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friendlessly; there she was, on the verge of the time when there would be no more hopes and no more desires–life had slipped through her fingers, and she was thirty and poor.

She wrapped up the letters and the other things, and threw them, all crumpled as they were, into the case. Then she closed it and went over to the window.

Evening was at hand. A gentle breeze was blowing over from the direction of the vine-trellises. Her eyes swam with unwept tears, not of grief, but of exasperation. What was she to do? She, who had, without fear and without hope, seen the days, nights, months, years extending into the future, shuddered at the prospect of the emptiness of the evening which lay before her.

It was the hour at which she usually returned home from her walk. On that day she had sent the nursemaid out with Fritz–not so much as once did she yearn for her boy. Indeed, for one moment there even fell on her child a ray of the anger which she felt against all mankind and against her fate. And, in her vast discontent, she was seized with a feeling of envy against many people who, at ordinary times, seemed to her anything but enviable. She envied Frau Martin because of the tender affection of her husband; the tobacconist’s wife because she was loved by Herr Klingemann and the captain; her sister-in-law, because she was already old; Elly, because she was still young; she envied the servant, who was sitting on a plank over there with a soldier, and whom she heard laughing. She could not endure being at home any longer; She took up her straw hat and sunshade and hurried into the street. There she felt somewhat better. In her room she had been unhappy; in the street she was no more than out of humour.

In the main thoroughfare she met Herr and Frau Mahlmann, to whose children she gave music lessons. Frau Mahlmann was already aware that Bertha had ordered a costume from a dressmaker in Vienna on the previous day, and she began to discuss the matter with great weightiness. Later on, Bertha met her brother-in-law, who came towards her from the chestnut avenue.

“Well,” he said, “so you were in Vienna yesterday! Tell me, what did you do with yourself there? Did you have any adventures?”

“What do you mean?” asked Bertha, looking at him in great alarm, as though she had done something she ought not, and had been found out.

“What? You had no adventures? But you were with Frau Rupius; all the men must surely have run after you?”

“What on earth has come into your head? Frau Rupius’ conduct is irreproachable! She is one of the most well-bred ladies I know.”

“Quite so, quite so! I am not saying a word against Frau Rupius or you.”

She looked him in the face. His eyes were gleaming, as they often did when he had had a little too much to drink. She could not help recalling that somebody had once foretold that Herr Garlan would die of an apoplectic stroke.

“I must pay another visit to Vienna myself one of these days,” he said. “Why, I haven’t been there since Ash Wednesday. I should like to see some of my acquaintances once again. The next time you and Frau Rupius go, you might just take me with you.”

“With pleasure,” answered Bertha. “I shall have to go again, of course, before long, to have my costume tried on.”

Garlan laughed.

“Yes, and you can take me with you, too, when you try it on.”

He sidled up closer to her than was necessary. It was a way he had always to squeeze up against her, and, moreover, she was accustomed to his jokes, but on the present occasion she thought him particularly objectionable. She was very much annoyed that he, of all men, always spoke of Frau Rupius in such a suspicious way.

“Let us sit down,” said Herr Garlan; “if you don’t mind.”

They both sat down on a seat. Garlan took the newspaper from his pocket.

“Ah!” said Bertha involuntarily.

“Will you have it?” asked Garlan.

“Has your wife read it yet?”

“Tut, tut!” said Garlan disdainfully. “Will you have it?”

“If you can spare it.”

“For you–with pleasure. But we might just as well read it together.”

He edged closer to Bertha and opened the paper.

Herr and Frau Martin came along, arm in arm, and stopped before them.

“Well, so you are back again from the momentous journey,” said Herr Martin.

“Ah, yes, you were in Vienna,” said Frau Martin, nestling against her husband. “And with Frau Rupius, too,” she added, as though that implied an aggravation of the offence.

Once more Bertha had to give an account of her new costume. She told them all about it in a somewhat mechanical manner, indeed; but she felt, none the less, that it was long since she had been such an interesting personage as she was now.

Klingemann went by, bowed with ironical politeness, and turned round to Bertha with a look which seemed to express his sympathy for her in having to be friendly with such people.

It seemed to Bertha as though she were gifted that day with the ability to read men’s glances.

It began to grow dark. They set off together towards the town. Bertha suddenly grew uneasy at not having met her boy. She walked on in front with Frau Martin, who turned the conversation on to the subject of Frau Rupius. She badly wanted to find out whether Bertha had observed anything.

“But what do you mean, Frau Martin? I accompanied Frau Rupius to her brother’s house, and called for her there on my way back.”

“And are you convinced that she was with her brother the whole time?”

“I really don’t know what you expect Frau Rupius to do! Where would she have been then?”

“Well,” said Frau Martin; “really, you are an artless creature. I must say–or are you only putting on? Do you quite forget then …”

Then she whispered something into Bertha’s ear, at which the latter grew very red. She had never heard such an expression from a woman. She was indignant.

“Frau Martin,” she said, “I am not so old myself either and, as you see, it is quite possible to live a decent life in such circumstances.”

Frau Martin was a little taken aback.

“Yes, of course!” she said. “Yes, of course! You must, I dare say, think that I am a little over-nice in such matters.”

Bertha was afraid that Frau Martin might be about to give her some further and more intimate disclosures, and she was very glad to find that, at that moment, they had reached the street corner where she could say good-bye.

“Bertha, here’s your paper!” her brother-in-law called after her.

She turned round quickly and took the paper. Then she hastened home. Fritz had returned and was waiting for her at the window. She hurried up to him. She embraced and kissed him as though she had not seen him for weeks. She felt that she was completely engrossed with love for her boy, a fact which, at the time, filled her with pride. She listened to his account of how he had spent the afternoon, where he had been, and with whom he had played. She cut up his supper for him, undressed him, put him to bed, and was satisfied with herself. Her state of mind of the afternoon, when she had rummaged among the old letters, had cursed her fate and had even envied the tobacconist’s wife, seemed to her, at the thought of it, as an attack of fever. She ate a hearty supper and went to bed early. Before falling to sleep, however, it occurred to her that she would like to read the paper. She stretched her limbs, shook up the soft bolster so that her head should be higher, and held the paper as near the candle as possible.

As her custom was, she first of all skimmed through the theatrical and art news. Even the short announcements, as well as the local reports, had acquired a new interest for her, since her trip to Vienna. Her eyelids were beginning to grow heavy when all at once she observed the name of Emil Lindbach amongst the personal news. She opened her eyes wide, sat up in bed and read the paragraph.

“Emil Lindbach, violinist to the Court of Bavaria, whose great success at the Spanish Court we were recently in a position to announce, has been honoured by the Queen of Spain, who has invested him with the Order of the Redeemer.”

A smile flitted across her lips. She was glad, Emil Lindbach had obtained the Order of the Redeemer…. Yes … the man whose letters she had been reading that very day … the man who had kissed her–the man who had once written to her that he would never adore any other woman…. Yes, Emil–the only man in all the world in whom she really had still any interest–except her boy, of course. She felt as though this notice in the paper was intended only for her, as though, indeed, Emil himself had selected that expedient, so as to establish some means of communication with her. Had it not been he, after all, whose back she had seen in the distance on the previous day? All at once she seemed to be quite near to him; still smiling, she whispered to herself: “Herr Emil Lindbach, violinist to the Court of Bavaria, … I congratulate you….”

Her lips remained half open. An idea had suddenly come to her. She got up quickly, donned her dressing-gown, took up the light and went into the adjoining room. She sat down at the table and wrote the following letter as fluently as though some one were standing beside her and dictating it, word for word:

“DEAR EMIL,

“I have just read in the newspaper that the Queen of Spain has honoured you by investing you with the Order of the Redeemer. I do not know whether you still remember me”–she smiled as she wrote these words–“but, all the same, I will not let this opportunity slip without congratulating you upon your many successes, of which I so often have the pleasure of reading. I am living most contentedly in the little town where fate has cast me; I am getting on very well!

“A few lines in reply would make me very happy.

“Your old friend,

“BERTHA.

“P.S.–Kind regards also from my little Fritz (five years old).”

She had finished the letter. For a moment she asked herself whether she should mention that she was a widow; but even if he had not known it before, it was quite obvious from her letter. She read it over and nodded contentedly. She wrote the address.

“Herr Emil Lindbach, violinist to the Court of Bavaria, Holder of the Order of the Redeemer …” Should she write all that? He was certain to have many other Orders also … “Vienna …”

But where was he living at present? That, however, was of no consequence with such a celebrated name. Moreover the inaccuracy in the address would also show that she did not attach so very much importance to it all; if the letter reached him–well, so much the better. It was also a way of putting fate to the test…. Ah, but how was she to know for a certainty that the letter had arrived or not? The answer might, of course, quite easily fail to reach her if…. No, no, certainly not! He would be sure to
thank her. And so, to bed.

She held the letter in her hand. No, she could not go to bed now, she was wide awake again. And, moreover, if she did not post the letter until next morning it would not go before the midday train, and would not reach Emil before the day after. That was an interminably long time. She had just spoken to him, and were thirty-six hours to be allowed to elapse before her words reached his ears?… Supposing she did not wait, but went to the post now?… no, to the station? Then he would have the letter at ten o’clock the next morning. He was certain to be late in rising–the letter would be brought into his room with his breakfast…. Yes, she must post the letter at once!

Quickly she dressed again. She hurried down the stairs–it was not yet late–she hastened along the main street to the station, put the letter in the yellow box, and was home again.

As she stood in her room, beside the tumbled bed, and she saw the paper lying on the floor and the candle flickering, it seemed as though she had returned from a strange adventure. For a long time she remained sitting on the edge of the bed, gazing through the window into the bright, starlit night, and her soul was filled with vague and pleasurable expectations.

V

“My Dear Bertha!

“I am wholly unable to tell you how glad I was to receive your letter. Do you really still think of me, then? How curious it is that it should have been an Order, of all things, that was the cause of my hearing from you again! Well, at all events, an Order has at least had some significance for once in a way! Therefore, I heartily thank you for your congratulations. But, apart from all that, don’t you come to Vienna sometimes? It is not so very far, after all. I should be immensely pleased to see you again. So come soon!

“With all my heart,

“Your old

“Emil.”

Bertha was sitting at breakfast, Fritz beside her. He was chatting, but she was not listening to him. The letter lay before her on the table.

It seemed miraculous. Two nights and a day ago she had posted her letter, and here was his reply already. Emil had not allowed a day to pass, not even an hour! He had written to her as cordially as if they had only parted the previous day.

She looked out of the window. What a splendid morning it was! Outside the birds were singing, and from the hills came floating down the fragrance of the early summer-tide.

Bertha read the letter again and again. Then she took Fritz, lifted him up and kissed him to her heart’s content. It was long since she had been so happy.

While she was dressing she turned things over in her mind. It was Thursday; on Monday she had to go to Vienna again to try on the costume. That was four long days, just the same space of time as had elapsed since she had dined at her brother-in-law’s–what a long time it seemed to have to wait. No, she must see Emil sooner than that. She could, of course, go the very next morning and remain in Vienna a few days. But what excuse could she make to the people at home?… Oh, she would be sure to find some pretext. It was more important to decide in what way she should answer his letter and tell him where she would meet him…. She could not write and say: “I am coming, please let me know where I can see you….” Perhaps he would answer: “Come to my rooms….” No, no, no! It would be best to let him have a definite statement of fact. She would write to the effect that she was going to Vienna on such and such a day and was to be found at such and such a place….

Oh, if she only had someone with whom she could talk the whole thing over!… She thought of Frau Rupius–she had a genuine yearning to tell her everything. At the same time she had an idea that, by so doing, she might become more intimate with her and might win her esteem. She felt that she had become much more important since the receipt of Emil’s letter. Now she remarked, too, that she had been very much afraid that Emil might quite possibly have changed and become conceited, affected and spoiled–just as was the case with so many celebrated men. But there was not the slightest trace of such things in the letter; there was the same quick, heavy writing, the same warmth of tone, as in those earlier letters. What a number of experiences he might well have had since she had last seen him–well, had not she also had many experiences, and were they not all seemingly obliterated?

Before going out she read Emil’s letter again. It grew more like a living voice; she heard the cadence of the words, and that final “Come soon” seemed to call her with tender yearning. She stuck the letter into her bodice and remembered how, as a girl, she had often done the same with his notes, and how the gentle touch had sent a pleasant thrill coursing through her.

First of all, she went to the Mahlmanns’, where she gave the twins their music lesson. Very often the finger exercises, to which she had to listen there, were positively painful to her, and she would rap the children on the knuckles when they struck a false note. On the present occasion, however, she was not in the least strict. When Frau Mahlmann, fat and friendly as ever, came into the room and inquired whether Bertha was satisfied, the latter praised the children and added, as though suddenly inspired:

“Now, I shall be able to give them a few days’ holiday.”

“Holiday! How will that be, then, dear Frau Garlan?”

“You see, Frau Mahlmann, I have no choice in the matter. What do you think, when I was in Vienna lately my cousin begged me so pressingly to be sure to come and spend a few days with her–“

“Quite so, quite so,” said Frau Mahlmann.

Bertha’s courage kept rising, and she continued to add falsehood to falsehood, taking a kind of pleasure in her own boldness:

“I really wanted to put it off till June. But this very morning I had a letter from her, saying that her husband is going away for a time, and she is so lonely, and just now”–she felt the letter crackle, and had an indescribable desire to take it out; but yet restrained herself–“and I, think I shall perhaps take advantage of the opportunity….”

“Well, to tell the truth,” said Frau Mahlmann, taking Bertha by both hands, “if I had a cousin in Vienna, I would like to stay with her a week every fortnight!”

Bertha beamed. She felt as though an invisible hand was clearing away the obstacles which lay in her path; everything was going so well. And, indeed, to whom, after all, was she accountable for her actions? Suddenly, however, the fear flashed through her mind that her brother-in-law really intended to go with her to Vienna. Everything became entangled again; dangers cropped up and suspicion lurked even under the good-natured smile of Frau Mahlmann….

Ah, she must on no account fail to take Frau Rupius into her confidence. Directly the lesson was over she went to call upon her.

It was not until she had found Frau Rupius in a white morning gown, sitting on the sofa, and had observed the surprised glance with which the latter received her, that it struck Bertha that there was anything strange in her early visit, and she said with affected cheerfulness:

“Good morning! I’m early to-day, am I not?”

Frau Rupius remained serious. She had not the usual smile on her lips.

“I am very glad to see you. The hour makes no difference to me.”

Then she threw her a questioning glance, and Bertha did not know what to say. She was annoyed, too, at the childish embarrassment, of which she could not rid herself in the presence of Frau Rupius.

“I wanted,” she said, at length, “to ask you how you felt after our trip.”

“Quite well,” answered Frau Rupius, rather stiffly. But all at once her features changed, and she added with excessive friendliness: “Really, it was my place to have asked you. I am accustomed to those trips, you know.”

As she said this she looked through the window and Bertha mechanically followed her gaze, which wandered over to the other side of the market square to an open window with flowers on the sill. It was quite calm, and the repose of a summer day shrouded the slumbering town. Bertha would have dearly liked to sit beside Frau Rupius and be kissed upon the brow by her, and blessed; but at the same time she had a feeling of compassion towards her. All this puzzled her. For what reason, indeed, had she really come? And what should she say to her?… “I’m going to-morrow to Vienna to see the man who used to be in love with me when I was a girl?”… In what way did all that concern Frau Rupius? Would it really interest her in the very slightest degree? There she sat as if surrounded by something impenetrable; it was impossible to approach her. _She_ could not approach her, that was the trouble. Of course, there was a word by means of which it was possible to find the way to her heart, only Bertha did not know it.

“Well, how is your little boy?” asked Frau Rupius, without taking her eyes off the flowers in the opposite window.

“He is going on as well as ever. He is very well-behaved, and is a marvellously good child!”

The last word she uttered with an intentional tenderness as though Frau Rupius was to be won over by that means.

“Yes, yes,” answered the latter, her tone implying that she knew he was good, and had not asked about that. “Have you a reliable nursemaid?” she added.

Bertha was somewhat astonished at the question.

“My maid has, of course, many other things to attend to besides her nurse’s duties,” she replied; “but I cannot complain of her. She is also a very good cook.”

“It must be a great happiness to have such a boy,” said Frau Rupius very drily, after a short interval of silence.

“It is, indeed, my only happiness,” said Bertha, more loudly than was necessary.

It was an answer which she had often made before, but she knew that, on that day, she was not speaking with entire sincerity. She felt the sheet of paper touch her skin, and, almost with alarm, she realized that she had also deemed it a happiness to have received that letter. At the same time it occurred to her that the woman sitting opposite her had neither a child nor even the prospect of having one, and Bertha would have been glad to take back what she had said. Indeed, she was on the point of seeking some qualifying word. But, as if Frau Rupius was able to see into her soul, and as if in her presence a lie was impossible, she said at once:

“Your only happiness? Say, rather, ‘a great happiness,’ and that is no small thing! I often envy you on that score, although I really think that, apart from such considerations, life in itself is a joy to you.”

“Indeed, my life is so lonely, so….”

Anna smiled.

“Quite so, but I did not mean that. What I meant was that the fact that the sun is shining and the weather is now so fine also makes you glad.”

“Oh yes, very glad!” replied Bertha assiduously. “My frame of mind is generally dependent on the weather. During that thunderstorm a few days ago I was utterly depressed, and then, when the storm was over–“

Frau Rupius interrupted her.

“That is the case with every one, you know.”

Bertha grew low-spirited. She felt that she was not clever enough for Frau Rupius; she could never do any more than follow the ordinary lines of conversation, like the other women of her acquaintance. It seemed as though Frau Rupius had arranged an examination for her, which she had not passed, and, all at once, she was seized with a great apprehension at the prospect of meeting Emil again. What sort of a figure would she cut in his presence? How shy and helpless she had become during the six years of her narrow existence in the little town!

Frau Rupius rose to her feet. The white morning gown streamed around her; she looked taller and more beautiful than usual, and Bertha was involuntarily reminded of an actress she had seen on the stage a very long time ago, and to whom at that moment Frau Rupius bore a remarkable resemblance. Bertha said to herself: If I were only like Frau Rupius I am sure I would not be so timid. At the same time it struck her that this exquisitely lovely woman was married to an invalid–might not the gossips be right then, after all? But here, again, she was unable to pursue further her train of thought; she could not imagine in what way the gossips could be right. And at that moment it dawned upon her mind how bitter was the fate to which Frau Rupius was condemned, no matter whether she now bore it or resisted it.

But, as if Anna had again read Bertha’s thoughts, and could not tolerate that the latter should thus insinuate herself into her confidence, the uncanny gravity of her face relaxed suddenly, and she said in an innocent tone:

“Just fancy, my husband is still asleep. He has acquired the habit of remaining awake until late at night, reading and looking at engravings, and then he sleeps on until midday. As for that, it is quite a matter of habit; when I used to live in Vienna I was incredibly lazy about getting up.”

And thereupon she began to chat about her girlhood, cheerfully, and with a confiding manner such as Bertha had never before noticed in her. She told about her father, who had been an officer on the Staff, about her mother, who had died when she was quite a young woman; and about the little house in the garden of which she had played as a child. It was only now that Bertha learned that Frau Rupius had first become acquainted with her husband when he was just a boy; he had lived with his parents in the adjoining house, and had fallen in love with Anna and she with him, while they were both children. To Bertha the whole period of Frau Rupius’ youth appeared as if radiant with bright sunbeams, a youth replete with happiness, replete with hope; and it seemed to her, moreover, that Frau Rupius’ voice assumed a fresher tone when she went on to relate about the travels which she and her husband had undertaken in the early days of their married life.

Bertha let her talk and hesitated to interrupt her with a word, as though she were a somnambulist wandering on the ridge of a roof. But while Frau Rupius was speaking of her past, a period through which the blessedness of being loved ever beamed brightly as its chiefest glory, Bertha’s soul began to thrill with the hope of a happiness for herself such as she had not yet experienced. And while Frau Rupius was telling of the walking tours through Switzerland and the Tyrol, which she had once undertaken with her husband, Bertha pictured herself wandering by Emil’s side on similar paths, and she was filled with such an immense yearning that she would dearly have liked at once to get up, go to Vienna, seek him out, fall into his arms, and at last, at last to taste those delights which had hitherto been denied her.

Her thoughts wandered so far that she did not notice that Frau Rupius had long since fallen silent, and was sitting on the sofa, staring at the flowers in the window of the house over the way. The utter stillness brought Bertha back to reality; the whole room seemed to her to be filled with some mysterious atmosphere, in which the past and the future were strangely intermingled. She felt that there existed an incomprehensible connexion between herself and Frau Rupius. She rose to her feet, stretched out her hand, and, as if it were quite a matter of course, the two ladies kissed each other good-bye like a couple of old friends.

On reaching the door Bertha remarked:

“I am going to Vienna again to-morrow for a few days.”

She smiled as she spoke, like a girl about to be married.

After leaving Frau Rupius, Bertha went to her sister-in-law. Her nephew was already sitting at the piano, improvising in a very wild manner. He pretended not to have noticed her enter, and proceeded to practise his finger exercises, which he played in an attitude of stiffness, assumed for the occasion.

“We will play a duet to-day,” said Bertha, endeavouring to find the volume of Schubert’s marches.

She paid not the least attention to her own playing, and hardly noticed how, in using the pedals, her nephew touched her feet.

In the meantime Elly came into the room and kissed her aunt.

“Ah, just so, I had quite forgotten that!” said Richard, and, whilst continuing to play, he placed his lips close to Bertha’s cheek.

Her sister-in-law came in with her bunch of keys rattling and a deep dejection on her pale and indistinct features.

“I have given Brigitta notice,” she said in a feeble tone. “I couldn’t endure it any longer.”

“Shall I get you a maid in Vienna?” asked Bertha with a facility which even surprised her.

And now for the second time she told the fiction which she had invented about her cousin’s invitation, with even greater assurance than before, and, moreover, with a little amplification this time. Along with the secret joy which she found in the telling, she felt her courage increasing at the same time. Even the possibility of being joined by her brother-in-law no longer alarmed her. She felt, too, that she had an advantage over him, because of the way in which he was in the habit of sidling up to her.

“How long are you thinking of staying in the town, then?” asked her sister-in-law.

“Two or three days; certainly no longer. And in any case, of course, I should have had to go on Monday–to the dressmaker.”

Richard strummed on the keys, but Elly stood with both arms resting on the piano, gazing at her aunt with a look almost of terror.

“Whatever is the matter with you?” asked Bertha involuntarily.

“Why do you ask that?” said Elly.

“You are looking at me,” said Bertha, “as queerly as though–well, as though you did not like the idea of missing your music lessons for a couple of days.”

“No, it is not that,” replied Elly, smiling. “But … no, I can’t tell you.”

“What is it, though?” asked Bertha.

“No, please, I really can’t tell you.”

She hugged her aunt, almost imploringly.

“Elly,” said her mother, “I cannot permit you to have any secrets.”

She sat down as though most deeply grieved and very tired.

“Well, Elly,” said Bertha, filled with a vague fear, “if I were to beg you–“

“But you mustn’t laugh at me, Aunt.”

“Certainly not.”

“Well, you see, Aunt, I was so frightened when you were away in Vienna that last time–I know very well it is silly–but it is because … because of the number of carriages in the streets.”

Bertha drew a deep breath as of relief, and stroked Elly’s cheeks.

“I will be sure to take great care. You can be quite easy in your mind.”

Her sister-in-law shook her head.

“I am afraid that Elly will turn out a most eccentric girl.”

Before Bertha left the house she arranged with her sister-in-law that she would come back to supper, and that she would hand over Fritz to the care of her relations while she as away in Vienna.

After dinner, Bertha sat down at the writing table, read over Emil’s letter a few more times, and made a rough draft of her reply.

“My Dear Emil,

“It was very good of you to answer me so soon. I was very happy”–she crossed out “very happy” and substituted “very glad”–“when I received your dear note. How much has changed since we last saw each other! You have become a famous virtuoso since then, which I, for my part, was always quite sure that you would be”–she stopped and struck out the whole sentence–“I also share your desire to see me soon again”–no, that was mere nonsense! This was better: “I should be immensely delighted to have an opportunity of talking to you once more.”–Then an excellent idea occurred to her, and she wrote with great zest: “It is really strange that we have not met for so long, for I come to Vienna quite often; for instance, I shall be there this week-end….” Then she allowed her pen to drop and fell into thought. She was determined to go to Vienna the next afternoon, to put up at an hotel, and to sleep there, so as to be quite fresh the following day, and to breathe the air of Vienna for a few hours before meeting him. The next question was to fix a meeting place. That was easily done. “In accordance with your kind wish I am writing to let you know that on Saturday morning at eleven o’clock….” No, that was not the right thing! It was so businesslike, and yet again too eager–“if,” she wrote, “you would really care to take the opportunity of seeing your old friend again, then perhaps you will not consider it too much trouble to go to the Art and History Museum on Saturday morning at eleven o’clock. I will be in the gallery of the Dutch School”–as she wrote that she seemed to herself rather impressive and, at the same time, everything of a suspicious nature seemed to be removed.

* * * * *

She read over the draft. It appeared to her rather dry, but, after all, it contained all that was necessary, and did not compromise her in any way. Whatever else was to happen would take place in the Museum, in the Dutch gallery.

She neatly copied out the draft, signed it, placed it in an envelope, and hurried down the sunny street to post the letter in the nearest box. On arriving home again she slipped off her dress, donned a dressing-gown, sat down on the sofa, and turned over the leaves of a novel by Gerstacker, which she had read half a score of times already. But she was unable to take in a word. At first, she attempted to dismiss from her mind the thoughts which beset her, but her efforts met with no success.

She felt ashamed of herself, but all the time she kept dreaming that she was in Emil’s arms. Why ever did such dreams come to her? She had never, even for a moment, thought of such a thing! No, … she would not think of
it, either … she was not that sort of woman…. No, she could not be anyone’s mistress–and even on this occasion…. Yes, perhaps if she were to go to Vienna once more and again … and again … yes, much later–perhaps. And besides, he would not even so much as dare to speak of such a thing, or even to hint at it…. It was, however, useless to reason like this; she could no longer think of anything else. Ever more importunate came her dreams and, in the end, she gave up the struggle. She lolled indolently in the corner of the sofa, allowed the book to slip from her fingers and lie on the floor, and closed her eyes.

When she rose to her feet an hour later a whole night seemed to have passed, and the visit to Frau Rupius seemed, in particular, to be far distant. Again she wondered at this confusion of time–in truth, the hours appeared to be longer or shorter just as they chose.

She dressed in order to take Fritz for a walk. She was in the tired, indifferent mood which usually came over her after an unaccustomed afternoon nap. It was that mood in which it is scarcely possible to collect one’s thoughts with any degree of completeness, and in which the usual appears strange, but as though it refers to some one else. For the first time, it seemed strange to Bertha that the boy, whom she was now helping into his coat, was her own child, whose father had long been buried, and for whom she had endured the pangs of motherhood.

Something within her urged her to go to the cemetery again that day. She had not, however, the feeling that she had a wrong to make reparation for, but that she must again politely visit some one to whom she had become a stranger for no valid reason. She chose the way through the chestnut avenue. There the heat was particularly oppressive that day. When she passed out into the sun again a gentle breeze was blowing and the foliage of the trees in the cemetery seemed to greet her with a slight bow. As she passed through the cemetery gates with Fritz the breeze came towards her, cool, even refreshing. With a feeling of gentle, almost sweet, weariness, she walked through the broad centre avenue, allowed Fritz to run on in front, and did not mind when he disappeared from her sight for a few seconds behind a tombstone, though at other times she would not have allowed such behaviour. She remained standing before her husband’s grave. She did not, however, look down at the flower-bed, as was her general custom, but gazed past the tombstone and away over the wall into the blue sky. She felt no tears in her eyes; she felt no emotion, no dread; she did not even realize that she had walked over the dead, and that there beneath her feet he, who had once held her in his arms, had crumbled into dust.

Suddenly she heard behind her hurried footsteps on the gravel, such as she was not generally accustomed to hear in the cemetery. Almost shocked, she turned round. Klingemann was standing before her, in an attitude of greeting, holding in his hand his straw hat, which was fixed by a ribbon to his coat button. He bowed deeply to Bertha.

“What a strange thing to see you here!” she said.

“Not at all, my dear lady, not at all! I saw you from the street; I recognized you by your walk.”

He spoke in a very loud tone, and Bertha almost involuntarily murmured:

“Hush!”

A mocking smile at once made its appearance on Klingemann’s face.

“He won’t wake up,” he muttered, between his clenched teeth.

Bertha was so indignant at this remark that she did not attempt to find an answer, but called Fritz, and was about to depart.

Klingemann, however, seized her by the hand.

“Stop,” he whispered, gazing at the ground.

Bertha opened her eyes wide; she could not understand.

Suddenly Klingemann looked up from the ground and fixed his eyes on Bertha’s.

“I love you, you see,” he said.

Bertha uttered a low cry.

Klingemann let go her hand, and added in quite an easy conversational tone:

“Perhaps that strikes you as rather odd.”

“It is unheard of!–unheard of!”

Once more she sought to go, and she called Fritz.

“Stop! If you leave me alone now, Bertha….” said Klingemann, now in a suppliant tone.

Bertha had recovered her senses again.

“Don’t call me Bertha!” she said, vehemently. “Who gave you the right to do so? I have no wish to say anything further to you … and here, of all places!” she added, with a downward glance, which, as it were, besought the pardon of the dead.

Meanwhile Fritz had come back. Klingemann seemed very disappointed.

“My dear lady,” he said, following Bertha, who, holding Fritz by the hand, was slowly walking away: “I recognize my mistake. I should have begun differently and not said that which seems now to have frightened you, until I had come to the end of a well-turned speech.”

Bertha did not look at him, but said, as though she were speaking to herself:

“I would not have considered it possible; I thought you were a gentleman….”

They were at the cemetery gate. Klingemann looked back again, and in his glance there was something of regret at not having been able to play out his scene at the graveside to a finish. Hat in hand, and twisting the ribbon, by which it was fastened, round his finger, and still keeping by Bertha’s side, he went on to say:

“All I can do now is to repeat that I love you, that you pursue me in my dreams–in a word, you must be mine!”

Bertha came to a standstill again, as if she were terrified.

“You will, perhaps, consider my remarks insolent, but let us take things as they are. You”–he made a long pause–“are alone in the world. So am I–“

Bertha stared him full in the face.

“I know what you are thinking of,” said Klingemann. “That is all of no consequence; that is all done with the moment you give the word. I have a dim presentiment that we two suit each other very well. Yes, unless I am very much deceived, the blood should be flowing in your veins, my dear lady, as warm….”

The glance which Bertha now gave him was so full of anger and loathing that Klingemann was unable to complete the sentence. He therefore began another.

“Ah, when you come to think of it, what sort of a life is it that I am now leading? It is even a long, long time since I was loved by a noble woman such as you are. I understand, of course, your hesitation, or rather, your refusal. Deuce take it, of course it needs a bit of courage–with such a disreputable fellow as I am, too … although, perhaps, things are not quite so bad. Ah, if I could only find a human soul, a kind, womanly soul!”–He emphasized the “womanly soul”–“Yes, my dear lady, it was as little meant to be my fate as it was yours to pine away and grow crabbed in such a hole of a town as this. You must not be offended if I … if I–“

The words began to fail him when he approached the truth. Bertha looked at him. He seemed to her at that moment to be rather ridiculous, almost pitiable, and very old, and she wondered how it was that he still had the courage, not so much as to propose to her, as even simply to court her favour.

And yet, to her own amazement and shame, there overflowed from these unseemly words of a man who appeared absurd to her, the surge, so to speak, of desire. And when his words had died away she heard them again in her mind–but as though from the lips of another who was waiting for her in Vienna–and she felt that she would not be able to withstand this other speaker. Klingemann continued to talk; he spoke of his life as being a failure, but yet a life worth saving. He said that women were to be blamed for bringing him so low, and that a woman could raise him up again. Away back in his student days he had run away with a woman, and that had been the beginning of his misfortunes. He talked of his unbridled passions, and Bertha could not restrain a smile. At the same time she was ashamed of the knowledge which seemed to her to be implied by the smile….

“I will walk up and down in front of your window this evening,” said Klingemann, when they reached the gate. “Will you play the piano?”

“I don’t know.”

“I will take it as a sign.”

With that he went away.

In the evening she supped, as she had so often done, at her brother-in-law’s house. At the table she sat between Elly and Richard. Mention was made of her approaching journey to Vienna as though it was really nothing more than a matter of paying a visit to her cousin, trying on the new costume at the dressmaker’s, and executing a few commissions in the way of household necessities, which she had promised to undertake for her sister-in-law. Towards the end of supper, her brother-in-law smoked his pipe, Richard read the paper to him, her sister-in-law knitted, and Elly, who had nestled up close beside Bertha, leaned her childish head upon her aunt’s breast. And Bertha, as her glance took in the whole scene, felt herself to be a crafty liar. She, the widow of a good husband, was sitting there in a family circle which interested itself in her welfare so loyally; by her side was a young girl who looked up at her as on an older friend. Hitherto she had been a good woman, honest and industrious, living only for her son. And now, was she not about to cast aside all these things, to deceive and lie to these excellent people, and to plunge into an adventure, the end of which she could foresee? What was it, then, that had come over her these last few days, by what dreams was she pursued, how was it that her whole existence seemed only to aspire towards the one moment when she would again feel the arms of a man about her? She had but to think of it and she was seized with an indescribable sensation of horror, during which she seemed devoid of will, as if she had fallen under the influence of some strange power.

And while the words that Richard was reading beat monotonously upon her ear, and her fingers played with the locks of Elly’s hair–she resisted for the last time; she resolved that she would be steadfast–that she would do no more than see Emil once again, and that, like her own mother who had died long ago, and like all the other good women she knew–her cousin in Vienna, Frau Mahlmann, Frau Martin, her sister-in-law, and … yes, certainly Frau Rupius as well–she would belong only to him who made her his wife. As soon, however, as she thought of that, the idea flashed through her mind, like lightning: if he himself…if Emil…. But she was afraid of the thought, and banished it from her. Not with such bold dreams as these would she go to meet Emil. He, the great artist, and she, a poor widow with a child…no, no!–she would see him once again … in the Museum of course, at the Dutch gallery … once only, and that for the last time, and she would tell him that she did not wish for anything else than to see him that once. With a smile of satisfaction she pictured to herself his somewhat disappointed face; and, as if practising beforehand for the scene, she knitted her brow and assumed a stern cast of countenance, and had the words ready on her lips to say to him: “Oh, no, Emil, if you think that….” But she must take care not to say it in quite too harsh a tone, in order that Emil might not, as on that previous occasion … twelve years before! … cease to plead after only the one attempt. She intended that he should beg a second time, a third time–ah, Heaven knew, she intended that he should continue to plead until she gave way…. For she felt, there in the midst of all those good, respectable, virtuous people, with whom, indeed, she would soon no longer be numbered, that she would give way the moment he first asked her. She was only going to Vienna to be _his_, and after that, if needs must be, to die.

On the afternoon of the following day Bertha set off. It was very hot, and the sun beat down upon the leather-covered seats of the railway carriage. Bertha had opened the window and drawn forward the yellow curtain, which, however, kept flapping in the breeze. She was alone. But she scarcely thought of the place towards which she was travelling; she scarcely thought of the man whom she was about to see again, or of what might be in store for her–she thought only of the strange words she had heard, an hour before her departure. She would gladly have forgotten them, at least for the next few days. Why was it that she had been unable to remain at home during those few short hours between dinner and her departure? What unrest had driven her on this glowing hot afternoon out from her room, on to the street, into the market, and bade her pass Herr Rupius’ house? He was sitting there upon the balcony, his eyes fixed on the gleaming white pavement, and over his knees, as usual, was spread the great plaid rug, the ends of which were hanging down between the bars of the balcony railings; in front of him was the little table with a bottle of water and a glass. When he perceived Bertha his eyes became fixed upon her, as though he were making some request to her, and she observed that he beckoned her with a slight movement of the head.

Why had she obeyed him? Why had she not taken his nod simply as a greeting and thanked him and gone upon her way? When, however, in answer to his nod, she turned towards the door of the house, she saw a smile of thanks glide over his lips and she found it still on his countenance when she went out to him on the balcony, through the cool, darkened room, and, taking his outstretched hand, sat down opposite to him on the other side of the little table.

“How are you getting on?” she asked.

At first he made no answer; then she observed from the working of his face that he wanted to say something, but seemed as if he was unable to utter a word.

“She is going to …” he broke out at length. These first words he uttered in an unnecessarily loud voice; then, as though alarmed at the almost shrieking tone, he added very softly: “My wife is going to leave me.”

Bertha involuntarily looked around her.

Rupius raised his hands, as if to reassure her.

“She cannot hear us She is in her room; she is asleep.”

Bertha was embarrassed.

“How do you know?…” she stammered. “It is impossible–quite impossible!”

“She is going away–away, for a time, as she says … for a time … do you understand?” “Why, yes, to her brother, I suppose.”

“She is going away for ever … for ever! Naturally she does not like to say to me: Good-bye, you will never see me again! So she says: I should like to travel a little; I need a change; I will go to the lake for a few weeks; I should like to bathe; I need a change of air! Naturally she does not say to me: I can endure it no longer; I am young and in my prime and healthy; you are paralysed and will soon die; I have a horror of your affliction and of the loathsome state that must supervene before it is at an end. So she says: I will go away only for a few weeks, then I will come back again and stay with you.”

Bertha’s painful agitation became merged in her embarrassment.

“You are certainly mistaken,” was all that she could answer.

Rupius hastily drew up the rug, which was on the point of slipping down off his knees. He seemed to find it chilly. As he continued to speak, he drew the rug higher and higher, until finally he held it with both hands pressed against her breast.

“I have seen it coming; for years I have seen this moment coming. Imagine what sort of an existence it has been; waiting for such a moment, defenceless and forced to be silent!–Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Oh, no,” said Bertha, looking down at the market square.

“Well, I beg your pardon for referring to all this. I had no intention of doing so, but when I saw you walking past–well, thank you very much for having listened to me.”

“Please don’t mention it,” said Bertha, mechanically stretching out her hand to him. He did not notice it, however, and she let it lie upon the table.

“Now it is all over,” said Herr Rupius; “now comes the time of loneliness, the time of dread.”

“But has your wife … she loves you, I’m sure of it!… I am quite certain that you are giving yourself needless anxiety. Wouldn’t the simplest course be, Herr Rupius, for you to request your wife to forego this journey?”

“Request?…” said Herr Rupius, almost majestically. “Can I pretend to have the right to do so? AH these last six or seven years have only been a favour which she has granted me. I beg you, consider it. During all these seven years not a word of complaint at the waste of her youth has passed her lips.”

“She loves you,” said Bertha, decisively; “and that is the chief point.”

Herr Rupius looked at her for a long time.

“I know what is in your mind, although you do not venture to say it. But your husband, my dear Frau Bertha, lies deep in the grave, and does not sleep by your side night after night.”

He looked up with a glance that seemed to ascend to Heaven as a curse.

Time was getting on; Bertha thought of her train.

“When is your wife going to start?”

“Nothing has been said about that yet–but I am keeping you, perhaps?”

“No, not at all, Herr Rupius, only…. Hasn’t Anna told you? I’m going to Vienna to-day, you know.”

She grew burning red. Once more he gazed at her for a long time. It seemed to her as though he knew everything.

“When are you coming back?” he asked drily.

“In two or three days.”

She would have liked to say that he was mistaken, that she was not going to see a man whom she loved, that all these things about which he was worrying were sordid and mean, and really of not the slightest importance to women–but she was not clever enough to find the right words to express herself.

“If you come back in two or three days’ time you may, perhaps, find my wife still here. So, good-bye! I hope you will enjoy yourself.”

She felt that his glance had followed her as she went through the dark, curtained room and across the market square. And now, too, as she sat in the railway carriage, she felt the same glance and still in her ears kept ringing those words, in which there seemed to lie the consciousness of an immense unhappiness, which she had not hitherto understood. The torment of this recollection seemed stronger than the expectation of any joys that might be awaiting her, and the nearer she approached to the great city the heavier she became at heart. As she thought of the lonely evening that lay before her she felt as though she were travelling, without hope, towards some strange, uncertain destination. The letter, which she still carried in her bodice, had lost its enchantment; it was nothing but a piece of crackling paper, filled with writing, the corners of which were beginning to get torn. She tried to imagine what Emil now looked like. Faces bearing a slight resemblance to his arose before her mind’s eye; many times she thought that she had surely hit upon the right one, but it vanished immediately. Doubts began to assail her as to whether she had done the right thing in travelling so soon. Why had she not waited, at least, until Monday?

Then she was obliged, however, to confess to herself that she was going to Vienna to keep an appointment with a young man, with whom she had not exchanged a word for ten years, and who, perhaps, was expecting a quite different woman from the one who was travelling to see him on the morrow. Yes, that was the cause of all her uneasiness; she realized it now. The letter which was already beginning to chafe her delicate skin was addressed to Bertha, the girl of twenty; for Emil, of course, could not know what she looked like now. And, although for her own part, she could assure herself that her face still preserved its girlish features and that her figure, though grown fuller, still preserved the contours of youth, might he not see, in spite of all, how many changes a period of ten years had wrought in her, and, perhaps, even destroyed without her having noticed it herself?

The train drew up at Klosterneuburg. Bertha’s ears were assailed by the sound of many clear voices and the clatter of hurrying footsteps. She looked out of the window. A number of schoolboys crowded up to the train and, laughing and shouting, got into the carriages. The sight of them caused Bertha to call to mind the days of her childhood, when her brothers used to come back from picnics in the country, and suddenly there came before her eyes a vision of the blue room in which the boys had slept. She seemed to feel a tremor run through her as she realized how all the past was scattered to the wind; how those to whom she owed her existence had died, how those with whom she had lived for years under one roof were forgotten; how friendships which had seemed to have been formed to last for ever had become dissolved. How uncertain, how mortal, everything was!

And he … he had written to her as if in the course of those ten years nothing had changed, as if in the meantime there had not been funerals, births, sorrows, illnesses, cares and–for him, at least–so much good fortune and fame. Involuntarily she shook her head. A kind of perplexity in the face of so much that was incomprehensible came over her. Even the roaring of the train, which was carrying her along to unknown adventures, seemed to her as a chant of remarkable sadness. Her thoughts went back to the time, by no means remote, in fact no more than a few days earlier, when she had been tranquil and contented, and had borne her existence without desire, without regret and without wonder. However had it happened that this change had come over her? She could not understand.

The train seemed to rush forward with ever-increasing speed towards its destination. Already she could see the smoke of the great city rising skywards as out of the depths. Her heart began to throb. She felt as if she was awaited by something vague, something for which she could not find a name, a thing with a hundred arms, ready to embrace her. Each house she passed knew that she was coming; the evening sun, gleaming on the roofs, shone to meet her; and then, as the train rolled into the station, she suddenly felt sheltered. Now for the first time, she realized that she was in Vienna, in _her_ Vienna, the town of her youth and of her dreams, that she was home. Had she not given the slightest thought to that before? She did not come from home–no, now she had arrived home. The din at the station filled her with a feeling of comfort, the bustle of people and carriages gladdened her, everything that was sorrowful had been shed from her.

There she stood at the Franz Josef Station in Vienna, on a warm May evening, Bertha Garlan, young and pretty, free and accountable to no one, and on the morrow she was to see the only man whom she had ever loved–the lover who had called her.

She put up at a little hotel near the station. She had determined to choose one of the less fashionable, partly for the sake of economy, and partly, too, because she stood in awe, to a certain extent, of smart waiters and porters. She was shown to a room on the third floor with a window looking out on the street. The chambermaid closed the window when the visitor entered, and brought some fresh water, the boots placed her box beside the stove, and the waiter placed before her the registration paper, which Bertha filled up immediately and unhesitatingly, with the pride that comes of a clear conscience.

A feeling of freedom as regards external circumstances, such as she had not known for a long time, encompassed her; there were none of the petty domestic cares of the daily round, there was no obligation to talk to relations or acquaintances; she was at liberty that evening to do just as she liked.

When she had changed her dress she opened the window. She had already been obliged to light the candles, but out of doors it was not yet quite dark. She leaned her elbows on the window-sill and looked down. Again she remembered her childhood, when she had often looked down out of the windows in the evenings, sometimes with one of her brothers, who had thrown his arm around her shoulders. She also thought of her parents with so keen an emotion that she was on the verge of tears.

Down below the street lamps were already alight. Well, at all events, she must find something to do. She thought of what might be happening the next day at that hour…. She could not picture it to herself. At that moment, it just happened that a lady and gentleman drove by the hotel in a cab. If things turned out in accordance with her wishes, Emil and she should be going for a drive together into the country the next morning–yes, that would be nicest. Some quiet spot away from the town in a restaurant garden, a candle lamp on the table, and he beside her, hand in hand like a pair of young lovers. And then back again–and then…. No, she would rather not imagine anything further! Where was he now, she wondered. Was he alone? Or was he at that very instant engaged in talking with some one? And with whom–a man?–a woman?–a girl? But, after all, was it any concern of hers? For the present it was certainly not any concern of hers. And to Emil it mattered just as little that Herr Klingemann had proposed to her the previous day, that Richard, her precocious nephew, kissed her sometimes, and that she had a great admiration for Herr Rupius. She would be sure to ask him on the morrow–yes, she must be certain as regards all these points before she … well, before she went with him in the evening into the country.

So then she decided to go out–but where? She stopped, irresolute, at the door. All she could do was to go for a short walk and then have supper … but again, where? A lady alone…. No, she would have supper here in her room at the hotel, and go to bed early so that she might have a good night’s rest and look fresh, young and pretty in the morning.

She locked the door and went out into the street. She turned towards the inner town, and proceeded at a very sharp pace, for she did not like walking alone in the evening. Soon she reached the Ring and went past the University, and on to the Town Hall. But she took no pleasure at all in this aimless rambling. She felt bored and hungry, and went back to her hotel in a tramcar. She had no great desire to seek her room. From the street she had already noticed that the dining-room of the hotel was barely lighted and evidently empty. She had supper there, after which she grew tired and sleepy and, with an effort, went up the three flights of stairs to her room. As she sat on the bed and undid her shoe laces, she heard ten o’clock chime in a neighbouring church steeple.

When she awoke in the morning she hurried, first of all, to the window and drew up the blinds with a great longing to see the daylight and the town. It was a sunny morning, and the air was as fresh as if it had come flowing down from a thousand springs in the forests and hills into the streets of the town. The beauty of the morning acted on Bertha as a good omen; she wondered at the strange, foolish manner in which she had spent the previous evening–as if she had not quite correctly understood why she had come to Vienna. The certainty that the repose of a whole night no longer separated her from the longed-for hour filled her with a sense of great gladness. All at once, she could no longer understand how it was that she could have come to Vienna, as she had done just recently, without daring to make even an attempt to see Emil. Finally, too, she wondered how it was that she had, for weeks, months, perhaps years, needlessly deferred availing herself of the opportunity of seeing him. The fact that she had scarcely thought of him during the whole time, did not occur to her at first, but, when at length she did realize it, she was amazed at that, most of all.

At last only four more hours were to be endured, and then she would see him. She lay down on the bed again; she reclined, at first, with her eyes wide open, and she whispered to herself, as though she wanted to intoxicate herself with the words: “Come soon!” She heard Emil himself speak the words, no longer far away, no, but as though he were close by her side. His lips breathed them on hers: “Come soon!” he said, but the words meant: “Be mine! be mine!” She opened her arms as though making ready to press her beloved to her heart. “I love you,” she said, and breathed a kiss into the air.

At length she got up and dressed. This time she had brought with her a simple grey costume, cut in the English fashion, which, according to the general opinion of her friends, suited her very well, and she was quite content with herself when she had completed her toilet. She probably did not look like a fashionable lady of Vienna, but, on the other hand, she had not the appearance of a fashionable lady from the country either; it seemed to her that she looked more like a governess in the household of some Count or Prince, than anything else. Indeed, as a matter of fact, there was something of the young, unmarried lady in her aspect; no one would have taken her for a married woman and the mother of a five-year-old boy. She thought, with a slight sigh, that truly she would have done better to have remained unmarried. But, as to that, she was feeling that day very much like a bride.

Nine o’clock! Still two long hours to wait! What could she do in the meantime? She sat down at the table, ordered coffee and sipped it slowly. There was no sense in remaining indoors any longer; it was better to go out into the open air at once.

For a time she walked about the streets of the suburb, and she took a particularly keen pleasure in the wind blowing on her cheeks. She asked herself: What was Fritz doing at that moment? Probably Elly was playing with him. Bertha took the road which led towards the public gardens; she was glad to go for a walk through the avenues, in which, many years ago, she had played as a child. She entered the garden by the gate opposite the Burg-theatre. At that early hour of the day there were but few people in the gardens. Children were playing on the gravel; governesses and nursemaids were sitting on the seats; little girls were running about along the steps of the Temple of Theseus and under its colonnade. Elderly people were walking in the shade of the avenues; young men, who were apparently studying from large writing books, and ladies, who were reading books, had taken their seats in the cool shade of the trees.

Bertha sat on a seat and watched two little girls who were jumping over a piece of string, as she had so often done herself, when a child–it seemed to her, in just the same spot. A gentle breeze blew through the foliage; from afar she heard the calls and laughter of some children playing “catch.” The cries came nearer and nearer; and then the children ran trooping past her. She felt a thrill of pleasure when a young man in a long overcoat walked slowly by and turned round to look at her for a second time, when he reached the end of the avenue. Then there passed by a young couple; the girl, who had a roll of music in her hand, was neatly but somewhat strikingly dressed; the man was clean-shaven and was wearing a light summer suit and a tall hat. Bertha thought herself most experienced when she fancied that she was able with certainty to recognize in the girl a student of music, and in her companion a young man who had just gone on the stage. It was very pleasant to be sitting there, to have nothing to do, to be alone, and to have people walking, running and playing like this before her. Yes, it would be nice to live in Vienna and be able to do just as she liked. Well, who could say how everything would turn out, what the next few hours would bring forth, what prospects for her future life that evening would open out before her? What was it then, that really forced her to live in that dreadful little town? After all, in Vienna she would be able to supplement her income by giving music lessons just as easily as at home. Why not, indeed? Moreover, in Vienna, better terms were to be obtained for music lessons…. Ah, what an idea!… if he came to her aid; if he, the famous musician, recommended her? Why, certainly it would only need one word from him. What if she were to speak to him on the subject? And would it not also be a most advantageous arrangement in view of her child? In a few years’ time he would have to go to school, and then, of course, the schools were so much better in Vienna than at home. No, it was quite impossible for her to pass all her life in the little town–she would have to move to Vienna, and that, too, at no distant date. Moreover, even if she had to economise here, and–and…. In vain she attempted to restrain the bold thoughts which now came rushing along…. If she should take Emil’s fancy, if he should again … if he should still be in love with her … if he should ask her to be his wife? If she could be a bit clever, if she avoided compromising herself in any way, and understood how to fascinate him–she felt rather ashamed of her craftiness. But, after all, was it so bad that she should think of such things, considering that she was really in love with him, and had never loved any other man but him? And did not the whole tone of his letter give her the right to indulge in such thoughts?

And then, when she realised that in a few minutes she was to meet him who was the object of her hopes, everything began to dance before her eyes. She rose to her feet, and nearly reeled. She saw the young couple, who had previously walked past her, leave the gardens by the road leading to the Burgplatz. She went off in the same direction. Yonder, she saw the dome of the Museum, towering and gleaming. She decided to walk slowly, so as not to appear too excited or even breathless when she met him. Once more she was seized with a thrill of fear–suppose he should not come? But whatever happened, she would not leave Vienna this time without seeing him.

Would it not, perhaps, even be better if he did not come, she wondered. She was so bewildered at that moment … and supposing she was to say anything silly or awkward…. So much depended on the next few minutes–perhaps her whole future….

There was the Museum before her. Up the steps, through the entrance, and she was standing in the large, cool vestibule. Before her eyes was the grand staircase and, yonder, where it divided to right and left, was the colossal marble statue of Theseus slaying the Minotaur. Slowly she ascended the stairs and, as she looked round about her, she grew calmer. The magnificence of her surroundings captivated her. She looked up at the galleries which, with their golden railings, ran round the interior of the dome. She came to a stop. Before her was a door, above which appeared in gilt letters: “Dutch School.”

Her heart gave a sudden convulsive throb. Before her eyes lay the row of picture galleries. Here and there she saw people standing before the pictures. She entered the first hall, and gazed attentively at the first picture hanging at the very entrance. She thought of Herr Rupius’ portfolio. And then she heard a voice say:

“Good morning, Bertha.”

VI

It was his voice. She turned round. He was standing before her, young, slim, elegant and rather pale. In his smile there was a suggestion of mockery. He nodded to Bertha, took her hand at the same time, and held it for a while in his own. It was Emil himself, and it was exactly as if the last occasion on which they had spoken to one another had been only the previous day.

“Good morning, Emil,” she said.

They gazed at each other. His glance was expressive of much: pleasure, amiability, and something in the nature of a scrutiny. She realised all this with perfect clearness, whilst she gazed at him with eyes in which nothing but pure happiness was shining.

“Well, then, how are you getting on, Bertha?” he asked.

“Quite well.”

“It is really funny that I should ask you such a question after eight or nine years. Things have probably gone very differently with you.”

“Yes, indeed, that’s true. You know, of course, that my husband died three years ago.”

She felt obliged to assume an expression of sorrow.

“Yes, I know that, and I know, too, that you have a boy. Let me see, who could it have been that told me?”

“I wonder who?”

“Well, it’ll come back to me presently. It is new to me, though, that you are interested in pictures.”

Bertha smiled.

“Well, it wasn’t really on account of the pictures alone. But you mustn’t think that I am quite so silly as all that. I do take an interest in pictures.”

“And so do I. If the truth must be told, I think I would rather be a painter than anything else.”

“Yet you ought to be quite satisfied with what you have attained.”

“Well, that’s a question that can’t be disposed of in one word. Of course, I find it a very pleasant thing to be able to play the violin so well, but what does it all lead to? Only to this, I think: that when I am dead my name will endure for a short time. That–” his eyes indicated the picture before which they were standing–“that, on the other hand, is something different.”

“You are awfully ambitious, Emil!”

He looked at her, but without evincing the slightest interest in her.

“Ambitious? Well, it is not such a simple matter as all that. But let’s talk about something else. What a strange idea to indulge in a theoretical conversation on the subject of art, when we haven’t seen each other for a hundred years! So come, then, Bertha, tell me something about yourself! What do you do with yourself at home? How do you live? And what really put it into your head to congratulate me on getting that silly Order?”

She smiled a second time.

“I wanted to write to you again,” she answered; “and, chiefly, I wanted to hear something of you once more; It was really very good of you to answer my letter at once.”

“Good? Not at all, my child! I was so pleased when, all of a sudden, your letter came–I recognised your writing at once. You know, you still have the same schoolgirl writing as…. Well, let us say, as in the old days, although I can’t bear such expressions.”

“But why?” she asked, somewhat astonished.

He looked at her, and then said in a rapid voice:

“Well, tell me, how do you live? You must generally get very bored, I’m sure.”

“I haven’t much time for that,” she replied gravely. “I give lessons, you must know.”

“Oh!”

His tone was one of such disproportionate pity that she felt constrained to add quickly:

“Oh, not because there is really any pressing need for me to do so–although, of course, I find it very useful, because …” she felt that it would be best to be quite frank with him … “I could scarcely live on the slender means that I possess.”

“What is it, then, that you are actually a teacher of?”

“What! Didn’t I tell you that I give piano lessons?”

“Piano lessons? Really? Yes, of course … you used to be very talented. If you hadn’t left the Conservatoire when you did … well, of course, you would not have become one of the great pianistes, you know, but for certain things you had quite a pronounced aptitude. For instance, you used to play Chopin and the little things of Schumann very prettily.”

“You still remember that?”

“After all, I dare say that you have chosen the better course.”

“In what way?”

“Well, if it is impossible to master everything, it is better, no doubt, to get married and have children.”

“I have only one child.”

He laughed.

“Tell me something about him, and all about your own life in general.”

They sat down on the divan in the little saloon on front of the Rembrandts.

“What have I to tell you about myself? There is nothing in it of the slightest interest. Rather, you tell me about yourself”–she looked at him with admiration–“things have gone so splendidly with you, you are such a celebrated man, you see!”

Emil twitched his underlip very slightly, as if discontented.

“Why, yes,” she continued, undaunted; “quite recently I saw your portrait in an illustrated paper.”

“Yes, yes,” he said impatiently.

“But I always knew that you would make a name for yourself,” she added. “Do you still remember how you played the Mendelssohn Concerto at that final examination at the Conservatoire? Everybody said the same thing then.”

“I beg you, my dear girl, don’t, please, let us have any more of these mutual compliments! Tell me, what sort of a man was your late husband?”

“He was a good; indeed, I might say noble, man.”

“Do you know, though, that I met your father about eight days before he died?”

“Did you really?”

“Didn’t you know?”

“I am certain he didn’t tell me anything about it.”

“We stood chatting with one another in the street for a quarter of an hour, perhaps. I had just returned then from my first concert tour.”

“Not a word did he tell me–not a single word!”

She spoke almost angrily, as though her father had, at that time, neglected something that might have shaped her future life differently.

“But why didn’t you come to see us in those days?” she continued. “How did it happen at all that you had already suddenly ceased to visit us some considerable time before my father’s death?”

“Suddenly?–Gradually!”

He looked at her a long time; and now his eyes glided down over her whole body, so that she mechanically drew in her feet under her dress, and pressed her arms against her body, as though to defend herself.

“Well, how did it happen that you came to get married?”

She related the whole story. Emil listened to her, apparently with attention, but as she spoke on and remained seated, he rose to his feet and gazed out through the window…. When she had finished with a remark about the good-nature of her relations, he said:

“Don’t you think that we ought to look at a few pictures now that we are here in the Museum?”

They walked slowly through the galleries, stopping here and there before a picture.

“Lovely! Exquisite!” commented Bertha many a time, but Emil only nodded.

It seemed to Bertha that he had quite forgotten that he was with her. She felt slightly jealous at the interest which the paintings roused in him. Suddenly they found themselves before one of the pictures which she knew from Herr Rupius’ portfolio. Emil wanted to pass on, but she stopped and greeted it, as she might an old acquaintance.

“Exquisite!” she exclaimed. “Emil, isn’t it beautiful? On the whole, I greatly admire Falckenborg’s pictures.”

He looked at her, somewhat surprised.

She became embarrassed, and tried to go on talking.

“Because such an immense quantity–because the whole world–“

She felt that this was dishonest, even that she was robbing some one who could not defend himself; and accordingly she added, repentantly, as it were:

“You must know, there’s a man living in our little town who has an album, or rather a portfolio, of engravings, and that’s how I know the picture. His name is Rupius, he is very infirm; just fancy, he is quite paralysed.”

She felt obliged to tell Emil all this, for it seemed to her as though his eyes were unceasingly questioning her.

“That might be a chapter, too,” he said, with a smile, when she had come to an end; then he added more softly, as though ashamed of his indelicate joke: “There must certainly also be gentlemen in that little town who are not paralysed.”

She felt that she had to take poor Herr Rupius under her protection.

“He is a very unhappy man,” she said, and, remembering how she had sat with him on the balcony the previous day, a feeling of great compassion seized her.

But Emil was following his own train of thought.

“Yes,” he said; “that is what I should really like to know–what experiences you have had.”

“You know them, already.”

“I mean, since the death of your husband.”

She understood now what he meant, and was a little offended.

“I live only for my boy,” she said, with decision. “I do not allow men to make love to me. I am quite respectable.”

He had to laugh it the comically serious way in which she made this confession of virtue. For her part, she felt at once that she ought to have expressed herself differently, and so she laughed, too.

“How long are you going to stay, then, in Vienna?” asked Emil.

“Till to-morrow, or the day after to-morrow.”

“So short a time as that? And where are you staying? I should like to know.”

“With my cousin,” she replied.

Something restrained her from mentioning that she had put up at an hotel. But immediately she was angry with herself for having told such a stupid lie, and she was about to correct herself. Emil, however, broke in quickly:

“Perhaps you will have a little time to spare for me, too? I hope so, at least.”

“Oh, yes!”

“So, then, we can arrange something now if you like”–he glanced at the clock–“Ah!”

“Must you go?” she asked.

“Yes, by twelve o’clock I ought really to….”

She was seized with an intense uneasiness at the prospect of having to be alone again so soon, and she said:

“I have plenty of time–as much as you like. But, of course, it must not be too late.”

“Is your cousin so strict then?”

“But–” she said, “this time, as a matter of fact, I’m not staying with her, you see.”

He looked at her in astonishment.

She grew red.

“Usually I do stay with her…. I mean, sometimes…. She has such a large family, you know.”

“So you are staying at an hotel,” he said, rather impatiently. “Well, there, of course, you are accountable to no one, and we can spend the evening together quite comfortably.”

“I shall be delighted. But I should like not to be too late … even in an hotel I should like not to be too late….”

“Of course not. We will just have supper, and you can be in bed long before ten o’clock.”

They paced slowly down the grand staircase.

“So, if you are agreeable,” said Emil, “we will meet at seven o’clock.”

She was on the point of replying: “So late as that?”–but, remembering her resolution not to compromise herself, she refrained and answered instead:

“Very well, at seven.”

“Seven o’clock at … where?… Out of doors, shall we say? In that case we could go wherever we fancied, life would lie before us, so to speak … yes.”

He seemed to her just then remarkably absent-minded. They went through the entrance hall, and at the exit they stopped for a moment.

“At seven o’clock, then–by the Elizabeth Bridge.”

“Very well; seven o’clock at the Elizabeth Bridge.”

Before them lay the square, with the Maria Théresa memorial, in the brilliant glare of the noonday sun. It was a warm day, but a very high wind had arisen. It seemed to Bertha that Emil was looking at her with a scrutinising glance. At the same time, he appeared to her cold and strange, a very different man from what he had been when standing before the pictures in the Museum.

“Now we will say good-bye for the present,” he said, after a time.

It made her feel somewhat unhappy to think that he was going to leave her.

“Won’t you … or can’t I come with you a little way?” she said.

“Well, no,” he answered. “Besides, it is blowing such a gale. There’s not much enjoyment to be had in walking side by side and having to hold your hat all the time, for fear it should blow away. Generally, it is difficult to converse if you are walking with a person in the street, and then, too, I have to be in such a hurry…. But perhaps I can see you to a carriage?”

“No, no, I shall walk.”

“Yes, you can do that. Well, good-bye till we meet again this evening.”

He stretched out his hand to her, and walked quickly away across the square. She gazed after him for a long time. He had taken off his hat and held it in his hand, and the wind was ruffling his hair. He went across the Ring, then through the Town Gate, and disappeared from Bertha’s view.

Mechanically, and very slowly, she had followed him. Why had he suddenly grown so cold? Why had he taken his departure so quickly? Why didn’t he want her to accompany him? Was he ashamed of her? She looked down at herself, wondering whether she was not dressed, after all, in a countrified and ridiculous manner. Oh, no, it could not be that! Moreover, she had been able to remark from the way in which people gazed at her that she was not looking ludicrous, but, on the contrary, decidedly pretty. Why, then, this sudden departure? She called to mind the period of their previous acquaintance, and it seemed to her that she could remember his having this strange manner even then. He would break off a conversation quite unexpectedly, whilst he suddenly became as though his thoughts had been carried away, and his whole being expressed an impatience which he could not master.

Yes, she was certain that he had been like that in those days also, though, perhaps, less strikingly so than now. She remembered, as well, that she had sometimes make jokes on the subject of his capriciousness, and had laid the responsibility at the door of his artistic temperament. Since then he had become a greater artist, and certainly more absent and irresponsible than ever.

The chimes of noon rang out from many a spire, the wind grew higher and higher, dust flew into her eyes. She had a whole eternity before her, with which she did not know what to do. Why wouldn’t he see her, then, until seven o’clock? Unconsciously, she had reckoned on his spending the whole day with her. What was it that he had to do? Had he, perhaps, to make his preparations for the concert? And she pictured him to herself, violin in hand, by a cabinet, or leaning on a piano, just as, many years ago, he had played before the company at her home. Yes, that would be nice if she could only be with him now, sitting in his room, on a sofa, while he played, or even accompanying him on the piano. Would she, then, have gone with him if he had asked her? Why hadn’t he asked her? No, of course, he could not have done so within an hour of seeing her again…. But in the evening–wouldn’t he ask her that evening? And would she go with him? And, if she went, would she be able to deny him anything else that he might ask her? Indeed, he had a way of expressing everything so innocently. How easily he had managed to make those ten years seem as nothing! Had he not spoken to her as if they had seen each other daily all that time? “Good morning, Bertha. How are you, then?”–just as he might have asked if, on the previous evening, he had wished her “Good night!” and said “Good-bye till we meet again!” What a number of experiences he must have had since then! And who could tell who might be sitting on the sofa in his room that afternoon, while he leaned against the piano and played the violin? Ah, no, she would not think of it. If she followed up such thoughts to the end, would she not simply have to go home again?

She walked past the railings of the public gardens, and could see the avenue where, an hour ago, she had sat, and through which clouds of dust were now sweeping. So, then, that for which she had so deeply yearned was over–she had seen Emil again. Had it been so lovely as she expected? Had she felt any particular emotion when walking by his side, his arm touching hers? No! Had his departure put her out of humour? Perhaps. Would she be able to go home again without seeing him once more? Good heavens, no! And a sensation almost of terror thrilled through her at the thought. Had not, then, her life during the past few days been, as it were, obsessed by him? And all the years that lay behind her, had they been meant for anything else, at all, than to lead her back to him at the right moment? Ah, if she only had a little more experience, if she were a little more worldly-wise! She would have liked to possess the capability of marking out for herself a definite course.

She asked herself which would be the wiser–to be reserved or yielding? She would gladly have known what she was to do that evening, what she ought to do in order to win his heart with greater certainty. She felt that any move on her part, one way or the other, might have the effect of gaining him, or, just as well, of losing him. But she also realised that all her meditation was of no avail, and that she would do just as he wished.

She was in front of the Votive Church, a spot where many streets intersected. The wind there was so violent as to be altogether intolerable. It was time to dine. But she decided that she would not go back to the little hotel that day. She turned towards the inner town. It suddenly occurred to her that she might meet her cousin, but that was a matter of supreme indifference to her. Or, supposing that her brother-in-law had followed her to Vienna? But that thought did not worry her either in the least. She had a feeling, such as she had never experienced before, that she had the right to dispose of her person and her time just as she pleased. She strolled leisurely along the streets, and amused herself by looking at the shop windows. On the Stephansplatz the idea came to her to go into the church for a while. In the dim, cool, and immense building a profound sensation of comfort came over her. She had never been of a religious disposition, but she could never enter a place of worship without experiencing a devotional feeling and, without clothing her prayers in definite form, she had yet always thought to find a way to send up her wishes to Heaven. At first she wandered round the church in the manner of a stranger visiting a beautiful edifice, then she sat down in a pew before a small altar in a side chapel.

She called to mind the day on which she had been married, and she had a vision of her late husband and herself standing side by side before the priest–but the event seemed to be so infinitely far away in the past, and it affected her spirit as little as if her thoughts were occupied by strangers. But suddenly, as a picture changed in a magic lantern, she seemed to see Emil, instead of her husband, standing by her side, and the picture appeared to stand out so completely, without any co-operation on the part of her will, that she almost had to regard as a premonition, even as a prediction from Heaven itself. Mechanically, she folded her hands and said softly: “So be it.” And, as though her will acquired thereby a further access of strength, she remained sitting in a pew a while longer and sought to hold the picture fast.

After a few minutes she went out again into the street, where the broad daylight and the din of the traffic affected her as something new, something which she had not experienced for a long time, as though she had spent whole hours in the church. She felt tranquil, and hopes seemed to hover about her.

She dined in the restaurant of a fashionable hotel in the Kärnthernstrasse…. She was not in the least embarrassed, and thought it very childish that she had not preferred to put up at a first-class hotel. On reaching her room again, she undressed and, such was the state of languor into which she had fallen as the result of the unusually rich meal and the wine she had taken, that she had to stretch herself out on the sofa and fall asleep. It was five o’clock before she awoke. She had no great desire to get up. Usually at that time … what would she probably have been doing at that moment if she had not come to Vienna? If he had not answered her letter–if she had not written to him? If he had not received that Order? If she had never seen his portrait in the illustrated paper? If nothing had called his existence back into her memory? If he had become an insignificant, unknown fiddler in some suburban orchestra? What strange thoughts were these! Did she, then, love him merely because he was celebrated? What did it all mean? Did she, indeed, take any interest in his violin playing? … Wouldn’t he be dearer to her if he was not famous and admired? Certainly in that case she would have felt herself much nearer to him, much more allied to him; in that case, she would not have had this feeling of uncertainty about him, and also he would have been different in his manner towards her. As it was, of course, he was, indeed, very charming, and yet … she realized it now … something had come between them that day and had sundered them. Yes, and that was nothing else than the fact that he was a man whom the whole world knew, and she was nothing but a stupid little woman from the country. Suddenly she pictured him to herself as he had stood in the Rembrandt gallery at the Museum, and had looked out of the window while she had been telling him the story of her life in the little town; she remembered how he had scarcely bidden her good-bye, and how he had gone away from her, indeed, absolutely fled away from her. But, then, had she herself felt any emotion such as a woman would feel in the presence of the man she loved? Had she been happy when he had been speaking to her? Had she longed to kiss him when he was standing beside her?… Not at all. And now–was she pleased at the prospect of the evening she was going to spend with him? Was she pleased at the idea of seeing him again in a couple of hours? If she had the power, simply by expressing the wish, to transport herself just where she pleased, would she not, perhaps, at that, moment, rather be at home, with her boy, walking between the vine-trellises, without fear, without agitation, and with a clear conscience; as a good mother and a respectable woman, instead of lying in that uncomfortable room in the hotel, on a miserable sofa, restlessly, yet without longing, awaiting the next hours? She thought of the time, still so near, when all her concern was for nothing save her boy, the household, and her lessons–had she not been contented, almost happy?…

She looked round her. The bare room with the ugly blue and white painted walls, the specks of dust and dirt on the ceiling, the cabinet with its half-open door, all seemed most repulsive to her. No, that was no place for her. Then she thought with displeasure, too, of the dinner in the fashionable hotel, and also of her strolling about in the town, her weariness, the wind and the dust. It seemed to her that she had been wandering about like a tramp. Then another thought came to her: what if something had happened at home!–Fritz might have caught the fever; they would telegraph to her cousin at Vienna, or they might even come to look for her, and they would not be able to find her, and all would know that she had lied like any disreputable person whose purpose it suits to do so…. It was terrible! How could she face them at home, her sister-in-law, her brother-in-law, Elly, her grown-up nephew Richard … the whole town, which, of course, would hear the news at once…. Herr Rupius! No, in good truth, she was not intended for such things! How childishly and clumsily, after all, she had set about it, so that only the slightest accident was needed to betray her. Had she, then, failed to give the least thought to all these things? Had she only been obsessed with the idea of seeing Emil once more, and for that had hazarded everything … her good name, even her whole future! For who could say whether the family would not renounce her, and she would lose her music lessons, if the truth came out?… The truth…. But what could come out? What had happened, then? What had she to reproach herself with? And with the comforting feeling of a clear conscience she was able boldly to answer: “Nothing.” And, of course, there was still time…. She could leave Vienna directly by the seven o’clock train, be back by ten in her own home, in her own cosy room, with her beloved boy…. Yes, she could; to be sure, Fritz was not at home … but she could have him brought back…. No, she would not do it, she would not return at once … there was no occasion to do so–to-morrow morning would be quite time enough. She would say good-bye to Emil that very evening…. Yes, she would inform him at once that she was returning home early next morning, and that her only reason in coming had been to press his hand once more. Yes, that would be best.

Oh, he could, of course, accompany her to the hotel; and, goodness knows, he could even have supper with her in the garden restaurant … and she would go away as she had come…. Besides, she would see from his behaviour what he really felt towards her; she would be very reserved, even cold; it would be quite easy for her to act in that way, because she felt completely at her ease. It seemed to her as if all her desires had fallen into slumber again, and she had a feeling akin to a determination to remain respectable. As a young girl she had withstood temptation, she had been faithful to her husband; her whole widowhood had hitherto passed without attack…. Well, the long and the short of it was: if he wished to make her his wife she would be very glad, but she would reject any bolder proposal with the same austerity as … as … twelve years before, when he had showed her his window behind St. Paul’s Church.

She stood up, stretched herself, held up her hands, and went to the window. The sky had become overcast, clouds were moving down from the mountains, but the storm had subsided.

She got ready to go out.

VII

Bertha had hardly proceeded a few steps from the hotel when it began to rain. Under her open umbrella she seemed to herself to be protected against unwelcome attentions from people she might meet. A pleasant fragrance was diffused throughout the air, as if the rain brought with it the aroma of the neighbouring woods, shedding it over the town. Bertha gave herself up wholly to the pleasure of the walk; even the object of her outing appeared before her mind’s eye only vaguely, as if seen through a mist. She had at last grown so weary as the result of the profusion of her changing feelings that she no longer felt anything at all. She was without fear, without hope, without purpose. She walked on past the gardens, across the Ring, and rejoiced in the humid fragrance of the elder-trees. In the forenoon it had completely escaped her notice that everything was beautiful in an array of violet blossoms. An idea brought a smile to her lips: she went into a flower shop and bought a little bunch of violets. As she raised the flowers to her lips, a great tenderness came over her; she thought of the train going homewards at seven o’clock, and she rejoiced, as if she had outwitted some one.

She walked slowly across the bridge, diagonally, and remembered how she had crossed it a few days ago in order to reach the neighbourhood of her former home, and to see Emil’s window again. The throng of traffic at the bridge was immense; two streams, one coming from the suburb into the town, the other going in the opposite direction, poured by in confusion; carriages of all kinds rolled past; the air resounded with the jingling of bells, with whistling and with the shouts of drivers. Bertha tried to stand still, but was pushed forward.

Suddenly she heard a whistle quite close by. A carriage pulled up, a head leaned out of the window … it was Emil. He made a sign to her to come over to him. A few people immediately became attentive, and seemed very anxious to hear what the young man had to say to the lady who had gone up to his carriage.

“Will you get in?” Emil asked in a low voice.

“Get in…?”

“Why, yes, it is raining, you see!”

“Really, I would rather walk, if you don’t mind.”

“Just as you like,” said Emil.

He got out quickly and paid the driver. Bertha observed, with some alarm, that about half a dozen people, who were crowding round her, were very anxious to see how this remarkable affair would turn out.

“Come,” said Emil.

They quickly crossed the road, and thereby got away from the whole throng. They then walked slowly along a less frequented street by the bank of the Wien.

“Why, Emil, you haven’t brought your umbrella with you!”

“Won’t you take me under yours? Wait a moment, it won’t do like this.”

He took the umbrella out of her hand, held it over both of them, and thrust his arm under hers. Now she felt that it was _his_ arm, and rejoiced greatly.

“The country, unfortunately, is out of the question,” he said.

“What a pity.”

“Well, what have you been doing with yourself all day long?”

She told him about the fashionable restaurant, in which she had had her dinner.

“Now, why on earth didn’t I know about that? I thought you were dining with your cousin. We might, of course, have had such a pleasant lunch together!”

“You have had so much to do, I dare say,” she said, a little proud at being able to infuse a slight tone of sarcasm into her voice.

“Yes, that’s true, in the afternoon, of course. I had to listen to half an opera.”

“Oh? How was that, then?”

“There was a young composer with me–a very talented fellow, in his own way.”

She was very glad to hear that. So that, then, was the way in which he spent his afternoons.

He stood still and, without letting go her arm, looked into her face.

“Do you know that you have really grown much prettier? Yes, I am quite serious about it! But, tell me, first of all, tell me candidly, how the idea came to you to write to me.”

“Why, I have already told you.”

“Have you thought of me, then, all this time?”

“A great deal.”

“When you were married, too?”