End by Paul Heyse
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