however
clearly proved and demonstrated, it brings new problems in its train.
Only a man's rude strength can endure such a restless pursuit that
knows no pause; the woman's delicate nature must succumb even because
her mind is so alive that she labours with all the ardent desire, the
breathless interest, of the devotee of science. And if she succeeds, at
the sacrifice of her life, in contributing some addition to the
universal stock of knowledge, she has done only what would have
cost a man far less pains. The result of her work is wrung from her
death-agony, and the world, with a shrug of its shoulders, says, 'It is
about all that a woman could do!' Is praise thus qualified not
purchased too dearly at the cost of health and life?"

Ernestine had listened with intense eagerness. Her dark eyes were
riveted upon the speaker. As he ceased, she folded her hands in her lap
and said, "What injustice you do me if you think that desire for the
world's applause is the moving spring of my actions! Yes, I do long for
recognition; that I have confessed to you. But I might have obtained it
more easily if I had chosen other branches of science, and my uncle
allowed me to choose. I selected, from inclination, natural philosophy,
and, in especial, physiology. I cared little for history, because I
care little for mankind. Moral philosophy seems to me too dogmatical,
so does religion. Nature alone is always filled with new, genuine life.
'There I know,' as Johannes Müller says, 'whom I serve and what I
have.' Physiology has opened a new world for me,--or, better still, has
re-created the old world, for I truly see only when I understand what I
am looking at;--every sunbeam glancing in a dewdrop, every wave of
sound borne to my ear from afar, awakens new and vivid images in my
mind. What enjoyment is comparable to that which science offers us! She
makes the real a miracle,--and shows us the miraculous as reality. And
shall I resign this ennobling possession because I am a woman? And can
this inspiring search for life bring me death? Oh, no! I cannot, I will
not believe it!"

Johannes held out his hand to her. "You are a rarely-gifted woman, and
comprehend the nature of science. But, supposing that you possessed the
rare power--both of body and mind--to accomplish the task which you
propose to yourself, you must do it at the cost of your vocation as a
woman. For no woman can fulfil both these offices. As a scholar, you
must live exclusively for your studies; the duties of wife and mother
would distract you too much to admit of your accomplishing your
purposes, for they require an entire lifetime. Now you have the courage
to endure the want of love and happiness growing out of your
determination, but will your courage last? When age and illness assail
you,--when you become weak and helpless and need faithful, devoted
hands about you and true loving hearts upon which you can rest from
weariness and pain, and there is no one belonging to you,--because you
have chosen to belong to no one,--how will it be then? Have you no
presentiment of such misery? Is there no desire for consolation, no
longing for love, in your inmost soul?"

Ernestine's gaze was fixed darkly on the ground. "I know nothing of
love. How can I long for what I know nothing of?"

"Good heavens! how can that be? Have you had no parents,
relatives,--friends who were dear to you?"

"No! my mother died at my birth, and my father--who treated me very
harshly, and did not care for me--died when I was twelve years old. My
guardian became my teacher and guide, and initiated me into the pursuit
of science. At no time of my life have I had any intercourse with my
equals. I did not wish for it. My uncle sent his own little daughter to
a boarding-school and lived for me alone, but the tie that bound me to
him was only my interest in science and his readiness to gratify it. He
is cold by nature,--as I am also. I have never felt anything for him
but gratitude. I have always lived alone, and have never loved a human
being."

Johannes was deeply moved. "Poor girl!" he said. "Had you cast yourself
on the ground at my feet, bathed in tears, bewailing the death of
father, mother, or husband, you could not have inspired me with such
pity as those words, 'I have never loved,' awaken within me. You look
amazed! The time will come when you will understand me,--when by the
depth of your anguish you will learn the heights of bliss from which
you have been banished; then he, whom you now regard as your enemy,
will be beside you,--to soothe your grief for your lost life,--perhaps
to lead you to one nobler and better!"

Ernestine turned away, greatly agitated. She would not have Johannes
observe her emotion, and therefore only breathed a gentle "Farewell,"
and would have left the room.

"Are you going? Have I offended you? May I not come again?" he asked.

Ernestine stood still, and did not speak.

"May I not?" he repeated,--and there was such urgent entreaty in his
voice that it stirred the very depths of Ernestine's soul.

There was one moment of hesitation; then she returned to him, held out
her hand and said, with eyes swimming in tears,--eyes that pierced his
heart to the core:

"Yes; come again."

"God bless you!" he said, with a long sigh of relief, and then, kissing
her hand respectfully, he left the room. She stood still where he had
left her, lost in thought.

The tones of the Æolian harp floated out upon the air, the roses
exhaled fresh fragrance, the birds twittered, and the sunlight shone in
soft rays through the blue curtains. She heeded none of these things,
she stood there absorbed in the pursuit of some dim, half-remembered
image in the distant past--even in the days of her childhood.

Why was it that the oak boughs, whither she had fled from the handsome
lad, seemed to rustle around her again? Why was the little Angelika so
distinct in her memory,--the little girl rocking in her arms the doll
that her brother had sent her, in the sure hope that her tenderness
would inspire it with life?

And as she stood there, dreaming in the midst of Æolian tones,
fragrance, and light, she herself was like Pygmalion's statue, when
beneath the breath of love the first glow of life informed its marble
breast, and the cold lips opened for its first sigh!



                             CHAPTER III.

                          THE VILLAGE SCHOOL.


When Johannes left Ernestine, he turned his steps towards the village.
He was as if inspired by the consciousness that his was a part to play
that falls to the lot of few men in this world,--to promote his own
happiness in watching over and caring for the happiness of another. He
walked on with the firm, elastic tread that belongs to a strong man in
the bloom of youth, and wherever his glance fell it scattered seeds of
the kindliness which was reflected in the smile that greeted him upon
every face that he met. He took his way towards a little vine-clad
cottage in which dwelt the patriarch of the place,--the village
schoolmaster. Before the door stood Hilsborn's vehicle, while a fat old
mastiff was barking incessantly at the horse, who pawed impatiently,
and never seemed to perceive that the dog was evidently only fulfilling
an irksome duty, and was not actuated by the slightest feeling of
hostility. Johannes stroked, in passing, his broad, bristling back, a
caress not unkindly received, and then entered the house, whose
hospitable roof was so low that he was obliged to stoop as he crossed
the threshold, lest he should brush his forehead against the bunches of
unripe grapes that hung down over the lintel. He passed through the
little, dark hall, and entered the dwelling-room. There he found
Hilsborn sitting with the schoolmaster upon one of the low, broad
window-seats, while the schoolmaster's old wife, Brigitta, sat knitting
upon the other. The schoolmaster was a spare, elderly man, with long
gray hair, and eyes in whose uncertain depths that ominous white spot
could be perceived that is the arch-enemy of light.

"Aha! the Herr Professor," said the old man, rising to greet Johannes.
"We thought you had been enchanted in the Haunted Castle, and would
never come back to us again."

"You may not have been so very far wrong," said Johannes, shaking the
offered hand.

"Yes, you have kept us waiting well!" observed Hilsborn.

"Brigitta, dear, will you make ready for us? These gentlemen will
perhaps do us the pleasure of sharing with us our mid-day meal,--it
will be about the time for their luncheon," said the schoolmaster to
his wife, who had arisen when Johannes entered, and was awaiting this
hint to withdraw. Johannes and Hilsborn declined the proffered
hospitality, but Frau Brigitta had already left the room. As the door
closed behind her, the old man grew very grave. "Herr Professor," he
began, and his voice was a little hoarse, and his hands trembled
slightly, "now we are alone,--now I pray you tell me the truth. I would
not ask you while my wife was here,--for I would spare her unhappiness
as long as possible. But I must and will know, for the future of my son
is at stake. Is it not true, Herr Professor, that you have no hope of
saving my eyes?"

Hilsborn made no reply. His compassionate heart withheld him from so
utterly destroying the old man's hopes in life. In his indecision, he
exchanged a glance with Johannes, which the old man observed.

"Oh, my dear sir, that look, which I could see in spite of my
increasing blindness, speaks to me as plainly as your silence. I have
long had no hope myself. A year ago, when my eyes were so inflamed, I
expected the catastrophe would occur from which your skill has so long
saved me. The question now is--can my eyes be operated upon?"

Hilsborn hesitated again. He could not in honour delude the worthy man
with false hopes only to have them so bitterly crushed in the future,
and yet--who with a heart in his breast could tell the sad truth to
that face of anxious inquiry? "I cannot give you a decided answer at
present," he said at last with some effort.

The patient man clasped his hands entreatingly, and his dim eyes strove
to read Hilsborn's countenance. "Do not believe, Herr Professor, that
it would be kind to deceive me. If I now know that I am incurable, I
can do instantly what would be difficult later,--take my son
immediately from the University and train him to be my successor here.
You can understand that if I am disabled I can no longer provide for
the continuance of his academic course, and that it is best that the
young man should learn as soon as possible the destruction of his
hopes, that he may reconcile himself to resigning the lecture-room for
the school-room. I know how hard it will be, for I was just entering
upon a scientific career when I was excluded from it by my father's
early death. And let me tell you that if my son bears this blow well, I
have nothing more to fear." His voice faltered as he uttered these last
words. He was conscious of it, and was silent,--unwilling to betray his
emotion.

Johannes and Hilsborn stood for one moment, not knowing what to reply.
They could not console the unhappy father by the assurance that he
would need no substitute. They well knew how important it was that what
the conscientious old man proposed should be done. At last Hilsborn
said, with characteristic gentleness, "If you wish to make sure of a
substitute in case of the worst, it is best that you should do so as
soon as possible, as in the event of undergoing an operation you would
be unable to work for a long time, and, besides, I cannot answer for
the result."

"Thank you, kind sir. You have told me the truth, and now I know
enough," said the schoolmaster, wiping his eyes with a coarse,
gaily-printed cotton handkerchief.

"Have I not often told you," said Hilsborn, "that you never ought to
touch your eyes except with linen cambric?"

"True! true!" said the pale, troubled man, forcing a smile, "but where
am I to procure such a luxury?"

"Why, your lady at the castle should give it to you," said Hilsborn.

"She would do so willingly, I am sure, but I could not make up my mind
to so bold a request; for, since the other villagers have treated her
so badly, she has avoided us also; and I fear she has visited us with
some of the indignation that she must feel at the shameful insults she
has received."

"Well, then, I will ask for you," cried Johannes. "I will go back to
the castle, and you shall have what you require in a few moments."

As he spoke, Frau Brigitta entered, with a bottle of wine and the soup.
Her good old face beamed with delight at the opportunity of offering
her hospitality to such honoured guests. Her husband seized the
gentlemen's hands, while she was busied with laying the table, and
whispered, "Promise me, I beg you, that you will not mention what you
have told me to any one, that my poor wife may be allowed to enjoy all
the hope that she can for the future."

"We promise you," was the grave reply.

"May I be permitted to offer the gentlemen some slight refreshment?"
asked Brigitta with old-fashioned formality; for etiquette in the
country is like the fashion of dress, which follows at a long distance
the fashion of the city,--so that a form of polite expression is used
in the country long after it has ceased to be _bon genre_ in town. And
yet there is something touching in all those old-time phrases and
customs that we remember as used by our grandparents and great-aunts
and uncles. They suggest so vividly the images of the departed, and
bring back the memories of childhood. Who has not in early childhood
seen some old aunt or grandmother, upon refusing a fifth cup of coffee,
turn the cup upside down in the saucer and lay the spoon carefully upon
it? And when, twenty or thirty years after, we see some country
pastor's or schoolmaster's wife go through the same ceremony, does not
the dear old form, long ago laid at rest in the grave, rise before us
to check the smile upon our lips? Who cannot remember as a child the
friendly sympathy that greeted a satisfactory sneeze? And when, a
quarter of a century later, some kindly country soul hails such an
occurrence with a cordial "God bless you!" does it not seem as if we
must reply as formerly, "Thanks, dear grandmamma," and are we not
homesick for a moment for our good old grandmother? Such was the
impression made upon the young men by the kindly formality, the
officious hospitality, of the schoolmaster's good old wife.

"I pray you honour us by tasting our poor meal," she said, as she put a
coarse thick napkin of her own spinning upon each plate.

After the conversation that they had just had with the unfortunate
husband, the two young men had little appetite for eating or drinking;
but they would not refuse the old woman's kindly hospitality, and
therefore seated themselves at the clumsy table. For one moment there
was a silence so profound that the tick of the death-watch in the bench
by the stove could be plainly heard. Then the schoolmaster poured out
the wine. His hand trembled slightly, and he was obliged to take care
lest any of it should be spilled; for he could not see well when the
glasses were full. Then, holding up his own glass, he said cheerily,
"Long life to you, gentlemen, and to our noble German science! I drink
to you."

They clinked their glasses; but it cut Hilsborn to the very soul to
think that the science which their good old host was so lauding should
have been so cruel a prophet to him a few minutes before. Johannes,
too, looked down at the wineglass in his hand, and the drops that he
tasted from it were bitter to swallow.

"Come, good wife, clink your glass with mine," said the old man to Frau
Brigitta. "My wife is very fond of a little drop of wine," he said to
his guests; "but we never indulge in it except when we have such
honoured guests as sit around our table to-day."

"And why not?" asked Hilsborn.

"Because it tastes so much better when there are others here to enjoy
it with us," was the simple, smiling answer.

"But you ought to take more of it," said Johannes. "This good old wine
is excellent for you; it is a tonic."

The old man looked sadly at the few drops which he had poured out for
himself, and with which he had only moistened his lips. "You forget
that I have been for a long time forbidden to take wine, on account of
my eyes."

"My poor husband!" said his wife, sadly stroking his hollow cheeks. "He
has to deny himself so much."

Johannes and Hilsborn exchanged glances, and then the latter said, "I
reverse that prohibition, Herr Leonhardt. Take a good glass of wine
whenever you feel inclined. It cannot harm your eyes as much as it will
improve your general health."

"Thank God!" cried his wife rejoiced. "That proves how much better you
are."

"Or how much worse," Leonhardt said in Latin to Hilsborn, with a grave
look. Then, turning tenderly to his wife, he slowly emptied his glass,
whispering to her, "Long live our Walter!"

The old woman nodded delightedly. "Our good boy! if he only had his
degree!"

Leonhardt clasped his hands with a deep sigh. "That is all that I ask
of God."

"Are you speaking of your son?" cried the gentlemen. "Then let us join
you. May he live to be the delight and prop of your old age!"

"He is a very talented young man," added Johannes. "His essay was
declared the best after Fräulein von Hartwich's."

"Indeed!" said the schoolmaster. "I am glad to hear it. Ah, the
Fräulein is fortunate. She has everything necessary for her
studies,--books and apparatus. There is hardly such another private
laboratory and library in the country."

Johannes looked surprised. "Indeed! how do you know that?"

"My son has, during his studies, also perfected himself as a mechanic,
for he says it is a great advantage for a naturalist, and Fräulein von
Hartwich, hearing of it accidentally, intrusted him with some repairs
of her furniture, and then he saw what treasures she possessed."

Johannes looked thoughtful. "Hm! as far as I know, Fräulein von
Hartwich's income is by no means so large as to allow of such
extravagant expenditure. Her uncle may have permitted his ward to
encroach upon her capital; it would only be a fresh proof of his want
of principle."

After a short pause, he turned to the schoolmaster.--"Herr Leonhardt,
answer me one question. If a man wishes to rid a country of a dangerous
wild animal, is it best to track him to his den by cunning, that he may
be safely overcome there, or to startle him with loud noise and
frighten him off, so that he either escapes or has time to prepare to
defend himself?"

The schoolmaster looked puzzled. "Why, a prudent man would surely
pursue the first course."

"I think so too. Well, Herr Leonhardt, I mean to track Doctor Leuthold
Gleissert to his hiding-place. I am persuaded that this man is a
thorough scoundrel, but I can bring no proof that I judge him
correctly. Until I have collected such proof, which can only be done
quietly and with caution, I cannot proceed against him openly. I need
your assistance, Herr Leonhardt, for you know more than all of us
concerning this man and his proceedings. Give me, if you can, some
tangible cause for accusing him, that I may succeed in delivering that
rare creature, his niece, from his clutches."

"I will do my best," said Leonhardt. "But he lives so retired that I
shall hardly be able to procure any important information for you. The
only thing that I can observe is the names of his correspondents; for,
as there is no post-office in the village, I have a post-drawer in my
house, which the post-boy empties in my room. So that I can easily
learn to whom all Doctor Gleissert's letters are addressed. Perhaps
that may be of use to you."

"Do so," replied Johannes, "you will greatly oblige me." He emptied his
glass and arose. "And now let me have pen and ink, and I will write a
couple of lines to the lady at the castle."

The schoolmaster opened a little, old-fashioned desk, and produced the
necessary articles. Johannes wrote:


"My dear Fräulein Hartwich:--Will it offend you if I offer you the
opportunity of exerting yourself within the sphere which I believe is
assigned to woman?--I, who provoked your displeasure this morning by
remonstrating against any exertion outside of that sphere. A tragedy is
about to be enacted in the peaceful cottage of the schoolmaster
Leonhardt, and the physical and spiritual aid of a woman like yourself
will be most welcome there. Come see these people for yourself; they
are the worthiest of your kindness of any in the village, and you have
seen the least of them. Say nothing to Frau Leonhardt of the hint I
have given you above. The poor man needs linen-cambric rags for his
eyes, and would not trouble you by asking you for them. This will
furnish you a pretext for establishing relations with these people--if
you will; and I am sure you will. I know that I shall hear of your
kindness when I return; and I shall return again and again.

                 "Your friend of a few hours, but for life."


Johannes sealed the letter, and gave it to the schoolmaster. "Here,
Herr Leonhardt, is the request for the linen-cambric. Send it to
Fräulein Hartwich; and if she should happen to visit you herself, I
pray you and your wife not to mention my name. I desire the Fräulein to
remain in ignorance of it for a short time. Promise me."

The worthy old couple gave the required promise, and, bidding a kindly
farewell, the gentlemen entered the carriage. Johannes took the reins,
and the impatient horse bore them swiftly back to town.

The schoolmaster and his wife returned to the house and finished their
dinner, for it was nearly twelve o'clock, at which hour the afternoon
school in the village reassembled. They dispatched the note to
Ernestine, and then the schoolmaster betook himself to the school-room
to wait for his pupils. At the stroke of twelve there was a trampling
of little feet in the hall, and finger after finger rapped at the door,
and awaited the gentle "Come in!" without which no entrance was
allowed, for the schoolmaster was a great stickler for order and
decorum, and knew well how to retain the respect of his scholars. Most
of the children were better in school than anywhere else. It was
strange. Herr Leonhardt never struck a blow; he was rarely angry; he
only reproved gently; and yet the most unruly boy, the most sullen
girl, was controlled by his glance. The wise old man believed that love
for the teacher was a better spur to improvement than fear, which could
only call forth hatred and malice towards its object. And thus he
smoothed away many a foolish, rude, and cruel trait from the peasant
youth of his village, bringing out the good in the minds of those
intrusted to his care, and suppressing the evil, so that, during the
thirty-five years of his gentle sway in the school-room, the
Hochstetten boys and girls were more in request for servants than any
others in all the country round.

"Good-afternoon, Herr Leonhardt!" cried the entering throng, scattering
themselves among the long benches with a sound like gravel poured out
upon a path.

"St--St!" was heard from the master, and instantly all was quiet in the
room, except for the rustling of the opening copy-books, and the lesson
began.

Suddenly there was a soft, low knock at the door,--such a knock as
comes only from a guilty conscience,--and a little, cleanly-dressed
girl, about six years old, stood upon the threshold with downcast eyes.
She held out before her, as if trying to hide behind it, a satchel so
large that it really seemed difficult to decide whether the child had
brought it, or it had brought the child; and the pearly drops upon her
brow showed how fast she had been running.

"Why, Käthchen!" cried Herr Leonhardt, "why do you come so late? Come
here to me, little culprit. It is the first time in the whole long year
since you first came to school that you have been late. Something very
unusual must have happened?"

Little Käthchen slowly approached him, while her chubby face grew
scarlet. "I--I had to pick berries," she faltered, biting her
berry-stained lips.

"Oh, Käthchen," said Herr Leonhardt, raising his forefinger, "that is
very strange. _You had to!_ Who told you to?"

Käthchen still looked down, and her face grew, if possible, redder
still.

"Look me in the face, my child," said the master gravely. "Are you
telling the truth?"

Käthchen tried to raise her brown, roguish eyes to his face, but, ah,
the consciousness of guilt weighed down her eyelids like lead. She
could not look at her teacher; she only shook her curly head.

"Käthchen," said the master kindly, "you were not sent to pick berries,
for I know how desirous your father and mother are to send you to
school--you ran into the wood to pick and eat them yourself. Perhaps
this is your first falsehood, as it is the first time you have been
late at school. Pray God that it maybe your last."

"Oh," the little culprit broke forth, "the neighbour's Fritz took me
with him, and the berries tasted so good that I stayed too long."

The other children laughed; but a motion of the master's hand restored
silence, and he continued to Käthchen: "Now, my child, for your
tardiness you will have a black mark; and go down one in your class;
but, Käthchen, for the falsehood you will lose your place in my heart,
and I cannot love you so much. But I will forgive you if you will go
stand in the corner of your own accord. Which will you do?--lose your
place in my heart, or go stand in the corner for a quarter of an hour?"

The child burst into a flood of tears, and, sobbing out, "I'd rather, a
great deal rather, go stand in the comer!" walked there instantly, and
turned her dear little face to the wall.

The schoolmaster looked after her pityingly; but nevertheless he was
firm, for he always imposed the severest penalty for a falsehood. The
lessons were continued, and in about ten minutes he called the still
sobbing Käthchen from her corner. The child came running to him, and he
held out his hand to her, saying, "Will you promise me, Käthchen, never
again to say what is not true?"

"Oh, yes, I will never, never do it again," was the contrite answer.

Then the old man took up the rosy little thing and set her on his knee.
"Then, my dear child, I will love you dearly as long as you are honest
and industrious. And if you are ever tempted to tell what is not true,
think how it would grieve your old teacher if he knew it, and tell the
truth for his sake."

"Yes, yes," cried the child, her little heart overflowing with
repentance, and, throwing her arms around the master's neck, she hugged
him with all her might.

The other children had watched the ceremony of reconciliation with
intense sympathy, for they were all fond of brown-eyed, rosy-cheeked
Käthchen, and were rejoiced that her troubles were over.

"Now," said the teacher, when Käthchen was at last seated in her place,
"now let us see whether you have done your task well."

Käthchen pulled out her books from the dark depths of her huge satchel;
but, alas! the light of day revealed upon them many a stain from the
berries which had been put into the bag. The child's dismay and her
companions' amusement were infinite. Even the schoolmaster could not
refrain from smiling as he looked at her terrified little face. "Never
mind," he said, "you have suffered enough. Let us see how they look
inside." He opened the copy-book, and was evidently pleased with the
neat copy. But the sums were in dire confusion.

"Käthchen," cried Herr Leonhardt, "if a horse has four legs, how many
legs have two horses?"

"Six!" was the confident answer.

"Käthchen, how many are twice two?"

"Eight!"

Herr Leonhardt cast to heaven that resigned glance peculiar only to
such patient martyrs. "Käthchen, how many fingers, not counting the
thumb, are there on your left hand?"

Käthchen counted with her right hand the fingers of her left, and
triumphantly declared, "Four."

"And how many on your right hand?"

Again the same process was repeated with the right hand, and the same
answer ensued.

"That's right! Now, how many are there together?"

No answer.

"How many fingers have you on both hands?"

"Ten!"

"Without the thumbs, child,--without either of the thumbs."

Käthchen began her arduous task anew.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door.

"Another child late?" said Herr Leonhardt, and cried, "Come in."

But, instead of the rosy face of a child, a pale countenance, with
large, dark eyes, appeared, and gazed almost shyly around the circle.
This apparition produced a perfect panic. "Oh, heavens! the Hartwich!
Mercy! mercy! the woman of the castle!" and similar exclamations of
alarm, were heard from all sides. The children started up,--those who
were nearest the door crowded away from it, the larger ones dragged the
little ones close to their sides, the Catholics even crossed
themselves. An actual uproar began, which even the teacher's voice
failed at first to control.

Ernestine observed it all without any change in her regular features.
Leonhardt approached her respectfully, and would have asked her pardon
for the children's folly, but she interrupted him.

"On the contrary," she said softly, "it is I who should ask pardon for
interrupting your school by my dreaded appearance. I meant to go to
your dwelling-room, to take you the linen-cambric handkerchiefs that
you need, but not knowing where it was, I knocked here by mistake. Have
the kindness, Herr Leonhardt, to relieve me of this parcel, and I will
relieve your pupils from their alarm."

The old man held out his hand to her, but she did not take it. "Never
mind that; such a civility shown to me might deprive you of the
children's respect."

"Oh, my dear Fräulein Hartwich," Leonhardt warmly entreated, "do not
ascribe this folly to me, to whom it gives, of course, much more pain
than it can to you, whose position is too exalted to allow you to heed
such trifles; but to me it brings the bitter conviction that the labor
of a lifetime has been in vain!" He ceased, and cast a sad, weary
glance at the little flock crowded so closely together.

At his words the cold look in Ernestine's eyes vanished, and, for the
first time, she regarded attentively the old man, who stood so
respectfully, and yet so dignified, before her. His inflamed eyes
revealed to her instantly the nature of the tragedy alluded to by her
unknown friend, and she was filled with sympathy.

"We will talk together by-and-by, Herr Leonhardt," she whispered, so
that the children should not hear what she said. "Now let me go."

"Will you have the great kindness, Fräulein Hartwich, to go and see my
wife for awhile?" said Leonhardt "It would give her such pleasure,--she
is in the opposite room."

"Most certainly I will. I will wait for you there."

She turned to go; but Leonhardt, seeing that the children were now more
quiet, and hoping to show her that their folly was not as great as it
had seemed, cried to the foremost ones of the throng, "You have behaved
foolishly and naughtily before Fräulein Hartwich. Come, show her that
you can be better, and bid her good-by, like good children."

The children stood motionless. The old man, distressed at their
conduct, looked around the room, and said, "Will none of you shake
hands with her for my sake?"

"I will," said Käthchen's clear, childish voice; and the fearless
little girl, who had only followed the example of the others, walked up
to Fräulein von Hartwich, and offered her chubby little hand to be
shaken, and her berry-stained lips to be kissed. Ernestine stooped and
kissed the little, pouting lips, and looked kindly into the pretty
child's frank, sparkling eyes.

"Now see, all you larger children," said the schoolmaster, "a little
child, only six years old, shames you all! What are you afraid of? You
see Fräulein von Hartwich every day!"

"Yes, but not in a room--out in the road; we can run away then," one of
the older ones shrewdly declared.

Ernestine smiled sadly, and left the school-room without another word.

The schoolmaster looked around upon his pupils with an indignant
glance. "You have to-day disgraced yourselves and me, and I see plainly
that everything that I have said to you and to your parents upon this
point has been of no avail. I will give up trying to contend with your
superstition and hate,--I am too old and weak for such a contest. Only
let me say to you once more, 'Judge not, that you be not judged.' And
tell your parents that if the time ever comes when I shall have to
leave you, what has occurred to-day will go far to prevent me from
regretting my departure."

The children sat dismayed and silent, for they had never known their
teacher to be so much displeased. They bowed their heads low over their
books and slates, and hardly ventured to breathe, still less to utter a
word of excuse. The lessons were gone through with even more quiet than
usual, and when two o'clock struck, the children left the house and
crept away as sad and depressed as if they were following a funeral.
But scarcely were they escaped from the neighbourhood of the
school-house than they recovered themselves, and fell upon poor
Käthchen. "Fie! Käthchen, you let the Hartwich kiss you! Nobody cares
for you now!"

"Yes, yes, Käthchen's mouth is black, because the Hartwich kissed it."

"Oho, Käthchen, no one will ever give you a kiss again!"

"Only wait, and see how the Hartwich has bewitched you! To-morrow you
will know!"

Poor little Käthchen was overwhelmed with speeches and reproaches of
this kind. But they troubled her very little, for her teacher was
pleased with her, and that was better than all else besides; and she
was proud that she had dared to go forward when all the rest were
afraid.

"If you are so unkind, I will not give you any of my berries," she
said, swinging her huge satchel carelessly to and fro. This trump-card
did not fail of its effect, for the berries were not bewitched,--at all
events, the Hartwich had not touched them; so the little girl soon had
the satisfaction of seeing the children all gather around her once
more.

When Leonhardt went to his wife, he found her deep in friendly talk
with Ernestine.

"My dear, kind Fräulein Hartwich," he began, "how it grieves me that
you, who came to do me a kindness, should have been so insulted in my
house! To be sure, they are only children, and they could not really
insult you, but----"

"'As the parents are, so must the children be,' is what you would say,"
Ernestine interposed, "or what, at least, you think. Do not be
distressed, Herr Leonhardt. I am used to insult and ridicule, and I
have grown callous to them. But it is strange that a similar occurrence
took place ten years ago to-day, at the first and only children's party
which I ever attended. My misanthropy dates from that day; and the
fresh proof that I have just had convinces me that I am not fitted to
mix with the world,--least of all, with what passes for such in this
country. Tell me, Herr Leonhardt, is it entirely impossible for you to
enlighten these people in some small degree?"

"To speak frankly, I believe I could have done so had not my influence
always been counteracted by their priests and pastors. As a teacher,
subordinate always to a priest or pastor, I could effect nothing
against the superstition, the religious intolerance, instilled into the
peasants by their spiritual guides; for with peasants the authority is
always the greatest that does not attempt to combat their errors. A
quack who makes use only of old women's remedies will always inspire
them with more confidence than a regular physician whose prescriptions
gainsay all their medical and dietetic prejudices. A pastor who from a
religious point of view justifies and encourages their superstition and
ignorance will be regarded by them as a far worthier and more
trustworthy guide than one who teaches only the pure truth of God. So,
you see, I have always contended with unequal weapons, and have
frequently been in danger of falling a victim to their malice and thus
losing my place. In quiet times, when nothing occurred to show plainly
the difference between us, all went pretty well; but since your
arrival, Fräulein von Hartwich, the old quarrel has been renewed, and I
see again how powerless I am."

"Then I am come only to sow discord in this peaceful spot," Ernestine
said in a thoughtful tone. "Yes, yes,--misfortune attends me wherever I
go."

"Oh, do not say that!" cried Frau Brigitta, seizing Ernestine's hand,
"but it seems to me--forgive a simple old woman for speaking so plainly
to you--it seems to me that a lady so beautiful and richly endowed as
you are, ought not to live here so lonely and secluded. My husband and
I often say, 'What a pity it is that such a splendid creature should
bury herself alive!' It certainly is unnatural; and what is natural is
sure to be best!"

Ernestine was silent, and sat with eyes cast down.

"I too must say," said Leonhardt timidly, "that you are not in your
right place here. Did you ever see the statue of a renowned philosopher
or artist set up in the midst of a village? Certainly not; for the
village boys would pelt it with mud,--no one would understand its
value,--it would be merely a doll, at which every one would laugh, and
to deface which would be considered a very good joke. And will you,
Fräulein Hartwich, in the bloom of life, with all your refinement of
mind, voluntarily expose yourself to the same fate that would await
such a statue were it erected here, for the purpose of inspiring this
rude people with ennobling ideas? Surely you cannot answer to yourself
for such a course of life!"

Ernestine gazed attentively at the old man's faded but still noble
countenance. His address was so different from what she had expected
from a simple village schoolmaster, that she was greatly astonished at
it. It stimulated her to reply to him.

"I understand your comparison, Herr Leonhardt, and am greatly
honoured by it, but,--forgive me for saying so,--it does not seem to me
quite correct. I know of no village where statues either of Christ or
the Madonna are not erected, and the rudest peasant pays them
reverence,--because he appreciates the idea that they embody. Could we
only breathe a sympathy with other than religious ideas into the minds
of this neglected class, the representatives of such ideas would also
receive the same reverence."

Frau Leonhardt was a little troubled by the turn the conversation had
taken; for, as a faithful servant will listen to no slighting remarks
concerning those whom he serves, she, as a true servant of her Lord and
Saviour, disapproved of Fräulein von Hartwich's mode of speaking of
Him, and thought it scarcely becoming in a good Christian to listen to
such talk. But her husband, with modest tact, put an end to her
anxiety. "I have myself," said he, "thought of what you say, but it
seems to me to be an entirely different matter. The people honour in
these statues not ideas, but persons,--and the holiest and highest
persons that they can conceive of,--the persons of their God and his
saints. As we take delight in the pictures of distant relatives, whom
we may never have seen, perhaps, but whom we honour and cherish for the
sake of what we know of them, so, a thousand times more so, do the
people honour what speaks to them of the eternally invisible Father of
all! This sentiment, Fräulein von Hartwich, seems to me widely
different from the admiration that a comprehension of the great ideas
of to-day might awaken in the minds of the people. We are not yet far
enough advanced to say how it may be,--and who knows whether we ever
shall advance so far as to be able to elevate those classes who labour
for us that we may think for them, and who desire nothing at present
for their happiness but their plough and their God? What they really
need now, in my opinion, is that their God should not be represented to
them as an angry, avenging Jehovah, but as the loving, redeeming God of
Christianity! To return to my simile,--with regard to yourself,
Fräulein von Hartwich, let me repeat that you can only be in your true
place where your efforts and ideas are understood and you can grace a
pedestal that becomes you. Then you will be truly happy, and far more
easily brought into communion with your Creator than while you are
embittered by the religious error and intolerance prevailing around you
here. The people are hostile to you, because they believe you hostile
to what they hold most sacred,--their religion. Whoever, in their
eyes, stands aloof from Christian fellowship, stands aloof from
mankind,--ceases to be a creature of flesh and blood. And if they do
not see condign punishment quickly overtake such a one, whom they
regard as the chief of sinners, they believe that she must be under the
protection not of God, but of the other power in their theology,--the
devil! Forgive my frankness. I say nothing of their childish
misconception of God's tender long-suffering. I only feel it my duty to
show you the impassable gulf that lies between you and your
surroundings. You are such a thorn in the side not only of the Catholic
priest, but also of the evangelical pastor of our diocese, that he
attempted to procure from the Protestant consistory a decree of
banishment against you on account of your writings, and, failing in
this, he has determined to drive you from this place, at all costs, by
unceasing persecution. His Catholic associate seconds him, as you
yourself know, most zealously, and I wish to save you, by timely
warning, from all that, unfortunately, still threatens you here."

He paused, and endeavoured to observe with his dim eyes the effect of
his words upon Ernestine's impassive features. Her look was still
riveted on the ground, and she said nothing, so he respectfully took
her hand, saying, "Dear Fräulein von Hartwich, forgive me if I am too
bold and have wounded you. I am a plain man, ignorant of the forms of
polite society, grown old among peasants, and accustomed to speak out
my thoughts openly. I hold truth to be my first duty, but it would pain
me to think that, in fulfilling this duty, I had unintentionally
wounded you!"

"Dear, dear!--yes!--oh, yes!" ejaculated his kindly old wife, really
distressed by the inscrutable expression upon Ernestine's face.

Suddenly the latter started up, shook the old people by the hand, and
said gravely but cordially,--

"Thank you, thank you, Herr Leonhardt. You are a good man!"

"Oh, my dear, good Fräulein von Hartwich!" cried Frau Brigitta with
emotion.

"I must go home now," said Ernestine, covering her black braids with
her hat, "but I will see you soon again. Farewell!"

When the old couple had accompanied her to the door, and followed her
with their eyes as she walked away apparently lost in thought, they
both remembered for the first time that she had not alluded in any way
to Johannes.

"How strange!" said the schoolmaster, as he went for his garden-shears
to trim the luxuriant hedge before his house.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                             THE GUARDIAN.


When, on the evening of the same day, Leuthold returned from town, he
heard that Ernestine could not see him,--she was not well, and had
retired to her room. Slowly and cautiously he sought her study, and
there attempted to find what and how much his ward had accomplished
during the day. To his astonishment, he found nothing. He slipped into
the laboratory, and there lay everything just as it had been left the
day before. Nothing had been touched. What did it mean? It was the
first day for years that had been passed by Ernestine in idleness.
Then, creeping along the corridors with the stealthy step of a cat, he
sought Frau Willmers. She, too, was just about going to bed, and looked
very sleepy when Leuthold, fixing a searching glance upon her, asked,
"What has Fräulein von Hartwich been doing to-day?"

Frau Willmers yawned: she needed an instant for reflection. "Fräulein
von Hartwich has been quite unwell to-day," she replied.

"Indeed! what was the matter with her?"

"Why, just what is always the matter, more or less. Heart-beat,
faintness, headache. Is it any wonder, considering the way she is
always at work? She could hardly hold up her head to-day----"

"Has any one been here?"

"Not a soul: who could----"

"No letters?"

"Two for you, Herr Professor, and one for Fräulein von Hartwich from
the schoolmaster."

"What did he want?"

"He asked for some linen-cambric rags for his weak eyes. She took him
some."

"She herself? Why?"

"She was tired because she could not study, and she wanted to see Herr
Leonhardt's eyes. She thought she might learn something from them."

"Very well,--that will do. Good-night, Frau Willmers."

"Good-night, Herr Professor," said the cunning housekeeper, hastening
to tell Ernestine how slyly she had managed matters and contrived to
pay due honour to truth by mixing up some of it with her falsehoods.

Ernestine sat in an easy-chair, her eyes fixed upon the flame of the
lamp. A book lay open in her lap,--"Andersen's Fairy Tales."

She could not smile at what Frau Willmers told her. There was something
in it that filled her with uneasiness. For the first time since she had
lived with her uncle, she felt that she was a prisoner, watched and
guarded as such. She was obliged to conceal, as if it were a crime, the
fact that she had become acquainted with a true, noble human being. She
had to account on the plea of interest in science for visiting a poor
suffering man. The lie disgraced her, and the necessity that had
prompted it was a galling chain! All this she felt to-day for the first
time. One day had aroused within her the longing for independence!--the
greatest misfortune that could have befallen her unsuspecting uncle,
but not the only one that this day was to bring him.

When he went to his room, he found there the letters of which Frau
Willmers had told him. The first that he took up he opened instantly.
It was from his daughter Gretchen, and ran thus:


"My dearest Father:

"In a week I shall be fifteen years old, and next month my course here
will be finished, and I shall be fitted to take my place in the school
as a teacher. Once more I turn to you and entreat you, dear father, let
me come home to you! I will not be any burden to you. My teachers will
tell you that I know enough to enable a young girl to earn her own
living. I thank and bless you a thousand times, dearest father, for
having me educated to be a useful member of society. I will be my
cousin's maid, and work for her for my support, if I may only be near
you! Oh, I pray you yield to my entreaties! You have always answered my
request by telling me that her bad example--her irreligion and hardness
of heart--would have a ruinous effect upon me. But indeed, dear father,
this could not be. Thanks to my good, kind teachers, I am so firm in my
faith, I have been so well trained, that this one bad example could not
have any effect upon me, especially when I should daily see how my poor
father suffers in discharging his guardianship of so stubborn a
creature. Why did my dead uncle Hartwich bequeath to you such a
thankless office? Indeed, dearest father, it would be easier if you
would let me help you. I would leave nothing untried to soften her
heart and turn it to good, and, however angry she might be with me, I
would disarm her by patience and submission; and, even although I could
have no effect upon her, I could be something to you, dear father. Oh,
how heavenly it would be to sit alone together in your room after the
day's work was finished! I could sit at your feet and show you my
sketches and drawings, drinking draughts from the rich treasures of
your mind and cheering you with my ever-ready nonsense. And sometimes I
could lean my head upon your heart, that no one understands as well as
the child to whom you have shown all its depths of tenderness, and
sleep as peacefully as in those dear childish days when you cradled me
in your arms with all a mother's care! Oh, father, you are everything
in the world to me! My mother, who forsook me when I was so young--who
left you for another so immeasurably your inferior, I do not know--I
can form no image of her, unlovely as she must be, in my mind. You are
mother, father, everything, to me! My cradle stood by your bedside;
your eyes smiled upon me when I awoke. You never spoke a harsh word to
me, you never looked unkindly at me. You treated the wayward child, who
must so often have vexed you, with unvarying gentleness and patience;
and at last you sent me from you, that I might be thoroughly trained
and educated, since it is our fate to earn our daily bread. You sent me
from you, but I saw plainly, when we parted, that this was the greatest
sacrifice of all,--that I carried away your whole heart with me. You
did it for me,--out of affection for me. You have given me up now for
almost seven years, and I have worked and studied as hard as I could,
so that I might soon be with you again; and now, when I have learned
enough to be able to repay you a very little for all that you have done
and suffered for me, you refuse to let me fly to your dear arms, for
fear of the miserable influence of your ward. Father, you will--you
must--hear and heed me. The tears that blotted your last letter to me
fell hot into my very soul. They were tears of longing--do not deny
it--for your child, and I will never rest until you give heed to your
own heart! Ah, father dear, you will be pleased when you see me! I am
taller and stronger than our governess! Every one says I am very tall
for my age--I might be taken for eighteen years old! When we go to walk
together, you will have to give me your arm! Ah, what a delight that
will be! I shall be too proud to touch the ground! and, depend upon it,
I shall be able to do something with Ernestine! She never used to be
cross to me as a child; I cannot think how she can have altered so. How
could she become so changed with such a guardian? In spirit I kiss his
dear, kind hands! Happy girl!--to have my father for a teacher! Shall I
not grudge her a happiness of which she has proved herself so unworthy?
Yes; I do grudge it her! I do not envy her for her talents or her
wealth, but I do envy her for my father!--I must envy her for that! You
give her your time--your care; you devote yourself to her, and let your
own child grow up far away from you, among strangers,--your own
child,--who would give all that she possesses for one look from her
father's eyes!"

Leuthold could read no further. He writhed like a worm on the ground
beneath the weight of reproach with which this artless creature thus
heaped him. The thunderbolt of a god could have inflicted no such
punishment upon him as the pure, sweet, angelic love of his child.

He sunk upon his knees, and kissed the letter again and again. "My
child! my child!" he cried aloud, racked almost to madness by intense
feverish longing. At this moment of weakness he was overwhelmed with
remorse. He had banished from his side his dearest possession,--his
Gretchen. And why? Because he loved her too dearly to expose her to
contact with the ideas that he sought to impress upon the mind of his
ward,--because he would not allow his child to breathe the poisoned
atmosphere of falsehood in which he chose that Ernestine should dwell.
And why had he thus chosen? Because, he loved Gretchen too much to have
her always poor and dependent, because he determined to win back the
inheritance that he had once thought his own, but which had been so
unexpectedly lost to him, and because there was only one way, in his
mind, in which this could be done,--by making the possessor of this
inheritance so utterly unfit for the world that nothing might wrest her
person or her property from his grasp.

But, when he received such a letter as the above, overflowing with the
devoted love, the pain at separation, of his exiled child, something
stirred in his breast that would not be quieted, demanding whether he
might not have expressed his paternal love in another way, whether it
were not a desecration of this angel to attempt to make her future
happy by a crime? Whether the joy of educating such a child himself
would not have outweighed the wealth of the world? And then he began to
reckon and compare,--and the account was never balanced,--for the years
of separation from his daughter there was no equivalent. These were
rare hours when, like a criminal before his judge, he was arraigned in
spirit before the pure eyes of his child; but they cost him months of
life.

His hair had grown grey,--his powers of mind were enfeebled by all
these years of self-control and hypocrisy,--of crime and dread of
discovery. He had nothing to hope for for himself--but for Gretchen?
And what if he had failed in his reckoning? What if a mischievous
chance should again deprive him at the last moment of the fruit of all
this sacrifice? The path of sin had separated him from his daughter
hitherto. Was it possible that it could ever lead him to her?

His high, narrow forehead was covered with a cold dew as he passed his
hand over it. He was indeed to be pitied,--a man who had not the
courage to be wholly good nor wholly bad!

The night breeze blew fresh through the open window, and the miserable
man was thoroughly chilled. He arose, wrapped himself in his shawl,
closed the window, and went to the table where lay the other letter. It
was directed in the handwriting of the overseer of the Unkenheim
Factory. Leuthold put it down--he had not the courage to read it "What
can he have to tell me?" he moaned, utterly dispirited.

At last he roused himself. "What must be, must!"

He unfolded the coarse paper and read--while his face grew ashy pale.


                                        "Umkenheim, July 30, 18--.

"Honoured Sir:

"You should have believed me when I told you that there was nothing to
be done with bringing the water from that miserable spring. Twenty
years ago you placed me at the head of this factory, and I think I have
shown that I understand my business. It is a ruinous thing to conduct
such a huge undertaking from a distance. I told you so when you got
back the factory again, but you never believe what I say. If the
business had been allowed to proceed as usual, we should have made a
sure, although small, profit from it. But you were in such a devil of a
hurry to make the capital yield a hundred per cent., because you were
always afraid lest your ward should smell a rat and require her own
again,--or lest she should marry, and you would have to render an
account to some suspicious husband, who would be less forbearing even
than Fräulein Ernestine. Therefore these giant speculations were set on
foot, and everything was to be accomplished in the twinkling of an eye.
I told you we had not sufficient sewerage for such an enormous
enlargement. Then you never rested until that expensive drain was dug,
and we very soon found that it had too little incline and the refuse
all stuck fast in it. Then you thought we could carry it off by a
stream of water turned into the drain. More money was spent, and again
spent in vain. The dry summer had exhausted the spring,--it was always
small, and now it has entirely disappeared. The large supply of raw
material, not yet paid for, cannot be worked up, for the villagers are
beginning to talk again of 'poisoning the springs,' and the drain has
begun to leak. If the necessary amount of water cannot be procured, I
shall be prosecuted, and then nothing will shield either you or me from
discovery. The people already think it strange that the Italian
gentleman, who pretended to buy the factory by your advice, has
disappeared. It is whispered about that he is not the real owner, and
Heaven only knows what it all means. We have, therefore, more need of
caution than ever!

"There is nothing for it but to face the worst and continue the
aqueduct to the forest,--then we shall be safe. Digging ditches and
hunting for springs is of no use,--more money is frittered away so than
in large undertakings. I do not know what cash you have on hand; if you
have not enough to lengthen the aqueduct, in a few weeks you will be
bankrupt. It will not be my fault!

"I have no more money for the workmen's wages,--and it would be well,
now that work must be suspended for a time, to pay them up. It might
keep them in good humour. I know that you will vent all your anger upon
me again, but I tell you I will put up with nothing more. I was an
honest man until you tempted me and made me your accomplice. Still, I
have not played the rogue to you, my principal, although I have, more's
the pity, made myself amenable to the law. You have gone on just like
Herr Neuenstein, who became bankrupt too, because he would not listen
to me; but he was an honourable man, and paid up every penny that he
owed, so that he was not afraid to look any one in the face. If you
fail, you drag down your ward, whose money you have been using, with
you,--and me too,--poor devil that I am! There is truth in the proverb
'Ill-gotten gains never prosper.' God help me!

                                   "Yours, etc.,

                                         "Clemens Prücker,

                                                      "_Overseer_."


It was too much. "My child! my child! I have sinned, forged, embezzled,
for your sake, in vain! Can you be sufficiently proud of such a
father?" he moaned,--his head fell back in his chair, and he lost
consciousness.

The day had dawned when he opened his eyes; the atmosphere was full of
the disagreeable odour of the dying candles, his limbs were stiff and
numb from his uneasy posture, and he was shivering with cold. When he
tried to walk, his hands and feet were asleep, and he staggered like a
drunken man. At last his eyes lighted upon the letters. He picked them
up and went to his writing-table. There he put them away in a secret
drawer, then drew forth a safe and investigated its contents. It
contained certificates of stock and some rolls of ready money.

The sun shone brightly into the room, and still the pale man sat there
counting and calculating. At last he put all the contents of the safe
into a leather travelling-bag. Then he rang the bell and ordered the
servant, who appeared, to have the carriage brought round and to pack
up for him sufficient clothes to last during a journey of several days.

When he heard that his niece had arisen, he went to her. "Good-morning,
Ernestine," said he. "How are you to-day?"

"I should put that question to you, uncle," she replied. "You look as
if you had just arisen from the grave!"

"Oh, there is nothing the matter with me. I did not sleep much. The
overseer at Unkenheim writes to me on the part of my Italian friend,
begging me to come as soon as possible to the factory, where everything
is going wrong. I think it my duty to do what I can in the matter, as I
know all about the business, and unfortunately advised my friend to
make the purchase."

"Are you going, then?" asked Ernestine, with a feeling of secret
delight that she could not explain to herself.

"Yes, I must leave you for a few days, hard as it is for me. But
promise me before I go that you will have that treatise that you are at
work upon completed by my return. Let nothing prevent you from
finishing it. If you feel unwell,--you know that is of no real
consequence,--you can readily overcome all your ailments by resolutely
willing to do so. Take quinine, if you must. Now may I rely upon
finding the essay complete when I see you again?"

"Yes, uncle, I promise; and if I do not keep my word, it will be for
the first time in my life."

"Farewell, then, my child,--I must hurry to catch the train. Let
nothing interrupt you,--do you hear?--nothing!"

He hurried out, and sought the housekeeper. "Frau Willmers," he said,
"I rely on you to prevent Fräulein von Hartwich from receiving any
visitors, be they who they may. If I find, upon my return, that you
have permitted the least infringement of my orders, you may consider
yourself dismissed. I cannot tell you when I shall return. Conduct
yourself so that you need not fear my arrival, for it may take place at
any moment."

"Rely upon me entirely, Herr Professor," replied Frau Willmers; and
Leuthold got hastily into his vehicle.

"Now, that sly master of mine thinks all is secure, and that he has the
heart of a girl of two-and-twenty under lock and key. How stupid these
clever folks often are!" After this fashion Frau Willmers soliloquized,
as her master drove off.



                               CHAPTER V.

                         FRUITLESS PRETENSIONS.


"Your new dress-coat has come from the tailor's," was Frau Herbert's
greeting to her husband, upon his entrance.

"Indeed! where is it?" he asked gruffly.

"In the next room, on the bed."

"On the bed!" her husband snapped out. "So that it may be covered with
lint? How careless!"

Frau Herbert looked down, and was silent. Herbert hurried into the next
room to rescue his slighted property.

Professor Herbert's dwelling-room was rather small and low, but there
appeared, at a cursory glance, an air of elegance about it. The chairs
and lounges were covered with fine woollen stuff, the curtains were
richly embroidered, and an elegant cabinet, with mirrored doors,
closely locked, apparently contained silver plate. Upon a closer
inspection, however, the furniture was found to be stuffed with straw,
the curtains were shabby, with the holes in them not even darned, and
the cabinet contained only broken household-utensils, with the remains
of the previous meal, locked up there to be safe from the hungry
servant-maid. Even the arm-chair by the window, occupied by Frau
Herbert, evidently an invalid, was as hard as a stone. The only thing
in the room of real and decided value was a collection of old English
copper-plates that decorated the walls of the apartment, representing
scenes from Shakspeare's plays and Roman history. These old pictures
were one of Professor Herbert's fancies; and he belonged to that class
of men with whom the necessities of a wife and of the household are
never considered in comparison with the gratification of their fancies.

Frau Herbert was one of those unfortunate women who, in the
consciousness that they are burdens to their husbands, believe
themselves called to endure everything, even the grossest injustice,
with meekness, and who hold it their duty to entreat forgiveness of
their lords and masters for continuing to exist at all. The sight of
that quiet woman, with her sad face, upon which pain had ploughed deep
furrows, sitting at the window mending the straw-coloured gloves in
which her husband was, in the evening, to play the part of an æsthetic
exquisite, while she lay suffering at home, would instantly suggest the
complete picture of an unhappy wife tied to the side of a cold-blooded
egotist.

"Poor Professor Herbert!" people were wont to say, "what a misfortune
it is for a man to have such an invalid wife!"

But a closer observer of the pair would have said, "What a misfortune
for an invalid wife to have such a husband!"

The miserable woman, however, had no such thought; she would gladly
have died,--not only to be free from suffering, but that her husband
might be rid of her presence. In her inmost heart she despised his
selfishness and want of feeling. She knew that a worthier man would
have had consideration for her and patience with her, as her burden was
surely the heavier; but she was too much afraid of her husband to put
such thoughts in words, even to her own mind. Suffering that is
incessant, and that undermines the physical frame, must gradually
weaken the mind; and thus the only strength of the hapless wife
consisted in hopeless endurance.

Professor Herbert entered in his new coat, and surveyed himself
attentively in the large mirror.

"It fits well,--does it not?" he asked.

"Very well! but it is very expensive."

"Did the bill come with it?"

"Here it is."

"Oh, that is not so bad. Hecht is certainly the best tailor in the
city."

A shade of bitter feeling passed across his wife's face and she could
not refrain from saying, "When I recollect that you lately refused to
let me have the shawl I so needed, that did not cost half so much,
and----"

"The money for your dress all goes to the apothecary, my dear," Herbert
replied, with a sneer.

"My dress!" his wife repeated,--"you would be ashamed to walk in the
street with me,--my clothes are so shabby."

"No one expects much elegance from an invalid whose illness costs her
husband so much money."

Frau Herbert cast a glance at her husband, but she said not a word
more. For one moment she leaned her weary head against the back of her
chair, but the position was too uncomfortable, and she resumed her
work, thinking with pain how the physician had imperatively recommended
her to procure a more comfortable chair, in which she could sleep
sitting up,--but now this small luxury, as well as all the rest, had
been denied her!

Suddenly the door opened, and in rustled and fluttered a creature half
child, half old maid,--half butterfly, half bat. Around her head
floated a mass of very light curls. A _nez retroussé_ gave to her face
a naïve air of youthfulness, which, however, the crafty, eager
expression of her small eyes contradicted. Just so her teeth, short and
wide apart, resembled those of a young child who has shed his first
set, while the wrinkles about her thin, open lips indicated an age of
thirty years at least. The figure, crowned by this strange head
with its huge mane of curls, was delicate and slender as that of a
half-grown girl. Her hands were small, but wrinkled like those of an
old woman. She was dressed in thin, flowing garments,--her round straw
hat was adorned by long, light-brown ribbons. Her gait, bearing, and
address were light, airy, sylph-like. It was evident at the first
glance that she was a creature who believed herself highly poetic,
richly gifted, breathing a charmed atmosphere, and that although she
might in reality be thirty years old she had in imagination never
passed sweet sixteen. Such a creature is only conceivable with a sheet
of music or a sketch-book in her hand; and, in obedience to a
mysterious law of nature, this too was not wanting in the present
instance. "Brother, darling!" she cried, skipping up to Herbert, "how
charming you are in your new coat! Aha, are you going to the Möllner's
reception this evening? Yes!" Trilling a little air, she laid aside her
book, hat, and gloves. "Tra-la-la-la--oh, I am so happy to-day I cannot
talk, I can only sing." And she hummed the refrain of the charming song
by Taubert, "I know not why, but sing I must!" Then she remembered that
she had not yet spoken to her brother's wife. "Oh, dear Ulrika, forgive
me for not asking how you are. No better yet? Ah! your little Elsa is
so agitated to-day! I feel--I can't tell how--my bosom heaves and
thrills as with the breath of May! I must go to my work. To-day I feel
sure, in my present frame of mind, I must create something!"

And she was about to hover away to the blissful retirement of her own
room, when Herbert, who had meanwhile exchanged his new coat for a
light summer sacque, cried after her, "Stay here a moment, and speak at
least one sensible word before you go."

She paused.

"What are you going to attempt now? I am really afraid to trust you by
yourself."

She skipped up to her brother again and roguishly laid her finger on
his lips, looking archly in his eyes. "Dearest brother, I shall
surprise you! I have an idea!"

"Pray cease your folly for the present. You do not want to flirt with
your brother, I hope? Tell me, what is your idea? If it is good for
anything, it will be the first of its kind that you have ever had in
your head."

"Oh, you discourteous brother!" pouted the fair indignant, "to grieve
your sister so! But, since you bid me, I will obey you, and give you a
glimpse into the transparent depths of an artist's soul. Every maiden
must practise the sweet duty of obedience, that she may one day gladden
a husband's heart by her submission."

"Well, well, to the point!" cried Herbert impatiently.

Elsa bashfully cast down her eyes, and, stammering with the charming
embarrassment of an artistic nature, said, "When, a few days ago, I
asked Professor Möllner what lady author was his favourite, he answered
me in jest, 'She who has written the best cookery book!' I am going to
show the mocking man that I can do that too. Oh, how amazed he will be
when he finds that the wealth of fancy in my soul can beautify and
transfigure what is so prosaic! This it is that he deems the charm of
womanhood,--the power to seize and mould to beauty the commonplace and
sordid. I am going to publish a cookery book in verse, with
illustrations, and entitle it 'The German Wife at the Hearth of Home.'
Only think what splendid initial letters and arabesques I can have! I
will show that a bunch of parsley can be as gracefully arranged as
roses or violets. Such lovely green borders to the pages must always be
beautiful, whether composed of parsley, lettuce, or sorrel; and, if a
warmer colour is desirable, I will paint a couple of blushing radishes
peeping, half hidden, from among the leaves, and there you have as
perfect a picture as any of our famous artistes have produced of
Spring. Is not the meanest kitchen-stuff the work of the Creator, and
as beautiful as any other of his creations? And there can be such
variety in the volume. For example, the chapter of receipts for cooking
fish can have a title-page of its own, after the style of the
engravings in Schleiden's 'Wonders of the Deep.' Beneath a placid
crystal lake may be seen sporting together all the fish alluded to in
the ensuing chapter. Branches of coral are wreathed in and out, and,
illuminated by the rosy light of the setting sun, water-lilies float
upon the calm surface of the water. Every chapter will have a suitable
title-page, displaying in its native element the animal to be
cooked,--game in the forest, fleeing from the pursuing huntsman and
hounds,--the dove hovering above the ark, with the olive-branch in her
beak,--domestic fowls, in the Dutch style, cooped in their accustomed
poultry yard. Fruit and vegetables can be treated as still-life, in
arabesques, and decorating the margins of single recipes. At the end of
the book a picture representing a family seated at dinner. Over their
heads, in gothic letters, the line, 'Lord Jesus, come and be our
guest.' And, in pursuance of this invitation, he must be seated at the
head of the table, in the midst of a brilliant halo of glory. On either
side of the table sit the children, and at the foot the happy husband
and wife, each offering food to the other. Angels are in attendance
upon the able,--the angels of harmony, peace, and content. The wife
sits with her face turned from the spectator, but the husband--and this
is the grand point--the husband will be a portrait!"

She paused, carried away by her poetic dreams, and by the thought of
the immense success that the book must command.

"Well, and whom is the portrait to represent?--me, perhaps?" asked
Herbert with a sneer.

"You? Oh, no. Ah, rogue! can you not guess? Heavens! do not look at me
so,--you know whom I mean!"

"Möllner?" asked her brother.

"Yes,--you have guessed it. Oh, when I think of the smile that will
play around that proud mouth as he beholds his portrait drawn by my
hand, as he sees how his image is present with me everywhere in all
that I think and do! Oh, it will, it must touch him!"

"Yes, it will touch him uncommonly," remarked Herbert; "and there will
be a charming scene when he presents his inamorata, the Hartwich, with
the work, that she may learn cookery from it. Do not forget to add a
receipt for broiling frogs' legs, by which she can dress the frogs that
they use together for their physiological experiments."

"Oh, Edmund!" exclaimed Elsa, startled and a little vexed, "your words
are full of wormwood to-day. Go,--your caustic wit destroys all my
flowers of fancy. This is why I always avoid you when I am about to
begin a work. What pleasure can it give you to thrust me from my
paradise? Is it right? Let the soul that can find no home on this rude
earth seek it in brighter realms."

And she raised her eyes to the ceiling, and laid her wrinkled little
hand upon her breast. "Mine is a modest, shrinking soul,--its childlike
trust and hope are all that I possess. Dear brother, do not you rob me
of them, as long as no other hand snatches them from me."

"But you must find out at last that your hopes are vain, and therefore
I wish to warn you, that you may not make yourself ridiculous by an
untimely parade of your feelings. I know, from the most trustworthy
sources, that Möllner has been to Hochstetten to see the Hartwich, and
that he spent two hours with her. Rhyme that with his enthusiasm for
her at the meeting the other day, and complete the verse yourself."

Elsa looked down and thought for a minute or two, then she sighed and
shook her flowing mane, saying, "No, it cannot, cannot be! That
man-woman may excite his curiosity, she cannot win his heart! No, no,
Elsa has no fear that Lohengrün will be misled by Ortrude! And now to
work, that the day may soon come when he will ask, 'Elsa, whose is the
face of the wife who sits at table by my side?' Then I shall avert my
face and reply, 'That you know best.' Oh, darling brother! dearest
sister! he will turn my blushing countenance to him then, and say,
'This is her face!' Oh, I must go: the breath of spring is wafted
towards me from my studio. Yes, yes, I feel that the Muses await me
there." With these words she rustled and fluttered away to her room.

Frau Herbert looked after her with a sad, almost a compassionate,
glance. "Tell me, Edmund," she said to her husband, "did you ever for
one moment believe that such a man as Möllner would marry that girl?"

"Why not? There are many more unequal matches made every day: the only
thing is to man[oe]uvre the matter skilfully. If poor Elsa had as
managing a mother as you were blessed with, the affair would certainly
not be beyond the bounds of possibility. But the poor thing has no one
to help her but myself, and we men are clumsier at match-making than
the most stupid of women."

Frau Herbert looked pained and crushed by this attack upon her mother
and herself. She thought it, however, beneath her dignity to reply to
it. She only said very quietly, "I am glad, Edmund, that there is one
creature in the world for whom you have some regard, or even blind
affection. Well, she is your sister. I, too, love the poor thing, but I
cannot believe that she will ever succeed in kindling one spark of
interest in Möllner's breast."

"You have always regarded her with jaundiced eyes," Herbert went on to
say. "You talk as though she were a monster. She is no longer young,
but there is still something youthful about her. She is not, it is
true, a genius, but her nature is really artistic. She is not pretty,
but an enthusiast like Möllner is more observant of inner graces than
physical beauty, and he cannot fail to be impressed by her beauty of
soul. It certainly is true that he always distinguishes her in society.
Does he not always take her to supper when she is unprovided with an
escort, as is usually the case? When all the others avoid her, is not
Möllner sure to sit and talk with her? Such a conscientious prig as
Möllner would not do that unless he had some object in view; and if she
has no other charm for him, her undisguised admiration of him would
attract him to her, for he has a due amount of vanity, and every one
must take pleasure in being so fanatically adored. If it were not for
that confounded Hartwich, who knows how far he might be brought! But I
will be revenged upon her, she may rely upon that!"

"Why visit your anger upon the innocent? How can it be this stranger's
fault that Möllner is more interested by her genius than by our Elsa's
sentimental dilettanteism, her perpetual attempts and failures? His
courtesy to her in society always seemed to me prompted by his
humanity. She certainly makes herself very ridiculous,--you must see
that; and a man of Möllner's kindly, chivalric character cannot permit
an innocent, harmless girl to be made sport of, and, accordingly, he
constitutes himself her protector, and tries generously to indemnify
her for the neglect of others. He does not dream that Elsa's vanity
builds all kinds of schemes upon his conduct, or he would never forgive
himself----"

"Enough, enough!" Herbert interrupted her angrily. "I cannot see how,
with the pain in your face, you manage to talk so much. I can
understand that Elsa is disagreeable to you because I have educated
her, but I cannot understand how, tied to your invalid chair as you
are, you have contrived to fall in love with this Möllner. Indeed, if I
had not had hopes of marrying him to my sister, I should have broken
with the arrogant pedant long ago, for I hate him as much as you women,
old and young, adore him."

Frau Herbert looked with a quiet, thoughtful expression at the speaker,
who had worked himself into a violent rage, and then she silently
resumed her work, suppressing the words that rose to her lips,--for she
possessed the rare talent of knowing when to be silent.

Herbert waited for some minutes for a reply which might afford him
further opportunity for venting his spleen, but, receiving none, he
turned away, and was about to seek his study.

Just then there was a knock at the door, and the postman entered, with
a thick square parcel in his hand. Herbert grew pale at sight of it,
and his wife too looked sad and sorry.

"Your manuscript?" she asked.

"My manuscript," he said, writing his name in the mail-book with an
unsteady hand.

"There's a gulden and twenty-four kreutzers to pay," said the
messenger.

"So much?" growled Herbert, counting out the money carefully by
groschen and kreutzers. When the man had left the room, Herbert hastily
tore open the envelope, and a letter appeared, which he hurriedly
looked through and handed to his wife with a look of despair. The
letter was from the manager of the royal court theatre at X----, and
ran thus:


"To Herr Professor Herbert, of N----:

"I am greatly concerned, sir, to be obliged to return you your tragedy
of 'Penthesilea,' as it presents insurmountable difficulties for scenic
representation. The secrecy enjoined upon me shall be inviolably
preserved.

                                   "With great respect, etc.,

                                                          "W----."


Frau Herbert looked up with a sigh at her husband, who stood pale and
trembling beside her.

"There goes my last hope," he said, tearing up the letter. "I forgave
all the other managers and directors for sending back the manuscript,
for they are incapable of appreciating the value of such a work. But no
one can accuse a man like W---- of not appreciating genuine art, and if
he refuses to bring it out he must be actuated by envy. However that
may be, in these lines he has written his own death-warrant." He raised
his hand containing the crushed letter with something like solemnity,
and continued: "I now declare war upon the German stage and its
supporters. If I have nothing to hope, I have nothing to fear. I have
written six tragedies for the waste-paper basket. I will not write
another. Having nothing to fear, I may allow myself the delight of
revenge. Criticism is an all-embracing friend, affording a sure refuge
for every one who is misunderstood and depreciated. I will throw myself
into its arms from this moment. Our public is degenerate. I give up
composing for a people who crowd to a farce, shout applause at the
commonplace jests of the hero of a modern comedy, and dissolve in tears
at a sensation drama from a woman's pen. Shakspeare's, Schiller's, and
Goethe's works would be rejected to-day as 'pulpit eloquence,' if past
ages had not stamped them as classic. This degraded generation must be
educated anew by criticism. They sneer and jeer, and jingle the money
in their pockets, these traders of the drama, who demoralise the
public; but I will so scourge them that I shall be called the Attila of
the German stage."

He paused, for breath failed him to continue his philippic, and he
began to read over his manuscript, murmuring to himself, "This is for
the future."

Frau Herbert, as was her wont, suffered him to rage on without
interruption; but at last she was compelled, out of regard for truth,
to attempt to check the outpourings of the angry man. "It is a mournful
office," she began, "that of literary executioner, and one I should be
sorry to undertake. There is no good done to anybody by it. Many a
blossoming genius is destroyed in the bud, and the critic brings upon
himself the curses of those who have been striving and labouring
honestly, night and day, only to see the offspring of all their pains
ruthlessly murdered by the cold steel of his criticism. And the public
do not thank you for degrading in its eyes what it had taken pleasure
in, and thus robbing it of much enjoyment. Schiller and Goethe never
practised criticism after this fashion. They knew how to live and let
live, for they were too great to wish to aggrandize themselves at the
expense of their contemporaries, and too good to destroy the results of
the painful labours of others. Oh, Edmund, how small the man must be
who can seek to exalt himself by depreciating others!"

"You are preaching again without sense or reason," Herbert said angrily
to his wife. "It was very easy for Schiller and Goethe to play at
magnanimity, for they were never misunderstood,--the wiser generation
of their day did not refuse them the crowns that belonged to them of
right. A king by election would be a fool to make war upon the vassals
of his realm. But the nation refuses me my right, and therefore I shall
make war upon it."

"Are you so sure of this right?" Frau Herbert asked in a low tone. "Are
you so sure that your works are of equal value with Schiller's and
Goethe's, and deserve the same applause?"

Herbert stood as if petrified at the presumption of such a speech. "I
really think the pain must have gone from your face to your brain. We
had better discontinue this conversation."

Frau Herbert went on with her work. A slight flush tinged her bloodless
cheek, but she was too used to such attacks to reply to them. She had
already said too much of what she thought, and when she looked at
Herbert's anxious face she was seized with compassion. Poorly as he
bore it, he had met with misfortune, and she would not add to his
pain. "Pray, Edmund," she said, after a pause, occupied by Herbert in
seeking and finding consolation in the beauties of his manuscript,
"make up your mind now to read the piece to your friends. There are so
many intellectual people here who will give you their opinion
honestly,--then you can see what impression your work makes as a whole,
and perhaps their criticism may enable you to improve it here and
there."

"I desire no one's opinion. I know perfectly well myself what the
tragedy is worth. Shall I give occasion to have it said that I needed
the assistance of others to enable me to complete my work? And then to
have it reported that I composed dramas that were always rejected! No,
I will not acknowledge a work that has met with no applause; neither my
brother professors nor my students must hear of it."

The handle of the door was turned, and through the opening smiled
another opening,--Elsa's large mouth. When she saw the gloom
overspreading her brother's countenance, her snub-nose, too, made its
appearance, and, finally, her entire lovely person. She wore a white
apron with a bib, calico over-sleeves, and had one pencil in her hand
and another behind her right ear.

"Your voices disturbed me at my work. Why contend thus? You know that
my exquisite fancies are scared away, like timid birds, by the
slightest noise."

"It is a fine time to consider your nonsense, when such a work as my
'Penthesilea' has been returned to its author as 'unserviceable!'"
thundered her brother.

"Heavens!" cried Elsa in dismay. "Penthesilea rejected by W----! Oh,
who would have thought it! I so revered that man! My poor brother, this
is hard! But, brother, dear Edmund, do not be too much depressed! Oh, I
feel with you entirely. Any one who knows as well as I do what it is to
have works rejected, can understand your pain. And what says my poor
Ulrika? She looks so disappointed."

"Oh, you need not pity her!" observed Herbert bitterly. "Her husband's
incapacity alone, not his misfortune, troubles her."

Frau Herbert turned her face towards the window, as if she had not
heard him.

"Oh, you must forgive her, brother dear--she has never done anything
but translate. She cannot know a poet's finer feeling."

At this disparaging remark, Frau Herbert looked calmly and gravely at
Elsa. "And yet my unpretending translations for the periodicals supply
us with the only means upon which we can rely, apart from Edmund's
salary and the small interest of my property. That is because I never
attempt what lies beyond my reach. No undertaking, however humble, that
keeps pace with one's ability, can fail to produce some fruit, small
though it may be."

Elsa turned away, rather taken aback by this turn of the conversation,
and her brother muttered, "Of course this is the sequel to the fine
talk about attempting and failing."

Elsa threw herself down upon a cushion at his feet, in Clärchen's
attitude before Egmont, patted his smoothly shaven cheeks, and
taking the thick manuscript out of his hand, pressed it to her bosom,
saying, "Take comfort, my poet. Your 'Penthesilea' must always live!
Here,--here,--and in the hearts of all. Print it, and publish it as a
dramatic poem. It will find readers among the most intellectual people
of the country."

"You are a good sister," said Herbert, flattered. "But you know that I
have never yet been able to find a publisher enlightened enough to
bring out my tragedies. And my own means are not sufficient to enable
me to print the work."

"Oh, brother dear, I cannot believe that 'Penthesilea' would not find a
publisher. It is the greatest thing you have ever written. The coarsest
of men must be touched by such elevation of thought. There may perhaps
be some difficulty in representing fitly upon the stage the conflict
between Trojans, Greeks, and Amazons in the presence of the gigantic
horse. But I cannot think that any one would refuse to print such a
gem,--no--never! Yet, even in case of such incredible obtuseness, do
not despair. My cookery-book will bring me in such a large sum that I
shall be able to help you. Oh, what a strange freak of destiny, should
I be permitted by means of a cookery-book to afford the German nation
the knowledge of this immortal work! The ways of genius are
inscrutable, and perhaps 'Penthesilea' may one day be born from the
steam of a soup-tureen, as Aphrodite was from the foam of the sea.
There, now, you are smiling once more. May not your sister contribute
somewhat to her brother's success?"

"You are a dear poetical child. Although I do not share your
anticipations, your appreciation of my efforts does me good. Thank
you!" And darling Edmund laid his hand upon his sister's curly head as
it lay tenderly upon his breast.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                       EMANCIPATION OF THE FLESH.


On the evening of this eventful day, Professor Herbert, before going to
the Möllners', entered a splendid boudoir in a retired villa on the
outskirts of the city. The entire room formed a tent of crimson damask
shot with gold and gathered in huge folds to a rosette in the centre of
the ceiling. Around the walls were ranged low Turkish divans of the
same material. The floor was covered with crimson-plush rugs as thick
and soft as mossy turf. Turkish pipes and costly weapons of all
kinds,--shields, swords, pistols, and daggers,--adorned the walls. In
the background of the apartment slender columns supported a canopy
above a lounge, before which was spread a lion's skin, with the head
carefully preserved. Upon the floor beside it stood an elegant
apparatus for smoking opium. A riding-whip, the handle set with
diamonds, lay upon a table of bronze and malachite. A Chinese salver,
heaped with cigars, was upon a low stand beside the lounge. Upon a
polished marble pedestal in the centre of the room stood a bronze of
the Farnese bull, and to the right and left of the lounge were placed
bronzes of the horse-tamers of the Monte Cavallo at Rome. The rich
hangings of the walls were draped over candelabra holding lamps of
ground glass.

The smoke of a cigar was circling in blue rings around the room, that
was far more fit for a Turkish pasha than for a lady. And yet it was
the abode of a lady, and it was the smoke from her cigar that encircled
Herbert upon his entrance.

At first he only saw, resting on the lion's skin, two beautiful little
feet in Russian slippers embroidered with pearls. The drapery of the
canopy above the lounge concealed the rest of the figure. He advanced a
few steps, and there, stretched comfortably upon the swelling cushions,
reclined a woman beside whom all other works of nature were but
journey-work,--such a woman as appears in the world now and then to
cast utterly into the shade all that men have hitherto deemed
beautiful. Herbert stood dazzled and blinded by the apparition before
him. He was dressed in his new coat, and had an elegant cane in his
hand, that was covered by a glove, upon which his wife had that morning
employed her skill. But what was he, in all his elegance, by the side
of this woman! He stood there dumb "in the consciousness of his
nothingness." What could he be to her, or what could he give her? She
was the woman of her race! She must mate with the man of her race, as
the last giantess in the Nibelungen Lied could love only the last
giant. Was he in his fine new coat this man of men,--the Siegfried to
conquer this Brunhilda? Ah, he was but too conscious that he was
nothing but a poor weakling, whose only strength lay in his passionate
admiration of her!

"Aha, here comes our little Philister," said the fair Brunhilda in
broken German with a yawn, holding out her soft hand to him and drawing
him down upon the lounge beside her like a child. Herbert sank into the
luxurious cushions, that almost met, like waves, above him. The
position did not at all suit his stiff, erect bearing, which was
entirely wanting in the graceful suppleness of the born aristocrat who
lolls with ease upon silken cushions. Such a seat would become a man in
loose flowing costume, with an opium-pipe between his lips, and ready
when wearied to fall asleep with his head pillowed upon the lady's lap.
Poor Herbert was not one of these favourites of Fortune. He sat there
stiff and wooden as a broken-jointed doll,--his pointed knees emerging
from his downy nest, and his tight-fitting clothes stretched almost to
their destruction by his unusual posture. He timidly placed his hat
upon the stand beside him, and envied it its loftier position.

"How now, my learned gentleman?" the lady began again. "What! dumb?
What is the matter now?--what ails you?--domestic misery? Pardon! I
mean conjugal bliss."

"That is my constant trouble, dearest countess," Herbert replied,
"although its dust never cleaves to my wings when I am with you. It is
not that that worries me to-day. My Penthesilea----"

The countess laughed loudly, and puffed out a cloud of smoke to the
ceiling. "Here it comes! It is either his wife or his Penthesilea that
teases him! I hope both may rest in eternal peace before long, for an
unhappy husband and a tragedy are as much out of place in this boudoir
as the fragrance of eau de Cologne or chamomile-tea--those horrid
accompaniments of a sick-room!"

"And yet it was you, fairest countess, that inspired me to embalm in
classic verse that bold Amazon of antiquity."

"That may be, and yet, my good fellow, believe me, Penthesilea herself
would have considered it a terrible bore to have to read of her glory
in a German tragedy. Come; don't be offended Have a cigar. Do you want
fire to light it? Here; I will give you more than you need." And, with
a laugh, she leaned towards him and lighted his cigar by her own.

"You know you can do whatever you please with me," said Herbert, making
a feeble attempt to twist his legs into a more comfortable position.
"But take care not to go too far!"

"Oho! my Herr Professor would fain mount his high horse?"

"No, only take a higher seat," said Herbert involuntarily.

"Well, then, sit on this ottoman, you wooden German with no sense of
Oriental ease. There! will that do? When you really wish to mount a
high horse, I pray you take mine. How often I have placed my Ali at
your disposal! Do let me enjoy the delight of once seeing you on
horseback! Will you not? Oh, it would be delightful!"

"Thanks! thanks! I would do all that you desire,--even go to the death
for you,--but it is rather too much to ask me to make a laughing-stock
of myself."

"Well, then, just take one walk with me, arm-in-arm. Oh, what a face of
alarm my honourable gentleman puts on! He will go to the death for me,
but not across the street. Ah, what a glorious hero for a tragedy he
looks now! Hush! I know just what you would say,--wife, sister,
cousins, aunts, good name, reputation as professor,--'great dread,' as
Holy Writ hath it, would 'fall on all!' Every coffee-cup and tea-cup in
the city of N---- would rattle abroad the startling news that Professor
Herbert had been seen escorting the wild countess across the street.
But it is all _en règle_ to slip around here in the twilight, and kiss
my hands and feet, and then, at your evening party afterwards, shrug
your shoulders at the mention of my name. For shame, Herbert! you are a
cowardly fellow, fit for nothing but to be a _messager d'amour_ between
myself and Möllner."

"Countess," said Herbert menacingly, "do not goad me too far, or you
will repent it! You know my passion for you--know that I would dare all
for a single kiss from your lips; but you leave me thirsty at the
fountain's brink,--hungry beside a spread table,--and you heap me with
scorn. No living man could endure such treatment!"

"Well, then, _point d'argent, point de Suisse_," cried the countess.
"For every piece of good news of Möllner that you bring me, you shall
have a kiss. For the sake of that man I would hold an asp to my breast!
Why should I refuse a kiss to a German Philister like yourself? But you
must first taste all the torment of rejected love, that you may make
all the more haste to put an end to mine."

"This is a poor prospect for me, countess; for I hardly think I shall
ever be able to bring you good news. All that I can do is to bring you
news of him; and if you refuse to reward the bad, as well as the good,
my lips shall be sealed--you must seek another confidant."

He rose, as if to go; but she took his hand, and looked beseechingly at
him with her large, lustrous eyes.

"Herbert!"

The poor professor could not withstand that look, nor the tone in which
she uttered that one word. He sank upon the lion-skin at her feet, and
pressed his lips upon the pearls and silk of her embroidered slipper.

"See, now, you are not as unkind as you would have me believe you," she
said, looking down upon him with a contemptuous smile, that he,
fortunately, did not perceive.

"Oh, have some compassion upon me," he moaned. "I am most miserable! My
home is a scene of ceaseless complaint. A wife disfigured and crippled
by disease, so that she fills my soul with aversion, and, whenever I
need rest from the thousand annoyances of my profession, only adds to
their number. Then I am overwhelmed by vexations of every kind,--my
talents are slighted,--whatever I attempt fails. And then this contrast
when I come to you! Before me here lies all that is fairest and
loveliest that earth has to offer; but the delight that I feel in
beholding it is an insidious poison, eating into my very life,--for
nothing--nothing of all this splendour is mine. I stand like a boy
before the Christmas-tree that has been decked for another,--I am here
only to light the lights upon the tree, that another may behold his
bliss; and when I have induced that other to appreciate and take
possession of his wealth, then--then I must turn and go empty away! Oh,
it is dreadful!" He buried his face in the lion's mane, and, by the
motion of his shoulders, he was plainly weeping.

The countess looked down upon him with the compassion that one feels
for a singed moth. Had it been possible, she would have crushed him
beneath her foot for very pity,--just as we put an end to the insect's
sufferings; but, as it was not possible, and as, moreover, she had need
of the man, she raised him graciously, and again seated him upon the
cushions beside her. "You shall not go away empty-handed, my good
fellow. I told you before I will make you a rich man. If you only bring
Möllner to my side, my banker shall give you, as long as I live----"

"Countess!" he exclaimed, "do not carry your scorn of me too far. I am
sunk low enough, it is true, since I thus chaffer and bargain with you
to sell you my assistance for a single kiss. For this single caress I
would resign my life! The thought of you is the madness that robs me of
sleep at night, makes me hesitate and stammer when I stand before my
pupils in the lecture-room, and prevents me from enjoying the food that
I eat. A single kiss from you is more bliss than such a wretched man as
I should hope to enjoy. But I am not yet sunk so low as to hire myself
out for money, and although you may hold me in contempt, you shall at
least pay some respect to the position of German professor, which I
have the honour to hold!"

The countess was silent for awhile, struck by his words. But such
embarrassment could last but a moment with a woman conscious of the
power to atone by a smile for the grossest insult. "Come here! Forgive
me! I have erred, but I repent."

"Oh, light of my life!" cried Herbert, seizing her offered hand, and
pressing it to his breast. "Forgive--forgive you? With what unnumbered
pains would I not purchase the joy of such a request! The only thing I
cannot forgive you is that such a woman as you should love this
Möllner."

"Indeed!--and why?"

"Because he is not worthy of you. Look you,--were you to give yourself
to an emperor or a king, I could bear it without a murmur. Crowned
heads are entitled to the costliest of earth's treasures,--how could I
covet what kings alone could win? But that one of my own class should
call you his,--one with no special claim of birth, culture, or
intellect,--with nothing that I too do not myself possess, except a
physique that is his in common with any prize-fighter,--the thought is
madness!"

A dark flush coloured the beautiful woman's brow. "I have not even
acknowledged to myself why I love this Möllner. I never hold myself
responsible for my impulses--every passion bears its divine credentials
in itself. But you have just revealed to me what so enraptures me in
this Möllner. Yes! it is nothing else than what we admire as the
highest attribute of humanity--a noble, genuine manhood. I think I have
read in some poet, 'Take him for all in all, he was a man!' But this
man is more; he is what I have never in my life seen before,--a
virtuous man. This, my good little professor, is his charm, his
advantage over monarchs even,--enabling him to buy what is his now and
forever,--my heart! Oh, there can be no more exquisite flower in the
garden of Paradise than this which I hope to pluck--the devotion of
this virtuous man. It is the bliss of Eve when she breathed the first
kiss upon the lips of the first man and marked his first blush!"

The beautiful woman, speaking more to herself than to the miserable man
by her side, leaned back upon her lounge and exclaimed with a heavy
sigh, "Oh, what a divine office for a woman--to teach a man like this
to love!"

Herbert reflected for a moment. He had been playing the traitor here,
and, in the hope of winning Johannes for his sister, had never said
anything to him in favour of this woman. He had deceived her with
falsehoods, that he might be retained as her confidant as long as
possible, and perhaps profit by her waning interest in his colleague.
But now all his hopes and plans were ruined. Möllner loved the
Hartwich, and was lost for Elsa,--who might, at all events, be avenged
of her hated rival by means of the countess. The all-conquering charms
of the Worronska should subdue Möllner, and he, Herbert, would
receive--all that was left for him in the general shipwreck--the
gratitude at least of the countess.

He began at last, after a severe inward conflict. "I have a
communication for you, but it will make you angry. I cannot, however,
feel justified as your friend in withholding it from you."

"Well?" inquired the Amazon, lighting a fresh cigar.

"I have discovered that Möllner is in love."

The countess started, and looked at Herbert as if in a dream. The smoke
from the freshly-lighted cigar issued in a cloud from her half-opened
lips, and she looked like a beautiful fiend breathing fire.

"Whom does he love?" she asked, her eyes flaming as if she would force
the name from Herbert before his lips could find time to utter it.

"Have you ever heard of a learned woman called Hartwich?"

"Yes, yes! she too is emancipated."

"True, but not at all after your fashion, countess," Herbert corrected
her, maliciously enjoying the torture to which the haughty woman was
put. "You are emancipated for the sake of pleasure--she is emancipated
for the sake of principle. She is a rare person, and fills Möllner with
admiration of her genius!"

"Well, and it is she?" she cried, stamping her little foot upon the
soft carpet.

"He is in love with her!"

For the first time, the countess sprang up from her lounge, and stood
before Herbert in all the majesty of her person. Her gold-embroidered
Turkish robe hung in heavy folds around her. Her dark hair fell in
loosened masses upon her shoulders. The glitter of her long diamond
ear-rings betrayed the tremor that agitated her whole frame. Her low,
classic brow, with its bold, strongly-marked eyebrows,--her mouth,
shaped like a bow, with lips parted,--her firm, massive throat,--the
whole figure, so powerfully and yet so perfectly formed,--all suggested
the Niobe, only the passion that swayed her was rage, not suffering.
"Is this true? Is it really true? I must hear all."

Herbert told her all that he had seen and heard.

The countess was silent for one moment, as if paralyzed by
astonishment. Then she muttered, as if to herself, a few broken words
that Herbert could not understand, but at last her rage overflowed her
lips and reached his ears.

"There is a first time for everything. This is the first time that a
man honoured by my notice has loved another." She strode up and down
the room so hurriedly that the flame of the lamps flickered as she
passed them. She threw her cigar into the fireplace. "Must I endure it?
I? Oh, cursed be the day when the count came here for his health! For
this I have spent my months of widowhood since his death, in this hole,
away from all the enchantments of the world, even timidly waiting and
hoping like a bride,--no society about me but my horses, dogs,
and--you! For this, for this,--that I might learn that there lives a
man who can withstand me. The lesson, it is true, was well worth the
trouble!"

She struck her forehead. "Oh that I had never gone to that lecture!
then I might never, perhaps, have seen him. Why did I not stay away?
What do I care about physiology, anatomy, or whatever the trash is
called? I heard this Möllner was distinguished among his fellows, and
curiosity impelled me to go. Fool that I was, to imagine that he saw me
there and admired me as I did him!" She stood still, and involuntarily
lost herself in thought "Ye gods! how glorious the man was that
evening! The brow, the hair, the eyes, were all of Jove himself. I felt
myself blush like a girl of sixteen, when I met his eye. And such
grace, such dignity! His voice, too,--melodious as a deep-toned bell. I
did not understand what he said; but there was no need, his voice was
such harmony that no words were wanting to the charm. It was a
symphony,--no, finer still, for that we only hear, and in him the
delight of sight was added. The movements of those lips--how
inimitable! And then his smile!" She paused,--her cheeks glowed, her
eyes sparkled. It was a delight to her to lay bare her heart for once,
careless as to what were the feelings of her auditor.

"And if that voice is so enchanting when it discourses upon dry,
unmeaning topics, what must it be when it comes overflowing from his
heart!" She leaned against the pedestal of one of the bronzes, and
covered her eyes with her hand.

Herbert sat as if upon the rack,--he could not speak,--his voice denied
him utterance.

"No man has seemed to me worthy of a glance since I saw him first.
Bound by no vow, no duty, no right, I have still been true to him.
Since loving him, I have first known a sense of what the moralist would
call decorous reserve. For a woman who for the first time truly loves
is in the first bloom of youth, whether she be sixteen or thirty. I was
a wife before I was a woman, and the spring, that I had never known
before, began to breathe around me beneath the magic influence of that
man,--the maiden blossom of my life, crushed in the germ, budded anew.
Oh, what would I not have been to him! I, with the experience of
ripened womanhood and the first love of a girl! And scorned! I, for
whose smile monarchs have contended, scorned by a simple German
philosopher! Oh, it stings, it stings!"

And she hid her face again.

Herbert timidly approached her and touched her shoulder lightly with a
trembling hand. "Would that I could console you!"

She shrank from his touch as if a reptile had stung her.

"What consolation can you give me, except the relief that I have in
pouring out my soul before you?"

She moved away, and again strode restlessly to and fro like a caged
lioness. "Fool, fool that I was! How could I suppose that the interest
he took in my husband's case was due to my attractions? It was inspired
by a hateful disease,--for this he came hither, and I thought he came
for my sake! Oh, fie, fie! I stayed for love of him by that terrible
sick-bed, and he had eyes only for the sick man,--he never even saw me
standing beside him. Is he man, or devil?"

"Oh, no," Herbert interrupted her, with malice, "he is only--a German
philosopher."

"And once, when I sank fainting in that room, what an arm supported me,
strong as iron, and yet tender as the arm of a mother! He carried me
like a child from the apartment. I held my breath, that nothing might
arouse me from that enchanting dream. He laid me on a couch, saying,
with icy composure, 'Allow me, madam, to call your maid. I must return
to the patient.' My cheeks burned with mortification; for one moment I
hated him, but when the door had closed behind him I revered him as a
saint. I could have knelt at his feet, and, clasping his knees, bedewed
his hands with penitential tears. But I restrained myself. I suddenly
knew that this pure spirit could love nothing that he did not
respect,--that I must first win that before I could hope for his love.
I determined to begin a new life, to break with all the past. For no
sacrifice would be too great to win the love of this man, and I sowed
renunciation that I might reap delight. Fool that I was! I reap nothing
but the reward of virtue!"

She laughed bitterly, and a violent burst of tears quenched the fire in
her brain. She threw herself down upon the lion's skin, unconsciously
representing the Ariadne.

"Loveliest of women!" murmured Herbert, intoxicated by the sight. "Is
it not monstrous that such a woman should mourn over an unrequited
love? Does he who could withstand such charms deserve the name of man?
No, most certainly not. He is an overstrained pedant, the type of a
German Philister, and if blind nature had not endowed him with the head
of a Jove and the form of an athlete, the Countess Worronska would
never have wasted a tear upon him!"

"Herbert, you shall not revile him! You cannot know how great he seems
to me in thus coldly despising my beauty, as though he might choose
amongst goddesses,--as though Olympus were around him, instead of this
insignificant town filled with ugly, gossiping women. What a lofty
ideal must have filled his fancy,--an ideal with which I could not
compete! When he saw me first, he did not know this Hartwich. I
remember how cold his eye was when he first saw me. He looked at me
with the cool gaze of an anatomist. And it was always so. Whenever he
visited my husband, he always treated me with the strictest formality.
Always the same gentle, inviolable repose,--the same calm scrutiny that
one accords to a fine picture, but not to a lovely woman. Oh, there is
something overpowering, in all this, for a woman used to seeing all men
at her feet!" She sank into a gloomy reverie. At last she seized
Herbert's hand. "Herbert, who is she who has power to enchant this man?
Is all contest with her useless? Must I resign all hope?"

Herbert, as if electrified by her touch, whispered scarcely audibly,
"Will you grant me that kiss if I show you how to annihilate the
Hartwich in Möllner's eyes?"

A pause ensued.

"It is my only price. Without it I am dumb."

"Well, take it, then!" cried the countess, driven to extremity; and she
held up to him her lovely lips.

But, as Herbert approached her, with the expression of a jackal
thirsting for his prey, disgust overpowered the haughty woman, and she
thrust the slender man from her so violently that he fell to the
ground. She was terrified,--perhaps her impetuosity had ruined
everything. She went to him and held out her hand. "Stand up and
forgive me."

Herbert stood up, pale as a ghost, with sunken, haggard eyes, and
readjusted his dress, disordered by his fall. He wiped the cold drops
from his brow with his handkerchief, and, without a word, took up his
hat.

The countess regarded his proceedings with alarm. "Herbert," she said
with a forced smile, "are you angry with me for being so rude?"

"Oh, no," he answered, in a hoarse, hollow tone.

She held out her hand, but he did not take it.

"Do not bear malice against me. I--I am too deeply wounded. I do not
know what I am doing."

Herbert was silent. He shivered, as if with cold. His look--the
expression of his eyes--alarmed the countess more and more.

"Now you will revenge yourself by not telling me how I can annihilate
the Hartwich?"

"Why should I not tell you?" stammered Herbert, with blue lips. "I keep
my promises." He fixed his eyes upon the countess. "Make the Hartwich
your friend, and you will make her an object of aversion in Möllner's
eyes."

The countess started; her terrible glance encountered Herbert's look of
hate. They stood now opposed to each other,--enemies to the death,--the
effeminate man and the masculine woman. She had offended him mortally,
but Herbert's last thrust had gone home; and softly, lightly as an
incorporeal shade, he passed from the room.

When the countess was alone, she fell upon her knees, as though utterly
crushed.

"Thus outraged Virtue revenges herself! Artful hypocrite that she is!
When I left her, she gave me no warning,--I sinned unpunished,--and
now, when I would return to her repentant, she thrusts me from her with
a remorseless 'Too late!' Too late!--my ships are burned behind me, and
there is nothing left for me but to advance, or to repent,--Repent?"
She writhed in despair. "No! O Heaven, take pity on me,--I am still too
young and too fair for that!"



                              CHAPTER VII.

                      EMANCIPATION OF THE SPIRIT.


High up upon the platform of her observatory, fanned by the pure
night-breeze and bathed in starry radiance, stood Ernestine, waiting
for the moon to rise. On her serious brow and in her maidenly soul
there was self-consecration, and peace. The heated vapour of passion
that was gathering like a thunder-cloud about her name in the world
beneath her, the poisonous slander of lips that mentioned her only to
defame her, could not ascend hither. Unconscious, assailed by no sordid
temptations, she stood there in vestal purity,--elevated physically but
a few feet from the earth, but soaring in mind worlds above it.

Slowly and solemnly the moon's disc arose from the horizon and mounted
upwards, lonely and quiet, in soft splendour. Thousands of little moons
were reflected in the telescopes of astronomers in thousandfold
diversity of aspect; but they were all images of the one orb slowly
sailing through the air. Ernestine was not busied with her telescope,
for no mortal quest could aid her in what she was seeking to-night. It
was to be found only in her own breast. It was not the material, but
the immaterial, that she was now longing to grasp; no single sense
could be of any avail. She needed all the powers of her being
harmoniously co-operating. And, as she gazed there, full of dreamy
inspiration, it was as if the moon had paused in its course to mirror
itself in those eyes. Oh that we could die when and as we choose! that
we could breathe out our souls in a single sigh! No human being could
pass away more calmly and blissfully than Ernestine could have done at
that moment, as she gazed at that serene moon and breathed forth a
yearning sigh after the Unfathomable.

Happiness, pure and unspeakable, descended into her soul from the
sparkling canopy of night This was her holiday, her hour of
enfranchisement from the fetters of toil and study. She was alone
beneath the starry sky,--a lone watcher, while all around were
sleeping,--thinking while others were unconscious. She seemed to
herself appointed to keep guard over the dignity of humanity, while all
beside were sunk in slumber. She could rest only when others were
roused to consciousness. The fever of night, that brings remorse to so
many tossing upon restless couches, never assailed her. All earthly
phantoms recede from the heart bathed in starlight, for in that light
there is peace. In view of immensity, eternity is revealed to us, and
every earthly pain vanishes like a shadow before it. But when star
after star faded, and the moon had paled, the first rosy streak of dawn
kissed a brow pale as snow, and a weariness as of death assailed her.
The sacred fire of her soul had devoured her bodily strength and was
extinguished with it. Then she sank to rest silently and
uncomplainingly, like the lamps of night at the approach of day. So it
was at this hour. As the darkness vanished, she descended to her
apartments, and sought in brief repose the strength that would suffice
for a day of constant labour.

"The more time I spend in sleep, the less of life do I enjoy," she said
in answer to the remonstrances of her anxious attendant. "Everything in
the world is so beautiful that we should not lose one moment of it,--so
short a time is ours to enjoy it."

"Enjoy! Good heavens! What do you enjoy? you do nothing but work."

"That is my enjoyment, my good Willmers. For my work is nothing less
than the constant study and discovery of the beauties of the world. An
immortality would not suffice to enjoy it all,--and what can we
accomplish in our brief span of existence? Shall we curtail it by
sleep? Has not nature, who gives us eighty years of life, robbed us of
almost half of it by imposing upon us the necessity of spending from
seven to nine hours out of the twenty-four in a state of
unconsciousness? I will defy her as long as I can, and maintain my
right to enjoy her gift as I please, and not as she please."

Frau Willmers looked with intense anxiety at the pale cheeks of the
speaker. As she lay in her bed, white as the snowy draperies around
her, her thin hands fallen wearied upon the coverlet, her breath coming
short and quick, the faithful servant's heart misgave her; for she saw
that nature had already begun to revenge herself for the disobedience
of her laws. She covered her up carefully in the soft coverlet. "Do not
talk any more, my dear Fräulein von Hartwich,--you are worn out."

"And you are wearied too, my good Willmers. Why do you rise whenever
you hear me going to bed?"

"Because I always hope that I may force you, out of consideration for
me, to do what you will not do for yourself,--retire earlier and grant
yourself the repose which is needful even for the strongest man,--how
much more so for such a delicate creature as you are!"

Ernestine languidly held out her hand. "You are kind and unselfish, my
dear Willmers, but you cannot understand me. And, if you will insist
upon sacrificing your night's rest to me, I must give you a room at a
distance from mine, where you cannot hear what I am doing. Thank you
for your care. Good-night."

"Good-night," replied the housekeeper sadly, delaying her departure for
a moment to draw the curtains closely around Ernestine's bed, that they
might exclude the first golden rays of sunlight.


That same night the countess spent tossing, like one scourged by the
furies, upon her restless couch. She could hardly wait for the day that
should take her to see her rival, and the same rising sun that filled
Ernestine's sleep with friendly dreams,--for even in slumber the eye is
conscious of light, and communicates it to the soul,--the same rising
sun drove the tortured woman from her silken bed. She knew no
weariness. Her healthy physical frame, hardened by exercise, withstood
every attack of weakness. She owned no restraint, physically, morally,
or mentally. She was talented, but she refused to think. Thought was in
her view a fetter upon self-indulgence. Knowledge had limits which
those who knew nothing were unconscious of. She would be free as the
air, and therefore avoided everything that could disturb her
superficial security. And she had sufficient intellect to feel that
thought might lead to conclusions most dangerous to her theory of life.

"Man's destiny is labour, woman's enjoyment" This was her motto, and
she lived up to it. She dazzled the world with the rare spectacle of
beautiful power and powerful beauty carrying away like the hurricane in
its mad career whatever lies in its path, stripping the leaves from
every flower, uprooting every young tree, and bearing them on perhaps
for one moment before casting them aside, crushed and dying. A glorious
spectacle for exultant Valkyrias, but one at which the common herd
cross themselves. Every destructive force of nature--and such was this
woman--possesses a shuddering poetic attraction for the on-looker who
is himself secure. He admires what he fears, he revels in the sight of
what he knows to be destructive. This was the position held by the
inhabitants of the little town of N---- towards the beautiful Russian
since she had arrived there with her sick husband. With her wild manner
of life, she was a wonderful apparition in their eyes, a constant
source of interest, yet always provoking sternest disapproval. When the
magnificent woman galloped through the streets upon her fiery Arabian,
or held the reins behind her pair of horses with a skilful hand, like
Victory in her triumphal car, no one could refrain from rushing to the
window to enjoy a sight not to be forgotten. Strength, health, and
beauty seemed to be her monopoly and the firm foundation of her joyous
existence.

"The woman who desires to be emancipated," she was wont to say, "must
have the true stuff in her. And as there are so few who possess it,
there are but a few who are emancipated. If you cannot compete with a
man, do not try to rival him. But she who has been baptized, as I have,
in the ice-cold Neva, can afford to laugh at the whole tribe with their
masculine arrogance."

In Russia, where she had played her part in a community far less
strict, she had had an excellent field for displaying her grace and
agility in all knightly exercises at the tilting-school which had been
instituted by the Russian nobility. There she made her appearance
usually in a steel helmet and closely-fitting coat of mail of woven
silver that shone in the brilliant sunlight, enveloping her as it were
in splendour. When she rode into the lists thus arrayed, a crooked
scimitar by her side, pistols in her belt, and mounted upon her Arabian
steed, nothing could restrain the loud applause of all present. She
rivalled the most distinguished sons of the Russian nobility in the
grace and skill with which she managed her horse, the precision of her
aim in shooting, and the boldness of her leaps. She knew no fear and no
fatigue.

She had the strength and vigour of a Northern divinity, with the
glowing temperament of an Oriental. What wonder that, from Emperor to
serf, all were her admiring slaves?

Her father, Alexei Fedorowitsch, was a poor and uneducated noble, who
had distinguished himself by his bravery in the war with Napoleon, and,
invalided at its close, retired to his small estate in the country,
where he lived upon his pension. His wife, a sickly aristocrat, who had
condescended to marry him for want of a more desirable _parti_, was the
torment of his life. In despair at the trouble and annoyance caused by
his wife's delicate health, sensibility, and affectation, he made a
vow, when she bore him a daughter, to educate his child to be an utter
contrast to her mother. Better that the child should die than live to
be such an invalid as his wife. And he began by causing his little
daughter to be baptized, like the children of the poorest Russians in
that part of the country, in the icy waters of the Neva. The little
Feodorowna outlived her icy bath, and her entire education corresponded
with this beginning. Her mother died a few days after this cruel
baptism; anxiety for her child put the finishing stroke to her invalid
existence. And so her rude, uncultured father was her only guide and
instructor. He loved her after his fashion, and made her his companion
in all his amusements, riding, training horses, and the chase.

She was scarcely sixteen when he married her to a wealthy landed
proprietor in the neighbourhood, ruder and more illiterate even than
himself, and to the girl an object of aversion. As his wife, she lived
on his lonely estate like a serf. Her husband was cruel and suspicious,
and made her married life perfect torture. She was compelled to resign
her free habits of life, which she loved better than all else in the
world. Every extravagance, even the most harmless, was forbidden by her
husband. The joyous girl who had been used to fly upon the back of her
spirited steed over steppe and heath was not allowed to mount a horse,
but was made to sit with her maid-servants and spin by the dim light of
a train-oil lamp until her husband came home to compel, perhaps by the
_kantschu_, her reluctant attention to his wishes. She bore this
martyrdom for one year in silence. At last she made a confidant of a
neighbouring nobleman, and implored his aid in her great need; but she
found no sympathy,--no assistance. He called her a fool, who did not
appreciate her good fortune,--told her that to think of a divorce was a
crime, and that her husband was perfectly right. In her utter
loneliness, longing for love, if it were only the love of her old
father, a desire for freedom and hatred of her tormentor gained the
victory, and she fled, without taking anything with her but the few
clothes that she had possessed at her marriage. She travelled the
greater part of the way on foot, and arrived at her father's in such a
wretched condition that he was touched by compassion, received her
kindly, and took her part against her husband. Her suit for divorce
left her wholly without means, but free, and when shortly afterwards
she came to know the old diplomat Count Worronska, and he laid his rank
and his millions at her feet, offering a field for her beauty at court
at St. Petersburg, she could not withstand the temptation. She became
his wife, and was transplanted from the midst of half-savage serfs to
one of the most magnificent courts in the world,--from the Russian
forests and steppes to apartments gorgeous with every luxury of life.
At first dazzled and confused, she won all hearts, even those of the
women, by her innocent beauty and graceful diffidence. At last her
unbridled nature broke forth all the more impetuously for the long
restraint under which it had lain, and, with no guidance but that of
her imbecile husband, who adored her, she rapidly degenerated in every
way. Society always looks more leniently upon those errors that are
gradually developed before its eyes and under its protection than upon
those that it observes outside of its sphere, because it is cognizant
of the excuse for the faults of those within it, and it was all the
more willing to pardon the delinquent in this instance for the sake of
the high rank of her husband. It therefore ignored escapades that the
distinguished position held by the old count forbade it to punish, and
the beautiful and enormously wealthy Countess Worronska, in spite of
her dissipation, was and continued to be the centre of the most
brilliant, if not the best, circle of society in St. Petersburg. All
this she had resigned for the last six months, and she had lived like
an outlaw, avoided by prudent "German Philisters," in the town of
N----, for the sake of the only man whom she truly loved, and
who--despised her.

Before the death of her husband she had always been surrounded by a
brilliant crowd of gentlemen who had sought her society from the
neighbouring famous baths,--acquaintances from St. Petersburg,
distinguished Englishmen, Italians, Poles,--in short, the gay, wealthy
idlers of every nation that invariably flock around a beautiful woman
upon her travels. With these she smoked, rode, and drove,--proceedings
that had excited no outcry in the gay world at St. Petersburg, but that
called forth shrieks of horror from the women in the little German
University-town and greatly excited the students, who were never weary
of caricaturing her,--harnessing four horses, and, disguised as women,
driving them wildly through the streets, mimicking her foreign
admirers, making her bearded servants drunk, and playing many other
madcap pranks in ridicule of her.

The universal horror culminated, however, when she did not dress in
black after the count's death. People said with a shudder that she had
declared that "it seemed to her despicable to play such a farce, and
simulate a grief that she did not feel." How could any one so scorn
conventionalities, and lay bare the secrets of the heart to the public
gaze? Yes, it was even suggested that she had never been married, and
they called her the "wild countess,"--much as we speak of wild fruit to
distinguish them from those that are genuine. Although injustice was
done her in this respect, she deserved the epithet "wild" in every
other, and the name clave to her. Even Möllner, who was always ready to
find some magnanimous excuse for feminine failings, thought that she
ought to show more respect for her septuagenarian husband, and
pronounced her conduct heartless ostentation. From that moment she lost
all interest, if she had ever possessed any, in his eyes. He never
noticed that for months no gentleman had been allowed to enter her
doors, for he did not think it worth while to observe her actions.
Whoever did observe it ascribed it to chance. The report of her
improvement was drowned in the billows of scandal that had been lashed
up by her previous conduct. No one believed in her reformation, least
of all he for whom she made such sacrifices.

And now the moment had arrived when, for the first time, she found
herself helpless, opposed to a higher power,--and the effect of this
first collision with invisible barriers upon the untrained heart of the
countess was terrible. Hitherto she had recognized only the laws of
decorum, and had transgressed them with impunity whenever they had
oppressed her. Decorum is almost always subject to the will of
individuals and to fashion. But the higher law that hovers over the
universe, subject to no human will, to no change,--unchangeable, as is
all that is divine,--is the law of _morality_. It was this against
which the countess was now struggling, of the existence of which she
seemed now first to become aware.

But such a woman could not give up the battle. It was a law of her
nature to resist. She could not yield. How could she?--she had never
learned submission. She would battle for her desires. As a girl, she
had endured hunger and cold for days in the pursuit of the chase, while
food and warmth waited for her at home. From her earliest childhood,
her will had been trained to iron persistence, and now, when she had
again left the comforts and delights of home in pursuit of a far nobler
prey, should she desist from the chase because the game belonged to
another? Such a course was impossible for such a woman, and, as
strength could not avail her here, she resorted to the commonest weapon
of the merest flirt,--cunning.

Herbert's malice contained a seed that swiftly ripened and bore fruit
in the fertile brain of the countess, for she knew only too well how
much truth there was in the charge that her friendship was a dishonour
to a young girl. It was a terrible thought for her that there was no
means left for her whereby she could crush a rival except by so
poisoning her with her own infection that she might become an object of
disgust to her lover. But, if she could gain nothing by such a course,
she could at least revenge herself. She turned over the leaves of
Ernestine's publications. They were too learned for her. She understood
nothing from their pages, except that they contended for the
emancipation of women,--that was enough for her. She too was
"emancipated." It was enough to establish an understanding between
them. Perhaps a meeting with Möllner might grow out of a visit to
Ernestine. She was determined to make use of Herbert's malicious hint,
his last bequest to her; for she had mortally offended him, and he no
longer came near her. She hastily studied a few papers upon the
emancipation of women, that she might comprehend what Herbert had said
of "principle" in connection with the subject, and this was the day
upon which she was resolved to see her victim. She selected Wednesday
for her expedition, because Herbert had told her that Möllner had been
with Ernestine on the previous Wednesday. Perhaps his visit might be
repeated on the same day of the week.

As soon as she rose, she blew a shrill whistle upon a little silver
call. There instantly appeared--not a dog--a maid with a large bucket
of spring-water, which was dashed over her beautiful mistress in a
little bathing-tent.

The maid then silently withdrew, and brought coffee and the newspapers.
The countess, wrapped in a rich brocade dressing-gown, lighted a cigar,
and, while drinking her coffee, looked carelessly through the papers.

Afterwards she went to her dressing-room, and called to the
dressing-maid in attendance there, "Riding-habit!" and, after a short
delay, the maid brought her all she required. "Ali!" said the countess,
which meant, "Go tell the groom to saddle Ali for me."

The brief order was understood and obeyed with rapidity. Like a shadow
the attendant glided from the room, appearing again like a shadow in
the presence of her dreaded mistress. The servants of this woman must
have neither mind, soul, nor heart,--only ears to hear, and hands and
feet to obey. The poor dressing-maid did her best to fulfil all that
was required of her,--she was all ear, hands, and feet. She scarcely
breathed. It really seemed as if the powerful lungs of her mistress
inhaled all the air of the apartment, leaving none for any other
inmate.

She took her place behind the countess, who sat before the mirror,
smoking, and began, as carefully as possible, to comb out her long
hair. The lovely woman examined her own features critically to-day. One
peculiarity of her face, otherwise faultless,--a peculiarity that
reminded her of the Russian type,--irritated her excessively; she
thought her cheek-bones somewhat too high.

Just as she was contemplating this imaginary defect, the maid slightly
pulled her hair. It was too much for her patience.

"Maschinka!" she cried, starting up and snatching the comb from the
poor girl's hand. A flash--a blow--and Maschinka stooped silently to
pick up the pieces of the broken comb. The print of its teeth was
left upon her pale cheek, but no word, no cry of pain, escaped her
lips,--her eyes alone looked tearful.

"Get another!" ordered her mistress, as if nothing had happened, and
she sat down again.

Maschinka obeyed, and finished the coiffure, and the rest of the
toilette, without further disaster. Then she brought riding-whip, hat,
and gloves, and the countess descended the richly-carpeted stairs.
Suddenly she stood still, and called, "Maschinka!"

"Madame!"

"Does your cheek hurt you?"

"Oh, no!" whispered the girl.

"What? Don't lie! Well, then, rub it with cold cream, from the silver
box on my dressing-table; and keep the box,--I give it to you."

Without listening to the girl's thanks, she passed on. Her magnificent
Arabian was led, snorting and foaming, around the court-yard. She
beckoned to the stout, bearded Russian, who could scarcely restrain it,
and he led it towards her. Another servant, in a rich livery, brought
sugar upon a silver plate. She fed the noble animal, who was instantly
soothed, kissed its smooth forehead, patted its neck, and mounted
lightly to her place upon its back.

"What o'clock?" she asked, as the servant handed her the whip, and she
rose in the stirrup to arrange the folds of her dress.

"Past five o'clock, madame," was the answer.

"I shall return at eight. The carriage must be ready by twelve. Tell
Maschinka to have my dress prepared."

"As madame pleases," replied the servant.

"Open!" cried the countess, and a third groom, who had been waiting for
this order, threw open the double gates of the court-yard, letting in a
flood of morning sun-light. All reared beneath his lovely burden, as if
he would soar with her into the clouds, but a quick cut from her whip
somewhat cooled his Pegasus ardour, and he sprang forward, almost
running over a servant, who had not moved aside quite quickly enough,
and gained the street. Here, however, his mistress reined him in.

"The dogs!" she called.

The servants all hurried into the court-yard, and a frightful noise was
heard. The barking, howling pack came rushing from their kennels, and
leaped around their mistress with all the signs of delight that their
mad gambols can evince. And now a wild race began. Away tore the
Arabian, tossing the foam from his mouth. As he flew rather than
galloped along, he tossed back his head, pointed his ears, and
distended his nostrils, striving to outstrip the yelling pack at his
heels. The beautiful hounds followed hard behind, in long leaps. The
servants stood grouped about the gateway, looking after their mistress.

"Aha," muttered the chief among them to himself, "she is turning into
the Bergstrasse. The dogs must waken Professor Möllner again, and bring
him to the window."

But the bearded old Russian observed sadly, "She'll break her neck some
day."

Peaceful, and buried in slumber, lay the quiet little town. The
windows,--eyes of the houses,--were closed, as were those of their
inmates; but, as the countess dashed by in her mad career, one after
another was opened, a curtain drawn aside here and there, and a sleepy,
curious face appeared.

The countess laughed at the crop of night-capped heads which her ride
past their windows suddenly caused to appear. The warm-blooded Arabian
shivered beneath her in the fresh, dewy morning air, and she felt its
bracing breath colour her cheek. "What a miserable race is this, that
spends such hours in bed! They rise only when the smoke from the
chimneys and the weary sighs of labourers have thickened the air. That
is the atmosphere for their delicate lungs! They are afraid of the cold
breeze of dawn!"

She passed by Herbert's dwelling, and, with a vigorous stroke of her
whip, excited her dogs to a more furious barking. How should she know
that his invalid wife, in that upper chamber, had just fallen into a
refreshing slumber after a wakeful night of pain, a slumber from which
the noise aroused her to a day of suffering?

Here, too, a curtain was drawn aside, and Elsa's dream-encircled head
peeped out.

"That is his monkey-faced sister," thought the countess, and nodded in
very wantonness. The face vanished in alarm. Herbert did not appear.
And she galloped on through the silent streets. It was wearisome riding
thus upon stony pavements, with a sleeping public all around, her only
spectators the servants and peasants carrying milk and bread, and
staring open-mouthed at the haughty horsewoman. Now and then a student
in his shirt-sleeves, brush or sponge in hand, would appear at a
window, and one poured out the contents of his washbasin upon her dogs,
who had fallen fiercely upon an innocent little cur that was just
taking his morning stroll. It was the only incident that varied the
monotony of her ride, and she passed swiftly on towards the
Bergstrasse, as the servant had prophesied.

At last she reached it, and the glorious view of the distant mountains
lay before her. The rough pavement came to an end, for here the
pleasure-grounds of the town were laid out, and the roads were strewn
with fine gravel. She now gave her steed the rein, and the fiery beast
flew along, _ventre à terre_, with the pack after him in full cry. The
houses were all surrounded by charming gardens. There was one which for
a long time riveted the attention of the countess. Look! there was an
open window, and at it stood Möllner, gazing out upon the far-off
mountains.

Just as the countess passed, he observed her, and answered her gesture
of recognition by a respectful bow.

He looked after her, well pleased as he marked the finely-knit figure,
with a seat in the saddle so light and graceful that she seemed part of
her horse. She turned her head and saw him looking after her, and in
her pleasure at the sight she reined in Ali until he reared erect in
the air and curveted proudly. Then on she galloped, and was soon lost
to sight. She had reached the foot of the mountains, and, allowing her
panting steed to ascend a little hill more slowly, she paused to rest
him on the summit.

Before her lay a golden, sunny world. It was an enchanting morning.
Thin, vapoury smoke was beginning to rise from the chimneys, and the
heavens were so cloudless that it ascended straight into the blue arch
without being pressed down to the earth again.

Over the tops of the pine-trees that crowned the brows of the
mountains, little white feathery clouds were still hovering. It seemed
as if those mighty heads would fain shake them off, for they soared
aloft and then settled again, then shifted from place to place, hiding
sometimes in the forest, until at last they vanished before the
increasing power of the sun's rays, and the dark, jagged outline of the
mountains stood out clear and free against the blue sky. Who, with a
heart in his breast, beholding and enjoying all this beauty and glory,
does not involuntarily look above in gratitude to the unseen Giver and
mourn over his own unworthiness of such bounty? And how many eyes look
on it all without understanding it or rejoicing in it! Does it not seem
that on such a morning the most degraded soul would gladly purify
itself, as the bird dresses his feathers at sunrise before he lifts his
wings to soar aloft into the glorious ether?

And yet the gloomy fire of the previous night still smouldered on in
the countess's breast, and no cool breeze, no pearly dew, availed to
quench its unhallowed glow. Her heart was desecrated,--the abode of the
demons of low desire and hate. It could no longer soar to higher
spheres. The beautiful woman gazed upon the landscape without one
feeling of its beauty. She was far more interested in compelling the
obedience of her impatient steed than in the grand prospect before her.
In the gilded saloons of St. Petersburg she had lost all comprehension
and love of nature, and she was so accustomed to consider herself a
divinity that she was no longer conscious of the humility of the
creature before its Creator. Although she might not deny Him, she was
indifferent to Him, and if she sometimes visited His temple, she did it
only as one pays a formal visit to an equal.

Thus she stood there upon the hill, inhaling the fresh, fragrant air
with a certain satisfaction, but with no more interest in the lovely
scene than was felt by her dogs, who judged of the beauty of the
landscape chiefly by their sense of smell, as, lying on the ground
around their mistress, they too snuffed the morning breeze. Now and
then one was led astray by the scent of game in the thicket; but a call
from the silver whistle of his mistress reminded him of his duty, and
he returned to his companions,--only casting longing looks in the
direction in which his prey had escaped him. Had his haughty mistress
ever in her life practised such self-denial? Could she have seriously
answered this question, she might have blushed before the unreasoning
brute.

                           *   *   *   *   *

It was ten o'clock when Ernestine stepped out upon her balcony.
Gaily-dressed peasants were passing, pipe in mouth, along the road
outside her garden-wall, for to-day was the Ascension of the Blessed
Virgin,--a glorious opportunity for drinking to her honour and glory.
The people were in their gayest humour, their morning libations had
already had some effect. The peasant seems to know no better way of
giving God glory than by enjoying His gifts; he believes that he thus
affords Him the same pleasure that a good host feels in seeing the
guests at his table enjoy what is placed before them.

Ernestine smiled at the thought of this profane belief, which
nevertheless springs from honest, childlike traits of human nature.

Leuthold had not yet returned from his journey, and these days of
solitude had been,--she never asked herself why,--the pleasantest that
she had known for a long time. She did in his absence only what she was
used to do when he was with her; but her thoughts were very different.
The man had so thoroughly imbued with his teaching her every thought
and action, that when he was by she could not even think what he might
disapprove. Since his departure she had, if we may use the expression,
let herself alone. She allowed her thoughts to stray as they pleased.
She was not ashamed to spring up from her work and feed the birds, or
to spend an hour in the garden, or at the window in dreamy reverie. And
she made various scientific experiments, that she might surprise her
uncle upon his return with their successful results.

And this was not the only advantage of his absence. She could go to the
school-house to see the good old people there; she could--receive a
visit!--a visit of which her uncle knew nothing. Was that right? Oh,
yes, it was right,--it was too sacred a thing to be exposed to his cool
contempt. Why was he so dry and cold and stern, that she must conceal
every emotion from him? To have told him of this visit would have been
like voluntarily exposing her roses to be frozen by ice and snow. She
still remembered and felt the pain that he had made her suffer when she
spoke to him of God. Then he had taken her God from her, and now he
would take from her her friend,--the first, the only one she had ever
known. It was the pure, sacred secret of her heart,--as pure and sacred
as the communion she held with the starry heavens at night upon her
observatory.

Meanwhile the door had opened without her notice, and the Æolian harp
sounded in the draught that swept across its strings. The birds, that
had hopped close around her for their accustomed food, flew twittering
away as a stranger appeared, and a deep, mellow voice asked, "Well, and
how are you?"

Ernestine started as at a lightning-flash. She turned and looked at the
intruder with a deep blush, but with undisguised delight.

"Why should you be startled?" he asked.

"I do not know,--you appeared so suddenly. I did not see you coming
down the road."

"No, I took a cross-cut that was shadier; I came on foot."

"Oh, then you must be tired!" said Ernestine, entering the room with
him. "Sit down."

"My dear Fräulein Hartwich, first shake hands with me,--there! And now
tell me that you have quite forgiven me,--you do not think ill of me."

"No, sir,--doctor!--Can I call you doctor? We give names to everything,
why should you be the exception?" And she smiled.

It was the first time that he had seen her smile, and it enchanted him.

"If, then, it is so hard not to call me by name, christen me yourself.
There are kindly titles invented by friendship or good will. Am I not
worthy, in your stern sight, of any of these?"

"Oh, none that I could find would be worthy of you, you are so kind,
so--oh, yes! I have a title for you!"

"Well? I am curious."

"Kind sir!--will you allow that?"

"Ah, my dear Fräulein Hartwich, it is you who are too kind."

Ernestine smiled again. A fleeting blush tinged her cheek.

Johannes looked at her. "Do you know that you seem much more cheerful
than when I saw you last?"

"Thanks to your skill, kind sir."

"Indeed?--spite of my bitter physic?"

"Yes, it did taste bitter, but good followed it."

"Then you felt the truth of what I said?"

She grew grave. "No, not that,--but I recognized a true, large heart,
and admiration for that conquered my ailment,--delight in its sympathy
overcame the pain of being misunderstood by it."

"That is more than I ventured to hope, after so short an acquaintance.
Were you less magnanimous than you are, you would hate me, for I deeply
wounded your vanity, and, to be frank, I propose to do so still
further."

"Not a pleasant prospect, but I will be steadfast. If you deny me the
strength of a man, you shall at least not find me subject to women's
weaknesses,--among which I hold vanity to be the most despicable."

Johannes smiled. "And yet you are not free from this weakness. You
endure my assaults upon your pride because it gratifies your vanity to
prove that you are not vain."

Ernestine cast down her eyes. "You are clever at diagnosis," she said
with slight bitterness.

"I am only honest. Do you not see that I know, since you have received
me so kindly to-day, that it would be quite possible to win your
further confidence and esteem if I would only have a little
consideration for your weaknesses? Let me confess frankly that a
confidence so purchased would not content me. Trifling and jesting may
have deceit for their foundation, for one will last no longer than the
other, but the regard that I cherish for you, and that I would awaken
in you for me, must--can--be founded only in the truth,--must grow out
of the inmost core of our natures; and if our natures do not harmonize,
any intimate relation between us is impossible, and an artificial tie
between us would be, for us, a sin. If, then, my ruthless hand searches
the hidden depths of your soul,--if I outrage your vanity, so that even
the vanity of being magnanimously self-forgetting will not help you to
endure it,--I only fulfil a sacred duty that truth requires of me, both
to you and to myself,--a duty whose postponement might be heavily
avenged in the future."

Ernestine looked at him inquiringly. She did not understand him.

"You are puzzled, and do not know how to interpret my words," he
continued. "You cannot dream how far beyond reality my fancy soars. But
you must feel that I am not a man to play the _bel-esprit_ for my
amusement,--to find any satisfaction in measuring my wits to advantage
with a woman's,--to take delight in hearing the sound of my own voice.
Before I seriously approach a woman, I must be clear in my own mind as
to what I can be to her and she to me. You, Fräulein von Hartwich,
cannot be to me much or little,--you can be to me everything or
nothing. Our natures are both too real to admit of our passing each
other by pleasantly, politely, but without enthusiasm, like ephemeral
acquaintances in society. We have already, in defiance of conventional
rules, formed an intimacy in which character is revealed, and the aim
of our intercourse must be a higher one than that of mere amusement.
Otherwise I were a boor and you are greatly to blame for enduring me.
Only a deep personal interest in you could warrant my relentless
treatment of you. I acknowledge that I feel this deep personal
interest. More I will not say now, for all else depends upon the
development of our relations towards each other, in the increase or
decrease of accord in our views of life and its purposes."

Ernestine was silent. She began to have some suspicion of what she
might be to this strong, upright character, and what he might be to
her. But it was not that tender emotion that the first approach of love
awakens in the heart of every woman, even the coldest; she was troubled
and anxious. The decision with which he spoke convinced her at once
that he never could be converted to her views,--that she must mould
herself according to his,--that a transformation must take place in one
or the other of them, if she would not lose what was already of such
value to her. She was not accustomed to self-sacrifice, for her cunning
uncle had so educated her, so trained her inclinations to accord with
his wishes, that she always supposed she was having her own way, when
in reality she was following his. She felt that this hour was a crisis
in her life, that she was brought into contact with a will which would
require of her great self-sacrifice, and of which she was almost in
dread, because it was backed by superior strength.

Johannes waited for an answer, but none came. He saw what was going on
in Ernestine's mind, and that his words had chilled her, kindly as they
were meant. He took her hand and looked into her eyes. "Ah, you will
not call me 'kind sir' any more?"

Ernestine was conscious of the true kindliness of his look, she felt
the gentle clasp of his hand, and involuntarily she held out to him her
disengaged hand also, and said almost in a tone of entreaty, "No, you
will not be cruel, you will not hurt me."

He stood silent for an instant, looking into her clear, confiding eyes,
holding both her hands in his, and was for the moment unspeakably
happy.

"I promise you I will not give you more pain than I shall suffer
myself," he said gently. "But we must buy dearly the happiness that is
to content us. We are not of those who innocently and artlessly take
upon trust whatever the present throws into their laps. Constituted as
we are, we must needs make conditions with Heaven, and accept its gifts
only when we have proved them. For we cannot be satisfied with what
many would call happiness,--we can take no delight in what would charm
thousands of others. It is the curse of natures like ours that they
erect a standard of happiness far above what if usual,--and how many
are there upon whom Providence bestows unusual happiness!"

Ernestine smiled bitterly at Johannes's last words. "Providence!" she
murmured, "we are our own providence. We shape our own destiny, create
our joy or our misery,--the conditions of either are in ourselves!"

"And because we are so mysteriously gifted beyond other creatures,
because we are mentally freer and more conscious of ourselves than
other beings, our responsibility as regards ourselves and those whom we
see around us is all the greater. There are natures that are eternally
wretched, because they demand more of life than it can possibly afford
them, and undervalue all that it offers them, although it makes their
lot enviable in the eyes of all. Then we say, 'Their unhappiness is
their own fault, they have everything to make them happy, no one
injures them; why are they so exorbitant in their longings?' But this
is wrong. They are not insatiate, they would perhaps be contented with
a far more moderate lot. What fault is it of theirs that the demands of
their innermost nature are such that they require just what fate has
not bestowed upon them? Of what use is a glittering gem to the
traveller in the desert languishing for a drop of water? How willingly
would he exchange the bauble for what he longs for! Who would say to
him, 'You have a precious treasure, why are you not content?' Who would
reproach him with being a human creature that cannot live without
drinking? The most one can say to him is, 'Since you know that you
cannot live without water, why go into the desert?' There is the point
where we are responsible. If we know what are the conditions of our
existence, we must see to it that what we choose in life accords with
those conditions, always provided that Providence gives us the right of
free choice. If this right is ours and we choose falsely, it is our
fault if we are wretched. I call it an unusual boon, therefore, when
Providence permits us to choose a lot that harmonizes with our nature.
If this is denied us, the man of the greatest freedom of thought is not
responsible for his fate,--he is under the ban of a higher power."

Ernestine listened to him with undisguised interest. He saw it, and
continued:

"We, Fräulein Hartwich, are free to choose, and are therefore
responsible to each other, and it is incumbent upon us to be on the
watch. A kindly Providence, you too must admit this, has brought us
together, and left the decision as to what we will be to each other in
our own hands. Let us show ourselves worthy of the trust; let us try
ourselves. I am sure you feel with me that the moment must be a
glorious one in which two human beings recognize each other as their
embodied destiny. But it must be celebrated not by gushes of
sentimentality nor by would-be transcendentalism, but in perfect peace
of mind!"

He took her hand and gazed into her eyes. She stood quietly before him,
and gathered calmness from his look. And again that significant silence
ensued so dear to those whose hearts are full of what they cannot or
dare not speak. Suddenly Frau Willmers softly opened the door.

"There is a lady without, who wishes to speak with you, Fräulein
Hartwich."

"With me!" asked Ernestine in displeased surprise. "Who is she?"

"She refuses to give her name, and will not be denied. She says if
Fräulein von Hartwich is not at leisure now, she will wait any length
of time."

"Did you tell her I was engaged with a visitor?"

"No, there is no knowing whether the lady"--here she cast an
embarrassed glance at Johannes--"might not tell your uncle!"

Ernestine looked down confused. "That is true--if it should
chance--What is to be done? How very annoying!"

"I thought perhaps the gentleman would allow me to take him through the
laboratory and down the other staircase?" said Frau Willmers in a tone
of anxious entreaty.

"Shall I?" asked Johannes, not without evident vexation.

Ernestine looked at Frau Willmers. "Pray do," she begged, "out of pity
for poor Frau Willmers, who will have to bear the whole burden of my
uncle's displeasure if he should learn that she had connived at our
meeting."

"I must comply with your wishes, but only for this once," he said,
quietly offering her his hand. "When may I come again?"

"Next Saturday, will you not?"

Johannes knew perfectly well why she appointed that day, but he said
nothing, and followed Frau Willmers. At the door he turned and looked
at Ernestine. She saw something like displeasure in his face, and
hastened after him.

"Pray do not be angry with me, kind sir."

Johannes was touched by the gentle entreaty from one usually so stern
and cold. He pressed his lips upon her hand and whispered softly, "I
shall never, never be angry with you. God bless you!"

The door closed behind him, and Ernestine, still agitated by the
interview, half awake and half dreaming, went into the antechamber to
receive the stranger waiting there.

The Worronska, in all her grandeur, stood before her.

Ernestine had never in her life seen so extraordinary a vision. She was
actually dazzled.

The brown, Juno-like eyes were regarding her with strange curiosity,
the black eyebrows were gloomily contracted; there was something so
hard and haughty in her air and bearing that Ernestine took offence at
it before a word had been uttered.

The way in which the lady measured her with her glance from head to
foot recalled to her memory the pain that she had once suffered beneath
the gaze of the Staatsräthin's guests. For one second she felt in
danger of the same overwhelming sensation of embarrassment. She seemed
to grow pale and wither in the presence of this dazzling and haughty
person. But she was no longer a child, sensible only of her defects,
and the next moment the pride of conscious power came to her relief.
She knew that she stood in the presence of an enemy, but she felt
herself the equal of her opponent. Who was this woman who thus
assumed the right to look down upon her? Whence did she derive this
right?--from beauty, wealth, or rank? Did she know as much as
Ernestine? Had she written a prize essay? And, more than all, did she
possess such a friend as now belonged to Ernestine? No, no, assuredly
not. Ernestine was her equal, whoever she might be.

"Will you walk in?" said Ernestine with icy repose of manner and with a
dignity that evidently impressed the countess greatly. Ernestine stood
aside to allow her to pass, and motioned her towards a small sofa
filling a recess of the room, while she herself took a seat opposite.
Her lips were closed; no conventional grimace, usual upon the reception
of a visitor, distorted the pure beauty of her grave countenance. She
awaited in silence the stranger's communication; she was too unfamiliar
with the forms of society to excuse herself for having kept her waiting
in the antechamber. The countess at last understood that she must be
the first to speak. She felt, too, in the presence of such a woman as
Ernestine that her coming hither was a mistake, and it made her falter.
For the first time in her life she was confused. The tables were
turned. Ernestine was already the victor in this silent encounter. Hers
was the victory of true self-respect over the frivolous conceit of a
jealous coquette.

The Worronska had failed in her part even before she began to play it.
She had heard Möllner's voice and his step as he left the room. The
affair, then, had gone farther than she had thought. Anger had put her
off her guard, and given her a hostile air when she had come to allure
and perhaps lead astray. Her error must be rectified at all hazards.
She held out her hand to Ernestine and said, in her melodious
Russian-German, "I am the Countess Worronska."

Ernestine slightly inclined her head, and the expression of her face
grew colder and more forbidding than before. "And what is your pleasure
with me, Countess Worronska?"

"What? Oh, that is soon told. I seek from you amusement, instruction,
excitement,--everything that so talented a companion as you are, and
one so entirely of my way of thinking, can bestow."

Ernestine recoiled almost perceptibly. "Of your way of thinking?" she
asked.

"Most certainly! We are both advocates of the emancipation of women,
each in her own way, but our object is the same. We are both adherents
of the great champion of women's rights, Louisa A----, who is my
intimate friend. How charming it would be to enlist you also! We could
then labour in concert,--I in action, Louisa through the daily press,
you by your books."

Ernestine listened with the same unmoved countenance to what the
countess said. When she had finished, Ernestine was silent for a
moment, as if seeking some fitting form of speech for what she wished
to say. The countess watched her eagerly. At last Ernestine replied,
"Countess Worronska, I must decline your proposal,--I am resolved to
pursue my path alone."

The Worronska bit her lips. "Indeed? You are afraid of sharing your
laurels?"

"Not so," rejoined Ernestine calmly. "I am afraid of sharing the
laurels of a Louisa A----."

"Oh! would you think that a disgrace?"

"Yes."

A pause ensued. The countess cast a fierce glance at Ernestine, who
bore it coldly and unflinchingly. Again rage seethed in the bosom of
the Worronska, but she controlled herself, for she was determined to
compass her ends, and knew that she must be upon her guard with this
girl.

"You are certainly frank," she began. "But I like that,--it is
original."

"It is unfortunate that truth should be so rare among your associates,
Countess Worronska, that you call it original!"

"You are severe, Fräulein Hartwich. You should know my friends, and
then you would be more lenient to their weaknesses. Why is it
unfortunate? Refinement of taste brings that in its train. We cushion
the chairs on which we sit, we plane and polish the rough wood of our
furniture, we clothe the bare walls of our rooms with tapestry, we do
not devour our meat raw like the Cossacks, but delicately cooked to
please our palates. Why then should we surround ourselves morally with
spikes and thorns, which rend and tear those around us? Why should we
partake of our intellectual food so raw and undressed that it disgusts
us? Thank Heaven, we have put off such barbarisms with our more
advanced culture."

"You are perfectly right. Countess Worronska, looking upon the matter
from a worldly point of view. I am only surprised to hear you defend
the forms of society while you despise its proprieties."

A crimson flush rose to the brow of her visitor. But her rage only
strengthened her determination to subdue her foe, superior as she could
not but acknowledge her to be. "Yes, what you say is true: I love
forms, because they are pleasant and useful. I hate propriety, because
it would be our master, and by propriety you mean decorum--I understand
you perfectly. Yes, then, yes: I love the forms of society, that give
an æsthetic charm to existence, and make it smooth and easy, but I hate
what people call decorum. When, in despair at the tyranny of my first
husband, and utterly loathing his rude vulgarity, I left him by
stealth, and fled, at peril of my life, across the half-frozen Neva to
my father, to share his solitude and poverty, I acted honourably, but
every one condemned me, the runaway wife was an object of scorn,--she
had sinned against the laws of decorum. But when, after my divorce, I
married the old Count Worronska, simply because I coveted rank and
wealth, I acted dishonourably, but I had done nothing indecorous. Every
one bowed low before me, and I found myself an object of respect to
others when I was so deeply sunk in my own esteem. And can I do homage
to decorum, the idol to which we are sacrificed, the empty scarecrow
that the selfishness of men sets up to keep us within our prison-walls?
In the folds of its garment lie hidden tyranny, hate and revenge,
jealousy and envy, malice and uncharitableness, ready to crawl out like
poisonous serpents and attack its victims. What free spirit will not
curse it if it has ever been aware of even the shadow of its rod? I
began by cursing it, but I have ended by despising it. I have sworn
hostility to it, and, trust me, there is a rare delight in stripping
it of its mask. Louisa A---- contends against it with far nobler
weapons-than it deserves. It is not worth the going out to meet it with
such solemn pathos. A hundred years hence, the world will laugh to
think that it should have had power to annoy such a woman as Louisa."

She ceased, and looked into Ernestine's face to see the effect of her
words. But there was no change of feature there.

"I cannot vie with you in your style of speaking, Countess Worronska. I
am used to plain thoughts. I am not practised in metaphor, and cannot
adorn what I say with such wealth of imagery. I can only reply plainly
and frankly to what you say, that what you designate as our foe I
consider our protection, and that it is a far different foe that I
contend with. Therefore we should never agree, and it is a useless
waste of time to attempt any closer intercourse."

The countess started, and the colour left her lips, so tightly were
they compressed. Yet she would make one more attempt. She regarded
Ernestine with a look of profound compassion, and possessed herself of
her reluctant hand. "Poor child! does even your bold spirit languish in
the fetters of prejudice? What a pity! How inconceivable! And will you
tell me what foe it is that you wish to subdue?"

"The mean opinion that men entertain of our sex."

"And you would combat this with your pen?"

"I hope to do so."

"Do not mistake; we have mightier weapons for the contest than the
pen!"

"There are none more effectual than the cultivation of our powers, for
it will prove to them that we do not deserve their contempt,--that we
can perform tasks that they consider emphatically their own."

"They will never acknowledge it. All intellectual power is
relative,--there is nothing absolute but physical force. If we can
knock a man down, he must believe that we are as strong as he. But he
will never concede our intellectual equality, because there is no
compelling him to be just. As long as there is no third authority in
the world to act as umpire in the contest between the sexes, which can
only be if God himself should descend from the skies, so long must we
be victims to the egotism of men!"

Ernestine looked down thoughtfully. "You may be right, but we must
comfort ourselves with the reflection that by the contest itself we
have done good. To do good is the object of all, and the individual
must be content with the peace of this consciousness as his reward."

"What cold comfort! Why, every flower in your path will perish in such
an icy atmosphere! I pity you! Come, confide in me. In spite of your
bluntness, I feel drawn towards you. I will introduce you to a new
existence, where you may learn how to revenge yourself upon men. You
bear the stamp upon your brow of one gifted by God to be their scourge.
Learn to understand yourself, and you will see how perverted your views
are! Your power lies not in the bulky volumes that you write. Our
charms are the weapons by which we conquer! As long as men have eyes
and we have beauty, they must be our slaves; and you would imprison
yourself within four walls, and toil and strive, while you have only to
face those who shrug their shoulders at your writings, to have them
prostrate at your feet? Would not this be an easier conquest?"

Ernestine was silent. The countess saw with delight that she was
evidently agitated, and continued more confidently.

"You are beautiful,--how beautiful you yourself do not probably know,
or you would not deprive the world of a sight that would enchant it, or
yourself of the satisfaction of observing its admiration. Believe
me,--there is no greater delight than the triumph of our charms. To
know yourself an object of worship,--to be able to bless with a
smile!--ah, what rapture! It is a divine privilege, that thousands
would envy you. In comparison with it, what is the feeble pleasure that
your studies can afford you? What can it matter to you if it is
reported for a few miles around that you are a great scholar? Is such a
report a flower, refreshing you by its fragrance?--a flame, that can
warm you, or a ray of light, that can dazzle you? Can it give pleasure
to any one besides yourself? It is invisible, incomprehensible,--a mere
idea, a phantom, a nothing. Its only value for you is the value that it
gives you in the eyes of others, for in ourselves we are nothing. We
are only what we may become through our relation to others. Go to the
hunters of Siberia, or to the Laplanders, and ascertain whether you
find it any satisfaction that you rank among the scholars of Germany.
You are striving for one end, that you may secure some value in the
eyes of men and revenge yourself for the contempt heaped upon you as a
woman. You seek the means to this end in your inkstand,--seek it in
your dark lustrous eyes,--in your long silken hair. You will find it
there, like the girl in the fairy-tale. You can comb pearls and
diamonds out of those locks. Let me be the fairy to hand you the magic
comb."

"Cease, I pray you, Countess Worronska!" cried Ernestine, blushing
deeply. "I cannot listen to such words."

"If you fear my words, it proves the effect that they have upon you,
and I have half conquered already," cried the temptress exultingly.

"If you think so," said Ernestine haughtily, "continue, I pray you.
When you have finished, I will tell you what I would rather not have
been compelled to say."

"You will think more kindly of me when you have heard me to the end,"
said the countess. "You think my views immoral; but what is immorality?
What corresponds closely with the laws of nature? What morality do the
brutes possess? None! and they are, therefore, irresponsible. They obey
those laws which you, as a student of nature, esteem the first and
highest. Ascetics say morality is necessary to preserve that order
without which chaos would come again. But I ask you, Does chaos reign
in the brute creation? Does not the strictest order in the preservation
of species prevail there? Does not each possess and preserve its
individual peculiarities? Does the lion mate with the hyena? Are there
not inviolable laws prevailing there? And it would be just so with
mankind. Noble natures would attract only noble natures, and the common
and vile herd with the vile. Love would direct the whole, and the
indecorum of conventionality, of force, of falsehood and hypocrisy,
would vanish. Would not the world be fairer, and, believe me, better?
Conscious that no legal claim could exist between husband and wife,
each would endeavour to retain the heart of the other by redoubled
tenderness and self-sacrifice. Mankind would grow more amiable, more
self-denying, and the mind would be fed on the freedom of the body. As
long as we have no freedom of choice, our spirits must be enslaved.
Have not men arrogated to themselves the right of free choice? Are
they bound by laws? Where is the man who does not transgress them in
public or private? But for us there is no appeal,--we are property
possessed,--we have no right of ownership. We must be far above the
necessity for change, inherent in every human being,--far above the
demands of taste, of passion,--above everything except man. We must
achieve the victory over nature, so impossible for him, but be utterly
subject to his will. Is this a just order of the world? No! Even those
who have never felt the pressure of its injustice cannot defend it! Has
not advancing culture abolished serfdom in Russia? And is the saddest
of all serfdom--the serfdom of woman--to continue? No! If you do not
choose to contend for its own sake for that right of free choice, of
personal freedom for which such women as Louisa A---- are doing battle,
do it for the thousands of poor weak creatures languishing beneath such
a perversion of morality!"

Ernestine cast upon her an annihilating glance. After a short pause she
said, "And if I were to do so, I should be striving for the ruin of
humanity. I will not argue with you in justification of a morality
which you do not understand, but I will attempt to remind you of its
necessity, which has not, it seems, occurred to you. It can be done in
a few words. Morality is moderation. Where it is wanting, all force
exhausts itself in immensity; for moderation is the conservative force
in nature, as in life. You look amazed. You do not understand me. I
cannot lead you in a single hour along the dark, thorny path by which I
have attained this conviction, and I know, besides, that I speak to
deaf ears. But you have challenged my opinion. You shall have it,
then." Ernestine's cheeks began to flush with noble indignation. "All
partisans labour for their cause, which may excuse you for attempting
to disturb the peace of a quiet mind, to instil poison into an innocent
heart. May you never be more successful than with me! I will believe
that you have been impelled by the fanaticism of your error, not by the
demoniac desire to drag me, who have done nothing to harm you, down to
your abyss. But, Countess Worronska, what wretched error is this upon
which you are squandering your power, your glorious gifts? I know it.
Do not think that what you say is new to me. It is the old threadbare
philosophy of the voluptuary. It is the proclamation of all that
mankind should conceal, if not for the sake of morality, then for the
sake of immortal beauty, because it is monstrous if you will not call
it immoral. It is what has branded the words 'emancipation of woman'
with eternal disgrace. Enough! Spare me a nearer approach to so
disgusting a theme. I know sufficient of it to condemn it; for it was
my right and my duty, as a champion of our rights, to examine and prove
all that had been done by any of my sex for the amelioration of its
condition. And I have found with the deepest sorrow how widely
different these women's paths are from mine, how little they understand
their own dignity. What they call emancipation is degradation,--what
should make them free makes them bold. Their frankness becomes
shamelessness. What they call casting off ignoble fetters is
licentiousness. What do they do? What do they achieve to show
themselves worthy of the rights that they demand? Are such feats as
smoking cigars and shooting pistols the evidences of our greatness? And
what about these very rights that they demand? What does this Louisa
A---- want? What do all these women want, who strut like stage-heroines
about the world, filling it with shrill clamour about their
misunderstood hearts? Fie upon them! They train themselves to be slaves
by their struggles for emancipation,--slaves to their desires and to
men; for all their bombastic phrases about freedom signify freedom of
intercourse with the other sex."

The countess sprang up.

"Hear me to the end," said Ernestine, more and more animated by a noble
ardour. "My words cannot do you the harm that yours might have done me.
I deeply regret that my efforts could have been for one moment
confounded with yours, and therefore I will clear myself to your better
self, without an instant's delay, from the suspicion of abetting you in
any way. Let me tell you that my purpose is solely to vindicate the
intellectual honour of my sex,--to enlarge the bounds of our ability,
not of our will. Emancipation of the spirit is the goal for which I
strive. Or, to speak more plainly, you work for the emancipation of the
flesh,--I for emancipation from the flesh. You see our efforts are as
wide asunder as the poles; and, I tell you frankly, I fear the shadow
that intercourse with you would cast upon my pure cause."

The countess drew around her her mantle of black lace, that had slipped
from her shoulders, and shrouded herself in it as in a cloud, then
stepped up to Ernestine, who had also risen from her seat, raised her
hand, and said in a tone of menace, "You will repent this."

Ernestine calmly returned her gaze. "I scarcely think so, Countess
Worronska. Thanks to my occupations, I stand entirely outside of the
sphere where you could harm me."

"I could kill you!" hissed the countess, gasping for breath, while the
blood rushed to her head and the room grew dark before her eyes.

"Oh, no, you neither could nor would," said Ernestine with cutting
contempt. "You would not afford the world the spectacle of so bold a
champion of our freedom ending her days in penal confinement."

"You are right,--it would be folly to commit a crime when easier means
would gain the same end. I will deal you a death-blow, and your life
shall bleed slowly away, and none of our excellent laws can touch me. I
will wrest from you the man whom you love. I will,--and, trust me, what
I will I can."

Ernestine said not a word. She was benumbed, as if by a blow. She did
not see the countess leave the room,--she saw only, by the glare of the
burning torch that the wretched woman had hurled into her breast, her
own heart.

Was she, then, in love? And with whom?



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                      "WHEN WOMEN HOLD THE REINS."


Breathless with rage, the Worronska descended the stairs and left the
house. A groom was driving a splendid carriage-and-four up and down
before the house. She beckoned to him; he drove up and sprang down to
assist his mistress, who, mounted upon the box, took the reins and
whip, and, relieved by being able to vent her wrath upon some living
thing, cut viciously at her impatient horses. The groom sprang nimbly
into his place behind her, and away like the wind went the modern
Victory in her triumphal chariot, as if rushing to breathe vengeance
and hate into hosts fighting upon the battle-plain.

"Is it possible that that hectic, ill-tempered girl can rival me with
such a man as Möllner?" she said to herself. "But shame on me!" she
instantly added, "let me not, in my anger, prove a slanderer! She is
beautiful, and a thousand times wiser than I,--but, curse her! I could
strangle her with this hand!"

The passionate woman felt hot tears coursing down her cheeks. She
struggled for composure; her chest heaved with the effort to breathe
freely. She encouraged her horses to still greater speed, so that her
carriage fairly rocked from side to side. She was glorious to behold in
her wrath, as she both urged and restrained the spirited animals,--fit
emblems of her own wild passions.

"But I will show her who she is and who I am," she murmured. "That I
should be insulted by this German prude!" And she gave the near horse a
cut with her whip, making him rear wildly and then drag on the others
in his headlong career. In a few minutes the village was passed
through, and the village curs desisted from barking at the horses'
heels, and retired growling to their homes. The steep descent of the
hill upon which the village was built was close at hand.

"Madame," said the groom to her in Russian, "look there!" He pointed to
a sign-post by the wayside, warning travellers of the steep road. But
it was too late; the countess needed both hands and all her strength to
hold in her steeds, and could not reach the handle of the brake.

"We shall get down safely," she cried, holding the heads of the four
noble animals well in rein. But as the road made a slight turn she
recognized in the foot-path before her a well-known form. Her face
flushed crimson,--it was Möllner. She no longer saw the steep
descent,--she did not see that she must pass the church, where service
was held at the time and all vehicles were required by law to pass at a
walk; she only saw Johannes, whom she would overtake at all hazards.
She gave the horses the rein, and they rushed on as if for their lives.
Then Johannes turned his head towards her and made signs to her, but
she did not understand them. He stood still. She thundered past the
church, and two or three peasants, disturbed in their devotions, came
running out and looked menacingly after her. Johannes made signs to her
again, more earnestly than before, and now she saw that he meant she
should look where she was going,--in the road just before her there was
a group of children playing. She tried to turn aside--tried to hold in
her horses, but in vain. Neither horses nor carriage could be guided or
restrained in the impetus that they had gained from the steep descent,
and they tore madly on directly towards the children. Johannes, in the
greatest alarm, jumped over the hedge dividing the foot-path from the
road. The children scattered in terror.

There was a shriek. The countess looked around,--no child was near.
Whence came that cry? It came from under her wheels. At that moment
Johannes reached the carriage, seized the leaders by their bridles and
brought them to a stand-still. Then he stooped down and drew forth from
beneath the carriage a lovely little girl, quite senseless. With a
wrathful glance at the countess, he took the child in his arms, and
murmured, "I thought so!"

"Is she dead?" asked the countess, pale with fright, and restraining
with difficulty her excited steeds, while the groom put large stones in
front of the wheels.

"Not dead," replied Möllner, "but no doubt severely injured."

"Oh, what an unfortunate accident!" cried the countess, quite beside
herself.

"It was no accident!" Johannes rejoined severely, "but the inevitable
consequence of your furious driving, Countess Worronska."

He leaned against the hedge, and began, without a word more, to look
into the extent of the child's injuries. "This is what comes of it," he
muttered with suppressed indignation, "'when women hold the reins.'"

"Möllner, do not reproach me," the countess entreated. He paid her no
attention,--he was engrossed with the poor little victim upon his knee.

"Whose child is it?" he asked of her playmates, who came flocking
around him.

"It is Keller's Käthchen!" cried the children. "Ah, our dear little
Käthchen!"

Some crowded about Johannes, others ran to the church to call the
parents. Johannes tenderly bound up the child's bleeding forehead with
his pocket-handkerchief, and carefully drew off its thick jacket to
examine the shoulder-joint, that seemed to be broken.

The Worronska devoured the scene with envious eyes. She saw him
only,--the grace of his motions, the tender care that he lavished upon
the child,--and, like molten lava, the words burst from her lips, "Oh
that I were that child!"

Johannes did not even hear her.

"The arm must go," he said sadly. "The best that you can do. Countess
Worronska, is to drive to town as quickly as you can and send out
Professor Kern or some other skilful surgeon."

"Möllner," she implored, "I cannot go until you have forgiven me!"

"I pray you make haste, madame. Your first duty is to do what you can
for the child; and I am afraid you will suffer from any delay, for
there come the enraged peasants."

Like bees disturbed in their hive, a menacing, murmuring throng came
flocking out of the church, and in a minute surrounded the strangers.

"What has happened?"

"Who is hurt?"

"A child run over!"

These words ran from mouth to mouth, and every one pressed forward
to know whether it was his child. But alarm soon gave way to
indignation,--for Käthchen, pretty little roguish Käthchen Keller, was
the pet of the village. All loved her, and were shocked and grieved to
see the blooming flower so ruthlessly cut down. The child had never
harmed a living thing. Every one had been gladdened by her bright smile
and taken delight in her chubby innocent face. And that this dear,
artless little creature should be sacrificed to the mad humour of an
arrogant stranger! What business had this crazy woman in their quiet
village, disturbing the repose of their holiday and destroying the poor
peasants' most precious possessions?

Maledictions were the answers to all these questions, that arose
instantly in the minds of the villagers, already heated by wine, and
their next thought was of revenge.

"Curses upon the vile woman," began one aloud, "to drive so madly!"

"Where were your eyes?" asked another. "Such a child is not a dog, to
be driven over! Could you not turn aside?"

"She thought a peasant's child was of no consequence," said a third.

"Who ever saw four horses harnessed together!" exclaimed several.

"There is no end to the insolent pranks of these city folk."

"Thunder and lightning!" cried a sturdy, broad-shouldered peasant.
"Stop talking, and let us have her before the magistrate."

"Yes, yes! to the burgomaster's!" shouted the crowd.

Johannes was in a most trying position. He still had the child in his
arms, no one had taken her from him. He could not carry her away,--he
dared not leave the defenceless woman to the insults of the mob. He
tried to speak to the people, but in vain; they paid no attention to
him. They had heard and seen the countess rattle past the church a few
minutes before, and all their fury was concentrated upon her.

Johannes made a sign to the countess, who stood up in her carriage,
regarding the people with contempt, to drive on instantly; but she
cried, "_Croyez-vous que je craigne la canaille? Je ne quitterai pas
cette place sans que vous veniez avec moi!_"

Then a voice shrieked, in the midst of the tumult, "Holy Mother! my
child, my poor child!" and a woman rushed up, tore the little girl out
of Johannes's arms, and covered her with tears and kisses.

A handsome young peasant followed her, and gazed, wringing his hands,
and stupefied with horror, at his senseless child. "God in heaven! what
have we done, that we should be visited so heavily?" he murmured, and
would have fallen, had not two of his friends supported him.

"Her eyes should be torn out!" shrieked the mother, metamorphosed to a
fury, while she pressed her child to her breast, as if to guard her
darling from the danger to which she had fallen a victim. "To jail with
her, abandoned, God-accursed wretch that she is!" And she kissed the
child and bathed it in tears.

"Do not curse," said her husband gloomily,--"it's sinful on a holiday.
God will one day," and he pointed to Käthchen, "demand this life at her
hands. She will not escape punishment."

"May it soon overtake her!" sobbed the woman.

The priest now approached from the church, with all the consolation
that the occasion required of him, and the schoolmaster humbly
followed.

"See, see, reverend father, what they have done to my child," the
mother cried, when she saw them. "And Herr Leonhardt too,--ah, she was
his pet. What is to be done?"

"What a piteous sight!" said Herr Leonhardt, stooping over his little
favourite, while the tears dropped from his poor eyes, and all the
women wailed in chorus. But the priest felt called to utter a few
solemn words of consolation in season.

"Give thanks, my dear Frau Keller," he said, raising his hands,--"give
thanks for the abundant grace of our blessed mother Mary, in that she
has so distinguished you above others as to call your dear child to be
a holy angel in a better world, upon the very day of her own most
blessed Assumption."

"Reverend father," said Johannes, "this gratitude is not necessary,
thank God, as yet, for the child lives, and will live,--I will answer
for it."

"Ah!" wailed the mother in despair, "you do not know what it is to
bring such a child into the world, to love it and work for it night and
day until it grows big, to go without many a bit yourself that it may
have enough, and, when it has got to be a joy and pleasure to you, to
pick it up here all crushed and broken! God punish her! God punish
her!" With these words the woman hurried away, her husband supporting
her trembling arms, that were scarcely able to sustain the child's
weight, and yet would not resign it. The pastor and the schoolmaster
went with her.

"Here," called the Worronska after the retreating parents, "take this
for the present. You shall have more by-and-by." She held out a heavy,
well-filled purse.

"Keep your money, we do not want it," said the husband with sullen
rage, and went on without turning his eyes from his child.

The countess looked down, pale and agitated.

"He is right, we do not want money, but justice," shouted the mob, and
pressed so close around the carriage that Johannes reached it with
difficulty. He hastily kicked away the stones from beneath the wheels,
and cried out to the Worronska,

"Drive on, in Heaven's name! Would you expose yourself to useless
insults?"

"Don't let her go," was the cry. "Take out the horses! Go for the
burgomaster!"

"If one of us drives over a cat, he is carried off to the lock-up,--let
the great folks fare the same."

Some even began to unharness the horses,--but Johannes interposed with
iron determination, snatched the whip from the countess, who never took
her eyes from him, gave the noble animals the lash, and away they went
through the living wall that was closing around them. A shout of rage
arose, the carriage was pursued for a short distance, but it was out of
sight in a few minutes, leaving behind only the unfortunate groom,
cowering terrified in the middle of the road.

Then the universal indignation was turned upon Johannes, who stood
quietly there with the whip in his hand. He had delivered the stranger
from just punishment, and had assisted her to escape,--he was in league
with her.

"You are one of her friends. You shall answer for her to us!"

"I certainly will, good people," said Johannes calmly and kindly.
"First let me do all that I can for the poor child, and then I will go
with you to the burgomaster's or wherever else you choose." This simple
answer entirely disarmed the rage of the crowd.

"The gentleman is right, I know him," cried a newly-arrived peasant. It
was the same man with whom Johannes had spoken upon his first visit to
the castle.

"Why did you help that bad woman to escape?" asked some.

"Because she should be dealt with in an orderly manner. I promise you
satisfaction, and much greater satisfaction than you would have in
maltreating a woman."

"He is a just gentleman, a brave man!" said the people one to another.

"He takes it all upon himself,--that is honest!"

"Come, then, good people, and show me where the Kellers
live,--afterwards we will have a word together."

The peasants assented, well content. "Yes, yes! that's all right!"

They had not far to go to the wretched straw-thatched hut of the
day-labourer Keller.

A wooden flight of steps upon the outside of the hut led to the upper
story,--the space beneath was used as a stable, and the one room above
it, that served for sleeping room and dwelling-room, contained a large
bed, an earthenware stove, two wooden chairs, and a table. Over the bed
hung a carved crucifix, with a skull, and a vessel for holy water, and
in the bed little Käthchen lay quiet and patient, almost smothered
beneath the heavy coverlet, gazing at the by-standers with bewildered
eyes. Her mother knelt by the bedside, weeping. Several women were
trying to comfort her, telling her how quickly and well the broken limb
would heal if she would only have a model of it in wax hung before the
picture of the Holy Mother of God in the church. The waxen limbs of all
kinds that already hung like a wreath around the sacred picture bore
witness to the efficacy of this pious custom. Frau Keller must lose no
time in presenting her offering,--for it was especially efficacious
upon Assumption day.

Frau Keller shook her head. She was obstinate in her grief, and did not
believe in this kind of cure.

"Kaspar," she said, "hung up a leg before the Holy Mother, and paid a
gulden for it. And what good did it do? Did he not die of the trouble
in his leg after he went to town?"

The priest stood at the foot of the bed, listening to the conversation
and shaking his head. "Columbane, Columbane," he now began, "you
blaspheme! Do you not remember the cause of Kaspar's death? Do not
accuse the Blessed Virgin,--how could she help the man when he would
not wait for her aid, but listened to the evil counsel of the Hartwich
and had his leg cut off? He did not die of disease, but because he made
friends with an enemy of the Holy Mother."

"Well, then," said one of the women, "perhaps the Holy Mother of God
drew him to her again by that very leg."

"What? Then perhaps she might draw my little Käthchen to her in the
same way," cried Frau Keller defiantly. "No, no! let me keep my child,
crippled though she be, if she only lives. I am strong, and can work
for her. No, Käthi dear, you do not want to go to heaven. You will stay
with father and mother, even if they have only a crust for you."

"Yes, mother dear, I will stay with you," said the child in her sweet
voice, leaning her head wearily upon her mother, who, sobbing, stroked
the pale little cheeks. "Mother dear," she said, and there came the
sweetest expression into her eyes, "do not cry so,--it does not hurt me
much."

A dull cry of anguish broke from the mother's breast, and she hid her
face among the bedclothes. "My child! my child! complain,--only be
naughty and fret,--your patience breaks my heart,--you seem already on
the way to be a blessed angel."

Upon the other side of the bed, that stood with its head to the wall,
were two silent figures, the father and the schoolmaster. The latter
gazed down upon the child with hands clasped as if in prayer, while the
father leaned against the wall, his face hidden in his hands. He looked
up now, and said with emotion but with resignation, "Be quiet, wife,
and let us bear it as well as we can. If we must lose the child, she is
too good for us,--I almost believe so now."

"Father dear," said Käthchen, "if you talk so, I must cry, and then you
will cry more."

Herr Leonhardt plucked the man by the sleeve, and whispered, "The child
ought to be kept perfectly quiet. Rouse yourself, and send these women
away."

"So I say," said Johannes, who had stood for a few minutes unobserved
upon the threshold of the door. "I pray you, good women, leave us to
ourselves. So many people in this small room worry the child. Your
friendly interest is very grateful; show it now by withdrawing."

The kindly neighbours willingly departed, he was such a handsome,
pleasant gentleman who requested them to do so. The priest also look
his leave; the schoolmaster only, at a sign from Johannes, remained.

Outside, there was no end to the questions and answers, as to how all
was going on within, and how Käthchen, usually so nimble, could have
got under the carriage-wheels. She was indeed a good little child, for
it was at last ascertained that she had escaped herself and was
perfectly safe, when she turned back to rescue a smaller child, a
neighbour's little boy, who was standing still in the middle of the
road. The boy escaped, but his poor little preserver was thrown down by
the horses, and so severely injured.

"She is a dear pet--Käthchen," the men declared; and the women cried,
"Oh, if you could see her now lying there in bed, you would believe
that she was half in heaven already."

She was indeed in heaven, as is every true, pure child; for there is a
heaven so close to the earth that only little children can walk beneath
its canopy. We have grown up away from it; its glories are veiled from
our eyes; it lies below us, like golden clouds around a mountain upon
whose summit we are standing.

"Well, Käthchen, how are you now?" asked Johannes, stepping up to the
bedside.

"Very well, thank you," said Käthchen dutifully, as she had been taught
to reply.

There was something exquisitely touching in the half-unconscious
self-control of the child. Johannes was moved by it. He stooped down
and kissed the pretty lips.

"One more!" she entreated, putting her unhurt arm around his neck.

"Our Käthchen," said Herr Leonhardt, "is a good little girl. Do you
know, Herr Professor, that the other day she was the only one in the
whole school who would give Fräulein von Hartwich a kiss?"

At mention of that name a slight flush passed over Johannes's face. He
sat down upon the edge of the bed and looked tenderly at the child.
"Indeed! Did you do that, you angel?" he whispered, and again he kissed
the lips, that seemed dearer to him after what the schoolmaster had
told him. Profound silence reigned in the room. The parents looked on
without a word. Herr Leonhardt alone saw Johannes's emotion. The little
chest rose and fell more regularly. Johannes pillowed the head upon his
warm, soft hand, and the child dropped asleep beneath the gentle gaze
of her protector. He looked at the clock. The surgeon, whom the
countess was to send, could not arrive for a long while yet.
Nevertheless, he determined to wait for him.

"Husband," whispered Frau Keller, "I have a strange thought. When the
schoolmaster said just now that Käthi had kissed the Hartwich, I
suddenly remembered how the child came home and told me all about it,
and complained that the other children had jeered her, and told her
that something would certainly happen to her,--that the Hartwich would
bewitch her! 'Sh!--be still!--don't let the schoolmaster hear; he would
be angry; but, for the life of me, I can't help thinking it very
strange!"

The man looked thoughtfully at his wife, and scratched his head. After
a little he whispered, "It is not worth while to say anything about it;
but you are right,--it is very strange. Deuce take the Hartwich! What
business had she to kiss our child? There's something wrong about her."

"Speak to the priest about it, and see what he thinks, but don't let
the schoolmaster know that you do so. Go. Say you want some beer. The
child is asleep now."

The man slipped out as softly as he could upon his hob-nailed shoes, to
consult the priest upon so grave a matter.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                          VOX POPULI, VOX DEI.


When Keller, on his way to the priest, reached the village inn, he went
in to refresh himself with a mug of beer, and found the priest whom he
was seeking in the inn parlour, surrounded by a circle of auditors from
the village and neighbouring farms. The Protestant pastor was also
present, for the occurrence of the morning was a subject for universal
discussion. The host was busy supplying the company with beer-mugs and
bottles, secretly congratulating himself upon the accident that had
brought him so much custom.

"Ah, here is the poor father! Well, what news? How is she now?" were
the words that greeted Keller's entrance.

"Bad," he replied. "The child will be a cripple."

A murmur of compassion was heard.

Keller turned to the priest and asked to be permitted a word with him
in private. His request was willingly granted.

"Your reverence," began the peasant, "Columbane thinks the Hartwich has
been the cause of all this."

The priest clasped his hands. "What do I hear? Why does she think so?"

Keller told him what had happened.

The priest shook his head, and said in a loud voice to his Protestant
brother, "Does it not seem, respected brother, as if we were forbidden
by the visible finger of the Lord from holding any communication with
this unholy woman, who has crept in among us like a poisonous serpent?"
He then repeated, so that all could hear, what Keller had just told
him.

The Protestant divine, who was always in harmony with his colleague
when there was a common enemy to do battle with, also considered the
matter a very serious one. "It would of course be superstition to
believe that the Hartwich had bewitched the child, but it stands
written, 'Cursed are the ungodly,' and the curse must cleave to all who
come in contact with any such."

There was instantly a great commotion among the peasants drinking in
the room.

"This much is certain," cried the pastor with great emphasis, "that
every misfortune comes, directly or indirectly, from the Hartwich!"

"Yes, yes," resounded from all parts of the room. "Whom has she benefited
in any way?"

"No one, no one!"

"Has she not tried to sow among you the seeds of her sinful doctrines?
has she not, like the serpent of Eden, hissed into the ear of the
sufferers to whose bedside she was admitted dreadful doubts, instead of
pouring into them the balm of divine consolation?"

"Yes, yes,--she always spoke disrespectfully of our pastors and their
office."

The clerical gentlemen looked mournfully at each other.

"She has tried to stir up rebellion against the Church!" cried the
priest. "She even turned me ignominiously from the doors when I went,
in all the dignity of my office, to administer extreme unction to her
servant Kunigunda, and she pretended in excuse that the maid was not
going to die, and the ceremony would excite her and make her worse. She
could not bear the sight of the Crucified beneath her roof. She is an
outcast from God and His Church. Centuries ago, such as she were burnt
alive; there was good reason for it. But we all suffer, and must
continue to suffer, from their presence among us. The devil has put on
the cloak of philanthropy, beneath which he hides all such sinners, so
that we cannot touch them."

"She is a poisonous sore in our flesh," added the Protestant pastor,
"and it stands written, 'If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out;' but
we dare not cut out this sore that offends us."

"Why not?--what is to hinder us?" shouted the excited peasants.

"Then you really believe that she has done this mischief to our poor
child?" said Keller with horror.

"Well, if we cannot exactly believe that," replied the Protestant
pastor, "we must confess that we see in the accident a sign from
Providence that we should avoid her. This much is certain, that the
stranger who drove over the child had been visiting the Hartwich, so
that, if she had not dwelt among us, the accident would most assuredly
never have occurred, for that furious woman would never have come
here."

"The Hartwich is to blame for it all!" growled the drunken throng.

"She is, in one way or another," continued the expositor of Christian
love. "I repeat, with my respected brother, every misfortune among us
is her work."

"Yes, every misfortune is the work of the Hartwich!" yelled the chorus.

"Gracious heavens! See! look there!" cried one, pointing to the
windows.

All looked out.

"'Tis the Hartwich herself!"

"Does she dare to come down here?"

"She wants to see the misery she has caused!"

"Holy Mother!" cried Keller, "she is going to my house!" And he rushed
out.

Like fermenting wine from a cask when the stopper is removed, the whole
drunken throng rushed after him into the street.

Priest and pastor remained behind, looking at one another. "What shall
we do?" asked one. "Ought we not to follow them, to prevent mischief?"

"Let the people rage, my worthy friend," replied the other. "It is not
for us to interfere in such matters. She is not worthy of our
protection, and the just indignation of the people will find vent in
words, that will not harm her, but that it will be well for her to
hear. _Vox populi, vox Dei!_"

"True, true," assented the other. "We should not interfere with the
public sense of right in such a case. She would not listen to us. Let
her hear the truth from the mouths of the peasants; perhaps it will
have more effect upon her coming from them than from men of culture
like ourselves!"

"Let us hope so," said the Catholic father devoutly, as he seated
himself by his Protestant colleague at an empty table, and filled his
glass from the bottle of old wine that the host placed before him.


"What is that?" asked Johannes softly, as a distant hum of approaching
voices was heard. He sat with his hand still patiently supporting
Käthchen's head, and would not draw it away, lest he should awaken the
child.

The schoolmaster went on tiptoe to the window and looked out. "I cannot
tell what is the matter," he said. "An excited crowd is rushing to and
fro in the street, but I cannot see who they are or what it is all
about."

"The people have not recovered from the event of this morning," said
Johannes.

Meanwhile the noise drew near. Various abusive words were heard, and it
seemed as if stones were thrown and fell upon the pavement. Shrill
female voices cried quite distinctly, "Not in here!" "Go away!" "Put
her out!" Boys shouted and whistled through it all.

"Good heavens!" cried the schoolmaster, "they are persecuting a lady!
Oh, yes! Herr Professor, look! she is trying to escape into the houses!
The women thrust her out and shut their doors upon her----"

"Brutes!" exclaimed Johannes, beside himself with rage, for one glance
from the window had shown him how matters stood.

"Holy Maria! they are throwing stones and apples at her!" cried Frau
Keller.

Johannes had rushed from the room as the schoolmaster turned towards
him with the words, "It is Fräulein von Hartwich!"

But, just as Johannes reached the stairs, Keller burst in, pale and
agitated, and locked the door after him.

"What do you mean?" cried Johannes. "Do you wish to shut me in here?"

"Ah, sir!" implored Keller, blocking up the passage, "do not open
it,--the Hartwich wants to come in----"

"Well, then, let her in instantly! why do you delay?"

"For God's sake, keep her out!" said Keller.

"Are you mad," cried Johannes, "that you would close your doors upon a
fellow-being imploring protection? Open the door, or I will force the
lock."

"Sir, sir, my house is my own, if I am only a poor peasant!" cried
Keller still blocking the entrance. "This is the abode of honest
labour, and no accursed foot shall cross its threshold."

The uproar without seemed stationary before the house. A shower of
stones against the door showed that the persecuted woman had fled
hither. Johannes was no longer master of himself. His blood boiled in
his veins, his heart throbbed to bursting. With the strength of a giant
he seized the burly peasant by his broad shoulders and hurled him
aside--almost into the arms of the schoolmaster, who was coming to the
rescue also. Then he tore open the door, and Ernestine fell half
fainting at his feet. He caught her in his arms, and, as he stood thus
shielding her, cried, in a tone that left no doubt in the minds of his
hearers as to the truth of his words, "I'll knock down the first man
who dares to come near this lady."

A dull murmur arose. "Let him try to stop us," cried several, and
clenched fists were shaken at him.

"Yes, I will try it,--but the man who dares me to try it will repent
the trial!" threatened Johannes. And so commanding were his words and
bearing that no one ventured further than to throw a stone or two,
accompanying them with abusive epithets. Johannes drew Ernestine more
closely to his side. "Shame on you, cowards that you are!" He turned to
Keller. "Will you still refuse a shelter to this lady?--you see that
she can scarcely stand."

Keller looked at his wife, who had run out to them. "Do not let her
in!" she cried. "For God's sake, keep her out! has she not done us harm
enough?"

Keller looked at Johannes and shrugged his shoulders. "You see my wife
will not allow it."

Johannes stamped his foot in despair.

"Are you human?"

"We hope so, sir," said Keller, insolently thrusting his hands in his
pockets.

"And far better than the friends of that woman there," shouted the mob,
and a small stone flew close past Johannes.

"If I were as crazy as you are," cried he, "I should throw down upon
you the stones that you have thrown at me here, and my aim would be
better than yours. But I will not contend with drunken men or do battle
with people who are not responsible for their actions; all I ask of you
is to give way and allow me to take this lady to her home."

The crowd maintained its place in a compact mass, and only replied by
unintelligible words, from which, however, Johannes gathered that
Ernestine's punishment was not yet considered sufficient, and that she
was not to be allowed to escape so easily.

"I will pay you whatever you ask, if you will only afford Fräulein von
Hartwich shelter until I have quieted this tumult," said Johannes to
Keller.

"You'll get nothing out of me, sir! Neither money nor fine words will
get her across my threshold."

"Mother, let her come in," suddenly cried a voice that had a wonderful
effect upon the mob. Käthchen had slipped from her bed unperceived, and
in her distress had run out to her mother. She threw her uninjured arm
around Ernestine's knees, and looked up at her weeping. "They shall not
hurt you; I love you so dearly!"

"Jesus Maria!" shrieked Frau Keller. "My child! my child!" She tore the
little girl away from Ernestine, and, followed by her husband, carried
her into the house.

"Do you want to kill yourself?" cried the father in despair.

"No! I want the lady, I want the lady," the child was still heard
wailing from the room.

A commotion now began, which threatened to be serious indeed. "There,
now, you see it with your own eyes,--the sick child even crawls out of
bed to her. Don't you see now that she is bewitched? The Hartwich must
leave the place this very day, or we'll hunt her out of the village."

"Men! men! for God's sake, what are you doing?" said a gentle voice
behind Johannes.

"Oho, the schoolmaster!" was now the cry. "Let him come down,--we've
had our eyes upon him for a long time. Come down, schoolmaster, you
shall be ducked for your friendship for the witch." And again the human
flood overflowed the lower step of the stairs at the head of which
Johannes was standing.

"Back!" commanded Johannes, resigning Ernestine to the schoolmaster,
"back! now you see my arms are free."

Involuntarily the foremost recoiled at sight of his menacing attitude.

"Deluded people," cried Johannes, beside himself with indignation, "is
there nothing sacred from your frantic rage,--neither a defenceless
girl nor the gray head of your teacher? What has he done, except spend
his life in the thankless endeavour to make reasonable human beings of
you?"

"He is friends with the Hartwich,--it is his fault that she kissed the
child. His house ought to be burned over his head!"

"Yes, yes!" roared the mob, "their holes should be burned out and
destroyed--his and hers. Blasphemers! Unbelievers! They shall yet learn
to believe in God."

"This is too much!" thundered Johannes. "Would you prove your religion
by becoming incendiaries? Woe upon you if you lay a finger upon what
belongs to either of these people! Do you know the penalty for arson?
And, depend upon it, I will see to it that you do not escape."

A shout of rage arose at these words.

"Herr Professor," said Leonhardt imploringly, "do not aggravate these
people further,--we cannot convince them. Children," he called down to
them, and his voice trembled with pain, not with fear,--"children, I
have grown old among you; I know you better than you know yourselves.
You are too wise to do anything that would subject you to the penalty
of the law, and too kind to commit an outrage upon people who have
never harmed you. You do not believe that I am an unbeliever. Have I
not educated your children to be useful, God-fearing men and women?
Have I not stood your friend in every time of trouble? The little
house, that you in your blind fury would destroy, has afforded many of
you a peaceful shelter,--it is a sacred spot to your children, and
could you lay a finger upon it? Go to the church-yard and see if there
is a single grave there of your loved ones that has not been adorned by
flowers from my garden, and would you bury it beneath the ruins of my
dwelling? No, do not try to seem worse than you are." He placed
Ernestine gently down upon the landing and stood in front of her. "You
know that your old master loves all God's creatures, and would you
condemn him for taking compassion upon the unhappy maiden whom no one
pities, whom all hate? Do you call me godless because I hoped to lead
this erring but noble nature to find her God again? Yes, take up your
stones,--look! I will take off my cap and expose my white head to your
aim. Where is the hand that will lift itself against it?"

The old man stood with uncovered head, holding his cap in his clasped
hands. The evening breeze played amid his silver locks, and the stones
that had been picked up were gently dropped again.

Then his arm was drawn down by his side and a kiss was imprinted upon
his withered hand. It was Ernestine. Johannes saw the act, and his eyes
were moist She could be grateful. He exchanged a happy glance with the
old man to whom she had just paid such a tribute.

"He is only a weak old man," muttered the people,--"let him alone. He
means well."

"I will go and bring their pastors," said Leonhardt softly to Johannes,
and he descended the steps. He walked quietly through the midst of the
crowd, that opened before him, but closed up again when he had passed
through.

"Come," said Johannes, raising Ernestine from the ground, "let us try
to put an end to this wretched scene." He carried rather than led her
down the steps. "Make way there!" he called in a commanding tone.

The foremost in the mob gave way. Just then Frau Keller appeared at the
door. She held the cup of holy water, which usually hung above the bed,
and she sprinkled with its contents the spot where Ernestine had been
standing. Her pious act was greeted with a shout of applause. Ernestine
saw her, and trembled and turned pale, while large tears gathered in
her eyes; she grew dizzy, and would have fallen had not Johannes
supported her.

"Courage, courage," he whispered,--"do not let such folly distress
you."

"Look, look! she cannot bear the holy water. She didn't mind the
stones,--but a few drops of water are too much for her." Thus shouted
the mob, and the uproar began again.

"Is this possible?" cried Johannes, casting prudence to the winds. "Is
it possible that in the nineteenth century, and in a civilized country,
such utter barbarian stupidity should exist? Do you really believe, if
Fräulein Hartwich were in league with the devil, that she would have
borne your abuse, that she would not have thrown her spells over you
long ago, and escaped your brutality? Do you think that she listens to
you from choice, and likes to have stones thrown at her? Why, the very
patience and resignation with which she has endured your outrageous
insults might prove to you that she has no supernatural power at her
command,--that she has not even the protection of a bold nature, like
the other lady, with whom you were justly indignant. But let me tell
you that I am neither feeble nor weak, and that my patience is
exhausted, and my power, although not supernatural is quite sufficient
to punish such excesses as this, and to conjure up among you a host of
evil spirits in the shape of a detachment of gens-d'armes. Therefore be
quiet, and let us pass on our way. Every moment of delay increases the
weight of the charges that I shall bring against you before the
magistrate."

So saying, he put one arm about Ernestine, and with the other cleared a
path for himself through the throng, who were somewhat quelled by his
last words, and gave place grumbling.

And now the clergymen, followed by the schoolmaster, appeared, with
every sign of hurry and amazement.

"You come too late, gentlemen, to prevent what must cover those under
your charge with shame," said Johannes with severity. "I supposed such
scenes impossible in our day. You, gentlemen, have taken care that I
should be better informed, and have prepared a rich page in the history
of our civilization. I am well aware from what source the insults
heaped by these misguided people upon Fräulein Hartwich draw their
inspiration, and I consider you, gentlemen, responsible for the
restoration of order and the safety of this lady." He drew Ernestine's
arm more firmly within his own, and walked on without waiting for a
reply from the reverend gentlemen, who stood there speechless with
alarm and embarrassment, looking after him with a degree of respect
that they could not control.

In silence the pair reached the castle and entered the garden.
Ernestine passively allowed herself to be led through the shady walks.
Involuntarily Johannes turned towards the little eminence where he had
seen her for the first time. He had resolved not to leave Ernestine
here, but to place her that very evening beneath his mother's
protection. How should he persuade her to such a step? This was the
question that he propounded to himself, breathlessly searching for the
answer.

Ernestine was for the time incapable of speech. She could not raise her
eyes to her protector. Mortification, profound mortification,
overpowered her. How thoroughly she had recognized his position as a
man, and her own as a woman! She admired him,--she was ashamed of
herself. What a feeling it was!--yes, it was the same self-humiliation
that she had felt once before, beneath the oak tree where, when flying
as to-day from insults and sneers, she had met the handsome lad who had
given her the prophetic book. But when would the prophecy in the
fairy-tale be fulfilled? When should she cease to be laughed at,
despised, and insulted? When should the lonely, persecuted, weary swan
unfold its plumage upon calm waters in sunshine and peace? And in an
access of pain she covered her face with her hands and burst into
tears. She sank down upon the mound and sobbed like a child. Johannes
stood silent before her. His mind was filled with the same thoughts,
the same memories, and, like an answer to her mute soliloquy, there
came from his lips, in tones of melting tenderness, the words, "Poor
swan!" Ernestine's hands dropped from her face, she stared at him with
wide-open eyes,--then sprang up, and, while her pale cheeks flushed,
and her whole frame trembled, gazed at him still, as if she would look
him through, her agitation increasing every moment. "There--there is
only one person on earth who knows that," she faltered.

"What?" asked Johannes with a beating heart.

"What I was thinking of--about the swan!" she articulated with
difficulty, for her voice failed her.

Johannes, who stood somewhat below Ernestine, looked up at her
expectantly. "And who is that person?" he asked gently.

Ernestine could not reply,--a strange thrill passed through her, and
she awaited the issue of the miracle of the moment.

"Ernestine, do you remember the lad who once rescued a wild, timid girl
from mortal peril?"

She bowed her head in assent. "Ernestine, did you ever then for one
moment in your childish heart think of him with love?"

She raised her eyes to the twilight skies, and was silent for a moment;
then she breathed a scarcely audible "Yes."

A light, feathery cloud hovered above her head. Was it the little
mermaid, dead for her beloved's sake, and, dissolved in foam, borne
away by the daughters of the air to eternal bliss? Could it return
again,--that fair, half-forgotten love-dream of her childhood,--the
only one she had ever dreamed?

And she looked after the floating cloud as it grew thinner and thinner,
until it was gradually dissolved in air, and the gentle radiance of the
evening star appeared where it faded.

"Ernestine, do you know me now?" said Johannes. "See, this is the
second time that God has placed me by your side to rescue you from a
self-sought peril, and, as when I then brought you down from the broken
bough, so now I open wide my arms to you, and pray you, 'Seek refuge
and safety here!' Oh, little dryad, you are the same as then, for all
that you have grown so tall and beautiful! There are the same
mysterious dark eyes, the same strange, lonely spirit imprisoned in the
delicate frame, bewailing its Titan descent. I knew then that there was
only one such creature in the world,--and I should have recognized you
among thousands as I recognized you when you stood alone upon this
hill. Wondrous and fairy-like creature that you are, if you do not
dissolve in air at the touch of a mortal, come to this heart; if an
earth-born being may approach you with earthly love, take mine and
learn to love a mortal. Yes, pure, aspiring spirit, for whom this earth
has never been a home, I am only a man,--and yet a faithful, true, and
loving man. Can you love me again?"

Ernestine stood immovable. She had raised her hands to her forehead, as
one is apt to do at hearing the mysterious, the incomprehensible.

"You do not speak; have you no words for me? Look, Ernestine, do you
not remember the boy about whose neck you once clasped your trembling
arms so willingly?"

At last she stretched out both hands to the earnest speaker, with a
look of unrestrained delight. "Johannes," she cried, as tear after tear
coursed down her cheek, "Johannes Möllner,--my childhood's friend,--I
know you now."

He hastened to her side, and opened his arms to clasp her to his heart,
but she recoiled with such a burning blush, with such childlike alarm
painted upon her face, that Johannes controlled himself, and only
pressed her delicate hands to his lips. Her maidenly reserve was sacred
to him.



                               CHAPTER X.

                            NOWHERE AT HOME.


On this very evening there was a social meeting of the Professors at
the Staatsräthin's. Johannes had entirely forgotten it. As the
afternoon passed and evening approached without bringing him, the
Staatsräthin grew really anxious about him, apart from the
embarrassment which his absence caused with regard to her guests, to
whom she knew not what excuse to make. She was walking to and fro in
her garden behind the house, where her guests were to assemble and
enjoy the lovely twilight in the open air.

Suddenly Angelika joined her in breathless haste. "Mother, mother, I
have found out where Johannes has been all day long!" she cried,
taking her hat off to cool her forehead, and throwing herself into a
garden-chair. "Moritz has just got back from Hochstetten, whither he
was called this afternoon, and he tells a wonderful tale. The whole
village is in commotion,--the behaviour of the Hartwich has actually
excited a tumult. There was an outbreak, and Johannes,--our
Johannes,--publicly declared himself her champion!"

The Staatsräthin clasped her hands and gazed incredulously at Angelika.
"Is this true?"

"Oh, this is not all!" Angelika went on to say. "Moritz did not even
see Johannes, for he was all the time--now, be composed, mother--in the
castle with the Hartwich!"

"Good heavens!" cried her mother, seating herself upon a bench. "Has it
gone so far already?" A long pause ensued. At last the anxious mother
folded her hands in her lap and said softly to herself, "My son, my
son, what are you doing?"

Angelika said nothing, but turned away. The same evening star that had
beamed so gently upon Ernestine and Johannes glittered in the tears
which filled the sister's eyes as she looked up at it.

"Angelika," said her mother mournfully, "you should not have told me
this without some preparation. You forget that I am grown old, and my
many trials of late years have robbed me of the power of endurance
that I once possessed. How much I have gone through since your
uncle Neuenstein's bankruptcy! All our misfortunes have come from
Unkenheim,--your uncle's unlucky scheme in the purchase of the Hartwich
factory, the loss of three-fourths of our property in the affair, and
the consequent necessity of our leaving our home that Johannes might
practise his profession for his livelihood here. And nothing of all
this would have happened if we had never seen Unkenheim! And this
wretched Hartwich girl comes too from that place! You will see that she
is going to bring us additional misfortune! Shall we never draw a free
breath again? Why should this creature disturb our dearly-purchased
peace of mind?"

"Mother dear," Angelika entreated, kneeling down beside the
Staatsräthin, "mother dear, do not cry now when we expect guests. Be
comforted,--things will not go as wrong as you fear. Come, be again the
calm, prudent mother who never seemed so great to me as in misfortune.
I trust in God, and our Johannes----"

She did not finish her sentence, but arose hastily, for several of
their friends appeared at the garden-gate. The Staatsräthin, accustomed
to control herself, had regained her self-possession, and received her
guests with her usual graceful cordiality.

"Where is your son?"

"Is your son not at home?"

To this question, asked at least twenty times, she replied always with
unwearied patience, "He was suddenly called away, but I hope he will
soon be here."

When old Heim appeared, he listened with a queer smile to the terrible
tale that Angelika whispered into his ear.

"What a fellow he is,--this Johannes!" he said with kindly humour.
"With her! with her at the castle! That's going rather too fast,--eh?"

"Oh, uncle!" cried Angelika, "is that all the sympathy you have for us
in so grave a matter?"

"Why, you see, my child, the matter does not seem so grave to me as to
you. Johannes is a man, and knows what he is about. You act as if he
were a beardless boy, whose nurse ought to follow him about. If this
clever girl pleases him, it is a proof of his taste. Whatever you do, I
will not league with you for all the beseeching glances of those
forget-me-not eyes of yours." And the old gentleman seated himself
deliberately upon Angelika's straw hat, that she had forgotten to take
from the chair where she had thrown it. "God bless me! what kind of a
cushion have you put in my chair?" he cried, producing, amid universal
laughter, a flattened mass of straw and violets that bore not the
faintest resemblance to a hat.

"That comes of leaving one's things about. Who would have supposed that
I should go about in my old age sitting upon straw hats? Well, well,
child, to-day is a day of misfortunes!"

The company quickly assembled. The ladies seated themselves at the
large round tea-table, the gentlemen stood about in groups, and, as
smoking was allowed, puffed forth blue clouds of smoke into the clear
evening air.

The moon began to cast a pale light through the crimson evening glow.
Night-moths fluttered hither and thither, and now and then a big
booming beetle would fly around the heads of the startled ladies. The
tired birds flew in among the bushes to seek their nests, arousing the
alarm of the younger girls who were in great terror of bats.

Suddenly a wiry voice without was heard chirping Rückert's song:


           "Yes, a household dear and blest
              Mine shall always be.
            I'll invite there as my guest
              Him who pleases me."


And Elsa, leaning on her brother's arm, appeared at the door. The
Staatsräthin arose.

"Ah, my dearest, motherly friend," cried Elsa from afar, gliding
towards her, "I am late, am I not? Could my thoughts have borne me
hither, I should have been with you long ago; but imagine--our droschky
lost a wheel--and we had to walk all the way."

"I am very sorry," said the Staatsräthin kindly. "You must have had
quite a fright."

"Yes, it was a most unfortunate intermezzo, disturbing our
anticipations of the pleasant evening," said Herbert politely.

"Oh, it did not spoil my enjoyment," laughed Elsa with pretty
assurance, and she piped out the last couplet of her song:


           "Thrown from the carriage should I be,
            A flowery grave awaiteth me."


"The only thing to lament was our tardiness in reaching you, and I ran
myself quite out of breath."

"Not quite!" replied the Staatsräthin with a smile. "You were trilling
very gaily as you came along the Bergstrasse."

"Really, did you hear me?" asked Elsa in charming confusion. "My voice,
then, was more fortunate than I,--it reached you sooner!"

"How is your wife?" the Staatsräthin inquired of Herbert.

"Thank you,--she is always the same. The constant spectacle of her
sufferings, without the power to alleviate them, is almost too much for
me."

The Staatsräthin looked compassionately at Herbert's sunken cheeks.
"Poor Frau Herbert! and you too are greatly to be pitied!"

"I thank you for your sympathy,--it helps to lighten the burden of my
anxiety on her account."

Elsa had not listened to this grave conversation; she had already
joined the company, and the Staatsräthin followed with Herbert.

"A bat! a bat!" cried one of the younger gentlemen as Elsa approached,
and he pointed to a bird just whirring past.

"You are severe," one of his brethren said to him in a low voice.

"Only look," whispered a third, "Herbert is as fine as usual in a dress
coat. It is not fair to appear in full dress when he knows that by the
rules of these meetings we are all to come in morning costume."

"It is his way,--no one could expect anything else of Herbert!" said
Taun.

"He's a fool," said Meibert,--"the charm of ease in an undress coat is
one of the chief attractions of these meetings. At least I find it so."

"So do I, so do I," cried one and another of the party. Meanwhile Elsa
was nodding and bowing in every direction. She exulted in the
consciousness of giving so much pleasure by her presence. She loved
every one, and every one loved her. Earth was a paradise, full of
faith, hope, and charity,--through it she fluttered like a kindly fairy
at her own sweet will. She was a little alarmed at not seeing Möllner,
and her gaiety received a severer check than when she had nearly found
her "flowery grave." But she comforted herself,--he would come,--he
could not stay away from the place where Elsa was. And she determined
not to visit his absence upon the company,--they were not to blame for
it,--she would join in the conversation. There was something touching
in her good-humoured vanity. She would use the advantages which she was
conscious of possessing over others only for their benefit. She took
pleasure in her imaginary gift of conversation only because she could
thereby amuse her dear friends by means of it. How should she know that
she was ridiculed and laughed at? She saw that mirth abounded wherever
she was. How could it be caused by anything but delight in her
presence? Her confidence in the esteem and love of her fellows was
impregnable, for it was rooted in her unbounded confidence in her own
excellence. Who would not love a creature so good, so talented, and
withal so modest that she was kind and gentle to all? Why, no one could
help it. This conviction inspired her in society with a self-possession
that carried her untouched through all the contempt and sneers that she
everywhere provoked, and kept her quiet self-sufficiency unruffled.
Most happily for her, she felt all the blessing without an idea of the
curse of mediocrity that attached to her in the presence of others.

She was quite idyllic to-day, for Elsa in the midst of nature was a
very different person, although scarcely less lovely, from Elsa in her
study. She had encircled with leaves her large straw hat,--the wide
brim of which kept flapping up and down as she tripped about,--and a
nosegay of wild flowers was stuck in her bosom. She loved wild flowers
far more than garden flowers. Everybody admired garden flowers,--she
pitied the wild flowers, and would atone by her love to the poor
neglected blossoms of the field. Her delicate sense perceived beauty in
the humblest thing that grew. She did not need grace of form and
vividness of colour to impress her with the wisdom of the Creator.
Every dandelion, every blade of grass, was lovely in her eyes. How
wondrous was its structure! How its modest withdrawal from superficial
eyes accorded with her own retiring nature! And then it was the
prerogative of a poetic temperament to see what was hidden to all the
world beside. It was a severe blow, therefore, to her tender heart when
the professor of botany asked, "But, Fräulein Elsa, why have you
brought a bunch of hay to a house noted for its capital suppers?"

"Oh, you naughty man," she pouted, "you cannot tease me out of my love
for these darlings."

"Do you take all these weeds under your protection?" asked the
implacable professor. "Then you must have enough to do when the cattle
are driven out to pasture."

All laughed, and Elsa laughed too. She could take a jest.

"But," she replied, "to fall a sacrifice to the stronger is a fate from
which even Flora herself cannot shield her children. Thank God, they
all grow again! I do not wish to save them from the animals whom they
serve for food. It is an enviable lot to sustain life in others by
one's own death. I wish to shield them from the contempt of men. Is it
not a sacred duty to espouse the cause of the despised? And those who
do not discharge it conscientiously in small matters will neglect it in
more important things. So let me put my poor thirsty flowers in water,
that they may lift up their little heads again."

They handed her a glass of water, into which the botanist recommended
that a lump of sugar should be thrown, because, as he said,
sugar-and-water was so much more nutritious.

"Go, go, naughty man," said Elsa, arranging her bouquet. "Look! is not
that lovely?"

"My good Fräulein Elsa," cried the professor, "do not ask me to be
enthusiastic over the beauty of a flower. I have long lost the sense of
delight that people feel at sight of a flower. The most beautiful
flowers for me are those that furnish most matter for scientific
investigation."

"What a prosaic point of view!" cried Elsa. "Tell me, ladies, can there
be anything more monstrous than a botanist who does not love flowers?
It is as unnatural as for a musician to take no pleasure in music. It
is treason to the _scientia amabilis_."

"You say so," replied the professor with some asperity, "only because
you do not know what is at the present day called 'the lovely science.'
I assure you, modern botany has, as De Bury remarks, no more right to
this title than any other science. It is only the knowledge of a couple
of thousands of names of flowers and the manifold conditions of their
existence,--the examination into their manner of life,--in other words,
the physiology of plants. The flower is not the end, but the means to
an end, the end of physics, physiology, and every other science: the
discovery of the whole by a knowledge of a part Let this part be plant,
man, or beast, we are all searching for the same laws, and it is just
as unnecessary that a botanist should be fond of flowers as that a
physiologist should be a philanthropist."

Elsa blushed rosy red at these words. "Möllner loves mankind,--I know
he does," she whispered.

"So much the better for him if he does," said the professor smiling.
"That is a private satisfaction of his own, and we will not disturb it.
But, seen in the light of his profession, men are no more to him than
plants,--to me plants are no less than men. Both are to us only
subjects for untiring investigation."

"I cannot think that of Möllner," said Elsa softly to herself.

The botanist shrugged his shoulders compassionately and left her. When
he rejoined his brethren, they accosted him with, "It is easy to see
that you have not been here long, or you would not try to preach reason
into Elsa Herbert. Who could make a woman understand such things?" And
there was a burst of laughter, in which Hilsborn was the only one who
did not join. He was never disposed to sneer. Although he himself could
not overcome his dislike for Elsa, he was too amiable to put it into
words.

"But, really, for one's own sake it is best to make an attempt at least
to enlighten the ignorant," the botanist replied, when thus attacked.
"It is impossible to listen in silence to such nonsense."

"Then, Fräulein Elsa, you consider it a blessed lot to be devoured by
cows," said a young private tutor, who had but just thrown off his
student's gown.

Elsa was quite happy. She had not received so much attention for a long
time. It was the consequence of her originality. How excellent, too,
her spirits were to-day! What a pity that Möllner was not present to
witness her triumph!

"Yes," she said gaily, "whatever is as perishable as a flower cannot
die a more charming death than----"

"In a cow's mouth," laughed the skeptic. "It is unfortunate that
Fechner had not conceived this poetic idea before he wrote his
'Nanna.'"

"Oh, you may ridicule anything in that way, if you choose to do so,"
said Elsa.

"Do not vex our kind Elsa," Angelika here interrupted the discussion,
throwing her fair round arm around the other's thin shoulders. "Elsa
dear, give me your nosegay."

"There, put it on your brother's writing-table," Elsa whispered in her
ear.

Angelika looked at her with compassion. "I will do what you ask, Elsa,
but you know he does not care much for plucked flowers."

"But perhaps he will value them when he knows that they were plucked by
the faithful hand of such a friend as I."

Angelika took the bouquet, and said hesitatingly, "I hope he will
not be vexed,--he does not like to have anything placed upon his
writing-table,--but I will try."

Hastily, as usual, Moritz came running through the garden just as
Angelika was bending over Elsa. She turned, and found her husband's
sparkling black eyes resting upon her.

"Moritz," she cried in delight, "have you come at last?"

"Yes, my darling. I had another patient to see; but now I am free to
stay with you until to-morrow at eight,--twelve whole hours. Is not
that fine?"

"Fine indeed!" repeated Angelika, and poor Elsa listened to these
loving speeches, longing for the time when such happiness should be
hers.

"Come," said old Heim, plucking Moritz by the sleeve, "we cannot live
upon your pretty speeches to your wife, and they may spoil our
appetites. Your mamma begs you to play the part of host at supper."

"Come, Angelika," said Moritz, drawing Angelika's arm through his own.
He never took any other woman than his wife to supper.

This was a trying moment for Elsa, for it was her usual fate to be left
sitting still when supper was ready or a dance was in prospect. She
must either join herself to some other unfortunate, similarly
neglected, or perhaps be offered a left arm by some good-natured man
already provided with a lady upon his right. Ah, her knight, her
Lohengrün, was not there, he who would one day rescue her forever from
this solitude. Where was he? Why did he not come? And in her distress
she turned to one of the gentlemen who had just finished smoking and
was approaching the circle of ladies. "Do you not know where Professor
Möllner is?"

The gentleman was a young assistant surgeon, whom Moritz had taken to
the village with him that afternoon. The latter, as he passed,
whispered in his ear, "Do not tell."

The young man looked confused, and just then Herbert approached and
said maliciously, "You were in Hochstetten this afternoon, where
Professor Möllner played his usual part of good Samaritan? I heard you
telling Hilsborn about it,--pray favour us too with the interesting
story."

He laid his hand, as if unconsciously, upon his sister's shoulder, but
its heavy pressure, told her that it was not done either unconsciously
or kindly.

"We all know very well that Möllner never allows an insult to pass
unpunished," said Hilsborn, "and you should know it, Herr Herbert,
better than any of us."

"True, I have had occasion to be convinced of the interest that Möllner
takes in Fräulein von Hartwich, although it is by no means so dangerous
to correct an erring professor as an enraged mob."

"What? what is it?" ran from mouth to mouth, and the company drew
together in a large group.

"Permit me," said Moritz in a loud voice to Herbert, "to be the
interpreter of my brother-in-law's conduct, as I certainly understand
it better than a stranger. The truth is, the Hartwich was insulted by a
Hochstetten mob, and my brother-in-law interfered to prevent her from
receiving personal injury."

"Ah," said Herbert, as if he were comprehending it all for the first
time, "this, then, was the generous motive that took your brother two
miles from town to that retired village?"

"I myself have never yet presumed to cross-examine my brother-in-law as
to his motives,--I leave the bold undertaking to you," replied Moritz,
challenging Herbert with his keen glance.

"What can have happened there?"

"What did the Hartwich do? A whole village certainly does not rise
against a private individual without some cause."

"This Hartwich must be a dreadful person!" Such were the remarks made
by one and another.

"Gentlemen, let me pray you to come to supper," said the Staatsräthin,
who was evidently embarrassed.

But her invitation was unheeded. All the ladies and several gentlemen
had, like hungry wolves, had a taste of the interesting subject, and
they were not to be tempted by the promise of other food. There was no
end to their amazement and conjectures. To be sure, it was impossible
to express before Möllner's relatives all that was thought, but they
could gain some information by their questions.

They could not understand how Professor Möllner could befriend such a
person. It was no wonder that public opinion was so opposed to her.

"Yes," said Elsa, "Christian love should be shown to every sinner, but
this woman puts our sex in such a light that really one blushes at
being a woman. I can say, with Gretchen, that humanity is dear to me,
but this Hartwich displays such shamelessness, such vulgarity of mind,
that it becomes the duty of those possessed of any sensibility to
suppress all compassion and to regard her with abhorrence."

"Tell me, then, Fräulein Elsa," Hilsborn here interrupted her, "what
becomes of your former assertion that the cause of the despised and
neglected should always be espoused by the true Christian, as in the
case of your field-flowers?"

Elsa blushed, and stroked back her curls.

"But, my dear friend," remarked the botanist, "the Hartwich is not a
field-flower."

"Certainly not one that cows can eat, for she is poisonous," said
Herbert.

"Oh, there are reptiles that feed on hemlock," said old Heim with
irritation. "But, whether she be hemlock or belladonna, we all know
that both are medicinal, and she might perhaps be useful as an antidote
to the affectation and hypocrisy that infect the feminine world of
to-day, producing bigotry, malice, and all sorts of moral diseases."

"That was going almost too far," Moritz whispered to the old man, who
passed him grumbling thus, with his hands clasped behind him. "I cannot
abuse her any more, for Johannes's sake, but I do wish the devil had
her rather than Johannes should have her!"

Heim looked at him and contracted his white, bushy eyebrows. "To that
nonsense all I say is, we will talk about it at some future time."

The Staatsräthin approached. "Uncle Heim, you are blinded by
your partiality. Convince us that this person is anything else
than a brazen-faced claimant for notoriety, and God knows what
besides,--convince us of this, And we will beg her pardon,--but, until
then, we must be allowed to consider any intercourse with her, on my
son's part, as a misfortune. Now give me your arm; we must go to
supper."

"Yes, let us go. I am tired, and shall be glad of something to eat,"
said the old gentleman, conducting the Staatsräthin into the house,
where the table was laid.

The others followed, and Elsa fluttered after them like the last
swallow of autumn. They all entered the house by the large door opening
upon the garden. Directly opposite was the door leading into the
street. They began, laughing and talking, to ascend the stairs to the
dining-room, when a carriage drove up. The Staatsräthin, who led the
way, stopped and listened intently. It might be Johannes.

The door was at that instant thrown open, and he appeared,--but not
alone. There was a lady leaning on his arm.

A murmur of surprise was heard.

Johannes was quite as much astonished at unexpectedly encountering such
an assemblage as the guests were at his entrance with a veiled lady,
who was evidently embarrassed and desirous to withdraw when she saw so
many people. But Johannes detained her. "I pray you, remain," he said
to her, "you have no cause for alarm."

The Staatsräthin leaned heavily upon Heim's arm, her knees trembled
under her.

"Compose yourself," the old man whispered in her ear. "Submit to the
inevitable,--remember that your son is master of the house."

"I shall not forget it," she replied softly, yet with bitterness.

In the mean time, Johannes had reached the staircase with the evidently
reluctant Ernestine. "My dear mother," he said, looking up at her with
a face radiant with pleasure, "I bring you another guest."

The Staatsräthin descended a couple of stairs with the air of one
compelled to receive a guest whose visit she regards as anything but
welcome.

"Fräulein von Hartwich," said Johannes, presenting her at once to his
mother and his assembled friends, "has been persuaded by me to seek an
asylum for this night beneath our roof, as her uncle is absent from
home, leaving her alone and defenceless, the object of a low, and
brutal conspiracy."

"You are welcome, Fräulein von Hartwich," said the Staatsräthin with
cold courtesy, without offering Ernestine her hand, or relieving her
embarrassment in any way. "Let me entreat you to share our simple meal.
Unfortunately, we can postpone it no longer, as we have already been
obliged to wait some time for my son."

And, without another word to Ernestine, she led the way with Heim to
the dining-room.

Ernestine's heart throbbed. What a reception was this! To what a
humiliation had she exposed herself! Was not running the gauntlet here
a thousand times worse than being stoned in the village by rude
peasants? "Let me go," she said, taking her hand from Johannes's arm.
"I feel that I am unwelcome to your mother."

"Ernestine," said Johannes, "you are my guest, and I will not let you
go. Forgive my mother's cold reception. It is not meant for you, but
for the distorted character of you that she has heard. Remain, and
convince her that you are not what she thinks, and you will be treated
by her like a daughter."

"Oh, my only friend, I obey you, but I do it with a heavy heart. It
would have been better for you to let me go to old Leonhardt for a
couple of days."

"How could you have gone to old Leonhardt?" Johannes interrupted her
impatiently. "It would have been visited upon him if he had received
you. And it was equally impossible for you to pass this night alone in
the castle without your uncle. You must be content to remain under my
protection. Is that so hard?"

"Oh, no," said Ernestine, with a grateful look,--"but the others!"

"I am sorry that we arrived just in the midst of this crowd. Everything
would have gone well if we had not encountered them just upon the
stairs. I would have taken you to my study, where no one goes,--you
could have rested there until these people were gone and my mother had
prepared your room for you. But, since they have seen you, you must not
hide yourself like a criminal. There are some here who already wish you
well, and many others whose regard you will soon win."

"I am far more afraid of these people than of the angry peasants," said
Ernestine sorrowfully. "I am so tired."

"Poor child!" said Johannes kindly. "I know you are, but do it for my
sake. Will you not? I shall be so glad to have you by my side, and so
proud to show them all that you accept me as your friend."

"Well, then, I will do as you say," said Ernestine submissively, and
she ascended the stairs with Johannes.

At the door of the supper-room she laid aside her hat and shawl, and he
looked admiringly at her lovely pale face, with the noble intellectual
brow and the large melancholy eyes, and at her tall slender figure. Who
that saw her could withstand her? He was so proud of her!

As they entered, the guests stood around the table, awaiting him. The
impression that she produced was an extraordinary one. It was as if one
of those pale ethereal female figures in Kaulbach's "Battle of the
Huns" had stepped out of the frame. No one had ever seen before such
ideal and melancholy beauty in real life. In an instant all were
silent, and gazed earnestly at the rare spectacle.

"By Jove! she's a dangerous woman," whispered Moritz to the
Staatsräthin.

"Indeed she is!" she replied, scarcely able to take her eyes away from
her. "My poor Johannes!"

"You don't see such a woman every day!" growled old Heim with pride.
"Didn't I always say she would turn out a beauty?"

"The fact is, she is divine, and I shall love her dearly! Now say what
you please," whispered Angelika. And, without waiting for a reply from
either husband or mother, she flew across the room to Ernestine, who
was standing overwhelmed with confusion, and cried, "Fräulein
Ernestine, do you not remember me?"

Ernestine looked at her for a few seconds. "This must be little
Angelika."

"Rightly guessed," said the young wife, and, standing on tiptoe, she
pressed her rosy lips to Ernestine's delicate mouth.

Then Moritz approached, and said in his blunt, half-jesting way,
"And I am the husband of this wife. My name is Kern, and I am besides,
one of the monsters who had the courage to close the doors of our
lecture-rooms in the face of a most beautiful woman."

Ernestine opened her eyes wide at this address, but, appreciating his
humour, smiled gently.

"And indeed," he continued, "I do not repent in the least that I did
so, now that I see you,--for not a student would ever have learned
anything with such a comrade beside him."

Ernestine cast down her eyes, and, confused and ashamed, said not a
word.

Moritz turned from her, and, with a paternal tap upon Johannes's
shoulder, said to him, "Upon my word, you're not to blame for admiring
her."

"Men are all alike," said the Staatsräthin in a whisper to Frau
Professor Meibert. "My son-in-law, who never has a word to say to any
woman but his wife, is already bewitched by her pretty face."

"Yes, and there is my husband making his way towards her," was the
reply. "It must be admitted that she is quiet and modest."

"Still waters run deep!" said the Staatsräthin.

"Yes, that's true!" said the other with a nod.

"What do you think, Herr Professor," said Taun's wife to Herbert with
an admiring glance at Ernestine, "of our having _tableaux vivants_ next
winter? Would it not be beautiful to have her with Angelika for the two
Leonoras?"

"Better try Hercules and Omphale. Let the Hartwich be Omphale, and set
Professor Möllner at the spinning-wheel. That would make a charming
picture!" remarked Herbert.

"I hear you do not like her," said Frau Taun, "but now that I see her I
cannot believe all the terrible things that are told of her. And
Möllner, too, is not the man to seat himself at the spinning-wheel,
even though she were Omphale,--your characters do not fit."

Herbert shrugged his shoulders.

"Now, my dear friend," Möllner's clear voice was heard saying, "allow
me to make you more intimately acquainted with your friends and foes.
Here is an old friend of yours, Professor Hilsborn. Do you not remember
him?"

"We met once at a children's party," Hilsborn explained, "and you, with
the rest of us, threw stones at a glass ball tossed up by a fountain.
You came off from the contest victorious, and were the object of envy
and hostility in consequence."

Ernestine blushed. "Oh, yes, now I know. You were that gentle, amiable
boy,--the adopted son of Dr. Heim; but--where--where is Dr. Heim?"

"Here he is," said the old gentleman, fixing his penetrating eyes upon
her. Ernestine held out her hand, but she could not endure his glance,
and her own sought the ground.

"Oh, Father Heim,--may I still call you so?"

"That's right," cried the old man. "Then you have not forgotten?" And
he laid his hand kindly upon her head.

"How could I forget you, when you saved my life?"

"Aha," said Heim to her so softly that no one else could hear what he
was saying, "don't be afraid child,--I shall stand up for you before
all these people, but to you yourself I must say that my heart bleeds
for you, and that if I did not hope that all the stupid stuff with
which your little head is crammed would one day give place to something
infinitely better, I should almost repent patching it up in days
gone by. Don't be vexed, my child, you don't like to hear this from
me,--perhaps you may be better pleased to hear it from some one else.
And now God bless your coming to this house!"

Ernestine made no reply, but his words produced a deep impression upon
her. A tear trembled upon her eyelashes as she stood silently before
him. Möllner then gave her his arm, and they all took their seats at
table. Heim sat upon her right hand, and Taun and Hilsborn were
opposite her. Then came Moritz with Angelika, and Herbert with Frau
Taun, while the Staatsräthin sat upon Heim's right.

"Permit me to present my friend Professor Taun," said Möllner after
they were seated.

"A friend!" added the latter to Möllner's words.

"He is one of those who voted in your favour," Möllner explained.

"I thank you," said Ernestine, "in the name of my sex."

"I cannot appropriate all your thanks to myself. They are due first to
my dear friends Heim and Hilsborn, for they fought for you more bravely
than I, to whom you were personally a stranger."

"Really, Father Heim, did you vote for me?" asked Ernestine in
surprise.

"Well, yes," grumbled Heim, vexed that Taun had told of it. "The thing
that you sent in was not bad, and I would have liked to open a wider
field for your restless spirit, where you might find something better
to do,"--here he sunk his bass voice to a whisper,--"than abuse God
Almighty as a dog bays the moon, and make all honest folk your enemies
with your atheistical stuff."

Ernestine started with a sudden shock. Was this, then, urged against
her? She was amazed. Were there really people in these enlightened
circles who could be shocked at her skepticism? Had Leuthold spoken
falsely when he assured her that true culture was synonymous with
emancipation from all religious prejudices? And who were the cultivated
class, if these professors and their wives were not?

"Are you wounded by our friend's rough manner?" asked Taun, sorry for
Ernestine's confusion. "You must know of old what a noble kernel is
concealed within that rough shell."

"Who is talking about me?" Moritz cried out to them. "I am sure I heard
'noble Kern,' and that must be meant for me."

"Let those three alone, you vain fellow!" laughed Johannes, signing to
him not to disturb their grave discourse.

Ernestine looked sadly at Helm. "Father Helm used to be kinder to me.
He was never so harsh to me before."

"Of course not," said Helm in a low voice. "Then you were a thing made
of blotting-paper, that a breath might have destroyed. We were content
only to keep you alive, and, as is apt to be the case with delicate
children, we forgot, in our anxiety about your physical health, to take
due care of your mind."

"Well, well, never mind that now," said Taun. "I am not at all afraid
that you will long fail of finding the right. Your writings give
evidence of such uncommon talent that I should not wonder if you became
the most learned woman of the age."

Ernestine's eyes flashed. She raised her head like a thirsty flower in
a summer rain. "The most learned woman of the age!" The words touched
her weak point, and penetrated the inner sanctuary of her ambition.
Heim's harshness was forgotten. "How can you say this to me, in a
century that has produced a Caroline Herschel and a Dorothea Rodde?"

Herbert, who from a distance had been hastening to the conversation,
turned to Moritz and asked him in a low voice, "Who is Dorothea Rodde?
Of course I have heard of Herschel's sister,--just because she was
Herchel's sister,--but I know nothing of the other."

"Don't ask me," laughed Moritz. "I have too much to do to busy myself
about the wonders worked by all the blue-stockings immortalized in the
pages of trashy annuals."

Ernestine shot an angry glance at him. She had heard what was said, and
she was indignant.

It was the drop too much when Angelika asked across the table,
"Johannes, pray tell us--the gentlemen want to know--who Dorothea Rodde
is."

Johannes shrugged his shoulders. "I do not know."

"What, you! Do you not know?" said Ernestine. "Is it possible! Does no
one know that woman--the famous daughter of that great man Schläger?
She only died in eighteen hundred and twenty-four, and is she forgotten
already?"

"She cannot have materially advanced the cause of science," said
Johannes, "or she would not have been forgotten."

"Such a rarely-endowed individual as this woman must, I should suppose,
always be an object of scientific interest, even if she did not
directly advance the cause of science itself. It must surely be
interesting to physiologists, as well as to psychologists, that a woman
has lived capable of learning all that Dorothea Rodde learned, even
although she taught nothing. All cannot create. Many men have been held
in high esteem for diligence alone. Besides, Dorothea would have
achieved greatness if she had not committed the folly of marrying, thus
arresting her scientific development in the bud and retiring entirely
from public view. She buried herself alive, and the world is always
ready to strew ashes upon a woman's coffin. Had she been a man, every
one would have known that, when a boy of seventeen, he could speak all
the dead and living languages, was thoroughly versed in chemistry,
medicine, anatomy, and mineralogy, and in his eighteenth year, after a
brilliant examination, received the degree of doctor of philosophy from
the University of Göttingen! But it was only a girl who achieved all
this thus early; and if the less envious time in which she studied
acknowledged her superiority, the more prudent present ignores it all
the more utterly."

A painful silence ensued. Every one was busied with his or her own
thoughts. Every one felt confused. This beautiful, placid Ernestine had
suddenly showed her claws!

The Staatsräthin silently laid down her knife and fork,--she had lost
all desire to eat.

Johannes looked sadly at Ernestine, and gently shook his head. Herbert
alone grew more cheerful as the rest seemed disturbed, and looked down
the table at Elsa, who sat at the other end, lost in melancholy reverie
as she drew several flowers and grasses out of the large vase on the
table, intending, like Ophelia, to deck herself with them; but, alas,
Hamlet had no eyes for her sweet madness!

"May I request you to present me to the lady?" Herbert asked Johannes.

"Herr Professor Herbert," said the latter, and added with emphasis,
"your bitterest opponent!"

Ernestine bowed slightly and looked coldly at Herbert.

"Permit me," he began sneeringly, "to beg you to inform me, Fräulein
von Hartwich,--I ask solely for instruction in the matter,--what
possible scientific interest the fact that a woman spoke several
languages--she could hardly have spoken _all_, as you declared--could
possess."

"Yes, I too am curious upon that point!" cried Moritz.

Ernestine looked gravely from one to the other. "I am quite ready to
explain it to you. I should not, indeed, have ventured to do so if you
had not asked me, for it would have seemed to me insulting to suppose
that you could need any such explanation."

"That shot told," Moritz remarked comically.

"We are foes, gentlemen, and I am bent upon victory," said Ernestine.
"I think the facility of acquisition shown by Dorothea Rodde is
certainly as significant a fact in natural history as any example of
extraordinary instinct in animals, for which zoologists search so
untiringly. Or is the natural history of women less interesting than
that of the ape?"

"We are not used to compare or to speak of women thus," Möllner
interposed.

"Then, if you really accord us an equality with men in the scale of
creation, Dorothea's eminent talent must certainly be of scientific
interest, because it must assist in the investigation of the relative
weight of the masculine and feminine brain,--a point not yet solved,
the social importance of which is not recognized, or it would not be
treated with such frivolous indifference. I, gentlemen, am convinced
that the great contest for the emancipation of woman can be settled
only through physiology, since that alone can prove whether the
material conditions of the thinking mechanism are equal in men and
women; and, if they are, who would deny a woman the right to assert her
independence of man, even in the world of the intellect?"

"But we have not yet reached this point," said Johannes. "This equality
has not yet been proved."

"Nor has the contrary," said Ernestine. "Therefore it seems to me that
it would be well worth while for physiology to come to the aid of
history, and test the material brain of famous women."

"And what end would that serve?"

"Can you ask that question seriously? Would not the result of such
investigations, if it were favourable to women, strike a blow at our
present social arrangements in the relations of the sexes? And would
not the rendering such an aid to true social harmony be a triumph for
physiology, of which it might well be proud?"

"It would be all very well," said Moritz, "if the whole question were
worth the trouble."

"Of course it is not worth it for you, but it is for us. What do men
care about the position of woman,--her capacity or her incapacity? If
your wives fill their position,--that is, if they are your obedient
servants, have sufficient capacity for cooking, and can bring up your
children,--all is as it should be, as far as you are concerned, and the
most important problem of mankind, in the social system, is solved to
your satisfaction."

A unanimous murmur arose at this accusation, but Ernestine was now
greatly excited, and she continued, "It was the pain I felt at this
narrow-minded indifference that led me to devote myself to natural
science. I will do what I can to induce scientific men to turn their
attention in this direction. Do not smile: even if I can do nothing for
this cause myself, I would cheerfully dedicate my existence to arousing
the interest of others in the subject. If I can prevail upon some less
scrupulous university to afford me an opportunity for pursuing the
requisite anatomical and physiological studies, these physical and
psychical investigations shall be the sole occupation of my life."

"But, Fräulein von Hartwich," said Johannes seriously, "what would you
discover that could further your desires? We have proved conclusively
that the feminine brain absolutely weighs less than the masculine,
and----"

"Have you proved that superiority depends only upon weight?"

"Not precisely, but it certainly does in most instances."

"In most instances? but if it is not proved to do so in all, the
question is far from settled. It is true that Byron, Cuvier, and others
had remarkably weighty brains, but, on the other hand, the brains of
certain philosophers, as, for example, Hermann and Hausmann, weighed
less than the ordinary feminine brain. We are then led to suspect that
superiority depends upon the relation of the brain to the rest of the
body,--perhaps upon the relation of different portions of the brain to
each other, or the quantity of the gray matter. The only sure
acquisition that physiology may be able to boast in this matter is that
the relative weight of the feminine is not lighter than that of the
masculine brain." Her eyes glowed with enthusiasm. "Oh, how gladly
would I die if I could only succeed in casting a ray of light upon this
chaos!"

"But, Fräulein von Hartwich," Herbert began with an ex cathedrâ air,
"as woman is in all respects weaker and more delicate than man, is it
not natural that her brain also should be smaller and lighter,
rendering her incapable of as great intellectual exertion?"

"But, Herr Professor," replied Ernestine with a slight smile, "I have
just said that superiority depended upon the relative, not the
absolute, weight. Were it otherwise, the largest and strongest man
would be the wisest, and you, sir, would have less ability than any one
present, for you are the smallest man here."

Again there was an embarrassed silence. Many could scarcely suppress
their laughter as they saw the angry look of the little man. Others
found the scene painful to witness. Such conduct on the part of a lady
was unprecedented in the annals of professorial gatherings, and,
although those who were acquainted with Ernestine found her behaviour
perfectly natural from her standpoint, strangers to her were
inexpressibly shocked,--none more so than the Staatsräthin, to whom the
girl's every word was like acid to an open wound.

It was the old story over again. She was unlike the others, and,
without meaning it, frightened them all away. Wherever she went,
the curse of eccentricity attached to her. No one shared her
interests,--she had nothing in common with any one,--she was, and must
continue to be, alone! Even Johannes grew thoughtful and silent. She
timidly sought his eye, but he did not look at her.

Elsa, although she had no public, was still playing Ophelia, and was
pondering upon the sweetness of the service she could render if it were
only asked of her. Ah, no one wanted to see how charmingly she could
obey. And she softly hummed to herself, in English, Ophelia's words,


           "Larded all with sweet flowers,
            Which bewept to the grave did go
            With true-love showers."


Frau Taun looked gravely across at Ernestine. She ceased to anticipate
_tableaux vivants_,--nothing could be done with such material. And then
the conversation at table! She really could not expose her young guests
to listen to anatomical treatises.

Herbert noticed the breach that had been made in Frau Taun's good
opinion, and hastened to throw a bombshell into it. "She has not the
slightest sense of refinement."

The ladies in the vicinity nodded assent.

Heaven be thanked! this combination of beauty and learning was wanting
in what they possessed in fullest measure, and she had already
succeeded in making herself disagreeable to the gentlemen who had been
so impressed by her appearance.

One lady plucked the sleeve of her neighbour. "See her sit with her
elbows upon the table!"

"How coarse!"

"There now, see how quickly you have made enemies of all these people,"
whispered old Heim. "You are not wrong from your point of view,--but
where is the use of battering so at the door of a house where you have
been received as a guest? If you wish to associate with mankind, you
must not go about treading upon their toes."

"I do not wish to associate with these people," said Ernestine.

"Oh, yes, you do! You must wish it. Do you suppose that you need no
help, no support,--that you can get along entirely alone in the world?
How unpractical! how terribly exaggerated!"

"I do not understand you, Father Heim."

"I don't suppose you do----"

Angelika here interrupted the conversation, saying, as she handed
Ernestine a plate of apricot crême, which was greatly lauded, "You must
eat some of this, Fräulein Ernestine. I made it myself, and I am very
proud of it."

"You have just heard how Fräulein von Hartwich despises the noble art
of cookery. Don't pride yourself upon it before her," sneered Moritz.

Angelika compassionated Ernestine's mortification at these words, and,
while the other ladies were deep in a discussion regarding the
preparation of the delicious crême, she said kindly, "You are quite
right in lamenting that we women attach so much importance to such
things, but they are part of our daily life, and we cannot entirely
ignore them. Why did God give us organs of taste, if we are not to
enjoy the flavour of our food? It is so natural to try to make the life
of those whom we love pleasant, even by the most trivial means, amongst
which are justly ranked eating and drinking."

"Forgive me for asking the question," said Ernestine, "but could not
their enjoyment be equally well secured by the hands of a cook while
you were employing your time with something better?"

"Yes," cried Angelika, amid general amusement, "if we had the money to
pay eighty gulden for an excellent cook. But, as we have not, one must
either superintend matters one's self, or put up with bad cooking. And
you would not have a poor man, coming hungry and tired from his day's
work, do that. No, I assure you, when I see Moritz enjoying something
that I have prepared for him myself, it gives me almost as much
pleasure as it does to feed a child."

Ernestine looked at her blankly. This was entirely beyond her horizon.

Angelika continued: "But indeed it does not make us servants. A service
rendered for love cannot degrade,--voluntary obedience is not slavery.
We must be guided by some one in life,--why not by a husband who
protects and labours for us?" And she held out her hand to Moritz.

"But," said Ernestine, "if we learn to labour for ourselves we need be
beholden to no one,--dependent upon no one."

"Oh," said Angelika, with a charming smile and a roguish glance at
Moritz out of her large innocent eyes, "we cannot do without them,
these stern lords of creation,--at least I could not live without
Moritz, if I were ever so rich and wise."

Loud applause greeted this frank declaration; it seemed as if a sudden
breath of fresh air were admitted into a sultry, closed apartment,--all
breathed more freely. Angelika's genuine sunny nature was a relief to
every one, after the distorted, gloomy views that Ernestine had
broached.

"And you expect to bring that fool to reason?" whispered Moritz to
Johannes.

"Yes," replied the latter curtly.

"Well, I wish you all success. I would not win a wife at such a price."

Supper was ended. The Staatsräthin rose from table, and the company
adjourned to the adjoining room, where punch was served.

Johannes silently conducted Ernestine thither. His duties as host then
compelled him to leave her. She stood alone in the middle of the room,
looking around for some one to whom she might turn. No one came near
her. The ladies whispered together, casting occasional glances in her
direction, and the gentlemen stood about in groups, either turning
their backs upon Ernestine or eyeing her through their glasses. She
stood alone, as upon the stage before an audience. She did not know
what to do. It seemed cowardly and undignified to flee for refuge to a
corner, and yet this cross-fire of keen eyes was as hard to endure as
it had been years before at the Staatsräthin's. What did her intellect
or learning avail her now? She was as much shunned, despised, and
misunderstood among people of refinement and culture as by the
peasants. What fatality was it that thus attended her? Who would solve
the riddle for her?

An unexpected end was put to her torment. Elsa glided up to her upon
Möllner's arm.

"Fräulein Herbert wishes to be presented to you," he said.

Ernestine gazed in amazement at the strange flower-crowned elderly
child, and took with some hesitation the damp, withered little hand
held out to her.

"I begged my--our friend--" she looked round, but Möllner had again
joined the other guests--"to make us acquainted with each other,
because I feel myself so strangely drawn towards you. Your observations
upon the brain impressed me greatly,--for I too am wild about natural
science, and am myself half scientific. I dote on phrenology. I am a
disciple of Schewe's, whose striking diagnosis of my characteristics
converted me to Gall's theory. Heavens! what a delight it would be to
discuss this subject with you, who have studied the brain so
thoroughly! I am sure we should understand one another. You must let me
examine your head--so remarkable a head for a woman. What a treat it
will be for me! Come,--pray sit down."

Ernestine made an impatient gesture of refusal.

"What! you do not wish it? Oh, don't be afraid that I shall prove an
_enfant terrible_ and tell what I discover. I never tell tales."

"I am not afraid of that," replied Ernestine bluntly. "If you could
discover my character from the shape of my skull, there would be no
need of your silence. I have nothing to conceal. But I take no interest
in such nonsense."

"Nonsense do you call it?" cried Elsa, clasping her withered hands.
"Then you do not believe in Gall's doctrine?"

"What do you mean by believe?" said Ernestine. "I do not believe in
anything that has not been proved, and when anything has been proved I
do not believe it,--I know it. Gall's theory is like Lavater's
physiognomy, an hypothesis based upon coincidences, fit only to amuse
idlers, but not worthy the attention of an earnest labourer in the
cause of science."

"Oh, you cut me to the heart," sighed Elsa, who saw the scientific
nimbus with which she had crowned her brows thus falling off like a
theatrical halo of gold-paper. She was greatly offended. She had meant
so well,--for Möllner's sake she had conquered herself and attempted
to make a friend of Ernestine. He should see how her wounded but
self-renouncing heart would open to her rival. She had been so glad not
to come quite empty-handed to this learned woman; for, as far as she
had understood the anatomical conversation at table, it coincided
wonderfully with Gall's theory, which she had lately mastered that she
might have the pleasure of subjecting Möllner's head to an examination.
And now, just as she had hoped to recommend herself to him whom she
loved by her one little bit of scientific acquirement, even this
unselfish pleasure was denied her, and the attempt had failed entirely.
Oh, Ernestine was a hard--a terrible woman!

While Elsa had been talking to Ernestine, the gentlemen had cast
significant glances towards them, and said among themselves, "There is
a wonderful combination,--the Hartwich and Fräulein Elsa! It must be
worth studying."

And so they gradually drew near the two women. At last, Moritz, who,
like a child with its doll, always had his wife hanging on his arm,
could not refrain from joining in the conversation, for he pursued a
jest like a boy after a butterfly. "Tell me, then, Fräulein Elsa, what
did Schewe say to your head?" he asked.

"What?" and Elsa smiled diffidently. What an attraction she possessed
for the other sex! Here were all the gentlemen gathered around her
again. "What? oh, modesty forbids me to tell you."

"Then he was very complimental?"

"He was indeed."

"That was the reason, then, you found his diagnosis so striking,"
laughed Moritz.

Elsa became embarrassed.

"That is just what makes that man so successful," said Moritz. "He
flatters every one, and therefore every one believes him."

"Oh, you do him great injustice!" Elsa remonstrated. "He is so in
earnest about his science. He can be quite rude. He would certainly be
rude to you, Professor Kern."

The gentlemen all laughed. "Fräulein Elsa is severe."


             "Dove-feather'd raven! wolfish-ravening lamb!"


quoted the youthful tutor.

"Oh, I admire the man so much," said the offended lady, "he is an adept
in the sense of touch,--really he not only feels, he thinks and sees,
with the tips of his fingers. After he had examined my head, and was
standing aside with closed eyes, as if to recapitulate mentally what he
had discovered, it seemed to me that he was actually holding my soul in
his closed hand, like a bird just taken from the nest."

"It is to be hoped he did not keep it."

"Oh, no! he gave it back to me; he presented me with it anew in
teaching me to understand it."

"Well, if he has initiated you into the mystery of his art, Fräulein
Elsa, oblige us with some of it now. There ought to be all sorts of
fledgelings to take out of these nests, and we really would like to
have a glimpse of our souls."

"I asked Fräulein von Hartwich just now to let me examine her head, but
she would not allow it."

"But we are all ready for it," cried Moritz, bowing his head, as did
several of the other gentlemen.

"Pray don't," Angelika entreated her husband.

"Dear Angelika," said Elsa, determined to be interesting to-day at all
risks, "I am not at all afraid of the trial, for I am confident of
success. But it must be seriously undertaken. The gentlemen must be
disguised so that I cannot recognize them."

"Yes, yes, that's right! It will be delightful!" cried the gentlemen,
to whose gaiety the punch perhaps had lent some assistance.

"Fräulein Elsa must leave the room while we disguise ourselves."

"I will wait for a while in the garden, where it is far more charming
to see the elves sipping the dew than you, gentlemen, drinking your
punch. Call me when you are ready, and I will come, and, like a bee
among the flower-cups, dip into your heads and find out whether they
contain honey or gall."

With this arch threat she was hurrying away, when Ernestine took her
hand compassionately and whispered in her ear, "Do not do it, you will
only be laughed at."

Greatly offended, Elsa withdrew her hand. "By you, perhaps, but only by
you. My friends here understand me and love me!" The tears rushed to
her little eyes, and she hastened out, without hearing Herbert call
after her, "You will disgrace yourself."

She hurried down into the garden, to confide her griefs to the elves
and fairies. She would endure smilingly, no one should know what she
had dared to dream,--to hope. But could her faithful heart at once
resign all hope? Patient waiting had before now been crowned with
success. She went to the spot where Angelika had left the flowers that
she had given her for Johannes. The glass was overturned, the water
spilled and the flowers were scattered about withered. How sorry she
was! It was a bad omen. She picked up her favourites and pressed them
to her heart. "Thus will it perhaps be one day with me. I shall fade
away," she thought, "forgotten and neglected like you, and the only
proof of affection that can then be mine will be that some tender soul
may lay upon my coffin a wreath of you, sweet flowers of the field!"

She seated herself upon the grass and sung softly, while her tears
dropped upon the flowers,


           "Ah, tears will not bring back your beauty like rain.
            Or love that is dead, to bloom over again."


"Fräulein Elsa, are you weeping?"

She started and sprang up, Möllner was approaching her across the lawn.

"Oh, no, these are not tears, only the dews of evening," she lisped,
drying her eyes.

Möllner looked at her with pity. "Poor creature," he thought, "it is
not your fault that nature has proved such a step-mother to you, and
that your brother's distorted views of education have made you
ridiculous, and even deprived you of the sympathy that you deserve."

He offered her his arm. "Come, my dear Fräulein Elsa!" he said kindly,
"I am sent to bring you in. Thanks to Fräulein von Hartwich, you are
spared the mystification that was contemplated for you."

"How so?" asked Elsa, who, upon Möllner's arm, felt like a vine nailed
against the wall.

"Fräulein Ernestine was requested to exchange dresses with Frau Taun,
whose hair is also black, and both were to wear masks, in order to
deceive you. The younger portion of the company so insisted upon it
that I could not prevent it. But Fräulein von Hartwich, convinced that
you were not so secure in your art as to be impregnable to deceit,
refused so obstinately to do what was asked of her that the assemblage
fairly broke up in disappointment."

Elsa was silent from shame. She knew that she could not have come off
victorious from such a trial. She had depended upon easily
distinguishing individuals by their hair, and it had not occurred to
her that Frau Taun's hair was of the same colour as Ernestine's. And
yet, glad as she was to be thus relieved, she was humiliated at having
afforded her enemy an opportunity for such a display of magnanimity in
her behalf.

"You will make a trial of your skill some time when we are more alone,
will you not?" asked Möllner in the tone one uses to comfort a child.

"Yes, if you desire it, and if you would allow me to subject your own
magnificent head----"

Her voice trembled with emotion as she preferred this bold request.

"Why not?" interposed Möllner, "if you think my hard head would prove a
profitable subject."

"Your hard head! oh, how can you speak so? I should tremble to touch
that head, lest Minerva should spring from it to punish me for my
temerity."

Johannes smiled compassionately. "I cannot persuade you not to
embarrass me with your exaggerated compliments. You know I am a blunt
man, and cannot repay you in kind."

"How should you repay me? I only ask you to permit me to reverence you.
What can the brook require from the mighty tree whose roots drink of
its waters? Let my admiration flow on at your feet, and let your
vigorous nature draw thence as much as it needs. There will always be
enough for you,--the brook is inexhaustible."

Johannes was most disagreeably affected by this outburst. What could he
reply, without either inspiring the unfortunate creature with false
hopes or deeply offending her?

Her brother's voice relieved his embarrassment. They reached the house.

"Here they come!" Herbert cried to the others, who seemed to be waiting
for them and were just taking their departure. They ascended the
stairs, and Elsa put on her hat and shawl.

"Where have you been so long?" Herbert asked in a tone intentionally
loud.

"Heavens! we fairly flew through the garden!" cried Elsa.

"Have you wings, then, Fräulein Elsa?" asked the young tutor.

"Yes," she replied, with an enraptured glance at Johannes. "They have
lately budded anew."

"Pray, then," urged her indefatigable tormentor, "soar aloft, that we
may see you,--it would be a charming sight!" And he lighted a cigar at
the lamp in the hall.

"All human beings are born with wings," said Elsa with pathos,--"only
we forget how to use them."

"Come, Elsa dear, there is no use in our arguing with these men,"
Angelika said kindly. "Take leave of my mother, and we will walk along
together, as we are going in the same direction."

Elsa did as she was told. In the doorway, behind the Staatsräthin,
stood Ernestine, utterly dejected. Elsa went up to her and whispered,
"May you rest well, if indeed shy Morpheus dare approach your armed
spirit."

Herbert dragged Elsa away, whispering fiercely, "No pretty speeches to
her! I will crush her! The 'little' man will prove great enough to
terrify her!"

"Good-night, sweet mother. Good-night, poor Ernestine!" said Angelika,
and then had hardly time to kiss them both before her impatient husband
fairly picked her up and carried her down-stairs.

"Good-night, Professor Möllner," whispered Elsa. "The brook ripples
onward to the ocean of oblivion."

"Good-night, good-night," resounded, in all variations of tone, from
all sides, and Father Heim hummed in his strong bass voice an old
student song, in which the other gentlemen gaily joined, for, with the
exception of the disturbance caused by "that crazy Hartwich," the
evening had been a pleasant one, and Möllner's Havanas were delicious
on the way home. If only the Hartwich had not spoiled their fun with
Fräulein Elsa, it would have been too good. Elsa was by far the better
of the two. If she was a fool, they could at least laugh at her, which
was impossible with the Hartwich, she was so deuced clever at repartee.
Thus talking, laughing, and singing, the throng sought their several
homes through the silent, starry night.

The Staatsräthin had entered the room with Ernestine, Johannes, having
locked the street-door after his guests, came and took a chair by
Ernestine's side. "Come, mother dear, sit down by us, and learn to know
our guest a little before we separate for the night."

But the Staatsräthin took up her basket of keys. "I am very sorry, but
I must see to the arrangement of Fräulein von Hartwich's bedroom. The
servants are all very busy just now."

"Mother, let Regina attend to all that, and do you stay with us,"
Johannes entreated, with something of reproach in his tone. "Other
things can be left until to-morrow."

"The silver at least must be attended to. And Fräulein von Hartwich is
in great need of repose."

"I am so sorry to give you so much trouble," said Ernestine, really
grieved.

"Oh, I assure you it is a pleasure!" With these brief words the
Staatsräthin left the room.

Ernestine sat there pale and exhausted. Johannes took her hand.
"Patience, patience, Ernestine. She will soon--you will soon learn to
know each other."

Ernestine silently shook her head. Her brow was clouded. "There is no
home for me here!"

"Not yet, but it will become one!"

"No, never!"

Johannes compressed his lips. "Ernestine, you do not dream how you pain
me!"

"Pain you, my friend? The only one who is kind to me! Oh, no, I will
not,--I cannot!" And she leaned towards him with strong, almost
childlike, emotion, and laid her hand upon his.

"When I see you thus," said Johannes, with a look of ardent love,
"I ask myself whether you can be the same Ernestine who seeks to
sacrifice the unfathomed treasure of her rich, overflowing heart to a
phantom,--to a struggle that can never yield a thousandth part of the
pleasure that she might create for herself and others. Oh God!" and he
pressed his lips to Ernestine's hand, "every word that you said to-day
stabbed me like a dagger. How was it possible for you to think and talk
so, after that hour that we passed together? Oh, lovely white rose that
you are, you incline yourself towards me, but, when I would pluck and
wear you, your thorns wound my hand!"

Ernestine laid her other hand upon his bowed head. "Dear--unspeakably
dear--friend, have patience with me. If you could only put yourself in
my place! In early childhood, when others are borne in the arms of love
and petted and caressed, I was abused, scorned, neglected,--because--I
was--a girl. Every cry of my soul, every thought of my mind, every
feeling of my young heart, asked, 'Why am I so bitterly punished for
not being a boy?' And in every wound that I received were planted the
seeds of revenge,--revenge for myself and for my sex,--and of burning
ambition to rival those placed so far above me in the scale of
creation. These feelings matured quickly in the glow of the indignation
which I felt when I saw my sex oppressed and repulsed whenever it
strove to rise above its misery. They grew with my growth, strengthened
with my physical and mental strength, and they filled my whole being,
just as my veins and nerves run through my body. How can I live if you
tear them thence?"

Johannes held her hand clasped in his, and listened attentively.

"It is," continued Ernestine, "as if my heart had frozen to ice just at
the moment when the agonized cry, 'Why am I worth less than a boy?'
burst from me, and as if that question were congealed within it,--so
that I can think and struggle only for the answer to that 'why?' Why
are we subject to man? Why do we depend solely upon his magnanimity,
and succumb miserably when he withholds it? The times when physical
force ruled are past. Everything now depends upon whether the progress
of woman is to be retarded by world-old prejudices, or by positive
mental inferiority on her part; and I shall never rest until science
satisfies me upon this point."

"And do you not believe, Ernestine, that there is a third power
subjecting the more delicate sex to the stronger--a higher power than
the right of the strongest--more effective than the power of the
intellect,--the power of love?"

Ernestine looked at him with calm surprise. "I do not believe love can
accomplish what reason fails to prove."

"Is that really so?" Johannes was silent for a moment, then walked to
and fro with folded arms, and finally stopped before her. "You speak of
a sentiment that you have no knowledge of. But of all my hopes that you
have destroyed to-day in the bud, one there is that you cannot take
from me. You will learn to know it!"

The Staatsräthin entered. "Fräulein von Hartwich, your room is ready
for you. Will you allow me to conduct you thither?"

"Mother," cried Johannes, "do not be so cold and formal to Ernestine.
You cannot keep at such a distance one so near to me."

"I really cannot see wherein I have failed of my duty towards Fräulein
von Hartwich,--we are as yet entire strangers to each other."

"You are right, Frau Staatsräthin," said Ernestine. "I am not so
presuming as to expect more from you than you would accord to the
merest stranger. I am very sorry to be obliged to accept even so much
from you. I will go to my room, that I may not any longer keep you from
your rest; but be assured I shall trespass upon your hospitality for a
single night only."

She turned to Johannes, and, with a grateful look, offered him her
hand.

"Good-night, kind sir."

"God guard your first slumbers beneath this roof!" said Johannes
fervently, and it seemed as if the wish took the airy shape of her lost
guardian angel, and hovered before her up the stairs to the cosy little
room whither the Staatsräthin conducted her, and then, placing itself
by the side of her snowy couch, fanned her burning brow with cooling
wings.

"Mother," said Johannes gravely, when the Staatsräthin rejoined him,
"to-day, for the first time in my life, you have been no mother to me!"



                              CHAPTER XI.

                        INHARMONIOUS CONTRASTS.


The morning sun streamed brightly through the white muslin curtains of
Ernestine's windows, yet she still slept in peaceful and childlike
slumber. For the first time for many years, she was not cheated of her
repose by haste to go to her work. The guardian angel, that Johannes
had invoked to her side, forbade even her uncle's ghost to knock at her
door, and still kept faithful watch beside her bed. It seemed as if the
whole house were aware of its sacred presence, for a quiet as of a
church reigned among its inmates. They were all up, but, at the command
of their head, every door was softly opened and shut, every footfall
noiseless. Johannes knew how much need Ernestine had of repose, and he
would not have her disturbed. He even controlled the throbbing of his
own heart, that longed to bid her good-morning.

The sleeper drew calmly in with every breath the repose that surrounded
her,--and what a blessing it was for the poor, wearied child!

The Staatsräthin had superintended the arrangement of the
breakfast-table, and was seated with her work at the window. But her
hands were dropped idly in her lap, and her eyes, red with weeping,
were fixed sadly upon the flame of the spirit-lamp that had been
burning for an hour beneath the coffee-urn.

"Do you not think I had better have fresh coffee prepared? this has
been waiting so long," she said to her son as he entered the room.

"Just as you please, mother dear," said Johannes. "You know I
understand nothing of such things."

The Staatsräthin rang for the servant. "Regina, take this coffee away
and bring back the urn. I will boil some more."

The maid did as she was directed, with a sullen face. "'Tis a shame to
waste such good coffee!" she muttered as she went out.

"It is very disagreeable, mother," observed Johannes, "to have Regina
criticising all our arrangements. I do not like to have servants of
that sort about me. If you cannot break her of it, pray send her away."

"She does her work well, and is thoroughly honest," replied the
Staatsräthin.

"That may be, but there certainly are servants to be had who would do
their duty more respectfully and good-humouredly. I do not like to have
my comfort destroyed by sullen faces around me. I like to have people
who render their service cheerfully."

"It is not very easy to find them."

"They must be sought until they are found," said Johannes, cutting
short the conversation by opening and beginning to read his newspaper.

The Staatsräthin sighed, but said not a word.

Regina re-entered with the urn, and asked crossly, "Is the Fräulein not
to be wakened yet?"

"No!" was Johannes's curt reply.

"Then the urn might as well be washed, if the coffee is not to be made
until noon," she grumbled again, and left the room, closing the door
with something of a slam.

"Now, mother, this really is too much. I cannot undertake the direction
of the servant-maids, but I will not tolerate them when they are so
insolent. Regina must conduct herself differently, or she goes!"

"You have suddenly grown very impatient with the girl," said his mother
bitterly. "I hope you may always be as implicitly obeyed as you
desire."

"I understand what you mean, mother, but it does not touch me. I desire
only what is right,--obedience from the servants whom I hire, love from
a wife who is my equal."

"Love alone will not answer."

"Yes, true, faithful love will."

"There must be submission and self-sacrifice."

"True love embraces all these,--submission, self-sacrifice, the entire
self."

"It is not every one who can love truly; so be upon your guard that you
are not intentionally or unintentionally deceived."

"Reassure yourself, mother, and spare me your misgivings," said
Johannes with unusual sternness, again turning to his newspaper, while
he listened to every rustle outside the door of the room.

The Staatsräthin brought from a cupboard a delicate little coffee-mill
and began to grind some fresh coffee. The clock struck half-past eight.

"It is easy to see that the young lady has not been used to a regular
household," the Staatsräthin could not forbear observing.

"I only see that she is worn out after the fatigue of yesterday."

"No one who is accustomed to early rising ever sleeps so late in the
morning."

"It is impossible to rise early when one works all night long."

"It is a bad custom for the head of a household!"

"Mother," said Johannes, starting up, "I should be downright unhappy if
I did not know how kind-hearted you really are."

"Indeed?" The Staatsräthin shook up the coffee, but her hands trembled
visibly. "This girl changes everything. Since she came into the house,
all things are wrong: to-day, I make you unhappy,--yesterday, I was no
mother to you! And yet, my son, since the painful day when I gave you
birth, I have never been more a mother to you than now in my anxiety
for your true happiness!" She could say no more; her emotion choked her
utterance.

"Mother dearest," cried Johannes, embracing her tenderly, "you must not
shed a tear because of a hasty word of mine. Come forgive me,--I am
really so happy to-day. My dear, good mother, scold your boy well, I
beg."

The Staatsräthin smiled again, and stroked her darling's shining curls.

"God bless you, my dear son. It is because I love you so that I cannot
give you to any but the noblest and best of women. I tremble lest you,
who are without an equal in my eyes, should throw yourself away upon a
wife who is unworthy of you."

"Trust me, mother, I understand and thank you, but, if you want me to
be happy, love me a little less and Ernestine more! This is all I ask
of you,--will you not do it?"

"The first I cannot do, but I will try to do the last, because you
desire it, my son!"

"That's my own dear mother!" cried Johannes, kissing her still
beautiful hands. "And now you may go and waken our guest, for I must
see her before I go to the University."

"Here she is!" said the Staatsräthin, going forward to greet Ernestine.
"Good-morning, my dear. How did you sleep?" And she kissed her brow.

Ernestine looked at her, surprised and grateful. "Oh, I slept as if
rocked by angels,--I have not felt so rested and refreshed for a long
time!" Then, holding out a bunch of lovely white roses to Johannes, she
asked, "Did you have these beautiful roses laid outside my door?"

Johannes blushed slightly, and gazed enraptured at the beautiful
creature. "Yes, I put them there myself."

"I thank you!" said Ernestine. "You are kinder to me than any one ever
was before. I have many flowers in my garden, but none, I think, so
lovely as these. They are the first flowers I ever had given to me. I
know now how pleasant it is."

"Did your uncle never give you a bouquet upon your birthday?" asked the
Staatsräthin.

"Oh, no! And I do not think it would have delighted me so from him!"
said Ernestine, with artless ease.

Johannes's face beamed at these words. "When is your birthday,
Ernestine?" he asked, while the Staatsräthin led her to the
breakfast-table.

Ernestine set down the cup that she was just about putting to her lips,
and looked at him in amazement "I do not know!"

"You do not know!" cried Johannes.

"I will ask my uncle,--he told me once, but I have forgotten."

The Staatsräthin clasped her hands. "Forgotten your own birthday? Is it
possible? Was it never celebrated?"

"Celebrated?" repeated Ernestine in surprise. "No, why should it have
been celebrated?"

"What! do you know nothing of this affectionate custom?"

Ernestine shook her head almost mournfully. "I know of no loving
customs."

The Staatsräthin looked at her with compassion. "Then you hardly know
how old you are?"

"Not exactly; but my father died when I was twelve years old,--shortly
before his death he reproached me for being so little and weak for
twelve years old,--and since then ten summers have passed away."

"Poor child!" said the Staatsräthin. "I begin to understand!"

"I thought you would, mother," said Johannes from the other side of the
table.

"Your uncle has deprived you of many of the pleasures of life,"
continued the Staatsräthin.

"Such pleasures, perhaps. But I must not be ungrateful,--he has given
me others no less fair and great!"

"And what were they?"

"He has taught me to think and to study. There can be no greater or
purer pleasures than these."

Again the Staatsräthin's brow was overcast.

Johannes saw it, and broke off the conversation. "Ernestine, it is not
good for you to drink your coffee black. It excites your nerves."

"On the contrary, my uncle bids me always take it so, to stimulate
me,--without it, I often could not begin my day's work."

"That accords entirely with your uncle's system of education. First he
utterly prostrates you by wakefulness and study at night, and then
stimulates you by artificial means. Why, you yourself can understand
that such a life of alternate prostration and over-excitement must wear
you out. I really do not know what to think of your uncle in this
respect."

Ernestine looked down, evidently impressed by the truth of Johannes's
words.

"But tell me, Johannes," said the Staatsräthin, "why do you address
Fräulein Ernestine by her first name, when she does not authorize you
to do so by returning the familiarity?"

"She asks me to do so."

"Oh, yes, I begged your son to call me Ernestine,--it makes me feel
like a child again, and as if I could begin my life anew!"

"But you should address him by his first name, and not have the
intimacy all upon one side."

Ernestine blushed. "I cannot do so now,--by-and-by, perhaps."

"Leave it to time and Ernestine's own feelings, mother dear. I shall
not ask for it until it comes naturally. Some time when she wishes to
give me a special pleasure she will do it. And now good-by, Ernestine.
I must go. I lecture at nine, but as soon as I get through I will
return."

Ernestine looked up at him with glistening eyes, and breathed, scarcely
audibly, "Farewell, my friend."

Johannes pressed her hand, and then, turning to his mother, said, "Dear
mother, I leave Ernestine to you for an hour, and hope with all my
heart that you will understand each other. But, at all events, remember
what you promised me."

"Most certainly I will, my son." He went as far as the door, then
lingered, and, calling his mother to him, whispered imploringly, "Be
kind to her,--all that you do for her you do for me."

And, with one more look of longing love at Ernestine, he was gone. It
was very hard to go. It seemed to him that he must stay,--that
Ernestine would escape him if he did not guard her well. He would have
turned back again if his duty had not been so imperative. "If I only
find her here when I return!" he said to himself one moment, and the
next he blamed himself for his childish weakness. He loved her too
well. The one hour of lecture seemed to him an eternity. He longed to
see her again almost before he had crossed the threshold that separated
him from her.

How beautiful she was to-day after her refreshing sleep,--how maidenly!
If, when he returned, she looked at him with those glistening eyes, he
could not control himself,--he would throw himself at her feet and
implore her to be his. The decisive word must be spoken,--he must have
certainty. The state of doubt into which he was plunged by the strange
contrast between Ernestine's cold, stubbornly expressed opinions and
her tender personal behaviour towards himself was not to be borne any
longer. Only one hour separated him from the goal for which he longed
with every pulse of his strong, manly nature. Oh, were it only over!


"Do you like beans?" the Staatsräthin asked Ernestine.

"Why do you ask me?"

"Only because you are to have them at dinner to-day."

"Thank you, but I cannot dine with you."

"Why not?"

"My uncle might return unexpectedly from his journey, and be angry if
he did not find me at home."

"Strange! How comes it that you, who contend so earnestly for freedom,
are under such strict control? Is it not somewhat of a contradiction?"

Ernestine started.

The Staatsräthin continued: "You are battling for the independence of
woman, you brand as slavery a wife's obedience to her protector, and
yet a man who, as I understand the case, is far more dependent upon you
than you are upon him, has such complete dominion over you that you do
not dare to stay from home a day without his permission."

Ernestine was again startled and surprised. "You are right. But I have
grown up under his control. It has become a habit with me, so that I am
hardly conscious of it, and it has never yet been so opposed to my
wishes as to induce me to shake it off."

"Now, let me ask you, my dear, whether you regard this dull,
half-unconscious habit of submission as nobler and loftier than the
loving, voluntary obedience that a wife yields to a husband?"

Ernestine was silent for a moment, and then said with her own generous
frankness, "No, it is not. But I have brought it upon myself, and
cannot escape from it as long as my uncle possesses the legal right of
my guardian."

"But this legal right does not in any way affect your personal freedom
as long as you do not desire to do anything contrary to law."

"He always told me that the guardian was the master of the ward. And if
this tyrannical regulation had not applied equally to the male and
female sex, I should long ago have attacked it in my publications."

"That would not have done much good, I fear," said the Staatsräthin
dryly.

Ernestine shrugged her shoulders. "None of my writings effect much
good. But they are not meant to be anything more than a few of the many
drops of water that must one day wear away the stone that dams the
course of the pure waters of reason."

"We will not discuss such abstract subjects," said the Staatsräthin
evasively. "I would rather persuade you to stay with us to-day."

"If I only thought that I should not be a burden to you!"

"You certainly will not be to me, and you will give my son a pleasure
far greater than the annoyance to which your absence may subject your
guardian. But you are the best judge of what you ought to do."

Ernestine laid her hand upon the Staatsräthin's. "I will stay!"

"There,--that's right! Johannes would never have forgiven me if I had
failed to persuade you to stay." She rang the bell. Regina appeared,
and carried away the coffee-tray.

"You may bring me the beans, I will prepare them," said the
Staatsräthin. Regina brought in the beans in a dish, with a bowl for
the stalks.

"I'm sure you will excuse me," said the Staatsräthin to Ernestine, and
she seated herself by the window, knife in hand, ready to begin her
task.

Ernestine looked on in astonishment. "Do you do that yourself?"

"Why not? The cook has a great deal to do to-day, and I am glad to
assist her."

"I would help you if I knew how," said Ernestine.

"Try it,--perhaps it will amuse you. It does not require much skill."
The old lady, quite delighted at Ernestine's interest in domestic
affairs, handed her another knife and a bean, saying, "Look! you first
strip off the stem and those tough fibres,--so. The people in this part
of the country are apt to pay no attention to the fibres, but if you do
not strip them off they are very tough. And now cut the bean
lengthwise. Stop!--not so thick,--a little finer. Now, don't put the
stems back in the dish, but here in this bowl! See! everything in the
world can be learned, and, if you should not be compelled to do it, it
is at least well to know how."

A gentle sigh escaped her as she remembered that her own circumstances
had once, before she had lost her property by her brother's failure,
been such as to make these homely offices entirely unnecessary.

Ernestine contemplated with smiling surprise the Staatsräthin's
enthusiasm in encouraging her to undertake this new rôle. She asked
herself seriously if it were possible that this was really an
intellectual woman. But one glance at the broad, thoughtful brow and
the clear, expressive eyes of the speaker convinced her of the truth.

Lost in these reflections, Ernestine continued her novel taskwork, but
the Staatsräthin suddenly discovered, to her horror, that she was
throwing the stems in with the beans, and the beans into the bowl of
stems and strings.

"My dear," she cried, "see what you are doing! now I shall have to pick
over the whole dishful!"

Ernestine threw down the knife and leaned back in her chair. "I never
was made for such work! Forgive me, but I cannot think it worth while
to learn it. I shall never be so situated as to need such knowledge."

"As you please," said the Staatsräthin coldly.

"Are you displeased with me? Is it possible that you are displeased
with me because I cannot cut beans?" She seized the old lady's busy
hand. "Frau Staatsräthin, make some allowance for me. You must not ask
one to do what she is not fit for. Would you ask the fish to fly, or
the bird to swim? Of course not. Do not, then, expect a person who is
at home only in a different world to take an interest in the every-day
concerns of this."


           "This strife about the beans you make,
            When really crowns are now at stake,


we might say," remarked the Staatsräthin. "And certainly in our case
these matters are not so widely different. What is most important
cannot be entirely divided here from what is unimportant. Such little
household occupations, slight, even insignificant, as they may appear,
belong to the responsibilities of a woman's position. They are stitches
in the web of her life. If a single one is dropped, the whole is
gradually frayed!"

Ernestine shrugged her shoulders. "You are perfectly right from your
point of view, Frau Staatsräthin, but your point of view is not mine.
To me a woman's mission is something higher. A noble mind cannot
condescend to occupy itself with such cares, which are--forgive me the
expression--always more or less sordid."

The Staatsräthin frowned slightly, but she did not interrupt Ernestine,
who continued: "It is hard enough that so much of the brute cleaves to
us that we must eat and drink to keep our physical mechanism in order;
thus, in the process of development, we never attain any higher degree
of perfection. We ought to take pride in developing ourselves as fully
as possible, in contending against every animal appetite instead of
making a formal study how best to pamper it. We ought to blush for our
frail, indigent physical nature, instead of making an idol of it and
regarding her who sacrifices to it most freely as the loftiest
illustration of feminine virtue."

"That all sounds very fine," said the Staatsräthin, "but it is,
nevertheless, a deplorable mistake. With the capacity for pleasure the
Creator has bestowed upon us the right to enjoy. We ought only to see
to it that our pleasures are true and noble. It is false shame that
would repudiate what we cannot live without, and it sounds strangely
contradictory from the lips of a natural philosopher like yourself.
Before whom would you blush? Before your fellow-beings? Certainly not,
for they all share your mortal infirmities. And, since you do not
believe in a God, where does there exist for you any supernatural
ideal, any bodiless spirit, subject to do change nor desire of change,
before whom you can be ashamed of being a mortal?"

"In myself,--in my own imagination."

"Yes, yes, this is the usual jargon. Because you deny your God, and
still feel the need of Him, you exalt yourself into a divinity, and are
humiliated at the idea of your imprisonment within a mortal frame!"

"Oh, no, I am not so vain and arrogant. There is, if I may thus express
it, a refinement of mind that is shocked by the coarse demands of
material nature. And I should be afraid of degrading myself in my own
eyes if, in satisfying these demands, I used the time and ability that
might be employed for higher purposes."

"You speak as if by the responsibilities of a woman I meant devotion
solely to creature comforts. I understand by these something more than
eating and drinking. Order and cleanliness, for example, are among the
necessities of our life, especially for fine natures, for they belong
to the domain of the beautiful, and must be the special concern of the
female head of a household, whatever may be the number of her servants.
To be sure, there are women who are so busy with brooms and dusters
that we might almost think them neat from their love of dirt. But I am
not speaking of such extreme cases. The superintendence of servants, if
you have them, the distribution of labour, the purchase of clothing,
with its hundred various branches, and, finally, the direction and care
of children, are all necessities of existence, duties to which no
woman, even the wealthiest, can refuse to attend. Least of all should
they be left to the husband. I consider it one of our most sacred
duties to relieve him from all material cares, that he may be free to
work for the benefit of mankind. Thus we assist him, modestly though it
be, in the great work, by enabling him to keep himself free and fit for
his labours."

"I frankly acknowledge that I am incapable of such modesty. I cannot be
satisfied with an excellence that I must share with every housekeeper.
I am conscious of the ability to assist directly in the cause of human
progress. Why should I waste it in labour wholly possible to
mediocrity?"

"You depreciate this labour because you do not know it. Rightly
conceived and executed, it may prove of the greatest significance. For
the more cultivated and intellectual a woman is, the more capable is
she of appreciating the importance of the task assigned to man, and the
necessity of lightening it as much as she can by due care of his
physical and mental welfare. And with this thought ever in her mind,
the meanest employment, the most menial occupation, becomes a labour of
love. And even the most careful housewife can find time, if she is so
disposed, to educate herself still further, and so to form and exercise
her talents as to make them the delight of her husband's hours of
leisure. That is what I understand, my dear, to be a wife in the truest
sense." She suddenly took Ernestine's hand and drew her towards her.
"And thus,--why should I not speak frankly?--thus I would have the
woman to whom I am to be a mother."

Ernestine looked at her in amazement. "Will you--are you to be a mother
to me, then?"

The Staatsräthin hesitated for a moment, and then said, "I should like
to be. You are an orphan, and I pity you. If you would only be what a
woman should be,--if you would only conform to our social and Christian
views, I could give you all a mother's love."

Ernestine withdrew her hand. "I thank you for your kind intentions,
but, if these are the only conditions upon which you can bestow your
affection upon me, I fear I shall never deserve it."

The Staatsräthin shook her head in rising displeasure. "You do not
understand me."

"I understand you far better than I am understood by you."

"You probably think my homely wisdom very easy of comprehension--while
yours is too deep for my powers of mind." The Staatsräthin laid down
her knife, and pushed away the dish of beans. "But the time may come
when you will think of what I have been saying, and will be sorry that
you have repulsed me."

"Frau Staatsräthin, I have not repulsed you. I am only too honest to
accept a regard bestowed upon me on conditions that I cannot fulfil. To
gain your approval I should be obliged to equivocate,--and I have
always been true. It is robbery to accept an affection springing from a
false idea of one's character. What would it profit me to throw myself
on your breast and silently return your tenderness, when I know that
you would love me not for what I am, but for what I might pretend to
be? Sooner or later you would discover your error, and despise me for
deceiving you. No, I am not unworthy of the love of good people just as
I am, but if I cannot win it by frankness and conscientiousness, I will
never try to steal it."

"You speak proudly. Such self-assertion does not become a young girl
towards an old woman, least of all towards the mother of her best
friend and benefactor."

"Frau Staatsräthin," cried Ernestine, "I shall always be grateful to
your son for his kindness to me, but surely I ought not to testify my
gratitude by hypocrisy and slavish servility."

"My dear," said the Staatsräthin, controlling herself, "you agitate
yourself causelessly. I am a simple, practical woman, who does not
speak your language, and cannot follow you in your flights. I have no
desire to drag you down to us. I simply wish to show you the world in
its actual shape, that you may know what awaits you when you come to
make your home in it; and I would gladly receive you in my motherly
arms, lest you should receive too severe a shock from your first
contact with reality."

"Oh, Frau Staatsräthin, if the world is what you describe it to me, I
would rather remain above it, in a colder but purer sphere."

"I should have thought the sphere in which you were not safe from the
assaults of angry peasants hardly a desirable one. I, at least, should
prefer the modest discharge of domestic duties in the circle of home.
But tastes differ."

Ernestine shrank from these words. "Truth is born in heaven, but stoned
upon the earth. Those who wish to bring it into the world must have the
courage of martyrs. These are such old commonplaces that one can hardly
give utterance to them without their seeming trite. Those who recognize
truth must speak it, and the happiness of possessing it outweighs with
me the misery that I may incur in speaking it."

"Forgive me, but these are phrases that utterly fail to cast any halo
around such a disgraceful occurrence as that of yesterday."

"Frau Staatsräthin!" cried Ernestine, flushing up.

"Be calm, my dear child, I am speaking like a mother to you. What can
you gain by casting discredit by your conduct, beforehand, upon the
truths that you wish to assert? Who will place any confidence in the
understanding and learning of a woman who does not understand how to
guard herself from ridicule? Pray listen to me calmly, for I speak as
he would who would give his life for you every hour of the day. I would
empty my heart to you, that no shadow may exist between us. The world
is thus pitiless towards everything in the conduct of a woman that
provokes remark, because our ideas of propriety have assigned her a
modest retirement in the home circle, and it sees, in the bold attempt
to emancipate herself from such universally received ideas, a want of
womanly modesty and sense of honour, which, it thinks, cannot be too
severely punished. Publicity is a thorny path. At every step aside from
her vocation, although never so carefully taken, a woman meets with
briers and nettles that wound her unprotected feet but are carelessly
trodden down by a man. And even although she succeeds in weaving for
herself a crown in this unlovely domain, it is, as one of our poets
justly says, 'a crown of thorns.'"

Ernestine was looking fixedly upon the ground. The Staatsräthin could
not guess her thoughts. Suddenly she raised her head proudly. "And if
it be a crown of thorns, I will press it upon my brow. It is dearer to
me than the fleeting roses of commonplace happiness, or the pinched
head-gear of a German housewife!"

The Staatsräthin looked up to heaven, as though praying for patience.
Then she replied with an evident effort at self-control, "I grant you
that the lot of woman might be, and should be, better than it is. But
we cannot improve it by struggling against it, but by enduring it with
the dignity which will win us esteem, while our struggles can only
expose us to the ridicule that always attends unsuccessful effort."

"Frau Staatsräthin, I hope to turn ridicule into fear."

"And if you should succeed, what will it avail you? Which is the
happier, to have people shun you in fear, or to be surrounded by a
loving circle for whom you have suffered?"

"I do not live for myself,--I live for the cause of millions of women
for whom it is my mission to struggle and contend. Even if I could be
ever so happy, I should despise myself were I able in my own good
fortune to forget the misery of others. But I confess frankly that I
could not be happy with such a lot as you prescribe for woman. Whoever
has once floated upon the ocean of thought that embraces the world,
would die of homesickness if confined within the narrow limits of the
domestic circle."

The Staatsräthin dropped her hands in her lap,--her patience was
exhausted. "It is of no use,--you cannot comprehend the words of
reason!"

"Do you call that reason? I assure you, my ideas of reason are very
different."

"Of course, of course. You are thinking of the definitions of Kant and
Hegel. You are talking of what is called 'pure reason,' that repudiates
everything hitherto dear and sacred in men's eyes, and would have
created a far better world if God Almighty had not so bungled the work
beforehand. But scatter abroad your doctrines far and wide,--they
cannot do much harm, for they only serve to show upon how flimsy an
argument the enemies of God base their denial of Him. But such a person
can never be cordially received into a family circle. She can never
inspire confidence, and that grieves me for my Johannes's sake!"

Ernestine was silent for awhile, and then looked sadly at the
Staatsräthin. "I have not asked you to receive me into your family,
Frau Staatsräthin. I know that my opinions make me an object of dislike
wherever I go. Any one who sees through the defects and abuses of
society will never be a welcome guest, but will be shunned as an
embodied reproach. Strong-minded women, as they are called, think me
narrow-minded,--the narrow-minded call me strong-minded. I belong to no
party, I am opposed to all. It is a terrible fate, and nothing can help
me to endure it, save a good conscience."

"Or excessive self-conceit," the Staatsräthin interposed half aloud.

Ernestine blushed deeply. Scarcely restraining her anger, she replied,
"Frau Staatsräthin, people, accustomed all their lives long to the
modesty of stupidity that characterizes the women of your circle, will
find it very easy to stigmatize as self-conceit the courage of a woman
daring to have an opinion of her own."

"It is not necessarily stupidity that prevents one from trumpeting
forth one's opinions as indisputable truth."

"Frau Staatsräthin," said Ernestine, trembling from head to foot, "if
you possessed for me one drop of the motherly kindness of which you
spoke a little while ago, you would judge me less harshly. A mother
makes allowance for her child. How could you wish to be my mother, when
you are not disposed to make any allowance for me?"

"I really cannot tell how I fell into such an error,--and yet I was
sincere, perfectly sincere. God knows I meant kindly by you. If you
knew the part that you are playing in the eyes of the world, you would
be more humble and grateful for the sacrifice,--yes, listen to the
truth, you who pride yourself upon your frankness,--for the sacrifice,
I say, that a mother makes when she opens her house and heart to such a
person for her son's sake."

Ernestine sat pale and mute, her hands folded in her lap; she could not
stir. The Staatsräthin continued, greatly irritated: "But I did it; I
conquered myself, and tried to forget your skepticism, your
unwomanliness, your reputation. I hoped--hoped for my son's sake--that
you would change, and I would gladly have been a help to you. But you
repulse my first approach in a manner that makes me tremble at the
thought that my Johannes has given his loving heart to such a hardened
nature,--that he should have by his fireside a woman who despises a
wife's duties, and who will be the ruin of himself and his home."

Ernestine sprang up. She gasped for breath, and her words broke forth
from her with painful effort. "Frau Staatsräthin, I can assure you
there has never been a word or hint at any nearer relation between your
son and myself. I never would have crossed your threshold had I known
how I was slandered. I promise you, you shall have no cause for alarm.
I shall never disgrace you by forcing you to receive me as your son's
wife. If he should ever offer me his hand, I should refuse it. As I do
not pretend to believe in a God, I cannot offer to appeal to him, but I
swear to you by my honour, which is dearer to me than life----"

"Stop, stop!" the Staatsräthin interrupted her in mortal terror. "Oh,
my Johannes, what am I doing! Ernestine, do not make matters worse than
they are. Do not drive them to extremities. I want you to reject, not
my son, but your own faults and errors. Promise me to give up these,
and you shall be the beloved daughter of my heart!"

"I cannot promise you that. I do not wish to do so. Do you think I
would beg and fawn for the doubtful happiness of reigning at a fireside
where every occasion would be improved to remind me of the sacrifice
that was made in enduring me?--where the only commendation that I could
earn would be for the skilful management of sauce-pans and dish-cloths,
and where a badly-cooked dinner would brand me as a useless member of
society? No, you know less of me than I thought, if you imagine that
the chasm that you have opened between us can ever be bridged over.
Spare me the humiliation of further explanations. I thank you for your
hospitality. I leave you, as I did years ago, when I stood trembling
and wet through before you, and you had nothing for me but cold words
of reproof, that made me feel myself a little culprit, although I was
as unconscious of wrong as I am to-day. Then I would sooner have died
than have returned to you, although your son, blessings upon him! would
have treated me like a sister. Ten years afterwards he has brought me
again to you and overcome my old childish timidity; but the first
moment that I stepped across your threshold and encountered your cold
greeting, I knew that there was no home for me here!" She covered her
face with her hands, and leaned exhausted against the door through
which she was about to leave the room.

The Staatsräthin, like all impulsive but really fine-tempered people,
was easily appeased and touched. She hastened to her and threw her arms
around her. "My dear child! Can you not forgive the hasty words of an
anxious mother? Indeed I was unjust. You are more sinned against than
sinning. I thought only of my son, and--"

"There was no need to stab me to the heart for his sake. I never
dreamed of becoming the wife of your son,--he is far too hostile to my
views, much as I esteem him. I wished for nothing but the happiness of
calling one human being in the world friend. But I can go without that
too. I will prove it to you. Farewell!"

And she hurried out, followed by the Staatsräthin, who could not
prevent her from gathering together the few things she had brought with
her and leaving the house.

The mother looked after her with anxious forebodings. "What will
Johannes say? How he will blame his mother!" she lamented,--but she
soon collected herself, and said calmly and firmly, "In God's name,
then, I will bear it. It is better thus!"



                               PART III.



                               CHAPTER I.

                       THE STRENGTH OF WEAKNESS.


On the morning of the day that drove Ernestine from her peaceful but
brief refuge, Herr Leonhardt slept unusually late. His wife, who did
not wish to waken him, looked anxiously at the old cuckoo clock, that
pointed to half past six. It was very natural that the old man should
be tired, after the trying occurrences of the previous day. Frau
Brigitta had never seen him so agitated. He had shed bitter tears upon
his return home,--tears from those poor eyes! Every drop had fallen
scalding hot upon his faithful wife's heart. Those amongst whom he had
lived for half a century as a steadfast, self-sacrificing friend and
teacher, had taken up stones to stone him,--had forgotten all that they
owed him,--it broke the heart of the weary old man.

Frau Leonhardt sat upon the bench by the stove. She folded her kind,
fat hands, and wondered how any one could grieve the man who was to her
the very ideal of honour and worth! The door in the clock opened, and
out hopped the cuckoo, flapped his wings, called "cuckoo" seven times,
and then disappeared, slamming the door behind him as if he were
greatly irritated at finding nothing astir as yet. Frau Leonhardt
arose,--the old man must be called now, for the children came to school
at eight.

She ascended the ladder-like staircase to their upper story, which was
under the roof of the cottage, and softly entered the bedroom. Herr
Leonhardt lay with his face turned to the wall.

"Are you asleep?" asked Frau Leonhardt.

"What is it? what is the matter?" cried her husband alarmed. "Is it
really on fire?"

"Why, you are dreaming,--it is time to get up,--the children will be
here!"

"But, my dear wife, it is still night. What are you doing up so early?"

"Night?" and Frau Leonhardt smiled. "Why, how sleepy you are!--it is
broad daylight--seven o'clock."

"Broad daylight!" cried the old man in a strange tone of voice. He sat
up in bed, rubbed his eyes, then rubbed them again and stared at the
bright sunbeams, but not an eyelash quivered. He was very pale.

"How are you, dear husband?" asked his wife anxiously.

"Well, well, mother dear, only a little tired still," he said in an
uncertain voice. "Go down now and get the coffee ready. I will come
soon!"

"Can I not help you? you are trembling so; you must have fever!" cried
Frau Brigitta.

"Oh, no, I am quite well,--go down now, I pray you."

She obeyed, hard as it was for her, and below-stairs she could not help
weeping, she knew not why. She prepared the coffee, and listened with a
beating heart for Bernhard's step upon the stairs. Then, after twenty
minutes, that seemed to her an eternity, she heard him coming with a
slow, uncertain tread. Some great misfortune seemed upon its way to
her. How strange!--he felt for the door before opening it. He must be
very sick. She ran towards him, but his look reassured her. He was pale
indeed, but his expression was as calm and gentle as ever. He laid his
hand upon her arm. "Well, dear wife, now let us breakfast. I have kept
you waiting for me!"

"Oh, yes, I waited," said Frau Brigitta, leading him to the table.
"Have you any appetite? Do you feel any better?"

"Oh, yes, but pour out the coffee for me, my dear. I am still somewhat
fatigued."

"That I will." And the old woman poured the coffee into his cup. "Here
is the milk." And she placed the pitcher near his hand.

Herr Leonhardt took it carefully, and touched the edge of his cup with
his hand, that he might not pour in too much; but, in spite of his
care, he spilt the hot milk upon his fingers. He said nothing, but
secretly wiped it off and slowly put his cup to his lips. His wife laid
a piece of bread upon his plate, and this also he ate slowly.

"Is it not good?" asked Brigitta.

"Certainly it is," he replied, "but pray eat your own breakfast." And
he listened to be sure that she did so. Then, when he had drank his
coffee, he felt for the table before he put down his cup.

His wife looked at him with anxiety. "Bernhard, I think your eyes are
worse again to-day."

"I think they are," he replied quietly. "Have you breakfasted?"

"Yes, I have finished."

"Well, come then and sit here beside me. I want to tell you something.
Give me your hand, my dear wife, and listen quietly to what I have to
say."

Frau Brigitta looked at him wonderingly, and her heart beat so
quickly--she knew not why--that it almost took away her breath.

Herr Leonhardt stroked her hand, and spoke with the tenderness with
which one speaks to a child. "During all these eighteen years that I
have been such a care to you, and in all the thirty years of our
marriage, you have never caused me an hour of suffering, and I have
done what I could to aid and support you. You have borne bravely all
our common misfortunes, followed our first children to the grave with
me, and comforted me when I was overcome by despair. Do not let your
courage fail you now, for I must give you pain. I cannot help it. Try,
as you always have done, to spare me the pang of seeing you sink under
it. Promise me this!"

"For Heaven's sake, my husband, speak! I will promise you everything!"

"What we have so long feared, dear wife, has at last come upon us!" He
drew her nearer to him. "This morning when I awoke there was no
daylight for me!"

A dull, half-suppressed moan was heard at these words; then silence
ensued. The old woman's hands slipped from her husband's,--he put his
own out towards her, but she was not at his side. She had sunk down
from her seat and buried her face in her arms, that he might not hear
her sob.

"Mother, where are you?" he asked after a little while.

She embraced his knees and hid her streaming eyes in his lap. "Oh, my
poor, kind husband,--blind! Oh God! Those dear, dear eyes!" And then
her grief would not be controlled, and she lay at his feet, sobbing
loudly.

Herr Leonhardt gently raised her until her head rested upon his
shoulder, and then waited until the first outbreak should be past. He
too had had moments this morning that none but his God might witness.
He could not ask his wife to do what had been impossible for himself.
At last he said softly and tenderly, "Brigitta, you have been
everything to me that a wife can be to her husband. I have always
thought there was nothing left for you to do, and yet in your old age
our loving Father has filled up the measure of your self-sacrifice and
laid upon you a heavier burden than any you have yet had to bear. He
has taken from me the power to support you, and calls upon you, a
weary, aged pilgrim, to be your husband's staff upon his path to the
grave. It seems very hard,--but, dear Brigitta, when God calls, what
should we answer?"

"Lord, here am I!" said his wife, and the resignation and cheerful
submission in her voice were truly wonderful. She embraced her aged
husband, and her tears flowed more gently as she said, "I will guide
and support you, and never be weary."

"Thanks, dear heart. And now be calm, for my sake! Think how much worse
it would have been if you had found me this morning dead in my bed!"

"Oh, a thousand times worse!"

"Then do not let us rebel because God has taken from me one of the five
senses, with which He endows us that we may enjoy the glory of His
universe, he has still left me four. If I can no longer see your dear
face, I can still hear your gentle voice of comfort and feel you by my
side; and although I cannot see the sun, I can still warm myself in its
beams,--I can inhale the fragrance of the flowers that it calls into
life,--enjoy the fruits that it ripens. I can hear the songs of the
birds, and with them praise my Creator from the depths of my soul. How
much he has left me! We will not be like thankless beggars, showing our
gratitude for benefits by complaining that they are not great enough. I
have seen the sunlight for sixty-eight years. Shall I complain because,
just before my entrance into eternal light, God darkens my eyes, as we
do a child's when we lead it up to a brilliant Christmas-tree? I will
bear the bandage patiently, and try to prepare my soul for the glories
awaiting it. Let us but remember all this, dear wife, and we shall not
be sad any longer."

The old man ceased. His darkened eyes were radiant with light from
within, the reflection of those heavenly beams of which in spirit he
had a foresight.

His wife had listened to him with folded hands, and her simple nature
was elevated and refined by thus witnessing his lofty resignation. The
peaceful silence that reigned in the room was too sacred to be broken
by any sounds of earthly sorrow. Her eyes were tearless as she gazed
upon the noble face of the man who was all in all to her, and she
waited humbly for further words from him. At last the only words
escaped her lips that she could utter in her present frame of mind.
"And our son?" she asked softly.

An expression of pain flitted across his features. "That is the hardest
to bear,--our poor son! God give him strength, as He once gave me
strength when I was forced to leave the University and become a
schoolmaster. I told him a short time ago what the physicians said. I
did not tell you, for I wanted to spare you as long as I could. He sent
me a reply by return of mail, which you shall hear, now that I have
nothing to conceal from you. You shall read it, and be glad that you
have such a son."

"My good boy!"

"He will give up his studies and take my place here, so that we need
never come to want."

"But will that be allowed?"

"Yes,--I have already obtained permission from the proper authorities."

"Oh, how thoughtful you have been!" cried his wife with emotion. "With
all that burden to bear so silently, and now you console me instead of
my comforting you! How did such a poor creature as I ever come to have
such a husband?"

She pressed a kiss upon his withered hand. The footsteps of the
school-children were heard in the hall. Herr Leonhardt arose and went
to the door.

"Wait I let me lead you," said Brigitta.

"Oh, you need not," he said smiling. "I have been preparing myself for
blindness for a long time, and I have practised walking about with
closed eyes, that I might not be so helpless when the time came. And so
now I can find my way very well." He had reached the door, and went
out. "Good-morning, children!" he cried, and felt his way along the
wall to the school-room, followed by his anxious wife. He stumbled a
little upon the threshold. "Never mind," he said to Brigitta, who would
have supported him. "I need more practice, but it will be better soon."
He found his desk, seated himself there, and waited until the children
had all taken their places.

"Are you all here?"

"Yes," was the reply.

"Well, then, sit down,--we cannot have any school to-day. My dear
children, I must take leave of you. I cannot teach you any more. God
has taken from me my eyesight. I cannot see you nor your lessons, and
therefore I can no longer be your schoolmaster. Your parents will
consider my blindness a punishment from God for my conduct, but I tell
you, if the trials God sends us are rightly borne they are not
punishments, but benefits. Remember this all your lives long. There
will come dark hours in every one of your lives, if you live to grow
up, when you will understand what your old master meant. And now come
and give me your hands, one after the other. So,--I thank you for your
childlike tenderness and affection, and I forgive from the bottom of my
heart those few who have ever given me any trouble. My son will soon be
here in my place; promise me to obey him, and to make his duty easier
for him by diligence and obedience. Farewell, my dear children. God
bless and prosper you!"

He held out his hands, and the children, sobbing and crying, thronged
around him to clasp and kiss them.

"Who is this?" the old man asked of each one, and then, as the names
were told him, he shook the little hands.

"Do not cry, dear children, we are not bidding farewell for life. You
will often pass by the school-house on Sunday and shake hands with your
old master as he sits on his bench before the door. And then I can
guess by the voice who it is, and can feel how much you have grown, and
you can tell me what you have been learning during the week. And those
who have studied the best shall have some nuts, or one of my loveliest
flowers, or some other little gift. Won't that be delightful?"

The children were consoled by this prospect, and hastened home to tell
the important news to their parents.

The old man stood alone with his wife in the deserted school-room.
"Come, dear wife, we will send a message to Walter." He laid his hands
once more upon his desk, and tears fell from his eyes. "It is strange,"
he said, "how much it costs us to leave a spot where we have laboured
so long, even although our work has been hard and ill rewarded. Our
home is wherever we have been used to the consciousness of duties
fulfilled, and when we must leave it, it is as if we were going among
strangers!"

He put his arm in Brigitta's, and, with heard bent, crossed the
threshold which separated him from the humble scene of the daily labour
of his life. For the first time, he looked, to his wife's anxious eyes,
like a broken-down old man.

"I must leave you alone for an hour," she said, when she had seated him
in the dwelling-room on the bench by the stove. "I must prepare the
dinner."

"Do so, mother; man must eat, whether he be merry or sorrowful, eh? And
we are not really sorrowful, are we?" And he forced a smile and patted
her shoulder.

"No, dear Bernhard, we are not!" said his wife, struggling to repress a
fresh burst of tears.

"Send a messenger to town to Walter as soon as possible," said Herr
Leonhardt.

"Indeed I will. I cannot rest until my boy is with us. And I will send
for the doctor, too!"

"Do not send for the doctor; he can do nothing more for me."

"But it will be a comfort to me to see him,--do let me send," said
Brigitta. And she left the room.

The old man sat there, calm and still. "And now I must begin my new
daily task,--the laborious task of idleness!" he thought, as he folded
his hands and gazed into the night that had closed around him for this
life.

He sat thus for some time, when the cuckoo began to announce the hour
of nine, but the last "cuckoo" stuck in the bird's throat, and he stood
still at his open door. The clock had run down. For the first time in
many years, Herr Leonhardt had neglected to wind it up. He arose,
groped his way towards it, felt for the weights, and carefully drew
them up. The cuckoo took breath again, finished his song, and slammed
to his door. "I will not forget you again, little comrade," said he,
"you, who have chirped on through such merry and sorry times. How often
now shall I long for you to tell me when the long, weary hours end!"

Thus said the old man to himself, and again slipped back to his place.
"There is something done," he said as he sat down. Then minute after
minute passed by, his head sank upon his breast, the darkness made him
sleepy, and for awhile even his thoughts faded and were at rest.

His wife looked in upon him several times, but withdrew softly, that
his sleep might not be disturbed.

It was almost twelve o'clock.

Then something rustled into the room; the old man felt the air stirred
by an approaching form, and he raised his head. The figure threw itself
at his feet. He put out his hand and touched waves of silky hair.

"Father Leonhardt!"

"Oh, this is Fräulein Ernestine."

Ernestine looked at him, and observed with dismay that the pupils of
his eyes did not contract with the light.

"Herr Leonhardt, what is the matter with your eyes?"

He smiled. "Their work is done."

"Good heavens! already? I thought they would last months at least."

"What matters a few months more or less?" said the old man quietly.

Ernestine looked amazed. Involuntarily she clasped her hands. "Is this
possible? I tremble from head to foot at the mere sight of such a
calamity, and you--you upon whom it has fallen--are so perfectly calm
and composed. Tell me, oh, tell me, what gives you such superhuman
strength?"

The old man turned to her his darkened eyes. "My faith, Fräulein
Ernestine."

Ernestine's gaze fell. "It is well for you."

"Yes, it is well for me," repeated Herr Leonhardt.

A long pause ensued. At last the old man asked kindly, "How are you
after that terrible yesterday?"

"Oh, Father Leonhardt, do not ask me how I am! Until this moment I
thought myself very miserable, but your calamity teaches me to despise
my own pain. In comparison with that, what is all the imaginary
unhappiness that comes from being misunderstood? What matters it if
people despise me for differing from them? What can their esteem give
me or their contempt deprive me of? They cannot bestow upon me or take
from me one ray of sunlight, one glimmer of the stars. The golden day
shines upon my path, and I am young and able to labour. I see the
beauty of the world, the universe is painted upon my organs of sight,
my soul is bathed in light, and how can I give room to mortified pride
or offended vanity, when I see a great enlightened soul peacefully
resigned to endless night? No, Father Leonhardt, holy martyr that you
are, I discard all my petty personal trials, and am grieved only for
you." She bowed her head upon his hands, and sobbed passionately.

"My daughter," said the old man, much moved, "you are not telling me
the truth. The pain that you have suffered must be great indeed, for
only a heart that knows what suffering is can feel so for others' woes.
Your heart must have been filled before to overflowing with these tears
that you are now shedding for me."

"Oh, Father Leonhardt, blind though you are, you see clearly. I came to
seek advice and comfort from your paternal heart, and you have
comforted me even before I could tell you of my grief. Yes, there was a
moment when I forgot myself, but it is past. Your noble example has
made me strong again. Let it go. I can think and talk now only of
yourself. I pray you take me for your daughter. You have treated me
with a father's tenderness,--let me repay you as a child should.
Yesterday you perilled that venerable head to save me from the angry
mob,--now let me shield you from the menacing phantoms of night and
loneliness. Come, live in my house with your wife. I will be with you
as much as I can. I will talk to you and read to you. I am so lonely,
and,--I cannot tell why,--I begin to thirst so for love."

Herr Leonhardt clasped his hands. "Oh, what comfort and delight Heaven
still sends me! Yes, although my eyes are blind, I can see the hidden
beauty of the heart that you reveal to me. God bless you, my dear
daughter, and grant you the light of His countenance, that you may one
day recognize Him as your best friend and benefactor!" He paused, and
then added almost timidly, "Forgive me,--I am falling into a tone
that you do not accord with. Remember that in my youth I studied
theology,--a little of the pulpit still sticks to me. Do not think that
I arrogate the right or ability to instruct you. I, old and broken down
as I am, am not the one to train that proud spirit. I will accept the
crumbs of love that fall for me from your large heart, and gratefully
pray for your happiness."

"Father Leonhardt, do not undervalue yourself. You must know how far
above me you are. When I saw you in your simple greatness confront
those rude men yesterday, I was filled, for the first time since my
childhood, with a sentiment of adoration. You understand me, you make
allowance for me, while every one else misunderstands and condemns me.
You stood by me in the hour of danger, and yet you never boast of your
kindness. Oh, you are noble and true! Come to me,--let me find peace
upon your paternal heart, let me give you a home and provide for your
son's future."

"Thanks, thanks for all your offers, my dear child, but I cannot take
advantage of your generosity, and, thank God, I do not stand in need of
it. My son has already determined to give up the study of medicine and
take my place here as schoolmaster. Thus, our future is provided for,
we shall not have to leave the dear old school-house, and I can die
where my whole life has been passed."

"Does that thought comfort you?" asked Ernestine, shaking her head.

"Oh, yes, it is all that I desire. Those who, like yourself, my child,
pass through life with all sails set, have no idea of the restraint
which those in our class must gradually learn to put upon themselves in
order not to despair. Yet in this very restraint, in this perpetual
narrow round of duties that life assigns us, there is happiness, a
content that routine always brings. You may say that routine blunts the
faculties,--but, for the most part, it only seems to do so. A nature
strong from within will thrust its roots deep into the soil of its
abiding-place with the same force that enables it to grasp the
universe, and if you should attempt to tear it thence in its old age,
you would almost tear its life away also. I love the little spot of
ground and the little house that have been the world to me. I believe I
should die if I had to leave them."

Ernestine listened thoughtfully. "Well, then, if I may not offer you a
support, I can at least offer your son the means of pursuing his
studies. My library, my apparatus, are at his disposal. I hope he will
not refuse to make use of them in his leisure hours."

"That indeed is a favor that I accept most gladly, although I can never
hope to repay it! I thank you in my son's name. You will know the
happiness of having restored to a human being what he most prizes,--his
hopes for the future."

"You amaze me more and more," cried Ernestine with warmth, "as you
afford me an insight into the depth and cultivation of your mind. What
self mastery it must have cost you to live here among these savages!"

The old man smiled. "Living among them, one gradually grows like them
in some things, and is no longer shocked. At first, to be sure, I
thought myself too good for them. But my faith soon taught me that no
one is too good for the post God has assigned him. When I was a student
I delighted in the theatres, and visited them frequently. Once, as I
was leaving the manager's room, I heard him lamenting the obstinacy of
one of his corps. 'He utterly refuses to take a subordinate part. Good
heavens! they cannot all play principal parts!' The man never dreamed
of the serious lesson he had taught me. 'All cannot play principal
parts,' I said to myself whenever the demon of arrogance assailed me,
and I gave myself, heart and soul, to the subordinate role that had
fallen to me on the stage of life. I soon desired no better lot than to
hear some day my Master's 'Well done, good and faithful servant!'"

"All cannot play first parts," murmured Ernestine. "I too, Father
Leonhardt, will ponder these words." She sat silent for awhile, then
passed her hand across her brow. "No! to be nothing but a subordinate,
a figure that appears only to vanish again, occupying attention for one
moment, but just as well away,--no, that I could not endure!" She
sprang up, and walked to and fro.

"My dear Fräulein----"

"Father, call me Ernestine,--it is so pleasant to hear one's first name
from those whom one values."

"Certainly, if you desire it. Then, my dear Ernestine, I was going to
answer you by saying that no one who fulfils the duties of life
conscientiously is 'as well away.' As far as the world is concerned, it
may be so; but we must not seek to have the world for our public, or to
find the sole delight of life in its applause. It is not modest to
imagine one's self an extraordinary person, destined to enchain the
attention of nations upon the stage of the world."

Ernestine blushed deeply.

Leonhardt continued: "Every one finds associates amongst whom to play a
principal part, and in whose applause satisfaction is to be found. For
these few he is no subordinate, for them he does not 'appear only to
vanish again.' Is not a wife, or a husband, to whom one may be
everything, worth living for?"

"Only for persons, Father Leonhardt, who have never so soared above
their surroundings as to find the centre of their being in the life of
the mind and what pertains to it. Those who have so far forgotten
themselves as to make the interests of the world their own, can only
live with and for the world, and it is as impossible for them to be
content in a narrow round of private satisfactions as for the plant to
retreat into the seed whence it sprung."

"Indeed, Ernestine?" cried a familiar voice behind her.

She turned, startled. Johannes had been listening on the threshold to
the conversation. He was evidently in a state of feverish agitation.
His chest heaved passionately as he approached. "Would you escape me
thus--thus?" He took her hand, and his eyes sought hers, as if to dive
into the depths of her soul in search of the pearl of love deeply
hidden there. There was a fervent appeal in his glance,--he clasped her
hand, and every breath was an entreaty, every throb of his heart a
remonstrance. Pain, anxiety, and the haste of pursuit so shook him that
he trembled. Ernestine saw, heard, felt it all, but she stood mute and
motionless,--she could not open her lips or utter a sound,--she was as
if stunned. "Ernestine!" Johannes cried again, "Ernestine!" The tone
went to her very soul,--a low moan escaped her lips,--she inclined her
head towards his breast, and would have fallen into his arms,--but a
shadow, the shadow of his mother, stepped in between them and darkened
Ernestine's eyes so that she no longer saw the noble figure before her,
or the tears of tenderness in his eyes. All around her was cold and
dim, as when clouds veil the sun,--his mother's shadow scared her from
his heart.

She raised her head, and slowly withdrew her hand from his.

His arms dropped hopelessly. A moment of utter exhaustion followed his
previous emotion. He put his handkerchief to his forehead, that seemed
moist with blood. His veins throbbed,--there was a loud singing in his
ears,--he could hardly stand. He exerted all his self-control, and went
towards Leonhardt.

"God strengthen you, Herr Leonhardt!" he said in broken sentences. "I
know it all from your messenger to your son, whom I met on the road. I
need not offer to console you,--you are a man, and will endure like a
man."

"I am a Christian, my dear Herr Professor, and that stands to feeble
age in the stead of manhood!"

"True, true!" said Johannes with a troubled glance at Ernestine. She
approached, and said in a trembling voice,

"Father Leonhardt, I must say farewell to you now and go home. When
your son comes, send him to me." She offered Möllner her hand. "Forgive
me, I could not help it!"

Johannes mastered his emotion, and said, with apparent composure, "I
shall write to you."

Ernestine silently assented, and went. The old man listened. He heard
her retreating footsteps and Johannes' labouring breath, and again he
saw for all his blind eyes.

"Oh, Herr Professor, do not let her go. Follow her quickly, and let all
be explained. Believe me, she is an angel. Grudge her no words. There
is no use in writing,--her uncle can intercept all her letters. Spoken
words are safest and best. Quick, quick, or you may both be wretched!"

"Thanks, old friend, you are right!" cried Johannes, all aglow again;
and, before the words were well uttered, he was gone.

Frau Brigitta entered with the soup, and looked after him in surprise.
"The gentleman seems in a hurry!" said she.

"Let him go, mother dear. These young people are struggling, amid a
thousand fears and anxious hopes, for a goal that we old people have
long gazed back upon contentedly. God guide them!"

Johannes called to his coachman to await his return before the
school-house, and followed Ernestine, who was slowly pursuing the
foot-path directly before him. All was quiet and lonely around, for it
was noon, and the peasants were at dinner.

She looked round upon hearing Johannes' step behind her, and stood
still. He soon overtook her.

"Ernestine," he said resolutely, "I must have a final, decisive word
with you, and Leonhardt is right,--it should go from heart to heart.
Will you listen to me?"

He drew her arm through his, and as they talked they slowly approached
the eminence upon which stood the castle.

"Ernestine, dear Ernestine, I would give all that I have that the scene
between you and my mother, this morning, had never been. You have been
mortally offended, and that, too, while you were my guest in a house
whither you had fled for refuge, and that should have been a home to
you. But it happened in my absence,--it was not my fault. Will you make
me suffer for it?"

"No, my friend, certainly not."

"Well, then, be magnanimous and forgive my mother, although she never
can forgive herself!"

"I have nothing to forgive."

"You are implacable in your righteous anger. Let me hope that the time
may come when my mother may atone for what she said to you to-day.
Dearest Ernestine, she startled back your young heart, just awakening
to its truest instincts; it was a poor preparation for what I wished to
say to you to-day, and yet,--and yet I must speak,--I can be silent no
longer. Yes, Ernestine, I wished to-day to ask you to be my wife. I
wished to entreat of you the sacrifice that marriage demands of every
woman, and of you more especially; and I firmly believe that if you
could have listened first to my views of the duties and the lot of a
wife, they would not have seemed to you as terrible as from the lips of
my practical mother. I hope to be able to shield you from the hard
materialism of life that so alarms you, and to which my mother attaches
too much importance. My white rose shall not be planted in a
kitchen-garden. You shall be the pride and ornament of my life. I ask
nothing from you but love for my heart, sympathy in my scientific
pursuits, and allowance for my faults." He took her hand in his, and
stood still. "Ernestine, will you not give me these?"

With bated breath he waited for her reply. In vain his glance sought
her eyes beneath their drooping lids.

Ernestine stood motionless in marble-like repose, and no human being
could divine what was passing in the depths of her soul. At last her
pale lips breathed scarcely audibly: "I cannot,--your mother,--I
cannot----"

"Oh, if you cannot love me, do not make her bear the blame, do not
overwhelm her with the curse of having robbed her son of the joy of his
life,--that were too severe a punishment! And, if you do love me,
conquer your pride nobly by showing her how she has mistaken you. Show
her all the woman in you, and prove to her that you are capable of
self-sacrifice, and revenge could not desire for her more profound
humiliation."

"I cannot make the sacrifice that she demands; and if I could I would
not, because she _demands_ it and makes it a condition. A soul that is
free will not barter away its convictions and its aims, even though the
happiness of a lifetime is at stake. When your mother asks me to resign
my plan of achieving an academic career, and to bury the immature
fruits of all my labours, she is excusable, for she does not dream what
she asks; but when you propose such conditions, you can, not only never
be my husband,--you can no longer be my friend, for you do not
understand me."

"Good God, Ernestine! what do I ask of you more than what every man
asks of the woman whom he wishes to marry,--that she shall live for him
alone? And how can you do this if you do not relinquish your ambition
and be content with a private life? You need not relinquish science,
you shall be my confidante, my aid in all my labours, my friend,
sharing all my plans and hopes. Only do not any longer seek publicity,
do not try to obtain a degree or deliver lectures. No opprobrium or
contempt must dare attach itself to the pure name of my wife."

Ernestine started as if struck by an arrow. "Those are your mother's
very words. What? Do you, who assume such superiority to woman,
condescend to repeat phrases taught you by your mother?"

"Ernestine, you are unjust. You have long known my views concerning the
position of woman, and you cannot expect that I should be false to my
most sacred convictions at what is the most important moment of my
life."

"And yet you require this of me?"

"A woman's convictions, Ernestine, are always dependent upon her
feelings in such matters. And where feeling is concerned, the stronger
must always conquer the weaker. Hitherto you have been moved only by
the wrongs of your sex,--they are all that you have known anything of.
When you love, you will learn to know its joys, and be all the more
ready to resign your vain championship for your husband's sake."

"Do you think so?" asked Ernestine with unaccustomed irony.

"I hope so. It is our only chance for happiness. I am true to you, and
tell you beforehand what I look for from you. I will not influence your
decision by flattery or false acquiescence. It must be formed in full
view of the duties it imposes upon you, or it will be worthless. You
may think this a rude fashion to be wooed in, and perhaps you are
right. But I will not win my wife by those arts which woman's vanity
has made such powerful aids to the lover. I will not owe my wife to a
weakness,--and vanity certainly is a weakness. Your love for me must be
all strength. I would have you great indeed when you give yourself to
me,--and when is a woman greater than when she conquers her pride and
herself for love's sake? In her self-conquest she accomplishes what
heroes, who have subdued nations, have found too hard a task, for it
requires the greatest human effort. It is true, the world will not
shout applause,--deeds truly great often shun the eyes of the
multitude: in the renunciation of all acknowledgment there is a joy
known only to a few. Within quiet convent walls, past which the stream
of human life flows heedlessly, many a victory over self has been
attained that was never rewarded by a single earthly laurel. What
awaits the end of the painful contest? The grave! But I ask of you,
Ernestine, far less of sacrifice, and surely there is a reward to reap
in bestowing perfect happiness upon one who loves you. Do you hesitate?
Is the struggle not ended? Can your royal soul not cast aside the
self-imposed chains of false ambition? Oh, Ernestine, do not let me
implore you further; say only one word,--to whom will you belong,--to
your uncle, or to me?"

"To myself, for no human being can belong to any other!" And her look
at Johannes was almost one of aversion. "Yes, now I see that you are
your mother's' son. I see her stern features, I hear her voice of
remonstrance, and I see myself between you,--a creature without
will,--no longer capable of independent thought or feeling, still less
of rendering any service to the world. Am I to cast aside like a
garment what has been the guiding hope of my life,--my dream by night
and day,--and go to your mother begging for forgiveness and indulgence,
excusing myself like a child, and promising future improvement, that I
may humbly receive from her cold lips the kiss of condescending pardon?
Again and again, No! What right has your mother to regard me as a
criminal, and to attempt to improve me? Whom have I injured? What law
of propriety have I infringed, that she should treat me like some
noxious thing in the world? I have lived in calm retirement, asking for
no happiness but that of labour. Why should she insist upon thrusting
another kind of happiness upon me, and blame me for not considering it
as such? Did I seek her out? Was it not against my will, and only in
accordance with your earnest entreaties, that I accompanied you to her
house? Why should she drive me from it like an intruder, and impose
upon me conditions of a return that I did not desire? Oh, if you, noble
and true as I once thought you, had loved me, not as you thought I
ought to be, but as I am, with all my faults and eccentricities, I
would have striven for your sake to become the most perfect woman in
the world. And if you had said to me, 'Be my companion,--I will help
you to vindicate the honour of your sex, whatever is sacred to you
shall be so to me also,'--if you had thus acknowledged my
individuality, and had intrusted your happiness, your honour, to my
keeping, without other warranty than the dictates of your own heart, I
would have bowed in reverence to a love so powerful,--I would gladly
have sacrificed my freedom to you,--to please you, I would have
performed the hardest task of all--humiliated myself before your
haughty mother! But when you come to me thus,--only her echo,--when you
make it the foundation of our happiness that I should be what she
chooses, and try to assure yourself at the outset that I will submit to
all your requirements, that you may run no risk from such a self-willed
creature,--all this shows me that she has separated us utterly. I have
lost you, and all that you have given me is the knowledge that I have
no place in this world, and that I am miserable!"

Johannes stood pale and mute before her, but his pure conscience shone
in his steady eyes. Ernestine did not venture to look at him. With
trembling hands she plucked to pieces a twig that she had just broken
from a bush at her side.

"After this we can be nothing more to each other," he began; and it
seemed as if every word fell from his lips into her heart like molten
lead. He took breath, as if after some violent physical exertion, and
then continued: "I do not answer the accusations with which you have
overwhelmed my mother and myself. They grieve me for your sake. They
are unworthy of your nobler self. I have treated you as I was compelled
to do by my sense of honour. I have told you what was, according to my
profoundest convictions, indispensable to the happiness of marriage.
That you refuse,--that you can refuse me the sacrifice I ask of
you,--proves to me that you do not love me. This is what separates us.
And I pray you to remember that, as I sacredly believe, it is the duty
of a man to convince himself that the woman whom he seeks to marry is
fitted to be the mother of his children; and your heart is not yet open
to the wide, self-forgetting affection that can alone suffice to enable
a woman to undertake the hard duties of a wife and mother. Will it ever
be thus open? Who can tell? Another may one day reap in joy what I have
sown in pain. I do not reproach you,--how could I?" He laid his hand
upon her head, his eyes were for one moment suffused. As he looked at
her, grief had the mastery, and he was silent. She was crushed beneath
his gaze, her artificial composure forsook her, a cry escaped her lips.
She now first began to perceive what she had done, and her heart shrunk
from the burden that she had laid upon it, although she did not as yet
dream of its weight.

Johannes gently smoothed her hair from her brow. Her agitation restored
his self-control.

"You are kind, Ernestine,--you see how you have hurt me, and you are
sorry for me. It is the way with women. This little weakness does you
honour in my eyes. I pray you be composed. I am quite calm again." He
would have withdrawn his hand, but she held it fast and looked up at
him with those eyes of sad entreaty that had worked such magic upon him
when she was a child.

"Do not utterly forsake me!" she whispered in half-stifled accents.

"No, as truly as I trust my God will not forsake me, I will not forsake
you. I will not shun you like a coward, who, to make renunciation easy
and to learn forgetfulness, turns his back upon the good he cannot
attain. You need a friend who can protect you, placed as you are with
regard to your uncle and the world. This friend I will be to you, until
you find a worthier. Do not fear that you will hear another word of
love, or of regret. I will conquer my grief alone. My one care shall be
for your happiness. Farewell, and when you have need of me send for
me." He pressed her hands once more, and turned away without another
word.

Ernestine looked after him as he receded from her gaze. She looked and
looked until he turned a corner and vanished. Then she sank on her
knees and cried in an outburst of anguish, "Have I really had the
strength to do this?"

She must have remained thus some time beneath the shade of the trees,
when the sound of carriage-wheels approaching startled her to
consciousness. It was her uncle. He stopped the vehicle and descended
from it.

"You can take out the horses," he said to the coachman. "I shall not
drive to town." The man turned and drove home again.

Leuthold stood mute before Ernestine, piercing her soul with his
penetrating glance. He had learned from Frau Willmers everything that
had occurred the day before, but nothing of the intercourse that had
previously taken place between Ernestine and Johannes. Scarcely a week
had passed, and had his ward already escaped him--fled with an utter
stranger? The thing was impossible. Ernestine was no coward,--a crowd
of drunken peasants could never have driven the shy girl into the arms
of the first stranger whom she met. She must have previously known her
magnanimous champion. He interrogated the other servants, but they one
and all hated him and were devoted to Frau Willmers. They all declared
their entire ignorance,--"the Fräulein must have met the gentleman at
the school-house,--he was often there."

This was enough to prove to Leuthold that the ground was unsteady
beneath his feet, and for a moment he succumbed under the weight of
this new anxiety. Was it possible to guard a woman more strictly, to
seclude her more utterly, than he had guarded and secluded Ernestine?
And yet--yet in this heart, that he thought long since dead, impulses
were strong that would seek and find expression in spite of every
precaution that he might take. And all this at a moment when he was
battling for life and death with a peril which required younger and
more unbroken energies than his own!

It was too much; a presentiment seized him that fate had decreed his
ruin. But he collected himself once more, and took counsel with
himself, as was his custom in all emergencies. As we turn to Heaven
when all around us seems dark, so he turned in his direst need to his
own understanding and will, that had hitherto sufficed him.

Allowing himself but brief refreshment after all his anxiety and alarm,
he ordered the carriage and set out for town to bring home his ward.
But, to his great surprise and delight, he found her thus near home,
evidently weary and disconsolate.

"Aha, like the mermaid in your beloved fable, you have been trying your
fortunes among mankind, away from your cool, clear, native element," he
said to himself with a smile. "They liked you well, I doubt not, at
first sight, but you have not gained much, for they soon discovered
that you were half fish and not fit to live with them!"

As he approached her, he put on an expression of distress, and when the
coachman had gone he began in a tone of great anxiety, "Merciful
heavens, do I find you thus? Weeping by the roadside like a homeless
beggar!"

"True, true indeed,--like a homeless beggar," Ernestine repeated.

"But, my dear child, is this becoming,--such a scene in this open
spot,--writhing on the ground here like a worm?"

She looked at him. He had on a broad-brimmed, light-gray felt hat. As
ever, his costume was faultless. Standing before her with a lowering
glance, his tall, supple figure now bending down to her, his eyes
riveted upon her, he it was that seemed to her like a worm, and a most
poisonous one, and with unmistakable aversion she sprang up and
recoiled from him.

He stepped back and looked at her with amazement. "What! is this
Ernestine von Hartwich, whom I have educated--whose philosophical
composure nothing could disturb? or is this wayward child a changeling,
brought hither by some evil sprite?"

"Spare me your sneers, uncle," said Ernestine imperiously. "They
disgust me!"

Leuthold's amazement increased still further. "What--what words are
these? Is this what is taught at Frau Staatsräthin Möllner's? Upon my
word, Ernestine, I believe you are ill."

"Yes, yes, I am, and I pray you to leave me. You cannot restore me to
health."

"What an amount of mischief has been done in these few days when you
were without my advice and protection! It is true, I cannot tell what
has happened, but something serious must have occurred. I forbear to
reproach you for making acquaintances without my knowledge, and for
leaving the house without my permission, and thus causing me great
anxiety, for I see you are sufficiently punished already, but, I beg of
you, do not do so again. You see now what comes of it."

"And I beg of you, uncle, not to treat me thus, like a child, who must
say, after she has been chastised, 'I will not do so again!' If I
wished to return to the world, of which I had my first experience
yesterday, you could not forbid me to do so, for"--involuntarily she
repeated what the Staatsräthin had said--"you cannot forbid my doing
what does not infringe the law. But I do not, and never shall, wish to
return,--never! I am out of place among other people. I do not
understand their ways, nor they mine." She looked at Leuthold with
suspicion. "I do not know whether you have been right in bringing me up
as a perfect recluse,--in making me so unfit for life in the world. Who
can tell that it would not have been better to leave me my simplicity
of heart, and not to have led me into paths whence there is no return?
I will struggle on in my lonely way as never woman struggled before,
until the day comes when I can convince and shame the most incredulous.
But let me tell you, uncle, that if the day never comes when my fame
atones to me for all the happiness I have resigned,--then, uncle, I
shall curse you!"

She spoke the last words with an expression that alarmed even the
cold-blooded Leuthold. In an instant he grasped the whole situation. He
saw that she had made some sacrifice to her ambition that was almost
too great for her strength. His ready wit soon divined what had
occurred. It was a blow, of the significance of which he was perfectly
aware. He felt that he had reached a crisis that demanded all his
caution and forethought, and he did not venture to speak until he had
pondered well what course to adopt. Thus they arrived at the gate of
the castle-garden in silence. He opened it for Ernestine to pass in. As
they walked past the spot where she had stood with Johannes on the
previous evening, Ernestine burst into tears. Leuthold looked at her in
surprise, and she controlled herself and walked hastily on. As always,
he had the effect of cold water upon her. Her wound did not bleed in
his presence.

"I was greatly irritated when I learned, upon my arrival this morning,
what had happened," he began at last "Our very lives are not secure in
the midst of this mob of ignorant peasants. We must seriously think of
removing elsewhere,--we cannot possibly remain here."

Ernestine made a gesture of dissent.

"What, you do not wish to go? What can induce you to stay here, where
all are so hostile to you?"

Ernestine did not reply. After a pause she said curtly, "Very well. You
have proposed our departure,--that is enough for the present I will
think of it."

They entered the house.

"Ernestine, I have brought you the sphygmometer I promised you,--would
you like to see it?"

"No, I will go to my room and rest."

Leuthold knew not what to do. He did not wish to leave her to herself,
but would have made use of her agitation to extort her secret from her.
She had reached the door when he cried after her, "Apropos, Ernestine!
I congratulate you!"

"Upon what?"

"I committed an indiscretion this morning, and found upon your table
the essay that you have withheld from me for so long. I assure you,
Ernestine, I was actually astounded! It is far beyond anything you have
ever done before,--it will be a perfect bomb-shell in the scientific
world!"

Ernestine dropped the handle of the door and looked sadly at him. "Do
you think so?" She shook her head. "They will not pay it any
attention."

"Oh, you are mistaken. It must make its mark. Be easy upon that point.
How did such a magnificent thought occur to you?"

"As such thoughts always occur,--if it can only be verified!"

"Oh, most certainly it can be verified. I'll warrant its correctness.
Girl, there is a great future in store for you. I thought I knew you,
but you continually surprise me by your genius."

"Oh, uncle, I scarcely dare to hope. I know now how men despise the
attainments of learned women. There is no use in talking or writing
unless I can adduce proofs, irrefragable proofs, that are accessible to
all. The science of to-day demands facts, and, if I cannot procure
them, I can never convince these prejudiced minds."

"Be assured that every one who reads that paper of yours will be
spurred on to make experiments in the matter. Leave it to those
practised in technicalities to work out the demonstration. The merit of
the idea will always be yours."

"And even if they find it worth the trouble to investigate the matter,
and then do it so carelessly that they do not arrive at the desired
result, it will always be thought a mere hypothesis, and I a learned
fool. Madame du Châtelet was laughed at for publishing her novel idea
that the different colours of the spectrum gave out different degrees
of heat. What did it profit her that Rochon, forty years afterwards,
hit on the experiments that yielded the proof of her hypothesis?[1] She
had long been mouldering in the grave, and not a laurel had ever been
laid upon it. Oh, this is a miserable existence! How long must we toil
on thus, step by step?"

Involuntarily she left the door of her room, and approached her uncle.

He took her clasped hands, and felt that she was again within his
power. "Until there is a woman with sufficient force to withstand a
man. They are all Brunhildas,--these mighty heroines. They fall victims
to the Siegfrieds who master them. You, Ernestine, are perhaps the only
woman capable of accomplishing the task calmly and with a clear mind.
You succumb to no inferior passion, but keep your eyes fixed steadily
on the mark. You will shatter the prejudices of the world, and no human
being will dream who aided you in your work, I have long forgotten how
to think and act for my own advantage. You are my pride, something more
than my child,--the child of my mind. Your education is my work, your
honour is my honour. Come then, I have been thinking of it, and believe
I have hit upon an experiment that will demonstrate your idea."

"Uncle, what is it?" cried Ernestine, flushing up.

"Come into the laboratory now. We will see, upon the spot, what can be
done."

"Uncle," said Ernestine, overflowing with gratitude, "you give me new
life! Forgive me for doubting you and doing you injustice for a
moment!"

"Never mind, my dear child, it is all forgotten. I can easily imagine
how others have assailed me to you, and that you gave heed to them.
Have we not all our hours of weakness?"

"Yes, oh, yes, uncle, it was an hour of weakness!" And in deep
humiliation she covered her face with her hands.

"I can guess," said Leuthold calmly, with his melodious insinuating
voice. "They burdened your heart,--you have been spoken to of
love,--you have been sought for a wife. Is it not so?"

Ernestine made no reply.

"They knew you for the feminine Samson that you are, and would have
shorn your hair, that they might call out, 'The Philistines are upon
you!'"

Ernestine interrupted him. "Hush, uncle! not one word, in that tone, of
a man who is sacred to me!"

"God forbid that I should offend you! I am not speaking of him, but of
his lady-mother, who has him fast by her apron-string." And he gave her
a quick, keen glance.

"And never mention his mother to me! I hate her!" cried Ernestine
angrily, ascending with him the stairs to the laboratory.

Leuthold now knew enough. "I can readily understand that these people
should have tried to turn you against me,--for he who seeks to win you
must first remove me from his path. This they well know, and their
attempt is natural. But you, with your calm power of reasoning, can
soon convince yourself that they require of you no less a sacrifice
than your entire self, and that unbounded, although perhaps
unconscious, selfishness is the mainspring of their proceedings, while
I, as long as you have known me, have treated you with thorough
disinterestedness. They humiliated you in your own esteem that you
might be bought at a more reasonable price. I can see by your depressed
condition how they discouraged you. I will restore your confidence in
yourself, and let this act of mine prove to you that I desire nothing
of you but that you remain true to yourself. This is all the
satisfaction I ask. And now all is right again, is it not?"

"Yes, uncle," said Ernestine, collecting her energies afresh. "And now
come, let us try the experiment you spoke of."

Leuthold's light eyes sparkled with triumph as he heard these words,
and together they entered the apartment containing her costly
scientific apparatus.

But, exert herself as she might, her labour was all in vain. Her hands
trembled, everything grew dim before her eyes. Her interest in the
matter flagged; other thoughts intruded upon her mind. With superhuman
resolution, she made further efforts, and the hectic spot, so alarming
to a physician, appeared on either cheek. Leuthold did not notice them.
He was so absorbed in his work that he started, as if from a dream,
when she fainted away by his side.



                              CHAPTER II.

                       THE WEAKNESS OF STRENGTH.


The Bergstrasse was quiet and lonely when Johannes returned from
Hochstetten. The inmates of the houses there were all within-doors,
shielding themselves from the heat of the midday sun, reflected with
oppressive intensity from the white houses. Johannes leaned back
motionless in the carriage, his eyes covered with his hand. He never
looked up when some dogs came barking around the wheels,--indeed, he
did not hear them. The exterior world was dead for him.

"_Halte-là!_" cried a voice from a carriage drawn up before his own
door. "_Parbleu! il dort_."

Johannes raised his head. The Worronska was awaiting him.

His carriage stopped. He got out, and the Worronska beckoned him to
her. Contrary to her custom, she was not holding the reins to-day, and
was not seated upon the box.

"I am glad you are come. I came myself to see you, Professor Möllner,
as I received no answer to my note,--and I was just driving away."

Johannes was confused. He had received the note she had alluded to, but
had not opened it.

"Pray lend me your arm. Have you one moment for me?"

"I am at your service," said Johannes gravely, and he helped her out of
her carriage.

"Will you grant me a short audience in your house,--or am I unworthy to
enter this temple of science?"

Johannes opened the door for her. "My simple dwelling is but poorly
adapted for the reception of such distinguished guests. I can scarcely
hope that you can be comfortable here, even for a few minutes."

"How pleasant this is!" she cried, as he led the way to his office.
"Believe me, I like this much better than my marble halls, where there
is no breath of true feeling."

"I should have thought that one like yourself could always collect
warm-hearted friends about her," said Johannes absently, only for the
sake of saying something.

The countess looked at him for an instant suspiciously. She knew in
what repute she was held, and the compliment was perhaps ambiguous. But
the cloud upon his brow convinced her that his thoughts were busy
elsewhere. She looked in his eyes, but his gaze fell before hers, as we
look away from what offends our delicacy. The countess interpreted it
otherwise,---his embarrassment flattered her.

"Do you call the crowd of coarse flatterers, who once surrounded me,
warm-hearted people?" she asked in a tone of disdain.

"If you found none such amongst them, I must lament that they kept all
such from your side. For no man of sincere and warm heart could
approach you as long as you were surrounded by such a throng."

The countess rose from the sofa, upon which she had thrown herself. "I
sent them from me long ago: there is nothing to prevent the approach of
any man of noble character,--but none such attempt it,--I must go
half-way to seek them."

Johannes was silent. The conversation was an infinite weariness to him:
he had need of all his chivalry to enable him to endure it with
becoming patience.

"You are out of spirits, Dr. Möllner. Am I the cause of it?"

"What a question, countess! Could I say yes, even if you were? I must
have been guilty of great rudeness towards you, if you can suspect me
of such _gaucherie_."

"I certainly cannot boast of any exaggerated courtesy from you."

"I never force upon others what can have no possible value for them,"
said Johannes coldly.

The countess bit her lip. "Is that meant for me?"

"I do not see how. I said nothing that could in any way apply to you."

"Indeed?"

"It surprises me to have to assure you of it," replied Johannes, who
began to divine that he had touched a sensitive spot in the countess's
mind.

"Then I believe you. Now let me force upon you what can indeed have no
value for you, but what people usually prize greatly,--money."

She opened a pocket-book, and counted out a number of bank-notes. "See,
I have come to give you what I can for the little girl who was injured.
Here are ten thousand roubles. I have no more ready money just at
present. Do you think I may offer this to the people now?"

"You are very generous, countess, but it would be a greater kindness to
these simple people not to put the whole sum into their hands at once.
If I may advise you, just settle upon the little girl a small annuity
for life,--that will preserve her from want,--since she must lose her
arm, she will hardly be able to support herself. These people will not
know what to do with so large a sum all at once."

"Do you invest it for them, then, in the way you think best. An annuity
is out of the question: I might die, and then there would be
difficulties thrown in the way of its payment. No. I have written to my
agent in St. Petersburg for forty thousand roubles more. Then the child
will be in possession of fifty thousand roubles, and can live upon this
sum in Germany quite comfortably."

"Countess," cried Johannes, looking at her with unfeigned admiration,
"do you know what you are doing? It is the gift of a monarch! I cannot,
of course, judge of the proportion that this sum bears to your wealth,
but it is my duty to warn you that it is far beyond what these people
can possibly expect!"

"Heavens, what a talk about a trifle!" cried the countess impatiently.
"I need only a little prudence for a couple of years, and the
expenditure will be entirely covered. Even if I should have to deny
myself now and then, what is it in comparison with the injury that my
heedlessness has inflicted upon the poor child? I would give her more
if I had not so many poor relatives whom I must not defraud."

"Such wealth in such hands, Countess Worronska, is a blessing to the
poor. I see, for the first time, that this hand can do more than hold
the reins and wield the whip, that it can open wide, and scatter with
princely liberality what others would amass and hoard. Let me imprint
upon it a kiss of fervent gratitude,--I have done you injustice."

"Oh, Möllner," cried the beautiful woman, flushed with delight, "I
would give all that I possess, and all that I am, for one such grateful
glance from your eyes! I know what the injustice is of which you speak.
You have hitherto despised me, and now you see that there is something
in me worthy of admiration. Yes, I have lived wildly,--I have not
heeded the restraints imposed upon woman by man, because I did not
respect mankind. Now, now I acknowledge them, because at last I have
found a human being whom I respect from the depths of my soul, and to
whom I would gratefully commit the guidance of my life. I can give what
is better than a few thousand roubles. I am capable of the sacrifice of
myself! If I thought it would win me your esteem, I would throw away
whip and rein. My hand should know only the needle. I would never mount
horse again,--never rush from place to place, sipping the froth of this
world's delights. I would never stir from this spot, but lie here,
clasping your knees, a penitential Magdalene. My wealth I would cast at
your feet, and lay aside all splendour that might charm other eyes than
yours. All that I have to give, so ardently desired by others, should
be yours. I should think it an act of mercy if you deigned to accept my
gift. I know how I transgress all law and custom when I, a woman, thus
offer myself to him whom I love,--but what would be a departure from
womanly delicacy and reserve in others, is for me a return thither. It
is not for me to wait proudly for such a man as you to bring me his
heart. I am sunk so low that in remorseful humiliation I must sue for
esteem and love, try to deserve them by the penitence of a lifetime,
and not murmur if they are withheld from me. I feel the disgrace of
this; but, oh, if I can only through this disgrace recover my lost
honour,--if I can only, by thus transgressing law, cease to be lawless!
Believe me, it is no fleeting emotion that speaks through my lips,--it
is the despairing effort of a stray soul to grasp the redeeming power
of a true love!"

She could scarcely conclude; overcome by passion, she fell upon her
knees, stretched out her arms to him as if drowning, and burst into a
storm of sobs.

Johannes sought in vain to raise her. He was stunned, as it were, by
this volcanic outburst. Suddenly, into the gaping wounds made by
Ernestine's coldness, poured the hot lava-stream of a passion of which,
in the temperate zone of his German intellectual existence, he had
never dreamed. He stood as if before some startling natural phenomenon,
amazed, overwhelmed, unable to collect himself. One thought filled his
mind. Where he longed for love he could not find it, and where he
neither desired nor hoped for it he found it in fullest measure. The
contrast was too vivid; as if dazzled, he covered his eyes with his
hand, and a profound sigh escaped him.

She drew his hand away from his face, and asked, "Möllner, is that sigh
for me?"

"For both of us."

"Möllner!" she said, and her voice was deep and rich, and her soft,
gentle touch sought his hand, while her dark, glowing eyes were fixed
upon him in an agony of suspense. Thus the beautiful majestic woman
knelt there, expiating in the torment of that moment her sin in not
keeping herself pure for this long-delayed love, looking up to him as
to a redeemer, ready to sacrifice for his sake herself and a life of
worldly enjoyment,--for him, the simple student, unadorned by any of
the studied graces that distinguished the men that had hitherto crowded
around her, and unconscious of having ever sought her love. Could this
woman, used only to ask and to have, love him thus, and she, the only
one who could ever be to him what his whole soul thirsted for,--she for
whom he would only too willingly have sacrificed his life, resign him
for an illusion, a chimera, that could never give her one moment's joy?
He grew giddy,--he drew his hands from the countess's grasp, and sprang
up. She bowed her head upon the lounge that he had just left, and hid
her face in her arms, as if awaiting the death-stroke from the sword of
the executioner. Now, when she knelt thus in the abandonment of her
grief, for the first time he perceived her wonderful loveliness,--but
only for one moment,--the next, he turned from her and threw open a
shutter, admitting the broad day to chase away the bewildering twilight
that filled the room. A cool breeze had arisen,--he inhaled it
thirstily, and, when he turned again to the countess, he was calm.
Reflection, so native to him, had conquered his agitation, and by his
sufferings for Ernestine's sake he knew how to pity this woman who
loved so hopelessly. It was the purest compassion that beamed in his
eyes as he raised her head, but again his glance had upon her the
effect of magic.

"Oh, not that look, Möllner! Do not look thus while you sentence me! it
makes my doom doubly hard to bear. If you cannot tell me that you love
me, turn those eyes away,--their glance would wake the dead!"

"Good heavens! Countess Worronska, how can I find the right words in
which to tell you what I must, if you so increase the labour of the
task? I pray you, dear friend, listen to me calmly, and think what you
impose upon me,--either I must play the hypocrite, or give the worst
offence that can befall a woman."

The countess sprang up, and measured him with a look in which pain and
anger strove for the mastery. He took her hands and gently forced her
to sit down upon the sofa,--she yielded to him mechanically.

"Dear Countess Worronska, for both our sakes let me preserve the
temperate self-possession not easy to so ardent and impulsive a
temperament as yours, but all the more incumbent upon the man to whose
hands you so confidingly entrust your future destiny. It would be of
little avail to tell you that you promise more than you can ever
perform. You would not believe me, for the woman who loves thinks no
sacrifice too great. But even true affection is subject to natural
change. For a time much may be resigned without a murmur, for
unaccustomed joy will compensate for unaccustomed privations, but, dear
countess, one grows used even to the joy of love, and, though it may
not grow cold, it gradually ceases to be an exceptional bliss, and
becomes a natural condition, in which the requirements of our nature,
the habits of our birth and education, reassert themselves. And if we
are unable to meet these, in spite of our affection we become conscious
of a want that may in the end deprive us even of the knowledge of our
happiness. This fate is unavoidable in a marriage where upon either
side a disproportionate sacrifice is made. Formed as you are, you could
never content yourself with the trivial domestic affairs of a German
scholar; you would soon pine in such captivity, and, without losing
your love for me, in the sincerity of which I believe, you would long
for your previous mode of living. Those who have never all their lives
long recognized the restraints of homely duty can scarcely reconcile
themselves to them, however honest their intentions may be. As soon as
you felt that your duties to me imposed a restraint upon you,--and you
would feel this sooner or later,--you would be wretched!"

"It is enough, Professor Möllner," cried the countess. "Give yourself
no further trouble in persuading me to doubt myself. If you loved me,
you could not consider so prudently my advantage in the matter. If you
felt for me as I do for you, you would not ask how long we might be
happy,--you would enjoy the moment and be willing for it to resign an
eternity. Oh, proud and great as you are, you bear the brand of a petty
existence upon your brow, although you know it not. In truth, Möllner,
your cool repulse does not shame me, for I feel that in the past hour I
have been the nobler of the two!"

"You are right, my friend. A woman as beautiful, as high in rank, and
as richly endowed as yourself has no cause to blush for having vainly
offered to one what thousands covet so greedily. Believe me, if one of
us is shamed, it is I, to whom favour has been shown so undeserved, so
unhoped-for,--such favour as only the bountiful gods bestow,--a favour
which I can never deserve or repay!" Deeply moved, he took her hand;
again her eyes sought his.

"Oh, Möllner, your heart relents,--I see it does. You do not know what
love is. Who was there here to teach you? The poor vapid sentiment that
they call by its name, suffices, it is true, for domestic use,--little
is given, little required,--how were you to differ from the rest? A
genuine passion would have caused infinite commotion in your
commonplace, every-day circles. Only intense feeling can beget intense
feeling, and whoever has known none such has never lived. Such a man as
you must not close his ears like a coward when passion calls. Do not
withdraw your hand. This moment must decide whether I remain here or
return to Russia. My estates are going to ruin. I must either sell them
or return to them myself. Give me the smallest hope of winning your
affection, and I will sell all my Russian possessions and live here
beneath your dear eyes, in conventual retirement and repose, year after
year, until at last you take me to your heart and say, 'I believe in
you!' Then--then I will surround you with such a heaven as these cold,
timid natures about you do not dream of. One word, Möllner,--no
promise, only a hope,--and I am your creature!"

Johannes regarded the passionate woman in her demonic beauty with a
strange mixture of admiration and horror, sympathy and aversion. At
last he adopted a resolution, for he felt that an end must be put to
this interview. "Madame," he said,--not without effort, for it was hard
for his magnanimous nature to give offence to a woman,--"madame, I see
that I must tell you all the truth. Hope nothing. It would certainly
inflict a deeper wound were I to tell you I _cannot_ love you,--it
would be casting doubt upon your personal charms. What man of flesh and
blood could swear that he _could_ not love you--a woman all perfection
from head to foot? Such an oath I could not presume to take, for my
senses are as keen as other men's. But, countess, I _will_ not love
you, and I can swear to what I will, and what I will not do!"

He arose, and the countess arose also, and stood opposite to him, a
picture of despair. "And must I content myself with this declaration?
Am I not worth the being told why?"

"Let it suffice you to know that I consider myself bound."

"Aha! to the Hartwich!"

Johannes stretched out his hand with a deprecatory gesture. "Do not
utter her name, madame. I will not hear it from your lips."

"It is true, then! That proud, frigid wraith--that phantom, in whose
veins there flows not one drop of warm blood--has robbed me of you!
Curse her!"

"Hush! curse her not, madame; it destroys my new-born pity for you!"
cried Johannes. "It is not she that comes between you and me. I could
never, never have given you my heart or hand, even had I been entirely
free. Do not force me to say to you what no man should say to any
woman."

"What is it? Let me drain the last drop in the cup. I will not leave
you until I know all."

"Well, since you will have it, listen, and may it prove your cure in a
twofold sense. You could bestow upon me, madame, all that the world
holds precious, but there is one thing that is no longer yours to
give,--your honour! And were a goddess to descend from the skies for my
sake, wanting this jewel, she could be nothing to me. I should send her
back to her glories, and choose rather to abide here below, a poor
solitary man."

A low cry followed these words, and then silence ensued. The Worronska
stood like a statue, with eyes, for the first time in her life perhaps,
seeking the ground. Johannes approached her and said quietly, "You can
never forgive what I have said. I do not ask you to do it; it is best
thus. You will hate me for awhile, and then forget me. I shall, all my
life, have a melancholy remembrance of you, for you wished to be kind
to me and I was obliged to wound you in return. Pour out your hatred
upon me; I deserve it at your hands."

"Möllner," said the beautiful woman, drawing her breath with effort,
"at this moment I am expiating all the sins I have ever committed.
Farewell, and if you hear that I have fallen back into my old manner of
life, sign the cross above my memory, and tell her whom you love, 'I
might have saved that soul, but I would not.'"

Johannes looked at her sadly. "Madame, if the agony of this moment does
not make the thought of your former life hateful to you, my love never
could have saved you. I disclaim the terrible responsibility you would
thrust upon me. I have done what I could. I have told you the truth,
and I cannot believe it will be without effect."

"I thank you," said the despairing woman with bitter irony. Then, with
one last tender look at Johannes, which he, standing calmly before her,
did not return, she turned to go, with the bearing of a queen. He
offered to conduct her to her carriage, but she refused his aid. Her
face was ashy pale, and not another word passed her compressed lips.

He looked after her as she entered her carriage and buried her face in
her hands. He saw how her whole frame was shaken with emotion. The
carriage whirled away, the dust rose in clouds. Johannes re-entered his
lonely room. "Ernestine!" he exclaimed, as if she could hear him,
"Ernestine!"



                              CHAPTER III.

                         SILVER-ARMED KÄTHCHEN.


That was wonderful news for the village of Hochstetten! The oldest
people there could remember nothing to match it! The Kellers' terrible
accident had turned out the greatest good fortune. The Kellers--poor
despised day-labourers that they had always been--had come to be rich
people, and were to be richer still. Käthchen might well do without her
arm, and, since that was all the harm that had been done her, it really
was hardly worth so much money. Many a one had suffered greater
injuries, and not a mouse had stirred in their behalf,--not even when
everything had been pawned in the long idleness that followed. And this
lucky child got immense wealth in exchange for her useless little arm!
Where was the justice of that, pray? It would have been some comfort to
think that it was devil's money, and could bring the Kellers no good,
and that it would be better to starve than to use it. At first, indeed,
the Kellers thought of refusing it, but the Reverend Father had been
too much for the devil. He had advised the Kellers to erect a crucifix
by the side of the road where the accident had occurred, and to give
the church three hundred gulden for masses for their benefactress's
soul. Thus the gift was consecrated, and they could accept it with a
clear conscience.

Scarcely four weeks had passed, and the cross was already standing by
the roadside just, where Käthchen had been run over. It was finer than
any other in all the country round; and the Kellers, husband and wife,
tossed their heads, as they passed it, as proudly as if they had placed
the Lord Jesus Christ himself there in person. The cross was ten feet
high, and stood upon a pedestal five feet high, upon which were
inscribed the words, "Erected to the glory of God by Pankratius Keller
and Columbane his wife, Anno Domini 18--. 'Let little children come
unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven!'"
And directly beneath was a beautiful painted tablet, whereon all might
read, "Wanderer, pause, and mark how wondrously the promise has been
kept to our child!" The painting that was to illustrate these words
represented Käthchen with one arm; the other lay upon the ground, and a
broad stream of blood was gushing from the maimed shoulder. A carriage
was driving furiously away. Above Käthchen's head the heavens were
opened, and the infant Christ was seen in the arms of the Madonna,
handing down a silver arm.

This most magnificent and ingenious allegory of the silver blessing
that had followed Käthchen's misfortune had cost the poet of the
village, the highly-gifted Reverend Father, many an anxious thought;
and, in consequence of it, the little girl went universally by the name
of "Silver-armed Käthchen," although she persistently refused to verify
her nickname by making use of an artificial limb. Her father and mother
were the objects of great ridicule and envy, but they did not mind
it at all, they could laugh in their turn,--they had plenty of
money,--and, what was more, they had, by means of it, gained more
favour with the Lord than all those who jeered at them. The host of the
"Stag" and the burgomaster were the richest people in the village, but
neither of them could boast that he had given three hundred gulden to
the Church, and the burgomaster had put up a very mean cross over in
the meadow, and, for economy's sake, had had only the head and hands
and feet of Christ painted upon it, leaving all the rest of the figure
to the imagination.

So they could enjoy their wealth without any misgivings. They knew how
high in favour they stood with the Lord; and, besides, Frau Keller had
sprinkled the package of notes that Möllner had given her with holy
water. She had done this entirely of her own mind. It was impossible to
be too prudent in such a case. So now that everything had been done to
keep off the Evil One, a blessing would be sure to follow. Little
Käthchen, however, thought and felt very differently. She was very
unhappy to find that the children stood aloof, staring at her as at
some strange animal when she went to sit in the sunshine before the
door, and that the big boys called her Silver-arm, and plucked her by
the empty sleeve that dangled from her shoulder.

But it was worse than all one day when a cripple came crawling
past,--there were many cripples in the country round about, as there
always are where human beings are fighting for the mastery with the
rude forces of nature. This man stopped before her and muttered, "Oh,
yes, you are treated like a princess! Such a poor fellow as myself is
worse off than a dog, for when a dog breaks its leg it is shot, but I
must hobble about and starve for the sake of Christian charity! Such
pious people as you are can always make friends with the Almighty, and
therefore a grand coach is sent to drive over you, while only a huge
stone in the quarry crushed my hip, and there was no fuss made about
it. The grand folks, whose house the stone helped to build, never
troubled themselves about the human blood that had sprinkled it. Well,
well,--to every one his own!"

And the man went hobbling off upon his crutches, and Käthchen covered
her eyes with the one poor hand that was left, and sobbed bitterly.

"Is that my merry little Käthchen that I hear crying?" suddenly asked a
familiar voice; and, when the child looked up, she saw Herr Leonhardt
approaching, supported by his son.

Young Herr Leonhardt was tall and slender, with a gentle, frank
expression of countenance,--such a face and form as one might imagine
belonged to the favourite son of the patriarch Jacob. There was a
certain poetic grace in the devotion with which he guided the uncertain
steps of his blind father. His eyes were bent upon the ground, that
every obstruction might be removed against which his father's feet
might stumble.

He swung his light straw hat hither and thither in his hand, and his
fair hair encircled his broad brow with masses of curls.

Käthchen stopped crying as soon as she saw him. His graceful figure
stood alone among the coarse peasant youths, and, truly as she loved
and honoured his father, the son was dearer to her childish heart, for
he was young, hardly twelve years older than she herself, and youth
clings to youth. She arose and walked feebly towards the pair.

"Why, Käthi, brave little girl, that never cried when they cut off her
arm, what has happened to you?"

"They tease me," sobbed Käthchen, "because I have such an easy time and
was run over by a grand coach. They envy me my good luck, and no one
loves me any more. But it shall not be so,--I will not have anything
more than the other poor cripples,--I will give them all some of my
money. Seppel needs it far more than I do, and he got nothing for the
big stone that fell upon him, although he is a grown-up man. I am only
a stupid little child, who never earned anything, and yet I get so
much, because I have to sit still. But I will not keep it, and my
father and mother must not keep it all to themselves,--they are well
and strong. I will share it with those who have suffered as I have."

"But, my dear little Käthchen," said Herr Leonhardt, much moved, "you
are too generous to the people who tease you so. If you try to share
with all the cripples and maimed people in the village, you will have
very little left for yourself. If Heaven has decreed that you are to be
rich while they remain poor, you may resign yourself gratefully to its
inscrutable designs without any qualms of conscience. You can help the
needy by giving them work upon your farm that you are to buy with the
money that is coming to you. Until then, it would be much better to
give them a little money weekly, than to bestow upon such rough men a
large sum, that might tempt them to be idle and drink and gamble."

"Yes, it would be better; but mother will not let me have anything. She
does not like to have me give away a single kreutzer."

"But what does your father say?" asked Walter, who had been regarding
the child with silent admiration.

"Oh, he works all day long in our new field, and does not care for
anything. Mother keeps the money, and when she says, 'So it must be,'
he does not say a word."

"But how does that agree with your parents' great liberality to the
Church?"

"Yes, I told mother she had better give some of the money to these poor
people than to the Reverend Father and the stone-mason for the masses
and the cross; but then she told me I was too silly,--that she had
given the money to the Lord,--and it was far wiser and more profitable
to give it to Him than only to men, for He was more powerful than any
of them, and could give a great deal better reward for what was done
for Him."

Herr Leonhardt turned to his son, and, with a gentle smile, said, "Does
not that one sentence show the evil of this false piety? These people
turn to the Highest only for the sake of the reward that they expect.
For them the Lord is a venal human being, whose protection they can
procure by bribery, and they now think themselves absolved from all
humane and Christian duty. Oh, holy,--no, not holy,--unhallowed
simplicity!"

"Dear father," said Walter, "it is the same old story of indulgences,
only in another shape. Tetzel, to be sure, is here no longer, but there
are still Tetzels in plenty to be found, and always will be while there
are men in the world who prize money beyond all else on earth and think
it no way beneath the dignity of the Almighty actually to drive a
bargain with them. The noble thought of the antique sacrifice is at the
bottom of it all. Polykrates threw the ring into the sea to appease the
gods,--the Christian pays his money to erect a crucifix. But the Greek
trembled when the gods rejected his offering and the fish brought back
his ring. The conceit of our age regards its offering as an investment
of capital, and hopes for large interest upon it."

The young man passed his hand through his blonde curls with a light
laugh. His father bowed his gray head thoughtfully, and pondered upon
what his son had said, and how far mankind still were from a knowledge
of the truth. Käthchen looked at both, surprise in her eyes, as if they
were speaking some strange tongue. All was quiet around, for the little
girl's parents were away in the fields. A couple of doves were picking
up the crumbs from Käthchen's supper, and the ducks were diving and
whisking their tails in the little brook near the house.

Quick, firm footsteps were heard approaching.

"Here comes our friend Möllner," said the old man, listening. "I know
his step from all others."

"Yes, Father Leonhardt, it is I," said Möllner's clear voice. "How are
you all?" He drew near the quiet little group. Before him ran three or
four geese, greatly terrified and in great anxiety,--but yielding not
one jot of their dignity, for they never thought of turning aside; they
were left in the middle of the road, when Johannes reached his friends.

"Look, Herr Professor," remarked young Leonhardt gaily, "those stupid
birds are priding themselves upon having maintained their place. See
with what haughty disdain they are regarding you. They evidently think
that they have compelled you to turn aside for them! It is always the
way. Wisdom vacates the path shared with stupidity, and the latter
swells with the pride of an imagined victory."

Johannes smiled. "What puts these little moral sentiments into your
head, my dear Walter? Are you about to compose a new primer for your
school?"

"It really would not be a bad idea among such people as these!" said
Walter, as he shook hands with Möllner.

Möllner sat down upon the bench before the house and took Käthchen upon
his knee. "Would not you like, Käthchen, to have Herr Walter make you a
new primer?"

"It might be a capital undertaking, Walter," remarked Herr Leonhardt.
"We must not despise small opportunities, since larger ones are denied
us."

"Yes, father," laughed the light-hearted young fellow, "but, if my
primer is to succeed here, I must have for the letter H,


          "'H stands for Hartwich, good Christians must know,
            She's a terrible witch, who will work them all woe.'"


Herr Leonhardt made a sign to the thoughtless speaker, who looked in
alarm at Möllner, who preserved a gloomy silence.

"You must not laugh at the lady at the castle," said Käthchen, leaning
her pale little face against Johannes' throbbing heart. "My mother
complained to-day that I had grown as pale and ugly as the Fräulein,
and she prayed the Lord to break the spell that the Fräulein had laid
upon me. It made me so sorry, for she cannot help my being so pale. She
is so good and kind,--how could she bewitch me?"

Johannes silently drew the child closer to him.

"To be sure, she is good and kind, and would not harm any one," said
Herr Leonhardt;--but his son interposed, with youthful exaggeration,
"She is a saint,--far too holy for these ignorant people to be
permitted to kiss her footprints as she passes!"

Johannes pressed his bearded lips upon the child's head, but did not
speak.

"Herr Professor, where are your thoughts?" asked Leonhardt anxiously,
laying his hand gently upon Johannes' shoulder.

"With the subject of your conversation, dear friend. It gives me no
rest. It is now four weeks since I have seen her. I would not seek her
again until I had collected all the material that was necessary to
convict her uncle, for I must be prepared for the most determined
opposition on his part to my visits. To-day, through my kind old friend
Heim, I have discovered a clue to Gleissert's rascalities, and when I
compare the intelligence that I have received with the fact of which
you informed me, that all his letters are addressed to Unkenheim, I
think I have a terrible weapon against him in my possession. And
yet,--yet I do not know whether I ought to warn Ernestine by letter or
to go to her myself. Will not,--must not the sight of me be painful to
her?"

"As well as I remember, you told me that she begged you not to forsake
her," said Herr Leonhardt.

"So she did, old friend. But how do I know how she thinks and feels
now, since she never visits you without such anxious inquiries
beforehand as to whether I am with you, and never, too, unless
accompanied by Gleissert?"

"That is all her uncle's doings," said Walter. "You cannot think, Herr
Professor, how he watches and guards her. Since I have been allowed to
study in her laboratory, I have never for one moment been alone with
her,--that devil is always present. And it was with difficulty that she
obtained permission for me to come to the castle. Willmers says that
there was a three-days fight about it, but Fräulein Ernestine had made
up her mind, and he was at last obliged to give way. It is high time
that something were done for the unfortunate lady, for since the
completion of her last treatise she has been utterly exhausted, and if
she goes on thus much longer she will kill herself."

"I have known that for a long time," said Johannes with a profound
sigh, "but what is to be done? I can make no impression either upon her
head or heart. My solitary hope now lies in separating her from that
villain."

"I think it would be much the best for you to see her yourself," said
Walter. "She is really wasting away from day to day."

"Yes, I know that it is so by her hands," added his father; "they grow
so thin and small, and are as cold and damp as if she were dying. Ah,
Herr Professor, their touch pierces me to the heart! I actually think I
can see her suffer, for hands feel so only when they are often wrung in
physical or mental anguish."

Johannes put the child from off his knee, and turned away his head, but
he could not conceal his emotion from the blind eyes of the
schoolmaster.

"Why attempt to suppress a pain that is so natural, dear friend? Go to
her quickly. It will do her good."

"Well, then, I will write her a line," said Johannes. "I will ask her
whether the sight of me would pain or console her. Good God! I desire
nothing but her happiness! You, Walter, will, I know, contrive to let
her have my note without her uncle's knowledge. She will, I hope,
answer it in the same way."

"Then let us go directly home," said Herr Leonhardt, "that you may
write immediately."

The gentlemen started to go.

Käthchen plucked Johannes by his coat. "But, Herr Professor, if you go
to see the Fräulein to-morrow, you will not find her."

"How so, Käthchen?" asked Johannes, who had not thought that the child
had been listening to the conversation.

"Oh, yes; I know it is true. Frau Willmers from the castle went by here
to-day, and whispered to me to tell the gentlemen secretly, if they
came to see me to-day, that the Fräulein was going away to-night
forever, but I must not let any one know that she had told me, or she
should lose her place. And if the Herr Professor did not come, I must
tell it to the master, that he might send a messenger to town to the
Herr Professor. Frau Willmers cried a great deal, and said she dared
not go to the school-house, because,--because the Evil One, who watches
the Fräulein so closely, would know it."

"Käthchen!" cried Johannes, "you little angel, how much you have done
for me! The Fräulein would have gone to-night, and I should never have
known whither, if it had not been for you! Is this all that you know?"

"Yes, this is all,--you may trust me. I listened to all she said."

Johannes took the child in his arms and kissed her. "Child, tell me how
I can reward you. Speak. What would you like? Whatever it is, you shall
have it."

"Ah, dear Herr Professor, if you would only persuade my father and
mother to let me have some money for the poor people. Oh, do, do beg
them. And then they will not laugh at me and call me Silver-arm any
more. I will make them happy, too, or else I shall be just like the
Fräulein, and no one will like me at all,--and I would not have it so
for all the money in the world."

"I know what you mean, you good little thing, and I promise you that
when the rest of your property is sent to me I will invest it so that
your parents shall have no right to any of it, but that you may do with
it just what Herr Leonhardt advises."

"Ah, that will be splendid!" cried Käthchen, as she kissed the sleeve
of Johannes' coat. "Herr Walter!" she called out, "then you will find
out all the poor people for me, and tell me how much to give them?"

"Yes, Käthi dear, indeed we will!" Walter gladly replied.

Johannes gave the child some pieces of silver. "There, my darling, give
those to the next beggar you see, if you want to do so. Farewell, all
of you. I will not delay a moment, for it is time to proceed to
extremities." He pressed Leonhardt's hand, and walked quickly away in
the direction of the castle.

"What can have passed up there between the uncle and niece?" said
Leonhardt, shaking his head.

"Father Leonhardt," said Käthchen, "don't you tell, but I know
something."

"What is it, my child?"

"That guardian up there is a very bad man."

"That is an old story, Käthi," said Walter.

"Yes, but you don't know what he does; he empties the letter-box at the
school-house when it is dark."

"Is that true?"

"Yes, father saw him do it, but he told me he would shut me up for
three days if I told any one."

"How did your father happen to see such a thing?" asked Herr Leonhardt,
amazed.

"Oh, he told mother all about it, and I ought not to have heard it, but
I did hear. Last week, one night when he was biding to try and catch
the thief who steals our grapes, he heard some one going softly towards
the school-house, and he hid close, thinking it was the thief. And then
he saw it was Herr Gleissert, who busied himself about the place where
the letters are slipped into the box. And father crept nearer, and saw
plainly how he poked something long and thin into the slit and drew out
the letters, and then lighted a match and held his hat before it that
no one might see it. Then by the light of the match he read all the
writing on the letters, and put them back again into the box,--all but
one, which he kept. And then he went home to the castle again. Father
said he wanted to seize him and hold him, but he did not know what
weapons he might have about him, and that there was no use of accusing
him, for father would be sure to get the worst of it."

"What mischief can the scoundrel be brewing?" said Herr Leonhardt,
anxiously.

Walter laughed. "Ah, father, we are paid now for always reading the
addresses of the letters he sent from the castle."

"That is an entirely different case," said Leonhardt "But our friend
ought to know this before he reaches the castle. Run, Walter, you are
young and strong; try to overtake him, and tell him."

"Yes, father, I can do it easily. Sit down here, I will soon return,"
said the young man, hurrying away, fleet-footed as a deer.

Herr Leonhardt felt for Käthchen. "My child, are you there?"

"Yes, Father Leonhardt."

"Käthchen, you have repaid me to-day for all the love I have ever given
you." He passed his hands over the little, thin face. "I cannot see
you; they tell me you are changed,--and I think you must be. But in my
mind's eye you will always have the same roguish black eyes and chubby
rosy cheeks, with the little berry-stained mouth,--you have never since
told what is not true, eh, Käthi?"

"No, Father Leonhardt, on my word and honour, never, and I never will
again. I am now the richest child in all the country round, mother
says, and I will try to be the best, and thank the kind God, as you say
I should, by kindness to others. And, now that I cannot fold my hands
any more when I say my prayers, I must pray very hard indeed,--harder
than before,--for then I always felt as if I had the dear God between
my hands and could keep Him and make Him listen to me, but now that I
cannot do that I must call Him oftener, and beg Him to listen to my
prayers."

"My dear little child, God is always near you,--he loves to dwell in a
pure, childlike heart. Käthchen, you are a flower in the blind man's
path. Do you know what that means?"

Käthchen laid her head upon Leonhardt's knee. "I think it means that
you love me."

"Yes, my child, and that there are few joys in my life like what you
are to me."

"But, father, you have Walter, he is more to you than I can be."

"God bless him! he is my staff and prop in the darkness. He is the best
that I have on this earth."

"Father Leonhardt, when I grow up I will marry Walter, and then we will
all live together."

"My child, what put that into your little head?"

"Why, my mother says that now I am so rich that I can choose any
husband that I please,--and I will choose Walter and no one else--no
one."

"But suppose he will not have you?" asked Herr Leonhardt with a smile.

"Oh, but he will have me,--I know he will," said the child confidently.

"Oh, holy, holy simplicity!" whispered the old man, and laid his hand
in blessing upon the little girl's head.

And as he sat there, gazing into the night that had closed around him,
suddenly to his inner vision all grew light about him. From the
vanishing darkness arose the columns of a church, and through the high
arched windows the sunlight fell full upon the heads of a youthful pair
kneeling at the altar. Around stood a throng of glad relatives and
friends, amongst them a hoary blind father, and by his side an old
mother, with tears of joy standing in her eyes. The young couple were
fair to look upon,--the bridegroom blonde, bearded, manly, the bride
blushing in girlish timidity. Her large, frank eyes were swimming in
tears of devotion and emotion, but her charming little mouth was
slightly stained as if from eating berries.

"What! what!" said the people around her, "picking blackberries upon
her wedding-day?"

Then the organ began a well-known hymn, and all present joined in
singing it The bride gave her lover her hand,--only her left, to be
sure,--but its clasp was as strong as if there were two to give,--for
it was for a lifetime. And then the ceremony was ended, and they all
went out into the clear Spring sunshine. A crowd of familiar faces
pressed around,--poor, deformed, and maimed figures, that still seemed
not unhappy, for they were all well clad and fed,--and they waved their
caps in the air, with "Long life to the bridal pair! Since you have
made this place your home, there will be no starving or freezing poor
here. Long life to our Doctor Walter Leonhardt and to Silver-armed
Käthchen!"

Oh, sunny, peaceful picture! how it cheered the blind man's soul! A
lovely dream of the future, born of the prattle of a child, hovering
around an old man upon the verge of the grave!

"Father Leonhardt, what are you smiling at?" asked the child.

"At something beautiful that I have just seen."

"I thought you could not see any more?"

"I can see, my child, not things that are, but perhaps all the more
plainly things that are to be."



                              CHAPTER IV.

                                BATTLE.


Ernestine was sitting at her writing-table, arranging books and papers
to be packed up. Her uncle was assisting her with trembling haste. From
time to time she leaned her head wearily upon her hand.

"It will be impossible for us to leave to-day if you do not make more
haste," said Leuthold urgently.

"I am doing all that I can, but I am so weak that I do not know whether
I shall be able to travel to-night."

"I cannot imagine how you can give way so. You never used to do it.
When I think of the self-control that you were wont to exercise,--your
determination would have done honour to a man,--and now! Oh, it is
deplorable!"

"You torture me, uncle!" cried Ernestine, as she threw several books
into a chest at her side. "You will not believe that I am really much
weaker than I have ever been before. It is of my own free will that I
am going away--why should I not hasten as much as I can?"

Her uncle looked askance at her with a smile. "You are mistaken, my
child. It is not your will that is acting,--it is only a whim that thus
urges you on. And a whim is the child of circumstances, and can be
controlled by them."

"I do not know what circumstances could control this 'whim,' as you are
pleased to call it. Nothing can happen to-day or to-morrow to change my
determination. What delay can you apprehend? No one knows of my
departure, so that it cannot be impeded by remonstrances from any
quarter. I have not even told good old Leonhardt that I am going, and
Willmers heard it only this morning. Could I do more to prove to you
that I am in earnest?"

Leuthold looked at her again with his sarcastic smile. He knew well
that Ernestine had preserved this strict silence concerning her
departure only because she did not feel strong enough to withstand any
friendly remonstrances. Therefore he trembled lest some unforeseen
accident might yet divulge her plans. His very existence depended upon
her staying or going. During the four weeks that had elapsed since
Ernestine's return from town, Leuthold's entire influence had been
exerted to remove Ernestine from this part of the country, and, if
possible, from Germany. She must never again see the man who had
evidently made such an impression upon her. Now less than ever could
she be allowed to form any attachment, for, if she were now to marry,
and require her property at his hands, he was lost! He had cautiously
managed to secure an appointment, through an American agent, in a large
chemical manufactory in New York. To Ernestine he had opened the
brilliant prospect of delivering a course of scientific lectures there.
The fact that she had received the prize from a German university for
one of her papers would surely suffice to make her reputation in
America,--and Leuthold had honestly done his best to have her fame as
an intellectual phenomenon noised abroad. In his present embarrassed
circumstances, it was of the greatest importance to him that she should
be placed in a position to support herself, that she might not be a
burden to him. If the lectures did not succeed, she would have to earn
her living as a "female physician." But upon this point he prudently
forbore to enlighten her. He fired her imagination with the enormous
advantages, pecuniary and other, that must accrue from her lectures.
The means that he employed to win her to his purpose were to an
ambitious woman irresistible. She saw before her a future such as no
woman had hitherto enjoyed. She saw herself in one of the vast halls of
New York, lecturing to a crowd of men who were all listening
attentively to--a girl! She saw herself regarded as the miracle of her
sex. The most secret dreams of her pride were to be realized,--the
seeds of her quiet diligence were to spring up and bud forth in the
sight of all,---the world should ring with the fame of what a woman
could do. And yet it was hard to decide; it was weeks before she could
bring herself to sign the simple letters of her name to the acceptance
of these proposals; no labour of her life--nothing whereon she had
expended days and nights of study--ever cost her as much as this single
signature.

Möllner's grave, earnest face had scared her back from clutching these
new honours, as Banquo's ghost frightened the usurper from the royal
chair. It seemed to her that she was guilty of a crime towards
him,--and at last, in a torment of doubt, she secretly wrote to him.
She told him everything, and begged for his counsel and advice. She did
not conceal from him that she could not take so decisive a step without
his blessing. Why this letter never reached Möllner, no one knew
besides Leuthold, except Käthchen and her parents.

Day after day passed, and of course Ernestine waited in vain for an
answer. She waited as if for a decree of life or death. Sleep refused
to visit her burning eyelids. She took barely sufficient nourishment to
support life. She pined with desire for only one word--one single
word--from Möllner,--and it did not come. She was no longer worth a
stroke of his pen. Since her refusal of his suit, he would none of her.
He had conquered himself,--had given her up,--and in how short a time!

And the more she had longed for a letter or a visit from him, the
greater was her bitterness of mind,--the offence to her pride,--when
she received neither. As often as she approached her writing-table, her
eyes were greeted by the large capitals of the flattering proposal she
had received, with all its alluring promises. What was there now to
wait for? Why should she hesitate now? And so she signed her
acceptance.

And now nothing should cause her to waver in her pride of purpose. She
would have the revenge of being irrevocably lost to him, she would
vanish without one word of farewell, that from a distant quarter of the
globe the fame of her greatness might reach his ears.

She did not even confide in Willmers, for she dreaded her garrulity.
Only on the very last day the housekeeper received orders to dispose of
Ernestine's movables as quickly as possible, and then to follow her,
for Leuthold wished, before sailing, to take leave of Gretchen, whom he
purposed to leave in Germany for the present. But Ernestine was to
accompany him. He would not,--he dared not now,--lose sight of her for
a moment.

She wrote a fervent, heartfelt farewell letter to Leonhardt, and begged
him to keep her books and apparatus until she should claim them again.
As she did not know yet where her future home would be, she could not
make use of them herself. Walter might find them useful. Thus
delicately she bestowed upon Walter the costly gift of the instruments
for the further pursuit of his studies.

After their departure, her uncle was to be informed of her disposal of
the physiological works and apparatus, which he had ordered Willmers to
sell. He would never have consented to it, for Ernestine had often, to
her surprise, noticed how desirous he was of ready money.

She bound Willmers by a solemn promise not to deliver the letter to
Herr Leonhardt until the writer had departed, and thus everything was
provided for,--everything was thought of,--everything except
Ernestine's physical condition. The inflexible girl had been accustomed
to take so little care of her health that she had given no heed to her
increasing exhaustion,--the natural consequence of the superhuman
efforts of the last few weeks. But to-day she could hardly stand, and
the thought of undertaking so long a journey began to alarm her.

She sat there before her uncle the picture of weariness. He regarded
her dubiously. Could he succeed in getting her on board of the steamer?
Then, if she were taken ill, it would of course be ascribed to
seasickness, which scarcely any one escapes. And if she died? Then all
would be well with her. He would bury her under the billows of the
ocean, and all his hatred, his alarm, and his crimes would sink with
her beneath the waves, which, as they swathed her dead body, would wash
away from him all disgrace and guilt. This thought was as boundless in
comfort as the ocean that was beginning to open upon his horizon.

"Uncle, do not gaze so strangely at nothing," said Ernestine. "You look
as if you were devising no good."

Leuthold smiled. "You are nervous indeed, my child. Since when has my
face looked strange to you?"

Ernestine did not reply. She went on wrapping a book in paper, to pack
it in the chest.

"Is that old fairy-book to go too?" asked Leuthold ironically.

"Yes," was the curt, decided reply.

"Well! well! Have you not a doll somewhere that I can pack with it?"

Ernestine started up. "Uncle, I told you once before that I will not
endure that tone!"

"Beg pardon, but such folly provokes a jest. Or perhaps the book has a
deeper value for you? You need not blush,--I can guess. It is a
remembrance of the knight of the oak,--Möllner! Ah, then indeed we must
certainly take it with us."

"Uncle," cried Ernestine, taking the book from him as he was about to
put it in with some others, "you know how to depreciate with your
sneering speeches everything that I have held dear. Let the book alone;
I will give it to little Käthchen."

"And when Professor Möllner visits her, and finds it there, it will
touch his heart, that the friend whom he has forsaken has guarded his
memory so faithfully until now. If he turns over its leaves, he will
doubtless find the oak leaf that you have pressed among them. Perhaps
he will think it a mute farewell, and bestow upon you a tear of
compassion. How gratifying it will be!"

"Uncle, if I thought that, I would rather burn the book!"

"And that would, at all events, be the best thing to do with it. That
self-conceited fellow is not worth the remembrance that you cherish of
him. I would efface it, as I would every impression that is unworthy of
you. Indeed, I have long been indignant, although I never spoke of it
to you, at his so easily forgetting you. Such a woman as you are is not
to be resigned like an article of merchandise about which buyer and
seller cannot agree. He never loved you, or he would never have dreamed
of making conditions in his proposal to you, as if you were to deem it
a great honour that he should condescend to you. Trust me, I know the
world and mankind thoroughly. He was in the greatest embarrassment, for
he felt himself morally obliged to offer you his hand."

Ernestine started.

Leuthold continued, "I do not know how you conducted yourself towards
him, but, with your inexperience and the preference that you entertain
for him,--do not deny it,--it is reasonable to suppose that you must
have made advances."

Ernestine bit her lip, and looked down.

"The one fact that you accompanied him to his house alone, without any
intimate acquaintance with him,--without an invitation from his
mother,--must have led him to fancy that you were desperately in love
with him, and he was conscientious enough to wish to efface the stain
that you had thus unwittingly cast upon your honour, by asking you to
be his wife. I do not question for a moment that his intentions towards
you from the very beginning were honourable and kind, but his feelings
seem to me to have been those of simple friendship, until your advances
forced him, as it were, to a declaration. Probably he is now
congratulating himself in silence upon his fortunate escape. But you
sigh and languish like a love-sick girl over his memory, and would
carry the only gift that you have ever received from him, bestowed upon
you out of sheer compassion when you were a fright of a child, across
the ocean with you as a relic! Ernestine, what is the matter with you?
For Heaven's sake, control yourself! What nonsense! You have actually
contracted a habit of fainting!"

He supported her drooping head and fanned her pale face.

She looked up at him wearily, then thrust him from her with evident
aversion, and stood up. Leuthold said nothing more. For the first time
she had allowed him to speak of Möllner, and he had seized the
opportunity to pour into her soul the surest poison that ever destroyed
love,--he was content now to let it work.

Ernestine walked several times to and fro: her step, her bearing, was
queenly,--she seemed suddenly to have grown taller. Her uncle might be
right,--she hated him for it, but still he might be right. What must
Johannes--what must his mother think of her for so throwing herself at
him? This was why his mother had treated her so,--this was the cause of
the cool conditions proposed to her by the son! She repeated to herself
every one of Johannes's words,--they were almost all words either of
grave warning or stern reproof. Even when he had been kind to her, it
had been the kindness of a father or a judge. Never, not even when
suing for her hand, had he laid aside the proud, measured bearing that
was native to him. His pity had been that of a superior being for a
soul astray, not of a lover for his beloved. And she! She recalled
every cordial word, every kindly glance, that she had bestowed upon
Johannes, and she persuaded herself that she had been too fond, that
her behaviour, in contrast with her usual cold demeanour, had verged
upon impropriety, and must have been construed by him into an advance.
Yes, possibly he despised her for it,--and she had even gone so far as
to write to him! All the little merit of not consenting under the
proposed conditions to become his wife was annulled by this last act,
which must have been regarded by him as a fresh advance, and, as such,
silently repulsed. She could have fled from him to the ends of the
earth,--the mere thought of him was enough to drive the hot blood to
her cheeks. Away, away, across the ocean!--this suddenly became the one
desire of her heart. She stood still as she passed the fireplace, and
said to Leuthold, "Burn the book!" They were the first words that
passed her lips.

The instant the words were spoken, Leuthold threw the volume into the
midst of the flames. Ernestine stood by and watched them curling around
the covers, which bent and rolled up in the heat. They were soon
destroyed, and with invisible, soft-crackling fingers the fiery draught
toyed with the burning book, and, as page after page opened to the
glow, the flame--greedy reader--devoured them. Ernestine watched it
all. She saw the names which had been so dear to her, flash out and
vanish. The cold, glittering snow queen,--the little mermaid in her
watery home,--all perished in the red heat!

Now the oak leaf, that she had once snatched from the dear old tree,
fell away to ashes,--the whole book dropped apart and blazed up
afresh,--the loosened leaves were tossed up and down in the wreathing
flames. There,--there was one more name,--the swan. The leaf flew
aloft, and the swan, the beautiful swan, was burned to ashes. Never
again would it spread its plumage for her,--never arise, a second
phoenix, from its funeral pyre. The little fairy world had vanished,
and only a few sparks remained, shooting hither and thither, as if in
search of the transformed shapes of the creatures of fairy lore.

Ernestine turned away. The fire seemed to have scorched the pinions of
her soul. She hung her head, like the god with the inverted torch, and
wept!

Leuthold did not disturb her; he felt that he must spare her now.

Suddenly the door opened, and Frau Willmers said in a tone of great
trepidation, "Herr Professor Möllner!"

Leuthold started as if struck by an arrow. Ernestine leaned against the
chimney-piece, or she would have fallen.

"How dare you admit any one just at this moment?--how dare you?" he
said, transported with rage and terror.

"I cannot help it, Herr Doctor. I could not do otherwise,--the
gentleman declared positively that he would not stir from the spot
until I had announced him."

"Tell the gentleman that we cannot receive visitors."

Frau Willmers looked hesitatingly at Ernestine, who stood as pale and
immovable as ever.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" asked Leuthold, and there was a
threat conveyed in his tone and manner.

"I am going,--I will go instantly," replied the woman, and hurried from
the room.

Ernestine took one step forward, as if she would have followed her. But
she controlled herself. She was a prey to a storm of emotions that
almost deprived her of consciousness. He had come, then,--he had not
utterly given her up. It almost broke her benumbed heart to send him
away. But no,--she rebuked her own weakness,--he had waited long before
coming, and perhaps had come at last only because he felt it his duty
to obey her summons. She would--she could yield to no further weakness.

Leuthold stood by the door, and held his breath while he listened to
hear Johannes depart; but, to his immense discomfiture, Frau Willmers
reappeared.

"The gentleman will not go," she said with secret exultation. "He says
he came to see the Fräulein, and will take no dismissal from her uncle,
for, as the Fräulein has been of age for several years, it is for her
to say whom she does or does not wish to see."

Ernestine listened eagerly. "What--what does that mean?" She turned
with a look of inquiry to her uncle, and was shocked at the great and
evident alarm expressed in his countenance. "Uncle," she asked again,
"what does this mean? Answer me!"

"Do not heed such stupid gossip. The fellow is a liar--or----"

"Tell him so yourself, if you have the courage," Ernestine interrupted
him in rising wrath. "Ask the gentleman to walk in," she said
authoritatively.

Willmers hurried out.

"Ernestine!" cried Leuthold in despair,--"this to me?"

"I will understand what this means about my being of age," cried the
girl, with a glance at Leuthold before which his eyes sought the
ground.

Möllner entered. He regarded Leuthold with entire composure and
profound contempt, then bowed to Ernestine without looking at her. He
wished to spare her, to give her time to collect herself. She
misunderstood him. She thought he was cold, and met him with coldness.

A long pause ensued.

Leuthold, wishing to appear quite at his ease, broke the silence.
"Allow me to ask, sir, what, after all that has passed between my niece
and yourself, procures us the honour of a visit from you."

"I am about to inform Fräulein von Hartwich upon that head, and you
will greatly oblige me by remaining present at this interview."

"Be pleased, then, to be seated," said Leuthold, motioning Johannes to
a chair, "and let me request you to be brief, since we are just on the
eve of departure."

"You will not go, Doctor Gleissert."

"Sir! Are you better instructed than ourselves concerning our plans?"

Johannes waited until Ernestine was seated, and then, taking a chair,
replied with decision, "Not concerning your plans, but their
fulfilment,--which I shall, in case of necessity, prevent by your
arrest."

Leuthold was stunned for one moment, but, recovering himself, smiled at
Ernestine, who looked astounded, and said, "Ah, here we have the
genuine knight of the oak! It is a pity that we do not live in feudal
times, when an honest man could be seized upon the highway and flung
into a dungeon."

"Oh, no. Doctor Gleissert. A quiet scholar like myself has no taste for
such adventures. I prefer safer and legal means. I shall simply, in
case you attempt to depart from this place, have you detained by the
gens-d'armes stationed here, until your business relations with
Fräulein von Hartwich are satisfactorily explained. Then you will be
perfectly free to go whithersoever you may please. My interest in you
will be at an end."

"Herr Professor," cried Leuthold, "I can only suppose that some one has
shamefully calumniated me to you. Let me beg you to come with me to my
study, that we may not distress my niece by these representations. She
needs the utmost consideration at present."

"If Fräulein von Hartwich is strong enough to undertake the voyage to
New York, of which Frau Willmers tells me, she can certainly support
this conversation. But, first of all, let me ask you, Ernestine,
whether you are leaving your home of your own free will."

"Yes," she breathed scarcely audibly.

"Of course you are your own mistress. But, before you carry out your
intentions, you must know what you are doing. This you do not know at
present, and I am here to inform you. If you depart with Herr
Gleissert, you link your destiny to a villain's!"

Ernestine and Leuthold started up. Johannes arose at the same time,
and, leaning one hand upon the table, regarded them steadily without a
word.

Leuthold found it impossible to speak. Ernestine was lost in gazing at
the noble form of his adversary.

Johannes continued, "You will require the proofs of such an accusation.
I have had them in my possession only since early this morning,--here
they are." He took several papers from his breast-pocket, and unfolded
one of them. Leuthold glanced at it, staggered back, and sank upon a
seat.

"Did you write that?" asked Johannes, handing the sheet to Ernestine.
"Pray read it."

"No!" she said in evident surprise, as she ran over its contents.

"Or did you affix your name to a deed, ignorant of its contents, in
presence of a notary?"

"Never!" was the decided reply.

 Möllner breathed freely. "This, then, is the proof that could send
your uncle to jail, if I made use of it, for it is a forgery!"

Ernestine made a gesture of dissent, as if she could and would hear no
more. But Johannes was not to be deterred. "From your first letter to
Helm, and from your conversation with my mother, it is evident,
Ernestine, that you consider yourself still a minor. It is true that
you are so by the laws of your country, which make the period of
minority terminate at the age of twenty-four,--and you are only
twenty-two years old. But through Dr. Heim, who was present at the
drawing up of your father's will, I know that you are by it declared
legally of age at eighteen. This your uncle has concealed from you. We
will speak by-and-by of his reasons for this concealment."

"Then I have been my own mistress now for four years?" cried Ernestine
in inconceivable amazement,--"and you, uncle, have treated me as if I
were a child?"

"More than that,--he has withheld your property from you. Here is a
copy of your father's will. You will see that it accords you the right,
at eighteen years of age, to take possession of the estate, put in
trust for you in the guardians' court, and dispose of it as you please.
Of course you could not avail yourself of this right, as you were kept
in utter ignorance of it, as well as of the fact that you had attained
your majority. But your uncle has availed himself of it in your
stead. He has contrived--Heaven only knows how--to imitate your
handwriting--and forge the signature to the document by which the
guardians' court delivered over to you--that is, to your uncle--the
property in its charge for you. There was no doubt cast upon the
authenticity of the document, for it was drawn up in due form by an
Italian notary and accredited by two witnesses to your personal
identity. When I suspected that your uncle had purposely kept you in
ignorance of your affairs, I acquainted the court with my suspicions,
and they delivered to me this copy of the document which I have just
handed you for identification. You have declared it a forgery. Whether
I now spare or destroy this man will depend upon the result of what we
have to say to each other. That I allow him one word of explanation is
due to my regard, not for him, but for your sense of delicacy,
Ernestine, which would suffer deeply in your uncle's disgrace."

Having thus spoken, while Ernestine had listened in mute amazement,
Johannes turned to Leuthold. "I ask you, Doctor Gleissert, what you
have done with the money that you have hitherto withheld from your
niece."

"Before I answer you, sir," replied Leuthold, who had regained his
composure, "allow me to ask you when you exchanged the pursuit of
physiology, wherein you have rendered such important service to
science, for the study of the law, in which, I fear, you will hardly
prove so great a proficient."

"I did so," said Johannes calmly, "when I felt it my duty to protect
with the shield of law a young creature most grossly defrauded. And I
think, sir, that I am already sufficiently versed in my newly-espoused
science thoroughly to expose your frauds. But let me ask you again to
account, without further circumlocution, for the property we have
spoken of."

"And I demand of you, Herr Professor, what legal right you possess to
subject me to such an inquiry."

Johannes looked at him composedly. "So be it. If you prefer to answer
my question to a court of justice, I will withdraw my request for an
explanation between ourselves. Take time to consider which you prefer
in this matter."

"I should, at all events, have less to fear from a legal investigation
than from a madman, who, in defiance of custom and decorum, and
regardless of domestic privacy, invades a home, and, with a knife at
the throats of its inmates, demands 'your money or your life,' like any
highway robber."

"Uncle," interposed Ernestine, "I forbid you, in my presence, to insult
my friend. If you can clear yourself of the terrible suspicion that he
has cast upon you, do so with dignity. Useless insults cannot convince
us."

"And you, Ernestine,--do you take part against me?" cried Leuthold
pathetically.

"I take part with no one; on the contrary, I tremble to think that the
man who has brought me up may be a criminal. But I will not and cannot
shield you from the discovery of the troth. You yourself have taught
me to subject every duty, every impulse of the heart, to cool
investigation,--to search everything to the foundation,--even at the
price of the most sacred illusions. Now, cruel preceptor, reap what you
have sown!"

"Well, then, I am ready to answer you, since you desire it. There is
one point upon which I owe you an explanation.--the minority in which I
have kept you in spite of your father's weak will. My course in this
respect I think entirely justifiable, for every right-minded person who
knows you must agree with me that it would have been unprincipled in
the extreme to leave you to yourself at eighteen, inexperienced and
immature as you were. It was an arbitrary measure on my part, but it
was well meant, and was the result of an exaggerated affection and
anxiety for you. The thought that you were to live without me, and I
without you, was unendurable to me. This is my crime,--this is all that
I can say. To this gentleman's charges I answer nothing. My life is
open to the scrutiny of all, it has been passed in unpretending
repose,--in the calm pursuit of science, and in the delight--now, alas!
disturbed indeed--of educating you. I regard all your machinations,
sir, with indifference. Your heated fancy would fail to see the truth
in my defence of my actions. Only a legal investigation can satisfy you
of my innocence. Why should I waste further words upon you?"

Johannes smiled. "I reserve my answer to the first part of your
remarks, but with regard to the last I cannot refrain from asking you
how you can venture to speak of innocence after your niece has denied,
in my presence, the signature of this document to be hers, thus proving
that it is a forgery?"

"Yes, sir, it is certainly a forgery,--no one can deny that. But does
it follow that I executed it? I had a friend in Italy to whom
unfortunately I intrusted every fact in relation to our family affairs,
placing in him a confidence that prudence could not warrant, and, in
view of this present revelation, I cannot but fear that he has played
the traitor, and, assisted by some unprincipled notary----" He shrugged
his shoulders, as if unwilling to complete so grave a charge.

Johannes smiled again, almost compassionately. "Will you attempt to
support your defence upon such a foundation? and do you venture to meet
me upon this plea alone?"

"I do, sir; for the law will, I trust, shortly discover the witnesses
of the crime who can testify as to whether I or my false friend
committed the forgery."

Johannes bethought himself for an instant, and then said, looking
Leuthold directly in the eye, "Is this same false friend the purchaser
of the factory at Unkenheim? Or did you find in Italy what you
certainly failed to find here,--such wealth of friends?"

Leuthold's cheek blanched again, and Johannes saw that he had thrust
his probe into a deep wound. He instantly availed himself of his
advantage. "I suppose that the superintendent at Unkenheim, acquainted
as he is with your Italian friends, will shortly be able to produce the
witnesses required for the vindication of your innocence, and I will do
all that I can to bring about this desirable termination of the
affair." Then, with a glance at Leuthold, who could scarcely hold up
his head, "Now, Herr Gleissert, I will give you twenty-four hours in
which to decide whether you prefer an explanation with me or in a court
of justice. If by to-morrow evening you are not ready to explain
matters thoroughly with regard to Fräulein von Hartwich's property, and
either to produce the same or, if it is invested in the Unkenheim
factory, to give sufficient security for it, your fate is sealed. From
this hour your house will be watched day and night. You are now my
prisoner. At the slightest attempt to escape, you will be handed over
to the custody of the law, even although I should be forced to deliver
you up with my own hands. You see I am resolved to proceed to
extremities. You have nothing to hope for, either from my weakness or
your cunning, even if a miracle could be worked in your favour, and the
costly expedient succeed of bribing some Italian rogue to personate
'the false friend,' to declare your crime his own and endure the
punishment of it,--even although the notary, who could establish your
identity and the drawing up of the deed, were dead,---even then you
could never hope to escape the punishment for mail-robbery!"

Leuthold started as if stung.

"You can hardly accuse of falsehood the sharp eyes of a peasant of this
place, who can testify that, in default of other amusement, you
selected for your perusal the contents of the village letter-box,
retaining in your own possession whatever especially interested you."
Johannes turned to Ernestine. "I do not know, Fräulein Ernestine,
whether you have done me the honour to write to me lately, but, if you
have, your uncle probably knows the contents of your letter much better
than I, who have never received it. At all events, this little
occurrence, for which I can produce witnesses, is a significant
illustration of your uncle's character. And you, Herr Gleissert, can
now understand that there is no escape for you unless you fulfil the
conditions upon which alone I will spare Fräulein von Hartwich the
disgrace of having so near a relative occupy a criminal's cell. You are
beset on all sides,--entangled in your own crimes. There is no hope for
you!"

He ceased. Leuthold sat still, pale and mute. Ernestine looked down at
him with compassion. Then she glanced at Johannes with admiration
bordering on awe. "You are, as I have always known you, upright, but
severe!"

"Severe? No, by Heaven! The punishment too severe for this unprincipled
man is yet to be devised. My imagination is not cruel enough for the
task!" He regarded Ernestine mournfully. "You are worn out,--you need
repose." Then he awaited a reply, but none came. The setting sun threw
its crimson rays across the room. Ernestine stood silent, her hands
hanging clasped before her, exerting all her self-control. Leuthold had
propped his head upon his hand, and did not stir. Johannes took his
hat. "Farewell, Ernestine. Permit me to return to-morrow to learn your
uncle's final decision." He stepped up to her side. "I will not weary
you. Let me watch over your destiny. I ask it as the right of
friendship,--nothing more,--I assure you,--nothing more!"

"Nothing more!" It echoed harshly in Ernestine's heart, and, without a
word or a look, with only a cold inclination of the head, she dismissed
him. "He does not love me," she said to herself, and her heart grew
like ice. He watched over her as a man of honour, not as a lover. He
knew that she cared for him,--she had not concealed it from him; he had
thrust the obstacle to their union between them in the shape of his
narrow-minded conditions--he knew that these were all that separated
them, and he preferred to relinquish her rather than his own stubborn
will! He demanded of her every concession, without making any, even the
smallest, himself! No, her uncle was right, he had never loved her. How
could she make advances now without proof that she was the object of
his love? How could she humble herself to make the required sacrifice,
possessed by the terrible doubt that he had required it in the full
conviction that it would not be made? The least advance on his side,
the faintest sign that he would yield one jot of the prejudice that
separated them, would have given her new life and made her happy. But
from this day their union was impossible,--it was not to be thought of.

Leuthold interrupted her reverie. He had left the room, and now
returned with a letter. With the air of a man resolved upon death, he
held it out to his niece. "Read that, and then show me how truly great
you are!"

Ernestine, in surprise, unfolded the letter. It was from the
superintendent, received the day previous. It contained the
announcement in a few words that the establishment was bankrupt and
Leuthold ruined. If he did not escape by instant flight, he would be
overtaken by the punishment of his crime. Ernestine read and re-read
the letter; she seemed unable to understand it "What does it mean?" she
asked at last.

"It means that Möllner is right when he calls me forger and thief."

"Uncle!" cried Ernestine in the greatest alarm.

"The money that is lost in the Unkenheim factory was yours----"
Leuthold faltered.

"You have, then, deprived me of my fortune?" she asked in a low tone.

Leuthold stood before her apparently annihilated. "Yes!"

There was silence. Ernestine uttered a low cry and recoiled from him.
He breathed with difficulty, and continued, "I could and would confess
nothing to that man. There is only one soul on earth magnanimous enough
to forgive me, and to it alone I will reveal all my weakness.
Ernestine, I have shown you before, in my love and care for you, the
reasons that induced me to conceal from you the termination of your
minority. Did you believe me?"

"I will believe it."

"I never dreamed into what fearful temptation I was thereby led. The
consequences of what I did were these:--I was obliged, in order to
conceal the fact of your majority from you, to appropriate in your name
the amount that was yours when you reached the age of eighteen, and
this without your knowledge. I did it with the firm intention of doing
what was best for you. I executed the forgery, never dreaming of the
punishment that it would entail upon me. For months I kept your money
in my possession, guarding it like the apple of my eye. Hitherto I had
been an honest man, even although, with the best intentions, I
had transgressed the letter of the law. Now, Ernestine, came the
turning-point of my life, and I implore you to lend a lenient ear to
this terrible confession. The brother of the Staatsräthin Möllner was
just bankrupt, and the Unkenheim factory was advertised for sale upon
the most favourable conditions. To this temptation I succumbed. Can you
not divine how a man is fascinated by the one pursuit to which he has
given the best years of his life, that is in a certain sense the work
of his mind and hands? It had been a bitter pain to me to relinquish
the flourishing business to which I had so long devoted my best
energies, and now it was again in the market. Want of knowledge and
capacity had ruined it. I, who knew every part of it most thoroughly,
could easily build it up again if I had the means to buy it. I resisted
a long time,--the advertisement of its sale appeared a second and a
third time. I consulted a merchant in Naples who was, I heard, on the
point of visiting Germany. He offered to make the purchase for me in my
name,--he persuaded me to allow him to do it. The opportunity was so
favourable,--the money lay idle in my hands,--I was so certain of
doubling it, and thus securing my own and my poor child's future,--I
knew as surely that when you should come to know it, you would never
reproach me for thus investing your money. Ten times I stood upon your
threshold, determined to tell you everything and entreat your
permission to dispose of your property thus. I knew you would not
withhold it from me. But the insane dread of losing you as soon as you
knew you were of age always deterred me. I took the money, firmly
resolved to restore it to the uttermost farthing. This is the story of
my crime. Now for the tale of my misfortunes. I failed in what I
undertook. I enlarged the factory at considerable expense, and suddenly
unforeseen obstacles, in the nature of the soil, presented themselves,
material that I had purchased at a high price sunk in value before it
could be manufactured, and I lost fifty per cent, in the sale of the
finished goods. Such disasters as these followed each other in rapid
succession. There was a curse upon everything that I undertook,--the
curse, I admit it, of an overestimate of my own powers,--for I should
have known that a clever scholar is not necessarily a merchant, and
that the technical knowledge as a chemist which had stood me in such
stead in a comparatively small establishment was not business capacity
for an immense undertaking. But what now avails my remorse, my late
confession? Your fortune, Ernestine, has been the price of the terrible
lesson. I can give you no more of it than will pay for your passage to
New York,--can offer you no indemnification for it but the revenge
which this frank confession will afford you the means of gratifying.
Decide; do with me what you will,--I will accept my fate from your
hand, but from no other."

The hypocrite sank at her feet, as though utterly crushed, and pressed
the tips of her cold fingers to his lips.

"Uncle," began Ernestine, and her voice trembled, "stand up! I cannot
endure the sight of a man before whom I have been used to stand in awe,
grovelling at my feet like a crushed serpent, whose writhings excite
aversion rather than compassion. Stand up! I pray you stand up!" She
turned from him, that she might no longer see him.

"Ernestine," cried Leuthold terrified, "you are marble!"

"I am what you have made me."

He had expected a different result from his confession, and he watched
Ernestine with the greatest anxiety. She read the letter once more, and
then sank on the sofa and buried her face in the cushions.

"Ernestine, be composed!" he cried, with a degree of his native
insolence which could not all be concealed behind the mask that he had
assumed. "Punish my crime, take what revenge you will, but spare me the
sight of your humiliating despair at the loss of wealth."

"Do you imagine, man of no conscience, that I mourn for my lost
wealth?" said Ernestine wrathfully, but with dignity. "If you had asked
me honourably for the money and then lost it through some misfortune, I
would have died sooner than have reproached you by a word or a tear.
But I must despise the only human being in the world upon whom I have
any claim. All that I have is lost through crime, and this passes my
endurance. You know well what depends upon the shining bits of metal of
which you have robbed me--freedom of thought and action,--the noblest
possessions that life can give. For the sake of these you have robbed
me, for you are no thief to steal money only for the sake of money. You
know, too, what a loss it is for a woman,--that it entails upon her
dependence perhaps servitude,--yes, servitude, to become a mere
machine, obeying unquestioningly another's will,--and this for a soul
that would have bowed to no power on earth or in heaven, but that
rejoiced in its pride in being the centre of its own self-created
world! And you, knowing how in this thought I die a thousand deaths,
dare to reproach me with despair at the loss of mere wealth! Look you,
I do not forget, even in this terrible moment, what you have done for
me since my childhood,--what an inexhaustible mine of intellectual
wealth you have revealed to me in exchange for the earthly treasure you
have taken from me,--and, remembering this, I renounce the revenge that
you offer me. Save yourself if you can, but do not require of me
sufficient 'greatness of soul' to forgive you!"

Leuthold breathed freely once more. This was all he wished to
hear,--that she would not deliver him up to justice. The worst was
over. If she thus in the first outburst of her anger rejected the idea
of bringing punishment upon him, she might, when more composed, be
brought to connive at and share his flight.

"Ernestine," he said, after a moment of reflection, "every one of your
words is like a coal of fire upon my guilty head. Even in your
righteous indignation you are noble and gentle. You tell me I may save
myself, but do you imagine that I can go away without you? Could I
endure the thought of you struggling with poverty, without me to labour
for you and to shield you? Have I tended you for all these years with a
mother's solicitude, to leave you to your fate now, when you need me
more than ever? Girl, if you think thus of me, you do me grievous
wrong!" Ernestine looked at him in surprise.

"Either you fly with me, or I remain and brave the worst!" said
Leuthold with heroic resolution.

Ernestine recoiled. "I go with you! No, I cannot descend so low,--our
paths in life lie, from this moment, far, far apart."

Leuthold saw her aversion. He was lost if she persisted in her refusal.
For even although he might succeed in escaping Möllner's vigilance for
the time, it would soon be known abroad that he had embezzled
Ernestine's fortune and left her impoverished, and his foe would only
pursue him all the more obstinately. Ernestine would be required by the
law to speak, and, truthful as she was, there was no doubt that she
would expose all his villainy. Only by keeping her with him could she
be rendered harmless; concealment without her was impossible.

"You hate me, and it is natural for you to do so," said he. "I will not
recall to you all the time and trouble that I have expended upon you
since your childhood,--the patience with which I have endured your
caprices, nor the love with which, when Heim gave you up, I watched
over and preserved your life. All this you know, and you believe it
fully repaid by your magnanimous resolve not to deliver up your uncle
to a jail. You best know your duty in this matter. But, Ernestine, you
should not hate me more than you do your father, whom you have long
since forgiven, and upon whom you now bestow so much sympathy, for I
can truly affirm that I have dealt more kindly by you than he. He was a
drunkard,--a man degraded to the level of a brute. He did not bring you
up; I have done it. He scarcely clothed and fed you. I have surrounded
you with everything that your heart could desire. He always hated you,
I have loved you from a child. You must remember well how often I
protected you from his ill treatment, and that once, when I was not by,
he almost killed you. He never would have provided for you as a father
should, had he not been driven to it by remorse for his conduct towards
you. Two-thirds of the property, Ernestine, that he bequeathed to you
were mine by right. I had earned it in his service. He bequeathed it to
you, and I acquiesced silently. I resigned it without even hinting to
you my just claims. I separated myself from my child that she might be
educated as became her moderate expectations, a sure proof that I had
no designs upon your wealth. For all this self-sacrifice I asked only
the delight, the great delight, of training to full perfection a young
mind,--such a mind as no woman was ever before possessed of. You can
bear me witness that I have taught you nothing evil,--that I have
opened your eyes to the good and the beautiful, helping you to decipher
the book of nature, where only what can elevate the mind is to be
found. You can comprehend, by the aversion with which you now regard
your fallen teacher, how pure his teachings have preserved your heart.
I ask you to reflect, Ernestine, whether all this does not give me at
least the same claim upon your sympathy as that which you now yield to
your father."

Ernestine listened with increasing emotion and sympathy. She buried
her face in the cushions of the sofa, and burst into tears.

Leuthold regarded her with satisfaction. He knew that the woman who
weeps yields. He continued, "You have convinced me that I have nothing
to fear from your hatred. You have told me that you renounce your
revenge, and a nature like yours performs what it promises. But,
Ernestine, this does not content me. My tortured conscience cannot rest
until you permit me to take charge of your future. Let me at least try
to atone for my crime. Grant me this alleviation of the burden that
weighs me to the earth. Pity me, and allow me the only expiation that
is possible for me!"

"What shall I do, then?" asked Ernestine in broken accents.

"Go with me, my child, that I may share with you the bread that I
earn,--that I may open such a future to you as you could never enjoy in
Germany. You have just signed a brilliant engagement; you cannot break
it now, just when you need a means of support. It would be madness to
reject what offers you a position commensurate with your ability. But
you can never occupy it satisfactorily without my aid. You well know
how indispensable I am to you in every new undertaking. You must pursue
fresh studies. Not for the world must you allow a flaw to be found in
your acquirements on the other side of the water. Hate me, despise me,
if you will, but consent to avail yourself of my protection on the long
voyage to New York. Trust me, I detest sentimentality, as you know, but
it is hard to bury one of your kin before he is dead. You will find it
harder than you think. One cannot tear one's self loose in a moment
from the memory of hours, days, and years spent together striving for a
common aim, and the buried companion will knock upon his coffin-lid
when such memories arise." He paused. Ernestine's short, quick
breathing showed what a struggle was going on within her. At last she
shook her head, sprang up, and walked undecidedly to and fro.

Leuthold continued, "You cannot help it,--you must go with me,--what
else can you do? Reflect, what course can you adopt if you remain
here?"

"I do not know," she murmured gloomily in a low tone.

"There are none here to whom you could turn, except the Möllners----"

Ernestine added, "And old Dr. Helm."

"Yes, Heim and the Möllners are like one family. Naturally, they would
all do what they could for you. Heim would exult greatly in the
fulfilment of his prophecies."

Ernestine bit her lip.

"To be sure, after what has occurred, you may safely look to them for
the means of support. Perhaps they may find you a place as a governess,
if they should become tired of you. But the question is whether that
would not be a deeper humiliation than going abroad with me. Good
heavens! in this world you must call many a one comrade whose
conscience is far from clear, and whom you must not ask for a
certificate of character. Let your uncle be to you one of these. I will
not intrude upon you,--will not enter your presence, if you do not
desire it."

He waited for an answer. Ernestine's eyes were fixed broodingly upon
the ground.

"Or possibly you would rather reconsider your determination, and go to
the Frau Staatsräthin and beg to be forgiven. I fear,--I greatly
fear,--the prudent mother would say, 'Aha, she was haughty enough as
long as she had plenty of money, but, now that it has all gone, she
grows humble and is quite willing to ask for shelter and countenance.
She asks for bread now that she is hungry. The most savage brutes are
tamed by hunger,--when its pangs are keen the heart is weak.'"

"Hush, uncle! oh, hush!" cried Ernestine with a shudder.

But Leuthold was not to be silenced. He was in his element again. "That
is what the supercilious mother would say, for these intellectual
aristocrats are filled with the pride of independence, and exact it
from others. And the Herr Professor? Naturally, he would feel it doubly
his duty to marry you and cherish the starving woman. But when the
first enthusiasm of sympathy was past, what, think you, Ernestine,
would be his reflections in cooler moments?"

"He would say, 'Necessity made her my wife,--not love.'"

"'And why should I give love in return?'" Leuthold completed the
thought.

"Or even esteem," Ernestine added with a spasmodic shiver. "No, no! it
shall not come to that. I will not sink so low. Noble and true as he
is, he shall not accuse me of such selfishness. His proud, suspicious
mother shall not find me a beggar at her door,--rather a grave in
mid-ocean!" She drew near to Leuthold. Her breath came in gasps, her
pulses throbbed. "Uncle, you have destroyed my happiness in life, help
me to preserve all that is left for me,--my self-respect!"

"Then come with me. Not until the ocean rolls between you and this man
can you be secure from your own weakness."

Ernestine sank down exhausted. "So be it! You have conquered!"



                               CHAPTER V.

                           SCIENCE AND FAITH.


The dawning day strove in vain to lift the misty veil that a rainy
night had spread over hill and dale. It was one of those mornings when
the waning summer--like a belle whose charms are of the past in her
morning dishabille--showed plainly that its glories were fading. The
rising sun crept behind the cold, misty clouds, and the bushes were
dripping with tears of regret. The faithful watcher, who had stood on
guard all night near the castle, shook the wet from his cloak and
shivered as he looked in the direction of the school-house, whence
relief was to arrive.

He did not wait long. The powerful figure of a young man appeared
briskly advancing through the mist. Slowly and sleepily the clock in
the tower of the village church tolled half-past four.

"To a moment!" cried the watcher to the new arrival. "This is
punctuality indeed!"

"Good-morning!" said Walter. "Brr! the air is cold. You must be almost
frozen."

"Not more so than the huntsman on the watch," replied Johannes. "Ardour
for the chase makes him warm. I burn and long to clutch that beast of
prey up there. Oh, Walter, I am not easily roused,--my nature is a
quiet one,--but if that man had tried to slip away in the night, and
had fallen into my hands, I could not have answered for the
consequences."

"I do not wonder at you," laughed Walter. "Nothing would gratify me
more than a chance at the fellow. How did you spend the night? Could
you not sit down?"

"No, I was not calm enough to do anything but pace to and fro, and now
it is beginning to tell upon my wearied limbs."

"Make haste, then, and get dry and warm. My father is impatiently
expecting you. He is up and dressed, and my mother has a good cup of
coffee waiting for you."

"How kind you all are!" said Johannes. "But I am very anxious, Walter.
Gleissert was with Ernestine until midnight. From the hill yonder I
could see their heads through the window. They appeared to be in eager
conversation, and moved about, as if they were packing. Oh, if she can
possibly intend----"

"Do not be in the least alarmed,--she cannot, after what you have told
her."

"But how, after what I have told her, can she endure that man about her
for hours? How can she breathe the air of the room where he is, for
even ten minutes?"

"Hm--it does seem incredible. But, whatever happens, we have nothing to
do but to watch and be ready. I will do my duty in this respect. Go,
now, and rest for a couple of hours, that you may relieve me at
school-time. Had you only allowed me to watch in your place, he would
have found me as difficult as you to deal with."

"You help me enough by assisting me during the day. Good-by, then. I
shall be back at eight o'clock." And Johannes walked slowly and wearily
towards the school-house. When he entered the low, dimly-lighted room,
he found the steaming coffee-pot already upon the table. Frau Leonhardt
had seen him coming, and all was in readiness for him.

Herr Leonhardt sat in his place by the stove, and held out his hand
with a kind but anxious "Good-morning! How are you after your unwonted
duty through the night?"

"Tolerably, old friend," replied Johannes, "but I cannot deny that my
respect has considerably increased since yesterday for the honourable
guild of watchmen.--No, thank you, Frau Leonhardt, I cannot eat
anything."

"Oh, do not drink your coffee without a morsel of something solid.
Well, if you do not wish it--but, you see, here it is!"

"Yes, my dear Frau Leonhardt, I see it," Johannes assured her, with a
smiling glance at the great basketful of biscuits.

"You must know that my Brigitta was up half the night to prepare her
most tempting biscuits for your breakfast,--it is all she could do for
you. Yes, Brigitta, the Herr Professor can appreciate your good will."

"Indeed I can," said Johannes. "Such womanly kindness is dear to me
wherever I meet with it. Your labour shall not be in vain." And he
forced himself to eat.

"Oh," said Brigitta, "if the Fräulein had known that you were walking
up and down beneath her windows in the cold night, she would have been
grieved enough, and filled with pity!"

"The Fräulein knows no pity, my dear Frau Leonhardt," said Johannes
bitterly.

The old man laid his hand kindly upon Johannes' shoulder. "You do not
mean what you say. You cannot think so meanly of her--your impatience
speaks now, not you. If you could only understand her noble nature as I
do, who am not blinded by passion!"

"But, Father Leonhardt, I do not deny Ernestine's noble nature. Should
I devote myself to her as I am now doing after her rejection of me, if
I did not know her to be more than worthy of all that I can do? But if
you could have seen her rigid, marble face yesterday, you would have
questioned, as I did, whether that young girl really possessed a
heart."

"Indeed, indeed she does possess one," affirmed the old man. "But
remember, Herr Professor, her heart has hitherto been fed solely
through her understanding. She has had nothing to love but ideas. Human
beings she has known nothing of. What wonder, then, if she imagines
that she should love only where her intellect can say Amen? That Amen
cannot be said in your case, for you have opposed all that has hitherto
had the warrant of her intellect, which must needs be in arms against
you, and the oppressed young heart must mutely acquiesce. Ernestine's
intellect is that of a full-grown man, while her sensibilities are as
undeveloped as those of a girl of fifteen. The consequence is that
incessant contradictions appear in her conduct. Give these undeveloped
sensibilities time, do not stunt them by coldness, and you will see
them assert their rights in opposition to the intellect. She might
almost be called a kind of Caspar Hauser in the world of sentiment. She
is not at home there. She needs a patient teacher, and such a one she
will find in you, I am sure. Do all that you can to prevent her from
going to America; if she goes, she is as good as dead for us."

"Rely upon me, faithful and wise old friend," cried Johannes, and fresh
resolution was depicted on his face. "I will do all that I can for
her,--not for my own sake, but for hers."

"If you have finished your breakfast, you must take some rest," said
Leonhardt. "My wife has arranged a bed for you."

"I accept your kindness gratefully," replied Johannes, "for I am
exhausted, and have a fatiguing day before me."

"Then let me show you to your room. That service even a blind man can
render you," said the old man with a smile.

And the two ascended to the upper story, where Herr Leonhardt opened a
door and showed his guest into a scrupulously neat little apartment,
containing a most inviting bed. Then he groped about, assuring himself
that all was as it should be, and returned to the room below, saying,
as he closed the door, "Take a good sleep,--you may need the strength
it will give you."

"Thanks, a thousand thanks, Father Leonhardt!" Johannes cried after
him, and he listened to the careful tread of his kind host upon the
narrow stairway. Then his eyes closed. Frau Brigitta's words sounded in
his ears, "If the Fräulein had known that you were walking up and down
beneath her windows in the cold night----"

She must have known it. He had told her plainly enough that he should
do so, and she had not even opened a window or looked out at him. But
stay,--stay! She would come out to him herself. See! see! The gate
opened softly. Was her uncle with her? No! She was alone,--quite alone!
"Come," she whispered, "you are cold. Come in." And she took his hands
and breathed upon them and rubbed them. "Will you not come into the
house?" she asked. "There you can watch for my uncle and be out of the
rain, and I will stay with you and never, never leave you."

"Ernestine," cried Johannes, stretching out his arms to embrace her.
The sudden motion awoke him, and he found himself alone. He could not
have slept more than a quarter of an hour, and yet he could not go to
sleep again. He lay quietly resting for a time, and then arose,
prepared to go through with the decisive day that awaited him.


Evening had come. As on the previous day, Ernestine was sitting at her
writing-table, but it was empty now. Its contents were packed up in the
chests which were standing in the room, locked and ready for the
voyage. Ernestine sat idly, with her hands in her lap, listening to her
uncle's directions to the weeping housekeeper in reference to the price
at which she was to dispose of the furniture of the house.

"The scientific works and the apparatus I shall leave to Walter
Leonhardt," she said.

"What!" cried Leuthold. "Are you going to give away at least a thousand
thalers?" He paused, with a glance at Frau Willmers, who had the tact
to leave the room. "Why throw money out of the window, now that we are
beggared?"

"The thousand thalers that the things would bring would not keep me
from starving, while they will secure the young man's future. He has
talents that must not run to waste, and which I can foster by giving
him the means of pursuing his studies."

"Is it possible? You think it your duty, then, to foster all neglected
genius?"

"Uncle," said Ernestine with cold severity, "I pray you spare me your
opinion of my conduct. The habit of submission, it appears, is more
easily discarded than that of ruling. I have cast aside the former,
since yesterday, like a garment. It would be well for you to do the
same with the latter."

"But I thought I might at least be suffered to advise," observed
Leuthold.

"I will ask your advice when I think it necessary. In this matter it is
enough that I choose to do as I have said."

Leuthold regarded her immovable features with a mixture of fear and
hatred, and thought to himself, "Once let me get you on the other side
of the water, and in my power, and you shall atone bitterly for all the
trouble that you give me now."

And his restless fancy painted vividly before his mind's eye the
revenge that awaited him in that new world, and an ugly smile was upon
his lips as he thought of all that his niece's proud nature would have
to endure.

Ernestine arose. "There are only a few hours left before our
departure," she said. "I must be sure that my intentions will be
carried out."

She went into her laboratory, and packed up, as well as she could, the
apparatus that she designed for Walter. Then she reopened the letter
that she was to leave with Willmers for Leonhardt, and added these
words, "Come what may, I pray you preserve these books and instruments
for me as relics. Say they are yours, or they will be snatched from you
and from me."

Thus she made her gift secure from the clutches of the law. She knew
Leuthold well enough to feel sure that he would not seek to prevent its
removal from the house if he could not keep it for his niece. Then she
sent off the chests from the laboratory, and went into the library to
select the books that Walter was to have. Leuthold hurried in, and said
to her, "Möllner is coming! Now, Ernestine, summon up all your
resolution!" His teeth fairly chattered with agitation. "Be strong,
Ernestine. A human life is at stake! If you do not save me from
Möllner's revenge and from the law, I am a dead man! By the life of my
child,--dearer to me than aught else on earth,--I swear to you that I
will commit suicide sooner than put on a convict's jacket! Now act
accordingly."

Ernestine gazed at him with horror. At last he was speaking the truth!
Sheer, blank despair was painted on his features.

"Uncle," she cried, "be calm! I will not drive you to suicide! My
resolve is firm. Will you not be present?"

"No, that would make mischief. I will get everything ready for our
departure, that nothing may detain us. Do not forget. We are
reconciled,--do you hear? Will you tell him so?"

"I promise you."

"I will go. I will not meet him. Bless you for every kind word, and
curses upon you if you should betray me."

He hurried away, and Ernestine looked after him with a shudder. A human
life hung upon her lips! A curse awaited every thoughtless word that
she might utter! She stood alone and helpless, burdened thus heavily, a
young, inexperienced creature, scarcely able to bear the responsibility
of her own actions. She spurred on her fainting energies to accomplish
the almost superhuman task allotted to her.

Her dreaded visitor entered.

"Forgive me, Ernestine," he said, "for thus intruding unannounced. Your
housekeeper directed me hither. This is no time for empty formalities.
It is time for action, and, if need be, for a life-and-death struggle.
I have just seen the chests sent off to Herr Leonhardt. I learn from
Frau Willmers that you are going,--really going,--with your uncle.
Ernestine, I have no words for the anguish that I am now enduring! I
could submit to your rejection of my suit, for I might still love you,
but to find you unworthy of my love, Ernestine, would be more than I
can bear."

"And what could so degrade me in your eyes?" asked Ernestine with
offended pride.

"Your not fleeing from such a villain, as from the Evil One
himself,--your harbouring the intention of going forth into the world
with one abhorred alike of God and man, not feeling sufficient
detestation of the crime to induce you to avoid the criminal who must
be shunned by every honest man. Oh, Ernestine, I cannot believe it now!
I would rather die than believe it!"

"He has excused himself in my eyes," said Ernestine, deeply wounded.
"He has convinced me that no human being should condemn another
unheard. I am not conscious of such perfection and infallibility in
myself as would permit me to dare to judge and denounce. That must be
left for those better and stronger than I. The tie that bound me to him
is, it is true, broken, but I must tread the same path that he treads.
I cannot refuse to share his wanderings."

"Do you not fear the disgrace that will attach to you by thus joining
your lot with that of a criminal, amenable to the law?"

"The law has no power over him. He has satisfied me with regard to my
property, and, if I am content, it is enough."

"Good heavens! What security has he offered you? You are so
inexperienced in such matters, he will deceive you again. Tell me, at
least, what he has told you."

Ernestine stood more erect. Agitation almost choked her utterance, and,
to conceal it, she put on a colder, sterner manner than usual. "When I
tell you I am satisfied, it seems to me that should content you."

"Ernestine," cried Johannes, "why do you adopt this tone with me? I am
acting and thinking only for you and your interest, and you treat me
like a foe."

"For all that you have done and are doing for me, I am grateful to you,
as also for your kind intentions. But now, I pray you, leave to me all
care for my future fate. I feel fully competent to direct it."

"I tell you, Ernestine, that, whether you will it or not, I must snatch
you from the abyss upon whose brink you are tottering. And first I will
make sure of your companion. He has not given me the securities for
your property that I required, the respite that I allowed him is past,
the twenty-four hours for reflection have gone." He turned towards the
door.

"Dr. Möllner, what are you about to do?" cried Ernestine.

"Give him up to justice."

Ernestine placed herself in his way. "You must not do that!"

"And why not?"

"You will not attempt to avenge what I have forgiven. You will not so
intrude into my life as to make it impossible for me to decide whether
I will punish or forgive a crime that affects me alone. You are about
to publish abroad my affairs, and I demand for myself the right to
regulate my own private affairs as it may seem to me best. I cannot
allow a stranger--yes, I say, a stranger--to meddle thus with the
concerns of two human beings, as if he were an emissary of the Holy
Vehm!"

"Ernestine!" gasped Johannes.

"I repeat it," she continued, "I am grateful for your kind intentions.
But the best intentions result in unwelcome violence when they would
rob a human being, of the right of free choice. I insist upon this most
sacred of all rights, and forbid you any further interference with my
fate, and, as my uncle's lot is so closely allied to mine that in
striking him you would harm me, I hope you are sufficiently chivalric
to desist from further persecution of him." Almost fainting, she leaned
against the door.

"Fräulein von Hartwich," replied Johannes, controlling himself with
difficulty, "you propose a hard trial for my patience. But I can
forgive you, for you are a true woman." Ernestine started at these
words, but he entreated silence by a gesture. "You are a woman, and, as
such, easily aroused, easily deceived. Your uncle has taken advantage
of this fact. You do not dream what you are doing in following the
fortunes of this bad man. I thought I had opened your eyes yesterday,
but I was mistaken. You saw, but I did not teach you to understand what
you saw. I will retrieve my error. I will explain to you the motives
for your uncle's course of action."

"I have already told you," replied Ernestine, "that I know them. I need
no further explanation. He has sinned, grievously sinned,--who can deny
it? Not he himself. But his life has been dedicated to me with a
devotion rare enough in our selfish world. He has lived for me ever
since I was a child, and all his errors sprang from the dread of losing
me. This is, perhaps, incredible to you, because from your point of
view it is inconceivable that a man should entirely give himself up to
the training of a woman's mind. To you a life spent solely in
intellectual association with a woman seems impossible, and of course
you would accuse of falsehood a man who professes to prefer such a life
to all others. Therefore I know beforehand all you would say, and would
be spared the listening to it now."

"Ernestine," cried Johannes, fairly roused, "you must hear me, or, by
Heaven, I do not know you!"

He paused for one moment. Ernestine looked down, and apparently awaited
what he had to say.

"Yes, then, yes,--you are perfectly right. It does seem to me an
impossibility that a man should make it the sole aim of his existence
to develop the intellect of a woman. I can love as deeply as man can
love. You know that I love you, and, were you mine, I would adore you,
and you only, with my whole heart and soul, truly and unchangeably,
until death separated us. But, in my love for you, to forego all other
interests and duties in life, to idle away in delicious intercourse
with you all opportunities for true manly exertion,--that I could
not do, truly and warmly as I love you. It would be the part of a
woman,--not of a man, who has public as well as private duties to
fulfil. I have no confidence in a man who pretends to lead such a life
out of simple affection for a relative. He must have some other purpose
in view, and I believe that your uncle's purpose in this matter was a
detestable one, leading him to sin against you in a way that God alone
can justly punish. He would sacrifice everything for money--he would
murder alike body and soul. Stay--be calm for a few moments. I will
justify these terrible accusations. The theft of your fortune has been
the purpose that he has kept steadily in view ever since he was your
guardian. The possession of this property seems to have been the fixed
idea of his life, for he induced your father at one time to bequeath it
to him, leaving you, notwithstanding his boasted affection for you,
only what the law accords to you. Heim prevailed upon your father to
destroy this will and to reinstate you in your rights. But he was not
sufficiently prudent, for the will that your father then dictated left
too much margin for your uncle's administration. He longed to recover
what he had lost, and circumstances favoured his desire. Your father,
in his will, as you can see from this copy of it, stated that in case
of your dying unmarried your entire fortune should go to Gleissert or
his children. When your father died, matters looked propitious for
Leuthold, for little Ernestine was such a frail, sickly child that he
cherished a hope almost amounting to a certainty that the delicate cord
of life that kept him from his inheritance would soon break, and give
him all that he coveted. But the pale, quiet child confounded his plans
by recovering her health Und strength. Hers was a rare nature, and
recuperated quickly, both physically and mentally. The hope that she
would die grew fainter and fainter, but he could not so easily
relinquish the prospect of possessing her fortune. If he might not
secure the inheritance, he could at least secure the person of the
heir, and contrive to keep you, Ernestine, from marrying, since the
money could be his only in the event of your dying single. To this end,
you must be secluded from the world, and, that you might not miss
its amusements, your restless spirit must be introduced to a new
realm,--the realm of the intellect. Therefore he studiously concealed
from you your coming of age, lest it should occur to you to break the
bonds of the strict control to which you were subjected, and mingle
with your kind. This was the plan of your education, this the reason of
your uncle's tender solicitude for you. The time and trouble expended
upon you were all in the way of business, a fair exchange for the
ninety thousand thalers and the contingent advantages that he trusted
to obtain thereby. He could never have attained such a competency as a
German professor. This is criminal legacy-hunting. And now for my
accusation of murder. I do not mean by it a murder with poison or
dagger,--he is too cowardly and too prudent for that,--but he made use
of a poison which, if it were not as quick in its effects as arsenic,
at least possessed this advantage over it--no chemist could detect it,
and no law punish its use. The body was to be destroyed through the
mind. He knew how to foster in your passionate heart an ambition that
dreaded no labour, that, in its burning desire to attain its ends,
pursued them with a feverish haste that never heeded whether the
physical frame were equal or not to such unceasing exertion. Oh, the
plan was ingenious, but there were eyes, thank God! that saw through
it. It is true he did not stand at your back with a rod, like a severe
schoolmaster, to urge you on,---he did not compel you to work all night
long, denying yourself the only refreshment that could strengthen your
shattered nerves,--sleep,--but he contrived that you should do all this
voluntarily. He saw you droop, and took no notice of it. He would not
kill you with his own hand, but he put into yours the poison with which
you should do it yourself, and, when the natural love of life in you
spoke out and entreated aid, he forbade you to summon a physician, lest
he should save you by an antidote! Thus, consciously and voluntarily,
he has let you sicken and languish, and now he would carry you to
America to bury you there. So much for the grounds of my accusation of
physical murder. And now as to his murder of your soul. I said before
that your uncle had secluded you from the world to make sure of your
never marrying. How could he do this? By making you an object of
aversion to society at large--by hardening your heart, so that you
might never feel the desire for loving intercourse and companionship
stirring within you. He accomplished these ends by making you a
skeptic. And were this the only crime that he is guilty of towards you,
it would justify any punishment, however severe,--any contempt, however
profound."

"If this is all that you have to say, I can only reply that you talk
like a theologian, not like a physiologist," said Ernestine, vainly
endeavouring to conceal her horror. "It is possible that there is some
foundation for your other accusations of Doctor Gleissert,--I will not
decide upon them at present,--but for this last there is none, or, at
least, none in the degree that you mean. Yes, he did take from me my
faith, but in its place he gave me that philosophy which is the
resting-place of all thought, and wherein alone the doubting spirit can
find peace."

"Oh, what a miserable mistake!" cried Johannes. "Do you suppose that
anything can take the place of faith in the world? Can a soul as lofty
as your own be content with the mere knowledge of the laws that rule
the universe, without raising reverential eyes to the Power whom those
laws represent? Forgive me if I talk like a theologian. Let me be clear
with you upon this point too, before we part. I would at least restore
to you one possession of which your uncle has robbed you, and that
belongs to women in an eminent degree, far more than to men,--the power
of seeing heaven open when the earth does not suffice us!"

Ernestine gazed at him in utter amazement: "Do you speak thus, you, a
man of exact science,--a science that teaches how everything in
existence is developed from itself! What is left for us to reverence in
the God whom you would seem to declare, after we have learned that
nature of itself alone creates and achieves everything?"

Johannes shook his head. "Oh, Ernestine, can we believe in Him only by
believing that his Spirit hovered over the face of the waters and
created the heavens and the earth in six days? I think we have learned
to separate this gross material representation from the actual being of
God! Thus only can faith and knowledge join hands, and I am one of
those in whose minds they have thus formed an alliance, although
perhaps not without a struggle. I can give my belief no concrete shape,
I have not the simplicity that is satisfied with a Deity compounded of
human attributes and powers, but the fervent aspiration that looks up
and holds fast to my formless God,--this aspiration is my rock of
safety."

"That is only a subjective emotion. What does it prove?"

"Nothing!" said Johannes. "For the existence of a God can be as little
proved as disproved. I might say He is to the world what the soul is to
the body, and we cannot give form to the soul in our minds. The organs
of the body work in obedience to unchangeable laws, but, although they
thus work, they are under the control of the soul, and, although we can
explain never so exactly the mechanism that the soul puts in motion at
its good pleasure, we cannot explain how it thinks and desires. Are we
therefore to deny that it does think and desire? But I know what little
value will attach to such comparisons in your eyes, for you will demand
logical proof of the truth of my parallel, and this I cannot give you."

Ernestine was lost in thought. "I never should have conceived it
possible that such a man as you are could believe in the existence of a
God!"

"If you will listen, I will tell you how faith first entered into my
heart. I was a wayward lad, just emancipated from the ignorant
illusions of childhood, with a living desire for the Infinite in my
heart,--longing to prove scientifically the existence of the God in
whom I no longer believed. In my ignorance of myself, I naturally fell
into the way of that spurious philosophy which the science of to-day
looks back upon with contempt, and--to use Du Bois' words--racked my
brain for awhile over the riddle of Being, human and divine. My
affections were warm,--I loved those belonging to me, and especially my
little sister Angelika. One day the child was taken dangerously ill,
and, as she was more devoted to me than to any other member of the
family, I watched with her through long nights with fraternal
tenderness. The child suffered greatly, and one night in particular her
cries fairly broke my heart. My mother at last took her little hands in
her own, clasped them, and said, 'Pray, my darling,--pray to God. He
may grant your prayer!' And the child, suppressing her sobs, cried,
'Ah, dear God, take away my pain!' And I--I flung myself upon my knees
and prayed fervently, I knew not what,--I knew not to whom,--no
matter! I prayed. I heard my mother's voice say Amen, and I repeated
Amen,--almost unconsciously. The child was soothed, grew calm, looked
up to heaven with childlike trust, then smiled upon us and went to
sleep with her head upon my breast,--her first sound sleep after a week
of suffering. I listened to her breathing, it was soft and regular. I
was filled then with an emotion such as I had never before
experienced,--tears came to my eyes. I could have embraced the world in
my delight,--no, a world would not suffice me, I needed a God beside.
What shall I say,--how explain it in words? Like the girl born blind,
in the poem, that believed she _saw_ when she _loved_, I loved the God
to whom I had prayed, and because I loved Him I saw Him with my heart!"

He paused, and looked at Ernestine, who had listened with sympathy.

"That is the very essence of faith," he continued. "No reason can give
it to you or take it from you. One single agonized moment taught me
what science and philosophy had failed to teach. I found by the bedside
of a child the God for whom my intellect had vainly searched earth and
skies. From this time I learned to keep myself open to conviction. I
now first became an exact physiologist. I no longer set fantastic
bounds to science, I no longer adulterated my pure contemplation of
nature with metaphysical notions, but confined myself strictly to the
actual, and it never conflicted with my feelings, for Science itself
pauses before the first cause of all Being, and says, 'Thus far, and no
farther,' and here, where my knowledge ceases, my faith begins!"

"You speak well, but you do not convince me," said Ernestine sadly.

"I see. I know that the remedy for your disease does not lie in the
words or the example of others, but in your own experience. I prophesy,
if you are ever overwhelmed by a moment of despair, that you will waken
to the need of that God whom you now ignore. Even were it not to be so,
I could only pity you, for a woman who cannot pray is a bird with
broken wings. I maintain that there is no woman who does not
believe,--for there is none who does not _fear_, and fear looks in
reverence to God, whether as avenging justice or protecting love, to
which to flee when all other aid fails. Can you be the sole exception
to this rule?"

"I hope so," said Ernestine proudly. "I am not one of those weaklings
who dread danger in the dark. I look every phantom of terror boldly in
the face, and can recognize its natural origin. I fear nothing, and
have no need of a God."

"You fear nothing?" asked Johannes, and then, struck by a sudden
thought, added, "Not even death?"

"Not even death! I know that I am but a part of universal matter, and
must return to it again. What is there to fear? The dissolution of a
personal existence in the great sum of things,--the transformation of
one substance into another? Since I learned to think, I have constantly
pondered this great law of nature, and have accustomed myself to
consider my insignificant existence only as part and parcel of the
wondrous transmutation of matter perpetually taking place in the
universe. Only when we have attained this conviction can we smilingly
renounce our vain claim to individual immortality, and see in death the
due tribute that we pay to nature for our life."

"Indeed? And you imagine that this consolation will stand you in stead
when the time really comes for you to descend into that dark abyss
which is illuminated for you by no ray of faith or hope?"

"I am sure of it."

"And if you were plunged into it before the appointed time?"

"I should not quarrel with the measure of existence that nature
accorded me."

"You would not, however, curtail that existence intentionally?"

Ernestine looked at him in surprise. "No, assuredly not."

"Are you not afraid of doing so by going to America?"

"Why should I fear it?--on account of the dangers of the sea, perhaps?
Oh, no. It has borne millions of lives in safety upon its waves,--why
not mine also? It will be more merciful than my kind, I think."

"Then you are still determined to go, after all that I have told you of
your uncle?"

"With him or without him, I shall go," said Ernestine.

"Well, then, God is my witness that I have tried my best! Now,--you
will think me cruel, but I cannot help it,--one remedy still is left
me,--a terrible one, but your proud courage gives me strength to use
it. Ernestine, if you persist in your determination to undertake this
voyage, I fear the time is close at hand when the genuineness of your
philosophical consolation will be tried indeed. You will hardly live to
reach New York."

Ernestine grew, if possible, paler than before at these words. "What
reason have you to say so?" she faltered.

"I will tell you, for there is no time left for concealment." He looked
at the clock. "I cannot understand how, with your understanding and
the knowledge that you possess, you should fail to see that you are
ill,--not only nervous and prostrated, but seriously ill."

Ernestine looked at him in alarm.

"I am firmly convinced that you are lost if you continue your present
mode of life, as you will and must in America. Notwithstanding all your
uncle may have told you, I know that, once in New York, you will have
no chance of recovering from him one thaler of your fortune, even
supposing that, in accordance with your wishes, I allow him to leave
this country. You will be forced to earn your daily support, and, I
tell you truly, your life, under such conditions, will not last one
year. You will die in your bloom in an American hospital, and be buried
in a nameless grave!"

Ernestine turned away.

"Are you still determined to go?" Johannes asked after a pause.

Ernestine pondered for one moment of bitter agony. She knew only too
well that he was right. But what should she do? He had no idea that her
fortune was actually lost,--that she would be forced to earn her bread
if she stayed as surely as if she went,--that she must labour
incessantly, if she would not be a dependent beggar. Think and reflect
as she might, she saw nothing before her but death in a hospital! And
she would far rather perish in a foreign land than here, where all knew
her, and where all would triumph over her downfall, that they had
prophesied so often. No! she must fly! Like the dying bird in winter,
hiding himself in his death-agony from every eye, she would conceal, in
a distant quarter of the globe, her poverty, her degradation and
disgrace, from the arrogant man of whom she had been so haughtily
independent in the day of her prosperity.

At last she raised her head, and, with a great effort, said, "There is
no choice left me. I must fulfil my contract,--I _must_ go to America!"

Johannes had awaited her decision with breathless eagerness. He lost
almost entirely his hardly-won self-control. "Ernestine," he exclaimed,
seizing both her hands, "Ernestine, I plead for life and death. Do you
not hear?--I tell you there is no hope for you but in absolute repose.
Will you voluntarily hurry into the grave yawning at your feet? I have
watched you with the eyes of a physician and a lover, and I swear to
you, by my honour, that I have been continually discovering fresh cause
for anxiety. You look as if you were in a decline at this moment. You
have the feeble, capricious pulse and the cold hands of a victim of
disease of the heart. Yesterday I heard from Frau Willmers of symptoms
that filled me with alarm for you,--I grasp at the hope that they may
be only the effects of your unnaturally forced manner of life. But
these effects may become causes, in your present exhausted condition,
causes of mortal disease, if you do not spare yourself I cannot, in
duty or conscience, let you go without, hard as it is, enlightening you
with regard to your physical condition. I would have spared you the
cruel truth, but your determined obstinacy extorts it from me. Have
some compassion upon me, and do not go before you have seen Heim. He is
a man of experience, let him judge whether I am right or not. I entreat
you to see him. Do, Ernestine, do, for my sake, if you would not leave
me plunged in the depths of despair."

Still he held her hands firmly clasped in his. His chest heaved, his
cheeks were flushed with emotion. All the strength of his passionate
affection for her seethed and glowed in his imperious and imploring
entreaties.

Ernestine stood pale and calm before him. No human eye could divine her
thoughts.

Whilst they stood thus silently gazing into each other's eyes, there
was a sound as of a carriage driving from the door below. Johannes, in
his agitation, never heard it. Ernestine thought it was possibly her
uncle, but she did not care. She had suddenly grown strangely
indifferent to everything in the world.

"Ernestine, have you no answer for me?" asked Johannes.

"I will--reflect--until to-morrow."

"Thank God!" burst from the depths of Johannes' heart. As he dropped
Ernestine's hands, he fairly staggered with exhaustion.

Again a few moments passed in gloomy silence.

"Ernestine," he then said, "you have in this last hour punished an
innocent man for all the sins of his sex. Let it suffice you--indeed
you are avenged."

Ernestine did not speak.

Johannes continued. "I will intrude no longer. May I come with Heim
to-morrow?"

"You shall learn my decision to-morrow."

"Your hand upon it. No? Then farewell!"

Ernestine was alone. She stood motionless for awhile, never thinking of
Johannes, nor of her uncle, who, strangely enough, did not appear, but
with one sentence ringing in her ears,--"Your pulse is that of a victim
to disease of the heart." Those words had stung like a scorpion. There
was no doubt, then, that Johannes considered her past all hope of
recovering,--he had plainly intimated as much, although he had
refrained from bluntly telling her so. But was Dr. Möllner capable of
forming a correct judgment in her case? Yes, certainly, both as
physiologist and physician, he was thoroughly able to form a just
diagnosis. She did not understand how she could so long have ignored
the signs in herself of physical decline. He was right,--her uncle was
her murderer. She shuddered at the thought. How near death seemed to
her now! She thought, and thought called to mind every peculiar
sensation that she had lately been conscious of, weighed the evidence,
and drew conclusions.

It was remarkable how everything betokened trouble with her heart.
Johannes wished to consult Heim. He would not have done that, had he
not thought her dangerously ill. What could he or Heim tell her that
she did not know herself? Had he any means of obtaining knowledge that
were not hers also? Had she not a pathological library, filled with all
that a physician needed,--the same that she had destined for Walter,
but had not yet sent to him? She would consult it and know the truth
that very day.

Night had fallen--the rain was dripping outside--the room lay in dreary
shadow. She rang for lights. Frau Willmers brought a study-lamp with a
green shade, and left her alone again.

Ernestine placed a small library-ladder against one of the tall,
heavily-carved bookcases, and mounted it, with the lamp in her hand.
She took out one book after another, without finding the one for which
she was searching. Impatiently she rummaged among the dusty folios,
that had not been touched for months. At last, by the dim light of her
lamp, she saw the title that she was looking for, but it was beneath a
pile of books hastily heaped above it. She dragged it out with feverish
impatience. The volumes tumbled about, some hard, heavy object, lying
among them, fell upon her head, almost stunning her, and then shattered
the lamp in her hand, falling afterwards upon the floor with a dull
noise amidst the broken glass that accompanied it. Ernestine, her book
under her arm, got down from the ladder with trembling knees, to see,
by the expiring flame of the wick of the lamp, what it was that had
caused the mischief. As she stooped to pick it up, a fleshless,
grinning face stared into her own. She started back with a cry. It was
one of the skulls that she had put away in the library and long
forgotten. The dim light of the lamp died out, but through the darkness
the white jaws still grinned horribly. Almost insane with horror, she
called again for lights. To her overwrought nerves, the trifling
accident was in strange harmony with the thoughts that were tormenting
her. It was as if nature thus gave her ominous warning of her fate.

When lights were brought, she forced herself to look the hateful thing
in the face again. She picked up the head by its empty eye-sockets.
"Thus shall I shortly look,--no fairer than this horror!" And she went
up to a mirror, and, in a kind of bravado, compared her own head with
the fleshless thing. "You must learn to recognize the family likeness,"
she said to her own reflection, and in feverish fancy she began to
analyze her own fair, noble features and imagine all the changes that
they must pass through before their resemblance to their mute, bleached
companion should be complete. Disgust and dread mastered her again, and
she feared her own reflection in the mirror as much as the skull. She
threw it from her, and then started at the noise it made as it fell
into the corner of the room. The blood rushed to her head, and she was
deafened by the whirr and singing in her ears, although, through it
all, she seemed to hear something, she knew not what, that she could
not comprehend, and that increased her terror. The death's-head in the
corner would not--so it seemed to her--keep quiet; it was rolling about
there. She could not stay in the room,--there was something evil in the
air. She took the book that she had found, and the candle, and fled
like a hunted deer to her own apartment, never looking around her in
the desolate rooms, in fear lest the formless thing that so filled her
with dread should take visible shape and stare at her from some dim
recess. But it followed at her heels, dogging her footsteps,
surrounding her like an atmosphere, and with its hundred arms so
oppressing her chest and throat, even in the quiet of her own room,
that it scarcely left space for her heart to beat. How strangely it did
beat,--so irregularly! now faint, now strong, as only a diseased heart
can beat! And she opened the book and read her doom,--read the pages
devoted to diseases of the heart, hastily, feverishly, with little
comprehension of their meaning, for by this time thought was merged in
fear, and of course she gave the words a meaning they did not possess,
in dread of finding what she wanted to know and yet greedily searching
for it. Yes, it was just as she feared. Not a symptom here described
that she had not felt. Now it was beyond all doubt, she was lost,--no
cure was possible,--only delay, and even that, in her present state of
weakness, was hardly to be hoped. She tossed the book aside, and went
to the window for air. Damp with rain and close as it was, still it was
air,--freer and purer than any that she would have in her coffin. Then,
to be sure, she would need it no more, but it was still delightful to
breathe, and the thought of lying beneath that close coffin-lid was
suffocation!

And she was to die soon! Johannes had not been mistaken. It was true.
And her strength had been failing for a long time. What was she afraid
of? What was there to fear? The pain that she might suffer? Thousands
had suffered the same agony, and the hour of her release was perhaps
closer at hand than she thought. Then she would be strong,--this hope
should sustain her. She would not falsify, even to herself, the
declaration that she had made to Johannes scarcely an hour before.
Fear? What? Annihilation,--to cease to be,--it was not cheering, and
certainly not sad,--it was simply nothing! It was not annihilation that
she feared, but a continuation of existence that might be worse than
death,--the uncertainty whether the soul perished with the body.
"True," she said to herself, "if our eyes are blinded they are not
conscious of light, our closed ears cannot hear. Let this physical
mechanism, that is our means of communication with the exterior world,
pause in its working, and communication ceases. But suppose thought
should be independent of this mechanism? Oh! horrible, horrible! why is
there no proof that it cannot be so? What if memory lives on and there
are no eyes for seeing, and of course no light,--no ears for hearing,
and no sound, no body sensitive to touch, no time or space,--nothing
but eternal night, eternal silence, only informed by the memory of what
we have seen and heard, and the longing for light, sound, and feeling?"

This was the worst of all,--more dreadful than personal annihilation;
this was what she feared. Eternal night, eternal silence, and eternal
solitude! Whose blood would not curdle at the thought, except theirs,
perhaps, who were weary and worn with existence, or who, looking back
upon life's long labour well performed, needed not shun an eternity of
remembrance? But she? She was not weary of the world, she had not yet
began to enjoy it,--she was not old, she was just beginning to live.
She had done nothing towards fulfilling her high purposes, nothing that
she could look back upon with satisfaction. It was too soon,--if she
must go now, she had nothing to look forward to but an eternity of
remorse! And how long must she endure this dread before the horrible
certainty came upon her? "Oh, cruel death!" she moaned, "to assail me
thus insidiously in his most horrid shape,--of slow, languishing
disease! If he would only attack me like an assassin, that I might do
battle with him,--meet me in the shape of some falling fragment of rock
that I might try to avoid, or in engulfing waves that I could breast
and strive against,--it would be kinder than to steal upon me thus,
invisible, impalpable, inevitable! Let me flee across the ocean to the
farthest ends of the earth, I cannot escape him, I take him with me!
Let me mount the swiftest steed and be borne wildly over hill and
valley, I cannot escape him, he will ride with me! Let me climb the
loftiest Alps,--in vain! in vain! He nestles within me." She fell upon
her knees. "Oh, omnipotent nature, cruel mother who refusest me
your bounteous nourishment, have compassion upon me, and save your
child,--do not give my thought, my life, to annihilation, and its
garment to decay! Millions breathe and prosper who are not worthy of
your blessings,--will you thrust out me, your priestess, from your
grace?" And she lay prostrate, wringing her hands, as if awaiting an
answer to her entreaty. All around her was silent. There was no pity
for her. She bethought herself, "Oh, nature is implacable, why should I
pray to her? she does not hear, she does not think or feel, but sweeps
me from her path in the blind despotism of her eternal mechanism. Is
there no hand to aid? no judge of the worth of an existence, to say,
'Thou art worthy to live, therefore live?' There is, there is! By the
agony of this hour, I know there must be a higher justice, a Divinity
other than nature. The spirit that now in dread of death wrestles with
nature must have another refuge, a loftier destiny than the life of
this world!" She clasped her hands upon her breast. "Oh, Faith! Faith!
and if it be so,--if there be a God, what claim can I have upon His
pity? Could my vain pride sustain me before such a judge? What have I
done to make me worthy of His compassion? Have I been of any use in the
world,--conferred happiness upon a single human being, formed one tie
pleasant to contemplate? Have I not all my life long denied His
existence, and now, like a coward, do I fly to Him for succour? Can I
expect aid, and dare to raise my eyes to heaven and seek there what the
earth denies me? No! I will not deceive myself; there is no pity for
me,--none in nature, none in mankind, none in God!"

And Faith overwhelmed her with its terrors, for only to the loving
heart is Faith revealed as Love. To those who have shunned and denied
it, it comes like an avenging blast. It bore her poor diseased mind
away upon its wings like a withered leaf from the tree of knowledge,
and tossed it down into the night of despair.

A cry, "Johannes, come! save me!" burst from Ernestine's lips, and, in
a vain effort to reach the door, she fell senseless upon the ground.



                              CHAPTER VI.

                               SENTENCED.


Leuthold had listened to the conversation between Johannes and
Ernestine until it reached the point where he saw that Johannes would
prevail. Several times he wondered whether it might not be best to
break in upon them and try to give their interview another colour, but
he reflected that the attempt would be useless with a man of Möllner's
determination, and that he should only be forced to listen to fresh
accusations. Then he devised another plan, and determined to make use
of the opportunity to effect his own escape. Convinced now that his
game was lost, he gathered together the contents of his strong
box, and wrote a few lines to Ernestine that might be found upon his
writing-table when his absence was discovered. They ran thus:


"I have listened to your conversation, and have heard the unfortunate
turn for me that it has taken. I can no longer cherish any hope, and
all that I can do is to outwit this fellow and escape while he is with
you. I take with me whatever of money there is in the house, to defray
the expenses of my journey. I cannot wait until Möllner has gone to ask
you for it, for he would stand guard at the door again, and I should
never escape from his clutches. My life, and my child's future
existence, are at stake. I cannot delay. If you should still decide to
leave with me to-day, you will find me at the railroad-station. There
are still two hours before the departure of the train. If you remain, I
will send you the money for the journey as soon as I can. Farewell,
and, I hope, _au revoir_."


Having written these lines, he slipped out to the stables, had the
horses put into the carriage, and drove to the station. In two hours
his fate would be decided! Once off in the train, and he was safe!

The time spent by Ernestine in mortal struggle with her doubts and
reawakening faith was no less a time of torture to him who was the
cause of all her woe. Any one who has waited a couple of hours for the
arrival of a railroad-train at some insignificant station knows the
meaning of the word "patience." To stand about upon a desolate
platform, stamping your feet to keep them warm, now peering forward to
look along the endless level road, in hopes of discovering the red
spark in the distance, then walking up and down the narrow space again,
and interrogating the sleepy superintendent as often as you think his
patience will permit, as to whether the train will not soon arrive, and
always hearing the same answer, "It will soon be here now,"--an
assertion which the official himself does not believe,--then, for a
change, to wander into the dreary refreshment-room, with its eternal
leathery sandwiches and its faded waiter-girls, who reward you with
such an offensive want of interest because you are not sufficiently
exhausted by a long journey to be brought down to the point of
purchasing any of their stale provisions,--to look at the clock every
ten minutes, under the full conviction that at least half an hour must
have elapsed since you looked last,--and finally, when, stupefied with
fatigue and dully resigned to waiting, you have sunk upon a seat, to be
roused with a start by the shrill whistle of the locomotive, causing
you hastily to collect your seven bundles and rush out, only to be
stopped by the station-porter, because this is not the train you want,
but one that passes before your train,--all these are the miseries of
human life at a railroad-station that every one is familiar with. But
for him who is waiting for the iron steed to save him from pursuit and
death, they become the most terrible tortures that malicious demons can
devise.

Leuthold experienced them to the utmost, with the added anxiety of
watching in two different directions,--in that whence the train was to
approach, and in that whence he himself had come, and where the avenger
might now be upon his track. Thus he passed two hours upon a mental
rack--and when at last the glittering point appeared upon the horizon,
and, coming nearer and nearer, the train swept up before the station,
he thought he should fall senseless at the sound of the whistle that
rung in his ears. With all the strength that he was master of, he
mounted the high steps of the car, and the black, red-eyed, guardian
angel of thieves and murderers spread abroad its smoky pinions and
steamed away with him into the night.

Safety seemed assured. Upon the iron path, along which he was carried
with such fiery speed, no pursuit could overtake him, except through
the electric spark,--that might outstrip him and cause his arrest at
some other station. But this fear did not trouble him greatly, for no
one knew whither he had fled. To baffle pursuit, he had purchased a
ticket for a distant town on the left bank of the Rhine while he
intended going directly to Hamburg, first stopping at Hanover to take
his daughter from her boarding-school.

It was a cold, disagreeable night. Overpowered by fatigue, he fell
asleep once or twice. He dreamed he was in the cabin of a vessel upon
the ocean,--once more he breathed freely--his fears were at an end. And
as we are apt to say, when some danger is past, "Now we are on dry land
again," he, on the contrary, exulted in being on the water. But
suddenly the cruel guard shouted in at the door his monotonous "Five
minutes for refreshment!" and recalled him to the consciousness that he
was still on the land, on the land where for him there was no real
safety. Thus the night passed between waking and sleeping. The other
travellers looked compassionately, by the flickering light of the
car-lamp, at the pale, beardless man leaning back so wearily in the
corner, and thought he must be very ill.

At last the dawn flushed the horizon, and revealed the uninteresting
level landscape. The usual beverage was offered at all the
stopping-places, and drank for coffee by the chilly travellers, who,
reduced to a state of physical and mental weakness, made no complaints,
only murmured, "At least it is something warm!"

An old lady, who had got into the car during the night, and, seated by
Leuthold, fairly drank herself through the whole journey, was greatly
troubled by the presence of the pale man who appeared impervious to
earthly needs and sat perfectly motionless in his corner. What kind of
a man could this be, who never stirred, never took any refreshment,
never smoked, never spoke, not even to answer the usual question,
"Where are we now?" which is almost sure to open a conversation?
Nothing makes friends more speedily than common discomfort in
travelling at night. All the other travellers in the car had grown
confidential,--had stretched themselves, and told whether and how they
had slept. Leuthold alone was as if deaf and dumb. Of course the others
leagued against him. They watched him curiously, and made whispered
remarks upon his appearance. At last he grew very uncomfortable. The
restlessness of the old lady by his side tormented him, she was
perpetually burying him beneath her huge fur cloak, which, she informed
him, she had brought into the car with her because it would not go into
her trunk, and now it had turned out quite useful--who would have
thought a September night would be so cool? Still, she must take it
off, lest she should take cold, and she disentangled herself from the
voluminous garment, almost smothering Leuthold in the process. The
other gentlemen smilingly assisted her, and Leuthold extricated himself
impatiently. The cloak was at last, with considerable pains, secured in
the place made for portmanteaus on one side of the car, during which
process the towers of the capital, looming in the light of morning,
were approached unperceived. The pains had been fruitless, for the
guard opened the door with the words that would release Leuthold,
"Tickets for Hanover, gentlemen!"

"Oh, good gracious I are we there already?" cried the old lady,
rummaging her pockets for her ticket, which Leuthold fortunately picked
up from the floor and handed to her.

Appeased by his courtesy, she asked him if he too was going to get out
at Hanover, and, upon his answering by a brief "Yes," she informed him,
to his horror, that she was going to take her youngest daughter from
the boarding-school there, to establish her as companion with a lady in
Copenhagen. She had a hard journey before her, for she should continue
it that very night.

Therefore he determined not to take the night train for Hamburg, as he
had at first intended, since then he would have to travel the long road
thither from Hanover in company with this officious old gossip and her
daughter. He could not avoid them, as the daughter was in the same
boarding-school with Gretchen, and probably one of her friends. It was
incumbent upon him to have no companions to whom he might become known
and who could thus afford intelligence to the authorities concerning
his route. Great as was the danger in delay, this peril was still
greater. He must choose the lesser evil, and lose a day.

The train stopped. The old lady emerged from the car, like a mole from
the earth, and was greeted with a joyful exclamation from her daughter,
who was waiting for her at the station.

Leuthold threw himself into a droschky, and drove to a hotel, whence he
dispatched a few lines to his daughter, requesting her to come to him.

A long half-hour ensued. What would the daughter be whom he had not
seen for seven years? Was she what she seemed in her letters? If she
were, how should he meet her and gaze into her innocent eyes?

There was a gentle knock at the door. "Come in," he cried eagerly, and
there entered a creature so lovely in her budding maidenhood that
Leuthold could only open his arms to her in mute delight.

The girl stood for one moment timidly upon the threshold, and then
threw herself upon her father's breast with a cry of joy,--a cry in
which all the home-sickness of years was dissolved in the rapture of
reunion. Closer and closer each clasped the other,--neither could utter
a word. The child wept tears of joy in her father's arms, and bitter
drops fell from Leuthold's eyes upon the head that he pressed to his
breast as if this happiness were to be his only for a few minutes.

"Father, let me look at you," Gretchen said at last, extricating
herself from his embrace. And she put her hands upon either side of his
head, and gazed into his eyes with the clear, frank glance of
innocence. He bore her look as he would have borne to look at the sun:
it seemed to him that it must blind him, and that he should never be
able to raise his eyelids again.

"Father dear, I can see how you have laboured and suffered," said
Gretchen sadly. "It was high time for you to allow yourself a little
relaxation. Ah, how good it is of you to come to me,--to me!" And her
emotion found vent in kisses. "But the surprise!" she cried with a long
breath, "the surprise! I could hardly believe my eyes when your note
was handed to me. 'My father's hand,' I thought, 'and from here?' I
opened the note and read,--and read,--in distinct letters, that my
father was really here. I gave such a cry of delight that every one
came running to know what was the matter. I was just out of bed, and
would gladly have run to you in my dressing-gown! Oh, heavens! I could
scarcely dress myself--everything went wrong. I should never have got
through if the Fräulein had not helped me,--I was in such a hurry!" And
she laughed, and cried, and threw her arms around her father again, as
if she feared he might vanish from her sight. "Ah, father, what shall I
call you? My own darling father, is this really you? Are you going to
stay with me now for a while? Are you half as glad to see me as I am to
see you?"

Thus the innocent, joyous creature overwhelmed him with love and
caresses, and he, lost as he was, heard his condemnation in every one
of her tender words.

Could this angel ever descend from her upper sphere to a knowledge of
her father's crime? Could her pure soul ever be stained with thoughts
of sin, of which as yet she had no idea, and learn to despise, as a
criminal, him whom she now held dearest in the world?

But this was not all that he feared. What if his disgrace were to be
visited upon his child? What if this young bud should be buried beneath
the ruins of his shattered existence? Who would have anything to do
with the daughter of a criminal?

"Visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children to the third and
fourth generation!" These words, hitherto only empty sounds to him,
haunted his memory in terrible distinctness. They perfectly expressed
the dread that possessed him.

"Father, how silent you are!" said Gretchen timidly.

"Oh, my child,--my life! I can do nothing but look at you and delight
in you! Your loveliness is like a revelation to me from on high! I have
become a new man since I know myself the father of such a child! I
cannot jest and laugh,--my joy is too deep! So let me be silent, and,
believe me, the graver I am, the more I love you."

Gretchen instantly understood and sympathized with her father's mood.
"You are right,--we do not jest and laugh in church, and yet I am so
filled there with gratitude for God's kindness to me! How I thank Him
now for this moment! I have prayed Him for so many years to send you to
me, and now my prayer is answered,--you are here. His way is always the
best. He has not sent you before, because I was not old enough to
appreciate this happiness." Leuthold had seated himself by this time,
and she stood beside him and pillowed his head upon her breast. "You
are worn out, father dear. You look so sad. But now you are mine, and I
will tend you and cherish you until you forget all your care and
anxiety. Oh that Ernestine,--I will not wish her ill, but would she
only give back to me every smile that she has stolen from you,--to me,
who have nothing but your smile in this world!" She imprinted upon his
forehead a kiss that burned there like a coal of fire.

"We will not speak of Ernestine now, my child," said Leuthold. "Let her
be what she is. We will talk of her by-and-by. Lately she has not been
so hard to control, and has often spoken of you affectionately. I think
she will shortly marry, and then she will be gentler, for love always
ennobles. She has not quite decided as to her future course yet, but I
think she will marry. At all events, she will take care of you if
anything should happen to me. Yes, she will,--I am sure of it."

"Father," cried Gretchen in alarm, "how can you talk so? What could
happen to you?"

"Why, my child, I might die suddenly. We must be prepared for
everything, the future is in God's hand."

Gretchen knelt down beside him, and pressed her rosy lips upon his
slender hand. "Father dear, why cast a shadow upon this happy hour?
Just as I have found you, must I think of losing you? Oh, my Heavenly
Father cannot be so cruel! You are in His hand, and He who has brought
you to me will let me keep you."

She laid her head upon his knee with childlike tenderness, and was
silent.

"Visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children" rang again in the
ears of the happy and yet miserable father. Thus several hours passed,
amid the girl's loving talk and laughing jests, until at last, at noon,
she sprang up and declared she must go home to dinner. Leuthold would
not let her go. He said they would not expect her at the school,--they
would know she would stay with her father. And so they dined together,
for the first time after so many years. But to Leuthold the meal was
like the last before his execution.

After dinner he went to see the governess of the Institute, and asked
her to allow Gretchen to take a pleasure-trip of a few weeks with
him,--a request that was readily granted, although madame declared that
she could not tell how she should do without Gretchen so long. "For I
assure you," said she, "that Gretchen has richly rewarded us for our
trouble. When she really leaves me, she will carry a large piece of my
heart with her."

"Oh, how can I thank you?" cried Gretchen, throwing herself into her
kind friend's arms.

Leuthold was deeply troubled. Should he snatch this child from the soil
into which she had struck root so securely, and where she had blossomed
so fairly in the sunshine of peace and good will? And yet could he
leave her here to lose her forever? If justice should pursue him to
America, he never could send for his daughter without betraying his
place of refuge. She was his child. He had a sacred claim upon her,
and, since he had seen her again, was less able than ever to do without
her. She should share his fate.

While he was in the parlour of the Institute, the old lady who had been
his travelling companion, and who had passed the whole day with her
daughter, entered, and was charmed to meet him again, only regretting
that they were not to continue their journey together that evening.

Madame invited him to return to tea,--an invitation that he could not
refuse,--and he left the house for awhile for a walk with Gretchen. The
girl's delight knew no bounds when she found herself promenading the
streets upon her father's arm. She had on her prettiest bonnet and her
best dress,--she wished to be a credit to her father and to please him,
and she entirely succeeded. She was charming. Leuthold regarded her
with increasing admiration, and his busy mind began to weave fresh
plans for the future out of her brown hair and long eyelashes. The
world stood open for this angel, might she not pass scathless through
it with a father who had been proscribed? Who could withstand those
half-laughing, half-pensive gazelle-eyes, and those pouting lips;
pleading for a father?

As she walked beside him thus, her elastic form lightly supported upon
his arm, prattling on with all the grace of a nature full of sense and
sensibility, he too began to smile and to revive. He might be most
wretched as a man, but he was greatly to be envied as a father.

Gretchen interrupted his reverie. "Father," she said in a low voice,
"when I was a little child, you never liked to have me speak of my
mother. But I want very much to know what became of her after she
married that head-waiter. Will you tell me to-day?"

"I can tell you nothing,--I know nothing of her since she left Marburg,
after her father's death. At the time of the divorce she sent me the
sum that she was to contribute to the expenses of your education, and
her coarse husband permitted no further correspondence between us. He
sent back to me unopened every letter in which I tried to arrange
matters more methodically. I learned through a third person that she
had left Marburg. I do not know where she is living now."

Gretchen shook her head and said nothing.

"I look like you, father, do I not?" she asked anxiously. She did not
want to resemble her faithless mother in anything.

"You inherit her beauty, refined and ennobled, and my way of thinking
and feeling."

Gretchen nestled close to his side. "I would like to grow more like you
every day."

"God forbid!" Leuthold thought to himself, in the full consciousness of
what he was, as he turned to go back to the Institute. If he could only
have thus retraced his steps in the path of life!

The evening passed more slowly than if he had been alone with Gretchen,
although he was delighted by fresh proofs of her ability and progress.
He was especially surprised by her artistic talent,--her drawings and
sketches in colour. She had not exaggerated when she wrote to him that
she was as entirely fitted as a girl could be to earn her own
livelihood. He was perfectly satisfied upon that point. And as he lay
down to rest at night, a sense of relief filled his mind greater than
any he had felt for a long time, and it soothed him to repose.

The next morning Gretchen heard, to her surprise, that her kind father
desired to give her a glimpse of the ocean. He would wait until they
were on board of the steamer, he thought, before he told her of his
real plans. They took the early train for Hamburg, and arrived there
towards evening. Leuthold thought it advisable to go directly to a
large hotel, where an individual would not excite as much observation
as in a smaller house. He selected one of the most splendid hotels in
the gayest street in Hamburg.

Gretchen was enchanted with the sight of this northern Venice. The
extensive basin of the Alster lay before them, framed in hundreds of
bright lights, on its bank the brilliantly illuminated Alster Pavilion,
while the rippling waves reflected the moon's rays in a long path of
shining silver. Like pictures in a magic lantern, the gondolas glided
hither and thither, and the fresh sea-breeze wafted the notes of gay
music from the other side. The waves of the sea of light and of sound
burst in harmony upon Gretchen's eyes and ears, and made her fairly
giddy with delight. She could almost believe that the Nixies, scared
away to their depths during the day by the passing to and fro upon the
waters of so much life and vivacity, were now beginning to sport there
in the moonlight, playing around the skiff's and singing their enticing
strains. And when she turned her eyes to the shore, bordered by palaces
and crowded with restless throngs of pedestrians and gay equipages,
presenting a scene of reality to counteract the dreamy impression
produced by the expanse of water, the world seemed to the child a
garden of enchantment, and her father the mighty magician reigning over
it, who had brought her hither to enjoy its splendours. She threw her
arms around him and kissed his hands, and could not thank him enough
for giving her such new delight.

The carriage stopped at the entrance of the magnificent hotel, and the
attendants came running to offer their services. The head-waiter stood
in the doorway, ready to receive the new arrivals. Leuthold helped out
Gretchen and handed over the baggage to a servant. As he ascended the
steps, he glanced for the first time at the dignified and trim deputy
of the host. He started, and the man too was evidently startled. Each
seemed familiar to the other; one moment of reflection, and the
recognition was mutual. Leuthold held fast by Gretchen, or he would
have staggered. There stood the headwaiter of his father-in-law's
inn,--Bertha's husband.

They exchanged a hostile glance of recognition. Then the man cried with
a perfectly unconcerned air, "Louis, show Dr. Gleissert and his
daughter to Nos. 42 and 43."

It seemed to Leuthold that the servant smiled at the mention of his
name, and that he exchanged a significant glance with his chief. But
this was probably only an illusion of his excited fancy. He hesitated
whether it would not be better to go to another hotel. But that would
look like flight,--he had been recognized, and, if the man chose to
pursue him, he could follow him to any inn in Hamburg.

His enemy stood aside with a contemptuous obeisance, and Leuthold
followed his guide up to the fourth story. "Have you no room in a lower
story?" he asked.

"Very sorry, sir," replied the servant with a smile, "they are all
occupied--you have a very good view here of the river."

Leuthold was silent. He seemed to have fallen into a trap. How had he
come to choose in all this wide city the very house where dwelt his
worst enemy? How did the fellow come here?

The servant Louis opened a charming room, looking out upon the water,
and Gretchen could not suppress an exclamation of delight as she looked
down from such a height upon all the beauty below them. It seemed like
heaven to her. Louis lighted the candles, and awaited further orders.

"How long has Herr Meyer been head-waiter here?" Leuthold asked as if
incidentally.

"For about a year," Louis replied, arranging his napkin upon his arm.
"He is a relative of the proprietor of this house, who, when his only
son died, sent for Herr Meyer, that the business might not pass into
strange hands."

"Indeed--then will Herr Meyer succeed him?"

"I believe so,--yes, sir."

Leuthold walked to and fro upon the soft carpet.

"Will you have supper, sir?"

"Yes."

"Will you go down to the dining-hall, sir?"

"No, I had rather not mount those four flights of stairs again. Bring
our supper here, if you please."

"Very well, sir, I will get you the bill of fare instantly."

"Here--stop a moment----"

"What do you wish, sir?"

"Bring me up a couple of newspapers at the same time."

"Very well, sir."

As the door closed behind the man, Gretchen turned round from the
window, where she had been standing with clasped hands. "Father," said
she, "I am fairly dazzled with all that I see. I never was so happy in
my life before. But, in the midst of it all, I never forget whom I have
to thank for all this pleasure." And she knelt upon the carpet and laid
her head upon the lap of her father, who had flung himself exhausted
into a chair. "Do not you too, father, feel easy and free up here in
the pure, clear air, with this lovely view of the shining water?"

"Oh, yes, dear child," said Leuthold, his breast filled the while with
deadly forebodings.

Gretchen sprang up again, and took two or three deep breaths. "Oh," she
cried, running to the window again, "it seems to me that I have been
thirsty all my life, and am now drinking deep refreshing draughts in
looking at those rolling waves." She leaned her fair forehead against
the window-frame, and eagerly inhaled the fresh breeze that blew into
the room from the Alster. "How happy those are who are at home upon two
elements," she continued, "land and water! We, poor land-rats, must
cling to the soil. Think of inhabiting all four of the elements, now
working and walking upon the earth, then soaring aloft into the air,
now floating dreamily upon the waves, or dancing in the ardent glow of
fire,--would not that be glorious?"

"Then you would be man, fish, bird, and salamander all at once," said
Leuthold, smiling in surprise at the girl's earnest tone. "Well, well,
it might be all very delightful at sixteen, but a man as aged as your
old father is thankful if he can live respectably upon the earth only."

"My old father!" laughed Gretchen, hastening to his side again--"you
darling papa, how can you call yourself aged? Come with me to the
window, the prospect there will make you twenty years younger." She
drew him towards it. "It is very strange, I think, but certainly a new
revelation of beauty should make the old younger, and the young older.
It is a new experience for the young, and experience always makes us
mature. It is a memory for the old, for they are sure to have seen
something of the kind in previous years, and it carries them back to
the earlier and youthful sensations that it first awakened in them.
Such a memory should lighten the soul of ten years at least."

Leuthold looked at his daughter with unfeigned surprise. "Child, where
did you learn all that?"

"Why, out of some book that I have read, I suppose," said Gretchen
modestly. "One always remembers something, you know."

"Blessed be the day that gave you to me,--you are all that I have."

There was a knock at the door, and the servant entered with the bill of
fare and the newspapers.

"Excuse me, sir, for keeping you waiting. I had to go to Madame for
to-day's paper."

"No matter," said Leuthold, almost gaily. His talk with his daughter
had done him good.

He ordered a little supper, and, when the man left the room, seated
himself on a sofa and began to read.

Gretchen took her work,--she was just at the age when affection finds
instant pleasure in embroidering or crocheting some article for the
beloved object. So she sat and sewed diligently upon a letter-case that
she was embroidering for her father while he read. Now and then she
turned and looked out of the window, to be sure that all the splendour
there had not vanished.

Suddenly she was startled by a profound sigh from her father, and,
looking up, she saw him sitting pale as ashes, staring at the paper
that had fallen from his hands. In an instant he sprang to his feet and
walked up and down the room in mute despair.

"What is the matter, dear, dear father? what is it?" she asked in
alarm, but, receiving no reply, she picked up the newspaper, to see if
she could discover from it what had caused his agitation. She read
unobserved by him--he was leaning out of the window for air--read what
seemed to her a strange tongue, to be deciphered only in her heart's
blood. It was a telegraphic order from the magistrate of W----. "Dr.
Leuthold Gleissert, former Professor in Pr--, is charged with having
appropriated, by means of forgery, and expended upon his own account,
the property, amounting to upwards of ninety thousand thalers, of his
ward Ernestine von Hartwich, of Hochstetten, and also of having robbed
the mail. You are desired to arrest and detain him." A personal
description of him followed, but Gretchen had read enough. "Father!"
she screamed, "father! father!" And, as if in these three words she had
summed up all there was to say, she fell forward with her face upon the
floor, as though never to raise it again.

There stood the guilty man, forced to behold his child crushed
beneath the ruins of his shattered existence. He did not venture to
touch the sacred form extended before him in anguish. He looked down
upon her like one almost bereft of reason. God had visited his sin
upon him, probing the only place in his heart sensitive to human
feeling--his punishment lay in the sight of his child's agony without
the power to relieve it.

Suddenly Gretchen raised her head and looked at him with those clear,
conscious eyes whose gaze he had always endured with difficulty, and
before which his own eyes now drooped instantly. "It is not true--it
cannot be! Father, you are innocent--you cannot have done this thing!"

"For God's sake, Gretchen, do not speak so loud," Leuthold entreated.

"You tremble--you will not look at me. Father, if you have thus
burdened your soul, I cannot be your judge--I will be your conscience.
I will not let you enjoy a single hour of rest or sleep until you have
restored what does not belong to you. I will die of hunger before your
eyes, rather than taste a morsel that is not honestly earned. But what
am I saying? I am beside myself! It is not possible!--not possible!
Relieve me from my misery by one word. My soul is in darkness, cast one
ray of light into it." She clasped his knees imploringly. "Father,
swear to me that you are innocent----"

"My child----"

She interrupted him. "No, no oath, no asseveration--there is no need
between us of any such--only a simple yes or no, and I will believe
you! Look at me, father,--oh, look at me! Do not speak, do not even say
yes or no,--let me but look into your eyes, and my doubts will
disappear."

"Gretchen," whispered Leuthold, trying to extricate himself from her
clasping arms, "listen to me!"

"No, father, no, I will not let you go. I want no explanation, no
argument. If you have committed this crime, nothing can extenuate it. I
will hear nothing, know nothing, but whether you have committed it or
not." She sought, in childlike eagerness, to meet his eye--she
unclasped her arms from his knees to seize his hands and cover them
with kisses, while a flood of tears relieved her heart. "Forgive me,
forgive me for daring to speak thus to you, a child to a father. Oh,
God! how unworthy I am of your affection! The false accusation invented
by evil men could lead me astray, and I dare to ask if you are
innocent! Forgive me, my kind, patient father--see, I will not ask you
again, I will not even look inquiringly into your eyes. The touch of
your hand, this dear, faithful hand, suffices to reassure me and lead
me back to the knowledge of a daughter's duty." And she laid her face,
wet with tears, upon his hands, with a touching humility that cut him
more deeply than any accusations could have done.

"There--that's quite enough!" suddenly said a voice behind them, that
curdled the blood in Leuthold's veins. "I will teach you a daughter's
duty!" And from the doorway of the adjoining room Bertha's stout figure
made its appearance boldly advancing.

"Good God, my mother!" shrieked Gretchen, and she recoiled
involuntarily.

"Gretel," said the woman, "are you afraid of your mother while you are
on your knees to that villain?"

Leuthold stepped between her and his child. "Bertha," said he, "it
seems to me my punishment is sufficient. Surely you need not avenge
yourself by snatching from me my child's heart,--a heart that you never
prized, and will never win to yourself. If there is a particle of
maternal tenderness in your breast, spare, not me, but this innocent
angel. Do not destroy the most precious possession of a youthful
heart,--confidence in her father. Bertha, Bertha, you will harm the
daughter more than the parent! Give heed to your maternal heart, which
must throb more quickly at sight of this fair flower, and spare me a
blow that would annihilate her."

Frau Bertha folded her arms, and looked upon Leuthold with exceeding
disdain. "Oho! now it is your turn to beg. I am no longer rude, clumsy,
and coarse as a brute, as I was when you drove me off because I was too
awkward to help you to steal the inheritance."

"Bertha!" cried Leuthold, pointing to Gretchen, whose imploring eyes
were turning from one parent to the other in increasing distress.

"Yes, yes, she shall hear it all! She shall know what a charming papa
she has, and that you are not unjustly accused in the papers. Why
should you stop at such a crime as that, when you would have beggared
Ernestine as a child, persuading old Hartwich to make you his heir?
There is nothing that you would not do. I can tell her that,--I, your
wife, who lived with you for years. And your child shall curse you,
instead of adoring you as a saint. No one can tell what a fine game you
might have played, if you had once got off to America with such a
pretty girl."

At these words Gretchen uttered a loud shriek.

Bertha pitilessly continued, "And just because I have maternal feeling
enough to try to save my child, I will prevent your evil designs.
You shall not carry the poor thing away with you to such a life as
yours,--not while I live!"

"Bertha," cried Leuthold, forgetting all caution, "hush, or mischief
will be done here!"

"What mischief? Will you try to throttle me, as you did when Hartwich
made Ernestine his heir instead of you? Only lay a finger on me! There
is a police-officer outside in the passage, whom my husband placed
there lest Louis should not be able to serve my fine gentleman with
sufficient elegance."

"Great God!" gasped Gretchen, staggering as if mortally wounded.

"Is it really so? Could your mean desire for revenge degrade you thus?"
asked Leuthold, still incredulous.

"It was not I, but my husband, who owes you a grudge because I played
him false and married you. A gentleman came here this morning with the
chief of police to search this house, as well as all the other hotels
in the city, and left orders that if you arrived here he was to be
informed of it. My husband sent for him, and, for greater security's
sake, for a police-officer too,--I only wanted to speak to poor Gretel
beforehand, and take her under my protection when her father was
arrested." She approached the girl, who fled like some frightened
animal to the farthest corner of the room.

"Go!" she cried, trembling in every limb. "Do not touch me! You can do
nothing for me now but kill me, and put an end to the agony you have
brought upon me."

She burst into a piteous fit of sobbing. No one observed that the door
had been gently opened, and that a young man was standing upon the
threshold, regarding the unfortunate girl with the deepest compassion.

"My child," said Leuthold, going timidly up to her, "my child, will you
not listen to one word from your unworthy father?"

"Do not speak, father. What good can it do? I cannot believe you any
more,--cannot save you,--cannot, although I would so gladly do
it,--wash away your guilt, even with my heart's blood. I can only weep
for you."

"Forgive one entirely unknown to you for intruding upon such grief,"
the stranger now said, in a voice trembling with pity. "I am compelled
by cruel circumstances to appear as an enemy, when I would gladly act
the part of a friend and comforter." He turned to Bertha. "May I
entreat you to leave us a few minutes alone?"

She went out grumbling.

"Herr Gleissert," he continued, "my name is Hilsborn. Do not start. I
am not come to avenge my dead father. His sainted spirit would disdain
revenge. He forgave you freely while he lived. I come in place of my
friend Möllner, who is detained by the dangerous illness of your niece,
to vindicate the rights of Fräulein Ernestine. We learned from Frau
Willmers that you had sent your effects to Hamburg _poste-restante_
several days ago, and that you would of course be obliged to come
hither to reclaim them. Möllner requested me to pursue you without
delay, and, without one thought of personal revenge, I consented to
assist my friend in reinstating your unfortunate ward in her rights. I
little knew what my acceptance of this duty would cost me, for the few
minutes that I lingered on that threshold taught me that my task is not
alone to hand you over to justice, but to deprive a daughter of her
father."

"You shame me, sir, by such kindness at a moment when a less
magnanimous man would have believed himself justified in heaping me
with insult. I am the more grateful to you since you, of all others,
have most reason to hate me. Your humanity, under these sad
circumstances, relieves me with regard to the fate of my unfortunate
child, for it emboldens me to hope that you will extend your chivalrous
kindness to her also."

"Rely upon it, I will do so," Hilsborn assured him.

"And let me hope, my child, that you will not reject the noble
protection thus offered you. Herr Hilsborn, remember, has done your
father no wrong,--he has only, in his natural desire for justice, lent
his aid to the hand that is pursuing me. I presume," continued he,
turning to Hilsborn, "that you have provided for my immediate arrest?"

"Yes, Herr Gleissert," said Hilsborn gently, "the superintendent of the
hotel has assisted me to do so."

"Then I will place no unnecessary obstacles in your way. I shall submit
to the investigation with a good conscience."

Hilsborn laid his hand lightly upon Leuthold's arm. "Herr Gleissert, do
not reject advice that is well meant." He spoke in a whisper, that
Gretchen, who was listening with feverish eagerness, might not hear
what he said.

"Well?" asked Leuthold.

"Do not attempt denial, you will only weaken your case. The proofs of
your crime are most decisive."

"How so?" asked Leuthold quietly, believing that he had destroyed every
scrap of paper that could criminate him.

"On the evening of your flight, a letter was received from a former
maid of Fräulein Hartwich's, who travelled in Italy with you, demanding
immediate payment of her yearly stipend, for which she had written
several times in vain. She reminds you, Herr Gleissert, of what she has
done for you,--how she worked sometimes all night long, trying to
imitate Fräulein von Hartwich's signature, that she might be able to
counterfeit her successfully before the notary. In short, the letter
proves beyond a doubt that you deceived the notary by substituting the
person as well as the signature of the maid for your ward's, that the
deed might be complete by which the Orphans' Court was induced to
resign the estate in its charge."

Leuthold stood before the young man pale and mute. Hilsborn saw the
terrible agony of his soul.

"I do not tell you this to humiliate you or to increase your pain, but
only to warn you," he continued, "that you may not lose any time by a
false plan of defence, and perhaps thereby deprive yourself of the
sympathy sure to await a man of your culture who makes frank and
remorseful confession of his guilt."

Leuthold's lips quivered at these well-meant words. "Have steps been
taken to secure the person of the maid?" he inquired, in the tone in
which he would have asked, "How long have I to live?"

"Professor Möllner telegraphed immediately to O----, the girl's present
place of abode, and just before I left him he received intelligence
that she had been placed under arrest. The notary also has been
summoned. Be assured that, as your arrest has been conducted with the
greatest foresight, no measures will be neglected to insure your
conviction. The only course left for you is to endeavour to secure the
sympathies of the jury."

"I thank you!" said Leuthold.

Gretchen had been standing leaning against the window-frame, and had
understood more than Hilsborn had intended that she should. The waters
of the Alster were still rolling below her, the lights were sparkling,
and, in the terrible silence that now ensued, the music of the waltzes
in the pavilion could be plainly heard. Was it possible that there was
no change outside, while she felt as if the world were crumbling in
pieces around her?

Again the door opened, and several figures appeared. Everything swam
before Gretchen's eyes, her heart beat as though every throb were its
last. An official entered, "Excuse me, sir," he said to Hilsborn, "I
cannot wait any longer."

Leuthold looked towards the door. Two police-officers were standing
outside, and Bertha with her husband. And who were those? Other figures
were constantly appearing in the brilliantly lighted hall, inmates of
the house, eager to witness the arrest. And was he to be led through
all that gaping, staring crowd? He, who, with all his crimes, had
always preserved appearances,--was he at last to be as it were held up
to public contempt, dragged through the lighted passages and down the
staircases by policemen, like a common thief? Of course there would be
an eager crowd below, and another upon his arrival at N--. His only
road now lay through long rows of curious faces, dragged from
examination to examination, from disgrace to disgrace,--he, a man who
had always preserved an outward respectability,--until he should end
either in a convict's coat or the strait-jacket of a madman! The time
for reflection was over. He turned a little, only a very little, aside,
and drew a folded paper from his pocket,--it did not take a moment, no
one observed the motion. And what else? it was so easy to put his hand
to his lips and swallow the powder that the paper contained, far easier
than to pass through that brilliant hall, through that murmuring,
staring mob, to the courtroom, and thence to a jail! Only an
instant,--it was done. It tasted bitter, and he drank a glass of water
to destroy the taste upon his tongue. Then he stepped up to Gretchen,
who was upon her knees, her face buried in her hands. "Gretchen," he
said almost inaudibly, "forgive your unhappy father!"

"Father? Almighty God, I have no father!" burst from the lips of his
tortured child.

Leuthold looked at her with dim eyes. "I am condemned!" was all he
could say.

Then he turned to the officials. "Gentlemen, at such a moment as this,
it is surely natural for a father to provide for the future of those
whom he may leave behind him. I am ill, and may die at any moment. In
case of my demise, therefore, I appoint, before all these witnesses,
Herr Professor Hilsborn my daughter's guardian, as I hold her mother,
who survives me, entirely unfit in every respect to be her guide and
protector. The fact of her having forsaken her daughter at a tender
age, and never troubling herself to inquire concerning her afterwards,
will prove the justice of what I say. I pray you, gentlemen, to attest
the validity of this my last will, when the hour for doing so arrives.
Observe that I am at present in full possession of my mental
faculties."

The by-standers looked at him in amazement. Bertha would have spoken,
but her husband restrained her.

The officer said, coldly but politely, "Your directions shall, if
necessary, receive due attention. Rely upon it."

"You have no objections to make?" Leuthold asked Hilsborn.

"Your wish shall be sacred to me," the young man assured him.

"And now, sir, I beg for one great favour," Leuthold whispered to the
officer. "Grant me one half-hour's delay."

"I am sorry, but I have waited too long already."

"Only one-half hour, sir, for the love of Heaven,--a quarter of an
hour!" Leuthold pleaded. The poison was beginning to work. His knees
trembled, his gray eyes were glassy in their sockets, his features grew
rigid.

"Not a minute longer!" the official replied impatiently, and beckoned
to the police-officers.

"Have some pity!" the tortured man gasped out to Hilsborn. "I have
taken poison. For humanity's sake, induce him to let me die here with
my child."

"Good God!" exclaimed Hilsborn. "Let instant aid----"

Leuthold clutched his arm, and with a ghastly smile whispered, "It will
be of no use, my friend!"

Hilsborn was horror-struck. "Sir," he said, "I unite my entreaties to
those of Herr Gleissert. Allow him to remain here only until I have
spoken with your chief."

"If the arrest is an unjust one, it will soon be at an end. I have
nothing to do with that. I must obey orders."

Hilsborn whispered a few words in his ear, but he shrugged his
shoulders. "Any man could say that. We will stop at a physician's as we
drive past. That is not contrary to orders. We must go!" The policemen
entered.

Hilsborn whispered to Leuthold, "I will bring you an antidote. I hope,
for your child's sake, that you will take it. God have mercy on you!"

Leuthold would have replied, but a spasm prevented him from uttering a
word.

Hilsborn saw that the poison had already infected the blood, and that
all aid would come too late. Nevertheless, he would do what he could.
In passing, he lightly touched Gretchen's shoulder. "Fräulein
Gleissert, your father is going. Say one word to him."

Gretchen started, as if from a swoon, looked around her, and saw
Leuthold between the officers. "Father!" she shrieked, and rushed
towards him. She clasped him in her arms, and pressed kiss after kiss
upon his blue lips. Her cries wrung the souls of the by-standers, and
Bertha hurried away, that she might not hear them.

"I take back what I said," Gretchen moaned. "How could I say I had no
father? Now that I am going to lose you, I feel that I can never
forsake you!"

Leuthold writhed in agony in her embrace, but he managed to speak once
more. "My child," he gasped thickly, "if there is a God, may He bless
you! and when you hear that your father took his own life, remember
that estate, freedom, honour, were gone past recall, but that by his
own act he at least avoided a public exposure."

Gretchen gazed at him speechless. She tried to reply, but her lips
refused her utterance. She only knew that her father was taken from
her, and that stranger hands loosened her frantic clutch of his
garments. She heard footsteps retreating, a door closed, and there was
silence. For a few moments she lost consciousness. But other noises
roused her from the fainting-fit that had brought her repose from
grief, and recalled her to herself. Were the footsteps approaching
again? Yes, they came on to the door of her room. What a strange murmur
mingled with them! She raised her weary head with a mixture of fear and
hope.

The door was thrown open as wide as it could go. Four men entered,
bearing a well-nigh senseless burden. Her father had returned to
her,--but how? They laid him upon the bed. Gretchen would have thrown
herself into his arms, but he thrust her from him convulsively, for her
clasping arms, her loving kiss, were tortures too great to be borne. He
tried to speak, but in vain. Amidst frightful spasms, alternating with
utter exhaustion, he breathed his last sigh, and his spirit bore its
burden of guilt to new, unknown spheres of existence.

He had avoided all "public exposure."

But the only judge that he had acknowledged upon earth,--his
child,--lay crushed at his feet expiating the crimes of the condemned.



                             CHAPTER VII.

                              THE ORPHAN.


Day was again mirrored brightly in the waters of the Alster, and again
the streets swarmed with life. The prattle and laughter of children on
their way to school, the monotonous cries of the street-hawkers, the
rattle of passing vehicles, were all borne aloft into the quiet room
where Leuthold had died, and where Gretchen still knelt beside the bed,
and, by her constantly recurring bursts of grief, showed that the long
night had not sufficed to exhaust the fountains of her tears. Her head
lay upon the edge of the bed, and her arms were stretched across the
empty mattress,--for the host had insisted upon the immediate removal
from his house of the body of the suicide. But Gretchen could not yet
be induced to leave the desolate room, the vacant couch. Since she was
not allowed to follow her father's corpse, she would at least pillow
her head where he had lain. She repulsed all her mother's advances.
When everything had been done that the law requires in such terrible
cases, and the officials had vacated the apartment, she shot the bolt
of the door behind them, and thanked God that she was alone with her
misery, alone by her father's death-bed.

What human eye can pierce the depths of a young heart lacerated by such
anguish? All that goes on in the soul at such moments, when the
creature wrestles with its Creator, must remain a profound mystery,--a
mystery known to almost every human being, but never to be revealed, no
mortal language can declare God's revelations to us in our direst need.
Experience alone can enlighten us, and those who have lived through
such a time can only clasp the hand of a fellow-sufferer, and say, "I
know what it is," and henceforth there is a bond between them that is
none the less close because it can never be explained.

Thus was it with Gretchen and Hilsborn when the latter's low knock at
the door aroused the girl from her grief, and she arose from her knees
and admitted him. She put her hand in the one he held out to her, and
looked confidingly into his serious blue eyes.

"You never went to bed, dear Fräulein Gleissert," said he. "I can see
that."

"How could I rest?" she replied. "They would not even let me watch by
his body. All that I could do was to wake and pray for him here where
he drew his last breath. How hard it is to have to leave what one has
loved so dearly, and not to be allowed to cling to it at least until it
is consigned to the earth! Suppose he were not quite dead. If he should
stir, no one will be near to fan the spark of life into a flame. If he
should open his eyes once more and find himself alone, and then die in
helpless despair----Oh, the thought is madness!"

"I can assure you, Fräulein Gleissert," said Hilsborn quietly, "that
your father sleeps peacefully. I did what you were not permitted to
do,--I spent the night by his body."

"Could you do this for the man for whom you could have had no regard?"
cried Gretchen.

"I did it for you. I could imagine all you felt, and I knew it would be
some comfort to you this morning to know that I had done it."

"Oh, how can I thank you, sir? I am too childish and insignificant
to thank you as I ought. My heart is filled with gratitude that will
not clothe itself in words! You watched by my father from pure
humanity,--compelled by no duty, no obligation,--only that you might
soothe the grief of a poor orphan. I cannot express what I feel. You
must know----" She could go no further. Tears gushed from her eyes. She
took his hand, and, before he knew what she was doing, had imprinted
upon it a fervent kiss.

"Fräulein Gleissert!" cried Hilsborn, in great embarrassment. And a
deep blush overspread his cheeks.

Gretchen never dreamed that she had committed any impropriety,--how
could she, at such a moment? And Hilsborn knew this, and would not
shame her by hastily withdrawing his hand. She was still but a child,
in spite of her blooming maidenhood, and the kiss was prompted by the
purest impulse of her heart.

"You reward me far more richly than I deserve," he said softly.
"Although it is long since I suffered the same sorrow, I know what it
is. Grief for the death of my father never deserts me. Sorrow easily
unites with sorrow, and you are more to me in your affliction than any
of the gay, laughter-loving girls of my acquaintance. Let me do what I
can for you,--it will be done with my whole heart,--and, for your own
sake, do not give way to grief. Remember,--it is a melancholy
consolation, nevertheless it is a consolation,--that it is far better
for him to die before his crime brought its dreadful consequences. His
home could never again have been among honourable men. What, then,
would have become of you? Believe me, it is better as it is!"

"Do you think, then, my father does not deserve these tears? I know how
great his offences were, and that every one is justified in condemning
him,--every one but his child,--I cannot blame him. Do you think I
ought not to grieve for him as I should for an honourable father? Ah,
sir, is it less sad to lose a father thus, just as I was reunited to
him, to find that he whom I so revered was a criminal, and to have him
vanish in his sin before I could even breathe a prayer to God for mercy
upon him? Whatever he may have done, I must mourn for him all the more,
for he was and always will be my father. And there never was a kinder
father. Let others curse his memory, I can only mourn for him. If the
holy words are true, 'With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured
to you again,' I must give him nothing but love, for he never meted to
me anything else. Do not despise me. I do not feel his guilt the less,
although I cannot love him less."

Hilsborn looked down at her with admiration. "How can you suppose that
I could despise this sacred filial affection? I respect you all the
more for it. It reveals in you treasures of womanly tenderness! Most
certainly he who had such a daughter, and knew how unworthy he was of
her, is doubly to be pitied. I will not try to console you. You have in
yourself a richer consolation than any that mortal words can give. What
can such a stranger as I say to you or be to you? I can only stand
ready to protect and advise you, should you need advice or protection."

"If you will be so kind as to direct my first steps in life, it lies
all so untried before me, my poor father will bless you from beyond the
grave."

She paused, startled, for the door opened hastily, and Bertha entered.
She regarded her daughter with a satisfaction that equalled the
aversion that she excited in her child. Bertha's beauty had been of a
kind that endures only for a season and then gradually becomes a
caricature of its former self. Her fresh colour had turned to purple.
Her mouth had grown full and sensual, with a drooping under-lip. Her
sparkling black eyes had receded behind her fat cheeks, and had an
expression of low cunning. An immense double chin and a round, waddling
figure added to the coarseness of her appearance. This was the woman
who stood ready to claim affection from a daughter whose whole
education had tended to create disgust at her mother's chief
characteristic--coarseness. What was this woman to her? She had heard
that she was her mother, but she had never felt it. She had not seen
her since she was scarcely five years old. She could feel no stirring
of affection for. She could hardly connect her with the image in her
mind of her father's faithless wife. While she was thus regarding
Bertha with aversion, the man entered the room whom she was
henceforward to consider in the light of a father,--her mother's second
husband.

Involuntarily Gretchen retreated a step nearer to Hilsborn, as if
seeking in him a refuge from the pair.

"Well," began Bertha, "if Fräulein Gretel is at home to young
gentlemen, surely her father and mother----"

"Forgive me," said Gretchen gently but with decision, "my father is
just dead, and I lost my mother when I was very young. I pray you to
respect my grief and not mention names so sacred to me."

"Just hear the girl!" exclaimed Bertha. "Instead of thanking God that
she still has parents to take care of her and not feel her a disgrace,
she pretends to have no other father than the thief, the----"

"You must not speak thus in Fräulein Gleissert's presence," cried
Hilsborn indignantly. "Can you not see how you wring her heart?"

"Oh, sir, I thank you," said Gretchen with dignity. She turned to
Bertha. "Whatever your unfortunate first husband may have been, he was
my father in the truest sense of the word, and no one can have a second
father. Just so a mother who has once ceased to be such can never be a
mother again. Call me false and heartless if you will,--God, who sees
my heart, knows how it can love."

"This is all one gets for kindness," grumbled Bertha. "Here have I been
beating my brains half the night to think what I could do for the girl,
how I could take care of her, and this is all the thanks I get! Well,
it's no wonder. 'What's bred in the bone will never come out of the
flesh.'"

"Mammy! mammy! they want you to get out some clean sheets," a
bullet-headed lad called aloud at the door.

"Come here, Fritz," cried Bertha. "There, look at your sister." And she
drew the boy towards her, evidently expecting the sight of him to
produce a deep impression upon Gretchen. "Look, Gretel, this is your
brother,--doesn't this touch you? We have three more of them. But that
makes no difference, you shall be the fifth; I want some one to take
care of the little ones. Only think how fine it is for you to find
parents and brothers and sisters all at once. They'll take care of
you." And suddenly a tear rolled down her fat cheek. "For you are my
child, after all!"

And she took Gretchen's face between her hands and pressed upon it a
smacking kiss. The girl patiently endured the caress, but when her
mother released her she stood erect again, like a fair flower upon
which dust has been cast without robbing it of its fragrance or soiling
its purity. As the flower differs from the soil whence it springs, this
child differed from her mother. And as surely as the flower turns from
the ground to the sun, the girl's pure spirit turned from her mother to
the light that her education and training had revealed to her.

"Mammy," the boy persisted, plucking Bertha by the skirts, "come,
hurry!"

"You'll tear my dress, you bad boy!" cried his mother, slapping his
hand.

The boy screamed. "You're so slow when any one is in a hurry, I had to
call you."

"Hold your tongue!" his father now interposed. "Leave the room. What
will your new sister think of you?"

"I don't mind her," said the boy insolently, as he left the room.

Gretchen and Hilsborn exchanged one long look. It was as if they were
old acquaintances and could understand each other without a word.
Gretchen shuddered at the thought of living in this family, and,
besides, she had during the night formed a resolution that she was
determined to carry out although it should cost her her life.

Her step-father broke the silence. "We shall never come to any
conclusion in this way. Where's the good in talking? You must be taken
care of, whether you like us or not. You might at least show some
gratitude to us for taking any trouble about you." He stroked his
smooth, oily head as he spoke, and his artistic fingers gave a fresh
curl to the lock just above his ear. "The case is simply this: My wife
thinks it her duty to support you. As you may suppose, it comes rather
heavy upon us with our four children, and it stands to reason that you
should do a little something for yourself. We will not ask anything
unsuitable of you, for I can see plainly that you are a young lady of
education. But, if we are to fulfil the duty of parents towards you, it
is only fair that we should claim some filial duty from you in return."

He concluded his speech with the bow that he always made in presenting
travellers with their little account.

"Oh, is that all?" said Gretchen, greatly relieved. "Then do not have
any anxiety on my account. I renounce all claim to a support, and, in
the presence of this witness, to any parental duties from you. I ask
nothing of you, and shall never ask anything of you, but that you will
allow me to depart without hindrance."

The man looked significantly at Bertha, who clasped her hands in
amazement. "Do you want to go, then? Why, what will such a child as you
do without money or friends?"

Here Hilsborn interposed. "You forget that your deceased husband
appointed me his daughter's guardian, and I assure you solemnly, I have
never valued my life as I do now that this duty is mine,--a duty that I
am determined not to give up."

Gretchen looked confidingly at Hilsborn. "You see, I am not without
friends. I will go with this gentleman. There is but one path for me in
this world, and that leads me to Ernestine's feet. There is but one
duty for me,--atonement for my father's sin. I cannot restore to
Ernestine what has been taken from her,--that I learned from the papers
yesterday. I can offer her nothing but two strong young arms to work
for her. The Bible says, 'The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon
the children,' but I will not wait until they are visited upon me. I
will blot them out, as far as I may, and make the curse powerless, that
rests upon my unhappy father's grave. I will do what he had no time to
do here,--make atonement for his crime." She raised her hands to Bertha
in entreaty. "Oh, if you are my mother, open your heart to the first
and last request of your child, and do not take from me the hope of
obtaining pardon for my father by my labour and suffering!"

And she fell upon her knees before Bertha, who sobbed aloud.

"Ah, Gretel, my child, you are a dear, good girl. How could I ever
forsake such a true, brave child? I see now how wrong and foolish I
was. But I will do better. You shall learn to love me again. Only give
up this silly idea of doing penance for your father. Why should you,
innocent creature, suffer for his fault? you are not responsible for
his actions."

"I am his flesh and blood, a part of him,--his honour is mine. The
curse that strikes him strikes me too. Whatever burdened his conscience
weighs upon mine. How could I find rest, living or dying, if I did not
do all that I could to make good what he did that was wrong? If he took
what was not his, ought I to keep it? Is it not my duty to restore it?
And, if I cannot do this, should I not try to pay the debt, although I
can do so in no other way than by constant labour?"

"But tell me what you want to do. Your cousin has nothing more. What
will you both live upon?" asked Bertha.

"I do not know yet I only know that, thanks to my poor father, I have
been taught everything to enable me to support myself, and even another
besides. I only know that I will dedicate my whole future life to
Ernestine. I long to go to her,--she has suffered most from my father's
fault."

The head-waiter drew Bertha aside, and whispered to her, "Let her go,
be thankful that we have not a fifth child to support."

"But, oh, I love the girl so much!" said Bertha.

"That's all very well,--but are we in a condition to take such a charge
upon ourselves, just for a whim? And do you suppose that, if we force
her to stay, this spoiled princess will be of the least use to us? She
would cry from morning until night, instead of working. Let her go wherever
she chooses. You have done without her long enough not to make such a fuss
now about having her with you. I should think four children were enough
for you."

"Yes, but----"

"Hush, now, or we will leave the room," her husband whispered
emphatically. "I will not burden myself with Dr. Gleissert's daughter
against her will. Let her go with her new champion, and let us hear no
more of her!"

"As you choose, then. It is my fault, and I must bear the
consequences," said Bertha, for the first time with real sorrow.

"Fräulein Gleissert," the man said, turning to Gretchen, who had
meanwhile been talking in a low tone with Hilsborn, "if you will not
make any claim upon us hereafter, we are ready now, hard as it is, to
relinquish our rights in favour of this gentleman, who was appointed
your guardian by your father."

"I will promise never to do so, sir," replied Gretchen with a long sigh
of relief. "I am ready to give you all the security I can."

"There is no need of that," replied Herr Meyer politely, with great
satisfaction. "You know that the giving up of our claims depends upon
your keeping your promise."

"Yes, I know that."

"Well, then, we will not trouble you further. Probably you would prefer
settling the account for this room. It is not much,--you have eaten
nothing."

"Come, that is too mean of you!" Bertha here interposed. "Is my own
child to pay for the shelter of this roof for one night? No, I will not
have it. Gretel, do not listen to him,--you shall have something to
eat, too, before you go. I am not quite such an unnatural mother. And
now come, Meyer, you ought to be ashamed of playing such a disgraceful
part."

And half angrily, half good-naturedly, she drew her smart husband from
the room.

"O God, I thank thee!" cried Gretchen from the depths of her soul.
Suddenly she paused, and reflected with evident hesitation and
embarrassment. Hilsborn took her hand.

"Well, my dear little ward, will you not tell me what is troubling
you?"

Gretchen blushed and still hesitated. At last she conquered herself,
and confided this grief also to her faithful friend.

"It has just occurred to me that I am not sure that I have money enough
to pay my travelling expenses. I have something with me that I can
sell, but if it should not be enough!"

Hilsborn smiled. "Is that all? Oh, never mind that, I have enough for
both of us."

Gretchen looked mortified. "But I cannot take it from you, certainly
not."

"What, Gretchen, will you not take it from your guardian? Why, this is
a guardian's duty. And I will not give it to you, I will only lend it,
and you can repay me when you are able."

"You will have to wait a long time,--I have so little that I can call
my own. It will embarrass me very much to be in your debt."

"Gretchen," said the young man earnestly, "do not let us speak of such
trifles. I transport you to N----, you transport me to heaven. Which
owes most to the other--you or I?"

Gretchen could not reply. These new, strange words bewildered her. The
sunlight streaming from them penetrated her heart, crushed by the
tempest of grief that had swept over it. The blossom opened,--she was
no longer a child!

She looked down in confusion. Hilsborn too was embarrassed. Neither
could immediately recover from a certain constraint.

"Will you do me a great favour?" the girl asked at last

"Well?"

"Take me to where my father is lying, and let me bid him farewell once
more."

"My dear Fräulein Gleissert, I would do so with all my heart, but it
would take us half an hour to reach the house where he lies, and the
train starts in three-quarters of an hour. If you will remain here
another day, I will do what you ask."

"No, oh, no!" cried Gretchen in alarm. "I would not for the world
trespass any longer upon Herr Meyer's hospitality, or wound my mother's
new-found affection any further. It is better to go as quickly as
possible. If my poor father still sees and hears me, he must know that
I feel the pain of parting from him thus quite as much as if I were
allowed to weep beside his lifeless body."

"That is right. Better dwell in thought upon the spirit that was all
affection for you, than linger beside the senseless clay that it
informed----" He ceased, for Frau Bertha entered with breakfast. She
had a black dress hanging upon her arm.

"There, Gretel, my dear, is something to eat. I will not let you go
until you have taken something. And, if the gentleman will be kind
enough to step out one minute, we will try on this dress. You must have
some mourning, and where else can you get it, poor child?"

She spread the table hastily, and Hilsborn left the room.

"Now come here, and let us see how this fits. It is the very dress that
I bought ten years ago, when your step-uncle Hartwich died. But it is
as good as new. I have worn it but little, and, if you put the skirt on
over the pointed waist, it has quite a modern air. Just look! It is not
much too large. I was smaller then than I am now, and I have taken it
in wherever I could. I was afraid it would be too big for you. Look at
that little spot,--that is where you threw your cake into my lap when
you were a little thing. I hid it so,--in a fold. Dear, dear! I had
this very dress on when I left you. I never thought then that you would
one day put it on and leave me, as I was leaving you!"

There was something touching in these simple words, and, for the first
time, Gretchen threw herself into her mother's arms and burst into
tears. "Gretel," said Bertha, crying bitterly, "you must one day feel
that you are my child, just as I feel that I am your mother. I hope you
will not then repent leaving me."

"Ah, mother," sobbed Gretchen, "how could you be so cruel to my poor
father? How could you so wring my heart when I first saw you again that
I turned away from you? I might have learned to love you. A child must
try to honour its parents. I would never have reproached you for
forsaking me, but the abyss into which you plunged my father lies
between us, and can never be bridged over."

"But, Gretchen, Gretchen," cried Bertha, "I have done no worse than the
young gentleman whom you think so much of. Why do you not blame him?"

"He only did his duty by a friend, and performed it in the kindest way
possible. My father saw that, and reposed the greatest confidence in
him in intrusting me to his care. But you, mother, permitted Herr Meyer
to bring the stranger here who came to hand over my father to
punishment, and to whom my father was only the enemy of his friend. It
was not his duty to spare my father. But, mother, he had once been your
husband, he was the father of your child, and yet, when, hunted and
pursued, he sought the shelter of your roof, you had the heart to
betray him and deliver him up to death and disgrace. I will not judge
you, but ask yourself, mother, did he deserve such treatment at your
hands?"

"Ah, merciful Heaven! you may be right, but it really seemed that it
was to be so. I had forgotten everything but the wrong he did me. He
has had his punishment, and I must have mine, for, indeed, to love you
and lose you so is a heavy trial."

Hilsborn knocked at the door. "Frau Meyer, it is almost time to go."

"Yes, yes. Come in," cried Bertha. "Gretchen is dressed."

Hilsborn entered. He regarded compassionately the touching figure in
the black dress,--the lovely childlike face, with those sad, large
eyes, reminding him of a wounded doe's. His heart overflowed with pity,
and he held out his hand, with, "Come, we must be upon our way."

"I am ready," Gretchen murmured.

"Stop," cried Bertha. "You must take something first." And she poured
out a cup of chocolate, and followed Gretchen, who was collecting her
various trifles for her travelling-bag, about the room, until she
persuaded her to take some of it. "And you must eat some of this cake.
You used to be so fond of it, and your lamented,--well, yes,--your
lamented father too. Ah, I used to be well treated when I put that
cake on the table! Will you not taste it? Well, then, take some with
you." And she crammed as much of it as she could into the girl's
travelling-bag.

One minute more, and Gretchen was ready to leave the room. "Good-by,
mother," she said, throwing herself once more into the arms of her
mother, whose hot tears fell upon her child's neck. "I will never
forget your kindness to me to-day, and if you ever need me you will
find me a daughter to you."

"My child, my good child!" sobbed Bertha. "Try to think as well of me
as you can."

"Yes, yes, dear mother. God bless you and yours!"

Hilsborn hurried the girl away. She gently extricated herself from her
mother's arms, and, in anguish of soul, descended the stairs that her
father had on the previous day ascended for the first and last time.

"Write to me now and then," Bertha called after her.

"Indeed I will, I promise you."

When they reached the hall, they found there a crowd of curious
idlers, all eager to see the suicide's daughter. Gretchen paused,
overcome with dismay. She could hardly trust her limbs to bear her
through the throng. A soft, warm hand clasped hers,--it was Hilsborn's.
He drew the little hand under his arm, and led her through the gaping
loiterers to the carriage. Gretchen was scarcely conscious, she only
felt that, supported by this arm, she could raise her head once more,
and she was filled with gratitude towards the man who did not shrink
from thus espousing the cause of the child of a criminal.

Herr Meyer made them a formal bow as they entered the carriage, and it
rolled away past the gay, sparkling waters of the Alster, now swarming
with boats.

Gretchen looked out of the carriage window. Yesterday all this had been
the world to her,--to-day her world was within, and all this was mere
outward show.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                  BLOSSOMS ON THE BORDER OF THE GRAVE.


"Come quick, Johannes, Hilsborn has arrived," the Staatsräthin
whispered from the door of the apartment. Johannes was seated by
Ernestine's bedside, her head leaning upon his hand, while the poor
girl moved restlessly from side to side, muttering unintelligibly. He
motioned to Willmers to take his place, and went softly out.

"Thank God, you are back again. Have you brought him with you?"

"He has escaped."

"Hilsborn, that is terrible!"

"He is gone whither he cannot be pursued, and whence he can work no
more mischief."

"Is he dead?"

"He is dead, and he died in fearful agony.

"God have mercy on his soul! Did he take poison?" asked the
Staatsräthin.

"Yes, just after his arrest I arranged matters as well as I could, but
he had only a little over two thousand gulden in his possession. He had
put all the property in the Unkenheim factory."

"And that is bankrupt, so we shall not be able to save anything for
Ernestine," said Johannes.

"I am very sorry for that."

"But Hilsborn, faithful friend, I am quite forgetting to thank you. How
shall I repay you for taking this journey for me?" said Johannes
warmly.

"I am already paid."

"Indeed? What possible pleasure could result from such a mission?"
inquired the Staatsräthin.

Hilsborn smiled. "Such pleasure as I never dreamed of. Gleissert
bequeathed me a treasure whose possession no one, God willing, shall
dispute with me. May I show it to you? I would like to intrust it to
your keeping, dear friends, for awhile."

Johannes and his mother exchanged looks of surprise. Was Hilsborn quite
right in his mind?

"I will tell you nothing more," he said. "See for yourselves." He left
the room, and appeared again in a few moments with Gretchen upon his
arm. The poor child ventured only one timid, beseeching look at the
strangers, but the touching expression of her eyes won their hearts
immediately.

"Good God! his child?" asked the Staatsräthin.

"His child," Hilsborn replied with grave emphasis.

The old lady went up instantly to the lovely, shrinking girl and
embraced her, saying significantly to Hilsborn, "Now I understand you!"

"Dear Fräulein Gleissert," said Johannes, "you are most welcome, and
you must allow us to offer you a home until you find a better."

"You are too kind," stammered Gretchen. "I know how bold I am, but my
guardian----"

"What! Hilsborn, are you her guardian?"

"Her dying father wished it to be so, and therefore I brought her here
to place her under your protection, although she wished to see no one
except Ernestine."

"She can hardly see her for sometime yet," said Möllner. "Ernestine's
fever may be infectious."

"Oh, is that all?" Gretchen ventured to remonstrate. "Then pray let me
go to her. Nothing can harm me when I am doing my duty. Better to die
than live on without being permitted to do as I know I ought. Oh, dear
Herr Hilsborn, you know what I mean, speak for me!"

"Do not refuse her, Johannes. She will not be content until she is with
Ernestine. I make a fearful sacrifice in exposing her to this danger,
when I would guard her like the apple of my eye, but I know how she is
longing for Ernestine."

"Then, Fräulein Gleissert, you shall share with my mother the care of
the invalid."

"Thank you all a thousand times! May I go now?"

"Take her to Ernestine's room, mother dear, while I speak with
Hilsborn," said Johannes.

"Come, then, my child." The Staatsräthin opened the door of the
darkened apartment, and the girl entered.

Gretchen stood as if rooted to the spot. There lay the dreaded, mute
accuser of her father, the unfortunate victim of his crimes, pale and
beautiful as an ideal embodiment of death,--a glorious lily,
prostrated, perhaps never again to stand erect, by the same hand that a
few days before had been laid in blessing upon Gretchen's head. The
poor child, crushed by the sight, sank upon her knees, and, extending
her arms, cried in a suppressed voice of agony, "Forgive, forgive!"

Ernestine did not reply, for she did not hear. Reason was dethroned
behind that pale, broad brow, and confused dreams were running riot
there in the wildest anarchy.

Only when Gretchen perceived that Ernestine was wholly unconscious, did
she dare to approach close to her. Gazing at her with admiring pity,
she murmured to herself, "No, my father did not understand, or he
maligned you. You are not bad, you cannot be bad!" And, kneeling, she
breathed a gentle kiss upon the small hand.

Did the invalid feel that something loving was near? She put out her
hand towards the kneeling girl, and, detaining her by the dress, leaned
her head upon her shoulder.

"She will let me stay by her," whispered Gretchen with a face of
delight.

The Staatsräthin could not help stroking the brow of the charming
child, and Frau Willmers felt as if this stranger were an angel, come
to lead Ernestine into a better world.

"Such a sick-room I like to see," suddenly said a suppressed bass voice
that made Gretchen start. "This is a pretty sight," it continued, and
old Heim looked searchingly at Gretchen from beneath his bushy white
eyebrows.

The girl would have arisen, but Ernestine would not release her, and
Heim motioned to her to be quiet. "You have one hand free, my child,
give it to me. I am your guardian's foster-father, and I know what a
good child you are. The fellow was right to bring you here,--I would
have brought you myself. God bless you!"

He seated himself by the bedside, and a deep expectant silence reigned
in the room as he felt Ernestine's pulse. Besides Gretchen's, two other
anxious eyes were riveted upon his face. Möllner had just entered
noiselessly. "Well, what do you think?" he asked eagerly.

Heim shrugged his shoulders. "I do not think it is typhus.
Nevertheless----"

Scarcely had the invalid heard Johannes' voice when she released
Gretchen and turned her face towards the spot where Möllner was
standing. He approached the bed and leaned over her. She put out her
arms to him, but instantly dropped them again, as if, even in her
delirium, she would not confess herself conquered. And then she talked
wildly on, at times declaring that she could not get rid of the
skull,--it would follow her everywhere, and then pleading piteously
that she was not yet dead, and they must not put her down into the
narrow grave.

"This is the result of a woman's giving herself up to anatomical
studies," said Möllner.

"There has been dreadful work with the nerves here, and with the brain
too," muttered Heim. "The fever has increased since I have been sitting
here. If we could only disabuse her mind of these delirious fancies!"

"I have tried that, but contradiction only excites her."

"Let this child try, then. It is impossible to say what effect she
might produce," said Heim. "Have you the courage, my child, to watch
with your cousin tonight?"

"Oh, sir, I think I can never touch my bed until Ernestine has left
hers."

"There's a brave girl! upon my word, I've seen nothing so charming for
a long while. She will soon rival Ernestine in my heart!"

Johannes laid a cloth dipped in ice-water upon Ernestine's forehead,
who continued to moan bitterly that she was not dead and they must not
treat her thus.

"Ernestine," said Gretchen in her clear, bell-like voice, "no one shall
harm you. Be quiet, dear."

"Do you not see," wailed the sick girl, "that they are trying to weigh
my brain? and it hurts! oh, how it hurts!"

"Ernestine, you are dreaming," said Gretchen. "This is only a damp
cloth. Feel it yourself."

"Remember that, although I am dead, my soul is living. Oh, if I could
only stop thinking! Dying is nothing! living is the worst of all!"

Johannes turned away, and wrung his hands. "Ah, Johannes!" she
exclaimed, "my uncle's knife is sharp, I cannot get away. Why did they
bind me here, if they thought me dead?" And in an instant she thrust
Gretchen aside, and would have leaped from the bed, had not Johannes
gently but firmly thrown his strong arm around her and forced her back
among the pillows.

"Let me go! let go!" she moaned. "Who ever heard of dissection before
death?"

"Ernestine," Johannes cried in despair, "it is I,--Johannes. No one
shall harm you!"

But she either did not hear or did not understand him, and she
struggled so that Johannes could scarcely hold her.

"This is dreadful!" said the Staatsräthin, supporting Gretchen's
tottering form. "Do you still think, Father Heim, after this, that
physiology is the study for a woman's nerves? Can a woman's nature take
a more terrible revenge than this?"

Heim shook his head, and grumbled, "Frail stuff, indeed, but yet I
thought she could stand it. Well, well, one is never too old to learn."

And still Ernestine raved on, ceaselessly haunted by the same grim
phantoms created by the fearful struggle that she had lately passed
through.

At last exhaustion supervened, and she lay perfectly silent and
motionless. Heim took his hat and cane. "I think she will have a
quieter night. You should take some rest, Johannes. You cannot stand
such uninterrupted watching."

"I have done all that I could to persuade him to lie down," said his
mother. "I can easily watch one night, especially now since I have such
a dear little assistant. And Willmers too will wear herself out. She is
as obstinate as Johannes."

"There is nothing to be done with him," said Heim. "It is a good thing
that it is vacation, or this would soon come to an end. Well, I must
go. It is quite a drive to town."

"It would have been better if we could have taken her home with us,"
said the Staatsräthin. "But the illness was so sudden and violent that
she could not be moved, and we had to come out here to nurse her."

"You are good people!" And Heim held out his hand to them. "God will
reward you for your kindness to the poor child."

"All that I do, dear friend, is done for my son's sake. I am sure he
will thank me."

"Indeed he will, mother," Johannes declared with emphasis.

When Heim entered the next room, he found Hilsborn there, standing at
the window, lost in dreamy reverie.

"Well, my boy, will you have a seat in my carriage?"

"Why, father, I should like to stay here to-day and assist Möllner,"
said Hilsborn, slightly confused.

"Assist Möllner? Hm----" Heim paused, and riveted his piercing eyes
with infinite humour upon Hilsborn's blushing face. "Well, well, my
boy, since you wish it, pray assist Möllner. You have my free consent
to do so."

The young man clasped his foster-father's hand with an emotion of
gratitude that he hardly understood himself.

"Hm," said Heim again. "We understand! we understand! All right!
Anything else would be unnatural. There's no need to be ashamed of your
choice. Good night, and"--a good-humoured smile played about his
mouth--"do assist Möllner diligently. Do you hear?"

And the genial old man went chuckling out of the room.

Hilsborn bethought himself awhile, then looked cautiously into the
sick-room and beckoned to Gretchen. She instantly came to him.

"Only a moment," he begged, and gently drew her away with him. "You
must have a little fresh air. All the others think only of Ernestine. I
am here to take care of you, and to see that you do not overtask your
strength. Come, take a few turns with me in the garden."

"As you please," said the girl meekly.

"Not as I please, Gretchen. You must not talk in that way. I do not
like it." He threw a shawl over her shoulders, and gave her his arm.
Together they went down into the garden.

"This garden," said Gretchen, "reminds me of ours at the pension."

"Were you happy there?" asked her companion.

"Oh, very! I had so many kind teachers and companions!"

"It must be very hard for you to leave such a home."

"My home now is with Ernestine. I am content only by her bedside. I
wish for nothing else. I do not choose to wish for anything else."

Hilsborn broke off a fading acacia-sprig from the tree.

"Give it to me?" said Gretchen. "I will try whether Ernestine will
recover or not." And she pulled off the leaves, one after another.
"Yes,--no,--yes,--no. Yes, she will get well!"

"Do you know Faust?"

"No. We were never allowed to read Goethe."

"Your namesake in Faust plucks off the leaves of a daisy, to answer a
question that she puts it, but the question is a different one."

"What is it?"

"She asks whether she is beloved."

Gretchen looked down.

"Did you never put that question?"

"How could I? I was sure that my father, my teachers and friends loved
me, and I knew no one else."

"And yet you must often have consulted your flower oracle?"

"Oh, yes. There was plenty to ask,--whether I was to take the first,
second, or third rank in the examination,--whether I was to have a
letter from my father that day,--and ever so many things besides. But
that is all over. There are few flowers or questions for me now."

"You must not indulge such gloomy, autumnal fancies. The flowers will
bloom again, and with them many a youthful hope in your heart. You
will, perhaps, one day want to know whether one whom you love loves
you."

Gretchen looked seriously and kindly at him from out her brown eyes.

"If Ernestine only loves me, and----"

"Well, and----?"

"And you, I will ask nothing more."

"Gretchen, do you not believe that I love you?"

"Yes, I think you do," the girl replied frankly.

"By the good God, who sees all hearts, I think so too," cried Hilsborn,
clasping the little hand that lay upon his arm more closely to his
heart.

They stood still for one moment together in the gathering twilight, and
then walked slowly on. It was an unusually mild autumn evening. The
crescent of the new moon glimmered, like a gleaming diamond upon dark
locks, just above the tall firs that crowned the hill that had been
Ernestine's favourite spot. As she looked up, Gretchen's eyes were
moist.

"The moon is the sun of the unhappy," she said suddenly. "Hers is the
only light that weeping eyes can endure. They must close in the garish
rays of the sun, but they can look up to her through their tears. When
she reigns in the sky, repose comes to the weary after the day's dull
pain. And you, my kind guardian, seem to me like the moon,--you are so
calm and still. I shrink from the others, it seems to me they must
despise me, but with you I can weep freely, and rest from all my pain."

"I thank you, Gretchen, for these words," said Hilsborn.

And the girl, in the self-abandonment of her grief, leaned her head
upon Hilsborn's shoulder and wept silently.

Thus they walked slowly on for a time, without a word. The moon began
to disappear behind the firs, and only gleamed through them when the
night breeze stirred their boughs. A low whisper,--a soft suggestion of
the resurrection,--trembled among the withered leaves and leafless
branches. The little silver skiff glided quietly down the horizon, and
misty vapours floated about the youthful pair like a bridal veil. Their
innocent hearts mourned over scarcely-closed graves in the midst of
nature, enlivened by no young blossoms, no nightingale's song, and yet
a future spring was gently stirring around and within them, amid tears
and autumn desolation.

"We must return," said Gretchen, suddenly rousing herself from her sad
thoughts. "They will miss us." And she hastened on in advance of her
friend. At the door of the sick-room he detained her for one moment.
"Gretchen, you have done more than I can tell for me in this last
half-hour, but yet not enough. You will give me just such another every
evening, will you not?"

"With all my heart!"

"And, Gretchen, I shall pass this night watching here in this room.
Come to the door now and then, and give me one look."

"Why?" she asked, with a blush.

"Because your face is the dearest sight in the world to me."

"Oh, I am glad of that!" she faltered.

"Remember sometimes to give me a smile,--will you not? I shall wait for
it from minute to minute and from hour to hour."

"You shall not wait in vain. How could I refuse to gratify a wish of
yours?"

And with these words, that were more to the young man than she herself
dreamed of, she left him, and entered the sick-room with her heart
filled with mingled joy and pain.

Johannes was kneeling by the bed, his forehead leaning upon Ernestine's
arm, that was hanging down outside the coverlet. His mother gave
Gretchen a kindly nod. No one ventured to speak. Ernestine seemed
asleep.

Gretchen sat down beside the Staatsräthin and gratefully pressed her
offered hand.

Thus they sat for an hour, motionless, and then Ernestine had a fresh
access of delirium. Her whole illness seemed to be only a vain effort
of nature to banish the evil, unnatural ideas nestling in her brain
like destructive parasites. At last Johannes induced his mother and
Willmers to take a little rest while he and Gretchen watched. He
suffered so much at the sight of Ernestine's sufferings that it was a
relief to him to know that his mother was not in the room,--his mother,
in whose presence his affection forced him to exercise such difficult
self-control.

Gretchen was a faithful assistant, although the poor child's heart was
well-nigh broken at the constant reference to her father that filled
Ernestine's ravings. Fragments of the past were brought to light,
detached scenes rehearsed incoherently, but running through all the
unfortunate daughter could perceive the dark crimson thread of her
father's guilt.

The hot tears coursed down her cheeks. Johannes never noticed them. He
had eyes and ears only for Ernestine. The poor orphaned child felt
alone indeed. But no! How could she entertain such a thought? Had she
not a friend and protector near? And had she not promised to bestow a
kindly glance now and then upon the faithful sentinel? How could she
forget him for one moment? While Johannes stood by Ernestine, she
softly opened the door and looked out. There he sat, his eyes full of
expectation, and a bright smile broke over his face at the sight of
Gretchen. He started up and tore a leaf, upon which he had been
writing, out of his note-book.

"Gretchen," he whispered, "here is something for you. Take it, as it is
meant,--kindly. You are having a hard night. I can imagine all you are
suffering. Do not forget that there is one sitting here thinking of and
for you."

Gretchen held out her hand, and he put the paper into it.

"I thank you, even before I know what it contains," she whispered in
reply. "It must be something kind, since it comes from you." And she
re-entered the sickroom and seated herself by the table upon which the
night-lamp stood. She shivered, for Ernestine's words were all full of
horror. But she held a talisman in her hand, and Hilsborn's handwriting
banished all haunting sorrow. She unfolded the paper and read:


           "Weep, poor heart, and yet again
            Breathe those gentle songs of sadness,
            Not for thee are notes of gladness,
            Softly fall thy tears like rain.
            Look to heaven when woes thus move thee,
            From the eternal stars above thee
            Comfort seek in earthly pain.

           "Weep, poor heart, when all in vain
            Thou hast hoped for rest from sadness,
            When the stars rain down no gladness.
            Yet despair not! once again
            Lift thine eyes when sorrow moves thee,
            In the eyes of one who loves thee,
            Comfort seek in earthly pain."


Gretchen sat with hands folded, looking at these words, that arched a
new heaven above her and revealed a new earth around her. Large as her
young heart was, it seemed all too narrow for the flood of tenderness
that filled it now. She arose once more, and glided from the room. To
Johannes, who gazed after her absently, it seemed as if her airy figure
actually diffused a light around it.

In the next room she approached Hilsborn, silently, her eyes suffused
with tears, and held out her hand. He looked up at her with imploring
entreaty, saw how she was agitated, and that her heart was beating
almost to suffocation. He gently drew her nearer and nearer to him,
until, like ripened wheat awaiting the reaper's scythe, she sank into
his arms, and burst into tears. But her tears were like the glittering
drops that the breeze shakes from the trees after a summer rain.


           "In the eyes of one who loves thee,
            Comfort seek in earthly pain,"


echoed in the hearts of the lovers.

Then Ernestine's voice came ringing through the open door. "What is the
end? Eternal night, eternal silence, and eternal solitude!"

"Oh, not eternal bliss!" Gretchen breathed softly to herself.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                          IT IS MORNING AGAIN.


A call from Möllner to Gretchen separated the young people before they
found words to express what they felt. Ernestine grew so much worse in
the course of the night that Gretchen did not leave her again. When at
last the rays of the rising sun shone through the heavy curtains of the
room, the Staatsräthin released the poor child from her painful watch,
and she was free to hasten to her lover. He drew her with him to
Ernestine's study. Everything was just as it had been left on the day
when Ernestine was taken ill,--nothing had been touched here. The ashes
of the burnt fairy-book were still lying on the hearth, the Æolian harp
breathed forth sad melody to the rude autumn wind, the roses were fled,
and only the thorn-covered bushes remained. The chests were still
standing about, all packed for the voyage,--speaking plainly of what
had been the plans of the proud spirit now so prostrated by disease. A
forgotten pen lay upon the desk, and dust was everywhere. No one had
thought of arranging this room,--care for Ernestine had given abundant
occupation to the entire household. The pause in the life of the
invalid was mirrored in this apartment, where everything seemed
awaiting the moment when a busy hand should sweep, dust, and put all in
order, and the glad news be heard--"Ernestine is better!" But this
moment was still in the dim future. Hither the young couple came,
ignorant of the struggles these walls had witnessed, the pain and
anguish that had been suffered here.

"Our life lasts seventy--perhaps eighty--years, and the delight of it
is labour and trouble." These words, carved on the table, were the
first visible sign to these youthful hearts of the struggles,
sufferings, and sacrifices of the woman by whose feverish bed they had
truly found each other. And Gretchen stayed her steps by the table, and
read the words thoughtfully. "She is right," she said to herself. "And
if she chose to impose upon herself this severe law, can I choose any
other motto--I? What right have I to desire any other delight in life
but labour and trouble and penance? Ah, Ernestine, now first I see how
noble you are, and what wrong my father did you."

"Gretchen," asked Hilsborn, "what are you thinking?"

"It seems to me as if an invisible hand here inscribed, 'Hold!' for my
eyes alone. How could I for one moment resign myself to the thought of
a happiness that could turn me aside from my first and most sacred
duty?"

"Gretchen, how am I to understand you?"

She clasped her hands, and, with eyes fixed reverentially upon the
carved motto, said, "All my hopes and dreams must be sacrificed for her
whose motto this is. Until she is happy, how can I wish to be so?"

"I see what you have resolved, my dearest. You intend to obtain
forgiveness for your father, to blot out his sin by your devotion. But
you think only of her against whom your father sinned most heavily?
There is another to whom you owe some reparation on his account, and
that is myself!"

"What?"

He drew her towards him, and went on with all a lover's sophistry.
"Yes, dearest, your father wronged mine. He robbed him of a valuable
scientific discovery."

"Heaven help me! is this so?" cried the girl, greatly distressed.

"And do you not see that it will be no infringement of the duty that
you impose upon yourself, if you grant me the reparation that I ask of
you, even although I should ask for nothing less than yourself,--your
entire life, Gretchen,--would you think me too bold? would you think
the compensation for what your father deprived me of too great?"

"No, oh, no! much too small," whispered Gretchen, with glistening eyes.

"Not too small. I know it is too great. But love, Gretchen, will not
weigh deserts. Everything is in your hands, dearest. Your father
injured my father, but he gives me his child."

The girl put her hands to her throbbing brow. "Can this be so?--can so
great a blessing spring from a curse? I do not deserve such joy. Can it
be no wrong, but a duty, to love you, whom I would have renounced for
duty's sake? I longed to labour and suffer for my father's crime, and
is this my penance--to give myself to him whom I love? It is too
much,--I cannot believe it. But what shall I do? How shall I reconcile
my duty to Ernestine and to you? Help me, advise me, that I may not
neglect one duty for the sake of the other,--there can be no true
happiness without a clear conscience. Help me, then, to be really
happy."

"My darling," said Hilsborn, "I understand you now, just as I have
always understood you, and I will help you to satisfy your conscience.
If I could, I would shower every precious gift upon you,--how then
could I deprive you of that priceless possession--peace of mind? True
love brings true peace in its train, and this peace shall be yours.
Therefore do for Ernestine all that your heart dictates, as long as you
can be of service to her. I shall be near you, and we can at least
exchange a word now and then. True love is easily content, it prizes
even the smallest token. I will not claim one moment that you think
belongs to Ernestine,--that would trouble you. We will tell no one as
yet of our betrothal but my faithful foster-father Heim, without whose
blessing I can take no step in life. The knowledge of our happiness
might grate upon poor Möllner, who has so much to endure. But when,
Gretchen, Ernestine has entirely recovered, it will be ours to enjoy
our bliss without a pang. And if,--which I can scarcely believe,--she
should still refuse to share Möllner's lot, then, I swear to you, I
will aid you truly in all that you do for her. She shall live with us
and be to me as a sister. Is not this all that you desire, my dearest
one?"

"Yes, yes, you read my very soul, for I could never consent to be
your--wife, until I knew that Ernestine was well and content. And I
have hardly thought myself grown up--I am hardly fit to be a wife. How
can I accustom myself to the thought?"

"I will do all I can to teach you, dear little wife,--the lesson will
not, I hope, be hard to learn," said Hilsborn gaily.

"Perhaps not," Gretchen replied, and for the first time there was an
arch sparkle in the melancholy brown eyes.

Thus these two hearts were united, speedily, in childlike faith, after
the manner of youth, and without a struggle. But above in the sick-room
two hearts were wrestling in mortal pain. Love, for poor Ernestine,
must attain the light only through the dark night of error and illusion
that was around her,--that light in which Gretchen and Hilsborn
innocently basked, driven from their Eden by no angel with the flaming
sword. Such strong natures as Möllner's and Ernestine's could not unite
without a struggle. Each had framed a world for itself, and one of
these worlds must be shattered before they could become one world. The
farther apart they were, the more powerful the attraction between them,
the more certainly would the weaker crumble to pieces in contact with
the stronger. It is the mysterious condition under which gifted natures
receive their talents from God, that they must strive and labour for a
happiness that often falls unsought into the lap of weaker natures.
Thus Eternal Wisdom maintains the balance of its gifts,--the weak and
the simple receive without asking what the strong must earn. And these
two gifted creatures were earning hardly their portion of life's joy,
that they might fulfil the law prescribed by God for creatures so
constituted. His laws are inscribed not upon the heavens, but in the
human heart, and all our striving for perfection is, in fact, only an
endeavour to read these laws correctly. And how often do we read them
falsely, in spite of all our honest pains!

How much more was this the case with one like Ernestine, who had never
been taught to heed the still small voice in her heart as the voice of
God! All her errors and sufferings were the result, as are those of
most men, of a misconception of the Divine will. If she had known that
she was destined to purchase happiness by self-sacrifice, she would
have paid for it voluntarily, and would not have wrestled with her
destiny to the last, until she almost succumbed in the conflict. Her
life had well-nigh been ruined by the want of true Christian culture;
she was ready to make every sacrifice, except that which is alone well
pleasing in God's sight--the sacrifice of self.

And Johannes, true and without guile as he was, endured a terrible
trial in Ernestine's sufferings. From hour to hour he became more
thoroughly convinced that he had been the means of prostrating
Ernestine upon a sick-bed,--that he had burdened her beyond her
strength by his reckless description of the danger that threatened
her,--and he was a prey to remorse. He reproached himself bitterly, and
tormented himself with devising a thousand ways in which he could have
managed matters more wisely. "It is presumptuous to attempt to play the
part of Providence to another, for the best intentions are no warrant
for the consequences," he said to his mother, just when Gretchen and
Hilsborn were weaving their rosy future.

"Results are always in God's hand," replied Frau Möllner.

"Amen!" said Johannes solemnly, from the depths of his tortured heart.

Thus the pilot, seeing looming before him the dangerous rock, past
which his skill has not availed to guide the vessel intrusted to his
care, says, "I have done what I could, now Providence takes the helm."
And here too Providence was guiding the vessel, but slowly,--so slowly
that the lookers-on were agonized.

Day after day and week after week passed, without any visible
improvement. Ernestine's consciousness did not return. Heim shook his
head. He said to Johannes one morning, "I wish your brother-in-law were
at home, Johannes. I should very much like to hear his opinion of the
case."

And he made no other reply to Johannes' inquiries.

Moritz Kern and his wife had been employing the vacation in a
pleasure-trip, and were shortly to return home.

It looked as if Heim were coming to a conclusion, and did not wish to
pronounce an opinion without consulting a third authority.

Johannes was consumed by anxiety. For four weeks he never left
Ernestine's bedside, only sleeping when she was quiet, and then with
his weary head supported against the back of his chair. He would have
no help, except from his mother and Gretchen. Even Willmers was not
allowed to do all that she wished to do. Only one stranger was now and
then admitted to the sick-room,--a venerable, aged form, that sat there
motionless, disturbing no one. It was old Leonhardt. Every third day
his son conducted him to the castle, and no one had the heart to refuse
to allow him to take his place at the foot of Ernestine's bed, where he
listened to her gloomy ravings and Möllner's deep-drawn sighs, and only
now and then sadly shook his gray head.

"If she would only come to herself sufficiently," he said one day, "to
let us relieve her mind of this anxiety about dying, that seems at the
root of her delirium, she would soon be better."

"True, Father Leonhardt, true," replied Johannes. "But she has not one
sane instant. It drives me to despair!"

"Courage, courage, dear friend," said Leonhardt, "and, remember, you
only did your duty. That thought must comfort you."

"I am afraid it will not comfort me long," was Johannes' gloomy reply.

While they were speaking, Heim's carriage drove op. This time he was
not alone,--Moritz was with him. Leonhardt retired to the library,
where Walter always awaited him, and Helm and Moritz entered the
antechamber. Gretchen and Hilsborn were standing whispering together by
the window. The former hastily left the room, embarrassed by the
entrance of the stranger with Heim.

"Who the deuce is your pretty companion?" asked Moritz in surprise.

"It is my ward, Gleissert's unfortunate daughter," Hilsborn explained
with some reserve. "I brought her hither from Hamburg."

"Oh, I know, I know,--heard all about it. Guardian, then, are you? Very
delightful position, with such a charming ward," laughed Moritz.
"Here's a fellow! looks as if he couldn't say 'boh' to a goose, and
brings home such a pretty girl the first journey he takes! Yes,
yes,--'still waters!'"

"Do not jest," Hilsborn begged. "It is too serious a matter for
jesting."

"Nay, never mind what I say," said Moritz. "I must pay some respect to
your new dignity. Hardly out of leading-strings yourself, and appointed
guardian to young unprotected females! Ha! ha!"

"Be quiet, Johannes will hear you," grumbled Heim. "Reserve your jests
for more congenial society."

"But, my good friend, you cannot expect me to hang my head for the sake
of that fool of a woman, whom I have always wished at the deuce. Who
could see, without getting angry, that fellow Johannes wasting his best
powers upon such an ungrateful creature? If we were compelled to stand
by and look on while some one spent time and trouble in trying to make
a common brier produce tea-roses, should we not long to root out the
senseless weed, rather than witness such a foolish undertaking?"

"Your comparison does not hold good, my friend. The Hartwich has her
thorns, but with care and patience she will blossom into a beautiful
flower."

"Are you never coming in?" asked Johannes, opening the door of the
sick-room and looking out impatiently. "What keeps you so long?"

"Yes, we are coming," said Heim, "but, Johannes, I would rather see
Ernestine alone with Moritz."

"As you please, but pray make haste," said Johannes, coming fully into
the room. "Good-day, Moritz. How are you? Did you not bring Angelika
with you?"

"She wanted to come with me, but I would not let her."

"And why not?" asked Johannes in a tone of disappointment.

"Because women are always in the way at such times."

"But had you any right to refuse to allow your wife to see her mother
and brother after a separation of four weeks?"

"I have the right, as her husband, to allow and forbid whatever I
choose. If you wished it otherwise, you should have had it so said in
the marriage contract," Moritz replied sharply. "Angelika never wishes
for anything that I do not choose she should have, and whoever does not
train his wife in the same way is a fool, my dear brother-in-law. Come,
don't be vexed--you know what a prickly fellow I am."

"I am not in the mood to mind your insinuations," said Johannes
wearily. "You war with an unarmed foe. Go in, and bring me some good
news if you can."

Moritz repented his hasty words when he saw how troubled Johannes
really was, and immediately entered the sick-room with Heim.

Johannes sank into the chair by the window and leaned his heavy head
against the panes. Such terrible thoughts and fears had lately assailed
him! He would not heed them. But if the two physicians should share
them also? His heart beat louder and louder with every moment's delay.
He could hardly breathe. Hilsborn stood beside him, and, without
speaking, pressed his hand. They heard Moritz speak to Ernestine, and
her wild, confused replies. Then the murmur of Heim's and Moritz's
voices was alone audible.

At last the door opened. Even Moritz looked very grave.

"Well?" asked Johannes.

"Yes," said Moritz with a shrug, "I agree with Heim, the fever is a
secondary consideration now. It is subdued--there is something worse
than death to be dreaded."

"Ah! I feared it!" Johannes said with a low suppressed cry. "Be
brief,--I am upon the rack--you fear--good God I you fear for her
mind?"

He could say no more.

Moritz and Heim exchanged glances. "Be calm, Johannes. Remember, this
is only conjecture. We are mortal, and cannot be certain. Only it
cannot be denied that it looks now more like an affection of the brain
than anything else."

"It is a well-known fact," Helm continued, "that patients affected in
this manner are often slightly deranged in mind for some time after
the fever is subdued, but such cases are most frequent among the aged,
and the derangement is not of as long duration as with Ernestine.
Her continual harping upon the same idea troubled me from the
beginning,--it was like monomania,--always her death and a terrible
eternity ensuing upon it. She must have pondered upon it far too much
lately,--it has grown to be a fixed idea. If there are not shortly
signs of returning reason, I am afraid she will be----"

"Insane!" Johannes completed the sentence--"oh!--insane!" He buried his
face in his hands, in an agony that convulsed his whole frame.

Moritz laid his hand upon his shoulder. "Johannes," he said, "be
strong. For years we have looked to you, in joy and sorrow, as the very
ideal of manly self-control and firm determination. Your example has
shown as the true dignity of manhood,--and shall pain upon a woman's
account have power to move you thus? No indeed! she is not worth it.
Ten of these fools are not worth one throb of agony in such a man!"

"Do not speak to me. Leave me, I pray you, to myself," cried Johannes.

"We had better go," said Heim. "He will soon come to himself."

"Good-by, Johannes," Moritz said, pressing his hand. "And listen--open
the shutters in Ernestine's room. Speak to her, call to her. It is not
good for her to be in that gloomy twilight. It is a case where you must
try to awaken reason--not let it smoulder away with too much care and
nursing. Some convalescents would never leave their beds if they were
not driven from them, because they are too weak to exert themselves.
And it is just so with a diseased brain. The mind must be helped upon
its feet, especially with women, who are only too ready to let
themselves go."

"Moritz is right," said Heim. "I agree with him. Today is the ninth
that she has been without fever. We may risk something. Farewell,
Johannes. I will come again this evening."

The gentlemen motioned to Hilsborn to accompany them, and left the
room.

Johannes clasped his hands, and there burst from his heart such a
prayer as comes from the soul only in moments of deepest anguish. "O
God, who knowest my heart and its thoughts and desires, canst Thou
enter into judgment with me so heavily? Must I be the ruin of her whom
I would have saved? Shall I be the cause of worse than death to her
whom I would have rescued from death? Can I bear this and still retain
my own reason? Have I destroyed the treasure, the hope of my existence?
Have I shattered the glorious image to whose perfection I would have
lent an aiding hand? And yet I meant to fulfil my duty. O God, if I
have erred, mine be the punishment, mine,--not hers through me. No
burden can be laid upon me that I will not gladly bear, save this
alone!"

He entered the sick-room, and stood looking at Ernestine, who was lying
as if half asleep, muttering disconnected, unintelligible words. Should
he arouse her from this apparent repose? No, he had not the heart to do
it. He drew aside the curtain, and the broad light of day fell full
upon the ghost-like face. She moved, as if the light pained her, and
turned aside. Willmers, who sat by the bedside, knitting, motioned him
away. Johannes let the curtain fall again.

Suddenly the door was flung open, and Gretchen rushed in, her chest
heaving, her eyes full of horror and despair. Hilsborn followed,
attempting in vain to restrain her.

"Do not keep me!" the girl wailed out. "There is no comfort, no hope
for me in this world! It is my father's work--and I have sworn to
repair the injury done by him. How can I repair this wrong? How recall
the glorious mind that he has destroyed?" And, almost frantic, she
threw herself upon the bed beside Ernestine, and, seizing her hands,
"Ernestine, wake up!--you must not lose your reason! Ernestine,
listen--hear--Ernestine, Ernestine!" she cried, in the tone in which
she had bidden her father farewell.

And Ernestine trembled at the call. She started up, and stared with a
wild expression at the strange figure clad in black. She closed her
eyes, then opened them again, only to close them wearily once more, as
if she had not had sufficient sleep. Then she asked, "Who is this?"

Johannes and Hilsborn stood in breathless expectation. They pressed
each other's hands with a look that said more than any words could have
done, and Johannes made a sign to Willmers.

"It is your young nurse, Fräulein Ernestine," Willmers replied.

"Oh, indeed!" said Ernestine slowly. Again she closed her eyes, but
remained sitting upright. Hilsborn went to the window, and admitted a
little more light.

Then she rubbed her eyes and looked around. Gretchen had sunk upon her
knees, and did not venture to stir. Johannes stood concealed by the
head of the bed.

"What o'clock is it?" asked Ernestine.

"Half-past eleven," said Willmers.

Again there was silence for awhile. Hilsborn drew the curtains still
more aside. Just then the Staatsräthin in the other room, ignorant of
what was going on, approached the half-open door. Fortunately, Johannes
saw her, and motioned her away: she withdrew instantly, but the door
creaked a little.

"Who was coming in?" asked Ernestine.

"The maid," Willmers replied, with ready presence of mind.

Then there was a long pause, during which the throbbing of the three
hearts, agitated by alternate fear and hope, was almost audible.

"Willmers," said Ernestine.

"Fräulein?"

"Have I been dreaming--or did I really burn the book?"

"What book, dear Fräulein Ernestine?"

"The fairy-book,--the old fairy-book. Ah, I burned it. How sorry I am!"

"Another can easily be procured. Do not fret about that, dear," said
Willmers, suddenly remembering that there had been a fire in
Ernestine's library on the day when she was taken ill.

"Oh, no, it will not be the same,--not the same," said Ernestine sadly,
and was silent again for some time.

"Willmers!"

"Fräulein?"

"I thought I was wakened by a terrible shriek. I was so frightened I
trembled all over. See how vivid our dreams can be!"

"No one shrieked," said Willmers.

"Where is my uncle?"

"Gone to America."

"Gone!--and left me here?"

"You were ill."

"How long have I been in bed, then?"

"Oh, a couple of weeks."

"Ah! Who has been attending me?"

"Herr Geheimrath Heim and Herr Professor Möllner."

"Indeed!----Möllner!"

She was silent, and then passed into a quiet half slumber, but she
smiled in her sleep.

Hilsborn and Johannes went out of the room on tiptoe. Without, they
clasped each other's hands in mutual congratulations.

"What do you think now?" asked Johannes.

"I think she is safe," said Hilsborn.

Gretchen slipped out and joined them. "Oh, you should see her lying
there now, so calm and quiet--she does not even murmur in her sleep as
she did."

"Gretchen," said Johannes, "it is your doing. God bless you for it!"

Gretchen looked up at Hilsborn, who could not resist the temptation to
put his arm around her and draw her towards him. Johannes smiled, for
the first time for weeks, and said, "I saw it coming. Would that such
happiness were mine!"

"But," said Gretchen timidly, "remember, it is a great deal harder to
win such a creature as Ernestine than such a poor little thing as I.
And only think what she will be when won!"

The Staatsräthin interrupted the conversation. She saw with delight the
hope in her son's eyes, and thanked God.

They sat together in the antechamber for half an hour, until they heard
Ernestine waken.

Johannes then beckoned to Willmers, and said to her, "Prepare Ernestine
as cautiously as you can for seeing us."

"Willmers!" called Ernestine.

"Here I am, Fräulein Ernestine."

"I feel so well now,--so rested! I must have been very ill, for my head
is still confused, and it is hard to think. Tell me, my dear Willmers,
am I not very poor?"

"No one is very poor, Fräulein, who is as rich in mind and heart as you
are."

"Do not evade my question. I begin to remember it exactly. My uncle
deceived me. And Möllner,--yes, that was the evening when he told me
I must die--and the skull fell down and struck my poor head just
here,"--and she put up her hand to the scar that had remained since her
childhood from her terrible fall,--"just here. It was very painful, but
I hardly felt it, in my hurry to read all that there was in the book
about diseases of the heart. And then those terrible thoughts of
eternal night and eternal silence--and then--then--I remember nothing
more. Oh, Willmers, pray draw aside the curtains, and let me enjoy the
light as long as I may."

Willmers opened the curtains of both the windows. The bright rays of
the autumn sun streamed into the room. Ernestine stretched out her arms
towards them, and said, "Oh, glorious light! How long shall I look upon
you? How soon will your warm rays kiss the flowers upon my grave? Shall
the blest look upon the face of God? This beautiful smiling world is
His face, and blessed indeed are they who may still look upon it and
recognize God. Ah, Willmers, life is such a gift! It is truly valued by
those who stand looking down into their open graves, as I do, and I
think I was never so worthy to live as now when it is too late."

She clasped her hands over her eyes and burst into tears. "If I could
only hope to go to eternal peace upon a Father's loving, forgiving
heart, I would gladly die, I long for His love. All feel His presence,
and look to Him. But I dare not approach Him. I should be thrust out."

"Dear Fräulein Ernestine," said Willmers, "you are still ill, and that
is the cause of these gloomy thoughts. If you would only talk with
Professor Möllner, he would know better how to answer you than such a
simple old woman as I."

"When is Dr. Möllner coming again?"

"He is here with his mother. They came here to stay, that they might
take care of you, and the Frau Staatsräthin has done all that she could
to help her son. Oh, how anxious and unhappy they have been about you!
The Herr Professor would not stir from your bedside, and he looks quite
ill with constant watching."

Ernestine cast down her eyes with emotion.

"May I not ask him to come in now?" asked Willmers.

"Pray do so."

Willmers did not have to go far to call him. He was already at the
door.

"Ernestine, how are you?" he said, doing his best to appear composed.

"Well, dear friend." And she smiled, and held out her hand to him.
"What have you not done for me! How can a dying woman thank you for
such self-sacrifice?"

"Ernestine," cried Johannes, pressing her hand to his lips, "you are in
error. I myself led you into it, and severely has God punished me for
my imprudence. Everything that I told you of your physical condition
was founded upon mistaken suppositions. What I thought a symptom of
chronic disease was nothing but the approach of an acute attack of
illness. Two physicians, Heim and Moritz Kern, pronounce your heart
sound, and you are now out of danger. Oh, Ernestine, you cannot dream
what my sufferings have been! I saw you writhing in mortal agony. All
your fancies betrayed the terror into which I had plunged you. I would
have rescued you from it, but you could not hear nor understand me. I
offered you the truth that would save you from destruction, and you
could not open your lips to receive it. It was too much, too much!"

"Then I need not die?" asked Ernestine with a long breath, as if
awaking from an oppressive dream.

"On my honour, Ernestine, you are quite out of danger."

She could not speak. She could only look fondly and gratefully at the
blue heavens outside the window. Then she silently pressed Möllner's
hand to her breast, and the large tears gathered in her eyes.

The Staatsräthin then entered. "May I come in?" she asked. "May I say
good-morning to the invalid?"

Ernestine drew the old lady towards her, put her arm around her, and
whispered, "You have so much to forgive, but you granted me your
forgiveness before I could ask you for it. I feel so humiliated in
comparison with you, I will not conceal the shame this confession
causes me. It is your only reward for all that you have done for me."

"How she has been purified in the terrible furnace that she has passed
through!" the Staatsräthin said to Johannes, who was looking down
enraptured upon the pale, beautiful features, once more informed by the
clear light of reason.

"I thank you all, and you, too, dear Willmers. Every breath that I draw
of this new gift of life shall be full of gratitude to you and"--she
looked timidly upwards--"to God. In that dark, dark night of horror, I
felt that His hand prostrated me, and now His hand lifts me up again.
Oh, yes, He is a merciful God!"

"Then, Ernestine," said Johannes, "a blessing has come even from the
terror that I caused you,--the blessing of faith."

"Yes, dear friend, you were right when you said, 'To some God comes in
fear.' You were right in everything, and I am only a woman!" Her head
drooped. She was exhausted.

Johannes and his mother looked significantly at each other, joy in
their eyes. It seemed to them that Ernestine was born again.

The blessed relief that followed this brief conversation kept the
invalid sunk in profound sleep all the rest of the day.

When Heim came, towards evening, he would not even see her, lest he
should disturb the repose which was, he said, the best medicine for a
convalescent.

At nightfall she opened her eyes and saw Johannes sitting beside her.

"Are you still with me?" she asked.

"I am always with you, Ernestine. I shall never leave you," he said
with fervour.

Her eyelids closed, and she was silent, but her breath came quickly. He
saw that his words had excited her, and he resolved carefully to avoid
in future every syllable that could possibly disturb the perfect repose
of her mind.

He left the room, that she might become composed. Willmers persuaded
her to take some nourishment, and she fell asleep again without a word.

She was so much refreshed the next morning that Johannes breakfasted
with his mother for the first time for many days, and assured her that
he confidently hoped now for Ernestine's speedy recovery.

"Thank God!" ejaculated the Staatsräthin fervently. "Since yesterday I
have seen how dear she may become to me. I acknowledge now that you, my
son, understood this rare creature better than I did. But where are
Gretchen and Hilsborn? Why do they not come to breakfast?"

"They are taking a turn together in the garden. How happy they are!"

"God willing, we shall soon have a double wedding in N----."

"Ah, mother, yours are bold dreams!" cried Johannes.

"But why not? Be sure, my son, she will soon be well again. Her
constitution, both mental and physical, is strong. In two weeks your
holidays will be at an end, and then we will carry her back to town
with us, and when her trousseau, that I shall provide, is complete,
where will there be any need of delay?"

"Why, mother, you yourself have just said that her mind is vigorous as
well as her body. I shall never believe she can be mine until she is
actually my affianced bride."

"Ah, Moritz and Angelika!" cried the Staatsräthin, rising to meet them
as they entered.

Angelika kissed her mother and brother. She was, if possible, plumper
and rosier than ever.

"Aha!" laughed Moritz, "we frightened you for nothing yesterday. I
know--I know all about it from Heim. Your coy damsel has come to her
senses--congratulate you! If she can be cured of the rest of her
brain-sickness, why, Heaven speed the wooing! There'll be no getting
any good out of you until you are married."

Angelika put her plump, dimpled little hand over his mouth. "Can you
not let poor Johannes have some peace?"

Moritz kissed the soft, warm fetter placed upon his lips and freed
himself from it.

"'Poor' Johannes! Why poor? He's sure of her now. She hasn't a
groschen. Let her thank Heaven that there is a comfortable home ready
for her, and she will,--no one can accuse her of stupidity," said
Moritz.

Johannes and his mother looked grave, but did not speak, and he went
on. "I can't conceive how she withstood you so long. You're the very
hero for a novel,--too sentimental for my taste, but that's just what
women like, and if I were a woman I'd have you on the spot."

"Thank you kindly, Moritz," said Johannes gaily, "but make your mind
easy,--I certainly would not have you."

"Oh, do stop! you do nothing but quarrel and fight when you are
together," said Angelika merrily. "You are both good and true, each
after his own fashion, and I love you both dearly. What more do you
want?"

"All right," said Moritz, contemplating the fair little figure with
immense satisfaction. "If you love us, I am entirely content. It is
only your discontented brother who is not satisfied."

"Angelika knows well enough," said Johannes, "what she is to me!"

Here Willmers appeared. "Herr Professor, Fräulein Ernestine is awake,
and is asking for her 'pretty young nurse,' as she calls her. Shall I
go for Fräulein Gretchen?"

"Yes," said Johannes, "but I must tell her who Gretchen is,--you will
excuse me?"

"Yes, yes, go, for Heaven's sake! don't wait an instant!" Moritz called
after him.

"Ernestine," said Johannes, after he had exchanged morning greetings
with the invalid, whose improvement was evidently steady and
sure,--"Ernestine, you wish to see the young girl who was here
yesterday, and I must first tell you who she is. Do you still cherish
any affection for your uncle?"

Ernestine shook her head. "He is dead to me."

"I have something to tell you of him that may agitate you, and I
scarcely dare to do it."

"What can agitate me, after all the terrors that my own fancy has
conjured up?" Ernestine asked composedly.

"Well, then, the girl who has helped to nurse you with touching
fidelity for the last four weeks is Leuthold's daughter, and--an
orphan!"

"Good God!" she exclaimed. "Poor child! Is Leuthold dead?"

"Yes, he inflicted upon himself the punishment of his crimes. This
world is past for him."

Ernestine looked up gravely. "I cannot mourn him. He was my evil
genius, and shamefully abused my confidence. But I will not visit it
upon his daughter,--poor, innocent child. I pray you bring her to
me,--she is the only creature in this world who is linked to me by the
tie of kindred!"

Johannes went to the window and beckoned to Gretchen, who was
approaching the house with Hilsborn.

She came instantly, and a minute later was upon her knees at
Ernestine's bedside. Ernestine would have drawn her towards her, but
she sobbed, "Let me kneel at your feet,--only so should the daughter of
one who greatly wronged you dare to approach you."

"Gretchen, poor, innocent orphan," cried Ernestine, "come to my heart!"
Then, regarding her with emotion, she declared, "Indeed, if anything
could lighten his errors, it would be his affection for such a child.
For the sake of that pure human love, I forgive him. If I were rich, I
would share all with you as with a sister. If I had anything to give, I
would give it to you. But I have nothing for you, except sympathy and
affection."

And the two girls were clasped in each other's arms.



                               CHAPTER X.

                                RETURN.


With reawakening strength, entirely novel feelings of affection and
interest penetrated Ernestine's nature,--genuine human sympathies, such
as her life hitherto had afforded no room for. In a few days the
closest intimacy was established between herself and Gretchen. There
was a simplicity about Ernestine that no one had believed her to
possess. It was as if she now began to live for the first time, as if
during the long period of her unconsciousness she had forgotten her
former experience of the outward world, and she was as delighted as a
child with all that unfolded itself before her eyes. She was as charmed
as if she had never seen it before with the sight of the clear autumn
sky. She would gaze long and thoughtfully upon the flowers that were
laid upon her bed. She eagerly turned over, with Gretchen, the books of
rare prints that Johannes brought for her amusement. Hitherto she had
known Art only by name, and had not had an idea of its significance.
Her uncle had never supplied food for her imagination, lest she should
be turned aside from the pursuit of her graver studies. Her weary soul
now bathed in the waters of fancy which Johannes unlocked for her
refreshment. He brought her photographs of pictures and statues by
famous masters, and ideas of the beautiful were awakened within her,
filling her with glad inspiration. And Gretchen met her with ready
sympathy,--she was in advance of her, indeed, and could point out to
her many beauties that else might have escaped her unpractised eyes. At
such times Ernestine would regard Gretchen with admiration and
surprise. It was a pleasure to see the two girls throwing their whole
souls into these new enjoyments together. Even Hilsborn, who since
Ernestine's convalescence had naturally been defrauded of many a
delightful moment, could not grudge them so pure and true a happiness.
Sometimes from morning until night the two lovely heads would be
bent together over books and prints, and sometimes they had a
companion,--Father Leonhardt, who would come "on purpose," as he
expressed it, "to see the new books." But his delight was in listening
to Ernestine while she described the pictures minutely, oftentimes with
so much truth and spirit that the old man would clasp his hands and
cry, "How beautiful that must be!"

"Do you see it, Father Leonhardt?" she would ask in her zeal, and the
old man would reply delightedly, "Yes, I see it!"

And when anything pleased him particularly, he would ask, "Show me that
picture again!" and Ernestine was unwearied in her descriptions and
explanations.

Johannes and his mother were enchanted with this rejuvenation, as it
might be called.

She avoided with secret dislike any return to her former world of
thought,--it was too harsh a contrast to her present delight,--she
seemed actually disgusted with the anatomical pursuits which had led
her to dissect so curiously what now gave her so much pleasure. She
would not again descend into those gloomy depths whence she had drawn
nothing but despair, and all that she now looked upon was as novel and
strange as if she had spent the last ten years immured in a tower, from
which she had only looked out upon God's fair world from a far-off
height.

Her recovery advanced so rapidly that eight days after her first
awaking to consciousness she was able to be carried by Johannes and
Gretchen into the library, once more restored to order and comfort by
the faithful care of Willmers. She was placed in an arm-chair, and, as
the Staatsräthin covered her with a warm, soft coverlet, she said in a
weak voice, "Now let us begin where we left off ten years ago!"

The Staatsräthin stooped, and, kissing her brow, whispered softly, "It
is a pity so much time has been lost!"

"Oh, no,--not a pity," replied Ernestine,--"no time spent in searching
for truth is lost; but the measure of my strength is exhausted. I must
give up."

And, with a melancholy smile, she leaned back her head and was silent

The days passed on, and the time approached very nearly when Möllner
must return to his duties in town. Ernestine grew more silent and
thoughtful. No one could understand the change in her mood, for her
physical condition improved daily, while she fell into a state of
depression such as had not befallen her since she began to recover. At
last Heim decreed that she must have fresh air, and one warm noon she
drove out for the first time. She had begged that Gretchen alone might
accompany her, and the Möllners had, although unwillingly, acceded to
her request, Johannes carefully lifting her into the carriage.

"Gretchen," said Ernestine, as they drove along, "Dr. Möllner has twice
alluded to the fact that in two or three days he, with his mother, must
move back to town, as his lectures at the University will begin again.
You heard how they took it for granted that we should accompany them. I
made only evasive answers, but now I must resolve what to do. Gretchen,
you have often told me that your peace of mind depended upon your
helping to support me as long as I needed you." She looked searchingly
at the girl. "What if I were to take you at your word?"

"I should keep it, for I gave it not only to you, but to God Almighty,"
said Gretchen. "Tell me, Ernestine, what I can do for you."

"Everything!" cried Ernestine. "You can save me from living upon
charity."

"How so?"

"Can you not imagine, Gretchen, what it must be to me to accept further
benefits from people whom I long to repay in kind, whom I would like to
reward a thousandfold for all that they have done for me? I do not know
whether you understand me when I tell you that I would far rather earn
my living by the work of my hands than depend upon the kindness of
those whom I once treated so arrogantly, and who have already heaped
more coals of fire upon my head than I can bear. You shake your head.
Your father, Gretchen, would have understood me,--his words upon this
subject, the evening before he left me, are ineffaceably impressed upon
my mind."

"Forgive me, Ernestine, it does not become me to depreciate my father
still further in your eyes, but I cannot be silent! I have arrived at
the melancholy conviction that my father never advised you well. He was
wrong here too. He did not know Dr. Möllner,--he could not conceive of
the depth and truth of his affection for you. Will you reward the man
who has done so much for you by making him wretched? You certainly will
do so if you refuse to go with him. No, Ernestine, I do not understand
how you can break a man's heart just for the sake of your pride!"

Ernestine did not speak for a few moments, and then she said,
"Gretchen, you are a child,--I cannot explain to you that there is a
principle of honour to which one must sacrifice the happiness of a
life, should circumstances demand it. You know, perhaps, that when I
was wealthy and independent, Möllner offered me his hand, and that I
refused it, because I could not fulfil the conditions that he proposed.
Since that time his conduct has failed to assure me that he still loves
me, for a nature as noble as his, is perfectly capable of sacrificing
all that he has for me, from pure sympathy and mere compassion. And,
even if he still loved me, could he value a heart open to the suspicion
of surrendering itself to him under the pressure of necessity, not from
free choice? No, Gretchen, there can be no firm structure of happiness
erected upon such a foundation. This is not the time when I could
withdraw my refusal to be his wife! No, no! such a course at this point
would fix the blush of shame upon my forehead forever. Perhaps I may
still succeed in obtaining an independence by my own exertions,--an
independence that will again make me his equal. Then it would be
different,--then he would know that I gave myself to him from free
choice, not upon compulsion. If he should woo me then,--oh, Gretchen,
it would be happiness that I scarcely dare to think of!"

Gretchen kissed a tear from Ernestine's pale cheek, and said gently,
"You are not like any one else, but always true and noble. I have no
right to judge you. If you say, 'Thus shall it be,' I will submit. My
only desire is to obey you."

"You shall not obey me, Gretchen, but you shall be my guide in a world
where I am a stranger,--you shall lend me your arm to support me until
I can stand alone. Will you not?"

"Yes," was the low reply. The girl was thinking of Hilsborn and his
sorrow at the postponement of his hopes and of her own hopes also, and
she tried to take heart and tell her cousin that she loved and was
loved in return, and that she would be able to offer her an asylum. But
Gretchen paused, and bethought herself. Ernestine would never accept
from Hilsborn what she refused to receive from Möllner. She could not
make such an offer without offending Ernestine, and, if Ernestine
learned how matters stood with Gretchen, she would assuredly refuse all
assistance or service from her that could delay her happiness with
Hilsborn. For Ernestine's proud nature never could endure the thought
of being a burden to any one Gretchen had felt all this from the first,
and therefore had insisted that h