"No, his highness is in the city, but Herr Rojanow is here and sent me. He begs that you and Herr von Eschenhagen come down at once to Rodeck, and," he glanced at Frau von Eschenhagen, of whose arrival he had not heard, "and my lady should come, too."
"But what is it, what has happened?" cried the forester, seriously alarmed now.
The old man hesitated; he seemed not to know how to break his bad news gently. At last he spoke.
"His excellency Baron von Wallmoden is at Rodeck—and the baroness, too."
"My brother?" Regine cried apprehensively.
"Yes, my lady. His excellency was thrown from his carriage and now he is unconscious at Rodeck, and the physician whom we summoned in haste, says his condition is very serious."
"God help us! Moritz, we must go at once," exclaimed Regine.
Schoenau had already rung and he ordered horses and carriage to be got ready at once. "And now, Stadinger, tell us how it happened."
"The Herr Baron was on his way from Ostwalden to Fuerstenstein," began Stadinger. "The way lay through the Rodeck lands, not far from the Castle. Our forester, who was in the woods close by with some of the men, fired a couple of shots at a deer which started out of the thicket and ran across the road just in front of His Excellency's carriage. The horses shied and started off, and the coachman lost control of them. The forester, who reached the road at that moment, heard the Frau Baroness say to her husband: 'Sit still, Herbert! for God's sake, don't move!' But the baron must have lost his head, for he stood up and made one spring. Of course he did not know where he was going, and fell with great force against a fallen tree. Just a few yards farther on, at a bend in the road, the coachman succeeded in pulling up the horses. The baroness, who was not hurt at all, only shaken a little, hastened at once to her husband, but the poor gentleman was badly hurt, and was unconscious. The forester and his men brought him to Rodeck. Herr Rojanow did everything that was necessary, and then sent me in hot haste for you!"
In the presence of this new disaster, all dissensions ceased, and Toni was summoned and orders were hastily given, and as soon as the carriage was ready the head forester and Frau Regine hurried off. Willibald and Stadinger followed them at once, but as they descended the stairs, the former held back for a moment and asked in a whisper:
"What did the physician say? Did you hear anything?"
The old man shook his head sadly and answered in a subdued tone:
"I stood by when Herr Rojanow questioned him in the hall. There is no hope. The poor baron won't live until night."
The little hunting lodge of Rodeck, which lay so white and silent in the snow of that first December day, had seldom been witness to so great an excitement as that occasioned by Baron Wallmoden's accident. It was about noon when the two foresters appeared with their unconscious burden in their arms. Hartmut Rojanow had seen at a glance what was to be done. He had the injured man taken at once to Prince Adelsberg's room, sent off a messenger for the nearest physician, and gave intelligent orders concerning the sick man's treatment until the doctor should arrive.
Then, when the physician told him there was no hope, he dispatched old Stadinger to Fuerstenstein. Frau Regine only arrived in time to see her brother die. Wallmoden never recovered consciousness after the fearful shock of his fall; he lay upon the bed silent and motionless, breathing with difficulty, and recognizing no one, and an hour later all was over.
Toward evening Herr von Schoenau and Willibald returned to Fuerstenstein. Before starting for Rodeck a telegram had been dispatched to the embassy telling of the accident, and now the head forester sent another announcing its fatal termination.
Fran von Eschenhagen remained at Rodeck with her brother's widow. The corpse would be taken to the city early in the morning and until then the two women would remain with it. Adelheid, who had faced the danger so bravely, and had done her duty, though there was little to do at her husband's death bed, now when all was over, seemed to lose her strength. She was bewildered by the sudden and terrible occurrence.
Hartmut Rojanow stood at his window in the second story, and glanced across the desolate, bare forest, which, with its snowy mantle, had a ghostly, uncanny look.
The night came down quickly, and the stars shed a faint light over the tall, leafless branches. Yesterday the first snow storm of the season had come, and everything as far as eye could reach was enveloped in an icy mantle. The great level park before the castle was knee deep with snow, and the broad branches of the fir trees bent to the earth with their heavy white burden. The stars came out one by one and dotted the heavens with their clear, quiet light, while far to the north a faint rosy glow tinted the distant horizon like a first morning greeting in the eastern sky. But it was night, a cold, icy winter night, upon which no gleam of a new day could have fallen.
Hartmut's eyes rested on the distant shimmer, but he heeded not its light; all was dark and gloomy within him this night. He had not spoken to Adelheid von Wallmoden since the memorable day in the forest, until he met her to-day walking beside her bleeding and unconscious husband, whom they were bearing to his death bed. The moment forbade everything but action, and Rojanow had not attempted to enter the sick room, but had waited outside for the physician's reports. Neither had he showed himself when Frau von Eschenhagen appeared, but he had spoken later with Herr von Schoenau and Willibald. Now all was over, Herbert von Wallmoden was no longer numbered among the living, and his wife, his widow, was free!
Hartmut breathed heavily at this thought, but it brought him no joy. His feelings were changed since that hour when he had staked his all and lost, for he loved this woman now, madly. This sudden death had showed him the chasm which yawned between them, a chasm no less because Adelheid's marriage bonds were broken. Her aversion had been for the man who believed in nothing, and to whom nothing was sacred, and that man was as great a scoffer, as great an unbeliever to-day as ever.
He had pleaded for forgiveness in the character to which he had given her name in "Arivana," but that Ada had disappeared again in the heights above after giving her warning cry, leaving to their fate the creatures she had exhorted, with their earthly passionate hates and loves. Hartmut Rojanow could not force the wild blood in his veins to run in quiet grooves, he could not bend to a life of strict and narrow duty, and he would not! What were the use of all those gifts which he felt were his, if they did not lift him out of the old ruts, did not raise him above the duties and limits of the commonplace world? He knew well that those great blue eyes urged him to follow the paths which he hated so bitterly, and which, he told himself over and over again, he could never take.
The rosy shimmer yonder over the forest had grown deeper as it mounted higher in the heavens. Unmovable it shone in the north, mysterious, far and high—the great northern light in its dawning splendor!
A roll of carriage wheels and sound of horses' hoofs coming at great speed waked Hartmut from his dream. It was past nine, who could be coming at so late an hour? Perhaps the second physician, who had been sent for early in the day, but had not yet answered the summons; perhaps some one from Ostwalden, where the news had been sent late. The carriage turned into the broad road, and came on crunching and cracking over the icy ground, and drew up under the wide porte cochere at the side of the house. Hartmut, who was virtually master of the place, left his room and hastened to see who had come or what was wanted.
He had taken but a step or two down the stairs which led to the entrance hall, when he stopped suddenly and held his breath with a gasp. There sounded a voice which he had not heard for ten long years. It spoke in a low, subdued tone, and yet he recognized it at the first word.
"I come from the Prussian Embassy," the new-comer explained. "We received the telegram early this afternoon, and I started at once. How is he? Can I see Herr von Wallmoden?"
Stadinger, who admitted the stranger, answered in a low tone. Hartmut did not hear what he said, but could imagine from the next words:
"Then I come too late!"
"Yes, sir; the Baron died this afternoon." There was a short pause, then the stranger said:
"Take me to his widow; tell her it is Colonel von Falkenried."
Stadinger led the way, and a tall figure wrapped in a military cloak followed him; the man watching on the stairs could only recognize the contour of the figure. The two had long since disappeared in the room beneath, and yet Hartmut stood grasping the ballister, and looking down into the semi-darkness with vacant eyes. When Stadinger came out again, Hartmut retraced his steps slowly to his own room.
For a quarter of an hour he paced restlessly up and down. He was having a hard, fierce struggle with himself; he had never yet bent his pride, never been able to yield, and he must bend and bend low before this deeply injured father; this much he knew. But the longing, the burning longing to see and be with him again, finally gained the victory.
He threw back his head with sudden decision. "No, I will be no coward. I will not avoid him. Now that we are under the same roof, within the same four walls, I will venture. He is my own father and I am his son!"
From the castle clock of Rodeck sounded forth ten slow, heavy strokes. Without in the forest all was still, and within was the silence of death. The old steward and the servants had all gone to bed, as had also Frau von Eschenhagen. She had had a long journey without rest, and one painful excitement after another on this never-to-be-forgotten day, and now nature demanded rest. Lights yet glimmered from a few windows, and these belonged to Colonel von Falkenried's and Frau von Wallmoden's rooms, which were only separated by a long, narrow ante-chamber.
Falkenried was to accompany Adelheid to the city to-morrow. He had seen her and Regine, and then had stood for a long time beside the body of his old friend, who had parted from him with a careless good-by but yesterday; who had been so full of plans and projects of his hopes and ambitions for the future. Now everything was at an end. There he lay, cold and stiff upon the bier. Falkenried stood at the window in his own room; even this fatal accident had not moved him from his icy calm; he had long looked upon death as a happy release. Life was hard, very hard—but not death.
He gazed out into the silent winter night. The whole northern sky was aglow with the dark red flame which started out of the darkness like a sheet of fire. The stars blinked faintly, as through a purple veil, and far beneath them all the earth lay cold and white and still.
Falkenried was so deeply wrapt in thought that he did not notice the opening and closing of the door of the adjoining room. Softly his own room door opened, but he did not look up nor see the tall figure standing on the threshold.
The Colonel still stood by the window, though his face was but half turned toward it, and the flickering of the candle on the table shone across it. How deep and sad were the lines around the mouth; how fearfully furrowed the high forehead beneath the white hair. Hartmut shuddered unconsciously—he had not thought to find the change so great nor so painful. This man who was yet in his prime, looked old, so old. And who had worked this change? Several minutes passed in silence, then a sound was heard in the room, half aloud and breathless; only one word, but that one full of inexpressible tenderness:
The colonel started as if a voice from another world had fallen on his ear. Then he turned slowly, but with an expression as though he expected really to see a vision from the spirit-land.
Hartmut took a few quick steps forward, and then stood still. "Father, it is I. I come—"
He was silent, for now he met his father's eyes—those eyes which he so dreaded; and meeting them, he was robbed of all courage to speak farther. His head sank and he was silent.
Every drop of blood seemed to have left the colonel's face. He had not known that his son was under the same roof with him, and was totally unprepared for the meeting. But he made no outcry, showed no sign either of anger or weakness. Still and stark he stood and looked upon him who had once been his all. At last he raised his hand slowly, and pointed toward the door:
"Father, hear me."
"Go, I say!" The order sounded threatening this time.
"No, I will not go!" cried Hartmut, passionately. "I know that reconciliation can only come in this hour. I have wronged you deeply; how deeply, how severely, I feel now for the first time. But I was only a boy of seventeen, and it was my mother whom I followed. Remember that, father, and forgive me, forgive your own son."
"You are the son of the woman whose name you bear; you are no son of mine. No one devoid of honor can be a Falkenried."
The words were almost too much for Hartmut. The blood mounted hot and wild to his brow—the brow so like his father's—and it required all his strength to keep himself under control.
The two believed themselves to be alone in the silence of the night, for all in the castle had retired to rest. They did not know that they had a witness. Adelheid von Wallmoden had not retired to rest. She knew that sleep would not come to her eyes, which had witnessed the dreadful accident which left her a widow. Still clad in the dark traveling dress which she had worn on that fateful journey, she sat in her room, when the colonel's voice sounded on her ear. With whom could he be speaking at that late hour? He knew no one, and yet his voice had a strange, threatening sound. Puzzled and uneasy, the tired woman rose and stepped into the ante-chamber which separated the two rooms, to see who it was. She had no desire to overhear any conversation. She had a nervous feeling that something new might have happened. Then a voice which she knew only too well, said "Father," and that one word revealed to her what the next few words confirmed. Like one possessed she stood still and listened to all which came to her through the half-opened door.
"You make this hour very hard, father," Hartmut said, laboring to control his voice, "but I think I hardly expected anything else. Wallmoden has told you about me, I feel sure, and what I have sought, and how I have succeeded. I bring you the poet's wreath, father, the first which has fallen to my share. Learn to know my work, let it speak to you, then you will realize how impossible it was for a man of my temperament to live and breathe under the restrictions of a profession which was death to every poetic feeling; then you will forgive your unruly son for his boyish trick."
Hartmut Rojanow was himself again, and spoke with his old domineering pride. His arrogant self-consciousness clung to him even in this hour. He was the author of "Arivana," who acknowledged neither obligation nor duty.
"The boyish trick," said Falkenried in a harder voice than ever. "Yes, that's what they called it in order to make it possible for me to remain in the service. I called it something else, and many of my comrades with me. You would soon have been an ensign, in a few weeks you would have been fleeing from the flag you had sworn to defend—I have never known such another case. You had been well and carefully educated and I had striven to instill into your mind the keenest sense of honor. You knew only too well what you did, you were no longer a boy. He who flees like a thief in the night from the service of his country is a deserter; he breaks his word and he does not know what honor means. That is what you did! But it comes easy for you, and such as you, to do such things."
Hartmut bit his lips and his whole body trembled at these merciless words. His voice had a hollow, half suffocated sound as he answered:
"Listen, father, I cannot bear that. I have bowed before you, have plead for forgiveness, and you drive me from you. It is the same cruel hardness with which you once drove my mother away. It was your severity alone which was accountable for her erratic life after you thrust her from you and for mine through hers."
The colonel folded his arms and an expression of withering contempt played round his lips.
"And you heard all this from her own lips? Possibly! No woman falls so low that she reveals to her son the disgraceful truths of her life. I would not soil your soul at that time with the truth, for you were yet innocent and pure. Now you will understand me when I say that my honor demanded the separation from your mother. The man who had stained it fell by my hand, and she, as you know—I put her from me."
Hartmut grew deadly pale at this revelation. He had never known this, never dreamed of such a thing, had in fact, believed that it was his father's cruel disposition which had separated husband and wife.
The image of his mother whom he had so dearly loved, was suddenly and ruthlessly despoiled of its purity and its charm, and in its place came the desolating conviction that she whom he had trusted and followed had been his destruction.
"I would have protected you from the poisonous atmosphere of such an influence," continued Falkenried. "Fool that I was! Even without her persuasion you were lost to me. You had your mother's features, and it was her blood which flowed in your veins, and sooner or later you were bound to come to your own. You became what you are—a homeless adventurer who knows neither fatherland nor honor!"
"That is too much!" cried Hartmut, almost wild now. "I will not be so insulted by any one, not even by you. I see now that no reconciliation between us is possible. I will go, but the world will judge otherwise than you. It has already crowned me, and I will force from it the recognition which my own father denies me."
The colonel looked at his son, and there was something frightful in his glance; then he said, slowly and distinctly, in his icy tone:
"Better be careful that the world does not learn that the 'laurel crowned poet' was suborned in Paris for over two years—as a spy."
Hartmut started back as though shot.
"I? in Paris? you must be out of your mind."
Falkenried shrugged his shoulders contemptuously:
"Still acting a comedy? you need give yourself no trouble; I know all. Wallmoden laid before me the proofs of the game which Zalika Rojanow and her son played in Paris. I know the sources from which the money came on which you lived after she had lost her fortune. She was greatly sought after for her peculiar accomplishments, for she was very skillful. He who paid the highest price—secured her services!"
Hartmut was completely overwhelmed.
This then was the solution of Wallmoden's riddle. He had not understood the ambassador, and had thought his insinuations of a different nature.
He could understand his mother's hypocrisy now, her evasions, her kisses and flatteries when he pressed her with questions. This last was indeed the worst of all—and the last vestige of respect for her who had borne him died within him as he listened to his father's recital.
The silence which ensued was awful. It continued for several minutes, and when Hartmut spoke again his voice seemed to have lost all sound, and the words came brokenly—scarcely audibly—from his lips:
"And you believe that I—that I—knew it?"
"I do," the colonel answered shortly.
"Father, you cannot, you must not believe that, it would be too terrible. You must believe me when I tell you that I had not the slightest premonition of such a disgrace. I believed that part of our fortune was saved, I did indeed—you must believe that, father."
"No, you did not," responded Falkenried, more coldly than ever. Hartmut threw himself upon his knees.
"Father, by all that is sacred in heaven and earth—oh, do not, do not look at me that way—you will drive me mad. Father, I give you my word of honor—"
A wild, hideous laugh from his father interrupted him.
"Your word of honor—you gave that at Burgsdorf. Let us end this comedy; you cannot deceive me. You leave me with one lie, you return to me with another. You have become the genuine son of your mother. Go your own way, and I'll go mine. But one thing I tell you, I command you! Never venture to connect the name of Falkenried with the dishonored name of Rojanow. Never let the world know who you are. Remember this warning, otherwise my blood be upon your head—for I will make an end of it all."
With a cry of despair, Hartmut sprang up and would have rushed to his father, but the latter held him back with his hand.
"Perhaps you think that I love life. I have borne it because I must, and I felt that it was my duty. But there is a point where duty ends, you know it now—so act accordingly."
He turned his back to his son and stepped again to the window. Hartmut spoke no word; in silence he turned and left the apartment.
The ante-chamber was not lighted, but the dim, distant light from the northern sky fell upon the face of a woman, who stood pale as death near the window, and whose eyes gazed with a look of indescribable anguish at the face of the miserable man who entered the room. He saw her, and a single glance told him that she knew all. His cup was full! The woman whom he loved had been a witness to his terrible humiliation.
Hartmut never knew how he succeeded in leaving the castle; he only knew that he was suffocating within four walls and must have air. But when he realized where he was and who he was, he was lying in the deep snow at the foot of an old fir tree. It was night in the forest, a cold, icy night, the heavens were illuminated with a deep red glow which centered in the north and sent up its long, gleaming sheet of flame.
* * * * *
It was summer again, the sultry July days were half over.
The forest trees cast long, cool shadows from their green and sombre depths, while the sunbeams danced in and out among the branches through all the silent, bright days.
Ostwalden, the estate which Herbert von Wallmoden had purchased immediately before his death, had been empty and deserted until within the past few days, when the young widow, accompanied by her sister-in-law, Frau von Eschenhagen, had arrived. Adelheid had left the South German capital soon after her husband's death, and had gone to her old home accompanied by her brother, who had hastened to her side as soon as he heard of the sad accident. Her short marriage had only lasted eight months and now in her twentieth year she wore the weeds of widowhood.
Regine had been easily persuaded to accompany her sister-in-law. She had never changed her ultimatum regarding her return to Burgsdorf, and it is needless to add, Willibald had not changed. Adelheid asked her to go home with her and she had gone, feeling that her threat had as yet borne no fruit.
Frau von Eschenhagen believed she could effect a revolution of feeling in Willibald's heart by this move. But his newly acquired firmness had not been fleeting, though he tried every argument to persuade his mother to return to Burgsdorf and to think kindly of his future wife—but all to no purpose. Regine had no thought of yielding an inch, and now, mother and son had not seen one another for many months.
There had been no formal betrothal to Marietta. Willibald felt that he owed his cousin and uncle the consideration of not having a second betrothal follow so closely upon the first. Then Marietta's contract with the Court theatre bound her for the next six months, and as her engagement was a secret there, it was thought advisable to keep it so until she had left the theatre forever. The young singer had but just returned to her grandfather's house, where Willibald was also expected soon. Frau von Eschenhagen knew nothing of all this, or she would hardly have accepted an invitation which brought her into the neighborhood of Waldhofen.
The day had been hot and sunny, but the late afternoon hours brought a refreshing breeze, and swayed the drooping branches of the trees which overhung and shaded the road leading from Ostwalden through the Rodeck forest. Along this road, two men were trotting their horses; the one in gray jacket and hunting cap was the head forester, Herr von Schoenau, the other in a light summer riding suit, which set off his slender figure to advantage, was Prince Adelsberg. They had met accidentally, and soon discovered that they were bound for the same place.
"I did not dream of meeting your Highness here," said Schoenau. "I understood you were not coming to Rodeck at all this summer. I saw Stadinger day before yesterday and he certainly didn't expect you then."
"Stadinger made a great hue and cry because I came upon him so unexpectedly," answered the prince. "To hear him you'd think it was his own castle and I was intruding. And then I walked from the station, and he considered that a most undignified proceeding. But the heat at Ostend was unbearable; the sun just poured down on the strand, and an irresistible longing came over me for my own cool forest home. Thank the Lord, I am rid of the heat and noise of that Babel at last."
His Highness had not cared in this instance to tell the truth. A certain attraction in his immediate neighborhood, of which he heard accidentally, had started him from the North Sea at a moment's notice. Stadinger in a report which he sent his master concerning certain matters at Rodeck, had mentioned that preparations were being made at Ostwalden for the reception of the young widow. And it was in consequence of his own gossipy letter that the steward was disagreeably surprised by the prince's sudden appearance. The head forester seemed somewhat sceptical about the prince's fancy for his "cool forest home," for he said banteringly:
"Then I am greatly surprised that our Court remains so long at Ostend. The duke and duchess are there, and Princess Sophie with a royal niece, a kinswoman of her late husband, I hear."
"Yes, with her niece." Prince Egon turned suddenly and looked at his companion.
"Herr von Schoenau, I see you are about to congratulate me. If you do I'll demand satisfaction on the spot, right here in the middle of the forest."
"I don't intend to get into any difficulty with you," laughed his hearer. "But the papers speak very openly of an impending betrothal at Court, and that the duchess and Princess Sophie are charmed with the prospect."
"My beloved aunt has many desires which I fear will never be gratified," said the prince, coolly. "Her obedient nephew doesn't always fall in with her views, and that's the case in this affair. I went to Ostend because I had to; in other words, because the duke invited me, and I could not refuse; but the air did not agree with me, and I prize my health above all things. I didn't feel well from the first, so at last I resolved—"
"To break loose," interrupted the head forester. "That was very like your highness, but how will you calm your kinsfolk at Court?"
"Oh, well, I can make it all right with them if they feel aggrieved. As far as that goes," continued the prince, with seeming frankness, "I made up my mind last winter to spend part of the summer here, and when Stadinger wrote me that some alterations were going on, I determined to come on to Rodeck myself to superintend them."
"Superintend the putting up of a new chimney?" questioned the head forester in surprise. "The old one smoked last winter, so Stadinger determined to put in a new one, but that don't require any attention from you."
"What does Stadinger know about it ?" said the prince angrily. He wished the "old bear" would hold his tongue about what went on at Rodeck. "I have many changes in view. We are pretty near our destination, I see."
With that he started his horse on at a faster gait, and the head forester followed his example, for Ostwalden lay before them. The great building which Herr von Wallmoden would have made so magnificent, had he lived, was an old, rambling castle, with two high towers, one on either side, which gave the building a very picturesque appearance, surrounded as it was by a wild, partially overgrown park. The present mistress of the place, so it was said, intended to make few changes, but she would not sell the place. What mattered a country-seat more or less to the heiress of the Stahlberg millions.
The gentlemen found on their arrival that Frau von Wallmoden was walking in the park, and Frau von Eschenhagen was in her room. The young prince announced that he would seek the lady of the house, while the head forester turned his steps toward his sister-in-law's room.
He had not seen Regine since the previous winter. As he entered the room he said in his wonted hearty manner:
"Here I am. I didn't think it worth while being announced to my sister-in-law, although she does avoid my house with contempt. I don't believe in hunting pretexts for quarrels, so have ridden over in this hot sun to have an explanation."
Regine reached out her hand to him. A passing glance would reveal no change in her in these last six or seven months; she was the same strong, determined woman as ever. But there was a change, nevertheless. Heretofore her severity and harshness had always been tempered by a certain winning cheerfulness, but that was gone now. She had not yielded, but—she had suffered. She was estranged, perhaps forever, from her only son, who was the idol of her mother's heart.
"I have nothing against you, Moritz," she said heartily. "I knew you would be true to the old friendship in spite of all that you and your daughter were made to suffer; but of course it is very painful for me to go to Fuerstenstein; you must see that."
"On account of the broken engagement? Well you can console yourself about that. You saw and heard at the time how good naturedly Toni took the matter. She played the role of guardian angel much better than that of sweetheart, and she wrote you several times that she had no regrets and so did I. But, I am sorry to say, our assurances have amounted to nothing."
"No, but I know how to appreciate your rare generosity."
"Rare generosity!" repeated her brother-in-law laughing. "Well, perhaps a jilted bride and her father do not always want to speak a good word for a recreant lover, but that is not the case this time, and who knows but we may be able to persuade the mother to see as we do. Toni and I have both remarked that Will never was a man until now, and that—forgive me, Regine, but I must say it—he owes his manhood to little Marietta."
Frau von Eschenhagen's brow darkened at this remark; she did not see fit to answer it though, but showed that she wanted to avoid further discussion by asking, in a changed tone:
"Has Toni come back yet? I heard from Adelheid that she had been visiting in the city, but was expected any day."
Herr von Schoenau, who in the meantime had ensconced himself in a comfortable chair, answered:
"Yes, she came home yesterday—and with an escort, too. She brought a young man with her who was to be her future husband, she declared, and as he declared so too, with great positiveness, there was nothing left me but to say, yes and Amen."
"What's that? Toni engaged again?" exclaimed Frau Regine in surprise.
"Yes, this time she did it all herself. I knew nothing of it. But you see, she took it into her head that she must be loved to distraction; nothing less romantic would do for her. Well, Herr von Walldorf seems to answer all her requirements. He related to me with the greatest satisfaction how he fell on his knees and assured her he could not live without her, and how she gave him a similar touching assurance, with more to the same effect. Yes, Regine, the day has gone by when we can keep the children in leading strings. When they get ready, they want to choose their own partners for life and I must say they're not far wrong."
The last sentence was uttered with seeming carelessness, but Regine understand it fully. Thoughtfully she repeated:
"Walldorf? The name is strange to me. When did Toni meet him?"
"He is a friend of my son and came home with him on his last visit. As a result of that visit, I met the mother, and she invited Toni to spend a few weeks with her, and that's where all the courting was done. But I have no reason to feel dissatisfied. Walldorf's a handsome fellow, and lively, and head over heels in love; he seems a little light and frothy now, but that will disappear when he gets a sensible wife like Toni. These model sons are not always to my taste; they get too skittish when they break loose. We have an example of that in Will. Walldorf will resign in the Autumn. I won't have my Toni marrying a lieutenant; I will buy them an estate and they will be married at Christmas."
"I am greatly rejoiced on Toni's account," said Frau von Eschenhagen, heartily. "You take a great load from my heart by this news."
"And now," said the head forester, nodding to her, "you should follow my example and take a load from the heart of another betrothed couple. Be reasonable, Regine, and give in. Little Marietta is a dear, good girl, if she has sung in a theatre. Every one speaks highly of her. You need never be ashamed of your daughter-in-law."
Regine rose suddenly and pushed her chair back with a violent movement.
"I beg you, Moritz, once for all, to spare me such requests. I will stand by my word. Willibald knows the conditions under which I shall return to Burgsdorf. If he does not fulfill them, we are better apart."
"It will be a long time before he will do that," said her brother-in-law, dryly. "When a man is asked to abandon the woman he loves for a mother's whim, he's not apt to do it if he's made of the right stuff."
"You express yourself very freely," said Frau Regine, angrily. "But what does a man know of a mother's love or of the gratitude of children? You are all an ungrateful, heedless, selfish—"
"Hold! I have something to say for my own sex," von Schoenau began excitedly. Suddenly, however, he leaned forward and said in a changed tone:
"We haven't seen each other for seven months, Regine, so don't let's quarrel the very first day we meet. We can do that any time, you know. We won't discuss that obstinate heir of Burgsdorf, but speak of ourselves. How do you like life in the city? To me you hardly seem contented."
"I am very well contented," declared Regine with great decision. "All I miss is the work; I am not accustomed to an idle life."
"Of course you miss it. You always have been at the head of a great establishment, and that's where you should be now, so I—"
"Don't begin again, I beg you."
"No, I don't mean Burgsdorf this time," said von Schoenau, looking down at his riding boots. "I only meant—you're all alone in the city, and I'm all alone at Fuerstenstein, and when Toni marries, it will be very weary. Would it not be better—oh, I've said it all to you before—perhaps you won't, perhaps you have a better offer in view, but—wouldn't it be better to have a triple instead of a double marriage?"
Frau von Eschenhagen looked darkly on the ground and shook her head.
"No, Moritz, I never was less in the humor for marrying than now."
"Another refusal !" cried the head forester impatiently. "This makes the second time. First you would not have me because you had your son and your beloved Burgsdorf to look after, now you won't have me because you are not in the humor. Humors have nothing to do with marrying, only common sense; but when a woman hasn't any sense, and is too stubborn to—"
"You're in a very flattering mood, I must say," interrupted Regine, thoroughly aroused now. "It would be a very peaceful marriage, with you wagging your sharp tongue all the time."
"It wouldn't be peaceful. I never expected that," Schoenau declared, "but neither would it be monotonous. I believe we could endure one another. Now, once for all, Regine, will you have me or will you not?"
"No, I don't care to enter into a marriage of endurance."
"So be it!" cried the head forester, furious now as he jumped up and seized his hat. "If it gives you such pleasure to be eternally saying no, why say it. Willibald will marry and he is right, and now I'll do everything to hurry on his marriage just to annoy you." So saying he left the room in a violent temper, slamming the door behind him as he went, while Frau Regine remained behind equally irritated. These two were apparently fated to quarrel whenever they met; it seemed a necessity of their natures, but no quarrel was so bitter that peace could not be established at their next meeting.
In the meantime Prince Adelsberg had found Frau von Wallmoden in the park. He begged her to continue her walk, and now the two were sauntering under the cool dark shadows of the great lindens, whose spreading branches protected them from the sun's rays, which beat down so fiercely on the neighboring meadows.
Egon had not seen the young wife since her husband's death. He had made a formal visit of condolence at that time, but Eugen Stahlberg had received him in his sister's stead, and immediately after the brother and sister had left for the North. Adelheid still wore deep mourning, but Prince Egon thought the sombre attire and black veil under which her fair hair gleamed like a halo, only enhanced her beauty.
His glance frequently sought the fair young face, and each time he asked himself what change had come over it; he felt there was a change, but could not define wherein it lay. Egon had only seen her when her cold, proud reserve held every one in check. Now all coldness had disappeared, he saw and felt it, and yet there seemed a mystery about her which he could not unravel.
She could not be grieving for a husband old enough to be her father, who, even had he been nearer her own age, was of a cold, guarded nature, and could not inspire the love of a fresh young girl. And yet there was something in the face which told of sorrow, of a deep and voiceless woe.
"If this icy exterior could be broken through one would find warmth and life beneath," Prince Egon had declared more than once, half jestingly. Now this transformation had been partially effected, slowly, almost imperceptibly. But this soft, half-pained expression, which had taken the place of the haughty, cold one, this sorrowful glance, gave the young widow the one charm which had been lacking—gentleness.
The conversation had been about trifling every-day matters, inquiries and answers concerning the court and the harmless gossip of the day. Egon repeated the story he had already related to the head forester about the heat of Ostend, and his desire for solitude in his little woodland home. His listener's fleeting smile showed him that she was as incredulous as Herr von Schoenau had been; perhaps she too had read the newspaper statements concerning the royal niece at Ostend. He was angry, and was puzzling his brain to know how he could broach the subject, and correct the error into which the papers had led her, when Adelheid asked suddenly:
"Will your highness be alone all summer at Rodeck? Last year you had a guest with you."
A shadow darkened the prince's face, and he forgot the correction which he was about to make concerning his reported betrothal.
"You mean Hartmut Rojanow ?" he said very seriously. "He will scarcely join me; he is in Sicily at present, or was, at least, a couple of months ago. Since then I have not heard from him, and don't even know where to write."
Frau von Wallmoden stooped to pluck a flower which grew in her way, as she said quietly:
"I believed you were in constant correspondence with one another."
"I hoped to be when we parted, but the fault is not on my side. Hartmut has become an unsolvable riddle to me lately. You witnessed the glittering success of his 'Arivana' on that first night; which success has been repeated in many cities since then; the drama has fairly taken the people by storm, and the poet who has done it all flees from the world, even from me, and buries himself, God knows where. I cannot understand it. Upon my soul, I cannot understand it."
Adelheid plucked the petals of her flower as they walked on slowly, then said in a low tone, as she looked with intense interest into the prince's face:
"And when did Herr Rojanow leave Germany?"
"In the beginning of December. Shortly before that he had gone to Rodeck to spend a few days; that was immediately after 'Arivana' was brought out. I thought it was a whim of the moment and said little, but suddenly he came back to me in the city in a state of excitement which fairly frightened me, and announced that he was going to leave Germany and travel. He wouldn't listen to reason, wouldn't answer a question, and was off like a thunder-bolt. He had been gone weeks before I heard from him again; since then I have had some letters, few and far between. He was in Greece for several months, then he went to Sicily, and now for two months I have been waiting anxiously for news."
Egon spoke in an anxious tone. No need to ask how painfully this separation from his dearest friend affected him.
He little knew that the woman by his side could have solved the riddle for him. She knew what drove poor, unsatisfied Hartmut from land to land, knew the blemish that soiled the poet's name. This was the first news she had heard of him since that fatal night at Rodeck, when all had been revealed to her.
"I presume poets are formed of different clay from common mortals," she said slowly, as she scattered the leaves before her. "That's the only reason one can ascribe for their vagaries."
The young prince shook his head sadly.
"No, it is not that; his peculiarities spring from some other source. I have felt confident for a long time that there is something dark and mysterious in Hartmut's life, but I never could ascertain what it was. He would allow no allusions to his past. I have often broached the subject, but he resented all reference to it. There seems to be a veritable sword of Damocles hanging over him, and when in some happy moment he thinks he has escaped, he looks up, and there it hangs as usual gleaming above his head. I was more impressed than ever with that idea when he last parted from me, he was so excited—almost insane—nothing could hold him back. I cannot tell you how sad I am about him. For more than two years we lived together. I learnt to know and appreciate his warm heart, and responsive, genial nature. Now everything is desolate and dreary without him, and all the rich coloring seems to have gone out of my life."
They had reached the limit of the park and remained standing for a moment now. Before them lay a long stretch of meadow with a hot afternoon sun streaming down on it, while a background of forest-clad mountains rose high and green in the distance. Adelheid had listened silently, and now her sad glance rested on the far mountain heights. Suddenly she turned and held out her hand to her companion.
"I believe you to be a very self-sacrificing friend. Herr Rojanow should not desert so true a comrade. Perhaps you could save him from this—sword of Damocles."
Egon could hardly credit his senses.
This warm hand pressure, the sad, tender glance from the eyes brimming with tears, and the almost passionate earnestness with which she spoke, surprised and enchanted him. He grasped her hand and pressed it with fervor to his lips.
"If I could ever do anything for Hartmut, I would do it gladly. Rest assured your plea for him will spur me on. While I am here you must allow me the neighborly privilege of coming to Ostwalden frequently. Do not say no for I am all alone at Rodeck, and I came here solely for the purpose—"
He stopped suddenly, feeling that the time had not yet come when he could reveal to her why he had come, and he saw that no such confession would avail him now. Adelheid drew her hand back quickly, and stepped back; for a moment the old icy manner was upon her again.
"Of avoiding the heat and noise of Ostend; so you have already explained." She said very coldly.
"That was only a pretext," responded the prince earnestly. "I left Ostend because of certain reports which were being circulated concerning me. When I saw myself figuring in the newspapers, I determined to make an end of it. These reports were altogether groundless, as far as I was concerned. I give you my word for it, Baroness."
He had at least taken advantage of this opportunity to explain how untrue were all rumors concerning his engagement to his aunt Sophie's niece. Frau von Wallmoden was distant and formal as she replied:
"Why does your Highness deem it necessary to make this declaration to me? It was only a report, I fancy. It is understood, I believe, that you have resolved never to give up your freedom. I think we must return to the castle now? You say my brother-in-law has come with you, and I must see him."
Egon turned with her, and as they sauntered back resumed his light, gossipy chatter. As soon as possible he made some excuse for leaving, and as Adelheid bade him good-bye, she gave him a courteous invitation to call again, and that was to him the important thing.
"My cursed hastiness!" he muttered, as he rode away. "I'll keep away for a couple of weeks. As soon as any one approaches a step near, she turns into ice again"—but here the prince's face lighted—"but the ice is beginning to melt. I saw it and felt it in her tone and glance. I will have patience—the prize is worth a struggle!"
Egon von Adelsberg little thought that every glance, every tone had been inspired by the memory of another, and that the invitation to repeat his visit had only been spoken because the fair chatelaine of Ostwalden hoped to hear from her guest the news of a distant wanderer.
It was midsummer in the warm and pleasant month of July, when the world, which lay in such dreamy, peaceful repose, was suddenly awakened in affright as from a deep sleep. From the Rhine to the sea and back again to the Alps, there blazed an unearthly lightning flash followed by distant thunder-roar, and from the west the heavy war cloud descended upon the land; while the cry of "War! War! War with France!" re-echoed throughout all Germany.
It came like a whirlwind upon the South Germans,—tearing men from their homes, changing plans so carefully laid, and parting many who made them, forever. Where all had been so calm but one short week before, everything was now confusion and excitement. At Fuerstenstein where the daughter of the house was happy with her lover, all was bustle now, for the lover must leave at once to join his regiment. At Waldhofen where Willibald was expected, he appeared suddenly in hot haste to spend with Marietta the few days which intervened before he marched to the front. At Ostwalden, Adelheid was making hasty preparations to start for the North, in order that she might clasp her brother once more in her arms, before he, too, joined the troops. Prince Adelsberg had left at the first sound, and was in the city as soon as the duke. The world had changed its face altogether in a few short hours.
Willibald was in the little garden of Waldhofen, speaking earnestly and impressively to the old doctor, who sat upon the rustic bench, but who hardly seemed persuaded by the younger man's eloquence.
"But, Will, it seems very precipitate," he said, shaking his head, "your betrothal to Marietta has never been made public, and now you are going to be married. What will the world say?"
"Under existing circumstances the world will say it was the proper thing to do," Will answered, emphatically. "Though we need not care what it says. I must go to the war, and it is my duty to make Marietta's future secure before I go. I couldn't endure the thought that she'd have to return to the stage if I should die, nor be left to the tender mercies of my mother; the fortune which I shall inherit is in her hands, and she will guard it carefully. I have only the estate of Burgsdorf, which if I should die, goes to a distant branch of the family. According to the old family law and custom, however, the widow of the heir has a rich dower. I want Marietta to have my name, and I can then go to the field feeling assured that her future will be well provided for."
He spoke quietly but with determination. The indifferent, dull Willibald, was not to be recognized in this energetic man, who knew what he wanted, could give clear, sound reasons, and was determined to have his wishes fulfilled. He had gone through a hard but thorough school in these last six months in which he had been alone. He had had to fight against many obstacles, but the manliness and independence within him had asserted themselves for all time. Even in appearance he was changed for the better, and the head forester was right when he said that Will was a man at last.
Dr. Volkmar could not say him nay; he knew, alas, only too well, if that war took Marietta's lover from her, she would be friendless, penniless and alone, and a load was lifted from his heart at the thought of her future being assured. He made no further objections, but only said:
"And what does Marietta say? Is she willing?"
"Certainly. We decided the question last evening, after my arrival. I didn't alarm her by telling her I might be killed, or bother her with anything of that kind. There will be time enough for that should anything serious happen, but I did tell her that if I was wounded my wife could come to me and nurse me. That decided the matter. We will have a very quiet wedding, of course."
The young fellow's face clouded over as he spoke, and he sighed deeply.
"No, we don't care to have a gay wedding when the mother's blessing cannot follow the bridal pair to the altar. Have you really done everything you can, Will?"
"Everything," Willibald answered, earnestly. "Do you think it is a light matter to do without my mother on such a day? But she left me no choice, and I must bear it. I must take the necessary steps at once. I had the forethought to bring such papers as were needed with me."
"And do you think it possible to have all the arrangements for the marriage made in a few days?" asked the Doctor, doubtfully.
"Certainly. I will attend to all the formalities that are necessary, so that there will be no difficulty. As soon as we are married, Marietta will go with me to Berlin, where we will stay until I am ordered to the field, then she can return to you."
Dr. Volkmar rose and held out his hand, saying:
"You are right, it is the best thing to do under the circumstances. Well! well! my singing-bird, so you are willing to be married off-hand as this lover of yours wishes?"
The question was put to Marietta, who had joined them at the moment. Her face bore traces of recent tears, but her eyes lighted with a smile as Willibald clasped her hand in his.
"I won't be long away from you, and you are willing, are you not?"
The old man's glance was half of pain, half of pleasure, as he thought how little these two knew of life and its dark shadows, which had closed in around him so long ago. He said in a trembling tone, "Well, marry, and God be with you! I give you my blessing from the bottom of my heart."
The simple preparations were to be made with all speed, and the marriage to take place as soon as possible. Willibald, to whom the head forester had already confided his daughter's engagement, felt that there was no need of delay now, out of respect to his cousin Toni.
Toward evening Dr. Volkmar went to visit some patients, and the betrothed pair, who had had but little opportunity to see one another, settled themselves for a long, quiet talk. The future was dim and fraught with fear and dread, but the present belonged to them, and in that thought there was happiness despite everything.
They whispered together in the shaded room, talking the old sweet lovers' talk, and so thoroughly absorbed in one another that they failed to hear some one cross the hall with slow, hesitating steps. Then the rustle of a woman's gown attracted their attention, and they looked up and sprang to their feet as they looked.
"My mother!" cried Will in an alarmed but joyous tone, putting his arm around Marietta as he spoke, as though to protect her, for his mother's face wore its hardest, most forbidding look. Without appearing to notice the young girl she turned her face to her son.
"I heard from Adelheid that you were here," said she in a hard, dry tone, "and I thought I would come and ask you how things were going on at Burgsdorf. Who have you left in your place during your absence? No one can tell how long the campaign will last."
The joyful expression on her son's face disappeared; he had hoped for another greeting from his mother's unexpected appearance.
"I have provided for possibilities as well as I could," he answered. "The greater part of the people will have to go, too, and the inspector is off already; there is no question of substitutes now. So the work will be, of necessity, limited, and old Merton can oversee it."
"Merton's an old sheep," said Regine, in her most decided tone. "If he has the reins, things will come to a pretty pass at Burgsdorf. There's nothing else for it, but for me to go and see to it."
"What! You will go?" Willibald cried, but his mother cut him off sharply.
"Do you think I'd let everything you own go to ruin while you were in the field? Burgsdorf will be safe in my hands, you know that. I have had charge for many a long year, and I'll take my old place until you return."
She still spoke in a hard, cold tone, as if she would stifle all warm feelings, but now Will took his sweetheart in his arms and came close to her.
"For my worldly possessions, mother, you have a care," he said reprovingly. "But for the best and dearest I possess you have neither word nor glance. Have you really only come to say you will return to Burgsdorf?"
Frau von Eschenhagen's lips trembled; she could retain her forced composure no longer.
"I came to see my only son once more before he went to the war, perhaps to meet his death," she said with painful bitterness. "I had to learn from others that he was come to take leave of his future wife, but not to take leave of his mother, and that—that I could not endure."
"We were coming!" cried the young heir, excitedly. "We were coming before we left here to make one last attempt to win your heart. See, mother, here is my love, my Marietta—she waits for a friendly word from you."
Regine gave a long look at the lovers, and a pained expression passed over her face as she saw her son draw Marietta's head down on his breast, while the girl's happy, blushing face spoke of trust and love never to be shaken. Motherly jealousy had a last, sharp struggle against her better nature, and then, conquered by love and justice, disappeared forever. Frau von Eschenhagen stretched out her hand to the young maiden.
"I have grieved you sorely, Marietta," she said half aloud, "and have done you great injustice, but you have repaid me by taking my boy from me, my boy, who loved no one but his mother until he met you, and now loves none but you. I believe that makes us quits."
"O, Will loves his mother as much as ever," cried Marietta eagerly. "I know only too well how much this separation has cost him."
"Well, there, we will have to endure one another on his account," Regine responded, with an attempt at joking which was far from successful. "We will both be anxious enough about him in the days to come, when he is in the field—ah," with a deep sigh, "there'll be sorrow and care enough then. What do you say, child? I believe we'll bear it better together."
She held out both arms, and in the next moment Marietta lay sobbing upon her breast. There were tears in the mother's eyes, too, as she leaned over to kiss her future daughter. Then she said in her natural sturdy tone:
"Do not weep. Keep your head in the air, Marietta. A soldier's sweetheart must be brave, remember that."
"A soldier's wife," corrected Willibald, as his face grew bright. "She is to be a soldier's wife before I march."
"Then Marietta will belong by right to Burgsdorf," said the mother, seemingly not at all surprised at this news, which she took very kindly. "No demurrers, child. The young Frau von Eschenhagen has nothing farther to do with Waldhofen except to visit her grandfather. Or perhaps you are afraid of the stern mother-in-law? Ah, I know you think he will protect you," with a nod toward her son, "although he is not at home. He would even declare war against his own mother if she didn't meet his little wife with open arms."
"But she will always do that, I know it," exclaimed her son, with a happy laugh. "When my mother once opens her heart, then everything she does is right."
"Ah, now you can flatter," said Regine with a reproving glance. "You will come to your future home at once, Marietta! As to the management of affairs, you need not bother your head about that. I'll take care of everything, for a little thing like you wouldn't know where to begin, and candidly, I wouldn't allow any one to have a voice in the management of Burgsdorf while I lived there. If I decide to live elsewhere that's another matter; but I can see already that Will will want you to live like a princess all your days. I can but pray that he'll return to us whole and sound."
She threw her arms around her son and they embraced more warmly than they had ever done in their lives before.
A quarter of an hour later, the head forester, coming in hastily to see the old doctor, found the three in earnest conversation. He gave Regine a look, to which she responded by saying:
"Well, Moritz, am I still the personification of obstinacy and unreasonableness?" and she held out her hand to her brother-in-law. But he did not take it. Her second refusal but the week before was still fresh in his mind, and he turned to the others now, saying:
"So you're to be married at once, I hear? I met Dr. Volkmar and he told me all about it, so I came over to offer our services to the bride, but as Willibald's mother is here, there's little for me to do."
"Ah, your services will be heartily welcome, uncle," said Willibald cordially.
"Well, well, I won't be sorry to see my nephew married," said the head forester, kindly. "You've become a very romantic young man of late. Toni's caught the fever, too, and nothing would do but that Walldorf and she should be married at once; but I put my foot down on that. I said the circumstances were quite different, and that I had no intention of being left all alone like a cat."
He gave another grim look at Regine, but she went up to him and answered him cordially:
"Come now, Moritz, don't growl; let us be happy and without strife for once. You see I did say yes, to my boy at least, when I found his heart was set on Marietta."
The head forester looked at her gravely for a moment, then he seized her hand and pressed it warmly, as he said:
"Yes, I see, Regine, and perhaps you'll repent ere long of your no in another matter, and give a yes instead."
The old steward of Rodeck stood in his master's dressing-room in the Adelsberg palace. He had come to the city to receive instructions from the prince before the latter left for the field. Egon, who wore the uniform of his regiment, had just finished giving the old man his orders, and said, finally:
"And keep everything in good order at Rodeck, I may possibly be able to spend a few hours there before I start, though the order to march may come any day. How do you think I look as a soldier?"
He stood back and straightened himself as he asked the question.
He was a handsome man, and his tall, slender figure appeared to great advantage in the rich uniform which he wore. Stadinger looked at him with eyes full of admiration.
"You're magnificent!" he said. "It's a pity your highness has to go as a soldier!"
"What do you mean? Am I not heart and soul a soldier? Service in the field won't be any too easy, but I'll soon get accustomed to it. Nothing should be difficult when it's one's duty."
"No, your highness thinks a great deal about duty; that's why you left Ostend when your honored aunt had arranged a marriage for you, so suitable in every particular, and that's why you—"
"You old rascal!" said the prince. "There's one thing I shall miss in the field, and that's your insinuations and sermons. By the way, remember me to pretty little Zena when you get back to Rodeck. Is she there now?"
"Yes, your highness, she is there now," said the old steward with emphasis.
"Naturally, because I'm marching to France. But I'll tell you a secret. I'm going to be a model of reason and virtue when I come back and then I shall marry."
"Really?" said Stadinger with delight "How rejoiced the whole court will be!"
"That's as it may be," said Egon. "It's more than probable that the whole court will be in a rage, especially my aunt Sophie. But you be silent, Stadinger; don't breathe a syllable while I am away. Who knows but I may never return to you—think kindly of me, old fellow."
Stadinger's eyes were filled with tears as he turned to go, and he said:
"How can your highness talk that way? It's not likely an old worn-out man like me would be left, and you, so handsome, so young, so gay be taken. That's not according to nature."
"Well, well, I did not mean to sadden you, you old ghost of the woods!" said the young prince reaching out his hand. "We'll think of victory and not of the slain, but if both should come together it would not be so hard."
The old man knelt and kissed his young prince's hand.
"I would I could go with you," he said, half aloud.
"I've no doubt of it," said the prince laughing. "And you wouldn't make a bad soldier either, despite your old gray head. This time the young ones have to go, and the old ones stay at home. Good-bye, Stadinger," and he shook him heartily by the hand. "What! You're not crying' You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Away with all tears and sad forebodings. You'll read me many a lecture yet."
"God grant it," said old Peter, with a heavy sigh. He gave one glance at the bright, handsome face, and looked at the moist eyes; then he went away with sad, drooping head. He realized for the first time, poor old man, how deep his highness had crept into his heart.
The prince glanced at the clock.
He had an engagement soon but not for an hour yet, so he picked up the newspapers containing the latest war rumors.
There was a quick, decided step in the next room; Egon looked up surprised. Servants did not step thus, and visitors were always announced. This visitor needed no announcement as every servant in the palace knew, and all doors were thrown open to him.
"Hartmut, is it you?"
Egon started forward in joyful surprise as his friend entered, and threw himself upon his breast.
"You are again in Germany, and I had no warning of it? You bad boy, to keep me two whole months without any news! Have you come to see me off and say good-bye?"
Hartmut had not responded cordially either to the greeting or embrace; he was gloomier than ever, and there was no sign of joy in his face over this meeting.
"I have come directly from the station," he said. "I almost feared I would not find you, and so much depended on my doing so."
"Why didn't you write or telegraph that you were coming? I wrote to you at once when war was declared. You were in Sicily, were you not?"
"No, I left there as soon as the war seemed to me inevitable, so I did not get your letter. I have been in Germany a week."
"And only come to me now?" said Egon reprovingly.
Rojanow paid no heed to his friend's reproof; his eyes were fastened on his uniform with consuming jealousy.
"You are already in the service I see," he said hastily. "I, too, am anxious to enter the German army."
Nothing he could have said would have surprised Egon so effectually. In great astonishment he stepped back a pace.
"In the German army? You, a Roumanian?" "Yes, and that is why I come to you; you can make my entrance possible."
"I?" said the prince, his amazement increasing each moment. "I'm only a young lieutenant myself. If you are really in earnest you must apply to some high officer in command."
"That I have done already, in various places, in the neighboring states, but no one will take a stranger. A hundred questions are asked, above all one is treated with suspicion and distrust; no one seems to understand my decision."
"To speak openly, Hartmut, neither do I," said Egon earnestly. "You have always shown the greatest aversion to Germany. You are the son of a land whose court circles have always followed French manners and customs; the people have always been closely allied to France, so the distrust and suspicion are easily explained. But why do you not go to the duke in person, and prefer your request? You know how much he would do for the poet who wrote 'Arivana.' All you will have to do will be to obtain an audience, and that will be granted as soon as your name's sent in. An order from him would silence every objection."
Rojanow's eyes sank to the ground, and his dark, frowning brow grew blacker as he answered:
"I know it, but I can ask nothing of him. The duke would ask the same questions as the others. I dare not refuse him an answer, and I could not tell him the truth."
"Nor me?" asked the prince, as he stepped up to his friend and placed his hands on his shoulders. "Why do you wish to fight under the German flag?"
Hartmut drew his hand across his brow as if to smooth out something, then he answered with a gasp:
"Because it means deliverance or—death."
"You return as great a mystery as when you went away," said Egon, shaking his head. "You have avoided my questionings; can you not tell me your secret now?"
"Only get me into the army and I'll tell you everything!" cried Rojanow, feverish with excitement. "I care not under what conditions, only get me in the army. Don't speak to the duke or to any of the generals, only get me into some subordinate command. Your name, your kinship to the reigning house will make your recommendation of great value. They will not be captious when Prince Adelsberg solicits a place for a friend."
"But they'll be sure to ask me the same questions they asked you. You are a Roumanian—"
"No, no!" exclaimed Rojanow, passionately. "Have you never seen, never felt that—I am a German?"
The effect of this declaration was not so great as Hartmut had feared.
The prince looked steadily at him for a minute, then he said:
"I have thought that for some time. The man who wrote 'Arivana' never learned the German language as part of his education; it was born in him. But you bear the name of Rojanow—"
"That was my mother's name, she belonged to a Roumanian Bojarin family. My own name is—Hartmut von Falkenried."
"Falkenried? That was the name of the Prussian officer who came from Berlin with the secret despatches to the duke. Is he a kinsman of yours?"
"He is my father."
The prince glanced sympathetically at his friend, for he saw how it wrung his very soul to make this confession. He felt that here lay hidden a family drama, and desirous to avoid all show of curiosity concerning it, he only said:
"Take your own name as the son of your father; then every regiment in Prussia will be open to you."
"No, that would close them forever—I ran away from the cadet academy over ten years ago."
"Hartmut!" There was atone of horror in the exclamation.
"Ah, you are like my father. You regard me as a criminal. You who were reared in freedom know naught of the severities and restraints of that institution, of its tyrannies, to which every one within its walls has to bow in blind obedience. I endured it as long as I could, then I left it, for my soul demanded freedom and light. I appealed to my father in vain; he but tightened the chains—so I tore them apart and went away with my mother."
His manner was wild and excited as he told his short, fateful story; but his eyes, anxious and watchful, never left his listener's face. His father, with his fierce, severe code of honor, had cursed him, but his friend, who adored him, who had professed such a deep admiration for his genius, surely he would understand him, and how he had been driven to take such a step. But this friend was silent now, and in his silence lay his sentence.
"And you, too, Egon?" In the tone of the questioner, who had waited a long minute, and waited in vain for some word, there was inexpressible bitterness. "You, who have so often said to me that nothing should hamper the poet's flight, that he must break all bonds which would bind him to the earth. That's what I did, and it's what you would have done in my place."
The young prince drew himself up proudly, and answered decisively:
"No, Hartmut, you are in error there! I would perhaps have escaped from a severe school,—but from military service never!"
There were again the same old hard words he remembered as a boy—"the military service"—"the service of arms!" All the blood in his body rushed to his head.
"How did it happen you were not an officer?" continued Egon. "The cadets are promoted while very young in the north! Then in a few years you could have resigned. Just at the age, too, when life was beginning, and been free—with honor."
Hartmut was dumb; that was what his father had said to him once, but he would not wait. The barriers were an obstruction, and he threw them down, not recking that he trampled duty and honor in the dust at the same time.
"You do not understand how many things pressed upon me at the time," he explained with difficulty. "My mother—I will not complain, but she has been my fate. My father was divorced from her when I was little more than a baby, and I thought she was dead. Then suddenly she appeared in my life and I was tossed and torn by her hot mother love and her extravagant promises of freedom and happiness. She alone is accountable for my broken word—"
"What broken word?" asked Egon, excitedly. "You had not yet taken the oath?"
"No, but I had promised my father to return, when he permitted me a last interview with my mother."
"And instead of doing so, you ran away with her?"
The answer was almost inaudible, and then followed a long pause. The young prince spoke no word, but a deep, bitter pain lay on his sunny face, the bitterest of his lifetime, for in this minute he lost the friend he had loved so passionately.
Hartmut began again, but did not look at his friend while he spoke.
"Now you understand why I will force myself into the army at any price. On the battle-field I can expiate my boyhood's offense. When I saw in Sicily that war was imminent, I flew in haste to Germany. I hoped to be able to enter the service at once. I did not dream of the difficulties which I should encounter; but you can help me if you will."
"No, I cannot," said Egon, coldly. "After what I now know it would be an impossibility."
Hartmut grew pale to his very lips as he stepped excitedly before him.
"You cannot? That means you will not."
The prince was silent.
"Egon"—there was a tone of wild entreaty in his voice. "You know I have never asked a favor of you, this is the first and last, but now I beg, I implore your friendship. It is my release from the fatality which has followed me since that hour. It means reconciliation to my father, reconciliation to myself—you must help me!"
"I cannot," repeated the prince, solemnly. "The repulses which you have received are hard to bear, I doubt not, but they are right. You have broken faith with your country and with duty. You fled from the service—you, an officer's son—so it is closed against you—and you must bear it."
"And you say all this to me, so quietly, so coldly?" cried Hartmut fairly beside himself now. "This is a matter of life and death to me. I saw my father for the first time in over ten years at Rodeck when he hurried to Wallmoden's death bed. He scourged me with contempt and fearful words. That was what drove me from Germany and sent me roaming through foreign lands, for his words went with me and changed my life into hell. I hailed the war cry as my release. I would fight for the land I had once deserted. But you, you, who alone can open the door, shut it in my face. Egon, you turn from me; only one course is left!"
He turned with a movement of despair to the table on which the prince's pistols lay, but the latter pulled him back in affright:
"Hartmut! Are you mad?"
Egon was pale too, now, and his voice trembled as he said:
"I cannot let that happen, I will do my best to get you into some regiment!"
"At last I thank you!"
"I cannot promise anything, for I must keep it from the duke. He leaves to-morrow for the seat of war. If he learns later that you are in the army, the excitement of war may prevent him asking the why and wherefore. But it will be several days before I can know anything definite. Will you be my guest until then?"
The prince had recovered his self-possession, and spoke as usual to his old friend; but Hartmut understood the undertone in this question.
"No, I will not remain in the city; I will go to the forestry at Rodeck. You can send me word there, and I'll be in the city in a few hours."
"As you please. Will you not go to Rodeck castle?"
Hartmut give him a long, sorrowful glance.
"No, I will stay at the forestry. Farewell, Egon."
So they parted without one pressure of the hand, without one cordial word, these two who had been more than brothers, and as the door closed between them Hartmut knew that he had lost the dearest friend of his life. Here, too, he had been judged and sentenced! Surely his punishment was being meted out to him with no scant measure!
A dark, misty vapor enveloped the forest like a veil, and from time to time the rain fell in torrents. The tree tops swayed in the wind, and the raw, wet atmosphere reminded one of November rather than of midsummer.
The mistress of Ostwalden was in her forest home and alone; she had received news from her brother telling her he would march at once, and as her journey to Berlin to see him would be futile, she had been persuaded to remain in the south until after Willibald's marriage. The marriage had been a very quiet, simple affair, and Marietta had accompanied her husband to Berlin, where he was to join his regiment, and when he marched, she was to go to Burgsdorf, where her mother-in-law was again established.
Early one morning Prince Adelsberg drove over to Ostwalden.
He had obtained a day's leave that he might give some necessary orders at Rodeck, but it was toward Ostwalden not Rodeck that he ordered the horses' heads to be turned. He came to say good-bye to Adelheid, whom he had not seen again since that first visit.
When he reached Ostwalden, he found its mistress away on some errand of mercy, and he was ushered into a reception room to await her return. He paced the room restlessly, thinking of many things, of the struggle for life or death which lay before him, of the morrow's march, but mainly of the beautiful woman whose face had warmed with fire and sympathetic light while discussing his friend, of her dignity, her goodness and gentleness, and his heart was filled with the hope that he might take with him some word, some assurance to make him feel that when the strife was over he could return to peace—and her. He had no foreboding that the warmth and fire had not been from sympathy with him.
But in spite of everything, a shadow lay upon the sunny young face. It was not the war which troubled him, he went into that heart and soul, with no presentiments, and with all the ardor of youth. He dreamed and planned a happy future when all the excitement and turmoil were over.
Then the door opened and Frau von Wallmoden entered.
"I beg your pardon for keeping your highness waiting so long," she said after the first greeting. "The servants told you, perhaps, that a member of the household was dying."
"I heard that one of the men about the place was very ill," Egon answered as he hastened toward her.
"Yes, poor Tanner. He was formerly a tutor somewhere in this neighborhood, but his health failed, and Herr von Schoenau recommended him to my late husband. He has been here ever since we bought the place. He told me the other day how thankful his mother was that he had so easy a position. Since Herr von Wallmoden's death, nothing further has been done towards a library here, and Tanner was to have had special charge of that, so that except to act as my secretary occasionally, there has been literally nothing for him to do. Only yesterday I obtained the necessary papers for him to enter the army, and he was all enthusiasm over the prospect. This morning he had a severe hemorrhage, and now the physician says he cannot live an hour. It seems terrible to see a young life cut off so suddenly without any warning." The young mistress sighed deeply as she finished her sad little story.
After a minute's pause, Egon said quietly:
"I have come to say good-bye. We march to-morrow or next day, and I could not go without seeing you once again. I am fortunate in finding you here; some one said you were going away."
"Yes, I go to Berlin at once. Ostwalden is too isolated; I want to be near the centre where I can receive the latest news at this exciting time. My brother fights for the flag, you know, and I must be where I can hear from him."
Again there was a short pause, and the prince was thinking how he should say what lay nearest his heart, when Frau von Wallmoden asked a question, speaking indifferently, but with a slight falling in her voice.
"When I last saw your highness you were in doubt about your friend's whereabouts. Has he given any signs of life yet?"
Egon's eyes fell to the ground, and the shadows which had disappeared when the baroness entered the room, come back now, darker than ever.
"Yes!" he answered coldly. "Rojanow is again in Germany."
"Since the declaration of the war?"
"Yes, he came—"
"In order to enter the army? O, I knew it!"
The prince looked at her in great surprise.
"You knew it, baroness? I supposed you only knew Hartmut through me, and considered him a Roumanian!"
The young widow's face flushed as she realised how unwise she had been to make this outcry, but she answered quickly:
"I learned to know who Herr Rojanow was last winter when he was at Rodeck. I have known his father, however, for many long years, and the—I take it for granted that your highness knows the whole story?"
"Yes, I know it all," said Egon in a hopeless tone.
"Colonel Falkenried was a near friend of my father, and a constant guest at our house. I had never heard of his son, and took it for granted that he was childless, until that frightful hour at Rodeck, on the day of my husband's death. I was witness to the painful conversation between father and son."
The young prince breathed more freely; and an uncomfortable, suspicious feeling was set at rest for the moment.
"Now I understand your interest and sympathy," he responded. "Colonel Falkenried is to be pitied indeed."
"Why he?" inquired Adelheid, struck by the hard tone. "And how about your friend?"
"I have no friend. I have lost him," cried Egon with a passionate burst. "What he told me two days ago made a break between us, but what I have since heard has parted us forever."
"You judge a seventeen year old boy—he could not have been much older—very severely."
There was deep reproof in Adelheid's voice as she spoke, but the prince shook his head passionately.
"I'm not speaking of his flight, or his broken word, though they were both bad enough, considering he was an officer's son, but what I learned yesterday—I see, my dear madam, you do not know the worst. How should you? I should not have spoken."
"I beg your highness," began Adelheid again, "to tell me the truth. You say that Rojanow has come back to enter the army. I am not surprised. I expected it, for it was the only thing left for him to do to expiate his old fault. Does he march beneath our colors yet?"
"So far he has not been able to gain admission, and I have been saved a fearful responsibility," said Egon, with intense bitterness. "He endeavored to get into several regiments but was refused every time."
"Refused? And why?"
"Because he dared not acknowledge himself a German, and all strangers, especially Roumanians, are regarded with suspicion, and with justice, too. We can't be too cautious now, for fear of spies!"
"For God's sake, what do you mean by that?" exclaimed Adelheid, who began to see toward what Egon was drifting. He sprang up now in great excitement and came over to her side.
"If you wish to know, then listen to me. Hartmut came to me and desired me to use my influence to get him into one of our regiments. I refused at first, but he finally forced me to promise to do my utmost with a threat which I now think he had no intention of carrying into execution. I kept my word, and went at once to a general officer whose brother had but recently returned from Paris where he was secretary of our legation. This gentleman was present at the time of my visit, and as soon as he heard the name of Rojanow, asked many questions and then told us—I cannot speak of it—I have loved Hartmut more than any one else in the world, have almost adored him, his talents, his genius, and now I learn that this friend, who was all in all to me, is but a miserable, low wretch. He and his mother served as spies—spies, think of it—in Paris. Perhaps he would do the same in our army, and that was his object in striving to be admitted."
He laid his hand over his eyes if to keep out the horrible picture.
There was something inexpressibly sad in the young man's face and manner as he told how his idol had been shattered. Adelheid rose, and supporting herself against a chair, spoke in an eager, excited, trembling tone.
"And what did he say when you accused him?"
"Rojanow, do you mean? I haven't seen him again and do not intend to. It is better to spare both him and me. He is at the Rodeck forestry awaiting an answer from me. I sent him three lines telling him what I had learned, without one word of comment. He has the letter by this time, I suppose, and that will be sufficient explanation."
"God help him!"
"You speak sympathetically," said the prince, sneering.
"Yes, for this is not the first time I have heard this terrible accusation. His father threw it into his face during their interview."
"Well, when his own father acknowledged the disgrace, surely—"
"He is a sadly injured, deeply embittered man, and could have no unbiased judgment; but you, Hartmut's friend, who stood so near him, should shield him from such an imputation!"
Egon looked with astonishment at the excited woman.
"That evidently seems an easy matter to you," he said slowly. "I could not do it. There was too much to condemn in Hartmut's life; he told me much himself that had seemed mysterious before, and I can find no excuse, no extenuating circumstances for his actions. Even his denunciation of—"
"Of his mother! She was the sword which hung over his head. It was she who destroyed her son! But he knew nothing of the shameful depths to which she had sunk; he lived with her but she concealed her life from him. I saw it, I knew it when his father hurled the dreadful accusation at him; he was as one struck by lightning. There was truth in the man's despairing cry. Whatever his youthful misdemeanors, his punishment in that hour balanced them all. His flight, his broken promise, have robbed him of a father, and of his dearest friend; but though they turn against him I will believe in him. Yes, to the death! Their charge is untrue, he is an innocent man."
Adelheid was in a state of intense excitement now, her cheeks were aflame, her voice and manner had that intense passion which love alone can give. Egon stood and looked at her. There it was, the awaking to love and life, of which he had so often dreamed; the sea of ice had melted forever, but for another.
"I will not venture to decide whether you are right or not, my dear madame," he said, in a spiritless voice, after a second's pause. "I only know one thing. Whether Hartmut be guilty or innocent, he is to be envied in this hour!"
Adelheid drew back with a start. She understood the significance of his words, and her head sank before his pained, sorrowful glance.
"I came to say good-bye," continued Egon, "and to ask one question, one favor—but it is fruitless to ask it now. I have only farewell to say to you."
Adelheid raised her eyes, in which the hot tears were standing, and held out her hand to him.
"Good-bye," she said. "Good-bye. May Heaven protect you!"
The prince shook his head, and said with bitterness:
"What does it matter? I had thought to return—do not look at me so pleadingly. I have made a great mistake. I see it now, and I will not annoy you with my moaning, but Adelheid, I would willingly fall if I could but inspire for a moment the feeling and passion which you reserve for another. God bless you! Good bye!"
He pressed her hand and was gone.
A dreary afternoon. The wind had risen since the morning hours, and whistled ominously through the tall forest trees; the clouds grew darker and heavier, and the damp air was growing rawer and colder every moment. The sunshine of yesterday was forgotten in the gloom of to-day. The fresh green leaves, torn by the rising storm from the tall, waving branches, fell in a swirl at the feet of the tall, dark man, who, with folded arms, leaned against an old tree, utterly oblivious to the tempest which was gathering about him.
Hartmut's face was deadly pale, and on it there lay a strange, unearthly quiet; the fiery light was gone from those speaking eyes, and his hair lay wet and heavy upon his forehead. The storm had whirled his hat from his head, but he did not notice it, neither did he know that a heavy shower had drenched him to the skin. After wandering about in the woods for hours, he had at last found this spot—a fitting place to accomplish his purpose.
He had waited with feverish expectancy the message from Egon, and it had come. No letter, only three lines with the signature, "Egon, Prince Adelsberg," but these three lines, for him who received them, meant—the end of all things. Thrust out forever and despised! The friend his heart held dear asking neither for confirmation nor denial, but condemning him unheard.
The crash of a mighty branch which had been broken in the whirlwind, aroused Hartmut from his brooding. He was not alarmed, and turned his head slowly to look where the heavy branch had fallen. Only a few feet from him—why had it not struck him and ended his misery in a moment? How welcome was the thought of death. Such fatalities follow only those who love life. He who seeks death must accomplish it with his own hands. He took his gun from his shoulder and set the stock firmly in the ground and felt over his breast for the right place. He looked up at the veiled heavens, then down at the little lake with the deceptive, marshy meadow-lands beyond, with the old gray mist hovering over it as usual.
He seemed to see again the will-o'-the-wisp darting in and out, that spirit of the marsh at which he had often gazed in the long ago over his mother's shoulder, and while listening to her seductive words. He gave no second look to the sky, no sign was in the heavens to-day to lead him up to higher planes. One shot through the heart and all would be over.
He moved his hand to touch the trigger, when he heard a voice call his name. It was a quick, desperate cry, and a figure tall and slender, enveloped in a dark storm cloak, rushed before him. The gun fell from his hands as he looked up to see Adelheid's face, white and despairing, looking into his own.
Several minutes went by before either of them spoke. It was Hartmut who broke the silence finally.
"You here, my dear madame?" he asked, forcing himself to speak quietly. "Why are you abroad in such unseemly weather?"
Adelheid looked at the weapon which had fallen at her feet and shuddered.
"I might ask you the same question," she answered.
"I started out for a hunt, but this is no day for sport. I was just emptying my gun, when you—"
He did not finish, for her pained, reproving glance told him that all subterfuge was useless—he broke off and gazed gloomily before him. Adelheid too, abandoned any attempt at an ordinary conversation. Her voice was trembling and her face white as death, as she said: "Herr von Falkenried—God help us, what would you have done?"
"That which would have been finished now, had you not interfered," said Hartmut, in a hard tone. "Believe me, dear madame, it would have been better if accident had brought you here five minutes later."
"It was no accident. I was at the Rodeck forestry and heard that you had been gone several hours; a terrible suspicion took possession of me and drove me to follow you. I was almost certain I should find you here."
"You were seeking me? Me, Ada?" His voice trembled with emotion as he asked the question. "How did you learn that I was at the forestry?"
"Through Prince Adelsberg, who was with me to-day. You received a letter from him this morning?"
"No, only some intelligence," responded Hartmut, with drawn lips. "The few short lines contained no word directed personally to me, only business, only a communication which the prince thought necessary to make—I understood it!"
Adelheid was silent; she had felt sure that those few lines would be as death to him. Slowly she stepped toward him in the shadow of a great tree, the wind blew so fiercely that it was a necessity to have such protection as the trees could afford; Hartmut did not seem to notice its increasing fury.
"I see that you know what those few lines contained," he began again, "but it was not new to you. You heard it all at Rodeck. Ada, when I saw you standing in the shimmering, ghostly light on that frightful night, and knew that you had seen me trampled in the dust—even my own father, who loathes me, would have been satisfied with my punishment."
"You do him injustice," said Frau von Wallmoden, earnestly. "You saw him only when he was thrusting you from him with such iron relentlessness. I saw him afterwards when you had disappeared. He broke into the wildest anguish and I caught a glimpse of the father's heart which loved his son above all else on earth. Have you made no effort since then to convince him?"
"No, he would believe me as little as did Egon. He who has once broken his word destroys all belief in himself, no matter though he afterwards give his life in defense of truth. Had I met my death upon the battle-field, perhaps his eyes and Egon's would have been opened. Now when I fall by my own hand, the few who know my life will say, 'it was his guilt which drove him to despair, and forced him to commit the deed.'"
"No," said Adelheid softly, "one would not say it. I believe in you Hartmut, despite everything."
He looked at her, and through the gray hopelessness of despair a gleam of the old light shone forth.
"You, Ada? And you tell me this on the very spot where you condemned me? At that time, too, you knew nothing—"
"That was why I had a horror of the man to whom nothing was holy, who knew no law but his own passions; but when I saw you pleading at your father's feet, I felt fate rather than guilt had led you astray. Since then I have known that you could not throw aside that unfortunate heritage of your mother. Rouse yourself, Hartmut! The way which I showed you then is yet open. Whether it leads to life or death—it leads onward and upward."
Hartmut shook his head darkly!
"No, that has all gone by now. You do not know what my father did for me with his frightful words, what my life has been since then; but I will be silent, no one would understand. I thank you for your belief in me, Ada. My death will be easier."
"God help us! You dare not do it."
"What value has life for me?" said Hartmut with great excitement. "My mother has marked me with a brand as of seething iron, and that mark closes every door to atonement, to salvation. I am alone, condemned, thrust out from my own countrymen. Why, even the poorest peasant can fight; that right is denied only to the criminal without honor, and such I am in Egon's eyes. He fears that I would only join with my own countrymen to betray them, to—be a spy!" He put his hands over his face, and his last words died out in a groan. Then he felt a hand laid gently on his arm.
"The stigma lies in the name of Rojanow. Abandon that name, Hartmut. I bring you that for which you so ardently long—your admission to the army."
Hartmut gazed in unutterable astonishment at the speaker.
"Impossible! How could you?"
"Take these papers," said Adelheid, drawing out a long sealed envelope which she carried under her cloak. "You will answer the description of Joseph Tanner, twenty-nine years old, slender, dark complexion, dark hair and eyes. It's all right, you see; no one will question your right with these papers."
She handed him the envelope which she held with a convulsive grasp, as if it were a costly treasure.
"And these papers?" he asked doubting yet.
"Belonged to the dead! They were given me for one who will not use them now, for he died to-day; and I will be forgiven if I save the living by their use."
Hartmut tore open the envelope, the wind nearly blew the papers from his hand, so that it was with difficulty he could master their contents, while the baroness continued:
"Joseph Tanner had a small office at Ostwalden. This morning he had an unusually severe hemorrhage and died an hour after. Poor fellow, he had only time to leave a message with me for his old mother. I shall send her everything belonging to him, except these papers, which I, myself, obtained for him, and these I have kept for you. We rob no one; they would be of no use whatever to the mother. A severe judge might question my right, but I take all responsibility. God and my fatherland will forgive me."
Hartmut folded the papers carefully and hid them in his breast, then he threw the wet locks back from his broad forehead, his father's forehead, for that mark of the Falkenried blood was patent to the most careless observer.