by Anthony Trollope
The troubles and sorrows of Linda Tressel, who is the heroine of the
little story now about to be told, arose from the too rigid virtue of
her nearest and most loving friend,as troubles will sometimes come
from rigid virtue when rigid virtue is not accompanied by sound sense,
and especially when it knows little or nothing of the softness of
The nearest and dearest friend of Linda Tressel was her aunt, the
widow StaubachMadame Charlotte Staubach, as she had come to be called
in the little town of Nuremberg where she lived. In Nuremberg all
houses are picturesque, but you shall go through the entire city and
find no more picturesque abode than the small red house with the three
gables close down by the river-side in the Schütt islandthe little
island made by the river Pegnitz in the middle of the town. They who
have seen the widow Staubach's house will have remembered it, not only
because of its bright colour and its sharp gables, but also because of
the garden which runs between the house and the water's edge. And yet
the garden was no bigger than may often nowadays be seen in the
balconies of the mansions of Paris and of London. Here Linda Tressel
lived with her aunt, and here also Linda had been born.
Linda was the orphan of Herr Tressel, who had for many years been
what we may call town-clerk to the magistrates of Nuremberg. Chance in
middle life had taken him to Colognea German city indeed, as was his
own, but a city so far away from Nuremberg that its people and its
manners were as strange to him as though he had gone beyond the reach
of his own mother-tongue. But here he had married, and from Cologne had
brought home his bride to the picturesque, red, gabled house by the
water's side in his own city. His wife's only sister had also married,
in her own town; and that sister was the virtuous but rigid aunt
Charlotte, to live with whom had been the fate in life of Linda
It need not be more than told in the fewest words that the
town-clerk and the town-clerk's wife both died when Linda was but an
infant, and that the husband of her aunt Charlotte died also. In
Nuremberg there is no possession so much coveted and so dearly loved as
that of the house in which the family lives. Herr Tressel had owned the
house with the three gables, and so had his father before him, and to
the father it had come from an uncle whose name had been
different,and to him from some other relative. But it was an old
family property, and, like other houses in Nuremberg, was to be kept in
the hands of the family while the family might remain, unless some
terrible ruin should supervene.
When Linda was but six years old, her aunt, the widow, came to
Nuremberg to inhabit the house which the Tressels had left as an only
legacy to their daughter; but it was understood when she did so that a
right of living in the house for the remainder of her days was to
belong to Madame Staubach because of the surrender she thus made of
whatever of a home was then left to her in Cologne. There was probably
no deed executed to this effect; nor would it have been thought that
any deed was necessary. Should Linda Tressel, when years had rolled on,
be taken as a wife, and should the husband live in the red house, there
would still be room for Linda's aunt. And by no husband in Nuremberg,
who should be told that such an arrangement had been anticipated, would
such an arrangement be opposed. Mothers-in-law, aunts, maiden sisters,
and dependent female relatives, in all degrees, are endured with
greater patience and treated with a gentler hand in patient Bavaria
than in some lands farther west where life is faster, and in which
men's shoulders are more easily galled by slight burdens. And as poor
little Linda Tressel had no other possession but the house, as all
other income, slight as it might be, was to be brought with her by aunt
Charlotte, aunt Charlotte had at least a right to the free use of the
roof over her head. It is necessary that so much should be told; but
Linda's troubles did not come from the divided right which she had in
her father's house. Linda's troubles, as has before been said, sprang
not from her aunt's covetousness, but from her aunt's virtueperhaps
we might more truly say, from her aunt's religion.
Nuremberg is one of those German cities in which a stranger finds it
difficult to understand the religious idiosyncrasies of the people. It
is in Bavaria, and Bavaria, as he knows, is Roman Catholic. But
Nuremberg is Protestant, and the stranger, when he visits the two
cathedralsthose of St. Sebald and St. Lawrencefinds it hard to
believe that they should not be made to resound with masses, so like
are they in all respects to other Romanist cathedrals which he has
seen. But he is told that they are Lutheran and Protestant, and he is
obliged to make himself aware that the prevailing religion of Nuremberg
is Lutheran, in spite of what to him are the Catholic appearances of
the churches. Now the widow Staubach was among Protestants the most
Protestant, going far beyond the ordinary amenities of Lutheran
teaching, as at present taught, in her religious observances, her
religious loves, and her religious antipathies. The ordinary Lutheran
of the German cities does not wear his religion very conspicuously. It
is not a trouble to him in his daily life, causing him to live in
terror as to the life to come. That it is a comfort to him let us not
doubt. But it has not on him generally that outward, ever palpable,
unmistakable effect, making its own of his gait, his countenance, his
garb, his voice, his words, his eyes, his thoughts, his clothes, his
very sneeze, his cough, his sighs, his groans, which is the result of
Calvinistic impressions thoroughly brought home to the mind and
lovingly entertained in the heart. Madame Staubach was in truth a
German Anabaptist, but it will be enough for us to say that her manners
and gait were the manners and gait of a Calvinist.
While Linda Tressel was a child she hardly knew that her aunt was
peculiar in her religious ideas. That mode of life which comes to a
child comes naturally, and Linda, though she was probably not allowed
to play as freely as did the other bairns around her, though she was
taken more frequently to the house of worship which her aunt
frequented, and targed more strictly in the reading of godly books, did
not know till she was a child no longer, that she was subjected to
harder usage than others endured. But when Linda was eleven, the widow
was persuaded by a friend that it was her duty to send her niece to
school; and when Linda at sixteen ceased to be a school girl, she had
learned to think that the religion of her aunt's neighbours was a more
comfortable religion than that practised by her aunt; and when she was
eighteen, she had further learned to think that the life of certain
neighbour girls was a pleasanter life than her own. When she was
twenty, she had studied the subject more deeply, and had told herself
that though her spirit was prone to rebel against her aunt, that though
she would fain have been allowed to do as did other girls of twenty,
yet she knew her aunt to be a good woman, and knew that it behoved her
to obey. Had not her aunt come all the way from Cologne, from the
distant city of Rhenish Prussia, to live in Nuremberg for her sake, and
should she be unfaithful and rebellious? Now Madame Staubach understood
and appreciated the proneness to rebellion in her niece's heart, but
did not quite understand, and perhaps could not appreciate, the attempt
to put down that rebellion which the niece was ever making from day to
I have said that the widow Staubach had brought with her to
Nuremberg some income upon which to live in the red house with the
three gables. Some small means of her own she possessed, some few
hundred florins a-year, which were remitted to her punctually from
Cologne; but this would not have sufficed even for the moderate wants
of herself, her niece, and of the old maid Tetchen, who lived with
them, and who had lived with Linda's mother. But there was a source of
income very ready to the widow's hand, and of which it was a matter of
course that she should in her circumstances avail herself. She and her
niece could not fill the family home, and a portion of it was let to a
lodger. This lodger was Herr SteinmarcPeter Steinmarc, who had been
clerk to Linda's father when Linda's father had been clerk to the city
magistrates, and who was now clerk to the city magistrates himself.
Peter Steinmarc in the old days had inhabited a garret in the house,
and had taken his meals at his master's table; but now the first floor
of the house was his own, the big airy pleasant chamber looking out
from under one gable on to the clear water, and the broad passage under
the middle gable, and the square large bedroomthe room in which Linda
had been bornunder the third gable. The windows from these apartments
all looked out on to the slow-flowing but clear stream, which ran so
close below them that the town-clerk might have sat and fished from his
windows had he been so minded; for there was no road thereonly the
narrow slip of a garden no broader than a balcony. And opposite, beyond
the river, where the road ran, there was a broad place,the Ruden
Platz; and every house surrounding this was picturesque with different
colours, and with many gables, and the points of the houses rose up in
sharp pyramids, of which every brick and every tile was in its place,
sharp, clear, well formed, and appropriate, in those very inches of
space which each was called upon to fill. For in Nuremberg it is the
religion of the community that no house shall fall into decay, that no
form of city beauty shall be allowed to vanish, that nothing of
picturesque antiquity shall be changed. From age to age, though stones
and bricks are changed, the buildings are the same, and the medieval
forms remain, delighting the taste of the traveller as they do the
pride of the burgher. Thus it was that Herr Steinmarc, the clerk of the
magistrates in Nuremberg, had for his use as pleasant an abode as the
city could furnish him.
Now it came to pass that, during the many years of their residence
beneath the same roof, there grew up a strong feeling of friendship
between Peter Steinmarc and the widow Staubach, so strong that in most
worldly matters the widow would be content to follow her friend Peter's
counsels without hesitation. And this was the case although Peter by no
means lived in accordance with the widow's tenets as to matters of
religion. It is not to be understood that Peter was a godless man,not
so especially, or that he lived a life in any way scandalous, or open
to special animadversion from the converted; but he was a man of the
world, very fond of money, very fond of business, doing no more in the
matter of worship than is done ordinarily by men of the world,one who
would not scruple to earn a few gulden on the Sunday if such earning
came in his way, who liked his beer and his pipe, and, above all
things, liked the fees and perquisites of office on which he lived and
made his little wealth. But though thus worldly he was esteemed much by
Madame Staubach, who rarely, on his behalf, put forth that voice of
warning which was so frequently heard by her niece.
But there are women of the class to which Madame Staubach belonged
who think that the acerbities of religion are intended altogether for
their own sex. That men ought to be grateful to them who will deny?
Such women seem to think that Heaven will pardon that hardness of heart
which it has created in man, and which the affairs of the world seem
almost to require; but that it will extend no such forgiveness to the
feminine creation. It may be necessary that a man should be
stiff-necked, self-willed, eager on the world, perhaps even covetous
and given to worldly lusts. But for a woman, it behoves her to crush
herself, so that she may be at all points submissive, self-denying, and
much-suffering. She should be used to thorns in the flesh, and to
thorns in the spirit too. Whatever may be the thing she wants, that
thing she should not have. And if it be so that, in her feminine
weakness, she be not able to deny herself, there should be those around
her to do the denial for her. Let her crush herself as it becomes a
poor female to do, or let there be some other female to crush her if
she lack the strength, the purity, and the religious fervour which such
self-crushing requires. Poor Linda Tressel had not much taste for
crushing herself, but Providence had supplied her with one who had
always been willing to do that work for her. And yet the aunt had ever
dearly loved her niece, and dearly loved her now in these days of our
story. If your eye offend you, shall you not pluck it out? After a sort
Madame Staubach was plucking out her own eye when she led her niece
such a life of torment as will be described in these pages.
When Linda was told one day by Tetchen the old servant that there
was a marriage on foot between Herr Steinmarc and aunt Charlotte, Linda
expressed her disbelief in very strong terms. When Tetchen produced
many arguments to show why it should be so, and put aside as of no
avail all the reasons given by Linda to show that such a marriage could
hardly be intended, Linda was still incredulous. You do not know aunt
Charlotte, Tetchen;not as I do. said Linda.
I've lived in the same house with her for fourteen years, said
And yet you do not know her. I am sure she will not marry Peter
Steinmarc. She will never marry anybody. She does not think of such
Pooh! said Tetchen; all women think of them. Their heads are
always together, and Peter talks as though he meant to be master of the
house, and he tells her everything about Ludovic. I heard them talking
about Ludovic for the hour together the other night.
You shouldn't listen, Tetchen.
I didn't listen, miss. But when one is in and out one cannot stop
one's ears. I hope there isn't going to be anything wrong between 'em
about the house.
My aunt will never do anything wrong, and my aunt will never marry
Peter Steinmarc. So Linda declared in her aunt's defence, and in her
latter assertion she was certainly right. Madame Staubach was not
minded to marry Herr Steinmarc; but she might have done so had she
wished it, for Herr Steinmarc asked her to take him more than once.
At this time the widow Staubach was a woman not much over forty
years of age; and though it can hardly be said she was comely, yet she
was not without a certain prettiness which might have charms in the
judgment of Herr Steinmarc. She was very thin, and her face was pale,
and here and there was the beginning of a wrinkle telling as much of
trouble as of years; but her eyes were bright and clear, and her smooth
hair, of which but the edge was allowed to be seen beneath her cap, was
of as rich a brown as when she had married Gasper Staubach, now more
than twenty years ago; and her teeth were white and perfect, and the
oval of her face had not been impaired by time, and her step, though
slow, was light and firm, and her voice, though sad, was low and soft.
In talking to mento such a man as was Herr Steinmarcher voice was
always low and soft, though there would be a sharp note in it now and
again when she would be speaking to Tetchen or her niece. Whether it
was her gentle voice, or her bright eyes, or the edge of soft brown
hair beneath her cap, or some less creditable feeling of covetousness
in regard to the gabled house in the Schütt island, shall not here be
even guessed; but it was the fact that Herr Steinmarc had more than
once asked Madame Staubach to be his wife when Tetchen first imparted
her suspicion to Linda.
And what were they saying about Ludovic? asked Linda, when
Tetchen, for the third time came to Linda with her tidings. Now Linda
had scolded Tetchen for listening to her aunt's conversation about
Ludovic, and Tetchen thought it unjust that she should be interrogated
on the subject after being so treated.
I told you, miss, I didn't hear anything;only just the name.
Very well, Tetchen; that will do; only I hope you won't say such
things of aunt Charlotte anywhere else.
What harm have I said, Linda? surely to say of a widow that she's
to be married to an honest man is not to say harm.
But it is not true, Tetchen; and you should not say it. Then
Tetchen departed quite unconvinced, and Linda began to reflect how far
her life would be changed for the better or for the worse, if Tetchen's
tidings should ever be made true. But, as has been said before,
Tetchen's tidings were never to be made true.
But Madame Staubach did not resent the offer made to her. When Peter
Steinmarc told her that she was a lone woman, left without guidance or
protection, she allowed the fact, admitting that guidance would be good
for her. When he went on to say that Linda also was in need of
protection, she admitted that also. She is in sore need, Madame
Staubach said, the poor thoughtless child. And when Herr Steinmarc
spoke of her pecuniary condition, reminding the widow that were she
left without the lodger the two women could hardly keep the old family
roof over their head, Madame Staubach acknowledged it all, and perhaps
went very suddenly to the true point by expressing an opinion that
everything would be much better arranged if the house were the property
of Herr Steinmarc himself. It isn't good that women should own
houses, said Madame Staubach; it should be enough for them that they
are permitted to use them. Then Herr Steinmarc went on to explain that
if the widow would consent to become his wife, he thought he could so
settle things that for their lives, at any rate, the house should be in
his care and management. But the widow would not consent even to speak
of such an arrangement as possible. She spoke a word, with a tear in
her eye, of the human lord and master who had lived with her for two
happy years, and said another word with some mystical allusion to a
heavenly husband; and after that Herr Steinmarc felt that he could not
plead his cause further with any hope of success. But why should not
Linda be your wife? said Madame Staubach, as her disappointed suitor
was about to retire.
The idea had never struck the man's mind before, and now, when the
suggestion was made to him, he was for a while stricken dumb. Why
should he not marry Linda Tressel, the niece; gay, pretty, young, sweet
as youth and prettiness and gaiety could make her, a girl than whom
there was none prettier, none sweeter, in all Nurembergand the real
owner, too, of the house in which he lived,instead of the aunt, who
was neither gay, nor sweet, nor young; who, though she was virtuous,
self-denying, and meek, possessed certainly but few feminine charms?
Herr Steinmarc, though he was a man not by any means living outside the
pale of the Church to which he belonged, was not so strongly given to
religious observances as to have preferred the aunt because of her
piety and sanctity of life. He was not hypocrite enough to suggest to
Madame Staubach that any such feeling warmed his bosom. Why should not
Linda be his wife? He sat himself down again in the arm-chair from
which he had risen, and began to consider the question.
In the first place, Herr Steinmarc was at this time nearly fifty
years old, and Linda Tressel was only twenty. He knew Linda's age well,
for he had been an inhabitant of the garret up-stairs when Linda was
born. What would the Frau Tressel have said that night had any one
prophesied to her that her little daughter would hereafter be offered
as a wife to her husband's penniless clerk upstairs? But penniless
clerks often live to fill their masters' shoes, and do sometimes marry
their masters' daughters. And then Linda was known throughout Nuremberg
to be the real owner of the house with the three gables, and Herr
Steinmarc had an idea that the Nuremberg magistrates would rise up
against him were he to offer to marry the young heiress. And there was
a third difficulty: Herr Steinmarc, though he had no knowledge on the
subject, though his suspicions were so slight that he had never
mentioned them to his old friend the widow, though he was aware that he
had barely a ground for the idea, still had an idea, that Linda
Tressel's heart was no longer at Linda's own disposal.
But nevertheless the momentous question which had been so suddenly
asked him was one which certainly deserved the closest consideration.
It showed him, at any rate, that Linda's nearest friend would help him
were he inclined to prosecute such a suit, and that she saw nothing out
of course, nothing anomalous, in the proposition. It would be very nice
to be the husband of a pretty, gay, sweet-tempered, joyous young girl.
It would be very nice to marry the heiress of the house, and to become
its actual owner and master, and it would be nice also to be preferred
to him of whom Peter Steinmarc had thought as the true possessor of
Linda's heart. If Linda were once his wife, Linda, he did not doubt,
would be true to him. In such case Linda, whom he knew to be a good
girl, would overcome any little prejudice of her girlhood. Other men of
fifty had married girls of twenty, and why should not he, Peter
Steinmarc, the well-to-do, comfortable, and, considering his age,
good-looking town-clerk of the city of Nuremberg? He could not bring
himself to tell Madame Staubach that he would transfer his affections
to her niece on that occasion on which the question was first asked. He
would take a week, he said, to consider. He took the week; but made up
his mind on the first day of the week, and at the end of the week
declared to Madame Staubach that he thought the plan to be a good plan.
After that there was much discussion before any further step was
taken, and Tetchen was quite sure that their lodger was to be married
to Linda's aunt. There was much discussion, and the widow, shocked,
perhaps, at her own cruelty, almost retreated from the offer she had
made. But Herr Steinmarc was emboldened, and was now eager, and held
her to her own plan. It was a good plan, and he was ready. He found
that he could love the maiden, and he wished to take her to his bosom
at once. For a few days the widow's heart relented; for a few days
there came across her breast a frail, foolish, human idea of love and
passion, and the earthly joy of two young beings, happy in each other's
arms. For a while she thought with regret of what she was about to do,
of the sacrifice to be made, of the sorrow to be endured, of the
deathblow to be given to those dreams of love, which doubtless had
arisen, though hitherto they were no more than dreams. Madame Staubach,
though she was now a saint, had been once a woman, and knew as well as
any woman of what nature are the dreams of love which fill the heart of
a girl. It was because she knew them so well, that she allowed herself
only a few hours of such weakness. What! should she hesitate between
heaven and hell, between God and devil, between this world and the
next, between sacrifice of time and sacrifice of eternity, when the
disposal of her own niece, her own child, her nearest and dearest, was
concerned? Was it not fit that the world should be crushed in the bosom
of a young girl? and how could it be crushed so effectually as by
marrying her to an old man, one whom she respected, but who was
otherwise distasteful to herone who, as a husband, would at first be
abhorrent to her? As Madame Staubach thought of heaven then, a girl who
loved and was allowed to indulge her love could hardly go to heaven.
Let it be so, she said to Peter Steinmarc after a few days of weak
vacillation,let it be so. I think that it will be good for her.
Then Peter Steinmarc swore that it would be good for Lindathat it
should be good for Linda. His care should be so great that Linda might
never doubt the good. Peter Steinmarc, I am thinking of her soul,
said Madame Staubach. I am thinking of that too, said Peter; one
has, you know, to think of everything in turns.
Then there came to be a little difficulty as to the manner in which
the proposition should be first made to Linda Tressel. Madame Staubach
thought that it should be made by Peter himself, but Peter was of
opinion that if the ice were first broken by Madame Staubach, final
success might be more probably achieved. She owes you obedience, my
friend, and she owes me none, as yet, said Peter. There seemed to be
so much of truth in this that Madame Staubach yielded, and undertook to
make the first overture to Linda on behalf of her lover.
Linda Tressel was a tall, light-built, active young woman, in full
health, by no means a fine lady, very able and very willing to assist
Tetchen in the work of the house, or rather to be assisted by Tetchen
in doing it, and fit at all points to be the wife of any young burgher
in Nuremberg. And she was very pretty withal, with eager, speaking
eyes, and soft luxurious tresses, not black, but of so very dark a
brown as to be counted black in some lights. It was her aunt's care to
have these tresses confined, so that nothing of their wayward obstinacy
in curling might be seen by the eyes of men; and Linda strove to obey
her aunt, but the curls would sometimes be too strong for Linda, and
would be seen over her shoulders and across her back, tempting the eyes
of men sorely. Peter Steinmarc had so seen them many a time, and
thought much of them when the offer of Linda's hand was first made to
him. Her face, like that of her aunt, was oval in its form, and her
complexion was dark and clear. But perhaps her greatest beauty
consisted in the half-soft, half-wild expression of her face, which,
while it seemed to declare to the world that she was mild, gentle, and,
for the most part, silent, gave a vague, doubtful promise of something
that might be beyond, if only her nature were sufficiently awakened,
creating a hope and mysterious longing for something more than might be
expected from a girl brought up under the severe thraldom of Madame
Charlotte Staubach,creating a hope, or perhaps it might be a fear.
And Linda's face in this respect was the true reflex of her character.
She lived with her aunt a quiet, industrious, sober life, striving to
be obedient, striving to be religious with the religion of her aunt.
She had almost brought herself to believe that it was good for her
heart to be crushed. She had quite brought herself to wish to believe
it. She had within her heart no desire for open rebellion against
domestic authority. The world was a dangerous, bad world, in which men
were dust and women something lower than dust. She would tell herself
so very often, and strive to believe herself when she did so. But, for
all this, there was a yearning for something beyond her present life,
for something that should be of the world, worldly. When she heard
profane music she would long to dance. When she heard the girls
laughing in the public gardens she would long to stay and laugh with
them. Pretty ribbons and bright-coloured silks were a snare to her.
When she could shake out her curly locks in the retirement of her own
little chamber, she liked to feel them and to know that they were
But these were the wiles with which the devil catches the souls of
women, and there were times when she believed that the devil was making
an especial struggle to possess himself of her. There were moments in
which she almost thought that the devil would succeed, and that,
perhaps, it was but of little use for her to carry on any longer the
futile contest. Would it not be pleasant to give up the contest, and to
laugh and talk and shout and be merry, to dance, and wear bright
colours, and be gay in company with young men, as did the other girls
around her? As for those other girls, their elder friends did not seem
on their account to be specially in dread of Satan. There was Fanny
Heisse who lived close to them, who had been Linda's friend when they
went to school together. Fanny did just as she pleased, was always
talking with young men, wore the brightest ribbons that the shops
produced, was always dancing, seemed to be bound by no strict rules on
life; and yet everybody spoke well of Fanny Heisse, and now Fanny was
to be married to a young lawyer from Augsburg. Could it be the fact
that the devil had made sure of Fanny Heisse? Linda had been very
anxious to ask her aunt a question on that subject, but had been
afraid. Whenever she attempted to discuss any point of theology with
her aunt, such attempts always ended in renewed assurances of the
devil's greediness, and in some harder, more crushing rule by which the
devil's greed might be outwitted.
Then there came a time of terrible peril, and poor Linda was in
greater doubt than ever. Fanny Heisse, who was to be married to the
Augsburg lawyer, had long been accustomed to talk to young men, to one
young man after another, so that young men had come to be almost
nothing to her. She had selected one as her husband because it had been
suggested to her that she had better settle herself in life; and this
special one was well-to-do, and good-looking, and pleasant-mannered,
and good-tempered. The whole thing with Fanny Heisse had seemed to go
as though flirting, love, and marriage all came naturally, without
danger, without care, and without disappointment. But a young man had
now spoken to her, to Linda,had spoken to her words that she did not
dare to repeat to any one,had spoken to her twice, thrice, and she
had not rebuked him. She had not, at least, rebuked him with that
withering scorn which the circumstances had surely required, and which
would have made him know that she regarded him as one sent purposely
from the Evil One to tempt her. Now again had come upon her some
terrible half-formed idea that it would be well to give up the battle
and let the Evil One make free with his prey. But, in truth, her heart
within her had so palpitated with emotion when these words had been
spoken and been repeated, that she had lacked the strength to carry on
the battle properly. How send a daring young man from you with
withering scorn, when there lacks power to raise the eyes, to open or
to close the lips, to think even at the moment whether such scorn is
deserved, or something very different from scorn?
The young man had not been seen by Linda's eyes for nearly a month,
when Peter Steinmarc and Madam Staubach settled between them that the
ice should be broken. On the following morning aunt Charlotte prepared
herself for the communication to be made, and, when she came in from
her market purchases, went at once to her task. Linda was found by her
aunt in their lodger's sitting-room, busy with brooms and brushes,
while Tetchen on her knees was dry-rubbing the polished board round the
broad margin of the room. Linda, said Madame Staubach, I have that
which I wish to say to you; would you come with me for a while? Then
Linda followed her aunt to Madame Staubach's own chamber, and as she
went there came over her a guilty fear. Could it be that her aunt had
heard of the words which the young man had spoken to her?
Linda, said Madame Staubach, sit down,there, in my chair. I
have a proposition to make to you of much importance,of very great
importance. May the Lord grant that the thing that I do shall be right
in His sight!
To make to me, aunt? said Linda, now quite astray as to her aunt's
intention. She was sure, at least, that there was no danger about the
young man. Had it been her aunt's purpose to rebuke her for aught that
she had done, her aunt's manner and look would have been very
different,would have been hard, severe, and full of denunciation. As
it was, Madame Staubach almost hesitated in her words, and certainly
had assumed much less than her accustomed austerity.
I hope, Linda, that you know that I love you.
I am sure that you love me, aunt Charlotte. But why do you ask me?
If there be any one in this world that I do love, it is you, my
child. Who else is there left to me? Were it not for you, the world
with all its troubles would be nothing to me, and I could prepare
myself to go in peace when He should be pleased to take me.
But why do you say this now, aunt Charlotte?
I will tell you why I say it now. Though I am hardly an old woman
Of course you are not an old woman.
I wish I were older, that I might be nearer to my rest. But you are
young, and it is necessary that your future life should be regarded.
Whether I go hence or remain here it will be proper that some
settlement should be made for you. Then Madame Staubach paused, and
Linda began to think that her aunt had on her mind some scheme about
the house. When her aunt had spoken of going hence or remaining here,
Linda had not been quite sure whether the goings and remainings spoken
of were wholly spiritual or whether there was any reference to things
worldly and temporal. Could it be that Tetchen was after all right in
her surmise? Was it possible that her aunt was about to be married to
Peter Steinmarc? But she said nothing; and after a while her aunt went
on very slowly with her proposition. Yes, Linda, some settlement for
your future life should be made. You know that the house in which we
live is your own.
It is yours and mine together, aunt.
No, Linda; the house is your own. And the furniture in it is yours
too; so that Herr Steinmarc is your lodger. It is right that you should
understand all this; but I think too well of my own child to believe
that she will ever on that account be disobedient or unruly.
That will never make a difference.
No, Linda; I am sure it will not. Providence has been pleased to
put me in the place of both father and mother to you. I will not say
that I have done my duty by you
You have, aunt, always, said Linda, taking her aunt's hand and
pressing it affectionately.
But I have found, and I expect to find, a child's obedience. It is
good that the young should obey their elders, and should understand
that those in authority over them should know better than they can do
themselves what is good for them. Linda was now altogether astray in
her thoughts and anticipations. Her aunt had very frequently spoken to
her in this strain; nay, a week did not often pass by without such a
speech. But then the speeches would come without the solemn prelude
which had been made on this occasion, and would be caused generally by
some act or word or look or movement on the part of Linda of which
Madame Staubach had found herself obliged to express disapprobation. On
the present occasion the conversation had been commenced without any
such expression. Her aunt had even deigned to commend the general tenor
of her life. She had dropped the hand as soon as her aunt began to talk
of those in authority, and waited with patience till the gist of the
lecture should be revealed to her. I hope you will understand this
now, Linda. That which I shall propose to you is for your welfare, here
and hereafter, even though it may not at first seem to you to be
What is it, aunt? said Linda, jumping up quickly from her seat.
Sit down, my child, and I will tell you. But Linda did not reseat
herself at once. Some terrible fear had come upon her,some fear of
she knew not what,and she found it to be almost impossible to remain
quiet at her aunt's knee. Sit down, Linda, when I ask you. Then Linda
did sit down; but she had altogether lost that look of quiet, passive
endurance which her face and figure had borne when she was first asked
to listen to her aunt's words. The time in your life has come, my
dear, when I as your guardian have to think whether it is not well that
you should bemarried.
But I do not want to be married, said Linda, jumping up again.
My dearest child, it would be better that you should listen to me.
Marriage, you know, is an honourable state.
Yes, I know, of course. But, aunt Charlotte
Hush, my dear.
A girl need not be married unless she likes.
If I were dead, with whom would you live? Who would there be to
guard you and guide you?
But you are not going to die.
Linda, that is very wicked.
And why can I not guide myself?
Because you are young, and weak, and foolish. Because it is right
that they who are frail, and timid, and spiritless, should be made
subject to those who are strong and able to hold dominion and to exact
obedience. Linda did not at all like being told that she was
spiritless. She thought that she might be able to show spirit enough
were it not for the duty that she owed to her aunt. And as for
obedience, though she were willing to obey her aunt, she felt that her
aunt had no right to transfer her privilege in that respect to another.
But she said nothing, and her aunt went on with her proposition.
Our lodger, Peter Steinmarc, has spoken to me, and he is anxious to
make you his wife.
Yes, Linda; Peter Steinmarc.
Old Peter Steinmarc!
He is not old. What has his being old to do with it?
I will never marry Peter Steinmarc, aunt Charlotte.
Madame Staubach had not expected to meet with immediate and positive
obedience. She had thought it probable that there might be some
opposition shown to her plan when it was first brought forward. Indeed,
how could it be otherwise, when marriage was suggested abruptly to such
a girl as Linda Tressel, even though the suggested husband had been an
Apollo? What young woman could have said, Oh, certainly; whenever you
please, aunt Charlotte, to such a proposition? Feeling this, Madame
Staubach would have gone to work by degrees,would have opened her
siege by gradual trenches, and have approached the citadel by
parallels, before she attempted to take it by storm, had she known
anything of the ways and forms of such strategy. But though she knew
that there were such ways and forms of strategy among the ungodly, out
in the world with the worldly, she had practised none such herself, and
knew nothing of the mode in which they should be conducted. On this
subject, if on any, her niece owed to her obedience, and she would
claim that obedience as hers of right. Though Linda would at first be
startled, she would probably be not the less willing to obey at last,
if she found her guardian stern and resolute in her demand. My dear,
she said, you have probably not yet had time to think of the marriage
which I have proposed to you.
I want no time to think of it.
Nothing in life should be accepted or rejected without thinking,
Linda,nothing except sin; and thinking cannot be done without time.
This would be sina great sin!
Linda, you are very wicked.
Of course, I am wicked.
Herr Steinmarc is a most respectable man. There is no man in all
Nuremberg more respected than Herr Steinmarc. This was doubtless
Madame Staubach's opinion of Peter Steinmarc, but it may be that Madame
Staubach was not qualified to express the opinion of the city in
general on that subject. He holds the office which your father held
before him, and for many years has inhabited the best rooms in your
He is welcome to the rooms if he wants them, said Linda. He is
welcome to the whole house if you choose to give it to him.
That is nonsense, Linda. Herr Steinmarc wants nothing that is not
his of right.
I am not his of right, said Linda.
Will you listen to me? You are much mistaken if you think that it
is because of your trumpery house that this honest man wishes to make
you his wife. We must suppose that Madame Staubach suffered some qualm
of conscience as she proffered this assurance, and that she repented
afterwards of the sin she committed in making a statement which she
could hardly herself have believed to be exactly true. He knew your
father before you were born, and your mother; and he has known me for
many years. Has he not lived with us ever since you can remember?
Yes, said Linda; I remember him ever since I was a very little
girl,as long as I can remember anything,and he seemed to be as old
then as he is now.
And why should he not be old? Why should you want a husband to be
young and foolish and headstrong as you are yourself;perhaps some one
who would drink and gamble and go about after strange women?
I don't want any man for a husband, said Linda.
There can be nothing more proper than that Herr Steinmarc should
make you his wife. He has spoken to me and he is willing to undertake
The charge! almost screamed Linda, in terrible disgust.
He is willing to undertake the charge, I say. We shall then still
live together, and may hope to be able to maintain a God-fearing
household, in which there may be as little opening to the temptations
of the world as may be found in any well-ordered house.
I do not believe that Peter Steinmarc is a God-fearing man.
Linda, you are very wicked to say so.
But if he were, it would make no difference.
I only know that he loves his money better than anything in the
world, and that he never gives a kreutzer to any one, and that he won't
subscribe to the hospital, and he always thinks that Tetchen takes his
wine, though Tetchen never touches a drop.
When he has a wife she will look after these things.
I will never look after them, said Linda.
The conversation was brought to an end as soon after this as Madame
Staubach was able to close it. She had done all that she had intended
to do, and had done it with as much of good result as she had expected.
She had probably not thought that Linda would be quite so fierce as she
had shown herself; but she had expected tears, and more of despair, and
a clearer protestation of abject misery in the proposed marriage.
Linda's mind would now be filled with the idea, and probably she might
by degrees reconcile herself to it, and learn to think that Peter was
not so very old a man. At any rate it would now be for Peter himself to
carry on the battle.
Linda, as soon as she was alone, sat down with her hands before her
and with her eyes fixed, gazing on vacancy, in order that she might
realise to herself the thing proposed to her. She had said very little
to her aunt of the nature of the misery which such a marriage seemed to
offer to her,not because her imagination made for her no clear
picture on the subject, not because she did not foresee unutterable
wretchedness in such a union. The picture of such wretchedness had been
very palpable to her. She thought that no consideration on earth would
induce her to take that mean-faced old man to her breast as her
husband, her lordas the one being whom she was to love beyond
everybody else in this world. The picture was clear enough, but she had
argued to herself, unconsciously, that any description of that picture
to her aunt would seem to suppose that the consummation of the picture
was possible. She preferred therefore to declare that the thing was
impossible,an affair the completion of which would be quite out of
the question. Instead of assuring her aunt that it would have made her
miserable to have to look after Peter Steinmarc's wine, she at once
protested that she never would take upon herself that duty. I am not
his of right, she had said; and as she said it, she resolved that she
would adhere to that protest. But when she was alone she remembered her
aunt's demand, her own submissiveness, her old habits of obedience, and
above all she remembered the fear that would come over her that she was
giving herself to the devil in casting from her her obedience on such a
subject, and then she became very wretched. She told herself that
sooner or later her aunt would conquer her, that sooner or later that
mean-faced old man, with his snuffy fingers, and his few straggling
hairs brushed over his bald pate, with his big shoes spreading here and
there because of his corns, and his ugly, loose, square, snuffy coat,
and his old hat which he had worn so long that she never liked to touch
it, would become her husband, and that it would be her duty to look
after his wine, and his old shoes, and his old hat, and to have her own
little possessions doled out to her by his penuriousness. Though she
continued to swear to herself that heaven and earth together should
never make her become Herr Steinmarc's wife, yet at the same time she
continued to bemoan the certainty of her coming fate. If they were both
against herboth, with the Lord on their sideshow could she stand
against them with nothing to aid her,nothing, but the devil, and a
few words spoken to her by one whom hitherto she had never dared to
The house in which Linda and Madame Staubach lived, of which the
three gables faced towards the river, and which came so close upon the
stream that there was but a margin six feet broad between the wall and
the edge of the water, was approached by a narrow street or passage,
which reached as far as the end of the house, where there was a small
gravelled court or open place, perhaps thirty feet square. Opposite to
the door of the red house was the door of that in which lived Fanny
Heisse with her father and mother. They indeed had another opening into
one of the streets of the town, which was necessary, as Jacob Heisse
was an upholsterer, and required an exit from his premises for chairs
and tables. But to the red house with the three gables there was no
other approach than by the narrow passage which ran between the river
and the back of Heisse's workshop. Thus the little courtyard was very
private, and Linda could stand leaning on the wicket-gate which divided
the little garden from the court, without being subject to the charge
of making herself public to the passers-by. Not but what she might be
seen when so standing by those in the Ruden Platz on the other side of
the river, as had often been pointed out to her by her aunt. But it was
a habit with her to stand there, perhaps because while so standing she
would often hear the gay laugh of her old friend Fanny, and would thus,
at second hand, receive some impress from the gaiety of the world
without. Now, in her musing, without thinking much of whither she was
going, she went slowly down the stairs and out of the door, and stood
leaning upon the gate looking over the river at the men who were
working in the front of the warehouses. She had not been there long
when Fanny ran across to her from the door of her father's house. Fanny
Heisse was a bright broad-faced girl, with light hair, and laughing
eyes, and a dimple on her chin, freckled somewhat, with a pug nose, and
a large mouth. But for all this Fanny Heisse was known throughout
Nuremberg as a pretty girl.
Linda, what do you think? said Fanny. Papa was at Augsburg
yesterday, and has just come home, and it is all to come off the week
And you are happy?
Of course I'm happy. Why shouldn't a girl be happy? He's a good
fellow and deserves it all, and I mean to be such a wife to him! Only
he is to let me dance. But you don't care for dancing?
I have never tried itmuch.
No; your people think it wicked. I am so glad mine don't. But,
Linda, you'll be let come to my marriagewill you not? I do so want
you to come. I was making up the party just now with mother and his
sister Marie. Father brought Marie home with him. And we have put you
down for one. But, Linda, what ails you? Does anything ail you? Fanny
might well ask, for the tears were running down Linda's face.
It is nothing particular.
Nay, but it is something particularsomething very particular.
Linda, you mope too much.
I have not been moping now. But, Fanny, I cannot talk to you about
it. I cannot indeednot now. Do not be angry with me if I go in and
leave you. Then Linda ran in, and went up to her bedroom and bolted
Peter Steinmarc had a cousin in a younger generation than himself,
who lived in Nuremberg, and who was named Ludovic Valcarm. The mother
of this young man had been Peter's first cousin, and when she died
Ludovic had in some sort fallen into the hands of his relative the
town-clerk. Ludovic's father was still alive; but he was a thriftless,
aimless man, who had never been of service either to his wife or
children, and at this moment no one knew where he was living, or what
he was doing. No one knew, unless it was his son Ludovic, who never
received much encouragement in Nuremberg to talk about his father. At
the present moment, Peter Steinmarc and his cousin, though they had not
actually quarrelled, were not on the most friendly terms. As Peter, in
his younger days, had been clerk to old Tressel, so had Ludovic been
brought up to act as clerk to Peter; and for three or four years the
young man had received some small modicum of salary from the city
chest, as a servant in the employment of the city magistrates. But of
late Ludovic had left his uncle's office, and had entered the service
of certain brewers in Nuremberg, who were more liberal in their views
as to wages than were the city magistrates. Peter Steinmarc had thought
ill of his cousin for making this change. He had been at the trouble of
pointing out to Ludovic how he himself had in former years sat upon the
stool in the office in the town-hall, from whence he had been promoted
to the arm-chair; and had almost taken upon himself to promise that the
good fortune of Ludovic should be as great as his own, if only Ludovic
for the present would be content with the stool. But young Valcarm, who
by this time was four-and-twenty, told his cousin very freely that the
stool in the town-hall suited him no longer, and that he liked neither
the work nor the wages. Indeed, he went further than this, and told his
kinsman that he liked the society of the office as little as he did
either the wages or the work. It may naturally be supposed that this
was not said till there had been some unpleasant words spoken by the
town-clerk to his assistant,till the authority of the elder had been
somewhat stretched over the head of the young man; but it may be
supposed also that when such words had once been spoken, Peter
Steinmarc did not again press Ludovic Valcarm to sit upon the official
Ludovic had never lived in the garret of the red house as Peter
himself had done. When the suggestion that he should do so had some
years since been made to Madame Staubach, that prudent lady, foreseeing
that Linda would soon become a young woman, had been unwilling to
sanction the arrangement. Ludovic, therefore, had housed himself
elsewhere, and had been free of the authority of the town-clerk when
away from his office. But he had been often in his cousin's rooms, and
there had grown up some acquaintance between him and aunt Charlotte and
Linda. It had been very slight;so thought aunt Charlotte. It had been
as slight as her precautions could make it. But Ludovic, nevertheless,
had spoken such words to Linda that Linda had been unable to answer
him; and though Madame Staubach was altogether ignorant that such
iniquity had been perpetrated, Peter Steinmarc had shrewdly guessed the
Rumours of a very ill sort had reached the red house respecting
Ludovic Valcarm. When Linda had interrogated Tetchen as to the nature
of the things that were said of Ludovic in that conversation between
Peter and Madame Staubach which Tetchen had overheard, she had not
asked without some cause. She knew that evil things were said of the
young man, and that evil words regarding him had been whispered by
Peter into her aunt's ears;that such whisperings had been going on
almost ever since the day on which Ludovic had declined to return again
to the official stool; and she knew, she thought that she knew, that
such whisperings were not altogether undeserved. There was a set of
young men in Nuremberg of whom it was said that they had a bad name
among their elders,that they drank spirits instead of beer, that they
were up late at nights, that they played cards among themselves, that
they were very unfrequent at any house of prayer, that they belonged to
some turbulent political society which had, to the grief of all the old
burghers, been introduced into Nuremberg from Munich, that they talked
of women as women are talked of in Paris and Vienna and other
strongholds of iniquity, and that they despised altogether the old
habits and modes of life of their forefathers. They were known by their
dress. They wore high round hats like chimney-pots,such as were worn
in Paris,and satin stocks, and tight-fitting costly coats of fine
cloth, and long pantaloons, and they carried little canes in their
hands, and gave themselves airs, and were very unlike what the young
men of Nuremberg used to be. Linda knew their appearance well, and
thought that it was not altogether unbecoming. But she knew also,for
she had often been so told,that they were dangerous men, and she was
grieved that Ludovic Valcarm should be among their number.
But nownow that her aunt had spoken to her of that horrid plan in
reference to Peter Steinmarc, what would Ludovic Valcarm be to her? Not
that he could ever have been anything. She knew that, and had known it
from the first, when she had been unable to answer him with the scorn
which his words had deserved. How could such a one as she be mated with
a man so unsuited to her aunt's tastes, to her own modes of life, as
Ludovic Valcarm? And yet she could have wished that it might be
otherwise. For a moment once,perhaps for moments more than
once,there had been ideas that no mission could be more fitting for
such a one as she than that of bringing back to the right path such a
young man as Ludovic Valcarm. But then,how to begin to bring a young
man back? She knew that she would not be allowed to accept his love;
and now,now that the horrid plan had been proposed to her, any such
scheme was more impracticable, more impossible than ever. Ah, how she
hated Peter Steinmarc as she thought of all this!
For four or five days after this, not a word was said to Linda by
any one on the hated subject. She kept out of Peter Steinmarc's way as
well as she could, and made herself busy through the house with an
almost frantic energy. She was very good to her aunt, doing every
behest that was put upon her, and going through her religious services
with a zeal which almost seemed to signify that she liked them. She did
not leave the house once except in her aunt's company, and restrained
herself even from leaning over the wicket-gate and listening to the
voice of Fanny Heisse. There were moments during these days in which
she thought that her opposition to her aunt's plan had had the desired
effect, and that she was not to be driven mad by the courtship of Peter
Steinmarc. Surely five days would not have elapsed without a word had
not the plan been deserted. If that were the case, how good would she
be! If that were the case, she would resolve, on her aunt's behalf, to
be very scornful to Ludovic Valcarm.
But though she had never gone outside the house without her aunt,
though she had never even leaned on the front wicket, yet she had seen
Ludovic. It had been no fault of hers that he had spied her from the
Ruden Platz, and had kissed his hand to her, and had made a sign to her
which she had only half understood,by which she had thought that he
had meant to imply that he would come to her soon. All this came from
no fault of hers. She knew that the centre warehouse in the Ruden Platz
opposite belonged to the brewers, Sach Brothers, by whom Valcarm was
employed. Of course it was necessary that the young man should be among
the workmen, who were always moving barrels about before the warehouse,
and that he should attend to his employers' business. But he need not
have made the sign, or kissed his hand, when he stood hidden from all
eyes but hers beneath the low dark archway; nor, for the matter of
that, need her eyes have been fixed upon the gateway after she had once
perceived that Ludovic was on the Ruden Platz.
What would happen to her if she were to declare boldly that she
loved Ludovic Valcarm, and intended to become his wife, and not the
wife of old Peter Steinmarc? In the first place, Ludovic had never
asked her to be his wife;but on that head she had almost no doubt at
all. Ludovic would ask her quickly enough, she was very sure, if only
he received sufficient encouragement. And as far as she understood the
law of the country in which she lived, no one could, she thought,
prevent her from marrying him. In such case she would have a terrible
battle with her aunt; but her aunt could not lock her up, nor starve
her into submission. It would be very dreadful, and no doubt all good
people,all those whom she had been accustomed to regard as
good,would throw her over and point at her as one abandoned. And her
aunt's heart would be broken, and the world,the world as she knew
it,would pretty nearly collapse around her. Nevertheless she could do
it. But were she to do so, would it not simply be that she would have
allowed the Devil to get the victory, and that she would have given
herself for ever and ever, body and soul, to the Evil One? And then she
made a compact with herself,a compact which she hoped was not a
compact with Satan also. If they on one side would not strive to make
her marry Peter Steinmarc, she on the other side would say nothing, not
a word, to Ludovic Valcarm.
She soon learned, however, that she had not as yet achieved her
object by the few words which she had spoken to her aunt. Those words
had been spoken on a Monday. On the evening of the following Saturday
she sat with her aunt in their own room down-stairs, in the chamber
immediately below that occupied by Peter Steinmarc. It was a summer
evening in August, and Linda was sitting at the window, with some
household needlework in her lap, but engaged rather in watching the
warehouse opposite than in sedulous attention to her needle. Her eyes
were fixed upon the little doorway, not expecting that any one would be
seen there, but full of remembrance of the figure of him who had stood
there and had kissed his hand. Her aunt, as was her wont on every
Saturday, was leaning over a little table intent on some large book of
devotional service, with which she prepared herself for the Sabbath.
Close as was her attention now and always to the volume, she would not
on ordinary occasions have allowed Linda's eyes to stray for so long a
time across the river without recalling them by some sharp word of
reproof; but on this evening she sat and read and said nothing. Either
she did not see her niece, so intent was she on her good work, or else,
seeing her, she chose, for reasons of her own, to be as one who did not
see. Linda was too intent upon her thoughts to remember that she was
sinning with the sin of idleness, and would have still gazed across the
river had she not heard a heavy footstep in the room above her head,
and the fall of a creaking shoe on the stairs, a sound which she knew
full well, and stump, bump, dump, Peter Steinmarc was descending from
his own apartments to those of his neighbours below him. Then
immediately Linda withdrew her eyes from the archway, and began to ply
her needle with diligence. And Madame Staubach looked up from her book,
and became uneasy on her chair. Linda felt sure that Peter was not
going out for an evening stroll, was not in quest of beer and a
friendly pipe at the Rothe Ross. He was much given to beer and a
friendly pipe at the Rothe Ross; but Linda knew that he would creep
down-stairs somewhat softly when his mind was that way given; not so
softly but what she would hear his steps and know whither they were
wending; but now, from the nature of the sound, she was quite sure that
he was not going to the inn which he frequented. She threw a hurried
glance round upon her aunt, and was quite sure that her aunt was of the
same opinion. When Herr Steinmarc paused for half a minute outside her
aunt's door, and then slowly turned the lock, Linda was not a bit
surprised; nor was Madame Staubach surprised. She closed her book with
dignity, and sat awaiting the address of her neighbour.
Good evening, ladies, said Peter Steinmarc.
Good evening, Peter, said Madame Staubach. It was many years now
since these people had first known each other, and the town-clerk was
always called Peter by his old friend. Linda spoke not a word of answer
to her lover's salutation.
It has been a beautiful summer day, said Peter.
A lovely day, said Madame Staubach, through the Lord's favour to
Has the fraulein been out? asked Peter.
No; I have not been out, said Linda, almost savagely.
I will go and leave you together, said Madame Staubach, getting up
from her chair.
No, aunt, no, said Linda. Don't go away; pray, do not go away.
It is fitting that I should do so, said Madame Staubach, as with
one hand she gently pushed back Linda, who was pressing to the door
after her. You will stay, Linda, and hear what our friend will say;
and remember, Linda, that he speaks with my authority and with my
heartfelt prayer that he may prevail.
He will never prevail, said Linda. But neither Madame Staubach nor
Peter Steinmarc heard what she said.
Linda had already perceived, perturbed as she was in her mind, that
Herr Steinmarc had prepared himself carefully for this interview. He
had brought a hat with him into the room, but it was not the hat which
had so long been distasteful to her. And he had got on clean bright
shoes, as large indeed as the old dirty ones, because Herr Steinmarc
was not a man to sacrifice his corns for love; but still shoes that
were decidedly intended to be worn only on occasions. And he had
changed his ordinary woollen shirt for white linen, and had taken out
his new brown frock-coat which he always wore on those high days in
Nuremberg on which the magistrates appeared with their civic collars.
But, perhaps, the effect which Linda noted most keenly was the debonair
fashion in which the straggling hairs had been disposed over the bald
pate. For a moment or two a stranger might almost have believed that
the pate was not bald.
My dear young friend, began the town-clerk, your aunt has, I
think, spoken to you of my wishes. Linda muttered something, she knew
not what. But though her words were not intelligible, her looks were
so, and were not of a kind to have been naturally conducive to much
hope in the bosom of Herr Steinmarc. Of course, I can understand,
Linda, how much this must have taken you by surprise at first. But that
surprise will wear off, and I trust that you may gradually come to
regard me as your future husband withoutwithoutwithout anything
like fear, you know, or feelings of that kind. Still she did not
speak. If you become my wife, Linda, I will do my best to make you
I shall never become your wife, nevernevernever.
Do not speak so decidedly as that, Linda.
I must speak decidedly. I do speak decidedly. I can't speak any
other way. You know very well, Herr Steinmarc, that you oughtn't to ask
me. It is very wrong of you, and very wicked.
Why is it wrong, Linda? Why is it wicked?
If you want to get married, you should marry some one as old as
No, Linda, that is not so. It is always thought becoming that the
man should be older than the wife.
But you are three times as old as I am, and that is not becoming.
This was cruel on Linda's part, and her words also were untrue. Linda
would be twenty-one at her next birthday, whereas Herr Steinmarc had
not yet reached his fifty-second birthday.
Herr Steinmarc was a man who had a temper of his own, and who was a
little touchy on the score of age. Linda knew that he was touchy on the
score of age, and had exaggerated her statement with the view of
causing pain. It was probably some appreciation of this fact which
caused Herr Steinmarc to continue his solicitations with more of
authority in his voice than he had hitherto used. I am not three times
as old as you, Linda; but, whatever may be my age, your aunt, who has
the charge of you, thinks that the marriage is a fitting one. You
should remember that you cannot fly in her face without committing a
great sin. I offer to you an honest household and a respectable
position. As Madame Staubach thinks that you should accept them, you
must know that you are wrong to answer me with scorn and ribaldry.
I have not answered you with ribaldry. It is not ribaldry to say
that you are an old man.
You have answered me with scorn.
I do scorn you, Herr Steinmarc, when you come to me pretending to
make love like a young man, with your Sunday clothes on, and your hair
brushed smooth, and your new shoes. I do scorn you. And you may go and
tell my aunt that I say so, if you like. And as for being an old man,
you are an old man. Old men are very well in their way, I daresay; but
they shouldn't go about making love to young women.
Herr Steinmarc had not hoped to succeed on this his first personal
venture; but he certainly had not expected to be received after the
fashion which Linda had adopted towards him. He had, doubtless, looked
very often into Linda's face, and had listened very often to the tone
of her voice; but he had not understood what her face expressed, nor
had he known what compass that voice would reach. Had he been a wise
man,a man wise as to his own future comfort,he would have abandoned
his present attempt after the lessons which he was now learning. But,
as has before been said, he had a temper, and he was now angry with
Linda. He was roused, and was disposed to make her know that, old as he
was, and bald, and forced to wear awkward shoes, and to stump along
heavily, still he could force her to become his wife and to minister to
his wants. He understood it all. He knew what were his own
deficiencies, and was as wide awake as was Linda herself to the natural
desires of a young girl. Madame Staubach was, perhaps, equally awake,
but she connected these desires directly with the devil. Because it was
natural that a young woman should love a young man, therefore,
according to the religious theory of Madame Staubach, it was well that
a young woman should marry an old man, so that she might then be
crushed and made malleable, and susceptible of that teaching which
tells us that all suffering in this world is good for us. Now Peter
Steinmarc was by no means alive to the truth of such lessons as these.
Religion was all very well. It was an outward sign of a respectable
life,of a life in which men are trusted and receive comfortable
wages,and, beyond that, was an innocent occupation for enthusiastic
women. But he had no idea that any human being was bound to undergo
crushing in this world for his soul's sake. Had he not wished to marry
Linda himself, it might be very well that Linda should marry a young
man. But now that Linda so openly scorned him, had treated him with
such plain-spoken contumely, he thought it would be well that Linda
should be crushed. Yes; and he thought also that he might probably find
a means of crushing her.
I suppose, miss, he said, after pausing for some moments, that
the meaning of this is that you have got a young lover?
I have got no young lover, said Linda; and if I had, why
shouldn't I? What would that be to you?
It would be very much to me, if it be the young man I think. Yes, I
understand; you blush now. Very well. I shall know now how to manage
you;or your aunt will know.
I have got no lover, said Linda, in great anger; and you are a
very wicked old man to say so.
Then you had better receive me as your future husband. If you will
be good and obedient, I will forgive the great unkindness of what you
have said to me.
I have not meant to be unkind, but I cannot have you for my
husband. How am I to love you?
That will come.
It will never come.
Was it not unkind when you said that I was three times as old as
I did not mean to be unkind. Since the allusion which had been
made to some younger lover, from which Linda had gathered that Peter
Steinmarc must know something of Ludovic's passion for herself, she had
been in part quelled. She was not able now to stand up bravely before
her suitor, and fight him as she had done at first with all the weapons
which she had at her command. The man knew something which it was
almost ruinous to her that he should know, something by which, if her
aunt knew it, she would be quite ruined. How could it be that Herr
Steinmarc should have learned anything of Ludovic's wild love? He had
not been in the house,he had been in the town-hall, sitting in his
big official arm-chair,when Ludovic had stood in the low-arched
doorway and blown a kiss across the river from his hand. And yet he did
know it; and knowing it, would of course tell her aunt! I did not mean
to be unkind, she said.
You were very unkind.
I beg your pardon then, Herr Steinmarc.
Will you let me address you, then, as your lover?
Because of that young man; is it?
Oh, no, no. I have said nothing to the young mannot a word. He is
nothing to me. It is not that.
Linda, I see it all. I understand everything now. Unless you will
promise to give him up, and do as your aunt bids you, I must tell your
There is nothing to tell.
I have done nothing. I can't help any young man. He is only over
there because of the brewery. She had told all her secret now. He is
nothing to me, Herr Steinmarc, and if you choose to tell aunt
Charlotte, you must. I shall tell aunt Charlotte that if she will let
me keep out of your way, I will promise to keep out of his. But if you
come, thenthenthenI don't know what I may do. After that she
escaped, and went away back into the kitchen, while Peter Steinmarc
stumped up again to his own room.
Well, my friend, how has it gone? said Madam Staubach, entering
Peter's chamber, at the door of which she had knocked.
I have found out the truth, said Peter, solemnly.
What truth? Peter shook his head, not despondently so much as in
dismay. The thing which he had to tell was so very bad! He felt it so
keenly, not on his own account so much as on account of his friend! All
that was expressed by the manner in which Peter shook his head. What
truth have you found out, Peter? Tell me at once, said Madame
She has got alover.
Who? Linda! I do not believe it.
She has owned it. And such a lover! Whereupon Peter Steinmarc
lifted up both his hands.
What lover? Who is he? How does she know him, and when has she seen
him? I cannot believe it. Linda has never been false to me.
Her lover isLudovic Valcarm.
My cousin Ludovicwho is a good-for-nothing, a spendthrift, a
fellow without a florin, a fellow that plays cards on Sundays.
And who fears neither God nor Satan, said Madame Staubach. Peter
Steinmarc, I do not believe it. The child can hardly have spoken to
You had better ask her, Madame Staubach. Then with some
exaggeration Peter told Linda's aunt all that he did know, and
something more than all that Linda had confessed; and before their
conversation was over they had both agreed that, let these tidings be
true in much or in little, or true not at all, every exertion should be
used to force Linda into the proposed marriage with as little delay as
I overheard him speaking to her out of the street window, when they
thought I was out, said the town-clerk in a whisper before he left
Madame Staubach. I had to come back home for the key of the big chest,
and they never knew that I had been in the house. This had been one of
the occasions on which Linda had been addressed, and had wanted breath
to answer the bold young man who had spoken to her.
On the following morning, being Sunday morning, Linda positively
refused to get up at the usual hour, and declared her intention of not
going to church. She was, she said, so ill that she could not go to
church. Late on the preceding evening Madame Staubach, after she had
left Peter Steinmarc, had spoken to Linda of what she had heard, and it
was not surprising that Linda should have a headache on the following
morning. Linda, Madame Staubach said, Peter has told me that Ludovic
Valcarm has beenmaking love to you. Linda, is this true? Linda had
been unable to say that it was not true. Her aunt put the matter to her
in a more cunning way than Steinmarc had done, and Linda felt herself
unable to deny the charge. Then let me tell you, that of all the young
women of whom I ever heard, you are the most deceitful, continued
Do not say that, aunt Charlotte; pray, do not say that.
But I do say it. Oh, that it should have come to this between you
I have not deceived you. Indeed I have not. I don't want to see
Ludovic again; never, if you do not wish it. I haven't said a word to
him. Oh, aunt, pray believe me. I have never spoken a word to him;in
the way of what you mean.
Will you consent to marry Peter Steinmarc? Linda hesitated a
moment before she answered. Tell me, Miss; will you promise to take
Peter Steinmarc as your husband?
I cannot promise that, aunt Charlotte.
Then I will never forgive you,never. And God will never forgive
you. I did not think it possible that my sister's child should have
been so false to me.
I have not been false to you, said Linda through her tears.
And such a terrible young man, too; one who drinks, and gambles,
and is a rebel; one of whom all the world speaks ill; a penniless
spendthrift, to whom no decent girl would betroth herself. But,
perhaps, you are to be his light-of-love!
It is a shame,a great shame,for you to saysuch things, said
Linda, sobbing bitterly. No, I won't wait, I must go. I would sooner
be dead than hear you say such things to me. So I would. I can't help
it, if it's wicked. You make me say it. Then Linda escaped from the
room, and went up to her bed; and on the next morning she was too ill
either to eat her breakfast or to go to church.
Of course she saw nothing of Peter on that morning; but she heard
the creaking of his shoes as he went forth after his morning meal, and
I fear that her good wishes for his Sunday work did not go with him on
that Sabbath morning. Three or four times her aunt was in her room, but
to her aunt Linda would say no more than that she was sick and could
not leave her bed. Madame Staubach did not renew the revilings which
she had poured forth so freely on the preceding evening, partly
influenced by Linda's headache, and partly, perhaps, by a statement
which had been made to her by Tetchen as to the amount of love-making
which had taken place. Lord bless you, ma'am, in any other house than
this it would go for nothing. Over at Jacob Heisse's, among his girls,
it wouldn't even have been counted at all,such a few words as that.
Just the compliments of the day, and no more. Tetchen could not have
heard it all, or she would hardly have talked of the compliments of the
day. When Ludovic had told Linda that she was the fairest girl in all
Nuremberg, and that he never could be happy, not for an hour, unless he
might hope to call her his own, even Tetchen, whose notions about young
men were not over strict, could not have taken such words as simply
meaning the compliments of the day. But there was Linda sick in bed,
and this was Sunday morning, and nothing further could be said or done
on the instant. And, moreover, such love-making as had taken place did
in truth seem to have been perpetrated altogether on the side of the
young man. Therefore it was that Madame Staubach spoke with a gentle
voice as she prescribed to Linda some pill or potion that might
probably be of service, and then went forth to her church.
Madame Staubach's prayers on a Sunday morning were a long affair.
She usually left the house a little after ten, and did not return till
past two. Soon after she was gone, on the present occasion, Tetchen
came up to Linda's room, and expressed her own desire to go to the
Frauenkirche,for Tetchen was a Roman Catholic. That is, if you mean
to get up, miss, I'll go, said Tetchen. Linda, turning in her bed,
thought that her head would be better now that her aunt was gone, and
promised that she would get up. In half an hour she was alone in the
kitchen down-stairs, and Tetchen had started to the Frauenkirche,or
to whatever other place was more agreeable to her for the occupation of
her Sunday morning.
It was by no means an uncommon occurrence that Linda should be left
alone in the house on some part of the Sunday, and she would naturally
have seated herself with a book at the parlour window as soon as she
had completed what little there might be to be done in the kitchen. But
on this occasion there came upon her a feeling of desolateness as she
thought of her present condition. Not only was she alone now, but she
must be alone for ever. She had no friend left. Her aunt was estranged
from her. Peter Steinmarc was her bitterest enemy. And she did not dare
even to think of Ludovic Valcarm. She had sauntered now into the
parlour, and, as she was telling herself that she did not dare to think
of the young man, she looked across the river, and there he was
standing on the water's edge.
She retreated back in the room,so far back that it was impossible
that he should see her. She felt quite sure that he had not seen her as
yet, for his back had been turned to her during the single moment that
she had stood at the window. What should she do now? She was quite
certain that he could not see her, as she stood far back in the room,
within the gloom of the dark walls. And then there was the river
between him and her. So she stood and watched, as one might watch a
coming enemy, or a lover who was too bold. There was a little punt or
raft moored against the bank just opposite to the gateway of the
warehouse, which often lay there, and which, as Linda knew, was used in
the affairs of the brewery. Now, as she stood watching him, Ludovic
stepped into the punt without unfastening it from the ring, and pushed
the loose end of it across the river as far as the shallow bottom would
allow him. But still there was a considerable distance between him and
the garden of the red house, a distance so great that Linda felt that
the water made her safe. But there was a pole in the boat, and Linda
saw the young man take up the pole and prepare for a spring, and in a
moment he was standing in the narrow garden. As he landed, he flung the
pole back into the punt, which remained stranded in the middle of the
river. Was ever such a leap seen before? Then she thought how safe she
would have been from Peter Steinmarc, had Peter Steinmarc been in the
What would Ludovic Valcarm do next? He might remain there all day
before she would go to him. He was now standing under the front of the
centre gable, and was out of Linda's sight. There was a low window
close to him where he stood, which opened from the passage that ran
through the middle of the house. On the other side of this passage,
opposite to the parlour which Madame Staubach occupied, was a large
room not now used, and filled with lumber. Linda, as soon as she was
aware that Ludovic was in the island, within a few feet of her, and
that something must be done, retreated from the parlour back into the
kitchen, and, as she went, thoughtfully drew the bolt of the front
door. But she had not thought of the low window into the passage, which
in these summer days was always opened, nor, if she had thought of it,
could she have taken any precaution in that direction. To have
attempted to close the window would have been to throw herself into the
young man's arms. But there was a bolt inside the kitchen door, and
that she drew. Then she stood in the middle of the room listening. Had
this been a thief who had come when she was left in charge of the
house, is it thus she would have protected her own property and her
aunt's? It was no thief. But why should she run from this man whom she
knew,whom she knew and would have trusted had she been left to her
own judgment of him? She was no coward. Were she to face the man, she
would fear no personal danger from him. He would offer her no insult,
and she thought that she could protect herself, even were he to insult
her. It was not that that she feared,but that her aunt should be able
to say that she had received her lover in secret on this Sunday
morning, when she had pretended that she was too ill to go to church!
She was all ears, and could hear that he was within the house. She
had thought of the window the moment that she had barred the kitchen
door, and knew that he would be within the house. She could hear him
knock at the parlour door, and then enter the parlour. But he did not
stay there a moment. Then she heard him at the foot of the stair, and
with a low voice he called to her by her name. Linda, are you there?
But, of course, she did not answer him. It might be that he would fancy
that she was not within the house and would retreat. He would hardly
intrude into their bedrooms; but it might be that he would go as far as
his cousin's apartments. Linda, he said again,Linda, I know that
you are in the house. That wicked Tetchen! It could not be but that
Tetchen had been a traitor. He went three or four steps up the stairs,
and then, bethinking himself of the locality, came down again and
knocked at once at the kitchen door. Linda, he said, when he found
that the door was barred,Linda, I know that you are here.
Go away, said Linda. Why have you come here? You know that you
should not be here.
Open the door for one moment, that you may listen to me. Open the
door, and I will tell you all. I will go instantly when I have spoken
to you, Linda; I will indeed.
Then she opened the door. Why should she be a barred-up prisoner in
her own house? What was there that she need fear? She had done nothing
that was wrong, and would do nothing wrong. Of course, she would tell
her aunt. If the man would force his way into the house, climbing in
through an open window, how could she help it? If her aunt chose to
misbelieve her, let it be so. There was need now that she should call
upon herself for strength. All heaven and earth together should not
make her marry Peter Steinmarc. Nor should earth and the evil one
combined make her give herself to a young man after any fashion that
should disgrace her mother's memory or her father's name. If her aunt
doubted her, the sorrow would be great, but she must bear it. You have
no right here, she said as soon as she was confronted with the young
man. You know that you should not be here. Go away.
Linda, I love you.
I don't want your love.
And now they tell me that my cousin Peter is to be your husband.
No, no. He will never be my husband.
You will promise that?
He will never be my husband.
Thanks, dearest; a thousand thanks for that. But your aunt is his
friend. Is it not true?
Of course she is his friend.
And would give you to him?
I am not hers to give. I am not to be given away at all. I choose
to stay as I am. You know that you are very wicked to be here; but I
believe you want to get me into trouble.
Then go. If you wish me to forgive you, go instantly.
Say that you love me, and I will be gone at once.
I will not say it.
And do you not love me,a little? Oh, Linda, you are so dear to
Why do you not go? They tell me evil things of you, and now I
believe them. If you were not very wicked you would not come upon me
here, in this way, when I am alone, doing all that you possibly can to
make me wretched.
I would give all the world to make you happy.
I have never believed what they said of you. I always thought that
they were ill-natured and prejudiced, and that they spoke falsehoods.
But now I shall believe them. Now I know that you are very wicked. You
have no right to stand here. Why do you not go when I bid you?
But you forgive me?
Yes, if you go now,at once.
Then he seized her hand and kissed it. Dearest Linda, remember that
I shall always love you; always be thinking of you; always hoping that
you will some day love me a little. Now I am gone.
But which way? said Lindayou cannot jump back to the boat. The
pole is gone. At the door they will see you from the windows.
Nobody shall see me. God bless you, Linda. Then he again took her
hand, though he did not, on this occasion, succeed in raising it as far
as his lips. After that he ran down the passage, and, having glanced
each way from the window, in half a minute was again in the garden.
Linda, of course, hurried into the parlour, that she might watch him.
In another half minute he was down over the little wall, into the
river, and in three strides had gained the punt. The water, in truth,
on that side was not much over his knees; but Linda thought he must be
very wet. Then she looked round, to see if there were any eyes watching
him. As far as she could see, there were no eyes.
Linda, when she was alone, was by no means contented with herself;
and yet there was a sort of joy at her heart which she could not
explain to herself, and of which, being keenly alive to it, she felt in
great dread. What could be more wicked, more full of sin, than
receiving, on a Sunday morning, a clandestine visit from a young man,
and such a young man as Ludovic Valcarm? Her aunt had often spoken to
her, with fear and trembling, of the mode of life in which their
neighbours opposite lived. The daughters of Jacob Heisse were allowed
to dance, and talk, and flirt, and, according to Madame Staubach, were
living in fearful peril. For how much would such a man as Jacob Heisse,
who thought of nothing but working hard, in order that his four girls
might always have fine dresses,for how much would he be called upon
to answer in the last day? Of what comfort would it be to him then that
his girls, in this foolish vain world, had hovered about him, bringing
him his pipe and slippers, filling his glass stoup for him, and kissing
his forehead as they stood over his easy-chair in the evening? Jacob
Heisse and his daughters had ever been used as an example of worldly
living by Madame Staubach. But none of Jacob Heisse's girls would ever
have done such a thing as this. They flirted, indeed; but they did it
openly, under their father's nose. And Linda had often heard the old
man joke with his daughters about their lovers. Could Linda joke with
any one touching this visit from Ludovic Valcarm?
And yet there was something in it that was a joy to her,a joy
which she could not define. Since her aunt had been so cruel to her,
and since Peter had appeared before her as her suitor, she had told
herself that she had no friend. Heretofore she had acknowledged Peter
as her friend, in spite of his creaking shoes and objectionable hat.
There was old custom in his favour, and he had not been unkind to her
as an inmate of the same house with him. Her aunt she had loved dearly;
but now her aunt's cruelty was so great that she shuddered as she
thought of it. She had felt herself to be friendless. Then this young
man had come to her; and though she had said to him all the hard things
of which she could think because of his coming, yetyetyet she liked
him because he had come. Was any other young man in Nuremberg so
handsome? Would any other young man have taken that leap, or have gone
through the river, that he might speak one word to her, even though he
were to have nothing in return for the word so spoken? He had asked her
to love him, and she had refused;of course she had refused;of
course he had known that she would refuse. She would sooner have died
than have told him that she loved him. But she thought she did love
hima little. She did not so love him but what she would give him
up,but what she would swear never to set eyes upon him again, if, as
part of such an agreement, she might be set free from Peter Steinmarc's
solicitations. That was a matter of course, because, without reference
to Peter, she quite acknowledged that she was not free to have a lover
of her own choice, without her aunt's consent. To give up Ludovic would
be a duty,a duty which she thought she could perform. But she would
not perform it unless as part of a compact. No; let them look to it. If
duty was expected from her, let duty be done to her. Then she sat
thinking, and as she thought she kissed her own hand where Ludovic had
The object of her thoughts was this;what should she do now, when
her aunt came home? Were she at once to tell her aunt all that had
occurred, that comparison which she had made between herself and the
Heisse girls, so much to her own disfavour, would not be a true
comparison. In that case she would have received no clandestine young
man. It could not be imputed to her as a fault,at any rate not
imputed by the justice of heaven,that Ludovic Valcarm had jumped out
of a boat and got in at the window. She could put herself right, at any
rate, before any just tribunal, simply by telling the story truly and
immediately. Aunt Charlotte, Ludovic Valcarm has been here. He jumped
out of a boat, and got in at the window, and followed me into the
kitchen, and kissed my hand, and swore he loved me, and then he
scrambled back through the river. I couldn't help it;and now you know
all about it. The telling of such a tale as that would, she thought,
be the only way of making herself quite right before a just tribunal.
But she felt, as she tried the telling of it to herself, that the task
would be very difficult. And then her aunt would only half believe her,
and would turn the facts, joined, as they would be, with her own
unbelief, into additional grounds for urging on this marriage with
Peter Steinmarc. How can one plead one's cause justly before a tribunal
which is manifestly unjust,which is determined to do injustice?
Moreover, was she not bound to secrecy? Had not secrecy been implied
in that forgiveness which she had promised to Ludovic as the condition
of his going? He had accepted the condition and gone. After that, would
she not be treacherous to betray him? Why was it that at this moment it
seemed to her that treachery to him,to him who had treated her with
such arrogant audacity,would be of all guilt the most guilty? It was
true that she could not put herself right without telling of him; and
not to put herself right in this extremity would be to fall into so
deep a depth of wrong! But any injury to herself would now be better
than treachery to him. Had he not risked much in order that he might
speak to her that one word of love? But, for all that, she did not make
up her mind for a time. She must be governed by things as they went.
Tetchen came home first, and to Tetchen, Linda was determined that
she would say not a word. That Tetchen was in communication with young
Valcarm she did not doubt, but she would not tell the servant what had
been the result of her wickedness. When Tetchen came in, Linda was in
the kitchen, but she went at once into the parlour, and there awaited
her aunt. Tetchen had bustled in, in high good-humour, and had at once
gone to work to prepare for the Sunday dinner. Mr. Peter is to dine
with you to-day, Linda, she had said; your aunt thinks there is
nothing like making one family of it. Linda had left the kitchen
without speaking a word, but she had fully understood the importance of
the domestic arrangement which Tetchen had announced. No stranger ever
dined at her aunt's table; and certainly her aunt would have asked no
guest to do so on a Sunday but one whom she intended to regard as a
part of her own household. Peter Steinmarc was to be one of them, and
therefore might be allowed to eat his dinner with them even on the
Between two and three her aunt came in, and Peter was with her. As
was usual on Sundays, Madame Staubach was very weary, and, till the
dinner was served, was unable to do much in the way of talking. Peter
went up into his own room to put away his hat and umbrella, and then,
if ever, would have been the moment for Linda to have told her story.
But she did not tell it then. Her aunt was leaning back in her
accustomed chair, with her eyes closed, as was often her wont, and
Linda knew that her thoughts were far away, wandering in another world,
of which she was ever thinking, living in a dream of bliss with singing
angels,but not all happy, not all sure, because of the danger that
must intervene. Linda could not break in, at such a time as this, with
her story of the young man and his wild leap from the boat.
And certainly she would not tell her story before Peter Steinmarc.
It should go untold to her dying day before she would whisper a word of
it in his presence. When they sat round the table, the aunt was very
kind in her manner to Linda. She had asked after her headache, as
though nothing doubting the fact of the ailment; and when Linda had
said that she had been able to rise almost as soon as her aunt had left
the house, Madame Staubach expressed no displeasure. When the dinner
was over, Peter was allowed to light his pipe, and Madame Staubach
either slept or appeared to sleep. Linda seated herself in the furthest
corner of the room, and kept her eyes fixed upon a book. Peter sat and
smoked with his eyes closed, and his great big shoes stuck out before
him. In this way they remained for an hour. Then Peter got up, and
expressed his intention of going out for a stroll in the Nonnen Garten.
Now the Nonnen Garten was close to the house,to be reached by a
bridge across the river, not fifty yards from Jacob Heisse's door.
Would Linda go with him? But Linda declined.
You had better, my dear, said Madame Staubach, seeming to awake
from her sleep. The air will do you good.
Do, Linda, said Peter; and then he intended to be very gracious in
what he added. I will not say a word to tease you, but just take you
out, and bring you back again.
I am sure, it being the Sabbath, he would say nothing of his hopes
to-day, said Madame Staubach.
Not a word, said Peter, lifting up one hand in token of his
But, even so assured, Linda would not go with him, and the
town-clerk went off alone. Now, again, had come the time in which Linda
could tell the tale. It must certainly be told now or never. Were she
to tell it now she could easily explain why she had been silent so
long; but were she not to tell it now, such explanation would ever
afterwards be impossible. Linda, dear, will you read to me, said her
aunt. Then Linda took up the great Bible. Turn to the eighth and ninth
chapters of Isaiah, my child. Linda did as she was bidden, and read
the two chapters indicated. After that, there was silence for a few
minutes, and then the aunt spoke. Linda, my child.
Yes, aunt Charlotte.
I do not think you would willingly be false to me. Then Linda
turned away her face, and was silent. It is not that the offence to me
would be great, who am, as we all are, a poor weak misguided creature;
but that the sin against the Lord is so great, seeing that He has
placed me here as your guide and protector. Linda made no promise in
answer to this, but even then she did not tell the tale. How could she
have told it at such a moment? But the tale must now go untold for
A week passed by, and Linda Tressel heard nothing of Ludovic, and
began at last to hope that that terrible episode of the young man's
visit to her might be allowed to be as though it had never been. A week
passed by, during every day of which Linda had feared and had half
expected to hear some question from her aunt which would nearly crush
her to the ground. But no such question had been asked, and, for aught
that Linda knew, no one but she and Ludovic were aware of the wonderful
jump that had been made out of the boat on to the island. And during
this week little, almost nothing, was said to her in reference to the
courtship of Peter Steinmarc. Peter himself spoke never a word; and
Madame Staubach had merely said, in reference to certain pipes of
tobacco which were smoked by the town-clerk in Madame Staubach's
parlour, and which would heretofore have been smoked in the
town-clerk's own room, that it was well that Peter should learn to make
himself at home with them. Linda had said nothing in reply, but had
sworn inwardly that she would never make herself at home with Peter
In spite of the pipes of tobacco, Linda was beginning to hope that
she might even yet escape from her double peril, and, perhaps, was
beginning to have hope even beyond that, when she was suddenly shaken
in her security by words which were spoken to her by Fanny Heisse.
Linda, said Fanny, running over to the gate of Madame Staubach's
house, very early on one bright summer morning, Linda, it is to be
to-morrow! And will you not come?
No, dear; we never go out here: we are so sad and solemn that we
know nothing of gaiety.
You need not be solemn unless you like it.
I don't know but what I do like it, Fanny; I have become so used to
it that I am as grave as an owl.
That comes of having an old lover, Linda.
I have not got an old lover, said Linda, petulantly.
You have got a young one, at any rate.
What do you mean, Fanny?
What do I mean? Just what I say. You know very well what I mean.
Who was it jumped over the river that Sunday morning, my dear? I know
all about it. Then there came across Linda's face a look of extreme
pain,a look of anguish; and Fanny Heisse could see that her friend
was greatly moved by what she had said. You don't suppose that I shall
tell any one, she added.
I should not mind anything being told if all could be told, said
But he did come,did he not? Linda merely nodded her head. Yes;
I knew that he came when your aunt was at church, and Tetchen was out,
and Herr Steinmarc was out. Is it not a pity that he should be such a
Do you think that I am a ne'er-do-well, Fanny?
No indeed; but, Linda, I will tell you what I have always thought
about young men. They are very nice, and all that; and when old
croaking hunkses have told me that I should have nothing to say to
them, I have always answered that I meant to have as much to say to
them as possible; but it is like eating good things;everybody likes
eating good things, but one feels ashamed of doing it in secret.
This was a terrible blow to poor Linda. But I don't like doing it,
she answered. It wasn't my fault. I did not bid him come.
One never does bid them to come; I mean not till one has taken up
with a fellow as a lover outright. Then you bid them, and sometimes
they won't come for your bidding.
I would have given anything in the world to have prevented his
doing what he did. I never mean to speak to him again,if I can help
I suppose you think I expected him, because I stayed at home
Well,I did think that possibly you expected something.
I would have gone to church with my aunt though my head was
splitting had I thought that Herr Valcarm would have come here while
she was away.
Mind I have not blamed you. It is a great shame to give a girl an
old lover like Peter Steinmarc, and ask her to marry him. I wouldn't
have married Peter Steinmarc for all the uncles and all the aunts in
creation; nor yet for father,though father would never have thought
of such a thing. I think a girl should choose a lover for herself,
though how she is to do so if she is to be kept moping at home always,
I cannot tell. If I were treated as you are I think I should ask
somebody to jump over the river to me.
I have asked nobody. But, Fanny, how did you know it?
A little bird saw him.
But, Fanny, do tell me.
Max saw him get across the river with his own eyes. Max Bogen was
the happy man who on the morrow was to make Fanny Heisse his wife.
Heavens and earth!
But, Linda, you need not be afraid of Max. Of all men in the world
he is the very last to tell tales.
Fanny, if ever you whisper a word of this to any one, I will never
speak to you again.
Of course, I shall not whisper it.
I cannot explain to you all about it,how it would ruin me. I
think I should kill myself outright if my aunt were to know it; and yet
I did nothing wrong. I would not encourage a man to come to me in that
way for all the world; but I could not help his coming. I got myself
into the kitchen; but when I found that he was in the house I thought
it would be better to open the door and speak to him.
Very much better. I would have slapped his face. A lover should
know when to come and when to stay away.
I was ashamed to think that I did not dare to speak to him, and so
I opened the door. I was very angry with him.
But still, perhaps, you like him,just a little; is not that true,
I do not know; but this I know, I do not want ever to see him
Come, Linda; never is a long time.
Let it be ever so long, what I say is true.
The worst of Ludovic is that he is a ne'er-do-well. He spends more
money than he earns, and he is one of those wild spirits who are always
making up some plan of politicswho live with one foot inside the
State prison, as it were. I like a lover to be gay, and all that; but
it is not well to have one's young man carried off and locked up by the
burgomasters. But, Linda, do not be unhappy. Be sure that I shall not
tell; and as for Max Bogen, his tongue is not his own. I should like to
hear him say a word about such a thing when I tell him to be silent.
Linda believed her friend, but still it was a great trouble to her
that any one should know what Ludovic Valcarm had done on that Sunday
morning. As she thought of it all, it seemed to her to be almost
impossible that a secret should remain a secret that was known to three
persons,for she was sure that Tetchen knew it,to three persons
besides those immediately concerned. She thought of her aunt's words to
her, when Madame Staubach had cautioned her against deceit, I do not
think that you would willingly be false to me, because the sin against
the Lord would be so great. Linda had understood well how much had
been meant by this caution. Her aunt had groaned over her in spirit
once, when she found it to be a fact that Ludovic Valcarm had been
allowed to speak to her,had been allowed to speak though it were but
a dozen words. The dozen words had been spoken and had not been
revealed, and Madame Staubach having heard of this sin, had groaned in
the spirit heavily. How much deeper would be her groans if she should
come to know that Ludovic had been received in her absence, had been
received on a Sabbath morning, when her niece was feigning to be ill!
Linda still fancied that her aunt might believe her if she were to tell
her own story, but she was certain that her aunt would never believe
her if the story were to be told by another. In that case there would
be nothing for her, Linda, but perpetual war; and, as she thought,
perpetual disgrace. As her aunt would in such circumstances range her
forces on the side of propriety, so must she range hers on the side of
impropriety. It would become necessary that she should surrender
herself, as it were, to Satan; that she should make up her mind for an
evil life; that she should cut altogether the cord which bound her to
the rigid practices of her present mode of living. Her aunt had once
asked her if she meant to be the light-of-love of this young man. Linda
had well known what her aunt had meant, and had felt deep offence; but
yet she now thought that she could foresee a state of things in which,
though that degradation might yet be impossible, the infamy of such
degradation would belong to her. She did not know how to protect
herself from all this, unless she did so by telling her aunt of the
young man's visit.
But were she to do so she must accompany her tale by the strongest
assurance that no possible consideration would induce her to marry
Peter Steinmarc. There must then be a compact, as has before been said,
that the name neither of one man nor the other should ever again be
mentioned as that of Linda's future husband. But would her aunt agree
to such a compact? Would she not rather so use the story that would be
told to her, as to draw from it additional reasons for pressing Peter's
suit? The odious man still smoked his pipes of tobacco in Madame
Staubach's parlour, gradually learning to make himself at home there.
Linda, as she thought of this, became grave, settled, and almost
ferocious in the working of her mind. Anything would be better than
this,even the degradation to be feared from hard tongues, and from
the evil report of virtuous women. As she pictured to herself Peter
Steinmarc with his big feet, and his straggling hairs, and his old hat,
and his constant pipe, almost any lot in life seemed to her to be
better than that. Any lot in death would certainly be better than that.
No! If she told her story there must be a compact. And if her aunt
would consent to no compact, then,then she must give herself over to
the Evil One. In that case there would be no possible friend for her,
no ally available to her in her difficulties, but that one. In that
case, even though Ludovic should have both feet within the State
prison, he must be all in all to her, and she,if possible,all in
all to him.
Then she was driven to ask herself some questions as to her feelings
towards Ludovic Valcarm. Hitherto she had endeavoured to comfort
herself with the reflection that she had in no degree committed
herself. She had not even confessed to herself that she loved the man.
She had never spoken,she thought that she had never spoken a word,
that could be taken by him as encouragement. But yet, as things were
going with her now, she passed no waking hour without thinking of him;
and in her sleeping hours he came to her in her dreams. Ah, how often
he leaped over that river, beautifully, like an angel, and, running to
her in her difficulties, dispersed all her troubles by the beauty of
his presence. But then the scene would change, and he would become a
fiend instead of a god, or a fallen angel; and at these moments it
would become her fate to be carried off with him into uttermost
darkness. But even in her saddest dreams she was never inclined to
stand before the table in the church and vow that she would be the
loving wife of Peter Steinmarc. Whenever in her dreams such a vow was
made, the promise was always given to that ne'er-do-well.
Of course she loved the man. She came to know it as a fact, to be
quite sure that she loved him, without reaching any moment in which she
first made the confession openly to herself. She knew that she loved
him. Had she not loved him, would she have so easily forgiven him,so
easily have told him that he was forgiven? Had she not loved him, would
not her aunt have heard the whole story from her on that Sunday
evening, even though the two chapters of Isaiah had been left unread in
order that she might tell it? Perhaps, after all, the compact of which
she had been thinking might be more difficult to her than she had
imagined. If the story of Ludovic's coming could be kept from her
aunt's ears, it might even yet be possible to her to keep Steinmarc at
a distance without any compact. One thing was certain to her. He should
be kept at a distance, either with or without a compact.
Days went on, and Fanny Heisse was married, and all probability of
telling the story was at an end. Madame Staubach had asked her niece
why she did not go to her friend's wedding, but Linda had made no
answer,had shaken her head as though in anger. What business had her
aunt to ask her why she did not make one of a gay assemblage, while
everything was being done to banish all feeling of gaiety from her
life? How could there be any pleasant thought in her mind while Peter
Steinmarc still smoked his pipes in their front parlour? Her aunt
understood this, and did not press the question of the wedding party.
But, after so long an interval, she did find it necessary to press that
other question of Peter's courtship. It was now nearly a month since
the matter had first been opened to Linda, and Madame Staubach was
resolved that the thing should be settled before the autumn was over.
Linda, she said one day, has Peter Steinmarc spoken to you lately?
Has he spoken to me, aunt Charlotte?
You know what I mean, Linda.
No, he has notspoken to me. I do not mean that he shouldspeak
to me. Linda, as she made this answer, put on a hard stubborn look,
such as her aunt did not know that she had ever before seen upon her
countenance. But if Linda was resolved, so also was Madame Staubach.
My dear, said the aunt, I do not know what to think of such an
answer. Herr Steinmarc has a right to speak if he pleases, and
certainly so when that which he says is said with my full concurrence.
I can't allow you to think that I shall ever be his wife. That is
After this there was silence for some minutes, and then Madame
Staubach spoke again. My dear, have you thought at all
Not much, aunt Charlotte.
I daresay not, Linda; and yet it is a subject on which a young
woman should think much before she either accepts or rejects a proposed
It is enough to know that one doesn't like a man.
No, that is not enough. You should examine the causes of your
dislike. And as far as mere dislike goes, you should get over it, if it
be unjust. You ought to do that, whoever may be the person in
But it is not mere dislike.
What do you mean, Linda?
It is disgust.
Linda, that is very wicked. You should not allow yourself to feel
what you call disgust at any of God's creatures. Have you ever thought
who made Herr Steinmarc?
God made Judas Iscariot, aunt Charlotte.
Linda, that is profane,very profane. Then there was silence
between them again; and Linda would have remained silent had her aunt
permitted it. She had been called profane, but she disregarded that,
having, as she thought, got the better of her aunt in the argument as
to disgust felt for any of God's creatures. But Madame Staubach had
still much to say. I was asking you whether you had thought at all
about marriage, and you told me that you had not.
I have thought that I could not possiblyunder any
circumstancesmarry Peter Steinmarc.
Linda, will you let me speak? Marriage is a very solemn thing.
Very solemn indeed, aunt Charlotte.
In the first place, it is the manner in which the all-wise Creator
has thought fit to make the weaker vessel subject to the stronger one.
Linda said nothing, but thought that that old town-clerk was not a
vessel strong enough to hold her in subjection. It is this which a
woman should bring home to herself, Linda, when she first thinks of
Of course I should think of it, if I were going to be married.
Young women too often allow themselves to imagine that wedlock
should mean pleasure and diversion. Instead of that it is simply the
entering into that state of life in which a woman can best do her duty
here below. All life here must be painful, full of toil, and moistened
with many tears. Linda was partly prepared to acknowledge the truth of
this teaching; but she thought that there was a great difference in the
bitterness of tears. Were she to marry Ludovic Valcarm, her tears with
him would doubtless be very bitter, but no tears could be so bitter as
those which she would be called upon to shed as the wife of Peter
Steinmarc. Of course, continued Madame Staubach, a wife should love
But I could not love Peter Steinmarc.
Will you listen to me? How can you understand me if you will not
listen to me? A wife should love her husband. But young women, such as
I see them to be, because they have been so instructed, want to have
something soft and delicate; a creature without a single serious
thought, who is chosen because his cheek is red and his hair is soft;
because he can dance, and speak vain, meaningless words; because he
makes love, as the foolish parlance of the world goes. And we see what
comes of such lovemaking. Oh, Linda! God forbid that you should fall
into that snare! If you will think of it, what is it but harlotry?
Aunt Charlotte, do not say such horrible things.
A woman when she becomes a man's wife should see, above all things,
that she is not tempted by the devil after this fashion. Remember,
Linda, how he goeth about,ever after our souls,like a roaring lion.
And it is in this way specially that he goeth about after the souls of
But why do you say those things to me?
It is to you only that I can say them. I would so speak to all
young women, if it were given me to speak to more than to one. You talk
No, aunt; never. I do not talkof love.
Young women do, and think of it, not knowing what love for their
husband should mean. A woman should revere her husband and obey him,
and be subject to him in everything. Was it supposed, Linda thought,
that she should revere such a being as Peter Steinmarc? What could be
her aunt's idea of reverence? If she does that, she will love him
Yes,if she does, said Linda.
And will not this be much more likely, if the husband be older than
A year or two, said Linda, timidly.
Not a year or two only, but so much so as to make him graver and
wiser, and fit to be in command over her. Will not the woman so ruled
be safer than she who trusts herself with one who is perhaps as weak
and inexperienced as herself? Madame Staubach paused, but Linda would
not answer the question. She did not wish for such security as was here
proposed to her. Is it not that of which you have to think,your
safety here, so that, if possible, you may be safe hereafter? Linda
answered this to herself, within her own bosom. Not for security here
or hereafter, even were such to be found by such means, would she
consent to become the wife of the man proposed to her. Madame Staubach,
finding that no spoken reply was given to her questions, at last
proceeded from generalities to the special case which she had under her
consideration. Linda, she said, I trust you will consent to become
the wife of this excellent man. Linda's face became very hard, but
still she said nothing. The danger of which I have spoken is close
upon you. You must feel it to be so. A youth, perhaps the most
notorious in all Nuremberg for wickedness
No, aunt; no.
I say yes; and this youth is spoken of openly as your lover.
No one has a right to say so.
It is said, and he has so addressed himself to your own ears. You
have confessed it. Tell me that you will do as I would have you, and
then I shall know that you are safe. Then I will trust you in
everything, for I shall be sure that it will be well with you. Linda,
shall it be so?
It shall not be so, aunt Charlotte.
Is it thus you answer me?
Nothing shall make me marry a man whom I hate.
Hate him! Oh, Linda.
Nothing shall make me marry a man whom I cannot love.
You fancy, then, that you love that reprobate? Linda was silent.
Is it so? Tell me. I have a right to demand an answer to that
I do love him, said Linda. Using the moment for reflection allowed
to her as best she could, she thought that she saw the best means of
escape in this avowal. Surely her aunt would not press her to marry one
man when she had declared that she loved another.
Then, indeed, you are a castaway.
I am no castaway, aunt Charlotte, said Linda, rising to her feet.
Nor will I remain here, even with you, to be so called. I have done
nothing to deserve it. If you will cease to press upon me this odious
scheme, I will do nothing to disgrace either myself or you; but if I am
perplexed by Herr Steinmarc and his suit, I will not answer for the
consequences. Then she turned her back upon her aunt and walked slowly
out of the room.
On that very evening Peter came to Linda while she was standing
alone at the kitchen window. Tetchen was out of the house, and Linda
had escaped from the parlour as soon as the hour arrived at which in
those days Steinmarc was wont to seat himself in her aunt's presence
and slowly light his huge meerschaum pipe. But on this occasion he
followed her into the kitchen, and Linda was aware that this was done
before her aunt had had any opportunity of explaining to him what had
occurred on that morning. Fraulein, he said, as you are alone here,
I have ventured to come in and join you.
This is no proper place for you, Herr Steinmarc, she replied. Now,
it was certainly the case that Peter rarely passed a day without
standing for some twenty minutes before the kitchen stove talking to
Tetchen. Here he would always take off his boots when they were wet,
and here, on more than one occasion,on more, probably, than
fifty,had he sat and smoked his pipe, when there was no other stove
a-light in the house to comfort him with its warmth. Linda, therefore,
had no strong point in her favour when she pointed out to her suitor
that he was wrong to intrude upon the kitchen.
Wherever you are, must be good for me, said Peter, trying to smirk
and to look pleased.
Linda was determined to silence him, even if she could not silence
her aunt. Herr Steinmarc, she said, I have explained to my aunt that
this kind of thing from you must cease. It must be made to cease. If
you are a man you will not persecute me by a proposal which I have told
you already is altogether out of the question. If there were not
another man in all Nuremberg, I would not have you. You may perhaps
make me hate you worse than anybody in the world; but you cannot
possibly do anything else. Go to my aunt and you will find that I have
told her the same. Then she walked off to her own bedroom, leaving the
town-clerk in sole possession of the kitchen.
Peter Steinmarc, when he was left standing alone in the kitchen, did
not like his position. He was a man not endowed with much persuasive
gift of words, but he had a certain strength of his own. He had a will,
and some firmness in pursuing the thing which he desired. He was
industrious, patient, and honest with a sort of second-class honesty.
He liked to earn what he took, though he had a strong bias towards
believing that he had earned whatever in any way he might have taken,
and after the same fashion he was true with a second-class truth. He
was unwilling to deceive; but he was usually able to make himself
believe that that which would have been deceit from another to him, was
not deceit from him to another. He was friendly in his nature to a
certain degree, understanding that good offices to him-wards could not
be expected unless he also was prepared to do good offices to others;
but on this matter he kept an accurate mental account-sheet, on which
he strove hard to be able to write the balance always on the right
side. He was not cruel by nature, but he had no tenderness of heart and
no delicacy of perception. He could forgive an offence against his
comfort, as when Tetchen would burn his soup; or even against his
pocket, as when, after many struggles, he would be unable to enforce
the payment of some municipal fee. But he was vain, and could not
forgive an offence against his person. Linda had previously told him to
his face that he was old, and had with premeditated malice and
falsehood exaggerated his age. Now she threatened him with her hatred.
If he persevered in asking her to be his wife, she would hate him! He,
too, began to hate her; but his hatred was unconscious, a thing of
which he was himself unaware, and he still purposed that she should be
his wife. He would break her spirit, and bring her to his feet, and
punish her with a life-long punishment for saying that he was sixty,
when, as she well knew, he was only fifty-two. She should beg for his
love,she who had threatened him with her hatred! And if she held out
against him, he would lead her such a life, by means of tales told to
Madame Staubach, that she should gladly accept any change as a release.
He never thought of the misery that might be forthcoming to himself in
the possession of a young wife procured after such a fashion. A man
requires some power of imagination to enable him to look forward to the
circumstances of an untried existence, and Peter Steinmarc was not an
But he was a thoughtful man, cunning withal, and conscious that
various resources might be necessary to him. There was a certain packer
of casks, named Stobe, in the employment of the brewers who owned the
warehouse opposite, and Stobe was often to be seen on the other side of
the river in the Ruden Platz. With this man Steinmarc had made an
acquaintance, not at first with any reference to Linda Tressel, but
because he was desirous of having some private information as to the
doings of his relative Ludovic Valcarm. From Stobe, however, he had
received the first intimation of Ludovic's passion for Linda; and now
on this very evening of which we are speaking, he obtained further
information,which shocked him, frightened him, pained him
exceedingly, and yet gave him keen gratification. Stobe also had seen
the leap out of the boat, and the rush through the river; and when,
late on that evening, Peter Steinmarc, sore with the rebuff which he
had received from Linda, pottered over to the Ruden Platz, thinking
that it would be well that he should be very cunning, that he should
have a spy with his eye always open, that he should learn everything
that could be learned by one who might watch the red house, and watch
Ludovic also, he learned, all of a sudden, by the speech of a moment,
that Ludovic Valcarm had, on that Sunday morning, paid his wonderful
visit to the island.
So you mean that you saw him? said Peter.
With my own eyes, said Stobe, who had his reasons, beyond Peter's
moderate bribes, for wishing to do an evil turn to Ludovic. And I saw
her at the parlour window, watching him, when he came back through the
How long was he with her? asked Peter, groaning, but yet exultant.
A matter of half an hour; not less anyways.
It was two Sundays since, said Peter, remembering well the morning
on which Linda had declined to go to church because of her headache.
I remember it well. It was the feast of St. Lawrence, said Stobe,
who was a Roman Catholic, and mindful of the festivals of his Church.
Peter tarried for no further discourse with the brewer's man, but
hurried back again, round by the bridge, to the red house. As he went
he applied his mind firmly to the task of resolving what he would do.
He might probably take the most severe revenge on Linda, the revenge
which should for the moment be the most severe, by summoning her to the
presence of her aunt, by there exposing her vile iniquity, and by there
declaring that it was out of the question that a man so respectable as
he should contaminate himself by marrying so vile a creature. But were
he to do this Linda would never be in his power, and the red house
would never be in his possession. Moreover, though he continued to tell
himself that Linda was vile, though he was prepared to swear to her
villany, he did not in truth believe that she had done anything
disgraceful. That she had seen her lover he did not doubt; but that, in
Peter's own estimation, was a thing to be expected. He must, no doubt,
on this occasion pretend to view the matter with the eyes of Madame
Staubach. In punishing Linda, he would so view it. But he thought that,
upon the whole bearing of the case, it would not be incumbent upon his
dignity to abandon for ever his bride and his bride's property, because
she had been indiscreet. He would marry her still. But before he did so
he would let her know how thoroughly she was in his power, and how much
she would owe to him if he now took her to his bosom. The point on
which he could not at once quite make up his mind was this: Should he
tell Madame Staubach first, or should he endeavour to use the power
over Linda, which his knowledge gave him, by threats to her? Might he
not say to her with much strength, Give way to me at once, or I will
reveal to your aunt this story of your vileness? This no doubt would
be the best course, could he trust in its success. But, should it not
succeed, he would then have injured his position. He was afraid that
Linda would be too high-spirited, too obstinate, and he resolved that
his safest course would be to tell everything at once to Madame
As he passed between the back of Jacob Heisse's house and the river
he saw the upholsterer's ruddy face looking out from an open window
belonging to his workshop. Good evening, Peter, said Jacob Heisse. I
hope the ladies are well.
Pretty well, I thank you, said Peter, as he was hurrying by.
Tell Linda that we take it amiss that she did not come to our
girl's wedding. The truth is, Peter, you keep her too much moped up
there among you. You should remember, Peter, that too much work makes
Jack a dull boy. Linda will give you all the slip some day, if she be
kept so tight in hand.
Peter muttered something as he passed on to the red house. Linda
would give them the slip, would she? It was not improbable, he thought,
that she should try to do so, but he would keep such a watch on her
that it should be very difficult, and the widow should watch as closely
as he would do. Give them the slip! Yes; that might be possible, and
therefore he would lose no time.
When he entered the house he walked at once up to Madame Staubach's
parlour, and entered it without any of that ceremony of knocking that
was usual to him. It was not that he intended to put all ceremony
aside, but that in his eager haste he forgot his usual precaution. When
he entered the room Linda was there with her aunt, and he had again to
turn the whole subject over in his thoughts. Should he tell his tale in
Linda's presence or behind her back? It gradually became apparent to
him that he could not possibly tell it before her face; but he did not
arrive at this conclusion without delay, and the minutes which were so
occupied were full of agony. He seated himself in his accustomed chair,
and looked from the aunt to the niece and then from the niece to the
aunt. Give him the slip, would she? Well, perhaps she would. But she
should be very clever if she did.
I thought you would have been in earlier, Peter, said Madame
I was coming, but I saw the fraulein in the kitchen, and I ventured
to speak a word or two there. The reception which I received drove me
Linda, what is this?
I did not think, aunt, that the kitchen was the proper place for
Any room in this house is the proper place for him, said Madame
Staubach, in her enthusiasm. Linda was silent, and Peter replied to
this expression of hospitality simply by a grateful nod. I will not
have you give yourself airs, Linda, continued Madame Staubach. The
kitchen not a proper place! What harm could Peter do in the kitchen?
He tormented me, so I left him. When he torments me I shall always
leave him. Then Linda got up and stalked out of the room. Her aunt
called her more than once, but she would not return. Her life was
becoming so heavy to her, that it was impossible that she should
continue to endure it. She went up now to her room, and looking out of
the window fixed her eyes upon the low stone archway in which she had
more than once seen Ludovic Valcarm. But he was not there now. She
knew, indeed, that he was not in Nuremberg. Tetchen had told her that
he had gone to Augsburg,on pretence of business connected with the
brewery, Tetchen had said, but in truth with reference to some
diabolical political scheme as to which Tetchen expressed a strong
opinion that all who dabbled in it were children of the very devil. But
though Ludovic was not in Nuremberg, Linda stood looking at the archway
for more than half an hour, considering the circumstances of her life,
and planning, if it might be possible to plan, some future scheme of
existence. To live under the upas-tree of Peter Steinmarc's courtship
would be impossible to her. But how should she avoid it? As she thought
of this, her eyes were continually fixed on the low archway. Why did
not he come out from it and give her some counsel as to the future?
There she stood looking out of the window till she was called by her
aunt's voiceLinda, Linda, come down to me. Her aunt's voice was
very solemn, almost as though it came from the grave; but then
solemnity was common to her aunt, and Linda, as she descended, had not
on her mind any special fear.
When she reached the parlour Madame Staubach was alone there,
standing in the middle of the room. For a moment or two after she
entered, the widow stood there without speaking, and then Linda knew
that there was cause for fear. Did you want me, aunt Charlotte? she
Linda, what were you doing on the morning of the Sabbath before the
last, when I went to church alone, leaving you in bed?
Linda was well aware now that her aunt knew it all, and was aware
also that Steinmarc had been the informer. No idea of denying the truth
of the story or of concealing anything, crossed her mind for a moment.
She was quite prepared to tell everything now, feeling no doubt but
that everything had been told. There was no longer a hope that she
should recover her aunt's affectionate good-will. But in what words was
she to tell her tale? That was now her immediate difficulty. Her aunt
was standing before her, hard, stern, and cruel, expecting an answer to
her question. How was that answer to be made on the spur of the moment?
I did nothing, aunt Charlotte. A man came here while you were
Ludovic Valcarm. They were both standing, each looking the other
full in the face. On Madame Staubach's countenance there was written a
degree of indignation and angry shame which seemed to threaten utter
repudiation of her niece. On Linda's was written a resolution to bear
it all without flinching. She had no hope now with her aunt,no other
hope than that of being able to endure. For some moments neither of
them spoke, and then Linda, finding it difficult to support her aunt's
continued gaze, commenced her defence. The young man came when I was
alone, and made his way into the house when the door was bolted. I had
locked myself into the kitchen; but when I heard his voice I opened the
door, thinking that it did not become me to be afraid of his presence.
Why did you not tell me,at once? Linda made no immediate reply
to this question; but when Madame Staubach repeated it, she was obliged
I told him that if he would go, I would forgive him. Then he went,
and I thought that I was bound by my promise to be silent.
Madame Staubach having heard this, turned round slowly, and walked
to the window, leaving Linda in the middle of the room. There she stood
for perhaps half a minute, and then came slowly back again. Linda had
remained where she was, without stirring a limb; but her mind had been
active, and she had determined that she would submit in silence to no
rebukes. Any commands from her aunt, save one, she would endeavour to
obey; but from all accusations as to impropriety of conduct she would
defend herself with unabashed spirit. Her aunt came up close to her;
and, putting out one hand, with the palm turned towards her, raising it
as high as her shoulder, seemed to wave her away. Linda, said Madame
Staubach, you are a castaway.
I am no castaway, aunt Charlotte, said Linda, almost jumping from
her feet, and screaming in her self-defence.
You will not frighten me by your wicked violence. You havelied to
me;have lied to me. Yes; and that after all that I said to you as to
the heinousness of such wickedness. Linda, it is my belief that you
knew that he was coming when you kept your bed on that Sabbath
If you choose to have such thoughts of me in your heart, aunt
Charlotte, I cannot help it. I knew nothing of his coming. I would have
given all I had to prevent it. Yes,though his coming could do me no
real harm. My good name is more precious to me than anything short of
my self-esteem. Nothing even that you can say shall rob me of that.
Madame Staubach was almost shaken by the girl's firmness,by that,
and by her own true affection for the sinner. In her bosom, what
remained of the softness of womanhood was struggling with the hardness
of the religious martinet, and with the wilfulness of the domestic
tyrant. She had promised to Steinmarc that she would be very stern.
Steinmarc had pointed out to her that nothing but the hardest severity
could be of avail. He, in telling his story, had taken it for granted
that Linda had expected her lover, had remained at home on purpose that
she might receive her lover, and had lived a life of deceit with her
aunt for months past. When Madame Staubach had suggested that the young
man's coming might have been accidental, he had treated the idea with
ridicule. He, as the girl's injured suitor, was, he declared, obliged
to treat such a suggestion as altogether incredible, although he was
willing to pardon the injury done to him, if a course of intense
severity and discipline were at once adopted, and if this were followed
by repentance which to him should appear to be sincere. When he took
this high ground, as a man having authority, and as one who knew the
world, he had carried Madame Staubach with him, and she had not
ventured to say a word in excuse for her niece. She had promised that
the severity should be at any rate forthcoming, and, if possible, the
discipline. As for the repentance, that, she said meekly, must be left
in the hands of God. Ah! said Peter, in his bitterness, I would make
her repent in sackcloth and ashes! Then Madame Staubach had again
promised that the sackcloth and ashes should be there. She remembered
all this as she thought of relenting,as she perceived that to relent
would be sweet to her, and she made herself rigid with fresh resolves.
If the man's coming had been accidental, why had not the story been
told to her? She could understand nothing of that forgiveness of which
Linda had spoken; and had not Linda confessed that she loved this man?
Would she not rather have hated him who had so intruded upon her, had
there been real intrusion in the visit?
You have done that, she said, which would destroy the character
of any girl in Nuremberg.
If you mean, aunt Charlotte, that the thing which has happened
would destroy the character of any girl in Nuremberg, it may perhaps be
true. If so, I am very unfortunate.
Have you not told me that you love him?
I do;I do;I do! One cannot help one's love. To love as I do is
another misfortune. There is nothing but misery around me. You have
heard the whole truth now, and you may as well spare me further
Do you not know how such misery should be met? Linda shook her
head. Have you prayed to be forgiven this terrible sin?
What sin? said Linda, again almost screaming in her energy.
The terrible sin of receiving this man in the absence of your
It was no sin. I am sinful, I know,very; no one perhaps more so.
But there was no sin there. Could I help his coming? Aunt Charlotte, if
you do not believe me about this, it is better that we should never
speak to each again. If so, we must live apart.
How can that be? We cannot rid ourselves of each other.
I will go anywhere,into service, away from Nuremberg,where you
will. But I will not be told that I am a liar.
And yet Madame Staubach was sure that Linda had lied. She thought
that she was sure. And if so,if it were the case that this young
woman had planned an infamous scheme for receiving her lover on a
Sunday morning;the fact that it was on a Sunday morning, and that the
hour of the Church service had been used, greatly enhanced the atrocity
of the sin in the estimation of Madame Staubach;if the young woman
had intrigued in order that her lover might come to her, of course she
would intrigue again. In spite of Linda's solemn protestation as to her
self-esteem, the thing would be going on. This infamous young man, who,
in Madame Staubach's eyes, was beginning to take the proportions of the
Evil One himself, would be coming there beneath her very nose. It
seemed to her that life would be impossible to her, unless Linda would
consent to be married to the respectable suitor who was still willing
to receive her; and that the only way in which to exact that consent
would be to insist on the degradation to which Linda had subjected
herself. Linda had talked of going into service. Let her go into that
service which was now offered to her by those whom she was bound to
obey. Of course Herr Steinmarc knows it all, said Madame Staubach.
I do not regard in the least what Herr Steinmarc knows, replied
But he is still willing to overlook the impropriety of your
conduct, upon condition
He overlook it! Let him dare to say such a word to me, and I would
tell him that his opinion in this matter was of less moment to me than
that of any other creature in all Nuremberg. What is it to him who
comes to me? Were it but for him, I would bid the young man come every
Do not talk to me about Peter Steinmarc, aunt Charlotte, or I shall
I must talk about him, and you must hear about him. It is now more
than ever necessary that you should be his wife. All Nuremberg will
hear of this.
Of course it will,as Peter Steinmarc knows it.
And how will you cover yourself from your shame?
I will not cover myself at all. If you are ashamed of me, I will go
away. If you will not say that you are not ashamed of me, I will go
away. I have done nothing to disgrace me, and I will hear nothing about
shame. Having made this brave assertion, she burst into tears, and
then escaped to her own bed.
When Madame Staubach was left alone, she sat down, closed her eyes,
clasped her hands, and began to pray. As to what she should do in these
terrible circumstances she had no light, unless such light might be
given to her from above. A certain trust she had in Peter Steinmarc,
because Peter was a man, and not a young man; but it was not a trust
which made her confident. She thought that Peter was very good in being
willing to take Linda at all after all that had happened, but she had
begun to be aware that he himself was not able to make his own goodness
apparent to Linda. She did not in her heart blame Peter for his want of
eloquence, but rather imputed an increased degree of culpability to
Linda, in that any eloquence was necessary for her conviction on such a
matter. Eloquence in an affair of marriage, in reference to any
preparation for marriage arrangements, was one of those devil's baits
of which Madame Staubach was especially afraid. Ludovic Valcarm no
doubt could be eloquent, could talk of love, and throw glances from his
eyes, and sigh, and do worse things, perhaps, even than those. All
tricks of Satan, these to ensnare the souls of young women! Peter could
perform no such tricks, and therefore it was that his task was so
difficult to him. She could not regard it as a deficiency that he was
unable to do those very things which, when done in her presence, were
abominable to her sight, and when spoken of were abominable to her
ears, and when thought of were abominable to her imagination. But yet
how was she to arrange this marriage, if Peter were able to say nothing
for himself? So she sat herself down and clasped her hands and prayed
earnestly that assistance might be given to her. If you pray that a
mountain shall be moved, and will have faith, the mountain shall
certainly be stirred. So she told herself; but she told herself this in
an agony of spirit, because she still doubted,she feared that she
doubted,that this thing would not be done for her by heaven's aid.
Oh, if she could only make herself certain that heaven would aid her,
then the thing would be done for her. She could not be certain, and
therefore she felt herself to be a wretched sinner.
In the mean time, Linda was in bed up-stairs, thinking over her
position, and making up her mind as to what should be her future
conduct. As far as it might be possible, she would enter no room in
which Peter Steinmarc was present. She would not go into the parlour
when he was there, even though her aunt should call her. Should he
follow her into the kitchen, she would instantly leave it. On no
pretence would she speak to him. She had always the refuge of her own
bedroom, and should he venture to follow her there, she thought that
she would know how to defend herself. As to the rest, she must bear her
aunt's thoughts, and if necessary her aunt's hard words also. It was
very well to talk of going into service, but where was the house that
would receive her? And then, as to Ludovic Valcarm! In regard to him,
it was not easy for her to come to any resolution; but she still
thought that she would be willing to make that compact, if her aunt, on
the other side, would be willing to make it also.
All September went by, and all October, and life in the red house in
the island in Nuremberg was a very sad life indeed. During this time
Linda Tressel never spoke to Ludovic Valcarm, nor of him; but she saw
him once, standing among the beer-casks opposite to the warehouse. Had
she not so seen him, she would have thought that he had vanished
altogether out of the city, and that he was to be no more heard of or
seen among them. He was such a man, and belonged to such a set, that
his vanishing in this fashion would have been a thing to create no
surprise. He might have joined his father, and they two might be
together in any quarter of the globe,on any spot,the more distant,
the more probable. It was one of Linda's troubles that she knew really
nothing of the life of the man she loved. She had always heard things
evil spoken of him, but such evil-speaking had come from those who were
his enemies,from his cousin, who had been angry because Ludovic had
not remained with him on the stool in the town-hall; and from Madame
Staubach, who thought ill of almost all young men, and who had been
specially prejudiced against this young man by Peter Steinmarc. Linda
did not know what she should believe. She had heard that the Brothers
Sach were respectable tradesmen, and it was in Valcarm's favour that he
was employed by them. She had thought that he had left them; but now,
seeing him again among the barrels, she had reason to presume that his
life could not be altogether unworthy of him. He was working for his
bread, and what more could be required from a young man than that?
Nevertheless, when she saw him, she sedulously kept herself from his
sight, and went, almost at once, back to the kitchen, from whence there
was no view on to the Ruden Platz.
During these weeks life was very sad in this house. Madame Staubach
said but little to her niece of her past iniquity in the matter of
Ludovic's visit, and not much of Peter's suit; but she so bore herself
that every glance of her eye, every tone of her voice, every nod of her
head, was a separate rebuke. She hardly ever left Linda alone,
requiring her company when she went out to make her little purchases in
the market, and always on those more momentous and prolonged occasions
when she attended some public prayer-meeting. Linda resolved to obey in
such matters, and she did obey. She went hither and thither by her
aunt's side, and at home sat with her aunt, always with a needle in her
hand,never leaving the room, except when Peter Steinmarc entered it.
This he did, perhaps, on every other evening; and when he did so, Linda
always arose and went up to her own chamber, speaking no word to the
man as she passed him. When her aunt had rebuked her for this, laying
upon her a command that she should remain when Steinmarc appeared, she
protested that in that matter obedience was impossible to her. In all
other things she would do as she was bidden; nothing, she said, but
force, should induce her to stay for five minutes in the same room with
Peter Steinmarc. Peter, who was of course aware of all this, would look
at her when he passed her, or met her on the stairs, or in the
passages, as though she were something too vile for him to touch.
Madame Staubach, as she saw this, would groan aloud, and then Peter
would groan. Latterly, too, Tetchen had taken to groaning; so that life
in that house had become very sad. But Linda paid back Peter's scorn
with interest. Her lips would curl, and her nostrils would be dilated,
and her eyes would flash fire on him as she passed him. He also prayed
a little in these days that Linda might be given into his hands. If
ever she should be so given, he should teach her what it was to scorn
the offer of an honest man.
For a month or six weeks Linda Tressel bore all this with patience;
but when October was half gone, her patience was almost at an end. Such
a life, if prolonged much further, would make her mad. The absence of
all smiles from the faces of those with whom she lived, was terrible to
her. She was surrounded by a solemnity as of the grave, and came to
doubt almost whether she were a living creature. If she were to be
scorned always, to be treated ever as one unfit for the pleasant
intercourse of life, it might be as well that she should deserve such
treatment. It was possible that by deserving it she might avoid it! At
first, during these solemn wearisome weeks, she would tell herself that
because her aunt had condemned her, not therefore need she feel assured
that she was condemned of her heavenly Father. She was not a castaway
because her aunt had so called her. But gradually there came upon her a
feeling, springing from her imagination rather than from her judgment,
that she was a thing set apart as vile and bad. There grew upon her a
conviction that she was one of the non-elect, or rather, one of those
who are elected to an eternity of misery. Her religious observances, as
they came to her now, were odious to her; and that she supposed to be a
certain sign that the devil had fought for her soul and had conquered.
It could not be that she should be so terribly wretched if she were not
also very wicked. She would tremble now at every sound; and though she
still curled her lips, and poured scorn upon Peter from her eyes, as
she moved away at his approach, she was almost so far beaten as to be
desirous to succumb. She must either succumb to her aunt and to him, or
else she must fly. How was she to live without a word of sympathy from
any human being?
She had been careful to say little or nothing to Tetchen, having
some indistinct idea that Tetchen was a double traitor. That Tetchen
had on one occasion been in league with Ludovic, she was sure; but she
thought that since that the woman had been in league with Peter also.
The league with Ludovic had been very wicked, but that might be
forgiven. A league with Peter was a sin to be forgiven never; and
therefore Linda had resolutely declined of late to hold any converse
with Tetchen other than that which the affairs of the house demanded.
When Tetchen, who in this matter was most unjustly treated, would make
little attempts to regain the confidence of her young mistress, her
efforts were met with a repellant silence. And thus there was no one in
the house to whom Linda could speak. This at last became so dreadful to
her, the desolation of her position was so complete, that she had
learned to regret her sternness to Tetchen. As far as she could now
see, there was no alliance between Tetchen and Peter; and it might be
the case, she thought, that her suspicions had been unjust to the old
One evening, about the beginning of November, when it had already
become dark at that hour in which Peter would present himself in Madame
Staubach's parlour, he had entered the room, as was usual with him;
and, as usual, Linda had at once left it. Peter, as he passed her, had
looked at her with more than his usual anger, with an aggravated
bitterness of condemnation in his eyes. She had been weeping in silence
before he had appeared, and she had no power left to throw back her
scorn at him. Still weeping, she went up into her room, and throwing
herself on her bed, began, in her misery, to cry aloud for mercy. Some
end must be brought to this, or the burden on her shoulders would be
heavier than she could bear. She had gone to the window for a moment as
she entered the chamber, and had thrown one glance in despair over
towards the Ruden Platz. But the night was dark, and full of rain, and
had he been there she could not have seen him. There was no one to
befriend her. Then she threw herself on the bed and wept aloud.
She was still lying there when there came a very low tap at the
door. She started up and listened. She had heard no footfall on the
stairs, and it was, she thought, impossible that any one should have
come up without her hearing the steps. Peter Steinmarc creaked whenever
he went along the passages, and neither did her aunt or Tetchen tread
with feet as light as that. She sat up, and then the knock was
repeated,very low and very clear. She still paused a moment,
resolving that nothing should frighten her,nothing should startle
her. No change that could come to her would, she thought, be a change
for the worse. She hastened up from off the bed, and stood upon the
floor. Then she gave the answer that is usual to such a summons. Come
in, she said. She spoke low, but with clear voice, so that her word
might certainly be heard, but not be heard afar. She stood about ten
feet from the door, and when she heard the lock turned, her heart was
The lock was turned, and the door was ajar, but it was not opened.
Linda, said a soft voiceLinda, will you speak to me? Heavens and
earth! It was Ludovic,Ludovic in her aunt's house,Ludovic at her
chamber door,Ludovic there, within the very penetralia of their
abode, while her aunt and Peter Steinmarc were sitting in the chamber
below! But she had resolved that in no event would she be startled. In
making that resolve, had she not almost hoped that this would be the
voice that should greet her?
She could not now again say, Come in, and the man who had had the
audacity to advance so far, was not bold enough to advance farther,
though invited. She stepped quickly to the door, and, placing her hand
upon the lock, knew not whether to close it against the intruder or to
confront the man. There can be but a moment, Linda; will you not speak
to me? said her lover.
What could her aunt do to her?what Peter Steinmarc?what could
the world do, worse than had been done already? They had told her that
she was a castaway, and she had half believed it. In the moments of her
deepest misery she had believed it. If that were so, how could she fall
lower? Would it not be sweet to her to hear one word of kindness in her
troubles, to catch one note that should not be laden with rebuke? She
opened the door, and stood before him in the gloom of the passage.
Linda,dear, dearest Linda;and before she knew that he was so
near her, he had caught her hand.
Hush! they are below;they will hear you.
No; I could be up among the rafters before any one could be on the
first landing; and no one should hear a motion. Linda, in her
surprise, looked up through the darkness, as though she could see the
passage of which he spoke in the narrowing stair amidst the roof. What
a terrible man was this, who had come to her bedroom door, and could
thus talk of escaping amidst the rafters!
Why are you here? she whispered.
Because I love you better than the light of heaven. Because I would
go through fire and water to be near you. Linda,dearest Linda, is it
not true that you are in sorrow?
Indeed yes, she said, shaking her head, while she still left her
hand in his.
And shall I not find an escape for you?
No, no; that is impossible.
I will try at least, said he.
You can do nothing for me,nothing.
You love me, Linda? Say that you love me. She remained silent, but
her hand was still within his grasp. She could not lie to him, and say
that she loved him not. Linda, you are all the world to me. The
sweetest music that I could hear would be one word to say that I am
dear to you. She said not a word, but he knew now that she loved him.
He knew it well. It is the instinct of the lover to know that his
mistress has given him her heart heartily, when she does not deny the
gift with more than sternness,with cold cruelty. Yes; he knew her
secret now; and pulling her close to him by her hand, by her arm, he
wound his own arm round her waist tightly, and pressed his face close
to hers. Linda, Linda,my own, my own!O God! how happy I am! She
suffered it all, but spoke not a word. His hot kisses were rained upon
her lips, but she gave him never a kiss in return. He pressed her with
all the muscles of his body, and she simply bore the pressure,
uncomplaining, uncomplying, hardly thinking, half conscious, almost
swooning, hysterical, with blood rushing wildly to her heart, lost in
an agony of mingled fear and love. Oh, Linda!oh, my own one! But
the kisses were still raining on her lips, and cheek, and brow. Had she
heard her aunt's footsteps on the stairs, had she heard the creaking
shoes of Peter Steinmarc himself, she could hardly have moved to save
herself from their wrath. The pressure of her lover's arms was very
sweet to her, but still, through it all, there was a consciousness
that, in her very knowledge of that sweetness, the devil was claiming
his own. Now, in very truth, was she a castaway. My love, my life!
said Ludovic, there are but a few moments for us. What can I do to
comfort you? She was still in his arms, pressed closely to his bosom,
not trusting at all to the support of her own legs. She made one little
struggle to free herself, but it was in vain. She opened her lips to
speak, but there came no sound from them. Then there came again upon
her that storm of kisses, and she was bound round by his arm, as though
she were never again to be loosened. The waters that fell upon her were
sweeter than the rains of heaven; but she knew,there was still enough
of life in her to remember,that they were foul with the sulphur and
the brimstone of the pit of hell.
Linda, he said, I am leaving Nuremberg; will you go with me? Go
with him! whither was she to go? How was she to go? And this going that
he spoke of? Was it not thus usually with castaways? If it were true
that she was in very fact already a castaway, why should she not go
with him? And yet she was half sure that any such going on her part was
a thing quite out of the question. As an actor will say of himself when
he declines some proffered character, she could not see herself in that
part. Though she could tell herself that she was a castaway, a very
child of the devil, because she could thus stand and listen to her
lover at her chamber door, yet could she not think of the sin that
would really make her so without an abhorrence which made that sin
frightful to her. She was not allured, hardly tempted, by the young
man's offer as he made it. And yet, what else was there for her to do?
And if it were true that she was a castaway, why should she struggle to
be better than others who were of the same colour with herself? Linda,
say, will you be my wife?
His wife! Oh, yes, she would be his wife,if it were possible. Even
now, in the moment of her agony, there came to her a vague idea that
she might do him some service if she were his wife, because she had
property of her own. She was ready to acknowledge to herself that her
duty to him was stronger than her duty to that woman below who had been
so cruel to her. She would be his wife, if it were possible, even
though he should drag her through the mud of poverty and through the
gutters of tribulation. Could she walk down to her aunt's presence this
moment his real wife, she would do so, and bear all that could be said
to her. Could this be so, that storm which had been bitter with
brimstone from the lowest pit, would at once become sweet with the air
of heaven. But how could this be? She knew that it could not be.
Marriage was a thing difficult to be done, hedged in with all manner of
impediments, hardly to be reached at all by such a one as her, unless
it might be such a marriage as that proposed to her with Peter
Steinmarc. For girls with sweet, loving parents, for the Fanny Heisses
of the world, marriage might be made easy. It was all very well for
Ludovic Valcarm to ask her to be his wife; but in asking he must have
known that she could not if she would; and yet the sound of the word
was sweet to her. If it might be so, even yet she would not be a
But she did not answer his question. Struggling hard to speak, she
muttered some prayer to him that he would leave her. Say that you love
me, demanded Ludovic. The demand was only whispered, but the words
came hot into her ears.
I do love you, she replied.
Then you will go with me.
No, no! It is impossible.
They will make you take that man for your husband.
They shall never do that;never,never. In making this
assertion, Linda found strength to extricate herself from her lover's
arms and to stand alone.
And how shall I come to you again? said Ludovic.
You must not come again. You should not have come now. I would not
have been here had I thought it possible you would have come.
But, Linda and then he went on to show to her how very
unsatisfactory a courtship theirs would be, if, now that they were
together, nothing could be arranged as to their future meeting. It soon
became clear to Linda that Ludovic knew everything that was going on in
the house, and had learned it all from Tetchen. Tetchen at this moment
was quite aware of his presence up-stairs, and was prepared to cough
aloud, standing at the kitchen door, if any sign were made that either
Steinmarc or Madame Staubach were about to leave the parlour. Though it
had seemed to Linda that her lover had come to her through the
darkness, aided by the powers thereof, the assistance which had really
brought him there was simply that of the old cook down-stairs. It
certainly was on the cards that Tetchen might help him again after the
same fashion, but Ludovic felt that such help would be but of little
avail unless Linda, now that she had acknowledged her love, would do
something to help also. With Ludovic Valcarm it was quite a proper
course of things that he should jump out of a boat, or disappear into
the roof among the rafters, or escape across the tiles and down the
spouts in the darkness, as preliminary steps in a love affair. But in
this special love affair such movements could only be preliminary; and
therefore, as he was now standing face to face with Linda, and as there
certainly had been difficulties in achieving this position, he was
anxious to make some positive use of it. And then, as he explained to
Linda in very few words, he was about to leave Nuremberg, and go to
Munich. She did not quite understand whether he was always to remain in
Munich; nor did she think of inquiring how he was to earn his bread
there. But it was his scheme, that she should go with him and that
there they should be married. If she would meet him at the railway
station in time for the early train, they certainly could reach Munich
without impediment. Linda would find no difficulty in leaving the
house. Tetchen would take care that even the door should be open for
Linda listened to it all, and by degrees the impossibility of her
assenting to such iniquity became less palpable. And though the
wickedness of the scheme was still manifest to her, though she felt
that, were she to assent to it, she would, in doing so, give herself up
finally, body and soul, to the Evil One, yet was she not angry with
Ludovic for proposing it. Nay, loving him well enough before, she loved
him the better as he pressed her to go with him. But she would not go.
She had nothing to say but, No, no, no. It was impossible. She was
conscious after a certain fashion that her legs would refuse to carry
her to the railway station on such an errand, that her physical
strength would have failed her, and that were she to make ever so
binding a promise, when the morning came she would not be there. He had
again taken her hand, and was using all his eloquence, still speaking
in low whispers, when there was heard a cough,not loud, but very
distinct,Tetchen's cough as she stood at the kitchen door. Ludovic
Valcarm, though the necessity for movement was so close upon him, would
not leave Linda's hand till he had again pressed a kiss upon her mouth.
Now, at last, in this perilous moment, there was some slightest
movement on Linda's lips, which he flattered himself he might take as a
response. Then, in a moment, he was gone and her door was shut, and he
was escaping, after his own fashion, into the darkness,she knew not
whither and she knew not how, except that there was a bitter flavour of
brimstone about it all.
She seated herself at the foot of the bed lost in amazement. She
must first think,she was bound first to think, of his safety; and yet
what in the way of punishment could they do to him comparable to the
torments which they could inflict upon her? She listened, and she soon
heard Peter Steinmarc creaking in the room below. Tetchen had coughed
because Peter was as usual going to his room, but had Ludovic remained
at her door no one would have been a bit the wiser. No doubt Ludovic,
up among the rafters, was thinking the same thing; but there must be no
renewal of their intercourse that night, and therefore Linda bolted her
door. As she did so, she swore to herself that she would not unbolt it
again that evening at Ludovic's request. No such encroaching request
was made to her. She sat for nearly an hour at the foot of her bed,
waiting, listening, fearing, thinking, hoping,hardly hoping, when
another step was heard on the stair and in the passage,a step which
she well knew to be that of her aunt Charlotte. Then she arose, and as
her aunt drew near she pulled back the bolt and opened the door. The
little oil lamp which she held threw a timid fitful light into the
gloom, and Linda looked up unconsciously into the darkness of the roof
over her head.
It had been her custom to return to her aunt's parlour as soon as
she heard Peter creaking in the room below, and she had still meant to
do so on this evening; but hitherto she had been unable to move, or at
any rate so to compose herself as to have made it possible for her to
go into her aunt's presence. Had she not had the whole world of her own
love story to fill her mind and her heart?
Linda, I have been expecting you to come down to me, said her
Yes, aunt Charlotte, and I was coming.
It is late now, Linda.
Then, if you please, I will go to bed, said Linda, who was by no
means sorry to escape the necessity of returning to the parlour.
I could not go to my rest, said Madame Staubach, without doing my
duty by seeing you and telling you again, that it is very wicked of you
to leave the room whenever our friend enters it. Linda, do you ever
think of the punishment which pride will bring down upon you?
It is not pride.
Yes, Linda. It is the worst pride in the world.
I will sit with him all the evening if he will promise me never
again to ask me to be his wife.
The time will perhaps come, Linda, when you will be only too glad
to take him, and he will tell you that you are not fit to be the wife
of an honest man. Then, having uttered this bitter curse,for such it
was,Madame Staubach went across to her own room.
Linda, as she knelt at her bedside, tried to pray that she might be
delivered from temptation, but she felt that her prayers were not
prayers indeed. Even when she was on her knees, with her hands clasped
together as though towards her God, her very soul was full of the
presence of that arm which had been so fast wound round her waist. And
when she was in bed she gave herself up to the sweetness of her love.
With what delicious violence had that storm of kisses fallen on her!
Then she prayed for him, and strove very hard that her prayer might be
Another month had passed by, and it was now nearly mid-winter.
Another month had passed by, and neither had Madame Staubach nor Peter
Steinmarc heard ought of Ludovic's presence among the rafters; but
things were much altered in the red house, and Linda's life was hot,
fevered, suspicious, and full of a dangerous excitement. Twice again
she had seen Ludovic, once meeting him in the kitchen, and once she had
met him at a certain dark gate in the Nonnen Garten, to which she had
contrived to make her escape for half an hour on a false plea. Things
were much changed with Linda Tressel when she could condescend to do
this. And she had received from her lover a dozen notes, always by the
hand of Tetchen, and had written to him more than once a few short,
incoherent, startling words, in which she would protest that she loved
him, and protest also at the same time that her love must be all in
vain. It is of no use. Do not write, and pray do not come. If this
goes on it will kill me. You know that I shall never give myself to
anybody else. This was in answer to a proposition made through Tetchen
that he should come again to her,should come, and take her away with
him. He had come, and there had been that interview in the kitchen, but
he had not succeeded in inducing her to leave her home.
There had been many projects discussed between them, as to which
Tetchen had given much advice. It was Tetchen's opinion, that if Linda
would declare to her aunt that she meant at once to marry Ludovic
Valcarm, and make him master of the house in which they lived, Madame
Staubach would have no alternative but to submit quietly; that she
would herself go forth and instruct the clergyman to publish the banns,
and that Linda might thus become Valcarm's acknowledged wife before the
snow was off the ground. Ludovic seemed to have his doubts about this,
still signifying his preference for a marriage at Munich. When Tetchen
explained to him that Linda would lose her character by travelling with
him to Munich before she was his wife, he merely laughed at such an old
wife's tale. Had not he himself seen Fanny Heisse and Max Bogen in the
train together between Augsburg and Nuremberg long before they were
married, and who had thought of saying a word against Fanny's
character? But everybody knew about that, said Linda. Let everybody
know about this, said Ludovic.
But Linda would not go. She would not go, even though Ludovic told
her that it was imperative that he himself should quit Nuremberg. Such
matters were in training,he did not tell her what matters,as would
make his going quite imperative. Still she would take no step towards
going with him. That advice of Tetchen's was much more in accordance
with her desires. If she could act upon that, then she might have some
happiness before her. She thought that she could make up her mind, and
bring herself to declare her purpose to her aunt, if Ludovic would
allow her to do so. But Ludovic declared that this could not be done,
as preparatory to their being married at Nuremberg; and at last he was
almost angry with her. Did she not trust him? Oh, yes, she would trust
him with everything; with her happiness, her heart, her house,with
all that the world had left for her. But there was still that feeling
left within her bosom, that if she did this thing which he proposed,
she would be trusting him with her very soul.
Ludovic said a word to her about the house, and Tetchen said many
words. When Linda expressed an opinion, that though the house might not
belong to her aunt legally, it was or ought to be her aunt's property
in point of honour, Tetchen only laughed at her. Don't let her bother
you about Peter then, if she chooses to live here on favour, said
Tetchen. As Linda came to think of it, it did appear hard to her that
she should be tormented about Peter Steinmarc in her own house. She was
not Madame Staubach's child, nor her slave; nor, indeed, was she of
childish age. Gradually the idea grew upon her that she might assert
her right to free herself from the tyranny to which she was made
subject. But there was always joined to this a consciousness, that
though, according to the laws of the world, she might assert her right,
and claim her property, and acknowledge to everybody her love to
Ludovic Valcarm, she could do none of these things in accordance with
the laws of God. She had become subject to her aunt by the
circumstances of her life, as though her aunt were in fact her parent,
and the fifth commandment was as binding on her as though she were in
truth the daughter of the guardian who had had her in charge since her
infancy. Once she said a word to her aunt about the house, and was
struck with horror by the manner in which Madame Staubach had answered
her. She had simply said that, as the house was partly hers, she had
thought that she might suggest the expediency of getting another lodger
in place of Peter Steinmarc. But Madame Staubach had arisen from her
chair and had threatened to go at once out into the street,bare,
naked, and destitute, as she expressed herself. If you ever tell me
again, said Madame Staubach, that the house is yours, I will never
eat another meal beneath your father's roof. Linda, shocked at her own
wickedness, had fallen at her aunt's knees, and promised that she would
never again be guilty of such wickedness. And as she reflected on what
she had done, she did believe herself to have been very mean and very
wicked. She had known all her life that, though the house was hers to
live in, it was subject to the guidance of her aunt; and so had she
been subject till she had grown to be a woman. She could not quite
understand that such subjection for the whole term of her life need be
a duty to her; but when was the term of duty to be completed?
Between her own feelings on one side, and Tetchen's continued
instigation on the other, she became aware that that which she truly
needed was advice. These secret interviews and this clandestine
correspondence were terrible to her very soul. She would not even yet
be a castaway if it might be possible to save herself! There were two
things fixed for her,fixed, even though by their certainty she must
become a castaway. She would never marry Peter Steinmarc, and she would
never cease to love Ludovic Valcarm. But might it be possible that
these assured facts should be reconciled to duty? If only there were
somebody whom she might trust to tell her that!
Linda's father had had many friends in Nuremberg, and she could
still remember those whom, as a child, she had seen from time to time
in her father's house. The names of some were still familiar to her,
and the memories of the faces even of one or two who had suffered her
to play at their knees when she was little more than a baby, were
present to her. Manners had so changed at the red house since those
days, that few, if any, of these alliances had been preserved. The
peculiar creed of Madame Staubach was not popular with the burghers of
Nuremberg, and we all know how family friendships will die out when
they are not kept alive by the warmth of familiar intercourse. There
were still a few, and they among those most respected in the city, who
would bow to Madame Staubach when they met her in the streets, and
would smile and nod at Linda as they remembered the old days when they
would be merry with a decorous mirth in the presence of her father. But
there were none in the town,no, not one,who could interfere as a
friend in the affairs of the widow Staubach's household, or who ever
thought of asking Linda to sit at a friendly hearth. Close
neighbourhood and school acquaintance had made Fanny Heisse her friend,
but it was very rarely indeed that she had set her foot over the
threshold of Jacob's door. Peter Steinmarc was their only friend, and
his friendship had arisen from the mere fact of his residence beneath
the same roof. It was necessary that their house should be divided with
another, and in this way Peter had become their lodger. Linda certainly
could not go to Peter for advice. She would have gone to Jacob Heisse,
but that Jacob was a man slow of speech, somewhat timid in all matters
beyond the making of furniture, and but little inclined to meddle with
things out of his own reach. She fancied that the counsel which she
required should be sought for from some one wiser and more learned than
Among the names of those who had loved her father, which still
rested in her memory, was that of Herr Molk, a man much spoken of in
Nuremberg, one rich and of great repute, who was or had been
burgomaster, and who occupied a house on the Egidien Platz, known to
Linda well, because of its picturesque beauty. Even Peter Steinmarc,
who would often speak of the town magistrates as though they were
greatly inferior to himself in municipal lore and general wisdom, would
mention the name of Herr Molk with almost involuntary respect. Linda
had seen him from time to time either in the Platz or on the
market-place, and her father's old friend had always smiled on her and
expressed some hope that she was well and happy. Ah, how vain had been
that hope! What if she should now go to Herr Molk and ask him for
advice? She would not speak to Tetchen, because Tetchen would at once
tell it all to Ludovic; and in this matter, as Linda felt, she must not
act as Ludovic would bid her. Yes; she would go to this noted pundit of
the city, and, if he would allow her so to do, would tell to him all
And then she made another resolve. She would not do this without
informing her aunt that it was about to be done. On this occasion, even
though her aunt should tell her to remain in the house, she would go
forth. But her aunt should not throw it in her teeth that she had acted
on the sly. One day, one cold November morning, when the hour of their
early dinner was approaching, she went up-stairs from the kitchen for
her hat and cloak, and then, equipped for her walk, presented herself
before her aunt.
Linda, where are you going? demanded Madame Staubach.
I am going, aunt Charlotte, to Herr Molk, in the Egidien Platz.
To Herr Molk? And why? Has he bidden you come to him? Then Linda
told her story, with much difficulty. She was unhappy, she said, and
wanted advice. She remembered this man,that he was the friend of her
father. I am sorry, Linda, that you should want other advice than that
which I can give you.
Dear aunt, it is just that. You want me to marry this man here, and
I cannot do it. This has made you miserable, and me miserable. Is it
not true that we are not happy as we used to be?
I certainly am not happy. How can I be happy when I see you
wandering astray? How can I be happy when you tell me that you love the
man in Nuremberg whom I believe of all to be most wicked and ungodly?
How can I be happy when you threaten to expel from the house, because
it is your own, the only man whom I love, honour, and respect?
I never said so, aunt Charlotte;I never thought of saying such a
And what will you ask of this stranger should you find yourself in
I will tell him everything, and ask him what I should do.
And will you tell him truly?
Certainly, aunt Charlotte; I will tell him the truth in
And if he bids you marry the man whom I have chosen as your
husband? Linda, when this suggestion was made to her, became silent.
Truly it was impossible that any wise man in Nuremberg could tell her
that such a sacrifice as that was necessary! Then Madame Staubach
repeated the question. If he bids you marry Peter Steinmarc, will you
do as he bids you?
Surely she would not be so bidden by her father's friend! I will
endeavour to do as he bids me, said Linda.
Then go to him, my child, and may God so give him grace that he may
soften the hardness of your heart, and prevail with you to put down
beneath your feet the temptations of Satan; and that he may quell the
spirit of evil within you. God forbid that I should think that there is
no wisdom in Nuremberg fitter than mine to guide you. If the man be a
man of God, he will give you good counsel.
Then Linda, wondering much at her aunt's ready acquiescence, went
forth, and walked straightway to the house of Herr Molk in the Egidien
A walk of ten minutes took Linda from the Schütt island to the
Egidien Platz, and placed her before the door of Herr Molk's house. The
Egidien Platz is, perhaps, the most fashionable quarter of Nuremberg,
if Nuremberg may be said to have a fashion in such matters. It is near
to the Rathhaus, and to St. Sebald's Church, and is not far distant
from the old Burg or Castle in which the Emperors used to dwell when
they visited the imperial city of Nuremberg. This large open Place has
a church in its centre, and around it are houses almost all large,
built with gables turned towards the street, quaint, picturesque, and
eloquent of much burghers' wealth. There could be no such square in a
city which was not or had not been very rich. And among all the houses
in the Egidien Platz, there was no house to exceed in beauty of
ornament, in quaintness of architecture, or in general wealth and
comfort, that which was inhabited by Herr Molk.
Linda stood for a moment at the door, and then putting up her hand,
pulled down the heavy iron bell-handle, which itself was a gem of art,
representing some ancient and discreet burgher of the town, wrapped in
his cloak, and almost hidden by his broad-brimmed hat. She heard the
bell clank close inside the door, and then the portal was open, as
though the very pulling of the bell had opened it. The lock at least
was open, so that Linda could push the door with her hand and enter
over the threshold. This she did, and she found herself within a long
narrow court or yard, round which, one above another, there ran
galleries, open to the court, and guarded with heavy balustrades of
carved wood. From the narrowness of the enclosure, the house on each
side seemed to be very high, and Linda, looking round with astonished
eyes, could see that at every point the wood was carved. And the
waterspouts were ornamented with grotesque figures, and the huge broad
stairs which led to the open galleries on the left hand were of
polished oak, made so slippery with the polishers' daily care that it
was difficult to tread upon them without falling. All around the bottom
of the court there were open granaries or warehouses; for there seemed
to be nothing that could be called a room on the ground floor, beyond
the porter's lodge; and these open warehouses seemed to be filled full
with masses of stacked firewood. Linda knew well the value of such
stores in Nuremberg, and lost none of her veneration for Herr Molk
because of such nature were the signs of his domestic wealth.
As she timidly looked around her she saw an old woman within the
gate of the porter's lodge, and inquired whether Herr Molk was at home
and disengaged. The woman simply motioned her to the wicket gate by
which the broad polished stairs were guarded. Linda, hesitating to
advance into so grand a mansion alone, and yet knowing that she should
do as she was bidden, entered the wicket and ascended carefully to the
first gallery. Here was another bell ready to her hand, the handle of
which consisted of a little child in iron-work. This also she pulled,
and waited till some one should come. Presently there was a scuffling
heard of quick feet in the gallery, and three children ran up to her.
In the middle was the elder, a girl dressed in dark silk, and at her
sides were two boys habited in black velvet. They all had long fair
hair, and large blue eyes, and soft peach-like cheeks,such as those
who love children always long to kiss. Linda thought that she had never
seen children so gracious and so fair. She asked again whether Herr
Molk was at home, and at liberty to see a stranger. Quite a stranger,
said poor Linda, with what emphasis she could put upon her words. The
little girl said that her grandfather was at home, and would see any
visitor,as a matter of course. Would Linda follow her? Then the
child, still leading her little brothers, tripped up the stairs to the
second gallery, and opening a door which led into one of the large
front rooms, communicated to an old gentleman who seemed to be taking
exercise in the apartment with his hands behind his back, that he was
wanted by a lady.
Wanted, am I, my pretty one? Well, and here I am. Then the little
girl, giving a long look up into Linda's face, retreated, taking her
brothers with her, and closing the door. Thus Linda found herself in
the room along with the old gentleman, who still kept his hands behind
his back. It was a singular apartment, nearly square, but very large,
panelled with carved wood, not only throughout the walls, but up to the
ceiling also. And the floor was polished even brighter than were the
stairs. Herr Molk must have been well accustomed to take his exercise
there, or he would surely have slipped and fallen in his course. There
was but one small table in the room, which stood unused near a wall,
and there were perhaps not more than half-a-dozen chairs,all
high-backed, covered with old tapestry, and looking as though they
could hardly have been placed there for ordinary use. On one of these,
Linda sat at the old man's bidding; and he placed himself on another,
with his hands still behind him, just seating himself on the edge of
I am Linda Tressel, said poor Linda. She saw at a glance that she
herself would not have known Herr Molk, whom she had never before met
without his hat, and she perceived also that he had not recognised her.
Linda Tressel! So you are. Dear, dear! I knew your father
well,very well. But, lord, how long that is ago! He is dead ever so
many years; how many years?
Sixteen years, said Linda.
Sixteen years dead! And he was a younger man than I,much younger.
Let me see,not so much younger, but younger. Linda Tressel, your
father's daughter is welcome to my house. A glass of wine will not hurt
you this cold weather. She declined the wine, but the old man would
have his way. He went out, and was absent perhaps five minutes. Then he
returned bearing a small tray in his own hands, with a long-necked
bottle and glasses curiously engraved, and he insisted that Linda
should clink her glass with his. And now, my dear, what is it that I
can do for you?
So far Linda's mission had prospered well; but now that the story
was to be told, she found very much difficulty in telling it. She had
to begin with the whole history of the red house, and of the terms upon
which her aunt had come to reside in it. She had one point at least in
her favour. Herr Molk was an excellent listener. He would nod his head,
and pat one hand upon the other, and say, Yes, yes, without the
slightest sign of impatience. It seemed as though he had no other care
before him than that of listening to Linda's story. When she
experienced the encouragement which came from the nodding of his head
and the patting of his hand, she went on boldly. She told how Peter
Steinmarc had come to the house, and how her aunt was a woman peculiar
from the strength of her religious convictions. Yes, my dear, yes; we
know that,we know that, said Herr Molk. Linda did her best to say
nothing evil of her aunt. Then she came to the story of Peter's
courtship. He is quite an old man, you know, said poor Linda,
thoughtfully. Then she was interrupted by Herr Molk. A worthy man; I
know him well,well,well. Peter Steinmarc is our clerk at the
Rathhaus. A very worthy man is Peter Steinmarc. Your father, my dear,
was clerk at the Rathhaus, and Peter followed him. He is not
young,not just young; but a very worthy man. Go on, my dear. Linda
had resolved to tell it all, and she did tell it all. It was difficult
to tell, but it all came out. Perhaps there could be no listener more
encouraging to such a girl as Linda than the patient, gentle-mannered
old man with whom she was closeted. She had a lover whom she loved
dearly, she said,a young man.
Oh, a lover, said Herr Molk. But there seemed to be no anger in
his voice. He received the information as though it were important, but
not astonishing. Then Linda even told him how the lover had come across
the river on the Sunday morning, and how it had happened that she had
not told her aunt, and how angry her aunt had been. Yes, yes, said
Herr Molk; it is better that your elders should know such
things,always better. But go on, my dear. Then she told also how the
lover had come down, or had gone up, through the rafters, and the old
man smiled. Perhaps he had hidden himself among rafters fifty years
ago, and had some sweet remembrance of the feat. And now Linda wanted
to know what was she to do, and how she ought to act. The house was her
own, but she would not for worlds drive her aunt out of it. She loved
her lover very dearly, and she could not love Peter Steinmarc at
all,not in that way.
Has the young man means to support a wife? asked Herr Molk. Linda
hesitated, knowing that there was still a thing to be told, which she
had not as yet dared to mention. She knew too that it must be told.
Herr Molk, as she hesitated, asked a second question on this very
point. And what is the young man's name, my dear? It all depends on
his name and character, and whether he has means to support a wife.
His nameisLudovic Valcarm, said Linda, whispering the words
The old man jumped from his seat with an alacrity that Linda had
certainly not expected. LudovicValcarm! he said; why, my dear, the
man is in prison this moment. I signed the committal yesterday myself.
In prison! said Linda, rising also from her chair.
He is a terrible young man, said Herr Molka very terrible young
man. He does all manner of things;I can't explain what. My dear young
woman, you must not think of taking Ludovic Valcarm for your husband;
you must not, indeed. You had better make up your mind to take Peter
Steinmarc. Peter Steinmarc can support a wife, and is very respectable.
I have known Peter all my life. Ludovic Valcarm! Oh dear! That would be
very bad,very bad indeed!
Linda's distress was excessive. It was not only that the tidings
which she heard of Ludovic were hard to bear, but it seemed that Herr
Molk was intent on ranging himself altogether with her enemies
respecting Peter Steinmarc. In fact, the old man's advice to her
respecting Peter was more important in her mind that his denunciation
of Ludovic. She did not quite credit what he said of Ludovic. It was
doubtless true that Ludovic was in prison; probably for some political
offence. But such men, she thought, were not kept in prison long. It
was bad, this fact of her lover's imprisonment; but not so bad as the
advice which her counsellor gave her, and which she knew she would be
bound to repeat to her aunt.
But, Herr Molk, sir, if I do not love Peter Steinmarcif I hate
Oh, my dear, my dear! This is a terrible thing. There is not such
another ne'er-do-well in all Nuremberg as Ludovic Valcarm. Support a
wife! He cannot support himself. And it will be well if he does not die
in a jail. Oh dear! oh dear! For your father's sake, frauleinfor your
father's sake, I would go any distance to save you from this. Your
father was a good man, and a credit to the city. And Peter Steinmarc is
a good man.
But I need not marry Peter Steinmarc, Herr Molk.
You cannot do better, my dear,indeed you cannot. See what your
aunt says. And remember, my dear, that you should submit yourself to
your elders and your betters. Peter is not so old. He is not old at
all. I was one of the city magistrates when Peter was a little boy. I
remember him well. And he began life in your father's office. Nothing
can be more respectable than he has been. And then Ludovic Valcarm! oh
dear! If you ask my advice, I should counsel you to accept Peter
There was nothing more to be got from Herr Molk. And with this
terrible recommendation still sounding in her ears, Linda sadly made
her way back from the Egidien Platz to the Schütt island.
Linda Tressel, as she returned home to the house in the Schütt
island, became aware that it was necessary for her to tell to her aunt
all that had passed between herself and Herr Molk. She had been half
stunned with grief as she left the magistrate's house, and for a while
had tried to think that she could keep back from Madame Staubach at any
rate the purport of the advice that had been given to her. And as she
came to the conclusion that this would be impossible to her,that it
must all come out,various wild plans flitted across her brain. Could
she not run away without returning to the red house at all? But whither
was she to run, and with whom? The only one who would have helped her
in this wild enterprise had been sent to prison by that ill-conditioned
old man who had made her so miserable! At this moment, there was no
longer any hope in her bosom that she should save herself from being a
castaway; nay, there was hardly a wish. There was no disreputable life
so terrible to her thoughts, no infamy so infamous in idea to her, as
would be respectability in the form of matrimony with Peter Steinmarc.
And now, as she walked along painfully, going far out of her way that
she might have some little time for reflection, turning all this in her
mind, she began almost to fear that if she went back to her aunt, her
aunt would prevail, and that in very truth Peter Steinmarc would become
her lord and master. Then there was another plan, as impracticable as
that scheme of running away. What if she were to become sullen, and
decline to speak at all? She was well aware that in such a contest her
aunt's tongue would be very terrible to her; and as the idea crossed
her mind, she told herself that were she so to act people would treat
her as a mad woman. But even that, she thought, would be better than
being forced to marry Peter Steinmarc. Before she had reached the
island, she knew that the one scheme was as impossible as the other.
She entered the house very quietly, and turning to the left went at
once into the kitchen.
Linda, your aunt is waiting dinner for you this hour, said
Why did you not take it to her by herself? said Linda, crossly.
How could I do that, when she would not have it? You had better go
in now at once. But, Linda, does anything ail you?
Very much ails me, said Linda.
Then Tetchen came close to her, and whispered, Have you heard
anything about him?
What have you heard, Tetchen? Tell me at once.
He is in trouble.
He is in prison! Linda said this with a little hysteric scream.
Then she began to sob and cry, and turned her back to Tetchen and hid
her face in her hands.
I have heard that too, said Tetchen. They say the burgomasters
have caught him with letters on him from some terrible rebels up in
Prussia, and that he has been plotting to have the city burned down.
But I don't believe all that, fraulein.
He is in prison. I know he is in prison, said Linda. I wish I
were there too;so I do, or dead. I'd rather be dead. Then Madame
Staubach, having perhaps heard the lock of the front door when it was
closed, came into the kitchen. Linda, she said, I am waiting for
I do not want any dinner, said Linda, still standing with her face
turned to the wall. Then Madame Staubach took hold of her arm, and led
her across the passage into the parlour. Linda said not a word as she
was being thus conducted, but was thinking whether it might not even
yet serve her purpose to be silent and sullen. She was still sobbing,
and striving to repress her sobs; but she allowed herself to be led
without resistance, and in an instant the door was closed, and she was
seated on the old sofa with her aunt beside her.
Have you seen Herr Molk? demanded Madame Staubach.
Yes; I have seen him.
And what has he said to you? Then Linda was silent. You told me
that you would seek his counsel; and that you would act as he might
No; I did not say that.
I did not promise. I made no promise.
Linda, surely you did promise. When I asked you whether you would
do as he might bid you, you said that you would be ruled by him. Then,
knowing that he is wise, and of repute in the city, I let you go.
Linda, was it not so? Linda could not remember what words had in truth
been spoken between them. She did remember that in her anxiety to go
forth, thinking it to be impossible that the burgomaster should ask her
to marry a man old enough to be her father, she had in some way
assented to her aunt's proposition. But yet she thought that she had
made no definite promise that she would marry the man she hated. She
did not believe that she would absolutely have promised that under any
possible circumstances she would do so. She could not, however, answer
her aunt's question; so she continued to sob, and endeavoured again to
hide her face. Did you tell the man everything, my child? demanded
Yes, I did.
And what has he said to you?
I don't know.
You don't know! Linda, that cannot be true. It is not yet half an
hour since, and you do not know what Herr Molk said to you? Did you
tell him of my wish about our friend Peter?
Yes, I did.
And did you tell him of your foolish fancy for that wicked young
Yes, I did.
And what did he say?
Linda was still silent. It was almost impossible for her to tell her
aunt what the man had said to her. She could not bring herself to tell
the story of what had passed in the panelled room. Had Madame Staubach
been in any way different from what she was,had she been at all less
stubborn, less hard, less reliant on the efficacy of her religious
convictions to carry her over all obstacles,she would have understood
something of the sufferings of the poor girl with whom she was dealing.
But with her the only idea present to her mind was the absolute
necessity of saving Linda from the wrath to come by breaking her spirit
in regard to things of this world, and crushing her into atoms here,
that those atoms might be remoulded in a form that would be capable of
a future and a better life. Instead therefore of shrinking from
cruelty, Madame Staubach was continually instigating herself to be
cruel. She knew that the image of the town-clerk was one simply
disgusting to Linda, and therefore she was determined to force that
image upon her. She knew that the girl's heart was set upon Ludovic
Valcarm with all the warmth of its young love, and therefore she
conceived it to be her duty to prove to the girl that Ludovic Valcarm
was one already given up to Satan and Satanic agencies. Linda must be
taught not only to acknowledge, but in very fact to understand and
perceive, that this world is a vale of tears, that its paths are sharp
to the feet, and that they who walk through it should walk in mourning
and tribulation. What though her young heart should be broken by the
lesson,be broken after the fashion in which human hearts are made to
suffer? To Madame Staubach's mind a broken heart and a contrite spirit
were pretty much the same thing. It was good that hearts should be
broken, that all the inner humanities of the living being should be, as
it were, crushed on a wheel and ground into fragments, so that nothing
should be left capable of receiving pleasure from the delights of this
world. Such, according to her theory of life, was the treatment to
which young women should be subjected. The system needed for men might
probably be different. It was necessary that they should go forth and
work; and Madame Staubach conceived it to be possible that the work of
the world could not be adequately done by men who had been subjected to
the crushing process which was requisite for women. Therefore it was
that she admitted Peter Steinmarc to her confidence as a worthy friend,
though Peter was by no means a man enfranchised from the thralls of the
earth. Of young women there was but one with whom she could herself
deal; but in regard to that one Madame Staubach was resolved that no
softness of heart should deter her from her duty. Linda, she said,
after pausing for a while, I desire to know from you what Herr Molk
has said to you! Then there was a short period of silence. Linda, did
he sanction your love for Ludovic Valcarm?
No, said Linda, sullenly.
I should think not, indeed! And, Linda, did he bid you be
rebellious in that other matter?
Linda paused again before she answered; but it was but for a moment,
and then she replied, in the same voice, No.
Did he tell you that you had better take Peter Steinmarc for your
husband? Linda could not bring herself to answer this, but sat beating
the floor with her foot, and with her face turned away and her eyes
fixed upon the wall. She was no longer sobbing now, but was hardening
herself against her aunt. She was resolving that she would be a
castaway,that she would have nothing more to do with godliness, or
even with decency. She had found godliness and decency too heavy to be
borne. In all her life, had not that moment in which Ludovic had held
her tight bound by his arm round her waist been the happiest? Had it
not been to her, her one single morsel of real bliss? She was thinking
now whether she would fly round upon her aunt and astonish her tyrant
by a declaration of principles that should be altogether new. Then came
the question again in the same hard voice, Did he not tell you that
you had better take Peter Steinmarc for your husband?
I won't take Peter Steinmarc for my husband, said Linda; and she
did in part effect that flying round of which she had been thinking. I
won't take Peter Steinmarc for my husband, let the man say what he may.
How can I marry him if I hate him? He is abeast.
Then Madame Staubach groaned. Linda had often heard her groan, but
had never known her to groan as she groaned now. It was very deep and
very low, and prolonged with a cadence that caused Linda to tremble in
every limb. And Linda understood it thoroughly. It was as though her
aunt had been told by an angel that Satan was coming to her house in
person that day. And Linda did that which the reader also should do.
She gave to her aunt full credit for pure sincerity in her feelings.
Madame Staubach did believe that Satan was coming for her niece, if not
actually come; he was close at hand, if not arrived. The crushing, if
done at all, must be done instantly, so that Satan should find the
spirit so broken and torn to paltry fragments as not to be worth his
acceptance. She stretched forth her hand and took hold of her niece.
Linda, she said, do you ever think of the bourne to which the wicked
ones go;they who are wicked as you now are wicked?
I cannot help it, said Linda.
And did he not bid you take this man for your husband?
I will not do his bidding, then! It would kill me. Do you not know
that I love Ludovic better than all the world? He is in prison, but
shall I cease to love him for that reason? He came to me once up-stairs
at night when you were sitting here with thatbeast, and I swore to
him then that I would never love another man,that I should never
marry anybody else!
Came to you once up-stairs at night! To your own chamber?
Yes, he did. You may know all about it, if you please. You may know
everything. I don't want anything to be secret. He came to me, and when
he had his arms round me I told him that I was his own,his own,his
own. How can I be the wife of another man after that?
Madame Staubach was so truly horrified by what she had first heard,
was so astonished, that she omitted even to groan. Valcarm had been
with this wretched girl up in her own chamber! She hardly even now
believed that which it seemed to her that she was called upon to
believe, having never as yet for a moment doubted the real purity of
her niece even when she was most vehemently denouncing her as a
reprobate, a castaway, and a child of Satan. The reader will know to
what extent Linda had been imprudent, to what extent she had sinned.
But Madame Staubach did not know. She had nothing to guide her but the
words of this poor girl who had been so driven to desperation by the
misery which enveloped her, that she almost wished to be taken for
worse than she was in order that she might escape the terrible doom
from which she saw no other means of escape. Nobody, it is true, could
have forced her to marry Peter Steinmarc. There was no law, no custom
in Nuremberg, which would have assisted her aunt, or Peter, or even the
much-esteemed and venerable Herr Molk himself, in compelling her to
submit to such nuptials. She was free to exercise her own choice, if
only she had had strength to assert her freedom. But youth, which
rebels so often against the authority and wisdom of age, is also
subject to much tyranny from age. Linda did not know the strength of
her own position, had not learned to recognise the fact of her own
individuality. She feared the power of her aunt over her, and through
her aunt the power of the man whom she hated; and she feared the now
provoked authority of Herr Molk, who had been with her weak as a child
is weak, counselling her to submit herself to a suitor unfitted for
her, because another man who loved her was also unfit. And, moreover,
Linda, though she was now willing in her desperation to cast aside all
religious scruples of her own, still feared those with which her aunt
was armed. Unless she did something, or at least said something, to
separate herself entirely from her aunt, this terrible domestic tyrant
would overcome her by the fear of denunciation, which would terrify her
soul even though she had dared to declare to herself that in her stress
of misery she would throw overboard all consideration of her soul's
welfare. Though she intended no longer to live in accordance with her
religious belief, she feared what religion could say to her,dreaded
to the very marrow of her bones the threats of God's anger and of
Satan's power with which her aunt would harass her. If only she could
rid herself of it all! Therefore, though she perceived that the story
which she had told of herself had filled her aunt's mind with a
horrible and a false suspicion, she said nothing to correct the error.
Therefore she said nothing further, though her aunt sat looking at her
with open mouth, and eyes full of terror, and hands clasped, and pale
In this house,in this very house! said Madame Staubach, not
knowing what it might best become her to say in such a strait as this.
The house is as much mine as yours, said Linda, sullenly. And she
too, in saying this, had not known what she meant to say, or what she
ought to have said. Her aunt had alluded to the house, and there seemed
to her, in her distress, to be something in that on which she could
hang a word.
For a while her aunt sat in silence looking at Linda, and then she
fell upon her knees, with her hands clasped to heaven. What was the
matter of her prayers we may not here venture to surmise; but, such as
they were, they were sincere. Then she arose and went slowly as far as
the door, but she returned before she had reached the threshold.
Wretched child! she said.
Yes, you have made me wretched, said Linda.
Listen to me, Linda, if so much grace is left to you. After what
you have told me, I cannot but suppose that all hope of happiness or
comfort in this world is over both for you and me.
For myself, I wish I were dead, said Linda.
Have you no thought of what will come after death? Oh, my child,
repentance is still possible to you, and with repentance there will
come at length grace and salvation. Mary Magdalene was blessed,was
specially blessed among women.
Pshaw! said Linda, indignantly. What had she to do with Mary
Magdalene? The reality of her position then came upon her, and not the
facts of that position which she had for a moment almost endeavoured to
Do you not hate yourself for what you have done?
No, no, no. But I hate Peter Steinmarc, and I hate Herr Molk, and
if you are so cruel to me I shall hate you. I have done nothing wrong.
I could not help it if he came up-stairs. He came because he loved me,
and because you would not let him come in a proper way. Nobody else
loves me, but he would do anything for me. And now they have thrown him
The case was so singular in all its bearings, that Madame Staubach
could make nothing of it. Linda seemed to have confessed her iniquity,
and yet, after her confession, spoke of herself as though she were the
injured person,of herself and her lover as though they were both ill
used. According to Madame Staubach's own ideas, Linda ought now to have
been in the dust, dissolved in tears, wiping the floor with her hair,
utterly subdued in spirit, hating herself as the vilest of God's
creatures. But there was not even an outward sign of contrition. And
then, in the midst of all this real tragedy, Tetchen brought in the
dinner. The two women sat down together, but neither of them spoke a
word. Linda did eat something,a morsel or two; but Madame Staubach
would not touch the food on the table. Then Tetchen was summoned to
take away the all but unused plates. Tetchen, when she saw how it had
been, said nothing, but looked from the face of one to the face of the
other. She has heard all about that scamp Ludovic, said Tetchen to
herself, as she carried the dishes back into the kitchen.
It had been late when the dinner had been brought to them, and the
dusk of the evening came upon them as soon as Tetchen's clatter with
the crockery was done. Madame Staubach sat in her accustomed chair,
with her eyes closed, and her hands clasped on her lap before her. A
stranger might have thought that she was asleep, but Linda knew that
her aunt was not sleeping. She also sat silent till she thought that
the time was drawing near at which Steinmarc might probably enter the
parlour. Then she arose to go, but could not leave her aunt without a
word. Aunt Charlotte, she said, I am ill,very ill; my head is
throbbing, and I will go to bed. Madame Staubach merely shook her
head, and shook her hands, and remained silent, with her eyes still
closed. She had not even yet resolved upon the words with which it
would be expedient that she should address her niece. Then Linda left
the room, and went to her own apartment.
Madame Staubach, when she was alone, sobbed and cried, and kneeled
and prayed, and walked the length and breadth of the room in an agony
of despair and doubt. She also was in want of a counsellor to whom she
could go in her present misery. And there was no such counsellor. It
seemed to her to be impossible that she should confide everything to
Peter Steinmarc. And yet it was no more than honest that Peter should
be told before he was allowed to continue his courtship. Even now,
though she had seen Linda's misery, Madame Staubach thought that the
marriage which she had been so anxious to arrange would be the safest
way out of all their troubles,if only Peter might be brought to
consent to it after hearing all the truth. And she fancied that those
traits in Peter's character, appearance, and demeanour which were so
revolting to Linda would be additional means of bringing Linda back
from the slough of despond,if only such a marriage might still be
possible. But the crushing must be more severe than had hitherto been
intended, the weights imposed must be heavier, and the human atoms
smaller and more like the dust.
While she was meditating on this there came the usual knock at the
door, and Steinmarc entered the room. She greeted him, as was her wont,
with but a word or two, and he sat down and lighted his pipe. An
observant man might have known, even from the sound of her breathing,
that something had stirred Madame Staubach more than usual. But Peter
was not an observant man, and, having something on his own mind, paid
but little attention to the widow. At last, having finished his first
pipe and filled it again, he spoke. Madame Staubach, he said, I have
been thinking about Linda Tressel.
And so have I, Peter, said Madame Staubach.
Yes,of course; that is natural. She is your niece, and you and
she have interests in common.
What interests, Peter? Ah me! I wish we had.
Of course it is all right that you should, and I say nothing about
that. But, Madame Staubach, I do not like to be made a fool of;I
particularly object to be made a fool of. If Linda is to become my
wife, there is not any time to be lost. Then Peter recommenced the
smoking of his new-lighted pipe with great vigour.
Madame Staubach at this moment became a martyr to great scruples.
Was it her duty, or was it not her duty, to tell Peter at this moment
all that she had heard to-day? She rather thought that it was her duty
to do so, and yet she was restrained by some feeling of feminine honour
from disgracing her niece,by some feeling of feminine honour for
which she afterwards did penance with many inward flagellations of the
You must not be too hard upon her, Peter, said Madame Staubach
with a trembling voice.
It is all very well saying that, and I do not think that I am the
man to be hard upon any one. But the fact is that this young woman has
got a lover, which is a thing of which I do not approve. I do not
approve of it at all, Madame Staubach. Some persons who stand very high
indeed in the city,indeed I may say that none in Nuremberg stand
higher,have asked me to-day whether I am engaged to marry Linda
Tressel. What answer am I to make when I am so asked, Madame Staubach?
One of our leading burgomasters was good enough to say that he hoped it
was so for the young woman's sake. Madame Staubach, little as she knew
of the world of Nuremberg, was well aware who was the burgomaster.
That is all very well, my friend; but if it be so that Linda will not
renounce her lover,who, by the by, is at this moment locked up in
prison, so that he cannot do any harm just now,why then, in that
case, Madame Staubach, I must renounce her. Having uttered these
terrible words, Peter Steinmarc smoked away again with all his fury.
A fortnight ago, had Peter Steinmarc ventured to speak to her in
this strain, Madame Staubach would have answered him with some feminine
pride, and would have told him that her niece was not a suppliant for
his hand. This she did not dare to do now. She was all at fault as to
facts, and did not know what the personages of Nuremberg might be
saying in respect to Linda. Were she to quarrel altogether with
Steinmarc, she thought that there would be left to her no means of
bringing upon Linda that salutary crushing which alone might be
efficacious for her salvation. She was therefore compelled to
temporise. Let Peter be silent for a week, and at the end of that week
let him speak again. If things could not then be arranged to his
satisfaction, Linda should be regarded as altogether a castaway.
Very well, Madame Staubach. Then I will ask her for the last time
this day week. In coarsest sackcloth, and with bitterest ashes, did
Madame Staubach on that night do spiritual penance for her own sins and
for those of Linda Tressel.
This week had nearly passed to the duration of which Peter Steinmarc
had assented, and at the end of which it was to be settled whether
Linda would renounce Ludovic Valcarm, or Peter himself would renounce
Linda. With a manly propriety he omitted any spoken allusion to the
subject during those smoking visits which he still paid on alternate
days to the parlour of Madame Staubach. But, though he said nothing,
his looks and features and the motions of his limbs were eloquent of
his importance and his dignity during this period of waiting. He would
salute Madame Staubach when he entered the chamber with a majesty of
demeanour which he had not before affected, and would say a few words
on subjects of public interestsuch as the weather, the price of
butter, and the adulteration of the city beerin false notes, in tones
which did not belong to him, and which in truth disgusted Madame
Staubach, who was sincere in all things. But Madame Staubach, though
she was disgusted, did not change her mind or abandon her purpose.
Linda was to be made to marry Peter Steinmarc, not because he was a
pleasant man, but because such a discipline would be for the good of
her soul. Madame Staubach therefore listened, and said little or
nothing; and when Peter on a certain Thursday evening remarked as he
was leaving the parlour that the week would be over on the following
morning, and that he would do himself the honour of asking for the
fraulein's decision on his return from the town-hall at five P.M. on
the morrow, apologising at the same time for the fact that he would
then be driven to intrude on an irregular day, Madame Staubach merely
answered by an assenting motion of her head, and by the utterance of
her usual benison, God in His mercy be with you, Peter Steinmarc.
And with you too, Madame Staubach. Then Peter marched forth with
great dignity, holding his pipe as high as his shoulder.
Linda Tressel had kept her bed during nearly the whole week, and had
in truth been very ill. Hitherto it had been her aunt's scheme of life
to intermit in some slight degree the acerbity of her usual demeanour
in periods of illness. At such times she would be very constant with
the reading of good books by the bedside and with much ghostly advice
to the sufferer, but she would not take it amiss if the patient
succumbed to sleep while she was thus employed, believing sleep to be
pardonable at such times of bodily weakness, and perhaps salutary; and
she would be softer in her general manner, and would sometimes descend
to the saying of tender little words, and would administer things
agreeable to the palate which might at the same time be profitable to
the health. So thus there had been moments in which Linda had felt that
it would be comfortable to be always ill. But now, during the whole of
this week, Madame Staubach had been very doubtful as to her conduct. At
first it had seemed to her that all tenderness must be misplaced in
circumstances so terrible, till there had been an actual resolution of
repentance, till the spirit had been made to pass seven times through
the fire, till the heart had lost all its human cords and fibres. But
gradually, and that before the second day had elapsed, there came upon
her a conviction that she had in some way mistaken the meaning of
Linda's words, and that matters were not as she had supposed. She did
not now in the least doubt Linda's truth. She was convinced that Linda
had intentionally told no falsehood, and that she would tell none. But
there were questions which she would not ask, which she could not ask
at any rate except by slow degrees. Something, however, she learned
from Tetchen, something from Linda herself, and thus there came upon
her a conviction that there might be no frightful story to tell to
Peter,that in all probability there was no such story to be told.
What she believed at this time was in fact about the truth.
But if it were as she believed, then was it the more incumbent on
her to see that this marriage did not slip through her fingers. She
became very busy, and in her eagerness she went to Herr Molk. Herr Molk
had learned something further about Ludovic, and promised that he would
himself come down and see the child. He would see the child, ill as
she was, in bed, and perhaps say a word or two that might assist.
Madame Staubach found that the burgomaster was quite prepared to
advocate the Steinmarc marriage, being instigated thereto apparently by
his civic horror at Valcarm's crimes. He would shake his head, and
swing his whole body, and blow out the breath from behind his cheeks,
knitting his eyebrows and assuming a look of terror when it was
suggested to him that the daughter of his old friend, the undoubted
owner of a house in Nuremberg, was anxious to give herself and her
property to Ludovic Valcarm. No, no, Madame Staubach, that mustn't
be;that must not be, my dear Madame. A rebel! a traitor! I don't know
what the young man hasn't done. It would be confiscated;confiscated!
Dear, dear, only to think of Josef Tressel's daughter! Let her marry
Peter Steinmarc, a good man,a very good man! Followed her father, you
know, and does his work very well. The city is not what it used to be,
Madame Staubach, but still Peter does his work very well. Then Herr
Molk promised to come down to the red house, and he did come down.
But Madame Staubach could not trust everything to Herr Molk. It was
necessary that she should do much before he came, and much probably
after he went. As her conception of the true state of things became
strong, and as she was convinced also that Linda was really far from
well, her manner became kinder, and she assumed that sickbed tenderness
which admitted of sleep during the reading of a sermon. But it was
essential that she should not forget her work for an hour. Gradually
Linda was taught to understand that on such a day Steinmarc was to
demand an answer. When Linda attempted to explain that the answer had
been already given, and could not be altered, her aunt interrupted her,
declaring that nothing need be said at the present moment. So that the
question remained an open question, and Linda understood that it was so
regarded. Then Madame Staubach spoke of Ludovic Valcarm, putting up her
hands with dismay, and declaring what horrid things Herr Molk had told
of him. It was at that moment that Linda was told that she was to be
visited in a day or two by the burgomaster. Linda endeavoured to
explain that though it might be necessary to give up Ludovic,not
saying that she would give him up,still it was not on that account
necessary also that she should marry Peter Steinmarc. Madame Staubach
shook her head, and implied that the necessity did exist. Things had
been said, and things had been done, and Herr Molk was decidedly of
opinion that the marriage should be solemnised without delay. Linda, of
course, did not submit to this in silence; but gradually she became
more and more silent as her aunt continued in a low tone to drone forth
her wishes and her convictions, and at last Linda would almost sleep
while the salutary position of Peter Steinmarc's wife was being
explained to her.
The reader must understand that she was in truth ill, prostrated by
misery, doubt, and agitation, and weak from the effects of her illness.
In this condition Herr Molk paid his visit to her. He spoke, in the
first place, of the civil honour which she had inherited from her
respected father, and of all that she owed to Nuremberg on this
account. Then he spoke also of that other inheritance, the red house,
explaining to her that it was her duty as a citizen to see that this
should not be placed by her in evil hands. After that he took up the
subject of Peter Steinmarc's merits; and according to Herr Molk, as he
now drew the picture, Peter was little short of a municipal demigod.
Prudent he was, and confidential. A man deep in the city's trust, and
with money laid out at interest. Strong and healthy he was,indeed
lusty for his age, if Herr Molk spoke the truth. Poor Linda gave a
little kick beneath the clothes when this was said, but she spoke no
word of reply. And then Peter was a man not given to scolding, of equal
temper, who knew his place, and would not interfere with things that
did not belong to him. Herr Molk produced a catalogue of nuptial
virtues, and endowed Peter with them all. When this was completed, he
came to the last head of his discourse,the last head and the most
important. Ludovic Valcarm was still in prison, and there was no
knowing what might be done to him. To be imprisoned for life in some
horrible place among the rats seemed to be the least of it. Linda, when
she heard this, gave one slight scream, but she said nothing. Because
Herr Molk was a burgomaster, she need not on that account believe every
word that fell from his mouth. But the cruellest blow of all was at the
end. When Ludovic was taken, there had beena young woman with him.
What young woman? said Linda, turning sharply upon the
Not such a young woman as any young man ought to be seen with,
said Herr Molk.
What matters her name? said Madame Staubach, who, during the whole
discourse, had been sitting silent by the bedside.
I don't believe a word of it, said Linda.
I saw the young woman in his company, my dear. She had a felt hat
and a blue frock. But, my child, you know nothing of the lives of such
young men as this. It would not astonish me if he knew a dozen young
women! You don't suppose that such a one as he ever means to be true?
I am sure he meant to be true to me, said Linda.
T-sh, t-sh, t-sh! my dear child; you don't know the world, and how
should you? If you want to marry a husband who will remain at home and
live discreetly, and be true to you, you must take such a man as Peter
Of course she must, said Madame Staubach.
Such a one as Ludovic Valcarm would only waste your property and
drag you into the gutters.
No moreno more, said Madame Staubach.
She will think better of it, Madame Staubach. She will not be so
foolish nor so wicked as that, said the burgomaster.
May the Lord in His mercy give her light to see the right way,
said Madame Staubach.
Then Herr Molk took his departure with Madame Staubach at his heels,
and Linda was left to her own considerations. Her first assertion to
herself was that she did not believe a word of it. She knew what sort
of a man she could love as her husband without having Herr Molk to come
and teach her. She could not love Peter Steinmarc, let him be ever so
much respected in Nuremberg. As to what Herr Molk said that she owed to
the city, that was nothing to her. The city did not care for her, nor
she for the city. If they wished to take the house from her, let them
do it. She was quite sure that Ludovic Valcarm had not loved her
because she was the owner of a paltry old house. As to Ludovic being in
prison, the deeper was his dungeon, the more true it behoved her to be
to him. If he were among the rats, she would willingly be there also.
But when she tried to settle in her thoughts the matter of the young
woman with the felt hat and the blue frock, then her mind became more
She knew well enough that Herr Molk was wrong in the picture which
he drew of Peter; but she was not so sure that he was wrong in that
other picture about Ludovic. There was something very grand, that had
gratified her spirit amazingly, in the manner in which her lover had
disappeared among the rafters; but at the same time she acknowledged to
herself that there was much in it that was dangerous. A young man who
can disappear among the rafters so quickly must have had much
experience. She knew that Ludovic was wild,very wild, and that wild
young men do not make good husbands. To have had his arm once round her
waist was to her almost a joy for ever. But she had nearly come to
believe that if she were to have his arm often round her waist, she
must become a castaway. And then, to be a castaway, sharing her
treasure with another! Who was this blue-frocked woman, with a felt
hat, who seemed to have been willing to do so much more for Ludovic
than she had done,who had gone with him into danger, and was sharing
with him his perils?
But though she made a great fight against the wisdom of Herr Molk
when she was first left to herself, the words of the burgomaster had
their effect. Her enemies were becoming too strong for her. Her heart
was weak within her. She had eaten little or nothing for the last few
days, and the blood was running thinly through her veins. It was more
difficult to reply to tenderness from her aunt than to harshness. And
there came upon her a feeling that after all it signified but little.
There was but a choice between one misery and another. The only really
good thing would be to die and to have done with it all,to die before
she had utterly thrown away all hope, all chance of happiness in that
future world in which she thoroughly believed. She was ill now, and if
it might be that her illness would bring her to death;but would bring
her slowly, so that she might yet repent, and all would be right.
Madame Staubach said nothing more to her about Peter till the
morning of that day on which Peter was to come for his answer. A little
before noon Madame Staubach brought to her niece some weak broth, as
she had done once before, on that morning. But Linda, who was sick and
faint at heart, would not take it.
Try, my dear, said Madame Staubach.
I cannot try, said Linda.
I wish particularly to speak to you,now,at once; and this will
give you strength to listen to me. But Linda declined to be made
strong for such a purpose, and declared that she could listen very well
as she was. Then Madame Staubach began her great argument. Linda had
heard what the burgomaster had said. Linda knew well what she, her aunt
and guardian, thought about it. Linda could not but know that visits
from a young man at her chamber door, such as that to which she herself
had confessed, were things so horrible that they hardly admitted of
being spoken of even between an aunt and her niece; and Madame
Staubach's cheeks were hot and red as she spoke of this.
If he had come to your door, aunt Charlotte, you could not have
But he embraced you?
Yes, he did.
Oh, my child, will you not let me save you from the evil days?
Linda, you are all in all to me;the only one that I love. Linda,
Linda, your soul is precious to me, almost as my own. Oh, Linda, shall
I pray for you in vain? She sank upon her knees as she spoke, and
prayed with all her might that God would turn the heart of this child,
so that even yet she might be rescued from the burning. With arms
extended, and loud voice, and dishevelled hair, and streaming tears,
shrieking to Heaven in her agony, every now and again kissing the hand
of the poor sinner, she besought the Lord her God that He would give to
her the thing for which she asked;and that thing prayed for with such
agony of earnestness, was a consent from Linda to marry Peter
Steinmarc! It was very strange, but the woman was as sincere in her
prayer as is faith itself. She would have cut herself with knives, and
have swallowed ashes whole, could she have believed that by doing so
she could have been nearer her object. And she had no end of her own in
view. That Peter, as master of the house, would be a thorn in her own
side, she had learned to believe; but thorns in the sides of women
were, she thought, good for them; and it was necessary to Linda that
she should be stuck full of thorns, so that her base human desires
might, as it were, fall from her bones and perish out of the way. Once,
twice, thrice, Linda besought her aunt to arise; but the half frantic
woman had said to herself that she would remain on her knees, on the
hard boards, till this thing was granted to her. Had it not been said
by lips that could not lie, that faith would move a mountain? and would
not faith, real faith, do for her this smaller thing? Then there came
questions to her mind, whether the faith was there. Did she really
believe that this thing would be done for her? If she believed it, then
it would be done. Thinking of all this, with the girl's hands between
her own, she renewed her prayers. Once and again she threw herself upon
the floor, striking it with her forehead. Oh, my child! my child, my
child! If God would do this for me! my child, my child! Only for my sin
and weakness this thing would be done for me.
For three hours Linda lay there, hearing this, mingling her screams
with those of her aunt, half fainting, half dead, now and again dozing
for a moment even amidst the screams, and then struggling up in bed,
that she might embrace her aunt, and implore her to abandon her
purpose. But the woman would only give herself with the greater
vehemence to the work. Now, if the Lord would see fit, now,now; if
the Lord would see fit!
Linda had swooned, her aunt being all unconscious of it, had dozed
afterwards, and had then risen and struggled up, and was seated in her
bed. Aunt Charlotte, she said, what is itthatyou want of me?
That you should obey the Lord, and take this man for your husband.
Linda stayed a while to think, not pausing that she might answer her
aunt's sophistry, which she hardly noticed, but that she might
consider, if it were possible, what it was that she was about to
do;that there might be left a moment to her before she had
surrendered herself for ever to her doom. And then she spoke. Aunt
Charlotte, she said, if you will get up I will do as you would have
Madame Staubach could not arise at once, as it was incumbent on her
to return thanks for the mercy that had been vouchsafed to her; but her
thanks were quickly rendered, and then she was on the bed, with Linda
in her arms. She had succeeded, and her child was saved. Perhaps there
was something of triumph that the earnestness of her prayer should have
been efficacious. It was a great thing that she had done, and the
Scriptures had proved themselves to be true to her. She lay for a while
fondling her niece and kissing her, as she had not done for years.
Linda, dear Linda! She almost promised to the girl earthly happiness,
in spite of her creed as to the necessity for crushing. For the moment
she petted her niece as one weak woman may pet another. She went down
to the kitchen and made coffee for her,though she herself was weak
from want of food,and toasted bread, and brought the food up with a
china cup and a china plate, to show her gratitude to the niece who had
been her convert. And yet, as she did so, she told herself that such
gratitude was mean, vile, and mistaken. It had been the Lord's doing,
and not Linda's.
Linda took the coffee and the toast, and tried to make herself
passive in her aunt's hands. She returned Madame Staubach's kisses and
the pressure of her hand, and made some semblance of joy, that peace
should have been re-established between them two. But her heart was
dead within her, and the reflection that this illness might even yet be
an illness unto death was the only one in which she could find the
slightest comfort. She had promised Ludovic that she would never become
the wife of any one but him; and now, at the first trial of her faith,
she had promised to marry Peter Steinmarc. She was forsworn, and it
would hardly be that the Lord would be satisfied with her, because she
had perjured herself! When her aunt left her, which Madame Staubach did
as the dusk came on, she endeavoured to promise herself that she would
never get well. Was not the very thought that she would have to take
Peter for her husband enough to keep her on her sickbed till she should
be beyond all such perils as that?
Madame Staubach, before she left the room, asked Linda whether she
would not be able to dress herself and come down, so that she might say
one word to her affianced husband. It should be but one word, and then
she should be allowed to return. Linda would have declined to do
this,was refusing utterly to do it,when she found that if she did
not go down Peter would be brought up to her bedroom, to receive her
troth there, by her bedside. The former evil, she thought, would be
less than the latter. Steinmarc as a lover at her bedside would be
intolerable to her; and then if she descended, she might ascend again
instantly. That was part of the bargain. But if Peter were to come up
to her room, there was no knowing how long he might stay there. She
promised therefore that she would dress and come down as soon as she
knew that the man was in the parlour. We may say for her, that when
left alone she was as firmly resolved as ever that she would never
become the man's wife. If this illness did not kill her, she would
escape from the wedding in some other way. She would never put her hand
into that of Peter Steinmarc, and let the priest call him and her man
and wife. She had lied to her auntso she told herself,but her aunt
had forced the lie from her.
When Peter entered Madame Staubach's parlour he was again dressed in
his Sunday best, as he had been when he made his first overture to
Linda. Good evening, Madame Staubach, he said.
Good evening, Peter Steinmarc.
I hope you have good news for me, Madame Staubach, from the maiden
Madame Staubach took a moment or two for thought before she replied.
Peter Steinmarc, the Lord has been good to us, and has softened her
heart, and has brought the child round to our way of thinking. She has
consented, Peter, that you should be her husband.
Peter was not so grateful perhaps as he should have been at this
good news,or rather perhaps at the manner in which the result seemed
to have been achieved. Of course he knew nothing of those terribly
earnest petitions which Madame Staubach had preferred to the throne of
heaven on behalf of his marriage, but he did not like being told at all
of any interposition from above in such a matter. He would have
preferred to be assured, even though he himself might not quite have
believed the assurance, that Linda had yielded to a sense of his own
merits. I am glad she has thought better of it, Madame Staubach, he
said; she is only just in time.
Madame Staubach was very nearly angry, but she reminded herself that
people cannot be crushed by rose-leaves. Peter Steinmarc was to be
taken, because he was Peter Steinmarc, not because he was somebody very
different, better mannered, and more agreeable.
I don't know how that may be, Peter.
Ah, but it is so;only just in time, I can assure you. But 'a miss
is as good as a mile;' so we will let that pass.
She is now ready to come down and accept your troth, and give you
hers. You will remember that she is ill and weak; and, indeed, I am
unwell myself. She can stay but a moment, and then, I am sure, you will
leave us for to-night. The day has not been without its trouble and its
toil to both of us.
Surely, said Peter; a word or two shall satisfy me to-night. But,
Madame Staubach, I shall look to you to see that the period before our
wedding is not protracted,you will remember that. To this Madame
Staubach made no answer, but slowly mounted to Linda's chamber.
Linda was already nearly dressed. She was not minded to keep her
suitor waiting. Tetchen was with her, aiding her; but to Tetchen she
had refused to say a single word respecting either Peter or Ludovic.
Something Tetchen had heard from Madame Staubach, but from Linda she
heard nothing. Linda intended to go down to the parlour, and therefore
she must dress herself. As she was weak almost to fainting, she had
allowed Tetchen to help her. Her aunt led her down, and there was
nothing said between them as they went. At the door her aunt kissed
her, and muttered some word of love. Then they entered the room
Peter was found standing in the middle of the chamber, with his left
hand beneath his waistcoat, and his right hand free for the performance
of some graceful salutation. Linda, said he, as soon as he saw the
two ladies standing a few feet away from him, I am glad to see you
down-stairs again,very glad. I hope you find yourself better. Linda
muttered, or tried to mutter, some words of thanks; but nothing was
audible. She stood hanging upon her aunt, with eyes turned down, and
her limbs trembling beneath her. Linda, continued Peter, your aunt
tells me that you have accepted my offer. I am very glad of it. I will
be a good husband to you, and I hope you will be an obedient wife.
Linda, said Madame Staubach, put your hand in his. Linda put
forth her little hand a few inches, and Peter took it within his own,
looking the while into Madame Staubach's face, as though he were to
repeat some form of words after her. You are now betrothed in the
sight of God, as man and wife, said Madame Staubach; and may the
married life of both of you be passed to His glory.Amen.
Amen, said Steinmarc, like the parish clerk. Linda pressed her
lips close together, so that there should be no possibility of a chance
sound passing from them.
Now, I think we will go back again, Peter, as the poor child can
hardly stand. Peter raised no objection, and then Linda was conducted
back again to her bed. There was one comfort to her in the remembrance
of the scene. She had escaped the dreaded contamination of a kiss.
Peter Steinmarc, now that he was an engaged man, affianced to a
young bride, was urgent from day to day with Madame Staubach that the
date of his wedding should be fixed. He soon found that all Nuremberg
knew that he was to be married. Perhaps Herr Molk had not been so
silent and discreet as would have been becoming in a man so highly
placed, and perhaps Peter himself had let slip a word to some
confidential friend who had betrayed him. Be this as it might, all
Nuremberg knew of Peter's good fortune, and he soon found that he
should have no peace till the thing was completed. She is quite well
enough, I am sure, said Peter to Madame Staubach, and if there is
anything amiss she can finish getting well afterwards. Madame Staubach
was sufficiently eager herself that Linda should be married without
delay; but, nevertheless, she was angry at being so pressed, and used
rather sharp language in explaining to Peter that he would not be
allowed to dictate on such a subject. Ah! well; if it isn't this year
it won't be next, said Peter, on one occasion when he had determined
to show his power. Madame Staubach did not believe the threat, but she
did begin to fear that, perhaps, after all, there might be fresh
obstacles. It was now near the end of November, and though Linda still
kept her room, her aunt could not see that she was suffering from any
real illness. When, however, a word was said to press the poor girl,
Linda would declare that she was weak and sickunable to walk; in
short, that at present she would not leave her room. Madame Staubach
was beginning to be angered at this; but, for all that, Linda had not
left her room.
It was now two weeks since she had suffered herself to be betrothed,
and Peter had twice been up to her chamber, creaking with his shoes
along the passages. Twice she had passed a terrible half-hour, while he
had sat, for the most part silent, in an old wicker chair by her
bedside. Her aunt had, of course, been present, and had spoken most of
the words that had been uttered during these visits; and these words
had nearly altogether referred to Linda's ailments. Linda was still not
quite well, she had said, but would soon be better, and then all would
be properly settled. Such was the purport of the words which Madame
Staubach would speak on those occasions.
Before Christmas? Peter had once asked.
No, Linda had replied, very sharply.
It must be as the Lord shall will it, said Madame Staubach. That
had been so true that neither Linda nor Peter had found it necessary to
express dissent. On both these occasions Linda's energy had been
chiefly used to guard herself from any sign of a caress. Peter had
thought of it, but Linda lay far away upon the bed, and the lover did
not see how it was to be managed. He was not sure, moreover, whether
Madame Staubach would not have been shocked at any proposal in
reference to an antenuptial embrace. On these considerations he
It was now near the end of November, and Linda knew that she was
well. Her aunt had proposed some day in January for the marriage, and
Linda, though she had never assented, could not on the moment find any
plea for refusing altogether to have a day fixed. All she could do was
to endeavour to stave off the evil. Madame Staubach seemed to think
that it was indispensable that a day in January should be named;
therefore, at last, the thirtieth of that month was after some fashion
fixed for the wedding. Linda never actually assented, but after many
discourses it seemed to be decided that it should be so. Peter was so
told, and with some grumbling expressed himself as satisfied; but when
would Linda come down to him? He was sure that Linda was well enough to
come down if she would. At last a day was fixed for that also. It was
arranged that the three should go to church together on the first
Sunday in December. It would be safer so than in any other way. He
could not make love to her in church.
On the Saturday evening Linda was down-stairs with her aunt. Peter,
as she knew well, was at the Rothe Ross on that evening, and would not
be home till past ten. Tetchen was out, and Linda had gone down to take
her supper with her aunt. The meal had been eaten almost in silence,
for Linda was very sad, and Madame Staubach herself was beginning to
feel that the task before her was almost too much for her strength. Had
it not been that she was carried on by the conviction that things stern
and hard and cruel would in the long-run be comforting to the soul, she
would have given way. But she was a woman not prone to give way when
she thought that the soul's welfare was concerned. She had seen the
shrinking, retreating horror with which Linda had almost involuntarily
contrived to keep her distance from her future husband. She had
listened to the girl's voice, and knew that there had been not one
light-hearted tone from it since that consent had been wrung from the
sufferer by the vehemence of her own bedside prayers. She was aware
that Linda from day to day was becoming thinner and thinner, paler and
still paler. But she knew, or thought that she knew, that it was God's
will; and so she went on. It was not a happy time even for Madame
Staubach, but it was a time in which to Linda it seemed that hell had
come to her beforehand with all its terrors.
There was, however, one thing certain to her yet. She would never
put her hand into that of Peter Steinmarc in God's house after such a
fashion that any priest should be able to say that they two were man
and wife in the sight of God.
On this Saturday evening Tetchen was out, as was the habit with her
on alternate Saturday evenings. On such occasions Linda would usually
do what household work was necessary in the kitchen, preparatory to the
coming Sabbath. But on this evening Madame Staubach herself was
employed in the kitchen, as Linda was not considered to be well enough
to perform the task. Linda was sitting alone, between the fire and the
window, with no work in her hand, with no book before her, thinking of
her fate, when there came upon the panes of the window sundry small,
sharp, quickly-repeated rappings, as though gravel had been thrown upon
them. She knew at once that the noise was not accidental, and jumped up
on her feet. If it was some mode of escape, let it be what it might,
she would accept it. She jumped up, and with short hurried steps placed
herself close to the window. The quick, sharp, little blows upon the
glass were heard again, and then there was a voice. Linda, Linda.
Heavens and earth! it was his voice. There was no mistaking it. Had she
heard but a single syllable in the faintest whisper, she would have
known it. It was Ludovic Valcarm, and he had come for her, even out of
his prison. He should find that he had not come in vain. Then the word
was repeatedLinda, are you there? I am here, she said, speaking
very faintly, and trembling at the sound of her own voice. Then the
iron pin was withdrawn from the wooden shutter on the outside, as it
could not have been withdrawn had not some traitor within the house
prepared the way for it, and the heavy Venetian blinds were folded
back, and Linda could see the outlines of the man's head and shoulders,
in the dark, close to the panes of the window. It was raining at the
time, and the night was very dark, but still she could see the outline.
She stood and watched him; for, though she was willing to be with him,
she felt that she could do nothing. In a moment the frame of the window
was raised, and his head was within the room, within her aunt's
parlour, where her aunt might now have been for all that he could have
known;were it not that Tetchen was watching at the corner, and knew
to the scraping of a carrot how long it would be before Madame Staubach
had made the soup for to-morrow's dinner.
Linda, he said, how is it with you?
Linda, will you go with me now?
What! now, this instant?
To-night. Listen, dearest, for she will be back. Go to her in ten
minutes from now, and tell her that you are weary and would be in bed.
She will see you to your room perhaps, and there may be delay. But when
you can, come down silently, with your thickest cloak and your
strongest hat, and any little thing you can carry easily. Come without
a candle, and creep to the passage window. I will be there. If she will
let you go up-stairs alone, you may be there in half-an-hour. It is our
only chance. Then the window was closed, and after that the shutter,
and then the pin was pushed back, and Linda was again alone in her
To be there in half-an-hour! To commence such a job as this at once!
To go to her aunt with a premeditated lie that would require perfect
acting, and to have to do this in ten minutes, in five minutes, while
the minutes were flying from her like sparks of fire! It was
impossible. If it had been enjoined upon her for the morrow, so that
there should have been time for thought, she might have done it. But
this call upon her for instant action almost paralysed her. And yet
what other hope was there? She had told herself that she would do
anything, however wicked, however dreadful, that would save her from
the proposed marriage. She had sworn to herself that she would do
something; for that Steinmarc's wife she would never be. And here had
come to her a possibility of escape,of escape too which had in it so
much of sweetness! She must lie to her aunt. Was not every hour of life
a separate lie? And as for acting a lie, what was the difference
between that and telling it, except in the capability of the liar. Her
aunt had forced her to lie. No truth was any longer possible to her.
Would it not be better to lie for Ludovic Valcarm than to lie for Peter
Steinmarc? She looked at the upright clock which stood in the corner of
the room, and, seeing that the ten minutes was already passed, she
crossed at once over into the kitchen. Her aunt was standing there, and
Tetchen with her bonnet on, was standing by. Tetchen, as soon as she
saw Linda, explained that she must be off again at once. She had only
returned to fetch some article for a little niece of hers which Madame
Staubach had given her.
Aunt Charlotte, said Linda, I am very weary. You will not be
angry, will you, if I go to bed?
It is not yet nine o'clock, my dear.
But I am tired, and I fear that I shall lack strength for
to-morrow. Oh, Linda, Linda! But, indeed, had you foreseen the future,
you might have truly said that you would want strength on the morrow.
Then go, my dear; and Madame Staubach kissed her niece and blessed
her, and after that, with careful hand, threw some salt into the pot
that was simmering on the stove. Peter Steinmarc was to dine with them
on the morrow, and he was a man who cared that his soup should be well
seasoned. Linda, terribly smitten by the consciousness of her own
duplicity, went forth, and crept up-stairs to her room. She had now, as
she calculated, a quarter of an hour, and she would wish, if possible,
to be punctual. She looked out for a moment from the window, and could
only see that it was very dark, and could hear that it was raining
hard. She took her thickest cloak and her strongest hat. She would do
in all things as he bade her; and then she tried to think what else she
would take. She was going forth,whither she knew not. Then came upon
her a thought that on the morrow,for many morrows afterwards, perhaps
for all morrows to come,there would be no comfortable wardrobe to
which she could go for such decent changes of raiment as she required.
She looked at her frock, and having one darker and thicker than that
she wore, she changed it instantly. And then it was not only her
garments that she was leaving behind her. For ever afterwards,for
ever and ever and ever,she must be a castaway. The die had been
thrown now, and everything was over. She was leaving behind her all
decency, all feminine respect, all the clean ways of her pure young
life, all modest thoughts, all honest, serviceable daily tasks, all
godliness, all hope of heaven! The silent, quick-running tears streamed
down her face as she moved rapidly about the room. The thing must be
done, must be done,must be done, even though earth and heaven were to
fail her for ever afterwards. Earth and heaven would fail her for ever
afterwards, but still the thing must be done. All should be endured, if
by that all she could escape from the man she loathed.
She collected a few things, what little store of money she
had,four or five gulden, perhaps,and a pair of light shoes and
clean stockings, and a fresh handkerchief or two, and a little collar,
and then she started. He had told her to bring what she could carry
easily. She must not disobey him, but she would fain have brought more
had she dared. At the last moment she returned, and took a small
hair-brush and a comb. Then she looked round the room with a hurried
glance, put out her candle, and crept silently down the stairs. On the
first landing she paused, for it was possible that Peter might be
returning. She listened, and then remembered that she would have heard
Peter's feet even on the walk outside. Very quickly, but still more
gently than ever, she went down the last stairs. From the foot of the
stairs into the passage there was a moment in which she must be within
sight of the kitchen door. She flew by, and felt that she must have
been seen. But she was not seen. In an instant she was at the open
window, and in another instant she was standing beside her lover on the
gravel path. What he said to her she did not hear; what he did she did
not know. She had completed her task now; she had done her part, and
had committed herself entirely into his hands. She would ask no
question. She would trust him entirely. She only knew that at the
moment his arm was round her, and that she was being lifted off the
bank into the river.
Dearest girl! can you see? No; nothing, of course, as yet. Step
down. There is a boat here. There are two boats. Lean upon me, and we
can walk over. There. Do not mind treading softly. They cannot hear
because of the rain. We shall be out of it in a minute. I am sorry you
should be wet, but yet it is better for us.
She hardly understood him, but yet she did as he told her, and in a
few minutes she was standing on the other bank of the river, in the
Ruden Platz. Here Linda perceived that there was a man awaiting them,
to whom Ludovic gave certain orders about the boats. Then Ludovic took
her by the hand and ran with her across the Platz, till they stood
beneath the archway of the brewery warehouse where she had so often
watched him as he went in and out. Here we are safe, he said,
stooping down and kissing her, and brushing away the drops of rain from
the edges of her hair. Oh, what safety! To be there, in the middle of
the night, with him, and not know whither she was to go, where she was
to lie, whether she would ever again know that feeling of security
which had been given to her throughout her whole life by her aunt's
presence and the walls of her own house. Safe! Was ever peril equal to
hers? Linda, say that you love me. Say that you are my own.
I do love you, she said; otherwise how should I be here?
And you had promised to marry that man!
I should never have married him. I should have died.
Dearest Linda! But come; you must not stand here. Then he took her
up, up the warehouse stairs into a gloomy chamber, from which there was
a window looking on to the Ruden Platz, and there, with many caresses,
he explained to her his plans. The caresses she endeavoured to avoid,
and, when she could not avoid them, to moderate. Would he remember,
she asked, just for the present, all that she had gone through, and
spare her for a while, because she was so weak? She made her little
appeal with swimming eyes and low voice, looking into his face, holding
his great hand the while between her own. He swore that she was his
queen, and should have her way in everything. But would she not give
him one kiss? He reminded her that she had never kissed him. She did as
he asked her, just touching his lips with hers, and then she stood by
him, leaning on him, while he explained to her something of his plans.
He kept close to the window, as it was necessary that he should keep
his eyes upon the red house.
His plan was this. There was a train which passed by the Nuremberg
station on its way to Augsburg at three o'clock in the morning. By this
train he proposed that they should travel to that city. He had, he
said, the means of providing accommodation for her there, and no one
would know whither they had gone. He did not anticipate that any one in
the house opposite would learn that Linda had escaped till the next
morning; but should any suspicion have been aroused, and should the
fact be ascertained, there would certainly be lights moving in the
house, and light would be seen from the window of Linda's own chamber.
Therefore he proposed, during the long hours that they must yet wait,
to stand in his present spot and watch, so that he might know at the
first moment whether there was any commotion among the inmates of the
red house. There goes old Peter to bed, said he; he won't be the
first to find out, I'll bet a florin. And afterwards he signified the
fact that Madame Staubach had gone to her chamber. This was the moment
of danger, as it might be very possible that Madame Staubach would go
into Linda's room. In that case, as he said, he had a little carriage
outside the walls which would take them to the first town on the route
to Augsburg. Had a light been seen but for a moment in Linda's room
they were to start; and would certainly reach the spot where the
carriage stood before any followers could be on their heels. But Madame
Staubach went to her own room without noticing that of her niece, and
then the red house was all dark and all still. They would have made the
best of their way to Augsburg before their flight would be discovered.
During the minutes in which they were watching the lights Linda
stood close to her lover, leaning on his shoulder, and supported by his
arm. But this was over by ten, and then there remained nearly five
hours, during which they must stay in their present hiding-place. Up to
this time Linda's strength had supported her under the excitement of
her escape, but now she was like to faint, and it was necessary at any
rate that she should be allowed to lie down. He got sacks for her from
some part of the building, and with these constructed for her a bed on
the floor, near to the spot which he must occupy himself in still
keeping his eye upon the red house. He laid her down and covered her
feet with sacking, and put sacks under her head for a pillow. He was
very gentle with her, and she thanked him over and over again, and
endeavoured to think that her escape had been fortunate, and that her
position was happy. Had she not succeeded in flying from Peter
Steinmarc? And after such a flight would not all idea of a marriage
with him be out of the question? For some little time she was cheered
by talking to him. She asked him about his imprisonment. Ah! said he;
if I cannot be one too many for such an old fogey as Herr Molk, I'll
let out my brains to an ass, and take to grazing on thistles. His
offence had been political, and had been committed in conjunction with
others. And he and they were sure of success ultimately,were sure of
success very speedily. Linda could understand nothing of the subject.
But she could hope that her lover might prosper in his undertaking, and
she could admire and love him for encountering the dangers of such an
enterprise. And then, half sportively, half in earnest, she taxed him
with that matter which was next her heart. Who had been the young woman
with the blue frock and the felt hat who had been with him when he was
brought before the magistrates?
Young woman;with blue frock! who told you of the young woman,
Linda? He came and knelt beside her as he asked the question, leaving
his watch for the moment; and she could see by the dim light of the
lamp outside that there was a smile upon his face,almost joyous, full
Who told me? The magistrate you were taken to; Herr Molk told me
himself, said Linda, almost happily. That smile upon his face had in
some way vanquished her feeling of jealousy.
Then he is a greater scoundrel than I took him to be, or else a
more utter fool. The girl in the blue frock, Linda, was one of our
young men, who was to get out of the city in that disguise. And I
believe Herr Molk knew it when he tried to set you against me, by
telling you the story.
Whether Herr Molk had known this, or whether he had simply been fool
enough to be taken in by the blue frock and the felt hat, it is not for
us to inquire here. But Ludovic was greatly amused at the story, and
Linda was charmed at the explanation she had received. It was only an
extra feather in her lover's cap that he should have been connected
with a blue frock and felt hat under such circumstances as those now
explained to her. Then he went back to the window, and she turned on
her side and attempted to sleep.
To be in all respects a castaway,a woman to whom other women would
not speak! She knew that such was her position now. She had done a deed
which would separate her for ever from those who were respectable, and
decent, and good. Peter Steinmarc would utterly despise her. It was
very well that something should have occurred which would make it
impossible that he should any longer wish to marry her; but it would be
very bitter to her to be rejected even by him because she was unfit to
be an honest man's wife. And then she asked herself questions about her
young lover, who was so handsome, so bold, so tender to her; who was in
all outward respects just what a lover should be. Would he wish to
marry her after she had thus consented to fly with him, alone, at
night: or would he wish that she should be his light-of-love, as her
aunt had been once cruel enough to call her? There would be no cruelty,
at any rate no injustice, in so calling her now. And should there be
any hesitation on his part, would she ask him to make her his wife? It
was very terrible to her to think that it might come to pass that she
should have on her knees to implore this man to marry her. He had
called her his queen, but he had never said that she should be his
wife. And would any pastor marry them, coming to him, as they must
come, as two runaways? She knew that certain preliminaries were
necessary,certain bidding of banns, and processes before the
magistrates. Her own banns and those of her betrothed, Peter Steinmarc,
had been asked once in the church of St. Lawrence, as she had heard
with infinite disgust. She did not see that it was possible that
Ludovic should marry her, even if he were willing to do so. But it was
too late to think of all this now; and she could only moisten the rough
sacking with her tears.
You had better get up now, dearest, said Ludovic, again bending
Has the time come?
Yes; the time has come, and we must be moving. The rain is over,
which is a comfort. It is as dark as pitch, too. Cling close to me. I
should know my way if I were blindfold.
She did cling close to him, and he conducted her through narrow
streets and passages out to the city gate, which led to the railway
station. Nuremberg has still gates like a fortified town, and there
are, I believe, porters at the gates with huge keys. Nuremberg delights
to perpetuate the memories of things that are gone. But ingress and
egress are free to everybody, by night as well as by day, as it must be
when railway trains arrive and start at three in the morning; and the
burgomaster and warders, and sentinels and porters, though they still
carry the keys, know that the glory of their house has gone.
Railway tickets for two were given to Linda without a question,for
to her was intrusted the duty of procuring them,and they were soon
hurrying away towards Augsburg through the dark night. At any rate they
had been successful in escaping. After to-morrow we will be as happy
as the day is long, said Ludovic, as he pressed his companion close to
his side. Linda told herself, but did not tell him, that she never
could be happy again.
They were whirled away through the dark cold night with the noise of
the rattling train ever in their ears. Though there had been a railway
running close by Nuremberg now for many years, Linda was not herself so
well accustomed to travelling as will probably be most of those who
will read this tale of her sufferings. Now and again in the day-time,
and generally in fair weather, she had gone as far as Fürth, and on one
occasion even as far as Würzburg with her aunt when there had been a
great gathering of German Anabaptists at that town; but she had never
before travelled at night, and she had certainly never before travelled
in such circumstances as those which now enveloped her. When she
entered the carriage, she was glad to see that there were other persons
present. There was a woman, though the woman was so closely muffled and
so fast asleep that Linda, throughout the whole morning, did not know
whether her fellow-traveller was young or old. Nevertheless, the
presence of the woman was in some sort a comfort to her, and there were
two men in the carriage, and a little boy. She hardly understood why,
but she felt that it was better for her to have fellow-travellers.
Neither of them, however, spoke above a word or two either to her or to
her lover. At first she sat at a little distance from Ludovic,or
rather induced him to allow that there should be some space between
them; but gradually she suffered him to come closer to her, and she
dozed with her head upon his shoulder. Very little was said between
them. He whispered to her from time to time sundry little words of
love, calling her his queen, his own one, his life, and the joy of his
eyes. But he told her little or nothing of his future plans, as she
would have wished that he should do. She asked him, however, no
questions;none at least till their journey was nearly over. The more
that his conduct warranted her want of trust, the more unwilling did
she become to express any diffidence or suspicion.
After a while she became very cold;so cold that that now became
for the moment her greatest cause of suffering. It was mid-winter, and
though the cloak she had brought was the warmest garment that she
possessed, it was very insufficient for such work as the present night
had brought upon her. Besides her cloak, she had nothing wherewith to
wrap herself. Her feet became like ice, and then the chill crept up her
body; and though she clung very close to her lover, she could not keep
herself from shivering as though in an ague fit. She had no hesitation
now in striving to obtain some warmth by his close proximity. It seemed
to her as though the cold would kill her before she could reach
Augsburg. The train would not be due there till nine in the morning,
and it was still dark night as she thought that it would be impossible
for her to sustain such an agony of pain much longer. It was still dark
night, and the violent rain was pattering against the glass, and the
damp came in through the crevices, and the wind blew bitterly upon her;
and then as she turned a little to ask her lover to find some comfort
for her, some mitigation of her pain, she perceived that he was asleep.
Then the tears began to run down her cheeks, and she told herself that
it would be well if she could die.
After all, what did she know of this man who was now sleeping by her
side,this man to whom she had intrusted everything, more than her
happiness, her very soul? How many words had she ever spoken to him?
What assurance had she even of his heart? Why was he asleep, while her
sufferings were so very cruel to her? She had encountered the evils of
this elopement to escape what had appeared to her the greater evils of
a detested marriage. Steinmarc was very much to be hated. But might it
not be that even that would have been better than this? Poor girl! the
illusion even of her love was being frozen cold within her during the
agony of that morning. All the while the train went thundering on
through the night, now rushing into a tunnel, now crossing a river, and
at every change in the sounds of the carriages she almost hoped that
something might be amiss. Oh, the cold! She had gathered her feet up
and was trying to sit on them. For a moment or two she had hoped that
her movement would waken Ludovic, so that she might have had the
comfort of a word; but he had only tumbled with his head hither and
thither, and had finally settled himself in a position in which he
leaned heavily upon her. She thought that he was heartless to sleep
while she was suffering; but she forgot that he had watched at the
window while she had slumbered upon the sacks in the warehouse. At
length, however, she could bear his weight no longer, and she was
forced to rouse him. You are so heavy, she said; I cannot bear it;
when at last she succeeded in inducing him to sit upright.
Dear me! oh, ah, yes. How cold it is! I think I have been asleep.
The cold is killing me, she said.
My poor darling! What shall I do? Let me see. Where do you feel it
All over. Do you not feel how I shiver? Oh, Ludovic, could we get
out at the next station?
Impossible, Linda. What should we do there?
And what shall we do at Augsburg? Oh dear, I wish I had not come. I
am so cold. It is killing me. Then she burst out into floods of
sobbing, so that the old man opposite to her was aroused. The old man
had brandy in his basket and made her drink a little. Then after a
while she was quieted, and was taken by station after station without
demanding of Ludovic that he should bring this weary journey to an end.
Gradually the day dawned, and the two could look at each other in
the grey light of the morning. But Linda thought of her own appearance
rather than that of her lover. She had been taught that it was required
of a woman that she should be neat, and she felt now that she was
dirty, foul inside and out,a thing to be scorned. As their companions
also bestirred themselves in the daylight, she was afraid to meet their
eyes, and strove to conceal her face. The sacks in the warehouse had,
in lieu of a better bed, been acceptable; but she was aware now, as she
could see the skirts of her own dress and her shoes, and as she glanced
her eyes gradually round upon her shoulders, that the stains of the
place were upon her, and she knew herself to be unclean. That sense of
killing cold had passed off from her, having grown to a numbness which
did not amount to present pain, though it would hardly leave her
without some return of the agony; but the misery of her disreputable
appearance was almost as bad to her as the cold had been. It was not
only that she was untidy and dishevelled, but it was that her condition
should have been such without the company of any elder female friend
whose presence would have said, This young woman is respectable, even
though her dress be soiled with dust and meal. As it was, the friend
by her side was one who by his very appearance would condemn her. No
one would suppose her to be his wife. And then the worst of it was that
he also would judge her as others judged her. He also would say to
himself that no one would suppose such a woman to be his wife. And if
once he should learn so to think of her, how could she expect that he
would ever persuade himself to become her husband? How she wished that
she had remained beneath her aunt's roof! It now occurred to her, as
though for the first time, that no one could have forced her to go to
church on that thirtieth of January and become Peter Steinmarc's wife.
Why had she not remained at home and simply told her aunt that the
thing was impossible?
At last they were within an hour of Augsburg, and even yet she knew
nothing as to his future plans. It was very odd that he should not have
told her what they were to do at Augsburg. He said that she should be
his queen, that she should be as happy as the day was long, that
everything would be right as soon as they reached Augsburg; but now
they were all but at Augsburg, and she did not as yet know what first
step they were to take when they reached the town. She had much wished
that he would speak without being questioned, but at last she thought
that she was bound to question him. Ludovic, where are we going to at
To the Black Bear first. That will be best at first.
Is it an inn?
Yes, dear; not a great big house like the Rothe Ross at Nuremberg,
but very quiet and retired, in a back street.
Do they expect us?
Well, no; not exactly. But that won't matter.
And how long shall we stay there?
Ah! that must depend on tidings from Berlin and Munich. It may be
that we shall be compelled to get away from Bavaria altogether. Then
he paused for a moment, while she was thinking what other question she
could ask. By the by, he said, my father is in Augsburg.
She had heard of his father as a man altogether worthless, one ever
in difficulties, who would never work, who had never seemed to wish to
be respectable. When the great sins of Ludovic's father had been
magnified to her by Madame Staubach and by Peter, with certain wise
hints that swans never came out of the eggs of geese, Linda would
declare with some pride of spirit that the son was not like the father;
that the son had never been known to be idle. She had not attempted to
defend the father, of whom it seemed to be acknowledged by the common
consent of all Nuremberg that he was utterly worthless, and a disgrace
to the city which had produced him. But Linda now felt very thankful
for the assurance of even his presence. Had it been Ludovic's mother,
how much better would it have been! But that she should be received
even by his father,by such a father,was much to her in her desolate
Will he be at the station? Linda asked.
Does he expect us?
Well, no. You see, Linda, I only got out of prison yesterday
Does your father live in Augsburg?
He hardly lives anywhere. He goes and comes at present as he is
wanted by the cause. It is quite on the cards that we should find that
the police have nabbed him. But I hope not. I think not. When I have
seen you made comfortable, and when we have had something to eat and
drink, I shall know where to seek him. While I am doing so, you had
better lie down.
She was afraid to ask him whether his father knew, or would suspect,
aught as to his bringing a companion, or whether the old man would
welcome such a companion for his son. Indeed, she hardly knew how to
frame any question that had application to herself. She merely assented
to his proposition that she should go to bed at the Black Bear, and
then waited for the end of their journey. Early in the morning their
fellow-passengers had left them, and they were now alone. But Ludovic
distressed her no more by the vehemence of his caresses. He also was
tired and fagged and cold and jaded. It is not improbable that he had
been meditating whether he, in his present walk of life, had done well
to encumber himself with the burden of a young woman.
At last they were at the platform at Augsburg. Don't move quite
yet, he said. One has to be a little careful. When she attempted to
raise herself she found herself to be so numb that all quickness of
motion was out of the question. Ludovic, paying no attention to her,
sat back in the carriage, with his cap before his face, looking with
eager eyes over the cap on to the platform.
May we not go now? said Linda, when she saw that the other
passengers had alighted.
Don't be in a hurry, my girl. By God, there are those ruffians, the
gendarmerie. It's all up. By Jove! yes, it's all up. That is hard,
after all I did at Nuremberg.
Look here, Linda. Get out at once and take these letters. Make your
way to the Black Bear, and wait for me.
Never mind me, but do as you're told. In a moment it will be too
late. If we are noticed to be together it will be too late.
But how am I to get to the Black Bear?
Heaven and earth! haven't you a tongue? But here they are, and it's
all up. And so it was. A railway porter opened the door, and behind
the railway porter were two policemen. Linda, in her dismay, had not
even taken the papers which had been offered to her, and Valcarm, as
soon as he was sure that the police were upon him, had stuffed them
down the receptacle made in the door for the fall of the window.
But the fate of Valcarm and of his papers is at the present moment
not of so much moment to us as is that of Linda Tressel. Valcarm was
carried off, with or without the papers, and she, after some hurried
words, which were unintelligible to her in her dismay, found herself
upon the platform amidst the porters. A message had come from Nuremberg
by the wires to Augsburg, requiring the arrest of Ludovic Valcarm, but
the wires had said nothing of any companion that might be with him.
Therefore Linda was left standing amidst the porters on the platform.
She asked one of the men about the Black Bear. He shook his head, and
told her that it was a house of a very bad sort,of a very bad sort
A dozen times during the night Linda had remembered that her old
friend Fanny Heisse, now the wife of Max Bogen, lived at Augsburg, and
as she remembered it, she had asked herself what she would do were she
to meet Fanny in the streets. Would Fanny condescend to speak to her,
or would Fanny's husband allow his wife to hold any communion with such
a castaway? How might she dare to hope that her old friend would do
other than shun her, or, at the very least, scorn her, and pass her as
a thing unseen? And yet, through all the days of their life, there had
been in Linda's world a supposition that Linda was the good young
woman, and that Fanny Heisse was, if not a castaway, one who had made
the frivolities of the world so dear to her that she could be accounted
as little better than a castaway. Linda's conclusion, as she thought of
all this, had been, that it would be better that she should keep out of
the way of the wife of an honest man who knew her. All fellowship
hereafter with the wives and daughters of honest men must be denied to
her. She had felt this very strongly when she had first seen herself in
the dawn of the morning.
But now there had fallen upon her a trouble of another kind, which
almost crushed her,in which she was not as yet able to see that, by
God's mercy, salvation from utter ruin might yet be extended to her.
What should she do now,now, at this moment? The Black Bear, to which
her lover had directed her, was so spoken of that she did not dare to
ask to be directed thither. When a compassionate railway porter pressed
her to say whither she would go, she could only totter to a seat
against the wall, and there lay herself down and sob. She had no
friends, she said; no home; no protector except him who had just been
carried away to prison. The porter asked her whether the man were her
husband, and then again she was nearly choked with sobs. Even the
manner of the porter was changed to her when he perceived that she was
not the wife of him who had been her companion. He handed her over to
an old woman who looked after the station, and the old woman at last
learned from Linda the fact that the wife of Max Bogen the lawyer had
once been her friend. About two hours after that she was seated with
Max Bogen himself, in a small close carriage, and was being taken home
to the lawyer's house. Max Bogen asked her hardly a question. He only
said that Fanny would be so glad to have her;Fanny, he said, was so
soft, so good, and so clever, and so wise, and always knew exactly what
ought to be done. Linda heard it all, marvelling in her dumb
half-consciousness. This was the Fanny Heisse of whom her aunt had so
often told her that one so given to the vanities of the world could
never come to any good!
Max Bogen handed Linda over to his wife, and then disappeared. Oh,
Linda, what is it? Why are you here? Dear Linda. And then her old
friend kissed her, and within half an hour the whole story had been
Do you mean that she eloped with him from her aunt's house in the
middle of the night? asked Max, as soon as he was alone with his wife.
Of course she did, said Fanny; and so would I, had I been treated as
she has been. It has all been the fault of that wicked old saint, her
aunt. Then they put their heads together as to the steps that must be
taken. Fanny proposed that a letter should be at once sent to Madame
Staubach, explaining plainly that Linda had run away from her marriage
with Steinmarc, and stating that for the present she was safe and
comfortable with her old friend. It could hardly be said that Linda
assented to this, because she accepted all that was done for her as a
child might accept it. But she knelt upon the floor with her head upon
her friend's lap, kissing Fanny's hands, and striving to murmur thanks.
Oh, if they would leave her there for three days, so that she might
recover something of her strength! They shall leave you for three
weeks, Linda, said the other. Madame Staubach is not the Emperor,
that she is to have her own way in everything. And as for Peter
Pray, don't talk of him;pray, do not, said Linda, shuddering.
But all this comfort was at an end about seven o'clock on that
evening. The second train in the day from Nuremberg was due at Augsburg
at six, and Max Bogen, though he said nothing on the subject to Linda,
had thought it probable that some messenger from the former town might
arrive in quest of Linda by that train. At seven there came another
little carriage up to the door, and before her name could be announced,
Madame Staubach was standing in Fanny Bogen's parlour. Oh, my child!
she said. Oh, my child, may God in His mercy forgive my child! Linda
cowered in a corner of the sofa and did not speak.
She hasn't done anything in the least wrong, said Fanny; nothing
on earth. You were going to make her marry a man she hated, and so she
came away. If father had done the same to me, I wouldn't have stayed an
hour. Linda still cowered on the sofa, and was still speechless.
Madame Staubach, when she heard this defence of her niece, was
hardly pushed to know in what way it was her duty to answer it. It
would be very expedient, of course, that some story should be told for
Linda which might save her from the ill report of all the world,that
some excuse should be made which might now, instantly, remove from
Linda's name the blight which would make her otherwise to be a thing
scorned, defamed, useless, and hideous; but the truth was the truth,
and even to save her child from infamy Madame Staubach would not listen
to a lie without refuting it. The punishment of Linda's infamy had been
deserved, and it was right that it should be endured. Hereafter, as
facts came to disclose themselves, it would be for Peter Steinmarc to
say whether he would take such a woman for his wife; but whether he
took her or whether he rejected her, it could not be well that Linda
should be screened by a lie from any part of the punishment which she
had deserved. Let her go seven times seven through the fire, if by such
suffering there might yet be a chance for her poor desolate
Done nothing wrong, Fanny Heisse! said Madame Staubach, who, in
spite of her great fatigue, was still standing in the middle of the
room. Do you say so, who have become the wife of an honest God-fearing
But Fanny was determined that she would not be put down in her own
house by Madame Staubach. It doesn't matter whose wife I am, she
said, and I am sure Max will say the same as I do. She hasn't done
anything wrong. She made up her mind to come away because she wouldn't
marry Peter Steinmarc. She came here in company with her own young man,
as I used to come with Max. And as soon as she got here she sent word
up to us, and here she is. If there's anything very wicked in that, I'm
not religious enough to understand it. But I tell you what I can
understand, Madame Staubach,there is nothing on earth so horribly
wicked as trying to make a girl marry a man whom she loathes, and
hates, and detests, and abominates. There, Madame Staubach; that's what
I've got to say; and now I hope you'll stop and have supper with Max
and Linda and me.
Linda felt herself to be blushing in the darkness of her corner as
she heard this excuse for her conduct. No; she had not made the journey
to Augsburg with Ludovic in such fashion as Fanny had, perhaps more
than once, travelled the same route with her present husband. Fanny had
not come by night, without her father's knowledge, had not escaped out
of a window; nor had Fanny come with any such purpose as had been hers.
There was no salve to her conscience in all this, though she felt very
grateful to her friend, who was fighting her battle for her.
It is not right that I should argue the matter with you, said
Madame Staubach, with some touch of true dignity. Alas, I know that
which I know. Perhaps you will allow me to say a word in privacy to
this unfortunate child.
But Max Bogen had not paid his wife a false compliment for
cleverness. She perceived at once that the longer this interview
between the aunt and her niece could be delayed,the longer that it
could be delayed, now that they were in each other's company,the
lighter would be the storm on Linda's head when it did come. After
supper, Madame Staubach; Linda wants her supper; don't you, my pet?
Linda answered nothing. She could not even look up, so as to meet the
glance of her aunt's eyes. But Fanny Bogen succeeded in arranging
things after her own fashion. She would not leave the room, though in
sooth her presence at the preparation of the supper might have been
useful. It came to be understood that Madame Staubach was to sleep at
the lawyer's house, and great changes were made in order that the aunt
and niece might not be put in the same room. Early in the morning they
were to return together to Nuremberg, and then Linda's short hour of
comfort would be over.
She had hardly as yet spoken a word to her aunt when Fanny left them
in the carriage together. There were three or four others there, said
Fanny to her husband, and she won't have much said to her before she
But when she is at home! Fanny only shrugged her shoulders. The
truth is, you know, said Max, that it was not at all the proper sort
of thing to do!
And who does the proper sort of thing?
You do, my dear.
And wouldn't you have run away with me if father had wanted me to
marry some nasty old fellow who cares for nothing but his pipe and his
beer? If you hadn't, I'd never have spoken to you again.
All the same, said Max, it won't do her any good.
The journey home to Nuremberg was made almost in silence, and things
had been so managed by Fanny's craft that when the two women entered
the red house hardly a word between them had been spoken as to the
affairs of the previous day. Tetchen, as she saw them enter, cast a
guilty glance on her young mistress, but said not a word. Linda
herself, with a veil over her face which she had borrowed from her
friend Fanny, hurried up-stairs towards her own room. Go into my
chamber, Linda, said Madame Staubach, who followed her. Linda did as
she was bid, went in, and stood by the side of her aunt's bed. Kneel
down with me, Linda, and let us pray that the great gift of repentance
may be given to us, said Madame Staubach. Then Linda knelt down, and
hid her face upon the counterpane.
All her sins were recapitulated to her during that prayer. The whole
heinousness of the thing which she had done was given in its full
details, and the details were repeated more than once. It was
acknowledged in that prayer that though God's grace might effect
absolute pardon in the world to come, such a deed as that which had
been done by this young woman was beyond the pale of pardon in this
world. And the Giver of all mercy was specially asked so to make things
clear to that poor sinful creature, that she might not be deluded into
any idea that the thing which she had done could be justified. She was
told in that prayer that she was impure, vile, unclean, and infamous.
And yet she probably did not suffer from the prayer half so much as she
would have suffered had the same things been said to her face to face
across the table. And she recognised the truth of the prayer, and she
was thankful that no allusion was made in it to Peter Steinmarc, and
she endeavoured to acknowledge that her conduct was that which her aunt
represented it to be in her strong language. When the prayer was over
Madame Staubach stood before Linda for a while, and put her two hands
on the girl's arms, and lightly kissed her brow. Linda, she said,
with the Lord nothing is impossible; with the Lord it is never too
late; with the Lord the punishment need never be unto death! Linda,
though she could utter no articulate word, acknowledged to herself that
her aunt had been good to her, and almost forgot the evil things that
her aunt had worked for her.
Linda Tressel, before she had gone to bed on that night which she
had passed at Augsburg, had written a short note which was to be
delivered, if such delivery should be possible, to Ludovic Valcarm. The
condition of her lover had, of course, been an added trouble to those
which were more especially her own. During the last three or four hours
which she had passed with him in the train her tenderness for him had
been numbed by her own sufferings, and she had allowed herself for a
while to think that he was not sufficiently alive to the great
sacrifice she was making on his behalf. But when he was removed from
her, and had been taken, as she well knew, to the prison of the city,
something of the softness of her love returned to her, and she tried to
persuade herself that she owed to him that duty which a wife would owe.
When she spoke to Fanny on the subject, she declared that even if it
were possible to her she would not go back to Ludovic. I see it
differently now, she said; and I see how bad it is. But,
still,though she declared that she was very firm in that
resolve,she did not like to be carried back to her old home without
doing something, making some attempt, which might be at least a token
to herself that she had not been heartless in regard to her lover. She
wrote therefore with much difficulty the following few words, which
Fanny promised that her husband should endeavour to convey to the hands
of Ludovic Valcarm:
DEAR LUDOVIC,My aunt has come here for me, and takes
me back to Nuremberg to-morrow. When you left me at the
station I was too ill to go to the place you told me; so
they sent to this house, and my dear, dear friend Fanny
Heisse got her husband to come for me, and I am in their
house now. Then my aunt came, and she will take me home
to-morrow. I am so unhappy that you should be in trouble!
I hope that my coming with you did not help to bring it
about. As for me, I know it is best that I should go back,
though I think that it will kill me. I was very wicked to
come. I feel that now, and I know that even you will have
ceased to respect me. Dear Ludovic, I hope that God will
forgive us both. It will be better that we should never
meet again, though the thought that it must be so is
almost more than I can bear. I have always felt that I was
different from other girls, and that there never could
be any happiness for me in this world. God bless you,
Ludovic. Think of me sometimes,but never, never, try to
come for me again.
It had cost her an hour of hard toil to write this little letter,
and when it was written she felt that it was cold, ungrateful,
unloving,very unlike the words which he would feel that he had a
right to expect from her. Nevertheless, such as it was, she gave it to
her friend Fanny, with many injunctions that it might, if possible, be
placed in the hands of Ludovic. And thus, as she told herself
repeatedly on her way home, the romance of her life was over. After
all, the journey to Augsburg would have been serviceable to her,would
be serviceable although her character should be infamous for ever in
the town that knew her,if by that journey she would be saved from all
further mention of the name of Peter Steinmarc. No disgrace would be so
bad as the prospect of that marriage. Therefore, as she journeyed
homeward, sitting opposite to her aunt, she endeavoured to console
herself by reflecting that his suit to her would surely be at an end.
Would it ever reach his dull heart that she had consented to destroy
her own character, to undergo ill-repute and the scorn of all honest
people, in order that she might not be forced into the horror of a
marriage with him? Could he be made to understand that in her flight
from Nuremberg her great motive had been to fly from him?
On the second morning after her return even this consolation was
taken from her, and she learned from her aunt that she had not given up
all hope in the direction of the town-clerk. On the first day after her
return not a word was said to Linda about Peter, nor would she have had
any notice of his presence in the house had she not heard his shoes
creaking up and down the stairs. Nor was the name of Ludovic Valcarm so
much as mentioned in her presence. Between Tetchen and her there was
not a word passed, unless such as were spoken in the presence of Madame
Staubach. Linda found that she was hardly allowed to be for a moment
out of her aunt's presence, and at this time she was unable not to be
submissive. It seemed to her that her aunt was so good to her in not
positively upbraiding her from morning to night, that it was impossible
for her not to be altogether obedient in all things! She did not
therefore even struggle to escape the long readings, and the longer
prayers, and the austere severity of her aunt's presence. Except in
prayer,in prayers delivered out loud by the aunt in the niece's
presence,no direct mention was made of the great iniquity of which
Linda had been guilty. Linda was called no heartrending name to her
face; but she was required to join, and did join over and over again,
in petitions to the throne of mercy that the poor castaway might be
received back again into the pale of those who were accepted. And at
this time she would have been content to continue to live like this, to
join in such prayers day after day, to have her own infamy continually
brought forward as needing some special mercy, if by such means she
might be allowed to live in tranquillity without sight or mention of
Peter Steinmarc. But such tranquillity was not to be hers.
On the afternoon of the second day her aunt went out, leaving Linda
alone in the house with Tetchen. Linda at once went to her chamber, and
endeavoured to make herself busy among those possessions of her own
which she had so lately thought that she was leaving for ever. She took
out her all, the articles of her wardrobe, all her little treasures,
opened the sweet folds of her modest raiment and refolded them, weeping
all the while as she thought of the wreck she had made of herself. But
no; it was not she who had made the wreck. She had been ruined by the
cruelty of that man whose step at this moment she heard beneath her.
She clenched her fist, and pressed her little foot against the floor,
as she thought of the injury which this man had done her. There was not
enough of charity in her religion to induce her even to think that she
would ever cease to hate him with all the vigour of her heart. Then
Tetchen came to her, and told her that her aunt had returned and
desired to see her. Linda instantly went down to the parlour. Up to
this moment she was as a child in her aunt's hands.
Sit down, Linda, said Madame Staubach, who had taken off her
bonnet, and was already herself stiffly seated in her accustomed chair.
Sit down, my dear, while I speak to you. Linda sat down at some
distance from her aunt, and awaited dumbly the speech that was to be
made to her. Linda, continued Madame Staubach, I have been this
afternoon to the house of your friend Herr Molk. Linda said nothing
out loud, but she declared to herself that Herr Molk was no friend of
hers. Friend indeed! Herr Molk had shown himself to be one of her
bitterest enemies. I thought it best to see him after whathas been
done, especially as he had been with you when you were ill, before you
went. Still Linda said nothing. What was there that she could possibly
say? Madame Staubach paused, not expecting her niece to speak, but
collecting her own thoughts and arranging her words. And Peter
Steinmarc was there also, said Madame Staubach. Upon hearing this
Linda's heart sank within her. Had all her sufferings, then, been for
nothing? Had she passed that terrible night, that terrible day, with no
result that might be useful to her? But even yet might there not be
hope? Was it not possible that her aunt was about to communicate to her
the fact that Peter Steinmarc declined to be bound by his engagement to
her? She sighed deeply and almost sobbed, as she clasped her hands
together. Her aunt observed it all, and then went on with her speech.
You will, I hope, have understood, Linda, that I have not wished to
You have been very good, aunt Charlotte.
But you must know that that which you have done is,is,is a
thing altogether destructive of a young woman's name and character.
Madame Staubach's voice, as she said this, was tremulous with the
excess of her eagerness. If this were Peter Steinmarc's decision, Linda
would bear it all without a complaint. She bowed her head in token that
she accepted the disgrace of which her aunt had spoken. Of course,
Linda, continued Madame Staubach, recovery from so lamentable a
position is very difficult,is almost impossible. I do not mean to say
a word of what has been done. We believe,that is, I believe, and Herr
Molk, and Peter also believes it
I don't care what Peter Steinmarc believes, exclaimed Linda,
unable to hold her peace any longer.
Linda, Linda, would you be a thing to be shuddered at, a woman
without a name, a byword for shame for ever? Madame Staubach had been
interrupted in her statement as to the belief entertained in respect to
Linda's journey by herself and her two colleagues, and did not recur to
that special point in her narrative. When Linda made no answer to her
last appeal, she broadly stated the conclusion to which she and her
friends had come in consultation together in the panelled chamber of
Herr Molk's house. I may as well make the story short, she said.
Herr Molk has explained to Peter that things are not as bad as they
have seemed to be. Every muscle and every fibre in Linda's body was
convulsed when she heard this, and she shuddered and shivered so that
she could hardly keep her seat upon her chair. And Peter has declared
that he will be satisfied if you will at once agree that the marriage
shall take place on the thirtieth of the month. If you will do this,
and will make him a promise that you will go nowhere without his
sanction before that day, he will forget what has been done. Linda
answered not a word, but burst into tears, and fell at her aunt's feet.
Madame Staubach was a woman who could bring herself to pardon any
sin that had been committed,that was done, and, as it were,
accomplished,hoping in all charity that it would be followed by
repentance. Therefore she had forgiven, after a fashion, even the last
tremendous trespass of which her niece had been guilty, and had
contented herself with forcing Linda to listen to her prayers that
repentance might be forthcoming. But she could forgive no fault, no
conduct that seemed to herself to be in the slightest degree wrong,
while it was in the course of action. She had abstained from all hard
words against Linda, from all rebuke, since she had found that the
young man was gone, and that her niece was willing to return to her
home. But she would be prepared to exercise all the power which Linda's
position had given her, to be as severe as the austerity of her nature
would permit, if this girl should persist in her obstinacy. She
regarded it as Linda's positive duty to submit to Peter Steinmarc as
her husband. They had been betrothed with Linda's own consent. The
banns had been already once called. She herself had asked for God's
protection over them as man and wife. And then how much was there not
due to Peter, who had consented, not without much difficult persuasion
from Herr Molk, to take this soiled flower to his bosom, in spite of
the darkness of the stain. There will be no provoking difficulties
made about the house? Peter had said in a corner to the burgomaster.
Then the burgomaster had undertaken that in the circumstances as they
now existed, there should be no provoking difficulties. Herr Molk
understood that Linda must give up something on receiving that position
of an honest man's wife, which she was now hardly entitled to expect.
Thus the bargain had been made, and Madame Staubach was of opinion that
it was her first duty to see that it should not be again endangered by
any obstinacy on behalf of Linda. Obstinate, indeed! How could she be
obstinate after that which she had done? She had now fallen at her
aunt's feet, was weeping, sobbing, praying for mercy. But Madame
Staubach could have no mercy on the girl in this position. Such mercy
would in itself be a sin. The sin done she could forgive; the sin
a-doing must be crushed, and put down, and burnt out, and extinguished,
let the agony coming from such process be as severe as might be. There
could be no softness for Linda while Linda was obstinate. I cannot
suppose, she said, that you mean to hesitate after what has taken
Oh, aunt Charlotte! dear aunt Charlotte!
What is the meaning of this?
I don't love him. I can't love him. I will do anything else that
you please. He may have the house if he wants it. I will
promise;promise never to go away again or to see anybody. But she
might as well have addressed such prayers to a figure of stone. On such
a matter as this Madame Staubach could not be other than relentless.
Even while Linda was kneeling at her feet convulsed with sobs, she told
the poor girl, with all the severity of language which she could use,
of the vileness of the iniquity of that night's proceedings. Linda had
been false to her friend, false to her vows, false to her God,
immodest, unclean, had sinned against all the laws by which women bind
themselves together for good conduct,had in fact become a castaway in
very deed. There was nothing that a female could do more vile, more
loathsome than that which Linda had done. Madame Staubach believed that
the time had come in which it would be wicked to spare, and she did not
spare. Linda grovelled at her feet, and could only pray that God might
take her to Himself at once. He will never take you; never, never,
never, said Madame Staubach; Satan will have you for his own, and all
my prayers will be of no avail.
There were two days such as this, and Linda was still alive and
still bore it. On the third day, which was the fifth after her return
from Augsburg, Herr Molk came to her, and at his own request was alone
with her. He did not vituperate her as her aunt had done, nor did he
express any special personal horror at her sin; but he insisted very
plainly on the position which she had made for herself. You see, my
dear, the only thing for you is to be married out of hand at once, and
then nobody will say anything about it. And what is the difference if
he is a little old? girls forget to think about that after a month or
two; and then, you see, it will put an end to all your troubles;to
all your troubles. Such were the arguments of Herr Molk; and it must
be acknowledged that such arguments were not lacking in strength, nor
were they altogether without truth. The little story of Linda's journey
to Augsburg had been told throughout the city, and there were not
wanting many who said that Peter Steinmarc must be a very good-natured
man indeed, if, after all that had passed, he would still accept Linda
Tressel as his wife. You should remember all that of course, my dear,
said Herr Molk.
How was it possible that Linda should stand alone against such
influence as had been brought to bear against her? She was quite alone,
for she would not admit of any intimacy with Tetchen. She would hardly
speak to the old woman. She was quite aware that Tetchen had arranged
with Ludovic the manner of her elopement; and though she felt no anger
with him, still she was angry with the servant whose duplicity had
helped to bring about the present misery. Had she not fled with her
lover she might then,so she thought now,have held her ground
against her aunt and against Peter. As things had gone with her since,
such obstinacy had become impossible to her. On the morning of the
seventh day she bowed her head, and though she did not speak, she gave
her aunt to understand that she had yielded. We will begin to purchase
what may be necessary to-morrow, said Madame Staubach.
But even now she had not made up her mind that she would in truth
marry the man. She had simply found it again impossible to say that she
would not do so. There was still a chance of escape. She might die, for
instance! Or she might run away again. If she did that, surely the man
would persecute her no further. Or at the last moment she might
stolidly decline to move; she might refuse to stand on her legs before
the altar. She might be as a dead thing even though she were alive,as
a thing dead and speechless. Oh! if she could only be without ears to
hear those terrible words which her aunt would say to her! And then
there came another scheme into her mind. She would make one great
personal appeal to Steinmarc's feelings as a man. If she implored him
not to make her his wife, kneeling before him, submitting herself to
him, preferring to him with all her earnestness this one great prayer,
surely he would not persevere!
Hitherto, since her return from Augsburg, Peter had done very little
to press his own suit. She had again had her hand placed in his since
she had yielded, and had accepted as a present from him a great glass
brooch which to her eyes was the ugliest thing in the guise of a
trinket which the world of vanity had ever seen. She had not been a
moment in his company without her aunt's presence, and there had not
been the slightest allusion made by him to her elopement. Peter had
considered that such allusion had better come after marriage when his
power would, as he thought, be consolidated. He was surprised when he
was told, early in the morning after that second hand-pledging, by
Linda herself that she wanted to see him. Linda came to his door and
made her request in person. Of course he was delighted to welcome his
future bride to his own apartment, and begged her with as soft a smile
as he could assume to seat herself in his own arm-chair. She took a
humbler seat, however, and motioned to him to take that to which he was
accustomed. He looked at her as he did so, and perceived that the very
nature of her face was changed. She had lost the plumpness of her
cheeks, she had lost the fresh colour of her youth, she had lost much
of her prettiness. But her eyes were brighter than ever they had been,
and there was something in their expression which almost made Peter
uneasy. Though she had lost so much of her prettiness, he was not on
that account moved to doubt the value of his matrimonial prize; but
there did come across his mind an idea that those eyes might perhaps
bring with them some discomfort into his household. I am very glad to
see you, Linda, he said. It is very good of you to come to me here.
Is there anything I can do for you?
There is one thing, Peter Steinmarc, that you can do for me.
What is that, my dear?
Let me alone. As she spoke she clenched her small fist and brought
it down with some energy on the table that was close to her. She looked
into his face as she did so, and his eyes quailed before her glance.
Then she repeated her demand. Let me alone.
I do not know what you mean, Linda. Of course you are going to be
my wife now.
I do not wish to be your wife. You know that; and if you are a man
you will not force me. She had intended to be gentle with him, to
entreat him, to win him by humility and softness, and to take his hand,
and even kiss it if he would be good to her. But there was so much of
tragedy in her heart, and such an earnestness of purpose in her mind,
that she could not be gentle. As she spoke it seemed to him that she
was threatening him.
It is all settled, Linda. It cannot be changed now.
It can be changed. It must be changed. Tell her that I am not good
enough. You need not fear her. And if you will say so, I will never be
angry with you for the word. I will bless you for it.
But, Linda, you did nothing so very much amiss;did you? Then
there came across her mind an idea that she would lie to him, and
degrade herself with a double disgrace. But she hesitated, and was not
actress enough to carry on the part. He winked at her as he continued
to speak. I know, he said. It was just a foolish business, but no
worse than that.
Oh heavens, how she hated him! She could have stabbed him to the
heart that moment, had the weapon been there, and had she possessed the
physical energy necessary for such an enterprise. He was a thing to her
so foul that all her feminine nature recoiled from the closeness of his
presence, and her flesh crept as she felt that the same atmosphere
encompassed them. And this man was to be her husband! She must speak to
him, speak out, speak very plainly. Could it be possible that a man
should wish to take a woman to his bosom who had told him to his face
that he was loathed? Peter, she said, I am sure that you don't think
that I love you.
I don't see why you shouldn't, Linda.
I do not;not the least; I can promise you that. And I never
shall;never. Think what it would be to have a wife who doesn't love
you a bit. Would not that be bad?
Oh, but you will.
Never! Don't you know that I love somebody else very dearly? On
hearing this there came something of darkness upon Peter's
brow,something which indicated that he had been touched. Linda
understood it all. But I will never speak to him again, never see him,
if you will let me alone.
See him, Linda! He is in prison, and will be sent to the quarries
to work. He will never be a free man again. Ha! ha! I need not fear
him, my dear.
But you shall fear me. Yes; I will lead you such a life! Peter
Steinmarc, I will make you rue the day you first saw me. You shall wish
that you were at the quarries yourself. I will disgrace you, and make
your name infamous. I will waste everything that you have. There is
nothing so bad I will not do to punish you. Yes; you may look at me,
but I will. Do you think that you are to trample me under foot, and
that I will not have my revenge? You said it was a foolish business
that I did. I will make it worse than foolish. He stood with his hands
in the pockets of his broad flaps, looking at her, not knowing how to
answer her. He was no coward,not such a coward as to be intimidated
at the moment by the girl's violence. And being now thoroughly angry,
her words had not worked upon him as she had intended that they should
work. His desire was to conquer her and get the best of her; but his
thoughts worked slowly, and he did not know how to answer her. Well,
what do you say to me? If you will let me escape, I will always be your
I will not let you escape, he said.
And you expect that I shall be your wife?
I do expect it.
I shall die first; yes;die first. To be your wife! Oh, there is
not a beggar in the streets of Nuremberg whom I would not sooner take
for my husband. She paused, but again he was at a loss for words.
Come, Peter, think of it. Do not drive a poor weak girl to
desperation. I have been very unhappy,very; you do not know how
unhappy I have been. Do not make it worse for me. Then the chord which
had been strung so tightly was broken asunder. Her strength failed her,
and she burst into tears.
I will make you pay dearly for all this one of these days,
fraulein, said Peter, as, with his hands still in his pockets, he left
the room. She watched him as he creaked down-stairs, and went into her
aunt's apartments. For a moment she felt disposed to go and confront
him there before her aunt. Together, the two of them, could not force
her to marry him. But her courage failed her. Though she could face
Peter Steinmarc without flinching, she feared the words which her aunt
could say to her. She had not scrupled to threaten Steinmarc with her
own disgrace, but she could not endure to be told by her aunt that she
Peter Steinmarc, when he went into Madame Staubach's parlour, found
that lady on her knees in prayer. He had entered the room without
notice, having been urged to this unwonted impetuosity by the severity
of the provocation which he had received. Madame Staubach raised her
head; but when she saw him she did not rise. He stood there for some
seconds looking at her, expecting her to get up and greet him; but when
he found that such was not her purpose, he turned angrily on his heel,
and went out of the house, up to his office in the town-hall. His
services were not of much service to the city on that day,neither on
that day nor on the two following days. He was using all his mental
faculties in endeavouring to decide what it might be best for him to do
in the present emergency. The red house was a chattel of great value in
Nuremberg,a thing very desirable,the possession of which Peter
himself did desire with all his heart. But then, even in regard to the
house, it was not to be arranged that Peter was to become the sole and
immediate possessor of it on his marriage. Madame Staubach was to live
there, and during her life the prize would be but a half-and-half
possession. Madame Staubach was younger than himself; and though he had
once thought of marrying her, he was not sure that he was now desirous
of living in the same house with her for the remainder of his life. He
had wished to marry Linda Tressel, because she was young, and was
acknowledged to be a pretty girl; and he still wished to marry her, if
not now for these reasons, still for others which were quite as potent.
He wanted to be her master, to get the better of her, to punish her for
her disdain of him, and to bring her to his feet. But he was not a man
so carried away by anger or by a spirit of revenge as to be altogether
indifferent to his own future happiness. There had already been some
among his fellow-citizens, or perhaps citizenesses, kind enough to
compliment him on his good-nature. He had been asked whether Linda
Tressel had told him all about her little trip to Augsburg, and whether
he intended to ask his cousin Ludovic Valcarm to come to his wedding.
And now Linda herself had said things to him which made him doubt
whether she was fit to be the wife of a man so respectable and so
respected as himself. And were she to do those things which she
threatened, where would he be then? All the town would laugh at him,
and he would be reduced to live for the remainder of his days in the
sole company of Madame Staubach as the result of his enterprise. He was
sufficiently desirous of being revenged on Linda, but he was a cautious
man, and began to think that he might buy even that pleasure too dear.
He had been egged on to the marriage by Herr Molk and one or two others
of the city pundits,by the very men whose opposition he had feared
when the idea of marrying Linda was first suggested to him. They had
told him that Linda was all right, that the elopement had been in point
of fact nothing. Young girls will be young before they are settled,
Herr Molk had said. Then the extreme desirability of the red house had
been mentioned, and so Peter had been persuaded. But now, as the day
drew near, and as Linda's words sounded in his ears, he hardly knew
what to think of it. On the evening of the third day of his
contemplation, he went again to his friend Herr Molk.
Nonsense, Peter, said the magistrate; you must go on now, and
there is no reason why you should not. Is a man of your standing to be
turned aside by a few idle words from a young girl?
But she told meYou can't understand what she told me. She's been
away with this young fellow once, and she said as much as that she'd go
Pshaw! you haven't had to do with women as I have, or you would
understand them better. Of course a young girl likes to have her little
romance. But when a girl has been well brought up,and there is no
better bringing up than what Linda Tressel has had,marriage steadies
them directly. Think of the position you'll have in the city when the
house belongs to yourself.
Peter, when he left the magistrate, was still tossed about by an
infinity of doubts. If he should once take the girl as his wife, he
could never unmarry himself again. He could not do so at least without
trouble, disgrace, and ruinous expense. As for revenge, he thought that
he might still have a certain amount of that pleasure in repudiating
his promised spouse for her bad conduct, and in declaring to her aunt
that he could not bring himself to make a wife of a woman who had first
disgraced herself, and then absolutely taken glory in her disgrace. As
he went along from Herr Molk's house towards the island, taking a
somewhat long path by the Rothe Ross where he refreshed himself, and
down the Carls Strasse, and by the Church of St. Lawrence, round which
he walked twice, looking up to the tower for inspiration,he told
himself that circumstances had been most cruel to him. He complained
bitterly of his misfortune. If he refused to marry Linda he must leave
the red house altogether, and would, of course, be ridiculed for his
attempt at matrimony; and if he did marry herThen, as far as he could
see, there would be the very mischief. He pitied himself with an
exceedingly strong compassion, because of the unmerited hardness of his
position. It was very dark when he got to the narrow passage leading to
the house along the river, and when there, in the narrowest and darkest
part of the passage, whom should he meet coming from Madame Staubach's
house,coming from Linda's house, for the passage led from the red
house only,but Ludovic Valcarm his cousin?
What, uncle Peter? said Ludovic, assuming a name which he had
sometimes used in old days when he had wished to be impertinent to his
relative. Peter Steinmarc was too much taken aback to have any speech
ready on the occasion. You don't say a word to congratulate me on
having escaped from the hands of the Philistines.
What are you doing here? said Peter.
I've been to see my young woman, said Ludovic, who, as Peter
imagined, was somewhat elated by strong drink.
She is not your young woman, said Peter.
She is not yours at any rate, said the other.
She is mine if I like to take her, said Peter.
We shall see about that. But here I am again, at any rate. The
mischief take them for interfering old fools! When they had got me they
had nothing to say against me.
Pass on, and let me go by, said Peter.
One word first, uncle Peter. Among you, you are treating that girl
as cruelly as ever a girl was treated. You had better be warned by me,
and leave off. If she were forced into a marriage with you, you would
only disgrace yourself. I don't suppose you want to see her dead at
your feet. Go on now, and think of what I have said to you. So Ludovic
had been with her again! No; he, Peter Steinmarc, would not wed with
one who was so abandoned. He would reject her;would reject her that
very night. But he would do so in a manner that should leave her very
little cause for joy or triumph.
We must now go back for a while to Linda and her aunt. No detailed
account of that meeting between Linda and Steinmarc, in Steinmarc's
room, ever reached Madame Staubach's ears. That there had been an
interview, and that Linda had asked Steinmarc to absolve her from her
troth, the aunt did learn from the niece; and most angry she was when
she learned it. She again pointed out to the sinner the terrible sin of
which she was guilty in not submitting herself entirely, in not
eradicating and casting out from her bosom all her human feelings, in
not crushing herself, as it were, upon a wheel, in token of her
repentance for what she had done. Sackcloth and ashes, in their
material shape, were odious to the imagination of Madame Staubach,
because they had a savour of Papacy, and implied that the poor sinner
who bore them could do something towards his own salvation by his own
works; but that moral sackcloth, and those ashes of the heart and mind,
which she was ever prescribing to Linda, seemed to her to have none of
this taint. And yet, in what is the difference? The school of religion
to which Madame Staubach belonged was very like that early school of
the Church of Rome in which material ashes were first used for the
personal annoyance of the sinner. But the Church of Rome in Madame
Staubach's day had, by the force of the human nature of its adherents,
made its way back to the natural sympathies of mankind; whereas in
Madame Staubach's school the austerity of self-punishment was still
believed to be all in all. During the days of Steinmarc's meditation,
Linda was prayed for and was preached to with an unflagging diligence
which, at the end of that time, had almost brought the girl to madness.
For Linda the worst circumstance of all was this, that she had never as
yet brought herself to disbelieve her aunt's religious menaces. She had
been so educated that what fixed belief she had on the subject at all
was in accordance with her aunt's creed rather than against it. When
she was alone, she would tell herself that it was her lot to undergo
that eternal condemnation with which her aunt threatened her; though in
telling herself so she would declare to herself also that whatever that
punishment could be, her Creator, let Him be ever so relentless, could
inflict nothing on her worse than that state of agony with which His
creatures had tormented her in this world.
She was in this state when Tetchen crept up to her room, on that
evening on which Peter had been with Herr Molk. Fraulein, said
Tetchen, you are very unkind to me.
Never mind, said Linda, not looking up into the woman's face.
I have done everything in my power for you, as though you had been
I am not your own. I don't want you to do anything for me.
I love you dearly, and I love him,Ludovic. Have I not done
everything in my power to save you from the man you hate?
You made me go off with him in the night, like alike a! Oh,
Tetchen, was that treating me as though I had been your own? Would you
have done that for your own child?
Why not,if you are to be his wife?
Tetchen, you have made me hate you, and you have made me hate
myself. If I had not done that, I should not be such a coward. Go away.
I do not want to speak to you.
Then the old woman came close up to Linda, and stood for a moment
leaning over her. Linda took no notice of her, but continued by a
certain tremulous shaking of her knee to show how strongly she was
moved. My darling, said Tetchen, why should you send away from you
those who love you?
Nobody loves me, said Linda.
I love you,and Ludovic loves you.
That is of no use,of none at all. I do not wish to hear his name
again. It was not his fault, but he has disgraced me. It was my own
Linda, he is in the house now.
Yes; Ludovic Valcarm.
In the house? How did he escape?
They could do nothing to him. They let him go. They were obliged to
let him go.
Then Linda got up from her seat, and stood for a minute with her
eyes fixed upon the old woman's face, thinking what step she had better
take. In the confusion of her mind, and in the state to which she had
been reduced, there was no idea left with her that it might yet be
possible that she would become the wife of Ludovic Valcarm, and live as
such the life of a respectable woman. She had taught herself to
acknowledge that her elopement with him had made that quite
impossible;that by what they had done they had both put themselves
beyond the pale of such gentle mercy. Such evil had come to her from
her secret interviews with this man who had become her lover almost
without her own acquiescence, that she dreaded him even though she
loved him. The remembrance of the night she had passed with him, partly
in the warehouse and partly in the railway train, had nothing in it of
the sweetness of love, to make her thoughts of it acceptable to her.
This girl was so pure at heart, was by her own feelings so prone to
virtue, that she looked back upon what she had done with abhorrence.
Whether she had sinned or not, she hated what she had done as though it
had been sinful; and now, when she was told that Ludovic Valcarm was
again in the house, she recoiled from the idea of meeting him. On the
former occasions of his coming to her, a choice had hardly been allowed
to her whether she would see him or not. He had been with her before
she had had time to fly from him. Now she had a moment for thought,a
moment in which she could ask herself whether it would be good for her
to place herself again in his hands. She said that it would not be
good, and she walked steadily down to her aunt's parlour. Aunt
Charlotte, she said, Ludovic Valcarm is in the house.
In this house,again! exclaimed Madame Staubach. Linda, having
made her statement, said not a word further. Though she had felt
herself compelled to turn informant against her lover, and by
implication against Tetchen, her lover's accomplice, nevertheless she
despised herself for what she was doing. She did not expect to soften
her aunt by her conduct, or in any way to mitigate the rigour of her
own sufferings. Her clandestine meetings with Ludovic had brought with
them so much of pain and shame, that she had resolved almost by
instinct to avoid another. But having taken this step to avoid it, she
had nothing further to say or to do. Where is the young man? demanded
Tetchen says that he is here, in the house, said Linda. Then
Madame Staubach left the parlour, and crossed into the kitchen. There,
standing close to the stove and warming himself, she found this
terrible youth who had worked her so much trouble. It seemed to Madame
Staubach that for months past she had been hearing of his having been
constantly in and about the house, entering where he would and when he
would, and in all those months she had never seen him. When last she
had beheld him he had been to her simply a foolish idle youth with whom
his elder cousin had been forced to quarrel. Since that, he had become
to her a source of infinite terror. He had been described to her as one
guilty of crimes which, much as she hated them, produced, even in her
breast, a kind of respect for the criminal. He was a rebel of whom the
magistrates were afraid. When in prison he had had means of escaping.
When arrested at Nuremberg he would be the next day at Augsburg; when
arrested at Augsburg he would be the next day at Nuremberg. He could
get in and out of the roofs of houses, and could carry away with him a
young maiden. These are deeds which always excite a certain degree of
admiration in the female heart, and Madame Staubach, though she was a
Baptist, was still a female. When, therefore, she found herself in the
presence of Ludovic, she could not treat him with the indignant scorn
with which she would have received him had he intruded upon her
premises before her fears of him had been excited. Why are you here,
Ludovic Valcarm? she said advancing hardly a step beyond the doorway.
Ludovic looked up at her with his hand resting on the table. He was not
drunk, but he had been drinking; his clothes were soiled; he was
unwashed and dirty, and the appearance of the man was that of a
vagabond. Speak to me, and tell me why you are here, said Madame
I have come to look for my wife, said Ludovic.
You have no wife;at any rate you have none here.
Linda Tressel is my true and lawful wife, and I have come to take
her away with me. She went with me once, and now she will go again.
Where is she? You're not going to keep her locked up. It's against the
law to make a young woman a prisoner.
My niece does not wish to see you;does not intend to see you. Go
But he refused to go, and threatened her, alleging that Linda
Tressel was of an age which allowed her to dispose as she pleased of
her person and her property. Of course this was of no avail with Madame
Staubach, who was determined that, whatever might happen, the young man
should not force himself into Linda's presence. When Ludovic attempted
to leave the kitchen, Madame Staubach stood in the doorway and called
for Tetchen. The servant, who had perched herself on the landing, since
Linda had entered the parlour, was down in a moment, and with various
winks and little signs endeavoured to induce Valcarm to leave the
house. You had better go, or I shall call at once for my neighbour
Jacob Heisse, said Madame Staubach. Then she did call, as lustily as
she was able, though in vain. Upon this Ludovic, not knowing how to
proceed, unable or unwilling to force his way further into the house in
opposition to Madame Staubach, took his departure, and as he went met
Peter Steinmarc in the passage at the back of Heisse's house. Madame
Staubach was still in the kitchen asking questions of Tetchen which
Tetchen did not answer with perfect truth, when Peter appeared among
them. Madame Staubach, he said, that vagabond Ludovic Valcarm has
just been here, in this house.
He went away but a minute since, said Madame Staubach.
Just so. That is exactly what I mean. This is a thing not to be
borne,not to be endured, and shows that your niece Linda is
altogether beyond the reach of any good impressions.
Yes, that is all very well; of course I expect that you will take
her part; although, with your high ideas of religion and all that sort
of thing, it is almost unaccountable that you should do so. As far as I
am concerned there must be an end of it. I am not going to make myself
ridiculous to all Nuremberg by marrying a young woman who has no sense
whatever of self-respect. I have overlooked a great deal too much
already,a great deal too much.
But Linda has not seen the young man. It was she herself who told
me that he was here.
Ah, very well. I don't know anything about that. I saw him coming
away from here, and it may be as well to tell you that I have made up
my mind. Linda Tressel is not the sort of young woman that I took her
to be, and I shall have nothing more to say to her.
You are an old goose, said Tetchen.
Hold your tongue, said Madame Staubach angrily to her servant.
Though she was very indignant with Peter Steinmarc, still it would go
much against the grain with her that the match should be broken off.
She had resolved so firmly that this marriage was proper for all
purposes, that she had almost come to look at it as though it were a
thing ordained of God. Then, too, she remembered, even in this moment,
that Peter Steinmarc had received great provocation. Her immediate
object was to persuade him that nothing had been done to give him
further provocation. No fault had been committed by Linda which had not
already been made known to him and been condoned by him. But how was
she to explain all this to him in privacy, while Tetchen was in the
kitchen, and Linda was in the parlour opposite? Peter, on my word as
an honest truthful woman, Linda has been guilty of no further fault.
She has been guilty of more than enough, said Peter.
That may be said of all us guilty, frail, sinful human beings,
rejoined Madame Staubach.
I doubt whether there are any of us so bad as she is, said Peter.
I wonder, madame, you can condescend to argue with him, said
Tetchen; as if all the world did not know that the fraulein is ten
times too good for the like of him!
Hold your tongue, said Madame Staubach.
And where is Miss Linda at the present moment? demanded Peter.
Madame Staubach hesitated for an instant before she answered, and then
replied that Linda was in the parlour. It might seem, she thought, that
there was some cause for secrecy if she made any concealment at the
present moment. Then Peter made his way out of the kitchen and across
the passage, and without any invitation entered the parlour. Madame
Staubach followed him, and Tetchen followed also. It was unfortunate
for Madame Staubach's plans that the meeting between Peter and Linda
should take place in this way, but she could not help it. But she was
already making up her mind to this,that if Peter Steinmarc
ill-treated her niece, she would bring all Nuremberg about his ears.
Linda Tressel, he said;and as he spoke, the impetuosity of
indignation to which he had worked himself had not as yet subsided, and
therefore he was full of courage;Linda Tressel, I find that that
vagabond Ludovic Valcarm has again been here.
He is no vagabond, said Linda, turning upon him with full as much
indignation as his own.
All the city knows him, and all the city knows you too. You are no
better than you should be, and I wash my hands of you.
Let it be so, said Linda; and for such a blessing I will pardon
you the unmanly cruelty of your words.
But I will not pardon him, said Madame Staubach. It is false; and
if he dares to repeat such words, he shall rue them as long as he
lives. Linda, this is to go for nothing,for nothing. Perhaps it is
not unnatural that he should have some suspicion. Poor Madame
Staubach, agitated by divided feelings, hardly knew on which side to
use her eloquence.
I should think not indeed, said Peter, in triumph. Unnatural! Ha!
I will put his eyes out of him if he laughs like that, said
Tetchen, looking as though she were ready to put her threat into
execution upon the instant.
Peter Steinmarc, you are mistaken in this, said Madame Staubach.
You had better let me see you in private.
Mistaken, am I? Oh! am I mistaken in thinking that she was alone
during the whole night with Ludovic? A man does not like such mistakes
as that. I tell you that I have done with her,done with her,done
with her! She is a bad piece. She does not ring sound. Madame Staubach,
I respect you, and am sorry for you; but you know the truth as well as
Man, she said to him, you are ungrateful, cruel, and unjust.
Aunt Charlotte, said Linda, he has done me the only favour that I
could accept at his hands. It is true that I have done that which, had
he been a man, would have prevented him from seeking to make me his
wife. All that is true. I own it.
There; you hear her, Madame Staubach.
And you shall hear me by-and-by, said Madame Staubach.
But it is no thought of that that has made him give me up,
continued Linda. He knows that he never could have got my hand. I told
him that I would die first, and he has believed me. It is very well
that he should give me up; but no one else, no other man alive, would
have been base enough to have spoken to any woman as he has spoken to
It is all very well for you to say so, said Peter.
Aunt Charlotte, I hope I may never be asked to hear another word
from his lips, or to speak another word to his ears. Then Linda
escaped from the room, thinking as she went that God in His mercy had
saved her at last.
All January had passed by. That thirtieth of January had come and
gone which was to have made Linda Tressel a bride, and Linda was still
Linda Tressel. But her troubles were not therefore over, and Peter
Steinmarc was once again her suitor. It may be remembered how he had
reviled her in her aunt's presence, how he had reminded her of her
indiscretion, and how he had then rejected her; but, nevertheless, in
the first week of February he was again her suitor.
Madame Staubach had passed a very troubled and uneasy month. Though
she was minded to take her niece's part when Linda was so ungenerously
attacked by the man whom she had warmed in the bosom of her family,
still she was most unwilling that Linda should triumph. Her feminine
instincts prompted her to take Linda's part on the spur of the moment,
as similar instincts had prompted Tetchen to do the same thing; but
hardly the less on that account did she feel that it was still her duty
to persevere with that process of crushing by which all human vanity
was to be pressed out of Linda's heart. Peter Steinmarc had misbehaved
himself grossly, had appeared at that last interview in a guise which
could not have made him fascinating to any young woman; but on that
account the merit of submitting to him would be so much the greater.
There could hardly be any moral sackcloth and ashes too coarse and too
bitter for the correction of a sinful mind in this world, but for the
special correction of a mind sinful as Linda's had been, marriage with
such a man as Peter Steinmarc would be sackcloth and ashes of the most
salutary kind. The objection which Linda would feel for the man would
be the exact antidote to the poison with which she had been infected by
the influence of the Evil One. Madame Staubach acknowledged, when she
was asked the question, that a woman should love her husband; but she
would always go on to describe this required love as a feeling which
should spring from a dutiful submission. She was of opinion that a
virtuous child would love his parent, that a virtuous servant would
love her mistress, that a virtuous woman would love her husband, even
in spite of austere severity on the part of him or her who might be in
authority. When, therefore, Linda would refer to what had taken place
in the parlour, and would ask whether it were possible that she should
love a man who had ill-used her so grossly, Madame Staubach would reply
as though love and forgiveness were one and the same thing. It was
Linda's duty to pardon the ill-usage and to kiss the rod that had
smitten her. I hate him so deeply that my blood curdles at the sight
of him, Linda had replied. Then Madame Staubach had prayed that her
niece's heart might be softened, and had called upon Linda to join her
in these prayers. Poor Linda had felt herself compelled to go down upon
her knees and submit herself to such prayer as well as she was able.
Could she have enfranchised her mind altogether from the trammels of
belief in her aunt's peculiar religion, she might have escaped from the
waters which seemed from day to day to be closing over her head; but
this was not within her power. She asked herself no questions as to the
truth of these convictions. The doctrine had been taught to her from
her youth upwards, and she had not realised the fact that she possessed
any power of rejecting it. She would tell herself, and that frequently,
that to her religion held out no comfort, that she was not of the
elect, that manifestly she was a castaway, and that therefore there
could be no reason why she should endure unnecessary torments in this
life. With such impressions on her mind she had suffered herself to be
taken from her aunt's house, and carried off by her lover to Augsburg.
With such impressions strong upon her, she would not hesitate to
declare her hatred for the man, whom, in truth, she hated with all her
heart, but whom, nevertheless, she thought it was wicked to hate. She
daily told herself that she was one given up by herself to Satan. But
yet, when summoned to her aunt's prayers, when asked to kneel and
implore her Lord and Saviour to soften her own heart,so to soften it
that she might become a submissive wife to Peter Steinmarc,she would
comply, because she still believed that such were the sacrifices which
a true religion demanded. But there was no comfort to her in her
religion. Alas! alas! let her turn herself which way she might, there
was no comfort to be found on any side.
At the end of the first week in February no renewed promise of
assent had been extracted from Linda; but Peter, who was made of stuff
less stern, had been gradually brought round to see that he had been
wrong. Madame Staubach had, in the first instance, obtained the
co-operation of Herr Molk and others of the leading city magistrates.
The question of Linda's marriage had become quite a city matter. She
had been indiscreet; that was acknowledged. As to the amount of her
indiscretion, different people had different opinions. In the opinion
of Herr Molk, that was a thing that did not signify. Linda Tressel was
the daughter of a city officer who had been much respected. Her
father's successor in that office was just the man who ought to be her
husband. Of course he was a little old and rusty; but then Linda had
been indiscreet. Linda had not only been indiscreet, but her
indiscretion had been, so to say, very public. She had run away from
the city in the middle of the night with a young man,with a young man
known to be a scamp and a rebel. It must be acknowledged that
indiscretion could hardly go beyond this. But then was there not the
red house to make things even, and was it not acknowledged on all sides
that Peter Steinmarc was very rusty?The magistrates had made up their
minds that the bargain was a just one, and as it had been made, they
thought that it should be carried out. When Peter complained of further
indiscretion on the part of Linda, and pointed out that he was
manifestly absolved from his contract by her continued misconduct, Herr
Molk went to work with most demure diligence, collected all the
evidence, examined all the parties, and explained to Peter that Linda
had not misbehaved herself since the contract had last been ratified.
Peter, my friend, said the burgomaster, you have no right to go back
to anything,to anything that happened before the twenty-third. The
twenty-third was the day on which Peter had expressed his pardon for
the great indiscretion of the elopement. Since that time there has
been no breach of trust on her part. I have examined all the parties,
Peter. It was in vain that Steinmarc tried to show that he was
entitled to be absolved because Linda had said that she hated him. Herr
Molk did not lose above an hour or two in explaining to him that little
amenities of that kind were to be held as compensated in full by the
possession of the red house. And then, had it not been acknowledged
that he was very rusty,a man naturally to be hated by a young woman
who had shown that she had a preference for a young lover? Oh, bah!
said Herr Molk, almost angry at this folly; do not let me hear
anything more about that, Peter. Steinmarc had been convinced, had
assented, and was now ready to accept the hand of his bride.
Nothing more had been heard of Ludovic since the day on which he had
come to the house and had disappeared. Herr Molk, when he was
interrogated on the subject, would shake his head, but in truth Herr
Molk knew nothing. It was the fact that Valcarm, after being confined
in prison at Augsburg for three days, had been discharged by the city
magistrates; and it was the case, also, though the fact was not
generally known, that the city magistrates of Augsburg had declared the
city magistrates of Nuremberg to begeese. Ludovic Valcarm was not now
in prison, but he had left Nuremberg, and no one knew whither he was
gone. The brewers, Sach, by whom he had been employed, professed that
they knew nothing respecting him; but then, as Herr Molk declared, the
two brothers Sach were men who ought themselves to be in prison. They,
too, were rebels, according to Herr Molk.
But in truth, as regarded Linda, no trouble need have been taken in
inquiring after Ludovic. She made no inquiry respecting him. She would
not even listen to Tetchen when Tetchen would suggest this or that mode
of ascertaining where he might be. She had allowed herself to be
reconciled to Tetchen, because Tetchen had taken her part against Peter
Steinmarc; but she would submit to no intrigue at the old woman's
instance. I do not want to see him ever again, Tetchen.
But, fraulein, you loved him.
Yes, and I do. But of what use is such love? I could do him no
good. If he were there, opposite,where he used to be,I would not
cross the river to him.
I hope, my dear, that it mayn't be so with you always, that's all,
Tetchen had said. But Linda had no vestige of such hope at her heart.
The journey to Augsburg had been to her the cause of too much agony,
had filled her with too real a sense of maidenly shame, to enable her
to look forward with hope to any adventure in which Ludovic should have
to take a part. To escape from Peter Steinmarc, whether by death, or
illness, or flight, or sullen refusal,but to escape from him let the
cost to herself be what it might,that was all that she now desired.
But she thought that escape was not possible to her. She was coming at
last to believe that she would have to stand up in the church and give
her hand. If it were so, all Nuremberg should ring with the tragedy of
Since Peter had returned, and expressed to Madame Staubach his
willingness to go on with the marriage, he had, after a fashion, been
again taken into that lady's favour. He had behaved very badly, but a
fault repented was a fault to be forgiven. I am sorry that there was a
rumpus, Madame Staubach, he had said, but you see that there is so
much to put a man's back up when a girl runs away with a man in the
middle of the night, you know.
Peter, the widow had replied, interrupting him, that need not be
discussed again. The wickedness of the human heart is so deep that it
cannot be fathomed; but we have the word of the Lord to show to us that
no sinner is too vile to be forgiven. What you said in your anger was
cruel and unmanly, but it has been pardoned. Then Peter sat down and
lighted his pipe. He did not like the tone of his friend's remarks, but
he knew well that there was nothing to be gained by discussing such
matters with Madame Staubach. It was better for him to take his old
seat quietly, and at once to light his pipe. Linda, on that occasion,
and on many others subsequently, came and sat in the room, and there
would be almost absolute silence. There might be a question asked about
the household, and Linda would answer it; or Peter might remark that
such a one among the small city dealers had been fined before the
magistrates for some petty breach of the city's laws. But of
conversation there was none, and Peter never on these evenings
addressed himself specially to Linda. It was quite understood that she
was to undergo persuasion, not from Peter, but from her aunt.
About the middle of February her aunt made her last attack on poor
Linda. For days before something had been said daily; some word had
been spoken in which Madame Staubach alluded to the match as an affair
which would certainly be brought about sooner or later. And there were
prayers daily for the softening of Linda's heart. And it was understood
that every one in the house was supposed to be living under some
special cloud of God's anger till Linda's consent should have been
given. Madame Staubach had declared during the ecstasy of her devotion,
that not only she herself, but even Tetchen also, would become the prey
of Satan if Linda did not relent. Linda had almost acknowledged to
herself that she was in the act of bringing eternal destruction on all
those around her by her obstinacy. Oh, if she could only herself be
dead, let the eternal consequences as they regarded herself alone be
what they might!
Linda, said her aunt, is it not time at length that you should
give us an answer?
An answer, aunt Charlotte? As if she had not given a sufficiency
Do you not see how others suffer because of your obstinacy?
It is not my doing.
It is your doing. Do not allow any such thought as that to get into
your mind, and assist the Devil in closing the door of your heart. They
who are your friends are bound to you, and cannot separate themselves
Who are my friends?
I am sorry you should ask that question, Linda.
I have no friends.
Linda, that is ungrateful to God, and thankless. I say nothing of
You are my friend, but no one else.
Herr Molk is your friend, and has shown himself to be so. Jacob
Heisse is your friend. He, too, using such wisdom as he possessed, had
recommended Linda to take the husband provided for her. Peter
Steinmarc is your friend.
No, he is not, said Linda.
That is very wicked,heinously wicked. Whereupon Madame Staubach
went towards the door for the purpose of bolting it, and Linda knew
that this was preparatory to a prayer. Linda felt that it was
impossible that she should fall on her knees and attempt to pray at
this moment. What was the use of it? Sooner or later she must yield.
She had no weapon with which to carry on the battle, whereas her aunt
was always armed.
Aunt Charlotte, she said, suddenly, I will do what you
want,only not now; not quite yet. Let there be time for me to make
myself ready for it.
The dreaded visitation of that special prayer was at any rate
arrested, and Madame Staubach graciously accepted Linda's assent as
sufficient quittance at any rate for the evil words that had been
spoken on that occasion. She was too wise to demand a more gracious
acquiescence, and did not say a word then even in opposition to the
earnest request which had been made for delay. She kissed her niece,
and rejoiced as the woman rejoiced who had swept diligently and had
found her lost piece. If Linda would at last take the right path, all
former deviations from it should be as nothing. And Madame Staubach
half-trusted, almost thought, that it could not be but that her own
prayers should prevail at last. Linda indeed had twice before assented,
and had twice retracted her word. But there had been causes. The young
man had come and had prevailed, who surely would not come again, and
who surely, if coming, would not prevail. And then Peter himself had
misbehaved. It must now be Madame Staubach's care that there should
arise no further stumbling-block. There were but two modes of taking
this care at her disposal. She could watch Linda all the day, and she
could reiterate her prayers with renewed diligence. On neither point
would she be found lacking.
And when shall be the happy day? said Peter. On the occasion of
his visit to the parlour subsequent to the scene which has just been
described, Madame Staubach left the room for a while so that the two
lovers might be together. Peter had been warned that it would be so,
and had prepared, no doubt, his little speech.
There will be no happy day, said Linda.
Don't say that, my dear.
I do say it. There will be no happy day for you or for me.
But we must fix a day, you know, said Peter.
I will arrange it with my aunt. Then Linda got up and left the
room. Peter Steinmarc attempted no further conversation with her, nor
did Madame Staubach again endeavour to create any intercourse between
them. It must come after marriage. It was clearly to her God's will
that these two people should be married, and she could not but be right
to leave the result to His wisdom. A day was named. With a simple nod
of her head Linda agreed that she would become Peter's wife on the
fifteenth of March; and she received visits from Herr Molk and from
Jacob Heisse to congratulate her on her coming happiness.
Throughout February Linda never flinched. She hardly spoke at all
except on matters of household business, but to them she was sedulously
attentive. She herself insisted on understanding what legal arrangement
was made about the house, and would not consent to sign the necessary
document preparatory to her marriage till there was inserted in it a
clause giving to her aunt a certain life-interest in the property in
the event either of her marriage or of her death. Peter did his best to
oppose this, as did also Madame Staubach herself; but Linda prevailed,
and the clause was there. She would have to live with you whether or
no, said Herr Molk to the town-clerk. You couldn't turn the woman out
into the street. But Peter had wished to be master of his own house,
and would not give up the point till much eloquence and authority had
been used. He had come to wish with all his heart that he had never
seen Linda Tressel or the red house; but he had gone so far that he
could not retract. Linda never flinched, never uttered a word of
complaint; sat silent while Peter was smoking, and awaited her doom.
Once her aunt spoke to her about her feelings as a bride. You do love
him, do you not, Linda? said Madame Staubach. I do not love him,
Linda had replied. Then Madame Staubach dared to ask no further
question, but prayed that the necessary affection might be given.
There were various things to be bought, and money for the purpose
was in a moderate degree forthcoming. Madame Staubach possessed a small
hoard, which was now to be spent, and something she raised on her own
little property. A portion of this was intrusted wholly to Linda, and
she exercised care and discretion in its disposition. Linen for the
house she purchased, and things needed for the rooms and the kitchen.
But she would expend nothing in clothes for herself. When pressed on
the subject by her aunt, she declared that her marriage would be one
that required no finery. Her own condition and that of her proposed
husband, she said, made it quite unnecessary. When she was told that
Steinmarc would be offended by such exaggerated simplicity, she turned
upon her aunt with such a look of scorn that Madame Staubach did not
dare to say another word. Indeed at this time Madame Staubach had
become almost afraid of her niece, and would sit watching the silent
stern industry of the younger woman with something of awe. Could it be
that there ever came over her heart a shock of regret for the thing she
was doing? Was it possible that she should already be feeling remorse?
If it was so with her, she turned herself to prayer, and believed that
the Lord told her that she was right.
But there were others who watched, and spoke among themselves, and
felt that the silent solemnity of Linda's mode of life was a cause for
trembling. Max Bogen's wife had come to her father's house, and had
seen Linda, and had talked to Tetchen, and had said at home that Linda
wasmad. Her father had become frightened, and had refused to take any
part in the matter. He acknowledged that he had given his advice in
favour of the marriage, but he had done this merely as a matter of
course,to oblige his neighbour, Madame Staubach. He would have
nothing more to do with it. When Fanny told him that she feared that
Linda would lose her senses, he went into his workshop and busied
himself with a great chair. But Tetchen was not so reticent. Tetchen
said much to Madame Staubach;so much that the unfortunate widow was
nearly always on her knees, asking for help, asking in very truth for
new gifts of obstinate persistency; and Tetchen also said much to Fanny
But what can we do, Tetchen? asked Fanny.
If I had my will, said Tetchen, I would so handle him that he
would be glad enough to be off his bargain. But you'll see they'll
never live together as man and wife,never for a day.
They who said that Linda was mad at this time were probably
half-right; but if so, her madness had shown itself in none of those
forms which are held to justify interference by authority. There was no
one in Nuremberg who could lock a woman up because she was silent; or
could declare her to be unfit for marriage because she refused to buy
wedding clothes. The marriage must go on. Linda herself felt that it
must be accomplished. Her silence and her sternness were not now
consciously used by her as means of opposing or delaying the coming
ceremony, but simply betrayed the state of mind to which she was
reduced. She counted the days and she counted the hours as a criminal
counts them who sits in his cell and waits for the executioner. She
knew, she thought she knew, that she would stand in the church and have
her hand put into that of Peter Steinmarc; but what might happen after
that she did not know.
She would stand at the altar and have her hand put into that of
Peter Steinmarc, and she would be called his wife in sight of God and
man. She spent hours in solitude attempting to realise the position
with all its horrors. She never devoted a minute to the task of
reconciling herself to it. She did not make one slightest endeavour
towards teaching herself that after all it might be possible for her to
live with the man as his companion in peace and quietness. She hated
him with all the vigour of her heart, and she would hate him to the
end. On that subject no advice, no prayer, no grace from heaven, could
be of service to her. Satan, with all the horrors of hell, as they had
been described to her, was preferable to the companionship of Peter
Steinmarc. And yet she went on without flinching.
She went on without flinching till the night of the tenth of March.
Up to that time, from the day on which she had last consented to her
martyrdom, no idea of escape had occurred to her. As she left her aunt
on that evening, Madame Staubach spoke to her. You should at any rate
pray for him, said Madame Staubach. I hope that you pray that this
marriage may be for his welfare. How could she pray for him? And how
could she utter such a prayer as that? But she tried; and as she tried,
she reflected that the curse to him would be as great as it was to her.
Not only was she to be sacrificed, but the miserable man was bringing
himself also to utter wretchedness. Unless she could die, there would
be no escape for him, as also there would be none for her. That she
should speak to him, touch him, hold intercourse with him, was, she now
told herself, out of the question. She might be his servant, if he
would allow her to be so at a distance, but nothing more. Or it might
be possible that she should be his murderess! A woman who has been
taught by her religion that she is and must be a child of the Evil One,
may become guilty of what most terrible crime you please without much
increase of damage to her own cause,without much damage according to
her own views of life and death. Linda, as she thought of it in her own
chamber, with her eyes wide open, looking into the dark night from out
of her window, declared to herself that in certain circumstances she
would certainly attempt to kill him. She shuddered and shook till she
almost fell from her chair. Come what might, she would not endure the
pressure of his caress.
Then she got up and resolved that she would even yet make one other
struggle to escape. It would not be true of her to say that at this
moment she was mad, but the mixed excitement and terror of her position
as she was waiting her doom, joined to her fears, her doubts, and,
worse than all, her certainties as to her condition in the sight of
God, had almost unstrung her mind. She had almost come to believe that
the world was at its end, and that the punishment of which she had
heard so much was already upon her. If this is to be a doom for ever,
she said to herself, the God I have striven to love is very cruel.
But then there came an exercise of reason which told her that it could
not be a doom for ever. It was clear to her that there was much as yet
within her own power which could certainly not be so in that abode of
the unblessed to which she was to be summoned. There was the window
before her, with the silent river running below; and she knew that she
could throw herself from it if she chose to put forth the power which
she still possessed. She felt that she herself might her quietus make
with a bare bodkin. Why should she
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after life,
The undiscovered country from whose bourne
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Linda knew nothing of Hamlet, but the thought was there, exact; and
the knowledge that some sort of choice was still open to her, if it
were only the choice of sending herself at once to a world different
from this, a world in which Peter Steinmarc would not be the avenger of
her life's wickedness, made her aware that even yet something might be
On the following morning she was in the kitchen, as was usual with
her now, at an early hour, and made the coffee for her aunt's
breakfast, and for Peter's. Tetchen was there also, and to Tetchen she
spoke a word or two in good humour. Tetchen said afterwards that she
knew that something was to happen, because Linda's manner to her had
been completely changed that morning. She sat down with her aunt at
eight, and ate a morsel of bread, and endeavoured to swallow her
coffee. She was thinking at the time that it might be the case that she
would never see her aunt again. All the suffering that she had endured
at Madame Staubach's hands had never quenched her love. Miserable as
she had been made by the manner in which this woman had executed the
trust which circumstances had placed in her hands, Linda had hardly
blamed her aunt even within her own bosom. When with a frenzy of agony
Madame Staubach would repeat prayer after prayer, extending her hands
towards heaven, and seeking to obtain that which she desired by the
painful intensity of her own faith, it had never occurred to Linda that
in such proceedings she was ill-treated by her aunt. Her aunt, she
thought, had ever shown to her all that love which a mother has for her
child, and Linda in her misery was never ungrateful. As soon as the
meal was finished she put on her hat and cloak, which she had brought
down from her room, and then kissed her aunt.
God bless you, my child, said Madame Staubach, and enable you to
be an affectionate and dutiful wife to your husband. Then Linda went
forth from the room and from the house, and as she went she cast her
eyes around, thinking that it might be possible that she should never
see them again.
Linda told no lie as she left her aunt, but she felt that she was
acting a lie. It had been arranged between them, before she had
entertained this thought of escaping from Nuremberg, that she should on
this morning go out by herself and make certain purchases. In spite of
the things that had been done, of Valcarm's visit to the upper storeys
of the house, of the flight to Augsburg, of Linda's long protracted
obstinacy and persistently expressed hatred for the man who was to be
her husband, Madame Staubach still trusted her niece. She trusted Linda
perhaps the more at this time from a feeling that she had exacted so
much from the girl. When, therefore, Linda kissed her and went out, she
had no suspicion on her mind; nor was any aroused till the usual
dinner-hour was passed, and Linda was still absent. When Tetchen at one
o'clock said something of her wonder that the fraulein had not
returned, Madame Staubach had suggested that she might be with her
friend Herr Molk. Tetchen knew what was the warmth of that friendship,
and thought that such a visit was not probable. At three o'clock the
postman brought a letter which Linda herself had dropped into the box
of the post-office that morning, soon after leaving the house. She had
known when, in ordinary course, it would be delivered. Should it lead
by any misfortune to her discovery before she could escape, that she
could not help. Even that, accompanied by her capture, would be as good
a mode as any other of telling her aunt the truth. The letter was as
DEAREST AUNT,I think you hardly know what are my
sufferings. I truly believe that I have deserved them, but
nevertheless they are insupportable. I cannot marry Peter
Steinmarc. I have tried it, and cannot. The day is very
near now; but were it to come nearer, I should go mad, or I
should kill myself. I think that you do not know what the
feeling is that has made me the most wretched of women since
this marriage was first proposed to me. I shall go away
to-morrow, and shall try to get to my uncle's house in
Cologne. It is a long way off, and perhaps I shall never get
there: but if I am to die on the road, oh, how much better
will that be! I do not want to live. I have made you
unhappy, and everybody unhappy, but I do not think that
anybody has been so unhappy as I am. I shall give you
a kiss as I go out, and you will think that it was the
kiss of Judas; but I am not a Judas in my heart. Dear
aunt Charlotte, I would have borne it if I could,Your
affectionate, but undutiful niece,
Undutiful! So she called herself; but had she not, in truth, paid
duty to her aunt beyond that which one human being can in any case owe
to another? Are we to believe that the very soul of the offspring is to
be at the disposition of the parent? Poor Linda! Madame Staubach, when
the letter was handed to her by Tetchen, sat aghast for a while,
motionless, with her hands before her. She is off again, I suppose,
Yes; she has gone.
It serves you right. I say it now, and I will say it. Why was she
so driven? Madame Staubach said never a word. Could she have had Linda
back at the instant, just now, at this very moment, she would have
yielded. It was beginning to become apparent to her that God did not
intend that her prayers should be successful. Doubtless the fault was
with herself. She had lacked faith. Then as she sat there she began to
reflect that it might be that she herself was not of the elect. What
if, after all, she had been wrong throughout! Is anything to be done?
said Tetchen, who was still standing by her side.
What ought I to do, Tetchen?
Wring Peter Steinmarc's neck, said Tetchen. That would be the
best thing. Even this did not bring forth an angry retort from Madame
Staubach. About an hour after that Peter came in. He had already heard
that the bird had flown. Some messenger from Jacob Heisse's house had
brought him the tidings to the town-hall.
What is this? said he. What is this? She has gone again.
Yes, said Tetchen, she has gone again. What did you expect?
And Ludovic Valcarm is with her?
Ludovic Valcarm is not with her! said Madame Staubach, with an
expression of wrath which made him start a foot back from where he
Ah! he exclaimed, when he had recovered himself, and reflected
that he had no cause for fear, she is no better than she should be.
She is ten times too good for you. That is all that is the matter
with her, said Tetchen.
I have done with her,have done with her altogether, said Peter,
rubbing his hands together.
I should think you have, said Tetchen.
Tell him to leave me, said Madame Staubach, waving Peter away with
her hand. Then Tetchen took the town-clerk by his arm, and led him
somewhat roughly out of the room. So he shall disappear from our sight.
No reader will now require to be told that he did not become the
husband of Linda Tressel.
Madame Staubach did nothing and said nothing further on the matter
that night. Tetchen indeed went up to the railway station, and found
that Linda had taken a ticket through to Mannheim, and had asked
questions there, openly, in reference to the boats from thence down the
Rhine. She had with her money sufficient to take her to Cologne, and
her aunt endeavoured to comfort herself with thinking that no further
evil would come of this journey than the cost, and the rumours it would
furnish. As to Peter Steinmarc, that was now all over. If Linda would
return, no further attempt should be made. Tetchen said nothing on the
subject, but she herself was by no means sure that Linda had no partner
in her escape. To Tetchen's mind it was so natural that there should be
Early on the following morning Madame Staubach was closeted with
Herr Molk in the panelled chamber of the house in the Egidien Platz,
seeking advice. Gone again, is she? said Herr Molk, holding up his
hand. And that fellow is with her of course?
No, no, no! exclaimed Madame Staubach.
Are you sure of that! At any rate she must marry him now, for
nobody else will take her. Peter won't bite again at that bait. Then
Madame Staubach was compelled to explain that all ideas of matrimony in
respect to her niece must be laid aside, and she was driven also to
confess that she had persevered too long in regard to Peter Steinmarc.
He certainly is a little rusty for such a young woman as Linda, said
Herr Molk, confessing also his part of the fault. At last he counselled
Madame Staubach that she could do nothing but follow her niece to
Cologne, as she had before followed her to Augsburg. Such a journey
would be very terrible to her. She had not been in Cologne for years,
and did not wish to see again those who were there. But she felt that
she had no alternative, and she went.
For very many years no connection had been maintained between the
two women who lived together in Nuremberg, and their nearest relative,
who was a half-brother of Madame Staubach's, a lawyer, living in
Cologne. This uncle of Linda's was a Roman Catholic, and had on this
account been shunned by Madame Staubach. Some slight intercourse there
had been on matters of business, and thus it had come to pass that
Linda knew the address of her uncle. But this was all that she knew,
and knowing this only, she had started for Cologne. The reader will
hardly require to be told that she had not gone in company with him who
a few weeks since had been her lover. The reader, perhaps, will have
understood Linda's character so thoroughly as to be convinced that,
though she had submitted to be dragged out of her window by her lover,
and carried away to Augsburg in the night, still it was not probable
that she should again be guilty of such indiscretion as that. The
lesson had not been in vain. If there be any reader who does not know
Linda's character better than it was known to Herr Molk, or even to
Tetchen, this story has been told in vain. All alone she started, and
all alone she made the entire journey. Long as it was, there was no
rest for her on the way. She went by a cheap and slow train, and on she
went through the long day and the long night, and on through the long
day again. She did not suffer with the cold as she had suffered on that
journey to Augsburg, but the weariness of the hours was very great, and
the continuation of the motion oppressed her sorely. Then joined to
this suffering was the feeling that she was going to a strange world in
which no one would receive her kindly. She had money to take her to
Cologne, but she would have none to bring her back again. It seemed to
her as she went that there could be no prospect to her returning to a
home which she had disgraced so thoroughly.
At Mannheim she found that she was obliged to wait over four hours
before the boat started. She quitted the railway a little after
midnight, and she was told that she was to be on board before five in
the morning. The night was piercing cold, though never so cold as had
been that other night; and she was dismayed at the thought of wandering
about in that desolate town. Some one, however, had compassion on her,
and she was taken to a small inn, in which she rested on a bed without
removing her clothes. When she rose in the morning, she walked down to
the boat without a word of complaint, but she found that her limbs were
hardly able to carry her. An idea came across her mind that if the
people saw that she was ill they would not take her upon the boat. She
crawled on, and took her place among the poorer passengers before the
funnels. For a considerable time no one noticed her, as she sat
shivering in the cold morning air on a damp bench. At last a
market-woman going down to Mayence asked her a question. Was she ill?
Before they had reached Mayence she had told her whole story to the
market-woman. May God temper the wind for thee, my shorn lamb! said
the market-woman to Linda, as she left her; for it seems that thou
hast been shorn very close. By this time, with the assistance of the
woman, she had found a place below in which she could lie down, and
there she remained till she learned that the boat had reached Cologne.
Some one in authority on board the vessel had been told that she was
ill; and as they had reached Cologne also at night, she was allowed to
remain on board till the next morning. With the early dawn she was
astir, and the full daylight of the March morning was hardly perfect in
the heavens when she found herself standing before the door of a house
in the city, to which she had been brought as being the residence of
She was now, in truth, so weak and ill that she could hardly stand.
Her clothes had not been off her back since she left Nuremberg, nor had
she come prepared with any change of raiment. A woman more wretched,
more disconsolate, on whose shoulders the troubles of this world lay
heavier, never stood at an honest man's door to beg admittance. If only
she might have died as she crawled through the streets!
But there she was, and she must make some petition that the door
might be opened for her. She had come all the way from Nuremberg to
this spot, thinking it possible that in this spot alone she might
receive succour; and now she stood there, fearing to raise the knocker
on the door. She was a lamb indeed, whose fleece had been shorn very
close; and the shearing had been done all in the sacred name of
religion! It had been thought necessary that the vile desires of her
human heart should be crushed within her bosom, and the crushing had
brought her to this. She looked up in her desolation at the front of
the house. It was a white, large house, as belonging to a moderately
prosperous citizen, with two windows on each side of the door, and five
above, and then others again above them. But there seemed to be no
motion within it, nor was there any one stirring along the street.
Would it not be better, she thought, that she should sit for a while
and wait upon the door-step? Who has not known that frame of mind in
which any postponement of the thing dreaded is acceptable?
But Linda's power of postponement was very short. She had hardly
sunk on to the step, when the door was opened, and the necessity for
explaining herself came upon her. Slowly and with pain she dragged
herself on to her feet, and told the suspicious servant, who stood
filling the aperture of the doorway, that her name was Linda Tressel,
and that she had come from Nuremberg. She had come from the house of
Madame Staubach at Nuremberg. Would the servant be kind enough to tell
Herr Grüner that Linda Tressel, from Madame Staubach's house in
Nuremberg, was at his door? She claimed no kindred then, feeling that
the woman might take such claim as a disgrace to her master. When she
was asked to call again later, she looked piteously into the woman's
face, and said that she feared she was too ill to walk away.
Before the morning was over she was in bed, and her uncle's wife was
at her bedside, and there had been fair-haired cousins in her room,
creeping in to gaze at her with their soft blue eyes, touching her with
their young soft hands, and calling her Cousin Linda with their soft
voices. It seemed to her that she could have died happily, so happily,
then, if only they might have been allowed to stand round her bed, and
still to whisper and still to touch her. But they had been told that
they might only just see their new cousin and then depart,because the
new cousin was ill. The servant at the front door had doubted her, as
it is the duty of servants to doubt in such cases; but her uncle had
not doubted, and her uncle's wife, when she heard the story, wept over
her, and told her that she should be at rest.
Linda told her story from the first to the last. She told
everything,her hatred for the one man, her love for the other; her
journey to Augsburg. Ah, dear, dear, dear, said aunt Grüner when this
was told to her. I know how wicked I have been, said Linda,
sorrowing. I do not say that you have been wicked, my dear, but you
have been unfortunate, said aunt Grüner. And then Linda went on to
tell her, as the day so much dreaded by her drew nearer and nearer, as
she came to be aware that, let her make what effort she would, she
could not bring herself to be the man's wife,that the horror of it
was too powerful for her,she resolved at the last moment that she
would seek the only other relative in the world of whom she knew even
the name. Her aunt Grüner thoroughly commended her for this, saying,
however, that it would have been much better that she should have made
the journey at some period earlier in her troubles. Aunt Charlotte
does not seem to be a very nice sort of woman to live with, said aunt
Grüner. Then Linda, with what strength she could, took Madame
Staubach's part. She always thought that she was doing right, said
Linda, solemnly. Ah, that comes of her religion, said aunt Grüner.
We think differently, my dear. Thank God, we have got somebody to tell
us what we ought to do and what we ought not to do. Linda was not
strong enough to argue the question, or to remind her aunt that this
somebody, too, might possibly be wrong.
Linda Tressel was now happier than she had remembered herself to
have been since she was a child, though ill, so that the doctor who
came to visit her could only shake his head and speak in whispers to
aunt Grüner. Linda herself, perceiving how it was with the
doctor,knowing that there were whispers though she did not hear them,
and shakings of the head though she did not see them,told her aunt
with a smile that she was contented to die. Her utmost hope, the extent
of her wishes, had been to escape from the extremity of misery to which
she had been doomed. She had thought often, she said, as she had been
making that journey, that her strength would not serve her to reach the
house of her relative. God, she said, had been very good to her, and
she was now contented to go.
Madame Staubach arrived at Cologne four days after her niece, and
was also welcomed at her brother's house. But the welcome accorded to
her was not that which had been given to Linda. She has been driven
very nearly to death's door among you, said the one aunt to the other.
To Linda Madame Staubach was willing to own that she had been wrong,
but she could make no such acknowledgment to the wife of her
half-brother,to a benighted Papist. I have endeavoured to do my duty
by my niece, said Madame Staubach, asking the Lord daily to show me
the way. Pshaw! said the other woman. Your always asking the way,
and never knowing it, will end in her death. She will have been
murdered by your prayers. This was very terrible, but for Linda's sake
it was borne.
There was nothing of reproach either from Linda to her aunt or from
Madame Staubach to her niece, nor was the name of Peter Steinmarc
mentioned between them for many days. It was, indeed, mentioned but
once again by poor Linda Tressel. For some weeks, for nearly a month,
they all remained in the house of Herr Grüner, and then Linda was
removed to apartments in Cologne, in which all her earthly troubles
were brought to a close. She never saw Nuremberg again, or Tetchen, who
had been faithful at least to her, nor did she ever even ask the fate
of Ludovic Valcarm. His name Madame Staubach never dared to mention;
and Linda was silent, thinking always that it was a name of offence.
But when she had been told that she must die,that her days were
indeed numbered, and that no return to Nuremberg was possible for
her,she did speak a word of Peter Steinmarc. Tell him, aunt
Charlotte, from me, she said, that I prayed for him when I was dying,
and that I forgave him. You know, aunt Charlotte, it was impossible
that I should marry him. A woman must not marry a man whom she does not
love. Madame Staubach did not venture to say a word in her own
justification. She did not dare even to recur to the old tenets of her
fierce religion, while Linda still lived. She was cowed, and contented
herself with the offices of a nurse by the sickbed of the dying girl.
She had been told by her sister-in-law that she had murdered her niece.
Who can say what were the accusations brought against her by the fury
of her own conscience?
Every day the fair-haired cousins came to Linda's bedside, and
whispered to her with their soft voices, and looked at her with their
soft eyes, and touched her with their soft hands. Linda would kiss
their plump arms and lean her head against them, and would find a very
paradise of happiness in this late revelation of human love. As she lay
a-dying she must have known that the world had been very hard to her,
and that her aunt's teaching had indeed crushed her,body as well as
spirit. But she made no complaint; and at last, when the full summer
had come, she died at Cologne in Madame Staubach's arms.
During those four months at Cologne the zeal of Madame Staubach's
religion had been quenched, and she had been unable to use her
fanaticism, even towards herself. But when she was alone in the world
the fury of her creed returned. With faith you shall move a mountain,
she would say, but without faith you cannot live. She could never
trust her own faith, for the mountain would not be moved.
A small tombstone in the Protestant burying-ground at Cologne tells
that Linda Tressel, of Nuremberg, died in that city on the 20th of July
1863, and that she was buried in that spot.