by W. Heimburg
TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN
BY MRS. J. W. DAVIS
WORTHINGTON CO., 747 BROADWAY
COPYRIGHT 1889 BY
Really, Frank, if I were in your place I shouldn't know whether to
laugh or cry. It has always been the height of my ambition to have a
fortune left me, but as with everything in this earthly existence, I
should have my preferences.
Upon my word, Frank, I am sorry for you. Here you are with an
inheritance fallen into your lap that you never even dreamed of, a sort
of an estate, a few hundred acres and meadows, a little woodland, a
garden run wild, a neglected dwelling-house, and for stock four
spavined Andalusians, six dried-up old cows, and above all an old aunt
who apparently unites the attributes of both horses and cows in her own
person. Boy, at least wring your hands or scold or do something of the
sort, but don't stand there the very picture of mute despair!
Judge Weishaupt spoke thus in comic wrath to his friend Assessor
Linden, who sat opposite him. Before them on the table stood a bottle
of Rhine wine with glasses, and the eyes of the person thus addressed
rested on the empty bottle with a thoughtful expression, as if he could
read an answer on the label.
It was a large room in which they were sitting, a sort of
garden-hall, furnished very simply and in an old-fashioned style, with
two birchen corner-cupboards, which in our grandmother's time served
the purpose of the present elegant buffets, and which, instead of
costly majolica, displayed painted and gold-rimmed cups behind their
glass doors; with a large sofa, whose black horse-hair covering never
for a moment suggested the possibility of soft luxurious repose; with
six simply-constructed cane-seated chairs grouped about the large
table, and finally, with several dubious family portraits, among which
especially to be noted was the pastel portrait of a youthful
fair-haired beauty, whose impossibly small mouth wore an embarrassed
smile as if to say: I beg you to believe that I did not really look so
silly as this! And over all this bright orange-colored curtains shed a
peculiarly unpleasant light.
The door of the room was open and as if in compensation for all this
want of taste, a wonderful prospect spread itself out before the eye.
Lofty wooded mountain tops, covered with rich foliage which the autumn
frosts had already turned into brilliant colors, formed the background;
close by, the neglected garden, picturesque enough in its wild state,
and shimmering through the trees, the red pointed roofs of the village;
the whole veiled with the soft haze of an October morning, which the
rays of the sun had not yet dispersed. The regular strokes of the
flails on the threshing floors of the estate had a pleasant sound in
the clear morning air.
The young man's dark eyes strayed away from the wine-bottle; he
started up suddenly and went to the door.
And in spite of all that, Richard, it is a charming spot, he said
warmly. I have always had a great liking for North Germany. I assure
you 'Faust' is twice as interesting here, where the Brocken looks down
upon you. Don't croak so like an old raven any more, I beg of you. I
shall never forget Frankfort, but neither shall I miss it too muchI
Heaven forbid! cried the little man, still playing with the empty
wine-glass. You don't pretend to say
But Linden interrupted him. I don't pretend anything, but I am
going to try to be a good farmer, and I am going to do this, Richard,
not only because I must, but because I really like this queer old nest;
so say no more, old fellow.
Well, good luck to you! replied the other, coming up to his friend
and looking almost tenderly into the handsome, manly face.
I have really nothing to say against this playing at farming if I
only know how and where.You see, Frank, if I were not such a
poverty-stricken wretch, I would say to you this minute: 'Here, my boy,
is a capital of so much; now go to work and get the moth-eaten old
place into some kind of order.' Things cannot go on as they are.
Butwell, you know he ended, with a sigh.
Frank Linden made no reply, but he whistled softly a lively air, as
he always did when he wished to drive away unpleasant thoughts.
O yes, whistle away, muttered the little man, it is the only
music you are likely to hear, unless it is the creaking of a rusty
hinge or the concert of a highly respectable family of mice which have
settled in your roombrrFrank! Just imagine this lonely hole in
wintersnow on the mountains, snow on the roads, snow in the garden
and white flakes in the air! Good Heavens! What will you do all the
long evenings which we used to spend in the Taunus, in the Bockenheimer
Strasse, or in the theatre? Who will play euchre with you here? For
whom will you make your much-admired poems? I am sure they won't be
understood in the village inn. Ah, when I look at you and think of you
moping here alone, and with all your cares heavy upon you!
I will tell you something, Frank, joking aside, he continued. You
must marry. And I advise you in this matter not to lay so much stress
on your ideal; pass over for once the sylph-like forms, liquid eyes and
sweet faces in favor of another advantage which nothing will supply the
place of, in our prosaic age. Don't bring me a poor girl, Frank, though
she were a very pearl of women. In your position it would be perfect
folly, a sin against yourself and all who come after you. It won't make
the least difference if your fine verses don't exactly fit her. You
wouldn't always be making poetry, even to the loveliest woman. O yes,
He brushed the ashes from his cigar. In Frankfortif you had only
chosenyou might have done something. But you were quite dazzled by
that little Thea's lovely eyes. How often I have raged about it! When a
man has passed his twenty-fifth year he really ought to be more
Frank Linden was obstinately silent, and the little man knew at once
that he had as he used to say, put his foot in it.
Come, Frank, don't be cross, he continued, perhaps there are rich
girls to be had here too.
O to be sure, sir, to be sure, sounded behind him, rich girls and
pretty girls; our old city has always been celebrated for them.
[Illustration: Both gentlemen turned toward the speaker.]
Both gentlemen turned toward the speaker; the judge only to turn
away at once with an angry shrug, Frank Linden to greet him politely.
I have brought the papers you wanted, continued the new-comer, a
little man over fifty with an incredibly small pointed face over which
a sweet smile played, a sanctimonious man in every motion and gesture.
I am much obliged, Mr. Wolff, said Frank Linden, taking the
If there is anything else I can do for youMiss Rosalie will
testify that I was always ready to help your late uncle.
I am a perfect stranger here, replied the young squire, it may be
that I shall require your help.
I shall feel highly honored, Mr. LindenYes, and as I said before,
if you should want to make acquaintances in the city there are the
Tubmans, the Schenks, the Meiers and the Hellbours and above all the
Baumhagensall rich and pleasant families, Mr. Linden. You will be
received with open arms, there's always a dearth of young men in our
little city. The gentlemen of the cavalryyou know, I supposeonly
want to amuse themselvesshall be only too glad in case you
The judge interrupted him with a loud clearing of his throat.
Frank, he said, dryly, what tower is that up there on the hill?
You were studying the map yesterday!
St. Hubert's Tower, replied the young man, going towards him.
Belongs to the Baron von Lobersberg, interposed Wolff.
That doesn't interest me in the least, muttered the judge, gazing
at the tower through his closed hand for want of a glass.
I have the honor to bid you good-morning, said Wolff, must go
over to Lobersberg.
The judge nodded curtly; Linden accompanied the agent to the door
and then came slowly back.
Now please explain to me, burst out his friend, where you picked
up that fellowthat rat, I should say, who pushes himself into your
society so impudently.
Frank Linden's dark eyes turned in astonishment to the angry
countenance of the judge.
Why, Richard, he was my uncle's right-hand man, his factotum, and
lastly, he has something to say about my affairs, for unhappily, he
holds a large mortgage on Niendorf.
That does not justify him in the impertinent manner which he
displays towards you, replied his friend.
O my dear little Judge, said the young man in excuse, he looks on
me as a newcomer, an ignoramus in the sacred profession of farming.
And I consider him a shady character! And some day, my dear boy,
you will say to me, 'Richard, God knows you were right about that
manthe fellow is a rascal.'
Do you know, cried Frank Linden, between jest and earnest, I wish
I had left you quietly in your lodging in the Goethe-Platz. You will
spoil everything here for me with your gloomy views. Come, we will take
a turn through the garden; then, unfortunately, it will be time for you
to go to the station, if you wish to catch the Express.
He took the arm of his grumbling friend and drew him with him along
the winding path, on which already the withered leaves were lying.
I am sure the fellow has a matrimonial agency somewhere, muttered
the judge, grimly.
As they turned the corner of the neglected shrubbery, they saw an
old woman slowly pacing up and down the edge of the little pond.
For Heaven's sake! began the little man again, just look at that
figure, that cap with the monstrous black bow, that astonishing dress
with the waist up under the arms, and what a picturesque fashion of
wearing a black shawland, goodness! she has got a red umbrella. My
son, she probably uses it to ride out on the first of Maybrrand
that is your only companion!
It was indeed a remarkable figure, the old woman wandering up and
down with as much dignity as if one of the faded pastel pictures in the
garden hall had suddenly come to life.
Shall I call her? asked Frank Linden, smiling.
Heaven forbid! cried the other. This neighborhood of the
Blocksberg is really uncannyyour Mr. Wolff looks like Mephistopheles
in person, and thiswell, I won't say whatshe is really a serious
charge for you, Frank.
The wonderful figure had long since disappeared behind the bushes,
when the young man answered, abstractedly,
You see things in too gloomy a light, Richard. How can this poor,
feeble old woman, almost on the verge of the grave, possibly be a
burden to me? She lives entirely shut up in her own room.
But I will venture to say that she will be forever wanting
something of you. When she is cold the stove will be in fault, when she
has rheumatism you will have to shoot a cat for her. She will meddle in
your affairs, she will mislay your things, and will vex you in a
thousand ways. Old aunts are only invented to torment their fellow-men.
But no matter, make your own beer and drink it all down. But I think it
must be time to go, the Express won't wait.
Linden looked at his watch, nodded, and went hastily to the house to
order the carriage.
His friend followed him thoughtfully; at length he muttered a
suppressed, Confound it! Such a splendid young fellow to sit and suck
his paws in this hole of a peasant village! What sort of a figure will
he cut among the rich proprietors of this blessed country? I wish his
old uncle had chosen anybody on earth for his heir, only not him
much as he pretends to like it. What a career he might have made! And
now he will just bury himself in this holeconfound Niendorf! If I
only had him at home in gay FrankfortOit is
A quarter of an hour later the friends were rolling towards the city
in a rather old-fashioned carriage. Behind them was the quiet little
Harz village, and before them rose the many-towered city.
They had not far to go; they reached their destination in an hour's
time, and the carriage stopped before the stately railroad station.
Silently as they had come they got the ticket and had the baggage
weighed, and Linden did not speak till they reached the platform.
Greet Frankfort for me, Richard, and all my friends. Write to me
when you have time. See that I get my furniture and books soon, and
many thanks for your company so far.
The judge made a deprecating gesture. I wish to Heaven I could take
you back with me, Frank, he said, in a softer tone. You don't know
how I shall miss you. You know what a bad correspondent I am, you are
much better at writing than I, and you will have more time for it,
The whistle and the rumbling of the approaching train cut him short;
in another moment he was in a coupé.
Good-bye, Frankcome nearer for a moment, old fellowremember if
you are ever in any serious difficulty, write to me at once. If I
should not be able to help you myselfyou know my sister is in good
One more hand-shake, one more look into a pair of true, manly eyes,
and Frank Linden stood alone on the platform. He turned slowly away,
and walked towards his carriage. He had his foot on the step when he
bethought himself, and ordered the coachman to drive to the hotel, for
he had something to do in town.
He was so entirely under the influence of the uncomfortable feeling
which parting from a friend creates, that he took the road into town in
no very cheerful mood. On entering the city he turned aside and
followed a deserted path which led along the well-preserved old city
wall. He did not in the least know where he was going; he had nothing
to do here, he knew no one, but he must look about a little in the
neighboring town. It seemed, in fact, well entitled to its reputation
as an old German imperial city; the castle, with the celebrated
cathedral, towered up defiantly on the steep crags; several slender
church towers rose from out the multitude of red pointed roofs, and the
old wall, broken at regular intervals by clumsy square watch-towers,
surrounded the old town like a firm chain.
He took delight in the beautiful picture, and as he walked on his
fancy painted the magnificent imperial city waking out of its slumber
of a thousand years. After awhile he stopped and looked up to one of
the gray towers.
Really it is almost like the Eschenheim Gate in Frankfort, he said
half aloud; what wonderful springs the thoughts make!
Suddenly he found himself back in the present; scarcely four weeks
ago he had passed through that beautiful gate, without dreaming that he
would so soon see its companion in North Germany. Like lightning out of
blue sky this inheritance which made him possessor of Niendorf had come
upon him. How it had happened to occur to his grandfather's old brother
to select him out of the multitude of his relatives for his heir
still remained an unsolved problem, and he could only refer it to the
especial liking for his mother whom the eccentric old man had always
shown a preference for.
He had felt when he received the news as if a golden shower had
fallen into his lap; it is difficult living in a city of millionaires
on the salary of an assessor. And thenhe had received a wound there
in that brilliant bewildering life, and the scar still made itself felt
at timesfor instance when an elegant equipage dashed by himblack
horses with liveries of black and silver and on the light-gray cushions
a woman's figure, dark ostrich feathers waving above a face of marble
whiteness, the luxuriant gold brown hair fastened in a knot on the neck
and ah! looking so coldly at him out of her great blue eyes. After such
a meeting he felt depressed for days. A milliner's doll, a heartless
woman, he called her bitterly, but he had once believed quite the
reverse a whole year long till one morning he saw her betrothal in the
paper. She married a banker who had often served as the butt of her
ridicule. Buthe had a million!
Ah, how gladly had he gone out of her neighborhood, how rejoiced he
had been to turn his back on the great world, with what happiness he
had written to his mother and what had he found!
But no matter! The steward whom he had for the present seemed a
capable fellow; he would not spare himself in any respect and
thenWolff. He could not understand what had set Weishaupt so against
He had now been wandering for some time through the busiest streets
of the town. He asked for the hotel where his coachman was to wait for
him. He now entered the marketplace in the midst of which the statue of
Roland stands. A stately Rathhaus in the style of the Renaissance stood
on the western side of the square, and lofty elegant patrician houses
with pointed gables surrounded it; some adorned with bow-windows, some
with the upper stories overhanging till it seemed as if they must lose
their balance. Only two or three buildings were of later date, and even
in these care had been taken to preserve the mediaeval character.
Agreeably surprised, Linden stopped and his glance passed critically
over the front of the lofty building before which he had chanced to
pause. Three tall stories towered one above another; over the great
arched doorway rose a dainty bow-window which extended through all the
stories and stretched up into the blue October sky as a stately tower,
finished at the top with a weather-vane. The window in the bel-etage
was divided into small diamond panesthat was an æsthetic dwelling,
no doubt. In the second story rich lace curtains shimmered behind large
clear panes, and a very garden of fuchsias and pinks waved and nodded
from the plants outside. If a lovely girl's face would only appear
above them now, the picture would be complete.
But nothing of the kind was to be seen, and casting one more glance
at the artistic ironwork of the staircase, the attentive spectator
turned and crossed the market-place to the hotel in order to dine. As
it was already late he was the only guest in the spacious dining-room.
He ate his dinner with all speed, and began his wanderings through the
Behind the Rathhaus he plunged into a labyrinth of narrow streets
and alleys, then passing through an archway he entered unexpectedly a
square surrounded by tall linden trees half stripped of their leaves,
which, grave and solemn, seemed to be watching over a large church. It
seemed as though everybody was dead in this place; only a few children
were playing among the dry leaves, and an old woman limped into a sunny
corner, otherwise the deepest silence reigned.
A side door of the church stood open; he crossed over and entered
into the silent twilight of the sacred place; he took off his hat, and,
surprised by the noble simplicity of the building, he gazed at the
slender but lofty columns and the rich vaulting of the choir. Then he
walked down the middle aisle between the artistically carved stalls,
brown with age. He delighted in them, for he had the greatest
admiration for the beautiful forms of the Renaissance, and he was
doubly pleased, for he had not expected to find anything of the kind
Here he suddenly stopped; there at the font, above which the white
dove soared with outspread wings, he saw three women. Two of them
seemed to be of the lower class; the elder, probably the midwife, held
the child, tossing it continually; the other, in a plain black woollen
dress and shawl, a young matron, looked at the child with eyes red with
weeping; a third had bent down towards her; the sexton, who was pouring
the water into the basin, concealed her completely for the moment and
Linden saw only the train of a dark silk dress on the stone floor.
And now a soft flexible woman's voice sounded in his ear: Don't cry
so, my good Johanna, you will have a great deal of comfort yet with the
little thingdon't cry!
Engleman, you had better call the clergymanmy sister does not
seem to come, she must have been detained; we will not wait any
The speaker turned towards the mother, and Frank Linden looked full
into the face of the young girl. It was not exactly beautiful, this
fine oval, shaded by rich golden brown hair; the complexion was too
pale, the expression too sad, the corners of the mouth too much drawn
down, but under the finely pencilled brows a pair of deep blue eyes
looked out at him, clear as those of a child, wistful and appealing, as
if imploring peace for the sacred rite.
It might often happen that strangers entered the beautiful church
and made a disturbanceat least so Frank Linden interpreted the look.
Scarcely breathing, he leaned against one of the old stalls, and his
eyes followed every movement of the slender, girlish figure, as she
took the child in her arms and approached the clergyman.
Herr Pastor, sounded the soft voice, you must be content with
one sponsor, for unfortunately my sister has not come.
The clergyman raised his head. Then you might, Mrs. Smith he
signed to the elder woman.
Frank Linden stood suddenly before the font beside the young girl;
he hardly knew himself how he got there so quickly.
Allow me to be the second sponsor, he said.I came into the
church by chance, a perfect stranger here; I should be sorry to miss
the first opportunity to perform a Christian duty in my new home.
He had obeyed a sudden impulse and he was understood. The
gray-haired clergyman nodded, smiling. It is a poor child, early left
fatherless, sir, he replied. The father was killed four weeks before
its birthyou will be doing a good workare you satisfied? he said,
turning to the mother. Well thenEngelman, write down the name of the
godfather in the register.
Carl Max Francis Linden, said the young man.
And then they stood together before the pastor, these two who a
quarter of an hour ago had had no knowledge of one another; she held
the sleeping child in her arms; she had not looked up, the quick flush
of surprise still lingered on the delicate face, and the simple lace on
the infant's cushion trembled slightly.
The clergyman spoke only a few words, but they sank deep into the
hearts of both. Linden looked down on the brown drooping head beside
him, the two hands rested on the infant's garments, two warm young
hands close together, and from the lips of both came a clear distinct
Yes in answer to the clergyman's questions. When the rite was ended,
the young girl took the child to its weeping mother and pressed a kiss
on the small red cheek, then she came up to Linden and her eyes gazed
at him with a mixture of wonder and gratitude.
I thank you, sir, she said, laying her small hand in his for a
moment. I thank you in the name of the poor womanit was so good of
Then with a proud bend of her small head she went away, the heavy
silk of her dress making a slight rustling about her as she walked. She
paused a moment at the door in the full daylight and looked back at him
as he stood motionless by the font looking after her; it seemed as if
she bent her head once more in greeting and then she disappeared.
Frank Linden remained behind alone in the quiet church. Who could
she be who had just stood beside him? A slight jingling caused him to
turn round; the sexton was coming out of the sacristy with his great
bunch of keys.
You want to shut up the church, my friend? he said. I am going
now. Then as if he had thought of something he came back a few steps.
Who was the young lady? was on his lips to ask, but he could not
bring it out, he only gazed at the glowing colors in the painted glass
of the lofty window.
They are very fine, said the sexton, and are always much admired;
that one is dated 1511, the Exodus of the children of Israel, a gift
from the Abbess Anna from the castle up there. They say she had a great
liking for this church, and it is the finest church far and wide too,
our St. Benedict's.
Frank Linden nodded.
You may be right, he said, abstractedly. Then he gave the man a
small sum for the baby and went away.
Soon after, his carriage was rolling away towards home. The outlines
of the mountains rose dark against the red evening sky, and the
church-tower of Niendorf came nearer and nearer.
Nothing seemed strange to him now as it had been this morning; the
first slight happy feeling of home-coming was growing in his heart. On
the top of the hill he turned again and looked back at the city, where
the castle looked to him like an old acquaintance, and hark! The faint
sound of a bell was wafted towards him on the evening breeze; perhaps
from St. Benedict's tower?
Gertrude Baumhagen had quickly crossed the quiet square, had opened
a door in the opposite wall, and was at home. She passed rapidly
through the box-edged path of the old-fashioned garden, and across a
quiet spacious court into the house. In the large vaulted hall, she
found her brother-in-law standing beside a tall velocipede. He was
dressed elegantly and according to the latest fashion, a costly diamond
sparkled on the blue cravat, while he wore another on his white hand.
He was fair-haired, with pink cheeks, and a small moustache on his
upper lip, and was perhaps about thirty. A servant was occupied in
cleaning the shining steel of the bicycle with a piece of chamois
Are you going for a ride, Arthur? asked the young girl,
I am going to make off, Gertrude, he replied, peevishly. What on
earth can I do at home? Jenny has got a ladies' tea party again to-day
by way of varietyand what am I to do? I am going with Carl Röben to
Bodenstadta man must look out for himself a little.
I am just going up to your house, said the young girl. I am cross
with Jenny and am going to scold her.
You will be lucky then if you don't come off second best, my dear
sister-in-law, cried Arthur Fredericks, laughing.
She shook her head gravely, and mounted the broad staircase, whose
dark carved balustrade harmonized well with the crimson Smyrna carpet
which covered the steps, held down by shining brass rods. Huge
laurel-trees in tubs stood on either side of the tall door, which led
to the first floor. On the left, the staircase went on to the upper
story. Gertrude Baumhagen pressed on the button of the electric bell
and instantly the door was opened by a servant-maid in a brilliantly
white apron, while a clear voice called out,
Yes, yes, I am at homeyou have come just in time, Gertrude.
In the large entrance hall, which was finished in old German style,
a young matron stood before a magnificent buffet, busied in taking out
all manner of silver-plate from the open cupboard. She wore a dainty
little lace cap on her light brown hair, and a house-dress of fine
light blue cashmere, richly trimmed with lace. She was very pretty,
even now when she was pouting, but there was no resemblance between the
You are not even dressed yet, Jenny? cried the young girl. Then I
might have waited a good while in the church. It was really very
awkward, your not coming.
The young matron stopped and set down the great glass dish encircled
by two massive silver snakes, in dismay. Then she clapped her hands and
began to laugh heartily.
There now! she cried, this whole day I have been going about the
house with a feeling that there was something I had to do, and I
couldn't think what it was. O that is too rich! Caroline, you might
have reminded me! she continued, turning to the maid, who was just
laying a heavy linen table-cloth on the massive oak-table in the middle
of the room.
Mrs. Fredericks laid down to sleep and said expressly that I was
not to wake her before four o'clock, said the maid in her own defence.
Well, so I did, yawned the young matron; I was so tired, his
lordship was in a bad temper, and the baby was so frightfully noisy. It
is no great misfortune, either; I can easily make up for it by sending
her something tomorrow.
Why, Jenny! Have you forgotten that it was I who told Johanna that
you and I would be godmothers? I thought it was our dutythe
man was killed in our factory.
O fiddle-dedee, pet, interposed Mrs. Jenny, I hate that
everlasting god mothering! I have already three round dozens of
godchildren as surely as I stand here-poor people are not
required for that purpose, I assure you. Come, I have finished here
now, we will go to the nursery for awhile, orcasting a glance at the
old-fashioned clockstill better, mamma has had some patterns for
evening-dresses sent herwait a minute and I will come up with you;
the company won't come yet for an hour and a half.
She turned round gracefully once more as if to survey her work. The
buffet shone with silver dishes, a bright fire burned in the open
fireplace, the heavy chandelier as well as the sconces before the tall
glass were filled with dark red twisted candles, and as Caroline drew
back the heavy embroidered portière, a room almost too
luxuriously furnished became visiblea room all crimson; even through
the stained glass of the bow-window the evening light sent red
reflections in the labyrinth of chairs and sofas, lounges and tables,
while white marble statues stood out against the dark green of costly
It looks pleasant, doesn't it, Gertrude? said the young wife. I
have not opened the great drawing-room because there will be only a few
ladies. The wife of the Home Minister has accepted. Are you coming in
for an hour?
No, thanks, replied the young girl, mounting the stairs with her
sister to her mother's apartment. Send me the baby for awhile, I like
so much to have him.
Oh, yes, the young gentleman shall make his appearance, nodded
Mrs. Jenny, provided he doesn't sleep like a little dormouse.
Do you go in to mamma, said Gertrude. I will change my dress and
The rooms were the same as in the lower story, also richly
furnished, though not in the new aesthetic style, yet they were not
less elegant and comfortable. The sisters separated in the ante-room,
and Gertrude Baumhagen went to her own room. She occupied the room with
the bow-window, but here the daylight was not broken by costly stained
glass: it came in, unhindered, in floods through the clear panes,
before which outside, numberless flowers waved in the soft breeze.
Directly opposite were the gables of the Rathhaus; like airy lace-work,
the rich ornamentation of the towers was marked out against the glowing
This bow-window was a delightful place; here stood her work-table,
and behind it on an easel, the portrait of the late Mr. Baumhagen. The
resemblance between the father and daughter was visible at a glance;
there was the same light brown hair, the intellectual brow, the small,
fine nose, and the eyes too were the same. She had always been his
darling, and it was her care that fresh flowers should always be placed
in the gold network of the frame. And where she sat at work her hands
would sometimes rest in her lap and her eyes would turn to the picture.
My dear, good papa! she would whisper then, as if he must understand.
To-day also, she walked quickly towards the bow-window and looked
long at the picture. You would have done that too, she said, softly,
wouldn't you, papa! An earnest expression came suddenly into the
young eyes, something like inexpressible longing. No, every one is not
like mamma and Jenny; there are warm human hearts, there are hearts
that feel compassion for a stranger's needs, for whom the detested
she stopped suddenly her small hands had clenched themselves and her
eyes filled with tears.
She began to pace up and down the room. The soft, thick carpet
deadened the sound of her footsteps, but the heavy silk rustled after
her with an anxious sound.
What humiliations she had to endure daily and hourly from the fact
of being a rich girl! She owed everything to the circumstance of having
a fortune. Jenny had just now declared to her again that she had only
been godmother, becauseAh, no matter, she knew better. Johanna was
too modest. But she had not yet recovered from that other blow. A week
ago there had been manoeuvres in the neighborhood, and the colonel with
his adjutant had had his quarters for two days in the Baumhagen house.
She could not really remember that she had spoken more than a few
commonplace words to the adjutant, and twenty-four hours after the
troops had left the cityyesterdaya letter lay before her filled
with the most ardent protestations of love and an entreaty for her
hand. She had taken the letter and gone to her mother with it, with the
words: Here is some one who wishes to marry my money. Will you write
the answer, mamma? I cannot.
Now she was dreading the mention of this letter. She was not afraid
that her mother would try to persuade her. No, no, she had always been
independent enough not to order her life according to the will of
another, but the matter would be discussed and the division between
mother and daughter would only be made wider than ever.
She started; the door opened and her sister's voice called: Do
come, Gertrude, I can't make up my mind about that new red.
The young girl crossed the hall and a moment after stood in her
mother's drawing-room, before her mother, a small woman with almost too
rosy cheeks, and an exceedingly obstinate expression about the full
mouth. She sat on the sofa beneath the large Swiss landscape, the work
of a celebrated Düsseldorf masterMrs. Baumhagen was fond of relating
that she had paid five hundred dollars for itand tossed about with
her small hands, covered with diamonds, a mass of dress patterns.
Gertrude, she cried, this would do for you. And she held out a
bit of blue silk. It is a pity you are so different, it is so nice for
two sisters to dress alike.
What is suitable for a married woman, is not fit for a girl,
declared Mrs. Jenny. Gertrude ought to get married, she is twenty
Ah! that reminds me,the mother had been turning over the
patterns during the conversation,there is that letter from your last
admirer, I must answer it. What am I to write him?
See here, Jenny, this brown ground with the blue spots is pretty,
isn't it?It is really a great bore to answer letters like that; why
don't you do it yourself?
I am afraid my answer would not be dispassionate enough, replied
the girl, calmly.
Do you like him? asked her sister.
The young girl ignored the question.
I am afraid I might be bitter, and nothing is required but a purely
business-like answer, as the question was purely one of business.
You are delicious! laughed the young wife. O what a pity you had
not lived in the middle ages, when the knights were obliged to go
through so long a probation! Little goose, you must learn to take the
world as it is. Do you suppose Arthur would have married me if I
had had nothing? I assure you he would never have thought of it! And do
you suppose I would have taken him if I had not known he was in
good circumstances? Never! And what would you have more from us? we are
a comparatively happy couple.
Gertrude looked at her sister in surprise, with a questioning look
in her blue eyes.
Comparatively happy? she repeated in a low tone.
Good gracious, yes, he has his whimsone has to put up with them,
declared her sister,
Pray don't quarrel to-day, said Mrs. Baumhagen, taking her
eye-glass from her snub-nose; besides I will write the letter. It is
for that I am your mother. She sighed.
But in this matter I think Jenny is right. Gertrude, you take far
too ideal views of the world. We have all seen to what such ideas
lead. Another sigh. I will not try to persuade you, I did not say
anything to influence Jenny; you both know that very well. For my own
part I have nothing against this Mr. Mr.Mr. the name did not occur
to her at once.
The young girl laughed, but her eyes looked scornful. His address
is given with great distinctness in the letter, she said.
There is no great hurry, I suppose, continued her mother. I have
my whist-party this evening; if I am not there punctually I must pay a
fine; besides, I don't feel like writing. She yawned slightly.
The evenings are getting very long nowdid you know, Jenny, that
an opera troupe is coming here?
Jenny answered in the affirmative, and added that she must go and
Good night, she cried, merrily, from the door; we shall not meet
Good night, mamma, said Gertrude also.
Are you going down to Jenny? asked Mrs. Baumhagen.
The girl shook her head.
What are you going to do all the evening?
I don't know, mamma. I have all sorts of things to do. Perhaps I
Ah! Well, good night, my child.
She waved her hand and Gertrude went away. She took off her silk
dress when she reached her room and exchanged it for a soft cashmere,
then she went into her pretty sitting-room. It was already twilight and
the lamps were being lighted in the street below. She stood in the
bow-window and watched one flame leap out after the other and the
windows of the houses brighten. Even the old apple-woman, under the
shelter of the statue of Roland, hung out her lantern under her
gigantic white umbrella. Gertrude knew all this so well; it had been
just the same when she was a tiny girl, and there was no changeonly
here inside it was all so differentso utterly different.
Where were those happy evenings when she had sat here beside her
fatherwhere was the old comfort and happiness? They must have hidden
themselves away in his coffin, for ever since that dreadful day when
they had carried her father away, it had been cold and empty in the
house and in the young girl's heart. He had been so ill, so melancholy;
it was fortunate that it had happened, so people said to the widow, who
was almost wild in her passionate grief, but she had gone on a journey
at once with Jenny, and had spent the winter in Nice. Gertrude would
not go with them on any account. Her eyes, which had looked on such
misery, could not look out upon God's laughing world,her shattered
nerves could not bear the gay whirl of such a life. She had stayed
behind with an old auntAunt Louise slept almost all day, when she was
not eating or drinking coffee, and the young girl had learned all the
horrors of loneliness. She had been ill in body and mind, and when her
mother and sister had returned, she learned that one may be lonely even
in company, and lonely she had remained until the present day.
Urged by a longing for affection, she had again and again tried to
find excuses for her mother, and to adapt herself to her mode of life.
She had allowed herself to be drawn into the whirl of pleasure into
which the pleasure-loving woman had plunged so soon as her time of
mourning was over. She had tried to persuade herself that concerts,
balls, and all the gayeties of society really gave her pleasure and
satisfied her. But her sense of right rebelled against this
self-deception. She began to ponder on the vacuity of all about her, on
this and that conversation, on the whole whirl around her, and she grew
less able to comprehend it. She could not understand how people could
find so much amusement in things that seemed to her not worth a
thought. The art of fluttering through life, skimming the cream of all
its excitements as Jenny did, she did not understand. To wear the most
elegant costume at a ball, to stay at the dearest hotels on a journey,
to be celebrated for giving the finest dinnersall that was not worth
thinking about. Once she had asked if she might not read aloud in the
evenings they spent alone, as she used to do when her father was alive.
After receiving permission she had come in with a radiant face,
bringing Ekkehard, the last book which her father had given her. With
flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes, she had read on and on, but as she
chanced to look up there sat Jenny, looking through the last number of
the Journal of Fashion, while her mother was sound asleep. She did
not say a word but she never read aloud again.
The large tears ran suddenly down her cheeks. One of those moments
had suddenly come over her again, when she stretched out her arms
despairingly after some human soul that would understand her, that
would love her a little, only a little, for herself alone. She had
grown so distrustful that she ascribed all kindness from strangers to
her wealth and the position which her family held in society. She was
quite conscious that she was repellent and unamiable, designedly sono
one should know how poor she really felt. It was not necessary for them
to know that she wrung her hands and asked, What shall I do? What do I
live for? She had inherited from her father a delight in work, a need
for being of useevery responsible person feels a desire to be happy
and to make others happybut she felt her life so great a burden, it
was so shallow, so distasteful, so full of petty interests.
She quickly dried her tears and turned; the door had opened and an
old servant entered.
You are forgetting your tea again, Miss Gertrude, she began,
reproachfully. It is all ready in the dining-room. I have brought in
the tea so it will cool a little, but you must come now.
The young girl thanked her pleasantly and followed her. She returned
in a very short time, nothing tasted good when she was so alone. She
lighted the lamp and took a book and read. It had grown still gradually
outside in the street, quarter after quarter struck from St. Benedict's
tower, until it was eleven o'clock. A carriage drove upher mother was
Gertrude closed her book, it was bedtime. The hall-door closed,
steps went past Gertrude's doorbut no, some one was coming in.
Mrs. Baumhagen still wore her black Spanish lace mantilla over her
head. She only wished to ask her daughter what all this was about the
christening this afternoon. The pastor's wife had told her a story of a
curious kind of godfather; the pastor had come home full of it.
Jenny did not come, explained the young girl, and a strange
gentleman offered to stand.
But how horribly pushing, cried the excited little woman. You
should have drawn back, childwho knows what sort of a person he may
I don't know him, mamma. But whoever he may be, he was so very
good; he never supposed, I am sure, that his kindness could be
There, cried Mrs. Baumhagen, you see it is always so with
youyou are so easily imposed upon by that sort of thing,
Gertrude,really I get very anxious about you. Did you know that Baron
von LowenbergI remember the name nowis a distant connection of the
ducal house of A.? Mrs. von Sknows the whole family, they are
charming people. But I will not influence you, I am only telling you
this by the way. Sophie tells me an invitation has come from the
Stadträthin for to-morrow. One never has a day to one's self. You will
come too? It is about the Society festival; you young girls will have
something to do.
Jenny had a light still, she continued, without noticing her
daughter's silence. Arthur brought home Carl Röben, who came for his
young wife, and Lina was just coming up out of the cellar with
champagne.I beg you will not tell any one about that scene in the
church to-day; I have asked the pastor's wife to be silent too.
Good night, my child. Of course the tea wasn't fit to drink at Mrs.
Good-night, mamma, replied Gertrude. She took the lamp and looked
at her father's picture once more, then she went to bed. She awoke
suddenly out of a half-slumber; she had heard the voice so distinctly
that she had heard in the church to-day for the first time. She sat up
with her heart beating quickly. No, what she had experienced today had
been no dream. Like a ray of sunshine fell that friendly act of the
unknown into this world of egotism and heartlessness. And then she
staid long awake.
The storms of late autumn came on among the mountains, heavy showers
of rain came down from the gray flying clouds and beat upon the dead
leaves of the forest and against the windows of the dwelling-houses.
Frank Linden sat at his writing-table in the room he had fitted up for
himself in the second story, and his eyes wandered from the denuded
branches in the garden to the mountains opposite. His surroundings were
as comfortable as it is possible for a bachelor's room to bebooks and
weapons, a bright fire in the stove, good pictures on the walls, the
delicate perfume of a fine cigar, and yet in spite of all this the
expression on his handsome face was by no means a contented one.
He thrust aside a great sheet full of figures and took up instead a
sheet of writing-paper, on which he began rapidly to write:
My Dear Old Judge:
How you would scoff at me if you could see me in my present
downcast mood. It is raining outside, and inside a flood of vexatious
thoughts is streaming over me. I have found out that playing at farming
is a pleasure only when one has a large purse that he can call his own.
The expenses are getting too much for me; everything has to be repaired
or renewed. Well, all this is true, but I do not complain, for in other
ways I have the greatest pleasure out of it. I cannot describe to you
how really poetic a walk through these autumn woods is, which I manage
to take almost daily with old Juno, thanks to the permission of the
royal forester, with whom I have made friends.
And how delightful is the home coming beneath my own roof!
But you, most prosaic of all mortals, are probably thinking only
about venison steaks or broiled field-fares, and you only know the mood
of the wild huntsman from hearsay.
But I wanted to tell you how right you were when you declared of
Wolff: 'Hic niger est! Be on your guard against this manhe is
a scoundrel!' Perhaps that would be saying too much, but at any rate he
is troublesome. He sent me yesterday a ticket to a concert and wrote on
a bit of paper: 'Seats 38 to 40 taken by the Baumhagen familyI got
No. 37.' Then he added that the Baumhagens were the most distinguished
and the wealthiest of the patricians in the cityevidently those who
play first fiddle there.
You know what my opinion is concerning millionairesanything to
escape their neighborhood.
Well, in short, I was vexed and sent him back the ticket with the
remark that I was the most unmusical person in the world. He has
already made several attacks of that nature on me, so I suppose there
must be a daughter.
And now to come at length to the aim of this letteryou know that
Wolff has a heavy mortgage on Niendorf, at a very high rate of
interest. I simply cannot pay it, and wish to take up the mortgage;
would your sister be willing to take it at a moderate rate? I am ready
to give you any information.
And what more shall I tell you? By the way, the old auntyou did
her great injustice; I never saw a more inoffensive, more contented
creature than this old woman. A niece who comes to Niendorf every year
on a visit, and whom she seems very fond of, her tame goldfinch, and
her artificial flowers make up her whole world. She asked quite
anxiously if I would let her have her room here till she died. I
promised it faithfully. She has been telling me a good many things
about my uncle's last years. He must have been very eccentric. Wolff
was with him every day, playing euchre with him and the schoolmaster.
He died at the card-table, so to speak. The old lady told me in a
sepulchral voice that he actually died with clubs and diamonds in his
hands. He had just played out the ace and said, 'There is a bomb for
you!' and it was all over. I believe she felt a little horror of this
endings herself. I am going now into the city in spite of wind and rain
to make a few calls. I have got to do it sooner or later. I shall take
the steward with me; he will bring home a pair of farm-horses that he
bought the other day. Perhaps I may happen to stumble on my unknown
little godmother that I wrote you about the other day; so far luck has
not favored me.
He added greetings and his signature, and half an hour later he was
on his way to the city in faultless visiting costume.
Arrived in the hotel he inquired for a number of addresses, then
began with a sigh to do his duty according to that extraordinary custom
which Mrs. Grundy prescribes as necessary in good society, that is,
to call upon perfect strangers at mid-day and exchange a few shallow
phrases and then to escape as quickly as possible. Thank Heaven! No one
was at home to-day although it was raining in torrents. From a sort of
natural opposition he left the Baumhagens to the last; he belonged to
that class to whom it is only necessary to praise a thing greatly in
order to create a strong dislike to it.
Just as he was on the point of making this visit, he met Mr. Wolff.
You are going to the Baumhagens? he asked, evidently agreeably
surprised. Therethere, that house with the bow-window. I wish you
good luck, Mr. Linden!
Frank had a sharp answer on his lips but the little man had
disappeared. But a woman's figure stepped back hastily from the
bow-window above him.
Very sorry, said the old servant-maid. Mrs. Baumhagen is not at
home. He received the same answer in the lower story although he heard
the sounds of a Chopin waltz.
He heard an explanation of this in the hotel at dinner. A great ball
was to take place that evening, and such a festival naturally required
the most extensive preparations on the part of the feminine portion of
society; on such a day neither matron nor maiden was visible. Nothing
else was spoken of but this ball, and some of the gentlemen kindly
invited him to be present; he would find some pretty girls there.
I am curious to know if the little Baumhagen will be there, said
an officer of Hussars.
She may stay away for all I care, responded a very blond
Referendary. She has a way of condescending to one that I can't
endure. She is perfectly eaten up with pride.
She has just refused another offer, as I heard from Arthur
Fredericks, cried another.
She is probably waiting for a prince, snarled a fourth.
I don't care, said Colonel von Brelow, you may say what you like,
she is a magnificent creature without a particle of provincialism about
her. There is race in the girl.
Frank Linden had listened with an interest which had almost awakened
a desire in him to take part in the ball. He half promised to appear,
took the address of a glove-shop and sat for a couple of hours in
lively conversation. After the lonely weeks he had been spending it
interested him more than he was willing to confess.
I am really stooping to gossip, he said, amused at himself. When
he went out into the street, darkness had already come down on the
short November day, the gas-lamps were reflected back from the pools in
the street, the shop-windows were brilliantly lighted, and five long
strokes sounded from the tower of St. Benedict's.
He went round the corner of the hotel into the next street, and
walked slowly along on the narrow sidewalk, looking at the shops which
were all adorned with everything gay and brilliant for the approaching
Good-evening! said suddenly a timid voice behind him. He turned
round. For a moment he could not remember the woman who stood timidly
before him, with a yoke on her shoulder from which hung two shining
pails. Then he recognized herit was Johanna.
I only wanted to thank you so very much, she began, the sexton
brought me the present for the baby.
And is my little godchild well? he asked, walking beside the woman
and suddenly resolving to learn something about her at any price.
Oh, thank you, Mr. Linden; it is but a weakly thingtrouble hasn't
been good for him. But if the gentleman would like to see himit isn't
so very far and I'm going straight home now.
Of course I should, he said, and learned as he went along, that
she carried milk twice a day for a farmer's wife.
Does the young lady come to see her godson sometimes?
Ay, to be sure! replied the woman. She comes and the baby hasn't
a frock or a petticoat that she hasn't given him. She is so good, Miss
Gertrude. We were confirmed together, she added, with pride.
So her name was Gertrude.
They had still some distance to go, through narrow streets and
alleys, before the woman announced that they had reached her house.
There is a light insideperhaps it is mother, the child waked up I
suppose. My mother lives up stairs, she explained, my father is a
The window was so low that a child might have looked in easily, so
he could overlook the whole room without difficulty.
Stay, he whispered, holding Johanna's arm.
O goodness! it is the young lady, she cried, I hope she won't be
But Frank Linden did not reply. He saw only the slender girlish
figure, as she walked up and down with the crying child in her arms,
talking to him, dancing him till at last he stopped crying, looked
solemnly in her face for awhile and then began to crow.
Now you see, you silly little goosie, sounded the clear girl's
voice in his ears, you see who comes to take care of you when, you
were lying here all alone and all crumpled up, while your mother has to
go out from house to house through all the wind and rain;you naughty
baby, you little rogue, do you know your name yet? Let's see.
Frank,Frankie? O such a big boy! Now come here and don't cry a bit
more and you shall have on your warm little frock when your mother
comes. And she sat down before the stove and began to take off the
little red flannel frock.
[Illustration: She sat down before the stove and began to take off
the little red flannel frock.]
Ask if I may come in, Johanna, said Linden. And the next moment he
had entered behind the woman.
A flush of embarrassment came over the young girl's face, but she
frankly extended her hand. I am glad to see you, Mr. Lindenmamma was
very sorry that she could not receive you this afternoon. You
He bowed. Then she belonged to one of the houses where he had called
to-day. But to which one?
Do you know, I never knew till to-day that you were living in the
neighborhood, she continued brightly. I was standing in our
bow-window when you came across the square, and saw you inquiring for
Then I have the honor to see Miss Baumhagen? he asked, somewhat
disturbed by this information.
Gertrude Baumhagen, she replied. Why do you look so surprised?
With these words she took her cloak from the nearest chair, put a
small fur cap on her brown hair and took up her muff.
I must go now, Johanna, but I will send the doctor to-morrow for
the baby. You must not let things go so,you must take better care or
else he may have weak eyes all his life.
Will you allow me to accompany you? asked Linden, unable to take
his eyes off the graceful form. And that was Gertrude Baumhagen!
She assented. I am not afraid for myself, but I am sure you would
never find your way out of this maze of streets into which my good
Johanna has enticed you. This part about here is quite the oldest part
of the town. You cannot see it this evening, but by daylight a walk
through this quarter would well repay you. I like this neighborhood,
though only people of the lower class live here, she continued,
walking with a firm step on the slippery pavement.
Do you see down there on the corner that house with the great stone
steps in front and the bench under the tree? My grandmother was born in
that house, and the tree is a Spanish lilac. Grandfather fell in love
with her as she sat one evening under the tree rocking her youngest
brother. She has often told me about it. The lilac was in blossom and
she was just eighteen. Isn't it a perfect little poem?
Then she laughed softly. But I am telling you all this and I don't
know in the least what you think of such things.
They were just opposite the small house with the lilac tree. He
stopped and looked up. She perceived it and said: I can never go by
without having happy thoughts and pleasant memories. Never was there a
dearer grandmother, she was so simple and so good. And as he was
silent she added, as if in explanation, She was a granddaughter of the
foreman in grandpapa's factory.
Still nothing occurred to him to say and he could not utter a merely
She too remained silent for a while. May I ask you, she then
began, not to give too many presents to the babythey are simple
people who might be easily spoiled.
He assented. A man like me is so unpractical, he said, by way of
excuse. I did not exactly know what was expected of me after I had
offered myself as godfather in such an intrusive manner.
That was no intrusion, that was a feeling of humanity, Mr. Linden.
I was afraid I might have seemed to you, too impulsivetoo he
O no, no, she interrupted earnestly. What can you think of me? I
can easily tell the true from the falseI was really very glad, she
added, with some hesitation.
I thank you, he said.
And then they walked on in silence through the streets;Gertrude
Baumhagen stopped before a flower-store behind whose great glass panes
a wealth of roses, violets and camellias glowed.
Our ways separate here, she said, as she gave him her hand. I
have something to do in here. Good-bye, Mr.Godfather.
He had lifted his hat and taken her hand. Good-bye, Miss
Baumhagen. And hesitatingly he askedShall you be at the ball
Yes, she nodded, at the request of the higher powers, and her
blue eyes rested quietly on his face. There was nothing of youthful
pleasure and joyful expectation to be read in them. Mamma would have
been in despair if I had declined. Good-night, Mr. Linden.
The young man stood outside as she disappeared into the shop. He
stood still for a moment, then he went on his way.
So that was Gertrude Baumhagen! He really regretted that that was
her name, for he had taken a prejudice against the name, which he had
associated with vulgar purse-pride. The conversation at the hotel table
recurred to him. He had figured to himself a supercilious blonde who
used her privileges as a Baumhagen and the richest girl in the city, to
subject her admirers to all manner of caprices. And he had found the
Gertrude of the church, a lovely, slender girl, with a simple unspoiled
nature, possessing no other pride than that of a noble woman.
Involuntarily he walked faster. He would accept the kind invitation
to the ball. But when he reached the hotel he had changed his mind
again. He did not care to see her as a modern society woman, he would
not efface that lovely picture he had seen through the window of that
poor little house. He could not have borne it if she had met him in the
brilliant ball-room, with that air of condescension with which he had
heard her reproached to-day. He decided to dine at home.
With this thought he had walked down the street again till he
reached the flower-shop. On a sudden impulse he entered and asked for a
The woman had an immense bouquet in her hand at the moment,
resembling a cart-wheel surrounded by rich lace, which she was just
giving to the errand-boy.
For Miss Baumhagen, she said, here is the card.
Frank Linden saw a coat-of-arms over the name. He stepped back a
moment, undecided what to do. Then the shopwoman turned towards him.
A simple bouquet, he repeated. There was none ready, but they
could make up one immediately. The young man himself chose the flowers
from the wet sand and gave them to her. It must have been a pleasant
occupation for he was constantly putting back a rose and substituting a
finer one for it. At last it was finished, a graceful bouquet of white
roses just tinted with pink, like a maiden's blush, interspersed with
maiden-hair and delicate ferns. He looked at the dainty blossoms once
more, then paid for it and went back to the hotel. Then he laid the
bouquet on the table, called for ink and paper, took a visiting-card
and wrote. Suddenly he stopped and smiled, What nonsense! he said,
half aloud, she is sure to carry the big bouquet. Then he began again
and read it over. It was a little verse asking if the godfather might
at this late hour send to the godmother the flowers which according to
ancient custom he ought to have offered at the christening, and
modestly hoping she would honor them by carrying them to the ball that
night. He smiled again, put it into the envelope and gave the bouquet
and letter to a messenger with instructions to carry both to Miss
Baumhagen. And then a thought struck himthe ball began at eight
o'clockthat would be in ten minuteshe would see Gertrude Baumhagen,
seeif his bouquetnonsense! Very likely! But then he would wait. It
is well the judge does not see me now! he whispered to himself. He
felt like a child at Christmas time, so happy was he and so full of
expectation as he wandered up and down the square in front of the
The clock struck eight. Gentlemen on foot had already been coming to
the hotel for some time, then ladies arrived, and at length the first
carriage containing guests for the ball rolled up, dainty feet tripped
up the steps, and rich silks rustled as they walked. Carriage followed
carriage; now came an elegant equipage with magnificent gray horses, a
charming slight woman's figure in a light blue dress covered with
delicate lace, bent forward, and a silvery laugh sounded in Linden's
ear. It is Mrs. Fredericks, he heard the people murmur behind him.
So that was her sister!
The beautiful young wife swept up the steps like a lovely fairy,
followed by her husband in a faultless black dress-coat, carrying her
fan and bouquet.
The carriage dashed across the marketplace again, to return in less
than five minutes.
Gertrude! whispered Linden, drawing involuntarily further back
into the shadow. A short stout lady in a light gray dress descended
from the carriage, then she glided out and stood beside her mother,
slender and graceful in her shimmering white silk, her beautiful
shoulders lightly covered, and in her hand a well-known bouquet of pale
roses. But this was not the girl of a few hours back. The small head
was bent back as if the massive light brown braids were too heavy for
it, and an expression of proud reserve which he had not before
perceived, rested on the open countenance.
Two gentlemen started forward to greet the ladies; the first
gallantly offered his arm to the mother, the other approached the young
girl. She thanked him proudly, scarcely touching his arm with her
finger-tips. Then suddenly this figure from which he could not take his
eyes, vanished like a beautiful vision.
The encounter had left him in a mood of intense excitement. He
bestowed a dollar on a poor woman who stood beside him with a miserable
child in her arms, and he ordered out so big a glass of hot wine for
old Summerfeld, his coachman, that the old man was alarmed and hoped
they should get home all right.
What folly it is, said Linden to himself. And when a moment later
his carriage drove up, and at the same moment the notes of a Strauss
waltz struck his ear, he began to hum the air of The Rose of the
South. Then the carriage rattled over the market-place out on the dark
country road, and sooner than usual he was at home in his quiet little
room, taking a thousand pleasant thoughts with him.
In the manor-house at Niendorf there was one room in which roses
bloomed in masses; not only in the boxes between the double windows or
in the pots on the sill according to the season, but in the room
itself, thousands of earth's fairest flowers were wreathed about the
pictures and furniture. It had a strange effect, especially when
instead of the sleeping beauty one might have expected to find here,
one perceived a very old woman in an arm chair by the window,
unweariedly engaged in cutting leaves and petals out of colored silk
paper, shaping and putting them together so that at length a rose
trembled on its wire stem, looking as natural from a little distance as
if it had just been cut from the bush. Aunt Rosalie could not live
without making roses; she lavished half her modest income on silk
paper, and every one whom she wished well, received a wreath of roses
as a present, red, pink, white and yellow blossoms tastefully
intermixed. All the village beauties wore roses of Aunt Rosalie's
manufacture in their well-oiled hair at the village dances. The graves
in the church-yard displayed masses of white and crimson roses from the
same store, torn and faded by wind and sun. The little church was
lavishly decked every year by Aunt Rosalie, with these witnesses to her
She was known therefore throughout the village to young and old as
Aunt Rose or Miss Rose, and not seldom was she followed in her
walks by a crowd of children, especially little girls, with the
petition a rose for me too! And Aunt Rose was always prepared for
them; the less successful specimens were kept entirely for this purpose
and were distributed from her capacious reticule with a lavish hand.
Frank Linden had long been accustomed to spend an occasional hour in
the old lady's society. At the sight of her something of the atmosphere
of peace which surrounded her seemed to descend upon him and calmed and
soothed him. She would sit calm and still at her little table, her
small withered hands busied in forming the symbols of a well-rounded
life. By degrees she had related to him in a quaintly solemn tone,
stories of the lives which had passed under the pointed gables of this
roof. There was little light and much shade among them, much guilt, and
error, a dark bit of life-history. A married pair who did not agree, an
only child idolized by both, and this only son covered himself and his
parents with disgrace and fled to America, where he died. The parents
were left behind without hope or comfort in the world, each reproaching
the other for the failure in their son's training. Then the wife died
of grief, and now began an endless term of loneliness for the elderly
man under a ban of misanthropy and scorn of his kind; loving no one but
his dog, associating with no one except with Wolff, who brought the
news and gossip of the town, and treating even him with a disdain
bordering on insult.
But you see, my dear nephew, the old aunt had added, there are
men who are more like hounds than the hounds themselves,dogs will cry
out when they are trodden upon, but the sort to which he belongs will
smile humbly at the hardest kickand William found such a man
necessary to him.
It was snowing; the mountains were all white, the garden lay
shrouded under a shining white coverlid, and white snow-flakes were
dancing in the air. Frank Linden had come back from hunting with the
steward, and after dinner he went into Aunt Rosalie's room. She rose as
he entered and came towards him.
There you see, my dear nephew, what happens when you go out for a
day. You have had a visit, such a splendid fashionable visitor in a
magnificent sleigh. I was just taking my walk in the corridor as he
came up the stairs and here is his card,she searched in her
reticulewhich he left for you.
Frank took the card and read. Arthur Fredericks. Oh, I am sorry,
he said, really regretting his loss. When was he here?
Oh, just at noon precisely, when most Christians are eating their
dinner, she replied. And the postman has been here too and brought a
letter for you. Oh, dear, where is it now? Where could I have put it?
And she turned about and began to look for it, first on the table among
the pieces of silk paper and then on the floor, assisted by the young
What did the letter look like, dearest Aunt?
Blueor grayblue, I think, she replied, all out of breath,
turning out the contents of her red silk reticule. She brought out a
mass of rose-buds and an immense handkerchief edged with lace, but
Was the letter small or large? he inquired from behind the sofa.
Large and thick, gasped Aunt Rosalie. Such a thing never happened
to me before in my lifeit is really dreadful. And with astounding
agility she turned over the things on the consumptive little piano and
tossed the antique sheets of music about.
Perhaps it got into the stove, Auntie.
No, no, it has not been unscrewed since this morning.
Frank Linden went to the bell and rung. Don't take any more trouble
about it, Auntie, the letter is sure to turn up; let the maid look for
Dorothy came and looked, and looked behind all the furniture, and
shaking out all the curtainsbut in vain.
Well, we will give it up, declared Linden at lengthI suppose it
is a letter from my mother or from the JudgeI can ask them what they
had to say. Let us drink our coffee. Auntie.
I shan't sleep the whole night, declared the little old lady in
O don't think any more about it, he begged her, good-humoredly. I
am sure there was nothing of any great importance in it. Tell me some
of your old stories now, they will just suit this weather.
But the wrinkled face under the great cap still wore an anxious
look, and the dim eyes kept straying away from the coffee cups
searchingly round the room, lingering thoughtfully on the green
lamp-shade. Evidently there was no hope of a conversation with her.
After awhile the young man rose to go to his own room.
Yes, go, go, she said, relieved, and then I can think where I
could have put that letter. Oh, my memory! my memory! I am growing so
He walked along the corridor and mounted the staircase into the
second story. The twilight of the short winter day had already darkened
all the comers. It was painfully still in the house, only the echo of
his own footsteps sounding in his ear. It was such a day as his friend
had predicted for himhorribly lonely and empty, it seemed to rest
like a heavy weight on this world-remote house. One cannot always read,
cannot always be busy, especially when the thoughts stray uneasily out
over forest and meadow to a distinct goal, and always return anxious
He stood in his room at the window and watched the snow flakes
fluttering down in the darkening air, and fell into a dream as he had
done every day for the last week. He gave himself up to it so entirely
that he fancied he could distinctly hear a light step behind him on the
carpet, and the soft tones of a woman's voice, saying, Frank,
Frankie! He turned and gazed into the dusky room. What if she were to
open the door now,what if she should come in with the child in her
arms? Why should it not be, why could it not be? Were these walls not
strong enough, these rooms not cosy and homelike enough to hold such
He began to walk up and down. Folly! Nonsense! What was he thinking
of? Oh, if he had never come here, or better still if she were only the
daughter of the foreman like her grandmother, and sat on the bench
before the little house under the lilac tree, then everything would be
so simple. He would not for the world enter that mad race for Gertrude
Baumhagen's money-bags, in which so many had already come to grief. But
her sweet friendship?
And then he fell helpless again before the charm of her eyes.
He was suffering from those doubts, from those alternating fears and
hopes that torment every man who is in love. And Frank Linden in his
loneliness had long since acknowledged to himself that he only wanted
Gertrude Baumhagen to complete his happiness.
His was by no means a shy or retiring nature. On the contrary, he
possessed that modest boldness which seems so natural to some people on
whom society looks with favor. If he were owner of a large estate
instead of this holeas the Judge designated Niendorfhe would
rather have asked to-day than to-morrow if she would be his wife,
without too great a shyness of the money-bags. But as it was, he could
not, he must make his way a little first, and before he could do that,
who could tell what might have happened to Gertrude Baumhagen?
He bit his lip at the thoughtthe result was always the same. But
was a true heart nothing then, and a strong will? If the Judge were
only here so he could ask him
During these thoughts he had lighted the lamp. There lay the card on
the table, which Aunt Rosalie had given him. Arthur Fredericks. He
smiled as he thought of the little insignificant man to whom her sister
had given her heart, and he could not think of Gertrude as belonging to
him in any way. At last a return visit from him! And there were some
half effaced words written with a pencil.
Very sorry not to have met you; hope you will come to a little
supper at our house the day after Christmas.
It was the first invitation to Gertrude's house. He wrote an
acceptance at once. Then he remembered that he had ordered the sleigh
to go to the city to do some errands there. He would send the hotel
porter across with the card.
Christmas had passed and the last of the holidays had come with rain
and thaw; it stripped off the brilliant white snowy coverlid from the
earth as if it had been only a festal decoration, and the black earth
was good enough for ordinary days.
Mrs. Baumhagen was sitting in a peevish mood at the window in her
room looking out over the market-place. She had a slight headache, and
besidesthere was nothing at all to do to-day, no theatre, no party,
not even the whist club, and yesterday at Jenny's it had been very
dull. Finally she was vexed with Gertrude who, contrary to all custom,
had talked eagerly to her neighbor at dinner, that stranger who had run
after her in the church that time.
It was foolish of the children to have placed him beside her.
A letter, Mrs. Baumhagen. Sophie brought in a simple white
Without any post-mark? Who left it? she asked, looking at the
handwriting which was quite unknown to her.
An old servant or coachman, I did not know him.
Mrs. Baumhagen shook her head as she took the letter and read it.
She rose suddenly, with a deep flush on her face, and called:
The young girl came at once.
The active little woman had already rung the bell and said to Sophie
as she entered:
Call Mrs. Fredericks and my son-in-law, tell them to come quickly,
quickly!Gertrude, I must have an explanation of this. But I must
collect myself first, must
Mamma, entreated the young girl, turning slightly pale, let us
discuss the matter alonewhy should Jenny and Arthur?
Do you know then what is in this letter? cried the excited mother.
Yes, replied Gertrude, firmly, coming up to the arm chair into
which her mother had thrown herself.
With your consent, child?Gertrude?
With my consent, mamma, repeated the young girl, a clear, bright
crimson staining the beautiful face.
Mrs. Baumhagen said not another word, but began to cry bitterly.
When did you permit him to write to me? she asked, after a long
pause, drying her eyes.
At this moment Jenny thrust her pretty blonde head in at the door.
Jenny! cried the mother, the tears again starting to her eyes, and
the obstinate lines about the mouth coming out more distinctly.
For Heaven's sake, what is the matter? cried the young wife.
Jenny, child! Gertrude is engaged!
Mrs. Jenny recovered her composure at once. Well, she cried,
lightly, is that so great a misfortune?
But, to whom, to whom! cried the mother.
Well? inquired Jenny.
To thatthatyesterdayLinden is his name, Frank Linden. Here it
is down in black and white,a man that I have hardly seen three
Jenny turned her large and wondering eyes upon Gertrude, who was
still standing behind her mother's chair.
Good gracious, Gertrude, she cried, what possessed you to think
What possessed you to think of Arthur? asked the young girl,
straightening herself up. How do people ever think of each other? I
don't know, I only know that I love him, and I have pledged him my
When, I should like to know?
Last evening, in your red room, Jenny,if you think the when
has anything to do with the matter.
But, so suddenly, without any preparation. What guarantee have you
As good a guarantee at least, interrupted Gertrude, now pale to
the lips, as I should have had if I had accepted Lieutenant von
Lowenberg's proposal the other day.
Yes, yes, she is right there, mamma, said Jenny.
Oh, of course! was the reply, I am to say yes and amen at once.
But I must speak to Arthur first and to Aunt Pauline and Uncle Henry. I
will not take the responsibility of such a step on myself alone in any
Mamma, you will not go asking the whole neighborhood, said the
young girl, in a trembling voice. It only concerns you and me, and
she drew a long breathI shall hardly change my mind in consequence
of any representations.
But Arthur could make inquiries about him, interrupted Jenny.
Thank you, Jenny, I beg you will spare yourself the trouble. My
heart speaks loudly enough for him. If I had not known my own mind
weeks ago, I should not be standing before you as I am now.
You are an ungrateful and heartless child, sobbed her mother. You
think you will conquer me by your obstinacy. Your father used to drive
me wild with just that same calmness. It makes me tremble all over only
just to see those firmly closed lips and those calm eyes. It is
Gertrude remained standing a few minutes, then without a word of
reply she left the room.
It is a speculation on his part, said Mrs. Jenny, carelessly,
there is no doubt of that.
And she believes all he tells her, sobbed the mother. That
unlucky christening was the cause of it all. She is so impressed by
anything of that sort.
And now she will just settle down forever at that wretched
Niendorf, for there is no turning her when she has once made up her
Heaven forgive me, she has the Baumhagen obstinacy in full measure;
I know what I have suffered from it.
This Linden is handsome, remarked Jenny, taking no notice of the
violent weeping. Goodness, what a stir it will make through the town!
She might have taken some one else. But did I not always tell you,
mamma, that she was sure to do something foolish?
Arthur! she cried to her husband who had just come in, just
fancy, Gertrude has engaged herself to thatLinden.
The devil she has! escaped Arthur Fredericks' lips.
Tell me, my dear son, what do you know about him? You must have
heard something at the Club, or
Mrs. Baumhagen had let her handkerchief fall, and was gazing with a
look of woe at her son-in-law.
Oh, he is a nice fellow enough, but poor as a church mouse. He
knows what he is about when he makes up to Gertrude. Confound it! If I
had known what he was up to, I would never have asked him here.
Yes, and she declares she will not give him up, said Jenny.
I believe that, without any assurances from you; she is your
sister. When you have once got a thing into your headwell, I know
Arthur! sobbed the elder lady, reproachfully.
I must beg, Arthur, that you will not always be charging me with
spite and obstinacy, pouted the younger.
But, my dear child, it is perfectly true
Don't be always contradicting! cried Mrs. Jenny, energetically,
stamping her foot and taking out her handkerchief, ready to cry at a
moment's notice. He knew this manoeuvre of old and drew his hand
hastily through his hair.
Very well then, what am I to do about it? he asked. What do you
want of me?
Your advice, Arthur, groaned the mother-in-law.
My advice? Well thensay yes.
But he is so entirely without means, as I heard the other day,
interposed Mrs. Baumhagen.
He shrugged his shoulders. Bah! Gertrude can afford to marry a poor
man. BesidesI don't know much about Niendorf, but I should think
something might be made of it under good management. He seems to be the
man for the place, and Wolff was telling me the other day that Linden
was going to raise sheep on a large scale.
That last bit of information of course settles the matter,
remarked Jenny, ironically.
No, no, cried the mother, sobbing again, you none of you take it
seriously enough. I cannot bring myself to consent, I have hardly
exchanged half a dozen words with this Linden. Oh, what unheard-of
presumption! She rose from her chair, and crimson with excitement
threw herself on the lounge.
Now look out for hysterics, whispered Arthur, indifferently,
taking out a cigar.
Jenny answered only by a look, but that was blighting. She took her
train in her hand and swept past her astonished husband.
Take me with you, he said, gayly.
Jenny, stay with me, cried her mother, don't leave me now.
And the young wife turned back, met her husband at the door, and
passed him with her nose in the air to sit down beside her mother.
Oh, he had a long account to settle with her; she would have her
revenge yet for his disagreeable remarks at the breakfast-table when
she quite innocently praised Colonel von Brelow. He was not expecting
anything pleasant either; she could see that at once, but only let him
wait a little!
How, mamma? she inquired, did you think I had anything to say to
Arthur? Bah! He is an Othelloa blind onethey are always the worst.
Ah, Jenny, that unhappy childGertrude.
Oh, yes, to be sure, assented the young wife, that stupid
nonsense of Gertrude's
In the meantime the young girl was standing before her father's
picture, her whole being in a tumult between happiness and pain. She
had not closed her eyes the night before since she had shyly given him
her hand with a scarcely whispered, yes.
She knew he loved her; she had fancied a hundred times what it would
be when he should tell her of it, and now it had come so suddenly, so
unexpectedly. She had loved him long already, ever since she had seen
him that first time; and since then she had escaped none of the joy and
pain of a secret attachment.
She took nothing lightly, did nothing by halves, and she had given
herself up wholly to this fascination. Whoever should try to take him
from her now, must tear her heart out of her breast.
As she stood there the tears ran down over her pale face in great
drops, but a smile lingered about the small pouting mouth.
I know it very well, she whispered, nodding at her father's
picture, you would be sure to like him, papa! And a happy memory of
the words he had spoken yesterday came back to her, of his lonely
house, of his longing for her, and that he could offer her nothing but
that modest home and a faithful heart.
His only wealth at present was a multitude of cares.
Let me bear the cares with you, no happiness on earth would be
greater than this, she wished to say, but she had only drooped her
eyes and given him her handthe words would not pass her lips.
It was as if she had been walking in the deepest shadow and had
suddenly come out into the warm, life-giving sunshine. It is too much,
too much happiness! she had thought this morning when she got up. She
thought so still, and it seemed to her that the tears she shed were
only a just tribute to her overpowering happiness. If her mother had
consented at once, if she had said, He shall be like a beloved son to
me, bring him to me at once, that would have been too much, but this
refusal, this distrust seemed to be meant to tone down her bliss a
little. It was like the snow-storm in spring, which covers the early
leaves and blossoms,but when it is past do they not bloom out in
The conversation in the next room grew more eager. Gertrude heard
the complaining voice of her mother more clearly than before. It had a
painful effect upon her and she cast a glance involuntarily at her
father's picture, as if he could still hear what had been the torture
of his life. Gertrude could recall so many scenes of complaint and
crying in that very room. How often had her father's authoritative
voice penetrated to her ear: Very well, Ottilie, you shall have your
way, butspare me! And how often had a pallid man entered through
that door and thrown himself silently on the sofa as if he found a
refuge here with his child. Ah, and it had been so too on that day,
that dreadful day, when afterwards it had grown so still, so deathly
And there it was again, the loud weeping, the complaints against
Heaven that had made her the most miserable of women, and now was
punishing her through her children. Then there was an opening and
shutting of doors, a running about of servants; Gertrude even fancied
she could perceive the penetrating odor of valerian which Mrs.
Baumhagen was accustomed to take for her nervous attacks. And then the
door flew open and Jenny came in.
Mamma is quite miserable, she said, reproachfully; I had to send
for the doctor, and Sophie is putting wet compresses on her head. A
lovely day, I must say!
I am so sorry, Jenny, said the young girl.
Oh, yes, but it was a very sudden blow. I must honestly confess
that I cannot understand you, Gertrude. You must have refused more than
ten good offers, you were always so fastidious, and now you have taken
the first best that offered.
The best certainly, thought Gertrude, but she was silent.
The young wife mistakenly considered this as the effect of her
Now just consider, child, she continued, think it over again,
Stop, Jenny, cried the young girl in a firm voice. What gives you
the right to speak so to me? Have I ever uttered a word about your
choice? Did I not welcome Arthur kindly? What advantages has he over
Linden? I alone have to judge as to the wisdom of this step, for I
alone must bear the consequences. It is not right to try to influence a
person in a matter that is so individual, that so entirely concerns
that person alone.
Good gracious, don't get so excited about it! cried Jenny. We do
not consider him an eligible parti, because he is entirely
A deep shadow passed over Gertrude's pale face. Oh, put aside the
question of money, she entreated; do not disturb the sweetest dream
of my lifedon't speak of it, Jenny.
But Jenny continuedNo, I will not keep silent, for you live in
dreamland, and you must look a little at the realities of life that you
may not fall too suddenly out of your fancied heaven. Perhaps you
imagine that Frank Linden would have shown such haste if you had not
been Gertrude Baumhagen? Most certainly he would not! I consider it my
duty to tell you that mamma, as well as Arthur and I, are of the
opinion that his first thought was of the capital our good father
She stopped, for Gertrude stood before her, tall and threatening.
You may comfort yourself, Jenny, she gasped out. I believe in
him, and I shall speak no word in his defence. You and the others may
think what you please, I cannot prevent it, cannot even resent it,
you She stopped, she would not utter the bitter words.Be so kind
as to tell mamma that I will not break my word to him. She added, more
calmly, I shall be so grateful to you, Jennyif any one can do
anything with her it is youher darling!
The young wife left her sister's room almost in consternation. She
could find nothing to say to Gertrude's unexpected reliance upon her.
The sisters had never understood each other. Jenny could not comprehend
now how any one could be so blinded and so unwise, and she was startled
as if by something pure and lofty as the clear girlish eyes rested on
her, which could still discover poetry amid all the dusty prose of
life. She sat down again beside the sofa.
Mamma, she whispered, after a pause, during which she balanced her
small slipper thoughtfully on the tip of her toe, Mamma, I really
believe you can't help itwill you have a little eau de
cologne?Gertrude is so madly in love with him. I am sure you will
have to give your consent, notwithstanding it is so great a
Gertrude remained standing in the middle of the room looking after
her sister. She felt sorry for her. It must be dreadful when one could
no longer believe in love and disinterestedness, and the image of Frank
Linden's true eyes rose up before her as clear as his pure heart
itself. Can a man look like that with ulterior motives? can a man speak
so with a lie in his heart? She could have laughed aloud in her
blissful certainty. Even though she were poor, a beggar indeed, he
would still love her.
In the afternoon a great conference was held. At twelve o'clock an
order was suddenly given from the sofa to have the drawing-room heated,
the Dresden coffee service taken out, and some cakes sent for from the
confectioner's. Madame Ottilie would hold a family counsel.
The aroma of Sophie's celebrated coffee penetrated even to
Gertrude's lonely room. She could hear the doors open and shut, and now
and then the voice of Aunt Pauline, and Uncle Henry's comfortable
laugh. The day drew near its close and still no conclusion seemed to
have been arrived at, but Gertrude sat calmly in her bow-window and
waited. He would be calm too, she was sure of thathe had her word.
Steps at lastthat must be her uncle.
Well, Miss Gertrude! he called out into the dusky roomhe came,
he saw, he conqueredeh? Fine doings, these. Your mother is in a
pretty temper over the presumption of the bold youth. He will need all
his fascinations to gain her favor as a mother-in-law. Well, come in
now, and thank me for her consent.
I knew it, uncle, she said, pleasantly. I was sure you would
stand by me.
He was a little old gentleman with a little round body, which he
always fed well in his splendid bachelor dinners; always in good humor,
especially after a good glass of wine. And as he knew what an agreeable
effect this always had upon him, he never failed for the benefit of
mankind, to make use of this means of making himself amiable and merry.
He now took the tall, slender girl laughingly by the hand as if she
were a child, and led her towards the door.
Live and let live, Gertrude! he cried. It is out of pure egotism
that I made such a commotion about it. You need not thank me, I was
only joking. You see, I can stand anything but a scene and a woman's
tears, and your mother understands that sort of thing to a T. That
always upsets me you know. 'Don't make a fuss, Ottilie,' I said. 'Why
shouldn't the little one marry that handsome young fellow? You
Baumhagen girls are lucky enough to be able to take a man simply
because you like him.' Ta, ta! Here comes the bride! he called out,
letting Gertrude pass before him into the lighted room.
She walked with a light step and a grave face up to her mother, who
was reclining in the corner of the sofa as if she were entirely worn
out by the important discussion. By her side sat the thin aunt in a
black silk dress, her blond cap reposing on her brown false front, in
full consciousness of her dignity. Jenny sat near her while Arthur was
standing by the stove. The ladies had been drinking coffee, the
gentlemen wine. The violet velvet curtains were drawn and everything
looked cosy and comfortable.
I thank you, mamma, said Gertrude.
Mrs. Baumhagen nodded slightly and touched her daughter's lips with
hers. May you never repent this step, she said, faintly; it is not
without great anxiety that I give my consent, and I have yielded only
in consequence of my knowledge of your unbendingyes, I must say it
nowpassionate characterand for the sake of peace.
A bitter smile played about Gertrude's mouth.
I thank you, mamma, she repeated.
My dear Gertrude, began her aunt, solemnly, take from me too
Oh, come, interposed Uncle Henry, very ungallantly, do have
compassion, in the first place on me, but next on that languishing
youth in Niendorf, and send him his answer. It has happened before now
that dreadful consequences have followed such suspense; I could tell
you some blood-curdling stories about it, I assure you. Come, we will
write out a telegram, he continued, drawing a notebook from his pocket
and tearing out a leaf, while he borrowed a pencil from his dear nephew
Well, what shall it be, Gertrude? he inquired, when he was ready
to write. 'Come to my arms!' or 'Thine forever!' or 'Speak to my
mother,' orha! ha! I have it'My mother will see you; come to-morrow
and get her consent. Gertrude Baumhagen.' 'And get her consent,' he
spelt out as he wrote.
Thanks, uncle, said the young girl; I would rather write it
myself in my room; his coachman is waiting at the hotel opposite.
She could hear her uncle's hearty laugh over the poor fellow who had
been sighing in suspense from eleven o'clock this morning till now, and
then she shut her door. With a trembling hand she lighted her lamp and
wrote: Mamma has consented; I shall expect you to-morrow. Your
The old Sophie, who had been a servant in the Baumhagen house before
the master was married, took the note. I will carry it across myself,
Miss Gertrude, she said, and if it was pouring harder than it is, and
if I got my rheumatism back for it, I would go all the same. I have the
fate of two people in my hand in this little bit of paper. God grant
that it may bring joy to you both. Miss Gertrude.
Gertrude pressed her hand and then went to the bow-window and looked
through the glass to watch Sophie as she crossed the square. Her white
apron fluttered now under the street-lamp near the old apple-woman, and
then under the swinging lamp before the hotel. If the old man would
only drive as fast as his horses could carry him! Every minute of
waiting seemed too long to her now.
Then the white apron appeared again under the hotel lamp, but there
was somebody before it. Gertrude pressed her hands suddenly against her
beating heart. Frank! she gasped, and her limbs almost refused to
support her as she tried to make a few steps; He had waited for the
There he is, there he is, my bridegroom! escaped from the
quivering lips. The whole sacred signification of that blessed word
overpowered her. Then Sophie opened the door softly and he crossed the
threshold of the dainty maiden's boudoir, and shut the door as softly
behind him. The faithful old servant could only see how her proud young
mistress nestled into his arms and mutely received his kissesOh,
what a wonderful thing this love is! she said, smiling to herself.
Then she turned towards the drawing-room, but when she reached the
door she turned away with a shake of her head. They would all be
rushing in and she would not shorten these blessed minutes for
Gertrude. It would be time enough to go to madam in a quarter of an
hour. And she busied herself in the corridor in order to be at hand at
the right moment, in case they should both forget all about the mother
in the multiplicity of things they had to say.
It was midnight before Linden finally drove home. The jovial uncle
had gotten up a little celebration of the betrothal on the spur of the
moment, and made a long speech himself. Then Mrs. Jenny had been very
gay and had laughed and jested with her brother-in-law in spe.
But Mrs. Baumhagen, after a private interview of half an hour with the
young man, remained silent and grave, and played out her role of
anxious mother to the end. She scarcely touched her lips to the glass
of champagne when the company drank to the health of the young
Frank Linden, however, had not taken offence at her coldness. She
knew him so slightly, and he had come like a hungry wolf to rob her of
her one little lamb.
It must be dreadful to give up a daughter, he thought, and
especially such a daughter as Gertrude. He was touched to the heart; he
thought of his own old mother, he thought how gloomy the future had
looked to him only a few weeks ago and how sunny it was now; and all
these sunny rays shone out from a pair of blue eyes in a sweet, pale,
girlish face. He did not know himself how he had happened to speak to
her so quickly of his love. He saw again that brilliantly lighted
crimson room of yesterday, and the dim twilight in the bow-window room;
there she stood in the wonderful light, a mingled moonlight and
candle-light. The Christmas tree was lighted in the next room and the
voices and laughter of the company floated to his ears. She had turned
as he approached her and he had seen tears on her cheeks. But she
laughed as she perceived his dismay.
Ah, it is because Christmas always reminds me of papa. He has been
dead seven years yesterday.
One word had led to another and at length they had found their hands
I would gladly have held this little hand fast that time in the
church. Would you have been angry, Gertrude? and she had shaken her
head and looked up at him, smiling through her tears, trusting and
sweet, this proud young creaturehis bride, soon to be his wife!
He started up out of his dream. The carriage stopped at the steps
and the house rose dark above himonly behind Aunt Rosa's windows was
a light still shining. He went up the steps as if in a dream and
entered the garden hall. He looked round as if he had entered the room
for the first time, so strange it looked, so changed, so bare and cold.
And he thought of the time when someone would be waiting for him here.
He could not imagine such happiness.
The door opened softly behind him and as he turned he saw Aunt Rosa
appearing like a ghost.
I have been waiting for you, my dear nephew, she cried out in her
shrill voice; I have found that letter at last, thank Heaven! It is
upstairs in your room, and it has taken a weight off my mind, I assure
you, Frank. She nodded kindly at him from under her enormous cap. You
are late getting home. I am tired and am going to bed now. Goodnight,
And she moved lightly like a ghost to the door.
Auntie! cried a voice behind her so loud and gay that she turned
round in amazement. But then he was beside her and had clasped her in
both arms, and before she knew what was happening to her, the shy old
maiden lady felt a resounding kiss on her cheek.
What on earth, Frank Lindenhave you gone out of your mind?
O, auntie, I can't keep it to myself, I shall choke if I do. So
don't be cross. If I had my old mother here, I should kiss the old lady
to death for pure bliss. You must congratulate me. Gertrude Baumhagen
will be my wife.
Aunt Rosa's half-shocked, half-vexed countenance grew rigid. Is it
possible, she whispered, in amazement, she will marry into our old
house? And the family have consented?
A Baumhagenyes! And she will marry into this old house and the
family have consented. Aunt Rosa.
God's blessing on you! God's richest blessing! she whispered, but
she shook her head and looked at him incredulously. I shan't sleep a
bit to-night, she continued. I am glad, I rejoice with all my heart,
but you might have told me to-morrow. It is done now. Good night,
Frank. I am glad indeed; this old house needs a mistress. God grant
that she may be a good one. And she pressed his hand as she left him.
He too went to his room. The lamp was burning on the round table and
a letter lay beneath it. Ah, true! the long-lost letter! He took it up
abstractedlyit was in Wolff's handwriting. He put it down again; what
could he want? Some business of course. Should he spoil this happy hour
with unpleasant, perhaps care-bringing news? No, let the letter
waittillbut he had already taken it up and broken the seal.
[Illustration: But he had already taken it up and broken the
It was a long letter and as he read, he bit his lips hard. Pitiful
scoundrel! he said at length, aloud, it is well this letter did not
reach me sooner, or things would not have happened as they have. And
as if shrinking with disgust from the very touch of the paper, he flung
it into the nearest drawer of his writing-table.
Vile wretches, who make the most sacred things a matter of
He sat for a long time lost in thought, and a deep furrow marked
itself out between his brows. Then he wrote a long letter to his
friend, the judge, and gradually his face cleared againhe was telling
him about Gertrude.
Good morning, Uncle Henry, said Gertrude, who was sitting at her
work-table in the bow-window. She rose as she spoke and went to meet
the stout little gentleman as he entered.
Well, it is lucky that one of you at least is at home, he replied,
rubbing his glasses with his red handkerchief, after giving Gertrude's
hand a hearty shake. I wonder if one of the women-kind except you
could possibly stay at home for a day. Mrs. Jenny is making calls, Mrs.
Ottilie is gone to a coffee partyit is easy to see that a strong hand
to hold the reins is wanting here.
Uncle, don't scold, but come and sit down, she said. You come
just in time for me; I had just written a little note to you to ask you
to come and see me. I need your advice.
Oh! but not immediately, child, not immediately! I have just had my
dinner, he explained, and nothing can be more dangerous than hard
thinking just after a meal. Ta, ta! There, this is comfortable; now
tell me something pleasant, childabout your lover; for instance, how
many kisses did he give you yesterday? Honestly now, Gertrude.
He had stretched himself out comfortably in an arm-chair, and his
young niece pushed a footstool under his feet and put an afghan over
None at all, uncle, she said, gravely; people do not ask about
such things either, you know. Besides I see Frank very seldom, she
hesitated. Mamma goes out so much, and I cannot receive him when she
is not at home. And, uncle, it is about that that I wanted to speak to
you. Mamma,she hesitated again,mamma makes me so anxious by all
manner of remarks about Linden's circumstances. You know, uncle
And you think she knows all about them? said the old gentleman.
Oh, of course, ta, ta!
Yes, uncle. You see the day before yesterday mamma went out to dine
with Jenny, and when she came back she called me into her room, and as
soon as I got there I saw that something had happened. Just fancy,
uncle, she had been in Niendorf to see, as mamma expressed it, the
place where her daughter was going to bury herself. It would be
horrible, she declared, to take a young wife to this peasant house; it
was not fit for any one to live in; she had felt as if she were in some
third-rate farm-house. Linden was sitting in a roomshe could touch
the ceiling with her hand it was so low, and it was all so poor and
common. In short, I could not go there, and if I would not give up my
whim of being Mr. Linden's wife, she would have to build a house for me
first, for hehewell, he certainly would not be able to do it, and
it would be much more convenient too, to have a snug nest made for him
by his mother-in-law. Jenny, who was present at this scene, agreed with
her in everything. Oh, uncle, I am so sorry for him, and it is all on
Did your mother speak to him about building? asked Uncle Henry.
She drew her hand across her forehead.
I don't knowI went away without answering. If I had made any
reply, it would have been of no usewe battle with unequal weapons, or
rather I cannot use my weapons, for she is still my mother.
Her uncle's eyes gazed at her with unmistakable compassionshe was
so pale and she had a weary look about her mouth.
You poor child! I see they do not make your engagement time exactly
a Paradise to you, he thought; but he only cleared his throat and said
And what can I do about it? he asked, after a pause.
I am going to tell you that now, said Gertrude. You see I have to
torment you. I am not on such terms with Arthur that he could advise me
in this. I want to ask you, uncle, to speak to FrankI must know how
great his pecuniary difficulties are, and
Nonsense, child, interrupted the old gentleman, evidently
unpleasantly surprised,Why should you drag me in? Pecuniary
difficulties! What can you do about it? For the present you have
nothing to do with itand you will find out about it soon enough.
You mean because we are not yet man and wife? she asked.
Of course! he nodded.
O, it is quite the same thing, uncle, she cried, eagerly. From
the moment of our betrothal, I have considered myself as belonging to
him entirely, and everything of mine as his. Then why, since I can
already dispose of a part of my property as I please, should I not help
him out of what may perhaps be a very unpleasant situation?
But, my dear child
Let me have my say out, uncle. You know I have ten thousand dollars
that came from my grandmother, about which no one has anything to say
but myself, and you shall pay over these ten thousand dollars to
Linden. I suppose he will have to buildhe may need all sorts of
things then, and he will be fretted and worrieddo this for me, uncle;
you see I cannot talk to him about such things.
Indeed, I will not, Miss Gertrude.
Because he would take it, finallyor he would be angry. Thanks,
ever so much.
But I want him to take it.
He was silent.
When are you going to be married, child? he inquired at length.
A rosy flush passed over Gertrude's faceMamma has not said
anything about it yet. Frank wants it to be in April, andI do not
want to increase his difficulties by my reception.
Very well, very well, he can wait as long as that, said the old
She looked disappointed, but she said nothing.
I don't want to go against your wishes, little one, he continued,
perceiving her sorrowful looks. I only want to do what is right in
matters of business. Now you see if you are bent on following out this
plan you will throw away a fine sum of moneyin order to make your
nest a right comfortable one. Amantes, amentesthat is
to say in plain English, lovers are madand when you wake up to what
you have done all your fat is in the fire.
Gertrude said nothing, but she wore a pained expression about her
mouth. He too spoke so. How often lately had she heard the same
thing? Even her pleasure in the single present Linden had made her had
been spoiled by similar insulting remarks.
Oh, don't look so miserable about it, little one, yawned the old
gentleman; what have I said? We men are all egotists with one another
I assure you. Why then will you confirm your lover in his egotism and
let the roasted larks fly into his mouth beforehand? Keep a tight rein
over him, Gertrude, that is the only sensible thing to do; you must not
let him be anything more than the Prince Consortkeep the reins of
government in your own little fists; confound it, I believe you can
Uncle, said the young girl, softly going up to him, Uncle, you
are a hypocrite, you say things that you don't believe yourself. You
are all egotists? And I don't know any one in the world who has less
claim to the title than you.
Really, child, he declared, laughing, I am an egotist of the
Indeed? Who gives as much as you to the poor of the city? Who
supports the whole family of the poor teacher, with rent, clothes, food
and drink? Who now, uncle?
All selfishness, pure selfishness! he cried.
Prove it, uncle, prove it logically.
Nothing easier. You know the story of how I got a cramp in my leg
and dragged myself into the nearest house on the Steinstrasse, and sank
down on the first chair I could find. I was just going to dinner; had
invited Gustave Seyfried and Augustus Seemann to dine with mewell,
you know they have lived in Paris and London. So there I sat in that
little low room. The people were at dinner and a dish of thin potato
soup stood on the table, that would have been hardly enough for the man
alone. Seven childrenseven children, mind you, Gertrude,stood
round, and the mother was dealing out their portions. She began with
the youngest; the oldest, a lad of fourteen, got the last of the dish.
There was not much in it, and I shall never forget the look of those
sunken hungry eyes as they rested on that empty bowl. It made me feel
so queer all at once. I asked casually, what the man's business was?
Teacher of language at twelve cents an hour! He could not get a
permanent position on account of his ill health. Good God, Gertrude!
Four hours a day would give him fifty cents and he had seven children!
Well, do you know, that day we had oysters before the soup, and
they were rather dear just then, so I reckoned up that each one of
those smooth little delicacies cost as much as an hour's lesson, in
which the poor man talked his poor, weak throat hoarse. They wouldn't
go down my throat in spite of their slipperiness. I couldn't swallow
more than half a dozen and that was disagreeable. At every course it
was the same story, and when Louis uncorked the champagne, every pop
seemed to go straight to my stomach. I never ate a more uncomfortable
dinnerit disagreed with me besides, and I had to take some soda
water. 'Confound it!' I said, 'this thing can't go on,' andyou know,
child, that a good dinner is the purest pleasure in the world for men
of my sort. So there was nothing for me, if I wanted to enjoy my
oysters again, but to comfort myself with the thought that the seven
hungry mouths were also busy about their dinner. So I sent John to the
teacher's wife to ask her how much money she needed a month to feed all
seven, with herself and her husband into the bargain, so they would
have enough. And, good gracious, it wasn't such an enormous sum, and so
I pay her a certain sum every month and I can enjoy my dinner again at
the hotel. Now, prove if you can that that isn't pure selfishness.
Oh, of course, uncle, said the young girl, with brightening eyes,
but I like that sort of selfishness.
It is all one, Gertrude; I am sending Hannah into retirement now
out of selfishness; she is getting so stout that she can't get through
the door any more with the coffee tray. And I ask you if I am to keep
another servant to open the double doors for her, just for the sake of
the old asthmatic woman? That would be fine! So I said to her this
morning, 'Hannah, you can go at Easter, and I will continue your wages
as a pension.' She was delighted, because she can go to her daughter,
Uncle, I know you very well. I can trust to you, coaxed Gertrude.
You will speak to Frank, won't you?
Oh, well, yes, yes, only don't blush so. Now you see you have
spoiled my dessert with all your talking. When does her serene highness
I don't know, replied the young girl.
To be sure, these coffee-parties are never to be counted upon. So
you two lovers only see each other on state occasions, like Romeo and
Juliet, or when you have company yourselves?
Gertrude nodded silently.
Is it possible! cried the little gentleman as he rose to goas
if the time of an engagement were not the happiest in the world.
Afterwards it is all pure prose, my child. And they are spoiling this
time for you nowwell, you just wait. I must go now to my card-party.
I will look in on your mother this evening. Good bye; my love to him
when you write.
Good-bye, uncle. Don't forget that I shall trust to your
When the old gentleman had closed the door behind him, she sat down
to her desk, look out a letter and began to read it. It was his last
letter; it had come this morning and it contained some verses.
How she delighted in these verses in her loneliness! Nothing in the
world could separate them! She would indemnify him a thousandfold by
her love for all he had to endure now. She tried by a thousand sweet,
loving words to make him forget the scorn which her friends scarcely
tried to conceal for his boldness and presumption. His manly pride must
suffer so greatly under it. More than once the blood had mounted
quickly to his forehead, and more than once had he taken leave earlier
than he need, as if he could not keep silent and for the sake of peace
took refuge in flight.
I wish I had you in Niendorf now, Gertrude, he had said at the
last farewell. I cannot bear it very patiently to be looked through as
if I were only air, by your mother.
And she had nestled closer to him, trembling with agitation.
Mamma does not mean anything by it, Frank, replied her lips,
though her heart knew better. And then he had pressed her passionately
to him as he said,
If I did not love you so much, Gertrude!
But it will soon be spring, Frank.
And to-day the verses had come with a bouquet of violets.
She started as she heard Jenny's voice, and immediately after her
sister came in, angry and excited.
I must come to you for a little rest, Gertrude, she said. Linden
is not here? Thank goodness! I can't stand it at home any longer, the
baby is so fretful and screams and cries enough to deafen one. The
doctor says he must be put to bed, so I have tucked him into his crib.
There is always something to upset and fret one.
Gertrude started. Well at any rate he was in good hands with
Caroline, she thought.
Are you going to the masked ballyou and Linden? asked the young
No, replied Gertrude, putting away her letter.
Why should we go? I do not like to dance, as you know, Jenny.
Has Uncle Henry been here?
Yes. Is the baby really ill?
Oh, nonsense! a little feverish, that is all. We are going to the
Dressels this evening. Arthur has sent to Berlin for pictures of
costumes, for our quadrille. But you don't care for that. You will bury
yourself by and by entirely in Niendorf. The Landrath said to Arthur
the other day, 'Your sister-in-law will not be in her proper position;
she ought to have married a man in such a position that she would be a
leader in society.' You would have been an ornament to any salon and
now you are going to the Niendorf cow-stalls.
And how glad I am! said Gertrude, her eyes shining.
Mrs. Fredericks, ma'am, called the pretty maid just then, won't
you please come down? The baby is so hot and restless.
Jenny nodded, looked hastily at a half-finished piece of embroidery
and left the room. When Gertrude followed after a short time she was
told that the baby was doing very well and that Mr. and Mrs. Fredericks
were dressing for the evening. And so she went upstairs again to her
A week later the iron-gray horses were bringing the close carriage
back from the church-yard at a sharp trot. On the back seat sat Arthur
Fredericks with Uncle Henry beside him; opposite was Linden. They wore
crape around their hats and a band of crape on the left arm.
The winter had come back once more in full force before taking its
final departure. It was snowing, and the great flakes settled down on a
little new-made grave within the iron railings of the Baumhagen family
burial-place. Jenny's golden-haired darling was dead!
No one in the carriage spoke a word, and when the three gentlemen
got out each went his own way after a silent handshake: Uncle Henry to
take a glass of cognac, Arthur to his desolate young wife, while Linden
went up to Gertrude. He did not find her in the drawing-room; probably
she was with her sister. Presently he heard a slight rustling. He
strode across the soft carpet and stood in the open door-way of the
room with the bay-window.
Gertrude! he cried, in dismay, for Heaven's sake, what is the
She was kneeling before her little sofa, her head hidden in her
arms, her whole frame, convulsed with long, tearless sobs.
He put his arms round her and tried to raise her, when she lifted up
her head and stood up.
Tell me what has happened, Gertrude, he urged; is it grief for
the loss of the little one? I entreat you to be calmyou will make
She had not shed any tears, she only looked deathly pale and her
hands, which rested in his, were cold as ice.
Come, he said, tell me what it is?
And he drew her towards him.
She clung to him as she had never done before.
It will be all right again, she whispered, now I am with you.
Were you afraid? Has anything happened to you? he inquired,
Yes, she said, hastily, a little while ago I chanced to hear a
few words mamma was saying to Aunt Paulinethey came up from
Jenny'sI suppose they did not think I was hereI don't know. Mamma
was still crying very much about the baby andthen she said Jenny must
go awayshe must have a changethis apathy was so dangerous. You know
she has not spoken a word for three daysandI must accompany her on
a long journeyso I She stopped and bit her quivering lips.
So you might forget me if possible? he inquired, gravely.
He put his hand under her chin and looked into her eyes. She did not
reply, but he read the confirmation of his suspicion in her tearful
Are they so anxious to be rid of me? Is their dislike so strong,
Gertrude? And you? He felt how she trembled.
Oh! she cried with a passion which made Linden start, Oh, Ido
you know there are moments when something seems to take possession of
me with the power of a demonI am swept away by the force of my
wrathII do not know what I say and doI am ashamed nowI ought to
have been calmthey cannot separate us, nothey cannot. Now mamma is
lying on the sofa in her room and Sophie has gone for the doctor. Ah,
Frank, I have borne it all so patiently all these long yearsis it so
great a sin that my long suppressed feelings should have burst out at
last, that my self-control should have given way for once? I was
violentI have always thought I was so calmthose words that I heard
seemed to sweep me away like a stormI don't know what reproaches I
may have spoken against my mother. And to-day, just to-day, when they
have carried away the only sunbeam that was in this house for me!
We will go to your mother, Gertrude, and beg her to pardon us for
loving each other so muchcome!
He had said this to comfort her, and because he felt that something
must be done. His own desire would have been to take the young girl by
the hand and lead her away out of this house.
She freed herself from him and looked at him in amazement. Ask
pardon? And for that?
Gertrude, don't misunderstand me. He felt almost embarrassed
before her great wondering eyes.
I meant that we should show your mother calmly and quietly that we
cannot give each other up. Say something to her in excuse for your
vehemence. Come, I will go with you.
No, I cannot! she cried, I cannot beg forgiveness when I have
been so injured in all that I hold most sacred. I cannot! she
reiterated, going past him to the deep window.
He followed her and took her hand; a strange feeling had come over
him. Until now he had only seen in her a calm, reasonable woman. But
she misunderstood him.
No! she cried, don't ask me, Frank. I will not do it, I cannot, I
never could! Not even when I was a child, though she shut me up for
hours in a dark room.
I was not going to urge you, he said; only give me your hand, I
must know whether this is really you, Gertrude.
She bent down and pressed a kiss on his right hand. If you
were not in the world, Frank, if I had to be here all alone! she
But you have all this trouble on my account, he replied, much
She shook her head.
Only do not misunderstand me, she continued, and have patience
with my faults. You will promise me that, Frank, will you not? she
urged in an anxious tone. You see I am so perverse when I feel
injured; I get as hard as a stone then and everything good seems to die
out of me. I could hate those people who thrust their low ideas on me!
Frank, you don't know how I have suffered from this already.
They still stood hand in hand. The snow whirled about before the
window in the twilight of the short winter day. It was so still here
inside, so warm and cosy.
Frank! she whispered.
You are not angry with me?
No, no. We will bear with each other's faults and we will try to
improve when we are all alone by our two selves.
You have no faults, she said, proudly, in a tone of conviction,
drawing closer to him.
He was grave.
Yes, Gertrude, I am very vehement, I sometimes have terrible fits
Those are not the worst men, she said, putting her arm round his
Are you so sure of that? he asked, smiling into the lovely face
that looked so gentle now in the twilight.
Yes. My grandmother always said so, she replied.
The grandmother in the old time?
Yes, dearest. Oh, if you had only known her! But I should like to
see your mother, she added.
We will go to see her, darling, as soon as we are married. When
will that be?
Frank, she said, instead of answering, don't let us go on a
journey at once; let me know first what it is to have a home where
love, trust and mutual understanding dwell together. Let me learn first
what peace is.
Yes, my Gertrude. Would to God I could carry you off to the old
Gertrude! called a shrill voice from the next room.
Mamma! she whispered. Come! They went together. Mrs. Baumhagen
was standing beside her writing-table. Sophie had just brought the
lamp, the light of which shone full on the mother's round flushed face,
on which rested an unusually decided expression.
I am glad you are here, Linden, she said to the young man, turning
down the leaf of the writing-table and taking her seat before it.
How much time do you require to put your house in order so that
Gertrude could live in it?
Not long, he replied. Some rooms need new carpets, and trifles of
that sortthat is all.
Very wellI shall be satisfied, she replied, coldly. Then
to-morrow you will have the goodness to send your papers in to the
clergyman and have the banns published. In three weeks I shall leave
for the South with my eldest daughter, and before I go I wish to have
thisthis affair arranged.
I thank you, madam.
Gertrude stood silent, white to the lips, but she did not look at
him. He knew she was suffering tortures for his sake.
Now I wish to settle some things with my daughter, continued Mrs.
Baumhagen, with regard to her trousseau and the marriage contract.
He turned to go at once, but stopped to kiss his bride's hand and
looked at her with imploring eyes. Be calm, he whispered.
Gertrude laid her hand on her lover's mouth.
I will have no marriage contract, she said aloud.
Then your fortune will be common property, was her mother's
That is what I desire, she replied. If I can give myself, I will
not keep my money from him. That would seem to me beyond measure,
Mrs. Baumhagen shrugged her shoulders and turned away. The two were
standing close together and the bitter words died on her lips.
Your guardian may talk to you about that, she said. Will you be
so kind, Linden, as to find my brother-in-law? I wish to speak with
He kissed Gertrude on the forehead, took his hat and went. Thank
Heaven! he should soon be able to shelter her in his own house, this
proud young girl who loved him so.
He walked quickly across the square. The fresh air did him good. He
felt thoroughly indignant that any one should endeavor to separate
them, putting hundreds of miles between them. How easily might a
misunderstanding arise, how easily with such a character as hers, whom
only the appearance of pettiness would suffice to arouse to scorn,
hatred and defiance! How many couples who were deeply attached to each
other had been separated in this way before now! He dared not think
what would have become of him if it had happened so with them.
'St!'St,sounded behind him, and as he turned on the slippery
sidewalk he saw Uncle Henry coming down the hotel steps. He had
evidently been dining, and his jovial countenance displayed an
astonishing mixture of sadness and physical comfort.
I have had my dinner, Linden, he began, putting his arm through
the young man's. I was very much cast down by this affair of this
morning. You don't misunderstand me I hope? Eh? I am not one of those
who lose their appetites when misfortune comes. I approve of our
ancestors who had funeral feasts. I assure you, Linden, that wasn't
such a bad idea as we of to-day fancy it. Give all honor to the dead,
but the living must have their rights, and to them belong eating and
drinking, which keep soul and body together. Ta, ta! A funeral always
upsets me. The poor little fellow! I was fond of him all the same, you
may be sure. I am sure you have not dined yet. Women never eat under
such circumstances, every one knows.
I was just going to look for you, replied Linden. My future
mother-in-law wishes to see you. Weare going to be married in three
The little man in the fur coat stopped, and looked at Linden as if
he did not believe his ears.
How? What? She has changed her mind very suddenlydid Gertrude
improve the opportunity of her softened mood, or?
Gertrude would never do thatno, Mrs. Baumhagen wishes to travel
for some time with her eldest daughter, and
Oh, ta, ta! And Gertrude is not to go?
On the contrarybut she would not.
Aha! Now it dawns upon me, something has happened. Her serene
Highness has been tryingnow, I understandtravelling, new scenes,
new peopleout of sight, out of mind. Ha! ha! she is a born
diplomatist. Well, I will come, only let us take the longest way; the
fresh air does me good. I am glad though, heartily gladin three weeks
it is to be then?
The gentlemen walked on together in silence through the snow. It was
wonderfully quiet in the streets in spite of the traffic of business.
Men and carriages seemed to sweep over the white snow. The air was
mild, with a slight touch of spring, and Frank Linden thought of his
home and of the small room next his own, which would not long remain
How do you do, my dear fellow! said a voice beside him, and a
little man popped up in front of him, holding his hat high above his
bald headhis sharp little face beaming with friendliness. Linden
bowed. Uncle Henry carelessly touched the brim of his hat.
How do you come to know this Wolff? he asked, looking after the
man, who was winding his way sinuously in and out among the crowd. He
is a fellow who would spoil my appetite if I met him before dinner.
I am or rather was connected with him by business, through my old
unclehe had money from him on a mortgage on Niendorf, explained
From that cravat-manufacturer? The old man was not very wise.
Linden did not reply. They had just turned into a quiet side-street.
Does he still hold the mortgage? asked Mr. Baumhagen.
No, my friend's sister has taken it.
Indeed! Why did you not come to me about it? You could have
had some of Gertrude's money
Frank Linden made a gesture of refusal.
OhI promised the child; she has authorized me to put a certain
capital at your disposal, explained the old gentleman.
Thanks, replied Linden, shortly; I will not have money matters
mixed up with my courtship.
And the new house at Niendorf?
Gertrude knows that she must not expect a fairy palace. Moreover we
can live very comfortably there in the old rooms, though they are low
and small. I have a very pretty garden-hall, and as for the view from
the windows it would be hard to find another like it if you travel ever
Oh, the child is happy enough, but how about her serene Highness?
chimed in Mr. Baumhagen.
I would far rather have her say, 'My child has gone to live in a
peasant's house,' than, 'We had to build first,' remarked
The old gentleman laughed comfortably to himself.
Yes, yes, that is just what she would sayand she wants to go on a
journeyit is astonishing! My dear old mother sought comfort in
occupation when my father diedthat was the good old
customnow-a-days people go on a journey. It would be better for
Jenny, poor thing, if she were to sorrow deeply here in her home. But
no, she must be dragged away so the whistle of the locomotive may drive
away her last memory of her little one's voice. Linden! The old man
stopped and laid his hand on his shoulder. Gertrude is not like that,
you may take my word for it. She would not go away from the little
grave out therenot now. She has her faults too, butit is all right
with her here, striking his breast. Heaven grant she may be
truly happy with you in the old nest. She has earned it by her sad
youththrough her father.
Frank nodded. He knew it all very well, just as the old egotist told
it to him.
Well, now we must go, continued Uncle Henry; my sister-in-law
wants to speak to me about the wedding, I suppose.
I think it is about the marriage contract, said Frank Linden, and
I want to beg you to urge upon Gertrude to yield to her mother's
wishesI shall like it better.
Hm! said the old man, clearing his throat. I yield, thou
yieldest, he yields, shewill not yield! She is a perverse
little monkeypardon. But it is no use mincing matters. She takes it
from her father. He was a splendid man of business, but as soon as his
feelings were concerned, away with prudence, wisdom, calculation, and
what not. Oh, ta, ta! But here we are.
Mrs. Baumhagen received them very quietly, Gertrude was not with
She is in her room, she said to Linden, as he looked round for
her. She expects you.
He found her in the deep window. There was no lamp in the room, and
the light from the fire played on the carpet, Gertrude, he said, how
can I thank you! And he took her hands, which burned in his like fire.
For what? she asked.
For everything, Gertrude! You were quiet with your mother? he
added, quietly, as she was silent.
Perfectly so, she replied; I thought of you. But I am determined
not to have a marriage settlement.
You foolish girl. I might be unfortunate and have bad harvests and
things of that sortthen you would suffer too.
She nodded and smiled.
To be sure, and I would help you with all I possess. And if we have
bad harvests and nothing, nothing will succeed, and we have nothing
more in the world, then she stopped and looked at him with her
happy, tear-stained eyesthen we will starve together, won't we, you
The wedding-day came, not as such joyful days usually come. It was
as still as death in the house, which was still plunged in the deepest
The large suite of rooms had been opened and warmed, and over
Gertrude's door hung a garland of sober evergreen. The day before the
door-bell had had no rest, and one costly present after another had
been handed in. All the magnificence of massive silver, majolica,
Persian rugs and other costly things had been spread out on a long
table in the bow-window room. A gardener's assistant was still moving
softly about in the salon, decorating the improvised altar with orange
trees. The fine perfume of pastilles lingered in the air and the
flame from the open fire was reflected in the glass drops of the
chandelier and the smooth marqueterie of the floor. Outside, the
weather was treacherously mild. It was the first of March.
Mrs. Baumhagen had been crying and groaning all the morning, and
between the arrangements for the wedding, she had been giving orders
respecting her own journey. The huge trunks stood ready packed in the
hall. The next day but one they would start for Heidelberg to see a
As for Gertrude's trousseau, her mother had not concerned herself
about itshe would attend to it herself. Gertrude's taste was very
extraordinary, at the best; if she liked blue Gertrude would be sure to
pronounce for red, it had always been so. Ah, this day was a dreadful
one to her, and it was only the end of weeks of torture. Since the
funeral of the baby, when her daughter had made such a scene, they had
been colder than ever to each other. Gertrude's eyes could look so
large, so wistful, as if they were always asking, Why do you disturb
She should be glad when they had fairly started on their journey.
At this time the ladies were all dressing; the wedding was to take
place at five o'clock. The faithful Sophie was helping Gertrude
to-dayshe would not permit any one to take her place.
Gertrude had put on her wedding-dress, and Sophie was kneeling
before her, buttoning the white satin boots.
Ah, Miss Gertrude, sighed the old woman, it will be so lonely in
the house now. Little Walter dead and you away!
But I shall be so happy, Sophie. The soft girlish hand stroked the
withered old face which looked up at her so sadly.
God grant it! God grant it! murmured the old woman as she rose.
Now comes the veil and the wreath, but I am too clumsy for that, Miss
Gertrudebut, ah, here is Mrs. Fredericks.
Jenny entered through the young girl's sitting-room. She wore a
dress of deep black transparent crêpe, and a white camellia rested on
the soft light braids. She was deathly pale and her eyes were red with
I will help you, Gertrude, she said, languidly, beginning to
fasten the veil on her sister's brown hair. Do you remember how you
put on my wreath, Gertrude? Ah, if one could only know at such a time
what dreadful grief was coming!
Jenny, entreated Gertrude, don't give yourself up to your grief
so. When I came down when Walter died, and Arthur was holding you so
tenderly in his arms I thought what great comfort you had in each
other. That is after all the greatest happiness, when two people can
stand by each other, in sorrow and trial.
Oh, said Jenny, her lip curling disdainfully; I assure you Arthur
is half-comforted already. He can talk of other things, he can eat and
drink and go to business, he can even play euchre. Wonderful happiness
it is indeed!
Ah, Jenny, you cannot expect him to feel the grief that a mother
Oh, you will find it out too, interrupted the young wife. Men are
Gertrude rose suddenly from her chair. She was silent, but her eyes
rested reproachfully on her sister as if to say, Is that the blessing
you give me to take with me?
But her lips said only, Not all, I know better.
Jenny stood in some embarrassment. I must go down to Arthur now or
he will never be ready at the right time, and then it will be time for
me to come up to receive the guests.
The train of her dress swept over the carpet like a dark shadow as
Gertrude sat down for a while in the deep window. The white silk
fell in shimmering folds about her beautiful figure, and the grave
young face looked out from the misty veil as from a cloud. She folded
her hands and looked at her father's picture. I will take you with me
to-night, papa. And her thoughts flew off to the quiet country-house.
She did not know it yet. Only once, when she had driven through the
village on a picnic, had she seen a sharp-gabled roof and gray walls
rising up among the trees. Who would have thought that this would one
day be her home!
She felt as if it were heartless in her not to feel the departure
from her father's house more. And from her mother? Ah, her mother! Papa
had loved her, very much at one time. Should she go away without one
tear, without one kind motherly word? Gertrude forgot everything in
this blissful moment; she remembered only the good, the time when she
was a happy child and her mother used to kiss her tenderly. She would
not go without a reconciliation.
She rose, gathered up the long train of her wedding-dress and went
across the dusky hall to her mother's chamber. She knocked softly and
opened the door.
Mrs. Baumhagen was standing before the tall mirror in a black moiré
antique, with black feathers and lace in her still brown hair. Gertrude
could see her face in the glass; it was covered thick with powder,
which she was just rubbing into her skin with a hare's foot.
Mrs. Baumhagen looked round and gazed at her daughter. She made a
lovely bride, far more imposing than Jennyand all for that Linden!
She said nothing, she only sighed heavily and turned back to the glass.
Mamma, began Gertrude, I wanted to ask you something.
In a moment.
Gertrude waited quietly till the last touch of the powder-puff had
been laid on the temples, then Mrs. Baumhagen took the long black
gloves, seated herself on a lounge at the foot of her large
red-curtained bed, and began to put them on.
What do you want, Gertrude?
Mamma, what do I want? I wanted to say good-bye to you. She sat
down beside her mother and took her hand.
Mrs. Baumhagen nodded to her. Yes, we sha'nt see each other for
Mamma, are you still angry with me? asked the girl, hesitatingly,
her eyes filling with tears.
Forgive me, now, she entreated. I have been vehement and perverse
Oh, no matterdon't bring it up now, said her mother. I only
hope most heartily that you may be happy, and may never repent your
obstinacy and perversity.
Never! cried Gertrude with perfect conviction.
Mrs. Baumhagen continued to button her gloves. The room was stifling
with the heavy odors of lavender water and patchouly, and her heavy
silk rustled as she exerted herself to button the somewhat refractory
gloves. She made no reply.
May I ask one more favor, mamma?
The girl involuntarily folded her hands in her lap.
Mamma, show a little kindness to Lindendo try to like him a
littlemake to-day really a day of honor to him. Oh, mamma, she
continued after a pause, if he is offended to-day it will pierce my
heart like a knifedear mamma
The big tears trembled on her lashes.
Once more she asked, Will you, mamma?
Mrs. Baumhagen was just ready. She stretched out both her little
hands, looked at them inside and out, and said without looking up:
Kind?of courselike him? One cannot force one's self to do that,
my child. I hardly know him.
For my sake, Gertrude would have said, but she bethought herself.
The days of her childhood had passed, and since then?
Mrs. Baumhagen rose.
It is almost five, she remarked. Go back to your room. Linden
will be here in a moment.
She kissed Gertrude on the forehead, then quickly on the lips.
Go, my child,you know I don't like to be upsetGod grant you all
happiness. Gertrude went back to her room, chilled to the heart. A
tall figure stepped hastily out of the window recess, and a strong arm
was around her.
It is you! she said, drawing a long breath, while a rosy flush
overspread her face.
* * * * *
The little wedding-party were assembled in the salon, the mother,
Arthur, Jenny, Aunt Pauline and Uncle Henry. Two young cousins in white
tulle made the only points of light amid the gloomy black.
For Heaven's sake don't wear such long faces! cried Uncle Henry,
who looked as if the wedding had upset him as much as the funeral. It
is dismal enough as it is:
The door opened and the old clergyman entered. Uncle Henry went to
meet him, greeted him loudly, and then disappeared with unusual haste
to bring in the bride and bridegroom.
The afternoon sunshine flooded the rich salon, overpowering the
light of the candles in the chandelier and the candelabra, and its rays
rested on the young couple before the altar.
The voice of the clergyman, sounded mild and clear. They had met for
the first time in the house of God, he said; evidently the Lord had
brought them together, and what the Lord had joined together no man
should put asunder. He spoke of love which beareth all things, hopeth
all things, endureth all things. Gertrude had chosen the text herself.
Then they exchanged rings. They knelt for the blessing, and they
rose husband and wife.
Then they went up to their mother. Like Gertrude, Frank Linden saw
all things in a different light in this hour. He held out his hand, and
though he could find no words, he meant to promise by this hand-shake
to guard the life just entrusted to him, as the very apple of his eye,
his whole life long.
But Mrs. Baumhagen kissed the young wife daintily on the forehead,
laid her fingers as daintily for one moment in his extended hand, and
then turned to the clergyman who approached with his congratulations.
The young couple looked at each other, and as he looked into her
anxious eyes he pressed her arm closer with his, and she grew calm and
Uncle Henry had arranged the wedding-dinner, as was to be expected.
The curtains were drawn in the dining-room, which had a northern
aspect, the lamps were lighted, and all the family silver shone and
sparkled on the table. The old gentler man understood his business. He
had had sleepless nights over it lately, it is true, but the menu was
exquisite. The only pity was that he and Aunt Pauline and Arthur were
the only ones who were capable of appreciating it, according to his
ideas. The chilling mood still rested on the company, even through
Uncle Henry's toasts, not even yielding to the champagne. The old
egotist was almost in despair.
When the company adjourned to the drawing-room for coffee, Gertrude
went to her room. A quarter of an hour later she came into the hall in
her travelling dress. Her husband stood there waiting for her.
From the drawing-room they could hear the murmur of the
companyhere all was quiet.
She looked round her once more and nodded to the old clock in the
Good-bye, Sophie, she said, as she went down the staircase on his
arm, and the old woman bent over the bannisters in a sudden burst of
tearsSay good-bye to all of them.
Brilliantly lighted windows shone out upon them in Niendorf when
Frank lifted her out of the carriage, and led her up the steps. The sky
was cloudy, and the fresh spring air was wonderfully soft and odorous.
Come in! he cried, opening the brown old house-door.
Oh, what roses! she cried with delight.
The balustrade of the staircase, the doorways, the chains from which
the lamps swung were all lavishly adorned with roses, and by the dim
light they glowed against the green background as if they were real
Kind Aunt Rosa!
Hand in hand they mounted the staircase and walked down the
corridor. It was only plastered, but it was quite covered with odorous
evergreen. This is our sitting-room, Gertrude, till yours is ready.
She stood on the threshold and looked in with eager eyes. It looked
exceedingly cosy and home-like, this low room, pleasantly lighted by
the lamp; and a beautiful hunting hound sprang up, whining with joy at
sight of his master, whom he had not seen for the whole day. She
entered, still holding his hand, in a sort of trembling happiness.
Oh, what a beautiful dog! And there is your writing-table, and that
is the book-case, and what a dear old face that is in the gold frame.
Is it your mother, Frank? Yes, I thought she must look like that. And
what a pretty tea-table set for two! Oh, dearest! And the proud
spoiled child of luxury lay weeping on his breast.
[Illustration: The proud spoiled child of luxury lay weeping in his
Hereit shall remain as it is, Frankhere it is warm and bright;
no bitter word can ever be spoken here.
Don't think of it any more, he whispered, comfortingly. We have
left all evil behind us. We are owners here, and we will have nothing
but peace and love in our household.
Yes, she said, smiling through her tears, you are right. What
have we to do with the outer world?
They were standing together in front of his writing-table. A
majolica vase stood on it filled with spring flowers.
What an exquisite scent of violets! she whispered, drawing in a
long breath, and freeing herself from his arms.
A card lay among the flowers. Both hands were extended for it at
Heartiest congratulations on your marriage, from
C. Wolff, Agent.
How did you happen to know him? Why should he send that?
asked her eyes.
But he threw the card carelessly on the table and kissed her on the
Spring is delicious when one is happy. The trees in the Niendorf
garden put out their leaves one by one, a green veil hung over the
budding forests, and violets were blooming everywhere; Gertrude's whole
domain was filled with the scent of the blue children of spring. The
voice of the young wife sounded through the old house like the note of
a lark, and when Frank returned all sunburned from the fields, a white
handkerchief waved from the shining windows upstairs, and when he
reached the court it was fluttering in her hand on the topmost step.
You have come at last, dearest, she would cry then.
And the walks in the woods, the evenings when he read aloud, and
then the furnishing the house! How sweet it was to consult together, to
make selections, to buy new things and how delighted they both were
when they happened to think of the same things!
So the house was furnished by degrees. Workmen and upholsterers did
their best. Aunt Rosa's room alone remained untouched, and the master's
cosy room, in which they had passed their first happy weeks together.
And now everything was ready, homelike and comfortable without any
pretension. The low rooms were not suited to display costly carved
furniture, so with excellent taste they had both chosen only the
By-and-by, when we build a new house, Gertrude, he said, and she
First we will improve the estate, Frankit is so pleasant in these
dear old rooms.
The garden-hall been fitted up as a dining-room. Close by was a
drawing-room with dark curtains and soft carpets; on the walls Uncle
Henry's wedding present, two large oil paintingsa sunny landscape and
a wintry sea-coast. From behind great green palms stood out a noble
bust of Hermes. Sofas, low seats and arm-chairs everywhere, and
wherever there was the smallest space it was filled up with a vase of
Upstairs, next to the master's room, was that of the young wife,
where her father's picture now stood behind the work-table, by the
The door between the two rooms stood open, and bright striped
Turkish curtains drawn back, permitted Gertrude from her place by the
window, to see the writing-table at which he was working. And from the
window might be seen the wooded mountains beyond the green garden, and
farther away still the distant Brocken, half-hidden in the clouds.
The young wife had cleared out all the cupboards; in the kitchen the
last new tin had been hung up on the hooks, and shone and sparkled in
the bright sunshine as if it were pure silver. In the store-room jars
and pots were all full and in order, as she turned the key with a happy
smile, and put it into the spick-and-span new key-basket on her arm.
Come, Frank, she said, after he had been admiring all this
splendor, now we will go through all the rooms again.
There are not many of them, Gertrude, he laughed.
Enough for us, Frank; we do not need any more.
And they went through the garden hall, and admired the stately
buffet and the hanging-lamp of polished brass, which swung over the
great dining-table. They went into the drawing-room, and admired the
pictures again which the sun lighted up so beautifully, and then they
stopped, looked in each other's eyes and kissed each other.
It is all just as I like it, Frank, said she, plain and suitable,
but nothing sham, no imitations. I hate pretenceeverything ought to
be genuine, as real and true as my love and your heart, you dear, good
fellow.Now everything is perfect in the house, she continued,
picking up a thread from the carpet. No one would recognize it; it is
the most charming little house for miles around. And it did not cost
nearly as much as Jenny's trousseau and wedding-journey.
They were standing in the open hall door, and the young man looked
with brightening eyes across the garden to the outbuildings which had
exchanged their leaky roofs for new shining blue slates.
You are right, Gertrude, it is a pretty sight; we will sit here
often. And to-morrow they will begin to build the new barns. They must
be ready when we harvest the first rye.
Frank, she asked, mischievously, do you still think as you did a
week after our wedding when we spoke about this for the first time, and
you were really childish and absolutely would not take anything
of that which is yours by every right human and divine? And you would
have let the cows be rained on in their stalls and the farm-servants in
No, Gertrude, not now, he replied.
And why, you Iron-will?
Because we love each other, love each other unspeakably.
The adjective is not necessary, corrected she.
Don't you believe that one may love unspeakably? asked he with a
It sounds like a figure of speech.
He laughed aloud, and drew her out on the veranda.
Our home, he said; come, let us go through the garden and a
little way into the wood.
The next day Gertrude opened the windows of the guest-chamber, and
made everything there bright and fresh. The table in the dining-room
was gayly decked, and Frank drove to the city in the new carriage to
bring the judge from the station.
Gertrude was glad of the opportunity of seeing him, Frank had told
her so much about his old friend. She had laughed heartily over his
droll descriptions of his friend's peculiarities, how in company when
he tried to pay a compliment he invariably managed to make it a
back-handed one, to his own infinite astonishment.
She would take especial pains with her dress for this jewel of a
man, as Frank called him. She put a rosette of lace in her hair, Frank
liked that so much, it looked so matronly, almost like a little cap.
When she went up to the toilet-table with this graceful emblem of her
youthful dignity, to look at herself in the glass, she saw there a
bouquet of lilies of the valley with a paper wound round their stems.
From him, from Frank, she whispered, growing crimson with delight.
He had said good-bye to her with such a merry smile. She hastily
unwound the paper from the flowers and read it.
They were verses turning on the expression he had made use of the
day before,loving unspeakably, and justifying himself for using it
by pointing out that for long after he had seen and loved her he knew
not how to call her, where she dwelt, nor who she was, and so he might
literally be said to have loved her unspeakably.
That is how he proves himself in the right, she murmured with
blissful looks, pressing the paper to her lips. And he is right,
indeed, he does love me 'unspeakably.' Ah, I am a very happy woman!
And she put the lilies of the valley in her dress, the verses in her
pocket, took the key-basket and went to the dining-room once more on a
tour of inspection round the table, and then as she had nothing to do
for the moment, she knocked at Aunt Rosa's door, which was only
separated from the dining-room by a small entry.
The old lady was sitting at the window making roses. There was to be
a wedding in the village at Whitsuntide. A small man was sitting
opposite her, who greeted the entrance of the young wife with a low
Beg a thousand pardons, madam,I wanted to speak to your
husbandI heard he had gone out and the lady here permitted me to wait
What does he say, Mrs. Linden? inquired the old lady, shaking
hands, I did not permit him to do any such thing. He came in
himselfand here he is.
My name is Wolff, madam, said the agent by way of introduction.
Must you speak to my husband to-day? It will not be convenient, for
we have company to dinner. Can't I arrange it? inquired Gertrude.
O, nono said he, very decidedly, bowing as he spoke. I must
speak to Mr. Linden himself, but I can come again, there is no hurry, I
used to come here every day. Good morning, ladies.
What could he want, auntie? inquired the young wife after he had
Well, I can tell you what he wanted of mehe wanted to
question me. He would have liked to look through the key-hole to
find out how it looked in your house. But sit down, my dear.
These two understood each other perfectly. Sometimes the old lady
drank coffee with Gertrude and then she had many questions to answer.
In this way it had come out quite by chance that she had been a
schoolmate of Gertrude's grandmother.
Sometimes they went to walk together and Gertrude learned to know
the village people, found out who the poor ones were and a little of
the history of the place. Aunt Rosa's pictures were rather roughly
drawn, she did not like every one, but Linden was her idol next to a
young niece of hers.
He is so nice, she used to say, he is so courteous to the old as
well as the young.
And Gertrude returned the compliment by declaring she could not
imagine the house without Aunt Rosa.
To-day, the young mistress of the house could not stay long quietly
in the rose-room. It was strange, but she felt anxious about her
husband. If only he had had no accident with the new horses, she
thought, as she went out on the veranda.
The blooming garden lay quiet and still before her in the mid-day
sunshine. Suddenly a shadow came over her facethere, under the
chestnut-trees, where the sunbeams broke through the leaves in golden
flecks. There was no doubt of itit was he, the man in Aunt Rosa's
room. How happened he to penetrate into the garden? Where had she heard
his name before? She started as if she had touched something
unpleasant. Wolff,it was the name on the card that came with the
flowers on her wedding eve. Yes, to be sure. But she had seen
the man, too, somewhere beforewhere was it? Perhaps in the factory
with Arthur, very likely.
She raised her head and her eyes began to sparkle. There was the
carriage just turning in at the gate. He was driving and on the
front seat beside the expected guest sat Uncle Henry, waving his red
The gentlemen were all in the best of humorit was a lively
It looks something like here now, Frank, said the little judge,
clapping Linden on the shoulder and shaking hands with his wife. He was
so pleased that he even inquired for Aunt Rosa.
Do you know, child, said Uncle Henry by way of excuse for his
presence, I should not be here so soon again, but the landlord of the
hotel died this morningand I couldn't eat there, it was out of the
question. You have some asparagus?
I shall not tell any tales out of school, uncle.
She put her arm in that of the old gentleman and went up the steps
with her guests. At the top she turned her head and then walked quickly
to the balustrade of the veranda.
There stood Wolff bowing before her husband, his hat in his hand,
his face covered with smiles.
O, ta, ta! said Uncle Henry.
How comes he here, Gertrude?
The judge looked out from under his blue spectacles with earnest
attention at the two men. Just then Linden waved his hand shortly and
they strode along the way which led to the court and the outer gate,
Wolff still speaking eagerly.
Gertrude bent far over the iron railing. It seemed to her that Frank
was vexed. Now they stood still. Frank opened the gate and pointed
outward with an unmistakable and very energetic gesture.
Mr. Wolff hesitated, he began to speak againagain the mute gesture
still more energetic, and the little man disappeared like a flash. The
gate fell clanging in the lock and Frank came back, but slowly as if he
must recover himself first and deeply flushed as if from intense anger.
Gertrude went to meet him, but said nothing. She would not ask him
for explanations before their guests. She very stealthily pressed his
hand and spoke cheerfully of her pleasure in her guests.
Charming! he said, absently, but Gertrude, pray entertain Uncle
HenryRichardcome with me a momentI mustI will show you your
room. And the two friends left the room together.
Do you know that you are going to have some more visitors this
afternoon? asked the old gentleman, settling himself comfortably in a
chair. Your mother and the Fredericks,they came back yesterday
morning. Jenny looks blooming as a rose, and, thank Heaven! Arthur has
got his milk-face burned a little with the sun.
Yes, replied Gertrude, he was with them at the Italian lakes for
a month. And then as if she had only just taken in his whole
meaning,How glad I am that mamma is coming out here at once! Ah,
uncle, if she would only get reconciled to Frank!
Eh, what? Gertrude, don't distress yourself, it will all come
right. Besides he is not a man to put up with much nonsense!
What could this Wolff have wanted with him?
Hm! what are they about in Heaven's name? asked her uncle,
Are you hungry? she asked, absently.
Hungry? How can you use such common expressions? A dish of pork and
beans would suffice for hunger. I have an appetite, my child. O, ta,
ta, the asparagus will be spoiled if those two stay so long in their
It was a very cosy group that Mrs. Baumhagen's eyes rested on as
she, with Jenny and Arthur, mounted the veranda steps.
They were sitting over their dessert, and Uncle Henry, with his
napkin in his buttonhole, his champagne-glass in his hand, shouted out
a stentorious welcome! while the young host and hostess hurried down
the steps, Gertrude with crimson cheeks. She was so proud, so happy.
Mrs. Baumhagen looked at her daughter in amazement. The pale, quiet
girl had become as blooming as a rose. It is the honeymoon still, she
said to herself, and her eyes never ceased to follow her youngest child
during the whole time of her stay.
The coffee-table was set out under the chestnuts. It was a beautiful
spot. The eye glanced over the green lawn, past the magnificent trees
to the quaint old dwelling-house with its high gables and its ivy-grown
walls. The doors of the garden-hall stood open, and from the flagstaff
fluttered gayly a black-and-white flag.
An idyll like a picture by Voss, laughed the little judge.
The young host gallantly escorted his mother-in-law through the
garden. Every cloud had vanished from his brow, he was cheerful and
But very sure of himself, Jenny remarked, later, to her mother.
He feels himself quite the host and master of the house.
The uncomfortable feeling which he had always had in his
mother-in-law's presence, had disappeared. To her amazement he
permitted himself once or twice quite calmly to contradict her. Arthur
had never dared to do that. And Gertrude, how ridiculous! while she
presided over the coffee in her calm way, her eyes were continually
turning to him as soon as he spoke. As you like, Frank,What do you
think, Frank? etc. And when her mother hoped Gertrude would not fail
to call on her Aunt Pauline on her birthday, the next day, she asked
appealingly, Can I, Frank? Can I have the carriage?
Certainly, Gertrude, was the reply.
Then Mrs. Baumhagen put down her dainty coffee cup and leaned back
in her garden chair. The child was not in her right mind! that was too
much. But Arthur Fredericks applauded loudly.
Gertrude, he called out across the table, talk to this he
seized the hand of his wife who angrily tried to draw it away. What
does Katherine say as an amiable wife to her sister? Words that sound
as sweet to us as a message from a better world.
To be sure! laughed Gertrude, not in the least offended by the
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee
And for thy maintenance; commits his body
To painful labor, both by sea and land;
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold
While thou liest warm at home secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience,
Too little payment for so great a debt.
You see, Arthur, I have my Shakespeare at my tongue's end.
Mrs. Baumhagen suddenly broke up the coffee party. She seemed
heated, for she was fanning herself with her handkerchief.
Gertrude, you must show us the house, she exclaimed. Come, Jenny,
we will leave the gentlemen to their cigars.
Gladly, mamma, said the young girl, easily.
She led her mother and sister through the kitchen and cellar,
through the chambers, and through the whole house. In the dining-room a
pretty young woman in a spotless white apron was engaged in clearing
off the table. Gertrude gave her some orders in a low tone as she
That is Johanna, whose husband was killed, said Jenny.
Yes, replied her sister, I have engaged her as housekeeper. She
is very capable, and I like to have a familiar face about me.
With the child? asked the mother, scornfully.
Of course, replied the young wife. She lives in the other wing.
It is a pleasure to see how the little fellow improves in the country
Who lives in this wing? inquired Jenny.
Good gracious! A sort of mother-in-law? cried her sister in
Gertrude shook her head. No, she is quite inoffensive, she belongs
to the inventoryso to speak. But I would like Frank to have his
mother here, the old lady is so alone and she is not very well.
Jenny laughed aloud, but Mrs. Baumhagen rustled so angrily into the
next room that all the ribbons on her rather youthful toilette
fluttered and waved in the air.
Gertrude! cried Jenny, you will not be so senseless!
The young wife made no reply. She opened a wardrobe door in the
corridor and said,
This is the linen, Jenny; we need so much in the country. That is
the chest for the finest linen and for the china, and this is my room.
This way, mamma.
It might have been a little less simple, remarked her mother, who
had recovered herself, though the flush of excitement still rested on
her full cheeks.
I did not wish to be so very unlike Frank, who kept his old
furniture; besides we are only in moderate circumstances, you know,
mamma, and we are only just beginning.
Her mother cleared her throat and sat down in one of the small
arm-chairs. Jenny wandered about the room, looking at the pictures and
ornaments, slightly humming to herself as she did so. Gertrude stood
thoughtfully beside her mother and felt her heart grow cold as ice. It
was the old feeling of estrangement which always thrust itself between
her and her mother and sisterthey had nothing in common. She grieved
over it as she had always done, but she no longer felt the bitter pain
of former days. Slowly her hand sought the pocket of her dress, and
touched lightly a rustling paperThou art unspeakably beloved. Ah,
that was compensation enough for anything, and she lifted her head with
a happy smile.
But you have not told me anything about your delightful journey
yet, and your letters were so very short.
O, yes, said Jenny, yawning as she took up a terra cotta figure
and gazed at it on all sides, it was perfectly delightful in Nice. Now
that I am back again, I begin to feel what a provincial little circle
it is that we vegetate in here.
We will go again, next year, Providence permitting, added Mrs.
Baumhagen. Only I must beg to be excused from Arthur's company. He was
really just as childish as your father used to be in his time. Jenny
must not do this and Jenny should not do that, mustn't go here and
mustn't stand there, in short he was a perfect torment, as if we women
did not know ourselves what it is proper to do.
Jenny seated herself too.
Never mind, mamma, he is still suffering for his folly. I have not
allowed him to forget the scene he made for us at Monte Carlo yet.
O yes, Heaven knows you are a very happy couple, exclaimed her
But I think it is time for us to be going home, she continued,
taking her costly watch from her belt. We will go and get your
The three ladies went back to the garden to the table where the
gentlemen were comfortably chatting over their cigars. Frank was in
earnest conversation with Aunt Rosa, who in her best array, sat
enthroned in the seat Mrs. Baumhagen had left only a short time before.
Gertrude hastened to introduce her mother and sister to the old lady.
There was no help for itthey were obliged to sit down again for a
short time out of politeness. Mrs. Baumhagen, with a bored look, Jenny
with scarcely concealed amusement at the wonderful little old lady.
Gertrude, began Frank, Aunt Rosa came to tell us that she expects
I hope it won't put you out, said the old lady, turning to
Gertrude. My niece always visits me every year at this time. You have
heard me say that the child is passionately fond of the woods and
mountains and she cheers me up a little.
Is it that pretty little girl you have told us about so often, Aunt
Rosa? asked Gertrude, kindly; and as the former nodded, she continued,
Oh, she will be heartily welcome, won't she, Frank? When is she
coming, and what is her name?
I expect her in a day or two, and her name is Adelaide Strom,
replied Aunt Rosa. I always call her Addie.
[Illustration: Gertrude hastened to introduce her mother and sister
to the old lady.]
Then she began to explain the relationship which had the result of
making all the company dizzy.
My mother's sister married a Strom, and her step-son is the cousin
of Adelaide's grandfather
Here Mrs. Baumhagen rose with great rustling. I must go home, she
said, interrupting the explanation. It is high time we were gone.
Jenny, who was standing behind her husband's chair, laid her hand on
Please order the carriage.
Why, what do you mean, child? said he in a tone of vexation. We
have only just come!
But mamma wishes it.
Mamma? But why? he asked, shortly. We are having a delightful
Won't you stay till evening, Mrs. Baumhagen? asked Frank,
My head aches a little, was the reply.
Arthur ran his hand despairingly through his hair. This headache
was the weapon with which every reasonable argument was overthrown.
Very well, then, do you go, he muttered, grimly. I will come home
with Uncle Henry.
Yes, to be sure, my dear fellow, cried the old gentleman, much
pleased. I shall be very glad of your company; we will try the
Moselle, eh, Frank?
Uncle Henry filled up the cellar for our wedding-present,
explained the young host as he rose to order the carriage.
And so richly, added Gertrude.
Oh, ta, ta!
The old gentleman had risen and was helping his sister-in-law on
with her cloak, with somewhat asthmatic politeness.
It was pure selfishness, Ottilie. Only that a man might get a drop
fit to drink when one arrived here, weary and thirsty.
Gertrude, whispered Jenny, taking her sister a little aside, how
can you be so foolish as to allow a young girl to be brought into the
house? I tell you it is really dreadful; they are always in the way,
they always want to be admired, they are always wanting to help
and never fail to pay most touching attentions to the host. It is
really inconsiderate of the old lady to impose her on you. Invent some
excuse for keeping her away. I speak from experience, my love. Arthur
invited a cousin once, you remember, I nearly died of vexation.
Ah, Jenny, she said, shaking her head. The she hastened after her
mother, who was already seated in the carriage.
Come again soon, she said cordially, when Jenny had taken her seat
I shall expect a visit from you next, was the reply. You must be
making a few calls in town some time.
We haven't thought about it yet, cried Gertrude, gayly.
Pray do see that Arthur gets home before the small hours. Uncle
Henry never knows when to go, cried Jenny in a tone of vexation.
And the carriage rolled away.
It was late before Uncle Henry and Arthur set out for home and late
when the little judge went to his room. They had all three sat for a
good while in Frank's study, talking of past and present times.
We shall be very gay, said Frank, when Aunt Rosa's niece comes.
You will not be so much alone then, Gertrude, when I am away in the
I am never lonely, she replied, quietly. I have never had a
girl-friend, and now it seems superfluous to me. And she looked at him
with her grave deep eyes.
Madam, inquired the judge, putting the end of his cigar in a
meerschaum mouthpiece, has he written poetry to you too? And he
pointed to Frank with a sly laugh.
Of course, she replied.
Ah, he can't help writing verses, said the little man, teasingly,
clapping his friend on the shoulder.
I tell you, Mrs. Linden, sometimes it seizes upon him like a
perfect fever; and the things that a fellow like that finds to write
about! Poets really are born liars. At the moment when the sweet verses
flow out on the paper, they actually believe every word they writeit
is really touching!
Spare me, Richard, I beg of you, laughed the young host, half
Isn't it true? asked the judge. Only think of your celebrated
poem on the gypsy girl. I was there when you saw the brown maiden on
the Römerberg, and in the evening it was already written down in your
note-book that she wandered through the streets with winged feet, with
straying hair, and shy black eyes in which a longing for the moorland
lay and for the wind which through the reed-grass sweepsand so on.
Ha, ha! And she really came from the Jew's quarter and went begging
from house to house for old rags.
They all three laughed, Gertrude the most heartily; then she became
You are a malicious fellow, declared Frank, rising to light a
candle. It is late, Richard, and we are early risers here.
As the friends bade each other good-night at the door of the
guest-chamber, the judge said,
Well, Frank, I congratulate you. You have won a prizesuch a dear,
sensible little woman!
As for the othermy dear fellow, what did I tell you about
that man? Well, good-night! That Uncle Henry is a good old soul,
too,now take yourself off.
Gertrude was standing by the open window in her room, looking out
into the night. The lamplight from the next room shone in faintly. Dark
clouds were gathering, far away over the mountains there were flashes
of lightning and in the garden a chorus of nightingales was singing.
Gertrude, said a voice behind her.
Frank, she replied, leaning her head on his shoulder.
Hush! Listen! It is so lovely tonight.
They stood thus for awhile in silence. This afternoon's conversation
was still lingering in Linden's mind. Uncle Henry could not understand
why he should not cut his timber from his own woods. But the Niendorf
woods had been greatly thinned out and no new plantations made.
Tell me, Gertrude, he began, suddenly, where is your villa
His young wife started as if a snake had stung her. Ourmy villa?
she gasped, how did you knowwho told you about the villa?
He was silent. I cannot remember who, he said after a pause, but
some one must have told me that there is a little wood belonging to it.
But, Gertrude, what is the matter? he inquired. You are trembling!
Ah, Frank, who told you about that? she reiterated, and
Her voice had so sad a ring in it that he perceived at once that he
had hurt her.
Gertrude, have I hurt you? I beg your pardon a thousand times; I
was only thinking of cheaper timber which I might have cut there this
Timber? There? It is only a park. Ah, Frank
But what is it pray? he asked with a little impatience. I cannot
No, you cannot know, she assented. It was only the shockI ought
to have told you long ago, only it is so frightfully hard for me to
speak of it. You ought to know about it too, buttell me who told you
But when I assure you, my child, that I cannot remember.
Frank, said his young wife, in a low, hesitating tone, out
therein 'Waldruhe,' my poor father died
My little wife! he said, comfortingly.
It was therehehe killed himself. Her voice was scarcely
He bent down over her, greatly shocked. My poor child, I did not
know that, or I would not have spoken of it.
And I found him, Frank. He built 'Waldruhe' when I was but a child,
and he used to go and stay there for weeks together. It is so hard to
talk of ithe was not happy, Frank. Ah, we will not dwell on it. Mamma
did not understand him, and it was the day after Christmas and I knew
they had had a dispute; that is not the right word for it either, for
papa never contradicted her, and he bore so patiently all her crying
and complaining. After awhile I heard the carriage drive away. It was
in the morningand I had such a strange feeling of anxiety and dread
and after dinner I put on my hat and cloak and ran out of the Bergedorf
gate along the high road, on and on till I came to 'Waldruhe.' I was
surprised to see that the blinds were shut in his room, but I saw the
fresh wheel-tracks in front of the house. The gardener's wife, who
lives in a little cottage on the place, said he was upstairs. He was
upstairsyesbut he was dead!
[Illustration: He was up stairsyesbut he was dead.]
She stood close beside him, encircled by his arm, as she told her
story. He could feel how she trembled and how cold her hands were.
Don't speak of it any more, my darling, he entreated, you will
make yourself ill.
Yes, I was ill, Frank, for a whole year, she said. It was a
fearful time; I could not forgive my mother. From that moment the gulf
arose which parts us to-day, and nothing can bridge it over. I was so
horribly lonely, Frank, before I found you. But the villa?Yes, it
belongs to me; papa destined it for me when he built it. I have had
some very pleasant days with him there, but now the very thought of it
is dreadful to me. It is empty and deserted. I have never been there
since. It is so horrible to find a person whom one has so honored and
lovedto find him so
Forgive me, Gertrude, he said, gently.
You could not know, Frank. No one knows it but ourselves. And as
if to turn his thoughts to something else she continued hurriedly,
Thank you so much, love, for that lovely poem, 'Thou art unspeakably
And she stroked his hand and pressed it to her lips.
My poor little Gertrude!
They stood thus together for awhile wrapped about with the sweet
atmosphere of spring.
A thunder-shower is coming up, he said at length; and she freed
herself from his arms and left the room. Frank could hear her going
softly about the corridor here and there, shutting the doors and
windows, and jingling her keys. She was looking to see if everything
was in order for the night.
He put his hand to his forehead and tried to recall who had spoken
to him of the villa. He passed on into his lighted room as if he could
think better there. After awhile the young wife came back, with her
key-basket on her arm. The sweet face was lifted up to him.
Frank, said she, what did the agent want of you to-day?
He stared at her as if a flash of lightning had struck him.
That is it! that is it! And he struck his forehead as if something
he had been seeking for in vain had suddenly occurred to him.
What did he want? Oh, nothing, Gertrude, nothing of any
She looked at him in surprise, but she said nothing. It was not her
way to ask a second time when she got no answer. It really was of no
It had rained heavily in the night, with thunder and lightning, but
nature seemed to have no mind to-day to carry out her coquettish love
of contrasts; she did not laugh, as usual, with redoubled gayety in
blue sky and golden sunshine on forest and field: gloomily she spread a
gray curtain over the landscape, so uniformly gray that the sun could
not find the smallest cleft through which to send down a friendly
greeting, and it rained unceasingly, a perfect country rain.
Frank came back from the fields rejoicing over the weather, and
Gertrude waved her handkerchief to him out of the window as she did
All the flowers are ruined, Frank, she cried down to him, what a
He came up in high good humor. No money could pay for this rain,
darling, he said; I am a real farmer now, my mood varies according to
And mine too! remarked his wife. Such a gray day makes me
He went towards her as she sat at her writing-table turning over
books and papers.
Just look, Frank, as she held out to him a packet daintily tied up
with blue ribbons; these are all verses of yours, arranged according
to order. When we have our silver wedding I shall have them printed and
bound. These on cream-colored paper were written during our engagement,
and these different scraps, white and blue and gray, were written since
our marriage, when you take anything that comes, thinking I suppose
that it is good enough for Mrs. Gertrude.
She looked up at him with a smile. He bent down over her,
And now I shall buy a very special kind of paper for my next
Bright, like the little bundles the storks carry under their wings.
And I shall write on it
She grew crimson. A cradle-song, she finished softly.
He nodded and put her hand to his lips. But she threw both arms
round his neck. Then it would be sweet and home-like, Frank. Then we
should love each other better than everif that were possible.
Here, little wife, I wrote this for you today in the field in the
rain. He took out his note-book from his pocket and put it in her
I will just go and see what the judge is about, the rascal, he
called back from the door.
And she sat still and read, her face as grave and earnest as if she
were reading in the Bible.
She was startled from her reading by the snapping of a whip before
the window. She looked out quicklythere stood the Baumhagen carriage;
the coachman in his white rubber coat and the cover drawn over his hat,
the iron-gray horses black with the drenching rain. She opened the
window to see if any one got out. Johanna came out and the coachman
gave her a letter with which she ran quickly back into the house.
Gertrude was startled. An accident at home? She flew to the door.
A letter, ma'am.
She hastily tore it open.
Come at onceI must speak to you without delay.
Such were the oracularly brief contents of the note.
Bring me my things, Johanna, and tell my husband.
Frank, she cried, as he entered, hurriedly, something must have
Don't be alarmed, he besought her, though unable quite to conceal
his own uneasiness.
Yes, yes. Oh, if I only knew what it was! I feel so anxious.
He took her things from the servant and put the cloak round
I hope it has nothing to do with Arthur and Jenny. They were very
strange to each other, yesterday.
Gertrude looked at him and shook her head. No, no, they were always
Then I am surprised that he did not run away long ago, he said,
Or she, retorted Gertrude tying her bonnet.
I could not stand such everlasting complaints, Gertrude, said he,
buttoning her left glove.
Nor I, Frank. Good-bye. You must make my excuses at dinner. God
grant it is nothing very bad.
She looked round the room once more, then went quickly up to her
work-table and thrust the note-book into her pocket.
When a few minutes later the landau passed out of the great iron
gate she put her head out of the window. He stood on the steps looking
after her. As she turned he took off his hat and waved it.
How handsome he was, how stately and how good!
She leaned back on the cushions. She felt a vague alarmit was the
first time she had left the house without him. Strange thoughts came
over herhow dreadful it would be if she should not find him again, or
evenif she should lose him utterly. Could she go on living then?
It would be frightful to be a widow! Still more frightful if they
were to partone here, the other there, hating each other, or
Could Arthur and Jenny, really? Oh, God in Heaven preserve us from
She looked out of the window. The coachman was driving at a dizzy
pace. There lay the city before her in the mist. Again her thoughts
wandered, faster than the horses went. She took the note-book out of
her pocket to read the verses, but the letters danced before her eyes,
and she put it away again.
In the attic at home stood the old cradle in which her father had
been rocked, and Jenny, and she herself. The grandmother in the narrow
street had had it as part of her outfit. She would get it out for
herself if God should ever fulfil her wish. Jenny's darling had lain in
another bed, the clumsy old cradle did not seem suitable in the elegant
chamber of the young mother, but in the modest room at Niendorf, where
the vines crept about the windows and the big old stove looked so cosy
and comfortable, it would be quite in place, just between the stove and
the wardrobe in a cosy corner by itself. She smiled like a happy child.
She could not believe that her life could be so beautiful, so rich.
The carriage was now rattling through the city gate; she would be at
home in a minute now, and her heart began to beat loudly. If she only
knew what it was.
The porter opened the carriage door and she got out and ran up the
stairs to Jenny's apartment. The entrance door of her mother's
apartment stood open. No one was to be seen and she entered the hall.
How dear and familiar everything looked! Even the tall clock lifted up
its voice, and struck the quarter before two. She took off her cloak
and went to her mother's room. Here, too, the door was ajar. Just as
she was going to enter she suddenly drew back her hand.
And I tell you, Ottilie, it will be the worst act of your life, if
you fling all this in the child's face without the slightest
preparation. Whether it is true or false why should you destroy her
young happiness? There are other ways and means.
It was Uncle Henry. He spoke in a tone of the deepest vexation.
Shall she hear it from strangers? cried the voice of her weeping
mother; the whole town is ringing with it, and is she to go about as
if she were blind and deaf?
I am trembling all over, Gertrude now heard Jenny say; it is
outrageous, we are made forever ridiculous. It was only last evening
that I said to Mrs. S, 'You can't imagine what an idyllic Arcadian
happiness has its dwelling out there in Niendorf.'
Confound your logic! I tell you cried the little man angrily.
But he stopped suddenly, for there on the threshold stood Gertrude
Are you talking of us? she asked, her terrified eyes wandering
over the group and resting at length on her mother, who at sight of her
had sunk back weeping in her chair.
The old man hastened towards her and tried to draw her away.
It's a thoughtless whim of your mother to send for you here;
nothing at all has happened; really, it is only some stupid gossip, a
misunderstanding perfectly absurd. Come across to the other room and I
will explain it all.
No, no, uncle, I must know it, must know it all.
She withdrew her hand from his and went up to her mother.
Here I am, mamma; now tell me everything, but quickly, I entreat
She looked down on the weeping woman with a face that was deathly
pale, standing motionless before her in her light summer costume. Only
the strings of her bonnet, which were tied on the side in a simple bow,
rose and fell quickly, and bore witness to her great agitation.
I can't tell her, sobbed Mrs. Baumhagen, you tell her, Jenny.
Gertrude turned to her sister at once. She cast down her eyes and
wound the black velvet ribbon of her morning-dress nervously round her
Your husband is in a very unpleasant situation, she began in a low
In what respect? asked Gertrude.
It is a disagreeable affair, but nothing to make such solemn faces
over, burst out the old gentleman, who was standing at the window.
He had Jenny hesitated again, a conversation with Wolff
I know it, replied Gertrude.
Wolff had a claim on him which your husband will not recognize
For Heaven's sake, make an end of it! The old gentleman brought
his fist down angrily on the window-sill. Do you want to give her the
poison drop by drop?
He took Gertrude's hand again, and tried to find words to explain.
You see, Gertrude, it is not so bad; it often happens, and this
Wolff may have thrust himself forward, in shorthe is a sort of a
walking encyclopædia, knows everybody hereabouts, and whenever any one
wants to know anything he is sure to be able to tell him. So your
husbandwell, how shall I excuse it?he inquired about your
circumstances, do you understand?before he offered himself to you
voilà tout. It happens hundreds of times, child, and you are
reasonable, Gertrude, aren't you?
The young wife stood motionless as a statue. Only gradually the
color came to her cheeks.
That is a lie! she cried, drawing a long breath. Did you bring me
here for that?
But Wolff was here, moaned Mrs. Baumhagen, asking for my
No, he came to us, corrected Jenny, early this morning; he
wanted to speak to Arthur, but Arthur she hesitated, last evening
You may as well say that Arthur started off suddenly on a journey
in the night, interposed Mrs. Baumhagen sharply, I am very fortunate
in my children's marriages!
Well, I can't help it if he gets angry at every little thing,
laughed the young wife, quite undisturbed. Besides we are very happy.
A pretty kind of happiness, grumbled the old gentleman to himself,
so low that no one but Gertrude could hear it. Then he added aloud, A
hurried journey on business, we will call it, a sudden journey on
business, preceded by a little curtain lecture.
Oh, to be sure, a journey on business, said Mrs. Baumhagen in a
tone of pique, to Manchester.
What has that got to do with Gertrude's affairs? asked Uncle
Henry, It is enough that Arthur was not there, and the gentleman went
up another flight and spoke to your mother, my child. It is not worth
mentioningif I had only been here sooner. It is very disagreeable
that you should have heard of it, but believe me, my child, they all do
The good-natured little man clapped her kindly on the shoulder.
Mrs. Baumhagen, however, started up like an angry lioness.
Don't talk such nonsense! How can you smooth it over? It was
nothing but a common swindle. I hope Gertrude has enough sense of
dignity to tell Mr. Linden that
Not another word!
The young wife stood almost threatening before her in the middle of
But for mercy's sake! It will be the most scandalous case that was
ever known, sobbed the excited lady. He is going to sue Lindenyou
will both have to appear in court.
Gertrude did not utter a syllable.
Have the kindness to order a carriage, uncle, she entreated.
No, you must not go away so! you look shockingly, was the anxious
cry of her mother and sister.
Do listen to reason, Gertrude, said Jenny in a complaining tone.
We must silence Wolffuncle can inquire how much he asks for his
And you will come to us again, sobbed her mother. Gertrude,
Gertrude, my poor unhappy child, did I not foresee this?
This is too much! growled the old gentleman. Confound these
women! Don't let them talk you into anything, child, he cried,
forcibly; settle it with your husband alone.
A carriage, uncle, reiterated the young wife.
Wait a while at least, entreated Jenny, till mamma's lawyer
Oh, groaned Uncle Henry, if Arthur had only been here, this
confounded affair wouldn't have been left in the women's hands. I will
get you a carriage, Gertrude. Your nags are at the factory, Jenny? Very
well. Excuse me a moment.
Gertrude was standing in the window like one stunned; she had as yet
no clear understanding of the matter. The whole city is talking about
it, she heard her mother sob. Of what then? She tried forcibly to
collect her thoughts, but in vain. Only one thing: it is not true! went
over and over in her mind.
She clenched her little hand in its leather glove. A lie! A lie!
fell again from her lips. But this lie had spread itself like a heavy
mist over her young happiness, bringing so much vague alarm that her
breath came thick and fast.
Shall I go with you? asked Jenny. The carriage was just coming
across the square.
No, thank you. I require no third person between my husband and
Her words sounded cold and hard.
You look so miserable, groaned her mother.
Then the sooner I get home the better.
At least send back a messenger at once.
Perhaps you think he beats me too? she inquired, ironically,
turning to go.
Child! child! cried Mrs. Baumhagen, stretching out her arms
towards her, be reasonable, don't be so blind where facts speak so
But she did not turn back. Calmly she took down her mantle from the
hat-stand. Sophie gazed anxiously into the pale, still face of the
young wife, who quite forgot to say a pleasant word to the old servant.
At the carriage-door stood Uncle Henry.
Let me go with you, Gertrude, he entreated.
She shook her head.
It is only out of pure selfishness, Gertrude, he continued. If I
don't know how it is going with you I shall be ill.
No, uncle. We two require no one; we shall get on better alone.
Don't break the staff at once, child, he said, gently,
I do not need to do that, Uncle Henry.
He lifted his hat from his bald head. There was a reverent
expression in his eyes.
Good-bye, Gertrude, little Gertrude. If I had had my way, you would
not have heard a word of it.
She bent her head gravely.
It is best so, uncle.
Then she went back the way she had come.
The rain beat against the rattling panes and dashed against the
leather top of the carriage, and they went so slowly. The young wife
gazed out into the misty landscape. The splendor of the blossoms had
vanished, the white petals were swimming in the pools in the streets.
Oh, only one sunbeam! she thought, the weather oppressed and
weighed her down so.
Absurd! How could any one be so influenced by foolish gossip! Mamma
always looked on the dark side of everythingand even if she always
told the truth, she had been imposed upon by this story. Poor Frank!
Now there would be vexationthe first! She would tell him of it
playfullyafter dinner, when they were alone together, then she would
say, Frank, I must tell you something that will make you laugh. Just
fancy, you have a very bitter enemy, and his revenge is so absurd, he
declaresshe was smiling now herselfYes, that is the way it shall
She was just passing the old watch tower. What was she thinking of
as she passed this place a few hours before? Oh yesa crimson flush
spread over her countenanceof the cradle in the attic. She could see
the old cradle so plainly before her; two red roses were painted on one
end, in the middle a golden star, and beneath it stood written: Happy
are they who are happy in their children.
She put her hand in her pocket and took out the note-bookthe
carriage was crawling so slowly up the hillshe could not remember it
all yet, she must read the verses again.
It was a vision he had had of her kneeling before a cradle, singing
a cradle-song about the father bringing something home to his son from
the green wood.
She let the paper fall. She knew what song he meantthe old nursery
song that she had been singing to her godchild when he had heard her
from the window outside. He had told her about it and that in that
moment he had come quite under her spell.
She pressed the book to her lips. Ah, how far beneath her seemed
envy and spite! how powerless they seemed before the expectation of
Just then a piece of paper fell down, a piece of blue writing-paper.
She picked it up; it was part of a letter on the blank side of which
was written in Frank's handwriting:
Half a hundred-weight grass-seed, mixed, with the address of a
manufactory of farming utensils.
She turned it over, looked at it carelessly, then suddenly every
trace of color left her face. She raised her eyes with a scared
expression in them, then looked down againyes, there it was!
Besides the above-mentioned property Miss Gertrude Baumhagen
owns a villa near Bergedorf. A massive building, splendidly furnished,
with stables, gardener's house and a garden-lot of ten acres, partly
wood, enclosed by a massive wall.
The property is recorded in the name of the young lady, being
valued at twenty-four thousand dollars.
For any further details I am quite at your service,
Very respectfully yours,
C. Wolff, Agent. D. 21 Dec. 1882.
Gertrude tried to read it again, but her hand trembled so violently
that the letters danced before her eyes. She had seen it, however,
distinctly enough; it would not change read it as often as she might.
With pitiless certainty the conviction forced itself upon her: it is
the truth, the horrible truth! and every word of his had been a lie.
She had been bought and sold like a piece of merchandiseshe,
she had been caught in such a snare!
She had taken that for love which had been only the commonest
Ah, the humiliation was nothing to the dreadful feeling that stole
over her and chilled her to the heartthe pain of wounded pride and
with it the old bitter perversity. She had not felt it lately, she had
been good, happiness makes one so goodand now? and now?
The carriage rolled quickly down the hill to Niendorf and stopped
before the house. Half-unconsciously the young wife descended and stood
in the rain on the steps of the veranda. It seemed to her as if she
were here for the first time; the small windows, the gray old walls
with the pointed roofhow ugly they were, how strange! All the flowers
in the garden beaten down by the rainthe charm that love gives fled,
only bare, sober, sad reality! and on the threshold crouched the demon
of selfishness, of cold calculation.
She passed through the garden hall and up the stairs to her room. In
the corridor Johanna met her.
The master went away in the carriage directly after breakfast, she
announced. He laid a note on your work-table, ma'am.
I have a headache, Johanna, don't disturb me now, she said,
When she reached her own room she bolted first the door behind her
and then that which opened into his room. And then she read the note.
The barometer has risen and the judge insists on going up the
Brocken, I go with him to Ille. I have something to do there and I
shall not be very late homeThine,
And below a postscript from the guest:
Don't be angry, Mrs. Linden. I belong to that class of persons who
cannot see a mountain without feeling an irresistible desire to ascend
it. I take the Brocken first, so when the weather clears again I can
bear the sight of it from my window with equanimity. I will send your
Frank home again soon, safe and sound.
Thank Heaven, he would not be back so very soonbut what was to be
done now? She sat motionless before her work-table, gazing out into the
garden without seeing anything there. Hour after hour passed. Once or
twice she passed her hand across her eyesthey were dry and hot, and
about the mouth was graven a deep line of scorn and contempt. Towards
evening there was a knock at the door. She did not turn her head.
Mrs. Linden! called the servant. No answer and the steps died away
Gertrude Linden got up then and went to her writing-desk. Calmly she
opened the pretty blotting-book, drew up a chair, grasped a pen and
seated herself to write. She had thought of it long enough; without
hesitation the words flowed from her pen:
I will beg Uncle Henry to explain everything to you as gently as
possible. I cannot speak of it myselfit is the most painful
disappointment of my whole life. I only ask you at present to confirm
my own declaration that I must live in retirement for some time on
account of my health. It will not take long to decide upon something.
She sealed the note and put it on the writing table in her husband's
room. She put the packet of poems beside it and the note-book also.
What should she do with it? The poem was nothing to herit was only an
old habit of his to write verses; the judge had let that out yesterday.
He had only made use of it in this case as a useful means for making
the deception complete. A man who writes tender verses while at the
same time he is privately acquainting himself with the amount of the
lady's fortune through an agentthat was a tragi-comedy indeed, that
would make a good plot for a farceand she was to be the
She kept the fragment of that dreadful letter. Then she wrote a note
to her mother and one to Uncle Henry, then took out her watch and
looked for a time-table.
Whither? The Berlin express which connected them with all the outer
world was already gone. Then she must wait until tomorrowand then?
Somewhere she must goshe must be alone! Only not with mamma and
Jenny, somewhere far away from here.
She suddenly sprang up with startled eyes, she heard a voice, his
Has my wife come back?
Then a merry whistle, a few bars from Boccaccio and hasty steps in
the corridor. Now his hand was on the door-knob. It was locked.
Gertrude! he called.
She was standing in the middle of the room, her lips pressed
together, her eyes stretched wide open, but she did not stir.
He supposed she was not there and went quietly into his own room.
She heard him open the door of the bedroom.
Gertrude! he called again.
Back into his own room; he spoke to the dog, whistled a few bars of
his opera-air again, moved about here and there and then stoppednow
he was tearing a papernow he was reading her note.
Gertrude, Gertrude, I know you are in your room. Open the door!
His voice sounded calm and kind, but she stood still as a statue.
Please open the door! now sounded authoritatively.
No, she answered loudly.
You are laboring under some horrible mistake! Some one has been
telling you somethinglet me speak to you, child!
She came a step nearer.
I cannot, she said.
I must entreat you to open the door. Even a criminal is heard
before he is condemned.
No, she declared, and went to the window, where she remained.
Confound yourobstinacy, sounded in her ears.
[Illustration: There was a crash and a splitting of wood and the
door was burst open.]
Then a crash, a splitting of woodthe door was burst open and Frank
Linden stood on the threshold.
Now I demand an explanation, he said angrily, the swollen veins
standing out on his white forehead, which formed a strange contrast to
his brown face.
She did not turn towards him.
Uncle Henry will tell you what there is to tell, she replied,
He strode up to her and laid his hand on her shoulder, but she drew
back, and the blue eyes, usually so soft, looked at him so coldly and
strangely that he started back, deeply shocked.
I have deceived you, Gertrude? you, Gertrude? he asked, what have
I done? What is my crime?
That is no answer, Gertrude.
Oh, it is only such a trifleI cannot talk to you about it.
Very well! Then I will go to Uncle Henry at once.
She made no answer.
And you wish to go away? To leave me alone? he inquired again.
She hesitated a moment.
Yes, yes, she then said, hastily, away from here.
Why do you keep up this farce, Gertrude.
Farce? She laughed shortly.
Gertrude, you hurt me.
Not more than you have hurt me.
But, confound it, I ask youhow? he cried in fierce anger.
She had drawn back a little and looked at him with dignity.
Pray, order the carriage and go to Uncle Henry, she replied,
Yes, by Heaven, you are right, he cried, quite beside himself,
you are more than perverse!
I told you so before; it is my character.
Gertrude, he began, I am easily aroused, and nothing angers me so
much as passive opposition. It is our duty to have trust in one
anothertell me what troubles you; it can be explained. I am
conscious of no wrong done to you.
That is a matter of opinion, said she.
Very well. I declare to you that I am not in the least curiousand
I give you time to reconsider.
He turned to go.
That is certainly the most convenient thing to do in this matter,
she retorted, bitterly.
He hesitated, but he went nevertheless, closed the broken door
behind him as well as he could and began to walk up and down his room.
She pressed her forehead against the window-pane and gazed out into
the garden. It had stopped raining; the clouds were lifting in the west
and displaying gleams of the setting sun. Then the heavy masses of fog
broke away and at the same moment the landscape blazed out in brilliant
sunshine like a beautiful woman laughing through her tears.
If she could only weep! They who have a capacity for tears
are favored. Weeping makes the heart light, the mood softerbut there
were no tears for her.
In the late twilight the iron-gray horses stopped before the door
and Jenny got out of the carriage.
She ran lightly as a cat up the veranda steps and suddenly stood in
the garden-hall before Frank Linden, who sat at the table alone.
Gertrude's plate was untouched.
So late, Jenny? he asked.
I want to speak to Gertrude.
You will find mywife in her room.
Jenny cast a quick glance at him from her bright eyes. Had the blow
fallen? She had nearly died of anxiety at home.
Is not Gertrude well? she inquired, innocently.
He hesitated a moment.
She seems rather excited and tired. I think something has happened
to disturb her in the course of the day.
Ah, indeed! said Mrs. Fredericks. Well, I will go and see her
She passed through the hall. The lamp was not yet lighted and in the
darkness she stumbled over something and nearly fell. As she uttered a
slight cry, Johanna hastened in with a light.
Oh, I beg your pardon, ma'am, it is the young lady's trunk, who
arrived about a quarter of an hour ago. Dora forgot to carry it to her
Jenny cast an angry glance at the modest box, ran up the stairs and
knocked at her sister's door.
It is I, Gertrude, she called out in her clear ringing voice. She
heard light footsteps and the bolt was gently drawn back and the door
You, Jenny? inquired Gertrude, just as Frank had said a few
minutes before, you, Jenny?
It was almost dark in the room; Jenny could not see her sister's
Why do you sit here in the dark, Gertrude? I beg of you tell me
quick all that has happened. Mamma and I are dying of anxiety.
You need have no anxiety, replied Gertrude. It is all right.
All right? asked Jenny in surprise. You cannot make me believe
that, He alone at the table and you up here with your
door lockedcome confess, child, that you have not made it up.
Please take a seat, Jenny, said the young wife, wearily.
Jenny sat down on the lounge, and Gertrude took up her position at
the window again. It was still as death in the room and in the whole
It would have been wiser if you had not married at all, Gertrude,
began her sister, with a sigh.
But, it can't be helpedyou are tied fastoh, yes! You must put
up with everything, you must not even have an opinion of your own, I am
quite ill too from the vexation I had last evening. At last I ran up to
mamma. She was dreadfully frightened when she saw me standing before
her bed in my night-dress. I cried all night long. This morning I
waited. I thought he would come up for me, he was usually so
remorsefulbut he didn't come and as I was taking breakfast with mamma
Sophie brought me a card from him in which he very coolly informed me
that he had gone to Manchester for a fortnight. WellI wish him a
Gertrude made no reply.
You must not take it so dreadfully to heart, child, continued the
young matron. Good gracious, it is well it is no worse. All women have
something to put up with and sometimes it is far worse than this.
Have they? asked Gertrude, in a low voice.
Yes, of course! cried Jenny, in surprise.
Do you think a woman can take up her bundle and march off? Bah!
Then no woman would stay with her husband a moment. No, no,people get
reconciled to one another and they just take the first opportunity to
pay each other off. That is always great fun for me. Just you see, pet,
how good Arthur will be when he comes back; for a whole month he will
be the nicest husband in the world.
That would be an impossibility for me, cried Gertrude, clearly and
firmly. To-day bitter as death, to-morrow fondly loving; it is simply
Jenny was silent.
Good gracious, she said at length, yawning, one is as good as the
other! If I were to separate from Arthur,who knows but I might get a
worse one! For of course I should marry again, what else can a woman
do? By the way, mamma spoke to the lawyerhe urgently advised her to
hush up the matter as well as possible. Mamma thought differently, but
Mr. Sneider declaredyou see now, one can't get away even if
one wants tothat there were no grounds for a divorce, and I said to
mamma too, 'Gertrude,' said I, 'leave him? Incredible! She is dead in
love with the man. He might have murdered somebody, I really believe,
and she would still find excuses for him.' Was I right?
Gertrude suffered tortures. She wrung her hands in silence and her
eyes were fixed on the dark sky above her in which the evening star was
now sparkling with a greenish light. Jenny yawned again.
Ah, just think, she continued, you don't know what we quarrelled
about, Arthur and I. He reproached me with spending too much on my
dress; of course that was only a pretext to give vent to his ill
temperthere were business letters very likely containing bad news. I
replied that did not concern him, I did not inquire into his expenses.
Then he was cross and declared that I had tried in Nice to copy the
dresses of the elegant French women. But it is not true, for I only
bought two dresses there. Gracious, yes, they were rather dearer than
if my dressmaker in Berlin had made them. Of course I said again, 'That
is not your affair, for I pay for them.' Then he talked in a very moral
strain about honorable women and German women who helped to increase
the prosperity of a house. Other fortunes besides ours had been thrown
away and when the truth was known it was always the fault of 'Madame.'
He found fault with mamma for making herself so ridiculous with her
youthful costumes, and at last he declared we owed some duty to our
future childrenHeaven preserve me! I have had to give up my poor
sweet little Walter, and I will have no more. The pain of losing him
was too great; I should die of anxiety. In short, he played the part of
a real provincial Philistine, and finally even that of Othello, for he
declared Col. von Brelow always had such a confidential air with me.
That was too much for my patience. I proposed that we should separate
then. You understand I only said sofor he is pretty obedient
generally, when I hold the reins tight. And as I said before one can't
get free for nothing. 'I will go at once!' I cried, and then I ran up
Stop, I beg of you, cried Gertrude, hastily rising. She rang for a
light and when Johanna brought the lamp it lighted up a feverish face,
and eyes swollen as if with burning tears, and yet Gertrude had not
How you look, child, remarked Jenny. Well, and what is to be done
now? I must tell mamma something, it was for that I came.
She cast a glance at the dainty time-piece above the writing-table.
Five minutes to nineI must be going home. Do tell me how you mean
to arrange matters?
You shall hear to-morrowthe day after to-morrowI don't know
yet, stammered the young wife, pressing her hand on her aching head.
Only don't make a scandal, Gertrude, and Jenny took up her gray
cloak with its red silk lining and tied the lace strings of her hat.
If the affair is settled as Mr. Sneider advises, it is the best you
can do. By the way, how does Frank take it? Has he confessed it? To be
sure, what else could he do? Well, let me hear to-morrow then, at
latest. By the way, child, it has just occurred to methat day that
Linden called on us the first time, that fellow, that Wolff, came with
him across the square to our house. I was sitting in the bay-window and
I was surprised to see how confidentially Wolff clapped him on the
Gertrude stood motionless. Ah, she had seen the same thing; she
recalled it so clearly at this moment.
Yes, yes, she stammered.
The lawyer says he does a great deal of that sort of business. But
now good-night, my petwill you send in word or shall we send some one
out in the morning?
I will send word, replied Gertrude.
She did not go out with her sister, she stood still in her place,
her head gunk on her breast, her arms hanging nerveless by her side.
This conversation with Jenny had opened an abyss before her eyes; she
no longer knew what she should do, only one thing was clear, she could
not stay with him; she could not endure a life of indifference by his
side, andany other life would never again be possible to them.
Never! she said aloud with decision, Never!
She heard his steps now in the next room; then the steps went away
again and presently she heard them on the gravel-walk in the garden
till they finally died away. She was so tired and it was so cold, and
she could not realize that there had ever been a time when it had been
different,when she had been happyshe seemed to herself so degraded.
She had that fatal letter still in her hand, where it burnt like
glowing coals. She knew an old maid, the daughter of a poor official,
who was soured and embittered. For thirteen years she had been engaged
to a poor referendary, and finally they had recognized the fact that
they never would be rich enough to marry. She had remained lonely and
pitied by all who knew her history.
Ah, if she could only have exchanged with her, who had been loved
for her own sake! And even if she could forgive him for not having
loved her, the lie, the hypocrisy she could never forgivenever,
never. Her faith in him was gone.
Half unconsciously she had wandered out into the corridor, and felt
a little refreshed by the cooler air. She ran quickly down the steps
into the garden. From the kitchen came the sounds of talking and
laughing; the gardener was talking nonsense to the maidsthe mistress'
eye was wanting.
There was no light in the garden-hall, but Aunt Rosa's windows were
unusually brilliant and a youthful shadow was marked out on the white
curtain. That must be the expected niece.
Gertrude walked on in the gravel-walks; the nightingales were
singing and there were sounds of singing in the steward's room, a deep
sympathetic tenor and a sorrowful melody.
On and on she went in the fragrant garden. Then she cried out
She had come upon him suddenly at a turning of the path.
Gertrude! returned he, trying to take her hand.
Don't touch me! she cried. I was not looking for you, but as we
have met, I will ask you for something.
In order to support herself she clutched the branches of a
lilac-bush with her little hand.
With all my heart, Gertrude, he replied gently. Forgive my
violence, anger catches me unawares sometimes. I promise you it shall
not happen again.
He stopped, waiting to hear her request. For a while they stood
there in silence, then she spoke slowly, almost unintelligibly in her
great agitation. Give me my freedom againit is impossible any longer
I do not understand you, he replied, coldly, what do you mean?
I will leave you everything, everythingonly give me my freedom!
We cannot live together any longer, don't you see that? she cried
quite beside herself.
Speak lower! he commanded, stamping angrily with his foot.
Say yes! entreated the young wife with a voice nearly choked with
I say no! was the answer. Take my arm and come.
I will not! I will not! she cried, snatching away her hand
which he had taken.
You are greatly excited this evening, you will come now into the
house with me; tomorrow we will talk further on the subject and in the
clear daylight you can tell me what reasons you have for thinking our
living together impossible.
Now, at once, if you wish it! she gasped out. Because two things
are wanting, two little trifling things only,trust and esteem! I will
not speak of loveyou have not been true to me, Frank, you have
deceived me and lost my confidence. Let me go, I entreat you, for the
love of Heavenlet me go!
As he made no reply, she went on rapidly, her words almost stumbling
over each other so fast they came. I know that I have no right in law;
people would laugh at a woman who demanded her freedom on no better
grounds than that she had been lied to once. So I come as a suppliant;
be so very good as to let me go, I cannot bear to live with you in
Come, Gertrude, he said, gently, you are ill. Come into the house
now and let us talk it over in our roomcome!
Illyes! I wish I might die, she murmured.
Then she suddenly grew calm and went back into the house with him.
He opened the door of his room and she went in, but she passed quickly
through into her own, threw herself on her lounge, drew the soft
coverlid over her and closed her eyes. Frank stood helpless before her.
I will have a cup of tea made for you, said the young man, kindly.
She looked unspeakably wretched, as she lay there, the long black
lashes resting like dark shadows on her white cheeks. She must have
Go to bed, Gertrude, he begged anxiously, it will be better for
you and tomorrow we will talk about this.
I shall stay here, she replied decisively, turning her head away.
Then he lost patience.
Confound your silly obstinacy! he cried angrily. Do you think I
am a foolish boy? I will show you how naughty children ought to be
Then he turned and banging the door after him he went away.
The first rays of the morning sun were resting like reddish gold on
the tips of the forest trees which crowded close up to the white
villa-like house. Magnificent oaks, like giant sentinels, stood on the
lawn before the massive wall. A narrow, little-used path wound in
between them, such as are to be found in places not intended to be
walked upon. The great trees gave out little shade as yet, the oak-tree
is late in getting its leaves; those that had already appeared looked
young and shrivelled against the knotted branches, and formed a
delightful contrast to the dark green of the evergreens on the other
side of the garden wall, mingled with the tender misty foliage of the
birches. Waldruhe lay as if dreaming in this early stillness. The
green jalousies were all closed, like sleepy eyelids; on the roof a row
of bright-feathered pigeons were sunning themselves. The lawn before
the house was like a wilderness, the grass-grown paths scarcely
distinguishable, which led from the great iron gate to the veranda
steps. From a side-building a little smoke rose up to the blue sky, and
a cat sat crouched on the wooden bench beside the hall-door. There was
no sound except the joyful trills of the larks as they soared out of
sight in the blue sky.
[Illustration: She leaned with her ungloved hands against the misty
bars of the gate.]
From under the oaks a slender woman's figure drew near. She walked
slowly, and her eyes glanced now to the left over the green wheat
fields to the open country, and now rested on the trees beside her. She
must have come a long way, for the delicate face looked worn and weary,
dark shadows were under her eyes, and the bottom of her dress was damp
as were also the small shoes which peeped out under the gray woollen
robe. She went straight up to the iron gate, clasped the rusty bars
with her ungloved hands and looked at the house somewhat in the
attitude of an curious child, but her eyes were too grave for that.
Beside her stood a brown dog wagging his tail, raising inquiringly his
shrewd eyes to her face, but she took no heed of the animal that had
followed her so faithfully. Her thoughts took only one direction.
She had never been here since that day when she had run hither in
desperate fear, to arriveonly too late. Everything was the same now
as thenjust as lonely and deserted. She pulled the bell, how hard it
pulled! Ah, no hand had touched it since!
It is true Sophie came here conscientiously every spring and every
autumn to beat the furniture and air the rooms, but no one else. Mrs.
Baumhagen had from the first declared this idyllic whim of her
husband's an absurdity, and Jenny always called the country house Whim
Hall. She had been here once but would never come again, one would
die of ennui among those stupid trees.
At length the bell gave out a faint tinkle. Thereupon arose a fierce
barking in the side-building and a woman of some fifty years in a
wadded petticoat and a red-flannel bed-gown came out of the house. She
stared at the young lady in amazement, then she clapped her hands
together and ran back into the house with her slippers flapping at each
step, returning presently with a bunch of keys.
Merciful powers! cried she as she opened the door, I can't
believe my own eyesMrs. Linden! Have you been taking a morning walk,
ma'am? I've always wondered if you wouldn't come here some day with
your husbandand now here you areand that is a pleasure to be sure!
And she ran before, opening the doors.
It is all in order, Mrs. Lindenmy man always insists upon
that'Just you see,' he says, 'some day some of the ladies will be
popping in on you.' And the square little body ran on again to open a
door. It is all as it used to bethere is your bed and there are the
books, only the evergreens and the beeches have grown taller.
The young wife nodded.
Bring me a little hot milk, she said, shivering, as soon as you
can, Mrs. Rode.
This very minute! And the old woman hurried away. Gertrude could
hear the clatter of her slippers on the stairs and the shutting of the
hall door. At last she was alone.
A cool green twilight reigned in the room from the branches of the
beeches which pressed close up to the pane. It was not so dark here
that last summer she had spent in Waldruhe. Otherwisethe woman was
righteverything was as it had been then, the mirror in its pear-wood
frame still displayed the Centaurs drawing their bows in the yellow and
black ground of the upper part; above the small old-fashioned
writing-table still hung the engraving, Paul and Virginia under the
palm trees; the green curtains of the great canopied bed were not in
the least faded, the sofa was as uncomfortable as ever, and the table
stood before it with the same plush cover. She had passed so many
pleasant hours here, in the sweet spring evenings at the open window,
and on stormy autumn evenings when the clouds were flying in the sky,
the storm came down from the mountains and beat against the lonely
house. The rain pattered against the panes, and the woods began to
rustle with a melancholy sound. Then the curtains were drawn, the fire
burned brightly in the fireplace, and opposite in the cosy sitting-room
her father sat at a game of cards. She was the hostess here in
Waldruhe, and she felt so proud of going into the kitchen with her
white apron on and of going down into the cellar, and then at dinner
all the old gentlemen complimented her on the success of her venison
pie. The dear old friendsthere was only Uncle Henry left now.
There on that bed they had laid the fainting girl when they had
found her by her father's death-bed.
The young wife shivered suddenly. He died of his unhappy marriage,
she had once heard Uncle Henry sayin a low tone, but she had
understood him nevertheless.
Mamma did not love him, she had loved another man, and she had told
him so once, when they were quarreling about some trifle.
I should have been happier with the other oneI liked him at any
rate, buthe was poor.
Gertrude understood it all now; she had her father's character, she
was proud, too. Oh, those gloomy years when she was growing to
understand what sunshine was wanting in the house!
If it were not for the children, he had said once, angrily, I
would have put an end to it long ago.
O what a torture it is when two people are bound together by the law
of God and man who would yet gladly put a whole world between them!
Had not her father done well when he went voluntarily? But ah, how
hard was the going when one loves! How then? Love and esteem belong
togetherah, it was imagination, all imagination!
She grew suddenly a shade paler; she thought how her father had
loved her and she thought of the little cradle in the attic at home.
Thank God, it was only a dream, a wish, a nothing, and yetOh, this
She went towards the bed, she was so tired; she nestled her head in
the pillow, drew up the coverlid and closed her eyes. And then she
seemed to be always seeing and hearing the words that she had written
to-day to leave on his writing-table. And she murmured, Have
compassion on me, let me go! Do not follow me, leave me the only place
that belongs to me!
The housekeeper brought some hot milk and she drank it. She would go
to sleep, she said, but she could not sleep. She was always listening;
she thought she heard horses' hoofs and carriage wheels. Ah, not that,
Hour after hour passed and still she lay motionless; she had no
longer the strength to move. Why can one not die when one will?
The noon-day bell was ringing in the village when a carriage drove
up and soon after steps came up the stairs.
Thank God, it was not he!
Uncle Henry put his troubled face in at the door.
Really, he said, you are here then! But why, child, why?
She had risen hastily and now stood before the little old gentleman.
You bring me an answer, uncle?
Yes, to be sure. But I would rather far do something else. How
happens it that your precious set should choose me for your amiable
He threw himself down on the sofa with such force that it fairly
groaned under his weight.
Have you any cognac here? he inquired, I am quite upset.
She shook her head without speaking and only gazed at him with
No, I suppose not, grumbled Uncle Henry. Well then, he says if it
amuses you to stay here you are quite welcome to do so.
She started perceptibly,
Oh, ta, ta! That is the upshot of itabout that, he continued,
wiping his forehead with his handkerchief.
Linden did not say much, he went on, he was in a silent rage over
your flighthowever, he kept himself well in hand. He would not keep
you, he said, nor would he drag you back to his house by force. He will
send Johanna to wait on you, and hopes to be able to fulfil any other
desire of yours. He will arrange everythingand it is to be hoped you
will soon see your error. And, wound up Uncle Henry, now that we have
got so far, I should be glad to learn from you what is to happen, when
you, with your well known obstinacy, do not feel inclined to own
She was silent.
As for the rest, Frank utterly denies having had any connection
with Wolff. And, I should like to know, Gertrudeyou were always a
reasonable womanwhy have you taken it into your head to believe that
old ass who was always known as a scoundrel, rather than your husband?
Gertrude quickly put her hand in her pocket and grasped the
letterthere was her proof. She made a motion to give it to himbut
no, she could not do it, she could not bring out the small hand that
had closed tightly over the fatal paper.
You ought both of you to give way a little, I think, said Uncle
Henry after awhile. You are married now, andau fondwhat if
he did inquire about your fortune?
Her frowning glance stopped him.
Now-a-days it is not such a wonderful thing if a man he
It is not that, it is not that, uncle! Stop, I beg of you! cried
Oh yes, I understand, women are more sensitive in such matters, and
justly too, assented Uncle Henry. Well, I fear the name of Baumhagen
will be the talk of the town again for the next six months. Goodbye,
Gertrude. I can't exactly say I have enjoyed my visit. Don't be too
At the door he turned back again.
You know it will come before the courts. Frank refuses to recognize
the claims of the fellow Wolff.
She shook her head.
He will not refuse, she answered, calmly, but I wish you would
take the matter in hand, uncle, and pay Wolff for his trouble.
Her eyes filled suddenly with angry tears.
Oh, ta, ta! Why should I meddle with the matter?
The old gentleman was deeply moved.
I ask it of you, uncle, before it becomes the talk of the town.
A sob choked her words.
Ah, do you think, my child, it is not already whispered about?
Hm!Well I will do it, but entirely from selfish motives, you know. Do
you think it isn't disagreeable to me, too? Oh, ta, ta! What big drops
those were! But will you promise me then to let well enough alone!
What? You cannot leave him!
The tears seemed frozen in her eyes.
No, she replied, but we shall agree upon a separation.
Are you mad, child? cried the old gentleman with a crimson face.
She turned her eyes slowly away.
He only wanted my money; let him keep it, was her murmured reply,
I was only a necessary incumbrance,I!
Oh, that is only your sensitiveness, said her uncle soothingly.
Do you know me so little? she inquired, drawing herself up to her
full height. Her swollen eyes looked into his with an expression of
The little man hastily shut the door behind him. It was exactly as
if his dead brother were looking at him. In a most uncomfortable frame
of mind, he got into his carriage. Confound it! here he was plunged
into difficulties again by his good nature.
Gertrude remained alone. For one moment she looked after him and
then she covered her face with her hands despairingly, threw herself on
the little sofa and wept.
It was towards evening. Frank Linden mounted the steps, stood on the
terrace and whistled shrilly out into the garden. He waited awhile and
then shook his head. The brute has gone with her, he said in a low
voice; even an animal like that takes part against me. He went back
into the dining-room and stumbled over Johanna, who was busy at the
You will go over to 'Waldruhe' in an hour, he said, looking past
her. Take what clothes are necessary for my wife with you. Whatever
else she may desire is at her disposal at any moment.
Johanna glanced at him shyly, the face that was usually so glowing
looked so ashy pale in the evening light.
If I could have half an hour more, Mr. LindenI want to show the
young lady something about the milk cellar.
The young lady? ahyes
Yes, the young lady who came to visit Miss Rosa yesterday. She
offered her services, sir, when she heard that Mrs. Linden had gone
away. I don't know how I can manage without her either, Dora is so
stupid and she has so much to do besides.
Before he could reply, the door opened softly and behind Aunt Rosa's
wonderful figure appeared a dark girl with red cheeks and shining eyes,
who when she perceived him made a rather awkward curtsy, and was at
once introduced as Addie Strom.
Frank bowed to the ladies, stammered out a few civil words, and
asked to be excused for leaving them as he had letters to write.
I am so sorry, said Aunt. Rosa, that Mrs. Linden is not at home.
He nodded impatiently.
She will soon be back, he replied as he went out.
If Addie can help about the house a little sounded the shrill
tones of the old lady behind him.
Don't give yourself any trouble, was his reply.
I should be glad to do it, said Adelaide, timidly.
Another silent bow from him and then he went out with great strides.
He ran hastily down the steps into the garden. He took the letter
out of his pocket once more which he had found lying on his
writing-table that morning, and read it through. The writing was not as
dainty as usualthe letters were hard and firm and large and yet
unsteady, as if written, in great excitement.
The blood rushed in a hot wave to his heart. It will come right.
He put away the letter and took another from his pocketbook which had
been brought half an hour before by an express messenger.
I have just come from Wolff, with whom I intended to make an
arrangement of this fatal affair. The scoundrel, unfortunately, was
taken ill of typhus fever yesterday, and nothing is to be done with him
at present. I can only regret that you should have consulted this man
of all others, and I do not understand why you have not satisfied him.
As soon as the gentleman is au fait again I shall take the
liberty, in the interest of my family and especially of my niece, to
settle the matter quietly, and beg you not to make the matter worse by
any imprudence on your part. You must have some consideration for the
May an old man give you a little advice? I am a very tolerant judge
in this matter, but a woman thinks differently about it. Acknowledge
the truth openly to your insulted little wifewith a person of her
character it is the only way to gain her pardon. I will gladly do all
in my power to set this foolish affair before her in the mildest
Consideration! he murmured, consideration for the family!
Then he laughed aloud and went on more quickly into the deepening
twilight. What should he do in the house, in the empty rooms, at the
inhospitable table with his heart full of bitterness? Childish, foolish
obstinacy it was in herand no trust in him! How had he deserved that
she should give him up at once without even hearing him? Well, she
would get over it, she would come again, butthe spell was broken, the
bloom, the freshness was gone.
He must have his rights without regard to the Baumhagen family, or
to her on whom he would not have permitted the winds of heaven to blow
too roughly. She could not have hurt him more, than by giving more
credence to that scoundrel than to himshe who usually was so
He could see her eyes before him now, those eyes in which strong
passion glowed. He had seen them blaze with anger more than once, he
had heard her agitating sobs, her voice husky with emotion as she spoke
of her father. He saw her again as she had been the evening before
their marriage when she pressed his hands passionately to her lips, a
mute eloquent gesture, a thanksgiving for the refuge of his breast. And
now? It had already burned out this passionate love, had failed before
the first trial.
It was already dark when he returned from his walk. Johanna was
gone. The maid whom he met in the corridor told him she had taken her
child and a trunk full of clothing and the books which had been sent to
Mrs. Linden yesterday.
He went to her room; the sweet scent of violets of which she was so
fond pervaded the atmosphere, the afghan on the lounge lay just as it
had fallen when she threw it off as she rose. He could not stay-a
longing for her seized upon him so powerfully that it well-nigh
unmanned him, and he went back to the dining-room. He opened the door
half-unconsciouslythere sat the judge at the table, dusty and
dishevelled from his Brocken tour, but contented to his inmost soul.
Buthow came this stranger here doing the honors?
The rosy little brunette was just setting the table. She had put on
a white apron over her dark dress, the bib fastened smoothly across her
full bust. She was just depositing with her round arm half-uncovered by
the elbow-sleeve, a plate of cold meat by the judge's place, placing
the bottle of beer beside it. And as she did so she laughed at the
weary little man so that all her white teeth were displayed.
And this must he bear too, to make his comfort complete! Let them
eat who would! Soon he was sitting upstairs in the corner of the sofa
in his own room; outside the darkness of a spring night came down, and
a girl's voice was singing as if in emulation of the nightingales; that
must be the little brunette, Adelaide. At last he heard it sounding up
from the depths of the garden.
He did not stir until the judge stood before him.
Now, I should really like to know, Frankare you bewitched or am
I? What is the matter? Where is madame? The little black thing
downstairs, who seems to have fallen out of the clouds, says she is
'gone.'Gone? What does it mean?
Gone! repeated Frank Linden. It sounded so strange that his friend
Something has happened, Frank,that old woman, the mother-in-law,
has done it. Oh, these women!
No, no, it is that affair with Wolff.
The judge gave vent to a long whistle, then he sat down beside
Linden and clapped him on the shoulder.
We'll manage him, Frank, he said, comfortingly, and she
will come back, she must come back; you will not even need to
ask her. But it was the most foolish thing she could do to run away.
And he began to describe a case that had come up in Frankfort a
short time before on the ground of wilful desertion.
Linden sprang up.
Spare me your law cases, he said roughly. Do you suppose I would
bring her back by force?
And what if she will not come of herself, Frank?
She will come, he replied, shortly.
And that scoundrel Wolff?
Frank Linden gave his friend a cigar and took one himself, though he
did not light it, and as he sat down again he said:
You can ask that? Have I been in the habit of putting up with
No, but on what does the man found his claim?
Frank shrugged his shoulders. I told you before, that he declared
when I turned him out, that he would know how to secure his rights. He
is ill now, however, he added.
Oh, that is fatal! lamented the judge. He was silent, for just
then the full, deep girl's voice came up from the garden:
Du hast mir viel gegeben,
Du schenktest mir dein Herz,
Du nahmst mir Alles wieder,
Und liessest mir den Schmerz.
It must be very hard, Frank, murmured his friend after a few
moments of deep silence. Very hardI mean, to go the right way to
work with a woman. How will you act? With sternness, or with
gentleness? Will you write her a harsh letter, or will you send her
some verses? In such an evening as this, I think I could almost write
poetry myself. I say, Frank, light the lamp and let us read the paper.
Richard, said the young man as he rose, if you will give me your
advice in regard to this affair of Wolff's, I shall be grateful to you,
but leave my wife out of the question altogether; that is my affair
Mrs. Baumhagen had conquered her aversion to Waldruhe and had come
to see her youngest daughter. Something must be doneat any rate she
could not any longer endure the sympathetic inquiries for the health of
the young Mrs. Linden. Something must be done.
Gertrude was sitting at the window reading in her cool dusky room,
at least she held a book in her hand; at her feet lay Linden's dog. She
started in dismay as she heard footsteps in the corridor and for one
moment a deep flush spread over her face.
Ah, mamma, she said, wearily, as Mrs. Baumhagen rustled in in a
light gray toilet, her hat lavishly adorned with violets as being
appropriate to half-mourning, the round face more deeply flushed than
usual with the heat of the spring sun and her excitement.
This can't go on any longer, child, she began, kissing her
daughter tenderly on the forehead. How you look, and how cold it is
here! Jenny sent her love; she went to Paris this morning to meet
Arthur. Why didn't you go too, as I proposed?
I did not feel well enough, replied Gertrude.
You look pale, and it is no wonder. I never could bear such want of
Gertrude sat down again in her old place.
Has Uncle Henry been here? inquired Mrs. Baumhagen.
He was here yesterday.
Well, then, you know that Linden has forbidden him any interference
And that this Mr. Wolff has been at the point of death for three
days? His death would be the best thing that could happen, for of
course everything would come to an end then. I don't know whether the
people in the city have any idea of the true state of the case, but
they suspect something and they overwhelm me with inquiries about you.
Gertrude nodded slightly, she knew all that already from her uncle.
And hasn't he been here? Did he not ask your pardon, has he not
tried to get you back? asked Mrs. Baumhagen, breathlessly.
No, was the half-choked reply.
The mother pressed her cambric handkerchief to her eyes.
It is brutal, really brutal! Thank God that your eyes have been
opened so soon. But you cannot stay here the whole time before the
Gertrude started and looked at her mother with wide eyes. She
herself had thought of nothing but a separation. But when she heard the
dreadful word spoken, it fell on her like a thunderbolt.
Yes, she said at length, wringing her hands nervously, where
should I stay?
And for pity's sake, what do you do here from morning till night?
I read and go to walk, and I grieve, she would have added, but
she was silent. What did her mother know of grief!
My poor child!
Mrs. Baumhagen was really crying now. This atmosphere weighed on her
nerves. There was something oppressive in the air, and they really had
a dreadful time before them. What if he should not consent to a
separation? Why had God given the child such an unbending will which
had brought her into this misery! If she had only followed her mother's
advice. Mrs. Baumhagen had taken an aversion to the man from the first
I think I must go home, my headache she stammered, unscrewing
her bottle of smelling salts.
If you want anything, Gertrude, write or send to me. Do you want a
piano or books? I have Daudet's latest novel. Ah, child, there are many
trials in life and especially in married life. You haven't experienced
the worst of it yet.
Thank you, mamma.
The young wife followed the mother down the corridor and down the
stairs to the hall door. Mrs. Baumhagen said good-bye with a cheerful
smilethe coachman need not know everything.
I hope you will soon be better, Gertrude, she said, loudly. Be
persevering in your water-cure.
Gertrude, left alone, went on into the garden. At the end of the
wall where the path curved was a little summer-house, with a roof of
bark shaped like a mushroom. Here she stopped and looked out into the
country which lay before her in all the glow and fragrance of the
evening light. Behind the wooded hills of the Thurmberg stood the dear,
cosy little house. She walked in spirit through all its rooms, but she
forced her thoughts past one door, the room with the old mahogany
furniture into which she had gone first on her wedding eve. And she
leaned more firmly against the wall and gazed out at the setting sun
which stood in the sky like a fiery red ball, till the tears streamed
from her eyes, and her heart ached with mortification and humiliation.
Why did that day always come back to her so, and that evening, the
first in that room? The evening when she had slipped from his arms,
down to his very feet, hiding her face in his hands, overwhelmed with
her deep gratitude. Must he not have smiled to himself at the foolish,
passionate, blindly credulous woman? And angry tears fell from her eyes
down over her pale cheeks, her hands trembled, and her pride grew
stronger every minute.
She turned and went back to the house, the dog still following, and
when she reached her room she sat down on the ground like a child and
put her arms round her brown companion's neck. She could weep now, she
could cry aloud and no one would hear. Johanna had gone to Niendorf to
get some books and all sorts of necessary things.
When Johanna came back at length, Gertrude sat in the corner of the
sofa as quiet as ever. The lamp was lighted and she was reading.
Johanna brought out a timid Good evening! which was acknowledged by a
silent nod. She laid a few rosebuds down beside the book. The first
from the Niendorf garden, ma'am.
And when no answer came, she went on talking as she took the clothes
out of the basket and packed them away in the wardrobe.
Dora is gone, Mrs. Linden. She could not get on with Miss Adelaide,
and the master packed her off. He is so angry. Mr. Baumhagen, who has
just been there, complained bitterly of the dinner to-day. I was in the
kitchen when he came in and said he had never eaten such miserable peas
in his life and the ham was cut the wrong way. Then Miss Adelaide cried
and complained, and declared she did it all only out of good-nature.
And the judge tried to comfort her and said it was a pity to spoil her
beautiful eyes.The judge sent his compliments too, and said he would
come to say good-bye to you, ma'am. He is going away in a few days. Mr.
Baumhagen sent greetings too, and Miss Rosa and little Miss Adelaide
Pray get the tea, Johanna, said the young lady, interrupting the
stream of words.
The milk was sour, too, ma'am, and it is so cool too. Ah, you ought
to see the milk-cellar! Everything is going to ruinit would really be
better if you would only agree that Miss Adelaide should come here and
let me go to the master.
You will stay here, replied Gertrude, bending her eyes on her
The master looks so pale, proceeded the chattering woman. Mr.
Baumhagen was telling him in the garden-hall today that Wolff is dying,
and he struck his hand on the table till all the dishes rattled and
said, 'Everything goes against me in this matter!'
Gertrude looked up. The color came back into her pale cheek, and she
drew a long breath.
Dying? she asked.
Yes. I heard Mr. Baumhagen trying to soothe himsaying it was all
for the best and he hoped everything might be comfortably settled now.
What was my uncle doing there? inquired Gertrude.
Johanna was embarrassed.
I don't know, Mrs. Linden, but if I am not mistaken, he was trying
to persuade Mr. Linden tothatah, ma'am!Johanna came and stood
before the table which she had set so daintily.
What is between you and Mr. Linden I don't know, and it is none of
my business to ask. But you see, ma'am, I have had a husband too, that
I loved dearlyand life is so short, and I think we shouldn't make
even one hour of it bitter, ma'am; the dead never come back again. But
if I could know that my Fritz was still in the world and was sitting
over there behind the hills, not so very far away from megood Lord,
how I would run to him even if he was ever so cross with me! I would
fall on his neck and say, 'Fritz, you may scold me and beat me, it is
all one to me so long as I have you!'
And the young widow forgot the respect due to her mistress and threw
a corner of her apron over her eyes and began to cry bitterly.
Don't cry, Johanna, said Gertrude. You don't understandI too
would rather it were so than that She stopped, overpowered by a
feeling of choking anguish.
Johanna shook her head.
'Taint right, she said, as she went out.
And Gertrude left the table and seated herself at the window, laying
her forehead against the cool pane. Are not some words as powerful as
if God himself had spoken them?
When some time after, Johanna entered the room again, she found it
empty, and the table untouched. And as she began to remove the simple
dishes, Gertrude entered and put a key down on the table. She had been
in her father's room and the pale face with its frame of brown hair,
looked as if turned to stone.
If visitors come to-morrow, or at any time, I cannot receive them,
she said, unless it be my Uncle Henry.
And she took up her book again and began to read.
The house had long been quiet, when she put down the book for a
moment and gazed into space.
No! she murmured, no!
Three days later the Niendorf carriage stopped before the gate of
Waldruhe, and waited there a quarter of an hour in the blazing heat
of the mid-day sun, so that the gardener's children could gaze to their
heart's content on the brilliant coloring of Aunt Rosa's violet parasol
and the red ostrich feathers which adorned Adelaide's summer hat,
mingling effectively with the dark curly hair which hung in a fringe
over the youthful forehead. This sight must have been an agreeable one
to the judge also, for he did not take his eyes off his pretty
Mrs. Linden regrets that she is not well enough to receive
visitors, announced Johanna with her eyes cast down.
Two of the occupants of the carriage looked disappointed, while the
judge felt in his pocket for his card-case.
There! He gave the servant the turned-down card.
And here is a letter, an important letterdo you
understand, Johanna? My compliments, and I trust she will soon
So do I, said the young girl, timidly.
Aunt Rosa, however, was silent, and when they looked at her more
closely they saw she was asleep, the wrinkled old face nodding absurdly
above the enormous bow under her chin.
Burmann, drive slowly, when we get to the wood, whispered the
judge, Miss Rosa is asleep.
The coachman made a clucking sound with his tongue and drove
noiselessly over the soft grass-grown road. Johanna could see that the
judge moved over from the middle of the seat opposite the young lady
and that she glowed suddenly like the feathers on her hat.
Johanna went back into the house with her card and letter and gave
them to Gertrude.
A letter? inquired the young wife.
The judge gave it to me, replied Johanna, as she left the room in
which, in spite of the outside heat, the air was always damp and cold.
Gertrude slowly opened the letter. It was in his handwritingshe
had expected it. Her heart beat so quickly she could scarcely breathe,
and the letters danced before her eyes. It was some time before she
could read it:
GERTRUDEWolff died last evening. It is no longer possible to call
him to account on earth; it is no longer possible to expose his guilt.
He has gone to his grave without having cleared me from his calumny. I
remain before you as a guilty person, and I can do nothing more than
declare once more that weyou and I, are the victims of a scoundrel. I
have never spoken with Wolff of your fortune nor called in his
intervention in any way. I leave the rest to you and to your
consideration. I shall never force you to return to me, neither shall I
ever consent to a divorce. Come home, Gertrude, come soon and all shall
be forgotten. The house is empty, and my heart is still more sohave
faith in me again. Your FRANK.'
She had just finished reading these words when Uncle Henry came in.
The little gentleman had evidently dined wellhis face shone with
Still here? he cried. And as she did not reply he looked at her
more closely. Well, you are not angry again?
But the young wife swayed suddenly and Uncle Henry sprang towards
her only just in time to keep her from falling, and called anxiously
for Johanna. They laid the slender figure on the sofa and bathed her
temples with cold water.
Speak to me, child! he cried, speak to me! and he repeated it
till she opened her eyes.
I cannot, she said after awhile.
What? asked the asthmatic old gentleman.
Go to him I can_not! Must I?
Merciful Heavens! groaned Uncle Henry, do be reasonable! Of
course you must unless you want him to be ruined.
I must? she repeated, adding as if for her own comfort, No, I
must not! I cannot force myself to have confidence in him, I cannot
pretend what I do not feel. No, I must not!
And she sprang up and ran through the room to the door, trembling
Oh, ta, ta! The old man ran his hands through his hair. Then stay
here! Let your house and home go to ruin, and the husband to whom you
have pledged your faith into the bargain.
Yes, yes, she murmured, you are right, but I cannot!
And she grasped the little purse in her pocket which held that fatal
It seemed as if this brought her back at once to herself. She grew
quiet, she lay back on her lounge and rested her head on the cushion.
Pardon me, uncleI know what I am doing.
That is exactly what you don't know, he muttered.
Yes, I do, was the pettish reply. Or do you think I ought to go
there and beg him with folded hands to take me back into favor again?
And something like scorn curved her lips.
It would be the most sensible thing you could do, replied Uncle
Henry, rather angrily.
She bent back her head proudly.
No! came from her lips, not if I were still more miserable than I
am! I can forgive him, butfawn upon him likelike a houndno!
God forgive me, but it is nothing but the purest arrogance that
animates you, cried the old man. Who gave you the right to set
yourself so high above him? He was a poor man who could not marry
without moneyis it a crime that he should have asked a question as to
this matter? It happens to every princess. You are stern and unloving
and unjust. Have you never done anything wrong?
She had started at his first reproachful words like a frightened
child, now she sprang up and as she knelt down before him her eyes
looked up at him imploringly.
Uncle, do you know how I loved him? Do you know how a woman can
love? I looked up to him as to the noblest being on earth, so lofty, so
great he seemed to me. I have lain at his feet, and at night I folded
my hands and thanked God that he had given me this man for my husband.
I thought he was the only one who did not look on me only as a rich
girl, and he has told me so a hundred times. Uncle, you have been
always alone, you don't know how people can love! And then to come down
and see in him only a common man, a man who does not disdain to tell a
lieO, I would rather have died! And she hid her face in her
trembling hands. And there, where I have been so happy, shall I
satisfy myself with the coldest duty? I must be his wife and know that
it was not love that brought me to his side? I shall hear his tender
words and not think, 'He does not mean them?' He will say something to
me and I shall torment myself with doubts whether he really means it?
Oh, hell itself could not be more dreadful, for I loved him!
Tears stood in the old man's eyes. He stroked Gertrude's smooth hair
in some embarrassment.
Stand up, Gertrude, he said, gently; and after a pause he added,
The Bible says we shall forgive.
Yes, with all my heart, she murmured. And if you see him tell him
so. Ah, if he had come and had said'Forgive me'but so
An idea came into Uncle Henry's head.
Then would you give in, child? he inquired.
Yes, she stammered, hard as it would be.
The old egotist knew then what he had to do. He led the weeping
Gertrude to her little sofa, asked Johanna for a glass of wine and then
drove to Niendorf. As he went he could see always before him the
beautiful tear-stained face, and could hear her sad voice. As he ran up
the steps to the garden-hall rather hastily he saw through the glass
door the little brunette Adelaide sitting at the table with the judge,
who was just uncorking a wine-bottle. Both were so deeply engaged in
gazing at each other and blushing and gazing again that they were not
conscious of the presence of the old spy outside.
Really, this is a pretty time to be carousing in this house,
thought Uncle Baumhagen. As he entered he brought the couple back to
the bald present with a gruff Good morning, and the judge began at
once a lament over the horrible ill-luck of this Wolff's dying six
months too soon.
What is going on here? asked Uncle Henry, inhaling the fragrance
of the wood-ruff.
The parting mai-trank for the judge, replied Miss Adelaide.
Oh, ta, ta! You are going away?
I must, replied the little man with a regretful look at the young
girl. Besides, my dear sir, since this dreadful wifeless time has
begun it is melancholy in Niendorf. Linden has been as overwhelmed,
since the news of the death came last evening, as if his dearest friend
had gone down into the grave with that limb of Satan. Heaven knows he
could not have been more anxious about a near relation, and his horses
have nearly run their legs off with making inquiries about the fellow's
health. I really believe he would have given the doctor of this
distinguished citizen a premium for preserving his precious life.
Uncle Henry grumbled something which sounded almost like a curse.
Where is Linden? he inquired.
Upstairs! replied Miss Adelaide. He has been there ever since
this morning, at least we indicating the judge and herselfdined
alone with auntie, then we went to 'Waldruhe' but we did not get in,
and now it is out of sheer desperation that we made a bowl of
mai-trank. But won't you taste a little of it, Mr. Baumhagen?
She had filled a glass and offered it to the old gentleman with
Uncle Henry cast a half-angry, half-eager glance at the glass in the
Witch! he growled, and marched out of the room as haughtily as a
Spaniard. He was in too serious a mood to enter into their chatter.
But a clear laugh sounded behind him.
I wish the judge would pack that little monkey in his trunk and
send her off to Frankfort or to Guinea for all I care.
He found the young master of the house at his writing-table.
Linden, he began, without sitting down, the carriage is waiting
down-stairs, come with me to your little wife; if you will only beg her
forgiveness, everything will be all right again.
Frank Linden looked at him calmly.
Do you know what I should be doing? he askedI should
acknowledge a wrong of which I have never been guilty.
Ah, nonsense! Never mind that! This is the question now, will you
have your wife back again or not?
Is that the condition on which my wife will return to me?
Why, of course. Oh, ta, ta! I am sure at least that she would come
I am sorry, but I cannot do it, replied the young man, growing a
shade paler. It is not for me to beg pardon.
You are an obstinate set, and that is all there is about it,
thundered Uncle Henry. We are glad that the scoundrel is dead, and now
here we are in just the same place as we were before.
The scoundrel's death is a very unfortunate event for me, uncle.
You will not? asked the old gentleman again.
Ask her pardonno!
Then good-bye! And Uncle Henry put on his hat and hastily left the
room and the house.
Allow me to accompany you down, said Frank, following the little
man, who jumped into the carriage as if he were fleeing from some one.
But before the horses started he bent forward and an expression of
intense anxiety rested on his honest old face.
See here, Frank, he whispered, it is a foolish pride of yours.
Women have their little whims and caprices. It is true I never had a
wifethank Heaven for that!but I know them very well for all that.
They have such ideas, they must all be worshipped, and the little one
is particularly sharp about it. She is like her father, my good old
Lebrecht, a little romanticI always said the child read too much. Now
do you be the wise one to give in. You have not been so hurt either,
andbesides she is a charming little woman.
As soon as Gertrude comes back everything shall be forgotten,
replied Linden, shutting the carriage door.
But she won't come so, my boy. Don't you know the Baumhagen
obstinacy yet? cried Uncle Henry in despair.
He shrugged his shoulders and stepped back.
To Waldruhe! shouted the old man angrily to the coachman, and away
My young gentleman is playing a dangerous game as injured
innocence, he growled, pounding his cane on the bottom of the
carriage. The nearer he came to the villa, the redder grew his angry
round face. When he reached Waldruhe he did not have to go upstairs.
Gertrude was in the park. She was standing at the end of a shady alley
and perceiving her uncle she came towards him, in her simple white
Uncle, she gasped out, and two anxious eyes sought to read his
Come, said the old man, taking her hand, let us walk along this
path. It will do me good. I shall have a stroke if I stand still. To
make my story short, childhe will not.
Uncle, what have you done? cried Gertrude, a flush of
mortification covering her face. You have been to him?
'Yes,' I said, 'go and ask her forgiveness and everything will come
rightwomen are like that!' and he
She pressed her hand on her heart.
Uncle! she cried.
And he said: No! That would be owning a fault which he had not
committed. There, my child! I have tried once more to play the part of
peace-maker, butnow I wash my hands of it all. You must do it for
yourselves now. Anger is bad for me, as you know, and I have had enough
now to last me a month. Good-bye, Gertrude!
Good-bye, uncle, I thank you.
He had gone a few steps when the old egotist looked round once more.
She was leaning against the trunk of a beech-tree like one who has
received a blow. Her eyes were cast down, a strange smile played about
Poor child! he stammered out, taking his hat from his burning
forehead, and then he went back to her.
Come now, you must keep your spirits up, he said kindly. Over
there in Niendorf that black little monkey was making a mai-trank
for the judge who is going away. What do you say, Gertrude, shall we go
and have some? Come, I will take you over quite quietly. You see we
would go so softly into the dining-room, and I am not an egotist if you
are notonetwothreein each others' armsyou will cry 'Frank!'
he will say 'Gertrude!' and all will be forgotten. Gertrude, my good
little Gertrude, do be reasonable. Is life so very blissful that one
dares fling away the golden days of youth and happiness? Come, come,
take my advice just this once.
He had grasped her slender wrist, but she freed herself hastily and
her face grew rigid. No, no, that is all over! she said in a hard
The summer had come; the yellowing grain waved in the soft breezes,
and the cherry-trees in the orchards and along the high roads had all
been robbed of their fruit. The sky was cloudless and the first grain
had been harvested in Niendorf.
From the cities every one had fled to the watering-places or into
the mountains. The corner-house in the market-place was shut up from
top to bottom. Mrs. Baumhagen was in Switzerland, Mr. and Mrs.
Fredericks in Baden-Baden. Uncle Henry had gone to Heligoland, because
nowhere can one get such good breakfasts as on the dunes of that rocky
Only the two sat still in their nests; separated by a small extent
of wood and meadow, they could not have been further apart if the ocean
had rolled between. There was no crossing the gulf between them.
In Niendorf everything was irregular and in disorder. How should the
little Adelaide know anything about the management of a farm? She was
on her feet all day, she took a hundred unnecessary steps, and in the
evening she complained that the two dainty little feet in the pointed
high-heeled shoes hurt her so, and that the servants had no respect for
her. Aunt Rosa was in a bad temper, for she found herself in her old
age condemned to the life of a lady-in-waiting. Adelaide could not
possibly dine alone with Linden, and she must always be there. So at
twelve o'clock every day, the old lady put on her best cap, and sat,
the picture of misery, opposite Linden, in Gertrude's vacant place. The
meals were desperately melancholy. After awhile Adelaide also became
silent, since she very rarely got any reply to her remarks. So they ate
their dinner in silence and separated as soon as possible afterwards.
Frank, however, had work to do at least, he could not always
think and brood and look at the locked door which led into Gertrude's
room. That happened in the evening in his quiet room when little
Adelaide was singing all manner of melancholy songs about love and
longing down-stairs. And at midnight when it was quite quiet, when
every one was asleep in the house and only some faint barking of a dog
sounded from the tillage, he wandered up and down the room till the
lamp grew dim and went out, and even then he did not stop.
He no longer expected her to come, though he had done so for days
and weeks. At first he had gone to the very walls of her garden with a
gnawing desire to see her; he would be there when she came out of the
gate, and he would go to meet her at the very first step. In vain, she
did not come.
Once the servants had seen him when his eyes were strangely red.
The master is crying for the mistress, was the report in the kitchen.
Why doesn't he go and get her? said the coachman, I wouldn't cry
a drop; I should know very well how to get back an obstinate wife,
making an unmistakable gesture. Brute! cried the maids, and thereupon
all the women turned their backs on him.
It was long since there had been such a harvest; the barns could
scarcely contain all the grain. The fragrance of the hay came over from
the meadows and mingled with that of the thousand roses in the garden;
the great linden bloomed in the court-yard and a happy hen-mother led
out to walk a legion of yellow little chickens.
In the stork's nest on the barn the young ones were growing apace;
the homely old house lay almost buried in luxuriant greenery; the
clematis climbed up to the windows and peeped in at the empty rooms,
and the swallows which were building under the roof, went crying
through the country and the city, She has gone away from him! She has
gone away from him!
Yes, everybody knew the sad story by this time. Gertrude Baumhagen
was separated from her husband. In the coffee parties one whispered to
the other, people spoke of it at the cafés and at dinner-parties, and
at the table d'hôte in the hotel it was the standing topic of
conversation. No one knew exactly why this had happened. There were a
thousand reports of a most wonderful nature.
He did something disagreeable about his wife's dowry
She went away because he lifted his hand to strike her
The mother-in-law made mischief between them
Nonsense! She was jealousthere is a little brown cousin in the
No, it was not thatshe heard that before they were engaged he
consulted an agent about her fortune. It is not so very unusual
Ah, bah, no woman would run away for that!
That shows that you don't know Gertrude Baumhagen very well. It is
a fact that she has gone away.
Yes, it was a fact, and Gertrude sat in her lonely house like one
buried alive in that ever gloomy room. She could no longer read; it
seemed as if she slept with open eyes. Sometimes Johanna brought her
her child, and the young wife's eyes mechanically followed the little
creature as it crept awkwardly over the floor or tried to raise itself
by a chair, but she would not touch it even when it fell and
cried.Towards evening, however, the same unaccountable restlessness
always came over her; then she walked hurriedly up and down the garden
for a long time till she reached the top of the little hill; there she
would remain for hours, gazing at the Thurmberg till her hair and dress
were wet with dew.
Believe me, she said to Johanna, I shall be illhere, and she
pointed to her head.
I do believe it, assented the other, it is easy to make one's
It was a day at the end of July; a frightful sultry heat brooded
over the earth, and the young wife suffered greatly from it even in her
cool room. After dinner she lay motionless in her chair by the window;
a severe headache tortured her as was so often the case lately.
Johanna placed her cupful of strong black coffee on the table and
put the book beside it which had been opened at the same page for the
last three days.
Here is a letter too, she added.
Gertrude had acquired a great dread of letters lately. She overcame
her aversion however and opened it. It was in Jenny's pointed
handwriting, and Jenny only wrote surface gossip; one glance at the
letter would suffice. Two sheets fell out.
It is a long time since we heard anything from you, she read, so
that we are very anxious about youare you still in 'Waldruhe?'
I met Judge K. yesterday at a reception, the same who, in the
celebrated divorce case of the Duke of P. with Countess Y., was the
counsel of the latter. I asked him playfully if a woman could separate
from her lord and master if she found that he had had more thought of
her worldly goods than of herself, described the situation pretty
plainly and spoke of a friend of mine who was in such a position. He
replied, 'Tell your friend she had better go quietly back to her
husband, for she is sure to get the worst of it.' His real expression
was a much rougher one, for he is well known as a brute.
Well, there you have the opinion of an authority in such matters.
Make an end of the matter, for you may have so bitterly to repent a
longer delay as you are quite unable to realize in your present
magnificent scorn. If I am not much mistaken you really love him. Well,
there are thingsbut it is hard to write about such things. Read the
enclosed letter, which mamma sent me a few days ago. Perhaps you will
guess what I wanted to say.
I wish you had been with me in Paris or were here now in
Baden-Baden. You would see how we German women, with our thick-skinned
housewifely virtues and our cobwebby romance, make our lives
unnecessarily hard. I am convinced a French woman would hold her sides
for laughing if she should hear the cause of your conjugal strife.
Arthur is very amiable, and obeys at a word. He surprised me with a
Paris dress for the reception yesterday. As soon as he gets out of our
little nest he is like another man. Good-bye, don't take this affair
Slowly the young wife took up the other letter; it was in Aunt
Pauline's pointed handwriting and was addressed to Mrs. Baumhagen.
Everything here goes on as usual. I was at your house yesterday;
Sophie is there and had a great moth-hunt yesterday. Your parrot had a
bad eye but it is all right again now. I have heard nothing of
Gertrude; she will let nobody in. I suppose you have heard from her.
There are all sorts of reports about Niendorf going about. Last evening
my husband came home from the clubthey say there is a cousin there
who manages the house. Mr. Hanke has seen her in Linden's
carriagevery dark, rather original, and very much dressed. Well, of
course, you know how people will talk, but I will not pour oil on the
fire. I saw Linden too, once, and I hardly knew him; he was coming from
the bank. The man's hair is growing gray about the temples; he looked
like another person, sohow shall I describe itso run down.
Gertrude dropped the letter and then she sprang upshe shook and
trembled in every limb.
With a powerful effort she forced herself to be calm and to be
reasonable. What did she wish? She had separated from him forever. But
her heart! her heart hurt her so all at once, and it beat so loudly in
the deathly stillness which surrounded her that she thought she could
Johanna! she shrieked, but no one replied; she was probably out in
the garden or in the kitchen at work.
And what good could she do her? No, not that, only not that!
She sat down again in her chair by the window and looked out among
the trees. What would she not give if the woods and the hills would
disappear so that she could look across into that houseinto that
room! A gay little thing is that brown little girl, Johanna had said
the other day. And Gertrude saw her in her mind's eye tripping about
the house, now in the garden-hall, now up the steps, those dear old
worn-out steps. Tap, tap, now in the corridor, the high-heeled shoes
tapped so firmly and daintily on the hard floor; and now at a brown
Might she enter? Ah, his room, that dear old room! And Gertrude
wrung her hands in bitter envy. Go! she cried, half-aloud, go! That
threshold is sacredII crossed it on the happiest day of my lifeon
And she could see him sitting at his writing-table in his gray
jacket and his high boots just as he had come in from the fields; his
white forehead stood out in sharp contrast to his brown face. She had
always liked that.
And gray hair on his temples? Ah, he had none a few weeks ago! And
again a dainty little figure fluttered before her eyes going towards
him. Ah, she would like to know that one thingif he could ever forget
her for anotherfor this girl perhaps? But of what use was all this?
She got up and went out of the room across the corridor to her
father's room. What her father had done thousands had done before him,
and thousands would do ita man need not live!
On the table by the bed stood the glass with his monogram, out of
which he had drunk that dreadful potion. The servants had washed it and
put it back there. She walked a few steps toward the window and started
suddenly. Ah yes, it was only her image in the glass. She walked
quickly up to the shining glass and looked inthere was a wonderful
bluish shimmer in it and her face, pale as death, looked out at her
from it. The deep shadows under the eyes spread far down on her cheeks.
Shuddering, she turned away; there was something ghostly about her own
And again she stood still and thought. What was left for her in
life? Everything was gone with him, everything!
Mrs. Linden, said a voice behind her, Judge Schmidt.
In my room.
Ah, yes, she had forgotten that she had sent for him. He came
to-day, and she had only written yesterday. But it was just as well,
she must make a beginning.
She turned back again; let him wait, she could not go just yet. She
went to the window and saw how the heavy leaden clouds were spreading
over the sky; a storm was brewing in the west. Courage, now, courage!
When it was past the sun would shine again; sometimes a broken branch
could not lift itself again. So much the better! There would be no more
of this quiet, this deadly calm.
Only something to doeven if
Ma'am! called the voice once more, and then she composed herself
She knew him very well, the old gentleman who came towards her with
a kind smile, but she could not speak a word to him. She could only
wave her hand silently towards the nearest chair. He knew what the
matter was, let him begin the dreadful conversation.
You wish for my advice, Mrs. Linden, in this difficult matter?
Yes, I wish you to act for me, she said, looking past him into the
corner of the room, and I wish above all that Mr. Linden should be
informed of the decision I have come to. I will leave him in possession
of my whole fortune with the exception of this house, and the capital
that is invested in my brother-in-law's factory.
She said the words hurriedly, as if she had learned them by heart.
Are you quite in earnest about it then? asked the old man.
Her eyes blazed out at him.
Do you think I would jest on such a sorrowful subject?
And you think your husband will agree?
It is your affair, Mr. Schmidt, to arrange this.
He bowed without speaking. She too was silent. An oppressive
stillness reigned in the room, in the whole house. It seemed to
Gertrude as if she had just heard her sentence of death.
There will be a bad storm to-day, said the judge after awhile. I
must leave you now, madam, and as I am half-way to Niendorf now, I will
just drive over, to arrange the matter with your husband in person.
To-day? She was startled into saying it.
He hesitated and looked at her.
You are right, to-morrow will suit me better toolet us say the
day after to-morrow.
No, she replied, hastily, go at once, it will be better, much
She got up in some confusion; her headache, the consciousness that
she had now set the ball rolling nearly overwhelmed her. She
accompanied the lawyer mechanically to the head of the stairs; then she
remained standing in the corridor, her hand pressing her throbbing
temples, half unconscious.
She could hear Johanna in the kitchen, and as if she could bear the
loneliness no longer she went in and sat down on a chair beside the
white scoured table. Johanna was standing before it, choosing between
ivy-leaves and cypress-twigs. Her eyes were red with crying, and large
drops fell now and then on the hands which were making a wreath. The
whole kitchen smelled of death and funerals.
What are you doing there? asked Gertrude.
Johanna looked away and suppressed a sob.
It will be a year to-morrow, she replied in a choked voice, since
they brought him home to me dead.
The two women looked deep into each other's sorrowful eyes, each
with the thought that she was the most unhappy. Ah, but there stood the
little carriage with the sleeping child, and that belonged to Johanna,
and Johanna could think of him without other sorrow and
heartache than that for his loss. To lose a loved one by death, is not
half so hard as to lose him in life. Gertrude could find no word of
Oh, how could I live through it! sobbed the young widow. So fresh
and strong as he went across the threshold, I think I can see him now
striding up the street. And the very night before, we had a little
quarrel for the first time and I thought, 'Just you wait, you will have
to beg for a pleasant word from me.' And I went to bed without saying
good night, and the next morning I wouldn't make his coffee.
I heard him moving about in the room and I was glad to think that
he would have to go without his breakfast. He came to my bed once and
looked in my face and I pretended to be asleep. But as soon as he had
shut the outside door behind him, I jumped up and ran to the window and
looked after himI was so proud of him. It was the last time; it
wasn't two hours later when they brought him home, and day and night I
was on my knees before him, shrieking, and asking if he was angry with
me still. And I prayed to God that He would let him open his eyes just
once, only once, so I could say, 'Good-bye, Fritz, come home safe,
Fritz.' But it was all of no use; he never heard me any more.
Gertrude sprang up suddenly and left the kitchen. O God! She felt
sick unto death. Everything seemed to whirl round and round in her
brain, as if her mind were unsettled. She could no longer follow out a
train of thought to its end, and an idea which had seized upon her five
minutes ago in the most horrible clearness, she was now unable to
recall; try as hard as she might, nothing remained to her but a dull
dread of something dreadful hanging over her.
It was no doubt the heavy air, the oppressive stillness of nature
before a storm that had so excited her nerves.
She rang for ice-water. When Johanna set the glass before her she
turned her head away.
Johanna, do you happen to know how long theyoung lady is going to
stay at Niendorf?
I think the whole summer, ma'am, was the reply. A good thing,
too. What could they do without her over there?
Gertrude bit her lip; she felt ashamed. What right had she to
ask about it?
Did you want anything more, ma'am?
And she remained alone in her room as she had been so many days
before. She could hear the gnawing of the moths in the old wood-work,
and now and then the steps of the servant in the corridor. With burning
eyes she gazed at the ever-darkening sky; her hands grasped the slender
arm of her chair as if they must have an outward support at least.
Gradually it began to grow dark; the approaching evening and the
black storm-clouds together soon made it quite dusk, while now and then
sharp flashes of lightning brought the dark trees into full relief.
Close by Johanna was closing the windows of the sleeping-room.
Shall I bring a lamp? she asked, looking through the half-opened
But you oughtn't to sit so near the window, ma'am, it looks so
dreadful out there.
Gertrude did not move and the tear-stained face disappeared. A
sudden gust of wind swept through the trees, the branches were tossed
wildly about as if in a fierce struggle with brute force; the slender
branches were bent down to the ground only to rise again as quickly,
and a fierce blast whirling about gravel, leaves and small stones
dashed them against the rattling panes. Then followed a dazzling flash
of lightning, thunder that made the house shake, and at the same time a
sudden deluge of rain mingled with the peculiar pattering of large
Johanna, with her child in her arms, came anxiously into her
Oh, mercy! she shrieked, falling on her knees before the nearest
chair. Another flash filled the room for a moment with a dazzling red
light, and the thunder crashed after it like a thousand cannon.
That struck, Mrs. Linden, that struck! cried she in terror.
Gertrude had stepped back from the window; she was standing in the
middle of the room. By the light of the constant flashes the servant
could see her pale, rigid face with perfect distinctness. She rested
her hands on the table and looked towards the window as if it did not
concern her in the least. And still the storm raged more fiercely,
while the world seemed to be standing in a perfect sea of fire. It
seemed to have endured for hours. But gradually the flashes grew less
frequent, the crashes of thunder grew more distant, and at last only a
light rain dripped on the trees and the storm died away in a distant
Gertrude opened the window and bent far out; a wonderfully sweet air
blew upon her face, soft and aromatic, refreshing and invigorating, and
above in the sky the clouds had parted and a brilliant star sparkled
down upon her. Then she started back. From the high-road there came a
sound of hurried movements; a sound of wheels, the cracking of whips,
the cries of menwhat did it mean? It was usually as quiet as the
grave here at this hour.
Fire! Had she heard aright? She could not see the street but she
leaned far out and listened to the uproar. Her heart beat loud and
fast. The gardener's wife ran hastily up in her clattering wooden
shoes, and her shrill voice came up to Gertrude's ears.
David, hurry, hurry, hurry, it has been burning in Niendorf for the
last half-hourthe engine has just gone byhurry!
Clang, clang, clang! clashed out the church bell now. In
Gertrude's ears it sounded like a death-knell. Clang, clang, clang! Why
did she stand still there, her hands clasping the window-sill as if
they were nailed there? She heard doors banging, and voices and shouts,
she heard the gardener rushing out of his houseand still she stood
there as if there was a spell upon her.
Again clashed out the warning notes of the bell! And at length she
roused herself as if from a heavy dream, and now she was quite alive
once more. She flew like an arrow out of the room, snatched a shawl
from the wall of the corridor and rushed past Johanna, who was standing
at the gate with the gardener's wife and children,away out over the
Mrs. Linden! For the love of Heaven! screamed Johanna behind her.
But she paid no heed to the cry. Like a murmured prayer came from her
The road before her was dark and lonely; the men who had hastened to
the rescue, were out of sight long ago.
She actually flew; she felt no fear in the gloomy wood; she saw
nothing but the dear old burning house, and a pair of manly eyesonce,
ah, once so inexpressibly dear. Something came pattering behind her.
Ah, yesthe dog.
Come, she murmured, and hurried on, the sagacious animal close
It was a long way to Niendorf, but Gertrude flew as if she had
Good Heavens! she groaned as she reached the top of the hill and
saw the red glow in the sky. Faster and faster she rushed down the
hill; at the next turn she must see Niendorfand at last she stood
there, breathing quick and loud, her eyes gazing with terror into the
valley. Thank God! The red smoke was still rising into the sky, the
flames still shot up here and there, but the force of the fire was
broken. It is true, shouts and cries still sounded in her ears, but
already she met men who were going home.
She moved aside into the deepest shadow and gazed down into the
valley; the old house stood there safe and sound, the red light of the
dying flames played about its green ivy-wreathed gables and lighted up
the shrubs in the garden. The barns were in ruins to be sure, but what
mattered that? As she stood there gazing at the house with insatiable
eyes, a light suddenly shone out behind two of the windows, gazing at
her like a pair of friendly eyes. The windows were his. But the young
wife found nothing reassuring in them. The terrible anxiety which had
left her at the sight of the uninjured house, suddenly leaped up with
renewed force. How happened it that there should be lights in his room
when the fire was still smouldering down there? He in the house when
his presence below was so necessary?
No, neveror he must
Onononly to seeonly to see from a distance, whether he lived
and was well!
Life hangs on the merest thread, Johanna's words sounded in her
ears. God in Heaven, have mercy, do not punish me so!
At the garden-gate she stopped. What should she do here? Her
ambassador had come here only to-day and had offered him money for her
freedom. Ah, freedom!
Of what use is it when the heart is still held fast in chains and
bands? And she ran in under the dark trees of the garden, round the
little pond, on the surface of which a faint rosy shimmer of the dying
fire still played, and she sank exhausted on a garden-chair under the
chestnuts; just in front of her, only across the gravel walk was the
house and a dim light shone out of the garden-hall.
Upstairs, the bright light was gone from his windows; shouts and
voices of men still came up from the court, carriages were being pulled
about, horses taken out, all mingled with the sharp hissing sound of
the hose. Gertrude shivered; a great weakness had come over her, her
temples throbbed, the smell of the fire nearly took her breath away.
Here she sat motionless, gazing at the steps which led to the
garden-hall. Her eyes sought out step after step and at last lingered
in the door. Up there! In there! she thought, her heart beating
wildly, but pride and shame held her fast as with iron chains.
It gradually grew quieter in the court, then steps approached, firm,
elastic steps. Gertrude quickly seized the dog by the collar. Down,
Diana! she cried, hoarse with terror, and then a figure passed the
bright light of the window, and brushing close by her went into the
Frank! He was alivethank God! But he was hurt, he kept his arm
pressed so closely to his side. Ah, but he was alive! and now, now she
could go again quietly and unperceived as she had come. There were
plenty of hands in there to bind up his wounds, to
She shivered again as if in fever.
Come, she said to the whining dog, and she got up and turned away
towards the darker paths, but the dog pressed eagerly toward the house,
and almost as if she knew not what she was doing she suffered herself
to be dragged forward by him.
At length she reached the steps and in another moment she was
mounting them. Only one look inside, only to see if he really was
suffering, if he really was alive! And holding the impatient animal
still more firmly she passed noiselessly across the stone terrace; then
she leaned against the door-post and peeped through the glass,
trembling with emotion, timorous as a thief, full of longing as a child
on Christmas Eve.
The room looked just as usual, the carpets, the pictures, all just
as she had left it; within were people hurrying busily to and fro, and
by the table near the lamp he was sitting, his face, pale and drawn
with pain, turned full towards the door. And beside him, bending over
him, and binding up his arm with all the charming grace of an anxious
and tender wife, was the agile little creature in a black dress and
white apron, her bunch of keys stuck in her girdle. How skilfully she
laid on the bandage! With what supple, tapering fingers she fastened
it! How nearly her dark hair touched his face!
And this must be done by other hands than these that she was
wringing so here outside!
A joyful bark sounded beside her, and the dog broke away from her
trembling fingers with a sudden spring and bounded against the door so
that it shook. She started to flee in terror, but her strength failed
her; the ground seemed to sway under her feet, half-unconscious she
could still hear the door hastily torn open, and then she lost
Gertrude awoke, just as the day began to dawn, from a deep dreamless
sleep. She was not ill, and she knew perfectly well what had happened
to her the evening before. She was lying on the sofa in Aunt Rosa's
room; above her smiled down the ancestress with the powdered hair, and
the whole wonderful rose-wreathed room was in the full glow of the
At the foot of the bed on a low footstool sat a young girl in a
black dress and a white apron; the dark head had fallen against the arm
of the sofaAdelaide was sound asleep.
The young wife got up softly. Her drenched clothing had been taken
off the night before and her own dressing-gown put on; there was still
a large part of her wardrobe in Niendorf; she even found, her dainty
slippers standing before the sofa, which she was accustomed to put on
when she got up. She was very quick and very careful not to wake the
young girl. But as she softly opened the door, the sleeper sprang up,
and a pair of wondering dark eyes gazed up at Gertrude.
Where are you going? asked the clear voice.
Gertrude stopped, undecided.
Mr. Linden went to bed so very late, continued Adelaide Strom; he
sat here beside you till about an hour ago. You will not wake him? It
is not four o'clock yet.
A pair of firm little hands drew the young wife away from the door
towards the sofa, and in contradiction to the childish words a pair of
grave eyes looked at her, saying plainly, Do what you willI shall
not let you go.
Gertrude sat down again on the improvised bed and bit her lips till
they bled, but the young girl busied herself at a side-table, and
presently a fragrant odor of coffee filled the room.
Here, she said, offering the young wife a cup of the hot beverage,
take it, it will do you good. I made some coffee for Mr. Linden too,
in the night: only drink it quietly, it is his cup and no one
else has ever touched it.
And as Gertrude made no reply and only held the cup in her trembling
hand without drinking, Adelaide continued without taking any
noticeAh, yesterday was a dreadful day. The frightful storm and that
dreadful thunderbolt, and the great barn was in flames in a moment, and
before any help came the other was burning, and it was with the
greatest difficulty the animals were saved. If Mr. Linden had not been
so calm and had so much presence of mind, it would have been frightful.
But he went into the horses' stable just as if the flames were not
darting in after him, and he put the harness on the horses and they
followed him out through the flames like lambs, though no one could get
them out before. And only think, when the uproar was the greatest, and
the fire was sending showers of sparks into the air, as if they were
rockets, something began to howl and cry so loud from the very top of
the barn, and we found it was Lora, the great St. Bernard dog, who had
puppies up there.
And how that poor dumb creature did cry out for help! I could hear
from my window that no one would go up after her,'Being a dog,' they
all said. And all at once I saw a ladder, and onetwothreea figure
disappeared up there in the flames. What do you think, Mr. Linden
brought them all down, the old dog and her young onesall of them.
The little girl's eyes sparkled with tears.
But he has a mark of it on his arm to be sure, she added, and it
was only a dog after all. What was it in comparison with a man's
life?Aunt Rosa was so angry with him and said, when he came down here
pale and suffering with the pain, he might have lost his life. Then he
said that such a stupid thing as his life wasn't worth a straw! And
just as he had said it, Diana began to scratch so furiously at the
door, and he rushed out at such a rate that I thought the lightning
must have struck again, and as I ran out behind him, he had you already
in his well arm, and declared that he knew you would come.
Gertrude got up at this point, and walked to the door. But here she
met another obstacle. This was Aunt Rosa, who was just coming out of
her bedroom in the most astonishing morning array and the most enormous
white nightcap that a lady ever wore. She nodded to Gertrude, and laid
her small withered hand on her shoulder.
The dear God always opens a way for the hard heart to soften, said
the ancient dame, Yes, in hour of need, the heart has wings on which
it is lifted above all the petty foolishness of pride and perversity.
It was just before the closing of the door, too, my dear child, for
yesterday afternoon, after a certain man had had an interview with him,
I folded my hands and prayed to God to give him strength to bear the
blowI was afraid he would never get over it.
Adelaide Strom now went softly out of the door and the old woman
remained standing before the young wife, and the tall form seemed
almost to shrink beneath her thin transparent hand. But neither spoke.
The eastern sky grew redder, and then the first rays of the sun played
on Gertrude's brown hair.
Suddenly she covered her face with her hands. My happiness is over,
I can never be anything more to him! she gasped.
Say rather 'I will never be anything more to him!'
Ah, and even if I would! she cried, I am so wretched!
He who will not do a thing willingly and gladly would do better to
leave it undone, and he who cares not to pray, should not fold his
hands. And Aunt Rosa turned away to the window, sat down in her easy
chair and took up her prayer-book. She left Gertrude to herself and
read her morning chapter half aloud.
The words struck the ear of the struggling girl with a wonderful
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not
charity sounded through the room.
Charity suffereth long and is kind; beareth all things, believeth
all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Had she no charity then, no true love? Ah, faithlovehow should
they remain when one has been so cruelly deceived! And her house came
back to her mind, that sad, lonely house on the edge of the wood, and
her life in the last few weeks, so frightfully bare and desolate.
Andcharity beareth all things it said.
Amen! said Aunt Rosa, aloud. And Adelaide came in, and the young
wife suddenly felt her hands drawn down and through her tears she saw
Adelaide, smilingly unlocking the bunch of keys from her own belt and
holding it out to her.
I kept things in order as well as I knew how, she said, it is not
in the most perfect order I know, but you must not scold me.
She felt the keys put into her nerveless handhad she not been
bowed down into the dust?
Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity vaunteth not itself,
said something in her heart.
I will forgive him, said the young wife aloud. But her face was
pale and rigid.
Forgive, with those eyes? asked Aunt Rosa. And for what?
For believing him less than an acknowledgedwell, he is dead, God
forgive himthan a man who was a perfect stranger to you? No, my
little woman, take heart and go up to your Frank and
I go to him? she cried in cutting tones,I
? The bunch of keys fell clanging on the floor; with trembling hands
she snatched up the dress she had worn the day before, and took the
purse out of the pocket,the purse which contained that fatal scrap of
paper. For awhile she held the piece of paper in her hand, then she
gave it to the old lady.
I will not seem to you so childishly perverse, she said.
Aunt Rosa put on her glasses and read it. She started, and then a
smile spread over her face. In great confusion she looked into
Addie, she said, you can bear witness that I have always been a
most orderly person my whole life long.
Yes, auntie, the most envious person must allow you that virtue.
And yet last Christmas it happened to me to mislay a letter. It was
to Linden from Wolff; for four whole days we searched for it. Let me
see, that was the twenty-second of Decemberthe letter was lost, and
on the twenty-sixth, I happened to lift up my window-cushion and there
was the thing. No one could have been gladder than I. I stayed up till
late at nightLinden had gone to a party at the Baumhagensand when
at last he came home I gave him the letter and he put it carelessly in
his pocket and said, 'Aunt Rosa, you shall hear it first, I have just
been getting engaged.' And in the joy of his heart he took me in his
arms as if I were still only eighteen. You see, and thatshe struck
the bit of paper with her right handthat is a scrap of the letter,
my little woman, and the date coincides exactly.
Gertrude was already by her side. Is that true? escaped from her
The old lady nodded. Perfectly true, she declared. Ask Dora. She
searched for the letter with me, and thereby got a great knock on the
head when she was trying to move the wardrobe.
But Gertrude declined this. She stood for awhile in silence, her
head bent down, her color changing rapidly from red to white, then she
moved towards the door and in another moment she had disappeared.
Lightly she mounted the stairs, and the old worn boards seemed to
understand why the little feet stepped so carefully and did not as
usual, crack and snap.
It was still as death in the whole house; the corridor was still
dusky and the old pictures on the wall looked sleepily down on the
young wife. The tall clock kept on its solemn tick-tack, tick-tack. It
sounded so strangely in Gertrude's ears, as she stood hesitating before
the brown door and grasped the knob.
Tick-tack, tick-tack! How the time flies! One should not hesitate a
moment when one has a fault to repairevery minute is so much taken
from himquick, quick!
Softly she opened the door and slipped in. She had drawn her dress
close about her, so the train should not rustle. Two large eyes gazed
anxiously out of the pale face round the room, which was glowing in the
morning sunshine. Now her heart seemed to stop beating for a moment,
now it throbbed wildly: there in the large chairhe had not gone to
bed, but sleep had overtaken him. There he sat, his wounded arm rested
on the arm of the chair, the other supported his head. He wore still
the soiled, singed coat he had on the day before, and ah, he looked so
pale, so changed!
The dog, which lay at his feet, lifted up his head and wagged his
tail. Then she went towards him. Make way for me, she murmured, I
must take that place!
And she knelt down before her husband, and taking the shrinking
injured hand put it to her lips.
Gertrude, what are you doing?
Forgive me, Frank, forgive me? she whispered, weeping, resisting
his endeavors to raise her.
No, Frank, no, let me stay here, it should be so
Forgive you? There is no question of that. Thank God you are here
But before she got up she tore a bit of paper into shreds, then she
ran to the window and opened her hand and they danced away in the air
like snowflakes. And when she turned back again she looked into his
What was that? he asked, drawing her towards him.
She threw her arms round his neck and hid her streaming eyes on his
breast. They stood thus together at the open window, in the clear rays
of the morning sun. The twittering swallows flew past them over the
tops of the trees up into the blue sky.
Back again! Back again! was the burden of their song.
Gradually the house woke up. The little brunette laid the table in
Two cups, two plates, and a bunch of roses in the middlefor the
last time, said she, then she can do it for herself again.
Then she stood thinking for a moment.
He doesn't in the least realize how fortunate he is to get such a
yielding, lamb-like wife as I am, she murmured. To be sure, I
could not possibly fancy that he married me for my money.
She laughed a clear ringing laugh.
I shall have a nice little trousseau if Aunt Rosa gets it.
And she opened the garden door and ran out into the green shrubbery.
The world was so beautiful, the sun so golden and Adelaide was so
fond of the little judge.
She was engaged, secretly engaged, for the good fellow would not
come before his friend in all his bridegroom's bliss, when his
happiness was so utterly shattered. So they had plighted their troth
secretlyafter the bowl of mai-trank on that last day. Aunt
Rosa was no check upon them, for she slept placidly in the corner of
the sofa, and FrankHeaven alone knew when he had gone.
But nowshe looked at her pretty little hands; yes, there were
ink-stains on them; she had sent off the news at once to Frankfort:
Great fire, great anxiety, great reconciliation.
She found herself suddenly before a stout little man in a gray
summer overcoat and a white straw hat.
Oh, ta, ta! little one, don't run over me!
He was very cross, this good Uncle Henry.
Pretty state of affairs! A man comes from Hamburg, travelling all
night, and hardly is he out of the train when some one comes: 'Mr.
Baumhagen, did you know there had been a great fire in Niendorf?' Tired
as a dog as I was, I must needs get into a carriage and drive out
herea man can't sleep after such a piece of news as that. For mercy's
sake, you are smiling as if it was Christmas eve!
All the crops are burnt, announced Adelaide in as joyful a tone as
if she had said, We have won a great prize.
The poor fellow has ill-luck, muttered Uncle Henry. Has some one
gone over to He would not speak her nametowell, to 'Waldruhe?'
Or has the announcement of the joyful news been left for me again?
No one has been there, replied Adelaide, mischievously.
Uncle Henry looked at her more sharply.
Well, what's up then, you witch? Something has happened.
I am engaged, burst out the happy little bride. Thank Heaven, that
she could tell it at last.
You unhappy child! cried Uncle Henry, by way of congratulation.
But she ran laughing away into the house.
Breakfast is ready! she cried from the terrace. Coffee, tea, ham
The old gentleman, who was going out to view the wreck, turned
sharply round and followed her.
It is true, he remarked, I shall be better for having something
to eat, I am quite upset by the journey.
And Uncle Henry went puffing up the steps and grasped the door-knob.
Good Heavens!did his eyes not deceive him? There sat Linden, his
arm in a sling, and beside himsurely he knew that thick brown knot of
hair and that slender figure which was bending, down to cut up his
meat. Now she raises her head and kisses him on the forehead before she
quietly resumes her own place.
Angels and ministers of grace defend us! A man has only to take a
Uncle Henry drops the door-knob. He has such a queer sensationhe
does not like emotionand he does not like to disturb other people. He
would gladly get out of the way if he couldperhaps he may manage it
But no. Gertrude herself opens the door.
Uncle Henry, she said, pleadingly.
And he comes in and behaves exactly as if nothing had ever happened.
It is the purest selfishness on his part. Scenes don't agree with him.
I wanted just to see how you wereyou seem to have had a nice
little fire, he begins.
Thank God! No lives were lost, said Linden, and no cattle were
burnt; the crops are all destroyed, it is true; but in place of that a
new life has risen out of the ashes. And he held out his sound hand to
Oh, ta, ta! murmured Uncle Henry, helping himself hurriedly to ham
and to butter. I tell you, children, travelling is a great deal too
hard work, and if it were not for the lobsters in Heligoland and the
eel-soup in Hamburg, thenbut, Gertrude, you are laughing and crying
at the same time! Well, well, I am glad to be home again; there is
nothing like home, after all, and with your permission, I will drink
this glass of good port wine to your health and to the peace and
prosperity of your household.