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The Fair Kate by Paul Heyse

 

“It is incontestably true,” said the old landscape-painter B——, slowly stroking down his grey or rather mouse-coloured beard, “women will be women, that is, sex dominates in the best as in the worst; and though they are often obstinate enough in taking things into their head, yet after all it is but seldom a head with any special or original character, is only a feminine head. A genuine individuality that can be measured by itself alone is far more rare among them than among us men, and positively I do not know if the fact gives us anything to boast of. Very often our peculiarity is only peculiar folly—a departure from nature, whether through culture or mutilation; while women, for whose training or spoiling less is done from without, seldom become unnatural either in good or evil, seldom exceed the average. But when they do so I have always found something to marvel at.

“For instance one case remains indelibly fixed on my memory, when I actually witnessed a thing unheard of and unparalleled, a lovely girl who had an actual hatred of her own beauty, not merely a conceited, coquettish, pretended indifference to it, or even an over-strained, saintly, nun-like renunciation of it, but what one might call an honourable enmity against it, which had, indeed, its good grounds.

“I became acquainted with the story in question in the following way.

“At that time—it's now more than twenty years ago—I was very intimate with a long-forgotten Dutch painter, Jan van Kuylen or Kuyden—you will not find the name in any catalogue of known artists.

“In the course of the usual journey to Rome, he had remained hanging about Munich, the real reason being that Raphael and Michael Angelo were secretly oppressive to him, crushed his own small personality, and disgusted him with the neat Dutch style by which he made a good deal of money. He was a curious fellow, the oddest mixture of humour and phlegm, ideality and cynicism, sentimental tendencies and caustic irony. And so, too, in his studio you found the oddest medley; there were exquisite specimens of Venetian glass for which he had a great love, costly instruments inlaid with silver and mother of pearl, for he played the guitar and lute well; then again on some heavily embroidered cloth you would see a tin-plate with bits of cheese-rind, or a quart of beer in an ugly mug, and the room would be filled with thick, strong-smelling, cheap tobacco which he had sent to him from Holland, and smoked in a small black clay pipe the whole day through.

“In his pictures, however, everything was so neat, clean, and accurate that at the first glance there was not much to distinguish them from those of the old masters—Netscher, Mieris, and Gerard Dow. But when you looked closer you saw they betrayed a most eccentric vein, various displays of a humour, which, however, chiefly delighted to disport itself in caricature or parody. This was not the fashion then as now, and therefore in Munich, where the pathetic or the simply naïve was still in the ascendant, Jan van Kuylen's too often profane performances did not go down well. The first picture that he exhibited there was one of Paradise, where Adam, a gaunt, lean, yellow-visaged fellow, was digging the ground in the sweat of his brow, while Eve darned an old jacket, and glanced up in evident ill-humour at the forbidden fruit, while the first person of the Trinity looked smilingly over the hedge. The picture was at once removed, for naturally the clergy took umbrage at it. And indeed Jan did not fare much better with the second, which also showed the cloven foot. He called it the Temptation of St. Anthony. It is true that this new version widely departed from the simple honest absence of all propriety with which the worthy Teniers has illustrated the legend. A young peasant woman—evidently returning from a wedding or christening feast, as she was carrying a basket filled with meat, cakes, and a bottle of wine—had let herself be induced by the cool of the evening hour, and probably her own heavy head, to take a nap in the shade of the wood. St. Anthony, a very sturdy youth, with his cowl thrown back, had evidently been coming unsuspectingly along, and at the sudden sight stood rooted to the spot, looking now at the young woman, now at the basket of good things, and manifestly waging a violent warfare with his conscience, during which he scratched his head in absurd perplexity. The expression of his face was so irresistibly droll, that on this occasion even the clergy could not avoid winking at it with a smile.

“But I have not yet mentioned the strangest part of it all: this Saint in two minds, and the Adam in the picture of Paradise, were both exact portraits of the painter himself. And this added immensely to the drollery of the thing. For in point of fact my friend's appearance was a perfect study for a humorist. He might have been painted entirely in different shades of yellow, his complexion of the tender tone of a fresh Edam cheese, his hair and beard like overgrown dusty stubble, his grey eyes almost hidden by thick pale eyelashes. And to make the matter more complete he always dressed himself from top to toe in sand-coloured cloth for winter, in nankeen for summer, and was fond of bringing forward and ridiculing his own personal peculiarities by the most far-fetched comparisons. So, too, in his pictures, where he regularly and as prominently as possible introduced himself moderately caricatured, but always in positions that were half-comic and half-sad, half-expressive of self-contempt, and half of resignation. It seemed as if he wished to show that he did not take in ill-part, but rather was the first to laugh over, the practical joke played him by the step-dame Nature.

“Well, it was Whit Monday, my wife had a party of her friends to coffee, and the buzz and hum of female voices—which I could hear through double doors—drove me out. As it was a beautiful afternoon, with everything in its early freshness, and plenty for me to study on the banks of the Isar, I determined to invite Van Kuylen to take a walk. He was living at that time in Theresa-meadows, in a small house with a room to the north, that he had fitted up for a studio. You entered it by a little garden, in which of course the inevitable tulips were not now wanting, but which equally abounded with lilacs and jessamine. Next you turned into a small court where a fountain was playing, which the eccentric artist had adorned with a misshapen Triton, the work of his own hands, for he dabbled in modelling. Then you came to the studio door, which was seldom open, for Jan painted away with unwearied diligence from morning to night, and neither sought amusement nor society.

“I was, therefore, surprised on the present occasion, to find the door open, and for a moment thought he must have gone out, and that his maid might be busy arranging the room, when I heard his voice saying to some one, 'If you are weary, we will leave off for to-day, and besides it is a high festival. Let us hope your father confessor will not be angry at our being engaged with such worldly subjects, instead of keeping it holy!'

“No answer was returned, or at all events none that I heard. I was amazed. To have a model sitting with an open door was no more usual or befitting at that time than it is now. And that the strong smell of the Dutch tobacco should not come through that door, bordered on the miraculous.

“When, however, I drew a step nearer, I soon saw why my good Jan had given up smoking, and though I was only a landscape painter, I did not at all wonder at him. For such a model was worth while losing one's head for, to say nothing of one's pipe.

“The colours on the face of the young girl who sat there in the best light, as motionless as a picture, with a red damask curtain behind her, were really so brilliant, that they exceeded all probability, and made me perfectly stupid with amazement. Such a white satin-skin, just tinged with faintest rose-colour, and here and there with blue, such vividly red lips, such velvety brown eyes and silky hair of the same colour growing rather low on a superbly arched brow, I have never before nor since seen, except, indeed in pictures, where they make little impression because they are exaggerated. Nature can certainly venture upon much that Art can never safely aspire to. When I had somewhat got over the first shock of this sensational style of nature-painting, I saw that in the drawing, too, the very best possible had been done; done with a grandeur and solidity which were almost prodigal, for it is not wise to expend every resource, colour and form, both in perfection, on any one figure. Even a sculptor must have confessed that only in the best antiques had he seen anything of the kind. Above all I was amazed at the contour of the cheeks, the noble, massively-rounded chin, the half-opened lips that seemed to breathe out a very overflow of life, and the perfect shape of the straight, scornful little nose, which was just a trifle too broad, perhaps, for modern taste. It was only the eyes that afforded any room for fault-finding, if after seeing those calm and melancholy stars beaming on one, one had the heart for it. At least I found out later that the line of the eyelids might have been more curved, and they themselves a degree broader.

“For the first ten minutes I stood there actually spell-bound, did not even say 'Good-day,' and was—as people often stupidly call it—all eyes. And indeed no one spoke. Van Kuylen, his extinct pipe in his mouth, had merely given me a side nod, and continued painting hard. The motionless beauty queened it before her red curtain on an old satin ottoman with gilt lions' heads, her eyes fixed upon the great half-darkened window, her hands—which were very slender and white, but not small—carelessly folded on her lap. She wore a common dark-coloured cotton gown, with an old tulle frill crammed in at her throat, but had neither ear-rings, rings, nor ornaments of any kind.

“Beside her on a low stool, sat a little girl of about seven, slowly and reluctantly knitting away at a coarse blue stocking.

“At length I found it necessary to make some remark.

“'I am disturbing you, Mynheer,' said I, though for a quarter of an hour past I had seen that he did not permit himself to be disturbed by me. We painters used to call him Mynheer in jest.

“'Send me away at once,' I went on, 'if I am in any way inconvenient either to you or the young lady. Though indeed when one has hit upon such a discovery, it is but a man's Christian duty to share it with his neighbours.'

“Van Kuylen muttered a Dutch word or two between his teeth; the girl looked gloomy as though I had said something to offend her; the child with the stocking yawned heartily, and dropped a dozen stitches.

“'My good friend,' I at length resumed in Dutch, in which he had taught me to jabber a little, 'tell me honestly whether you wish me at the Devil, or whether I may remain a little longer to stare at this really quite unreasonably exquisite face that your lucky star has led you to—Heaven knows how—and which, to speak plainly, is infinitely too good for you. Such a subject—begging your pardon—is not appropriate for your foot-square canvas, and your finickin genre-brush. Life-size, indeed, and faithfully and humbly copied—as it pleased God to make her—in the manner of the old Venetians, that would be a different thing. But I know you too well, with your worthy visage; you would want to be peeping down upon her from some window-corner or other, or giving scope to some of your antic humour, and that would be an insult to such a paragon of Grecian perfection, with whose face that wretched cotton gown is no more in keeping than a modern crinoline with the Juno Ludovisi.'

“I had no scruple in thus crudely speaking my mind to him; he was rather fond of pungent personal remarks, and did not remain long in my debt.

“He rose to get something that he wanted for his work, and answered without removing his empty pipe from his lips: 'I can well imagine your mouth watering after such an exceptional morsel. You would like, perhaps, to paint her as another pigeon-breasted Diana emerging from a pool under a German oak-tree, and setting horns on the brow of an Acteon who has stolen his legs from the Apollo Belvedere? The girl seems to you good enough for that, does she not? But that's not to be done. You will never get her to consent to any mythological ambiguities. Do you suppose I have ever seen an inch more of her than what she is gracious enough to shew us both at this present moment? And even for this I have had to run after her long, and almost despaired of her ever sitting to me at all. But hunger is the best of go-betweens. And so I have had to give in to all her severe conditions. The door is always to stand open, the little school-girl is always to sit there, and if I ever venture to visit her at her own abode, there is to be an end of us both! Of course I agreed to everything she chose; I was so besotted by her face, I could have committed one of the seven deadly sins just to see her once in this light, sitting on that seat, and so to be able to study her to my heart's content. As to what I am to make of it afterwards that is immaterial. But if I secretly hoped gradually to melt the ice between us—at all events to a kind of brotherly friendship and regard—why, I was much mistaken. It is no great wonder after all. I am not to her taste, and I think none the worse of her for that. But there have been others who accidentally turned in—this is the third sitting—who were thoroughly discomfited, very showy audacious gentry—handsome Fritz, and Schluchtenmüller, and our Don Ramiro, with his languishing tenor voice. They were all tinder at once, but after a little burning and glowing had to retire, extinguished as if by a gush of cold water. Is it not so, Miss,' said he suddenly in German to the silent beauty, 'it is perfectly useless to pay you compliments? This gentleman—who is only a landscape-painter it is true, but still a connoisseur in women—would willingly express his wonder and admiration. But I have told him that you would rather not hear anything of the sort.'

“'You are right,' she replied with the utmost indifference. 'It is the fact, I know, and I cannot alter it. But God knows if I had had anything to do with it, I should never have chosen the face He has given me.'

“Her manner of saying this perfectly amazed me. It had not a touch of that mock modesty, which says the very reverse of what it thinks, in hopes of being contradicted. No, it expressed a weary, but unalterable contempt for the gift of beauty; it was the tone of one who has to drag a sack of gold through a desert, and sighs from the very core of his heart, 'I would give it all for one morsel of bread.'

“Then, too, her way of expressing herself, showed more culture than you usually find amongst girls who hire themselves out to be painted. It was easy to see that the fair creature had some strange story connected with her.

“'Nay, nay,' said I, 'if you had chosen your own face you would not have shown bad taste in the matter. And though, indeed, beauty is transient, while ugliness endures, and there may be inconveniences, or even dangers in the impressions it makes on those who see you, still you would hardly convince me, young lady, that you are seriously annoyed at having such a face. You would be quite unique if it were so.'

“'You may think what you like,' she replied negligently, and her lovely full upper lip assumed a scornful expression. 'I know perfectly well what men are. If a poor thing is vain of her little bit of pink and white, that does not suit them, and if she is not vain at all, but rather curses the beauty which has cost her so dear, why that will not please them either! But after all I have nothing to do with setting other people right, it is enough that I know what I know.'

“After this unflattering declaration came a long pause. Mynheer van Kuylen sat at his easel, and attempted by the tenderest glazing to convey the smoothness of that skin, and the lustre of those moist eyes; the child had laid down her stocking, and was turning the pages of a picture-book, and by way of putting a good face on my embarrassment I lit a cigar.

“'You have no objection, Miss?' I enquired in my most ingratiating tones.

“She slightly nodded, and in so doing gave a sigh, and her delicate nostrils quivered.

“'May one venture to ask your name, Fräulein?' I resumed after a while.

“'My name is Katharine,' she replied in the same curt, out-spoken way. 'But all who know me call me Kate. As to my parent's name that would not interest you.'

“'Miss Kate,' I said, 'I notice from your manner of speech that you do not belong to Munich.”

“'No.'

“'Your accent has something Rhinelandish about it.'

“'Very possibly.'

“'Have you any reasons for objecting to speak of your home?'

“'Why do you ask?'

“'I should like one of these days to go and see whether there are many faces there like yours.'

“'Only one,' she replied in the most matter-of-fact tone. 'But that is painted on glass in St. Catharine's Church.'

“'Then you sat for it?'

“'No,' returned she; 'it was just the other way.'

“I looked at Van Kuylen to see whether he could make anything of this strange speech, but he seemed so taken up with his work as not even to hear our conversation.

“'You must not be offended with me, Miss Kate,' said I after an interval, 'if I put a few more questions to you. Your answers are so many riddles. I am not prompted believe me by mere curiosity, but by sincere interest in knowing what circumstances can have led you to leave your home, and after so good an education, and with so beautiful a face, to adopt here—'

“'You mean that I seem to have been brought up for something better than to make money of my looks. That may be. But this is what things have come to, and since it is my face that has brought me into trouble, it must help me out of it—at least so far as it can do creditably.'

“A cloud passed over her eyes; she looked before her even more steadfastly than her wont, with an expression between anger and sorrow that rendered her more enchanting than ever. We were silent. Suddenly she resumed—

“'I really do not know why I should make any mystery about my story. There is no disgrace in it, and you two gentlemen would only imagine something far worse. Besides you both look thoroughly good and trustworthy,' (Van Kuylen gave a short cough) 'and if you were ever to hear any slander about me I could appeal to you. Babette, dear,' turning to the little girl, 'go into the garden and make yourself a very smart wreath of lilac and jasmine—do not gather any tulips. It is only,' she went on in a low voice as soon as the child had left, 'because there is no need the people I lodge with should know everything, and that little creature—young as she is—has already very long ears, and repeats whatever she picks up. Not, indeed, that I need to be ashamed of my past, but that they would look upon me as crazy if they knew all its ins and outs, whereas as things stand now, they are sorry for me, believing that I have only had some common unfortunate love-affair, and therefore consider myself unworthy that the sun should shine upon me.'

“She was once more silent, and seemed to have forgotten all about her intended narration. There was a Sabbath stillness all around; we only caught through the open door the sound of little Babette's heavy shoes on the gravel walks, and the twittering of birds in the meadows. Van Kuylen had risen and gone to a carved cupboard, in which he had a habit of keeping all sorts of odds and ends; he now brought out of it a wicker-covered flask of curious shape, filled three small glasses from it, and presented them on an old china-tray, first to the young girl, then to me. After we had both declined, he tossed them all three off in succession, and then sat down before his easel, not painting, but resting his head on his hand.

“'What surprises me,' said I, breaking silence at length, 'is that I have never met you before, Miss Kate. Yet I am a pretty constant lounger in our streets, and not unobservant; indeed, my dear wife reproves me for looking over-boldly under the bonnets of pretty girls. You must live like a mole in some underground dwelling, or you never could have escaped me.'

“'Nay,' said she with a slight smile, the first which had lit up her melancholy; 'I walk out every day. I cannot sit still. I find time hang so heavy, as I am not skilled in work. But then I wear a very thick veil, the everlasting staring is so hateful to me, particularly in a strange place. There was only one evening, when standing before a bright shop-window, that I did venture to throw back my veil—at that very moment Herr van Kuylen chanced to pass, and since then he has often and often recognized me, though I am wrapped up like a nun. Besides I always have Babette with me. I should be afraid of going out alone, for though it is now more than a year since I left home, I still feel so desolate and forlorn, and my heart aches so, that I am often tempted to jump into the first deep water I come across, and get rid of myself, and my whole useless existence.'

“Her smile had vanished, and instead, tears stood in her eyes.

“'Were you not then beloved in your home?' I enquired. 'So beautiful and sweet a child must—'

“'Loved! Yes, indeed, if only there had been sense in their affection. I was loved sometimes too much, sometimes too little. If I had had another face it would all have been right enough. But they expected all sorts of wonders, and out of sheer vanity must make me unhappy. There were six brothers and sisters older than myself—I am the youngest and last—and all the rest, who had quite common-place human countenances, are now contented and well provided for, married unnoticed folk of whom no bad or good is said, and about whom no one troubles himself to enquire. But as for me, no sooner was I out of my swaddling-clothes than I was pronounced a little wonder of the world, and all the aunts and cousins lifted their hands in amazement at the sight of me, and told my mother no princess need be ashamed of having brought such a child into the world. And there was something wonderful in it, too. My father was a poor schoolmaster, my mother a sexton's daughter, neither of them particularly handsome; only through my maternal grandmother, pretty hands and feet, and beautiful long hair, had come into the family. But as it happened, while I was coming into the world, Count F——, the patron of our church, put up a magnificent new window in St. Catharine's, representing the Saint kneeling by the wheel, a palm-branch between her folded hands, and painted in such beautiful vivid colours, people were never tired of looking at it. Our whole village, Catholics and Protestants, crowded to see it, and for weeks nothing else was spoken of, at least in our house. My eldest brother, who already drew very well, copied it at once, but my good mother especially saw the picture—as she afterwards told us—constantly before her day and night, whether her eyes were open or shut; and when I was born, she insisted upon it that I must be baptised by the name of Katharine. It was not long before they all took to calling me “the fair Kate,” and all agreed that I had stolen my face from the picture on the window.

“'You may suppose that when I first came to understand this, trotting about as a little child, I had no cause to regret it. Everybody coaxed and praised me, and if the kissing and stroking was at times rather too much of a good thing, yet on the whole it had its advantages. As the last of the batch, too, I was better treated in every way than my brothers and sisters, nor had I anything to endure from their jealousy, for they really, as well as my parents, did consider me a thing apart, a special gift and grace of God to the family, reflecting some glory on its other members. It was a thing, of course, that I—so far as our poverty permitted it—should be well dressed, have the best food kept for me, and receive more instruction than the rest. My father used to devote his two hours of leisure to me; I must needs learn French and pianoforte playing, and it was evident to all that not only must I take no share in the house-work, but that my delicate fingers must not be spoilt by sewing or knitting. I only wonder that I did not become more idle and vain than I actually was. But indeed to me, too, it seemed so much a thing of course that I did not give it any particular thought. Apricots have different flavours to wild pears, and cost different sums. That is all very natural. One man has a hundred thousand dollars, another a voice in his throat that bewitches people, a third is so learned that all take off their hats to him, and I was “the fair Kate,” with whom everybody fell in love. What the exact value of that was—I mean the falling in love—I did not know; I had not found out that I too had a heart, I was not even very fond of my own family, because I found it tiresome to be always so much made of, and as to falling in love with myself, that couldn't well happen, as I had been used to my bit of red and white, and all the rest that people made such a fuss about, from a child.

“'I had only one playfellow that I cared at all for, and for the very reason that he was rather cross than kind to me; a youth different to the rest, but neither particularly handsome or lively, and one of the poorest. His father shipped charcoal up and down the Rhine, and worked very hard; his mother was a quiet sickly woman, always at home or in the church, with a sorrowful face that made me feel ashamed of my smart clothes. Her son, too—he was about five years older than I, and had often to help his father—would look more crossly than ever out of his eyes if he met me on a Sunday, when my mother had decked me with all sorts of colours. He made no remarks, but he always avoided me on those occasions, and childish as I was, and vain, too, of being the fair Kate, this never failed to give me a pang. I would contrive to get into my every-day clothes to creep down about twilight to the banks of the Rhine where his cottage stood, and I was quite happy if Hans Lutz would only be good-natured to me and say, “Now you look like a human being again, and not like a doll.” He had a way—silent as he was—of amusing me better than anybody else, would cut me out little boats of bark that rode at anchor in a little harbour that he built; he could play me my favourite airs on a reed-pipe, and it was often night, and I had to be scolded away before I would consent to part from him.

“'You see already what that was leading to. I could no longer do without him, although others held him cheap as being inferior to them all, because he had had the small-pox and went about in the coarsest and most thread-bare jacket. I almost think there was some vanity in it. I seemed to myself to be a princess condescending to the charcoal-burner; then again in my better hours I noticed that I had an especial respect for him, more indeed than for any other human creature, and that I never respected myself so much as when he had given me a kind word.

“'Our years of childish play were nearly over; he was fifteen, I ten, when a legacy came to his parents, not, indeed, enough to set them up with carriage and horses, but to make them much more comfortable than before. The father gave up the charcoal-loading business, and became—I really do not quite know what—a sort of factor or agent. The eldest son, my Hans Lutz, was sent off to a school for artisans; he was to be an engineer, and was indeed made for it. His younger brother, who was about my own age, remained at home and took to violin playing, in hopes of gaining admission into the Ducal Chapel; they had a distant cousin there who played the bassoon.

“'Time went on: at first I missed my companion dreadfully, I did not know what to do with myself on Sundays, and found out fully how much he had been to me. However, I gradually got accustomed to his absence, to going about again dressed like a doll, to being serenaded by the students who passed through the town, or to reading poems and love-letters which were thrown in to me through the window, but which I never answered. For my mother was pretty strict with me, and after my first Communion, I was never allowed to leave the house alone. I believe she was afraid that one of the mad Englishmen, who stared at me worst of all, would carry me off, or that the Rhine water-sprites would draw me down out of envy and spite. Now and then real wooers would make their appearance, very respectable people, quite able to support a wife. But they had a pretty reception! My father was not going to part with me on such easy terms; he would hear of nothing under a Count, as I overheard him telling my mother, or else a man so rich as to be able to lay down my weight in money. It was all one to me, the privilege that I enjoyed of being the beautiful Kate, and treated as the most remarkable and important person in our district quite satisfied me, and since the departure of Hans Lutz I did not so much as know that I had a heart.

“'He never wrote to me, never sent me a message. It was only seldom that I heard from his mother how well he was doing, how industrious he was, and how much he was praised by his instructors. I used to wonder that he never came over for a visit. The distance from Carlsruhe was not so great after all, and however sparing of his time or his money, he might, I thought, have made the effort if he cared about seeing me again.

“'But the most wonderful thing of all, and to me wholly incomprehensible, was that he did once come over, spent a whole long day with his parents, and seemed to think that there was nothing else to be seen in the neighbourhood. I never so much as got a distant glimpse of him, nor did he leave a single message for me. Naturally I was very much offended, and determined if I ever saw him again to make him rue it. A year or so later there came an opportunity of doing this. I was just seventeen years old, he, therefore, was two-and-twenty, when it was rumoured that he had passed through all the schools with great honour, and was now looking out for some post or other which he was sure to get. That he should in the first instance pay a visit to his parents, stood to reason, but he had not fixed the day and hour. I was, therefore, not a little startled one afternoon, when sitting with my sister in the wood behind the old castle and sketching the view,—for I, too, took drawing-lessons, though I had no particular talent—just when I was about to pronounce his name and to ask Lina if she knew the day of his return, I saw a tall, slender, dark young man emerge from the bushes, take off his hat, and prepare to go down the hill without a word. I knew him instantly; he had still his old face, only with the addition of a dark beard, and he was much better-looking. The marks of the small-pox had almost disappeared. “Good Heavens!” cried I springing from my seat, “it is you, Hans Lutz! How can you startle one so!” “I beg your pardon,” he said, in a formal polite way, “I had no idea that I should be disturbing young ladies here; I will no longer intrude upon them,” and therewith he again took off his hat, the abominable man, and went straight away as if he had only met an old woman picking sticks, and not the playfellow of his childhood, the paragon of beauty whom other people took long journeys to admire, and who had such a fine lecture to read him, too.

“'I do believe I should have burst into tears if I had been alone, but before Lina I restrained myself, only saying, “He has indeed grown haughty and rude,” and tried to go on with my drawing. To no purpose. I could not put in another stroke, my eyes swam so in tears.

“'And in the midst of all my disappointment and vexation, the worst part of it was that I could not be angry with him, that I would have done anything to get a friendly look from him; and my shame at this weakness made me so thoroughly unhappy, that at that moment, spite of my much-extolled beauty, I seemed to myself the most wretched human creature in the whole world.

“'I could not go on keeping up appearances much longer, but threw my arms round my good sister's neck, and with many tears confessed to her how deeply hurt I was, and that I must find out the reason of his estrangement, or my heart would break. The kind soul comforted me as well as she could, and when evening came, helped me to invent a pretext to induce our mother to let us both go down together to the river, to the very place where in former days our little harbour used to be. There Lina left me alone, found out that she had something to do at Hans Lutz's home, and whispered into his ear that I was waiting outside under the willow, and had something to ask him. At first, as she told me afterwards, he had looked very gloomy, and left her in doubt as to what he would do. Then he seemed to relent, and a little later I saw him coming down the road straight towards me, and I do not yet know how I had courage to stand still and wait for him.

“'But at least I was rewarded for my courage. For he was by no means as chilling as before, he even gave me his hand and said, “It is very kind of you, Katharine, still to remember an old playfellow, and what is it you have to say to me?” “Nothing,” I said, “only that I wanted to know what I had done to offend him, or whether anybody had been gossiping about me that he should treat me as if I was not worth a word or a look. That was all I asked to know, and then I would go away again immediately.” Upon which he told me in his quiet way as if it did not signify to him in the least, that he had heard I had grown into a vain conceited little princess, held my head very high, did nothing but look in the glass, or let myself be stared at by foreign fools, and as he was not the man to come in to that, and had, indeed, other things to do than to be always swinging incense before such a Madonna, he thought I should have no loss of him, and that it would be better for us both if he kept out of my way.

“'All that he said to me, and still more the way in which he said it, hurt me so cruelly that I had not a word to answer, but burst into a flood of tears that I could not check, that got worse and worse, till I was shaken by such a convulsion of sobs that I thought I must have died on the spot. When he saw this, he was suddenly transformed; he embraced me, and in the tenderest voice said a thousand things that at first, owing to the confusion in my head, I only half understood. He told me he had behaved so rudely merely to guard against his own heart, that through all these years he had had no other thought but me, and had only kept away in order not quite to lose his senses, and that if it were true that I cared at all for him—well, you can imagine the rest! That evening we pledged ourselves to live only for each other, and when at last Lina came and drew me away, that our parents need not scold, I had quite forgotten that I was the fair Kate, and only thought that a happier Kate was not to be found in all Rhineland, or anywhere under the sun.'

“When she had got so far, she rose and went to the door, as if to look after the child, who was quietly sitting on a garden-seat, and weaving her garland. When Kate turned round to us again, I noticed the traces of tears. Van Kuylen, however, did not seem to observe them; he had got hold of an old cork and was carving away at it, his cold pipe still in the corner of his mouth.

“'And how was it,' said I after a while, 'that fortune deserted you, and that what began so well had so melancholy an issue? I find it hard to believe that he was not true to you!'

“'He!' returned she with an indescribable tone and expression. 'If it had only all depended upon him! But you see the misfortune was just this, that I was such a wonder of the world they needs must make the most of me, however unhappy I myself might be. My elder sisters—if Hans Lutz had taken a fancy to one of them, why he would have had her with all the pleasure in the world, and indeed the husbands that they did get were not fit to hold a candle to my lover. But I, that he should aspire to me, he who was neither a Count nor made of money, that was such audacity that he could hardly be supposed to be right in his mind. True he did not himself think of marrying at the present time, all that he wanted was our betrothal, and then a couple of years to try his fortune in, and I—to wait ten years for him would have been as nothing to me. But you should have heard my father! The Emperor of China, if some crazy sailor were to apply for his daughter's hand, could not put on a more majestic aspect, or pronounce a more compassionate “No.” He was not even angry, he treated the whole thing as a mere stupid jest. It was only when my mother—who well knew how my heart stood—ventured to address him on the subject, and to represent Hans Lutz as not after all a quite despicable suitor, that he was roused to indignation and silenced her at once. As for me, when I declared that I never would have any one else for my husband, I was locked up, and sat for eight days like an imprisoned princess in the best room, only visited by my mother and sister. To be sure I still had my pretty face, but what was that to me, I was made to feel that I myself had no right to it.

“'I sent through Lina, a letter to Hans Lutz, declaring that I would remain true to him, and begging for God's sake, that he would not punish me for my father's vengeance and anger. To which he wrote me back word that he had no hope, that he was going far away, perhaps to America, and did not know that he should ever return. I was to give up all thought of him, and he formally returned both my word and my ring. For well he knew what would be the end of it all; my parents would look me out some husband after their own heart, and at last I too should get tired of waiting, and so he would not bind me, and add to all other sorrow, the weight of a broken promise on my heart. You may well imagine with how many tears I read that letter, when Lina told me that the writer was already no one knew how far away, and had not wished her to give it me till after his departure.

“'After this all went on apparently in the old way, with this exception, that though I was still “the fair Kate,” and estimated as such, there stole over me a silent and unconquerable detestation of my own face, since it had cost me my dearest happiness. But for my father, who was bent upon cutting a figure with me, I should never have come down from my upper room, and as it was I only did so when I could not possibly help it. I never sat in the open window except with my back turned, no power on earth could get me on a steamer where the English stared so, and when artists came to draw or paint me, I never would sit still, let my father be as angry as he liked.

“'But all my indoor life, and fretting and grieving did nothing for me; I grew handsomer day by day, and since I had become indifferent to what I wore, I seemed to be more admired than ever, most people having probably thought before with Hans Lutz that I was an over-dressed doll. But no letter came from the one I loved best, and no news of any kind; and so from three to four years passed by, and I found that life is a most wretched pastime when one has not got one's heart's desire.

“'Then, besides, there were constant disputes at home, for every fresh offer of marriage was a new bone of contention. There were many of these suitors—though, indeed, none of them were Counts—to whom my father would most willingly have given me; there was a rich Russian, who swore he would jump into the Rhine if he did not get me, but afterwards preferred to drown himself in Champagne, and went about Wiesbaden with ladies of all kinds. Then there was a young baron, who was master of the horse to some prince, and was wild about horses as well as about me, and there were numbers of worthy well-to-do people who were all intolerable to me because I secretly compared them with my Hans Lutz. My sister Lina was long ago married and happy, and I still sat useless at home, and as my father was not the best of managers, and my mother was sickly, we were often straitened enough, and while one rich suitor after another went away rejected, want began to stare us in the face. Now nothing sours the temper so much as not having enough to eat, and what with unkind words and spiteful remarks, you may believe I spent wretched days, and cried my eyes red at night.

“'At last my father lost all patience, and when another suitor appeared who seemed to him worthy to carry away the jewel of beauty, since he was able to bid high for it, he declared to me either I must consent, or he would make me feel the whole weight of his anger. What he exactly meant by that I really did not know, but I was glad of a change myself, for I could no longer endure my father's anger and my mother's grief. So I said that I would give my hand to Mr. So-and-so, provided no message came from Hans Lutz in the course of the next three months. This contented my parents, and made the bridegroom more than blessed; he was actually idiotic with rapture, said the craziest things to me, and in spite of my misery, it made me again feel proud and childish to find that I had such power over any human being. He was a young and very rich tanner from the neighbouring town of M——, not so bad as to face or figure; indeed he passed for a handsome man; but it made me positively ill if I had to sit by him longer than a quarter of an hour, first because his love rendered him so silly and mawkish, and then because he had a habit of deluging himself with scents, probably to get rid of the smell of the tan-yard. I will not weary you with the history of this horrible engagement. I get goose-skin all over at the very recollection of it; the visits here, there, and everywhere; the congratulations at which I had to smile when I would much rather have cried; the day when he took me over his house and factory, and I thought the smell of the dyes and skins would have suffocated me. Well, it went on as long as it could go on, that is till it came to the point. On the day before the wedding day, my bridegroom gave a party to my favourite friends and my parents at his own house; the actual marriage was to be solemnized at my parent's house. He was so inordinately happy, foolish, and scented, that I suddenly said to myself, “Better suffer anything than please such a simpleton as this,” and that very night when they were all asleep, I actually left the house, only taking with me a few necessaries in a bundle, and leaving behind a letter to my parents saying they must forgive the sorrow I had caused them, but that marry I could not and would not, and so in order to be no longer a burden to them, I had gone off to my aunt at Speyer, and would see whether I could not do something to support myself.

“'I was helped in my flight by the brother of my Hans Lutz, who happened to be on a visit to his parents at the time, and would have gone through fire and water for me. He took me safely to where I wanted to go, to my aunt Millie's, her real name was Amelia, but so we children always called her. She was an old widow-woman, lived upon her small means, and had always been very fond of me, though she used to shake her head at the way in which my family idolised me. When I told her all that had happened she neither praised nor blamed me, but wrote to my parents and tried to bring them round. That, alas, was in vain. My father answered very curtly that if I did not marry the young tanner I was no child of his; my mother tried persuasion. I now found out that it was only my unfortunate beauty that they had really loved, that a red-and-white mask stood between my own parents' hearts and that of their child. Out of sheer admiration and worship, they had less fondness for me than for any of their other children.

“'But for this would they not have found time in the course of the whole year since I have left them, to comprehend that what I had run away from could not have made me happy, and that I was not necessarily a bad daughter, because unable to gratify them in that respect? But no, they have remained as hard as stone, hard as no one could be to any living creature who had a soul, but only towards a soulless picture such as they had long considered me, and as such set me up for show. It is true that while I remained at Speyer they might have hoped that I should change my mind. But my stay there was but short. My old aunt was accustomed to a very quiet life. Now when a beauty suddenly made her appearance in the house, whom all young men followed, and that visits and enquiries became incessant, and this person and that were always bringing me an offer from some one or other, it was too much for the good woman to bear. She told me one day that I could not remain any longer with her, but that she had found me a very good situation with a baroness who lived on her estates near Munich, and wanted a governess for her two little daughters; and as I had been well educated, could speak French and play the pianoforte, my aunt had arranged it all, and I was to set off the next day but one.

“'I was very much pleased at this; I longed to begin life on my own account, and earn my own bread. But this too was to be a failure, and again there was no one to blame but this hateful face that I cannot get rid of. Well, to make a long story short, the baroness and the children took to me and I to them, and during the first days when we were alone, everything went well. Then came the baron from the city to pay us a visit, and instantly the sky changed; he behaved, indeed, very politely, only that he made the usual face of amazement which I am so sick of, and that all people make who see me for the first time. I, indeed, am accustomed to it, take no notice, and go my way quietly, but the gracious lady, who had not seen that expression on her husband's face before, could not take it so easily, and the end of the matter was, that on the following day, after a very lively discussion between the master and mistress of the house, I was sent for to her boudoir, and told that she much regretted being unable to keep me, but needed the room that I occupied for a young relative who had suddenly announced herself for the whole winter. However, she was conscientious enough to give me, without my demanding it, my salary for that whole winter.

“'There I was again on the wide world! I had a great mind to buy myself a black mask, like the lady with the death's head, and hide my face once for all, that it might not get me into any further trouble.

“'And indeed if I could only have foreseen what I had yet to endure I should have done so, or something madder still. I should have become a Catholic just to go into a nunnery.

“'Three times in this town I have had to change my rooms because people would not leave me alone. I can assure you, if I had stolen or forged, or done any other disgraceful thing that I feared might come out, I could not live in greater anxiety and uncertainty than now, when I have no one to stand by me in the right way and guard me from wicked men and my unfortunate fate: but I will spare you all details; you can imagine them. And then to have nothing to do, and not rightly to understand anything, to read half the day, the other half to wonder what is to become of me when my money and my patience come to an end, as they must. The people with whom I lodge at present—Babette's parents—have all been sorry for me since they saw that I was no worthless runaway creature, but had only been afflicted with that church-window face. But what can they do? I help a little in the house, I have learnt some sewing, as the man is a regimental tailor; I teach Babette to read and write, but the good souls are too poor to keep a governess. So this last March when I had had to give up a situation in a jeweller's shop—of course on account of my face—I was obliged to write again to my parents, and ask them to take me back. No doubt they thought they need only remain hard for a little time in order perfectly to soften me. They wrote me word, therefore, that the tanner was still waiting for me, and that all would be forgiven if I came to my senses at last, but if I did not do so, I might just remain where I was. My aunt Millie sent me a little money, but not much; she has herself been swindled latterly out of great part of her means. And so there I had to sit again, my hands in my lap; and if I accidentally saw myself in the glass, I was so angry and wild with the unlucky face that looked back at me, that I should have scratched my eyes out if only my nails and my courage had had strength for it.

“'Meanwhile the tailor's wife had often advised me to make a maintenance by sitting as a model. A relation of hers lived that way, who was no real beauty, but only well-grown. Looks were a gift of God like everything else, and if a singer hired out her beautiful voice for gold, why should not I let the same face that had brought me into trouble help me out of it again? But to all such propositions I always returned the same answer; I knew that nothing could be so bitter to my lover as to hear that I had let myself be looked at for money like a show at a fair, and had gone to serve as lay figure first to one and then to another. That I knew he would never forgive. “He forgive, indeed,” said the woman, “he ought to think himself very happy if you forgive him for having taken himself off, and never making a sign since.” However, I remained quite resolute, till at length I was at the last gasp, and did not know how I was to pay my next month's lodgings. If Herr van Kuylen had not come forward—whom I could trust to have no bad intentions—God knows I have many a time walked through the English garden, and thought if I took a cold bath there, it would be the best and quickest way of escape!

“'And now forgive me for telling you such a long story from beginning to end. But you have done me a real kindness by listening without laughing or shaking your heads. For most people will not believe that one can be unhappy except through his own fault, and least of all unhappy through what is considered the greatest good fortune. Babette,' said she to the child, who just then brought in her wreath, 'take up your knitting and put the book back in its place. We must go, it has struck five, and your mother will be waiting.'

“Van Kuylen jumped up as if some one had shaken him out of sleep.

“'Will you come to-morrow at the same time, Miss Kate?' said he, without looking at her.

“'To-morrow my landlady goes to a wedding,' she replied, tying on a little black bonnet that framed her face most exquisitely. 'I must stay at home with the children, but the day after to-morrow if it suits you—'

“He silently bowed, and prepared to help her on with her dark woollen shawl, which, however, she declined. She muffled herself up so completely in it that her slender form was hardly apparent, even to an artist's eye; then she tied on an almost impervious black veil, and curtsied to me with a bewitching blush. I smiled and heartily shook hands with her. 'I am much indebted to you, my dear young lady,' said I, 'for having acquainted me with your singular story. I am a married man, and, thank God! still in love with my wife, so that there can be no fear of jealousy in our case; therefore, if ever you need counsel or help, my house is—so-and-so—and I should be delighted if you had confidence in us and allowed us to render you some slight service. For the rest I cannot look upon the matter so despairingly. Who knows whether you will not have to apologise to your face for all the hard words you have bestowed upon it? He who wins the first prize in a lottery may have indeed some perplexities in consequence, but for all that the first prize is no bad thing, and makes up to us for many a drawback. Everywhere there is light and shade'—and so forth, for I do not suppose that the cheap wisdom with which I sought to console the poor child would be tolerable repeated.

“Indeed I was aware even at the time that it did not produce much effect. On the contrary the beautiful face grew sad and weary, as if she was at confession, and she went away without saying another word; only I heard a sigh under the thick veil, which fell, and produced a total eclipse.

“I was alone with Van Kuylen, and for a short time we each went on silently puffing out thick clouds, for the little Dutchman lit his clay-pipe the moment the beautiful girl disappeared.

“'Well, Mynheer,' said I at last, 'I must congratulate you; you are a lucky dog.'

“'I!' he returned, with a short ironical laugh. 'Through what sort of glasses do you look upon the world that you can utter such a prophecy?'

“'Through my own unaided eyes,' returned I. 'Are you not indeed enviable enough in this, that you have caught in your net the shy bird after which so many have followed in vain. If you only set about it rightly, the bird will grow so tame that you will be able to cage it at last.'

“He turned away: he did not wish me to see the vivid red that suffused his yellow face.

“'You don't know her,' he muttered, 'she is quite different to all others, and if I were the fool you take me to be—'

“'You would be no fool at all,' I continued, exciting myself as I went on. 'You need not of course repeat it to my wife, but by St. Katharine I swear to you, Master Jan, that were I in your place I should not long play St. Anthony's part. I would do everything on earth to deliver that poor child from her purgatory—'

“'And to lead her into a Paradise where such an Adam—get off with you,' said he, with a very unpolite gesture.

“But I knew how to take him; I drew nearer and placed my hand on his shoulder.

“'If it is disagreeable to you, I will not say another word, but can you suppose that a certain Hans Lutz—'

“He sprang from his low seat and ran distractedly up and down the studio.

“'Don't make me mad,' he cried. 'If you have noticed that I am over head and ears in love with the girl—as far as that goes there is no disgrace in it; but I am not such an insane idiotic ape as to imagine for a moment that my respectable visage will drive the sweet child's first love out of her heart, and that a mere settlement in life will not decoy her you have yourself heard. Why then come and blow upon the coals with the bellows of your common-place philosophy? Am I not already wretched enough, in that I plainly see how hopeless the whole matter is, and yet cannot leave off gazing at her by the hour, just to burn in that cruel face of hers upon my memory? And now, forsooth, you must come and prate of solid possibilities, and congratulate me, and—the devil take it! It is just as if you were to hold the pin on which a living cockchafer is impaled in a candle, and make it red-hot.'

“He threw himself down on a low ottoman in the corner with such vehemence, that he broke off the neck of a costly Florentine lute lying there, without even noticing it.

“I would now gladly have recalled my thoughtless words.

“'If the case is really so, Mynheer,' said I, 'I own there is nothing to congratulate you upon. But I do not understand why a man like you should so utterly despair. You have no tannery, but you are a famous artist; you do not smell of scents, but as a man should, of strong Porto Rico; and all the rest is mere matter of taste. Women are women, and it is impossible to reckon upon their fancies. That she is not exactly set upon an Adonis is evident—'

“I might have gone on for some time putting forth these platitudes, with the best intentions, if he had not suddenly turned upon me with a quite phlegmatic air, and asked me—not without a quiver in his voice—what o'clock it was, and whether the 'Muette de Portici' was not going to be performed that night. I then saw plainly how things stood, swallowed down my annoyance at having so stupidly interfered in so tender a matter, and took leave under the pretext that my wife was waiting for me to pay a visit.

“A visit on Whit Monday afternoon when no one is at home! but so one stumbles on from one discrepancy to another.

“Accordingly the series of my mortifications was not yet over for that particular day; for when I had got home to my good wife, and given her a true and faithful account of where I had been, and what I had seen and heard, and finally (though indeed her silence in listening foreboded no good), added: 'It would be a real comfort to me if I could do something for the pretty child, and might it not be as well to offer her our spare room as it chanced to be empty,'—a small matrimonial tempest burst at once, which I had passively to endure. My wife had, indeed, long been upon the point of telling me that this Van Kuylen exercised the worst influence over me, and was the most unfit companion; a frivolous bachelor who had no respect for holy things, and had already infected me with his mocking and blasphemous spirit. She had supposed, when she married a landscape painter, that her house would at least be free from such a disreputable set as models generally are, lost to all sense of decency and shame, and of whom the most horrible stories were heard. And now I had returned from that trumpery Dutchman, not only with my clothes reeking of the very worst tobacco-smoke, but in such a wholly perverted state of mind, and with such entire forgetfulness of what was due to a virtuous young wife, that I could actually propose to her to receive into our family this suspicious person, who had turned my head with her bit of prettiness and her dubious adventures. Rather than consent to such a step, she would take her innocent children in her arms, and at once leave the field clear; for it was too plain to see from the fervour with which I had proposed this fine plan, what must eventually come of it. And so saying, she caught up our little Christopher who had tripped in, with such a passionate burst of tears, and pressed his small fair head so closely to her breast, it seemed as if she would fain save the poor harmless child from the evil eye of a sinful father who had irrevocably made over his soul to him who shall be nameless.

“I had no small difficulty in allaying the excitement of my dear better-half; she was generally patience and self-abnegation itself, but there is one point on which women are not to be trifled with, which makes hyenas of them, as Schiller says, and I inwardly called myself a confounded ass for having displayed my aesthetic enthusiasm for the beautiful girl in so wrong a quarter.

“Of course I took good care not to revert to the dangerous subject, but remained at home the whole of the next day, and devoted myself to painting an old oak-forest, as if the riven and rugged bark of the secular trees was far more bewitching than the smoothest satin-skin of a maiden of twenty, and a gnarled oak-branch more ensnaring than the exquisite little Venus-like nose of our poor persecuted beauty.

“The next day I even accomplished a greater triumph over myself, in that I withstood the temptation of looking in—quite accidentally, of course—at Van Kuylen's studio, there to play the part of comforter to a distressed child of humanity. I was certainly a little absent-minded all the afternoon, and as we walked to Nymphenburg, our children pushed along in the perambulator by the maid, failed to get up any very animated conversation. I apologised somewhat lamely for it, on the plea that I was studying atmospheric effects, though indeed there was nothing very noticeable in the sky. But my wife found it much pleasanter than if I had indulged my bad habit of too earnestly studying the faces of the girls and women we passed. There is indisputably about the sex this one weakness, that they have themselves no conception of a purely artistic standpoint, and therefore never allow for it in others.

“At last after four or five days, I found it intolerable to my manly self-respect, thus suddenly to withdraw from my worthy Dutchman, merely because he was in my wife's bad books. Consequently, after washing my brushes, I set out just about twilight, when I knew that though he could paint no longer, he was sure to be at home; and in this was most perfectly justified in my own eyes, since I could not possibly be expecting to find the fair Kate there, but only my small and unjustly calumniated friend.

“And to be sure I saw from a distance the shining of his lamp through the window: nevertheless I had to be told by the old servant that her master was gone out. Neither did I fare any better on the following day when I knocked at his studio during his hours of work. I called out my name as loud as I could, but he wouldn't open. When I enquired from the old servant whether he was occupied with a model, she shook her head, and shrugged her shoulders; then tapping her forehead with a very significant gesture, she sighed and said, 'Things had not been right with the good gentleman for some days past; he ate and drank nothing to speak of, walked up and down his bed-room half the night, and spoke to no one.' I asked whether the young lady who was with him on Whit Monday had been there since. The answer was that she had not, but that he still went on painting her, out of his head, and the good woman herself had already thought that love might have something to do with her master's silence and absence of mind.

“The truth flashed in upon me too plainly, and I tacitly reproached myself with having poured oil on the flame by speaking of his attachment to the lovely being as something quite reasonable and by no means hopeless. Truly, if we always reflected the serious mischief our jesting words might make, we should be at least as cautious in uttering them, as we are in ascertaining upon what we are about to throw the burning end of our cigar.

“Meanwhile there was nothing to be done. I knew my eccentric Mynheer Jan too well. If he had taken it into his head to eat a whole Edam cheese for his breakfast, no one could have dissuaded him. I made two other attempts to get at him, but in vain; and one evening when I accidentally met him by the 'Aukirche'—we had almost run up against each other—he was off like a shot, and all my calling, and scolding, and running after him did no good; he would not have anything to do with me.

“By-and-bye I came to take the matter more quietly, and to say to myself, 'If he can do without thee, thou canst get on without him.' This mood of mine won me approving looks from my dear wife. I willingly allowed her the triumph—of which, by-the-way, she did not boast ungenerously—of believing that her remonstrances had weaned me from that soul-destroyer, Jan, and brought me back to the paths of virtue and landscape-painting. When my oak forest was done, we broke up our tent in the town, to pitch it, as we annually did, in the mountains. I wrote a kindly note to wish my friend good-bye, but got no answer in return. And so most of the summer passed away without my knowing whether he were dead or alive. The fair Kate seemed to have been swallowed up by an earthquake. Of all my friends and colleagues, who were generally not long in tracking out anything rare, none had discovered the slightest trace of our poor wonder of the world.

“When, however, the middle of September came, and I had got a little tired of painting studies, and perhaps, also, of the monotonous fare of our country abode, and began to long for a return to the amenities of town life, I became conscious of a lively desire to know what had become of my Dutchman and his beauty. My first walk in Munich was to his studio, where I found the nest empty indeed, but left upon his little slate my name and a hearty greeting. After that I went with my wife to the exhibition, for where one has been so long face to face with nature, it is a pleasure to see how art has been getting on in the meantime. But what was my amazement, when the first picture my eyes fell upon, was nothing else than an unmistakable genuine Van Kuylen, in which his unfortunate studies of Kate were turned to account in his well-known manner, and certainly so questionably, that I at first pretended not to notice it, in order to get my wife safely past. But she with her lynx-eyes instantly made out the whole story.

“'But do look,' she said, in a tolerably calm voice, in which, however, I could detect a satirical tone; 'here is a picture by your Dutch painter of holy subjects, and on a larger scale than any we have seen before. I must say, if the subject were not so objectionable, it would go far to reconcile me to him. It seems to me that he has made great progress: one might almost call this picture beautiful; not only the colouring, but the whole composition has something grandiose, historical as you call it, a style—' (You may see that the little woman had not consorted with artists for the last six years for nothing, and could deliver her art-criticisms as confidently as any newspaper writer, only rather more intelligently.) 'But I believe,' she continued, 'that the Bathsheba who is there undressing to take a bath in a very shallow reservoir, is your marvellous creature from the Rhine. At all events, she does not look like any of the other studies in the room, and the little King David who peeps from an upper window, and naturally shows us the beautiful cheese-coloured face of the painter, looks at the lady with a genuine artist's eye, such as I have seen in other people's heads when staring under the bonnets of pretty girls,' (with that, a side glance at her faithful husband.) 'Well! I must say she is not bad-looking, if he has not idealised his model too much; but was I not right to refuse to take that persecuted innocence into our house? A pretty snake, indeed, I should have warmed in my breast! She helpless! I think one who lets herself be painted thus, knows very well how to help herself. And really I do not know which I ought to wonder at most, at my good unsuspicious husband, who was so easily taken in by an experienced adventuress, or, if indeed he were not so entirely harmless in the matter, at his sanguine hope of humbugging me. At all events I am very glad that things have taken this turn.'

“After this attack and these imputations clothed in the most discreet and proper language, to which I had not so much as a word to answer, my domestic guardian angel drew me hastily away, as if fearing that dangerous person might even in her picture exercise some witchcraft over me. And really there was nothing out of the way in the idea, for all that my eccentric friend possessed of taste and love of beauty, had been expended on the figure of the young woman, who, already undraped to the hips, sat on a low stool in the act of taking off her little shoe. While so doing she turned to the left the well-remembered profile, which was drawn with the tenderest contour, not a single feature altered, and a striking likeness; her hair, which seemed to have been just loosened, fell in bewitching confusion over her lustrous neck. Her back and arms were so beautifully drawn, that I knew not how to give the good 'genre' painter credit for them. But what specially attracted me was the sad impassive expression with which the fair being bent her head, and cast her long-lashed eyes on the ground. King David up there in his balcony did not appear to me at that moment to be such a great sinner after all; or at least the extenuating circumstances under which that abominable letter anent Uriah was written, came before me more impressively than they had ever done in the presence of any painting of the subject before.

“I confess that I spent the rest of the day in a somewhat perturbed mood; my old creed, namely, that women were women, was once more confirmed, and the apparent exception turned out to be an illusion. Whether it were through vanity, or distress, or mere apathy, the beautiful girl had not maintained her inviolability. But although it is very pleasant to be proved right, and though I ought, besides, to have rejoiced that the poor innamorato should in this not unusual way be healed of his madness, and probably at this moment happily betrothed, if not already a husband, there nevertheless lurked a certain uncomfortable feeling in my mind, and I caught myself involuntarily shaking my head as though there were something not quite right about it. My quick-witted wife seemed to discern what was going on within me, but as though the subject of my musings were too low and common to bear discussion, she never referred to the picture, and treated me with a gentleness and consideration befitting a penitent; in the spirit, in short, of the beautiful axiom, 'If a man have fallen, let love bring him back to duty.'

“On the following morning I was anxious to go to work, with fresh energies, at a new picture which I had already mentally composed; but I discovered that there was something wrong with me—there was still that story to unravel. What I should have liked best would have been to have gone at once to Mynheer Jan, and heard the truth, but he never got up before ten o'clock in the morning; so I lounged off again to the exhibition, that I might study the picture I had too hurriedly looked at the previous day, and was not a little annoyed at being reminded by the closed door that it was Saturday, the day when the pictures are hung and the public excluded. The official told me that Herr van Kuylen's picture had been taken back to his studio in the course of the previous evening.

“To while away the hours till ten, I turned off through the arcades, and betook myself to the English garden, where I never found time long. It is so celebrated that I need not praise it; but I venture to say there are not many, even among our good old Munich inhabitants, who know it at the time of its very greatest beauty, and that is early on an autumn, or late-summer morning, when it is as solemn and deserted as a primeval forest, and you can wander along the lofty avenues of shade without meeting a human creature. The gold-daisied meadows are luxuriant in the sun, the trees have lost none of their gorgeous foliage, the sun-light falls, I might say, in pasto on the mirror-like ponds, and the magical dreamy silence thrills with the quiet rushing of the Isar, and the light and noiseless hopping of birds and squirrels from branch to branch. There was no one to be seen on the lonely benches, unless, perhaps, a student preparing for his examination, or some poor poet meditating his love-songs. As to my colleagues the landscape painters, I have never met one of them here.

“Accordingly as I said, I was lounging on this particular morning in the well-known paths, but not in a particularly good mood for making studies, for Van Kuylen's picture, and what could have happened to enable him to paint it, was constantly running in my head. When I had dreamingly sauntered on to the vicinity of the famous waterfall, which the grateful inhabitants prepared at so much expense as a surprise for King Ludwig, I saw a lady on the bench upon the little hill overlooking it, sitting motionless, and having nothing about her to excite my interest, till all at once it struck me that she had a black veil down. I thought, however, 'she has some reason for not wishing to be recognized except by the one for whom she is waiting, and I will pass quickly by,' when a strange impulse led me to turn round and give her another look. The veiled figure made a little start, as though it recognized me, but the next moment sat as motionless as before. But there was a something in the turn of the head which seemed to me so familiar, that I involuntarily turned back a step or two, and—'Good Heavens! It is you, Miss Kate,' I cried, 'and what brings you here?' and I held out my hand in cordial greeting. But she did not take it, and seemed on the point of running off. 'Stop,' said I, 'I have not bargained for this,' and in a friendly way I detained her. 'One is not to fly from an old friend in this manner, but to tell him where one has been for so many months past.' Meanwhile some uncomfortable terror was creeping over me, partly by reason of her strange silence and her looking about her as if for a way of escape, and partly because I had seen her hide a bottle under her shawl. It was, therefore, so plainly my duty not to leave her, that even my wife must have allowed it.

“'I shall not go away, Miss Kate,' I began, 'till you restore me a little of that confidence you showed at our first interview. You know I have only friendly intentions. You have something on your mind; it is vain to deny it; and I believe there is no one who can be so unselfish a confidant and adviser as I. Come, my dear young lady, let us seat ourselves on this bench. And now tell me why you seemed so shocked at seeing me again, and what sort of a cordial you are carrying there, and hiding from me. Fie, fie, Miss Kate, are you going to take to drinking secretly in your early youth?'

“She made no reply, but allowed herself to be led back to the bench, where I seated myself beside her.

“In order to give her time to compose herself, I began to talk of quite indifferent subjects: of the weather, and how beautiful it was here by the waterfall, and of how I had spent my summer, purposely dwelling a good deal upon my wife and children, as it always makes a good impression when doctors and spiritual pastors are affectionate husbands and parents.

“She seemed to be deaf to everything. There was no help for it, then, I must take the bull by the horns.

“'Miss Kate,' I said, 'is it long since you have seen Herr van Kuylen? My first expedition yesterday was to his house, but as I found no one at home—'

“She started at the sound of his name. Aha! I thought, there is something wrong here.

“'He must have been very industrious these last months,' I continued, as unconcernedly as I could; 'I myself have only seen one picture of his in the exhibition, but—'

“No sooner were the words spoken than from beneath the veil of the silent girl beside me, there burst such heart-rending sobs that I jumped up in horror.

“'For God's sake!' I cried, 'what is the matter with you? Here is a secret that will break your heart if you don't give it words. Tell me—explain to me—'

“'Let me go,' she cried out passionately, and again tried to make her escape. 'I am so unhappy that nobody can help me, and even if you do really wish me well—still it is too late. Nothing remains for me now but to—'

“Die—she would have said, but her sobs choked her. Meanwhile I had availed myself of the opportunity to get hold of the bottle, which she had put down on the bench beside her. With one quick gesture I at once hurled it into the little cascade below us.

“'So then,' said I, 'that was it! You are a little fury, Kate, and in your present heroic frame of mind, you were on the point of drinking off that little bottle, and making me your executor!'

“She shook her head. 'You are mistaken,' she said, 'it was not poison, it was only common aquafortis, not intended for internal use. If you must know everything, I was only going to wash my face with it.'

“'Kate!' I cried in horror. 'Are you mad?'

“'Not at all,' she gravely replied. 'The expedient would be rather rough, but efficient. I should then get rid of this accursed face which has been the cause of all my misery, and now, too, at length—of my shame.'

“These last words were scarcely audible, her face being hidden in her hands. I misunderstood their purport, and consequently did not at once know what to reply.

“It was she who solved my perplexity.

“She suddenly left off sobbing, and looked me full in the face with a singularly resolute expression.

“I could therefore contemplate her at my leisure, and found that if possible she was more beautiful than ever, her features still more delicate and refined, the tears on her fair cheeks—altogether she was the most enchanting and touching spectacle that a man could behold.

“'You think a good deal of what you have done,' she said in her quietest tones. 'However if it is not in this hour it will be in some other; carried out my purpose will surely be, for I am sick of life. If you knew all you would certainly not blame me, but in the main you do know; you have been yourself at the exhibition, you have there seen how a wicked and cruel-hearted man has dared to behave to a poor, virtuous, unhappy girl who would have nothing to say to him.'

“'What!' I cried, and the solution of the mystery flashed across me; 'he has then—you have not sat to him once for it?'

“'I!' she cried, with all the offended dignity of a little queen. 'I do not so much as know what it looks like. I have only been told of it by my landlady, who has not herself seen it, but an officer, to whom she carried back a uniform yesterday evening, said to her: “Your lodger, the pretty girl, who is so vastly coy whenever one comes to propose anything to her, and always locks herself up, does not seem to be so inaccessible to civilians; there she is at the exhibition, painted just as God made her; to be sure Dutch ducats are more valuable than our uniform buttons.” At this the tailor's wife asked further questions, and told me again all that she learnt. She herself is quite furious, and never would have believed it of Herr van Kuylen. And all because I had refused to go again to his studio after he had come the third day of Whitsuntide to pay me a visit, when he knew I should be alone with the children, and made me an offer of marriage in French that Babette might not understand him; for which very reason I answered in German that I did not mean to marry, and that he knew very well why, and that now after his declaration I could no longer sit to him as he must perfectly understand. But he seemed to understand nothing, he was like a maniac, and I had great difficulty to get him out of the room at all, for he always broke out anew, now with jests, now with the most fearful adjurations. Since then I have never spoken a word to him, nor let him in when he knocked at my door, and in the street I always got out of the way so speedily, that he could have no hope at all. And then what does he go and do? Out of revenge and wickedness he puts me as it were in the pillory, so that every one may point their finger at me, and I no longer dare look up in the presence of respectable women. Oh, what men are! And I had thought that he, at least, was an exception, because he did not prate, and had a kind of appearance which was not likely to lead any one into folly and shame for his sake. Now I have had to pay for my stupid confidence by the misery of my whole life.'

“Then again she burst into tears.

“I now attempted to comfort her, and also to defend my friend Jan, by representing to her that painters think very differently on these matters to what ladies do; that he had most certainly not done it out of revenge; and that she could lose nothing in the eyes of any rational beings if this picture—like all the rest of Van Kuylen's—were destined for the gallery of some Amsterdam merchant, who knew as little of the existence of 'the fair Kate,' as she did of his.

“But it was all in vain. With the active imagination of all self-torturers, she pictured to herself that the picture might be engraved or lithographed, and then hung up in the windows of all the print-shops, and in all the public-rooms of the hotels along the Rhine, and that then everybody would say, 'Only see what our coy little schoolmaster's daughter has come to! A pretty face may lead a person great lengths indeed!' and what would her parents and sisters think of her—and suppose that such a print ever got as far as America, and came one day to the eyes of Hans Lutz. No, no, she would much rather—having rendered herself unrecognizable so far as she could—leap into the Isar, than day and night imagine such fearful things.

“'Do you know what?' said I at length. 'All these desperate lamentations and resolutions have no practical sense in them, and do not lead us any nearer the goal that you wish to reach—the nullifying as much as possible the mischief done. Be reasonable, Miss Kate, and accompany me at once to our common friend, who has certainly no idea how evil-disposed you are towards him. There you can at all events obtain a written assurance from him that he painted the picture in question entirely out of his own head, that you never sat to him except for a most unexceptionably decorous portrait, and even then were not alone with him. I will also try to induce him either to remove the likeness of the lady Bathsheba to you, or to put an honest drapery over her back. Come now, will not this be much more to the purpose than your spoiling your complexion either with the water of the Isar, or aquafortis? Only think what people would say about it; that you had done yourself a mischief out of an unfortunate attachment to our little Dutchman to whom you had sat!'

“This last quite too appalling idea seemed to remove all her objections; she saw that a rational measure taken now, need not prevent her doing the most despairing things by-and-bye, and as an empty cab happened to be coming up the great avenue, we both got into it, with the intention of at once bringing Van Kuylen to book.

“During the whole of the way she was silent, only answering Yes and No to my questions. Indeed I did not say much either, and pushed myself back as far as I could into the corner of the half-open vehicle; for we had to pass through the street in which I lived. If my good wife should chance to be looking out of the window, or were out walking, and met her husband driving with a veiled lady! As I have said she is one of the best of women, but all have a spot where they are vulnerable, and appearances would have been decidedly against me; for what could induce a landscape-painter to engage a female model in the English garden, and to get into a cab with her?—his own family may well suffice him as lay figures!

“Meanwhile we had safely arrived at Van Kuylen's house in the meadows.

“An empty cab waiting in the street showed we had been preceded by some other visitor. As we passed through the little garden and approached the studio, we plainly heard the sound of voices within.

“'Sit down for a few moments on this bench, Miss Kate,' said I, 'I will just listen whether I know the other voice, and whether there seems any prospect of the person soon going away.'

“So saying, I went up to the door, which certainly was closed, but as it was only a very thin one—in winter another door was added—one could distinctly hear every word, unless, indeed, the speakers lowered their voices intentionally.

“The girl was far too excited and impatient to think of sitting down; she came and stood immediately behind me.

“'I have already explained to you,' we now heard Van Kuylen say, 'that I am not going to sell the picture, and as for the copy you wish for, I never copy any of my pictures. I am only too glad when I have once got myself expressed, however poorly it may be, and I lack the mercantile genius necessary for picture-multiplying.'

“'If you yourself do not intend to repeat it,' said a rather rough manly voice which was entirely strange to me, 'perhaps you will allow another to copy it for me, or at least let me have a photograph of it.'

“'I am sorry,' repeated Van Kuylen, 'that I cannot consent to have that picture reproduced in any way. The circumstances are quite peculiar,' and then he murmured something that we did not catch.

“'He is making short work of him,' said I, turning round to the girl. 'It is our time to appear on the scene,' I was going to add, but the words stuck in my throat. Pale as death, with wide-staring eyes, as though she saw a spectre, I do believe the poor child would have fallen if I had not thrown my arm around her and supported her in the very nick of time.

“'What is it? What is it?' I cried. 'Let me take you in to Van Kuylen's sofa. Are you ill?'

“She, however, shook her head in silence, and made a sign signifying, 'Hush! I must listen,' and now we heard the stranger speak again. 'I must request you at least to answer me one more question. Had you a model for the female figure?'

“'Certainly,' replied Van Kuylen, 'I never paint a stroke but from nature.'

“'Then you must know this girl intimately; you know where she lives, and can tell me—'

“'Give yourself no further trouble, sir,' interrupted Van Kuylen. 'I can well understand that this picture may excite other than artistic admiration, but as for telling who sat to me for it—no, sir. My studio is no bureau of enquiry, and besides—' then came some more muttered words.

“'Forgive me,' said the stranger, his voice all the more raised; 'I can comprehend that under the peculiar relation in which you seem to stand to your model—'

“At this moment the girl tore away from me like lightning, rushed to the door, and before I could try to hold her back, had burst in, and now stood—the most exquisite little fury that ever defended her good name—between the two men.

“I followed her instantly, and was just opening my mouth to interpose, when I heard the stranger give a hollow groan, and saw him reel back a step or two. I looked at him more closely. He was really a fine-looking man, remarkably well-dressed in black, with a resolute somewhat sunburnt face, in which I at once detected a few slight marks of small-pox.

“'Excuse me,' I stammered out in much embarrassment; 'I have the honour, Mr. Hans Lutz—'

“But Kate did not let me finish my speech; one quick glance at the picture, which stood on an easel in the middle of the studio, had sent all the blood back to her face. 'That is scandalous,' said she, going straight up to Van Kuylen, who with his straw-coloured face and nankeen attire cut a most unfortunate figure on this occasion. 'That, then, is your gratitude to me for making an exception in your case, and consenting to sit for my portrait to you; and because I would consent to nothing else, you would degrade me in this way before the whole world, and represent me as a bad bold girl who lets herself be seen for money, and has no objection to her shame being openly exhibited! Declare now once for all before these two witnesses, whether you have ever seen me as I am painted there, whether I was ever alone with you, whether I did not show you the door when you came to me at my lodgings and begged and entreated me to be your wife.'

“Her eyes flashed, and now that she was silent, her nostrils quivered, and I noticed that she pressed her clenched fist closely to her side, as though she feared she might be tempted to commit an assault upon the little yellow man.

“I for my part, marvelled that he took it all so calmly.

“'I find out now,' he said at length with the utmost phlegm, and laying down his pipe, 'who it is I have before me. You are no doubt the engineering gentleman of whom the young lady has already told us. I congratulate you on your return, which will probably set all things to rights. If they went wrong it was your own fault. A person who allows so long a time to pass without being heard of, cannot be surprised at others coming forward in his absence. For the rest, I am prepared to give the lady whatever spoken or written assurance she may require. The best explanation, perhaps, will be found in this!

“So saying he went to a corner of the room, where all sorts of sketches and unfinished pictures were heaped up together, and after a short search, produced a study painted on paper, a female figure in the precise position of Bathsheba, and although the face was merely an outline, one saw at a glance that a quite different model must have sat for it—a coarse common-place person with black hair whose back and shoulders were widely celebrated amongst artists.

“'I thank you,' said the stranger, who seemed somewhat to have recovered the unexpected meeting. 'I believe every word you have said, but I hope you will not consider me too importunate if I repeat the request that the picture may be mine. You understand—'

“'I understand it all,' drily returned Van Kuylen, while lighting his clay-pipe with a large match; 'and as I have something to apologise for, and very much wish that the lady should not eternally resent my inconsiderate freak, I give you the picture for your new establishment. And now—you will excuse me. I have some business which cannot be postponed. A good journey to you.'

“Before one of us could find a word to reply, he made us an abrupt bow, and passed through a door leading into the interior of the house.

“We three who remained behind stood there in utter helplessness. I felt that I was one too many, and was planning how best to leave the pair alone, when suddenly the lovely girl came up to me, held out her hand, and with apparent composure said:

“'Farewell, dear sir; I thank you for all the kindness you have shown me. I will now go home and trouble you no further.'

“With that she turned round without casting one glance at her sun-burnt lover, and moved towards the door.

“'Katharine!' cried the young man, rushing towards her.

“'Leave me!' said the incensed beauty. 'We have no longer anything to do with each other. One who could believe that of me—who could suppose that I should ever degrade myself so far—'

“'Listen to me, dear Kate,' I interposed, for I saw that both the proud high-tempered creatures were just in the mood to part as suddenly as they had met; 'if you really believe that I am a friend to you, do try to follow me and consider the question more calmly. Just put yourself in the place of your Hans Lutz, (you will forgive me, my dear sir, for using your Christian name though we have not even been introduced,) and ask yourself whether a lover is very likely to retain his five senses, when he chances to enter a picture-gallery, and sees the girl of his heart turn her back upon him in that fashion. And yet supposing you had really been Frau van Kuylen, and your husband had painted you behind your back, as our greatest artists have been wont to do with their wives and mistresses, that would have been nothing so very out of the way either. Instead, therefore, of treating the matter so tragically, you ought rather to thank God for having brought things so happily round; to be reconciled to your lover; to my poor friend, who after all is the one to be pitied, for he goes empty away; and to your own face with which you were so very angry. It has, indeed, been an infliction to you, but at last it is to it that you are indebted for the happiness of having Mr. Hans Lutz again. For if Mrs. Bathsheba had not stolen your bewitching profile, who knows whether your lover would ever have come on your track here in Munich, and finally carried off picture and original both!'

“Such was the gist of my address, and my eloquence had the happiest results. There ensued a most affecting reconciliation, an embracing, kissing, and handshaking, whereof—as regards the last at all events—I had my due share, and in another five minutes I saw the happy pair drive off in the cab, radiant with delirious bliss, and had scarcely time to invite them to pay a visit to my house, and to call after the driver to go through the English garden, that being the best scene for such an idyll.

“Van Kuylen did not show himself again. But as I slowly followed the cab, and turned round once more, I thought I saw from the upper window of the small house, a resigned cloud of smoke eddy up from a white clay-pipe. He had not spared himself the pain of looking after the lovers from his lonely watch-tower.

“I need not say that I instantly went home, and accurately repeated the whole remarkable story to my dear wife. Alas! I failed to produce the desired effect thereby. There lurked in the soul of that excellent woman a prejudice against a girl who presumed to be so beautiful that all men ran after her, and even the steadiest landscape painters took in her an interest—fatherly, indeed, but dangerously warm. The suspicion that all might not have been so very right after all, seemed to gain confirmation, when day after day passed without bringing the happy pair to pay their promised visit. My wife went about again with a well-known air of magnanimously suppressed triumph, and treated me with such compassionate indulgence, that it almost drove me wild. But what was to be done? I must needs put up with it, and had only the choice of passing as a bad judge of character, or a secret sinner.

“However, in a fortnight's time the tide turned. I was sitting quietly over my work about noon, when in ran my little Christopher, and called out to me that I was to come instantly to mamma, that there was a most beautiful lady there with a gentleman, and that they had asked for me. There they were then, husband and wife, on their marriage trip through Italy to New York. On the day I had last seen them they had set out homewards to present themselves to their parents, and as Hans Lutz—his real name was Johann Ludwig Weinmann—was making a quantity of money over there in America, it was probably much the same to the father of the fair Kate, whether the result was attained by railway-making and bridge-building, or the tanning of leather. My good wife had at first—she afterwards confessed to me—sat rather monosyllabically there, but when I came in, and neither the young woman nor I blushed, nor exchanged any sign whatever of a private understanding, she finally resumed her equipoise, and was obliged to believe in me: more—in the course of the next half-hour she fell so completely in love with the beautiful world's wonder, she did not know how to let her go, and finally parted from her with the tenderest embraces. Later she said to me, 'It really is a very good thing she is gone to America.'

“The same evening brought another leave-taking, but only in the form of a letter. My good mynheer sent me a note, in which he after his own fashion, and with divers humorous marginal illustrations, announced his journey to Italy. He enclosed a small pen-and-ink drawing as a keepsake; which was very highly finished and in all respects a genuine Van Kuylen. Before a hut in a primeval forest sat a young pair under the shade of palms, bananas, and bread-fruit trees, a couple of fine children playing about their feet, the wife occupied with needle-work, the husband reading to her. Above them on the branch of a majestic tree squatted a small thin ape who was just about to throw a date into the beautiful young woman's lap. Whom the faces of the wedded pair resembled, and who had sat to the artist for the odd, pinched, resigned countenance of the ape it were needless to particularise.”

 
 
 

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