Pilar, who fancied him reconciled to the situation, grew easier in her mind, and by degrees lost much of her distrust. About a month later, toward the middle of March, she had so far regained her equanimity as to allow herself, after a steady resistance, to be persuaded by a friend to attend her house-warming ball—"pendre la cremaillere," as they call it in Paris. The friend was quite as superstitious as Pilar herself, and had vowed a hundred times over that she would have no luck in her new house if Pilar were absent from the opening ball.
It was not till ten o'clock in the evening that she finally made up her mind. She waited till Wilhelm had gone to bed, and then sent for Isabel, and shut herself up with her in the boudoir. After Isabel had turned up the knave of hearts eight times running, and she had seen that Wilhelm was in bed, reading the newspaper, she gave Anne and Don Pablo a few orders, dressed hurriedly, and went off, after many kisses and embraces, and with the promise of not staying long.
Wilhelm read his paper to the end, blew out the light, and turned himself to the wall. But sleep forsook him, and he stared with wide-open eyes into the darkness. Suddenly an odd suggestion flashed across his mind—was rejected—returned again obstinately, grew stronger, and finally was so imperative that Wilhelm sat up in bed excitedly and relit the candles. Don Pablo had gone home, Anne had accompanied Pilar, Isabel was in the back premises, engaged upon the Val de Penas, two fresh casks of which had lately arrived, and Auguste was probably in his bedroom asleep. He was as good as alone in the house. Now or never!
He sprang out of bed, and began to dress with a beating heart. Had it come to this with him? He was on the point of committing an act of cowardice—yes, but no greater, perhaps even less so, than smouldering away in slavery and degradation. It was an ugly breach of trust. Not really so, for he had expressed, himself plainly to Pilar, and she must know how matters stood between them. Moreover, if you fall into the mire, you cannot expect to get out of it again without besmirching yourself. But—what will poor Pilar's feelings be when she comes home and finds him gone? At the picture he faltered, and very near returned to bed. But no—he put it forcibly from him.
He rapidly finished dressing, and went into his room to collect such things as were absolutely necessary. The two large trunks had been removed, and would in any case have been out of the question at this juncture. The portmanteau lay behind a wardrobe. Into it he stuffed some linen and clothes, a few books and his manuscript, cast one look round the rooms in which he had encountered such heavy storms of the heart, extinguished the lights, and walked resolutely downstairs.
The gas was burning in the hall, the front door stood half open, and on the doorstep was Auguste, talking to a maid-servant from the next house. She flitted away as the man turned round, and, to his astonishment, perceived Wilhelm with a portmanteau in his hand. He stepped quickly indoors.
"Ah," he said in a muffled tones, "Monsieur le Docteur! I understand—I understand. I would have done it long ago. It really couldn't go on like that any longer. But monsieur might have said a word to me; for as to me—I am dumb!"
Wilhelm was crushed to the earth. So he was not to be spared one humiliation, not even the patronizing familiarity of this lackey! But it could not be helped now. Regardless of his opposition, Auguste took the portmanteau out of his hand, and asked with eager civility where he should carry it.
"Only to a fiacre," Wilhelm answered.
They went out together into the Boulevard Pereire, and as they walked along beside the deep cutting of the circle railway, Auguste inquired:
"Monsieur is leaving Paris, no doubt?"
Wilhelm made no reply.
"Has Monsieur le Docteur left any address?" he continued urgently.
"No," answered Wilhelm.
"But it would be better if he did so, in case any letters might come. And it will surely interest monsieur to know how things go on in the house. Monsieur need only confide it to me. I would not tell it to a single soul, not even if le bon Dieu himself came down with all his saints."
Wilhelm was weak enough to form a fresh link between himself and Pilar, when he had just severed the old one. He wrote Schrotter's address on a leaf of his pocketbook and gave it to Auguste, saying:
"Anything will reach me safely under that address."
They reached the cab stand in the Avenue de Villiers; Wilhelm got into one, took the portmanteau inside, and pressed a sovereign into Auguste's hand, who thanked him and asked where the cabman was to drive to.
"First of all, just along the avenue," answered Wilhelm.
Auguste grinned as he repeated this order to the driver, and was just closing the door, when there was a yelp of pain.
"Infamous beast!" cried Auguste, and gave Fido, who had followed them unperceived, a kick. The poor animal had always been accustomed to going with them when Wilhelm and Pilar drove out, and now was preparing to jump into the vehicle, when he just escaped being crushed in the door. Wilhelm stooped to give the puffing, affectionate creature a farewell pat.
"Monsieur should take him as a souvenir," said Auguste, with thinly-veiled sarcasm. "Nobody will take any notice of him now, in any case."
"You are quite right," said Wilhelm, and let the dog come in. The fiacre moved off, and Auguste looked after it for a long time, as he whistled the latest popular air.
It wanted but little to midday when Wilhelm came out of a hotel on the Neuer Jungfernstieg in Hamburg, and made his way toward the Alster, Fido trotting behind him, whose coat, for want of its accustomed daily washing and brushing, looked sadly neglected.
The sky was thickly overcast, the air unusually mild, on account of the prevailing west wind, and the pavement of the Jungfernstieg damp and muddy. A thin veil of yellow fog lay over the Binnen Alster, giving the objects far and near the indefinite, wavering appearance of a mirage. Above the dark masses of houses to the right rose four sharp spires, from the points of which, smoke-wreaths seemed to rise and trail away. Far away in front the Lombardsbrucke was just distinguishable, its three arches apparently hung with gray draperies. Swans glided lazily in groups or singly over the muddy-looking surface of the water, or came under the open windows of the Alster Pavilion, through which late breakfasting guests threw them crumbs.
The small, green-painted Uhlenhorst steamer lay alongside of the second landing-place. Wilhelm stepped on board, and remained on deck, staring absently into the fog or at the dim outlines of the houses on the shore. On the night of his escape from the Boulevard Pereire he had driven to the Gare du Nord, and taken a midnight train, which brought him at about six the next evening to Cologne. He was dead with fatigue when he got there, stayed the night, and went on the following afternoon to Hamburg. He had been there two days now, but had not been able till to-day to gather sufficient courage to go and see Paul. Solitude had been an absolute necessity to him; he fancied that he who ran might read upon his brow the story of how he had lived and of what he had been guilty. His thoughts were incessantly in Paris. During the journey, in Cologne, since his arrival in Hamburg, he saw nothing but Pilar's room, her return from the ball, and her passionate exhibition of grief during the hours and days that followed. He only lived in these imaginings. There seemed as yet no immediate connection between his natural surroundings and his mental life. He felt as if a few steps would bring him again to Pilar's side, and more than once the desire came over him to return to her, and lay himself at her feet, there to vegetate luxuriously henceforth, without a will or thought, to the end. He resisted this impulse, but he was powerless against the tyranny of his imagination, which ceased not to call up before him the scenes that were being enacted in the house in Paris.
After a minute or two the boat started. The shores receded and spread apart, and the lines of houses came and went like dissolving views upon a white wall. The boat shot under the dark and clammy arch of the bridge, where the echo increased the splashing of the steamer waves and the thump of the machinery to a roar. The noise subsided suddenly, as when a damper is laid over a resounding instrument; the steamer had passed the bridge, and floated out on to the broad waters of the Aussen Alster, which widened apparently into a great bay, the mist having wiped out the boundary lines between its oily surface and the flat shores which barely rose above it. The boat described bold curves from side to side, touching at the different landing-places, and presently—dimly at first and then more distinctly—the square tower and ponderous, castle-like structure of the Fahrhaus Hotel came in sight. The steamer had reached the furthest point of its journey.
Wilhelm found himself once more at the familiar spot which had so often been the goal of his short walks with Willy. Scarcely ten months had elapsed since he had looked at it for the last time, but his morbid mental vision prolonged that time to an eternity. He felt like the sultan of the Eastern legend, who fancied he had lived an entire lifetime, while, in reality, he sank for one moment into his bath in sight of his whole court. He overcame a strange attack of shyness, and rang at the door in the Carlstrasse. The liveried servant opened it, gave an exclamation of surprise, and hurried before him to the smoking room. Wilhelm followed closely on his heels, and only left him time to open the door and call loudly into the room:
"Herr Dr. Eyuhardt!"
"What! Is it you or your ghost? Well, I must say—" cried Paul, overjoyed, receiving him with open arms.
The first tempestuous greetings over, he pressed him, down upon the sofa, seated himself beside him, and rained down a torrent of questions upon him—Where had he come from? How had he fared all this time? What were his plans? And, above all things, where was his luggage?
"At the hotel," Wilhelm answered, a little nervously.
"At the hotel? Are you in your right senses? There is only one hotel for you in Hamburg, and that is the hotel Haber. Were you so uncomfortable there before that you have withdrawn your custom from it?"
"Don't try to persuade me, my good Paul. Believe me, it is best so. Your hospitality oppresses me."
"Is that the remark of a friend?" grumbled Paul.
"It is a fault in me, I know, but I do beg of you to let me have my own way."
"Just wait till I send Malvine to you—you will have to lay down your arms before her."
"No, Paul, I really cannot live in your house again. I will come and see you—so often that you will get tired of me—"
"But let me live here as I am accustomed to in Berlin, especially as it will probably be for a long time."
"Then you are going to stay in Hamburg? That is splendid!"
"For the present at least. I see nothing else to be done."
"But in the summer you will surely come and spend some weeks at Friesenmoor?"
"That is more likely."
The door opened and Malvine hurried in, and ran up to Wilhelm as he rose to meet her.
"To think of you falling from the clouds like this!" she cried, and shook both his hands warmly. "Not a letter, not a telegram, nothing! Well, you knew, at any rate, that you would always be welcome."
Again he had to make a determined stand against having their hospitality forced upon him, and kind, persistent Malvine would not give up the struggle as easily as Paul. As Wilhelm, however, was equally persistent in his refusal, and would not even divulge the name of his hotel till they had sworn to leave him his independence, they finally gave up the fight.
"And now tell us all that has happened to you," said Paul, patting him on the shoulder. "You must have had a very good time, for you either did not write at all or only in a flash—like this: 'Dear friend, am quite well—how are you all? Best love—always yours.' Well, I don't think any the worse of you. In gay Paris one has something better to do than to think of dull old fogies on the Uhlenhorst."
"You don't think that seriously," answered Wilhelm, pressing his hand.
"I should rather be inclined to think that the doctor had been ill," said Malvine, whose woman's eye had instantly remarked the pallor and weariness of Wilhelm's thin face.
"Really—have you been ill?" cried Paul, concerned.
"No, no, there is nothing the matter with me," Wilhelm hastened to answer, with a forced smile.
The awakened anxiety of his friends would not be dispelled, however, till he had repeated his assurance many times, and reinforced it by additions and enlargements.
Paul then returned to his question as to Wilhelm's adventures, the latter doing his best to get out of it by a few vague remarks on the uneventful character of his life during the last few months, and then hurried to descant on Paris, describing the town to them with the volubility of a guide-book. On his inquiring in return about their affairs, Paul and Malvine vied with one another in the redundancy of their account. All was well, so far. At the last distribution of Orders Paul had received the Order of the Red Eagle, and beside that, during the course of the winter, two new foreign decorations. There were all sorts of innovations on the estate, which he described in detail. At present he was hard at work on an entirely new scheme: the founding of a colony on the moor, composed of discharged prisoners, tramps, and such like ne'er-do-wells; where, by supplying them with agricultural labor, they might be brought back to a decent and remunerative way of life.
Malvine had much to tell of the autumn and winter festivities, both at her own and other houses, and also, that of the three heiresses whom she had picked out for Wilhelm, one was married, another engaged, and there remained only the third, the one with the curly hair, who still asked after him from time to time.
Meanwhile the news of Wilhelm's arrival had penetrated as far as Willy, who now came rushing in.
"Onkelchen, Onkelchen! have you come back?" he shouted, long before he reached Wilhelm, and stretched out his little arms to him. He had not grown much, but was plump and rosy as a ripe apple. Wilhelm kissed him, and stroked the soft, fair curls that felt so much like Pilar's silky hair.
"Have you been a good boy all this time?" he asked.
"Oh, yes, very good—haven't I, father?" the boy cried eagerly. "And I can read now—everything—the newspaper too. I got a beautiful big box of bricks for it at Christmas."
Wilhelm had taken him on his knee, but the lively child would not keep quiet for long. He jumped down and hopped about in front of his godfather and chattered away.
"I say, Onkelchen, you have just come in time for my birthday, haven't you?"
Wilhelm had not thought of it.
"When is your birthday, my boy?" he asked, rather crestfallen.
"Why, don't you know? It is the day after to-morrow. And what have you brought me?"
He did not wait for an answer, having caught sight, at that moment, of Fido, who, shy as all dogs are in a strange place and among strange people, had crept away under a table, and sat there very still with his eyes firmly fixed on Wilhelm.
"A dog! A spitz!" Willy shrieked with joy. "Is he for me, Onkelchen?"
He rushed at Fido, took hold of him by the paw, and dragged him out.
Malvine cried anxiously:
"Let him go, Willy!"
But Wilhelm reassured her.
"He won't hurt him, he is quite gentle."
Fido allowed himself to be dragged without much resistance into the middle of the room, only turning his head away nervously and eying the child askance, as if doubtful as to his intentions. But when Willy began to pat and stroke him kindly, and set him on his hind legs in the first position for begging, Fido realized that no harm was going to befall him, and attached himself instantly to the new friend with that easy confidence which was this sociable creature's great fault of character. He fell to wagging his bushy tail in a highly expressive manner, tried to lick Willy's rosy face, and was altogether so overcome by pleasing emotions that he got a severe attack of coughing, sneezing, and snorting, and Willy exclaimed:
"My Spitz has caught a cold on the journey. We must give him some black-currant tea, mother!"
The boy took a great delight in the dog, playing with him the whole time of Wilhelm's visit, feeding him at dinner, and even wanted to make him drink beer, which Fido steadfastly refused to do, and was much disappointed when, at leaving, Wilhelm prepared to take the dog with him.
"Didn't you bring him for me?" he asked with a pout.
Wilhelm consoled him by promising that he should see Fido every day, and solemnly transferred to him all legal rights to the animal. On these conditions Willy was content that Fido should go on living with Wilhelm, and that he should come frequently on a starring tour, as it were, to the Carlstrasse.
Wilhelm's first visit to his friends on the Uhlenhorst did not tend to lighten his spirit. In their home he breathed a pure and wholesome atmosphere, which, it seemed to him, he must contaminate by the heavy, noxious perfume which still clung to him, and which he could not get rid of. Their life was as transparent as crystal, every moment would bear the scrutiny of the severest eye. He, on the other hand, had much to conceal. His memory recalled many a scene; he saw himself again in various situations, and thought—what would they say if they knew? Paul and Malvine told him cheerfully of all that had occurred to them during the last eight months; he was condemned to lock away his experiences in the depths of his heart. His open and confiding nature was little used to keeping a secret. It rose to his lips as often as he found himself alone with his friend, and his longing to unburden himself was all the more intense that he had himself formed no certain judgment on his course of action, and yearned to hear from the mouth of an unprejudiced person of sound moral tone and worldly experience, that he had done no great harm. He carried in his own breast an accusing voice which called him faithless and mean-spirited, and showed him Pilar as the victim of his treachery; and he had need of an advocate, seeing that he was himself unable to refute these accusations with any sort of confidence.
He was to receive the support he longed for. Soon after his arrival in Hamburg he had written to Schrotter, telling him of his change of residence, and expressing, at the same time, his intense desire to see him again after their long separation, also, if it would not be asking too much, to propose that he, Schrotter, should make a short journey, say to Wittenberg, where they might meet and spend a few days together, if it were possible for Schrotter to get away from Berlin for a short time.
Schrotter answered by return of post. He was delighted to find that Wilhelm was so near, and promised to take advantage of the first fine days of April to make his little excursion to Hamburg. He would arrange it so that he could at least spend a week with Wilhelm. It was not impossible that he might bring Bhani with him.
Only a fortnight had passed since Wilhelm received this letter, when, on his return one afternoon from the Uhlenhorst, the hotel porter informed him that a gentleman had arrived from Berlin, and had asked for him; that he was expecting him in his room, the number of which he mentioned. With joyful foreboding Wilhelm hurried upstairs so fast that Fido could not follow, and knocked at the door. A familiar voice answered. "Come in!" and the next moment he was in Schrotter's arms.
The first greetings over, Schrotter gave his young friend a long and penetrating look from under the half-closed lids, and remarked
"I suppose you are surprised that I did not wait till April, but dropped down upon you unawares like this?"
"I am too delighted to be surprised," answered Wilhelm, and pressed Schrotter's large, strong hand.
He had scarcely altered at all in the year and a quarter, and with his herculean shoulders and powerful head, his fair hair, blushed into a great tuft above his forehead, only just beginning to turn gray, he was still the very type and picture of ripe manhood and strength.
"But I had a reason for changing my original plan," Schrotter went on. "Unwittingly I have committed a breach of good manners against you, for which I must personally ask you to forgive me." He drew a letter out of his breast-pocket and handed it to Wilhelm. "This letter came yesterday. Seeing the address, I took it for granted that it was for me, and so I read it, and discovered then that it was for you."
Wilhelm turned pale as Schrotter handed him the letter. It bore the Paris postmark, and Schrotter's name and address in a large, clumsy hand. Nothing on the outside to betray that it was for Wilhelm. Auguste—Wilhelm divined at once that he was the writer of the letter—had not thought of putting it in a second envelope directed to Wilhelm, or of adding his name to the original address.
Wilhelm's hand shook as he unfolded the letter, and a veil fell before his eyes. For one moment he had the idea to put the letter in his pocket, and say he would read it later on, for it was torture to him that Schrotter should be a witness of the emotion he knew he must feel on reading it. But of what use was it to dissemble? Schrotter would have to know. He glanced over Auguste's stiff characters.
The man wrote in his ill-bred tone, with spelling to match:
"PARIS, March 26, 1880.
"MONSIEUR LE DOCTEUR: It is a week now since you left, and time that you should know what has been going on during that time. It was as good as a play! But you shall hear.
"When Madame la Comtesse came home, and I opened the door to her, I said nothing, but I thought to myself—what a row there will be presently. And sure enough, she had hardly set foot in her rooms when we heard an awful scream. It didn't scare me, because I knew all about it; but Isabel came tumbling out, and howled in French and Spanish mixed: 'Is it a fire? Are there thieves in the house?' It was enough to make you die of laughing.
"I was called upstairs and questioned by Anne—the countess had not the strength. She was kneeling in her ball-dress beside the bed, her face buried in the pillows that still showed the pressure of your head, and crying as if her heart would break. I know that madame cries very easily—she has always been that way as long as I have known her—but I really should not have thought, to look at her, that she could hold such a quantity of tears. Anne cross-examined me like a magistrate, but of course I made an innocent face, and knew nothing at all. I saw plainly that she did not really care a bit, the viper, for while she was cross-questioning me she gave me a look once or twice that told me quite enough. But Madame la Comtesse is very sharp. She saw at once that I knew more than I had a mind to tell. She turned a face to me, as white as a cheese, and looked at me with such eyes, that I might well have been frightened if I had not—I may say it without boasting—been born in Carpentras. At first she tried it with kindness, and then she threatened to turn me out of the house that minute, and then she wanted to bribe me by all sorts of promises—ma foi! it was not a very easy moment, but I stood firm, and madame threw herself back on the bed, and the tap was turned on full again. Would you believe it, that that Anne had the face to say to madame she had better look in the bureau to see if her money and jewels were safe. 'Silence, wretch!' cried Madame la Comtesse, so that the windows rattled, and gave the person a look that made her double up like a penknife. She does not come from Carpentras. To make a long story short, none of us went to bed that night. Madame took it into her head you might have gone for a little walk in the middle of the night, and would come back. Good idea, wasn't it? But when the morning came, she saw that the bird had really flown, and that changed the whole affair. She took to her bed, and stayed there for five days with the room all darkened, ate nothing, drank nothing, was delirious, had four doctors called in each at fifty francs the visit, beside priests and nuns, and Madame la Marquise, her mamma, got three telegrams, one longer than the other, and arrived here the day before yesterday, and now they are trying which can cry the most. But the daughter has the best of it. Since she had her mamma with her, madame seems calmer. She got up yesterday for the first time, and—not to keep back anything from you—I have great hopes that in a fortnight or three weeks' time we shall see her going to balls again. That will do her a world of good.
"She had your things taken up to the box-room, so that she might not see them any more, and Madame la Marquise has your room, but Madame la Comtesse never sets foot in it. The artist in hair says that there is talk of renting a new house, or even of going to Spain. I should be very sorry to leave Madame la Comtesse, but to Spain I would not go.
"I should be glad to know from Monsieur le Docteur whether, after madame has consoled herself a little, I may give her monsieur's address, that his things may be forwarded. I hope you are well, and that you will write me a line. You need not be anxious about madame, she will soon be all right again. You were not the first, and, let us hope, you will not have been the last.
"I salute Monsieur le Docteur, "Your very obedient servant,
"POSTSCRIPT.—In spite of her desperation, madame had the presence of mind to try and persuade Anne you very probably had to fly from your political enemies, or had even been carried off and murdered by Prussian agents. Anne said, 'Yes; such things have happened.' The viper! You did well to take yourself out of this."
Wilhelm was unaware that he read the letter twice or three times over without a pause between. When he was beginning for the fourth time, he suddenly remembered that he was not alone, and that Schrotter was sitting there watching him. He folded the letter in confusion. He had not the courage to say anything, or even to look at his friend, but dropped his hands and his head, and cast down his miserable eyes.
Schrotter was the first to break the silence.
"I must beg you once more to forgive me for opening the letter. Of course, I could not have an idea—"
"No," said Wilhelm in a low voice, "it is for me to ask your forgiveness for not having been open with you. But I had every intention of making good my fault. It was for that I asked you to meet me at Wittenberg."
"Spare yourself the telling of anything that might be painful to you," said Schrotter, with kindly forethought. "I can guess the drift of it, and now understand your last letter. I thought you would probably be in a frame of mind to need a friend near you, and so I came without delay."
"I will not leave you to guess anything," Wilhelm returned, and pressed Schrotter's hand. "I will tell you all; it is an absolute necessity to me, and will, at the same time, be a kind of atonement."
And he began his confession in a low, dull voice, and with downcast eyes, like a sinner acknowledging a shameful deed, and Schrotter listened to him gravely and in silence, like a priest before whom some poor oppressed soul is casting down its burden of guilt. Wilhelm kept nothing back, neither the mad intoxication of the first weeks, nor the bitter humiliation of the last. He disclosed Pilar's passion and his own weakness, the pagan sensuality and the artifices of the woman's insatiable love, and the unworthy part he had played in her house before the servants and strangers. He spoke of his tormenting doubts as to the justice of his actions, and concluded: "And now, tell me, shall I answer this letter?"
"What are you thinking of?" cried Schrotter, when Wilhelm stopped speaking, and looked at him in anxious expectation. "Your only plan now is to keep dark. If, notwithstanding your silence, they write to you again, I would advise you to burn the letters unread. That will demand a certain amount of fortitude, no doubt, but as the letters will come to my address, I will do it for you, if you authorize me."
Wilhelm tried hard to make up his mind.
"No, do not burn them unread," he said, after a pause; "open the letters, and then judge for yourself, in each case, whether you will let me know the whole or part of the contents."
"Always the same want of will power!" returned Schrotter. "First you free yourself, and then have not the courage to burn your ships behind you. Believe me, it is best that you should have no further news from Paris, and after some months you can send for your things through a third person. Have you anybody in Paris who could arrange that for you?"
"Then I will do it. And even if you were to let the things go, it would be no great loss. Above all things, no renewing of old fetters. This lackey takes a healthy enough view of the matter, for all his cynicisms. You must not take it too tragically. You have passed through your heart crisis—it comes to most of us—only with you it has happened late, and under unpropitious circumstances. That has tended to make it more severe than is usually the case. But now, let it be past and over, though naturally it will take some little time for your mind to regain its normal balance. What I regret most in the affair is, that it precludes the idea of marriage for you for some time to come, and I had wished that so much for you. As long as the fascinations of this siren are fresh in your memory, no respectable German girl will have any attraction for you, and the love she is able to offer you will seem flat and insipid."
"You only speak of me," Wilhelm ventured to remark, "but that is not the worst side of the story; what weighs most heavily on my mind is, that I have broken my faith with her."
"Do not let that worry you," Schrotter replied. "You were in such a position as to be forced to act in self-defense. It would have been inexcusable in you to have stayed any longer where you were. For a liaison of that kind is only conceivable when the man loves the woman very deeply. You, my friend, did not love the lady at all. If you have any doubts about it in your own mind, you may take my word for it—had you loved her, you would not have parted from her. You would, if necessary, have carried her off from Paris, and continued to live with her in some world-forgotten spot, as you did at St. Valery. Or you would have gone off to the Philippines, and fought her husband to the death, in order to gain free possession of her or die in the attempt. That is how love acts when it is of that elemental force which alone can justify such relations before the higher natural tribunal of morality. But if your love is not strong enough to prompt you to do these things, then it is immoral, and must be shaken off."
Wilhelm was still unconvinced.
"I surely owe her gratitude for having loved me? That imposes certain duties upon me; I have no right to break a heart which gave itself wholly to me."
"Your idea has a specious air of generosity," answered Schrotter firmly, "but in reality it is morbid and weak. Love accepts no alms. One gives oneself wholly or not at all. Do you imagine that any woman of spirit would be satisfied if you said to her: 'I do not love you, I should like to leave you, but I will stay on with you because I do not wish to give you pain, or from pity—soft-heartedness.' Why, she would thrust you from her, and rather, a thousand times, die than live on your bounty. On the other hand, the woman who would still hold fast to a man after such a declaration, must be of so poor a stuff that I do not consider her capable of feeling any violent pain. Woman, in general, has a far truer and more natural judgment in this question. Where she does not love she has no scruples about want of consideration, and the knowledge that it will hurt the man's feelings has rarely restrained her from rejecting an unwelcome suitor. There is such a thing as necessary cruelty, my friend—the physician knows that better than anybody."
Wilhelm shook his head thoughtfully.
"Your cruelties are not for your own advantage, but for that of your patient. I have no such excuse to offer."
"Yes, you have," cried Schrotter. "You cure the countess of a morbid and hysterical sentiment. This Auguste is right—she will console herself."
"And if does not?"
"If not—why, what can I say?—we must simply wait and see. But it would surprise me very much. The worst is over. In such cases, if women mean to commit some act of madness, they do it in the first moment. The countess has her mother with her, she has three children, she has, from all I hear, an extremely buoyant nature, her despair will soon calm down. If not, it is always open to you to return in a year's time and do the prodigal son, and have the fatted calf killed for you."
As Wilhelm looked at him with suppressed reproach, Schrotter laid his hand on the young man's shoulder.
"You no doubt think me a hard-hearted old fogey—you miss the ring of romance in what I say. That is quite natural. The language of reason always sounds flat to the ear of passion—and not to passion only, but to sentimentality and feebleness. Let us finish. You know my advice. Give no sign of life, and so give time a chance to do its work. Try to forgot the past, and help the lady to do likewise, and do not remind her of it again by letters, or any other kind of communication. And now let us talk of something else. What are your plans?"
"I have none," answered Wilhelm, with a dispirited gesture. "I have not forgotten what you wrote to me at New Year. If our wishes make up our future, I have no future before me, for I have no wish."
"Not even to be near me again?" asked Schrotter.
"Ah, yes," answered Wilhelm quickly, and looked him affectionately in the deep-set blue eyes.
"You see now. This wandering life is no good for you. You must see about getting back to Berlin."
"Yes, but you know—"
"Of course I know. But something must be done. You must apply to the authorities to withdraw your sentence of banishment."
"And you advise me to do this?"
"Unwillingly, as you may well suppose. But I see nothing else for you."
"And how should I word such a petition? I could neither acknowledge a transgression in the past, nor promise amendment in the future."
"No, it would be of no use going into details. It would have to be a bald petition for pardon." And seeing Wilhelm recoil involuntarily, he added: "It does not do to be too proud in such a case. In the preposterously unequal struggle between the individual and the organized power of the State, it is no disgrace to declare yourself beaten and ask for quarter."
"A petition without any gush or protestations of loyalty, in which I would simply say: 'Please allow me to come back to Berlin, because I prefer it to any other place of residence,' would certainly be ineffectual, and I should only have humiliated myself for nothing."
"We must get somebody to take up your cause. I shall do all in my power to make the Oberburgermeister put in a good word for you."
"Would you yourself do what you are advising me to do?"
Schrotter was silent for a moment.
"I am not in the same case. If Berlin were as much a necessity to me as it is to you I would do it—most certainly."
Wilhelm looked as if he were swallowing a bitter draught. But Schrotter's strong hand lay tenderly on the dark head.
"Yes, friend Eynhardt," he said; "you will send in the petition, and it will, I hope, have the desired result. Do it for my sake. Yes, look at me; I have need of you. I miss you. I am getting to be an old man. At sixty years of age one does not make new friendships. All the more carefully does one keep those one has. Berlin has seemed to me a desert—almost unbearable, without you. You do not know how impossible things have become there. They are misusing, without one pang of conscience, the most touching and lovable characteristic of our people—its sense of gratitude, which it exaggerates to the point of weakness. They are doing all they can to bind Germany hand and foot, to gag her and drag her back into absolutism before her sentimentality will allow her to put herself on the defensive. They are pandering to the lowest instincts of the people, and enervating their manhood by every artifice in their power. Thus they have successfully achieved the introduction into Germany of that most degraded form of self-worship—Chauvinism. They poison her morality by wisely organizing that every conscience, every conviction, should have its price. They debase her ideals by decreeing that henceforth the officer is to be the national patron saint to whom the people are to offer up their devotion and worship. The press, literature, art, lecturing-room—all preach the same gospel, that the highest product of humanity is the officer, and that "soldierly discipline and smartness"—in other words, slavish submission, self-conceit, arrogance, and the upholding of mere brute force—are the noblest qualities of a man and a patriot. The army is taught to forget that it is the armed population of the country, and is trained to be a band of body servants. And even when the soldiers return to private life, the idea of servitude is carefully kept up, and he finds again in the military 'Verein' the beloved barrack life, with all its servile submissiveness and abnegation of free will. Whichever way I look, I am filled with horror. Everything is ground down, everything laid waste, the governing spirit has not left one stone standing upon another. Even our youth, with whom lies our hope for the future, is rotten in part. In many student circles I see a want of principle, a low cringing to success, a cowardly worship of animal strength, that is without its parallel in our history. Instinctively, this corrupt youth sides, in every question, with the strong against the weak, with the pursuer against the pursued, and that at the age when my generation exerted itself passionately, without a question as to right or wrong, for everyone oppressed against every oppressor. Of course we were simpletons, we of '48, and the golden youth of to-day scoffs superciliously at our naive ideals. In the present order of things everything has become a curse—even the parliamentary system. For that gives the people no means of making its will known, and has simply become a vehicle for general corruption at the elections. Our officials, on whose independence of spirit we used to pride ourselves so much, have sunk into mere electioneering agents, and unless they pursue, oppress, and grind the opponents of the government, have no chance of promotion. It is a Police State such as we have never known, not even before '48. For at least every man got his rights in those days, scanty as those rights may have been, and the official was not the enemy of the citizen, but his somewhat despotic guardian and protector. Shall I say all? The most consoling class to me in Germany to-day are the Social Democrats. They have independence of spirit, self-denial, character, and idealism. Their ideals are not my ideals—far from it—but what does that matter? It is relief enough to find people who have any ideals at all, and who are ready to suffer and die for them. I fear that not till this generation has passed away will the German people become once more the upright, true-hearted, incorruptible idealists they were, who, at every turning-point of their history, were ready to bleed to death for freedom of opinion, and other purely spiritual advantages. I take a very black view of things perhaps. If only the harm done is not permanent, if only Germany retains sufficient virile strength to throw off the poison instilled into her veins and recover her former health!"
In his excitement he had risen, and was pacing the room like an angry lion in a cage. Wilhelm did not like to interrupt the stream of words, which seemed to be forced from him by some powerful inward pressure. Now he said:
"I can well understand your point of view. You emigrated in '48, and kept your democratic ideas fresh in your heart. Twenty years of absence, and an intense longing for your home, glorified the Fatherland in your eyes. You come back and find a country whose historical development has taken a totally different turn in the meantime, and the plain reality in nowise corresponds to the poetical picture you had painted for yourself. Naturally you are painfully disappointed. I know that of old from my own father. But may I venture to remark that your criticism is hard, and perhaps not altogether well founded? A system of government passes—the people remain. In its inner depths it is untouched by official corruption, and you yourself acknowledge that the aggressive boasters only formed a small part of our youth. I am not uneasy for the future of my country."
"You may be right," returned Schrotter, grown calmer meanwhile, and standing still in front of Wilhelm. "But the present is gloomy, that is very certain. But enough of this. I came to cheer you, and have instead lightened my own heart. It was overflowing, and I have no one in Berlin to whom I can unburden myself. You see, I must have you near me. So write your petition, and if it is not accepted, why then—then we will go together to Switzerland or America, and love our country from afar, and without any admixture of bitterness, just as I did in India."
In face of this deep and unselfish concern over the condition of the commonalty which trembled in Schrotter's voice and spoke from his gloomy blue eyes, Wilhelm felt half ashamed of having made so much of his own small troubles. He declared himself willing to send in the petition, and for the first time for weeks he was able to think of something else than Pilar and his dealings with regard to her.
Schrotter stayed for a few days, which he passed almost exclusively with Wilhelm and Paul. All three felt themselves younger by ten years in this renewal of their intimacy, and Paul said more than once, "Would it not be splendid, Herr Doctor, if you two would buy some property near me? Then, in the summer months at any rate, we could all live together, so to speak. I am quite convinced that that would be a sure way of keeping ourselves young forever." Schrotter smiled at this proposal. All he wanted was to have Wilhelm near him once more. In the meantime, Bhani, his patients, his poor, recalled him to Berlin, and he left in hope that Wilhelm might be able to follow him ere long.
Schrotter lost no time. He did his utmost to persuade influential people to exert themselves on Wilhelm's behalf, but the difficulties were greater than he had imagined. Wilhelm was in very bad odor with the police authorities, who would not believe that he was not a Socialist, and that he did not afford that party valuable support in the shape of money.
Some three weeks after Schrotter's visit to Hamburg another letter came from Auguste. He was surprised, he said, that Monsieur le Docteur had not answered, and proceeded to inform him of a new turn in the affair. They had discovered that Madame la Comtesse injected herself secretly with morphine, pricked herself, Auguste said, and two Sisters of Mercy had to watch her day and night to prevent it. Schrotter judged it unnecessary to inform Wilhelm of the contents of this letter.
Schrotter's visit had had an extremely salutary effect on Wilhelm. His self-torture grew less poignant, the memory of Paris receded into the background, and in proportion as it paled the red returned to his cheeks and the light to his dull eyes. He still held aloof from the busy turmoil of the world, and was still dominated by a profound consciousness of the aimlessness of his life, and yet, for the first time for years, perhaps since he took his degree, he entertained a desire, a hope, that he might be permitted to return to Berlin.
On the last Sunday in April Wilhelm was spending the afternoon at the Uhlenhorst. The family were preparing to remove shortly to Friesenmoor, and Paul had gone over to the estate to make some arrangements. He was expected back in the evening, when they were all to go for a row on the Alster.
Spring was unusually early that year; the trees showed gay sprigs of green already, the air was wonderfully mild and balmy, and in the exhilarating blue of the sky feathery white cloudlets were floating, whose course one was fain to follow with sweet dreams and fancies. It was a sin to stay indoors on such a lovely afternoon, Malvine declared, and so proposed that they should go out to the terrace overlooking the water and sit there till Paul came home.
The terrace belonged to the villa in the Carlstrasse, laying on the path round the shore which bears with perfect right the name "An der schonen Aussicht"—the beautiful view—and was built out in a square into the Alster. A low stone parapet surrounded it on three sides, the fourth—that toward the pathway—being formed by an iron paling with a locked gate in it. One corner of the terrace, which was otherwise paved with asphalt, was laid out in a round flower bed, in which the primroses and violets were just beginning to come up. Near the balustrade at the waterside, under a large tentlike umbrella, stood a garden table and a few chairs. Here Malvine and Wilhelm seated themselves, while Willy played about with Fido. To the right of the terrace was a narrow little bay where the shallow boat was fastened in which they were to make their pleasure trip later on. The boat was tied to a wooden landing-place, which inclosed the little bay on the side away from the terrace, and from which a few mossy steps led down to the water. The Alster was swollen with melting snow and spring rains, and almost washed the foot of the terrace; only one of the steps of the landing appeared above the surface of the water. Willy, finding it rather dull on the terrace, elected to play on the pier, and began jumping in and out of the boat, into which Fido refused to follow him, as he was afraid of the water.
The view was enchanting. The opposite shore gleamed silvery blue in the delicate white light of a northern spring day. In the distance, the masses of houses and the spires of Hamburg hung upon the horizon like a faintly tinted, half-washed out transparency. A light breeze ruffled the broad bosom of the Alster, and the red and green steamboats plowed dark furrows in its brightness, which remained there long after the boats had passed, and faded away finally in many a serpentine curve. Numbers of little rowing and sailing-boats floated upon the slow current, peopled by couples and parties in their Sunday clothes, their talk and merry laughter sounding across the water to the shore. A sailing-boat passed quite close to the terrace on its way to the Fahrhaus. A young boatman handled the sails, a little boy was steering, and in the stern sat a young man and a pretty rosy girl, their arms affectionately intertwined, softly singing, "Life let us cherish." Malvine smiled as she caught sight of the little idyll, and turning to Wilhelm, who was gazing dreamily into the quiet sunny beauty of the surrounding scene: "Can you imagine any more delightful occupation on a spring day like this," she said, "than to go love-making like those two little people over there?"
A shadow passed over Wilhelm's face. He saw himself lying in the high grass under a wide-spreading tree in St. Valery, and over him there hovered a white hand that strewed him with fresh blossoms.
At that instant they heard a little frightened cry, followed immediately by a second one, and then a gurgle. Both sprang to their feet, and Malvine uttered a piercing shriek of terror. Right in front of them, not more than a step from the terrace, they saw Willy in the midst of a whirl of foam which he had churned up round him with his desperate, struggling little limbs. His arms were tossing wildly above the water, but the head with its floating golden curls dipped under from time to time, and the little distorted mouth opened for an agonized breath and scream, only to be stopped by the in-rushing water. The boat rocking violently close by explained with sufficient clearness how the accident had happened. The boy had clambered on to the edge of the boat to rock himself, had overbalanced and fallen into the water, and in his struggles had already drifted some paces from the shore. Fido stood barking and gasping on the step and dipping his paws into the water only to draw them out again.
Malvine stretched out her arms to the child, but her feet refused their office, she stood rooted to the spot, unable to do anything but utter terrible inarticulate screams. Only a few seconds elapsed—just long enough to realize what had happened—when Wilhelm sprang with lightning rapidity on to his chair, and from thence, with one bound, over the parapet into the water. He disappeared below the surface, but rose again at once just beside the child, who clung to him with all his remaining strength. How he managed it he did not know, but, although he could not swim, he managed to push the boy in front of him toward the terrace, crying anxiously, "Catch hold of him! Catch hold of him!" Life returned to Malvine's limbs, she leaned over the parapet and stretched out her arms. Wilhelm made a supreme effort and lifted the boy so far out of the water that she could grasp him, put her arms round him, and drag him up, and with him apparently Wilhelm, for his head and shoulders rose for a moment above the water. With a jerk she dragged the fainting boy over the parapet and held him in her arms, while she continued to scream for help. People came running from the shore the Carlstrasse, the Fahrhaus, and in an instant the terrace was crowded. They relieved the still half-demented mother of the dripping child to carry him across to the house. She was pushing her way through the closely packed groups and tottering after them when a cry reached her. "There is another one in the water!" Only then did she remember Wilhelm. Terrified to death, she turned and flew back to the edge of the terrace. A crowd stood there gesticulating wildly, all talking at once, and obstructing the view. A gap opened when two or three men with more presence of mind than the rest rushed down to the landing, jumped into the boat, untied it, and pushed off from the shore. And now, to her unspeakable horror, she saw that Wilhelm had disappeared, and the thick muddy waters gave no clew to the spot where he had gone down. This was too much, and she altogether lost consciousness. When she came to herself she was lying on the sofa in her husband's smoking room, her dress in disorder, and the maids busy about her. She first looked round her startled, then her memory returned with a flash, and she cried with quivering lips: "How is Willy—and Dr. Eynhardt?"
"Master Willy has quite come round, and they are putting him to bed," the servants hastened to answer.
"But Dr. Eynhardt?"
To that they had no reply.
Malvine jumped up and would have rushed out.
"Gnadige Frau!" cried the girls, horrified, "you can't go out like that!"
They held her back; Malvine struggled to free herself, but at that moment there was a sound of heavy footsteps and a confused murmur of voices in the hall, some one flung open the door, the man-servant put in his head, but started back at sight of his mistress and closed the door abruptly. Then he went on, and the footsteps and murmuring voices followed him.
"They are bringing him in!" shrieked Malvine, and they could hold her back no longer. A moment later and she knew that she was right. On the billiard-table, in the room to the right of the hall, lay Wilhelm's motionless form, while the people who had carried him in stood round. Water flowed from his clothes and made little pools on the green cloth and trickled into the leather pockets of the billiard-table. His breast did not move, and death stared from the glazed, half-open eyes.
A doctor was soon on the spot, the curious were turned out of the house, and they began the work of resuscitation. They had labored uninterruptedly for nearly an hour when Paul burst in, crying in a choking voice: "Doctor—doctor, is he alive?" The servants had told him all in flying haste outside.
The doctor shook his head. "There is nothing more to be done."
But Paul would not believe it. He would not suffer them to cease their efforts. The rubbing, the movements, the artificial respiration had to be kept up for another full hour. But death held his prey fast, and would not let them force it out of his clutches.
Two days later, on a gray rainy day, they buried him. Schrotter came over from Berlin for the funeral. He looked quite broken down, and grief had aged his leonine features to an appalling extent. Malvine and Willy were lying ill in bed, so that Paul and Schrotter followed their friend alone to his last resting-place. When the coffin was carried out and lifted into the hearse, and Paul came out of his house, he saw through the veil of tears that obscured his vision that several hundred men were standing in orderly array on the opposite side of the Carlstrasse. They were young for the most part, but there was a sprinkling of older men among them; all were poorly, but cleanly and decently dressed, and every man had a red everlasting in his buttonhole. They stood as motionless as a troop under arms, and apparently followed the orders of a gray-bearded man who paced authoritatively up and down the silent line.
Paul was surprised, and asked the undertaker, who was waiting for him beside the hearse, who these people were. He had not invited anybody, and did not expect there would be a crowd of any kind, although the Hamburg papers had devoted whole columns to the accident.
The undertaker went over and addressed himself to the man who was evidently the leader of the party. He informed Paul on his return: "They are workingmen's societies from Hamburg and Altona. Their leader says the deceased was not one of them, but they wanted to show him this last mark of respect because he had been kind to them during his lifetime."
On the first of May of the following year, which happened to fall on a Sunday, a long procession of carriages drove along the road from Harburg to Friesenmoor. They stopped at the entrance to the estate. Before them rose a triumphal arch composed of branches of fir garlanded with flowers, and adorned with flags and ribbons, and a gold inscription on a blue ground, which ran as follows:
"A gracious Sovereign's due Reward To fruitful Labour, honest Work."
A "Verein" with its banner was posted beside the arch. There was a roar of cannon, the banner waved, the Verein gave three "Hochs!" and its chief, or spokesman, stepped up to the first carriage, in which sat a youngish gentleman with spectacles, and an officer in the gorgeous uniform of a Landwehr dragoon, his breast covered with stars and crosses. The spectacled gentleman was the Landrath of the circuit, and the cavalry officer was no other than Paul Haber, now Herr Paul von Haber. For he had been raised to the nobility, and celebrated his auspicious event to-day in the midst of his retainers and a host of invited guests, whom he had fetched in a dozen carriages from the station at Harburg, supported by his distinguished young pupils.
The spokesman of the Verein, a man of some fifty years of age, with a grizzled beard, addressed the proprietor in a glowing speech, in which, among other things, he assured him—the man of thirty-seven—that "We all look upon you as our father, and honor and love you as if we were your children." Paul smiled, and returned thanks in a few warm words, then renewed "Hochs!" more waving of banners and firing of cannon, and the procession set itself in motion again.
At the entrance to Kaiser Wilhelm's Dorf there ensued a second and more elaborate welcome. Here too there was a triumphal arch and cannons, and instead of one there were three Vereins with flags and banners, also the schoolchildren, headed by the pastor and the schoolmaster, and the whole female portion of the community lining the roadway on either side, or massed round the base of the arch. The pastor made a speech, a fair-haired schoolgirl recited a long piece of poetry composed by the master in the sweat of his brow, the Choral Verein sang, the Young Men's Verein—who were given to instrumental music—piped and blew a chorale, and not till the all-prevading joy and enthusiasm had found sufficient vent in the firing of cannon, in speeches, poetry, and music, did the carriages move on, and finally reach the steps of Friesenmoor House, where the guests were received by Frau von Haber, assisted by Frau Brohl and Frau Marker. At the moment of leaving the carriages three flags were run up the flagstaff on the tower—the black, white, and red flag of the empire, then the white and black Prussian one, and finally a green, white, and red banner with a large coat-of-arms in the center. This third flag, somewhat enigmatical to the guests, was the new family banner of the House of von Haber, with the coat-of-arms of that noble race, now displayed for the first time to the admiring gaze of the beholders.
The designing of a coat-of-arms had been no light task to Paul. From the moment—now five months ago—that he knew his promotion to the nobility was a settled affair, he had devoted the best part of his thoughts to this weighty question. He hesitated long between medieval simplicity and modern symbolism. An illustrative crest that should be a play upon his name was out of the question; for of course it was only another of Mayboom, the farce-writer's, jokes—he had taken him into his confidence on one of his visits to Berlin—to suggest a sack of oats, gules on a field, vert. After devising a dozen crests, each of which he thought charming, only to reject it a day or two afterward as inappropriate, he finally fixed on the one which now adorned his proud banner. It displayed on a field, vert, three waving transverse bars argent, and in a free quarter-purpure-dexter a medal of the Franco-Prussian War in natural colors. The waving bars were in allusion to the drainage canals on his marsh estate, and the medal to his career in the war. He did not forget that he owed the realization of his life's scheme to his wife's marriage-portion, and wished to show his appreciation of the fact in a delicate manner by crossing the transverse bars with a marshmallow in natural colors. However, he abandoned this design when they pointed out to him at the Herald's office that the crest would be rather overladen thereby, and at the same time would betray too plainly the "newly-baked" aristocrat. Paul left nothing undone. He provided himself with a motto. The incorrigible Mayboom recommended, "The Moor has done his duty." Paul decided on "Meinem Konige treu"—True to my king. Somebody at the Herald's office suggested putting it "Minem Kunege treu," but he had not the courage.
But though his promotion had occupied him almost exclusively during the last few months, necessitating frequent journeys to Berlin, he did not cease to think of poor Wilhelm. For a whole year he, as well as Malvine and Willy, wore deep mourning for the friend who had sacrificed himself for them, and Paul erected a magnificent monument over him in the St. Georg Cemetery in Hamburg, on which neither marble nor gilt nor verses were spared. The monument is one of the sights of the churchyard, and pointed out to visitors with great pride by the sexton. Old Frau Brohl, too, kept green the memory of the departed friend. Her speciality now was the manufacturing of flags and banners since Paul had founded quite a number of Vereins among the settlers on his estate—latterly a Military Verein, and one for Conservative electors. She was hard at work from morning till night on these objects of art, which she constructed out of heavy silk, and covered so thickly with symbolical devices, and embroidered mottoes and inscriptions, that they were as stiff as boards, and would neither flutter nor roll up. But when Wilhelm's funeral monument was to be dedicated, she put aside Paul's banner and coat-of-arms, upon which she was engaged, and wove a wreath of wire and black and white and lilac beads, a yard and a half in diameter, on which, between laurel leaves, were Wilhelm's name and the date of his death, and the words: "Eternal gratitude." Nothing the least like it had ever been seen in Hamburg before, and it was much admired on the occasion of the ceremony.
Paul showed himself throughout as a man of feeling and character. When his patent of nobility was signed, and he came to Berlin to be admitted to the emperor, to thank him for the honor accorded to him, he went to Schrotter, and begged him, as a personal favor, to accept his invitation to the festivity which should take place on his estate on the first of May. "I look upon you as Wilhelm's substitute here on earth," he said, "and our friend must not be absent from my side on this joyful occasion. I owe everything to him. He laid the foundation of my prosperity, and preserved my heir to me, for whom alone I am working and striving. If Wilhelm were with us now, he would not refuse my request, and with that thought before you, Herr Doctor, you will not pain me by refusing." The words came from Paul's heart, and showed that he felt keenly the desire to do homage, in his way, to Wilhelm's memory. Schrotter could not but accept.
To all outward appearances he had recovered from the terrible shock of his friend's death, in reality, however, he was all the less likely to have got over his loss, owing to the circumstance that he was often busied with the management of Wilhelm's affairs, and thus the wound was inevitably kept open.
Wilhelm left no will. After much inquiry, it was discovered that he had a very distant relative living at Lowenhagen, near Konigsberg, married to a poor village smith, and lavishly endowed with children. The house in the Kochstrasse went to her—a very windfall, for which the honest wife and mother was too thankful to be able to simulate grief at the death of the relative she had never known. She generously handed over all Wilhelm's papers to Schrotter, after having assured herself by inquiries in various quarters that they would only fetch the value of their weight. Schrotter gave them to the young man whom he and Wilhelm had supported in his studies out of the Dorfling legacy. The recipient was clever and shrewd, and justified the confidences his patrons had placed in his future. He found that the first volume of the "History of Human Ignorance," testing of the early ideas of mankind and their psychological reasons, was completely ready for the press; and all the notes and literary sources for the two following volumes only needed putting together to bring the work up to the end of the eighteenth century, and the experiments of Lavoisier, from which the indestructibility of matter was deduced.
The first volume appeared in the autumn. On the title page he gave his own name as the author, but did not omit, as a man of honor, to mention in the preface that in compiling the work he had availed himself of "the preparatory notes of the late Dr. Wilhelm Eynhardt, an eminent scholar, lost all too early to the scientific word by a tragic death." In the ensuing editions which followed rapidly upon the first, the book meeting with great success, this preface was omitted as unnecessary. The second volume appeared in the following year; the third—very prudently—not till two years later. There were no more. In the two last volumes there was no more mention of Eynhardt. After the publication of the first volume, the young man whose name adorned the title-page received a call to a public school, of which he now forms one of the chief ornaments. To various inquiries with regard to a concluding volume which should treat of the nineteenth century, he replied by pointing out the doubtful wisdom of a history or criticism of hypotheses and opinions which were as yet incomplete and still under discussion, and put them off with vague promises for the future. Schrotter only shrugged his shoulders. He knew Wilhelm's views on the subject of posthumous fame, and the immortality of the individual, and considered it inexpedient to punish the clever young professor for being a man like the rest.
About three months after Wilhelm's death Schrotter received one more letter from Auguste. He observed curtly and dryly that Monsieur le Docteur evidently did not wish to have anything more to do with him; he wrote, however, once more, and for the last time, in order to give him his new address in case he might desire to answer. He had been obliged to look for another place, the game was up at the Boulevard Pereire. In spite of all their watchfulness, madame had managed to obtain morphine, and one night in July, when the sister who shared her room was asleep, she had given herself so many "pricks" that they had been unable to bring her round again. Anne declared that it was on the anniversary of the day on which Madame la Comtesse had made the acquaintance of monsieur. At the breaking up of the household, Monsieur le Docteur's things had been handed over to him, Auguste, and he held them at monsieur's disposal. Schrotter wrote in answer that he might keep them, and sent him a small sum of money as a bequest from Wilhelm.
Pilar's suicide made somewhat of an impression on him. So there were women, after all, who could die of love, and that not in the first moments of a mad and passionate grief, but after months, when the nerves have had time to cool down. "She was hysterical," Schrotter said to himself, endeavoring thereby to dispel various uncomfortable suggestions. He did not wholly succeed.
As Paul begged him so earnestly to come to his festival, he accepted the invitation, and found himself, on the first of May, among the guests whom Malvine received on the steps of Friesenmoor House.
In the great oak-paneled dining room, with its windows looking to the west, a banquet was laid for twenty-four guests. Following the country custom, they sat down to table at twelve o'clock. Malvine, handsomely dressed and richly adorned, sat enthroned in the middle of the long side of the table, and had Chamberlain von Swerte (of the House of Hellebrand) and the Landrath, to right and left of her. Paul, who sat opposite, insisted against all the rules of etiquette on having Schrotter beside him as his left-hand neighbor. On his right, Frau Brohl, in rustling silk, sat in rapt silence. The ever-modest Frau Marker was content to take a lower place.
The pastor said grace before the dinner began, which seemed to surprise the Landrath, but the Chamberlain was much edified. The Young Men's Verein played dance-music and marches in front of the open windows. Paul proposed the health of the emperor, whereupon the Landrath, in a carefully worded speech, drank to the host and the ladies. They all clinked glasses with an enthusiasm which was in no way feigned, but perfectly accountable after so splendid a dinner and such well-assorted wines. In the midst of the gayety and noise, and while the clarionets and trumpets blared away outside, Paul turned to his neighbor, and tapping the foot of his glass against the edge of Schrotter's, he whispered to him, unheard by the others: "To HIS memory!" He turned his head away abruptly, bent over his glass, and was busily engaged in furtively passing his table-napkin across his face and eyes. Schrotter put his lips to his glass and closed his eyes. One could positively trace upon his broad brow how a thought passed over it like a shadow.
The dinner lasted fully two hours, and brought Malvine in many a fiery compliment, especially from the chamberlain, which she could accept with a good conscience, knowing well how much she would have to pay to the great Hamburg pastry-cook who had provided it. At dessert the heir was handed round. Willy, who was really beginning to grow a little, was unquestionably a well-bred child. He went with much dignity and propriety from guest to guest, closely followed by Fido, who had grown far too stout, offered his cheek politely to each one, shook hands prettily, and was permitted to withdraw, accompanied by his short-winded dog, after they had all sufficiently admired him.
After dinner the guests amused themselves according to their several tastes. Some went to enjoy Paul's excellent cigars in the smoking room, others went down to the village to look on at the rural festival arranged by the master for his people, and where, between singing, music, dancing, and drinking, the fun ran high; others again took a walk through the fields of the estate where the young crops were just coming up, spreading a green haze over the yellow coating of sand. It was altogether a radiant picture of joy and prosperity; and the happiest of all, whether of the guests flushed with the good dinner or the villagers stamping on the green, seemed to be the master of the house. He was rich, respected, full of health and spirits, his family life unclouded; he had a high position, possessed numberless decorations, was a captain of the Landwehr, had been promoted to the cavalry, and now was even raised to the nobility. What more could he desire?
Well then, if he seemed happy appearances were deceptive. A worm gnawed at his heart. He had hoped to be created Freiherr—baron—and here he was a simple "Herr von." How rarely is happiness perfect here below.
Pleading important business next morning in Berlin, Schrotter left soon after four o'clock. He would not hear of Paul's deserting his guests to accompany him to the station, as he was most anxious to do, but drove alone to Harburg, and took the train that left at five o'clock, bringing him to Berlin by way of Uelzen.
It was nearly two in the morning when he reached home. He stole on tiptoe into his room, but Bhani, whose sleep was light and restless when he was not there, heard him directly. She stretched out her arms to him with a low exclamation of joy, pressed him to her bosom while he kissed her on the brow, and was for jumping up and attending to his wants. He would not suffer it, and declared that he wanted nothing. So she remained where she was, only following him with her eyes while he unpacked his bag and put everything in order. He then went into his study adjoining and locked the door behind him. Bhani heard him walking up and down for awhile, and then caught the sound of a creaking as of a drawer being opened. She knew what that meant and heaved a deep sigh. He was taking out the great leather book with metal-bound corners; his diary, which had become his sole confidant now that Wilhelm was dead. Guided by the delicate tact of the Oriental, the poor simple creature divined easily enough that her sahib had cares which she could not understand and sorrows which she might not share, and yet how happy she would be if he would but deign to enlighten her ignorance, to explain it all to her and disclose his heart to her fully. But, proud and reserved, he scorned to acknowledge his troubles to any but himself, and it was only in his diary that he unburdened himself of all that weighed upon his heart and mind.
And now he sat at his study table and wrote in the big book.
"My poor Eynhardt! Only a year since he departed, and already it is as if he had never been. What remains of him? A book that bears a stranger's name upon the title-page; a little dog that is perhaps happier now than when it belonged to him; a child like a dozen others, who will presumably grow up to be a man like a dozen other men; and a memory in my heart which will cease with the day, not far hence, when this heart shall cease to beat. Now if Haber were to die to-day, a flourishing tract of land and a hundred people whose existence he has improved would testify aloud that his term on earth had not been in vain.
"And for all that, Eynhardt was a rare and noble character, and Haber the personification of all that is commonplace and work-a-day. Eynhardt's gaze was on the stars, Haber's eyes fixed on the ground at his feet. Wilhelm plucked that supremest fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, the consciousness of our ignorance; Paul has the conceit to think himself a discoverer, to have solved enigmas. But the noble, soaring spirit leaves no trace behind, and the dull, mediocre person plows his name in deep and enduring characters in the soil of his native land. What was wanting in Eynhardt to make him not only a harmonious but a useful being? Obviously only the will. But was this want an organic one? I do not think so, for his lofty moral beauty was perfect in proportion and balance, and this noble nature could not possibly have been born incomplete, impossible that in a being so perfectly formed in all other respects such an important organ as the will should be missing. His absence of volition was but the result of his perception of the vanity of all earthly ambitions, and his absence of desire the outcome of his contempt for all that was worthless and transitory, his aversion to the ways of the world a tragic foregoing of the hope of ever getting behind it, and reaching the eternal root and significance of the thing itself.
"Why was this German Buddhist not endowed with Haber's cheerful activity? What an ideal and crowning flower of manhood would he not have been if he had not only thought but acted! But am I not desiring the impossible? Does not the one nature preclude the other? I fear so. In order to attack unconcernedly that which lies nearest to us, we must be unable to see beyond, like the bull charging at the red cloak. He would not do it, if behind the red rag, he saw the man with the sword, and behind the man with the sword the thousand spectators who will not leave the arena till the sharp steel has pierced his heart. He who sees or divines behind the nearest objects their distant causes, paralyzed by the vision of the endless chain of cause and effect, loses the courage to act. And inversely, to retain that courage, to strive with pleasure and zeal after earthly things, one must make use of the world and its ordinances, must move the pieces on the chess-board of life with patience, and, according to its puerile rules, attach importance to much that is narrow and paltry, and that is what, in his superior wisdom, the sage will not stoop to do.
"I always come back to this thought. If the world consisted entirely of Habers the earth would flourish and blossom, there would be abundance of food and money, but our life would be like that of the beasts of the field that graze and are happy when they chew the cud. If, on the other hand, there were only Eynhardts, our existence would be passed in wandering delightfully, our souls full of perfect peace, through the gardens of the Academos in company with Plato; but the world would starve and die out with this wise and lofty-minded race; unless, indeed, the sun took pity on them, and brought forth grains and fruits without their assistance, and unless a few flighty little women, particularly inaccessible to the higher philosophy, should surprise these transcendental and passionless thinkers in an unguarded moment, and beguile them into committing some slight act of folly.
"To combine in one intelligence Haber's circumscribed vision, naive self confidence, and enterprising activity with Enyhardt's sublime idealism and knowledge of good and evil is outside the range of possibility. And which of the two is of the greater benefit to the world? Which of them raises mankind to a higher level of development? Which of them best fulfills his purpose as a human being? Whose point of view of the world and of life is the more correct? Which of the two would I set up as a model before the child whom Eynhardt snatched from death at the price of his own body, and in whom his life as it were finds its continuation? My old friend Pyrrhon, thou who hearkened, two thousand two hundred years before my day, to the profound wisdom of the Brahmins, I can but answer in thy words, 'Uden horizo,'—I do not decide."