Part 2 out of 9
"We must not allow ourselves to be deterred by that," answered Edward.
"If I am once convinced about anything good, which could and should be
done, I can never rest till I see it done. We are clever enough at other
times in introducing what we want, into the general conversation;
suppose we have out some descriptions of English parks, with
copper-plates, for our evening's amusement. Then we can follow with your
plan. We will treat it first problematically, and as if we were only in
jest. There will be no difficulty in passing into earnest."
The scheme was concerted, and the books were opened. In each group of
designs they first saw a ground-plan of the spot, with the general
character of the landscape, drawn in its rude, natural state. Then
followed others, showing the changes which had been produced by art, to
employ and set off the natural advantages of the locality. From these to
their own property and their own grounds, the transition was easy.
Everybody was pleased. The chart which the Captain had sketched was
brought and spread out. The only difficulty was, that they could not
entirely free themselves of the plan in which Charlotte had begun.
However, an easier way up the hill was found; a lodge was suggested to
be built on the height at the edge of the cliff, which was to have an
especial reference to the castle. It was to form a conspicuous object
from the castle windows, and from it the spectator was to be able to
overlook both the castle and the garden.
The Captain had thought it all carefully over, and taken his
measurements; and now he brought up again the village road and the wall
by the brook, and the ground which was to be raised behind it.
"Here you see," said he, "while I make this charming walk up the height,
I gain exactly the quantity of stone which I require for that wall. Let
one piece of work help the other, and both will be carried out most
satisfactorily and most rapidly."
"But now," said Charlotte, "comes my side of the business. A certain
definite outlay of money will have to be made. We ought to know how much
will be wanted for such a purpose, and then we can apportion it out--so
much work, and so much money, if not by weeks, at least by months. The
cash-box is under my charge. I pay the bills, and I keep the accounts."
"You do not appear to have overmuch confidence in us," said Edward.
"I have not much in arbitrary matters," Charlotte answered. "Where it is
a case of inclination, we women know better how to control ourselves
It was settled; the dispositions were made, and the work was begun at
The Captain being always on the spot, Charlotte was almost daily a
witness to the strength and clearness of his understanding. He, too,
learnt to know her better; and it became easy for them both to work
together, and thus bring something to completeness. It is with work as
with dancing; persons who keep the same step must grow indispensable to
one another. Out of this a mutual kindly feeling will necessarily arise;
and that Charlotte had a real kind feeling toward the Captain, after she
came to know him better, was sufficiently proved by her allowing him to
destroy her pretty seat, which in her first plans she had taken such
pains in ornamenting, because it was in the lay of his own, without
experiencing the slightest feeling about the matter.
Now that Charlotte was occupied with the Captain, it was a natural
consequence that Edward should attach himself more to Ottilie.
Independently of this, indeed, for some time past he had begun to feel a
silent kind of attraction toward her. Obliging and attentive she was to
every one, but his self-love whispered that toward him she was
particularly so. She had observed his little fancies about his food. She
knew exactly what things he liked, and the way in which he liked them to
be prepared; the quantity of sugar which he liked in his tea; and so on.
Moreover, she was particularly careful to prevent draughts, about which
he was excessively sensitive, and, indeed, about which, with his wife,
who could never have air enough, he was often at variance. So, too, she
had come to know about fruit-gardens and flower-gardens; whatever he
liked, it was her constant effort to procure for him, and to keep away
whatever annoyed him; so that very soon she grew indispensable to
him--she became like his guardian angel, and he felt it keenly whenever
she was absent. Besides all this, too, she appeared to grow more open
and conversible as soon as they were alone together.
Edward, as he advanced in life, had retained something childish about
himself, which corresponded singularly well with the youthfulness of
Ottilie. They liked talking of early times, when they had first seen
each other; and these reminiscences led them up to the first epoch of
Edward's affection for Charlotte. Ottilie declared that she remembered
them both as the handsomest pair about the court; and when Edward would
question the possibility of this, when she must have been so exceedingly
young, she insisted that she recollected one particular incident as
clearly as possible. He had come into the room where her aunt was, and
she had hid her face in Charlotte's lap--not from fear, but from a
childish surprise. She might have added, because he had made so strong
an impression upon her--because she had liked him so much.
While they were occupied in this way, much of the business which the
two friends had undertaken together had come to a standstill; so that
they found it necessary to inspect how things were going on--to work up
a few designs and get letters written. For this purpose, they betook
themselves to their office, where they found their old copyist at his
desk. They set themselves to their work, and soon gave the old man
enough to do, without observing that they were laying many things on his
shoulders which at other times they had always done for themselves. At
the same time, the first design the Captain tried would not answer, and
Edward was as unsuccessful with his first letter. They fretted for a
while, planning and erasing, till at last Edward, who was getting on the
worst, asked what o'clock it was. And then it appeared that the Captain
had forgotten, for the first time for many years, to wind up his
chronometer; and they seemed, if not to feel, at least to have a dim
perception, that time was beginning to be indifferent to them.
In the meanwhile, as the gentlemen were thus rather slackening in their
energy, the activity of the ladies increased all the more. The every-day
life of a family, which is composed of given persons, and is shaped out
of necessary circumstances, may easily receive into itself an
extraordinary affection, an incipient passion--may receive it into
itself as into a vessel; and a long time may elapse before the new
ingredient produces a visible effervescence, and runs foaming over the
With our friends, the feelings which were mutually arising had the most
agreeable effects. Their dispositions opened out, and a general goodwill
arose out of the several individual affections. Every member of the
party was happy; and they each shared their happiness with the rest.
Such a temper elevates the spirit, while it enlarges the heart, and
everything which, under the influence of it, people do and undertake,
has a tendency toward the illimitable. The friends could not remain any
more shut up at home; their walks extended themselves further and
further. Edward would hurry on before with Ottilie, to choose the path
or pioneer the way; and the Captain and Charlotte would follow quietly
on the track of their more hasty precursors, talking on some grave
subject, or delighting themselves with some spot they had newly
discovered, or some unexpected natural beauty.
One day their walk led them down from the gate at the right wing of the
castle, in the direction of the hotel, and thence over the bridge toward
the ponds, along the sides of which they proceeded as far as it was
generally thought possible to follow the water; thickly wooded hills
sloped directly up from the edge, and beyond these a wall of steep
rocks, making further progress difficult, if not impossible. But Edward,
whose hunting experience had made him thoroughly familiar with the spot,
pushed forward along an overgrown path with Ottilie, knowing well that
the old mill could not be far off, which was somewhere in the middle of
the rocks there. The path was so little frequented, that they soon lost
it; and for a short time they were wandering among mossy stones and
thickets; it was not for long, however, the noise of the water-wheel
speedily telling them that the place which they were looking for was
close at hand. Stepping forward on a point of rock, they saw the strange
old, dark, wooden building in the hollow before them, quite shadowed
over with precipitous crags and huge trees. They determined directly to
climb down amidst the moss and the blocks of stone. Edward led the way;
and when he looked back and saw Ottilie following, stepping lightly,
without fear or nervousness, from stone to stone, so beautifully
balancing herself, he fancied he was looking at some celestial creature
floating above him; while if, as she often did, she caught the hand
which in some difficult spot he would offer her, or if she supported
herself on his shoulder, then he was left in no doubt that it was a very
exquisite human creature who touched him. He almost wished that she
might slip or stumble, that he might catch her in his arms and press
her to his heart. This, however, he would under no circumstances have
done, for more than one reason. He was afraid to wound her, and he was
afraid to do her some bodily injury.
[Illustration: EDWARD AND OTTILIE]
What the meaning of this could be, we shall immediately learn. When they
had got down, and were seated opposite each other at a table under the
trees, and when the miller's wife had gone for milk, and the miller, who
had come out to them, was sent to meet Charlotte and the Captain,
Edward, with a little embarrassment, began to speak:
"I have a request to make, dear Ottilie; you will forgive me for asking
it, if you will not grant it. You make no secret (I am sure you need not
make any), that you wear a miniature under your dress against your
breast. It is the picture of your noble father. You could hardly have
known him; but in every sense he deserves a place by your heart. Only,
forgive me, the picture is exceedingly large, and the metal frame and
the glass, if you take up a child in your arms, if you are carrying
anything, if the carriage swings violently, if we are pushing through
bushes, or just now, as we were coming down these rocks--cause me a
thousand anxieties for you. Any unforeseen blow, a fall, a touch, may be
fatally injurious to you; and I am terrified at the possibility of it.
For my sake do this: put away the picture, not out of your affections,
not out of your room; let it have the brightest, the holiest place which
you can give it; only do not wear upon your breast a thing, the presence
of which seems to me, perhaps from an extravagant anxiety, so
Ottilie said nothing, and while he was speaking she kept her eyes fixed
straight before her; then, without hesitation and without haste, with a
look turned more toward heaven than on Edward, she unclasped the chain,
drew out the picture, and pressed it against her forehead, and then
reached it over to her friend, with the words:
"Do you keep it for me till we come home; I cannot give you a better
proof how deeply I thank you for your affectionate care."
He did not venture to press the picture to his lips; but he caught her
hand and raised it to his eyes. They were, perhaps, two of the most
beautiful hands which had ever been clasped together. He felt as if a
stone had fallen from his heart, as if a partition-wall had been thrown
down between him and Ottilie.
Under the miller's guidance, Charlotte and the Captain came down by an
easier path, and now joined them. There was the meeting, and a happy
talk, and then they took some refreshments. They would not return by the
same way as they came; and Edward struck into a rocky path on the other
side of the stream, from which the ponds were again to be seen. They
made their way along it, with some effort, and then had to cross a
variety of wood and copse--getting glimpses, on the land side, of a
number of villages and manor-houses, with their green lawns and
fruit-gardens; while very near them, and sweetly situated on a rising
ground, a farm lay in the middle of the wood. From a gentle ascent, they
had a view, before and behind, which showed them the richness of the
country to the greatest advantage; and then, entering a grove of trees,
they found themselves, on again emerging from it, on the rock opposite
They came upon it rather unexpectedly, and were of course delighted.
They had made the circuit of a little world; they were standing on the
spot where the new building was to be erected, and were looking again at
the windows of their home.
They went down to the summer-house, and sat all four in it for the first
time together; nothing was more natural than that with one voice it
should be proposed to have the way they had been that day, and which, as
it was, had taken them much time and trouble, properly laid out and
gravelled, so that people might loiter along it at their leisure. They
each said what they thought; and they reckoned up that the circuit, over
which they had taken many hours, might be traveled easily with a good
road all the way round to the castle, in a single one.
Already a plan was being suggested for making the distance shorter, and
adding a fresh beauty to the landscape, by throwing a bridge across the
stream, below the mill, where it ran into the lake; when Charlotte
brought their inventive imagination somewhat to a standstill, by putting
them in mind of the expense which such an undertaking would involve.
"There are ways of meeting that too," replied Edward; "we have only to
dispose of that farm in the forest which is so pleasantly situated, and
which brings in so little in the way of rent: the sum which will be set
free will more than cover what we shall require, and thus, having gained
an invaluable walk, we shall receive the interest of well-expended
capital in substantial enjoyment--instead of, as now, in the summing up
at the end of the year, vexing and fretting ourselves over the pitiful
little income which is returned for it."
Even Charlotte, with all her prudence, had little to urge against this.
There had been, indeed, a previous intention of selling the farm. The
Captain was ready immediately with a plan for breaking up the ground
into small portions among the peasantry of the forest. Edward, however,
had a simpler and shorter way of managing it. His present steward had
already proposed to take it off his hands--he was to pay for it by
instalments--and so, gradually, as the money came in, they would get
their work forward from point to point.
So reasonable and prudent a scheme was sure of universal approbation,
and already, in prospect, they began to see their new walk winding along
its way, and to imagine the many beautiful views and charming spots
which they hoped to discover in its neighborhood.
To bring it all before themselves with greater fulness of detail, in the
evening they produced the new chart. With the help of this they went
over again the way that they had come, and found various places where
the walk might take a rather different direction with advantage. Their
other scheme was now once more talked through, and connected with the
fresh design. The site for the new house in the park, opposite the
castle, was a second time examined into and approved, and fixed upon for
the termination of the intended circuit.
Ottilie had said nothing all this time. At length Edward pushed the
chart, which had hitherto been lying before Charlotte, across to her,
begging her to give her opinion; she still hesitated for a moment.
Edward in his gentlest way again pressed her to let them know what she
thought--nothing had as yet been settled--it was all as yet in embryo.
"I would have the house built here," she said, as she pointed with her
finger to the highest point of the slope on the hill. "It is true you
cannot see the castle from thence, for it is hidden by the wood; but for
that very reason you find yourself in another quite new world; you lose
village and houses and all at the same time. The view of the ponds with
the mill, and the hills and mountains in the distance, is singularly
beautiful--I have often observed it when I have been there."
"She is right," Edward cried; "how could we have overlooked it. This is
what you mean, Ottilie, is it not?" He took a lead pencil, and drew a
great black rectangular figure on the summit of the hill.
It went through the Captain's soul to see his carefully and
clearly-drawn chart disfigured in such a way. He collected himself,
however, after a slight expression of his disapproval and went into the
idea. "Ottilie is right," he said; "we are ready enough to walk any
distance to drink tea or eat fish, because they would not have tasted as
well at home--we require change of scene and change of objects. Your
ancestors showed their judgment in the spot which they chose for the
castle; for it is sheltered from the wind, with the conveniences of life
close at hand. A place, on the contrary, which is more for pleasure
parties than for a regular residence, may be very well yonder
there, and in the fair time of year the most agreeable hours may be
[Illustration: CHARLOTTE, OTTILIE, EDWARD AND THE CAPTAIN DISCUSS THE
NEW PLAN OF THE HOUSE _From the Painting by Franz Simm_]
The more they talked it over, the more conclusive was their judgment in
favor of Ottilie; and Edward could not conceal his triumph that the
thought had been hers. He was as proud as if he had hit upon it himself.
Early the following morning the Captain examined the spot: he first
threw off a sketch of what should be done, and afterward, when the thing
had been more completely decided on, he made a complete design, with
accurate calculations and measurements. It cost him a good deal of
labor, and the business connected with the sale of the farm had to be
gone into, so that both the gentlemen now found a fresh impulse to
The Captain made Edward observe that it would be proper, indeed that it
would be a kind of duty, to celebrate Charlotte's birthday with laying
the foundation-stone. Not much was wanted to overcome Edward's
disinclination for such festivities--for he quickly recollected that a
little later Ottilie's birthday would follow, and that he could have a
magnificent celebration for that.
Charlotte, to whom all this work and what it would involve was a subject
for much serious and almost anxious thought, busied herself in carefully
going through the time and outlay which it was calculated would be
expended on it. During the day they rarely saw each other, so that the
evening meeting was looked forward to with all the more anxiety.
Ottilie meantime was complete mistress of the household--and how could
it be otherwise, with her quick methodical rays of working? Indeed, her
whole mode of thought was suited better to home life than to the world,
and to a more free existence. Edward soon observed that she only walked
about with them out of a desire to please; that when she stayed out late
with them in the evening it was because she thought it a sort of social
duty, and that she would often find a pretext in some household matter
for going in again--consequently he soon managed so to arrange the walks
which they took together, that they should be at home before sunset; and
he began again, what he had long left off, to read aloud
poetry--particularly such as had for its subject the expression of a
pure but passionate love.
They ordinarily sat in the evening in the same places round a small
table--Charlotte on the sofa, Ottilie on a chair opposite to her, and
the gentlemen on each side. Ottilie's place was on Edward's right, the
side where he put the candle when he was reading--at such times she
would draw her chair a little nearer to look over him, for Ottilie also
trusted her own eyes better than another person's lips, and Edward would
then always make a move toward her, that it might be as easy as possible
for her--indeed he would frequently make longer stops than necessary,
that he might not turn over before she had got to the bottom of the
Charlotte and the Captain observed this, and exchanged many a quiet
smile at it; but they were both taken by surprise at another symptom, in
which Ottilie's latent feeling accidentally displayed itself.
One evening, which had been partly spoilt for them by a tedious visit,
Edward proposed that they should not separate so early--he felt inclined
for music--he would take his flute, which he had not done for many days
past. Charlotte looked for the sonatas which they generally played
together, and they were not to be found. Ottilie, with some hesitation,
said that they were in her room--she had taken them there to copy them.
"And you can, you will, accompany me on the piano?" cried Edward, his
eyes sparkling with pleasure. "I think perhaps I can," Ottilie answered.
She brought the music and sat down to the instrument. The others
listened, and were sufficiently surprised to hear how perfectly Ottilie
had taught herself the piece--but far more surprised were they at the
way in which she contrived to adapt herself to Edward's style of
playing. Adapt herself, is not the right expression--Charlotte's skill
and power enabled her, in order to please her husband, to keep up with
him when he went too fast, and hold in for him if he hesitated; but
Ottilie, who had several times heard them play the sonata together,
seemed to have learnt it according to the idea in which they accompanied
each other--she had so completely made his defects her own, that a kind
of living whole resulted from it, which did not move indeed according to
exact rule, but the effect of which was in the highest degree pleasant
and delightful. The composer himself would have been pleased to hear his
work disfigured in a manner so charming.
Charlotte and the Captain watched this strange unexpected occurrence in
silence, with the kind of feeling with which we often observe the
actions of children--unable exactly to approve of them, from the serious
consequences which may follow, and yet without being able to find fault,
perhaps with a kind of envy. For, indeed, the regard of these two for
one another was growing also, as well as that of the others--and it was
perhaps only the more perilous because they were both stronger, more
certain of themselves, and better able to restrain themselves.
The Captain had already begun to feel that a habit which he could not
resist was threatening to bind him to Charlotte. He forced himself to
stay away at the hour when she commonly used to be at the works; by
getting up very early in the morning he contrived to finish there
whatever he had to do, and went back to the castle to his work in his
own room. The first day or two Charlotte thought it was an accident--she
looked for him in every place where she thought he could possibly be.
Then she thought she understood him--and admired him all the more.
Avoiding, as the Captain now did, being alone with Charlotte, the more
industriously did he labor to hurry forward the preparations for keeping
her rapidly-approaching birthday with all splendor. While he was
bringing up the new road from below behind the village, he made the men,
under pretence that he wanted stones, begin working at the top as well,
and work down, to meet the others; and he had calculated his
arrangements so that the two should exactly meet on the eve of the day.
The excavations for the new house were already done; the rock was blown
away with gunpowder; and a fair foundation-stone had been hewn, with a
hollow chamber, and a flat slab adjusted to cover it.
This outward activity, these little mysterious purposes of friendship,
prompted by feelings which more or less they were obliged to repress,
rather prevented the little party when together from being as lively as
usual. Edward, who felt that there was a sort of void, one evening
called upon the Captain to fetch his violin--Charlotte should play the
piano, and he should accompany her. The Captain was unable to refuse the
general request, and they executed together one of the most difficult
pieces of music with an ease, and freedom, and feeling, which could not
but afford themselves, and the two who were listening to them, the
greatest delight. They promised themselves a frequent repetition of it,
as well as further practice together. "They do it better than we,
Ottilie," said Edward; "we will admire them--but we can enjoy ourselves
The birthday was come, and everything was ready. The wall was all
complete which protected the raised village road against the water, and
so was the walk; passing the church, for a short time it followed the
path which had been laid out by Charlotte, and then winding upward among
the rocks, inclined first under the summer-house to the right, and then,
after a wide sweep, passed back above it to the right again, and so by
degrees out on to the summit. A large party had assembled for the
occasion. They went first to church, where they found the whole
congregation assembled in their holiday dresses. After service, they
filed out in order; first the boys, then the young men, then the old;
after them came the party from the castle, with their visitors and
retinue; and the village maidens, young girls, and women, brought up the
At the turn of the walk, a raised stone seat had been contrived, where
the Captain made Charlotte and the visitors stop and rest. From here
they could see over the whole distance from the beginning to the
end--the troops of men who had gone up before them, the file of women
following, and now drawing up to where they were. It was lovely weather,
and the whole effect was singularly beautiful. Charlotte was taken by
surprise, she was touched, and she pressed the Captain's hand warmly.
They followed the crowd who had slowly ascended, and were now forming a
circle round the spot where the future house was to stand. The lord of
the castle, his family, and the principal strangers were now invited to
descend into the vault, where the foundation-stone, supported on one
side, lay ready to be let down. A well-dressed mason, a trowel in one
hand and a hammer in the other, came forward, and with much grace spoke
an address in verse, of which in prose we can give but an imperfect
"Three things," he began, "are to be looked to in a building--that it
stand on the right spot; that it be securely founded; that it be
successfully executed. The first is the business of the master of the
house--his and his only. As in the city the prince and the council alone
determine where a building shall be, so in the country it is the right
of the lord of the soil that he shall say, 'Here my dwelling shall
stand; here, and nowhere else.'"
Edward and Ottilie were standing opposite one another, as these words
were spoken; but they did not venture to look up and exchange glances.
"To the third, the execution, there is neither art nor handicraft which
must not in some way contribute. But the second, the founding, is the
province of the mason; and, boldly to speak it out, it is the head and
front of all the undertaking--a solemn thing it is--and our bidding you
descend hither is full of meaning. You are celebrating your Festival in
the deep of the earth. Here within this small hollow spot, you show us
the honor of appearing as witnesses of our mysterious craft. Presently
we shall lower down this carefully-hewn stone into its place; and soon
these earth-walls, now ornamented with fair and worthy persons, will be
no more accessible--but will be closed in forever!
"This foundation-stone, which with its angles typifies the just angles
of the building, with the sharpness of its molding, the regularity of
it, and with the truth of its lines to the horizontal and perpendicular,
the uprightness and equal height of all the walls, we might now without
more ado let down--it would rest in its place with its own weight. But
even here there shall not fail of lime and means to bind it. For as
human beings who may be well inclined to each other by nature, yet hold
more firmly together when the law cements them, so are stones also,
whose forms may already fit together, united far better by these binding
forces. It is not seemly to be idle among the working, and here you will
not refuse to be our fellow-laborer;" with these words he reached the
trowel to Charlotte, who threw mortar with it under the stone--several
of the others were then desired to do the same, and then it was at once
let fall. Upon which the hammer was placed next in Charlotte's, and then
in the others' hands, to strike three times with it, and conclude, in
this expression, the wedlock of the stone with the earth.
"The work of the mason," went on the speaker, "now under the free sky as
we are, if it be not done in concealment, yet must pass into
concealment--the soil will be laid smoothly in, and thrown over this
stone, and with the walls which we rear into the daylight we in the end
are seldom remembered. The works of the stone-cutter and the carver
remain under the eyes; but for us it is not to complain when the
plasterer blots out the last trace of our hands, and appropriates our
work to himself; when he overlays it, and smooths it, and colors it.
"Not from regard for the opinion of others, but from respect for
himself, the mason will be faithful in his calling. There is none who
has more need to feel in himself the consciousness of what he is. When
the house is finished, when the soil is smoothed, the surface plastered
over, and the outside all overwrought with ornament, he can even
penetrate through all disguises and still recognize those exact and
careful adjustments to which the whole is indebted for its being and for
"But as the man who commits some evil deed has to fear, that,
notwithstanding all precautions, it will one day come to light--so too
must he expect who has done some good thing in secret, that it also, in
spite of himself, will appear in the day; and therefore we make this
foundation-stone at the same time a stone of memorial. Here, in these
various hollows which have been hewn into it, many things are now to be
buried, as a witness to some far-off world--these metal cases
hermetically sealed contain documents in writing; matters of various
note are engraved on these plates; in these fair glass bottles we bury
the best old wine, with a note of the year of its vintage. We have coins
too of many kinds, from the mint of the current year. All this we have
received through the liberality of him for whom we build. There is space
yet remaining, if guest or spectator desires to offer anything to the
After a slight pause the speaker looked round; but, as is commonly the
case on such occasions, no one was prepared; they were all taken by
surprise. At last, a merry-looking young officer set the example, and
said, "If I am to contribute anything which as yet is not to be found in
this treasure-chamber, it shall be a pair of buttons from my uniform--I
don't see why they do not deserve to go down to posterity!" No sooner
said than done, and then a number of persons found something of the
same sort which they could do; the young ladies did not hesitate to
throw in some of their side hair combs--smelling bottles and other
trinkets were not spared. Only Ottilie hung back; till a kind word from
Edward roused her from the abstraction in which she was watching the
various things being heaped in. Then she unclasped from her neck the
gold chain on which her father's picture had hung, and with a light
gentle hand laid it down on the other jewels. Edward rather disarranged
the proceedings, by at once, in some haste, having the cover let fall,
and fastened down.
The young mason who had been most active through all this, again took
his place as orator, and went on: "We lay down this stone for ever, for
the establishing the present and the future possessors of this house.
But in that we bury this treasure together with it, we do it in the
remembrance--in this most enduring of works--of the perishableness of
all human things. We remember that a time may come when this cover so
fast sealed shall again be lifted; and that can only be when all shall
again be destroyed which as yet we have not brought into being.
"But now--now that at once it may begin to be, back with our thoughts
out of the future--back into the present. At once, after the feast,
which we have this day kept together, let us on with our labor; let no
one of all those trades which are to work on our foundation, through us
keep unwilling holiday. Let the building rise swiftly to its height, and
out of the windows, which as yet have no existence, may the master of
the house, with his family and with his guests, look forth with a glad
heart over his broad lands. To him and to all here present herewith be
health and happiness."
With these words he drained a richly cut tumbler at a draught, and flung
it into the air, thereby to signify the excess of pleasure by destroying
the vessel which had served for such a solemn occasion. This time,
however, it fell out otherwise. The glass did not fall back to the
earth, and indeed without a miracle.
In order to get forward with the buildings, they had already thrown out
the whole of the soil at the opposite corner; indeed, they had begun to
raise the wall, and for this purpose had reared a scaffold as high as
was absolutely necessary. On the occasion of the festival, boards had
been laid along the top of this, and a number of spectators were allowed
to stand there. It had been meant principally for the advantage of the
workmen themselves. The glass had flown up there, and had been caught by
one of them, who took it as a sign of good luck for himself. He waved it
round without letting it out of his hand, and the letters E and O were
to be seen very richly cut upon it, running one into the other. It was
one of the glasses which had been executed for Edward when he was a boy.
The scaffoldings were again deserted, and the most active among the
party climbed up to look round them, and could not speak enough in
praise of the beauty of the prospect on all sides. How many new
discoveries does not a person make when on some high point he ascends
but a single story higher. Inland many fresh villages came in sight. The
line of the river could be traced like a thread of silver; indeed, one
of the party thought that he distinguished the spires of the capital. On
the other side, behind the wooded hill, the blue peaks of the far-off
mountains were seen rising, and the country immediately about them was
spread out like a map.
"If the three ponds," cried some one, "were but thrown together to make
a single sheet of water, there would be everything here which is noblest
and most excellent."
"That might easily be effected," the Captain said. "In early times they
must have formed all one lake among the hills here."
"Only I must beseech you to spare my clump of planes and poplars that
stand so prettily by the centre pond," said Edward. "See!" He turned to
Ottilie, bringing her a few steps forward, and pointing down--"those
trees I planted myself."
"How long have they been standing there?" asked Ottilie.
"Just about as long as you have been in the world," replied Edward.
"Yes, my dear child, I planted them when you were still lying in your
The party now betook themselves back to the castle. After dinner was
over they were invited to walk through the village to take a glance at
what had been done there as well. At a hint from the Captain, the
inhabitants had collected in front of the houses. They were not standing
in rows, but formed in natural family groups; part were occupied at
their evening work, part out enjoying themselves on the new benches.
They had determined, as an agreeable duty which they imposed upon
themselves, to have everything in its present order and cleanliness, at
least every Sunday and holiday.
A little party, held together by such feelings as had grown up among our
friends, is always unpleasantly interrupted by a large concourse of
people. All four were delighted to find themselves again alone in the
large drawing-room, but this sense of home was a little disturbed by a
letter which was brought to Edward, giving notice of fresh guests who
were to arrive the following day.
"It is as we supposed," Edward cried to Charlotte. "The Count will not
stay away; he is coming tomorrow."
"Then the Baroness, too, is not far off," answered Charlotte.
"Doubtless not," said Edward. "She is coming, too, tomorrow, from
another place. They only beg to be allowed to stay for a night; the next
day they will go on together."
"We must prepare for them in time, Ottilie," said Charlotte.
"What arrangement shall I desire to be made?" Ottilie asked.
Charlotte gave a general direction, and Ottilie left the room.
The Captain inquired into the relation in which these two persons stood
toward each other, and with which he was only very generally acquainted.
They had some time before, both being already married, fallen violently
in love with each other; a double marriage was not to be interfered with
without attracting attention. A divorce was proposed. On the Baroness's
side it could be effected, on that of the Count it could not. They were
obliged seemingly to separate, but their position toward each other
remained unchanged, and though in the winter at the Residence they were
unable to be together, they indemnified themselves in the summer, while
making tours and staying at watering-places.
They were both slightly older than Edward and Charlotte, and had been
intimate with them from early times at court. The connection had never
been absolutely broken off, although it was impossible to approve of
their proceedings. On the present occasion their coming was most
unwelcome to Charlotte; and if she had looked closely into her reasons
for feeling it so, she would have found it was on account of Ottilie.
The poor innocent girl should not have been brought so early in contact
with such an example.
"It would have been more convenient if they had not come till a couple
of days later," Edward was saying; as Ottilie re-entered, "till we had
finished with this business of the farm. The deed of sale is complete.
One copy of it I have here, but we want a second, and our old clerk has
fallen ill." The Captain offered his services, and so did Charlotte, but
there was something or other to object to in both of them.
"Give it to me," cried Ottilie, a little hastily.
"You will never be able to finish it," said Charlotte.
"And really I must have it early the day after tomorrow, and it is
long," Edward added.
"It shall be ready," Ottilie cried; and the paper was already in her
The next morning, as they were looking out from their highest windows
for their visitors, whom they intended to go some way and meet, Edward
said, "Who is that yonder, riding slowly along the road?"
The Captain described accurately the figure of the horse-man.
"Then it is he," said Edward; "the particulars, which you can see better
than I, agree very well with the general figure, which I can see too. It
is Mittler; but what is he doing, coming riding at such a pace as that?"
The figure came nearer, and Mittler it veritably was. They received him
with warm greetings as he came slowly up the steps.
"Why did you not come yesterday?" Edward cried, as he approached.
"I do not like your grand festivities," answered he; "but I am come
today to keep my friend's birthday with you quietly."
"How are you able to find time enough?" asked Edward, with a laugh.
"My visit, if you can value it, you owe to an observation which I made
yesterday. I was spending a right happy afternoon in a house where I had
established peace, and then I heard that a birthday was being kept here.
Now this is what I call selfish, after all, said I to myself: you will
only enjoy yourself with those whose broken peace you have mended. Why
cannot you for once go and be happy with friends who keep the peace for
themselves? No sooner said than done. Here I am, as I determined with
myself that I would be."
"Yesterday you would have met a large party here; today you will find
but a small one," said Charlotte; "you will meet the Count and the
Baroness, with whom you have had enough to do already, I believe."
Out of the middle of the party, who had all four come down to welcome
him, the strange man dashed in the keenest disgust, seizing at the same
time his hat and whip. "Some unlucky star is always over me," he cried,
"directly I try to rest and enjoy myself. What business have I going out
of my proper character? I ought never to have come, and now I am
persecuted away. Under one roof with those two I will not remain, and
you take care of yourselves. They bring nothing but mischief; their
nature is like leaven, and propagates its own contagion."
They tried to pacify him, but it was in vain. "Whoever strikes at
marriage," he cried;--"whoever, either by word or act, undermines this,
the foundation of all moral society, that man has to settle with me, and
if I cannot become his master, I take care to settle myself out of his
way. Marriage is the beginning and the end of all culture. It makes the
savage mild; and the most cultivated has no better opportunity for
displaying his gentleness. Indissoluble it must be, because it brings so
much happiness that what small exceptional unhappiness it may bring
counts for nothing in the balance. And what do men mean by talking of
unhappiness? Impatience it is which from time to time comes over them,
and then they fancy themselves unhappy. Let them wait till the moment is
gone by, and then they will bless their good fortune that what has stood
so long continues standing. There never can be any adequate ground for
separation. The condition of man is pitched so high, in its joys and in
its sorrows, that the sum which two married people owe to each other
defies calculation. It is an infinite debt, which can only be discharged
through all eternity.
"Its annoyances marriage may often have; I can well believe that, and it
is as it should be. We are all married to our consciences, and there are
times when we should be glad to be divorced from them; mine gives me
more annoyance than ever a man or a woman can give."
All this he poured out with the greatest vehemence: he would very likely
have gone on speaking longer, had not the sound of the postilions'
horns given notice of the arrival of the visitors, who, as if on a
concerted arrangement, drove into the castle-court from opposite sides
at the same moment. Mittler slipped away as their host hastened to
receive them, and desiring that his horse might be brought out
immediately, rode angrily off.
The visitors were welcomed and brought in. They were delighted to find
themselves again in the same house and in the same rooms where in early
times they had passed many happy days, but which they had not seen for a
long time. Their friends too were very glad to see them. The Count and
the Baroness had both those tall fine figures which please in middle
life almost better than in youth. If something of the first bloom had
faded off them, yet there was an air in their appearance which was
always irresistibly attractive. Their manners too were thoroughly
charming. Their free way of taking hold of life and dealing with it,
their happy humor, and apparent easy unembarrassment, communicated
itself at once to the rest; and a lighter atmosphere hung about the
whole party, without their having observed it stealing on them.
The effect made itself felt immediately on the entrance of the
new-comers. They were fresh from the fashionable world, as was to be
seen at once, in their dress, in their equipment, and in everything
about them; and they formed a contrast not a little striking with our
friends, their country style, and the vehement feelings which were at
work underneath among them. This, however, very soon disappeared in the
stream of past recollection and present interests, and a rapid, lively
conversation soon united them all. After a short time they again
separated. The ladies withdrew to their own apartments, and there found
amusement enough in the many things which they had to tell one another,
and in setting to work at the same time to examine the new fashions, the
spring dresses, bonnets, and such like; while the gentlemen were
employing themselves looking at the new traveling chariots, trotting out
the horses, and beginning at once to bargain and exchange.
They did not meet again till dinner; in the meantime they had changed
their dress. And here, too, the newly arrived pair showed to all
advantage. Everything they wore was new, and in a style which their
friends at the castle had never seen, and yet, being accustomed to it
themselves, it appeared perfectly natural and graceful.
The conversation was brilliant and well sustained, as, indeed, in the
company of such persons everything and nothing appears to interest. They
spoke in French that the attendants might not understand what they said,
and swept in happiest humor over all that was passing in the great or
the middle world. On one particular subject they remained, however,
longer than was desirable. It was occasioned by Charlotte asking after
one of her early friends, of whom she had to learn, with some distress,
that she was on the point of being separated from her husband.
"It is a melancholy thing," Charlotte said, "when we fancy our absent
friends are finally settled, when we believe persons very dear to us to
be provided for for life, suddenly to hear that their fortunes are cast
loose once more; that they have to strike into a fresh path of life, and
very likely a most insecure one."
"Indeed, my dear friend," the Count answered, "it is our own fault if we
allow ourselves to be surprised at such things. We please ourselves with
imagining matters of this earth, and particularly matrimonial
connections, as very enduring; and as concerns this last point, the
plays which we see over and over again help to mislead us; being, as
they are, so untrue to the course of the world. In a comedy we see a
marriage as the last aim of a desire which is hindered and crossed
through a number of acts, and at the instant when it is reached the
curtain falls, and the momentary satisfaction continues to ring on in
our ears. But in the world it is very different. The play goes on still
behind the scenes, and when the curtain rises again we may see and hear,
perhaps, little enough of the marriage."
"It cannot be so very bad, however," said Charlotte, smiling. "We see
people who have gone off the boards of the theatre, ready enough to
undertake a part upon them again."
"There is nothing to say against that," said the Count. "In a new
character a man may readily venture on a second trial; and when we know
the world we see clearly that it is only this positive, eternal duration
of marriage in a world where everything is in motion, which has anything
unbecoming about it. A certain friend of mine, whose humor displays
itself principally in suggestions for new laws, maintained that every
marriage should be concluded only for five years. Five, he said, was a
sacred number--pretty and uneven. Such a period would be long enough for
people to learn each other's character, bring a child or two into the
world, quarrel, separate, and what is best, get reconciled again. He
would often exclaim, 'How happily the first part of the time would pass
away!' Two or three years, at least, would be perfect bliss. On one side
or the other there would not fail to be a wish to have the relation
continue longer, and the amiability would increase the nearer they got
to the parting time. The indifferent, even the dissatisfied party, would
be softened and gained over by such behavior; they would forget, as in
pleasant company the hours pass always unobserved, how the time went by,
and they would be delightfully surprised when, after the term had run
out, they first observed that they had unknowingly prolonged it."
Charming and pleasant as all this sounded, and deep (Charlotte felt it
to her soul) as was the moral significance which lay below it,
expressions of this kind, on Ottilie's account, were most distasteful to
her. She knew very well that nothing was more dangerous than the
licentious conversation which treats culpable or semi-culpable actions
as if they were common, ordinary, and even laudable, and of such
undesirable kind assuredly were all which touched on the sacredness of
marriage. She endeavored, therefore, in her skilful way, to give the
conversation another turn, and, when she found that she could not, it
vexed her that Ottilie had managed everything so well that there was no
occasion for her to leave the table. In her quiet observant way a nod or
a look was enough for her to signify to the head servant whatever was to
be done, and everything went off perfectly, although there were a couple
of strange men in livery in the way who were rather a trouble than a
convenience. And so the Count, without feeling Charlotte's hints, went
on giving his opinions on the same subject. Generally, he was little
enough apt to be tedious in conversation; but this was a thing which
weighed so heavily on his heart, and the difficulties which he found in
getting separated from his wife were so great that it had made him
bitter against everything which concerned the marriage bond--that very
bond which, notwithstanding, he was so anxiously desiring between
himself and the Baroness.
"The same friend," he went on, "has another law which he proposes. A
marriage shall be held indissoluble only when either both parties, or at
least one or the other, enter into it for the third time. Such persons
must be supposed to acknowledge beyond a doubt that they find marriage
indispensable for themselves; they have had opportunities of thoroughly
knowing themselves; of knowing how they conducted themselves in their
earlier unions; whether they have any peculiarities of temper, which are
a more frequent cause of separation than bad dispositions. People would
then observe each other more closely; they would pay as much attention
to the married as to the unmarried, no one being able to tell how things
may turn out."
"That would add no little to the interest of society," said Edward. "As
things are now, when a man is married nobody cares any more either for
his virtues or for his vices."
"Under this arrangement," the Baroness struck in, laughing, "our good
hosts have passed successfully over their two steps, and may make
themselves ready for their third."
"Things have gone happily with them," said the Count. "In their case
death has done with a good will what in others the consistorial courts
do with a very bad one.
"Let the dead rest," said Charlotte, with a half serious look.
"Why so," persevered the Count, "when we can remember them with honor?
They were generous enough to content themselves with less than their
number of years for the sake of the larger good which they could leave
"Alas! that in such cases," said the Baroness, with a suppressed sigh,
"happiness is bought only with the sacrifice of our fairest years."
"Indeed, yes," answered the Count; "and it might drive us to despair, if
it were not the same with everything in this world. Nothing goes as we
hope. Children do not fulfil what they promise; young people very
seldom; and if they keep their word, the world does not keep its word
Charlotte, who was delighted that the conversation had taken a turn at
last, replied cheerfully:
"Well, then, we must content ourselves with enjoying what good we are to
have in fragments and pieces, as we can get it; and the sooner we can
accustom ourselves to this the better."
"Certainly," the Count answered, "you two have had the enjoyment of very
happy times. When I look back upon the years when you and Edward were
the loveliest couple at the court, I see nothing now to be compared with
those brilliant times, and such magnificent figures. When you two used
to dance together, all eyes were turned upon you, fastened upon you,
while you saw nothing but each other."
"So much has changed since those days," said Charlotte, "that we can
listen to such pretty things about ourselves without our modesty being
shocked at them."
"I often privately found fault with Edward," said the Count, "for not
being more firm. Those singular parents of his would certainly have
given way at last; and ten fair years is no trifle to gain."
"I must take Edward's part," struck in the Baroness. "Charlotte was not
altogether without fault--not altogether free from what we must call
prudential considerations; and although she had a real, hearty love for
Edward, and did in her secret soul intend to marry him, I can bear
witness how sorely she often tried him; and it was through this that he
was at last unluckily prevailed upon to leave her and go abroad, and try
to forget her."
Edward bowed to the Baroness, and seemed grateful for her advocacy.
"And then I must add this," she continued, "in excuse for Charlotte. The
man who was at that time suing for her, had for a long time given proofs
of his constant attachment to her; and, when one came to know him well,
was a far more lovable person than the rest of you may like to
"My dear friend," the Count replied, a little pointedly, "confess, now,
that he was not altogether indifferent to yourself, and that Charlotte
had more to fear from you than from any other rival. I find it one of
the highest traits in women, that they continue so long in their regard
for a man, and that absence of no duration will serve to disturb or
"This fine feature, men possess, perhaps, even more," answered the
Baroness. "At any rate, I have observed with you, my dear Count, that no
one has more influence over you than a lady to whom you were once
attached. I have seen you take more trouble to do things when a certain
person has asked you, than the friend of this moment would have obtained
of you, if she had tried."
"Such a charge as that one must bear the best way one can," replied the
Count. "But as to what concerns Charlotte's first husband, I could not
endure him, because he parted so sweet a pair from each other--a really
predestined pair, who, once brought together, have no reason to fear the
five years, or be thinking of a second or third marriage."
"We must try," Charlotte said, "to make up for what we then allowed to
slip from us."
"Aye, and you must keep to that," said the Count; "your first
marriages," he continued, with some vehemence, "were exactly marriages
of the true detestable sort. And, unhappily, marriages generally, even
the best, have (forgive me for using a strong expression) something
awkward about them. They destroy the delicacy of the relation;
everything is made to rest on the broad certainty out of which one side
or other, at least, is too apt to make their own advantage. It is all a
matter of course; and they seem only to have got themselves tied
together, that one or the other, or both, may go their own way the more
At this moment, Charlotte, who was determined once for all that she
would put an end to the conversation, made a bold effort at turning it,
and succeeded. It then became more general. She and her husband and the
Captain were able to take a part in it. Even Ottilie had to give her
opinion; and the dessert was enjoyed in the happiest humor. It was
particularly beautiful, being composed almost entirely of the rich
summer fruits in elegant baskets, with epergnes of lovely flowers
arranged in exquisite taste.
The new laying-out of the park came to be spoken of; and immediately
after dinner they went to look at what was going on. Ottilie withdrew,
under pretence of having household matters to look to; in reality, it
was to set to work again at the transcribing. The Count fell into
conversation with the Captain, and Charlotte afterward joined them. When
they were at the summit of the height, the Captain good-naturedly ran
back to fetch the plan, and in his absence the Count said to Charlotte:
"He is an exceedingly pleasing person. He is very well informed, and his
knowledge is always ready. His practical power, too, seems methodical
and vigorous. What he is doing here would be of great importance in some
Charlotte listened to the Captain's praises with an inward delight. She
collected herself, however, and composedly and clearly confirmed what
the Count had said. But she was not a little startled when he continued:
"This acquaintance falls most opportunely for me. I know of a situation
for which he is perfectly suited, and I shall be doing the greatest
favor to a friend of mine, a man of high rank, by recommending to him a
person who is so exactly everything which he desires."
Charlotte felt as if a thunder-stroke had fallen on her. The Count did
not observe it: women, being accustomed at all times to hold themselves
in restraint, are always able, even in the most extraordinary cases, to
maintain an apparent composure; but she heard not a word more of what
the Count said, though he went on speaking.
"When I have made up my mind upon a thing," he added, "I am quick about
it. I have put my letter together already in my head, and I shall write
it immediately. You can find me some messenger who can ride off with it
Charlotte was suffering agonies. Startled with the proposal, and shocked
at herself, she was unable to utter a word. Happily, the Count continued
talking of his plans for the Captain, the desirableness of which was
only too apparent to Charlotte.
It was time that the Captain returned. He came up and unrolled his
design before the Count. But with what changed eyes Charlotte now looked
at the friend whom she was to lose. In her necessity, she bowed and
turned away, and hurried down to the summer-house. Before she was half
way there, the tears were streaming from her eyes, and she flung herself
into the narrow room in the little hermitage, and gave herself up to an
agony, a passion, a despair, of the possibility of which, but a few
moments before, she had not had the slightest conception.
Edward had gone with the Baroness in the other direction toward the
ponds. This ready-witted lady, who liked to be in the secret about
everything, soon observed, in a few conversational feelers which she
threw out, that Edward was very fluent and free-spoken in praise of
Ottilie. She contrived in the most natural way to lead him out by
degrees so completely that at last she had not a doubt remaining that
here was not merely an incipient fancy, but a veritable, full-grown
Married women, if they have no particular love for one another, yet are
silently in league together, especially against young girls. The
consequences of such an inclination presented themselves only too
quickly to her world-experienced spirit. Added to this, she had been
already, in the course of the day, talking to Charlotte about Ottilie;
she had disapproved of her remaining in the country, particularly being
a girl of so retiring a character; and she had proposed to take Ottilie
with her to the residence of a friend who was just then bestowing great
expense on the education of an only daughter, and who was only looking
about to find some well-disposed companion for her--to put her in the
place of a second child, and let her share in every advantage. Charlotte
had taken time to consider. But now this glimpse of the Baroness into
Edward's heart changed what had been but a suggestion at once into a
settled determination; and the more rapidly she made up her mind about
it, the more she outwardly seemed to flatter Edward's wishes. Never was
there any one more self-possessed than this lady; and to have mastered
ourselves in extraordinary cases, disposes us to treat even a common
case with dissimulation--it makes us inclined, as we have had to do so
much violence to ourselves, to extend our control over others, and
hold ourselves in a degree compensated in what we outwardly gain for
what we inwardly have been obliged to sacrifice. To this feeling there
is often joined a kind of secret, spiteful pleasure in the blind,
unconscious ignorance with which the victim walks on into the snare. It
is not the immediately doing as we please which we enjoy, but the
thought of the surprise and exposure which is to follow. And thus was
the Baroness malicious enough to invite Edward to come with Charlotte
and pay her a visit at the grape-gathering; and, to his question whether
they might bring Ottilie with them, to frame an answer which, if he
pleased, he might interpret to his wishes.
Edward had already begun to pour out his delight at the beautiful
scenery, the broad river, the hills, the rocks, the vineyard, the old
castles, the water-parties, and the jubilee at the grape-gathering, the
wine-pressing, etc., in all of which, in the innocence of his heart, he
was only exuberating in the anticipation of the impression which these
scenes were to make on the fresh spirit of Ottilie. At this moment they
saw her approaching, and the Baroness said quickly to Edward that he had
better say nothing to her of this intended autumn expedition--things
which we set our hearts upon so long before so often failing to come to
pass. Edward gave his promise; but he obliged his companion to move more
quickly to meet her; and at last, when they came very close, he ran on
several steps in advance. A heartfelt happiness expressed itself in his
whole being. He kissed her hand as he pressed into it a nosegay of wild
flowers which he had gathered on his way.
The Baroness felt bitter in her heart at the sight of it. Even whilst
she was able to disapprove of what was really objectionable in this
affection, she could not bear to see what was sweet and beautiful in it
thrown away on such a poor paltry girl.
When they had collected again at the supper-table, an entirely different
temper was spread over the party. The Count, who had in the meantime
written his letter and dispatched a messenger with it, occupied himself
with the Captain, whom he had been drawing out more and more--spending
the whole evening at his side, talking of serious matters. The Baroness,
who sat on the Count's right, found but small amusement in this; nor did
Edward find any more. The latter, first because he was thirsty, and then
because he was excited, did not spare the wine, and attached himself
entirely to Ottilie, whom he had made sit by him. On the other side,
next to the Captain, sat Charlotte; for her it was hard, it was almost
impossible, to conceal the emotion under which she was suffering.
The Baroness had sufficient time to make her observations at leisure.
She perceived Charlotte's uneasiness, and occupied as she was with
Edward's passion for Ottilie, she easily satisfied herself that her
abstraction and distress were owing to her husband's behavior; and she
set herself to consider in what way she could best compass her ends.
Supper was over, and the party remained divided. The Count, whose object
was to probe the Captain to the bottom, had to try many turns before he
could arrive at what he wished with so quiet, so little vain, but so
exceedingly laconic a person. They walked up and down together on one
side of the saloon, while Edward, excited with wine and hope, was
laughing with Ottilie at a window, and Charlotte and the Baroness were
walking backward and forward, without speaking, on the other side. Their
being so silent, and their standing about in this uneasy, listless way,
had its effect at last in breaking up the rest of the party. The ladies
withdrew to their rooms, the gentlemen to the other wing of the castle;
and so this day appeared to be concluded.
Edward went with the Count to his room. They continued talking, and he
was easily prevailed upon to stay a little time longer there. The Count
lost himself in old times, spoke eagerly of Charlotte's beauty, which,
as a critic, he dwelt upon with much warmth.
"A pretty foot is a great gift of nature," he said. "It is a grace which
never perishes. I observed it today, as she was walking. I should almost
have liked even to kiss her shoe, and repeat that somewhat barbarous but
significant practice of the Sarmatians, who know no better way of
showing reverence for any one they love or respect, than by using his
shoe to drink his health out of."
The point of the foot did not remain the only subject of praise between
two old acquaintances; they went from the person back upon old stories
and adventures, and came on the hindrances which at that time people had
thrown in the way of the lovers' meetings--what trouble they had taken,
what arts they had been obliged to devise, only to be able to tell each
other that they loved.
"Do you remember," continued the Count, "an adventure in which I most
unselfishly stood your friend when their High Mightinesses were on a
visit to your uncle, and were all together in that great, straggling
castle? The day went in festivities and glitter of all sorts; and a part
of the night at least in pleasant conversation."
"And you, in the meantime, had observed the back-way which led to the
court ladies' quarter," said Edward, "and so managed to effect an
interview for me with my beloved."
"And she," replied the Count, "thinking more of propriety than of my
enjoyment, had kept a frightful old duenna with her. So that, while you
two, between looks and words, got on extremely well together, my lot, in
the meanwhile, was far from pleasant."
"It was only yesterday," answered Edward, "when we heard that you were
coming, that I was talking over the story with my wife and describing
our adventure on returning. We missed the road, and got into the
entrance-hall from the garden. Knowing our way from thence as well as we
did, we supposed we could get along easily enough.
"But you remember our surprise on opening the door. The floor was
covered over with mattresses on which the giants lay in rows stretched
out and sleeping. The single sentinel at his post looked wonderingly at
us; but we, in the cool way young men do things, strode quietly on over
the outstretched boots, without disturbing a single one of the snoring
children of Anak."
"I had the strongest inclination to stumble," the Count said, "that
there might be an alarm given. What a resurrection we should have
At this moment the castle clock struck twelve.
"It is deep midnight," the Count added, laughing, "and just the proper
time; I must ask you, my dear Edward, to show me a kindness. Do you
guide me tonight, as I guided you then. I promised the Baroness that I
would see her before going to bed. We have had no opportunity of any
private talk together the whole day. We have not seen each other for a
long time, and it is only natural that we should wish for a confidential
hour. If you will show me the way there, I will manage to get back
again; and in any case, there will be no boots for me to stumble over."
"I shall be very glad to show you such a piece of hospitality," answered
Edward; "only the three ladies are together in the same wing. Who knows
whether we shall not find them still with one another, or make some
other mistake, which may have a strange appearance?"
"Do not be afraid," said the Count; "the Baroness expects me. She is
sure by this time to be in her own room, and alone."
"Well, then, the thing is easy enough," Edward answered.
He took a candle, and lighted the Count down a private staircase leading
into a long gallery. At the end of this, he opened a small door. They
mounted a winding flight of stairs, which brought them out upon a narrow
landing-place; and then, putting the candle in the Count's hand, he
pointed to a tapestried door on the right, which opened readily at the
first trial, and admitted the Count, leaving Edward outside in the dark.
Another door on the left led into Charlotte's sleeping-room. He heard
her voice, and listened. She was speaking to her maid. "Is Ottilie in
bed?" she asked. "No," was the answer; "she is sitting writing in the
room below." "You may light the night-lamp," said Charlotte; "I shall
not want you any more. It is late. I can put out the candle, and do
whatever I may want else myself."
It was a delight to Edward to hear that Ottilie was writing still. She
is working for me, he thought triumphantly. Through the darkness, he
fancied he could see her sitting all alone at her desk. He thought he
would go to her, and see her; and how she would turn to receive him. He
felt a longing, which he could not resist, to be near her once more.
But, from where he was, there was no way to the apartments which she
occupied. He now found himself immediately at his wife's door. A
singular change of feeling came over him. He tried the handle, but the
bolts were shot. He knocked gently. Charlotte did not hear him. She was
walking rapidly up and down in the large dressing-room adjoining. She
was repeating over and over what, since the Count's unexpected proposal,
she had often enough had to say to herself. The Captain seemed to stand
before her. At home, and everywhere, he had become her all in all. And
now he was to go; and it was all to be desolate again. She repeated
whatever wise things one can say to oneself; she even anticipated, as
people so often do, the wretched comfort that time would come at last to
her relief; and then she cursed the time which would have to pass before
it could lighten her sufferings--she cursed the dead, cold time when
they would be lightened. At last she burst into tears; they were the
more welcome, since tears with her were rare. She flung herself on the
sofa, and gave herself up unreservedly to her sufferings. Edward,
meanwhile, could not take himself from the door. He knocked again; and a
third time rather louder; so that Charlotte, in the stillness of the
night, distinctly heard it, and started up in fright. Her first thought
was--it can only be, it must be, the Captain; her second, that it was
impossible. She thought she must have been deceived. But surely she had
heard it; and she wished, and she feared to have heard it. She went into
her sleeping-room, and walked lightly up to the bolted tapestry-door.
She blamed herself for her fears. "Possibly it may be the Baroness
wanting something," she said to herself; and she called out quietly and
calmly, "Is anybody there?" A light voice answered, "It is I." "Who?"
returned Charlotte, not being able to make out the voice. She thought
she saw the Captain's figure standing at the door. In a rather louder
tone, she heard the word "Edward!" She drew back the bolt, and her
husband stood before her. He greeted her with some light jest. She was
unable to reply in the same tone. He complicated the mysterious visit by
his mysterious explanation of it.
"Well, then," he said at last, "I will confess, the real reason why I am
come is, that I have made a vow to kiss your shoe this evening."
"It is long since you thought of such a thing as that," said Charlotte.
"So much the worse," he answered; "and so much the better."
She had thrown herself back in an armchair, to prevent him from seeing
the slightness of her dress. He flung himself down before her, and she
could not prevent him from giving her shoe a kiss. And when the shoe
came off in his hand, he caught her foot and pressed it tenderly against
Charlotte was one of those women who, being of naturally calm
temperaments, continue in marriage, without any purpose or any effort,
the air and character of lovers. She was never expressive toward her
husband; generally, indeed, she rather shrank from any warm
demonstration on his part. It was not that she was cold, or at all hard
and repulsive, but she remained always like a loving bride, who draws
back with a kind of shyness even from what is permitted. And so Edward
found her this evening, in a double sense. How sorely did she not long
that her husband would go; the figure of his friend seemed to hover in
the air and reproach her. But what should have had the effect of driving
Edward away only attracted him the more. There were visible traces of
emotion about her. She had been crying; and tears, which with weak
persons detract from their graces, add immeasurably to the
attractiveness of those whom we know commonly as strong and
Edward was so agreeable, so gentle, so pressing; he begged to be allowed
to stay with her. He did not demand it, but half in fun, half in
earnest, he tried to persuade her; he never thought of his rights. At
last, as if in mischief, he blew out the candle.
In the dim lamplight, the inward affection, the imagination, maintained
their rights over the real; it was Ottilie that was resting in Edward's
arms; and the Captain, now faintly, now clearly, hovered before
Charlotte's soul. And so, strangely intermingled, the absent and the
present flowed in a sweet enchantment one into the other.
And yet the present would not let itself be robbed of its own unlovely
right. They spent a part of the night talking and laughing at all sorts
of things, the more freely as the heart had no part in it. But when
Edward awoke in the morning, on his wife's breast, the day seemed to
stare in with a sad, awful look, and the sun to be shining in upon a
crime. He stole lightly from her side; and she found herself, with
strange enough feelings, when she awoke, alone.
When the party assembled again at breakfast, an attentive observer might
have read in the behavior of its various members the different things
which were passing in their inner thoughts and feelings. The Count and
the Baroness met with the air of happiness which a pair of lovers feel,
who, after having been forced to endure a long separation, have mutually
assured each other of their unaltered affection. On the other hand,
Charlotte and Edward equally came into the presence of the Captain and
Ottilie with a sense of shame and remorse. For such is the nature of
love that it believes in no rights except its own, and all other rights
vanish away before it. Ottilie was in child-like spirits. For her--she
was almost what might be called open. The Captain appeared serious. His
conversation with the Count, which had roused in him feelings that for
some time past had been at rest and dormant, had made him only too
keenly conscious that here he was not fulfilling his work, and at bottom
was but squandering himself in a half-activity of idleness.
Hardly had their guests departed, when fresh visitors were announced--to
Charlotte most welcomely, all she wished for being to be taken out of
herself, and to have her attention dissipated. They annoyed Edward, who
was longing to devote himself to Ottilie; and Ottilie did not like them
either; the copy which had to be finished the next morning early being
still incomplete. They staid a long time, and immediately that they were
gone she hurried off to her room.
It was now evening. Edward, Charlotte, and the Captain had accompanied
the strangers some little way on foot, before the latter got into their
carriage, and previous to returning home they agreed to take a walk
along the water-side.
A boat had come, which Edward had had fetched from a distance, at no
little expense; and they decided that they would try whether it was easy
to manage. It was made fast on the bank of the middle pond, not far from
some old ash trees on which they calculated to make an effect in their
future improvements. There was to be a landing-place made there, and
under the trees a seat was to be raised, with some wonderful
architecture about it: it was to be the point for which people were to
make when they went across the water.
"And where had we better have the landing-place on the other side?" said
Edward. "I should think under my plane trees."
"They stand a little too far to the right," said the Captain. "You are
nearer the castle if you land further down. However, we must think about
The Captain was already standing in the stern of the boat, and had taken
up an oar. Charlotte got in, and Edward with her--he took the other oar;
but as he was on the point of pushing off, he thought of Ottilie--he
recollected that this water-party would keep him out late; who could
tell when he would get back? He made up his mind shortly and promptly;
sprang back to the bank, and reaching the other oar to the Captain,
hurried home--making excuses to himself as he ran.
Arriving there he learnt that Ottilie had shut herself up--she was
writing. In spite of the agreeable feeling that she was doing something
for him, it was the keenest mortification to him not to be able to see
her. His impatience increased every moment. He walked up and down the
large drawing-room; he tried a thousand things, and could not fix his
attention upon any. He was longing to see her alone, before Charlotte
came back with the Captain. It was dark by this time, and the candles
At last she came in beaming with loveliness: the sense that she had done
something for her friend had lifted all her being above itself. She put
down the original and her transcript on the table before Edward.
"Shall we collate them?" she said, with a smile.
Edward did not know what to answer. He looked at her--he looked at the
transcript. The first few sheets were written with the greatest
carefulness in a delicate woman's hand--then the strokes appeared to
alter, to become more light and free--but who can describe his surprise
as he ran his eyes over the concluding page? "For heaven's sake," he
cried, "what is this? this is my hand!" He looked at Ottilie, and again
at the paper; the conclusion, especially, was exactly as if he had
written it himself. Ottilie said nothing, but she looked at him with her
eyes full of the warmest delight. Edward stretched out his arms. "You
love me!" he cried: "Ottilie, you love me!" They fell on each other's
breast--which had been the first to catch the other it would have been
impossible to distinguish.
From that moment the world was all changed for Edward. He was no longer
what he had been, and the world was no longer what it had been. They
parted--he held her hands; they gazed in each other's eyes. They were on
the point of embracing each other again.
Charlotte entered with the Captain. Edward inwardly smiled at their
excuses for having stayed out so long. Oh! how far too soon you have
returned, he said to himself.
They sat down to supper. They talked about the people who had been there
that day. Edward, full of love and ecstasy, spoke well of every
one--always sparing, often approving. Charlotte, who was not altogether
of his opinion, remarked this temper in him, and jested with him about
it--he who had always the sharpest thing to say on departed visitors,
was this evening so gentle and tolerant.
With fervor and heartfelt conviction, Edward cried, "One has only to
love a single creature with all one's heart, and the whole world at once
Ottilie dropped her eyes on the ground, and Charlotte looked straight
The Captain took up the word, and said, "It is the same with deep
feelings of respect and reverence: we first learn to recognize what
there is that is to be valued in the world, when we find occasion to
entertain such sentiments toward a particular object."
Charlotte made an excuse to retire early to her room where she could
give herself up to thinking over what had passed in the course of the
evening between herself and the Captain.
When Edward sprang on shore, and, pushing off the boat, had himself
committed his wife and his friend to the uncertain element, Charlotte
found herself face to face with the man on whose account she had been
already secretly suffering so bitterly, sitting in the twilight before
her, and sweeping along the boat with the sculls in easy motion. She
felt a depth of sadness, very rare with her, weighing on her spirits.
The undulating movement of the boat, the splash of the oars, the faint
breeze playing over the watery mirror, the sighing of the reeds, the
long flight of the birds, the fitful twinkling of the first stars--there
was something spectral about it all in the universal stillness. She
fancied her friend was bearing her away to set her on some far-off
shore, and leave her there alone; strange emotions were passing through
her, and she could not give way to them and weep.
The Captain was describing to her the manner in which, in his opinion,
the improvements should be continued. He praised the construction of the
boat; it was so convenient, he said, because one person could so easily
manage it with a pair of oars. She should herself learn how to do this;
there was often a delicious feeling in floating along alone upon the
water, one's own ferryman and steersman.
The parting which was impending sank on Charlotte's heart as he was
speaking. Is he saying this on purpose? she thought to herself. Does he
know it yet? Does he suspect it or is it only accident? And is he
unconsciously foretelling me my fate?
A weary, impatient heaviness took hold of her; she begged him to make
for land as soon as possible and return with her to the castle.
It was the first time that the Captain had been upon the water, and,
though generally he had acquainted himself with its depth, he did not
know accurately the particular spots. Dusk was coming on; he directed
his course to a place where he thought it would be easy to get on shore,
and from which he knew the footpath which led to the castle was not far
distant. Charlotte, however, repeated her wish to get to land quickly,
and the place which he thought of being at a short distance, he gave it
up, and exerting himself as much as he possibly could, made straight for
the bank. Unhappily the water was shallow, and he ran aground some way
off from it. From the rate at which he was going the boat was fixed
fast, and all his efforts to move it were in vain. What was to be done?
There was no alternative but to get into the water and carry his
It was done without difficulty or danger. He was strong enough not to
totter with her, or give her any cause for anxiety; but in her agitation
she had thrown her arms about his neck. He held her fast, and pressed
her to himself--and at last laid her down upon a grassy bank, not
without emotion and confusion * * * she still lay upon his neck * * * he
caught her up once more in his arms, and pressed a warm kiss upon her
lips. The next moment he was at her feet: he took her hand, and held it
to his mouth, and cried:
"Charlotte, will you forgive me?"
The kiss which he had ventured to give, and which she had all but
returned to him, brought Charlotte to herself again--she pressed his
hand--but she did not attempt to raise him up. She bent down over him,
and laid her hand upon his shoulder and said:
"We cannot now prevent this moment from forming an epoch in our lives;
but it depends on us to bear ourselves in a manner which shall be worthy
of us. You must go away, my dear friend; and you are going. The Count
has plans for you, to give you better prospects--I am glad, and I am
sorry. I did not mean to speak of it till it was certain but this moment
obliges me to tell you my secret * * * Since it does not depend on
ourselves to alter our feelings, I can only forgive you, I can only
forgive myself, if we have the courage to alter our situation." She
raised him up, took his arm to support herself, and they walked back to
the castle without speaking.
But now she was standing in her own room, where she had to feel and to
know that she was Edward's wife. Her strength and the various discipline
in which through life she had trained herself, came to her assistance in
the conflict. Accustomed as she had always been to look steadily into
herself and to control herself, she did not now find it difficult, with
an earnest effort, to come to the resolution which she desired. She
could almost smile when she remembered the strange visit of the night
before. Suddenly she was seized with a wonderful instinctive feeling, a
thrill of fearful delight which changed into holy hope and longing. She
knelt earnestly down, and repeated the oath which she had taken to
Edward before the altar.
Friendship, affection, renunciation, floated in glad, happy images
before her. She felt restored to health and to herself. A sweet
weariness came over her. She lay down, and sank into a calm, quiet
Edward, on his part, was in a very different temper. So little he
thought of sleeping that it did not once occur to him even to undress
himself. A thousand times he kissed the transcript of the document, but
it was the beginning of it, in Ottilie's childish, timid hand; the end
he scarcely dared to kiss, for he thought it was his own hand which he
saw. Oh, that it were another document! he whispered to himself; and, as
it was, he felt it was the sweetest assurance that his highest wish
would be fulfilled. Thus it remained in his hands, thus he continued to
press it to his heart, although disfigured by a third name subscribed to
it. The waning moon rose up over the wood. The warmth of the night drew
Edward out into the free air. He wandered this way and that way; he was
at once the most restless and the happiest of mortals. He strayed
through the gardens--they seemed too narrow for him; he hurried out
into the park, and it was too wide. He was drawn back toward the castle;
he stood under Ottilie's window. He threw himself down on the steps of
the terrace below. "Walls and bolts," he said to himself, "may still
divide us, but our hearts are not divided. If she were here before me,
into my arms she would fall, and I into hers; and what can one desire
but that sweet certainty!" All was stillness round him; not a breath was
moving;--so still it was, that he could hear the unresting creatures
underground at their work, to whom day or night are alike. He abandoned
himself to his delicious dreams; at last he fell asleep, and did not
wake till the sun with his royal beams was mounting up in the sky and
scattering the early mists.
He found himself the first person awake on his domain. The laborers
seemed to be staying away too long: they came; he thought they were too
few, and the work set out for the day too slight for his desires. He
inquired for more workmen; they were promised, and in the course of the
day they came. But these, too, were not enough for him to carry his
plans out as rapidly as he wished. To do the work gave him no pleasure
any longer; it should all be done. And for whom? The paths should be
gravelled that Ottilie might walk presently upon them; seats should be
made at every spot and corner that Ottilie might rest on them. The new
park house was hurried forward. It should be finished for Ottilie's
birthday. In all he thought and all he did, there was no more
moderation. The sense of loving and of being loved, urged him out into
the unlimited. How changed was now to him the look of all the rooms,
their furniture, and their decorations! He did not feel as if he was in
his own house any more. Ottilie's presence absorbed everything. He was
utterly lost in her; no other thought ever rose before him; no
conscience disturbed him; every restraint which had been laid upon his
nature burst loose. His whole being centered upon Ottilie. This
impetuosity of passion did not escape the Captain, who longed, if he
could, to prevent its evil consequences. All those plans which were now
being hurried on with this immoderate speed, had been drawn out and
calculated for a long, quiet, easy execution. The sale of the farm had
been completed; the first instalment had been paid. Charlotte, according
to the arrangement, had taken possession of it. But the very first week
after, she found it more than usually necessary to exercise patience and
resolution, and to keep her eye on what was being done. In the present
hasty style of proceeding, the money which had been set apart for the
purpose would not go far.
Much had been begun, and much yet remained to be done. How could the
Captain leave Charlotte in such a situation? They consulted together,
and agreed that it would be better that they themselves should hurry on
the works, and for this purpose employ money which could be made good
again at the period fixed for the discharge of the second instalment of
what was to be paid for the farm. It could be done almost without loss.
They would have a freer hand. Everything would progress simultaneously.
There were laborers enough at hand, and they could get more accomplished
at once, and arrive swiftly and surely at their aim. Edward gladly gave
his consent to a plan which so entirely coincided with his own views.
During this time Charlotte persisted with all her heart in what she had
determined for herself, and her friend stood by her with a like purpose,
manfully. This very circumstance, however, produced a greater intimacy
between them. They spoke openly to each other of Edward's passion, and
consulted what had better be done. Charlotte kept Ottilie more about
herself, watching her narrowly; and the more she understood her own
heart, the deeper she was able to penetrate into the heart of the poor
girl. She saw no help for it, except in sending her away.
It now appeared a happy thing to her that Luciana had gained such high
honors at the school; for her great aunt, as soon as she heard of it,
desired to take her entirely to herself, to keep her with her, and
bring her out into the world. Ottilie could, therefore, return thither.
The Captain would leave them well provided for, and everything would be
as it had been a few months before; indeed, in many respects better. Her
own position in Edward's affection, Charlotte thought, she could soon
recover; and she settled it all, and laid it all out before herself so
sensibly that she only strengthened herself more completely in her
delusion, as if it were possible for them to return within their old
limits--as if a bond which had been violently broken could again be
joined together as before.
In the meantime Edward felt very deeply the hindrances which were thrown
in his way. He soon observed that they were keeping him and Ottilie
separate; that they made it difficult for him to speak with her alone,
or even to approach her, except in the presence of others. And while he
was angry about this, he was angry at many things besides. If he caught
an opportunity for a few hasty words with Ottilie, it was not only to
assure her of his love, but to complain of his wife and of the Captain.
He never felt that with his own irrational haste he was on the way to
exhaust the cash-box. He found bitter fault with them, because in the
execution of the work they were not keeping to the first agreement, and
yet he had been himself a consenting party to the second; indeed, it was
he who had occasioned it and made it necessary.
Hatred is a partisan, but love is even more so. Ottilie also estranged
herself from Charlotte and the Captain. As Edward was complaining one
day to Ottilie of the latter, saying that he was not treating him like a
friend, or, under the circumstances, acting quite uprightly, she
answered unthinkingly, "I have once or twice had a painful feeling that
he was not quite honest with you. I heard him say once to Charlotte: 'If
Edward would but spare us that eternal flute of his! He can make nothing
of it, and it is too disagreeable to listen to him.' You may imagine how
it hurt me, when I like accompanying you so much."
She had scarcely uttered the words when her conscience whispered to her
that she had much better have been silent. However, the thing was said.
Edward's features worked violently. Never had anything stung him more.
He was touched on his tenderest point. It was his amusement; he followed
it like a child. He never made the slightest pretensions; what gave him
pleasure should be treated with forbearance by his friends. He never
thought how intolerable it is for a third person to have his ears
lacerated by an unsuccessful talent. He was indignant; he was hurt in a
way which he could not forgive. He felt himself discharged from all
The necessity of being with Ottilie, of seeing her, whispering to her,
exchanging his confidence with her, increased with every day. He
determined to write to her, and ask her to carry on a secret
correspondence with him. The strip of paper on which he had, laconically
enough, made his request, lay on his writing-table, and was swept off by
a draught of wind as his valet entered to dress his hair. The latter was
in the habit of trying the heat of the iron by picking up any scraps of
paper which might be lying about. This time his hand fell on the billet;
he twisted it up hastily, and it was burnt. Edward observing the
mistake, snatched it out of his hand. After the man was gone, he sat
himself down to write it over again. The second time it would not run so
readily off his pen. It gave him a little uneasiness; he hesitated, but
he got over it. He squeezed the paper into Ottilie's hand the first
moment he was able to approach her. Ottilie answered him immediately. He
put the note unread in his waistcoat pocket, which, being made short in
the fashion of the time, was shallow, and did not hold it as it ought.
It worked out, and fell without his observing it on the ground.
Charlotte saw it, picked it up, and after giving a hasty glance at it,
reached it to him.
"Here is something in your handwriting," she said, "which you may be
sorry to lose."
He was confounded. Is she dissembling? he thought to himself. Does she
know what is in the note, or is she deceived by the resemblance of the
hand? He hoped, he believed the latter. He was warned--doubly warned;
but those strange accidents, through which a higher intelligence seems
to be speaking to us, his passion was not able to interpret. Rather, as
he went further and further on, he felt the restraint under which his
friend and his wife seemed to be holding him the more intolerable. His
pleasure in their society was gone. His heart was closed against them,
and though he was obliged to endure their society, he could not succeed
in re-discovering or in re-animating within his heart anything of his
old affection for them. The silent reproaches which he was forced to
make to himself about it were disagreeable to him. He tried to help
himself with a kind of humor which, however, being without love, was
also without its usual grace.
Over all such trials Charlotte found assistance to rise in her own
inward feelings. She knew her own determination. Her own affection, fair
and noble as it was, she would utterly renounce.
And sorely she longed to go to the assistance of the other two.
Separation, she knew well, would not alone suffice to heal so deep a
wound. She resolved that she would speak openly about it to Ottilie
herself. But she could not do it. The recollection of her own weakness
stood in her way. She thought she could talk generally to her about the
sort of thing. But general expressions about "the sort of thing," fitted
her own case equally well, and she could not bear to touch it. Every
hint which she would give Ottilie recoiled on her own heart. She would
warn, and she was obliged to feel that she might herself still be in
need of warning.
She contented herself, therefore, with silently keeping the lovers more
apart, and by this gained nothing. The slight hints which frequently
escaped her had no effect upon Ottilie; for Ottilie had been assured by
Edward that Charlotte was devoted to the Captain, that Charlotte
herself wished for a separation, and that he was at this moment
considering the readiest means by which it could be brought about.
Ottilie, led by the sense of her own innocence along the road to the
happiness for which she longed, lived only for Edward. Strengthened by
her love for him in all good, more light and happy in her work for his
sake, and more frank and open toward others, she found herself in a
heaven upon earth.
So all together, each in his or her own fashion, reflecting or
unreflecting, they continued on the routine of their lives. All seemed
to go its ordinary way, as, in monstrous cases, when everything is at
stake, men will still live on, as if it were all nothing.
In the meantime a letter came from the Count to the Captain--two,
indeed--one which he might produce, holding out fair, excellent
prospects in the distance; the other containing a distinct offer of an
immediate situation, a place of high importance and responsibility at
the Court, his rank as Major, a very considerable salary, and other
advantages. A number of circumstances, however, made it desirable that
for the moment he should not speak of it, and consequently he only
informed his friends of his distant expectations, and concealed what was
so nearly impending.
He went warmly on, at the same time, with his present occupation, and
quietly made arrangements to insure the continuance of the works without
interruption after his departure. He was now himself desirous that as
much as possible should be finished off at once, and was ready to hasten
things forward to prepare for Ottilie's birthday. And so, though without
having come to any express understanding, the two friends worked side by
side together. Edward was now well pleased that the cash-box was filled
by their having taken up money. The whole affair went forward at
The Captain had done his best to oppose the plan of throwing the three
ponds together into a single sheet of water. The lower embankment would
have to be made much stronger, the two intermediate embankments to be
taken away, and altogether, in more than one sense, it seemed a very
questionable proceeding. However, both these schemes had been already
undertaken; the soil which was removed above being carried at once down
to where it was wanted. And here there came opportunely on the scene a
young architect, an old pupil of the Captain, who partly by introducing
workmen who understood work of this nature, and partly by himself,
whenever it was possible, contracting for the work itself, advanced
things not a little, while at the same time they could feel more
confidence in their being securely and lastingly executed. In secret
this was a great pleasure to the Captain. He could now be confident that
his absence would not be so severely felt. It was one of the points on
which he was most resolute with himself, never to leave anything which
he had taken in hand uncompleted, unless he could see his place
satisfactorily supplied. And he could not but hold in small respect,
persons who introduce confusion around themselves only to make their
absence felt and are ready to disturb in wanton selfishness what they
will not be at hand to restore.
So they labored on, straining every nerve to make Ottilie's birthday
splendid, without any open acknowledgment that this was what they were
aiming at, or, indeed, without their directly acknowledging it to
themselves. Charlotte, wholly free from jealousy as she was, could not
think it right to keep it as a real festival. Ottilie's youth, the
circumstances of her fortune, and her relationship to their family, were
not at all such as made it fit that she should appear as the queen of
the day; and Edward would not have it talked about, because everything
was to spring out, as it were, of itself, with a natural and delightful
They, therefore, came all of them to a sort of tacit understanding that
on this day, without further circumstance, the new house in the park was
to be opened, and they might take the occasion to invite the
neighborhood and give a holiday to their own people. Edward's passion,
however, knew no bounds. Longing as he did to give himself to Ottilie,
his presents and his promises must be infinite. The birthday gifts which
on the great occasion he was to offer to her seemed, as Charlotte had
arranged them, far too insignificant. He spoke to his valet, who had the
care of his wardrobe, and who consequently had extensive acquaintance
among the tailors and mercers and fashionable milliners; and he, who not
only understood himself what valuable presents were, but also the most
graceful way in which they should be offered, immediately ordered an
elegant box, covered with red morocco and studded with steel nails, to
be filled with presents worthy of such a shell. Another thing, too, he
suggested to Edward. Among the stores at the castle was a small show of
fireworks which had never been let off. It would be easy to get some
more, and have something really fine. Edward caught the idea, and his
servant promised to see to its being executed. This matter was to remain
While this was going on, the Captain, as the day drew nearer, had been
making arrangements for a body of police to be present--a precaution
which he always thought desirable when large numbers of men are to be
brought together. And, indeed, against beggars, and against all other
inconveniences by which the pleasure of a festival can be disturbed, he
had made effectual provision.
Edward and his confidante, on the contrary, were mainly occupied with
their fireworks. They were to be let off on the side of the middle water
in front of the great ash-tree. The party were to be collected on the
opposite side, under the planes, that at a sufficient distance from the
scene, in ease and safety, they might see them to the best effect, with
the reflections on the water, the water-rockets, and floating-lights,
and all the other designs.
Under some other pretext, Edward had the ground underneath the
plane-trees cleared of bushes and grass and moss. And now first could be
seen the beauty of their forms, together with their full height and
spread, right up from the earth. He was delighted with them. It was just
this very time of the year that he had planted them. How long ago could
it have been? he asked himself. As soon as he got home he turned over
the old diary books, which his father, especially when in the country,
was very careful in keeping. He might not find an entry of this
particular planting, but another important domestic matter, which Edward
well remembered, and which had occurred on the same day, would surely be
mentioned. He turned over a few volumes. The circumstances he was
looking for was there. How amazed, how overjoyed he was, when he
discovered the strangest coincidence! The day and the year on which he
had planted those trees, was the very day, the very year, when Ottilie
THE long-wished-for morning dawned at last on Edward; and very soon a
number of guests arrived. They had sent out a large number of
invitations, and many who had missed the laying of the foundation-stone,
which was reported to have been so charming, were the more careful not
to be absent on the second festivity.
Before dinner the carpenter's people appeared, with music, in the court
of the castle. They bore an immense garland of flowers, composed of a
number of single wreaths, winding in and out, one above the other;
saluting the company, they made request, according to custom, for silk
handkerchiefs and ribands, at the hands of the fair sex, with which to
dress themselves out. When the castle party went into the dining-hall,
they marched off singing and shouting, and after amusing themselves a
while in the village, and coaxing many a riband out of the women there,
old and young, they came at last, with crowds behind them and crowds
expecting them, out upon the height where the park-house was now
standing. After dinner, Charlotte rather held back her guests. She did
not wish that there should be any solemn or formal procession, and they
found their way in little parties, broken up, as they pleased, without
rule or order, to the scene of action. Charlotte staid behind with
Ottilie, and did not improve matters by doing so. For Ottilie being
really the last that appeared, it seemed as if the trumpets and the
clarionets had only been waiting for her, and as if the gaieties had
been ordered to commence directly on her arrival.
To take off the rough appearance of the house, it had been hung with
green boughs and flowers. They had dressed it out in an architectural
fashion, according to a design of the Captain's; only that, without his
knowledge, Edward had desired the Architect to work in the date upon the
cornice in flowers, and this was necessarily permitted to remain. The
Captain had arrived on the scene just in time to prevent Ottilie's name
from figuring in splendor on the gable. The beginning, which had been
made for this, he contrived to turn skilfully to some other use, and to
get rid of such of the letters as had been already finished.
The garland was set up, and was to be seen far and wide about the
country. The flags and the ribands fluttered gaily in the air; and a
short oration was, the greater part of it, dispersed by the wind. The
solemnity was at an end. There was now to be a dance on the smooth lawn
in front of the building, which had been inclosed with boughs and
branches. A gaily-dressed working mason took Edward up to a
smart-looking girl of the village, and called himself upon Ottilie, who
stood out with him. These two couples speedily found others to follow
them, and Edward contrived pretty soon to change partners, catching
Ottilie, and making the round with her. The younger part of the company
joined merrily in the dance with the people, while the elder among them
stood and looked on.
Then, before they broke up and walked about, an order was given that
they should all collect again at sunset under the plane-trees. Edward
was the first upon the spot, ordering everything, and making his
arrangements with his valet, who was to be on the other side, in company
with the firework-maker, managing his exhibition of the spectacle.
The Captain was far from satisfied at some of the preparations which he
saw made; and he endeavored to get a word with Edward about the crush of
spectators which was to be expected. But the latter, somewhat hastily,
begged that he might be allowed to manage this part of the day's
The upper end of the embankment having been recently raised, was still
far from compact. It had been staked, but there was no grass upon it,
and the earth was uneven and insecure. The crowd pressed on, however, in
great numbers. The sun went down, and the castle party was served with
refreshments under the plane-trees, to pass the time till it should have
become sufficiently dark. The place was approved of beyond measure, and
they looked forward to a frequent enjoyment of the view over so lovely a
sheet of water, on future occasions.
A calm evening, a perfect absence of wind, promised everything in favor
of the spectacle, when suddenly loud and violent shrieks were heard.
Large masses of the earth had given way on the edge of the embankment,
and a number of people were precipitated into the water. The pressure
from the throng had gone on increasing till at last it had become more
than the newly laid soil would bear, and the bank had fallen in.
Everybody wanted to obtain the best place, and now there was no getting
either backward or forward.
People ran this and that way, more to see what was going on than to
render assistance. What could be done when no one could reach the place?
The Captain, with a few determined persons, hurried down and drove the
crowd off the embankment back upon the shore, in order that those who
were really of service might have free room to move. One way or another
they contrived to seize hold of such as were sinking; and with or
without assistance all who had been in the water were got out safe upon
the bank, with the exception of one boy, whose struggles in his fright,
instead of bringing him nearer to the embankment, had only carried him
further from it. His strength seemed to be failing--now only a hand was
seen above the surface, and now a foot. By an unlucky chance the boat
was on the opposite shore filled with fireworks--it was a long business
to unload it, and help was slow in coming. The Captain's resolution was
taken; he flung off his coat; all eyes were directed toward him, and his
sturdy vigorous figure gave every one hope and confidence: but a cry of
surprise rose out of the crowd as they saw him fling himself into the
water--every eye watched him as the strong swimmer swiftly reached the
boy, and bore him, although to appearance dead, to the embankment.
Now came up the boat. The Captain stepped in and examined whether there
were any still missing, or whether they were all safe. The surgeon was
speedily on the spot, and took charge of the inanimate boy. Charlotte
joined them, and entreated the Captain to go now and take care of
himself, to hurry back to the castle and change his clothes. He would
not go, however, till persons on whose sense he could rely, who had been
close to the spot at the time of the accident, and who had assisted in
saving those who had fallen in, assured him that all were safe.
Charlotte saw him on his way to the house, and then she remembered that
the wine and the tea, and everything else which he could want, had been
locked up, for fear any of the servants should take advantage of the
disorder of the holiday, as on such occasions they are too apt to do.
She hurried through the scattered groups of her company, which were
loitering about the plane-trees. Edward was there, talking to every
one--beseeching every one to stay. He would give the signal directly,
and the fireworks should begin. Charlotte went up to him, and entreated
him to put off an amusement which was no longer in place, and which at
the present moment no one could enjoy. She reminded him of what ought to
be done for the boy who had been saved, and for his preserver.
"The surgeon will do whatever is right, no doubt," replied Edward. "He
is provided with everything which he can want, and we should only be in
the way if we crowded about him with our anxieties."
Charlotte persisted in her opinion, and made a sign to Ottilie, who at
once prepared to retire with her. Edward seized her hand, and cried, "We
will not end this day in a lazaretto. She is too good for a sister of
mercy. Without us, I should think, the half-dead may wake, and the
living dry themselves."
Charlotte did not answer, but went. Some followed her--others followed
these: in the end, no one wished to be the last, and all followed.
Edward and Ottilie found themselves alone under the plane-trees. He
insisted that stay he would, earnestly, passionately, as she entreated
him to go back with her to the castle. "No, Ottilie!" he cried; "the
extraordinary is not brought to pass in the smooth common way--the
wonderful accident of this evening brings us more speedily together. You
are mine--I have often said it to you, and sworn it to you. We will not
say it and swear it any more--we will make it BE."
The boat came over from the other side. The valet was in it--he asked,
with some embarrassment, what his master wished to have done with the
"Let them off!" Edward cried to him: "let them off! It was only for you
that they were provided, Ottilie, and you shall be the only one to see
them! Let me sit beside you, and enjoy them with you." Tenderly,
timidly, he sat down at her side, without touching her.
Rockets went hissing up--cannon thundered--Roman candles shot out their
blazing balls--squibs flashed and darted--wheels spun round, first
singly, then in pairs, then all at once, faster and faster, one after
the other, and more and more together. Edward, whose bosom was on fire,
watched the blazing spectacle with eyes gleaming with delight; but
Ottilie, with her delicate and nervous feelings, in all this noise and
fitful blazing and flashing, found more to distress her than to please.
She leant shrinking against Edward, and he, as she drew to him and clung
to him, felt the delightful sense that she belonged entirely to him.
The night had scarcely reassumed its rights, when the moon rose and
lighted their path as they walked back. A figure, with his hat in his
hand, stepped across their way, and begged an alms of them--in the
general holiday he said that he had been forgotten. The moon shone upon