Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Life in a German Crack Regiment
Author: Baudissin, Wolf Ernst Hugo Emil
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 "Life in a German Crack Regiment" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive)



    TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

    * Obvious printer errors have been silently corrected.
    * Original spelling was kept.
    * Variant spellings were made consistent when a predominant
      usage was found.
    * Italics are represented between underscores as in _italics_.
    * Small caps are represented in upper case as in SMALL CAPS.



LIFE IN A GERMAN CRACK REGIMENT



    LIFE IN A GERMAN
    CRACK REGIMENT

    BY
    BARON VON SCHLICHT
    (COUNT VON BAUDISSIN)

    NEW YORK
    DODD MEAD AND COMPANY



PREFACE


LIEUTENANT BILSE, Beyerlein, and Baron von Schlicht,[A] the author
of the present work, with their many less-known followers, have
managed among them to create what may be regarded as a novel of a new
species--the "critical" military novel. What is commonly called the
"military novel," has, of course, long been known in Germany, but
it differed considerably from the new species. The older military
novel gave more or less lively pictures of camp, garrison and casino
life, and the gay young lieutenant who generally figured as hero
was much adored by ladies (as indeed he still is). But between the
lieutenant of romance and the lieutenant of stern reality there is
a gulf. Readers have now before them the lieutenant of reality, and
the uplifting of the veil on his interesting, if not very edifying,
personality and doings, has aroused in Germany a curious storm of
indignation, especially in army and official circles. Indeed, as may
be remembered, Baron von Schlicht was "insulted" over the present
work in the Reichstag itself, and the affair went so far that a duel
nearly followed. The widespread interest taken in these revelations
of military life is testified by the number of copies of the present
work (40,000) which have been sold in Germany, though its circulation
is now forbidden there; while for his outspokenness in this novel it
is rumoured that Baron von Schlicht has to meet his trial in Berlin
very shortly.

  [A] This is a pen-name. The author's actual name is Count von
  Baudissin.

Though widely known as the author of various military sketches and
stories of a more or less light and humorous turn, in the present
case Baron von Schlicht shows little trace of his characteristic
vein. Here, rather, he devotes himself seriously to making what is in
effect a detailed and apparently dispassionate _exposé_ in regard to
the manners and morals of officers of the old nobility in the German
army. The indignation aroused against him is all the greater as he
himself belongs to the old nobility which he so freely criticises,
and he has the further advantage of speaking from inside knowledge of
the officers' caste (Offiziers-Kaste) to which he himself belonged
during his military career. Lieutenant Bilse wrote from outside this
circle of the old nobility; thus Baron von Schlicht's work fills a
gap which Lieutenant Bilse's book still left open.

                                                          R. M.



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                               PAGE

            PREFACE                          v

         I. BY COMMAND OF THE EMPEROR        9

        II. INTRODUCED TO THE REGIMENT      28

       III. AMONG THE ARISTOCRACY           47

        IV. A GAME OF CARDS                 71

         V. HILDEGARDE AND GEORGE           95

        VI. MILITARY MORALS                128

       VII. AN ARISTOCRATIC HOUSEHOLD      166

      VIII. THE WAGES OF SIN               221

        IX. THE HUMILIATION OF THE "GOLDEN
              BUTTERFLIES"                 241

         X. AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE           278

        XI. FAREWELL TO THE ARMY!          311



LIFE IN A GERMAN CRACK REGIMENT



CHAPTER I

BY COMMAND OF THE EMPEROR


THE "Yellow Butterflies," as Franz Ferdinand Leopold's infantry
regiment was called on account of its yellow epaulettes, was
celebrating its anniversary; the day when, more than forty years
ago, it lost in a famous battle a third of its rank and file and
more than half of its officers. The memory of the heroic deeds of
the regiment could not be allowed to perish; the younger generation
were continually reminded of them, and thus the celebration of the
anniversary of the famous battle was accompanied by the toast: "In
remembrance of the fallen; for the encouragement of the living." The
fallen, for what they had done, were given every year a magnificent
wreath tied with a gigantic ribbon of the regimental colours; the
living, who had as yet done nothing, were given a splendid dinner
with equally splendid wine: and when the enthusiasm aroused by the
official speech of the colonel, under the influence of the champagne,
had done its work, the officers all declared again and again that
when the regiment went into battle they would know how to die as
bravely as their comrades--and they really meant what they swore.

To-day the anniversary was being celebrated with especial
magnificence, for new officers' quarters were to be opened, which
were to be used exclusively as a mess-room. Only at mid-day, as
he was preparing his oration, did it occur to the colonel that
the dedication of this building, which was intended for purely
pleasurable purposes, was not altogether in harmony with the solemn
anniversary of the dead. He could not very well say, "In order to
honour the noble dead we open to-day our new mess-room, which, I
hope, will be a financial success." Certainly that would not do. Then
a way out of the difficulty occurred to the colonel; he would simply
say, "And we vow to the fallen heroes, that within these walls we
will above all practise the spirit of comradeship, and the soldierly
virtues, which animated them and fitted them to perform their heroic
deeds." That would make a suitable impression; and so in a pleasant
frame of mind he betook himself to the mess-room where there was
much excitement and bustle. In the morning the usual formalities
had been followed; almost all the former officers of the regiment
had appeared, the closely allied regiments had sent deputations,
and nobody had come with empty hands. A veritable shower of silver
ornaments had been poured upon the "Golden Butterflies," and now all
were thronging into the reception-rooms, greeting mutual friends,
admiring the presents, and awaiting the arrival of the important
officials.

Dinner was to take place at seven o'clock, and on the stroke of the
hour the representative of His Majesty appeared. Originally the
Emperor had promised the regiment the honour of his presence, but at
the last moment he had been prevented from attending.

The music began, and in a long procession the company went into the
dining hall. A cry of admiration broke from the lips of everyone at
the sight of the magnificent apartment with its gorgeous decorations
and beautifully laid table.

The officers of the "Golden Butterflies" who led in the guests
swaggered a bit, and drew themselves up as much as to say, "Yes,
this is what we're like, that's how we do things. We have been quite
long enough housed in a fashion unbecoming to our rank. But now,
where is the regiment that can boast of such apartments?" They knew
that on account of their old mess-room, in which, according to the
declaration of a cavalry officer of the Guards, no self-respecting
man could feel really happy, they had often been slighted. Formerly
they had been the worst off in this respect; now they were the
best. The "Golden Butterflies" beamed; each word of compliment and
admiration which the guests expressed sounded like heavenly music in
the ears of the officers, and each seemed as proud as if it were due
to him that at last they had a new mess-room. And in truth, each had
done his share, for if all of them did not appreciate so highly the
calling and honour of an officer as in bygone days, yet the officers
and friends of the regiment in earlier times could never had raised
such a large sum as was required for the erection and furnishing of
this building. As the bearers of old and honoured names, each of the
officers was conscious of his position and his duty, for the "Golden
Butterflies" were proud to be considered one of the haughtiest and
most exclusive of regiments in the whole army.

With pride they regarded their guests, all of whom bore important
names. A lieutenant of the Uhlans, Baron Gersbach, whom all knew as a
great gambler, stuck his eyeglass in his eye, examined the persons at
the table, and then turned to his neighbour; "Really a highly select
company; not a single man belonging to the middle class is present."

"Yes, but there is--one----"

The Uhlan stuck his eyeglass more firmly in to his eye to discover
which it was.

"Who is it?" he asked at last.

"The architect who built the place."

"Ah, well, he hardly counts. But why did you invite him to dinner?"

"We thought about the matter for a very long time, but we came to
the conclusion we could not do otherwise. The fellow formerly served
in this regiment for a year, and out of attachment and love for the
regiment he drew up the plans free of cost, and he has also charged
nothing for all the trouble he has taken. Well, we had to show
ourselves equally obliging."

The Uhlan nodded approvingly. "Yes, I quite understand, and such
an invitation is not only the easiest, but the most magnificent
form of thanks. To the end of his days the fellow will live on the
remembrance of this evening, and besides that it is a splendid
recommendation for him to have dined with us. I must say, considering
his class, he seems a very decent sort of fellow; fancy, his hands
are manicured! What's his name?"

"I think it's Klipper, Lipper, Wipper, or something of that sort."

"Oh, well, it doesn't matter. By the way, have you heard," went
on the Uhlan, "what is said to have happened in a line regiment at
a festival dinner? A fellow--I don't like to use the word comrade
in such a connection--well, as I was saying, a fellow made a fool
of himself, and in his drunkenness--for I must call his condition
by that name--he gave an ensign a sounding box on the ears at the
dinner-table because the latter, in his opinion, did not jump up
quickly enough when the besotted beast pledged his health."

"It's incredible!"

"Nevertheless it is true."

"Do you know what will happen next?"

Baron Gersbach shrugged his shoulders. "What can happen? They cannot
fight a duel, for it is impossible for an ensign to challenge his
superior."

"Yes, that is so," agreed the other.

"There are only two possible ways of settling the thing: either
the lieutenant, if he should ever become sober again, must beg the
ensign's pardon in the presence of the officers and all those who
witnessed the affair, or the lieutenant must flee, and then the
ensign must settle with himself whether he will go on living with
the blow on his cheek unavenged. But in any case his career is all
over--at any rate in our regiment. An ensign who had suffered such a
box on the ears would not be made an officer."

Both were silent for a moment, then the signal was given to fill the
glasses. The two officers drank each other's health, and the Uhlan
continued: "One can't help feeling very sorry for the unfortunate
ensign; he is said to have been entirely blameless in the whole
affair, and to attack an ensign is really far worse than to insult
one's equal. But these things happen to-day because they are not more
careful in the choice of men who are going to be officers. To-day,
anybody who has the necessary cash, and belongs to a family that has
not come into conflict with the police, can become a lieutenant."

The other acquiesced. "Alas, it is such a pity that the necessity
of increasing our army forces us to choose officers from the middle
class."

The Uhlan emptied his glass again, and then said: "You are quite
right, although it cannot be denied that some of the middle class
are very decent. I must own that I became acquainted with a couple
of fellows--in our regiment of course they would have been quite
impossible--but I met them several times in the train----"

The officer of the "Golden Butterflies" looked up with astonishment.
"Do you mean to say that you travel second class?"

"Who, I?" At first the Uhlan was quite disconcerted, then he laughed
loud and long: "What a joke! Do you suppose I travel second class?
Perhaps you'll give me a free pass? Or do you think I act as an
agent, perhaps? If I were to write this to my dear papa he would be
highly amused."

It was long before the Uhlan had recovered his composure, then he
said: "When I said just now I had got to know these fellows in
the train, I was speaking figuratively. I meant a mere passing
acquaintanceship, and as I told you these people were really quite
nice, it was very amusing to me to talk with a fellow from the
provinces who lives in such different circumstances. I was highly
amused when they told me how they spent their month's salary of fifty
or sixty marks. Just think, why, my hairdresser gets that!" Then
quite suddenly he broke off and said: "By the way, we were disputing
yesterday at mess as to how long it really was since the last officer
belonging to the middle class had his discharge from your regiment."

"On 15th May it will be four years."

The Uhlan looked up astonished. "Just fancy, you remember the exact
date!"

"Well, one does not easily forget such a joyful date."

"You are quite right, but haven't you got a _bourgeois_ fellow among
the ensigns?"

"Not a single one. The colonel has laid it down that under no
circumstances whatever will he receive such a man."

"Very sensible of him. First of all, such a fellow would not suit
here at all; secondly, he would be a great source of annoyance to
you; thirdly, he himself would feel highly uncomfortable. The proper
thing is for people to remain in their own class. And the common
people who will not understand that talk about 'Caste' feeling and
the 'Aristocratic Spirit'!--well, let them talk, what does it matter
to us?"

After a slight pause the officer of the "Golden Butterflies" said:
"Do you know I have been thinking a good deal lately about that
'Caste' feeling and aristocratic prejudice. Whenever the Guards give
a dinner the glasses are raised to symbolise that the spirit which
inspires the officers must remain ever the same. Now I think this
means that not only must we ever cherish love and fidelity for the
ruling house, but also that we must ever remain 'first-class men,'
with the same ideas as we hold now. As bearers of noble names, and
belonging to the most important regiment, we must ever be conscious
of our exclusive position, and so stand firmly together, and we must
maintain strictly the barrier that divides us from the middle class.
Let us drink once more to this hope; that the Guards may ever remain
what we now are--bearers of the oldest names, 'first-class' men!"

The conversation of his neighbour had been far too long for the
Uhlan, who had scarcely listened to what he was saying; nevertheless
he re-echoed his words, "Let us drink." But just as he was about to
raise his glass a universal shout arose; the colonel had risen and
given the first cheer for the head of the army, and the second to the
representative of His Majesty, who was there present.

After a short pause the latter rose to thank them for the honour
they had done him, then he continued: "His Majesty has commanded
me to express his extreme regret that he cannot be present to-day
at the anniversary festival of the regiment; His Majesty has been
pleased to command me to offer to the regiment that has always
distinguished itself in war and peace his royal greeting, and to
assure the regiment of his imperial favour and his imperial good
wishes. His Majesty is quite sure that in the future, as in the past,
he may always depend upon the regiment, and he knows that each of you
is ready now as ever to sacrifice his life for his country and his
king, therefore His Majesty trusts that the spirit that has always
distinguished this regiment--the spirit of good fellowship--shall be
always fostered, and especially, here in these rooms."

The exalted personage paused, and a murmur of approval ran through
the assembled officers and guests who were standing up to listen to
the speech.

"Now the health of the regiment is going to be drunk," they all said,
and they looked to see whether their glasses were full, for it was
due to each man that in his own regiment his glass should be full.

But the expected conclusion of the speech was not immediately
forthcoming; the exalted personage was visibly embarrassed, and it
was apparent to everyone that he had still something to say, but
could not for the moment find the right words. At last he regained
his composure, and said: "Gentlemen, finally, His Majesty has
commanded me to inform you that to-day he has transferred to your
regiment Lieutenant Winkler, the son of His Majesty's commercial
adviser, who was formerly in the 25th Infantry Regiment. And now,
gentlemen," continued the Prince, in a louder tone, and visibly
relieved, "lift your glasses to the prosperity of this magnificent
regiment, whose officers unite in themselves the best names in the
land, and whose subalterns and rank and file present a shining
example of the most faithful fulfilment of duty--here's to the
regiment. Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"

They felt as if they had been throttled; such a sorrowful "hurrah"
had never before been heard, and it was a fortunate thing that the
loud-sounding fanfare echoed through the hall.

The "hurrahs" were over, His Highness had taken his seat again,
but the rest remained standing, staring at each other as if they
could not have heard aright, as if each wanted to learn from his
neighbour's face whether what he had just heard could really be the
fact.

"We have become a plebeian regiment."

Nobody knew who pronounced the word first, but at once the phrase
passed from lip to lip--"We have become plebeian."

It was just as if a jug of cold water had been thrown into their
faces, and indeed when at last they sat down to the table again
and the music struck up a merry _potpourri_, they could not grasp,
they could not take it in, this inevitable thing--that once more a
"commoner" was in the regiment.

All their gay spirits had fled; indeed it appeared to the officers
of the "Golden Butterflies" as if a quite new spirit had taken
possession of the building. The festival had lost its splendour;
it seemed as if the silver itself suddenly shone less brilliantly,
as if the glass were less finely cut, and as if the hall no longer
possessed the unique elegance that had hitherto distinguished it.

A painful silence reigned at the table, the "Golden Butterflies"
did not venture to talk to their guests, for they knew they would
be besieged by questions as to who and what this Winkler really
was, where he came from, whatever could have caused His Majesty
to transfer him from his frontier garrison town to this proud and
distinguished regiment. It must have some signification. They did not
venture even to look at their guests, for they knew that in the faces
of the latter would stand clearly written: "You are no longer what
you were; you cannot indeed help it that you have become plebeian,
but the fact remains, and your position will be affected by this in
the future."

If only the news that they were to receive a plebeian lieutenant had
been communicated to them privately--but no, it had been announced
publicly, in the presence of all the assembled guests, so that there
was no possibility of denial or subterfuge. It was a direct slap in
the face for them, and for the former officers, some of whom had come
from a distance to be present at the dedication of the new buildings.
And now into that new house a new element had been introduced. A
commoner! Why had the regiment deserved it that the glory that had
hitherto distinguished it should be removed? On the former occasion
when a plebeian lieutenant had dwelt among them for a short time they
had all suffered, and it was esteemed a special mark of the Emperor's
favour that on the personally expressed wish of the officers he had
been transferred to a line regiment. When they were again relieved
of the stigma, each had sworn to live more zealously for the honour
of the regiment so that a plebeian should not for a second time be
received in their midst. Now this very thing had happened.

The Uhlan had regarded for a long time his neighbour who was looking
gloomily in front of him; now he felt impelled to utter a sympathetic
word, and everything that he felt in the depth of his heart he
put into the remark, "What a pity! you were all so jolly in your
regiment."

The officer of the "Golden Butterflies" shrugged his shoulders. What
did these words mean but this: "The beginning has been made, other
commoners will follow this one, and even if he does remain the only
one, you will never be again what you once were."

The Uhlans were considered a frightfully exclusive regiment, and
the "Golden Butterflies" had made the greatest efforts to maintain
friendly and cordial relations with them. At last they had succeeded,
and to-day the Uhlans almost to a man had appeared; the most
aristocratic of regiments had been _fêted_ with a costly dinner; and
now, scarcely had the friendship been sealed when it was immediately
threatened.

All breathed more freely when at last they rose from the table;
the "Golden Butterflies" were most anxious to talk to each other,
and learn something more of their new comrade. Somebody or
other must know something about him; the fellow must have some
sort of reputation--as much as was possible for a commoner, of
course--otherwise His Majesty would not have interested himself on
his behalf.

It was in this way that the men who had fallen into two groups--the
guests, and the present and former officers--expressed their
opinions; each had something to say as to his idea concerning the
event.

The "Golden Butterflies" surrounded the adjutant of the regiment,
Count Wettborn; he had become quite white, and was nervously
fidgeting with the laces of his faultless patent-leather boots.
After the colonel the matter concerned him most closely of all; he
was often the representative and delegate of the officers, and now,
was he to become a representative of a Winkler, he, a count? He was
tall, of proud, imposing appearance; on his breast glittered as his
latest decoration an order of the Fourth Class, which he had won
as leader of the ball at court. For two years he had occupied this
proud position; it was not only a great honour for him, but also
for the whole regiment, and when he had stepped back into the rank
he had been named adjutant, and all had heartily concurred in this
promotion, deeming him the most worthy among them.

"But, count, do tell us, you must know something, who is this
Winkler, then?"

Anxiously they all looked at the count; dead silence reigned, they
scarcely dared to breathe.

"Gentlemen," at last said the adjutant, "whatever the colonel and I
know we have just learnt from His Serene Highness. Old Winkler is a
manufacturer."

They felt as if a stone had been rolled from their hearts. A
manufacturer! It was not up to much, certainly, and not to be
compared, of course, with the social position of a country gentleman
or a chamberlain; but still, Krupp had been nothing more nor less
than a manufacturer, and the German Emperor had called him his
friend before the whole world. A load was taken from their hearts;
but immediately they all saw that the count had still something on
his mind, and that the question of being a manufacturer had some
connection with it.

"And what does the fellow manufacture? Cannon or machines?"

"Neither--trouser buttons." If a flash of lightning had suddenly
struck the officers they could not have started more quickly and with
greater horror.

"Good heavens!" They looked around to see if any of the guests or the
orderlies were close by, and then they crowded round the adjutant
again.

Belitz, a very tall officer, was the first to recover himself; he was
on very good terms with the adjutant, almost his friend indeed, and
so he ventured to say, "Don't play any stupid jokes upon us, we are
not in the mood for them, and such things should not be said in jest.
Now do really tell us what the old fellow manufactures."

The count looked at the speaker calmly. "My dear fellow, I am not
in the least in the mood for a joke, but I told you the fact. Old
Winkler manufactures buttons, of course, wholesale. He has three
large factories, and employs thousands of workmen, who are said to be
splendidly looked after. For several years he has been on the Town
Council, and for three he has been commercial adviser to the Emperor;
quite lately he contributed a hundred thousand marks to a charitable
institution which is under the special patronage of His Majesty, and
he has also promised a contribution of twenty thousand marks for the
next five years. He refused an important order that was offered him,
and when he was asked in what way he could be thanked, he answered
that it would be an intense pleasure to him if his only son might be
transferred from a frontier garrison town to Berlin, so that he could
see him more frequently. His wish could not be refused, and so his
son has come to us."

After a slight pause, during which the deepest stillness reigned,
the adjutant continued: "The transference of Lieutenant Winkler to
our regiment is at the personal request of His Majesty. It behoves
us, therefore, not to criticise His Majesty's commands. I beg you to
remember this, and to restrain any expressions of opinion."

It was perfectly clear and unmistakable that the adjutant spoke in
the name, and at the request of the colonel, and silently one after
another retired.

But the silence was far more expressive than words. Dejectedly the
"Golden Butterflies" walked about; they had not the spirit to ask
their guests to remain when, much earlier than usual, the latter
prepared to depart. It was a matter of complete indifference whether
they stayed an hour longer or not; the spirit of the thing had
vanished; the festivity was ruined. The rooms were soon empty, one
after another departed, only the "Golden Butterflies" remained. And
they, when at last they were quite alone, asked themselves again,
"Why have we deserved this?"

In one corner of the room, all huddled up on a sofa, sat young
Willberg, the darling and favourite of all, a young lieutenant of
six-and-twenty, whose father had been in the regiment and had won the
Iron Cross of the First Class on that memorable day. Young Willberg
had evidently indulged somewhat freely in wine; he was in a state of
abject misery, and wept and sobbed like a child.

"Willberg, whatever is the matter?" his comrades asked him
sympathetically, as they came nearer him.

He raised his face which was usually fresh and youthful-looking, but
now the glittering tears ran down his cheeks, and in a heart-breaking
tone of voice he sobbed out: "My regiment, my beloved regiment."

Not a single one of those who stood around him could offer him a word
of consolation--they were all as mournful as death.



CHAPTER II

INTRODUCED TO THE REGIMENT


"TO-DAY at twelve o'clock I desire to speak with the officers in
undress uniform."

The colonel's command was communicated to all the officers, and now,
full of expectation, they were standing outside the mess-room. To the
questions: "What's the matter with the old fellow now? Has anyone got
cleaned out?" the answer was immediately given: "Winkler came to-day
and is to be introduced to us all."

And this universal answer was followed on each occasion by a
universal "Ah"--an expression of the deepest commiseration and the
greatest disappointment. Winkler had really come? How many ardent
prayers had not been raised to heaven that he would _not_ come! And
in his innermost heart each man had still hoped that the order of
exchange would be recalled. His Majesty had heard privately, through
inquiries of an adjutant, what they thought about this new comrade;
they had not concealed their views, but instead of the hoped-for
order of recall, the adjutant had one day reappeared, and had quite
casually, and in the way of conversation, yet in spite of that,
with an official air, given them to understand that His Majesty was
very vexed at what he had heard of the officers' views concerning
Lieutenant Winkler. His Majesty had expressed his sincerest hope
that the regiment would receive their new member with open arms. The
adjutant's words had not failed to have effect; not that the officers
suddenly changed their views, but they took care not to say what they
thought in his presence any more.

Now Winkler had really come. "What does he look like?" "What sort of
an impression does he make?" "Has anyone spoken to him?"

There was a torrent of questions. Suddenly it struck twelve, and to
the minute the colonel appeared with his adjutant and Lieutenant
Winkler.

The first lieutenant motioned the officers to their places, and the
colonel immediately began:

"Gentlemen, I have requested you to meet me in order to introduce to
you our new comrade, Lieutenant Winkler. Allow me to introduce you,
Lieutenant Winkler."

Lieutenant Winkler stepped forward and saluted in a friendly way; he
stood there erect and courteous, a man of medium size, slim, yet
strong. He was a very well developed man, and the becoming uniform
of the "Golden Butterflies," with its rich gold embroidery, suited
him excellently; on his young and fresh-looking countenance--he was
twenty-seven years of age--with its thick, light moustache, and in
his clear, blue eyes, was written energy and independence. Many of
the officers there present could scarcely conceal a certain unrest
and embarrassment. Winkler's face alone remained absolutely cool.

The "Golden Butterflies" examined their new comrade with searching
eyes, just as if they were examining a horse that had been led before
them. They cast a glance at his figure, at his legs, looked him over
to see if he would do well at a parade march, and whether his outward
appearance was equal to the demands which were made on a member of
so important a regiment. According as they were satisfied with their
examination, they put their hands more or less cordially, or in some
cases only a finger, to their caps.

"Lieutenant Winkler," continued the colonel, "a very great honour
has been paid you; at the direct request of His Majesty you have
been made a member of a regiment which can look back on a glorious
past, and whose officers have always been distinguished for the
purity of their character, the gallantry of their spirit and their
honourable lives, both as soldiers and gentlemen. You come among us
from a different garrison, from totally different surroundings. You
have been bred and reared in circumstances where people do not hold
the same views as we do. It must be your first endeavour to become,
in the truest sense of the word, one of us, for the uniform does
not make the man, it is the spirit which puts the seal on him. And
the financial material circumstances of a man are not without their
influence on the _esprit de corps_ of a regiment. You, Lieutenant
Winkler, probably have the disposal of an allowance which is so large
that it bears no relation to the small amounts which most of my
officers have to do with. You, sir, have grown up in a circle where
money plays the most important part, where, to a certain extent, the
honour in which a man is held depends upon the size of his banking
account. But our great pride is that, with our small means, or rather
I should say, in spite of our small means, we remain what we are. In
course of time you will see for yourself how many of your comrades
are obliged to stint themselves merely to make both ends meet, and
how they are obliged to deprive themselves of all kinds of things in
order to maintain a dignified appearance. Although I am delighted to
hear that, while you were living in a small garrison town, you were
economical and eschewed all luxuries, now that you are transferred to
Berlin I must beg you most earnestly, and warn you most emphatically,
to resist the various temptations that will assail you here. Keep
to the modest mode of life, and do not fall into the fault, so easy
to youth, of boasting of your riches and wealth, and of playing for
large stakes with your comrades. If you attend to my admonition, then
a friendly and cordial relationship will grow up between you and
these gentlemen, to whom you are now a stranger." And, turning to the
adjutant, he continued: "Count, I beg you to introduce Lieutenant
Winkler now to the individual officers."

The introductions were made strictly according to etiquette,
beginning with the lieutenant-colonel and ending with the youngest
lieutenant.

It was only when the names of the lieutenants were read out that
there was any sign of life in Winkler's bearing. During the colonel's
long speech, and while the names of his superior officers were being
read, he stood immovable, his hand in the attitude of salute--and
everyone had to admit that he stood well--without moving or swerving.
His face was so well under control that not a muscle moved, and not
a line on his countenance betrayed what he felt at the colonel's
remarks. When the names of the lieutenants were given--he saluted the
first lieutenants as his superiors--his bearing relaxed somewhat,
and he returned the salutes of his comrades cordially. And he saluted
well--everybody had to admit that likewise.

At last he was able to release his hand, and stand at ease once more;
his arm was almost numb and the muscles of his legs trembled and
smarted, but by no sign did he betray this.

"Lieutenant Winkler is placed in the second battalion, fifth company."

All glances were directed towards the captain of the fifth company,
Baron von Warnow; he was considered the most important officer
in the regiment; he was of very ancient descent, which he could
trace back to the Emperor Barbarossa, in whose campaigns a Warnow
had distinguished himself. He was married to a Countess Mäilny,
had a very large fortune, and his house was considered the most
aristocratic in Berlin. Whenever it was a question of representing
the regiment, or of sending a deputation anywhere, it was Baron
von Warnow who was always nominated. On account of his birth and
his connection with the most important families in the country he
was pre-eminently fitted for such appointments. And he was just
as distinguished in his military career as in his private life.
He permitted no swearing or bad behaviour among his officers. He
attempted, as his comrades laughingly said, to make a gentleman
of every musketeer, and in his first lieutenant, Baron von Felsen,
he had an excellent assistant. For the last fortnight he had only
had one officer attached to his company, for a short time ago his
lieutenant had been thrown while riding and had broken his arm.
It would be at least a month before he could be on active service
again, but it had never occurred to him that another officer would be
assigned to him.

And now he was to have Lieutenant Winkler in his company--he, Baron
von Warnow!

He could scarcely conceal his annoyance; his thick brows contracted,
and he was about to mutter something in a rage when he met Winkler's
glance. The latter, when he heard his captain's name, looked round
to see which among the many to whom he had been introduced was Baron
von Warnow. When he saw the latter's disappointed and almost furious
countenance, he knew at once that that was the Baron! He fixed his
eyes upon him almost as if he was saying: "What harm have I done
you?" Perhaps his face became a shade paler, but his voice had its
quiet, steady tone when he stepped up to his superior officer and
saluted him.

Baron von Warnow returned the salute by a bare finger, then he said:
"It would have been more in order if you had, first of all, saluted
your major."

Winkler flushed red, then he repaired the omission and stepped up
to Baron von Masemann, his superior lieutenant, in order to get to
know him a little better as they were to be in the same company. He
took his friendliness as a matter of course, but he merely received a
curt, "I am much obliged to you."

The colonel conversed with the staff officers; the other officers
chattered in various groups. Winkler stood quite alone, nobody
troubled about him, and he breathed more freely when the colonel at
last dismissed the officers.

As Winkler was turning to go, his captain, who was talking to
the first lieutenant, called to him: "One moment, if you please,
Lieutenant Winkler," and after a little pause continued: "I do not
know, Lieutenant Winkler, whether you are already aware of the fact,
otherwise I had better tell you at once, that a thoroughly good and
healthy tone is maintained in my company; I must therefore beg you to
avoid all cursing and swearing, my men are accustomed to be treated
as decent persons. It is a very great honour for you to be in my
company, and it is to be hoped that you will strive to maintain it
worthily." And turning to his first lieutenant he continued: "My
dear baron, if at first Lieutenant Winkler does not find it easy to
maintain the right tone, you will be kind enough to help him."

The first lieutenant acquiesced with a salute, then the captain
turned again to Winkler: "We shall see each other again to-morrow on
duty; kindly give the sergeant-major your address, so that we may
know where to send the orders."

"Certainly, sir."

"Then there is nothing more for me to say. I am obliged to you for
coming, gentlemen."

The two lieutenants turned to go, and silently they walked together
over the great courtyard. It was not till they had passed the door of
the mess-room that the baron said: "We do not dine till six o'clock;
will you join us in the mess-room for lunch?"

But Winkler declined. "I must go and report myself to the superior
authorities, and, besides, I have still a good deal to do."

The other did not press him further, and so with a few words they
took leave of one another.

Winkler called a fly; it was nearly three o'clock when he at last
reached the hotel in which he had taken rooms for the time being.

"Have any letters come for me?" he inquired. He had had no news
from home for three days; he had telegraphed to his parents that he
would be in Berlin to-day, and he hoped to receive a warm letter of
greeting from them.

The porter looked through the letters.

"Nothing has come for you, sir."

Winkler could scarcely conceal his disappointment. Just to-day when
he felt so terribly solitary and alone a kindly letter from his
parents would have been so very welcome. He had been quite prepared
for not being warmly welcomed by his new regiment, but he had not had
the faintest idea that the officers would have received him with such
coldness and such aversion.

"The key is in the room upstairs, sir."

With a troubled air he went upstairs. To his astonishment the door
of the sitting-room was not locked, and when he opened it and walked
into the rooms he was greeted with a loud, hearty laugh.

"Ha! ha! George, my boy, here's a surprise for you, isn't it? I told
the porter I'd wring his neck if he told you of my arrival; for two
hours I've been sitting here and waiting for you. Now, thank heaven,
you're here at last. And how fine you look, my boy, your mother would
burst with pride if she could see you now. Of course, the first thing
you'll do is to go and be photographed."

And with justifiable paternal pride and the keenest delight the
manufacturer to His Majesty embraced his son.

When George had at last freed himself, he said:

"Father, this is indeed a surprise. However did you get here?"

The old man, about sixty years of age, of medium height and strongly
built, with a broad ruddy face, large grey eyes and thick bushy
brows, whose appearance all betokened iron will and energy and great
self-confidence, looked at his son with a satisfied glance. "Do you
know your father so little, that you thought he would let you be here
alone to-day? I wanted to help you to find rooms, but above all I
wanted to hear how things were going with you, and to hear everything
that people had said to you to-day. Now begin and tell me everything."

George had taken off his helmet and scarf, and changed his military
coat for a comfortable loose jacket; then he took one of the cigars
which his father offered him, and sank down into a chair.

"Now, my boy, do begin and tell me everything; surely you can talk
while you're changing your things. I know you always say, 'One thing
at a time,' but I say one can do several things at the same time. Do
you think I should have succeeded so well if I had done otherwise?
Why, to-day, I had my lunch standing, with my left hand I ate, and
with my right I wrote several notes, and at the same time I gave my
clerks all kinds of orders and commissions. So now, fire away."

With an expectant expression the manufacturer looked at his son
who still remained silent, but at last he said: "Father, it's all
happened as I told you it would when you said you had asked for me to
be exchanged. It all happened precisely as I said it would, only it
was ever so much worse."

The old man got up and looked at his son with wide-open eyes. "Do you
mean to say----"

"I mean to say," continued his son, "that they received me in the
regiment in such a manner as might have made me not only blush with
shame but burn with rage and anger, as in fact I did inwardly. I was,
however, able to control the expression of my feelings, as I always
can. They treated me to a long discourse, they exhorted me to do my
duty, and they kept on rubbing it into me that it was a tremendous
honour to belong to their regiment."

"It certainly is that," his father agreed. "You should have seen
how people opened their eyes when I told all our friends and
acquaintances that I had been able to get you transferred to the
'Golden Butterflies.' In fact they would not believe it until they
saw it in black and white. I assure you, my boy, it's not been an
easy matter and it's an expensive luxury. Two hundred thousand marks
is not a small sum; but I don't grudge the money."

"But, as far as I am concerned, I not only believe--I am
convinced--it's money badly laid out. When you wrote to me first of
all that you were interesting yourself about my exchange, did I
not beg you, as urgently as I could, not to continue your efforts?
You laughed at me, and wrote, 'The "Golden Butterflies" will soon
know what sort of a man they have in the son of the manufacturer by
special appointment to His Majesty, and if they do not know they will
soon have to learn it.'"

"And they will learn it, my son, I assure you."

George shook his head. "They will never do that, father, for they
will never take the trouble to get to know me. They regard me as an
interloper, a stranger. Even to-day I am quite sure that they are
only waiting for the moment when they will be able to get rid of me
decently. They will watch me closely, they will weigh carefully all
that I say, everything I do, until at last they can find some ground
for saying to me, 'My dear sir, you are not the right man for such a
regiment as ours.' And one fine morning I shall find myself again in
a little garrison town."

The old man burst forth--"Oh, oh, we've not got as far as that yet,
and before that happens I shall have a word to say, I can tell you. I
stand well in the Emperor's favour, and at the appointed hour I shall
know how to open my mouth."

George shrugged his shoulders. "Then it will be too late and of no
use, and, besides, you would not like the officers to be forced to
keep me against their will. I have suffered enough already in coming
here contrary to their wishes, or do you suppose that I should not
bitterly resent it that not one single word of welcome was given me,
not a single hand was stretched out to me in greeting."

The veins stood out on the old man's forehead. "What do these
stuck-up aristocrats mean? What do they pride themselves upon? Simply
because they were by chance cradled in an aristocratic family. Is it
any merit to them that they have a count or a baron for a father?
I can't help laughing at them! If that is all that they can pride
themselves upon, then I am, indeed, truly sorry for these stuck-up
aristocrats. To be born the son of a noble is surely no merit; but
to be, as I am, the son of an inferior official who, through his own
energy and diligence, has worked his way up and reached an important
position, that, indeed, is a thing to be proud of. And if these
people do not understand that, it must be because they will not or
cannot, because they are so pig-headed and stupid."

The manufacturer had jumped up, and was striding up and down the room
in a rage. George understood his father and knew that when he was
in that mood he must give free vent to his fury, and must regain
his composure before he was accessible to anybody's reasons. So he
quietly let the old man rage, until at last, with a mighty curse, he
sank into a chair again.

"Well," he said, "I am all right again now. I can't help thinking, my
boy, you look at things in too black a light. One can't altogether
blame these fellows for regarding you to a certain extent as an
outsider, and if one takes a rational view of things it is quite
understandable, that they did not receive you with outstretched
arms. These officers do not know you; they know absolutely nothing
about you except that you are the son of your father, and as I have
not been born with a coronet on my head that's not enough for them.
They must, and they will, get to know you yourself. When I consider
the matter quietly, and I am in a sober frame of mind now, I must
confess that the reception you had is not altogether displeasing to
me. Lieutenants are not like schoolgirls who swear eternal friendship
in the first five minutes. Why should the 'Golden Butterflies' be
beside themselves with joy at the sight of you? Simply because you're
a handsome fellow? No, no, my boy. It rests with you to make your own
position in the regiment, and that you will make it I am perfectly
certain."

"At least I will try, father, and it shall not be my fault if I do
not succeed."

"Why ever should you not succeed? Don't begin in that spirit. Hold
your head high. Look courageously into the future. Whatever a man
bestirs himself eagerly to get can be got--and there's no more to be
said."

George acquiesced. "Yes, let us drop the subject; the future alone
can decide which of us is right. But there is one thing I should
very much like to know, and you did not answer that question in your
letters--wasn't it my mother's idea to get me transferred from a line
regiment to the Guards?"

The manufacturer laughed complacently. "Well, if you really must know
you're right, my boy, in your surmise. You know your mother--she's
a treasure, but she would not be a woman if the money, title, and
position which men sing of did not turn her head a little. We live
in good style nowadays, partly on account of your sister Elsa. We
entertain a great deal, and sometimes it was not very pleasant for
your mother when she was asked where you were, to have to admit that
you were stationed in some miserable little place with a second-rate
regiment. Of course, no one actually said anything, but your mother
read quite clearly in their faces--'You see there are still some
doors that money will not open.' That naturally vexed and annoyed
your mother and wounded her vanity; she has only one son you must
remember, and in her opinion the best is not good enough for him.
She dinned this so constantly in my ears that at last I did what she
wanted."

"That is just exactly what I thought," said George. "I can see my
mother doing this, how she coaxed you--I know every word that she
said. Well, she certainly meant it for my benefit, and now I do hope
she is very happy."

The manufacturer burst out laughing. "Happy, my boy? I tell you no
words can express the happiness she feels now. She is always dressed
nowadays in the best silk dress which was formerly reserved for the
grandest occasions."

George could not help laughing, and they went on talking about the
mother and sister, who was devotedly loved by her brother, of the
home and the factory, until the hour struck, and George remembered
that it was high time for him to be going to dinner.

The manufacturer made a wry face. "Can't we dine together? I thought
that in honour of this day we might have ordered at a first-class
restaurant a dinner which would have aroused the envy of the immortal
gods."

"To-day that is quite impossible, father; on the very first day I
must under no circumstances be absent from the mess dinner; perhaps
to-morrow I may be free."

The old man growled with vexation. "To-morrow is not to-day; however,
it can't be helped." And then after a short pause he said: "Can I not
dine with you in the mess-room? I thought perhaps I ought to call on
your immediate superiors, or, at any rate, upon your colonel."

George was somewhat embarrassed. He was a good son, was proud of his
father and greatly loved him, and just because of this he wanted to
prevent people seeing anything odd in his manners at dinner; above
all he was anxious that his companions should have no occasion to
make remarks about anything in his behaviour that displeased them.
Besides, he was afraid that his father, whose passionate, quick
temper he was only too well aware of, might lose his self-control and
make unflattering remarks which could only harm them both. So he said
hesitatingly; "I'm afraid that would scarcely do, father; it is an
old custom in the army that on the first time an officer dines with
his new comrades he is invited by them as a guest, and as such he
naturally cannot bring a guest with him."

The old man understood this more easily than George had dared to
hope. "Very well, then, I must drink my Rhine wine by myself; we
shall see each other again before we go to bed, and then you must
tell me everything that happened."

But when George returned about ten o'clock he had nothing much to
relate, at least nothing very pleasant. The dinner had been all
right; they had, of course, drunk his health, but that was all; the
officers' quarters were splendid, and George gave a long account of
these until his father at last said "Good-night" to him.

George went up to his room, but he lay awake a long time, and thought
over what he had not related to his father. The oldest officer at
dinner had bade him welcome briefly, but the words had sounded cold,
and George said to himself that he only spoke because he was obliged
to, and there was no heartiness in his words. The speech was followed
by a cheer, glasses were clinked, and then the affair was over. No
one had given him an invitation.

"Why did I not remain where I was? What's going to happen in the
future?"

This question kept him awake a long time, and when at last he
fell asleep he saw his mother's glad eyes beaming with joy at the
distinction which had been given to her son.



CHAPTER III

AMONG THE ARISTOCRACY


THE regiment had been back from the manoeuvres for five weeks,
recruits had been enlisted, and the military and social festivities
of the winter season in Berlin had begun. No one had looked forward
to the beginning of winter more anxiously than George. Although he
had been in the "Golden Butterflies" nearly six months he was still
as much a stranger to all his comrades as on the first day, for all
his attempts to fraternise with them had been frustrated by their
passive resistance. Now that the winter festivities had begun he
hoped to get into more friendly relationship with the officers.

To-day, Captain von Warnow, who had an elegant house with beautifully
large rooms, was giving a dance, and had invited the whole regiment.
Everybody was delighted, for entertainments at the Warnows were quite
different from the usual official parties.

The Warnow's niece, Fräulein von Wiedemann, a tall, slender, very
beautiful brunette of three-and-twenty, was staying with them, as
she did every winter. The young baroness was an acknowledged beauty,
and although during the last year or two she had lost some of her
charms, she was still considered a very beautiful girl. Her whole air
and bearing were distinguished, for she was an aristocrat through
and through. The Wiedemanns belonged to a very old family, and she
had been strictly brought up in the principles of her class. Her
father had been formerly an officer in a Guards regiment, for whom a
great military future had been prophesied, but one day he had made
a mistake during an inspection of his battalion, and now, as during
his military career he had spent all his own limited private means,
he lived with his wife and daughter in a small town on a pension
of about four thousand marks (£200) a year. His only son was an
officer in an important Artillery regiment. Great poverty reigned in
the household of the pensioned major: the allowance which his son
required to keep up appearances in his regiment swallowed up half
his pension, and the other half, in spite of all efforts, was not
sufficient to defray the ordinary expenses of living. Consequently
the major was up to his ears in debt.

At first he had not troubled himself much about this. Hildegarde,
his beautiful daughter, would one day make a great match, and would
then pay all his debts. But the years passed, and the splendid match
did not come off. Hildegarde would never marry well as long as she
remained in a little provincial town; then Frau von Warnow, who was
connected with the Wiedemanns, and was very fond of Hildegarde, came
forward and said she would find a suitable _parti_ for her. Five
years ago Hildegarde had gone to Berlin for her first visit; on all
sides she had aroused admiration, their Majesties had noticed her at
court festivities, but she was not yet engaged.

Not that suitors were lacking; one after another had endeavoured to
win her favour, but each in turn drew back when he heard of her lack
of dowry. None of the officers of the Guards--and neither Frau von
Warnow nor Hildegarde would have looked at anyone else--was rich
enough to marry a girl whose marriage portion consisted of her beauty
and a whole family plunged in debt. For it was not only the father's
debts that a son-in-law would have to pay, but a brother's, for the
latter was known as a giddy spendthrift and gambler. Hildegarde's
father could not in the least understand why after her first winter
in Berlin she returned home without a _fiancé_. He had so absolutely
reckoned upon a wealthy son-in-law that the non-realisation of his
hopes seemed to him like a terrible blow dealt him by Fate, and it
was long before he recovered from it. But at last hope had sprung up
once again in his heart, although there was really no prospect of
anything for either him or his daughter. Hildegarde's brother also
looked to her for deliverance; it surely must come one day, and he
was so deeply in debt that he could only just keep his head above
water by opportunely winning something at cards; but that could not
go on for long. His rich relatives helped him now and again with £50
or so, but he never dreamed of using this for paying his debts, but
usually gambled it away directly he got it. Whenever he was in a hole
he would write to his sister: "Fulfil the hopes that are centred upon
you; save us all, and do not be so haughty in your demands. It is
true that the idea of a middle-class brother-in-law, who has probably
never worn dress clothes and has moved in a quite different social
circle, is abhorrent to me, still I'd put up with him if only he had
money and was willing to help us."

Hildegarde scarcely ever read these letters nowadays, for she know
beforehand what they contained. Her father was in the habit of saying
exactly the same things when a bill came to the house, or her mother
asked for money for housekeeping, or the servants demanded their
wages. He always said on such occasions:

"Put away your aristocratic pride until you have got a husband.
There are any number of rich middle-class men who would be only
too delighted to get for their miserable money a beautiful and
aristocratic wife who would introduce them into Society and give them
a good social position. When you have got your husband then you can
be as aristocratic as ever you like, in order to impress him, and the
more you show what a sacrifice you made when you accepted him, the
more he will love and honour you."

Hildegarde could scarcely restrain herself from crying out: "What
am I to do? I can hardly do anything more than allow myself to be
exhibited and admired. I can't very well actually offer myself to
the men. I am often so terribly ashamed that I scarcely know how to
endure such a life, and what you say seems horrible to me. I cannot
understand how you can talk to me in this way; you ought to have
more respect for your daughter than to do so. It's money, money,
everlasting money; and to pay your debts I am to sell myself to the
first best man who offers sufficient for my body."

On such occasions violent speeches were on the tip of her tongue,
but she always restrained herself, for she knew what a terrible
struggle her father had, and how he lay awake for hours racking his
brains how to make both ends meet. When he had first left the army
he had delayed trying to get an appointment, for then he considered
it beneath his dignity to become the agent of an insurance company
or something of the sort; now it was too late, and he was not young
enough to get work. To the end of his life he was condemned to lead
this miserable existence of an officer who had been pensioned early:
there was neither career nor money for him. His wife suffered almost
more than he did; she was an elegant, distinguished-looking woman,
who longed to be back in Berlin and to share in the magnificent
entertainments where she had been so much admired. A violent dispute
had taken place between her and her husband when he retired to the
provincial town; she would deny herself, she would put up with all
kinds of deprivations, but she longed to breathe again the air she
had formerly enjoyed. "Only wait a year or so until Hildegarde is
married, and then we will go back again to Berlin," her husband had
said to her again and again. And at last she had given in. At first
she had firmly resolved to live very economically in the little town,
but by degrees she was again the distinguished and elegant woman of
society who could not alter her mode of living and her _toilettes_.
She spoke to her daughter continually of her prospective marriage,
and there were hours when she did not scruple to reproach her child
violently: "How is it that other young girls, who are not nearly so
beautiful and elegant as you, get married? You must be either very
stand-offish or you must make it too apparent that you want to get
married. Both attitudes are unsuitable."

Hildegarde suffered terribly from the speeches and all the family
circumstances, but she suffered even more on account of the visits to
her relatives. It is true it was a pleasure to be in a rich household
once again, to hear nothing of money worries; but letters from her
parents followed her to Berlin with the request that she should
borrow money for them from their relatives. Then again the gaieties
were quite spoiled for her, because every evening before going to bed
her aunt used to say, "Has nothing of importance happened to-day?"
And even if her aunt did not actually say this, and tried not to let
her see what she felt, Hildegarde noticed that it was no longer a
pleasure to her aunt to take her about, for she saw the uselessness
of all her efforts, and would have preferred her niece not to have
visited her again.

This year Hildegarde had determined not to go to Berlin; her pride
and her vanity revolted against being a burden to her relatives
again, and playing a despicable, yet pitiable, _rôle_. She had often
noticed both the contemptuous and the sympathetic glances with which
she had been greeted when she paid calls; some people privately
joked at the idea of her not having given up thinking about a
husband, others, knowing her straitened circumstances, felt sympathy
for her.

"Under no circumstances will I go to Berlin this year," she
declared to her parents. "I am too proud and too ashamed to exhibit
myself again at all the parties, and yet get neither a lover nor a
purchaser!"

The dispute lasted all day long, but at last her father, who was
threatened with a warrant for distraint on account of a wine bill
for five hundred marks, fell on his knees before her and begged her
to save him. Then at last her opposition gave way. But she felt so
wretched and miserable, so degraded and despondent, that during the
long railway journey she constantly wept.

"My dear child, you have never before looked so out of sorts; what
is the matter with you?" her aunt had asked her, and she had only
been reassured when Hildegarde feigned a violent headache. Her
aunt breathed more freely, but next morning and the following days
Hildegarde's looks did not satisfy her, and it was impossible to
conceal the fact that she was no longer the blooming young girl that
she had been. Her aunt looked at her sympathetically, and more to
herself than to her niece she said, "It's high time--high time!"

"Yes, it certainly is," chimed in Hildegarde, "for I cannot bear
this life any longer. If I do not get engaged this time--and I am
convinced I shall _not_--I am going to get a place as a governess or
a companion, or something of the sort. This I know--I won't go home
again."

"Hildegarde!" Frau von Warnow looked with utter astonishment at her
niece, who was sitting opposite her. She was very pale, her eyes had
dark rings underneath them, there were melancholy, despondent lines
round her mouth. "Hildegarde, do think what you are saying. You, to
take a place. You, a Wiedemann! that is quite impossible; on our
account alone it would never do, and you must consider us."

Hildegarde did not answer, but her eyes expressed resolution and
determination, and Frau von Warnow poured forth her fears to her
husband. "Just fancy," she said, "Hildegarde is determined that
this will be the last time she visits us, and she is capable of
carrying out her determination; if she does so, it will be a serious
reflection upon us, and people will reproach us with not having given
her enough money. They will say, 'How can such rich people as the
Warnows allow a near relative to take a situation and earn her own
living.' People will think us cold and lacking in all decent feeling,
and will say that even if Hildegarde could not have stayed at home,
the proper place for her was with us."

Captain von Warnow looked indignant, and as a sign of his
vexation he thrust out his underlip and twisted and twirled his
faultlessly-pointed moustaches. "My dear Clara, pray spare me these
matters; settle the affair with Hildegarde. I have more important
things to think about--in a few days the major will be present at the
drill, and, as you know, it may go off all right, but it may _not_."

"Quite so," his wife agreed. He did not perceive the irony of her
words.

"Ah! I am glad you see that; then you will understand that at present
I am more interested in the success of my men than whether Hildegarde
accepts a post or not. You understand, don't you?"

His wife quite understood. For a long time her husband had been
somewhat tired of acting as guardian to Hildegarde. He was very fond
of her, but her family got on his nerves; he hated those perpetual
begging-letters, but he always gave money, partly out of affection
for his niece, partly because he felt he owed it to his position.
He could not bear the idea of his cousin, whose ancestors had
been distinguished in the Thirty Years' War, being summoned by a
tradesman; such a thing was out of the question. He would have much
preferred that his wife had never taken upon herself the difficult
task of getting Hildegarde married, for then he need not have been
brought into close connection with her family. He could not help it,
but whenever he received a letter from the Wiedemanns he felt as if
he were dealing with something that was not quite clean, and as soon
as ever he had read the letter he washed his carefully-looked-after
hands with great ceremony.

Frau von Warnow was very much perturbed about Hildegarde; she could
not possibly be allowed to take a situation; that would compromise
them too much: at the same time she did not want her to live with
them. There was only one way out of the difficulty; Hildegarde must
get engaged during the coming season, but the question was--to whom?
The night before her entertainment Frau von Warnow lay awake, turning
over in her mind as to who should take Hildegarde in to dinner, and
it was only toward morning that a happy thought occurred to her. It
was such a simple one that she could not understand why it had not
occurred to her before. Winkler, of course, must marry Hildegarde,
and at breakfast she disclosed her plan to her niece, who listened
to it with indifference; this man or that was just the same to her
if she could be rescued from her miserable family circumstances,
her wretched poverty, and was not obliged to hear the oft-repeated
and monotonous reproaches flung at her head. A quiet, resigned
smile played on her finely-cut lips. "So this time the deliverer was
called Winkler. I should much like to know what he looks like, though
probably to you that is a matter of no importance. Is he nice?"

Frau von Warnow was somewhat embarrassed for a moment. "I don't know
him yet."

"And yet you recommend him to me as a husband?" The words breathed
irony and bitterness.

Frau von Warnow quickly recovered her presence of mind. "What do you
want? He is very rich, his father is said to be a millionaire, he's
simply made for you. Have I never spoken to you about him? Didn't
I? Well, I suppose I forgot his name. One has as a rule, thank
heaven, so little to do with these middle-class persons that one
does not trouble to remember their names. Winkler, however, belongs
to our regiment, he is in my husband's company; you know Eric's
views concerning middle-class officers, but he is obliged to admit
that this Winkler performs his duties most satisfactorily, and that
probably in the course of a few years he will have won promotion.
For Eric to say that is the highest praise. Up to the present, as
you can quite understand, he has remained a rank outsider, although
he must have been quite six months in the regiment, for social
prejudices cannot be cast on one side so quickly. Winkler has a
difficult position here; if you became engaged to him everything
would be altered in a moment--he would then be distantly connected
with us; through you he would belong to one of the most distinguished
families, and as your _fiancé_ he would not only be invited by the
most exclusive people, but--how exactly can I express it?--he would
be made quite at home among them."

The last words were uttered with some difficulty by Frau von Warnow,
and she was not quite honest in what she said. She knew, indeed,
that she herself would never look upon Lieutenant Winkler as a
relative, and that all the other aristocratic families would regard
the marriage as a _mesalliance_; they would either not receive him
at all, or confine themselves to entirely formal intercourse and the
exchange of the necessary courtesies. But that was a matter of entire
indifference; the important thing was to provide for Hildegarde.

Frau von Warnow was silent for a moment. She was quite exhausted by
her long speech; then she turned to her niece and said: "Well, what
do you think of my plan?"

Hildegarde said nothing; what would have been the use of saying, "It
is hateful to get engaged to a man in this way; a man whom I do not
know, whom I have never seen, and therefore I cannot tell whether I
should like him or not." Her aunt was so occupied with her project
that she did not notice Hildegarde's silence, she did not even wait
for her answer, but said, "Of course, therefore, Lieutenant Winkler
will take you in to dinner."

"But will it not look odd if I go in to dinner with an officer who
has so lately entered the regiment when several of the older men will
not be able to take in a lady?"

Frau von Warnow bit her lips with vexation. Hildegarde was quite
right. She must not allow her project to be too apparent, and after a
moment's thought she said:

"Yes, that won't do, certainly. Baron von Masemann must take you in
to dinner, and Winkler must sit on the other side of you. As he comes
to our house to-day for the first time and belongs to Eric's company,
it will not attract attention if I give him a specially good place at
dinner. Moreover, I intend to say a few friendly words to him before
all the other guests. Perhaps, even, I shall get Eric to welcome him
in a little speech."

But Eric objected. "That's going a little too far. I couldn't justify
myself to my comrades if I did that, and I should arouse a violent
protest. I cannot avoid asking Winkler to my house as he belongs
to the regiment and is an officer in my company; but to toast
him--to-day when, with the exception of the servants, he is the only
middle-class man in our house--that is out of the question."

Von Warnow was, indeed, absolutely opposed to his wife's plan of
betrothing Hildegarde to Lieutenant Winkler.

"Winkler a connection of mine! No, thank you. Later, I suppose, I
shall have to be on quite intimate terms with the fellow. It would
be far better for Hildegarde not to marry at all than to marry a
plebeian."

He walked up and down the room indignantly, and only recovered his
composure when his wife, quite against her real feeling in the
matter, for she already saw the bridal pair standing at the altar,
said:

"You jump to a conclusion too quickly. When that happens we can
consider the matter."

The entrance of the servants, who had still many preparations to make
for the entertainment, brought the conversation to an end, and it was
now quite time to dress. So the husband and wife did not meet again
till the first carriage rolled up to the door.

"Wherever is Hildegarde?"

At last she appeared, just as the first guests arrived. She looked
charming in her cream robe, though there was a somewhat tired and
anxious look upon her face.

Carriage after carriage rolled up to the door, and the spacious
reception-rooms were soon filled. All the guests knew one another and
were frequent visitors at the Warnows, and conversation was soon in
full swing. Most of them had not seen each other during the summer,
and there were no end of questions as to where they had been during
the holidays. They talked about the prospective gaieties of the
season, of the court festivities, the programme of which had just
appeared.

Lieutenant Winkler was apparently the last to arrive. He had
purposely come late so that he might be introduced to the whole
assembly at one and the same moment. He knew scarcely any of the
ladies, for only the least important of them had included him in
their visiting list. Was it by chance or intentionally that just
as he came into the room dead silence reigned? George noticed that
the ladies suddenly broke off their conversation and looked at him
coldly. For a brief moment he was embarrassed, for even the lady of
the house was unknown to him. Which was she? Then Frau von Warnow
came towards him, and Lieutenant Winkler took a step forward and
kissed her hand.

"You are heartily welcome, Lieutenant Winkler. I am delighted to see
you among us."

Everybody heard the words as Frau von Warnow had desired, and so
nobody would be astonished later on if she were somewhat specially
attentive to him. She exchanged a few words with the lieutenant, and
then she introduced him to the ladies. Last of all she turned to her
niece.

"Dear Hildegarde, allow me to introduce to you Lieutenant Winkler."

Hildegarde had purposely kept in the background. She had even
attempted to avoid the introduction. It was disagreeable to her
even to approach a man whom they had just been discussing in such a
way that morning, and she could scarcely conceal her embarrassment.
George did not observe this. He bowed and went into the corridor
to take off his helmet and scarf. Hildegarde breathed more freely.
Thank heaven! the first meeting was over, and she made up her mind to
devote herself to the man who took her in to dinner and not trouble
about Lieutenant Winkler. But when they went into the dining-room
and took their places at the table, beautifully decorated with
freshly-gathered flowers, Hildegarde saw, only too soon, that during
the year in which she had not seen her companion he had not become
more amusing or wittier. Baron von Masemann belonged to a very
ancient family and was a conscientious officer, but otherwise he was
a nonentity. All his efforts were directed towards being considered
the best-mannered man among a set of well-mannered men, and this
was a somewhat difficult task in a regiment that numbered counts
and barons. Thus he felt it behoved him, by his whole behaviour and
bearing not to abrogate his dignity in the slightest degree. He was
haughty and reserved because he considered this to be well bred, and
he spoke little, for he thought an aristocrat should speak little
but observe much. So now at the dinner-table he merely inquired
of his companion in the politest possible manner how she had been
during the long period when he had not had the pleasure of seeing
her. He asked her how long she meant to stay in Berlin, and when he
had received this information, which did not in the least interest
him, he considered he had done his duty. He remained silent, and
when Hildegarde tried to entertain her companion he listened with
an artificial air of interest, and as a sign that he was paying
attention to her he now and again threw in a "Yes" or "No," or other
equally striking remarks.

"Baroness, would you be so good as to pass the sauce-tureen?"

Hildegarde, with an "Excuse me," turned to her right and took the
bowl from George to pass it to her neighbour on the left.

"May I trouble you again?" Once more she turned to the right and
looked at George for the first time; until now she had studiously
avoided him, and she was astonished at the intelligent expression
and the seriousness of character which his eyes revealed; there
was nothing of the Guardsman about him, for their only ambition was
to appear _blasé_ and amusing. Another thing about him pleased her:
that was the look of genuine admiration and respect with which he
regarded her. She noticed that he was attracted to her, and that her
beauty made a deep impression upon him; she was extremely pleased to
find that, unlike most young lieutenants, he had not begun by paying
violent court to her, and acting the part of the irresistible male
who has only to use his eyes to attract every girl to him.

"Appearances may be deceptive, of course," thought Hildegarde, "but
I have picked up a good deal of knowledge of human nature during the
last few years, and if I am not mistaken this is a good and sensible
man." She suddenly became desirous of talking to him. Apparently he
had not the courage to address her, perhaps he did not know what to
say to her a complete stranger, so she must begin the conversation.
It occurred to her that she might try and win the young officer's
heart, and also his money, so that at last she might rescue her
parents and brother from their dire poverty.

A crimson flush mounted to her cheeks, and she bent low over
the plate so that he might not observe it. Lieutenant Winkler
misinterpreted her embarrassment and said frankly: "I beg your
pardon, if my glances have perturbed you in any way. As excuse
I can only say that never before have I seen so much beauty and
grace united in one person; I had no intention of making you feel
uncomfortable."

The words sounded so frank and honourable; but far from having the
desired effect, they produced just the contrary feeling; once again
the blood rushed to her cheeks, for she felt she was playing a poor
part towards this young officer. At last she recovered her composure,
and with an attempt at badinage, she said: "What, you begin to pay
compliments before the champagne comes! still, one can't help liking
them when they are expressed so pleasantly."

"I am so glad that you are not angry with me," was his reply.

And now that the ice was once broken they began to chatter to each
other. George possessed the gift of conversation to a high degree
as Hildegarde soon noticed; he had a very pleasant voice, and this
added to her pleasure in listening to him. From every word that he
spoke she could see that he was a thoroughly cultivated man, who
had studied much and took an interest in a great many subjects. In
knowledge and general intelligence he was certainly far superior
to his companions. "If I had not gone into the army I should have
studied political economy," he said in the course of conversation.
"My father has a large manufactory and employs countless workmen;
he is unceasingly occupied in trying to improve their social and
material position; he sees that they have cheap and good dwellings;
he has built libraries, given play-grounds and open-air spaces for
the children; in short, he has done all that was possible to improve
their condition. Of course, my father has talked to me about all
these things; he gave me all sorts of books to read, and explained
what I could not understand. As I said to you, if I had not gone into
the army I should have interested myself in the social question."

"Why did you go into the army, and are you satisfied with your
career?"

He answered her second question only. "I have now been six years
in the army, and cannot say with a simple 'Yes' or 'No' whether my
military duties will satisfy me permanently. Naturally, I hope and
believe they will, but if later I see I have made a mistake, then I
shall leave the service, and take over the management of the factory,
for my father has given me a completely free hand. Of course, what I
do in the future naturally depends upon whether I get promotion in
the regiment as you will understand without any further explanations
from me."

He skilfully turned the conversation to another subject and told
her more about the factory. Hildegarde listened with great interest,
for everything that she heard was quite new to her. She had not the
faintest conception of the life and labour of other people, and until
then had never indeed thought about such things. In the circles in
which she moved people either lived on their money or regarded work
more or less from the point of view of suitability to a person's
birth, or they lived as _grand seigneurs_ in poor circumstances, and
regarded it as beneath their dignity to work for money.

The time passed very quickly; Hildegarde confined her attentions to
George, and forgot all about Baron von Masemann. The latter made
several attempts to address some feeble remarks to her, but when he
saw that she went on talking to George he closed his mouth tight. He
generally occupied himself at dinner with observing carefully how his
younger companions behaved and whether their manners and behaviour at
dinner called for any report. This was his speciality, and on account
of this he was feared, for there was scarcely any entertainment which
did not give him an occasion for rebuking his comrades next day.
As he was considered a great authority on etiquette, people were
really very grateful for his instructions, but unfortunately he had
a terribly sarcastic and ironical way of delivering his words of
wisdom, which irritated the younger officers far more than a torrent
of abusive words.

Hildegarde looked up quite astonished when she suddenly saw that the
guests were rising. How often had she not longed for the dinner to
end when she had sat by the side of a lieutenant who told her about
his stupid recruits or stale stories which had no connection with one
another. Now, on the contrary, she was sorry that the dinner was over.

A little dance concluded the entertainment, and it was towards
midnight when the guests departed. Scarcely had the last gone when
Frau von Warnow embraced her niece warmly. "Hildegarde, I am happy.
I was continually watching you two at dinner and during the dance.
Lieutenant Winkler couldn't take his eyes off you. Mark my words,
this time the thing will come off; it was easy to see that the man
was infatuated with you. To-morrow I shall write to your father."

These words affected Hildegarde like a stream of cold water. For the
first time for many a long day she had really enjoyed a party, and
during the pleasant conversation she had quite forgotten her parents
and her own miserable circumstances; now that the whole thing stood
out clearly in her mind she was utterly depressed.

"Remember what I say, Hildegarde, in less than three months you
will be engaged. If you had always been as amiable and friendly to
men as you were to-day to Lieutenant Winkler you would have been
married long ago. Well, to-day you played your cards well; Winkler is
certainly in love with you."

If Hildegarde had received a blow on the forehead she could not have
felt it more than these words. During the course of the evening she
had completely forgotten her aunt's project with regard to Lieutenant
Winkler, and now she was accused of trying to ensnare him, and
this insulting insinuation was regarded by her aunt as the highest
praise. An indignant answer half rose to her lips, but as usual she
restrained herself. She had long ago given up trying to justify
herself; her aunt would not have believed her, she would not indeed
have understood it.

She was delighted when at last she could go to her own room, where
she burst into a flood of passionate tears. She was conscious of
having done nothing wrong, and yet she felt as if she would like to
sink into the earth for shame.



CHAPTER IV

A GAME OF CARDS


IT was some weeks later. The fifth company came on guard at mid-day
and George was on garrison duty. He was in an extremely bad temper,
for he had just been obliged to give a piece of his mind to a
sub-lieutenant, named Nissew, who was a great favourite of Captain
von Warnow. The captain was most particular that there should be
no swearing while on duty, and he required his subordinates to
act as perfect gentlemen. George had long perceived that this was
ridiculous; he himself detested blows, ill-treatment and brutality
towards inferiors, but on the other hand he knew quite well that at
the right moment a few strong words worked wonders. You couldn't
manage otherwise in the army; the men indeed expected that now
and again a sounding curse should descend on their heads. But the
captain was so excessively polite that he indeed would like to have
addressed his men as "Herr So-and-so!" The men of course laughed at
their superior behind his back, and in George's opinion the company
did not work nearly hard enough. The Poles and East Prussians in his
former regiment had been far more active and well-drilled soldiers,
it seemed to him, than these troops on parade, who were handled with
silk gloves. The under officers naturally followed in their captain's
footsteps, partly because they agreed with him, but largely from
an instinct of self-preservation, for Herr von Warnow ruthlessly
got rid of any subordinate who had once earned his anger by cursing
or swearing. To George the most disagreeable of all the inferior
officers was von Nissew, a one-year service man, who on account of
his noble birth was regarded as an _enfant gaté_ by the captain,
and was later to be made a sergeant-major; he was a time-server of
the worst kind, was always faultlessly dressed, and his outward
appearance made a very good impression. George did not know how it
was, but from the very first day he had taken a dislike to him; he
distrusted his cunning grey eyes, and it was extremely unpleasant
to him that just this particular officer should be placed in his
company, to a certain extent to give him instructions, and to be able
to say to him, "Captain von Warnow desires that such and such a thing
should be done."

George did not like the way in which he treated his men. Nissew was
always almost exaggeratedly polite to his inferiors, yet somehow in
his words there sounded a secret threat. George had often noticed
how the people trembled before his piercing, scrutinising glance.
This very day he had been struck by something; the sub-lieutenant was
giving instructions to a man who had on several occasions made a bad
appearance on parade duty, apparently with the greatest politeness,
but his glance had augured nothing good. When George had turned away
he heard the officer whisper to the man, "Before you go on guard come
to me. I want to say a word to you, and arouse your sense of honour."
The soldier turned pale, and George had thereupon called the officer
aside. He knew the meaning of that expression "arouse a feeling of
honour," he knew that it was generally accompanied with blows and
curses. He said as much to the sub-lieutenant, forbade him to summon
the man, and exhorted him earnestly to do nothing that was not
allowed. Nissew assumed an utterly astonished and injured expression.
How could Lieutenant Winkler think such a thing about him? He had
never done anything wrong. Captain von Warnow knew that perfectly
well, and therefore he had given him permission, once for all, to
call the men to account if they did not do their duty satisfactorily.
The sub-lieutenant walked off with a highly-injured expression, and
George knew that immediately the captain came he would be rebuked
because he had dared to cast doubts on his subordinate.

And so it was. Captain von Warnow saw immediately that something was
the matter with his favourite, and asked him what it was. Nissew
knew perfectly well that he could only make a complaint of his
lieutenant after twenty-four hours had elapsed, if he were not to
render himself liable to punishment. So at first he hesitated, but
at the direct command of his superior he related what had happened,
but he related it in such a way that though it purported to be merely
a description, it was really a complaint of the insult he had just
received. Herr von Warnow listened silently, then he said: "I must
speak to Lieutenant Winkler." He spoke severely to him. "It has
often seemed to me, Lieutenant Winkler, that you are suspicious and
distrustful of Sub-Lieutenant Nissew; I can assure you he is one of
the best officers in my company. You have only known him for six
months. I have known him for three years. He has never given me the
slightest occasion to reprimand him, but his zeal and enthusiasm for
his military duties will suffer if you are continually worrying him,
and it must deeply wound him if you really think him capable of such
shameful behaviour, as ill-treatment of the soldiers certainly is. I
beg you to consider my words very seriously."

When, therefore, George returned to his own division it was extremely
disagreeable to him to have to share duties with Nissew; he saw quite
clearly the malicious glance that he now and again gave him on the
sly, and yet he had to act as if he saw nothing. He had no desire to
rebuke him a second time, and to be rebuked himself a second time;
the relations between him and his captain had so far been tolerably
pleasant. He did not want to destroy them intentionally. "Whatever
does it matter to me?" he said to himself at last; "after all, it
is not I who am responsible for the men but the captain, and if he
thinks his lieutenant the epitome of perfection it is all right."

He therefore determined not to trouble himself any more about his
subordinate, and after a few weeks he discovered that this was the
most sensible thing to do. Captain von Warnow had inquired whether he
left Nissew alone, and when the latter replied in the affirmative he
became quite friendly with George again.

As far as his military duties were concerned, George got on very
well; his men had been praised on inspection parade, his drill
during the winter had been considered good, and the performance of
his duties as an officer had been well spoken of. He was really
an excellent officer; his appearance on parade, his personal
bearing and his behaviour to his subordinates gave occasion for no
adverse criticism; he was strict and honourable, and impartial in
his treatment. Thus he soon won the respect of his men, and when
one day his orderly fell ill, and the sergeant-major asked who
would voluntarily act as Lieutenant Winkler's servant, almost the
whole company offered. Even Captain von Warnow was pleased when he
heard this, and his men's behaviour filled George with justifiable
satisfaction; it was a delightful feeling to him to know that he had
been able to win his men's affection to such an extent.

Officially things were going on well with George, but socially he was
no better off than on the first day he had entered the regiment. He
was obliged to confess himself that he had not advanced one step. It
was certainly not his fault. He was not extravagant in his mode of
life, he was modest in his behaviour, courteous towards his elders,
and from a remark he had heard by chance he knew that his comrades
thought highly of him for not being ostentatious with his money, and
for "messing" just as they did.

George had made several attempts and had really exerted himself to
try and get to know some of his comrades better, to discover their
true character, and find out whether the distant and reserved air
that they always wore was a mask, or corresponded to their real
nature. In this particular respect he was specially interested
in his colleague in the company, Baron von Masemann. Even in
intercourse with his contemporaries he acted as if he were at court.
An artificial restrained air reigned at meals, so George thought;
they talked a good deal, of course, but there was no harmless fun,
no unconstrained merriment. George was horribly bored. They only
talked court gossip and told pointless stories which could only
have interest for the others because they referred to the most
aristocratic circles; and as George did not even know the names of
most of the families mentioned, the conversation was absolutely
uninteresting to him. Not a single serious subject was ever touched
upon; George contented himself with the part of listener, and thus as
he found little opportunity of joining in the conversation he did not
get any more intimate with his comrades.

In the regiment the officers had gradually accepted the unalterable
fact that George was to be one of them, but that was all. If they
no longer shed tears because he was there, still they could not
pretend they were pleased; they were quite polite to him, but they
erected these social barriers which excluded all confidence and
intimacy. Thus it came about that George had not a single friend in
the regiment. All maintained a certain reserve towards him, more
especially his contemporaries, though George had shown himself
friendly in all his relations with them. Curiously, the most
haughty among them all was the one who attracted him most. This was
Lieutenant von Willberg, the one who had burst into tears when he
heard of George's transference. He was possessed of an incredible
pride, but he had his saner moments, as George called them, and
then he was a lovable, happy, delightful creature; his adorable
youthful light-heartedness showed itself, and then George quite
understood how, in spite of everything, in spite of the warp in his
nature, little Willberg was the darling and the pet of the regiment.
George did not know how Willberg had felt about his coming into the
regiment, and he had often wished to know him better, but so far the
opportunity had not yet offered itself.

One day when George came into barracks he found a large company
assembled there. Various guests had been invited, comrades from
other regiments, mostly Cavalry officers. Of course the guests sat
at the upper end of the table with the older officers of the "Golden
Butterflies," and it was not without envy that those sitting at the
lower end of the table regarded them. Even the Guards-Infantry were
impressed by the Hussars and Uhlans, for the Cavalry officers were
considered the most distinguished body in the army. Everybody saw how
delighted the "Golden Butterflies" were to see their distinguished
guests among them. They vied with each other in amiability, and
even the elder chiefs and some of the younger staff officers, who
were bachelors and daily dined together in the mess-room, made no
concealment of the pleasure the visit gave and how honoured they
felt. When they all rose from the table to take their coffee and
cigars in the smoking-room, the guests were invited to take the large
comfortable easy chairs, and the "Golden Butterflies" stood around
them in a semi-circle. Each tried to gain the notice of the Cavalry
officers and to be very attentive to them. To be invited to dine by
the Cavalry Guard was a distinction for which all strove; for only
when one had dined with them was one considered quite "tip-top"; the
officers of the Guards accepted invitations from allied regiments,
but they themselves were excessively careful in the choice of their
guests. Little Willberg literally flung himself at their heads. He
stood near Baron Gersbach, whose people came from his own district,
and played the part of the darling of the regiment, and tried to
engage his guests in an interesting conversation. Apparently this did
not make the least impression upon the Uhlan, who stretched out his
legs, and carelessly smoked one cigar after the other.

But little Willberg was most anxious to impress the Uhlan in some
way or other, if not as a pleasant companion then as a clever,
sharp-witted fellow, and so he said to him: "How would it be if we
had a game of cards?"

They spoke quite openly in the barracks about card-playing. It is
true it was forbidden, and indeed at regular intervals the most
stringent orders against playing for money were publicly read out,
and listened to with that respect which is proper for commands
emanating from such high places, but further than this no one
troubled about the prohibition. The military authorities knew all
about it, but they shut their eyes, and indeed it sometimes happened
that the colonels themselves played with their own officers. What
could the military authorities do? In a little garrison town it was
easy enough to see that an order was carried out, but in a large town
it was utterly impossible. The officers would play, and if they were
not allowed to play in the barracks or the mess-room, then they would
gamble in some club or in another regiment or in their own homes.
Whoever means to gamble will find an opportunity. Officially of
course, it was said, officers are not allowed to gamble; but one must
distinguish between gambling and gambling. If a fellow lost twenty
marks it didn't matter to anybody, and if he lost a hundred, what did
it matter? And if a man has the misfortune to lose a thousand marks
surely he isn't more liable to punishment than if he had only staked
twenty? If the military authorities intended to punish everybody
who touched a pack of cards, then the number of officers in any one
year would be reduced by half. The lieutenants who played would, of
course, be punished, and the colonels in whose regiments gambling
went on would run the risk of dismissal because they had not seen
that the stringent regulations concerning gambling were carried out.
Now, a man who is a colonel naturally wishes to become a general,
and he is not likely to risk his military reputation by giving
information which he can suppress if he likes.

Little Willberg repeated the question which the Uhlan at first
thought it beneath his dignity to answer. At last he looked at him
somewhat astonished: "You had better take care, you will lose your
money; are you so very rich that you don't mind losing it?"

Willberg slapped his pockets cheekily: "They're quite full to-day,
I've just had a remittance."

Willberg could not account for it, but suddenly he had an odd
feeling. It had taken a long time to squeeze a thousand marks out
of his old father to pay some of his most pressing debts. He had
therefore the feeling that it was not quite right to risk any on
a game of cards, but he would rather have died than confessed it
now. Had he done so he would have for ever blamed himself and
made himself supremely ridiculous in the sight of those beautiful
patent-leather boots and silver spurs, which were the things that
impressed him most in the Uhlan. However, he determined not to risk
more than half of his cash; if he lost that, then the affair was
over, if he won, then he would reconsider matters.

Baron Gersbach was known as a great gambler, and it was an open
secret that it was only through gambling that he managed to keep his
head above water. He had long ago spent his inheritance, and did not
receive a penny beyond his pay, and yet his pockets were always full
of bank-notes. Many people wondered why he was allowed to remain in
the army. It was said that he enjoyed the protection of those high
in authority. The story went that even his superior officers and men
of the highest rank had played with him. Curiously enough he was
an excellent officer, and an exceedingly good rider, who had often
distinguished himself at the races. He might almost have been called
a professional gambler, though he was known to gamble perfectly
honourably and straightforwardly. He did not gamble every day, but
only from time to time, when he was driven to make a great _coup_,
but even then he only touched cards when an inward voice told him:
"To-day you will win." If he was not quite sure about this, he
could not be induced to join in a game of cards; thus, whenever he
played he won, and people were really astonished that he could ever
find anyone who was willing to lose his money to the baron. But, of
course, each of them hoped that his case would prove the exception,
and so again and again men were willing to risk their luck. All
those who had not already played with him regarded it as a great
distinction to be invited to do so, and indeed anybody who had not
played with Baron Gersbach at least once, was considered not quite
the thing.

They did not begin to play cards, to a certain extent from
politeness, until the staff officers had left the room. One of the
majors indeed found it extremely difficult to go, for he was an
inveterate gambler and would gladly have stayed behind; everybody was
quite aware of this. Still he really owed something to his position;
he could not very well win money from his subalterns--at any rate not
in barracks--that wouldn't do at all.

Scarcely had they left the room when all constraint was abandoned,
and George observed his comrades with considerable astonishment. They
had often played cards in his presence, but he had never seen them
like this before; it was the first time that they had cast on one
side their air of elaborate repose and faultlessly correct behaviour.
It seemed as if an evil spirit had taken possession of them, a mad
intoxication, the passion for gambling had seized upon them all, they
were nervous and excited. They were all asking themselves whether
they were going to win or lose, one saw it by the excitement in their
eyes, their pale faces, the nervous twitching of their hands.

Only one man was absolutely calm, and that was the Uhlan. With
his legs wide apart, he sat leaning back on the sofa, and did not
trouble himself in the least degree about the preparations for the
game. Whether he was inwardly as calm as he looked, who could say?
Outwardly, at any rate, he did not betray the faintest excitement.

At last the card-table was all ready, and the adjutant of the
regiment, Count Wettborn, turned to Baron Gersbach and said: "Well,
what do you say, shall we have a game of cards?"

Much depended on the Uhlan's reply, for if he had said "No," the
whole thing would have been quite different; they would just have had
a harmless, pleasant little game. But to-day the Uhlan was in the
right mood for playing--to-day on getting up he had felt cheerful
and happy, and an inward voice had told him: "To-day you can again
risk a large sum of money." In spite of this, however, the cautious
creature had said to himself: "If my Leda gets over the hurdles
to-day without breaking her neck, I will risk it," and his Leda had
jumped over them three times like a darling. He had looked into his
carefully-kept diary to see which regiments he had not visited for
a long time; his choice fell on the "Golden Butterflies," and he
was glad, for they would pay a couple of thousands for the honour
of his visit without murmuring and grumbling. So he telephoned to
the adjutant to ask if he might dine with them and bring a couple
of his good friends with him. Count Wettborn was not a particularly
intelligent person, but he quite understood the meaning of the
message, and as he himself was a keen gambler, he was only too
delighted to say yes.

With inimitable nonchalance the Uhlan got up from the sofa and sank
down into a chair which his attentive friends placed for him. Then
he dived into his pockets and brought out his pocket-book, and
the others noticed with a certain amount of misgiving the roll of
bank-notes that bulged out. They remembered the true principle of all
gambling; you can only win at cards if you have a large amount of
capital, and can hold out when the luck is against you. The Uhlan had
the necessary capital, and who therefore could hope to win against
him? Then the adjutant, Count Wettborn, put his pocket-book on the
table, and the "Golden Butterflies" were extremely proud when they
saw his purse; it was a little heirloom which he always carried
about with him, for the count belonged to a very rich family, besides
which, he was heir to an uncle who often gave him large sums of money.

"Really, our adjutant's a fine fellow," whispered one "Golden
Butterfly" to another. "We really have a right to be proud of him:
from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he's tip-top. I
believe even the Cavalry officers envy us him."

The other players dipped into their pockets; some who carried their
money in bank-notes in pocket-books, more or less ostentatiously,
whilst others who kept their possessions in a purse, furtively drew
out a few gold coins--at the game of "Sieben" the stake began at
twenty marks.

Little Willberg took out his £50 bank-note. Although he was heavily
in debt he felt very proud of his possessions; and as he walked
through the streets of the city he had held himself erect and lofty,
thinking that everyone must see that he had a £50 bank-note with
him. He had felt very rich then, but now in comparison with the sums
that glittered forth from the others' purses, he seemed miserably
poor; he was ashamed of his limited means, and was filled with envy
and ill-will. It was a miserable and deplorable state of affairs
always to be obliged to bother about money, and to have to say to
oneself: "You mustn't do this and that," and to be perpetually
forced to borrow. It would be glorious, even if only for once, to
possess a purse full of money; above all, to be able to carry about
bank-notes--that would be really too exquisite for anything. If one
were stationed in an out-of-the-way little garrison, of course it
wouldn't matter whether one had much or little money; but in Berlin,
where one mixed with so many distinguished rich people, like those
who were their guests to-day, then it was indeed a miserable thing to
possess nothing but one wretched £50 note!

The game had gone on for a long time--the Uhlan kept the bank. "Well,
Willberg, won't you stake something? you were so impatient to play a
little while ago."

Willberg roused himself; he had been deep in thought; the gold that
was clinking on all sides glimmered before him, he had only one wish,
one thought to possess it all.

"Yes, yes, of course I will play. A hundred marks on the seven--no,
two hundred." A second later and he had lost the money.

"Two hundred again." He lost that.

"Two hundred again." This time he had good luck, and fourteen hundred
marks were counted out to him. Again the seven came to him, he had
staked four hundred upon it, and so he won back nearly three thousand
marks.

Little Willberg was astonished; he felt as if he had done a wonderful
thing. Even the Uhlan cast upon him a glance of recognition, and when
he had paid him his winnings, gave him a hearty "bravo." This praise
made Willberg so proud that he immediately staked four hundred marks
upon the seven, and lost it.

George had looked on at the game for a considerable time without
taking any share in it, now he began to tire of it, and thought he
would quietly retire. He went through the reading-room, when someone
suddenly called him by name, and when he turned round he saw the
first lieutenant, von Kirchberg, in an easy chair.

"Where are you going?" he asked him.

George felt he was caught, for it was not considered the correct
thing to go off in this fashion, but he said nevertheless, "I meant
to go home."

The other looked up astonished. "Have you come to the end of your
tether? Have you lost all your money, then?"

"I never play, sir."

"What!" the other almost dropped his eyeglass in his astonishment,
and looked at George for a long time speechless. "What!" he said once
more, then he continued: "Come here and sit by me--you must tell
me--how you manage to get along without playing cards, or rather how
can you resist the temptation!"

"That's not a difficulty for me, sir, gambling has absolutely no
attraction for me. A couple of years ago I was at Monte Carlo,
and watched the gambling for hours together, but I never had the
slightest desire to stake a penny."

"What, really!" Again the other looked at him as if such ideas were
beyond his comprehension. "Really, I can't understand it. What then
do you do with your money if you don't play cards?"

"What I don't spend during the month I put into the bank."

"Well, but what's the use of that--I mean what's the fun of it? Why
don't you spend all your money? You're not a tradesman but a young
lieutenant. Well, all I know is, that if I had your money I shouldn't
put any in the bank."

"I say, Kirchberg, wherever have you hidden yourself?" said a comrade
who just then came into the room. "We are still playing _Half-part_:
the first lot of capital has gone to the devil. Have you got any
money about you?"

"Is the Uhlan still winning?"

The other scratched his ears. "Yes, horribly."

Kirchberg lit another cigar. "Then we will first let him get to the
end of his tether. Let him first win other people's ducats, and then
we'll try to win them back again. Who is at the present moment in his
toils?"

"Little Willberg. The fellow's had extraordinary luck to-day; he
stakes each time on seven, which has been thrown down five times
in succession. He's just revelling in gold, and the Uhlan naturally
wants to win back the money."

"Is Willberg calm?"

"How could he possibly be? He's trembling with excitement in all his
limbs."

"What a pity! for then all's up with him. However, I want to see the
thing."

He got up and went back into the card-room, and almost involuntarily
George followed him. He felt as if he wanted to help Willberg, to
whisper in his ear, "Be prudent; stop in time; put your winnings in
your pocket; you have plenty for the present."

But Willberg had not the least intention of stopping. For a start
the luck had been against him, but now he won time after time. The
other officers had long ceased to play and were watching these two.
Willberg was excited and nervous, feverish and trembling. The Uhlan,
on the contrary, was absolutely calm, immovable as brass; not an
eye-lash quivered, and his hand did not tremble in the slightest
degree when he pushed over the winnings to his antagonist. He had to
count out huge sums of money. The amount that he had won as banker
had long vanished; the bank-notes which he had brought from home had
dwindled down to a tiny heap. Gold and paper money was heaped up in
front of Willberg, probably to the amount of about twenty thousand
marks.

The Uhlan counted out his money. "I can stake for the last time a
thousand marks on the seven. If I lose and have to pay out seven
thousand marks, I shall break the bank."

An indescribable excitement took possession of them all. Never before
had they seen the Uhlan lose so much, and the "Golden Butterflies"
were filled with pride that one of their officers should have caused
this extraordinary state of things.

The last stake! The seven had so often brought Willberg good luck,
surely it would stay with him to the end.

"A thousand marks on the seven."

The banker shuffled the cards. "Eight!" and he shovelled in the money.

"A thousand on the seven again."

The cards showed the six! For one moment the Uhlan's eyes glittered.
Now he knew he had won the game. It could not last more than a
quarter of an hour, for he had won back all he had lost. It really
would have been inconceivable that he could have lost to-day,
especially to a mere child like this, who gambled so imprudently and
thoughtlessly that he must lose everything he had won. And Willberg
went on losing; the heap of money shrunk more and more. Several times
some of his comrades were on the point of saying, "Stop; save at
least a couple of thousand marks." But that wouldn't do; it wouldn't
be fair. As earlier they had allowed the Uhlan, who was their guest,
to get to the point of losing everything, they could not now warn
Willberg.

"Now, Herr Willberg, have you the courage to go on?"

He sat there, white as a corpse; every drop of blood had vanished
from his face. He had lost all; his £50 note of which he had been so
proud; not the smallest gold coin did he possess.

"Will you go on playing?" the Uhlan asked for the second time.

Willberg looked round. Perhaps one of his companions would lend him
some money. But the adjutant stepped in: "No, that's enough for you
to-day. Some of us others will now try our luck."

They went on playing, but Willberg went into an ante-room and sank
down on a sofa. Suddenly he was overcome by a nervous reaction; he
buried his face in his hands and burst into convulsive sobs.

George was standing not far from him, and looked at him sorrowfully
and sympathetically. He could not in the least understand--he had not
the faintest comprehension of how a man could become so infatuated
with a game of cards; but in spite of this he was sorry for the poor
fellow whose pecuniary difficulties were no secret. For one brief
moment he had been rich; now he was poorer than ever, because he had
experienced the feeling of possessing money, if only for the time
being. It was on the tip of his tongue to go up to his comrade and
offer him help; but he had not the courage to put himself forward in
this way; he did not wish to risk a snub. And he was quite sure he
had acted wisely when Willberg, having recovered his self-possession,
got up to go home and went out as if he had not been aware of
George's presence. Was he ashamed of his reckless gambling or his
tears? He went off without bidding George adieu.

The latter was therefore greatly astonished when next morning
Willberg visited him in his rooms. From the first moment he guessed
the object of this visit, and his guess became a certainty when he
saw his visitor's pale face. After a few casual words of greeting the
latter came to the point.

"Last night you were with us, though only as a spectator, so you
know that I lost all my winnings, but I also lost another thousand
which I had just received, in order to pay some pressing accounts.
I have tried to borrow the money from one of my friends, but the
Uhlan has cleaned them all out in the same way, so that not one of
them to-day has as much as a thousand that he can call his own. Even
our chief is going about with empty pockets. So I have come to you
to ask if you can lend me this. I must tell you, quite openly and
straightforwardly, that I cannot name the exact day when I can return
you the money, but I will do so as soon as ever I can, I give you my
word."

"But, please, I really do not require that."

George had risen, and went to his desk to get a note, which he handed
to his companion.

The latter shook George's hand gratefully. "You have done me a great
service." And after a slight pause, he continued, with unmistakable
embarrassment, "I have just one more request: I may rely on your not
telling anyone that I have borrowed from you?"

"How could I do such a thing?" asked George, astonished.

But the other did not appear perfectly satisfied with this answer.
"Don't take it amiss, but I beg you to give me your word that you
will not tell anyone of my visit to you?"

George looked at him with intense astonishment. How could Willberg
ask such a thing? However he said: "If it is any satisfaction to you,
I will certainly give you my word, though I cannot see any reason for
it."

Willberg breathed more freely and took leave, after thanking George
most warmly.



CHAPTER V

HILDEGARDE AND GEORGE


SEVERAL weeks passed and George was still "sent to Coventry by the
regiment," as he called it. He still had not a single friend with
whom he had any close relations. His hope that Willberg, whom he had
helped out of his difficulty, would get on more friendly terms with
him, was not fulfilled. On the contrary, the latter had less to do
with him than usual, although he had not yet paid his debt. George
did not trouble about this. He had already had many disagreeable
experiences in these matters in his old regiment; but as he himself
had grown up in quite different circumstances, he did not really
grasp the attitude of the "Golden Butterflies" with regard to money.
They had no hesitation, even in the presence of the orderlies, in
borrowing from each other. Very often, indeed, they made no scruples
about saying to their servants: "Spend this or that amount on my
behalf," but the money was not always returned to the orderly the
same day. They got credit wherever they could, and borrowed from
all possible sources. In the chief restaurant, where they often
passed the evenings rather than stay at home in barracks, many of
the officers owed the waiter fifty or sixty marks actually in cash,
besides what they owed for food and drinks. And it was just those who
owed the waiter most, who lived most extravagantly, ate the dearest
food and drank the most expensive wine, and when they went off it
was always, "Muller, put down twenty marks to my account, you know
you'll get it all right." But the question was, when? Some of the
officers had owed this money for months, and they never thought of
paying back; so long as they wore a uniform, surely the money was
safe enough. George noticed with astonishment that the officers in
Berlin were just as lax in these matters as they had been in his
former regiment. Once in the little garrison town, in a restaurant
much frequented by the military, there was a row with the landlord;
the officers boycotted the place and swore that the fellow shouldn't
get another penny from them. But not a single one of them thought of
paying his debts, part of which were due to the landlord, part to
the waiter. It was only when the landlord complained to the colonel
that he obtained redress, but even then it was in a curious manner.
The colonel did not order his officers to pay their debts within
twenty-four hours, but he gave them six weeks in which to discharge
their liabilities. And so the landlord and the waiter, who really
needed their money, had to wait patiently all that time.

George remembered another incident that had taken place only a few
weeks ago. One morning a senior lieutenant had appeared at lunch
much excited, and said that the hairdresser to whom they all went
had written and dunned him on account of a miserable debt of a few
pounds, and had threatened him with a summons through the post, as he
was in great difficulties and wanted his money at once. The officer
openly admitted that he had had the hairdresser's bill several
times, but had never paid him a penny. But, in spite of this, there
was a storm of indignation at the hairdresser's daring to write to
him. Why should the fellow want his money in such a hurry? Couldn't
he wait? The few pounds were quite safe, and nobody ever sends a
man of position a summons through the post. The end of the story
was that the "Golden Butterflies" were forbidden to patronise the
hairdresser's shop, but, in spite of this, the officers who owed
money there did not discharge their debt.

Certainly in all matters connected with money they had few scruples
and lax views. Debts were only considered as such when they consisted
of actual money; they never reckoned in what was owing to a
tradesman. The fellow was there, of course, to give credit; he had
to wait two or three years, sometimes much longer, before getting
his money. He ought to be delighted if the officers came into his
shop, and ought to be willing to pay something for the honour of
having such customers, and getting a good advertisement. They got
credit everywhere, and once it happened that a lieutenant owed
his own servant twenty marks. The incident was revealed when the
recruits were dismissed. The colonel when discharging the recruits
said: "Has any one of you any claims on the regiment? if so, let him
make it now." Then a young recruit stepped forward and said in a
loud voice: "I am still owed twenty marks by my former lieutenant,
which he borrowed from me a few months ago when I had some money
from home." The matter was investigated, and found to be quite
correct; the fellow was paid his money and the lieutenant received
a severe rebuke. But everyone thought it was an unheard-of thing
for a discharged soldier to bring a complaint against his former
lieutenant. Nobody, however, asked if the man were in a position to
bear the loss of twenty marks.

George remained completely isolated among his companions. Nobody
troubled in the least about him. His astonishment therefore was all
the greater when one day after lunch his adjutant sat down beside
him, and engaged him in a long and very friendly conversation. He
could not quite account for this mark of distinction, but he quickly
understood when Count Wettborn suddenly said to him: "I have for
a long time meant to ask you why your father does not try to get
a title. The thing is certainly not easy, but your father is well
thought of by His Majesty, and it would be easy to overcome the
difficulty if your father would be disposed to give a couple of
hundred thousand marks for some charitable object. Your father could
certainly do that--why doesn't he?"

"Because my father is proud of his own name, which he has made an
honourable one."

The count rubbed his feet with some embarrassment, then he said: "Of
course, your father is quite right as far as he himself is concerned,
but he ought to think of you. You would take quite a different
position in Society if you were a baron or a count. The world lays
great stress on this, and in my opinion it is quite right. For you,
especially, now that you belong to a distinguished regiment, a title
would be of the greatest value."

The count talked to George for a long time, and the latter saw
clearly that the adjutant in saying all he did was not following
a sudden impulse, but was acting on mature reflection, and had
evidently consulted the wish of the colonel or one or other of the
military authorities. George felt the blood mount to his cheeks. He
felt ashamed that his companion had the audacity to talk to him in
this way. Good heavens! was a title then, which could be bought for
a few hundred thousands, really of much more importance to these
aristocratic lieutenants, who were ciphers when they got out of
their uniforms, than a good, old, simple middle-class name which was
honoured and respected by the whole commercial world?

He could not help saying in reply to the adjutant: "My father has
often enough been offered a peerage, but every time he has refused
it."

"I cannot understand such a thing." The count stuck his eyeglass in
more firmly and looked at George with speechless astonishment. "I
really cannot understand it," he repeated, and George saw that he
spoke in bitter earnest. He really _could_ not understand how a man
could refuse a title, simply because he was proud of his own plain
name.

For a long while the adjutant sat silent, then he finished the
conversation with the remark: "Well, perhaps you will write to your
father again about this matter, or, better still, perhaps you will
talk to him. You may be able to change his mind."

George did not answer, but he knew how his father always laughed at
the people who directly they had made money had no other ambition in
life but to get a title. He felt that the words which the adjutant
had just addressed to him were almost an insult, and yet when he
considered them quietly, he could not altogether take umbrage at
them. He saw every day of his life how the aristocracy had the
preference in everything; how even in these enlightened days a title
possessed many advantages, and that it was given to men of wealth as
a distinction and an honour. And even in the army was not a title
of advantage to a man? If three officers, one of whom had a title,
went in for a post, was not the aristocrat always chosen, and if by
the rarest chance a middle-class man was ever successful in such a
case, was he not at once ennobled? The position of an officer is
only suited for a man with a title. The old adage was very suitable
for present days--the plebeian in the army who did not distinguish
himself in some extremely remarkable manner would never get promotion
as soon as the most ordinary commonplace titled officer.

And was it any different in Society? George had now been to quite
enough social entertainments to know how everyone bowed down to a
title; how even the youngest aristocratic lieutenant was considered
superior to a staff-officer of plebeian birth. And how often had he
not noticed how people hummed and hawed at the sight of him, and
could not understand how it was he belonged to such a distinguished
regiment. Although the words had been softly spoken he had once heard
a young girl at a ball whisper to a friend: "If Lieutenant Winkler
asks me to dance, I shall say my programme is full; I shall certainly
not dance with a middle-class officer."

All the women regarded him as an outsider. A bare nod was their only
greeting, even the one or two who shook hands with him did this
without breaking off their conversation, and with an expression
which showed they thought they were doing him a great favour. But he
was just as much isolated in the army as in Society; his comrades
chattered and laughed with the ladies, had all kinds of little
intrigues with them, made engagements with them, while he wandered
about alone and bored. He was an "outsider," and nobody troubled to
introduce him.

The only person who was always pleasant to him was Hildegarde. They
had often come across one another, and a sincere friendship had
sprung up between them. The two "outcasts" Hildegarde called himself
and her to her relatives. George was never introduced, and she
herself occupied a curious position in Society. She was no longer
quite a young girl, and interest in her charms had vanished. People
invited her out, it is true, but that was largely because they could
not do anything else, but privately they always hoped she would not
accept the invitation. When she did go to parties, contemptuous
remarks were made behind her back. Hildegarde acted as if she were
quite unconscious of them, but she understood the glances that were
directed towards her, and even when she did not actually hear the
words, she knew very well how the people shook their heads over her
and whispered to each other. It was a great effort of self-control
to go to these entertainments, and after every party she said to
herself: "To-day is the very last time I will go; to-morrow I shall
go home."

But the terrible anxiety which always reigned in her home kept her at
her aunt's. "I would rather endure these secret remarks than see the
poverty and misery at home, and bear their reproaches." At intervals
she confessed to herself that she stayed on George's account; not
that she could say she was exactly in love with him. The question
of marriage had been so much and so often talked about, that love
seemed a ridiculous thing, and it all depended on whether the man
had money or not. The holiest of feelings had been so unreservedly
discussed in her presence that she believed that her heart was no
longer accessible to love. In George she saw a reliable friend. He
was always very attentive to her; as soon as he saw her by herself
he came to her side, and she felt his glance continually on her. His
glance seemed to say: "I do not know, of course, what anxiety is
troubling you, but I know that you are feeling sad and lonely here,
just as I am, and I want, therefore, to do what I can for you."

This evening she was to meet him again. There was a great reception
at the American ambassador's, and she was delighted at the prospect
of seeing him. She had dressed herself specially well for his
benefit, and had put on a new costume which her aunt had just given
her. In pleasant anticipation of the entertainment she had begun
to dress sooner than usual, and now a quarter of an hour before it
was time to go she was standing in front of the looking-glass and
regarding herself smilingly. She was pleased with her own beauty, and
knew that to-day, at any rate, she would once again arouse admiration.

She was standing deep in thought when a knock at the door aroused
her. "Is it time yet? I am quite ready. I'll come at once."

"Madam has plenty of time. The carriage is not yet at the door, but
there is an express message for you."

Hildegarde was alarmed. An express letter for her! Whatever could
have happened?

She opened the door and took the letter from the girl, and
she shuddered involuntarily when she recognised her brother's
handwriting.

"Oh, dear!" She threw the letter on the table with annoyance. Without
opening she knew perfectly well that it contained a request for
money. A feeling of repugnance came over her. "Why should he spoil
my pleasure just at this moment? How can I possibly ask my aunt for
anything when she has just given me this costly dress?" All her
pleasure had vanished. "Well," she said to herself at last, "the
letter shall not spoil my temper to-day. I shall read it to-morrow,
or this evening, when I get back again."

An inward feeling of anxiety, however, caused her to tear open the
envelope, and she read:

   "DEAR LITTLE HILDEGARDE,--You know the old story how the
   watchman summoned a woman out of bed and called out to her:
   'Mrs. Meyer, you are going to have a terrible shock; your
   husband is dead.' Well, I say to you now, dear Hildegarde, don't
   be frightened, but I must have four thousand marks. The deuce
   take it, but I haven't had a bit of luck lately. Yesterday
   morning I had a whole heap of dunning letters. I didn't know
   myself where all the people came from who suddenly demanded
   money. Where on earth am I to get it from without stealing it?
   So I tried my luck at cards, but the luck was against me, and
   when I woke up this morning with a splitting headache I found
   I had lost four thousand marks. Thank heaven I have three
   days' respite, but then I must settle the affair, or nothing
   else remains but to put the necessary bullet through my head.
   You know that other debts don't worry me, but gambling debts
   are debts of honour, and there must be no fleck on our honour.
   Rather than this, we must make our exit from this world. Better
   die than be dishonoured. So, dear Hilda, I must have four brown
   bits of paper, and you must manage to get them for me. I ask you
   this with much less reluctance than usual, because I hear with
   the greatest joy that you are just about to be engaged. Well,
   it's high time, Hilda, both for you and for us. Don't disappoint
   us again. You have gone off considerably during the last year or
   so. When I saw you last I had quite a shock. Don't misunderstand
   me. You are still, of course, a very pretty girl, but nothing
   compared with what you were. Well, the main thing now is for
   you to capture this Winkler or whatever he's called. What sort
   of a man is he? Aunt writes to mother that he pays you the very
   greatest attention. You can imagine how beside themselves with
   joy they are at home. Father wrote to me that in honour of the
   welcome news he had immediately completed his wine cellar, and
   like a chivalrous gentleman he drank your health in French
   champagne. He can't stand that German stuff any longer. Father
   suffers frightfully from indigestion, you know. Aunt tells us
   also that your future father-in-law manufactures buttons. It's a
   frightful idea, but is it really true? However, the main thing
   is that he manufactures enough of them! Keep him tight! You have
   fine eyes, use them well and you'll secure him. And when you
   are once engaged, which it is to be hoped will be within the
   next few days, then hurry on the marriage, so that he may not
   have time for regrets, and before he learns how we are reckoning
   on his money. When he's once my brother-in-law I'll manage to
   extract the ducats from him. I don't feel in the least anxious
   about _that_!

   "Well, Hilda, I've written enough for to-day. I have to go on
   duty, the colonel has just summoned a meeting of officers to
   read out to us again the most stringent regulations concerning
   Courts of Honour. Isn't it ridiculous nonsense! As if one didn't
   know how to behave as an honourable gentleman indeed! If a man
   doesn't _feel_ these things he doesn't learn them by yawning
   more or less loudly while these endless regulations are read out
   to him.

   "Send me, please, the four thousand marks; uncle will give
   it you at once if you tell him it will be paid back directly
   after your marriage. Let me impress this upon you: have your
   marriage contract drawn up at a lawyer's, and mind you have a
   good income settled upon you. In your place, I wouldn't accept
   less than forty thousand marks a year. The fellow must expect
   to pay something for marrying into such a distinguished family.
   However, I must tell you that, in spite of the French champagne
   which father was only able to get on credit on the strength of
   your approaching marriage, things at home are in a frightful
   condition. Father wrote and asked me to send him a few thousand,
   or at least a few hundred marks if I won at cards. Ah, if the
   old gentleman had an idea of the terrible hole I am in! Now,
   dear Hilda, arrange your affairs satisfactorily. With love and
   kisses.--Your affectionate brother,

                                                      "FRITZ."

Every drop of blood vanished from Hildegarde's face as she read the
letter. She stood motionless, and a feeling of repugnance came over
her, as it often did when she had news from home. She tore the letter
into a thousand pieces and stamped them under foot.

Then she sank into a chair and buried her face in her hands. "They
ought to be ashamed of writing to me in this way," she moaned.
"Just imagine their regarding me as a chattel that is to be sold to
the highest bidder. What is it that Fritz writes?--'He must expect
to pay something if he marries into our distinguished family.'
Distinguished family!" and she laughed bitterly. "Bankrupts,
gamblers, men with whom nobody would have anything to do if it were
not that they owned noble names and wore uniforms. A man has only to
wear an officer's uniform and belong to an aristocratic family, and,
of course, he is a man of honour."

She roused herself from her meditations when her aunt came in to
inquire whether she was dressed, and when she saw Hildegarde's face
she clasped her hands in horror.

"But, Hildegarde, whatever is the matter? What has happened?"

Hildegarde shrugged her shoulders contemptuously. "What has happened!
You can see by these pieces on the floor. Fritz has been gambling
again, he needs four thousand marks. I am to ask you for it." Then
suddenly she burst forth with passionate indignation: "Aunt, how
could you tell them at home that my engagement with Lieutenant
Winkler was about to take place? You ought not to have done such a
thing; the consequences have been serious. On the strength of their
prospective son-in-law and brother-in-law, both my father and Fritz
have contracted all kinds of debts. And I do not really know if
Lieutenant Winkler even loves me. I scarcely think so, but if he
should get to love me and want to marry me, then I know what I shall
do: I shall open his eyes to everything. When he asks for my hand I
shall tell him how I have been sent for years to Berlin in order to
get a rich husband; how my relatives reckon on his money, and what
they think of his plebeian birth. I shall tell him everything, for
even if I do not love Lieutenant Winkler, I honour him and respect
him too highly to deceive him. He shall know and understand clearly
into what an honourable family he is about to marry. I shall tell him
everything!"

"You will do no such thing." Frau von Warnow had listened to
Hildegarde, speechless with amazement, and it was quite a long time
before she regained her composure. "You will do no such thing," she
repeated with anger. "You have not only your duty to your own people,
but to us also. I will not remind you of what we have already done
for you. It is true we are rich, but, in spite of this, naturally we
should not have given you, your parents and your brother, hundreds
and hundreds of pounds if we had not taken it for granted that you
would have repaid us in some way or other. When you say that you will
tell Lieutenant Winkler everything before marriage, you say something
that is simply ridiculous. The four thousand marks won't matter in
the least to him with all his money, and you may be sure he's clever
enough to know that a beautiful girl only marries a middle-class
lieutenant for his money. If you tell him everything beforehand you
warn him, to a certain extent, against marrying you, and then he
can't very well help drawing back. And then, what will you do?"

Hildegarde shrugged her beautiful shoulders. "What shall I do? I
don't mind in the least. I shouldn't starve. As I told you before, I
should get a situation of some kind or other."

Her aunt laughed contemptuously: "You are out of your mind! What do
you know, I say? What can you do? Have you any idea of housekeeping,
cooking, domestic work? You certainly couldn't get a post as a
companion. You are not a good musician, you don't read aloud well,
your knowledge of foreign languages is practically _nil_. So how
could you earn your living?" She spoke with the bitterest irony,
but when she saw the look of despair on Hildegarde's face, sympathy
got the better of her, and almost tenderly she put her arm round
the girl's neck. "Don't be so sad, it will turn out better than you
think. I can quite understand that Fritz's letter has terribly upset
you, but he doesn't mean it all. I will talk to your uncle to-day
about sending the money. He shall send it, or I will. And now, hold
your head high. It is high time for us to go."

"Yes, do go, aunt, but let me stay at home. I am really not in the
mood to go to a party."

"What? Hildegarde,"--her aunt thought she could not have heard
rightly--"you want to stay at home? That would never do. Especially
to-day when the court has promised to put in an appearance, you must
not fail to be there. And do you imagine that I had this costly new
costume made for you to take it off and put it in your wardrobe?
Whatever answer should I give when people inquired after you?"

A sorrowful little laugh played round Hildegarde's mouth.

"Nobody will ask after me; they will be delighted not to see me."

"And what about Lieutenant Winkler? What am I to say to him when he
makes inquiries after you?"

Hildegarde looked at her aunt with wide-open eyes.

"Do you not really understand that it is precisely on his account
that I don't want to go to the reception? It would be simply
impossible for me to talk to him naturally and pleasantly after
Fritz's letter and our conversation." Suddenly, however, she changed
her mind: "No, you are quite right. I will not allow the day, to
which I have so greatly looked forward, to be spoiled."

Her aunt embraced her tenderly:

"That is quite right, my child. Come along now, the carriage is at
the door."

They drove immediately to the embassy. They were somewhat late, rows
and rows of carriages were drawn up before the gates, and it was
long before their carriage could drive in. Herr and Frau von Warnow
conversed about the occupants of the other carriages, which were
close by them, exchanged remarks concerning the elegance of their
various acquaintances, and passed the time in wondering which of the
royalties would put in an appearance to-day. Hildegarde sat silent
in her corner. In answer to her uncle she had pleaded a headache,
and Frau von Warnow had given her husband a sign not to pursue the
matter. So she could remain undisturbed in her thoughts. What had
really made her change her mind and go to the reception? A sudden
desire had sprung up in her to meet George, to see and converse with
an honourable man. She did not exactly know how she was to do it, but
she had made up her mind to stick to her resolution and to say to
him: "Pay your court to some one who is worthier of you than I am."
Before she would accept any more attentions from him she wanted to
tell him about her father and brother. If then he continued to treat
her with peculiar chivalry, and to endeavour to win her hand, her
conscience would be quite free, and she could look him in the face
honestly and straightforwardly.

"Aren't you ever going to get out, Hildegarde?"

Hildegarde got out. She had sat in her corner with closed eyes,
and did not notice that the footman had been holding open the door
for a long time. She followed the others, and a quarter of an hour
later she walked into the enormous reception-rooms in which a
brilliant company was assembled. There were endless greetings and
hand-shakings, endless inquiries after health and the events of the
last few days. Everybody was constantly looking with expectation
towards the door, for the court party was momentarily expected.
Although no one, of course, would have confessed it, all were
consumed with anxiety to see whether His Majesty would notice and
talk to them, and distinguish them by shaking hands. Each one hoped
that he would enjoy this distinction. Nobody wanted the other to have
it, and each hoped, in secret, that he alone would be noticed by the
Emperor.

George was standing by Hildegarde's side. She noticed how he had
sought her out, though she had hoped to avoid him, but her tall
figure prevented him from losing sight of her. She feigned, however,
to be astonished when he suddenly said: "How do you do?" to her, but
she read in his eyes that he had seen through her little ruse, and
without further preamble he said to her: "Are you vexed with me for
any reason, baroness?"

She looked at him frankly and honestly. "No, certainly not."

His face lit up. "That's all right, then." After a slight pause he
said: "You avoided me. Is it at all disagreeable to you for me to be
by your side?"

Again she cast a frank look at him. "Not at all," and then somewhat
hesitatingly she added: "Will you be so kind as to take me in to
supper this evening?" She really meant to say: "I want to talk to
you," but she could not get out the words.

He bowed gratefully. "If we should lose sight of each other in this
crowd, baroness, let us meet again at this place, if it is agreeable
to you."

She nodded agreement, and stepped back a little, for at this moment
the royal party was announced. A mysterious stillness reigned, the
stir of voices was hushed; everyone looked at His Majesty, who had
come into the room, and smiling graciously, walked down the long row
of bowed figures. Here and there he stopped and exchanged a friendly
word or handshake, and everybody who enjoyed this distinction was
almost annihilated by his neighbours' envious glances.

Suddenly His Majesty stopped in front of George and graciously
extended his hand. "Ah, you are here, dear Winkler. How are you?
To-day I received a very interesting report from your father. I must
have a talk with him as soon as possible, and then you must come with
your father and dine with me."

George bent his head to kiss his sovereign's hand, and as he did
so, the Emperor noticed Hildegarde, and greeted her with a friendly
smile. "Are you still turning the heads of all my lieutenants,
baroness?" he asked playfully; "though that is easy enough when one
is as beautiful as you are." And with a laughing glance he passed on.

In the stillness that reigned, His Majesty's words had been heard
by the whole room, and now all eyes were turned on Hildegarde and
George, who were naturally delighted at the honour that had fallen
to them, although they were a little embarrassed at the harmless
badinage. They stood there silently, and were glad when the people
began to talk and walk about again. They did not see each other again
till midnight, when supper was announced. As usual, it was set out
on small tables, and George was fortunate in finding one at which
the guests were unknown to him, and so he could talk undisturbed
to Hildegarde. However, they were temporarily the objects of their
companions' notice, and some of the ladies spoke freely about the
remarks which the Emperor had made about Hildegarde. Indeed one, a
haggard, tall woman, examined Hildegarde most impertinently through
her lorgnette, and then said half aloud: "Well, I can't understand
why His Majesty should think her so good-looking."

Hildegarde threw a perfectly frank glance at the speaker and laughed
aloud, then she turned to George and said: "I cannot tell you how
delighted I am at the words the Emperor addressed to you. I am firmly
convinced you will now at once take your right position both in
Society and in the regiment, which before you were unable to do."

George shrugged his shoulders. "I scarcely think so, baroness. I fear
these gracious words will have done me more harm than good. People
will grudge both me and my father praise from so exalted a quarter.
However, I am not going to let that spoil my pleasure in the public
recognition of my father. Do me the honour of drinking to his health."

"With the greatest of pleasure," and the glasses clicked.

"I want you to know my father, baroness," George went on: "you would
like him, though naturally most of the people here would not. They
would never pardon him for not wearing well-starched cuffs, and for
not tying his cravat in the proper manner. I think, however, you
would like him. Perhaps the next time he comes to Berlin I might
introduce him to you? He is bringing my sister with him, and, as I
have so often told her about you in my letters, she is most anxious
to make your acquaintance."

Hildegarde was somewhat embarrassed at these words. Then he had also
told his people about her, perhaps even he had confessed that he
meant to win her hand. The remembrance of her brother's letter came
back to her. She must tell him all before it was too late. How was
she to do it? Nobody was paying any attention to their conversation,
but how was she to express what she wanted to say? As he had not told
her what his intentions were, she could not very well say to him:
"Don't think of wooing; on account of my family I will not and cannot
be your wife." And yet if without further explanations she spoke
about their poverty at home, might it not occur to him that perhaps
she expected help from him or his father. She could find no way out
of the difficulty. Then she wondered why he had never spoken to her
about his sister. She was much astonished, and at last she said:
"Have you a sister, then, Lieutenant Winkler? Why did you never tell
me about her?"

He looked at her surprised: "What! did I never tell you about her?
You mustn't take that amiss, for I had no intention of not talking
about her to you."

"And why should you not talk about her to other people?" she
inquired, with some curiosity.

George was embarrassed, and blushed like a child. "I can't exactly
explain it. Perhaps it is that when one loves anybody very much one
does not speak much about them to anyone. And even if I had wanted
to talk about her, to whom should I have talked? In the regiment no
one takes the faintest interest in me, far less in my family, and
naturally, I don't talk about such matters unless I am asked." Then,
after a slight pause, he continued: "And there's another reason why I
don't care to talk about Elsa."

"And what is that?" Hildegarde asked, as he was silent.

"I don't know how to express in words exactly what I want to say. I
don't want to appear suspicious of my comrades, neither do I wish
to represent myself as a model of virtue, which, indeed, I am not,
and could not be, at twenty-seven years old. But I can't help saying
that at mess my fellow-officers have a way of talking about young
girls, whom they meet in Society, which is simply revolting to me.
No, not revolting, that's too strong," he corrected himself. "I
am simply astounded, and constantly say to myself: 'Haven't these
officers sisters, and haven't their mothers taught them any respect
and reverence for women; so that they don't treat all alike?' In my
old regiment it was quite different; we were not perhaps more moral
men, but in the little town where we were brought into such close
relationship with the few families, we could not criticise the young
girls so freely and so shamelessly. I remember how once at dinner
an officer went so far as to make an insulting remark about one of
the ladies. The orderlies were sent out of the room, and the oldest
officer at the table, an old captain, read the young lieutenant such
a lecture before us all, that he never said a single word in excuse."

"That is as it ought to be," said Hildegarde.

"Certainly," George agreed, "that is why I am astonished that our
officers don't feel like that. If only the girls, who so often regard
a lieutenant as the paragon of perfection, knew, or could hear with
their own ears how the officers talk about them after they have been
to an entertainment, they would blush with shame, and a lieutenant
would soon cease to be their ideal. There are, of course, exceptions,
thank God! but most of my fellow-officers are as I have just
described, and it is the same in other regiments; to them a woman is
just like a horse--a thing to be examined and appraised. How is it,
I wonder, that a young girl is of so little account to a lieutenant,
that he talks of her without the least respect? I have often thought
over the matter. Is it, perhaps due to their education? Most of them
grow up in the regiment; they have no home life; they only see their
sisters and their friends when on leave; as cadets, they go into
Society to make conquests, and each conquest helps to lower all young
girls in their eyes. Perhaps the girls themselves are to a certain
extent answerable for this state of affairs. In Society there exists
no one but a lieutenant for them, they ignore a civilian, unless he
happens to be a reserve officer. The lieutenant simply goes about in
pursuit of conquest, and often he wins the victory only too easily.
I cannot speak of this from my own experience. I am a stranger here,
but I have often heard my comrades talk of young girls who push
themselves forward, send them love-letters, and who do not even wait
until they are asked to give a rendezvous, but ask permission to be
allowed to visit the officers, either in a friend's house, or in the
officers' quarters."

"But, Lieutenant Winkler," interrupted Hildegarde, "no lady would do
such a thing."

"She certainly ought not to do so," he agreed, "but, nevertheless,
she does. Just give a glance at the select company here. How many of
these aristocratic ladies have not a more or less harmless intrigue
with a lieutenant? It is not only the married ladies, I can assure
you. Those young girls trip about so modestly and chastely, yet
their great pride is that, in spite of their youth, they have had a
_past_."

Hildegarde knew only too well that he was right. She remembered how
most of the friends of her youth had had a lieutenant lover. How
often had she not spoken to them about this, and reproached them,
but all had given the same answer: "Why shouldn't I have a lover?
the others have, and what's the use of being young and beautiful? Do
you think that our blood remains calm when a man pays court to us
the whole evening, presses us closely to him when dancing, and casts
longing glances at us? Are we to wait till we have a husband? We may
wait a long time, perhaps for ever, and what then? Do you want us to
die without having had experience of life? How ridiculous!"

They told one another with truly cynical frankness how they
managed to deceive their parents and prevent any consequence of
their intrigues. Perhaps Hildegarde was naturally too cold and too
lacking in passion to understand her friends. Above all, she could
not understand the officers who, more than all others, ought to be
regarded as honourable men, and who yet made no scruples of entering
into a _liaison_ with the wife or daughter of the house where they
enjoyed the pleasantest social relations.

Hildegarde and George sat for a long time occupied with their own
thoughts. George misinterpreted Hildegarde's silence. He thought she
was perhaps vexed with his remarks, and so he said:

"I hope you are not angry with me for having spoken so freely and
frankly in your presence; but we have both of us been brought up
among quite different circumstances and educated in quite different
views."

Hildegarde felt that she blushed. Grown up among different
circumstances indeed! It was entirely her own merit that she did not
resemble her companions. Perhaps, however, it was partly due to her
father and brother who had constantly written to her: "Don't throw
yourself away, and don't enter into a _liaison_ if you are not sure
that it will lead to marriage. You will get nothing out of it, and
then you lower your value and utterly destroy the hopes we set upon
you."

How often had she not wondered whether her brother would have been
quite inconsolable if she had written to him: "I have not found a
husband but a friend. If you will pardon this, I will pay your debts."

She did not doubt that he would accept the money in order to remain
an officer and play the fêted and envied rôle in Society of a soldier.

"Are you angry with me?" George asked, as Hildegarde still remained
silent.

She roused herself from her thoughts. "Why should I be?" And in
order to turn the conversation, which was painful to her, to another
subject, she again inquired about his sister. And then George told
her all about his sister--how charming and beautiful she was, how
kindly and good, how they had grown up together as excellent friends,
and how often they had fought each other's battles when they were
children. He told his stories gaily, with sparkling eyes, and
Hildegarde listened with interest.

"Do you know, I envy you your sister, or rather the pleasant relation
in which you stand to her. Sisterly love is such a beautiful thing."

"Yes, certainly; but you are also in that happy situation. You have a
brother."

"Please do not speak to me about him."

There was such a tone of contempt and depreciation in her words that
he looked at her with astonishment.

"But, baroness, he is your brother."

"You do not know him. Please let us change the subject."

"Certainly, if you wish it."

In his embarrassment George emptied his glass and vainly thought of
another topic, and both were glad when at last everybody rose from
the table.

The ball went on till the small hours of the morning, and during the
dancing George never lost sight of Hildegarde. He had the pleasure
of being able to introduce some fresh officers and partners; and he
was really more delighted than she was at the admiration she evoked.

It was late when at last the ball broke up. George, at the last
moment, was unable to say farewell to Hildegarde, and he walked home
with a companion in a somewhat bad humour.

His companion was apparently occupied with some thoughts that
interested him. Suddenly he stood still and seized George by the arm.
"What will you bet that he wins her? That would be much better than a
lucky stroke at cards."

George regarded his comrade with astonishment. "I don't understand
what you mean. Whom are you speaking about?"

The other went on walking again. "Oh, yes, of course, you don't know
Gastion of the Hussars. My gracious, he has paid court to Fräulein
von Reisinger this evening! Well, she is no longer very young, and
she never was pretty, but her family is a very old Jewish one. I
believe her mother was a Moses, but that doesn't matter. She has
money; a frightful amount of money. If Gastion gets that, he can
live in fine style. But he certainly needs it; he is said to be two
hundred thousand marks in debt."

George had listened without apparently much interest. Then he said:
"Is it not really frightful that we officers--present company,
of course, excepted--when we choose a wife, make it a matter of
convenience? We live luxuriously, we fling away our money and our
health, and when one day we are at the end of our tether, we look out
at balls and parties for a rich young girl who will put things right
for us again. The more money she has the more, of course, we run
after her. How few marry on their pay!"

"Well, of course, that's ridiculous; who can live on a few pence."

"I quite agree with you, though many people manage to do so. But
still is it not a very interesting psychological fact that almost
every officer falls in love with a girl who is rich and ugly? Yet no
one of course ever admits that he has married for money. It is indeed
insulting and libellous to suggest such a thing. On the contrary,
everyone pretends that in spite of his wife's lack of beauty and more
or less unpleasing characteristics, he really loves her. If she had
no money he would of course not look at her. To speak quite frankly,
I cannot in the least understand how rich parents can give their
daughter to an officer. People must know that officers only accept
their daughters because of the money, and I cannot imagine how the
girls themselves can be so foolish as to suppose they are married for
love."

"Excuse me," put in his companion, "you are expressing very curious
views. According to you, then, young girls who are rich ought not to
marry at all."

"I beg your pardon, I do not say that, but they ought to marry whom
they like, only not lieutenants, who, in nine hundred and ninety-nine
cases out of one thousand would not dream of marrying if they were
not up to their ears in debt."

"It is all very well for you to talk," said the other. "It is easy
you know for a man who is born into the world a millionaire to judge
a poor devil severely. What you say is all very beautiful and noble
in theory, but what about practice? When I can, I prefer to ride in
my own carriage, rather than the electric tram. Ah, here our ways
separate, you go to the right, I to the left. What time do you go on
duty to-morrow?"

"Not at all in the morning."

"Lucky fellow, I must be on parade at seven. Good-night."

After a cool handshake the comrades separated and a little later
George reached his rooms.



CHAPTER VI

MILITARY MORALS


IT had all turned out just as George had foretold; the kindly
words which His Majesty had addressed to him at the American
Embassy and the warm praise of his father, had not contributed
towards improving his position in the regiment; on the contrary,
it had made it worse. Scarcely a day passed but some one or other
in George's absence talked about him and discussed the Emperor's
remarks. Whatever had made the Emperor specially distinguish him,
the only plebeian officer of the regiment? Even the colonel had had
to be content with a mere handshake, the staff officers, not to
mention the others, had scarcely received a glance; George alone
had been addressed. Was it mere chance or was it really the report
of the button manufacturer--as Old Winkler was always called for
shortness--that had occasioned the remarks? And what on earth could
such a manufacturer tell His Majesty which he did not know already?
Old Winkler indeed was said to be unique in his arrangements for
the benefits of his workpeople and in his efforts for their welfare,
and he had discovered new methods and means of ameliorating their
existence. Of course, everybody knew that His Majesty was deeply
interested in the condition of the working classes, but in spite
of this, they thought this public praise of Old Winkler somewhat
ostentatious and superfluous, if an officer--and therefore a loyal
subject--might venture to criticise His Majesty's words. Or had the
Emperor's words any particular significance? The Emperor knew, of
course, what was thought about George in the regiment, how he was
still an "outsider," and would always remain one. Had His Majesty's
words meant--"You need not trouble yourselves, you will not get rid
of Lieutenant Winkler, he has a powerful protector in me." Had he
perhaps wanted to encourage George by his gracious words to persevere
and not to despair even if he had not succeeded in winning a good
position in the regiment?

Not a single "Golden Butterfly" had ever been commanded to attend
at Court, except on the occasion of some great entertainment; then
the regiment had appeared as a whole, and even this distinction had
made them feel very proud. And now George was publicly invited by the
Emperor to come with his father to dine at Court. It was well known
that His Majesty frequently gave little parties where everybody was
quite unconstrained, and there was much lively conversation. The
Emperor surprised everyone by the astonishing amount of his knowledge
and fascinated all by his great personal attractions. Why should
George be invited to share in these intimate little parties? Simply
because he was the son of his father. And who indeed was his father?
He was merely a middle-class button manufacturer, and he would remain
that, even if he were wiser and more important than all the other
wise men put together.

They would not have grudged any of their other companions the honour
which had been paid to George. They would have regarded it as an
honour paid to the aristocratic classes to which they themselves
belonged. They grudged it George because they said to themselves:
"If nowadays the middle-class is to be honoured in this way, what is
there then for the nobility, who have done, and will do more, for
Germany than manufacture trouser-buttons, which certainly have the
advantage of being durable and cheap."

Up till the present the officers had not troubled to take any notice
of George. Now they turned their attention to him, and although he
was always quiet and modest in his behaviour to his companions, and
yet dignified without being proud, they became even haughtier than
they had formerly been. More than ever they were the aristocrats;
more than ever they endeavoured to show him what a great and
impassable barrier divided him from them. Their behaviour indicated
as clearly as words: "We intend to get rid of him; one day he himself
will perceive that he cannot possibly remain with us any longer."

George was perfectly well aware of the feeling that existed against
him, and even if he had wanted to deceive himself in this matter,
one thing would have opened his eyes to this fact. This was the
condescending manner in which young Willberg regularly every week,
purely as a matter of form, made his excuses for not having been able
to return the £50 which he had been obliging enough to lend him.

"I really do not want the money," George said every time; "on the
contrary, I live so economically that I save money. I would gladly
lend you a larger amount, and you need not hurry about paying it
back."

George noticed how very gladly young Willberg accepted the
generously-offered help, for it was an open secret that he would not
be able to go on much longer. Nobody knew exactly how he stood with
regard to money matters. He did not gamble more than the others, but
he had other expenses. In the eyes of young girls in Society, he
enjoyed much distinction in consequence of his _amours_. He knew
how interesting he was to them, because he had the reputation of not
being able to be faithful to anyone. And he knew equally well that
in spite of this reputation, or rather just because of it, he would
have no difficulty in winning a rich wife one day. The bride would
be envied for having a _fiancé_ with such an interesting past; they
would consider her lucky to have caught him. He intended to marry
later, but his wife must have money, a great deal of money, for he
had no intention of changing his mode of life when he was a married
man. Willberg had no idea of the value of money, and whenever he was
able to borrow a few pounds from a relative he could not rest until
he had spent it. He was continually in debt, and just now things
were very bad with him. He was always complaining of his wretched
position, and drank more wine than usual to drown his cares. He owed
money all round the regiment, and George foresaw that it would not be
long before young Willberg would again borrow from him without being
able to discharge his former debt. And the moment came sooner than
even George had imagined.

George had gone home one day from the mess-room earlier than usual.
He had received a letter from his friend Olga, a young actress at
the Residenz Theatre, saying that she would come to supper with
him. At first he had thought of putting her off, as he had some
important work to do, but finally he had telegraphed to her: "Come,
I am expecting you." He had not the heart to spoil her evening.
She was so fond of him, and so happy in his comfortable and
beautifully-furnished rooms. There was nothing more delightful to her
than to admire his beautiful things and rummage in his library.

Soon they were sitting in the little dining-room, opposite each other
at the charmingly decorated table, and George observed laughingly how
she enjoyed the oysters and Pommery.

"It is all very well for you to laugh. You have just come from
dinner, but I have eaten nothing since three o'clock."

"My dear child, go on eating. I am only too delighted if it is
to your taste, and the more you eat the better pleased I am. And
when you have finished these oysters here, there is another dozen
outside on ice, and after that there is your favourite dish--stuffed
artichokes."

She clapped her hands with pleasure like a child; then she looked
at him gratefully with her wide-open, dark brown eyes, and softly
stroked his hand. "How good and kind you are to me."

"Really, Olga!" He was almost embarrassed by the feeling in her
voice, and attempted to joke: "Don't make fun of me, Olga. If the
whole extent of my kindness to you consists in my telling my
landlady to cook your favourite dishes, it is really not very much."
And after a slight pause, he added: "I am very fond of you, little
Olga."

She looked at him delighted. "Do you really mean it?" And when he
bowed and drank her health, she said: "Do you know, I believe you.
Indeed when I am with you I know that you are fond of me."

Suddenly she jumped up, clung to him, and kissed him passionately.

"But, Olga, my dear girl, your oysters will be getting cold," he said
at last, as she went on caressing him.

Laughingly she stopped and sat down again.

Olga was a picturesque looking girl of medium height, faultless
figure, a bright intelligent face, wonderful brown eyes and a
charming little nose. Everything about her was _petite_. She had
small hands that were most carefully attended to, and ravishing
little feet. Her whole expression and bearing was sympathetic in the
highest degree. Without being exactly clever she was amusing and
bright. One could talk to her for hours together without suffering
a moment's boredom; she could tell amusing stories and was always
ready to see a joke. She laughed so heartily that the tears came
into her eyes, and when she laughed she always showed her dazzling
white teeth. One thing about her was especially attractive to
George, she was a thoroughly straightforward creature. She was always
good-tempered and amiable, never capricious or extravagant. Only once
had she ever expressed a wish to George. For days he had noticed that
something worried her; he urged her constantly to tell him, and at
last she did so.

"But, first of all, you must put out the gas, otherwise I shall be so
terribly ashamed; you mustn't look at me when I tell you."

Laughingly he had agreed to her wish, and then she had confessed: "I
want a little gold watch tremendously."

And when he remained speechless with astonishment at her modesty, she
went on: "Don't be angry with me, I saw a perfectly lovely watch in a
shop window for a hundred marks, but if that is too much, a cheaper
one will do perfectly well."

When he had carried out her desire, and bought her a costly watch and
a gold chain, she had sat the whole evening with him without taking
any interest in him, but playing with her watch, alternately laughing
and crying for joy. At the beginning of their acquaintanceship she
could not be induced to accept anything from him; for days he had
argued with her, and only at last did she allow him to make her an
allowance when he declared in the most emphatic manner that otherwise
he would have nothing further to do with her. He paid for her rooms
and everything she required without pampering her. For his own sake
he took care that things were all right for her, and without her
knowing it he regularly put £10 in the bank for her every week. "Then
at least she need not throw herself into the arms of the first best
man whenever we separate," he said to himself.

He had been to the bank on her account this very day, and on his way
back he had bought a pretty little brooch, which he just remembered.
"Good gracious, Olga, I quite forgot something. Look, here's a little
trifle for you."

He got up and fetched the jewel-case, and enjoyed the delighted look
that she cast upon the ornament.

"George, you really ought not to give me such presents."

"Oh, that's all right, I never give more than I can afford, and, like
all my presents, it is paid for."

She thanked him once more, then she said: "Do you know, I am really
to be envied for knowing you? Don't misunderstand me, you know
perfectly well that I want nothing from you and ask nothing of you.
Once I know I asked you for a watch, and I am heartily ashamed of it,
and if I had ever imagined that you would have spent so much over it
I would never have mentioned it, for I would not have you imagine
for a moment that I care for you because you are rich."

"But, Olga, I know all that, you have no need to tell me. You were
going to tell me, however, why you are to be envied because we are
friends."

"Because you are an honourable man, because--well, how can I tell
you. You see all my friends at the theatre have a patron and
protector. But what sort of men are they? Men of the world in the
worst sense of the word, who bluster and bully, contract debt after
debt, and if they give a present it is not paid for; everything
they give is borrowed, and that destroys all pleasure in receiving
the gift. But everything connected with you is so high-class,
straightforward, solid. Your way of living is like your character;
one knows one can rely on you, that you are a thoroughly honourable
and reliable man."

Again George was embarrassed. "Olga, Olga, why these expressions of
affection after so long an acquaintanceship?"

"To-day is just the right moment," she replied, and then with some
confusion she added: "This very day, three months ago, I met you for
the first time."

"Are you sorry?"

She kissed his hand. "You--you--I--I am awfully fond of you. How
could I indeed be sorry?" Then she continued very earnestly:
"You know, for I have already told you, how that blackguard of a
lieutenant treated me, and I swore henceforward to be an honourable
woman and to have nothing to do with a man. I kept to my resolution
for a year. Well, what happened then? Then there came along someone
whom I liked very much, and who was very good and kind to me. You
know it is very difficult to be respectable on the stage; we inferior
ones are always envious of the 'stars' who go about in silk and
satin, and who frequently cannot act any better than the others,
and who only owe their position to a rich friend who pays for
their dresses and arranges with the director and manager that his
_protégée_ shall be brought out and given a good part. Well, that's
how it is, and besides one wants to enjoy one's life; everybody does
the same, not only those who are on the stage. We are not the worst;
the others who do it all secretly and pose as highly respectable
young women, they are really the worst."

"Now, now, Olga, take a glass of wine. Why do you get into a temper?
Do be cheerful again."

After a short struggle her naturally kindly disposition got the upper
hand. "You are quite right. I cannot alter what has already happened,
but still the lieutenant was a blackguard; you remember I told you he
shot himself later, and that was the best thing he could do."

"Don't be so hard, Olga."

"Pray do not stand up for him," she went on angrily. "I know what
you feel: that if a young girl accepts an invitation from an officer
she must know quite well what to expect. But I was very young and
inexperienced then."

"But, Olga, I cannot understand you to-day. What is the matter with
you? Why do you insult the officers in this way. You remember I am
one."

"Ah, you," she said tenderly. "You are not really one of them. You
are much too honourable. You are a man, the others are stuck-up apes,
and besides that, generally liars and betrayers."

"Olga, I beg you with all seriousness to cease making these remarks.
Whatever is the matter with you? Shall we stay here or go into the
sitting-room?" he asked her presently.

"Let us go into the sitting-room," she replied. She loved the large
beautiful room with its splendid carpet, heavy _portière_ and the
fine pictures. Best of all she loved the large comfortable leather
seat in front of the fire, and every time that she visited George she
meant to ask him to let her sit in that chair after dinner. She had
never done so, because on every occasion, to-day included, directly
they went into the sitting-room George drew out the _chaise longue_
for her, put a cushion under her head, and covered her with a great
bear rug. He always did this, and treated her with so much love and
such tender consideration that she had not the heart to tell him how
uncomfortable she was.

"Are you comfortable, darling?"

Again, from affection, she told him an untruth: "Simply lovely."

He kissed her tenderly, handed her a cigarette, took a cigar for
himself, and then sat down on a chair by her side.

"You do live in a splendid way, George. You can't imagine how happy I
feel when I am with you."

"Because you are in my rooms, or because you are with me?"

"Because I am in your rooms, naturally," she said teasingly. "Why
ever should I care about you? You are an old cynic who does not
deserve that I should like him so much and be so nice to him. Oh, you
dear old silly, come here, and let me give you a kiss. Well, now,
that will do, be sensible and sit down nicely and tell me what you
have been doing lately. What parties have you been to, and with whom
have you danced? Whom did you go for your cure with?"

George answered and asked questions. Olga showed a real and sincere
interest in everything that concerned him; he knew that he could
entirely trust her, and that later, when they parted, she would make
no use of anything he had told her, and so he spoke quite frankly to
her. He told her about the regiment, his parents, and his sister, but
naturally enough he never spoke a word about Hildegarde. He had not
once mentioned her name, and to-day likewise he was silent on the
subject. Not indeed that he feared Olga would be jealous; she was
too sensible and intelligent for that, and, moreover, she had often
said she wished he would marry a lovely and beautiful wife. In spite
of all that, however, an inexplicable feeling prevented his speaking
about Hildegarde to her.

Olga listened to him attentively; many of the names of the people in
Society were familiar to her, she remembered them from his former
accounts, and she showed by her questions now and again that she was
following him with real interest. Naturally she was most interested
in knowing what the ladies wore, but she did not get much information
from him on this point.

"How can you be so foolish as not to notice these things?" she
scolded him. "A woman is most interested in what another woman has
on."

"Or rather what she has _not_ on," he said mockingly.

The entrance of the servant put an end to their conversation.

"A letter has just come for you, sir."

"Any answer?"

"The messenger did not say anything, he did not wait."

"Very well."

The servant disappeared and George held the note a moment in his
right hand unopened.

"Who is it from?" inquired Olga.

"I do not know how it is, but a vague feeling tells me that this
letter contains something unpleasant for me."

"Shall I read it to you then? If I think the contents will vex you I
will tear it up and never tell you what was in it."

He kissed her hand. "You are a dear little thing, but I am afraid
that won't do. Well, let us see what it is."

He opened the envelope with a paper-knife, turned over the sheet and
looked at the signature. A slight triumphant smile played round his
mouth. "Ah, ha, Willberg, I said so!"

Olga had risen and was leaning her head on her right hand; now she
looked at George anxiously and expectantly. "Willberg, what does he
want of you? You told me once how oddly he behaved to you. Why does
he write you?"

Instead of an answer George handed her the letter, and Olga read:

   "DEAR WINKLER,--Although I am still deep in your debt, and am
   no more able to discharge it to-day than I was weeks ago, yet I
   am forced once more to ask you for help, and that as promptly
   and swiftly as possible. To-day we have been gambling simply
   frightfully. I lost five thousand marks--four thousand to the
   Uhlan, on whom I wanted to take my revenge. I must pay this four
   thousand marks by to-morrow morning, otherwise I must leave the
   army. I do not know where to get the money from; you are my only
   means of salvation. You have so often offered me money that I
   feel quite sure you will not now leave me in the lurch.

   "Perhaps you will have the goodness to send the money along by
   your servant Fritz, your man, or any other human being you like.
   I shall stay at home and await your answer. I thank you most
   heartily beforehand for once more getting me out of a terrible
   scrape.--With sincere regards, yours gratefully,

                                            "F. VON WILLBERG."

Olga folded up the letter and returned it to George.

"Well, what do you think of it?"

"The letter is simply a model," she opined, "short, polite, and
childishly _naïve_. 'I have been gambling, please pay my debts. The
man writes with a nonchalance and a coolness as if he asked you to
take a glass of wine with him. Willberg is simply delicious."

"Yes, you are not far wrong," said George, who felt somewhat hurt
by the tone of the letter. "A young lieutenant, who has nothing in
the world to call his own but an allowance of a few pounds, sits
down with the greatest confidence at the card-table and gambles away
a £50 bank-note, one after the other. When he has come to the end
of his ready money he plays for credit, and when the game is over
and he is deeply involved, he sits down calmly and writes to his
friends and acquaintances: 'Please be so good as to pay my debts.'
And if he knows that he can get no help from these sources, because
he has already exhausted them, then he applies to any rich man whom
perhaps he has only met twice in his life, and borrows from him
with a _naïveté_ and a shamelessness that is inimitable. He knows
quite well that he must get the money somewhere. If matters do not
go so smoothly as he anticipated, he becomes melodramatic, talks
about leaving the regiment, abandoning the army, Courts of Honour,
a bullet through his head, and such things. And there are very few
people who are not moved when it is a question of saving, as they
say, a young and promising human life--which in most cases is not
worth the value of the bullet. And so they put their hands in their
pocket and give the lieutenant what he needs to set him on his
legs again and be once more an 'honourable' man. I do not know if
you will understand what I am going to say, Olga, but the greatest
misfortune for our lieutenants is--I do not say our officers, but
only our lieutenants--that on account of their uniform and position
they can get credit everywhere. Many educated, or only half-educated,
rich people who gladly entertain the officers, so that they may be
considered in 'Society,' constantly press their assistance upon these
lieutenants just on the chance of their getting into difficulties.
The lieutenant sees it all quite clearly; he says to himself: 'I get
into debt, somebody else will pay.' And our lieutenants will remain
as they are, and will never alter until they are no longer given
credit; he will only change when people are no longer foolish enough
to lend money to every lieutenant who wants it."

"And do you suppose that day will come?"

"It will come when the world ceases to see in every man who wears a
uniform a marvellous creature."

"Then that will be never."

"I almost believe you are right," he agreed with her; and then,
becoming even more serious, he went on: "You know it's very hard on
our lieutenants, for, _au fond_, there is good stuff in them, but
they get frightfully spoiled and petted. Officers are forbidden to
contract debts just as they are forbidden to gamble; but nobody
troubles in the least about these prohibitions, which are known, not
only to the officers themselves, but to everybody in Society and to
the tradesmen. But, just as in a club a civilian would never dream of
saying to a lieutenant, 'Sir, I do not wish to be discourteous, but
I know that His Majesty has forbidden the officers to play cards,'
so no tradesman would think of saying to a lieutenant, 'I am not
allowed to give you goods on credit; I know you are not allowed to
contract debts.' The lieutenant alone is not to blame. Society and
the tradesman, who not only make it possible for him to evade the
law, but also help him to do it quite easily, and even lead him into
doing so are largely responsible for the fact that our officers of
to-day, in regard to manners and morals, are no longer what they once
were and what they will have to be again." And then, half-seriously,
half-laughingly, he concluded, "Did you understand all I was talking
about, you dear little duffer?"

"Every word, and you are quite right."

"I only wish that other people would think so too," he said, somewhat
amused; "but I believe that if one of the 'Golden Butterflies' had
heard my remarks he would have said I was out of my mind, summoned me
before a Court of Honour on account of my seditious words, and then I
should have been asked, 'If you think like this, why did you become
an officer?' I could only answer, 'When a man enters upon a career
he knows nothing about it. Indeed, he _can_ know nothing about it.
The knowledge of what it means to be an officer only comes with the
course of years.' I have had my apprenticeship. I have gone through
the world with fairly wide-open eyes, and have kept my ears on the
alert, and I must say that had I known earlier what it was like among
our officers, had I had the faintest conception of their behaviour,
of the way in which they ran up debts, of the discontent with
military matters, the bitterness and hatred against the authorities,
the poverty and the misery, I should have thought twice before
donning a uniform."

"But why do you keep it on?"

George gazed at the clouds of smoke for a little while, then he asked
her, "Are you quite sure, my dear child, you are not really bored
with all this discussion?"

"Not at all," she cried out quickly; "I could lie here for hours and
listen to you."

"Very well then, I will answer your question, which I have been
thinking about for a long time, much longer than anyone would
believe. The reason why I still wear the officer's uniform is, in my
case, short and to the point--pride."

"Pride!" she asked with astonishment.

"You know, of course, how I have been treated in the regiment. I have
never made the least mystery about it to you. If I were to take off
my uniform now, the 'Golden Butterflies' would have attained the
object they had desired from the very first--they would have got
rid of me, they would again be among themselves; their aristocratic
society would be again without spot or blemish. I am not going to
give them that triumph, which would mean defeat for me. I am not a
fighter, but I have my ambition and my honourable feelings, and I
intend to see if I cannot make a proper position for myself in the
regiment. How often do I not long for a chance of distinguishing
myself in some way or other, of doing something out of the
ordinary--but in vain. So I must try to win a position by scrupulous
fulfilment of my military duties, diligence and reliability. Do you
imagine I have a pleasant life here? I am young, I am rich, and
though I am no spendthrift, still I should like to enjoy my youth a
little more than I do. I should like to live on a bigger scale, keep
horses, and carriages, and servants, go travelling about, and so on.
I know perfectly well what I should do, but I simply dare not. If the
adjutant of the regiment, Count Wettborn, did all this, the officers
would be proud of the nobleman who knew how to represent them in so
splendid a fashion: everybody would be delighted that he had the
means of living in a manner so suitable to his rank. They would
praise the aristocrat; they would find fault with me. If I lived in
grand style, only one word would be applied to me--snob. And short
work is always made with a snob. He is not wanted in a regiment in
which the other officers are supposed to live economically, but who,
in reality, are over head and ears in debt. My so-called ostentation
and snobbery would be an excellent reason for getting rid of me,
and I don't want that. I do not myself believe that my life as a
lieutenant will be a long one; but whenever I do go, I shall be able
to tell myself and the others why I am going. _I_ shall hold my head
high, but _they_ will be covered with shame, if, indeed, they are
capable of feeling shame."

Olga saw the deep furrows on his brow, and she noticed his intense
emotion.

"George," she begged in a gentle voice, "come here to me, let me kiss
you, do not get so angry about these officers."

"My darling, it is all very well for you to talk--not get angry
indeed! To-day seems specially appointed for the revelation of all
kinds of things which have hitherto been kept silent. I may as
well tell you, therefore, that I suffer frightfully in my present
surroundings, yet I am conscious of no other fault but that of
belonging to the middle-class. If, indeed, these aristocratic
gentlemen were free from all faults and failings, if they were
really superior in military and other duties, if the officers were
in very truth what they ought to be--an example of chivalry and
honour; if they possessed nobility, not only of birth but of feeling
and disposition, then I would not hesitate for a moment. I would say
to them frankly and freely: 'I feel that my presence is unwelcome
to you. From the modern and enlightened point of view I do not in
the least understand your standpoint, but in spite of that I honour
you, and I will no longer be an annoyance to you.' But consider how
matters really stand? Of course, there are exceptions, honourable
exceptions everywhere, and it would indeed be sad if there were not
any among the nobility. I can only judge, however, by what I have
seen myself, and I must say that in their mode of life and interest
in their military duties, the most aristocratic officers are not
one whit superior to my _bourgeois_ comrades, whom they look down
upon with such contempt. And what a protection a title is! The
world, which nowadays is more or less democratic, is not to have
the pleasure of seeing an aristocrat sentenced to punishment, the
people are not to be given the joy of saying: 'After all, these
noblemen are just like other people.' In every way a nobleman has
all kinds of advantages, not because he _does_ anything particularly
wonderful, but simply because, according to old women's tales, he
_is_ something wonderful. And one can no more fight against this
than against stupidity. I get so enraged about this, that in spite
of my uniform I am almost inclined to be a social democrat. I see
more and more how the middle-class person is more or less regarded
as a creature whose only justification for existing is that he forms
the dark background which shows up the nobleman so brilliantly and
gloriously."

"Good gracious, George," cried out Olga, quite frightened, "I don't
know you when you are in this mood; I have never heard you speak,
boy, so bitterly before."

"I am not bitter now, I assure you. What I told you was not said
on the spur of the moment, but is the result of much thought and
mature and keen observation. But now let us stop speaking about these
serious things. I will just go and send off the money to this noble
Willberg, and then, my darling, I am entirely at your disposal."

He rose from his seat to go to his writing-desk, but Olga held him
back. "Will you do me a favour, George. You know I have never asked
you for anything important, but this time it is. Will you grant it
me?"

"Certainly, if I can. Why not? I am very fond of you."

"And I am very fond of you; it is just because of that I ask you to
give me your word that you will do what I want."

"My darling, how can I do such a thing? One must not pledge his word
of honour lightly; you know perfectly well I would do anything for
you if I could. Now what is it?"

She had risen from her reclining position, and looked at him
entreatingly, her eyes dilating. She was quite white from mental
excitement, and her voice trembled as she said: "Do me the favour,
and don't send the money to Willberg."

He regarded her with intense astonishment. "Why ever not? The money
is lying idle here, and even if I hadn't it myself I could easily get
it. I have constantly offered Willberg my help; I must certainly give
it him now. Besides, it is a great satisfaction to me, as you will
understand, that he should have to apply to me again. You don't want
to spoil my pleasure, do you?"

And he turned to go, but Olga kept him back. "George, give your
money to whomsoever you like--do with it whatever you like--it is no
concern of mine, but you must not help Willberg. Do you understand?
You ought not to help him!"

She spoke with such resolution and determination that he went up to
her and seized her hand; he noticed how she trembled, and a feeling
of nervous excitement took possession of him.

"Olga, you are keeping silent about something; you must have reasons
which you are concealing from me, but I insist on knowing everything.
When you ask me not to help Willberg, and tell me that I ought not to
help him, you must also tell me the reason why."

She looked at him with an expression of profound love. "Do not ask
me, do not torture me, I cannot tell you."

"And what if I insist?" He also had become deadly pale, and he held
her hand in an iron grip. "I insist upon knowing--do you understand?
You must not utter a half complaint, but you must have the courage
to tell the whole truth. I have always considered you an honourable,
faithful and upright person--don't show me I have made a mistake."

A mighty conflict raged within her as she stood by him; her eyes were
cast down, her whole body trembled, and she was swayed and tossed
about by terrible mental struggles. Then she raised her eyes and
looked at him frankly and openly. "Very well, then, you shall know
all, but only on one condition."

"And what is that?"

"That you give me your word of honour not to tell Willberg a word of
what I am going to tell you. There is no reason why you should not do
that."

He regarded her doubtfully. "Is that really so?"

Then she looked him straight in the face. "Yes, but, in spite of
this, if you are ever in a situation when you can no longer keep your
promise, then I will release you after eight days--no more nor less;
till then, you can quietly think over what I have to say to you." And
after a little while she asked him, in a hesitating tone of voice,
"Do you really insist that I am to tell you everything, when the
result may be that we separate, and are never more friends?"

A dark suspicion arose in his mind. "You were once on intimate terms
with Willberg?" he asked with excitement, but then, more calmly, he
went on: "But I could not very well be angry with you about that, for
you could not have possibly known then that we should ever have met."

Olga bit her lips in fury. "I know that only too well. I told you
that the villain who betrayed me took his life soon after. That was
not true; he is still living, and his name is Willberg."

George fell back as if he had been struck, then he sprang up and
seized Olga by the shoulders. "Tell me, it is not true--it cannot be
true."

She freed herself from his grasp. "Come, George, be reasonable; what
has happened cannot be altered now."

He sank into a chair and buried his face in his hands. "What a
blackguard!" he said, gnashing his teeth, "what a blackguard!" And
suddenly springing up, he demanded: "Swear on your oath--have you
still any connection with him, or does he know that we are intimate?"

"I am perfectly faithful to you," she answered him calmly, and he
knew from the tone of her voice that she was speaking the truth. "I
have only seen Willberg once since."

"And when was that?" he asked, with great excitement.

"On the very day that I met you for the first time. He sent me a
letter, saying he must see me without fail on a matter that concerned
my own interests. At first I did not mean to answer him, but when I
read the letter again, I felt sure that it really was a matter of
serious importance. So I named an hour when I would be at home to
him. And he came."

"Go on," urged George, as she was silent for a moment. "What did this
honourable gentleman want with you?"

"He said he had quite by chance seen us together one evening,
and had followed us unobserved--I had no ground for denying my
acquaintanceship with you; indeed, I could not, in view of what he
had seen--and he entreated me most imploringly not to mention his
name to you. I had never intended to do so, and had formerly made up
my mind to be silent concerning his name, but, in spite of that, I
appeared as if I were greatly astonished, and asked why he made such
a request?"

"And what did he answer?"

"He said that he must admit that he had not treated me quite fairly
that night."

"'Quite fairly'--that is splendid!" sneered George.

"He knew that he ought to have given me some compensation, but he was
not then in a position to do anything for me. Now he offered me one
thousand marks, partly as hush-money for the future."

"Did you take the money?"

"Before his very eyes I threw it into the blazing fire, and rejoiced
in his look of horror. After that he returned to the object of his
visit. He begged me not to tell you what had happened. He and you
were in the same regiment, I ought not disturb the friendship which
existed between you. Probably you would not think he had acted quite
rightly (so he said), it might lead to a quarrel. Such a thing is
very disagreeable, especially in a proud and distinguished regiment,
which, more than all others, must preserve outward appearances. And,
besides, you could not fight a duel on my behalf. To cut the story
short, I don't remember what else he said; I listened to him without
answering a word, and the longer I was silent the more humble and
pitiable he became, till at last he stood before me like a schoolboy
who has been severely rebuked. He fell on his knees, begged my
pardon, and entreated me to keep silence; it was then that I promised
never to mention his name to you. To-day I have given his name, but
I was compelled. It is your fault, not mine, for I spoke on your
account. You may be sure I don't want to run the risk of losing you
because of him." Suddenly she was overcome with anguish that now she
would be repulsive and hateful in his sight; she sprang towards him
and fell on her knees. "George, tell me you still love me, that you
will not send me away--it was not my fault."

He bent over her and kissed her on the forehead.

"Get up, dear, why should I be angry with you, indeed? How could I
hold you responsible for what a villain did, and it's not your fault
that his name is Willberg? But he shall answer for what he has done."

"He must not do that," cried Olga; "you have given me your word
to tell him nothing about it, and you will keep it, for I do not
believe that any occasion will arise to make me absolve you from your
promise."

He sank into a chair and looked gloomily in front of him. Had he the
slightest ground for proceeding against Willberg? He might of course
say to him: "I know a young girl, and am aware that you have treated
her like a blackguard." Willberg could not possibly allow this
insult to pass unnoticed; there would be, at the least, a quarrel,
probably a duel, and, as a result, an investigation by a Court of
Honour. A good deal of dirt would be thrown about, but what would
be the use of that? Willberg would most likely be dismissed from
the army, and what then? What advantage would that be to anybody?
There would be one less dishonourable man in the army certainly, but
who would have to bear the consequences of that? Only George, for
he would never be pardoned for having acted so harshly towards the
darling of the regiment. Willberg after his dismissal would still
find faithful friends enough who would help him. He would not suffer
too excessively in no longer wearing officer's uniform. No, George
could take no steps against him, he had no case against him; he was
obliged to admit to himself that personally Willberg had done him no
harm, no injury, and if he stepped in on behalf of Olga's honour, the
town and the world would shake their heads, and the colonel would
make it quite clear to him that men do not fight a duel on account of
a young woman like Olga. She was certainly an excellent, worthy young
woman, she was under a talented actress, but still--in imagination
George heard their remarks, and he doubled up his fists in a fury of
rage. Then another thought occurred to him. What would his parents,
what would Hildegarde say, when they learnt that he had fought
a duel for the sake of his mistress? They must not know anything
whatever about the matter.

For nearly five minutes George sat deeply immersed in thought, and
Olga watched his expression with intense anxiety: her reputation, her
career, were at stake. What had taken place between her and Willberg
was known only to themselves and George; she had told no one about
it; she had never mentioned the name of her betrayer. If George
thought the affair ought not to rest with him, and that he ought to
inform the Court of Honour concerning it, then she would be forced
to absolve him from his promise, and the whole town would learn in
a few days what up till to-day was a secret. She would not be able
to remain in Berlin; she felt that she could never again face an
audience who knew how she had been treated.

"Well, George," she said at last, "have you yet made up your mind
what you are going to do?"

"Yes," he answered firmly, "the blackguard deserves to be struck in
the face, but I shall not do that; I shall not say a word of what you
have told me to anyone, not even to him, however difficult it may be
for me. But I am obliged to act thus on your account, for I care too
much about you to expose you to public discussion, public gossip, and
probably to universal condemnation, for the world must have suddenly
changed if in spite of everything it does not hold you to blame. But
as I have just said, I will not do so, and so there's an end of the
matter."

She clung to him and put her arm round his neck.

"Thank you, George."

He led her to the _chaise longue_ and sat down by her side.
"Good God, what filth! There is just one thing I should like to
know. Do you happen to remember the day--I mean the date when
this--this--creature came to you and entreated you to keep silence?"

"How could I not remember it?" she said teasingly, trying to restore
him to a happier frame of mind: "don't you know I just told you it
was the day after I first met you. Surely, George, you have not
forgotten _that_!"

He knitted his brow. "Don't be vexed, Olga, but my brain is in such a
whirl just now that I simply can't remember a thing."

She took from her finger a diamond ring which he had given her in
remembrance of their first meeting, on which the date was engraved.
Then she handed it to him.

"Yes, of course, how could I have forgotten it!" He was suddenly
thoughtful, and then he jumped up with a start.

"What is the matter now?" she asked, frightened.

"Nothing, nothing," he assured her; "I just remembered that when
Willberg came to me for the first time to borrow money, he must have
known of our relations. He had seen you, and yet he had the audacity
to come to me. Now it's all clear to me; now I understand why he
begged me so urgently not to say a word to anyone; he feared that
perhaps I would tell you, and that then it would come out how he had
treated you. Of course, that was it!"

He strode up and down the room, occupied with his own thoughts.

"George," Olga begged; "do me the favour of writing a few words to
Willberg. Tell him you cannot give him the money, and then forget the
hateful story."

George stood still. "You are right; Willberg is waiting for news. I
forgot all about that; and the forms of politeness must be preserved,
however difficult it may be."

He wrote a few lines, in which he regretted that he was not at the
moment able to place the money desired at his friend's disposal, and
then he sent his servant with the note.

"One thing worries me," said George: "I do not know if I have enough
self-control and strength of mind to meet Willberg calmly to-morrow
and act as if I was not aware of his shameful behaviour."

"Can't you keep out of his way. He is in another company, I know,
and is he not in a different battalion?"

"That is so, but of course I meet him at mess, and even if I do not
meet him to-morrow I shall have to the next day, for we may not
absent ourselves from the mess dinner for more than two days without
an adequate reason. I fear that my blood may not be sufficiently cool
by then."

Olga thought for a moment, then she asked: "Cannot you get leave of
absence? I should of course be very sorry not to see you for a week
or a fortnight, but a holiday would do you good; you would enjoy
yourself and have a change of thought. You could easily get leave, I
should think."

"That is so," he agreed, "there is not much doing just at present,
and they could not refuse me leave of absence, but where should I
go? Home? I don't want to see my father and mother just now. I could
not be light-hearted and gay, and they would notice that something
depressed me; my coming would upset them instead of delighting them."

"I know," cried Olga suddenly: "You said just now you would like to
enjoy your life. Go for a fortnight to Paris, to Monte Carlo, or
anywhere else where it is delightful, and when you see beautiful
women, give them my greeting, and tell them they are to be good and
kind to you; I shall not be jealous." And then with a roguish laugh
she added: "You know you will not remain faithful to me."

"I shall," he said firmly.

"No, no," she answered laughingly. "I wager anything you won't."

"But I shall have no chance of being unfaithful to you."

She looked at him astonished. "How do you mean? For what reason?"

"For the simplest of all reasons--you will come with me."

"George!" Laughing and crying with joy, she flung her arms round his
neck. "You will take me with you? I shall see Paris or some other
beautiful town? George, you are really too good and kind," and she
kissed him again and again. Suddenly she stopped.

"What is the matter with you?"

"I cannot go with you."

"Why ever not?"

"You shall not be able to say that I persuaded you into taking a
holiday for my own advantage; besides, I do not know if I can get
permission to go."

"The first reason is absurd," he said. "I am not so sure if it will
be a pleasure to come with me, but you give me great happiness by
your company. Nothing is more unpleasant, at least to me, than to
travel alone, to sit in a carriage by oneself, to have meals alone,
to wander through the museums and galleries alone, and to have no
one with whom one can discuss things. There will be no difficulty
about getting permission; just now you are not very busy at the
theatre."

"Yes, but--the _répertoire_ may be changed any day."

"Dear child," he assured her, "your director is not a brute.
To-morrow ask him to give you leave of absence, and if he makes any
difficulties tell him you are prepared to pay two to three thousand
marks' compensation if he will absolve you from a fortnight's duty. I
assure you he will give you a holiday for as long as you like."

She seized hold of his hand and kissed it gratefully. "How dear
and kind you are. Do you mean you will pay so much money to free
me from my engagement? But I can tell you I shall first offer five
hundred marks, then another five hundred, and so on, but under no
circumstances will I give more than two thousand."

He laughed gaily. "You can do as you like as regards that. I will
give you the money at once. Whatever you have over belongs to you, of
course."

She clapped her hands with joy. "I shall buy a very elegant
travelling costume with it."

"Don't do it, darling," he requested. "Whatever you need in the way
of dresses I will buy you in Paris. During all the time that I have
been a lieutenant I have never spent half my allowance, and so it has
gone on accumulating. Now I can spend a large sum of money without
any conscientious scruples."

"Shall we really go to Paris?" she asked, with beaming eyes.

"If all goes well, to-morrow evening. We will take my man with us.
I can rely absolutely on his silence. You will get in at the North
Station, I at the South. I will carefully examine the train to see
if any of my acquaintances are in it, and I will have a carriage
reserved for us, so that we may travel in state. And if anybody sees
us together later on, what does it matter? And, besides, who knows us
in Paris?"

"Have you ever been there?"

"Yes."

He began to tell of the beauties and charms of Paris, and, tenderly
clinging to him, she listened to his description of the delights
which she was to enjoy with him.



CHAPTER VII

AN ARISTOCRATIC HOUSEHOLD


HILDEGARDE'S father was about to celebrate his sixtieth birthday, and
the old major had expressed a wish to see his two children on that
day. Fritz had naturally made use of this occasion of rejoicing as an
excuse for asking the Warnows to lend him a good sum for travelling
expenses; of course he had to travel first-class, and take his man
with him, besides which he really must give the old gentleman a
nice present for his birthday. So Captain von Warnow had once more
given him a £50 note. Fritz, thereupon, had naturally tried his
luck at cards, and he had the disgrace, as he himself called it, of
winning a couple of hundred pounds from the owner of an estate in the
neighbourhood; this did not often happen to him; he beamed with joy,
and for the first time for many days he found once more that life was
still endurable.

Hildegarde at first did not want to make the journey, she felt hurt
at her father's letter, in which he wrote: "My dear child, I should,
of course, be immensely delighted to see you, but my personal wishes
must not be considered if there is anything important at stake. If
you cannot come, or find it unwise to go away now for a few days,
then stay where you are and strike while the iron is hot."

She did not want to go, for she foresaw exactly what would happen at
home, but her aunt persuaded her to take the journey. Winkler was on
furlough, so it was said, at Monte Carlo and on the Riviera, he was
not returning for a week. There were no big entertainments before
then, and in any case, if Winkler were away, there would be no object
in going to them, it would only mean the unnecessary expense of new
dresses. She had no desire to throw away her money on men who had
no serious intentions with regard to her niece. And there was also
another reason why Frau von Warnow urged Hildegarde to go; she wanted
to be alone with her husband again and to be able to do something
else during the week but worry and bother about her engagement. She
was thankful that George and Hildegarde would be away at the same
time. In a week they would both be back, and it was to be hoped that
the matter would soon be brought to a happy conclusion. She felt
perfectly satisfied that Lieutenant Winkler was deeply interested in
Hildegarde. When George had announced his leave of absence to her
husband he had requested most earnestly to be remembered to his wife
and Hildegarde. It was quite irregular, from a military point of
view, and it was just because of that that Frau von Warnow regarded
it as a good sign.

So Hildegarde went home. She went by a morning train and her parents
met her at the station. Fritz was expected in less than an hour, and
so they stayed at the station. They went into the restaurant to have
something to eat, for Hildegarde was tired and hungry from the long
and wearisome journey on the branch line.

The waiter hastened towards them, and the proprietor himself came
forward to see to their orders. The major as an officer, and more
especially as a baron, was one of the great people of the town; he
was indeed the only actual baron there, although there were a few
more or less old "Vons," and thus he played an important rôle in the
little town, although his financial position was well known.

The major was the type of the retired military man, of medium size,
well-built, a somewhat red face and enormous moustaches. His wife was
still an extremely nice-looking woman, and one could see that in her
youth she must have been really beautiful.

They chattered about matters of indifference till the meal was
served, but Hildegarde noticed only too clearly how impatient her
parents were to hear something about her prospective engagement; she
tried to avoid a conversation on the subject, but was unsuccessful.
Scarcely had the waiter brought in the meal, and been given the order
not to come back till they rang for him, when they both drew their
chairs near to Hildegarde. "Now, dear child, tell us all about it.
Relieve us of a great anxiety. How do matters stand with you?"

Hildegarde parried the question; what could she really say? It was
certainly very likely that George, when he had got to know her
better, would one day ask for her hand in marriage, and that was the
only thing she could say. But she read in her parents' faces such
fear, and yet such hope, that she had not the heart to deprive them
of their joy. Suddenly she thought of a way out of the difficulty.
She briefly referred to George, and then spoke at length concerning
another very rich man who had lately paid her an immense amount of
attention.

"But, dear child, your aunt has never told me a word about this, and
she always keeps me informed as to the admirer of the hour."

"Oh, that is what she does," thought Hildegarde. Then she said:
"Mamma, I don't want you to write to aunt about this; oddly enough
she hasn't noticed this gentleman's attentions to me, and I did not
tell her anything about it. You know what aunt is; she means to do
the very best for me, and in her efforts to help me, perhaps she goes
too far and spoils things."

"And what is his name? What is he?" inquired her mother.

Hildegarde blushed scarlet. "Please do not ask me; I don't want to
talk about it while the thing is still so uncertain."

"Quite right, my child," commended the major, "one ought not to talk
about things until they are settled"; and turning to his wife he
continued, "Do not press Hildegarde any more. If she does not want to
talk about it you may be sure she has good reasons." Then he shook
hands with his daughter. "Thank you, dear Hilda, that in honour of
this day you give me _this pleasure_; two celebrations instead of
one. Ah, it will probably soon be all settled"; and then he added,
with a deep sigh, "But it's high time, I can tell you, Hilda, I could
not hold out much longer."

Her mother also sighed and said gently:

"Hilda, you have no idea what terrible times we have been through
while you were in Berlin. Just think of it, the municipal authorities
were about to issue a distress warrant for the taxes, and your father
had to strain every nerve to get an adjournment."

"Yes, indeed, that was a stiff bit of work, I can tell you, and if I
had not been able to make use of my well-known name, God knows the
fellow would have seized my last bit of furniture; those people have
no mercy."

"None to the common people, at any rate," Hildegarde interposed.

"And they are quite right," affirmed the major; "the State cannot
live without taxes, and if it were to take under its protection
every working man and tradesman who is behindhand with his taxes,
where would that lead to? We should soon run dry and have no money
for soldiers, pensions and other important things. The State must
be without mercy, and if it makes an exception in our case it does
so because it knows perfectly well that it can do so; an aristocrat
always does his duty towards the State and his fellow-creatures."

Hildegarde did not venture to contradict, she could not indeed do so
without convicting her father of lying.

The major had finished his beer. "What a miserable drink this is for
lunch, it makes one feel heavy and spoils one's appetite. What do you
say to our celebrating this meeting with half a bottle of champagne?"
His wife had no wish to do so. She feared the expense; but, on the
other hand, she knew it was useless to oppose him, and, perhaps,
indeed it would help to raise their credit a little if the proprietor
of the restaurant said that they had drunk champagne and paid for it
in cash. So she agreed. "Yes, certainly, but please let it be French
champagne."

"Of course," said the major; "do you suppose I would celebrate the
joyful news that Hilda brings us with miserable frothy German
champagne?" and he called to the waiter.

It was on Hildegarde's lips to say: "Spare your money; you have no
occasion to rejoice in what I have just told you, it was a pure
fabrication." But she remained silent. Why should she worry her
parents? Perhaps somehow or other a miracle would happen and it would
all come right in the end.

"No, bring a whole bottle of Pommery," corrected the major; "my son
is soon coming, he will also be thirsty, and it's not worth while
beginning with half a bottle."

The wine came, the glasses clinked, and Hildegarde was asked to
tell her news again. "Not here," she begged; "there is no more
uncomfortable place to stay in than a waiting-room, and especially in
a little provincial town."

"All fancy, my dear child, all fancy," her father informed her. "When
I was a young lieutenant I was once stationed at a miserable hole
which Satan, if he likes, may utterly destroy; at last a station was
built, and day after day we strolled up there and felt as jolly and
as comfortable in the miserable little waiting-room as we had never
felt before. If we had not had that station, and had not been able
to go to the station daily, I really do believe we could not have
endured the life for long; we should have gone out of our minds. When
we had done our daily military duty the day's work was over for us,
then there was only one thing to be settled: when and how were we
to go to bed? Should we go early and sober, or late and drunk? Now
we had a higher object in life; we must go and see the arrival and
departure of the trains, and we did this quite as conscientiously as
we did our other duties. You can't imagine the joy when one of us by
chance discovered an acquaintance in the train; whether he liked it
or not he was hauled out of the carriage, and if we could not do it
otherwise we used force. And once we had captured a guest, with much
craft and cunning, we didn't let him go easily, I can assure you. He
was, to a certain extent, placed under military supervision so that
he could not escape. Our visitor had perfect freedom; he could do
whatever he liked, only he must not go to the station. When at last
he really had to go away, and when he had showed us most unmistakably
that he really could not stay away longer, we only let him off by
paying huge toll. Ha! ha! We were nothing but highwaymen; but, good
gracious, what on earth could one do in such a dull hole of a place?"

The major liked telling stories about his life in the little garrison
town, in which he appeared to have much enjoyed himself in spite
of his grumbling and swearing. When he spoke of the days when he
was a young lieutenant he nearly always began his description with,
"We were gay dogs in these days," and then he winked knowingly and
smacked his lips in remembrance of the jolly days when wine, women
and dice played the chief part. Probably the memory of his life in
the little garrison town was so delightful because, to a certain
extent, it was merely an episode. Immediately after his marriage
he had been transferred to Berlin and had taken a good position
there because he was a thoroughly good-natured man and an excellent
officer; his wife was regarded as the _belle_ of Society. A great
career had been prophesied for him, but one day all his prospects
were ruined in consequence of an unjust criticism at inspection
parade. The contemptuous tone in which the General, before all the
officers, criticised the way he did his work made his blood boil, and
he so far lost his self-control as to say to the General that, after
all, he was only a human being like himself, and that he could not
admit the justice of his remarks. This was more than insubordination,
and the major might consider himself lucky that he escaped with
dismissal instead of being punished. He left the army, but a little
later the General was also dismissed; his methods of criticism had
also not been approved of in higher quarters.

When the major began to tell of the days when he was a lieutenant he
went on from one story to another, and though his womenfolk had heard
them all over and over again, they listened attentively to him from
affection; for he had nothing on earth to do but tell these stories
of the gay or wearisome times he had had as an officer. If, as now,
he had a little champagne by his side, everything in the past had a
golden halo around it; when he sat at home with his money bothers he
had not a good word for the whole army.

At last the train which was to bring Fritz was signalled.

The major looked into the bottle, it was empty; he turned to the
waiter to order another one, when his womenfolk interposed. "Let us
go home when Fritz comes, it is much nicer there; besides, we have to
dress for dinner."

Grumbling, the major agreed. "Very well, then, I must pay." He looked
into his purse. "Good gracious, I forgot to put in a five-pound note.
I have not enough money with me."

"Oh, that does not matter, sir," averred the waiter; "the gentleman
can pay when he comes next time."

Hildegarde grew scarlet, she felt ready to sink to the ground for
shame; she knew the trick so well, she had been witness innumerable
times when her father had forgotten the five-pound note which, as a
rule, he never possessed. How had she forgotten about this for the
moment? Never, never should her father remain in debt for a meal
of which she had partaken. So she opened her purse. "I have some
change, father. How much do you want?" And without waiting for an
answer she pushed two gold coins towards the waiter.

"Ah, that's right, Hilda, only don't forget to remind me to give you
back the money directly we get home."

The waiter was about to give her some change, but Hildegarde did not
take it. "That's all right, keep the change for yourself."

They got up and went on to the platform. "Hilda, how could you be
so foolish as to pay," scolded the major; "to-morrow it will be all
over the town that you have come back with money, and in honour of my
birthday the people will dun me for their accounts. One must either
pay all or nothing. I cannot do the first, so I have all carefully
noted down, and later I shall settle the whole bodily at one go."

Hildegarde was vexed at this way of looking at things. "What do you
think about this, mother?"

The baroness shrugged her shoulders. "I should prefer to pay ready
money for everything, but as we cannot do that we must adopt another
method. But the people know very well that they will get their
money." And drawing Hildegarde aside she asked in a whisper, "Tell
me, pray--I am consumed with anxiety and I wonder your father has not
yet asked you--what did the Warnows send as a birthday present?"

"Uncle sent by me a cheque for six thousand marks (£300) on the local
branch of the Imperial Bank."

"Not more than that?"

"Oh, mamma!"

Hildegarde could not speak. She herself was more than humiliated by
her uncle's kindness. She had reckoned up what he had spent in the
course of years for her parents, Fritz and herself. It is true he was
very rich, and in spite of his splendid way of living and all that
he gave away he did not live up to his income; but his kindness had
so greatly shamed and affected her that she had long ago declined to
accept any money from him.

Her mother, absorbed in thought, walked to and fro with Hildegarde,
whilst her father inquired of the station-master why the gate was not
yet open.

"Now," she said, "I fear your father will be somewhat disappointed. I
know that he secretly reckoned upon ten thousand (£500). Six thousand
(£300) is, of course, a lot of money. Nobody must know anything about
it, or people will try and get it out of us at once."

The arrival of the train brought the conversation to an end, and
Fritz hastened towards his parents and sister and greeted them
heartily. He was in faultless civilian costume, which betrayed the
officer in every detail.

"How do you do, mamma? How do, papa? How do, Hilda? How nice that
we're all here together again! We'll celebrate the next few days
properly." He looked round for his servant. "Where's the idiot? 'Pon
my word, these fellows get more idiotic every day. Ah, there he
comes."

The servant, in plain blue livery, appeared, and Fritz handed him his
luggage ticket.

"If you, thick-skinned brute, imagine that I take you with me for
your private pleasure, then you have made a mistake. You are here for
me, do you understand? And if you dawdle about here and don't do your
damned duty, then I'll have you shut up in barracks for a few days
and dismissed. Do you understand? Now, look sharp and put the luggage
in the carriage."

"At your service, sir." The servant hurried out to fulfil his orders.

Hildegarde had noticed how the soldier had blushed when his
lieutenant had rated him in this contemptuous manner before the
ladies and the other travellers. She said to her brother, "Don't be
so disagreeable to your servant. Probably he has been looking forward
to the holiday. Don't spoil his pleasure for him."

"It doesn't matter to me whether the fellow enjoys himself or not.
The important thing is for me to be properly looked after, and,
moreover, I must beg you, courteously but emphatically, not to give
me instructions as to how I am to treat my people. Do not interfere
in things that don't concern you. Tell me instead how things are
with you. Are we soon to congratulate you, eh?"

They had, meanwhile, taken their places in the carriage. The luggage
had been put in, the servant mounted the box, and in a moment the
carriage drove off at a trot to the villa where the major lived.

Hildegarde did not answer, and Fritz had to repeat his question;
but he read in his mother's glance, which told him not to press his
sister further, that all was going on well, and he breathed a sigh of
relief.

After a short drive they reached their home, and a little later they
joined one another at dinner. The major beamed with pleasure at
having his two children with him again, and in honour of the day,
and as a preparation for the morrow, they had the best wines and the
richest food. After dinner they sat for a long time over the coffee
and cigars. The brother and sister had to tell everything that had
happened to them, the former in his little provincial garrison, the
latter in Berlin.

Although the major loved his beautiful daughter dearly, Fritz was
certainly his favourite; everything that he did was right, everything
that he said was marvellous.

Hildegarde, on the contrary, found her brother, whom she had not seen
for some time, more intolerable than ever. He was amazingly proud and
conceited--the typical young officer who has nothing, is nothing,
and yet solely on the strength of his uniform imagines himself to be
a superior being. His appearance was as affected as his behaviour;
the waxed moustache standing out proudly, the eyeglass which he never
for a moment removed from his eye, and his up-to-date civilian's
dress. He was really rather nice-looking, his figure was slim and
elegant, and he had a fresh, open countenance, though somewhat
unintelligent and expressionless, and he wore an affected air of
boredom.

Of course he talked of nothing but his horses, his duties, his
comrades, and this bored Hildegarde so that she got up on the pretext
of going to rest a little. Her mother also rose after she had
arranged with her daughter to pay some visits in the afternoon.

As soon as father and son were alone together it was: "What do you
say if we were to drink another bottle of wine?"

"I'm quite agreeable."

The wine was brought, and for a short time they continued their
former conversation, then they spoke of Hildegarde.

"Really, how handsome the girl still is!" said Fritz. "And do you
think that this time it will come off?"

To-day the major saw everything in roseate hues. "Yes, most
certainly. Hildegarde has two on the cards; one in any case will come
up to the scratch."

Fritz groaned aloud. "God grant it!"

"Yes, Heaven help us!" assented his father, then he went on: "Well,
now, as we clearly see deliverance before us, you need no longer keep
any secrets from me, especially as you know quite well that I cannot
pay your debts. I told you that directly you became an officer.
I said to you then: 'Have as many debts as you like, but look to
yourself for paying them.' Now confess, how much do you owe?"

Fritz was for a moment embarrassed. "Do you really want to know?"

"Why not? As I am not going to pay them you may be quite sure I shall
not reproach you."

Fritz bit another cigar. "Taking it all in all, from first to last,
it must be about forty thousand marks."

"And how long have you been a lieutenant?"

"Seven years."

"Then that would be at the rate of about six thousand a year; it
can't be called a small amount."

Fritz shrugged his shoulders. "What is one to do? The life of an
officer is expensive, and then one is not born into the world simply
to perform one's military duties. One cannot manage on the allowance
you give me."

"Another perhaps might--you cannot."

"I don't think anyone else, at least no one in my regiment, could;
they are all in debt, some more, some less. I should say that 75
per cent. of all the lieutenants from time to time do confess to
their parents, then a couple of thousands or so are paid--naturally
each time they say it is the very last--and the son is once more on
his legs again. Now, if one multiplies by seven the amount that the
others pay yearly in debts, it amounts to a pretty big sum of money.
With me the matter is somewhat more complicated, because I have
never paid a farthing, and when one is in such a plight as I am one
naturally has to pay very high interest. The last time, in spite of
great skill and cunning, I received a thousand marks when I gave an I
O U for three thousand."

"Still, that's something," laughed his father.

Involuntarily Fritz joined in the laugh, then he became serious again
and asked, "How are things with you, father?"

The major smoked on furiously for a moment. "Don't ask me, my son,
things are very bad indeed with me."

The old gentleman looked so full of despair that Fritz felt sincere
sympathy, "Poor father, all will soon be better again."

"Perhaps so; but will you believe it, that in spite of the fact that
I am not a man of prejudice, I cannot bear the idea of accepting
money from my son-in-law, not only to pay my debts, but in order to
exist?"

Fritz looked at him with astonishment. "I cannot understand it."

"That is because you are a young lieutenant, unmarried, and have no
one in the world to look after but yourself. But consider me, I am
an old man of sixty. For more than ten years I have been pensioned;
at eight I entered the army as a cadet. I have therefore worn the
soldier's uniform for over forty years, and during the whole time I
have exercised and drilled recruits, done my duty on parade, taken
part in three campaigns. And what is the result of it all? To be
dismissed with a pension on which one cannot live if he has a wife
and child. Pensioned off with four thousand marks. I ask you, what
are four thousand marks to-day? Now, things are said to be better,
the pensions are to be increased--well, let us say there is an
addition of one thousand five hundred marks--it won't in any case
be more, probably not so much. What then? Even six thousand marks
are not sufficient to defray the household expenses of a family, are
they? In a little town, perhaps, if one lives extremely modestly.
But has one grown old, has one worn out one's bones for years in
peace and in war, in order that in one's old age one must suffer
one deprivation after another merely to prolong life? There is an
old saying that the sweets of youth are not a good preparation for
the black bread of old age. And we pensioned officers in our youth
tasted mostly nothing but sweets. Certainly there were notable
exceptions who managed on their allowance, who were economical and
sober, but most lived in a happy-go-lucky fashion and enjoyed all the
pleasures that were offered them. And what a position one enjoyed
then, how one was _fêted_! From one family to another, one dinner
to another. They always gave us the best of everything, overwhelmed
us with attentions, literally begged and entreated for our favour.
And how well and luxuriously we lived at the Casino. We ordered what
we wanted, and if we had no money we ran into debt. Then after this
youth of amusement and gaiety comes sorrowful old age, in which one
has nothing whatever to do, though that is not the worst part of it.
Two things make old age unbearable; money anxieties and the position
to which we are relegated. Who are we nowadays? Mere nobodies! The
stupidest young lieutenant plays a far more important part than
we. We are on the shelf, no attention is paid to us; we are either
regarded as ridiculous figures or, at any rate, as objects of pity.
And so after we have done our duty for years we can retire to some
miserable little hole where we are bored to death or starve. For you
can't imagine, my boy, the way in which the pensioned officers and
their families live here, and, of course, it is the same in every
_pensionopolis_. There is a groaning and a gnashing of teeth of which
none but the initiated have any idea. How few of them ever have any
opportunity of earning a few pence? People are apt to avoid the
pensioned officer, not entirely without justification, and when he
does try to get a post, how much can he earn as an agent or traveller
for wine? It is a miserable life, a dog's life. Pour me out some more
wine, my boy, pass me the glorious wine; we must gild the grey day,
glorify it with wine."

Father and son clinked glasses and emptied them at a draught. Then
Fritz said:

"You may be quite right in what you say, father, but how can things
be altered? It has always been like this, and I suppose it always
will be."

"Yes, as long as the officer plays the important part in Society that
he does to-day."

Fritz looked up astonished.

"Do you then, as an officer, wish that it should be otherwise?"

"In many ways, certainly. Do not misunderstand me. I am far from
wishing that the position of the officer should be lowered. In my
opinion he must and ought to remain in the view of the public what
he is to-day--a man belonging to the highest class of Society.
That is necessary if we desire to maintain our army in the highest
efficiency, as it still is--although for a long time things have not
been as they ought to be--as it must be, and as it could be; but
these eternal inspections, the fear of dismissal and the struggle for
mere existence no longer permit of the careful military training
of our troops. However, that is another story." Turning to his son:
"Give me another glass of wine, these long speeches make me thirsty,
but I must relieve myself once for all of what I have on my mind."

Then, drinking off the contents of his glass at a draught, he
continued:

"Well now, my boy, aristocratic men should really form the highest
caste in the land, but to do this they must be far more exclusive
than they are to-day. People are always talking about the caste
feeling of the officers, and it is solemnly trotted out when it is a
question of excluding unwelcome elements from the officers' corps,
or when an officer strikes a civilian with his sword, or whenever an
officer fights a duel with a comrade or anyone else. When the cry is
raised against them by the other classes the officers always defend
themselves with, 'Remember we belong to the highest caste; we have
our own sense of honour, which you cannot understand; our thoughts
are not your thoughts, nor yours ours, God be thanked!'

"But how are things really with this highest caste? If they had
their own special instincts and characteristics, their own ideas of
honour, then they would not only _appear_ 'first class,' they really
would be _it_. They ought to remember the Emperor's words: 'The best
society for the officer is that of the officer.' But it is just this
idea that you all object to, and now I am coming to what I wanted
to say. Consider for a moment the society of the modern officer--I
am not here referring to low-class society--he has far too much
of it; people run after the lieutenants, everybody who has a house
invites you officers, and what do you do? You accept every invitation
when there is nothing actually against the host which makes social
intercourse in his house an absolute impossibility, and of course
that is rare. Wherever there is the attraction of a dinner, a supper,
an entertainment of any kind, where the food is good and the drinks
plentiful, there the officers are to be found, and it is solely for
the sake of the excellent fare that they visit these people with whom
they would not dream of sitting down to dinner if they were not rich.
To-day, alas! money in the eyes of the officers ennobles. That proud
sense of honour which the highest class ought to have should not
judge a man according as he is rich or poor, but solely as he is an
honourable man. I have often enough noticed how even the old officers
bow down to money, how they try to win the favour of the rich, how
they give themselves endless trouble to get introduced into a family
where a good dinner and a rich daughter is the attraction. Naturally,
if an officer behaves in this way he lowers himself in the eyes of
other people and arouses the contempt and derision of all thoughtful
men----"

"But, father----" interrupted the son.

"Let me finish first what I have to say. If you have any right
feeling you must agree with me in what I have already said. But the
chief reason why the social condition of the officers must be altered
is, that owing to the present state of affairs the officer no longer
takes a pride and a joy in his military duties, and is forced into
a quite false mode of living. If he goes night after night to balls
can he next day be fresh for his duties? and if he daily swallows
oysters and champagne at other people's houses, naturally he does not
live at the Casino and in his own home as economically and as simply
as he ought if he is to manage on his money and contract no debts.
He ought in these ways to act as a shining example to other people,
and be in reality, and show that he is really, a first-class man. I
do not entirely blame the lieutenants, but Society, and, above all,
the military authorities. These, in my view, ought to forbid their
officers to go into Society so tremendously. Their warnings not to
live beyond their means are not enough, and likewise, it is not much
use to read out from time to time the stringent Cabinet Order: 'In
order to decrease the love of luxury and pleasure it becomes the
officers to give a good example by their economical and upright mode
of life,' or some such words. The officers might assert that they are
economical in the Casino, but then it is the rarest thing for an
officer to be ruined by his actual extravagance in barracks. It is
Society that is answerable for the lieutenants, Society which imbues
him with the idea, the crazy idea I might say, that he is a creature
specially favoured by the Almighty, who instil into him the poison
of 'You are quite different from every one else.' Society drives
him into making debts and living gaily upon them, just as the rich
do. When you are an old pensioned officer as I am, without money or
position, you will see and understand how Society sins against you by
spoiling you in this way. Yes, and when one is a young lieutenant one
is foolish enough to believe that all these invitations are meant as
an honour to oneself personally, instead of, as it really is, to the
officer's uniform."

"That's not always so," interrupted his son.

"Always, as far as lieutenants are concerned, I bet you any amount.
It is well known to you that the late Emperor Frederick had signed
a Cabinet Order commanding his officers to wear uniform only when
on duty; on other occasions they were to appear in civilian dress.
I will not criticise in any way this Imperial command, which is not
yet in force, but if it were in force, one thing I can tell you--with
one stroke it would have robbed the lieutenants of their social
importance. The young girls would be bitterly disappointed, and the
Enfeld Hussars would not then be in such great request. Now, after
what I have told you, do you not see that the carrying out of this
order would have been for the benefit of the officers in many ways?"

Fritz had been listening to his father with astonishment, and now he
said: "But what sort of a life do you think we ought to live? Without
amusements or social intercourse we could not exist, we should grow
stupid and dull."

"Don't you imagine it, my boy," laughed the old man. "Confess,
honestly, do you ever talk about anything sensible at these
entertainments? You speak, and that is all, you whisper sweet words,
or talk gossip to one another, but have you ever talked about one
serious subject at any place where you have been to? You could not
indeed do that, for you are far too stupid. Don't be offended at my
harsh words, but I am quite right in what I say. No one, however,
ought to reproach you with your stupidity. The majority of officers
have been cadets, and what do you learn in the army? Drill, riding,
how to judge a horse, manners and behaviour, but what else? What is
added in the way of knowledge is not worth talking about, but it's
considered quite sufficient for an officer. I have been in the army
and I can tell you that I have often felt horribly, horribly ashamed
when I saw how little I knew that an educated man ought to know. It
is the rarest thing in the world nowadays for a young officer to go
on with his education. If he ever does study it's simply military
subjects, and except for this he is only too delighted when his
duties are over to take his ease or to fill himself with alcohol, and
I must say the last occupation is by no means the worst. Pass along
the wine, my boy," and again the glasses clinked.

"Let me see, what was I just saying?" asked the major. "Oh, yes,
I remember. Well, you see, your intellectual education ought not
to be of a kind to make you long to go to entertainments and
festivities; on the contrary, if you were better educated you would
feel how boring it is to dine to-day at the Mullers, to-morrow at
the Schulzes, and to dance about with young girls; you could easily
dispense with the _conversation_, I'll be bound, but not with the
dinners and the girls."

"But what do you want, then, father? I really don't understand you.
Almost every week one reads in the papers of some scandal or other
that has taken place in a little garrison town. Either two drunken
lieutenants have boxed each other's ears, or have carried on with
each other's wives, or there is some other addition to the _Chronique
Scandaleuse_. And as excuse it is always said, with complete justice:
'The men there have nothing but the public-houses to go to, they ruin
morals; if they had the society which their brother officers enjoy in
the large towns these things would not happen.' We should simply die
if we couldn't go to these little entertainments, and now you want
to deprive us of them."

"I was not meaning that, I only want to alter them, to make them
simpler, to reorganise the whole thing. To-day, when two lieutenants
meet on duty in the morning, and one tells the other that yesterday
he dined with such and such a man of wealth, the other asks, with
deadly seriousness: 'Does he give one decent things to eat?' Then the
first speaker, who is otherwise very proud of the fact that, owing
to mental stupidity, he cannot learn anything by heart, rattles off
the long _menu_, together with the names of the various wines! If an
old staff-officer who knows how to judge good wine did this I should
not object--the man has a right, I might almost say a sacred duty, to
recognise with gratitude what the Almighty allows him to have in the
shape of excellent wine--but when a lieutenant of twenty does this it
is nothing but a vice to boast of. When people are young they ought
not to think about what is put before them, they ought not indeed to
know anything about it, but they are unfortunately being educated
into _gourmands_ and _gourmets_. Whenever a lieutenant is invited to
dinner the lady of the house wrings her hands and says: 'We must not
give this and that, it's not good enough; and if we don't give these
fine gentlemen good things to eat they won't come here again, they
are so dreadfully spoiled nowadays.'"

"It is, as you know, the universal custom to invite captains or
staff-officers to dinner, lieutenants only to balls, but is the
supper after a ball anything else but a dinner served later in the
evening? There are caviare, lobster salads, pasties of goose-liver--I
know the whole list--and one bottle of champagne follows the other,
and that is the folly. No, not the folly, but the wickedness which
Society commits against the young officers; you are so terribly
spoiled that you become firmly convinced that a luxurious life is the
only life; you see it everywhere, in every house you go into, and it
is, therefore, not to be wondered at if you get false ideas."

"But how do you propose to alter Society?"

"In this way: In future it should not be simply a question of eating
and drinking; the lieutenants should really have society; not only
a huge supper. But, above all, in future the young lieutenant must
be treated as a human being, not as a little god. He must understand
that people do not stand on tremendous ceremony with him and involve
themselves in expense on his behalf; he must be made to feel that he
is nothing but a young man of good family.

"People must not overwhelm him with flattery; he must, of course, be
treated politely and cordially as any other guest would be, but he
must not always take the first place. When Society makes up its mind
to do this then the lieutenant will become once more what he ought
to be, but what, alas! he no longer is. His foolish self-complacency
will vanish, he will again perform his duties with enthusiasm and
delight; again will he live simply and economically, and he will then
be no longer ashamed to confess, openly and honourably: 'My means
do not allow me to do such and such a thing.' He will no longer run
up debts, nor gamble, and the number of men who are ruined by their
profligate lives will be speedily decreased. And when later he drops
the uniform he will not long for the flesh-pots of Egypt as the
present generation do; he will know how to live on his income, and
then if, during his years of active service he were not worshipped
as a second golden calf, he could endure to play an unimportant part
when he retires on a pension. And the one thing more: If when he is
an officer he understands clearly that he is not superior to other
people, then when he takes his discharge he will not be ashamed
and afraid of working, nor of adding to his somewhat limited stock
of knowledge in order to get some appointment or other which will
enable him to support himself and his family. He will consider it
more honourable to live on money which he had honestly earned than on
credit, or by running into debt."

Fritz looked at his father in great astonishment. "But what makes you
take these views?"

"Why do I take them? I have always had them, though perhaps I have
not always lived in accordance with them. You know what a situation
I am in, and naturally enough I often ask myself who is to blame for
it. I have thought long and much on the subject, and I have come to
the conclusion: it is Society that spoils us utterly as it is now
spoiling you, and then casts us aside as valueless directly we no
longer wear the dazzling uniform. Society means well, but without
wishing to do so it commits more sins against the lieutenants than it
can answer for, and from this point of view His Majesty was perfectly
right when he made the remark I have already referred to: 'The best
society for the officer is the society of the officer.' I know this,
that if ever I had been the colonel and commander of a regiment I
should have said to my officers: 'Gentlemen, you must give up going
all over the place wherever a smoking dish awaits you; I will give
you a list of the families where you can visit.' I should have only
chosen those where my officers could have had, first of all, nice,
pleasant, friendly, social intercourse, and, secondly, quite simple
suppers. Of course, as you can imagine, my son, the officers would
have at first cursed and sworn, but later they would have been
grateful to me. Bismarck used to say: 'Other nations can imitate
everything we possess except the Prussian lieutenant.' The old
statesman was right when he spoke. Would he be equally right to-day,
I wonder?"

"But, father----"

"Don't interrupt, my boy," laughed the old major; "you are my
dearly-loved son, and my joy, but would you maintain that you are the
model Prussian lieutenant whom Bismarck praised?"

"Well, no, not exactly that," admitted Fritz, yielding, "but
still----"

"Now be a good fellow, don't defend yourself any further. It's high
time, moreover, for us to stop talking. I must have my afternoon nap.
At six o'clock I am going to the club. Will you come with me?"

"Of course, Dad."

"Very well, then, good-bye for the present," and the old man went
into his room.

It was not till supper that the family were all together again,
and the men folk were late in coming. They had stayed longer than
usual at the club, the members of which were retired officers who
day after day argued and disputed concerning their dismissal and
the advancement of their comrades who, according to their firm
conviction, ought to have been retired far earlier than they. Fritz's
appearance aroused quite a sensation in the little circle; they were
delighted to see at lunch once again a lieutenant on active service,
even though he was in mufti, and they were suddenly of the opinion
that the ordinary sour Moselle was not at all a suitable beverage for
the occasion. They ordered a better brand and chatted gaily over it.

The major and his son were somewhat silent at supper; the mother
told all about the visits she had paid with Hildegarde, and as her
husband was in an amiable frame of mind she thought this would be a
favourable moment for him to bear the disappointment of learning that
the Warnows had only sent him six thousand marks. So she told him
about it, and also that she had changed the cheque in the bank.

"Well, it's not much, certainly, but it's something," averred the
major. "Let me have the money."

His wife objected. "Let me keep it till to-morrow, then we will talk
over things quietly and consider whom we must pay."

"Paying is all very well," said Fritz, "but surely you wouldn't be so
stupid, now that you have a few pence in your pockets, to fling them
away again. If you pay one person all the others will come running to
the house to-morrow, in honour of the Dad's birthday. Whoever would
be so stupid as to pay debts?"

His father quite agreed with him. "Fritz is right, Fritz is a
sensible fellow. The crew have waited all this time for their money
and can certainly wait a few weeks longer until Hilda is engaged. To
your health, Hilda!"

Fritz also raised his glass. "Long life to your future husband! By
the way what's his name? Not that it matters; the thing is, he has
money."

But Hildegarde did not lift her glass, she would like to have got up
from the table, she could not bear the way they talked about her, and
she could hardly refrain from bursting into tears. What would George
think if he knew how they drank his health and how they only thought
of his money and not of himself?

"Well, if you won't drink with us, leave it alone," said Fritz, and
emptied his glass.

The major returned to the subject of the money. "My dear, with
that money we might really have a nice little holiday; for three
years we have not stirred from this miserable hole. We would leave
two thousand marks at home, so that when we returned we were not
penniless, and the rest we would take with us and go for a few weeks
to Italy."

The idea was very agreeable to his wife, but she said, however,
"Later, perhaps, when Hilda is engaged. Remember the engagement may
take place any day, and we must be here to receive the dear man with
open arms."

"We will do that, certainly," said the major, "we'll embrace him. He
will be astonished how affectionately we hold him, won't he, Fritz?"
And turning to his wife he went on: "Just imagine, mother, that rogue
Fritz is forty thousand marks in debt." And he burst out laughing at
his son.

His mother clasped her hands, horrified. "But Fritz, how is that
possible?"

And, Hildegarde, astounded, burst out: "What on earth do you do with
the money from home that uncle sends you?"

"'Ask the stars that all things know,'" Fritz began to hum, but
he could not recollect the tune, so he only hummed a couple of
inarticulate notes.

It was long before his mother recovered her composure. "It is really
frightful; it is to be hoped that Hildegarde's _fiancé_ will pay your
debts also later. But supposing he doesn't, what are you going to do?"

"Shoot myself. But he'll soon pay up, I'll see to that all right."

"If you only had been something else but an officer," lamented his
mother; "it's madness for a man who has no money to enter the army."

"I quite agree with you," said Fritz; "but what's the use of
lamenting? It's too late now, you should have thought of that before,
when you sent me to the Military College. I wasn't asked."

"You are quite right. The rascal is reproaching us now," laughed his
father.

"I didn't mean that at all, father. I have a very good time as a
lieutenant; besides, I don't know what else I could have been.
But you know, being a lieutenant has its drawbacks; one is never
free from money difficulties, and then there is the constant fear
of getting one's discharge much earlier than one expects. It's a
horrible feeling. I really can't understand why fathers let their
sons go into the army, and least of all can I understand why retired
officers always do it. The old officers, you, father, most of all,
and those whom I met to-day at the club, are always complaining of
the injustice of being pensioned off so early; they lament that
the army is no longer what it once was; they groan over their
tiny pensions and their bodily ills, the results of long years of
campaigning; they swear at the allowance they are obliged to make
their sons. They know perfectly well, however, that he cannot manage
on it, and that he, therefore, contracts debts; they know that, at
best, their son will only be a staff-officer, and that then till his
death he will lead the same miserable, embittered life as they have.
And alas: they also know how a mistake on duty, a mis-spent evening,
an impulsive blow may ruin a young soldier, and although they know
all this they let him become a soldier. And when one day the young
officer is at the end of his tether and has to leave the army, then
there is lamentation and grieving, and, of course, no one is to blame
but the son."

"Everybody wouldn't find things as bad as you do," interposed the
major.

"You are right, but I am not speaking about myself, but of things
in general. In my regiment it happens we are nearly all the sons of
retired officers and I am constantly hearing one or other of them
complaining: 'Why on earth didn't my father let me be something else,
as he must know I can't possibly manage on the small allowance he
gives me?' Why do these old officers always send their sons to a
military college in spite of all there is against it? Because it is
cheap, and it is so very convenient to get the young rascals educated
in that way. Do you suppose that in the future the retired officers
would take it quite so much as a matter of course that their sons
should go into the army if they had to pay four or five hundred
marks a year at college instead of eighty, besides providing them
with clothes? They would not think any more about it. But now it's a
simple matter: 'Let the boy be educated cheaply, that's the thing, we
can attend to other things later on.' Privately they always reckon
upon an old uncle or aunt, and when one day they 'strike' or die,
then the lieutenant is in a fix and gets into debt, or he is expected
to live upon air. People always talk about the foolish lieutenants,
but what about the foolish parents who, to save themselves the
expense of educating them, let them adopt a profession in which it
is impossible to earn any money and the temptation to spend it is
tremendous."

"Very well delivered," said his father; "but if the officer has no
money to get his son properly educated, as was the case with me, what
is he to become?"

"Fritz ought to have been put into business," declared Hildegarde.
"If a man has no means he should choose a career in which he can make
money."

"In theory that is very beautiful and quite true," answered Fritz;
"and if many fathers were as wise as you, my charming sister, it
would be better for our officers. These first-class men, as father
called them a little while ago, would not run around and beg and
borrow and get credit, and try their luck at cards in order to try
and keep their heads above water until they find a rich wife or are
ruined."

The major had listened to his son very attentively, now he said: "I
am astonished that you, an officer's son, should talk in this way.
Who, according to your theory, should supply the army with officers
if not we?"

"First of all, only those parents who have the financial means to
provide for their sons' future; and then no one ought to be made an
officer unless he has real enthusiasm and love for his profession
and is willing, if need be, to make sacrifices and bear deprivations
for its sake. But you cannot expect that a kid who is sent to a
college at eight should know if he has any real liking for the work
of a soldier. He ought not to choose a profession until he is able
to judge for himself to a certain extent; a father ought not to send
his son into the army from motives of economy, or God knows what
other reasons, and then demand of him that he should be a model of
steadiness and conscientiousness. I know that if I had anything to
say in the matter I should abolish the Cadet Colleges."

"Ho! ho!" burst out the major, "you are becoming worse and worse."

"It will have to be," continued Fritz. "You yourself pointed out to
me a little while ago that we do not learn nearly enough at college,
but quite apart from that there is another drawback; we go into the
army too young, we are made officers in two years. Lieutenants of
eighteen and nineteen are by no means rare, and we are suddenly given
a position which no one else enjoys at that age. We get the control
of money too early without ever having learnt how to manage it. Just
think of the life at a military college, how we are watched and
protected! One dare not smoke or drink beer or go out without being
invited. One has to say how long one stayed with one's relatives----"

"But that is all very right," interposed Hildegarde.

"It may be, but it may not be: the transition to the other kind
of life is too sudden, too quick. Twenty-four hours after one has
left this college one is an ensign, and then all at once he enjoys
that complete liberty against which he was so zealously guarded
but a short time ago. One can eat and drink what one likes, one
can go where one will, in short, one can enjoy all the pleasures
of life at one go off. And so one easily oversteps the limits and
does all sorts of stupid things in the joy of having escaped such
strict surveillance. And who can blame an ensign for this? The young
ensign gets accustomed to leading an idle life, and this continues
when he becomes a lieutenant, only very few having the energy to
alter. We were lately looking over the Army List to see how many of
our contemporaries at college were still in the army, and we were
simply astonished to find how many had vanished. The education at
the Cadets' College is answerable for this--that alone. At nineteen
a man is an officer, at three-and-twenty he gets his discharge;
that happens more often than people believe, and that shows clearly
that the cadets at college have not learnt the one thing properly
that they ought to have learnt--to control themselves and to live
as officers in a suitable manner. At college far too much stress is
laid upon drill, exercise, lessons and other things, and not nearly
enough on the education of the youthful mind. There is no education
of the individual, of the character; it's all done _en bloc_, and the
college can never take the place of the home; what the child sees and
hears and learns unconsciously there, is worth a thousand times more
than what is so stringently imparted to him at college."

"But how can it be altered?" asked the major, who was deeply
interested in the conversation. The ladies, meanwhile, had risen
from the table and taken their needlework.

"I do not know," acknowledged Fritz, "but some means may be found.
The Cadets' Colleges must, as I have said, be abolished, and every
officer must have passed his matriculation, as was formerly the case
in the Marines. There should be a limit of age; in my opinion it
should be twenty, and then a man could not be a lieutenant till he
was two-and-twenty; that is quite early enough, if after that age was
no more taken into account. The age limit must be abolished. To-day
no one who has not reached a certain rank by a certain age has any
chance of making a career for himself. What is the object of keeping
the army so young by all possible means? As a result of this, every
year hundreds and hundreds of men have to seek for posts of all
kinds. New elements, new officials, new views are introduced, and
this does not tend to facilitate the training of the troops. If a man
is lieutenant at twenty-two he can be a captain at five-and-thirty, a
major at forty-four, and a colonel at eight-and-forty. Surely that is
young enough, isn't it? And if he distinguishes himself in any way he
can get his promotion earlier."

"And would that make for efficiency in time of war?"

"You can answer that better than I can. You were pensioned as
a complete invalid, but in spite of this were you not at your
discharge quite young enough and active enough to have done duty on
the field?"

"Yes, and no," grumbled the major. "I will explain what I mean. The
chief army doctor worried round me for a long time, but he could find
no wound for which he could write a certificate, so I assisted him a
little and mentioned injuries which I did not possess, and then it
was all right. But I could easily have held out for five--no, ten
years. Go into a pension office in any large town and look at the
innumerable officers who go there regularly at the first of each
month to draw their pension--a few miserable pounds. They are all
'complete invalids,' or who have been pensioned on account of their
age. Yet health and energy are to be read in their faces."

"That is just what we all say," put in Fritz. "We have been lately
talking about these things in the Casino; nothing of much value is
said, still it is interesting what the different officers think about
these matters. We are unanimous in wanting to abolish the military
college. Every lieutenant must have passed his matriculation and no
one can be an officer before he is one-and-twenty; if we once have
that, there will be a great alteration in the army."

There was a long pause; the major was ruminating over what Fritz had
just said, then he said: "In many ways you have really most sensible
ideas."

"That is what I think," Hildegarde chimed in; "I must compliment
you, Fritz. When I hear you speak so seriously, and with so much
knowledge, I can hardly recognise you as my gay and frivolous
brother."

Fritz bowed to his sister. "Very much obliged. Yes, I have at
intervals my lucid moments, they tell me that in the regiment; but,
alas! these mental illuminations are but rare. My mental darkness
only disappears when I have drunk a good deal of wine; then I begin
to think. I haven't courage at other times. From such occasions I
recognise that I am a social democrat."

"But, Fritz----"

"Well, that _is_ good! You a lieutenant and a social democrat----"

"Calm yourselves," implored Fritz. "I have not sworn brotherhood with
Bebel. When I say I am a social democrat I don't, of course, mean
that I have subscribed to the programme of that party, though I must
say the division of property would suit me well, provided I got a
good thing out of it! I only meant to say that I am a dissatisfied
aristocrat, and so are we all, from the colonel down to the youngest
lieutenant. One can't say as much as one would like to, because
naturally one has to remember the uniform one wears, but soon there
will be complaints enough, I can assure you, not only in our regiment
but in all."

"It was certainly not like that in my time," lamented the major;
"discussions we had often, of course, but----"

"Formerly things were very different, father. Formerly everybody got
his majority, now one may remain a first lieutenant for ever and be
transferred to a district command or some such thing. Formerly it
really was a day of honour and rejoicing when there was an inspection
by those high in authority, but what happens now? Everybody trembles
for weeks before it takes place, and for weeks afterwards, in the
fear that someone may get his discharge as a result of it. There
used to be a three-years' service, now the men have to get through
the same amount of work and drill in two years, and the military and
extra-military duties of to-day are not to be compared with those
of ten years ago. Ah, and the money question! I am not thinking of
myself, I am an extravagant dog, but now and again someone attempts
to live on his allowance and the authorities do all they can to
put obstacles in his way. Now it's a festival, now a guests' day,
a birthday celebration, a garden entertainment and ladies invited,
the jubilee of the regiment, a farewell dinner; even if a man wants
to be steady and economical he can't get out of the champagne--he
simply must drink with the others. Whether in former times you used
so much of your pay for presents, flowers, Casino subscriptions, and
a thousand and one other things, that I don't know. And then, the
expense of one's clothes; why, I believe I owe my tailor alone five
thousand marks. There's always some new fashion or other; new cloaks,
different caps, coats, new buttons, new scarves, and all the rest of
it. And who has to pay for all this? Why, the officer, of course. And
where does he get his money from? Of course that's his own business.
On the one hand we are warned to be steady and not fling away our
money, and on the other we are always being dragged into fresh
expenses. It will all have to be altered, or in ten years' time our
officers will be ten times more heavily in debt than even to-day.
You, father, to-day were blaming Society because we lived beyond our
means, but we officers blame the authorities. There must always be
money for regimental purposes, but nobody troubles how we live, and
then when we get into debt there's a devil of a row and we are bound
to pay up within three days. On such occasions we are threatened with
dismissal, of which the colonel also runs the risk because he was not
strict enough in preventing us from getting into debt. That is what
happened to me lately. I owed the Casino four hundred marks, and had
to face the alternative of paying within four-and-twenty hours or
undergoing five days' arrest; naturally I paid, and the colonel was
satisfied. It didn't occur to him to ask where I had got the money
from."

"And where did you get it from?"

"Borrowed it from the Jews, of course. I am not a magician and
cannot get money from the air. It's so ridiculous. One is forced to
contract new debts in order to pay off the old ones which comes to
the colonel's ears."

"Does your colonel know that you have debts?"

"Of course he knows, though, probably, he does not guess how deeply
I am involved. He says to himself, 'What I do not know does not
concern me. I need not trouble about things which are not officially
brought to my notice.' His own future and his career are of far
more importance to him than mine. He doesn't really care if I go
to the devil or not; but if I do go he may go also; so he not only
shuts both eyes, but also both ears. He doesn't want to see or hear
anything, for, of course, he knows perfectly well that I am not the
only one. If he takes action against one, he would have to against
the others, and he doesn't want to do that. He wants to become a
general; his successor can see about the officers who are in debt."

It was late when they went to bed. The father and son would have
preferred to go on talking all through the night, but the women folk
urged an adjournment; they must remember to-morrow was the day of the
festivity which would bring in its train a great deal of exertion,
visits, and congratulations of all kinds.

But, alas! the day of rejoicing was not such as had been expected. It
got about that Hildegarde had changed a cheque in her father's name,
and the news spread like lightning through the little town. Everybody
who knew of this and had any claim on the major determined to go
early in the morning, if possible, so as to be the first, and ask him
to pay his account which had been owing for ages.

They were taking their early cup of coffee when the tradesmen were
announced. The major knew what was before him and cursed and swore
like mad.

"That's what happens when you women interfere in money matters. How
could you be so stupid as to change a cheque, even if only one person
was standing by and saw you? And why was it a cheque at all? Can't
the Warnows pay the miserable few thousands (hundreds) in cash?
Nobody would then have heard of it; but now I am obliged to pay out
some of the money. But," he roared out suddenly, "I won't do it at
all. I did not think to have my sixtieth birthday spoilt by that
shameless crew. I'll see them all to the devil first."

"Shall I go and talk to these people?" asked Fritz. "I have great
experience in these things, and I can safely say that no one has ever
got anything from me. I can't understand, father, why you get so
excited over such trifles. Now, let me go and try what I can do."

He was about to go out of the room, but his mother kept him back.

"That won't do, Fritz. You don't know how often the bailiff from the
court has been here. Things have gone so far--I mean--well, you will
have to know it--up till now he has only sealed some of our furniture
and has not sold any; but if the authorities hear that we really have
money he will have to sell us up. He told us that, and we wanted to
spare papa that to-day."

"Above all things, certainly." Fritz had become serious, and
involuntarily he looked round to see the seals.

"He has only put on seals where they could not be seen," the mother
whispered to her son; "on the carpets, the piano, the bookshelf, the
pictures--briefly, all the things that stand against the walls. Oh,
it's frightful!" and she began to cry.

"Yes, that's right, cry!" roared the major. "Formerly on one's
birthday one was serenaded; now, when one is old and grey, one's wife
weeps because there is no money and the creditors are outside the
door. A man must live to be sixty to enjoy such an honour."

He stamped to and fro cursing, listening from time to time to the
people who were in the vestibule waiting for him. Suddenly he stood
in front of Hildegarde and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Eh, Hilda, you see we cannot wait much longer for your lover. Bring
him soon, before it is too late, before that rascally crew has taken
everything and sold us up and I and your mother are cast into the
street."

His words expressed such bitterness and such despair that Hildegarde
forgot all about her own feelings and how she was looked upon as
deliverer, and in grief for her parents she burst into tears.

"Number two," scolded the major. "That's right."

"Don't be unjust, father. You can't blame mother and Hildegarde for
being sad. The affair is more than unpleasant to me even."

"Then you had better begin and cry," cursed the old man, whose veins
stood out on his forehead.

"I am not thinking of myself but how these people can be satisfied
in some way or other. I did not know that any of the furniture was
sealed. You ought to have told me so." After a slight pause he asked,
"How much is it for?"

"Only two thousand marks."

"This must be paid first of all, and this very day."

"Oh, I don't think so. The seals have been all right there for a long
time."

"In spite of that the two thousand marks must be paid," continued
Fritz with determination and energy, "and if you cannot pay it I
must. I lately won a few thousands at cards, and I will give you a
couple."

The major stared at his son. "And what is the reason of this
generosity, may I ask?"

"Consideration for myself and Hildegarde. If it were conceivable that
it should ever be known in my regiment how matters stood with you
here, I should not only lose my position, but also my credit, and
that might have consequences which would not be pleasant for either
of us. And one must consider Hildegarde. Just imagine if in the next
few weeks, or perhaps in the next few days, Hilda's prospective lover
were to pay you a visit and by some unfortunate chance caught sight
of the seals. The fellow would have to be a downright idiot if this
did not open his eyes to the fact that he was only being married for
his money. And this knowledge must not come before the marriage, it
must be prevented at all cost. If you can't do this I must."

The major had sunk into a chair and was gazing gloomily in front of
him, the two ladies were softly crying.

Fritz got up and went to his mother. "I will go and talk to these
people. Will you give me the six thousand marks, it can't be helped."

"The dear money!" The major groaned; for the first time for many a
day he had been able to sleep the whole night through without being
awakened by anxious thoughts. The consciousness of having six
thousand marks in the house in cash had filled him with great joy and
given him a feeling of tranquillity and security. And now the people
stood outside who were to take his money from him.

"Fritz," he said, turning to his son, "you promise me to do the best
you can with these people. Don't pay it all away or we shall not have
any money in the house."

"I can manage with the housekeeping till the first," the mother said;
"I have still a hundred marks."

"And I can give you another hundred, mamma," put in Hildegarde. "Aunt
gave me more than I needed for travelling expenses."

"And I will contribute a hundred marks also," said Fritz. He had
really no feeling for his family, but the poverty that reigned seemed
to him so horribly unsuited to their social position he must give a
helping hand, partly indeed on his own account, so as not to be the
son of a beggar.

Fritz turned to the door once again. "You are quite sure you want me
to talk to these people, father, or would you rather----"

But the major declined. "No, no, you go, I should get into a temper;
do what you can."

Fritz went into the next room and summoned all the creditors who were
standing outside. They were all workmen or tradesmen. All knew Fritz
personally, and greeted him in a friendly fashion and were very
deferential in their behaviour.

In the regiment Fritz was regarded as excessively haughty and proud,
but when he wanted to get anything out of a person he could be
exceedingly amiable. He shook hands now with all, asked after the
health of their families, and now and again joked with them. He had
indeed already half won the battle when he said, "My father, who is
not feeling very well to-day, has requested me to speak to you and to
settle your accounts so far as he is in a position to do so. There
are, indeed, rather a lot," he said laughingly, "but we shall be able
to make an arrangement; naturally we cannot pay all at once. You know
that in consequence of the failure of his bank my father has lost a
great deal"--then he went on with his fabrications--"but within the
next few months we shall get a large sum of money from the family
estates, and then each of you will be paid to the uttermost farthing.
To-day we can only pay part, and I am sure you will all agree to
this. You know, perhaps, that to-day my father is celebrating his
sixtieth birthday, and I am sure you would not wish to spoil the day
when he might be so happy with his wife and children."

No, they did not want to do that; naturally they knew the money would
be quite safe, only they had heard that yesterday the respected major
had received a large sum of money, and they only wanted to see if
they could not secure a little of it.

Fritz listened to these words with joy; these people were much more
sensible, and above all much more respectful than he had dared to
hope; mentally he put aside a thousand marks for his parents. If he
divided five thousand marks (£250) among these tradespeople they
would be more than satisfied.

He had the bills given to him, and a joyful smile played on his lips
when he added up the amounts; the whole lot amounted to only ten
thousand marks (£500). "I shall save another thousand," he thought to
himself; then he called up each one singly, spoke to him cheerfully
and arranged things as he wanted. All declared that they were quite
satisfied to have received a fourth of their accounts, the remainder
to be paid within three months.

It was a good hour before Fritz had finished; from each he exacted a
written statement that he would not press for money during the next
few months nor send in any accounts. To keep the people in a good
humour all this time he had given them wine and offered them cigars.
They took the wine and with Fritz drank his father's health, but they
did not venture to smoke in the presence of the honoured lieutenant
and in the respected major's apartments.

At last they departed; Fritz shook hands with them once again,
and with a friendly word they all parted good friends. From the
passage the laughter of the departing ones penetrated into the
breakfast-room, where the others were awaiting the result of the
interview.

Beaming with joy, Fritz returned and laid the two thousand marks on
the table. "Well, father, I've rescued that for you; for the present
they are all satisfied and for three months you have a respite.
Before the time is up Hilda will long have been married, and even if
she is only engaged I'll manage to get you the few pounds. I've done
more difficult things than that. But one thing I should like to know,
father: surely these few debts, amounting in all to ten thousand
marks, didn't deprive you of your night's rest? I thought they would
have been at least seventy or eighty thousand."

"I thought so too; perhaps there are a lot more. I never had the
courage to add them all up."

"Unless one can pay them there's not much point in doing so," said
Fritz, with indifference; then, partly out of curiosity, partly from
real interest, he asked, "What other debts have you then, father?"

"All over the place; the bills are turning grey with age, and some
indeed are really primeval."

"In that case a lot of them are no longer valid."

"But Fritz," cried Hildegarde, "you surely wouldn't take advantage
of that? The tradesmen must have their money."

"Very easy to say that, but where is it to come from?" objected the
major. "I haven't any money--at any rate, not for the moment."

"Have you any bills or I O U's out?" inquired Fritz. "You must not be
offended with me for asking you this, but I have been to a certain
extent your business agent to-day. I should like to have a clear idea
of how matters stand."

"No," his father assured him, "I have never given any of these, but I
am indebted to all my friends; one for four thousand (£250), another
three thousand (£150), a third a thousand (£50), and so on."

"Oh, well, you need not grow grey because of these; whoever
lends money to a friend knows perfectly well in nine hundred
and ninety-nine cases out of a thousand he will not get it back
again. And I really see absolutely no reason why you should be the
exception. Whoever lent you money knew perfectly well he would not
see it again."

"Yes, yes, that is all very well," grumbled the old major, "but the
people only lent me the money because I told them of Hildegarde's
prospective engagement."

"Father, really----" cried Hildegarde. She blushed crimson and was
beside herself with indignation. "It is not enough that you think
and talk about nothing else but my possible engagement, but you must
also tell strangers about it in order to get credit."

The mother laid her hand gently on her shoulder. "But, Hilda, you
must not take it in that way; we only spoke about it to intimate
friends."

The major also tried to calm her, but Hildegarde would not be
pacified. "I cannot go out in the town any more, you have made it
impossible for me here. Now I understand the veiled allusions of
mamma's friends yesterday when they inquired so sympathetically after
my health. I shall go away to-morrow; I will not stay here a day
longer."

"This is certainly a delightful birthday celebration," snarled the
major, and he struck the table a violent blow with his fist.

"Hildegarde will be all right again directly," said Fritz, "she's a
sensible girl; naturally these money complications have upset her.
This afternoon she will be her old self again. Now I must go and
arrange matters with the bailiff or the champagne will not taste
good."

But although by the afternoon the seals had been removed from the
furniture the champagne somehow or other was not successful. A dark
shadow lay over the house, and remained there, and when at last the
major went to bed he had to confess that he had never spent so sad a
birthday as the day when he reached the age of sixty.



CHAPTER VIII

THE WAGES OF SIN


LITTLE Willberg had shot himself!

There was sincere sorrow in the regiment at the loss of their
comrade, who had been the universal favourite, yet, in spite of that,
they could not forgive him for not having taken his discharge before
taking his life. Twenty-four hours sooner or later could have made no
difference to him; within that time he could have managed it. They
could not understand why he had shown so little consideration for
the regiment he had so dearly loved and of which he had always been
so proud. The act of one officer affects the credit of all; Willberg
understood that perfectly well, and he ought to have remembered that
his suicide would cause all kinds of unpleasantness to the regiment.

This was the universal view, and how right it was was shown by the
fact that the Berlin newspapers were full of little Willberg's death.
An attempt had been made to hush up the affair, and at the request
of the colonel, the adjutant, Count Wettborn, had visited all the
newspaper offices and requested that nothing might be published
concerning the sad affair. The count had been to all except the two
social democratic organs; he could not bring his mind to visiting
them; and it was just these two newspapers that daily published fresh
revelations concerning the life of the dead man. There came to light,
indeed, more than had been feared. The "Golden Butterflies" were
beside themselves with rage that all these things which, in their
opinion, were nobody's concern but their own, should be published,
and the worst of it was that from the history of the dead man's life
people drew unfavourable conclusions concerning the spirit and mode
of life of the "Golden Butterflies."

The "Golden Butterflies" were simply distracted; why should this
thing have happened to them?--to them who were so proud and
distinguished, and who possessed the reputation of being one of the
most aristocratic of infantry regiments? And why, again, should it
have been an officer belonging to the highest nobility who gave
people the opportunity of criticising the regiment? The newspapers,
of course, found this an excellent occasion for renewing their
attacks on the aristocracy and declaring that the people with blue
blood in their veins were not a whit better or more to be respected
than those who had to be content with miserable red blood.

But the worst of all was that what the newspapers reported,
unfortunately, approached the truth. Willberg must have been living
frightfully extravagantly, and he was mixed up in highly disreputable
affairs. Much was revealed of which his fellow-officers had had
no idea. The colonel went about in a state of great excitement,
cursing and swearing. On the day after the sorrowful event there
was a regular attack on the regimental bureau by people who had
claims on Willberg, and who wanted to know who would settle them,
and when after this nobody else was admitted to the barracks, there
were showers of letters which disclosed more or less discreditable
episodes in Willberg's life.

Why, oh why, should it have been an aristocrat who drew down upon the
regiment such scandal and rebuke? Nobody said it aloud, but everybody
thought the same thing. If only it had been Winkler instead of little
Willberg who had shot himself, how satisfied they would have been;
they could have struck an attitude and declared, with great pride,
"You see, we nobles are the better men." But it was the aristocrat
who was dead, and the plebeian was still alive!

None of the "Golden Butterflies" knew what it was that had so
suddenly driven Willberg to death, and he had not left a letter or a
line behind which gave the slightest clue to it.

As a matter of course the colonel inquired of his fellow-officers
whether any of them could give him any information, but the "Golden
Butterflies" looked at one another and shrugged their shoulders. All
of them knew of course that little Willberg had lost money at cards,
but that had often happened, and why should he, therefore, have shot
himself on this particular occasion rather than earlier? And this
view was strengthened by the fact that the Uhlan, when questioned,
had declared that Willberg had paid him his gaming debts shortly
before his death. As a matter of fact this was not the truth; on
the contrary, the Uhlan had emphatically reminded Willberg that the
date for the payment of the debt had passed, and had admonished him
that in affairs of this kind, which were designated debts of honour,
etiquette demanded the most scrupulous punctuality. It was after
this that Willberg shot himself, and although the Uhlan need hardly
reproach himself with having driven a comrade to death, still he was
very glad that the affair had not been made public.

On the day after the burial it occurred to the adjutant of the
regiment to ask Willberg's man if he could give any information in
the matter. But he could disclose nothing, although he was subjected
to a formal examination; at last, however, he remembered something.
"Now I recollect, sir, one evening I took a letter to Lieutenant
Winkler, and my master waited at home for the answer, and when it did
come he was greatly agitated. I had never seen him before like this.
I heard him walking up and down for hours, and next morning when I
went to call him he had not been to bed at all, but was lying on the
sofa asleep."

"Do you know what was in the letter you took to Lieutenant Winkler?"

He could give no information on this point, so he was dismissed, and
the adjutant told the colonel what he had just learnt. The latter
walked about in agitation.

"How long has Lieutenant Winkler been on furlough?"

The count consulted the calendar. "He has to announce his return
to-morrow mid-day!"

"So much the better, otherwise I should have had to recall him by
telegraph. The authorities ask for explicit details concerning
Willberg's death. Till now I was confronted by a riddle; perhaps
Winkler can throw some light on the subject."

George had already heard of Willberg's death while he was in Paris,
and although at first the news had shocked him he could not pretend
that he was deeply grieved. Almost hourly he had thanked Olga for
having persuaded him to take this journey. He could not hide from
himself that in spite of the best resolutions he would not have been
able to meet Willberg calmly.

He had also told himself hourly that even when he returned he did not
think he could see him in cold blood, and thus to a certain extent
he breathed more freely when he heard of Willberg's death, and he was
almost grateful to Heaven for having spared him a future meeting.
It was sad, of course, that Willberg had been obliged to take his
life when he was still a young man, but as far as the army and the
officers were concerned his death was no loss. He had dreaded meeting
him again, but now he returned to the garrison quite cheerfully.
Fourteen happy days lay behind him; Olga and he had thoroughly
enjoyed themselves in beautiful Paris; his furlough had been a real
time of refreshment, and he was quite pleased to return to his duties
and his active life.

"The colonel desires that Lieutenant Winkler will speak to him
to-morrow at eleven in the regimental bureau." For a moment George
was somewhat alarmed. Could the colonel have found out that he had
been in France, in Paris, without permission? Well, the punishment
for that was not severe, at the worst a few day's confinement to
one's own lodgings, which would not destroy the memory of the
delightful days he had just enjoyed.

The first words, however, which the colonel addressed to him next
morning showed him that his fears were groundless. He inquired how he
had enjoyed the Riviera, and then he came at once to the point. He
told him what Willberg's former servant had said, and begged George
to give him any further information he had. "Above all it is most
important for me to know what was in the letter which Willberg sent
you. Can you, and will you, give me information concerning this?"

George considered for a moment, then he said: "As I was not expressly
pledged to keep silence I do not think I shall be committing an
indiscretion if I tender an account of it."

"Have you still Willberg's letter?"

"No, sir; but I perfectly remember what it contained. Lieutenant von
Willberg wrote to me that he had been gambling and required five
thousand marks (£250) to settle a debt of honour. If he did not get
the money by some means or other he said he should have to put a
bullet through his head to vindicate his honour."

"This confounded gambling!" cursed the colonel. "Who will extirpate
it root and branch?" After a slight pause he asked: "Did you give him
the money?"

"No, sir."

"The gambling debt was paid by some other means," interposed Count
Wettborn; "the colonel therefore need not have any anxiety about that
matter."

The colonel breathed more freely. "Well, I am glad of that." Then he
turned to George again: "You did not give him the money then? Might I
ask why? Do not misunderstand me; it is, of course, your own affair
whether you lent Willberg the money or not; but I thought perhaps
you would have given it him on this occasion. But perhaps you did not
think he was serious in saying he would take his life?"

"I must confess that I did not think about it at all. I was just
about to assist Lieutenant Willberg when I learnt something about him
that made it quite impossible for me to do so."

"And what was that?"

The colonel and Count Wettborn looked at George expectantly.

"I can only answer in general terms, as I am pledged to silence."

"To the dead?"

"No, to a living person to whom I am indebted for my information."
And after a pause he continued: "Just as I was about to send
Lieutenant Willberg the money he asked for, I learned quite by chance
that he had behaved to a young lady, who is intimately connected with
me, in such a manner that any Court of Honour must have sentenced
him to immediate dismissal in case the matter became public. From
that moment I was no longer able to regard Lieutenant Willberg as an
officer and a man of honour, and I only assist such."

The colonel was greatly disturbed by what George had said. The affair
was extremely unpleasant to him, and who knew what else might come
out? He would have preferred not to have asked any more questions,
but that would not do, so he said: "You know that it was your
duty to inform the Court of Honour of the dishonourable acts of a
fellow-officer which came to your ears."

"Yes, sir, I should certainly have done so in this case if I had not
been obliged to consider the young lady, who would have been greatly
compromised if I had laid information before the Court of Honour.
I did not think I was justified in doing this; moreover, as I had
been for so comparatively a short time in the regiment, I did not
want to be the cause of an investigation before a Court of Honour
of the conduct of a fellow-officer who was universally loved. I
asked for leave of absence so that I might consider calmly whether
I could justify my silence to myself and to my fellow-officers, and
in my agitated state of mind I wanted to avoid Lieutenant Willberg.
Although I have a considerable amount of self-control there would
have been a quarrel between him and me, and a duel would have been
unavoidable--provided, of course, that the judge of the Court of
Honour considered that an honourable man could send Lieutenant
Willberg a challenge."

"Lieutenant Winkler!" cried the colonel, astounded. "An officer in my
regiment, belonging to one of the noblest families in the land, not
fit to be challenged by a man of honour--pray consider what you are
saying."

"I am. Indeed, it is no pleasant matter to make these charges
against a dead man who can no longer defend himself."

"Then why do you do so?"

"To show you that, as an honourable man, I could not have acted
otherwise in refusing to give Willberg the money."

The words sounded so calm, so determined, yet so honourable and
straightforward, that the colonel rose and shook hands with George.
"I not only believe what you say, but I am absolutely convinced
of it. So far as I can judge, you appear to have acted perfectly
rightly, and I thank you for not having given information at once
to the Court of Honour without having first considered the whole
question calmly and quietly. It is never pleasant to hold an
investigation on a fellow-officer, especially when, as in this case,
a good deal of dirt would have been thrown about."

"Much more," George asserted, "than anyone would have believed
possible."

"We will let the matter rest, then," the colonel decided. "Willberg
has discharged his debts with his life, you are pledged to silence,
so let the secret remain with us."

After a few more questions George was dismissed, and the colonel
addressed the adjutant: "Eh, what do you say, my dear count?"

Count Wettborn went on polishing his eyeglass, then he gave forth
his opinion. "I cannot help saying it, my dear colonel, but in my
opinion Winkler has behaved splendidly in the whole affair."

"That is exactly my opinion also, but it is a great piece of luck
that he is pledged not to speak; the less said about the dead man the
better for everybody. I can imagine how everybody in the brigade and
squadron is asking how it is possible for Willberg to lead such a
life without my knowing anything about it. Mark my words, count: if
the details of this story were known it might cost us our posts, for
you as well as I would be blamed--I, because I was not sufficiently
acquainted with what was going on among the officers generally and
with Willberg in particular. But it is quite impossible for me to
concern myself about each individual officer and to notice whether he
is living beyond his means or not. That is your work, my dear count;
you ought to warn the younger officers when they are so extravagant
and wild, and if your words are of no avail, then you ought to inform
me, so that I could take steps against the gentlemen concerned."

The colonel was seriously agitated, he really feared he might be
dismissed. While the newspapers were publishing striking articles
concerning Lieutenant Willberg he was summoned to an audience with
His Majesty, and His Majesty had shown himself so ungraciously
disposed that the colonel had had a very bad quarter-of-an-hour.
In clear, plain language His Majesty had said: "I must make the
colonels of my regiments answerable for what happens among the
officers, and when such things take place as those that have just
come to light, it is not only a dishonour for the regiment on which
I have bestowed my special favour and patronage, but for the whole
army."

The colonel could only offer as an excuse the fact that little
Willberg had not only been able to deceive him but also all his
fellow-officers, and this had somewhat modified His Majesty's anger.
"But all the same it is a great scandal." The colonel was dismissed
from his presence without a gracious word, and he trembled for his
career, but the adjutant was able to console him. If the colonel was
to have received his discharge he would have had it already, and now
that the colonel had seen His Majesty it was a matter of perfect
indifference what the brigades and divisions were saying. Nothing
would now happen to either the colonel or himself; indeed, he could
not have been made personally responsible for what had occurred.
Still, he was very glad that George was pledged to silence. For
otherwise many more things connected with the gambling might have
come to light. It might, indeed, have cost him his post, that he,
in the character of the adjutant of the regiment, had not merely
permitted gambling in the Casino, but had to a certain extent
participated in it. He was therefore greatly relieved that the affair
had blown over so easily, and he made up his mind on the next
suitable occasion to put in a good word for George and to say to the
officers, "Boys, Winkler's behaviour has been blameless; I do not, of
course, wish to influence you in any way, but I ask you to consider
whether in future you will not be on more friendly terms with him."

When next day, however, the count delivered his carefully-thought-out
address to the officers he evoked no reciprocal feeling. Every
one of them would have done what Winkler did--why then was there
anything special in it? And as he could not say what he knew touching
Willberg's honour one really could not judge whether the thing was
so bad, and to bring charges against a man without giving proof was
really not exactly the proper thing to do. Either he should have said
all or nothing.

The officers continued talking in this way, and the count heard
their criticisms with surprise and annoyance. At last he said very
seriously: "Gentlemen, I can only repeat that, in the opinion of
the colonel, and also in my own, Lieutenant Winkler has acted
perfectly rightly. If you think that you have the slightest ground
for complaint against him I can only assure you you are wrong, and
I advise you most earnestly not to express to Winkler the views you
have just uttered. There might be results that would not be agreeable
to you. I beg you to pay attention to what I have said."

The officers certainly did this, but the count's words did not help
to alter their feeling against George. At first his presence had
been merely inconvenient to them, now they began to hate him. It
was more than disagreeable to them that it should be George, an
"outsider," whom they had tried to keep at arm's length, who knew
more of Willberg's life than they themselves did, who was aware of
things touching the dead man's honour which the colonel asserted
it would not be wise to publish. In their opinion he ought to have
spoken to them in confidence; they would have been able to judge
whether what Willberg had done was really so bad, and they would
indeed have judged justly, though at the same time without harshness,
as it concerned a man of their own class. Whatever had made the count
talk in that way? In other words he had said: "You have all reason to
thank Lieutenant Winkler, who went on furlough to avoid a meeting,
and in consequence a duel with Lieutenant Willberg." That was good
indeed. They, the aristocrats, were bound to thank the one and only
_bourgeois_ officer in the regiment. The thought alone maddened them.
And, besides, who knew that George was really animated by such noble
motives as he asserted when he took a holiday. Perhaps he had simply
said to himself: "If I see him there will be a duel"; and so he had
gone for a holiday, feeling assured that he would never meet Willberg
again alive. He had avoided the duel merely from cowardice; he had
"funked," and should such an officer be allowed to remain in the
regiment?

The more the officers talked over the matter the more enraged and
angry they became, and the wine which on such occasions was freely
passed round, increased their excitement.

"We must send a deputation to the colonel and inform him that we
decline to remain any longer in the same corps with Winkler. Either
he or we!" cried out a hoarse voice.

But the sensible ones among them counselled discretion; things were
not so bad as that. Everybody knew that His Majesty protected him,
and if he heard what was the feeling about Winkler, and how they had
determined not to remain in the same regiment with him, His Majesty
would be seriously angry, especially as recently His Majesty had
not been so well disposed towards the regiment as in former days.
They must first of all let the grass grow on Willberg's grave; after
that they could deal with George. For the present there was nothing
further to be done than to show him still more clearly than ever
that he was not welcome among the officers; perhaps he himself would
see about getting his exchange, and if he, a _bourgeois_, was not
delicate-minded enough to see this, it would have to be conveyed to
him by some means.

George soon noticed the feeling that existed towards him; they all
treated him with icy politeness, only spoke to him when it was
absolutely unavoidable, and answered his questions as shortly as
possible.

For a fortnight George endured this treatment, then he went to the
adjutant of the regiment, the only one who during the whole time had
treated him as a friend and a comrade.

"I knew that you would come to me," said the count. "I have done all
in my power to remove the ill-feeling which exists against you among
the officers. I have spoken on your behalf, and have warned them not
to drive you to extremes, but, unfortunately, without success. There
is no need to tell you that most of them blame you for your behaviour
in the Willberg affair; they knew that he asked you for money, and
they blame you for not having given it him. They think that if you
had done so, Willberg would not have taken his life. Whether your
money would really have saved him--his gambling debts were paid it
must be remembered--or whether there were other things that forced
him to take his life, only Willberg himself could say, and his mouth
is closed for ever. I have endeavoured to make this clear to the
officers, but in this likewise I have been unsuccessful. Besides,
they appear to have all sorts of other things against you."

George sat opposite the adjutant pale as death. "So that's it. I
always thought so, but I did not expect quite such heavy charges.
What can I do?"

"I have already spoken to the colonel. The best thing would be for
you to demand an official inquiry before the Court of Honour for
yourself, but there is--I was almost going to say 'alas!'--not the
slightest ground for this. Perhaps the feeling against you would
alter if you could inform the colonel and myself what you heard at
the last moment about Willberg, what prevented you from helping him,
and what ground you had for bringing such heavy charges against him.
Cannot you tell me? If you like I will preserve absolute silence,
though of course it would be best if everyone knew about it."

"I had permission to inform you of what I learnt on that day whenever
I considered it absolutely necessary. I believe that now, for my own
sake, I ought no longer to remain silent." And then he related what
Olga had confided to him.

The adjutant listened with great attention, and when George had
finished he sat silent for a long time.

"May I ask your opinion on the matter, sir?"

The count continued silent, then he jumped up suddenly. "Ach, how
beastly!" He shook his head with disgust, and once more repeated "How
beastly!"

George had been conscious from the beginning of having acted rightly,
but now he breathed more freely and said, "Then you can understand
why I did not give him the money?"

The count turned to him quickly. "Understand? Why, it was a matter of
course that yon----" he tried to find a name for Willberg--"what I
mean is, you could not, of course, help him under the circumstances,
and everyone will be of the same opinion. I sympathise with you and
the young lady; it would be extremely painful for you if the story
were known, but there would be no need to give any name."

"I am not sure that I have the right to ask you to inform the colonel
of what I have just told you, but I will be responsible for that.
Perhaps he will speak to the officers and tell them that he knows
everything and approves of my conduct. Perhaps that will have the
desired result."

"It must; I will ask the colonel to talk seriously to the officers,
and if they will not listen to reason of their own free will they
must be forced to hear it."

"Thank you, sir."

The adjutant turned to go and shook hands with George. It was the
first time that the count had offered him his hand, the first
friendliness that he had received for a long time, the first time
that anyone had spoken to him warmly and heartily and sympathised
with him. It did not alter things, of course, but in spite of that
George felt happier and gayer than he had been for a long time,
and the feeling of having acted rightly in the matter gave great
satisfaction.

Olga scarcely recognised him when she came in that evening; she had
visited him almost daily lately, for George sat at home evening
after evening and thought and meditated on what would happen. He had
accepted no invitations, gone nowhere; he had lived in himself, and
spent much time in writing long letters to his parents, in which
he lamented his misfortunes. It was a necessity of his nature to
express his feelings to the people who cared for him, but regularly
as the letters were written Olga threw them into the fire. "Your
parents cannot help or advise you," she had answered him on the first
occasion when she destroyed his letter, and he saw that she was quite
right.

To-day when she came she asked if he had finished his letter, and she
could hardly believe it when he said he had not written one at all.

"Whatever has happened then?"

He told her of the conversation he had had with the adjutant, and
asked her at the end: "Do you think people ought to know how Willberg
treated you?"

Olga sat thinking for a long time, then she said: "I care for you
very much, I would gladly give you permission to speak openly, but it
would not be wise, especially on your account. What do our relations
with one another matter to the world? Nobody expects a young
lieutenant to be a saint, but he need not publish to the whole world
the fact that he has a 'friend,' and certainly no one need know what
her name is and what has happened to her. There would be people who
would blame you, and why should you expose yourself to that?"

He kissed her on the forehead. "You are right, as you always are."

He could not tell how it was, but suddenly he wondered how Hildegarde
would receive such news. He had not seen her since his return, but
daily his thoughts had wandered to her, and now he saw her picture
clearly before him.

"George, what are you thinking about so seriously?"

He roused himself from his thoughts and found Olga standing in front
of him and laughing.

"You have forgotten all about me, haven't you? For at least a minute
you have been staring straight in front of you. What were you
thinking of?"

He did not answer her question. "Don't be angry," he begged, "my
thoughts were far away."

"In beautiful Paris?"

He could not help laughing. "Not exactly, but now they have returned
to you once more," and he tenderly drew her to him.



CHAPTER IX

THE HUMILIATION OF THE "GOLDEN BUTTERFLIES"


AN officers' meeting had been summoned, which all the officers of the
regiment had been commanded to attend, with the single exception of
Lieutenant Winkler, and the colonel's behaviour to his lieutenants
had been by no means gentle. In his present excited state of mind,
and with the fear of possible dismissal after all, he was going to
take good care that there should be no further scandals among his
officers, and one would certainly be unavoidable if their behaviour
to Lieutenant Winkler was not altered. He therefore explained to them
the Willberg affairs as far as he was justified in doing so, and
assured them that George had behaved splendidly--indeed, many of them
might take an example from him. At first the colonel had thought of
sending a deputation of three lieutenants to George to convey to him
the expression of his comrades' confidence and to apologise for their
unjust suspicions. He had discussed at length with his adjutant as to
whether George was not entitled to some substantial compensation,
but the latter had not taken his view. To make too much of the
affair was to do more harm than good. If the colonel insisted upon
an official apology great indignation would be once more aroused;
the officers' rage would burst forth anew, and they would consider
compensation as a still further humiliation, for George was only a
_bourgeois_, and it is always very disagreeable for an aristocrat to
say to such a one, "I did you an injustice." After much discussion
the colonel agreed to this view, and so he only delivered a
thundering philippic, ending with the words: "I have commanded Count
Wettborn to inform me daily concerning your behaviour to Lieutenant
Winkler; if a single complaint reaches me, if I hear that in the
future any one of you behaves in such a way as is not permissible
under any circumstances, I shall cause the officer concerned to be
sent to a frontier garrison within three days. I swear to this."

This had its effect; at least, inasmuch as in future the officers
did not dare to oppose Lieutenant Winkler openly nor to make hostile
speeches and remarks against him. Their feeling was not altered, and
they did not become more friendly because of the colonel's discourse,
but they kept their thoughts to themselves, and behaved towards him
in a more polite fashion, if, perhaps, a not more friendly one. It
was still very little, indeed, that George was offered in the way
of friendship, but it was yet considerably more than he had lately
dared to hope. The present behaviour of his fellow-officers filled
him with a certain satisfaction, and being a generous-minded man,
he was almost sorry that they had had to endure such harsh words on
his account; but in his bearing and in his intercourse with them he
betrayed neither the one feeling nor the other. He was polite and
amiable, but at the same time independent and self-reliant, as he had
been from the beginning. He behaved, indeed, as if he had no idea of
what had happened at the officers' meeting, and officially he did not
know, for Count Wettborn had not thought it advisable to inform him
directly what had been said regarding him to the others; that would
have been too great a humiliation of the aristocracy in the eyes of
the middle class. The fact that George feigned ignorance so cleverly,
that not by a single word did he allude to their former suspicions of
him, that he bore no grudge against anyone, and that though he had
received ample satisfaction in consequence of the colonel's severe
reprimand, he still remained modest and unassuming in his manners
and did not play the part of innocence justified, made a certain
impression on the better sort of men among the officers.

Although George betrayed nothing of all this, he noticed that very
slowly there was a slight change of feeling towards him. He only
told Olga of this, and in his letters home he merely said that
very soon he would be quite happy in the regiment. It was, indeed,
high time, for he had been more than a year among the "Golden
Butterflies." George felt now quite a different being. His cheerful
disposition once more showed itself, and his happy nature drove away
all the sad thoughts which had lately so filled his mind.

He enjoyed his official duties much more than formerly, and just then
several things happened that made them pleasanter than usual. His
captain had gone away for a few days, his first lieutenant was on
furlough, and as it was a very quiet time in the regiment, George was
given the command of his company.

To-day the company had been shooting, and now it was musketry
inspection. George had at first entrusted this to the sergeant-major
alone, but at the last moment he thought it was his duty to make a
personal inspection. He came quite unexpectedly. The men were drawn
up in the corridor, and as George mounted the steps he heard from
above such a shower of curses that he hurried on. The cry, "The
lieutenant is coming!" produced absolute silence in a moment, and the
sergeant-major hastened towards him to salute him.

"But, sergeant, whatever is the matter? You know how our captain
insists upon a good tone in the company, and I should not like there
to be any difference in his absence. What has happened?"

"Nothing, sir. The lieutenant knows how everything sounds in the
corridor if one speaks a little louder than usual, and one has to do
that to make one's self understood. Perhaps it was I was a little
angry with a man whose gun was badly cleaned."

"Don't get angry with him, but make a note of it and inspect the gun
again."

"Certainly, sir. I will attend to your commands."

George was standing on one side with the sergeant-major, and now he
dismissed him. "Go on with your inspection."

The sergeant-major went back to his place, and George walked slowly
along the line, examining the men's uniforms. Suddenly he stopped in
front of a soldier.

"Petersen, what have you done to yourself?"

The man had a swollen and inflamed eye and a great boil on his
forehead which prevented him from wearing his cap properly.

"You look horrible. What has happened to you?" inquired George once
more.

"I fell down."

"Where?"

"On the steps."

"That's what I am always saying. You lazy fellows don't even know how
to walk, and yet you imagine you are fit for a parade march."

George tried to make a joke of the affair, and, as a rule, he found
that his men liked this mode of treatment; but to-day his words
called forth no response. Petersen did not laugh, and the men
standing by were evidently not amused by it. It struck George as a
little odd, but still he thought no more of it, and turned to go,
when by chance his glance fell upon Non-Commissioned Officer von
Nissew, who was standing a little way from him by the window, and who
was looking at Petersen with such a threatening and fiery glance that
involuntarily George was frightened for a moment.

Then suddenly he grasped the real meaning of the affair. His
instinct, which had made him dislike von Nissew from the very
beginning, was not wrong then. What he had just seen made him
determine to sift the matter to the bottom, so he now went back to
the soldier and subjected him to a cross-examination. When did he
fall? Who were there when it happened? Had he been to the ward-room
and had his wounds dressed by the nurse? Who was in the room when
he returned? But he could get nothing out of the man; he had fallen
down, nobody had seen it, and he had told none, because he had not
wanted to make himself ridiculous on account of his clumsiness.

"What do you know about the matter, Non-Commissioned Officer von
Nissew?" said George, turning suddenly to him. "You are responsible
for these men. Why did you not send this man to the ward-room? The
wound looks frightful."

The non-commissioned officer continued staring at the soldier with
threatening eyes. "I know nothing about it, sir. I only discovered
the injury just before the inspection, and then it was too late to
send him to the nurse."

George knew perfectly well that von Nissew was not speaking the
truth, but he did not want to convict him of lying before the
assembled men, on the ground of discipline and subordination.

"Show me the place on the steps where you fell down."

A clever liar would have shown George some place or other and said,
"Here, sir." But the soldier was so little accustomed to hypocrisy
and concealment that he did not know whether to go to the right or
to the left, and George once more took him to task. "I want to say
something to you, Petersen; you know me, and you know that I try to
act fairly towards you all, and shut my eyes whenever I can, but if
you stand here and lie to me and make a fool of me, I shall get very
angry indeed, and I can assure you you won't appreciate _that_ side
of me. Well, now out with it. I pledge you my word you shan't suffer
for it. Where did you fall down?"

A struggle was going on in Petersen's mind. At last he said: "I did
not fall down at all."

"But--what happened then?"

"Non-Commissioned Officer von Nissew struck me on the head with a
frying-pan."

George was enraged beyond measure, although from the first he
had not for a moment doubted that something of the kind had
happened; still, he did not want to betray his feelings towards his
subordinate, so he only said: "So that's it. Well, that will do. Now
go back into line."

But the private stood still in a stiff attitude before his lieutenant
and did not move. "Do you want to say anything else?" asked George.
"You know, Petersen, you cannot lodge a complaint against von Nissew
to-day. You must not do that till to-morrow, or you yourself will be
liable to punishment."

"Sir, if you will allow me, I do not want to make any complaint."

"What do you want, then?"

The soldier, a tall, strong, fine-looking man, trembled in every limb.

"Now, out with it. You can trust me. What is it?"

"Might I venture to ask you most humbly not to tell the
non-commissioned officer that I have informed you of the truth in
his matter, for then he would thrash me again and make my comrades
belabour me with their heavy whips."

George involuntarily took a step back. "What do you mean? You only
imagine that. Now, can you believe one of your superiors capable of
such a thing?" He was speaking against his own conviction, but for
the sake of discipline he was obliged to support those in authority;
an opportunity for discovering the whole truth would come later.

Petersen was still trembling. "We know the non-commissioned officer
well enough. Last week Meier intended to lodge a complaint because he
knocked out two of his teeth, but he heard this and then he struck
him with his riding-whip till the blood ran, and we had to hit him
also."

"But how could you do such a thing?"

"The non-commissioned officer threatened us that he would take care
that we had no leave of absence on Sunday, and he taunted us till
we got mad with anger, and we drove Meier round the place till he
couldn't move."

"Well, and what then?" asked George, who could scarcely restrain
himself for indignation.

"Then the non-commissioned officer took out an old Bible and made
Meier swear on it that he would not make a complaint, and then he
told Meier that if he did he would be committing perjury, and perjury
was punishable by imprisonment."

George was terribly angry at what he had heard, but, in spite of
this, he said, apparently quite calmly, "Very well, that will do now,
fall into rank."

But again Petersen did not move, and asked, in an almost
tearful tone: "Sir, will you really say nothing of this to the
non-commissioned officer?"

"I cannot promise that, but I pledge you my word that von Nissew
shall not ill-treat you to-night. He will do nothing more to you. Are
you satisfied with that?"

Petersen shook his head. "Then the other non-commissioned officers
will, they are all in the same box; they are not all so cruel, but
they all strike us."

George pretended not to hear the last words. "You may rest content,
nothing shall happen to you to-night. I myself shall be in barracks
the whole night and will see to things. It is to be hoped you are
satisfied now."

"Yes, sir."

Petersen fell into the rank, and George was about to return to the
company when he noticed von Nissew standing a little distance off;
apparently he was waiting to speak to him, and scarcely was George
alone when the non-commissioned officer stepped up to him hastily.

"What do you want of me?" asked George curtly.

Nissew tried in vain to conceal his anxiety and disquietude, and his
restless eyes were more unsteady than usual.

"What do you want?" asked George again.

The non-commissioned officer unsuccessfully sought to control his
voice, it trembled noticeably as he said, "I wanted to ask you most
respectfully--I can imagine what Petersen has just said to you--and
I wanted to ask if you would be so good as not to believe a word he
says; he is the greatest liar and slanderer in the whole company. Our
captain knows that, and gave me orders to give special attention to
Petersen, who is secretly a social democrat. His comrades know that.
You can ask the whole company, and all the corporals, and they will
tell you the same thing. Petersen is lying."

George's face expressed boundless contempt, for every word of
Petersen's showed that he spoke the absolute truth. Whilst George
had been talking to him Nissew had certainly been working upon his
men and threatening them with fresh ill-treatment if they did not
represent that Petersen was a liar. A feeling of inexpressible
repugnance and the greatest horror came over George; he despised him
for having ill-treated a defenceless subordinate, but even more for
seeking to deny his guilt in this manner. He turned to him and said,
"Not only a brute, but a coward? Ugh!"

The non-commissioned officer turned pale, but he made one more effort
to clear himself. "You know, sir, what our captain thinks about
me; he has indeed informed you, sir, and when he returns from his
furlough and speaks to you, sir, concerning me, you will see that you
have done me a bitter injustice."

George plainly perceived the inward significance of these words;
they reminded him of the morning when he had been reprimanded by
his superior on account of his subordinate officer, and he saw how
delighted Nissew was that he would be reprimanded a second time
because he had ventured to doubt so excellent an officer as himself.
The veins on his forehead swelled, but with a great effort he
controlled himself and said, "Non-Commissioned Officer von Nissew,
whether I am doing you an injustice or not will be decided later, for
the present I more than suspect you of the alleged ill-treatment of
your subordinates."

Again von Nissew wanted to defend himself, but the sergeant-major
appeared to announce that the muskets had all been inspected.

"It is fortunate that you have come, sergeant-major"; and then,
turning to him, he said, in a firm, clear voice, "Sergeant-major,
take Non-Commissioned Officer von Nissew's sword from him, and place
him under arrest, pending investigation."

The non-commissioned officer turned as white as the white-washed
walls and fell back.

"Now, sergeant-major, why don't you do your work?" asked George, as
he still hesitated to carry out the order. "Did you not understand
me?"

"Yes, sir," answered the sergeant-major, still with hesitation; "I
was only thinking, sir, what the captain would say when he heard
this."

With an involuntary movement George laid his hand on his sword. "By
Jove, sergeant-major, do you or I command this company? I demand an
answer."

"You, sir."

"Well, I am glad you understand that, and now either place the
non-commissioned officer under arrest or I shall punish you for
disobedience."

This energetic speech had its effect, and the sergeant-major offered
no further opposition.

"Unbuckle your sword, von Nissew."

The non-commissioned officer quite mechanically unbuckled the straps
and the sword fell to the ground.

The sergeant-major lifted it up. "Come."

And without once raising his eyes, von Nissew, with shaking
knees, went down the steps with the sergeant-major, and a little
later George saw them going over the yard together, and then they
disappeared into the guard-room, which was in the extreme right-hand
corner of the large barracks.

Now, for the first time, George understood clearly what he had
done, and for a moment he was overwhelmed with doubts as to whether
perhaps he had not acted rashly and without due consideration. Then
he summoned Meier to him, told him what Petersen had said, and asked
him, on his word of honour, if that was all true.

"Were you forced to swear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Were you beaten?"

"I can show you the marks still, sir."

The men must certainly have seen that the non-commissioned officer
had been placed under arrest, otherwise Meier would not have spoken
so openly.

"Show them me."

The man pulled down his trousers and George could distinctly see the
marks of the bloody weals caused by the heavy whip.

"That will do."

The man pulled up his garments again, and in spite of the traces of
the brutal ill-treatment George could not help feeling almost pleased
at the sight of them. He had not accused von Nissew unjustly; here
were proofs of his guilt.

Soon after the sergeant-major returned. "The order is carried out."

"Thank you; dismiss the men. I want to speak to the non-commissioned
officers alone."

The latter stood round their lieutenant in a semi-circle, and George
purposely made them stand to attention so that his words might be all
the more impressive. "I want to inform you at once that I have placed
von Nissew under arrest for gross ill-treatment of his subordinates.
As so often happens, the matter came to light quite by chance. Had I
not attended the inspection to-day, as was originally my intention,
I should probably have never known about this, and these disgusting
brutalities, for I can call them nothing else, would have continued.
I am informed that many other non-commissioned officers have acted
in the same way as von Nissew. I cannot feel sure whether you knew
about this ill-treatment and failed to notify it, or whether you
also have ill-treated your men. I will not examine into that now;
it will rather be the subject of a judicial inquiry. To-day I only
wanted to say to you that any one of you who does not feel absolutely
free from guilt ought to be thoroughly ashamed of himself. I am
certainly the last man to blame a non-commissioned officer if, in
a fit of anger at a soldier's stupidity or stubbornness, he so far
loses his self-control as to give him a blow or a push. Our men
quite understand that, and they don't mind a blow given in a state
of excitement; they know it does not mean anything, and they know
perfectly well that when they are no longer recruits they in their
turn will give a secret shove or blow without meaning anything
brutal by it. But there is the whole difference in the world between
forgetting one's self in one's zeal for duty and knowingly and with
consideration ill-treating anyone. The former is human, the latter
simply brutal and beastly. Condign punishment will be administered to
Non-Commissioned Officer von Nissew and to everyone who is guilty of
such brutal behaviour. Now, I want to speak very briefly to you about
another matter. I am told that the men are afraid of being alone with
you to-night in the barracks, because they fear you will revenge
yourselves on them for my having placed Non-Commissioned Officer von
Nissew under arrest. It is a fine testimonial to you that the men are
afraid of you instead of having trust in you, and you must all be
very proud of this fact." There was bitter irony in the words. Then
George continued: "I will rely on your honour that these fears are
groundless, but I have promised to see that no one is ill-treated
to-night. I therefore order the sergeant-major and the sergeant to
supervise the men's rooms till bedtime and to change guard every two
hours, and all the doors are to remain open. At nine o'clock I will
take over the duty. That is all I wanted to tell you."

The non-commissioned officers were dismissed. During his speech
George had studied their faces carefully--a great many of them had
turned alternately crimson and pale, some tried to appear as if the
whole thing did not concern them and as if they were entirely free
from all blame, but George felt that there were very few who had an
absolutely clear conscience.

George went with the sergeant-major into the reading-room of the
company to draw up a report of the case and present it to the
battalion. It would then be sent to the regiment, and then, owing
to the gravity of the case, to the superior courts. He sent off
the lance-corporal, who usually acted as clerk, and turned to the
sergeant-major. He was horrified at what he had heard and seen,
and spoke quite freely about it. "Tell me, sergeant, how is such a
thing possible? How is it conceivable that such a thing should have
gone on for weeks without anyone knowing anything about it? Did you
know anything about it? You live with the men in the same corridor;
you must often, both by day and by night, have gone through the
rooms--did you not notice anything suspicious?"

Instead of an answer the sergeant-major merely shrugged his shoulders.

"What does that mean?" demanded George; "you don't mean to tell me
that the whole thing was an absolute and complete surprise to you?"

"No, not exactly that," answered the sergeant-major after a slight
pause, "but when the time comes for speaking I shall feel quite
at my ease; I am aware that I shall be called as a witness at the
investigation and must say on oath all that I know about it."

"And what do you know?"

"Really very little, sir, and I can swear with a good conscience that
I have never seen or heard anything, and I can equally truthfully
swear that no man has ever come to me and made a complaint. I should
have made myself liable to punishment if anyone had made an official
complaint to me and I had not conveyed it to the proper authorities."

"Quite true, and you say your conscience is quite free from blame."

"I really think so, sir, and I am sure that they cannot bring up
anything against me at the inquiry, and that is the important thing
for an old soldier who in a few months will have served his twelve
years and earned his gratuity and pension."

"Outwardly that is so, certainly," agreed George, "but your words
would seem to indicate that you do not really feel absolutely free
from all blame."

"You are right, sir. As I have just told you, I have seen and heard
nothing, but I have often imagined that all was not going on quite
satisfactorily with the men under von Nissew. On so many occasions
one or other of his men had fallen down and hurt himself, or he had
knocked against something in the dark. I have several times taken von
Nissew to task and said to him: 'You are not striking your men, are
you?' and naturally he answered in the negative. I ought, perhaps,
to have thereupon made a declaration that he was lying, but what
could I do? Ought I to question the men behind a non-commissioned
officer's back? That would have been the right thing most likely, but
then there would soon be an end to all discipline and subordination.
My God! when one thinks how easily one could manage these fellows
in former times, how one could turn them round one's little finger,
and now? It is enough to make an old soldier weep; and then the
newspapers destroy and undermine the little bit of authority we
still have left us, in spite of two-years' service, with their
cursed scribbling about the ill-treatment of subordinates. You can't
blame an old soldier, therefore, if he does not do more than he is
absolutely obliged to get these stories published."

George partly agreed with him. "Still, it is not right."

"I know, sir, but what would have happened if I had officially
reported something of which officially I had had no intimation? They
would not have allowed me to extend my time in the army; I should
not have got my gratuity, and then what would have become of me?
Not that they would have meant to punish me by refusing to allow me
to re-enlist; on the contrary, they might even have commended my
conduct, but none of the higher authorities would have thanked me for
bringing to light such an affair without the most pressing necessity."

George could not but assent to the sergeant-major's views, and for
the first time he asked himself the question: "How will they thank
you for having unearthed this scandal?"

"Then you see I am a married man," continued the sergeant-major
after a slight pause, "you know, sir, I have two children, and I
don't want to be suddenly turned out into the streets with them.
It is frightfully difficult for any of us to get a situation; old
non-commissioned officers often hunt about for ever so long, for
every employment is crowded. So, of course, one stays in the army
as long as ever one can, instead of twelve years, twenty, or even
longer, for, at any rate, one has one's work, one's pay, one's home,
and one doesn't risk all that unless one is absolutely obliged. One
shuts one's eyes for the sake of one's own existence whenever one
can, and that is what I have done."

"Did you never speak to the captain about von Nissew?"

"Very often, sir. I have repeatedly notified to the captain that I
thought Nissew ill-treated his men."

"And what did the captain reply?" asked George, with curiosity.

"At first he laughed in my face, then he grew angry. You know, of
course, that Nissew will become a sergeant-major later on, and the
captain indicated by his behaviour that I was already jealous of
my successor. Now I had no reason to feel this, because von Nissew
must first be a sergeant and corporal before he can relieve me of my
duties. I told the captain this, but he still thought I was jealous
because he protected him, and he warned me to treat Nissew fairly and
not to be continually looking after him. Well, then, I kept silent;
only once did I speak, and then I called the captain's attention
to a red mark, one could still see the box on the ear the man had
received. Of course the man belonged to Nissew's company."

"Did the captain summon the non-commissioned officer?"

"I do not think so, sir; he only asked me whether I had never in my
life given a man a box on the ears. Well, of course, I couldn't swear
that I hadn't, and so the captain said he thought I ought not to
complain so much against Nissew when I myself had committed the same
fault."

George was thoughtful. "Tell me, sergeant-major, do you think the
captain knew anything about the way von Nissew treated his men?"

"No, I don't think he did exactly, sir, for Nissew was always very
cautious. He seldom struck men in the face, there were no visible
marks of his ill-treatment to be seen, and I cannot understand how
he so far lost his self-control to-day as to strike Petersen in this
manner. No, the captain certainly knew nothing about these things,
but still I have often wondered that he allowed von Nissew to have
so much authority over the men. Whoever was given a punishment or
anything similar had to report it to von Nissew. I once complained
about this to the captain, for you see I am the sergeant-major and
I could not allow anyone to encroach upon my duties without taking
notice of it, it looked as if I were not trusted. But the captain
said I ought not to make myself ridiculous. I knew perfectly well he
had every confidence in me, I had quite enough to do, and simply to
lighten my duties and to relieve me of some of them he had made this
arrangement. When I said to the captain there were still the sergeant
and the corporal he signified that I must really leave to him the
choice of whatever non-commissioned officer he thought most suitable
as my deputy; this depended on the individual and had nothing to do
with rank."

"That is quite right, but it has always been a puzzle to me why the
captain so specially favoured von Nissew."

"Not to me, sir. I have known the captain for years; he is a
good-hearted man, but very easily managed if anyone knows how to get
round him. And Nissew understood this better than anyone else; he is
always dancing attendance on him, and running after him like a good
dog. I am only wondering what on earth the captain will say when he
returns from furlough and hears of this affair."

"We must not let the captain wait for news as long as that; he told
me to telegraph to him if anything important happened in the company
during his absence. I had quite forgotten that. Please write a
telegram immediately: 'Have had Non-Commissioned Officer von Nissew
placed under arrest pending investigation on account of repeated
ill-treatment of subordinates.'"

The sergeant-major wrote the telegram and George himself took it to
the telegraph office.

Next morning the captain came back from his furlough. Immediately
on receipt of the telegram he had cut short his holiday, and now he
was in a state of agitation which George could neither understand
nor account for. It is true it was an unpleasant business, but
still he ought to be grateful to him for having discovered the
condition of affairs and so helped to put an end to any further
ill-treatment. Instead of this, however, his superior officer was
filled with a rage and anger against George which transcended all
bounds. Immediately on his return he had George sent for to barracks
and spoke to him in such a manner that it was almost impossible for
the latter to keep his temper and endure his reproaches. "I am, of
course, far from approving of what von Nissew did, but still less can
I approve of your behaviour, Lieutenant Winkler. You ought to have
informed me before taking any steps. I should then have immediately
returned and investigated the affair myself, then it would have been
time to have taken action against the non-commissioned officer. I
must certainly rebuke you for having acted so quickly, and without
due consideration; it almost looks as if you wanted to stand on your
dignity and vaunt your authority. You knew what a high opinion I
have of von Nissew; out of regard to me you ought not to have acted
so impulsively, especially as there was really no urgent reason for
doing so. Many questions evoke many answers--that is always the
case. You ought to have quietly waited to see if Petersen or Meier
would make a formal complaint, then it would have been quite time to
have acted as you did; perhaps then it would have been sufficient to
have summoned the non-commissioned officer and threatened him with
a formal charge if anything of the kind happened again. Instead of
this you ask the men all kinds of questions until at last you find
out what you intended to find out. You have always had a strong
dislike to von Nissew. Now that you have given vent to it perhaps you
are satisfied."

George, with a great effort, controlled himself. "I should have acted
in precisely the same manner towards any other non-commissioned
officer."

The captain laughed mockingly, and the blood rushed to George's
cheeks.

"I must request you most respectfully, sir, not to cast any doubt on
my words."

"And I must request you most emphatically, sir, not to call me to
account in this fashion. If what I tell you is not to your liking you
know you have the right of making a formal complaint."

"Yes, sir."

The captain was striding up and down the reading-room like a wild
animal; now he stopped in front of George and his eyes were so fierce
and bloodshot that the latter was quite frightened. He could scarcely
recognise his superior officer who had hitherto been the picture of
tranquillity and good manners.

"Lieutenant Winkler, do you really understand what you have done?"
continued the superior officer. "I will say nothing of the unpleasant
position in which you have put me, but even if you did not consider
me, you ought to have thought of the regiment, and even of yourself.
Scarcely have people forgotten the scandal concerning little
Willberg, scarcely have we succeeded in allaying the suspicion that
you did not act quite rightly, than you reveal a new scandal which
all the newspapers will get hold of. The Press of the whole world
will attack us, the regiment will be in everybody's mouth, people
will throw dirt at us, and some of it will stick. If such a thing had
happened in another regiment, it would not have been so bad, but we,
as the Guards regiment, ought to see that nothing whatever concerning
us comes under public notice that does not redound to our credit.
Dirty linen should be washed at home; a stern rebuke, of which only
the superior authorities should have been informed in part, would
have settled the matter. You have prevented that by your over-hasty
report, the battalion must now know of the affair, and a public
scandal is unavoidable. But that even is not the end of the matter.
His Majesty will hear of the proceedings, and in spite of the great
favour you enjoy, His Majesty will not approve of your conduct."

"I beg your pardon for venturing to contradict you, but I know quite
well what His Majesty feels about the ill-treatment of soldiers."

"I do too," went on his superior officer, "but it is not necessary to
make a mountain out of a mole-hill, and one should not stir up mud
without serious consideration."

Again the blood rushed to George's cheeks, "I am not conscious of
any wrong-doing. If I have acted wrongly, however, I am quite ready
to bear the consequences."

The captain turned crimson. "You will soon have to do that, whether
you like it or not, but that will not compensate me or the regiment.
Whether you get your discharge or not is a matter of complete
indifference to us; we have managed to exist without you in the past,
and we shall continue to do so in the future. But the matter is not
over because you depart."

"Perhaps it may be if severe and righteous punishment is meted out to
the offender. If the public see the severest punishment is given for
such offences public opinion will soon be allayed."

"Oh, that is what you think, do you?" said the captain,
contemptuously. "You will have plenty of opportunity of explaining
and justifying your behaviour in this matter."

George was enraged at the unjust treatment which his captain dealt
out to him, but he determined to keep to his resolution of making a
formal charge against the non-commissioned officer. Next morning the
captain returned to the attack when he was summoned to the regimental
office. Indescribable excitement reigned there; and although his
superiors formally praised his conduct and his strictly just
treatment, he was obliged to listen to things there which he had not
expected.

"You ought to have remembered that the publicity, and perhaps
even the trial would not fall on the non-commissioned officer
alone. People will ask how was such a thing possible, how could
it have occurred if there had been proper supervision on the part
of the superior officers. You, as a lieutenant, know perfectly
well that this supervision can only take the form of warning the
non-commissioned officers continually that they must not ill-treat
their men, and pointing out to them the results if they do so. We
cannot be in every non-commissioned officer's pocket, we cannot
constantly, by night and day, inspect the barracks, we cannot do any
more than is already done to avoid brutal treatment. But, in spite of
all this, we superior officers are considered mainly responsible; you
will soon see what is the result of this business."

The words of the superior officers plainly showed the fear they had
concerning their own careers, and involuntarily George recollected
what his former captain had once said to him. It was something of
this sort: "The ill-treatment of the soldiers will cease when there
is a change in two particulars. First of all, the officers must not
be worried by the superior authorities, and the captain and the
major must know that one unfavourable inspection will not cost them
their posts. How they tremble at the sight of an Excellency: the men
are only drilled in what will make a good show. What is good for
this purpose the major yells out to the captain, the captain to the
lieutenants, and the lieutenants to the non-commissioned officers.
The curses get worse and worse as they descend in the scale, and the
non-commissioned officers must be veritable angels if they do not
vent their anger on the men, who, if not actually, are yet indirectly
responsible for the bad report. If a Tommy holds his gun badly the
captain is blamed for not laying sufficient stress on the correct
manipulation of arms in his company; the reprimand is unfair, and the
authorities know that perfectly well, but that does not matter: the
point is, the captain gets enraged and lets off steam. Nobody to-day
troubles about the training of the men, each fights for his own
existence. Discharge daily threatens a man for a thousand different
reasons, and simply to postpone this as long as possible all kinds
of ill-deeds are committed against the subordinates which cry out to
Heaven for justice. The path to advancement to-day is strewn with
corpses, and it will only be different when we cease to live in an
age of inspection, and when a man no longer works simply for his own
benefit, but for the whole army.

"Only then will tranquillity return to men's minds, and they will no
longer seek to obtain by blows and ill-treatment what is far more
easily procured by kindness.

"That is the first thing. Secondly, this ill-treatment will cease
when the superior officers have the courage to look into all
complaints, to punish themselves what they see with their own eyes,
or to send them to the superior courts for punishment. The only
person who has this courage to a certain extent is the very rich
officer, to whom it is a matter of no consequence whether he gets his
small pay or his smaller pension; or the officer who stands high in
the favour of the authorities and can say to himself, 'It will not
affect my career if I report the brutalities of my non-commissioned
officers for which I am in no way to blame.'

"But the officer who trembles and fears for his future will naturally
say to himself, 'I am by no means too secure in my position, and if
it gets known that my subordinate officers ill-treat the men I may
as well get into civilian's attire at once.' And who will blame a
poor captain or major if he tries to avoid reporting a complaint, or
warns a non-commissioned officer instead of punishing him when he has
struck a man?"

George had then agreed with his captain, but still he could not quite
understand that the authorities would have preferred his not bringing
to light this inconceivable brutality.

"I can imagine," said the colonel, "what His Majesty will say to me.
'First the affair with Willberg, and now this greater scandal about
the non-commissioned officers. Nice things seem to go on in your
regiment.'" And then the colonel added: "If this business costs me my
post it will be your fault, yours alone, and it was just you I should
never have expected to play us such a trick."

George saw by this that the colonel, who had so lately interposed on
his behalf, expected in return that George would have had more regard
for the reputation of the regiment, but in spite of this George was
really not conscious of having done anything wrong; and an inner
voice told him that he had only acted as every honourable man must
have acted.

His comrades, just as much as his superiors, blamed him for having
reported the matter officially to the authorities. Not that they took
the part of the non-commissioned officer; on the contrary, there
were universal exclamations of the greatest indignation when George
told them how bruised and beaten about the men were, but still, of
more importance to them than the well-being of the men was the good
reputation of the regiment.

First the affair in the officers' corps, then this scandal with
the non-commissioned officers--they were lowered in the public
estimation, and in future people would naturally say, "There are
fine goings-on among the 'Golden Butterflies'; the lieutenants shoot
themselves and the non-commissioned officers thrash the men till they
cannot stand."

And once more George noticed that it was doubly unpleasant to them
all that it was precisely he, the only plebeian in the regiment, who
had discovered the bad state of affairs that existed in the company.

Again George passed through a terrible time; his position amongst
the officers was destroyed, and officially his life was scarcely
endurable. His captain treated him with a contempt which often made
it scarcely possible for him to maintain his self-control; the
colonel jeered at him whenever he could, and in his first lieutenant,
Baron von Masemann, he had an able assistant. The latter entirely
supported the captain, and considered it now more than ever his duty
to educate George and to act as his schoolmaster.

Meanwhile the investigation was going on.

Immediately after the first examination of the accused, on account
of the seriousness of the charge, the matter had to be reported to
the division. Almost daily there were examinations, and half the
company was always on its way to the Court of Justice. Then only too
soon the whole extent of the ill-treatment became known; with the
exception of the few lance-corporals there was not a single one among
von Nissew's men who had not been thrashed till the blood ran, and
the lance-corporals, urged on by von Nissew and bribed by privileges
which were not permitted, had helped him to the best of their power.
They also had struck and ill-treated their companions as much as
they could. Other officers as well as von Nissew had ill-treated
their men, though not so badly, and in excuse for their behaviour
they had all given the same explanation: "The captain forbade us to
swear and to use strong language. He threatened that he would not
allow us to re-enlist if we did not act according to his regulations.
We did not venture, therefore, to use any strong language towards
our men; if we reported a man for idleness or any other cause he was
never punished, but only warned to do his duty in future. We all know
that the captain is anxious to show that one can command a company
without administering punishment."

The punishment-books of the company were examined; according to the
views of the superior authorities that company was the best against
which the fewest punishments were written. How much unhappiness have
not these punishment-books caused, and how many people have not been
ruined by them!

Of course, the superior authorities must exercise some control,
but not in the manner that rules at present. It is difficult for
the official sitting at his desk to judge if the captain has acted
rightly when he punished a man with three days' arrest. And then,
fancy the openly-avowed principle that that company is the best in
which the fewest punishments are officially reported! Nothing can
be more false than this or lead more easily to wrong treatment of
subordinates. This attitude taken up by the authorities almost forces
a captain to shut his eyes and ears so as not to see or hear anything
that is punishable.

Captain von Warnow had always been opposed to punishments, the
evidence showed that clearly; he wanted to have the best company,
not from any exaggerated military ambition, but simply from personal
feeling. Men who had been punished were personally offensive to
him, and he could never get over this feeling. A Guardsman in his
company would receive a reprimand, but was not put under arrest,
and so punishments in the guard-room became rarer and rarer. Thus,
in consequence of their captain's views, which were very noble in
theory but impossible in practice, the non-commissioned officers
received no support from him. Yet the captain demanded a tremendous
amount from his non-commissioned officers; the men were to be the
best in every respect, and this could not be attained by kindness
alone. The men were not to be punished officially, they were not to
be cursed and sworn at; if an officer only looked threateningly at a
man he was warned to treat him properly. What then was there for the
non-commissioned officers to do but to take the matter into their own
hands? They vented their anger, not on duty, but in secret.

If a man did his drill badly this was reported to the captain,
with the request that the fellow should be ordered to drill again,
but in the captain's view such things should not be necessary in a
well-ordered company. Naturally, the non-commissioned officers were
vexed at this. They said to themselves, "The fellows simply laugh in
our faces when we report them for punishment and nothing happens." So
when they gave the men the extra drills they gave them with locked
doors, and punished them with the utmost severity. Cuffs and blows
rained down upon them, and whoever betrayed by a look or a gesture
that he had not imagined it possible to endure such treatment, was
so shamefully ill-used that he abandoned all idea of making formal
complaint. Frequently the men had to get up at night and do their
drill in the rooms, clad only in their night-shirts, and whoever made
a false step was beaten with a heavy whip, until the blood flowed.

A sad state of affairs was disclosed; the whole company was called as
witnesses, and the officers likewise. The two lieutenants, Baron von
Masemann as well as George, said on oath that they had had no idea
of this ill-treatment, that no complaint had reached their ears, and
that they had never seen or heard anything suspicious when patrolling
the rooms.

The examination of Captain von Warnow revealed another side of the
matter. He was obliged to admit that what the sergeant-major said
was true. He confessed that on different occasions his attention
had been drawn to von Nissew, but he had taken no notice of these
warnings. As a reason for this, he could merely allege that von
Nissew had seemed to him a very kindly man, and that he would never
have credited him with such brutal behaviour. Further than this he
had nothing to say in excuse.

"Did you not know, Captain von Warnow, that it was your duty to
find out whether the complaints made against the non-commissioned
officer were true or not?" asked the judge-advocate who conducted the
investigation.

Captain von Warnow stood up proudly. "I believe that I have done my
duty in every respect. I have continually warned my officers to treat
the men properly."

The judge-advocate entered this statement on the protocol, then he
said: "Non-Commissioned Officer von Nissew alleges as an excuse for
his conduct that you, sir, told him to deal individually with all the
weaklings and the blockheads, as he expresses it. He regarded this
as permission to give the men extra drills, and he alleges that it
was simply his military zeal and the feeling of responsibility for
the trust reposed in him which led him into striking the men. May I
ask why you entrusted so young a non-commissioned officer with so
much authority over the men? In my opinion, sir, you thus gave the
non-commissioned officer opportunity and occasion to ill-treat the
men."

"That is merely your opinion, sir. I chose the non-commissioned
officer who seemed to me most suitable in every respect for this
individual training, if I may so express it."

"Did it ever strike you von Nissew's men very frequently limped or
marched badly? Did you never inquire what was the matter, and did
you never try to find out whether these accidents of which they
spoke really did happen? Just now, when there are so many cases of
ill-treatment, you ought certainly to have inquired into the meaning
of these injuries. It must have seemed to you very curious that these
accidents were of frequent occurrence among von Nissew's men."

Captain von Warnow had listened to the judge-advocate with
astonishment, now he said: "It almost seems to me as if you want to
make me indirectly responsible for the whole affair. I must defend
myself energetically against such an idea."

The judge looked at him straight. "I am certainly of the opinion
that you are so far guilty in that you failed to maintain proper
supervision over your non-commissioned officers. I feel it my duty to
state this in the official document."

The result of this was that Captain von Warnow was formally charged
with being indirectly answerable for the ill-treatment, because he
had not sufficiently looked after his non-commissioned officers.

Captain von Warnow was suspended, and Baron von Masemann was given
the command of the company. It was the sensation of the day.
Everybody was astounded, but the news disturbed George more than
anyone else. He had neither intended nor desired that his report
should have such consequences. According to the views expressed in
the Casino, von Warnow would be confined to his own quarters for at
least a month; perhaps he would also be forced to resign; and, in any
case, he could not remain any longer in the regiment.

The anger of all was poured forth upon George, who had been the cause
of all the misfortune. George suffered terribly from the unspoken
complaints of the others; he withdrew completely from his comrades,
and lived solitary. He was not in the mood to go into Society, and,
indeed, how would he have been received? As long as the examination
of his captain was proceeding, the latter did not go into Society,
and the result was that his women folk also abstained from all
gaieties. So George had no chance of talking to Hildegarde, though
just at this very time he would so much have liked to see her, and
to hear from her whether she condemned and misjudged his action,
and whether she was deeply angry with him for having involved her
relative in so much shame and unpleasantness.



CHAPTER X

AN OFFER OF MARRIAGE


SENTENCE had been pronounced. Non-Commissioned Officer von Nissew
received eighteen months' imprisonment and at the same time he was
reduced to the ranks; four other non-commissioned officers of the
company received six months'. A few days later the court-martial
sentenced Captain von Warnow to four weeks' imprisonment in a
fortress, because, by not properly supervising his non-commissioned
officers he had contributed to the ill-treatment.

The "Golden Butterflies" crept about quite broken-hearted. There was
no laughter or merriment in the Casino now; they scarcely ventured,
indeed, to give orders to the orderlies, for what must they think of
their superiors? If only the proceedings could have been carried on
without publicity! but a charge brought into a law court could not be
disposed of in this manner, and so the whole ugly story was once more
in the newspapers. The Press of all shades of opinion expressed the
severest judgment on the events; they threatened, indeed, to ask a
question in the _Reichstag_ as to how such occurrences were possible,
and the case aroused long discussions concerning the value of
regulations against the ill-treatment of soldiers, when the superior
officers did not insist upon them being carried out. The newspapers
were daily filled with long reports.

But even that was not the worst. His Majesty had had a long
detailed report of the affair, and had demanded the documents,
and in unmistakable language he had informed the officers and
non-commissioned officers that they had forfeited his favour and
patronage, and that it would be a very long time before they would
regain his confidence.

"We've had a knock-down blow;" somebody at dinner used the
expression, and struck the nail on the head: "The Golden Butterflies"
had had a severe blow. They were conscious of this in the way they
were regarded in Society; their comrades in the other distinguished
regiments quietly but unmistakably withdrew from any intercourse with
them. Not precisely from any profound conviction, not indeed because
the others were enraged that such things should happen in the "Golden
Butterflies"; it was indeed no concern of theirs if someone in the
regiment was chased about with blows. Similar things happened every
day in their own regiment; in the Cavalry there was scarcely a riding
lesson when someone or other did not feel the whip. Blows were
given everywhere, in some regiments more, in some less, and when,
therefore, the other regiments officially declined intercourse with
the "Golden Butterflies" it was simply and solely on the score of the
publicity. It would make a good impression on the public if they were
somewhat reserved in their behaviour to the "Golden Butterflies";
it would appear as if they were better men. And added to this, His
Majesty's words soon became known, and, therefore, it was only
prudent to be a little cold towards the "Golden Butterflies," for if
His Majesty ceased to bestow his favours upon the regiment, it was
certainly quite impossible for other people to protect it.

Yes the "Golden Butterflies" had fallen from their high estate. They
saw it most distinctly when they gave their first banquet after the
unhappy event. As usual, they had sent invitations to the other
regiments, but almost all had declined, only a few young fellows,
whose coming was of no importance, had accepted.

Baron Gersbach, the Uhlan, did not come, though Count Wettborn
personally invited him, and promised him a long night of gambling.

But Baron Gersbach still declined. "Do not take it as an offence, my
dear count, but affairs are not quite as they ought to be in your
regiment; too much about them has got into the newspapers, and who
can guarantee that one of your men or one of your non-commissioned
officers who is occupied in attending on us will not run round to a
newspaper and relate piping hot all that we have been doing. When one
of your lieutenants, through a perfectly inexcusable indiscretion,
draws down upon you such a scandal, one cannot any longer wonder if
your men do the same thing. Well, I don't want any of that, thank
you. I have no desire to get into the newspapers; I can assure you
I was delighted to get off so easily when Willberg disappeared from
this earthly scene. Do not be vexed with me for speaking so frankly,
but as long as you have such people among you as Winkler, we cannot
keep up friendly relations with you."

In vain Count Wettborn sought to say a good word on behalf of George,
but it was of no avail.

"Certainly, he has the best intentions," agreed the Uhlan; "but good
intentions alone are not sufficient; as sensible and experienced
men, one must consider consequences. Now the consequences of his
actions you know better than I do, and the whole affair is by no
means pleasant for us. As Guard regiments we form one whole, and,
therefore, what affects one casts its shadow on the others likewise,
for people do not say such and such a thing happened in the 'Golden
Butterflies,' but simply 'in the Guards.' Such a thing is frightful,
for more than all the other regiments we must maintain outwardly,
at any rate, a good reputation. Something more than the ordinary
performance of our military duties is demanded from us, and,
therefore, we are sometimes obliged to act with exceptional severity
against our men. And then suddenly an idealistic reformer comes
along, who wants to do away with all cuffs and blows; that is all
very well in theory, but when it provokes open scandal, one simply
can't have anything more to do with him."

So the count was obliged to depart without having obtained his
object, and though until then, from a feeling of justice, he had been
the only one who took George's part, he now came to the conclusion
that it was impossible for Winkler to remain any longer in the
regiment.

With this idea in his mind the count spoke one day to the colonel.
"We can't go on much longer like this, sir, we are almost boycotted,
we shall never get another guest as long as Winkler is here. He has
brought us and himself, let alone everyone else, into discredit.
Formerly one could not allege anything against him except his
plebeian descent, but now there is a very strong feeling among the
officers that he only lodged the complaint because he is plebeian."

The colonel looked up with astonishment. "I do not understand what
you mean."

"Pardon me, sir, the thing is very simple. The officers believe that
in giving this official information, Winkler, to a certain extent,
wanted to have his revenge, because we had not extended to him the
hand of fellowship as he had expected. He has, therefore, served us
this trick and meant to signify: 'I am the only plebeian among you,
but my ways are far more seemly than yours; simply to avoid discredit
falling upon your regiment and your proud aristocratic names, you
shut your eyes and ears, and permit your men to be ill-treated. But
I can act and think with less prejudice, I am less hide-bound by the
"caste" feeling which bids you preserve appearances, and so I can act
as my conscience dictates. I am guided by my feeling of what is right
alone and not by false prejudices.'"

"But that's simply nonsense," exclaimed the colonel.

"It may be, and I daresay such considerations are far removed from
Winkler, but the officers credit him with these, and so what can one
do? Nothing is more difficult than to talk the officers out of an
idea which they have firmly seized upon--you know that, sir, do you
not?"

The colonel groaned. "God knows it cost me trouble enough before to
try and get the lieutenants to try and listen a little to reason."

He lit his cigar again which had gone out, and blew out great clouds
of smoke.

"Dear count, let me give you some good advice. If you are not given
a pension soon then leave the army before you become the colonel and
commander of a regiment. I can assure you our path is not strewn with
roses; we are answerable for everything; for the training of the
troops, the tone in the regiment, for the non-commissioned officers,
and last, but not least, for the officers. It is a vale of tears. No,
I do not want to commit a sin," he continued reflectively, "I have
every reason, therefore, to be grateful to Heaven, for had I known
that I should live to see this day, I should have taken poison."

He pulled at his collar with his right hand to make it easier, for he
suddenly felt as if he were being throttled.

Then suddenly he struck the table with a tremendous blow, so that
the count, who meanwhile had been occupied in admiring his most
up-to-date patent shoes, started with fright. The colonel noticed it,
but paid no attention to it. "It is a scandalous thing," he burst
forth in a rage; "we have weathered two storms successfully and now
a third threatens, called Winkler. May God pardon me the sin, but I
wish he had never been born, or at least had never come among us.
He has certainly got no pleasure out of it, and neither have we."
The colonel nervously patted his somewhat thin hair with his right
hand. "You are quite right, my dear count, when you say quite simply
we shall never regain our credit until we have got rid of Winkler.
You call my attention to the impossible state of affairs among the
officers and declare we cannot alter that until we get rid of
Winkler. It is all very well to say that, but how will you get rid
of him? I cannot indeed suggest any reasons for his exchange; when
His Majesty learns the real reason, when he hears that even a single
officer in the regiment does not hold Winkler in high esteem, and
that it was he who gave information of the ill-treatment, then----"
and the colonel shook his head. "It's not to be thought about; there
will be such a crash as makes me shudder to think of. I told you how
extremely highly and appreciatively His Majesty spoke of Winkler.
Well, when I inform His Majesty that the man does not suit us, we
shall get something compared with which all former ungracious remarks
of His Majesty were but child's play. With all respect to my most
gracious Sovereign, I cannot help saying, 'Do not go to your prince
unless you are summoned.' I cannot, you see, suggest any reason
to Winkler for his exchange, for if we are to be just, it must be
confessed there is absolutely nothing against him."

The count went on polishing up his eyeglass, then he said: "What you
say, sir, is very just. I was thinking over the matter last night,
and I came to the conclusion that it would be ever so much better if
Winkler's exchange did not emanate from us; he must himself apply for
it, and if he will not do that, we must persuade him to get a year's
furlough. Probably he would consider the matter in the interval,
and would not care to put on a uniform again. But still, even if
he does, after the disagreeable experience he has had with us, he
will certainly not desire to rejoin us, but will get into another
regiment."

The colonel had been listening attentively, now he nodded
approvingly. "That would do, dear count, that's not a bad way out
of the difficulty. Of course, I would recommend him most warmly
for leave of absence, and as His Majesty regards him with great
favour, there is not the slightest doubt that his request would be
granted--if we can only once get him to make the request."

"We shall soon be able to do that, sir, I will speak to him at the
very earliest opportunity."

In the evening of the same day on which the count and the colonel had
been talking over George's future, George also conversed with Olga on
the same subject.

"I am tired of the whole thing, Olga, I shall not stay here any
longer; I am sick of knocking my head against a stone wall that
divides me from my fellow-officers. I have made up my mind to-day, I
shall give in my resignation."

Olga, who lately had been almost daily with George, and to whom he
frankly expressed all his thoughts, had clearly foreseen that sooner
or later it would come to this, nevertheless she was startled by his
words, and sought to dissuade him but in vain.

"At least exchange into another regiment," she begged.

But George shook his head. "There's no object in that, dear. I know,
of course, I should not be transferred to a miserable frontier
garrison where one is nearly driven crazy; on the contrary, I should
be sent to some fine town, but what should I do there? I know that
I should take a certain position there, for one thing because I
have been in the Guards, if only for a very short time, and that is
thought much of in the provinces, and for another, because I am a
rich man. For the latter reason alone I shall be heartily welcomed,
for everybody will be delighted to be able to borrow from me. I know
that from my former experience in the garrison, in all these little
towns a newcomer who can be regarded as a new source for loans, is
fêted and welcomed like a god: and everybody borrows money from him,
from the captain down to the youngest lieutenant--even the ensign
plucks up his courage by aid of a drink, and requests the lieutenant
most respectfully for a loan of twenty marks. I know the whole
thing. I never asked for a promissory note when I lent the money,
but they always gave me one, for in such matters, one must preserve
formality and act correctly, but not a single man ever redeemed his I
O U. They are all lying now in my writing-desk, carefully arranged,
to some extent a contribution to the history of the manners and
morals of German lieutenants, a contribution to the study of the
characteristics of 'aristocratic persons.'"

He had risen and opened a drawer and was turning over the papers
which he had taken out of a case.

"Look at these, Olga, you need not read the names, they are of no
interest to you. Here is written: 'Herewith I pledge my word of
honour to return the loan of five hundred marks within the next three
months at latest.' 'Herewith I give my word of honour to return the
thousand marks lent me to-day within----' and on, dear. Dozens of
these documents are lying here; dozens of unredeemed pledges given on
their word of honour, and yet these very men who have broken their
pledge are going about in the world as haughty officers." He was
silent for a moment, then he said, "By Jove! these lieutenants are
quite different from other people; to a certain extent they form a
class by themselves, and their ignorance and lack of understanding
in certain matters are really more than _naïve_. I confess I don't
understand these aristocratic persons, and because I don't understand
them I can find no excuse for their doings and acts, their thoughts
and their feelings. I can forgive them for what they have done to me,
difficult though that is, but I can scarcely endure their fine airs
in Society, especially when there is scarcely any other class whose
general education is so poor and lamentable as that of the officers.
I was indeed nearly going to say they could neither read nor write
properly."

"Now, now, George," admonished Olga, "you must not exaggerate because
you are angry."

"I am not angry, I am only sad that things are so bad with our
officers. But I really believe I have under-stated the case. The
lieutenants can read, but can they also write? Look at these begging
letters and promissory notes which I just showed you; you will
find beauties of style there, compared with which those of the
everlasting fourth-form boy of the comic papers are mere nothings.
But that is not all. You will find such spelling as would bring down
public rebuke upon a third-form boy. You may laugh, Olga, but what
I tell you is the sad fact. Of course, my remarks only referred to
the lieutenants, and not to the superior officers, but how often
have I not noticed even among them how terribly embarrassed they
are if they have to make a report suddenly. Every word is such an
effort to them that one feels truly sorry for them. Yet, in spite
of all this, in spite of the lack of the simplest culture, all this
arrogance and self-complacence! Naturally, every one ought to be
proud of his calling, but this pride ought not to degenerate into a
perfectly fanatical arrogance. Formerly people spoke of the young,
well-educated, knightly lieutenants, the perfect cavaliers. Where
are they now? You must go with a lantern and search for them. I
have scarcely known one during my time of service, and the few who
enter the army straight from their home, fresh and unspoiled, are
only too quickly infected with the spirit of caste, and the demon
of haughtiness takes possession of them. Ask the parents whose sons
have become officers whether they are not often shocked at the
conceit and pretentiousness of the young fellows for whom the best
is not considered good enough; whether they have not often bitterly
repented having allowed their sons to choose a profession which
often estranges them from their own parents, who are too often only
regarded as the source of money for their frivolous or luxurious
lives."

"George, you are exaggerating absurdly," said Olga, rebukingly.

"Do you really think so? I can only say I have often known young
lieutenants who are really ashamed because their fathers are teachers
or something similar, but in spite of this they are not ashamed to
send home for more money in order to maintain a good appearance. They
wish--no, according to their view they _must_ give the idea of coming
from good families. I was once at dinner and I heard with my own ears
how a lieutenant pretended his father was a pensioned officer because
he felt embarrassed at having to say he was a doctor."

"Fi, that's a beautiful idea."

Count Wettborn had, therefore, an easy task when he came to persuade
George to go on furlough. He was much astonished when he heard that
George was quite determined to send in his resignation, and to enter
his father's factory; but, naturally, he made no attempt to dissuade
him.

"And when do you think of sending in your request?"

"In a day or two. My father writes to me that he is commanded to an
audience with His Majesty, and that he will be here at the beginning
of next week. Although I am a completely free agent in this matter,
and can go and come as I like, still I think it is my duty to inform
my father of my resolution as soon as possible."

"Certainly, certainly," agreed Count Wettborn, "a week sooner or
later makes no difference."

And that was just what the officers thought when they heard that
Winkler was going. Whether he remained a week more or less--that was
a matter of no importance--the thing was, they were going to get rid
of him.

"I say, boys, we'll be a little bit nice to him during these last few
days," suggested one of the officers. "We will behave as if we were
rather sorry that he's going, for, after all, it's not exactly his
fault that he doesn't suit us. Besides, it would be a good thing for
us if the memory of his last days among us was a pleasant one; later
on he will often tell stories of the days when he had the honour of
belonging to us, and although, of course, it doesn't really matter
what he says about us to his shopkeeper friends, still, it won't do
us any harm if he says, 'The "Golden Butterflies" are a damned fine
regiment; they're a charming set of good-hearted, dear fellows who
are second to none in their friendliness and good fellowship.'"

But the proposal evoked no response. "For his own sake he won't say
much about his dealings with us and how we drove him out."

But they all agreed, however, to drop every appearance of ill-will
and to be, at least outwardly, polite and amiable during these last
days.

George could scarcely suppress a contemptuous laugh when he noticed
the sudden change of feeling, and an ironical word was always on the
tip of his tongue when his comrades asked sympathetically after his
future plans, and feigned interest in all his concerns. Often he was
sorely tempted to cry out--"Don't trouble yourselves, you know you
can't disguise your joy in getting rid of me." But he was silent.
What was the good of saying anything, the officers would not have
admitted their true feelings.

One day at lunch a comrade went so far as to offer him a glass of
champagne. He had just won a few hundred marks in the Prussian
lottery and had received permission from the eldest officer at the
table to celebrate it in this way.

Winkler could scarcely believe his ears when his companion said to
him: "You'll do me the pleasure of drinking a glass of champagne
with me, won't you?"

George's first instinct was to cry out: "During the whole time
that I have been here not a single human being has shown me the
least kindliness; I must, therefore, decline the honour." Anger and
indignation rose within him that now, just as he was leaving, anyone
should dare to show hospitality to him, but suddenly his sense of
humour got the upper hand, the invitation seemed so utterly absurd,
and he accepted it with thanks. "But only on one condition," he
added, following a sudden impulse, and then in a loud voice so that
everyone could hear, "On the day when my resignation is accepted I
should like to give a solemn farewell banquet to my fellow-officers.
I can only accept an invitation if I know that I shall have an
opportunity of returning it. You will come, will you not," he said,
turning to his host, "and you--and you and you?" He invited everybody
at the long table, and not a single one refused; all were thinking
the same thing: "If it pleases him, why on earth shouldn't we for
once have a good spread at his expense? One isn't, therefore, pledged
to anything, the thing need go no further."

George was overcome by a feeling of repugnance towards his comrades
when he found that they all accepted his invitation: were they not
ashamed of accepting hospitality from a man whom they had treated so
badly? He had been joking when he gave the invitation, and had felt
quite certain that they would all have made excuses of some sort or
another, and he had been pleased at the idea of these excuses, and
now they had, one and all, accepted! And it did not stop there; the
officers inquired when and where the dinner would be; not in the
club-room, it was to be hoped. The rooms, of course, were beautiful,
but always the same food. How nice it would be to have it in one of
the best restaurants! A few pounds more or less wouldn't matter to
him, of course, and they hoped he would order French champagne only.

"I heard rather a good story lately about that," said one of the
officers; "let's see, what was it? Oh, yes, I remember; If you give
your guest German champagne and tell him it is French, he will not be
deceived, and will not drink it; but give him French champagne and
say it is German he'll drink it right enough. Mind you make a note
of that, Winkler." George promised to remember this and to send the
invitations as soon as he had spoken to his father about it.

"When is your father coming?" George himself did not know, and
expected him daily; so did the "Golden Butterflies." They began to
get anxious when still the old fellow did not come. What if he was
not coming at all? Perhaps it had been the stratagem of George's
to speak about his resignation and to try and produce a change of
feeling towards him; perhaps the old fellow would not appear for
ages, and it had been a trick of George's to make fools of them, to
make merry at their expense, and to a certain extent to have his
revenge on them.

They were getting frightfully anxious about the matter; the joy,
therefore, was great when one day at lunch in the Casino George's
fellow-officer in his company, Baron von Masemann, informed them:
"The manufacturer of trouser buttons has arrived. I saw him last
night in a restaurant."

"Thank Heaven!" was uttered by all; and then the question was
immediately asked, "What's he like?"

"Quite impossible. The fellow wears a ready-made tie, unstarched
cuffs, and a pair of boots that one can see at a glance were never
made in Berlin; and then at dinner the fellow cuts his bread with a
knife instead of breaking it."

"How awful!"

An exclamation of genuine indignation arose from all present.

"Do stop," implored a young lieutenant; "remember we have only just
had our lunch."

"Calm yourselves, my friends," continued the baron; "in spite of all
drawbacks the old boy has _one_ great advantage."

"And what is that?"

"He has a daughter."

"What, really! Winkler never told us a word about it."

All surrounded the speaker, eager with curiosity.

"Is she pretty?" asked one at last, and the others pressed more
closely to hear the answer.

The baron purposely delayed his answer for some time, then he said:
"Pretty? my dear boys, she's much more than that, and although she
comes from the provinces she's awfully _chic_. But you must see her
figure. I can tell you----" and he smacked his tongue.

"Did you get introduced to her?"

"Unfortunately, no; I was with friends in the restaurant, and had
no opportunity of getting rid of them, but this evening it will
be all right. I heard quite by chance that the old trouser-button
manufacturer reserved a table for himself for to-day. I shall take
good care to be there, and when once I am introduced to the young
lady I have no fear about conquering."

"In other words, you are trying to catch the gold fish."

Baron von Masemann calmly lit a cigarette. "Someone will marry her.
Why shouldn't I be that someone?"

"Quite so, but do you think the _coup_ will be successful?"

The baron shrugged his shoulders. "Who can say? One can but try.
After all, one can't get more than a refusal at the worst. And then
why should the old boy say 'No,' if I only succeed in making the
daughter infatuated about me? My family is first-class. I myself
am not worse than other fellows, and the few debts I have are of
no importance; the old fellow has plenty of money, and ought to be
delighted if he can get such an aristocratic son-in-law for his
money."

The others quite agreed; what reason indeed could the father and
daughter possibly have for not receiving the baron with open arms?
And thereupon several of them regarded the suggested engagement as a
_fait accompli_.

"Were you on friendly terms with Winkler when you were together in
the company?" one of the men asked. "Perhaps he'll have a word to say
in the matter."

"I was thinking about that last night," replied Masemann. "We were
certainly not particularly friendly, but still Winkler ought to be
very glad to have me for a brother-in-law. In this way he will remain
to a certain extent connected with the regiment, and that is really
of very great advantage to him. Only think what a position the fellow
will be able to take in Society if he can say, 'My brother-in-law,
Baron Von Masemann.' That is almost as valuable to him as being
aristocratic himself. Naturally I shall manage not to have too much
of my brother-in-law, and shall see that he is not always running in
and out of my house; but that's all later on, the present thing is to
try one's luck."

But that evening the baron had no luck; he waited in vain for the
Winklers. They were all sitting in George's rooms, and the honorary
commercial adviser to the Emperor was telling them of the audience
he had had with His Majesty, and how he had graciously inquired
after George and expressed his pleasure at the way George had acted
with regard to the ill-treatment of soldiers. He went on to tell
them how pleased His Majesty was to hear a good report of him from
the officers and of his popularity among his comrades. His Majesty
greatly regretted that, owing to other arrangements, he could not
keep his promise of asking George to dine with him to-morrow.

"Did I not always tell you so?" concluded the old man. "Do you
remember how at first you wanted to fling down your gun in despair?
Who was right--you or I?"

George exchanged a hasty glance with his sister, whom he had
informed of his resolution yesterday; he had not wanted to spoil his
father's pleasure in seeing him again on the very first day, and he
also wanted to prevent his father from saying anything about his
resignation in his audience with the Emperor. So he had kept silent
till this moment, but now he was obliged to speak, and his father's
last words made the task easy.

"What if I am right after all, father. When I tell you I am just as
much an 'outsider' to-day as I ever was, when I tell you that my
position in the regiment was not improved by His Majesty's praise of
me, and that the officers' story of my popularity was simply a lie to
avoid vexing the Emperor--what would you say then?"

The father looked at his son with astonishment.

"I do not understand what you mean!"

"I will explain myself a little more fully." And he proceeded to
relate in detail all that had happened to him from the very first
day he entered the regiment; how they longed for him to send in his
resignation, and how, at last, he had made up his mind to do so, not
to please the "Golden Butterflies," but simply in order to be able to
enjoy life once more.

The father listened, absolutely disconcerted, then he struck a
sounding blow on the table. "And what if I forbid you to do so, and
order you to remain an officer for some time longer?"

George looked at him calmly. "You will not command me to do this,
father. You told me when I entered the army I was perfectly free to
leave it whenever I liked, and you will not go back from your word."

"But what if I do--what if I don't want the other officers to triumph
in your failure?"

"Then I should resign in spite of it. I am of age and can do what I
like."

The old man was on the verge of losing complete self-control. "And
what if I disinherit you?"

"I should still do it. I have savings enough to live quite free from
all anxiety for some time to come, and as your son I shall soon get
employment somewhere."

Again his father was about to burst forth indignantly, when Elsa
broke into the conversation and tenderly soothed him. "Don't oppose
him any more," she entreated. "George thoroughly discussed the matter
with me yesterday, and to-day I vainly tried to get him to change his
mind; he is so unhappy as an officer that one can't wish him to be
forced to endure it any longer."

The old man sat silent for a long time. "Mother will be frightfully
upset," he said at last.

The brother and sister exchanged swift glances; they knew that the
battle was won, but they took care not to give vent to their feeling
of satisfaction.

"Won't you mind leaving the army?"

"How could I, after all the humiliation I have endured? I rejoice a
thousandfold in taking off my officer's uniform, which apparently
does not go with my views and ideas, although I did my duties very
well compared with others."

"Is not every officer an enthusiastic soldier, then?" asked Elsa.

George burst out laughing. "You innocent angel! I can assure you at
least half of the lieutenants would give in their resignations at
once if they were in a financial position to do so. The best proof
of my assertion is that every lieutenant tries to find a rich wife;
when he has found one he either leaves the army immediately, or stays
there as long as he gets any enjoyment from it. If it becomes too
dull or worrying for him he throws up his commission and says to his
superiors, 'See how you can manage to get along without me. Other
people can be driven mad by your worrying ways, thank Heaven I am no
longer obliged to put up with all these things.' Of course there are
exceptions; there are the ambitious and energetic men who want to get
big military appointments, who dream of red stripes on their trousers
and the title of Excellency; it may be hard for such men to have to
leave the army. And then there are certainly a few who are really
soldiers, heart and soul, but their number is small--where are they
to be found? Among the subordinate officers I have scarcely known
a single lieutenant who did not curse and swear when he was set to
perform a duty, and who would not have preferred to depart at once
if only he knew how he was to earn his living. This sounds hard, but
I assure you it is quite true. Even when a lieutenant says, 'I like
being an officer,' it is generally because of the position it gives
him in Society and not because he likes exercising and drilling the
men. And it is just the same with the captain as with the lieutenant;
his superiors are always running after him, they lead him a hell of
a life, and are always reprimanding him for some fault or other
committed by his men. Who could enjoy military duties under these
circumstances? A man feels stifled. Yet the wretched captain must
bear it all because he has a wife and children and no money, because
he is forced to remain in the army as long as possible to get the
higher pension and so be able to live. He is worried and bothered
from morning to eve, and even then, in the majority of cases, he does
not succeed in getting what he wants, and has later on to suffer
poverty and misery; and if he abandons his uniform with regret it
is not because he is sorry to leave the army, but because of his
wasted life. He is in full possession of all his mental and physical
faculties, and yet he is condemned to inactivity and ceaseless money
worries. Among the superior officers there is certainly to be found
an enthusiasm for the army. There is none among the subordinates, at
least not in the infantry."

The father was peevish and ill-tempered; he controlled himself as
well as he could, but from time to time his indignation burst forth,
and his children found it difficult to appease him.

"And are you really going to give in your resignation to-morrow? Will
you not consider it for another month? Why do you not get leave of
absence for a year, or less, if you like?"

George shook his head. "The sooner I go the better, father. I don't
get on among the officers, who often have the most extraordinary
views on things." And, as if in confirmation of these words, the
servant brought in a letter at that moment.

"Is there any answer?"

"No."

The servant went away and George opened the letter.

"Whatever is the matter?" asked Elsa, who had been watching her
brother while he was reading.

George jumped up. "I have never heard such a piece of insolence in my
whole life. Just listen to this; but first of all I must recall to
you one of my fellow-officers who was sitting in the same restaurant
with us yesterday."

"Oh, yes, that odd young man who was not quite sure at first whether
he should bow to us, and then afterwards attempted to flirt with me
so outrageously," said Elsa. "Well, what about him?"

"Not much," answered George apparently calmly. "He merely wishes to
be allowed to ask for your hand."

Father and daughter looked at one another, speechless with
astonishment, then Elsa broke into a hearty laugh, in which the
others joined too.

"Why, he doesn't even know me," she said.

"Oh, that isn't in the least necessary; he knows your fortune, he
knows that you are a very good _parti_, and naturally that's quite
enough for him. A man can get on all right without love, but not
without money. Well, now, listen to what this fine fellow writes. But
I must tell you beforehand that from the first few of my comrades
were so unfriendly to me as he was."

Then he read out the letter:

   "MY VERY DEAR WINKLER,--I am sitting alone and solitary in
   the restaurant, and for a whole hour I have been impatiently
   watching the door in the hope of seeing you and your people come
   in, for I heard by chance that your father had ordered dinner
   here for this evening.

   "Without telling you, you will, I expect, have already
   guessed that I only went into the restaurant to-day in the
   happy expectation of being introduced to your sister and your
   much-respected father, for I must frankly confess to you that no
   young girl has ever made such a deep and indelible impression
   upon me as your sister did. Although up to now I have only had
   the opportunity of observing her beauty and her grace, yet
   I am quite sure that a beautiful soul must dwell in such a
   beautiful body, and I have only one wish in the world--to become
   acquainted with your sister. As we have always had such pleasant
   and friendly relations with one another I venture to ask if I
   may pay my respects to your highly-esteemed father and beautiful
   sister, and I beg you most courteously to say a few kindly words
   on my behalf. Naturally all information concerning myself and
   my financial position is at your father's disposal whenever he
   likes. In conclusion, I beg you not to be vexed at the somewhat
   odd nature of these few lines, but I know that your father is
   only staying here for a few days, and I do not want your sister
   to leave Berlin without my having the opportunity of becoming
   acquainted with her.

   "Pray accept my kindest regards for your honoured, but at
   present, alas! unknown, relatives, and,--Believe me, with best
   greetings, yours very sincerely,

                                               "VON MASEMANN."

"Well, what do you say to that?" inquired George.

"Is it possible?" cried out the old manufacturer. "I must say I have
never heard of such a thing in all my life."

"And what do you think about it, Elsa?"

"I really do not know whether to laugh or be angry about it. I can't
think how he isn't ashamed to write such a letter."

George laughed mockingly. "Ashamed? Why, Elsa, you can know very
little about a lieutenant if you think he would be ashamed of
anything. Your beauty has turned his head, you have a big fortune,
so that's all right; he marches to victory like Blucher to Waterloo.
If he's successful, all right, if he's not, then he seeks his luck
somewhere else; he means to catch a goldfish somewhere or other. The
more impudent he is the more easily he attains to the object of his
desires."

"Not as far as we are concerned," burst out the commercial adviser
to the Emperor. "Please tell your aristocratic friend to-morrow from
me----"

George interrupted him. "No, father, I have already settled about the
answer. He won't much care about it, I can assure you. I am going
to ask him how it is, that he has been unable to have any social
intercourse with me and yet desires to marry my sister." After a
pause he continued, "It is really a pity, Elsa, you are not going to
stay here a few days, for then you would have had all the officers at
your feet; all, from the oldest staff-officer down to the youngest
lieutenant, would try to curry favour with me so that I might say a
good word to you on their behalf. Your thousands would induce even
the most aristocratic lieutenant who usually boasts of his numberless
ancestors, to recognise the _bourgeoisie_ and to condescend to make
you his highly-honoured wife."

"A fine set of people these," said the father, angrily.

"I thank them for the honour they pay me in wishing to marry me for
my money, but I don't think I want to marry at all."

George regarded his sister with amusement. "Ha, ha, one day you'll
find the flame of love, and quite right too. By the way, how old are
you--nineteen or twenty?"

"I am twenty-one now."

"And has no one seriously paid court to you?"

She burst out laughing. "Oh, often, like your comrade here to-day,
but I did not care about any of them, for, oddly enough, it was
always officers who paid me attention, always lieutenants, and,
unfortunately, the only lieutenant whom I love I cannot get."

George looked at her wonderingly. "Why not?"

"Because he happens to be my brother."

Laughingly George drew his sister to him. "Come here, dear, and give
me a kiss." Then he went on. "But seriously, Elsa, you have grown
much more beautiful lately." He was delighted with his sister's
looks: she had a slim figure, a proud bearing, beautiful eyes, and
her whole appearance was charming.

"Do you know that you are very like Hildegarde in many ways?" he
said, suddenly.

It was the first time that he had actually said her name to his
people, and now that he had done it he felt shy and was quite
embarrassed at his sister's glance.

Their father had meanwhile taken up the evening paper, now he laid it
aside. "Go on, George, you yourself began it, you know. You have so
often written to us about your Hildegarde. Who and what is she, and
how do you stand with regard to her?"

George tried to avoid answering, but Elsa urged him to speak. "Do
tell me something about her. In your letters you could not write
enough about her--at any rate, in the beginning! lately I have heard
much less about her. Is she vexed with you about anything?"

"No, I don't think so," answered George, after a moment's thought;
"at any rate I do not know of any reason for it. I told you that
Hildegarde was a relative of my captain, who is now undergoing
imprisonment in a fortress. Naturally during this time Frau von
Warnow does not go out, and so, lately, I have only seen Hildegarde
once or twice quite casually in the street."

"Haven't you spoken to her at all?"

"Twice I meant to do so, but I should have had to inquire how the
Warnows were, and, of course, that would be very disagreeable for me."

"But how do you stand with regard to her," his father asked for the
second time. "You know your mother has prophesied for a long time
that you were going to get engaged to her. Is she right?"

"As you ask me straight out, I will tell you that at first I had the
same idea, and I think that if this horrible business had not come
between us, and if we had seen one another more often, things would
have been all right, but now----"

Elsa saw such a sorrowful and despairing look in her brother's face
that she said to him, "But won't you find it very hard to go away
without seeing her again?"

"I shall see her once again," answered George, with determination. "I
shall pay a farewell visit. I shall ask Hildegarde to name an hour
when I am sure to see her." And then, acting on a sudden impulse, he
said: "By the way, Elsa, I told Hildegarde all sorts of things about
you. I told her you wanted to become acquainted with her, and she
was delighted. Will you do me a favour and call upon her, or, better
still, ask her to call upon you at the hotel? I will be there, too,
and then when we meet again after several weeks we shall know what we
feel towards one another, and if Hildegarde loves me, then----"

"Not so fast, my boy, not so fast," put in the old man. "I am still
in existence. I should like to see my future daughter-in-law before I
am called up to consent and say 'Amen.'"

George had a sudden vision of Hildegarde; the memory of the
delightful hours they had spent together awakened in him a great
longing to see her again.

"Oh, you will like Hildegarde, father, she is beautiful and good,
and in spite of her aristocratic birth she does not share the often
extraordinary views of her class. I have told her a great deal
about you, father; about the factory, your consideration for your
workpeople, your ceaseless activity, and she was interested in
and understood everything." He spoke of her with an ardour and an
enthusiasm which showed how much he cared for her.

"And what sort of a family has she?" inquired old Winkler. "You know
I don't care whether she has money or not--you need not trouble about
that--what I mean is, do you know anything about her relations? Has
she any brothers and sisters? What are her parents?"

George gave what information he could.

"Oh, so there's a scamp of a lieutenant," grumbled the father;
"instead of parents who have no money making their son learn some
business or other, the young fellows have to become officers, so that
they may get drunk on champagne at the regimental banquet."

"But Hildegarde cannot help that," George said, as if he had to
protect her: "and what does her brother matter to me?"

"What does he matter? Well"--the old man got up--"a man does not only
marry a wife, but the whole family, take that from me, my boy, and
so, before taking any steps, we must look into things a bit. But I
will frankly confess one thing to you: I have privately long desired
you to marry. It's all the same to me whom, as long as you love her.
Well, now we can go and see your Hildegarde."



CHAPTER XI

FAREWELL TO THE ARMY!


"MY son just engaged to your daughter. For Hildegarde's sake will
try to assist you and your son. Expect you both to-morrow for
consultation on subject."

This telegram sent off by the old manufacturer caused indescribable
excitement in the major's home; weeping with joy and agitation the
husband and wife flung themselves into each other's arms and blessed
the day on which Heaven had given them Hildegarde.

"A fine girl, a good girl," said the major a dozen times over, and if
there was anything that troubled his intense joy it was that Hilda
was not with them. He would so much have liked to take her in his
arms, and in his somewhat rough fashion to have patted her on the
shoulder and said: "You have done well, my girl."

He laughed hoarsely, and lit the dearest cigar he had in the house.
One ought to make merry on festivals whenever they occur, and to-day
was truly a festival: Hildegarde engaged to the son of one of the
richest wholesale manufacturers, that was indeed more than mere
good luck, and almost unconsciously the major folded his hands and
thanked the good God for having sent him so rich a son-in-law. He
read and re-read the telegram; he could not at once take in the whole
extent of the joyful news, and the oftener he read the telegram and
the more calmly he gradually accepted its contents, the more he took
exception each time to the words: "For Hildegarde's sake will try
to assist you and your son. Expect you both to-morrow." What did
that mean--will try; it was not a question of _will_, but _must_.
Did this _parvenu_ imagine, perhaps, that the major would give his
beautiful child, his only daughter, to his son without his having to
pay heavily for it? Oh, no, indeed! No gains without pains; if the
honorary commercial adviser did not pay his debts and his son's, then
there would be no engagement, for he, as father, would never give his
consent. That would indeed be a fine thing if he gave his child to
the first best suitor without any compensation. "No, no, that's not
what was intended, that won't do at all."

The major talked himself into a rage over the matter to his wife,
who vainly tried to calm him. "You don't know these shop-keeping
creatures, they grow rich by haggling; their chief characteristic
is avarice, and you see all that here. Do you suppose a decent man
would ask what were the debts of the father and mother of his future
daughter-in-law? He would simply pay them, and on the spot. And
what does this fellow say: 'Expect you both to-morrow to discuss
affairs.' He ought to come to us, and ask for our daughter's hand on
his son's behalf in the proper way, instead of which we are simply
commanded to come to him. I, an old major, must receive instructions
from a _parvenu_. He has not a trace of respect for my noble birth,
my position, my name; he has the money-bags, so we must pipe to his
tune. Well, I shall soon make him see how matters stand, I shall soon
show him what an honour it is for him and his family if we let his
son, who, as far as I know, is only a discharged lieutenant, marry
our Hilda. I will soon open his eyes."

He walked up and down the room grumbling and cursing, but gradually
joy in Hildegarde's engagement again got the upper hand, and earlier
than usual he went off to his special table at the restaurant in
order to relate the news and to receive congratulations on the happy
event.

Next morning he set out on his journey; his wife had wanted to
accompany him, but he would not allow this. "Fritz and I must first
have a talk with the old man and arrange affairs. I will telegraph
you how things are, and then you might come. I repeat, if the old
fellow does not pay up at once, there will be no engagement."

Fritz, who met his father on the way, quite agreed with him. He had
also received a telegram in which was expressed only a _desire_
to help, and he was no less angry than his father. "You are quite
right in what you say, papa, there is only one thing to be done,
we must simply threaten to take Hildegarde immediately home with
us if he does not consent to everything we want. We must act very
energetically, and show fight, but above all we must make the old
fellow feel what an enormous social barrier divides us; then you see
he will look small."

But the old manufacturer was very far removed from looking small.

In the conversation that had taken place between Hildegarde and
Elsa, the former had considered it her duty to tell her new friend
frankly about her family affairs, and to confess quite plainly how
she had been sent year after year to Berlin to get a rich husband.
With tears she confessed she loved George, but declared she must
renounce him, for she could not endure that George should believe,
even for a moment, that she loved him for his money. At first when
Elsa heard this she assumed a somewhat distant air, then she felt the
most sincere sympathy for Hildegarde, whose every word showed clearly
and distinctly how good and true she was. Elsa tried to console her
to the best of her ability, and assured her that George would not
doubt her, but that his love would be all the greater when he heard
what a sad life she had had. Elsa undertook to inform her father
what Hildegarde had told her, and at the first moment he was quite
overcome, and kept on saying to his son--"George, leave the thing
alone, give up all thoughts of Hildegarde, don't be drawn into that
wretched family affair." But he made no further opposition after
he had seen Hildegarde and had had an hour's conversation with her
_tête-à-tête_. He took his son aside and said, "George, the girl's an
angel, we must make her happy and compensate her for all she has gone
through by a future without a care or worry."

So they had all taken counsel together as to how Hildegarde's
relatives were to be helped. Hildegarde had told them the extent of
the debts so far as she remembered it from her last visit home, and
at last it was arranged that old Winkler should pay one half of the
debts, and George, out of his own income, the other. Besides this,
Winkler intended to put aside a certain sum every year, from which
Hildegarde could make her parents an allowance, and so they would be
removed from all pecuniary anxiety.

It was more difficult to arrange what was to be done about Fritz.
George wanted to pledge himself to give his brother-in-law a monthly
allowance, but Hildegarde shook her head at this. "There is really
no object in doing that, George. If, in your kindness, you were to
give him thousands and thousands, it would be so much money thrown
away. The more Fritz has the more he needs. He would never manage on
whatever he had; he would always borrow from us, he would not stop
gambling, and if we wouldn't help him he would borrow on I O U's,
and would soon be as deeply in debt as he is to-day. It is sad for
his own sister to have to say this, but I can only see one way of
helping Fritz--he must leave the army and go abroad. He will never
be any better until he works and earns his own living and so gets to
understand the value of money."

"Hildegarde is right," agreed the old manufacturer. "Hildegarde is
certainly the most sensible girl I have ever known, and if she, who
knows her brother so well, says that there is no other means of
helping him except a change of climate, then he shall have it. Let
him go to America, I have business connections there, and can easily
get him a post. He shall not starve, I will see to that all right,
but he shall only get as much money as will keep him from want. He
will therefore be forced to work for his living."

Thus all was settled and arranged when the major and his son arrived,
and at the sight of the absolute calmness and firm determination
which were visible in the manufacturer's whole bearing, they were
quite unable to carry out their proposal and take the high hand. They
could not explain why, but as they sat with the old man, they were
almost ill at ease when he asked them about their debts, and told
them in what way he proposed to settle them.

Fritz could hardly believe his ears when he was told he was to leave
the army. He opposed it as much as ever he could, but he was so
deeply involved that he could not hang on for more than a few weeks.
It would, therefore, be best for him after all to resign at once. But
if he left the army there was really no object in paying his debts at
once; the people could wait for them, he would be quite content to
go on owing them money. He made this clear to old Winkler, who might
thus save the money and give him a few more thousand marks for his
journey.

"For you to gamble them away on board ship. No, there's no sense
in that, and quite apart from that, in our plebeian circles it is
considered honourable to fulfil one's obligations. Surely you, who
belong to a class which is nicknamed nowadays 'the first class,'
ought not to think differently in this matter. I should not have
expected this of you."

Fritz could not help feeling uncomfortable, and both father and son
were delighted when Elsa inquired whether lunch could not be served,
and so brought the conversation to an end.

The major was in the seventh heaven: his debts were paid, he received
an extra allowance, he had no longer any need to give his son any
money, and henceforth he could live free from care. He did not, of
course, quite like it that his son Fritz should have to go abroad,
but if the old manufacturer insisted upon it, why one must agree
to it, and perhaps he might find a rich wife there. In America
there were still people who thought aristocratic birth more than
out-weighed gold, and, besides, America was not far off, he could be
back again in a few days, if need be. He whispered all this to his
son, when he was alone with him for a moment, and Fritz made the best
of a bad bargain. Father and son thoroughly enjoyed the excellent
luncheon of which they all partook, and appeared to take no notice of
the somewhat cold, distant behaviour of the Winklers at the beginning
of the interview.

Next day the manufacturer with his children and Hildegarde intended
to go home.

He would indeed have gone on this day but George, who had given in
his resignation, had invited the "Golden Butterflies" to a splendid
banquet, and at six o'clock the whole of the corps of officers were
assembled in a splendid suite of rooms in the best hotel in Berlin.
George in his heart disliked all this ostentation, but on this
occasion he had ordered the best and most expensive of everything.
The French champagne flowed in streams, the finest wines, the best
viands were set before them.

George as the host sat between the colonel and the major, and
secretly he was immensely amused to notice how the former was
beginning to think about his speech.

"What is he going to say?" thought George. "Does not the man see that
this farewell banquet is a pure farce? There is not a single being
at the table who is not delighted that I am going, and yet they all
come here to stuff themselves at my expense, and to get more or less
drunk."

In a few words George bade his guests welcome, and wished them a
pleasant evening. That was all he said. He could not bring himself
somehow to say that he was delighted to be once more among his dear
old comrades again, or something of the kind. He had only said what
was absolutely necessary for the occasion, and, therefore, he was all
the more curious to see how the colonel would reply to his remarks.
The latter struck his glass, and rose, his example being followed by
all the other officers.

"Gentlemen," began the colonel, amid profound silence, "we are to-day
assembled for the last time to do honour to a beloved comrade,
who is leaving not only us, but the army, to go into his father's
business as worker and partner. Although it is usually the custom
for the departing officer to be entertained by his corps, to-day
it is otherwise, and it is we who are the guests and you the host,
because we believe by this means to show you, dear Winkler, how
delighted we are once more to have you in our midst. To invite you
to a dinner would have been the ordinary etiquette of the regiment,
but etiquette does not oblige us to accept your invitation. The
fact that everyone of us is here is a clear and eloquent sign, dear
Winkler, that all who are here have not a word to say against you. I
cannot deny that there were at one time differences between you and
the other officers, but to-day shows that all those have disappeared.
And so, with sincere regret, we witness your departure from our
midst, although you have only been here such a short time, and our
wishes for your health and prosperity in the future are expressed in
the toast. Three cheers for our former comrade, Lieutenant Winkler.
Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!"

"Coldly as they received me into the regiment, coldly they bid me
good-bye," thought George during the colonel's speech. "Not a single
kindly word for me, merely a variation on the theme--what fine,
good-natured fellows we are for coming here to-day on your account."

The hurrahs rang out, the band struck up a fanfare, and then the
song, "Ich hatte einen Kamraden, einen bessern fandst du nicht."

"I am to have that as well," thought George, and a feeling of
bitterness rose within him. "Lies and hypocrisy to the very end."

The colonel drew him into the conversation, but, while George was
apparently listening to a description of an incident in the war, his
thoughts were far away. He looked at his comrades who from joy at
getting rid of him had drunk more than was good for them, and many of
whom would soon be completely intoxicated. And suddenly a feeling of
joy which he could not prevent came over him that in future he would
no longer belong to a profession, the majority of whose members had
not yet learned to work and to take life seriously; and who had not
yet grasped the real nature of its task--that of educating the German
youth.


_Wyman & Sons Ltd., Printers, London and Reading._





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life in a German Crack Regiment" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home