(United States, 1869)
This fine portrayal of modern life in the middle West is considered as the author’s masterpiece. It was dramatized a few years after its appearance as a novel.
IN college John Harkless had been called “the Great Harkless.” He never had understood his immense popularity; he had been chief editor of the university daily and he had done a little in athletics; the rest of his distinction lay in college offices his mates had heaped upon him without his being able to comprehend the reason why they did it. Yet, in spite of himself, they had convinced him that the world was his oyster; that it would open for him at a touch. But seven years after his graduation he was in a little town in Indiana; and for five years his introspections had monotonously hurled one word at him: “Failure!” Two years after graduation he had bought with all his capital, from an agent in the East, the Carlow County Herald, and its building in the county-seat, Plattville. In spite of the bitter depression that settled upon him when he found how vastly he had overpaid, he went to work with energy upon the paper, which was nearly extinct. In the first month of his proprietorship he attacked the local political dictator, Rodney McClune, whose name was to come before the convention for nomination for Congress. To everyone’s astonishment the politician withdrew his name, after he had issued from the Herald office in a state of palsy. In reality Harkless had received proofs of McClune’s crooked dealings; and to avoid exposure he had agreed to retire permanently from politics.
The years drifted slowly by. He did not consider the life he led an exciting one; but the other citizens of Carlow did when he undertook a war against the Six-Cross-Roaders who called themselves “whitecaps” and were wont to perpetrate outrages of all sorts upon the farmers. Six-Cross-Roads was a squalid settlement seven miles away, made up of the descendants of families who had, in pioneer days, been driven out of Plattville. Against a peculiarly dastardly crime Harkless had succeeded in stirring the whole state against the Cross-Roaders, and had had eight of them sent to the penitentiary, some for twenty years. For this the Cross-Roaders had sworn vengeance. Harkless laughed at their threats, refused to arm himself, and continued to take long solitary walks into the country. So the young men of Plattville arranged that each day one should be on guard and follow him at a distance, a plan known to every-one in Plattville save Harkless himself.
Soon after his arrival in Plattville Harkless had engaged as a reporter a patriarchal old scholar named Fisbee, who had some years before drifted there to teach in the High School, having previously been connected with some university. He was a dreamer and had been discharged for incompetency, then had drifted into companionship with Wilkerson, the town drunkard, from which Harkless had rescued him. He had been a rich man, had married an ambitious woman who died after he had given away his fortune in most eccentric fashion, leaving an only child, a daughter, who was adopted by her sister, Mrs. Sherwood, and called by her name. Mr. Fisbee was allowed to visit his daughter only once a year; but finally Helen, deter-mined to see more of him, came to Plattville as the guest of a school-friend, Minnie Briscoe, her relationship to Fisbee being known only to the Briscoes.
One evening, a few days after Miss Sherwood’s arrival, Hark-less found himself, after a long walk, in front of Judge Briscoe’s house. As he leaned on the pasture-bars opposite, a woman’s voice singing Schubert’s “Serenade ” brought an ache of delight and the twinge of reminiscences of the old, gay days of careless youth. The voice touched him with the urgent personal appeal that a present beauty always had for him. He had long known himself for a sentimentalist, a born lover; he had always been in love with someone, Somewhere, he dreamed, a girl was waiting for him who was everything he longed to possess: Until he should find her he could not help adoring others who possessed little fragments and suggestions of the ideal woman. For five years in Plattville the lover in him had been starved of all but dreams. nut to-night he heard a voice for which he had long waited. The song ceased, but still he lingered; and fifty yards away the barrel of a, rifle was lifted out of the white elder-blossoms and then was laid along the fence. He saw two white dresses come but to the veranda of the house opposite. He started across; a streak of fire leaped from the elder-blossoms and the sharp report of a rifle rang out. William Todd, Harkless’s guardian for the evening, answered the shot and Harkless himself turned toward the bushes; but a girl’s voice quavered close behind him:
“Don’t run like that) Mr, Harkless ! I can’t keep up!” He confronted a vision, a dainty little figure about five feet high. ” Go back!” he shouted.
“‘Volt Mustn’t go,” she panted.
John caught her up in his arms and rah toward the house as the rifle tang out again and a ball whistled overhead.
“But you came with me,” gasped the girl triumphantly.
“I always thought you were tall,” he answered, thinking of the ideal she.
The Six-Cross-Roader escaped and Harkless went into the garden with Helen Sherwood. He seta Watch on his lips, for he felt it a question of minutes when he Might present himself to her eyes as a sentimental and susceptible imbecile.
The net day was circus-day, and Harkless and Lige Wllletts, a devotee of Minnie Briscoe, walked into town with the two girls to see the parade. In the court-house yard two swarthy, shifty-looking gentlemen were operating what the fanciful or unsophisticated Might have called a game of chance, After many young fellows had lost their money Harkless was sent for. He made the gamblers give up their spoil, and when the men were arrested one threatened that they Were not through with him.
After the circus was over, seeing Helen grow pale in the pushing and shoving Crowd, John placed her With her back against a tent-pole and, bracing himself, kept a little space about her. There was something in the moment that suddenly touched him with a saddening sweetness too keen to be borne. He knew that he should always remember that moment. She knew it, too.
That evening, walking in the Judge’s garden, Harkless talked to Helen of his work, in which she expressed great interest, saying that she herself had a desire to do newspaper work; and finally, with tears just below her voice, she told him that, though it was her desire to stay in Plattville, though her conscience told her she ought, she was to leave the next morning to accompany her family to Dresden.
Harkless felt something strike at his heart, He wakened suddenly : the thought of how surroundings that had to-day been touched to beauty would appear to-morrow gave him a faint physical sickness. There was a long silence while the thunder rolled ominously nearer and darkness fell, He was so full of the prophetic sense of loss of her that, finding too much to say, he could not say anything.
“Come,” he said gently, “I am going now.”
She moved with him toward the house, but just behind it she stopped short.
“Will you tell me why you go so early, when I shall not see you again? It is not late.”
“Don’t you see,” he broke out, all his long-pent passion of dreams rushing to his lips, “it is because I can’t bear to let you go? I hoped to get away without saying it. It is because I don’t want another second of your sweetness to leave an added pain when you’ve gone. It is because I don’t want to hear your voice again, to have it haunt me in the loneliness you will leavebut it’s useless! T shall hear it always, just as I shall always see your face, I understand what you think of me for speaking to you like this.”
In a second of lightning he saw that she had taken a few startled steps away from him,
“You are glad enough now to see me go,” he said. “You will not think a question implied in this,” he added, more composedly, “I believe you will not think me capable of asking if you care”
“No,” she answered, “I do not love you.”
“Ah! Was it a question, after all? But if I asked, I knew the answer. Good-by.”
She went toward him and stopped, without his seeing her. “Won’t you say good-by and tell me you can forget my” She did not speak.
“No!” he cried wildly. “Since you don’t forget it. I have spoiled what might have been a pleasant memory. You were already troubled, and I have addedand you won’t forget, nor shall I. God bless youand good-by!”
He ran out of the orchard gate, setting his face to the storm, dimly glad of its rage, until he found himself nearly two miles from town, and took refuge under a tree from the coming rain.
Helen called to him as he left her, but the wind took the words from her mouth. When she reached the house and told her three companions that Harkless had gone away alone, she looked at them slowly and with growing terror.
“Ah!” she cried sharply, “I had forgotten that! Do you think”
The Judge tried to reassure her, talking while the slow hours dragged by, until at last there was a lull and Lige, who in his anxiety would have rushed after Harkless at the first moment if the Judge had allowed, set out for town.
Helen stood at her window. She had forgotten the danger that always beset Harkless and had let him go alone. She had run to him the night beforewhy had she let him go into the unknown and the storm to-night? But how could she have kept him after what he had said? She peered into the night through her tears.
Suddenly Minnie was startled by her friend’s loud scream as a staggering flame clove earth and sky. Helen had seen in that flash a long line of white forms, as if clad in gowns and cowls, in the field opposite and crossing the fence. Minnie declared that it was only Mr. Jones’s scarecrow, that Helen had imagined the rest. At length the hush was broken by the far clamor of the court-house bell, and then the sound of a horse galloping like mad over the wet road; and someone came to ask the judge what time Harkless had left there.
“Wiley,” said the Judge, “they haven’t You don’t think they’ve got him?”
“By God, Judge!” said the man on horseback, “I’m afraid they have.”
The loud alarm of the court-house bell roused the country-side. The news went over the town, it was cried from yard to yard, and reached the farthermost confines. The “whitecaps” had got Mr. Harkless!
In the foreglow of dawn a great crowd of men gathered in the square and as Warren Smith, the prosecutor and the editor’s most intimate friend in Carlow, was bidding them do nothing rash, news came that the two gamblers had broken jail and escaped. This complication, in consideration of the gamblers’ threats against Harkless, diverted attention from the Cross-Roads and parties were made up to search. Every grove and clump of underbrush was ransacked; the waters of the creek were dragged at every pool. Toward noon a telegram from the chief of police of Rouen gave notice that the gamblers had probably reached that city by the one-o’clock freight, which had stopped across the field from the Briscoe house. Judge Briscoe’s account of what Helen had seen, and the discovery of deep boot-prints in the sand and broad brown stains leading up the embankment, seemed to indicate that Harkless had been wounded and then dragged to the track. Answering the summons of the bell, a mob gathered and marched to the terror-stricken Cross-Roads, aware of what was coming. The Cross-Roads was to be wiped out! The assault was sharp; the wretched hovels of the settlement were in flames and the Cross-Roaders were trying to escape when Smith rode up waving a slip of yellow paper and ordered them to stop. Horner, the sheriff, had arrested one of the gamblers who was disposing of some of Harkless’s clothing, and he had found the other in an empty freight-car from Plattville, badly hurt, shot, and dying. The Cross-Roaders, conscious of guilt, were dumfounded by the miracle that had saved them.
That night Helen, having decided to remain with her father in Plattville, let her cousin, Tom Meredith, in Rouen, know that the man for whom the great search was being carried on was his old college friend, John Harkless. Meredith went to the hospital Where the injured man lay and was allowed to set him with the men who went to try to take a statement from him. The man’s head Was n shapeless bundle swathed in bandages; but when in his delirium he spoke, Meredith, with a loud exclamation of grief, threw himself on his knees beside the cot.
“John!!” he cried. ” John! Is it you?”
From Harkiess’s ante-mortem statement it was learned that the Cross-Roaders had attacked him when he took shelter under a tree. He had torn off the disguises of some of them and recognized many of his assailants. He was shot and then hammered over the head. After a long time, while the “Whitecaps” were under shelter, during which he was at times conscious, they dragged him to the embankment and placed him in an empty freight-car in which were already the two gamblers, who stole his clothes but did not harm him.
The next day Helen came to Rotten and with her a large number of the people of Carlow County. The truth was kept from them until every member of the Cross-Roads whitecaps was lodged in the Rouen jail. After an. encouraging bulletin of two or three days later, most of the Carlow people returned home, having decided that their idol might safely be left to the care of the two eminent surgeons: At the same time McClune was informed that Harkless was dying; his paper was dead; and his name would go before the convention in September.
Meanwhile the staff of the Herald struggled to bring out the customary three issues weekly: After’ two weeks they, Mr. Fisbee, Parker the foreman, Schofield the typesetter, and Bud Tipworthy the “devil,” were at the end of their resources and in despair at the limitless plains of white paper that stretched be-fore them. Helen had seen: copies of the Herald and realized their difficulties; so, as Harkless was progressing toward recovery, she returned to Plattville and assured the place of editor-in-chief. The little editor worked hard; she made some mis-takes at first, but soon developed experience. She believed that Harkness had prepared the way for a wide expansion of the pa-per’s interests, and she brought a fresh point of view to the situation. After a time she began to realize that, as his representative, she had become a factor in district politics.
After weeks of alternate improvement and relapse, Harkless passed the crucial point and was convalescent. Fisbee wrote to him that the crippled force of the Herald had been almost distraught in the effort to carry on the paper, and had made bold to accept the services of a young relative of his (Fisbee’s) from a distant city. Harkless sent a hearty and grateful approval of their action, and received a typewritten rejoinder full of errors, signed “H. Fisbee,” in a strapping masculine hand that suggested six feet of enterprise and muscle. He groaned and fretted over the writhings of the Herald’s headless fortnight, but with the issues produced under the domination of “H. Fisbee” came a feeling of vast relief; and when the question of “H. Fisbee’s” salary was settled and the tenancy assured, he sank into a repose of mind that grew into apathy pierced at times by a bodily horror of the scene of his struggle.
He rejoiced less and less in his recovery. One thought alone thrilled him: his impression that Helen Sherwood had come to the hospital to see him was not a delusion, as he learned from Meredith.
At last Meredith took Harkless from the hospital to his home; he grew daily stronger, but his apathy and listlessness only deepened. Thinking he needed rousing, his host invited some young people for an evening; but he felt it a failure, for the conversation hung persistently about Helen Sherwood and Brainerd Macauley, a journalist to whom gossip said she was engaged; and Meredith had guessed a good deal from Harkless’s delirium and Helen’s manner. The next evening they went to the country-club dance. A sudden thrill of exhilaration rioted in Harkless’s pulses when he found that Helen was there; but when she saw him coming toward her and nodded to him pleasantly, in just the fashion in which she was bowing to others, a pang of hot pain went through him like an arrow, and he cried out upon himself for a fool. But after a dance with Meredith she took him out on the terrace, where they talked about the Herald and he joked about Mr. Fisbee’s relative, to whom he acknowledged his debt. He was happy to sit beside her and talk on any subjectnonsense and idle exaggeration about Fisbee’s raw young man answered as well as anything. To his surprise, she appeared to take his laughing criticism seriously; but when he confessed that he did not wish to return to Carlow she declared mysteriously that he should not.
“I care for only one thing in this world,” he said. “Have I no chance?”
“There is one thing,” she said gently, “you must always understandthat a woman can be grateful. Will you always remember that I give you all the gratitude there is in me, that my every act and thought that has borne reference to youand these have been manycame from purest gratitude?”
“Yes,” he said simply.
“For the restI do not love you.”
The next day Harkless could not leave his bed; his wounds were feverish and his weakness had returned. Helen returned to Plattville and called together some of the leading men in politics in Carlow, Amo, and Gaines counties. McClune had risen, and the old ring that the Herald had crushed had quietly reorganized. McClune’s successor, Halloway, was already badly defeated. But the Harkless forces woke to find that they had a leader. Helen managed the political conference so diplomatically that the suggestion to nominate Harkless came from the Amo and Gaines county people; and when it came it was greeted with intense enthusiasm. Harkless had entrusted to H. Fisbee the entire policy of the paper, and the plan was to induce Halloway to retire gracefully. The important thing was to keep the matter absolutely quiet, and particularly to let Harkless himself know nothing of it, and Halloway as well, until the convention was held. Helen determined that the Herald should advocate no one very energetically, though printing as much of the truth about McClune as would be consistent with delicacy and honor.
When Harkless saw that the Herald editorials for Halloway were lukewarm, and that the McClune papers, which had been turned over to his representative, were not being used, he woke to some interest and wrote to H. Fisbee a request that the paper advocate Halloway enthusiastically. When a telegram asking for help came from Halloway, Harkless wrote a sharp command that McClune be exposed at once. The answer to this was an editorial addressed to the delegates of the convention, in which no name was mentioned. It referred of course to John Harkless, but he took it for praise of McClune and telegraphed to Plattville the order that Warren Smith relieve young Fisbee immediately.
The date of the convention had been changed, and the fact was kept from Harkless; so the next day, that of the convention, when he had tossed and fretted himself into what the doctor pronounced a decidedly improved state, Meredith was astonished to find Harkless dressing and packing, about to set out for Plattville. Meredith saw that his cheeks were reddened with an angry, healthy glow; his shoulders were squared, and in spite of his thinness they looked massy. Whatever his ailments they were gone. He was six feet of hot wrath and resolution. H. Fisbee had refused by telegram to be relieved of duties on the paper, and Halloway had implored him to come to the convention.
They missed the express train and had to take the accommodation, which wandered languidly through the early after-noon sunshine. As they came into Carlow County all at once the anger ran out of John Harkless, and in place of it a strong sense of home-coming began to take possession of him.
As they drew near the town they heard the detonating boom of a cannon, then the clash of a band, the cannon again, and a cheer from three thousand throats as the train pulled in. The people rushed into the car and Harkless rose to meet them.
“What does it mean?” he said. “Is Hallowaydid McClune”
Warren Smith seized one of his hands and Briscoe the other.
“What does it mean?” said Warren; “it means that you were nominated for Congress this afternoon.”
It was one of the great crowds of Carlow’s history; and when Harkless stepped out of the car the cheering echoed and re-echoed, horns blared deafeningly, whistles added to the din, the court-house and church bells pealed out welcomes, the cannon thundered, and cheer on cheer shook the air.
And when Harkless was taken up to the court-house steps after the parade, and stood speaking to the attentive, earnest throng, the thought kept recurring to him that this was the place to which he had dreaded to return; that these were the people he had wished to leave; and this made it difficult to keep his tones steady.
About five o’clock he went out to Briscoe’s, where he was told he could find young Fisbee, for whom he had been eagerly asking. It had been a strange and beautiful day to him. Smith’s first words had lifted the veil of young Fisbee’s duplicity, had shown him with what fine intelligence and supreme delicacy and sympathy young Fisbee had worked for him, had under-stood him, and had made him. And he longed to see him as he longed to see only one other person in the world. He had felt Helen near him that afternoon, and he yearned for a sight of her.
When he came to the Judge’s he was sent to the garden, where he found Helen. She asked him to forgive her telegram of the morning, which had been signed “H. Fisbee,” and then slowly came to him a realization of what she had done, and she told him it was all done in gratitude for his care of her father; that he must see that had she loved him, she could not have done it; that, even if she had wished to, she could not have said yes to him that time in Rouen.
“You promised to remember it was all from purest gratitude.”
“And there is nothing else?”
“If there were,” she said, her voice growing unsteady, “can’t you see that what I have doneah, it would have been brazen.”
He made a singular gesture of abnegation and dropped on the bench.
“You mustn’t worry. I know you’re sorry. I’ll be all right in a minute.”
Suddenly she ran to him swiftly, with her great love shining from her eyes. She sank upon her knees beside him, threw her arms about his neck and kissed him on the forehead.
“Oh, my dear, don’t you see?” she whispered.
JEMIMA MONTGOMERY, BARONESS TAUTPHOEUS – THE INITIALS (1850)
This love-story has passed through many editions, and after six decades of existence its potent but simple merit has lost none of its appeal. It is a vivid portraiture of German life and manners in Munich half a century ago. The author was the wife of the Chamberlain to the King of Bavaria, and was as familiar with the Bavarian peasantry and middle class as she was at home in the Court circle. The Initials was published ten years after her marriage.
R. ALFRED HAMILTON found on his table at Havard’s hotel, “The Golden Stag,” in Munich, after a week’s stay there, the following letter addressed to “A. Hamilton, Esq.”:
“DEAR MR. HAMILTON: I have this moment read your name among the arrivals in Munich, and write to tell you that we are at Leon for the present, as our house is not habitable. I can easily secure an apartment for you in this hotel, which was once an old monastery. Perhaps we can arrange a tour in the Tyrol together. John, I know, has joined his regiment, but probably Mrs. Hamilton is with you, in which case I am sure you will not leave Germany without visiting your sincere friend, “A. Z.”
Hamilton was the second son of a distinguished English family, spoke French fluently, and after six years’ study of German had come to the Bavarian capital with the idea of writing a book. It was August, and people were out of town, so that he had surfeited himself with paintings and statues, but he was un-acquainted with German manners and habits.
The letter puzzled him. The initials “A. Z.” were not those of any of his acquaintances. A small coronet surmounted them on the seal, but even that did not help him. At all events he went to Leon, a day’s journey by carriage, and stopped at an inn midway for dinner. At one of the tables sat a gaunt woman, three young boys, and two young girls, about sixteen and seven-teen, who were personifications of German beauty, though the elder was much the handsomer. Having discovered that they were going to Leon and that their carriage was uncomfortably packed with seven, he placed the empty seats in his own at their service. As a result, the maid, the youngest boy, Peppy, and the younger sister accompanied him.
Crescenz, for that was her name, thawed out after a while and prattled quite volubly. Her father had married a second time, and she and her sister had been at a boarding-school ever since, six or seven years. Their mother had been of noble birth, though their father was not. Their name was Rosenberg.
At Leon Hamilton found a Count Zedwitz and family, but investigation proved that his letter was not from them. His next venture was with a Baron Z– and his wife, and here he found the writer of the note, the Baron’s wife. He was most pleasantly received by them, invited by the Baron to a chamois hunt at Berchtesgaden, and enjoyed his wife’s pleasant interest (she was an Englishwoman). But her calling him ” John” led to his correcting her and to the ultimate statement from her that ” A. Hamilton, Esq.,” had stood for Archibald Hamilton, the son of an old friend of the Z family. How-ever, this misunderstanding led to a pleasant friendship between them; the Baron Z – declared that one Mr. A. Hamilton was as good as another, and Alfred Hamilton went on the hunt.
When he returned to Leon he found that Count Zedwitz’s son, Max, had arrived, a tall, well-built young fellow, prepossessing, but almost ugly, with his prominent forehead and bushy red moustache. Hamilton felt that the handsome Hildegarde was more friendly to this young fellow than toward himself, doubtless on account of a little flirtation he had had with Crescenz. The two sisters interested both the young men greatly, for they seemed to be troubled. Hamilton finally secured a chance to talk with Crescenz, and learned that Major Stultz, an elderly, stout, retired army officer, forty-six years old, had asked her hand in marriage, and that she was engaged to him. He also learned that the gallant Major had first made love to Hildegarde, who had boxed his ears for kissing her hand.
Hamilton, in an excursion to Chiem Lake, which he induced the Rosenbergs to take, endeared himself to Madame Rosenberg by saving Fritz’s life when he had fallen overboard in a scuffle with Gustle, his brother. Mr. Rosenberg arrived soon after-ward, a youthful-looking man who had been eminently hand-some. Hamilton soon saw that Hildegarde, who snubbed him so severely, adored her father. The Zedwitzes, having discovered Max’s penchant for Hildegarde, had left Leon. They were too proud to dream of associating with the Rosenbergs. Max remained, but in a few days departed, after mournfully confiding to Hamilton that Hildegarde had refused him, coolly and with decision. There was an excursion after this, to which Hamilton was invited; but Hildegarde treated him constantly with the utmost coldness, and expressed herself to him with a frankness that was almost rude. The reason for this, in part, may have been her sister’s willingness to accept the English-man’s attention despite her engagement and Major Stultz’s evident disapproval.
When they returned to Munich Hamilton, at his request, was accepted by Madame Rosenberg as a lodger in the family. There he learned and good-naturedly fell in with certain German habits to which he had been a stranger. For instance, he was expected to use the same napkin for a week.
Crescenz’s betrothal was an interesting ceremony. A very flirtatious young widow, Madame Lina Berger, who had been a school-friend of the Rosenberg sisters, appeared on this occasion. She had been in love with a young man, Theodore Biederman, and took slight pains to conceal the fact that she still considered him her slave.
“Hildegarde, you must introduce me to your Englishman. But you must maneuver a little, and not let him know that I re-quested it,” she said.
“I never maneuver,” replied Hildegarde bluntly.
“Mein Gott/ What a fuss you all make about him. Crescenz is afraid of him too!”
“I dislike him, but am not afraid of him, as you shall see.”
“Mr. Hamilton,” she called out distinctly, and when Hamilton approached, somewhat surprised, she remarked coolly:
“Madame Berger wishes to make your acquaintance because you are a foreigner and are supposed to be clever.”
Hamilton seated himself, and he and the widow were soon amusing themselves highly. Madame Berger certainly under-stood flirting.
Hildegarde called Crescenz’s attention to the pair quietly.
“If you are not blind, can you not see the expression of his face I have so often described to you? He is making a fool of her.”
But Crescenz could not see it at all.
Zedwitz had called on Hamilton, and they resumed their intimacy. One day as they came out they found two young officers looking at the house, though they pretended to be interested in a brazier’s shop. Zedwitz joked with one of them, a young and good-looking fellow.
“Are you an admirer of kitchen utensils, Raimund?” he asked.
“I ought to be, as my father says I am to be married. My fiancée, whom I have never spoken to as yet, lives in that house, on the first floor.”
This young Raimund, Hamilton learned later, was cousin to Hildegarde on his mother’s side.
One day Hamilton discovered by chance that Hildegarde could read English fairly well, though she could not speak one word of it. She had picked it up herself.
“Mamma says you read too late nights, and that if you were her son, she would come to your room every night and put out your candles,” she remarked.
“I do not want her as a mother to have my candles extinguished,” laughed Hamilton, “but I should have no objection to your being my sister. My sister and I studied together. Why should not you and I learn English together? I should like to help you.”
“Oh, that would be delightful,” said Hildegarde. “It is what I have long wished. But thenperhapsyou will expect menot to saywhat I think, not to quarrel.”
“Oh, there is no condition. We can fight our battles just the same,” he said smilingly.
Hamilton’s sitting-room was converted into a study. He engaged a young man to teach them German also, in which, singularly enough, Hildegarde had not received much instruction, strictly speaking. So a truce was effected.
One evening Hildegarde spent the evening with the Hoff-mans, the wealthy mother and, daughter on the first floor. She returned delighted and mentioned having met her cousin Raimund, who meant to call on Madame Rosenberg the next day, she said.
“I have heard that he is a very wild and profligate young man,” said Major Stultz stiffly.
Hamilton recalled what Count Max Zedwitz had told him of this young gallant’s deliberate and systematic rôle of seducer. He listened impatiently as Hildegarde animatedly described the feeling and facility with which her cousin improvised at the piano. He read beautifully, too. He had lent Hildegarde Heine’s poems.
Madame Rosenberg, to whom Stultz had been talking, re-marked severely: “I forbid him our home! He has brought dishonor into two respectable families, and his last exploit was running away with the wife of one of his friends!”
“It is true; but he is thoroughly repentant. He confessed these things to Marie de Hoffman and to me tonight. He is too much encouraged by women. Why, Madame de Sallenstein actually herself proposed going off with him,” said Hildegarde.
“I should hardly have imagined that, even if you can over-look conduct like Count Raimund’s, through some false generosity, you could help being shocked at his boasting of his villainy and throwing the blame on his victims,” said Hamilton vehemently.
Hildegarde blushed furiously and silently turned away.
Not long after this Hamilton took occasion, when she was present, to set forth clearly the miseries of a younger son in England, and the handicapping it was to such an one regarding marriage.
Shortly after this Hamilton found Hildegarde reading a French novel Raimund had lent her, and his intense protest made her promise to discontinue it. One day, however, left alone in the house, with nothing else to read, and curious to learn the dénouement, she was turning its pages when he chanced to enter. She tried to conceal it. Thoroughly roused, he forcibly held her hand till he read the title, when she dealt him a resounding box upon the ear. He grasped her in his arms and kissed her repeatedly with a violence that terrified her, and she burst into tears. He apologized so deeply that she forgave him. Then, carried away, he poured forth his best excuse.
“It is because I love you passionately, devotedly, as you must have known this long time. Tell me that our perpetual quarrels have not made you absolutely hate me, Hildegarde.”
She darted away to her room, without a word. Soon a furious ring, then talking in the hall, which after a while was followed by a scream. He went to his door. Hildegarde was holding her cousin Raimund’s hand and cried out: “For Heaven’s sake, Oscar, do not frighten me so horribly!”
“One word!” he replied furiously, as he saw Hamilton. “Is it Zedwitz? or” He paused, with his fierce gaze on the Englishman.
A ring at the door interrupted the scene, and Raimund ran down the stairs and out, giving the impression that he had been calling on Hamilton.
“Did you seethe dagger?” Hildegarde asked. “He threatened to kill himself!”
“What contemptible acting!” Hamilton returned, with a sneer.
He left for a visit of a fortnight to the Zedwitzes, as Count Max’s sister was to be married. When he returned Raimund was established on terms of friendly intimacy in the Rosenberg family. Hamilton also learned that Hildegarde had refused the devoted Zedwitz’s formal offer of marriage, and discovered that her feeling toward her persistent and passionate cousin was one of absolute fear.
At a ball at the Museum Count Raimund, whose passion for Hildegarde had reached such a point that prudence played little part in his conduct, sought to precipitate a quarrel with Hamilton by claiming, as promised him, a galop which she had really given to the Englishman. Hildegarde protested against his conduct. Suddenly his face cleared, when the contention seemed destined to end in a serious quarrel, and bending, he whispered in her ear. She blushed, looked at the two, and then said to Raimund, with some embarrassment:
“I accept the conditionperform your promise.”
“Time and place to be chosen by me?” asked Raimund. Hamilton, disgusted, was about to leave them, when Raimund called him back.
“Hildegarde has convinced me that I have been altogether in the wrong. If I have offended you I am sorry for it. I hope you do not expect me to say more!”
“I did not expect you to say so much,” replied Hamilton coldly.
Some tranquil days followed. Crescenz was to be married in a fortnight, and she and Hildegarde were to be bridesmaids to Marie Hoffman the beginning of the following week. Arangements had also been made for the masquerade ball on Monday, at the Opera. Little Lina Berger had put Dr. Berger’s carriage and horses at Madame Rosenberg’s disposal for a visit to that lady’s father, the ironsmith, and her husband and Major Schultz were to accompany her. None of them knew of the plot for the ball. Madame Lustig was to look after the two girls.
“I expect you to do whatever she desires, and consider her as in my place,” Madame Rosenberg remarked.
Hildegarde had not been let into the plan as yet. When she did hear of it she objected a little, though confessedly eager to go. Hamilton would do no more to decide her than to say laughingly:
“I give no advice. I only wish you to go.”
“Then I will go,” replied Hildegarde thoughtfully, “though I have a kind of misgiving which I cannot overcome. But, thank goodness, Oscar must spend the evening with Marie, since they are to be married to-morrow.”
Just then Raimund’s voice was heard, and Hamilton strode away.
“Oh, stay!” she cried anxiously. “But, no! no! It is better. After he has been here a minute, however, please ask Madame Lustig and Crescenz to come, and to remain!”
Hamilton went, but both the ladies were too busy making a cake to comply with Hildegarde’s request, so he returned by him-to his inability to marry beneath him. Hildegarde’s name was never mentioned in connection with it. Some weeks afterward Crescenz was married to Major Stultz, quite to her content. At three the next morning Mr. Rosenberg was stricken with cholera, and in three days was dead. Madame Rosenberg re-treated with Hildegarde to her father’s, the ironsmith’s, and Hamilton induced her to take him into this rather uncongenial milieu. Hildegarde sought a place as governess. A few months there convinced Hamilton that Hildegarde did not love him, and a few days later he received letters recalling him to England. Hildegarde calmly advised him not to defer his departure if he felt that it was disagreeable. Everybody seemed to regret his going more than she did. He looked back. She stood like a statue on the spot where they had said “good-by.”
He paid a visit to the Zedwitzes and learned how economically a tranquil happy home could be maintained. He had five thousand pounds of his own, from a legacy, which would be available in two years, and there was a charming cottage near the Zedwitzes’ home! He called on Crescenz after leaving them, and learned that Hildegarde had left to take a place as governess and that Count Zedwitz’s father was at the point of death.
He left the next day for Frankfort. At Aschaffenburg, that night, he encountered a veiled woman who also had just arrived. This was Hildegarde. She was on her way to the Baroness Waldorf, at Frankfort. Hamilton knew that Zedwitz was guardian to this lady’s little girl. When they reached her home she had gone away. When they reached Mayeuse the Baroness had left. Hamilton knew that the lady was in love with Zedwitz, and he felt sure that her discovery of his attachment to Hildegarde was the reason for this absurd and discourteous flight from the girl without a word of explanation.
At his advice Hildegarde wrote to the Baroness requesting an explanation, and as it would be three days before an answer could be looked for he prevailed on her to take a trip down the Rhine, to beguile the period of waiting. As Hildegarde had a passion for traveling and never had seen that romantic stream, she willingly assented. Hamilton had deceived her inexperience so thoroughly as to traveling expenses that she made no remonstrance on the head of pecuniary obligations.
It remained for a waiter to arouse the girl’s happy thoughtlessness to a sense of irregularity in this fascinating trip. The man inevitably assumed their relations to be those of husband and wife; and she promptly declared, with burning confusion, that she would at once return home. The intoxicating delight of their companionship had made Hamilton’s mind perfectly clear as to the possibility of their happiness on his legacy, and in a long, earnest talk he implored her to become his wife. It was inevitable that she should perceive that the sacrifice he pro-posed making, for her sake, of his family and worldly prospects was great.
“Otherwise,” she said, “you would not have hesitated so long, for I think yes I am sure you love me. Believe me, I would rather torture myself than hurt you, but I cannot. I will not accept this sacrifice.”
“Then, Hildegarde, you do not love me,” he said impetuously.
“I am giving you the greatest proof of it of which I am capable. Do you not believe it is a sacrifice for me?” “Well, what do you ask?” he returned.
” Go home, and wait two years. I promise you I will await your decision. But you are free.”
“How cold your love must be!” he exclaimed, walking hastily to the window and leaning out.
Perplexed, worried, and wearied, she covered her face with her hands and burst into tears. He turned, and rushed toward her. In a few moments she was smiling, and they were discussing plans for their house at Hohenfels, two years hence.
The two days that Hamilton and Hildegarde passed on the Rhine steamboat in the return to Mayence were the happiest of their still so youthful lives. A letter awaited them there from the Baroness Waldorf, which made it easier for Hildegarde to explain her absence and return. The last day’s journey Hildegarde preferred to make alone, so at Ingoldstadt they parted.
In two years neither Hamilton nor his family had changed their views. He returned to Munich and claimed the willing and faithful Hildegarde, each of them more in love than ever. Hamilton bought the place at Hohenfels, and they and the Zedwitzes almost lived together, a life so calm and serene that Hildegarde grew handsomer every year, her husband declared.
At the end of eight years Uncle Jack, whose heir Hamilton was to be, relented, and, to the Zedwitzes’ keen regret, they went to England, declaring that they would return every summer. They have not come back once, All they lacked, as Hamilton observed one morning, looking from their breakfast-room out on his uncle’s handsome domain, were mountains and a few chamois to make England better than Germany. Though he contends that Germany is the place for a poor man, he admits that England is more agreeable for a rich one.