Part 4 out of 9
The appointed evening came, and the exhibition was carried out in the
presence of a large assemblage, and to the universal satisfaction. They
had some good music to excite expectation, and the performance opened
with the Belisarius. The figures were so successful, the colors were so
happily distributed, and the lighting managed so skilfully, that they
might really have fancied themselves in another world, only that the
presence of the real instead of the apparent produced a kind of
The curtain fell, and was more than once raised again by general desire.
A musical interlude kept the assembly amused while preparation was
going forward, to surprise them with a picture of a higher stamp; it was
the well-known design of Poussin, Ahasuerus and Esther. This time
Luciana had done better for herself. As the fainting, sinking queen she
had put out all her charms, and for the attendant maidens who were
supporting her, she had cunningly selected pretty, well-shaped figures,
not one among whom, however, had the slightest pretension to be compared
with herself. From this picture, as from all the rest, Ottilie remained
excluded. To sit on the golden throne and represent the Zeus-like
monarch, Luciana had picked out the finest and handsomest man of the
party, so that this picture was really of inimitable perfection.
For a third they had taken the so-called "Father's Admonition" of
Terburg, and who does not know Wille's admirable engraving of this
picture? One foot thrown over the other, sits a noble knightly-looking
father; his daughter stands before him, to whose conscience he seems to
be addressing himself. She, a fine striking figure, in a folding drapery
of white satin, is only to be seen from behind, but her whole bearing
appears to signify that she is collecting herself. That the admonition
is not too severe, that she is not being utterly put to shame, is to be
gathered from the air and attitude of the father, while the mother seems
as if she were trying to conceal some slight embarrassment--she is
looking into a glass of wine, which she is on the point of drinking.
Here was an opportunity for Luciana to appear in her highest splendor.
Her back hair, the form of her head, neck, and shoulders, were beyond
all conception beautiful; and the waist, which in the modern antique of
the ordinary dresses of young ladies is hardly visible, showed to the
greatest advantage in all its graceful, slender elegance in the really
old costume. The Architect had contrived to dispose the rich folds of
the white satin with the most exquisite nature, and, without any
question whatever, this living imitation far exceeded the original
picture, and produced universal delight.
The spectators could never be satisfied with demanding a repetition of
the performance, and the very natural wish to see the face and front of
so lovely a creature, when they had done looking at her from behind, at
last became so decided that a merry impatient young wit cried out aloud
the words one is accustomed to write at the bottom of a page, "Tournez,
s'il vous plait," which was echoed all round the room.
The performers, however, understood their advantage too well, and had
mastered too completely the idea of these works of art to yield to the
most general clamor. The daughter remained standing in her shame,
without favoring the spectators with the expression of her face. The
father continued to sit in his attitude of admonition, and the mother
did not lift nose or eyes out of the transparent glass, in which,
although she seemed to be drinking, the wine did not diminish.
We need not describe the number of smaller after-pieces for which had
been chosen Flemish public-house scenes and fair and market days.
The Count and the Baroness departed, promising to return in the first
happy weeks of their approaching union. And Charlotte now had hopes,
after having endured two weary months of it, of ridding herself of the
rest of the party at the same time. She was assured of her daughter's
happiness, as soon as the first tumult of youth and betrothal should
have subsided in her; for the bridegroom considered himself the most
fortunate person in the world. His income was large, his disposition
moderate and rational, and now he found himself further wonderfully
favored in the happiness of becoming the possessor of a young lady with
whom all the world must be charmed. He had so peculiar a way of
referring everything to her, and only to himself through her, that it
gave him an unpleasant feeling when any newly-arrived person did not
devote himself heart and soul to her, and was far from flattered if, as
occasionally happened, particularly with elderly men, he neglected her
for a close intimacy with himself. Every thing was settled about the
Architect. On New Year's day he was to follow him and spend the Carnival
at his house in the city, where Luciana was promising herself infinite
happiness from a repetition of her charmingly successful pictures, as
well as from a hundred other things; all the more as her aunt and her
bridegroom seemed to make so light of the expense which was required for
And now they were to break up. But this could not be managed in an
ordinary way. They were one day making fun of Charlotte aloud, declaring
that they would soon have eaten out her winter stores, when the nobleman
who had represented Belisarius, being fortunately a man of some wealth,
carried away by Luciana's charms to which he had been so long devoting
himself, cried out unthinkingly, "Why not manage then in the Polish
fashion? You come now and eat up me, and then we will go on round the
circle." No sooner said than done. Luciana willed that it should be so.
The next day they all packed up and the swarm alighted on a new
property. There indeed they found room enough, but few conveniences and
no preparations to receive them. Out of this arose many _contretemps_,
which entirely enchanted Luciana; their life became ever wilder and
wilder. Huge hunting-parties were set on foot in the deep snow, attended
with every sort of disagreeableness; women were not allowed to excuse
themselves any more than men, and so they trooped on, hunting and
riding, sledging and shouting, from one place to another, till at last
they approached the residence, and there the news of the day and the
scandals and what else forms the amusement of people at courts and
cities gave the imagination another direction, and Luciana with her
train of attendants (her aunt had gone on some time before) swept at
once into a new sphere of life.
FROM OTTILIE'S DIARY
"We accept every person in the world as that for which he gives himself
out, only he must give himself out for something. We can put up with the
unpleasant more easily than we can endure the insignificant.
"We venture upon anything in society except only what involves a
"We never learn to know people when they come to us: we must go to them
to find out how things stand with them.
"I find it almost natural that we should see many faults in visitors,
and that directly they are gone we should judge them not in the most
amiable manner. For we have, so to say, a right to measure them by our
own standard. Even cautious, sensible men can scarcely keep themselves
in such cases from being sharp censors.
"When, on the contrary, we are staying at the houses of others, when we
have seen them in the midst of all their habits and environments among
those necessary conditions from which they cannot escape, when we have
seen how they affect those about them, and how they adapt themselves to
their circumstances, it is ignorance nay, worse, it is ill-will, to find
ridiculous what in more than one sense has a claim on our respect.
"That which we call politeness and good breeding effects what otherwise
can only be obtained by violence, or not even by that.
"Intercourse with women is the element of good manners.
"How can the character, the individuality, of a man co-exist with polish
"The individuality can only be properly made prominent through good
manners. Every one likes what has something in it, only it not be a
"In life generally, and in society, no one has such high advantages as
a well-cultivated soldier.
"The rudest fighting people at least do not go out of their character,
and generally behind the roughness there is a certain latent good humor,
so that in difficulties it is possible to get on, even with them.
"No one is more intolerable than an underbred civilian. From him one has
a right to look for a delicacy, as he has no rough work to do.
"When we are living with people who have a delicate sense of propriety,
we are in misery on their account when anything unbecoming is committed.
So I always feel for and with Charlotte, when a person is tipping his
chair. She cannot endure it.
"No one would ever come into a mixed party with spectacles on his nose,
if he did but know that at once we women lose all pleasure in looking at
him or listening to what he has to say.
"Free-and-easiness, where there ought to be respect, is always
ridiculous. No one would put his hat down when he had scarcely paid the
ordinary compliments if he knew how comical it looks.
"There is no outward sign of courtesy that does not rest on a deep moral
foundation. The proper education would be that which communicated the
sign and the foundation of it at the same time.
"Behavior is a mirror in which every one displays his own image.
"There is a courtesy of the heart. It is akin to love. Out of it arises
the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.
"A freely offered homage is the most beautiful of all relations. And how
were that possible without love?
"We are never further from our wishes than when we imagine that we
possess what we have desired.
"No one is more a slave than the man who thinks himself free while he
"A man has only to declare that he is free, and the next moment he feels
the conditions to which he is subject. Let him venture to declare that
he is under conditions, and then he will feel that he is free.
"Against great advantages in another, there are no means of defending
ourselves except love.
"There is something terrible in the sight of a highly-gifted man lying
under obligations to a fool.
"'No man is a hero to his valet,' the proverb says. But that is only
because it requires a hero to recognize a hero. The valet will probably
know how to value the valet-hero.
"Mediocrity has no greater consolation than in the thought that genius
is not immortal.
"The greatest men are connected with their own century always through
"One is apt to regard people as more dangerous than they are.
"Fools and modest people are alike innocuous. It is only your half-fools
and your half-wise who are really and truly dangerous.
"There is no better deliverance from the world than through art; and a
man can form no surer bond with it than through art.
"Alike in the moment of our highest fortune and our deepest necessity,
we require the artist.
"The business of art is with the difficult and the good.
"To see the difficult easily handled, gives us the feeling of the
"Difficulties increase the nearer we are to our end.
"Sowing is not so difficult as reaping."
The very serious discomfort which this visit had caused to Charlotte was
in some way compensated to her through the fuller insight which it had
enabled her to gain into her daughter's character. In this, her
knowledge of the world was of no slight service to her. It was not the
first time that so singular a character had come across her, although
she had never seen any in which the unusual features were so largely
developed; and she had had experience enough to show her that such
persons, after having felt the discipline of life, after having gone
through something of it, and been in intercourse with older people, may
come out at last really charming and amiable; the selfishness may soften
and eager restless activity find a definite direction for itself. And
therefore, as a mother, Charlotte was able to endure the appearance of
symptoms which for others might perhaps have been unpleasing, from a
sense that where strangers only desire to enjoy, or at least not to have
their taste offended, the business of parents is rather to hope.
After her daughter's departure, however, she had to be pained in a
singular and unlooked-for manner, in finding that, not so much through
what there really was objectionable in her behavior, as through what was
good and praiseworthy in it, she had left an ill report of herself
behind her. Luciana seemed to have prescribed it as a rule to herself
not only to be merry with the merry, but miserable with the miserable;
and in order to give full swing to the spirit of contradiction in her,
often to make the happy, uncomfortable, and the sad, cheerful. In every
family among whom she came, she inquired after such members of it as
were ill or infirm, and unable to appear in society. She would go to see
them in their rooms, enact the physician, and insist on prescribing
powerful doses for them out of her own traveling medicine-chest, which
she constantly took with her in her carriage; her attempted cures, as
may be supposed, either succeeding or failing as chance happened to
In this sort of benevolence she was thoroughly cruel, and would listen
to nothing that was said to her, because she was convinced that she was
managing admirably. One of these attempts of hers on the moral side
failed very disastrously, and this it was which gave Charlotte so much
trouble, inasmuch as it involved consequences and every one was talking
about it. She never had heard of the story till Luciana was gone;
Ottilie, who had made one of the party present at the time, had to give
her a circumstantial account of it.
One of several daughters of a family of rank had the misfortune to have
caused the death of one of her younger sisters; it had destroyed her
peace of mind, and she had never been properly herself since. She lived
in her own room, occupying herself and keeping quiet; and she could only
bear to see the members of her own family when they came one by one. If
there were several together, she suspected at once that they were making
reflections upon her, and upon her condition. To each of them singly she
would speak rationally enough, and talk freely for an hour at a time.
Luciana had heard of this, and had secretly determined with herself, as
soon as she got into the house, that she would forthwith work a miracle,
and restore the young lady to society. She conducted herself in the
matter more prudently than usual, managed to introduce herself alone to
the poor sick-souled girl, and, as far as people could understand, had
wound her way into her confidence through music. At last came her fatal
mistake; wishing to make a scene, and fancying that she had sufficiently
prepared her for it, one evening she suddenly introduced the beautiful
pale creature into the midst of the brilliant, glittering assembly; and
perhaps, even then, the attempt might not have so utterly failed, had
not the crowd themselves, between curiosity and apprehension, conducted
themselves so unwisely, first gathering about the invalid, and then
shrinking from her again; and with their whispers, and shaking their
heads together, confusing and agitating her. Her delicate sensibility
could not endure it. With a dreadful shriek, which expressed, as it
seemed, a horror at some monster that was rushing upon her, she fainted.
The crowd fell back in terror on every side, and Ottilie had been one of
those who had carried back the sufferer utterly insensible to her room.
Luciana meanwhile, just like herself, had been reading an angry lecture
to the rest of the party, without reflecting for a moment that she
herself was entirely to blame, and without letting herself be deterred
by this and other failures, from going on with her experimentalizing.
The state of the invalid herself had since that time become more and
more serious; indeed, the disorder had increased to such a degree that
the poor thing's parents were unable to keep her any longer at home, and
had been forced to confide her to the care of a public institution.
Nothing remained for Charlotte, except, by the delicacy of her own
attention to the family, in some degree to alleviate the pain which had
been occasioned by her daughter. On Ottilie, the thing made a deep
impression. She felt the more for the unhappy girl, as she was
convinced, she did not attempt to deny it to Charlotte, that by a
careful treatment the disorder might have been unquestionably removed.
So there came, too, as it often happens, that we dwell more on past
disagreeables than on past agreeables, a slight misunderstanding to be
spoken of, which had led Ottilie to a wrong judgment of the Architect,
when he did not choose to produce his collection that evening, although
she had so eagerly begged him to produce it. His practical refusal had
remained, ever since, hanging about her heart, she herself could not
tell why. Her feelings about the matter were undoubtedly just; what a
young lady like Ottilie could desire, a young man like the Architect
ought not to have refused. The latter, however, when she took occasion
to give him a gentle reproof for it, had a very valid excuse to offer
"If you knew," he said, "how roughly even cultivated people allow
themselves to handle the most valuable works of art, you would forgive
me for not producing mine among the crowd. No one will take the trouble
to hold a medal by the rim. They will finger the most beautiful
impressions, and the smoothest surfaces; they will take the rarest coins
between the thumb and forefinger, and rub them up and down, as if they
were testing the execution with the touch. Without remembering that a
large sheet of paper ought to be held in two hands, they will lay hold,
with one, of an invaluable proof-engraving of some drawing which cannot
be replaced, like a conceited politician laying hold of a newspaper, and
passing judgment by anticipation, as he is cutting the pages, on the
occurrences of the world. Nobody cares to recollect that if twenty
people, one after the other, treat a work of art in this way, the
one-and-twentieth will not find much to see there."
"Have not I often vexed you in this way?" asked Ottilie. "Have not I,
through my carelessness, many times injured your treasures?"
"Never once," answered the Architect, "never. For you it would be
impossible. In you the right thing is innate."
"In any case," replied Ottilie, "it would not be a bad plan, if in the
next edition of the book of good manners, after the chapters which tell
us how we ought to eat and drink in company, a good circumstantial
chapter were inserted, telling how to behave among works of art and in
"Undoubtedly," said the Architect; "and then curiosity-collectors and
amateurs would be better contented to show their valuable treasures to
Ottilie had long, long forgiven him; but as he seemed to have taken her
reproof sorely to heart, and assured her again and again that he would
gladly produce everything--that he was delighted to do anything for
his friends--she felt that she had wounded his feelings, and that she
owed him some compensation. It was not easy for her, therefore, to give
an absolute refusal to a request which he made her in the conclusion of
this conversation, although when she called her heart into counsel about
it, she did not see how she could allow herself to do what he wished.
The circumstances of the matter were these: Ottilie's exclusion from the
picture-exhibition by Luciana's jealousy had irritated him in the
highest degree; and at the same time he had observed with regret, that
at this, the most brilliant part of all the amusements at the castle,
ill health had prevented Charlotte from being more than rarely present;
and now he did not wish to go away without some additional proof of his
gratitude, which, for the honor of one and the entertainment of the
other, should take the thoughtful and attractive form of preparing a far
more beautiful exhibition than any of those which had preceded it.
Perhaps, too, unknown to himself, another secret motive was working on
him. It was so hard for him to leave the house, and to leave the family.
It seemed impossible to him to go away from Ottilie's eyes, under the
calm, sweet, gentle glance of which the latter part of the time he had
been living almost entirely alone.
The Christmas holidays were approaching; and it became at once clear to
him that the very thing which he wanted was a representation with real
figures of one of those pictures of the scene in the stable--a sacred
exhibition such as at this holy season good Christians delight to offer
to the divine Mother and her Child, of the manner in which she, in her
seeming lowliness, was honored first by the shepherds and afterward by
He had thoroughly brought before himself how such a picture should be
contrived. A fair, lovely child was found, and there would be no lack of
shepherds and shepherdesses. But without Ottilie the thing could not be
done. The young man had exalted her in his design to be the mother of
God, and if she refused, there was no question but the undertaking must
fall to the ground. Ottilie, half embarrassed at the proposal, referred
him and his request to Charlotte. The latter gladly gave her permission,
and lent her assistance in overcoming and overpersuading Ottilie's
hesitation in assuming so sacred a personality. The Architect worked day
and night, that by Christmas-eve everything might be ready.
Day and night, indeed, in the literal sense. At all times he was a man
who had but few necessities; and Ottilie's presence seemed to be to him
in the place of all delicacies. When he was working for her, it was as
if he required no sleep; when he was busy about her, as if he could do
without food. Accordingly, by the hour of the evening solemnity, all was
completed. He had found the means of collecting some well-toned wind
instruments to form an introduction, and produce the desired temper of
thought and feeling. But when the curtain rose, Charlotte was taken
completely by surprise. The picture which presented itself to her had
been repeated so often in the world, that one could scarcely have
expected any new impression to be produced. But here, the reality as
representing the picture had its especial advantages. The whole space
was the color rather of night than of twilight, and there was nothing
even of the details of the scene which was obscure. The inimitable idea
that all the light should proceed from the child, the artist had
contrived to carry out by an ingenious method of illumination which was
concealed by the figures in the foreground, who were all in shadow.
Bright looking boys and girls were standing around, their fresh faces
sharply lighted from below; and there were angels too, whose own
brilliancy grew pale before the divine, whose ethereal bodies showed dim
and dense, and needing other light in the presence of the body of the
divine humanity. By good fortune the infant had fallen asleep in the
loveliest attitude, so that nothing disturbed the contemplation when
the eye rested on the seeming mother, who with infinite grace had
lifted off a veil to reveal her hidden treasure. At this moment the
picture seemed to have been caught, and there to have remained fixed.
Physically dazzled, mentally surprised, the people round appeared to
have just moved to turn away their half-blinded eyes, to be glancing
again toward the child with curious delight, and to be showing more
wonder and pleasure than awe and reverence--although these emotions were
not forgotten, and were to be traced upon the features of some of the
But Ottilie's figure, expression, attitude, glance, excelled all which
any painter has ever represented. A man who had true knowledge of art,
and had seen this spectacle, would have been in fear lest any portion of
it should move; he would have doubted whether anything could ever so
much please him again. Unluckily, there was no one present who could
comprehend the whole of this effect. The Architect alone, who, as a
tall, slender shepherd, was looking in from the side over those who were
kneeling, enjoyed, although he was not in the best position for seeing,
the fullest pleasure. And who can describe the mien of the new-made
queen of heaven? The purest humility, the most exquisite feeling of
modesty, at the great honor which had undeservedly been bestowed upon
her, with indescribable and immeasurable happiness, was displayed upon
her features, expressing as much her own personal emotion as that of the
character which she was endeavoring to represent.
Charlotte was delighted with the beautiful figures; but what had most
effect on her was the child. Her eyes filled with tears, and her
imagination presented to her in the liveliest colors the hope that she
might soon have such another darling creature on her own lap.
They had let down the curtain, partly to give the exhibitors some little
rest, partly to make an alteration in the exhibition. The artist had
proposed to himself to transmute the first scene of night and lowliness
into a picture of splendor and glory; and for this purpose had prepared
a blaze of light to fall in from every side, which this interval was
required to kindle.
Ottilie, in the semi-theatrical position in which she found herself, had
hitherto felt perfectly at her ease, because, with the exception of
Charlotte and a few members of the household, no one had witnessed this
devout piece of artistic display. She was, therefore, in some degree
annoyed when in the interval she learnt that a stranger had come into
the saloon, and had been warmly received by Charlotte. Who it was no one
was able to tell her. She therefore made up her mind not to produce a
disturbance, and to go on with her character. Candles and lamps blazed
out, and she was surrounded by splendor perfectly infinite. The curtain
rose. It was a sight to startle the spectators. The whole picture was
one blaze of light; and instead of the full depth of shadow, there now
were only the colors left remaining, which, from the skill with which
they had been selected, produced a gentle softening of tone. Looking out
under her long eyelashes, Ottilie perceived the figure of a man sitting
by Charlotte. She did not recognize him; but the voice she fancied was
that of the Assistant at the school. A singular emotion came over her.
How many things had happened since she last heard the voice of him, her
kind instructor. Like a flash of forked lightning the stream of her joys
and her sorrow rushed swiftly before her soul, and the question rose in
her heart: Dare you confess, dare you acknowledge it all to him? If not,
how little can you deserve to appear before him under this sainted form;
and how strange must it not seem to him who has only known you as your
natural self to see you now under this disguise? In an instant, swift as
thought, feeling and reflection began to clash and gain within her. Her
eyes filled with tears, while she forced herself to continue to appear
as a motionless figure, and it was a relief, indeed, to her when the
child began to stir--and the artist saw himself compelled to give the
sign that the curtain should fall again.
If the painful feeling of being unable to meet a valued friend had,
during the last few moments, been distressing Ottilie in addition to her
other emotions, she was now in still greater embarrassment. Was she to
present herself to him in this strange disguise? or had she better
change her dress? She did not hesitate--she did the last; and in the
interval she endeavored to collect and to compose herself; nor did she
properly recover her self-possession until at last, in her ordinary
costume, she had welcomed the new visitor.
In so far as the Architect desired the happiness of his kind
patronesses, it was a pleasure to him, now that at last he was obliged
to go, to know that he was leaving them in good society with the
estimable Assistant. At the same time, however, when he thought of their
goodness in its relation to himself, he could not help feeling it a
little painful to see his place so soon, and as it seemed to his
modesty, so well, so completely supplied. He had lingered and lingered,
but now he forced himself away; what, after he was gone, he must endure
as he could, at least he could not stay to witness with his own eyes.
To the great relief of this half-melancholy feeling, the ladies at his
departure made him a present of a waistcoat, upon which he had watched
them both for some time past at work, with a silent envy of the
fortunate unknown, to whom it was by-and-by to belong. Such a present is
the most agreeable which a true-hearted man can receive; for while he
thinks of the unwearied play of the beautiful fingers at the making of
it, he cannot help flattering himself that in so long-sustained a labor
the feeling could not have remained utterly without an interest in its
The ladies had now a new visitor to entertain, for whom they felt a real
regard, and whose stay with them it would be their endeavor to make as
agreeable as they could. There is in all women a peculiar circle of
inward interests, which remain always the same, and from which nothing
in the world can divorce them. In outward social intercourse, on the
other hand, they will gladly and easily allow themselves to take their
tone from the person with whom at the moment they are occupied; and thus
by a mixture of impassiveness and susceptibility, by persisting and by
yielding, they continue to keep the government to themselves, and no man
in the cultivated world can ever take it from them.
The Architect, following at the same time his own fancy and his own
inclination, had been exerting himself and putting out his talents for
their gratification and for the purposes of his friends; and business
and amusement, while he was with them, had been conducted in this
spirit, and directed to the ends which most suited his taste. But now in
a short time, through the presence of the Assistant, quite another sort
of life was commenced. His great gift was to talk well, and to treat in
his conversation of men and human relations, particularly in reference
to the cultivation of young people. Thus arose a very perceptible
contrast to the life which had been going on hitherto, all the more as
the Assistant could not entirely approve of their having interested
themselves in such subjects so exclusively.
Of the impersonated picture which received him on his arrival, he never
said a single word. On the other hand, when they took him to see the
church and the chapel with their new decorations, expecting to please
him as much as they were pleased themselves, he did not hesitate to
express a very contrary opinion about it.
"This mixing up of the holy with the sensuous," he said, "is anything
but pleasing to my taste; I cannot like men to set apart certain special
places, consecrate them, and deck them out, that by so doing they may
nourish in themselves a temper of piety. No ornaments, not even the very
simplest, should disturb in us that sense of the Divine Being which
accompanies us wherever we are, and can consecrate every spot into a
temple. What pleases me is to see a home-service of God held in the
saloon where people come together to eat, where they have their
parties, and amuse themselves with games and dances. The highest, the
most excellent in men, has no form; and one should be cautious how one
gives it any form except noble action."
Charlotte, who was already generally acquainted with his mode of
thinking, and, in the short time he had been at the castle, had already
probed it more deeply, found something also which he might do for her in
his own department; and she had her garden-children, whom the Architect
had reviewed shortly before his departure, marshalled up into the great
saloon. In their bright, clean uniforms, with their regular orderly
movement, and their own natural vivacity, they looked exceedingly well.
The Assistant examined them in his own way, and by a variety of
questions, and by the turns which he gave them, soon brought to light
the capacities and dispositions of the children; and without its seeming
so, in the space of less than one hour he had really given them
important instruction and assistance.
"How did you manage that?" asked Charlotte, as the children marched
away. "I listened with all my attention. Nothing was brought forward
except things which were quite familiar, and yet I cannot tell the least
how I should begin to bring them to be discussed in so short a time so
methodically, with all this questioning and answering."
"Perhaps," replied the Assistant, "we ought to make a secret of the
tricks of our own handicraft. However, I will not hide from you one very
simple maxim, with the help of which you may do this, and a great deal
more than this. Take any subject, a substance, an idea, whatever you
like; keep fast hold of it; make yourself thoroughly acquainted with it
in all its parts, and then it will be easy for you, in conversation, to
find out, with a mass of children, how much about it has already
developed itself in them; what requires to be stimulated, what to be
directly communicated. The answers to your questions may be as
unsatisfactory as they will, they may wander wide of the mark; if you
only take care that your counter-question shall draw their thoughts and
senses inwards again; if you do not allow yourself to be driven from
your own position--the children will at last reflect, comprehend, learn
only what the teacher desires them to learn, and the subject will be
presented to them in the light in which he wishes them to see it. The
greatest mistake which he can make is to allow himself to be run away
with from the subject; not to know how to keep fast to the point with
which he is engaged. Do you try this on your own account the next time
the children come; you will find you will be greatly entertained by it
"That is very good," said Charlotte. "The right method of teaching is
the reverse, I see, of what we must do in life. In society we must keep
the attention long upon nothing, and in instruction the first
commandment is to permit no dissipation of it."
"Variety, without dissipation, were the best motto for both teaching and
life, if this desirable equipoise were easy to be preserved," said the
Assistant; and he was going on further with the subject, when Charlotte
called out to him to look again at the children, whose merry troop were
at the moment moving across the court. He expressed his satisfaction at
seeing them wearing a uniform. "Men," he said, "should wear a uniform
from their childhood upwards. They have to accustom themselves to work
together; to lose themselves among their equals; to obey in masses, and
to work on a large scale. Every kind of uniform, moreover, generates a
military habit of thought, and a smart, straight-forward carriage. All
boys are born soldiers, whatever you do with them. You have only to
watch them at their mock fights and games, their storming parties and
"On the other hand, you will not blame me," replied Ottilie, "if I do
not insist with my girls on such unity of costume. When I introduce them
to you, I hope to gratify you by a parti-colored mixture."
"I approve of that, entirely," replied the other. "Women should go about
in every sort of variety of dress; each following her own style and her
own likings, that each may learn to feel what sits well upon her and
becomes her. And for a more weighty reason as well--because it is
appointed for them to stand alone all their lives, and work alone."
"That seems to me to be a paradox," answered Charlotte. "Are we then to
be never anything for ourselves?"
"O, yes!" replied the Assistant. "In respect of other women assuredly.
But observe a young lady as a lover, as a bride, as a housewife, as a
mother. She always stands isolated. She is always alone, and will be
alone. Even the most empty-headed woman is in the same case. Each one of
them excludes all others. It is her nature to do so; because of each one
of them is required everything which the entire sex have to do. With a
man it is altogether different. He would make a second man if there were
none. But a woman might live to an eternity, without even so much as
thinking of producing a duplicate of herself."
"One has only to say the truth in a strange way," said Charlotte, "and
at last the strangest thing will seem to be true. We will accept what is
good for us out of your observations, and yet as women we will hold
together with women, and do common work with them too; not to give the
other sex too great an advantage over us. Indeed, you must not take it
ill of us, if in future we come to feel a little malicious satisfaction
when our lords and masters do not get on in the very best way together."
With much care, this wise, sensible person went on to examine more
closely how Ottilie proceeded with her little pupils, and expressed his
marked approbation of it. "You are entirely right," he said, "in
directing these children only to what they can immediately and usefully
put in practice. Cleanliness, for instance, will accustom them to wear
their clothes with pleasure to themselves; and everything is gained if
they can be induced to enter into what they do with cheerfulness and
In other ways he found, to his great satisfaction, that nothing had been
done for outward display; but all was inward, and designed to supply
what was indispensably necessary. "In how few words," he cried, "might
the whole business of education be summed up, if people had but ears to
"Will you try whether I have any ears?" said Ottilie, smiling.
"Indeed I will," answered he, "only you must not betray me. Educate the
boys to be servants, and the girls to be mothers, and everything is as
it should be."
"To be mothers?" replied Ottilie. "Women would scarcely think that
sufficient. They have to look forward, without being mothers, to going
out into service. And, indeed, our young men think themselves a great
deal too good for servants. One can see easily, in every one of them,
that he holds himself far fitter to be a master."
"And for that reason we should say nothing about it to them," said the
Assistant. "We flatter ourselves on into life; but life flatters not us.
How many men would like to acknowledge at the outset, what at the end
they must acknowledge whether they like it or not? But let us leave
these considerations, which do not concern us here.
"I consider you very fortunate in having been able to go so methodically
to work with your pupils. If your very little ones run about with their
dolls, and stitch together a few petticoats for them; if the elder
sisters will then take care of the younger, and the whole household know
how to supply its own wants, and one member of it help the others, the
further step into life will not then be great, and such a girl will find
in her husband what she has lost in her parents.
"But among the higher ranks the problem is a sorely intricate one. We
have to provide for higher, finer, more delicate relations; especially
for such as arise out of society. We are, therefore, obliged to give our
pupils an outward cultivation. It is indispensable, it is necessary, and
it may be really valuable, if we do not overstep the proper measure in
it. Only it is so easy, while one is proposing to cultivate the
children for a wider circle, to drive them out into the indefinite,
without keeping before our eyes the real requisites of the inner nature.
Here lies the problem which more or less must be either solved or
blundered over by all educators.
"Many things, with which we furnish our scholars at the school, do not
please me; because experience tells me of how little service they are
likely to be in after-life. How much is in a little while stripped off;
how much at once committed to oblivion, as soon as the young lady finds
herself in the position of a housewife or a mother!
"In the meantime, since I have devoted myself to this occupation, I
cannot but entertain a devout hope that one day, with the companionship
of some faithful helpmate, I may succeed in cultivating purely in my
pupils that, and that only, which they will require when they pass out
into the field of independent activity and self-reliance; that I may be
able to say to myself, in this sense is their education completed.
Another education there is indeed which will again speedily recommence,
and work on well nigh through all the years of our life--the education
which circumstances will give us, if we do not give it to ourselves."
How true Ottilie felt were these words! What had not a passion, little
dreamed of before, done to educate her in the past year! What trials did
she not see hovering before her if she looked forward only to the
next--to the very next, which was now so near!
It was not without a purpose that the young man had spoken of a
helpmate--of a wife; for with all his diffidence, he could not refrain
from thus remotely hinting at his own wishes. A number of circumstances
and accidents, indeed, combined to induce him on this visit to approach
a few steps toward his aim.
The Lady Superior of the school was advanced in years. She had been
already for some time looking about among her fellow-laborers, male and
female, for some person whom she could take into partnership with
herself, and at last had made proposals to the Assistant, in whom she
had the highest ground for feeling confidence. He was to conduct the
business of the school with herself. He was to work with her in it, as
if it was his own; and after her death, as her heir, to enter upon it as
The principal thing now seemed to be, that he should find a wife who
would cooperate with him. Ottilie was secretly before his eyes and
before his heart. A number of difficulties suggested themselves, and yet
again there were favorable circumstances on the other side to
counterbalance them. Luciana had left the school; Ottilie could
therefore return with the less difficulty. Of the affair with Edward,
some little had transpired. It passed, however, as many such things do,
as a matter of indifference, and this very circumstance might make it
desirable that she should leave the castle. And yet, perhaps, no
decision would have been arrived at, no step would have been taken, had
not an unexpected visit given a special impulse to his hesitation. The
appearance of remarkable people, in any and every circle, can never be
without its effects.
The Count and the Baroness, who often found themselves asked for their
opinion, almost every one being in difficulty about the education of
their children, as to the value of the various schools, had found it
desirable to make themselves particularly acquainted with this one,
which was generally so well spoken of; and under their present
circumstances, they were more easily able to carry on these inquiries in
The Baroness, however, had something else in view as well. While she was
last at the castle, she had talked over with Charlotte the whole affair
of Edward and Ottilie. She had insisted again and again that Ottilie
must be sent away. She tried every means to encourage Charlotte to do
it, and to keep her from being frightened by Edward's threats. Several
modes of escape from the difficulty were suggested. Accidentally the
school was mentioned, and the Assistant and his incipient passion,
which made the Baroness more resolved than ever to pay her intended
She went; she made acquaintance with the Assistant; looked over the
establishment, and spoke of Ottilie. The Count also spoke with much
interest of her, having in his recent visit learnt to know her better.
She had been drawn toward him; indeed, she had felt attracted by him;
believing that she could see, that she could perceive in his solid,
substantial conversation, something to which hitherto she had been an
entire stranger. In her intercourse with Edward, the world had been
utterly forgotten; in the presence of the Count, the world appeared
first worth regarding. The attraction was mutual. The Count conceived a
liking for Ottilie; he would have been glad to have had her for a
daughter. Thus a second time, and worse than the first time, she was in
the way of the Baroness. Who knows what, in times when passions ran
hotter than they do now-a-days, this lady might not have devised against
her? As things were, it was enough if she could get her married, and
render her more innocuous for the future to the peace of mind of married
women. She therefore artfully urged the Assistant, in a delicate, but
effective manner, to set out on a little excursion to the castle; where
his plans and his wishes, of which he made no secret to the lady, he
might forthwith take steps to realize.
With the fullest consent of the Superior he started off on his
expedition, and in his heart he nourished good hopes of success. He knew
that Ottilie was not ill-disposed toward him; and although it was true
there was some disproportion of rank between them, yet distinctions of
this kind were fast disappearing in the temper of the time. Moreover,
the Baroness had made him perceive clearly that Ottilie must always
remain a poor, portionless maiden. To be related to a wealthy family, it
was said, could be of service to nobody. For even with the largest
property, men have a feeling that it is not right to deprive of any
considerable sum, those who, as standing in a nearer degree of
relationship, appear to have a fuller right to possession; and really
it is a strange thing, that the immense privilege which a man has of
disposing of his property after his death, he so very seldom uses for
the benefit of those whom he loves, only out of regard to established
usage appearing to consider those who would inherit his estate from him,
supposing he made no will at all.
Thus, while on his journey, he grew to feel himself entirely on a level
with Ottilie. A favorable reception raised his hopes. He found Ottilie
indeed not altogether so open with him as usual, but she was
considerably matured, more developed, and, if you please, generally more
conversible than he had known her. She was ready to give him the fullest
insight into many things which were in any way connected with his
profession; but when he attempted to approach his proper object, a
certain inward shyness always held him back.
Once, however, Charlotte gave him an opportunity for saying something.
In Ottilie's presence she said to him, "Well now, you have looked
closely enough into everything which is going forward in my circle. How
do you find Ottilie? You had better say while she is here."
Hereupon the Assistant signified, with a clear perception and composed
expression, how that, in respect of a freer carriage, of an easier
manner in speaking, of a higher insight into the things of the world,
which showed itself more in actions than in words, he found Ottilie
altered much for the better; but that he still believed it might be of
serious advantage to her if she would go back for some little time to
the school, in order methodically and thoroughly to make her own forever
what the world was only imparting to her in fragments and pieces, rather
perplexing her than satisfying her, and often too late to be of service.
He did not wish to be prolix about it. Ottilie herself knew best how
much method and connection there was in the style of instruction out of
which, in that case, she would be taken.
Ottilie had nothing to say against this; she could not acknowledge what
it was which these words made her feel, because she was hardly able to
explain it to herself. It seemed to her as if nothing in the world was
disconnected so long as she thought of the one person whom she loved;
and she could not conceive how, without him, anything could be connected
Charlotte replied to the proposal with a wise kindness. She said that
she herself, as well as Ottilie, had long desired her return to the
school. At that time, however, the presence of so dear a companion and
helper had become indispensable to herself; still she would offer no
obstacle at some future period, if Ottilie continued to wish it, to her
going back there for such a time as would enable her to complete what
she had begun, and to make entirely her own what had been interrupted.
The Assistant listened with delight to this qualified assent. Ottilie
did not venture to say anything against it, although the very thought
made her shudder. Charlotte, on her side, thought only how to gain time.
She hoped that Edward would soon come back and find himself a happy
father; then she was convinced all would go right; and one way or
another they would be able to settle something for Ottilie.
After an important conversation which has furnished matter for
after-reflection to all who have taken part in it, there commonly
follows a sort of pause, which in appearance is like a general
embarrassment. They walked up and down the saloon. The Assistant turned
over the leaves of various books, and came at last on the folio of
engravings which had remained lying there since Luciana's time. As soon
as he saw that it contained nothing but apes, he shut it up again.
It may have been this, however, which gave occasion to a conversation of
which we find traces in Ottilie's diary.
FROM OTTILIE'S DIARY
"It is strange how men can have the heart to take such pains with the
pictures of those hideous monkeys. One lowers one's-self sufficiently
when one looks at them merely as animals, but it is really wicked to
give way to the inclination to look for people whom we know behind such
"It is a sure mark of a certain obliquity, to take pleasure in
caricatures and monstrous faces, and pigmies. I have to thank our kind
Assistant that I have never been vexed with natural history; I could
never make myself at home with worms and beetles."
"Just now he acknowledged to me, that it was the same with him. 'Of
nature,' he said, 'we ought to know nothing except what is actually
alive immediately around us. With the trees which blossom and put out
leaves and bear fruit in our own neighborhood, with every shrub which we
pass by, with every blade of grass on which we tread, we stand in a real
relation. They are our genuine compatriots. The birds which hop up and
down among our branches, which sing among our leaves, belong to us; they
speak to us from our childhood upward, and we learn to understand their
language. But let a man ask himself whether or not every strange
creature, torn out of its natural environment, does not at first sight
make a sort of painful impression upon him, which is only deadened by
custom. It is a mark of a motley, dissipated sort of life, to be able to
endure monkeys, and parrots, and black people, about one's self."
"Many times when a certain longing curiosity about these strange objects
has come over me, I have envied the traveler who sees such marvels in
living, everyday connection with other marvels. But he, too, must have
become another man. Palm-trees will not allow a man to wander among them
with impunity; and doubtless his tone of thinking becomes very different
in a land where elephants and tigers are at home."
"The only inquirers into nature whom we care to respect, are such as
know how to describe and to represent to us the strange wonderful things
which they have seen in their proper locality, each in its own especial
element. How I should enjoy once hearing Humboldt talk!"
"A cabinet of natural curiosities we may regard like an Egyptian
burying-place, where the various plant gods and animal gods stand about
embalmed. It may be well enough for a priest-caste to busy itself with
such things in a twilight of mystery. But in general instruction, they
have no place or business; and we must beware of them all the more,
because what is nearer to us, and more valuable, may be so easily thrust
aside by them."
"A teacher who can arouse a feeling for one single good action, for one
single good poem, accomplishes more than he who fills our memory with
rows on rows of natural objects, classified with name and form. For what
is the result of all these, except what we know as well without them,
that the human figure preeminently and peculiarly is made in the image
and likeness of God?"
"Individuals may be left to occupy themselves with whatever amuses them,
with whatever gives them pleasure, whatever they think useful; but 'the
proper study of mankind is man.'"
There are but few men who care to occupy themselves with the immediate
past. Either we are forcibly bound up in the present, or we lose
ourselves in the long gone-by, and seek back for what is utterly lost,
as if it were possible to summon it up again, and rehabilitate it. Even
in great and wealthy families who are under large obligations to their
ancestors, we commonly find men thinking more of their grandfathers than
Such reflections as these suggested themselves to our Assistant, as, on
one of those beautiful days in which the departing winter is accustomed
to imitate the spring, he had been walking up and down the great old
castle garden, and admiring the tall avenues of the lindens, and the
formal walks and flower-beds which had been laid out by Edward's father.
The trees had thriven admirably, according to the design of him who had
planted them, and now when they ought to have begun to be valued and
enjoyed, no one ever spoke of them. Hardly any one even went near them,
and the interest and the outlay was now directed to the other side, out
into the free and the open.
He remarked upon it to Charlotte on his return; she did not take it
unkindly. "While life is sweeping us forward," she replied, "we fancy
that we are acting out our own impulses; we believe that we choose
ourselves what we will do, and what we will enjoy. But in fact, if we
look at it closely, our actions are no more than the plans and the
desires of the time which we are compelled to carry out."
"No doubt," said the Assistant. "And who is strong enough to withstand
the stream of what is around him? Time passes on, and in it, opinions,
thoughts, prejudices, and interests. If the youth of the son falls in
the era of revolution, we may feel assured that he will have nothing in
common with his father. If the father lived at a time when the desire
was to accumulate property, to secure the possession of it, to narrow
and to gather one's-self in, and to base one's enjoyment in separation
from the world, the son will at once seek to extend himself, to
communicate himself to others, to spread himself over a wide surface,
and open out his closed stores."
"Entire periods," replied Charlotte, "resemble this father and son whom
you have been describing. Of the state of things when every little town
was obliged to have its walls and moats, when the castle of the nobleman
was built in a swamp, and the smallest manor-houses were only accessible
by a draw-bridge, we are scarcely able to form a conception. In our
days, the largest cities take down their walls, the moats of the
princes' castles are filled in; cities are no more than great _places_,
and when one travels and sees all this, one might fancy that universal
peace was just established, and the golden age was before the door. No
one feels himself easy in a garden which does not look like the open
country. There must be nothing to remind him of form and constraint, we
choose to be entirely free, and to draw our breath without sense of
confinement. Do you conceive it possible, my friend, that we can ever
return again out of this into another, into our former condition?"
"Why should we not?" replied the Assistant. "Every condition has its own
burden along with it, the most relaxed as well as the most constrained.
The first presupposes abundance, and leads to extravagance. Let want
reappear, and the spirit of moderation is at once with us again. Men who
are obliged to make use of their space and their soil, will speedily
enough raise walls up round their gardens to be sure of their crops and
plants. Out of this will arise by degrees a new phase of things: the
useful will again gain the upper hand; and even the man of large
possessions will feel at last that he must make the most of all which
belongs to him. Believe me, it is quite possible that your son may
become indifferent to all which you have been doing in the park, and
draw in again behind the solemn walls and the tall lindens of his
The secret pleasure which it gave Charlotte to have a son foretold to
her, made her forgive the Assistant his somewhat unfriendly prophecy of
how it might one day fare with her lovely, beautiful park. She therefore
answered without any discomposure: "You and I are not old enough yet to
have lived through very much of these contradictions; and yet when I
look back into my own early youth, when I remember the style of
complaints which I used then to hear from older people, and when I think
at the same time of what the country and the town then were, I have
nothing to advance against what you say. But is there nothing which one
can do to remedy this natural course of things? Are father and son,
parents and children, to be always thus unable to understand each
other? You have been so kind as to prophesy a boy to me. Is it necessary
that he must stand in contradiction to his father? Must he destroy what
his parents have erected, instead of completing it, instead of following
on upon the same idea, and elevating it?"
"There is a rational remedy for it," replied the Assistant. "But it is
one which will be but seldom put in practice by men. The father should
raise his son to a joint ownership with himself. He should permit him to
plant and to build; and allow him the same innocent liberty which he
allows to himself. One form of activity may be woven into another, but
it cannot be pieced on to it. A young shoot may be readily and easily
grafted with an old stem, to which no grown branch admits of being
The Assistant was glad to have had the opportunity, at the moment when
he saw himself obliged to take his leave, of saying something agreeable
to Charlotte, and thus making himself a new link to secure her favor. He
had been already too long absent from home, and yet he could not make up
his mind to return there until after a full conviction that he must
allow the approaching epoch of Charlotte's confinement first to pass by
before he could look for any decision from her in respect to Ottilie. He
therefore accommodated himself to the circumstances, and returned with
these prospects and hopes to the Superior.
Charlotte's confinement was now approaching; she kept more in her own
room. The ladies who had gathered about her were her closest companions.
Ottilie managed all domestic matters, hardly able, however, the while,
to think what she was doing. She had indeed utterly resigned herself;
she desired to continue to exert herself to the extent of her power for
Charlotte, for the child, for Edward. But she could not see how it would
be possible for her. Nothing could save her from utter distraction,
except patiently to do the duty which each day brought with it.
A son was brought happily into the world, and the ladies declared, with
one voice, it was the very image of its father. Only Ottilie, as she
wished the new mother joy, and kissed the child with all her heart, was
unable to see the likeness. Once already Charlotte had felt most
painfully the absence of her husband, when she had to make preparations
for her daughter's marriage. And now the father could not be present at
the birth of his son. He could not have the choosing of the name by
which the child was hereafter to be called.
The first among all Charlotte's friends who came to wish her joy was
Mittler. He had placed expresses ready to bring him news the instant the
event took place. He was admitted to see her, and, scarcely able to
conceal his triumph even before Ottilie, when alone with Charlotte he
broke fairly out with it; and was at once ready with means to remove all
anxieties, and set aside all immediate difficulties. The baptism should
not be delayed a day longer than necessary. The old clergyman, who had
one foot already in the grave, should leave his blessing, to bind
together the past and the future. The child should be called Otto; what
name would he bear so fitly as that of his father and of his father's
It required the peremptory resolution of this man to set aside the
innumerable considerations, arguments, hesitations, difficulties; what
this person knew, and that person knew better; the opinions, up and
down, and backward and forward, which every friend volunteered. It
always happens on such occasions that when one inconvenience is removed,
a fresh inconvenience seems to arise; and in wishing to spare all sides,
we inevitably go wrong on one side or the other.
The letters to friends and relations were all undertaken by Mittler, and
they were to be written and sent off at once. It was highly necessary,
he thought, that the good fortune which he considered so important for
the family, should be known as widely as possible through the
ill-natured and misinterpreting world. For indeed these late
entanglements and perplexities had got abroad among the public, which at
all times has a conviction that, whatever happens, happens only in order
that it may have something to talk about.
The ceremony of the baptism was to be observed with all due honor, but
it was to be as brief and as private as possible. The people came
together; Ottilie and Mittler were to hold the child as sponsors. The
old pastor, supported by the servants of the church, came in with slow
steps; the prayers were offered. The child lay in Ottilie's arms, and as
she was looking affectionately down at it, it opened its eyes and she
was not a little startled when she seemed to see her own eyes looking at
her. The likeness would have surprised any one. Mittler, who next had to
receive the child, started as well; he fancying he saw in the little
features a most striking likeness to the Captain. He had never seen a
resemblance so marked.
The infirmity of the good old clergyman had not permitted him to
accompany the ceremony with more than the usual liturgy.
Mittler, however, who was full of his subject, recollected his old
performances when he had been in the ministry, and indeed it was one of
his peculiarities that, on every sort of occasion, he always thought
what he would like to say, and how he would express himself about it.
At this time he was the less able to contain himself, as he was now in
the midst of a circle consisting entirely of well-known friends. He
began, therefore, toward the conclusion of the service, to put himself
quietly into the place of the clergyman; to make cheerful speeches
aloud, expressive of his duty and his hopes as godfather, and to dwell
all the longer on the subject, as he thought he saw in Charlotte's
gratified manner that she was pleased with his doing so.
It altogether escaped the eagerness of the orator, that the good old man
would gladly have sat down; still less did he think that he was on the
way to occasion a more serious evil. After he had described with all his
power of impressiveness the relation in which every person present stood
toward the child, thereby putting Ottilie's composure sorely to the
proof, he turned at last to the old man with the words, "And you, my
worthy father, you may now well say with Simeon, 'Lord, now lettest thou
thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen the savior of this
He was now in full swing toward a brilliant peroration, when he
perceived the old man to whom he held out the child, first appear a
little to incline toward it, and immediately after to totter and sink
backward. Hardly prevented from falling, he was lifted to a seat; but,
notwithstanding the instant assistance which was rendered, he was found
to be dead.
To see thus side by side birth and death, the coffin and the cradle, to
see them and to realize them, to comprehend not with the eye of
imagination, but with the bodily eye, at one moment these fearful
opposites, was a hard trial to the spectators; the harder, the more
utterly it had taken them by surprise. Ottilie alone stood contemplating
the slumberer, whose features still retained their gentle sweet
expression, with a kind of envy. The life of her soul was killed; why
should the bodily life any longer drag on in weariness?
But though Ottilie was frequently led by melancholy incidents which
occurred in the day to thoughts of the past, of separation and of loss,
at night she had strange visions given her to comfort her, which assured
her of the existence of her beloved, and thus strengthened her, and gave
her life for her own. When she laid herself down at night to rest, and
was floating among sweet sensations between sleep and waking, she seemed
to be looking into a clear but softly illuminated space. In this she
would see Edward with the greatest distinctness, and not in the dress in
which she had been accustomed to see him, but in military uniform;
never in the same position, but always in a natural one, and not the
least with anything fantastic about him, either standing or walking, or
lying down or riding. The figure, which was painted with the utmost
minuteness, moved readily before her without any effort of hers, without
her willing it or exerting her imagination to produce it. Frequently she
saw him surrounded with something in motion, which was darker than the
bright ground; but the figures were shadowy, and she could scarcely
distinguish them--sometimes they were like men, sometimes they were like
horses, or like trees, or like mountains. She usually went to sleep in
the midst of the apparition, and when, after a quiet night, she woke
again in the morning, she felt refreshed and comforted; she could say to
herself, Edward still lives, and she herself was still remaining in the
closest relation toward him.
The spring was come; it was late, but it therefore burst out more
rapidly and more exhilaratingly than usual. Ottilie now found in the
garden the fruits of her carefulness. Everything shot up and came out in
leaf and flower at its proper time. A number of plants which she had
been training up under glass frames and in hotbeds, now burst forward at
once to meet, at last, the advances of nature; and whatever there was to
do, and to take care of, it did not remain the mere labor of hope which
it had been, but brought its reward in immediate and substantial
There was many a chasm, however, among the finest shoots produced by
Luciana's wild ways, for which she had to console the gardener, and the
symmetry of many a leafy coronet was destroyed. She tried to encourage
him to hope that it would all be soon restored again, but he had too
deep a feeling, and too pure an idea of the nature of his business, for
such grounds of comfort to be of much service to him. Little as the
gardener allowed himself to have his attention dissipated by other
tastes and inclinations, he could the less bear to have the peaceful
course interrupted which the plant follows toward its enduring or its
transient perfection. A plant is like a self-willed man, out of whom we
can obtain all which we desire, if we will only treat him his own way. A
calm eye, a silent method, in all seasons of the year, and at every
hour, to do exactly what has then to be done, is required of no one
perhaps more than of a gardener. These qualities the good man possessed
in an eminent degree, and it was on that account that Ottilie liked so
well to work with him; but for some time past he had not found himself
able to exercise his peculiar talent with any pleasure to himself.
Whatever concerned the fruit-gardening or kitchen-gardening, as well as
whatever had in time past been required in the ornamental gardens, he
understood perfectly. One man succeeds in one thing, another in another;
he succeeded in these. In his management of the orangery, of the bulbous
flowers, in budding shoots and growing cuttings from the carnations and
auriculas, he might challenge nature herself. But the new ornamental
shrubs and fashionable flowers remained in a measure strange to him. He
had a kind of shyness of the endless field of botany, which had been
lately opening itself, and the strange names humming about his ears made
him cross and ill-tempered. The orders for flowers which had been made
by his lord and lady in the course of the past year, he considered so
much useless waste and extravagance--all the more, as he saw many
valuable plants disappear, and as he had ceased to stand on the best
possible terms with the nursery gardeners, who, he fancied, had not been
serving him honestly.
Consequently, after a number of attempts, he had formed a sort of a
plan, in which Ottilie encouraged him the more readily because its first
essential condition was the return of Edward, whose absence in this, as
in many other matters, every day had to be felt more and more seriously.
Now that the plants were ever striking new roots, and putting out their
shoots, Ottilie felt herself even more fettered to this spot. It was
just a year since she had come there as a stranger, as a mere
insignificant creature. How much had she not gained for herself since
that time! but, alas! how much had she not also since that time lost
again! Never had she been so rich, and never so poor. The feelings of
her loss and of her gain alternated momentarily one with another,
chasing each other through her heart; and she could find no other means
to help herself, except always to set to work again at what lay nearest
to her, with such interest and eagerness as she could command.
That everything which she knew to be dear to Edward received especial
care from her may be supposed. And why should she not hope that he
himself would now soon come back again; and that, when present, he would
show himself grateful for all the care and pains which she had taken for
him in his absence?
But there was also a far different employment which she took upon
herself in his service; she had undertaken the principal charge of the
child, whose immediate attendant it was all the easier for her to be, as
they had determined not to put it into the hands of a nurse, but to
bring it up themselves by hand with milk and water. In the beautiful
season it was much out of doors, enjoying the free air, and Ottilie
liked best to take it out herself, to carry the unconscious sleeping
infant among the flowers and blossoms which should one day smile so
brightly on its childhood--among the young shrubs and plants, which, by
their youth, seemed designed to grow up with the young lord to their
after-stature. When she looked about her, she did not hide from herself
to what a high position that child was born: far and wide, wherever the
eye could see, all would one day belong to him. How desirable, how
necessary it must therefore be, that it should grow up under the eyes of
its father and its mother, and renew and strengthen the union between
Ottilie saw all this so clearly that she represented it to herself as
conclusively decided, and for herself, as concerned with it, she never
felt at all. Under this fair heaven, by this bright sunshine, at once it
became clear to her, that her love if it would perfect itself, must
become altogether unselfish; and there were many moments in which she
believed it was an elevation which she had already attained. She only
desired the well-being of her friend. She fancied herself able to resign
him, and never to see him any more, if she could only know that he was
happy. The one only determination which she formed for herself was never
to belong to another.
They had taken care that the autumn should be no less brilliant than the
spring. Sun-flowers were there, and all the other plants which are never
tired of blossoming in autumn, and continue boldly on into the cold;
asters especially were sown in the greatest abundance, and scattered
about in all directions to form a starry heaven upon the earth.
FROM OTTILIE'S DIARY
"Any good thought which we have read, anything striking which we have
heard, we commonly enter in our diary; but if we would take the trouble,
at the same time, to copy out of our friends' letters the remarkable
observations, the original ideas, the hasty words so pregnant in
meaning, which we might find in them, we should then be rich indeed. We
lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them
out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most
immediate breath of life, irrecoverably for ourselves and for others. I
intend to make amends in future for such neglect."
"So, then, once more the old story of the year is being repeated over
again. We are come now, thank God, again to its most charming chapter.
The violets and the may-flowers are as its superscriptions and its
vignettes. It always makes a pleasant impression on us when we open
again at these pages in the book of life."
"We find fault with the poor, particularly with the little ones among
them, when they loiter about the streets and beg. Do we not observe that
they begin to work again, as soon as ever there is anything for them to
do? Hardly has nature unfolded her smiling treasures, than the children
are at once upon her track to open out a calling for themselves. None of
them begs any more; they have each a nosegay to offer you; they were out
and gathering it before you had awakened out of your sleep, and the
supplicating face looks as sweetly at you as the present which the hand
is holding out. No person ever looks miserable who feels that he has a
right to make a demand upon you."
"How is it that the year sometimes seems so short, and sometimes is so
long? How is it that it is so short when it is passing, and so long as
we look back over it? When I think of the past (and it never comes so
powerfully over me as in the garden), I feel how the perishing and the
enduring work one upon the other, and there is nothing whose endurance
is so brief as not to leave behind it some trace of itself, something in
its own likeness."
"We are able to tolerate the winter. We fancy that we can extend
ourselves more freely when the trees are so spectral, so transparent.
They are nothing, but they conceal nothing; but when once the germs and
buds begin to show, then we become impatient for the full foliage to
come out, for the landscape to put on its body, and the tree to stand
before us as a form."
"Everything which is perfect in its kind must pass out beyond and
transcend its kind. It must be an inimitable something of another and a
higher nature. In many of its tones the nightingale is only a bird; then
it rises up above its class, and seems as if it would teach every
feathered creature what singing really is."
"A life without love, without the presence of the beloved, is but poor
_comedie a tiroir_. We draw out slide after slide, swiftly tiring of
each, and pushing it back to make haste to the next. Even what we know
to be good and important hangs but wearily together; every step is an
end, and every step is a fresh beginning."
Charlotte meanwhile was well and in good spirits. She was happy in her
beautiful boy, whose fair promising little form every hour was a delight
to both her eyes and heart. In him she found a new link to connect her
with the world and with her property. Her old activity began anew to
stir in her again.
Look which way she would, she saw how much had been done in the year
that was past, and it was a pleasure to her to contemplate it. Enlivened
by the strength of these feelings, she climbed up to the summer-house
with Ottilie and the child, and as she laid the latter down on the
little table, as on the altar of her house, and saw the two seats still
vacant, she thought of gone-by times, and fresh hopes rose out before
her for herself and for Ottilie.
Young ladies, perhaps, look timidly round them at this or that young
man, carrying on a silent examination, whether they would like to have
him for a husband; but whoever has a daughter or a female ward to care
for, takes a wider circle in her survey. And so it fared at this moment
with Charlotte, to whom, as she thought of how they had once sat side by
side in that summer-house, a union did not seem impossible between the
Captain and Ottilie. It had not remained unknown to her, that the plans
for the advantageous marriage, which had been proposed to the Captain,
had come to nothing.
Charlotte went on up the cliff, and Ottilie carried the child. A number
of reflections crowded upon the former. Even on the firm land there are
frequent enough ship-wrecks, and the true, wise conduct is to recover
ourselves, and refit our vessel at fast as possible. Is life to be
calculated only by its gains and losses? Who has not made arrangement
on arrangement, and has not seen them broken in pieces? How often does
not a man strike into a road and lose it again! How often are we not
turned aside from one point which we had sharply before our eye, but
only to reach some higher stage. The traveler, to his greatest
annoyance, breaks a wheel upon his journey, and through this unpleasant
accident makes some charming acquaintance, and forms some new
connection, which has an influence on all his life. Destiny grants us
our wishes, but in its own way, in order to give us something beyond our
Among these and similar reflections they reached the new building on the
hill, where they intended to establish themselves for the summer. The
view all round them was far more beautiful than could have been
supposed; every little obstruction had been removed; all the loveliness
of the landscape, whatever nature, whatever the season of the year had
done for it, came out in its beauty before the eye; and already the
young plantations, which had been made to fill up a few openings, were
beginning to look green, and to form an agreeable connecting link
between parts which before stood separate.
The house itself was nearly habitable; the views, particularly from the
upper rooms, were of the richest variety. The longer you looked round
you, the more beauties you discovered. What magnificent effects would
not be produced here at the different hours of day--by sunlight and by
moonlight? Nothing could be more delightful than to come and live there,
and now that she found all the rough work finished, Charlotte longed to
be busy again. An upholsterer, a tapestry-hanger, a painter, who could
lay on the colors with patterns, and a little gilding, were all which
were required, and these were soon found, and in a short time the
building was completed. Kitchen and cellar stores were quickly laid in;
being so far from the castle, it was necessary to have all essentials
provided; and the two ladies with the child went up and settled there.
From this residence, as from a new centre point, unknown walks opened
out to them, and in these high regions the free, fresh air and the
beautiful weather were thoroughly delightful.
Ottilie's favorite walk, sometimes alone, sometimes with the child, was
down below, toward the plane-trees, along a pleasant footpath leading
directly to the point where one of the boats was kept chained in which
people used to go across the water. She often indulged herself in an
expedition on the water, only without the child, as Charlotte was a
little uneasy about it. She never missed, however, paying a daily visit
to the castle garden and the gardener, and going to look with him at his
show of greenhouse plants, which were all out now, enjoying the free
At this beautiful season, Charlotte was much pleased to receive a visit
from an English nobleman, who had made acquaintance with Edward abroad,
having met him more than once, and who was now curious to see the laying
out of his park, which he had heard so much admired. He brought with him
a letter of introduction from the Count, and introduced at the same time
a quiet but most agreeable man as his traveling companion. He went about
seeing everything, sometimes with Charlotte and Ottilie, sometimes with
the gardeners and the foresters, often with his friend, and now and then
alone; and they could perceive clearly from his observations that he
took an interest in such matters, and understood them well; indeed, that
he had himself probably executed many such.
Although he was now advanced in life, he entered warmly into everything
which could serve for an ornament to life, or contribute anything to its
In his presence, the ladies came first properly to enjoy what was around
them. His practised eye received every effect in its freshness, and he
found all the more pleasure in what was before him, as he had not
previously known the place, and was scarcely able to distinguish what
man had done there from what nature had presented to him ready made.
We may even say that through his remarks the park grew and enriched
itself; he was able to anticipate in their fulfilment the promises of
the growing plantations. There was not a spot where there was any effect
which could be either heightened or produced, but what he observed it.
In one place he pointed to a fountain which, if it was cleaned out,
promised to be the most beautiful spot for a picnic party; in another,
to a cave which had only to be enlarged and swept clear of rubbish to
form a desirable seat. A few trees might be cut down, and a view would
be opened from it of some grand masses of rock, towering magnificently
against the sky. He wished the owners joy that so much was still
remaining for them to do, and he besought them not to be in a hurry
about it, but to keep for themselves for years to come the pleasures of
shaping and improving.
At the hours which the ladies usually spent alone he was never in the
way, for he was occupied the greatest part of the day in catching such
views in the park as would make good paintings, in a portable camera
obscura, and drawing from them, in order to secure some desirable fruits
from his travels for himself and others. For many years past he had been
in the habit of doing this in all remarkable places which he visited,
and had provided himself by it with a most charming and interesting
collection. He showed the ladies a large portfolio which he had brought
with him, and entertained them with the pictures and with descriptions.
And it was a real delight to them, here in their solitude, to travel so
pleasantly over the world, and see sweep past them, shores and havens,
mountains, lakes, and rivers, cities, castles, and a hundred other
localities which have a name in history.
Each of the two ladies had an especial interest in it--Charlotte the
more general interest in whatever was historically remarkable; Ottilie
dwelling in preference on the scenes of which Edward used most to
talk--where he liked best to stay, and which he would most often
revisit. Every man has somewhere, far or near, his peculiar localities
which attract him; scenes which, according to his character, either from
first impressions, or from particular associations, or from habit, have
a charm for him beyond all others.
She, therefore, asked the Earl which, of all these places, pleased him
best, where he would like to settle, and live for himself, if he might
choose. There was more than one lovely spot which he pointed out, with
what had happened to him there to make him love and value it; and the
peculiar accentuated French in which he spoke made it most pleasant to
listen to him.
To the further question, which was his ordinary residence that he
properly considered his home, he replied, without any hesitation, in a
manner quite unexpected by the ladies:
"I have accustomed myself by this time to be at home everywhere, and I
find, after all, that it is much more agreeable to allow others to
plant, and build, and keep house for me. I have no desire to return to
my own possessions, partly on political grounds, but principally because
my son, for whose sake alone it was any pleasure to me to remain and
work there--who will, by-and-by, inherit it, and with whom I hoped to
enjoy it--took no interest in the place at all, but has gone out to
India, where, like many other foolish fellows, he fancies he can make a
higher use of his life. He is more likely to squander it.
"Assuredly we spend far too much labor and outlay in preparation for
life. Instead of beginning at once to make ourselves happy in a moderate
condition, we spread ourselves out wider and wider, only to make
ourselves more and more uncomfortable. Who is there now to enjoy my
mansion, my park, my gardens? Not I, nor any of mine--strangers,
visitors, or curious, restless travelers.
"Even with large means, we are ever but half and half at home,
especially in the country, where we miss many things to which we have
become accustomed in town. The book for which we are most anxious is
not to be had, and just the thing which we most wanted is forgotten. We
take to being domestic, only again to go out of ourselves; if we do not
go astray of our own will and caprice, circumstances, passions,
accidents, necessity, and one does not know what besides, manage it for
Little did the Earl imagine how deeply his friend would be touched by
these random observations. It is a danger to which we are all of us
exposed when we venture on general remarks in a society the
circumstances of which we might have supposed were well enough known to
us. Such casual wounds, even from well-meaning, kindly-disposed people,
were nothing new to Charlotte. She so clearly, so thoroughly knew and
understood the world, that it gave her no particular pain if it did
happen that through somebody's thoughtlessness or imprudence she had her
attention forced into this or that unpleasant direction. But it was very
different with Ottilie. At her half-conscious age, at which she rather
felt than saw, and at which she was disposed, indeed was obliged, to
turn her eyes away from what she should not or would not see, Ottilie
was thrown by this melancholy conversation into the most pitiable state.
It rudely tore away the pleasant veil from before her eyes, and it
seemed to her as if everything which had been done all this time for
house and court, for park and garden, for all their wide environs, were
utterly in vain, because he to whom it all belonged could not enjoy it;
because he, like their present visitor, had been driven out to wander up
and down in the world--and, indeed, in the most perilous paths of it--by
those who were nearest and dearest to him. She was accustomed to listen
in silence, but on this occasion she sat on in the most painful
condition; which, indeed, was made rather worse than better by what the
stranger went on to say, as he continued with his peculiar, humorous
"I think I am now on the right way. I look upon myself steadily as a
traveler, who renounces many things in order to enjoy more. I am
accustomed to change; it has become, indeed, a necessity to me; just as
in the opera, people are always looking out for new and newer
decorations, because there have already been so many. I know very well
what I am to expect from the best hotels, and what from the worst. It
may be as good or it may be as bad as it will, but I nowhere find
anything to which I am accustomed, and in the end it comes to much the
same thing whether we depend for our enjoyment entirely on the regular
order of custom, or entirely on the caprices of accident. I have never
had to vex myself now, because this thing is mislaid, or that thing is
lost; because the room in which I live is uninhabitable, and I must have
it repaired; because somebody has broken my favorite cup, and for a long
time nothing tastes well out of any other. All this I am happily raised
above. If the house catches fire about my ears, my people quietly pack
my things up, and we pass away out of the town in search of other
quarters. And considering all these advantages, when I reckon carefully,
I calculate that, by the end of the year, I have not sacrificed more
than it would have cost me to be at home."
In this description Ottilie saw nothing but Edward before her; how he
too was now amidst discomfort and hardship, marching along untrodden
roads, lying out in the fields in danger and want, and in all this
insecurity and hazard growing accustomed to be homeless and friendless,
learning to fling away everything that he might have nothing to lose.
Fortunately, the party separated for a short time. Ottilie escaped to
her room, where she could give way to her tears. No weight of sorrow had
ever pressed so heavily upon her as this clear perception (which she
tried, as people usually do, to make still clearer to herself), that men
love to dally with and exaggerate the evils which circumstances have
once begun to inflict upon them.
The state in which Edward was came before her in a light so piteous, so
miserable, that she made up her mind, let it cost her what it would,
that she would do everything in her power to unite him again with
Charlotte, and she herself would go and hide her sorrow and her love in
some silent scene, and beguile the time with such employment as she
Meanwhile the Earl's companion, a quiet, sensible man and a keen
observer, had remarked the new trend in the conversation, and spoke to
his friend about it. The latter knew nothing of the circumstances of the
family; but the other being one of those persons whose principal
interest in traveling lay in gathering up the strange occurrences which
arose out of the natural or artificial relations of society, which were
produced by the conflict of the restraint of law with the violence of
the will, of the understanding with the reason, of passion with
prejudice--had some time before made himself acquainted with the outline
of the story, and since he had been in the family had learnt exactly all
that had taken place, and the present position in which things were
The Earl, of course, was very sorry, but it was not a thing to make him
uneasy. A man must hold his tongue altogether in society if he is never
to find himself in such a position; for not only remarks with meaning in
them, but the most trivial expressions, may happen to clash in an
inharmonious key with the interest of somebody present.
"We will set things right this evening," said he, "and escape from any
general conversation; you shall let them hear one of the many charming
anecdotes with which your portfolio and your memory have enriched
themselves while we have been abroad."
However, with the best intentions, the strangers did not, on this next
occasion, succeed any better in gratifying their friends with unalloyed
entertainment. The Earl's friend told a number of singular stories--some
serious, some amusing, some touching, some terrible--with which he had
roused their attention and strained their interest to the highest
tension, and he thought to conclude with a strange but softer incident,
little dreaming how nearly it would touch his listeners.
THE TWO STRANGE CHILDREN
"Two children of neighboring families, a boy and a girl, of an age which
would suit well for them at some future time to marry, were brought up
together with this agreeable prospect, and the parents on both sides,
who were people of some position in the world, looked forward with
pleasure to their future union.
"It was too soon observed, however, that the purpose seemed likely to
fail; the dispositions of both children promised everything which was
good, but there was an unaccountable antipathy between them. Perhaps
they were too much like each other. Both were thoughtful, clear in their
wills, and firm in their purposes. Each separately was beloved and
respected by his or her companions, but whenever they were together they
were always antagonists. Forming separate plans for themselves, they
only met mutually to cross and thwart each other; never emulating each
other in pursuit of one aim, but always fighting for a single object.
Good-natured and amiable everywhere else, they were spiteful and even
malicious whenever they came in contact.
"This singular relation first showed itself in their childish games, and
it continued with their advancing years. The boys used to play at
soldiers, divide into parties, and give each other battle, and the
fierce haughty young lady set herself at once at the head of one of the
armies, and fought against the other with such animosity and bitterness
that the latter would have been put to a shameful flight, except for the
desperate bravery of her own particular rival, who at last disarmed his
antagonist and took her prisoner; and even then she defended herself
with so much fury that to save his eyes from being torn out, and at the
same time not to injure his enemy, he had been obliged to take off his
silk handkerchief and tie her hands with it behind her back.
"This she never forgave him: she made so many attempts, she laid so many
plans to injure him, that the parents, who had been long watching these
singular passions, came to a mutual understanding and resolved to
separate these two hostile creatures, and sacrifice their favorite
"The boy shot rapidly forward in the new situation in which he was
placed. He mastered every subject which he was taught. His friends and
his own inclination chose the army for his profession, and everywhere,
let him be where he would, he was looked up to and beloved. His
disposition seemed formed to labor for the well-being and the pleasure
of others; and he himself, without being clearly conscious of it, was in
himself happy at having got rid of the only antagonist which nature had
assigned to him.
"The girl, on the other hand, became at once an altered creature. Her
growing age, the progress of her education, above all, her own inward
feelings, drew her away from the boisterous games with boys in which she
had hitherto delighted. Altogether she seemed to want something; there
was nothing anywhere about her which could deserve to excite her hatred,
and she had never found any one whom she could think worthy of her love.
"A young man, somewhat older than her previous neighbor-antagonist, of
rank, property, and consequence, beloved in society, and much sought
after by women, bestowed his affections upon her. It was the first time
that friend, lover, or servant had displayed any interest in her. The
preference which he showed for her above others who were older, more
cultivated, and of more brilliant pretensions than herself, was
naturally gratifying; the constancy of his attention, which was never
obtrusive, his standing by her faithfully through a number of unpleasant
incidents, his quiet suit, which was declared indeed to her parents, but
which, as she was still very young, he did not press, only asking to be
allowed to hope--all this engaged him to her, and custom and the
assumption in the world that the thing was already settled carried her
along with it. She had so often been called his bride that at last she
began to consider herself so, and neither she nor any one else ever
thought any further trial could be necessary before she exchanged rings
with the person who for so long a time had passed for her bridegroom.
"The peaceful course which the affair had all along followed was not at
all precipitated by the betrothal. Things were allowed to go on both
sides just as they were; they were happy in being together, and they
could enjoy to the end the fair season of the year as the spring of
their future more serious life.
"The absent youth had meanwhile grown up into everything which was most
admirable. He had obtained a well-deserved rank in his profession, and
came home on leave to visit his family. Toward his fair neighbor he
found himself again in a natural but singular position. For some time
past she had been nourishing in herself such affectionate family
feelings as suited her position as a bride; she was in harmony with
everything about her; she believed that she was happy, and in a certain
sense she was so. Now first for a long time something again stood in her
way. It was not to be hated--she had become incapable of hatred. Indeed
the childish hatred, which had in fact been nothing more than an obscure
recognition of inward worth, expressed itself now in a happy
astonishment, in pleasure at meeting, in ready acknowledgments, in a
half willing, half unwilling, and yet irresistible attraction; and all
this was mutual. Their long separation gave occasion for longer
conversations; even their old childish foolishness served, now that they
had grown wiser, to amuse them as they looked back; and they felt as if
at least they were bound to make good their petulant hatred by
friendliness and attention to each other--as if their first violent
injustice to each other ought not to be left without open
"On his side it all remained in a sensible, desirable moderation. His
position, his circumstances, his efforts, his ambition, found him so
abundant an occupation, that the friendliness of this pretty bride he
received as a very thank-worthy present; but without, therefore, even so
much as thinking of her in connection with himself, or entertaining the
slightest jealousy of the bridegroom, with whom he stood on the best
"With her, however, it was altogether different. She seemed to herself
as if she had awakened out of a dream. Her fightings with her young
neighbor had been the beginnings of an affection; and this violent
antagonism was no more than an equally violent innate passion for him,
first showing under the form of opposition. She could remember nothing
else than that she had always loved him. She laughed over her martial
encounter with him with weapons in her hand; she dwelt upon the delight
of her feelings when he disarmed her. She imagined that it had given her
the greatest happiness when he bound her: and whatever she had done
afterward to injure him, or to vex him, presented itself to her as only
an innocent means of attracting his attention. She cursed their
separation. She bewailed the sleepy state into which she had fallen. She
execrated the insidious lazy routine which had betrayed her into
accepting so insignificant a bridegroom. She was transformed--doubly
transformed, forward or backward, whichever way we like to take it.
"She kept her feelings entirely to herself; but if any one could have
divined them and shared them with her, he could not have blamed her: for
indeed the bridegroom could not sustain a comparison with the other as
soon as they were seen together. If a sort of regard to the one could
not be refused, the other excited the fullest trust and confidence. If
one made an agreeable acquaintance, the other we should desire for a
companion; and in extraordinary cases, where higher demands might have
to be made on them, the bridegroom was a person to be utterly despaired
of, while the other would give the feeling of perfect security.
"There is a peculiar innate tact in women which discovers to them
differences of this kind; and they have cause as well as occasion to
"The more the fair bride was nourishing all these feelings in secret,
the less opportunity there was for any one to speak a word which could
tell in favor of her bridegroom, to remind her of what her duty and
their relative position advised and commanded--indeed, what an
unalterable necessity seemed now irrevocably to require; the poor heart
gave itself up entirely to its passion.
"On one side she was bound inextricably to the bridegroom by the world,
by her family, and by her own promise; on the other, the ambitious young
man made no secret of what he was thinking and planning for himself,
conducting himself toward her no more than a kind but not at all a
tender brother, and speaking of his departure as immediately impending;
and now it seemed as if her early childish spirit woke up again in her
with all its spleen and violence, and was preparing itself in its
distemper, on this higher stage of life, to work more effectively and
destructively. She determined that she would die to punish the once
hated; and now so passionately loved, youth for his want of interest in
her; and as she could not possess himself, at least she would wed
herself for ever to his imagination and to his repentance. Her dead
image should cling to him, and he should never be free from it. He
should never cease to reproach himself for not having understood, not
examined, not valued her feelings toward him.
"This singular insanity accompanied her wherever she went. She kept it
concealed under all sorts of forms; and although people thought her very
odd, no one was observant enough or clever enough to discover the real
"In the meantime, friends, relations, acquaintances had exhausted
themselves in contrivances for pleasure parties. Scarcely a day passed
but something new and unexpected was set on foot. There was hardly a
pretty spot in the country round which had not been decked out and
prepared for the reception of some merry party. And now our young
visitor, before departing, wished to do his part as well, and invited
the young couple, with a small family circle, to an expedition on the
water. They went on board a large beautiful vessel dressed out in all
its colors--one of the yachts which had a small saloon and a cabin or
two besides, and are intended to carry with them upon the water the
comfort and conveniences of land.
"They set out upon the broad river with music playing. The party had
collected in the cabin, below deck, during the heat of the day, and were
amusing themselves with games. Their young host, who could never remain
without doing something, had taken charge of the helm to relieve the old
master of the vessel, and the latter had lain down and was fast asleep.
It was a moment when the steerer required all his circumspectness, as
the vessel was nearing a spot where two islands narrowed the channel of
the river, while shallow banks of shingle stretching off, first on one
side and then on the other, made the navigation difficult and dangerous.
Prudent and sharp-sighted as he was, he thought for a moment that it
would be better to wake the master; but he felt confident in himself,
and he thought he would venture and make straight for the narrows. At
this moment his fair enemy appeared upon deck with a wreath of flowers
in her hair. 'Take this to remember me by,' she cried out. She took it
off and threw it at the steerer. 'Don't disturb me,' he answered
quickly, as he caught the wreath; 'I require all my powers and all my
attention now.' 'You will never be disturbed by me any more,' she cried;
'you will never see me again.' As she spoke, she rushed to the forward
part of the vessel, and from thence she sprang into the water. Voice
upon voice called out, 'Save her, save her, she is sinking!' He was in
the most terrible difficulty. In the confusion the old shipmaster woke,
and tried to catch the rudder, which the young man bade him take. But
there was no time to change hands. The vessel stranded; and at the same
moment, flinging off the heaviest of his upper garments, he sprang into
the water and swam toward his beautiful enemy. The water is a friendly
element to a man who is at home in it, and who knows how to deal with
it; it buoyed him up, and acknowledged the strong swimmer as its master.
He soon overtook the beautiful girl, who had been swept away before him;
he caught hold of her, raised her and supported her, and both of them
were carried violently down by the current, till the shoals and islands
were left far behind, and the river was again open and running smoothly.
He now began to collect himself; they had passed the first immediate
danger, in which he had been obliged to act mechanically without time to
think; he raised his head as high as he could to look about him and then
swam with all his might to a low bushy point which ran out conveniently
into the stream. There he brought his fair burden to dry land, but he
could find no signs of life in her; he was in despair, when he caught
sight of a trodden path leading among the bushes. Again he caught her up
in his arms, hurried forward, and presently reached a solitary cottage.
There he found kind, good people--a young married couple; the
misfortunes and the dangers explained themselves instantly; every remedy
he could think of was instantly applied; a bright fire blazed up; woolen
blankets were spread on a bed, counterpane, cloaks, skins, whatever
there was at hand which would serve for warmth, were heaped over her as
fast as possible. The desire to save life overpowered, for the present,
every other consideration. Nothing was left undone to bring back to life
the beautiful, half-torpid, naked body. It succeeded; she opened her
eyes! her friend was before her; she threw her heavenly arms about his
neck. In this position she remained for a time; and then a stream of
tears burst out and completed her recovery. 'Will you forsake me,' she
cried, 'now when I find you again thus?' 'Never,' he answered, 'never,'
hardly knowing what he said or did. 'Only consider yourself,' she added;
'take care of yourself, for your sake and for mine.'
"She now began to collect herself, and for the first time recollected
the state in which she was; she could not be ashamed before her darling,
before her preserver; but she gladly allowed him to go, that he might
take care of himself; for the clothes which he still wore were wet and
"Their young hosts considered what could be done. The husband offered
the young man, and the wife offered the fair lady, the dresses in which
they had been married, which were hanging up in full perfection, and
sufficient for a complete suit, inside and out, for two people. In a
short time our pair of adventurers were not only equipped, but in full
costume. They looked most charming, gazed at each other, when they met,
with admiration, and then with infinite affection, half laughing at the
same time at the quaintness of their appearance, they fell into each
"The power of youth and the quickening spirit of love in a few moments
completely restored them; and there was nothing wanting but music to
have set them both off dancing.
"To have found themselves brought from the water on dry land, from death
into life, from the circle of their families into a wilderness, from
despair into rapture, from indifference to affection and to love, all in
a moment: the head was not strong enough to bear it; it must either
burst, or go distracted; or if so distressing an alternative were to be
escaped, the heart must put out all its efforts.
"Lost wholly in each other, it was long before they recollected the
alarm and anxiety of those who had been left behind; and they
themselves, indeed, could not well think, without alarm and anxiety, how
they were again to encounter them. 'Shall we run away? shall we hide
ourselves?' asked the young man. 'We will remain together,' she said,
as she clung about his neck.
"The peasant having heard them say that a party was aground on the
shoal, had hurried down, without stopping to ask another question, to
the shore. When he arrived there, he saw the vessel coming safely down
the stream. After much labor it had been got off; and they were now
going on in uncertainty, hoping to find their lost ones again somewhere.
The peasant shouted and made signs to them, and at last caught the
attention of those on board; then he ran to a spot where there was a
convenient place for landing, and went on signalling and shouting till
the vessel's head was turned toward the shore; and what a scene there
was for them when they landed. The parents of the two betrothed first
pressed on the banks; the poor loving bridegroom had almost lost his
senses. They had scarcely learnt that their dear children had been
saved, when in their strange disguise the latter came forward out of the
bushes to meet them. No one recognized them till they were come quite
close. 'Whom do I see?' cried the mothers. 'What do I see?' cried the
fathers. The preserved ones flung themselves on the ground before them.
'Your children,' they called out; 'a pair.' 'Forgive us!' cried the
maiden. 'Give us your blessing!' cried the young man. 'Give us your
blessing!' they cried both, as all the world stood still in wonder.
'Your blessing!' was repeated the third time; and who would have been
able to refuse it?"
The narrator made a pause, or rather he had already finished his story,
before he observed the emotion into which Charlotte had been thrown by
it. She got up, uttered some sort of an apology, and left the room. To
her it was a well-known history. The principal incident in it had really
taken place with the Captain and a neighbor of her own; not exactly,
indeed, as the Englishman had related it. But the main features of it
were the same. It had only been more finished off and elaborated in its
details, as stories of that kind always are when they have passed first
through the lips of the multitude, and then through the fancy of a
clever and imaginative narrator; the result of the process being usually
to leave everything and nothing as it was.
Ottilie followed Charlotte, as the two friends begged her to do; and
then it was the Earl's turn to remark, that perhaps they had made a
second mistake, and that the subject of the story had been well known
to, or was in some way connected with, the family. "We must take care,"
he added, "that we do no more mischief here; we seem to bring little
good to our entertainers for all the kindness and hospitality which they
have shown us; we will make some excuse for ourselves, and then take our
"I must confess," answered his companion, "that there is something else
which still holds me here, which I should be very sorry to leave the
house without seeing cleared up or in some way explained. You were too
busy yourself yesterday when we were in the park with the camera, in
looking for spots where you could make your sketches, to have observed
anything else which was passing. You left the broad walk, you remember,
and went to a sequestered place on the side of the lake. There was a
fine view of the opposite shore which you wished to take. Well, Ottilie,
who was with us, got up to follow; and then proposed that she and I
should find our way to you in the boat. I got in with her, and was
delighted with the skill of my fair conductress. I assured her that
never since I had been in Switzerland, where the young ladies so often
fill the place of the boatmen, had I been so pleasantly ferried over the
water. At the same time I could not help asking her why she had shown
such an objection to going the way which you had gone, along the little
by-path. I had observed her shrink from it with a sort of painful
uneasiness. She was not at all offended. 'If you will promise not to
laugh at me,' she answered, 'I will tell you as much as I know about
it; but to myself it is a mystery which I cannot explain. There is a
particular spot in that path which I never pass without a strange shiver
passing over me, which I do not remember ever feeling anywhere else, and
which I cannot the least understand. But I shrink from exposing myself
to the sensation, because it is followed immediately after by a pain on
the left side of my head, from which at other times I suffer severely.'
We landed. Ottilie was engaged with you, and I took the opportunity of
examining the spot, which she pointed out to me as we went by on the
water. I was not a little surprised to find there distinct traces of
coal in sufficient quantities to convince me that at a short distance
below the surface there must be a considerable bed of it.
"Pardon me, my Lord; I see you smile; and I know very well that you have
no faith in these things about which I am so eager, and that it is only
your sense and your kindness which enable you to tolerate me. However,
it is impossible for me to leave this place without trying on that
beautiful creature an experiment with the pendulum."
The Earl, whenever these matters came to be spoken of, never failed to
repeat the same objections to them over and over again; and his friend
endured them all quietly and patiently, remaining firm, nevertheless, to
his own opinion, and holding to his own wishes. He, too, again repeated
that there was no reason, because the experiment did not succeed with
every one, that they should give them up, as if there was nothing in
them but fancy. They should be examined into all the more earnestly and
scrupulously; and there was no doubt that the result would be the
discovery of a number of affinities of inorganic creatures for one
another, and of organic creatures for them, and again for each other,
which at present were unknown to us.
He had already spread out his apparatus of gold rings, marcasites, and
other metallic substances, a pretty little box of which he always
carried about with himself; and he suspended a piece of metal by a
string over another piece, which he placed upon the table. "Now, my
Lord," he said, "you may take what pleasure you please (I can see in
your face what you are feeling), at perceiving that nothing will set
itself in motion with me, or for me. But my operation is no more than a
pretense; when the ladies come back, they will be curious to know what
strange work we are about."
The ladies returned. Charlotte understood at once what was going on. "I
have heard much of these things," she said; "but I never saw the effect
myself. You have everything ready there. Let me try whether I can
succeed in producing anything."
She took the thread in her hand, and as she was perfectly serious, she
held it steady, and without any agitation. Not the slightest motion,
however, could be detected. Ottilie was then called upon to try. She
held the pendulum still more quietly and unconsciously over the plate on
the table. But in a moment the swinging piece of metal began to stir
with a distinct rotary action, and turned as they moved the position of
the plate, first to one side and then to the other; now in circles, now
in ellipses; or else describing a series of straight lines; doing all
the Earl's friend could expect, and far exceeding, indeed, all his
The Earl himself was a little staggered; but the other could never be
satisfied, from delight and curiosity, and begged for the experiment
again and again with all sorts of variations. Ottilie was good-natured
enough to gratify him; till at last she was obliged to desire to be
allowed to go, as her headache had come on again. In further admiration
and even rapture, he assured her with enthusiasm that he would cure her
forever of her disorder, if she would only trust herself to his
remedies. For a moment they did not know what he meant; but Charlotte,
who comprehended immediately after, declined his well-meant offer, not
liking to have introduced and practised about her a thing of which she
had always had the strongest apprehensions.
The strangers were gone, and notwithstanding their having been the