have looked when she stepped down from her pedestal to Pygmalion. Have you not noticed her throat? It is like marble, as white, as columnar, as softly rounded. You feel irresistibly inclined to lay your hand on its smooth contours, precisely as you desire to touch some subtly modelled piece of statuary."

Harms was bewildered, as much by Emil's warmth of language as by the new light his praises shed over the little contesse. In point of fact, Harms had hitherto considered her as an amiable, nice-looking, but not unordinary young girl. Now, influenced as ever by Emil, he began to readjust this opinion. Certainly she had a full, white throat — this was a point about her he remembered; but he had never felt tempted to touch it in the way Emil described. His attitude towards woman was altogether too timorous to allow him to entertain any such poetic idea.

“And then her hair!" pursued Schoenemann; “I like that light-brown, crinkly sort of hair. And it is gathered back into a loose knot behind, from which a golden haze escapes to float like an aureola about her face."

In true lover fashion he saw beauties where the sane man might reasonably have found defects.

"She has no eyelashes, Harms, or scarcely any. Have you observed? But then her eyelids have curves that Phidias might have copied. And after all, eyelashes are a type of low organization. Cattle and deer have them in far greater abundance than man; while the highest point of human beauty, as achieved by the Greeks, is entirely devoid of them. Yet who has ever felt the need of giving eyelashes to the Milean Venus? And, Harms, what heavenly dove's eyes! the bluest blue I have ever seen. There are no eyes like blue eyes, I think."

"Dark eyes are beautiful, too," Harms answered. Emil's own were "black as our eyes endure; " but Harms was thinking of other eyes less beautiful than Emil's, but which he was once in the way of loving even better.

"Marie! Marie!" murmured the young man rapturously; "the name of Marie has acquired quite a new meaning for me. I am coming to consider it the most beautiful name in the world."

"It has always seemed so to me," said Harms with a certain shyness; but Emil was too self-absorbed to remember that Harms had any particular reason for car ing about the name.

"Yes?" he said carelessly; "but being my sister's name, it had become a household word to me devoid of meaning. Now only has its significance and its poetry returned. I am to go over to Bellavista again next Friday. Ah! how shall I live through the days and the nights till then!"

The two men were walking in the woods above Klettendorf. They reached a point in the steep ascent where a clearing had been made, and a bench placed that the climber might rest a while and enjoy the view. The trees fell away on either hand, permitting the eye to travel down over umbrageous masses of foliage to the river far below; to the level opposite shore, where stretched the gardens of Godesberg; to where beyond them a glowing sun sank down towards a horizon of distant trees. And as he sank, long ranks of crimson cloudlets radiated out and up to the very zenith of the sky, while the broad-bosomed Rhine flowing below was stained to a corresponding crimson glory.

Emil and Harms sat down on the bench, which was an old and favorite haunt of theirs. The younger man continued his love-litany. The elder listened, uttered the necessary responses, and like many another worshipper who prays devoutly with the lips, allowed his thoughts to stray away to personal matters. It was impossible for him not to recall that, on just such an evening as this six years ago, he and Emil had sat together on that same bench, and their talk then as now had been of love, but with this difference — then Harms had been the lover, Emil the lis tener; and he had listened in absolute silence to August's unexpected and unpleasing confession - listened until he could endure it no longer, but had broken out into a passion of protestation and grief. He had thrown himself over there upon the ground and wept ragingly. Harms could still see the slight, boyish figure shaken by sobs, and the black head low among the grasses, half hidden by nodding ferns.

Whence came these tears? Harms had foolishly slipped into love with Emil's sister. He had known Marie Schoenemann since he first came to Klettendorf. She had been his piano pupil as well as Emil. He had seen her grow from a child to a shy and silent maiden, to a woman gay, hopeful, and kind. She could talk and jest now, as well as knit and sew; could wash her men-folk's shirts as well as cook their dinners. Harms admired all she did. He saw in her a heaven-sent wife. But he had never dared think practically

of marrying her, until the unexpected offer or a fairly good post at Bremen made marriage a possibility instead of a dream. And then he had been stricken dumb by the manner in which Emil had received his confidence. He had looked at the prone figure before him, and been filled with perplexity and pain.

The storm had passed as suddenly as it had broken. Emil had sprung up pale and with flashing eyes, to demonstrate to Harms his colossal selfishness in desiring to take Marie away from her recently widowed mother, not to speak of the irreparable loss his friendship and daily companionship would be to Emil himself. The boy had spoken with singular lucidity and force. He was one of those gifted people who, the moment they have adopted an opinion, are able to impose it upon others by mere strength of will. Instantly they marshal forward such an array of weighty arguments that even opponents are forced to admit reason is on the other side. While Emil had spoken, poor Harms had sunk through every stage of humiliation and self-reproach. Nor had the boy spared him for this. When the iron glows hot and malleable is not the moment to give over striking.

"And Marie does not care for you," he had said, "except as a friend. Of that I am certain. Who could have better opportunities of judging than I? To tell her of your feelings towards her would be to destroy forever the harmonious relations existing between you. She will marry, of course, some day; but it must be with a man more suited to her than you. Marie is twenty, but in many respects even younger than I am. You are nearly forty, and old for your years. What possible sympathy could there be between you?"

"There is something in what you say," August had admitted humbly; and he realized for the first time that youth was irrevocably gone. Such knowledge usually comes with a shock and an extraordinary bitterness. For so many years one has been young, very young, the youngest of one's company.

"There would, of course, be little inducement for a girl to leave her own people and begin life in a new place for my sake. It was folly of me ever to think of it. I will do so no more. But keep my secret, Emil, that I may keep her friendship. I would sooner see her and you daily, and be of some use to you both, than meet with all the good fortune in the world elsewhere."

In consequence of this conversation Harms had declined the Bremen offer, and from that day he strenuously endeavored to put from him all idle hopes. But to-night scene and circumstance brought back past dreams so vividly, he could not at once trample them under foot. For a while he lost himself in them, and the pains of renunciation were renewed. Whereby he came to sympathize all the more strongly with Emil, who appeared to him to be opening the first volume of an equally unpropitious love-story. For August found it impossible to contemplate seriously an alliance between a Dittenheim and the son of Franz Schoenemann. He thought he could gauge the Graefin's amazed reception of such an idea.

"Did you see no one beside Contesse Marie?" he asked Emil.

"A vague-looking lady with red eyebrows came in, but I did not observe her much."

"That would be the English governess," said Harms.

"And then I was summoned into another room to be presented to the Graefin." "Ah, now! what did you think of her?" asked Harms with interest. "Sad she should be so delicate, is it not? But she is still universally considered a very beautiful woman." He himself thought her, so far as appearance went, better worth praise than her little daughter.

"Perhaps," said Emil briefly; "I scarcely remember. Do you know, Harms," said he, clasping his two hands behind his neck with an action which was habitual to him, "I have made a discovery; all life and all art is but a preparation for love. Love is the end of life, and I do not seem to have really lived until to-day. I have eaten and drunk, have slept and have awakened, but, like an infant on its nurse's arm, have hitherto been utterly unconscious of the real meaning and purpose of existence. In the same way my music has been but a vague groping after joys and beauties which have forever eluded me. I have played on an instrument from which the key-note has been missing, and the result has been as unsatisfying as a series of unresolved chords. But henceforth all will be different. With Marie as my sweetheart and wife, I shall scale the highest pinnacles."

Harms was staggered by this confi dence.

"But," objected he, "do you think the Dittenheims would ever consent to accept you as a suitor? "Why not?" asked Emil superbly.

[ocr errors]

"Love makes all things equal; and if she loves me, she is raised to the same level as mine."

Harms stared, doubting whether his ears did not betray him.

"Or is it possible you mean she is what fools call' well-born,' and I am not? To my mind the best born is he who has received the gifts of the gods direct. Read Plato. Does he not put musicians highest of all—even above poets and orators? False modesty shall never lead me to deny or belittle a possession which I prize and honor a thousand times more than life." "Yes, yes, I agree with all you say," cried Harms; "and those whose opinion is better worth having than mine, to-day put genius above birth. But will the Dittenheims do so? I cannot endure to see you preparing for yourself such bitter disappointment."

"I love this girl," said Emil; "and if she loves me and she will love me - no power on earth shall stand between us. I have set my whole heart and mind on this thing, and you or the Dittenheims could as easily turn me from it as you could make the Rhine there flow backwards."

From childhood up, Emil had achieved his own way-hitherto in silence. This was the first occasion on which he openly announced his intention of always achieving it.

The upper rim of the sun-ball now touched the trees behind the gardens of Godesberg. Looking down on the river, the two men saw it all orange and indigo, while the sky flamed with orange and rose. They began their descent through the twilight of the woods. When they gained the open hillside, the heavens were painted with the softer colors of the after-glow. In the east, river and sky were red with reflected light; but in the west, sky and river were of an exquisite unearthly green. The islands and wooded promontories rose up with a new sombreness, and to Emil's fancy the trees justled closer to gether and moved into new combinations as he watched them through the gathering gloom.


SCHOENEMANN, who would recognize no difficulties in the way of his love for Marie von Dittenheim, chose to observe no reticences either. Before Friday came, his whole family, I had almost said all Klettendorf, knew of his passion. Precisely as he had overflowed on the subject to Harms, so he overflowed to his mother, his aunt Kunie, his sister Marie. The

two elder women were dismayed. The discipline of life had taught them to place expediency before sentiment. Besides, Emil's sentiments appeared to them exaggerated, his hopes impossible to fulfil. But although, when alone together, they reiterated the insuperable difficulties which barred his wishes, neither ventured to point these out to the young man himself. Their love for him was largely tempered with fear.

Marie Schoenemann, on the contrary, was strangely stirred by the event. Here, for the first time in her life, was a real love. story beginning under her very eyes. She could not hear enough of it from Emil; nor could she recover from her surprise that the Contesse Marie, whom she had last seen two summers ago, a little girl in short frocks, with plaited hair down her back, should be capable of inspiring such a passion as her brother's.

But, besides elation, she was conscious of feeling a species of envy, and when at night combing out her long, dark hair she looked in the glass at her agreeable reflection, she longed for some such happiness as Marie von Dittenheim's to befall herself. She was already six-and-twenty; it was time the lover came. And now, while she cooked and scoured, washed Emil's shirts and ironed them, she ceased to sing. For the first time in her life her youthful confidence in her own future began to be shaken.

Emil, who did not lean on chance, but had the lofty assurance his future should be as he chose to make it, lost neither time nor opportunity in furthering his desires. His second interview with the little contesse was decisive. I know not how he managed to again escape the company of the vague lady with the fiery eyebrows. I only know that determined lovers always do succeed in managing such things. But he did not leave Bellavista a second time without having won from the young girl her tremulous admission that she loved him too. Masculine fire such as his could not burn without awakening a corresponding glow in the feminine mirror.

The lady with the eyebrows, though constantly out-generalled by Emil in mat ters of detail, could not be altogether blinded to the state of affairs. She cartried her surmises to the Graefin, who, first incredulous, then disdainfully amused, caused a letter to be written to Emil, putting a stop to her daughter's lessons. Emil continued to visit Bellavista as a friend. The servants had orders to deny him the door. Aided at every point by

the little contesse herself, he contrived to Dittenheim, leaning comfortably back meet her in the Rhine garden. The in an easy-chair, noted Emil's every look, Graefin, now angry in earnest, kept the registered his smallest word, and while girl a prisoner in the house. Emil wrote he appeared to be merely listening, was her letters, which were confiscated before collating evidence, weighing it, passing reaching her. He determined to make a judgment. Not for one moment did he bold appeal to the Graf to sanction a be- contemplate an alliance between his trothal. The Graefin appealed to her hus- daughter and his late servant's son ; but he band on the same day for his interference fancied he detected in Emil's own characand support. ter that which would have made him refuse the honor, no matter how highly born the young man had been.

Von Dittenheim turned from a perusal of Schoenemann's extraordinary epistle to listen to his wife's denunciation of the writer. He sent for his daughter, and drew from her a meagre confession and an abundance of tears. Alone again in his study, he gave himself up to a sense of dispassionate entertainment. He was a student of human nature, and constantly deplored the fact that conformity and mental flabbiness rendered so few humans profitable studies. But he scented in Emil's letter a refreshing amount of originality of mind. It was undeniably original that the son of his deceased under-ranger should write and calmly demand the hand of his only daughter in marriage. He must see between four walls what manner of man it was who could prefer so audacious a request.

Emil accordingly came over again to Bellavista at Von Dittenheim's desire, who, devoting eye and ear to the young man before him, told himself he had not for months past experienced so keen a pleasure. And indeed there are no pleasures comparable to those of observation. To these alone time bringeth not satiety, and the most inveterate sportsman rejoices less when his prey falls living into his hands, than does the character-hunter on first turning a fresh page in the history of his fellows.

The Graf, pointing the ends of his moustache with white fingers, smiled up at Emil. "You are aware," he went on, "that the contesse and you belong to widely different ranks? Yes, yes, you have told me already that genius is superior to birth; that such gifts as yours received straight from the gods are better than a worn-out name, handed down through a line of enfeebled progenitors. No doubt you are right. Only there is this point to be considered. Any fool can verify the social value of a name; but as to the genius, the supposed possessor, when young and unknown as you are, stands in the position of a page who has still to win his spurs. The genius is unproven. You say you can prove it? Very good indeed. Go out into the world, make your reputation there, come back in seven years' time and then I will reconsider the question of giving you my daughter." Emil protested against seven years. It was a lifetime.

"But can you reach the goal in less? You know the difficulties of the career you have chosen. Besides, did ever man yet make a reputation worth having before he was thirty? Putting the contesse out of the question, are seven years too long for the work you have mapped yourself out?"

Give me ten years," said Emil impet. uously, "and I reach the top of the ladder."

"You tell me my daughter is as much in love with you as you are with her? Good. Love makes all things equal, you say? Very good. You won't take a seat? "And I as a reasonable man offer to Very good; very good. Continue walk-take you while you are yet a few rungs ing up and down if it gives you any sol- lower down. Only, that I should see you ace." first fairly mounted, is not, I think, too much to ask. Go out into the world, go to Paris," there was, in fact, a project that Schoenemann should go to Paris to complete his studies; Brockhoff, his Leipsic master, had recommended it; it had been a question of ways and means which had hitherto prevented him from acting on Brockhoff's advice, — “study, succeed, set the name of Schoenemann as high in the musical world as Dittenheim stands in society circles, come back in seven years crowned with laurels, and

Emil for the first time in his life was slightly disconcerted. He had thought to experience the most violent opposition; scorn, perhaps vituperation. He had armed himself with counter-scorn, with passion, eloquence, irresistible pleadings to beat it down; and he found the expected foe very courteous, very bland, almost cordial. It was like going out to assault a castle, and finding yourself engulfed instead in a smooth, smiling, and treacherous sea.

Marie is yours- provided of course she still wishes it."

Emil required at the least a formal betrothal, but this the Graf pleasantly refused. "With seven years' separation before you it is better both should be absolutely free. But why let that depress you? What are words or promises? How can they make more binding an affection which you tell me nothing can weaken or change? Betrothals may be useful between persons who believe more in the sanctity of a promise than in the sanctity of love; but to you, and presumably to my daughter, who understand so perfectly love's divine unalterable nature, it could only be a work of supererogation."

But," objected the young man, "you and all her people will endeavor to make her forget me."

"I shall certainly try," admitted Dittenheim. "I should be very glad to think I could succeed. Unfortunately Marie is of a steadfast disposition." He looked at his visitor smilingly, had a phrase on the tip of his tongue, bit it back as imprudent, and after all, could not resist letting it go. "It is rather on your inconstancy that I build my hopes.'

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

"Marie is a good but ordinary girl; you are an exceptional young man. It is not probable she will ever again be wooed with such poetic fire and passion. She will compare future suitors with you to their disadvantage. The mere fact of your absence will not efface your memory from her heart. I even contemplate the possibility of her remaining intolerably true. She will continue to lead a sheltered and more or less monotonous life, running always in accustomed grooves. It will be difficult to obliterate the impression you have created. Besides which, she has reached the highest point of her development. She will never be much other than what she now is. But you have still a long way to go. It is safe to predict that five years hence will find you a very different person from what you are now. You will have discovered new wants, of which at the present moment you have no suspicion. You will have rid yourself of many old possessions, which have their uses while we linger in the valley, but become impedimenta when climbing the mountain-side. And then you will have met in Paris the most refined, the most charming, the most intellectual women in the world. I have lived VOL. LXXVII. 3950


there, and speak with knowledge. You will look back with astonishment at this grande passion of yours, this green loveepisode, and you will remember, with gratitude let me hope, that you are absolutely free. This at least, my young friend, is what I reckon on, and it partly explains the equanimity with which I have listened to your entirely preposterous proposals."

This frankly cynical speech was delivered with a confidence which Emil found extremely galling. The well-chosen words fell like drops of ice-water upon his redhot passion. They rankled, like iron, long in his breast. He could not forget Dittenheim's looks and tones, which asserted a superiority in worldly wisdom hard to forgive. An immense desire to prove the Graf wrong laid hold of Emil, who said to himself that even in the impossible case of his ever loving Marie less than at that moment, he would marry her merely to show Von Dittenheim how much he had been mistaken.

Meanwhile his departure for Paris became a settled thing, and his arrangements were facilitated, unknown to himself, by Von Dittenheim's liberality towards his mother. The Graf fully believed in the wisdom of building a golden bridge for the retreating foe.

Emil asked for a final interview with his little sweetheart; and because the girl kissed her father's hand, and wept over it, and besought ardently for the same favor, Dittenheim permitted it. He laughed at himself for doing so, and told his wife he was weak-minded to be moved by a woman's tears. And she, turning on him incensed and sunken eyes from the sofa she could now no longer leave, told him he was worse than weak-minded, he was criminal. "The whole of life is only a play to you," she said, "and even your own daughter only one of the players. You would not mind what shameful part she took, so long as you from your box could see and hear comfortably all that was done and said." Which, however, was not altogether true.

All the same, the interview took place one August evening, in the Rhine garden of Bellavista. Here a terrace of stone overhangs the river. Here it is good to walk and watch the waters flowing down from the Sieben Gebirge towards the broad plains of Koeln. Here, leaning on the stone balustrade, Schoenemann held Marie's plump little red hand between his own nervous white ones, and implored her over and over again to be true.

« ElőzőTovább »