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All this magnificence was but dimly | own convenience,” said the nobleman in seen in the gathering dusk, as was also the same irreproachable tone of conventhe tall, stiff figure of Count Froloff, aged tional politeness. “I would not wish to about forty, quite as aristocratic and al- hurry you; but only on account of the most as uncompromising as his painted countess, it would be better if you were ancestors.
not to meet her again." He bowed courteously as Clara entered, “Do you mean not say good-bye to but made no attempt to offer her a seat, her?” asked Clara, like a child learning a neither did he sit down himself. He lesson. scarcely glanced at her as he said,
“Just so; I wish to avoid whatever “Excuse me for asking you to come might agitate her, by reminding her of down here into this cold room, mademoi- what we have lost. . As soon as she has
I was afraid of disturbing the count. sufficiently recovered, and - all is over, ess” (he always spoke of his wife as the I shall take her to Italy for the winter, but countess), “as her room is too near the I am anxious that nothing should occur other drawing-room. She is very seri- in the mean time to upset her, and you ously unwell, indeed
will understand that your presence May I go in to see her?” asked the here the count came to a standstill
, countyoung girl.
ing on the intelligence of Fräulein El. The count frowned ever so slightly. singer for deciphering the rest of the “Oh, dear, no; that is not to be thought phrase. He felt that he had already needof for a moment. In fact it was precisely lessly gone out of his way in condescendon that account that I asked to see you, ing to explain himself thus far. But the mademoiselle. You will understand of young German's obtuseness baffled him course that after our our loss,” he grew a again as she repeated interrogatively, shade paler, we shall have to make vari- My presence ous changes in the household, and as you Will, of course, remind her painfully have nothing further to detain you here, of our poor darling," he said rather testily. you will doubtless be glad to regain your " And then, of course we do not mean to own country without delay. Permit me reproach you ; everything is in the hands to offer you six months' salary in advance of God -- but the unfortunate chance to compensate you for any inconvenience which made you the indirect cause; the this change of plans may cause, and long row on the river, perhaps wet feet which, along with your travelling ex. overlooked But pray do not distress penses, you will find contained in this yourself ' - as Clara showed signs of beenvelope.”
ginning to sob –“it can do no good now He ceased speaking, and held out the - waving off her emotion with a halfpaper towards her; but too much bewil- impatient gesture, which seemed to say, dered by the upshot of his words, she did " For mercy's sake let us keep to businot even put out her hand to receive it. ness, and spare me the exhibition of your Clara felt a rushing sound as of water in private feelings, which can in no wise inher ears, and convulsively she clasped the terest me.” large white garland to her breast as though “ There is no use in dwelling on this to gain support by leaning on it. Dis- painful subject," he resumed presently, missed! dismissed! was that what it and I think there is nothing more to be meant ?
said but for me to wish you a very pros. " You want me to go away?" she gasped perous journey. My manager will tell you out at last with stupid inquiry. Even now the hours of the diligence, and will see she thought she could hardly have heard that one of my carriages conveys you to aright.
the nearest post-station. He will arrange The count gave a slight, a very slight, all details," and again Count Froloff tensniff of his fine-cut nostrils. How coarsely dered the large yellow envelope for her those bourgeois people always expressed acceptance. themselves! He was surprised at this She took it this time mechanically, but girl who had always appeared to be quite still remained standing rooted to the spot, barmless, quite negatively ladylike, being her large blue eyes wandering helplessly betrayed into such uncouth phraseology. over the room, as though seeking for help
“It will, I fear, be necessary for us to somewhere. part,” was the way he put it, correctively. But, but,” she stammered at last, “ I
“ And when?" she inquired, still be had thought -- I had hoped wildered.
“You had hoped ?" repeated the nobleOh, whenever you please ; just at your man, with freezing interrogation, while the
portraits of his distinguished ancestors She made all her preparations with frowning down from the wall, aristocrat- breathless energy, and packed till late into ically supercilious, seemed to be asking the night, having arranged to depart at the same question. “ You had hoped? early dawn next morning. What? Of us? Are we not miles apart? When at last she rose to her feet, bavWhat can we have in common ?
ing just locked the solitary trunk which “Nothing,” she said faintly, turning to contained the whole of her not very exleave the room, while Count Froloff held tensive worldly possessions, it had struck open the door for her with stately cour- eleven o'clock. tesy:
Clara contemplated her work with some Nothing,” she repeated bitterly to her- satisfaction, and felt proud of herself, as self, as she walked down the long gallery. a practical and experienced traveller. “Of course, nothing! How could I ever Oh, she felt quite equal to going all over have been fool enough to expect it!” The the world alone, without protection. She scales had fallen from her eyes and she was perfectly well able to take care of wondered at her former simplicity. How herself and avoid all the usual accidents was she ever foolish enough to believe which occur to timid or silly women. She that she could be for anything in the life took some pleasure in reviewing all those of these great people ?' They had only unpleasant possibilities which she meant valued her as a servant, a machine, and to avoid by her prudence and energy. now that her services were no longer re- Firstly, murder, the most decidedly unquired they had cast her off like a worn- pleasant of all the unpleasant contingenout glove, like a useless machine, without cies which usually suggest themselves to pausing to inquire whether the poor ma- timorous females. Unpleasant, certainly, chine had any claim on their tenderness. but then so easy to be avoided, if only Every one would tell her, no doubt, that the unprotected female were careful not her late employers had behaved honorably, to step into the travelling compartment even generously, towards her, and that she occupied by the mysterious villain, easy had no just ground for complaint. The to be recognized by his coal-black beard yellow envelope she held in her hand, and the false glitter of his dark eye, which felt so uncompromisingly hard and even if the dagger did not happen to be stiff, was ample remuneration for her ser- peeping out from under his cloak nothvices.
ing could in fact be simpler, and why dirty one's boots by walking into a puddle
when there is a dry road alongside ? CLARA walked into the room which had Secondly, there was robbery to be conbeen turned into a temporary chapelle sidered, not quite so easy to provide ardente, and almost violently, she flung against, since pickpockets, in particular, down the wreath on to the bier; then, she knew were in the habit of adopting alí without a glance at the little dead child, sorts of strange disguises, without any she turned, and quickly ascending the distinctive badge of their trade to mark staircase, re-entered her chamber and set them. But here again, after half a minabout the preparations for her departure ute's reflection, the shrewd damsel diswith feverish haste.
covered an infallible antidote to this evil. She would not tarry a day longer in this No one need really have their pocket great house where there was no room for picked unless they pleased. You had only her, nor among these great people who to put your money — not in your pocket, would have nothing more in common with but somewhere else; and with a smile of her, not even their grief. Her pride had compassion for those unpractical people been slow to wake up, but now, once who allowed their pockets to be picked, roused, it would not go to sleep again. Clara put her hand into hers in order to She felt as though every morsel she tasted draw out the stiff yellow envelope containin this house would choke her, as if the ing her salary. very roof which sheltered her were heavy She had not thought of it since the mo. and oppressive. A few minutes ago she ment Count Froloff had handed it over to would have been terrified at the notion of her, and was somewhat dismayed to find having to take a journey of many hundred her pocket empty. This was scarcely a miles unprotected, she who never yet in promising beginning to the unprotected her life had travelled a mile alone. But journey. She must either have dropped now she had no room left for fear, and it in the gallery or left it below near the was only conscious of a burning desire to little coffin.
It was distasteful to Clara to have to
return to that room thus in the dead of | review as suitable receptacles for the night, but there was no other alternative; notes. so, taking a taper-stand, she made the best She had heard of people carrying about of her way through the silent passages, their money in the stocking, but this feeling rather like a thief bound on some must be extremely uncomfortable, Clara guilty errand.
thought; also sewing it into her stays, as The wax torches were still burning bad heroines are often made to do in novbrightly round the little catafalque, and els, was scarcely a pleasant idea; then her nodding in one corner was a drowsy do- eyes fell on the travelling-clothes which mestic, who gazed at her with sleepy lay ready on the bed -a grey merino incomprehension as she proceeded to ex- cloak lined and trimmed with grey Astraamine the flowers on the coffin. Her chan fur, and with muff and cap to match, wreath lay half buried under newer and Might she not sew her money into the fresher garlands, adorned with richer muff? or, better still, into the cap itself? bows of ribbon, offerings from wealthy for “a muff might be dropped or lost, neighbors which had been placed above whereas I could not well manage to lose hers. Even here she was not wanted, it my cap unless I lost my head as well,” seemed.
she reflected. A minute's search, however, brought Clara felt it to be almost a stroke of the yellow envelope to light, concealed in genius, as she unpicked the grey silk lin a fold of the draperies, and clutching iting and introduced the precious notes into tightly in her hand, Clara stood still for a the opening. She need not take them out moment to take a last look at the dead till she reached K- where she was to child, which, bedded among that profusion rest one night, and in the mean time they of blossom, looked almost like another were as safe as safe. white flower.
This fur suit, the only handsome article a sweet little face she gazed of dress she possessed, had been a present upon, and Clara had dearly loved her little from Countess Froloff only some days pupil ; yet now, in the revulsion of wound previously. “ You do not know our Rus. ed feeling which burned within her, she sian winters, my dear," she had said to gazed at it coldly, almost hardly, and there the girl kindly. “You will require somewere no tears in her eyes. Her jaundiced thing warm to wrap yourself up with in glance seemed to detect on those baby our sledging parties." This had been lips some shade of the same unapproach- last week, and she had then felt like a able hauteur she had seen on the father's daughter of the house almost, while now face; the cold white forehead looked as she was a poor outcast sent forth alone icily proud as those of the canvas ances into the wide world. tors in the ballroom.
The incident with the money had given Clara something of a fright, as she re- Two days after his departure from St. flected how terrible would have been her Petersburg, Hugo Weyprecht found himposition had the money been really lost or self pacing the road at the entrance of a stolen. What could she have done on small country town, as he waited for the finding herself destitute, so many hundred arrival of the diligence. miles away from her home?' She felt He had been dropped here by some sure that she would rather have died than other conveyance earlier in the day, for apply again to the cold, haughty, courte his mission had involved various stopous master of the house. How to avoid pages and zigzaggings from off the main a recurrence of this danger was her prin. track, much bargaining and wrangling cipal thought, as she regained her room with cunning Jewish contractors or obtuse and counted over the crisp bank-notes.country bumpkins. Now he was about to She laid aside a portion of the money, just take the regular diligence as far as Kwhat would suffice for paying her ex- where his business was to terminate. penses to K
-, where she would reach He was finding the time of waiting very the railway, and all her worst troubles long, for there was absolutely nothing in would be over ; but the bulk of her little this filthy little town to attract even the fortune she wished to secure beyond all \ passing notice of a stranger. The frost danger of loss or theft. Of course she had somewhat relaxed, but the air was would not put it in her trunk; boxes some- chill and the atmosphere dense with the times went astray, or were occasionally presage of an approaching, snowstorm, tampered with in Russia; then she passed which, in the shape of a thick white mist, all her articles of clothing in successive | brooded over the place, obscuring the
view and giving to the nearest and com- of either carriage or servants, apparently monest objects a far-off unreal appearance. they had vanished into mist like CinderelLike the breath of some colossal monster la's fairy equipage. it was floating everywhere in fleecy flakes, Seen' there at close quarters, she apintangible and transparent, yet distorting peared less unreal but quite as lovely as each object within its range; giving to she had done at first sight, even though the stunted willows on either side of the her misty raiment now disclosed itself as road the guise of crooked spectres, and grey merino and Astrachan fur. to the hooded crows flying homeward to As Hugo approached she was fumbling roost the semblance of huge black grif. with the lock of her box, which had sprung fins.
open on the way. “We shall have snow before long," May I be allowed to assist you ?” he muttered the young man to himself. "If ventured to ask in a very respectful tone. only the roads are not blocked up! It The girl glanced quickly at him with would be awkward to be delayed on the an inquiring look. way, and I shall not breathe freely again “ I do not speak Russian,” she said, in till I have got rid of He did not her native language. finish the phrase, which he had spoken “ But I am German also,” cried Hugo, half aloud, for the sound of approaching delighted to have found a bond of union bells had arrested his attention.
between himself and this exquisite crea“ The diligence at last!” he exclaimed ture. with relief, as he distinguished a dark But his eager tone had alarmed her, and mass advancing towards him.
after scanning him for a moment with Fancifully unreal through the fog ap- naïve suspicion, she coldly refused his peared the figures of three white horses, offer of assistance. looking no more substantial than if formed “ Thank you, I do not require any of the floating mists around. But it was help; I can manage it very well alone.” not the diligence Hugo Weyprecht rec- “ As you please,” said Hugo discomognized, as he stepped aside to let the fited, withdrawing from her side and rephantom equipage pass by, but a small turning to the open street, where in a state light open carriage in which reclined a of considerable irritation he paced up and single figure.
down smoking his cigar. Hugo could only distinguish a vision of “Bah!” he exclaimed in disgust some golden hair, very wide open blue eyes, ten minutes later, throwing away his weed. and a slender youthful figure which like “ Everything is bad in this wretched everything else seemed wrapped in curl-country; not even the cigars are passaing, grey mists, as she floated by. She ble !” looked like the queen of the mists herself. He re-entered the courtyard, studiously
So at least thought Hugo Weyprecht, refraining from glancing at that slender as for full two minutes he stood staring figure in the grey fur jacket, and was open-mouthed at the retreating carriage. about to enter the uncongenial bar-room, Then he began retracing his steps towards when an obviously artificial little cough the post-house, in the faint hope of catch- caused him to turn and see her standing ing another glimpse of the beautiful vision. in a somewhat dejected attitude near the Evidently some great lady travelling in still unclosed trunk. her own carriage, he thought, a Russian On her side she had been examining princess most likely, and he gave a sigh him furtively, and had come to the conand then smiled a little at his own folly. clusion that he did not look so very danWhat had he to do with Russian prin- gerous. cesses ? The chances
were he would “Mr. - Mr. — German,” she began in never in his life come across her again, some embarrassment, “ I find I cannot get and it could do him no good even to hear the lock to close after all. Perhaps I am her name.
not strong enough,” she concluded with a No harm either, he reflected a moment sigh. She said no more, but her blue eyes later, determined to put the question to were plainly asking him to help her now, the first person he met.
and to forgive his former repulse. There was no need of so doing, how- It needed no more to make his ill-humor ever, for as he stepped into the untidy vanish, and directly he was at her side, post-house courtyard, to his unbounded bending down over the obstreperous lock, surprise there in the centre of the yard while sitting on the trunk she endeavored was the lady herself, standing beside a to weigh down the lid. small black trunk. There was no sign “I am afraid we must change parts,” he
said a minute later, looking up laughingly discovery, he was only conscious of a into her eyes from his kneeling posture. great sense of relief. “ You are not near heavy enough,” and At this moment the clumsy diligence taking her place, be easily got the obdu- rolled heavily into the yard, the jaded rate lid to close, and the lock was firmly horses were replaced by less jaded ones, secured.
and ten minutes later the conveyance was “ Thank you,” she said gravely, draw- ready to start. ing on her gloves again and sitting down on the trunk.
“Shall you not catch cold out here?" LOVE at first sight is no mere fevered now demanded Hugo, for he felt that the invention of the poet's overheated brain, service he had rendered entitled him to and despite the inrooted egoism of our pursue the acquaintance.
terribly practical and matter-of-fact age, “But I cannot go inside that horrible it is, I am inclined to believe, of far room," she answered, shuddering. “It is more frequent occurrence than is gener. so hot and stuffy, and there is such a ally suspected. If, for instance, the vice dreadful noise, and the men look so rough. tims — those suddenly stricken —could Besides, the diligence will be here di- be registered statistically, we should, rectly.”
doubtless, find them greatly to outnumber The diligence! Was it possible that those who are yearly struck dead by lightthis dainty-looking creature was to be his ning. Modern science has furnished us travelling companion ? Hugo felt his with a means of resisting the fire of heaven heart leap up strangely at the thought, but in the shape of lightning - conductors, he still was puzzled as to her apparent iso- thanks to which many people are annually lation. What had become of her carriage saved from an untimely end; but for that and servants ?
inward fire which, with equal and unex“The diligence ?” he said interroga- pected force, can strike a man surely but tively." The diligence to K-? That is secretly to his heart's core, no lightningthe one I am waiting for myself; but I conductor has yet been found. fear you will find it very rough and uncom- Hugo Weyprecht wished for no lightfortable, much more so than travelling in ning-conductor, and made not the slightyour own carriage.”
est effort to struggle against his fate. “My own carriage !” she exclaimed, From the first glimpse he had caught of betrayed into momentary laughter, Clara floating past him in the mist, he had "Count Froloff's carriage, you mean! felt drawn towards her as he had never They were kind enough to send me this felt drawn towards woman before, and by far," she continued bitterly, forgetting the time he had handed her into the dilithat she was speaking to a stranger. " And gence, he had quite made up his mind to now I must just shift for myself as best I win her for his wife if she could be won. can. Of course it is nothing to them how He never could have told himself what I reach, or whether I ever reach, my home. it was about her that had thus made of But I am quite able to take care of my-him her slave in a few minutes. It was self,” she said abruptly, drawing up into not her beauty merely, for he had seen renewed reserve. “And — and I am not plenty more beautiful women, nor was it at all frightened.”
her childish helplessness, nor her equally Hugo smiled a little.
childish assumption of independence, nor “ Then the carriage I saw has left you was it the ungraciousness with which she here?"
had at first repulsed him, nor yet the “ Yes, they just drove me into the yard, sweetness to which this had afterwards and put me down with my box as if I had given way. Perhaps it was all of these been a bundle of wares myself, and then taken together, or more probably it was they turned and drove away to the inn at because she was just herself and he was the other end of the town. Why should just himself, and that, therefore, whatever they have stayed ? They are not my ser- she had done or left undone would have vants, and are not paid to wait on me. appeared perfect in his eyes.
Hugo Weyprecht now began to under- For something, no doubt, in this inevi. stand the state of the case. This was no table result may be reckoned the delightgreat lady such as he had taken her for at ful surprise of meeting a countrywoman first sight, but a simple girl of his own in an obscure corner of a strange land. rank of life, a humble companion or gov- The passionate, dark-eyed, over-colored erness apparently; and far from experi- beauties of the country had no charm for encing any sort of disappointment at the | this serious young German, who, on first