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Stephen the Smith by Ernst Zahn

(1906)

TRANSLATED BY KATHARINE ROYCE

                     Chapter I

Toward the south lay a wood, while toward the north lay another wood. Between these woodlands spread the white, wintry plain. A road ran directly onward from the southern wood, and a road ran just as directly outward to the black woodland on the north. This broad and snowy road, cut by deep wheel ruts, trampled by many heavy footprints, was really all one road, but the blacksmith's shop, which stood midway between the two woodlands, and between the two parts of the road, seemed to cut it into two separate parts. The two colors, white and black, of which this landscape was composed, struck the eye powerfully, almost oppressively. All day long no other tone was to be seen but these two, but they filled so wide a space and were so very strongly marked, that they seemed to weigh down the picture and changed the loveliness, which it perhaps might have in summer, to mournful gloom. There stood the two black pine woods, like the frame of the picture, between heaven and earth. The sky was white with clouds and the earth with snow. Both the snow and the clouds were so white, that each reflected upon the other a painfully livid brightness. The road was white, but sharply cut by the shadows that lay in the wheel tracks and footprints. The blacksmith shop also was black and white. The shingled roof, from which the wind had swept the snow, was black, while the whitewashed walls beneath it were dirty white. Through the wide open doorway the interior of the smithy could be seen, like a cavern, and the smoke streaming out had made a sooty streak from the door to the eaves.

The gloomy landscape lay quiet; for it was Sunday and the road was but little traveled. The smithy also was quiet. Only the door of the workshop stood open as on a working day: Stephen, the smith, never closed it all the year round. Neither was there any sign of life inside the house; and yet there were three people sitting in the living room, and a fourth, Katharine, the maid, had just left the room and gone into the kitchen. At the long, deal table, dark with age, sat the three, Stephen, the smith, Maria, his wife, and the blond Ludwig, his brother. In the dark room reigned the same gloomy desolation that lay over the surrounding landscape. If one stepped from outside into the bare living room, the strange similarity of the one with the other, would strike one like a blow in the face. There were the bare, sooty, whitewashed walls, the grimy floor, a black stove, clumsy, dark colored chairs, a rough table, a chest of drawers to match, with a soiled crocheted cover on it. There sat these people, with three tin plates and a steaming platter before them. At the head of the table sat the smith, in a strong chair with hard wooden arms, which creaked whenever Stephen moved, for he was as heavy as lead. His tall form, as strong as oak, was surmounted by a head covered with crisp curling black hair. His chin was framed by a short, thick, woolly beard, and his eyebrows and moustache stood out from his face like black tufts of hair. The skin on his face was red as if it had been toughened by fire, and it was furrowed by wrinkles and scars. His forehead, which seemed like a rock, was more marked by wrinkles than his cheeks by scars; a red streak ran across his blunt, thick nose. One eye was black and most unfriendly looking, while the other eye was lacking; the half-closed eyelid hung over the empty, inflamed socket.

[Illustration: ERNST ZAHN]

The smith sat erect, and his hairy right hand lay on the well-worn old Bible, from which he read every evening before supper. His two companions at table sat with strange humility at each side of the smith. Even now when the maid had left the room, all was still, as if no one could breathe. At last Ludwig, the smith's brother, pushed his chair back angrily and started to rise from the table.

“I will not sit here any longer,” he exclaimed. His face was fair and young by contrast with the other, his figure slenderer, and more supple, and his ways more refined, such as one brings back from foreign lands. But his features resembled Stephen's, and his hair and beard were thick and wavy like the other's, only they were blond, beautiful silvery blond.

“Of course you will stay,” said the smith in a low tone, but shortly, and gloomily, and as he raised his heavy arm to draw his brother back into the chair, the latter sat down again. He sat there as before, stooping over and staring at his plate. So too, sat Maria gazing into her plate. Yet her graceful blond head rose erect from her black neck frill, and her throat, which was of a strange, transparent, blue-white tint, showed a beautiful, upward curve; so that her depression only showed in the timid droop of her eyelids.

The smith took up the Bible. “And you are going to read too!” said the blond brother breathlessly, turning toward him suddenly, and once more half rising from his chair.

Stephen seized him by the wrist. “I shall do the same as every day. When you have eaten your supper, you may go, and not before!”

Ludwig sank back again. There was no use in trying to do anything else; he could not prevail against his brother's bodily strength.

Mastering both the others with his quiet force, the smith sat towering above them and began to read from the Bible. He did not seek long. He opened the book and turned a few leaves.

“And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”

Stephen closed the book with a bang. “Well—I made it short enough, didn't I?” said he. A peculiar drawn look disfigured his face yet more. His lower jaw seemed to tremble as if with physical pain. Then he went on: “A man can also kill his brother, without laying hands on him—he can—he can—kill his soul, you see.”

Two tears ran down Maria's pale, delicate face into her plate. She trembled as if with cold or fear. The blond brother snatched up his sharp table-knife. “Now let me go, you!” he muttered savagely.

The table stood between him and the door. Stephen rose and stood before the door. His head reached almost to the ceiling of the high room. His shoulders were broader than the doorway that he was guarding. “Lay the knife down,” said he. The other looked up at him and obeyed. It was unthinkable that he could defend himself against such a man.

Stephen came slowly back to the table. “When you are through eating, no one will keep you any longer,” said he, “but supper must be eaten—everything in regular order.”

So then they ate their strange meal together. Each took his portion from the platter onto his plate; Ludwig set his teeth and ate, neither more nor less than on ordinary days, the smith ate just as usual, but Maria took only a few drops which seemed to choke her. When they had eaten in silence, Ludwig rose, and forced out two or three words. “Now—perhaps I may go—now—” and he took his blacksmith's cap from a chair near by.

Stephen Fausch, the smith, did not hinder him. He too arose, picked up his ragged leather apron from the floor, and tied the stiff thing on. Meanwhile his brother stepped to the door. There he made some sign to Maria, and for a moment it seemed as if she too was going to turn toward him; but in an instant it was as if fear had overcome them both. Maria put the plates together, and the blond young man left the room without any sign of farewell. With leisurely tread the smith followed his departing brother.

On the landing Ludwig picked up a traveling sack that was already packed, slung it on a stick, and shouldered it. Then he walked out with a long, firm stride, exactly like his brother Stephen's. The smith followed the younger man down the steps of the house and as far as the workshop, into which he stepped for a moment. When he had fumbled about among his tools and came back to the threshold, he was carrying his heavy sledge hammer in his right hand, from long habit. He stood leaning on the blackened handle, the heavy head of the hammer buried in the snow, and looked after his brother, who was walking along the road northward, toward the wood. Above this wood a sharp, orange red streak now seemed to slash through the monotony of the landscape like a gaping wound. The sun was sinking. The dark, still and motionless wood seemed to keep watch and ward over the young man's path, above this the flame colored band, against which the separate treetops were outlined as if a fret-saw had cut them out of the brilliant background. A yellow tint lay also upon the road, and Ludwig's figure, the only living thing in sight, looked taller and sharply outlined. He now stood still, looked about him and threw the sack from his shoulder onto the snow. When Stephen saw this, he stepped out into the road and planted himself firmly there, as if he were asking: What's this? What now? The brothers stood thus for several minutes, and it was strange to see the two men standing in the middle of the road, burly and motionless as if defying each other: “You can't make me stir from this spot.” Finally Ludwig took up his bundle, strode off with rapid steps, soon reached the wood and disappeared. Then Stephen Fausch also left the road. He busied himself in the workshop for a while, and then went back to his wife.

Maria seemed to have been whispering with the maid in the kitchen. As she heard his step on the landing, she slipped back into the living room, and as he entered, she seemed undecided what to busy herself with, and afraid that he might notice her confusion. Since she found nothing to her purpose, she turned at the window and faced him, supporting herself with trembling hands on the window-sill. The waning light streamed over her blond head, her slender shoulders, and her delicate, long neck. Her face was almost as white as her throat, her eyebrows were light and glistened against her brow like gold. Her blue eyes were big and dark with fear.

Stephen walked up to her and placed a chair in front of her. Then she shrank together, and crossed her slender arms, as if she were cringing from a blow.

“You needn't shiver so, I shall not beat you,” said the smith. Her lips parted, but no words came at first.

“Let me—let me go—I—don't want to be in your way any more,” she stammered at last.

Fausch sank into the chair, close in front of her: he was now like a block, barring her way. “Don't try it,” said he, “you know me—don't you try to run away, I should have you brought back!” He threw his arm over the back of the chair, and the sudden movement made her shrink again, as if he had meant to strike her.

“No, no, I will stay,” she whispered, trembling.

He leaned forward and gazed long at his beautiful wife, from head to foot. “You have nobody left,” he said slowly. “Your people are all dead. That is why you took me, as you told me, for the sake of a home. But—you have one thing—a pretty face—you have that! And Ludwig found that out too.”

Stephen spat.

“He—we—it all came over us so”—Maria began to explain in a frightened tone.

“Ha, ha!” laughed the smith, and grasped her wrist, which his hand encircled like a handcuff, and shook her.

She cried out.

“Be still,” he commanded, “I shall not beat you.” Then he pushed her from him. She slipped away to the back part of the room, found her knitting, dropped into a chair and began to put the stitches in order.

“When is the child coming?” asked Fausch after a while, speaking over his shoulder. Obediently she put her hand to her forehead and thought. “It will be in the summer,” she said humbly.

Stephen got up. He took off his leather apron and went into the next room. After a time he came back in his Sunday coat, passed his wife without a word, and went out of the door. He made his usual trip to the tavern as his custom was on Sundays. It was late when he came home.

                     Chapter II

Maria, the smith's wife, had not been spoiled. At home her father and her brothers had beaten her, and now that they were all dead, although indeed, as Fausch's wife, she had no more blows to endure, yet her life with Stephen was none the easier because he did not strike her, as others might have done; for Stephen was a violent man—though his will was violent rather than his fists. No one else had a will of such a bull-like obstinacy. For this reason many pitied his wife, and this was why she cringed; she had grown used to cringing.

In Waltheim, the village to which the smithy belonged, a bit of news had been traveling about for some time: Ludwig Fausch was gone, and had been sent away by his brother, the smith, on account of Maria, his wife. She was going to have a baby! Finally—Ludwig—

More they would not say. The love of gossip is so mean. They only hinted, and never spoke out plainly.

All the life of the great country road passed by the smithy, a road that came from far away, and went on and on, to vanish in the far, far distance. Heavy teams came by on working days, as well as the lighter traveling carriages of country doctors or commercial travelers and the rumbling carts of the peasants. They knew of the smithy on their way, and used to give Stephen Fausch work. His best customers were the cattle and horse dealers, who used to travel to North Germany, and also southward toward Italy. They called the smithy their halfway house and always had Fausch attend to their wagons and their animals. Moreover, they had a certain weakness for the stubborn fellow, or perhaps this weakness was only fear of him, since he had gradually come to be a sort of master over the stretch of road on which he dwelt. Among the traders, little Moritz Hallheimer was the one who came from the greatest distance. He was a wiry, thin old man, neat and active, with gray beard and hair, bad teeth, and weak eyes hidden behind dark glasses. He was shrewd and talkative and knew a great many people, and because he thought Stephen one of the most unusual men among his acquaintance, he always stopped a while at the smithy and watched him with wonder, but could never understand him.

One evening in early summer, Moritz Hallheimer arrived from Waltheim. He was sitting in his small open wagon, driving his brown trotting horse without any whip. On both sides and at the back of the wagon were tied six horses that he had for sale. Their hoofs and legs were white with dust, for they had made a long journey. The trader came onward from the woods toward the smithy through the golden light of the setting sun. So bright was this golden haze between him and the blacksmith shop, that the horses and wagon could not be seen, and Stephen, the smith, who was hammering at a wagon in front of his workshop, suddenly saw him appear with his trotting horses as if coming out of a fire. Fausch shaded his eyes with his swarthy arm, then he bent once more over his work and let the trader come up to him. Hallheimer found other customers already there. For a time the road was blocked with vehicles. Two peasants stood watching Stephen, who was mending their broken pole with a metal ring. Beyond them, a woman sat, on a wagon loaded with vegetables, waiting for the smith to shoe her mare who had gone lame.

“Good evening, Stephen,” said the trader, and received a curt greeting in return. Then Fausch drove the last nail into the pole of the peasants' wagon. As he stood erect again, the brilliant purity of the evening seemed, as it were, to recoil from his grimy figure. No brightness appeared on his swarthy face surrounded with the thick black beard. His flannel shirt, trousers and leather apron, and even his arms and hands were as dark as the inside of his workshop, whose dinginess he seemed, as it were, to wear on his person. And the grimy fellow, who seemed really an insult to the sunset glow, stood there like a tree trunk, taller and broader than any one else on the road.

“You can harness up,” said he to the peasants, who at once went to bring their poor old nags from a hitching post near by. The vegetable woman began to unharness her little horse; but Stephen did not concern himself about her. He turned to the trader.

“You have come over the mountains from Italy?” he asked.

Hallheimer held out his hand, which the smith took, at the same time glancing at the wagon and inspecting the horses.

“I haven't any work for you today,” said the trader, “I only thought I would pass a word with you.”

“The gray has a shoe loose,” said Stephen, untying the horse he had pointed out.

“Never mind. He can easily go as far as the stable,” said the other, declining the proffered aid; but Stephen was already leading the creature to the ring in the wall, where he tied him. So the little man got down from the wagon, laughing to himself, and let the smith have his own way. He knew Stephen. Whatever he took into his head, he must do. Many complained of him for this reason. He never asked what work he should do, but took it in hand himself, and did it according to his own ideas, no matter if the customers told him ten times over that they wanted it done differently.

Meanwhile the woman on the vegetable wagon was growing uneasy. “Hallo, smith,” she called out, “I came here first. You must take my horse first!”

“That's so,” said Hallheimer goodnaturedly, “she did come first.”

“After I've done with this, or not at all,” said the smith, loosening the shoe from the gray's foot.

The woman scolded and swore. “What kind of behavior is that! Do you think I have stolen my time? Are you going to let me take my turn or not?”

“After I've done with this, or not at all,” said Fausch, and as she came up close to him, he turned his back on her with a jerk. At this, she was beside herself, harnessed up her horse and turned away from the smithy toward Waltheim. Her grumbling could be heard for some time.

While the smith was still busy shoeing the trader's horse, a piece of work which he did without any help, an agonizing cry was heard through the closed windows of his house. Then a second and a third.

“What's that?” asked Hallheimer.

“She is in labor,” growled Stephen.

Thereupon the trader, thinking to make himself agreeable, tried to say something fitting. “If only it is a boy, to carry on your name, Stephen Fausch ...”

The smith muttered something to himself, which his companion could not understand.

“The first child! What a pleasure it will be to you,” the trader went on eagerly.

“It isn't mine,” said Stephen Fausch gruffly. With his one eye he glared at the man, so that his words stuck in his throat. Only then did the rumor that he had heard occur to Hallheimer:—the rumor that the smith's wife had been over-intimate with her husband's brother.

At the top of the stone steps of the house there now appeared a woman who looked very stout, because she wore so many petticoats. With an important and mysterious look, she nodded to the smith.

“It has come, Stephen Fausch. You have a boy. I—wish you joy!” she called out. Since the smith behaved as if he saw and heard nothing, her embarrassment increased; she went dejectedly back into the house.

Stephen laid down the file with which he had been scraping the horse's hoof, and slowly turned to the trader. “Did you hear what the mid-wife said?” he asked.

Moritz Hallheimer felt in his pocket and took out a little goldpiece. “You must make the child a present at the christening,” said he, offering the goldpiece to the smith. But Stephen would not notice the trader's hand. The eager little old man was quite out of countenance. He laid the goldpiece on the window-sill of the workshop. “Take it to the child, Fausch, take it,” he begged in his embarrassment.

The horse was now shod, and Stephen led it back to the wagon and tied it there. Suddenly he raised his great dark head. “Do you know what the boy's name is going to be?” he asked, and his face had the same stubborn look that it had worn when he told the vegetable woman to wait. It seemed as if his square forehead projected still more and even his nose had a more obstinate and uncompromising look. “He is going to have a queer name, the boy,” he went on. He was uncommonly talkative, though he spoke slowly and with difficulty: “A strange name. He is to be called Cain.”

As he said this, he came out from behind the wagon and approached Hallheimer, looking at him with a grim laugh.

“What—what's that you say?” stammered the little man.

The smith nodded. “Yes, yes,” he said.

“You can't mean that,” said the other. He got into his wagon, took his place on the seat and repeated: “You don't mean that, Fausch.”

“He is going to be called Cain,” said Stephen indifferently, without raising his voice. But his manner seemed to say: “Move me if you can.”

The trader looked for some money, to pay for the work, and handed it down to the smith. “They'll refuse to name the child that,” said he.

“They'll have to,” answered Stephen. “Did you pick up anything among the Italians this time?” he asked. And without ceremony he reached in under the oilcloth cover that was spread over the trader's wagon.

Hallheimer leaned back from his seat into the wagon and took out a little box without any cover from under the oilcloth. “I may as well show you this,” said he. In the box lay an object carefully wrapped in cloth and cotton wool. Hallheimer unpacked it and handed it to the smith. “A Roman bronze,” said he, “I got it in Milan from an old junk man.”

Stephen took the little figure, a boy running a race, a work most delicately and perfectly formed. He placed it upright on the palm of his broad, fire-scorched hand. The sun had gone down behind the woods, and only the afterglow still lay over the road, but on the smith's heavy hand the tiny figure stood as if it were alive, in the infinitely pure light.

The trader watched the smith raising and lowering his arm, as if the better to appreciate the beauty of the work of art. Then Fausch began to speak. His voice was quiet and almost deeper than usual, and yet one seemed to hear his quickened breathing. “Only see—the position, the head, the youthful brow, the chest, just look—Hallheimer—!”

“This one pleases you too, does it?” asked the trader. His glance rested on the heavy, grimy man, who stood bending forward, with a look of devotion on his dark, almost ugly face. Wasn't he a strange fellow! Stubborn and rough, like a brute! And yet there was in him something fine and delicate, that seemed foreign to him. God knows in what corner of his heart lurked this—this fineness, that made anything beautiful that he saw affect him as the minister's sermon or a great joy or—no matter what, might affect other people. Every time Hallheimer came near the man he had to wonder at him, and—because he wondered at him, he kept on stopping to see him and—but—but, he was going to have the baby christened Cain—

Presently Stephen gave the statuette back. “Thank you for showing me that,” said he. “If I can ever manage it, I will go to Italy myself,” he added, and turned toward the south, gazing into the distance and seeming quite to forget the trader and his wagon.

Hallheimer packed up his property and took the reins. “I must go,” said he, “Goodby, Stephen Fausch.” And then he drove on.

The smith did not take the trouble to look after him. The wagon rolled away, accompanied by the trampling sound of the horses' feet. It was quite a while before Fausch went slowly back to his workshop, where he rummaged among his things, putting them in order, and once stepped to the door, as a wagon drove rapidly by; then he looked up at the windows of his house, as if he recollected himself, and then went up the outside steps. The trader's present of the goldpiece he left lying where it was.

As Fausch stepped into the dark upper passageway, the woman who had already told him the news came toward him, “It is good that you have come, Fausch,” said she hurriedly, “I—I think you'd better send for the doctor. I don't like the way your wife is.”

Then Fausch passed by her and went into the bedroom where Maria lay.

                     Chapter III

Katharine, the maid, had the baby with her in her own room. She understood the care of children; in her younger days she had been a nurse on a nobleman's estate. That was a long while ago. Katharine was now old and thin and worn out, but she had not forgotten about nursing. Indeed she handled the blacksmith's son with the same care and tenderness with which, in her youth, she had tended the child of her aristocratic employers. Ever since the evening when he was born she had kept the boy with her; for it was on that very evening that the mother's lingering death began. The doctor came from Waltheim, for the smith himself brought him; but he could do no good. “Your wife is like a bit of porcelain,” said he. “Such a woman cannot stand anything.”

“Yes—yes!” said Stephen, passing his hand through his thick hair.

They were standing in the living room, talking together.

“Stephen!” came Maria's feeble, anxious voice from the next room.

He went into the bedroom with his heavy tread which he did not know how to subdue. “What is it?” he asked.

She held out her hand, as if to signify that he should come nearer. Then he came to the bedside, but his bearing was still exactly as it had been ever since the evening when his brother Ludwig left home.

“What—what is the baby's name going to be?” she asked tremulously.

“Haven't I told you already?” he answered, looking her straight in the face without wincing.

“Not—not that name,” she begged. “Don't do that to the child.”

He turned carelessly away, as if to leave the room. The doctor stood on the threshold with his hat and stick in his hand.

“Not—not that name, Stephen,” begged the sick woman.

“You must not excite her,” the doctor whispered to the smith. Maria interrupted. “You speak to him, Sir,” she gasped out, more and more excited. “He is going to call the boy Cain.”

The doctor came near laughing. “You'll not think of doing such a foolish thing,” said he to Fausch.

The smith stood there with his hands in his pockets. He went back into the living room without answering. The doctor followed him. “Give up your folly! Don't make your wife anxious! As to—the name—it would not do at all, such a name,” he said persuasively.

The smith stood and let the words pass over his head indifferently, just as he might have let the rain drip down his back. Once only he spoke: “What one is, that he must be called,” said he.

“You're like a bull,” said the doctor angrily. “You have a right to send the child out of the house, but you have no right to disgrace it.”

A sound of sobbing was heard from the bedroom. The doctor called the maid, who hurried in.

“You're like a bull,” he repeated to the smith. “Your violence will be the death of your wife.”

Stephen Fausch answered never a word. He turned his face fully toward the doctor—his face with one empty eye socket and one keen black eye—and stood there as if he had nailed himself fast to the spot, stood there like a bull, as the doctor had said. The doctor left; he saw that his reproofs had borne no fruit. When he was gone, Fausch went back to his workshop.

Maria's child, poor wee man, lay in the maid's room. But Maria died two days after the doctor's visit. She died late in the afternoon. All was silent on the road, in the workshop below, and in the upper room, where a few people from Waltheim went in and out, the minister, the doctor, a distant relative of Maria's and the midwife, who had been taking care of the dying woman.

The evening slowly changed to night. The silence in the smithy and all around it grew still deeper. Only Katharine still moved about in her soft old shoes that made almost no sound. Stephen Fausch rose from the table, where he had been eating something late at night. He had left the room dark, and it was as bare and gloomy as a cellar. With a few steps he crossed the room, and opened the door of the bedroom where Maria lay dead.

There was a great contrast between this room and the dark living room from which he came. The moonlight streamed in through the bedroom windows. The maid had put up freshly washed and starched white curtains which gave a peculiar light. The cheap lace looked like marble openwork artistically carved with a fine chisel. The moonlight lay clear and dazzling, directly across the head of Maria's bed, which had been moved out to the middle of the room. The faded blue-figured pillow case, and the feather puff of the same color shimmered white, overlaid with a faint, shadowy tracery, as if made expressly to throw into relief the noble beauty of Maria's head. As Stephen Fausch entered, he cast a timid glance at his dead wife: It was wonderful to see her lying on the bed as if a halo shone around her. He closed the door quietly behind him, folded his arms, and looked once more at the bed. Then he stepped to the bedside, and stroked one of the dead woman's eyelids that had not quite closed yet, looked at her thoughtfully once more, then lifted her arms, which were bare almost to the shoulders and had been hidden under the bedclothes, and laid them full length on the coverlet. Thus he made Maria appear as if sleeping in endless peace, but he also arranged her beautiful form so that its loveliness was seen more fully than before. And when he had done all this, he stood once more with folded arms by the bed and said aloud, quite calmly: “Yes, you were beautiful, you!”

The moonlight streamed over the bed and over the dead woman, over her pure, white brow, her cheeks, her delicate nose and her almost transparent eyelids and then over her arms that lay so peacefully relaxed on the bed coverings. Her face and the pure skin of her arms were bathed in light as if in clear water. But something glistened like fine pure gold in the light, and here and there outshone it. On Maria's eyelids, above her brow, beside her cheeks, about her throat, and even where the bedclothes scarcely hid her breast. It was the dead woman's gleaming hair and eyelashes.

“Yes, you were beautiful,” said Stephen Fausch. His eye wandered over her form with an observant and thoughtful expression similar to the look he had worn a few days before, when he was studying the beauty of the bronze figure. But together with the strangely happy calm with which he enjoyed his wife's beauty, the bull-like stubbornness and a self-willed indifference plainly appeared on his brow and in his bearing. This he had constantly shown to Maria, ever since he had discovered her own and his brother's unfaithfulness. He had in fact treated her as a servant. And yet Maria could have told how he had formerly adored her, as one person rarely adores another. This she had seen long ago when he used to visit her in her native village, which was a couple of hours distant from his own house; he would come almost daily, in all weathers, and often at night, in case he had had no free time during the day! His persistence had finally prevailed and won her consent. And afterward, during the years of their married life, before Ludwig had come home! Although he was a rough fellow and had his bad times, yet he had petted and indulged her—for he had loved her! But—ever since the trouble with his brother, he had, as it were, pushed her out of his way with his heavy shoes, and yet he held her once more to her duties and kept her close to him, making her feel that he was the master, whose heavy hand could drive her where he chose. Even now, when she was dead, he would not let himself feel either pity or grief for her; only the strange joy that he took in her beauty found its place side by side with the sullen resentment that he felt against her. This joy was so great, that after a while, he went slowly out into the passageway and called his maid, beckoned to her, and with his ugly hand, pointed toward the bed.

“See how beautiful she is,” and smoothed a fold of the coverlet that seemed to him to break the perfection of the picture.

The maid began to sob, indeed she had been crying all day. She was of medium height, had a withered, sinewy neck, very red cheeks, and kind-looking, watery blue eyes. She was poorly dressed, but more neatly than the smith, or even than Maria when she was living. In the midst of her weeping, she nodded to the smith, to show that she too thought Maria beautiful; but when she saw no signs of grief in him, she stopped crying in surprise, almost in fear. Shaking her head, she looked furtively, and from one side at the smith, and soon went out of the room, as if she were uncomfortable near him. Then Fausch too left the room and slept that night on a leather covered couch in the living room. He did not concern himself about the baby, in fact he had not troubled himself about it since the maid had taken it into her care.

The next day he attended to what remained to be done for his wife and for her last journey to Waltheim. As he was fulfilling the legal requirements concerning his dead wife, it occurred to him that he might save himself a journey by arranging what was necessary for the child at the same time. So he went to the registrar's office and informed the clerk, in one breath, of Maria's death and of the child's birth. The clerk, a pale young peasant, who had not been long in the place, and whose bad health hindered him from earning his living by hard work, wrote down without delay the details concerning Maria: Her name, the date of her birth, of her death and so forth. Then they came to the child. “On this day and date was born ...”

The clerk looked up; as a newcomer he had already a nervous manner, and besides, the smith stood as close to him as if he had to guide his hand in writing.

Stephen Fausch gave the child's name: “Cain Fausch.”

“Aren't you making a mistake?” asked the clerk.

“Cain,” repeated the smith. His eye rested steadily on the small blank spot in the register, where the name was to stand, as if he were nailing it in place.

“But—but I can't write that down,” said the clerk, blushing.

“Must I tell you again!” grumbled Stephen. “I suppose we could have chosen a better, smoother sounding name in the parish.”

He spoke slowly, looking steadfastly at the paper, with his head thrust forward like a butting ram. The bashful clerk was completely intimidated by this speech. He recollected that even a bad name is still a name, that he, himself, would not have to bear that name, and that the smith, as a father, had the right to name his son as he chose. So he wrote the word in the little blank space on which Stephen's eye rested.

Accordingly Maria's boy was named Cain, duly and lawfully. When the name stood in black and white, in the book, Fausch nodded, quickly, crossly, and indifferently, as if to say: “There it stands now! Of course it would have to be there!” When the clerk went on writing: “Legitimate son of Stephen Fausch and Maria his wife, née Lehr,” he laughed aloud, but he made no objection.

After this business was finished, there remained only Fausch's errand at the minister's to be done. The pastor was a stout, phlegmatic old man. He did, indeed, look surprised, when the smith told him the name, by which he wanted the child baptized, and thought, as the clerk had, at first, that such a name would never do. But when Stephen grew impatient, it occurred to the worthy man, that in any contest with these hard-headed peasants during his long ministry, he had often got the worst of it, and that strife always cost him too much trouble, and his weight and his comfort did not permit him to make any resistance. So he too wrote the name in the register: Cain Fausch.

Thus the smith had butted his head through two walls.

At home, in Katharine's attic room, lay the child, whose brow had just been branded with a shameful mark, and slept and throve; for the maid understood the care of babies.

During the next few days, Maria was carried away from the smithy to the churchyard at Waltheim. This gave the village people plenty to talk about. The name that had been given to Maria's boy was noised abroad, and idle tongues found fresh work to do. Finally Stephen, the smith, had the midwife carry the boy, firmly bound on his pillows, to the church, while he and Katharine went also, as godparents. And now the village gossips could scarcely find a moment's rest.

But all this too passed by. The smith carried on his work, grumbling, obstinate and solitary, for indeed he had been a lonely man all his life. He did not seem at all changed, and the fact that his wife was gone forever seemed to have left no trace upon him. He never asked about the child and saw it more rarely than ever. Toward his customers he had his old self-willed manner, which angered some, and made others laugh. He constantly had enough customers to have found an apprentice useful, but he did not employ one. Perhaps the fact that his brother, who used to help him, had behaved badly, made him dislike to hire another helper. Nothing more was heard of Ludwig. From the day he left Stephen's house, he had disappeared from his life.

Always grimy, bearing the signs of his work upon him, Stephen Fausch went about, so that a stranger, seeing him for the first time, carried away the impression of having seen a bit of darkness in the midst of broad daylight. Yet summer was upon the land, and the smith, who seemed so gloomy both in look and bearing, often sat, when his work was clone, on the bench before his door and gazed, with a peculiar expression of mingled surprise and admiration, at a beautiful sunset, a slowly drifting cloud, or the increasing brilliancy of a star. He felt a strange pleasure in looking at a well formed animal that passed along the road, would watch a beautiful woman or would slowly follow a child, the expression of whose face had struck him, would scrutinize it earnestly, though without any special friendliness, and would then turn thoughtfully away, keeping the same face in mind for some time afterward and delighting in it.

One night at the close of one of these summer evenings Stephen saw his wife's child again. It was just such a clear night as that on which Maria had lain dead on her bed. Above the black band of woodland that bounded the eastern sky with its irregular line, floated the moon, as a white pond-lily gazes forth from the dark, still water. The smith had been sitting in front of his house and was going thoughtfully upstairs to his living room, when Katharine beckoned to him in the corridor. She was quite excited, but evidently anxious as to what he might say.

“You must just see that—just once,” said she and motioned toward the ladder-like stairs that led to her attic room. He followed her almost unconsciously, still lost in his own thoughts, and saw her withered hand slide upward along the banister at every step, then saw it feel over the bedroom door, and, pushing it back, cling to it as if nailed there, and only then did it occur to him that he was standing on the threshold of the maid's room, and that in the gray basket, under those rather unsightly wrappings, lay the child.

Katharine now stepped into the room and went over to the basket bed. She was trembling a little, perhaps embarrassed by her own daring. “He looks exactly—like your wife—at the last,” said she, smoothing the child's coverings so carefully that he did not wake up, and handling him just as tenderly as if he were the dainty little count whom she had tended years before.

The thought was forced upon Fausch that the room looked just as the other had, in which Maria lay dead. Only it was smaller. The room was flooded with moonlight, and the radiance lay on the child's little bed as it had on the bed of the dead mother. On the bright pillow lay the little head, framed in soft, golden, downy hair. The face was full yet delicate and the lines had the same beauty as the mother's face, as it had lain there—also in the moonlight.

But in the living face there was something that enhanced its beauty beyond that of the other face. The light was so clear that the rising and falling of the chest was visible under the knitted jacket. Every breath could be seen as it distended the delicate satiny cheeks and passed from the little mouth; and at every inward breath the lips parted like the calyx of a flower.

Fausch looked at the child for a while, and for a moment it seemed as if the sight impressed him. He leaned forward involuntarily, as if in joyful surprise, but then a curious change took place in him. His dark, angular head came further forward, so that the moonlight struck his square, stubborn brow. In the smith's face and bearing it was easy to see how his own obstinacy was strangling the little pleasure that had almost found its being.

“So that's the boy, is it? Cain Fausch?” said he. “You must be feeding him well,” he added, turning away and moving toward the stairs. As he was starting to go down, he grumbled over his shoulder: “You needn't have dragged me up here just for that.”

The tears sprang to Katharine's eyes. She stared after him, her whole face working. Then she went to the head of the stairs, and leaning over, she called quickly after him: “Here, Fausch!”

“Yes?” he asked, pausing.

“No one must call him that when he is big enough to know—not that.”

“What else then? See that you don't meddle! The name is short. And what is, is!”

The smith stamped away toward the living room. In the clear moonlight which now lay on the landing, Katharine could plainly see from above his black woolly head. It passed through her mind that if one should strike it with a sledge-hammer, the head would be the harder of the two.

Nevertheless something of the picture that he had seen that evening remained in Fausch's mind. The impression lingered for days and weeks, and often occupied his thoughts. Once or twice he asked Katharine about the boy: “What is the little fellow doing? Do you still feed him so well?”

                     Chapter IV

The time passed in Waltheim as it does everywhere. At the smithy Katharine sighed at every year's end, as people are apt to do: “Lord, it has only just begun, and now it is gone already.”

Once, when the old year was making way for the new, she added: “One can see by the boy how old one is growing.”

The year just ending was the sixth since the boy at the smithy was born.

“The boy,” Katharine would say, because she would not speak his name aloud, and yet dared not give him any other.

“Cain!” called the smith from the road, if he wanted the boy in the workshop, or through the house, if he were looking for him anywhere. His voice had a sullen ring like that of his biggest anvil, and was so loud that the name could be heard for a couple of hundred paces round about. But when anyone asked the child himself his name, he would raise his delicate face innocently to the questioner and say: “My name is Cain, Cain.”

And he had already become accustomed to say the name twice, for on hearing it the first time, people either did not understand him or would not believe him.

Stephen Fausch did not treat the boy a hair's breadth differently from what he would have done had there been no spot upon him. Since the child had outgrown the exclusive care of Katharine, and could stand and walk and feed himself, he still slept in the maid's room upstairs, but he shared the living room with his father and ate with him at the table. Stephen did not concern himself much about the child, but he was not unkind to him; for the first while, it seemed as if he purposely looked over the top of the little fellow's head. But in the last year there had come a change, as the little boy's speech and ideas began to grow clearer and cleverer, and now and then, as is the case with all children, some speech of his would delight the listener with its precocity or drollery. The smith led too lonely a life not to welcome the little change that the boy brought him, although he did not admit this, either to himself or to others. He called him oftener to the workshop, tossed him a light hammer to play with, or told him to notice how he himself shaped a horseshoe, how he bent a glowing bar, or other such matters. When the two were alone, there was a droll sort of companionship between them, and they would talk together while the smith was working. The two voices resounded between the cling-clang of the hammers, Fausch's dull or loud, then the child's voice clear and high, like the sound of the hammer when it rebounded from the very outer tip of the anvil. The figures of the man and the boy made a striking contrast. When he was near the boy, Fausch looked still heavier, stouter and darker than usual. The light of the forge fire shone on his brown face and showed the charcoal streaks on it and the dust in his thick, tangled, black beard. The sparks flew from his heavy blows, but they flew in short spurts, as straight as an arrow to the ground. They fell before the little boy's feet in their coarse shoes, or even on his shoes, and if one glowed for some time on the rough floor, the child would look at it and laugh with delight if it was slow in dying out. But the boy was as fair as the man was dark. He stood there looking as if he had just come out of a bandbox, for Katharine still took the same care of him that she had formerly taken of the little count. He did, indeed, wear coarse gray stockings, and his jacket and trousers were made out of Fausch's cast off Sunday clothes. The stuff was rough and homely, but the coarse shirt that showed at the neck and wrists was of a glistening white, that looked so strangely clean in the dirty blacksmith shop, that its color seemed, as it were, to stab through the darkness. But that was not the only bright spot about the child. His hands were small and slender and really quite delicate, and they had a clever way of touching any dirty object with the finger tips only, without getting soiled. But little Cain's head was the fairest of all, poised on his slender white neck, that showed above the soft, unstarched collar. The boy's face was of such a rare and almost unearthly beauty, that Katharine, who was a pious soul and none too clever, often and often stood near Cain, when he was not noticing her, and gazed at him, with folded hands and open mouthed astonishment. At such times a secret shudder would pass through her spirit, and strange thoughts through her old head. Supposing that the boy, Cain, was not really a human being, supposing that—an angel was dwelling under the smith's roof, and—

When such thoughts came to Katharine, who, unlike Stephen Fausch, was a Catholic, she would cross herself. Stephen Fausch was far from regarding his boy as an angel, but when the child was not looking at him, he too would secretly marvel at his face, every feature of which was like a work of art. His mouth had kept the same shape that it had had when he was a baby; it was like a delicate flower whose calyx is just opening. His chin and nose, his cheeks and brow were very clear-cut, while his eyes were large and of a dark steel gray color. They had a strange radiance that was especially striking when the child looked up suddenly and raised his long lashes. His hair was bright golden, like his mother's, and Katharine let it grow long and hang over his shoulders. Therefore Fausch also, upon whom all beauty had its effect, often paused in his work and gloated over the child's loveliness, although he was short and abrupt with him, as with every one else, so that even their talk in the workshop was of a difficult and fragmentary sort. If the maid or any stranger came in, Fausch would speak to the boy in a harsher and more commanding tone, would push him roughly to one side and would call him by his name in a loud and purposely distinct tone. Thus he seemed to seize little Cain, as it were, in his two hands and hold him up to show him to people; “Look at him! I have branded him with the wrong and the shame that they have put upon me!” There was nothing mean or hateful in this action; he merely chose to show that he was man enough to conceal nothing of the disgrace that had been forced on him, and also to exact retribution, without asking whether others liked it or not.

The boy bore this frequent change in his father's bearing, to which he had soon become accustomed, with singular ease. He never cried, but looked at Stephen sometimes, when he blustered, with big astonished eyes, and sometimes he twitched crossly away from Stephen's grasp, when the smith started to push him aside.

Meanwhile the time came when little Cain Fausch must be sent to school. Katharine took him to the village the first time he was to go. But the very next day he no longer needed her, and soon felt at home in Waltheim. Because he looked a little different from the others, a little finer, as it were, and wore his hair in long curls, the village children at first stared at him in astonishment; but since he was a lively little chap, he soon found playmates among them, and they grew accustomed to him, because he became used to them.

Now that the boy was but little with him, the smith seemed to neglect him and to forget him, as of old. Only some weeks later did chance call his attention to the fact that Cain had entered upon a new phase of his life. It was in the afternoon of one of those light days, when the sun seemed to spread its rays, like the glistening threads of a spider's web along the road, from one tract of woodland to the other. The southern wood cast a cool, clear shadow, and where this ended and the sun began to spin its golden web, the line was as sharp as if cut by a knife. Fausch, whose day's work was done, put his short pipe between his teeth, and wandered along the road toward Waltheim, through the sunshine, stretching out his bare, black arms before him, he bathed them in the light, and enjoyed seeing how every motion he made broke some of the golden threads. Just then he saw the little boy, Cain, coming out of the woods through the beautiful shadows. He was carrying a large hempen satchel which contained his school books, and came cheerfully forward, taking rather long, vigorous steps for the length of his legs. His long hair hung down over his shoulders, and his fair face was shining. But as he crossed the line from shade to sun, the light flashed upon his bare head, and for a moment his hair shimmered like gold.

Stephen Fausch paused, involuntarily, to watch the strange picture that the handsome child made, walking through the glorious sunlight. Meanwhile the boy had seen his father. Pleasure took the place of the thoughtful expression that he had worn, and he called out gaily from some distance.

Fausch nodded, waited for him to approach, asked an idle question, whether he was coming from school, and then turned around, and the two walked home side by side. The smith did not change his sauntering gait. Accordingly the boy too had to walk more slowly, and since his father did not speak, he fell, after a few attempts at conversation, to meditating as before. By and by, however, he looked up and asked suddenly: “Why have I such a name?”

“What name?” asked Stephen.

“They all laugh when they call me that. The children say my name is a disgrace.” His eyes filled with tears, but he wiped them away secretly so that his father should not see him cry. Stephen laughed harshly. He did not answer. He stooped forward, and his rugged brow looked as if he meant to butt into some obstacle; moreover he began to walk faster.

“The teacher calls me Fausch, just Fausch. He calls all the other boys by their first names,” Cain began again.

“The teacher is a fool,” said the smith. As he spoke, they had already reached home, and without pausing, he went at once into his workshop. The child got no other answer.

But during the next few weeks, a curious wave from Waltheim reached the smithy. The village people grew quite disturbed over Stephen Fausch's whim, to make his boy bear the name of a sinner. They might have worked themselves into this state long ago, or even when the boy was christened, but at that time, the little commotion had quickly died away. They now actually saw among them the child whom the smith had branded with a mark, and he was a child upon whom the hardest and most commonplace among them could not look without a secret joy. Therefore they took him under their protection. The first who came to see Stephen Fausch was the teacher, an enlightened young man, and accordingly more officious. He greeted the smith a little condescendingly, a trifle masterfully. Then he blurted out at once the errand that had brought him. “You must change your boy's name, Fausch. He can't let every one call him by a shameful name like Cain. Give him your own name, Stephen, or some name or other, but—”

This long speech was cut short by a rough, short questioning “What?” from Fausch. Then the smith left the room, in which the teacher had taken him by surprise, and shut the door with a bang. He was seen no more. So the teacher had to withdraw with nothing gained. After the teacher's failure, one and another tried to make Fausch change his mind, a good-natured old man who was a member of the school board, the village constable, whose opinion of himself was only equalled by his great stature, and finally a couple of sympathetic women. Fausch let them all chatter, gave them no answer, and only ran away, when they went a little too far. And so he stemmed the tide, that flowed around his house, like a rock against which the waves must part.

“What a bullheaded fellow he is,” the Waltheimers would grumble. But finally this little commotion too subsided. The smith had his own way.

Weeks and month flew past; the years went more slowly, but still they went.

[Illustration: EVENING]

As the boy, Cain, grew older, he grew more lonely. His playmates became estranged from him. He was too different from the others, and so they did not associate much with him, and then his name always aroused their scorn. At home he still had Katharine, the maid. She spoiled him when he was twelve years old, just as she had done when he was little. He had her to thank for his unusual, almost high-bred appearance and manners. But because he had no comrades, he began to love solitude, and soon liked to sit over the books that his teacher lent him, and would sit for hours in a forest clearing to dream and marvel; but music he prized more than anything else, and especially the sound of his own voice. His singing attracted so much attention at school, that the teacher let him sing in his little choir at church on Sundays, and Cain sang in the woods and at home, but he liked best to sing in his own little room near Katharine's, in which he had slept since he had grown bigger. It was now two years since he had given up wearing his hair hanging down on his shoulders, but it was still long and soft and blond, it glittered in the sunlight, and he wore it brushed back from his forehead. His brow was so white and clear that the light seemed always to shine upon it, and his face had lost none of its pure, noble lines. His figure, too, was unusually symmetrical, at once flexible and strong. Although he was dressed in the coarse and unbecoming clothes of a villager, yet no stranger could pass him by without glancing a second time at such an uncommonly fine looking lad.

Stephen Fausch had allowed him to grow up in his home and had always behaved in the same way to him. Today indifferent, surly, speaking scornfully to him before others, tomorrow, if they were alone, talkative in his brief way, and casting stolen glances at his face and form, as if the boy's beauty were like meat and drink to him. Then came a day that altered their relations.

                     Chapter V

Fausch was sitting in his dark, dingy living room. It was already almost night. The smith had long ago left off working, and the table was already set for him and the boy. Fausch did not light the lamp. He liked to sit in the dark, which grew gradually deeper in the room, until his heavy form was no longer recognizable, but only a red point, the glow and the smoke of his pipe, and his heavy breathing betrayed his presence. Then Katharine opened the door. “The boy has not got home yet,” said she. Her breath came short.

“He will soon come,” answered Stephen.

But Cain did not come, although he ought to have been home from school hours ago.

Another hour passed. Stephen Fausch's pipe went out. He was half dozing. Then Katharine came in again, for she could find no peace. “He—some one ought to go and look for him,” she said.

Stephen waked up. “Bring in the soup. If he does not come at the right time, he can go to bed hungry,” he grumbled.

The old woman obeyed, and brought in the soup, but her hands and knees were trembling. She meant to hurry over to the village herself afterward, to see what had become of the boy.

Meanwhile the smith had lighted the lamp on the table. He sat down at his own place. The red light of the lamp shone on his black woolly head. Just then footsteps were heard on the outer stairs.

Katharine ran out to the landing. “Boy,” she called out in the darkness.

“Yes!” came the answer. He was there. Slowly he came up the steps. His heavy shoes usually made no noise, for he stepped very lightly. They clattered now, as if he were stumbling. The maid lifted up the light. “Jesus Christ!” she exclaimed.

The boy's face was as white as snow, his clothes were torn and in disorder, but even now they were noticeably clean.

“What has happened to you,” asked the maid, quickly and anxiously. Instead of answering, the boy asked whether his father was in the room.

“Yes, yes,” she answered, and opened the door for him herself. With uncertain steps, as if feeling his way, the boy walked in. He was now thirteen years old, and both slender and strong.

“Well!” asked Stephen Fausch, taking a spoonful of soup.

Cain stepped forward into the ruddy light of the lamp. His pallor showed strikingly in the light; his eyes seemed to glow and looked very dark.

“We had a fight,” he began in a breathless tone, as if he had but just shaken off a couple of his enemies. “And then I stayed in the woods a long time.”

Katharine stood in the doorway, leaning forward to hear what would happen next. Fausch looked sharply at the boy. “Tell me about it,” said he. As he spoke, it seemed as if Cain's appearance caught his eye more than ever.

“The other boys have been telling me why I am named Cain,” he gasped out. He took hold of the back of a chair and looked Stephen in the face. It was not hard to see that something had stirred him to the depths. “They say it is because my mother was a bad woman,” he went on. “But—then—I—I cannot help what my mother did—”

“Eat your supper now,” said Stephen Fausch.

Cain did not hear. “I thought it over a long time in the woods,” he went on in short, broken phrases. “If I am such a shameful creature—I must have done something—but—I—”

Suddenly he was quite overcome. He threw himself down with his head and shoulders on the table and wept. He looked up once. “Why must I have that name, Father? Can't I have a name like other people's?”

Stephen had laid down his spoon. He made a grimace, as if he did not know what to say. Then he swore, and then he growled: “They had better leave you alone, the vermin.”

Cain regained his self-control now. He dried his eyes. Then he stood up once more by the table, slender and pale. “Whether they are talking impudence to me or not,” said he in a low tone, “it always seems to me as if they are pointing their fingers at me. It is like that wherever I go.”

As he spoke, he looked about him, as if he saw scornful glances aimed at him.

“You mustn't trouble yourself about the others,” said Stephen.

The boy could not at first think of any answer. As he stood there seeming so lost and confused, he had a look of helplessness that would have touched one's heart. Suddenly he begged, in a trembling voice: “Couldn't you give me another name?”

Fausch's brow still kept its obstinate look. But he said in an unaccustomed, almost friendly tone: “Sit down now and eat something. One can, very likely, shut the mouths of the boys in the village.”

Cain started to turn away. Then he changed his mind. Some idea seemed to calm him. He put his clothes in order and sat down at his own place. His big strong father meant to take his part! In spite of himself, this thought did him good. He began to eat.

Up to this time Katharine had stood at the door. She now left the room.

Fausch finished his supper, got up and sat down by the window, where it was dark. He lit his pipe again, and secretly observed the boy, who was sitting at the table. Meanwhile they went on talking, in brief, fragmentary sentences: How the fight among the school boys had gone? Which boys had taunted him? Had such things often happened before?

Cain only looked up from his plate when he was obliged to answer, the rest of the time he ate slowly and thoughtfully. Once he wiped a tear from his eyes. Stephen Fausch puffed at his pipe, from which but little smoke rose, as if it were drawing poorly. He had very keen sight, in spite of having but one eye. Thus no feature of the boy's face escaped him: the delicate straight lines of the profile, the brow, the nose, the chin. Most of all he noticed the whiteness of the forehead. As he gazed, he spoke less and less, and finally was silent altogether. All kinds of thoughts passed through his mind, and he became more and more absorbed in them. Perhaps this was the first time in his life that the strong man was troubled with painful thoughts, which he could not put down and strangle, as it were, by the force of his resolute will.

After a while Cain rose, still looking very pale. “I have to study,” he said. “Good-night, Father.”

“Good-night,” answered Stephen.

Then the boy left the room. But the smith sat buried in thought. He scarcely noticed Katharine, as she went to and fro, clearing the table. He could still see the boy's white forehead. And then it seemed to him as if an ugly spot were burning on it, and something within him seemed to say: “You branded him with that sign of shame!” For a moment facts and thoughts seemed to become confused. Then he drew his brows together and thought more intently, and saw everything clearly, as it really was: Not only had he burdened Maria's boy with that name, that shameful name, but he had marked him with the shame itself; for the name awakened the memory of the stain that clung to him from his birth. And if the village children, when they were simple, innocent little things, had made fun of Cain because he had a queer name, unlike anybody else's, now that they had grown bigger just as he had, and already knew more than was good for them, they pointed scornfully at him, not because his name was Cain, but because they knew why he bore that name. But had not he, Stephen Fausch, chosen that it should be so? The injustice that had been done him, he had chosen to nail firmly and solidly in place, and firm and solid it should remain!

Two different forces were struggling in Fausch. There was his obstinacy, his untamed will, that he had never curbed in all his life, and together with that, something else, that was quite new, something like pity for the boy, or—who can guess what suddenly arose in revolt against his iron will. These two forces wrestled together, as it were, breast to breast, neither would yield, and there they stood, equal in strength. Fausch's dark brow flushed, he rocked back and forth in his chair, and his pipe went out. This inward strife gave him a grim hour. No inner commotion had ever before made the slow, heavy man outwardly so restless. The lamp was already burning low and threatening to go out, and Katharine had some time since finished her work in the kitchen, when he rose. He put out the smoking light, but he did not go to his own room near by. He took off his shoes as usual, carried them into the kitchen, and when he came back into the passageway, he stood still and listened. Nothing was stirring in the house. Then, in his bare feet, he went up the stairs to the attic, without noticing that Katharine's door still stood open, and slipped along, as quietly as he could, to the boy's little room. There he listened again. Then he pressed the latch, opened the door, and looked in.

Katharine came to her door half dressed. She had heard him feeling his way upstairs. She could now see him plainly, framed by Cain's doorway. A pale gray light filled the room. Her heart beat. What was the Master going to do? Surely he would not—Had he a grudge against the boy, on account of the fight?

Fausch looked over to the boy's bed. Then he drew a long breath. The lad was asleep. The smith had thought that Cain might still be crying. That was why he had come upstairs. He now closed the door again carefully.

Katharine involuntarily stepped back into her room, out of sight. She heard Fausch pass, taking care to tread softly, and go downstairs again. He went into the living room, and then she plainly heard him go into the next room. The thumping of her heart, that had almost taken away her breath subsided. But she lay awake a long time, wondering what the smith had come up for.

Katharine might wonder as long as she chose. Fausch never betrayed by any word, what he had been looking for in the boy's room that night. Neither did he show any change in his bearing, but remained sullen and reserved as always, and seemed at first to have forgotten that he had half promised the boy his protection against the persecution of the Waltheim lads. Nevertheless, the two powers were still struggling within him, and neither got the upper hand, because both were equally strong. However, one day, and soon after a second and a third time, the Waltheimers were surprised to see Stephen Fausch appear on the principal street of the village, by broad daylight, on a week day during working hours. He had on his leather apron, and was bareheaded, dark and grimy as usual, so that every one could see that he had just left his anvil. He looked so unfriendly, that those who met him did not care to accost him. It was about the time in the forenoon when the Waltheim children were let out of school. He walked past the schoolhouse, which stood in an open square in the middle of the village, as if some errand took him further, but he stopped in a side street or behind a neighboring house and waited, with his bare arms folded across his chest.

An acquaintance asked him what he was doing.

“Waiting, if you want to know,” he answered.

When the school children suddenly came streaming out of the schoolhouse, he watched for Cain, and when he had spied him, looked after him for a while, until the boy had left the village behind, and was walking toward the wood that separated the smithy from the village. Then indeed, he stepped into one of the ale houses, which are numerous in Waltheim, as in every village, took his morning drink, but said nothing here, either, about what had brought him to town, and then took himself off homeward, as surly as he had come.

“He's watching his boy,” said the Waltheimers, and thought themselves very clever to have found this out. “He seems to have some kind of suspicion about the boy. The poor fellow must have a pretty hard time at home with a harsh, bristly chap like Fausch.”

When the smith stood on guard for the third time, the villagers found out their mistake. This time he had slipped into the village unnoticed, from somewhere in the environs, and had taken his stand in a narrow space between some houses, that was not really a street, directly opposite the schoolhouse. Just as the clock had struck eleven, a great noise was heard from the schoolhouse, as usual, the door flew open and the children rushed out. The smallest and most turbulent came first. The older girls and boys, among whom Cain belonged, came out of the building more slowly and gently, with a sort of dignity. Cain Fausch was alone, as always. The smith had for some time noticed that something was wrong with the children, because Cain was always alone and the others seemed to avoid him. Today he was among the first of the older ones to leave the building. He walked slowly across the open space, looking neat and slender; he had been for a good while carrying his books under his arm instead of in a hempen satchel. He carried his head not merely erect, but slightly thrown backward, perhaps he involuntarily carried it higher since he had realized that there was ill-will against him in the village and that people stared at him. As the little crowd of smaller children began to scatter, a few looked after him. Two little scamps were standing close to the smith. Probably they had but just begun to go to school. “Do you know what his name is?” one of them, who could not long have been old enough to speak plainly, asked his companion slily, and with a childishly important air. Then they mentioned the name “Cain” and giggled and looked after the blacksmith's boy who was slowly walking away. The children did not know the meaning of the name, but only laughed at its oddity. Meanwhile Cain's comrades, big strong fellows, had also come out into the open square. They were putting their heads together, as if planning some trick. Two of them came forward and looked after Cain, who was now walking down the village street.

“There he is, running away again,” said one of them, the son of the tavern-keeper at the “Star,” a big, large-limbed fellow, fifteen years old, speaking over his shoulder to the others.

“He's always running away, the coward,” called out the others. Then the tavern-keeper's son, Adolph, shouted down the street, “Cain.” He gave the name a shrill, ugly sound.

“Leave him alone,” said one of those who were further behind.

“Bah, what does he matter?” blustered Adolph, “a child of sin like him!” And once again he called out sharply and scornfully, “Cain!” Suddenly he saw the others fall back from something, that passed before his eyes like a great black shadow. He had no time to see what it was; for some one seized him by the clothes over his chest and lifted him, heavy as he was, high in the air and shook him, so that his shirt and waistcoat and coat tore. Then the man let him down, took him by the collar, held him in one hand as if in a vise and hit him blow after blow, the big tall fellow, just as one punishes little children, such blows that his cries brought the people running, and two or three voices called out: “Let him go, Fausch! Do you want to kill him?” Some of the men caught the smith by the arm. Finally he let go of Adolph and shook off the hands of those who were interfering. His dark face looked gray. On his wrinkled forehead a swollen vein showed, as thick as a cord.

“There,” said he breathing heavily, “if any one else wants some of the same sort, he only needs to torment the boy.” Having spoken thus, he thrust his hands into his pockets and walked away with his head thrust forward like that of an ox that is pulling. “It is all the same to me, half-grown or full-grown,” he growled over his shoulder.

Among those who were looking after him, and the others who were grouped around Adolph where he was writhing on the ground with pain and rage, there was not one who had any fancy for a taste of the smith's fists.

After this day the Waltheimers had something more to complain of.

“The smith doesn't want his boy to be jeered at. Then what did he give him such a name for?”

The landlord of the “Star” at first talked as if he would bring suit against the smith; but finally, when he reflected that his own young scapegrace was considerably to blame for the punishment he had received, he dropped the subject. But although the Waltheimers kept on gossiping, they were prudently quiet about it; for there were very few among them who were not afraid of Stephen Fausch. Even those who teased or tormented the smith's boy, or talked about him, and people always will have something to talk about, became cautious, but whispered and talked in secret all the more. For Cain Fausch could not get rid of his name nor wash away the stain upon his birth. The boy grew more and more quiet and reserved. He made no more complaints at home, but any one with sharp eyes could see that something weighed upon him. He gradually came to see that people had a certain right to despise him. This sharpened his hearing and made him notice how people busied themselves about him, with glances, words and gestures, whenever he came in sight. This made him grow serious quite early, and gave him a certain timidity with people. But he was inwardly sound and strong. Perhaps he had Katharine to thank for this, for in keeping his outward appearance always so neat and dainty, she might have unconsciously brought him up with a sort of inner purity and refinement. Thus it did not occur to him, since he was himself the cause of his own solitude, to seek, as he easily might have done, evil or at least lightminded distractions, to console himself for the fact that he was not of equal standing with others. Instead of this, he learned to love work, first such as he found in his schoolbooks, but later that which he found in his father's workshop. During the boy's leisure hours, Stephen Fausch began to avail himself of his help, and Cain took as much pleasure in this activity, which brought bodily fatigue, as in the other, which occupied his mind, and found the change from the one to the other refreshing and not wearing. But he retained the peculiarity, that he would not permit the traces of his work to remain upon him after he had left the workshop. He would then change his clothes, wash and make himself tidy, so that he still kept that bright, clear-colored look, which made so striking a contrast with his father's dark and grimy aspect. Precisely this peculiarity seemed to give the smith pleasure, and without his realizing it, his sympathy for Cain grew; perhaps it also grew from the consciousness that he himself had put upon the innocent child a mark of shame which probably he would never be able to shake off. But one day, when Stephen Fausch himself became aware that a feeling for Cain began to stir within him, such as he had never known since the days when he used to take long, swift walks for Maria's sake, he laughed, in the midst of his work, a loud, harsh laugh, as the thought came over him. His laughter was at his own folly: “Fool, it isn't possible. Not a drop of your blood is in the boy's veins. They slipped him into your nest.” On this day he was unusually surly and impatient with Cain; his face often wore an expression almost of hatred, when he looked at the lad. But this hatred was not real. He said to himself: “It is against nature that you should be fond of the boy! You ought to have sent him out of the house, the child of shame!” Then again the other power would struggle with this one, the thought: “Is it the boy's fault? You have branded him, and he didn't deserve it!” And his affection for Cain was there, no matter how he tried to argue it down. The inner conflict, that Stephen Fausch carried about with him, was increasing.

And withal time still came and went. One year followed the others and another followed that. Fausch knew as well as anybody else that people left Cain no peace. The boy had gone through the secondary school at Waltheim, and was now learning the blacksmith's trade with his father. Thus he was free from the jeers and teasing of his schoolmates, but yet the smith saw that the disgrace clung to him. Stephen noticed that many of his customers glanced at each other, when Cain was present or was mentioned, he saw the looks that followed the boy, if they appeared together anywhere; he saw how people nudged each other, and heard how one would say: “His name is Cain. Isn't that a foolish name for a man?” and then the other: “Do you know why the boy was named Cain?” Stephen Fausch saw that the disgrace clung to him, and his standing up for the boy now did no good, whether he threatened or even struck those whom he heard insulting him. He could not kill the thousand tongued brood of scandal-mongers. Slowly, slowly—the process took years—the smith himself began to suffer from everything that hurt the boy. Oftener and oftener his gaze rested on Cain's face and form, while new thoughts stirred within him; Did he not look like Maria, as she was, long ago, when he used to run miles to see her? Good Lord, how he had loved the girl! And he was just like Maria—was Cain!

Stephen showed no trace of what was going on within him. His rough manner did not change, for it had become a second nature to him. But in this strange and shut-in nature, something that was like a flame awoke; this was the love of his dead wife, the love that he had had for her long ago in the days of their courtship. But this love was not for the dead—although he perhaps did not know it himself—he began to love his wife in her son, in Cain, the brand of shame upon his house.

                     Chapter VI

Moritz Hallheimer, the horse trader, stopped with his wagon at the smithy. He was still in the habit of pausing, when he passed that way, and he thought a great deal of Stephen Fausch, because he was a skilful workman as well as a strange sort of man. The horse and wagon, as well as Hallheimer himself bore the traces of a long journey. After the trader had greeted Fausch, who was working with Cain in the shop, he leaned against the grimy doorpost and followed with his eyes the movements of the two smiths. Fausch's work was like the heavy downward blow of a weight, Cain's like the swift flight of a feather. Their conversation took place between the blows of the hammer, and often they almost had to scream, to make their voices heard above the ringing of the metal.

“I know where there is a good business for you, Fausch,” said Hallheimer.

“Is that so?” answered the smith curtly and scarcely seeming to listen.

The trader laughed. “Of course, you were brought up here, and you are contented here. You wouldn't think of leaving. Besides you are saving up many an honest penny where you are.”

Fausch made no answer. He hammered away at the tire on which he was working. Only when the trader spoke of going did he let his hammer rest a moment, as if he were listening and considering the question.

“But it is a good business all the same,” continued the talkative trader, stroking his thin pointed beard. “May be a better place than you have here.”

At this point Fausch stopped working. “Where is it then?” he asked slowly.

“The smith at the hospice among the mountains over toward Italy is dead,” the trader answered. “The landlord is not satisfied with the apprentice whom the smith left behind. He wants to rent the blacksmith shop again. One can make good money up there.”

Fausch did not wait to hear the end of the sentence. He heated the tire and hammered it till the sparks flew. But his thoughts were working harder than his hammer. At the same time he saw how the trader turned from him to the boy, with whom he began to talk. He also saw the expression of Hallheimer's face, while he was talking with Cain. Everybody wore exactly, the same expression when they were looking at Cain: it was composed of surprise at his personal appearance and a more or less well concealed curiosity. Often a malicious joy was mingled with this look. Fausch had come to have a keen eye for people's bearing, and he knew that Cain was equally observant. While the trader was talking to him, a painful flush, from time to time, would pass over the young man's face, which was still as fair and smooth as when he was a boy. He was ashamed. And it was always so; whenever people stared at him he was overcome by this painful sense of shame.

Hallheimer now put an end to the interview. “'Well—Good-by, Fausch,” said he, “I'll be jogging along.”

“Good-by!” said the smith. But as the other turned toward his wagon, Fausch came slowly and clumsily out of the workshop and motioned to him. The trader's horse had already started. Hallheimer reined him in sharply. Fausch came over to him and leaned his blackened arms on the rack of the wagon.

“I might like the smithy up there,” he said.

The tradesman's instinct awoke in Hallheimer. He became so animated, that his gestures were as eloquent as his speech. “You're not determined to stay here for good and all? You will do a good business, really you will make a success, Fausch.”

Each word led to another. They talked together for a long time. As Hallheimer was bidding farewell, he said: “I will write to the landlord of the tavern. I will write at once, you may rely upon me. I'll bring you the answer one of these days.”

“Very well,” said Stephen Fausch. His face did not betray his thoughts. When he went back to the workshop, he was very taciturn with Cain. It was plainly to be seen, that he was wholly taken up with his thoughts.

Cain and Katharine did not find out about his plans until Hallheimer had come again and again, when at last, one evening, Fausch signed the lease which the trader brought him for the blacksmith shop on the mountain. He returned after dark that evening from Waltheim, where he had gone with Hallheimer to settle the transaction. He found Cain with Katharine in the kitchen. The boy was freshly washed and had on clean clothes; with bare feet and his sleeves rolled up, he was sitting on the chopping block which Katharine used for chopping kindling wood, watching her peel potatoes. He was attached to the worn old woman, who had cherished and protected him when no one else troubled about him. A small lamp hung from the ceiling, the fire on the hearth was burning brightly, and threw its flickering light over his figure and his blond hair. The conversation had languished, and Cain was singing softly to himself in his beautiful deep voice. When he stopped, Katharine said: “Sing some more!” Above the bubbling of the kettle she heard Fausch's step. Then he entered the room. He had on his coat and his blacksmith's cap, he bid them good evening and came over to the table where the maid was sitting. “Well,” said he, “next month we shall be moving.”

The two looked at him and did not know what to say. It was almost a new thing to them that he should come and speak a word to them of his own accord.

“Where are we going?” asked Cain. His bearing toward Fausch was peculiar. Ever since he had known of the stain that clung to him, a sort of lost, uncertain feeling had come over him, which led him to behave with blind obedience and quiet patience to his father. Without a word he had submitted when Fausch started to teach him his own trade. Without a word he had seen the change that was taking place in Stephen's behavior, and that the smith was trying more and more to protect him from the contempt with which he met everywhere; but he felt his father's friendship as something undeserved, and accordingly still more painful than his former harshness. Therefore there was a distressed expression on his face, as he now raised it to Fausch; he suspected what had led Stephen to decide on going away.

“I am sick and tired of this place,” said Fausch.

Cain got off the chopping block. Leaning against it, he stood up and looked his father in the face. “Are you—are you going away on my account?” said he.

Fausch turned to the door, as if he took no interest in listening to idle talk; then he looked back over his shoulder at his boy. “On your account!” said he. “How should it be on your account? I have always meant to go south sooner or later.”

Therewith he left the room.

Katharine stared after him with her hands folded above her wooden bowl. She had always been rather afraid of him, and had formerly almost hated him on account of his obstinacy. When he began to be kinder to the boy, she did not know what to make of it, but she felt more contented in the house than before. What he had said today, made her heart beat hard. There was something about him that seemed as if he were forcibly controlling his own stubborn nature for the sake of another, and as there had been in his obstinacy something terrifying, so now, in the force with which he for the first time constrained it, there was something almost great. Katharine felt her breath come quicker. A reverent timidity came over her. Stephen Fausch had caused it.

Meanwhile Cain had sat down again on his block and was staring into the fire, with his hands clasped around his knee. “He is going for my sake though,” said he musingly to himself.

“Yes,” answered Katharine.

Then they kept silence for some time. Each was thinking busily. But in Cain's mind the thoughts were fairly seething. He began to imagine what it would be like to leave the place where everybody knew him and pointed at him scornfully. A feeling of relief arose mightily within him. He leaned back until his arms straightened out. His youthful health and strength seemed at this moment to effervesce, so that he felt a new buoyancy. This feeling overcame the discomfort he had felt at the idea of his father's making a sacrifice for him. His joy in life and work redoubled. His gratitude to his father increased and grew into a resolve: “You must work for him. Good Lord, how hard you must work.”

But once a scruple came over him. “I could have gone away by myself” he said, speaking his thought aloud. Whereupon Katharine answered, after thinking a little: “It seems to me that he wouldn't let you go alone now.”

After a little while longer she added: “He wants to have you with him.”

And so in very few words they exchanged their ideas, until Fausch called out from the living room that he wanted his supper.

This evening Cain sang as he went to bed. Fausch listened long to his beautiful voice, not loud, but almost like a distant bell, and the sound rang strangely in the house, where all was usually so still, because joy found but little room there.

Five weeks later, early on a bright morning, a four-horse team stood before the smithy, packed with household goods and with Stephen's tools, ready for the journey. Hallheimer, who had spent the night at the smithy, was there, ready to receive the key. He was to sell the blacksmith shop among the woods for Fausch. Now, for the first time in many years, the blackened door of the workshop was closed, the shutters were drawn over the dim windows, and the house already looked dark and dead. Hallheimer stood on the road talking with the two teamsters who were helping with the moving. Then Fausch, Cain and Katharine came out of the door at the head of the steps. The early sunlight lay on the broad stone platform, to which the steps led, and on which Cain and Katharine were standing. The bright light also penetrated the dark, forbidding passageway, the door of which Fausch was still holding open. The heavy man with his scorched and wrinkled face stood in the full brilliancy, and it seemed as if the dark and stubborn figure found it hard to leave the gloomy and forbidding house where it had dwelt so long.

Cain and Katharine had paused, with their backs toward the road, the smith having detained them by a word. Hallheimer, who was looking up at them, saw that they were stopping for something important; for they stood for a moment leaning forward, as if the smith were saying something to them that they found difficult to understand.

“You!” Stephen Fausch had called out to Cain, as he stepped across the threshold. He might have left these words until the very last, because they were not easy to say, and after his “You” it was some time before the rest would come. He seemed to break off every word from within and to drag it forth with difficulty. Finally he said: “So long as we are going away—you may leave your name behind you. I—you may change your name to Franz—for the future—it was my father's name—and he was an honest man.”

When he had with difficulty forced out these scanty words, he did not wait for an answer, but turned at the threshold and closed the house door. The long disused lock creaked under the pressure of his hard fingers. Because he involuntarily made an effort with the key, the others did not know that the dark flush that rose to his forehead, was not merely a sign of bodily exertion, but that he was at the same time expending far more strength than on the refractory lock on something within himself, that yielded grudgingly like a rusty latch. To change the boy's name, and so to strike out what he, Fausch himself, had intended to stand for all time, was—was not easy! With his head thrust forward he now walked down the steps.

One of the teamsters muttered to the other: “There he comes, the old hardhead.” They had had experience with him while they were loading up; the work had to be done exactly according to his will.

Katharine shook her head gaily as she came down the steps. Her astonishment at what Fausch had said, overcame her so, that she was quite bewildered, and the motion of her head was the mechanical expression of her great satisfaction. Cain looked straight before him into the bright daylight, and his eyes were glistening. He felt as if he were entering into a new life.

The old woman was allowed to sit on a chest in the wagon. There sat the feeble-looking old soul, thin and stooping on her seat. She wore a neat, dark dress and a black kerchief on her head, beneath which looked out her pinkish wrinkled face, and her thin, reddish gray, smoothly parted hair. Her face was almost childishly small. Her faded eyes, which had neither eyebrows nor lashes, looked down at the smith and his boy, and when Fausch looked up at her, she laughed back at him. It was a long while since old Katharine had laughed.

Fausch spoke a few words more with the trader, to whom he gave over the keys of the smithy, then he growled “Go on,” and the wagon started. Cain and the smith walked behind. Hallheimer looked after them and tried to recollect something. Had he not heard rightly, or had not the smith just now called his boy “Franz?” Had the old man been converted? Was he trying to wipe away the mark of shame from the poor fellow?

The wagon with its creaking wheels rumbled comfortably along the road, into the strip of woodland and out again, toward Waltheim. The sun rose higher into the blue sky. The teamsters, the smith, and the boy, Cain, tossed their smock-frocks onto the wagon. The sharply marked shadows of the men and of the horses and wagon ran along beside them with comical movements. The day was very still, the sun reigned supreme and threw so strong a light on the long, quiet, white country road and the broad, level meadows on each side, that the people seemed like toys in the full clear light. The little caravan now reached the village, through the very middle of which ran the road, so that as they entered the place, they could already see the point at the further edge where they should leave it again. Here too there were very few on the road, because it was so early in the day. But people were stirring, right and left, at the doors and windows. The rumbling of the wagon awoke the prying eyes of Waltheim. Each one beckoned or called to the others. It was as if the little group were running the gauntlet. Fausch and Cain walked with lowered heads, the smith, because it was his surly fashion, the boy, through bashfulness, because he knew that now all eyes and tongues were busy with him once more. If from here and there a greeting came to the two, who scarcely looked to right or left, “Good-by, smith!” “I wish you a good journey, Fausch!” the smith grumbled: “Yes—yes,” or some word that was hard to make out; but only rarely did he step up to one of his customers or other acquaintance, shake hands and say perhaps, “We're going away now,” or something of the sort, and then turn quickly away, leaving behind those who would have been glad to ask more about this or that. And so they reached the end of the village and came out again onto the straight open road. Cain breathed more freely. As the noise of the place died out behind him, the gossip in Waltheim would cease also, when he was out of sight.

[Illustration: MOONRISE IN THE MOOR]

Then their journey stretched on and on. For two days they traveled over level country, stopping here and there at modest taverns to sleep or for their meals, and the ranges of high mountains, which bounded their view on the south, came nearer and nearer. Stephen Fausch and Cain still continued to walk behind the wagon in the same way. They did not talk much. But whenever they met any one, or passed through a town, glances of surprise and curiosity followed them; for it seemed as if the living images of night and day were walking side by side over the land. Fausch's clothes were dark and coarse, such as he always wore. They hung loose and heavy about his ungainly form, his hands were blackened, and his large head, which was set upon his broad shoulders as if thrust forward to meet some obstacle, matched them in color; his thick curly hair was deep black, and his face looked as if tanned by the hot sun of some foreign land. Beside him Cain seemed almost small, although he was well above medium height. The symmetry of his whole form was very striking. He had a free, powerful gait. But his beardless face seemed, by contrast with the brown tint of his father's, almost like the face of a tender, lovely woman. He was neatly dressed in some light color, and since, like Fausch, he wore no hat, his blond hair shimmered in the sunlight.

Wherever they went, the people said of Fausch: “Look at that fellow,” then they would nudge each other: “But see what a pretty boy it is with him.”

On the third day the dark, fir-covered mountains closed in around their road in a half circle. The road led deeper and deeper in between these high walls. Soon the walls became steeper, and changed to roughly piled rocky turrets, upon whose highest summits the snow glistened. Then the road itself began to climb, and wound upward over first one hill and then another, always higher and higher up a wild valley, where the villages seemed to cling to the steep slopes as if they were glued on, while there were no more cheerful white or yellow houses gay with flowers as in the valleys, but only huts darkened by the storms and poor, shingle roofed church towers. The teamsters were kept busy, for the horses found their load heavy to pull. They swore a good deal, but here and there, when the road was too steep, Fausch and the boy put their shoulders to the wagon and pushed from behind to help the horses. Katharine was still sitting on her chest; she nodded now and then, and looked frequently at Cain, whose face had always been the delight of her eyes.

The sun seemed to favor them, for they had it constantly with them. But the sky above grew always narrower, the great mountains were piled so high. Finally even the dark firs were left behind them, and then the last villages. On each side of the road now lay treeless, green Alpine meadows, boldly arched slopes, from which arose a whole world of glistening white mountains, with glaciers, pinnacles and rocky peaks. And now the snow often lay quite near the road. Cain, who had often sung to himself in the valley, when there was no one on the road, was now silent. But he opened his eyes wide with astonishment, and often paused to draw a deep breath; for the mountain air was singularly pure and invigorating. And to his surprise, his father too would pause, and gaze at this world of mountains and rocks and snow, and once he said to him in a deep, hollow voice: “Isn't it beautiful, my boy?”

Their way now became more desolate, the mountains rose above rugged heaps of boulders, and it often looked as if the road ended abruptly, closed by a great stone door. But just as on the previous day they had met large numbers of wagons, pedestrians and muleteers, so here too they met people, teams and animals. All at once the gray rocks separated, and they reached a wide spreading mountain meadow. The road led between two small, still, dark mountain lakes, to three massive but unhomelike looking buildings. This was the hospice among the Italian Alps.

                     Chapter VII

Stephen Fausch: stood once more at the anvil as at Waltheim, and his workshop was even blacker and gloomier than the one in the woods. It had a single blind window, but a huge door. The house was built of great blocks of granite, with the workshop in the lower part, and the superstructure projected far out over the workshop door, and was supported on wooden pillars, so that a sort of large, covered portico resulted. The sun never made its way into the dark room, but that did not trouble Stephen Fausch. He would have been somewhat out of place in a more cheerful workshop.

This large building was the oldest of the hospice buildings. Formerly the monks had lived here and had for many years kept the travelers' shelter in the mountain pass. The traffic over the long Alpine road was now increasing from year to year. Simmen, the landlord of the hospice, had been for the past ten years managing the new tavern, which stood opposite to the old shelter, and he had at this time become a man of substance.

Stephen Fausch, whose hammer was ringing through the stillness of a cloudless morning, the second since his arrival at the hospice, was just as he had always been. He was wearing his stiff, greasy leather apron, a dirty shirt, and fresh coal dust had already settled in his tangled curly hair.

“Lord!” laughed the stout landlord, Simmen, who was leaning against one of the wooden pillars and looking into the workshop, “Hallheimer had no eye for beauty, when he sent you to us.”

“You must have forgotten to put it in the contract, that a man must be handsome if he wants your blacksmith shop,” said Fausch; but he laughed too—an odd, contented laugh—and stepped outside to Simmen. In some way the two men liked each other, perhaps because each one saw in the other that he had been accustomed to hard work and that his life depended upon it.

Simmen was in his speech, bearing and appearance a peasant like Fausch but less rugged, and stouter, though strong and broad shouldered. He had a fat red face, a grayish white beard, and was not as large as the smith, though he was a well grown man, and had rather a large stomach, and very large arms, but he was as quick at his work as a young and slender man. The expression of his face was intelligent, and his manner of speaking was loud and commanding; one saw at once that on the mountain he was like a king whose word was the only law in his dominion.

There began to be quite a commotion in the courtyard with its worn stone pavement that lay between the two buildings. Muleteers and travelers, who had spent the night at the hospice, were getting ready to leave. A stable boy led two horses to the smith in his workshop; in his short, selfsufficient way, Stephen took one by the halter and tied him. He did not ask what work was to be done, but cast a look over both animals and started to shoe the first. The stable boy was accustomed to take hold and help, but Fausch did not seem to notice his well meant offers, and managed the horse alone, every motion he made being peculiarly quick and sure. Simmen and the stable boy exchanged glances, and then laughed. “He knows his job,” said the latter. Then he turned to leave. But just then Cain came along toward the smithy bringing a pail of milk from one of the little sheds which were scattered here and there on the meadow land around the hospice. As Simmen saw the boy coming toward the shop, he paused again and looked at him.

The morning was warm, for it was summer, and the sunlight was already flooding the meadow from which the young man was approaching. He was barefooted, like the Alpine peasants, indeed he had been used to run barefooted as a child. His well worn trousers were turned up above his ankles, and his shirt sleeves were rolled up nearly to his elbows. He came forward with a light, swaying step, dressed only in shirt and trousers. Everything about him seemed as fresh and free as the morning.

“Heavens and earth!” said Simmen.

Fausch did not pause in his work. Only once he looked quickly, almost secretly at the lad who was approaching.

“That's a fine looking boy of yours, Fausch,” Simmen went on.

The smith muttered something or other. As he kept on driving nails into the horseshoe, no one would have suspected that his breath was coming faster and that Simmen's praise had aroused in him a wild joy, that seemed to be set free for the first time. Just so—with his heart beating stormily—had he gone to see Maria, in the old days when they had given their promise to each other.

Cain now reached the workshop, and said, as he passed, “Good morning!”

“Good morning!” answered Simmen, and turned to Fausch: “What is the boy's name?”

The smith looked up with a sullen expression and was so slow in answering, that it seemed as if he first had to recollect himself, and then as if the words stuck in his throat: “The boy's name is Franz.” At this very moment his stubbornness almost got the upper hand of him, and as Cain, who had carried the milk to the house, came quickly back, Fausch's hands itched to take hold of him, and show him to the landlord and say: “His name is Cain. I chose and I still choose that he should bear that name.” The inner conflict in Stephen Fausch was not yet ended.

From the tavern, a voice now called to the landlord, just as Fausch was finishing his work. Simmen started to go, but the girl who had called him came out in front of the tavern, looked over toward him and then walked toward the shop, as if she were curious; so then the landlord beckoned her to come over to them.

“I want you to see my child, smith,” said he, “the only one, and a tardy blossom. It had seemed as if the house would always be empty.” He put his arm around the shoulders of the fifteen-year-old girl, who had approached, and pushed her toward Fausch.

The stable boy was now leading the two horses away. Just then Cain came to call Fausch to breakfast.

The girl gave her firm brown hand to the smith. “Good morning!” said she.

“There is some one else too, Vincenza,” said the landlord, and pointed to Cain, and the child, without any timidity, laughed and gave her hand to the boy also.

“His name is Franz,” said her father.

“Good morning, Franz!” said Vincenza.

“You look like a negress beside the boy,” laughed Simmen, and placed the girl close beside Cain. Her deep black, curly hair was braided and wound around her head, which reached to Cain's shoulder. She had a brown complexion, brilliant black eyes and handsome features of the Italian type. When she laughed at what her father said, her white teeth flashed, and the whites of her eyes too, producing a curious and striking effect between the brown skin and the black pupils.

“She is an Italian,” said Simmen, “she looks like her mother.”

It was curious how Cain's almost feminine and yet fair and strong beauty came out by contrast with the other three people.

As the girl, Vincenza, immediately turned away with Simmen, she looked back at the boy more than once; she had never seen any one like him.

Stephen Fausch was still busy in and around the workshop, and Cain stood near by. His eyes were full of careless joy, and his chest expanded. Once he began to sing. Then he reminded his father once more: “Come now, the milk is waiting.”

As they were about to enter the house, through the open door which was near the workshop, the boy once more looked about over the distant view. “It is beautiful here,” said he. And Stephen Fausch did the same, only he did not speak; his words were too costly. Then they went into the house together.

From this morning on they began to feel at home without the least difficulty. Fausch found plenty of work. At the hospice there was an almost incessant coming and going of travelers on foot or in wagons, traders and trains of pack horses or mules. Many of them needed the smith's help for their animals or their wagons. By some strange chance, no acquaintance came along the road for a great while. Even Hallheimer did not come, and just as both Simmen and Fausch began to wonder at his absence, the smith got a letter saying that the trader was confined to the house by a severe illness, so that not only had he been unable to make his usual trips to Italy, but the smithy at Waltheim was still unsold, because he had been unable to attend to such business. But because no familiar face reminded them of the old days at Waltheim, the memory of what had driven them away from there faded imperceptibly from Fausch's mind as well as from the boy's. Cain heard no more scornful speeches or mysterious whispers. And so he quite outgrew the bashfulness that had clung to him formerly; he went about freely, holding up his head, and some song was always on his lips. But Fausch too was probably passing the most peaceful days that had fallen to his lot in all his life. He was rejoiced that there was no one here, who knew about his boy's name and origin, though, indeed, he did not admit this even to himself, but still stammered over Cain's new name, and every time had, as it were, to drag it out by force. But more than all, it was the wonderful beauty of the high mountain country, that made them both feel that the change they had made was a happy one. “I always wanted to see it once,” said the taciturn smith. He and Cain loved to go out in front of the house, or wander down through the meadows, or sit on some rock, to marvel over the beauty in the midst of which they lived. The wonder was ever new, in the early morning, before the dawn glimmered in the east, in the brilliancy of noon, at sunset, when the mountains and the heavens were all aflame, and in the night, when no sound broke the silence and the sky was full of stars. At these times they did not talk, but they drew great deep breaths, and felt such joy merely in living, that the two unspoiled men were almost without a wish.

All day long Cain helped his father in the shop; but when, at Simmen's wish, the smith took an apprentice, Cain had more free time and could help Katharine, who was no longer very strong, or else he was called on by Simmen for all sorts of services. He was both skilful and quick, and in dealing with people he had a ready, almost fine manner, for which also Katharine deserved credit, for no matter how weak and tremulous her hands had grown, she still kept control of the boy. The hospice tavern, this summer, was surprisingly full of life. The guests came in such numbers that often the four large, ground floor rooms could not accommodate them all. Thus it often happened, and as his usefulness came to be known, daily, that little Vincenza would come running to the workshop: “Come, Franz, you must help us.”

Then the boy would get rid of the dust of the shop, put on clean clothes, and would soon be up at the tavern, and it did not take long to teach him. He was soon able to move about among the tables and wait on the guests just as the maids, the host and his wife and the slender Vincenza did. It was a pleasure to see Franz and the others at work; they seemed to turn everything off so easily. The landlord's wife was a very tall woman, nearly a head taller than her husband; she was pale, with clear-cut features, and black hair and eyebrows. She had a sharp, decided manner, and if she went to manage matters in the room where the servants and common people, tradesmen and apprentices were, where it was often noisy and not always peaceful, she did not need any masculine intervention, to maintain order among the turbulent folk. Simmen, in spite of his rather unwieldy figure, was active and quick, and took hold himself, when there was too much for the maids to do, and helped to bring in the food and drink. But Vincenza and Cain moved swiftly and easily among the guests who crowded the rooms, were now here, now there, and their work and their pleasure in their work gave them rosy cheeks and brightly flashing eyes. It soon appeared that in the special dining room, where those of the upper classes sat, and where Simmen, who had a keen eye for the rank of his guests, always brought the more important travelers, these guests took especial pleasure in the two young people, and gradually Simmen told them to devote their whole attention to the service of this room. Many eyes were fixed upon them. They received many friendly nods and kind words, and because they enjoyed all this together, they quite unconsciously came to feel that they belonged together, and this feeling was not confined to their work in the guests' rooms. They began to stand talking together after their work was done, then one day Vincenza ran over to see Katharine, with whom she was growing quite friendly. A few days later Cain brought her a book, that he had kept since his own school days. But when he saw that she was but little accustomed to reading, and therefore could not rightly enjoy what she read, he asked her to come with him that evening, which was a Sunday, to the meadow behind the old monastery; there he sat with her, leaning against one of the many blocks of stone, and read to her. She was so delighted, that she would not let him stop until he had read her story after story, and it grew so dark that he could no longer make out the letters. Then the young girl, who was usually impetuous and far from serious, looked very dreamy, and said, drawing a long breath: “You read beautifully.”

And that was true. Cain's voice had a deep, full tone, that was excellent in reading as well as in singing.

Thus their friendship grew day by day, and this was scarcely surprising, since they were the two youngest people on the mountain, in fact the only young people.

When the summer gave way to autumn, there was less travel over the mountain road, although it never ceased entirely, even in the deepest winter, and there were many hours in which Cain and the young girl could well be spared, or thought they could. They began to wander about the mountains together. Vincenza acted as the guide, for she had climbed about everywhere with the goatherds when she was a child, and knew the way. Hand in hand, singing lightheartedly in the pure, early morning they would climb some green slope, or clamber over rocks and boulders to the snow near by, or they would wander to a dark valley not far away, where a third lake lay quite inclosed by steep rocky walls, and known to very few people in all the world. Simmen kept a boat on this lake, a homely old thing with only one oar. When Vincenza brought Cain over here one day, he was much excited and' thought that he had never in his life seen anything so beautiful as this water and the perfect stillness that brooded over it, and he would go to see it again and again, whenever he had time enough. Vincenza always went with him.

One Sunday afternoon they both found their way to the lake once more. It was Vincenza's sixteenth birthday.

At the north entrance to the mountain pass they turned off from the main road into a little rough stony path, on one side of which was a swift mountain stream, on the other a high rocky wall, and then the path disappeared in the dark valley of this black lake, like a snake creeping in among the stones. They soon reached the broad, unpainted boat, whose rusty chain was passed around a rock on the bank. Cain stepped in, took the oar and pushed the bow of the boat further up on the bank, so that Vincenza could get in more easily. With a quick spring she jumped in and sat down on the movable seat that was laid across the boat. Cain stood in the stern and dipped his old weather-beaten oar slowly and quietly. Imperceptibly they slid away from the shore. The water was black, and as smooth and still as if no breath of wind could find its way into the walled valley. The dark walls of the bank descended abruptly to the lake, and only here and there lay a gentler slope of the mountain, but even such spots were desolate and strewn with rocky débris, and the valley had no outlet excepting the way by which Cain and Vincenza had entered. The lake was as dark and still as night, but now a bit of sky, as large and still as the water, lay above it and lent the lake its beauty. It rested on the dark and jagged mountains that dipped their feet in the water, and every change of light and shade and color in the sky was mirrored in the lake.

The late afternoon was clear, and beautiful in its deep stillness, as it often is before bad weather comes on, when the storm is drawing a deep, long breath and only the clouds are moving. The clouds mounted silently and solemnly in the west above the black, rocky peaks, now a heavy brown one, that trailed and twisted, and stretched out, till it looked like a bridge reaching from one sky margin to the other, and then rolled together again and fled away to the east just as it had approached from the west—now a thin white one, that flew past like smoke, and then a still more delicate one, that hung like a spider's web in the blue, and suddenly vanished in the midst of the sky, as if the depths had opened to draw it in.

Cain's boat sped over the water, and the play of the clouds in the sky, was all around the boat on the lake.

“Look at the clouds,” said Vincenza, pointing to the water.

When they had pushed off from the shore, clear sunshine had been shining over the lake. Now it was quenched, and the shadows always made the valley seem gloomy like night. But all at once the clouds that were sailing over the sky began to glow. The white ones turned to fragments of flying flame, and a mysterious light shone through the dark ones, and bordered them with purple. And the steep and desolate banks and the lake itself glowed with the rosy hue of the clouds. It was almost as if an invisible torchlight procession were climbing upward over one of the mountains or rocky wildernesses, and all the flickering torches cast their light into the lonely valley as they moved onward and upward, step by step.

“It was never so beautiful before,” said Vincenza, speaking softly for surprise and reverent joy. “You're on fire, Franz,” she added with a smile, that like her voice was almost reverent.

The glow poured over the boat and the two figures in it. Cain had laid aside his workman's blouse and stood in his dark trousers and white shirt. As he sculled, his figure bent forward and back with a great pleasure in the motion, and something like timidity came over Vincenza as she kept on looking at him, and she said hesitatingly: “You are—a handsome fellow—Franz Fausch.”

“Shall we sing something?” asked Cain.

Vincenza did not answer, but as he unconsciously began to sing, she joined in with him.

They used often to sing together, when they were climbing some mountain path, but always before their singing had been some gay melody to which their steps kept time, and they had not paid much attention to what they were singing: But now Cain started one song after another, and the boundless silence that surrounded them, carried their voices back to them, in a way that delighted them. At first they sang of their fatherland, then one of the soft Italian songs that Vincenza knew and had taught Cain, and then a home song of longing: “Why, oh why, my heart, this sadness.”

Cain sculled quite silently. His voice was like a bell, whose tone rose from the water, and Vincenza's like a little bell, ringing on the mountain, and they found each other, and it was as if they were floating together over the silent lake, further and further, to lose themselves among the rocky mounds beyond.

And so Cain and the young girl had almost reached the further bank which was wholly lost and solitary. Cain drew in his oar and sat down. “Let's stay here a while,” said he, and they drifted contentedly and talked of this and that, and looked down into the lake, and dipped their hands into the ice-cold water and then looked up again at the clouds. Because the motion of the clouds could be better seen from Vincenza's seat, Cain got up and sat beside her in all simplicity. Then they began to interpret the manifold forms of the clouds, and laughed and made fun of each other, when one of them failed to see in the cloud picture what the other seemed to see, and got quite excited when both could plainly see the same thing. By and by a curious picture came floating past, which was composed of two clouds, one narrow and light colored and one smaller and darker, but both clinging together as if an arm held them. They floated upward, now closer together, now almost separating, so that it seemed as if the arm that joined them must be rent in two, but yet it still held fast, and drew them, linked together, far away across the sky. At first they did not know what to make of this. Then Vincenza said: “That is you and I, Franz.”

They laughed, and for the first time, they could not look at each other, but gazed almost shyly into the distance. At the same time, each felt the other's presence as something infinitely good and comforting. Cain playfully stroked the girl's left hand, which lay on the seat, with his right, and she permitted him and looked quietly down before her. They might perhaps have sat so for a long while, if Vincenza had not happened to look toward the entrance to the valley, where something suddenly caught her attention. She looked more carefully. “Isn't that—? Your father is over there, Franz,” said she to her companion. He stood up and recognized Fausch, who was standing close to the shore and looking over toward them. He was not beckoning to them, but yet he looked as if he were waiting for them.

“We must go home,” said Cain, and seized the oar. But even now they did not go fast. The darkness that swept down suddenly over the Schwarzsee deepened around them. The ruddy glow was quenched. The lake lay like polished black glass, and the rocky banks seemed to grow higher.

Stephen Fausch still stood and waited. In the uncertain light his figure seemed to have grown bigger, like the rocks. As the young people approached the bank, he gave them no greeting, but turned away, with his hands in his pockets, and grumbled, as they bid him Good evening: “Where have you been all this time, you two?”

He had on his black, Sunday clothes; but his face had not a Sunday expression. His brow had an angry look.

They stepped out quietly onto the bank, looked at the smith, to see if he was coming with them, then all three started on the homeward road. The night had almost descended upon them before they reached the hospice. During the whole walk they hardly spoke ten words; only Fausch grumbled once, turning to the side where Cain was walking: “Pretty soon we shall not see you all day long.”

Vincenza was inwardly angry. What a bull-headed, unfriendly man he was, the smith!

Cain did not know what to make of his father. Was he displeased with something? What could have come over him? He did not know that Stephen Fausch was always looking for him when he was not by. He could not know that the man was hungering for him, perhaps without knowing it himself, and that his restlessness and that strange wild hunger, that his shut-in nature hid under a rough, ill-tempered manner, had today driven him to follow them to the lake.

                     Chapter VIII

Fausch's ill temper that evening did not hinder Cain and Vincenza from enjoying each other's company as before. They were too young and too thoughtless to think very much about others, and Cain did not suspect the feeling that his father was hiding. Their days grew only more lovely and contented, as the season changed again, and autumn gave way to winter. The cold weather drove those who lived at the hospice together in a couple of little rooms. The troops of travelers diminished. Only one regular post now passed over the mountain daily in each direction. The trains of pack animals still came; but the work at the smithy grew less. The apprentice was dismissed. Fausch was once more alone in his shop. Everything lay deep under the snow, the mountain meadows were one smooth sheet of white. The rocks were invisible and the lakes lay buried. The mountains round about had lost their gloomy shade, and now seemed to surround the valley with walls of alabaster, and when the sun shone, the whole white world was radiant. Where the road, which looked like a single furrow in a white field, separated, running northward and southward, stood the hospice. The gray walls were plastered with snow, and the buildings looked like an island that is about to be submerged in some great flood. From without, the few houses on the lonely mountain had a defenseless look. But inside they were snug and warm, and there was need of warmth and comfort; for the winter storms came rushing over the snow fields, and the thick, cold clouds came, bringing night at noonday. Then the travel over the mountain road would cease, for days or weeks, or if some foolhardy man, or a daring troop came up from the valley, they would cross themselves, if they got as far as the hospice, and would gasp out: “That was tempting Providence: that road meant life or death.”

The two men from Waltheim passed this first winter as contentedly as the autumn, and the same contentment lasted into the spring, when the avalanches came crashing down the mountain sides. When the danger of snowslides was somewhat less, some travelers began to come through the pass, and one of the first who came was Hallheimer, the trader. Two things were especially noticeable in him, on his arrival, first that his illness had gone hard with him, for he was still thinner and his straggling beard looked still more scanty: second, that he had felt very curious to make this mountain trip once more. He greeted the smith first, for he had taken his wagon at once to the stables, and wanted to know how Stephen liked the place, and gave him news about the smithy at Waltheim, for which he had a purchaser in view. Fausch stood by his workbench and let the words pass by him, muttered an answer now and then and let the trader see that he did not regret the change. Then the trader wanted to go over to the tavern. Simmen, with whom he was a profitable and quite a favorite guest, because he always brought news, greeted him with “Hullo,” and Hallheimer soon had the conversation precisely where he wanted it. “How goes it with the smith?” he asked.

“He's an odd stick,” said Simmen. “But he can work!”

Hallheimer grew so eager that his little eyes flashed. “There is something hidden in the fellow,” said he. “For all that he is so crabbed and crusty outside, like an everlasting workday, another man is hidden in him, as fine as Sunday, whether you believe me or not. He appreciates everything beautiful. Mean he may be, and thorny and quarrelsome and quick with his fists. For instance, the token that he marked the boy with for life!”

“How's that?” asked Simmen innocently. “His boy, Franz?”

The trader pricked up his ears. “Franz?—Does he call him Franz now—the boy?” asked he.

The host begged him to tell what it all meant.

So then Hallheimer told Cain's story, all about his life and about his name.

“So—so,” said Simmen. “Base born is he then, the boy?” and the matter seemed to make him thoughtful.

Hallheimer spent the night at the tavern, and seemed to be possessed to talk about the smith. He listened to what one and another in the house had to say about Stephen Fausch, and told the landlord's wife and the maid, who brought him his supper, and the working men, with whom he presently sat in the lower room, the story of Cain's name, and why such a name was given him. He meant no harm by this, for every one knew all about it where he came from. He simply kept telling it over again in the excitement of the conversation, meaning to explain to his listeners what a remarkable fellow the smith was, in spite of his uncouthness.

It happened by chance, that neither Cain nor Fausch came over to the tavern that evening; but Vincenza heard the tale and afterward sat in the corner of the room lost in thought with dreamy eyes and burning cheeks.

The next morning Hallheimer had already started southward, when Cain came out of the milk house and fell into the hands of three workingmen belonging to the hospice, who were busy at the house. It came over him that they all stared at him, and passed some word back and forth among them and then laughed, as if they were laughing at him. He greeted them, paused and said: “Already busy, so early?”

They looked stupidly at one another. But one, an impudent fellow, who had a brandy flask behind him on the ground, even at this early hour, said: “That's a fine name you have!”

Then they laughed again still louder.

“My name?—” stammered Cain. For a moment he did not know what they meant; but suddenly the blood rushed to his face. The story of his shame had made the long journey from Waltheim here! He could not say another word, nor even look at the three men. With drooping head, he slipped away.

Soon afterward he was standing in the workshop, where Fausch was busy making a supply of horse shoes ready for the summer. The smith had not heard him come in, but, turning around by chance, discovered him, standing in a corner, with his arms hanging limply and his head on his breast. “What is the matter then?” he asked.

Then Cain looked up. His features twitched convulsively. “They know it here now—they know it all,” said he slowly.

Fausch dropped his hammer. “What do they know?” he asked.

“About—my name.”

A flash of anger rushed over the smith. “I would like to see who dares to call you anything but Franz here!”

“I want to go away, Father,” said Cain, “out into the world—down to Italy, or somewhere—I want to go away.”

“Nonsense!” Fausch burst out. “Get to work! Blow the bellows for me!”

The boy obeyed without remonstrance. “This evening we can talk about it,” was all he said. Then he did as his father had told him. He still held to his decision to go away. But it seemed very hard to him. He stifled a rising sob. The smith worked as if a hundred horses were waiting at the door for the shoe he was making. Suddenly he straightened up, laid down his tools and pointed out some more work for Cain to do. He himself went out without saying where he was going. Once outside, he went to the tavern, and drank a glass in the servants' room, as he now and then did. As he sat there, he noticed exactly what he had expected: every one looked at him differently since yesterday. Simmen, whom he ran across, asked why the boy did not come over. Then he added with a half sarcastic, half angry look: “I have found out all about you and—and Franz. You weren't exactly gentle with him in those days.”

Fausch was going to ask who told him about it, but Hallheimer immediately came into his head, and he began to wonder that the story of Cain and his name had not found its way to the mountain long ago. He did not answer the landlord, but gazed steadily into his glass, emptied it at one draught, muttered something which Simmen did not understand, and took himself off. A while afterward he went back to the shop, where Cain was still at work. He said nothing, but wandered aimlessly back and forth a moment, looking fixedly at his workbench, as if he were searching for something. Then he said impatiently to Cain, as if he had already sent him out: “Go along, then!”

“Where to?”

“Can't you pile the wood that was unloaded yesterday?” he growled. Cain immediately turned and went out.

Stephen Fausch stood for a moment looking toward the back door, by which the boy had gone out; then he sat down on his anvil, with his elbows on his knees, and stared at the ground, with bowed head. A band of light that came through the great doorway fell upon him and threw the man and the anvil into striking relief against the surrounding darkness. He sat there so motionless and was so dark a shape, from his clumsy shoes to his black, woolly head, that it was not easy to distinguish where the iron of the anvil ended and the living man began, or whether the whole was not an iron statue. Moreover, no one could have seen that within him all was turmoil and struggle and strife.

But Stephen Fausch was thinking. All the way over the long road from Waltheim the slander had followed them, which they had come so far to avoid. And this gossip and scandal could follow Cain through the whole world just as easily as it had come here. There was no avoiding it! And it is your fault, Stephen Fausch, that the boy must be pursued by scandal his whole life long. But ha ha, it is fair, perfectly fair! No one asked you how you liked it, when Maria was—ha ha! So he must bear it too, the child of sin, the sinner's name! He must bear it!

It was the old struggle between defiance and obstinacy, and that other feeling of pity for the boy, that arose once more in Fausch. Only the battle had never been so fierce before. The two forces wrestled together and shook the powerful man back and forth like a reed, even although outwardly he sat so still. Then too, other thoughts came to him. He wanted to go away, the boy! All alone! They must part! Yes, yes, of course, if he were alone, the boy might more easily pass unnoticed through the world. Yes, of course! But to part!

Fausch shuddered. No longer to have the boy with him, no longer to see him—in whom—Maria still seemed to live!—He could not sit still any longer. He got up and walked back and forth. To give him up—the boy!—The thought awoke once more his strange hunger for Cain. It drove him to the door, to see him.

Over by the stable door the boy was piling up heavy logs of wood, which lay in a confused heap on the ground. He was working diligently and without looking about him.

Just then Vincenza came across the open space from the tavern. The smith involuntarily stepped behind the wall by the door, so that she would not see him. From there he continued to watch Cain.

Vincenza timidly came near, looked about to see if anyone was by, then, before he was aware of her approach, she stepped up behind the boy, who was so absorbed in his work.

“You never came near me all the morning,” said Vincenza to Cain. She had quite forgotten to bid him good morning. She was not usually a very thoughtful girl, or apt to hang her head. But now she looked quiet and serious.

“You?” said Cain, turning toward her. Then he didn't know what more to say, and went on piling up the wood.

“I know why, already,” said Vincenza. Leaning against the woodpile, she looked at Cain. After a short pause she continued. “They have told us what a strange name you have. So—that is why you don't come over any more, isn't it?”

“I am going away—I am going very far away now,” said Cain, but even as he spoke the words, it seemed wholly impossible to him, that they could be true.

Vincenza thought a moment. Then she came closer to him. “If you go, I shall go too,” said she.

He could not laugh at what she said, for all that it seemed so incredible. Since he could not find a word to say, he stroked her hand, which was resting on the woodpile.

Just then Simmen came out of the tavern door, with his face flushed, and called out angrily to Vincenza: “Are you there again with the smith's boy, you?” It was the first time that he had had anything to say against the friendship of the two.

The girl turned around. Her little brown face wore an angry expression. “I shall tell my father,” said she to Cain as she went away. The boy scarcely knew what she meant. But she walked slowly up to Simmen.

“Franz wants to go away,” said she when she was close to him.

“So he ought,” answered the host, crossly.

“Then I shall go with him,” said Vincenza.

At that, the blood rushed once more to Simmen's face. Cain heard him railing loudly at Vincenza, as he walked into the house behind her. His angry voice could be heard across the yard for some time. Cain stood and listened, with a log of wood in his hand. Over at the workshop, Fausch left the doorway where he had been watching and went out of the back door. He had no peace of mind left for his work.

                     Chapter IX

Simmen, the landlord, sent for Fausch to come to his little office, which was near one of the guest rooms. It was a small room, containing a table strewn with papers, and a chair in front of it; at this table Simmen used to make out the bills for his guests. A little oil lamp that hung from the ceiling was burning, and threw a fairly good light upon the two men, and around the room.

It was the evening of the day when the landlord had scolded his daughter on Cain's account.

Simmen looked very much displeased.

Fausch had come just as he was, dirty, and leaning a little forward, as if he had to thrust his great head through a wall. Something seemed to be seething in his mind, and it often seemed as if he was so busy with his own thoughts, that he could scarcely take heed of what the landlord wanted him for.

“You've got to send that boy away,” began Simmen in an excited tone. “My—my daughter has seen too much of him, as young as she is, the child! She is locked in, upstairs now, until she grows tamer—but—you must send the boy away, and soon too.”

Simmen's anger was evident in his hasty, broken speech. He and Vincenza must have had a stormy time together.

Fausch looked down and made no answer. His thoughts held full sway over him.

Simmen thought that he was considering what had just been said to him. “Anyway, it will be good for him, to go out into the world, your boy,” he went on, trying to persuade Fausch. “It is always useful for young people.”

“True,” muttered the smith; he seemed to be waking up. “I will see,” he added, and as Simmen began to advise him as to where he might send his boy, and offered to do something for him, he said “Yes, yes,” in answer. The host might take it for assent if he chose. When he had forced out these few words in answer to Simmen, Fausch shifted from one foot to the other a few times, as if the ground were hot beneath his feet, then suddenly he walked out exactly as he had come in, with clumsy, almost groping steps, as if he were blindly following his own thoughts.

At supper, he sat with Cain and Katharine, more silent than ever. Only when the boy began to talk very earnestly once more about going away, he spoke harshly to him: “Can't you keep still till you're spoken to?”

Cain was not afraid of him. He fixed his clear eyes on his father's face. “I will depend upon myself as much as I can,” he went on, speaking of his plans.

Fausch did not answer him again.

“Then—I must go, without your consent,” Cain concluded, firmly. “Tomorrow morning early—I shall—”

Katharine, who scarcely knew what had happened, came around the table and took hold of the boy's sleeve with trembling fingers: “My boy—my boy!” she said in a warning tone.

But Fausch was a strange picture, as he sat there. His powerful form was trembling, as if with rage: “Can't you wait?” He forced the words out between his teeth. “Can't you wait till we have time to think of something for you?”

Cain was startled at his father's appearance and agreed. “When will you let me go then?” he asked.

“You shall soon see,” said Fausch in the same troubled tone.

Cain and Katharine looked at each other involuntarily; they had never seen him like that before. He sat bowed over on the table; from time to time his dark and horny hands opened and shut convulsively, as if he were squeezing something in his hand.

“Are you ill?” stammered Cain. Then the smith pulled himself together. “Nonsense!” he growled, and then: “You shall not go, until I have thought things over for you.”

There was something in these words that did not permit Cain to oppose him. “Then I will wait,” said he. In the passageway he turned to Katharine, who stepped out of the room with him. “What is it, what is the matter with my father?” he asked.

Poor old Katharine was silent and thoughtful. “He is not easy to make out, the master,” said she.

But after this conversation, Stephen Fausch passed a long, anxious, sleepless night. His bedroom was above the blacksmith shop, and was as bare as all the old monastery had been; a hard bed, a chair and a table were the only furniture. Fausch sat on the bed, near the open window, from which he could see the lakes and the whole Alpine valley.

At the supper table, an idea had come to Fausch, when Cain had spoken again of going away. “If the boy wants to go out of your life, Stephen Fausch, cannot you just as well pass out of his?”

He realized that it was the story of himself and the boy together that gave the material for all the scandal. And he knew perfectly well that it was he, Stephen, whose appearance and manner were so conspicuous, and who had played the principal part during the course of the events, who chiefly reminded people of the story. Cain was young and fresh and very much like other people. He lived in the present time, and suited the present time, so that the world could take pleasure in him just as he was, and therefore might not ask very much about his past, if there was nobody there, who was associated with the past and so was more bound up with it than Cain himself. He, Stephen, was the chief obstacle that prevented Cain's story from sinking into oblivion. If he parted from the boy, people would judge him for what he was, instead of for what he had been!

Fausch had carried these thoughts upstairs with him, and they would not let go their hold on him. As he sat on his bed, he was struggling with these ideas.

Until now, Fausch had gone his own way without troubling himself about anyone. And if a wall stood in his way, he had pushed through it with his obstinate head, and if anything else was in his way, he had kicked it aside with his heavy boots. Now for once he must yield, he must admit that—that in his self-will he had been unjust. If for the boy's good he should go away, it would be like begging Cain's pardon for what he had done to him, he, Stephen Fausch, who had no need to ask anyone's pardon!

This idea was so distasteful to him, that he laughed aloud and was too angry to sit still. He snatched up the chair by its back and put it over by the window, and sat down there and gazed out into the night.

The night was very still and clear. There were not many stars in the sky, but it was mysteriously bright as if from some inner light, and the few stars in sight were large and still, especially one, which was just above a dark mountain and had a smaller companion directly above it. The star gave a bluish light, like moonlight, that shone downwards from far over the mountain. The great, solemn, silent wall of mountains, that stood round about the pass, were so clear-cut at the sky line, that one could count every summit; in the pass itself there was still a soft light, so that a part of the road was visible in the midst of the darkness, and the surface of one of the lakes lay glistening through the night.

At first Fausch did not see this nocturnal landscape, for his anger seemed, as it were, to lay a hand over his eyes. But gradually the brilliancy of the two stars, the larger and the smaller, caught his attention, then the dark distinctness of the mountains, and then the gray shimmering road and the strange light on the lake. But the more the great silent picture of the night gained power over his soul, the more did it appease his anger, until there grew in the mind of this strange man a stillness and clearness like that which lay over the landscape. At the same time something recalled to his memory how the boy Cain and Vincenza had lately wandered about together so often in this same landscape. The picture of the two handsome young people had fitted admirably into the frame of this beautiful country. He could still see them, as plainly as if they were actually before him, hand in hand, now over by the lake, and again on that distant hill slope. Perhaps it was because of his remembrance of the evening when he had gone to look for them, and had found them at the Schwarzsee, that their image grew upon him, so sharp and distinct, as they had walked close together, young and slender, and each with a different sort of beauty. He seemed to see them, and rejoiced in them as he did in the beauty of the night, and—

Gradually the reason why he was still awake came back to him: Cain wanted to go away! He had been happy and contented up there, and now he must go!

Fausch stretched himself. “He shall not go, the boy, I say so!” When this idea came into his head, he almost spoke the words aloud.

And now another thought forced itself upon him: “If he is to stay here, you will have to sing small, Stephen Fausch, you will have to take back half your life and say, I am sorry that it was all wrong!” He breathed heavily, as if he were lifting an enormous weight that was almost too much for human strength. Then he seemed once more to see Cain and Vincenza walking side by side.

“And—and—you must leave the boy,” the thought came over him again. “And—you needn't deny it—you miss him whenever he is away from you. Since—since Maria gave you up for the other—you have had no other joy in your life like him—it isn't so easy to leave him for—always, you needn't pretend, Stephen Fausch!”

The smith rose and laid his hands on the window-sill. He leaned far out of the window for a long time. The cold night wind blew over his face. But it seemed as if as he rose he had made his last great effort. He passed his shapeless hand over his forehead and hair, rubbed his eye with one finger, as if he had just waked up and now he was fully in control of himself. By means of his strange, holiday joy in the two young people, whom he saw wandering through the loveliness of the night, the same strange inner joy that he felt in all beauty, he overcame the other tyrannical force which was the foundation of his character. It had taken a long time, years indeed, and it had been a life and death struggle, but yet Stephen Fausch had—perhaps only for a few days, or even a few hours, yet he had conquered his own obstinacy.

What Fausch thought of and reasoned out during the rest of the night, as he walked up and down the room, Simeon, the landlord learned on the following morning, and the others might guess it later if they chose.

In the morning, not very early, for haste was not according to Fausch's habits, he went to see the landlord. “May I have another word with you?” he asked.

The very fact that the taciturn fellow came of his own accord astonished Simmen. He willingly opened the door of his little office for him, sat down once more at his table, and Fausch stood on the very same spot as on the previous evening. Everything in the little room was just the same, except that the lamp was not burning. A gray light reflected from a bare rocky slope, filled the room.

“Have you anything against the boy himself, just as he really is,” began Fausch without any preamble.

Now Simmen had slept the whole long night since yesterday's fit of anger, and in the morning his wife, who was quieter than he, and rather peaceable for all that she was so resolute, had interposed between him and the stubborn Vincenza to such good purpose that his anger had passed away. He listened to Fausch's question quietly, settled himself comfortably in his chair, and answered: “What should I have against him? On the contrary, he is handy, very useful and a confoundedly handsome fellow, only you must send him away, Fausch—it wouldn't suit me at all, what was beginning between my daughter and him, that—”

He said all this quietly, sometimes making a gesture to explain his words better. When he paused, Fausch began to speak. Simmen could not understand the first word that he spoke, he brought it out with so much difficulty, and only gradually did his speech become clearer and more connected.

“I—I—want to ask you,” he began—“keep him here, my boy. I marked him with that name—so that everybody points at him. I—did him an injustice! Don't send him away for that. I—”

Fausch had to pause a moment. The sweat stood on his dark forehead. He passed his hand helplessly across it.

“Yes, yes,” said Simmen meanwhile, “What you say is all very true, but—still he can't stay here, where he will see Vincenza every day—”

Fausch came nearer and interrupted the landlord. Still in the same broken and difficult way he went on: “You said yourself that the boy is all right. He ought to come into notice—I think.”

At that Simmen laughed: “Only not for my girl—not for Vincenza! She can take her choice by and by—Smith—I tell you, down in Italy as well as on our side.” His laugh turned into a smile. It had done him good to boast of his own property, while speaking of his daughter's prospects.

The smith looked about him almost timidly. It was strange to see such a self-willed man stand there helpless and confused. He laid one hand on the landlord's arm, and his hand was trembling. “I will give the boy up to you,” said he. “If I go away from him altogether, it will soon be forgotten, what he was, and how it was when we were together. Believe me, Simmen. And then when I am gone you could lead him just as you want to. And by and by no one would ask any more what his name was, or where he came from—and if he does not turn out as you expect—you could send him away any time—you could—”

He stopped suddenly. Then he reached out his hand, because he could not find the right words, and his face blazed scarlet. It came over him that he was like a beggar. Simmen looked silently at the floor. He was a reasonable man, and he saw what his words cost the smith, indeed he hardly recognized him. And the boy was a good boy, one in whom you could take some pleasure—and—Simmen could not help it, that Vincenza's face seemed to come before his eyes. The girl's behavior did not seem as if the smith's boy meant merely a passing fancy to her.

“You'll never repent it,” Fausch forced the words out.

Thereupon the landlord replied thoughtfully: “So let it be then. I will give him employment, Franz, and—he will stay here alone, as I said! Time will show what comes of it—not that he is to think—that he is going to get the girl—But he will do well enough for me so far!”

The last few words Simmen said for his own satisfaction, meaning to cloak his own yielding disposition.

“Good!” said Fausch, and no more, not one unnecessary word. The way in which he now spared his words, showed how hard it must have been to bring them out before. His awkwardness slowly changed back again into moroseness. Once, when he was already on the threshold, it seemed as if something more had occurred to him. He half turned back toward Simmen, but changed his mind. With his brow thrust forward, he tramped heavily out of the house. “Good-by!” he said.

Simmen looked for some time at the door through which the smith had passed. Only now did he become fully aware, how bitter the hour must have been for the smith. He could still see him standing there, dragging out one sentence after another, as if he were doing some fearfully heavy piece of work, then stopping again and feeling, as it were, for the words which he could not find. At last he wrenched his thoughts away from the image of Fausch and began to consider the circumstances that had brought him here. He was not at all pleased to have Fausch leave the smithy again, for he had had no other such worker there, but yet he agreed with him as long as he and the boy were together, their common story would never be buried in oblivion. So the smith must go, certainly he must go. If the boy—if Franz alone was there—Simmen brought his fist down on the table half angrily, half laughing to himself—it wasn't really so wholly impossible, that they should make a match of it, the boy and Vincenza! The host thought how nicely Franz had served in the guests' room, and what a favorite he had been with the travelers, and he, Simmen, was not a narrow minded man: A serious and hardworking man stood higher in his esteem than a rich or well born man of whose character one could not feel so sure. So it did not seem so impossible to him, about Vincenza and the boy. But—Simmen hit the table another blow as if he were impatient—all the same the affair was not quite to his taste.

                     Chapter X

When Hallheimer, the trader, came back from Italy, he heard something on the mountain which astonished him; he was not to sell the smithy at Waltheim, for Stephen Fausch was going back to his old place within a short time.

The trader asked what had happened.

He got no answer. The smith only said, rudely: “It's none of your business what I do.” So Fausch gave the trader a new nut to crack, though he had long puzzled over the smith's behavior and character. But Simmen, the landlord, of whom he also asked the cause of Fausch's departure, was equally evasive.

Meanwhile Stephen Fausch passed the days exactly as he had always done; now and then he nailed up a box of his possessions and gradually got his goods once more ready for moving. Cain and Katharine tiptoed around him with a sort of timidity. There was something about Fausch that they did not rightly understand, and that made them both involuntarily feel small and humble. Yet his manner had not altered in any way; he was sparing of his words as always, and the little that he said had a surly sound. He was just the same on the morning when he called Cain into the workshop, and told him that he, himself, was going back to Waltheim. Cain had listened eagerly, had then remonstrated, and when his father gave him a harsh answer, he had at last kept silence, to think things over. And now, days afterward, he was still thinking about it all. First he would feel joyful, and then doubtful. That he, Cain, was to stay at the hospice made him joyful, and yet he felt doubtful, because he could not understand his father's sudden decision to leave the place. But one thing was clear to him: If he were freed from his father's presence, the talk about the disgraceful name his father had given him would sooner die out, even if only gradually. He, Cain, if he were alone, would have the courage to stay there, and bear it, if a couple of servants, men or maids, should ridicule him for a time, until—they got tired of it. But his father? What was coming over the strange man? Was it not almost certain that he was making a sacrifice for him, for Cain, by going away? Did he repent of the injury he had formerly clone him? And was he—it often seemed so in little things—was his father somewhat fond of him, of Cain?

[Illustration: FOREST MEADOWS] Oskar Frenzel

The young man was able to think all this over quietly. Thus far, he had felt neither love nor dislike for Fausch. In all his life, his father had done too little for him to awaken the boy's love, and yet too much to permit of his hatred. But the more he now thought and speculated about Fausch, the clearer it became to him, that in the smith's deeper self, there was something which, until now, he had neither known nor understood, something which gave the boy food for thought, and made him feel a sort of awe, as if Stephen were suddenly very far above him.

Meanwhile the time passed by. The day came when Fausch's goods and chattels were all packed. The same wagon stood again before the door that had brought the goods up to the smithy months before. It was now loaded, and Katharine, a feeble old woman, took her place on a chest as before. But today she could not keep her eyes dry, for Cain was staying behind, her boy on whom she had leaned for many years with a feeling of comfort.

Cain had already been living at the tavern for some days, and was sharing a room with a young working man, and had nothing in the world to complain of. The number of guests had increased again, there was plenty of work, and Cain and Vincenza hurried about as of old in the room where the higher class of guests were entertained. Both did their work even more quickly and easily than before, for an inner joy shone in their faces and made their fingers fly. The guests watched them with pleasure. If the landlord's wife looked in, her expression was serious and austere as always, but she saw nothing in Cain to find fault with, and if Simmen himself looked into the room on the right, he would nod to himself and then go out again: the smith's boy was not so bad to have about, he was a real help in the house!—

Stephen Fausch's horses and wagon started, and the teamsters ran alongside. Then Cain came out of the tavern with his father, who had been to say good-by. Simmen and a few others came out, to see them off.

“I will go with you as far as the path to the Schwarzsee,” said Cain to Fausch, then hurried after the wagon, swung himself up and sat down by Katharine. No pair could be more unlike: he was like a slim, flexible young tree, she like an old, old crumbling branch. Stephen Fausch noticed nobody. In his dark, heavy clothes, with his blacksmith's cap on his head, he walked behind the wagon with lowered head, and fell into a long, regular step, that suited the rhythm of the rumbling wheels. He scarcely seemed to concern himself even about Cain.

The weather was about to change. The clouds were chasing each other across the heavens and slowly weaving themselves into a silver gray shroud. But the sun behind them was still so strong, that a dazzling light fell upon the landscape. The gray road lay clearly defined with the lakes on both sides and the dark rocky peaks on the north, among which it vanished. Along the pale colored road, in the dazzling light went the heavy wagon, the smith marching stolidly behind it.

He now fell back a few steps.

As he did so Katharine laid her trembling hand on Cain's. “I must tell you,” she began mysteriously, and looking back at Fausch, as if he might hear her.

“Yes?” asked Cain.

“You may believe me, that it is half killing him,” said she, motioning toward Fausch, “that he cannot have you with him any more.”

“Yes—I—” said Cain, and could say no more. He looked back at his father: the feeling grew upon him, that the smith was doing a great thing for him.

“You may believe me,” whispered Katharine. Then they both kept silence, and involuntarily looked uneasily at the smith who was tramping along behind them.

The lakes were now left behind, and the rocks were nearer. Far behind from the hospice some one came running swiftly. It seemed to Cain that he recognized Vincenza; but she turned off from the road into some hilly meadow land and disappeared. So he was not sure whether he had seen correctly. He and Katharine now began to talk of things that had to do with their approaching separation. The old woman was overcome by grief, and her tears flowed freely down the furrows on her wrinkled cheeks. Cain tried his best to comfort her, and his sympathy and affection moved him so, that he did not notice when they passed the Schwarzsee and the road began to wind down toward the valley. When he again took note of his surroundings, they had gone quite a distance downward, and he called out quickly to the teamsters to stop and let him get off. At the same time he looked about for Fausch, who was nowhere to be seen.

“My father has not come with us,” said he to Katharine. “You might wait for him here,” he added, and then said: “I must go now. I shall meet my father on the road.” Then he shook hands with the old woman.

“We shall never see each other any more,” she lamented.

“Take care of yourself,” said he. “You will be glad to be back in the old place again down below!”

Then he jumped down. He hurried on up the hill and did not look back again at the wagon, which stood in the road. A restlessness drove him involuntarily onward. It seemed strange that his father did not come.

As he approached the entrance to the pass, he saw the smith standing by the roadside. He was leaning against a rock, from which there was a wide view over the high plateau. The glaring light, that the white sky cast over the earth, had grown yet more dazzling. The whole valley floor seemed to be brought quite close to the eyes. The dark lakes glistened; the road lay between them, a blinding stripe of white. The mountains stood like a dark wall beneath the glistening sky, showing every gap and fissure in the rocks, which were like scars on their weatherbeaten forms.

As Cain came forward, Fausch turned toward him. “Are they waiting down there?” he asked.

Just then some one came out from between the rocks, by which he had been standing. It was Vincenza. She behaved as if her coming was perfectly natural, but her face was flushed. “I didn't have a chance to bid you good-by, Smith,” said she.

He took her hand in his, and as Cain came forward just then, he took the boy's right hand too, and laid it beside Vincenza's. The two hands had plenty of room in one of his. The smith laughed to see them there. But it was such a strange, uncanny laugh, that it entirely changed the expression of his face. It was neither merry nor scornful. Perhaps all the kindliness that Stephen Fausch had to give lay in that one laugh. His solitary eye looked larger and more quiet than usual. And as his gaze rested thus on them both at once, they felt as if he were trying to say: “So—you—you belong together, you two!” And then, with his free hand he stroked their two hands a moment, and that was perhaps, together with the laugh, the first outward sign of love that Stephen Fausch had shown to anybody, since Maria's death. It was a poor, thirsty, dried-up love, and far from tender; but as his hand touched Cain's, something happened that no one saw; the smith's thick lips trembled for a brief moment, in the midst of his black, woolly beard. It seemed improbable and yet—perhaps Fausch had stifled a sigh. Then he looked away from the two young people, and as he turned about, his eye wandered once more slowly, and as if reluctant to lose the sight, over the Alpine meadows, to the hospice, and over the dark and rugged mountains and over the dazzling heavens above.

“Well, good-by!” said Fausch to Cain and the girl, letting their hands go. And he walked heavily away, with head bowed down, showing in his bearing the old churlishness. He did not look back again.

Cain and Vincenza looked after him for a long time. They could see him plainly. If he sometimes disappeared around a bend of the road, he would reappear far below, and they would soon see him again, walking behind the wagon, dark and heavy and big.

Cain was very still. He had taken off his hat and held it in both hands. He did not really know why he did so. He looked after his father in amazement, and it was on his account that he had involuntarily taken off his hat.

Vincenza now turned to him. She was breathing fast, as if she were only now beginning to recover from her quick run. “Do you know why I ran after you, Franz?” she asked. Her eyes were shining.

Cain shook his head.

“It came over me suddenly that your father might take you with him.”

The fear that had driven her to follow him, still showed in her words and in her eyes. Cain laid his hand thankfully on hers; they were still watching the little group that was moving downward to the valley.

“He is a strange man, your—the smith,” whispered Vincenza at last. “I was always half afraid of him.”

Cain suddenly seemed to awaken from deep thought. He turned, took the girl's hand, and started to walk back toward the hospice with her. As they walked, he gazed into the distance with wide open eyes. He was still carrying his hat in his hand. Suddenly he stood still. “It seems to me,” said he, with a dreamy look, “that we have all misunderstood him—my father.”

Vincenza dared not reply, his manner was so unusual. He walked silently along beside her, and that evening, and many times afterward, his thoughts were more with Stephen, who was gone and never came back, than with Vincenza, on whom his heart was set, and from whom he soon learned that Simmen would not refuse her to him.

 
 
 

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