The Purpose by Hermann Sudermann
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
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
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.
“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
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
“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
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.”
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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
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
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....
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
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
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
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
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! ...
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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....
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
“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
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.
In hesitant incredulity Antonie awaited the things that were to
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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
Where was she accustomed to this smile? To be sure; in Amanda. An
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
“Here is Amanda,” she said, and added with a bitter smile: “Perhaps
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
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
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
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
“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, “
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
“Done what?” she asked, seized by an uncomfortable curiosity.
“Why, render 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
“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
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
“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
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
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.