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Title: Gold Elsie
Author: Marlitt, E. (Eugenie), 1825-1887
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Gold Elsie" ***

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                               GOLD ELSIE


                            FROM THE GERMAN
                                   OF


                               E. MARLITT

                AUTHOR OF "THE OLD MAM’SELLE’S SECRET."



                                   BY
                           MRS. A. L. WISTER.



                             PHILADELPHIA:
                         J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.
                                 1868.



    Entered, according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by
                        J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.,

In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States in and
               for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.



                               GOLD ELSIE



                               CHAPTER I.


It had been snowing all day long,—so steadily that the roofs and
window-sills were covered deep with spotless white cushions.  And now
the early twilight fell, bringing with it a wild gust of wind that raged
among the falling snow-flakes like some bird of prey among a flock of
peaceful doves.

Although the weather was such that the comfort-loving inhabitants of any
small town would hardly have sent their dogs out of doors, not to
mention venturing their own worthy persons, yet there was little
difference to be seen in the size of the crowd that usually frequents
the streets of the large Capital, B——, between the hours of six and
seven in the evening.  The gas lamps were an excellent substitute for
those heavenly lights which would not make their appearance.  Carriages
were whirling around corners in such tempestuous haste that many a
pedestrian rescued life and limb only by a sudden leap aside, while
curses both loud and deep were hurled after the coachmen enveloped in
their comfortable furs, and the elegant coaches which contained behind
their glass doors charmingly dressed women, whose lovely flower-crowned
heads, as they peeped from among masses of muslin and tulle, certainly
had no suspicion of the fire and brimstone called down upon them.  In
the warm atmosphere, behind the huge shop windows, elaborately curled
and frizzed wax heads, surrounded by blond and black scalps, stared out
upon the passers-by.  Smiling shopmen displayed their fascinating
merchandise, and withered old flower-sellers stood among their
fresh-blooming bouquets, which exhaled beauty and fragrance beneath the
light of the lamps that shed a brilliant glare upon the slippery
pavement and upon the flood of human life streaming by, revealing the
pinched, blue features and the desperately uncomfortable movements of
all, old and young.

But stay,—not of all!  A female figure has just entered one of the
principal streets from a narrow by-way.  A small threadbare cloak
closely envelopes her slender form, and a worn old muff is pressed
against her breast, confining the ends of a black lace veil, behind
which two girlish eyes are glowing with the sunlight of early youth.
They look out joyously into the whistling snow-storm, rest lovingly upon
the half-open rosebuds and dark purple violets behind the glass panes of
the shop windows, and only veil their light beneath their long dark
lashes when sharp hail-stones mingle with the driving snow-flakes.

Whoever has listened while childish fingers, or sometimes fingers no
longer childish, confidently begin upon the piano a well-known melody,
which goes bravely on for a few bars, then is arrested by a frightful
discord followed by a wild grasping after every key on the instrument
except the correct ones, while the patient teacher sits by, ceasing to
attempt to evoke order out of chaos by the usual steady marking of the
time, wearily waiting until the panting melody is seized again and
carried on with lightning rapidity through several easy bars as over
some level plain,—whoever has thus had his ears stretched upon the rack,
can understand the delight with which this young girl, who has just
given two music lessons in a large school, offers her hot cheek to the
wind as to an energetic comrade, whose mighty roar can breathe wondrous
melodies through the pipes of an organ or over the strings of an Æolian
harp.

Thus she passes lightly and swiftly through the storm and crowd; and I
do not for an instant doubt that if I should present her now upon this
slippery pavement to the gentle reader as Fräulein Elizabeth Ferber, she
would with a lovely smile make him as graceful a courtesy as though they
both stood in a ball-room.  But this introduction cannot take place,—and
we really do not need it, for I forthwith intend to relate to the reader
my heroine’s antecedents.

Baron Wolf von Gnadewitz was the last scion of a famous house whose
remote ancestry could be traced back into the dubious twilight which
even preceded that golden age when the travelling merchant, journeying
through some sequestered pass, was forced to surrender his costly stuffs
and wares to a knightly banner and shining steel-clad troup of retainers
as often as to the buff-coated highway adventurer.  From those
illustrious times there had been handed down, in the crest of the
Gnadewitzes a wheel, upon which one of these same noble ancestors had
breathed out his knightly soul in consequence of having spilt rather too
much ignoble trading-blood in one of the above-mentioned assaults upon
his merchant prey.

Baron von Gnadewitz, the last of his race, was chamberlain in the
service of the Prince Royal of X——, and possessor of various orders and
large estates, as well as of those peculiarities of character and
disposition which were, in his estimation, befitting the high-born, and
which he was accustomed to designate as "distinguished," because all
common men, bound by work-a-day moral considerations, and compelled by
the stern necessities of life, lose all taste for the inimitable grace
and elegance of vice.

Baron Wolf von Gnadewitz was as fond of pomp and show as his
grandfather, who had forsaken the old castle Gnadeck upon a mountain in
Thuringia, the cradle of his line, and had built him in the valley below
a perfect fairy palace in the Italian style.  The grandson allowed the
old castle to fall into decay, while he enlarged and improved the modern
mansion considerably.  Yes, it seemed as though he entertained not the
smallest doubt but that his latest descendant would be found occupying
this favourite palace at the day of judgment, for the old castle was
quite dismantled in order that the vast chambers of the new abode might
be thoroughly furnished.  But he reckoned without his host.  Wolf von
Gnadewitz had a son, ’tis true,—a son who, at twenty years of age, was
so complete and thorough a Gnadewitz that the illustrious image of his
ancestor who had perished upon the wheel paled before him.  This
promising youth one day, upon the occasion of the great autumn hunt in
the forest, struck one of his whippers-in a fearful blow upon the head
with the loaded handle of his hunting-whip—a fearful blow, but a
perfectly just punishment, as every one of the guests invited to the
hunt declared, for the man had stepped upon the paw of a favourite hound
so clumsily as to render the animal entirely useless for a whole day.
And thus it happened that, a short time afterward, Hans von Gnadewitz
was to be found not only upon the boughs of the genealogical tree in the
hall of the new castle, but suspended by a rope around his neck to a
bough of one of the actual trees in the forest.  The beaten whipper-in
expiated the deed upon the scaffold, but that could not bring the last
of the Gnadewitzes to life again, for he was dead,—irrevocably dead, the
physicians said; and the long tale of robber-knights, wild excesses,
hunting orgies, and horse-racing came to an end.

After this terrible catastrophe, Wolf von Gnadewitz left the castle in
the valley, and indeed that part of the country, and dwelt upon one of
his many estates in Silesia.  He took into his house to nurse him a
young female relative, the last survivor of one of the collateral
branches of his house. This young relative proved to be a girl of
angelic beauty, at sight of whom the old baron entirely forgot the
object for which he had invited her beneath his roof, and at last
determined to clothe his sixty years in a wedding-garment.  To his
exceeding indignation, however, he now learned that there might come a
time, even to a Gnadewitz, when he could no longer be regarded as a
desirable _parti_, and he fell into a violent rage when his young
relative confessed that, in utter forgetfulness of her lofty lineage,
she had given her heart to a bourgeois officer, the son of one of his
foresters.

The young man possessed no worldly gear, only his sword and a remarkably
fine manly person; but he was rich in mind, accomplished, amiable in
disposition, and of stainless character.  When Wolf von Gnadewitz, in
consequence of Marie’s confession, turned her from his doors, young
Ferber carried her home with delight as his wife, and for the first ten
years of their married life would not have exchanged his lot with that
of any king on earth.  Still less would he have made such an exchange in
the eleventh year, for that was the eventful 1848; but with it came
fierce struggles for him, and an entire alteration in his circumstances.
He was obliged to decide between two duties.  One had been inculcated
while he was in his cradle by his father, and ran thus: "Love your
neighbour, and especially your German brother, as yourself;" the other,
which he had in later years imposed upon himself, commanded him to draw
the sword in his master’s interest.  In this strife the teachings of his
childhood conquered entirely.  Ferber refused to draw the sword upon his
brethren; but his refusal cost him his commission, and with it all
assured means of subsistence.  He retired from the army, and soon
afterward, in consequence of a severe cold, was stretched upon a
sick-bed, which he left only after years of disheartening weakness.  He
then moved with his family to B——, where he obtained quite a lucrative
situation as bookkeeper in an extensive mercantile establishment.  It
was high time, for his wife’s small property had been lost shortly
before by the failure of a bank, and the remittances of money which came
to the distressed family from time to time from Ferber’s elder and only
brother, a forester in Thuringia, were all that kept them from extreme
poverty.

Unluckily this good fortune was of short duration. Ferber’s chief was a
pietist of the most severe description, and spared no one in his zeal
for proselytism.  His efforts to convert Ferber to his own narrow dogmas
were met by such quiet but decided resistance, that the pious spirit of
the saintly Herr Hagen was seized with holy horror.  Remorse at the
thought of affording protection and subsistence to such an avowed
free-thinker, gave him no peace by night or by day, until he had freed
himself from such a burden of guilt, by a note of dismissal, which
banished the tainted sheep from his fold.

About the same time Wolf von Gnadewitz went home to his ancestors, and
as during his earthly career he had strictly conformed to the Gnadewitz
custom of leaving no insult, fancied or otherwise: unavenged, no
worthier conclusion to his life could be found than the will which he
drew up with his own hands shortly before he descended into the narrow
chamber of lead which was to contain for all futurity his noble bones.

This manly document, which constituted sole heir to his large estates a
distant relative of his wife’s, concluded with the following codicil:

"In consideration of the undeniable claim which she has upon my
property, I bequeath to Anna Marie Ferber, born von Gnadewitz, the
castle of Gnadeck in the mountains in Thuringia.  Anna Marie Ferber will
understand my benevolent intention in her behalf in leaving to her a
mansion crowded with memories of the noble race to which she once
belonged.  In full remembrance and consideration of the good fortune and
many blessings which have always hovered above this ancient pile, I hold
it entirely superfluous to increase my legacy further. But if Anna Marie
Ferber, blind to the value of my gift, should wish to sell or exchange
it in any way, her right to it must be abdicated in favour of the orphan
asylum of L——."

And thus, with the utterance of a biting satire, Wolf von Gnadewitz
betook himself to his funeral bed of state. Ferber and his wife had
indeed never seen the old castle, but it was notoriously a crumbling
heap of ruins, which the hand of improvement had not touched for fifty
years, and which, when the modern abode in the valley was completed, had
been stripped of furniture, tapestries, and, in the case of the main
building, even of the metallic roofing.

Since that time the ponderous oaken door of the principal entrance had
remained closed, and the dusty, rusty bolts and bars had never once been
withdrawn.  The huge forest trees which were growing before it spread
abroad their mighty branches, and drooped them among the thick brushwood
at their feet, so that the deserted castle lay behind the green
impenetrable wall like a coffined mummy.

The lucky heir, who was greatly annoyed by seeing so large a part of his
woodland possessions in stranger hands, would gladly have purchased the
old castle at a high price, but the cunning clause at the conclusion of
the codicil forbade any such transaction.

Frau Ferber laid the copy of the will which had been sent her, and upon
which there dropped from her eyes a few tears of regret, upon her
husband’s desk, and then took up her work,—some delicate
embroidery,—with redoubled, almost feverish industry.  In spite of his
exertions Ferber had been unable to procure another situation, and was
now doing his best to maintain his family by translating, a labour but
poorly paid, and even by copying law papers, while his wife eked out
their scanty means by the proceeds of her needle, which she plied night
and day.

But dark as were the heavens above the struggling pair, one star rose
quietly among the black clouds and seemed not unlikely to indemnify them
by its radiance for all the storms with which fickle fortune had
overwhelmed them.  A presentiment of this gentle light which was to beam
upon his gloomy path possessed Ferber when he stood for the first time
beside the cradle of his first-born, a daughter, and gazed into the
lovely eyes which smiled upon him from the baby face.  All Frau Ferber’s
friends had been unanimously of opinion that the little girl was a
charming creature, a wonderfully gifted child; indeed, they had declared
it did not look in the least like an ordinary baby, did not appear to
belong to the class of miserable little wretches, who, red as lobsters,
seem determined to scream their way through the world; but,—here they
had broken off; and it was intimated that were it not for fear of the
sneers of their liege lords, and the utterly prosaic tendencies of the
nineteenth century, they should certainly suspect that some benevolent
fairy had been at work in this case.

They contended as to who should be so far favoured as to hold the little
creature at the baptismal font, and should show the deepest tenderness
for the little god-daughter, declaring that the day of her baptism could
never be effaced from their remembrance; but this demand upon their
memories was altogether too great, for when Ferber fell into
difficulties, selfishness passed its finger over the recorded day, and
no trace of it remained in their minds.

This change, which little Elizabeth experienced in the ninth year of her
existence, disturbed her not at all.  Her probable fairy protectress
had, in addition to other rich gifts, endowed her in her cradle with an
invincible joyousness of temperament and great force of will; so she
took from her mother’s hand her scanty evening meal as gratefully and
gaily as she had once received the inexhaustible delicacies presented to
her by admiring god-parents; and when on Christmas-eve the room was
adorned only by a poor little Christmas-tree hung with a few apples and
gilded nuts, the child did not seem to remember the time when friends
had crowded around to deck its boughs with all imaginable toys.

Ferber educated his daughter himself.  She never attended a school of
any kind, an omission in her training which cannot, unfortunately, in
the present age, be regarded as anything but an advantage, when we see
how many young girls leave school with far more knowledge upon some
subjects than is at all desirable or pleasing to the anxious mother, who
strives at home to preserve unsoiled her child’s purity of mind and
heart, and often does not dream how her tender care is made of no avail
by the taint which one impure nature in the school will communicate, and
which may perhaps colour an entire after-life.

Elizabeth’s pliant mind was finely developed beneath the control of her
gifted parents.  Thoroughly to understand the study which occupied her,
and to appropriate its results in such a manner as to make them
inalienably her own were duties which she most conscientiously
fulfilled.  But she gave herself to the study of music with an ardor
that inspires a human being only when engaged in a pursuit felt to be
especially his own.  She soon far outstripped her mother, who was her
instructress, and as when a child she would often leave her playthings
if she saw a cloud upon her father’s brow, to sit on his knee and divert
him with some tale of wonder, thus, as a girl, she would charm away the
demon of gloom from her father’s mind by strange and delicious melodies
which lay like pearls in the depths of her soul, until she brought them
to light for the first time for his relief and enjoyment.  And this was
not the only blessing springing from her rare talent for music.  The
exquisite touch upon the piano, in the garret in which the family lived,
attracted the attention of several of the more aristocratic inhabitants
of the house, and Elizabeth soon had two or three pupils in music, and
had lately been employed in a large school as teacher of the piano, thus
sensibly increasing the means of subsistence of the family.

Here let us resume the thread of our story, and we shall not shrink, I
hope, from the trouble that we must take in following our heroine
through the wet streets upon this stormy evening to her home and her
parents.



                              CHAPTER II.


Even during the long walk through the streets, alternately straight and
crooked, gloomy and bright, Elizabeth enjoyed in imagination the
delicious sensation of comfort that the sight of the cosey room at home
always caused her.  There sat her father at his writing-table with its
little study-lamp, ready to raise his pale face with a smile when
Elizabeth entered.  He would take his pen, which had been travelling so
busily over the paper for hours, in his left hand, and with his right
draw his daughter down beside him to kiss her forehead.  Her mother,
who, with her work-basket at her feet, usually sat close beside her
husband that she might share the light of his study-lamp, would welcome
her with tender loving eyes, and point to Elizabeth’s slippers, which
her care had placed by the stove to warm.  Upon the stove apples would
be roasting with a cheering hiss, and in the warm corner beside it was
the sofa-table, where the tea-kettle would be singing merrily above its
spirit-lamp, whose weak, blue light illumined the regiment of tin
soldiers, which her only brother, Ernst, a child six years of age, was
busily drilling.

Elizabeth mounted to the fourth story before she reached the dark,
narrow passage which led to her father’s rooms.  Here she hastily took
off her bonnet and placed upon her lovely fair hair a boy’s cap, trimmed
with fur, which she drew from under her cloak.  Then she entered the
room, where little Ernst ran toward her with a shout of joy.

But this evening the light shone from the sofa-table in the usually dark
corner by the stove, while the writing-table was left neglected in the
gloom.  Her father sat upon the sofa, with his arm around her mother’s
waist; there was a joyous light upon the countenances of both, and,
although her mother had evidently been weeping, Elizabeth instantly
perceived that her tears had been tears of joy.  She stood still upon
the threshold of the door in great astonishment, and must have presented
a most comical appearance with the child’s cap surmounting her amazed
countenance, for both father and mother laughed aloud.  Elizabeth gaily
joined in their laughter, and placed the fur cap upon her little
brother’s dark curls.

"There, my darling," she said, tenderly taking his rosy face between her
hands and kissing it, "that is yours; and there is still something left
to help on your housekeeping, mother dear," she continued, with a happy
smile, as she handed her mother four shining thalers.  "They gave me my
first five thalers of salary at school to-day."

"But, Elsbeth," said her mother, with the tears in her eyes, as she drew
her down to kiss her, "Ernst’s last year’s cap is still quite
respectable, and you needed a pair of warm winter gloves much more."

"I, mother? just feel my hands; although I have been in the street for
an hour almost, they are as warm as if I had been holding them before
the fire.  No; new gloves would be a most superfluous luxury.  Our boy
is growing taller and stouter, and his cap has not kept pace with him;
so I consider the cap a necessary expense."

"Ah, you good sister!" cried the child with delight; "even the little
baron on the first story has not such a charming cap as this.  How fine
it will look when I go hunting, hey, papa?"

"Hunting!" laughed Elizabeth; "are you going to shoot the unfortunate
sparrows in the Thiergarten?"

"Oh, what a miserable guesser you are, Madam Elsie!" the boy rejoined,
gleefully.  "In the Thiergarten, indeed!" he added, more seriously;
"that would be pretty sport. No, in the forest,—the real forest,—where
the deer and hares are so thick that you don’t even have to take aim
when you want to shoot them."

"I should like to hear what your uncle would say to this view of the
noble chase," said his father with a smile, taking up a letter from the
table and handing it to Elizabeth.

"Read this, my child," said he; "it is from your ’forester uncle,’ as
you call him, in Thuringia."

Elizabeth glanced over the first few lines, and then read aloud:

"The prince, who sometimes prefers a dish of bacon and sauerkraut at my
table to the best efforts of his French cook in the castle of L——,
passed several hours with me at my lodge yesterday.  He was very
condescending, and informed me that he purposed employing an assistant
forester, or rather forester’s clerk, for he saw that my duties were too
onerous.  I seized upon my opportunity,—the game was within shot, and if
I missed I had nothing to lose but a couple of charges fired into the
air; now was my time.

"So I told him how the jade, fortune, had played the very devil with you
for this many a year, and how, in spite of your fine talents and
acquirements, poverty had knocked at your door.  My old master knew well
what I was driving at, for I spoke, as I always do, in good German. Thus
far in my life every one has understood what I had to say.  It is only
the fops and fools of his court who fawn around him, who would persuade
him that good, honest German is too coarse for royal ears, and that he
must always be addressed in French.  Well, my old master said that he
would like to offer you this situation as forester’s clerk, because he
thought that with regard to myself,—and here he said a couple of things
that you need not hear, but which delighted me,—old fellow as I
am,—quite as much as when in old times, upon examination-day, the
schoolmaster used to say, ’Carl, you have done yourself credit to-day.’
Well, his highness has commissioned me to write to you, and he will
arrange matters. Three hundred and fifty thalers salary, and your fuel.
Now think it over; it is not so poor an offer, and the green forest is a
thousand times pleasanter than your confounded attics, where the
neighbours’ cats are forever squalling, and where your eyes are blinded
by the smoke of a million chimneys.

"You must not think that I am one of those wheedling, parasitical
fellows who use their master’s favour to benefit all their own kith and
kin.  No; I can tell you that if you were not what you are, that is, if
you were not really talented and well educated, I would bite my tongue
out before I would recommend you to my master; and, on the other side, I
should always try to secure in his service such an honest, capable
fellow as yourself. No offence; you know I always like a plain statement
of a plain case.

"But there is another matter to be considered.  You ought to live with
me, and it could be very easily arranged if you were a bachelor, whom
four walls would content, with a chest for his solitary wardrobe.  But,
unfortunately, there is no possible room in my lonely old rat’s-hole of
a forest-lodge for an entire family.  It is in rather a tumble-down
condition, and has needed a doctor for some time, but I suppose the
authorities will do nothing for it until the old balconies come
crumbling about my ears.  The nearest village is half a league, and the
nearest town a league from the lodge; you cannot possibly walk these
distances every day, in the miserable weather that we have here
sometimes.

"Now old Sabina, my housekeeper, who was born in the nearest village,
has made a wild suggestion which I herewith impart to you.  Old castle
Gnadeck, the deceased Baron Gnadewitz’s brilliant legacy to you, is, as
I have told you, situated at about a rifle’s shot distance from the
lodge.  Well, Sabina says that when she was a strong hearty girl,—which,
by the way, must have been something beyond a quarter of a century
ago,—she was a chambermaid in the Gnadewitz household.  Then the new
castle was not entirely furnished, and did not suffice to contain the
crowd of guests yearly invited to the great hunt.  And so part of the
building connecting the two principal wings of the old castle was
somewhat repaired and furnished.  Sabina had to make and air the beds
and attend to the rooms, to her great terror, and no wonder,—her old
brain is perfectly crammed with all sorts of witch and ghost
stories,—for the rest she is a most respectable person, and rules my
household with a steady rein.

"She maintains most firmly that this part of the castle cannot be in a
crumbling condition, for it was then in an excellent state of
preservation, and would, she is sure, afford a capital shelter for you
and yours.  May be she is right; but are your children bold enough to
brave the ghostly inhabitants that are said to haunt those old walls?

"You know how vexed I was about your worthless legacy, and that I have
never once been able, since the death of the sainted Wolf von Gnadewitz,
to induce myself to visit the old ruin.  But after hearing Sabina’s tale
yesterday afternoon, I made one of my men climb a tree which stood upon
the only spot which could give you a glimpse into the robber’s nest, and
he declared that everything had fallen into decay there.  And this
morning I have been to the authorities in the town, but they would not
give me the keys of the castle without special permission from your
wife, and made, besides, as much fuss about it as if the treasures of
Golconda lay hid in the mouldy old rooms.  None of those who placed the
seals upon the doors could tell me what sort of a place it was, for they
never entered it, under the impression that the ceiling might fall and
dash out their prudent brains, but contented themselves with placing a
dozen official seals as large as your hand upon the principal entrance
door. I should very much like to investigate matters with you, so pray
decide quickly and start with your family as soon as possible."

Here Elizabeth dropped the letter and looked with sparkling eyes at her
father.

"Well, how have you decided, father dear?" she asked hastily.

"Ah," he replied gravely, "it is quite a hard task to tell you our
resolution, for I see by your face that you would not for the world
exchange this gay populous city for the loneliness and quiet of the
Thuringian forest. Still, you must know that my application to the
Prince of L—— for the place in question lies sealed in that envelope.
However, it is only reasonable that your wishes should be consulted in
some degree, and we can be induced to leave you here in case——"

"Ah, no; if Elizabeth will not go I would rather stay here, too,"
interrupted the little boy, clinging anxiously to his sister.

"Never fear, my darling," she said to him with a laugh; "I shall find a
place in the carriage, and if I could not, you know I am as bold as a
soldier, and can run like a hare. My longing for the greenwood, which
has been the fairy-land of my imagination ever since I was a very little
child, shall be my compass, and I shall get along bravely.  What will
papa do when, some evening, a weary way-worn traveller, with ragged
shoes and empty pockets, prays for admission at the gate of the old
castle?"

"Ah, then, indeed, we must admit you," said her father, smiling, "if we
would not draw down upon our crumbling roof the hostility of all good
spirits who protect courage and innocence.  But you will have to pass by
the old castle if you wish to find us, and knock at some modest peasant
hut in the valley, for the ruined old pile will scarcely afford us an
asylum."

"I am afraid not, indeed," said his wife.  "We shall work our way
laboriously through wild hedges and thick underbrush, like the
unfortunate suitors of the Sleeping Beauty, to find at last——"

"Poetry itself!" cried Elizabeth.  "Why, the first delicious bloom will
be brushed from our woodland life if we cannot live in the old castle!
Certainly there must be four sound walls and a whole roof in some one of
its old towers, and with heads to plan and strong willing hands to
execute, the rest can be very easily arranged. We will stop up cracks
with moss, nail boards over doorways that have lost their doors, and
paper our four walls ourselves; we can cover the worm-eaten floors with
homemade straw mats; declare war to the death upon the gray-coated,
four-footed little thieves who would invade our larder, and soon banish
all cobwebs by a good broom skilfully wielded."

With glowing looks, quite carried away by her dreams of the future home
in the fresh green forest, she went to the piano and opened it.  It was
an old, worn-out instrument, whose hoarse, weak tones harmonized
perfectly with its shabby exterior; but, nevertheless, beneath
Elizabeth’s fingers Mendelssohn’s song, "Through the dark green Forest,"
rang deliciously through the little room.

Her parents sat quietly listening.  Little Ernst dropped asleep.
Without, the howling of the storm was lulled, but the snow was driving
noiselessly past the uncurtained window in huge flakes.  The opposite
chimneys, no longer smoking, had put on thick white night-caps, and
looked stiffly and coldly, like peevish old age, into the little attic
room, which enclosed, in the midst of the snow-storm, a perfect spring
of joy and gaiety within its four walls.



                              CHAPTER III.


Whitsuntide!  A word that will thrill with its magic the human soul as
long as trees burst into leaf, larks soar trilling aloft, and clear
spring skies laugh above us.  A word which can awaken an echo of spring
in hearts encrusted with selfishness and greed of gain, chilled by the
snows of age, or deadened by grief and care.

Whitsuntide is at hand.  A gentle breeze flutters over the Thuringian
mountains, and brushes from their brows the last remains of the snow
which whirls mistily into the air and leaves its old abiding-place in
the guise of luminous spring clouds.  Freed from their wintry garments,
the mountains deck their rugged brows with wreaths of young strawberry
vines and bilberries.  In the valley below, the rippling trout-stream is
flowing forth from the dark forest directly across the flower-strewn
meadow.

The lonely saw-mill is clacking merrily, while its low thatched roof
shines white with the fallen blossoms of the sheltering fruit trees.

Before the windows of the scattered huts of the wood-cutters and of the
villagers many an accomplished bullfinch was singing in his little cage
the airs which were the fruits of a course of instruction in high art,
daring the winter in the hot, close room of his master.  And his
brothers in the forest were trilling wilder but far sweeter lays, for
their little throats inhaled the clear air of freedom.

Where, a few weeks before, the melted snow had foamed down from the
mountain tops in a bed created by its own torrent, beautiful moss was
now weaving a soft carpet, that would soon quite conceal the scarred
breast of the mountain, while here and there, through the thick green
the silver thread of some little stream glittered in the sunlight.

Upon the highway running through a charming valley of the Thuringian
forest the Ferbers were travelling, in a well-packed carriage, toward
their new home.  It was very early in the morning; the bell from a
distant church-tower had just tolled the hour of three, wherefore only
the shabby old sign-post by the roadside and a herd of stately stags
were permitted the sight of a happy face that looked upon this lovely
forest for the first time.

Elizabeth leaned far out of the window of the dark carriage, and inhaled
deep draughts of the invigorating air, which she maintained had already
cleared away from her eyes and lungs all the dust of the city.  Ferber
sat opposite, sunk in thought.  He too was refreshed by the beauty and
tender grace of the forest; but he was more deeply moved by the delight
in the eyes of his child, who was so susceptible to the charms of nature
and so unspeakably grateful for the change in their circumstances. How
busy her hands had been since the Royal answer to Ferber’s application
for the new office had been received! There had been much to do.  She
had shared faithfully in all the cares which their departure from the
city brought upon her parents.  It is true the prince had sent his new
official a considerable sum of money for travelling expenses, and the
forester uncle, too, had shown his usual generosity; but with the
greatest economy it did not suffice, and therefore Elizabeth had
employed every hour which she usually had for recreation in sewing for a
large ready-made linen establishment,—occupying herself thus with her
needle for many a night, after her unsuspecting parents were sleeping
soundly.

There had been one bitter experience amid all the busy hurry, which had
cost the young girl many tears.  She had seen her dear piano borne off
upon the shoulders of two strong men to its new possessor.  It had to be
sold for a few thalers, because it was old and frail,—too frail to be
transported to the new home.  Ah, it had been so true a friend to the
family!  Its thin, quavering voice had sounded in Elizabeth’s ears
tender and dear as the voice of her mother.  And now, probably,
unfeeling children would thrum upon its venerable keys, and tease the
old instrument to speak more strongly, until it should be mute forever.
But this sorrow was past, and lay behind her, with much beside which she
had sacrificed and endured silently; and as she sat looking out into the
morning twilight, with eyes sparkling with delight,—eyes that seemed to
read behind the misty veil of the dawn all kinds of brilliant prophecies
for the future,—who could have discerned in that figure, glowing with
the elasticity of youth, one trace of the fatigue of the last busy
weeks?

For another half hour the travellers drove along the smooth, level
highway, and then turned aside into the thick forest by a well-kept
carriage-road.  The sun was just rising in the eastern sky, and shot his
rays upon the earth in splendid amazement at the diamonds with which she
had adorned herself during his absence.  In the night a heavy shower had
come up, much rain had fallen, and the large drops were still hanging
upon twig and leaf, falling pattering upon the roof of the carriage
whenever the postillion touched one of the overarching boughs with his
whip.  What a glorious forest!  From the thick underbrush at their feet
the trees reared their colossal trunks, and above, their boughs
intertwined in a fraternal embrace as though determined to defend their
peaceful, quiet home from light and air as from two deadly enemies. Only
here and there a slender, green-tinted sunbeam would slip from bough to
bough down upon the feathery grass and the little strawberry-blossoms,
sprinkled everywhere like snow-flakes, even laying their little white
heads impertinently upon the road.

After a short drive the wood grew less dense, and soon the retired Lodge
appeared in the midst of a meadow in the heart of the forest.  The
postillion sounded his horn. A tremendous barking of dogs was heard; and
with a loud whirr a large flock of doves soared, terrified, into the air
from the pointed gable of the house.

A man in a hunting uniform was standing at the open door,—a gigantic
figure, with a huge beard that almost covered his breast.  He shaded his
eyes with his hands as he looked keenly at the approaching carriage, but
suddenly running down the steps, he tore open the door, and threw his
arms around Ferber, as the latter sprang out. For one instant the
brothers stood in a close embrace; then the forester gently released the
slender figure of the younger, and, holding him by the shoulder at arm’s
length, gazed searchingly into his pale worn countenance.

"Poor Adolph!" he said at last, and his deep voice trembled with
emotion.  "Has fate brought you to this? But wait awhile, we will have
you sound and well again; it is not too late.  A thousand welcomes to
you!  And now let us stick together until the last great trumpet call,
when we shall not be asked whether we will stay together or not."

He tried to master his emotion, and helped his sister-in-law and little
Ernst, whom he embraced and kissed, to descend from the carriage.

"Well," said he, "you must have been knocked up at an early hour, I must
say, and that’s hardly the thing for women."

"What can you be thinking of, uncle?" cried Elizabeth. "We are no
slug-a-beds, and know exactly how the sun looks when he says good
morning to the world."

"Halloa!" cried the forester with a laugh of surprise. "Who is that
quarrelling with me in the corner of the carriage?  Come out instantly,
little one."

"I, little?  Well, sir, you will be finely surprised when I do get out
and you see what a tall, stately maiden I am!"

With these words Elizabeth sprang down from the high carriage and stood
on tiptoe, drawing herself up to her full height beside him.  But
although her slender, graceful figure was something above middle size,
she seemed at this moment like a pretty king-bird measuring itself with
an eagle.

"Look," she said, in a rather disappointed tone, "I am nearly up to your
shoulder, and that is more than tall enough for a respectable girl."

Her uncle, holding himself as erect as possible, looked down upon her
with a roguish smile of great self-satisfaction for a moment, then
suddenly picked her up in his arms as though she had been a feather, and
amid the laughter of the others carried her into the house, calling in a
voice of thunder—

"Sabina, Sabina, come here, and I will show you how the wrens look in
B——."

He put his terrified burden down in the hall as gently and carefully as
though he were handling some brittle plaything, took her head tenderly
between his large hands, kissed her forehead again and again, and said,
"That such a queen of Liliput, such a moonshine elf, should dream of
being as large as her tall uncle!  But, forest fairy as you are, you
know all about the sun, for your head is covered with its beams."

As she was carried into the house upon her uncle’s arm the girl’s hat
had fallen from her head, revealing a mass of fair hair, the golden
colour of which was all the more remarkable as her delicately pencilled
eyebrows and long lashes were coal black.

In the mean while an old woman entered from a side door, and at the head
of the first flight of stairs several boyish faces appeared, which,
however, vanished as soon as they found themselves perceived by the
forester.  "Oh, you need not run away," he cried, laughing.  "I have
seen you peeping.  They are my assistants," he turned to his brother;
"the fellows are as curious as sparrows, and to-day I really cannot
blame them," and he glanced archly at Elizabeth, who, standing aside,
was binding her loosened braids around her head.  Then he took the old
woman by the hand and presented her, with an air of comical solemnity:
"Fräulein Sabina Holzin, Minister of the Interior to the Forest Lodge,
High Constable in all stable and farm affairs, and to every one therein
concerned, and, lastly, absolute monarch in the kitchen department.
While she is putting the dinner on the table do just as she tells you,
and all will go well with you; but, if she begins with her stock of old
proverbs and ghost stories, get out of her way as quickly as possible,
for there is no end to them.  And now,"—he turned to the smiling old
woman, who was a miracle of ugliness, and who yet prepossessed all in
her favour by her honest eyes, by an expression of roguery and fun that
lighted up her face, and especially by the spotless cleanliness of her
attire,—"now bring us as quickly as you can whatever pantry and cellar
will afford: I know you baked our Whitsuntide cakes earlier than usual,
that our travellers might have something to refresh them after their
fatigue."

With these words he opened the door opposite to the one from the kitchen
through which the old woman disappeared, and showed his guests into a
large apartment with bow-windows.  But Elizabeth lingered behind,
looking through the door which led into the court-yard, for, between the
white picket fences which shut in the feathered tribes on each side of
the enclosure, she saw gay beds of flowers, while three or four
late-blossoming apple trees stretched their rosy bloom-laden branches
over one corner of the space.  The garden was large, climbing a short
distance up the mountain side by terraces, and even enclosing within its
realm a beautiful group of old beeches, outlying members of the forest.
While Elizabeth, entranced, stood thus in the hall, the door of a side
wing of the house opened and a young girl stepped out into the
court-yard.  She was strikingly beautiful, although her figure was
rather diminutive, a defect for which nature had seemed to wish to
indemnify her by gifting her with a pair of large eyes that glowed like
dazzling black suns.  Her abundant dark hair was arranged evidently with
an eye to coquettish effect, and several charmingly curled locks had
escaped just above the pale forehead.  Her dress, too, although of
simple material, betrayed in its arrangement the greatest care, and the
observer could not but suspect that the skirt was so artistically looped
not merely that the hem might be kept from the dust, but also with an
eye to the neat little boot which it revealed, and which certainly was
not made to be hidden beneath the heavy woollen stuff of the dress.

She had in her hand a bowl full of grain, and threw a handful upon the
stones at her feet.  A great noise ensued; the doves fluttered down from
the roof, the fowls left their roosts and nests with loud cacklings, and
the watch-dog felt it his duty to assist in the universal clamour by
barking loudly.

Elizabeth was astonished.  It is true, her uncle had been married, but
he never had any children, as she knew; who then was this young girl, of
whom no mention had been made in his letter?  She descended the steps
that led to the court-yard, and approached the stranger: "Do you live at
the Lodge?" she asked, kindly.

The black eyes were riveted searchingly upon her for one moment, with a
look of unmistakable surprise, then an expression of annoyance flitted
across her delicate lips, which closed more tightly than before; the
eyelids fell over the glittering eyes, and she turned silently away, as
though entirely unconscious of the presence or address of any one, and
continued feeding the fowls with the grain.

Just then Sabina passed through the hall with the coffee-tray.  She
beckoned confidentially to Elizabeth, who stood amazed, and, when she
drew near, bade her follow her into the house, saying: "Come, child, you
can do nothing with her."

In the sitting-room, Elizabeth found all as comfortable and happy as if
they had lived together for years.  Her mother was sitting in a large
arm-chair, which the forester had pushed near a window that commanded a
lovely view down one of the vistas of the forest.  A large striped cat
had sprung confidingly into her lap, where it was purring with
satisfaction beneath the small hand that was gently stroking it.  And
for little Ernst, the four walls of the room were a perfect museum of
all imaginable curiosities.  He had climbed into one chair after
another, and was then standing in speechless admiration before a glass
case containing a gorgeous collection of butterflies.  The two men were
seated, side by side, upon the lounge, in deep consultation concerning
the future abode of the family, and, as Elizabeth entered, she heard her
uncle say, "Well, if the old ruin on the mountain cannot afford you
shelter, you must stay here with me.  I can move my writing-table and
all my other matters out of your way for awhile, and then I will besiege
the authorities in the town until they consent to add another story to
the right wing of my old house."

Elizabeth took off her travelling cloak, and assisted old Sabina to set
the table.  The first shadow had fallen upon the enjoyment that had
filled her soul.  Never before had any advance of hers been met with
unkindness.  That she owed this exemption from the ill humour of others
to her beauty, the charm of her manner, and the childlike purity of her
nature, which exercised an unconscious influence upon all around her,
had never occurred to her. She had taken it for granted that she should
experience only kindness from all, since she was conscious of meaning
well by all the world.  Her disappointment at the repulse was all the
greater, because the sight of a young girl of about her own age had
caused her such surprise and joy; and the beautiful face of the stranger
had interested her deeply.  The studied arrangement of the girl’s dress
had not struck her, as she herself had never yet known the desire of
heightening her attractions by the aids of the toilet.  Her father and
mother had always assured her that no time spent in the cultivation of
mind and heart was lost, and that if they were what they should be, her
exterior could never be unattractive, whatever might be the form with
which nature had endowed her.

The thoughtful expression of Elizabeth’s face did not escape her
mother’s notice.  She called her to her, and her daughter began an
account of the meeting; but at the first words the forester turned
towards her.  A deep wrinkle appeared between his bushy eyebrows, and
made his face dark and gloomy.

"Indeed," he said, "have you seen her already?  Well, then, let me tell
you who and what she is.  I took her into my house some years ago, that
she might assist Sabina in her housekeeping.  She is a distant relative
of my deceased wife, and has no parents, brothers nor sisters. I wished
to do good, but I have provided myself with a perpetual
scourge,—although I do not deserve it. She had not been here a month
before I discovered that she had not a single healthy thought in her
entire composition; she is a mass of exaggerated ideas and inconceivable
arrogance.  I had half a mind to send her back to the place she came
from, but Sabina, who has still less cause than I to love her, entreated
me not to do it. Why, I cannot tell, for the girl gave her a great deal
of trouble, and was insolent.  I did all I could to tame her haughty
spirit by giving her regular duties to perform, and for awhile matters
went on pretty well.  But about a year ago a certain Baroness Lessen
came to live over at Lindhof,—that is the name of the former Gnadewitz
property, which the heir-at-law sold to a Herr von Walde. The possessor
himself, who has neither wife nor child, is a kind of antiquary, travels
a great deal, and leaves his only sister under the charge of the
aforesaid baroness, more’s the pity, for she turns everything upside
down.  Years ago, when I used to hear great piety spoken of, all my
veneration was excited, and I wished at least to take my cap off; but
now, when I hear of such things, I clench my fist and pull my hat down
over my eyes, for the world has greatly changed.  The Baroness Lessen
belongs to those pious souls who grow cruel, hard, and narrow-minded out
of what they call pure fear of the Lord; who persecute a fellow-creature
who does not cast his eyes down hypocritically, but lifts them to heaven
where God dwells, as persistently as a hound hunts down game.  This is
the herd to which my excellent niece belongs; there could not be a
better soil for all the weeds that her brain generates, and all sorts of
annoyances are the consequence.  She made acquaintance with a
lady’s-maid over there, and spent all her leisure time with her. At
first I was content enough, until all at once she began with her
plans,—for our conversion, as she calls it. Sabina was a miserable
sinner, because she would not leave off work, at least ten times a day,
to pray; the poor old thing, who never misses church every Sunday at
Lindhof, even through wind and rain, and often with rheumatism racking
her old bones, and who has lived a faithful, laborious life, infinitely
more religious than sixty years of idleness spent upon her knees.  And
then my fine moralist attacked me; but there she found her match, and
contented herself with a single effort.  Then I forbade all intercourse
with Lindhof; but my prohibition was of little use, for whenever my back
is turned she takes occasion to slip over there.  Of course, there can
be no question of any gratitude towards me; I have no bond of union with
her as her guardian, and that makes my task of guiding and guarding her
doubly difficult.  God only knows what insane idea has taken possession
of her now, but for two months she has been perfectly dumb, not only
here at home, but everywhere.  For that space of time not a single word
has passed her lips.  Neither sternness nor gentle entreaty produces the
slightest effect upon her.  She attends to her duties just as she used
to do, eats and drinks like every one else, and is not one whit less
vain or wise in her own conceit.  But because she grew pale, and did not
look very well, I consulted a physician, who had formerly known her,
with regard to her health.  He assured me that her physical health was
excellent, and advised that she should be treated with gentle firmness,
as the minds of several of her family had previously been somewhat
affected.  He said, too, that she would grow tired of her entire
silence, and would begin talking some fine day like a magpie.  I am
content to wait; but in the mean time it is a sore trial to me. All my
life I have longed to have happy faces around me, and would rather eat
bread and salt with cheerful people than the costliest dainties with
morose companions.  Come, my Fair one with the golden locks," he
concluded, stroking Elizabeth’s head with his huge hand, "push your
mother’s arm-chair up to the table, tie a napkin round the neck of that
little rogue who is staring his eyes out at my case of rifles, and let
us breakfast together, for you all need repose, and must rest your weary
limbs after your long journey.  After dinner we must begin to think of
Castle Gnadeck; but first strengthen your eyes with a little sleep, lest
they should be dazzled by the splendour which will flash upon them up
there."

After breakfast, while her father and mother were asleep and little
Ernst was dreaming in a large bed of the wonders of the forest-lodge,
Elizabeth unpacked in the upper room, which her uncle had resigned to
her, all that was necessary for the coming night.  She would not for the
world have gone to sleep.  She went repeatedly to the window and looked
across to the wooded mountain which arose behind the lodge.  There,
above the tops of the trees, she could see a black streak, which stood
out distinctly against the clear blue sky.  That was, as old Sabina
said, an ancient iron flag-staff upon the roof of Castle Gnadeck, from
which in times long gone by the proud banner of the Gnadewitzes had
flouted the air. Was there behind those trees the asylum for which she
longed, where her parents might rest their feet, weary with long
wandering upon foreign soil?

And then her eyes sought the court-yard below, but the dumb girl did not
appear again.  She had not come to breakfast, and seemed to wish to
avoid all intercourse with the guests at the lodge.  For this Elizabeth
was very sorry.  Although her uncle’s account had not been promising, a
youthful spirit is not quick to resign its illusions, and would rather
be undeceived by the bursting of its gay bubble than admonished by the
experience of age.  The beautiful girl, who could so determinedly
conceal her secret behind closed lips, became doubly interesting to her,
and she exhausted herself in conjectures as to the cause of this
silence.



                              CHAPTER IV.


After a most cheerful dinner, Sabina brought from the cupboard a pipe,
which she filled and handed with a match to the forester.

"What are you thinking of, Sabina?" he said, rejecting it with a comical
air of displeased surprise.  "Do you think I could find it in my heart
to sit here and smoke a quiet pipe while Elsie’s little feet are dancing
with impatience to run up the mountain, and she is longing to poke her
little nose into the magic castle?  No, I think we had better start at
once upon our voyage of discovery."

All were soon ready.  The forester gave his arm to his sister-in-law,
and they started off through the court and garden.  After they had gone
a little way, they were joined by a mason from the neighbouring village,
whom the forester had sent for that he might be at hand if necessary.

They walked up the mountain by a tolerably steep and narrow path through
the thick forest, but this path gradually broadened, and at last led to
a small open space, on one side of which arose what seemed like a tall
gray rock.

"Here I have the pleasure," said the forester to his brother, with a
sarcastic smile, "of revealing to you the estate of the lamented Baron
von Gnadewitz in all its grandeur."

They were standing before a lofty wall, which looked like one solid
block of granite.  They could see nothing of any buildings that might be
behind it, because the surrounding forest was too thick and close to
allow of a sufficiently distant point of observation.  The forester led
the way along the wall, at the base of which thick underbrush was
growing, until he reached a large oaken door with an iron grating in the
upper half of it.  Here he had had the matted growth of underbrush
cleared away, and he now produced a bunch of large keys which had been
handed over to Frau Ferber as she had passed through L—— the day before.

The utmost exertions of the three men were necessary before the rusty
locks and bars would move, but at last the door creaked, or rather
crashed upon its hinges, and a thick cloud of dust floated up into the
air.  The explorers entered and found themselves in a court-yard bounded
on three sides by buildings.  Opposite them was the imposing front of
the castle, with a flight of broad stone steps, and a clumsy iron
balustrade, leading to the entrance door upon the first story.  Running
from each side of the main building were gloomy colonnades, whose
granite pillars and arches seemed to defy the tooth of time.  In the
centre of the court-yard a group of old chestnut trees stretched their
aged boughs above a huge basin, in the midst of which couched four stone
lions with wide open jaws.  Formerly four powerful streams of water must
have poured through them from the bowels of the earth, filling the
entire basin; but now there was only a small stream trickling through
the threatening teeth of one of the monsters, sufficing to sprinkle with
moisture the grass and weeds growing in the cracks of the stone basin,
and, by its low, mournful ripple, giving a faint suggestion of life in
this wilderness.  The outer walls of the structure and the colonnades
were all that could be regarded without terror in this space.  The
window frames, from which every pane of glass had been broken, showed
the sad desolation within.  In some rooms the ceilings had already
fallen in; in others, the joists were bent as though the lightest touch
might send them crashing down.  Even the stone steps seemed half hanging
in the air,—some mossy fragments had already become detached from them,
and had rolled into the centre of the court-yard.

"We can do nothing here," said Ferber.  "Let us go on."

Through a deep, dark portal they entered another court-yard, which,
although much larger than the first, by its striking irregularity
produced an impression of far greater desolation.  Here, a dreary,
crumbling pile of masonry projected far out, and formed a dark corner
never visited by a sunbeam; there, a clumsy tower shot into the air,
throwing a deep shadow upon the wing at its back.  An old elder bush,
leading a straggling existence in one corner, with its leaves covered
with fallen crumbs of mortar, and some dry grasses between the stones of
the pavement, made the scene yet more desolate.  No noise disturbed the
deathlike silence reigning here.  Even the jackdaws soaring in the air
above ceased their chatter, and the echoes of the footsteps upon the
stone pavement had a ghostly sound.

"Yes, those old knights," said Ferber, almost appalled at the sight of
the desolation around him, "have heaped up these piles of granite, and
thought that this cradle of their race would proclaim the splendour of
their name through all coming centuries.  Each has altered and arranged
his inheritance after his own taste and convenience, as we see from
these different kinds of architecture, and lived as if there were no end
to it all."

"And yet each lodged here but for a little space," interrupted the
forester, "and paid his landlord, the earth, for his lodging with his
own crumbling bones,—now turned to dust.  But let us go on.  Brr—rr!—it
makes me shiver.  Death everywhere,—nothing but death!"

"Do you call that death, uncle?" suddenly exclaimed Elizabeth, who had
hitherto been awed and silent, pointing, as she spoke, through a door
which was half concealed by an interposing column.  There, behind a
grating, fresh sunny green was shining, and young climbing roses leaned
their blossoms against the iron bars.

Elizabeth ran towards the door, and, exerting all her strength, pushed
it open.  The space upon which she entered had probably been the former
flower-garden, but such a name could scarcely be applied to the tangled
wilderness of green, where not even the narrowest vestige of a path
could be discerned, and where here and there only the mutilated remains
of a statue appeared among the mass of shrubs, bushes, and parasitical
plants.  A wild grape-vine had climbed to the upper story of the
building, and taken firm hold there of the window-sills,—its green
branches and wreaths falling thence like a shower upon the wild roses
and lilac bushes beneath.  And in this secluded, blooming spot of
ground, a buzzing and humming were heard, as if Spring had assembled
here her entire host of winged insects.  Countless butterflies fluttered
over the flowers, and golden beetles were running glittering across the
broad fern leaves at Elizabeth’s feet. And above this little world of
bloom and busy life several fruit trees and magnificent lindens waved
their leafy crests, while upon a slight elevation were seen the remains
of what had once been a pavilion.

The garden was surrounded upon three sides by buildings; the square was
completed by a high, green wall, which had been constructed of earth,
like a dam, and above which the trees of the forest waved a greeting to
their neighbours within.  Here were also the same signs of
decay,—tolerably well preserved outer walls,—complete ruin within.  Only
one building of two stories, connecting two high wings, attracted
attention from its closed appearance.  The light did not shine through
it, as through its doorless and windowless companions; its flat roof,
finished in front and at the back by a heavy stone balustrade, must have
bidden defiance to time and tempest, as had also the gray window-panes
which peeped out here and there from the tangled growth of vines that
covered everything.  The forester measured it with a keen glance, and
declared that this must be Sabina’s famous building,—possibly the
interior might not be in as crumbling a condition as the rest of the
castle,—only he could not understand how they were to get into the old
swallow’s nest.  Certainly, the rank growth around the base of the walls
would have obscured all trace of steps or door, even were there any such
entrance.  They determined, therefore, to venture up into one of the
large side wings by a worn but tolerably secure flight of stone steps,
and thus attempt to arrive at the interior of the connecting building.
They succeeded in gaining ingress to the tall wing, although they could
keep their footing only by clinging to the uneven walls.  They first
entered a large saloon which had the blue sky for a ceiling, and whose
only decoration was a few green bushes growing through its walls.
Remnants of galleries, worm-eaten joists, and various fragments of
frescoed ceiling were heaped up in piles, over which the explorers had
to scramble as best they might.  Then followed a long suite of rooms in
the same utterly desolate condition.  Upon some of the walls fragments
of family portraits were still hanging, upon which, strangely and
comically enough, only an eye, or, perhaps, a pair of delicate folded
hands, or a mail-clad, theatrically-posed leg, was yet distinctly to be
traced. At length they reached the last apartment, and stood before a
high-arched doorway which had evidently been bricked up.

"Aha!" said Ferber, "here they intended to cut off this building from
the universal desolation.  I think that before we venture any further
upon this break-neck expedition it would be well to knock out these
stones."

His proposal was at once favourably received, and the mason began his
task; he soon penetrated into a recess in the wall, which he assured
them was double at this spot.  The other two men lent their assistance,
and a thick oaken door was revealed behind the masonry that they cleared
away.  This door was not locked, and yielded readily to the mason’s
strong arm.  They entered an entirely dark, close room.  One slender
sunbeam, straying through a crack showed them where to find a window;
the bolt of the shutter, rusty from long disuse, resisted for some time
the strength of the forester, and the trees upon the outside opposed an
additional obstacle to their exertions.  At last the shutter yielded
with a crash; the golden-green sunlight streamed in through a high
bow-window and disclosed an apartment not broad, but very deep, the
walls of which were hung with Gobelin tapestry.  Upon each of the four
corners of the ceiling were painted the arms of the Gnadewitzes.  To the
surprise of all, this room was entirely furnished as a sleeping
apartment.  Two canopied beds, with hangings dingy with age, that
occupied the two long walls of the room, were all made up; the pillows
were covered with fine linen cases, and the silken coverlid still
preserved its colour and texture.  Everything that could conduce to the
comfort of an aristocratic occupant was here, buried, indeed, beneath a
mass of dust, but in a state of excellent preservation.  Beyond this
apartment, and opening into it, was another much larger, with two
windows; it was also completely furnished, although in antique style,
and evidently with furniture hunted up from various other rooms for the
purpose.  An antique writing-table, its top most artistically inlaid and
resting upon strangely carved claw feet, harmonized but poorly with the
more modern form of the crimson sofa; and the gilt frames, in which hung
several well-painted hunting pictures, did not accord with the silver
mountings of the huge mirror. Nevertheless, nothing was wanting that
could complete the solid comfort of the room.  A thick, though somewhat
faded carpet was laid upon the floor, and a large antique timepiece
stood beneath the mirror.  A small boudoir, also furnished, and from
which a door led to a vestibule and a flight of steps, opened from the
larger apartment.  Behind these rooms were three others of a similar
size, with windows looking upon the garden; one of these, containing two
beds and pine furniture, was evidently intended for the servants.

"Well done!" cried the forester with a smile of satisfaction; "here is
an establishment that exceeds the wildest flights of our modest fancy.
If the sainted Gnadewitz could see us now he would turn in his leaden
coffin. All this we owe, I suppose, to the neglect of a housekeeper or
to the forgetfulness of some childish, old steward."

"But do you think we ought to keep these things?" asked, in a breath,
Frau Ferber and Elizabeth, who had been silent hitherto from wonder.

"Most certainly, my love," said Ferber; "your uncle left you the castle
with everything which it contained."

"And little enough it was," growled the forester.

"But in comparison with our expectations a perfect mine of wealth," said
Frau Ferber, as she opened a beautiful glass cabinet containing
different kinds of china; "and if my uncle had actually endowed me with
an estate in my young days, when I was full of hope and enthusiasm, I
doubt whether it would have made as much impression upon me as does this
unexpected discovery, which relieves us all of so much anxiety."

In the mean time Elizabeth had gone to the window of the first room
which they had entered, and was trying to part the boughs and vines
which grew so thick and strong all along this side of the building that
they formed a barrier through which only a greenish twilight penetrated.
"It is a pity," she said, as she found that her efforts were vain; "I
should have liked some glimpse of the forest outside."

"Why, do you think," said her uncle, "that I shall allow you to live
behind this green screen, which shuts out air as well as light?  Rely
upon me to take that matter in charge, my little Elsie."

They next descended the stairs.  These, too, were in perfect
preservation, and led to a large hall with a huge oaken table in the
centre, surrounded by spindled-legged, straight-backed chairs.  The
floor was of red tiles, and the panels on walls and ceiling were covered
with beautiful carving.  This large apartment was provided with four
windows and two doors opposite to each other; one of these led into the
garden, and the other, which was opened with difficulty, into a narrow
open court-yard lying between the building-and the outer wall.  Here the
syringas and hazel bushes were growing everywhere, making an absolute
thicket, through which, however, the three men penetrated, and reached a
little gate in the outside wall which communicated with the forest
without.

"Now," said Ferber, delighted, "every obstacle to our living here is
removed.  This entrance is most valuable. We shall never have to pass
through the older court-yards, which are really dangerous places,
surrounded as they are by crumbling ruins."

They made one more tour through their newly found home with an eye to
its future arrangement, and the mason was ordered to be upon the spot
the next day that he might convert one of the back rooms into a kitchen.
Then, after the oaken door leading into the large, ruinous wing had been
well bolted and secured, they took their way through the gate in the
wall, an undertaking difficult indeed, on account of the thick bushes
which opposed their progress, but infinitely preferable to the perilous
path by which they had entered.

As the returning party entered the garden of the forest lodge, Sabina
came towards them, in great anxiety to learn the results of their
expedition, accompanied by little Ernst, who had been entrusted to her
care while his mother and sister were away.  She had prepared the table
with its snowy cloth and shining coffee-service upon a shady knoll under
the beech trees, and now clapped her hands with delight upon hearing of
all they had found.

"Ah! gracious Powers," she cried, "I hope the Herr Forester understands
now that I knew what I was talking about.  Yes, yes, all those things
were left there and forgotten, and no wonder.  As soon as the young lord
was buried, old Gnadewitz packed off as quick as he could, and took
every servant with him except the old house-steward Silber, and he was
childish with age, and besides had enough to do to take care of all that
was left in the new castle; it was crowded with furniture and plate, and
he had a hard time to keep it all right; so everything was left in the
old rooms, and no one knew anything about them.  Ah, I’ve dusted and
cleaned everything there often enough, and frightened indeed I was
whenever I came to that old clock, for it plays such mournful music when
it strikes, it used to sound like something unearthly, when I was all
alone at work in the old place.  Ah, how time flies, I was young then!"

Then came an hour of rest and comfortable discussion, while they drank
their coffee.  As Elizabeth had decided that nothing could be more
charming than to awaken in their own rooms upon Whit-Sunday
morning,—when the ringing of the church-bells in the surrounding
villages would come softly echoing through the forest glades,—a view of
the matter in which her mother sympathized, they determined to undertake
all the necessary repairs and cleaning immediately, that they might
occupy the rooms upon the eve of Whit-Sunday, and the forester placed
all his men at their disposal.

Sabina had taken up her position upon a grassy bank at a short distance
from the table, that she might be at hand if wanted; and that she might
not be idle, she had pulled up a couple of handfuls of carrots from the
garden and was busily scraping and trimming them.  Elizabeth sat down
beside her.  The old woman gave a sly glance at the delicate white
fingers, that contrasted so with her own brown, horny hands, as they
picked some carrots up from her lap.

"Don’t touch," she said, "that is no work for you,—you will make your
fingers yellow."

"What matter for that?" laughed Elizabeth.  "I will help you a little,
and you shall tell me a story.  You were born here, and must know many a
tale about the old castle."

"You may be sure of that," replied the old housekeeper. "The village of
Lindhof, where I was born, belonged to the Lords von Gnadewitz time out
of mind, and you see in such a little place as that every one talks and
thinks of the great people who rule over it.  Nothing happens of any
account in the castle that is not described and handed down from father
to son in the village, and, long after the lords and ladies are dust,
their stories are told by the village girls and boys.

"Now there was my great-grandmother, whom I remember perfectly, she knew
many a thing that would make your hair stand on end; but she had a
monstrous respect for every one at Gnadeck, and used to bob down my head
with her trembling hands whenever a Gnadewitz drove by our cottage,—for
I was but a little thing then, and did not know how to make a
respectable courtesy. She knew about all the lords who had lived at the
old castle for hundreds of years; yes, many a thing that had happened
there, that must have outraged God and man.

"Afterwards, when I lived at the new castle, and had to sweep the long
gallery where their pictures were all hanging upon the wall,—pictures of
people whose very bones had mouldered away,—I often used to stand still
before them and wonder to see them looking so like everybody else, when
they used to make such a fuss about themselves, as if God Almighty had
brought them down to the earth with his own hands.  There were not many
beauties among the women.  I often thought, in my stupid way, that if
pretty Lieschen, the most beautiful girl in the village, could only have
been painted and hung in such a rich gold frame, with a silken scarf and
such quantities of jewels upon her neck and in her hair, and the
blackamoor with his silver waiter standing just behind her lovely face
and neck, she would have looked a thousand times prettier than the lady
who was so ugly, and frowned so with pride and arrogance that two great
wrinkles went up to the very roots of her hair.  And yet she was the
very one that the family was proudest of.  She had been a very wealthy
countess, but hard and unfeeling as a stone.

"Among the men, there was only one whom I liked to look at.  He had a
frank, kind, honest face, and a pair of eyes black as sloes; but he had
shown how true it is that the good always get the worst of it in this
world.  All the others had a fine time of it as long as they lived. Many
of them had done harm enough in their time, and yet their death-beds
were as calm and peaceful as if they had always been just and true; but
poor Jost von Gnadewitz had a sad fate.  My great-grandmother’s
grandmother had known him when she was a very little girl. Then they
always called him the wild huntsman, because he never left the forest,
but would hunt there from morning until night.  In the picture he had on
a green coat and a long white feather in his cap, that was most
beautiful to see dangling among his coal-black curls.  He was
kind-hearted, and never harmed a child.  While he lived all the
villagers prospered, and they wished he might live forever.

"But all of a sudden he left this part of the country, and no one knew,
for some time, where he had gone, until one night in a dreadful storm he
came back as quietly as he had gone away.  But always after that he was
a changed man.  The people of Lindhof prospered as before, but they saw
no more of their master.  He dismissed all his servants, and lived alone
in his old castle with only one favourite attendant.

"And at last it began to be whispered that he was busy with magic and
the black art up there, and no one dared to go near the castle even at
high noon, let alone the dark night.  But my old great-grandmother was a
bold, saucy girl, and used sometimes to pasture her goats right under
the walls of the castle court-yard.  Well,—once as she was leaning
against a tree there, gazing at the high walls, and lost in thoughts
concerning all that might be going on behind them, suddenly an arm
appeared above them white as snow, and then a face fairer than sun,
moon, and stars, my grandmother said, and at last with a sudden spring a
young maiden stood upon the top of the broad wall, and, stretching her
arms up into the air, cried out something in a strange tongue that my
grandmother could not understand, and was just about to leap down into
the deep ditch full of water that then entirely surrounded the castle,
when Jost appeared behind her, and, putting his arms around her, begged
and implored her so that a stone would have melted at such entreaties
wrung from a heart full of terror and anguish.  And finally he took her
up in his arms like a child, and they both disappeared from the wall.
But the veil became loosened from the maiden’s head and floated away
across the ditch to where my grandmother was standing.  It was
exquisitely fine, and she carried it home in great glee to her father;
but he declared it was woven by the devil, and threw it into the fire,
forbidding my grandmother ever to go up the mountain near the castle
again.

"Some time after,—certainly a whole year after Jost first shut himself
up so closely at Gnadeck,—he came down the mountain very early one
morning on horseback; but you would hardly have known him, his face was
so haggard and pale, all the paler for the full suit of black that he
wore.  He rode very slowly, and nodded sadly to every one whom he met;
he never came back to this place again; he was slain in battle, and his
old servant with him—’twas at the time of the thirty years’ war."

"And the beautiful girl?" asked Elizabeth.

"Ah, no one ever heard tale or tidings of her again. Jost left a large
sealed packet in the town-house at L——, and said that it was his last
will, and must be opened whenever news of his death should be received.
But a short time after his departure, there was a terrible fire in L——;
a great many houses, and even the church and the town-house, were burned
to the ground with everything which they contained, and of course the
packet was destroyed.

"Before Jost left, the pastor from Lindhof went to see him several
times; but the reverend gentleman kept as quiet as a mouse, and, as he
was already very old, he soon departed this life, and everything that he
knew was buried with him.  So no living being knows anything about the
strange maiden, nor ever will know till the day of judgment."

"Oh, never trouble yourself to keep the matter quiet, Sabina," called
the forester to her from the table, as he shook the ashes out of his
pipe.  "Elsie had better get used as soon as possible to the terrible
conclusions to your stories.  Tell her at once—for you know all about
it—how the beautiful maiden one fine day flew up the chimney and away
upon a broomstick."

"No, I don’t believe that, sir, although I know——"

"That the whole country is swarming with such creatures, all ripe for
the gallows," interrupted her master. "Yes, yes," he continued, turning
to the others, "Sabina is one of the old Thuringian stock.  She has
sense enough, and her heart is in the right place; but when there is any
question about witchcraft she loses one and forgets the other, and is
nearly ready to turn any poor old woman away from the door, just because
she has red eyes, without giving her a morsel of food."

"No, indeed, sir, I’m not quite so bad as that," the old woman declared
with some irritation.  "I give her something to eat; but I always stick
my thumbs in the palms of my hands, and never answer one of her
questions,—there’s no harm in that!"

Every one laughed at this charm against witches and witchcraft, which
the old servant told with the utmost gravity as she arose and emptied
the carrot-tops from her apron, that she might prepare the afternoon
meal, which was to be eaten earlier than usual, as there was much to do
in the old castle before nightfall.



                               CHAPTER V.


As Elizabeth opened her eyes the next morning, the tall clock in the
room below was striking eight, and she started up with the provoking
consciousness that she had overslept herself; and it was all owing to a
vivid and terrible dream.  The golden atmosphere of poetry, which had
yesterday hovered around Sabina’s narrative, had become a gloomy cloud
in the night, the shadow of which embittered and burdened the first
moments of her awakening.  She had been flying in deadly terror through
the spacious, dreary halls of the old castle, always pursued by Jost.
Thick curls were waving wildly above his pale forehead, beneath which
his black eyes gleamed upon her, and she had just stretched out her arms
in greater terror than she had ever experienced in her life before, to
defend herself from him, when she awoke.  Her heart was still beating
violently, and she thought with a shudder of the wretched girl upon the
castle wall, who, pursued, perhaps, as she had been, had sought relief
in death, when she was again captured by her tormentor.

She sprang up and bathed her face in cold water; then she opened her
window and looked out into the courtyard. There sat Sabina under a pear
tree, busy with her churn.  All the feathered crowd of the place stood
around, looking impatiently for the crumbs that she threw to them from
time to time from a bowl upon the table by her side, while she improved
the occasion to rebuke the arrogant and greedy, and to console the
oppressed and down-trodden.

When she saw the young girl, she nodded kindly, and called up to her to
say that every one in the lodge had been busy up there in the old castle
since six o’clock. When Elizabeth reproached her for letting her sleep
so long, she assured her that she had done so by the express desire of
her mother, who thought that her daughter had overtasked her strength in
the last few weeks of excitement and exertion.

Sabina’s kind, placid face, and the fresh air of the morning soothed
Elizabeth’s nerves at once, and brought back her thoughts to the world
of reality which was just now opening so brightly before her.  She took
herself seriously to task that, despite her uncle’s fatherly admonition,
she had leaned out of the open window until midnight upon the previous
night, gazing across the moonlit meadow into the silent forest.  But
common sense often plays a poor part when opposed to excited fancy.
Where it should conduct a rigid examination and discriminate wisely, it
suddenly finds itself deserted in the judgment-seat, and must retire in
confusion, while the varied and motley spectacle which fancy conjures up
proceeds without interruption.  Thus Elizabeth’s self-reproaches soon
vanished before the picture which presented itself to her memory, and
still threw around her all the magic of a moonlit night in the forest.

As soon as she had dressed, and drank a tumbler of fresh milk, she
hastened up to the castle.  The sky was overcast, but only with those
light, thin clouds which foretell a fresh although not a sunny, spring
day. Therefore the birds’ morning concert was of longer duration than
usual, and the dew-drops lay as large and full in the cups of the
flowers as if their existence for the day were not threatened.

As Elizabeth entered the large gate of the castle, which stood wide
open, a huge green mound, piled up by the fountain, met her eye.  It was
formed of thistle stalks, ferns, and bramble bushes, which had been torn
from their home in the garden, and were here bidding farewell to their
long, merry life.  The path through the arched gateway of the second
court-yard to the grating was strewn with green boughs and leaves, as
though a joyous marriage train had been passing through the old ruins;
and even on the sill of a high window, that showed the remains of
coloured glass in the lacework of the stone rosette of its pointed arch,
some boughs had been caught as they were carried past, and the trailing
end of a wild vine was coiling its living green lovingly around the
stone trefoil of the Holy Trinity, which betrayed unmistakably that the
dark, dreary hall within had once been the chapel of the castle.

The garden, where it had yesterday been impossible to take two steps,
seemed to Elizabeth entirely changed. A considerable part of it had been
cleared, and showed distinct traces of having been tastefully laid out.
She could easily proceed along a partially cleared path, across which
timid hares and squirrels ran fleetly now and then, until she reached
the green rampart which had only been seen from a distance yesterday.
At each end of the long, grassy embankment, broad, worn, stone steps led
up to a low breastwork, over which one could look out into the forest,
and there, where the trees were somewhat thin, through a green vista
down into the valley, where the forest lodge, with the white doves
dotting its blue-slated roof, was nestling cosily.  At the foot of the
embankment, just where the broad path terminated, was a little stone
basin, into which a strong stream of crystal water flowed through the
mouth of a mossy little marble gnome.  Two lindens arched their boughs
above this gurgling brook, and threw their grateful shade upon the
tender forget-me-nots, which grew here in masses in the damp earth and
wreathed the little basin with their heavenly blue.

Directly opposite the embankment lay her future habitation, which, with
its window-shutters thrown back and the large door on the ground-floor
wide open, looked so bright and hospitable to-day that Elizabeth
welcomed with joy the thought that she was looking upon her home. Her
gaze wandered over the garden, and she thought upon those moments of her
childhood when, her little heart full of unconquerable longing, she had
lingered behind her parents during some pleasant walk, and, with her
face pressed close against the iron grating, had gazed into some strange
garden.  There she had seen happy children playing carelessly upon the
greensward; they could bend down the lovely roses that hung in such
clusters, and inhale their fragrance as long as they liked. And what a
pleasure it must be to creep under the flower-laden boughs and sit there
in the green, just like grown-up people in an arbour!  But there was
nothing for her then but the look and the longing.  No one had ever
opened the barred door to the child with the wistful eyes, who would
have been only too happy if they would have thrust a few flowers through
the grating into her little hands.

While Elizabeth was standing upon the embankment, the forester appeared
at one of the upper windows of the dwelling.  When he saw her graceful
figure leaning against the low breastwork, as, with her beautiful head
half turned towards the garden, she seemed sunk in a reverie, his
features were illumined by an expression of pleasure and quiet delight.

And Elsie soon found him out, and nodding to him gaily, bounded down the
steps towards the house.  Little Ernst ran to her in the hall, and she
took him up in her arms.

The assistance which the little boy had afforded had been, according to
his own enthusiastic account, invaluable indeed.  He had carried bricks
for the mason who had been mending the hearth, had helped his mother to
shake out the beds, and declared with pride that the lords and ladies
upon the woollen hangings looked far handsomer since he had brushed off
their dusty faces.  He threw his arms around his sister’s neck as she
carried him up-stairs, assuring her all the way that he liked it a
thousand times better here than in B——.

The forester received Elizabeth in the antechamber above.  He scarcely
gave her time to say good morning to her parents, but conducted her
instantly into the gobelin-hung apartment.  Ah, what a transformation!
The green lattice-work that had obscured the window had vanished.
Without, beyond the outer wall, the forest retreated like side-scenes on
either side, opening a full view of a distant valley that was to
Elizabeth a perfect paradise.

"There is Lindhof," said the forester, pointing to a large building in
the Italian style, which lay tolerably near to the foot of the mountain
upon which Gnadeck stood.  "I have brought you something that will show
you every tree upon the mountains over there, and every blade of grass
in the meadows of the valley," he continued, as he held an excellent
spy-glass before her eyes.

And then the grand, solemn mountain domes seemed to approach, their
granite peaks, sometimes crowned by a solitary fir, breaking through the
forest here and there. Behind these nearest summits towered countless
ranges in the blue misty light, and from a distant, dim valley which
separated two giant mountains, arose two slender, shadowy gothic towers.
A little river, a highway bordered by poplars, and several gay villages
enlivened the background of the valley.  In front lay Castle Lindhof,
surrounded by a park laid out in princely style. Beneath the windows of
the castle extended a closely shaven lawn, beset with small,
quaintly-shaped beds glowing with all the colours of the rainbow.
Thence Elizabeth’s eyes soon wandered, and rested delightedly upon the
mysterious gloom of an avenue of magnificent lindens, their heavy
foliage interlacing above their brown trunks, while here and there
drooping boughs swept the ground beneath with their broad leaves.  They
bordered a little crystal lake, which just now looked melancholy enough
amid all its flowery surroundings, for its depths mirrored a cloudy sky.
Now and then a swan stretched its white neck curiously among the
low-hanging linden boughs, and sent a shower of feathery spray from its
wings to sprinkle their old trunks.

Hitherto Elizabeth had allowed the glass to range restlessly hither and
thither, but now she attempted to hold it steadily, for she had made a
discovery which excited her interest most powerfully.

Under the last trees of the avenue stood a couch.  A young lady lay upon
it, her charming head thrown back so that a part of her chestnut curls
fell down across the pillow.  Beneath the hem of her long white muslin
dress, which enveloped her form to the throat, peeped out two tiny feet
encased in gold-embroidered satin slippers.  She held in her delicate
almost transparent hands some auriculas, which she was thoughtlessly
twisting and waving to and fro.  Her lips alone showed any colouring;
the rest of her face was lily-pale; one would almost have doubted its
being informed with life had not the blue eyes gleamed so wondrously.
But these eyes with their depth of expression were riveted upon the
countenance of a man who, sitting opposite, appeared to be reading aloud
to her.  Elizabeth could not see his face, for his back was turned
toward her.  He seemed young, tall, and well made, and had a profusion
of light-brown hair.

"Is that lovely lady over there the Baroness Lessen?" asked Elizabeth,
eagerly.

The forester took the spy-glass.  "No," said he, "that is Fräulein von
Walde, the sister of the proprietor of Lindhof.  You call her charming,
and certainly her head is lovely, but she is a cripple; she walks upon
crutches."

At this moment Frau Ferber joined them.  She too looked through the
glass, and thought the countenance of the young lady most beautiful.
She was particularly struck with the expression of gentle kindness
which, as she said, "transfigured the features."

"Yes," said the forester, "she is kind and benevolent. When I first came
here the whole country around was full of her praises.  But matters are
changed indeed, since the Baroness Lessen has had the control of affairs
over there.  No more alms are distributed among the poor, unless they
are earned by hypocrisy.  Woe to the wretch who asks any assistance
there!  He will be turned away without a penny, if he ventures to hint
that he would rather listen to the pastor in the village church on
Sundays than go to the castle chapel, where the chaplain of the baroness
every week calls down fire and brimstone, and every imaginable pain of
hell, upon the heads of the ungodly."

"Certainly such violent measures are poorly fitted to win souls to
heaven and inspire people with Christian love," said Frau Ferber.

"They destroy all good, and foster hypocrisy, I tell you!" cried the
forester, angrily.  "Do they not set an example of it themselves?  They
are always reading in the Bible of Christian humility, yet every day
they grow haughtier and more supercilious.  Why, they would actually
persuade us that their high-born bodies are moulded of a different clay
from those of their poor brothers in Christ. It stands written, ’When
thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand
doeth;’ but no hen ever makes more to-do over her newly-laid egg than
these people over their charities.  There are perpetual collections,
fairs, and lotteries for the poor, and the whole neighbourhood is
black-mailed, but when it comes to taking the money from, where it is
plentiest, their own purses,—oh, that’s carrying the joke too far, as
the saying goes.  I know people who have been for twenty years
collecting subscriptions from others to found a poor-house.  These very
people have a yearly income of six thousand thalers, but of course it
never occurs to them to add one penny from their own store in aid of
their charitable project.  They must purchase a reputation for
benevolence and Christian self-sacrifice more cheaply than that. Zounds!
how it enrages me to see people wearing their piety so pinned upon their
sleeves!  Over there in the castle a bell is set ringing just so many
times a day, that every one in the country around may say, when they
hear it, ’They are having prayers at the castle.’  The closet, where God
has commanded us to shut to the door and kneel in prayer, is altogether
too small to suit their taste. And it is not only this trumpet-blowing
that outrages me. I hold it to be actually wicked to make such a mere
everyday form of the worship of the Holiest.  Do you suppose that the
maid-servant, with a hot smoothing-iron in her hand, or the cook, who is
just putting her roast to the fire, can rejoice in the sound of that
bell?"

"It is most certainly a dubious kind of piety," said Frau Ferber,
smiling.

"Or even the gracious ladies themselves, who are busy with the last
novel or a piquante bit of court scandal—for an interest in all such
things is quite consistent with the loftiest piety—do you suppose they
are able to divert their thoughts in one instant from worldly affairs
and turn them all heavenwards?  But these people run in and out of the
kingdom of heaven without any thought or preparation, and congratulate
themselves upon the honour that they are doing to the Creator."

"And does Herr von Walde sympathize with these reforms of the baroness?"
asked Frau Ferber.

"From everything that I can gather from the villagers, I should judge
not; but how does that mend the matter? He is probably at this moment
prying into the pyramids that he may throw light upon antiquity; how
should he know that his cousin here is zealously doing her best to blow
out the advancing light of the present?  Besides, I dare say he has a
crack in his own brain.  The prince of L——, who knows him well, wished
some years ago to make a match between him and a young person of quality
at court, but, as I hear, my gentleman refused the alliance because the
fair one’s pedigree was not sufficiently long."

"Why, perhaps then he may install as mistress of Lindhof some fair
daughter of a fellah, whose ancestors lie among the mummies at Memphis,"
said Elizabeth, laughing.

"I don’t believe he will marry at all," rejoined the forester.  "He is
no longer young, is too fond of a wandering life, and has never shown
any love for women’s society.  I’ll wager my little finger that that
fellow there with the book in his hand thinks just as I do, and already
in his inmost soul regards Lindhof and all the other charming estates in
Saxony, and God only knows where else, as his own."

"Has he any claims to them?" asked Frau Ferber.

"Most certainly.  He is the son of the Baroness Lessen, whose family is
the only one in the world related to the brother and sister von Walde.
The baroness was first married to a certain Herr von Hollfeld; that
young man is the fruit of that marriage, and by the death of his father
he came into possession of Odenberg, a large estate on the other side of
L——.  The fair widow was fully conscious that her freedom must be made
available to assist her up at least one step in the ladder of human
happiness and perfection, and naturally this could only be attained by a
marriage with high rank, wherefore Frau von Hollfeld one day became
Baroness Lessen.  ’Tis true the baron’s name had been made somewhat
notorious by several acts on his part which people of common, low-born
ideas might call dishonourable; but what matter for that? Was he not a
lord chamberlain, and did not the keys of his office unlock many a door
for him where St. Peter’s would have availed nothing, in spite of the
power given to them?  However, the baron died after two years of
marriage, leaving his widow a little daughter and an enormous amount of
debts.  I have no doubt she is glad enough to queen it at Lindhof, for I
hear that she has no part or parcel in her son’s property."

Here a maid from the lodge interrupted them with bucket and broom,
giving unmistakable signs that she was about to begin the duties of her
office in this apartment.  The spy-glass was hastily closed, and while
the forester went into the garden to renew his labours there in clearing
away the luxuriant green from the lower window-sills, Frau Ferber and
Elizabeth busied themselves with dust-cloths and brushes in restoring
the furniture of the room to something of its original appearance.



                              CHAPTER VI.


Whitsuntide was over.  The brazen bells had retired into private life,
and looked black and silent through the loopholes in the bell-towers,
that seemed like the coffins of the melodious life which had so lately
streamed forth from them during the holidays.  But the bright
flower-bells in the forest, hanging loosely on their stalks, could not
forget the festival.  They had joined in bravely when the air had
quivered with the brazen clang, and still rang gently with every breeze
that swept through the underbrush.  What did they care that the
wood-cutter, his holiday clothes and face all laid aside, tramped past
them in his heavy boots, whistling some rude melody!  The forest heeded
not, but kept up the same mysterious murmur amid its branches like a
thousand-voiced whisper of prayer, and the little birds sang as before
their matin and vesper hymns in God’s praise.

Up in old Castle Gnadeck, as in the forest, the festal spirit of the
holidays still reigned, although Ferber had already entered upon the
duties of his office, often making unavoidable visits to L——, while Frau
Ferber and Elizabeth had, through Sabina, received several large orders
from a ready-made linen establishment in L——, and were besides busy
every day for some hours in the garden which even in this first year
gave promise of abundant fruit and flowers.  Notwithstanding this
constant industry, there was a holiday air pervading the whole place,
arising from the consciousness in the minds of each one of the family
that there had come a happy turn in their affairs; they were continually
comparing their present with their former situation, and the new and
unaccustomed life of the forest had an almost intoxicating effect upon
their spirits.

Her parents had given Elizabeth the gobelin room, because there was the
finest prospect from its windows, and because the girl when she had
first entered it had declared that she liked it best of all.  The gloomy
door which led into the huge old wing Had been walled up and gave no
sign that such a dreary waste lay beyond it.  The further end of the
room was filled by one of the renovated canopied bedsteads, and by the
window stood the antique writing-table, with its quaint inkstand and
writing utensils of porcelain, and two vases filled with lovely flowers;
while just outside the window, embowered in the topmost branches of a
syringa bush, was the canary’s cage; its occupant vying with the forest
songsters in its shrill trilling with all the envy of some spoiled
bravura singer.

While they were arranging the room, and Frau Ferber was every moment
bringing in some new piece of furniture to add to it a greater air of
comfort and luxury, her husband went to the longest wall, and,
stretching his arms across it, banished to the anteroom the lounge that
had just been placed there.

"Stay,—this space I appropriate," he said with a smile.  Then he brought
a large bracket of dark wood and nailed it upon the wall, which was
wainscoted neatly to the ceiling on this side.  "Here," he continued, as
he placed upon the bracket a bust of Beethoven, "this mightiest mortal
shall be enthroned alone."

"But that looks so blank and bare," said Frau Ferber.

"Only wait until to-morrow or the day after, and you will, I am sure,
admit that my arrangements are not to be despised, and that Elizabeth
will have both pleasure and profit from them."

And on the next day, which had been Whitsun-eve, he went to town with
the forester.  They returned toward evening, but did not enter through
the gate in the garden wall.  The great gate was flung wide open, and
four strong men bore in a large and shining object through the ruins.
Elizabeth was standing near the kitchen window, engaged, for the first
time in her new home, in preparing the evening meal, when the men
entered the garden with their burden.

She cried out, for it was a piano—a large, square piano, which was
immediately borne up stairs and placed in the gobelin room under
Beethoven’s bust.  Elizabeth laughed and wept at the same moment, as she
rapturously embraced her father, who had expended his little capital,
the proceeds of the sale of their furniture in B——, that he might
provide her again with what had been the delight of her life.  And then
she opened the instrument and a flood of rich melody filled the rooms
where the silence of death had reigned for so many years.

The forester had come with her father to enjoy Elizabeth’s surprise and
delight.  He now leaned silently against the wall, as the wondrous
sounds flowed forth from beneath the girl’s touch.  For the first time
he heard the true speech of the glowing life that animated the delicate
young frame.  How thoughtful and inspired was the air of the
finely-shaped head which crowned her graceful form, so suggestive of
earnest maidenhood!  Hitherto only jests and merry repartee had been
exchanged between uncle and niece.  He often called her his butterfly,
because of the airy grace of her motions and her quickness of mind,
which never left her at a loss for a reply to his merry attacks; but his
favourite name for her was "Gold Elsie," for he maintained that her hair
was such perfect gold that he could see it shining and shimmering in the
darkest parts of the forest as she approached, and that it heralded her
coming to him as the jewel in the giant’s shield had once announced his
approach to Childe Roland.

When Elizabeth had finished she spread her arms above the instrument as
if to embrace it, and, leaning her head upon it, smiled the happiest
smile; but her uncle approached her softly, gave her a silent kiss upon
the forehead, and departed without a word.

From this time he came up every evening to the old castle.  As soon as
the last rays of the setting sun had faded from the tree-tops, Elizabeth
sat down at the piano. The little family took their places in the large
low window-seat, and lost themselves in the fairy world, which was
opened to them by the great master whose image looked down from the wall
upon the inspired young performer.  And then Ferber would think of how
Elizabeth had portrayed the free life in the forest when the letter from
her uncle had first arrived in B——.  ’Tis true no elves or gnomes
appeared, but the spirits which the mightiest of the masters of music
had imprisoned in sound floated forth from their prison-house on a flood
of melody, breathing into the solemn silence around a mysterious life—a
life of whose joys and sorrows every sympathetic human soul is
conscious, although to genius alone is granted power to embody and
reveal them.

One afternoon they were all sitting together at their coffee.  The
forester had brought his pipe and newspaper, and begged of Elizabeth a
cup of the refreshing beverage. He was just about to read aloud an
interesting article in his paper, when the bell at the garden gate
sounded.  To the astonishment of every one, when little Ernst ran to
open it, a servant in livery entered and handed Elizabeth a note.  It
was from the Baroness Lessen.  She began by saying much that was
flattering with regard to the young girl’s masterly performance upon the
piano, to which she had listened for the two or three previous evenings
while walking in the forest, and concluded by preferring a request that
Elizabeth would consent, of course for a stipulated consideration, to
come to Castle Lindhof every week and play duets with Fräulein von
Walde.

The style of the letter was extremely courteous; nevertheless the
forester, after a second perusal of it, threw it angrily upon the table,
and said, looking steadily at Elizabeth,—

"I hope you will not consent?"

"And why not, my dear Carl?" asked Ferber in her stead.

"Because Elizabeth is, and always will be, far too good for those people
down there!" cried the forester, with some irritation.  "But if you
choose to see what you have carefully planted, choked up and ruined by
poisonous weeds and mildew—why, do it."

"It is certainly true," replied Ferber quietly, "that my child has known
until now none other than a parent’s care. We have endeavoured most
conscientiously, as was our duty, to cherish every germ of good, to
foster every plant of tender growth.  But we have had no idea of
producing a mere hot house flower, and alas for us and for her, if all
that we have unweariedly tended and nourished for eighteen years is so
loosely planted in the soil that it can be torn thence by the first
blast of life!  I have educated my daughter to live in the world; she
must battle her way among its storms, as we all must.  If I should be
taken from her to-day, she must herself guide the helm which I have
hitherto held for her.  If the people in the castle below are not fit
associates for her, matters will soon arrange themselves.  Either both
parties will feel their unsuitability to each other and all intercourse
will cease, or everything that offends Elizabeth’s principles will pass
by her like idle wind, leaving no impression. Why, you yourself never
avoid a danger, but rather prove your strength by meeting it bravely."

"But, zounds!  I am a man, and can take care of myself!"

"And how do you know that Elizabeth hereafter will possess any support
except what she finds in herself, or have any sharer in the
responsibility of her actions?"

The forester cast a keen glance at his niece, whose earnest eyes were
riveted upon her father’s face.  He who was to her the embodiment of
wisdom and tenderness was echoing her own ideas, and the expression of
her beautiful face showed what she felt.

"Father," she said, "you shall see that you have not been mistaken—that
I am not weak.  I never could endure the trite image of the ivy and the
oak, and shall most certainly not illustrate it in my own person.  Be
comforted, uncle dear, and let me go down to the castle," she said,
smiling archly at the forester, whose forehead showed a deep frown of
decided irritation.  "If the people there are heartless, don’t suppose
for one moment that they will make a cannibal of me, and that I shall
eat my own heart up.  If they try to crush me with supercilious
arrogance, my own inner standard of action shall be so high that I can
look down in pity upon the harmless arrows of their scorn; and if they
are hypocrites, I shall turn with all the more delight to gaze into the
sunny face of truth, and be more deeply convinced of the ugliness of
their black masks."

"Fairly spoken, oh incomparable Elsie, and incontestably true,—if only
these same people would kindly hand you their masks to examine.  But you
will awake some day to find that what you have believed to be gold is
only the merest tinsel."

"No indeed, dear uncle; I will not foolishly allow myself to be imposed
upon.  Remember, we have had many trials since my childhood; they have
not been borne without teaching me some good lessons.  Certainly we must
all trust somewhat in our own strength, and I shall not despair for a
long time, even if upon my first experience of the world I plunge into
an abyss of Egyptian darkness, full of frightful monsters.  But look,
uncle dear, to what your zeal for my soul’s welfare has brought
you,—your coffee looks as though it could be skated upon, and your
meerschaum is at its last gasp."

The forester laughed, although the laugh was not from his heart.  And
while Elizabeth refilled his cup for him and handed him a lighted match,
he said to her: "You must not suppose that my ammunition is exhausted
because I say to you, ’Well, well, go and try it.’  I look forward to
the satisfaction of seeing the courageous chicken come flying back again
some day, only too thankful to creep under the sheltering wing of home."

"Aha!" laughed Frau Ferber, "you have no idea of the stern determination
in that little head.  But let us decide.  I advise Elizabeth to pay her
respects to the ladies to-morrow."

The next afternoon at about five o’clock Elizabeth descended the
mountain.  A broad, well-kept path led through the forest, which melted
imperceptibly into the park.  No gateway separated its carefully-tended
grounds, with their clumps of trees and feathery grass, from the wild
woods beyond.

Elizabeth had put on a fresh light muslin dress, and a small, white,
round straw hat.  Her father walked with her as far as the first meadow,
and then she went bravely on alone.  No human being crossed her path
during her long walk; it even seemed as though the trees rustled more
softly here in the leafy avenues and arcades than in the forest beyond,
and as if the birds modulated their notes more gently.  She started at
the noise of the crunching gravel beneath her tread as she approached
the castle, and wondered to find how timid the intense quiet had made
her.

At last she reached the principal entrance, and caught sight of a human
face.  It was a servant, who was busy in an imposing vestibule, but who
moved as noiselessly as possible.  Upon her request that he would
announce her to the baroness, he slipped up the broad staircase fronting
the hall door, at the foot of which stood two lofty statues, their white
limbs half concealed by the orange trees placed at their bases.  He soon
returned, and assuring her that she was expected, led the way quickly up
the stairs, scarcely touching the steps with the tips of his toes.

Elizabeth followed him with a beating heart.  It was not the grandeur
around her that oppressed her, it was the sensation of standing all
alone in this new untried sphere.  The servant conducted her through a
long corridor, past the open doors of several apartments, which,
furnished with extraordinary splendour, were heaped with such a
profusion of elegant trifles that a simple child, unused to such luxury,
would have supposed herself in a fancy-shop.

Her guide at last carefully opened a folding-door, and the young girl
entered.

Near the windows, opposite Elizabeth, upon a couch lay a lady in
apparently great suffering.  Her head was resting upon a white pillow,
and warm coverings were spread over her entire figure, which, in spite
of its wrappings, betrayed decided embonpoint.  In her hand was a
vinaigrette.

She raised her head slightly, so that Elizabeth could see her face
distinctly; it was round and pale, and at first sight by no means
unprepossessing.  Upon a closer view, the large blue eyes, that
glittered beneath light eyelashes and elevated eyebrows as light, looked
cold as ice, an expression in nowise softened by the supercilious lines
about her mouth and nostrils, and by a broad, rather projecting chin.

"Oh, Fräulein, it is very kind of you to come!" cried the baroness in a
weak voice, which nevertheless sounded harsh and cold, as she pointed to
a lounge near her, and motioned to Elizabeth, who courtesied politely,
to sit down.  "I have begged my cousin," she continued, "to arrange
matters with you in my room, as I am really too ill to take you to
hers."

This reception was certainly courteous, although there was a
considerable amount of condescension in the lady’s tone and manner.

Elizabeth sat down, and was just about to reply to the question how she
liked Thuringia, when the door was suddenly flung open, and a little
girl of about eight years of age ran in, holding in her arms a pretty
little dog, struggling and whining piteously.

"Ali is so naughty, mamma, he will not stay with me!" cried the child,
breathlessly, as she threw the dog upon the carpet.

"You have probably been teasing the little thing again, my child," said
her mother.  "But I cannot have you here, Bella; you make so much noise,
and I have a headache.  Go away to your room."

"Oh, it’s so stupid there!  Miss Mertens has forbidden me to play with
Ali, and gives me those tiresome old fables to learn; I cannot bear
them."

"Well, then, stay here; but be perfectly quiet."

The child passed close to Elizabeth with a stare and an examination of
her dress from top to toe, and mounted upon an embroidered footstool
before the mirror in order the easier to reach a vase of fresh flowers.
In a moment the tastefully arranged bouquet was thrown into the wildest
disorder by the little fingers, which busied themselves with sticking
single flowers into the delicately embroidered eyelet-holes of the
muslin curtain.  During this operation large drops of the water, in
which the flowers had been placed, dropped from the stems upon
Elizabeth’s dress, and she was obliged to move her chair, as there
seemed no likelihood that any stop would be put to the proceeding,
either by the little Vandal herself or by her mother’s prohibition.

Elizabeth had only had time to move, and to reply to the reiterated
question of the baroness, that she already felt very happy and, quite at
home in Thuringia, when the lady hastily arose from her reclining
posture, and, with an amiable smile upon her lips, nodded towards a
large portière, which was drawn noiselessly aside and on the threshold
of the door appeared the two young people whom Elizabeth had lately seen
through the spy-glass; but how strangely ill-assorted they now seemed to
be, as she saw them thus standing together.  Herr von Hollfeld, a
slender figure of great height, was obliged to bend very much on one
side to afford any support to the little hand that rested upon his arm.
The sylph-like little figure, which had lain upon the couch in the park,
was no taller than a child’s.  The exquisitely lovely head was sunk
between the shoulders, and the crutch in her left hand showed how
helpless was her crippled condition.

"Forgive me, dearest Helene," cried the baroness, as the pair entered,
"for troubling you to come to me; but, as you see, I am again the poor
wretched creature upon whom you are so ready to bestow your angelic pity
and kindness.  Fräulein Ferber," here she motioned towards Elizabeth, as
if presenting her, and the young girl rose, blushing, "has had the
kindness to come, in compliance with my note of yesterday."

"And, indeed, I am very grateful to you fordoing so!" said the little
lady, turning towards Elizabeth with a smile of great sweetness, and
holding out her hand.  Her glance measured the blushing girl before her
with an expression of surprise, and then rested upon the heavy golden
braids that appeared below the hat.  "Oh, yes," she said, "I have
already seen your lovely golden hair; yesterday as I was walking in the
forest you were leaning over a wall up there at the old castle."

Elizabeth blushed yet more deeply.

"But because you were there," continued the little lady, "I lost the
pleasure for which I had clambered up the height, the pleasure of
hearing you play, which I had enjoyed on the previous evening.  So young
and child-like, and yet with such a thorough appreciation of classic
music! it seems impossible!  You will make me very happy if you will
play often with me."

Something like a shade of displeasure flitted across the features of the
baroness, and a close observer might have noticed a scornful contraction
of her lips, but it was lost upon Elizabeth, whose attention was
entirely absorbed by interest in the unfortunate little lady whose
delicate silvery voice seemed to come fresh from the depths of her
heart.

In the mean time, Herr von Hollfeld pushed a chair for Fräulein von
Walde close to the lounge, and left the room without uttering a word.
But as he went out by the door directly opposite to Elizabeth, she could
not help noticing that he directed a last long look at her before slowly
closing it after him.  It disturbed her, for his expression was of so
strange a kind that she hurriedly glanced over her dress to see if
anything there could have struck him as odd or unsuitable.

For the last few moments Bella had been sitting upon the carpet, playing
with the dog.  It would have been a charming picture, if the whinings
and uneasy movements of the little animal had not betrayed that the
child was teasing it.  At each loud cry from the dog, Fräulein von Walde
started nervously, and the baroness said, mechanically, "Don’t tease him
so, Bella!"  At last, however, when the animal uttered a most piteous
howl, the mother raised her forefinger threateningly, and said, "I must
call Miss Mertens."

"Oh," replied the child contemptuously, "I don’t care for her!  She
doesn’t dare to punish me, for you told her she mustn’t."

At this moment, the portière was gently drawn aside, and a pale, faded
gentlewoman appeared.  She courtesied to the ladies, and said, timidly:
"The chaplain is waiting for Bella."

"But I won’t have a lesson to-day!" the little girl cried, taking a ball
of worsted from the table and throwing it at the speaker.

"Yes, my child, you must," said the baroness.  "Go with Miss Mertens,
and be a good little girl, Bella."

Bella, as though the matter affected her no more than it did Ali, who
had retreated behind the sofa, threw herself into an arm-chair and drew
her feet up under her. The governess was about to approach her, but at
an angry look from the baroness she retired to the door again.

This disgraceful scene would probably have lasted much longer if the
baroness had not brought up a _corps de reserve_ to her assistance in
the shape of a box of bonbons. The child, after she had crammed her
mouth and pockets full, left her seat, and, pushing aside the hand which
her governess held out to her, ran out of the room.

Elizabeth sat petrified with astonishment.  The delicate features of
Fräulein von Walde also showed evident disapproval; but she said
nothing.

The baroness sank back among her pillows.  "These governesses will be my
death," she sighed.  "If Miss Mertens could only learn how to treat,
judiciously, a child of Bella’s sensitive, nervous temperament!  She
never takes into account social position, temperament, and physical
constitution.  She would model all after the same pattern—the daughter
of a grocer or a peer; a finely-strung, sensitive nature, or a robust,
rude, day-labourer physique—’tis all the same thing to her.  Miss
Mertens is a disagreeable, pedantic schoolmistress; her English, too, is
detestable.  Heaven only knows in what mean little English county she
learned her native tongue!"

"But really, dear Amalie," said Fräulein von Walde, "I do not find her
English impure," and her voice sounded exquisitely kind and soothing.

"There you come with your never-failing angelic amiability; but,
although I do not understand English, I can always hear, in one instant,
how much more high-bred your accent is, my dear, when you are talking
with her."

Elizabeth inwardly doubted the value of this estimate, and Fräulein von
Walde blushed with a deprecating gesture.

But the baroness continued: "And Bella hears it, too; she will not open
her lips when her governess speaks English to her, and I cannot blame
her in the least; it provokes me excessively when this person blames the
child for obstinacy."

Under the influence of her irritation the voice of the baroness, which
had at first been very weak and suffering, had grown perceptibly
stronger.  She suddenly seemed to become aware of this herself, and
closed her eyes with an expression of great weariness.  "Oh heavens!"
she sighed, "my unfortunate nerves are too much for me.  I grow excited
instead of being kept quiet; these vexations are poison both to my mind
and body."

"I would advise you, Amalie, when you are as nervous and weak as you are
to-day, to leave Bella without a fear to Miss Mertens’ care.  I am
convinced that nothing can be better for her.  While I fully understand
your touching anxiety on the child’s account, I can confidently assure
you that Miss Mertens is far too gentle and cultivated a person to do
anything that would not conduce to her welfare.  You look quite worn
out," she continued, sympathizingly.  "We had better leave you alone;
Fräulein Ferber will certainly have the kindness to accompany me to my
room."

So saying she arose, and leaning over the baroness imprinted a gentle
kiss upon her cheek.  Then she laid her hand upon the arm of Elizabeth,
whom the baroness dismissed with a gracious nod, and left the apartment.

As they slowly walked through the various corridors, she told Elizabeth
that it would be a special delight to her brother, who was so far from
her, if she should resume her music.  He used to sit alone with her
listening to her playing for hours, until a nervous malady that had
attacked her had forced her to give up her beloved music for a long
time.  Now she felt much stronger, and her physician had also given his
consent; she would be very diligent, that she might surprise her brother
upon his return home.  Elizabeth then took leave.

She hastened with winged speed through the park, and along the path
which ascended the mountain.  In the forest glade just before the open
garden gate her parents were awaiting her return, and little Ernst ran
lovingly to meet her.  What an air of home breathed all around her here!
The greeting that she received showed how she had been missed; the
canary was singing merrily in his green embowered cage, the garden
laughed in beauty, and in the background, under the group of lindens
above the cool spring, the snowy table was spread for supper.

The Italian castle with all its splendour, its aristocratic air, and its
oppressive silence, only broken by the clamour of a spoiled child, faded
behind her like a dream of the night; and when she had imparted her
impressions of all that she had seen and heard to her parents, she
concluded with the words: "You have taught me, father dear, never to
form any settled judgment of others upon a slight acquaintance with
them, for such judgment runs a fair chance of being unjust, but what can
I do with my unruly fancy?  Whenever I think of the two ladies, I see in
imagination a lovely young weeping willow, whose elastic graceful
branches are the constant sport of a furious tempest."



                              CHAPTER VII.


From this time Elizabeth went regularly to Lindhof twice a week.  The
day following her first visit Baroness Lessen had arranged the hours for
the lessons in a very courteous note, and had insisted upon a most
generous compensation for Elizabeth’s time.  These lessons soon proved a
source of much enjoyment.  Helene von Walde, owing to the absence of all
practice for many years, was very deficient in technical knowledge and
capacity, and could not be compared at all with Elizabeth; but she
played with much feeling, her taste was refined and cultivated, and she
was entirely free from the wretched habit, common to most dilettanti, of
depreciating whatever lay beyond her reach.  Baroness Lessen was never
present during the music lessons, and therefore the moments of rest
gradually became especially delightful to Elizabeth.  At such times a
servant usually brought in some light refreshments.  Helene leaned back
in her armchair, and Elizabeth seated herself upon a cushion at her
feet, and listened enchanted to the flute-like silvery voice of the
unfortunate lady as she recounted many an experience of the past.  The
image of the absent brother here played a principal part.  She was never
weary of telling of his care and thoughtfulness for her, of how,
although he was many years her senior, he was continually studying how
to gratify and humour her childish whims and peculiarities.  She related
how he had purchased Lindhof only because, upon a visit which she had
formerly made in Thuringia, she had experienced great benefits from the
pure Thuringian air; everything showed how dearly he loved her.

One afternoon, when they had been practising unusually long, a servant
entering announced a visitor.

"Stay and drink tea with me this afternoon," said Fräulein von Walde to
Elizabeth.  "My physician is here from L——, and several ladies from the
neighbourhood have just arrived; I will send some one up to the castle
that your mother may not be anxious about you.  My tête-à-tête with the
doctor will not last long, and I shall soon be with you again."

And so saying she left the room.  Scarcely ten minutes had elapsed
before the door opened and Fräulein von Walde entered, leaning upon the
arm of a gentleman whom she presented to Elizabeth as Doctor Fels, from
L——. He was tall, with an intellectual countenance, and as soon as he
heard Elizabeth’s name he entered into a lively conversation with her,
comically assuring her that his own surprise and horror, as well as that
of the entire respectable population of L——, had really known no bounds
when it was reported that old Castle Gnadeck had received within its
crumbling walls inhabitants of flesh and blood.

Suddenly there was a rustling in the antechamber, and upon the threshold
of the door appeared two figures of rather singular exterior.  Their
great resemblance of feature plainly revealed their relationship as
mother and daughter.  Both wore dark dresses, which, contrary to the
prevailing mode, fell limp and close around them, large scarfs of black
woollen stuff, and brown, round straw hats, tied, in the case of the
mother, with black ribbon, while the daughter had a lilac bow beneath
her chin.

Helene von Walde received the ladies courteously, presenting them as
Frau and Fräulein Lehr, and Elizabeth afterwards learned that, residing
in L——, they spent their summers in lodgings in the village of Lindhof.

Immediately after their entrance the Baroness Lessen appeared, leaning
upon her son’s arm, and accompanied by a gentleman who was addressed by
those present as Herr Möhring, the chaplain.

The baroness was dressed in dark silk, but with the greatest elegance,
and made a most imposing appearance. She paused for an instant upon the
threshold of the door, and seemed to be disagreeably surprised at
Elizabeth’s presence.  She measured her with a haughty look of inquiry,
and replied to her courtesy by a scarcely perceptible inclination of the
head.

Helene noticed the look, and approaching her said in a soothing whisper,
"I kept my little favourite with me to-day—I had already detained her so
long."

This excuse did not escape Elizabeth’s ear.  It offended her, and she
would willingly have flown away through the window near which she was
standing, had not pride induced her to stay and brave the arrogance of
the baroness.  The great lady seemed entirely pacified by the
explanation of what had occurred without her consent. She put her arm
around Helene, stroked her curls tenderly, and said a hundred caressing
things to her.  Then she requested those present to follow her to the
adjoining room, where tea was prepared.  She did the honours of the
tea-table, and discovered a talent, by no means to be despised, for
leading and carrying on the conversation. With admirable tact, she
contrived always to make Helene the centre of attention without in the
least wounding the self-love of the others.

Elizabeth sat silent between the doctor and Fräulein Lehr.  The
conversation possessed little interest for her, inasmuch as it related
to people and circumstances entirely strange to her.  Frau von Lehr had
much to say, and seemed perfectly instructed in every matter, private or
public, that had taken place during the last few weeks among the people
living around Lindhof.  She spoke in a peculiarly mournful, suppressed
tone of voice, and at the conclusion of the rehearsal of each exciting
piece of news cast down her eyes and inclined her head with great
apparent humility and resignation, as though she were a lamb suffering
for the sins of the world.  Now and then she drew forth from a huge
reticule which she carried a small bottle of rose-water, with which she
moistened her eyes, as they seemed weak with perpetual casting towards
heaven.

What a contrast between her and Helene’s madonna face, as it leaned
against the dark plush of the lounge, reminding Elizabeth more than ever
of the water-lily lying dreamily with its snow-white leaves upon the
dark surface of the lake!  To-day there was a strange glow upon the
delicate features.  It was not that all traces of suffering had
vanished, but there was a peaceful light of content in her eyes, and a
happy smile wreathed the pale lips as often as she took up from her lap
the bouquet of rosebuds which Herr von Hollfeld had presented to her
when he entered.  He sat beside her, and sometimes joined in the
conversation.  As soon as he opened his lips the ladies were silent,
listening with the greatest attention, although his talk was anything
but fluent, and, as Elizabeth soon discovered, betrayed not the
slightest originality of mind.

He was a very handsome man, of about four and twenty.  There was great
repose in the finely-cut features, which at first seemed to indicate
manliness and strength of character; but any such impression which their
regularity might have produced was effaced by a searching glance into
his eyes.  Those eyes, although they were large and faultless in shape,
had no depth whatever, and never lighted up with that meteoric flash
which so often reveals the man of intellect, even when he does not
speak.  Its want can be atoned for by that mild glow which speaks of
deep sensibility, and which, although it does not instantly impress us,
gradually attracts and enchains us.  But there was nothing of this to be
discovered in Herr von Hollfeld’s fine blue orbs.

This sentence, however, would have been echoed by but few, for it was
the present fashion, especially at the court of L——, to regard Herr von
Hollfeld as a prodigy, whose silence gave warrant of unfathomable depths
of intellect and sensibility,—in which opinion the ladies in and around
Lindhof most cordially joined, as was illustrated by the conduct of Frau
von Lehr’s very stout daughter, who leaned forward, directly across the
modestly shrinking Elizabeth, and listened, as if to the enunciation of
a new gospel, whenever Herr von Hollfeld opened his lips.  And she, too,
appeared quite willing to allow her light to shine.

"Were you not charmed with the lovely sermons with which Herr Möhring
edified us during the holidays?" she asked, turning to Elizabeth.

"I regret not having heard them," she answered.

"Then you did not attend divine service?"

"Oh, yes!  I went with my parents to the village church at Lindhof."

"Indeed!" said the Baroness Lessen, turning for the first time toward
Elizabeth, and smiling sarcastically. "And were you greatly edified at
the village church at Lindhof?"

"Most truly was I, gracious lady," Elizabeth quietly replied, looking
calmly into the contemptuous eyes that were turned upon her.  "I was
deeply affected by the simple, earnest words of the preacher.  His
discourse was not delivered in the church, but under the trees outside.
When the service was about to begin it was evident that the little
church could not contain the crowd of worshippers, and an altar was
constructed under God’s free sky. Such altars might often be erected."

"Unfortunately, they often are," said Herr Möhring, who until then had
spoken little, contenting himself with confirming all Frau von Lehr’s
remarks by an amiable smile or an assenting nod.  Now, however, his
broad, shiny face grew purple, and, turning to the baroness, he
continued, contemptuously: "Yes, most gracious lady, it is only too
true; the old idols are being replaced in the sacred groves, and we
shall have druids sacrificing to them beneath the oaken shades."

"Really, that never occurred to me.  With the aid of my wildest
imagination I should never have dreamed at the time that I was assisting
at a heathen sacrifice," rejoined Elizabeth.  She smiled, but continued
with serious warmth: "It seemed to me, on that glorious spring morning,
as the tones of the organ streamed forth from the open doors and windows
of the church, and that reverend old man spoke in such devout tones, as
it did when I entered the temple of God for the first time in my life."

"You seem to have an excellent memory, Fräulein," Frau von Lehr here
remarked: "How old were you at that time, if I may ask?"

"Eleven years old."

"Eleven years old!  Oh, heavens! how can such a thing be possible?"
cried the lady in holy horror.  "How possible with Christian parents!
Why, my children were familiar with the house of God from their earliest
years, as you can testify, my dear doctor."

"Yes indeed, madame," he replied with great gravity. "I remember that
you ascribed the attack of croup, by which you lost your little son at
two years of age, to a couple of hours in the cold church."

Elizabeth looked up quite terrified at her neighbour. The doctor had
joined in the conversation hitherto only by throwing in a sarcastic word
here and there very drily, which amused Elizabeth greatly, inasmuch as
he was always met by a reproving glance from the baroness. When the
young girl began to speak she had not noticed him any more than had the
others, whose entire attention had been occupied with the wretched
heathen child, so that no one had observed how he was bursting with
inward laughter at the daring replies of the young stranger, and their
effect upon those present.  His answer appeared thoughtless and cruel to
Elizabeth; but he must have known his companions well, for Frau von Lehr
was not at all offended, but replied with great unction: "Yes, the Lord
took the pious little angel to himself; he was too good for this world;"
then, turning to Elizabeth, she said: "And so you were shut out from the
Lord’s kingdom for the first eleven years of your life?"

"Only from His temple, gracious lady.  As a little child I was
instructed in the history of Christianity, and with my first thoughts
were blended ideas of God’s wisdom and love.  I cannot remember the time
when I did not hear of them from my father; but it is a firm principle
of his never to allow very young children to go to church; he says they
are entirely incapable of appreciating the importance and meaning of
what they see and hear there; the sermon, which must be entirely beyond
their comprehension, wearies them, and they conceive a dislike to the
place.  My little brother Ernst is seven years old, and has never yet
been to church."

"Oh, happy father, who has the courage to frame and execute such plans
for his children’s culture!" exclaimed Doctor Fels.

"Well, what hinders you from letting your children grow up without care,
like mushrooms?" asked the baroness with malice.

"That I can readily tell you in a very few words, most gracious lady.  I
have six children, and cannot afford to have masters for them at home.
My profession prevents me from teaching them myself, and, therefore, I
am obliged to send them to the public school and subject them to its
laws, which require them to attend church regularly.  Just as little can
I carry out my views with regard to another subject,—the putting of the
Bible into the hands of young children.  The Sacred Book, which contains
the holy principles that should regulate all our thoughts and actions,
and, as such, should be regarded with veneration by the young,—does not
belong in their hands at a time when childhood, with rare exceptions,
seeks amusement instead of instruction, and is always curious to
investigate whatever is forbidden and mysterious. And, therefore, I
know,—and any observant teacher will admit,—that children who devote
themselves constantly to the perusal of the Bible, for which they are
commended by thoughtless parents, do not always search for the text of
the last sermon,—but read much else beside,—often meeting with words and
expressions which a careful mother would guard them from hearing at
home, but whose significance is often made only too clear by their
intercourse with other children not so carefully educated, left to the
charge of ignorant and vulgar servants. And suppose, even, that they
seek explanation of certain words and phrases from their mothers only;
an intelligent mother will always know, ’tis true, how to reply to their
queries, but she must, most certainly, forbid them the use of many
expressions which they find in the Bible,—let us recall to mind the Song
of Solomon,—and so the first seeds of doubt and unbelief are sown in the
childish mind, which is wanting in the strength that only moral culture
and riper understanding can give."

Here the Baroness Lessen arose with a gesture of impatience.  Upon her
full cheeks, usually so pale, two round, crimson spots had appeared, a
sign to all who knew her, of great irritation.  Fräulein von Walde, who
had been a passive listener to the conversation, also arose, took her
cousin’s arm, and, leading her to the window, asked whether she would
not like to hear a little music from Elizabeth and herself.

This propitiatory proposal was received with a gracious inclination of
the head,—the more especially as the baroness did not feel herself quite
equal to the doctor in a war of words; and, as everyone must have seen
her indignation, she was quite willing to have it supposed that the
beautiful, soothing music was the cause of her refraining from
annihilating the impious defamer of her holy zeal, for she was
perpetually presenting Bibles to poor children.

She took her seat in a windowed recess, and looked out upon the
landscape, upon which the first shadows of approaching evening were
falling.  Her look was cold and cruel,—an expression often seen in a
certain kind of light-blue eye, shaded by white eyelashes.  The corners
of her mouth were drawn down, a sign of great displeasure, which did not
vanish even when Schubert’s Erlking, arranged for four hands, was
performed in a masterly manner by Helene and Elizabeth.  The waves of
melody broke against that breast unfelt, as the waves of the ocean upon
a rocky shore.

When the last chord died away, the ladies arose from the instrument, and
the doctor, who had stood immovably, listening, hastened towards them.
His eyes sparkled as he thanked them for a treat which, as he assured
them, was richer than any he had enjoyed for years.  Here Fräulein von
Lehr’s face grew scarlet, and her mother cast a malicious glance at the
unlucky enthusiast.  Had not her daughter the preceding winter played
several times in public in L——, for the benefit of some charitable
association, and had he not attended every concert?  However, the doctor
did not appear to notice the storms that he was calling down upon his
head.  He discussed Schubert’s compositions in a manner that manifested
refined perception and a thorough knowledge of his subject.

Suddenly there was a harsh clash of chords upon the piano; it seemed as
though fingers of bone were belabouring the keys.  They looked round
with a start.  The chaplain was seated at the instrument, with head
thrown back and inflated nostrils.  He raised his hands for a second
attack, and began a beautiful choral, which his horrible playing
converted into torture for sensitive ears. Still it might have been
endured, when, to Elizabeth’s horror, he began to sing in a nasal,
snuffling tone;—that was too much.  The doctor seized his hat, and bowed
to Helene and the baroness, the latter only vouchsafing him a slight
wave of the hand in token of dismissal, without turning her face from
the window.

An incomparable expression of humour hovered upon the doctor’s features.
He pressed Elizabeth’s hand cordially as he departed, and took leave of
the rest with a courteous bow.

As soon as the door closed behind him, the baroness arose with
excitement and approached Helene, who was sitting in a corner of the
sofa.

"It is intolerable!" she cried, and her sharp voice sounded muffled, as
if suppressed anger were choking her, while her searching gaze rested
full upon the little lady, who looked up to her almost timidly.  "How
can you, Helene, here in your own house, hear our rank, our dignity as
women,—yes, even our holy of holies, which we are bound so faithfully to
defend,—assailed so grossly without one word of reply?"

"But, dear Amalie, I cannot see."

"You will not see, child, in your inexhaustible patience and
long-suffering, that this doctor insults me whenever he can.  Well, I
must submit to that, for this is not my house, and besides, as a
Christian, I would rather endure wrong than resort to retaliation.  But
this submission must cease when the sacred claims of the Lord are
assailed.  Here we should strive and struggle, and not grow weary.  Is
it not actually blasphemous for this man to seize his hat, and, _sans
façon_, take his departure from the room while our hearts are being
stirred and elevated by the lofty thoughts which the truest form of
music, the choral, can alone express?"

She had spoken louder and louder, until she did not perceive that her
voice was entirely destroying the effect of a touching phrase, just
delivered by the unwearied chaplain, whose efforts had not been
intermitted for an instant.

"Ah, you must not blame the doctor for that," said Fräulein von Walde.
"His time is precious; most likely he has a patient to see in L——; he
was about to leave just before we began to play."

"While that heathenish Erlking was going on, the worthy man entirely
forgot his patients," the baroness interrupted contemptuously.  "Well, I
must submit. Unfortunately, in our degenerate days, the scoffers of our
faith have gained the upper hand."

"But, for heaven’s sake, Amalie, what do you want me to do?  You know
only too well that Fels is indispensable to me.  He is the only
physician who knows how to relieve me when I am in great suffering,"
cried Helene, and her eyes filled with tears, while her cheeks were
suffused with a blush of irritation.

"I thought, Fräulein Helene,"—began Frau von Lehr, who had hitherto sat
in her corner silently, and on the watch, like a spider in its web,—"I
thought that the welfare of our souls should be our first consideration;
care for our poor bodies should, in my estimation, rank second in our
view.  There are many other skilful physicians in L——, with as great a
reputation for learning as Dr. Fels enjoys.  Believe me, my dear, it
often gives great pain to our Christian friends in L—— to know that a
scoffer, an infidel, is admitted to your confidence as your friend and
adviser."

"Even if I consented to sacrifice myself so far," replied Helene, "as to
employ another physician, I dare not take such a step without first
obtaining my brother’s consent; and I know that I should meet with
determined opposition there, for Rudolph is warmly attached to the
doctor, and puts entire confidence in him."

"Yes, more’s the pity!" cried the baroness.  "I have never been able to
comprehend that weakness in Rudolph’s character.  Doctor Fels imposes
upon him utterly with his seeming frankness, which might better be
called insolence.  Well, I wash my hands of the affair, only for the
future I must decline any visits from the doctor, and entreat you, my
dear Helene, to excuse me when he is with you."

Fräulein von Walde made no reply.  She arose and looked sadly around the
room for an instant, as if missing something.  It seemed to Elizabeth
that her eyes sought Herr von Hollfeld, who had left the room
unperceived a short time before.

The baroness took up her lace shawl, and Frau von Lehr and her daughter
prepared for departure.  Both paid several compliments to the chaplain,
who had finished his performance, and was standing at the piano rubbing
his hands with embarrassment; and then all took leave of Helene, who
replied to their good-nights in a tone of great exhaustion.

As Elizabeth descended the stairs she saw Herr von Hollfeld standing in
a retired, dimly-lighted corridor. During his mother’s outbreak of anger
he had sat quietly turning over the leaves of a book, never joining in
the conversation by word or look.  His conduct had disgusted Elizabeth,
who had hoped that he would have stood by Helene and silenced his mother
by a few serious words.  She was still more displeased when she noticed
that he was steadily regarding herself while he was apparently occupied
with his book.  He might easily have seen her displeasure in her face,
but he continued to stare most insultingly.  She felt herself at last
blush deeply beneath his gaze, and she was the more provoked at feeling
this, as the same thing had occurred against her will several times
before.  It was remarkable that she never went home from Castle Lindhof
without chancing to meet Herr von Hollfeld either in the hall, upon the
stairs, or stepping suddenly from behind a tree in the park.  Why these
meetings at last became painfully embarrassing to her she could not have
explained to herself.  She thought no more about it, and usually forgot
him entirely before she reached her home.

He was standing now in the dark passage.  A black slouched hat was
pulled down over his face, and his summer coat had been exchanged for a
light cloak.  He seemed to be waiting for some one, and as soon as
Elizabeth had reached the last stair approached her hastily, as though
about to address her.

At the same moment Frau von Lehr and her daughter appeared on the
landing above.

"Aha, Herr von Hollfeld," cried the elder lady, "are you going to walk?"

The young man’s features, which had seemed to Elizabeth strikingly
animated, instantly assumed a quiet expression of entire indifference.

"I have just come in from the garden," he said negligently, "where I
have been refreshing myself in the soft night air.  Attend Fräulein
Ferber home," he said authoritatively to a servant who issued from the
servants’ room with a lantern, and then with an obeisance to the ladies,
he retired.

"How glad I am," said Elizabeth, as an hour later she was sitting at her
mother’s bedside relating the events of the afternoon, "that to-morrow
will be Sunday.  In our dear little simple village church I shall forget
all the disagreeable impressions which the last few hours have left upon
my mind.  I never could have believed that I could have listened to a
choral without being moved to aspiration and devotion.  But to-day I was
really angry, when, amid the clatter of the teacups, and after an hour
passed in talk certainly not inspired by love of our neighbour, I
suddenly heard those tones which have always been sacred to hours of
meditation and serious thought. Behind all this religious zeal there
lies hidden boundless arrogance,—that I saw clearly to-day; but if
others feel as I do, these people will scarcely make many proselytes.
Acknowledge, mother dear, that I am not naturally antagonistic, and yet
to-day I felt for the first time in my life an irresistible desire to
defy and contradict."

And then she spoke of Herr von Hollfeld and his strange behaviour in the
hall, adding that she could not understand what he could possibly have
wished to say to her.

"Never mind, we will not puzzle ourselves about that," said Frau Ferber.
"If he should ever propose to accompany you on your way home, do not
fail to reject such an offer peremptorily.  Do you hear, Elizabeth?"

"But, dearest mother, what are you thinking of?" cried the girl with a
laugh.  "The skies will fall before such a thing happens.  If he could
allow Frau Lehr and her daughter, who consider themselves persons of
distinction, to go home without an escort, he will hardly condescend to
notice my insignificant self."



                             CHAPTER VIII.


About a week after the arrival of his relatives the forester had
published an edict in his domicile, which, as he said, had been hailed
with joy by his prime minister, and in accordance with which the duty of
taking their mid-day meal every Sunday at the Lodge was imposed upon the
Ferber family.  Those were joyous days for Elizabeth.

Long before the first sound of the church bell they usually set out for
church.  In her fluttering white dress, her soul filled with the
consciousness of youth and happiness, convinced that such a clear,
lovely day, must bring joy with it, Elizabeth walked beside her parents,
and looked eagerly for the moment when the round gilt ball upon the
village church tower at Lindhof emerged from the waves of green in the
valley below them; then from the dark and silent forest paths to the
right and left, groups of church-goers from the different hamlets around
would appear and join them with kindly greetings, until, while the bells
were ringing, the whole assembly arrived in the meadow just before the
church, where the forester was usually awaiting them.  He welcomed them
from a distance with sparkling eyes and a flourish of his hat in the
air.  In every movement of his tall figure, in his whole bearing, might
be read that inflexible integrity which never bowed to the mighty ones
of the earth, that expression of manly power and force of character from
which we expect to see quick resolve and bold action result, but which
never suggests the tender emotions of a sensitive nature.  Elizabeth
declared that it was always a touching surprise when a single gentle
star beamed forth at night from a sky covered with clouds, and that the
sudden look of melting tenderness that occasionally illumined her
uncle’s frank, determined countenance, affected her in like manner.  And
she had many an opportunity of observing this change of expression, for
she had grown to be the apple of his eye.  He had never had any
children, and now poured forth all the paternal affection of which his
large, warm heart was capable, upon his brother’s lovely child, who, he
felt with pride, resembled himself in many points of character, although
in her they were transfigured by the charm of feminine delicacy and
refinement.

And she repaid his affection with the clinging love and filial care of a
daughter.  She soon discovered how to make many an addition to his
domestic comfort, and where Sabina’s penetration or capacity were at
fault, she effected many an improvement, with so much tact that the old
servant was never offended, whilst a new life opened upon her uncle,
surrounded by Elizabeth’s tender care.

On the return from church, her uncle led Elizabeth by the hand, "just
like a little school-girl," as she said, and, indeed, it looked like it.
The excellent sermon which they had just heard, furnished matter for
abundant conversation and exchange of newly-developed thoughts and
sentiments; while the birds twittered and sang as though determined to
vindicate their right to speak here, and the golden-green sunshine came
quivering through the tops of the trees, flecking their heads as they
passed with its transfiguring light.

At the farthest end of the long dim forest aisle, for it was a very
narrow path which led from the Lodge to the village of Lindhof, a little
point of light indicated the meadow, in the middle of which stood the
old house. With every step the picture grew more distinct, until at last
they could distinguish Sabina waiting for them at the door, shading her
eyes with the corner of her white apron, and retreating into the house
when she saw them, that she might take her stand behind the soup tureen,
which was smoking upon the table beneath the beeches, where she
fulfilled her duty with the air of a general upon a rampart.

But to-day Sabina had prepared a particularly delicious repast, for in
the centre of the table was piled a huge crimson pyramid, the first
wood-strawberries of the year, hailed with delight by little Ernst, and
by full-grown Elizabeth too.  The forester laughed at the enthusiasm of
the big and little child, and declared that he had a surprise to offer
as well as Sabina,—he would have the horse harnessed and take Elizabeth
to L——, where he had a little business to attend to,—a long-promised
pleasure. The young girl accepted his proposal with delight.

At table Elizabeth related the occurrences of the previous evening.  Her
uncle shook with laughter.

"The doctor’s a bold fellow," he said, still laughing; "but ’tis of no
use, he has drunk his last cup of tea at Lindhof."

"Impossible, uncle,—it would be outrageous!" cried Elizabeth, earnestly.
"Fräulein von Walde would never permit such a thing, she will resist
with all her might."

"Well," he said, "I wish we could question the little lady to-day with
regard to her sentiments towards the doctor, and you would see.  How can
a strong will inhabit such a frail dwelling?  That imperious woman will
soon influence her, and there is none to resist, for ’Heaven is high,
and the Czar afar,’ as the Russians say.  We know, Sabina, that many a
strange thing has happened since the rule of the baroness began, eh?"

"Ah, yes indeed, Herr Forester!" replied the old woman, who was just
putting a dish upon the table.  "When I think of poor Schneider,—she is
the widow of a day-labourer in the village," she said, turning to the
others; "she always worked hard to make both ends meet, and no one could
say a word against her, but she had four children to feed, and lived
from hand to mouth.  And matters went badly with her last harvest, and
she had nothing to give her children to eat, so she was driven to do
what was wrong, and took an apron full of potatoes from a splendid field
belonging to the castle.  But the overseer, Linke, who happened to be
standing behind a tree not far off, saw her, sprang out upon her
instantly, and knocked her down.  Even if he had stopped there ’twould
not have been so bad, but he kicked her brutally as she lay upon the
ground.  I had been to Lindhof, and as I was passing beneath the cherry
trees near the village, on my way home, I saw some one lying upon the
ground,—it was the poor woman, bleeding profusely, and with not a soul
near her.  She could not move, so I called some people, who helped me to
carry her home.  The Herr Forester was absent, but I was sure of his
permission, and so I nursed and tended her as well as I could.  The
people in the village were furious at the overseer,—but what could they
do?  There was some talk of arresting him, but it all came to nothing.
Linke is one of the saints, he is the baroness’ right-hand man, turns up
his eyes, and does everything in the name of the Lord.  It must never
get abroad that such a pious man could behave so inhumanly, and so the
baroness drove to town every day, and was wonderfully condescending,
and, in short, the story was hushed up, and the poor woman, who has
never entirely recovered, had to get along as best she might, for
neither she nor her children ever had a bite or a drop from the castle
all the while that she was sick.  Ah! yes, the overseer and the
baroness’ old waiting-maid make a hard time of it for the poor people,
they keep a close watch to see who misses prayers or chapel over there,
and they have been the means of depriving many an honest man of work at
the castle."

"Don’t say any more about it," said the forester.  "I cannot relish my
food when I think of these things, and our pleasant Sunday, to which I
look forward all the week, must have no other shadows upon it than those
cast by the white, fleecy clouds up there."

As soon as the meal was concluded the forester’s modest little equipage
made its appearance.  He handed in Elizabeth, and seated himself by her
side.  As she nodded a farewell to the others, she glanced up at the
house, and started with actual terror at the eyes which were gazing down
upon her from a window in the upper story.  ’Tis true, the head
disappeared instantly, but Elizabeth had time to recognize the mute
Bertha, and to convince herself that she was the object of that look of
rage and hate, although she could not divine its cause.  Until now
Bertha had withdrawn herself entirely from all intercourse with the
Ferber family.  She never appeared when Elizabeth was at the Lodge.  She
took her Sunday dinner alone in her own room, and the forester allowed
her to please herself in the matter.  He had no desire to establish any
relation between the two girls.

Frau Ferber had once made an attempt to address the unfortunate girl.
Her gentle feminine nature could not believe that mere wilfulness was
the spring of Bertha’s extraordinary behaviour.  She suspected the
existence of some deeper cause, perhaps of some secret grief, which made
her indifferent to her surroundings, or rendered her so irritable that
she chose to remain silent rather than be engaged in perpetual strife.
A gentle word from her, a kindly advance on her side, would, she hoped,
unseal Bertha’s lips; but she succeeded no better than Elizabeth had
done.  She was even so outraged by the girl’s manner that she strictly
forbade all further attempt at intercourse with her upon Elizabeth’s
part.

After a charming drive, Elizabeth and her uncle reached their
destination.

L—— was certainly a small town, and bore the unmistakable impress of a
small town, although the court resided there from the appearance of the
first primrose to the fall of the last autumn leaf, and its inhabitants
took the greatest pains to adapt themselves, in their social life, to
the manners and customs of a large Capital.  But the loud, uneasy
creaking of the machinery of a most complicated domestic economy could
not be drowned by the rustle of the most flowing and elegant crinoline.
The honest townsfolk, who left their dwellings, with doors wide open, in
perfect safety, to earn their daily bread in the little uneven streets,
or in the strips of meadow land between their houses, fell as far short
of being peacocks as did the ducks, that daily delighted to swim in the
little brook running directly through the town, of becoming stately
swans.

The situation of the place was undeniably delightful. In the centre of a
not very spacious valley, nestled at the foot of an eminence whose
summit was crowned by the royal castle and domain, it lay buried in the
dark, rich green of avenues of lindens, and surrounded in spring by the
lovely blossoms of countless orchards.

The forester took Elizabeth to the house of an assessor, one of his
friends.  She was to wait for him there until he had concluded his
business.  Although made cordially welcome by the lady of the house, she
would gladly have turned round and followed her retreating uncle,—for
she found herself, to her vexation, in the midst of a large assemblage
of ladies.  Her hostess informed her that, in honour of her husband’s
birthday, she had gotten up a set of tableaux from mythology, to
rehearse which was the cause of the present gathering.  At the
coffee-table, in a pleasantly-furnished apartment, eight or ten ladies
were seated, already dressed in mythological costume, and upon the
arrival of the stranger, they measured her with glances that seemed to
penetrate every plait and fold of her simple attire.

All the goddesses, without exception, had submitted themselves, in their
costume, to the sceptre of the royal fair of France, and wore their
white robes over abundant crinoline, which was then the fashion, "For,"
said Ceres, a trig little blonde, upon whose flushed brow a whole
harvest was waving, "one looks so forlorn without crinoline;" and how
else could her dress have supported the huge bunches of wheat ears and
red poppies with which it was adorned?  How Dame Ceres had managed this
difficulty in her days of splendour was a problem which no one took the
pains to solve.

Perhaps the artificial light of the evening would be favourable to the
remarkable arrangement of some of the toilets, but now the bright
sunlight illuminated and revealed with cruel sincerity every pasted bit
of gold-paper, every paper-muslin scarf that should have represented
satin, and every basting stitch in the improvised tunics. Several
old-fashioned paste shoe-buckles glittered in the girdle of Venus; and
the silver crescent upon the forehead of Diana showed the blotting-paper
behind it at every movement of the head which it adorned.

The hostess went from one to the other of her guests, exerting herself
for the entertainment of all.

"What a shame!" she said, entering the room after a short absence, "Frau
Räthin Wolf has sent to say that her Adolph cannot come to-night; he is
in bed with a fever.  As soon as the note came, I ran across myself to
Doctor Fels; but there is no doing anything with that man upon the
subject of his children’s education.  He repeated his former refusal,
and so ungraciously, that I am quite outraged.  He says that he
considers any part in such entertainments with grown-up people entirely
unfit for half-grown boys like his Moritz, who get their heads filled
with a sense of their own importance, their minds distracted from their
lessons,—and Heaven knows what besides.  He told me, most insolently,
that he thinks I should have done better this evening to have provided
my suffering husband—suffering, indeed, he is as lively as a fish in the
sea, except for a touch of rheumatism—with a supper that he liked, than
to have worried him with such buffoonery, which will only deprive him of
his usual comfort and night’s rest, and do no living creature any
earthly good."

"How coarse! how rude!  He is always pretending to be a connoisseur of
art, and doesn’t understand it one whit better than my little finger,"
was heard from one and the other of the ladies.

"Let my experience console you, dear Adele," said Ceres.  "Were it not
that my husband cannot dispense with his services as a physician, Fels
should never darken my doors again.  When I had that children’s
fancy-ball last winter, which was acknowledged to be a great success, he
refused my invitation to his children; and what do you think he said to
me, when I begged him to allow his little girls to come,—’Does it really
give you pleasure to see such monkey-tricks?’  I never will forgive
him!"

Elizabeth suddenly seemed to see the doctor’s intellectual face, with
its searching glance, sarcastic smile, and the slightly contemptuous
play of its finely-formed lips.  She laughed inwardly at his rude
replies; but she was struck at the same time by the depressing thought,
how hard it is for a man to live up to his convictions.

"But what would you have, Frau Director?" broke in Flora, a delicate,
languishing figure with a pretty but very pale face, who had hitherto
been entirely occupied in smiling upon her flower-decked reflection in
an opposite glass.  "He has treated us no better.  Two years ago he told
my father and mother to their faces, that it was not only folly but want
of principle—just think of such a thing!—to allow me to go into society
so young, with my constitution.  Papa and mamma were furious,—as if they
did not know best about their own children!  It was well that we all
knew what prompted such tender care on his part.  His youngest sister
was then still unmarried, and, naturally enough, she was by no means
pleased to see young girls usurping her place in society. Papa would
have dismissed the doctor upon the spot, but mamma depends upon his
prescriptions.  Well, they paid no attention to his advice, and, as you
see, I still live."

The silence of the assemblage confirmed Elizabeth’s conviction that the
triumph which Flora spoke of was a very doubtful one, and that this
delicate creature, with her narrow chest and pallid face, would still
have to atone severely for the physician’s neglected counsel.

Suddenly a barouche slowly passing down the street attracted the ladies
to the window.  Where she was sitting Elizabeth could plainly see the
object of the universal curiosity.  In the elegant vehicle sat the
Baroness Lessen and Fräulein von Walde.  The latter had her face turned
towards the assessor’s house, and she looked as if she were diligently
counting the windows of the lower stories.  Her cheeks were slightly
flushed, always a sign in her of inward agitation.  The baroness, on the
contrary, was leaning back negligently among the cushions, and appeared
to be entirely unconscious of everything around.

"The Lindhof ladies," said Ceres.  "But, Heavens! what is the meaning of
that?  They are entirely ignoring Doctor Fels’ windows.  There stands
the doctor’s wife.  Ha, ha! what a long face; she tried to bow, but the
ladies have no eyes in the backs of their heads."

Elizabeth looked across at the opposite house.  A very beautiful woman,
with a lovely fair-haired child in her arms, was standing at the window.
There certainly was a puzzled look in her pleasant blue eyes, but the
delicate oval of her face was not in the least lengthened. Attracted by
the movements of the child, who stretched out his little arms towards
the fantastic heads at the windows of the assessor’s house, she looked
across, and, archly smiling, nodded to the ladies, who kissed their
hands, and replied to her salutation by all sorts of tender pantomime.

"Strange!" said the hostess; "what could the ladies mean by passing by
her house without nodding to her? They never went by without stopping
before to-day. Frau Fels would stand on the carriage-step for ever so
long, and Fräulein von Walde seemed to like her so much—the baroness,
’tis true, often made a wry face.  It certainly is very strange; but we
must wait and see what the future will bring forth."

"Herr von Hollfeld must have stayed at Odenberg. He was with the ladies
this morning when the carriage passed," said Diana.

"How will Fräulein von Walde endure the separation?" asked Flora, with a
sneer.

"Why, is there anything in that quarter?" asked the hostess.

"Don’t you know that, child?" cried Ceres.  "We can’t tell yet what his
sentiments are, but beyond all doubt she loves him passionately.  In
fact, it is almost certain that the love is all on one side; for how can
such an unfortunate cripple inspire affection,—and in such a cold nature
as Hollfeld’s, which has been unmoved by the greatest beauties?"

"Yes, true enough," said Venus, with a glance at the mirror, which
Flora, in spite of her emaciation, had entirely monopolized.  "But
Fräulein von Walde is enormously rich!"

"Oh, he can have the wealth at a cheaper rate," said Flora.  "He is said
to be heir to the sister and brother too."

"Oh, the brother!" rejoined Venus.  "He had better not rely upon his
chances there.  Herr von Walde is a man in the prime of life, and may
marry at any time."

"Nonsense!" cried Ceres, excitedly.  "The woman is yet to be born, or
rather sent down from heaven, who can touch him.  He is haughtiness
itself, and has less heart than his cousin.  How provoked I used to be
at the court-balls, to see him standing in the doorway with his arms
crossed as if they were glued together, and looking down so arrogantly
upon the crowd.  Only when the princess, or one of the royal family,
requested him to dance did he stir from the spot, and then he was at no
pains to conceal that he cared not a bit for the honour. Well, we know
well enough what his requisitions are for the woman at whose feet he
will lay the proud name of von Walde—Ancestors! ancestors she must have,
and her pedigree must date from Noah’s ark."

All laughed, except Elizabeth, who remained very grave.  Fräulein von
Walde’s behaviour had made a deep impression upon her.  She was annoyed,
and felt that her views of human nature had been lowered.  Was such a
change possible in the course of a few short hours?  The fact just
stated by the ladies, that Helene von Walde loved the son of the
Baroness Lessen, would have fully explained the influence exercised by
the latter to any one of a practical, matter-of-fact nature,—but not to
Elizabeth.

The elevating sentiment, described by the poets of all ages and all
climes as the truest and most ennobling of which human nature is
capable, could not possibly be an incentive to unworthy conduct; and it
was equally hard to imagine how Herr von Hollfeld could inspire that
sentiment.  Here she judged from the one-sided, personal point of view
from which we are prone to pass sentence on others; but whether from the
instinct of her true womanly nature, or whether she really possessed the
clear insight that sees in the lines of the face the clear indications
of the soul within and traces them to their source, we cannot
say,—certainly, in this case, her judgment of a man with whom she had
had scarcely any intercourse was entirely correct.

Herr von Hollfeld was certainly not calculated to personate the ideal of
a refined feminine nature.  He neither possessed intelligence nor wit,
was inordinately vain, and by no means content with the interest excited
by his fine person.  He was fully aware that most women will forgive
defects of person sooner than defects of mind; and therefore he adopted
the mask of silence and reserve, behind which the world is so ready to
see great intelligence, originality, and strength of character.  There
was no man living who could boast of being upon intimate terms with Herr
von Hollfeld; he was cunning enough to elude every attempt to test the
quality of his mind, and avoided all earnest conversation with men,
while women, as soon as they perceived the rough shell of his repellant
behaviour, were only too ready to cry, "the sweeter the kernel."  Herr
von Hollfeld understood his part,—he was moved by secret desires and
hopes, which were strengthened by the difficulty attending their
attainment.  Animated by no lofty aspirations, he was the slave of
avarice and sensuality. To make his position a brilliant one from a
worldly point of view, he disdained no petty intrigue, and his office as
chamberlain at the court of L—— opened the way to many such.  He
deceived and lied, and was all the more dangerous on account of the
frank honest seeming behind which men never suspected the low schemer,
or women the vulgar sensualist.

Elizabeth was glad when she saw her uncle turn the corner and approach
the house.  With a sigh of relief she took her place in the carriage at
his side.  She took off her hat, and bathed her hot forehead in the
fresh, delicious evening breeze that swept gently by.  The last rays of
the sun were just gilding the trembling leaves of the poplars by the
roadside, and there was a rosy light upon the fields of blooming grain;
but the forest that enclosed in its bosom Elizabeth’s home lay dark and
gloomy beyond, as if it had already forgotten the sunny life which had
penetrated its inmost recesses so short a time before.

The forester glanced several times at the silent young girl at his side.
Suddenly he transferred both reins and whip to one hand, took hold of
Elizabeth’s chin, and turned her face up to him.

"Come, let me see, Elsie!" he said.  "What! why, zounds! you have got
two wrinkles there in your forehead as deep as old Sabina’s furrows.
What has happened?  Come, out with it!  Something has vexed you, hey?"

"No, uncle, I am not vexed, but pained that you were so right in your
estimate of Fräulein von Walde," replied Elizabeth, while a deep blush
of emotion covered her face.

"Pained because I was right, or because Fräulein von Walde has acted
unworthily?"

"Well, because what you prophesied was evil, and——"

"And therefore it follows that you should be angry with me.  He is
always the criminal who tells the truth in such a matter.  And pray,
which of the utterances of my worldly wisdom has been justified by
time?"

She told him of Helene’s conduct, and of what the ladies had said.  The
forester smiled meaningly.

"Oh women, women, and those women in especial! They prophesy an
immediate marriage if two people only say good morning to each other.
But perhaps they are right in this case,—it clears up much to my mind
that has hitherto seemed inexplicable to me."

"But, uncle, you cannot believe that any one would sacrifice the best
feelings of our nature to such a preference?"

"Many other things have happened, my child, for the sake of such a
preference, and although I do not for one moment defend Fräulein von
Walde’s weakness and submission; still, I shall henceforth judge her
more leniently. She succumbs to the power which leads us to forget
father and mother for another’s sake."

"Ah! that is just what I cannot understand," said Elizabeth, earnestly.
"How can any one love a stranger better than father or mother?"

"Hm!" rejoined the forester, touching the horses lightly with his whip,
to accelerate their speed.  This "hm" was followed by a clearing of his
throat, and he changed the subject, for he justly thought, "If that be
so, she will never understand my definition of love, although I should
speak with the tongues of angels."  And he himself?—Far, far in the past
lay the time when he had carved the dear name upon the trees, and
trained his deep voice to sing love songs; when he had walked miles for
a single smile, and had hated as his bitterest enemy the man who dared
to regard with favour the object of his adoration.  He looked back and
rejoiced in that wonderful time, but to paint it with its tempests of
excited feeling,—its tears and laughter, its hopes and fears,—was more
than he could do.

"Do you see that perpendicular black streak just above the forest
there?" he asked, after a long silence, pointing with his whip to the
mountain which they were approaching.

"Yes, indeed, it is the flag-staff upon Castle Gnadeck. I saw it a few
moments ago, and am now rejoicing unspeakably in the thought that there
lies a spot of earth that we may call our own,—a place from which no one
has the right to drive us.  Thank God, we have a home!"

"And such a home!" said the forester, as his beaming eyes looked around
the horizon.  "When I was quite a little child, how I longed for the
Thuringian forest!  It was all because of my grandfather’s stories.  In
his youth he had lived in Thuringia, and had the tales and legends of
his home at his tongue’s end; and when I had reached man’s estate, I
came hither.  Then all the forest which we see before us belonged to the
Gnadewitzes, but I would not enter their service,—my father had told me
too much about them.  I was the first Ferber from time immemorial who
had renounced their service.  I applied to the Prince of L——.  The last
of the Gnadewitzes divided his forests because the Prince of L—— was
willing to pay an immense sum of money that he might enlarge his own
woodland possessions.  And thus it happened that the most ardent desire
of my youth was gratified, for I live now in the house that may be
called the cradle of the Ferbers. You know that we came at first from
Thuringia?"

"Oh yes, I have known that from my childhood."

"And do you know the story of our origin?"

"No."

"Well, it was long ago, and perhaps I am the only one who now knows
anything about it, but it shall not be lost, for remembrance is all the
gratitude that posterity can show for a brave action,—so now you shall
hear the story, and then you can tell it again.

"About two hundred years ago,—you see we can trace back a considerable
pedigree,—the only pity is that we have no idea who the mother of our
race was,—if you should ever be asked any questions concerning her by
the Baroness Lessen, or others, you can answer with confidence that we
suspect her to have been either Augusta von Blasewitz,—for the story
dates from the thirty years’ war,—or a vivandiere: perhaps she was a
good, honest woman, who clung to her husband through all the hardships
of the war, although I cannot forgive her for forsaking her child,—well,
then, about two hundred years ago, as the wife of the huntsman Ferber
opened her door in the morning—the very door that now shuts upon my
home—she saw a little child lying upon the threshold. She clapped the
door to again in a great hurry, for the forest was then swarming with
gypsies, and she thought it would prove to be one of their dirty brats.
But her husband was more of a Christian, and took the child in. It was
scarcely a day old.  A paper was pinned upon its breast, stating that
the child was born in holy wedlock, that he had been baptized by the
name of Hans, and that whoever would take care of him should receive
further revelations concerning him at some future day.  Hidden in the
child’s dress was found a purse containing some money.  The huntsman’s
wife was a good woman, and when she heard the child was born of
Christian parents, and was probably the son of some honest soldier who
had left it here that it might not be exposed to the dangers of the war,
she took it to her heart and brought it up with her own little girl as
if they had been brother and sister.  It was well for him that she did
so, for no one ever heard another word about his relatives.  His
foster-father afterwards adopted him, and, to make his happiness
complete, he married his foster-sister.  He, as well as his son and
grandson, lived where I live now, as foresters to the Gnadewitzes, and
they all died there.  My grandfather was the first who left this place
with his master for one of the estates in Silesia.  As a boy, I was much
disappointed that some countess mother did not turn up in the end who
should recognize the foundling as her son, stolen from her by the malice
of an enemy, and bear him home in triumph to her castle.  Later in life
I learned to endure the want of this romantic termination to the story
with a good grace, as I considered that in such case my own appearance
here would have been very dubious, and my honest name pleased me too
much to wish it changed for any other; but imagine my sensations when I
stood for the first time upon the threshold where the little foundling
had passed the most helpless moment of his life, when, deserted by his
natural parents, sympathy had not yet supplied their place.  The worn
stone is undoubtedly the same upon which the child lay, and as long as I
live here or have anything to do with the place, it shall never be
removed."

Suddenly the forester leaned forward and pointed through the boughs, for
they had entered the wood.

"Do you see that white spot?" he asked.

The white spot was the cap of Sabina, who was sitting at the door of the
Lodge waiting for them.  When she saw the carriage, she rose quickly,
shook the contents of her apron, which proved to be a quantity of
forget-me-nots, into a basket, and came to assist Elizabeth to alight.

The horse trotted, neighing, behind the house, where he was awaited and
received with a caressing pat.  Hector laid himself down upon the
ground, wagging his tail contentedly, and the doves and sparrows, which
the noise of the arrival had frightened away, returned and hopped
fearlessly about upon the green painted bench and table under the
linden, where, as the little rogues well knew, the forester was in the
habit of taking his morning and evening meals.  He went into the house
for a moment that he might exchange his uniform for the more comfortable
garment worn at home, and soon returned, pipe and newspaper in hand, to
the linden, where Sabina soon began to lay the table.

"’Tis a fact, it’s a silly piece of Sunday work for such an old woman as
I am," said the housekeeper, laughing, as she passed Elizabeth, who,
sitting upon the stone step which now possessed such an interest for
her, continued the weaving of the wreath which Sabina had begun.  "But I
have been used to such work from my youth.  I have two little black
pictures up in my room, likenesses of my blessed father and mother; they
certainly deserve that I should honour them and hold them in loving
remembrance, so I hang fresh flowers around them every Sunday, as long
as there is a blossom to be had. A couple of children from Lindhof bring
me fresh ones every Sunday, and to-day they brought me so many that
there is enough for a wreath for Gold Elsie; if she puts it in a dish of
water it will keep fresh all through the week."

Elizabeth sat a long time this evening with her uncle. A flood of
memories came rushing over his mind, called forth by his narration of
the old story of two hundred years before.  He recalled many a wish,
plan, and aspiration of his youth, which now provoked only a smiling
sigh of sympathetic pity,—they had all vanished before the actual, like
dust before the wind.  He talked them over now, as one who, standing
upon the land, hears the dash of the breakers afar that cannot reach
him.  Sometimes he would make some witty attack, in the midst of his
recollections, upon Elizabeth, who would parry his thrusts and retort
merrily.

Meanwhile a light arose behind the trees, which had blended
undistinguishably with the dark heavens, but which now stood out in
strong relief against the bright background.  Single rays shot like
silver arrows between interlacing boughs, and lay motionless like oases
of light upon the dim meadow, until at last the moon arose, large and
victorious, above the tops of the trees, and its full lustre flooded the
landscape.  The gentle breeze of evening had long since folded its
wings,—you could have counted the shadows of the linden leaves upon the
moonlit earth, so distinct and motionless they lay.  All the clearer was
heard the gurgle of the little fountain in the court-yard of the Lodge,
and the low, indefinite murmur from the woods, which Elizabeth called
"the sleepy rain" of the forest.

"There," said Sabina, crowning Elizabeth’s head lightly with the
forget-me-not wreath, which she had just completed.  "Carry it home so,
and you’ll not crush it."

"Then it may stay there," said she, laughing, as she arose.  "Many
thanks for my ride!  Good-night, uncle, good-night, Sabina!"

And then she hastened through the house and garden, and was soon outside
the gate, which she closed behind her, and flew along up the narrow
moonlit forest path. In the dwelling-room above, the lamp was burning;
in spite of the bright moonlight, its beams were distinctly visible, for
the front of her home lay in deep shade.

As she reached the little clearing, a remarkable shadow fell across her
path.  It was neither a tree nor a post, but the figure of a man, a
stranger, who had been standing upon one side of the path, and now, to
her terror, approached her.  The apparition courteously removed its hat,
and Elizabeth’s terror vanished on the instant, for she saw before her
the smiling, good-humoured countenance of a well dressed, rather elderly
man.

"I pray your pardon, Fräulein, if I have frightened you," he said, as he
looked kindly over the large, shining glasses of his spectacles into her
face.  "I assure you, I have no designs either upon your life or your
purse, and am simply a peaceful traveller, returning to his home, who
greatly desires to know what the light in the ruins yonder may betoken;
and yet this moment convinces me that my question is quite superfluous.
Fairies and elves are holding their revels there, while the fairest
among them keeps guard in the forest around, that none may invade their
charmed circle with impunity."

This gallant comparison, trite as it may appear, was not ill applied at
this moment, for the slight girlish figure in white robes, with the blue
wreath crowning her angelic countenance, and bathed in moonlight, might
well have been mistaken for a fairy vision, as it glided so lightly
among the trees of the wood.

She herself laughed inwardly at the quaint compliment, but with a little
pique at the thought of resembling such a mercurial elfish being, and
she replied to the old gentleman with maidenly dignity.

"I am really sorry," she said, "to be forced to lead you back to
realities, but I fail to see anything in the light yonder, except a
commonplace lamp in the dwelling-room of a forester’s clerk in the
service of the Prince of L——."

"Ah!" laughed the gentleman, "and does the man live all alone in those
uncanny old walls?"

"He might do so with a quiet mind, for over those whose consciences are
pure nothing uncanny can have any power.  Nevertheless some loving
creatures bear him company, among the rest, two well-fed goats and a
canary bird, not to mention the owls, who have retired into private life
in great indignation, since the frivolous conduct of human beings does
not assort at all well with the solemn views of life entertained by
their grave worships."

"Or perhaps because they shun the light and cannot endure——"

"That the new arrival should adore the truth?"

"Perhaps that, too; but I was about to suggest that they fly from the
two suns that have suddenly arisen in the old ruins."

"Two suns at once?  That would be a terrible experience for their poor
owls’ eyes, and might even prove too much for a fire-worshipper,"
replied Elizabeth, laughing, as she passed him with a slight
inclination, for her parents had just emerged from the gate in the wall,
and were advancing towards her.  They had come out with some anxiety
when they heard Elizabeth’s voice and that of a stranger, and they
gently reproved her, after she had related her little adventure, for
entering so thoughtlessly into conversation with strangers.

"Your badinage might have had unpleasant consequences for you, my
child," said her mother.  "Fortunately, they were gentlemen."

"Gentlemen?" interrupted her daughter, with surprise. "There was only
one."

"Look around," said her father; "you can see for yourself."

And certainly just where the path began to descend into the valley, two
hats were plainly to be seen.

"So you see, mother dear," said Elizabeth, "what an entirely harmless
encounter it was.  One never stepped out from behind the bushes, and
there was certainly not an atom of the brigand to be seen in the kind
old face of the other."

When she went to her room she carefully took the wreath from her head,
laid it in fresh water, and placed it before the bust of Beethoven, then
she kissed the forehead of the sleeping Ernst, and said good-night to
her father and mother.



                              CHAPTER IX.


"Hallo, Elsie, do not run so!" shouted the forester, the next day at
three o’clock in the afternoon, as he came out of the forest with his
rifle on his shoulder and crossed the meadow towards the Lodge.

Elizabeth was running down the mountain, her round hat hanging upon her
arm instead of resting upon the braids that glanced in the sunlight, and
as she reached the house she flew laughing into her uncle’s arms, which
he extended to receive her.

She put her hand into her pocket, and stepped back a few paces.  "Guess
what I have in my pocket, uncle," she said, smiling.

"Well, what can it be?  No need to puzzle one’s brains long about it.
Probably a little sentimental hay,—a few dried flowers, kept for the
sake of the melancholy associations that they recall,—or some printed
sighs over the woes of the world, bound in gilt pasteboard?"

"Wrong, indeed; twice wrong, Herr Forester, for, in the first place,
your wit glances harmlessly aside from me, and in the next—look here!"

She drew a little box from her pocket, and lifted the cover.  There,
upon green leaves, was comfortably lying a large lemon-coloured
caterpillar, with black spots, broad bluish-green stripes upon its back,
and a crooked horn upon its tail.

"By all that is wonderful, Sphinx Atropos!" cried the delighted
forester.  "Ah, my sunbeam, where did you find that exquisite specimen?"

"Over at Lindhof, in a potato-field.  Isn’t it beautiful? There, let us
shut the box carefully, and put it back in my pocket."

"What! am I not to have it?"

"Oh yes; you can have it,—that is if you are inclined to pay for it."

"Zounds!  What a girl you have become!  Come, give it to me,—here are
four groschen."

"Not for the world.  You can’t have it for one farthing less than
twelve.  When many a ragged, yellow old bit of parchment,—that one can
hardly bear to touch,—is paid for with its weight in gold, certainly
such a perfect piece of Nature’s workmanship is worth twelve groschen."

"Yellow old parchment! never breathe such a word into scientific ears,
if you value your reputation."

"Ah, there are none such to be breathed into here in the forest."

"Take care; Herr von Walde——"

"Is hiding in the Pyramids."

"But he might suddenly return and take a certain self-conceited young
person to strict account.  He is cock-of-the-walk among learned men."

"Well, for aught I care, they may raise monuments in his honour, and
strew laurels in his path, as much as they choose.  I cannot forgive him
for forgetting, in the midst of all that dead lumber, the claims that
the living have upon him.  While he is engaged in an enthusiastic
search, perhaps, for some wonderfully preserved receipt by Lucullus, or
lost in investigations as to whether the Romans did actually feed their
fish upon the flesh of slaves, the poor employed upon his estate starve
under the baroness’ rule—actually crushed beneath the yoke of modern
slavery."

"Hallo! how his left ear must burn!  What a pity that he cannot hear
this confession of faith!  Here are your twelve groschen, if you must
have them.  You want to buy some trinket or other, a feather, or ribbons
for your hat, hey?" he said, smiling.

She held her hat out at arm’s length before her, and contemplated with
admiration the two fresh roses which she had stuck into the simple band
of black velvet that encircled it.  "Does not that look lovely?" she
asked. "Do you think I would voluntarily hide my head beneath nodding
plumes when I can have roses, fresh roses?  And there is your
caterpillar, and now you shall know why I want to black-mail you.  This
morning the poor widow of a weaver in Lindhof came to my mother, begging
a little assistance.  Her husband had had a fall, which injured his arm
and his foot, so that he has not been able to earn anything for weeks.
My mother gave her some old linen and a large loaf of bread.  She could
do nothing more, as you know.  See, here I have fifteen groschen,—from
my money-box,—there is not another farthing in it just now, and three
from little Ernst, who would gladly have sold his tin soldiers to help
the poor woman, and with the price for the caterpillar I shall have a
whole thaler, which I shall carry to the poor thing immediately."

"Let me see.  Here is another thaler; and, Sabina," he called into the
house, "bring out a piece of meat from your pickling-tub, and wrap it up
in green leaves.  You shall take that too," he said, turning again to
Elizabeth.

"Oh, you dearest of splendid uncles!" cried the girl, taking his large
hand between her slender palms and pressing it tenderly.

"But take care," he continued, "that the piece of good salt meat does
not turn into roses.  It would be a sad change for the poor weaver’s
wife.  You seem to be following in the steps of your saintly namesake."

"Yes; but fortunately I have here no cruel Landgrave to fear.  And if I
had, I would tell the truth in spite of him."

"Gracious gods, what a heroic soul it is!"

"But I think the courage to tell a lie would be far greater, even though
it were a pious one."

"True, true, my daughter.  I think I could hardly have done it either.
Ah, here comes Sabina!"

The old housekeeper issued from the door, and whilst she wrapped up the
meat for Elizabeth, in accordance with the forester’s directions, she
whispered to him that Herr von Walde, who had yesterday arrived from
abroad, had been waiting for him for some time.

"Where?" he asked.

"Here in the dwelling-room."

Now they had been standing directly beneath the open windows of this
room.  Elizabeth turned quickly round, blushing scarlet, but could see
no one.  Her uncle, without turning, shrugged his shoulders with an
infinitely comical gesture, stroked his long moustache, and whispered,
with a suppressed laugh: "Here’s a nice state of things!  You have
settled matters finely,—he has heard every word.7"

"So much the better," replied his niece, throwing her head back with an
air of defiance.  "He does not hear the truth very often, perhaps."
Then bidding farewell to her uncle and Sabina, she walked slowly away
through the forest in the direction of Lindhof.

At first she was annoyed at the thought that Herr von Walde had been
obliged, entirely against his will, to listen to the judgment which had
been passed upon him.  Then she was sure that she should have told him
just the same truth to his face.  And as it was scarcely to be supposed
that he would ever trouble himself about her estimate of him, it
certainly could do him no harm that he had been involuntarily the
auditor of a frank, impartial sentence passed upon him, even although
such sentence came from the lips of a young girl.  But how had it
happened that he had returned so suddenly and unexpectedly?  Fräulein
von Walde had always spoken of her brother’s absence as likely to
continue for several years, and the day before she had had not the
slightest expectation of his return. And then her encounter of the
previous evening flashed into her mind.  The old gentleman had said that
he was a traveller returning home; but it was impossible that he, with
his smiling, good-humoured face, could be the grave, haughty proprietor
of Lindhof, who, perhaps, was the person that had remained concealed
beneath the trees while his companion was getting an answer to his
inquiries. But what could Herr von Walde want with her uncle, who, as
she knew, had never stood in any relation to him whatever?

These and similar thoughts occupied her mind upon her way to the
weaver’s.  Husband and wife were delighted by the unhoped-for
assistance, and heaped Elizabeth with profuse professions of gratitude
as she left the house.

She passed through the village, and directed her steps to Lindhof, where
she had promised to practice as usual. The lesson had not been
postponed, notwithstanding the return of Herr von Walde.  The
proprietor’s return had worked a great change in the whole look of the
castle. All the windows of the lower story on the south side, which had
so long been dark and closed behind their white shutters, now reflected
the sunlight in a long, shining row.  The apartments within were
undergoing a thorough airing and dusting.  A glass door stood wide open,
revealing the interior of a large saloon.  Upon one of the steps which
led down to the garden at the back lay a snow-white greyhound, with his
slender body stretched out upon the hot stone and his head resting upon
his forepaws; he blinked at Elizabeth as though she had been an old
acquaintance.  At an open window the gardener was arranging a stand of
flowers, and the old steward Lorenz was walking through the rooms,
superintending everything.

It was remarkable that all the people whom the young girl met had, as if
by magic, entirely altered their whole expression.  Had a tempest swept
through the sultry atmosphere and a fresh breeze filled all the rooms,
so that voices sounded clearer, and bent forms grew straight and
elastic?  Even old Lorenz, whose face had always worn so grim and
depressed a look, as though there were a weight of lead upon his
shoulders, shot real sunshine from his eyes, although he was scolding
one of the maids; Elizabeth looked on in surprise.  She had only seen
him before gliding about upon the tips of his toes, and in low,
suppressed tones announcing guests to the ladies in the drawing-room.

In amazement at this sudden bursting into bloom of new life and
activity, Elizabeth turned towards the wing appropriated to the ladies.
Here the deepest silence still reigned.  In the apartments of the
baroness the curtains were closely drawn.  No noise penetrated through
the doors by which Elizabeth passed.  The air of the passages was heavy
with the odour of valerian, and when at the lower end of one of the
halls, Elizabeth saw through an open door one human face, what a change
met her eye!  It was the baroness’ old waiting-maid who looked out,
probably to see who was so bold as to invade the solemn repose of the
corridor.  Her cap was set upon her false curls all awry, and the curls
themselves were but loosely put on.  Her countenance wore a troubled
expression, and a round, red spot on each cheek, betokened either high
fever or some violent, mental agitation.  She returned Elizabeth’s
salute shortly and sullenly, and disappeared into the room, closing the
door noiselessly behind her.

When Elizabeth reached Fräulein von Walde’s apartment, she thought that
she had arrived at the last act in the mysterious drama which had begun
in the baroness’ rooms, for no "come in" answered her repeated knock.
Not only were the curtains here drawn, but the shutters also were closed
as she saw when she gently opened the door.  The profound quiet and the
darkness deterred her from entering, and she was about to shut the door
again when Helene, in a weak voice, called to her to enter.  The little
lady lay on a couch at the farther end of the room, her head resting on
a white pillow, and Elizabeth could hear that her teeth were chattering
as if with cold.

"Ah, dear child," she said, and laid her cold, damp hand upon her young
friend’s arm, "I have had a nervous attack.  None of my people have
observed that I am lying here so ill, and it has been terribly lonely in
this dark room.  Pray open the windows wide,—I need air, the warm air of
heaven."

Elizabeth immediately did as she desired, and when the daylight streamed
in upon the pale face of the invalid, it revealed traces of violent
weeping.

The sunshine aroused more life and motion in the room than Elizabeth had
anticipated; she was startled by a loud scream which proceeded from one
corner.  There she discovered a cockatoo, with snow-white plumage and a
brilliant yellow crest, swinging to and fro upon a ring.

"Heavens! what a fearful noise!" sighed Helene, pressing her little
hands upon her ears.  "That terrible bird will tear my nerves to
pieces!"

Elizabeth’s glance rested amazed upon the little stranger, and then
explored the rest of the apartment, which looked like a bazaar.  Upon
tables and chairs were lying costly stuffs, shawls, richly-bound books,
and all kinds of toilet articles.  Fräulein von Walde noticed
Elizabeth’s look, and said briefly, with averted face: "All presents
from my brother, who returned home quite unexpectedly yesterday."

How cold her voice was as she said it!  And there was not the slightest
hint of pleasure to be discovered in her features, swollen with weeping;
the large eyes, usually so soft and gentle, expressed only vexation and
annoyance.

Elizabeth stooped silently and picked up a gorgeous bouquet of
camellias, that was lying half faded upon the floor.

"Oh yes," said Helene, sitting up, while a slight flush appeared on her
cheeks, "that is my brother’s good-morning to me; it fell down from the
table, and I forgot it. Pray put it in that vase there."

"Poor flowers," said Elizabeth, half aloud, as she looked at the brown
edges of the white petals, "they never dreamed when they opened their
tender buds, that they were to bloom in such a cold atmosphere!"

Helene looked up into her friend’s face with a searching, troubled
glance, and for an instant her eyes expressed regret.  "Put the flowers
on the sill of the open window," she whispered quickly, "the air there
will do them good.  Oh, heavens!" she cried, sinking back among her
cushions.  "He is certainly a most excellent man, but his sudden return
has destroyed the harmony of our delightful home life."

Elizabeth looked almost incredulously at the little lady who lay there,
her clasped hands raised, and her eyes lifted to heaven, as if fate had
decreed her a most bitter trial.  If she had failed yesterday to find
the key to Helene’s conduct, she was certainly more puzzled than ever
to-day by this incomprehensible character.  What had become of all those
sentiments of fervent gratitude that had breathed from every word
whenever Helene had spoken of her absent brother?  Had all the sisterly
tenderness which had seemed to fill her heart vanished in a single
moment, so that she now lamented what, according to her own words, she
had so lately regarded as the most delightful thing that could happen?
Even supposing that the returned brother did not sympathize with the
circle in which alone she felt happy, if he should oppose her dearest
wishes, was it possible that coldness and anger could exist between two
beings whom fate had bound together by so close a tie, a tie which must
bring them all the nearer to each other, since one was so helpless, and
the other so alone in the world?  Elizabeth suddenly felt profound pity
for the man who had sailed on distant seas and wandered through strange
lands so long, only to be greeted as a disturbing element when he once
more appeared at his own fireside.  Apparently there was one tender spot
in his proud heart, love for his sister; how deeply wounded he must be
that she had no loving welcome for him, and that her heart was cold and
hard towards him!

Occupied with these thoughts, Elizabeth arranged the flowers in the
vase.  She returned not a syllable to Helene’s outbreak, which had so
maligned her brother to stranger ears.  And Helene herself, shamed
probably by Elizabeth’s silence, seemed to be conscious that she had
lost her self-control, for she suddenly, in an altered voice, begged her
to take a chair and stay with her for awhile.

At this moment the door was violently flung open, and a female figure
appeared upon the threshold.  Elizabeth was at some trouble to recognize
in this apparition in its neglected, careless dress, betraying every
sign of great agitation, the Baroness Lessen.  Her scanty locks, usually
so carefully arranged, were streaming from under a morning-cap across
her forehead, no longer white and smooth as ivory, but flushing scarlet.
The stereotyped self-satisfaction had vanished from her eyes, and she
presented a most insignificant appearance as she looked shyly into the
room!

"Ah, Helene!" she cried anxiously, without noticing Elizabeth, and her
corpulent figure advanced with unwonted rapidity.  "Rudolph has just
sent for the unfortunate Linke to come to his room, and he abused the
poor man so violently and loudly that I heard him in my bed-room on the
other side of the court—Heavens! how wretched I am!  The morning has
agitated me so that I can scarcely stand, but I could not listen to such
injustice any longer, and sought refuge here.  And those servile
wretches, the other servants, who, while Rudolph was away, scarcely
dared to wink their eyes,—there they stand now boldly beneath the
windows, taking a malicious pleasure in the misfortunes that are
befalling a faithful servant.  Everything is destroyed that I had
arranged so carefully and with such pains for the salvation of this
household.  And Emil is at Odenberg!  How miserable and forlorn we are,
dearest Helene!"

She threw her arms around the neck of the little lady, who started up
pale as ashes.  Elizabeth took advantage of this moment to slip out of
the room.

As she passed along the corridor leading to the vestibule she heard some
one speaking loudly.  It was a deep, sonorous, manly voice, which grew
louder now and then under the influence of excitement, but there was no
sharpness in its tones even when they were loudest.  Although she could
not distinguish a word, the tone thrilled through her,—there was
something inexorable in the intonation of the emphasized sentences.

The echo in the long corridor was deceptive.  Elizabeth did not know
whence the voice proceeded, and she therefore ran forwards quickly that
she might the sooner reach the open air.  But after a few steps she
heard, as though the speaker were directly beside her, the words,
"To-morrow evening you will leave Lindhof."

"But, most gracious Herr!"—was the answer.

"I have nothing else to say to you! now go!" was uttered in a commanding
tone; and just then Elizabeth, to her terror, found herself opposite a
wide-open folding door.  The tall figure of a man stood in the middle of
the room, his left hand behind him, and his right pointing to the door.
A pair of flashing, dark eyes met her own as she passed hastily through
the vestibule and into the garden.  It seemed as if that look, in which
there glowed an indignant soul, pursued her and drove her onward.

As the Ferber family were sitting at supper, her father told with
expressions of pleasure how he had made the acquaintance of Herr von
Walde that day at the Lodge.

"Well, and how does he please you?" asked his wife.

"That is a question, dear child, that I might be able to answer if I
should happen to have daily intercourse with him for a year or so,
although even then I cannot tell whether I should be able to give a
satisfactory reply.  The man is very interesting to me—as one is
continually tempted to try to discover whether he really is what he
appears,—a perfectly cold, passionless nature. He came to my brother to
learn the particulars concerning the affair between his superintendent
and the poor labourer’s widow, because he had been informed that Sabina
had been an eye-witness of the ill treatment she had received.  Sabina
was obliged to tell how she discovered the poor woman.  He asked about
everything, even the smallest circumstance, but in a very short, decided
manner.  What impression Sabina’s account made upon him no one could
tell; his looks were utterly impenetrable, not the smallest change of
countenance betrayed his thoughts.  He comes directly from Spain.  From
the few remarks that he let fall, I judge that his sudden return to
Thuringia is owing to a letter from some one of his friends here,
telling him of the mismanagement of affairs upon his estate and the
unhappiness among his tenantry."

"And his exterior?" asked Frau Ferber.

"Is pleasing, although I have never seen so much reserve and
inaccessibility expressed in a man’s bearing I entirely understand how
he has the reputation of boundless haughtiness; and yet I cannot, on the
other hand, convince myself that such exceeding folly can lurk behind
such remarkably intellectual features.  His face always wears the look
of cold repose of which I have spoken; but, between the eyebrows, there
is what I might call an involuntary, unguarded expression of what a
superficial observer might think sternness; to me it seems settled
melancholy."

Elizabeth listened thoughtfully to this description. She had already
learned how that cold repose could be entirely laid aside for a time,
and she told her father of the scene which she had witnessed.

"Then sentence has been passed sooner than I anticipated," said Ferber.
"Possibly your uncle may have done his part towards this end by his
strong language,—he does not hesitate when asked for an opinion.  He was
so frank with Herr von Walde, that he felt quite relieved and retained
not an iota in his heart of all that had been vexing him in the course
of the past year."



                               CHAPTER X.


Scarcely a week had passed since the evening mentioned in the last
chapter, but these few days had brought about great changes in the
household at the castle of Lindhof.  The dismissed superintendent had
already been replaced by a new man, whose power, however, was very
limited, as Herr von Walde had undertaken the chief oversight of affairs
himself.  Several day-labourers who had been summarily dismissed, either
because they were warm adherents of the village pastor, and had, on
account of their work, been frequently absent from prayers at the
castle, or because they did not care to listen to the chaplain’s
sermons, were again working on the estate.

The day before, Sunday, Herr von Walde, accompanied by the Baroness
Lessen and little Bella, had attended service in the village church at
Lindhof.  To the surprise of all, the chaplain, Herr Möhring, had
appeared in the organ-loft as one of the audience, and at noon the
worthy pastor had taken dinner with the family at Castle Lindhof. Doctor
Fels paid daily visits there, for Fräulein von Walde was sick.  That was
the reason why Elizabeth had not been requested to give her another
lesson, and also, as the forester said, why the Baroness Lessen "had not
been banished to Siberia, for," said he, "Herr von Walde would not be
such a savage as to make his ailing sister still more ailing, by
depriving her of the society which was dearest to her.  He knew that if
his mother left, Herr von Hollfeld’s visits would also cease."  It was
malicious to say so, but, as he added, "incontrovertibly just."

In the village it was well known that it had required several terrible
tempests to clear the air at Castle Lindhof.  For the first three days
after his arrival Herr von Walde had taken his meals alone in his
private apartments, and the letters which the baroness’ waiting-maid had
delivered to him, at all times of the day, from her mistress, were
returned unopened, until at last the violent illness of his sister had
brought about a meeting between her brother and her cousin by her
bedside. Since that day intercourse had again been apparently
established between the two, although the servants declared that they
exchanged scarcely a word at table. Herr von Hollfeld had been over once
to greet the returned traveller, but it was observed that he rode away
with a perceptibly lengthened face, after a very short stay.

On a melancholy, rainy day in August, Elizabeth was again requested by
Fräulein von Walde to spend half an hour with her at the castle.  The
lady was not alone when she entered the room.  Herr von Walde sat in the
recess by the window.  His tall figure was leaning back on a couch, his
head nearly touching the light-coloured wall behind him, so that his
dark-brown hair stood out in strong relief against it.  His right hand,
which carelessly held a cigar, was resting upon the window-sill, while
his left was raised as if he had just been speaking.  His neighbour, the
Baroness Lessen, was bending towards him, and, with a most winning smile
upon her face, seemed to be listening intently to his words, although,
as it appeared, they were not addressed to her, but to Helene.  She was
sitting tolerably near him, and had some crochet work in her hand.
Fräulein von Walde was lying upon a lounge.  A full dressing-gown
entirely enveloped her small figure, and her beautiful brown curls
escaped from beneath a morning-cap, trimmed with pink ribbons, which
heightened, by force of contrast, the pallor of her countenance.  The
cockatoo was perched upon her hand, and from time to time she held him
caressingly to her cheek.  "The terrible bird" was now called "darling,"
and might scream as loud as it liked,—it was only soothed by a tender
"What’s the matter with my pet?"  Here, then, all was peace and
reconciliation.

Upon Elizabeth’s entrance Helene beckoned to her kindly, but it did not
escape her that there was a slight embarrassment in the little lady’s
manner.

"Dear Rudolph," she said, as she took Elizabeth’s hand, "let me present
you to the delightful artiste to whom I owe so many pleasant
hours,—Fräulein Ferber, called by her uncle, and in all the country
around, Gold Elsie.  She plays so deliciously that I entreat her to make
us forget the gray and gloomy skies above us this afternoon.  You see,
dear child," she continued, turning to Elizabeth, "that I am still too
weak to assist you at the piano; will you have the great kindness to
play something alone for us?"

"With all my heart," replied Elizabeth.  "But I shall play timidly, for
there are two formidable powers to oppose me,—the gloomy heavens, and
the favourable expectations that you have awakened of my performance."

"Pray allow me to excuse myself for an hour," said the baroness, as she
collected her working materials and arose; "I should like to drive out
with Bella,—it is so long since the poor child has taken the air."

"Really, I should suppose that she could easily take it here at any
time, by simply putting her head out of the window," said Herr von Walde
dryly, knocking the ashes from his cigar as he spoke.

"Heavens! are you unwilling, Rudolph, that I should take a drive?  I
will instantly remain at home, if——"

"I can conceive of no reason why I should be unwilling. Drive as often
and as much as you like," was the indifferent reply.

The baroness compressed her lips, and turned to Helene: "We have
decided, then, to take coffee in my room.  I shall not stay out long, on
account of the mist. I shall be back punctually in an hour, and shall
depend upon the pleasure of conducting you to my room myself, dearest
Helene."

"That pleasure you must resign," said Herr von Walde.  "It has been my
office for many years, and I hope my sister does not think me grown too
awkward during my absence to discharge it."

"Most certainly not, dear Rudolph; I shall be greatly obliged, if you
will be so kind," cried Helene, quickly, looking anxiously from one to
the other.

The baroness conquered her vexation bravely.  She held out her hand to
Herr von Walde, with a smile of great sweetness, kissed Helene upon the
cheek, and rustled out of the room with an "au revoir."

During this conversation, Elizabeth observed more closely the features
of the man, whose glance and voice had impressed her so profoundly.  It
is true, her terror, for really the emotion caused by her first meeting
with him was nothing less, had been renewed for a moment, as on entering
she caught sight of Herr von Walde. How quiet the eyes were now, which
had seemed before to flash fire; his look, as it rested upon the
baroness, was icy cold.  With this expression in his eyes, the upper
part of his face, which bore the stamp of great sternness, grew to iron.
A carefully arranged chestnut-brown moustache covered his upper lip, and
his beard; which was unusually fine and silky, fell in soft waves upon
his chest.  Herr von Walde did not look young, and although his
well-knit figure had preserved all its elasticity, there was that
indescribable composure and self-possession in his whole manner and
heaping peculiar to the man of riper age, and which inspires involuntary
respect.

When the baroness had left the room, Elizabeth opened the piano.

"No, no! no notes!" Helene cried to her, as she saw her turning over the
music-sheets.  "We want to hear your own fancies; pray extemporize."

Elizabeth seated herself immediately, and soon the outer world was all
forgotten by her.  A wealth of melody welled up in her soul, which
carried it far aloft. At such moments she knew that she was gifted
beyond thousands of her fellow-mortals, for she had the power of giving
expression to the most hidden emotions of her heart.  The purity of her
whole inner world was mirrored in sound; she had never been obliged to
seek for a melody which should embody her feeling, it lay ready in her
soul,—ready as the feeling itself.  But to-day there was something
blended with the tones that she could not herself comprehend; she could
not possibly pursue and analyze it, for it breathed almost imperceptibly
across the waves of sound.  It seemed as though joy and woe no longer
moved side by side, but melted together into one. As she was herself
impressed by this strange presence, she penetrated still deeper into her
world of feeling,—gradually the clear depths of her pure, maidenly soul
were revealed to the listeners; they stood, as it were, by some
transparent, magic fountain, and saw within its quiet waters the lovely
form of the young girl reflected, with twofold distinctness, for there
was a perfect harmony between her exterior and her interior being.

The last faint chord died away.  Large tear-drops hung from Helene’s
lashes, and her pallor was almost supernatural.  She glanced towards her
brother, but he had turned his face away, and was gazing out into the
garden.  When at last he looked towards her, his features were as calm
as ever, only a slight flush coloured his brow; the cigar had dropped
from his fingers and lay upon the ground.  He said not one word
concerning her playing to Elizabeth, as she rose from the piano.
Helene, whom this silence distressed, exhausted herself in flattering
expressions, that she might induce her young friend to forget, or, at
least, not to notice the coldness and indifference which her brother
displayed.

"Was it not delicious?" she cried.  "The people in B—— could have had no
idea of the golden fountain of music bubbling up in Elsie’s heart, or
they would never have allowed her to wander into the Thuringian forest."

"Have you lived until now in B——?" asked Herr von Walde, fixing his eyes
upon Elizabeth.  She met his gaze for an instant; the ice had all
melted, and was replaced by a wondrous radiance.

"Yes," she answered, simply.

"It was a sad experience to come suddenly from a large beautiful city,
which offers every imaginable diversion and enjoyment, to the silent
forest, and live upon a lonely mountain.  You were, of coarse,
inconsolable at the exchange?"

"I regarded it as a piece of undeserved good fortune," was the
unembarrassed reply.

"Indeed?  Most strange!  It seems to me that one would hardly choose the
thistle when the rose might be had."

"Of course, I cannot presume to pass judgment upon your opinions."

"True, because you do not know me; but my idea is almost universal."

"Yet surely it is very one-sided."

"Well, then, I will not combat further your peculiar taste, with which
you would scarcely find any one to sympathize among companions of your
own age.  I will rather believe, for your credit, that it was not so
easy to leave your friends."

"But it was very easy, for I had none."

"Is that possible?" cried Fräulein von Walde.  "Did you have no
intercourse with any one?"

"Oh, yes, with the people who paid me."

"You gave lessons?" asked Herr von Walde.

"Yes."

"But did you never feel the want of a female friend?" cried Helene
quickly.

"Never, for I have a mother," replied Elizabeth in a tone of deep
feeling.

"Happy child!" she murmured, and drooped her head.

Elizabeth felt that she had unwittingly touched a sore place in Helene’s
heart.  She was sorry, and longed to efface the impression.  Herr von
Walde seemed to read her thoughts in her face, for, without noticing
Helene’s emotion, he asked: "And did you desire to live in the
Thuringian forest especially?"

"Yes."

"And why?"

"Because I had been told from my earliest childhood that my family had
its origin in the Thuringian forest."

"Ah, yes, you belong to the Gnadewitzes."

"My mother’s name was Gnadewitz.  I am a Ferber," answered Elizabeth,
with decision.

"You say that as if you were thankful that you did not bear the name of
Gnadewitz."

"I am thankful for it."

"Hm!—in its time it has made a fine noise in the world."

"None pleasant to hear."

"Why, what would you have?  At every court it was pure gold, for it was
very old, and the last of those who bore it were heaped with dignities
and honours, on account of the antiquity of their name."

"Pardon me, but I cannot possibly understand how—" she blushed, and was
silent.

"Go on; you have begun the sentence, and I depend upon hearing the end."

"Well, then, how sin can be honoured, because it is old," she rejoined,
with hesitation.

"Softly! they say that several of the Gnadewitz lineage were brave and
true."

"That may be; but is there not great injustice in the idea of rewarding
their merit, centuries after, by honouring those who are neither good
nor true?"

"Should not noble deeds live forever?"

"Most certainly; but, if we refuse to emulate them, we certainly are not
worthy to share in their rewards," was Elizabeth’s prompt answer.

A carriage rolled up the avenue.  Herr von Walde frowned, and passed his
hand across his eyes as if he had been rudely awakened from a dream.  In
a moment the door opened, and the baroness entered.  She, as well as
Bella, who was walking by her mother’s side to-day with quite an air of
grown-up dignity, had not yet laid aside her bonnet and mantle.

"I am glad to be at home again," she cried.  "The air to-day is
horrible.  I repented a hundred times having left the house, and shall
probably atone for my maternal solicitude by a heavy cold.  Bella was so
anxious to see for herself how you are, dear Helene, that I allowed her
to come in with me."

The child went directly up to the lounge.  She did not appear to notice
Elizabeth, who was sitting close by, and brushed past her so rudely, as
she bent to kiss Helene’s hand, that a button upon her sack caught in
the delicate trimming of Elizabeth’s dress and tore it.  Bella lifted
her head and glanced at the mischief she had done; then she turned and
went across to Herr von Walde to give him her hand.

"Well," said he, withholding his hand, "have you no apology to make for
your awkwardness?"

She made no reply, and retired to the side of her mother, upon whose
cheeks the ominous red spots appeared.  The look which she cast upon
Elizabeth showed that her daughter was not the cause of her irritation.

"Well, child, can’t you speak?" asked Herr von Walde, rising.

"Fräulein Ferber sat so close," said the baroness in a tone of excuse,
as Bella continued obstinately silent.

"Indeed, I should have moved aside.  There is no great harm done," said
Elizabeth, and she held out her hand to Bella with an enchanting smile.
But the child took no notice of it, and hid both her hands in her dress.

Without a word, Herr von Walde approached her, took her by the arm, and
led her directly to the door, which he opened.  "Go instantly to your
room," he said, "and do not come where I am again unless I particularly
desire you to do so."

The baroness was raging inwardly.  Her countenance worked for a moment,
but what could she do?  She was powerless to contend with the violence
and barbarism of this man, who was master here, and who now took his
seat again with a composure that betrayed an utter unconsciousness of
the cruelty of his behaviour.  Her prudence obtained the upper hand.

"I hope, dear Rudolph," said she, and her voice trembled a little, "that
you will not reckon this slight misdemeanour against Bella.  Pray, make
some allowance,—it is all the fault of her governess."

"Miss Mertens?  Indeed, it must have cost her, with her innate
gentleness and refinement, infinite pains to train Bella to conduct
herself as she has just done."

The baroness blushed scarlet; but she controlled herself.  "Heavens!"
she cried, determined to change the subject; "this stupid circumstance
has made me forget to tell you that Emil has ridden over from Odenberg.
He got wet through on horseback, and is just changing his dress.  May he
pay his respects?"

Helene’s cheeks glowed, and a ray of happiness shot from her eyes; but
she said not a word, only drooping her face so as to conceal every sign
of her inward agitation.

"Certainly," replied Herr von Walde.  "Does he intend to make some stay
here?"

"He will be here for a few days, with your permission."

"By all means.  Then we shall see him in your room when we come to take
coffee."

"He will be most happy.  Will you not come immediately? My maid tells me
that all is in readiness there to receive you."

Elizabeth arose, and prepared to take her leave.  Herr von Walde, as
soon as he saw this, looked inquiringly at the baroness.  Doubtless he
expected that she would extend an invitation to the young girl, but just
at this moment the lady discovered that the gardener’s arrangement of
the flower-stand in the window was "too charming," and in enraptured
contemplation of a bunch of azaleas she turned her back upon Elizabeth.

Fräulein Ferber courtesied profoundly and left the room, after Helene
had repeated, in a trembling voice, her expressions of gratitude.
Without, in the corridor, she met Herr von Hollfeld.  At sight of her he
quickened his pace, casting a lightning glance around to assure himself
that no listener was near.  Before she was aware of it, he had seized
Elizabeth’s hand, imprinted a glowing kiss upon it, and whispered: "How
rejoiced I am to see you once more!"

Her astonishment was so great that she could not at first find a word to
say.  She drew back her hand as though she had been stung, and he
accepted her repulse, because at that very moment the door of Helene’s
room opened, and Herr von Walde appeared.  Hollfeld raised his hat to
Elizabeth as if he had just seen her, and his features subsided
instantly into an expression of utter indifference as he walked towards
his relative.

Elizabeth was disgusted with his farce,—first, at the insulting
familiarity, which made her blood boil with indignation, and then, at
the denial of any acquaintance before a third person.  Her maidenly
pride was deeply wounded. She reproached herself that she had not
rebuked his impertinence boldly upon the spot.  A crimson flush glowed
in her cheeks with shame that she should have been treated so by any
man; it seemed as if the spot upon her hand, where his hot lips had
rested, still burned, and she hastily held it beneath the stream of a
fountain in the park, that the imaginary stain might be washed away.

Much agitated, she reached her home, and complained with tears to her
mother of the insult that she had received.  Frau Ferber was a sensible
woman, possessed of clear, calm insight.  She was convinced by
Elizabeth’s resentment that her child’s heart was not in the least
danger, and her fears were laid to rest.  It was easy to defend her from
attacks from without; but who could guard her from the grief that a
misplaced attachment would entail upon her?

"You know now what manner of man Herr von Hollfeld is," she said.  "It
will not be difficult strictly to avoid all future contact with him, and
if he should presume in spite of your efforts, he must be sternly
repulsed. His conduct seems to be the result of aristocratic conceit and
cowardice, two qualities which will probably deter him from any further
advances, when he discovers how disagreeable they are to you.  But at
all events, familiarize yourself with the thought that your behaviour
towards him must of necessity create an enemy who will, at some future
day, put a stop to your intercourse with Fräulein von Walde.  Of course
such a consideration cannot for one instant lead you to hesitate as to
your line of conduct.  Go on your way then, my child, quietly and with
self-possession.  I should certainly not advise you to give up your
visits to Castle Lindhof."

"Assuredly not! no, that I will not do!" cried Elizabeth, quickly.
"What would my uncle say if the chicken should actually come flying back
to creep beneath the shelter of home?" she added, smiling through her
tears.  "It would be wretched indeed, if with all the strength of which
I have boasted, I am not strong enough to repulse an impertinent man so
effectually that he shall desist from all future advances."

She recalled her conversation with Herr von Walde, and found, to her
great satisfaction, that she must certainly be exceedingly brave, for
assuredly it had required no small exercise of courage, while
confronting that stern countenance, to declare her own convictions,
which attacked so decidedly the proud edifice of his ancestral pride.
She had expected every moment to see his glance sheathe itself in ice
again, as it had done in conversation with the baroness; but the
singular glow and expression which had so struck her when first he
addressed her, had not faded from his eyes,—she could almost, in fact,
believe that she detected beneath his moustache a smile lurking around
the corners of his mouth.  Perhaps he had determined to-day to enact the
part of the lion towards the mouse.  He had magnanimously permitted a
little girl to pour out her naive ideas at his feet, where they might
remain lying, since to bend his aristocratic back to pick them up and
examine them was not to be thought of,—they probably amused him as
exemplifying the saying of the dog "baying the moon."  She repeated all
this continually to herself, that she might stamp afresh upon her
treacherous memory his general reputation for boundless arrogance.

She could not tell how she became conscious of it, but she was now
perfectly aware that she should suffer unspeakably if Herr von Walde’s
arrogance was ever exercised towards her; so she must be doubly on her
guard and not allow herself to be misled by his observance of the usual
forms of common politeness, of his high regard for which the next day
brought her a most convincing proof.



                              CHAPTER XI.


She had just gotten ready, the next afternoon, to go into the garden
with her work-basket, when the bell rang at the gate in the wall.  In
consideration of the scene of the day before, her surprise was certainly
justifiable, when, as the gate was opened, she saw Bella standing before
her.  Behind the child stood Miss Mertens and the elderly gentleman with
whom Elizabeth had lately had an evening encounter. As she entered Bella
extended her hand, but looked shy and confused and said not a word.
Elizabeth, much amazed, at once guessed the reason of her coming, and
tried to help her in her embarrassment by saying how glad she was to
have a visit from a little girl, and by asking her to come into the
garden.  But Miss Mertens stepped forward.

"Do not make it all so pleasant for Bella, Fräulein Ferber," said she,
"she has been expressly ordered to make an apology to you for her
misconduct yesterday.  I must insist upon her speaking."

These words, spoken with much firmness, and still more, perhaps, the
sheltering darkness of the hall through which Elizabeth was leading her
by the hand, at last loosened Bella’s tongue, and she softly begged
pardon for her fault, and promised never to be so naughty again.

"And now that is happily settled," cried the gentleman, as he advanced
to Miss Mertens’ side, and with an arch smile made a low bow to
Elizabeth.

"It may, perhaps, strike you as very odd," he said, "that I should
attach myself to this reconciliation deputation, with which I have no
concern; but I have an idea that on such occasions people are rather
inclined to overlook all slight transgressions, and so,—there can be no
more favourable moment for the smuggling in of a stranger.

"My name is Ernst Reinhard; I am the secretary and travelling companion
of Herr von Walde, and I have had no more earnest desire for a week past
than to become acquainted with the interesting family at Castle
Gnadeck."

Elizabeth kindly extended her hand.  "These old walls have witnessed so
many of the misdeeds of the robber knights of old, that we have no right
to condemn smuggling; you will be cordially welcomed by my parents."

She led the way, and opened the huge oaken door leading into the garden.

Her parents and uncle, who, with little Ernst, were sitting under the
lindens, arose as the strangers entered, and came towards them.
Elizabeth introduced them all round, and then, at a sign from her
mother, returned to the house to order some refreshments for the guests.
When she came back again, Bella had already laid aside her sack and
parasol, and with a joyous face was sitting in a swing, which had been
hung between two trees. Ernst was swinging her, and seemed not a little
proud of his new playmate.

"Indeed," said Reinhard, pointing to Bella as she flew up in the swing,
shouting with delight, "no one who had seen that child this morning and
her sullen bearing, as she went into Herr von Walde’s apartment to ask
forgiveness for yesterday’s misconduct, or her defiant and angry
expression, when he told her that he could not receive her again until
she had personally begged pardon of Fräulein Ferber,"—here Elizabeth
reddened, and became absorbed in the preparation of some bread and honey
for the two children,—"would recognize her for the same being, whose
face is now beaming with the innocent joy of childhood."

The hour passed very pleasantly.  Miss Mertens was both refined and
cultivated, and Reinhard told many delightful stories of his travels and
researches.

"Probably we should not have thought of returning home for some time,"
he said in concluding an interesting account of adventures in Spain,
"had we not received unfavourable accounts from Thuringia, which,
following fast upon each other, induced Herr von Walde to give up new
plans for travel.  The ambition of power often makes its possessor
blind.  The incautious request from a feminine pen that Herr von Walde
would pension off the good old village pastor at Lindhof, because he had
grown prosy and was incapable of training the souls under his care,
capped the climax of our unwelcome hews, and we set out for home
immediately.

"When, late in the evening, as we approached Lindhof, we left the
highroad and our carriage, that we might go the rest of the way on foot,
we met with a most charming adventure.   How odd! look, Reinhard, what
do you suppose is the meaning of that light in the ruins of Castle
Gnadeck?’ asked Herr von Walde.  ’It means that there is a lamp there,’
was my reply.  ’We must investigate this,’ said he, and we ascended the
hill. The light grew brighter, and at last, to our astonishment, we saw
that it streamed from two high illuminated windows.  And then, light
steps were heard behind us, something white fluttered among the bushes,
and suddenly, what I took for a being of ethereal mould hovered before
us upon the moonlit sward.  I took heart and approached, expecting every
moment that the airy form would vanish before the breath of my lips; but
alas! its own lips opened, and told of two well-trained goats and a
canary bird."

All laughed at this account.

"While we were descending the mountain," Reinhard continued, "my master
said not a word; but from certain signs I judged that he was quite as
ready to laugh at me as you were; it would have been a fine thing if you
could have accompanied us as a good fairy, for we left all the moonlight
and beauty behind us upon the mountain, and had to walk on through the
dim valley, where the mists were rising, and where there was nothing,
not even a wandering zephyr to bid us welcome home.  At Castle Lindhof
numberless lights were flitting to and fro like will-o’-the-wisps.  The
carriage, with our luggage, had already arrived, and seemed to have
produced the same effect by the sound of its rolling wheels, as that
ascribed to the thunder at the day of judgment, for there was such
hurry, confusion, and disorder reigning there when we arrived, that, for
my part, I should have been thankful to retrace my steps, and lay my
weary head upon the first quiet, mossy spot that I could find in the
forest.  The only person who, in the midst of the universal agitation,
presented an appearance of placid self possession was the chaplain,
Möhring.  He had put on a white cravat with great despatch, and welcomed
the master of the house at the foot of the grand staircase in a speech
full of unction."

"The reign of that stern gentleman is at an end now, is it not?" asked
the forester.

"Yes, indeed, thank God!" replied Miss Mertens. "He will leave Lindhof
in a short time.  Baroness Lessen’s influence has procured him a good
parish.  He could not endure to sink back into insignificance where he
had so lately held sway.  I can readily understand it, for he had ruled
with all the persecuting zeal of a tyrant who seeks to tread every one
beneath his feet.  He would not allow a thought in his kingdom without
his permission, and even the baroness, his mistress, upon whom he smiled
so servilely, felt his iron rule.  Every one in the household, without
exception, was obliged to write down, in the evening, the thoughts and
sentiments that had occurred to them during the avocations of the day. I
can see before me now the poor housemaids, to whom even a short letter
to their friends at home is a greater task than a long ironing-day,
sitting in that cold room on the winter evenings, holding the pen in
their tired clumsy fingers, and beating their poor brains for something
to say.

"’Yes, if the chaplain had worked as hard as I have done the whole day,’
one would whisper softly but angrily to another, ’he would not relish
writing much.’"

"Indeed, I think so," cried the forester.  "What a shameful system of
torture and oppression has been carried on there under the cloak of
service to the Lord!"

"The worst of it all is," said Ferber, "that unless a man is possessed
of great culture, or of a special fund of good humour, he ends by
detesting not only his tormentors but the whole subject of religion that
causes him such suffering.  Thus, he is led more and more astray from
all faith, while his outward observance of forms must be stricter than
ever, his subsistence depending upon his wearing the mask well.  All
this gives the death-blow to true religion among the people."

"Well, we are fortunate in at least having one among us who has force of
character enough and sufficient strength of will, to say, ’Thus far
shalt thou go and no farther!’  Zounds! it came upon us like a second
deluge!" said the forester.

"True, Herr von Walde is possessed of an energy and force of character
such as falls to the lot of but few," replied Miss Mertens, quickly.
"His mouth is closed, but his eyes are wide open, and servility, malice,
and hypocrisy quail before them and drop their masks."

In the mean while Reinhard had been attentively examining the walls of
the ruinous wing of the old castle which bounded the garden on the
south.  Three large, pointed, arched windows, faultless in shape,
extended upward to the height of the second story from about six feet
from the ground.  Close beside them a curious jutty projected far into
the garden, forming a deep corner, where grew a giant oak, which
stretched some of its boughs through the two nearest sashless windows
far into the airy, cool apartment within, which must once have been the
chapel of the castle, intended to accommodate a large number of
worshippers, for it extended through the entire depth of the wing.
Opposite these windows were three others of like dimensions; they had
been less exposed to wind and weather, and had preserved some fragments
of coloured glass in their delicately carved stone rosettes.  Through
them could be seen the dark court-yard, with its crumbling, ghostly
walls like a picture painted in gray.  The garden side of this wing
looked gay and odd enough.  The most extravagant caprice had here heaped
together all styles of windows and decorations; judging by the exterior,
the old building must have been a perfect labyrinth of rooms, passages,
and staircases.  The jutty alone seemed to be in a most dangerous state
of decay.  It inclined perceptibly to one side, and appeared to be
awaiting the moment when it should bury the blooming life of the oak
beneath its masses of stone.  It had thrown a green mantle coquettishly
over its falling form,—an impenetrable garment of ivy wreathed it all
over from the ground to the ruinous roof, and effectually concealed
every crack and aperture in the masonry.  Some sprays of the ivy had
crept across the oak and climbed up to the sculptured arms on the
principal front of the chapel, which looked forth grimly enough from
beneath its intrusive decoration.

"I attempted," said Ferber, "to explore this wing as far as I could,
shortly after my arrival here, for its peculiar style of architecture
interests me greatly; but I could not get farther than the chapel,
where, indeed, it seemed dangerous to stay long.  You see the whole
upper story has fallen in, and the weight of the ruins has caused the
ceiling of the chapel to sink considerably, so that it seems ready to
tumble at the slightest breath of wind. The jutty has only lately looked
so threatening in consequence of several severe storms.  It must be
taken away, for it makes a part of the garden inaccessible to us. If I
could have engaged any workmen, it should have been pulled down before
now."

After this explanation, Reinhard had no further relish, as he expressed
it, for wandering about in the old ruins. But he was all the more
interested in the connecting building, and Ferber arose to show his
guests his dwelling. And first, they ascended the rampart behind them.
Ferber was very capable and skilful, and employed every moment of his
leisure in improving his new possession. With his own hands he had
mended the steps which led to the top of the rampart, and they arose now
smooth and white from the close-shaven turf which clothed its sloping
side.  On top, the tolerably wide plateau was strewn with fresh gravel,
and in the centre of it, embowered in the linden boughs which
overshadowed the basin below, stood a group of home-made garden chairs
and a table.  While they leaned against the breastwork and enjoyed the
confined but lovely view from the steep mountain over the valley
beneath, Elizabeth told the story of Sabina’s ancestress, for doubtless
this rampart had been the scene of her narrative.

"Br-rr!" said Reinhard, shuddering.  "What a leap it would have been!
The wall is high, and when I imagine below there, instead of that mossy
carpet, the sluggish, slimy waters of a castle-ditch full of frogs and
lizards, I cannot possibly understand the resolution required to throw
one’s self over."

"But," said Miss Mertens, "despair has led many a one to seek a death
even more horrible."

At this moment Elizabeth saw with her mind’s eye the glowing, passionate
expression with which Hollfeld had hastened towards her on the preceding
evening.  She remembered the disgust that she had experienced at his
touch, and she thought to herself that it was not very difficult to
imagine the position of the persecuted girl.

"Come in, child," said her uncle, rousing her from her reverie.  "Are
you listening to hear the grass grow that you stand there so silent?"

Beneath his clear gaze, and at the sound of his strong, honest voice,
the terrible vision vanished in an instant. "No, uncle," she replied,
laughing, "that I shall not attempt, even though I do boast that I have
wonderfully keen eyes and ears for the processes of nature."

He took her hand, and led her after the others, who were just entering
the house.  At the top of the steps, Bella came running to Miss Mertens.
She had several picture-books in one hand, and with the other she drew
her governess into Elizabeth’s room.

"Only think, Miss Mertens, you can see our castle from here!" she cried.
That they were the owners of Lindhof she seemed firmly to believe, and
no wonder.  The way in which the baroness had, until now, wielded her
sceptre, had left no doubt in the child’s mind that her mother was the
indisputable mistress of Lindhof.  "Look," she continued gaily, "do you
see the path down there?  Uncle Rudolph has just ridden past.  He saw
me, and waved his hand to me.  Mamma will be glad that he is kind to me
again."

Miss Mertens admonished her to be a good little girl, and get her hat
and sack, for it was time to go.

Elizabeth and Ernst accompanied them out into the park.

"We have stayed too long," said Miss Mertens anxiously, as she took
leave of the Ferbers and stepped out into the forest-clearing.  "I must
be prepared for a tempest this evening."

"You think the baroness will be vexed at your remaining here so long?"

"Without doubt."

"Never mind,—you must not repent it.  We have spent such a delightful
afternoon," said Reinhard.

The children had wandered on before them, hand in hand, and disappeared
now and then among the trees on either side of the path, plucking
flowers.  Hector, who had forsaken his master to accompany them, leaped
joyously hither and thither, never forgetting to return now and then to
be stroked and patted by the gentle hand of Elizabeth, the lady of his
love, as her uncle said.

Suddenly he stopped, and stood still in the centre of the path.  They
had nearly reached the borders of the park.  Through the forest they
could see the vivid green of the lawn, and the plashing of the nearest
fountain was audible.  Hector had discovered a female figure hastily
approaching.  Elizabeth recognized her instantly as silent Bertha,
although her whole appearance seemed strangely altered.

She could have had no idea that any one was near, for, as she walked,
she gesticulated violently with her arms.  Her cheeks were crimson, her
eyebrows contracted as though in the greatest agony of mind, and her
lips moved as though she were talking to herself.  Her white hat, which
she had decked with flowers, had slipped from her dark braids, and was
hanging upon her neck by its loose red strings, which, as her motions
grew still more earnest, became wholly untied, and the hat fell on the
ground without the knowledge of its owner.

She came rapidly forward, and did not raise her eyes until just as she
stood close to Elizabeth.  Then she started as though stung by an adder.
In a moment the expression of anguish upon her countenance was changed
to one of the bitterest anger.  Hate flashed from her eyes, her hands
clenched convulsively, and while something like a low hiss escaped her
lips, she seemed as if about to spring, raging, upon the young girl.
Reinhard instantly placed himself by Elizabeth’s side, and drew her
slightly back.  When Bertha saw him, she uttered a low cry, and rushed
madly into the thicket, through which she forced a path, although her
clothes were torn by the thorns, and she struck her forehead against the
drooping boughs.  In a few moments she was lost to sight.

"That was Bertha, from the Lodge!" cried Miss Mertens, with surprise.
"What can have happened to her?"

"Yes,—what can have happened?" repeated Reinhard.  "The young creature
was in a state of terrible excitement, and seemed to grow actually
furious at sight of you," turning to Elizabeth.  "Is she related to
you?"

"No indeed," she replied.  "She is only distantly connected with my
uncle, and I do not even know her. She has avoided me from the beginning
most resolutely, although I wished much to be on friendly terms with
her.  It is clear that she hates me, but I cannot tell why.  Of course
it troubles me, but her character is not sufficiently pleasing to induce
me to attach much importance to her dislike."

"Good Heavens, my child, there is no question of dislike here!  The
little fury would have gladly torn you to pieces with her teeth."

"I am not afraid of her," replied Elizabeth, smiling.

"But I would advise you to be careful," said Miss Mertens.  "There was
something actually demoniac in her looks.  Where could she have been?"

"Probably at the castle," remarked Elizabeth, as she picked up Bertha’s
hat, and brushed the moss and dried leaves from it.

"I think not," rejoined Miss Mertens.  "Since she has been dumb she has,
very strangely, ceased visiting Lindhof.  Before then she came every
day, attended the Bible Class, and was a great protegée of the baroness,
but suddenly it all came to an end, to the surprise of all.  Only now
and then, in my solitary rambles in the park, I have seen her gliding
through the bushes like a snake,—indeed she seems to me to bear an
affinity to that reptile."

They had already reached one of the gravelled paths leading through the
park, and it was time to take leave of each other.  They separated with
mutual cordiality.

"Now, Elsie," said Ernst, as the other three vanished behind a group of
trees, "we’ll see which of us will reach the corner first."  The corner
was the entrance to a narrow forest-path which led directly to the foot
of the mountain.

"Agreed, my darling," laughed Elizabeth, and began to run.  At first she
kept even step with the little boy who was beside her; but just before
the goal was reached, she flew forward lightly as a feather, and stood
in the entrance of the path, and, to her terror, close to the head of a
horse which snorted violently.  Hector, who was by her side, barked
loudly.  The horse leaped aside and stood erect upon his hind legs.

"Back!" cried a powerful voice.  Elizabeth snatched op the little boy
and sprang with him out of the way, while the horse rushed out of the
forest, and, scarcely touching the ground with his hoofs, galloped madly
across the meadow.  Herr von Walde was seated upon the frightened
animal, which did its best to throw its rider.  He, however, sat firm as
a rock; only once he leaned from his saddle and struck with his
riding-whip at Hector, who was leaping and barking about the horse,
greatly increasing its fright.  For awhile it bounded wildly over the
meadow, then suddenly turned away and disappeared into the forest.

Elizabeth’s teeth fairly chattered with fright at the horrible accident
which she had no doubt would shortly occur. She took Ernst by the hand
and was about to run to the castle for assistance, when, before she had
gone many steps, she saw the horseman returning.  The animal was much
more quiet, his bit was covered with foam, and his legs trembled.  Herr
von Walde patted his neck caressingly, sprang off, tied him to a tree,
and then approached Elizabeth.

"Pray forgive me," she said in a trembling voice, as soon as he stood
beside her.

"What for, my child?" he rejoined gently.  "You have done nothing.
Come, sit down upon this bank, you are deadly pale."

He moved as if to take her hand and lead her to the spot which he had
designated, but his arm dropped instantly by his side.  Elizabeth
mechanically obeyed him, and without another word he seated himself
beside her.  Little Ernst leaned against his sister and fixed his large
beautiful full eyes upon Herr von Walde’s face.  The boy had been
frightened for one moment when the horse had first appeared, but the
gallop around the meadow had amused him, for he had no suspicion of
danger.

"What did you intend to do when you came running so hastily into the
forest?" Herr von Walde asked Elizabeth after a short silence.

An arch smile played about the still pale lips of the young girl.  "I
was pursued," she replied.

"By whom?"

"By this boy," pointing to Ernst, "We were running a race."

"Is the little one your brother?"

"Yes;" she looked lovingly in the boy’s face and passed her hand over
his dark curls.

"And she is my only sister," said the little fellow with great emphasis.

"Indeed!  Well, you seem quite fond of this only sister," said Herr von
Walde.

"Oh yes; I love her dearly.  She plays with me just like a boy."

"Is it possible?"

"Oh yes; if I want to play soldiers she puts on just the same kind of
paper hat that she makes for me, and marches, drumming up and down the
garden, just as long as I choose.  And before I go to bed she tells me
lovely stories while I am eating my supper."

A bright smile broke over Herr von Walde’s face. Elizabeth had never
seen it before, and she found that it gave an indescribable charm to
features which she had thought immovably stern; it seemed to her like a
clear sunbeam breaking through a thick, cloudy sky.

"You are quite right, my boy," he said, drawing the child towards him;
"those are most valuable talents to possess; but is she never angry?" he
asked, pointing to Elizabeth, who was enjoying like a child, Ernst’s
revelations, which seemed comical enough to her.

"No, never angry," replied the boy, "only serious sometimes, and then
she always plays on the piano."

"But, Ernst——"

"Oh yes, Elsie," he interrupted her eagerly; "don’t you remember when we
were so poor in B——?"

"Ah, there you are right," she replied with composure; "but it was only
when papa and mamma had to work so hard that we might have bread to eat;
it was much better afterwards."

"But you still play on the piano?"

"Yes," answered Elizabeth laughing, "but no longer for the reason which
Ernst gives.  My father and mother are now provided for."

"And you?" Herr von Walde persisted.

"Oh, I?  I am quite brave enough to fight life’s battle and win my own
independence in the struggle?"

"How do you propose to do it?"

"Next year I shall go somewhere as a governess."

"Does not Miss Mertens’ example deter you?"

"Not at all.  I am not so weak as to wish for a luxurious life while so
many others in my circumstances take upon themselves so bravely the yoke
of service."

"But here there is question not only of service but of endurance.  You
are proud.  It is not only your look at this moment which tells me so,
but every sentiment which you uttered yesterday."

"Indeed, it may, perhaps, be pride that induces me to rank real dignity
of character far above any mere exterior advantages which egotism has
invented and maintains, and for that very reason I believe that one
human being can humble another only by setting before him an example of
moral and intellectual greatness which it is impossible for him to
imitate,—never by insulting treatment."

"And you think that these views will steel you against all the
mortifications great and little which a heartless, capricious mistress
might heap upon you?"

"Oh no, but I need never bow before her."

A short pause ensued, during which Ernst approached the horse, examining
him attentively.

"From what you said yesterday, I gathered that you are attached to your
present home," Herr von Walde began again.

"Yes, more than I can tell."

"Ah!  I can understand that, for this is the loveliest spot in
Thuringia.  How then can you so easily endure the thought of leaving it
again?"

"On the contrary, I shall not find it at all easy; but my father has
taught me that our pleasures must yield to our necessities, and I
understand perfectly that it must be so.  I confess that I cannot easily
comprehend how one can give up what is so pleasant except at the command
of necessity."

"Ah! that was aimed at me.  You cannot conceive how a man can
voluntarily hide himself in the pyramids when he might breathe the cool,
sunny air of Thuringia."

Elizabeth felt a burning blush suffuse her cheeks.  Herr von Walde had
humourously alluded here to the jesting conversation that she had had
with her uncle, to which he had been an involuntary listener.

"If I should attempt to explain this to you I should fail, for you seem
to me to find all that you look for in your home circle," he said after
a moment’s silence. He had leaned forward and was mechanically drawing
figures with his riding-whip upon the ground at his feet. He spoke in
those deep tones which always appealed powerfully to Elizabeth’s mind.
"But there is a time for some of us," he continued, "when we rush out
into the world, to forget in its whirl and novelty that we cannot find
happiness at home.  If a man cannot fill up a painful void in his
existence, he can at least ignore it by devoting himself to science."

This, then, was the sore spot in his heart.  He had not found the
affection in his own home that he longed for, and that he had a right to
claim and expect from a sister for whom he manifested always the purest
and most self-sacrificing tenderness.

Elizabeth had comprehended this pain, even before she had seen Herr von
Walde, and, at this moment, when he alluded to it so openly, she longed
most fervently to console him.  Words of sympathy hovered upon her lips,
but she was possessed suddenly by an unconquerable shyness which
prevented her from speaking; and as she glanced up at him and marked the
firm lines of his profile and his brow which was so proud and
commanding, while his voice sounded so gentle and melancholy, the
embarrassing suspicion flashed upon her that he had forgotten for a
moment who was sitting beside him; his aristocratic ideas would cause
him bitterly to repent the moment when, under the influence of a sudden
self-forgetfulness, he had revealed a glimpse of his sternly guarded
consciousness to an insignificant girl.  This thought dyed her cheeks
again; she arose quickly and called Ernst.  Herr von Walde turned in
surprise, and for an instant his eyes rested searchingly upon her face;
then he also arose, and, as if to confirm her suspicion, stood at once
proudly calm and composed before her,—but she noticed for the first time
that sad, gloomy expression between the eyebrows, which her father had
spoken of, and which impressed her just as his voice had done.

"You are usually very quick to think,"—he said, evidently trying to give
the conversation a gayer turn, and slowly walking along by Elizabeth’s
side,—she was going for Ernst who had not heard her call.  "Before one
has quite finished a sentence the answer is plainly ready on your lips.
Your silence, therefore, at this moment, tells me that I was quite right
when I said that you would not understand me, because you have found all
the happiness that you look for."

"The idea of happiness is so different with different people, that
indeed I hardly know."

"We all have the same idea," he interrupted her; "it may still slumber
in you."

"Oh, no!" she cried, forgetting her reserve and with enthusiasm,—"I love
my friends with my whole heart, and am most happily conscious that I am
loved in return!"

"Ah, then you did not quite misunderstand me!  Well,—and your
friends,—there must be a large circle to whom you open your heart?"

"No," she cried, laughing,—"their tale is soon told! My parents, my
uncle, and this little fellow here," and she took Ernst by the hand as
he came running to her, "who grows larger and makes more demands upon me
every year.  But now we must go, my darling," she said to the child, "or
mamma will be anxious."

She bowed courteously to Herr von Walde,—it seemed to her that the shade
upon his brow had disappeared. He raised his hat to her and shook hands
with Ernst,—then he walked slowly towards the horse that was pawing
impatiently, untied it, and led it away by the bridle.

"Do you know, Elsie," said Ernst, as they were ascending the mountain,
"whom Herr von Walde looks like?"

"Whom?"

"The brave knight of St. George, just when he has killed the dragon."

"Aha!" she laughed.  "But you have never seen any picture of the brave
knight."

"I know that.  Still I think he looks like him."

And she too had thought of the resemblance when she had seen him
controlling his unruly steed.  At this moment she remembered the pang
she had suffered at the thought of a probable accident, and her
unspeakable delight at seeing him return from the thicket unharmed.  She
stood still, and with a smile of wonder laid her hand upon her throbbing
heart.

"Now see," said Ernst, "you have been running too quickly up the
mountain.  I could not keep up with you. What would uncle say if he knew
it?"

She walked slowly on, like one in a dream.  She scarcely heard the
child’s reproof.  What then was this strange half-consciousness which
had yesterday mingled itself with her melodies, causing them to mourn
and to rejoice at the same moment?  Again she felt it take possession of
her soul more mightily and intoxicatingly than before, but it was just
as mysterious and incomprehensible.

"But, Elsie," cried Ernst, impatiently, "what is the matter with you?
You are walking so slowly that it will be dark before we reach home."

He took hold of her dress, and tried to pull her on. This call from the
outer world was too energetic to be any longer withstood,—Elizabeth
roused herself and walked on quickly, to the child’s entire content.

When they reached the castle Elizabeth laid Bertha’s hat, which was
still hanging upon her arm, upon the table. She was unwilling to mention
her meeting with the girl to her parents, for she rightly judged that it
would make them anxious, and that they would relate the occurrence to
her uncle, who had been so angry and bitter of late whenever Bertha was
alluded to, that Elizabeth feared that if he heard of the meeting in the
wood he would put a stop to the annoyance by immediately dismissing the
cause of it from the Lodge.  Ernst had noticed neither the hat nor her
desire to conceal it, so there was no danger that he would betray her.

After supper Elizabeth walked down to the Lodge.  She met Sabina in the
garden, and heard to her satisfaction that her uncle had gone to
Lindhof.  She gave the hat to the old housekeeper, and told her of
Bertha’s extraordinary behaviour, asking in conclusion whether she were
at home yet.  Sabina was indignant.

"Indeed I think, child, that if you had been alone she would have
scratched your eyes out.  I don’t know what will become of her.  These
last few days she has been worse than ever.  She does not sleep at
nights, but walks up and down in her room, talking again—but only to
herself.  If I had but the courage to open her door just when she is at
the worst,—but I could not do it though you would give me heaps of gold.
You will laugh at me, I know; but she’s not right.  Look at her
eyes—they sparkle and glow as though all the fire of the Blocksberg were
burning in them.  No, I shall hold my tongue; the Herr Forester sleeps
soundly, and so do the rest,—but I wake at the slightest noise, and I
know perfectly well that Bertha is up and away many a night, and when
she goes the great watch-dog is gone too from his kennel.  He is the
only one in the house that loves her; and, fierce as he is, he never
touches her."

"Does my uncle know this?" asked Elizabeth with surprise.

"Not for the world!  I wouldn’t for my life tell him, for who knows what
mischief would come of it?"

"But, Sabina, only think.  You may do great harm to my uncle by
remaining silent.  The house is so lonely if there is no dog in the
yard——"

"But I stand at the window of my room and watch until she comes from the
mountain and chains up the dog again."

"What a tremendous sacrifice to make to your superstition! Why not tell
Bertha——"

"Hush! not so loud, there she sits!"  Sabina pointed through the fence
to the pear tree in the court-yard.  Upon the stone bench under the tree
Bertha was sitting, apparently quite composed, trimming carrots.  The
crimson of excitement had passed away from cheek and brow, and given
place to a livid pallor.  Elizabeth could see now that the girl had
lately grown much thinner.  Her delicate nose looked pinched, and her
cheeks had lost their lovely oval.  There were dark ridges around her
eyes, and between her eyebrows there were two deep wrinkles in the
delicate skin which gave a sullen expression to the face, but, in
connection with certain lines around the mouth, lent an air of deep
melancholy to her look. The sight cut Elizabeth to the heart.  Some
misery was burdening the soul of that lonely creature, misery all the
harder to endure because it was borne in silence.  She forgot all the
dislike of her which Bertha had always shown, and took several quick
steps towards her, that she might lay that weary head upon her breast
and say, "Rest here, poor child!  Tell me of the grief that you are
struggling with in such loneliness, and I promise to aid you to
endure——" but Sabina seized her arm and detained her.

"You must not go," she whispered in terror; "I will not let you.  She is
just in a condition to stick that knife into you."

"But she is so terribly unhappy.  Perhaps I can convince her that only
the kindliest sympathy moves me."

"No, no!  I’ll soon show you whether anything can be done with her."

Sabina descended the steps into the court-yard.  Bertha let her approach
without raising her eyes.

"Fräulein, Elizabeth found it," said Sabina, holding the hat towards
her; then she laid her hand upon the girl’s shoulder, and continued
kindly: "She would like to say a few words to you."

Bertha started up as if she had received a deadly insult.  She angrily
shook off Sabina’s hand, and darted a furious glance towards the spot
where Elizabeth was standing,—a proof that she had known before that she
was there.  She threw her knife upon the table, and by a hasty gesture
overset the basket at her feet, so that the carrots were scattered
around upon the pavement. She ran into the house.  They heard her
through the open window shut the door of her own room and bolt it behind
her.

Elizabeth was stupefied with surprise mingled with much pain.  She would
have so liked to console the wretched girl, but she now perceived that
it was not to be thought of.

For a week past she had been daily to the castle. Fräulein von Walde had
been steadily improving in health since the afternoon when, as the
baroness tenderly expressed it, she had found a cure in the coffee which
she herself had prepared, and in Herr von Hollfeld’s arrival. She was
diligently practising several duets, and at last confided to Elizabeth
that she wished to celebrate her brother’s birthday fête the last of
August.  It was to be a very splendid celebration, for she intended to
make it also a welcome home to the long absent traveller.  On that day
he should first hear her play again after so many years, and she knew
what a pleasant surprise it would be to him.

Elizabeth always looked forward with a mixture of pleasure and dread to
these practisings.  She did not know why herself; but the castle and
park had suddenly become dear and attractive to her; she even had a kind
of tender regard for the bank where she had sat with Herr von Walde, as
if it were an old friend; she made a little circuit in order to pass by
it.  Herr von Hollfeld’s behaviour inspired her, on the contrary, with
very different feelings.  After she had several times foiled his
attempts to meet her by a hasty avoidance of him, he came to Fräulein
von Walde’s room, one day, and begged permission to remain there during
the lesson.  To Elizabeth’s terror, Helene, with delight beaming in her
eyes, assured him that he was doubly welcome as a convert who had
hitherto had no taste whatever for music.  He now made his appearance
regularly, silently laying some fresh flowers upon the piano before
Helene as he entered, in consequence of which she invariably struck
several false chords.  Then he retired to a deep window-seat whence he
could look the players directly in the face.  As long as the practising
continued he covered his eyes with his hand, as if he wished to shut out
the world that he might resign himself entirely to the charms of music.
But, to Elizabeth’s vexation, she soon observed that he only covered his
face so as to conceal it from Helene; from behind his hand he stared the
whole time fixedly at Elizabeth, following her every motion.  She
shuddered beneath those eyes which, usually so dull and expressionless,
always burned with a peculiar fire when he looked at her.  Under this
hateful ordeal she often had to exercise great self-control in order to
play correctly.

Helene apparently had no suspicion of the cunning which Hollfeld had
employed to attain his end.  She often stopped playing for awhile and
conversed with him, that is, she talked herself, and, usually, very
well.  She listened to his monosyllabic replies,—which were empty and
foolish enough,—as if they were the words of an oracle wherein more
meaning than met the ear was to be found.

He always departed a few minutes before the end of the lesson.  The
first time that he did so, Elizabeth discovered him from one of the hall
windows that commanded an extensive view of the park, standing waiting
at the entrance of the forest-path, by which she must pass. She defeated
his intention, not without secret self-gratulation, by paying a visit of
an hour to Miss Mertens, who received her with open arms; and she grew
so fond of the governess that she never passed the door of her room
without entering for an hour’s quiet talk.

Miss Mertens was almost always depressed and sad. She saw that her stay
at Lindhof was becoming impossible. The baroness, suddenly deprived of
her sovereign authority and its consequent manifold occupations, was
often bored nearly to death.  She was obliged to wear her mask of
gentleness and content while she was with her relatives, which was hard
enough, and therefore all her ill humour had to be pent up within the
locked doors of her own apartment.  But she never vented it upon Bella,
for, looking upon her child more as a born baroness than as a daughter,
she restrained herself; nor upon her old waiting-maid, for whom she had,
no one knew why, what the old steward Lorenz called "an ungodly sort of
respect."  Nor could she scold the lower servants without offending the
master of the house, and therefore all her malice was wreaked upon the
unfortunate and defenceless governess.

In order to torment her victim most thoroughly, the lady ordered the
lessons to be daily conducted beneath her own most illustrious eyes.  In
presence of the pupil, the methods of the teacher were perpetually
analyzed and criticised.  It was no wonder that Bella did not improve
under such instructions, and her nerves, too, were sure to be ruined,
for Miss Mertens had the most disagreeable voice in teaching in the
world,—how, too, could the child be expected to be graceful while she
had constantly before her eyes the angular, clumsy manner in which her
governess held her book and turned over the leaves, etc.? In history,
Miss Mertens’ reflections were quite too sentimental, or too plebeian,
and, besides, she was so outrageously impertinent "as to have opinions
of her own."  In some cases the lesson was deliberately interrupted; the
baroness placed herself in the teacher’s chair, and the governess was
obliged to listen reverentially to a lecture full of supercilious scorn
and aristocratic arrogance. If the lady needed support, the chaplain,
Herr Möhring, was sent for.  And then, the nettle-stings of her
discourse vanished into insignificance by the side of the cruelty with
which the unappreciated martyr invoked upon the head of the wretched
governess all the gall of his suppressed sermons.  The baroness must
have known that the chaplain’s French was execrable,—but she requested
him to be present during the French hour that he might correct Miss
Mertens’ accent.  Bella’s improvement was forgotten in the overflow of
her mother’s petty malice.

Sometimes Miss Mertens would declare, with tears, that only love for her
mother, who looked to her for support, induced her to submit to this
martyrdom.  The old lady was almost entirely dependent upon the
exertions of her daughter, and therefore any change of situation was
very undesirable in view of the pecuniary loss which must attend it But
however depressed her spirits might be, her gentle face brightened
whenever Elizabeth knocked at the door, and asked, in her sweet, fresh
accents, if she might come in.  At sight of the young girl all her care
and anxiety took flight, and as they sat together on the little sofa by
the window they had many a happy hour, and the poor governess seemed to
live over again her own youthful days, and Elizabeth gained not a little
from the fund of knowledge and riper experience of her more mature
friend.

These brief afternoon visits had also a secret charm for Elizabeth,
which she would not for the world have confessed, and which,
nevertheless, caused her heart to throb quickly, and an undefined
sensation of mingled joy and anxiety to possess her as she knocked at
the door.

The windows of Miss Mertens’ room looked out upon a large court-yard,
which Elizabeth used to call the convent garden,—it lay so retired and
quiet, encircled by its four high walls.  Some spreading lindens cast
their green shade upon the rich grassy soil, only intersected here and
there by narrow paved paths.  In the centre of the space was a fountain,
which supplied the house with delicious water, and upon the edge of the
large basin several marble figures were reposing their white limbs,
bathed in the green light that broke through the overhanging trees. When
the sun poured his fierce rays, like melted lead, upon the open parts of
the park and garden, this spot was always refreshingly cool.  A door
upon the ground-floor, leading from the court-yard directly into Herr
von Walde’s library, almost always stood open.  Now and then he himself
would issue from it, and pace to and fro with folded arms.  What
thoughts lay hidden behind that fine white forehead, when, after walking
thus for awhile, with his head sunk upon his breast, he suddenly raised
it, as if roused from some delightful dream!  Miss Mertens often
remarked that he seemed to have returned from his travels much altered.

Before his departure, she said, Herr von Walde’s face had seemed to her
like that of a statue, so serious and immovable; and although she had
always known him to be a man of genuine nobility of character, she had
been oppressed when near him by the icy coldness of his manner.  Now it
seemed to her as if some revivifying hand had passed over his nature;
even his step was lighter and more elastic, and she would maintain that,
in his pacings to and fro in the court yard, a smile frequently broke
over his face, as if he saw, in imagination, some vision that delighted
him.  While she talked thus, Miss Mertens would smile and declare
mysteriously that he must certainly have brought home some very
agreeable memories with him, and that she could not refrain from
suspecting that matters at Lindhof would soon wear a different aspect.
She never noticed the involuntary start of her young friend when she
arrived at this conclusion, and Elizabeth was equally unaware of it, for
the pang that she felt at such an idea, made her utterly incapable of
controlling her external behaviour.

The quiet pacing to and fro beneath the lindens was, however, often
interrupted, not only by Herr von Walde’s workmen and men upon business,
but by the needy and unfortunate, who would come timidly down the steps,
ushered by a servant, and stand with bowed heads before the commanding
figure that confronted them, until they were encouraged by the gentle
tones of his voice to speak, as he kindly bent down to catch their
whispered words. They always left him greatly cheered, for those who
were not worthy of his assistance did not dare to present themselves
before him.

One day Elizabeth set out for Castle Lindhof a half hour earlier than
usual.  The fact was that her father, in returning at noon from the
Lodge, had met Miss Mertens in the forest.  She had evidently been
weeping, and was unable to speak at the moment; she had merely bowed and
passed hurriedly on.  This intelligence made Elizabeth very anxious.
She would not for the world have postponed her visit to the governess
until the end of her lesson,—the lonely woman was certainly in need of
love and friendly sympathy.

Just across the large meadow which bordered upon the forest was a
charming pavilion.  A dark grove surrounded the graceful structure upon
three sides, so that its white front stood out in shining contrast with
the green shade.  It had hitherto been kept closed, although the outside
shutters to the windows were thrown back and Elizabeth had seen that the
room within was furnished most luxuriously.  But to-day, as she issued
from the forest, she saw that the doors of the pavilion were wide open.
A servant, with a waiter in his hand, stepped out and requested her to
enter.  As she approached she could see that Fräulein von Walde, the
baroness, and Hollfeld were drinking coffee in the pretty room which
constituted the whole interior of the building.

"You are a little too early to-day, my child," said Helene, as her young
friend appeared upon the threshold. Elizabeth replied that she wished to
pay a visit to Miss Mertens before the practising.

"Ah! pray let that go to-day," said Helene, quickly, but evidently
confused, while the baroness looked up from her crotchet-work with a
malicious smile.  "Do you know that a large package of new music has
just come from Leipzig?" continued Fräulein von Walde; "I have looked
over it slightly, the pieces are beautiful.  Perhaps we can find among
them just the thing that we want for our concert.  Sit down, we will go
to the castle together."

She offered Elizabeth a basket of cake, and put a magnificent pear upon
her plate.

At this moment, Herr von Walde’s dog came bounding into the room;
instantly both ladies were on the alert and expectant; Helene looked
towards the door with a manifest effort to seem quiet and unconstrained,
but the baroness threw her work into a basket, examined the coffee-pot
to see whether the coffee was still hot, placed a cup near the sugar
basin, and drew a chair up to the table.  The malicious smile was
replaced by an air of grave reserve, and she was apparently resolved to
make as dignified and imposing an appearance as possible.  At sight of
the dog, Hollfeld hastened into the garden, and came back in a few
moments with Herr von Walde, who had evidently just returned from a
drive, for he wore a gray dust coat and a round felt hat.

"We were afraid, dear Rudolph," Helene cried out to him as soon as he
appeared, while she half arose and held out her hand,—"that we should
not see you at all to day."

"I found more business awaiting me at L—— than I had anticipated," he
replied, seating himself, not upon the chair which had been placed for
him, but upon the sofa by the side of his sister, so that when Elizabeth
raised her eyes she looked him full in the face, for he sat directly
opposite to her.  "Besides," he continued, "I have been at home full
half an hour, but Reinhard wished to speak with me upon private business
which required immediate action, and so I nearly lost the pleasure of
taking coffee with you, my dear Helene."

"That miserable Reinhard!" and Fräulein von Walde pouted a little; "he
might have waited awhile,—the world would still have turned around."

"Ah! dear child," sighed the baroness, "we cannot alter these things.
We are condemned all our lives long to be the slaves of our inferiors."

Herr von Walde quietly turned towards her, and his glance measured her
slowly from head to foot.

"Well, why do you look at me so, my dear Rudolph?" she asked, not
without a tinge of uneasiness in her tone.

"I looked to see whether you really seemed fitted to play one of those
sad parts in Uncle Tom’s Cabin."

"Always ridicule when I look for sympathy," rejoined the lady,
endeavouring to lend a gentle, melancholy tone to her harsh voice.  "I
might have known it, but——"  She sighed again.  "We do not all possess
your enviable equanimity, which is never affected by the petty
annoyances and necessary evils of this life.  We poor women have our
miserable nerves, which make us doubly sensitive to everything that jars
upon our minds.  If you had seen me this morning, in what a wretched
condition I was——"

"Indeed!"

"I have been tried inconceivably.  Well, Miss Mertens must answer for
it."

"Has she injured you?"

"What an expression!  My dear Rudolph, how could a person in her
situation injure me?  She has vexed me,—made me exceedingly angry!"

"I am greatly pleased to see that you do not bend without a struggle to
the yoke of bondage."

"I have lately had to endure more than I can tell with that stupid
creature," the baroness continued, without heeding her cousin’s comment.
"My maternal duties are sacred in my eyes, and therefore I have been
obliged to superintend my child’s instruction.  It is, of course, a
matter of great moment to me that her youthful mind should be rightly
trained.  Unfortunately, I have become more and more convinced that Miss
Mertens’ knowledge is very limited and her views and principles not
those which I should wish adopted by a young girl of Bella’s rank in
life.  This morning I heard the silly woman telling the child that
nobility of soul was far superior to nobility of birth—as though the one
could be separated from the other,—and that she ranked a beggar with a
clear conscience above a crowned head whose conscience was not pure; and
a quantity more of the same stuff.  When I tell you that Bella, the Lord
willing, will live at court,—I have all but secured the post of maid of
honour at the court of B—— for her,—you will readily conclude that I
interrupted such teaching upon the spot.  You must admit, my dear
Rudolph, that, with such views, Bella would play a poor part at
court—nay, even her stay there would be quite impossible."

"Certainly, there is no doubt of that."

"Thank Heaven!" cried the baroness, breathing freely. "I was really in a
little doubt as to how you would receive Miss Mertens’ dismissal.  You
know you always valued her far above her deserts.  She was so
impertinent when I interfered with her lessons that there was nothing
for me to do but to send her away."

"I have no right to lay down laws to you with regard to your people,"
replied Herr von Walde, coldly.

"But I always try to please you as far as I can, my good Rudolph.  I
cannot tell you how rejoiced I am that I shall see no more of that
repulsive English face."

"I am sorry that you will not be able entirely to avoid it, since she
will still remain under the same roof,—my secretary Reinhard was
betrothed to her about half an hour ago."

The work dropped from the baroness’ fingers.  This time not only her
cheek but also her brow was suffused with crimson.

"Has the man lost his senses?" she cried at last, recovering from her
stupefaction.

"I think not, since he has just given such proof of being in full
possession of them," said Herr von Walde, with composure.

"Well, I must say that he plays his part of antiquary well.  Such a
lovely, blooming, young bride!" cried the lady contemptuously,
endeavouring to laugh heartily. Hollfeld joined in her laughter, thus
giving the first sign of his having heard the conversation.  Helene cast
a troubled glance at him; but this mirth cut Elizabeth to the soul,—she
felt the greatest indignation stirring within her.

"I hope," the baroness began again, "that you will not take it ill of
me——"

"What now?"

"That I cannot consent to associate with that person any longer."

"I cannot force you to anything, Amalie, any more than I can forbid my
secretary to marry."

"But you can dismiss him if he chooses a wife who makes his residence
beneath your roof disagreeable to your nearest relatives."

"That I cannot do either; he has been engaged by me for life, and I have
just secured to his future wife a pension in case of his death.
Besides, you make a slight mistake, my good cousin, if you suppose that
anything in the world could induce me to allow a man to leave me whom I
have always found faithful.  I am much pleased with Reinhard’s choice,
and have allotted him the use of the apartments upon the ground-floor of
the north wing during his life.  His mother-in-law will reside with
him."

"Well, I congratulate him upon that valuable acquisition," replied the
baroness, and her sharp voice trembled with anger.  "I will, however,
make one remark: as I cannot bring myself to endure the presence of that
person in my apartments for a day longer, she must provide herself with
some place where she can stay until her marriage.  Probably even you
will see, my dear Rudolph, that there is a manifest impropriety in the
interesting pair’s still living, under present circumstances, beneath
the same roof."

"Permit me," said Elizabeth, here turning to Helene, "I am very sure
that my parents would extend a warm welcome to Miss Mertens,—we have
quite room enough."

"Ah, thank you!—matters could not be better arranged," answered Fräulein
von Walde,—extending her hand to her young friend.  The baroness shot an
angry glance at Elizabeth.

"The affair will thus be settled very satisfactorily," she said,
preserving her composure with difficulty.  "I will contain myself, and
hope in all humility that the future Frau Reinhard will vouchsafe me a
spot where I shall be relieved from the sight of her disagreeable
countenance.  Apropos, Fräulein Ferber," she continued after awhile, in
a careless tone, "I have just remembered that the money for your lessons
has been for several days in the hands of my maid; just knock at her
door as you go by, and she will give it to you with a receipt, which you
will please sign."

"But, Amalie!" exclaimed Helene.

"I will do as you desire, madame," replied Elizabeth, quietly.  She had
noticed that while the baroness was speaking a lightning flash of rage
shot from Herr von Walde’s eyes, a thunder-cloud seemed to pass over his
countenance, but in a moment these witnesses to his agitation gave place
to a look of withering sarcasm.

"If I might offer a little advice, Fräulein," he said, turning to
Elizabeth,—"I should counsel you not to venture rashly into the
baroness’ apartments,—they are uncanny.  Evil spirits are seen there in
broad daylight, and they have often worked mischief.  Do not give
yourself the slightest trouble in the matter,—my steward shall attend to
it; he is thoroughly trustworthy, and manages such affairs with so much
delicacy that he would really shame even a lady."

The baroness hastily folded her work together and arose.

"It would be better for me to pass the rest of the day in my solitary
room," and she turned to Helene, and her lips quivered; "there are times
when our most harmless words and actions are misunderstood and resented.
I pray you, therefore, to excuse me from appearing at tea."

She made a ceremonious courtesy to the brother and sister, took the arm
of her son, who looked much confused, and rustled out of the room.

Helene arose with tears in her eyes, and was about to follow her, but
her brother took her hand with kindly gravity, and drew her down again
upon the Sofia beside him.

"Will you not give me the pleasure of your company while I drink my
coffee?" he said gently, and as quietly as if nothing had occurred.

"Oh, yes, if you wish it," she replied hesitatingly and without looking
at him; "but I am sorry to tell you that you must hurry a little, for
Fräulein Ferber has come to practise with me, and she has already been
kept waiting an unconscionable time."

"Well, let us go to the piano immediately,—but upon one condition,
Helene."

"And that is?"

"That you allow me to listen."

"No, no, that I cannot permit,—I am not far enough advanced,—your ears
could not endure my bungling.

"Poor Emil!  He does not dream that he owes the delight of listening to
you to his uncultivated ear!"

Helene blushed.  She had hitherto never mentioned Hollfeld’s visits to
her brother for reasons that may easily be imagined.  Besides, she
supposed that they would have been a matter of entire indifference to
him, and now it appeared that he really attached importance to them.
She seemed to herself to be a detected deceiver, and for a few moments
she could not speak.  Elizabeth suspected what her sensations were; she
too grew confused, and felt her face flush painfully.  Just at this
moment Herr von Walde turned towards her, his keen, searching glance
scanned her countenance, and the gloomy wrinkle appeared between his
eyebrows.

"Does Fräulein Ferber improvise during these hours for practice as they
are called?" he asked his sister, speaking more quickly than was his
wont.

"Oh no," she answered, glad to recover her composure,—"had she done so I
should not have spoken of bungling. I admitted Emil because I think that
where there is a budding taste for music, it should be encouraged."

Herr von Walde smiled slightly, but it was not the smile which had
lately possessed such a peculiar charm for Elizabeth.  The dark lines in
his brow did not disappear, and his look was gloomy as he still observed
Elizabeth keenly.

"You are right, Helene," he said at last, not without a tinge of irony.
"But what magnetism there must be in these musical practisings that they
have worked such miracles!  A very short time ago Emil would much rather
have listened to his Diana’s baying, than to Beethoven’s sonatas."

Helene was silent, and cast down her eyes.

"But we have forgotten Miss Mertens," said her brother suddenly, in a
different tone.  "Would it not be advisable for Fräulein Ferber to
settle that matter as soon as possible?"

"Yes, indeed," replied Helene, quickly, seizing upon any pretext to
divert the conversation from its present painful direction.  "We had
better omit the lesson for to-day,—while you, dear child," and she
turned to Elizabeth, "take the necessary steps,—pray go now, then, to
your parents, and ask them in my name to offer an asylum to the poor
lady."

Elizabeth arose, and Helene also stood up.  When her brother saw that
she wished to leave the pavilion, he put his arm about her little form,
raised her from the ground like a feather, and carried her to the
wheeled chair that stood outside the door.  After he had arranged the
cushions at her back, and covered her little feet carefully with a
shawl, he raised his hat to Elizabeth, who saw that the wrinkle between
his eyebrows was not yet gone, and pushed the chair along the nearest
path leading to the castle.

"She quite fills his heart," thought Elizabeth, as she ascended the
mountain, "and Miss Mertens must be wrong if she imagines that he will
ever give to another a higher, or even a like place in his affections.
He is jealous of his cousin, and rightly so.  How can it be—" and here
she stood still for a minute as two masculine figures arose to her
mind’s eye,—"that such a man as Hollfeld can have any charms for Helene
by the side of Herr von Walde?  The one retreats behind an appearance of
wise silence because he has nothing to say, while the other, through
whose noble external repose breaks such fire, possesses a world of power
trained and restrained by force of character.  Hence his seeming great
reserve, which commonplace people cannot possibly understand."

She suddenly remembered the look that Herr von Walde had fixed upon her.
Did he think her an accomplice,—his sister’s confidante,—and was he
vexed with her when, in fact, she had, at this present moment, no more
earnest desire than that Herr von Hollfeld’s passion for music might
subside as quickly as it had been aroused?  Of course, she could not say
so to any one,—least of all to Herr von Walde,—and, therefore, she must
silently pay the penalty for those painful blushes that had suffused her
cheeks just at the wrong moment, and when there was no earthly reason
for them.



                              CHAPTER XII.


Her father and mother instantly acceded to Elizabeth’s request; and she
hastened back to the castle to carry to Miss Mertens their cordial
invitation.  The governess, when Elizabeth entered her room, was leaning
with folded hands against the wall.  At her feet stood a trunk half
packed, closets and wardrobes were wide open, and the chairs were heaped
with books, dresses, and linen.  The young girl hastened to her friend,
threw her arms around her, and looked into her face, which, while it
bore traces of tears, was beaming with happiness.

"I am so astounded by the sudden change in my lot," said Miss Mertens,
after Elizabeth had offered her congratulations, "that I am obliged to
close my eyes how and then and collect my senses.  Only this morning
everything seemed so dark before me,—I actually could not tell where to
go,—the ground seemed slipping from under my feet.  And just in the
midst of my anxiety a home is suddenly provided for me.  A man whom I
esteem thoroughly, but whose regard for the poor governess I had never
suspected, will be forever faithful to me, and I can fulfill the warmest
desire of my heart and have my dear good mother to live with me!  What
will she say when she receives the news,—she, who has suffered so much
in thinking that I must battle with the storms of life alone, and that
she could not recall me to her loving heart!"

She told Elizabeth that in a few weeks Reinhard would go to England for
her mother.  His employer had himself proposed the journey, and insisted
upon defraying all the expenses.  Whenever Miss Mertens mentioned Herr
von Walde the tears filled her eyes,—she declared that all the wrong
done her by the baroness was more than overbalanced by his kindness and
generosity; he could not endure to have any one beneath his roof suffer
injustice.  Elizabeth completed the measure of her happiness by the
invitation which she brought.  Miss Mertens had intended to go to the
little village inn until she could find lodgings.

"But now we will go to your house together as soon as possible," she
said, her face beaming with joy.  "The baroness, a short time ago, sent
me my salary, requesting that I would not again enter her presence, and
Bella passed through my room without even looking at me,—that grieves
me, grieves me very deeply, for I have cherished her like the apple of
my eye.  Her health used to be very delicate, and while her mother has
been absent, attending the court balls, I have sat by her bedside and
watched her feverish slumbers night after night. Now it is all
forgotten,—but I only meant to let you know that I need not take leave
of either of them."

While Miss Mertens went to bid good-by to Fräulein von Walde and a few
others in the house who were fond of her, Elizabeth packed up a
travelling bag for her. The new inmate of Gnadeck only took a few
necessary articles with her; the rest of her possessions were sent to
the future apartments of the betrothed pair.

It was an amusement for Elizabeth to arrange Miss Mertens’ books in a
bookcase in one of these apartments.  Herr von Walde had allowed all the
furniture in the rooms to remain for the use of their new inhabitants.
Many of these books were most interesting; she not only glanced at their
title pages, but, as she stood there, ran over several pages.  Miss
Mertens and her affairs were all forgotten for the moment as if they had
never existed.  While she was buried in Goethe’s appearance in the crowd
at the coronation of Joseph II., a fresh rose fell over her shoulder
upon the pages of the book Elizabeth started, but instantly smiled,
shook off the rose, and went on reading.  Miss Mertens, who was
doubtless standing behind her, should not exult in any effect of her
teasing. But she suddenly uttered a low cry,—a white, well-formed man’s
hand appeared and was gently laid upon hers.  She turned round,—not Miss
Mertens, but Hollfeld, was standing behind her and spreading out his
arms with a smile, as if to seize the startled girl.

Instantly her alarm was converted into indignation; but before she could
breathe a word, a harsh commanding voice cried out: "Emil, everybody is
looking for you.  Your superintendent from Odenberg is here to see you
upon business of importance.  Pray go to him instantly!"

Beside Elizabeth was an open window.  Outside of it stood Herr von
Walde, with his arms leaning upon the broad sill looking in.  It was his
voice which banished Hollfeld on the instant in great embarrassment.
What an angry expression there was upon the uncovered forehead, in the
compressed lips, and in the eyes that flashed upon Hollfeld’s retreating
figure as it vanished through the opposite door!

At last his glance returned to Elizabeth, who had hitherto stood still,
but who now, recovering from her two-fold fright, was about to retreat
into the recesses of the apartment.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, brusquely; his voice had not lost
its former harsh tone.  Elizabeth, deeply wounded by the manner and
style of his address, was about to return a defiant answer, when she
suddenly recollected that she was in his house, and therefore she simply
answered:

"I am arranging Miss Mertens’ books."

"There was another answer upon your lips,—I saw it, and I wish to know
what it was."

"Well, then,—I was about to say that I do not reply to questions asked
in such a manner."

"And why did you suppress this reproof?"

"Because it occurred to me that you have the right to command here."

"I am glad,—it is well that you think thus,—for I should like just at
this moment to exercise this obvious right of mine: tread upon that rose
which lies languishing there at your feet."

"That I shall not do,—it has done no wrong."  She picked up the rose, a
beautiful half-open centifolia, and laid it upon the window-sill.  Herr
von Walde took the flower, and without more ado tossed it away over the
lawn.

"There let it die a poetic death," he said with a sneer, "let the
grasses bend above it, and the evening dews shed sympathetic tears over
the poor victim."

The rigid expression had passed away from his features, but there was
still the same inquisitorial look in his eyes, and his voice was not
much gentler, as he asked:

"What were you reading when it was my misfortune to interrupt you?"

"Goethe’s ’Wahrheit und Dichtung.’"

"Do you know the book?"

"Only selections from it."

"Well, how do you like the touching story of Gretchen?"

"I do not know it."

"You have it open in your hands."

"No, I was reading the coronation of Joseph II., at Frankfort."

"Let me see it."

She handed him the open book.

"It is even so!  But look how ugly that is!  Just where Goethe describes
the emperor ascending the throne, there is an ugly green spot.
Doubtless you pressed the green rose leaves too tenderly upon the leaf
of the book; the Emperor, Goethe, and Miss Mertens will hardly forgive
you for it."

"That spot is old—I did not touch the rose."

"But you smiled at sight of it."

"Because I thought it came from Miss Mertens."

"Ah, there is something touching in this friendship! It must have been a
great disappointment when, instead of your friend, you saw my cousin’s
handsome face behind you."

"Yes."

"’Yes.’  How that sounds!  I like laconic brevity, but it must not be
ambiguous.  What does that ’yes’ mean?  It sounds neither sweet nor
bitter; and then your face!—why is that defiant frown there between your
eyebrows?"

"Because I think that there are limits to every right."

"I did not know that I was making use of my right just at present."

"But you will know it if you will ask yourself whether you would address
me thus harshly in my father’s house."

Herr von Walde grew pale.  He compressed his lips, and retreated a few
paces.  Elizabeth took the book which he had laid upon the window-sill,
and went to the bookcase to close it.

"Under the same circumstances, I should have spoken exactly so in your
father’s house," he said, after awhile, somewhat more gently, as he
again approached the window.  "You make me impatient.  Why do you answer
so ambiguously?  How could I tell from that simple syllable whether the
disappointment of which you spoke were a disagreeable or a pleasant one?
Well?"

He leaned far across the window-sill, and looked full into her face, as
though to read the answer upon her lips; but she turned away with
irritation.  Hateful thought!  How could any one suppose that Hollfeld
could ever be agreeable to her?  Did not her face, her whole bearing
towards the man, show how thoroughly disagreeable she thought him?

At this moment Miss Mertens entered the room to seek Elizabeth.  She had
completed all her preparations, and was quite ready to leave the house.
With a sigh of relief, Elizabeth hastened to her, while Herr von Walde
left the window and paced to and fro several times on the lawn.  When he
again approached, Miss Mertens went towards him, and courtesied
profoundly.  She told him that she had in vain endeavoured to obtain
access to him several times that day, and that she rejoiced to have an
opportunity to thank him for his kindness and thoughtfulness.

He made a deprecating gesture, and offered his congratulations upon her
betrothal.  He spoke very calmly. Again his whole presence breathed an
atmosphere of dignity and reserve, so that Elizabeth could not
understand how she had ever found the courage to remind this man of the
laws of common politeness.  The eyes that had flashed so passionately
now looked serenely into Miss Mertens’ face.  The deep, gentle tones of
his voice obliterated all remembrance of the cutting irony that had
rendered it so sharp a few moments before, when it had given to his
words such an accent of irritation, and had sounded as if designed only
to wound and avenge.

That Herr von Walde was filled with bitterness towards his cousin,
Elizabeth had already noticed once before that day.  But why should she
be made to suffer whenever he encountered him?  Was not Hollfeld’s
continual intrusiveness sufficient annoyance to her?  Why should she be
made the victim of an irritation for which Helene alone was to blame?  A
sharp pang shot through her as she remembered how tenderly and
forgivingly Herr von Walde had taken his sister in his arms, never
casting a single look of reproach upon her when Hollfeld’s visits had
been alluded to.  She, the poor piano-player, who was of necessity
forced to endure Hollfeld’s presence, must be the scapegoat.  Or had he
perhaps seen how Hollfeld had thrown the rose upon her book, and was his
aristocratic pride wounded that his cousin should pay such homage to an
untitled maiden?  This thought flashed upon Elizabeth as an explanation
of everything.  Yes, thus only could his conduct be explained.  She was
to crush the poor flower, that all proof might be destroyed that Herr
von Hollfeld had for one moment forgotten his aristocratic descent.
That was the reason why he had suddenly spoken in such a harsh tone of
command,—a tone which only those heard from him who had committed some
fault, and why she was called upon to explain the impression which
Hollfeld’s sudden appearance had made upon her.  At this moment she
would have liked to confront him, and tell him frankly how odious his
high-born cousin was to her,—that so far from feeling honoured by his
attentions, she looked upon them as nothing less than insults.  But it
was too late. Herr von Walde was discussing Reinhard’s journey to
England with Miss Mertens so calmly and kindly that it would have been
ridiculous, in the midst of such a discussion, suddenly to resume the
thread of the previous stormy conversation.  Besides, he did not once
look at her again, although she stood tolerably near to Miss Mertens.

"I am really half persuaded to go with him," he said in conclusion to
the governess.  "Reinhard shall return with your mother, for I intend to
give him the entire charge of Lindhof here, and I will pass the winter
in London, and go to Scotland in the spring."

"And not return for years?" Miss Mertens interrupted him, anxiously.
"Has Thuringia, then, no attraction for you?"

"Oh, yes; but I suffer here, and you know that prompt and active
treatment will often cure where cautious, cowardly delay might bring
danger.  I hope much from the air of Scotland."

The last words were spoken in a tone meant to be gay, but the lines
between his brows were stronger than ever, and caused Elizabeth to doubt
much whether his cheerfulness were genuine.

He shook hands with Miss Mertens, and walked slowly away, soon
disappearing behind a clump of trees.

"There it is," said the governess, sadly; "instead of bringing a lovely
young wife home to Lindhof, as I hoped he would, he is going away again,
and perhaps will not return for years.  He is restless, and no wonder,
when one thinks of the comfortless home that he has. Baroness Lessen he
cannot endure, and yet he is forced to see her daily at his fireside,
for his sister, whom he loves so tenderly, has declared to him, that in
the society of this woman she is able to forget the bitter trials of her
life.  And his cousin, too, is an unbidden guest.  Herr von Walde’s
nature is too frank and open to allow him to conceal his dislikes; but
these people are made of iron and steel,—the indifference of the master
of the house never affects them in the least; they have neither eyes nor
ears when he hints at their leaving.  And as for Herr von Hollfeld, he
seems to me a very insignificant creature, and very repulsive.  I cannot
conceive how he could have won Fräulein von Walde’s heart."

"Do you know that too?" asked Elizabeth.

"Ah, child, that has been a secret known to everybody for a long time.
She loves him as truly and deeply as only a woman can love.  But this
unfortunate attachment, on which she now lives and breathes as in
sunlight, will one of these days cast the darkest shadow that has yet
fallen upon her sorrowful existence.  All this Herr von Walde
comprehends; but he cannot open the eyes of his sister without
inflicting a mortal wound, and so he sacrifices everything to his
fraternal tenderness, and leaves the home where he is made so unhappy."

During this conversation, Miss Mertens and Elizabeth had left the
castle, and were now ascending the mountain path.  Reinhard, who had
been to the village, soon joined them.  Miss Mertens told him of her
interview with Herr von Walde, and all that he had said about going to
England.

"He has not yet mentioned it to me," said Reinhard; "but he often looks
as if he longed to leave Lindhof. Such a household!  The master of the
house is considered by his relatives in the light of a fifth wheel to a
coach,—he maintains them, and they show their gratitude by estranging
his sister’s heart from him.  Good Heavens! if I could only take his
place for two days, I would soon exorcise the evil spirit and not a
trace of it should ever appear again.  However, I hope that Herr von
Hollfeld will at least soon return to Odenberg for a few days.  His
superintendent has just arrived with the intelligence that the
housekeeper has left,—no one stays there long—my gentleman is too
stingy.  And several other matters are in disorder there."

When they reached Castle Gnadeck, the guest was most cordially welcomed
by the Ferbers.  How comfortable and homelike did Miss Mertens’ room
seem to its new inmate!  It shone with neatness; the counterpane and
table-covers were spotless, a beautiful Schwarzwald clock was ticking
softly just above the prettily arrayed writing-table, and a vase of
roses and mignonette upon the window-sill filled the air with fragrance.
Through the open door could be seen the dwelling-room of the family.
There the table was already laid, and Elizabeth lighted the spirit-lamp
beneath the tea-kettle, while Miss Mertens was arranging in drawers and
wardrobe the few articles that she had brought with her.

In the mean while the forester, with his long pipe and Hector, had
arrived, and Reinhard also stayed, so that a merry circle was soon
assembled.  The forester was in a particularly happy humour.  Elizabeth
sat beside him, and did her best to join in his gaiety; but it had never
seemed so difficult to her before, and he, who had an acute perception
of the most delicate modulations of her voice, soon perceived it.

"Holla, Gold Elsie, what is the matter with you?" he cried, suddenly.
"All is not right here."  He took her by the chin and looked into her
eyes.  "I see,—there is a veil over your eyes, and over your heart, too!
Zounds! what a sudden change!  And what does this sad nun’s face mean?"

Elizabeth blushed deeply beneath his scrutinizing gaze. She did all that
she could to parry his questions by jest and laughter, but she did not
succeed very well, and at last there was nothing for her but to seat
herself at the piano, where he never teased nor laughed at her.

How much good it did her heavy heart to give it voice in full rolling
chords, as the sound floated sadly out into the gathering
twilight,—telling of the gloom that had fallen upon her at the thought
of Herr von Walde’s again leaving Thuringia!  Where now were all her
dreamings and all her endeavours to read the meaning of that mysterious
warning that had of late breathed through her melodies?  It rung out
clearly now in mighty tones, at the sound of which all the former gentle
breathings of her inward emotions died away in an inaudible whisper.  A
fairy land, full of golden promise, was revealed before her; her
enchanted eyes gazed rapturously upon the fair landscape,—but never,
never might she tread that magic ground, for nothing could bridge the
abyss at her feet. The veil beneath which her heart had hitherto lain in
blissful self-ignorance was rent, and with joy and pain unspeakable she
knew—that she loved.

She did not know how long she had been playing. But she was suddenly
aroused from her utter forgetfulness of the world without by a bright
gleam of light falling directly on the pale bust of Beethoven.  Her
mother had just lighted the large lamp, and Elizabeth saw her uncle
sitting near her on the broad window-seat. He must have entered
noiselessly.  As her hands dropped from the keys, he gently smoothed her
hair with his hand.

"Do you know, child," he said, after the last faint sound had died away,
and his voice trembled with emotion, "if I had not already seen that
something was the matter, I should soon have learned it from your
playing,—it was tears, nothing but tears!"



                             CHAPTER XIII.


Miss Mertens’ presence lent an additional charm to the circle at
Gnadeck.  For the first time for long, dreary years the governess found
herself an object of interest and affection, and at home.  Her gentle
nature, so long chilled and repressed, now showed itself, and, combined
with her varied culture, made her a most attractive addition to the
household.  She longed to be of use whenever she could, and took great
pains with little Ernst, who had a lesson every day in French and
English; while Elizabeth, too, gathered all the advantage that she could
from her visitor, and studied diligently, knowing that it was the best
resource to ward off sad reveries.

In the mean while, the practisings at Castle Lindhof went on as before.
Hollfeld, who had only been absent at Odenberg for one day, was still an
enthusiastic auditor, trying by every means in his power to obtain a
private interview with Elizabeth.  Once or twice he had cunningly
contrived that, in the intervals of rest, Helene should leave the room
to find something that he wanted, but he gained nothing by these
manoeuvres, for Elizabeth always left the room at the same time to
procure a glass of water.  His attempts to meet her upon her return to
her home she frustrated also, for Miss Mertens and little Ernst were
always awaiting her at the borders of the park.  This perpetual
frustration of his endeavours at last made him impatient and less
cautious.  He no longer held his hand before his face.  His looks were
entirely unguarded, and it was only owing to her near-sightedness that
Helene was spared a most painful discovery.  Thus Elizabeth’s visits to
the castle grew more and more annoying, and she was thankful that the
fête day was at last close at hand, since with that celebration the
daily practisings would, at all events, be discontinued.

The day before Herr von Walde’s birthday, Reinhard announced at Gnadeck
that a guest had already arrived at Castle Lindhof.

"That scatter-brain completes our misery," he said, with vexation.

"Who is she?" said Miss Mertens and Frau Ferber, laughing at the same
moment.

"Oh, she is said to be a friend of Fräulein von Walde,—a lady from court
at L——.  She is to assist in the ordering of the fête.  Heaven help us
all, for she turns everything upside down."

"Ah, it must be Fräulein von Quittelsdorf," cried Miss Mertens, still
laughing.  "Yes, indeed, there is quicksilver in her veins.  She is
terribly frivolous, but she is not really bad at heart."

Later in the afternoon Reinhard accompanied Elizabeth to Lindhof.  As
she approached the castle, Herr von Walde’s horse was led up to the
great entrance on the southern front of it.  He himself immediately
issued from the glass door, riding-whip in hand, and descended the
steps.  Elizabeth had not seen him since the afternoon when he had
treated her with such harsh want of consideration.  She thought he
looked very pale and stern.

Just as he was mounting, a young lady, dressed in white, came out upon
the steps.  She was extremely pretty, and with much grace she hastened
down to pat the horse upon the neck and give him a lump of sugar.

Fräulein von Walde, who also appeared leaning upon Hollfeld’s arm, stood
at the top of the steps, and kissed her hand in token of farewell to her
brother.

"Is not that young lady Fräulein von Quittelsdorf?" asked Elizabeth.

Reinhard assented, with a wry face.

"She is certainly very pretty," said the young girl. "Herr von Walde
seems much interested," she added, in a lower tone, as the rider leaned
from his saddle, and appeared to be listening intently to what the young
lady was saying.

"Oh, he does not wish to be rude, and therefore gives her a moment’s
attention.  She would talk the moon out of the sky, and, I verily
believe, would seize and hang upon the horse’s bridle if she saw any
danger of his leaving before she had finished what she had to say."

In the mean time they had reached the vestibule.  Here Elizabeth took
leave of Reinhard, and betook herself to the music-room, where she found
Fräulein von Walde and Hollfeld.  The former retired for a moment to her
dressing-room, to arrange her curls, that were somewhat out of order,
and Hollfeld took advantage of this moment to approach Elizabeth, who
had retired to the recess of a window, and was turning over the leaves
of a music-book.

"We were provokingly disturbed the other day," he whispered.

"We?" she asked, with emphasis, retreating a step or two.  "I, indeed,
had reason to complain of being disturbed.  I was much provoked, I
assure you, by the interruption of my reading."

"Oh, every inch a queen!" he cried jestingly, but in a low tone of
voice.  "I certainly did not intend to offend you,—on the contrary, do
you not know what that rose meant?"

"It would most certainly say that it would a thousand times rather be
left to perish upon its stalk than be plucked for such idle purposes."

"Cruel girl!  You are hard as marble.  Can you not guess, then, what
lures me hither daily?"

"Admiration, doubtless, for our great composers."

"You are wrong."

"Then the hope of improving your musical taste."

"Oh, no!  That would not bring me a step hither. For me, music is only a
bridge——"

"From which you might easily fall into cold water."

"And would you allow me to drown?"

"Most certainly—yes.  I am not ambitious of a medal from the Humane
Society," replied Elizabeth, dryly.

Fräulein von Walde returned.  She seemed surprised to find the pair
conversing, for until this moment there had never been a word exchanged
between them.  She looked keenly at Hollfeld, who could not control his
feeling of annoyance, and then seating herself at the piano, began to
prelude, while Elizabeth arranged the notes.  Hollfeld took his usual
place, and leaned his head upon his hand with a melancholy air.  But
never had his gaze rested upon Elizabeth with such glowing and
passionate intentness.  She repented having entered into conversation
with him.  Her endeavour to repulse him by coldness and severity
appeared to have had quite a contrary effect.  Repugnance and fear
overcame her at sight of him, and, notwithstanding the thought of her
uncle’s probable smile of triumph, the determination rather to resign
the practisings entirely than to subject herself any longer to these
insolent glances, gained ground in her mind.

The hour was nearly ended, when Fräulein von Quittelsdorf entered in
haste.  In her arms she carried a little creature in a long, white,
infant’s cloak, pressing its head down upon her shoulder with one hand.

"Frau Oberhofmeisterin von Falkenberg sends her compliments," she said
with formality,—"regrets excessively that a cold will prevent her
presence to-morrow, but she takes the liberty of sending her lovely,
blooming grandchild——"

Here the creature in her arms made desperate exertions, and, with a loud
howl, jumped down upon the ground, and ran under a chair, dragging the
long robe after it.

"Ah, Cornelie, you are too childish," cried Fräulein von Walde, with a
laugh of amusement and vexation, as Ali’s distressed face, surrounded by
a baby’s cap, peeped out from beneath the chair.  "If our good
Falkenberg could hear of this, you would play no more tricks at the
court of L——."

Bella, who had also just entered, shrieked with laughter, only
endeavouring to control herself when her mother, amazed at the noise,
appeared and represented to her how unbecoming such loud merriment was.
The baroness, smiling, shook a threatening forefinger at Fräulein von
Quittelsdorf when Helene told her what had happened, and then approached
Elizabeth.

"Perhaps Fräulein von Walde has not told you," she said rather
graciously, "that all invited to the fête to-morrow will assemble at
four o’clock in the large saloon.  Pray be punctual.  The concert will
not be over until near six.  I tell you this that your parents may not
expect you at home before that time."

At these words, Helene looked down upon the keys of the piano in great
confusion, while Fräulein von Quittelsdorf took her stand beside the
baroness, and stared Elizabeth impertinently in the face.  Beautiful as
were the black eyes that were fastened upon her, Elizabeth was annoyed
by their steady stare.  She bowed to the baroness, assuring her that she
would be punctual, and then looked full and gravely at the fair
impertinent.  The effect was instantaneous.  Fräulein von Quittelsdorf
looked away, and, in some confusion, turned upon her heel like a spoiled
child.  Just then she discovered Herr von Hollfeld in the recess of the
window.

"How, Hollfeld," she cried, "are you here, or is it your spirit?  What
are you doing here?"

"I am listening, as you see."

"You are listening?  Ha, ha, ha!  And of coarse enjoying such
indigestible food as Mozart and Beethoven! Don’t you remember telling
me, four weeks ago, at the last court concert, that you always suffered
from dyspepsia after listening to classical music?"

She laughed boisterously.

"Ah, pray let nonsense go now, dearest Cornelie," said the baroness,
"and aid me in this programme for the fête with your inventive genius.
And you, dear Emil, would do me a great favour if you would come too.
You know that I am obliged now to enforce my authority by the presence
of a masculine supporter."

Hollfeld arose with visible reluctance.

"Oh, take me too, pray!  Would you be so cruel as to leave me here alone
until tea-time?" cried Helene, reproachfully, as she stood up.  She
looked displeased, and it seemed to Elizabeth that she noticed, for the
first time, an envious expression in the lovely blue eyes as they looked
at the tripping feet of Cornelie, who, without another word, had taken
Hollfeld’s arm, and was leaving the room.  Elizabeth closed the piano,
and took a hasty leave.

In all the passages of the castle through which she went there was hurry
and bustle.  The servants were carrying baskets of china, glass, and
silver to the rooms adjoining the grand saloon.  From the subterranean
regions of the kitchens there streamed a fragrant odour, and through the
open door of one of the servants’ rooms were seen heaps of green
garlands and wreaths.

And he in whose honour all were exerting themselves to-day was riding
alone in the forest, gloomily devising ways and means for fleeing from
the joyless, unquiet life in his home.

Elizabeth went down to the village to execute a commission for her
father.  A few days before, a violent storm in the night had so shaken
the ruinous jutty in the corner of the garden that there was danger that
the slightest jar might send it toppling down upon the garden, burying
beneath its fragments the beds and paths which had just been so
laboriously arranged.  Two Lindhof masons had promised to take down the
ruin the following Monday, but as the forester had declared that he knew
from experience that small reliance was to be placed upon their
promises, Elizabeth was to remind them of their engagement, and impress
upon them the urgent necessity for keeping it.

The result of her expedition was favourable.  One of the workmen swore
by all that was Holy that he would be upon the spot, and she was now
wandering through the quiet, lonely path towards her home.  About midway
upon the path leading from the village to the forest Lodge, a much
narrower path branched off, and ascended the mountain to Castle Gnadeck.
It was seldom used, and might have escaped stranger eyes, for in some
places it was overgrown with low bushes, and fallen leaves lay so thick
among the gnarled roots of the trees that it seemed never to have been
trodden by the foot of man.  Elizabeth loved the path, and now chose it
for her return home.

She had never encountered a human being here, but to-day she had not
penetrated far into the green twilight before she observed, about twenty
paces in front of her, towards the right, just by the trunk of an
enormous beech tree, something like an arm slowly projected and then
dropped.  She could distinctly perceive this movement, as just at that
spot the trees separated, and encircled a light spot of grass which
shone like an oasis in the dark forest.  Elizabeth advanced noiselessly
and slowly, but as she arrived opposite to the beech tree she suddenly
stood still in terror.

A man was leaning against the tree.  His back was turned towards her;
his head was uncovered save by masses of coarse, uncombed hair.  For one
moment he stood motionless, apparently listening, then advanced a step,
raised his right arm, and pointed the barrel of a pistol towards the
light spot in the forest, after awhile letting his arm fall again by his
side.

"He is practising at a mark," thought Elizabeth, but she only thought so
to compose herself, for an indescribable terror had at once taken
possession of her; she did not know whether to run backward or forward
in order to escape observation, and so she stood still, rooted to the
spot.

Suddenly the noise of a horse’s hoofs struck upon her ear.  The man
started and stood erect as though electrified.  A few moments afterwards
a horseman appeared where the forest was more open.  The horse walked
slowly over the soft turf; its rider, lost in thought, had dropped the
bridle upon its neck.  The man with the pistol rapidly advanced a couple
of paces; raised his arm in the direction of the horseman, and at the
same moment turned his head so that Elizabeth instantly recognized the
former superintendent, Linke, his features deadly pale and distorted
with rage and hate, while the horseman, who was slowly coming within
range of the deadly weapon, was Herr von Walde.  An instantaneous
transformation took place in Elizabeth.  The girlish terror that had
caused her to tremble at sight of the villain, gave place to a wondrous
courage and an incomprehensible calmness and self-control at the thought
that she was destined to come to the rescue here.  She glided
noiselessly through the trees and stood suddenly, as if she had risen
from the earth, beside Linke, who, his eyes riveted upon his victim, had
no suspicion of her approach.  With all the strength of which she was
mistress she seized his arm and threw it up.  The pistol was discharged
with a loud report, and the ball whistled through the air and lodged in
the trunk of a tree; as the startled wretch fell upon the ground, a
woman’s loud scream for help rang through the forest.  The assassin
tottered to his feet and plunged into the thicket.  In the mean time the
horse had reared and plunged with fright, but, speedily controlled by
its rider, came galloping across the clearing to the spot where
Elizabeth was leaning against a beech tree, pale as death.  The danger
was past, and her feminine nature was reasserting itself.  She trembled
in every limb, but a happy smile illuminated her countenance when she
saw Herr von Walde coming towards her safe and unharmed.

At sight of her he leaped from his horse; but she, who had just
manifested such extraordinary self-possession, screamed with fright and
turned suddenly as she felt two hands laid upon her shoulders from
behind,—Miss Mertens’ agitated face was close to her own.

"Good God!  Elizabeth," cried the governess, breathlessly, "what have
you done! he might have killed you!"

Herr von Walde pushed through the underbrush that separated them from
him.

"Are you wounded?" he asked Elizabeth, hurriedly and earnestly.

She shook her head.  Without another word he raised her from the ground
and carried her to the fallen trunk of a tree, where he gently placed
her.  Miss Mertens sat down beside her and leaned the girl’s head upon
her shoulder.

"Now pray tell me what has happened," said Herr von Walde to the
governess.

"No, no," cried Elizabeth in terror; "not here, let us go,—the murderer
has escaped,—perhaps he is lurking among the bushes, and may yet
accomplish his design."

"Linke was about to murder you, Herr von Walde," said Miss Mertens, in a
trembling voice.

"Miserable wretch! that shot then was for me," he calmly observed.  He
turned and went into the thicket where Linke had disappeared.  Elizabeth
almost lost her self control, and was on the point of following him when
he returned.

"Reassure yourself," he said to her; "there are no traces of him to be
seen; he will not shoot again to-day. Come, I beg you, Miss Mertens,
tell me all about it."

It appeared that knowing that Elizabeth was going to the village, the
governess had gone to meet her in the narrow forest path.  As she was
slowly descending the mountain she saw all that Elizabeth had seen.  The
villain’s intentions were plain, but she had been so paralyzed by fright
that she had not been able to move nor cry out. She stood fastened to
the spot with deadly terror, when suddenly Elizabeth, whom she had not
seen, stood behind the assassin.  In her horror at her friend’s danger,
the cry for help escaped her which had been heard simultaneously with
the report of the pistol.  She related all this hurriedly, and in
conclusion added: "Where did you get the courage, Elizabeth, to seize
the man?  I shudder at the mere thought of touching him, and should have
screamed loudly instead."

"If I had screamed," replied Elizabeth, simply, "Linke might have
accomplished his purpose, in his involuntary start of alarm."

Herr von Walde listened quietly but intently to Miss Mertens’ account.
Only when she described how Elizabeth had seized the murderer’s arm, did
his face lose colour for an instant, as he riveted a keen, anxious
glance upon the girl, to assure himself that she had actually escaped
the danger unhurt.  He leaned over her, took her right hand and pressed
it to his lips, and Elizabeth plainly perceived that his hand trembled.

Miss Mertens, who observed how this expression of gratitude confused
Elizabeth and called up a burning blush in her cheeks, left her seat,
and picking up the pistol Linke had thrown from him in his flight,
handed it to Herr von Walde.

"Horrible!" he murmured.  "The wretch would have murdered me with one of
my own weapons."

Elizabeth now arose, and assured Miss Mertens that all traces of her
fright had vanished, and that she was quite able to resume her walk
towards Gnadeck.  They would both have taken leave of Herr von Walde,
but he tied his horse to the terrible beech tree, and said, lightly:

"We know well that Linke’s nature is most revengeful; he may perhaps
hate her to whom I owe my life even more than he hates me.  I cannot
permit you to proceed without a protector."

They ascended the mountain.  Miss Mertens hastened on, that she might
incite Herr von Walde to greater speed, in order to take steps for the
apprehension of the criminal as quickly as possible; but her exertions
were all in vain.  He walked slowly by the side of Elizabeth, who, after
a few moments of conflict with herself, begged him, in a gentle, timid
tone, not to go back alone to his horse, but to send for him from Castle
Lindhof.

He smiled.  "Belisarius is wild and obstinate; you know him already," he
said.  "He obeys no one but myself, and would never allow any one but
his master to take him home.  Besides, I assure you, that cowardly
wretch will attempt nothing further to-day.  And if he should, I bear a
charmed life.  Has not my happy star risen to-day in my heavens?"

He stood still.  "What do you think," he asked, suddenly, in a low tone,
and his eyes flashed as he looked at her, "shall I listen to the
delicious hope that it may shine upon me for the rest of my life?"

"If it is to tempt you to run repeated risks, it were certainly better
not to place such unconditional faith in your star."

"And yet I run the greatest risk of all in trusting such a hope," he
murmured, half to himself, as his face darkened.

"I do not understand you," said Elizabeth, surprised.

"It is quite natural that you should not," he replied, bitterly.  "Your
wishes and hopes lie in quite another direction.  Notwithstanding all
our stern self-discipline, we are sometimes overmastered by a beautiful
dream. No, no, say nothing more!  I am punished already, for I am
awaking."

He quickened his pace, and walked by Miss Mertens’ side, while Elizabeth
followed more slowly, lost in wonder at the harsh tone which he had
suddenly assumed, and which so wounded her.  He spoke not another word;
and when at last the walls of the old castle appeared through the trees,
he took his leave, coldly and shortly, and descended the mountain.

Miss Mertens looked after him in surprise.  "Incomprehensible man!" she
said at last, and shook her head. "Even though he attaches but little
value to his life, as would seem to be the case, surely a word or two of
gratitude at parting from you would not be superfluous, when he knows
that you have risked your life for his sake."

"I see no necessity for anything of the kind," rejoined Elizabeth.  "You
attach altogether too much importance to what I have done.  I simply
fulfilled my duty to my neighbour; and would," she added, with a strange
defiance in her tone and manner, "have done the same if the case had
been reversed, and Linke’s had been the threatened life.  I hope
sincerely that Herr von Walde understands this, for to his haughty
nature the feeling of obligation to another must be intensely painful,
and I would not for the world be that other."

At this moment anxiety and anger were striving within her for the
mastery.  In thought she followed Herr von Walde, and shuddered with
horror as she remembered that perhaps he was just passing some spot
where the assassin was lying in wait for him; then she reminded herself,
as she quickened her steps, of what utter folly it was to waste so much
thought and feeling upon a man who persistently turned the roughest side
of his nature towards her.  Even in intercourse with the baroness, who
was so utterly distasteful to him, he preserved his repose of manner,
never for one moment forgetting the laws of common courtesy, although he
invariably maintained his convictions with the greatest decision.  He
had never been seen by those about him except when surrounded by an
atmosphere of the serenest dignity.  It was only when talking with her
that he did not appear to consider it worth his while to control
himself.  How violent and bitter he could be then!  How his eyes flashed
as he waited impatiently for her replies, when they were not prompt and
decided!  And he required besides that she should understand him almost
before he spoke, and yet was often utterly incomprehensible even when he
did speak.  Perhaps every one else was cleverer than she, and could more
easily comprehend his manner of speaking, which was such a riddle to
her.  Was it unwise to determine to avoid all intercourse with him for
the future?  Certainly not.  Well, fortunately, his departure was at
hand.  Fortunately? The structure of self-deception, which her pride and
defiance had erected, crumbled to ruins at this thought; yes, it so
utterly vanished, that, to Miss Mertens’ surprise, she turned and walked
quickly down the path that led to Castle Lindhof.  She must satisfy
herself that he reached his home in safety.  Miss Mertens followed her
to a grove whence they could see the door where he usually dismounted,
and they were greatly relieved when he shortly emerged from the forest.



                              CHAPTER XIV.


In the evening the Ferber family were sitting in the shade of the
lindens at the spring.  Frau Ferber and Miss Mertens were busied in
making a rug which was to lie upon the floor under the piano in winter
time.

Frau Ferber had lost for awhile that dignified composure that so well
became her still beautiful face.  She could not forget the afternoon’s
occurrence; for, although she saw her child before her safe and sound,
she had been very much agitated by Miss Mertens’ account.  She looked
frequently at Elizabeth, fearing, as she remarked her slightest change
of colour, that some illness would ensue from the excitement that she
had passed through.  The father’s views were different.  "That’s my
brave daughter!" he said with sparkling eyes, "determine coolly and
execute quickly,—thus I would have you do."

To Frau Ferber, her husband had always seemed the ideal of what a man
should be.  Even now, after so many years of married life, she followed
blindly where he led; and in her estimation his opinions admitted of no
question.  But to-day, as she listened to his paternal praises, a sigh
escaped her as she remarked that a mother loved her children infinitely
more than a father possibly could.

"Certainly not more, only differently," was Ferber’s quiet rejoinder.
"It is because I love them that I educate them to be full-grown,
responsible beings, capable of thinking and acting courageously and
independently, that they may never belong to the miserable class whom
want of all force of character condemns to constant suffering."

Elizabeth had also brought her work-basket into the garden, but little
Ernst looked greatly disappointed as he saw her take out her sewing.

"Very well, then, Elsie," he said petulantly.  "Herr von Walde may ask
me a dozen times if I love you,—I shall not say yes again.  You never
play with me any more; and, I suppose, you think you are as big a girl
as Miss Mertens!  But you needn’t think that,—you won’t be for a long
while yet."

They all laughed at this odd confounding of age with size.  But
Elizabeth rose immediately to amuse the little boy, tucked up her long
dress, and drew lots which should chase and which run from the other;
and then they were both off like a flash, up and down the rampart,
hither and thither through the garden.

In the mean time there was a ring at the gate in the wall.  Herr Ferber
opened it, and Dr. Fels, Reinhard, and the forester appeared upon the
threshold.  Elizabeth was just running along the principal walk, and did
not immediately see the visitors.

"Well, I must say," laughed Dr. Fels, standing still, "this is a
wonderful transformation.  In the afternoon Valkyria, and in the evening
a butterfly!"

But the forester advanced, threw his arm around his niece, and then held
her off at arm’s length, that he might scan her delicate figure.  "My
fine darling!" he cried with sparkling eyes, "she looks as fragile and
delicate as though she were made of ivory, and yet she has the force of
a man in her heart and hands; ’tis an immense pity you are not a boy.  I
would clap you into a green hunting-coat in spite of all that your
father could say."

In the mean while Dr. Fels also drew near, and held out his hand to
Elizabeth.  "Herr von Walde rode to town to-night," he said, "and
requested me to come hither.  He is very anxious to know that your
fright and terror have produced no evil consequences."

"None whatever," she replied, blushing deeply.  "As you see," she added,
laughing, "I am perfectly well able to perform my sisterly duties, and
Ernst has just assured me that I am very hard to catch."

"Well, I will carry Herr von Walde this message, word for word," said
the doctor with an arch smile.  "Let him decide whether it is a
comforting one, or the contrary."

Ferber now invited the gentlemen to join the circle beneath the lindens.
The doctor lighted a cigar and seemed most content.  They discussed
Linke’s attempt very fully.  After his dismissal from Lindhof, many of
the underhand dealings by which he had taken advantage of his master’s
absence, had come to light. Although Herr von Walde had taken no steps
to bring the offender to justice, the knowledge of his dishonesty spread
abroad, and was the means of preventing the superintendent from
procuring another situation.  Undoubtedly this had filled the measure of
his desire for revenge, and had excited him to to-day’s deed.  Every
means had been tried for the apprehension of the assassin; the forester
with his men had searched the forest, but their exertions had been
followed by no result.  Reinhard said that every one at Castle Lindhof
had been forbidden to mention the matter to Fräulein von Walde, lest the
fright should injure her.  And the baroness, Hollfeld, and the old
waiting-maid were to know nothing of it.

"Herr von Walde has also requested," he continued, "that the matter
should be kept as secret as possible in L——, for he knows that half the
town is invited for to-morrow’s fête."

"That is, everything that creeps or flies upon a golden, silver, or
coloured field," interrupted the doctor sarcastically; "every coat of
arms that can be found, and all the court-councillors, and officials.
Oh, the selection has been made upon the strictest principles of court
etiquette, I assure you.  So I have enjoined it upon my wife to conduct
herself with becoming humility, like a crow among soaring falcons.  To
our surprise the baroness,—for she manages the whole affair,—has sent us
an invitation."

"Apropos, my dear doctor!" cried Reinhard laughing, "they told me in L——
to-day that the old Princess Catharine wished to install you as her
physician, but you declined the honour,—is that true?  All L—— is
actually standing on its head with surprise."

"Ah, that is nothing new; the dear little town passes half its time in
that posture, and the consequence is that the light of intelligence
shines upon the tough soles of its feet.  But you have heard correctly.
I was sufficiently bold to decline that honour."

"But why?"

"First, because I have no time to be coddling the hysterical whims of
her aristocratic head every day; and then my sacred respect for court
etiquette is too great."

"Yes, yes," cried the forester, laughing, "that is the reason why I
always cross myself three times when I leave the royal castle behind me.
The prince and princess,—our good princess especially troubles no
one,—they shut their eyes when mere matters of ceremony are not
according to stiff, prescribed rules; but that court mob, that lisps and
crawls and wags its tail about them,—heaven help us! it absolutely
shrieks murder if a man walks boldly and uprightly, and goes into fits
at the sound of a voice that comes clear and full from the chest just as
God meant it should."

It had grown very dark.  The family and Miss Mertens accompanied the
visitors to the gate in the wall; and, as they all stepped forth upon
the open sward, they heard sweet sounds floating up from the valley
through the forest, which lay steeped in the silence of night, and where
the birds had ceased to flit among the boughs, and even the breeze had
fallen asleep in the tree-tops in the midst of the strange tales from
distant lands that it whispered to them every evening.  The band from
the town was serenading Herr von Walde.



                              CHAPTER XV.


The next morning at five o’clock the inmates of Gnadeck were awakened by
a discharge of artillery.  "Aha!" said Ferber to his wife, "the
celebration is beginning."  But Elizabeth was startled from a fearful
dream, in which the misfortune which she had yesterday averted seemed
actually to take place.  She had just seen Herr von Walde fall dying to
the ground, when the cannon in the valley awoke her.  It was some time
before she could collect herself.  For one moment she suffered
fearfully.  It seemed as if heaven and earth were vanishing from her as
that noble figure fell; and even now, when she saw the golden light of
morning falling upon the familiar objects in her room and not upon the
blood-stained sward, her agitated nerves still quivered; she had never,
not even the day before, when she had so fearlessly risked her life for
his, felt so deeply that his death would be hers also.

Again and again the cannon thundered up from the valley.  The
window-panes shook slightly, and the little canary fluttered in terror
from side to side in his cage. At each report Elizabeth shuddered; and
when her anxious mother, who could not quite allay her fears for the
result of the previous day’s occurrence, although her child had seemed
unharmed and well, came to her bedside to ask how she had slept, the
girl threw her arms around her neck and burst into an uncontrollable fit
of tears.

"Good heavens, my child!" cried Frau Ferber, much frightened, "you are
ill.  I knew that you would suffer from yesterday’s shock, and there is
that terrible shooting going on in the valley."

Elizabeth had some trouble in convincing her mother that she felt
perfectly well, and that she could not be induced to lie in bed, but was
resolved to take her breakfast with the family.  And to put a stop to
all further remonstrance, she immediately arose, bathed and dressed, and
assisted her mother in preparing the simple breakfast.

The sound of the cannon suddenly ceased, and before long all traces of
tears vanished from Elizabeth’s eyes. The world looked brighter to her;
for, although a life of renunciation lay before her, he still lived;
this thought had, in consequence of her fearful dream, a soothing effect
upon her restless heart.  Even if he went away to distant lands, and she
was forced to live years without seeing him, a time must come when he
would return. And she could still love and think of him, for he belonged
to no one else.

Later in the day she went with her family and Miss Mertens to the Lodge,
where they had been invited to dine.  There was a dark cloud upon the
forester’s brow as he came to meet them.  Elizabeth soon discovered that
he was troubled about Bertha.

"I cannot and will not bear it any longer!" he cried angrily.  "Must I
turn spy in my old age, and constantly be upon the watch to prevent a
wayward, foolish child, who has no possible claim upon me, from making a
perpetual fool of herself?"

"But remember, uncle, she is unhappy," said Elizabeth, somewhat alarmed.

"Unhappy?—she is a deceitful fool!—I am no ogre, and when I thought her
really unhappy, that is, when she lost both her parents, I did all that
I could to protect and guide her.  But that is not what is the matter
with her, for scarcely two months after her loss she went singing about
and chattering like a magpie, so that I was really grieved to see such
heartlessness and frivolity.  What is she unhappy about, eh?  But I
don’t want to know her state secret if she has no confidence in me;—let
it alone. For all I care she may wear that die-away look upon her face
for the next year; but to pretend to be dumb, to run about in the forest
at night like a maniac, and perhaps one of these fine days burn down my
house about my ears, it is more than I can bear, and I must have a word
or two to say about the matter."

"Did you not heed the warning that I gave you?" asked Ferber.

"Certainly I did; I put her into another room; she sleeps now just above
me, so that I can hear her lightest step.  At night both the house doors
are not only bolted, as they have always been at night, but locked too,
and I take the key into my room.  And oh! the cunning of women,—but
that’s an old story.  At any rate my precautions ensured us some rest.
But last night I could not get to sleep; the affair with Linke was
running through my brain, and I heard steps above me, cautious steps,
soft as a cat’s.  Aha! I thought, she is at her nightly promenades
again, and I rose, but when I went up-stairs the nest was already empty.
On a table at the open window a light was burning, and as I opened the
door the curtain flew into the flame.  Zounds! if I had not been quick
as a flash we should have had a blaze that would have been well fed by
those old balconies.  And how did she get out?  Through the kitchen
window.  I would rather take care of a swarm of ants than of such a sly,
deceitful creature."

"I am convinced that some love affair is at the bottom of the girl’s
conduct," said Frau Ferber.

"Yes, you told me so once before, sister-in-law," replied the forester
with irritation, "and if you would be kind enough to tell me with whom,
I should be infinitely obliged to you.  Look around us and see if there
is any one here to turn a girl’s brain.  My assistants,—they are not
half good enough for her; she never would have a word to say to them; it
cannot be the rogue Linke, with his crooked legs and carroty wig, and
there is no one else here."

"You have forgotten one," said Frau Ferber significantly, with a glance
towards Elizabeth, who had lingered behind to cut a whip for Ernst.

"Well?" asked the forester.

"Herr von Hollfeld."

The forester remained silent for awhile.  "Hm!" he muttered at last, "I
should never in the world have thought of him.  No, no," he continued
quickly, "I do not believe it, for in the first place the girl cannot
possibly be such a fool as to believe that he would make her my lady von
Odenberg, and——"

"Perhaps she hoped that he would, and finds herself mistaken,"
interrupted Frau Ferber.

"She is vain and arrogant enough for it, but he,—he cares nothing for
women,—he is a cold, heartless egotist," said the forester.

"An egotist, I grant you," said Frau Ferber, "and that explains Bertha’s
conduct and manner."

"That would be a fine affair," cried the forester angrily, "to think
that I should have been hoodwinked like any old fool in a comedy!  I
will sift the matter now to the bottom, and woe to the girl if she has
really dared to bring disgrace upon herself and me!"

The dinner was a very quiet one.  The forester was out of sorts, and
would have extorted a confession from Bertha upon the spot had not Frau
Ferber prayed him to wait for a few days.  After coffee the guests left
the Lodge; the forester threw his rifle across his shoulder, and plunged
into the forest, which, as he said, always soothed and brought him to
reason.

Elizabeth dressed herself for the concert, that is, she put on a simple,
white muslin dress, whose only decoration was a bouquet of fresh wild
flowers.  Her mother tied around her neck a little locket attached to a
very narrow black velvet ribbon, and this was her toilet, which would
certainly have seemed most embarrassingly simple to most young girls
going for the first time among a large assemblage of brilliantly-dressed
people; but Elizabeth, if she thought of it at all, congratulated
herself upon the delicate neatness of her muslin, and would rather not
have worn her mother’s little ornament on this occasion, as she
considered that she was to appear only as a musician and not as one of
the guests, and that her fingers were all that she need be anxious
about.  She was rather annoyed that the arms above these same fingers
were bare, and that her dress was low-necked.  She had hitherto never
worn a dress that did not cover her neck to her chin, and could not see
why the fashionable world had decided that women should be _decolleté_
in large assemblies.  She thought as little of the exquisite form and
dazzling whiteness of her shoulders and arms as of the beauty and grace
of her head, which, with its heavy braids of golden hair, was set so
exquisitely upon her finely-moulded neck.  Her mother herself had
arranged her hair to-day, and it clustered in short shining curls above
her forehead, contrasting wondrously with the delicately pencilled but
decided arch of the dark eyebrows.  And Frau Ferber could not but agree
with Miss Mertens, who, as she watched Elizabeth disappear upon the
forest path, declared with enthusiasm that she was supernaturally
lovely.  The mother had just acknowledged to herself that her child’s
beauty had unfolded in a most striking degree.

When Elizabeth entered the vestibule of Castle Lindhof she encountered
Dr. Fels, who, with his wife upon his arm, was just turning down one of
the corridors.  She hastened towards him, and accosted him gaily, for
her heart had been beating anxiously as she approached the castle, at
the thought that she should be obliged to enter entirely alone the
spacious saloon, where the greater part of the company were doubtless
already assembled.  The doctor received her most cordially, and
presented her to his wife, in an undertone, as "yesterday’s heroine."
Both gladly took her under their protection.  The large folding-doors
were flung open, and Elizabeth was grateful for the lucky star that had
allowed her to take shelter behind the tall, commanding figure of the
doctor’s wife, for she was at first rather overcome at sight of the
large, richly-decorated apartment, over whose highly-polished floor
glided the costly dresses of the ladies and the polished boots of the
gentlemen.  In the centre of the saloon stood the Baroness Lessen,
arrayed in magnificent dark-blue moire-antique, and receiving the
guests.  She returned the salutations of the doctor and his wife very
politely, but very coolly, and replied to the doctor’s question, "Where
is Herr von Walde?" by pointing to a knot of men standing near a window,
whence issued a murmur like the Babylonish confusion of tongues.

While Fels and his wife walked towards the spot, Elizabeth gladly and
gratefully obeyed a gesture from Helene, who, sitting at another window,
hurriedly and agitatedly informed her that she had suddenly had an
attack of what is called "stage fright;" that she was in overwhelming
terror at playing before so many people, and would rather creep into a
mouse-hole.  And then she begged Elizabeth, instead of the four-handed
composition with which the concert was to open, to play a sonata of
Beethoven’s, a wish with which Elizabeth immediately complied.  Her
embarrassment vanished.  She stepped up to the table where the music was
lying, and selected the sonata which she was to play.  Meanwhile,
carriage after carriage rolled into the court-yard.  The folding-doors
opened and closed incessantly upon such quantities of tulle and velvet
and lace, which were crowded into the saloon, that Elizabeth smiled
pityingly at the thought of her simple white muslin, so soon to loose
its unwrinkled smoothness in such a crush of crinoline.

She could very easily decide, from the manner of the baroness, upon the
social rank of the guests.  One gracious wave of the feather-crowned
head of the great lady answered every social requirement whenever she
received untitled guests, and these untitled guests did their part well
in acknowledging and respecting this aristocratic reserve.  All, in
obedience to a gesture from the baroness, first made their way towards
the window where stood Herr von Walde,—who, however, remained entirely
invisible to Elizabeth,—and then scattered into single groups, either
awaiting the opening of the concert, or engaged in conversation among
themselves.

Suddenly the doors flew open again, and a corpulent old lady hobbled in
upon the arm of an equally aged gentleman, whose coat glittered with
orders,—and with them came Fräulein von Quittelsdorf.  The baroness
hastened toward these guests, and Fräulein von Walde also arose with
difficulty, and, taking Hollfeld’s arm, went to meet the aged pair,
while all the ladies standing around her followed like the tail of a
comet.  The crowd of men at the window divided suddenly as by magic, and
Herr von Walde’s lofty figure appeared.

"We must come to you, if we wish to see you, naughty man!" cried the old
lady, shaking her forefinger at him, as she hobbled towards him.  "You
see, in spite of my poor feet, and although you have neglected me
shamefully, I am here to-day to offer you my congratulations."

He bowed, and said a few words to her, to which she replied by
laughingly tapping him upon the shoulder with her fan.  Then he
conducted her to an arm-chair, where she seated herself with much
majesty.

"The Countess of Falkenberg, chief lady in waiting at the court of L——,"
was the reply of the doctor’s wife when Elizabeth asked who the old lady
was.  Fräulein von Quittelsdorf looked exquisitely beautiful to-day in
her white crape dress, with a wreath of scarlet euphorbia in her dark
hair, as she busied herself about the noble lady, while she did not
forget to cast a roguish glance now and then at Fräulein von Walde.

The arrival of the guests from the court was the signal for the
beginning of the concert.  Elizabeth could almost hear her own heart
beat.  She was standing behind the doctor’s wife, and was hidden from
all the eyes which would in one moment be directed towards her,
following every one of her movements.  Suddenly she was overcome with
timidity, and she repented bitterly having consented to play first
alone.  She trembled when Fräulein von Walde motioned to her to begin,
but there was no time to withdraw.  She took a long breath, and walked
slowly, with downcast eyes, to the piano, where she courtesied timidly.

At first there was a breathless silence; then a whisper ran from mouth
to mouth, which was instantly hushed when the young girl struck the
keys.  Elizabeth’s fear and embarrassment all vanished at the sound of
the first chords.  She was no longer alone.  He with whom she had so
often wandered along meadow paths in brilliant sunshine, and past gloomy
abysses in storm and rain, was with her,—the one who had so often
aroused within her joyous presentiments, and who had expressed in
immortal harmonies all the loftiest and most sacred aspirations of her
nature,—who was as dear and familiar to her as her mother’s face,
although her gaze fell dazzled by the fiery glories which wreathed his
majestic head.  The flower-crowned heads ranged against the walls, the
lorgnettes and spectacles which, glittering in the sunlight, shot their
lightning directly upon the lonely performer in the midst of the saloon,
all vanished.  She was alone with the great master, following with
rapture every manifestation of his creative spirit.

An actual storm of applause startled her when she had finished.  She
courtesied, and then almost flew to her protectress, Frau Fels, who,
speechless with emotion, held out both hands to her.  The concert did
not last very long.  Four young gentlemen from L—— sang a delightful
quartette, and then there was a performance by a famous violin player.
Fräulein von Quittelsdorf sang two songs in a charming voice, but
without any ear, so that at every high note the guests either moved
involuntarily and nervously upon their chairs, or cast their eyes down
in confusion.  And then came one of the well-practised duets.  Fräulein
von Walde had recovered her composure, and played excellently well with
Elizabeth.

When the concert was over, Elizabeth went towards the door of an
anteroom, where she had left her shawl. She was closely followed by an
elderly gentleman, who had been sitting opposite her, and had regarded
her attentively.  At his request, Frau Fels presented him to the young
girl as the Military Inspector-general Busch. He said many flattering
things about Elizabeth’s performance, and added that he was much pleased
to become acquainted with the heroic preserver of the life of the lord
of the castle; he had accepted to-day’s invitation with all the greater
pleasure, since within the last few hours he had been deprived of all
hope of claiming her assistance in the investigation of the murderous
attempt.

He laughed heartily at Elizabeth’s sudden alarm.

"No, no, I pray you not to look so horror-stricken, Fräulein," he said
at last.  "As I have just told you, we shall have no occasion to subject
you to a cross-examination. Linke has himself put a stop to our
proceedings by a single blow.  His dead body was taken from the lake in
the park this afternoon," he added, in a low tone.  "They informed me of
it at the inn, where I alighted.  I proceeded, accompanied by the
Waldheim physician, who happened to be at the inn, to the scene of the
suicide, and convinced myself that that hand will never again be raised
against the life of another.  The condition of the body shows that Linke
must have sought death immediately after the failure of his murderous
purpose."

Elizabeth shuddered.  "Does Herr von Walde know of his fearful end?" she
asked in a trembling voice.

"No; I have had no opportunity to speak with him alone."

"None of the company present appear to have any suspicion of yesterday’s
occurrence," said Frau Fels.

"Fortunately they have not, thanks to our foresight and reserve,"
replied the inspector-general, ironically. "As it is, poor Herr von
Walde has been quite overwhelmed with congratulations upon being born
into the world.  What would his friends have done to him had they known
how fortunately his life has been preserved?"

The butler, Lorenz, at this moment approached Elizabeth and held out to
her a little silver waiter, upon which lay several folded slips of
paper.  She looked up in questioning surprise, and he said respectfully:

"Will you have the kindness to take one of the papers?"

Elizabeth hesitated.

"This is probably part of our entertainment," said Frau Fels.  "Take it
quickly, that the butler may not be detained."

Almost mechanically she took up one of the slips of paper, but started
in alarm as the Baroness Lessen suddenly appeared at the door, and
looked searchingly around the room.

"Come, Lorenz," she said hastily, stepping towards the servant, "what
are you doing here?"

"I have just handed Fräulein Ferber the salver, gracious lady," replied
the old man.

The baroness gave him an angry look, and then measured Elizabeth from
head to foot.  "How, Fräulein Ferber," she said sharply, "are you still
here?  I thought you were at home long ago, resting upon your laurels."

Without waiting for a reply, she turned to leave the room; but just upon
the threshold she looked back at the old butler with a frown and
shrugged her shoulders.

"What can you be thinking of, Lorenz?  You grow very thoughtless.  This
infirmity has grown upon you of late."

With these words, she bustled out, and the old man quietly followed.  He
replied not one word to her harsh reproof,—only contracted his bushy,
gray eyebrows, so that his honest eyes almost disappeared.

The others remained looking at each other in astonishment, when the
doctor entered.  He made a profound, comical obeisance to his wife, and
said solemnly:

"In consideration of the fact that Fräulein von Quittelsdorf has just
had the clemency to unite us again as closely as by the priestly
blessing fifteen years ago, I am content still further to endure the
conjugal yoke, and particularly on this day to enjoy by your side, and,
cherished by your tender care, O true and faithful spouse, all the
delights prepared for us!"

"My dear husband, what do you mean?" cried his wife, laughing.

"Pardon me,—I mean nothing at all.  Ah, I see you have not heard
Fräulein von Quittelsdorf’s directions. What a pity!  I am then
compelled to inform you that every married couple here present, whether
now upon a war footing or otherwise, must repair, within the next
quarter of an hour, to the convent tower in the forest, where a rural
festival will be held.  There it will be your duty to provide me with as
much to eat and drink as my soul may desire, and in every way to attend
upon my wishes, after the pattern of the famous Penelope.  But that the
unmarried men who are present in large numbers may have no reason to
complain,—that their mouths also may be filled,—a sort of lottery has
been ingeniously devised. Every unmarried lady is provided with a slip
of paper, upon which stands written the name of some unmarried man, and
it is left to Cupid and Fate either to unite or to separate faithful
hearts."

At these words Elizabeth was seized with actual terror.  She had never
thought of other entertainments following upon the concert; but now she
clearly understood why the baroness, on the previous day, had so
distinctly alluded to her return home after the conclusion of the music.
Her cheeks glowed with shame, for she had exposed herself to the charge
of being very assuming by taking from the butler’s salver the little
slip of paper, which now burned like fire in her hand.  Always quick to
decide, she went into the saloon where the opening of the mysterious
papers was going on amid the laughter of the ladies and their assigned
partners.

"What a senseless idea this, of Fräulein von Quittelsdorf’s," a young
sprig of nobility was just exclaiming peevishly to his neighbour as
Elizabeth passed them.  "Here I have that stout, pious Fräulein Lehr
upon my hands. _Fi donc!_"

Elizabeth had not long to look for the baroness.  She was standing
apart, near a window, in lively, but, as it seemed, not entirely
agreeable conversation with Fräulein von Quittelsdorf, the chief lady in
waiting, and Helene. The countess seemed to be remonstrating with
Fräulein von Quittelsdorf, who did nothing but shrug her pretty
shoulders helplessly from time to time.  Intense vexation was expressed
in the baroness’ countenance,—there was no need of the round, red spot
on either cheek to show that she was angry.  Not far from the group Herr
von Walde was leaning with folded arms against a pillar. He seemed to be
only half listening to the words of the be-ribboned old courtier who was
standing beside him,—his eyes were fixed upon the gesticulating ladies.

Elizabeth hurriedly approached the baroness.  It did not escape her
that, at sight of her, Fräulein von Quittelsdorf gently nudged the
countess, whereupon the latter turned and regarded her with a malevolent
air.  She saw that she was the subject of their discussion, and she
quickened her pace, that she might avert from herself as soon as
possible any unworthy suspicion.

"Most gracious lady," she said, with a slight courtesy, "in consequence
of a misunderstanding, I have become possessed of this slip of paper,
and have just learned that it entails upon me duties which I cannot
possibly undertake, for my parents are expecting me at home."

She handed the little slip to the baroness, who took it immediately,
while a ray of actual sunshine broke over her features.

"I think you are in error, Fräulein Ferber," Herr von Walde suddenly
interposed, in a clear, melodious voice. "It is incumbent upon you to
excuse yourself to the gentleman whose name the paper contains; it rests
with him whether he will release you or not."  He scanned, with a
peculiar smile, the company, who were dividing into couples and making
ready for departure; even the old gentleman beside him approached the
countess, and offered her his arm.  Herr von Walde continued, as he
slowly approached: "As master of the house, I cannot permit any want of
consideration of one of my guests, wherefore I must beg you, Fräulein
Ferber, to open the paper."

Elizabeth obeyed, and then handed him the open slip, with a crimson
blush.  He glanced at it.

"Ah!" he cried, "I have, as I see, defended my own rights.  You must
admit that I am fully justified in either accepting or refusing to
accept your excuses.  I prefer the latter course, and must entreat you
strictly to comply with the injunctions laid upon you by that paper."

The baroness approached him, and laid her hand upon his arm.  It looked
as if she were almost struggling to suppress her tears.

"Forgive me, dear Rudolph," she said, "it is really not my fault."

"I do not know to what fault you allude, Amalie," he replied, with icy
coldness; "but you certainly choose the right time in which to ask
forgiveness,—-just at this moment I could easily forgive an injury."

He took his hat which a servant handed to him, and made the signal for
departure.

"But my parents!" stammered Elizabeth.

"Are they ill, or about to leave Gnadeck immediately?" he asked,
standing still.

"Neither."

"Well, pray then let me see to it that they receive intelligence of the
cause of your delay."

He called a servant, and despatched a message to Gnadeck.

While the saloon was gradually emptied, the group of ladies which had
been joined by the aged cavalier and Hollfeld, who looked much
chagrined, remained standing near the window.

"It serves you quite right, Cornelie," said the countess.  "You have set
the crown upon your folly to-day. What a silly idea this lottery is!
How often have I endeavoured to put a stop to your nonsense, to which,
unfortunately, our gracious princess lends only too willing an ear?  How
should the butler know any better, when you gave him no instructions?
You consider yourself to belong naturally to the court, and yet do not
know that that sort of person has not an idea of his own.  I should not
for an instant grudge you this lesson, if only poor von Walde were not
the victim of your frivolity.  There he goes with that little white
goose upon his arm; he who, with his haughty, aristocratic
self-consciousness, has many a time been regardless of the wishes of
some high-born lady, who would have been charmed to take his arm. What
must he suffer to be tied for several hours to that little piano-player,
the daughter of a—forester’s clerk?"

"Why does he sacrifice himself so very readily?" rejoined Fräulein von
Quittelsdorf.  "It was quite unnecessary for him to meddle at all in the
matter.  The girl had made up her mind to go, when suddenly he steps
forth like a knight without fear or fault, and takes up the burden
voluntarily."

"At all events the burden is dazzlingly beautiful," said the old
cavalier with a conceited smile.

"What are you thinking of, count?" cried the countess.  "That is just
like you, who rave about every round-faced peasant girl that you meet.
I do not deny that the girl is pretty; but was not poor Rosa von Bergen
an actual angel of beauty?  Hundreds were languishing at her feet; but
von Walde, whom she really preferred, was like a glacier to her.  No, he
has not the smallest sensibility to feminine beauty and loveliness.  I
long ago erased his name from my list of eligibles for my young
protegées.  He has just declared, most distinctly, his reason for
sacrificing himself to-day.  He is evidently much pleased and delighted
with the attentions that we have lavished upon him, and wishes to see
every one happy and contented about him,—even the little thing who
played the piano.  I advise my dearest Lessen for the future not to
trust implicitly to the tact and ingenuity of our charming
Quittelsdorf."

The maid of honour bit her lips, and dragged her lace shawl over her
lovely shoulders.  The carriage now drew up in which the countess and
Helene, accompanied by the baroness and the count, were to be driven to
the place of rendezvous.

"The old cat!" cried Fräulein von Quittelsdorf, after she had assisted
the countess into the carriage.  "She is furious because she was not
asked to assist in the arrangements for to-day.  Did not you see,
Hollfeld, how very nearly that false front of hers slipped down upon her
nose when she was waggling her head in such agitation?  I should have
laughed for two weeks without intermission if her bald head had suddenly
made its appearance underneath that flower garden on top!"

She was convulsed with laughter at the idea.  Her companion walked,
without a word, and with accelerated pace, by her side, as though he
heard nothing of her chatter. His whole bearing manifested hurry and
disquiet.  He seemed most desirous to overtake the rest of the
assemblage as quickly as possible.  He cast searching glances through
the bushes on either side of the way, and, whenever he caught a glimpse
of a white dress, stopped for a moment, as though to identify the
wearer.

"Indeed, you are too tiresome, Hollfeld; you weary me to death!" cried
the lady peevishly.  "To be sure it is your privilege to be as mute as a
fish and yet enjoy the reputation of a clever man.  Where your wits are
now I am sure I cannot imagine.  What, in Heaven’s name, are you running
so fast for?  Allow me to entreat you to have some regard for my crape
dress, which will be torn to rags by these bushes through which you are
hurrying me, with such speed."

The convent tower,—the only uninjured remnant of a former nunnery,—was
situated in the depths of a grove of oaks and beeches in a part of the
forest domain appertaining to the Lindhof estate, which here extended
far towards the east.

A certain lady of Gnadewitz, a sister of the ancestor of the wheel, had
built the nunnery, whither she, with twelve other young maidens, retired
to pray for the soul of her brother, cut off so ignominiously in the
flower of his days.  Year after year the giant boughs of the oaks had
tapped at the windows of the cells and leaned above the high wall over
the small garden of the convent.  They had seen many a fresh young
creature pass hurriedly along the dim narrow forest path to ring the
bell at the convent portal with feverish impatience, as though unable to
wait one instant longer for the promised peace abiding within those
walls.  They had seen how, behind those irrevocable bolts and bars, the
mute lips of the nun grew white,—how convulsively her waxen hands
clutched the crucifix, while her agonized looks would seek the ground;
for the sight of the clear, blue heavens, arching above the gay children
of the outer world, awakened joyous memories within her, and breathed a
keen desire for pleasure and life into the soul and heart muffled
forever in the folds of the sackcloth of her order.

The Reformation, which overthrew the convents like card houses, had
stridden through this still forest also, and had passed its mighty hand
over the walls of this gloomy pile, which had, in expiation of the
misery and crime that had cursed its origin, been the perpetual abode of
unhappiness.  And even the hollow mockery of existence within its walls
had vanished to the four winds.  One stone after another had tumbled to
the feet of the lofty oaks, whose branches had brushed against it while
it formed part of some carved arch or window-frame, and which now
strewed leaves upon it till it sank away far more softly bedded than the
poor bodies of the nuns, which were, so said the legend, all sleeping
together in a subterranean dungeon.

The tower was square, clumsy, and ugly.  On the flat roof above, that
was surrounded by a stone balustrade, the stairs were capped by a very
small, square apartment, from which egress upon the roof was obtained
through a massive oaken door.  Here there was a magnificent prospect and
distant view of L——.  For the sake of this prospect the tower had been
rebuilt and kept in constant repair.  Immense iron clamps bound the
walls together at the corners, and numberless lines of fresh mortar
meandered across its blackened surface, so that the old building looked
at a distance like a gigantic piece of agate.

But to-day the old pile was decked out like some old fellow dressed for
a wooing.  Fresh flowers,—that is to say, four gigantic fir trees—were
sticking in his hat; and from their tops gay banners were floating, like
large birds above the green waves beneath.  The old fellow, who, until
to-day, had only whispered nightly and daily confidences to his comrades
the oaks but had never made an advance towards them from his dignified
position, was now clutching them with green wide-spread arms; huge
garlands were draped from his topmost walls, and were lost among the
boughs of the surrounding forest; while from one side a white sail-cloth
was extended and attached to the trunks of two tall hemlocks.  Beneath
the shade of this tent were several refreshing-looking casks, a whole
battery of dusty red-sealed flasks and countless silver-capped bottles
in ice-buckets,—all presided over by a very pretty girl in the dress of
a vivandiere.

Elizabeth had silently and passively left the large hall upon Herr von
Walde’s arm.  In spite of her determination to go home, she had not had
the courage to gainsay him, or to tell him of her desire,—he had spoken
in a tone of such authority; and, what had influenced her still more,
had entered the lists, as it were, for her, and sought to help her out
of her embarrassment.  Any opposition on her part would have seemed like
obstinate defiance of him, and would have served only to increase her
painful apprehension of drawing to herself general attention.

The silken garments of the ladies rustled along the walls of the
corridor behind her.  Laughing and chattering, the gay crowd followed
Herr von Walde in a long train until it issued from the chief entrance
door, and then it scattered hither and thither, taking the various
forest paths which led to the convent tower.  Those whose elaborate
toilets required special care took the broad, well-kept path.  Herr von
Walde certainly never dreamed that his companion’s simple, snowy muslin
could be as precious in her eyes as were the rich dresses of the other
ladies in theirs, or he certainly would not have selected the narrow,
lonely pathway into which he suddenly turned.

"It is usually very damp here," Elizabeth broke silence
timidly,—hitherto no words had passed between them. Her feet trembled as
though they would far rather retreat than advance, and yet it is
possible that her thoughts were not of her dress nor her thin shoes, but
rather of the long, narrow, leafy way before them, through which she
must pass alone by his side, and of the voice that would suddenly sound
in her ears with that harsh, authoritative tone almost always adopted by
him when alone with her.

"It has not rained for a long time,—see how dry the ground is," he
quietly replied, as he walked slowly on and broke off a twig which
threatened to brush Elizabeth’s cheek.  "This path is the shortest, and
we can for a quarter of an hour at least escape from the buzz and
clatter with which my friends and relatives are celebrating the
completion of my thirty-seventh year.  But perhaps you are afraid of
meeting Linke in this sequestered spot?"

A shudder passed through the young girl’s frame.  She thought upon the
criminal’s desperate end, but she could not control herself sufficiently
to impart her knowledge to Herr von Walde.

"I do not fear him any longer," she said gravely.

"He has probably left the country, and if not, he would hardly be so
discourteous as to intrude upon the pleasures of people who are seeking
to indemnify themselves for the pains they have taken with their formal
congratulations. By-the-way, you cannot have failed to observe that
every member of the company to-day has honoured me with a few moments of
special attention, even the youngest slip of a girl in white muslin has
made me her courtesy and uttered her studied desire for my health and
happiness. You, perhaps, do not think me old enough yet to need the
wishes of others for a prolongation of my life?"

"I should suppose that such wishes were as appropriate to youth or the
prime of life as to advanced age; the one possesses as little as the
other a monopoly of existence."

"Well, then, why did you not come to me?  Yesterday you saved my life,
and to-day you care so little about it that you do not even take the
trouble to open your lips and say ’God protect it for the future.’"

"You have just said yourself ’every one of the company.’  I did not
belong to the company, and therefore could not intrude myself among
those who offered their congratulations."  She spoke quickly, for there
was discontent in his tone, and the arm upon which her hand rested moved
impatiently.

"But you were invited——"

"To entertain your guests."

"Was that modest view of the case the only reason why you did not wish
to come with me?"

"Yes; most certainly my refusal could not have had anything to do with
the gentleman who had fallen to my lot, whose name I could not possibly
know."

"You can hardly persuade me of that; you must have seen at the first
glance that all the gentlemen present, with the exception of myself,
were already appropriated; you must have known that my sister, without
drawing a paper, had requested Hollfeld to accompany her, as she can
walk more easily leaning upon his arm than upon any other.  Confess——"

"I knew and saw nothing.  I was far too much troubled when I entered the
ball-room to return the paper, for the hour at which I was expected to
return home had been particularly mentioned to me yesterday. I had no
idea that any special festivity was to follow the concert, and in taking
the folded slip of paper I committed an indiscretion, for which I cannot
forgive myself."

He suddenly stood still.

"I pray you look at me," he said, in a tone of command.

She raised her eyes, and although she felt her cheeks glow, she
sustained unflinchingly the gaze which at first rested sternly upon her
and then became indescribably gentle.

"No, no," he muttered softly, as if to himself, "it were a crime to
suspect deceit here.  Yes, double-dyed," he continued in an altered,
sarcastic tone; it sounded as though he wished to sneer away some
momentary weakness,—"was I not the involuntary auditor of your
declaration: ’It needs more courage to tell a lie boldly than to confess
a fault?’"

"That is my conviction, I repeat it."

"Ah, what a splendid thing strength of character is! But I should
suppose that if one were too upright to soil the lips with deceit, a
strict watch should be kept upon the eyes also, lest they lie.  I know
one moment in your life when you appeared what you were not."

Elizabeth, wounded, attempted to withdraw her hand from his arm.

"Oh, no—you do not escape me so easily!" he cried, retaining it.  "You
must either deny or acknowledge it. You looked indifferent lately, when
I threw away my cousin’s tender token, the rose."

"Should I have flown after it?"

"Certainly, if you had been true."

Elizabeth knew now why he had entered this lonely path with her,—she was
to confess her feelings towards Hollfeld.  She was confirmed in her
former suspicions,—Herr von Walde was evidently most anxious lest she
should prize his cousin’s homage too highly and perhaps imagine that he
could forget her social position.  The moment had come when she could
declare her sentiments. By a hasty movement she released her hand from
his arm, and stepped a little aside.

"I grant you," she said, "that if my face that day expressed
indifference, it was not in harmony with my thoughts."

"I thought so!" he cried, but there was no triumph in the exclamation.

"I was in fact indignant."

"At my interference?"

"At the unauthorized levity of Herr von Hollfeld."

"He startled you greatly; but——"

"No, he insulted me!  How dared he intrude upon me?  I abhor him!"

She must have been right in her solution of his manner; but she had
never dreamed that her declaration would be so highly prized by him.  A
weight seemed to fall from his heart.  A ray of purest joy broke from
the eyes which had gazed at her with a mixture of mistrust, contempt,
and sarcasm.  He drew a deep breath, and half extended his arms.
Elizabeth involuntarily looked round to discover what it was that caused
his eyes to flash and glow so.  She saw nothing, but she felt his hand
tremble as he laid hers once more upon his arm. They walked on a few
paces without a word.  Suddenly he stood still again.

"Now we are entirely alone," he said, in the gentlest possible tone.
"See, only one small eye of heavenly blue looks down upon us,—no prying
faces are near to come between us,—I cannot,—I will not be deprived of a
birthday greeting from you.  Give it to me now, when no one can hear it
but myself alone."

She was silent and confused.

"Well, do you not know how it is done?" he asked.

"Oh, yes," she replied, and an arch smile hovered upon her lips.  "I am
well practised in such things.  My parents, my uncle, Ernst——"

"All have birthdays," he interrupted her, smiling. "But you cannot
wonder that I want a birthday greeting all to myself,—that I desire that
it may sound quite different from any that you have hitherto
uttered,—for I am neither your father, nor your bluff forester uncle,
and certainly I cannot lay claim to the rights of the brother with whom
you play.  Come, speak!"

Still she said nothing.  What should she say?  Her eyes were cast down,
for she could no longer endure that searching glance, that seemed to
penetrate her very soul with its troubled expression of entreaty.

"Then come," he cried abruptly, drawing her forward, after waiting in
vain for some moments for one word from her lips.  "It was a foolish
wish of mine.  I know that your tongue, which is always ready to say
what is kind and gentle to others, is dumb for me, or only ready with
some rebuke."

At these words she grew pale, and involuntarily stood still.

"You will, then?" he asked more gently, "and cannot find the words?" he
continued, shaking his head, as she was silent but looked up at him
beseechingly.  "Well, then, I have a plan.  Let me say what I should
like to hear from your lips, and you will repeat it after me word for
word."

Again the smile played around Elizabeth’s mouth, and she murmured
assent.

"In the first place, you give your friend your hand," he began, and took
her hand in his,—she trembled, but did not withdraw it,—"and then you
say, ’You have hitherto been a wretched wanderer upon the face of the
earth,—it is high time that the clouds above you should break, and be
penetrated by the pure ray of light which has transformed your whole
existence.  It is my true and earnest wish that this light may never
forsake you. Here is my hand, as the pledge of a happiness so
inconceivable——"

So far she had repeated this strangely-worded greeting after him, but at
the last words she hesitated.  He seized her other hand also, and urged
passionately, "Go on, go on!"

"Here is my——" she began at last.

"Oh, Herr von Walde," suddenly cried Cornelie’s voice from the thicket,
"what a delightful meeting!  Now I shall enjoy in company with you the
triumph of being received with a flourish of trumpets!"

Never in her life had Elizabeth seen such a sudden change take place in
a human countenance as now transformed Herr von Walde’s features.  One
strong blue vein stood out upon his pale forehead, his eyes flashed, and
he involuntarily stamped his foot.  It really seemed as if he would have
liked to hurl back into the thicket the unwelcome intruder, who, holding
up her crape skirt, came hurrying through the bushes towards them.  He
could not command his emotion as quickly as usual; perhaps he did not
wish to do so, for he frowned angrily as Hollfeld made his appearance
behind the lady.  As he came in sight, Herr von Walde drew Elizabeth’s
hand through his arm with gentle violence, as if he feared lest she
should be snatched from him.

"Why, how you look, Herr von Walde," cried Fräulein von Quittelsdorf,
stepping into the middle of the path; "actually as if we were bandits,
with designs upon your life; or, at all events, upon your property!"

Without replying a word to this attack, he turned to his cousin and
asked, "Where is my sister?"

"She was afraid of the long rough path," the latter replied, "and
preferred to drive."

"Well, I suppose you will hardly leave Helene to be lifted out of the
carriage by the old Count Wildenau; I cannot understand how, as her
faithful knight, you could leave the principal path.  A few, quick steps
will enable you to rejoin her.  I will not prevent you from doing so,"
said Herr von Walde sharply, while a sarcastic smile quivered around the
corners of his mouth. He stepped aside with Elizabeth to allow the pair
to pass.

"And pray, if one may ask, why did you leave the principal path
yourself?" asked Fräulein von Quittelsdorf flippantly, much more like a
pert chamber-maid than a maid of honour.

"That you can easily learn; simply because I hoped, by coming along this
lonely path, to escape the eloquent tongues of certain ladies," replied
Herr von Walde drily.

"Ah, how cross you are!  Heaven shield us from such an irritable
birthday hero!" cried the lady, shuddering, and retreating a few paces
with a comical assumption of terror.  "It was a mistake that we did not
come to you to-day with funereal faces, and muffled to the eyes in black
crape!"

She pouted, and, taking Hollfeld’s arm, would have dragged him forward;
but he, strangely enough, seemed inclined, for the first time in his
life, to set his cousin’s wishes at defiance.  He walked on slowly, and
as if weary of existence, peering right and left into the bushes,
apparently intensely interested in every stone in the pathway, every
squirrel that ran swiftly past.  Then he began a conversation with his
companion, whose answers absorbed his attention so entirely that he
paused and stood still to listen to them.

Herr von Walde muttered something between his teeth; Elizabeth could not
understand it; but the hostile glance that he cast after his cousin
showed how the behaviour of the latter incensed him.  He said not
another word to her.  He turned slowly towards her, and she felt that he
continued to regard her steadfastly, but she was unable to lift her eyes
to his.  Had she done so he must have discovered on the spot how greatly
she was moved by the strange words that he had just whispered to her
with so much emotion in his voice.  One look would have betrayed the
conflict within her, and then,—she could not pursue the thought,—he
would doubtless have repented the simple wish that he had expressed.
Thus deeply agitated, it was natural enough that the young girl’s
eyelids fell low over her eyes, and that she failed to observe the
inaudible sigh that escaped her companion, or mark how all signs of
irritation vanished from his features to give place to the shade of
melancholy that was so wont to rest upon his brow.

A faint and dying trumpet note, which was doubtless the result of the
impatience of the musicians who were waiting upon the roof of the tower,
betrayed the close vicinity of the scene of festivity.  And soon a buzz
and noise, as of some neighbouring gypsy encampment, broke upon their
ears; the path grew broader, gay throngs were seen fluttering through
the bushes, and suddenly a loud flourish of bugles and trumpets sounded
over their heads. Elizabeth availed herself of the opportunity to slip
her hand from the arm of her conductor and to lose herself in the crowd
that gathered around the lord of the feast; while a young girl, habited
as a Dryad, and accompanied by four other wood-nymphs, approached, and,
in limping hexameters, welcomed him to the forest.

"Well, von Walde has gotten rid of his Dulcinea at the right moment.  I
don’t see the girl at all, now," the Countess Falkenberg whispered
smilingly to Count Wildenau, who was sitting beside her upon a kind of
raised dais, beneath the shade of a group of oaks.  "He will never
forgive the baroness and our flippant Cornelia for so stupidly forcing
him into playing the knight, even for a few moments, to such a creature.
My child," and she turned to Helene; seated at her right, who was
anxiously searching the crowd with troubled eyes, "when those people
release him we must take him in here among us, and do everything in our
power to make him forget the provoking beginning of the festival."

Helene nodded mechanically.  Apparently she had only heard half of what
the lady had whispered in her ear. Her poor little figure, enveloped in
a heavy, light-blue silk, leaned helplessly and wearily back in her huge
armchair, and her cheeks were whiter than the lily-wreath that crowned
her brow.’

Meanwhile Elizabeth had encountered in the throng Dr. Fels and his wife.
The latter immediately took the young girl under her care, that they
might not be separated again.

"Only stay until the dancing begins," she replied to Elizabeth’s remark
that the moment seemed to have arrived when she could slip away
unnoticed, and go home. "I do not wonder that you wish to leave as soon
as possible," she added, with a smile.  "We, too, shall not stay long.
I am anxious about my children at home.  I made a great sacrifice to my
husband’s position in coming at all.  Herr von Walde, to whom you are
assigned for the day by lot, does not dance.  So never fear, you will be
released."

Suddenly the crowd separated.  From the top of the tower sounded a grand
march, and while the gentlemen sought the shade of the trees, the
ladies, according to the rules of the feast, hastened to provide them
with refreshments from the tent.

Herr von Walde walked slowly across the sward, his hands clasped behind
him, talking with the military-inspector Busch, by his side.

"My dear Herr von Walde, now pray come to us!" the Countess Falkenberg
cried out to him, extending her hand with an air almost caressing.  "I
have kept such a charming place here for you.  Come, rest upon your
well-earned laurels.  ’Tis true, all the young ladies present are
disposed of by lot, but here are our fair and lovely wood-nymphs all
ready to wreathe your goblet, and furnish you from the tent with all
that your heart can desire."

"I am deeply touched by your kindness and care for me, gracious lady,"
the gentleman replied, "but I cannot think that Fräulein Ferber will
leave me to appeal to the general sympathy."

He spoke loudly, and turned to Elizabeth, who was standing quite near.
She had heard every word, and instantly walked quietly towards him,
placing herself at his side, as though she were by no means inclined to
delegate to others one jot of her duty.  As he saw her approach him
thus, something of a joyful surprise lit up his countenance.  He cast an
answering glance at the face that, unembarrassed now by those around,
looked smilingly up at him.  Strangely enough, he seemed entirely to
forget the charming place that the countess had reserved for him, for,
after a slight obeisance to her stately ladyship and her court of young
ladies, he offered his arm to Elizabeth, and conducted her to the shade
of a giant oak, where Doctor Fels had just provided comfortable places
for his wife and himself.

"Now, that is carrying his revenge a little too far," said the great
lady, with irritation, turning for sympathy to Count Wildenau and the
five disconcerted Dryads. "He really throws scorn upon the entire fête
by taking so much notice of that young person.  I begin to be really
vexed with him.  No one is more ready than I to grant that he is
entirely right to be angry, but I really think that he should not allow
himself to be so carried away by his indignation as to forget those of
his guests who have had no share in the absurdities of the baroness or
of von Quittelsdorf.  I’ll wager that that little fool there attributes
his attentions to the influence of her beautiful eyes."

The small band of amiable Dryads shot annihilating looks at Elizabeth,
who was quietly proceeding to the refreshment tent, whence she presently
issued with a flask of champagne and four glasses, which she placed upon
the table beneath the oak, where Herr von Walde was sitting with the
doctor and his wife.

"Our young ladies to-day are wearing perfect flower gardens upon their
heads," said Frau Fels, as the young girl approached the table.
"Fräulein Ferber alone is as destitute of ornament as Cinderella.  I
cannot have it so."

She took two roses from the large bouquet which she held in her hand,
and stood up to place them in Elizabeth’s hair.

"Stop, I pray you," cried Herr von Walde, detaining her hand, "nothing
should adorn that hair but orange blossoms."

"But they are only worn by brides," said the doctor’s wife naively.

"I know that well," he replied quietly; and as if he had said the most
natural thing in the world, he filled the glasses, and turned to Dr.
Fels.  "Clink glasses with me, doctor," he said; "I drink to the welfare
of the saviour of my life—of Gold Elsie of Castle Gnadeck!"

The doctor smiled, and the glasses clinked with a loud ring.  At this
signal, a group of gentlemen approached, glasses in hand.

"You come at the right moment, gentlemen," the lord of the feast cried
out to them.  "Drink with me to the fulfilment of my dearest wish!"

A loud "vivat" resounded through the air, and the glasses clinked
merrily.

"Scandalous!" cried the old court lady, and dropped her fork, with its
choice morsel, upon her plate; "really, they are conducting themselves
over there like students at a carouse!  I am positively shocked!  What
an unseemly noise!  Actually the mob in the street is better behaved
when they shout ’vivats’ to our gracious Prince. Apropos, my love," she
continued, turning to Helene, "I observe that your brother seems quite
intimate with Doctor Fels."

"He esteems him highly as a thoroughly upright man of great scientific
attainments," replied Helene.

"That is all very well,—but he certainly cannot be aware that the man
just now is in very bad odour at court.  Only imagine, he has had the
inconceivable insolence to refuse our beloved Princess Catharine——"

"Yes; I know that story," said Fräulein von Walde, interrupting the
irritated lady; "my brother related the circumstance to me himself a few
days ago."

"How!—is it possible that the facts are known to him, and that he has so
little regard for the sentiments of the court,—which has always
distinguished him so highly! Incredible!  I assure you, dear child, my
conscience pricks me sorely; I shall scarcely be able to lift my eyes in
the presence of their Serene Highnesses, when they arrive in L——, at the
thought of having been in the society here of that impertinent
creature."

Helene shrugged her shoulders, and left the lady to her qualms of
conscience and a brimming glass of champagne, with which she probably
intended to fortify herself in anticipation of the dreaded arrival.

In the society of this lady Fräulein von Walde suffered all the galling
annoyance that conventionalities inflict;—she was obliged to listen,
with an amiable and interested smile, to a thousand wretched trifles,
while her heart was tortured with pain; indeed, only just such a person
as the Countess Falkenberg, who sought and found her highest earthly
happiness in a gracious glance from a Princely eye, a person whose whole
intellectual capacity was exercised in standing sentinel before the
domain of etiquette and in guarding religiously the hardly-won prestige
of her social position,—only such a one could have been blind to the
signs of the deepest suffering in the countenance of the younger lady.

Hollfeld had not only been so inattentive as to leave Helene, upon her
arrival at this spot, to the care of Count Wildenau, he had even, upon
his tardy appearance, omitted all explanation or apology for his delay,
and had finally seated himself beside her in a sullen and abstracted
mood. She thought him strangely altered, and she racked her restless
heart and brain with vain surmises.  At first her suspicions rested upon
Cornelie, who, true to her mercurial temperament, fluttered hither and
thither like a will-o’-the-wisp, talking and laughing incessantly.  But
she was soon reassured upon this point, for she could not catch a single
glance of Hollfeld’s directed towards the coquettish and graceful court
beauty.  The anxious inquiries that she made of him were answered in
monosyllables.  She beckoned to one of the servants who was bearing past
a tray of delicacies, and herself placed them before Hollfeld,—but he
did not eat a morsel, and only swallowed in quick succession several
glasses of fiery wine which he procured for himself at the refreshment
tent. This careless conduct, which she now observed for the first time,
caused her unspeakable pain.  At last she was silent, and closed her
eyes as though fatigued; no one noticed the crystal drops trembling on
their lashes.

Suddenly a shadow was cast upon the universal merriment, which had been
all the more unrestrained from the fact that the lord of the feast,
usually so grave and serious, had joined in it so cordially,—at least
Elizabeth felt convinced that the face of the butler, Lorenz, who now
appeared in the distance, boded no good.  The old man took the greatest
pains to attract his master’s attention without being seen by the other
guests.  At last he succeeded. Herr von Walde arose, and stepped aside
with him into the thicket, while the group of gentlemen around him
dispersed.  He soon returned, with marks of dismay in his countenance.

"I have just received sad news, which will compel me to leave you
immediately," he said, in a low voice, to the doctor.  "Herr von
Hartwig, in Thalleben, one of my oldest friends, has met with a terrible
accident; the injury is fatal; they write me that he cannot live a day
longer.  He summons me to him that he may entrust his young children to
my care.  I pray you inform the Baroness Lessen of my departure, and its
cause; she will see that the festivities are not interrupted.  Let my
sister and my guests suppose that I am called away for a few minutes by
some trifling matter of business, and will return hither shortly.  I
shall not be missed after the dancing begins."

The doctor went instantly to find the baroness.  His wife had strayed
away from the spot a few moments before, so Elizabeth was left alone
with Herr von Walde. He turned to her quickly:

"I thought we should not part from each other to-day without the
conclusion of my birthday greeting," he said, while striving to meet her
eyes, which shyly avoided his, "but I seem to be one of those
unfortunate ones whose unlucky stars snatch from them the prize when it
seems almost within their grasp."  He endeavoured to give an air of
humour to his words, but they only sounded the more bitter.  "However, I
submit," he continued, in a determined tone; "I must go.  It cannot be
helped, but my duty may be made easier and sweeter for me by a promise
from you.  Do you remember the words which you lately repeated after
me?"

"I do not forget so quickly."

"Ah, that encourages me greatly!  There is a fairy tale which tells of a
realm of inexhaustible riches and endless delights, revealed by a single
word.  Such a word the conclusion of your greeting can be to me.  Will
you aid me in having it uttered?"

"How can I help you to the attainment of riches and delights?"

"That is my affair.  I do most earnestly entreat you at this moment to
make no further attempt at evasion, for time presses.  Let me ask
you,—will you endeavour to retain in your memory, during my absence, the
beginning of that birthday greeting?"

"Yes."

"And will you be ready, when I return, to hear the conclusion?"

"Yes."

"Good; in the midst of the sorrow and gloom to which I am summoned there
will be a glimpse of clear blue sky above me, and for you——may my good
angel whisper in your ear the word that will unlock that fairy realm for
me.  Farewell!"

He gave her his hand, and disappeared upon the path leading directly to
the castle.

Elizabeth stood still for a few moments in a state of delicious
stupefaction, from which she was roused by the surprise of the doctor’s
wife at finding the gentlemen gone.  Elizabeth told her what had
happened, and the doctor shortly returned and related that the baroness
had been greatly piqued that her cousin had not considered it worth his
while to inform her in person of the cause of his departure.  The
unlucky doctor had been obliged to bear the brunt of the lady’s ill
humour, which had vented itself in several biting remarks, but he had
been so discourteous as to allow them to pass him by without in the
least disturbing his serenity.  He seated himself at the table and began
to eat with an excellent appetite.

Meanwhile Elizabeth went to take leave of Fräulein von Walde.  There was
nothing now to detain her any longer.  She longed to be alone with her
thoughts, to recall undisturbed every word that he had spoken, and to
ponder upon its meaning.

"Are you going?" asked Helene, as Elizabeth stood behind her chair and
bade her farewell.  "What does my brother say to that?"

"Rudolph has been summoned to the castle upon some business matter," the
baroness, who just now appeared, answered in Elizabeth’s stead.
"Fräulein Ferber is released from all necessity of remaining any
longer."

Helene cast a glance of displeasure at the speaker. "I cannot see why,"
she said.  "His business cannot detain him long, he will certainly
return."

"Probably," rejoined the baroness; "but he may be delayed quite late.
Fräulein Ferber, meanwhile, will be very much fatigued in a circle where
she is such an utter stranger."

"Has my brother released you?"  Helene turned to Elizabeth, hardly
allowing the baroness to complete her sentence.

"Yes," answered she, "and I pray you to allow me to take my departure."

During this short dialogue the Countess Falkenberg leaned back and
measured Elizabeth from head to foot with her cold, piercing eyes; but
Hollfeld arose and departed without saying a word.  Fräulein von Walde
looked after him with an air of anxious discontent, and at first did not
reply to Elizabeth’s request; but at last, with evident absence of mind,
she held out her hand and said, "Well, then, go, dear child, and a
thousand thanks for your kind assistance to-day."

Elizabeth took a hasty leave of Doctor Fels and his wife, and then
entered the forest with a light heart.

She breathed more freely as the throng was left behind her, and as a few
sounding chords concluded the waltz whose bewildering notes had for a
short distance accompanied her.  She could now yield herself up
undisturbed to the magic that had laid so sweet a spell upon her entire
mind and being, and forced her to listen still to the tones of that
voice which had died upon her ear, ensnaring her heart with its
thrilling melody, and at the sound of which all the suggestions of
maidenly reserve, all the arguments of her understanding, vanished.  She
called to mind how passively she had followed him, although her deeply
offended pride had prompted her instantly to leave the circle where she
seemed to be so unwelcome a guest; she still experienced the delight
with which she had hastened to his side when he had so emphatically
declared, before all present, that he belonged to her for the day, and
would accept of no substitute in her place. He might have conducted her
to the end of the world,—she would have followed him blindly with
unhesitating reliance and the most entire abandonment of herself to his
guidance.  And her parents?  She understood now how a daughter could
forsake father and mother to follow a man whose path in life had been
widely separated from her own, leading, perhaps, in directly an opposite
direction,—a man who had known nothing of the inclinations, influences,
occurrences great and small, by which every fibre of her life had been
previously intertwined with the life of her family.  Two months before,
all this would have been an inexplicable riddle to her.

She turned into a path which she had often trodden with Miss Mertens.
It led, by many a narrow winding, through the thicket, out upon the
broad path which traversed the forest, and for some distance formed the
boundary line between the Prince’s domain and the estate of Herr von
Walde.  On the other side of this broad path opened the wide road which
led through the forest to her uncle’s Lodge.

Lost in her day-dreams, Elizabeth did not hear the sound of hasty
footsteps approaching; she therefore started in alarm when she heard her
name pronounced, close to her, by a man’s voice.  Hollfeld stood just
behind her.  She suspected why he had followed her, and she felt her
heart beat quickly, but she collected herself, and, standing aside, made
room for him to pass her in the narrow pathway.

"No, that was not what I wished, Fräulein Ferber," he said smiling, and
in a tone of such familiarity as deeply offended her.  "I wished to have
the pleasure of accompanying you."

"I thank you," she coldly replied, "it would be giving you needless
trouble; I always greatly prefer walking alone in the forest."

"And have you no fear?" he asked, stepping so close to her that she felt
his hot breath upon her cheek.

"Only of unwelcome companionship," she replied, retaining her
self-possession by an effort.

"Ah! here is the same dignified reserve again in which you always
entrench yourself with me; and wherefore? I shall soon put an end to it,
however.  To-day, at least, I shall not respect it as I have hitherto
been forced to do,—I must speak to you."

"Is what you have to say of such consequence as to require you to absent
yourself from your friends and the fête?"

"Yes; it is a wish upon which my life depends; it pursues me day and
night; I have been ill and wretched at the idea that it may never be
gratified—I——"

In the mean time Elizabeth had accelerated her pace. It was hateful to
her,—the presence of this man, in whose eyes glowed all the passion
which he had hitherto partly repressed and which had already inspired
her with such deep aversion and disgust; but she was perfectly conscious
that absolute self-possession was her only weapon, and therefore she
interrupted him, while her lips quivered with the sickly semblance of a
smile.

"Ah!" she said, "our practisings, then, have had most desirable results;
you wish my assistance in music, if I understand you rightly?"

"You misunderstand me intentionally," he exclaimed.

"Accept the misunderstanding as an act of forbearance on my part," said
Elizabeth seriously; "I should else be obliged to say much to you which
it might please you still less to hear."

"Go on, I pray.  I know your sex sufficiently well to be quite aware
that they delight in wearing the mask of coldness and reserve for
awhile,—their favours are all the more welcome.  I do not grudge you the
pleasure of this innocent coquetry, but then——"

Elizabeth stood for one moment dumb and stupefied at his insolence; such
hateful words had never before shocked her ears.  Shame and indignation
drove the blood to her face, and she sought in vain for terms in which
to punish such unexampled temerity.  He interpreted her silence
otherwise.

"I knew it," he cried triumphantly.  "I see through you; the blush of
detection becomes you incomparably! You are beautiful as an angel!
Never have I seen so perfect a form as yours!  Ah! you know well enough
that you made me your slave the first time I saw you; since then, I have
languished at your feet.  What shoulders and what arms!  Why have you
hitherto veiled them so enviously?"

An indignant exclamation broke from Elizabeth’s lips:

"How dare you," she cried loudly and violently, "offer me these insults!
If you have not understood me hitherto, let me tell you now, clearly and
distinctly, that your society, which you force upon me thus, is hateful
to me, and that I wish to be alone."

"Bravo! that authoritative tone becomes you excellently well," he said,
with a sneer; "the noble blood that you inherit from your mother shows
itself now. What have I done to make you suddenly play this indignant
part?  I have told you that you are beautiful, but your mirror must tell
you the same thing fifty times a day, and I do not believe that you
break it for the telling."

Elizabeth turned her back upon him contemptuously, and walked quickly
onward.  He kept pace with her, and seemed quite sure of a final
victory.  She had just reached the broad forest-road when a carriage
dashed past.  A man’s head appeared at the window, but at sight of her
was drawn back quickly, as though surprised. He looked out once more, as
if to convince himself that he had seen correctly, and then the carriage
vanished around a sharp turn in the road.

Elizabeth involuntarily extended her arms after the retreating carriage.
Its inmate well knew how she detested Hollfeld; after the declaration
that she had made to him a few hours before, how could he doubt that she
was most unwillingly in the society of this man?  Could he not delay his
journey for one moment, to free her from such odious importunity?

Hollfeld observed her action.

"Aha!" he cried, with a malicious laugh, "that looked almost tender.  If
it were not for my cousin’s seven and thirty years, I might actually be
jealous!  Perhaps you supposed that he would immediately descend from
his vehicle and gallantly offer you his arm to escort you to your home!
You see he is too conscientious; he denies himself that indulgence, and
prefers to fulfil a sacred duty.  He is an iceberg, for whom no woman
possesses a single charm.  You owe his behaviour to you to-day, which
was so very courteous, not to your enchanting eyes, O bewitching Gold
Elsie, but to his desire to provoke my honoured mamma."

"And does nothing deter you from ascribing such mean motives to the man
whose hospitality you enjoy so freely?" cried Elizabeth, provoked.  She
had determined not to reply to him again by a single syllable, in hopes
that she might thus weary out his pertinacity; but the manner in which
he spoke of Herr von Walde overcame her self-control.

"Mean?" he repeated.  "You express yourself strongly. I only call it a
little revenge which he was fully justified in taking.  And as for his
hospitality,—I am only using now what will be all my own at some future
period; I cannot see that it should alter my opinion of my cousin.
Besides, I am the one to sacrifice myself, I deserve all the gratitude.
Is my devotion and attention to Fräulein von Walde to go for nothing?"

"It must be a hard task to pluck a few flowers and carry them to a poor
invalid!" said Elizabeth ironically.

"Aha! you are, as I am happy to observe, jealous of these little
attentions of mine," he cried triumphantly. "Did you seriously suppose
for one moment that I could really be in love with her, while my sense
of beauty was so perpetually outraged?  I esteem my cousin, but I never
forget for one instant that she is a year older than I, that she limps,
is crooked, and——"

"Detestable!"  Elizabeth interrupted him, beside herself with the
abhorrence he inspired; she hastily crossed the broad forest-road.  He
followed her.

"Detestable, say I, too," he continued, endeavouring to keep pace with
her; "especially when I see your Hebeform by her side.  And now I beg
you, do not run so fast; let there be the peace between us of which I
dream day and night."

He suddenly passed his arm around her waist and forced her to stand
still, while his glowing face, with eyes sparkling with unholy fire,
approached her own.  At first she gazed at him speechless and stupefied,
then a shudder convulsed her frame, and with a gesture of utter aversion
she pushed him from her.

"Don’t dare to touch me again!" she cried in a clear ringing voice,—and
at the same moment she heard the loud barking of a dog near her.  She
turned her head in joyful surprise towards the spot whence the noise
proceeded.

"Hector!  Hector! here, good dog!" she called; and the forester’s huge
hound burst through the thicket and fawned upon her.

"My uncle is not far off," she turned coldly and quietly to her
discomfited companion; "he will be here in a moment.  As you can hardly
desire that I should request him to rid me of your society, I advise you
to return immediately to the castle."

And, in fact, he stood still like a coward, while she, accompanied by
the dog, proceeded towards her home. Hollfeld stamped his feet in his
rage, and cursed the blind passion that had robbed him of all prudence.
He did not for one instant imagine that he could really be disagreeable
to Elizabeth,—he, the pet of society, whose slightest word, were it only
an invitation to dance, made such a sensation in the little world of
L——, and was so often an occasion of envy and discord among the ladies!
The idea was absurd.  It was far more likely that the daughter of the
forester’s clerk was a coquette, who intended to make conquest as
difficult as possible for him. He had no faith in the existence of that
virgin purity of soul which made Elizabeth thus insensible, and the
magic of which affected even him most powerfully, although he did not
understand its influence.  He had no faith in the sacred reserve of a
young girl’s inner life, and therefore could not possibly conceive of
the instinctive aversion which his selfish, unprincipled nature
inspired. He reproached himself angrily for having been too sudden and
violent, thus defeating his own ends, and deferring indefinitely the
accomplishment of his hopes.  He wandered about in the forest for an
hour before he could master his emotions; for the guests, who were still
dancing on the green before the convent tower whence the gay music
reached his ears, must not suspect the volcano seething beneath that
cold and interesting exterior.

Elizabeth had apparently walked away with a firm, decided step, but she
took care to look neither to the right nor the left, lest she should
suddenly see his hated face beside her.  At last she ventured to stand
still and look around her.  He had disappeared.  With a sigh of relief,
she leaned against the trunk of a tree to collect her thoughts, while
Hector stood beside her sagely wagging his tail, seeming thoroughly to
understand that he was playing the part of her protector.  Doubtless he
had been taking a forest walk for his own amusement, for there were no
signs of his master.  Elizabeth felt her knees tremble beneath her.  Her
terror, when Hollfeld had clasped her waist, had been extreme.  In her
innocence she had never imagined such rudeness, and hence his sudden
touch had made her for one moment rigid with horror.  She shed bitter
tears of shame as she recalled Herr von Walde’s image, not clothed in
the gentleness of the last few hours, but stern and reserved.  She
thought she should scarcely dare ever to look up at him again since that
wretch had touched her.  All her happy visions lay shattered at her
feet.  This unhappy encounter with Hollfeld had ruthlessly brought her
back to reality.  What he had said of Herr von Walde, coarse and
slanderous as it was, had revived much in her mind which she had once
believed, and considered as a bar to her growing interest in him.  She
thought of his invincible pride of descent, of his self-renouncing love
for his sister, and of the universal opinion that his heart was cold as
ice where women were concerned.  All the gay brilliant dreams which had
hovered around her path through the forest now folded their wings and
vanished beneath the searching gaze of her awakened consciousness. She
could hardly tell what it was that formerly made her so happy.  Was it
not most likely that only a strong sense of justice had induced him to
show her such gentle kindness and consideration to-day,—to protect her
from the insolent annoyance of his relatives?  Had he not in like manner
protected Miss Mertens, and endeavoured to indemnify her for the
injustice that she had encountered beneath his roof?  And the birthday
greeting!  Ah, she must not think of that, or its unfinished conclusion,
for then all her dead visions would instantly celebrate a blissful
resurrection!

As she entered the Lodge Sabina came towards her, pale as ashes, in
great distress.  She pointed mutely to the door of the dwelling-room.
Within the apartment her uncle was speaking loudly, while he was pacing
heavily to and fro.

"Oh dear! oh dear!" whispered Sabina, "everything is going wrong in
there.  Bertha has kept out of your uncle’s way most carefully for the
last few weeks, but a little while ago she was standing at the great
door and did not see that he was coming into the yard.  He gave her no
time to run off, but took her by the hand and led her instantly into the
room there.  She was as white as the wall, in her fear of him,—but that
didn’t help her,—go she must.  Ah, Lord have mercy upon me!  I should
not like to have the Herr Forester for a father confessor——"

A loud burst of sobbing, that sounded almost like a stifled shriek,
interrupted Sabina’s whispering.

"Better so!" they now heard the forester say in a far gentler tone of
voice; "at least that is a sign that you are not quite hardened.  And
now speak out!  Remember that I stand here in place of your good
parents.  If you have a sorrow confide it to me; be sure that if it has
befallen you without fault on your part, I will faithfully assist you to
bear it."

Only stifled sobs ensued.

"You cannot speak?" asked the forester after a short pause.  "I know of
a certainty that there is no physical obstacle in the way of your
speaking, for you talk to yourself continually when you believe yourself
unobserved; you must be putting some force upon yourself,—have you made
a vow against the use of your tongue?"

Probably an assenting nod must have confirmed him in this supposition,
for he continued, with great irritation, "What an insane idea!  Do you
suppose that you can do your Heavenly Father good service by renouncing
one of his best gifts, the power of speech?  And are you going to be
silent all your life long?  No!  You will speak, then, if that which you
hope to effect by means of your vow fails to come to pass?  Very well, I
cannot force you to speak,—then endure alone what depresses you and
makes you so unhappy, for that you are unhappy any one can read in your
face.  But let me tell you that you will find an inexorable judge in me,
if it should ever appear that you have done anything that shuns the
light and should not be told to honest men; for in your boundless
arrogance you have hitherto rejected every well-meant piece of advice,
every attempt to guide and direct you, making it impossible for me to
care for you as it is my duty and desire, standing as I do in the place
of your parents.  I will bear with you a little longer; but should I
find you once leaving the house after nightfall, this is your home no
longer,—you must go.  And let me tell you also, to-morrow I shall send
for the doctor to tell me whether you are really ailing; you have looked
wretchedly for the last few weeks.  Now go!"

The door opened, and Bertha staggered out.  She did not notice Sabina
and Elizabeth, and when she heard the door close behind her, she
suddenly wrung her hands above her head in the speechless agony of
despair, and rushed up the stairs as though hunted by the furies.

"That girl has something on her conscience, whatever it may be," said
Sabina, shaking her head.  Elizabeth went in to her uncle.  He was
leaning against the window, and drumming upon one of the panes with his
fingers, a common habit with him when irritated.  He looked very gloomy,
but his features lighted up as Elizabeth entered.

"I’m glad you are come, Gold Elsie!" he exclaimed; "I need to see some
true, pure face beside me; I shudder at the black eyes of that girl who
has just gone out. Never mind, I have taken up my domestic cross again,
and shall bear it on for awhile; I cannot see the child cry, even though
I were sure that the effect of every tear was exactly calculated."

Elizabeth was heartily glad that the dreaded encounter between Bertha
and her uncle was well over.  She hastened to divert his thoughts
entirely from the unfortunate girl by describing to him the festivities
she had just witnessed, telling him cursorily of Herr von Walde’s sudden
departure.  She informed him also of Linke’s dreadful end, at which,
however, he was not greatly surprised, as he had expected some such
termination to the affair.

He accompanied Elizabeth to the garden gate.

"Be very careful not to ring too loudly at the gate in the wall," he
warned her as she left him.  "Your mother had an attack of headache
to-day, and has gone to bed. I was up there a little while ago."

Elizabeth ran up the mountain in some anxiety, but Miss Mertens, leading
little Ernst by the hand, came to meet her on the sward before the
castle, and soothed her fears. The attack was over, and her mother was
enjoying a refreshing sleep when Elizabeth softly went to her bedside.

It was already twilight; the most profound quiet reigned throughout the
house,—the striking clocks had been stopped,—the window shutters were
closed that the rustling of the leaves without might not be heard,—not
even a fly buzzed,—for Ferber had tenderly taken care that nothing
should disturb the stillness that surrounded the sleeper.

If her mother had been sitting in her arm-chair in the window recess of
the dwelling-room behind the protecting curtains, looking upon the green
domain without, above which stretched the calm evening skies,—the dear
familiar corner would have become a confessional, where Elizabeth,
kneeling upon the cushion at her mother’s feet, would have poured out
her overcharged mind and heart.  But now she thrust back her precious
secret into the inmost recesses of her soul: and who knows whether she
will ever find courage to reveal what must fill her mother’s heart with
the keenest anxiety?



                              CHAPTER XVI.


The ruins of Gnadeck might well listen in amazement to the strange noise
which had resounded through their crumbling walls from the first peep of
dawn.  It was not the familiar sound of destruction caused by furious
storms, or the melting of the snow when spring appeared. Then the water
softly excavated little gutters between the stones, and lifted from its
niche, without any other warning, one block of granite after another,
that, the instant before its final downfall, looked proudly and
threateningly down upon the world; for its overthrow had been planned
more secretly than that of a royal favourite or an unpopular ministry.
And then a violent storm would arise some midnight,—a mighty crash would
come, and the rays of the rising sun would wander for the first time
over walls and floors that they had never touched before.  There would
be a huge pile of masonry heaped upon the pavement, and all through the
day, with every gentle breeze, broken bits of mortar and little rills of
sand would trickle down from the wound; but before long, tender grass
would sprout from the jagged edges, and years, long years, would again
ensue before the mischievous water beneath the green garment would
prepare a new victim for the tempest.  It was a slow, scarcely
perceptible decline.  The ruins might be as easy as the invalid whose
disease, though incurable, may permit him to rival the Old Testament
patriarchs in length of days.

It was human hands to-day that were effecting the work of destruction.
With incredible speed and activity they dislodged stone after stone.
The old jutty, which had advanced so boldly for years, like a valiant
sentinel keeping watch before this wing of the castle, presented a most
deplorable appearance.  It had already been shorn of much of its height;
its ivy mantle was torn, and dark window niches and mossy masonry came
to light, which, perhaps, once were rich in stone carving.  The workmen
were very diligent.  It interested them greatly, hazardous as was their
task, to obtain a glimpse down into the dark nooks and corners of the
old pile, that popular superstition had peopled with countless ghastly
apparitions.

In the afternoon, Frau Ferber was sitting upon the shady rampart with
Miss Mertens and Elizabeth, when Reinhard, who, always made his
appearance at a certain hour of the day, interrupted their reading.  He
announced that Linke’s body had been committed to the earth as privately
as possible that morning, and that Fräulein von Walde had learned,
through the carelessness of a servant, of the attempt upon her brother’s
life.  But he remarked, with some bitterness, that Herr von Walde’s
anxiety, lest his sister’s fright upon hearing of the assault should
have disastrous consequences, had been wholly unnecessary, since the
lady had heard of it with entire composure, and even the terrible
accident that had befallen Herr von Hartwig, whose wife was one of her
friends, had apparently produced very little impression upon her. "But
if the life of her fair-haired favourite had been in danger," he
declared angrily, "she would most certainly have torn her chestnut
curls.  That Herr von Hollfeld is utterly odious to me!  He has been
walking about the house to-day, looking as if he would like to poison us
all.  I’ll wager that this charming mood of his is the cause of Fräulein
von Walde’s red and swollen eyes, which she tried to conceal from me
when I met her in the garden just now."

At the mention of the hated name, Elizabeth bent low over her work.  The
blood rushed to her face at the thought of Hollfeld’s insolence the day
before, of which she had not yet told her mother, for fear that it might
cause a return of her headache; and perhaps there were other reasons for
her silence; but she would not acknowledge to herself how much she
dreaded lest her parents, upon learning of Hollfeld’s rudeness, should
prohibit her from going to Lindhof again, in which case all chance of
seeing Herr von Walde would be at an end.

In the mean time, the destruction of the jutty was going on
uninterruptedly.  After awhile Ferber entered the garden.  He had been
to the Lodge, and had brought the forester home with him to take coffee.
Ernst came running to them in a great state of excitement.  The child
had obediently forborne to transgress the bounds which his father had
set for him, that he might not be exposed to danger; but he had been
looking on from his post of observation, following the progress of the
workmen with the greatest interest.

"Papa! papa!" he cried, "the mason wants to speak to you,—come right
away; he says he has found something!"

And in fact one of the workmen made signs to the brothers to come
nearer.

"We have come to what seems to be a small chamber," the man called down
to them, "and, as well as I can see, there is a coffin in it.  Will you
not examine into the matter, Herr Ferber, before we proceed?  You can
come up here with entire safety; we have firm foothold."

Reinhard had heard the call and came hastily down the terrace steps.  A
concealed apartment, containing a coffin!—the words were music to his
antiquarian ears.

The three men cautiously ascended the ladder.

The workmen were standing just where the huge jutty sprang forth from
the main building, and they pointed down to a tolerably large opening at
their feet. Until now they had come upon no room that had been closed;
the roof of the main building was partly gone, and standing upon this
spot, you could look in all directions through a labyrinth of open
rooms, half ruinous passages, and through great gaps in the floors down
into the castle chapel.  The old ruins did not seem half so desolate
from within as from without; the blue heavens peeped in everywhere, and
the fresh breeze swept through as often as it would.  But now a space
suddenly appeared at their feet surrounded by firm walls, and covered by
a tolerably well-preserved ceiling.  As well as they could judge from
where they stood, the room lay like a wedge between the chapel and the
space behind.  At all events, there must be a window somewhere at the
extreme corner formed by the wall of the jutty and that of the main
building, for from that direction a weak reflection streamed in through
coloured glass, and flickered upon the object which was dimly visible,
and which the masons took for a coffin.

Immediately a ladder of greater length was procured, as the room was
quite a high one, and one by one all went down in a state of
highly-wrought expectation. In descending, there was within reach a
wainscoted wall almost black with age.  The profusion of strange, rich
carving that adorned it startled the eye.  Close to the ceiling a plain
strip of wood, of much more modern date, had been nailed, upon which
were still hanging some rags of black cloth; while the rest of what had
once been the mourning drapery of the apartment lay in mouldering,
shapeless heaps upon the floor.

Doubtless concealment had been the purpose of the room from the
beginning, for there had been no heed paid to symmetry of form in its
construction.  It represented an irregular triangle, and in one somewhat
rounded corner was the very small window whose existence they had
suspected.  It lay so close to the chapel that Reinhard’s supposition
that in old Catholic times the church treasures had been secreted here
seemed most probable; all the more so as on one side five or six worn
stone steps led down to a door in the chapel wall, which had been walled
up from within. The window was just behind the evergreen oak, which
pressed its thick branches against it, and the ivy had twined a tender
lattice-work across the panes; but nevertheless the sun stole through
the coloured glass in the graceful, delicate stone rosette, which was in
a state of perfect preservation.

It was in fact a coffin,—a small, narrow, leaden coffin,—standing out in
strong contrast with the black velvet covering of its pedestal, which
was thus found lonely and forgotten within these three walls.  At its
head was a huge candelabrum, in the branches of which were still to be
seen the remains of wax candles; but at its foot was a footstool, upon
which lay a mandolin, its strings all broken.  It had been an old
instrument in the hands of its last possessor, for the black colour of
its neck was worn away in spots, and the sounding-board was slightly
hollowed where the player had pressed her little fingers. At the
approach of the intruders the last fragments of the withered heap of
flowers fluttered down from the coffin, upon whose lid in gilt letters
was inscribed the name "Lila."

Set in the thick wall of the most extensive side of the apartment was a
kind of press, of dark oak, which Reinhard at first supposed had been
appropriated to the safe-keeping of the priestly robes and ornaments.
He opened the doors, which stood ajar; as they shook in opening there
was a rustle within, and little clouds of dust flew forth from a
quantity of female garments hanging inside.  They formed a strange,
fantastic wardrobe,—gay, and most coquettish in fashion, they contrasted
oddly enough with the grave solemnity of their surroundings.

She who had worn these garments must have been a wonderfully small and
delicate creature, for the silk skirts,—most of them bordered with
embroidery in gold thread,—were as short as though made for a child; and
the shape of the black and violet velvet bodices, with their silken
ribbons and tinsel trimmings, must have fitted an exquisite, pliant,
maiden waist.  Many, many years must have elapsed since a human being
had breathed within these walls,—since any hand warm with life had
touched these hidden objects.  The hooks in the press had, in some
cases, pierced the mouldering stuffs; and the threads, which had once
confined the pearls and spangles of the trimming, hung loose and broken.

Against one wall was placed a little table with a stone top.  Its legs,
grown weak with age, appeared scarcely able to sustain it, and it leaned
forward, endangering the safety of a casket that stood upon it.  This
casket was a master-piece of workmanship in ivory and gold. The cover
did not seem to be locked; it looked rather as if it had been lightly
closed, in order to preserve a broad parchment which projected from the
box and had obviously been arranged with the view of attracting
attention.  It was yellow with age and covered deep,—as was all
else,—with dust; but the large, stiff, black characters upon it were
distinctly visible, and the name, "Jost von Gnadewitz," was perfectly
legible.

"Good Heavens! what have we here?" cried the forester, whose speech
almost failed him with amazement "Jost von Gnadewitz!—the hero of
Sabina’s tale of her great-grandmother!"

Ferber approached the table, and carefully raised the cover of the
casket.  Within, upon a dark velvet cushion, lay ornaments of antique
workmanship, bracelets, brooches, a necklace of gold coins, and several
strings of costly pearls.

The parchment had fallen to the ground.  Reinhard picked it up, and
offered to read the contents aloud.  It was, even for the time when it
had been composed,—about two hundred years before,—very clumsily
written, and very badly spelled.  The writer had evidently understood
how to wield the hunting-spear better than the pen,—nevertheless an air
of poesy breathed through the lines. They ran thus:

"Whoever you may be who are the first to enter this room, by all that is
sacred to you, by everything that you love or that has a home in your
heart, do not disturb her repose.  She lies there sleeping like a child.
The sweet face beneath the dark curls smiles again now that death has
touched it.  Once more, whoever you are, whether noble or beggar,
descendant of hers or not, let my eyes be the last to rest upon her!

"I could not lay her in the dark, cold ground.  Here the golden light
will play around her, and birds will alight upon the branches of the
tree outside with the breath of the forest ruffling their feathers,
while the songs that hushed her in her cradle gush from their throats.

"The golden sunlight was quivering in the forest, and the birds were
singing in the trees, when the graceful roe parted the bushes, and gazed
with shy, startled eyes at the young huntsman who was lying in the
shade. His heart beat quickly and wildly at sight of her; he threw his
weapons from him, and pursued the maiden-form that fled before him.
She, the child of the forest, a daughter of that people which the curse
of God pursues making them wanderers upon the face of the earth, with no
home for their weary feet, not a foot of land that they can call their
own whereon to lay their dying heads,—she had vanquished the heart of
the proud, fierce huntsman.  Suing for her love, he haunted the camp of
her tribe, day and night; he followed her footsteps like a dog, and
entreated her passionately until she was touched, to leave her people
and fly with him in secret.  In the silence of night he bore her away to
his castle, and, alas! became her murderer.  He did not heed her
prayers, when she was suddenly seized by the uncontrollable longing for
her forest liberty.  As the prisoned bird flutters wildly about its
cage, beating its delicate wings against the confining wires, so she
wandered in despair through the halls which had once resounded to her
intoxicating song and the delicious music of her lute, but which now
only echoed to her sighs and complaints.  He saw her cheeks grow pale,
saw her eyes averted from him in hate; his heart died a thousand deaths
when she thrust him from her, and shuddered at his touch; despair
possessed him, but he doubly bolted every door, and guarded them in
deadly terror, for he knew that she was lost to him forever if once
again her foot should press the woodland turf.  And then there came a
time when she grew less restless,—’tis true she glided past him as
though he were a shadow, a nothing,—she never lifted her eyes when he
approached her and addressed her in the tenderest tones of entreaty,—it
was long since she had spoken to him, and still no words passed her
lips; but she no longer beat her tiny hands against the window-bars,
tearing her hair, and calling with shrill shrieks upon those who passed
through the forest without, enjoying all the sweets of liberty.  She no
longer fled madly, like some hunted thing, through halls and corridors,
nor mounted the castle wall to throw her fair body into the gloomy
waters of the moat.  She sat beneath the evergreen oak with a sad,
patient look upon her lily-white face; she knew of the life within her
own,—she was about to become a mother. And when night came, and the
huntsman bore her up the broad stairway in his arms,—she did not resist,
but she turned her face from him, that his breath might not touch her
cheek, that no glance of his loving eyes might fall upon her.

"And one day the pastor of Lindhof came to the castle.  The people
declared that Jost, a lamb of his flock, had dealings with the devil,
and he came to rescue the lost soul.  He was admitted, and saw the
creature for whose sake the wild huntsman had renounced his merry life
in the forest, and heaven itself.  Her beauty and purity touched him.
He spoke to her in gentle tones, and her heart, paralyzed with
suffering, melted at his addresses. For the sake of the child that was
to come, she was baptized, and the unholy tie that had bound her to her
lover was hallowed by the sanction of the church.  And when her dark
hour of pain had passed, she pressed her cold lips upon the brow of her
child, and, with that kiss, her spirit burst its bonds,—she was free,
free!  The triumph of that moment transfigured the earthly tenement from
which the soul had departed.  The wretched man saw those glorious eyes
darken in death; he writhed at her feet in an agony of remorse and
despair, and implored her in vain for only one last glance of love.

"The boy was christened, and received his father’s name,—my baptismal
name.  I gazed with a shudder into his eyes,—they are my eyes.  Together
we have murdered her. My old servant, Simon, has taken the boy away.  I
cannot live for him.  Simon says, and the pastor also, that no woman can
be found willing to nourish my child at her breast, for, in the eyes of
the people I am lost,—doomed eternally to hell-torments.  The wife of my
forester, Ferber, has adopted the child without knowing whence it
comes——"

Here the reader paused, and looked up over the parchment at the
brothers.  The forester, who, until now, had been leaning against the
opposite wall listening with the greatest attention, suddenly stood by
his side, and clutched his arm convulsively.  The colour left his
sun-burnt cheeks for one moment.  It seemed as if his heart ceased to
beat, so great was his agitation.  And Ferber also drew near, testifying
in his face and gestures extreme surprise.

"Go on, go on!" cried the forester at last, in stifled accents.

"Simon laid him upon the threshold of the forest lodge," Reinhard read
further, "and to-day he saw Ferber’s wife kissing and tending him like
her own little girl.  By the laws of my family, he has no claim upon the
Gnadewitz estate, but my maternal inheritance will preserve him from
want.  My directions I have confided, in a sealed packet, deposited in
the town-house at L——, to the public authorities.  They will
substantiate his claim to be my son and heir.  May he, as Hans Jost von
Gnadewitz, found a new race.  The Almighty will provide kind hearts to
protect his youth,—I cannot.

"Everything which adorned that lovely form in happier days shall
surround it in death, and yield to the same decay.  Her child has a
claim upon her jewels, but my heart revolts at the thought that what has
rested upon her dazzling brow, her pure neck, may perhaps be torn
asunder and desecrated by faithless hands.  Better to leave all here to
fade and fall to ruin.

"Once more I implore you, whom chance may lead to this sanctuary, after
the lapse of centuries perhaps,—honour the dead, and pray for me,

"JOST VON GNADEWITZ."


The two brothers clasped each other’s hands, and, without a word,
approached the coffin.  In their veins flowed the blood of that strange
being who had once kindled to a flame the heart of the fierce, proud
lord of the castle,—of that woman whose ardent soul, thirsting for
freedom, exultingly fled from the idolized body which had crumbled to a
little heap of ashes here in its narrow leaden tomb.  Two tall figures
stood there, descendants of him who, with his dying mother’s
consecrating kiss upon his brow, was borne out into the forest, and laid
upon the low threshold of a servant, while his nobly-born father,
despair in his heart, rushed madly to death.

"She was the mother of our race," Ferber said at last, with much
emotion, to Reinhard.  "We are the descendants of the foundling whose
parentage has been a mystery until this hour, for the papers which would
have established him in his rights were destroyed when the townhouse at
L—— was burned down.  We must suspend work here for a few days," he
said, turning to one of the masons, who, prompted by a pardonable
curiosity, had descended the ladder half way, and, from this post of
observation, had listened in speechless amazement to the unfolding of a
tale which would afford a subject for winter evenings in the large,
peasant spinning-rooms, for a long time to come.

"Instead, you must prepare a grave to-morrow in the church-yard at
Lindhof," the forester called up to him; "I will speak to the pastor
about it afterwards."

He went again to the press, and looked at the garments that had once
enveloped the delicate limbs of the gypsy maiden, and had evidently been
adjusted with great care, that they might recall the times when they had
been seen upon the beautiful Lila by the enraptured eyes of her lover.
Upon the floor of the press were ranged shoes.  The forester took up a
pair of them; they were scarcely longer than the width of his broad
hand,—only Cinderella’s feet could ever have worn them.

"I will take these to Elsie," he said, smiling, holding them carefully
between his forefinger and thumb, "she will be surprised to find what a
Liliputian her ancestress was."

Meanwhile Ferber, after brushing the dust from the mandolin, took it
carefully under his arm, while Reinhard closed the jewel-box and lifted
it from the table by the exquisitely wrought handle on the lid.  Thus
the three men ascended the ladder again.  Arrived at the top, all the
boards that they could procure were placed over the opening, so as to
afford a temporary protection from wind and rain, and then they
descended from their perilous position upon the summit of the ruin.

Below, the ladies had been awaiting them for some time, in a state of
great expectation, and were not a little surprised at the strange
procession that descended the ladder.  But not one word did they learn
of what had been seen or heard, until the whole party were once more
seated beneath the linden.  Then Reinhard placed the casket upon the
table, described minutely the hidden apartment and its contents, and, at
last producing the parchment, read again what we have already learned;
of course with far greater fluency than before.

In breathless silence the ladies listened to these outpourings of a
passionate, burning heart.  Elizabeth sat pale and still; but when
Reinhard came to the words that suddenly threw such a glare of light
upon the dim past of her family, she started up, and her eyes rested in
speechless surprise upon the smiling face of her uncle, who was
observing her narrowly.  Even Frau Ferber sat for awhile after the
reader had finished, fairly dumb with amazement.  To her clear, calm
mind, accustomed to reason carefully, this romantic solution of family
questions, which had been unanswered for centuries, was almost
incomprehensible.  But Miss Mertens, to whom the whole bearing of the
discovery was explained by Ferber, as she did not even know the story of
the foundling, clapped her hands above her head at such a revelation.

"And does not this parchment give you a claim to your inheritance?" she
asked quickly and eagerly.

"Undoubtedly," replied Ferber, "but how can we tell in what that
maternal inheritance consisted?  The family has died out, the very name
of Gnadewitz is extinct. Everything has passed into strange hands; who
can tell to what we may lay claim?"

"No, let all that rest," said the forester with decision; "such matters
cost money, and in the end we might come into possession of only a few
thalers.  Oh no! let it go! We have not starved yet."

Elizabeth musingly took up the shoes which her uncle had placed before
her.  The faded silk of which they were made was torn here and there,
and showed perfectly the shape of the foot.  They had been much worn,
but not apparently upon the soil of the forest; the soles showed no
traces of such contact; probably they had covered the restless feet at
the time of her imprisonment, "when she fled madly through halls and
corridors like some hunted thing."

"Aha!  Elsie, now we know where you got your slender waist and those
feet that trip over the sward, scarcely bending the blades of grass,"
said her uncle.  "You are just such a forest-butterfly as your
ancestress, and would flutter just so against the bars of your cage if
you were shut up within locked doors; there is gypsy blood in your veins
were you ten times Gold Elsie and though your skin is like a snowdrift.
There, put on those things, you will find that you can dance in them
easily."

"Oh no, uncle," cried Elizabeth deprecatingly, "they seem to me like
sacred relics; I could not put them on without fearing that Jost’s fiery
black eyes might suddenly glare out at me."

Frau Ferber and Miss Mertens agreed with her, and the former declared
that in her opinion the press, with all that it contained, ought to be
carefully removed to some quiet, dry place, where it might be preserved
untouched as a family relic until it fulfilled its destiny, which was to
decay with all else that is mortal.

"Well, with regard to the press, let it be as you say," Reinhard here
interposed; "but it seems to me that a different fate should await these
articles."

He opened the casket.  The sunlight penetrating, its interior came
flashing back in a thousand sparkling rays, dazzling the eyes that
looked on.  Reinhard took out a necklace,—it was very broad, and of
admirable design.

"These are brilliants of the purest water," he explained to the
rest,—the necklace was set thick with precious stones,—"and these rubies
here must have gleamed magnificently from the dark curls of the
beautiful gypsy girl," he continued, as he took two pins from their
velvet cushion with heads formed like lily-cups of red stones, from
which chains, set thick with rubies, fell like a glittering little
shower.

Elizabeth, smiling, held a costly agraffe above her forehead.

"And so you think, Herr Reinhard," she said, "that we should let all
reverence for the past go, and recklessly adorn ourselves with these
jewels?  What would my white muslin dress say if I should some day
introduce it into such distinguished society?"

"The brilliants are exquisitely becoming to you," replied Reinhard,
smiling; "but to my mind a nosegay of fresh flowers would be far more
suitable with the white muslin; and therefore I should advise that these
precious stones be transformed at the jeweller’s into shining coin."

Ferber nodded assentingly.

"What!  Reinhard," cried Miss Mertens, "do you think these family jewels
should be sold?"

"Certainly," he replied; "it would be both foolish and sinful to let
such capital lie idle.  The stones alone must be worth full seven
thousand thalers, and then there are these very fine pearls, and this
wrought gold, which will bring a very clever little sum besides."

"Zounds!" exclaimed the forester; "let them go then on the spot,——See,
Adolph," he continued more gently, and rested his arm upon his brother’s
shoulder, "Heaven has been kind to you here.  Did I not tell you that
all would go smoothly with you in Thuringia, although I never dreamed
that eight thousand thalers were waiting for you?"

"For me?" cried Ferber with surprise.  "Does it not all belong to you as
the elder?"

"None of that!  What, in Heaven’s name, should I do with the trash?  Am
I to begin to invest capital in my old days?  I think I see myself at
such work!  I have neither chick nor child in the world, hold an
excellent office,—and when my old bones fail me, there is a pension for
me, which, try as I may, I shall never be able to spend.  Therefore I
resign my birthright in favour of the girl with the golden hair and
Ernst, the rogue, who shall perpetuate our stock; I will not even have a
mess of lentil pottage in exchange, for Sabina says it is not good with
venison.  Don’t touch me!" he cried, with a comic gesture of refusal,
clasping his hands behind him, as Frau Ferber, with tears in her eyes,
came to him with outstretched arms, and his brother would have
remonstrated with him.  "It would be much better for you, sister-in-law,
to go and see about our coffee.  It is really past hearing! four o’clock
and not a drop of the usual refreshments, for the sake of which I
dragged myself up here."

He accomplished his aim in diverting from himself all grateful
acknowledgments.  Frau Ferber hastened into the house, accompanied by
Elizabeth, and the others laughed.  The whole party were soon seated
upon the terrace, busy with the brown, fragrant beverage.

"Yes, yes," said the forester, leaning comfortably back in his chair; "I
never thought, when I awoke this morning, that I should lie down at
night a Herr von Gnadewitz.  I shall gain a step in my profession, of
course, instantly; that yellow parchment, with its crooked letters, has
done for me in an instant what thirty years of hard service have failed
to accomplish.  As soon as his Highness arrives in L—— I shall make my
best bow, and introduce myself by my new name.  Zounds! how those people
will stare!"

A peculiar side glance was directed, as these words were spoken, towards
Elizabeth, and at the same moment the speaker puffed away at his pipe so
vigorously that his face was quite concealed by a thick cloud of smoke.

"Uncle," cried his niece, "say what you will, I know that you can never
intend to patch up again the shattered crest of the Gnadewitzes."

"I can’t see why not, ’tis a beautiful coat of arms, with chevrons,
stars——"

"And a wheel covered with blood," interrupted Elizabeth.  "God forbid
that we should swell the number of those who revive the sins of their
ancestors to prove the antiquity of their race, and thus make nobility
ignoble,—nothing in the world seems to me more detestable.  I should
think that all those who have been tortured and hunted down in life by
that pitiless, haughty race, would arise, like accusing ghosts, from
their graves, if the name should ever be revived, beneath whose shelter
such oppression and tyranny existed for centuries.  When I compare the
two fathers,—one seeking death like a coward, never considering for an
instant that his poor child had the most sacred claims upon him; the
other, a poor servant, taking the outcast compassionately to his heart,
and bestowing upon it his own honest name,—then I know well which was
the noble, which name deserves to be perpetuated.  And think what sorrow
that haughty race has caused my poor, dear mother."

"True enough, true enough," Frau Ferber declared with a sigh—"in the
first place, I owe to it a stormy, unhappy childhood, for my mother was
a beautiful, amiable girl, whom my father married against the will of
his relatives, who could not forgive her ignoble extraction.  This
misalliance was a source of endless suffering and annoyance to my poor
mother, for my father had not sufficient strength of character to break
with the chief of the Gnadewitz family, and live only for his wife.
This weakness on his part was the cause of constant strife between my
parents, which I could not but be cognizant of.  And we"—here she held
out her hand across the table to her husband—"we can never forget all we
had to contend with before we could belong to each other.  I would not
for the world return to the class who so often ruthlessly stifle every
warm, humane sentiment, that outward rank and show may be preserved."

"And you never shall return, Marie," said her husband, with a smile, as
he pressed her hand.  He glanced mischievously at his brother, who was
still puffing forth immense clouds of smoke, while he was doing his
best, most unsuccessfully, to keep up the frown upon his brow.

"Ah! my fine plans," he sighed at last, with a comical look of
disappointment.  "Elsie, you are a cruel, foolish creature.  You forget
what a fine life we should lead, if I had a position at court, and you
were a fine lady.  There, does not that tempt you?"

Elizabeth shook her head, smilingly, but most decidedly

"And who knows," added Miss Mertens, "but that, before we could turn
round, some noble knight, of stainless lineage, would bear away from old
Gnadeck our high-born Elsie as his wife!"

"Do you think I would go with him?" cried Elizabeth, indignantly, her
cheeks aglow.

"And why not?—if you loved him."

"No, never," replied the girl in a suppressed voice, "not even if I
loved him,—for I should then be all the more wretched in the
consciousness that the prestige of my name had weighed heavier in the
balance than my heart, that in the eyes of that man all aspiration after
spiritual elevation and moral excellence was worthless in comparison
with a phantom, which the miserable prejudices of men had tricked out
with tinsel."

Frau Ferber gazed with surprise at her daughter, whose face showed
evident signs of deep emotion.  The forester, on the other hand, held
his pipe firmly between his teeth, and clapped his hands loudly.

"Elsie, child of gold!" he cried at last, "give me your hand! that’s my
brave girl! true metal, through and through!  Yes, I say, too, God keep
me from swelling the number of those who give up an honest name for the
sake of their own personal advantage.  No, Adolph, we will not cast
scorn upon the parish register of the little Silesian village where we
were christened; we will go on writing our names as they are written
there."

"And as they have faithfully clung to us in joy and sorrow for half a
century," added Ferber with his quiet smile, "I will keep this document
for this fellow," and he laid his hand upon little Ernst’s curly head,
"until his judgment is clear and ripe.  I cannot and must not decide for
him, but I trust I shall train him so that he will prefer to carve out a
path for himself by his own energy, rather than to lie idly in the
hot-bed of old traditions and wrongs enjoying privileges which should be
the reward only of lofty endeavour.  The Gnadewitzes in their long
career added nothing to the world, but took much from it; let them
moulder in their graves, and their high-sounding, undeserved titles with
them!"

"Selah!" cried the forester, knocking the ashes from his pipe.  "And now
let us go," he said to his brother, "and advise with the Lindhof pastor.
A spot beneath the beautiful lindens in our village church-yard seems to
me infinitely preferable to those three gloomy walls, within which the
mother of our line has lain for so long; and that the ’dark, cold
ground’ may not touch her coffin, let us have a grave built in the earth
and closed with a tombstone."

He departed, accompanied by Ferber and Reinhard, and, whilst her mother
and Miss Mertens were putting the jewel-box away in a place of security,
Elizabeth climbed the ladder placed against the ruined jutty, pushed
aside the boards, and descended into the secret chamber.  A slender ray
of the setting sun touched a ruby pane in the little window and threw a
bloody stain upon the name "Lila," on the lid of the coffin.  Elizabeth,
with head bowed and hands clasped, stood for a long while beside the
lonely bier, whereon that burning heart had slept undisturbed since the
moment when death had stilled its wild beating and ended its sorrow.
Centuries had flown by, effacing, as if they had never existed, all the
transporting charm of that short life,—all the stormy emotion which had
worked its ruin,—and yet the young heart that was throbbing restlessly
in that chamber of death beside that bier, fancied that the emotions
causing it to throb so wildly could never die.



                             CHAPTER XVII.


The news of the occurrence at Gnadeck had reached Lindhof Castle even
before Reinhard returned thither. The masons on their way home to the
village had related the wonderful story to a servant whom they met in
the park, and the tale had flashed like lightning from mouth to mouth
until it reached the boudoir of the ladies of the castle, where it
produced the effect almost of a bombshell.

One of the favourite themes of the baroness had always been her own
infallibility with regard to blue blood.  She maintained that by means
of a very delicate and sensitive organization she could recognize the
existence of this life-giving stream even in people whose names she did
not know.  It was thus only natural that she should be able to detect
immediately every noble drop happening to flow in plebeian veins.  She
always had admitted that "the little Ferber" had something distinguished
in her appearance in right of the noble descent of her mother. But with
regard to the forester, that delicate perception of hers had been so
much at fault that she had never dreamed of acknowledging his bow except
by an almost imperceptible inclination of the head, which was all she
deigned to bestow upon people of so low a rank in life.  Why, in her
noble rage at the rude blasphemer, who could forbid his ward, Bertha, to
attend the Bible-class at the castle, she had often gone so far as to
declare that she could detect his low origin a hundred paces off.  And
this was the man to bring to nought her reputation for this keen
perception of aristocracy!  He was the descendant of a lofty line,—the
possessor of a name which, centuries back, had glowed in all the light
of feudal splendour!

To be sure, there was great consolation for her in the thought that two
centuries of ignoble marriages had rendered the noble blood very
difficult to recognize.  She declared as much very earnestly to Fräulein
von Walde, who, reclining upon her lounge, was observing the baroness’
agitation with a slight, rather contemptuous, smile.  Personal interest
in Fräulein Ferber, or the more unprejudiced mind of the younger lady,
may have prompted some little reproof to her cousin; at all events she
lifted her head and said quickly, not without a slight appearance of
irritation: "Pardon me, Amalie, but that is a mistake. I know for a
certainty that the wife of the forester’s clerk is not the only
nobly-born person who has married into the Ferber family.  They have
always been a fine, remarkably intellectual race, whose personal
advantages have often conquered the prejudices of birth.  I really do
not believe that there have been more plebeian marriages in their family
than can be found in the pedigree of the Lessens, and you would hardly
maintain that there is not a drop of genuine noble blood in Bella’s
veins."

A delicate colour flickered over the elder lady’s faded cheek, and the
glance which she directed towards her companion from beneath her
half-closed eyelids, was anything but gentle or amiable.  A sickly smile
still hovered upon her lips.  Since the previous day she had, to her
horror, frequently felt the ground tremble beneath her feet.  It was
actually terrifying suddenly to meet with contradiction in a quarter
where for years she had found only complete adherence and blind
submission.

She was, however, quite right in attributing the change in Helene’s
demeanour not only to the "unhappy" influence exercised upon her by her
brother, but far more to her own son, who had conducted himself so
strangely during the last few days.  Helene’s was, in reality, a noble
nature, capable of appreciating all that was lofty and honourable, and
animated by the purest desire for the good and true; but she had been
accustomed from childhood to consider herself as the centre of the
loving care and attention of all around her.  Notwithstanding her
physical infirmity, she had never known the bitterness of being
slighted.  That she might forget her weakness, every one around her made
her the object of marked attention. While she knew that she could never
occupy a wife’s position, her heart, overflowing with tenderness, had
joyously welcomed a first love; and although, when alone, she might
bewail with tears the neglect of nature, which had denied her the
crowning joys of life, still she possessed the blissful conviction that
her love was returned.  Hollfeld’s constant attentions, his frequent
sojourn at Lindhof, his continual expressions of tenderness, were well
calculated to plant this conviction ineradicably in her mind.

Suddenly he had appeared altered and constrained in her presence, and
neglected her in the most unaccountable manner.  She suffered greatly;
her inner self revolted; insulted feminine dignity, an irritation
hitherto unknown, and devoted affection, were all at war within her; she
was yet far from that height to which, early or late, every noble nature
attains: resignation and forgiveness.  She grew bitter and violent, and
she manifested this change less towards him who had caused her suffering
than, by way of indemnifying herself, towards those whose tyranny she
had endured for the sake of her love.

Hollfeld had been reading aloud to the ladies, when the old waiting-maid
of the baroness entered the room upon some errand, and, before leaving,
glibly narrated the remarkable discovery at Gnadeck.  If Helene’s eyes
had not been riveted upon the lips of the speaker, the change in her
cousin’s features could not have escaped her.  He listened breathlessly,
with an expression of the intensest delight.  In passing from mouth to
mouth, the discovered jewels had come to be of "priceless value," and
the beautiful Lila’s coffin was now pure silver.

The baroness also had not observed the striking change in her son’s
sullen aspect; and in consequence of Helene’s reproof, very naturally
darted at him an angry glance, which was not seen by Fräulein von Walde.
She was greatly amazed to see him suddenly approach his cousin.  He
smoothed the embroidered cushion beneath her head, and pushed the
bouquet of flowers in the vase nearer to her, that she might more easily
inhale their fragrance.

"Helene is quite right, mother," he said with a kindly glance at his
cousin, who replied by a happy smile.  "You should be the last to bring
in question the nobility of that family."

Although the baroness was tortured by the thought that those who had
been so far beneath her, might now be her equals,—nay, even rank
considerably above her in wealth; still she wisely suppressed the bitter
retort that rose to her lips, and contented herself with observing that
the whole story at present had altogether too much the air of a legend
or fable to be implicitly believed.  For her part, she should require
the testimony of more competent eye-witnesses than the two masons,
before she could consider it worthy of credit.

A competent eye-witness was just passing beneath the windows.  It was
Reinhard, who was returning from the mountain.  He smiled as his
attendance upon Fräulein von Walde was immediately required; for, from
the curious looks of the servant, he guessed that the story of the
discovery at Gnadeck had reached the castle, and that information from
him upon the subject was what the ladies desired.

At his entrance he was immediately assailed by Helene with questions.
He answered them in his usual calm manner, and took a malicious pleasure
in detecting the keenest curiosity and the greatest irritation behind
the apparently careless and indifferent remarks and questions of the
baroness.

"And will the Ferbers venture to lay claim to the old name on the
strength of that scrap of parchment?" she asked; taking a large dahlia
from the vase of flowers, and smelling it.

"I should like to know who could dispute their claim," replied Reinhard.
"It only remains to be proved that they are the descendants of Jost von
Gnadewitz, and that can be done at any moment."

The lady leaned back in her large arm-chair, and dropped her eyelids, as
if she were weary or bored.

"Indeed! and those treasures of Golconda, are they really as priceless
as Dame Rumour reports them to be?"  The tone of voice was meant to be
contemptuous, but Reinhard’s practised ear detected with great
satisfaction that it betrayed great eagerness, and something like secret
anxiety.

He smiled.

"Priceless?" he repeated.  "Well, in such cases so much depends upon the
estimation in which such things are held by their possessors, that I can
hardly judge."

He might, we know, have told their value, but he thought, rather
ungallantly, that a little uncertainty would prove a healthy excitement
for the lady.

The examination would probably not have concluded here, if Bella had not
suddenly burst into the room with her usual violence.

"Mamma, the new governess has come," she cried, out of breath, shaking
back, with a toss of her head, the sandy locks that had fallen over her
forehead; "why, she is uglier than Miss Mertens!" she went on, without
taking the least notice of Reinhard’s presence.  "She has a bright red
ribbon on her bonnet, and her mantilla is even more old-fashioned than
Frau von Lehr’s.  I won’t go to walk with her, you need not tell me to,
mamma!"

The baroness put both hands to her ears.

"My child, I pray you, for Heaven’s sake, do not speak so loud," she
gasped; "your voice goes through and through me; and what nonsense you
talk! you will have to walk out with Mademoiselle Jamin whenever I bid
you."

This reproof, uttered with considerable emphasis, causing Bella to pout
angrily while she secretly tore a piece of the fringe from one of her
mother’s cushions, was the result of what might have been called the
period of martyrdom that had followed Miss Mertens’ departure. The
baroness had been forced to take upon herself the care of Bella, and it
was, as she declared, death to her nerves. To Fräulein von Walde she
always maintained that all her trouble was in consequence of the defects
of Miss Mertens’ educational system; but in the depths of her soul she
acknowledged, that her daughter strikingly resembled in disposition the
deceased Lessen,—among whose characteristics an indomitable obstinacy
and a determined proclivity to a perpetual _dolce far niente_, were the
most prominent.  She was, however, far from admitting that any injustice
had been done to Miss Mertens; that person had been paid to educate her
daughter, and consequently should have known, without ever acting in
opposition to the mother’s views, or reproving the child, how to correct
all her faults.  Therefore, the glimpse that she had just had perforce
of Bella’s character, was of no advantage for the new governess; the
unfortunate French woman, with the gay ribbons on her bonnet, had no
presentiment of the joyless days that awaited her. Just now, her arrival
removed a weight from the mind of the baroness, to whom nothing could
have been less desirable than a dispute at present between teacher and
pupil, and hence her rebuke of Bella’s impertinent remarks.

The baroness arose and went to her apartments, accompanied by her sullen
daughter, to receive the stranger. At the same time, Reinhard departed.

"Do you wish me to go on reading, Helene?" asked Hollfeld, after the
three had left the room.  As he took up the newspaper his manner was
almost caressing.

"By and by," she replied with hesitation, looking at him searchingly,
with a kind of timid anxiety in her eyes. "I should like to ask you, now
that we are once more alone together, to tell me what has changed you so
during these last few days.  You know, Emil, that it pains me deeply
when you refuse to let me share in what delights or troubles you.  You
know that it is not idle curiosity which leads me to pry into your
affairs, but a sincere and heartfelt interest in your weal or woe.  You
see how I suffer from your reserve.  Tell me frankly if I have done
anything to make you think me unworthy of your confidence."

She stretched out her hands towards him as if in entreaty.  The gentle
melancholy in the tones of her voice would have melted a stone.

Hollfeld crushed and twisted the rustling newspaper uneasily in his
hands.  He held down his head, and avoided meeting the pure, frank gaze
of the poor girl. Any one with any knowledge of the world could not have
failed to perceive in his attitude, and in the restless eyes that sought
the ground, the crafty plotter endeavouring to hit upon some device by
which to deceive.  To Helene’s innocent, loving eyes, the lofty figure,
slightly leaning forward, the face beneath the thick, light curls,
rather suggested a thoughtful Apollo.

"You will always have my confidence, Helene," he broke silence at last.
"You are indeed the only being in the world in whom I can
confide,"—Helene’s eyes sparkled at these words, the poor child was so
proud of the distinction,—"but there are obligations in life whose
existence we can hardly acknowledge to ourselves, far less have the
courage to confess to others."

Fräulein von Walde sat upright, in eager expectation.

"I am forced," Hollfeld continued, with a stammer, "to adopt a certain
resolution, and it has been weighing heavily upon me for days."

He looked up to see what impression his words had made.

Helene seemed to have no suspicion of what he was about to say, for she
never changed her attitude, and looked as if she would have read the
words upon his lips. He was therefore compelled to proceed without any
assistance from her.

"You know, Helene," he slowly continued, "that for the last year I have
had constant trouble with my housekeepers.  They are continually leaving
me, often without warning even, and I have no way of ordering my
domestic affairs.  The day before yesterday, the last one, who only
entered my house two weeks ago, declared she would not stay.  I cannot
tell what to do about it; my house is nothing but an annoyance to me
under these circumstances—"

"Ah, you want to sell Odenberg?" Helene interrupted him eagerly.

"No, that would be folly, for it is one of the finest estates in
Thuringia; but I am forced to find some other way out of my troubles,
and nothing is left for me but—to marry."

If some unseen and mysterious agency had suddenly opened a yawning abyss
at Helene’s feet, her face certainly could not have expressed more
horror and amazement than at this moment.  She opened her white,
quivering lips, but no sound issued from them, and, entirely incapable
of concealing her pain, she covered her face with her hands, and sank
back among the cushions with a low cry.

Hollfeld hastened to her side, and took both her hands in his.

"Helene," he whispered, in a low, tender tone,—his manner was
perfect,—"will you let me speak and show you how sore my heart is?  You
know only too well that I love, and that this love will be my first and
only one as long as I live."

His tongue did not stammer over this odious lie; on the contrary, it
aided his plans with such insinuating tones that the poor girl’s heart
was torn by a wild conflict of emotions.  If some good angel would only
have whispered to her to lift her eyes for one moment, she could not but
have been undeceived, for the look that accompanied his protestations
was utterly contemptuous as it glanced at her crippled figure; and
perhaps, in the first moments of her indignation, she might have found
strength enough to have extricated herself from the snares of the wily
egotist.  But her eyes were closed as if she would shut out all the
world, and revel only in the sound of the voice which for the first time
spoke of love to her.

"Would to Heaven," he continued, "that I might follow the dictates of my
heart, and live for this love only, for I desire nothing beyond the
pleasure of constant intercourse with you, Helene.  But you know I am
the last of the Hollfelds and must marry.  My sacrifice can be lessened
only in one way,—I must choose a wife who knows you, and——"

"O tell me quickly!" cried Helene, giving way to her grief, while the
tears burst from her eyes.  "Your choice is already made!  I know it,—it
is Cornelie!"

"The Quittelsdorf?" he cried, with a laugh.  "That will-o’-the-wisp?
No, I would far rather leave the administration of my domestic affairs
to the most repulsive of housekeepers!  What should I do without an
enormous income with such an extravagant, frivolous wife!  Besides, let
me tell you most emphatically, my sweet Helene, my choice is not yet
made,—hear me, and do not weep so violently, you break my heart; I must
have a wife who knows and loves you; a simple-hearted woman, of genuine
understanding, to whom I can say: my heart belongs to another who never
can be mine, be my friend and here."

"And do you imagine that any one could understand you?"

"Most certainly, if she loved me."

"No, I could not,—never, never!"  She buried her face in the cushions,
sobbing convulsively.

And now an ugly frown appeared on Hollfeld’s smooth forehead.  His lips
were compressed, and for an instant the colour left his cheeks.  He was
evidently very angry. An expression of hatred lighted up the eyes that
rested upon the young creature who was unexpectedly rendering his part
so difficult to play.  But he controlled himself, and lifted her face
with a light, caressing touch.  The poor thing trembled beneath his
hypocritical contact, and let her delicate head rest passively upon his
hand.

"And would you then forsake me, Helene," he asked sadly, "if I were
compelled to fulfil so hard a duty? Would you turn away and leave me
lonely, with a wife whom I did not love?"

She raised her swollen eyelids, and from beneath them broke a ray of
inexpressible love.  He had played his part admirably, and that glance
told him that the game was in his own hands.

"You are now fighting the same battle," he continued, "which I have
struggled through during the last few days, before I could arrive at any
fixed determination.  At first the thought that any third person may
interfere with our relations to each other may well appall you, but I
give you my word that shall not be.  Think, Helene, how much more I can
do for you; how much more truly I can live for you then than now.  You
can come to me at Odenberg.  I will guard your every footstep, and
cherish you as the apple of my eye."

Hollfeld possessed very little intellect, but he had a vast amount of
cunning, which, as we see, served his turn better than intellect could
have done.  His poor victim flew into the net, her heart torn and
bleeding, her force of will utterly annihilated.

"I will try to endure the thought," Helene at last whispered almost
inaudibly.  "But what a being that woman must be who could bear with me,
and whom I might at last learn to love like a sister!  Do you know any
such lofty-minded, self-sacrificing creature?"

"I have an idea,—it occurred to me just now quite suddenly,—at present
it is vague and unformed.  After due consideration I shall certainly
unfold it to you.  But you must first be more composed, dear Helene.
Think for a moment.  I place the choice of my future wife solely and
entirely in your hands.  It depends upon you to approve or condemn what
I propose."

"And are you strong enough to pass your life with a woman to whom you
cannot give your love?"

He suppressed a contemptuous smile, for Helene’s eyes were riveted upon
his lips.

"I can do all that I resolve to do," he answered; "and to have you near
me will give me strength.—But let me entreat one favour of you,—say
nothing as yet to my mother of this important matter, as you know she
wishes to control everything and everybody, and I could not now endure
her interference.  She will learn all soon enough when I present my
future wife to her."

At any other time, this heartless, unfilial speech would have disgusted
Helene; but, at this moment, she scarcely heard it, for every thought
and feeling had been thrown into the wildest uproar by the words,
"future wife," which suggested, in spite of the multitude of unhappy
wives, the idea of supreme contentment and bliss.

"Oh, my God!" she cried, wringing in an agony of grief the little hands
that lay in her lap.  "I always hoped to die before this; I was not,
indeed I was not so selfish as to think you could lead a lonely life for
my sake; but I hoped that the necessarily short period of my life might
induce you to let this cup pass from me,—to wait until my eyes should be
closed upon my misery."

"But, Helene, what do you mean?" cried Hollfeld, still controlling his
temper with difficulty.  "At your age, who would think of dying?  We
will live—live, and in time be, as I confidently hope, happy indeed.
Think of the matter, and you will see it all as I do."

He pressed her hand affectionately to his lips, imprinted a kiss upon
her brow, for the first time,—took his hat, and left the room.

Outside, as the door closed upon the suffering girl, he gave full play
to the expression of contempt that he had so long suppressed, and which
gave place only to a look of self-satisfaction still more detestable.
One hour before, his heart had been filled with rage.  His passion for
Elizabeth, fanned into a flame by her rejection of his advances, had
been a consuming fire, and had robbed him of all his boasted
self-control.  But the idea of marriage with the daughter of the
forester’s clerk had never occurred to him,—such a thought would have
seemed to him insane.  He had exhausted his ingenuity in contriving
plans to procure a return of affection from the object of his passion.
The late occurrence at Gnadeck had given his thoughts another direction.
Elizabeth was now a most desirable match, noble and wealthy.  No wonder,
then, that he exulted at the news, and immediately formed the
magnanimous resolution of honouring the fair flower of Castle Gnadeck
with an offer of marriage.  There was, of course, no doubt that she
would accept the offer, for although coquetry had led her to reject his
advances hitherto, she could not possibly pursue such a line of conduct,
in view of the brilliant prospect of becoming the envied wife of Herr
von Hollfeld.  He was so secure upon this point that not a cloud of
distrust darkened the horizon of his future.  It was not only his
intense desire to possess Elizabeth that urged him on to act as quickly
as possible,—the thought, that as soon as the discovery in the ruins
became known, other suitors would present themselves for the hand of
Gold Elsie, already so famous for her beauty,—this thought made his
blood boil in his veins.

Only one obstacle stood between him and the fulfilment of his
determination, and that was Helene.  It was not that he hesitated,
through sympathy, at the thought of how the fondly-loving girl would
suffer,—he knew no pity with regard to her,—but he was in dread lest too
hasty a marriage might cost him the inheritance which he looked for from
her.  It was a case for prudence and forethought.  We have seen how, in
cold blood, he made use of the unhappy girl’s deep and blind affection,
and, while pretending to submit to her decision the weightiest questions
concerning his future life, riveted the chain that bound her to him.

As soon as he had left the room Helene tottered to the door, and bolted
it after him.  And then she resigned herself to utter despair.

They who have never known the hours of torture that ensue upon the
sudden hearing of some unexpected misfortune,—hours when we would fain
shriek out our misery into the ears of the universe, and when, needing
the sympathy and support of others as never before, we are driven, as by
some evil spirit, to darkness and loneliness, as though light and sound
were deadly poison to our wound,—they, we say, who have never known the
pangs that threaten to efface all the landmarks of a previously
harmonious inner life, will scarcely be able to conceive that Helene
sank down upon the floor, with her little hands plucking wildly at her
fair curls, and her frail, diminutive form shivering as from a fever
fit.  She had lived and breathed only in her absorbing affection for
this man.  If a few gloomy looks, some slight neglect of his, had
sufficed to plunge her into the deepest melancholy, and make her utterly
careless of an event that would once have wrung her sisterly affection
to the very soul, how much greater must her agony now be in the
conviction that she was about to lose him forever!

In the wild chaos of thought filling her brain, she was entirely
incapable of one clear, decided conclusion. The humiliating
consciousness of her physical infirmities, which caused her to be thrust
out of an earthly paradise; Hollfeld’s confession of love to which she
had just listened, and which brought such infinite joy and woe; a
frantic jealousy of the woman, whoever she might be, who was to stand
beside him as a wife,—all these emotions were seething in her mind,
threatening to sever the frail thread that bound together soul and body.

It was late, and night had already fallen, when she admitted her anxious
maid, and yielded to her entreaties to retire to rest.  She emphatically
refused to see the physician, sent word to the baroness, who asked to
come in to say good-night, that she could not be disturbed, her need of
rest was so great,—and then passed the most wretched night of her life.

She grew a little more quiet, that is, the fearful tension of her nerves
relaxed somewhat, when the first beam of morning light pierced the
curtains of her room.  The thin golden ray seemed to glide into her
darkened soul, and illumine thoughts which had hitherto been hidden in
the wild tumult of her mind.  She began to believe that Hollfeld’s
course was one of the purest self-sacrifice. She had never been able to
disguise or thrust from her the haunting conviction that his marriage
might one day become an imperative necessity, and she could not fail to
be conscious that her idea of his waiting until she should be no more
had never occurred to him.  Was not his sacrifice great?  Loving her,
and her only, he must belong to another; ought she to make the
performance of a sacred duty difficult for him by her grief?  He had
asked her to tread a thorny path with him.  Should she draw back like a
coward when he set her such an example of strength and endurance?  And
if another woman could be found content with friendship instead of love,
should she allow herself to be outdone in self-renunciation?

In feverish haste she rang the bell by her bedside, and summoned her
maid.  Yes, she would be strong; but she was conscious that only entire
certainty could give her courage and the power of endurance; she must
know, as soon as possible, the name of the woman whom Hollfeld thought
capable of undertaking so hard a part in life.  She had passed before
her, in review, every unmarried woman of her acquaintance, but had
rejected on the instant each and all.

The hour had not yet arrived at which she was accustomed to take
breakfast with the baroness and Hollfeld; her brother always avoided
this early meeting of his household, but she could not remain in her
lonely room, and, as she was greatly exhausted, was pushed in her
wheeled chair into the dining-room.  To her surprise, she heard from one
of the servants that the baroness had gone to walk half an hour
previously,—a very strange piece of news, but one that she was most glad
to learn, for just as she was wheeled into a recess of one of the
windows she discovered Hollfeld pacing to and fro upon the lawn without.
He seemed to have no suspicion that he was observed.  His fine, manly
figure moved with elastic grace.  Now and then he put a cigar to his
lips with evident enjoyment, and the delicate aroma floating through the
air reached Helene at her window.  At first the little lady was
painfully impressed by his unusually gay and cheerful expression; she
could not but confess to herself that youthful exuberance of spirits,
love of life, and an unwonted exhilaration of mind were manifest in his
every look and motion, even in the half-unconscious smile that now and
then parted his lips, discovering his wonderfully white teeth.  There
was no trace there of those struggles which she had passed through
during the night; he certainly did not look much like the victim of an
inexorable combination of circumstances.  But was not his
self-possession the result of great mental force and a strong manly
will?  He must have reached a height almost too lofty for human nature
to attain.

The little lady’s brow contracted in a frown.

"Emil!" she cried loudly, almost harshly.

Hollfeld was evidently startled, but in a second he stood beneath her
window, and waved a "good-morning" to her.

"What!" he cried, "are you there already?  May I come up?"

"Yes," she replied more gently.

And in a few moments he entered the room.  Helene had reason to be
better pleased with his present air and manner; there was an expression
of great gravity upon his countenance as he threw his hat upon the table
and pushed a chair close to her side.  Taking both her hands tenderly
within his own, he gazed into her face, and really seemed struck by her
ashy cheeks and the lustreless eyes that met his.

"You look ill, Helene," he said pityingly.

"Do you wonder at it?" she asked, with a bitterness that she was unable
to conceal.  "Unfortunately I am denied the gift of such perfect self
control as could enable me in a few hours after a crushing experience to
look forward with content and gaiety to the future.  I envy you."

"You are unjust, Helene," he replied quickly, "if you judge me from my
exterior.  Is it the part of a man to whine and cry when he submits to
the inevitable?"

"You certainly do not seem inclined to any such course."

He was provoked beyond measure.  The puny, little creature at his side,
who, with her crippled figure, ought to be thankful to God if a man
could so far control himself as not to treat her with absolute rudeness
and aversion, and who had previously been so grateful for the smallest
attention, had suddenly taken upon herself to reprove him!  Although he
had done all he could to inspire her with faith in his ardent love for
her, in his soul he thought it showed a measureless vanity in the child
to imagine herself capable of inspiring any man with such a passion, and
with great irritation he acknowledged to himself that in her case he had
to contend with most determined obstinacy and disgusting sentimentality.
It cost him great pains to control himself, but he even accomplished a
melancholy smile, which became him infinitely.

"When I tell you of the cause of my cheerful looks you will repent your
reproaches," he said.  "I was just picturing to myself the moment when I
could go to your brother and say, ’Helene has decided to live in my
family for the future,’ and I cannot deny that the thought gave me
satisfaction, for he has always regarded my love for you with an eye of
disfavour."

They say Love is blind, but in most cases he closes his eyes
voluntarily; knowing that perfect vision would kill him, he fights
desperately against annihilation.

Helene did her best to reconcile what he said with his previous
appearance, and succeeded excellently.  With a deep sigh she held out
her hand to him.

"I believe and have faith in you," she said fervently. "The loss of this
faith would be my death-blow.  Ah, Emil, you must never, never deceive
me, not even although you think it would be for my good.  I would rather
learn the harshest truth than harbour the faintest suspicion that you
were not perfectly true to me.  I have had a terrible night, but now I
am composed, and I beg you to tell me more of what you spoke of
yesterday. I am but too sure that I shall not regain entire self-command
until I know with certainty who it is that is to stand between us.  At
present she is a phantom, and in her unreality lies the cause of the
tormenting anxiety that is consuming me.  Tell me the name, Emil, I
entreat you."

Hollfeld’s eyes sought the ground.  Affairs just then did not look very
promising.

"Do you know, Helene," he began at last, "that I hesitate to discuss
this subject with you to-day?  You are greatly agitated.  I am afraid
that such a conversation will make you ill.  And, as I must say that the
project which I spoke of yesterday seems more and more feasible to me
the more I ponder it, I fear much lest in your agitation you should
overlook its great advantages."

"Indeed I will not!" cried Helene, as, sitting upright she riveted her
unnaturally bright eyes full upon him. "I have overcome myself, and am
ready to submit to the inevitable.  I promise you I will be thoroughly
impartial; as impartial as if I—did not love."  She blushed as the
confession escaped her for the first time.

"Well, then," said Hollfeld, with hesitation,—he could not quite master
his emotion,—"what do you think of the young girl of Castle Gnadeck?"

"Elizabeth Ferber?" cried Helene, in the greatest astonishment.

"Elizabeth von Gnadewitz," he hastily corrected her. "The sudden change
in her social position first suggested the girl to me.  Hitherto I have
scarcely noticed her, except that her modest demeanour and the repose of
her countenance impressed me favourably."

"What! did you see nothing to admire in that lovely, wondrously-gifted
creature, except repose and a modest demeanour?"

"Well, yes," he replied, with an air of indifference, "I remember that
several times, when you were provoked at some mistake that you had made,
she never altered a muscle, but patiently went over the passage with you
again and again, until you were perfect in it.  That pleased me.  I
believe her to possess great equanimity of mind, and that is the
characteristic that my wife will need above all others.  I know, too,
that she fairly adores you, and that is the chief consideration.
Besides, she has been educated in the strictest economy, her
requirements will be few, and she will readily assume her right position
with regard to you and me.  I believe that she has a certain amount of
tact, and she has been notably brought up,—a great advantage to——"

Helene had sunk back upon her pillows, and covered her eyes with her
hand.

"No, no," she cried, sitting up once more, and interrupting his eager
flow of panegyric,—"not that poor, darling child!  Elizabeth deserves to
be truly loved."

A loud and sudden howl here caused her to give a little cry of fright.
Hollfeld had just stepped upon the paw of his pointer, Diana, who had
accompanied him into the room, and was lying stretched out at her
master’s feet.  The interruption was most welcome to him,—for Helene’s
last words sounded to him so comical, in connection with his own
vehement desires, that he could hardly restrain his laughter.  He opened
the door and sent the limping brute from the room.  When he returned to
the young girl he was all grave composure again.

"Well, we will both love the girl, Helene," he said with apparent
indifference, as he resumed his seat.  Helene was in a state of too
great excitement to notice the flippancy of his tone and manner.  "Let
her only leave you the first place in my affections.  She must do that.
She certainly has enough coolness and presence of mind; she testified
those qualities abundantly the day she saved Rudolph’s life."

"Oh, how?" cried Helene, opening wide her eyes in amazement.

The servant, who had on the previous day involuntarily let slip some
mention of the occurrence in the forest, had, in terror at his
oversight, instantly refrained from all further particulars relating to
it, simply asserting that the bullet intended for Herr von Walde had
fortunately fallen wide of its mark.  Hollfeld had heard the exact
account of the murderous attempt only an hour before from the gardener.
Elizabeth’s fearless conduct naturally lent her a new charm in his eyes,
and goaded afresh his desire to win her as soon as possible.  He related
the story, which he had just heard, to Helene, concluding his account by
saying: "You now have one more reason to love the girl, and her conduct
strengthens my conviction that she is the only one whom I should
select."

This was his last round of ammunition.  He stroked back the hair from
his brow with his delicate white hand, and from beneath it narrowly and
eagerly watched the little lady, whose head was so sunk amid the pillows
that only her profile was visible.  The tears were gushing from her
closed eyelids; she said not a word; perhaps she was struggling with
herself for the last time.

But why did it never occur to her that Elizabeth might fail to accede to
Hollfeld’s wishes?  Any loving woman can answer this question for
herself, if she will only reflect that the loving heart believes the
object of its passion irresistible, and learns with difficulty that all
the world does not share its conviction.

The silence, which began to be painful, was interrupted by the return of
the baroness from her walk.  Helene started, and quickly dried her
tears.  With evident impatience she submitted to the caresses with which
the lady overwhelmed her, replying in monosyllables to the tender
inquiries with regard to her health.

"Ah!" cried the baroness, as she shook the scarf from her shoulders and
left it in her son’s hands, while she sank clumsily into an arm-chair.
"How very warm I am!  That path up the mountain is terrible!  No power
upon earth shall take me over it again!"

"Did you go up the mountain, mother?" asked Hollfeld incredulously.

"Why, yes; you know the physician prescribed an early morning walk for
me."

"Oh yes; but that was so many years ago, and I thought you always
maintained that the trouble with your heart made any such exercise
impossible."

"Still, everything ought to have a fair trial," replied his mother, a
little embarrassed, "and as I could not sleep last night, I determined
to try once more; but it will do no good,—I have just had fresh cause
for vexation.  Only think, Helene, just outside in the gravel walk I met
Bella with her new governess,—would you believe it, the woman had the
impertinence to let the child walk by her left side!  And she looks,
too, like a perfect simpleton.  I was really angry, and defined her
position to her as clearly as I could.  But tell me yourself, is it not
hard that I cannot even attempt to refresh myself with a walk without
encountering what makes me miserable and ill?"

Just as she leaned her forehead in a melancholy manner upon her hand,
she discovered that the false curls upon her temples had been pushed
considerably awry by her bonnet.  She arose hastily, and begged for a
little time before breakfast that she might arrange her dress.

"By the way," she said carelessly, turning round to her son and cousin
as she reached the door, while she set her bonnet firmly upon the
rebellious front, "that fellow, Reinhard, imposed upon us finely
yesterday.  I accidentally encountered the forester’s clerk, Ferber, up
there near the ruins,—I congratulated him——"

"Ah! now I understand the ascent of the mountain!"  Hollfeld interrupted
his mother ironically.  "And you actually spoke to the man, mother?"

"Oh! now there is no reason why I should not.  The jewels principally
interested me."

"Did you wish to buy them?" asked her son contemptuously, remembering
the constant ebb in her finances.

"Hardly," she replied with an angry glance; "but I have always had a
perfect passion for precious stones; and if your father had not died so
suddenly, I should now have had a charming set of diamonds, which he had
promised me, and you would have been six thousand thalers the poorer.
But to return to the discovered jewels. Ferber told me just what they
were, and, when I asked him, frankly replied that they would bring about
eight thousand thalers,—that is what that fellow, Reinhard, calls
inestimable wealth.  Once more adieu for a few minutes."

The contemptuous smile disappeared from Hollfeld’s face, as he listened
to his mother’s words, and gave place to a decided expression of
disappointment; he had suddenly experienced a sensation like the shock
of a shower-bath.

Scarcely was the door closed behind the baroness, when Helene aroused
herself from her apparent apathy, and stretched out both hands to
Hollfeld.

"Emil," she said quickly, in a low voice, with trembling lips, "if you
succeed in gaining Elizabeth’s love, and I cannot doubt that you will, I
agree to your plan, but I must always live with you at Odenberg."

"Of course," he replied, although with some hesitation; his voice had
lost its former decision of tone, "but let me warn you that you will
have to resign many luxuries. My income is not large, and as you have
just heard, Elizabeth has nothing."

"She shall not come to you poor, Emil,—rely upon that," the little lady
rejoined in a tender voice, and with eyes unnaturally bright.  "From the
moment she promises to be yours I regard her in the light of a sister; I
will share faithfully with her, and will instantly make over to her the
rents of my estate of Neuborn, in Saxony; I will talk to Rudolph about
it as soon as he returns, and when death closes my eyes, all that I
possess will be hers and yours.  Are you content with me?"

"You are an angel, Helene," he cried; "you shall never repent your
magnanimity,—your generous devotion."

And this time there was no dissimulation in his delight, for the rents
of Neuborn made Elizabeth a very wealthy bride.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.


Two days had passed since the morning upon which Helene had, as she
thought, won such a victory over herself, and had been convinced that
the conflict within her would be quieted by absolute certainty.  But she
had been far from fathoming the depths of her sentiments; she had
snatched at a straw in the whirling flood, and it had afforded her not
one instant’s support.  Only two days!—but they outweighed in suffering
her whole previous life.  She constantly repeated to herself that the
long desired repose that she had dreamed of was close at hand, and yet
she shuddered at the thought of the time that must intervene before
death should bring her release, with the same horror with which the
sceptic looks forward to the moment of dissolution.  She became
distinctly aware that her promise to pass her days at Odenberg converted
her remaining years into a period of superhuman self-sacrifice, and yet,
for worlds, she would not have retracted one iota of all that she had
vowed to Hollfeld.  She would be worthy of his love.  No sacrifice was
too great that was rewarded by his esteem. Poor dupe!

Her nerves suffered intensely during this protracted mental conflict.
She had constant fever, and could scarcely sleep at all.  The subject
that occupied her whole mind was constantly hovering upon her lips, but
she refrained from all mention of it in accordance with Hollfeld’s
request.  He had also entreated her to forego Elizabeth’s society for a
few days; he feared that, in her agitation, she might stand in the way
of his wishes.  He himself had already taken the first steps towards a
continuation of his pursuit of Elizabeth.  He had twice presented
himself at Gnadeck at the gate in the wall, to make inquiries after the
health of the "von Gnadewitzes," but although he had nearly pulled off
the bell-handle the door had not been opened.  The first time no one had
been in the house, and upon the last occasion Elizabeth had observed him
coming.  Her parents had gone with little Ernst to the Lodge, and Miss
Mertens had agreed to Elizabeth’s idea of not admitting the unwelcome
visitor.  They sat together in the dwelling-room, laughing, while the
little bell rang till it was quite hoarse.  Of the conspiracy against
his admission the visitor of course had no suspicion.

It was seven o’clock in the morning; Helene was already lying dressed
upon her lounge, she had passed a restless, sleepless night.  The
baroness was still in bed, and Hollfeld had not yet made his appearance;
but the little lady could not be alone, and therefore her maid was
sitting sewing in the room.  Her replies to Helena’s remarks were
unheard by the poor sufferer, but there was something soothing in the
mere sound of a human voice after her wretched, lonely night.

The noise of an approaching carriage was heard. Helene opened the window
and leaned out.  Her brother’s travelling carriage was just driving up
the sweep, its wheels sinking deep in the smooth gravel; but it was
empty.

"Where is your master?" Helene cried out to the coachman, as the vehicle
passed beneath her window.

"My master got out at the entrance of the park road," the old man
replied, taking off his hat, "and is coming home on foot over the
mountain, past Castle Gnadeck."

The little lady shut the window, and shivered as though she were cold;
the single word "Gnadeck" had acted upon her nerves like an electric
shock.  Every word that brought Elizabeth to her mind produced the same
effect upon her that one’s imagination would experience from some sudden
apparition.

She arose, and leaning upon the arm of her maid, went down to her
brother’s apartments.  She ordered breakfast to be served in the room
opening with glass doors upon the grand staircase, and seated herself in
an armchair to await the traveller’s return.  She took up one of the
gorgeously bound books that were lying about, and mechanically turned
over the leaves; but, although her eyes rested upon the engravings that
filled its pages, she could not have told whether it were portrait or
landscape that lay open before her.

After she had waited half an hour, her brother’s tall form appeared
behind the glass door.  The book slipped from her lap as she held out
her hands to welcome him. He seemed surprised at this reception; but he
was evidently much pleased at finding his sister alone and glad to see
him.  He hurried towards her, but started in alarm at a nearer view of
her face.

"Do you feel worse, Helene?" he asked with anxious tenderness, as he
seated himself beside her.  He put his arm around her and raised her
head a little, that he might see her face more closely.  There was so
much kindness and caressing sympathy in his accent and manner that
suddenly it was as if the warm air of spring breathed over her heart,
that had been as it were congealed with pain.  Two large tears rolled
down her cheeks as she leaned her head upon her brother’s shoulder.

"Has not Fels been to see you while I have been away?" he asked
anxiously.  The little lady’s aspect evidently caused him great alarm.

"No.  I gave express orders that he should not be sent for.  I am taking
the drops that he prescribed for my nervous attacks, and he can do
nothing more for me. Don’t be concerned, Rudolph, I shall be better
soon.  You have had a sad time at Thalleben?"

"Yes," he answered, but his eyes still rested anxiously upon his
sister’s altered features.  "Poor Hartwig died before I arrived; he
suffered fearfully.  He was buried yesterday afternoon.  You would
scarcely know his unfortunate wife, Helene; this blow has added twenty
years to her life!"

He imparted to her some further particulars concerning the sad event,
and then passed his hand across his eyes, as though desirous of
banishing from his mind all the trouble and sorrow that he had witnessed
during the last few days.

"Well, and is all going on here as usual?" he asked after a short pause.

"Not quite," Helene replied with some hesitation. "Möhring left us
yesterday."

"Ah, Heaven speed him!  I am glad that I escaped a final interview with
him.  Well, I have one more enemy in the world, but I cannot help it; he
belongs to a class of men whom I despise."

"And at Gnadeck a piece of good fortune has befallen the Ferbers,"
Helene continued in an unnaturally quiet voice, averting her face.

The arm-chair in which she was sitting was suddenly pushed aside by the
arm upon which her brother had been leaning.  She did not look up, and
therefore could not see the livid pallor that overspread his face for a
moment, while his quivering lips essayed twice to frame the simple
monosyllable "Well?"

Helene related the story of the ruins, to which her brother listened
breathlessly.  Every word that she spoke seemed to lift a weight from
his heart, but he never dreamed how it cut into the very soul of the
narrator like a two-edged sword, and that all this was only the prelude
to her announcement of the terrible sacrifice that she was about to
make.

"This is, indeed, a most wonderful solution of an old riddle," he said,
when Helene had finished.  "But I question whether the family will think
it great good fortune to belong to the von Gnadewitz race."

"Ah! you think so," Helene interrupted him quickly, "because Elizabeth
has always spoken so slightingly of the name.  I cannot help, however,
in such cases, thinking of the fable of the fox and the grapes."  She
spoke these last words with cutting severity.  Her passionate excitement
and agitation had brought her to the point of denying her nobler nature
and of attributing mean motives to one who had never injured her, and
whom, in cooler moments, she knew to be all purity and honour.

An expression of intense amazement appeared upon Herr von Walde’s
countenance.  He stooped and looked keenly into his sister’s averted
face, as if to convince himself that her lips had actually spoken such
harsh words.

Just at this moment Hollfeld’s large hound rushed up the staircase and
into the room, where he made two or three playful bounds, and then
vanished again at the sound of a shrill whistle from the lawn without.
His master was passing by, who apparently did not know of Herr von
Walde’s return, or he would certainly have appeared to welcome him.  He
walked on quickly, and turned into the path that led up the mountain to
Gnadeck.  Helene’s gaze followed the retreating form until it was lost
to sight, and then, clasping her hands convulsively, she sank back in
her chair.  It seemed as if for a moment all strength failed her.

Herr von Waldo poured a little wine into a glass, and held it to her
lips.  She looked up gratefully, and tried to smile.

"I am not yet at the end of all I have to tell," she began again, rising
from her half-reclining position.  "I am like all novelists,—I reserve
my most interesting facts until the last."  She could not hide her
struggle for firmness and composure beneath the mask of playfulness
which she attempted to assume in these words.  Her gaze was riveted upon
the trees outside the window, as she said: "A happy event is about to
take place among us,—Emil’s betrothal."

She had certainly expected some instant expression of astonishment from
her auditor, for, after a moment’s silence, she turned around to him in
surprise.  His brow and eyes were covered by his hand, and the uncovered
portion of his face was deadly pale.  At Helene’s touch he dropped his
hand, arose hastily, and went to the open window, as if for a breath of
fresh air.

"Are you ill, Rudolph?" she cried, with anxiety.

"A passing faintness, nothing more," he replied, again approaching her.
His face looked strangely altered as he walked several times up and down
the room, and then resumed his seat.

"I told you of Emil’s approaching betrothal, Rudolph," Helene began
again, emphasizing each word.

"I heard you," he replied mechanically.

"Do you approve this step on his part?"

"It is no affair of mine.  Hollfeld is his own master, and can do as he
pleases."

"I believe his choice is made.  If I dared, I would tell you the young
girl’s name."

"There is no need to do so.  It will be time enough to hear it when the
banns are published in church."

His expression was icy; the tone of his voice sounded rough and harsh;
the blood seemed to have forsaken his cheeks.

"Rudolph, I implore you not to be so rough," Helene begged, in a tone of
entreaty; "I know that you are no friend to much speaking, and I am
accustomed to your laconic replies; but now you are too cold and silent,
just, too, when I have a request to make of you."

"Tell me what it is; am I to have the honour of playing the part of
groomsman to Herr von Hollfeld?"

Helene recoiled at the bitter contempt expressed in these words.

"You do not like poor Emil, it is more evident to-day than ever before,"
she said reproachfully, after a little pause, during which Herr von
Walde had arisen and traversed the room with hasty steps; "I entreat you
earnestly, dear Rudolph, listen to me patiently; I must talk over this
matter with you to-day."

He folded his arms and stood still, leaning against a window-frame,
whilst he said briefly: "You see I am ready to listen."

"The young girl," she began, with a hesitation which was the result less
of her own internal agitation than of her brother’s icy demeanour, "the
young girl whom Emil has selected is poor."

"Very disinterested on his part; proceed."

"Emil’s income is not large."

"The poor man has only ten thousand a year; starvation in his case seems
unavoidable."

She paused, evidently surprised.  Her brother never exaggerated; the
sum, then, which he had mentioned, must be correct to a farthing.

"Well, he may be wealthier than I thought," she went on after a short
pause; "that is not the question at present; his choice is a girl who is
very dear to me, very dear."  What effort this cost her!  "She has done
what must forever fill my sisterly heart with gratitude."  Herr von
Walde unfolded his arms, and drummed with such force upon the
window-pane with the fingers of his left hand, that Helene thought the
glass would be broken.

"She will be as a sister to me," she continued, "and I do not wish that
she should come into Hollfeld’s house without a dowry.  I desire to make
over to her the rents of Neuborn.  May I?"

"The estate belongs to you,—you are of age.  I have no right either to
consent or refuse."

"Oh yes, Rudolph, you are my next of kin, and should inherit all that I
have.  Then I may be sure of your consent?"

"Perfectly so, if you really think it necessary——"

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" she interrupted him, extending to him her
hand.  But he did not seem to notice it, although he was looking fixedly
at her.  "You are not angry with me for this?" she asked, anxiously,
after a few moments.

"I am never angry when you are striving to make others happy.  You must
remember how I have always encouraged and assisted you in such efforts.
But here I do think you are in too great haste.  You seem to me very
ready to plunge that young creature into misery."

She started up as though a viper had stung her.  "That is a cruel
accusation!" she cried.  "Your prejudice against poor Emil, which is
founded, Heaven only knows upon what, leads you beyond all bounds.  You
know the man far too slightly."

"I know him far too well to wish to know him any better.  He is a
dishonourable villain, a miserable fellow of no character, by whose side
a woman, let her claims for honour and uprightness in a man be ever so
small, must be wretched.  Woe to the poor creature when she finds him
out!"  His voice trembled with suppressed pain; but Helene heard in it
only anger and violence.

"Oh Heavens! how unjust!" she cried, raising her tearful eyes to the
ceiling.  "Rudolph, you are committing a great sin.  What has poor Emil
done to you, that you should persecute him so unrelentingly?"

"Must a man be personally aggrieved in order to estimate correctly
another’s character?" he asked, angrily. "My child, you have been
grossly deceived; but your eyes are blinded.  The time will come when
you will acknowledge it with shame.  If I should try to remove this cup
of suffering from your lips, it would avail nothing; you would repulse
me, seeing in me only a barbarian treading under foot all your holiest
affections.  You force me to leave you to pursue your path alone, until
the moment when you will fly to me for consolation and succour. My heart
will always be open to you; but what will become of that other, bound
irrevocably to her dreadful fate?"

He went into the next room, and locked the door after him.  For awhile
Helene sat as if paralyzed,—then she arose with difficulty, and
supporting herself by the walls and the furniture, left the apartment.

Her soul was filled with bitterness, almost with hatred, towards her
brother, who had to-day roughly and ruthlessly handled all that she had
tenderly encircled with the most delicate fibres of her heart.  That
heart was well nigh broken as she called vividly to mind the
self-sacrifice which her lover proposed.  She seemed to herself to have
already wronged him deeply in allowing such terrible abuse of him to
fall upon her ears.  He should never, never learn how her brother’s
prejudices had carried him away.  No sacrifice, not the greatest, would
now be sufficient to atone for the injustice which he was forced
unconsciously to endure.  And since her brother had so openly declared
his opinion of Hollfeld, she would not allow that he should longer share
the hospitality of Lindhof.  She would herself request him to return to
Odenberg, of course suppressing her reason for such a request.  But
first his engagement to Elizabeth should be concluded.

Occupied with these thoughts, she entered the dining-room, and when
Hollfeld appeared shortly afterward, she received him with a quiet
smile, and announced to him that her brother, without even hearing the
name of the future bride, had approved of her resolution with regard to
her dowry.  She desired to see Elizabeth now as soon as possible, and
Hollfeld, greatly rejoiced to observe her repose of manner, assented.
It was agreed that the interview should take place at four o’clock that
afternoon, in the pavilion.  Hollfeld left the room to despatch a
servant to Gnadeck with a request, in Helene’s name, to that effect.
How surprised the little lady would have been, could she have heard it
expressly enjoined upon the servant to name three, as the appointed
hour, while the butler was ordered to have everything arranged in the
pavilion at that time!



                              CHAPTER XIX.


When the servant from Lindhof rang the bell at the gate in the wall,
Elizabeth was sitting in the hall.  She was weaving a long garland of
evergreens and ivy, and Miss Mertens, sitting beside her, had in her
hand a half-finished wreath of asters.  The grave had been made ready in
the Lindhof church-yard, and in the afternoon, between five and six
o’clock, the leaden coffin containing the mortal remains of the
beautiful Lila was to be consigned to the earth.  If Jost’s dreaded eyes
could have gazed upon his lovely descendant, they would certainly have
beamed with a mild and tender light to see her engaged in preparing an
offering of fresh flowers and green vines with which to adorn the bier
of his idolized love.

After consulting her mother, Elizabeth accepted the invitation, all the
more willingly as it referred only to "an hour’s talk."  Soon after the
servant’s departure, Reinhard appeared.  He looked very grave, and told
Miss Mertens that his master had returned from Thalleben in the
strangest state of mind.

"He must have been greatly shocked by the misery that he witnessed in
the desolate home," he remarked, "for I really do not recognize my kind
master.  I had several unavoidable communications to make to him, but I
saw that I spoke in vain; he did not listen, but sat opposite me,
looking utterly crushed, evidently lost in the most painful reflections.
He started up hastily when I began at last to tell him of our discovery
up here in the ruins, and interrupted me angrily with ’I have heard all
about that matter already; I pray you leave me alone.’"

Miss Mertens plainly perceived that Reinhard was really wounded by Herr
von Walde’s manner towards him.

"Dear friend," she said soothingly, "in moments of great mental
suffering we either are not aware of the external world, or the
consciousness of it increases our pain; we cannot endure that all around
us should pursue its customary course while all within has received such
a shock, a shock that we cannot recover from.  Herr von Walde was
doubtless warmly attached to his unfortunate friend, and—but, good
Heavens!  Elizabeth, what are you doing?" she interrupted herself, "do
you really think that looks well?"

She pointed to the garland.  In fact, whilst Reinhard had been speaking
Elizabeth had, with trembling hands, picked up two or three large
dahlias and woven them into her graceful green wreath.  She now looked
down, and was aware for the first time of what she had been doing.  The
poor flowers were instantly torn from the soft green pillow where they
had laid their heavy heads so comfortably, and treated with as much
severity as if they had insisted on going where they were not wanted.

Three o’clock had long since struck in the Lindhof church-tower when
Elizabeth hurried down the mountain. Her uncle had detained her in
conversation; he was provoked that she had accepted the invitation.
"For," he said, and with some justice, "surely the poor creature whom we
consign to her resting-place to-day deserves that we should consecrate
at least one day to her memory."  He had no idea of what was passing in
the heart of his niece.  He did not dream that for the last few days his
darling had counted the hours which must pass before she could think,
"He is at home again;" and, to his vexation, his usually obedient child
slipped from him and vanished through the garden gate.

Her feet scarcely touched the ground.  She hoped by walking quickly to
overtake the time which she had lost, and could have cried, when her
thin dress caught upon a bramble, and could only be extricated by
patience and skill.  At last, almost out of breath, she reached the
pavilion.  Both of the folding-doors were open; the room was still
empty.  Upon the table stood a salver of refreshments, and Helene’s
corner of the sofa was arranged for her.

Much relieved, Elizabeth entered, and was leaning against one of the
opposite windows which looked out upon some tall shrubbery, when she
heard, a slight noise behind her.  Hollfeld had hitherto been concealed
by one of the open folding-doors, and he now approached her. She turned
to leave the apartment without even honouring the object of her aversion
by a look; but he placed himself in her path, although his manner was no
longer insolent,—on the contrary, it was respectful and even submissive,
as he assured her that the ladies would appear directly.  Elizabeth
looked up surprised; there was not in his voice the faintest trace of
that impertinent tone that had so irritated and outraged her.

"I give you my word that Fräulein von Walde will be here in one moment!"
he repeated, as she again attempted to reach the door.  "Is my presence,
then, so disagreeable to you?" he added more gently, with a tinge of
sadness.

"Most assuredly it is," Elizabeth replied coldly and decidedly; "if you
will remember your late conduct towards me, you will know that to be
left one moment alone with you must be odious to me."

"How stern and implacable that sounds!  Must, then, my punishment for my
thoughtless jest be so severe?"

"I advise you, in future, to be more prudent in your choice of those
with whom you wish to jest."

"Good Heavens!  I see now that it was a mistake; I regret my
impetuosity, but how could I dream——"

"That any respect was due to me?" Elizabeth interrupted him, with
flashing eyes.

"No, no!——, I never doubted that!—Heavens! how angry you can be!  But I
could not possibly know that you possessed the right to claim more, far
more, than mere respect."

Elizabeth looked at him inquiringly; she evidently did not understand
him.

"Can I do more than sue on my knees for pardon?" he continued.

"It shall be granted upon condition that you leave me instantly."

"What cruel obstinacy!  I should be a fool indeed to lose this precious
moment.  Elizabeth, I have told you already that I love you
ardently,—that I am dying of love for you!"

"And I am quite aware of having distinctly told you that it is a matter
of utter indifference to me."  She began to tremble, but her glance was,
nevertheless, firm and composed.

"Elizabeth, do not drive me to extremities!" he cried in great
agitation.

"I would especially request you to remember the common rules of
politeness, which require us not to address strangers by their Christian
names."

"You are a very imp of coldness and malice!" he cried, now trembling
with rage.  "Well, I grant that there is some show of reason for your
irritation with me," he added, controlling himself by an effort; "my
conduct towards you has not been what it should be, but I will atone for
it abundantly.  Listen to me quietly for one moment, and you will relax
your severity.  I offer you my hand.  You must know that I can give a
brilliant position, as far as rank and wealth are concerned, to my
future wife."

He looked down at her with a smile of triumph.  It was so natural that
his lovely opponent should be paralyzed with joyful surprise at this
unexpected disclosure of his intentions; yet, strange to say, the result
that he anticipated did not ensue.  Elizabeth stood proudly erect, and
retreated a pace or two.

"I regret this, Herr von Hollfeld," she said with quiet dignity.  "You
might have spared yourself this humiliating moment.  After all that I
have hitherto said to you, I scarcely comprehend what you have just
declared.  Since you force me to it, I must tell you most emphatically
that our paths in life lie in opposite directions; and——"

"What!"

"And that nothing could induce me to connect my lot with yours."

He stared at her for a moment vaguely, as though perfectly incapable of
understanding her words.  His face grew livid, and his white teeth were
buried in his underlip.

"And would you really carry the farce so far as to give me such an
answer?" he asked at last in a hoarse voice.

Elizabeth smiled contemptuously, and turned away. Her behaviour
transported him with rage.

"Your reasons?  I will know your reasons!" he ejaculated, stepping
between Elizabeth and the door which she was trying to reach.  He caught
at her dress to detain her.  She shrunk from him, and retired a few
steps farther into the room.

"Leave me!" she cried, gasping for breath.  Terror almost choked her
utterance; hut, nevertheless, she once more took courage, and raised her
head proudly, with an air of command.  "If there is no spark of honour
in you to which I can appeal, you force me to use the only weapons at my
command, by declaring to you that I thoroughly despise you; I detest the
sight of you; the hiss of a poisonous viper could not inspire me with
the aversion and disgust with which I listen to the words by which you
would awaken my affection.  I have never harboured one sentiment of
regard for you; but, if I had, it must have been instantly annihilated
by your despicable conduct towards me.  Let me go now in peace, and——"

He did not allow her to finish her sentence.  "That I shall certainly
not do," he hissed between his teeth; his face that had hitherto been so
pale, flushed crimson, and his eyes flashed as he darted towards her,
like some raging wild beast.  She fled to the window, as she saw it was
impossible to reach the door, and tried to lift the sash, hoping to be
able to leap from the low sill to the ground without.  But she stood
still, transfixed with horror.  A terrible face was looking into the
room from the shrubbery outside.  The features were deadly pale, and
distorted by a fiendish grin, while the fire of madness gleamed in the
eyes that were riveted upon Elizabeth’s face.  She hardly recognized in
the dreadful apparition dumb Bertha; shivering with terror, she
recoiled; Hollfeld’s extended arms encircled her form,—blinded by
passion, he did not perceive the ghastly face at the window.  Elizabeth
pressed her ice-cold fingers upon her closed eyes to shut out the
horrible sight; she felt her persecutor’s hot breath upon her hands; his
hair brushed her cheek; she shuddered, but her physical force failed
her; she succumbed beneath the twofold horror,—no sound escaped her
lips.  At sight of Hollfeld, Bertha raised her clenched fists as though
to dash them through the window panes,—then, suddenly she paused as if
listening to some noise near, dropped her hands, and with a shrill
laugh, vanished among the shrubbery.

All this was the work of a few seconds.  The sound of the shrill
laughter startled Hollfeld, and he looked up. For one moment, his gaze
sought to penetrate the bushes, behind which Bertha had disappeared, and
then it returned to the form which lay in his arms, and which he clasped
to his heart.  His cunning foresight, his prudent hypocrisy, that had
always enabled him to conceal his baseness from the eyes of the world,
were all forgotten.  He did not remember that the time that Helene had
appointed had arrived,—that through the wide open door the gardener, or
any of the servants, might enter the room; his passion had mastered him,
and he never observed that, in fact, Fräulein von Walde was standing
upon the threshold of the door, leaning on her brother’s arm, while,
behind them, the baroness was stretching out her long neck, with an
unmistakable air of great displeasure.

"Emil!" she cried, her voice vibrating with anger.  He started, and
looked wildly around; involuntarily he opened his arms; Elizabeth’s
hands dropped from her eyes, and she staggered towards the nearest
couch.  The harsh, rude voice of the baroness sounded like sweet music
in her ears, for it brought her succour.  There too stood the tall,
manly form, at sight of which her failing pulses throbbed wildly again.
She could have thrown herself at his feet, and prayed him,—"Save me from
that man, whom I detest and flee from, as I would from sin itself."  But
what a look met hers!  Did that annihilating glance really come from the
same eyes that a few days previously had so tenderly sought her own?
Was this man, with the stern, erect head, and the pale, cold brow, the
same who had bent over her, saying with such unutterable
gentleness,—"may my good angel whisper in your ear the word that will
unlock that fairy realm for me?"  He stood there now like an evil angel,
whose mission is to avenge and to crush to the dust some poor,
quivering, human heart.

Helene, who had stood as though lifeless or rooted to the ground during
the scene in the interior of the apartment, now withdrew her arm from
her brother’s and approached Elizabeth; she did not for one instant
doubt that Hollfeld had prospered in his wooing, and that the matter had
been happily concluded.

"A thousand welcomes to you, dearest Elizabeth!" she cried in great
agitation, and, while tears broke from her eyes, she took the young
girl’s trembling hands between her own.  "Emil brings me a dear
sister,—love me as a sister, and I shall be grateful to you as long as I
live.  Do not look so stern, Amalie," she turned beseechingly to the
baroness, who was standing like a pillar of stone just outside the
pavilion; "Emil’s future happiness is at stake.  Look at Elizabeth!
Does she not satisfy every desire that you can have with regard to the
one who will occupy such a close relation to you?  Young, richly endowed
by nature, of an ancient family and distinguished name."

She stopped, startled.  At last the life seemed to return to Elizabeth’s
stiffened limbs, and she was capable of understanding what was said.  By
a hasty movement she released her hands from Helene’s, and stood erect
before her.

"You are mistaken, gracious lady," she said in a clear ringing voice; "I
have no claim to such distinction."

"What! have you not an undeniable claim to the name of von Gnadewitz?"

"Doubtless; but that claim will never be asserted."

"Would you really reject such happiness?"

"I cannot see that true happiness has anything to do with an empty
sound."  Her endeavour to lend firmness to her faithless voice was
distinctly perceptible.

Meanwhile the baroness had drawn near.  She was inwardly furious that
her son had made his choice without in the faintest degree consulting
her, or asking her maternal consent; besides, the object of his choice
was detestable to her.  But she knew well that her interference would
accomplish nothing,—her son would shrug his shoulders, perhaps smile
contemptuously, and be confirmed in his resolve.  It was most fortunate,
too, for her and her interests, that Helene had taken up the matter as
she had, determined, as it seemed, to carry it through with an
enthusiastic degree of self-sacrifice.  Although she was thoroughly in
the dark as to the little lady’s motives for such a line of conduct, she
could not fail to perceive that she was in earnest, and therefore,
however discontented at heart, she resolved to put a good face upon the
matter, and to play the part of a forgiving and blessing parent.
Elizabeth’s replies suddenly closed her lips.  She conceived a hope that
Elizabeth might put a stop to the matter by her own obstinacy; if so,
she would pour oil on the flames.

"We have to contend here with a plebeian prejudice, my love," she said
to Helene, who had listened in amazement to Elizabeth’s answers.  "You
may, however, have most excellent reasons for shunning the light of
loftier realms," the lady continued, in a cutting tone, turning to
Elizabeth.

"I have no reason to shun that light," the young girl replied, "even
should it suddenly reveal faults hitherto unsuspected, as it sheds a
brilliant glare on the stains upon the crest of the Gnadewitzes.  But we
love our name because it is true and honest, and we would not exchange
this stainless inheritance for a title made famous by the tears and toil
of others!"

"Heavens, what exalted sentiments!" cried the baroness with a sneer.

"You cannot be serious, Elizabeth," said Helene.  "Do not forget that
the earthly happiness of two human beings hangs upon your decision."
She cast a meaning glance at Elizabeth, which of course was utterly
incomprehensible to her.  "You must bring a noble name with you into the
sphere to which you will now belong, and you certainly would not destroy
your own hopes and those of others?"

"I am utterly at a loss to understand you,"’ said Elizabeth with some
irritation.  "It never occurred to me to connect the name of von
Gnadewitz with any hopes whatever; least of all can I conceive how the
wishes or happiness of others can depend upon the resolution of such a
poor, insignificant girl as I."

"You are not poor, dear child," rejoined Helene. "Come," she continued,
with emotion, "let us from to-day be sisters indeed!  You too, dear
Rudolph," and she turned with some embarrassment to her brother; "you
will welcome Emil’s bride into our family, and permit me to share
everything with her like a sister?"

"Yes," was the reply, spoken sternly, but firmly.

Elizabeth put her hand to her forehead; what she had heard sounded so
incredible.  "Emil’s bride" was what Fräulein von Walde had said; was
she speaking of her?—impossible!  Had these people conspired to terrify
her thus?  And he,—he who knew how she detested Hollfeld, had sided with
them; he was standing there with folded arms, the perfect image of
implacable sternness and reserve.  He had been, hitherto, quite silent,
and had opened his lips only to utter the "yes," which had so crushed
her.  Had he not, previously, endeavoured almost rudely to prevent his
cousin’s advances?  At thought of that, it suddenly flashed upon her
that she was now of noble rank,—that explained everything.  Hollfeld’s
nobility could not be dishonoured now by an alliance with her; his
relatives were, therefore, all quite willing to accede to his suit, and
Helene’s surprise at her announcement that she despised the name which
they thought noble, was perfectly natural; still, how they could
possibly imagine an understanding, upon her part, with the man whom she
detested, was utterly beyond her comprehension, for her brain reeled
with the wild uproar of her thoughts.  One thing only was quite clear,
she must immediately convince them of their error.

"I find myself the object of a misunderstanding, the origin of which I
cannot possibly comprehend," she said hastily.  "It is Herr von
Hollfeld’s duty to make an explanation here; but as he prefers to be
silent, I am forced to declare that he has had no encouragement whatever
from me."

"But, dear child," said Helene, in great confusion, "did we not see with
our own eyes as we entered that——" she did not proceed.

These words sounded like a thunder clap in Elizabeth’s ears.  The idea
that that moment of helpless terror could be misunderstood by any one,
had never entered her pure and innocent mind.  And now she found, to her
unutterable pain, that it had placed her in a hatefully false light. She
turned, for an instant, toward Hollfeld, but one glance convinced her
that she had no satisfaction,—no concern for her honour, to look for
from him.  With his back turned to the rest, he was standing at the
window like a detected school-boy.  If the ladies only had been present,
he would doubtless have extricated himself by some bold and cunning lie;
but Herr von Walde was there, and he was utterly at a loss.  He
contented himself by preserving an ambiguous silence, which gave
unlimited scope for conjecture.

"God in heaven, how terrible!" cried the young girl, wringing her hands.
"As you entered you saw," she continued, averting her face, and drawing
a deep breath, "a defenceless girl striving vainly to repel the
insolence of a man lost to all sense of honour.  The reiterated
declaration on my part that I thoroughly despise and utterly detest him
was of no avail in freeing me from his presence.  I have never concealed
these sentiments from Herr von Hollfeld,—on the contrary——"

Here she was interrupted by a loud noise.  Helene had sunk back upon the
couch, and her right hand clutched the table near her, shaking it so
that the china and glass upon it rattled.  The little lady’s face was
ashy-pale,—her despairing glance sought Hollfeld.  In vain she
endeavoured to conquer her agitation.  The light that suddenly revealed
such a hateful web of intrigue was too lurid,—its glare had the
annihilating effect upon her hitherto unsuspicious mind of a flash of
lightning.

Elizabeth, although she was herself much agitated, and prepared to give
further expression to her indignation, felt her heart melt with sympathy
at sight of the little lady.  In vindicating her own honour she had torn
the bandage from Helene’s eyes, and she was filled with sorrow for her,
although she knew that she must have been undeceived sooner or later.
She hastily approached her, and took the icy little hands, which had
dropped from the table, between her own.

"Forgive me if I have terrified you by my hasty words," she said
beseechingly, but firmly.  "You can readily understand my position.  A
few explanatory words from Herr von Hollfeld would have sufficed to
clear me from every degrading suspicion.  I should not then have been
forced to declare so emphatically what I thought of his character and
conduct.  I regret what has happened, but I cannot retract one word that
I have said."

She kissed Helene’s hand, and silently left the pavilion.  She fancied
that Herr von Walde extended his hand to her as she passed him, but she
did not look up.

Outside, she followed the narrow, winding way that led through a grove
to the pond.  She passed by the castle, along the broad gravel-walk, and
entered the little forest-path leading to the convent tower, without
knowing whither she was going, or remembering that every step took her
farther from her home.

She was in a state of fearful excitement.  A wild chaos was seething in
her brain.  Hollfeld’s offer of marriage,—his insolent passion,—Bertha’s
sudden appearance at the window of the pavilion,—the inconceivable fact
that Helene had received her with joy as the bride of the man whom she
herself loved,—all these things passed through her mind, and in the
midst of the confusion she distinctly heard Herr von Walde’s "yes."  He
too, then, would have welcomed her as Herr von Hollfeld’s bride!  It
would have cost him nothing to see her his cousin’s wife.  This marriage
had doubtless been decided upon in family conclave.  Herr von Walde had
weighed the for and against with his usual cool judgment, and had
finally agreed with Helene that Emil’s choice would not prove a blot
upon the von Hollfeld escutcheon.  She could be graciously received, and
they would themselves provide the dowry which the bride was deficient
in.

At these thoughts Elizabeth set her teeth, as if she were enduring
physical agony.  She was filled with unutterable bitterness; her sincere
and ardent sentiments had been misunderstood and crushed under foot by
that cold-blooded, calculating aristocrat.  How could she ever have
imagined that he could sympathize in the least with a young, earnest
heart, enamoured of freedom, and giving no heed to the belittling, often
ridiculous institutions of the world,—he who found the pride and glory
of woman only in the ruins and ashes of a long ancestral line?

Several times she paused, lost in thought, and then she walked on
quickly, heedless that she was traversing the same path along which she
had gone in such confusion by his side a few days before.  The
overhanging boughs and branches brushed her forehead; she forgot how he
had bent them aside, lest they should annoy her.  The underbrush was
still trodden down, and the stripped leaves were not quite withered upon
the spot where Fräulein von Quittelsdorf and Hollfeld had broken through
the bushes to reach the two lonely wanderers.  Here was the place where
the unfinished birthday greeting had been whispered; Elizabeth passed
unheeding by, and it was well that she did so, for there were no tears
in her burning eyes; here where she could have wept her very heart out.

At last she looked around her with surprise.  She stood before the
convent tower.  Hers was perhaps the first human foot that had pressed
this turf since the place had been deserted by the latest guests or the
weary servants on the night of the fête.

It looked sadly out of order; the grass had been trodden down by the
dancers, whose tread had not been fairy-like.  The two hemlocks, which
had sustained the refreshment tent, lay prostrate upon the ground in the
midst of fragments of broken bottles and the remains of the fireworks.
Above, the shrivelled garlands were still hanging between the tower and
the oaks, while a gentle breeze swept whispering among the poor flowers,
which hung crushed together in the air, their short season of triumph
long since ended.

It was already twilight beneath the oaks, although a golden light
illumined their topmost boughs, and played upon the gray roof of the
tower.

It was with a slight shudder that Elizabeth became aware of her
loneliness in the heart of the dim, silent forest; nevertheless she was
irresistibly drawn towards the spot where Herr von Walde had taken leave
of her. She stepped across the trampled sward,—then stood for an instant
as if rooted to the earth,—for the evening breeze brought to her ear
single broken tones of a human voice.  At first she seemed to hear
something like a distant ejaculatory cry for help; then gradually the
sounds grew more connected, and rapidly drew near.  It was a shrill,
piercing, female voice, shouting, rather than singing, a hymn.
Elizabeth could hear that the singer, whoever she might be, was running
quickly as she sang.

All at once the melody ceased, or rather it was interrupted by a burst
of horrid laughter, and then by a shriek, which ran through a perfect
scale of scorn, triumph, and bitter agony.

A foreboding of evil filled Elizabeth’s mind.  She looked anxiously in
the direction, in the dark wood, whence the noise was approaching.  It
was hushed for a moment, and then the hymn began again, while the singer
came rushing on like the wind.

Elizabeth stepped within the open door of the tower, for she did not
wish to encounter the strange singer; scarcely had she crossed the
threshold, when the laughter was repeated close at hand.

On the opposite side of the open sward Bertha rushed out of the thicket,
and by her side ran Wolf, the forester’s savage watch-dog.

"Wolf, seize her!" she shrieked, pointing with both hands to Elizabeth.
The animal came tearing, barking, across the open space.

Elizabeth shut the door behind her, and ran up the tower stairs.  She
thus gained a moment’s advantage; but before she had reached the roof of
the tower the door below was opened.  The growling dog rushed up the
stairs followed by the maniac cheering him on.

The terrified and hunted girl reached the topmost stair,—she heard the
growl of the savage brute behind her,—he was just at her heels,—with one
last effort she stepped out upon the roof, closed the oaken door, and
leaned her whole weight against it.

For a few moments Bertha rattled at the latch upon the other side,—it
did not yield.  She raved, and threw herself against the oaken panels,
while Wolf, barking and growling, scratched at the threshold.

"Amber witch out there!" she shrieked.  "I’ll throttle you!  I’ll drag
you through the thicket by your long, yellow hair!  You have stolen his
heart from me, with your moonshine face,—vile hypocrite that you are!
Seize her, Wolf, seize her!"

The dog whined, and tore at the door with his paws.

"Tear her in pieces, Wolf; bury your teeth in her white fingers that
have bewitched him with their devilish music! curse her! cursed be the
tones that come from her fingers! may they turn to poisonous arrows, and
bury themselves in her own heart and destroy it!"

Again she threw herself against the door; the old oaken planks creaked
and groaned, but it did not yield to the little powerless feet.

Elizabeth meanwhile leaned against the door on the other side, with lips
tightly closed and a face pale as death.  She had seized a piece of wood
that lay at her feet that she might defend herself, if need should be,
against the dog.  Her whole frame shuddered at the curses which Bertha
shrieked out, but she nerved herself with new resolution.

Had she only glanced at the latch of the door, she would have seen that
any effort upon her part to keep it closed was wholly needless,—a huge
bolt had slipped forward, against which the maniac’s utmost strength
could avail nothing.

"Open the door!" Bertha shouted again.  "Transparent, brittle creature!
Ha! ha!  Old Bruin, whom I hate, calls her Gold Elsie.  The old fellow
despises heaven, and may go to hell for all I care, for I shall be
blessed, eternally blessed.  He calls her Gold Elsie because she has
hair of amber.  Fie! how ugly you are! my hair is black as the raven’s
wing.  I am a thousand times the fairer.  Do you hear me, moonlight
face?"

She paused exhausted, and Wolf, too, ceased his whining and scratching
at the threshold.

At the same moment the tolling of a distant bell broke the evening
silence of the forest.  Elizabeth well knew what it signified,—a funeral
train was descending the mountain from the ruins of old Castle Gnadeck.
Lila’s mortal remains were leaving the walls which had once echoed the
sighs and groans of the lovely gypsy girl. She was borne through the
forest, in longing for which her heart had broken two centuries before.

Bertha, too, seemed to listen to the sound of the bell; for a moment she
did not stir.

"They are ringing," she cried suddenly; "come, Wolf, let us go to
church; let her stay up here with the clouds that will fall upon her in
the night,—the tempest will tear her hair, and the ravens will come and
pick out her eyes, for she is accursed, accursed!"

And then she began the hymn again.  Her terrible voice echoed eerily
against the narrow walls of the tower.  She ran down and out of the door
below, then rushed singing across the open space, and disappeared in the
thicket whence she had issued at first,—the dog following her.  She
never once turned round towards the tower.  As soon as she turned her
back upon it she seemed to forget entirely that the object of her hatred
was standing up there upon the gray stone platform.  Elizabeth caught a
last glimpse of her scarlet jacket among the dark bushes, and then, with
her savage companion, she was seen no more.  Gradually her song died
away, and soon the gentle breeze wafted only the tolling of the bell to
the ears of the lonely girl upon the roof of the tower.

With a deep-drawn breath of relief she relinquished her constrained
position, which she had until now retained mechanically, and tried to
lift the latch of the door.  It was rusty and resisted her efforts as it
had Bertha’s. She now discovered with alarm that the bolt had sprung,—it
had, indeed, defended and protected her, but it was also her jailer,—for
she could not possibly stir it; worn out at last with her fruitless
attempts to withdraw it, she dropped her hands at her sides.

What was to be done?  She thought with distress of her parents who had
probably been made anxious by her prolonged absence,—for they knew that
she fully intended to be present at the interment of her ancestress.

Around her were grouped the mighty monarchs of the forest, their topmost
boughs still tipped here and there by the fading western light.  Far in
the distance gleamed a strip of light,—there lay L—— with its lofty
castle, whose long rows of windows glittered for a few moments, and then
disappeared in gloom.  And there towered the mountain crowned by the
ruin of Gnadeck; but the forest hid from her her dear home, she could
not even see the lofty flagstaff.

Elizabeth soon relinquished all hope of being seen by passers-by,—and
she knew that her feeble cry for help must die away unheard, for the
tower lay hidden in the depths of the forest; no frequented road passed
near it; and who would be likely to be walking at nightfall in the quiet
path which led nowhere except to the convent tower?

Nevertheless she made one attempt, and uttered a loud cry.  But how weak
it sounded!  It seemed to her that the boughs of the nearest tree
absorbed it entirely; it only startled some ravens in the vicinity, and
they flew croaking away overhead; then all was still again,—fearfully
still.  The Lindhof church bells were silent. A faint red yet glimmered
in the west, tinging a few little floating clouds,—the forest lay in
deep shadow.

Utterly at a loss, Elizabeth walked to and fro upon the flat roof.
Sometimes she stood still at the corner looking toward Castle Lindhof,
which was the nearest inhabited mansion, and raised her voice in a vain
cry for help.  At last she ceased all such efforts, and seated herself
upon the bench which was set into the outer wall of the small landing,
at the top of the stairs, and which was tolerably protected by the
projecting roof from wind and weather.

She was not afraid of passing the night here, for she did not doubt that
search would be made for her in the forest; but how many anxious hours
her friends must pass before she could be found!

This thought troubled her greatly and increased her nervous agitation.
She had passed through so much during the day, and had had no
assistance, nothing but her own force of character to sustain her.  She
was still trembling from the terror of the last shock.  What could have
caused poor Bertha’s outbreak of insanity?  She had spoken of a heart
which Elizabeth had stolen from her,—was it possible that Hollfeld had
played some part in this sad story, as Frau Ferber had lately so often
insisted?

Such a suspicion revived all the painful sensations that had before
possessed her.  But now, sitting motionless against the old wall, while
the darkening heavens seemed to draw near her, and nothing spoke of life
around save the damp night air that swept soothingly across her hot
cheek,—now her moistened eyes bore witness that the stern stoicism with
which her crushed heart had armed itself, had vanished.  All, all was
over; she had broken with the inmates of Lindhof forever.  She had
shattered Helene’s ideal, and she had thrown back to Herr von Walde the
gift of his consent to her marriage which he had offered her; doubtless
his pride had been mortally wounded.  Most probably she should never see
him again.  He would soon set out upon his travels, glad to efface the
impression made upon him by the ingratitude of the poor music-teacher.

She covered her face with her hands, and the tears trickled through the
slender white fingers.

In the mean time the night had fallen, still it was not quite dark.  The
crescent moon was reigning in the skies, where all the other shining
wanderers appeared and went their way, never heeding that their sister
planet, the earth, careering in space with them, contained millions of
little worlds, each inclosing in its sphere heights and depths, tossing
waves with their ebb and flow, mighty storms, and only too rarely a
sacred repose.

And now life began to stir in the old tower.  There was a low murmur and
moaning upon the stairs; slight blows were struck from within upon the
oaken door, and wings brushed the inner wall; the owls and bats were
longing to be abroad, and could not find their accustomed place of
egress.  And in the forest below there arose a rustling and
crackling,—the deer broke through the thicket and roamed about in entire
security.  From the distant east, where the forest almost in its
primeval luxuriance descended into the valley and then again climbed an
opposing range of mountains, a faint shot was occasionally heard.  Every
time Elizabeth heard the sound she nestled closer against the wall
beneath the protecting roof, as if in fear lest she should be discerned
by some unfriendly eye gazing thence;—those hunting there were outlaws.

Still no succour came.  Her fear, then, lest her parents should be
anxious, had been unfounded.  Of course, they supposed her to be yet at
the castle,—perhaps they were displeased at her long absence from home;
but they would possibly wait until ten o’clock for her return.  It might
be midnight before she was released.

It grew quite cold.  With a shiver, she drew her thin shawl close about
her, and tied a handkerchief around her throat.  She was obliged to
leave her seat, and walk to and fro on the roof, to prevent herself from
becoming chilled.  Occasionally she leaned over the balustrade and
looked down.

White cloud-like phantoms were hovering hither and thither over the open
space beneath,—the mists rising from the damp ground.  Elizabeth no
longer thought of the motley spectacle,—the ostentation and vanity that
had filled this place a few days before.  She forgot the countless idle
words that had filled the air, causing such a confusion of tongues that
the old tower, instead of standing upon honest Thuringian soil, might
have challenged the skies upon the banks of the Euphrates. Forth from
the billows of mist floated the shadowy forms of the nuns buried under
these walls, their features pale and passionless, their desolate hearts
stilled within their long-flowing robes, and their waxen brows, beneath
their white bands, haunted no longer by restless doubts and longings.
They would fain have trodden the path leading from the world to heaven,
had they not been so often dragged down to earth again.

Elizabeth thought of those dark times, when these gloomy walls were
erected in expiation of the crime of a knightly assassin,—cold stone
walls to appease Him from whom has come the Word made life,—who is the
source of Eternal Love.  Could all the prayers, breathed by the inmates
of that living tomb,—all the masses,—the organs rolling thunder, blot
out the stain of blood which the criminal carried to the foot of the
eternal throne? No, a thousand times no!  He heeds no incense wafted
before the shrine of Baal.  His eternal edicts are not reversed by the
creatures whom He has made.

What a terrible episode in the family history of the Gnadewitzes those
crumbling ruins commemorated! And could it be possible that a being,
conscious of a fervent desire for moral elevation and spiritual growth,
should be duly respected only when permitted to bear that name?  Must
she learn that a spotless life was nought, laid in the balance with a
human device, which was, in fact, a phantom of the brain,—an absolute
nothing?

Was the superstition that committed witches to the flames darker than
this delusion of the privileges of birth, by which many a true and
richly-gifted human life is as ruthlessly destroyed as by the faggot of
the executioner,—the delusion, that flatly contradicts the Almighty
decree, which declares all God’s children to come alike from His
creating hand,—alike in outward form, in physical structure, in the
possession of senses, whereby both king and beggar enjoy and suffer,
alike in the possession of that vital spark that animates these outward
shapes?  Where is there a soul, even although it has attained the summit
of human perfection, that is not conscious of some weakness, or a human
being so depraved, that one good quality at least does not glimmer forth
from the slough of vice into which he has sunk?—And can he be influenced
by such narrow prejudice,—he, whose brow bears the impress of high
intelligence, whose glance and voice can melt with a tenderness that
reveals a soul alive to the best and deepest emotions of our nature?
Could he rank the hollow form above the immortal rights of humanity,
which accord freedom of thought and action to all?  Did not that false
system continually crush out the highest and holiest sentiment of the
human heart, love?  If Elizabeth had loved Hollfeld, what would her lot
have been without the discovery in the ruins?  And if,—here a sarcastic
smile hovered upon her quivering lips,—if one thought of affection for
her had ever stirred Herr von Walde’s heart, and he should come now and
offer his hand?——Never, never would she consent to give herself to him,
with the consciousness that her unutterable love had only been returned
when such return was no longer forbidden by the old worn-out laws of
society.  The pain of renunciation lost much of its torture, contrasted
with the torment that would be the result of such a life.

With looks full of gloom, Elizabeth once more walked to the corner of
the balustrade looking towards Castle Lindhof, and stood gazing in that
direction.  One and the same star rose above that graceful pile and the
poorest hut in the neighbouring village, casting its mild light
impartially upon each,—or was there really a stronger gleam upon the
spot where the park opened into the forest?  No; that light came from
below, and penetrating quickly farther and farther into the forest,
faintly tinged the boughs above with its rays.  It was most certainly a
torch borne along the narrow path by which Elizabeth had reached the
convent tower.

Once the light was, for an instant, immovable, and a faint shout reached
her ears.  She felt convinced now that help was at hand,—that search was
made for her,—and she raised her voice in reply, although she knew that
the faint sound could not reach the bearer of the torch. The light
hesitated but for a moment, and then quickly came nearer and nearer.
She could soon plainly distinguish the flame of the torch, and see the
shower of sparks that fell from it to the ground.

"Elizabeth!" suddenly resounded through the forest.

The voice thrilled through her every nerve,—for it was his voice.  Herr
von Walde was calling her in tones of unutterable anxiety.

"Here," she called down to him; "I am here, upon the convent tower."

The torch-bearer plunged through the thickets and hurried across the
open sward.  In a few moments he stood upon the landing without, shaking
the door with a powerful hand.  Several stout blows followed, and the
old planks were burst open.

Herr von Walde stepped out upon the roof.  In his left hand he held the
torch, while with his right he drew Elizabeth within the circle of its
light.  His head was uncovered, his dark hair lay in dishevelled locks
upon his forehead, and his face was very pale.  He hastily scanned her
figure, as if to convince himself that she was unhurt. He was evidently
in a state of great agitation, the hand which grasped her arm trembled
violently, and for a moment he could not speak.

"Elizabeth, poor child!" he ejaculated at last, with a gasping sigh,
"did the insult that you received in my house to-day drive you hither to
this dreary ruin, and the gloomy night?"

Elizabeth explained to him that her stay here had not been voluntary on
her part, as the bolted door testified, and related in a few words, as
she descended the stairs, all that had occurred.  He went before and
offered her his hand to support her, but she took hold of the rope which
served for a hand-rail, and turned away her eyes that she might ignore
his proffered aid.

At this moment a strong draught of air extinguished the torch, which had
burnt only dimly, and all was enveloped in darkness.

"Now give me your hand!" he said, in the tone of command which she knew
so well.

"I can take hold of the rope, I need no other support," she replied.

The last word had scarcely left her lips when she felt herself lifted
from the ground like a feather by two strong arms and carried down the
steps.

"Foolish child!" he said, as he set her down upon the grass outside.  "I
will not have you dashed to pieces upon the stone pavement of that
dreary tower."

She entered the path which led directly to Castle Lindhof,—it was the
shortest.  Herr von Walde walked silently by her side.

"Do you intend to leave me to-night without saying one kind word to me?"
he suddenly asked, standing still.  Pain and suppressed auger strove in
his voice for the mastery.  "Have I had the misfortune to offend you?"

"Yes, you have wounded me grievously."

"Because I did not instantly chastise my cousin?"

"You could not,—his suit had your entire approbation. You, as well as
the others, would have forced me to accept Herr von Hollfeld."

"I force you?  Oh, child, how little you understand a man’s heart?  I
was the victim of a terrible error when I uttered that ’yes.’  I longed
to try if it were a delusion, and to free myself from it.  Now you shall
learn that I will banish everything that can remind you of to-day’s
terror.  You like Lindhof?"

"Yes."

"The Baroness Lessen is about to leave the castle. Let me entreat you to
be my sister’s stay and support when I leave her again, when I begin my
wanderings anew.  Will you consent?"

"I cannot promise to do so."

"And why not?"

"Fräulein von Walde will not desire my society, and even if——.  I have
already declared once to-day that I shall not bear the new name."

"What a strange reply!  What has that to do with the matter?  Ah, now I
understand.  At last I begin to see clearly.  Then you think that I
agreed to Hollfeld’s suit because you suddenly had a right to an ancient
name? Speak, is not this the fact?"

"Yes, I believe this to be the fact."

"And you suppose further, that the same reason leads me to desire your
companionship for my sister.  You are convinced that aristocratic pride
prompts all my thoughts and actions?"

"Yes, yes."

"Pray let me inquire of you what name you bore when I asked you for a
birthday greeting, when we last walked together here in this path?"

"Then we did not know of the secret hidden in the ruins," said
Elizabeth, in an almost inaudible tone.

"Have you forgotten the words which I dictated to you that afternoon?"

"No,—I remember every syllable of them with the greatest distinctness,"
she replied quickly.

"And do you think it possible that such words can end with, ’I hope the
coming year will prove a happy one,’ or the like?"

The girl did not speak, but looked up at him with a crimson blush.

"Listen to me quietly for one moment, Elizabeth," he continued, but he
himself was so far from quiet that his voice sounded faint and
faltering, as though half stifled by the throbbing of his heart, "a man
who might have been regarded as fortune’s favourite, so richly did she
endow him in his cradle with rank and wealth, mistrusted these
advantages when he arrived at years of discretion. He feared that they
would stand in the way of what he considered the true happiness of his
life.  He had created for himself an ideal of her by whose side alone he
could find real peace,—not that he required extraordinary physical
beauty or intellectual power,—he sought a pure, true heart, that should
be influenced by no consideration of worldly advantages, but should give
herself to him for his own sake alone.  He gradually arrived at the
conviction that his ideal must remain an ideal, for in his search for
its realization, he came to be thirty-seven years old.  When hope has
folded her wings, and night is falling around us, there is something
overpowering in the sudden flushing of a morning light, at the eleventh
hour.  The mind is unhinged, the long, weary waiting has rendered it
almost incapable of believing in great, unexpected happiness.  At last,
Elizabeth, he found the heart he had sought,—a heart accompanied by a
clear, well-balanced intellect that was infinitely superior to all
narrow, sordid considerations,—but this heart throbbed in a youthful
form adorned with every imaginable grace.  Was it to be wondered at that
the man of riper years, possessing, as he knew, no personal advantages,
regarded with mistrust another who could lay in the balance youth and a
fine person?  Was it to be wondered at that he allowed himself to be
carried away one moment, inspired by the boldest hopes, by some word,
some act on the young girl’s part, only to be cast down utterly the
next, when he saw that other in her society? Was it not natural that he
should fear that youth only could attract youth?  Never did heart of man
long more wildly than his for the accomplishment of his desire,—never
was there a man more possessed, in moments of despair, by a cowardly
doubt as to its fulfilment.  And when they told him that his little
idolized darling belonged to that other, he emptied the bitter cup to
the dregs, and said ’yes’ because he imagined that she had already said
it.  Elizabeth, I stood on the threshold of the pavilion to-day in a
state of utter despair.  You do not know what it is, when a merchant
heaps all his treasure, every jewel that he possesses, in a single ship,
and sees it sink before his eyes.  Shall I try to tell you what I felt
when you so decidedly rejected the rank which you might have claimed,
and so made an alliance with Hollfeld impossible?  Shall I tell you that
my sister’s condition, and consideration for you yourself, alone
prevented me from chastising that scoundrel upon the spot? He has
already left Lindhof, and will never cross your path again.  Will you
forget the insult that you received in my house to-day?"

He had taken her hands in his, and held them pressed close to his
breast.  Without withdrawing them she assented to his question with
trembling lips.

"And shall we not forget everything, my darling little Gold Elsie, that
has occurred between the beginning and the conclusion of the birthday
wish?  My golden darling, the delight of my eyes, my own Elizabeth
Ferber stands again before me, and will repeat after me what I say, will
she not?  The last sentence which was so cruelly interrupted—tell me
what it was."

"Here is my hand as the pledge of an unutterable bliss," faltered
Elizabeth.

"In life, in death, and for all eternity, I will be your own."

But she opened her lips in vain to repeat after him the words which he
uttered so solemnly, with the most profound emotion.  She burst into
tears and threw her arms around the neck of her lover, who clasped her
to his heart.

"This divine dream must not fade," he said with a sigh, as Elizabeth
gently extricated herself from his embrace.  "Leave me your hand at
least, Elizabeth, I must learn to believe in my bliss.  If you leave me
now, I shall be crushed by doubt again to-night.  You are thoroughly
conscious that you are irrevocably mine?  Do you know that you must
leave father and mother, and the dear home upon the mountain, for my
sake?"

"I know it, and will do so gladly, Rudolph," she said smiling, but firm.

"God bless you, my darling, for those words!  But you must know the
depths of my doubt.  Is it not pity for my boundless love that induces
you to yield your consent to my suit?"

"No, Rudolph, it is love,—a love which first awoke in my heart,—does not
this sound strangely,—when I saw in your angry eyes, and heard in the
tones of your voice, how you detested cruelty and injustice!  And since
that moment it has never left me; on the contrary, it has increased and
grown stronger, in spite of all my efforts to destroy it,
notwithstanding all the harsh words that have so often wounded it
sorely."

"Who spoke such words?"

"You, yourself; you were harsh and unkind to me."

"Oh, child, those were the outbreaks of insane jealousy!  I have
struggled for and exercised self-control all my life long, but I could
not conceal how I was tortured then.  And would you, on that account,
have closed upon me the heaven that is opening before me?"

"Not on that account,—for one kind look from you made me happy again;
but another obstinate opponent entered the lists,—my reason.  It had
grown well aware of everything that report declared concerning your
incredible aristocratic arrogance, and, at every wild throb of my heart,
dinned into my ears your reasons for refusing the alliance which the
prince proposed to you."

"Ah! those sixteen quarterings!" cried Herr von Walde, smiling, "But
see, my little Gold Elsie, what a Nemesis that was!" he continued more
gravely.  "To avoid annoyance, I seized upon the first means at hand,
and, as I now know, it almost cost me the happiness of my life.  I like
the Prince of L——, but any residence at his court was rendered, for a
time, utterly odious to me, by the matrimonial alliances proposed for
me, principally by the Princess Catharine.  She had taken it into her
head that I must marry one of the ladies of her court.  No one could
believe that the girl was entirely indifferent to me, for she passed for
a brilliant beauty, and had broken many a heart.  All that I could say
was of no avail; they continued to plot and intrigue, and so one day I
cut the whole matter short by declaring to her Highness that her plan
for me would cost me one of my estates, since, as is true, by my uncle’s
will it was devised to the State if I should marry a wife who could not
show sixteen quarterings in her escutcheon.  This declaration put an end
to my torment; no such person was to be found in the length and breadth
of the little kingdom, and all thought it natural that I should wish to
retain my estate."

"And will you suffer this loss for my sake?" cried Elizabeth, in
surprise.

"It is no loss, Elizabeth; it is an exchange,—an exchange by which I
gain a priceless treasure,—the happiness of an entire existence."

A torch glimmered through the thicket.

"Halt! this way!" cried Herr von Walde.

In a few moments one of the servants appeared, and was ordered to hasten
as quickly as possible to Gnadeck and announce Fräulein Ferber’s safety.

The servant hurried away.

"I have been very selfish, Elizabeth," said Herr von Walde, putting her
hand within his arm, and no longer loitering.  "I knew that your family
was most anxious about you; that your father and uncle were ranging the
forest in search of you, while my people, and many of the Lindhof
peasants, were traversing the country in all directions upon the same
errand, and yet I forgot everything when I found you."

"My poor father and mother!" sighed Elizabeth, not without a slight
twinge of conscience; the whole world had ceased to exist for her when
he appeared.

"Friedrich runs quickly," von Walde said, soothingly; "he will reach the
summit of the mountain long before us, and tell them you are safe."

They entered the park and passed by the castle.  It lay in darkness and
silence.  Only from Helena’s chamber window gleamed a faint light.

"There is a life-and-death struggle going on there," murmured Herr von
Walde, looking up.  "She loved that wretch devotedly; how fearful her
awakening must be!"

"Go and comfort her," begged Elizabeth.

"Comfort her?  At such a moment?  My child, who could have come to me
with comfort when I thought I had lost you?  Helene shut herself in her
room when I ordered Herr von Hollfeld’s horse to be brought to the door;
her maid is near her.  A long time must elapse before she wishes to see
me; when we have been grossly deceived we do not immediately turn to
those who warned us of the deceit.  Besides, I will not enter my house
again until I am sure that your parents will not snatch you from me."

The path branched aside to the well-known bank in the forest.

"Do you remember?" asked Elizabeth, smiling, as she pointed to it.

"Yes, yes.  There you told me so bravely of your determination to go out
into the world as a governess, and I took the liberty of declaring to
myself that I never would permit it.  I had to exert all my self-control
to prevent myself from then and there clasping my little bird in my arms
and pressing its golden head, filled with such bold resolve, to my
breast.  And there I drew from you the unconscious naive confession that
your parents still held the first place in your heart.  But you adopted
a cold, repellant demeanour, as soon as I attempted to be confidential."

"It was shyness,—and I am not yet quite sure that to-morrow, when I see
your stern face by daylight, I shall not fall into the same
embarrassment."

"It will never be stern again, my child; joy has touched it with its
gentle finger."

Soon afterwards, the old beeches which look in at the windows of the
Ferber’s dwelling-room saw a strange sight.  A man of fine presence, his
face pale with profound emotion, conducted the daughter to her parents,
and then asked them to give her back to him as his future wife,—his
other self.  The old beeches saw him take his young love in his arms,
and receive the blessing of her agitated parents.  They saw the mother’s
face, smiling through tears, raised gratefully to Heaven, and little
Ernst shaking the canary’s cage, that he might awaken that sleepy
songster and announce to him, with great solemnity, that Elsie was
betrothed.



                              CHAPTER XX.


While happiness was reigning in the home upon old Gnadeck, a sad event
occurred in the valley.

Two peasants from Lindhof, who, provided with torches, had been looking
for Elizabeth, heard, as they were proceeding from their village to the
forest, a loud growling at a little distance,—it sounded like an angry
dog.  Not far from them lay stretched across the road a human form,
while a large dog lying beside it, as if to defend it, had placed both
his forepaws upon its breast.  The animal became infuriated at the
approach of the men, and, gnashing its teeth, threatened to fly at them.
They were afraid, and ran back to the village, where they met a party
bearing torches, and among them the forester, who had just heard from
Herr von Walde’s servant of Elizabeth’s safety.

Instantly all hastened to the spot which the frightened peasants
described.  This time the dog did not growl. He whined, and crept to the
forester’s feet; it was Wolf, his watch-dog, and there lay Bertha,
apparently lifeless. She was bleeding profusely from a wound in her
head, and her face was as pale as death.

The forester did not speak, he shunned the sympathetic glances of the
by-standers; anger and pain strove for the mastery in his features.  He
raised Bertha from the ground, and carried her into the first house in
the village; it was the poor weaver’s.  Then he sent a messenger for
Sabina.  Fortunately, the Waldheim physician was with one of his
patients in the village.  He was sent for, and soon brought the poor
girl to herself.  She recognized him, and asked for water.  Her wound
was not dangerous, but the physician shook his head and looked meaningly
at the forester, who was anxiously watching him.

The doctor was a blunt man, with rather rude manners. He suddenly
approached the forester, and said a few words to him in a slight
undertone.  The old man staggered back as though from a mortal blow,
stared absently at the doctor without replying a word,—and then left the
house without looking at the sick girl.

"Uncle, uncle, forgive me!" she cried after him in heart-breaking tones,
but he had already vanished into the dark night.

And now Sabina made her appearance in the doorway. A maid followed her,
bearing a huge bundle of linen upon her head, and a basket upon her arm,
containing bandages, provisions, and all manner of necessary articles.

"Gracious Powers! what have you been doing with yourself, Bertha?" cried
the old woman with tears in her eyes, as she saw the pale face, and the
bandaged head lying upon the pillow.  "And to-day, too, when I thought
you went out looking so much better,—you had such beautiful red cheeks!"

The girl buried her face in the bedclothes, and began to sob
convulsively.

The physician told Sabina what was to be done, and strictly forbade the
invalid to converse or even to speak.

"Must I be silent?" cried Bertha, raising herself in bed.  "Ah! silence
may be easy for such an old man, whose blood runs cool and calm in his
veins.  But I must speak, Sabina, and if it kills me,—so much the
better!"

She drew the old housekeeper towards her upon the bed, and, weeping
bitterly, confessed all to her.

She had had a love affair with Hollfeld, who had promised to marry her,
and had induced her to swear solemnly that she would keep silent
concerning their relations to each other, and not claim her rights until
he should authorize her to do so; for, as he told her, he must first
influence his mother and his relatives at Lindhof to accede to his
wishes.  The unthinking girl promised all that he asked,—and in addition
vowed solemnly that no human being should hear one word from her lips
until she could proclaim her proud secret to the world. The meetings of
the pair usually took place in the convent-tower or in the pavilion in
the park.  No one discovered them.  The baroness’ suspicions were
aroused by some slight circumstance,—she fell into a violent rage, and
forbade Bertha ever to show her face at Lindhof Castle.

Still Bertha’s lofty hopes were unshaken, for Hollfeld consoled her, and
referred to the future.  But then came Elizabeth Ferber, and he was an
altered man from that moment.  He avoided Bertha, and when she compelled
him by threats to an interview, he treated her with a coldness and
contempt that excited the girl’s passionate nature to frenzy.

When at last she became convinced that she had to do with a man utterly
devoid of honour, the whole horror of her situation was laid bare before
her.  She fell into a state of the wildest despair, and then began her
nightly escapades.  Sleep scarcely visited her eyes, and she grew more
composed only when she could shriek out her agony and woe in the lonely
forest.

At last came the end to the tragedy,—the same end that has befallen such
tragedies hundreds of times before, and that will continue to befall
them,—for the warning example convinces the understanding but never
touches an unsuspecting, loving heart.  Hollfeld offered the poor girl a
sum of money if she would relinquish her claims and leave that part of
the country.  He pretended that his mother and his Lindhof relatives
forced him to marry the newly-made Fräulein von Gnadewitz.  Bertha
denounced him as an unprincipled liar, and rushed from his presence. In
a frenzy of rage she presented herself before his mother and told her
all.

Thus far Bertha continued her sad tale connectedly, only interrupted by
her violent gestures, sobs, and tears. She paused for a moment, and an
expression of inextinguishable hatred distorted her countenance.

"That horrible woman," she cried at last, gasping for breath, "has the
Bible always upon her lips.  She knits and sews night and day for
missionaries, who are to carry the word of God to the heathen, that they
may be converted; but they cannot in their ignorance be more inhuman and
cruel than this Christian in her pride. She wishes to root out
idol-worship, and sets up herself for an idol, surrounding herself by a
crowd of fawning, flattering hypocrites, who declare that she is one of
the elect,—not as other people are.  Woe to the upright, honest man who
refuses to consider her as such,—his crime is blasphemy!  She thrust me
from her doors, and threatened to have the dogs hunt me from the park,
if I ever showed my face there again.  From that time I do not know what
became of me," she said, sinking back exhausted among the pillows, and
pressing her hands upon her aching forehead.  "I only know that I awaked
and saw the doctor’s face bending over me.  He told my uncle of my
disgrace,—I heard him.  What will become of me!"

Sabina had listened to this confession with horror and grief.  She had
always advocated the strictest purity and decorum, and had been, as
Bertha well knew, a stern and inflexible judge in such unhappy cases as
that of the wretched girl.  But her heart was full of love and pity.
She looked down upon the crushed sinner before her with tears of
compassion, and soothed the weary head upon her kind old breast.  She
was rewarded by seeing the poor girl fall asleep in her arms, like a
child worn out with weeping.

Soon nothing was heard in the little room but the quiet breathing of the
sick girl and the ticking of the clock. Sabina put on her spectacles,
drew an old worn copy of the New Testament from her basket, and watched
faithfully by the bedside until the bright dawn looked in at the
windows.

Bertha did not die, as she had hoped to do in consequence of her
agitating confession.  On the contrary, she recovered very quickly,
nursed and tended by Sabina and Frau Ferber.  There was no return of her
insanity.  The wound in her head, which had been caused by a fall upon a
sharp stone, had produced a most beneficial result in the copious loss
of blood which had ensued.

The forester was beside himself at the disgrace which Bertha had brought
beneath his honest roof.  For some days he would not even listen to his
brother’s calm, soothing words.  After Sabina had communicated to him
Bertha’s confession, he rode to Odenberg to call "the worthless
scoundrel to account;" but the servants there informed him, shrugging
their shoulders, that their master had started upon a journey; they
could not tell whither, or when he would return.  Herr von Walde’s
search for him was also without result.

Bertha herself declared that she would never again hear of her betrayer,
whom she now regarded with a hate as fervent as had been her love.  A
few weeks after her recovery she left the weaver’s hut,—she never again
entered the Lodge,—to go to America.  But she did not go alone.  One of
her uncle’s assistants, a fine young fellow, begged for his dismissal,
because he had always loved Bertha in silence, and could not find it in
his heart to let her go alone into the wide world.  She had promised to
be his.  They were to be married in Bremen, and sail thence for the New
World, where he would lead a farmer’s life.  Herr von Walde provided the
pair with a considerable sum of money; and, at Frau Ferber’s and
Elizabeth’s request, the forester silently consented that Sabina should
rob the overflowing store of linen that his deceased wife had
accumulated, to furnish the household of the emigrants.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Upon a gloomy autumn day a well-packed travelling carriage left Castle
Lindhof and slowly rolled towards L——.  Her haughty arrogance all
vanished, the baroness sat huddled together in one corner of it.  Her
brilliant part at Lindhof was played; she was reluctantly returning to
her small rooms and reduced circumstances.

"Mamma," said Bella, in her shrill, childish accents, as she opened and
shut the carriage window and drummed against the seat with her feet,
"does the castle belong now to Elizabeth Ferber?  Will she drive in our
beautiful carriage with the white damask cushions?  Can she go into your
room whenever she pleases and sit in the embroidered arm-chairs?  Old
Lorenz says that she will be the mistress there now, and that all her
orders must be obeyed."

"Child, do not torment me so with your chatter," groaned the baroness,
burying her face in her pocket-handkerchief.

"It is very unkind of Uncle Rudolph to send us away," the child
continued, without heeding what her mother said.  "You know we have no
silver dishes to eat from in B——, have we, mamma?  Shall we dine at a
restaurant, mamma? and will you dress your own hair while Caroline
washes and irons?  Why——"

"Silence!" her mother interrupted the flood of speech that so tormented
her.

Bella cowered terrified in a corner, and did not look up until the
carriage was rolling over the stone pavement of L——.  The baroness cast
a hasty glance at the Princely castle, then drew her veil over her face
and burst into tears.

In consequence of Bertha’s confession there had been a stormy interview
between Herr von Walde and the baroness, which had ended in the
departure of the latter. Helene repulsed her with aversion when she
appealed to her, and she was forced to enter the travelling carriage,
which appeared punctually before the castle at the hour appointed by its
master.  There was one consoling drop in her cup of misfortune,—Herr von
Walde had provided the means for Bella’s education, upon condition that
it should be more sensibly conducted than heretofore.

Almost at the same hour in which the Baroness Lessen was leaving Lindhof
forever, the Countess von Falkenberg presented herself in the boudoir of
the princess, who had returned with her husband a few days before from
the baths.

The countess made as profound an obeisance as her uncertain limbs would
permit, but showed a degree of haste that she would have stigmatized in
another as contrary to all rules of etiquette.  She held an open letter
in her hand, which had been somewhat crushed by her trembling fingers.

"I am most unhappy," she began in an unnatural tone of voice, "to be
obliged to impart to your highnesses a most scandalous piece of news.
Oh, mon Dieu, who would have thought it!  Well, if even in our own
sphere all sense of shame, all dignified self-consciousness, is at an
end,—if every one is to heed the dictates of low and vulgar impulses,—no
wonder that the halo surrounding us is dimmed, and the mob ventures to
attack the throne itself!"

"Calm yourself, my dear Falkenberg," said the prince, who was present,
with evident amusement.  "Your preface is somewhat after the magnificent
style of a Cassandra. But as yet I see no signs of earthquake; and to my
great satisfaction I observe,"—and he glanced out of the window at the
quiet market-square with a smile,—"that my faithful subjects are quite
composed.  What have you to tell us?"

She looked up surprised,—his sarcastic tone made her falter.

"Oh, if your highness only knew!" she cried at last. "That man, upon
whose pride of birth I so relied, Herr von Walde, informs me that he is
betrothed.  And to whom? to whom?"

"To Fräulein Ferber, the niece of my brave, old forester," the prince,
smiling, replied.  "Yes, yes, I have heard something of this; Walde
knows what he is about, I see. The little girl is a miracle of beauty
and loveliness they say.  Well, I hope he will not keep us waiting long
to make her acquaintance, but will present her to us soon."

"Your highness," cried the paralyzed countess, "she is the daughter of
your highness’ forester’s clerk!"

"Yes, yes, my good Falkenberg," chimed in the princess, "we know that.
But be calm; she is I assure you of noble rank."

"Will your highness graciously permit me," rejoined the old lady, her
face crimson, as she pointed to the crumpled letter, "here it stands in
black and white,—his betrothal with a person of low birth,—here is the
name, Ferber, and no other, and just so it will be written upon von
Walde’s genealogical tree forever.  It actually seems as if the man
paraded it with a sort of ostentation.  The inconceivable indifference
of these people in refusing to assume the name of von Gnadewitz shows
plainly enough that they have nothing in common with that aristocratic
family.  Their noble blood has utterly degenerated in the course of
years, and, according to my notions of nobility, the girl is and always
will be of low birth.  I sincerely pity poor Hollfeld, who is, as your
highness knows, of stainless descent; by this misalliance he will lose
at least half a million,—and the poor Lessen, too, from whom I have just
had a few sad lines,—she leaves Lindhof to-day, of course to escape from
such scandalous proceedings."

"Those are matters affecting your own personal feeling, and of course I
say nothing with regard to them," rejoined the prince, not without
severity.  "But I herewith request you to announce to the princess and
myself the fact, as soon as Herr von Walde wishes to present his bride
to us."

In the next room, the door of which was open, Cornelie was merrily
turning upon her heels and snapping her fingers.

"Aha! and that was why Sir Bruin wished to escape the tongues of certain
eloquent ladies!" she cried, with a stifled laugh.  "Cornelie, where was
your usual penetration with regard to the masculine heart?  Oh, the
thing delights me for old Falkenberg’s sake," she said, in a whisper, to
another young lady who sat at the window embroidering.  "Now for at
least two weeks we shall have the pleasure of seeing how the loyal
creature will look daggers at their highnesses whenever their backs are
turned, while all the honey of the promised land will overflow her
withered lips as soon as the sun of their royal smile shines upon her.
I could wish that every man whom we know would follow Herr von Walde’s
silly example!"

"Good Heavens!  Cornelie, are you insane?" cried her companion at the
window, dropping her needle from her fingers.

At the same time that every drop of blood in the Falkenberg’s
aristocratic veins was so outraged, Doctor Fels returned to his home,
and went to the nursery, where his wife was bathing her baby and
superintending the knitting fingers of her two little daughters.

"Rejoice with me, dear love!" he cried, with sparkling eyes, as he stood
upon the threshold of the door. "Lindhof will have a mistress, and such
a mistress!  Gold Elsie, our beautiful Gold Elsie!  Do you hear, my
darling?  Now the sun will shine brightly there.  The healthy atmosphere
has conquered, and the evil spirit that actually dropped mildew upon
poor human souls has fled.  I have just seen it drive past in Herr von
Walde’s travelling carriage.  The announcement of the betrothal has
fallen upon our worthy town like a bomb-shell.  I tell you it is
wonderful to see the long, incredulous faces! But the news has not
surprised me at all.  I have known what must happen ever since Linke’s
murderous attempt.  Since I drove that evening to Lindhof by Herr von
Walde’s side, to see whether the excitement had produced no ill effects
upon the brave child, I have known well that his hour had struck, that
he had a heart indeed, a heart full of fervent, passionate love."

                     *      *      *      *      *

Let us pass over a space of two years, and once more enter the old
Gnadeck ruins.  We shall ascend the mountain by a broad well-kept road,
leading to the castle gate, which has exchanged its rusty bolts and bars
for more convenient fastenings.

We remember with a shiver the cold, damp court-yard behind this gate,
shut in by gloomy colonnades on three sides, while the crumbling
buildings threatened to bury us beneath their ruins.  We remember the
lonely basin in the centre, that, surrounded by the lions of stone, has
waited in vain during so many years for the silver stream that should
fill it.

Remembering all this, we ring the bell.  At its clear sound, a fresh,
trim maiden opens the massive gate, and invites us to enter.  But we
start back almost dazzled, for from the open gate what a flood of light
and colour greets us!  The ruins have vanished, the high wall that
surrounded them alone remains, and we are for the first time aware how
extensive is the space which it encloses.

We do not tread upon the echoing pavement of a courtyard, a smooth
gravel-walk is beneath our feet; before us stretches a level, well-kept
lawn.  In its centre stands the granite basin, and from the threatening
jaws of the lions are pouring four powerful streams of water.  The
chestnuts still remain the faithful guardians of the fountain, but since
their boughs have been bathed in heaven’s air and light they have grown
strong and young again, and are now covered with a wealth of fan-like
blossoms. We wind among the gravel paths that intersect the lawn,
delight our eyes with the groups of shrubbery, still very young, that
are so tastefully scattered here and there, and with the gay beds of
carefully tended flowers.

Before us lies the home.  Its four walls are free now to the air and
light, and have put on a fresh bright garment; but its front is far more
stately than it used to be. New windows are seen on every side.  Ferber
has had four rooms added to it; for when the forester retires to private
life, he and Sabina are to live there also.  In the family
dwelling-room,—from whose two high windows can now be seen the same view
formerly seen only from Elizabeth’s room above,—Herr von Walde has had
the trees thinned so that her parents might always have the home of
their darling before their eyes,—stands the young Frau von Walde.  She
has been kept in the house for several weeks, and her first expedition
has been to carry her first-born to her parents’ home.  There he lies in
her arms.  Miss Mertens, or rather the happily married Frau Reinhard,
has just removed the veil from the little thing. The minute, plump, red
face shows, in the eyes of the mother, an unmistakable resemblance to
Herr von Walde. Ernst is laughing loudly at the vague movements of the
fat little fists, which are stretching out in all directions. But the
forester stands with his own powerful hands behind him, and an
expression of great anxiety, as if he feared that if he moved he might
do the frail atom an injury.  He is no less delighted with his
grand-nephew than are Elizabeth’s parents with their grandchild.  He has
outlived his distress concerning Bertha, and basks in Elizabeth’s
happiness, which was a great surprise to him at first, and which he
maintained he was obliged to become accustomed to anew every morning.
Not, indeed, that he thought such good fortune one whit too great for
his darling,—he would have thought the richest of earthly crowns well
placed upon Elizabeth’s head; but it was so strange to him to see his
sunny Gold Elsie by the side of her grave, thoughtful husband.

Elizabeth is happy in the fullest sense of the word. Her husband adores
her, and his words have proved true,—the expression of stern melancholy
has faded forever from his brow.

Just now the young wife is looking tenderly at the little creature in
her arms, and then down into the valley, whence Herr von Walde will soon
appear to conduct her to her home.  Her glance grows sad for a moment,
and tears fill her eyes, as they rest upon a lofty gilded cross,
glimmering among the trees upon the shore of the lake,—beneath those
rustling boughs Helene has slept for a year.  She died in Elizabeth’s
arms, praying God to bless the dear sister who had so helped her to bear
her burden of woe until her spirit could soar away from its frail mortal
tenement.

Hollfeld has sold Odenberg, and no one knows in what corner of the earth
he hides his discontent at the overthrow of all his plots.



                                THE END.



           *      *      *      *      *      *      *      *



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