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The Purpose by Hermann Sudermann

Chapter I.

It was a blazing afternoon, late in July. The Cheruskan fraternity entered Ellerntal in celebration of their mid-summer festivity. They had let the great wagon stand at the outskirts of the village and now marched up its street in well-formed procession, proud and vain as a company of Schuetzen before whom all the world bows down once a year.

First came the regimental band of the nearest garrison, dressed in civilian's clothes—then, under the vigilance of two brightly attired freshmen, the blue, white and golden banner of the fraternity, next the officers accompanied by other freshmen, and finally the active members in whom the dignity, decency and fighting strength of the fraternity were embodied. A gay little crowd of elderly gentlemen, ladies and guests followed in less rigid order. Last came, as always and everywhere, the barefoot children of the village. The procession came to a halt in front of the Prussian Eagle, a long-drawn single story structure of frame. The newly added dance hall with its three great windows protruded loftily above the house.

The banner was lowered, the horns of the band gave wild, sharp signals to which no one attended, and Pastor Rhode, a sedate man of fifty dressed in the scarf and slashed cap of the order, stepped from the inn door to pronounce the address of welcome. At this moment it happened that one of the two banner bearers who had stood at the right and left of the flag with naked foils, rigid as statues, slowly tilted over forward and buried his face in the green sward.

This event naturally put an immediate end to the ceremony. Everybody, men and women, thronged around the fallen youth and were quickly pushed back by the medical fraternity men who were present in various stages of professional development.

The medical wisdom of this many-headed council culminated in the cry: “A glass of water!”

Immediately a young girl—hot-eyed and loose-haired, exquisite in the roundedness of half maturity—rushed out of the door and handed a glass to the gentlemen who had turned the fainting lad on his back and were loosening scarf and collar.

He lay there, in the traditional garb of the fraternity, like a young cavalry man of the time of the Great Elector—with his blue, gold-braided doublet, close-fitting breeches of white leather and mighty boots whose flapping tops swelled out over his firm thighs. He couldn't be above eighteen or nineteen, long and broad though he was, with his cheeks of milk and blood, that showed no sign of down, no duelling scar. You would have thought him some mother's pet, had there not been a sharp line of care that ran mournfully from the half-open lips to the chin.

The cold water did its duty. Sighing, the lad opened his eyes—two pretty blue boy's eyes, long lashed and yet a little empty of expression as though life had delayed giving them the harder glow of maturity.

These eyes fell upon the young girl who stood there, with hands pressed to her heaving bosom, in an ecstatic desire to help.

“Where can we carry him?” asked one of the physicians.

“Into my room,” she cried, “I'll show you the way.”

Eight strong hands took hold and two minutes later the boy lay on the flowered cover of her bed. It was far too short for him, but it stood, soft and comfortable, hidden by white mull curtains in a corner of her simple room.

He was summoned back to full consciousness, tapped, auscultated and examined. Finally he confessed with a good deal of hesitation that his right foot hurt him a bit—that was all.

“Are the boots your own, freshie?” asked one of the physicians.

He blushed, turned his gaze to the wall and shook his head.

Everyone smiled.

“Well, then, off with the wretched thing.”

But all exertion of virile strength was in vain. The boot did not budge. Only a low moan of suffering came from the patient.

“There's nothing to be done,” said one, “little miss, let's have a bread-knife.”

Anxious and with half-folded hands she had stood behind the doctors. Now she rushed off and brought the desired implement.

“But you're not going to hurt him?” she asked with big, beseeching eyes.

“No, no, we're only going to cut his leg off,” jested one of the by-standers and took the knife from her clinging fingers.

Two incisions, two rents along the shin—the leather parted. A steady surgeon's hand guided the knife carefully over the instep. At last the
 flesh appeared—bloody, steel-blue and badly swollen.

“Freshie, you idiot, you might have killed yourself,” said the surgeon and gave the patient a paternal nudge. “And now, little miss, hurry—sugar of lead bandages till evening.”

Chapter II.

Her name was Antonie. She was the inn-keeper Wiesner's only daughter and managed the household and kitchen because her mother had died in the previous year.

His name was Robert Messerschmidt. He was a physician's son and a student of medicine. He hoped to fight his way into full fraternity membership by the beginning of the next semester. This last detail was, at present, the most important of his life and had been confided to her at the very beginning of their acquaintanceship.

Youth is in a hurry. At four o'clock their hands were intertwined. At five o'clock their lips found each other. From six on the bandages were changed more rarely. Instead they exchanged vows of eternal fidelity. At eight a solemn betrothal took place. And when, at ten o'clock, swaying slightly and mellow of mood, the physicians reappeared in order to put the patient to bed properly, their wedding-day had been definitely set for the fifth anniversary of that day. Next morning the procession went on to celebrate in some other picturesque locality the festival of the breakfast of “the morning after.”

Toni had run up on the hill which ascended, behind her father's house, toward the high plateau of the river-bank. With dry but burning eyes she looked after the wagons which gradually vanished in the silvery sand of the road and one of which carried away into the distance her life's whole happiness.

To be sure, she had fallen in love with everyone whom she had met. This habit dated from her twelfth, nay, from her tenth year. But this time it was different, oh, so different. This time it was like an axe-blow from which one doesn't arise. Or like the fell disease—consumption—which had dragged her mother to the grave.

She herself was more like her father, thick-set and sturdy.

She had also inherited his calculating and planning nature. With tough tenacity he could sacrifice years of earning and saving and planning to acquire farms and meadows and orchards. Thus the girl could meditate and plan her fate which, until yesterday, had been fluid as water but which to-day lay definitely anchored in the soul of a stranger lad.

Her education had been narrow. She knew the little that an old governess and a comfortable pastor could teach. But she read whatever she could get hold of—from the tattered “pony” to Homer which a boy friend had loaned her, to the most horrible penny-dreadfuls which were her father's delight in his rare hours of leisure.

And she assimilated what she read and adapted it to her own fate. Thus her imagination was familiar with happiness, with delusion, with crime....

She knew that she was beautiful. If the humility of her play-fellows had not assured her of this fact, she would have been enlightened by the long glances and jesting admiration of her father's guests.

Her father was strict. He interfered with ferocity if a traveller jested with her too intimately. Nevertheless he liked to have her come into the inn proper and slip, smiling and curtsying, past the wealthier guests. It was not unprofitable.

Upon his short, fleshy bow-legs, with his suspiciously calculating blink, with his avarice and his sharp tongue, he stood between her and the world, permitting only so much of it to approach her as seemed, at a given moment, harmless and useful.

His attitude was fatal to any free communication with her beloved. He opened and read every letter that she had ever received. Had she ventured to call for one at the post-office, the information would have reached him that very day.

The problem was how to deceive him without placing herself at the mercy of some friend.

She sat down in the arbour from which, past the trees of the orchard and the neighbouring river, one had a view of the Russian forests, and put the problem to her seventeen-year old brain. And while the summer wind played with the green fruit on the boughs and the white herons spread their gleaming wings over the river, she thought out a plan—the first of many by which she meant to rivet her beloved for life.

On the same afternoon she asked her father's permission to invite the daughter of the county-physician to visit her.

“Didn't know you were such great friends,” he said, surprised.

“Oh, but we are,” she pretended to be a little hurt. “We were received into the Church at the same time.”

With lightning-like rapidity he computed the advantages that might result from such a visit. The county-seat was four miles distant and if the societies of veterans and marksmen in whose committees the doctor was influential could be persuaded to come hither for their outings.... The girl was cordially invited and arrived a week later. She was surprised and touched to find so faithful a friend in Toni who, when they were both boarding with Pastor Rhode, had played her many a sly trick.

Two months later the girl, in her turn, invited Toni to the city whither she had never before been permitted to go alone and so the latter managed to receive her lover's first letter.

What he wrote was discouraging enough. His father was ill, hence the excellent practice was gliding into other hands and the means for his own studies were growing narrow. If things went on so he might have to give up his university course and take to anything to keep his mother and sister from want.

This prospect did not please Toni. She was so proud of him. She could not bear to have him descend in the social scale for the sake of bread and butter. She thought and thought how she could help him with money, but nothing occurred to her. She had to be content with encouraging him and assuring him that her love would find ways and means for helping him out of his difficulties.

She wrote her letters at night and jumped out of the window in order to drop them secretly into the pillar box. It was months before she could secure an answer. His father was better, but life in the fraternity was very expensive, and it was a very grave question whether he had not better resign the scarf which he had just gained and study on as a mere “barb.”

In Toni's imagination the picture of her beloved was brilliantly illuminated by the glory of the tricoloured fraternity scarf, his desire for it had become so ardently her own, that she could not bear the thought of him—his yearning satisfied—returning to the gray commonplace garb of Philistia. And so she wrote him.

Spring came and Toni matured to statelier maidenhood. The plump girl, half-child, droll and naive, grew to be a thoughtful, silent young woman, secretive and very sure of her aims. She condescended to the guests and took no notice of the desperate admiration which surrounded her. Her glowing eyes looked into emptiness, her infinitely tempting mouth smiled carelessly at friends and strangers.

In May Robert's father died.

She read it in one of the papers that were taken at the inn, and immediately it became clear to her that her whole future was at stake. For if he was crushed now by the load of family cares, if hope were taken from him, no thought of her or her love would be left. Only if she could redeem her promises and help him practically could she hope to keep him. In the farthest corner of a rarely opened drawer lay her mother's jewels which were some day to be hers—brooches and rings, a golden chain, and a comb set with rubies which had found its way—heaven knows how—into the simple inn.

Without taking thought she stole the whole and sent it as merchandise—not daring to risk the evidence of registration—to help him in his studies. The few hundred marks that the jewellery would bring would surely keep him until the end of the semester ... but what then? ...

And again she thought and planned all through the long, hot nights.

Pastor Rhode's eldest son, a frail, tall junior who followed her, full of timid passion, came home from college for the spring vacation. In the dusk he crept around the inn as had been his wont for years.

This time he had not long to wait.

How did things go at college? Badly. Would he enter the senior class at Michaelmas? Hardly. Then she would have to be ashamed of him, and that would be a pity: she liked him too well.

The slim lad writhed under this exquisite torture. It wasn't his fault. He had pains in his chest, and growing pains. And all that.

She unfolded her plan.

“You ought to have a tutor during the long vacation, Emil, to help you work.”

“Papa can do that.”

“Oh, Papa is busy. You ought to have a tutor all to yourself, a student or something like that. If you're really fond of me ask your Papa to engage one. Perhaps he'll get a young man from his own fraternity with whom he can chat in the evening. You will ask, won't you? I don't like people who are conditioned in their studies.”

That same night a letter was sent to her beloved.

“Watch the frat. bulletin! Our pastor is going to look for a tutor for his boy. See to it that you get the position. I'm longing to see you.”

Chapter III

Once more it was late July—exactly a year after those memorable events—and he sat in the stage-coach and took off his crape-hung cap to her. His face was torn by fresh scars and diagonally across his breast the blue white golden scarf was to be seen.

She grasped the posts of the fence with both hands and felt that she would die if she could not have him.

Upon that evening she left the house no more, although for two hours he walked the dusty village street, with Emil, but also alone. But on the next evening she stood behind the fence. Their hands found each other across the obstacle.

“Do you sleep on the ground-floor?” she asked whispering.


“Does the dog still bark when he sees you.”

“I don't know, I'm afraid so.”

“When you've made friends with him so that he won't bark when you get out of the window, then come to the arbour behind our orchard. I'll wait for you every night at twelve. But don't mind that. Don't come till you're sure of the dog.”

For three long nights she sat on the wooden bench of the arbour until the coming of dawn and stared into the bluish dusk that hid the village as in a cloak. From time to time the dogs bayed. She could distinguish the bay of the pastor's collie. She knew his hoarse voice. Perhaps he was barring her beloved's way....

At last, during the fourth night, when his coming was scarcely to be hoped for, uncertain steps dragged up the hill.

She did not run to meet him. She crouched in the darkest corner of the arbour and tasted, intensely blissful, the moments during which he felt his way through the foliage.

Then she clung to his neck, to his lips, demanding and according all—rapt to the very peaks of life....

They were together nightly. Few words passed between them. She scarcely knew how he looked. For not even a beam of the moon could penetrate the broad-leaved foliage, and at the peep of dawn they separated. She might have lain in the arms of a stranger and not known the difference.

And not only during their nightly meetings, but even by day they slipt through life-like shadows. One day the pastor came to the inn for a glass of beer and chatted with other gentlemen. She heard him.

“I don't know what's the matter with that young fellow,” he said. “He does his duty and my boy is making progress. But he's like a stranger from another world. He sits at the table and scarcely sees us. He talks and you have the feeling that he doesn't know what he's talking about. Either he's anaemic or he writes poetry.”

She herself saw the world through a blue veil, heard the voices of life across an immeasurable distance and felt hot, alien shivers run through her enervated limbs.

The early Autumn approached and with it the day of his departure. At last she thought of discussing the future with him which, until then, like all else on earth, had sunk out of sight.

His mother, he told her, meant to move to Koenigsberg and earn her living by keeping boarders. Thus there was at least a possibility of his continuing his studies. But he didn't believe that he would be able to finish. His present means would soon be exhausted and he had no idea where others would come from.

All that he told her in the annoyed and almost tortured tones of one long weary of hope who only staggers on in fear of more vital degradation.

With flaming words she urged him to be of good courage. She insisted upon such resources as—however frugal—were, after all, at hand, and calculated every penny. She shrugged her shoulders at his gratitude for that first act of helpfulness. If only there were something else to be taken. But whence and how? Her suspicious father would have observed any shortage in his till at once and would have had the thief discovered.

The great thing was to gain time. Upon her advice he was to leave Koenigsberg with its expensive fraternity life and pass the winter in Berlin. The rest had to be left to luck and cunning.

In a chill, foggy September night they said farewell. Shivering they held each other close. Their hearts were full of the confused hopes which they themselves had kindled, not because there was any ground for hope, but because without it one cannot live.

And a few weeks later everything came to an end.

For Toni knew of a surety that she would be a mother....

Chapter IV.

Into the river!

For that her father would put her in the street was clear. It was equally clear what would become of her in that case....

But no, not into the river! Why was her young head so practised in skill and cunning, if it was to bow helplessly under the first severe onslaught of fate? What was the purpose of those beautiful long nights but to brood upon plans and send far thoughts out toward shining aims?

No, she would not run into the river. That dear wedding-day in five, nay, in four years, was lost anyhow. But the long time could be utilised so cleverly that her beloved could be dragged across the abyss of his fate.

First, then, she must have a father for her child. He must not be clever. He must not be strong of will. Nor young, for youth makes demands. ... Nor well off, for he who is certain of himself desires freedom of choice.

Her choice fell upon a former inn-keeper, a down-hearted man of about fifty, moist of eye, faded, with greasy black hair.... He had failed in business some years before and now sat around in the inn, looking for a job....

To this her father did not object. For that man's condition was an excellent foil to his own success and prosperity and thus he was permitted, at times, to stay a week in the house where, otherwise, charity was scarcely at home.

Her plan worked well. On the first day she lured him silently on. On the second he responded. On the third she turned sharply and rebuked him. On the fourth she forgave him. On the fifth she met him in secret. On the sixth he went on a journey, conscience smitten for having seduced her....

That very night—for there was no time to be lost—she confessed with trembling and blushing to her father that she was overcome by an unconquerable passion for Herr Weigand. As was to be expected she was driven from the door with shame and fury.

During the following weeks she went about bathed in tears. Her father avoided her. Then, when the right moment seemed to have come, she made a second and far more difficult confession. This time her tremours and her blushes were real, her tears were genuine for her father used a horse-whip.... But when, that night, Toni sat on the edge of her bed and bathed the bloody welts on her body, she knew that her plan would succeed.

And, to be sure, two days later Herr Weigand returned—a little more faded, a little more hesitant, but altogether, by no means unhappy. He was invited into her father's office for a long discussion. The result was that the two lovers fell into each others' arms while her father, trembling with impotent rage, hurled at them the fragments of a crushed cigar.

The banns were proclaimed immediately after the betrothal, and a month later Herr Weigand, in his capacity of son-in-law, could take possession of the same garret which he had inhabited as an impecunious guest. This arrangement, however, was not a permanent one. An inn was to be rented for the young couple—with her father's money.

Toni, full of zeal and energy, took part in every new undertaking, travelled hither and thither, considered prospects and dangers, but always withdrew again at the last moment in order to await a fairer opportunity.

But she was utterly set upon the immediate furnishing of the new home. She went to Koenigsberg and had long sessions with furniture dealers and tradesmen of all kinds. On account of her delicate condition she insisted that she could only travel on the upholstered seats of the second class. She charged her father accordingly and in reality travelled fourth class and sat for hours between market-women and Polish Jews in order to save a few marks. In the accounts she rendered heavy meals were itemized, strengthening wines, stimulating cordials. As a matter of fact, she lived on dried slices of bread which, before leaving home, she hid in her trunk.

She did not disdain the saving of a tram car fare, although the rebates which she got on the furniture ran into the hundreds.

All that she sent jubilantly to her lover in Berlin, assured that he was provided for some months.

Thus the great misfortune had finally resulted in a blessing. For, without these unhoped for resources, he must have long fallen by the way-side.

Months passed. Her furnishings stood in a storage warehouse, but the house in which they were to live was not yet found.

When she felt that her hour had come—her father and husband thought it far off—she redoubled the energy of her travels, seeking, preferably, rough and ribbed roads which other women in her condition were wont to shun.

And thus, one day, in a springless vehicle, two miles distant from the county-seat, the pains of labour came upon her. She steeled every nerve and had herself carried to the house of the county-physician whose daughter was now tenderly attached to her.

There she gave birth to a girl child which announced its equivocal arrival in this world lustily.

The old doctor, into whose house this confusion had suddenly come, stood by her bed-side, smiling good-naturedly. She grasped him with both hands, terror in her eyes and in her voice.

“Dear, dear doctor! The baby was born too soon, wasn't it?”

The doctor drew back and regarded her long and earnestly. Then his smile returned and his kind hand touched her hair.

“Yes, it is as you say. The baby's nails are not fully developed and its weight is slightly below normal. It's all on account of your careless rushing about. Surely the child came too soon.”

And he gave her the proper certification of the fact which protected her from those few people who might consider themselves partakers of her secret. For the opinion of people in general she cared little. So strong had she grown through guilt and silence.

And she was a child of nineteen! ...

Chapter V.

When Toni had arisen from her bed of pain she found the place which she and her husband had been seeking for months with surprising rapidity. The “Hotel Germania,” the most reputable hotel in the county-seat itself was for rent. Its owner had recently died. It was palatial compared to her father's inn. There were fifteen rooms for guests, a tap-room, a wine-room, a grocery-shop and a livery-stable.

Weigand, intimidated by misfortune, had never even hoped to aspire to such heights of splendour. Even now he could only grasp the measure of his happiness by calculating enormous profits. And he did this with peculiar delight. For, since the business was to be run in the name of Toni's father, his own creditors could not touch him.

When they had moved in and the business began to be straightened out, Weigand proved himself in flat contradiction of his slack and careless character, a tough and circumspect man of business. He knew the whereabouts of every penny and was not inclined to permit his wife to make random inroads upon his takings.

Toni, who had expected to be undisputed mistress of the safe saw herself cheated of her dearest hopes, for the time approached when the savings made on the purchase of her furniture must necessarily be exhausted.

And again she planned and wrestled through the long, warm nights while her husband, whose inevitable proximity she bore calmly, snored with the heaviness of many professional “treats.”

One day she said to him: “A few pennies must be put by for Amanda.” That was the name of the little girl who flourished merrily in her cradle. “You must assign some little profits to me.”

“What can I do?” he asked. “For the present everything belongs to the old man.”

“I know what I'd like,” she went on, smiling dreamily, “I'd like to have all the profits on the sale of champagne.”

He laughed heartily. There wasn't much call for champagne in the little county-seat. At most a few bottles were sold on the emperor's birthday or when, once in a long while, a flush commercial traveller wanted to regale a recalcitrant customer.

And so Weigand fell in with what he thought a mere mood and assented.

Toni at once made a trip to Koenigsberg and bought all kinds of phantastic decorations—Chinese lanterns, gilt fans, artificial flowers, gay vases and manicoloured lamp-shades. With all these things she adorned the little room that lay behind the room in which the most distinguished townspeople were wont to drink their beer. And so the place with veiled light and crimson glow looked more like a mysterious oriental shrine than the sitting-room of an honest Prussian inn-keeper's wife.

She sat evening after evening in this phantastic room. She brought her knitting and awaited the things that were to come.

The gentlemen who drank in the adjoining room, the judges, physicians, planters—all the bigwigs of a small town, in short—soon noticed the magical light that glimmered through the half-open door whenever Weigand was obliged to pass from the public rooms into his private dwelling. And the men grew to be curious, the more so as the inn-keeper's young wife, of whose charms many rumours were afloat, had never yet been seen by any.

One evening, when the company was in an especially hilarious mood, the men demanded stormily to see the mysterious room.

Weigand hesitated. He would have to ask his wife's permission. He returned with the friendly message that the gentlemen were welcome. Hesitant, almost timid, they entered as if crossing the threshold of some house of mystery.

There stood—transfigured by the glow of coloured lamps—the shapely young woman with the alluring glow in her eyes, and her lips that were in the form of a heart. She gave each a secretly quivering hand and spoke a few soft words that seemed to distinguish him from the others. Then, still timid and modest, she asked them to be seated and begged for permission to serve a glass of champagne in honour of the occasion.

It is not recorded who ordered the second bottle. It may have been the very fat Herr von Loffka, or the permanently hilarious judge. At all events the short visit of the gentlemen came to an end at three o'clock in the morning with wild intoxication and a sale of eighteen bottles of champagne, of which half bore French labels.

Toni resisted all requests for a second invitation to her sanctum. She first insisted on the solemn assurance that the gentlemen would respect her presence and bring neither herself nor her house into ill-repute. At last came the imperial county-counsellor himself—a wealthy bachelor of fifty with the manners of an injured lady killer. He came to beg for himself and the others and she dared not refuse any longer.

The champagne festivals continued. With this difference: that Toni, whenever the atmosphere reached a certain point of heated intoxication, modestly withdrew to her bed-room. Thus she succeeded not only in holding herself spotless but in being praised for her retiring nature.

But she kindled a fire in the heads of these dissatisfied University men who deemed themselves banished into a land of starvation, and in the senses of the planters' sons. And this fire burned on and created about her an atmosphere of madly fevered desire....

Finally it became the highest mark of distinction in the little town, the sign of real connoisseurship in life, to have drunk a bottle of champagne with “Germania,” as they called her, although she bore greater resemblance to some swarthier lady of Rome. Whoever was not admitted to her circle cursed his lowliness and his futile life.

Of course, in spite of all precautions, it could not but be that her reputation suffered. The daughter of the county-physician began to avoid her, the wives of social equals followed suit. But no one dared accuse her of improper relations with any of her adorers. It was even known that the county-counsellor, desperate over her stern refusals, was urging her to get a divorce from her husband and marry him. No one suspected, of course, that she had herself spread this rumour in order to render pointless the possible leaking out of improprieties....

Nor did any one dream that a bank in Koenigsberg transmitted, in her name, monthly cheques to Berlin that sufficed amply to help an ambitious medical student to continue his work.

The news which she received from her beloved was scanty.

In order to remain in communication with him she had thought out a subtle method.

The house of every tradesman or business man in the provinces is flooded with printed advertisements from Berlin which pour out over the small towns and the open country. Of this printed matter, which is usually thrown aside unnoticed, Toni gathered the most voluminous examples, carefully preserved the envelopes, and sent them to Robert. Her husband did not notice of course that the same advertising matter came a second time nor that faint, scarce legible pencil marks picked out words here and there which, when read consecutively, made complete sense and differed very radically from the message which the printed slips were meant to convey....

Years passed. A few ship-wrecked lives marked Toni's path, a few female slanders against her were avenged by the courts. Otherwise nothing of import took place.

And in her heart burned with never-lessening glow the one great emotion which always supplied fuel to her will, which lent every action a pregnant significance and furnished absolution for every crime.

In the meantime Amanda grew to be a blue-eyed, charming child—gentle and caressing and the image of the man of whose love she was the impassioned gift.

But Fate, which seems to play its gigantic pranks upon men in the act of punishing them, brought it to pass that the child seemed also to bear some slight resemblance to the stranger who, bowed and servile, stupidly industrious, sucking cigars, was to be seen at her mother's side.

Never was father more utterly devoted to the fruit of his loins than this gulled fellow to the strange child to whom the mother did not even—by kindly inactivity—give him a borrowed right. The more carefully she sought to separate the child from him, the more adoringly and tenaciously did he cling to it.

With terror and rage Toni was obliged to admit to herself that no sum would ever suffice to make Weigand agree to a divorce that separated him definitely from the child. And dreams and visions, transplanted into her brain from evil books, filled Toni's nights with the glitter of daggers and the stain of flowing blood. And fate seemed to urge on the day when these dreams must take on flesh....

One day she found in the waste-paper basket which she searched carefully after every mail-delivery, an advertisement which commended to the buying public a new make of type-writer.

“Many public institutions,” thus the advertisement ran, “use our well tried machines in their offices, because these machines will bear the most rigid examination. Their reputation has crossed the ocean. The Chilean ministry has just ordered a dozen of our 'Excelsiors' by cable. Thus successfully does our invention spread over the world. And yet its victorious progress is by no means completed. Even in Japan—” and so on.

If one looked at this stuff very carefully, one could observe that certain words were lightly marked in pencil. And if one read these words consecutively, the following sentence resulted:


From this day on the room with the veiled lamps remained closed to her eager friends. From this day on the generous county-counsellor saw that his hopes were dead....

Chapter VI.

How was the man to be disposed of?

An open demand for divorce would have been stupid, for it would have thrown a very vivid suspicion upon any later and more drastic attempt.

Weigand's walk and conversation were blameless. Her one hope consisted in catching him in some chance infidelity. The desire for change, she reasoned, the allurement of forbidden fruit, must inflame even this wooden creature.

She had never, hitherto, paid the slightest attention to the problem of waitresses. Now she travelled to Koenigsberg and hired the handsomest women to be found in the employment bureaus. They came, one after another, a feline Polish girl, a smiling, radiantly blond child of Sweden—a Venus, a Germania—this time a genuine one. Next came a pretended Circassian princess. And they all wandered off again, and Weigand had no glance for them but that of the master.

Antonie was discouraged and dropped her plan.

What now?

She had recoiled from no baseness. She had sacrificed to her love honour, self-respect, truth, righteousness and pride. But she had avoided hitherto the possibility of a conflict with the law. Occasional small thefts in the house did not count.

But the day had come when crime itself, crime that threatened remorse and the sword of judgment, entered her life. For otherwise she could not get rid of her husband.

The regions that lie about the eastern boundary of the empire are haunted by Jewish peddlers who carry in their sacks Russian drops, candied fruits, gay ribands, toys made of bark, and other pleasant things which make them welcome to young people. But they also supply sterner needs. In the bottom of their sacks are hidden love philtres and strange electuaries. And if you press them very determinedly, you will find some among them who have the little white powders that can be poured into beer ... or the small, round discs which the common folk call “crow's eyes” and which the greedy apothecaries will not sell you merely for the reason that they prepare the costlier strychnine from them.

You will often see these beneficent men in the twilight in secret colloquy with female figures by garden-gates and the edges of woods. The female figures slip away if you happen to appear on the road.... Often, too, these men are asked into the house and intimate council is held with them—especially when husband and servants are busy in the fields....

One evening in the beginning of May, Toni brought home with her from a harmless walk a little box of arsenic and a couple of small, hard discs that rattled merrily in one's pocket.... Cold sweat ran down her throat and her legs trembled so that she had to sit down on a case of soap before entering the house.

Her husband asked her what was wrong.

“Ah, it's the spring,” she answered and laughed.

Soon her adorers noticed, and not these only, that her loveliness increased from day to day. Her eyes which, under their depressed brows, had assumed a sharp and peering gaze, once more glowed with their primal fire, and a warm rosiness suffused her cheeks that spread marvelously to her forehead and throat.

Her appearance made so striking an impression that many a one who had not seen her for a space stared at her and asked, full of admiration: “What have you done to yourself?”

“It is the spring,” she answered and laughed.

As a matter of fact she had taken to eating arsenic.

She had been told that any one who becomes accustomed to the use of this poison can increase the doses to such an extent that he can take without harm a quantity that will necessarily kill another. And she had made up her mind to partake of the soup which she meant, some day, to prepare for her husband. That much she held to be due a faultless claim of innocence.

But she was unfortunate enough to make a grievous mistake one day, and lay writhing on the floor in uncontrollable agony.

The old physician at once recognized the symptoms of arsenic poisoning, prescribed the necessary antidotes and carefully dragged her back into life. The quantity she had taken, he declared, shaking his head, was enough to slay a strong man. He transmitted the information of the incident as demanded by law.

Detectives and court-messengers visited the house. The entire building was searched, documents had to be signed and all reports were carefully followed up.

The dear romantic public refused to be robbed of its opinion that one of Toni's rejected admirers had thus sought to avenge himself. The suspicion of the authorities, however, fastened itself upon a waitress, a plump, red-haired wanton who had taken the place of the imported beauties and whose insolent ugliness the men of the town, relieved of nobler delights, enjoyed thoroughly. The insight of the investigating judge had found in the girl's serving in the house and her apparent intimacy with its master a scent which he would by no means abandon. Only, because a few confirmatory details were still to seek, the suspicion was hidden not only from the public but even from its object.

Antonie, however, ailed continually. She grew thin, her digestion was delicate. If the blow was to be struck—and many circumstances urged it—she would no longer be able to share the poison with her victim. But it seemed fairly certain that suspicion would very definitely fall not upon her but upon the other woman. The latter would have to be sacrificed, so much was clear.

But that was the difficulty. The wounded conscience might recover, the crime might be conquered into forgetfulness, if only that is slain which burdens the earth, which should never have been. But Toni felt that her soul could not drag itself to any bourne of peace if, for her own advantage, she cast one who was innocent to lasting and irremediable destruction.

The simplest thing would have been to dismiss the woman. In that case, however, it was possible that the courts would direct their investigations to her admirers. One of them had spoken hasty and careless words. He might not be able to clear himself, were the accusation directed against him.

There remained but one hope: to ascribe the unavertible death of her husband to some accident, some heedlessness. And so she directed her unwavering purpose to this end.

The Polish peddler had slipped into Toni's hand not only the arsenic but also the deadly little discs called “crow's eyes.” These must help her, if used with proper care and circumspection.

One day while little Amanda was playing in the yard with other girls, she found among the empty kerosene barrels a few delightful, silvery discs, no larger then a ten pfennig piece. With great delight she brought them to her mother who, attending to her knitting, had ceased for a moment to watch the children.

“What's that, Mama?”

“I don't know, my darling.”

“May we play with them?”

“What would you like to play?”

“We want to throw them.”

“No, don't do that. But I'll make you a new doll-carriage and these will be lovely wheels.”

The children assented and Amanda brought a pair of scissors in order to make holes in the little wheels. But they were too hard and the points of the blades slipped.

“Ask father to use his small gimlet.”

Amanda ran to the open window behind which he for whom all this was prepared was quietly making out his monthly bills.

Toni's breath failed. If he recognised the poisonous fruits, it was all over with her plan. But the risk was not to be avoided.

He looked at the discs for a moment. And yet for another. No, he did not know their nature but was rather pleased with them. It did not even occur to him to warn the little girl to beware of the unknown fruit.

He called into the shop ordering an apprentice to bring him a tool-case. The boy in his blue apron came and Toni observed that his eyes rested upon the fruits for a perceptible interval. Thus there was, in addition to the children, another witness and one who would be admitted to oath.

Weigand bored holes into four of the discs and threw them, jesting kindly, into the children's apron. The others he kept. “He has pronounced his own condemnation,” Toni thought as with trembling fingers she mended an old toy to fit the new wheels.

Nothing remained but to grind the proper dose with cinnamon, to sweeten it—according to instructions—and spice a rice-pudding therewith.

But fate which, in this delicate matter, had been hostile to her from the beginning, ordained it otherwise.

For that very evening came the apothecary, not, as a rule, a timid person. He was pale and showed Weigand the fruits. He had, by the merest hair-breadth, prevented his little girl Marie from nibbling one of them.

The rest followed as a matter of course. The new wheels were taken from the doll-carriage, all fragments were carefully sought out and all the discs were given to the apothecary who locked them into his safe.

“The red-headed girl must be sacrificed after all,” Toni thought.

She planned and schemed, but she could think of no way by which the waitress could be saved from that destruction which hung over her.

There was no room for further hesitation. The path had to be trodden to its goal. Whether she left corpses on the way-side, whether she herself broke down dead at the goal—it did not matter. That plan of her life which rivetted her fate to her beloved's forever demanded that she proceed.

The old physician came hurrying to the inn next morning. He was utterly confounded by the scarcely escaped horrors.

“You really look,” he said to Toni, “as if you had swallowed some of the stuff, too.”

“Oh, I suppose my fate will overtake me in the end,” she answered with a weary smile. “I feel it in my bones: there will be some misfortune in our house.”

“For heaven's sake!” he cried, “Put that red-headed beast into the street.”

“It isn't she! I'll take my oath on that,” she said eagerly and thought that she had done a wonderfully clever thing.

She waited in suspense, fearing that the authorities would take a closer look at this last incident. She was equipped for any search—even one that might penetrate to her own bed-room. For she had put false bottoms into the little medicine-boxes. Beneath these she kept the arsenic. On top lay harmless magnesia. The boxes themselves stood on her toilet-table, exposed to all eyes and hence withdrawn from all suspicion.

She waited till evening, but nobody came. And yet the connection between this incident and the former one seemed easy enough to establish. However that might be, she assigned the final deed to the very next day. And why wait? An end had to be made of this torture of hesitation which, at every new scruple, seemed to freeze her very heart's blood. Furthermore the finding of the “crow's eyes” would be of use in leading justice astray.

To-morrow, then ... to-morrow....

Weigand had gone to bed early. But Toni sat behind the door of the public room and, through a slit of the door, listened to every movement of the waitress. She had kept near her all evening. She scarcely knew why. But a strange, dull hope would not die in her—a hope that something might happen whereby her unsuspecting victim and herself might both be saved.

The clock struck one. The public rooms were all but empty. Only a few young clerks remained. These were half-drunk and made rough advances to the waitress.

She resisted half-serious, half-jesting.

“You go out and cool yourselves in the night-air. I don't care about such fellows as you.”

“I suppose you want only counts and barons,” one of them taunted her. “I suppose you wouldn't even think the county-counsellor good enough!”

“That's my affair,” she answered, “as to who is good enough for me. I have my choice. I can get any man I want.”

They laughed at her and she flew into a rage.

“If you weren't such a beggarly crew and had anything to bet, I'd wager you any money that I'd seduce any man I want in a week. In a week, do I say? In three days! Just name the man.”

Antonie quivered sharply and then sank with closed eyes, against the back of her chair. A dream of infinite bliss stole through her being. Was there salvation for her in this world? Could this coarse creature accomplish that in which beauty and refinement had failed?

Could she be saved from becoming a murderess? Would it be granted her to remain human, with a human soul and a human face?

But this was no time for tears or weakening.

With iron energy she summoned all her strength and quietude and wisdom. The moment was a decisive one.

When the last guests had gone and all servants, too, had gone to their rest, she called the waitress, with some jesting reproach, into her room.

A long whispered conversation followed. At its end the woman declared that the matter was child's play to her.

And did not suspect that by this game she was saving her life.

Chapter VII.

In hesitant incredulity Antonie awaited the things that were to come.

On the first day a staggering thing happened. The red-headed woman, scolding at the top of her voice, threw down a beer-glass at her master's feet, upon which he immediately gave her notice.

Toni's newly-awakened hope sank. The woman had boasted. And what was worse than all: if the final deed could be accomplished, her compact with the waitress would damn her. The woman would of course use this weapon ruthlessly. The affair had never stood so badly.

But that evening she breathed again. For Weigand declared that the waitress seemed to have her good qualities too and her heart-felt prayers had persuaded him to keep her.

For several days nothing of significance took place except that Weigand, whenever he mentioned the waitress, peered curiously aside. And this fact Toni interpreted in a favorable light.

Almost a week passed. Then, one day, the waitress approached Toni at an unwonted hour.

“If you'll just peep into my room this afternoon....”

Toni followed directions.... The poor substitute crept down the stairs—caught and powerless. He followed his wife who knelt sobbing beside their bed. She was not to be comforted, nor to be moved. She repulsed him and wept and wept.

Weigand had never dreamed that he was so passionately loved. The more violent was the anger of the deceived wife.... She demanded divorce, instant divorce....

He begged and besought and adjured. In vain.

Next he enlisted the sympathy of his father-in-law who had taken no great interest in the business during these years, but was content if the money he had invested in it paid the necessary six per cent. promptly.

The old man came immediately and made a scene with his recalcitrant daughter.... There was the splendid business and the heavy investment! She was not to think that he would give her one extra penny. He would simply withdraw his capital and let her and the child starve.

Toni did not even deign to reply.

The suit progressed rapidly. The unequivocal testimony of the waitress rendered any protest nugatory.

Three months later Toni put her possessions on a train, took her child, whom the deserted father followed with an inarticulate moan, and travelled to Koenigsberg where she rented a small flat in order to await in quiet the reunion with her beloved.

The latter was trying to work up a practice in a village close to the Russian border. He wrote that things were going slowly and that, hence, he must be at his post night and day. So soon as he had the slightest financial certainty for his wife and child, he would come for them.

And so she awaited the coming of her life's happiness. She had little to do, and passed many happy hours in imagining how he would rush in—by yonder passage—through this very door—tall and slender and impassioned and press her to his wildly throbbing heart. And ever again, though she knew it to be a foolish dream, did she see the blue white golden scarf upon his chest and the blue and gold cap upon his blond curls.

Lonely widows—even those of the divorced variety—find friends and ready sympathy in the land of good hearts. But Antonie avoided everyone who sought her society. Under the ban of her great secret purpose she had ceased to regard men and women except as they could be turned into the instruments of her will. And her use for them was over. As for their merely human character and experience—Toni saw through these at once. And it all seemed to her futile and trivial in the fierce reflection of those infernal fires through which she had had to pass.

Adorned like a bride and waiting—thus she lived quietly and modestly on the means which her divorced husband—in order to keep his own head above water—managed to squeeze out of the business.

Suddenly her father died. People said that his death was due to unconquerable rage over her folly....

She buried him, bearing herself all the while with blameless filial piety and then awoke to the fact that she was rich.

She wrote to her beloved: “Don't worry another day. We are in a position to choose the kind of life that pleases us.”

He wired back: “Expect me to-morrow.”

Full of delight and anxiety she ran to the mirror and discovered for the thousandth time, that she was beautiful again. The results of poisoning had disappeared, crime and degradation had burned no marks into her face. She stood there—a ruler of life. Her whole being seemed sure of itself, kindly, open. Only the wild glance might, at times, betray the fact that there was much to conceal.

She kept wakeful throughout the night, as she had done through many another. Plan after plan passed through her busy brain. It was with an effort that she realised the passing of such grim necessities.

Chapter VIII.

A bunch of crysanthemums stood on the table, asters in vases on dresser and chiffonier—colourful and scentless.

Antonie wore a dress of black lace that had been made by the best dressmaker in the city for this occasion. In festive array she desired to meet her beloved and yet not utterly discard the garb of filial grief. But she had dressed the child in white, with white silk stockings and sky-blue ribands. It was to meet its father like the incarnate spirit of approaching happiness.

From the kitchen came the odours of the choicest autumn dishes—roast duck with apples and a grape-cake, such as she alone knew how to prepare. Two bottles of precious Rhine wine stood in the cool without the window. She did not want to welcome him with champagne. The memories of its subtle prickling, and of much else connected therewith, nauseated her.

If he left his village at six in the morning he must arrive at noon.

And she waited even as she had waited seven years. This morning seven hours had been left, there were scarcely seven minutes now. And then—the door-bell rang.

“That is the new uncle,” she said to Amanda who was handling her finery, flattered and astonished, and she wondered to note her brain grow suddenly so cool and clear.

A gentleman entered. A strange gentleman. Wholly strange. Had she met him on the street she would not have known him.

He had grown old—forty, fifty, an hundred years. Yet his real age could not be over twenty-eight! ...

He had grown fat. He carried a little paunch about with him, round and comfortable. And the honourable scars gleamed in round red cheeks. His eyes seemed small and receding....

And when he said: “Here I am at last,” it was no longer the old voice, clear and a little resonant, which had echoed and re-echoed in her spiritual ear. He gurgled as though he had swallowed dumplings.

But when he took her hand and smiled, something slipt into his face—something affectionate and quiet, empty and without guile or suspicion.

Where was she accustomed to this smile? To be sure; in Amanda. An indubitable inheritance.

And for the sake of this empty smile an affectionate feeling for this stranger came into her heart. She helped him take off his overcoat. He wore a pair of great, red-lined rubber goloshes, typical of the country doctor. He took these off carefully and placed them with their toes toward the wall.

“He has grown too pedantic,” she thought.

Then all three entered the room. When Toni saw him in the light of day she missed the blue white golden scarf at once. But it would have looked comical over his rounded paunch. And yet its absence disillusioned her. It seemed to her as if her friend had doffed the halo for whose sake she had served him and looked up to him so long.

As for him, he regarded her with unconcealed admiration.

“Well, well, one can be proud of you!” he said, sighing deeply, and it almost seemed as if with this sigh a long and heavy burden lifted itself from his soul.

“He was afraid he might have to be ashamed of me,” she thought rebelliously. As if to protect herself she pushed the little girl between them.

“Here is Amanda,” she said, and added with a bitter smile: “Perhaps you remember.”

But he didn't even suspect the nature of that which she wanted to make him feel.

“Oh, I've brought something for you, little one!” he cried with the delight of one who recalls an important matter in time. With measured step he trotted back into the hall and brought out a flat paste-board box tied with pink ribands. He opened it very carefully and revealed a layer of chocolate-creams wrapped in tin-foil and offered one to Amanda.

And this action seemed to him, obviously, to satisfy all requirements in regard to his preliminary relations to the child.

Antonie felt the approach of a head-ache such as she had now and then ever since the arsenic poisoning.

“You are probably hungry, dear Robert,” she said.

He wouldn't deny that. “If one is on one's legs from four o'clock in the morning on, you know, and has nothing in one's stomach but a couple of little sausages, you know!”

He said all that with the same cheerfulness that seemed to come to him as a matter of course and yet did not succeed in wholly hiding an inner diffidence.

They sat down at the table and Antonie, taking pleasure in seeing to his comfort, forgot for a moment the foolish ache that tugged at her body and at her soul.

The wine made him talkative. He related everything that interested him—his professional trips across country, the confinements that sometimes came so close together that he had to spend twenty-four hours in his buggy. Then he told of the tricks by which people whose lives he had just saved sought to cheat him out of his modest fees. And he told also of the comfortable card-parties with the judge and the village priest. And how funny it was when the inn-keeper's tame starling promenaded on the cards....

Every word told of cheerful well-being and unambitious contentment.

“He doesn't think of our common future,” a torturing suspicion whispered to her.

But he did.

“I should like to have you try, first of all, Toni, to live there. It isn't easy. But we can both stand a good deal, thank God, and if we don't like it in the end, why, we can move away.”

And he said that so simply and sincerely that her suspicion vanished.

And with this returning certitude there returned, too, the ambition which she had always nurtured for him.

“How would it be if we moved to Berlin, or somewhere where there is a university?”

“And maybe aim at a professorship?” he cried with cheerful irony. “No, Tonichen, all your money can't persuade me to that. I crammed enough in that damned medical school, I've got my income and that's good enough for me.”

A feeling of disgust came over her. She seemed to perceive the stuffy odour of unventilated rooms and of decaying water in which flowers had stood.

“That is what I suffered for,” involuntarily the thought came, “ that!

After dinner when Amanda was sleeping off the effects of the little sip of wine which she had taken when they let her clink glasses with them, they sat opposite each other beside the geraniums of the window-box and fell silent. He blew clouds of smoke from his cigar into the air and seemed not disinclined to indulge in a nap, too.

Leaning back in her wicker chair she observed him uninterruptedly. At one moment it seemed to her as though she caught an intoxicating remnant of the slim, pallid lad to whom she had given her love. And then again came the corroding doubt: “Was it for him, for him....” And then a great fear oppressed her heart, because this man seemed to live in a world which she could not reach in a whole life's pilgrimage. Walls had arisen between them, doors had been bolted—doors that rose from the depths of the earth to the heights of heaven.... As he sat there, surrounded by the blue smoke of his cigar, he seemed more and more to recede into immeasurable distances....

Then, suddenly, as if an inspiration had come to him, he pulled himself together, and his face became serious, almost solemn. He laid the cigar down on the window-box and pulled out of his inner pocket a bundle of yellow sheets of paper and blue note-books.

“I should have done this a long time ago,” he said, “because we've been free to correspond with each other. But I put it off to our first meeting.”

“Done what?” she asked, seized by an uncomfortable curiosity.

“Why, render an accounting.”

“An accounting?”

“But dear Toni, surely you don't think me either ungrateful or dishonourable. For seven years I have accepted one benefaction after another from you.... That was a very painful situation for me, dear child, and I scarcely believe that the circumstances, had they been known, would ever have been countenanced by a court of honour.”

“Ah, yes,” she said slowly. “I confess I never thought of that consideration....”

“But I did all the more, for that very reason. And only the consciousness that I would some day be able to pay you the last penny of my debt sustained me in my consciousness as a decent fellow.”

“Ah, well, if that's the case, go ahead!” she said, suppressing the bitter sarcasm that she felt.

First came the receipts: The proceeds of the stolen jewels began the long series. Then followed the savings in fares, food and drink and the furniture rebates. Next came the presents of the county-counsellor, the profits of the champagne debauches during which she had flung shame and honour under the feet of the drinking men. She was spared nothing, but heard again of sums gained by petty thefts from the till, small profits made in the buying of milk and eggs. It was a long story of suspense and longing, an inextricable web of falsification and trickery, of terror and lying without end. The memory of no guilt and no torture was spared her.

Then he took up the account of his expenditures. He sat there, eagerly handling the papers, now frowning heavily when he could not at once balance some small sum, now stiffening his double chin in satisfied self-righteousness as he explained some new way of saving that had occurred to him.... Again and again, to the point of weariness, he reiterated solemnly: “You see, I'm an honest man.”

And always when he said that, a weary irony prompted her to reply: “Ah, what that honesty has cost me.” ... But she held her peace.

And again she wanted to cry out: “Let be! A woman like myself doesn't care for these two-penny decencies.” But she saw how deep an inner necessity it was to him to stand before her in this conventional spotlessness. And so she didn't rob him of his childlike joy.

At last he made an end and spread out the little blue books before her—there was one for each year. “Here,” he said proudly, “you can go over it yourself. It's exact.”

“It had better be!” she cried with a jesting threat and put the little books under a flower-pot.

A prankish mood came upon her now which she couldn't resist.

“Now that this important business is at an end,” she said, “there is still another matter about which I must have some certainty.”

“What is that?” he said, listening intensely.

“Have you been faithful to me in all this time?”

He became greatly confused. The scars on his left cheek glowed like thick, red cords.

“Perhaps he's got a betrothed somewhere,” she thought with a kind of woeful anger, “whom he's going to throw over now.”

But it wasn't that. Not at all. “Well,” he said, “there's no help for it. I'll confess. And anyhow, you've even been married in the meantime.”

“I would find it difficult to deny that,” she said.

And then everything came to light. During the early days in Berlin he had been very intimate with a waitress. Then, when he was an assistant in the surgical clinic, there had been a sister who even wanted to be married. “But I made short work of that proposition,” he explained with quiet decision. And as for the Lithuanian servant girl whom he had in the house now, why, of course he would dismiss her next morning, so that the house could be thoroughly aired before she moved in.

This was the moment in which a desire came upon her—half-ironic, half-compassionate—to throw her arms about him and say: “You silly boy!”

But she did not yield and in the next moment the impulse was gone. Only an annoyed envy remained. He dared to confess everything to her—everything. What if she did the same? If he were to leave her in horrified silence, what would it matter? She would have freed her soul. Or perhaps he would flare up in grateful love? It was madness to expect it. No power of heaven or earth could burst open the doors or demolish the walls that towered between them for all eternity.

A vast irony engulfed her. She could not rest her soul upon this pigmy. She felt revengeful rather toward him—revengeful, because he could sit there opposite her so capable and faithful, so truthful and decent, so utterly unlike the companion whom she needed.

Toward twilight he grew restless. He wanted to slip over to his mother for a moment and then, for another moment, he wanted to drop in at the fraternity inn. He had to leave at eight.

“It would be better if you remained until to-morrow,” she said with an emphasis that gave him pause.


“If you don't feel that....”

She shrugged her shoulders.

It wasn't to be done, he assured her, with the best will in the world. There was an investigation in which he had to help the county-physician. A small farmer had died suddenly of what did not seem an entirely natural death. “I suppose,” he continued, “one of those love philtres was used with which superfluous people are put under ground there. It's horrible that a decent person has to live among such creatures. If you don't care to do it, I can hardly blame you.” She had grown pale and smiled weakly. She restrained him no longer.

“I'll be back in a week,” he said, slipping on his goloshes, “and then we can announce the engagement.”

She nodded several times but made no reply.

The door was opened and he leaned toward her. Calmly she touched his lips with hers.

“You might have the announcement cards printed,” he called cheerfully from the stairs.

Then he disappeared....

“Is the new uncle gone?” Amanda asked. She was sitting in her little room, busy with her lessons. He had forgotten her.

The mother nodded.

“Will he come back soon?”

Antonie shook her head.

“I scarcely think so,” she answered.

That night she broke the purpose of her life, the purpose that had become interwoven with a thousand others, and when the morning came she wrote a letter of farewell to the beloved of her youth.


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