Part 6 out of 12
Eisenberg is a fine young fellow. Those Austrian cavalry regiments are
good training-schools for the carriage of a young man's head and limbs.
I would match my boy against him in the exercises--fencing, shooting,
'As you did at Bath,' said I.
He replied promptly: 'We might give him Anna Penrhys to marry. English
wives are liked here--adored--if they fetch a dowry. Concerning my suit,
Richie, enough if it keeps pace with us: and we are not going slow. It
is a thing certain. Dettermain and Newson have repeatedly said, "Money,
money!' hand us money, and we guarantee you a public recognition." Money
we now have. But we cannot be in two fields at once. Is it your desire
to return to England?'
'Not at all,' said I, with a chill at the prospect.
'If it is--?' he pressed me, and relenting added: 'I confess I enjoy this
Suabian land as much as you do. Indolence is occasionally charming. I
am at work, nevertheless. But, Richie, determine not to think little of
yourself: there is the main point; believe me, that is half the battle.
You, sir, are one of the wealthiest gentlemen in Europe. You are
pronouncedly a gentleman. That is what we can say of you at present,
as you appear in the world's eye. And you are by descent illustrious.
Well, no more of that, but consider if you kneel down, who will decline
to put a foot on you? Princes have the habit, and they do it as a matter
of course. Challenge them. And they, Richie, are particularly
susceptible to pity for the misfortunes of their class--kind, I should
say, for class it is not; now I have done. All I tell you is, I intend
you, under my guidance, to be happy.'
I thought his remarks the acutest worldly wisdom I had ever heard,--his
veiled method of treating my case the shrewdest, delicatest, and most
consoling, most inspiring. It had something of the mystical power of the
Oracles,--the power which belongs to anonymous writing. Had he disposed
of my apparent rival, and exalted me to the level of a princely family,
in open speech, he would have conveyed no balm to me--I should have
classed it as one confident man's opinion. Disguised and vague, but
emphatic, and interpreted by the fine beam of his eye, it was
intoxicating; and when he said subsequently, 'Our majority Burgundy was
good emperor wine, Richie. You approved it? I laid that vintage down to
give you a lesson to show you that my plans come safe to maturity,'--
I credited him with a large share of foresight, though I well knew his
habit of antedating his sagacity, and could not but smile at the
illustration of it.
You perceive my state without rendering it necessary for me to label
I saw her next in a pinewood between Ischl and the Traun. I had climbed
the steep hill alone, while my father and Mr. Peterborough drove round
the carriage-road to the margravine's white villa. Ottilia was leaning
on the arm of Baroness Turckems, walking--a miracle that disentangled her
cruelly from my net of fancies. The baroness placed a second hand upon
her as soon as I was seen standing in the path. Ottilia's face coloured
like the cyclamen at her feet.
'You!' she said.
'I might ask, is it you, princess?'
'Some wonder has been worked, you see.'
'I thank heaven.'
'You had a part in it.'
'The poorest possible.'
'Yet I shall presume to call you Doctor Oceanus,'
'Will you repeat his medicine? The yacht awaits you always.'
'When I am well I study. Do not you?'
'I have never studied in my life.'
'Ah, lose no more time. The yacht is delicious idleness, but it is
idleness. I am longing for it now, I am still so very weak. My dear
Sibley has left me to be married. She marries a Hanoverian officer.
We change countries--I mean,' the princess caught back her tongue, 'she
will become German, not compatriot of your ships of war. My English
rebukes me. I cease to express . . . It is like my walking, done half
for pride, I think. Baroness, lower me, and let me rest.'
The baroness laid her gently on the dry brown pine-sheddings, and blew a
whistle that hung at her girdle, by which old Schwartzy kept out of sight
to encourage the princess's delusion of pride in her walking, was
summoned. Ottilia had fainted. The baroness shot a suspicious glance at
me. 'It comes of this everlasting English talk,' I heard her mutter.
She was quick to interpose between me and the form I had once raised and
'Schwartz is the princess's attendant, sir,' she said. 'In future, may I
request you to talk German?'
The Prince of Eppenwelzen and Prince Otto were shooting in the mountains.
The margravine, after conversing with the baroness, received me stiffly.
She seemed eager to be rid of us; was barely hospitable. My mind was too
confused to take much note of words and signs. I made an appointment to
meet my father the day following, and walked away and returned at night,
encountered Schwartz and fed on the crumbs of tidings I got from him, a
good, rough old faithful fellow, far past the age for sympathy, but he
had carried Ottilia when she was an infant, and meant to die in her
service. I thought him enviable above most creatures.
His principal anxiety was about my finding sleeping quarters. When he
had delivered himself three times over of all that I could lead him to
say, I left him still puffing at his pipe. He continued on guard to be
in readiness to run for a doctor, should one be wanted. Twice in the
night I came across his path. The night was quiet, dark blue, and
starry; the morning soft and fragrant. The burden of the night was
bearable, but that of daylight I fled from, and all day I was like one
expecting a crisis. Laughter, with so much to arouse it, hardly had any
foothold within me to stir my wits. For if I said 'Folly!' I did not
feel it, and what I felt I did not understand. My heart and head were
positively divided. Days and weeks were spent in reconciling them a
little; days passed with a pencil and scribbled slips of paper--the lines
written with regular commencements and irregular terminations; you know
them. Why had Ottilia fainted? She recommended hard study--thinks me
idle, worthless; she has a grave intelligence, a serious estimation of
life; she thinks me intrinsically of the value of a summer fly. But why
did she say, 'We change countries,' and immediately flush, break and
falter, lose command of her English, grow pale and swoon; why? With this
question my disastrous big heart came thundering up to the closed doors
of-comprehension. It was unanswerable. 'We change countries.' That is,
she and Miss Sibley change countries, because the English woman marries a
German, and the German princess--oh! enormous folly. Pierce it, slay
it, trample it under. Is that what the insane heart is big with?
Throughout my night-watch I had been free of it, as one who walks
meditating in cloisters on a sentence that once issued from divine lips.
There was no relief, save in those pencilled lines which gave honest
laughter a chance; they stood like such a hasty levy of raw recruits
raised for war, going through the goose-step, with pretty accurate
shoulders, and feet of distracting degrees of extension, enough to craze
a rhythmical drill-sergeant. I exulted at the first reading, shuddered
at the second, and at the third felt desperate, destroyed them and sat
staring at vacancy as if I had now lost the power of speech.
At last I flung away idleness and came to a good resolution; and I
carried it through. I studied at a famous German university, not far
from Hanover. My father, after discussing my project with me from the
point of view of amazement, settled himself in the University town, a
place of hopeless dulness, where the stones of the streets and the houses
seemed to have got their knotty problem to brood over, and never knew
holiday. A fire for acquisition possessed me, and soon an ungovernable
scorn for English systems of teaching--sound enough for the producing of
gentlemen, and perhaps of merchants; but gentlemen rather bare of graces,
and merchants not too scientific in finance. Mr. Peterborough conducted
the argument against me until my stout display of facts, or it may have
been my insolence, combined with the ponderous pressure of the atmosphere
upon one who was not imbibing a counteracting force, drove him on a tour
among German cathedrals.
Letters from Riversley informed me that my proceedings were approved,
though the squire wanted me near him. We offered entertainments to the
students on a vast scale. The local newspaper spoke of my father as the
great Lord Roy. So it happened that the margravine at Sarkeld heard of
us. Returning from a visit to the prince's palace, my father told me
that he saw an opportunity for our being useful to the prince, who wanted
money to work a newly-discovered coal-mine in his narrow dominions, and
he suggested that I might induce the squire to supply it; as a last
extremity I could advance the money. Meanwhile he had engaged to
accompany the prince in mufti to England to examine into the working of
coal-mines, and hire an overseer and workmen to commence operations on
the Sarkeld property. It would be obligatory to entertain him fitly in
'Certainly,' said I.
'During our absence the margravine will do her best to console you,
Richie. The prince chafes at his poverty. We give him a display of
wealth in England; here we are particularly discreet. We shall be surer
of our ground in time. I set Dettermain and Newson at work. I have
written for them to hire a furnished mansion for a couple of months,
carriages, horses, lacqueys. But over here we must really be--goodness
me! I know how hard it is!--we must hold the reins on ourselves tight.
Baroness Turckems is a most estimable person on the side of her duty.
Why, the Dragon of Wantley sat on its eggs, you may be convinced! She is
a praiseworthy dragon. The side she presents to us is horny, and not so
agreeable. Talk German when she is on guard. Further I need not counsel
a clever old son. Counsel me, Richie. Would it be adviseable to run the
prince down to Riversley?--a Prince!'
'Oh! decidedly not,' was my advice.
'Well, well,' he assented.
I empowered him to sell out Bank stock.
He wrote word from England of a very successful expedition. The prince,
travelling under the title of Count Delzenburg, had been suitably
entertained, received by Lady Wilts, Serena Marchioness of Edbury, Lady
Denewdney, Lady Sampleman, and others. He had visited my grandfather's
mine, and that of Miss Penrhys, and was astounded; had said of me that I
wanted but a title to be as brilliant a parti as any in Europe.
The margravine must have received orders from her brother to be civil to
me; she sent me an imperious invitation from her villa, and for this
fruit of my father's diplomacy I yielded him up my daintier feelings, my
judgement into the bargain.
Snows of early Spring were on the pinewood country I had traversed with
Temple. Ottilia greeted me in health and vivacity. The margravine led
me up to her in the very saloon where Temple, my father, and I had sat
after the finale of the statue scene, saying--
'It delights me to hear he has turned University student,' she said; and
in English: 'You have made friends of your books?'
She was dressed in blue velvet to the throat; the hair was brushed from
the temples and bound in a simple knot. Her face and speech, fair and
unconstrained, had neither shadow nor beam directed specially for me. I
'At least I have been taught to despise idleness.'
'My Professor tells me it is strange for any of your countrymen to love
'We have some good scholars, princess.'
'You have your Bentley and Porson. Oh! I know many of the world's men
have grown in England. Who can deny that? What we mean is, your society
is not penetrated with learning. But my Professor shall dispute with
you. Now you are facile in our German you can defend yourself. He is a
deep scholar, broad over tongues and dialects, European, Asiatic-a lion
to me, poor little mouse! I am speaking of Herr Professor von Karsteg,
'Speak intelligibly, and don't drum on my ear with that hybrid language,'
rejoined the margravine.
'Hybrid! It is my Herr Professor's word. But English is the choice
gathering of languages, and honey is hybrid, unless you condemn the bee
to suck at a single flower.'
'Ha! you strain compliments like the poet Fretzel,' the margravine
exclaimed. 'Luckily, they're not, addressed to human creatures. You
will find the villa dull, Herr Harry Richmond. For my part, every place
is dull to me that your father does not enliven. We receive no company
in the prince's absence, so we are utterly cut off from fools; we have
simply none about us.'
'The deprivation is one we are immensely sensible of!' said the princess.
'Laugh on! you will some day be aware of their importance in daily life,
The princess answered: 'If I could hate, it would be such persons.'
A sentence that hung in the memory of one knowing himself to be animated
by the wildest genius of folly.
We drove to the statue of Prince Albrecht Wohlgemuth, overlooking leagues
of snow-roofed branches. Again Ottilia reverted to Temple,
'That dear little friend of yours who wandered out with you to seek your
father, and is now a sailor! I cannot forget him. It strikes me as a
beautiful piece of the heroism of boys. You both crossed the sea to
travel over the whole Continent until you should find him, did you not?
What is hard to understand, is your father's not writing to you while he
did us the favour to reside at the palace.'
'Roy is a butterfly,' said the margravine.
'That I cannot think.'
'Roy was busy, he was occupied. I won't have him abused. Besides, one
can't be always caressing and cajoling one's pretty brats.'
'He is an intensely loving father.'
'Very well; establish that, and what does it matter whether he wrote or
not? A good reputation is the best vindication.'
The princess smiled. 'See here, dearest aunty, the two boys passed half
the night here, until my Aennchen's father gave them shelter.'
'Apparently he passes half or all the night in the open air everywhere,'
said the margravine.
I glanced hurriedly over both faces. The margravine was snuffing her
nostrils up contemptuously. The princess had vividly reddened. Her face
was luminous over the nest of white fur folding her neck.
'Yes, I must have the taste for it: for when I was a child,' said I,
plunging at anything to catch a careless topic, 'I was out in my father's
arms through a winter night, and I still look back on it as one of the
most delightful I have ever known. I wish I could describe the effect it
had on me. A track of blood in the snow could not be brighter.'
The margravine repeated,
'A track of blood in the snow! My good young man, you have excited forms
I shuddered. Ottilia divined that her burning blush had involved me.
Divination is fiery in the season of blushes, and I, too, fell on the
track of her fair spirit, setting out from the transparent betrayal by
Schwartz of my night-watch in the pine-wood near the Traun river-falls.
My feelings were as if a wave had rolled me helpless to land, at the
margravine's mercy should she put another question. She startled us with
a loud outburst of laughter.
'No! no man upon this earth but Roy could have sat that horse I don't
know how many minutes by the clock, as a figure of bronze,' she
Ottilia and I exchanged a grave look. The gentleness of the old time was
sweet to us both: but we had the wish that my father's extravagant
prominency in it might be forgotten.
At the dinner-table I made the acquaintance of the Herr Professor Dr.
Julius von Karsteg, tutor to the princess, a grey, broad-headed man,
whose chin remained imbedded in his neck-cloth when his eyelids were
raised on a speaker. The first impression of him was, that he was
chiefly neck-cloth, coat-collar, grand head, and gruffness. He had not
joined the ceremonial step from the reception to the dining saloon, but
had shuffled in from a side-door. No one paid him any deference save the
princess. The margravine had the habit of thrumming the table thrice as
soon as she heard his voice: nor was I displeased by such an exhibition
of impatience, considering that he spoke merely for the purpose of
snubbing me. His powers were placed in evidence by her not daring to
utter a sarcasm, which was possibly the main cause of her burning
I believe there was not a word uttered by me throughout the dinner that
escaped him. Nevertheless, he did his business of catching and worrying
my poor unwary sentences too neatly for me, an admirer of real force and
aptitude, to feel vindictive. I behaved to him like a gentleman, as we
phrase it, and obtained once an encouraging nod from the margravine. She
leaned to me to say, that they were accustomed to think themselves lucky
if no learned talk came on between the Professor and his pupil. The
truth was, that his residence in Sarkeld was an honour to the prince, and
his acceptance of the tutorship a signal condescension, accounted for by
his appreciation of the princess's intelligence. He was a man
distinguished even in Germany for scholarship, rather notorious for his
political and social opinions too. The margravine, with infinite humour
in her countenance, informed me that he wished to fit the princess for
the dignity of a Doctor of Laws.
'It says much for her that he has not spoilt her manners; her health, you
know, he succeeded in almost totally destroying, and he is at it again.
The man is, I suspect, at heart arrant Republican. He may teach a girl
whatever nonsensical politics he likes--it goes at the lifting of the
bridegroom's little finger. We could not permit him to be near a young
prince. Alas! we have none.'
The Professor allowed himself extraordinary liberties with strangers,
the guests of the margravine. I met him crossing an inner court next
day. He interrupted me in the middle of a commonplace remark, and to
'You are either a most fortunate or a most unfortunate young man!'
So profoundly penetrated with thoughtfulness was the tone of his voice
that I could not take umbrage. The attempt to analyze his signification
cost me an aching forehead, perhaps because I knew it too acutely.
She was on horseback; I on foot, Schwartz for sole witness, and a wide
space of rolling silent white country around us.
We had met in the fall of the winter noon by accident. 'You like my
Professor?' said Ottilia.
'I do: I respect him for his learning.'
'You forgive him his irony? It is not meant to be personal to you.
England is the object; and partly, I may tell you, it springs from
jealousy. You have such wealth! You embrace half the world: you are
such a little island! All this is wonderful. The bitterness is, you are
such a mindless people--I do but quote to explain my Professor's ideas.
"Mindless," he says, "and arrogant, and neither in the material nor in
the spiritual kingdom of noble or gracious stature, and ceasing to have a
brave aspect." He calls you squat Goths. Can you bear to hear me?'
'And to his conception, you, who were pioneers when the earth had to be
shaped for implements and dug for gold, will turn upon us and stop our
march; you are to be overthrown and left behind, there to gain humility
from the only teacher you can understand--from poverty. Will you defend
'Well, no, frankly, I will not. The proper defence for a nation is its
'For an individual?'
'For a man, his readiness to abide by his word.'
'For a woman--what?'
'For a princess, her ancestry.'
'Ah! but I spoke of women. There, there is my ground of love for my
Professor! I meet my equals, princes, princesses, and the man, the
woman, is out of them, gone, flown! They are out of the tide of
humanity; they are walking titles, "Now," says my Professor, "that tide
is the blood of our being; the blood is the life-giver; and to be cut off
from it is to perish." Our princely houses he esteems as dead wood.
Not near so much say I: yet I hear my equals talk, and I think, "Oh! my
Professor, they testify to your wisdom." I love him because he has given
my every sense a face-forward attitude (you will complain of my
feebleness of speech) to exterior existence. There is a princely view of
life which is a true one; but it is a false one if it is the sole one.
In your Parliament your House of Commons shows us real princes, your
Throne merely titled ones. I speak what everybody knows, and you, I am
sure, are astonished to hear me.'
'I am,' said I.
'It is owing to my Professor, my mind's father and mother. They say it
is the pleasure of low-born people to feel themselves princes; mine it is
to share their natural feelings. "For a princess, her ancestry." Yes;
but for a princess who is no more than princess, her ancestors are a
bundle of faggots, and she, with her mind and heart tied fast to them,
is, at least a good half of her, dead wood. This is our opinion. May I
guess at your thoughts?'
'It's more than I could dare to do myself, princess.'
How different from the Ottilia I had known, or could have imagined! That
was one thought.
'Out of the number, then, this,' she resumed: 'you think that your
English young ladies have command over their tongues: is it not so?'
'There are prattlers among them.'
'Are they educated strictly?'
'I know little of them. They seem to me to be educated to conceal their
'They reject ideas?'
'It is uncertain whether they have had the offer.'
Ottilia smiled. 'Would it be a home in their midst?'
Something moved my soul to lift wings, but the passion sank.
'I questioned you of English ladies,' she resumed, 'because we read your
writings of us. Your kindness to us is that which passes from nurse to
infant; your criticism reminds one of paedagogue and urchin. You make us
sorry for our manners and habits, if they are so bad; but most of all you
are merry at our simplicity. Not only we say what we feel, we display
it. Now, I am so German, this offence is especially mine.'
I touched her horse's neck, and said, 'I have not seen it.'
'Yet you understand me. You know me well. How is that?'
The murmur of honest confession came from me: 'I have seen it!'
She laughed. 'I bring you to be German, you see. Could you forsake your
'Instantly, though not willingly.'
'Cheerfully, if I had my work and my--my friend.'
'No; but well I know a man's field of labour is his country. You have
'Yes, now I have.'
She struck a fir-branch with her riding-whip, scattering flakes on my
head. 'Would that extinguish it?'
'In the form of an avalanche perhaps it would.'
'Then you make your aims a part of your life?'
'Then you win! or it is written of you that you never knew failure! So
with me. I set my life upon my aim when I feel that the object is of
true worth. I win, or death hides from me my missing it.
This I look to; this obtains my Professor's nod, and the approval of my
conscience. Worthiness, however!--the mind must be trained to discern
it. We can err very easily in youth; and to find ourselves shooting at a
false mark uncontrollably must be a cruel thing. I cannot say it is
undeserving the scourge of derision. Do you know yourself? I do not;
and I am told by my Professor that it is the sole subject to which you
should not give a close attention. I can believe him. For who beguiles
so much as Self? Tell her to play, she plays her sweetest. Lurk to
surprise her, and what a serpent she becomes! She is not to be aware
that you are watching her. You have to review her acts, observe her
methods. Always be above her; then by-and-by you catch her hesitating at
cross-roads; then she is bare: you catch her bewailing or exulting; then
she can no longer pretend she is other than she seems. I make self the
feminine, for she is the weaker, and the soul has to purify and raise
her. On that point my Professor and I disagree. Dr. Julius, unlike our
modern Germans, esteems women over men, or it is a further stroke of his
irony. He does not think your English ladies have heads: of us he is
proud as a laurelled poet. Have I talked you dumb?'
'Princess, you have given me matter to think upon.'
She shook her head, smiling with closed eyelids.
I, now that speech had been summoned to my lips, could not restrain it,
and proceeded, scarcely governing the words, quite without ideas; 'For
you to be indifferent to rank--yes, you may well be; you have intellect;
you are high above me in both--' So on, against good taste and common
She cried: 'Oh! no compliments from you to me. I will receive them, if
you please, by deputy. Let my Professor hear your immense admiration for
his pupil's accomplishments. Hear him then in return! He will beat at
me like the rainy West wind on a lily. "See," he will say, when I am
broken and bespattered, "she is fair, she is stately, is she not!" And
really I feel, at the sound of praise, though I like it, that the
opposite, satire, condemnation, has its good right to pelt me. Look;
there is the tower, there 's the statue, and under that line of pine-
trees the path we ran up;--"dear English boys!" as I remember saying to
myself; and what did you say of me?'
Her hand was hanging loose. I grasped it. She drew a sudden long
breath, and murmured, without fretting to disengage herself,
'My friend, not that!'
Her voice carried an unmistakeable command. I kissed above the fingers
and released them.
'Are you still able to run?' said she, leading with an easy canter, face
averted. She put on fresh speed; I was outstripped.
Had she quitted me in anger? Had she parted from me out of view of the
villa windows to make it possible for us to meet accidentally again in
the shadow of her old protecting Warhead, as we named him from his
appearance, gaunt Schwartz?
AN EVENING WITH DR. JULIUS VON KARSTEG
In my perplexity, I thought of the Professor's saying: 'A most fortunate
or a most unfortunate young man.' These words began to strike me as
having a prophetic depth that I had not fathomed. I felt myself fast
becoming bound in every limb, every branch of my soul. Ottilia met me
smiling. She moved free as air. She could pursue her studies, and argue
and discuss and quote, keep unclouded eyes, and laugh and play, and be
her whole living self, unfettered, as if the pressure of my hand implied
nothing. Perhaps for that reason I had her pardon. 'My friend, not
that!' Her imperishably delicious English rang me awake, and lulled me
asleep. Was it not too securely friendly? Or was it not her natural
voice to the best beloved, bidding him respect her, that we might meet
with the sanction of her trained discretion? The Professor would invite
me to his room after the 'sleep well' of the ladies, and I sat with him
much like his pipe-bowl, which burned bright a moment at one sturdy puff,
but generally gave out smoke in fantastical wreaths. He told me frankly
he had a poor idea of my erudition. My fancifulness he commended as
something to be turned to use in writing stories. 'Give me time, and
I'll do better things,' I groaned. He rarely spoke of the princess; with
grave affection always when he did. He was evidently observing me
comprehensively. The result was beyond my guessing.
One night he asked me what my scheme of life was.
On the point of improvizing one of an impressive character, I stopped and
confessed: 'I have so many that I may say I have none.' Expecting
reproof, I begged him not to think the worse of me for that.
'Quite otherwise,' said he. 'I have never cared to read deliberately in
the book you open to me, my good young man.'
'The book, Herr Professor?'
'Collect your wits. We will call it Shakespeare's book; or Gothe's, in
the minor issues. No, not minor, but a narrower volume. You were about
to give me the answer of a hypocrite. Was it not so?'
I admitted it, feeling that it was easily to have been perceived. He was
'Good. Then I apprehend that you wait for the shifting of a tide to
carry you on?'
'I try to strengthen my mind.'
'So I hear,' said he dryly.
'Well, as far as your schools of teaching will allow.'
'That is, you read and commit to memory, like other young scholars.
Whereunto? Have you no aim? You have, or I am told you are to have,
fabulous wealth--a dragon's heap. You are one of the main drainpipes of
English gold. What is your object? To spend it?'
'I shall hope to do good with it.'
'To do good! There is hardly a prince or millionaire, in history or
alive, who has not in his young days hugged that notion. Pleasure
swarms, he has the pick of his market. You English live for pleasure.'
'We are the hardest workers in the world.'
'That you may live for pleasure! Deny it!'
He puffed his tobacco-smoke zealously, and resumed:
'Yes, you work hard for money. You eat and drink, and boast of your
exercises: they sharpen your appetites. So goes the round. We strive,
we fail; you are our frog-chorus of critics, and you suppose that your
brekek-koax affects us. I say we strive and fail, but we strive on,
while you remain in a past age, and are proud of it. You reproach us
with lack of common sense, as if the belly were its seat. Now I ask you
whether you have a scheme of life, that I may know whether you are to be
another of those huge human pumpkins called rich men, who cover your
country and drain its blood and intellect--those impoverishers of nature!
Here we have our princes; but they are rulers, they are responsible,
they have their tasks, and if they also run to gourds, the scandal
punishes them and their order, all in seasonable time. They stand
eminent. Do you mark me? They are not a community, and are not--
bad enough! bad enough!--but they are not protected by laws in their
right to do nothing for what they receive. That system is an invention
of the commercial genius and the English.'
'We have our aristocracy, Herr Professor.'
'Your nobles are nothing but rich men inflated with empty traditions of
insufferable, because unwarrantable, pride, and drawing, substance from
alliances with the merchant class. Are they your leaders? Do they lead
you in Letters? in the Arts? ay, or in Government? No, not, I am
informed, not even in military service! and there our titled witlings do
manage to hold up their brainless pates. You are all in one mass,
struggling in the stream to get out and lie and wallow and belch on the
banks. You work so hard that you have all but one aim, and that is
fatness and ease!'
'Pardon me, Herr Professor,' I interposed, 'I see your drift.
Still I think we are the only people on earth who have shown mankind a
representation of freedom. And as to our aristocracy, I must, with due
deference to you, maintain that it is widely respected.'
I could not conceive why he went on worrying me in this manner with his
jealous outburst of Continental bile.
'Widely!' he repeated. 'It is widely respected; and you respect it: and
why do you respect it?'
'We have illustrious names in our aristocracy.'
'We beat you in illustrious names and in the age of the lines, my good
'But not in a race of nobles who have stood for the country's liberties.'
'So long as it imperilled their own! Any longer?'
'Well, they have known how to yield. They have helped to build our
'Reverence their ancestors, then! The worse for such descendants. But
you have touched the exact stamp of the English mind:--it is, to accept
whatsoever is bequeathed it, without inquiry whether there is any change
in the matter. Nobles in very fact you would not let them be if they
could. Nobles in name, with a remote recommendation to posterity--that
He sat himself up to stuff a fresh bowl of tobacco, while he pursued:
'Yes, yes: you worship your aristocracy. It is notorious. You have a
sort of sagacity. I am not prepared to contest the statement that you
have a political instinct. Here it is chiefly social. You worship your
so-called aristocracy perforce in order to preserve an ideal of contrast
to the vulgarity of the nation.'
This was downright insolence.
It was intolerable. I jumped on my feet. 'The weapons I would use
in reply to such remarks I cannot address to you, Herr Professor.
Therefore, excuse me.'
He sent out quick spirts of smoke rolling into big volumes. 'Nay, my
good young Englishman, but on the other hand you have not answered me.
And hear me: yes, you have shown us a representation of freedom. True.
But you are content with it in a world that moves by computation some
considerable sum upwards of sixty thousand miles an hour.'
'Not on a fresh journey--a recurring course!' said I.
'Good!' he applauded, and I was flattered.
'I grant you the physical illustration,' the Professor continued,
and with a warm gaze on me, I thought. 'The mind journeys somewhat
in that way, and we in our old Germany hold that the mind advances
notwithstanding. Astronomers condescending to earthly philosophy may
admit that advance in the physical universe is computable, though not
perceptible. Some--whither we tend, shell and spirit. You English,
fighting your little battles of domestic policy, and sneering at us for
flying at higher game, you unimpressionable English, who won't believe in
the existence of aims that don't drop on the ground before your eyes, and
squat and stare at you, you assert that man's labour is completed when
the poor are kept from crying out. Now my question is, have you a scheme
of life consonant with the spirit of modern philosophy--with the views of
intelligent, moral, humane human beings of this period? Or are you one
of your robust English brotherhood worthy of a Caligula in his prime,
lions in gymnastics--for a time; sheep always in the dominions of mind;
and all of one pattern, all in a rut! Favour me with an outline of your
ideas. Pour them out pell-mell, intelligibly or not, no matter. I
undertake to catch you somewhere. I mean to know you, hark you, rather
with your assistance than without it.'
We were deep in the night. I had not a single idea ready for delivery.
I could have told him, that wishing was a good thing, excess of tobacco a
bad, moderation in speech one of the outward evidences of wisdom; but
Ottilia's master in the Humanities exacted civility from me.
'Indeed,' I said, 'I have few thoughts to communicate at present, Herr
Professor. My German will fail me as soon as I quit common ground. I
love my country, and I do not reckon it as perfect. We are swillers,
possibly gluttons; we have a large prosperous middle class; many good men
are to be found in it.'
His discharges of smoke grew stifling. My advocacy was certainly of a
'Yes, Herr Professor, on my way when a boy to this very place I met a
thorough good man.'
Here I related the tale of my encounter with Captain Welsh.
Dr. Julius nodded rapidly for continuations. Further! further!
He refused to dig at the mine within me, and seemed to expect it to
unbosom its riches by explosion.
'Well, Herr Professor, we have conquered India, and hold it as no other
'Vide the articles in the last file of English newspapers !' said he.
'Suppose we boast of it '
'Can you?' he simulated wonderment.
'Why, surely it's something!'
'Something for non-commissioned officers to boast of; not for statesmen.
However, say that you are fit to govern Asiatics. Go on.'
'I would endeavour to equalize ranks at home, encourage the growth of
ideas . . .'
'Supporting a non-celibate clergy, and an intermingled aristocracy? Your
endeavours, my good young man, will lessen like those of the man who
employed a spade to uproot a rock. It wants blasting. Your married
clergy and merchandized aristocracy are coils: they are the ivy about
your social tree: you would resemble Laocoon in the throes, if one could
imagine you anything of a heroic figure. Forward.'
In desperation I exclaimed, 'It 's useless! I have not thought at all.
I have been barely educated. I only know that I do desire with all my
heart to know more, to be of some service.'
'Now we are at the bottom, then!' said he.
But I cried, 'Stay; let me beg you to tell me what you meant by calling
me a most fortunate, or a most unfortunate young man.'
He chuckled over his pipe-stem, 'Aha!'
'How am I one or the other?'
'By the weight of what you carry in your head.'
'How by the weight?'
He shot a keen look at me. 'The case, I suspect, is singular, and does
not often happen to a youth. You are fortunate if you have a solid and
adventurous mind: most unfortunate if you are a mere sensational
whipster. There 's an explanation that covers the whole. I am as much
in the dark as you are. I do not say which of us two has the convex
Protesting that I was unable to read riddles, though the heat of the one
in hand made my frame glow, I entreated to have explicit words. He might
be in Ottilia's confidence, probing me--why not? Any question he chose
to put to me, I said, I was ready to answer.
'But it's the questioner who unmasks,' said he.
'Are we masked, Herr Professor? I was not aware of it.'
'Look within, and avoid lying.'
He stood up. 'My nights,' he remarked, 'are not commonly wasted in this
manner. We Germans use the night for work.'
After a struggle to fling myself on his mercy and win his aid or counsel,
I took his hand respectfully, and holding it, said, 'I am unable to speak
out. I would if it involved myself alone.'
'Yes, yes, I comprehend; your country breeds honourable men, chivalrous
youngsters,' he replied. 'It 's not enough--not enough. I want to see a
mental force, energy of brain. If you had that, you might look as high
as you liked for the match for it, with my consent. Do you hear? What I
won't have is, flat robbery! Mark me, Germany or England, it 's one to
me if I see vital powers in the field running to a grand career. It 's a
fine field over there. As well there as here, then! But better here
than there if it 's to be a wasp's life. Do you understand me?'
I replied, 'I think I do, if I may dare to'; and catching breath: 'Herr
Professor, dear friend, forgive my boldness; grant me time to try me;
don't judge of me at once; take me for your pupil--am I presumptuous in
asking it?--make of me what you will, what you can; examine me; you may
find there's more in me than I or anybody may know. I have thoughts and
aims, feeble at present--Good God! I see nothing for me but a choice of
the two--"most unfortunate" seems likeliest. You read at a glance that I
had no other choice. Rather the extremes!--I would rather grasp the
limits of life and be swung to the pits below, be the most unfortunate of
human beings, than never to have aimed at a star. You laugh at me? An
Englishman must be horribly in earnest to talk as I do now. But it is a
star!' (The image of Ottilia sprang fountain-like into blue night heavens
before my eyes memorably.) 'She,' was my next word. I swallowed it, and
with a burning face, petitioned for help in my studies.
To such sight as I had at that instant he appeared laughing outrageously.
It was a composed smile 'Right,' he said; 'you shall have help in a
settled course. Certain Professors, friends of mine, at your University,
will see you through it. Aim your head at a star--your head!--and even
if you miss it you don't fall. It's that light dancer, that gambler, the
heart in you, my good young man, which aims itself at inaccessible
heights, and has the fall--somewhat icy to reflect on! Give that organ
full play and you may make sure of a handful of dust. Do you hear?
It's a mind that wins a mind. That is why I warn you of being most
unfortunate if you are a sensational whipster. Good-night Shut my door
fast that I may not have the trouble to rise.'
I left him with the warm lamplight falling on his forehead, and books
piled and sloped, shut and open; an enviable picture to one in my
condition. The peacefulness it indicated made scholarship seem
beautiful, attainable, I hoped. I had the sense to tell myself that it
would give me unrotting grain, though it should fail of being a
practicable road to my bright star; and when I spurned at consolations
for failure, I could still delight to think that she shone over these
harvests and the reapers.
A SUMMER STORM, AND LOVE
The foregoing conversations with Ottilia and her teacher, hard as they
were for passion to digest, grew luminous on a relapsing heart. Without
apprehending either their exact purport or the characters of the
speakers, I was transformed by them from a state of craving to one of
intense quietude. I thought neither of winning her, nor of aiming to win
her, but of a foothold on the heights she gazed at reverently. And if,
sometimes, seeing and hearing her, I thought, Oh, rarest soul! the wish
was, that brother and sisterhood of spirit might be ours. My other eager
thirstful self I shook off like a thing worn out. Men in my confidence
would have supposed me more rational: I was simply possessed.
My desire was to go into harness, buried in books, and for recreation to
chase visions of original ideas for benefiting mankind. A clear-wined
friend at my elbow, my dear Temple, perhaps, could have hit on the track
of all this mental vagueness, but it is doubtful that he would have
pushed me out of the strange mood, half stupor, half the folding-in of
passion; it was such magical happiness. Not to be awake, yet vividly
sensible; to lie calm and reflect, and only to reflect; be satisfied with
each succeeding hour and the privations of the hour, and, as if in the
depths of a smooth water, to gather fold over patient fold of the
submerged self, safe from wounds; the happiness was not noble, but it
breathed and was harmless, and it gave me rest when the alternative was
folly and bitterness.
Visitors were coming to the palace to meet the prince, on his return with
my father from England. I went back to the University, jealous of the
invasion of my ecstatic calm by new faces, and jealous when there of the
privileges those new faces would enjoy; and then, how my recent deadness
of life cried out against me as worse than a spendthrift, a destroyer!
a nerveless absorbent of the bliss showered on me--the light of her
morning presence when, just before embracing, she made her obeisance to
the margravine, and kindly saluted me, and stooped her forehead for the
baroness to kiss it; her gestures and her voice; her figure on horseback,
with old Warhead following, and I meeting her but once!--her walk with
the Professor, listening to his instructions; I used to see them walking
up and down the cypress path of the villa garden, her ear given to him
wholly as she continued her grave step, and he shuffling and treading out
of his line across hers, or on the path-borders, and never apologizing,
nor she noticing it. At night she sang, sometimes mountain ditties to
the accompaniment of the zither, leaning on the table and sweeping the
wires between snatches of talk. Nothing haunted me so much as those
tones of, her zither, which were little louder than summer gnats when
fireflies are at their brightest and storm impends.
My father brought horses from England, and a couple of English grooms,
and so busy an air of cheerfulness, that I had, like a sick invalid, to
beg him to keep away from me and prolong unlimitedly his visit to
Sarkeld; the rather so, as he said he had now become indispensable to the
prince besides the margravine. 'Only no more bronze statues!' I adjured
him. He nodded. He had hired Count Fretzel's chateau, in the immediate
neighbourhood, and was absolutely independent, he said. His lawyers were
busy procuring evidence. He had impressed Prince Ernest with a due
appreciation of the wealth of a young English gentleman, by taking him
over my grandfather's mine.
'And, Richie, we have advanced him a trifle of thousands for the working
of this coal discovery of his. In six weeks our schooner yacht will be
in the Elbe to offer him entertainment. He graciously deigns to accept a
couple of English hunters at our hands; we shall improve his breed of
horses, I suspect. Now, Richie, have I done well? I flatter myself I
have been attentive to your interests, have I not?'
He hung waiting for confidential communications on my part, but did not
press for them; he preserved an unvarying delicacy in that respect.
'You have nothing to tell?' he asked.
'Nothing,' I said. 'I have only to thank you.'
He left me. At no other period of our lives were we so disunited. I
felt in myself the reverse of everything I perceived in him, and such
letters as I wrote to the squire consequently had a homelier tone. It
seems that I wrote of the pleasures of simple living--of living for
learning's sake. Mr. Peterborough at the same time despatched praises of
my sobriety of behaviour and diligent studiousness, confessing that I
began to outstrip him in some of the higher branches. The squire's brief
reply breathed satisfaction, but too evidently on the point where he had
been led to misconceive the state of affairs. 'He wanted to have me near
him, as did another person, whom I appeared to be forgetting; he granted
me another year's leave of absence, bidding me bluffly not to be a
bookworm and forget I was an Englishman.' The idea that I was deceiving
him never entered my mind.
I was deceiving everybody, myself in the bargain, as a man must do when
in chase of a woman above him in rank. The chase necessitates deceit--
who knows? chicanery of a sort as well; it brings inevitable
humiliations; such that ever since the commencement of it at speed I
could barely think of my father with comfort, and rarely met him with
pleasure. With what manner of face could I go before the prince or the
margravine, and say, I am an English commoner, the son of a man of
doubtful birth, and I claim the hand of the princess? What contortions
were not in store for these features of mine! Even as affairs stood now,
could I make a confidant of Temple and let him see me through the stages
of the adventure? My jingling of verses, my fretting about the
signification of flowers, and trifling with symbols, haunted me
excrutiatingly, taunting me with I know not what abject vileness of
In the midst of these tortures an arrow struck me, in the shape of an
anonymous letter, containing one brief line: 'The princess is in need of
I threw my books aside, and repaired to Count Fretzel's chateau, from
which, happily, my father was absent; but the countenance of the princess
gave me no encouragement to dream I could be of help to her; yet a second
unsigned note worded in a quaint blunt manner, insisted that it was to me
she looked. I chanced to hear the margravine, addressing Baroness
Turckems, say: 'The princess's betrothal,' what further, escaped me.
Soon after, I heard that Prince Otto was a visitor at the lake-palace.
My unknown correspondent plied me a third time.
I pasted the scrap in my neglected book of notes and reflections, where
it had ample space and about equal lucidity. It drew me to the book,
nearly driving me desperate; I was now credulous of anything, except that
the princess cared for help from me. I resolved to go home; I had no
longer any zeal for study. The desolation of the picture of England in
my mind grew congenial. It became imperative that I should go somewhere,
for news arrived of my father's approach with a French company of actors,
and deafening entertainments were at hand. On the whole, I thought it
decent to finish my course at the University, if I had not quite lost the
power of getting into the heart of books. One who studies is not being a
fool: that is an established truth. I thanked Dr. Julius for planting it
among my recollections. The bone and marrow of study form the surest
antidote to the madness of that light gambler, the heart, and distasteful
as books were, I had gained the habit of sitting down to them, which was
as good as an instinct toward the right medicine, if it would but work.
On an afternoon of great heat I rode out for a gaze at the lake-palace,
that I chose to fancy might be the last, foreseeing the possibility of
one of my fits of movement coming on me before sunset. My very pulses
throbbed 'away!' Transferring the sense of overwhelming heat to my moral
condition, I thought it the despair of silliness to stay baking in that
stagnant place, where the sky did nothing but shine, gave nothing forth.
The sky was bronze, a vast furnace dome. The folds of light and shadow
everywhere were satin-rich; shadows perforce of blackness had light in
them, and the light a sword-like sharpness over their edges. It was
inanimate radiance. The laurels sparkled as with frost-points; the
denser foliage dropped burning brown: a sickly saint's-ring was round the
heads of the pines. That afternoon the bee hummed of thunder, and
refreshed the ear.
I pitied the horse I rode, and the dog at his heels, but for me the
intensity was inspiriting. Nothing lay in the light, I had the land to
myself. 'What hurts me?' I thought. My physical pride was up, and I
looked on the cattle in black corners of the fields, and here and there a
man tumbled anyhow, a wreck of limbs, out of the insupportable glare,
with an even glance. Not an eye was lifted on me.
I saw nothing that moved until a boat shot out of the bight of sultry
lake-water, lying close below the dark promontory where I had drawn rein.
The rower was old Schwartz Warhead. How my gorge rose at the impartial
brute! He was rowing the princess and a young man in uniform across the
That they should cross from unsheltered paths to close covert was
reasonable conduct at a time when the vertical rays of the sun were fiery
arrow-heads. As soon as they were swallowed in the gloom I sprang in my
saddle with torture, transfixed by one of the coarsest shafts of hideous
jealousy. Off I flew, tearing through dry underwood, and round the bend
of the lake, determined to confront her, wave the man aside, and have my
last word with the false woman. Of the real Ottilia I had lost
conception. Blood was inflamed, brain bare of vision: 'He takes her
hand, she jumps from the boat; he keeps her hand, she feigns to withdraw
it, all woman to him in her eyes: they pass out of sight.' A groan burst
from me. I strained my crazy imagination to catch a view of them under
cover of the wood and torture myself trebly, but it was now blank, shut
fast. Sitting bolt upright, panting on horseback in the yellow green of
one of the open woodways, I saw the young officer raise a branch of
chestnut and come out. He walked moodily up to within a yard of my
horse, looked up at me, and with an angry stare that grew to be one of
astonishment, said, 'Ah? I think I have had the pleasure--somewhere? in
Wurtemberg, if I recollect.'
It was Prince Otto. I dismounted. He stood alone. The spontaneous
question on my lips would have been 'Where is she?' but I was unable to
speak a word.
'English?' he said, patting the horse's neck.
'Yes--the horse? an English hunter. How are you, Prince Otto? Do you
like the look of him?'
'Immensely. You know we have a passion for English thoroughbreds.
Pardon me, you look as if you had been close on a sunstroke. Do you
generally take rides in this weather?'
'I was out by chance. If you like him, pray take him; take him. Mount
him and try him. He is yours if you care to have him; if he doesn't suit
you send him up to Count Fretzel's. I've had riding enough in the
'Perhaps you have,' said he, and hesitated. 'It's difficult to resist
the offer of such a horse. If you want to dispose of him, mention it
when we meet again. Shall I try him? I have a slight inclination to go
as hard as you have been going, but he shall have good grooming in the
prince's stables, and that 's less than half as near again as Count
Pretzel's place; and a horse like this ought not to be out in this
weather, if you will permit me the remark.'
'No: I'm ashamed of bringing him out, and shan't look on him with
satisfaction,' said I. 'Take him and try him, and then take him from me,
if you don't mind.'
'Do you know, I would advise your lying down in the shade awhile?' he
observed solicitously. 'I have seen men on the march in Hungary and
Italy. An hour's rest under cover would have saved them.'
I thanked him.
'Ice is the thing!' he ejaculated. 'I 'll ride and have some fetched to
you. Rest here.'
With visible pleasure he swung to the saddle. I saw him fix his cavalry
thighs and bound off as if he meant to take a gate. Had he glanced
behind him he would have fancied that the sun had done its worst. I ran
at full speed down the footpath, mad to think she might have returned
homeward by the lake. The two had parted--why? He this way, she that.
They would not have parted but for a division of the will. I came on the
empty boat. Schwartz lay near it beneath heavy boughs, smoking and
perspiring in peace. Neither of us spoke. And it was now tempered by a
fit of alarm that I renewed my search. So when I beheld her, intense
gratitude broke my passion; when I touched her hand it was trembling for
absolute assurance of her safety. She was leaning against a tree, gazing
on the ground, a white figure in that iron-moted gloom.
'Otto!' she cried, shrinking from the touch; but at sight of me, all
softly as a light in the heavens, her face melted in a suffusion of
wavering smiles, and deep colour shot over them, heavenly to see. She
pressed her bosom while I spoke: a lover's speech, breathless.
'You love me?' she said.
'You have known it!'
'Forgiven me? Speak, princess.'
'Call me by my name.'
'My own soul! Ottilia!'
She disengaged her arms tenderly.
'I have known it by my knowledge of myself,' she said, breathing with her
lips dissevered. 'My weakness has come upon me. Yes, I love you. It is
spoken. It is too true. Is it a fate that brings us together when I
have just lost my little remaining strength--all power? You hear me!
I pretend to wisdom, and talk of fate!'
She tried to laugh in scorn of herself, and looked at me with almost a
bitter smile on her features, made beautiful by her soft eyes. I feared
from the helpless hanging of her underlip that she would swoon; a shudder
convulsed her; and at the same time I became aware of the blotting out of
sunlight, and a strange bowing and shore-like noising of the forest.
'Do not heed me,' she said in happy undertones. 'I think I am going to
cry like a girl. One cannot see one's pride die like this, without but
it is not anguish of any kind. Since we are here together, I would have
no other change.'
She spoke till the tears came thick.
I told her of the letters I had received, warning me of a trouble
besetting her. They were, perhaps, the excuse for my conduct, if I had
Schwartz burst on us with his drill-sergeant's shout for the princess.
Standing grey in big rain-drops he was an object of curiosity to us both.
He came to take her orders.
'The thunder,' he announced, raising a telegraphic arm, 'rolls. It
rains. We have a storm. Command me, princess! your highness!'
Ottilia's eyelids were set blinking by one look aloft. Rain and
lightning filled heaven and earth.
'Direct us, you!' she said to me gently.
The natural proposal was to despatch her giant by the direct way down the
lake to fetch a carriage from the stables, or matting from the boathouse.
I mentioned it, but did not press it.
She meditated an instant. 'I believe I may stay with my beloved?'
Schwartz and I ran to the boat, hauled it on land, and set it keel upward
against a low leafy dripping branch. To this place of shelter,
protecting her as securely as I could, I led the princess, while Schwartz
happed a rough trench around it with one of the sculls. We started him
on foot to do the best thing possible; for the storm gave no promise that
it was a passing one. In truth, I knew that I should have been the
emissary and he the guard; but the storm overhead was not fuller of its
mighty burden than I of mine. I looked on her as mine for the hour, and
PRINCESS OTTILIA'S LETTER
That hour of tempest went swift as one of its flashes over our little
nest of peace, where we crouched like insects. The lightning and the
deluge seemed gloriously endless. Ottilia's harbouring nook was dry
within an inch of rushing floods and pattered mire. On me the torrents
descended, and her gentle efforts drew me to her side, as with a maternal
claim to protect me, or to perish in my arms if the lightning found us.
We had for prospect an ever-outbursting flame of foliage, and the hubbub
of the hissing lake, crimson, purple, dusky grey, like the face of a
passionate creature scourged. It was useless to speak. Her lips were
shut, but I had the intent kindness of her eyes on me almost unceasingly.
The good hour slipped away. Old Warhead's splashed knees on the level of
our heads were seen by us when the thunder had abated. Ottilia prepared
'You shall hear from me,' she said, bending with brows measuring the
boat-roof, like a bird about to fly.
'Shall I see you?'
'Ultimately you surely will. Ah! still be patient.'
'Am I not? have I not been?'
'Yes; and can you regret it?'
'No; but we separate!'
'Would you have us be two feet high for ever?' she answered smiling.
'One foot high, or under earth, if it might be together!'
'Poor little gnomes!' said she.
The homeliness of our resting-place arrested her for an instant, and
perhaps a touch of comic pity for things of such diminutive size as to
see nothing but knees where a man stood. Our heads were hidden.
'Adieu! no pledge is needed,' she said tenderly.
'None!' I replied.
She returned to the upper world with a burning blush.
Schwartz had borne himself with extraordinary discretion by forbearing
to spread alarm at the palace. He saluted his young mistress in the
regulation manner while receiving her beneath a vast umbrella, the
holiday peasant's invariable companion in these parts. A forester was
in attendance carrying shawls, clogs, and matting. The boat was turned
'Adieu, Harry Richmond. Will you be quite patient till you hear from
me?' said Ottilia, and added, 'It is my question!' delightfully recalling
I was soon gazing at the track of the boat in rough water.
Shouts were being raised somewhere about the forest, and were replied to
by hearty bellow of the rower's lungs. She was now at liberty to join my
name to her own or not, as she willed. I had to wait. But how much
richer was I than all the world! The future owed me nothing. I would
have registered a vow to ask nothing of it. Among the many determined
purposes framing which I walked home, was one to obtain a grant of that
bit of land where we had sat together, and build a temple on it. The
fear that it might be trodden by feet of men before I had enclosed it
beset me with anguish. The most absolute pain I suffered sprang from a
bewildering incapacity to conjure up a vision of Ottilia free of the
glittering accessories of her high birth; and that was the pain of shame;
but it came only at intervals, when pride stood too loftily and the
shadow of possible mischance threatened it with the axe.
She did not condemn me to long waiting. Her favourite Aennchen brought
me her first letter. The girl's face beamed, and had a look as if she
commended me for a worthy deed.
'An answer, Aennchen?' I asked her.
'Yes, yes!' said she anxiously; 'but it will take more time than I can
spare.' She appointed a meeting near the palace garden-gates at night.
I chose a roof of limes to read under.
'Noblest and best beloved!' the princess addressed me in her own tongue,
doubting, I perceived, as her training had taught her, that my English
eyes would tolerate apostrophes of open-hearted affection. The rest was
her English confided to a critic who would have good reason to be
'The night has come that writes the chapter of the day. My father has
had his interview with his head-forester to learn what has befallen from
the storm in the forest. All has not been told him! That shall not be
delayed beyond to-morrow.
'I am hurried to it. And I had the thought that it hung perhaps at the
very end of my life among the coloured leaves, the strokes of sunset--
that then it would be known! or if earlier, distant from this strange
imperative Now. But we have our personal freedom now, and I have learnt
from minutes what I did mean to seek from years, and from our forest what
I hoped that change of scene, travel, experience, would teach me. Yet I
was right in my intention. It was a discreet and a just meaning I had.
For things will not go smoothly for him at once: he will have his hard
battle. He is proved: he has passed his most brave ordeal. But I!
Shall I see him put to it and not certainly know myself? Even thus I
reasoned. One cannot study without knowing that our human nature is most
frail. Daily the body changes, daily the mind--why not the heart? I did
design to travel and converse with various persons.
'Pardon it to one who knew that she would require super-feminine power
of decision to resolve that she would dispose of herself!
'I heard of Harry Richmond before I saw him. My curiosity to behold the
two fair boys of the sailor kingdom set me whipping my pony after them
that day so remote, which is always yesterday. My thoughts followed you,
and I wondered--does he mean to be a distinguished countryman of his
Nelson? or a man of learning? Then many an argument with "my
Professor," until--for so it will ever be--the weaker creature did
succumb in the open controversy, and thought her thoughts to herself.
Contempt of England gained on me still. But when I lay withered, though
so young, by the sea-shore, his country's ancient grandeur insisted, and
I dreamed of Harry Richmond, imagining that I had been false to my
childhood. You stood before me, dearest. You were kind: you were
strong, and had a gentle voice. Our souls were caught together on the
sea. Do you recollect my slip in the speaking of Lucy Sibley's
marriage?--"We change countries." At that moment I smelt salt air, which
would bring you to my sight and touch were you and I divided let me not
think how far.
'To-morrow I tell the prince, my father, that I am a plighted woman.
Then for us the struggle, for him the grief. I have to look on him and
'I can refer him to Dr. Julius for my estimate of my husband's worth.
'"My Professor" was won by it. He once did incline to be the young bold
Englishman's enemy. "Why is he here? what seeks he among us?" It was
his jealousy, not of the man, but of the nation, which would send one to
break and bear away his carefully cultivated German lily. No eye but his
did read me through. And you endured the trial that was forced on you.
You made no claim for recompense when it was over. No, there is no pure
love but strong love! It belongs to our original elements, and of its
purity should never be question, only of its strength.
'I could not help you when you were put under scrutiny before the
margravine and the baroness. Help from me would have been the betrayal
of both. The world has accurate eyes, if they are not very penetrating.
The world will see a want of balance immediately, and also too true a
balance, but it will not detect a depth of concord between two souls that
do not show some fretfulness on the surface.
'So it was considered that in refusing my cousin Otto and other proposed
alliances, I was heart-free. An instructed princess, they thought, was
of the woeful species of woman. You left us: I lost you. I heard you
praised for civil indifference to me--the one great quality you do not
possess! Then it was the fancy of people that I, being very cold, might
be suffered to hear my cousin plead for himself. The majority of our
family favour Otto. He was permitted to woo me as though I had been a
simple maid; and henceforth shall I have pity for all poor little
feminine things who are so persecuted, asked to inflict cruelty--to take
a sword and strike with it. But I--who look on marriage as more than a
surrender--I could well withstand surpassing eloquence. It was easy to
me to be inflexible in speech and will when I stood there, entreated to
change myself. But when came magically the other, who is my heart, my
voice, my mate, the half of me, and broke into illumination of things
long hidden--oh! then did I say to you that it was my weakness had come
upon me? It was my last outcry of self--the "I" expiring. I am now
yours, "We" has long overshadowed "I," and now engulphs it. We are one.
If it were new to me to find myself interrogating the mind of my beloved,
relying on his courage, taking many proofs of his devotion, I might pause
to re-peruse my words here, without scruple, written. I sign it, before
heaven, your Ottilia.
'OTTILIA FREDERIKA WILHELMINA HEDWIG,
'Princess of Eppenwelzen-Sarkeld.'
AN INTERVIEW WITH PRINCE ERNEST AND A MEETING WITH PRINCE OTTO
A messenger from Prince Ernest commanding my immediate attendance at the
palace signified that the battle had begun. I could have waited for my
father, whose return from one of his expeditions in the prince's service
was expected every instant; but though I knew I should have, had a
powerful coadjutor in him to assist me through such a conference, I
preferred to go down alone. Prince Otto met me in the hall. He passed
by, glancing an eye sharply, and said over his shoulder,
'We shall have a word together presently!'
The library door was flung open. Prince Ernest and the margravine were
in the room. She walked out with angry majesty. The prince held his
figure in the stiff attitude of reception. He could look imposing.
The character of the interview was perceptible at once.
'You have not, I presume, to be informed of the business in hand, Mr.
'Your Highness, I believe I can guess it.'
This started him pacing the floor.
'An impossibility! a monstrous extravagance! a thing unheard of!
mania! mania!' he muttered. 'You are aware, sir, that you have been
doing your worst to destroy the settled arrangements of my family? What
does it mean? In common reason you cannot indulge any legitimate hope of
succeeding. Taking you as a foreigner, you must know that. Judge of the
case by your own reigning Families. Such events never happen amongst
them. Do you suppose that the possession of immense wealth entitles you
to the immeasurable presumption of aspiring to equality of position with
reigning Houses? Such folly is more frequently castigated than reasoned
with. Why, now--now, were it published--that I had condescended--
condescend as I am doing, I should be the laughing-stock of every Court
in Europe. You English want many lessons. You are taught by your
scribes to despise the dignity which is not supported by a multitude of
bayonets, guns, and gold. I heard of it when I travelled incognito. You
make merry over little potentates. Good. But do not cross their paths.
Their dominion may be circumscribed, but they have it; and where we are
now, my power equals that of the Kaiser and the Czar. You will do me the
favour to understand that I am not boasting, not menacing; I attempt,
since it is extraordinarily imposed on me, to instruct you. I have cause
to be offended; I waive it. I meet you on common ground, and address
myself to your good sense. Have you anything to say?'
'Much?' he said, with affected incredulity.
The painful hardship for me was to reply in the vague terms he had been
pleased to use.
'I have much to say, your Highness. First, to ask pardon of you, without
'A condition, apparently, that absolves the necessity for the grant.
But I was as careful as he in abstaining from any direct indication of
his daughter's complicity, and said, 'I have offended your Highness.
You have done me the honour to suggest that it is owing to my English
training. You will credit my assurance that the offence was not
intentional, not preconceived.'
'You charge it upon your having been trained among a nation of
'My countrymen are not illiterate or unmannerly, your Highness.'
'I have not spoken it; I may add, I do not think it.'
'I feared that your Highness entertained what I find to be a very
general, perhaps here and there wilful, error with regard to England.'
'When I was in the service I had a comrade, a gallant gentleman, deeply
beloved by me, and he was an Englishman. He died in the uniform and
under the flag I reverence.'
'I rejoice that your Highness has had this experience of us. I have to
imagine that I expressed myself badly. My English training certainly
does not preclude the respect due to exalted rank. Your Highness will,
I trust humbly, pardon my offence. I do not excuse myself because I
cannot withdraw, and I am incapable of saying that I regret it.'
'In cool blood you utter that?' exclaimed the prince.
His amazement was unfeigned.
'What are the impossible, monstrous ideas you--where--? Who leads you
to fancy there is one earthly chance for you when you say you cannot
withdraw? Cannot? Are you requested? Are you consulted? It is a
question to be decided in the imperative: you must. What wheel it is you
think you have sufficient vigour to stop, I am profoundly unaware, but I
am prepared to affirm that it is not the wheel of my household. I would
declare it, were I a plain citizen. You are a nullity in the case, in
point of your individual will--a nullity swept away with one wave of the
hand. You can do this, and nothing else: you can apologize, recognize
your station, repair a degree of mischief that I will not say was
preconceived or plotted. So for awhile pursue your studies, your
travels. In time it will give me pleasure to receive you. Mr.
Richmond,' he added, smiling and rising; 'even the head of a little
German principality has to give numberless audiences.' His features
took a more cordial smile to convince me that the dismissing sentence
was merely playful.
As for me, my mind was confused by the visible fact that the father's
features resembled the daughter's. I mention it, that my mind's
condition may be understood.
Hardly had I been bowed out of the room when my father embraced me,
and some minutes later I heard Prince Otto talking to me and demanding
answers. That he or any one else should have hostile sentiments toward
a poor devil like me seemed strange. My gift of the horse appeared to
anger him most. I reached the chateau without once looking back, a
dispirited wretch. I shut myself up; I tried to read. The singular
brevity of my interview with the prince, from which I had expected great
if not favourable issues, affected me as though I had been struck by a
cannon shot; my brains were nowhere. His perfect courtesy was
confounding. I was tormented by the delusion that I had behaved
My father rushed up to me after dark. Embracing me and holding me by the
hand, he congratulated me with his whole heart. The desire of his life
was accomplished; the thing he had plotted for ages had come to pass.
He praised me infinitely. My glorious future, he said, was to carry a
princess to England and sit among the, highest there, the husband of a
lady peerless in beauty and in birth, who, in addition to what she was
able to do for me by way of elevation in my country, could ennoble in her
own territory. I had the option of being the father of English nobles or
of German princes; so forth. I did not like the strain; yet I clung to
him. I was compelled to ask whether he had news of any sort worth
'None,' said he calmly; 'none. I have everything to hear, nothing to
relate; and, happily, I can hardly speak for joy.' He wept.
He guaranteed to have the margravine at the chateau within a week, which
seemed to me a sufficient miracle. The prince, he said, might require
three months of discretionary treatment. Three further months to bring
the family round, and the princess would be mine. 'But she is yours!
she is yours already!' he cried authoritatively. 'She is the reigning
intellect there. I dreaded her very intellect would give us all the
trouble, and behold, it is our ally! The prince lives with an elbow out
of his income. But for me it would be other parts of his person as well,
I assure you, and the world would see such a princely tatterdemalion as
would astonish it. Money to him is important. He must carry on his
mine. He can carry on nothing without my help. By the way, we have to
deal out cheques?'
In spite of myself, I caught the contagion of his exuberant happiness and
faith in his genius. The prince had applauded his energetic management
of the affairs of the mine two or three times in my hearing. It struck
me that he had really found his vocation, and would turn the sneer on
those who had called him volatile and reckless. This led me to a
luxurious sense of dependence on him, and I was willing to live on
dreaming and amused, though all around me seemed phantoms, especially the
French troupe, the flower of the Parisian stage: Regnault, Carigny,
Desbarolles, Mesdames Blanche Bignet and Dupertuy, and Mdlle. Jenny
Chassediane, the most spirituelle of Frenchwomen. 'They are a part of
our enginery, Richie,' my father said. They proved to be an irresistible
attraction to the margravine. She sent word to my father that she meant
to come on a particular day when, as she evidently knew, I should not be
present. Two or three hours later I had Prince Otto's cartel in my
hands. Jorian DeWitt, our guest at this season, told me subsequently,
and with the utmost seriousness, that I was largely indebted to Mdlle.
Jenny for a touching French song of a beau chevalier she sang before
Ottilia in my absence. Both he and my father believed in the efficacy of
this kind of enginery, but, as the case happened, the beau chevalier was
down low enough at the moment his highborn lady listened to the song.
It appeared that when Prince Otto met me after my interview with Prince
Ernest, he did his best to provoke a rencontre, and failing to get
anything but a nod from my stunned head, betook himself to my University.
A friendly young fellow there, Eckart vom Hof, offered to fight him on my
behalf, should I think proper to refuse. Eckart and two or three others
made a spirited stand against the aristocratic party siding with Prince
Otto, whose case was that I had played him a dishonourable trick to laugh
at him. I had, in truth, persuaded him to relieve me at once of horse
and rival at the moment when he was suffering the tortures of a
rejection, and I was rushing to take the hand he coveted; I was so far
guilty. But to how great a degree guiltless, how could I possibly
explain to the satisfaction of an angry man? I had the vision of him
leaping on the horse, while I perused his challenge; saw him fix to the
saddle and smile hard, and away to do me of all services the last he
would have performed wittingly. The situation was exactly of a sort for
one of his German phantasy-writers to image the forest jeering at him as
he flew, blind, deaf, and unreasonable, vehement for one fierce draught
of speed. We are all dogged by the humour of following events when we
start on a wind of passion. I could almost fancy myself an accomplice.
I realized the scene with such intensity in the light running at his
heels: it may be quite true that I laughed in the hearing of his
messenger as I folded up the letter. That was the man's report. I am
not commonly one to be forgetful of due observances.
The prospect of the possible eternal separation from my beloved pricked
my mechanical wits and set them tracing the consequent line by which I
had been brought to this pass as to a natural result. Had not my father
succeeded in inspiring the idea that I was something more than something?
The tendency of young men is to conceive it for themselves without
assistance; a prolonged puff from the breath of another is nearly sure to
make them mad as kings, and not so pardonably.
I see that I might have acted wisely, and did not; but that is a
speculation taken apart from my capabilities. If a man's fate were as a
forbidden fruit, detached from him, and in front of him, he might
hesitate fortunately before plucking it; but, as most of us are aware,
the vital half of it lies in the seed-paths he has traversed. We are
sons of yesterday, not of the morning. The past is our mortal mother,
no dead thing. Our future constantly reflects her to the soul. Nor is
it ever the new man of to-day which grasps his fortune, good or ill. We
are pushed to it by the hundreds of days we have buried, eager ghosts.
And if you have not the habit of taking counsel with them, you are but an
instrument in their hands.
My English tongue admonishes me that I have fallen upon a tone resembling
one who uplifts the finger of piety in a salon of conversation. A man's
review of the course of his life grows for a moment stringently serious
when he beholds the stream first broadening perchance under the light
interpenetrating mine just now.
My seconds were young Eckart vom Hof, and the barely much older, though
already famous Gregorius Bandelmeyer, a noted mathematician, a savage
Republican, lean-faced, spectacled, and long, soft-fingered; a cat to
look at, a tiger to touch. Both of them were animated by detestation of
the Imperial uniform. They distrusted my skill in the management of the
weapon I had chosen; for reasons of their own they carried a case of
pistols to the field. Prince Otto was attended by Count Loepel and a
Major Edelsheim of his army, fresh from the garrison fortress of Mainz,
gentlemen perfectly conversant with the laws of the game, which my worthy
comrades were not. Several minutes were spent in an altercation between
Edelsheim and Bandelmeyer. The major might have had an affair of his own
had he pleased. My feelings were concentrated within the immediate ring
where I stood: I can compare them only to those of a gambler determined
to throw his largest stake and abide the issue. I was not open to any
distinct impression of the surrounding scenery; the hills and leafage
seemed to wear an iron aspect. My darling, my saint's face was shut up
in my heart, and with it a little inaudible cry of love and pain. The
prince declined to listen to apologies. 'He meant to teach me that this
was not a laughing matter.' Major Edelsheim had misunderstood
Bandelmeyer; no offer of an apology had been made. A momentary human
sensation of an unworthy sort beset me when I saw them standing together
again, and contrasted the collectedness and good-humour of my adversary's
representative with the vexatious and unnecessary naggling of mine, the
sight of whose yard-long pipe scandalized me.
At last the practical word was given. The prince did not reply to my
salute. He was smoking, and kept his cigar in one corner of his mouth,
as if he were a master fencer bidding his pupil to come on. He assumed
that he had to do with a bourgeois Briton unused to arms, such as we are
generally held to be on the Continent. After feeling my wrist for a
while he shook the cigar out of his teeth.
The 'cliquetis' of the crossed steel must be very distant in memory, and
yourself in a most dilettante frame of mind, for you to be accessible to
the music of that thin skeleton's clank. Nevertheless, it is better and
finer even at the time of action, than the abominable hollow ogre's eye
of the pistol-muzzle. We exchanged passes, the prince chiefly attacking.
Of all the things to strike my thoughts, can you credit me that the
vividest was the picture of the old woman Temple and I had seen in our
boyhood on the night of the fire dropping askew, like forks of brown
flame, from the burning house in London city; I must have smiled. The
prince cried out in French: 'Laugh, sir; you shall have it!' He had
nothing but his impetuosity for an assurance of his promise, and was
never able to force me back beyond a foot. I touched him on the arm and
the shoulder, and finally pierced his arm above the elbow. I could have
done nearly what I liked with him; his skill was that of a common
'Ludere qui nescit campestribus abstinet armis!' Bandelmeyer sang out.
'You observed?' said Major Edelsheim, and received another disconcerting
discharge of a Latin line. The prince frowned and made use of some
military slang. Was his honour now satisfied? Not a whit. He certainly
could not have kept his sword-point straight, and yet he clamoured to
fight on, stamped, and summoned me to assault him, proposed to fight me
with his left hand after his right had failed; in short, he was beside
himself, an example of the predicament of a man who has given all the
provocation and finds himself disabled. My seconds could have stopped it
had they been equal to their duties; instead of which Bandelmeyer,
hearing what he deemed an insult to the order of student and scholar,
retorted furiously and offensively, and Eckart, out of good-fellowship,
joined him, whereat Major Edelsheim, in the act of bandaging the prince's
arm, warned them that he could not pass by an outrage on his uniform.
Count Loepel stept politely forward, and gave Eckart a significant bow.
The latter remarked mockingly, 'With pleasure and condescension!' At a
murmur of the name of doctor from Edelsheim, the prince damned the doctor
until he or I were food for him. Irritated by the whole scene, and his
extravagant vindictiveness, in which light I regarded the cloak of fury
he had flung over the shame of his defeat, I called to Bandelmeyer to
open his case of pistols and offer them for a settlement. As the
proposal came from me, it was found acceptable. The major remonstrated
with the prince, and expressed to me his regrets and et caeteras of well-
meant civility. He had a hard task to keep out of the hands of
Bandelmeyer, who had seized my sword, and wanted vi et armis to defend
the cause of Learning and the People against military brigands on the
spot. If I had not fallen we should have had one or two other prostrate
A silly business on all sides.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Ask pardon of you, without excusing myself
Habit of antedating his sagacity
He thinks or he chews
If you kneel down, who will decline to put a foot on you?
It goes at the lifting of the bridegroom's little finger
Look within, and avoid lying
Mindless, he says, and arrogant
One who studies is not being a fool
The past is our mortal mother, no dead thing
The proper defence for a nation is its history
Then for us the struggle, for him the grief
They seem to me to be educated to conceal their education
We has long overshadowed "I"
Who beguiles so much as Self?
THE ADVENTURES OF HARRY RICHMOND
By George Meredith
XXXIII. WHAT CAME OF A SHILLING
XXXIV. I GAIN A PERCEPTION OF PRINCELY STATE
XXXV. THE SCENE IN THE LAKE-PALACE LIBRARY
XXXVI. HOMEWARD AND HOME AGAIN.
XXXVII. JANET RENOUNCES ME
XXXVIII. MY BANKERS' BOOK.
WHAT CAME OF A SHILLING
The surgeon, who attended us both, loudly admired our mutual delicacy in
sparing arteries and vital organs: but a bullet cuts a rougher pathway
than the neat steel blade, and I was prostrate when the prince came to
press my hand on his departure for his quarters at Laibach. The utterly
unreasonable nature of a duel was manifested by his declaring to me, that
he was now satisfied I did not mean to insult him and then laugh at him.
We must regard it rather as a sudorific for feverish blood and brains.
I felt my wound acutely, seeing his brisk step when he retired. Having
overthrown me bodily, it threw my heart back to its first emotions, and I
yearned to set eyes on my father, with a haunting sense that I had of
late injured him and owed him reparation. It vanished after he had been
in my room an hour, to return when he had quitted it, and incessantly and
inexplicably it went and came in this manner. He was depressed.
I longed for drollery, relieved only by chance allusions to my beloved
one, whereas he could not conceal his wish to turn the stupid duel to
'Pencil a line to her,' he entreated me, and dictated his idea of a
moving line, adding urgently, that the crippled letters would be
affecting to her, as to the Great Frederick his last review of his
invalid veterans. 'Your name--the signature of your name alone, darling
Richie,' and he traced a crooked scrawl with a forefinger,--", Still,
dearest angel, in contempt of death and blood, I am yours to eternity,
Harry Lepel Richmond, sometimes called Roy--a point for your decision in
the future, should the breath everlastingly devoted to the most celestial
of her sex, continue to animate the frame that would rise on wings to say
adieu! adieu!"--Richie, just a sentence?'
He was distracting.
His natural tenderness and neatness of hand qualified him for spreading
peace in a sick-room; but he was too full of life and his scheme, and
knowing me out of danger, he could not forbear giving his despondency an
outlet. I heard him exclaim in big sighs: 'Heavens! how near!' and
again, 'She must hear of it!' Never was man so incorrigibly dramatic.
He would walk up to a bookcase and take down a volume, when the
interjectional fit waxed violent, flip the pages, affecting a perplexity
he would assuredly have been struck by had he perused them, and read, as
he did once,--'Italy, the land of the sun! and she is to be hurried away
there, and we are left to groan. The conspiracy is infamous! One of the
Family takes it upon himself to murder us! and she is to be hurried out
of hearing! And so we are to have the blood of the Roys spilt for
nothing?--no!' and he shut up the book with a report, and bounded to my
side to beg pardon of me. From his particular abuse of the margravine,
the iteration of certain phrases, which he uttered to denounce and defy
them, I gathered that an interview had passed between the two, and that
she had notified a blockade against all letters addressed to the
princess. He half admitted having rushed to the palace on his road to
'But, Richie,' said he, pressing me again to write the moving line, 'a
letter with a broad black border addressed by me might pass.' He looked
mournfully astute. 'The margravine might say to herself," Here's Doctor
Death in full diploma come to cure the wench of her infatuation." I am
but quoting the coarse old woman, Richie; confusion on her and me! for I
like her. It might pass in my handwriting, with a smudge for paternal
grief--it might. "To Her Serene Highness the Margravine of Rippau, etc.,
etc., etc., in trust for the Most Exalted the Princess of Eppenwelzen-
Sarkeld." I transpose or omit a title or so. "Aha!" says she, "there's
verwirrung in Roy's poor head, poor fellow; the boy has sunk to a
certainty. Here (to the princess), it seems, my dear, this is for you.
Pray do not communicate the contents for a day or so, or a month."'
His imitation of the margravine was the pleasantest thing I heard from
him. The princess's maid and confidante, he regretted to state, was
incorruptible, which I knew. That line of Ottilia's writing, 'Violets
are over,' read by me in view of the root-mountain of the Royal House of
Princes, scoffed at me insufferably whenever my father showed me these
openings of his mind, until I was dragged down to think almost that I had
not loved the woman and noble soul, but only the glorified princess--
the carved gilt frame instead of the divine portrait! a shameful acrid
suspicion, ransacking my conscience with the thrusting in of a foul torch
here and there.
For why had I shunned him of late? How was it that he tortured me now?
Did I in no degree participate in the poignant savour of his scheme?
Such questionings set me flushing in deadly chills. My brain was weak,
my heart exhausted, my body seemed truthful perforce and confessed on the
rack. I could not deny that I had partly, insensibly clung to the vain
glitter of hereditary distinction, my father's pitfall; taking it for a
substantial foothold, when a young man of wit and sensibility and, mark
you, true pride, would have made it his first care to trample that under
heel. Excellent is pride; but oh! be sure of its foundations before you
go on building monument high. I know nothing to equal the anguish of an
examination of the basis of one's pride that discovers it not solidly
fixed; an imposing, self-imposing structure, piled upon empty cellarage.
It will inevitably, like a tree striking bad soil, betray itself at the
top with time. And the anguish I speak of will be the sole healthy sign
about you. Whether in the middle of life it is adviseable to descend the
pedestal altogether, I dare not say. Few take the precaution to build a
flight of steps inside--it is not a labour to be proud of; fewer like to
let themselves down in the public eye--it amounts to a castigation; you
must, I fear, remain up there, and accept your chance in toppling over.
But in any case, delude yourself as you please, your lofty baldness will
assuredly be seen with time. Meanwhile, you cannot escape the internal
intimations of your unsoundness. A man's pride is the front and
headpiece of his character, his soul's support or snare. Look to it in
youth. I have to thank the interminable hours on my wretched sick-bed
for a singularly beneficial investigation of the ledger of my deeds and
omissions and moral stock. Perhaps it has already struck you that one
who takes the trouble to sit and write his history for as large a world
as he can obtain, and shape his style to harmonize with every development
of his nature, can no longer have much of the hard grain of pride in him.
A proud puppet-showman blowing into Pandaean pipes is an inconceivable
object, except to those who judge of characteristics from posture.
It began to be observed by others that my father was not the most
comforting of nurses to me. My landlady brought a young girl up to my
room, and introduced her under the name of Lieschen, saying that she had
for a long time been interested in me, and had been diligent in calling
to inquire for news of my condition. Commanded to speak for herself,
this Lieschen coloured and said demurely, 'I am in service here, sir,
among good-hearted people, who will give me liberty to watch by you, for
three hours of the afternoon and three of the early part of the night, if
you will honour me.'
My father took her shoulder between finger and thumb, and slightly shook
her to each ejaculation of his emphatic 'No! no! no! no! What! a
young maiden nurse to a convalescent young gentleman! Why, goodness
gracious me! Eh?'
She looked at me softly, and I said I wished her to come.
My father appealed to the sagacity of the matron. So jealous was he of a
suggested partner in his task that he had refused my earnest requests to
have Mr. Peterborough to share the hours of watching by my side. The
visits of college friends and acquaintances were cut very short, he soon
reduced them to talk in a hush with thumbs and nods and eyebrows; and if
it had not been so annoying to me, I could have laughed at his method of
accustoming the regular visitors to make ready, immediately after
greeting, for his affectionate dismissal of them. Lieschen went away
with the mute blessing of his finger on one of her modest dimples; but,
to his amazement, she returned in the evening. He gave her a lecture,
to which she listened attentively, and came again in the morning. He was
petrified. 'Idiots, insects, women, and the salt sea ocean!' said he, to
indicate a list of the untameables, without distressing the one present,
and, acknowledging himself beaten, he ruefully accepted his holiday.
The girl was like sweet Spring in my room. She spoke of Sarkeld
familiarly. She was born in that neighbourhood, she informed me, and had
been educated by a dear great lady. Her smile of pleasure on entering
the room one morning, and seeing me dressed and sitting in a grand-
fatherly chair by the breezy window, was like a salutation of returning
health. My father made another stand against the usurper of his
privileges; he refused to go out.
'Then must I go,' said Lieschen, 'for two are not allowed here.'
'No! don't leave me,' I begged of her, and stretched out my hands for
hers, while she gazed sadly from the doorway. He suspected some
foolishness or he was actually jealous. 'Hum-oh!' He went forthwith a
She deceived me by taking her seat in perfect repose.
After smoothing her apron, 'Now I must go,' she said.
'What! to leave me here alone?'
She looked at the clock, and leaned out of the window.
'Not alone; oh, not alone!' the girl exclaimed. 'And please, please do
not mention me--presently. Hark! do you hear wheels? Your heart must
not beat. Now farewell. You will not be alone: at least, so I think.
See what I wear, dear Mr. Patient!' She drew from her bosom, attached to
a piece of blue ribbon, the half of an English shilling, kissed it, and
blew a soft farewell to me:
She had not been long gone when the Princess Ottilia stood in her place.
A shilling tossed by an English boy to a couple of little foreign girls
in a woodman's hut!--you would not expect it to withstand the common fate
of silver coins, and preserve mysterious virtues by living celibate,
neither multiplying nor reduced, ultimately to play the part of a
powerful magician in bringing the boy grown man to the feet of an
illustrious lady, and her to his side in sickness, treasonably to the
laws of her station. The little women quarrelled over it, and snatched
and hid and contemplated it in secret, each in her turn, until the strife
it engendered was put an end to by a doughty smith, their mother's
brother, who divided it into equal halves, through which he drove a hole,
and the pieces being now thrown out of the currency, each one wore her
share of it in her bosom from that time, proudly appeased. They were not
ordinary peasant children, and happily for them they had another friend
that was not a bird of passage, and was endowed by nature and position to
do the work of an angel. She had them educated to read, write, and knit,
and learn pretty manners, and in good season she took one of the sisters
to wait on her own person. The second went, upon her recommendation,
into the household of a Professor of a neighbouring University. But
neither of them abjured her superstitious belief in the proved merits of
the talisman she wore. So when they saw the careless giver again they
remembered him; their gratitude was as fresh as on that romantic morning
of their childhood, and they resolved without concert to serve him after
their own fashion, and quickly spied a way to it. They were German
You are now enabled to guess more than was known to Ottilia and me of the
curious agency at work to shuffle us together. The doors of her suite in
the palace were barred against letters addressed to the princess; the
delivery of letters to her was interdicted, she consenting, yet she found
one: it lay on the broad walk of the orange-trees, between the pleasure
and the fruit-gardens, as if dropped by a falcon in mid air. Ottilia
beheld it, and started. Her little maid walking close by, exclaimed,
scuttling round in front of her the while like an urchin in sabots,
'Ha! what is it? a snake? let me! let me !' The guileless mistress
replied, 'A letter!' Whereupon the maid said: 'Not a window near! and no
wall neither! Why, dearest princess, we have walked up and down here a
dozen times and not seen it staring at us! Oh, my good heaven!' The
letter was seized and opened, and Ottilia read:
'He who loves you with his heart has been cruelly used. They have
shot him. He is not dead. He must not die. He is where he has
studied since long. He has his medicine and doctors, and they say
the bullet did not lodge. He has not the sight that cures. Now is
he, the strong young man, laid helpless at anybody's mercy.'
She supped at her father's table, and amused the margravine and him
alternately with cards and a sonata. Before twelve at midnight she was
driving on the road to the University, saying farewell to what her mind
reverenced, so that her lover might but have sight of her. She imagined
I had been assassinated. For a long time, and most pertinaciously, this
idea dwelt with her. I could not dispossess her of it, even after
uttering the word 'duel' I know not how often. I had flatly to relate
the whole-of the circumstances.
'But Otto is no assassin,' she cried out.
What was that she reverenced? It was what she jeopardized--her state,
her rank, her dignity as princess and daughter of an ancient House,
things typical to her of sovereign duties, and the high seclusion of her
name. To her the escapades of foolish damsels were abominable. The laws
of society as well as of her exalted station were in harmony with her
intelligence. She thought them good, but obeyed them as a subject, not
slavishly: she claimed the right to exercise her trained reason. The
modestest, humblest, sweetest of women, undervaluing nothing that she
possessed, least of all what was due from her to others, she could go
whithersoever her reason directed her, putting anything aside to act
justly according to her light. Nor would she have had cause to repent
had I been the man she held me to be. Even with me she had not behaved
precipitately. My course of probation was severe and long before she
allowed her heart to speak.
Pale from a sleepless night and her heart's weariful eagerness to be near
me, she sat by my chair, holding my hand, and sometimes looking into my
eyes to find the life reflecting hers as in a sunken well that has once
been a spring. My books and poor bachelor comforts caught her attention
between-whiles. We talked of the day of storm by the lake; we read the
unsigned letter. With her hand in mine I slept some minutes, and awoke
grasping it, doubting and terrified, so great a wave of life lifted me
'No! you are not gone,' I sighed.
'Only come,' said she.
The nature of the step she had taken began to dawn on me.
'But when they miss you at the palace? Prince Ernest?'
'Hush! they have missed me already. It is done.' She said it smiling.
'Ottilia, will he take you away?'
'Us, dear, us.'
'Can you meet his anger?'
'Our aunt will be the executioner. We have a day of sweet hours before
she can arrive.'
'May I see her first?'
'We will both see her as we are now.'
'We must have prompt answers for the margravine.'
'None, Harry. I do not defend myself ever.'
Distant hills, and folds of receding clouds and skies beyond them, were
visible from my window, and beyond the skies I felt her soul.
'Ottilia, you were going to Italy?'
'Yes: or whither they please, for as long as they please. I wished once
to go, I have told you why. One of the series' (she touched the letter
lying on a reading-table beside her) 'turned the channel of all wishes
and intentions. My friends left me to fall at the mercy of this one.
I consented to the injunction that I should neither write nor receive
letters. Do I argue ill in saying that a trust was implied? Surely it
was a breach of the trust to keep me ignorant of the danger of him I
love! Now they know it. I dared not consult them--not my dear father!
about any design of mine when I had read this odd copybook writing, all
in brief sentences, each beginning "he" and "he." It struck me like
thrusts of a sword; it illuminated me like lightning. That "he" was the
heart within my heart. The writer must be some clever woman or simple
friend, who feels for us very strongly. My lover assassinated, where
could I be but with him?'