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Aunt Edith's Foreign Lover by Mary Wager-Fisher

 

"There is a destiny which shapes our end;" and I am a firm believer in it, for how else can I explain my adventures and their results while travelling in Austria in the year of the Welt-Ausstellung at Vienna?

As is usual with a novice in European travel, I received during the week prior to sailing the ordinary amount of advice as to what I should and should not do. Meantime, my aunt Edith, who had spent a year in Europe ten or twelve years before, rather surprised me by her reticence in regard to my proposed voyage. However, the night before I was to sail I suggested to her that she might be able to give me some valuable advice, as she had probably not "forgotten how one should behave in Paris."

"Forgotten!" she exclaimed with a start, and then, raven-like, "nothing more." I played with the tassel of the window-curtain and wondered how I should ever get on without this aunt, the dearest, bravest and handsomest woman in all the world—to me. She was thirty-six years old, just ten years older than myself, for by a happy coincidence our birthdays fell in the same month, and upon the same day of the month, the twenty-fifth of August.

Aunt Edith was a great comfort to the maiden sisterhood. Spinsters referred to Edith Mack with a sense of triumph whenever any disrespectful allusions were cast upon "old maids." She was always bright, charming and witty, and people wondered, like so many idiots, why she had never married, instead of wondering why most other women did. When questioned about it, which was rarely, she usually replied that she never "had the time," or that she had been "warned in dreams," or that she awaited her "king from over the seas"—some such bêtise. But to me the fact that she had never married was never a matter for wonder: she had never loved, I supposed, which was reason enough. She had her work in life—had written two very delightful books, made occasional illustrations for publishers, and played German music à ravir. At length she spoke, this Aunt Edith.

"Yes, my dear niece, I have some advice to give you," she said in a low voice: "don't fall in love with a European."

"Do you think there is any danger?" I asked with mock seriousness.

"Not with a Frenchman or German," she quickly replied. "But let me tell you my experience. I was not far from your age when I went to Europe with Cousin Helen. I had just refused an offer of marriage from a very noble fellow because I could not love him. He lacked the power to control me: I felt myself the stronger of the two. Not that women like to be ruled, but that they like that power in men which can rule if need be, generously, but never despotically. I had only in my imagination a conception of that love 'which passeth understanding'—which lifts a woman out of herself into a willing sacrifice that looks to calmer eyes as the height of folly. I liked men well, but none had ever stirred more than the even surface of my feelings, and I so firmly believed that no one ever could as to regard my 'falling in love' as most improbable. I really desired the experience, feeling that something is lost out of life if every phase of human feeling and emotion be not awakened. But I went to Europe, and walked straight into my fate.

"The day after my arrival in Paris, in passing through the court of the hotel where I was stopping, I encountered a gentleman who lifted his hat, and who looked at me in a manner that caused me to observe his eyes, which were large, black and exceptionally splendid. In figure he was tall and firmly built, an aquiline nose and clearly-cut chin giving a high-bred look to his face, and he wore some sort of a decoration which caught Helen's notice. At the table-d'hôte that evening I found myself seated next to him. Our table-talk, begun early in the meal, was the beginning of an acquaintance that developed into that strongest of affections which makes slaves of us all. I never forgot my proud birthright, and well understood the danger of a European alliance—or misalliance. The gentleman was quite Oriental, belonging to that country which has Bucharest for its capital. His family was of high distinction, connected with that of the reigning prince. He possessed a modest fortune, had been educated in Athens and Paris, and spoke four or five languages. He was ardent, jealous, passionate, but possessed a heart at once so loving, so full of every tender and winning quality, that it was easy to forgive outbursts of feeling and similar offences. He had spent some time in England, without, however, learning to speak much of the language. The history of his past life, as he related it to us, was quite in keeping with his character as a man. He had been affianced when quite young to a beautiful girl, quarrelled with her, broke off the engagement, then joined the Greek army, fought against the Turks, and was four times wounded.

"It was early in June when we arrived in Paris, and at the occurrence of my birthday in August we had become very well acquainted, as also with a number of his friends to whom he had introduced us. Wishing to observe my fête, he sent me a tiny bouquet—a rose and some sprays of fragrant flowers. In the evening he begged for some souvenir of the day, when I declared I had nothing to give.

"'Then I shall take something,' he replied, and clipped from a curl a ring of my hair, which he placed in a locket attached to his watchguard, in the back of which he previously made a note of the day.

"'That will remain there for ever,' he remarked.

"'Which means six months, at the end of which time you will have forgotten me,' I replied.

"'Not at the end of six months, six years, nor six ages,' he warmly retorted.

"As the autumn months wore away, and he began to talk to me of marriage, the seriousness of his love frightened me, and it was not until I was assured by what seemed unmistakable proofs that all his statements in regard to himself were true that I in any sense considered the question of marriage with him. To be obliged always to talk French or Italian was not to my liking, and to marry anybody but a compatriot seemed very unpatriotic. But I loved him, and that was the solution of the whole matter. His kindness to us was without limit, and tendered in the most graceful and grateful manner. He knew some excellent English families who were living in Paris, whose acquaintance we afterward made, and who spoke of him in the highest terms of esteem.

"As the winter set in, Helen and I arranged to go to Italy. My friend was to take advantage of our departure to go to his 'provincial estates' on business, and afterward to join us in Italy. He gave us a letter to the Greek consul at Rome, a friend of his, to whose care he would confide his letters, and who, he thought, might be of real service to us notwithstanding our own ambassadorial corps there.

"My separation from him proved to me in a thousandfold manner how deep and strong was the bond that bound me to him. We had scarcely more than become well settled in Rome than a letter arrived which he had mailed at Vienna, and which the polite consul came and delivered in person. And what a letter it was!—only a page or two, but words alive with the love and passion of his heart. And that was the last letter, as it was the first, that I ever received from him. The cause of his silence none of us could tell. He knew that a letter sent to me in care of any one of the American consuls in Paris or in Italy would reach me. As the mystery of his silence deepened the attentions of the consul became more assiduous. For some reason I did not like the man, although he was very kind and gentlemanly. Once he lightly remarked that doubtless 'our friend had been épris by some fair Austrian blond;' and the suggestion filled me with shame. Who knew but it might be true—that the man fell in love with every pretty new face—for mine was called beautiful then—and that after an entertaining season of flirtation he had bid me adieu? Of course I blamed myself for having been so confiding as to be deceived by a handsome adventurer without principle or honor. I cannot tell you what agony I suffered. I begged Helen to go on to Naples, for Rome had become very hateful to me. But at Rome, as you know, Helen fell ill with Roman fever, and died, and I returned to Rome to bury her body there in the Protestant cemetery. Four months had gone by, and not a word from my friend. Alone as I was, my troubles drove me nearly frantic. I returned to Paris. That I was so sad and changed seemed naturally due to Helen's death: nobody suspected that I was the victim of a keener sorrow. None of his friends had received news of him. I was too proud to show that my interest in him had been of more than ordinary meaning. Nobody knew of my love for him but Helen, and the secret was buried in her grave.

"I tarried a month or two in Paris, hoping against hope for news of him, without even the consolation of addressing him letters, as I did not know where one would reach him. To know he was dead would have been a relief: to think he had abandoned me, that he had been false, was insupportable. It was the most probable solution of the mystery, but I have never believed it, and I love him as deeply to-day as ever. I have schooled myself to cheerfulness and gayety, but having known him spoiled me for loving again. Here is his portrait," drawing a case from a drawer: "I wish you to see how handsome and good and noble a man may look to be, and yet—"

She paused, and I added, "Be a villain."

"So you see," she smiled, "how apropos my advice to you is: have nothing to do with foreigners."

I returned her the portrait without comment, kissed her good-night, and next day sailed out to sea, with Aunt Edith waving her handkerchief after me like a flag of warning. We lived in the country, six hours' ride from New York, and my oldest brother and Aunt Edith had followed me to the "water's edge," as she playfully expressed it. At London I was to join Cecilia Dayton, a handsome widow of forty-five, an old friend of ours, who was to act the part of "chaperone." We called her "St. Cecilia," although she was anything but saintly.

Late in the following winter we left Paris and went to Nice, where "the romance of a serviette" began; and I trust the reader will not question my truthfulness when I observe that what I am writing is, without exaggeration, strictly true.

St. Cecilia, from nervousness brought on by drinking strong tea (as I firmly believe), kept a small night-lamp burning in her room at night, so she should not be afraid to sleep. For this purpose she used tiny tapers, which float on the top of oil poured in a tumbler half full of water. We breakfasted in our own rooms, and the breakfast napkins of the Grand Hôtel, where we were stopping, were decidedly shabby and only about six inches square. On the morning of our leavetaking of Nice, St. Cecilia wanted a "rag" to tie over her bottle of oil, which she carried with her for her night-tapers, and cast her eyes about for one: she seized upon the raggedest of the serviettes.

"I don't consider this stealing, ma chère," she murmured in apology. "My bill is enormous! I feel that I've paid for this rag twice over."

So the serviette went with us by sea to Naples. There we were obliged for a time to occupy the same apartment, and the napkin taken off the bottle was lying about the room, for it was warm and there was no fire to throw it in. Tucking it away with soiled linen, it came back from the laundry clean and white, save one round oil-spot on it, and was thrown into my trunk along with the refreshed linen; and there it remained untouched until four months later, when I arrived at Vienna.

At Venice, Cecilia was obliged to return to Paris: she was to rejoin me a fortnight later at Vienna. Meantime, a young Englishwoman, Kate Barton, whose acquaintance we had made at Rome, was going to Vienna to join a party of cousins; and as we were both alone, we arranged to make the journey together. Kate was one of the merriest of English girls (a native, however, of Cape Town), a tall, rosy-cheeked blond, with a half dozen brothers distributed in the British army and provincial parliaments.

We left Venice at midnight in an Adriatic steamer, and arrived next morning at Trieste, a town which during our forced stay in it of forty-eight hours filled my mind with nothing but most disagreeable souvenirs. Life there was in complete contrast to the quiet, poetic, graceful existence at Venice, and the change from the one to the other had been so sudden as to act like a stunning blow. A detention caused by illness and the loss of a train through the purposed maliciousness of a hotel-waiter led to two results. One was our sending a telegram to the proprietor of the W——Hôtel in Vienna to inform him of the delay, as rooms had been engaged for us by a gentleman who was in the habit of lodging in that hotel when in Vienna, and who before leaving the city had shown the kind thoughtfulness of sending us a letter of introduction to the proprietor commending us to his courtesy. The other result was to bring about an acquaintance with a Prussian, Herr Schwager, which happened in this wise: Kate, whose wrath was fully aroused at the troubles we encountered in Trieste, was extravagant in her denunciations of those "horrid Germans" after we were once fairly seated in the cars bound for Gratz. Neither of us spoke German with any degree of ease or much intelligibility, and consequently gave vent to our opinions in plain English. A young man of a studious, gentlemanly appearance, but of unmistakable Teutonic descent, sat in one corner of the compartment, and from his frequent smiling at our talk I concluded that he understood English, and made bold to ask him if he did.

"Happily, I do," he replied, his handsome brown eyes twinkling with increased merriment, "and I am one of those 'horrid Germans.'"

His reply greatly amused Miss Barton, and opened the way to a very animated conversation, in which we learned that he had just come from Italy, had been on the same steamer as ourselves coming from Venice, and had stopped in the same hotel and suffered the same agonies. Then we talked of what we liked best in Italy, and he spoke of an American friend, Mr. Fanton, with whom he had greatly enjoyed Rome. The fact that he was a friend of John Fanton, whom I had known for years, and who was the last to bid me good-bye in Rome, was recommendation enough for any stranger, and constituted us friends at once. I forgot all about Aunt Edith's advice to have "nothing to do with foreigners," but placed at once the most unlimited confidence in Herr Schwager, who from the beginning of our acquaintance attached himself in a most brotherly way to our fortunes, proving himself in every particular a rare honor to his sex. However gross and brusque the German character may be, I must for ever make an exception of our Herr, whose genuine politeness, delicacy of kindness, refinement and manliness I have rarely seen equalled and never excelled.

Kate kept up her banter about the "horrid Germans," for which she had abundant reason in our journey from Gratz to Vienna. We had hoped to have a compartment to ourselves, to which end Herr Schwager had expended a florin; but at the last moment a portly Gratzian entered and settled himself by one of the windows which would command the Semmering Pass. He too spoke some English, and endeavored to be sociable. As we neared the pass he insisted upon my taking his seat the better to see the marvellous scenery, with which he was already familiar. I had been too long on the Continent not to have become suspicious of a voluntary sacrifice on the part of a European. It invariably means something: it covers an arrière pensée. He offers you a paper to read or a peach or a pear to eat, or buys a bouquet of flowers at a station, and if you accept the proffer of either he takes advantage of the obligation under which he has placed you and proceeds generally to smoke, remarking for form's sake that he "hopes it is not offensive," while you, under the burden of his kindness, smile a fashionable lie, and reply, "Not in the least." So our Gratzer withdrew to the farther end of the seat and began to smoke a most villainous cigar, and continued to smoke, lighting another when one was finished. I soon began to succumb to the poisonous effects of the close atmosphere, for, although we kept our windows open—it was the middle of June—the Gratzer with true German caution kept his firmly closed. But the effect upon Kate was even worse, and her pallid face plainly told how much she was suffering. We cast entreating looks upon Herr Schwager, who never smoked, but understood our annoyance without knowing just how to ask the Gratzer to cease. We poked our heads out of the window, opened cologne-bottles and indulged in various manifestations of disgust; but to no purpose: the Austrian smoked on. Finally, when he began on the fourth cigar, Kate, whose patience was utterly exhausted, begged me to ask him to stop. I naturally demurred, being under obligation to him, and replied, "You're the sicker, Kate: you tell him."

When suddenly she lifted her pale face and shouted at him, "Oh, you horrid German! we are nearly smoked to death! For mercy's sake, stop!"

"Ah, pardon!" he replied unconcernedly, taking the cigar from his mouth and putting it in his pocket.

Herr Schwager's amusement was boundless, and our satisfaction also, as we had no more smoke on the road to Vienna.

The landlord of the Hôtel W——, to whom we were recommended, received us with a pleasant cordiality, and at the same time apologized because he could not give us the rooms engaged for us until the next day; so we were temporarily lodged in a large room leading from an anteroom designed for a servant—an arrangement which is common in Austrian hotels. On the following morning, as Kate was waiting half dressed in the anteroom for the kammer-mädchen to bring her warm water, who should walk in upon her, sans cérémonie, but a long, black-gowned priest! He stared at her, nonchalantly looked about the room, and walked out with never a word. She might have regarded the intrusion as a mistake if a like visit from the same personage had not been made at the same hour next morning in our own rooms, to which we were that day transferred. The two successive intrusions were to us inexplicable, unless, in the light of succeeding events, we were to regard the priest as a detective officer or spy. Our apartments communicated, both being reached through an entry, while my room, lying beyond Kate's, was only reached by passing also from the entry through hers.

On the fourth day of our sojourn in the hotel, about nine o'clock in the morning, Kate tapped on the door leading into my room, and at my cry of "Entrez," came in. She was in a dressing-gown, her long, curling brown hair hanging over her shoulders and a very unusual expression on her face.

"More priests?" I asked in explanation.

"Police!" she exclaimed. "If we ever get out of this town alive I shall be thankful! I had rung as usual for water, and just as I had finished my bath I heard a knock at the outside door, and asking 'Wer ist da?' the chambermaid replied that she was. I then opened the door a bit, and saw looking over her shoulders two strange men. My first thought was that they were friends of yours wishing to give you a surprise, and I cried out, 'Oh, you can't come in, for we are not dressed.' Then one of the men said in broken English, 'We shall and we will come in;' and they forced the door in upon me, while I hastened to close and fasten the other, but was too late, for they followed at my heels. 'You are Miss W——?' the one who had already spoken said.—'No, I am not.'—'Then she is in the next room?'—'But you cannot go in, for she isn't dressed,' I said.—'You are her sister, and you come from the Grand Hôtel,' he continued; and you've no idea with what a ferocious face. It was dreadful! Then he said something about the police—that we must go to the police-court; and finally said he would give you five minutes to dress in. Now, there they are, banging at the door. Oh, what have we done? Why did we ever come into this barbarous land?" and poor merry Kate was on the brink of hysterics.

"Oh, 'tis all a mistake," I replied, adjusting my necktie. "I will see the men, and the matter will be explained at once."

The noise from the street coming in from my open windows had prevented me from hearing the conversation in Kate's room, and I should have been inclined to regard her startling narrative as one of her jokes if it had not been for the loud banging on the door. I hastened to open it: the men came in, and, wishing to relieve Kate of their presence, I asked them to pass into my room. This they refused to do, taking a decided stand in Kate's. I was too curious to lose my presence of mind or show that I was annoyed, and with my blandest smile inquired why I was honored with so matinal a visit from two strangers, when the following dialogue ensued:

"We come from the police. You are Miss W——?"

"Yes."

"Englishwoman?"

"By no means."

"Yes you are; and this woman is your sister."

"No, she is not my sister."

"Yes, she is. You're English. No? What are you, then?"

"I'm American."

"Show your passport."

"Here it is;" and I opened the document bearing the American eagle and the signature of Hamilton Fish.

The two men put their heads together, neither being able to tell what sort of a paper it was, which secretly amused me. The men were in civilian's dress. Turning to Kate, her passport was demanded. She had none.

"And of what nation are you?" asked the spokesman.

She refused to tell.

"And what is your name?"

She refused to answer that. The poor girl had become so nervous under the ordeal, which for her had been of a very violent character, that she imagined nothing could be more disgraceful and humiliating than to have her name mixed up with a police-affair.

Finding that she was inexorable, they returned to me with, "Well, miss, you must go with us to the police," and showed me a paper of arrest.

"And why must I go to the police?"

"Because you have been at the Grand Hôtel."

"What Grand Hôtel?"

"The Grand Hôtel. You must go to the police."

I rang the bell, and asked that the proprietor of the house come at once to my room. He came, and I demanded an explanation of the mystery.

"You must know, mademoiselle," he began, "that in Vienna we are all in the power of the police: they must have the name, nationality, business and address of every person who comes into the city. The morning after your arrival these men came and asked if two English ladies were stopping here. I said 'Yes.' They then said they believed you were persons they had been trying for two weeks to catch, and that you were very suspicious characters who had been stopping here in the Grand Hôtel. I told them it was not possible—that you had come direct from Italy; and I mentioned the telegram you had sent from Trieste, and that you had been recommended to my courtesy by a gentleman whom I well knew and who had many times lodged here. But they went away, and came back again next day, making some inquiries about you, and asking if numbers so and so were those of your rooms. You were out, and whether they visited your rooms or not I cannot say. This is all that I know. Now they are here again, and if they say you must go to the police-court, there will be no other way but to go."

"But I don't understand. I have my passport: there is my bill, receipted at the hotel in Trieste six days ago. I never knew before it was a crime for two English-speaking women to travel alone or to stop at a Grand Hôtel. Of what are we suspected? and upon what grounds suspected?"

"Why, a napkin has been seen among your effects with the mark of the Grand Hôtel upon it."

After a moment's thought it flashed into my mind that it was that Nice serviette, and, more amused than annoyed, I exclaimed, "Oh, I have it. 'Tis that serviette St. Cecilia took at Nice;" and opening my trunk soon had it in my hands, holding it up by two corners for the men to see and explaining how it came into my possession.

"It will go very hard with Madame Cecilia," observed the spokesman: "you will please give us her address."

My indiscretion at once became apparent, but I was a complete novice in "being arrested." To involve Cecilia in the affair would be but an aggravation of matters, and I at once decided, come what might, I would not give the police her address. Looking at the half-obliterated stamp in the corner of the napkin, there was unmistakably the mark "Grand Hôtel," but directly underneath "Nice," which the police, in their ardor to find me guilty of something which I could not find out, had undoubtedly mistaken for Wien, the German name for Vienna. I called their attention to the "Nice," asking what jurisdiction the Austrian government had over matters relating to hotels in Italy. They replied by looking very closely at the stamp, and then one of them took my passport and the napkin and went out, leaving the other man to guard our apartment, and soon returned with a new arrest for myself and my gesellschafterin, Miss Barton still refusing to give her name. The landlord had only placed mine in the visitors' book, thereby making himself liable to a fine of eight or ten dollars.

Nothing could have been more widely different than the effect produced upon Kate and myself. To me the whole affair was inexpressibly mysterious and ludicrous, notwithstanding the insolence of the police, and, as it seemed to me, their amazing stupidity. Poor Kate was the wrathfullest woman I ever saw, while her obstinate refusal to answer any questions about herself only increased the ferocity of the men, whose treatment of her was shameful in the extreme. They threatened to search our trunks, which aroused Kate's wrath the more. I observed that as they had assumed the right to unlock and search mine during my absence, they were probably already acquainted with its contents. They, however, abandoned the searching scheme, and ordered us to get ready to go to the police-court, which was about two minutes' walk distant. Kate declared that to the police-court she would not go, unless she were dragged there by her hair, while the men declared that she would then be taken by armed force. I concluded to telegraph to the American embassy for help, but that was denied me. Herr Schwager had called to see us only the day previous, saying his lodgings were quite in our neighborhood, but we had not asked his address. There seemed nothing to do but to go to the court and be my own lawyer. It never occurred to me that the landlord to whose courtesy I had been recommended would refuse to go with me; but when I asked him for his protection he begged to be excused, on the ground of being very busy and that he could be of no service to me. I do not wish any reader to infer from this that he was an exceptional Viennese hotel-keeper—that is, exceptionally ungentlemanly: he was, on the contrary, a fair representative both of his trade and his countrymen. Austrian military officers and diplomatic attachés of the government have won in fashionable society a reputation for extreme politeness and gallantry toward women; which may be true, as neither under such conditions costs any earnest sacrifice. But the rank and file of the middle class of Austrians, the class with which travellers have naturally most to do, are most brusque and ungracious in manner as well as in deed, unembellished with any hint of courtesy.

I enjoyed a fling at the landlord by expressing surprise at his refusal to accompany me to the police-court, adding maliciously that American gentlemen were not famous for polished manners, but there was not one mean enough in the whole country to refuse his protection to a lady, a guest under his own roof and in a strange land, where the help of friends was denied her. I then appealed to Kate to go with me, as it would only end the trouble sooner, and that I would never allow her to go to such a place alone, but with tears streaming from her eyes she resisted my entreaties, and I followed one of the men to the court: the other remained behind to watch Kate.

I had no more idea of a police-court than I had of the reason why I was being taken there. It was mystery and curiosity that sustained me. I undoubtedly looked like an amused interrogation-mark, for the moment I was introduced into the presence of the grand interrogator of that inquisition, upon whose desk lay my passport and "that serviette," he smiled and remarked in French, "It is very evident, mademoiselle, that you have nothing to do with this affair."

"With what affair, monsieur? I haven't the faintest idea what I was brought here for," I responded.

"Why, just this: about a fortnight ago two Englishwomen stopped at the Grand Hôtel in this city, and left without paying their bills, carrying off with them all the household linen they could lay their hands on."

And so we had been arrested as house-linen thieves! It was too humiliating. I was then interviewed as to my companion's refusal to give her name, etc., which argued very much against her. I explained as well as I could the extreme annoyance and brutal treatment to which she had been subjected, her horror of having anything to do with a police-court, and how the disgrace of being suspected of a crime was aggravated by intense nervous excitement brought on by the insolence of the police. After considerable pleading on my part in her behalf—for I felt that I was the sole cause of the trouble—it was agreed upon that she should be relieved from coming to the court upon condition that she would sign a paper giving her name, nationality, etc., and I was dismissed without the slightest apology for the trouble to which I had been subjected. At that point the affair ceased to be funny, and, turning back after I had reached the door of exit, I made a short and as effective a speech as the polite language of the French would allow, in which I conveyed a frank idea of my opinion of Austrian courtesy. I succeeded well enough to convince my examiner of something—probably that he had caught a Tartar—and I left him tugging furiously at his moustache. My official escort led the way back to the hotel with a very crestfallen air, savage and sullen.

I found Miss Barton in a worse condition than ever, the persecutions of the guarding policeman having continued with increased ferocity. He had dogged every movement she made, until the poor girl had nearly gone mad; and it was only after long persuasion that I induced her to sign the paper, such a one as most travellers without passports in Austria are obliged to fill out. She finally wrote her name in a great scrawl which nobody could decipher, and gave as her country "Cape Town, Africa;" which again confounded the men, as they had no idea how a "Hottentot" could be an English subject. But they swallowed their ignorance, and finally went away.

When Kate had become restored to her normal condition she heaped upon herself all sorts of self-reproaches, and paid me extravagant compliments for what she called "good sense" and "presence of mind." As she demanded redress for the insults she had suffered, and as I wished to know by what right an Austrian policeman privily searched the trunks of American women who had the misfortune to come into the Austrian dominions, we posted off to our respective national ambassadors. Kate had the satisfaction of being told that she ought to congratulate herself upon getting off as well as she did, since two of her countrywomen had been arrested, put in jail and kept there for two weeks upon even less grounds for suspicion. The result of our complaints was, that the amplest official apologies were made by the Foreign Office, the two policemen severely censured and degraded from rank, while, through the influence of Herr Schwager, who went to the president of the police, an officer was sent from that organization to apologize to us in person. But what I cared most for I never got—an acknowledgment of the right of the police to search baggage à plaisir.

As might have been expected, our liking for Vienna had been thoroughly damped. From that moment Kate never saw an officer without fear and trembling, and officers were everywhere. "To think," she exclaimed, "that I have grown to be such a ninny! My brothers always said, 'Oh, we can trust Kate to go anywhere: she never gets nervous or afraid;' and here I am actually afraid to cross a street! I shall never have a moment's peace until I get out of this horrid country."

At the end of a fortnight, having entirely missed her cousins, she joined a party of Americans going to England. St. Cecilia meantime had arrived, and was of course entertained by the napkin adventure. But she could not abide Vienna, and quickly returned to Paris. As I wished to "do" the Exposition and run no more risks of arrest, I decided to withdraw to Baden, a half hour's ride by express from the Südbahn station of the Austrian capital, as the town was strongly recommended by Herr Schwager and several American friends residing in Vienna. Herr Schwager declared that with my small stock of Deutsch sprechen the Badenites would cheat me out of my eyes, and very kindly volunteered to help me get installed. A history of the trials attending that transaction would alone "fill a volume," but I mention only one, and that simply because it seemed another link in the manifest chain of destiny.

An hour after our arrangement for my accommodation for the season had been settled "meine Wirthin" received a letter from her son-in-law that he was coming, and she informed me that she would need her guest-chamber for him, returning to me my advanced guldens at the same time she broke her bargain. Nothing was to be done but to look elsewhere, and eventually lodgings were obtained in the Bergstrasse, in quite another part of the town. The locality was excellent, being very near the promenade and music-gardens: then I liked the face of the Haus-meisterin, as did Herr Schwager, who wisely remarked that he thought kindness of heart should rank high in that "benighted land."

I frequently went to Vienna, spending the day at the Exposition and returning to Baden in the evening. Upon one of these occasions I found upon my return to the Südbahn that I had a half hour to wait for the train. As I was hungry, I ordered a cup of coffee in the café waiting-room. Upon putting my hand in my pocket for my portemonnaie, lo! I had none, not a kreutzer to my name, and my portemonnaie contained also my return railway-ticket! I was alone: it was seven o'clock in the evening. My situation was dramatic, even comic, and I laughed to myself and smiled upon a gentleman and two ladies who sat at the same table, calmly remarking that I had been robbed of my Gelttasche: they smiled in return, and nothing more. I sent a kellner to bring me the master of the café, whom I informed of my loss and my inability to pay my debt to him. He at once led me off to a commissaire de police—of whom there are always plenty about in civilian's dress—to whom I made a statement of my loss, describing my lost treasure and where I thought it had in all probability been taken. While we were talking a very distinguished-looking man, perhaps forty-five years of age, with magnificent black eyes, passed near, evidently interested. When through with the police I remarked that I did not know how I was to get back to Baden; whereupon the master of the café—who, by the way, spoke English well—exclaimed, "Oh, as to that, I will lend you what you need." Hearing this, the distinguished-looking stranger came up with a salaam, and, begging the conventional number of pardons, graciously volunteered any service he might be able to render me. I thanked him, explaining to him in a few words my misfortune, but that the master of the café—who had meantime purchased a railway-ticket for me—had gallantly come to my rescue. At this moment the car-bell rang: I gave my card to the Meister, took down his name, and hurried away to get a seat in the train, the owner of the black eyes following me, helping me as best he could, and, "if madame had no objections, would take a seat near her, as he too was en route for Baden." He spoke in French, with a pure French accent, although it was evident he was not a Frenchman. He evinced a desire to continue an acquaintance so oddly begun, but I was obliged to doom him to disappointment. My mind was occupied with the grave question of finance, and about how long I should be obliged to remain in Baden before I should receive a remittance from London. I remembered having seen the gentleman once or twice in the park at Baden, and thought him, with his splendid eyes, graying hair and military bearing, a man of no ordinary appearance. He had the air of a person looking for some one, and the expression was sad. Under ordinary circumstances I should have been curious to learn more of him. My coolness of manner, accompanied by the almost rude brevity of my replies to his few ventured remarks, seemed to amuse him, for he smilingly observed that I was a true "Anglaise."

To be taken for English always aroused my honest indignation, and I quickly retorted, "Pardon, mais je ne suis pas Anglaise."

"Vraiment! but you speak with the English accent."

"Quite possible, monsieur, as English is my mother tongue, but I am a vrai Américaine."

"Américaine! Américaine!" he repeated eagerly. "I once knew an American lady, and I should prize above all things some knowledge of her. I hope I may have the honor—" A blast from the engine broke upon his speech at that juncture: we were at Baden.

Hastily thanking him—for abroad one falls into the continental habit of thanking people "mille fois" for what they do not do, as for what they do do—and saying "Bon jour," I hurried off to the Bergstrasse. The next morning I refunded my borrowed guldens to the master of the café by post (as I had not placed my entire bank in my purse), and feeling conscience-smitten at having, in my direst extremity, been befriended by one of those "dreadful Austrians" whom I had so bitterly berated, I hinted my amazement, along with my thanks, at having been the recipient of so graceful and needed a courtesy from a Viennese. He acknowledged the receipt of the money, adding, "I hope you do not take me for a Viennese: I am a Bavarian, and have lived twelve years in England."

Among the occupants of the house and dwellers in the garden where I lodged and lived was a young Austrian woman, two years married, with whom I formed a pleasant acquaintance, and whose chatty ways rapidly revived my knowledge of the German, in which language only she could express herself. I shall not soon forget her, for she told me that she married to please the "Eltern"—that she "had never loved," and was so naïve in her mode of reasoning as to prove a source of infinite surprise. She had no conception of any destiny for a girl but that of marriage, and never tired of asking about "American girls," whom I described as oftentimes living and dying unmarried.

"And do not the parents force them to marry? And what do they do if not marry? And when they get old, what becomes of them? And they are doctors even? Did you ever see a woman-doctor?" etc., etc., and hundreds of similar questions.

One evening, two or three days after the "robbery," we went to sit in the park and listen to the music. On the end of a bench where we sat down was a poorly-clad, miserable-looking woman, who occupied herself in dozing and waking. I had no money in my pocket, but I could not rid myself of the idea that the poor wretch was dying of hunger, and her sharp contrast to the hundreds of elegantly-dressed people all about her and constantly moving to and fro only gave more force to her isolation and misery. At length, perhaps more to relieve my mind than otherwise, I begged my Nachbarin to lend me a coin, which I slipped without a word into the creature's hand. To the surprise of both of us, she made no sign of acceptance or thanks. Ten or fifteen minutes later she rose, and coming near us she began to stammer out her thanks and to tell us how poor she was—that she could not work, and that for a month she had been coming to the park, hoping that where there were so many rich people some would kindly give her a trifle; but that in all that time but one person had done so—a gentleman who had given her a gulden; and if we would look she would point him out. We looked: it was the distinguished stranger. I confess to have been gratified, and to feeling confident that if he was one of the foreigners that Aunt Edith had bade me beware of, he was at least a gentleman and a Christian.

The last of August was nearing, and, as the heat was intense, I often went up a hill at the back of the park to be alone and enjoy the breezy atmosphere and the charming view the elevation commanded. On one of these occasions—it was the twenty-fifth and my birthday—I was more than usually absorbed in my thoughts when my attention was caught by a shadow passing over the declivity a little removed from where I sat, and looking up I recognized the giver of alms. He lifted his hat, begged pardon and hoped it was not an indiscretion to ask if I had recovered my purse; which opened the way to further conversation. The sun was fast setting, and the scene on earth and sky was resplendent. Leaning upon a rock, he contemplated the miracle in silent adoration.

"Ah, that is equal to what I have so often seen in America," I remarked.

After a moment he replied, "For many years no land has so much interested me as America, and upon no people do I look with so much interest. America gave me my supremest joy and my profoundest sorrow. Perhaps this confession may, in a measure, excuse my impolite intrusion upon you, as I am so thoroughly a stranger."

"Yes, and a foreigner," I laughed. "I have a dear, beautiful aunt Edith at home who warned me against foreigners. This is my fête, and as her birthday is the same as mine, I am naturally thinking of her just now, and recall her sage advice. As the sun is down, I will follow it and bid you good-night."

As I rose to go he made no reply, as if he had been indifferent to what I had said. I glanced at his face: it was ashen white. He was opening a locket attached to his watchguard, from which he lifted a ring of dark hair, and then drawing it nearer his eyes he spoke as if reading a date: "Le vingt-cinq août."

The pallor of his face, joined to its outline, which was in full profile, held me where I stood as if spellbound. Somewhere, a long time ago, I had seen that face.

"Yes, it is an unusual coincidence," he remarked, as if just comprehending what had been said. "But your aunt Edith must be much older than you?"

"No: only ten years."

"Is she married?"

"No."

"And you?"

"Nor I, monsieur. We belong to the noble army of old maids, which on the other side is a more honorable and obstinate sisterhood than here."

He smiled faintly, and wiped his forehead with a large white handkerchief.

"If I should go to America," he observed, "I should greatly desire to visit the locality where women like you live and die unmarried."

"Oh, for that matter, you can't miss them," I replied laughingly: "they're common from Maine to California. Spinsterhood is an outgrowth of our Declaration of Independence—'liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'"

"But, really, I desire to know the name of the place where you live: I am sure it will interest me greatly. Will you not write it for me?" And he offered me a blank card.

"Oh, certainly, but I don't understand why."

"I may possibly go and see your aunt Edith and tell her I saw you on the top of a mountain. Perhaps you would like to send her a message?"

"Well, if you see her," I replied in the same tone, moving away, "tell her I haven't forgotten to beware of foreigners."

"Just one more word," he entreated, following me. "Is your aunt Edith, Edith Mack?"

"Yes, but how should you know?" and in that moment it flashed upon my mind like sudden daybreak. "And you are—" I stammered.

"A man who has loved her many a year. To-morrow I leave Vienna for England, to sail for New York. I cannot say more to you now than that I begin to see my way through a sad, sad mystery. Here is my card. Adieu!"

The bright glow left in the atmosphere by the brilliant sunset had quite died away, but it was light enough for me to read the superscription: "Le Chevalier Achille Roma."

I walked back to my lodgings in a manner probably quite sane to other people, although the distance was compassed by myself in a condition of complete unconsciousness as to how. Like the phantasmagoria of fated events swept before my mind the train of complicated circumstances that had led to my finding Aunt Edith's lost lover. And the beautiful romance at the end had resulted from my having disregarded her warning to "beware of foreigners."


There is not much more to tell. I left Baden at the end of the month, and returned to Paris. Six weeks later I had a letter from Aunt Edith urging me to come home for her wedding, which would take place prior to the holidays. The Chevalier Roma had long since become convinced that his "friend," the consul at Rome, was the key to the whole mischief, but his suspicions in that direction came too late for him to regain a clue to Aunt Edith. Several letters sent to her name at New York of course had never reached her. The surest and quickest way to accomplish his desire, to prove to the heart he had through so many years cherished how true and loyal had been his allegiance, how deep and sincere his love, was the one he had chosen and acted upon with such alacrity.

A few weeks after my aunt's marriage I received the wedding-cards of Herr Schwager and Miss Kate Barton. After all, merry Kate had accepted a "horrid German" for her husband, and thereby the truth suddenly dawned upon my mind that I had been the recipient of the Herr's exceeding kindness because I was "neighbor to the rose."

Mary Wager-Fisher.