The Dead Lake and Other Tales
by Paul Heyse
THE DEAD LAKE & OTHER TALES BY P. HEISE.
IN ONE VOLUME.
THE DEAD LAKE
FROM THE GERMAN BY
LONDON: SAMPSON LOW, MARSTON, SEARLE & RIVINGTON.
CROWN BUILDINGS, 188, FLEET STREET.
PARIS: C. REINWALD & Cie, 15, RUE DES SAINTS PÈRES.
THE DEAD LAKE.
Summer was at its heighth, yet in one corner of the Alps an icy cold
wind revolted against its dominion, and threatened to change the
pouring rain into snow flakes. The air was so gloomy that even a house
which stood about a hundred paces from the shore of the lake, could not
be distinguished, although it was white-washed and twilight had hardly
A fire had been lighted in the kitchen. The landlady was standing by
it frying a dish of fish, while with one foot she rocked a cradle which
stood beside the hearth. In the tap room, the landlord was lying on a
bench by the stove, cursing the flies which would not let him sleep. A
barefooted maid of all work sat spinning in a corner, and now and then
glanced with a sigh, through the dingy panes at the wild storm which
was raging without. A tall strong fellow, the farm servant of the inn,
came grumbling into the room: he shook the rain-drops from his clothes,
like a dog coming out of the water, and threw a heap of wet fishing
nets into a corner. It seemed as if the cloud of discontent and
ill-humour which hung over the house, was only kept by this moody
silence from bursting into a storm of discord and quarreling.
Suddenly the outer door opened, and a stranger's step was heard
groping through the dark passage; the landlord did not move, only the
maid rose, and opened the door of the room.
A man in a travelling suit stood at the entrance, and asked if this
was the inn of the dead lake. As the girl answered shortly in the
affirmative, he walked in, threw his dripping plaid and travelling
pouch on the table, and sat down on the bench apparently exhausted; but
he neither removed his hat heavy with rain nor laid down his walking
stick, as if intending to start again after a short rest.
The maid still stood before him, waiting for his orders, but he
seemed to have forgotten the presence of any one in the room but
himself, leant his head against the wall, and closed his eyes; so deep
silence once more reigned in the hot dark room, only interrupted by the
buzzing of the flies, and the listless sighs of the maid.
At last the landlady brought in the supper; a little lad who stared
at the stranger carried the candle before her. The landlord rose lazily
from his bench, yawned and approached the table leaving to his wife the
charge of inviting the stranger to partake of their meal. The traveller
refused with a silent shake of the head, and the landlady apologized
for the meagreness of their fare. Meat, they had none, except a few
live ducks and chickens. They could not afford to buy it, for their own
use, and now travellers never came that way, for two years ago, a new
road had been made on the other side of the mountain, and the post
which had formerly passed their inn now drove the other way. If the
weather was fine, a tourist, or a painter who wished to sketch the
environs of the lake now and then lodged with them; but they did not
spend or expect much, neither was the selling of a few fish very
If however the gentleman wished to remain over night, he would not
fare badly. The bedrooms were just adjoining, and the beds well aired.
They had also a barrel of beer in the cellar, good Tyrolese wine, and
their spirits of gentian was celebrated. But all these offers did not
tempt the guest; he replied that he would stay for the night, and only
wished a jug of fresh water. Then he arose and without casting a single
look at the people seated round the table, and silently eating their
supper, or taking any notice of the little boy of ten, although the
child made the most friendly advances, and gazed admiringly at his gold
watch guard, which sparkled faintly in the dim light. The maid servant
took another candle from the cornice of the stove, and showed him the
way to the next room, where she filled his jug with fresh water, and
then left him to his own thoughts.
The landlord sent an oath after him. Just their usual luck, he
grumbled, if any guest ever came to them, it was always some idle
vagrant who ordered nothing, and finally took his leave without paying
for his bed, often disappearing in company with the bedclothes. His
wife replied that it was just those folks, who regaled themselves on
all that larder and cellar could supply, and tried to ingratiate
themselves with the landlord. This gentleman was ill in mind or body,
as he neither ate nor drank. At this moment the stranger again entered
the room, and asked if he could have a boat, as he wished to fish on
the lake by torchlight, as soon as the rain had ceased.The landlady
secretly poked her husband in the side, as if to say Now, you see! he
is not right in the head; don't contradict him for heaven's sake.
The landlord who was fully aware of the advantage to be gained by
this singular demand, answered in his surly manner, that the gentleman
could have both his boats, though it was not the fashion in these parts
to fish at night, but if it amused him he was welcome to do so. The
farm servant would prepare the torch immediatelyso saying, he made a
sign to the tall fellow who was still occupied in picking his fish
bones, and opened the door for his guest.
The rain had not ceased and the water was dashing and gushing from
the gutters. The stranger seemed insensible to any outward discomfort;
he hastily walked towards the shore, and by the light of the lantern
which the farm servant had brought with him, he examined the two boats,
as if he wished to make sure which of them was the safest. They were
both fastened under a shed, where different fishing implements were
lying under some benches. Then sending back the farm servant under some
pretext or other, he sought on the shore of the lake for a couple of
heavy stones, which he placed in the largest of the two boats.He drew
a deep breath, and stood for a moment with his eyes fixed on the dark
water, which as far as one could see by the light of the lantern was
furrowed by the drizzling rain. The wind had ceased for a moment, the
surf foamed, and dashed round the keel of the small boats; from the
house, one could hear the monotonous sing song of the landlady who was
lulling her baby to sleep. Even this sounded melancholy, reminding more
of the cares of motherhood than of its joys, and heightened the dismal
impression made by the forsaken aspect of this corner of the world.
The stranger was just returning to the house, when he heard on the
road coming from the south, along which he had also travelled that
morning, the cracking of a whip and the crashing and creaking of wheels
which were drawn heavily up the hill through the deep and sloughy ruts.
Shortly afterwards a lightly covered carriage stopped before the inn.
Lights were brought to the door, a female voice asked questions which
the landlady answered in her most amiable tones; then two women got out
of the carriage and carefully carried something wrapped up in cloaks
into the house. The farm servant helped the coachman to bring his
horses under shelter. A few minutes later every thing had relapsed into
the former silence.
It had all passed like a vision before the stranger, neither
awakening his curiosity, nor, still less, his interest. He once more
looked up at the dense clouds to see if there was any chance of their
dispersing, and then entered the house where lights were now shining in
the room opposite the tap room, and shadows were flitting to-and-fro
behind the curtains. He gave back the lantern to the man, and some
orders about baits and fishing hooks which he would require in the
morning, and retired to his room.
There he lighted the candle, and placed it in a bent candlestick,
which stood on the rickety table.Then he threw open a casement to let
out the stuffy and damp air, and for a while looked out on the
splashing and spirting gutter in which a cork was restlessly dancing.
Further off no object could be discerned; the inky darkness of the
cloudy sky hid everything from view. The wind howled in a ravine near
the lake, like some caged beast of prey, and the trees near the house
groaned under the weight of the gushing rain. It was an unfavourable
moment for standing near an open window but the stranger seemed to be
listening intently to the dismal sound of the storm which raged
without. Only when the wind drove the rain straight into his face, he
moved away, and paced up and down between the bare walls of the little
room, with his hands crossed behind his back. His face was quite calm,
and his eyes appeared to be looking beyond what surrounded him, into
some distant world.
At last he took writing materials, and a small portfolio from his
travelling pouch, sat down beside the dim candle, and wrote as follows:
I cannot go to rest, Charles, without bidding you good night. How
weary I am, you must have perceived when we met, unfortunately for so
short a time, six weeks ago. Then I ought to have spoken to you,
and we might have come to an agreement on this chapter on pathology, as
we have done on so many others: Had I done so, I could now have quietly
smoked my last cigar, instead of tiring us both, with this dull
writing, but the words seemed to cleave to my lips. We should have
probably disputed about the matterEach of us would have maintained
his own opinion, so I thought it useless to spoil the few hours we had
to spend in each other's society. I am well acquainted with your
principles, and know that if you were here, you would endeavour to
reconcile me to existence. But you would wrong me, if you thought that
I had caused this dissension between life and myself which nothing but
a divorce can appease. I would willingly live if I could. I am
not such a coward, or so fastidious that a few 'slings and arrows of
outrageous fortune' should drive me distracted and make me take the
resolution to leap out of my skin in the full sense of the word. Who
would throw over the whole concern, and fume against the inscrutable
Powers because many things are disagreeable to bear? Are not the
decrees of the eternal powers equally unfathomable and indisputable?
But here lies the faultI can play the part of a wise man no longer.
The desperate attempt to save reason at least from the general wreck of
soul and mind has failed. Just now when I watched an old cork which had
fallen into the gutter, and which lashed by the rain was helplessly
whirling about in the dirty puddle, the thought struck me that this
cork was my own brain which had stolen from out my heated skull, and
was now taking a shower bath. If such an absurd fancy could take
possession of my mind for a whole quarter of an hour, then must the
last prop of my reason be fast giving way.
I have the highest idea of the self-sacrificing duties of a man
towards his fellow-creatures, yet I cannot calmly see the moment
approach when the asphyxiated soul is to be buried alive, watch the
loss of self-consciousness, and finally sink lower than the most
miserable brute. This, my dear Charles, would require the dullness of a
sheep patiently awaiting the butcher's knife, though it feels a worm
gnawing at its brain.
But I quite forget that this will seem but a confused outpouring of
words to you, who are only aware of a portion of my calamities. You
only know what the rest of the world is acquainted withthat my
adopted sister died, this day year, that her father followed her a few
days later, and her mother in the spring of this year.You also know
that my family consisted of only these threethat I loved them
dearlythat, in fact, except yourself, they were the only beings to
whom I was much attached.
Under any circumstance their loss would have wounded me deeply, but
I should have ended by overcoming this grief. Even had they been
severed from me at a single stroke, I could have bravely outlived it.
Truly the death of one man is always irreparable but his life is never
indispensable. Science, my profession, my youth, would have healed the
wound.Now, it is still open, and the blood which flows from it cannot
be stanched, for these three precious lives would have been spared, but
I must begin from the beginning, Charles, if I wish to make these
sad words clear to you.You know, I believe, that I hardly ever saw my
own parents, that after the death of my father, I should have been
brought up at the orphan asylum, if those generous people had not taken
pity on the son of the poor surgeon, and adopted me. My foster-father
was one of the most opulent merchants of the town.When he gave me a
home, he was still childless after eight years of marriage. He hoped
that my presence would cheer him, and his wife, and enliven the quiet
dull house. Unfortunately, at first, I but ill rewarded the kindness of
the worthy couple, though I was greatly attached to them. I was a
reserved, irritable, and unamiable lad, with a great tendency to ponder
over everything. My behaviour vacillated between a moody silence which
lasted for days, and sudden and passionate outbreaks of temper. Even
now I feel deeply ashamed when I think of the truly angelic patience
with which my foster-parents bore my perverseness, and tried to
moderate my violent temper without ever showing how sorely I
disappointed their hopes.
Suddenly all was changed. When I had lived about two years in their
house, my adoptive parents saw their heart's desire fulfilled. A child
was born to them, the most beautiful and gifted creature I have ever
seen. As if by magic, everything grew brighteven I, was changed, and
became a good-humoured and sensible lad. I was quite infatuated about
the little girl, and watched her like a nurse. For hours together I
played with her. I taught her to speak, to run, forgot my dearest
occupations, and all my schoolfellows when with her.
My behaviour towards her parents also completely altered. These
excellent people, instead of no longer caring for my society, now
redoubled their kindness towards me, and seemed to regard both of us as
their children and as having an equal right to their affection.
As time went on, my fraternal love for the little Ellen only
increased with my years; the more so, that a curious similarity in our
characters became more perceptible every day. She was not one of those
soft, pliable and easily managed girls who give no more trouble to
their mothers, than to their future husbands. She would suddenly change
from the most extravagant gaiety, to the deepest melancholyif one can
use the term, melancholy, in speaking of a child. In those moments, she
would steal out of the garden where she had been romping, and laughing
with her little companions, and come to my little room, sit down with
grave face, opposite to me, at my writing-table, and read the first
book she could get hold of.
From my school-days upwards, I had always been heart and mind, a
naturalist, and had no other thought, but that I would study medicine
as my father had done. I used to show her all my collections, even the
skeleton of a large monkey which stood in a corner behind my bed, and
to hold most unchildlike conversations with the little girl; at other
times she would communicate her childishness to me; I cooked for her
dolls and physicked them after having first carefully bedaubed their
faces with the tokens of the measles and I filled her little garden
with all sorts of medical herbs from my herborium. We never shewed much
tenderness towards each other. Only once I kissed her lips; it was when
I left for the University at nineteen years of age.
Though I deeply felt the pain of leaving my adoptive home, yet I
fancied it would not become me as a man to show any emotion, still my
voice failed me when my dear mother embraced me with tears in her eyes.
Little Ellen stood pale, and silent by her side. I turned to her with
some joke and jestingly gave her different directions about the care of
my zoological collection, (preserved in camphor and spirits of wine)
which I had entrusted to her charge. Then I drew this child of eight
into my arms to bid her farewell. As I kissed her, I was startled by a
sudden shudder which ran through her frame, as if an asp had bitten
her. She staggered back with closed eyes and nearly fainted away. She
quickly recovered however, and next day wrote me a childishly merry
Since that day I only once touched her lips again, and then they
were cold and closed for ever.
How the six years of my University career passed, how I found life
at home when I returned for the holidays would be useless to relate. It
would be a long, and monotonous narrative. Some estrangement arose
between me and my foster-sister, partly through my fault, for science
and study monopolized my attention more and more. From year to year
this strange girl grew more reserved in my presence. Only in her
charming letters could I discover a trace of the old intimacy of our
Her outward development did not fall short of its early promise.
She was fullgrown at the age of fourteen; somewhat slender, but
quite formed. The small portrait of her which I once showed you has but
little resemblance. Her character, if I may so express myself, was even
more mature than her person, and only betrayed itself in her movements.
A stately calm, an indifference, scarcely concealed for many things
which generally appear alluring at her age, isolated her a good deal.
Then again, when she wished to please, her smile, the gentle and timid
yielding up of herself had a charm not to be described. Few knew her
real value, her genuine upright soul; and among those few, her brother
was not. I was then too much engrossed by my studies, too eager to
solve the mysteries of physical science, to care about the secrets of
that young heart. Strange to say although I was always of a sensual
disposition, and certainly no paragon of virtue, and having eyes to see
could easily perceive, that all my conquests, compared with that
remarkable girl, appeared like housemaids beside a young princess, yet
it never entered my head to fall in love with her. When I wrote home,
it was always to my foster-mother, and she had to remind me sometimes,
of what was due to my little sister.
She once wrote that the child who was as reserved as ever, did not
show what she felt, although my neglect seemed to hurt her, and one day
when I had forgotten even to mention her in my letter, she had cried
the whole night.
I hastened to repair my negligence, and wrote her a most penitent
letter half in earnest, half in jest, accusing, myself of the darkest
crimes towards my faithful little sister, protesting that she was a
thousand times too kind to me a petrified egotist whose very heart had
been turned to stone, among skeletons and anatomical preparations. Her
answer was full of loving kindness, and after that our fraternal
intercourse seemed re-established on the old footing.
Then she was fourteen years of age. On her fifteenth birthday, I
passed my examination for a doctor's degree and we exchanged merry
congratulations by telegraph.
Then I travelled during a year with you for a companion, and you
will remember that the letters I received from home often made me
My mother wrote that Ellen was not well; she did not complain, but
her altered looks only too visibly testified to her sufferings. The old
family physician looked rather grave about it. Now I was well
acquainted with this good old gentleman. He was a strict adherent of
the old school, and greatly prejudiced against the stethoscope,
otherwise he had the reputation of much experience in diagnostics, and
of great caution, and attention.
Still this could not tranquillize me, and my parents who believed
me to be the greatest medical genius in the world, expressed a strong
desire, that if I could possibly get away, I should hasten home and
have a consultation with the old doctor. So I determined, as you know
to quit my studies in Paristo hurry home, and decide for myself if
all was as it should be.
When I arrived, Ellen advanced to greet me, looking so well, and
lively, that at the first moment, I asked with playful indignation, if
this was the august patient to attent to whose delicate health, a
celebrated young physician had been summoned from a great distance.
Poor child! the pleasure caused by my having set aside every other
consideration for her sake, gave that delusive air of blooming health.
I soon perceived that the old doctor had not looked grave without
cause. I was decidedly however opposed to his opinion that she was
threatened with pulmonary disease. After a most careful auscultation, I
had found her lungs to be perfectly sound, whereas the palpitations of
her heart seemed to be somewhat irregular; this symptom proceeded from
a morbid state of the nervous, and blood system. Accordingly the first
treatment which was principally directed against everything stimulating
and enjoined great quiet, seemed to me the reverse of salutary. I
prescribed steel, wine, and strengthening food, to rectify the poverty
of blood, and declared that the remedies by which the old doctor hoped
to ward off the disease were as bad as poison in her case. Her parents,
of course, sided with me, particularly as the apparent success of my
treatment during the first weeks of my stay with them corroborated my
statement. Ellen felt more lively, and stronger, her sleep and appetite
returned, and while the old practitioner withdrew deeply hurt, and
mortified, I enjoyed the first pleasures of fame though it still stood
on a very precarious footing, and I felt the happiness of having
delivered those dear to me, from a heavy care.
I never intended to establish myself in that town. I knew that I
could only reside in a large capital where I could find better
assistance in my studies. I, therefore, carefully entrusted Ellen's
treatment to the second doctor of the place, a very humble man, rather
irresolute, and dependent on others, who in presence of so young, and
far travelled a colleague, meekly resigned any opinion of his own, and
promised to keep strictly to the enjoined course of treatment; and now
and then to write and inform me of the progress of the cure. The
parents saw me depart with heavy hearts, but my welfare, and their duty
with regard to my success in life, outweighed any wishes of their own,
and Ellen eagerly seconded my desire. I had already lost too much of my
precious time on her account, she said; she felt much better, and now
that she knew my orders, no one should induce her to do anything I had
not sanctioned. I still see the smile with which she bade me good-bye,
while the repressed tears choked her voice. Alas! Charles, it was the
last time that I saw a smile light up that dear face!
So I departed entirely blinded, and at the commencement of my stay
at MI was so completely taken up with the exercise of my
profession, that in the letters from home I only noticed the favourable
particulars; especially as Ellen's frequent accounts of herself, which
almost formed a sort of diary, lulled me into so perfect a security,
that I fancied, the care and anxiety which now and then appeared in her
mother's letters to be only caused by the exaggerated fondness of a
My colleague full of respect for my green wisdom, did his best to
interpret every graver symptom in favour of my diagnostics, and so I
lived on, a rose coloured mist blinding my eyes, till the darkest night
suddenly closed around me.
Ellen's letters which in the later weeks had become rather
dispirited suddenly stopped. In their stead I received a letter from
the doctor, about six months after my departure saying that another
consultation with me seemed to him most desirable. In the last few
weeks several symptoms had suddenly changed, so that he dared not
proceed in the former manner without further orders. My adoptive
parents also eagerly intreated me to come to them.
But even in spite of all this, I still lingered, certainly not for
any frivolous reason; the life or death of some of my patients, just
then, depending on my stay. At last a telegraphic despatch startled me
into activity. A vomiting of blood had taken place: If you do not come
instantly, wrote her mother, you will not find her alive.
Late at night I arrived at their house feeling as if I myself were
dying. On that dreadful journey the scales had suddenly fallen from my
eyes, and with the same ingenuity which I had formerly exercised to
confirm my own errors, I now sought out every argument expressly to
torment myself with the conviction that I alone was responsible for the
loss of this much cherished being. I tottered up the well-known stairs.
Her mother met me on the landing, tearless, but with a disturbed look
in her eyes. It seemed almost like a relief to me, when she exclaimed:
'you are too late!'I had dreaded to meet the eyes of my poor sister,
as a murderer dreads the dying look of his victim. And yet it was more
painful to see the calm face, which reclined on her pillows, smiling,
and free from reproach.
No one accused me; they still believed in me, and laid the blame on
different incidents, but I felt crushed under the weight of my despair,
and the wildest self-reproaches.
On entering the chamber of death, her father looking like a corpse,
staggered heavily into my arms, and losing all self-command, burst into
such convulsive sobs, that the people passing in the streets stopped to
listen. Then the sight of all the old servants who had adored her; of
her mother so completely changedeven to this day my hair
stands on end when I think of that dreadful scene. The mother beside
herself with grief called for wine, for I was to drink Ellen's
health?she supposed the 'so called good God' would not object to
that. But when the servant brought it, the father taking the glass from
the plate dashed it against the wall, crying out: 'broken! dead!' A
hundred times, till his voice was choked by tears.At last his wife
led him away and I was left alone with the dead.
Enough of this dreadful night. I need only add that by dissection,
I obtained a full confirmation, of that, of which the quick penetration
of the old physician had foreseen the danger.Could it have been
averted? Who can say with certainty whether a conflagration can be
stayed or not, if he does not know what feeds it, or from whence the
wind blows. I had poured fuel on the fire which had snatched away this
You may imagine that I did not close my eyes that night. The
morning found me still sitting, racked with pain and fever, by the
bed-side of my sister, when the door opened, and her mother entered the
room. She had recovered the noble and gentle serenity of her features,
now that the first delirium of despair had passed. She kissed me, with
overflowing tears, and even in my burning eyes the tears welled up. 'My
dear son,' she said 'I here surrender to you a small packet which I
found in her writing-table: Your name is on it.'
It was her diary, beginning with her twelfth year, up to a few days
before her deathOn every page I found my name; on the last were these
words, 'I am dying, darlingI have known you and been permitted to
love you. What more can life bring me? I now have no other wish but
that you should know that I only lived for you, and through you!'And
this to her murderer!!
All the events that succeeded; the death of her father, the short
widowhood of her mother, who pined away till she was at last re-united
to her darling ones, all this, sad as it was, could no longer move me,
the darkness within me was so greatWhat mattered it if one spark more
died out or not? That I never could forget or overcomeThat all
hopes of ever being happy again were at end, was a conviction deeply
impressed on my heart.
I repeated to myself a hundred times, that I had acted for the best
according to my belief, that every one of my colleagues had experienced
a like misfortune, that we were only responsible for our
intentionsBut in spite of all this, did these three lives weigh the
less on my soul? Could I absolve myself, were all the judges in Heaven
and earth to proclaim me free from guilt? I had destroyed the only joy
of my benefactors, and had miserably deceived them.I had neglected
this precious life, and how could I henceforth expect any man to
entrust his life to me?
I know what you would oppose to this CharlesYou have often told
me that I was too sensitive for a doctor's professionThat every one
who consults us knows beforehand that we are only human,not
omnipotent, and omniscient Gods, and takes his chance.
The best doctors are those who never let their feelings interfere,
and never paralyse their energies for the future, by useless regrets
for the unalterable past. I quite agree with you that these are most
sound maxims. But I know enough of disease to foresee that mine is
When the first stunning pain had somewhat subsided, I said to
myself, that I must bear it as well as I could, and at least try
to be of some use as a subordinate, having forfeited my rights as a
master.I threw my whole energy into theoretical studiesI collected,
dissected, and observedI might, perhaps, have reconciled myself to
this new existence, if the past had not thrown a shadow over every
thing. Now I loathed and revolted inwardly against all this groping on
the boundaries of human knowledge. A general, after losing a battle
upon which depended the destiny of a whole nation, will hardly like, as
long as the war lasts, to sit in a corner of some quiet library, and
study tactics and strategy. Then I believed that time would cure my
wounds and make life, at least, supportable to me, even if it should be
for ever sunless and gloomy.
I had tried aimless wandering and had only experienced the truth of
that hacknied saying that shifting of scenes can never change Tragedy
Only once it seemed as if I might be allured back to that part of
my life alone worth living formy profession!
It was on a steamer between Marseilles and GenoaWe had left the
coast far behind ussuddenly the Captain came up in great
consternation, and asked if there was any doctor among the passengers.
A lady had been taken ill, and was lying in the cabin writhing with
painI was just lying down to sleep, determined not to meddle in this
matter, when I heard moans and exclamations from the cabin which would
not let me rest. I asked the Captain to take me down, and after
searching the ship's medicine chest; found some remedies which soothed
the pain. The lady would not let me go, but insisted in a strange medly
of Spanish, and French on my passing the night on a sofa in the
adjoining cabin. At last she went to sleep, and my eyes also closed,
weary with gazing through the open hatchway at the moon-lit sea.
All at once, I felt something like an icy cold hand drawn across my
face. I started up, believing it to be the spray which was dashing off
the wheels into the cabinbut to my intense horror, I saw the figure
of Ellen standing beside me, just as she had looked when lying in her
coffin, only her dim widely opened eyes were fixed on me, and her white
finger was laid to her lips, as if to say: 'Do not betray me.' Then she
approached the couch of the stranger, lifted one of the green silk
curtains and after gazing for several minutes on the sleeping woman she
sadly shook her head, and looked gravely at me as if to reproach me for
caring for another when I had left her to die. For one moment
she sunk down at the foot of the bed as if greatly exhausted: then
beckoning three times to me she glided through the hatchway like a
streak of mist. Since that night I have never again approached a
sick-bed. You know, Charles, that I was never of a visionary nature,
that I do not believe in spirits. Of course I know as well as you do
that this was only a delusion of the senses. An apparition caused by
the over excited state of my nerves. But does this alter the main
point? Did I suffer the less because I knew it to be owing to the power
of my nerves over my reason? How can one, whose senses are at variance
with him, hope to gain peace? and how is he to live, who hopes
I have become a superfluous guest at the banquet of life, and so I
prefer taking leave of it, and only press your hand once more before
disappearing. My existence is now no longer necessary to any onenot
even to a dog.
None but a healthy and cheerful egotist could tolerate a life which
subsists only for itself. Pardon me, my dear friend, I know that you
will now and then miss me, but you would surely prefer; never to meet
me again, than to recognize me some day in a mad-house; clothed in a
straight waistcoat, and muttering soliloquies.
This letter has nearly attained the dimensions of a volume, but as
it is the last I shall ever write, its length may be pardoned. I shall
seal this enclosure with a steady hand, for I am only about to do that
which I must, that which I believe to be for the best.
Here in this solitary inn, they will only suppose me to be some
crazed Englishman who insists on fishing by torch-light, in the middle
of the night. Tomorrow when they see the boat driven on the lake
without me, they will say, I have only suffered for my folly, by
falling asleep, and tumbling overboard. Let all my acquaintances
suppose the same. And now good night. I own that on the point of going
to sleep, I feel some curiosity, and hope to have many thingsmade
clear to me.It is a pity that I shall not be able to impart my
observations to you, as we have always done when studying together on
I am also desirous to witness what dreams may haunt us in eternal
sleep, if a dead man can witness anything.
Nothing further has any interest for meMy will was deposed six
months ago in the court of justiceYou are my executorI thank you
once more for your faithful and firm friendship-Let this be my last
He did not read over what he had written but immediately folded it,
put it in an envelope, sealed it, and wrote the addressThen he again
looked out of the windowThe storm had gradually subsided. He lighted
a cigar and pacing his room, he watched the long-legged spiders
crawling about the low ceiling, and observed the effects of tobacco on
them, by blowing a thick cloud of smoke over their backs. But he soon
grew tired of this interesting occupation, and stared vacantly at the
white washed walls that surrounded him. Suddenly a clamour arose in the
adjoining tap-room. He heard through the door a gruff voice which
belonged neither to the landlord, nor to the farm servant, complaining
of some unreasonable demand. Yes it was always so, just those women
who cried and lamented if a baby had a cold, did not feel the least
compassion for two poor horses, but would drag them from the manger,
and after a journey of fifteen miles, in this cursed weather; mostly
uphill, and over those dreadful roads, would force them to trot for ten
miles further, and the whole night through, regardless as to whether
they could move a limb on the morrow or not. But he would not stir; no,
not if they were to lay down a hundred kronenthalers on the very spot.
He was not in the service of a knacker, but had to deliver up his
roadsters in the same condition in which he got them; and besides to
say the truth he wished for some rest for himself, and did not care to
break his limbs on the way or get drowned in a puddle.
A timid female voice which had now and then interrupted this speech
with beseeching words was silenced by this conclusion, which was
accompanied by a fierce oath, and a heavy thump of the fist on the
table. The landlord intervened in his abrupt way by seconding the
coachman, and ordering some beer from the cellar. Then the two men
began to converse, on other subjects, the coachman chiefly abusing the
bad roads which ruined horses and carriage. The landlord fully agreed
with him, and asked him how it was that the ladies had preferred coming
by this side of the dead lake. The coachman informed him that a
landslip had made the other road quite impassable, at least for
twenty-four hours. The rest of the passengers had been contented to
wait at the station, but these ladies had insisted on continuing their
journey on this dangerous road; perhaps because of the child, which
never ceased to wail and moan. At this moment the door opened, and the
men's rough tones were suddenly hushed. A melodious woman's voice was
heard whose touching accents seemed to quiet even these coarse fellows.
At least the coachman, who on her renewing her prayer to him to prepare
for their departure, answered quite civilly, and without any
superfluous oaths, that it was almost impossible to gratify her wishes,
and gave his reasons. She appeared to acquiesce in their importance,
and after a moment's silent reflection, asked if any messenger could be
found who for a considerable gratification would undertake to summon
the nearest doctor, otherwise the child would probably not live through
the night. In saying this her voice trembled so much that the
involuntary listener was touched to the heart. He walked to the
casement, hoping to drown those soft tones in the rushing sound of the
rain. At this moment however the clouds above the lake dispersed
showing the moon's clear and silvery crescent and the sudden stillness
forced him to hear the rest of the parley.
The landlord called his servant, and asked him if he would take a
message to the doctor who lived six miles distant, in the small
market-town which was situated in a neighbouring valley. The man
replied that he had no objection to the long walk, or the bad road, if
the lady gave him a liberal fee; but he knew that it would be useless
for Hansel the forester's assistant had told him that very day, that
his friend Sepp had to wait another week to have the ball extracted
from his thigh, for the doctor himself was ill, from a fall from his
horse, and his apprentice had an unsafe hand, as he was renowned for
drinking too much brandy. Then the sad and gentle voice of the lady
asked, after a silence of several minutes, if it would not be possible
to procure a litter, and carry the child to the nearest place where a
doctor resided, she herself would help to carry it; she only required a
couple of trustworthy men, and a guide with a lighted torch.
That could not be done either, the landlord answered;they had no
litter on which the child could be carried comfortably, and then they
could not all leave the house; however he would speak to his wife about
He was just reluctantly leaving his bench by the stove, when the
landlady herself rushed into the room, and cried out that the nurse
begged her mistress to come to the childthat departure was now not to
be thought of, for the child was dying.
The listener in the adjacent room turned from the window as if drawn
by some magic power; he took a few steps towards the door, then stopped
and shook his head with a sigh. He tried to recommence his walk up and
down the small room; but at every second step, he stood still to listen
for some further sound. His cigar had gone out. Mechanically he
approached it to the candle to light it, but before he was aware of
what he was doing, his breath had extinguished the feeble flame. He
remained staring at the dying sparks in the wickone moment more and
the last would disappear. Possibly in the next room a little flame far
more valuable than the miserable light of this penny candle was on the
point of relapsing into the darkness of night.
Well let it die out; what right had any one to meddle in the matter.
Perhaps by trying to kindle it again, it would only the more surely be
extinguished by his clumsy hands. What can it signify? Why try to save
a human being's life, who may, some day or other, wish that he had
never been born, and who may perhaps also see the hour, when he shall
have to bid good night to his dearest friend
Again he listened, and held his breath not to lose a sound of what
was passing in the next room. He fancied he heard a child's plaintive
moaning, then the lady's gentle voice trying to soothe it, passionate
weeping, and then silence. He could stand it no longer in the solitude
of his room. He only wished to hear how the child was going on. He
began to think himself a barbarian, to be quietly hiding in a corner,
when even these rough peasants showed some sympathy. Hastily opening
the door, he groped his way through the dark empty tap-room, and across
the passage. The door was ajar, and a ray of light streamed through the
chink. He now distinctly heard the child moan and the mother quieting
it. We ought to prepare some tea for the poor child in order to bring
on a perspiration, said the hostess, We must try and find
some.The elder berries, in the drawer up-stairs, would not do badly
in case of need, answered her husband; then silence reigned again,
only interrupted by the sighs of the house-maid, who knelt in a corner,
repeating one pater-noster after another.
Put another feather-bed on the child, advised the coachman; it
has caught cold; see how its little hands twitch convulsivelyit is
The farm-servant, who stood near the stove, was just going to lay
another log on the still glowing embers, when he was arrested by a firm
hand which was laid on his shoulders. He turned round and perceived the
stranger standing before him. I forbid you to put on another chip of
wood; he said, in a voice which denoted that he was accustomed to be
strictly obeyed; and you all, he continued, turning to the rest of
the idle spectators, get out of the room; do you hear? the air here is
bad enough to stifle even a healthy man. They all looked at each
otheronly the mother and nurse of the child had not perceived the
entrance of the stranger. The mother knelt beside the bed with one arm
clasped round the moaning child as if to defend it from assassins. The
nurse stood by her, and stared in helpless despair on her little
chargeon its wandering eyes, and fever parched lips, from which now
and then a low wail escaped. She started back, as if death in person
was approaching her, when the stranger stept up to the bed, laid his
hand on the burning brow, and took up one of the little thin arms to
feel the pulse.
The shriek of horror which the nurse involuntarily uttered, awakened
the mother from the lethargy of despair. She looked wonderingly at the
stranger, and a sudden ray of hope brightened her face.
Madam, he said, will you entrust your child to one entirely
unknown to you, who though he has not the presumption to promise to
save its life, yet knows what in these cases, is prescribed by our
She could not answer him; this unlooked for aid in her direst
distress overpowered her. Take this, he said, drawing a card from his
pocket-book, my name may not be known to you, but the title which
stands before it will show you, that others too have trusted to my
skill; with what result, has nothing to do with the present case.
The young woman remained in her former position, but she stretched
towards him the arm not engaged in supporting her child's head, and
said: The Almighty seems to have sent you. He has had compassion on
me. I fully confide in you!
Then order a pitcher of fresh spring water from the well, and a tub
to be brought. The rest I will manage myself.
He hastily opened both windows, and took the feather-bed from off
the child, only covering it lightly with a large plaid. Then he called
in the farm-servant who was standing in the passage, with the rest of
the people, grumbling, and waiting for the result of the stranger's
despotic interference. He asked if no snow or ice could be procured in
the neighbourhood. Yes, growled out the man, there was some to be
had; but one must climb for about an hour through the woods, to get to
the crevice in a rock, where the snow never melted summer or winter, as
the sun could not reach the spot. To-morrow morning he would go and
You don't seem to understand me, resumed the doctor; here I lay
down this kronenthaler; it is now half past nine o'clock; the moon is
up, the storm has ceasedwhoever brings me in the course of an hour, a
load of snow or ice has gained this reward. Tomorrow you may bring down
a whole glacier, and will not get a penny for it. All right, said
the farm-servant with a short laugh, and walked away. The nurse had in
the meantime brought in the cold water and an empty tub. Without
another word, the stranger lifted the child from the bed, stripped off
its clothes, and telling the mother to hold it, he poured the icy cold
water over it. He then dried it quickly, laid it again in its bed, and
wrapped a wet towel round its head. The child which a moment ago had
struggled and screamed in his arms, now seemed relieved. The eyes
ceased to wander, and turned towards the mother with a wondering, but
calm lookthen she closed them with a deep sigh.
The child is dying! the nurse screamed out, and burst into a fit
of crying. I thought that would be the consequence of the cold water,
and the open windows. Ah, Madam, how could you suffer this?
Silence, said the stranger imperiously, or you will have to leave
the room. I hope, Madam, he continued, in a gentler tone, that you do
not expect a miracle from me. The illness we have to combat, cannot be
vanquished in one night. The child has a virulent typhus fever, and our
chief care must be to prevent the brain from being affected. But do not
let every new symptom alarm you. As far as I can judge, no aggravating
circumstances exist. You see the child has again opened its eyes.
Nature already feels that we are assisting it. How old is the child?
Seven years and a few weeks. A fine child, so well developed; what
anguish you must now suffer.
Tears streamed from the poor mother's eyes; she pressed her face
against the little white hand which lay on the dark plaid. All the
agitation of the last weary hours, dissolved in these refreshing tears.
At last she arose, and with a grateful look at the doctor, she sank
into a chair which he had placed for her beside the bed. He too took a
seat at the foot of it, and gravely but calmly observed the little
girl. They were both silent. The nurse, ashamed of her thoughtless
outbreak, went to and fro to renew the cold compresses. Without, all
was still; the last clouds had disappeared and a ray of moonlight stole
in, and shone slanting through the narrow casement, lighting up the
small white hand of the young mother who was softly stroking the little
hand of her child. The only sound which broke the silence proceeded
from the streamlets formed by the rain, which were now rushing past the
house, the regular dripping of the gutter, and the whistling of the
coachman who was bedding his horses.
Suddenly the child raised herself on the pillows, looked at the
stranger with widely opened eyes, and said: Is this Papa? is he not
dead? I want to give him a kiss, Mamma; has he not brought something
for his little daughter? I want to sit on his knee. Where is Sophy? Oh!
my poor head! Papa please hold my head. I am thirsty. Then the small
fair head sank back on the pillow, and the eyes closed as if in pain.
Eberhard rose and held a glass of fresh water to her burning lips.
Thank you, Papa, said the child. Then she became very quiet, only the
twitchings of the feverish half opened mouth betrayed her sufferings.
I must explain to you, the lady began, turning to the silent
doctor, who had now resumed his seat, how it comes that my poor
darling has those strange fancies. Unfortunately I must reproach myself
with having caused this violent shock: The father of my poor little
girl was an Austrian officer. A few months after our marriage, I had to
part with him; his regiment was ordered to Italy, where the war was
commencing. Shortly afterwards news reached me that he had been amongst
the first victims of the bloody battle of Solferino. Since that time I
have always felt the greatest longing to visit the spot where my dear
husband found repose after his short career, and though no cross marks
his grave, at least to inhale the air in which his brave heart breathed
its last. Even my little girl expressed the same wish as she grew
older, and understood me when I told her of her father's death. Many
things deterred me from realizing this plan, particularly the fear that
the long journey might overfatigue, and agitate the child, who always
had a very excitable imagination, and a tender heart: and now I have to
suffer severely for having indulged my desire. If you had seen how
eagerly she listened to the words which I translated to her from the
account of the old serjeant, whom I found watching the monument on the
field of battle. Her cheeks burned, and her eyes glistened; her emotion
was far beyond her years. When we turned back she shivered, and in the
following night, complained of headache, and did not sleep for an
instant. She did not mention her father again till this moment, when
she mistook you for him, and fancied he was sitting at her bedside.
Perhaps it would have been better, had I remained where I was, but I
dreaded the Italian doctors, and did not believe the danger to be so
imminent. In my own carriage, for I had taken post-horses on leaving
the railway, I thought we could easily arrange a comfortable bed for
the child. The weather too was warm, and she herself eagerly desired to
be taken home. The storm reached us just at the worst part of the road;
and we were most thankful when we reached this inn. But what would have
become of us without your help?
She turned from the gloomy and taciturn man to dry her tears. Then
they again sat silently opposite each other. He felt tempted to entreat
her to go on speaking. Here was something in her voice which soothed
him, and was as cooling balm to his feverish soul, but he saw that her
thoughts were again occupied with the child, and he had nothing to tell
her. He only gazed more earnestly at the young woman by the dim light
of the candle and of the moon. He remarked that her brow, and the shape
of her eyes which had a distinguished melancholy and gentle expression
in them, resembled those of his adoptive mother, who had so often
looked at him with thoughtful affection. Her figure was round and
supple, and every turn of her head and of her slender throat was full
The abundant auburn hair hung negligently over her shoulders. All
about her showed the habits of one accustomed to wealth. Wealth
ennobled by a cultivated mind, and refined taste, but which had lost
all charms for her, in the danger which threatened her most precious
The door was now cautiously opened, and the farm-servant dragged in
a large tub filled with ice; then wiping the perspiration from his
forehead, he triumphantly pointed to the clock which showed that ten
minutes were still wanting to the stipulated hour, pocketed his well
earned money, and officiously asked if anything else was wanted. No,
he could go to bed now, the doctor answered. He then tore a piece of
oiled silk from the lining of his travelling pouch, made a bag of it to
hold the ice, and showed the nurse how to lay it on the forehead of the
child. Her mistress interferedNo, she said, you must now lie down,
and rest, Josephine; you have not slept for thirty-six
hours.Neither, Madam, have you, observed the maid, and I do not
need it so much as your honour, for at least I have swallowed a few
morsels of food.
Do as I tell you, resumed the mother; I well know how useless it
would be for me to attempt to sleep. Perhaps I may be able to take some
rest in the morning, if the night passes well.
Allow me to feel your pulse, Madam, said the doctor, and then
without another word he suddenly left the room.
The two women looked after him in astonishment, and the maid, an
elderly fat woman, with a round face, strongly marked by the smallpox,
and good natured brown eyes, availed herself of his absence, to sing
the praises of their unknown deliverer, quite as eagerly as she had
previously abused him. He had something so peculiar about him, she
remarked; he appeared to be ill and yet kind heartedness was written
on every featureand how cleverly he managed everything; how well he
supported our child's head, just as if he had been a nurse all the days
of his life. And then he is so very handsome and quite young, only now
and then when a stern expression comes over his face, he looks so grave
and gloomy, as if he had never laughed; and at other times he shuts his
eyes, as if he were in great pain, and wished to conceal it.
At this moment the subject of her remarks returned, carrying a large
glass of milk in his hand. He gave it to the lady as one would offer
some medicine to a child. Drink this, Madam, he said; it is new milk
and will do you good. You require strength to fulfill the task you
have undertaken, and here nothing else is to be had. It would be very
beneficial to the child, if she could be induced to swallow a few
drops. Approach the glass to her lips, and persuade her to try it; you
have succeeded. We must do all we can to keep up her strength, so that
another attack may not overcome her. Now follow my advice, and lie down
on that bed; I will watch the child, and the maid also can well spare a
few hours more of sleep. When midnight has passed, I will awake you and
then the maid can lie down. She still objected. Do as I tell you, he
said passionately, or I will think that you never really felt the
confidence you showed me.
She turned towards the bed where the child, relieved by the ice
compresses, lay apparently asleep and stooping over its delicate little
face kissed its closed eyes. I will obey you, she said, with a faint
smile, if you promise to awake me, in case my child should grow
He silently pressed her hand and took her seat by the bedside, while
her maid helped her to lie down on the second bed, which stood in a
corner, after having removed a load of coverings.
When a quarter of an hour had passed, the faithful creature, softly
approaching the doctor, who sat absorbed in his own thoughts, stooped,
seized one of his hands, and before he could prevent it had pressed it
to her lips, whispering: God be praised, she sleeps! Oh sir, you can
work marvels! For four nights, my mistress had not closed her eyes.
First the grief, and agitation before we reached that unfortunate
battle-field; and then, anxiety about her child. If you but knew what
an angel my mistress is. If I were to tell you all....
Leave that for another time, he interrupted; you have nothing
else to do now, but to lie down, and not to stir till I call you.
To-night you are useless, and to-morrow you must be up early. Here are
pillows, and coverlets enough. Arrange a bed for yourself beside the
stove; and now good night. Don't contradict me. Do you wish to awake
your mistress by uselessly arguing the matter?
The good woman obeyed with a timid humble look, pulled a feather-bed
into a corner of the room, and in a few minutes her regular breathing,
proved that she too had needed rest after the hardships of the last few
A short while afterwards, the moon disappeared behind a cloud, and
only the faint reflex of the starry sky was to be seen, on that part of
the lake which could be overlooked from the room in which the lonely
watcher sat by the sick-bed. He now for the first time felt a desire to
take some food, and to quench his thirst. He drank the remainder of the
milk which still stood on the table. As he put down the glass he
fancied he saw the lady on the bed make a convulsive movement. He
approached her softly. In an uneasy dream, she had put both hands to
her eyes as if to wipe away tears; now she slept quietly, and her hands
slowly sank down again. Motionless he gazed on that fair face, on which
every dream was reflected as the shadows of dissolving clouds on the
calm surface of a lake; sorrow, anxiety, then hope! Now she smiled, and
the delicately chiselled lips parted, disclosing two rows of pearly
teeth. The next moment her brow darkened, an imploring look appeared on
her face; she stretched out both her hands and clasped them together;
he then remarked on one of her fingers, two wedding rings, and wondered
whether the second one belonged to the father of her child, or if some
other man were now in possession of that small hand. He was roused from
these thoughts by a moan from the little girl. He only arranged the
coverlet which had fallen on the ground and wrapped it round the small
feet of the young woman who had not taken off her boots. Then he
returned to his occupation of changing, every quarter of an hour, the
ice that had melted and now and then refreshing the parched lips of the
child with a few drops of water.
Towards midnight a violent wind arose on the lake, and the young man
shivered as the window was still open. He seized the first wrap which
he found among the luggage, and covered himself up with it. It was a
long soft burnouss lined with silk which belonged to the young woman.
He pulled the hood over his head; and a sweet scent was wafted from it;
as the silk touched his face a peculiar feeling of languor came over
him; he closed his eyes, but a confused maze of ideas passed through
his mind, and he could not sleep.
Suddenly his eyes opened with an expression of terror in them. He
started from his chair, and trembling violently, he stared at the lake.
Conspicuous on the dark surface of the water, something white glided
slowly; it had the shape of a veiled figure, and seemed to move towards
the house. The moon had appeared again, and lit up a faint streak of
mist which had strayed from the mountain tops, and was swept across the
lake. When it reached the current of wind that blew from the ravine, it
dissolved, and the surface of the water was as clear as before; but the
only one who had seen this airy apparition still stood as if rooted to
the ground and stared at the spot where it had disappeared. A cold
perspiration bathed his brow, his breath came shortly and quickly, and
his eyes, which started from their sockets, remained fixed on that
spot, as if he expected to see the vision appear again the next moment.
A hot little hand touched the clammy ones of the horror-stricken
man. Is it you, Papa? asked the little girl; and sat up in her bed.
Two small thin arms were stretched up to him and before he was aware of
it, the child clung to his neck and hid its burning face on his breast.
Don't leave us again, Papa, she said, or Mamma will cry again, and I
In an instant the nightmare which oppressed him, vanished. He
clasped the slender little figure in his arms, as if it were a
protection against the malignant powers. He held her so for some time,
and while the child caressed him, he felt the blood flow more calmly
through his veins. He kissed her little face, stroking her damp curls,
asked: What is your name, my child. Are you my Papa, she said, and
do not even know that I am your own little Fan? Ah, yes, I know that
they have shot you, that is why you have forgotten me. Did it hurt you
To-morrow I will tell you all about it, he said, and gently laid
her back on her bed; now, you must keep quiet, and not awake your
The child obediently lay down, and closed her eyes, but she held
fast the hand of her faithful guardian, and now and then looked up at
him with a wondering but wide awake expression. He too stedfastly gazed
on the innocent face, as if fearing that were he to turn round, the
terrifying vision would again appear.
So he watched by the sick-bed till day dawned. When the bare rocky
peaks which rose above the lake, blushed in the first morning light,
sounds of life, broke the stillness of the house.
The farm-servant crept shoeless along the passage, and cautiously
peeping into the sick-room, pointed to the now empty wooden tub and
asked if another supply of ice were wanted. The doctor nodded his head,
and he disappeared. Then came the landlady and offered her ready
services, but Everhard declined them. The generosity of the strange
gentleman had worked wonders with the inmates of the house. Only the
coachman, who had not got over his intoxication of the previous day,
stumbled, cursing, and growling, with heavy boots, down the stairs, and
through the passage; so that the lady asked still half asleep, if it
were time to start. Not yet, answered Everhard, you can sleep on for
another hour. Then he rose hastily, and went out to prevent the noisy
fellow from again approaching the sick-room. When he returned after a
few minutes, he found the young mother seated at the bedside of her
Why are you up already? he asked reproachfully. Already? she
replied, you wish to put me to confusion. Have you not succeeded in
deceiving me, and taken my place through the whole of the night. Why
did you not let me share the night-watch with you?
Because I could easily dispense with sleep, which was most needful
for you. And then there was nothing to be done which required help. Be
of good cheer; we have every reason to be satisfied with this night.
Then the danger is over! thanks be to heaven!
I cannot give you that certainty, he answered; you have promised
to trust me, and can only do so, if I conceal nothing from you. But I
can give you the assurance that all the symptoms are as favourable as
can be expected in this illness. The inmates of the house are well
disposed towards us, and will do their best to help us.
A ray of pleasure brightened her pale face. Oh! my friend, she
exclaimed, if it were but possible! She held out her hand to him, and
tears stood in her eyes.
He stooped to kiss her hand, but in reality to hide his emotion.
Could you have believed me capable of forsaking you, before the
child's life was saved? he asked. Do not thank me, not imagine that I
am sacrificing anything by remaining here. I have already brought you
the greatest sacrifice I could offer, all the rest is a relief to me.
She looked up inquiringly. I am keeping you from other duties? she
No, he answered gloomily; ever since last year I have been an
idle, and restless man. Led by motives, which cannot interest you, I
once gave myself my word of honour, never to exercise my profession as
a doctor again. Yesterday, I broke this word for your sake. If you will
permit me to continue my attendance, you will free me from reproach,
and so we shall be of mutual service to each other.
After a pause during which he had felt the pulse of the child, he
resumed, She now sleeps quietly; if you wish to apprize your friends
of your present abode, you have time to do so. The coachman, who is
meanwhile getting ready, will post your letter at the next station.
I have no one, who would feel anxious at my non-appearance, said
the lady, and blushed slightly; I live so very retired!
No one? he repeated, with surprise, and involuntarily his eyes
fastened on the two rings.
She remarked his glance, and understood it instantly. The second
ring, she said unconstrainedly, is not the sign of a second marriage.
It belonged to my husband, who feeling death approaching, drew it from
his finger and begged a comrade of his to bring it to me. Since that
day, I have refused all solicitations to change my condition, and have
only withdrawn from my dear husband's family, because a near relation
of his, imagines that he has some claim to my hand. I have vowed to
live only for my child, and to the memory of the dead, and this vow is
sacred to me.
The nurse now awoke, and reluctantly sat up on her couch, but she
jumped up briskly, when she saw her mistress and the doctor already
actively employed, and hastened with great zeal to relieve them;
protesting that it was all the doctor's fault, as he had strictly
forbidden her to watch.
Bathe the child, said Everhard; I will now leave you for half an
hour; bathe the child as we did yesterday, and let it drink some milk
which you can now get fresh from the cow. And here comes a fresh supply
of ice. You see the attendance could nowhere be better than it is in
this desolate nook of the world. Fortunately an apothecary's shop is
not needed in this case. Good-bye; we shall soon meet again. He bowed
slightly and left the room. Then he walked down to the shore, loosened
one of the boats which were chained up in the shed, and with a few
powerful strokes launched the light bark into the open lake. The sun
had not yet risen above the surrounding heights, overgrown with dark
pines, and the calm and sultry air lay heavily on the dark surface of
the water, and oppressed the chest of the young man who was fatigued by
the sleepless night. He looked down into the depths below him and
noticed that close to the boat the water seemed transparent as crystal,
and nearly white, while the lake beyond, though the sky was bright and
clear, appeared like a black unfathomable chasm. He recollected what a
woodcutter had once told him, that the lake was bottomlessthat its
waters sank deeper and deeper till at last they reached hell; and so
when the evil spirits there found their abode too hot for them, they
went to bathe in them.
He pulled in his oars and looked up at the nearly perpendicular
shores which were covered with dark fir-woods up to their very peaks.
These had exchanged the glow of early morning for a dull greyish tint.
And now the sun had burst forth with great power, and tried to gild the
ravine, which looked like a cauldron of dark iron. But only a dazzling
white light was reflected on the smooth surface of the lake. The dense
woods which surrounded it absorbed every ray of sunshine. No cheerful
light coloured and enlivened the dreary landscape. A small patch of
green grass, near the inn, on which a red-brown cow grazed, and the
blue smoke which curled up from the chimney were the only objects that
awakened the consoling thought, that even in this wilderness human
beings had found a home. An islet, covered with birch-trees, lay near
the opposite shore. Everhard rowed up to it, tied the bark to a post,
and stripped off his clothes to enjoy an early bath.
Suddenly the thought struck him, with what intention he had arrived
yesterday. He shuddered. It seemed to him as if his resolve would be
fulfilled, even against his will; as if he had pledged himself to that
perfidious depth, which would claim him for its own. One moment he felt
tempted to put on his clothes again, and to row back as fast as he
could, but ashamed of his weakness, he shook off these fancies and
boldly jumped into the water.
The cold Alpine waves closed round him like ice just melted by the
sun, and he had to exert all his knowledge of swimming, to keep his
blood, by continual movement, from congealing. When he stepped out of
the water, and leaning against the stem of a young birch, his feet
buried in the soft moss, dried himself briskly, he felt happier than he
had done for many a day. He looked towards the house. In the room,
where the child lay he could see some one moving near the window. The
distance was too great to distinguish the figure, still less the
features, yet it pleased to him to think that among the inmates of that
house, there were some who needed him, and had placed their hopes in
Meanwhile the child in the sick-room raised herself in her bed,
looked searchingly round the room, and said: Has Papa gone away? is he
again dead? I want him to sit beside me. Her mother kissed the child's
forehead and begged her to remain quiet. That good gentleman is not
your Papa, she said; you must not call him so. He is the doctor, who
will make you well again, if you are a good child, and do all he tells
you. Not my Papa, repeated the little girl meditatively. She seemed
to relinquish her first idea with difficulty. What is his name? she
resumed. Will he leave me?
Here he comes, said the fat nurse, who had tears in her eyes, on
hearing her darling speak calmly and sensibly, for the first time for
several days. Just look Ma'am, how fast he rows, as if he were
impatient to get back to our child. Well, I call that a doctor! To-day
he looks even handsomer, than he did yesterday, with his fine black
beard and pale face. Only his eyes have a stern expression, that would
frighten one if he were not so kind.
They now saw him leap from the boat but he did not speak to them, as
he passed the door, and they heard him give some orders to the
landlady. A few minutes later he entered the sick-room, at once
approached the bed of the child, and talked kindly to it. This presence
seemed to exercise a sort of charm on the little girl. She breathed
with more ease, and closed her eyes at his persuasion.
The stillness in the sick-room was so great that they heard the
splash of the fish leaping in the water. After some time he rose, and
whispered, She sleeps; the fever has abated. I hope she may be able to
rest for a few hours, and I will take care that no one disturbs her. I
will now lie down for a short while, till the chicken broth I have
ordered for our little patient, is ready.
How can I ever express my thanks to you for all your kindness, and
solicitude, observed the child's mother with much emotion.
By not thanking me at all he replied almost gruffly, and left them.
When he entered his room, he found the letter he had written the
night before still lying on the table. The large red seal now, seemed
offensive to his eyes, yet he could not make up his mind to destroy it,
so he put it by, in his portfolio. He then threw himself on his bed,
and tried to sleep, but the thick coming thoughts, beset him like
buzzing flies. He fancied he heard the child's voice, and that of its
lovely mother, and raised himself on his bed to listen. At length after
much musing and reflection, he fell into an uneasy sleep disturbed by
At noon, the landlady entered his room, and seeing him asleep, tried
to creep away noiselessly. But he was up in a moment, and inquiring if
the soup were ready, followed her into the kitchen. Where is the
broth? he asked, and approached the hearth whence a tempting odour
arose from the different pots and pans. The stupid maid who was
stirring something in one of them, let fall her wooden ladle in
amazement, and stared open-mouthed at the stranger as he lifted the lid
of one of the pots, and examined its contents with a critical eye. Then
he asked for a plate poured some of the chicken broth into it, and
carefully took out the herbs which floated on it.
When he turned to carry away the soup, he saw the young mother
standing at the entrance. Is this right? she asked with a charming
smile, instead of sleeping I see you have turned cook.
I only cook for my patients, he replied, the care of preparing
dinner for the healthy, I leave to our hostess, who will do honour to
our confidence in her, and needs no help of mine. Is our patient still
She awoke a moment since, and has just asked for you.
When he entered the sick-room, the child sat upright in her bed, and
greeted the doctor with a smile. Then she willingly swallowed a few
spoonfuls of the soup which he offered her. She did not appear to be
hungry however, but only to do it because he wished it. She listened
eagerly to all the doctor said. He told her that in the morning he had
watched the fish disport themselves in the lake, and promised her that
they would go and catch some of them when she could leave her bed.
After a while she again seemed to lose consciousness. Her blue eyes
partially closed, and the small head sank back on her pillows.
Be of good cheer, said the doctor; the progress is slow but sure.
Your maid must continue to change the ice frequently. Meanwhile we will
go and have dinner. It is ready.
Leave me here with my child, she whispered. No, he replied,
curtly. You must breathe the fresh air. We do not want another
patient, and your pulse is much agitated. When we have dined, we will
relieve the nurse.
He walked on without another word, and she dared not oppose him. In
the shade before the house, close to the window of the sick-room, the
cover had been laid for two. Just as they came out, the landlady
brought a dish of fish, and placed them on the table, these were
followed by a roasted fowl. During the repast they hardly spoke a word
to each other. Both were lost in thought. Now and then, he would
persuade her, not only to take a few mouthfuls on her plate, but to eat
them. I shall be offended, he said, gaily, if you eat nothing. We
doctors enjoy the reputation of being great gourmands. I hope I have
not disgraced my profession in this instance?
Pardon me, if I cannot yet bear the brightness around me, she
said. My heart has been too deeply troubled. I have passed through
such heavy storms, that the ground still trembles beneath me. To-morrow
I will behave better. Then they both relapsed into silence, and gazed
at the lake, over which the mid-day heat was brooding. A cricket
chirped in the quiet little garden; and within the landlord snored on
his bench by the stove. From the shed by the lake, the gurgle of the
waves against the softly rocking boats was heard, and from the
sick-room the nurse humming a nursery rhyme, the same with which years
ago she had lulled the child in her cradle to sleep.
* * * * *
The quiet day was followed by a restless night. The fever increased
in violence; the child moaned continually, and could hardly be kept in
her bed. At midnight she grew calmer.
The doctor hardly stirred from the house; only in the evening, he
refreshed himself with a cigar out of doors. Then he took a turn round
the house, and every time he passed the window of the sick-room,
stopped for a moment, and spoke a few words of encouragement to the
mother who would not quit the bed-side. In the night, while watching
with herthe nurse had been sent to bedhe suddenly said; How much
your child resembles you. Just now, in this dim light, when you stooped
over her and the little girl looked up to you with that peculiarly
spiritual and precocious expression which illness gives, I could almost
have fancied that you were sisters. Ten years hence, she will be your
very image. Perhaps you are right, answered the young mother, but
the resemblance is only outward: all her mental qualities she inherits
from her father. I often wonder at so great a likeness in such a young
child, and that too a girl. Her truthfulness her self-denial,
her courage often make me feel as if my lost husband had been given
back to me in this child.
You are mentioning qualities, which during our short acquaintance,
I have remarked that you possess in a high degree.
She shook her head, If I seem courageous, it is only owing to my
natural cowardice. When you first saw me I was quite broken-hearted
with misery, and anxiety, but I dared not give vent to my feelings, for
I knew that I should break down utterly at the sound of my own voice.
My husband could look the most fearful events calmly in the face; and
so it is with the child. He could make any sacrifice without thinking
And you; I should think, you did not spare yourself in the first
days of this trial.
A mother's heart feels no sacrifice, she answered, but before my
child was born I often had to strive with myself, and force myself to
do what was distasteful to me for the sake of others. It is not so with
the child, though youth generally is, and well may be, the season for
egotism. I could tell you a hundred traits of her excellent
disposition. I have often felt anxious about her, for so precocious a
tenderness of feeling is said to be the presage of a short life. Who
can tell whether it may not be realized.
Everhard looked out on the lake, and seemed not to have heard her
last words. Suddenly he said; you have probably a portrait of your
husband: Will you show it to me?
She took off a delicately worked Venetian chain, which she wore
round her neck, opened the locket which was fastened to it, and handed
it to him.
He gazed at it for several minutes, and then silently gave it back
to her. After a long pause he said, Was it a youthful attachment?
Not quite what is generally so called. I was, certainly very young
when I made his acquaintance. Before I saw him no man had ever made any
impression on me; but I hardly knew how dearly I loved him till a month
after our marriage took place. I only learnt to appreciate him fully
during the short period of our union, and my love grew into a passion
when I had lost him for ever. Had you known him, you would have become
friends; he never had an enemy.
Everhard had risen and was pacing the room with noiseless steps. He
stopped before the table and took up a volume which projected from a
travelling bag. They were Lenau's poems. On the fly leaf was inscribed
the name of Lucille.
Does this poet please you? asked the doctor.
I hardly know whether he repels, or attracts me; and although I
generally have a clear perception in such things, yet I cannot quite
discover in his thoughts, what is genuine and what is artificial. He
suffered much, yet it often appears to me, as if by continually
irritating them, he purposely re-opened his wounds. I hardly know why I
took this book on my journey; perhaps as a sort of consolation.
You seek consolation with a poet so weary of life?
Why not? He died mad. When I think of that death, the grief
for my husband's seems easier to bear, for what a glorious death was
granted to him! Young, loved by all, he died heroically for his
country! I carry his image undefaced in my heart, not distorted by
illness, and the last agony, nor estranged from me by insanity. How
dreadful must it not be to see one dear to us deprived of his senses.
Do you not feel the same?
He was silent for a moment, and then replied by another question:
So you would have thought the death of your husband desirable, if he
had been doomed to life long insanity?
Spare me the answer. I cannot give you one truthfully, without
So much the better, he said. She did not understand him. A few
minutes later he left the room.
He returned an hour after midnight, and insisted on relieving the
mother from her watch by the sickbed. She could not resist his
imperative manner, and only begged him to let her, and the nurse,
relieve him alternately. He promised to do so; and this time kept his
promise. In the morning when Lucille awoke, she found the nurse alone,
and heard that the doctor lay on a straw mattress in the tap-room to be
near at hand in case of need.
* * * * *
A week had passed since these events, and Everhard again sat in his
little room at the crazy table, and the candle cast the same dim
flickering light, as on that first occasion, only the moon shone so
brightly through the casement, that one could easily have dispensed
with any other light. Everhard had just perused the letter written on
that dark and gloomy night, and was now adding a postscript on the
A week older, Charles; and yet a week younger! When I look at my
face, and compare it with the aged features which appear to me in these
pages, then I find that I have made the most retrograde movement, and
have again arrived at an age, at which even you did not know me; at a
time when I never thought of death, though I touched it daily with my
dissecting knife; then I had no more thought of it, than a
child's doctor has of catching the measles. I have now studied the
morbid symptoms in my letter, as coolly as I once did the strange
countenance of number So and so in the hospital.
You will be glad to hear that I have surmounted my last crisis, but
I, when I search my thoughts, can only deplore this.
Everything was ready for my departure, my trunks so nicely packed,
the last leave takings exchanged; I heard the shrill whistle of the
engine,suddenly I am told that I have missed the train; and so I
remain, not at home, nor abroad, but sitting at the railway station in
a most provoking position. It seems ridiculous to have to stay and
unpack, after all these preparations for departure. How it all happened
I will tell you in a few words, lest you should think that cowardice
overcame me at the last moment, that I regretted to leave this life,
and persuaded myself that after all it was the best. No it was not that
which played me this trick, it was my old passion, my profession! I
found it of more importance to save a young life, than to despatch my
own, so prematurely old. The child in question was well worth the
trouble, that I can tell you. And as for the mother! don't fancy that I
have fallen in love; you would be mistaken. Or do you call love, the
feelings of a poor devil of a miner who after having been buried in a
coal-pit, is brought to life again and rejoices in the first breath of
fresh air. Do not be afraid that I shall give you a description of this
young woman's charms. Whether she be handsome, amiablewhat is usually
so called; clever, or whether she possess all those qualities the
description of which generally fills columns, I know not. All I know,
is that in her presence, I forget my existence; the past, the
futureall I feel is that she is there beside me and that I would
desire nothing more to all eternity, than that she should remain so. Do
you recollect how strange it once seemed to us, that the same
passionate poet, from whose brain proceeded 'Werther' should have
expressed such tame feelings as these
'Gaze at the moon,
Or think of thee,
I fancy 'tis the same.
All in a holy light, I see,
And know not how it came.'
And now to my shame be it spoken, I experience the same feelings in
myself. This lunacy, as we jestingly called it, has taken such
possession of me, that my only desire at present is, that through all
the future years of my life, I might live as in one long night,
surrounded by the pale veiled halo which now calms my soul.
This is but a dream. Ere long I must insist on my little patient's
departure to more civilised regions, where she will be better provided
for during her convalescence, than she can be here, where chicken-broth
is the landlady's sole culinary achievement. Then I shall become
unnecessary, and can bid farewell to the Dead Lake, and once more try
to live in a world which after these events will seem doubly desolate
to me. Was I not right in deploring the departure of the train? By this
time I should have reached my destination. But why should not the
journey be only postponed for a fortnight; especially as the one I had
intended to take does in no wise depend on the weather, or the company.
I can tell you the reason, Charles; I know that you will not despise me
for it. My courage is gone! Is it so very despicable that I now dread
that gloomy depth, into which a week ago I was willing to plunge; now
that I have found a place of rest up here in the daylight? And though
in a few days I shall be again roaming about, like the wandering
unsettled savage I was, up to this last week, yet nothing can ever
efface from my heart the feeling that somewhere between heaven and
earth there is a corner where I could live in repose; where, like that
Matricide, in Sophocles, I had found a sanctuary from which, awed by
the holiness of the refuge even the furies keep aloof, and dare not
sully the threshold.
Unfortunately, it is perfectly clear to me that from her, I also
must keep aloof. This woman even if I ventured to offer her my
unamiable society for the remainder of her life, could but politely
decline. She has made a vow to remain faithful to the memory of her
dead husband. What is a vow? Ought it to be a chain to bind and check
our very existence, after we have outgrown our former selves. In the
course of seven years the physical part of man is completely renewed,
and is our spiritual part, surrounded by new flesh and blood to remain
the same, because some misanthrope doubted his own power of revival.
Have I not also broken my vow never again to approach a sick-bed. And I
even deem this to be rather to my credit than my shame. But the vow of
this woman is raised far above the fickleness of human wishes and
resolves. She wishes me well; I could find no truer friend in need than
she would prove. She would make any sacrifice but this for me, who have
saved her child; but her whole existence, her heart, and soul are
rivetted to the memory of her own passed happiness, and to the future
happiness of her childand for me, to whom the present alone is of
importance.... I have carefully avoided the question as to where she
lives, in what town, under what circumstances in what neighbourhood. I
will part from her without knowing anything of this, lest I should be
tempted to seek her, and endeavour to make the impossible possible.
A few days more of the happiness of this singular positionin this
solitary wilderness among the mountains, far from all the littlenesses
and miseries of the world, and as if we were in heaven, where there is
neither giving in marriage, nor partingthen come what may; what must!
In truth it is a strange and cruel remedy which fate has employed,
making a deep incision in my heart, in order to convince me how little
I was ripe for death; how much strength and feeling there was still in
me, how much I could yet endure!
Enough of this for to-day. We live here totally deprived of all
postal communication. When, and where, I shall close this letter and
forward it, the Gods only know, if indeed they concern themselves with
He laid down the pen and listened. From the sick room, the child's
soft prattle was heard and though free from the restless and rambling
tone of fever, yet it was an unusually late hour for the child to be
awake. He also heard the soft voice of the mother calming it by a few
soothing words. When Everhard entered the room the child was already
She has just been dreaming of you; turning towards him with one of
her charming smiles; she told me, she dreamt that you had given her a
white lamb, with a red ribbon round its neck, which took food from her
hand. She had possessed it for some time when it suddenly occurred to
her that she had not thanked you for it; so she begged me to call you
that she might repair this neglect.
And why did you not call me? asked the doctor.
I told her that her uncle Everhard would never listen to any
thanks. That Mamma too had received a gift from him for which she
never, never could thank him sufficiently. The best way to thank him,
was to be a good child and go to sleep again. You should have seen how
earnestly the dear child tried, after this, to go to sleep. You see she
is asleep already and her forehead is moist. You have more influence,
over her than any other person has.
He thoughtfully contemplated the childish face.
I regret that I am not a princess, Lucille continued with a slight
blush; for then I could offer you a place at my court, and beg you to
accompany me on my travels in the capacity of Court Physician. I cannot
imagine what we shall do without youat every cold little Fanny
catches, we shall miss you sadly. And yet I am content with my station
in life. A princess would perhaps presume that she could repay you for
your devotion to her child by offering you an establishment. I cannot
regret the feeling that I can never repay you for all your generosity.
She stretched out her hand to him, which he pressed, strangely moved,
to his lips.
Madame Lucille, he said, without continuing the subject, it is
now eleven o'clock; it is my turn to watch, and you are relieved.
No, she answered gaily, I am not quite so obedient as our little
Fan, or rather, sleep does not so readily obey my call. You must allow
me to remain awake for another hour, and if you are not tired, you
shall read aloud to me. I have seen a volume of Goethe's works in your
hands. I admire him above all other poets, and wish to get more fully
acquainted with him, for I must confess to my shame, that on looking
through your volume the other day, I remarked that most of its contents
were unknown to me.
As you please, he said, but most of its contents will remain for
ever new to you, were you to hear them ever so often. At least that is
my experience of them.
He fetched the book, the first volume of the poems, and without
selecting any particular poem began at the first page. He lowered his
voice but read without any studied art of delivery. Never had he so
keenly and clearly felt the charm of the everlasting spring which
emanates from the blossoms of the poet's youthful ardour.
He dared not look at her whilst he read fearing to meet the mute
enquiry in the eyes of the young woman; but when he came to the
hunter's evening song, he with difficulty faltered out the words,
'Gaze at the moon,
Or think of thee,
I fancy 'tis the same.
All in a holy light, I see,
And know not how it came!'
Suddenly he stopped, let the book glide on to the bed of the child,
and rose hastily.
What has happened? she asked, startled. Go and rest, he replied
with averted face. Wake the nurse; she can take my watch for this
night. The atmosphere here oppresses me, I must breathe the fresh air,
I already feel better, since I have risen. I will go and take a row on
So saying he disappeared, leaving her with all her feelings in a
state of tumultuous disturbance at the enigma she dared not solve.
* * * * *
The next day at their early meeting, they succeeded in assuming the
gay and unconstrained tone which had hitherto existed between them. The
child assisted them in their efforts. The night had been quiet and
refreshing, and a bath which had been prepared for her, under
Everhard's superintendence; in an old washing tub of the landlady's had
greatly revived her, and had sent her off into another long sleep.
Towards evening the doctor brought home from his walk different kinds
of ferns, gentians, and also gaily coloured pebbles which he had found
near the rocks. He sat down by Fanny's bed-side, and told her all about
the birds, and other small animals which he had met in his wanderings
over the heights. He was pleased at the intelligent questions the child
put to him, as she sat up in bed and admired with wide opened eyes the
treasures he had laid on her coverlet. The mother sat beside them
working at a piece of embroidery. From the kitchen without was heard
the crackling of the fire on the hearth, over which the child's soup
was being prepared. Everhard did not relinquish his night watch this
time, but no more was said of reading aloud. Neither was there any
mention made of it during the following nights, and indeed no occasion
for it presented itself. The night watching had now become almost
unnecessary, so the doctor could, without further apprehension, remain
a good deal in his room. Even in the day-time, now that the child was
allowed to be up for several hours, he seldom appeared. But often under
pretext of fishing he would row over to the islet from whence he did
not return till late in the evening, or he would roam through the pine
woods and the ravine, and climb up to the ice cavern.
The farm-servant who hearing that the lady wished for the last
strawberries of the season had climbed up there, to look for some,
reported on his return that he had met the doctor seated on a rock, and
looking like a man in a dream. He had bidden him good day, and the
doctor had started up, and with a silent nod of recognition, had
disappeared in the wood. He was evidently touched in the head, the
farm-servant continued; I always said so from the moment I saw him
sitting quite crazed like in the tap-room, and refusing all
This continued during several days. In proportion to the progress of
the child's recovery did the doctor's melancholy, from which the sudden
call of duty had roused him, appear to increase. Those days were full
of gloom; he felt how necessary it was to abridge them. One forenoon he
started without waiting for dinner, not caring to meet the sad
inquiring look in Lucille's eyes. He climbed up the steep ravine with
the firm resolve to arrive at a final decision. In spite of the fierce
noon-day heat, he pursued a road which he had recently discovered, and
which led towards the south across the rocky ridge of the mountains. He
knew that if he continued his walk he would reach before night fall a
Romanic village which was separated from the dead lake by nearly
impassable tracts of ice and snow. Once there, and he had achieved all
that now seemed impossible to him, all leave taking was spared him and
he was as one dead to those to whom he had now become useless.
This seemed to him the best plan, and he relied on his strength of
will to carry it out. But when the last glimpse of the lake had
disappeared and he found himself surrounded only by the sterile
wilderness of rocks, he felt so wretched that he could not proceed, but
flung himself on the ground, in the shade of a projecting rock, and
buried his face amidst the moss and heather. He eagerly sought for all
the reasons which should prevent his departure, and make his return
necessary, his papers, his diary which he had left in his room; the
anxiety his sudden disappearance would cause Lucille. Then he reflected
that he was in duty bound to provide for their departure, and for their
safe journey to the next town. He made a solemn vow that all should be
done that very day. He would send down the farm-servant to order a
carnage as soon as he had returned to the inn. In twenty-four hours
everything would be accomplished, and the separation irrevocable. After
that he did not care what happened.
When he had firmly settled this in his mind, he felt relieved, and
hastily arose to reach the inn without further delay. He resolved to be
cheerful and to enjoy the few hours that remained to him of her society
as if they were to last for ever. He regretted having embittered many a
day by the thought of the approaching end. He plucked a bunch of
scentless Alpine flowers and fernsit should be his farewell token to
little Fanny. So thinking he rapidly descended the steep mountain, and
reached the last firs in the ravine when the greatest heat of the day
was over. Below him lay the lake. Not the slightest breeze ruffled its
calm surface which clearly reflected the small meadow on the opposite
shore; the firs on the steep slope above it, and beyond these, the bare
grey rocks and crags. Then he looked towards the fisherman's house. His
quick eye discerned every shingle on its stone laden roofin the yard,
the old hen followed by her yellow brood, and the linen hung out on
ropes to dry. Those who lived beneath that lowly roof were nowhere to
be seen. Generally at this time of the day, everyone dozed over some
slight work, so Everhard was much surprised when he saw the door of the
house open, and a perfect stranger step out into the bright sunshine.
He was a tall young man dressed in a light summer costume. His face was
partly shaded by a broad brimmed straw-hat, and only a fair moustache
of a military cut was visible underneath it.
The newcomer stood still for a few minutes, looked around him as if
to examine the weather, and then eagerly talked through the open door
to some one who had not yet appeared. A few minutes later Lucille
joined him, without a hat, only holding a large parasol to protect her
delicate complexion from the sun. She accompanied the stranger to the
shed on the lake, and a moment after Everhard saw them both issue from
it, in one of the boats, and take the direction across the smooth lake
towards the islet. The stranger wielded the oars so dextrously that
they soon reached their destination. Then leaping on shore he assisted
Lucille to get out. They walked along the shore wending their way
between the birches and the high bulrushes, apparently with the
intention of making the circuit of the small island. Everhard's heart
throbbed so wildly that he had to lean against the stem of a fir-tree
till the first giddiness had passed.
Who was the new comer who seemed so intimate with her, that she
followed him on his boating excursions, and thus granted him what she
had ever refused to Everhard her friend and helper? Who was this
stranger that she leant on his arm, and while walking by his side, and
gaily conversing with him seemed even to forget her child, and
abandoned it to the care of the nurse? Well whoever it was, he had
arrived just in time to wake them all out of the dream into which the
solitary stillness of the place had lulled them.
Doubtless the sight of this old acquaintance brought back to
Lucille's remembrance all that she had forgotten at the bed-side of her
child; her intercourse with the outer world; her friends, and admirers,
recollections to which Everhard would ever remain a stranger, and which
summoned her back to a life in which he could have no share. So much
the better! It could but facilitate the execution of his resolves, and
confirm the urgency of a separation.
He felt it was impossible to share her presence with a third. He
strode down the precipitous path, and reached the house greatly
exhausted, and his knees knocking under him. He remarked a travelling
carriage which stood beside the shed, and in the stables in which a cow
was kept during the winter, two horses were tied to the manger. Without
heeding the landlady who was dying to tell him the news, he walked
straight into the room where the child sat at the table playing with a
Uncle Max is here, she cried out to him, her face beaming with
joy. He has brought me a doll that can move its eyes; then he dined
with Mamma, and now they are both on the island. They will soon return
however, as Uncle Max means to take us away in his large travelling
carriage, but Mamma said that she would not move a step without your
Fanny, he said, and took the child's curly head between his hands,
you won't forget me, though I cannot offer you a beautiful doll, but
only a simple bunch of flowers?
The child looked up surprised; Mamma said that after the good God,
I should love you best, because you have saved my life. I love you
better than all other people; but Mamma I love best of all.
He stooped over the fair face, and kissed the child's truthful
loving eyes, and her pale lips.
You are right, little Fan, said he, speaking with difficulty, she
deserves your love. Here is my bouquet, and give her my compliments.
He turned towards the door.
What are you going away! the child called after him; won't you
come, and tell me some nice story.
Another time, was all he could say. The nurse who just then came
in, tried to detain him, and wondered at his disturbed appearance, but
he passed her by, and hastening to his own room locked the door behind
Once more alone, he was so overcome by the agony of his feelings
that he dropped into a chair and his strong frame shook with convulsive
though tearless sobs. But he promptly recovered himself, pressed his
hand to his heart as if to still its throbbings and proceeded to stuff
his few possessions into his travelling bag. Only his portfolio he kept
back; then he sat down at the table, and mechanically took out the
letter to his friend as if to add another postscript, but he vainly
sought for words and he finally laid it down, took up another sheet and
began to write a short account of the child's illness, with the
intention of leaving it to Lucille in case she should find another
He found a certain satisfaction in clearly wording his statement,
and in perceiving how steadily his hand wielded the pen. At least I
have not yet lost my senses, he said aloud.
He had just finished this writing when a man's quick step was heard
approaching his room, and then came a knock at the door. He rose with
an angry feeling. He could not deny his presence, and yet this meeting
was intensely distasteful to him. He unlocked the door with a
countenance which was anything but inviting. The moustachied stranger
however entered with the most amiable air. Apparently he did not expect
a very gracious reception, but seemed fully determined not to let
himself be put out by anything.
My dear doctor, he exclaimed in an engaging manner, and with a
friendly shake of the hand. Pray excuse my intruding on you; Lucille
has told me that you refuse to listen to any thanks, but I am not to be
daunted; I am a soldier and would think it dishonourable to be afraid
of anything; even of the glum face of a benefactor; and so I boldly
express my thanks, at the risk of being challenged by you afterwards,
and tell you that I shall always feel indebted to you, and that you can
command my services at any time as you would those of your oldest
friend.You have worked wonders, you best of doctors! Not only with
the little one, whose welfare I have at heart as though it were my own
child, but above all with the motherI can assure you that I hardly
recognized her. From the time when her husband my dear brother was
buried with his comrades in one common grave on the field of battle,
her widowed grief, up to a few weeks ago, had always remained the same.
All the efforts of her friends to restore her to her former
cheerfulness were vain. Seven years! In truth, I should say that the
most legitimate grief might be overcome in that time. Between
ourselves, be it said, though I sincerely loved my brother, yet I have
found these seven years unconscionably long. Lucille was my lady love
as well as my brother's, but then I was only a good for nothing
lieutenant, and so I had to yield the precedence to my brother Victor.
Now it seems to me that I have every right to assert my claim
considering that it is of such long standing. Don't you think so,
doctor? But in spite of my perseverance through all these years, not
the slightest ray of hope was ever granted to me. I wished to accompany
her on this visit to the grave; but no, my request was mercilessly
refused. Wait till she has returned, I said to myself; who knows but
this visit may be the last stage of her conjugal grief. So I waited for
her return, or at least for a letter, but when three weeks had passed
without any tidings of her, fearing that some misfortune had happened,
I took leave of absence from my regiment, and traced her steps till I
found her here at the Dead Lake; not the cold and reserved Lucille of
old, but a totally changed being. The gratitude she feels for the
preservation of her child, seems to have reconciled her to life, and
consequently it will be to you alone that I shall owe my thanks, should
I one day be allowed to give her a far dearer name than that of sister.
She owns that it is you who have broken the ice, and talks of you with
so much enthusiasm that if I did not know that it overflowed from the
abundant thankfulness of her maternal heart, I should feel jealous of
A short silence followed this artless avowal, during which the young
officer paced the room; then walked to the casement, and rapped his
fingers against the low ceiling.
Well, he exclaimed, with his good-humoured laugh, you doctors are
certainly not more fastidious than we soldiers! How did you manage to
hold out in this dismal hole? We will now try to make you as
comfortable as possible, for of course you are coming with us. Lucille
would never reconcile herself to the thought of losing her court
I much regret, answered Everhard in a calm voice, that Madam
Lucille is mistaken in this case. The child can travel without the
least danger; it is even necessary that she should leave this place,
where the food is not adapted to her delicate state of health. I had
determined to order a travelling carriage for tomorrow, when I
perceived your carriage. I could not place the ladies under better
protection than yours, so you must pardon me if I leave you to-day.
Impossible! cried the young officer in a tone of the most sincere
dismay. What a desperate clamour the women would set up at your
leaving us so suddenly. Lucille, little Fan, even the nurse would cling
to your coat tails; I should have to arrest you by barring the way with
Possibly they may augment the difficulties of this inevitable and
necessary step, remarked the doctor with a grave face, so the best
plan will be, not to mention my resolve and at nightfall I can easily
depart without any leave taking. Here is a report of the child's
illness, take the paper with you, but I trust it will not be required.
If you go only short day's journies, the drive at this season will
probably be beneficial to the health of the little patient. And so
permit me to bid you good-bye. I beg you to present my compliments to
Doctor, this cannot be your final decision; I hope you will yet
change your mind; meanwhile I will take this statement and leave you,
for I fear I have disturbed you whilst writing. Au revoir.
Do not betray me. Everhard called after him. The young officer put
his finger to his lips, and hastened through the tap-room whistling a
Everhard had hardly been alone for ten minutes pacing his room like
a prisoner who is meditating how he can escape from his bare and narrow
cell, when he suddenly heard the outer door again open, and a step,
which sent the blood to his heart, approach his room.
Is my cup of bitterness not yet full, he murmured to himself.
The door opened and Lucille stood before him with an expression in
her eyes which utterly disconcerted him and forced him to cast his
Pardon me my friend, she said in an agitated voice, if once more
I intrude on your solitude, though you so evidently avoid me. You even
intend to leave us without a word of farewell. My brother-in-law did
not admit this; but I was aware of it from his manner when he left your
room, and as I have long suspected this to be your intention, I was not
much astonished, though greatly grieved. I owe you so much that it
would be useless again to repeat my thanks before we part; but it is
not generous in you to deprive me of all opportunity of rendering you
any service, or of showing you the deep interest I feel in you. I am
persuaded that my friendship is not incapable of giving you relief if
you would but return the confidence with which I have always treated
you from the first hour we met. A secret grief consumes you. What would
I not give to be able to aid you in bearing the load which oppresses
you! Now could I leave you, perhaps never to meet you again, and have
to reproach myself with the thought, that although knowing, that you,
dearest and most devoted of friends, were suffering deeply, I yet
allowed a miserable fear of appearing curious and importunate to deter
me from making any attempt to assuage those sufferings or to learn
No, she continued with heightened colour, I know that you are not
selfish enough to burden me with this unbearable grief and remorse,
only because it humbles your pride to acknowledge your sufferings to a
He did not once interrupt her, but stood with his eyes fixed on the
ground. When she had ceased speaking, he made an effort to answer her
but he did not look up. Thank you, he said, I know that your
questions proceed from the kindness and benevolence of your heart; and
be assured that if the weight which oppresses me could be lightened by
human means, I would apply to you for helpI was enabled to come to
your aid, why therefore should I not accept succour from you? But there
are certain circumstances in life which cannot be altered, and in such
cases, I think it is foolish weakness, and even culpable to give vent
to useless complaints, and to importune one's friends with them. Let us
part. When the health of your child is completely restored to its
former bloom, the sad impressions connected with the remembrance of the
Dead Lake will vanish from your mind, and with them the image of a man
Feeling that emotion was overpowering him, he suddenly stopped, and
walked to the window to regain his composure. When after a moment he
again turned towards Lucille, he saw her leaning against the door post,
pale as death and with the same pained expression on her countenance
that he had noticed the first day of her arrival.
Good heavens, what ails you? exclaimed he; Know then, if you
cannot bear the feeling of being indebted to me, that we are quits. If
I have succeeded in saving the life of your child, you have fully
acquitted this debt by preserving my own life.
She looked up with surprise.
Yes, he continued; on that very table, on the night I first met
you, I wrote a farewell letter to life. The letter still lies there, so
you see that I have changed my resolution. I do not say that I feel
grateful to you for it. Possibly non existence has its dark side too,
but it cannot be worse than remaining between life and death neither
suited to the one, nor prepared for the otherenough of this! Is it
your fault if the life which you saved was not worth the trouble? Do
not let us prolong so painful a meeting. Our paths now divergeYou
return to your home, I go where fate leads me. I am driven on by my
destiny like a stone which a boy rolls before him. I thank you for the
happy days I have spent in this wilderness; they have been the first,
for a long time, in which I felt that I lived. It is a pity that they
must pass away like every thing else in this perishable world.
And why must they pass, away? she asked looking up with anxious
and imploring eyes. Why will you not accompany us?
Why? becausehe suddenly stopped. His eyes whilst wandering round
the room had fastened on the letter to his friend which lay on the
table, beside the travelling bag. A sudden thought flashed through his
mind. You wish to test the value I set on your friendship, and that it
is not pride which prevents me from availing myself of your kindness;
well then take this letter, but promise not to read it before
to-morrow. Will you promise this?
She only bowed without looking at him.
This letter contains every explanation which I could not bring
myself to utter. When you have read it, you will understand that I can
no longer remain here, and that you ought not to detain me. And now
give me your hand once more. Let me also thank you again for the
happiness of knowing you! He pressed her hand to his lips with much
emotion. Embrace your child to-morrow when you have read the letter,
and thenbut I need not ask you for this; then in spite of all, think
kindly of me. I know that you will do so, have you not the heart and
soul of an angel!
He hastened from the room and passed through the empty passage. He
heard Fanny's voice in the sitting-room. She talked with the nurse and
mentioned his name. This accelerated his steps. He had just presence of
mind enough left him to throw a handful of money to the landlady, and
to bid her good-bye, then he followed the cart track which led into the
valley, and hastily turned round the first corner without looking back.
After he had walked for a quarter of an hour unconscious of all around
him, only blindly driven on by the dim feeling that if he once looked
back his strength would fail him; it suddenly occurred to him that he
was walking northward in the direction of Germany, instead of turning
towards the lakes of Lombardy as he had at first intended. What does
it matter, he said to himself; what is home to me, am I not
everywhere a stranger? He descended to the bed of the mountain stream
which flowed by the roadside. There he rested for a while, bathed his
feverish brow with the cold water, and listened to its gurggle as it
flowed over the pebbly bed. The sound reminded him of Fanny's clear
voice when she laughed for the first time after her illness. This
recollection so overpowered him that the tears streamed from his eyes,
and he let his grief take its course without trying to check it.
A cart which passed him in its slow progress up the hill, roused him
from his painful thoughts. It occurred to him, that the carter would
stop at the inn and there probably see Lucille and her child. That
happiness would never be his again! However he remained firm to his
resolve, and wandered on till he felt, in his trembling knees and
exhausted frame, how deeply the last few hours had affected him.
He had now reached a more expanded part of the valley; he sat down
beside a small shed which had formerly served as shelter to the workmen
of a quarry. His head sank on his chest, and he was soon absorbed in
gloomy thoughts and reveries.
An hour passed and found him still sitting there half stupified;
neither feeling pain nor wishing for any thing. He only heard the
rushing of the water and stared vacantly at the stones and mosses at
his feet. Suddenly he started up, the tread of horses was heard, and
the grating sound of the heavy drag as a carriage proceeded slowly down
the hill. A secret presentiment thrilled through him, he looked up with
a feeling of terror, and to his dismay recognized the carriage of the
On the box beside the coachman was seated the nurse, her fat
good-humoured face shaded by a large straw hat and a blue veil, though
the sun had now sunk low, and only a few slanting rays reached the deep
glen. His first thought was to spring up, and fly before them. But even
if he could have got in advance of them here on this steep road, once
in the plain they would speedily overtake him; so he had no chance of
escaping. He stealthily rose and approached the door of the hut. They
have not yet seen me, he murmured; they will drive past, and then
this last pain will have been overcome; but why could they not have
spared me this?
He entered the shed half ashamed of slinking away, and hiding like
Through all those days of inward strife he had never felt so
thoroughly wretched and unhappy as he did at that moment. Now when his
last strength was exhausted, he had to witness the triumphant progress
of one to whom he bitterly grudged the prize that was denied him.
Cautiously he pressed against the wooden partition of the hut he
could not refrain from looking through the small aperture which stood
in lieu of a window, and once more gaze on those dear faces.
They were now so close to him that he could examine the inside of
the carriage. On the further side lay the child asleep, wrapped up in
blankets, and cloaks. Lucille sat beside her, and held her hand, but
her eyes searchingly scanned the road. Where was her young protector?
He will follow on foot, thought Everhard. Thank heaven they have
passed; now all is over!
Suddenly the carriage stopped. The coachman jumped off his seat, and
opened the door. Lucille hastily descended and walked towards the hut.
A few moments later and she stood with a bright flush on her cheek
before the bewildered young man.
You see that all your resistance is vain my dear friend, she said
in a trembling voice. You wished to escape, but we follow you; we
discover your hiding-place, and now hold you fast in spite of your
resistance. We cannot do without you, you must....
For heaven's sake, he cried, greatly agitated, what has happened.
Has the child had another attack?
Our child sleeps, said the charming woman, and her voice sank low;
but still we want you my dear friend. This time ... this time, it is
the mother who entrusts her life to you.
Lucille! he exclaimed, well-nigh distracted, and seizing the hand
which she offered him, drew her into the hut. Can I?may I
hope?Will you indeed ...
I must ask you to pardon me, she replied blushing still more
deeply: I could not wait till to-morrow, but read your letter the
moment you were gone. Then, I may as well confess all,I had to
sustain a severe conflict within me, but I soon felt that I never could
again arrive at a clear understanding of my own heart, if I let you
depart. You have broken your vow, and have resolved to bear life for my
sake, I can only return this by surrendering myself to you. He to whom
I pledged my faith, never had another wish during his life than to see
me happy. I am convinced that if I could now explain to him how all
this has happened, he would release me from my word. When I had clearly
perceived this, I could find no rest. I have confided everything to my
brother-in-law. He has remained behind with a heavy heart; but he told
me to shake hands with you in his name. 'If he can make you happy
Lucille,' these were his last words, 'I will try not to hate him.' Will
you make the trial my dear friend?
Unable to contain himself any longer he fell on his knees at her
feet, clung to her hands, and buried his face in the folds of her
dress. He could not utter a word except her name, which he stammered
out repeatedly in faltering accents.
How is this? she whispered. Overcome this emotion, and be a man.
You ought to be my support; I must look up to you. Have I not done so,
during all these days?
He rose slowly. Pardon me darling, he said, pressing her to his
heart, and ratifying on her lips a mute vow. My knees could no longer
support me. This day has brought me too much misery and bliss. Now I am
strong again, now my heart can once more sustain hope and happiness.
Let us walk to the carriage, I am impatient to embrace our child.
Meran, 5th October 1860.
A week has passed since my arrival and I have not written a line! I
was too much exhausted and agitated by the long journey. When I sat
down to write, gazing on the white blank pages, it seemed to me as if I
were looking into a camera obscura. All the scenes which had greeted me
on my journey appeared so clearly and vividly before me and chased each
other as in a feverish dream till my eyes filled with tears.
More than once during the journey I had felt the tears ready to
start, but I was not alone, and I had no desire to be pitied, and
questioned by the strangers who occupied the carriage with me.
Here it is differentI am alone and free. Already I have learnt by
experience that solitude only can bring freedom. Why am I, even now,
ashamed to weep? have I not a full right to do so? Is it not sad that
my first glimpse of the beauties of this world should also be my last?
Truly it were better that I closed this book, and left the blank
pages as they are. With what can I fill them but with useless
complaints. I had imagined that it would be pleasant and consoling to
write down every thought that crossed my mind, every event in this my
last winter. I wished to bequeath this book to my dear brother, my
little Ernest, who is as yet too young to understand life and death;
but some day or other he would prize it, when, asking about his sister,
he found no one to answer him. Now, however, I see it was a foolish
thought. How could I wish to live in the memory of those dear to me, in
the image of my last illness. Better that he should forget me, than
have impressed on his mind these pale features which frighten even me
when I look at them in the mirror.
The atmosphere heavy and lowering.
For several hours I have been sitting at the open casement. From
thence one can overlook the beautiful country of the Adige. And far
beyond the walls of the town and the wide-spreading poplars which
border the stone-dike beside the rushing Passer, the view extends over
the lower pasture-lands, intersected with a hundred rivulets, where the
cattle feed, to the distant chain of mountains which bounds the
horizon. The air was so still that I could hear the voices of the
promenaders on the Wassermaueror was it a fancy of mine?
The children of my landlord, a tailor, peeped in curiously through
the door till I at last gave them the remainder of the chocolate in my
travelling bag. How joyfully they ran down with it to their mother!
Soon I became more calm and cheerful. I found that I had been wrong in
dreading my own soliloquies. Why, even considering these leaves as a
legacy, should they only contain sorrow? Did I not leave home, where I
was tied down by a hundred fetters with the full determination for
once, to enjoy life and liberty? And shall I now bear witness against
myself that I am unworthy of that freedom?
Certainly it will be but a brief enjoyment, but all the more firmly
will I grasp it and not embitter it by weakness and absorbing
The landlady told me that this morning a burgher of Meran, who had
never suffered from illness in his life, had died suddenly in his
prime. They had all expected that he would attain to a good old age,
and, probably, he had thought so himself. Comparing my fate with his,
is not mine preferable? Probably, like the generality of men, he had
spent his days in toil and labour, looking forward to a time when
having earned a sufficiency, he would be able to rest, and enjoy the
remainder of his life. His end was unexpected, whilst I know mine. And
is not this difference all in my favour? Is not spring yet distant, and
should I so fully enjoy this reprieve, were its short duration
concealed from me? Oh, truly it is a blessing not to be overtaken, and
surprised by death; to watch his slow approach, and only then, face to
face with him, learn to live. I can never sufficiently express my
thanks to our doctor, my dear fatherly friend, for not keeping the
truth from methus has he fully redeemed the promise he gave to my
dying mother, always to stand by me as a friend.
The night has now set in. I can hardly see what I write. In my whole
life, I have never felt so thoroughly at peace as here, in this
beautiful forecourt to the grave.Father! that I could but waft one
breath of it to your depressed and sorrowful soul. Good night! Good
night, my little Ernest. Who has put you to bed to-night? Who shall now
tell you fairy tales to send you to sleep?
The 6th Afternoon.
To-day as Frau Meisterin brought up my dinner, she eagerly tried to
persuade me to take a walk and not to sit so much at home. It was so
fine on the Wassermauer. So many people were to be seen there; she was
sure it would divert me. I could not make her understand that all I
wished was to collect my thoughts, and not to divert them; and that I
did not feel the slightest desire for the company of strangers. At
last, I convinced her by declaring that I was still so weak and so
tired with the journey that the two steep stairs were as yet too much
for me. Then she left me, and I continued to write.
I have been obliged to put aside my embroidery; it now hurts my
chest. I had even to send away my landlord's little girls to whom I had
intended to give sewing-lessons.
To-day a doubt weighs on my mind. It seized me suddenly for the
first time on waking this morning, and came upon me with great force
and persistence. I want to solve it now. Strange, that it should not
have struck me sooner. I was so fully convinced that I was doing right!
I knew that no one would miss me at home, that my father felt pained at
every unkind look my step-mother gave me, that I could no longer be of
use even to Ernest, since my step-mother had insisted, in spite of his
tender age, on sending him to school, only to avoid seeing him, and
having to take care of him.
My father shed tears when he clasped me for the last time in his
arms; still my departure relieved him. He wished what is best for me,
but what can he do?
This morning, however, the question suddenly occurred to me, whether
I had not left other duties; whether any human being, not utterly
disabled, has a right to sit down idly or go holiday making for a whole
winter. Only since I have felt happy; since the littlenesses of the
empty commonplace provincial life have ceased to oppress me, have I
begun to question myself as to what right I had to enjoyment, more than
all those thousands to whom death is not more distant, than it is to
me, and who are forced to strive and wrestle to their last breath, and
here am I closing a truce with the enemy, and celebrating a festival as
if I had been victorious.
That question for which my poor head could find no answer, I have
solved to-day when I came home as shattered from my first walk as if I
had laboured for a day in chains. No, I am fit for nothing but rest,
and if it taste sweeter to me than to many, that cannot be a cause for
self-reproach. Am I not more easily contented than others? If I am of
no use, am I a burden to any one? Even if I did not avail myself of the
small inheritance left me by my mother, but kept it intact for my
brother Ernest, would it exempt him from the necessity of supporting
himself by his own exertions? Part of it will probably remain for him,
for as I experienced to-day, my strength is already scantier than I had
imagined. Who can tell how short my winter in the South may be? I shall
not frequent the walk under the poplars. To-day I felt uneasy among
those poor, coughing, dressed up people, who tottered about with their
baskets full of grapes, and seemed eagerly to imbibe new hope with each
berry. By those whose faces expressed hopelessness, I felt still less
attracted. It may sometimes be soothing to frequent the society of
fellow-sufferers; but when the same fate creates totally different
feelings, then that which could otherwise unite only separates, and one
feels all the more forcibly the difference of character. Not to one of
them, would I have ventured to speak of the peaceful and grateful mood
I enjoyed. They would either have looked upon me as an eccentric
enthusiast, or thought me a hypocrite.
Can they be blamed for it? Possibly I too might have feared death
had I loved life more. And why was my life so little loveable?
Only a few can understand the deep feeling of immensity, and peace
with which nature fills my soul. For two and twenty years I never set
foot beyond the walls of a small uninteresting commonplace town. In
these days people travel much. But for the long illness of my mother,
and after her death, the care of my little brother, I too would
probably have wandered forth from that desolate little place. This
beautiful valley already seems to me like the world to come, like a
true Garden of God. The first time I inhaled this air, I felt as if I
already glided over the earth, borne on the wings of my soul. It was
certainly a pity that they did not support me better as I toiled up the
steep narrow stairs, but what business had I to descend them, when
every glance through my windows is an excursion into Paradise.
The people with whom I lodge are very poor. The man works till late
at night, and his wife has enough to do, attending to the wants of her
large family. The inside of the house looks dusky and gloomy. When the
porter of the hotel who from the simplicity of my dress inferred great
meagreness of purse, first took me through the long dark passages, and
the gloomy courts, and we scrambled up the delapidated staircase, over
the landing where dusty furniture, old spinning-wheels, beds, earthen
ware and provisions of maize lay in confused heaps, and the spiders,
undisturbed for many years, spun their webs, I felt oppressed and my
heart beat so that I had to rest at every third step. But the first
glance at my small low room reconciled me quickly to the thought that
this was to be my last earthly habitation. That old fashioned
writing-table with the brass mountings looks like the twin-brother of
the one which stood in my dear mother's room. That arm-chair is just as
high and heavy, and as brown with age, as the one she used. A few bad
prints on the wall, which disturbed me, I immediately took down, and
hung up the portraits of my parents instead. It now seems to me as if I
had been at home here for years. In one of the corners on a black
wooden console stands a crucifix which though I have not been brought
up to it, causes me deep reflection. I have received all my books. My
father sent them after me and now I want nothing more. At the same time
he wrote me just such a letter as I expected from him. That trait of
conforming oneself to what is unalterable without further struggle, I
have inherited from him. Six lines from Ernest to tell me that he is
very happy at school with his little comrades, and a greeting from my
stepmother; at least, the letter contains one, but probably my father
has added it without asking. Now I will write home. How much more
freely could I do so, if I knew that my letters reached my father's
What strange people one meets with! An hour ago I was sitting, quite
unsuspicious of any interruption, at my window reading, and enjoying
the mild evening breezethe sun now sets at five o'clock behind the
Marlinger mountain, yet the air retains the mildness of a summer
evening, and the tips of the high mountains to the East, a ruddy glow,
for many hours longerwhen there came a knock at the door, and a short
stout lady, quite unknown to me, entered coolly, and introduced herself
to me, expressing a most cordial desire to make my acquaintance. She
had seen me on the Wassermauer the only time I had walked there, and
had immediately taken a great interest in me, for I was evidently very
ill and very lonely, and she had resolved to speak to me the next time
we met, hoping to be of some use to me.
For you must know, my dear child, that I, as I stand before you, am
fifty-nine years old, and have not been ill for one day, except during
my confinements. My two sons, and three daughters are also, thank
heaven, perfectly healthy, and are all of them married and settled in
life. But you see I have always had a passion from my earliest youth
for helping those people who were not so well off as I am, for nursing
the sick, and for rendering the last offices to the dying. My late
husband used to call me the privileged life preserver; you cannot
imagine a better nurse than I am, for you see I am of a generation when
professional ones were as yet unknown. I can easily do without sleep,
and can even assist at any operation without the least show of
weakness. I have come here with a friend of mine who cannot last much
longer. When the poor thing is released from her sufferings, I shall
have more time at my disposal than now; she has always to entreat me to
leave her and take some exerciseand so my dear child if you want
support, advice, or help, apply to no one but me; you must solemnly
promise me this. Of course I will no longer allow you to spend your
days all alone. I will often come to see you. I never stand on ceremony
with my friends, and so you must take it kindly if I tyrannize over
youit will be all for your good. I understand nervous complaints as
well as the best of doctorsamusements, air, excitement, are the
remedies I prescribe. A propos, which doctor have you consulted
here? I answered that I had not applied to any, neither intended to do
so as I knew that my malady was incurable. She shook her head
incredulously, so I took from my portfolio a sheet of paper on which
our doctor had drawn a sort of representation, to shew how far the
disease in my lungs had spread. She examined it with experienced eyes.
My dear child, she at last said, this is all nonsense, the
doctors are all the same, the more they talk, the less they know. I
could lay any wager that your interior has a totally different aspect
from this. I told her that she had every prospect of being able to
ascertain this, but that I declined the wager, as unfortunately I could
not win it whilst alive. She only partly listened to what I said, and
she continued in so loud a voice that it pierced to my very marrow, to
give me an account of different illnesses which tended to shew how
little doctors were to be relied on, accompanying it with so many
details, that it would have made me sick, if I had not had courage and
presence of mind enough to cry for mercy. At length she rose, and in
taking leave she made a movement as if to embrace me, and was evidently
surprised when I coldly and stiffly gave her my finger tips. She
rustled out of the room in great haste, and with many promises to
return soon. I had to sit for half an hour with closed eyes to calm my
nerves. A sharp odour of acetic ether which surrounded her and which
she strongly recommended to me as a powerful neurotic, is still
prevalent in the room, and those sharp peering eyes, and the determined
expression of philanthropy in her broad face still haunt me. Only the
thought, that for some days at least, I was safe from another invasion,
gave me some consolation. But my former tête-à-tête with
destiny; that which gave a peculiar charm to this place are now lost to
me, unless I speak to her yet more intelligibly; and that, even in a
case of self-defence, would be most painful to me.
And is this human sympathy! The few who love us pain us by it,
because we see that they suffer with usand those who do not love
uscan they please us? Only beggars know, what beggars feel I once
read in Lessing. But can beggars give alms?
The next Morning.
I have had a restless night. I am so little in the habit of
speaking, and being spoken to that the shrill voice of the charitable
lady still resounds in my ears. In my dreams I had a fierce quarrel
with her, till at last she took off her fair front and threw it in my
faceI woke up with a shudder and bathed in perspiration. What rude
things I had said to her, among others that I would bequeath to her my
lungs, preserved in spirits of wine. How exceedingly impolite we are in
I dressed myself hastily, but even now I am in terror of another
invasionmy humble little corner, where I had hoped to die
peacefullythis too has been disturbed. Even here I cannot find quiet!
I really must go out and try to find some safer hiding-place.
In the Afternoon.
To-day I have met with great events and have boldly surmounted
themfirst a high mountain then an adventure with a savagefinally I
have revelled in nature, and solitude to intoxication. And although I
am so tired that I have to summon all my energy every time. I raise my
hand to dip my pen in the ink, yet I have renewed my inward strength,
and have got over the effect of last night's encounter. Now I could
boldly confront a whole company of coffee drinking sisters with false
How beautiful is my burial place, how marvellous the light that
streams on it. I fancied that I had already remarked the magical
effects of this light, but find that only to-day the scales have really
dropped from my eyes. Seriously I believe that what we in the north
call sunshine is only an imitation of it, a cheap mixture of
light and air, a sort of gilded bronze in comparison with the real
solid priceless gold which is lavished here.
I moved slowly up the cool and gloomy Laubengasse where a shiver
always seizes me and a peculiar oppression stops my breath. Then I
reached the small Platz with the fine old church. The Platz appeared
all black and red with the costumes of the peasants of the
neighbourhood, and of the valley of the Passer. Their trim holiday
dress consists of a short dark jacket with red facings, red waistcoats,
and broad brimmed hats. Most of the people are fine-looking and
stately, the men however, much handsomer than the women. Of the latter,
I have only remarked since I came, two pretty faces with regular
As it was a peasant's holiday, they stood about in dense groups and
none of them took the least notice of the suffering stranger who glided
past their clumsy elbows. Over the whole Platz hung a thick cloud of
acrid tobacco smoke, which gave me a fit of coughing, so I preferred to
go round the church rather than endeavour to push my way through the
In the buttresses of the church, old tomb stones were immured. On
one of them I read an inscription so full of meek resignation that I
was greatly touched by it. One, Ludovica, was buried underneath it in
the year 1836. I will write down the inscription, I learnt it by heart:
Separate they lived, and lonely,
Father, mother, and only child
Till death had them together bound.
In blessedness themselves they found,
For aye and ever now united.
So the early fading of the rose,
Is to be envied; it is repose.
The quiet and fervent tone of these verses accompanied me for many
hours. I walked pensively along the narrow streets up to an old gateway
which leads through a weather-beaten tower, scarred with French
bullets, into the valley of the Passeier. The view which from thence
suddenly opened before me filled me with awe, by its strangeness,
beauty, and grandeur. I sat down for half an hour on a large stone
beside the gateway, from whence a steep path leads to the Küchelberg,
and up to an old tower, formerly a powder-magazine, which now
peacefully keeps watch over the vineyards like a pensioned veteran.
Just before me on a rock which projects from the Küchelberg, I
perceived the ruins of Zenoburg, and considered whether my strength
would carry me thus far on the broad and uncared for road, or if I
should content myself with crossing the stone bridge from whence I
could see the cheerful village of Obermais. A woman approached me with
a basket of grapes and peaches on her head. I bought some fruit and
after eating it felt invigorated. So I set off, pausing at every step
to look down on the Passer whose water now dark blue, now flaked with
white foam, flowed through the arch of the bridge. How boldly yet
lightly the vines hang from the rugged rocks on the banks of the river;
among them grows the wild fig-tree covered with purple fruit. Running
water conducted in canals refreshes the leaves, and now and then turns
a wheel. Large chesnut-trees rise from the depths. Everywhere luxuriant
growth and rejoicing nature meets the eye. Mine rested with especial
pleasure on the varied colouring of the rocks; here of a warm brownish
tint, there of a silvery grey. How picturesque those peasants, in their
bright costumes look, coming down from the Küchelberg, and that cart or
rather two wheeled sledge, drawn by strong whitish grey oxen, and laden
with vine-leaves, descending the Zenoburg. And above all a sky the
colour of which, I had held till now, to be a fiction of poets, and
painters. While I so walked on and wondered, I said to myself this is
all mine this is my joy and no one can take it from me. Could it be
more mine if instead of, for one moment, I had looked on it for
centuries? Who can say if the best part of every pleasure does not
consist in its transientness; how otherwise could the happy ever grow
tired of their bliss....
I had probably walked on too fast while thinking of all this, so
that when I reached the top of the hill, I had to rest on a bench which
stood before a pretty house. My eyes closed in involuntary slumber. All
was still around me, only the Meran church bells which deafened me
below sounded softly up here and lulled me to sleep. How pleasantly we
dream in the mid-day sunshine, when the light penetrates our closed
eyelids, and blends in our fancy, with the marvellous colours and rays
which have nothing tangible or earthly in them. Sitting quite still for
some time, I probably went to sleep, but suddenly I started up as I
felt something cold and moist touch my hand; it was nothing worse than
the nose of a large dog, who standing beside his master, watched me
curiously. But the appearance of the latter was so horrible, that I
would willingly have believed it to be a dream, to be got rid of by
speaking and moving. It was a tall bearded man whose age I could not
define. His hair hung over his forehead, he wore a heavy and enormous
hat, covered by a wilderness of cock's feathers, fox tails, and strange
furs, casting a fierce shade over his eyes, which however as I remarked
afterwards, had a most innocent and harmless expression. Probably I
plainly showed my terror, for the mysterious apparition, which seemed
to have risen from one of the old tombs of the Zenoburg, laughed
good-naturedly, holding a very small pipe between his even white teeth,
he told me not to be frightened. He was only a Saltner, who watched the
vineyards, and as I had entered his district he requested a penny for
tobacco. In my consternation, I gave him half a florin in silver, and
hastily turned away, as I did not feel quite secure in the close
proximity of his bright spear. But the piece of silver which is scarce
here, or perhaps a holiday humour made the giant quite tame and
officious. He walked without ceremony by my side, and noticing that I
climbed with difficulty, he energetically supported my arm with his
great paw. I had to put a good face on the matter, and indeed; ended by
being thankful for his help, as I could hardly have managed to ascend
alone the last steep bit on which the ruins of the castle stand. It
struck me how reserved he was in his questions, and how communicative
about his own affairs. Comparing this charitable brother with the
uncharitable sister, who had visited me yesterday, how much more
elevated was the natural feeling of this peasant, than the obtrusive
refinement of the so-called higher classes.On the top of the hill it
was indeed beautiful. With the exception of a small chapel and a
solitary tower which remain intact, the castle is in ruins; only a few
fragments of walls, thickly covered with ivy, are standing. Luxuriant
grass grows beneath them, tribes of lizards rustle over the sunny
stones. Tangled creepers of every description hang over the walls, and
far below, so that a falling stone would dash perpendicularly into the
water, the unruly Passer flows underneath the shelving rocks at the
foot of the hill.
My armour bearer pointed out to me, on the opposite heights towards
the south, many old castles and small villages, where the vine
cultivators live, and told me the names of the different mountains, as
I comfortably sat on the grass with his dog lying beside me.
At noon the church bells rang; he ceased talking took the three
cornered hat off his head and the pipe from his mouth, and crossing
himself devoutly, he prayed in silence. When the sounds had died away,
he put his hat on again, puffed at his pipe, and asked me if I were
I answered in the affirmative, but said I was still too much
exhausted to undertake my homeward journey. Without a word he descended
the hill with stalwart strides, and disappeared.
Ten minutes later a little girl carrying a basin of milk, some bread
and a piece of the fete-day roast, hurried up the hill and looked about
for me, then silently and timidly placed the very welcome refreshment
before me. After many vain attempts, I at last coaxed the child to
speak to me. She told me that the Saltner had ordered it all for me in
the house below; he himself was busy in the vineyards, and would not
come again. The child then ran away and left me alone to feast in this
delightful solitude. Never had I eaten a more delicious meal. I was
quite ashamed of having consumed all, and having to carry back the
With difficulty I persuaded the good people to accept some money;
probably the Saltner had forbidden them to take any. In vain I looked
for him on my back. I do not even know his name.
Is this not quite an adventure? and have I not reason to note this
October the 12thMorning.
This morning on waking, I thought how strange it is, that each
different class should envy the supposed freedom of the other, although
no true freedom can be found where the sense of this difference of
classes exists. Perhaps while I am casting a longing glance at the life
of these poor peasants who pass their days among vines, fields of
maize, and mulberry-trees, and who know as little of the hundred narrow
conventional considerations of propriety which rule the so-called
refined classes than the silk worm knows of the glittering misery which
may one day be covered by his web; to them the life of a town lady who
if she chose might spend her days in waltzing may seem a life of
supreme happiness and freedom. They are tied to their labour hour after
hour, and when they rest on Sundays they can as little free themselves
from the tedious customs which confine their enjoyments, as they can in
the heat of a summer-day, exchange the heavy woollen skirt with the
hundreds of plaits, for a lighter dress.
The educated classes certainly have this advantage that they can
emancipate themselves when they will, but still would such a one not be
blamed by his equals, just as peasant is blamed when he goes out
shooting in the harvest time? Altogether....
No I will not bear this any longer, if I had to challenge the whole
world for it. The dying surely need not lie, need not submit to be
tormented, and smile complacently all the while. I am so revolted and
harassedmy nerves are so bruised, that I wish for a speaking trumpet
to be able to declare through it at the open window, my most solemn
renunciation of all society; unfortunately my tormentors are dining at
this moment, but this must happen sooner or later.
I will have an iron bolt to my door of an hundred pounds weight, and
an iron mask for my face when I take a step out of my room.
The landlady has just brought up my dinner; well it may get cold, I
have no appetite for it. My heart is beating fast with anger and
I am sick to death of all the talking that has been buzzing in my
ears, and could no more be stopped than the stream which turns that
wheel beside the bridge. That at least legitimates its noise by its
Among all the good things I had to say of yesterday, I forgot to
mention the vain attempt of the life-preserver to see me. Now I
thought she will have at all events remarked that I do not wait for her
permission to breathe the fresh air and for the future will let the
light of her charity shine on more grateful beings. I little knew her.
Whilst I was writing I heard her step coming up the stairs, and
laying aside my diary, I quickly took a letter which I had begun from
my portfolio, and intrenched myself behind it, determined to defend
myself to the last drop of ink.
My poor forces were overthrown by her at the first assault. Letter
writing! tired! what nonsense; it was for my health I was here, and my
nerves required amusement and rest. No, as I had run up the Küchelberg
yesterday like an unreasonable child, she had come to-day to prevent
the repetition of such suicide and to show me what it was to take the
air in a healthful way. Oh, yes she had found me out, I was not pleased
to see her again so soon! but a young lady who lived by herself was on
no account to be neglected. I was only to submit to her authority, and
would certainly be grateful to her afterwards.
I put on my hat silently and resignedly. I could not even feel angry
at her clumsy and good natured tone, though it made me suffer bodily
Chattering incessantly she dragged me towards the winter grounds, as
the most sheltered part of the Wassermauer is called, for there an old
cloister and its high garden-wall keep off all cold winds, evergreen
shrubs flourish and the rose-bushes are still covered with roses. This
place is always crowded, the band plays and the whole society of
strangers walk there or sit basking in the sunshine. My protectress
seemed purposely to have brought me here with the intention of
introducing me to this beau monde. I had to run the gauntlet of a
curious, but to me quite indifferent crowd of ladies and gentlemen. I
saw not one face that pleased me, heard not one word that reached my
heart. Then the heat under those arbours, the noise of the importunate
brass band, and the rebellion which was chafing within me against this
soft tyranny, nearly drove me distracted.
Still more revolting to me than the dull unfeelingness of the
healthy, was the behaviour of many of my fellow sufferers. There sat a
young countess who as I heard had been parted from her husband, in
order to avoid all excitement, but she was not too ill to notice my
simple old-fashioned dress, which she scanned from head to foot, and
then with a crushing look, she wrapped herself up in her cashemere
burnouss, as I sat on the bench beside her.
And that young girl who treated me as an old acquaintance in the
first five minutes, and told me all the scandal of Meran, though death
was written in her face, and her cough went to my heart. Are those
figures of wax, dressed up automatons, who exhibit all their old
minauderies, though when spring comes they will have to lie in their
It seemed to me quite a deliverance when the dinner-bell of the
hôtel de la poste rang, and most of the company departed and my
protectress had to go to her sick friend. I hardly bid her good-bye. I
could no longer speak, or listen to a word, for I felt quite paralized;
so she has at last obtained her object and tried her cure on me, and
the result is, that both in mind and body I am more dead than alive.
Certainly that is a sort of recovery.
I have at last succeeded, and cannot sufficiently express my joy at
this achievement. I reflected that it was only just, that if I wished
for freedom, I should purchase it by the exertion of some courage and
determination. Armed with a book, I calmly walked through the winter
grounds without recognizing any one, sat down in the midst of the whole
society and read for several hours without once looking up.
Of course the life-preserver made her appearance and at once
approached my bench, but I coolly told her that talking hurt me; she
looked astonished, shrugged her shoulders, and left me to myself.
I saw very well that she was offended. So much the better! If I find
no better occupation I will do this every day; I feel a certain
satisfaction in it. Whilst I sat surrounded by all those tiresome
people, I triumphed in my courage and the victory I had gained in not
having allowed myself to be daunted. Certainly the conflict had made my
heart beat faster, but even courage is not to be learnt in a day. And
then is it not doubly refreshing to read the grave and beautiful words
of our greatest poets, when from the different conversations around,
one picks up words which show what inferior spiritual nourishment
society puts up with.
Possibly this may be a proud and over vain thought. But some pride
surely is pardonable in one so isolated. Is it not most presumptuous to
retire within oneself, and be contented with one's own society? Surely
he who prepares for death has a right to think of his soul above all
things, and how is this possible, in the midst of the thoughtless,
soulless noise, commonly called conversation?
Already they show me plainly that I am not to their taste. To-day
when I appeared on the Wassermauer, with my book, all the benches were
occupied except one, on which sat only a pale and melancholy looking
young man, who is daily partly led, partly followed by a servant to a
sunny corner of the wintergarden and there sits covered up with costly
furs. Had the ladies, who were talking, and embroidering in the arbours
deigned to move, they certainly could have made room for my slight
person, whose crinoline never molested any one.
I saw however that they had resolved to cause me embarrassment. Oh,
how sharp, unamiable, cold, and even inhuman our faces become, when we
are determined to show our dislike to some one of our fellow creatures!
I felt quite frightened at the stony features, dark looks, and drawn
down lips of the company. But soon I was ashamed of my cowardice, and
of having allowed it to be perceived. So I looked as if I saw no
hostility in their countenances and quietly sat down beside the young
man, leaving space enough between us, even for the wide robes of the
countess. I was deeply absorbed in my book, but though I never looked
up, I knew exactly what were the glances they cast at me, and could
have written down the benevolent remarks that were whispered beneath
those arbours. The sick young man hardly moved, only from time to time
he sighedI pitied him; he appears to be one of the most suffering of
the invalids here, and to bear his illness with difficulty. He must be
rich for I saw a costly ring glittering on his finger.
We sat side by side for several hours, and I was on the point of
making some observation to him about the book I was reading merely for
the sake of rousing him from the melancholy thoughts which seemed to
oppress him. Where would have been the harm? But now a days, care is
taken to make us feel ashamed of every natural impulse. So I remained
silent and read on. Suddenly he let a silver pencil-case fall from his
hands, as he was going to write down something in his pocketbook; he
made an effort to stoop, breathing with difficulty and I, without much
hesitation, anticipated him, and picked up the neat little pencil-case.
He thanked me with rather a surprised look: I myself blushed deeply,
and hearing a derisive titter from the ladies' bower, I lost my
composure for a few minutes. I thought with most tormenting
perspicacity of all that would be said of the crime committed by a
young lady in being of use to a young man. What would he think of me? I
had slightly glanced at him and remarked no smile on his melancholy
face. If after this proof of how little worldly knowledge I possess, he
thinks me very countrified, why should that annoy me? If I am contented
to be so, why should I be angry with him for perceiving it? He bowed
very politely, as half an hour later I rose to go. By this time I had
come to an understanding with myself, and felt so composed, that I
returned hi? salutation without the least embarrassment. Even the black
looks of my protectress, who had been immediately taken possession of,
by the other ladies, could not spoil my appetite for dinner.
Here comes the soup unfortunately, it is of a lighter colour even
than the fair curls of the charitable lady. What a pity it is, that
with the dying, taste is not the first thing to depart. How I wish for
one good home cooked dish.
Evening. The first autumnal winds
carrying with it some poplar leaves.
A letter from our dear old doctor, my best friend. He wants to hear
how I am getting on, how I feel, and how the climate agrees with me. He
reproaches himself for not having hidden the hopeless truth from me; at
the same time he praises my courage and firmness; he does not try to
change or put another construction on his former words; he knows it
would be useless. Remember, dear Mary, he adds, that miracles still
happen every day, and that all our science and knowledge only teach us
to marvel at everything or nothing. He is aware that my best comfort is
to know the truth, and to live in the truth as long as life is granted
Several days later. I have lost the date.
Beautiful autumnal evening.
Here was so much wind in the forenoon that I had to remain in-doors.
I was busy altering my dresses for my chest becomes more and more
delicate and they oppress me. In the afternoon the wind subsided, and I
walked out, down the broad street called Rennweg. Numbers of cows and
goats were driven through itnot a pleasant circumstance attending the
walks here. I tremble every time I see one of those clumsy horned heads
approach me though I know that they are not so stupid as they appear,
and have not such strong prejudices against a lonely female, as my wise
fellow-creatures. It is my bodily weakness which in case of need could
not find shelter behind a stout heart, which leaves me defenceless. So
I kept close to the houses, and arrived safely at the Western gate of
the town from whence the road leads on to the beautiful and sunny
Vintschgau. A path which passes at the foot of the Küchelberg and then
winds through the vineyards tempted me and I slowly walked in that
direction. It pleased me to see the heavy bunches of purple grapes
hanging from the trellis above me, the huge yellow pumpkins, the ripe
maize in short all the riches of a southern autumn. Now and then I met
peasants at work; tubs filled with grapes and carts laden with
vine-leaves passed me. It seemed strange to me that the work was done
so quietly, without music or singing, for I had always fancied the
vintage to be one of the most noisy and brilliant of festivals. The
people of the country are of a lazy pensive disposition and never sing
at their work. If one now and then hears a song it is owing to there
being many Italians here, who are easily recognized by their fiery and
A hundred paces distant from the gate, close under the mountain,
lies a solitary farm. My landlady had told me that there one could get
milk fresh from the cow. As I am not a good walker, I entered the
little garden and ordered some milk and bread. Only a few strangers
occupied the benches, but just beside the door underneath a large
orange-tree, sat the pale young man, whilst his servant further, off,
was refreshing himself with a glass of wine. He had not touched the
glass of milk which stood before him, and as I was going to pass, he
rose, bowed, and offered me a seat at his table, saying that it was the
most sheltered spot. It was the first time I had heard him speak
several sentences together without stopping. His deep sad voice was
very pleasing. I gladly accepted his offer and when he begged me to
take his untouched glass, as he was not thirsty, I could not refuse
without giving offence. Finally we began a conversation, though much
broken by pauses, during which he relapsed into his melancholy
dreaming. Only once he smiled slightly, but it made him look still more
sad when his pale lips parted over the bluish white teeth. We had been
talking of the dull monotony in the life of the patients here; of the
tiresome sitting about in the winter garden. I said it reminded me of
the caterpillars and cocoons which my little brother keeps in glass
boxes. These also crawled about indolent and depressed amongst their
food, satisfying their gaoler by feeding greedily, and eyeing each
other curiously when they accidentally met; then they proceeded to
their winter sleep, if by chance they did not find the air too
oppressive for them, and died. He laughed, and said: your comparison
is much too flattering; do you think that our fellow-worms ever feel as
light and free as they become, unless in a purer atmosphere than
this terrestrial one? That depends, replied I, on whether, when
they proceed safe and sound from their cocoons, they find their glass
cage open. Otherwise they may be reserved for a still more cruel fate.
Few enjoy the liberty of their wings; they are generally caught again,
and struggle on a pin till their bright colours turn to dust.
He remained silent, and I was half sorry for having led the
conversation to so strange a theme; to divert his thoughts, I spoke to
him of the stiff, foolish narrow minded views of my native town, where
in the style of the so-called good old times, every one embitters the
life of his neighbour in the most amicable and ceremonious way. I then
told him how free and released I felt since I knew I was doomed to die.
My fetters had been loosened like the fetters of those who are
sentenced to death. He listened with interest but looked incredulous.
When I had done speaking....
The next day.
Yesterday I could not have been interrupted in a more unwelcome
manner. My door suddenly opened and the life-preserver, the sister of
charity, the lady without nerves, rushed into the room with a
particularly stern and solemn countenance which boded no good. Without
taking breath after running up the stairs, she sat down, spread her
skirts over my sofa, and without any circumlocution began to lecture
me. Possibly she may be of use where bodily nursing is required, but
for spiritual care she certainly has no vocation. A more clumsy way of
touching on delicate subjects I have not yet met with, and I have
certainly not been spoiled in that respect. I was informed that I had
been guilty of great sins, and could only make atonement for them by
deep contrition. The unaccountable whims of a sick person might,
perhaps, excuse the highflown manner with which I had received the
friendly advances of many estimable ladies, and the way in which I had
withdrawn from their company. But I had dared too in the face of all
society to make advances to a young man, and yesterday had gone so far
as to accept his glass of milk, and his company on my way home. She had
never heard of such a thing. A girl without the least education but
with a sense of decency and a proper regard for her reputation would
never have thought of doing so. After these occurrences she would
certainly never have set foot over my threshold again, had not
conscience, and her good nature bidden her warn me. I was alone here,
and had no one to look after me if I went astray. That young man did
not enjoy a good reputation; his illness was the consequence of a
dissipated and reckless life which he had now to expiate by an early
death. If so near to the grave, he was still so unscrupulous as to
compromise a young creature like myself, then all persons who had any
regard for morality must condemn his outrageous conduct, and endeavour
to save his victim.
During this speech I remained petrified, and my heart beat so
violently that I could not utter a word; but when she stopped and cast
a severe look at me, the convicted sinner, I rallied all my remaining
spirit and answered that I thanked her for her solicitude, and did not
at all doubt her good intentions, but that I did not think I had
committed any improprietystill less had gone astraythat I did not
believe my reputation to be in any danger. I knew what I could, or
could not do, and would be responsible for it. I did not see why the
fact of having one foot in the grave obliged one to give an account to
the world of every free but innocent action, particularly as even that
would not protect one against its malignant judgments. I had not come
to Meran, I continued, in order to ingratiate myself with a society
entirely strange to me, but to spend my last days in the manner most
agreeable to me, and most in accordance with my nature. You must allow
me, my dear Madam, I concluded, not to be led by considerations which,
perhaps, may be useful to others. When I had delivered this speech I
felt quite startled at my own boldness yet I was pleased with myself.
This I thought will at all events make an end of it; and so it was; at
least, I hope so, for my protectress rose with a dignified look which
sat oddly on, her round face adorned with the little ringlets and said:
Good-bye, Mademoiselle, you are so independent that it would be
indiscreet in me to prolong my visit, and with these words she sailed
out of the room. So I had at last got rid of her, but not of her
sayings, nor of my thoughts. Oh, the sad cold littleness of the world!
Is there no spot on earth where a poor human being may be permitted to
die after its own fashion? Is one to go tightly laced even to one's
last breath? No, they shall not get the better of me; I do not love
them, then why should I not despise them; or at least not notice them
when they cross my path? Possibly I may have been thoughtless, but
thoughtfulness requires time, and I have not much to spare. Certainly
if I had to live with these people for an immeasurable time, it might
be prudent not to exasperate them, and to bow before themprudent, but
annoying, and in my opinion, hardly worth the while. What harm could
they do to me; at the worst they would leave me alone, and could they
do me a greater favour? She said that he had caused his own sufferings.
Is he for that less worthy of compassion? Perhaps, the remorse he feels
is the cause of his melancholy, as the consciousness of my undeserved
fate is the cause of my gaiety. Each of us has lived a different life,
and has now to resign it. I have nothing to repent of, and nothing to
regret; he does both, and so each of us dies a different death.
Why should it be a crime to exchange a few unconstrained words? Do
not people who have set out together on a long journey fraternize, and
become friends at the first station? Are they then to be blamed if they
exchange a few words before starting.
Monday, the 21st October.
I spent my Sunday at home in writing, and reading the letters of
Mendelssohn's youth, which in my opinion show his character to much
greater advantage than his other writings. They convince me still more
that even a complete and free man of genius can work earnestly at his
own improvement. If I were a man, I should only care to be an artist.
This seems an extravagant idea; for those not endowed with talents
perceive only the outward freedom of the existence of a genius, and not
the anxieties and labours of his vocation. But in some of the
attributes of an artist's nature, in the power of desiring freedom, and
of maintaining it, in enthusiasm for noble deeds, and in admiration for
all that is beautiful, I should not be found wanting, and armed with
these weapons could pass a lifetime in waging war against petty
formalists and pedants.
But of what use are all these to me, a girl, with death before me.
Well, at all events they will teach me to die calmly.
Mendelssohn's letters have awakened in me a longing for music. I
hope I have not been extravagant in hiring a small piano. This morning
it was brought to me, and now stands In my room. I have not played for
a long time, and after reading Mendelssohn's letters felt quite ashamed
of stumbling through his songs without words. I must purchase some
sonatas and study them. I confess that at the first notes of music I
burst into tears. The last conversation has left in me a wound which
bled afresh, as the first sound of music reached my heart after so many
weeks privation. I let my tears flow freely, and played on till I grew
I have seen him again. I had avoided him these last days. Though I
am quite determined to go my own way; still they have succeeded in
robbing me of my first unconstraint. But to-day I met him at the
bookseller's shop, where I was looking out some music. He asked me if I
had felt unwell, as I had not appeared on the Wassermauer. I blushed
and replied, no, but I had not felt inclined to walk there. Then we
talked about music which he greatly likes. Once I was in possession of
a voice, he said, smiling; but it has departed this life before me.
As we came out of the shop I at first wished to bid him adieu, and walk
home alone. Then I felt ashamed of my cowardice, and walked on with him
to the gate which leads on to the Wassermauer. The day was lovely, and
the promenaders walked about with their cloaks on their arms. Only a
few yellow leaves reminded one of October. As we followed the course of
the Passer and passed the benches occupied by the so-called good
society, I was pleased, and happy to feel so much at ease. I tried to
cheer him up and when I had succeeded in making him laugh I applauded
my own spirit which was not to be daunted. I said to myself, Does it
please you my good people to put on disdainful looks, and to wrap
yourselves up in your own virtue, as much as it does me to see this
pale face, on which death has already cast its shadow, light up with
the serenity of an evening sky. We walked up and down for a whole
hour, and I did not feel in the least tired. This time I closely
examined his countenance. Whatever lies behind him, it can be nothing
base or mean. His features are neither regular nor can they be called
expressive, but when he speaks there is something refined and
thoughtful about his face which becomes him well. He cannot be more
than twenty-six years old. His manners are easy, and natural, and
plainly show that he has mixed in the best society. I, with my
provincial style of dress, and little knowledge of the world, must
contrast strangely with him.
I have looked over the book of strangers trying to find out his
name; before, I only knew where he lived; I have now discovered
that he can be none other than a Mr. Morrik Particulier from
Vienna. What an odd position! probably it means independent. Then I am
a Particulière with more right to be so than he has. He is
dependent on many things; on his fortune, on his melancholy
thoughtson his servant, who carries his cloak and furs for him.
Last night I dreamt much, and very reflective dreams. In one of
them, I again met Halding, who for years has never troubled my
thoughts. I spoke to him as indifferently as ever, and asked after his
wife and children. I was glad to hear that they were very well. Then
still in my dream, I considered what would have been my lot, had I
accepted his hand. I should now be established in America, in a fine
house, and have riches and health, for I should not have passed through
the sufferings of the last years, in my father's houseI should not be
thinking of dying. I thought over all this, as I saw the red cheeked
wife, who had so soon consoled him after my refusalI shuddered at the
idea of such happiness. This may appear foolish, full of pretension,
and ingratitude. What fault could I find in him except that I did not
love him. Many people found him most amiable, and I thought him even
too much so, for a man. As a woman he would have made the best, most
docile, and virtuous of wives, but just for that reason would, as a
husband have made me most wretched. More than once I have been given to
understand that my character was too determined and energetic for a
girl. Did not the long lecture of the life preserver tend to show me
how deficient I was in feminine timidity and reserve. If this be true
the fault lies with my destiny, which threw me early in life on my own
resources, and made me independent. One to whom the world and life
makes advances may well await its approach but one who must confront
its struggles, cannot do without reliance on God, and on himself. If I
required any proof that no unwomanly boldness, no desire of dominating
lies in my character, I would find it in my dislike to womanish men,
who must lean for support on a wife; and towards manly women who only
find their happiness in ruling.
A few quiet and uniform days have passed. I felt very languid and
disinclined to everything and I remained at home, as the change from
the hot sunshine to the dark arcades always hurts me. I read, and
played a few sonatas, and felt that even solitude brings many heavy
hours with it.
To-day I walked out and the first person I met was Mr. Morrik, as he
really is calledI heard an acquaintance address him by that name. We
sat for a long time together on a bench amidst the evergreen shrubs in
the winter garden for underneath the poplars the air is now getting too
sharp. Society seems to have reconciled itself to the unpardonable and
unheard of crime, committed by two candidates for death, in talking to
each other, and no longer disturbs us. So to-day we had a remarkable
conversation. It began, instead of ending, as such conversations when
they are earnest and agitated are apt to do, by the utterance of the
most hidden thoughts which are usually kept back, till, after having
turned over different questions, they suddenly break forth in the
ardour of the contest. It was not the first time that I experienced in
myself a habit of thinking aloud. To my own great astonishment I, this
time suddenly took heart, and poured forth my most hidden and unavowed
thoughts and feelings; so that when the words, I was uttering struck my
ear I felt quite frightened at my audacity in harbouring such strange
ideas, and still more in delivering them to a stranger. It sometimes
really appears to me as if I had two characters within methe one
spirited, out spoken, and clever, and this one seldom shews itselfthe
other, silly and girlishly shy, which sits by in fear and trembling
when the other speaks, and cannot muster courage to interrupt it. I
forget what gave rise to this conversation. I only remember that before
I knew what I was saying I found myself in the midst of an eager, and
passionate sermon. The subject I treated was the fear of death, which
is so plainly written in many faces around us, and also in his pale
quiet features. I have now forgotten the greatest part of my lecture,
though as the words flowed from my tongue it pleased me much and seemed
to me impossible to be refuted. I only remember that the text of my
sermon were the words of Goethe: For I was made man, and that means,
that I have strivenetc. Why then if we are all combatants, I
began, Who sooner or later must perish beside their colours, why
should it be a disgrace to those only who bear arms by profession to
meet death with cowardice; why should it not also be considered
repugnant to the esprit de corps, and the honour of humanity in
general, to cling to life with groanings and lamentations when danger
approaches. Soldiers who slink away on the eve of a battle are brought
back dishonoured and disgraced, and are thought too despicable to be
allowed to fight in the ranks of the brave. Why should a dying man who
prays for a respite of days, and hours, and even minutes, not forfeit
our sympathy and obtain only a little pity for his weakness? So it was
I spoke. I felt like an old trooper who exhorts his men before they
commence the assault on an entrenchment. I believe that at that moment,
if the whole of the society had gathered around me to listen, my ardour
would only have increased. In the midst of my harangue, I cast a look
over the beautiful landscape which lay bathed in sunshine and it seemed
to inquire of me whether it were so very contemptible not to close
ones' eyes readily on all we have learnt to love, when we do not know,
when and how they will open again or whether they will like the change.
But this mute interrogation did not disconcert me; I had an answer all
ready; so I continued: What you have once enjoyed is yours for ever.
What has time to do with our immortal soul? and if the soul be
immortal, will not the best part of our life, our love, all that we
have striven, and yearned for be purified and increased, and remain
ours for ever. And how few really happy sensations do we owe to that
which we shall leave here below. How many delusions cling to our
dearest friendships, must cling to them for in the midst of our
enjoyment we feel restless, and dissatisfied! Then why not leave with a
serene countenance this dreary world, where the brightest light throws
the darkest shade?I could have talked on for ever, had not a
vehement fit of coughing cut short my power of speech. Then only did I
consider what effect all this might have on my silent and melancholy
companion and whether it would not have been better to wait till our
acquaintance had ripened somewhat, before I displayed my small
knowledge of life and death. That which was a specific for me, his
nature might not be strong enough to bear, and then what good would it
do him? Should I not appear to him as hard and obtrusive as the lady
without nerves had appeared to me. Had I the least right to force my
aid and advice on him? However the words had been said and could not be
recalled. He remained buried in thought for full ten minutes, and left
me time to reproach myself bitterly. Then he began in a grave and
affectionate tone to dispel my fears. He said that he agreed to every
word I had spoken, and that as he took a great interest in me, it
pleased him to see me meet my fate so well armed, and with so much
fortitude; but that human destinies were different. It is unjust, he
continued, to expect from the sick the same strength and courage,
which we justly demand in a troop of active and healthy men. Do you not
believe that in a soldier who camps in the snow and marches twelve
hours a day, the body and blood which he stakes when he hazards his
life, and limbs must be of a more vigorous nature than those of the
poor wounded man who from the hospital hears the report of the cannon
and shudders. And is he for that to be despised? But there is another
difference which a girl cannot well understand. A man who has any
knowledge of life must perceive that his destiny is not merely to enjoy
himself, but that he has a task to perform, duties to fulfil. Do not
you think that it must be painful to have to leave the world without
having even begun this task? You must not forget this difference
Mademoiselle: The soldier fulfils his duty in dying: every other man in
living except his death be a sacrifice or an example to others. How can
he who has hitherto only lived to neglect his duty die without feeling
his death to be a new fault, a new faithlessness. We have exchanged so
many confessions, he went on, that it would be foolish to keep back,
one, which to be sure is wholly personal and may not interest you. To
judge from the opinions you have expressed you seem to think that my
gloomy and unhappy humour is the consequence of an unmanly despair at
the prospect of certain death. Perhaps you will be inclined to think
more favourably of me when I tell you that my illness has taught me to
look upon a life of vain amusements, caring and cared for by nobody, a
life of pure selfishness as unworthy of the exercise of great medical
skill, and of the benefit of this much lauded climate. The past would
not hinder me from dying calmlyit was an empty life nothing worse. It
is the future which I had hoped to conquer just when it was too late;
wisdom came but strength left me. It is that gnaws at my heart and
makes it impossible for me to leave life with the same cheerfulness
that you do. Believe me I was not worse than the best of my equals. I
spent my youth in idleness, gambling, travelling and such trifles and
fancied as long as my father lived that it was a life suitable to my
station, and this was also his opinion. I took great pleasure in the
intellectual amusements as they are called. I was present at the début
of every actor singer and musical composer. I collected fine pictures,
cultivated music and took a part in any amateur quartett, and that not
badly either. Suddenly my father died and his property, his fortune,
his political obligations, and connections were left without a head.
Nobody had dreamt of so sudden an end. Now it was my turn, now I had to
advance to the front and to take an oar, and just at that time
strength, and power to act were taken from me. How this happened and
how much or how little the fault lies with me is not to the purpose.
Let us suppose that this misfortune was not caused by any fault of
mine, but that it came upon me as the stone falls from the roof. Do you
not allow that my feelings on looking at the past may well be different
from yours? and so are the feelings with which I view the future. I
was on the point of answering, what, I hardly know, probably it
was to ask his pardon for my hasty condemnation, when I was prevented
by an old woman who offered roses for sale. He took a bunch and gave
her a florin in silver which she held in her hand, and looked at with
astonishment, as here one only meets with dirty torn paper money. He
made a sign to her, that it was all right and laid the bouquet on the
bench between us. A gentleman then approached, and spoke to him. He
rose without taking leave, but did not return to me. Soon after I
walked away leaving the bouquet on the bench. Now I regret it. What
crime have these poor roses committed that I should grudge them even a
short reprieve in a glass of water.
I went out again, and as I must confess, only to fetch the roses. It
seemed to me like a wrong towards living beings, to leave them to
wither on the bench. I found them untouched, and now they stand fresh
and flagrant outside my window. I had to place them there, for the
nights are now so cool, that I dare not leave the window open. I will
now read to quiet my agitated thoughts. The roses have brought back to
my mind the epitaph on the tombstone:
So the early fading of the rose
Is to be envied: it is repose?
This sign of interrogation has slipped from my pen and I cannot make
up my mind to strike it out. Truly, it is a question, whether a poor
human creature has a right to envy his fellow men for anything, even
To-day is my birthday; I formerly never took any notice of it, and
did not expect others to do so. This one however as it is my last one
on earth, I resolved to honour and solemnize as much as I could. Quite
early in the morning I summoned the little girls of my landlord and
gave each of them a dress I had made for them, a cake and a kiss. Then
I walked out though the day was chilly and without sunshine.
On the stairs I met Mr. Morrik's servant, who came to ask if I were
unwell, as I had not appeared on the Wassermauer for several days. I
felt pleased that some one inquired for me. After the recent
conversation in the wintergarden I appeared to myself so unamiable,
that I did not think it possible that any one should care whether I
lived or died.
I walked up and down for some time underneath the arcades, for the
rain swept through the narrow streets, and it was disagreeable to be
out there, as a piercing wind which they call here the Jaufenwind had
arisen, and though the Küchelberg kept it off in some degree still it
now and then blew in gusts round the corner. I felt so dull and
unemployed, so dreary, that by way of pastime, I bought some figs and
peaches and ate them. I soon felt, that in this cold weather, I had not
done wisely, but made bad worse by sitting down beside a woman who was
roasting chesnuts, and eating some of these to warm me, and thereby
only succeeded in nearly making myself ill.
So this is my holiday! It serves me quite right; How can an
unemployed person think of holiday making. Sour workdays, sweet
holidays, that is a different thing. More and more clearly I see that
he was right, and that I was not only wrong, but have wronged him. It
is only the heartless and selfish who would not feel regret at being
called away from this life without having done any good in it. He was
very kind and forbearing in trying to find a difference between his
position and mine. Have we not all of us duties? Did not my mother
fulfil hers till her last breath? And here am I happy in my
unprofitable solitude, and joyful as a child who has shirked school.
Here are letters from my father, and little Ernest. Birthday
congratulations. I will read them out of doors. The Jaufenwind has
cleared the sky, and the sun shines so warmly that I can no longer
stand the heat of the stove, and have to open both windows.
In the Afternoon.
This day has after all been celebrated; by a reconciliation which
consisted in a second dispute. As the unexpected sunshine brought every
living creature out into the wintergrounds, I walked on from the
Wassermauer towards the west, till I reached the spot where the Passer
flows into the Adige. There I saw at a distance Mr. Morrik sitting on
the trunk of a tree in the sunshine, with his servant at his side. He
observed me also, and rose to meet me. I was much embarrassed, for it
seemed as if I had come in search of him; however it was too late to
turn back; and why should I have done so? Was it not true that I was
pleased to see him, and wished to speak to him. I owed him the
satisfaction of telling him that he had converted me, and that all my
death defying wisdom appeared to me now like the delirium of fever. I
could hardly wait till an opportunity presented itself of confessing
this to him, and so I almost started when he anticipated me by calling
out: How happy I am to see you! You will wonder at the miracle you
have performed on me. During your heartfelt speech I felt what a deep
impression it made on me; but like the rest of the world though I saw I
was wrong I did not like to acknowledge it, and so I supported my cause
as well as I could. We have not met since then, and in the meanwhile I
had time to recall it to my thoughts, and after a few hours
consideration, I felt I was completely changed and could have sworn
never to desert the colours you carried so valiantly before me.
What will you say, I replied despondingly, when you hear that I
myself have turned traitor? Impossible, he exclaimed, laughingand
it was the first time I had seen him, not only smile, but laugh
heartilyand so even you are affected by human weaknesses; but beware
of me, for I will bring back the deserter, willing or unwilling; not to
pass sentence on him, but to entrust to him again the standard under
which I will conquer or die.
There now arose an absurd contest between us, each defending the
very point he had vehemently disputed a few days ago, and trying to
depreciate his former opinion as much as possible. You must confess,
he at last exclaimed, that in whichever way the wisdom of a Daniel
might theoretically settle our dispute, my opinion, I mean your former
one, is by far the most advantageous. Since my conversion to it, I feel
reconciled to Providence, to the world, and even to myself, asyes, as
you were before you were led astray by me. Now, although my position,
my sufferings and the few pleasures left to me are the same, they
appear to me tinged with fresh and glowing hues, instead of the dull
grey which shrouded them before. I look on the past as I did then; but
can I win back what I have lost by losing also that which remains to
me? You were so right in saying: in every minute, we can live a whole
life. How many minutes, nay days, weeks, perhaps months still lie
before me, and shall I not employ them? That which I had intended to do
is not of such great importance after all. Humanity will not be much
affected by its failure; but even had it been of the utmost importance,
nothing can now be altered. I cannot go back. I can only advance and
should there be some task for me to perform in the next world, I shall
be better prepared for it by courage and confidence than by the useless
despair of which I now feel heartily ashamed, before you, and should be
still more so if you had not left your position, high above the rest of
mankind, and had shown no human weakness.
I can only write down dryly all that I remember of what he said; but
when he himself utters his thoughts there is so much cleverness,
originality and wit in them that they refresh the mind, like the
inhaling of vivifying salt, and never leave a bitter taste behind.
It was a delightful hour. Had we been two men, or two women, we
would have shaken hands at parting and have fraternized on the spot. We
have now agreed to meet daily on the Wassermauer; we still think
differently on several points and have not much time to decide them.
The letters from home have also pleased me. Ernest is quite
impatient at not seeing me for so long. The poor little fellow does not
know how long it will be before we meet. Meanwhile it has grown dark. I
will have some music and so close the day harmoniously.
The 3rd November.
Pleasant days are rare guests in this world. Since I last wrote we
have only met twice. The day before yesterday the weather was damp and
foggy. I walked in the wintergarden, but he was nowhere to be seen. I
only perceived the malicious inquisitive face of the young lady who
always takes a seat close to Mr. Morrik and me, hoping to hear some of
our conversation. The life preserver also arrived, and looked at me
severely from head to foot, as I passed before and I heard her say to a
lady who sat beside her, intending it for me: That poor young man; how
he has to suffer for talking so much. I shuddered and was very nearly
going up to the uncharitable sister, in spite of what had passed
between us, to ask her for news of him. Fortunately he sent his servant
in the afternoon, to tell me that he was confined to his room by the
cold weatherit had snowed during the nightand that I ought to take
great care of myself as the transition from autumn to winter was very
dangerous. In spite of this I went out both yesterday and to-day with
the hope of seeing him, but in vain. When two people are isolated among
the rest, how soon they grow accustomed to each other's society! He has
no acquaintances here except the doctor, whom he greatly likes. I
sometimes feel inclined to consult this doctornot to hear anything
about myself, I know enough of that; but to hear if he really is doomed
or only fancies himself so.
The wind has changed and now a sirocco is blowing. The whole country
of the Adige is covered with fog, a warm soft rain drizzles against the
window panes. The poplars have lost so much of their foliage that I can
easily trace the outline of the beautiful peak of the Mendola. The
vineyards are autumnally bare, the cattle are now sheltered in the
stables, everything is prepared for winter, and I am heartily glad of a
warm nook. My father writes of much snow and cold, whilst here the
southern wind still brings an Italian warmth with it, and in the little
garden below my windows, the roses bloom as gaily as if they were quite
certain that the snow would never descend from the top of the Muth to
the village of Tirolstill less reside on the Wassermauer.
The roses really seem to be right. The most beautiful sunshine awoke
me; the stove shall enjoy a holiday. The green meadows in the lower
part of the country are as bright as in May. Half an hour ago I
received a note from Morrik saying that he wished to take advantage of
the fine day, and enjoy a ride over the nearest hills as walking was
forbidden him and he asked me if I would accept his company, and join
him. In that case he would fetch me at ten o'clock with the mules. I
wrote to him without much deliberation that I would be very happy to do
so. Now when I think of it....
In the Evening.
Fortunately I had no time to think over it, or I should probably
have thought many foolish and superfluous things. My landlady came to
announce that the gentleman was waiting for me below, and at the same
moment his servant entered to carry down my plaid and bag, so I had to
hurry away. He had dismounted when I came down, and the pleasure of
seeing him again, after so long a time, looking tolerably well and
cheerful, the mild clear day, the view, and the prospect of a pleasant
ride helped me to overcome my childish embarrassment. Society had at
last got accustomed to see us talk together whilst walking, why should
we not also do so on mules. So we rode gaily through the Laubengasse,
and over the bridge, where to be sure the whole company of strangers
rushed to the railings of the wintergarden, and followed us with their
kind looks and remarks. On the other side of the bridge, the road turns
to the left and ascends the hilly streets of the cheerful village of
Obermais. We soon found ourselves among the leafless vineyards, and in
trotting past the houses, saw the grapes pressed in large tubs, and
barrels filled with their juice, and under the bare trellises,
preparations for next year's harvest. One can hardly imagine anything
more picturesque looking than one of those tall fine looking young
peasants ploughing underneath these bowers with their strong grey oxen,
or as in that beautiful picture of Robert's, resting his cattle while
he leans on the pole between them. The whole surrounded by a frame of
trellis work, which here supports the vine in the form of a vaulted
arcade. They all left their work when we passedI rode in front on a
very quiet animal, led by the guide; Morrik just behind me, so that we
could exchange the expressions of our delight at all these beauties of
nature, and his servant brought up the rear.
When we had mounted somewhat higher, I involuntarily stopped; the
view was so wonderfully beautiful. The entire valley of the Adige lay
far beneath us, the river glittered between meadows and sands, and the
more distant mountains encircled the whole with their clear and
beautiful outline. But how can words describe a scene which the brush
of the most able painter could not do justice to. Neither of us spoke,
we remained in silent awe, and could only marvel. Had not the mules
become impatient, who can say whether we should not be on the same spot
still. My docile bay who was more sagacious than he looked, pondered,
and shook his head with the conspicuous ears, over the folly of mankind
in stopping where no fodder was to be seen: so he moved on slowly to
supply our want of judgement, and the others followed. We left to our
right a beautiful castle belonging to Count Trautmannsdorf, and the
little church of St. Valentine, which stands quite isolated in a
sheltered valley. Our way then again turned to the north over a hill
which rises at the foot of the Ifinger, whose snowy summit towered in
the clear autumnal sky. The whole ridge of the hill is covered with
solitary farms, intermingled with old castles that are now chiefly
inhabited by rich wine growing peasants who, during the summer months,
lodge invalid strangers. I have forgotten the names of most of them,
only one of them I remember, the castle of Rubein. There in front of
the old battlements stand tall slender cypresses, like guardians round
an old sarcophagus and contrast by their sombre hue with the green and
yellow foliage of the vine. We took a hasty survey of the courtyard.
The small open gallery supported by pillars, the steep stairs, which
lead up to it, and in the comer the old, and now nearly bare
walnut-tree round which myriads of birds were fluttering and singing,
so that it seemed as if they had enjoyed too much of their grape
harvest and were now intoxicated and overmerry. I could fill pages with
a description of the beauties of these heights. Further on, towards the
valley of Passeir, the road gently ascends underneath noble chesnut and
walnut-trees, and the view opens out to the Küchelberg, and my dear old
Zenoburg, till it rests on the high projecting village of Schönna with
its old castle.
When we arrived it was just noon. We were both tired by our long
ride, hungry and silent. The sights in which we had revelled still
occupied our thoughts, and here again our eyes hardly sufficed to enjoy
the view which extended far and near from every window. I entered the
tap-room, whilst Morrik talked to the landlord outside, and sat quietly
in the dusk for a while with closed eyes endeavouring to recover my
The room had a projecting bay window which formed a sort of recess,
where sat, as a hasty glance when I entered had shown me, a young
peasant, and a girl with their dinner and wine before them. They seemed
to notice me as little as I did them. Morrik then came in, and sat down
at a table beside me. He appeared more cheerful than usual, but also
looked paler, as if the air had fatigued him. We talked about
indifferent subjects. Suddenly the young peasant rose from his seat in
the window, and with a full glass of wine in his hand, approached our
table. With your permission, he said, the gentleman won't object to
my drinking the health of this lady, as we are old acquaintances. Then
he took a sip, looked at me over the edge of his glass, and gave it to
me to drink from. I took the glass, but looked at him rather puzzled.
He seemed quite unknown to me, and appeared to be flushed with wine,
and in a waggish humour, so that I was really frightened.
Well, well, he said, as I was silent, and Morrik gave him no
encouragement; the hat of a Saltner, and a beard of three months'
standing certainly give a fellow somewhat more of a diabolical look
than his holiday clothes. But if I did not seem appalling to her then,
there is still less danger of it now, particularly as her brother, or
Natz, the girl interrupted, what nonsense you are talking. The
young lady does not look as if she felt a great horror of you, but to
drink wine is forbidden to those who are ill; is it not so your honour?
Ignatzius has a notion that no one can live without wine. Oh what a
wild fellow he is! I have been begging and entreating him for a whole
hour to come away. We are going down to Meran for our pledge, you
understand, our betrothal; but there he will sit, sit till night comes
on, and when the wine is well up, forsooth, a pretty figure we shall
make before the deacon. Do persuade him to come away my lady
Heigh-ho what's this! exclaimed the young fellow, whom I at last
recognized as my friend of the Zenoburg, don't you see Liesi that this
gentleman and lady are in no hurry either? What do you say to that,
sir? she already takes the reins; the women are always in a hurry to
get the men into their power. A smart fellow often pauses on this road
and drinks his last bachelor's bottle with all the more relish. In
other respects, he continued, casting a proud and merry glance at her,
I cannot complain; she is a tightly built lass, and has her senses
about her; and certainly she has not been picked up on the
highwaysOnly this setting down, and domineering, that is an
affliction to be sure; but even the strongest and most determined
fellow must submit to itHow have you fared? turning to Morrik, the
lady here is very nice, and I would not mind changing with you, but
then there would be an end of playing the master of the house, well
every one has some burden to carry.
Ignatz, I said, for Morrik still continued silent, and I feared he
would set the young fellow down, whose tongue the wine had loosened,
somewhat ungently, this gentleman is neither my sweetheart nor my
brother. We are both of us strangers here; who only had agreed to make
this excursion together. You talk about commanding but that demands
strength. A poor woman who will be buried before the spring arrives,
neither has spirit nor inclination for it. And now go with your Liesi
to Meran to the priest, and don't let it be said of you that you did
not know what you were doing when you gave her your promise.
The girl who was fresh and blooming, and had a frank and intelligent
countenance, now also rose and took the young man by the arm.
Thank you, young lady, she said, for helping me to get off with
this fellow. Say God speed, to the gentleman and lady, Natzi, and then
come along; and I hope ma'am that you will change your mind about
dying. I was a servant girl in one of the lodging-houses down at Meran
during two winters, and know many a one who quite recovered after
having ordered his coffin, and many a one who thought he was breathing
his last breath, afterwards climbed to the top of the Muth. The air of
Meran is so fine that I should not wonder if it woke up the dead. But
now goodbye your honours, or this one here, will go to sleep on the
spot where he is standing.
There really seemed some danger of this for he stood leaning against
the table, and vacantly stared at the floor. He nodded dreamily towards
us, and willingly let himself be led out.
I cannot deny that the whole scene had made a painful impression on
me. It did not exactly show the young fellow to disadvantage, but his
talk of which I have given the main part without his strong expressions
had vexed me. Morrik did not seem much edified either by this
encounter. The landlady who brought in our dinner, also asked
importunate questions, and so did not improve our humour. Moreover the
air was heavy in the low room and the smoke from the kitchen penetrated
into it. The cooking too was bad, so we were glad to have done with it
and to breathe again the fresh air. We walked slowly along the narrow
paths among the picturesque farms, talking little. My cheerfulness
however soon returned. Are you not well? I asked, as he pensively
walked beside me. I cannot complain, he said, I should feel neither
care nor grief if thoughts did not oppress me.
Perhaps it would relieve you, if you could express your thoughts.
Perhaps it would make it worse. My thoughts would hardly please
Your confidence at least would please me.
Even if I should confide to you, that after all, I fear you have
too much confidence in me? I looked at him enquiringly.
Look here, he continued, the little you know of me, is perhaps
the best part of me; thence I am persuaded that you think much too
highly of me, and would be disappointed if you heard the judgement
which other people, who to be sure know me still less than you do, have
passed upon me.
Is it not the same with every one of us, I replied, either we are
judged too highly or undervalued by our fellow creatures. Even our
nearest friends do not always see us in our true light. But shall I for
that lose my faith in the durability of our friendly intercourse, the
term of which is so very short.
He smiled sadly. I have a sure presentiment that you will outlive
me; perhaps for many years. Since I have known you, your health has
visibly improved, and who can tell whether the sentence pronounced on
you by your doctor may not one day be laid aside with the rest of the
sayings which false prophets have recklessly uttered. You shake your
head. Well we will leave the future to decide this question. I carry
the sure tokens of death too plainly within me to mistake them. So it
causes me much deliberation whether I am not wronging you, in enjoying
your society, your conversation, may I say your friendship? without
heeding the injury your kindness may do you. You are so far above many
things, which, in spite of their meanness, are all powerful in this
world; how strong and cruel that power is, I myself have painfully
experienced. Lest you should feel hurt at a man's reminding you of the
prejudices and opinions which usually have more influence with women,
and which hitherto, in our friendly intercourse, we have despised, you
must know that I should not be here, not be ill, not be dying if I had
been more careful of the judgement of others and of the light, or
rather shade which I throw on all with whom I associate.
We had seated ourselves on a stone, close by the roadside, and
covered with moss and ivy from whence we could see the beautiful
mountain peaks and the sloping heights of the Passer through the
branches of the chesnut-trees.
Children on their way to school surrounded us at some distance,
peasants passed, and cows were led to the fountain. He did not heed
them, but continued in a low voice: Perhaps you do not know, dear
Marie, how much an independent position influences our nature for good
or for evil. It is now useless to moralize on the subject, but one
thing to be observed, is, that a man who is not restrained by any tie
is very apt to despise those who are bound by considerations, or
prejudices. I have already told you that I was better than my
reputation. As I could easily dispense with the assistance, protection,
and good-will of my fellow-creatures, I thought I could also dispense
with their good opinion, and only laughed when the homemade
people, as I used to call them, painted my character in darker colours
than it really deserved. They envy me my freedom, I often said. As I am
not dependent on them for anything, they want me at least to bow down
before their moral tribunal. What would freedom be worth if it did not
teach us to depend on ourselves and the voice of our conscience alone?
So I went my way, and let them talk. Every path in life leads past
human habitations, and whoever seeks admission into these must steady
his steps that he may not be suspected of being a vagabond or a
drunkard, and no peaceful citizen will let such a one cross his
threshold. I will not give you a long historyto be brief; I made the
acquaintance of a most amiable girlperhaps, it was for the first
time, that I felt warm friendship, and inspired it. The young lady had
been engaged for several months to an officer whom I had formerly met
in rather light society. At that time he was absent on duty. I am
convinced that I would never have entered the house again, had I felt
anything like love for his betrothed. But as matters stood, I gave
myself up to the charm of this harmless and cordial intercourse, the
more so, that her brother saw no objection to it. The family was
wealthy and much esteemed. Small parties were given in the house, where
dancing, comedies and tableaux-vivants went on, so that many young men
were always assembled there even during the absence of the betrothed,
and his future bride gaily joined in every amusement. Suddenly I
remarked that her brother treated me with coldness and reserve; I was
on the point of asking him the reason of this, when he anticipated me
by writing a polite letter in which he expressed his positive desire
that I should never again enter his parents' house. Of course, we had
an explanation in which I was informed that the officer to whom his
sister was engaged had charged her to break off all intercourse with
me, as I was a man of no principle. Several other circumstances added
to the irritation caused by this unfortunate affair, and though I did
my best to spare my fair friend every sorrow, yet the affair took a
serious turn. The conversation ended in a duel. I shot into a tree, but
the brother whose blood was hotter than mine, grazed my side with his
bullet. It was not much to speak of, but the agitation which I with
difficulty repressed, the cold of the winter morning in which I drove
for several hours in my carriage back to town, and the pain and rage I
felt at seeing this pure and charming tie so foolishly rent asunder,
all this laid me prostrate. I only rose from an inflammatory fever to
be sent here as incurable. And now, dear Marie, you will understand why
I can no longer make light of your innocently walking by the side of a
man supposed to be without principles. I who, at least, have always
adhered firmly to one thing, and that is not to seek my own happiness
at the cost of another's.
I had long made up my mind how I should answer him. If you have
confided all this to me, with the hope of changing my opinion, I said,
you little know me. It can only confirm me in the belief that I do
well in availing myself of the right of speaking the truth to you. A
right which is only granted to the dying.
All the good I have enjoyed in this life I have had to struggle
for. I so truly prize our mutual friendship that I will not renounce it
so easily. What would friendship be worth, if one had not the courage
to acknowledge, and defend it when attacked. How mean and false, should
I not appear in my own eyes, and in yours, if I changed in my conduct
towards you because bad or silly people accuse you of things which I
know to be untrue. I too depend on no one, in consideration of whom, I
being a girl should subject my feelings against my convictions.
If my father should ever hear that in my last days I had formed a
firm friendship with a stranger, he will only think highly of the
stranger in whom his daughter confided.
So no more of these reflections which ought never to have troubled
you, and we will remain what we were before, good comrades. Is it not
so, my friend?
Till death, he said, and pressed my hand, greatly agitated. I soon
succeeded in cheering him again, and this happy day would have closed
harmoniously, but for an event which to be sure troubled only me. We
rode home early, as the sun so soon sets behind the mountains. Morrik
was very merry, and talked to his mule, jestingly giving it credit for
a sense of the beautiful; he stopped at the farms, and spoke to the
children and their mothers, and as we rode past a white bearded old man
whom we met panting up the hill, he stuck a paper florin in the old
peasant's hat, and was delighted with the thought of what he would say
when a passing acquaintance told him of the strange ornament. So we
reached the bridge by a shorter road, there I saw on a bench a young
Pole whom I had several times noticed, and not in the favourable sense
of the word. I had now and then met him alone, and then he had stared
at me with such a fierce look in his dark eyes that I always hurried
past him. He is evidently one of the most suffering of the strangers
here, and his passionate temper seems constantly to be in revolt
against his fate, and this inward conflict distorts his otherwise
handsome and attractive features. His strange costume, all black, with
high boots, and a fur-cap with white feathers in it, gives him a
striking appearance, which sometimes has haunted me in troubled dreams,
always menacing me with terrible looks. To-day he sat quite quietly,
and did not appear to see me. Morrik was in front as the bridge is so
narrow that two riders cannot cross it side by side, and I had to pass
close to the bench on which he was reclining apparently asleep.
Suddenly he jumped up seized the bridle of my mule, and looked at me
fixedly with piercing eyes; he wanted to speak, but only burst out in a
frantic laugh, so that my mule shied and gave such a start that it
nearly sent me flying over the parapet of the bridge. Before I had
recovered from my astonishment, he had disappeared round a turning of
the road. The guide in a fury sent a curse after him, and I had hardly
time to enforce silence on him, before we reached Morrik, to whom I
would on no account mention this singular adventure until I ascertain
whether there is any mystery concealed under it. I have written too
much, and my pulse is beating feverishly. This night I shall have to
pay for the pleasures of the day. Good night.
The 8th Novemberrain and sirocco.
This the second day we have had of this unwholesome air in which no
patient dares to go out. It is a pity. I had anticipated the pleasure
of discussing different subjects with my newly acquired friend, which I
had refrained from doing before we had so cordially shaken hands as
comrades. Now, I must wait patiently. Strange that the solitude which
formerly seemed to me as life itself becomes only the resort of
necessity now that I have associated with a genial and intellectual
mind. I must content myself with my books and music. Every morning he
sends his servant to enquire how I feel. The ride seems to have done
him good, I still feel it in my limbs. I will write home and tell my
father of my new friend; I know it will please him.
The 11th November.
Now, at last, the southern winter has commenced its mild reign, and
people say that this will continue. Yesterday I again remained out of
doors from two o'clock till sunset with Morrik on the Wassermauer, not
always conversing, as he in compliance with my request brought a book
with him. The poems of Edgar Allen Poe, he showed them to me with a
smile, saying that these were the true expositors of his own feelings
before his regeneration, as he called it. I have taken the book away
with me and have lent him instead The wisdom of the Brahmins by my
dear Rückert, of which, however, one can only take in finger-tips at a
time, but every pinch of this snuff, to continue the clumsy simile,
freshens the mind and dispels congestions.
You really have given me a spiritual medicine, Morrik jestingly
said, I must beg of you to go on prescribing for me, for that
desperate American had quite unsettled me.
He told me that people had talked a great deal about our excursion
to Schönna, and looked at me to see if that annoyed me. Do not let us
please them by noticing it, I answered, just as we enjoyed the
sunshine without allowing the gnats and flies that buzzed about us, to
spoil our pleasure. We have tacitly agreed never to talk about our
illness, as most people here do, and either make themselves unhappy by
it or find consolation in it, according to the warmth or coldness of
their hearts. But I often perceive that he fancies erroneously that my
health is improving, instead of which I distinctly feel the contrary.
The momentary relief which I experience is just what characterises the
approaching end in this disease. I fancy that I breathe more easily and
move with less effort. I also eat more and sleep well, probably owing
to exhaustion, which increases, though I have the illusive feeling of
more vigour and ease. As I walked home to-dayI dine at three
o'clockI really felt hungry, but I know how it is with me.
To-day there is at Meran besides the usual market one of those large
meat ones that take place in the autumn when the Lauben are transformed
into long rows of butcher's stalls, and butchering goes on in all the
court-yards. On every peg, there hangs the half of a pig or a calf
which is sold to the peasants, who come in great multitudes from the
Vintschgau, Passeier, and Ultner valleys, and from the different farms
in the neighbourhood. Other booths are filled with various merchandize:
ironware, clothes images of saints and numberless trifles. Between
these boothes the people push, press, and jostle, so that if one is not
in danger of one's life, one is at all events nearly suffocated as the
smell of the meat mingles with the fumes of bad tobacco. I have even
seen boys of ten years old walk about with short pipes in their mouths,
and the smoke hangs over the market-place like a heavy fog; the lungs
that can stand it must really be strong as healthy. I nearly fainted.
Those great strong fellows would not stir a step out of my way.
Fortunately my friend of the Küchelberg and his Liese came to my
rescue, just when I most needed it. By plenty of vigorous elbowing he
at last got me safely through those human walls. He was again somewhat
flushed with wine, but he nevertheless appeared to me like a guardian
angel and I easily forgave him the question he jokingly asked me about
my brother or sweetheart. I could not make him understand that the
gentleman was neither the one or the other, though very dear to me.
My landlady has just brought me in my afternoon meal. My hunger has
grown so morbid that I cannot wait till supper time. Probably these are
the last figs of this year. Thank heaven that ham and bread are not
restricted to any particular season. What if I played our old doctor
the trick of dying before the spring, and that of starvation!
The 19th November.
I can hardly hold my pen, I tremble so with the agitation of this
last hour. How rashly I hoped that the weeks would glide on peaceful,
and full of sunshine like the last one; one day resembling the other.
In the forenoon, those happy hours on the Wassermauer with Morrik; the
remainder of the day, my books, and letters, or my work and my piano,
which I fancy sounds more and more melodious every time I play on it.
And now this occurrence! Moreover I cannot speak of it to any one, and
above all before my friend, before Morrik, I must appear as if nothing
had happened. Is it not all some fearful dream! Has that poor man, I
may say that madman, though he vehemently protested against the
suspicion, really spoken words to me that I could not understand,
accompanied by looks that I shudder to think of, for they seem to me to
have been more expressive than his words. I ought to have listened to
the secret misgivings which warned me against the solitary road on the
Küchelberg, since that scene on the bridge. But I knew that Morrik was
not on the Wassermauer, and did not like to be there without him,
particularly as the band was to play on that day.
I had walked on so totally absorbed in my own thoughts that I had
passed through the gate towards Vintschgau before I knew what I was
doing: it is still as warm there as summer is at home, and one may
saunter on through the leafless vineyards and find every now and then a
bench inviting to rest. Where my thoughts were I know not, when
suddenly he seemed to emerge from the ground, and stood by my side
holding my hand. My fright was so great that I could not utter a sound
but I fixed my eyes firmly on his face and saw that he opened his lips
with an effort. He began first in broken German, and then fluently and
vehemently in French, to excuse himself for the scene on the bridge. He
had been blinded by pain and jealousy, and would willingly cut off the
hand that had seized the bridle of my mule, if by so doing he could
obtain my forgiveness. While he spoke I vainly tried to free my hand
from his grasp. I looked around but no one was to be seen, the road was
deserted. This roused my pride, and my courage; I drew back my hand,
and could at last ask him what authorized him to speak in that way to a
stranger. He was silent for some time, and a violent conflict seemed to
rage within him. Every nerve of his face twitched convulsively. What he
at last said I will forget, I listened to it as if it were not
addressed to me. Could it be addressed to me, whom he did
not know, with whom he had never exchanged a word? Is a passion that is
roused by a figure gliding past like a shadow, by one who is inwardly
dead, and only outwardly has a semblance of life; is not that passion
but a freak of madness; and is a madman responsible for the words he
utters? Only when he threatened Morrik, I began to think such an
insanity dangerous, and not merely to be pitied. I do not know what I
said to him, but I saw that it made a deep impression on him. Suddenly
he took off his high black cap with the feathers in it, and stood
humbly before me; Vous avez raison, Madame, he said in a deep
thrilling voice which before had had a harsh hoarse tone in it.
Pardonnez-moi, j'ai perdu la tête. Then he bowed and walked across
the fields towards the level part of the country, where I could for
some time distinguish his dark figure moving among the willows.
After having written all this, it seems to me that I look upon what
has passed with more calmness; and compassion gets the better of my
indignation. I looked at myself in the glass and could still less
understand it. It will also always remain a mystery to me how such a
scene could take place between two natures one of whom did not feel the
slightest inclination for the other, who on his part made impetuous
attempts to draw near. I know that not only affinities draw characters
towards each other but also contraries; but can indifference also have
that power? The longer I think of it the more clearly I perceive that
his mind must be deranged. I will, after all, mention it to Morrik, for
who can say to what I may not expose myself if I should a second time
encounter this madman, defenceless, and fright should paralyze the
self-possession which I need to subdue him.
Several days later.
The pain of mentioning this dreadful encounter to my friend has been
spared me. It would certainly have agitated him, the more so, that he
has been much less cheerful lately, and often walks quite absently
The poor young man whom I dreaded will never again cross my path.
His clouded mind is now brightened by the light of heaven. This morning
when my landlady came to me, she told me that a young Pole had died in
the night. The description she gave me of his person is exactly that of
the poor madman. A hemorrage had carried him off in the night and he
was found dead in the morning. I now reproach myself with having spoken
too harshly to him, but I had no other weapon than my words. If they
were too sharp and wounded him more deeply than the offence demanded,
the alarm of that moment may excuse me, and the fact that I did not
immediately perceive the state of his mind.
Tired, agitated, and in conflict with myself.
To-day when I met Morrik, I welcomed my dear friend with particular
pleasure, after these last painful days. He told me without laying much
stress on itfor here one is accustomed to the disappearance of some
known faceof the sudden death, and asked me if I remembered the
handsome young man. I said: no, and then felt heavy at heart as though
I had committed some crime. In vain I tried to persuade myself that by
this untruth, I had cut short any further conversation on the subject,
and perhaps the necessity of telling other falsehoods, I cannot get rid
of the painful feeling that I have wronged my friend who has so much
right to hear the truth. I shall again have a bad night, and shall not
be able to rest till I have confessed all to him, and begged his
The next dayI believe it to be the 23rd,
cold and foggy.
I am severely punished. The cold prevents his walking out. Now I
must wait patiently till to-morrow comes, or perhaps till the day
after. It has become quite a necessity with me, not to let the least
breath of untruth, or misunderstanding come between us.
Edgar Allan Poe with his morbid discontents; his bitter and hopeless
sarcasms, is now congenial to me. There is a frame of mind when wisdom
is repugnant to us, as a bowl of sweet milk is to a man in a fever.
Two hours later.
Are calm and peace really only words void of meaning in this
troubled world? Cannot even those retain them inwardly who had won
them. I begin to think that I should not be secure from the events, and
storms, which harass my last moments, even were I shut up in a walled
in tower, where the ravens brought me my food through the barred
windows. If no other catastrophe were possible, an earthquake would
root up my place of concealment, and break through the walls, and I
should be again cast out into the world among strangers, whose
affection would distress me, when I had ceased to care for their
A visitor disturbed me this morning; the last person in Meran whom I
should have expected to see in my room! No less a personage than the
Burghermeister of the town. He came to spare me the disagreeable
surprise of a solemn summons, and disclosed to me that he had been
entrusted with a letter for me, and with the testament of the writer,
who names me his sole heiress.
I looked helplessly at the Burghermeister. The thought of my
father's death did not occur to me. If this dreadful event were to
happen; if I should lose him before my hour had arrived, at least the
pain of inheriting from him would be spared me. But who in the whole
I glanced at the letter which the Burghermeister had with some
hesitation laid on the table, and saw a handwriting that was quite
unknown to me. I don't know this handwriting, I said wonderingly,
though a sudden misgiving seized me, as I remarked that the direction
was in French. My evident astonishment seemed to relieve him. He
probably had supposed that a more intimate acquaintance had existed
between me, and the writer of the letter, and was prepared for a
painful scene. Do you wish to read the letter now or later? he asked.
I opened it at once, and read it with a beating heart but without any
outward show of emotion, at least I believe so. The letter was filled
with the rhapsodies which I had before spurned from me with horror.
They were hardly subdued by the approach of death, though the
unfortunate man must have felt it coming. I have not as yet deciphered
much of it. The indistinct French hand seems to have trembled at every
stroke with violent emotion.
But not a word of the legacy; only wretchedness and accusations
against fate which had rent asunder the fetters of passion, instead of
loosening them; confused tumultuous words, and ideas, written in order
to lighten the burden of one heart, and to weigh down the other with
When I had laid down the letter, the kindly old gentleman turned to
me, and seemed to ask for an explanation which I could not give. When I
had told him that I was just as much astonished as he was, he departed,
leaving me a copy of the will for further consideration, but he
seriously advised me not to refuse so considerable a property in the
first moment of excitement, though I was of age, and need not consult
the wishes of my father. He would call again in a few days.
I will take a walk, I feel as if I could no longer remain in the
room with those papers; as if they impregnated the air with the fever
heat from whence they proceeded. I did not even require to read them a
second time to come to a decision; I, or the poor of Merancan there
be a doubt which of us will outlive the other, and will need the
In the Afternoon.
Truly this is a disastrous day. I wish it were past. Who can tell
what the evening may bring!
I went out with the foolish hope of meeting Morrik, instead of whom,
I encountered all the strange though well known faces in the winter
garden. I can generally now pass them with indifference, but they were
this day again to wound me deeply.
I perceived that they laid their heads together and whispered as I
went by. On one of the benches sat the young chronique scandaleuse
whom I have long ceased to bow to, as she tosses her head whenever I
come near her. The place beside her was the only unoccupied one, but
hardly had I sat down, when up she started and moved towards another
bench, begging two ladies to make room for her. The blood rushed to my
face but I was not conquered. At last the life preserver, who had not
deigned to address a word to me for weeks past, rustled into the
arbour. This time her heart was too full; she came up to me and said,
so loudly that every one could hear her, Well my dear, I suppose we
are to congratulate you. The young Pole has bequeathed to you, his
large fortune. Poor young man! To be sure you always kept him at a
great distance. It is no wonder that he soon died. It is really quite
touching that even after his death he offered his broken heart to you.
You are mistaken, I said. I have not accepted the legacy which
was only left to me by the error of an unsound mind. But even if it had
been clearly the intention of the deceased to appoint me his heiress, I
would not have accepted it. I am not moved, either by the kindness, or
the malevolence of strangers, but generally turn my back on both. Then
I quietly read on. There was a great silence in the arbour, and I could
hear the quicker breathing of the fat old lady without nerves, as well
as that of the little lady who hates me. I did not take any further
notice of what they whispered and tittered around me, only I several
times distinguished the name of Morrik, purposely pronounced very
distinctly. Even that cannot hurt me. But as I walked home, shivering
in the damp foggy air, and feeling inwardly as sunless and gloomy as
the sky was outwardly. I should have liked a good hearty cry. I feel so
weary, that not even tears will flow. Life, happiness, sorrow,
everything, seems stagnant within me.
The 25th November.
And now this! this verily is the last drop in the cup of bitterness.
This blow strikes at the very roots, and no storm is needed to level to
the ground the falling tree a child could overturn it. And that this
blow should come from the hand, from which I least expected it. That
just where I had hoped to ease my heart, I have brought it back more
heavy still. To-day I at last found him on the Wassermauer. The sun
shone brightly; I felt revived and hoped to gain peace and relief from
the conversation I had so long wished for. I thought I could easily
explain to him this last occurrence, and I was not disappointed; he
smiled when I told him how sorry I was for my want of truth towards
him. He took my hand and before releasing it he pressed it to his lips.
I felt strangely moved. He had heard of the legacy of the young Pole
but had never doubted that I would refuse it. Everything now I thought
was smoothed and settled, and I cast a grateful look at the sun as if
his kindly beams had cleared it all.
How came it that we again turned to that unlucky theme? Alas it was
my fault. I wished to convince him more fully still that my feelings
for the poor madman had always been cool, and indifferent; so I began
again by saying, how the bare thought of that meeting filled me with
horror; how inexcusable it was to let people who were so evidently
deranged walk about unwatched. He looked straight before him, and said:
You are mistaken dear Marie, he was not more deranged than I am who
sit beside you, and I hope I do not inspire you with fear. He even has
the advantage over me, for he has eased his heart of the burden which
still oppresses mine.
I do not understand you, I replied, and I spoke the truth.
Then I will continue silent; what good could speaking do me?
After a pause: But no, why should I remain silent you might then
only fancy something worse. Is it so contemptible, if a few steps from
the grave we once more look back on life, and there perceive a
happiness which would render it loveable and worth having if only it
were not too late, and if then one grows distracted with misery and
longing, and with rage against fate? If though dying one longs to press
to one's heart the dear one who is denied to us, and breathe our last
breath on her lips? That is what happened to the poor lad who now
sleeps a dreamless sleepand so.... He paused and looked at me. There
was not a soul to be seen underneath the poplars and he again took my
hand. You tremble! before me too, he said. Forget my words.
I could not speak. I felt that my last and best happiness was
destroyed; the harmless confidence, the warm cheerful intercourse to
which my heart clung. Again I was alone, I felt it must be so, if I
would not add remorse to my other sufferings. I will go home, I said,
I feel unwell; you must remain here, and enjoy the sunshine which
makes my head ache to-day. I will write a few hues to you in the
afternoon to tell you, if I feel better. Then I rose, gave him my hand
for the last time; entreated him by a look to say no more, and left
I will see if I can collect my thoughts sufficiently to write to
In the Evening.
I lay the copy of my letter to him between these leaves, and feel
relieved now that it is over; physically relieved, but the weight on my
heart still oppresses me. This is the letter:
Meran, the 25th November.
My dear friend!
Let me to-day, bid you farewell for the last time in this world,
and express my hope of a happy meeting in the next, towards which we
are tending. It will be easier for both of us to take leave of each
other now, while we are still under the impression of a pure and
friendly intercourse, than it would be later when we should have felt
that we do not agree in higher matters, and this I fear would sooner,
or later have been the case, for your last words still sadden and
dishearten me, as I never thought words spoken by my dear friend could
How I wish we still lived in the past; then I was happy and hoped
that you were so. Why did you speak, why could we not calmly have
awaited our destiny, and stood firmly by each other as true comrades
till the end came.
I hope that this calm and premature farewell, though it may cause
you a momentary pain, will in time soften your thoughts, and give you
back the clear-sightedness with which we a short time ago looked on the
past, and hoped for the future. We cannot avoid meeting now and then;
let us pass one another with a silent bow, as if already we were
shadows moving in a higher sphere.
I need not tell you that I shall always retain the warmest
friendship for you, and I beg you to keep yours for me, though at one
time it seemed overshadowed by darker passions.
Farewell my dear friend; show me that these words, which come from
the heart, are understood, by not answering them.
The last of November.
I long for snow and ice for the cold winter air of my home. This sun
that shines day after day in the clear blue November sky makes my eyes
and my heart ache. This morning I woke with a pleasant surprise; it had
snowed in the night and the soft snow still lay unsullied, and pure on
the roofs and on the road. Now it has melted away, and only a few
traces of it are left. People again walk about in light cloaks, and
with dry feet under the leafless poplars.
My father wrote yesterday that he fully approves of my decision
regarding the legacy. I immediately informed the Burghermeister of
this, and have already received a vote of thanks from the
administration of the poorhouse funds, which I would willingly have
dispensed with. I now write rarely in this journal. One day resembles
the other; they are like the leaves of a tree in the late autumn; all
of them are brown, only one falls to the earth sooner than another.
The 1st of Decemberat Night.
A shooting festival has taken place and enlivened the quiet town of
Meran. Early in the morning I was awakened by the band of music which
accompanied the shooters from the Sandplatz in front of the Post to the
targets. Then the whole day long the report of the rifles was heard and
made me feel quite nervous, and later the shouts and jodles of the
peasants who arrived rather the worse for wine. In the evening
fireworks were displayed on the left bank of the Passer, and it was
very pretty to see the population of the town, and the strangers
walking up and down, and enjoying the mild air by the light of torches
which were placed along the Wassermauer. Then a strong sirocco arose,
and wildly swept the rockets across the water, made the torches
flicker, and drove the spectators into their houses by bringing on the
rain. I saw the spectacle from my window, and remained there till the
last spark had died out in the dark starless night.
How long it is now since I have spoken to any one except to the
people of the house where I lodge. The wish that my lips might be
closed for ever grows stronger every day. Oh for an hour of the
cheerful, confidential talk I once enjoyed with Morrik, and then to go
to sleep and dream that same dream on to Eternity! But I must endure
till my time comes.
The 4th December.
When my time has come, shall I find courage to resist my longing to
see him once more, and in spite of my resolve, bid adieu to life with
my eyes fixed on his. I think he too would wish it, whatever his
present thoughts may be regarding my sudden rupture with him. Sometimes
the idea torments me that he may have possibly misunderstood my letter
and think that I drew back because I feared gossip. I should like to
tell him once more that this is not the case; that I only did it for
his sake, for his peace of mind, and indeed for mine also.
How is he now? Can he walk out? Who will help him to bear the long
solitude of the day. I am truly grateful to him for having granted my
wish in not having answered my letter. Still something seems missing in
my life, now that I no longer see him, and cannot judge for myself
whether he is cheerful or melancholy; how he bears his sufferings, what
he reads, what he thinkshis thoughts even, I could once read in his
face, his countenance is so clear and open.
Yesterday I met his servant. The faithful creature bowed to me; I
should have liked to ask him how his master was; however it is better
Took a walk to the Zenoburg; that dear walk of former days, but not
with my former spirits. As I passed by the house where he lodges, he
was just coming out; he perceived me and stood still and motionless to
let me pass. I dared not look at him, but the first glance told me that
he had become pale and gravenearly as much so as when I first saw
him. He did not bow, but remained in the shade of the doorway as if
fearing to frighten me; so I passed him with my eyes fixed on the
The hill seemed much steeper to me than when I walked up the first
timeprobably I have grown weakerand then I was happy. What is it
that hinders me from being so again, in spite of all my efforts and
self-command. Is it merely compassion for him, and the want of that
intercourse which had become a necessity to me. No, it is not that
alone; it is as if I had been infringing on some duty. But how could I
have acted differently? Can one trifle with the hopes and happiness of
this life, when death is so near.
The 16th DecemberEvening.
A trying but pleasant day has passed. I have packed a small
Christmasbox which I intend to send home. When all the trifles I had
worked for my father, Ernest, and my step-mother were laid together;
the pretty wood carvings, the picture of Meran, and the figure of a
Saltner which I had dressed up for Ernest as like the real ones as
possible, I was as happy as a child with its own Christmas presents.
And then the packing of it all; as the box was not quite filled, I
crammed in all I could get hold of; some pomegranates, a box filled
with dried figs, another one with chesnuts, and one of those sweet
Christmas-cakes made of honey and raisins. The box will tell its own
tale of Meran.
My landlord's apprentice carried the box to the post. Then for the
first time for several weeks, I walked on the Wassermauer. The
strangers sat on the benches as they had always done, only foot-rugs
had become more general. Morrik arrived soon after me. This time we
silently exchanged salutations as had been agreed between us. He looked
kindly and calmly at me probably to see whether I appeared well and
cheerful. I was much heated by my Christmas packing. When I got home I
looked at myself in the glass and perceived that it was only a
transient flush of agitation, perhaps of pleasure. Now that we have
again met so unconstrainedly I fancy that the future will seem easier
to me. I need only imagine that I never exchanged a word with him but
that I have simply read a story in which one of the characters had
attracted methat I now meet a stranger whose face recalls my idea of
this character, and therefore that I take great interest in him. We did
not sit down beside each other. I walked several times up and down the
Wassermauer with a lady who was very kind to me, inquired why I had so
persistently remained at home, and then told me all about herself and
her children, from whom she had been separated for the sake of
tranquillity. Tears started to her eyes as she said. To be separated
from those dear to us in order to enjoy quiet and peace of mind! Oh
you good doctors I what bad physicians for the soul you are.
What am I to think of this! An hour ago a Christmas-tree beautifully
decorated with oranges, pomegranites, and sweet meats, and covered with
wax-lights was brought into the room by my landlady. The tree is so
high that I was obliged to place it on the floor and yet it nearly
reaches the ceiling. A strange maidservant brought it, my landlady
tells me, and would on no account say from whom it came. I have now lit
all the tapers and am writing by their light, after having given my
landlady's children some Christmas-presents, for the people here never
Now that I am again alone, I ransack my brain to find out who could
have sent the tree. The kind lady who may also feel the want of
Christmas joys, and Christmas lights? But surely she would have written
a letter to say so, and then our acquaintance is so short. Many other
kind faces have passed by me in my daily walks, but to whom of these
would it have occurred to brighten my Christmas eve. I must confess
that in my first irritation, I wronged many of them, and might
certainly have found some pleasing acquaintances among them, if my
first longing for solitude had not expressed itself so repellantly. Now
no one would willingly speak to me.
Can the tree have come from him? but that would be contrary
to our agreement. One who must and will keep silence cannot offer
presents. It is easier to give than to receive silently, and yet how is
it possible to express one's thanks after having already bid farewell.
The more I think of it the more uneasy I become. It is not all as it
should be; something unnatural and indefinable seems to have come
between us; something pernicious that would revenge itself on us.
Here come letters from my dear ones, from home! But I must first put
out the tapers and light my little lamp. Some of the twigs are already
crackling and glimmering. The last spark has died out on my last
Christmas-tree. The church bells are ringing while I am writing these
lines by the light of the moon which is now keeping me company, my lamp
having died out.
December the 28th.
We have met again, our hands have touched, and our eyes have
encountered each other; but what a sorrowful meeting. The vengeance I
expected has come.
The program of a concert was brought to my lodgings. A player on the
cither was going to perform in the Assembly rooms at the Post. I am no
longer displeased at being roused from my own thoughts; so I went, as I
very much like the cither, and have always wished to hear a virtuoso
perform on it. When I arrived the first piece had begun, and only three
seats in the front row were unoccupied; they seemed to have been kept
for some expected personage of distinction: I found myself compelled to
take one of these seats of honour, and did not do so, unwillingly for
the tone of the instrument was rather low, and there too, I could
observe the movement of the performer's hands. The air soon became
oppressive; the heat of the stove, the crowded room and its low ceiling
all combined to make it so. I was much flurried at first, but I soon
grew calm, and listened with delight to the charming and touching
sounds. Suddenly the door was opened softly and quietly, and Morrik
entered. He stopped when he saw the room filled, but did not like to
turn back. Some gentlemen near the door pointed out to him the empty
seat beside me. He slowly moved up the room, and arriving at my side,
sat down with a slight inclination of the head. My breath stopped and I
feared he would perceive the trembling which seized me, as the arm of
his chair touched mine; however he appeared to be much calmer than I
was, and to listen to the music with more attention; so after a time I
mastered my agitation, and listened too, absorbed in an exquisite and
sweet reverie. I felt as if the melody were a celestial atmosphere in
which our mutual thoughts and feelings rose and intermingled; a
harmonious communion of soul with soul banishing all that had hitherto
divided estranged and tormented us. I cannot describe how this sort of
visionary dream comforted me. I felt persuaded that the same thoughts
touched him also. Our eyes were fixed on the cither, and yet it seemed
as if they met in one long book.
Even the applause and shouts of bravo! hardly roused us from this
ecstasy. The pauses between the pieces only lasted for a few minutes,
and at the end of one of them the cither-player put by his cither, and
brought out an enormous instrument which he called the divine Kikilira,
explaining in a few words that it was an instrument peculiar to the
Tyrol, and had been constructed by a simple peasant. It is a sort of
wooden harmoniumthe notes are formed of very hard wood, and the tones
are produced from them, by the sharp and rapid blows of two small
hammers. It has a harsh shrill sound, and one could hardly have found
an instrument more opposite to the cither. It rudely put to flight all
my exalted thoughts and feelings, and seemed to outrage my very soul. I
would willingly have left the room, had I not been afraid of offending
the performer. I feared for Morrik, for I knew how exceedingly
sensitive he was with regard to every noise. I slightly glanced at him.
He sat with closed eyes his head reclining on his right arm, as if
trying to shield himself from this sudden attack.
All at once I perceived that his lips grew still paler, his eyes
opened partially and lost all expression; then his head sank heavily
against the back of his chair.
Several of the audience also observed this, yet no one moved to
assist the fainting man. I fancied, judging by the scornful expression
on their faces, that they with malicious pleasure, purposely left this
benevolent charge to me. I got up and begged the performer to stop, as
a gentleman was unwell. I sprinkled his forehead with eau de cologne,
which I always carry with me, and let him inhale the vivifying perfume.
Part of the company had risen, but none of them left their places: it
was only to observe the spectacle more at their case. Only the
cither-player came to me, and helped me to support Morrik, when his
senses had returned; and to lead him the few steps to the door. Once
out of the room, where the fresh December-wind blew across his face, he
recovered completely. He looked inquiringly at me, then remembered what
had occurred and leant slightly on my arm as I led him down stairs. I
thank you; was all he said, and we walked on together as his servant
was nowhere to be found. I accompanied him up the kleine Lauben,
as the street leading past the Post is called, and as far as the church
from whence we could see his lodgings. Do you feel better? I asked.
He bowed his head and made a movement as though he now wished to walk
alone. Ere we parted he pressed my hand endeavoured to repress a sigh,
and silently turned towards the house. I watched him till he had
reached the door; he walked with firm slow steps, and did not once look
back. When he had disappeared, I too went home.
I feel so overcome by this event that I must lie down; my head is
nearly bursting with pain, and when I close my eyes the harsh hammering
sound of that wooden instrument, which surely has received the name of
divine in derision, rushes wildly into my ears, and I feel feverish
and exhausted from the heat and oppressive air of the room.
The 11th January.
A fortnight of sickness and suffering, during which I did not open a
book or play a note on the pianoIt was only a slight influenza, sleep
and diet have pulled me throughthough one night when the fever
tormented me with horrible visions, I was on the point of calling in a
doctor, as my landlady constantly urged me to do. The people here have
great faith in medicines. I am glad that I can now again stand on my
feet, and owe it to no one but myself. I will venture on my first walk
to-day. The air is cold, but still, and the sun is so powerful that I
can boldly open my casement. I long to hear something about Morrik; but
whom can I ask.
The same day.
My presentiment was right; the visions in my feverish dreams spoke
the truth. He is seriously ill with typhus fever. He has been laid up
ever since that concert and sometimes the fever is so bad that he lies
unconscious for hours. I met his doctor just at the gate of the town,
and mustered courage to ask him for news of Morrik; and what good would
restraint do me; it would only be ridiculous for does not everyone
already know that I led him out of the concert-room, and across the
streets and is not my show of interest very innocent, though
unfortunately it may seem improper. The doctor looked very grave and I
should have liked to detain him, and extract from him a decided answer
to my question as to whether there was any immediate danger, but just
then one of his patients accosted him, and our conversation was broken
off. With what feelings I sat down on the sunny bench, and gazed at the
water, watching the logs of wood floating down the stream, and swept
away by the force of the current every time they tried to cling to a
stone. And is it not so with us poor human creatures; do we not float
down the stream of life! and are the happy moments we enjoy anything
better than a short rest on a cliff from which we are severed by the
first passing wave.Oh, come peace, come! My heart will break with its
stormy throbbing. How shall I be able every morning to endure the pain
of imagining him dying, and of not being able to watch for his every
breath! Oh heavens! and has it come to this, that I must see him leave
this world before me; I who never dreamt of such a possibility.
January, the 12thEvening.
At last I have gained my point; and the calm I now feel amply
compensates me for the struggle I have had to endure. I have just come
from his lodgings where I have passed the day with him, and shall do so
again to-morrow, and all the days that are yet granted to him.
How I passed this night, God to whom I prayed in my calmer moments
alone knows. In those dark hours, when sorrow and hopelessness took
away all feeling of His presence, and of my own strength, life,
time, eternity whirled about in my giddy brain just like the helpless
logs of wood tossed by the waves.
In the morning I begged the landlady to go to his lodgings and
enquire how he had passed the night. She told me that a stout elderly
lady with fair ringlets had opened the door of Mr. Morrik's
sitting-roomHe lay in the adjoining room and talked so loud in his
fever that one could hear him distinctly from the outside. The lady
asked who had sent her, and on hearing who it was, had made a wry face,
and sent her away with the information that there was no change.
This was a terrible blow to me. I knew what he thought of the
professional philanthropy of the life preserver, and that he had always
purposely avoided her. And now there was she listening to his feverish
talk, and plaguing him with her officiousness in his lucid intervals. I
could not bear the thought.
It was early in the morning when I ascended the stairs of his
lodgings, fully determined not to let any consideration, except what
was necessary for his welfare and tranquillity, prevail over me. My
courage only deserted me for a moment when on knocking at the door a
shrill hard voice called out, Come in. All my coolness and presence
of mind returned however, when I felt the cold lustreless eyes resting
on me, with a severe rebuking expression; and with a quiet voice I said
that I had come myself to have news of him, as the information of my
landlady did not suffice me. Before she had time to answer Morrik
called out my name from the inner room. I will go myself, I said,
and ask the sufferer how he feels. He seems to have recovered his
Mr. Morrik receives no one, she said, and your visit would be
against all propriety, a reason, to be sure, which is of little
importance to you? At the death-bed of a friend, certainly not, I
replied. He called a second time Marie; so opening the folding that
led to his bedroom, I entered without a moment's hesitation.
The small room looked dark, as the only window opened on the narrow,
gloomy street, and was partly covered by a curtain; still it was light
enough for me to see that his pale face was brightened by a ray of
pleasure when I entered. He stretched out his hot hand, and tried to
lift his head. You have come! he whispered, I cannot tell you how
your presence relieves me. Do not go away again, Marie, I cannot spare
you, my time is so short. The lady out there, you know whom I mean, her
very voice pains me; her presence seems like a nightmare to me, but I
cannot bring myself to tell her so. I tried to hint to her that I
preferred remaining alone, but she answered that: patients were not
allowed to have a will of their own. Please remain with me, when you
are here I shall see and hear no one but you, and I promise never to
annoy you again.
He talked on in this strain in so low and hurried a voice, that the
tears sprang to my eyes. I pressed his hand warmly and promised to do
all he wished. His face brightened in a moment. Then he lay quite still
and closed his eyes, so that I believed him to be asleep but when I
tried to draw away my hand, he glanced at me with a sad and pleading
look. At the end of half an hour, he really slept. I returned again to
the sitting-room where the lady sat on the sofa. She was knitting in
great wrath, and the poor meshes had to suffer for my offence. I
perceived that there was no time to be lost, so I told her with as much
consideration for her feelings as I could, that the patient was very
grateful to her for her kindness, but that he would not trouble her any
longer as I was going to nurse him with the help of his servant and of
the people who lodged him. You, my dear? she slowly asked,
casting an annihilating look at me.
Certainly, I replied quietly; among all the visitors here I am
the nearest acquaintance Mr. Morrik has, and so we should both think it
strange if I left the duty of nursing him to an entire stranger, who
moreover has so many other charitable duties to fulfil.
She stared at me as though my mind were wandering.
Is it possible, she at last said, that you do not feel, that by
this step you will for ever ruin your already so much damaged
reputation. Are you related to him? Are you an old woman, who is above
suspicion; or are you in need of a nurse for yourself, my dear?
I am perfectly aware of what I can do, and what I can answer for,
I said, I regret that our opinions on the subject differ, but I cannot
change mine. I shall remain here; and certainly I cannot hinder you
from doing the same. Do not be uneasy about my reputation; I believe I
told you once before that I have closed with this world, and submitting
the case to a higher judge, I hope to be acquitted. She arose, took
her bonnet and said: You will not expect me to remain in the same room
with a young lady whose moral principles so widely differ from mine,
and to sanction by my presence an intimacy which in every respect I
hold to be most reprehensible. Nothing remains for me but to hear from
the patient's own lips whether he desires my departure. If the doctor
should sanction this continual emotion for a patient suffering from
typhus fever, it is no business of mine.
With these words, she moved towards the folding doors, but I quietly
stopped her and said: Mr. Morrik sleeps, so I beg of you not to
disturb him; and from this sleep you may gain the tranquillizing
assurance, that my presence is rather beneficial to him than
After these words we only exchanged a silent and formal curtsey, the
door closed on the deeply offended lady and a load fell from my heart.
I opened the door of the balcony which also leads into the garden, to
let out the odour of acetic ether which the lady without nerves had
brought here too. Then I looked round my new domain, and it pleased me
much. What a difference between this elegant, handsomely furnished, and
lofty apartment, and my own small room with its scanty furniture. Here,
his writing-table loaded with all the luxury of portfolios, inkstands,
and different trinkets; there, the shelves with his finely bound books;
the comfortable arm-chair, and above all the pleasure of breathing the
fresh air merely by stepping out on the balcony shaded by awnings from
whence a few steps lead into the garden. How sunny, sheltered, and
secluded it looked down there; only the splash of the fountain was
heard, and the lullaby song of a nurse who sat on a bench with a pretty
baby in her arms.
I was so charmed with the peace of this abode that I actually forgot
who was lying in the next room in a feverish slumber. I was shocked at
having been led for a moment into this obliviousness. I stepped to the
door and listened. He called Marie in a low voice. When I looked in,
he said: I heard all; you are my guardian angel; I owe you the first
refreshing slumber I have had for a fortnight.Sleep on, I replied,
you are not to speak. Cheer up, and dream pleasantly. He nodded
faintly, and again closed his eyes.
In the afternoon the doctor came. Him, at least, I must exempt from
the accusation I recently brought against all doctors; that of being
bad physicians for the soul. When I told him why I had remained, he
smiled. Has Morrik spoken to him of me? I do not think so. But what
pleased him more even than the departure of the life preserver, whose
beneficial influence on the nerves, he evidently doubts, was the fact
that Morrik had slept for three hours and that his pulse was calmer.
When I accompanied him to the door, and ventured to ask him what he
thought would be the end of this illness, he shrugged his shoulders.
The danger has not yet passed, was all he said. I had thought so.
At seven o'clock I walked home; the servant watches by him during
the night. He slept when I went away, and did not even feel my hand
when I touched his before leaving. I will sleep now; I want to be at my
post early in the morning. For a long time I have not felt so peaceful
and calm as this evening. Now nothing can again estrange us.
He woke in the night, and immediately asked for me. The servant
could hardly quiet him with the assurance that I would certainly return
in the morning. I found him much agitated; only after a long
explanation, in which he followed me with difficulty, did I succeed in
convincing him, that it must be so, that it was necessary that the day
and night watches should be relieved. But if I should die in the
night? he asked. Then you will send for me, and I will come to you
instantly. When I had promised this, he went to sleep again. He does
not eat a morsel and his hands are fearfully thin.
I am more convinced than ever that my presence tranquillizes him.
The afternoon passed very quietly. We did not speak to each other, but
the door between the two rooms was left open, so that he could see the
light of my lamp, and watch my shadow on the wall; he had expressly
I read for a long time, and listened to his breathing. No other
sound reached me. Only when I had to give him his medicines I went to
him. Then he always had some gay and affectionate words to say to me,
but without any tone of passion in them.
She is a fairy, he said to the doctor, she makes even death
appear a festival to me. Formerly, doctor, I always felt inclined to
say to you: 'That thou doest, do quickly.' But now it is of great
moment to me that you should prolong my life for a few days. I can
never have enough, even of your horrid potions, now that a good spirit
gives them to me.
Yesterday I could not write. He was much worse. To-day he is, at
least, not worse still; what a sad consolation! The hard frost
continues. The fountain in the garden is covered with ice, and not a
flake of snow to soften the piercing air, and to relieve the chest. I
long for snow, for I am convinced that he will not be better till the
air softens. To-day I stood for hours at his bedside, and he did not
recognize me. In his delirium, he talked of people and countries
unknown to me, and then I saw how little we really know of each other;
and yet a moment later when he called me by name, I felt how near and
dear I was to him, and that we do know of each other our best feelings
and thoughts. All that is really worth knowing.
The 19th January, 5 o'clock in the morning.
I have just come home after four and twenty sleepless hours, and yet
I feel that no sleep is possible for me till my feelings are more calm
and collected, and I have expressed them in these leaves. I feel like
one who has been blind, and who struck by the first ray of light, is
made aware of his happiness by a dazzling pain. I will try to speak
connectedly, though what is the meaning of beginning, middle, endwhat
is the significance of these words, when eternity has mingled with
time; when dying, one awakens to a new life, which is subject to time,
yet still bears the impress of eternity.
These are but weak and unconnected words, and I wished to speak
The days which have passed since I last wrote have been so sad that
I could not speak of them. Yesterday evening when the doctor came quite
late, I had sent for him as my anxiety increased every hour, he did not
conceal his fears. We must bring on a crisis, he said, or he is
lost. They put him in a tepid bath and dashed cold water over him.
This excited him to such a degree that even through the closed doors, I
heard his groans and his loud and unintelligible exclamations. When he
had been again laid in his bed the doctor came to me. I will remain
with him during the night, said the excellent man; any blunder about
applications of ice might be of fatal consequence. You must go home and
rest, the day has been too fatiguing for you. I told him that even at
home I should find no rest, and would rather remain and watch with him.
He did not press me further as he saw that I was quite decided. Had I
not given my promise to Morrik that I would not be absent when his end
was approaching. So I sat down in an arm-chair at his writing-table and
took up a book only for the sake of holding on to somethingto read
was impossible; for that a clear mind is required, and mine was clouded
over with a dark shadow, and all my attention was rivetted on the
sick-room where the doctor sat by his bed changing the compresses
himself, and only now and then giving the servant some order in a low
voice. The moans and the rambling indistinct words which broke from
those feverish lips cut me to the heart; this is still his voice I
thought, and these are, perhaps, the last words that he will ever speak
to me. I cannot understand their meaning, nor does he himself. Oh, what
a leave taking!
I will not dwell on this scene; the remembrance, even, of that
dreadful time makes me shudder. We heard the hours strike from the
church-tower; ten, eleven o'clock, midnight.In the next room
stillness now prevailed. I kept in my breath and listened anxiously,
questioning myself if this were a good or a bad sign. I tried to rise
and creep to the door to hear if he yet breathed, but I found that the
agony of the last hours had nearly paralyzed me, and I could not move.
Or was it only that I could not muster courage and nerve myself
sufficiently to face the dreadful certainty.
Strange! I had thought myself quite familiarized with death, even if
it should approach the bedside of my dearest friend. And now, instead
of calmly facing it, I shivered with fear like a child in the dark.
I know not if I could have endured these feelings much longer
without fainting, especially as I had not swallowed a morsel the whole
of that day. At last, just as my strength was giving way the bedroom
door opened, and the doctor came out quietly. He is saved.
The shock these words gave me was so great that I burst into a fit
of hysterical tears. The doctor sat down opposite me and said: You
weep, Mademoiselle, and perhaps the word 'saved,' seems to you only as
a bitter mockery, when coupled with the name of a patient whose life
was despaired of before this last illness seized him. But it is just on
this illness that I found my hope of saving him. Nature has risked a
bold experiment and has succeeded. It is not the first time that I have
observed her employ this admirable device by which she first kindles a
conflict in the nervous and blood systems; and then summoning the last
vital powers, she combines all her forces to drive away the enemy who
had taken entire possession of the citadel. Now you will see that our
friend, if his convalescence after this fever proceeds without any
disturbance, will make rapid progress towards the full recovery of his
former health, which was once with reason despaired of. Now I can
safely send him to Venice in March, without any fear of his catching
the typhus there, as this fever seldom seizes the same person twice.
The soft sea air will be most beneficial to his lungs; and though I
never meddle with prophecies, I can say, almost with certainty, that in
this casetaking it for granted that no outward disturbance
occursour patient will in less than a year be as strong and healthy
A slight noise in the inner room, called the doctor again to his
He stayed away only a few minutes, but at least I had time to become
more collected before he returned. Can I acknowledge even to myself
that this great revolution in all my ideas startled me more than it
pleased me? So he was to live, and I firmly believing that he was to
follow me into another world had as fully taken possession of his soul
as if it were written that we should only be separated for a short
time, and would part with the mutual wish of: A happy death to you!
instead of a happy life to you!
Fortunately this selfish regret only lasted till the doctor
returned, and I could say with a heart full of pure joy and gratitude,
Thank God, he will live! He will once more enjoy his youth, his
strength, his plans, and his hopes! When the doctor was again beside me
he said, They are both asleep: both master and servant. I settled the
poor fellow, who certainly has been greatly fatigued, more comfortably
in his armchair and he did not awake. It seems as if he knew that he is
no longer wanted, now that the crisis has passed, and nature herself
has taken charge of nursing the patient. I advise you to follow his
example Mademoiselle and to lie down on the sofa and go to sleep. I
have kept a cup of tea for myself and do not mind in the least
remaining here till morning, and will feast meantime on our friend's
looks. I cannot let you walk home in this cold winter night, you would
by so doing risk all the benefit you have obtained by your stay here.
Benefit! I exclaimed; you must know that I have no illusions
whatever with regard to the state of my health. I am perfectly aware
how little I have to risk. If I have gained anything by my stay here it
is only a reprieve of a few days or weeks.
Pardon me, he said with a smile, if I do not share your opinion.
To be sure we professional men are often worse prophets than the
uninitiated. At least we are less confident.
As during the last few days I had written some letters at Morrik's
writing-table, I had brought with me the portfolio, in which I keep our
old doctor's drawing, I drew it from the portfolio, and handed it to
him. Now you can convince yourself that I am only repeating the
prediction of one of your colleagues, and I told him how I had come to
The drawing appeared to make some impression on him. He shook his
head after looking at it, and then said, I generally examine the
patient by auscultation myself before I give any opinion. You say that
you have spent the winter without any medical assistance or advice, and
perhaps you were right in doing so, for truly our power is very
limited. Far be it from me to force my opinion on you, but it would
interest me greatly to discover whether your looks, your movements,
your voice, and your pulse are only deceiving, or whether this drawing
is to be relied on. Would you let me ascertain this?
I have no objection to it, I replied, but you must permit me,
whatever the result may be, to have more faith in our old doctor than
After auscultating me, he sat down for about ten minutes in front of
me, and after taking a long draught of tea, he answered my question as
to whether the drawing was not right after all. I will not venture any
opinion on that subject; all I can say is, that if your lungs really
were in that state, then the Meran climate has worked wonders. We have
had several cases here, in which the patients sent to us had been given
up and were supposed to be in a hopeless state, yet those very patients
are enjoying life to this day, to their own and their doctor's
astonishment. The time you have staid here is however much too short to
have operated such a marvellous recovery, and so I have my doubts about
this drawing. I would even venture to say, if the assertion be not too
bold, that you have never had any inclination to disease of the lungs,
but that your illness is simply caused by great exhaustion of the
nervous system. You say that your doctor is an old practitioner, but
auscultation is a recent discovery and if Hippocrates and Galen had to
speak on the subject they would certainly commit themselves deeply. You
look incredulous dear Mademoiselle. Next year we will again speak of
this, for it will be most beneficial to your nervous system, which is
in a very irritable state, if you spend another winter here and only
visit your relations during the summer.
Could he have assured me positively of all this and proved it by a
hundred scientific arguments it would have been in vain. I feel only
too well that it is impossible. We had a long dispute about it, and his
smilingly sarcastic tone, and confident manner made me at last lose all
patience, and I uttered all the invectives I had ever heard against his
profession, only exempting our dear old doctor from this sweeping
condemnation. It was rather curious to hear a patient quarreling with
his doctor for awarding life to him. But if life were again given back
to me, could I receive it thankfully as a blessing, would it not appear
only as a renewal of bondage after this short dream of freedom?
I could not rest till I had then and there in the presence of the
doctor written to my old friend and besought him to come to my rescue;
and save me from this return to life into which they wished to delude
me. The day had not yet dawned, when the doctor and I left the house.
Morrik's servant was now awake, and his master slept, to awaken to a
renewed life. The doctor insisted on my ordering a sedan chair; but I
refused decidedly, and went to post my letter myself. I then begged the
doctor not to mention what had passed between us to any one, and above
all not to Morrik till I had received an answer. He promised it, and
smilingly took leave of me, after seeing me to the door of my lodgings.
As I toiled up the steep stairs, I again felt convinced that ere long I
should ascend them for the last time.
The mountain tops are not yet red with the rising sun, the air is
foggy, and flakes of snow begin to fall. My room is comfortable and
warm, as the small stove does its duty. If I could but find sleep. This
mounting guard has been too heavy a service for the poor invalid. A
great battle has been won without him, and he himself has been deluded
with the hope of a victory the fruit of which he would not care to
Yesterday, I remained at home, as I had rashly promised the doctor
not to leave my room till he gave his consent. He said that the honour
of science was at stake, if I brought to naught the opinion he had
pronounced, by my reckless enterprizes. It is also necessary for our
friend he added.
This morning he came to see me. God be praised Morrik it seems,
improves rapidly. I dared not ask him if he had inquired for me, had
missed me. It appears that he eats and sleeps a good deal.
Rain and snow help me to endure my imprisonment. I shall probably
remain at home for the whole of this week. I do not wish to meet
anyone. I feel a strange uncertainty and anxiety till the answer from
my friend arrives.
I shall not know what face to put on when I meet my fellow
creatures. Shall I appear to them as one who after a short rest among
them will suddenly take up his staff again, or as one who has changed
his mind and is determined to remain. I feel restless and unsettled
since that conversation with Morrik's doctor. My home is neither in
this world, nor in the next; my mind is uneasy. I fancy that every one
looks at me suspiciously, as the police looks on a vagabond whose
passport is not in proper order, and who cannot state from whence he
comes nor whither he is going. And I shall have to pass another week in
this disagreeable state of bewilderment before I can receive an answer,
even if he wrote by return of post.
To-day I ought to write to my father but I cannot bring myself to
touch a penmy feelings are in such a sad state of confusion, often it
appears to me that my body and soul cry out to me you cannot
live; then suddenly the blood flows again so warmly and vigorously
through my veins, that it seems to mock my aching heart, and worn out
nerves. In those moments I take out my drawing as if it were a sure
bill of exchange for a better world, but the doctor treated it with so
little respect, that even this paper has lost its tranquillizing power.
Formerly I was so sure that Death like grim Shylck would insist on the
acquittance of his bond, but now I begin to fear that favour, instead
of justice, will be shown me, but is it a favour to be restored to
Still no decision! This cold foggy weather continues. The only ray
of light in my gloomy existence are the daily tidings my landlady
brings me that Morrik's nights are good, and that he is gaining
I must here confess a foolish action I have been guilty of. I have
bought a new dress, and a silk neckerchief, just as any other girl
might do. To be sure they were brought up to my room by a grey haired,
half blind pedlar; who came in with his packages dripping with the cold
damp fog. I pitied him when he resignedly tied them up again, after I
had told him that I should hardly wear out the dress I had on. But
could I not have given him some money, as a compensation for his
useless trouble. It is a very pretty summer dress. I wonder who will
enjoy all the blessings and riches of summer in it?
The 1st February.
I have slept on it, and yet have not gained more composure. When the
letter arrived yesterday, I trembled so with excitement that I could
hardly open it, and then at first all the lines danced before my eyes.
When I had perused it all my ideas were in such a state of tumultuous
confusion that I thought I was going mad. Was it pleasure? was it
dread? was it self pity? No it was the certainty that we poor mortals
can have no firm and steadfast support in this unstable world. I
believed that I had at least one faithful, honest, intrepid friend; and
he too has deceived me. I fancied that at least my own unbiassed
instincts, and presentiments could not mislead me, and I find that they
too had conspired against me.
But the more I read this letter the less angry I feel with him. I
will destroy the answer I had begun in the first impulse of my
disappointment. He meant it well, and has done his duty as a doctor but
I always come back to my old maxim, that all of them are bad physicians
for the soul. Did he consider before trying this energetic cure
whether, though it might succeed with the body, it might not do
irreparable mischief to the soul; or had he kept some heroic remedy
as he calls it, also for that case. He knows me wellcould he not have
known me somewhat better? He is right in saying that without this
deception I never would have consented to leave my home, my family; and
never would have freed myself from those depressing bonds which wore
out my life, never have allowed myself the rest which was so necessary
for my recovery.
Was it not principally to spare my dear father, who already has so
many cares, the additional one of seeing me die without the possibility
of saving me, that induced me to leave him.
I would certainly have forced myself to look happy, and to submit to
my destiny till I had made myself ill beyond human aid. He knew what
suited my character when he deceived me in this cruel way. I have ever
preferred the most dreadful certainty to a hopeful uncertainty. If
peace and quiet were the only remedies which could strengthen my
suffering nerves, and ward off the menacing disease from my oppressed
chest, then I could only be saved by the firm belief that I was doomed.
And the undecided wavering hope of life would only have aggravated my
How artfully the crafty, malicious, cruel friend brought about what
he thought good for me. This drawing, with; what seeming reluctance he
put it in my hands, in order that I might have impressed on my mind a
fixed tangible vision of my danger, that I might be well armed against
all rising hopes, all glimmering wishes. Then his exhortation not on
any account to consult a doctor who would certainly only seek to delude
me, to spare my feelings, in the way all medical men treated their
patients. His emotion when I left, his praise of my firmness and
self-commandStill I cannot bear him ill-will. He does not know what
sort of life it was, he sought to give back to me, by this stratagem.
After having resigned it, it appears so paltry and valueless; how
painful it is to me to begin anew with all the trifles of this world to
which I had already become dead, and to bear what now seems doubly
odious to me after having lived in a higher and nobler sphere; to fall
back into the dreary drudgery of a girl's life; to be once more tied
down to the narrow, commonplace customs and prejudices of a small town;
to be observed, judged and pitied by one's so-called friends, who know
so little of the characters of their acquaintances, that they
invariably mistake their good qualities for their bad ones.
I must cease! my thoughts are lost in the deep gloom of a sunless
future, in which the dear faces of my father and Ernest are the only
What radiance streamed from the open gate, the entrance of which was
guarded by the angel of death.
February the 3rd.
The doctor has just left me. He has taken the letter with him, as he
thinks it very remarkable, and says he has not yet met with such a
thorough physiologist as my old friend. Perhaps he wishes to show the
letter to Morrik. From him not a word; I did not like to question the
doctor, as I had heard in the morning, that he was getting on well, and
yesterday for the first time, enjoyed the warm sunshine on his balcony.
To-day I fancied the doctor was very absent hurried, and mysterious;
I had to ask him if he permitted me to walk out. He nodded, and said;
Mind you do not agitate yourself by any exciting conversation. With
whom should I speak?
So I must begin life again, where, and under what circumstances? I
should like to keep a school; but here the people are all Roman
Leave these dear mountains, and return to that dull town to look
again on the monotonous faces of its inhabitants with their air of self
importance, the obtrusiveness of which disturbs my very dreams. However
I cannot leave my father. Fortunately he has not been duped as I have
been. He agreed to the stratagem of our malicious friend.
It appears strange that Morrik should not have made the slightest
inquiry, or sent any friendly greeting to me. He probably feels that
there must be some change in our relations to each other, as it is
decided that we are both to live. But some acknowledgement of our
former friendship.... or does he not feel the pain and bitterness of
having found each other, only to lose one another again for ever.
The doctor says that so severe a crisis often changes the whole
nature, and so his soul which has arisen renewed, and invigorated from
the paroxysm of fever, has probably kept no remembrance of his
companion on the road to death. Well I must submit to it.
Let him forget me; I will always remain to him what I have been.
Received a letter from my father congratulating me. I shed tears
over it. Whilst every one was condoling with me I felt happy, and now
that I am again given back to life, and ought to rejoice I feel
These desolate winter-days, the sun shining with the heat of spring,
make me feel miserable in body and soul; it is but a sterile....
February the 6th.
Yesterday amidst all my hopelessness, a spark of courage kindled
within me. I left my writing and walked to the window. I felt heartily
ashamed of my cowardice, my grief, and my ingratitude towards God.
What had become of the sentence which I had once so valiantly used
as the theme for a sermon? For I was made man; and that means that I
The wings of angels which I had expected are not to be mine yet. I
must still be up and doing, and if necessary, must work my way through
the world with these mortal arms of mine, and be thankful if some day I
should be able to twine them round a dear friend and there find rest.
The remembrance that I had once approached a higher sphere and had
learnt to know it, or at least to anticipate it, will always remain
with me for good and for evil. For good, as I carry away with me an
everlasting treasure of golden thoughts; for evil, as many things which
formerly I should have deemed riches, will now appear insufficient to
me. Yet I would not spare the past.
I have written to my old friend this morning and have reconciled
myself with him; and now I will try to be reconciled to myself, for I
was justly angry with my own weakness. Must I not be at peace with
myself, before I can once again engage in the battle of life.
The 8th February.
And where is the free and happy mortal who is permitted to glide
through life as on wings, whose forehead reaches the clouds, who can
say that the dust on the road of life has not touched his soul, no
barrier hemmed in his steps, or obstructed his sight, that every hour
he feels within him an eternal bliss and freedom. To few mortals has
fate awarded such a lot as awaits Morrik after his heavy trials. My
heart beats with joy when I think of the brilliant future that lies
before him. How little I grudge him his happiness; I rejoice in it. It
seems strange to me, that only a fortnight has passed since I stood
beside his bed. How much has occurred since then! When he hears my
name, he will perhaps look up wonderingly, and try to recollect where
he met me.
Here I sit thinking and planning for his future, like an old woman
who after many long years is told that a friend of her youth has
thriven and prospered in life, and who says: He has well deserved it;
his character was noble and generous; I knew him well when I was
The 12th February.
The wisest thing I now can do is honestly to confess my folly and
then have a good laugh at myself. How long is it since I again resolved
to be a true combattant? And now? What a heroic achievement to lay down
my arms and run away without having even the courage to desert, but to
lose heart when half way, and turn back again. Well done brave warrior!
If I did not look on the whole thing from a ludicrous point of view, I
should feel deeply ashamed of myself.
Well this afternoon the air was so warm and springlike that the sun
drove me from my customary lonely walk on the Küchelberg. Not a breeze
stirred, the lizards whisked about as gaily as in summer, and there is
no foliage to afford shade; the tendrils which were formerly trained
into cooling bowers have probably a good reason of their own for not
budding as yet.
I turned back, and for the first time for many days ventured on the
Wassermauer, which was not much frequented.
My heart beat as though everyone already knew that I had slipped
into the society of the doomed, under false colours, and had been sent
back with a protest.
I tried to find a ready answer in case anybody should ask me; and
so you have changed your mind, and are not going to die? All the small
sins I had committed in the belief that it was pardonable to gratify
every wish, as the wish of one dying, rose in array against me. How
impolite, how regardless of giving offence I had been to every one for
whose good opinion I did not care. There is that stout old gentleman
with a small thermometer in his button-hole, who fastens or unfastens
one of the buttons of his overcoat at every degree more or less of
cold. At first he had lectured me about my health, and I had not only
continued my imprudent courses but even, when I once met the fat
philanthropist, unconsciously let down my veil, to his great
astonishment. There is that young girl, with whom I never exchanged
another word, because after the first quarter of an hour of our
acquaintance she kissed me, and read aloud a poem which her brother had
composed. There is that lady with her two big mustachioed sons, who
with great foresight, had cautioned me against any flirtation with
them, and after all was much offended when I followed her advice and
turned my back on them; and above all the poor little chronicler of
scandal, who can now only come out by means of an arm-chair, but still
has strength enough left to rejoice over the weaknesses of her fellow
creatures. What a character she will give me, when she arrives in the
next world before me! Well I hope He who judges up yonder will be more
lenient than the good people here below. I was thinking over all this,
and feeling very much provoked at my own paltry cowardice which seemed
to flourish again and prevented me from attaining the indifference and
disdain with which I had formerly looked down on the life here, when I
reached the Winter garden, and glancing along the benches and arbours,
what I saw there put the finishing stroke on my remaining courage.
There sat bolt upright, and expanding around her the skirts of a
dazzling toilette, the lady without nerves, and beside her, silently
looking on the ground, and perfectly restoredMorrik! She was eagerly
talking to him, and he listened patiently, a kind smile even
brightening his face. I grudged her that smile, as I would have done to
no one else. I cannot express the misery I felt, the longing to be
away, never to see, or be seen of them again; never to be forced to
speak indifferently to those with whom, in the presence of death, I had
exchanged words full of weal or woe.
I fled across the bridge, and along the highroad which leads through
the beautiful valley of the Adige, and after passing several villages
reaches Botzen sixteen miles off. I soon left the first village of
Untermais behind me, and then sat down on a bench, and there collected
my thoughts sufficiently to devize a plan, which though wiser than the
rest was still exceedingly foolish. If I walk on for several hours, I
thought, I shall reach Botzen to-day, and probably some carriage or
omnibus may overtake me, and give me a lift. Once at Botzen, I can
write to the people with whom I lodged, and apprize them that I was
forced to leave suddenly, send them some money, and beg them to pack my
things and forward them to me. By so doing, I should never again see
them all, and should avoid the trials and pain of leave taking in case
anyone should care about my departureat least it will not trouble my
rest. And who will care? Perhaps the doctor, and I can write to him. I
need not be uneasy about him whom I once called my friend. He
must have quite recovered, if he can sit beside the lady without
nerves, and smile when she speaks to him in her shrill voice. When I
had taken this resolution, I felt quite satisfied, at least I fancied
that I was so; so I walked bravely on towards the south, and tried to
enjoy the fine scenery around me; the green meadows, the bare rugged
mountains with the snow glittering on their summits, the picturesque
houses of the peasants, the vineyards, the rushing streams which I
passed on my way, and above all, I tried to rejoice in the thought that
I had now put an end to all my doubts and cares, and had depended on no
one but myself. It seemed quite a relief to return home, and to hide my
broken wings. They had been too weak to soar aloft, and had not borne
the test of freedom. Is not that a common misfortune among caged birds?
The sun had now set. I had passed a village the name of which I did
not know, and had there drunk a small glass of wine as, I was shivering
in my light cloak. The air was sharper than was agreeable to a patient
spoiled by the warm sun of Meran. I became more and more uneasy as I
wandered alone, along the highroad, in the twilight. I often looked
back to see if nothing was coming that might give me a lift. An omnibus
passed me, but it was crowded with smoking peasants, and did not look
After having walked on for another hour, nearly famished, and with
no shelter in view, the brave heroine who had formed such daring
projects, sat down on a stone by the way-side, and had a good cry, like
any other baby which had strayed from its home. Truly death is easy,
and life is hard!
Heaven knows what would have become of me had not a lucky chance,
no, it was kind Providence, taken compassion on me. Suddenly I heard
the rolling of a light cart, and the crack of a whip, and looking up I
recognized in the charioteer, my friend of the Küchelberg, Ignatius.
After scanning the lonely figure, with sharp eyes he pulled up. A
touching scene of recognition took place, which ended by Ignatius
lifting me into his cart, and driving me homewards. He had concluded
some wine business in Vilpian and was in high spirits. He was quite
satisfied with my declaration, that lost in thought, I had walked on
and so strayed far from Meran. There I sat wrapped up in coverings, and
conveyed home as speedily as possible. Fortunately we did not approach
Meran before dark, and did not meet anyone except the doctor, who came
out of a house just as we were passing through Untermais, and who
little suspected who was hiding from him in that cloak and veil. During
the drive, kind Ignatius gave me a detailed description of his conjugal
felicity, with a freedom of expression which I had to pardon on account
of the wine of Vilpian which had loosened his tongue. Certainly, he
remarked, Liesi still had her old propensity for setting down and
knowing better; but he had at last come to the conclusion that she
really did know better. A single person did so many foolish
things, but when two kept house together all was quite different. Where
one was at fault, the other succeeded, and two pair of eyes saw just
twice as sharp as a single pair could do. Then his Liese was so handy
and clever in every respect, just as he had always wished his wife to
be. She always had a kind word for him, in short, life seemed a
paradise to him since his marriage. Once he asked after the gentleman
who had been with me at Schönna. When I told him that he had quite
recovered his former health, he hummed a song, and nodded and winked at
me so mischievously that I got quite angry.
The good people with whom I lodge, stared in astonishment when I
told them how far I had wandered. I then informed them that I would
leave after another week. I have been told that the passage over the
Brenner is now free from snow and the cold is not very keen. I must
take advantage of this early, and probably transient, spring for my
passage over the Alps....
I now make a solemn vow that to-morrow I will do public penance for
my childish flight of to-day. I will walk on the Wassermauer, speak to
my few acquaintances and tell them how marvellously I have recovered my
health. I will confront even the lady without nerves, and see if I
cannot be restored to her favour. It would have been really too
disgraceful if I had reached Botzen. To run away like a rogue who dares
not look an honest man in the face. Then I quite forgot too that this
diary would have remained here, and who knows into whose hands it might
The next daySpring has burst forth.
Can one write down what the heart can neither seize, nor comprehend?
I will try.
When I rose in the morning I did not in the least fear all the
trials which this day would bring me, all the test of courage I should
have to undergo in front of the enemy. Had I known what bliss was
awaiting me, I should have perhaps run away overpowered by its
greatness. Yesterday I wrote that life was hard to bear; but hardest of
all for a poor weak heart to bear, is great happiness when it has never
before tasted it from youth upwards, and is then suddenly crushed and
overpowered by its weight. It cannot cease to ask itself, Will it not
be taken from me before my strength is equal to it? There is one
comfort however in this, that no true happiness has to be borne alone.
This deep and heartfelt bliss can only be given us by a fellow
creature, who in bestowing it on us, shares it with us. There lie the
first violets they too bear witness to the spring which has this day
come to me. I had a refreshing rest after my long wandering of
yesterday; softly rocked to sleep by a conscience which had grown quite
easy since I had firmly resolved not to be ashamed before the world of
the crime I had committed in returning to life.
When I rose the day was far advanced. While dressing my hair before
the glass I perceived that my colour was returning, and when I put on
my dress, I remarked that I could no longer wear my funereal clothes;
they have become much too tight for me and confine my chest. The old
hoary headed pedlar came in good time! It is long since I have had a
fit of vanity. But if one is to live, why not do like other women? When
I had done plaiting my hair, I came to the conclusion that after all, I
did not look so very old. I do not know how it happened, but my
thoughts then suddenly turned to the young Pole, and I began to
consider what charm was attached to me, that anyone could fall in love
with, at ten paces distance. Probably it is all a matter of taste.
For the first time I was ashamed of my old-fashioned clothes, and
when putting on my hat, determined to have a new ribbon for it, before
I ventured out on my thorny walk among the strangers. And so it came to
pass that as I was going to leave my room, my head filled with finery
like that of a silly Miss in her teens, the door opened and in walked
Morrik. I verily believe that he had forgotten to knock. I was somewhat
startled, but he did not seem to notice it. He was quite absent and
He did not even sit down, but walked at once to the window, and
admired the view; then examined the writing-table, and talked about
rococo furniture with the air of a connoisseur. All at once he burst
forth, and begged my pardon for the liberty he had taken in calling on
me, but that he was starting for Venice tomorrow morning, and wished to
take leave of me. He wanted also to excuse himself to me and to thank
I sat down on the little sofa, and could find no word in reply but:
Won't you sit down. I still had my hat on which did not appear very
hospitable but he seemed to think of nothing but how to express in
words, what weighed on his mind.
What must you have thought of me, he at last said, when you
neither saw nor heard anything of me, after that night when you, and
the doctor watched by my bedside. But I am not quite so bad, so
heartless, so ungrateful, as you must have supposed me. The truth is
that I can recollect no more of what happened during my illness than I
can remember of an uneasy dream. I certainly fancied that I had seen
you at my bedside, that I had received the medicines from your hands,
and that it was you who had arranged my pillows. I had also a vague
impression of some strange scene between you and my bête noire, the
lady without nerves. But when I had considered it all, it appeared to
me, so strange that I quickly banished it from my mind. Had I not
received the letter from you, in which you so seriously and decidedly
bade me farewell. To be sure your landlady came daily to inquire for
me, but then many other persons did the same. Why should you not have
been civil, though everything was at an end between us. So I feared to
act against your stringent orders, by trying once more to approach you.
I even doubted whether you would not consider it as an offence if I
were to write a line to you before leaving, and send you a bouquet as
is customary in this country. You will now understand my astonishment
when having accidentally met the life preserver, I heard from her that
all that had seemed to me a dream, had actually taken place; that you
had really been my deliverer and faithful guardian, and with noble
generosity, had taken pity on my sufferings and not resented all that
had estranged us, and had so suddenly put an end to the bright and
happy days of yore. Now I can hardly thank you sufficiently. I feel
quite unhappy, and bewildered when I think of the past. I wished to
tell you so yesterday, and to clear up all that must have seemed
incomprehensible to you, but you were out when I called. Were you not
told that I had been here twice? Perhaps you would rather leave
everything unexplained, as it was before; quite without my knowledge
and will. Your interest was only for the dying man. Now that it is
decided that I am to live, I am perhaps quite as much estranged from
you as when I rashly uttered the words that pained you so much. Well, I
am to leave Meran to-morrow, and you will be freed from the constraint
which my presence has caused you.
What I answered; what he said, when he spoke again; how it came that
his hand held mine, and that he again called me Marie, as he formerly
had done, how can I tell?
The air seemed suddenly filled with intoxicating music, my eyes were
dazzled with the rays of heavenly light which appeared to stream
through the room. How long this ecstasy lasted I know not; all I know
is that Eternity opened before me. I had died happy and without agony,
and now I was awakened to a new life, in heaven and yet in this world;
dead to all the small cares and faintedheartedness of human life, and
arisen to the full glory of peace, everlasting trust, and the eternal
knowledge of the truth.
Come, he said at last, you are ready for a walk; let us make our
I took his arm, and he first led me across the passage into the
workshop of my landlord, where the good old Meister and his apprentices
stared at us, and the Frau Meisterin hearing the news, rushed into the
room, with a frying pan, which she was just going to put on the fire,
still in her hand; she loudly sang my praises, and congratulated Morrik
on having secured such a treasure as a wife, till I at last burst out
laughing through my tears. Then we walked through the town, and he now
and then entered a shop, and bought most useless things only for the
pleasure of saying. Send it to the lodgings of my betrothed, you know
the house of the tailor, three stairs high, next door to heaven, and
he said it all with perfect gravity.
When we arrived on the Wassermauer, all the strangers were assembled
as if by appointment. The band was playing, and for the first time, it
seemed to me, that the instruments were in tune, and the musicians
At first I felt rather embarrassed, as all eyes were upon me, but
that soon passed off, and I was infinitely amused to see how amiable
and friendly every one had suddenly become, and how pleased I was with
them. We first turned to the life preserver, and actually something
like a tear glistened in her small unmeaning eyes when Morrik kissed
her hand and told her she was as yet the only woman who had made me
jealous. This speech procured me a gracious kiss on the forehead and
the assurance that my behaviour was to be overlooked in consideration
of my jealousy, and weak nerves. Then came the lady with her two smart
sons, the sister with her brother the poet and even the fat gentleman
with the thermometer at his button-hole. From them all we received
congratulations, and they all assured us that they had known it long
ago; to which Morrik answered that in that case they had known more
than we ourselves had done; he even joked with the little chronique
scandaleuse, who alone persisted in treating me with icy coldness.
To a child who offered me a bunch of violets he gave his whole purse.
The sun shone, the trumpets seemed to call the spring from its winter
sleep. And yonder in the churchyard where I had chosen a sunny little
corner for my grave, the flowers were blooming, as if after having
taught us to live, death had disappeared for ever.
After that, we sat together for a long time and only took leave of
each other when the sun was setting.
Darling, he said, I have solemnly promised our tyrant the doctor,
not to see you again before next spring. Nothing he says is so
pernicious to the health of convalescents as a long betrothal between
two solitary young people. That was the reason he would never speak out
about your nursing me in my fever; although I several times very
plainly alluded to it. But you have learned how to write as I know to
my own cost, and so we shall still be united. How I shall rejoice at
the first letter from you which does not speak of leave taking but of
meeting, never to be parted again; not of death, but of a life full of
We were standing on the stairs in the twilight. We clasped each
other's hands and promised to bear this last trial cheerfully. I
pressed him once more to my heart before I had to surrender him again;
but we both firmly trusted that He who had granted us this happiness
would also grant us a future to enjoy it. We shall not in vain have
passed from death to life....
I now close this journal: I will send it to you to-day, my dearest
friend, perhaps it may amuse you to peruse it on your lonely journey
when your thoughts are with me. Is not all I possess, are not all my
thoughts yours for ever? The pages contain your name more than once.
May it be a clear mirror in which our united images are reflected. I
lay this poem between the leaves, I have copied it for you, and have
placed beside it one of the violets you gave me to-day. When they bloom
again, we shall be once more united, if God permits itand He will
Thou shall't not weep but gladdened be
And bless thyself at noon, at night,
When free thy soul with wond'ring glee
Shall joyful taste love's deep delight.
Of life, the tumult all is o'er;
No sounds to us from earth can soar,
As heav'nward now our eyes we raise,
And on the glorious stars we gaze.
Softly the waves of peace shall flow
O'erwhelming every grief at last;
And to our senses the bright glow
Of endless love o'er all is cast.
Night was far advanced and yet we three sat together in the cool
summer-house, conversing over some bottles of wine from Asti, which we
had discovered by a lucky chance, and were now emptying to the health
of our friend who had just returned from Italy. He was, by several
years, our senior, and had reached man's estate, when we first met him
twelve years ago, on our southern journey. His manly appearance, the
nobility of his demeanour, and a certain pensive charm in his smile had
attracted us from the first. His conversation, his universal knowledge,
and the unassuming way in which he displayed it, confirmed us in our
first impressions, and at the end of the three weeks, which we passed
together in Rome, we were united in as firm a friendship as ever
existed between men of such different ages. Then he suddenly left us;
he was summoned back to Geneva, where he was at the head of a large
During the succeeding years we never missed an opportunity of
meeting again, so he had not hesitated this time to take the longer
route through our town for the sake of spending twenty-four hours in
We found him unchanged in his outward appearance; he was still a
handsome man, his hair was hardly sprinkled with grey; his high
forehead was white and smooth, but he was more silent than formerly.
Sometimes he was so absent that he did not hear our questions, but
apparently absorbed in his own thoughts gazed at the wine-bubbles in
his glass, or holding a lump of ice to the candle watched it slowly
melting. We hoped to render him more communicative by making some
inquiries respecting his last journey, but finding that even this
favourite theme could not arouse him we left him to himself, and kept
up the conversation between us, happy to have him at least in the body
with us, and patiently waiting for the time when his spirit also should
In the meantime I poured forth all the ideas which had lately
occupied my mind. They were crude and superficial and would at any
other time have provoked a contradiction from our friend who was a
sharp and keen logician. The condition of the Italian theatre had given
occasion to this discussion. I maintained that it was not in any way
surprising if the Italians, in spite of all their pathos and passion,
could not equal the dramatic literature of Greece, England, and
Germany; nor does it stand higher in France and Spain, formerly so
renowned for dramatic glory. The temperament of the Latin races, their
nature and cultivation, are so restrained by conventionalities that the
tragic element which consists in concentrating all our interest in one
single individual is quite unintelligible to them. Nor do they venture
to liberate themselves from the trammels of form and give free course
to the spontaneous accents of nature which can alone awaken a tragic
awe in our hearts.
Like every conversation on elevated subjects which does not blindly
grope on the surface of a question, so the present one soon led us to
the discussion of the most mysterious depths of human nature.
Whilst Amadeus drew figures with his silver pencil in the spilt
wine, Otto warmly defended the conventionalism I had condemned, and
maintained that even fiction should be subjected to strict moral laws.
My proposition that the drama should deal with individual, and
exceptional cases, rather than with generalities, and exalt natural
laws above social ones, seemed to him pernicious and full of danger,
for, he said, the conception of a dramatic crime would then be like the
harbouring of a demon in our bosom, instigating to the contempt and
intolerance of every thing that clashed with our individual feelings
and passions. You would thereby destroy the whole social system, which
after all must have some reason for existing, in favour of the
boundless liberty of the individual. The only merit you appear to
recognize in poetry is that which is beyond the pale of every law. I
tried to make him understand that the point in question did not only
apply to the collision of the drama with outward forms; in a word that
heroic and noble souls were wont to solve the problems of duty,
otherwise than those timorous and commonplace formalists who are always
restrained by petty customs and considerations. Highly gifted natures,
who set an example proportionate to their inward strength and
greatness, extend by their actions the limits of the moral sphere; and
just so, the artist of genius breaks through, or at least extends the
limits that confine his art.
If those noble souls are often actuated by pride and excessive
self-reliance, do they not atone for it by their tragical end? at least
in the eyes of those formalists who regard life as the most precious of
gifts, and who for that reason will never engage in any action, or be
led away by any opinion, which according to the laws of society must
end in death. Such, however, as are capable of understanding the
thoughts and feelings by which those noble natures are impelled, will
never resign the right of exalting them, for they cannot be meted with
the common measure of morality. They who condemn as immoral, what in
our wretched and deficient social organisation ought only to be
considered as the sacred self-defence of free and strong characters,
will never be sensible of the beautiful, or sympathize with what is
generous, they will only discern what is profitable.
Thus had I spoken when suddenly Amadeus looked up from his reverie
and stretched out his hand to me across the table.
Thank you, he said, for these true and noble words you have
spoken; they have pleased me much. Amongst us there can be no
difference of opinion as to the fact that custom is not the true
standard of morality, and that the mission which poetry fulfils lies
beyond the pale of human ordinances. I only protest against your
assertion that the deficiency of great tragical poets in Italy is to be
accounted for by the conventional fetters which restrain the character
of the nation. As if capacity of mind, fancy, morality, and the sense
of the beautiful must necessarily be equally developed; as if the one
did not often outstrip the other.
If a great tragic genius, such as they once possessed in Alfieri
were to be born again to the Italians, the spirit of the nation would
not be slow to welcome him, and academic prejudices of style, could no
more keep their ground, than enforced conformity to the law can oppose
the rights and duties of a free born soul.
No, he continued, visibly moved, and the tears glistening in his
eyes, the hollow pathos of their tragedies is not the touchstone by
which we can judge the soul of that noble nation. I cannot hear you say
this without protesting against it, for if ever there existed a
self-dependent character, in feelings, and actions; that character was
my wife's, and she was an Italian.
He paused, while we sat mute and breathless with surprise. Though we
had always presumed ourselves to be well acquainted with him, and all
related to him, we now heard for the first time that he had been
married to a woman he so highly esteemed, and yet whose existence he
had concealed as one conceals a wrong. He rose and paced the narrow and
now dusky room, and we did not disturb him either by questions or
At last he stood still, and began in his deep and mellow voice: I
never told you this because the remembrance of it has always
overpowered me, and the mere recalling of these events caused me a
fever which laid me prostrate for a week. Still it always seemed to me
as if I were wronging you, when I used jestingly to evade your
railleries on my bachelorhood. Believe me, it was principally to
redress this wrong, that I sought your society when I this time
returned from my yearly visit to her grave. Let me therefore simply
tell you all that my heart dictates to me; but first I must open this
casement; the air here is so oppressive that I breathe with difficulty.
So, now, go on with your cigars and your wine, while I walk up and
A quarter of a century has passed since those events, yet they are
as present to my memory as if they had happened only yesterday; they
will not let me rest.
What he confessed to us in that night, till the day dawnedand even
then we could not partI wrote down the following day, keeping as much
as possible to his own words. Then I little thought that they were to
be his last ones, his last bequest. He had rightly judged of the power
these recollections still exercised over him; they brought on a fever,
which clung to him during his homeward journey, and was aggravated by
his exertions during a night conflagration, and a few weeks after our
meeting the news reached us that we had then seen him for the last
The following record is now doubly precious to me, and I can with
difficulty bring myself to allow indifferent eyes to peruse his secret.
Then again I feel it a duty to bring to light the strange fate of those
two hearts. Are not the expressions of noble and generous souls the
rightful property of humanity?...
* * * * *
I had reached my twenty-fifth year when my father died. Standing at
his death-bed, after witnessing his painful agony, it seemed to me that
ten years had passed over my head. My only sister who was very dear to
me, had shortly before married a young agent of our establishment, a
Frenchman, whose family had long ago settled at Geneva, and who now
entered into partnership with our firm.
He was like a brother to me, and so when he and my sister urged me
to travel for several months with the hope of rallying my depressed
spirits, I took their advice in this, as in all things, and set out on
my journey, the more readily that I felt how necessary to me was some
outward diversion to my thoughts.
The change of scene soon realized the hopes of my relations. Youth
and vitality were restored. I was again able to enjoy the beauties of
nature, and my taste for the fine arts, which had been awakened by my
former journeys through France and Germany and now found ample food in
Venice and Milan, whither I at first directed my steps, intending to
proceed southwards by slow journies.
Above all I was impatient to reach Florence. The marvels I expected
to find there caused me to look with indifference on the many beauties
of art which I met with on my way thither. Thus I reserved only one day
for Bologna, where I took a hasty survey of the churches and galleries
in the morning, and in the afternoon I drove out to the old convent of
St. Michele at Bosco, in order to quiet my conscience by obtaining a
complete view of the wonderful old town from the summit of the hill.
It was one of the hottest days in midsummer, and though I am
generally little affected by any temperature, yet the suffocating air
on that occasion completely overpowered and exhausted me. The road
which leads from St. Michele back to the town was entirely deserted.
Above the walls of the gardens the trees and bushes projected their
dusty boughs. The wheels of the carriage sank deeply into the burning
sand. The coachman drowsily nodded on his seat, and with difficulty
kept his balance. The tired horse crawled with drooping head and ears
along the edge of the road, in the hope of enjoying the scanty shade
which now and then was cast across it by a villa, or a garden-wall. I
had stretched out my weary limbs along the back seat of the carriage,
and after forming a tent above my head by means of my umbrella I fell
into a dose.
Suddenly I was roused from my repose by a rough blow on my face, as
if some overhanging bough had grazed me as I passed. I started up, and
looking around, discovered a blooming spray of pomegranate lying beside
me. Evidently it had been thrown at me over the neighbouring wall. The
movement I had made seemed to be a signal to the horse to stop. The
coachman quietly slept on, so I had ample leisure to examine the spot
from whence the branch had been thrown at me. I did so all the more
carefully that I had heard from behind the high garden wall a
suppressed girlish titter at the success of the merry trick. I was not
deceived; after waiting a few moments, standing upright in the
carriage, and stedfastly gazing at the wall, I perceived a curly head
shaded by a large florentine straw hat, arise from behind it. A pair of
dark eyes, sparkling with fun underneath the solemn eyebrows, turned
towards me, and seemed to regard me as some strange animal. But when I
raised the sprig of pomegranate, and pressing it to my lips, waved it
towards the young waylayer, a deep blush suffused her face, and in the
next moment the fair vision had disappeared, so that without the branch
in my hand I should probably have believed it to be a dream. I left the
carriage and pensively walked along the side of the wall, till I
reached a high trellised gate which closed the entrance to the garden.
Between the old iron bars of massive mediæval workmanship, I could
perceive a part of the grounds of the house which stood with closed
Venetian blinds among groups of elm-trees and acacias. I shook the lock
of the gate, but it would not open; my hand had already grasped the
bell rope, when I was seized with sudden shyness at the thought of
entering these strange premises. What a figure I should cut were I
asked the reason of my intrusion. So I contented myself with patiently
waiting for several minutes in the hope of once more seeing the
youthful thrower of sprigs. In the meantime I scanned the house, which
was in no way remarkable, as attentively as if I had intended to draw
it from memory. At last the heat of the sun became unbearable, and I
returned to my umbrella tent. This roused the coachman, he jerked the
reins and away we crawled; I with my head still turned backwards,
though no trace of the fair one was to be discovered.
When I reached the hotel of the three pilgrims, a heavy shower
freshened the oppressive air, and during the night the streets were so
deliciously cool and damp, that I never wearied of sauntering through
the long arcades, now stopping to drink a glass of iced water at some
coffee house; now admiring the portal of some church in the dim light
of the lamps. But in spite of the fatigue caused by this continual
walking and standing, I could find no rest till the morning dawned. I
would not believe that it was the fair young face that kept me awake,
though it continually rose before my eyes. I had always considered it a
fable that the spark from a single glance could set fire to the heart,
so I believed my restlessness to be caused by overstrained nerves.
The next morning however when my hotel bill which I had ordered the
evening before was brought to me, I perceived, now that departure was
at hand, how painful it was to tear myself, away. I became pensive;
then I suddenly recollected that a friend of our firm lived in Bologna
whom I ought to visit. Generally my conscience was not over sensitive
in these matters, but now it seemed to me that this civility was of
great importance. I also reproached myself for the superficial way in
which I had looked at Raphael's St. Cecilia, not to mention several
other sins of omission. I discovered that Bologna was a most remarkable
town, and that after all Florence would always remain within reach.
I finally succeeded in persuading myself that the pretty thrower of
flowers had not the slightest share in this sudden change in my plans.
Strange to say the outlines of her face, when I tried to recall them
vanished more, and more from my mind, and at last I could only remember
the expression of her eyes. During the day time while I fulfilled my
duties as a tourist, I did not feel any particular agitation, but when
the intense heat had subsided, and I directed my steps towards the
villa, as though it were a matter of course, I felt a strange
uneasiness, and I can even now recollect the songs which I sang to
raise my spirits.
I soon reached the spot and found everything just as I had seen it
yesterday. The house looked more cheerful, now that the Venetian blinds
were drawn up, and on the balcony stood a little dog, who when he saw
me stop at the gate, barked furiously. I could not muster courage to
ring the bell. It seemed as if a secret presentiment warned me, and I
almost wished never to see that fair face again, and to depart early
next morning with an unscathed heart. Nevertheless I once more walked
round the boundary wall which extended for some distance, and was
bordered on the further side by some peasants' huts, and a few fields
of maize, nowhere a living creature was to be seen. I had now reached a
point where a low hedge touched the garden wall; I could easily climb
upon it, and from thence overlook the garden. As nobody appeared. I
boldly ventured. The boughs of a large evergreen oak-tree projected
beyond the wall, and I hastily scrambled up and clung to the lowest
branch for support. I could not have chosen a better place; at a
distance of hardly fifty paces I saw on the parched up lawn which now
lay in the shade, two young girls who were playing at battle door and
shuttle cock quite unconscious of being watched. One of them wore a
white dress and the broad brimmed straw hat which I had remarked the
day before. She was of middle height with a figure as straight and
slender as a young poplar tree. She moved like a bird with a graceful
agility such as I fancied that I had never before seen. Her black hair
loosened by her lively movements, flowed freely over her shoulders. The
face was very pale, only lighted up by the eyes and teeth. Suddenly the
shuttlecock was thrown awkwardly, and she burst into a merry laugh
which made my heart throb violently, and the hedge appeared to tremble
under my feet. Her play fellow was dressed like her; only with less
elegance; she seemed to be of an inferior rank.
I hardly noticed her, I was wholly engrossed by her charming
companion. The way in which she lifted her arm to throw the
shuttlecock, the eager look in her eyes when she raised them to await
the coming one, her delight when the shuttlecock described a circuit in
the air, the shake of her head at any failure, every gesture was in
itself a picture of youthful charm and vigour.
I clearly felt that my fate was sealed, and for the first time in my
life I surrendered myself to the sensations which overpowered and
ensnared me. In the midst of this rapture, I considered how I could
draw nearer to her without startling her, when chanceno auspicious
fatecame to my aid. The shuttlecock, which had been sent up high into
the air, flew over the top of the oak-tree under which I was concealed,
and fell at some distance into the neighbouring fields. She looked
anxiously after it. I do not know whether she then perceived me, but
when I instantly sprang after it and re-appeared on the wall with it, I
noticed that her dark eyes turned towards the place where I had stood
with an astonished and displeased expression. The other girl shrieked,
and ran up to her, whispering something which I did not understand, but
I could see by her gestures that she urged her to immediate flight The
fair creature however did not listen to her, but waited quietly till it
should please the stranger to restore her property. When I delayed,
quite absorbed in my admiration, her face assumed a haughty and defiant
look, and she turned coldly from me. I held up the shuttlecock and with
a hasty gesture entreated her to remain. Then I took from my neck a
velvet ribbon, to which was attached a gold locket in the shape of a
heart containing my sister's hair, fastened them carefully to the
feathered ball, and threw it towards her. Fortunately it fell just at
her feet, and lay on the light gravel of the walk.
She took a few steps with a most stately air, and picked up the
shuttlecock; and noticing the locket she darted a quick and flashing
glance at me which pierced me to the very narrow.
Her companion approached her, and seemed to make some inquiry. She
did not answer, but silently put the shuttlecock and the trinket into
her pocket, and then with inimitable dignity, waved the shuttlecock
which she held in her hand towards me thanking me, as a princess might,
for an homage due to her.
Then she turned and walked slowly towards the house without once
I now had no further pretext for remaining perched on the wall, and
I dared not make another attempt to see her again on that day; and then
what would have been the use of it, had I not gained my point for the
present. She had evidently recognized me. My re-appearance sufficiently
expressed my feelings. I had laid my heart at her feet; she had
accepted it, and it was now in her possession. Ought I not to leave her
time to think over all this. I was so agitated that had I met her then,
I should only have been able to stammer out some confused words like a
person in a fever.
That night I slept but little, but in the course of my life I never
again lay awake and counted the hours with so much pleasure.
At day break I rose, entered the picture gallery as soon as it was
open and remained sitting before the St. Cecilia for full two hours.
There I searched my inmost soul as before a clear mirror. I felt that
the spark which had reached my heart was of the true heavenly fire, and
not a transitory illusion of the senses. Those two hours were
wonderfully sweet. It was an anticipation of future bliss and at the
same time an exceeding happiness as if she were sitting close to me,
and I felt her heart beating against mine. The St. Cecilia before me,
her eyes calmly turned heavenwards, could not have had a purer
foretaste of the celestial joys than I had that morning. Again I waited
till the time for the siesta had passed, before I turned my steps
towards the villa. But this time I did not content myself with merely
looking through the bars of the gate. I boldly pulled the bell and was
not even startled by the endless jingle it produced. The little dog
rushed, barking furiously, on the balcony, and out of a small side
door, which was next a larger glass one, issued a little man with
enormous grey moustachios which gave him a ridiculously martial
appearance. He approached the gate with evident astonishment at the
unexpected visit. I repeated the sentence without faltering which I had
rehearsed previously: I was a stranger and intended to publish a book
about Italy, and amongst the rest I wished to introduce a chapter on
the country houses of Bologna. So it was of great importance to me to
be allowed to examine this house. Particularly as it was built in the
old style, and was in many respects remarkable.
The old man did not seem to understand this. I am very sorry sir,
he replied, but I cannot admit you. The villa belongs to General
Alessandro T.... under whose command I served. I know your country
well, sir, I marched through Switzerland under Bonaparte. Afterwards
when all was at an end and my wounds became troublesome, my general
transferred me to this quiet post; and when he married for the second
time, he entrusted his daughter to my care, for you well know sir, how
it is when the daughter is handsomer than the young step-mother. So we
live here in great retirement, but the Signorina wants for nothing, for
her papa sends her some handsome present nearly every week; the best
masters come to teach her singing and languages, and my own daughter is
an excellent companion for her. Only she never goes up to town, her
step-mother does not care to have her there, but that does not distress
her, so long as her father is allowed to come and see her, once a
month. Every time he comes, he enjoins me over and over again to keep
his child as the apple of my eye. And on the Sundays when she goes to
hear mass, Nina and I accompany her and never lose sight of her. What
do you expect to see in this old house? I assure you it does not differ
in any respect from other villas, and nothing remarkable grows in the
garden. There is no need to put us in some book; what would my master
say to it. Possibly I might lose my situation notwithstanding my old
I tried to appease him, and succeeded if not with words, at least by
pressing a gold piece into his hand.
I see, he resumed, you are an honest young man, and would not be
the ruin of an old soldier. If you persist in your wish, I will lead
you through the house, so that you may satisfy your curiosity. I can do
so the more easily, that the Signorina is just now at her singing
lesson, so she will not know that I have admitted a stranger.
He unlocked the gate with a heavy key and preceeded me towards the
house. The ground floor partly consisted of a large cool hall, from
which the sun was shut out by closed Venetian blinds, and heavy
curtains. True to my assumed character, I begged him to let in some
light so that I might see the different paintings which hung on the
walls. They were all family portraits of little value; only one of them
which hung above the chimney piece engrossed my attention. This is the
mother of the Signorina, said the old man, I mean the real mother,
who has been dead these fifteen years. She was a handsome woman; the
people here called her the beautiful saint. Her daughter is very like
her, only she is more cheerful. She resembles a bird, who always merry,
hops up and down in its cage.
She seems to possess the voice of a bird, as well, I remarked,
with all the indifference I could assume, if that is hers which we now
hear above us.
You are right, said the old man. The director of the Opera in
town comes here twice a week. When her papa (il babbo he called
him) pays her his monthly visit, he always stays many hours, and she
sings all her new songs to him, and then the poor old gentleman feels
as happy as if he were in Paradise. He has not many joys, and without
that child he were better in another world.
What is the matter with him, I asked, is he ill?
As you take it; replied the old man, with a shrug of his
shoulders; I for my part would prefer death to such a life. For those
who knew him when he was still in the armythe giant of Giovanni de
Bologna on the market-place, does not look more high spirited, and
chivalrous, than did my generalAnd now! it breaks my heart to think
of it. The whole day long he sits in his arm-chair by the window, and
cuts out pictures or plays at dominoesIt seems as if he neither heard
nor saw, but when his wife speaks to him, he looks up timidly and nods
acquiescence to everything she says. Only with regard to the Signorina
he has remained the same, and is not easily to be deceived. Those who
attempted it would soon perceive that the old lion's paws have still
some strength left in them although his claws have been cut.
But how came he to sink into that melancholy condition?
No one knows. Many things have occurred in this house but the outer
world only whispers them. My belief is, that, that woman; I mean to say
her Excellency, the young Signora struck his heart a deadly blow and he
has never recovered from it. So he drags on the burden with which he
has loaded himself, as a resolute old soldier bears hunger and thirst
though he should dwindle to a shadow. Well, well, these are old stories
now, and cannot be altered.
During this conversation we had ascended the stair, and were
approaching the room from which the singing proceeded. The voice had a
crude inflexible sound; it was a high youthful even boyish soprano. It
seemed as if she sang only to give utterance to her thoughts perfectly
careless of the sound.
What is the Signorina's name? I asked, when we had reached the top
of the stairs.
Beatrice. We call her 'Bicetta.' Oh what a priceless heart is hers!
My Nina often says to me, 'Father,' she says, 'if the Signorina is to
wait for a husband worthy of her she will remain unmarried.' See here,
Sir; this is her sitting-room. There are her books. She often sits up
half the night, Nina says, and reads them in many languages. Adjoining
is the little bedroom where the two girls sleep. That picture there,
above her bed, represents my poor master in his General's uniform as he
used to lead us into action. That small figure in the background who
brandishes his musket is me, says the Signorina, and she has lately
added the grey moustachioes to give it more resemblance. But come away
Sir, there is nothing remarkable, in here, the furniture is old. The
General once wanted to furnish it anew, but the child would not hear of
it because everything had been left just as it was when her deceased
mother passed the first summer of her married life in this house. There
on the balcony she used of an evening to sit rocking her child's
cradle, and waiting for the return of her husband when he had gone to
town on business.
I stept out strangely moved and stooped to caress the little dog who
wagged his tail and licked my hand. Every word which the faithful old
man spoke added fuel to the fire which burnt in my breast, and the
voice in the adjoining room fanned the flame with its breath.
Fearing to betray myself, I talked of the way in which the grounds
were laid out, about the inlaid table of mosaic work, which stood in
the middle of the room; of the faded fresco painting on the ceiling. I
could not tear myself away though my guide grew impatient.
Suddenly the singing ceased; the door was thrown open, and she
appeared on the threshold, holding a sheet of music in her hand. She
had never been so near me, yet I did not discern her features more
distinctly than I had done before.
Everything seemed to dance before my eyes I only remarked at the
first glance that she wore my locket round her neck.
The old man started back at her appearance and stammered out some
clumsy excuse, at the same time stealthily pulling at my coat.
Never mind, Fabio, she said, you can shew the gentleman all over
the house, and through the grounds, if he cares to see them. Then
turning to her companion, who sat on a low chair with some embroidery
in her hand; You can go with them, Nina. But stay I will first tell
you something. She whispered some words to her, her eyes always fixed
on me, and then bowed gracefully, to me, who could not utter a word. In
so doing she pressed her right hand as if involuntarily on her locket,
then returned to her singing-master, who had watched this interlude
with curious eyes, and the lesson was quietly resumed whilst we three
ascended the next flight of stairs. The old man's daughter walked
before us and at every turn of the steps, she examined me with a
pensive look but did not speak a word. Only when we had entered the
garden, she said to her father: Bicetta charged me to pluck two
oranges for the gentleman. She thought he might be thirsty after his
long walk. We will pass by the fountain where they are ripest. I
followed them as if in a trance, and looked up at the house towards the
window from whence we could still hear her voice. The blind was
partially drawn up, so I could perceive her standing in the apartment.
I fancied that she turned, and followed me with her eyes. Nina also
looked up, and then at me. I did not care to hide my feelings from her,
I even wished to make them known to her. But as her father was present
I could only whisper to her, when we reached the gate and she gave me
the oranges: Express my thanks to the Signorina, and tell her that she
will hear more of me. Give back one of these oranges to her, and tell
her when she eats it....
But before I could finish the sentence the old man came close to us.
He took leave of me with much less amiability than he had admitted me.
I repeated my promise not to betray him, but another suspicion
seemed to weigh on his mind, for his honest face remained gloomy.
I passed the night in writing a long letter in which I disclosed to
her the state of my feelings and placed my future happiness in her
hands. Even in those moments of absorbing passion the step which I was
blindly taking appeared to me somewhat wild and romantic, but I took up
the orange which lay beside me on the table, pressed it to my lips, and
closing my eyes represented her to my imagination as she stood on the
threshold, gave me that long and loving look, and bowed laying her hand
on the locket.
After having written the letter I slept very quietly, and only awoke
when it was broad daylight. I again waited for the approach of evening
before I took the decisive walk as my own letter carrier.
Fortune smiled on me. I had composed a most impressive speech, with
which I hoped to persuade the old man in case he refused to deliver the
letter. But this time Nina came to open the gate. The intelligent girl
did not seem the least astonished at my reappearance. She took the
letter unhesitatingly, but when I asked her if she thought the
Signorina would send an answer, she assumed a diplomatic tone, and
said: Who can tell? I told her that I would return to-morrow at the
same hour, and begged her to await me at the gate, so that I need not
ring the bell and let her father into the secret.
My father! she exclaimed laughingly. We are not afraid of him.
Bicetta need only smile on him and then she can twist him round her
little finger in spite of his savage airCome somewhat later
to-morrow; we have our drawing lesson just at this hour, and cannot
send away the master for your sake. Will you do so?
A carriage now rapidly approached the gate. I had just time to
whisper yes to the girl before she silently vanished. Then I hastened
away for I did not wish to be seen before that gate.
The carriage drew up before the house and my greybearded friend, the
steward, jumped from his seat beside the coachman and assisted a tall
white haired old gentleman to descend from the carriage. I recognized
him at once to be Beatrice's father from the resemblance of their
features. He walked with unsteady steps, stooping forward, and rubbing
his hands, while a delighted smile overspread his countenance. A
footman took a basket of flowers, and several parcels from the
carriage, and carried them after him. I pressed close to the wall so
that I escaped notice, and at the same time could watch the whole
scene. Before the bell had been rung, the door flew open, and the
slender white figure of Bicetta clung to her father, who threw his arms
round her neck with a touching tenderness, and partly walking partly
carried by him she disappeared into the house with the old gentleman.
The others followed, and with a pang of envy I saw the gate close
behind them. How the remaining hours of that day, and the following
night passed I know not. It seemed to me that a constant twilight
surrounded me, a sweet lethargy overpowered me, and a celestial harmony
filled my soul. Strange to say though I generally felt little assurance
in my intercourse with women notwithstanding my reputation as a good
looking young fellow, this time I confidently awaited the decision of
my fate, no more doubting that I possessed her heart than I doubted
that the sun would rise on the morrow. Only the hours that must pass
before I could hear it from her own lips, appeared endless to me. I
must here mention an adventure which I had next day in one of the
churches. As I roved about the streets hoping by continual movement to
restrain my impatience, almost unconsciously I entered a church.
Neither paintings, nor pillars, nor the people who knelt before the
altars could awaken any interest in me at that moment. My thoughts were
far away, and I even forgot to tread softly though mass was going on,
till the angry mutterings of ah old woman made me aware of my unseemly
behaviour. So I stood still behind a pillar, and listened to the music
of the organ and the tinkling of the bells, and inhaled the smoke of
As I absently surveyed the kneeling multitudeI, the son of a rigid
calvinist, of course abstained from that devout practice.I remarked
on one of the more retired chairs, just in front of me, a pair of dark
blue eyes, underneath a white brow, surrounded by auburn curls. Those
eyes were fastened on me, and never changed their direction during the
I confess that at any other time I would have replied to that mute
appeal, but on that morning I was perfectly insensible to any
allurement, and should probably have left the church if I had not
feared to cause a second disturbance. When mass was ended, the handsome
woman hastily rose, drew her lace veil over her head, and walked
straight up to me. Her figure was faultless, perhaps somewhat too
plump, but the agile grace of her movements gave her a very youthful
appearance. In the white ungloved hand which held her veil together,
she carried a small fan with a mother of pearl handle. When she was
close to me, she partly opened this fan, and moved it carelessly,
whilst her eyes were fixed on mine with a quiet but significant gaze.
When I appeared not to understand her, she tossed up her head, smiled
haughtily, so that her white even teeth glittered, and rustled past me.
A moment later I had forgotten this interlude; yet all my joy had
suddenly vanished. As the evening approached, I felt more and more
uneasy, and when the appointed hour struck I dragged myself towards the
villa like a criminal who is to appear before his judge. I started back
when instead of Nina, whom I had expected I found her father waiting
for me at the gate. But the old man though he looked very morose,
nodded when I appeared and beckoned to me to approach. You have
written to the Signorina, he said, with a shake of his head, why have
you done so? If I had thought you would do such a thing, you should
never with my consent have entered the house. Oh, my poor dear
Masterafter all my promises to himand who knows what will be the
end of it. I dare not think of it all.
Dear old friend, I replied, nothing shall be done behind your
back. Had you been at home yesterday, I would certainly have given you
the letter, and as for that, you could have read it and convinced
yourself that my intentions are most honourable. But tell me, for
heaven's sake? ....
Come now, he interrupted, do not let us waste our time. You are
an honourable young man, and besides, how can such a poor old fool as I
am, prevent these things, even if I tried it. Believe me, sir, she is
the mistress, in spite of her youth. When she says: 'I will!' no one
can resist her. Now, she will see you; she wishes to speak to you
All my senses reeled at these words; I had hardly dared to hope for
a letter and now this!
The old man himself seemed moved when I impetuously pressed his
hand. He led me towards the house, and as on the previous occasion we
entered by the side-door into the large hall on the groundfloor. This
time all the curtains and jalousies were opened, to let in the red glow
of the setting sun; two chairs stood opposite the chimney, and from one
of them the figure of the girl, so dear to me, arose and took a few
steps towards me. She held a book in her hand and between its leaves I
saw my letter. Her abundant hair was tied up this time and a black
ribbon was twined through it. On her neck I again noticed my locket.
Fabio, she said, open the door towards the garden, and wait on
the terrace in case I should have some orders for you.
The old man bowed respectfully, and obeyed. In the meantime we stood
motionless beside each other, and my heart beat so violently that I
could not utter a word. Her eyes were fixed on mine with a grave
expression partly of inquiry, and partly of wonder.
A last she regained her full composure, and appeared to understand
what a moment before had been unintelligible to her. She stretched out
her hand which I eagerly seized, but dared not press to my lips.
Come and sit down beside me, she said, I have much to tell you.
Do you see this portrait before us? It is my mother's; she died long
ago. When I got your letter I sat down before her and asked her what
answer I ought to give you. It seemed to me that she assented to
nothing but the truth. And the truth is, that from the moment I saw you
in the carriage, all my thoughts went with you, and there they will
remain till I die. I cannot express what I felt at these simple words.
I fell on my knees before her, seized both her hands and covered them
with kisses and tears.
Why do you weep, she asked and tried to raise me. Are you not
happy? I am full of joyfulness. I have suffered much, but now all is
blotted out. Now I only know that we are firmly united and I can never
again be unhappy.
She rose, I sprang up. Intoxicated with joy, I tried to press her to
my heart, but she gently stepped back.
No, Amadeus, she said, that must not be. You now know that I am
yours, and will never be taken from you by any other man; but let us be
calm. I have considered the matter during the long night that has
passed. You cannot come here any more. I have promised it to poor
Fabio. This is the first, and the last time that we meet here. If you
repeated your visit I should soon have no other will but yours, and I
will never dishonour my father's name. Listen, you must go to him, you
will find no difficulty in introducing yourself in his house, so many
young men, she added with a sigh, even perfect strangers are received
there. When he knows you more intimately, and has given you his
confidence, then demand my hand. You may also tell him that we know
each other and that I will never marry any other than you: All the rest
leave to me, and above all promise not to speak of this to my
stepmother; she does not love me, does not wish me to be happy. Oh,
Amadeus, is it possible that you can love me as much as I love you? Did
you not feel the first time we met, as if a flash of lightning had
fallen from heaven, as if the earth trembled and the trees and bushes
were on fire! I do not know how it occurred to me to throw a branch of
blossoms on the stranger who slept underneath his umbrella. I could not
even see your face; it was a childish trick, and I repented if it a
moment later; yet an irresistible impulse made me look once more over
the wall, and then when I saw you standing in the carriage and waving
the branch of pomegranate blossoms towards me, I was seized as with a
fever and from that moment you have always been before me whatever I
I had led her back to her chair, and holding her hand in mine, I
told her how I had passed the last few days. She did not look at me
while I spoke so that I could only see her fair profile. Every part of
her face, even the pure and spiritual palor of her complexion, and the
violet shade under her eyes, were full of expression. Then I too became
silent, and felt the warm blood rush through the delicate veins of the
small hand that lay clasped in mine.
Old Fabio discreetly looked in, and asked if we wished for some
Later, she replied, or are you now thirsty, Amadeus?
To drink from your lips, I whispered.
She shook her head, and looked grave, as she knit her finely
You do not love me, I said.
Far too well, she replied with a sigh.
Then she rose. Let us walk round the garden, she said, before the
sun is quite set. I will pluck some oranges for you. This time I need
not bid Nina do so.
So we walked on, and she holding fast by my hand, asked me about my
country, my parents, and if the hair in the locket were my own. When I
told her that my sister had given it to me, she enquired after her. We
will go and see her, she said, she must love me, for I already love
her. But we cannot stay there. My father cannot live without me, I am
his only joy. You will come to Bologna with me, will you not? I
promised all she desired. Nothing seemed impossible to me now that one
miracle had been performed, and she looked upon me with the eyes of
love. After that she became exceedingly merry, and we laughed and
chatted as happy as children, and ended by throwing oranges at each
other. Come, she said, let us have a game at battledore and
shuttlecock. Nina shall play with us, though she almost makes me
jealous, by constantly speaking of you. See, how she slips away, as if
she feared to disturb us. Might not heaven, and earth, and all mankind
listen to what we say?
She called her companion, and the good girl came up to us, gave me
her hand and said: I hope, you will deserve your happiness. I would
have grudged her to any man but you. If you do not make her happy,
Signor Amadeo, then beware!
This menace was accompanied by so vehement and tragic a gesture that
we both laughed, and she herself joined us.
On the lawn, where I had seen the girls at their play, we now all
three threw the feathered balls, and were soon as much engrossed with
our game, as if we had never had any more serious thought in our lives,
and had not decided on all our future happiness an hour before.
Papa Fabio did not appear again. When the shade grew deeper the two
girls accompanied me to the gate. I was dismissed without a kiss from
those dear and lovely lips. I could only seize her hand through the
bars and press a parting kiss on it.
What an evening! what a night! The people of the hotel probably
thought I was somewhat crackbrained, or an Englishman, which in their
eyes comes much to the same thing.
On my way back I bought a large basket full of flowers which was
carried after me by the flower-girl. These I strewed about my room. I
ordered several bottles of wine, and threw a five franc-piece to a
violin-player in the street. Then I went to sleep in the refreshing
night air which entered by the open windows. I still remember the
sensations I had during my sleep, as if the vibration of the
terrestrial globe as it proceeded on its aerial course were re-echoed
by the pulsations of my heart.
Not till the following morning did I remember that some obstacles
had to be surmounted before I could take possession of what was already
mine. I must get introduced to her father; and would he confide in me
with the same readiness that his daughter had done? Whilst I sauntered
through the arcades of Bologna considering these matters, propitious
fortune again came to my aid. I met the correspondent of our firm whom
I had visited the second day after my arrival; he was greatly
surprised, as he did not expect to find me still in Bologna. I alleged
some news I had received from my brother-in-law, as an excuse for my
prolonged stay. I said that a plan had been formed to found a branch
establishment of our business in Italy, with particular reference to
Bologna. My departure was necessarily delayed for an indefinite period,
and in the meantime it was my duty to form acquaintances in town.
Amongst the names of other distinguished families, I mentioned the
General's. Our friend did not know him personally, but a young cousin
of his, a priest was a frequent visitor at his house, and would
willingly introduce me. But beware of the dangerous eyes of the lady
of the house, he continued, for though she has not the reputation of
treating her admirers with much cruelty, yet your attentions would be
wasted, for the young count her present adorer, does not seem at all
inclined to relinquish his conquest.
I joined in this bantering as well as I could, and we then made
arrangements for an introduction.
In the evening of the same day I met the young priest by appointment
at one of the Cafés, and he then accompanied me to the general's house
which was situated in a very quiet street. It was a Palazzo of very
unpretending exterior, but furnished most luxuriously within. Thick
carpets covered the corridors through which we passed to reach the
apartment where every night a small circle of habitués assembled.
Prelates of every rank, military men, several patricians, but only
men, formed the society. The young abbate never tired of expatiating on
the happiness of the fortunate mortals who were admitted to the
intimacy of that house. What a woman, he sighed. He seemed to hope
that his turn would also come some day.
When I entered I first perceived the old General. He sat in an
arm-chair, and opposite to him an old canon; between them stood a small
table on which they were playing at dominoes. On a low stool beside the
general lay a pair of scissors and some sheets of paper, on which were
depicted little soldiers; these he cut out, when he could not find a
partner for his game. A lamp hung above him, and in the full light, I
again remarked the astonishing likeness of his features to those of
Beatrice. I had hardly spoken a few polite words to the old gentleman,
who responded to them with a childish and good-natured smile, when my
companion hurried me away. I followed him into a small boudoir, where
the lady of the house was reclining on a couch, while a tall much
adorned young coxcomb sat on a rocking chair by her side; they both of
them seemed rather bored by this tête-à-tête. He was languidly turning
over the leaves of an album, and the fair lady embroidering some many
coloured cushion, and now and then she caressed with the point of her
brocaded slipper a large Angora cat which lay at her feet.
By the subdued light of the sconces, reflected by numberless
mirrors, I did not at first recognize in the lady before me the fair
devotee of that morning in church, although the same mother of pearl
fan lay on a table near her.
She was more quick sighted than I, and started up so vehemently at
my approach, that she lost her comb and her abundant hair fell over her
shoulders. The cat awoke and purred, the tall young man cast a piercing
look at me, and I myself was so startled as I recognized her, that I
was most thankful for my little companion's volubility. She remained
silent for a while, and looked at me with that same stedfast
gazewhich had made me feel uncomfortable in the church.
Only when she observed the rudeness of the count, who tried to
ignore my presence, her face grew more animated. In a low caressing
voice, which was the most youthful part of her, she invited me, after
dislodging the cat, to sit down beside her. Then turning towards the
young man; You can look over the music which I received to-day from
Florence, count, I will sing afterwards and you can accompany me.
The young exquisite seemed inclined to rebel, but a severe look from
her blue eyes subdued him, and we soon heard him strike some accords on
the piano in the outer saloon.
The young abbate was employed in cutting the leaves of some new
French novel, so I alone was left to court our fair hostess. Heaven
knows I envied them, and above all the old canon at his game of
dominoes. From the first words I exchanged with this woman, I felt an
invincible dislike to her, which increased in proportion to the efforts
she made to attract me. I had to summon all my prudence to keep up an
appearance of politeness, and to listen attentively to her remarks. My
thoughts were far away in the saloon of the villa, and between those
glib and clever words, I still heard the soft voice of my darling and
saw her eyes fixed on mine with a sad expression.
In spite of this absence of mind and heart, the fair lady did not
appear to be displeased with my first attempt. She probably imputed my
embarrassment to a very different cause, and the fact that I had sought
to be introduced in her house, she certainly construed in her favour.
She praised my fluency in the Italian language, but remarked that I
had a Piemontese accent, that I could not find a better opportunity of
correcting this, than by frequently joining her friendly circle. Then
she begged me to consider her house as my own, provided my evenings
were not otherwise engaged. She had melancholy duties to perform, she
said with a sigh, and a glance towards the adjoining room, from whence
was heard the good natured laughter of the old gentleman as he had won
his game. Her life, she continued, only began with the evening hours; I
certainly was very young, and the society of a sad woman, grown grave
before her time, would hardly attract me. But so sincere a friend as I
should find in her was worth some sacrifice. I greatly resembled one of
her brothers, who had been very dear to her, and whom she had early
lost. She had noticed this likeness in the church, and for this reason,
she warmly thanked me for my present visit. She cast down her eyes with
well assumed embarrassment and then with a smile stretched out her hand
to me which I slightly touched with my lips. As a pledge of
friendship, she said in an undertone.Fortunately some new arrivals
spared me an answer which could not have been sincere. The new comers
were dignitaries of the church, men of the world, who treated me, as
they would an old acquaintance. The count also returned and whispered a
few words to her. She arose and we all followed her into the saloon
where the piano stood. She sang the new airs and her Cicisbeo
Her fine voice poured forth trills and cadences and I could remark
that between times she glanced towards the dark corner where I leaned
against the wall, and mechanically joined in the general applause, at
the end of every song.
My thoughts wandered to the villa where I had heard another voice so
dear to me. Liveried servants entered noiselessly, and offered ices and
sorbets on small silver trays; the music ceased and an animated
conversation commenced. The old general now appeared leaning on his
stick, and seemed delighted at having won six games consecutively. He
asked me if I ever played at dominoes, and on my replying in the
affirmative, he invited me to return next evening, and try my luck with
him. He then called his valet as it was his usual hour for retiring to
rest. This was the signal for departure. I obtained a significant smile
from the lady of the house, and I hastened to leave the rooms before
the rest of the company. I longed for solitude to shake off the
unpleasant impressions of the evening. Yet I could not get rid of these
sensations till next day at dusk, when I again directed my steps
towards the villa. I well knew that I should not be admitted, but I
hoped, between the bars of the gate, to catch a glimpse of her dress or
of the ribbon on her straw-hat.
I found her on the balcony alone, and her eyes were turned towards
the road as if she expected me. For a short while we were contented to
express our feelings by looks and gestures. Then she signalled to me
that she would come down, and a moment later she issued from the
lateral door, and approached me blushing with love and happiness. She
gave me her hand between the bars, but when I asked her if she would
not admit me, she shook her head gravely, and laying her hand on her
heart, she said, Are you not here, nevertheless? We were soon engaged
in exchanging sweet and childish words of love, till I told her of my
yesterday's visit to her father. When I spoke affectionately of him,
she suddenly seized my hand, and before I could prevent it had pressed
it to her lips. I did not mention his wife, and her unseemly behaviour.
She understood my silence. Return to him, she said, and do all you
can to please him; he cannot fail to love you. Finally, when I begged
her for a kiss, she approached her cheek to the bars, but hearing the
trot of a horse coming down the road, she speedily fled. So I had to
leave her with an unsatisfied longing in my heart. I confess that for
the first time I doubted the strength of her love. I knew how strictly
girls in Italy keep back their feelings, only to give them more free
course when they are once married. But why grudge me a kiss from her
lips even when separated by the bars of a gate. Then again I thought of
all she had said to me, and of the looks which had accompanied her
words and felt tranquilized.
Of course in the evening I punctually appeared in the General's
rooms, and he ordered me at once to the dominoe table. The company was
much less numerous than the day before. The old canon when I took his
place retired to a niche near the window, and was soon snoring
This time the lady of the house did not remain in the boudoir, but
sat on a sofa not far from our table, greatly to the annoyance of her
adorer who sat sulkily opposite to her. She had given him a novel, and
she bade him read to her. He made many blunders, and last threw down
the book with an oath, common in this country but certainly not fit for
drawing room society.
The lady then rose and beckoned to him to follow her into the next
room, where a passionate but whispered dispute took place. We heard
that she threatened never to receive him in her house again unless he
altered his behaviour.
The old gentleman who had been very happy at is success in the game,
listened for a moment. What can be the matter? he asked. I shrugged
my shoulders. A strangely anxious look passed over his face. He sighed,
and for a moment seemed irresolute as to whether or not he ought to
interfere. Then he sank back in his chair, and appeared to be lost in
dreams. The canon awoke, took a pinch of snuff and offered his
snuff-box to the General; this restored his equilibrium, and we resumed
our game. When I at last rose to depart, he begged me to return soon;
he preferred me as a partner, to the old canon. These words were spoken
in a most amiable tone and accompanied by a cordial pressure of the
hand. Altogether in spite of his weaknesses, he still retained the
manners of a gentleman of the old school. His wife dismissed me more
coldly than the night before, but this seemed to me to be only for the
count's sake with whom in the meantime a reconciliation had taken
I was right. The following evening, when the count was prevented by
some excursion from appearing at his usual post, her efforts to lure me
into her nets were redoubled. I assumed the character of an
unsuspecting young man who from sheer respect neither hears, nor sees,
nor understands anything, but she was evidently not duped by it.
Probably the unsuccessfulness of her efforts provoked her, and incited
her to conquer at any price my real or feigned coldness. She was so
carried away by her vexation that she lost all command of her feelings,
and could not master them even when the count returned. Of course all
the rest of the company noticed how matters stood. The correspondent of
our house did not neglect to inform me of the rumours which were
current in the town. He congratulated me on my good fortune, and little
guessed how uncomfortable I felt at his words. I perceived that I must
no longer delay in declaring my real intentions.
A conversation I had with the young count precipitated this
One evening when I returned to my hotel I found him waiting for me.
He saluted me with frigid politeness and requested me in a curt, and
concise manner either to discontinue my visits at the General's house,
or to expect an encounter of a different nature. Being a stranger I was
probably unacquainted with the customs of the country, otherwise he
would not have taken the trouble of giving me warning.
I begged him to wait twenty-four hours, and he would then perceive
how absurd was any idea of rivalry between us. He looked surprised, but
as I did not give any further explanation, he bowed and departed.
Early the next morning, for I knew the old gentleman was up betimes,
I asked for an interview with him, and was ushered into his bed-room,
where he sat smoking a long Turkish pipe. He was rummaging in several
card boxes in which all his treasures consisting of cut out pictures
lay around him. When he saw me he stretched out his hand with evident
pleasure, thanked me for visiting him in the morning, and offered me a
pipe. When I declined this he pressed me to accept as a token of
remembrance several cut out soldiers on which he set particular store.
I felt heavy at heart when I reflected that my future happiness
depended on this poor old man. But to my astonishment the expression of
his face completely changed when I mentioned his daughter. He became
grave and silent, and only the intent look in his eyes betrayed, that
even on this theme, he could with difficulty collect his thoughts, I
concealed nothing from him. Beginning with our first meeting, I related
every circumstance up to the last hours. He now and then nodded
acquiescence, and when I told him of my love for her his eyes glistened
and he raised them heavenward with a deep emotion which shed a sort of
glory over his features.
Then I spoke to him of my circumstances and expressed the very
natural wish to take my young wifeprovided he should entrust his
child to meto my own home; assuring him however, that I was quite
willing to remain in his neighbourhood for several years, as I could
never tear her from him. He seized both my hands when I said this, and
pressed them with more vigour than I could have believed possible in so
weak and worn out an old man. Then he drew me into his arms, and
without a word kissed me till his strength failed him, and he sank back
into his chair. After remaining so for a few moments he made a sign to
me to help him to rise, and when he had regained his feet, he said: I
entrust this treasure to you my son, and thank my God, that I have
lived to see this day. Come we will go and tell it to my wife. From the
first moment I saw you I felt sure that you had a kind heart. If I had
ten daughters I could not see them better provided for. But did you
ever see such a naughty child? Fie, fie, Bicetta! meeting a lover when
your old babbo's back is turned, but they are all alike when love is in
question, and where their heart is concerned they are not to be
trusted, no, not one!
He sighed and his face took an expression partly of anxiety, partly
of sorrow. Perhaps some recollection troubled his mind. A moment after
he again embraced me, pulled my hair, called me a traitor and a
hypocrite, and finally seizing my hand, he drew me towards his wife's
apartment, which was situated at the other side of the house.
In the ante-room a maid advanced to meet us; she looked at me with
wondering eyes, and only admitted the General to her mistress' room,
after having first announced him. She then begged me to wait as her
mistress was not yet dressed for receiving. I heartily rejoiced at
this, though the time I had to wait seemed interminable.
I could not distinguish what was said in the adjoining room, but the
General spoke in a louder and more commanding tone than I had ever
heard from him before. A long and hurried whispering followed, till at
last the door opened, and the General issued forth erect, and
triumphant as if he had won a battle.
Beatrice is yours my son, the affair is decided. My wife sends her
best wishes to you! At first she made some ridiculous objections. You
see a cousin of ours, a young fop who is now in Rome, said to her
before he left. 'Keep Bicetta for me, I will marry her on my return.'
This was only in fun, but you and I, we are in earnest, so you shall
have her Amadeo. It is true, he continued, with a sigh, that I let
many things take their course, I am an old man, and the reins often
drop from my hands, but on some occasions Amadeo, I take up arms again
and then I am not to be daunted. I now solemnly promise you that
Beatrice shall be yours. Come back this evening; you will find her
here. Embrace me my son, make her happy; she deserves to be rewarded a
thousand fold for the love she bears her old father.
He only left me at the top of the stairs after folding me once more
in his arms.
When I returned in the evening, I found the house brilliantly
illuminated. In the ante-room many people were assembled who eyed me
with curiosity. In the drawing-room the old General sat in his usual
place, and the Canon opposite to him, but to-day the dominoes lay
untouched on the marble table, for on her father's knees sat his
daughter, simply dressed, without any ornaments, only pomegranate
blossoms in her hair. Her arms were twined round the old man's neck as
if she felt uneasy in this society, and took refuge with her only
friend. When she saw me enter, she glided from her seat and stood
motionless as a statue before me till I took her hand. She cast a rapid
glance at the sofa where her step-mother sat, brilliantly attired, her
hair flowing over her beautiful bare shoulders, her round white arm
reclining on a crimson cushion. She evidently intended to outshine the
slender maidenly beauty of the young girl. At her side sat the tall
young count, who had now recovered the phlegmatic insolence of a
supreme sovereign. He nodded to me with a gracious condescension.
When I turned towards them holding my betrothed by the hand, I
noticed a sudden palor on the woman's face, but she greeted, and
congratulated me with a most winning smile; offered me her hand to
kiss, and then embraced Bicetta who submitted to it with an impassive
face; only the trembling of her hand told me what she felt.
After this we had to receive the congratulations of the company, and
I admired my darling who stood the flow of shallow words with which she
was overwhelmed with perfect calmness. The General contemplated her
with an expression of great delight. He bade us sit down in the
embrasure of one of the windows, where two chairs had been placed near
each other, and then he proceeded to his game with Don Vigilio.
Bicetta and I soon forgot all around us. The hum of conversation did
not reach us. The dim light of a lamp which swung on a chain across the
street was bright enough for me to drink the deep draught of love from
the eyes of my beloved, and from her enchanting smile. On that evening
the company dispersed later than usual. Champagne was drunk, and an old
archbishop who was passing through the town on one of his pastoral
tours proposed the health of the betrothed. The venerable old man was
particularly affectionate to me. He made me take a seat in his carriage
and insisted on driving me back to my hotel. But hardly had we been a
moment alone together, when the reason for this remarkable
condescension appeared. You are a Lutheran? he asked. I assented, and
he continued with a benign smile; You will not remain so. The great
earthy happiness you have found here, will lead you to a higher bliss.
Come to see me to-morrow, and we can talk more about this.
I did not fail to appear, but he could not force me one step from
the path which I had traced for myself. I demanded the same liberty of
faith which I conceded to my wife. With regard to the children, she
might decide for them, till they had reached the age when they could
judge for themselves what was necessary to the welfare of their souls.
The artful old priest seemed well pleased with this beginning, and to
rely on the future.As he was forced to leave the town, he committed
me to the care of a younger keeper of souls; a member of a religious
order, who set about the affair much more vehemently and clumsily so
that to prevent further unpleasantness, I broke off all intercourse
with him. This, I could perceive in the faces of certain of the
frequenters of my future parent's house, was greatly taken amiss, but
as the General's cordial manner remained the same, and the mistress of
the house continued to shew me a cool amiability, I bore it with great
My betrothed, who was aware of my feelings, fully coincided in my
desire to cut short any further attempt of this kind. What can they
mean by it? she said. There is only one heaven and one hell for us;
is it not so Amadeo? If I entered Paradise and found you not there, my
soul would turn back, and not rest till it had found yours. When she
spoke thus it seemed to me that I saw heaven open before me, and I
could not believe that any danger threatened our future happiness, or
even that any delay was possible.
The wedding was fixed for October. I had made up my mind to bear
this interval of two months with all the patience I could muster. Only
one thing made me uneasy; I had announced my betrothal to my sister,
and brother-in-law, and had not received one line in return.
I knew them too well to fear any objection on their part; only some
illness or some sorrow which they wished to keep from me could account
for this silence. So in spite of the happiness which smiled upon me, I
grew more and more uneasy. At last after three weeks of feverish
impatience, the longed for letter from my brother-in-law arrived. He
wrote that my sister Blanche had been dangerously ill after her
confinement, and that the state of her health was still so precarious
that he had not ventured to agitate her by the news of my engagement.
If it were possible, it would greatly relieve him if I could come home
for a short while.
You must go, said Bicetta when I had silently handed her the
letter. You must leave this to-morrow. I will try and bear your
absence as well as I can. But you must write to me when you arrive,
write to me as often as you are able. How I long to go with you. But of
course that is impossible. Give my love to Blanche; tell her that she
already lives in my heart, and give her this kiss from her sister.
She passionately threw her arms round my neck and pressed her lips
to mine. It was the first kiss she had granted me. Even when I had met
her alone, and entreated her both jestingly and earnestly not to be so
cruel, she had always remained inexorable. How often had I not felt
hurt at this reserve, but then she had only to speak a word, or to
stretch out her hand with that indescribable smile of hers, and my
doubts and displeasure vanished.
I departed with the full persuasion that I should find nothing
changed on my return. The old general took leave of me with evident
distress; he could not cease to press me in his arms. His wife shewed
great interest in the illness of my sister, and so completely deceived
me that on my way home, I reproached myself for my former injustice
towards her, and mentally begged her pardon.
Part of my luggage remained at the villa which had been my
habitation during the last weeks of my betrothal; Old Fabio and my
friend Nina faithfully ministering to my wants. I felt sure of
returning in less than a month, and hoped to bring back with me my
sister and her husband to the wedding. Nina in the meantime went up to
town to keep Beatrice company.
Everything seemed to be arranged for the best, and this short
separation to be a sacrifice to the jealous gods before I was allowed
to enjoy complete happiness.
At home I found matters better than I had imagined during the
anxious hours of my long journey. Blanche was out of danger, and it
seemed as if the pleasure of seeing me again and the joyful news I
brought her, hastened her recovery. Their accompanying me to Bologna
however was out of the question. My sister could not leave her child,
and my brother-in-law was detained by our business which had lately so
much increased that we could not both be spared. Yet they hastened my
departure, and indeed as matters stood my visit caused them more
anxiety than pleasure, for in spite of our firm resolve to write to
each other as often as we could, and though I faithfully adhered to my
promise of never missing a single post, yet not a line had reached me
from Bologna. During the first week of my stay I was inexhaustible in
finding some natural cause for her silence. But when I had remained a
fortnight at Geneva without a word either from my betrothed or any
member of her family, I was tormented with anxiety. My only comfort was
that no great misfortune could have happened to her without our
correspondent in Bologna informing me of it, but then again, how could
I know that he had not left Bologna, and should any letters have been
lost or intercepted, might not his too have been among the number?
I felt that I must start for Bologna if I did not wish to go mad.
The state of my feelings as I travelled day and night is not to be
described. As I saw my face in the glass when I stopped to arrange my
disordered toilet before entering Bologna, I started back. It was
certainly not the face of a happy bridegroom, such as I had hoped to
It was early in the morning when my travelling carriage dashed along
the well known road. I called to the postillion to pull up at the
trellised gate of the villa. I jumped out with tottering knees, and
rang the bell violently. Some time elapsed before my dear old friend
Fabio appeared at the door. When he recognised me he started and
without taking time to button his old waistcoat across his naked chest,
he rushed to meet me with so disturbed a face that I called out in an
agony: She is dead!
He shook his head and hastily unlocked the gate, but the fright had
completely taken away his breath, so that I could only draw out word by
word, a scanty unconnected explanation from him. He observed my pale
face and worn out looks, and wished to spare me, instead of which he
only cruelly tormented me by his dilatoriness. With many things which
had been schemed in the dark, he was unacquainted, for he had only
learnt the main points from Nina. I who well knew the actors never for
a moment doubted who had taken the principal parts in this fiendish
intrigue. Hardly had I left Bologna when that cousin from Rome
appeared, and brought forward his imaginary claim to the hand of my
Had he come by order, or would he have arrived of his own accord
even had I not been absent I never knew. He cut a sorry figure Fabio
said. A life of gambling, revels, and adventures had considerably
reduced his fortune, but being the nephew of a cardinal, and of the old
nobility, he was still considered a good match. Bicetta had always
disliked him. He (Fabio) remembered that she had once boxed his ears
for having ventured to kiss his little cousin. Upon which he had
laughingly vowed to make her pay for it once she was his wife. Now the
time had arrived when he hoped to realize his threat. The step-mother
and all those who had most authority were on his side. They had
frightened the poor old general by predicting for him all the torments
of hell, if he married his only child to a heretic, till they had
subdued and silenced him. But whenever he looked at Bicetta his eyes
filled with tears, and he would sit for hours in his arm-chair, and sob
like a child. He never spoke to his wife for he knew that she was at
the bottom of it all.
And Beatrice? I asked, half maddened with rage and pain.
Ah Bicetta, replied the old man, who can understand her! At first
when they urged her to renounce her heretic lover, she had answered: 'I
have pledged my faith to him in the sight of God, and I will keep it
though I should die for it;' so they could not persuade her. Then when
her cousin had come to pay his court to her, she had calmly told him:
'Don't trouble yourself Richino it is perfectly useless; even had I
never seen Amadeo I should never have loved you.' Then when he
attempted to take her hand and to play the gallant to her, she drew
herself up and said in the hearing of Nina: 'Miserable coward to lay
hands on another's property! Go I despise you.' She would not see him
after that yet she never sheds a tear though the marriage is decided
on, and she has quite left off begging and entreating her father, her
step-mother, or any one, even God I dare say. She no more received your
letters, than you did hers which I posted myself. It seems that the
officials at the post-office know what is expected of them when the
nephew of a cardinal wishes to carry off the bride of a foreigner.
Still it is surprising that she should have resigned herself so quickly
for she cannot possibly doubt your fidelity. Nina told me that they
threatened to shut her up in a convent if she did not marry her cousin,
and certainly a convent is not the proper place for our Bicetta, yet I
should have thought it preferable to a marriage with that man, when her
whole heart belongs to you. I for my part cannot make her out, and my
daughter too is in a perpetual state of amazement.
So the good old man rambled on without venturing to look at me,
whilst I lay completely stunned on one of the chairs opposite the
chimney. It was the same in which we had sat our hands clasped in one
another's the first evening of our betrothal. I was quite incapable of
thought; every feeling even of love or of hate seemed paralyzed within
me and all vitality to have ceased, as the movement of a watch stops
when a blow has broken the spring. After a long pause I recovered my
composure sufficiently to ask when the marriage was to take place.
This afternoon, replied the old man in a timid voice. Then I started
up, brought to my senses by the nearness of this fearful and decisive
event. Old Fabio seized my hands, and looked anxiously into my face.
Merciful heavens! he exclaimed, what are you doing. You know not
how powerful they are. If you were to appear openly in the streets, who
knows whether you would outlive the night.
I will go in disguise, I will stand face to face with this
scoundrel, and tell him that one of us must die. You surely have a pair
of trooper's pistols in good condition. They are all I shall want.
Leave me now.
First you must shoot me with them, he said, and clung so firmly to
my arm, that I saw no possibility of freeing myself from his grasp
without using force. Think of Bicetta, he continued, what would she
say to it. You are right, I replied, and felt as if I were again
deprived of all energy. I know not what she would say, but I will
know, or I shall go mad. Let go my arm, and give me my hat. I will go
to her; I will burst open the doors which keep her from me, and when
once I have seen her then come what may.
But he would not let me go. He led me back to my chair and said,
you must surely be persuaded that no one so sincerely desires yours,
and the Signorina's, and the old general's welfare as old Fabio, so you
must listen to his advice, and not rush headlong to your own
destruction. If you imagine that you can reach her apartment, you are
greatly mistaken. The house is filled with servants on account of the
wedding, and you would fare ill if you desired to see the bride with
this face. Let me go to her; they cannot forbid me the entrance,
although the Signora does not regard me with favourable eyes. If it
should come to the worst, I can always send for my daughter; so if you
will write a few lines I promise to deliver them, and they will
certainly reach their destination with more safety than by the papal
posts. Sit down here by this window and write a few lines and if I am
not greatly mistaken in our Bicetta she will answer them. He ran to
fetch me writing materials, but I was in such a wretched state that I
could not even hold a pen, and the fury which raged within me drowned
Never mind, said the old man, there is no need to write. Is it
not sufficient that she hears you have come? If she then still consents
to this marriage, hundreds of letters would be of no avail.
With this he left me, but first I had to give him my word that I
would not leave the house, which was now completely deserted, and that
I would open the door to no one but him.
By this time day had dawned, and after bringing me some wine to
strengthen me, the old man departed, and I remained alone in the
death-like stillness of the houseI could not rest; I dragged myself
into the garden, to the orange-tree of whose fruit she had given me,
and to the pomegranate the blossoms of which had been her first love
token to me. She was always before me, and the more clearly she
appeared to me the less could I understand her apparent oblivion.
Though I was greatly exhausted by my night's journey, yet I could
not swallow a morsel of bread nor drink the wine, but I sucked the
juice of an orange, and felt so revived that I seemed to have imbibed
hope and comfort with it. Then I returned to the house, ascended the
stairs and slowly walked through all the apartments. In her little room
all remained as she had left it; even the book which she had last read
was still open on the table. I began to read from the same page where
she had left off. It was an edition of the Canzone di Petrarca and I
felt soothed and refreshed by their gentle harmony. I shoved a low
chair into the balcony (it was the same on which she had sat as a child
while playing with her dolls), and threw myself into it with the book
in my hand. But after each verse my eyes wandered along the road in the
hope of seeing a messenger appear. I had grown calmer however, and no
longer dreaded the decision of my fate, yet I started wildly when the
old man appeared.
What news do you bring me, I called to him. But I knew all when I
saw his sorrowful countenance, as he turned towards me, and I rushed
down the stair case with, trembling knees. Read this, he said;
perhaps you will understand what it all means.
I tore the paper from his hand. On it were hastily scrawled these
words: My own dear love, what I am going to do, had to be done; do not
try to prevent it, only trust in me. I shall never be another's. You
will understand all when we meet again, and perhaps that may be before
long. Whatever happens I am yours only for ever and ever. On the edge
of the paper was added, Remain concealed. If you are found out, all is
Whilst I continued to stare at these few lines, the old man told me
that he had not seen her himself. Nina had been the messenger between
them; but even from her, he could not find out what he wanted to hear.
She only told him that the Signorina had not shown the least
astonishment at the news of my return. I have long expected him, was
all she said; and while her maid was bringing in her bridal attire, she
had written the note quickly, standing at the window. Then she had
charged Nina to enjoin the greatest secrecy on her father, and to tell
him to take care of me. After that she quietly proceeded to unfasten
her hair which had to be dressed for the wedding. She wrote these
lines, Nina added, with the calmness of a person who is unable to
live any longer for the very agony of his pain, and writes down his
dying wish. She had always thought she knew her as well as she knew
herself, but in these last days she was a perfect mystery to her.
Was it not the same with me? I who had fancied that I understood her
better than any one else, could I understand her now, though I read the
lines she had addressed to me over and over again a hundred times. Why
if she would not belong to any one but me, why did she not fly to me,
or take refuge in a convent till I had found means to liberate her. Why
did not the boldest and most adventurous scheme appear natural and easy
to her, rather than resignation to the fate which was forced on her,
and to the bearing quietly those hateful fetters which death alone
could tear asunder.
Still there was something in those simple words which sustained me,
when I was on the point of despairing, and which silenced me when I was
on the point of giving vent to a burst of indignation or despondency. I
even slept a few hours, and could swallow a few morsels which my
faithful attendant had prepared for me. Not a word passed between us;
only when the hour of the wedding approached we had a violent dispute.
I insisted on attending it, and he opposed this to the utmost. At last
when he saw that my resolution was not to be shaken, he brought some of
his clothes and helped me to muffle myself up in them, and then pulled
an old torn straw-hat, which he generally wore in the garden, over my
eyes. I will accompany you Signor Amadeo, for I fear that you will lose
all command over yourself, and that you will require some one to
restrain you. He might have proved right had not the wedding guests,
and the bridal couple entered the church before we reached it, and the
crowd been so great that they stood pressed together, spreading over
the Piazza far beyond the church portal.
I bitterly reproached the old man for having deceived me with regard
to the hour, but he vehemently asserted his innocence, and his
ignorance of the hour.
So we waited amongst the crowd, and the sound of the bells, which
were ringing loudly, lulled me into my former state of dull torpor.
Suddenly the cry arose: Here they come! I should have sunk down had
not Fabio supported me. I kept myself up, so to speak, by fastening my
eyes to the church door, whence she was to issue forth. When she at
last appeared I was surprised that I could bear the sight, that it even
calmed me, although her husband was walking beside her. He was just the
man I had expected to see from Fabio's description. A creature I could
have felled to the ground at one blow. A smile hovered on his worn
features which made my blood boil. He nodded with a triumphant, and
lofty air to the people around him, and stroked the fair moustache on
his thin upper lip.
She passed through the crowd without looking up, the expression of
her face was inscrutable, and her eyes were veiled by her long lashes.
A child offered her a bunch of flowers; she took it into her arms, and
kissed it, and I could even perceive a smile on her lips. Had not the
distance been so great, and Fabio watching me I should have pushed my
way through the crowd, and asked her how she dared to smile on such a
day. But the smile had vanished while I was reflecting on it.
They got into their carriage, and drove off, followed by the parents
of the bride. The old General bending under the weight of his grief, at
the side of his proud young wife. Then came all the dignitaries of the
church who frequented the house.
The Archbishop performed the ceremony, said an old woman beside
me. She would not marry him at first, but they say that the holy
father himself urged her to it. Nothing more has been heard about that
other one, the Lutheran.Aye, aye, replied another woman; it seems
that his sister has died, that is the just penalty for refusing to
abjure his heresy.And so their foolish talk went on around me. Fabio
dragged me away, and led me by a bye path back to the villa. I let him
do as he pleased with me; all my strength had left me. I was as
unconscious of my actions as a man in a fever, or a sleep walker.
Even now, when I reflect on the past, I cannot understand how I bore
that day. My nature, generally so impetuous, appeared to be completely
subdued by the great bodily exhaustion caused by that hurried and
sleepless journey from Geneva, and I submitted unresistingly to these
When I reached the villa, I staggered blindly. Fabio forced me to
swallow several glasses of strong wine in such rapid succession that I
at last sank insensible to the ground.
When I recovered my senses, night had come on, and it was some time
before I could recollect where I was, and what had occurred. The clear
sky could be seen through the high panes of the glass door, and the
faint light of the new moon fell on the portrait of Beatrice's mother,
who I fancied looked sadly down at me from her place above the chimney.
Then only everything came back to my memory; then I remembered how
terrible was the significance of this night, and what future these
hours foreboded. Then a fearful agony overwhelmed me, and I was brought
to the verge of madness. I cried out aloud and the unearthly sound of
my voice as it echoed through the desolate house terrified me. I threw
myself down on the cold stone floor of the hall, and there I lay
writhing, pressing my face against the ground, and tearing my hair as
if bodily pain could stifle the despair which raged within me. Every
thought which sprung up in me, I willfully thrust back into the general
whirlpool which darkened and confused my mind. I would feel nothing,
think of nothing, but the terrible certainty that my heart's treasure
was now in another's possession; I could not cease from piercing my
heart with this thought, as though it were a poisoned dagger that would
make it bleed to death. At last worn out with this self destructive
frenzy I lay motionless in the dust. The cold stones of the floor
cooled my burning brow, and my tears ceased to flow. After some time, I
roused myself sufficiently to regain my tottering feet, and to crawl
into the garden. At the fountain underneath the evergreen oaks I washed
the tears and the dust from my face, and took a deep draught of the
tepid water, which nevertheless cooled my blood.
I now considered what remained for me to do, but could not come to
any resolution. One thing, however, I determined on. I would write to
her the next day, and implore her to end this dreadful uncertainty; to
rend asunder the last tie which bound me to her. Then I remembered the
words of her note, but of what avail were they now to me? Now that I
had seen her come out of the church, and that day, and part of the
night had passed without bringing me any comfort.
When I heard the clock strike midnight, and the moon disappeared I
could no longer bear the awful stillness of the garden, and I returned
to the hall. I lighted a candle and placed it on the mantlepiece; then
I drew a chair near it, took a small volume of Dante from my pocket,
and was soon deeply engaged in perusing the most gloomy and despairing
canto of his Inferno.
I had remained thus about an hour, when suddenly I thought I heard
the key turned in the lock of the garden gate. My hair stood on end. I
fancied in the first moment of terror that my poor darling had
destroyed herself, and that her restless spirit now sought me to suck
my heart's blood; but the next moment I had shaken off these senseless
ideas, and regained my composure. I arose and listened attentively in
the stillness of the night.
The garden gate was opened. I heard steps on the gravel walksome
one sought for the handle of the hall door; it opened and a youth in a
black cloak and hat appeared on the threshold. Suddenly the hat fell
back from the brow, and I recognized Beatrice. With a cry of joy we
rushed into each other's arms, and clung to one another as though we
could never be torn asunder nor our lips ever parted.
At last she disengaged herself from my embrace, and her tearful eyes
turned on me with a sad mute gaze. How pale thou art! she said; and
this is all my doing. But now it is all at an end. I have kept my word.
Here I am your own wife, and never another's, though I should suffer
for it in this world, and in the next. Oh! Amadeo, why is this world so
full of wicked people; why do they sully the purest, and revile the
most sacred feelings! Why do they force us to lie, and to perjure
ourselves in the very sight of God. We must say yes, with our
lips, while our hearts say no. They have brought me to this,
that I can only choose between two sins: either to deliver myself up to
a man whom I despise, or to slink like a thief in the night to one who
in the eyes of the world can never be mine. But God metes with another
measure than these cruel and selfish people; is it not so, Amadeo? He
cannot bid me break my faith to you. He never meant our destruction. I
imprisoned in a convent, and you alone in the world, without love, or
joy. He has destined you for me, and me for you, and now I am yours for
ever. That other one dared not touch me. When we were left alone
together, I said to him: 'If you ever try to approach me, to-day or at
any other time, you will have been my murderer, for I have vowed before
God not to survive the hour in which you dare to claim your right on
me. I told you this before our marriage and you still insisted on its
accomplishment. You then carried the point, now it is my turn.'
So I left him, and shut myself up in my room till I knew that every
one in the house was asleep. Nina then brought me this disguise, and
now I am here, Amadeo! The happiness of being yours would be too great
if I had not to strive and suffer for it.
She clung to my neck and hid her glowing face on my breast. All the
ardour and passion which she had repressed with maidenly pride, and had
not even betrayed by a look, now burst forth in a sudden flame, and
threatened to set my whirling brain on fire.
When we had at last recovered our power of thought, and speech, she
told me what had occurred after my departure; the intrigues of her
step-mother, the helpless efforts of her father to defend himself, and
his child, against the ascendency of the clergy; her useless attempts
to disarm and confound her enemy by the most unshaken sincerity. At
last, when she perceived that they would mercilessly separate her from
her father, and shut her up in a distant convent, from whence no letter
from her could reach me, she suddenly determined on apparent submission
to every thing for the sake of saving herself and me. And, in fact,
they only desired an outward victory. What do they care whether my soul
is lost or not, she continued. Did they ever blame the woman who
bears my poor father's name for indulging all her passions freely? They
are all of them the slaves of appearances, and they cannot bear to look
truth in the face, for it would put them to confusion. Oh! Amadeo, how
often did I form the resolution to fly to you, and then declare openly
that I am your wife, and shall be so to eternity. But you do not know
how powerful they are. Even if we started this very moment, and
travelled day and night they would overtake us, and that would be
certain death to you. Then my poor dear father also, he would not
survive the separation, and such a one, from me. But do not grieve my
love, we are now united and those who know our secret are faithful.
Pardon me, for not telling you of my coming in my note of this morning,
but I knew not for certain whether I should be able to accomplish my
plan, or whether that wretch might not strike me to the ground on my
refusal to acknowledge him as my master. And if I then had staid away,
should you not have suffered greater tortures than in this uncertainty?
You knew that I had pledged myself to you, and that I would keep my
word; that I would be faithful to you, and never belong to any man but
you.I will return to you every night. The porter who is an honest
fellow, hates his present master, but would have died for you.
She noticed that in spite of my happiness; my wife sitting on my
knee, that I was silent and thoughtful. Why are you so sad? she
That we must obtain by fraud what is ours by right, I replied.
That we must hide in darkness, and mystery as if we committed a crime
in keeping our vows!
Do not think of that, she said, and passed her hand across my
forehead. The future is unknown to us; we are only certain of the
present hour, and of our own hearts. Why should we not thank God for
it. He surely knows that it is best so. Come now; I am not going to sit
here as your lady love with my hands folded, and leave it to others to
minister to you. You must be half famished, and I too am hungry. I have
tasted nothing since last night. I remember perfectly where Fabio keeps
his provisions. I will go and prepare a wedding feast which will be
more joyful than the last one was, where I saw that every drop of wine
was turned to gall for my poor father.
She rose, and hastened to the cellar, and larder. In the meantime I
pushed a small table into the middle of the room, and lighted up all
the bits of candle which remained in the dusty chandeliers. When she
returned with the plates and glasses, she stopped on the threshold with
a joyful exclamation. Then she laid the table and filled the glasses
with her own hands from the heavy wicker bottle. Come, she said, let
us drink to our future happiness, if your sister were but here I should
desire no other wedding banquet. After drinking this toast, she waited
on me, helping me to the cold meat and olives, persuading me to eat,
and doing the honours like a good little housewife. To please her I
swallowed some morsels though I felt no hunger. She too would hardly
take anything till I began to feed her like a child holding the
choicest morsels to her lips, then she laughingly opened them and
complied with my request.
Now I have had enough, she said, rising. I must provide a better
couch for you than these cushions on the floor. Fabio never thinks
about such things. An old soldier like him hardly perceives whether he
is lying on the bare ground or on a feather-bed. To be sure the wisest
thing for you will be to take possession of my little room upstairs,
instead of remaining here where any body can look in, and betray you.
She took my arm and conducted me thither after we had put out all the
lights. As we passed Fabio's closet, I stopped to listen if he moved.
Don't mind him, she whispered; he knows that I am here. A short
while ago, when I fetched the wine, I met him coming from the garden,
where he had plucked the fruit for our wedding feast. He was nearly
beside himself with joy on seeing me; he wept, and kissed my hands. Now
he does not appear, for fear of disturbing us.
The day had not dawned when she reminded me that we must part. I
insisted on accompanying her back to town, and when she saw the
disguise in which I had ventured out the day before, she consented. She
pulled her broad brimmed hat over her eyes and I wrapped her up in her
large cloak. We then left the house, and proceeded in the direction of
the town. We met not a soulno lights burned either in the houses or
in the streetsthe morning star sparkled alone in the pale azure of
the sky. A cool breeze came from the North. We hardly spoke a word
during our walk. My heart was oppressed, and she too when the moment of
separation approached, seemed to feel, for the first time, how
unnatural was our position. When we reached the house, she clasped me
in her arms with tears in her eyes and held me so for a while before
giving the appointed signal to the porter. Expect me to-morrow, she
whispered, and disengaging herself from my neck she glided through the
half open door, and I was once more alone in the darkness.
A bitter feeling came over me. So I had to resign her again, my own,
my bride, who had vowed to belong to no one but me; to leave her at the
threshold of a stranger's house, whose door was for ever closed to me.
Here I had to stand at the entrance, and if the master of the house
appeared, should have to hide in a corner, as a thief from the bailiff.
What would be the end of it? Would a life of so full of bye ways and
mysteries be endurable. Can that be called happiness which can only be
obtained at the price of daily torment, and anxiety?
Before I reached the villa I had firmly resolved to put an end to
this insufferable position. From that moment I felt easy at heart, and
as I walked along the deserted road, could fully rejoice in the
unalloyed happiness which had been granted me, and I considered in its
minutest details how the plan which was to unite us for ever was to be
In the garden of the villa I found the old man at work. I apprized
him of my scheme, and though he thought the execution of it would be
more difficult than I expected, he willingly agreed to do all I asked
of him, and this was no slight sacrifice at his age, the more so that
he would have to part with his daughter. But where Bicetta's happiness
was concerned, he had no will of his own.
We both spent the day in preparations. More than once, while taking
our measures, I had occasion to admire the circumspection, and the
foresight of the old soldier. During the afternoon I slept, and at ten
o'clock at night, I was stationed at the gate of the town through which
she had to come. We had not settled that I was to meet her, so when I
stepped out of my lurking place, she started back but instantly
recognizing me as I pushed back my hat she gave me her still trembling
hand, from underneath her cloak. So we walked along gazing at each
other in silence, for we met several tardy wayfarers who were returning
to the town, and feared to awaken their suspicion should they hear a
soft woman's voice underneath that broad brimmed hat only when we had
reached the villa, and its comfortable hall where lights were burning,
and a rustic meal had been prepared for us by Fabio, she again talked
freely. She told me how she had passed the day, how long and dreary it
had appeared to her. Richino had treated her with a rigid coldness,
hoping to mortify her by it, and to force her to make some advances,
but before the world, her parents and their numberless visitors, he had
assumed the manners of a happy young husband. In the evening however,
he had bowed to her without a word, and had withdrawn to his apartment.
This cannot last, I suddenly said, after a long silence; It is as
unworthy of you, as it is of me. We must put an end to it. Your
decision alone is wanting. Mine is already formed.
Amadeo! she exclaimed, and her eyes turned towards me with a
wondering look. What can you mean? Separation! Oh death rather than
No, I replied, fear not; I do not demand what is impossible to me
as well as to you. Leave thee my wife, my second self, truly that would
be death! But our present existence, is it not worse than death? A life
which must in time, kill the soul's freedom and dignity, and will
sooner or later cause our ruin. But even if it did succeed, which is
most improbable, if I could remain here concealed year after year, in
what a wretched state should I not drag through the weary days; idle
and solitary cut off from all society but yours; condemned to an
aimless, useless life, consumed by the torture of an obscure, and
worthless existence. But even if, in more favourable circumstances, I
could openly come to your horse as your declared lover I would not do
it; I could not brook this state of ambiguity and falsehood. I must be
able to acknowledge my feelings, and openly take possession of what is
mine. Do you now understand me my darling?
She nodded, and her eyes were pensively fixed on the ground.I
know how painful it will be for you, I continued, and took her cold
and lifeless hand in mine, You feel that you must leave your father,
perhaps for ever, if he cannot summon courage enough to follow us; You
must leave your country, and all that is dear to you, and has taken
root in your heart from childhood upwards. You can no longer kneel in
the church on the same spot where your mother once prayedYou dread
the strange country all the more, that you will have to enter it as a
fugitive, and not with the rejoicings and honours due to a bride. You
imagine that you would not dare to lift up your eyes to those who love
you. Is it not so Beatrice?
She again nodded; then she looked up to me and said, I will bear
all if it can make you happy.
My own love, I resumed clasping her in my arms; You have full
confidence in me, have you not? You believe that I have carefully
considered what I owe to you, and to myself, and that I would not
shrink from any sacrifice so long as my honour is not concerned, and
that it does not lower me in your eyes. There is but one way of escape
possible from all the snares and fetters which our enemies have thrown
around us. You said truly that flight with the swiftest horses would
not save us: no, we must set about it with more caution, if we do not
wish to be overtaken. I have spoken to Fabio, he knows all the ways to
Ancona as thoroughly as he knows this garden. He will be our guide. We
shall travel on foot, dressed as peasants and only at night, once
there, we shall embark for Venice. Fabio too leaves all that is dear
and valuable to him, only for our sakes, in order that he may assist us
to recover our freedom and happiness. Are you courageous enough
Beatrice? Do you feel strong enough to undertake this journey at your
I will follow you all over the world, she said, and pressed my
hand; You shall have no cause to complain; I can do all you expect of
I embraced her with great emotion. Come, then, I said; let us take
some food to strengthen us for the journey.
To-night Amadeo? I implore you with all my heart, ask anything of
me, but that I should leave this without once more seeing my poor
father, without the sacred memorials of my mother which I keep at home.
I promise you that nothing shall alter my resolution, not a tear shall
betray me, when I kiss my father for the last time. I feel that without
that, without bidding him at least a mute farewell I should find no
rest, and the longing for home would kill me. As yet, we risk nothing.
No one knows that you are here, no one sees me coming, or going. I
shall not even acquaint Nina with our plan. To-morrow evening when I
leave my home, it shall be for ever; that I promise you. Grant me only
these few hours, and then, I shall be as entirely yours, as if I had
fallen from heaven into your arms, and had no other home than your
heart. She looked at me with an imploring expression which I could not
resist, although I felt uneasy at the slightest delay. I gave way to
her entreaties, and her gaiety then returned, and soon banished every
care from my mind. We supped together; Fabio waited on us, and not a
word more was said of our project. I then sent Fabio to his bed, and
brought in the dessert myself, and a bottle of sweet wine which she
liked to drink only a thimble full of, at a time, but even a few drops
of it sufficed to give her pale cheeks a rosy tint. Who could have seen
us, joyous as we were together, and have believed that we had obtained
these brief hours of happiness by stealth, and were enjoying them
She then drew me into the garden. Let me bid farewell to all my
friends, to the pomegranate, the orange trees, the fountain. To-morrow
there will not be time for it. We walked arm in arm into the garden.
She drank once more from the marble fountain, put a few oranges in her
pocket, and plucked a spray from the pomegranate. These must go with
me, she observed, in your home in the north, these things do not
grow. I shall soon learn to do without them. And this
shuttlecock,-she picked it up as she saw it lying forgotten in the
grass, I will not leave behind. Our children, she whispered, and drew
close to me, shall play with it, and you will tell them how you
exchanged your heart for one of these feathery balls.
We had now reached the place where I had once looked over the wall.
There underneath the spreading branches of the trees, the sward had
remained fresh, and soft, and the air was pure, and free from dust.
Let us pass the remainder of the night here, I said, I will bring
some cushions from the house. I returned and brought a few, and also a
cloak for Beatrice. She wrapped herself up in it and soon slept calmly,
but it was long before I could find repose. I listened to her gentle
breathing, and gazed at her sweet face, with the closed eyes up-turned
to the grey sky. She murmured some indistinct words in a dream. I could
not understand them, but their soft tone still lingers in my ear.
At last I too slept; I know not for how many hours. When I awoke,
the day had not yet dawned, but she was gone. A sudden fear seized me,
why had she left me? I jumped up to ascertain whether Fabio, at least,
had accompanied her. Hardly had I taken a few steps, when I heard the
bell at the garden gate pulled violently. In that moment a fearful
foreboding came over me, and forgetting all prudence, I dashed across
the garden, and round the house towards the gate. Nevertheless old
Fabio had reached it before me, and when I turned the corner, I saw him
trying to lift up a dark figure which had sunk down at the entrance of
Beatrice! I cried and rushed to the spot. When I reached it, she
just opened her eyes again, and supported by Fabio, she turned towards
me with a look of intense anguish and despair, but directly she tried
to smile again. It is nothing Amadeo, she gasped out with a great
effort, her hand pressed to her heart. Do not be alarmed, I do not
feel much pain. Are you vexed that I left, without awaking you? You
slept so quietly, and I thought there was no danger. How could he have
discovered that you were concealed here? Yes to be sure, I forgot to
tell you what Richino said to me yesterday at table; he spoke in French
to prevent the people from understanding him: 'Do you believe in
ghosts, Madame? If such things exist, they are welcome to roam about,
but if living creatures take it into their heads to play the
revenants, upon my honour, I will take good care that they are soon
turned into real phantoms.'
I fancied that these were only idle words. Alas, Amadeo, now I
cannot travel with you; you will have to go alone, and in this very
hour. Those two who were on the watch outside the garden gate,
certainly expected you to pass. They called to me when I was ten paces
distant from the gate, and asked for my name. I gave no answer, so they
did what had been ordered them. They did not succeed however; see I can
still walk and even speak. Leave me here and do not be uneasy on my
account. I shall not die. When I hear that you are in safety then I
will follow you. Go my darling husbandbefore the break of dayGive
me your handkiss me.
Her voice grew faint; her knees could no longer support her. We
carried her, insensible, into the hall, and laid her on a low couch.
When we pushed back her cloak, and opened her coat, the blood streamed
over our hands. I bent over her; she heaved a deep sigh, looked at me
once again, and sunk back to rise no more.
Let me pass over that morning in silence.
When the sun shone through the glass door, it found me still
kneeling beside her couch, and gazing on her pale face. Old Fabio
crouched in a corner, and sobbed.
Suddenly we heard her name called from without. Nina rushed in, and
with a loud cry, threw herself on the corpse. By her demeanour it
seemed as if she had been struck a deadly blow. Then in the midst of
her convulsive sorrow, she roused herself, and turning me she said,
You must escape; I hastened hither to caution you and Beatrice. A
short while ago Richino entered her bedroom and sought her. I know now
for what reason; it was to tell her that the man she loved was dead. He
hardly expected it to end as it has done. When he perceived that she
was not in her room, he turned pale as death, and went away. But
believe me, he will come to seek her here, and if he finds those
dreadful marks on the pathlisten! I hear footsteps approachingthey
are his. Fly! they forebode death to you. I replied not, but rose and
stood by the couch of my dead wife.
The door opened and he entered ...
Whatever he had meant to say, the sight before him turned him to
stone. He staggered back, and clung to the door post for support. His
cadaverous face was distorted by helpless horror. I saw that he
struggled in vain for breath.
What do you seek here? I said at last. You hoped to find me lying
covered with blood; your servants did your bidding promptly, but
unfortunately they mistook the person. So you are disappointed of your
malignant pleasure. You could not crown your deed by awakening this
unhappy woman, of whose heart not a particle was yours, with the
tidings that her lover was dead, and would never return. What hinders
me, I continued, approaching him, and clenching my hands with rage,
and maddening pain. What hinders me from crushing you beneath my feet,
and casting you out of the house, so that you should no longer pollute
with your breath this sacred dwelling of the dead. If you had loved
her, miserable scoundrel, if you could extenuate your deed by a human
passionbut you would have taken possession of her, you would have
abased this noble soul to your own level, only for the sake of
gratifying your low desires, and because you were incited by others.
Go, I say, hide your face in eternal darkness. Assassin! I swear that
if you dare to stretch out your hand towards the dead, or cast your
eyes on her once again, I will tear you to pieces with my own hands!
Away with you!
In the midst of this outburst of my fury, I was silenced by the
expression of his face, on which an expression of intense pain
appeared. It seemed as if the ground reeled underneath him, as if it
were going to burst asunder and devour him. He did not look at any one;
he tried to raise his head, but sank down on the threshold completely
overcome and remained so for several minutes. I had to avert a sort of
pity, which I should have deemed a crime. When I had regained
sufficient composure to say a few last words to him, I saw him totter
like a drunken man towards the gate, and leave the garden.
I then allowed Nina to take off Beatrice's man's clothes, and to
dress her in the same white gown in which I had first seen her. There
she lay smiling peacefully amongst the flowers which her faithful
attendant had brought from the garden and the conservatory, and so she
remained during the day. Nina had just concluded this last act of
friendship, when we heard a carriage approach the gate. Her father sat
in it, pale, and with an insane smile hovering on his withered lips.
Fabio, with scalding tears, assisted him to leave the carriage, and led
him into the hall. When he saw his child surrounded by the apparel of
death he dropped silently on his knees, and pressed his forehead on her
folded hands. When at last we tried to raise him, we found that a
paralysis of the heart had compassionately united him to his darling.
In the following night we buried them both. No one was present but
Fabio, and Nina. Don Vigilio pronounced the benediction on the dead. He
told me afterwards that Richino had appointed it so, and had given
orders that all my requests were to be complied with as if I were
master of the house. He had received no visitors, and after a violent
scene with his mother-in-law, had on the same day left Bologna for
The widow of the General entered a convent for the time of her
mourning. I for my part when the earth had closed over the two coffins,
took horse, and before the day had dawned was on my way to Florence.
A year after, I read in the papers that the widow of the General had
married the young count, her faithful admirer. But though I often
returned to Bologna to visit the grave of my wife I never saw either of
BEGINNING, AND END.
BEGINNING, AND END.
In the deep bay window of an otherwise brilliantly lighted saloon, a
single candle, supported by the arms of a winged figure in chased
silver, shed its faint lustre.
This soft shade was increased by broad-leaved plants, the last
blossoms of the season, and by a slender palm-tree whose delicate
branches arched gracefully above the entrance of this dusky bower. Two
chairs stood beside each other in the background, inviting to repose,
out only one of them was occupied.
The slender figure of a young woman reclined in it, her head
supported by her arm. Those who suspected her of retiring from the gay
company to this verdant hiding-place in order to attract attention or
cause a search to be made for her wronged her. She thought not of the
effect produced by the delicate half shade of the palm-tree on her pure
white brow, nor of the soft moonshine-like reflex of the candlelight on
the shining waves of her dark hair. Neither did she take advantage of
the solitude around her, whilst a girlish voice was heard singing to
the piano at the further end of the room, to indulge in those reveries
which in the summer time of life so often take their abode underneath
the closed eyelids. In a word, she slumbered. The music to which she
had at first dreamily listened, had at last lulled her to sleep like a
tired child. She did not even awake when the song being ended, the old
gentlemen around applauded encouragingly, the piano stool was pushed
back, and the hum of the interrupted conversation again sounded through
the saloon with renewed vivacity.
No one came to disturb her; she was a stranger in this society, and
besides there was a certain expression of grave reserve in her
countenance which did not encourage new acquaintances.
It was her fate to be considered proud. She knew it, but the little
effort she made to dispel this error arose more from indifference than
contempt. A familiar voice which addressed her by her name at last
aroused her. She opened her eyes in some confusion and saw the master
of the house standing before her, and by his side a stranger whose
forehead reached up to the branches of the palm-tree.
Allow me to interrupt your meditation. Madam, said the host with a
smile. I here present to you my friend, and cousin Valentine, who only
returned to Germany a few weeks ago, and a few hours since became my
guest. We must now try to retain him, and who could undertake this task
with more success than our fair country women.
He had long left them and, still they remained opposite each other
without a word of greeting. His eyes were fixed on the red rose which
adorned her hair, and only a slight movement among the palm leaves
betrayed that the blood rushed vehemently through his veins.
The lady's face was raised towards him with an earnest expression,
as if she were trying to solve a problem. Was the veil which sleep had
thrown over her eyes, not yet removed? Was this meeting only the vision
of a dream. But no, could a dream have the power of changing, as time
had done, the well known features before her; of thinning the curly
hair, and of drawing those lines above the eye-brows which she had
noticed at the first glance?
The longer he delayed in addressing her, the deeper grew the blush
that suffused her cheek. Several times her lips parted as if to speak,
but still she remained silent, and fixed her eyes on the ground. Her
fan slid on the carpet. He did not pick it up.
At last he said, Madam Eugenie, permit me to call you so, for I
have just arrived here and have omitted to ask our host for your
husband's name; how strangely we meet in this life. I am truly
astonished at my want of presentiment which never foretold me by a sign
from heaven or from earth that I should find you here.
A special motive caused me to undertake this journey, she hastily
said. I intend to put my son to school and I am told that there is one
here in which he will be well taken care of. I arrived to-day after
having spent a sleepless night in the carriage, and I must confess to
you that just as you came up, weak human nature, against all good
breeding, was on the point of making up for lost time. I tell you this
because the cool, and absent way in which I received you must have
seemed strange to so old a friend.
She stretched out her hand to him. I thank you, he replied, and
his face brightened, for having remembered my small claim on your
friendship. Pray continue to treat me on the old footing, and resume
your repose, which I unfortunately disturbed. I will take care that no
one enters the bower: I can keep watch behind this palm-tree.
She laughed. No, I did not mean that. I am only too tired to
converse with perfect strangers. Come, sit down by me, if you will be
satisfied with my good intentions, and tell me how the past, and the
present have fared with you.
You will best be able to judge for yourself how it has fared with
me when I confide to you my situation at the present moment. My friend
has only invited me here for the sake of marrying me. He regards it as
a duty. What do you say to that? In what a sad state must not that man
be whose friends consider it their duty to render him harmless?
You alarm me, she replied with a smile. When I first knew you,
you were, if not actually harmless, at least far from causing so much
mischief that you had to be laid in chains for the sake of the public
You are deriding me, Madam. Ah that talent of yours, how well I
know it. This time however your darts did not touch me. My charitable
cousin fears not for others, but for my own safety. He believes that if
I continue to reside alone in the old castle which I have bought;
abandoned to my own crotchets, only occupied in catching hares and
helping the peasants in their agricultural affairs, which I do not
myself understand, that I should sooner or later lose the little sense
which he kindly presumes is left to me. You see he wishes to treat me
homeopathically, dispersing one folly by another. Perhaps he is right.
Those who have proved themselves incapable of regulating their lives
properly, should be grateful, should they not, to their friends for
taking the trouble off their hands, and quietly follow their advice;
but I fancy sometimes that their kind intentions have come too late for
Too late? I must combat that assertion. Fourteen years have passed
since we last met, and if you did not then make yourself younger than
you were, you can hardly now have reached the prime of life.
Make myself younger! Good heavens! to do just the contrary would
then have conduced more to my interests. But of what are you reminding
Is your betrothed young, handsome amiable? she quickly resumed; I
would not ask these questions which imply a doubt, if you had not told
me that you had authorized your friend to dispose of your heart, and in
these matters friends are not always to be relied on.
You greatly wrong our most amiable host, he said laughingly; Not
only are these cardinal virtues not wanting, but all three of them are
three times combined.
I mean in three different samples, as I have been told; so it will
be difficult to choose.
And each of the three young ladies is desperately in love with you?
Then a twofold catastrophe is inevitable.
Up to this hour none of my destined brides know of my existence.
So they are sisters?
Yes. A fair, an auburn, and a dark haired one. You see there is no
possibility of escape; Every taste is provided for. Early to-morrow the
merciless disposer of my heart, and hand takes me in his carriage, and
delivers me over to my destiny. They live in Lnot quite four hours
drive from this. Horse dealing is to be the pretext. The father who is
the doctor of that small town, has a thorough-bred grey Arab in his
You go forth as Saul the son of Kish. I hope you may return like
him with a kingdom.
If you but knew, he said pensively, how little I covet that
dignity: is not a king fettered by his duties? To-day I am still free,
so I take the liberty of sitting down beside you, and of talking with
you of that happy time when I too was held captive, but by enchanting
She remained silent while he threw himself into the second
arm-chair, and turned it so that he could see nothing of the company in
the saloon; but only the plants before him, and the charming face of
the young woman, lighted up by the solitary candle. Meanwhile the
mistress of the house had sat down to the piano, and began to play a
waltz; and soon the light branches of the palm-tree trembled in the
whirlwind caused by the passing couples. Eugénie silently watched the
gay scene before her. With her left hand she played with a gold chain,
and in the right, held carelessly a large bouquet on her lap.
Valentine stedfastly gazed at her; when she observed it, she took up
the nosegay and buried her face in it. You think it somewhat
indiscreet on my part, he said, that I sit before you, as though I
were admiring a fine painting; but is it not pardonable if I gaze with
astonishment on that soft bloom which remains as fresh as though hardly
a day had passed since our last meeting. If I banished from my mind the
thought that fourteen years have gone over my head, and that I may be a
married man to-morrow, I might easily delude myself into the belief
that I am sitting in the conservatory of your parent's house, and have
just laid aside the book in which I had been reading aloud to you, who
were meanwhile watching the gnats dancing on the pond, or the falling
of the leaves. In reality however, only youth can give us those hours
of enraptured extasy, that entire blending of the soul with the soul of
nature, when we are freed from the fetters of our own individuality
only to be united, like a plant, all the more closely with the
elements. When I walked home, still entranced, after one of those
evenings, I felt as if I were carried along the poplar alley, as a
feather is borne by the breeze. In later years we often call that
feeling sentimentality, but even now I cannot laugh at it.
If I smiled at it in those days, I now feel as if I ought to
apologize for it. We girls are taught by our education to watch over
our sentiments, and to be cautious in our enthusiasms. Now I may
confess to you that I often only wished for Cora to disturb our reading
hour by her barking, or for Frederick to summon us to tea, because I
could no longer restrain my tears.
You always had the firmer character of the two. The cement which
has consolidated my nature has only grown hard in the bracing
atmosphere of a stirring, and active life. But the names you have just
uttered, what remembrances they bring back to me! My friend, and my
enemy, Frederick, and Cora. That dear old Frederick. I know that he
heartily pitied me, a feeling which is said to be rare between rivals.
You cannot be ignorant of the feelings with which you inspired him. He
worshipped you as devotedly as a gardener, a servant, can worship his
young mistress. He looked on his case as still more hopeless than mine,
though with regard to our social position, his was by far the more
settled of the two. The quiet sympathy of hopelessness united us. Often
when he had come to fetch us from the conservatory and you were
skipping before us after your dog, and overtaking it, would catch it up
in your arms, and kiss it, he would turn to me with jealous wrath, and
say: 'Now, can you understand. Master Valentine, what pleasure our
young lady can find in hugging that stupid brute?' With an indignant
shake of his head; the hair of which he always arranged carefully,
since he served at table, and could offer you the dishes. If you
confess the truth, you will own that you only fondled that ugly
creature for the sake of driving us distracted.
Do not speak ill of the dead, rejoined Eugénie. Cora sleeps the
sleep of death, not far from the pond where the bench stands underneath
the elm-tree; do you remember it?
How could I have forgotten it? Was it not on that bench that I
fastened your skates, when we started on that skating expedition with
your cousin Lucy. How is your cousin getting on?
She is now a fine lady, with a large family. If she only knew that
I have met you here! Not more than a month ago we were talking of you.
She has a kind remembrance of you, and has not forgotten that bright
winter's afternoon, when we first initiated you in the art of skating,
and she maintains that you squeezed her hand on that occasion with more
ardour than your later behaviour warranted. Since then a shade of
fickleness darkens the otherwise favourable recollection she has of
Good heavens! he exclaimed laughing; so the most harmless cannot
escape suspicion. To be sure I was not wholly guiltless, but as it so
often happens I must suffer for another sin than that which I really
committed. When you both held my hands to guide my first steps on the
slippery plain, I longed to express more to you by the firm pressure of
my hand than the mere desire not to fall. But you were always
inaccessible to any intelligence of that kind. You will now bear me
witness that I need not reproach myself with regard to little Lucy. Ah!
I still remember it all as if it had been yesterday! I still feel the
glow which rushed through my veins, in spite of the cold December wind;
the enrapturing touch of your hand, which seemed to linger with me for
weeks after. Do not be displeased, he continued, at my speaking so
freely of all this. We are no longer the same and can now talk of these
things as though they had occurred to some one else. Is it not an
innocent pleasure if I now tell you what so often hung on my lips in
those days, and was always repressed by that unlucky timidity of mine.
We now meet as good comrades do after having settled a debt.
And which of us is the creditor? she asked. Both of us, he
replied. Do you not think that I too have some right to that title? If
you but knew what trouble you have caused me; how long your image stood
between me, and every enjoyment of life. But you must have guessed it.
When I used to watch for you on your way to your drawing lesson, when
my heart beat at the sight of your checked cloak, and grey hatand
when I passed you with all the equanimity I could muster, happy in
having been allowed to salute you, did the unfortunate fate of the poor
lad who so humbly bowed to you never smite your conscience?
You are greatly mistaken my dear friend, she said, with a charming
look of merriment. I blushed whenever I met any one in that attire
which I fancied gave me the appearance of a scarecrow. The cloak had
long passed out of fashion, but my mother thought it good enough for
the drawing lesson. How many tears of mortified vanity have I not dried
with a corner of that detested garment.
He laughed. You see how widely our natures differ. Fate did wisely
in separating us. I for my part on my travels through the world vainly
sought for a similar cloak which seemed to me to be the essence of all
that is beautiful. In France I once remarked at some distance the same
kind of checked stuff. I rushed after it, but found to my
disappointment that the wearer in no way resembled the lady of my
thoughts. Since that time I am inclined to believe that it was the
wearer and not the garment which haunted the dreams of my youth.
During this conversation the music had continued and the air in the
apartment became hot and oppressive. The young woman agitated her fan,
and inhaled with parted lips the refreshing breeze from it. She
reminded her friend of a remark he had once read in a French book on
the affinity existing between certain blue eyes, and certain glittering
teeth. He told her so. You see, he continued, how freely I take
advantage of the privilege of friendship, telling you every thought
which crosses my mind, I make up for my long silence, and you will not
take it amiss. Truly it seems that Providence intends to make me a good
husband and father as on the eve of the important step I am about to
take it relieves my mind from all anxiety regarding it. If I had not
met you, I should never, even in the midst of every domestic felicity,
have been able to rid myself of the fear that some day or other you
would appear, and turn my head as you did years ago. Now that you know
my intentions and that we have placed our friendship on a warm, and
steady footing, I can start on to-morrow's expedition in search of a
wife, with an easy heart.
They had both risen, and now admired the flowers. How beautiful
this candelabra is, she remarked. Fortuna subjected by man, and made
to give him light.
I believe it to represent the goddess of victory. The ball on which
fortune glides from us, is wanting here, but Victory remains faithful
to the daring.
In that case Victory by serving you on the eve of your expedition,
foretells you good luck.
I see you doubt my courage Madam. Certainly you above all others
have a right to do so. But this time I hope to manage my affairs better
than I did fourteen years ago. I intend to challenge my fortune, be it
good, or bad, and force an answer from it. If she smiles on me, I
promise you that to you first, I shall be the herald of my heroic
achievement. But enough of myself as a topic; as yet you have told me
nothing of your own life, and how the years have passed with you. I
could not muster courage to make enquiries about you. After I heard
that you were married, I studiously avoided every place where tidings
of you could reach me. I am even unacquainted with the name of your
husband. Will you introduce me to him. He probably has accompanied you
I lost my husband seven years ago.
He startedMy son is all that is left to me, she resumed, and I
must now part with him. He has become quite unruly from staying with my
mother in the country, and even if I could find a tutor who knew how to
manage him, I should be sorry to see him pass the merry time of youth
without any companions of his own age.
I long to see him, he hastily said, without lifting his eyes from
the flowers in her hand. So he has lost his father; poor child! When
he has grown up you must send him on a visit to me. I will take him out
hunting, give him my horses to ride, and if he should fall in love with
my daughter, why in that case the beginning and the end would once more
be united, although in a different manner from what I blind mortal,
once dreamt. Would you consent to the match Eugénie? and he stretched
out his hand to her.
With all due regard to the future father-in-law of my son, she
replied gaily. I should wish first to see the young lady herself,
especially as you cannot even answer for her mother.
Of course you must approve of the mother; I should never think of
marrying her, if she had the misfortune to displease you! The wisest
course would be!
The conversation was here interrupted by a young man, who
hesitatingly approached the embrasure of the window, with the intention
of inviting the lady to dance. She declined, alleging the fatigue of
her night journey as an excuse, and then she left the bower, and
mingled with the rest of the company. Valentine who had remained
standing by the palm-tree, watched her figure amongst the others, and
now and then he fancied he heard her voice. It appeared to him as if he
had forgotten some question of importance, and he tried to recall it to
his mind. At last he remembered that he ought to have enquired for her
mother. He went in search of her to repair his neglect but he could not
find her either in the saloon or in the adjoining rooms. She had
* * * * *
It was on the second day after this meeting; a dense morning fog
still filled the street but the air above was clear, and promised a
sunny day, that in one of the rooms of the hotel, Eugénie sat at a
writing-table, an unfinished letter lying before her. Her folded hands
rested on the paper, and her thoughts strayed far away from the
contents of those lines.
Now and then when a step was heard in the passage, she started up,
and listened, but they always passed the door, and she remained alone.
Why did all her thoughts revert to the past, to that particular walk
in the garden where the sunflowers and china asters grew, and the small
fruit-trees threw long shadows across the cabbage beds. The sun was
shining through the high hedge but the air did not resound with the
song of birds. To-morrow when the day waned, she would be far away from
this homely spot, and when she returned, the fruit-trees would be bare,
and snow would cover the ground. The young student who walked by her
side and was digging holes in the gravel with the point of her parasol,
was fully aware of this. He had seen the travelling carriage in the
courtyard, and watched Frederick fastening the valise on the box. When
people start on a journey, who can tell if they will return, or at
least return the same as they went, Is it not expedient then to
exchange one's last bequests, especially if each is disposed to
bequeath body and soul to the other.
If he had but known how highly he ought to value her condescension
in leading the way to this remote and solitary corner of the garden. As
she walked along, she upbraided herself with having thus far made
advances to him. But she would not take a step further, now it was his
turn to forward matters, and if he did not, she would never forgive
herself for having done so much to loosen his tongue. For it had a high
opinion of the dignity of its sex, this young head of seventeen, and if
the unfortunate youth by her side, had choked with mute respect, she
would not have spoken a word to help him. Was not this walk
sufficiently secluded, and the sun at their backs; was it not the only
time she had ever walked with him in the kitchen garden, and above all,
had he not seen the travelling carriage in the yard.
On no account, however, was he to perceive that she had contrived
all this for his sake. She talked eagerly of the approaching journey,
expressed her pleasure at seeing her cousins again, and laughingly
described every one of them.
They had reached the end of the walk, and had looked over the hedge,
but he became more and more laconic. At last he quite ceased talking
and she too became silent. Feelings of passion and mortification rose
in her breast, and nearly choked her. Then she suddenly turned towards
him, and colouring deeply said: Let us now go back; and give me my
parasol. I shall want it on my journey, and you will break it to
pieces. I must hasten home, as I still have many things to pack. Do you
know that I quite shudder when I think of how much my intellectual
refinement will retrograde during my absence. I shall hardly remember
the English kings in Shakespear's works, which you have taken so much
trouble to impress on my mind. It is a pity, but what can I do? My
cousins are not such pedants as you are. If I returnbut who can tell
whether my aunt will not keep me through the winter. Well, it may be a
long time before we can resume our studies and if I pass my examination
badly, this long absence must plead for me.
More than a year passed before they met againWhen the morning
arrived, the travelling carriage was ready to start and the ladies
sitting in it, he approached the door of it and offered a bouquet. The
mother accepted it with many thanks. Eugénie nodded gaily to him, and
gave him her gloved hand. He did not see her pale face, and swollen
eyes behind her thick veil. He closed the door and bowed. As the
carriage drove away, Frederic turned once more towards Valentine, and
across his honest face there passed an expression of pity for his less
This had been in autumn. When they returned in the middle of winter,
Valentine had left the town; he was occupied at a small court of
justice in the country. Only in the following summer he once again rang
the well known bell at the garden gate. On being told that the house
was full of visitors, cousins, and others who were strangers to him, he
charged the servant with a message that he would return another time;
but a cold bow from her mother whom he met in the streets next day,
showed him that he should not find all as he had hoped; so he never
Was his absence regretted? Who could solve the enigma on Eugénie's
pale face, when three years later, she married the man her mother had
chosen for her. But now when her thoughts wandered back from the letter
before her to those days of old, the words of a pensive song resounded
in her heart: There was a time when happiness was mine to give and
The clattering of swift hoofs was now heard in the street, and she
flew to the window. A horseman on a beautiful grey Arab galloped
through the thick fog which closed behind him. Clouds of steam arose
from the reeking nostrils of the horse.
With an agitated glow in her eyes, she watched the proud and manly
bearing of the rider, and the ease with which he managed his restless
What a difference between this chivalrous firmness, and the soft
pensive manner of his youth. Still she had recognized at their first
meeting, that his heart had lost none of its fresh bloom; it was
developed not changed. Had he this time divested himself of his former
timidity, and spoken the binding words? She shuddered at the thought.
Rapid steps were now heard ascending the stairs. Her habitual
self-command did not forsake her, and when Valentine entered the room,
her face was calm in spite of the quick beating of her heart. She met
him with a smile, and offered him her hand. Good morning, she said:
so you have kindly kept your promise! The triumphant prancing of your
horse has already apprised me that you return crowned with success.
Eugénie, he replied, you must highly value my visit of to-day,
for I have made it in spite of my conviction that you will have a good
laugh at my expense. My only acquisition by yesterday's expedition is
this horse which I paid for in ready money, and this apple which I
stole. And he laid a fine wax-like apple on the table. I do not hold
the booty obtained by your campaign so very despicable. I understand
nothing about horses, but as you doubtless obtained the apple from the
hands of your chosen one
If I had but reached that point, he resumed despondingly; the
rest would be easy enough. You are greatly mistaken, however, if you
are inwardly accusing me of having been again wanting in courage. It
was the superfluity of it which in this case hindered my success. Upon
my word, I would, without the slightest hesitation, have made a
declaration to each of the three young ladies, one after the other.
What a pretty disaster you would have caused. I never expected
anything of you but an ironical pity. Stillyou may judge from this
how thoroughly perplexed I amI turn to you for help.
You expect more of me than with the best intentions I can give
Ah, but you can help me Eugénie. Now listen and I will give you an
account of it all. My friend, and I spent a whole day in their
That is either a very long, or a very short time as you take it.
You are right. The time is long enough to fall in love with all
three sisters, and much too short to decide which of them is to be
preferred. The only way would be to take the whole batch from the
Are the nestlings so unfledged that they would submit to that?
To tell the truth I never thought of that. The chief thing for me
is to get so enraptured with one of the sisters, that she should banish
the other two from my mind. But at my age it is difficult to grow
Then all three are equally irresistible?
Quite so, all of them made to be kissed, and each of them a
different style of beauty; so that when one sees them together one
feels that one could never be satisfied with only one of them.
Your account is given in too vague and extravagant terms. I wish to
have it in proper order, and with every detail. First then comes the
fair, then the auburn, then the dark one; or how do they follow in
I don't know.
Well, then we will arrange them according to size, and begin with
the smallest. Is it the auburn haired young lady?
I really cannot tell.
You seem to have employed your time badly, or was it the triple
fascination which had such power over your feelings from the first,
that your senses left you?
Certainly I cannot excuse myself on that score, he replied
laughing. I do not remember a more disagreeable sensation than I had
yesterday on my way to LA visit to the dentist is a pleasure trip
compared to it. Several times I was on the point of jumping out of the
carriage, but then I reflected that my cousin's horses would soon have
overtaken me, and then I should have been delivered over ignominiously
into the hands of my evil destiny. For on this point, my friend, who is
in every other respect so yielding, knows no mercy. So I plucked up
courage, and thinking over all the evil that had ever befallen me in
the course of my life I tried to find comfort by repeating that in fact
it all amounted very much to the same thing. At last we arrived. I had
stipulated from the beginning that my cousin should not say a word of
my real purpose, either to the father, or to the young ladies. The
doctor was not at home when we first arrived, so we only found the
sisters of fate in the neatest of dresses, fresh and charming like
three rose buds on one stalk. Yes in truth they equalled the three
graces, and their manners too were far from being provincial. I could
not tire of looking at them.
The beginning seems promising.
When they perceived us, they left their several domestic
occupations, and ran to meet my cousin. Then arose a delightful trio of
merry girlish voices around us. Of course my share of their words, and
looks of greeting, was at first only what civility demanded, and I was
quite contented with this, as it gave me a good opportunity of quietly
observing them. When I first entered the room, and perceived the dark
haired young lady, who looked up from her work with large and wondering
eyes, I said to myself; This is the one, I always had a prediliction
for dark hair. The next moment however, I again wavered at the sight of
the fair haired one, whose voice is as clear as a bird's, and her skin
as white as the cherry blossom. Then the auburn haired one entered,
grace and modesty personified. You will understand, that under these
circumstances my countenance did not wear a very intelligent
expression. However I was soon on very good terms with the three young
ladies, and when they conducted me to the stables to show me the horse,
I even took the liberty of lifting the fair one on its back, and led it
about in the courtyard.
Then it is the fair one.
Not exactly; I only gave her a ride because she was the most
courageous, and appeared to be very familiar with the grey Arab. She
sat on his back with folded arms as calmly as if she had been on her
sofa, whereas the auburn haired one clung to the mane with a charming
So all three had to display their horsemanship; at least you can
now judge of the weight of your future wife.
No, the dark haired one was not put to the test. Their father had
now joined us. He turned them out of the stable-yard, and charged them
to provide for our dinner. Then we soon settled the bargain, and
ratified it by a bottle of good Heidelberg wine. The doctor pleased me.
He is just the sort of man one would desire for a father-in-law.
Besides he is a good sportsman, an excellent judge of horses, and the
best chess player in the neighbourhood.
In that case your young wife will pass very amusing evenings.
If it ever comes to that. But as I said before I lost my time, and
opportunities, in a most inexcusable manner. In the afternoon we walked
through the town to see the old castle in which the former king gave
great entertainments, but under the present government it is quite
deserted. The place where the orange-trees stood is now turned into an
orchard. It was a pretty sight to see the delicious looking apples, and
pears lying carefully assorted in great heaps on the green grass; and I
never inhaled a more refreshing odour than was diffused over the spot.
So we walked along; the three sisters in front with light straw hats
and all dressed alike; then we three behind them. While I was examining
them, the thought struck me that I was now in the same position as that
prince who while keeping his father's flocks, was suddenly called on to
award the prize of beauty to one of the three goddesses.
So you appropriated to yourself this apple, hoping to extricate
yourself from your embarrassment by a symbolical allusion.
I certainly put it in my pocket with that intention; and as we
rambled through the old park, and now one of the sisters, and now
another walked beside me on the narrow path, I several times felt fully
convinced that just this girl was the right one and I secretly grasped
the apple. Then again when one of the others turned round towards me,
or some word or sound of laughter reached me I hastily replaced it. So
I did not dispose of it, and have brought it back with me.
Is it not provoking Eugénie, that when love was at hand courage was
wanting, and now that I have gained courage, love is not forthcoming.
You must not despair at the outset, she said, encouragingly. Your
first attempt was not so very bad. Rome was not built in a day, neither
can you expect to found your domestic felicity in so short a time. Are
their names all equally pleasing to you? I lay much stress upon names,
and can easily understand the feelings of that dauphin who would not
wed a woman called Uracca.
That cannot decide me either, he answered, despondingly. Anna,
Claire, and Mary, I know not which I prefer. No, my kind friend, I now
look to you for assistance.
To me, I cannot guess how I can be of use to you in this intricate
It is certainly a great favour which I require from your
friendship, he replied with some hesitation. He had now risen, and had
taken the apple in his hand. He threw it several times into the air,
caught it again, and finally replaced it on the table. You see, he
resumed, when after having passed a very restless night, I mounted my
horsemy cousin had driven back the same eveningand as I rode
through the fog in the frosty morning air, it occurred to me what a
strange co-incidence, it was that just before deciding on the most
important step of my life, I should meet you once more; you the only
one who really knows me, and in whom I could freely confide, were
anything wanting to your knowledge of my character. I recalled to mind
all your kindness to me, and also all the harm you have done me, and I
felt convinced that you really were my debtor, and owed me some
reparation for all my misfortunes, and privations. What I further
thought, Eugénie!Well, that is not to the purpose now.So I
devised a plan which I hope you will not mar.
What is it? she asked absently.
Would you consent to get into a carriage with me, and accompany me
to L? I would take you to the doctor's house, and then you could
see the three girls side by side. The one to whom you gave this apple
would become my wife. I solemnly promise you that I will not raise the
slightest objection to your choice.
You cannot give me full powers, and I could not accept them in such
And why so? I am quite convinced that I could be tolerably happy
with any one of them; indeed, for that matter, if I did not think it
presumptuous, I might simply write down their names, throw them into my
hat, and draw my lot with closed eyes. It could not be a great prize,
that has passed for ever; at least many things would have to be
changed; but at all events I should not draw a blank. But why should it
be hazarded, why should you think the responsibility so great, if I
consult you as the friend of my youth, with the firm conviction that a
clever woman can more easily fathom the depth of a girl's character,
than a man ever can.
But even if I consented to your adventurous scheme, under what
pretence would you introduce me to the family?
I have also considered this point, he said, striking with his whip
the many coloured pattern of the carpet. I introduce you to the good
people as my betrothed. In this way we are sure to obtain our end, for
every girl, even the most undesigning, in the presence of a bachelor
endeavours to shew herself in the best light. They are daughters of
Eve. But if I return to them as one already disposed of we shall easily
be able to find out which of the sisters has been acting a part and,
perhaps, I may even discover that one of them has secretly monopolized
my heart. Surprise often brings to light the true character.
He glanced at Eugénie who stood before him with an air of quiet
deliberation. She had let him come to the end of his proposal, but now
she shook her head.
Think of some other plan, Valentine. I cannot consent to this one.
There is no danger in it.
Possibly, but I am neither skilled enough, nor do I feel inclined
to act that part, and were I suddenly to drop the mask my embarrassment
could hardly exceed yours.
Consent at least to assume the character of a sister.
She considered for a while. If I agree to this, she said at last,
I only do so for the sake of proving how little I can help you. The
qualities in a girl, which please or displease an old woman, are
totally different from those which seem important to a man. I confess
that curiosity has a share in my decision, and above all the fear of
your cousin, who would never forgive me if I did not further his
philanthropic plans on your behalf.
I thank you, he exclaimed joyously, taking her hand and kissing
it. Now I am free from all anxiety. A true friend is certainly one of
the greatest blessings under heaven. I will go this moment to the
landlord, and order a carriage.
Your wooer's wings must submit however to some delay. Or do you
expect me to perform the part you have forced upon me in my morning
dress and cap?
In truth, he replied, I never noticed that. In my opinion you
might boldly drive to Lin your present attire. The hair so pushed
back under your cap, shows your fair temples to advantage, I am enabled
again to admire those unruly meshes in your neck which in former days
ensnared my poor heart, like a fish struggling in a net.
She held up her finger threateningly, and then said, while a sudden
blush suffused her face: Take care, else I will betray you to your
future bride. Your triple courtship, however, excuses the disregard
with which you treat the toilette of an old friend. Here are some
books; amuse yourself in the meantime; I will be back presently.
She disappeared into the adjoining room and closed the door behind
He approached the table on which the apple lay, and after pensively
gazing at it for a while, he suddenly gave it an angry push, which sent
it flying over the edge of the table, and rolling across the carpet. He
sighed, and as if to rouse himself struck his hand with his whip till
it smarted. He then mechanically took up one of the books which lay in
the corner of the sofa. It was a volume of Mörike's poems, and they
exercised on him their powerful charm. He forgot all around him, and
drawn on from page to page was soon completely absorbed in The moonlit
path of love once sacred.
Suddenly the door from the passage opened and a lad of about ten
years rushed into the room.
Mother, he cried, will you allow meWhy to be sure she is not
here, he then said to himself, and turned his sharp clear eyes
inquiringly on the stranger. Come here, my boy, said Valentine
stretching out his hand to him. Your mother is dressing in the next
room. What is your name?
Fred is my name.
Won't you give me your hand, Fred?
The lad hesitated. Who are you? he asked partly embarrassed,
I am an old acquaintance of your mother's. She will not object to
your giving me your hand. So, that is right. Will you come to see me
some day? I have four handsome horses in my stables. I will give you a
small gun, and will take you out shooting with me. The first hare you
shoot, you shall bring to your mother.
The boy's eyes sparkled, but suddenly he became thoughtful, and
said, I should like it very much, but I must go to school. This is my
last holiday, and the two sons of the head-master have just invited me
to go into the fields with them to fly a kite.
Well, then you will come to see me in the vacation time. Would you
like that, Frederick?
Yes, if my mother permits it.
Go, and ask her, my dear boy. We will become fast friends, won't
The lad nodded. Valentine took him up and kissed him. Then his
mother called him into her room; and Valentine heard him, as he eagerly
repeated what the strange gentleman had said to him. He gave me a
kiss, continued the boy. Why does he love from the first moment he
They continued the conversation in an under tone, and then the boy
left his mother's room by another door.
Valentine approached the window, and watched him as he left the
house, and joined his two playfellows, who had been waiting below for
him. His fair straight hair hung in masses about his shoulders; his
round childish face beamed underneath the border of his cap. Yet the
man at the window seemed to find no pleasure in the sight.
When Eugénie, dressed for the drive, entered the room, she found him
still in the same position. She wore a dark green hat with a waving
black feather, and a short grey cloak which closely fitted her fine
figure. I am ready, my friend, she said; let us get into the
He looked up in confusion. The carriage? he asked.
Yes, the carriage which I suppose you ordered long ago.
I confess, he replied, that I have not yet done so. I did not
expect you to be dressed so soon.
You are certainly the first man to complain of that. Well, so it
seems that I must provide for our departure.
She rung the bell and ordered a carriage. Whilst her orders were
being executed, Valentine remained standing near the window, and
attentively examined the arabesques on the curtain. He perceived that
she stooped to pick up the apple, but did not anticipate her.
Well, I think you ought to treat this fine apple with more
respect, she said jestingly. You see it has been already injured by
its heavy fall.
Perhaps it were best Eugénie to leave it where it is. The reluctant
shudder of yesterday is already coming over me. Why must I try my luck
at LWhy should it be one of the three sisters. Possibly I need not
look so far to find what I desire.
You ought to be ashamed of your vacillation, she answered with
comical solemnity. Is this the courage you boasted of? Come, rouse
your spirits, and replace the stolen apple in your pocket. The sin you
have committed by this theft, can only be expiated by the more
difficult task of stealing the heart of one of the sisters. Come, I
hear the carriage driving to the door. You have excited my curiosity,
and I shall not rest till it is satisfied.
When the carriage had left the town, and was rolling smoothly along
the even road, Valentine broke the silence. I have become acquainted
with your son, Eugénie, he said.
You must praise him to me, she hastily returned; I am a very
proud mother, he is the very image of his father.
I thought so, he resumed. The face seemed strange to me. I only
recognized the mouth. This mouth is strikingly like yours, Eugénie.
She turned away towards the carriage window, and her eyes wandered
over the landscape, which had now contracted, so as to form a narrow
valley surrounded on both sides by steep vineyards. The mist had
entirely cleared away, and the wet tendrils and leaves of the vines
sparkled in the bright sunlight. The river bordered with willows, and
alders flowed smoothly by the road side, and small barges glided
rapidly along the current. Nothing is so refreshing and enlivening as a
drive on a fine autumn day. Valentine experienced its charm and soon
resumed the conversation. He enquired after the health of her mother,
and after a while Eugénie began to speak of her husband. You would
have been his friend, Valentine, she gravely said. He was an
excellent man, and a brave officer and he had a profound and unaffected
admiration for all that is good and beautiful. Those who did not know
him intimately thought him cold and indifferent, but inwardly, he was
full of generous warmth which he kept for his family, his friends and
those who were in want. My mother still grieves for him, as she grieved
for my father. I hope that Frederick will some day resemble him in
Valentine was silent for a long time. At last he asked, without
looking at his companion, Have you never thought of choosing a second
husband among the many suitors who no doubt have surrounded you?
No, my dear friend, she answered quietly. Passions have never
troubled me, and a marriage founded on esteemit always is a lucky
chance if one does not repent of it afterwards.
They had now reached a turn in the valley, and the unexpected change
of scene interrupted the conversation. On the left hand where the vine
covered hills receded from the river, lay a small town, the industry of
whose inhabitants was testified by the smoking chimnies of many
factories, and the roaring and clashing of the water engines.
A broad stone bridge led across the river, and high above the old
gable roofed houses, rose the graceful edifice of a gothic church,
whose perforated spire of delicate fret-work with the ornamented cross
at the top, projected boldly into the clear blue sky, and was
surrounded by swarms of pigeons.
This is C said the coachman, pulling up his horses for a
moment, and pointing towards the town with the end of his whip.
Drive over the bridge, cried Valentine; we wish to visit that
beautiful cathedral before we proceed on our journey.
Eugénie looked at him enquiringly. Let me manage it all, continued
Valentine, turning to her. We are sure of reaching the doctor's house
in good time, so I propose that we rest here awhile, climb up to that
steeple, and dine at the inn of the place; by this plan we shall not
arrive just as my future father-in-law is sitting down to dinner.
To-night there is full moon, so that our drive back, though somewhat
late, will not be the less pleasant.
Be it so, she replied, I only stipulate that the rest of our plan
remain as we had first agreed upon, and that the valiant knight does
not seek a pretext to keep the apple again in his own pocket.
He laughingly promised it on his honour as a knight.
The carriage had now stopped before the cathedral. They got out and
desired the old portal to be opened for them. The grey-haired
door-keeper slowly led them through the lofty nave and aisles, coughing
and gasping at every step.
The dank air of the church is not good for you, old lady, remarked
Valentine. Have you not a grandchild, who could serve in your stead,
as a guide to strangers? You ought to sit basking in the sun. Go, and
leave us to find the way by ourselves.
Showing the church is all well enough, replied the old woman, but
I can no longer drag myself up the steep stairs of the steeple; so if
the lady and gentleman wish to climb up there, they will have to go by
themselves. You cannot miss the way; one flight of steps follows the
other, till you reach the upper gallery; once there, you will have had
enough of it.
Valentine looked at Eugénie. Shall we try? he asked. She nodded,
so they passed through the narrow portal, guarded by two dragons hewn
in stone and they began their ascent; leaving their old conductress
below. Up there the scanty warmth, and light of the autumnal sun could
not penetrate, and the dim cool twilight which prevailed, inclined them
to silence. As they ascended the winding stairs, Valentine watched the
little feet, which so nimbly mounted the steps before him. He felt as
if he could not but follow them, even if they chose to venture out on
the steep roof, which now and then was to be seen through the
apertures. He heaved an involuntary sigh. She stopped on one of the
landing places, and turning looked smilingly at him. You are out of
breath it seems.
On the contrary, I feel as if I had too much of it, he replied.
Do not squander it, methinks you will yet want it. See how high
above the world we are already, and still the gallery over the nave is
I believe you are in fact leading me straight to heaven, Eugénie.
Gently, gently, you must first deserve it, she replied laughingly.
And if I carry it by storm?
It remains to be seen whether you are as exempt from giddiness, as
such a titanic achievement would require. But I would rather you now
walked before me; for the stairs grow narrower, and narrower, and I
fear I shall lose courage if I see no one in front of me.
He complied with her wish, and pensively ascended the steps before
her. Only the rustling of her dress against the wall told him that she
was still behind him. So they reached the first gallery which ran round
the base of the spire, and entered the interior part of it. Don't let
us stop here, she said, I will not look around me, till we have
reached to the very top. Meanwhile we can admire what is above us. Look
how curiously, this pointed airy tent of stone closes around us; a cool
bower. It is a pity that the wooden pillar which supports the small
upper staircase, somewhat disfigures it, and mars the effect of this
beautiful sculptured rosace. But to be sure without it, we could not
reach the very point of the spire. Come now, let us proceed in our
They soon stood beside each other on the aerial summit, and gazed
with exulting awe into the fathomless depth below them. The numberless
denticulations and ornamented pinnacles of the cathedral, the hundreds
of chimnies and roofs, the neat market-place with its quaint looking
old town-hail, the swarms of people in the streets, every thing
appeared small, strange, and silent as if it were a world of pigmies.
At a little distance the river basked in the sun, resembling a silver
snake, and its ripples glittered like scales in the light. Further down
the valley in the grey distance, above the vineyards rose the clear and
cloudless outlines of blue and purple hills. As they stood beside each
other, and leant over the stone parapet, he gazed intently at her
purely cut profile, which she had heedlessly exposed to the sun. Her
eyes were still fixed on the world below her; the wind had dishevelled
her long hair and the loosened tresses brushed Valentine's cheek. She
did not notice it; her parted lips eagerly inhaled the freshening
breeze, her delicate nostrils dilated, and the blood flowed more
rapidly through her blue veins.
Are we not amply repaid for the fatiguing ascent, she asked. How
beautiful it is here. The further we are separated from our fellow
creatures the dearer to our hearts they become. I can easily imagine
that if a fierce misanthrope filled with animosity and hate were to
ascend to these heights, with the intention of precipitating himself
over the parapet, he would be suddenly softened and converted, after
looking on these humble roofs, underneath which thousands of people
bear the sufferings and toils of this life, and are contented if they
can only see the sun, and the sky, and the golden cross on their
There certainly is a purifying virtue in the air of higher
regions, he replied in a low voice. We are freed from the oppression
of daily petty considerations and customs, and are drawn nearer to the
Creator. We feel as if we were called to rise above the world, part of
which we survey at our feet. Even the most faint-hearted must feel the
wings of his soul expand, and that which he dared not utter or even
think in the midst of the din, and cares of every day life, here
spontaneously flows from his heart to his lips.
Suddenly the sound of trumpets and flutes reached them from below,
and they saw a band of music followed by a crowd, slowly advancing in
solemn procession, as it issued out of one of the narrow streets, and
marched across the market-place. The brass of the instruments sparkled
in the sun and some of the people wore bouquets in their hats.
Apparently a wedding, remarked Valentine. But where is the bride?
interposed Eugénie. It rather seems to me to be one of those
expeditions which now daily proceed to the vintage accompanied by
singing and music. But you have just mentioned weddings; that reminds
me of the great aim of our excursion. Come let us descend. He appeared
not to have heard her. Eugénie, he said, if we had stood up here
fourteen years ago, all would have been different.
Who can say if it would have been better. I am inclined to think
that all that happens to us is well, and for our good.
He had pulled out the apple, and held it before him on the stone
Do you really believe that Eugénie?
Yes, I do.
And if I had told you then, what escaped from my lips, the first
evening we again met, what would have been your answer?
That question, is a matter of conscience, my dear friend, she
replied, carelessly, which even up here a hundred feet above the every
day world you are not justified in asking. Before I could give you a
clear and concise answer, I should have to read through some chapters
in the book of my life, which I have not perused for many a year. And
that truly is a trouble which I cannot expect you to take, he replied
in a pained, harsh tone. Besides it would be useless labour as the
writing must have long since faded. I forgot that though the chapters
in my book, end in a blank, yours have a continuation. Saying these
words he leant over the parapet, and the apple he held in his hand
rolled as if by accident over the edge. In its fall it struck one of
the many pinnacles which surrounded the spire, and broke into several
pieces, which flew, describing wide curves, into the street.
What have you done Valentine? exclaimed Eugénie; where shall we
be able to steal another apple? Only fruits of stone can be plucked
here. But now let us hasten down.
You are right, he replied, indifferently, here every thing is of
stone; I did not think of that. Then he remained silent till they
reached the streets. The gloom however, which had settled on his
countenance, could not hold out against the unconstrained gaiety of his
companion. His brow cleared before they had taken many steps on their
way to the inn. She had taken his arm through the narrow tortuous
streets, her cloak, which in the warm sunshine had become too heavy for
her, hung loosely from her shoulders. As they walked along, they joked
merrily at the smell of the new wine, which met them at the entrance of
every cellar and courtyard and even pervaded the precincts of the old
dilapidated church, and at the large vats which obstructed their way.
When they reached the inn, the hour of the table d'hôte had passed,
so they sat down alone in the large room, at a small table, where they
were amply provided with the best wine of the country; but Eugénie
wished for a bottle of that year's vintage. She said she longed to
taste that beverage the scent of which she had so abundantly enjoyed
during her walk
When she had tasted it, she praised the sweet and turbid drink.
It resembles first love, remarked Valentine, beware of its
strength; it will turn your head.
At my age there is no danger of that, she replied, smiling. I am
an old woman already, and take my daily nap after dinner. To-day this
bad habit will be of great service to me.
She then retired to a room prepared for her, and Valentine remained
alone in company of the wine and his thoughts. The uneasiness of the
morning had passed, and he no longer pondered on what would be the end
of all this. The voice of a good genius secretly whispered in his ear
that fate now smiled on him. He looked around, as if to ascertain that
no one was near, and then hastily took a sip from Eugénie's glass, with
the devout superstition that it would help him to divine her thoughts.
As however no enlightenment on this point was vouchsafed him, he
consoled himself with the thought that without doubt, she was asleep at
that moment, and so could think of nothing. He represented her to
himself reclining on the sofa, her small feet crossed, and her head
drooping on her shoulder. A sensation of happiness thrilled through
him; he felt as if he must hasten upstairs, kneel before the fair
sleeper, and press her hand to his lips. But he soon rejected this
thought, lighted a cigar and patiently waited for Eugénie's appearance.
It certainly seemed as if the new wine had confirmed its reputation,
for more than an hour passed before the door was opened, and his fair
Good morning, she exclaimed, how long have I slept? truly this
wine though it seems so harmless, is even in its cradle as powerful as
an offspring of the gods. It will be late before we reach the home of
your fair ones.
We never can reach it late enough, he replied, laughing. Think of
what you promised me on your honour as a knight, she said, with a
menacing gesture, and hasten our departure. What a careless mother I
am, instead of spending my poor boy's last holiday with him, I stroll
about the country making the acquaintance of new wine, and old
In spite of Valentine's efforts to hasten their departure the day
had waned before they reached their destination. The fog had gathered
again, when the carriage slowly ascended the hill on which the town was
built, and rattled over the bad pavement. Valentine lifted Eugénie from
the carriage when it stopped at the inn, and silently walked by her
side through the streets to the doctor's house. She remarked that he
was greatly agitated, and she almost felt pity for him, but they had
already mounted the stone steps which led up to the neat little house,
the knocker had sounded, and a moment afterwards the door was opened by
a stout little man with large gold spectacles.
Why, what's this! cried the merry old gentleman, pushing back his
spectacles. What gives me the unexpected pleasure of seeing you so
soon again? I hope there is nothing wrong about the horsebut I see
you have brought company with you, and I have left you standing out
there in this rude manner. You must excuse me, fair lady; you see we
are still barbarians in this remote corner of the world. I beg you will
honour, my humble roof. But now tell me seriously my dear friend is
there anything the matter with Almansor? Unfortunately you will find no
one but myself at home, my dear Madam; my daughters will be
inconsolable when they hear that during their absencebut I will
send for them this very moment; but stop a bit! why confound me, I
remember now, I have already sent for them, they will be here in a few
minutes. To the left Madam if you please, will you kindly walk in here,
most honoured guests?
They entered the room, the door of which the lively little man had
opened for them. In the centre stood a table laid for four, on which
there were cold viands and a bottle of new wine. The whole was lighted
up by the faint twilight which stole through the window. Now you can
judge for yourself, my most honoured friend, how we are treated by our
children, resumed the doctor. Those naughty girls of mine run away,
and leave their papa to wait for his supper. We will play them a trick
however, nothing but the empty dishes, shall they find on their return.
But what a fool I am, inviting you to supper without considering that
this scanty meal is in no way fit for such charming visitors.
Unfortunately the cook is gone to summon them, so there is no one
toBut please to be seated at least, take off your hat and cloak,
and make yourself comfortableWelcome to Lmost honoured lady. Now
my friend do tell me has the horse?
I can relieve your mind on that point my dear doctor, Valentine at
last interposed. I value Almansor's excellent qualities more than
ever, since he has found favour in the eyes of my betrothed, to whom I
have the pleasure of introducing you. Eugénie bowed to their amazed
host. She checked the words which had risen to her lips, and only a
severe look reproved Valentine for this arbitrary assertion, so
contrary to their treaty.
Had the little doctor entertained other hopes since yesterday's
visit? Had he attached greater importance to it than mere
horse-dealing?With a low bow he stammered forth his congratulations,
and thanked Valentine for honouring him with this visit. However he
soon recovered his jovial equanimity and laughingly said: Well, you
are the most complete hypocrite and false hearted friend! Did you not
on this very spot abuse matrimony so vehemently, that you even alarmed,
and terrified such an old widower as I am? and then to come next day
accompanied by your betrothedWell, she certainly is bewitching
enough to convert a heathen.Pardon me, pardon me, Madam.
Valentine laughed. I can assure you, doctor; that none but you are
responsible, if after all my yesterday's heresy has been retracted.
I? you are joking.
No, I am speaking in good earnest. For you have, or rather your
horse has been of great assistance to me in winning this fair lady's
hand. This morning when mounted on Almansor, I rode up to the window
behind which stood my beloved one, the sight melted the hardness of her
heart, and she acknowledged herself conquered. Hardly had I recovered
my senses, which were somewhat confused by this unexpected victory than
I declared that you should be the first person to hear of our
engagement, so we ordered a carriage and drove to Land now permit
your grateful and overjoyed friend to embrace you.
Ah! exclaimed the delighted doctor, my fancy for horses has
caused me many vexations, but this master-stroke of Almansor's makes
ample amends for it all. No my dear young lady, you need not take it
amiss that your betrothed has divulged your secret. I esteem you all
the more highly since I find that you acknowledge a man to be only
complete on horseback. Now leave it all to me, my eye ranges all over
the country, and if some day I should find a lady's horse worthy of
cantering by the side of Almansor
It shall be mine; let us shake hands over it, doctor, and
the first time I ride with my wife, you shall accompany us.
Agreed, cried the little man, and energetically shook hands with
his guest. But where are those girls, confound them; just when all is
ready to celebrate this happy event they are wanting.
Are your daughters on a visit in the town? asked Eugénie.
Yes, my dear young lady, they have been invited to one of the
autumnal grape gatherings, by a friend of mine, who has daughters of
the same age. I have no doubt, that the affair will finish off with a
dance; however I exercised my paternal authority, and strictly enjoined
them to come home before evening. I will not again allow them to dance
at this season of the year, for every time they have done so, they have
brought home bad colds. Now they will miss you delightful visit, and it
serves the disobedient hussies quite rightbut they really must come I
will have them fetched home instantly! halloo Henry! he shouted to a
farm-servant, whom he had seen passing, from the window; just run over
to the Kitzinger garden and tell Margaret to bring them home
immediately. Now you see, he continued, turning to his guests, who sat
side by side on the sofa without looking at each other, how little
respect a father enjoys. You must educate your children with more
severity. Ah! if my wife still lived, it would all be different.
Eugénie blushed and remained silent, but Valentine exclaimed: No,
no Doctor, don't disturb your daughters in their merry making. It is
true that I have praised them so much to my dear Eugénie that she will
not leave Lwithout having made their acquaintance, but there will
be time for that to-morrow, for the moon does not make its appearance,
and I hear that we shall be well provided for at the inn of the
Crown.Are you not of my opinion darling, he said turning to
Eugénie, and suddenly approaching his lips to hers.
Valentine, said the young woman, and drew back quickly, you seem
to have forgotten what you promised me.Now what do you say to that
Doctor? She reminds me of my promise, and does not keep hers. Eugénie
have you not vowed to agree to all my wishes, and are you justified in
refusing a kiss to your betrothed. Come now let us seal our engagement
as students seal their fellowship. We have not yet done so.
That is right! exclaimed their host. This is only new wine, but
in the cellar....
Don't trouble yourself my dear friend; is not new wine sweet,
turbid, and intoxicating like first love. And you must know. Doctor,
that the fair charmer before you has been worshipped by me from the
time I entered college and though fate parted us in later days. 'Old
love fades not,' as the people say, and you know that 'the voice of the
people, is the voice of the gods.' So we will perform the sacred act
with none other but new wine. Fill your glass. Doctor!
He had risen with these words and again turned towards Eugénie, with
two full glasses in his hand. She sat on the sofa suffused with
blushes, and her eyes fixed on the ground. Maidenly confusion sealed
her lips, she tried to speak, but could not utter a word, so she took
the glass mechanically. He then knelt before her, twined his arm within
hers after the fashion of the students and emptied his glass at one
draught. She took a sip from hers with half averted face. Valentine
then threw away his glass and kissed her lips.
That's right, said the doctor. You need not blush fair lady, if
an old man like myself is present at so solemn an act. All I ask as a
reward for my good offices, is that I should be permitted to assist at
Valentine silently nodded, and remained standing for a while before
her, pensively gazing on her calm brow.
My dear Doctor, he then began, you must make some allowance for
two people who are nearly out of their senses with joy. It is no
trifling matter, I assure my dear friend, when one's betrothal is only
of a few hours standing; particularly as this cruel lady love of mine
tormented me so relentlessly with her wicked tricks, and her apparent
indifference struck me dumb, and made me feel as timorous as a bashful
youth. It was so years ago, when she was still in her mother's house,
and I used often to think that I should no longer be able to stand it,
but must plunge into the water to cool my smarting wounds. Then when we
again met after many years of separation she was just the same. How
often, by some jesting word has she not checked the confession which
hovered on my lips, that my feelings for her had remained unaltered;
and who knows how all would have turned out, had it not been for you,
my dear Doctor. Now, however, you see she has quite changed, and you
would never believe how much of subtleness and womanly art lies hidden
beneath those demure eyelids.
Nay, you calumniate me, dear Valentine, she said, and raised her
beautiful moist eyes to his. It is only natural that I should not show
my feelings so openly here, in a house which is yet strange to me,
though it may not appear so to you.
And whose is the fault, if not mine, cried the doctor, or rather
of those disobedient damsels who leave all the duties of a host to me.
Well, where are they? what are they about, why are they not with you
Margaret? he angrily asked the cook who had now entered the room.
You see. Sir, the master and mistress of the house pressed the
young ladies to stay for the evening, replied the old woman staring at
the two visitors with wondering eyes. They promised that the young
ladies should not dance too much, and Miss Clara thought that if I put
it in that light to you Sir!...
Deuce take it, cried the doctor, in a passion, but they must come
Nay, my dear Doctor, Eugénie said, entreatingly. Pray do not
burthen our consciences with this cruelty.
Heaven forbid, Valentine hastily added. Tomorrow there will be
Well, let us go after them, proposed the doctor, what do you say
to closing this eventful day with a dance?
Are we not better here, replied Valentine, we do not know your
friends, and would greatly prefer remaining another hour under your
hospitable roof if you will permit us to do so. Is it not so Eugénie?
She nodded. The old gentleman then rubbed his hands delightedly, and
declared that he had not felt so pleased for many a year. He sent the
maid into the cellar and the larder and made her bring all that was to
be found in the house, in spite of the entreaties of his visitors not
to make so much ado for them. When they were at last sitting gaily and
comfortably together, the doctor exclaimed with a look of satisfaction:
Now if the girls but knew what they have missed by their
Valentine smilingly looked at Eugénie who had now completely
recovered her usual calm demeanour and gave with composure her opinion
on the subject of the future arrangement of their life, which Valentine
had proposed, and played her part admirably.
When the clock struck ten, she arose. I am afraid, we can await
your daughters no longer; she said, to-morrow, when they have rested
after their dancing we will return.
I will not detain you, replied the doctor, for I verily believe
that they will not come home, till I go and fetch them myself. That is
the way they treat their old father. I will forgive them, however, this
time an account of the pleasure they have procured me of having your
society all to myself. But I rely on your promise to return to-morrow,
and perhaps, you will understand my paternal weakness when you see
these naughty daughters of mine.
So they all set forth; the doctor had insisted on accompanying them
to the door of the hotel; there he left them, and they silently
followed the waiter who carried the light before them. He opened two
adjoining rooms and after wishing them good night disappeared.
Valentine stretched out his hand to Eugénie. She pressed it, and
said calmly, looking up at him,
Good night to you, my dear friend, sleep well, and au revoir
Then she entered her room and closed the door behind her.
After remaining quiet for some time he knocked gently at the door
which separated the two rooms.
Eugénie, he whispered.
What do you want? she asked.
Your good night of before, was against our treaty.
Against what treaty?
That which we solemnly ratified with the doctor's new wine.
I think we have had enough of this acting I only agreed to the
pledge because I thought it lay in my part.
Can we not continue in earnest, what we began in jest. At all
events it was a solemn vow made before witnesses.
Well, then I will make up for it to-morrow morning, and now once
more good night. But no movement showed that she had turned from the
door. So after a pause Valentine began again,
And all the rest may I not consider it as true?
What do you mean?
Well, all that we acted this evening.
That is a good deal.
Can that be too much which alone can give me back the life and
happiness you have taken from me a thousand times?
When I consider....
Oh, Eugénie, say that I may throw myself at your feet, that I may
kneel before you. Do open the door!
Gently, gently, my dear friend. You certainly deserve some
punishment. What! is this all your courage? You can only speak out what
weighs on your mind behind the shelter of a closed door! I will bet
anything that you have even put out the light hoping that the darkness
may give you confidence. You dare not acknowledge your love for me in
the face of day. You are a poor hero indeed. But I will now confess to
you that I have owed you a grudge for many a year.
You are jesting again, Eugénie.
No, this time I am thoroughly in earnest. If in former years you
had as little courage as now, why at all events could you not have been
as cunning. Was there no door then behind which you could have owned to
me what now comes too late!
Too late? No, Eugénie; where are the years that separate us from
that time? Is it not the same timid lad of those days who now stands
here, and implores you to lighten the darkness around him with a
heavenly ray from your eyes. Can you leave me to despair?
He waited some time for an answer. Suddenly the door was noiselessly
opened, and she stood before him smiling, but with tears in her eyes.
One kiss freely given you, as a token of forgiveness for all you
have made me suffer, she said.
He folded her in his arms and she softly passed her hand across his
brow, saying: Here, there are many lines, but our hearts are still
fresh and youthful, and to-morrow we will begin life anew where we left
it off fourteen years ago.
She pressed her lips to his, and with his arm round her waist, he
led her to the window. The moon had dispersed the fog, and a gentle
autumnal breeze wafted the scent of the grapes through the open
Let US drive back to-night, my darling, she said. I could not
sleep now, and the air is quite mild. Go, while you order the carriage,
I will write a few lines to the doctor, and tell him not to expect us
to-morrow: Is it true, Valentine, can it be true, that we have at last
told each other what we knew years ago?
[Footnote 1: A part of Switzerland on the frontiers of Italy.The
[Footnote 2: Not the Lombardy poplar, but the populus Alba, or Abele
tree, which is wide spreading.The Translator.]
[Footnote 3: Name of a proménade at Meran.The Translator.]
[Footnote 4: Lauben. A provincial term for arcades.The
[Footnote 5: This is an old custom at the German universities when a
new comer enters the Fellowshipthey call it Brüderschaft