STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS
GERMANY, and NORTHERN EUROPE
THE BIRD ON ITS JOURNEY, By Beatrice Harraden
KOOSJE: A STUDY OF DUTCH LIFE, by John Strange Winter
A DOG OF FLANDERS, by Ouida
MARKHEIM, by Robert Louis Stevenson
QUEEN TITA'S WAGER, by William Black
II—ZUM "GOLDENEN BOCK"
V—"GAB MIR EIN' RING DABEI"
THE BIRD ON ITS JOURNEY, By Beatrice Harraden
It was about four in the afternoon when a young girl came into the salon
of the little hotel at C—— in Switzerland, and drew her chair
up to the fire.
"You are soaked through," said an elderly lady, who was herself trying to
get roasted. "You ought to lose no time in changing your clothes."
"I have not anything to change," said the young girl, laughing. "Oh, I
shall soon be dry!"
"Have you lost all your luggage?" asked the lady, sympathetically.
"No," said the young girl; "I had none to lose." And she smiled a little
mischievously, as though she knew by instinct that her companion's
sympathy would at once degenerate into suspicion!
"I don't mean to say that I have not a knapsack," she added,
considerately. "I have walked a long distance—in fact, from Z——."
"And where did you leave your companions?" asked the lady, with a touch of
forgiveness in her voice.
"I am without companions, just as I am without luggage," laughed the girl.
And then she opened the piano, and struck a few notes. There was something
caressing in the way in which she touched the keys; whoever she was, she
knew how to make sweet music; sad music, too, full of that undefinable
longing, like the holding out of one's arms to one's friends in the
The lady bending over the fire looked up at the little girl, and forgot
that she had brought neither friends nor luggage with her. She hesitated
for one moment, and then she took the childish face between her hands and
"Thank you, dear, for your music," she said, gently.
"The piano is terribly out of tune," said the little girl, suddenly; and
she ran out of the room, and came back carrying her knapsack.
"What are you going to do?" asked her companion.
"I am going to tune the piano," the little girl said; and she took a
tuning-hammer out of her knapsack, and began her work in real earnest. She
evidently knew what she was about, and pegged away at the notes as though
her whole life depended upon the result.
The lady by the fire was lost in amazement. Who could she be? Without
luggage and without friends, and with a tuning-hammer!
Meanwhile one of the gentlemen had strolled into the salon; but hearing
the sound of tuning, and being in secret possession of nerves, he fled,
saying, "The tuner, by Jove!"
A few minutes afterward Miss Blake, whose nerves were no secret
possession, hastened into the salon, and, in her usual imperious fashion,
demanded instant silence.
"I have just done," said the little girl. "The piano was so terribly out
of tune, I could not resist the temptation."
Miss Blake, who never listened to what any one said, took it for granted
that the little girl was the tuner for whom M. le Proprietaire had
promised to send; and having bestowed on her a condescending nod, passed
out into the garden, where she told some of the visitors that the piano
had been tuned at last, and that the tuner was a young woman of rather
"Really, it is quite abominable how women thrust themselves into every
profession," she remarked, in her masculine voice. "It is so unfeminine,
There was nothing of the feminine about Miss Blake; her horse-cloth dress,
her waistcoat and high collar, and her billycock hat were of the masculine
genus; even her nerves could not be called feminine, since we learn from
two or three doctors (taken off their guard) that nerves are neither
feminine nor masculine, but common.
"I should like to see this tuner," said one of the tennis-players, leaning
against a tree.
"Here she comes," said Miss Blake, as the little girl was seen sauntering
into the garden.
The men put up their eye-glasses, and saw a little lady with a childish
face and soft brown hair, of strictly feminine appearance and bearing. The
goat came toward her and began nibbling at her frock. She seemed to
understand the manner of goats, and played with him to his heart's
content. One of the tennis players, Oswald Everard by name, strolled down
to the bank where she was having her frolic.
"Good-afternoon," he said, raising his cap. "I hope the goat is not
worrying you. Poor little fellow! this is his last day of play. He is to
be killed to-morrow for table d'hote."
"What a shame!" she said. "Fancy to be killed, and then grumbled at!"
"That is precisely what we do here," he said, laughing. "We grumble at
everything we eat. And I own to being one of the grumpiest; though the
lady in the horse-cloth dress yonder follows close upon my heels."
"She was the lady who was annoyed at me because I tuned the piano," the
little girl said. "Still, it had to be done. It was plainly my duty. I
seemed to have come for that purpose."
"It has been confoundedly annoying having it out of tune," he said. "I've
had to give up singing altogether. But what a strange profession you have
chosen! Very unusual, isn't it?"
"Why, surely not," she answered, amused. "It seems to me that every other
woman has taken to it. The wonder to me is that any one ever scores a
success. Nowadays, however, no one could amass a huge fortune out of it."
"No one, indeed!" replied Oswald Everard, laughing. "What on earth made
you take to it?"
"It took to me," she said simply. "It wrapped me round with enthusiasm. I
could think of nothing else. I vowed that I would rise to the top of my
profession. I worked day and night. But it means incessant toil for years
if one wants to make any headway."
"Good gracious! I thought it was merely a matter of a few months," he
said, smiling at the little girl.
"A few months!" she repeated, scornfully. "You are speaking the language
of an amateur. No; one has to work faithfully year after year; to grasp
the possibilities, and pass on to greater possibilities. You imagine what
it must feel like to touch the notes, and know that you are keeping the
listeners spellbound; that you are taking them into a fairy-land of sound,
where petty personality is lost in vague longing and regret."
"I confess I had not thought of it in that way," he said, humbly. "I have
only regarded it as a necessary every-day evil; and to be quite honest
with you, I fail to see now how it can inspire enthusiasm. I wish I could
see," he added, looking up at the engaging little figure before him.
"Never mind," she said, laughing at his distress; "I forgive you. And,
after all, you are not the only person who looks upon it as a necessary
evil. My poor old guardian abominated it. He made many sacrifices to come
and listen to me. He knew I liked to see his kind old face, and that the
presence of a real friend inspired me with confidence."
"I should not have thought it was nervous work," he said.
"Try it and see," she answered. "But surely you spoke of singing. Are you
not nervous when you sing?"
"Sometimes," he replied, rather stiffly. "But that is slightly different."
(He was very proud of his singing, and made a great fuss about it.) "Your
profession, as I remarked before, is an unavoidable nuisance. When I think
what I have suffered from the gentlemen of your profession, I only wonder
that I have any brains left. But I am uncourteous."
"No, no," she said; "let me hear about your sufferings."
"Whenever I have specially wanted to be quiet," he said—and then he
glanced at her childish little face, and he hesitated. "It seems so rude
of me," he added. He was the soul of courtesy, although he was an amateur
"Please tell me," the little girl said, in her winning way.
"Well," he said, gathering himself together, "it is the one subject on
which I can be eloquent. Ever since I can remember, I have been worried
and tortured by those rascals. I have tried in every way to escape from
them, but there is no hope for me. Yes; I believe that all the tuners in
the universe are in league against me, and have marked me out for their
"All the what?" asked the little girl, with a jerk in her voice.
"All the tuners, of course," he replied, rather snappishly. "I know that
we cannot do without them; but good heavens! they have no tact, no
consideration, no mercy. Whenever I've wanted to write or read quietly,
that fatal knock has come at the door, and I've known by instinct that all
chance of peace was over. Whenever I've been giving a luncheon party, the
tuner has arrived, with his abominable black bag, and his abominable card
which has to be signed at once. On one occasion I was just proposing to a
girl in her father's library when the tuner struck up in the drawing-room.
I left off suddenly, and fled from the house. But there is no escape from
these fiends; I believe they are swarming about in the air like so many
bacteria. And how, in the name of goodness, you should deliberately choose
to be one of them, and should be so enthusiastic over your work, puzzles
me beyond all words. Don't say that you carry a black bag, and present
cards which have to be filled up at the most inconvenient time; don't—"
He stopped suddenly, for the little girl was convulsed with laughter. She
laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks, and then she dried her
eyes and laughed again.
"Excuse me," she said; "I can't help myself; it's so funny."
"It may be funny to you," he said, laughing in spite of himself; "but it
is not funny to me."
"Of course it isn't," she replied, making a desperate effort to be
serious. "Well, tell me something more about these tuners."
"Not another word," he said, gallantly. "I am ashamed of myself as it is.
Come to the end of the garden, and let me show you the view down into the
She had conquered her fit of merriment, but her face wore a settled look
of mischief, and she was evidently the possessor of some secret joke. She
seemed in capital health and spirits, and had so much to say that was
bright and interesting that Oswald Everard found himself becoming
reconciled to the whole race of tuners. He was amazed to learn that she
had walked all the way from Z——, and quite alone, too.
"Oh, I don't think anything of that," she said; "I had a splendid time,
and I caught four rare butterflies. I would not have missed those for
anything. As for the going about by myself, that is a second nature.
Besides, I do not belong to any one. That has its advantages, and I
suppose its disadvantages; but at present I have only discovered the
advantages. The disadvantages will discover themselves!"
"I believe you are what the novels call an advanced young woman," he said.
"Perhaps you give lectures on woman's suffrage, or something of that
"I have very often mounted the platform," she answered. "In fact, I am
never so happy as when addressing an immense audience. A most unfeminine
thing to do, isn't it? What would the lady yonder in the horse-cloth dress
and billycock hat say? Don't you think you ought to go and help her drive
away the goat? She looks so frightened. She interests me deeply. I wonder
whether she has written an essay on the feminine in woman. I should like
to read it; it would do me so much good."
"You are at least a true woman," he said, laughing, "for I see you can be
spiteful. The tuning has not driven that away."
"Ah, I had forgotten about the tuning," she answered, brightly; "but now
you remind me, I have been seized with a great idea."
"Won't you tell it to me?" he asked.
"No," she answered; "I keep my great ideas for myself, and work them out
in secret. And this one is particularly amusing. What fun I shall have!"
"But why keep the fun to yourself?" he said. "We all want to be amused
here; we all want to be stirred up; a little fun would be a charity."
"Very well, since you wish it, you shall be stirred up," she answered;
"but you must give me time to work out my great idea. I do not hurry about
things, not even about my professional duties; for I have a strong feeling
that it is vulgar to be always amassing riches! As I have neither a
husband nor a brother to support, I have chosen less wealth, and more
leisure to enjoy all the loveliness of life! So you see I take my time
about everything. And to-morrow I shall catch butterflies at my leisure,
and lie among the dear old pines, and work at my great idea."
"I shall catch butterflies," said her companion; "and I too shall lie
among the dear old pines."
"Just as you please," she said; and at that moment the table d'hote
The little girl hastened to the bureau, and spoke rapidly in German to the
"Ach, Fraulein!" he said. "You are not really serious?"
"Yes, I am," she said. "I don't want them to know my name. It will only
worry me. Say I am the young lady who tuned the piano."
She had scarcely given these directions and mounted to her room when
Oswald Everard, who was much interested in his mysterious companion, came
to the bureau, and asked for the name of the little lady.
"Es ist das Fraulein welches das Piano gestimmt hat," answered the
man, returning with unusual quickness to his account-book.
No one spoke to the little girl at table d'hote, but for all that
she enjoyed her dinner, and gave her serious attention to all the courses.
Being thus solidly occupied, she had not much leisure to bestow on the
conversation of the other guests. Nor was it specially original; it
treated of the short-comings of the chef, the tastelessness of the soup,
the toughness of the beef, and all the many failings which go to complete
a mountain hotel dinner. But suddenly, so it seemed to the little girl,
this time-honoured talk passed into another phase; she heard the word
"music" mentioned, and she became at once interested to learn what these
people had to say on a subject which was dearer to her than any other.
"For my own part," said a stern-looking old man, "I have no words to
describe what a gracious comfort music has been to me all my life. It is
the noblest language which man may understand and speak. And I sometimes
think that those who know it, or know something of it, are able at rare
moments to find an answer to life's perplexing problems."
The little girl looked up from her plate. Robert Browning's words rose to
her lips, but she did not give them utterance:
God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear;
The rest may reason, and welcome; 'tis we musicians know.
"I have lived through a long life," said another elderly man, "and have
therefore had my share of trouble; but the grief of being obliged to give
up music was the grief which held me longest, or which perhaps has never
left me. I still crave for the gracious pleasure of touching once more the
strings of the violoncello, and hearing the dear, tender voice singing and
throbbing, and answering even to such poor skill as mine. I still yearn to
take my part in concerted music, and be one of those privileged to play
Beethoven's string-quartettes. But that will have to be in another
incarnation, I think."
He glanced at his shrunken arm, and then, as though ashamed of this
allusion to his own personal infirmity, he added hastily:
"But when the first pang of such a pain is over, there remains the comfort
of being a listener. At first one does not think it is a comfort; but as
time goes on there is no resisting its magic influence. And Lowell said
rightly that 'one of God's great charities is music.'"
"I did not know you were musical, Mr. Keith," said an English lady. "You
have never before spoken of music."
"Perhaps not, madam," he answered. "One does not often speak of what one
cares for most of all. But when I am in London I rarely miss hearing our
At this point others joined in, and the various merits of eminent pianists
were warmly discussed.
"What a wonderful name that little English lady has made for herself!"
said the major, who was considered an authority on all subjects. "I would
go anywhere to hear Miss Thyra Flowerdew. We all ought to be very proud of
her. She has taken even the German musical world by storm, and they say
her recitals at Paris have been brilliantly successful. I myself have
heard her at New York, Leipsic, London, Berlin, and even Chicago."
The little girl stirred uneasily in her chair.
"I don't think Miss Flowerdew has ever been to Chicago," she said.
There was a dead silence. The admirer of Miss Thyra Flowerdew looked much
annoyed, and twiddled his watch-chain. He had meant to say "Philadelphia,"
but he did not think it necessary to own to his mistake.
"What impertinence!" said one of the ladies to Miss Blake. "What can she
know about it? Is she not the young person who tuned the piano?"
"Perhaps she tunes Miss Thyra Flowerdew's piano!" suggested Miss Blake, in
a loud whisper.
"You are right, madam," said the little girl, quietly. "I have often tuned
Miss Flowerdew's piano."
There was another embarrassing silence; and then a lovely old lady, whom
every one reverenced, came to the rescue.
"I think her playing is simply superb," she said. "Nothing that I ever
hear satisfies me so entirely. She has all the tenderness of an angel's
"Listening to her," said the major, who had now recovered from his
annoyance at being interrupted, "one becomes unconscious of her presence,
for she is the music itself. And that is rare. It is but seldom
nowadays that we are allowed to forget the personality of the player. And
yet her personality is an unusual one; having once seen her, it would not
be easy to forget her. I should recognise her anywhere."
As he spoke, he glanced at the little tuner, and could not help admiring
her dignified composure under circumstances which might have been
distressing to any one; and when she rose with the others he followed her,
and said stiffly:
"I regret that I was the indirect cause of putting you in an awkward
"It is really of no consequence," she said, brightly. "If you think I was
impertinent, I ask your forgiveness. I did not mean to be officious. The
words were spoken before I was aware of them."
She passed into the salon, where she found a quiet corner for herself, and
read some of the newspapers. No one took the slightest notice of her; not
a word was spoken to her; but when she relieved the company of her
presence her impertinence was commented on.
"I am sorry that she heard what I said," remarked Miss Blake; "but she did
not seem to mind. These young women who go out into the world lose the
edge of their sensitiveness and femininity. I have always observed that."
"How much they are spared then!" answered some one.
Meanwhile the little girl slept soundly. She had merry dreams, and finally
woke up laughing. She hurried over her breakfast, and then stood ready to
go for a butterfly hunt. She looked thoroughly happy, and evidently had
found, and was holding tightly, the key to life's enjoyment.
Oswald Everard was waiting on the balcony, and he reminded her that he
intended to go with her.
"Come along then," she answered; "we must not lose a moment."
They caught butterflies; they picked flowers; they ran; they lingered by
the wayside; they sang; they climbed, and he marvelled at her easy speed.
Nothing seemed to tire her, and everything seemed to delight her—the
flowers, the birds, the clouds, the grasses, and the fragrance of the pine
"Is it not good to live?" she cried. "Is it not splendid to take in the
scented air? Draw in as many long breaths as you can. Isn't it good? Don't
you feel now as though you were ready to move mountains? I do. What a dear
old nurse Nature is! How she pets us, and gives us the best of her
Her happiness invaded Oswald Everard's soul, and he felt like a school-boy
once more, rejoicing in a fine day and his liberty, with nothing to spoil
the freshness of the air, and nothing to threaten the freedom of the
"Is it not good to live?" he cried. "Yes, indeed it is, if we know how to
They had come upon some haymakers, and the little girl hastened up to help
them, laughing and talking to the women, and helping them to pile up the
hay on the shoulders of a broad-backed man, who then conveyed his burden
to a pear-shaped stack. Oswald Everard watched his companion for a moment,
and then, quite forgetting his dignity as an amateur tenor singer, he too
lent his aid, and did not leave off until his companion sank exhausted on
"Oh," she laughed, "what delightful work for a very short time! Come
along; let us go into that brown chatlet yonder and ask for some milk. I
am simply parched with thirst. Thank you, but I prefer to carry my own
"What an independent little lady you are!" he said.
"It is quite necessary in our profession, I can assure you," she said,
with a tone of mischief in her voice. "That reminds me that my profession
is evidently not looked upon with any favour by the visitors at the hotel.
I am heartbroken to think that I have not won the esteem of that lady in
the billycock hat. What will she say to you for coming out with me? And
what will she say of me for allowing you to come? I wonder whether she
will say, 'How unfeminine!' I wish I could hear her!"
"I don't suppose you care," he said. "You seem to be a wild little bird."
"I don't care what a person of that description says," replied his
"What on earth made you contradict the major at dinner last night?" he
asked. "I was not at the table, but some one told me of the incident; and
I felt very sorry about it. What could you know of Miss Thyra Flowerdew?"
"Well, considering that she is in my profession, of course I know
something about her," said the little girl.
"Confound it all!" he said, rather rudely. "Surely there is some
difference between the bellows-blower and the organist."
"Absolutely none," she answered; "merely a variation of the original
As she spoke she knocked at the door of the chalet, and asked the old dame
to give them some milk. They sat in the Stube, and the little girl
looked about, and admired the spinning-wheel and the quaint chairs and the
queer old jugs and the pictures on the walls.
"Ah, but you shall see the other room," the old peasant woman said; and
she led them into a small apartment which was evidently intended for a
study. It bore evidences of unusual taste and care, and one could see that
some loving hand had been trying to make it a real sanctum of refinement.
There was even a small piano. A carved book-rack was fastened to the wall.
The old dame did not speak at first; she gave her guests time to recover
from the astonishment which she felt they must be experiencing; then she
pointed proudly to the piano.
"I bought that for my daughters," she said, with a strange mixture of
sadness and triumph. "I wanted to keep them at home with me, and I saved
and saved, and got enough money to buy the piano. They had always wanted
to have one, and I thought they would then stay with me. They liked music
and books, and I knew they would be glad to have a room of their own where
they might read and play and study; and so I gave them this corner."
"Well, mother," asked the little girl, "and where are they this
"Ah," she answered sadly, "they did not care to stay; but it was natural
enough, and I was foolish to grieve. Besides, they come to see me."
"And then they play to you?" asked the little girl, gently.
"They say the piano is out of tune," the old dame said. "I don't know.
Perhaps you can tell."
The little girl sat down to the piano, and struck a few chords.
"Yes," she said; "it is badly out of tune. Give me the tuning-hammer. I am
sorry," she added, smiling at Oswald Everard, "but I cannot neglect my
duty. Don't wait for me."
"I will wait for you," he said, sullenly; and he went into the balcony and
smoked his pipe, and tried to possess his soul in patience.
When she had faithfully done her work she played a few simple melodies,
such as she knew the old woman would love and understand; and she turned
away when she saw that the listener's eyes were moist.
"Play once again," the old woman whispered. "I am dreaming of beautiful
So the little tuner touched the keys again with all the tenderness of an
"Tell your daughters," she said, as she rose to say good-bye, "that the
piano is now in good tune. Then they will play to you the next time they
"I shall always remember you, mademoiselle," the old woman said; and,
almost unconsciously, she took the childish face and kissed it.
Oswald Everard was waiting in the hay-field for his companion; and when
she apologised to him for this little professional intermezzo, as she
called it, he recovered from his sulkiness and readjusted his nerves,
which the noise of the tuning had somewhat disturbed.
"It was very good of you to tune the old dame's piano," he said, looking
at her with renewed interest.
"Some one had to do it, of course," she answered, brightly, "and I am glad
the chance fell to me. What a comfort it is to think that the next time
those daughters come to see her they will play to her and make her very
happy! Poor old dear!"
"You puzzle me greatly," he said. "I cannot for the life of me think what
made you choose your calling. You must have many gifts; any one who talks
with you must see that at once. And you play quite nicely, too."
"I am sorry that my profession sticks in your throat," she answered. "Do
be thankful that I am nothing worse than a tuner. For I might be something
worse—a snob, for instance."
And, so speaking, she dashed after a butterfly, and left him to recover
from her words. He was conscious of having deserved a reproof; and when at
last he overtook her he said as much, and asked for her kind indulgence.
"I forgive you," she said, laughing. "You and I are not looking at things
from the same point of view; but we have had a splendid morning together,
and I have enjoyed every minute of it. And to-morrow I go on my way."
"And to-morrow you go," he repeated. "Can it not be the day after
"I am a bird of passage," she said, shaking her head. "You must not seek
to detain me. I have taken my rest, and off I go to other climes."
They had arrived at the hotel, and Oswald Everard saw no more of his
companion until the evening, when she came down rather late for table
d'hote. She hurried over her dinner and went into the salon. She
closed the door, and sat down to the piano, and lingered there without
touching the keys; once or twice she raised her hands, and then she let
them rest on the notes, and, half unconsciously, they began to move and
make sweet music; and then they drifted into Schumann's "Abendlied," and
then the little girl played some of his "Kinderscenen," and some of his
"Fantasie Stucke," and some of his songs.
Her touch and feeling were exquisite, and her phrasing betrayed the true
musician. The strains of music reached the dining-room, and, one by one,
the guests came creeping in, moved by the music and anxious to see the
The little girl did not look up; she was in a Schumann mood that evening,
and only the players of Schumann know what enthralling possession he takes
of their very spirit. All the passion and pathos and wildness and longing
had found an inspired interpreter; and those who listened to her were held
by the magic which was her own secret, and which had won for her such
honour as comes only to the few. She understood Schumann's music, and was
at her best with him.
Had she, perhaps, chosen to play his music this evening because she wished
to be at her best? Or was she merely being impelled by an overwhelming
force within her? Perhaps it was something of both.
Was she wishing to humiliate these people who had received her so coldly?
This little girl was only human; perhaps there was something of that
feeling too. Who can tell? But she played as she had never played in
London, or Paris, or Berlin, or New York, or Philadelphia.
At last she arrived at the "Carnaval," and those who heard her declared
afterward that they had never listened to a more magnificent rendering.
The tenderness was so restrained; the vigour was so refined. When the last
notes of that spirited "Marche des Davidsbundler contre les Philistins"
had died away, she glanced at Oswald Everard, who was standing near her
"And now my favourite piece of all," she said; and she at once began the
"Second Novelette," the finest of the eight, but seldom played in public.
What can one say of the wild rush of the leading theme, and the pathetic
longing of the intermezzo?
. . . The murmuring dying notes,
That fall as soft as snow on the sea;
The passionate strain that, deeply going,
Refines the bosom it trembles through.
What can one say of those vague aspirations and finest thoughts which
possess the very dullest among us when such music as that which the little
girl had chosen catches us and keeps us, if only for a passing moment, but
that moment of the rarest worth and loveliness in our unlovely lives?
What can one say of the highest music except that, like death, it is the
great leveller: it gathers us all to its tender keeping—and we rest.
The little girl ceased playing. There was not a sound to be heard; the
magic was still holding her listeners. When at last they had freed
themselves with a sigh, they pressed forward to greet her.
"There is only one person who can play like that," cried the major, with
sudden inspiration—"she is Miss Thyra Flowerdew."
The little girl smiled.
"That is my name," she said, simply; and she slipped out of the room.
The next morning, at an early hour, the bird of passage took her flight
onward, but she was not destined to go off unobserved. Oswald Everard saw
the little figure swinging along the road, and she overtook her.
"You little wild bird!" he said. "And so this was your great idea—to
have your fun out of us all, and then play to us and make us feel I don't
know how, and then to go."
"You said the company wanted stirring up," she answered, "and I rather
fancy I have stirred them up."
"And what do you suppose you have done for me?" he asked.
"I hope I have proved to you that the bellows-blower and the organist are
sometimes identical," she answered.
But he shook his head.
"Little wild bird," he said, "you have given me a great idea, and I will
tell you what it is: to tame you. So good-bye for the present."
"Good-bye," she said. "But wild birds are not so easily tamed."
Then she waved her hand over her head, and went on her way singing.
KOOSJE: A STUDY OF DUTCH LIFE, by John Strange Winter
Her name was Koosje van Kampen, and she lived in Utrecht, that most quaint
of quaint cities, the Venice of the North.
All her life had been passed under the shadow of the grand old Dom Kerk;
she had played bo-peep behind the columns and arcades of the ruined,
moss-grown cloisters; had slipped up and fallen down the steps leading to
the grachts; had once or twice, in this very early life, been
fished out of those same slimy, stagnant waters; had wandered under the
great lindens in the Baan, and gazed curiously up at the stork's nest in
the tree by the Veterinary School; had pattered about the hollow-sounding
streets in her noisy wooden klompen; had danced and laughed, had
quarrelled and wept, and fought and made friends again, to the tune of the
silver chimes high up in the Dom—chimes that were sometimes old Nederlandsche
hymns, sometimes Mendelssohn's melodies and tender "Lieder ohne Worte."
But that was ever so long ago, and now she had left her romping childhood
behind her, and had become a maid-servant—a very dignified and
aristocratic maid-servant indeed—with no less a sum than eight
pounds ten a year in wages.
She lived in the house of a professor, who dwelt on the Munster Kerkhoff,
one of the most aristocratic parts of that wonderfully aristocratic city;
and once or twice every week you might have seen her, if you had been
there to see, busily engaged in washing the red tile and blue slate
pathway in front of the professor's house. You would have seen that she
was very pleasant to look at, this Koosje, very comely and clean, whether
she happened to be very busy, or whether it had been Sunday, and, with her
very best gown on, she was out for a promenade in the Baan, after duly
going to service as regularly as the Sabbath dawned in the grand old
Gothic choir of the cathedral.
During the week she wore always the same costume as does every other
servant in the country: a skirt of black stuff, short enough to show a
pair of very neat-set and well-turned ankles, clad in cloth shoes and
knitted stockings that showed no wrinkles; over the skirt a bodice and a
kirtle of lilac, made with a neatly gathered frilling about her round
brown throat; above the frilling five or six rows of unpolished garnet
beads fastened by a massive clasp of gold filigree, and on her head a
spotless white cap tied with a neat bow under her chin—as neat, let
me tell you, as an Englishman's tie at a party.
But it was on Sunday that Koosje shone forth in all the glory of a black
gown and her jewellery—with great ear-rings to match the clasp of
her necklace, and a heavy chain and cross to match that again, and one or
two rings; while on her head she wore an immense cap, much too big to put
a bonnet over, though for walking she was most particular to have gloves.
Then, indeed, she was a young person to be treated with respect, and with
respect she was undoubtedly treated. As she passed along the quaint,
resounding streets, many a head was turned to look after her; but Koosje
went on her way like the staid maiden she was, duly impressed with the
fact that she was principal servant of Professor van Dijck, the most
celebrated authority on the study of osteology in Europe. So Koosje never
heeded the looks, turned her head neither to the right nor to the left,
but went sedately on her business or pleasure, whichever it happened to
It was not likely that such a treasure could remain long unnoticed and
unsought after. Servants in the Netherlands, I hear, are not so good but
that they might be better; and most people knew what a treasure Professor
van Dijck had in his Koosje. However, as the professor conscientiously
raised her wages from time to time, Koosje never thought of leaving him.
But there is one bribe no woman can resist—the bribe that is offered
by love. As Professor van Dijck had expected and feared, that bribe ere
long was held out to Koosje, and Koosje was too weak to resist it. Not
that he wished her to do so. If the girl had a chance of settling well and
happily for life, he would be the last to dream of throwing any obstacle
in her way. He had come to be an old man himself; he lived all alone, save
for his servants, in a great, rambling house, whose huge apartments were
all set out with horrible anatomical preparations and grisly skeletons;
and, though the stately passages were paved with white marble, and led
into rooms which would easily have accommodated crowds of guests, he went
into no society save that of savants as old and fossil-like as himself; in
other words, he was an old bachelor who lived entirely for his profession
and the study of the great masters by the interpretation of a genuine old
Stradivari. Yet the old professor had a memory; he recalled the time when
he had been young who now was old—the time when his heart was a good
deal more tender, his blood a great deal warmer, and his fancy very much
more easily stirred than nowadays. There was a dead-and-gone romance which
had broken his heart, sentimentally speaking—a romance long since
crumbled into dust, which had sent him for comfort into the study of
osteology and the music of the Stradivari; yet the memory thereof made him
considerably more lenient to Koosje's weakness than Koosje herself had
ever expected to find him.
Not that she had intended to tell him at first; she was only three and
twenty, and, though Jan van der Welde was as fine a fellow as could be
seen in Utrecht, and had good wages and something put by, Koosje was by no
means inclined to rush headlong into matrimony with undue hurry. It was
more pleasant to live in the professor's good house, to have delightful
walks arm in arm with Jan under the trees in the Baan or round the
Singels, parting under the stars with many a lingering word and promise to
meet again. It was during one of those very partings that the professor
suddenly became aware, as he walked placidly home, of the change that had
come into Koosje's life.
However, Koosje told him blushingly that she did not wish to leave him
just at present; so he did not trouble himself about the matter. He was a
wise man, this old authority on osteology, and quoted oftentimes,
"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
So the courtship sped smoothly on, seeming for once to contradict the
truth of the old saying, "The course of true love never did run smooth."
The course of their love did, of a truth, run marvellously smooth indeed.
Koosje, if a trifle coy, was pleasant and sweet; Jan as fine a fellow as
ever waited round a corner on a cold winter night. So brightly the happy
days slipped by, when suddenly a change was effected in the professor's
household which made, as a matter of course, somewhat of a change in
Koosje's life. It came about in this wise.
Koosje had been on an errand for the professor,—one that had kept
her out of doors some time,—and it happened that the night was
bitterly cold; the cold, indeed, was fearful. The air had that damp
rawness so noticeable in Dutch climate, a thick mist overhung the city,
and a drizzling rain came down with a steady persistence such as quickly
soaked through the stoutest and thickest garments. The streets were
well-nigh empty. The great thoroughfare, the Oude Gracht, was almost
deserted, and as Koosje hurried along the Meinerbroederstraat—for
she had a second commission there—she drew her great shawl more
tightly round her, muttering crossly, "What weather! yesterday so warm,
to-day so cold. 'Tis enough to give one the fever."
She delivered her message, and ran on through Oude Kerkhoff as fast as her
feet could carry her, when, just as she turned the corner into the
Domplein, a fierce gust of wind, accompanied by a blinding shower of rain,
assailed her; her foot caught against something soft and heavy, and she
"Bless us!" she ejaculated, blankly. "What fool has left a bundle out on
the path on such a night? Pitch dark, with half the lamps out, and rain
and mist enough to blind one."
She gathered herself up, rubbing elbows and knees vigorously, casting the
while dark glances at the obnoxious bundle which had caused the disaster.
Just then the wind was lulled, the lamp close at hand gave out a steady
light, which shed its rays through the fog upon Koosje and the bundle,
from which, to the girl's horror and dismay, came a faint moan. Quickly
she drew nearer, when she perceived that what she had believed to be a
bundle was indeed a woman, apparently in the last stage of exhaustion.
Koosje tried to lift her; but the dead-weight was beyond her, young and
strong as she was. Then the rain and the wind came on again in fiercer
gusts than before; the woman's moans grew louder and louder, and what to
do Koosje knew not.
She struggled on for the few steps that lay between her and the
professor's house, and then she rang a peal which resounded through the
echoing passages, bringing Dortje, the other maid, running out; after the
manner of her class, imagining all sorts of terrible catastrophes had
happened. She uttered a cry of relief when she perceived it was only
Koosje, who, without vouchsafing any explanation, dashed past her and ran
straight into the professor's room.
"O professor!" she gasped out; but, between her efforts to remove the
woman, her struggle with the elements, and her race down the passage, her
breath was utterly gone.
The professor looked up from his book and his tea-tray in surprise. For a
moment he thought that Koosje, his domestic treasure, had altogether taken
leave of her senses; for she was streaming with water, covered with mud,
and head and cap were in a state of disorder, such as neither he nor any
one else had ever seen them in since the last time she had been fished out
of the Nieuwe Gracht.
"What is the matter, Koosje?" he asked, regarding her gravely over his
"There's a woman outside—dying," she panted, "I fell over her."
"You had better try to get her in then," the old gentleman said, in quite
a relieved tone. "You and Dortje must bring her in. Dear, dear, poor soul!
but it is a dreadful night."
The old gentleman shivered as he spoke, and drew a little nearer to the
tall white porcelain stove.
It was, as he had said a minute before, a terrible night. He could hear
the wind beating about the house and rattling about the casements and
moaning down the chimneys; and to think any poor soul should be out on
such a night, dying! Heaven preserve others who might be belated or
houseless in any part of the world!
He fell into a fit of abstraction,—a habit not uncommon with learned
men,—wondering why life should be so different with different
people; why he should be in that warm, handsome room, with its soft rich
hangings and carpet, with its beautiful furniture of carved wood, its
pictures, and the rare china scattered here and there among the grim array
of skeletons which were his delight. He wondered why he should take his
tea out of costly and valuable Oriental china, sugar and cream out of
antique silver, while other poor souls had no tea at all, and nothing to
take it out of even if they had. He wondered why he should have a lamp
under his teapot that was a very marvel of art transparencies; why he
should have every luxury, and this poor creature should be dying in the
street amid the wind and the rain. It was all very unequal.
It was very odd, the professor argued, leaning his back against the tall,
warm stove; it was very odd indeed. He began to feel that, grand as the
study of osteology undoubtedly is, he ought not to permit it to become so
engrossing as to blind him to the study of the greater philosophies of
life. His reverie was, however, broken by the abrupt reentrance of Koosje,
who this time was a trifle less breathless than she had been before.
"We have got her into the kitchen, professor," she announced. "She is a
child—a mere baby, and so pretty! She has opened her eyes and
"Give her some soup and wine—hot," said the professor, without
"But won't you come?" she asked.
The professor hesitated; he hated attending in cases of illness, though he
was a properly qualified doctor and in an emergency would lay his
"Or shall I run across for the good Dr. Smit?" Koosje asked. "He would
come in a minute, only it is such a night!"
At that moment a fiercer gust than before rattled at the casements, and
the professor laid aside his scruples.
He followed his housekeeper down the chilly, marble-flagged passage into
the kitchen, where he never went for months together—a cosey enough,
pleasant place, with a deep valance hanging from the mantel-shelf, with
many great copper pans, bright and shining as new gold, and furniture all
scrubbed to the whiteness of snow.
In an arm-chair before the opened stove sat the rescued girl—a
slight, golden-haired thing, with wistful blue eyes and a frightened air.
Every moment she caught her breath in a half-hysterical sob, while violent
shivers shook her from head to foot.
The professor went and looked at her over his spectacles, as if she had
been some curious specimen of his favourite study; but at the same time he
kept at a respectful distance from her.
"Give her some soup and wine," he said, at length, putting his hands under
the tails of his long dressing-gown of flowered cashmere. "Some soup and
wine—hot; and put her to bed."
"Is she then to remain for the night?" Koosje asked, a little surprised.
"Oh, don't send me away!" the golden-haired girl broke out, in a voice
that was positively a wail, and clasping a pair of pretty, slender hands
in piteous supplication.
"Where do you come from?" the old gentleman asked, much as if he expected
she might suddenly jump up and bite him.
"From Beijerland, mynheer," she answered, with a sob.
"So! Koosje, she is remarkably well dressed, is she not?" the professor
said, glancing at the costly lace head-gear, the heavy gold head-piece,
which lay on the table together with the great gold spiral ornaments and
filigree pendants—a dazzling head of richness. He looked, too, at
the girl's white hands, at the rich, crape-laden gown, at their delicate
beauty, and shower of waving golden hair, which, released from the
confinement of the cap and head-piece, floated in a rich mass of
glittering beauty over the pillows which his servant had placed beneath
The professor was old; the professor was wholly given up to his
profession, which he jokingly called his sweetheart; and, though he cut
half of his acquaintances in the street through inattention and the
shortness of his sight, he had eyes in his head, and upon occasions could
use them. He therefore repeated the question.
"Very well dressed indeed, professor," returned Koosje, promptly.
"And what are you doing in Utrecht—in such a plight as this, too?"
he asked, still keeping at a safe distance.
"O mynheer, I am all alone in the world," she answered, her blue misty
eyes filled with tears. "I had a month ago a dear, good, kind father, but
he has died, and I am indeed desolate. I always believed him rich, and to
these things," with a gesture that included her dress and the ornaments on
the table, "I have ever been accustomed. Thus I ordered without
consideration such clothes as I thought needful. And then I found there
was nothing for me—not a hundred guilders to call my own when all
"But what brought you to Utrecht?"
"He sent me here, mynheer. In his last illness, only of three days'
duration, he bade me gather all together and come to this city, where I
was to ask for a Mevrouw Baake, his cousin."
"Mevrouw Baake, of the Sigaren Fabrijk," said Dortje, in an aside, to the
others. "I lived servant with her before I came here."
"I had heard very little about her, only my father had sometimes mentioned
his cousin to me; they had once been betrothed," the stranger continued.
"But when I reached Utrecht I found she was dead—two years dead; but
we had never heard of it."
"Dear, dear, dear!" exclaimed the professor, pityingly. "Well, you had
better let Koosje put you to bed, and we will see what can be done for you
in the morning."
"Am I to make up a bed?" Koosje asked, following him along the passage.
The professor wheeled round and faced her.
"She had better sleep in the guest room," he said, thoughtfully,
regardless of the cold which struck to his slippered feet from the marble
floor. "That is the only room which does not contain specimens that would
probably frighten the poor child. I am very much afraid, Koosje," he
concluded, doubtfully, "that she is a lady; and what we are to do with a
lady I can't think."
With that the old gentleman shuffled off to his cosey room, and Koosje
turned back to her kitchen.
"He'll never think of marrying her," mused Koosje, rather blankly. If she
had spoken the thoughts to the professor himself, she would have received
a very emphatic assurance that, much as the study of osteology and the
Stradivari had blinded him to the affairs of this workaday world, he was
not yet so thoroughly foolish as to join his fossilised wisdom to the
ignorance of a child of sixteen or seventeen.
However, on the morrow matters assumed a somewhat different aspect.
Gertrude van Floote proved to be not exactly a gentlewoman. It is true
that her father had been a well-to-do man for his station in life, and had
very much spoiled and indulged his one motherless child. Yet her education
was so slight that she could do little more than read and write, besides
speaking a little English, which she had picked up from the yachtsmen
frequenting her native town. The professor found she had been but a
distant relative of the Mevrouw Baake, to seek whom she had come to
Utrecht, and that she had no kinsfolk upon whom she could depend—a
fact which accounted for the profusion of her jewellery, all her golden
trinkets having descended to her as heirlooms.
"I can be your servant, mynheer," she suggested. "Indeed, I am a very
useful girl, as you will find if you will but try me."
Now, as a rule, the professor vigorously set his face against admitting
young servants into his house. They broke his china, they disarranged his
bones, they meddled with his papers, and made general havoc. So, in truth,
he was not very willing to have Gertrude van Floote as a permanent member
of his household, and he said so.
But Koosje had taken a fancy to the girl; and having an eye to her own
departure at no very distant date,—for she had been betrothed more
than two years,—she pleaded so hard to keep her, promising to train
her in all the professor's ways, to teach her the value of old china and
osteologic specimens, that eventually, with a good deal of grumbling, the
old gentleman gave way, and, being a wise as well as an old gentleman,
went back to his studies, dismissing Koosje and the girl alike from his
Just at first Truide, poor child, was charmed.
She put away her splendid ornaments, and some lilac frocks and black
skirts were purchased for her. Her box, which she had left at the station,
supplied all that was necessary for Sunday.
It was great fun! For a whole week this young person danced about the
rambling old house, playing at being a servant. Then she began to grow a
little weary of it all. She had been accustomed, of course, to performing
such offices as all Dutch ladies fulfil—the care of china, of linen,
the dusting of rooms, and the like; but she had done them as a mistress,
not as an underling. And that was not the worst; it was when it came to
her pretty feet having to be thrust into klompen, and her having to take a
pail and syringe and mop and clean the windows and the pathway and the
front of the house, that the game of maid-servant began to assume a very
different aspect. When, after having been as free as air to come and go as
she chose, she was only permitted to attend service on Sundays, and to
take an hour's promenade with Dortje, who was dull and heavy and stupid,
she began to feel positively desperate; and the result of it all was that
when Jan van der Welde came, as he was accustomed to do nearly every
evening, to see Koosje, Miss Truide, from sheer longing for excitement and
change, began to make eyes at him, with what effect I will endeavour to
Just at first Koosje noticed nothing. She herself was of so faithful a
nature that an idea, a suspicion, of Jan's faithlessness never entered her
mind. When the girl laughed and blushed and dimpled and smiled, when she
cast her great blue eyes at the big young fellow, Koosje only thought how
pretty she was, and it was must a thousand pities she had not been born a
And thus weeks slipped over. Never very demonstrative herself, Koosje saw
nothing, Dortje, for her part, saw a great deal; but Dortje was a woman of
few words, one who quite believed in the saying, "If speech is silver,
silence is gold;" so she held her peace.
Now Truide, rendered fairly frantic by her enforced confinement to the
house, grew to look upon Jan as her only chance of excitement and
distraction; and Jan, poor, thick-headed noodle of six feet high, was
thoroughly wretched. What to do he knew not. A strange, mad, fierce
passion for Truide had taken possession of him, and an utter distaste,
almost dislike, had come in place of the old love for Koosje. Truide was
unlike anything he had ever come in contact with before; she was so
fairy-like, so light, so delicate, so dainty. Against Koosje's plumper,
maturer charms, she appeared to the infatuated young man like—if he
had ever heard of it he would probably have said like a Dresden china
image; but since he had not, he compared her in his own foolish heart to
an angel. Her feet were so tiny, her hands so soft, her eyes so
expressive, her waist so slim, her manner so bewitching! Somehow Koosje
was altogether different; he could not endure the touch of her heavy hand,
the tones of her less refined voice; he grew impatient at the denser
perceptions of her mind. It was very foolish, very short-sighted; for the
hands, though heavy, were clever and willing; the voice, though a trifle
coarser in accent than Truide's childish tones, would never tell him a
lie; the perceptions, though not brilliant, were the perceptions of good,
every-day common sense. It really was very foolish, for what charmed him
most in Truide was the merest outside polish, a certain ease of manner
which doubtless she had caught from the English aristocrats whom she had
known in her native place. She had not half the sterling good qualities
and steadfastness of Koosje; but Jan was in love, and did not stop to
argue the matter as you or I are able to do. Men in love—very wise
and great men, too—are often like Jan van der Welde. They lay aside
pro tem. the whole amount, be it great or small, of wisdom they possess.
And it must be remembered that Jan van der Welde was neither a wise nor a
Well, in the end there came what the French call un denouement,—what
we in forcible modern English would call a smash,—and it
happened thus. It was one evening toward the summer that Koosje's eyes
were suddenly opened, and she became aware of the free-and-easy
familiarity of Truide's manner toward her betrothed lover, Jan. It was
some very slight and trivial thing that led her to notice it, but in an
instant the whole truth flashed across her mind.
"Leave the kitchen!" she said, in a tone of authority.
But it happened that, at the very instant she spoke, Jan was furtively
holding Truide's fingers under the cover of the table-cloth; and when, on
hearing the sharp words, the girl would have snatched them away, he, with
true masculine instinct of opposition, held them fast.
"What do you mean by speaking to her like that?" he demanded, an angry
flush overspreading his dark face.
"What is the maid to you?" Koosje asked, indignantly.
"Maybe more than you are," he retorted; in answer to which Koosje
deliberately marched out of the kitchen, leaving them alone.
To say she was indignant would be but very mildly to express the state of
her feelings; she was furious. She knew that the end of her romance
had come. No thoughts of making friends with Jan entered her mind; only a
great storm filled her heart till it was ready to burst with pain and
As she went along the passage the professor's bell sounded, and Koosje,
being close to the door, went abruptly in. The professor looked up in mild
astonishment, quickly enough changed to dismay as he caught sight of his
valued Koosje's face, from out of which anger seemed in a moment to have
thrust all the bright, comely beauty.
"How now, my good Koosje?" said the old gentleman. "Is aught amiss?"
"Yes, professor, there is," returned Koosje, all in a blaze of anger, and
moving, as she spoke, the tea-tray, which she set down upon the oaken
buffet with a bang, which made its fair and delicate freight fairly jingle
"But you needn't break my china, Koosje," suggested the old gentleman,
mildly, rising from his chair and getting into his favourite attitude
before the stove.
"You are quite right, professor," returned Koosje, curtly; she was
sensible even in her trouble.
"And what is the trouble?" he asked, gently.
"It's just this, professor," cried Koosje, setting her arms akimbo and
speaking in a high-pitched, shrill voice; "you and I have been warming a
viper in our bosoms, and, viper-like, she has turned round and bitten me."
"Is it Truide?"
"Truide," she affirmed, disdainfully. "Yes, it is Truide, who but for me
would be dead now of hunger and cold—or worse. And she has
been making love to that great fool, Jan van der Welde,—great oaf
that he is,—after all I have done for her; after my dragging her in
out of the cold and rain; after all I have taught her. Ah, professor, but
it is a vile, venomous viper that we have been warming in our bosoms!"
"I must beg, Koosje," said the old gentleman, sedately, "that you will
exonerate me from any such proceeding. If you remember rightly, I was
altogether against your plan for keeping her in the house." He could not
resist giving her that little dig, kind of heart as he was.
"Serves me right for being so soft-hearted!" thundered Koosje. "I'll be
wiser next time I fall over a bundle, and leave it where I find it."
"No, no, Koosje; don't say that," the old gentleman remonstrated, gently.
"After all, it may be but a blessing in disguise. God sends all our trials
for some good and wise purpose. Our heaviest afflictions are often, nay,
most times, Koosje, means to some great end which, while the cloud of
adversity hangs over us, we are unable to discern."
"Ah!" sniffed Koosje, scornfully.
"This oaf—as I must say you justly term him, for you are a good
clever woman, Koosje, as I can testify after the experience of years—has
proved that he can be false; he has shown that he can throw away substance
for shadow (for, of a truth, that poor, pretty child would make a sad wife
for a poor man); yet it is better you should know it now than at some
future date, when—when there might be other ties to make the
knowledge more bitter to you."
"Yes, that is true," said Koosje, passing the back of her hand across her
trembling lips. She could not shed tears over her trouble; her eyes were
dry and burning, as if anger had scorched the blessed drops up ere they
should fall. She went on washing up the cups and saucers, or at least the
cup and saucer, and other articles the professor had used for his tea; and
after a few minutes' silence he spoke again.
"What are you going to do? Punish her, or turn her out, or what?"
"I shall let him—marry her," replied Koosje, with a
The old gentleman couldn't help laughing. "You think he will pay off your
"Before long," answered Koosje, grimly, "she will find him out—as I
Then, having finished washing the tea-things, which the professor had
shuddered to behold in her angry hands, she whirled herself out of the
room and left him alone.
"Oh, these women—these women!" he cried, in confidence, to the
pictures and skeletons. "What a worry they are! An old bachelor has the
best of it in the main, I do believe. But oh, Jan van der Welde, what a
donkey you must be to get yourself mixed up in such a broil! and yet—ah!"
The fossilised old gentleman broke off with a sigh as he recalled the
memory of a certain dead-and-gone romance which had happened—goodness
only knows how many years before—when he, like Jan van der Welde,
would have thrown the world away for a glance of a certain pair of blue
eyes, at the bidding of a certain English tongue, whose broken Nederlandsche
taal was to him the sweetest music ever heard on earth—sweeter
even than the strains of the Stradivari when from under his skilful
fingers rose the perfect melodies of old masters. Ay, but the sweet eyes
had been closed in death many a long, long, year, the sweet voice hushed
in silence. He had watched the dear life ebb away, the fire in the blue
eyes fade out. He had felt each day that the clasp of the little greeting
fingers was less close; each day he had seen the outline of the face grow
sharper; and at last there had come one when the poor little English-woman
met him with the gaze of one who knew him not, and babbled, not of green
fields, but of horses and dogs, and of a brother Jack, who, five years
before, had gone down with her Majesty's ship Alligator in
Ay, but that was many and many a year agone. His young, blue-eyed love
stood out alone in life's history, a thing apart. Of the gentler sex, in a
general way, the old professor had not seen that which had raised it in
his estimation to the level of the one woman over whose memory hung a
bright halo of romance.
Fifteen years had passed away; the old professor of osteology had passed
away with them; and in the large house on the Domplein lived a baron, with
half a dozen noisy, happy, healthy children,—young fraulas
and jonkheers,—who scampered up and down the marble passages,
and fell headlong down the steep, narrow, unlighted stairways, to the
imminent danger of dislocating their aristocratic little necks. There was
a new race of neat maids, clad in the same neat livery of lilac and black,
who scoured and cleaned, just as Koosje and Dortje had done in the old
professor's day. You might, indeed, have heard the selfsame names
resounding through the echoing rooms: "Koos-je! Dort-je!"
But the Koosje and Dortje were not the same. What had become of Dortje I
cannot say; but on the left-hand side of the busy, bustling, picturesque
Oude Gracht there was a handsome shop filled with all manner of cakes,
sweeties, confections, and liquors—from absinthe to Benedictine, or
arrack to chartreuse. In that shop was a handsome, prosperous, middle-aged
woman, well dressed and well mannered, no longer Professor van Dijck's
Koosje, but the Jevrouw van Kampen.
Yes; Koosje had come to be a prosperous tradeswoman of good position,
respected by all. But she was Koosje van Kampen still; the romance which
had come to so disastrous and abrupt an end had sufficed for her life.
Many an offer had been made to her, it is true; but she had always
declared that she had had enough of lovers—she had found out their
I must tell you that at the time of Jan's infidelity, after the first
flush of rage was over, Koosje disdained to show any sign of grief or
regret. She was very proud, this Netherland servant-maid, far too proud to
let those by whom she was surrounded imagine she was wearing the willow
for the faithless Jan; and when Dortje, on the day of the wedding,
remarked that for her part she had always considered Koosje remarkably
cool on the subject of matrimony, Koosje with a careless out-turning of
her hands, palms uppermost, answered that she was right.
Very soon after their marriage Jan and his young wife left Utrecht for
Arnheim, where Jan had promise of higher wages; and thus they passed, as
Koosje thought, completely out of her life.
"I don't wish to hear anything more about them, if—you—please,"
she said, severely and emphatically, to Dortje.
But not so. In time the professor died, leaving Koosje the large legacy
with which she set up the handsome shop in the Oude Gracht; and several
years passed on.
It happened one day that Koosje was sitting in her shop sewing. In the
large inner room a party of ladies and officers were eating cakes and
drinking chocolates and liquors with a good deal of fun and laughter, when
the door opened timidly, thereby letting in a gust of bitter wind, and a
woman crept fearfully in, followed by two small, crying children.
Could the lady give her something to eat? she asked; they had had nothing
during the day, and the little ones were almost famished.
Koosje, who was very charitable, lifted a tray of large, plain buns, and
was about to give her some, when her eyes fell upon the poor beggar's
faded face, and she exclaimed:
Truide, for it was she, looked up in startled surprise.
"I did not know, or I would not have come in, Koosje," she said, humbly;
"for I treated you very badly."
"Ve-ry bad-ly," returned Koosje, emphatically. "Then where is Jan?"
"Dead!" murmured Truide, sadly.
"Dead! so—ah, well! I suppose I must do something for you. Here
Yanke!" opening the door and calling, "Yanke!"
"Je, jevrouw," a voice cried, in reply.
The next moment a maid came running into the shop.
"Take these people into the kitchen and give them something to eat. Put
them by the stove while you prepare it. There is some soup and that smoked
ham we had for koffy. Then come here and take my place for a
"Je, jevrouw," said Yanke, disappearing again, followed by Truide
and her children.
Then Koosje sat down again, and began to think.
"I said," she mused, presently, "that night that the next time I
fell over a bundle I'd leave it where I found it. Ah, well! I'm not a
barbarian; I couldn't do that. I never thought, though, it would be
"Hi, jevrouw," was called from the inner room.
"Je, mynheer," jumping up and going to her customers.
She attended to their wants, and presently bowed them out.
"I never thought it would be Truide," she repeated to herself, as she
closed the door behind the last of the gay uniforms and jingling
scabbards. "And Jan is dead—ah, well!"
Then she went into the kitchen, where the miserable children—girls
both of them, and pretty had they been clean and less forlornly clad—were
playing about the stove.
"So Jan is dead," began Koosje, seating herself.
"Yes, Jan is dead," Truide answered.
"And he left you nothing?" Koosje asked.
"We had had nothing for a long time," Truide replied, in her sad, crushed
voice. "We didn't get on very well; he soon got tired of me."
"That was a weakness of his," remarked Koosje, drily.
"We lost five little ones, one after another," Truide continued. "And Jan
was fond of them, and somehow it seemed to sour him. As for me, I was
sorry enough at the time, Heaven knows, but it was as well. But Jan said
it seemed as if a curse had fallen upon us; he began to wish you back
again, and to blame me for having come between you. And then he took to genever,
and then to wish for something stronger; so at last every stiver went for
absinthe, and once or twice he beat me, and then he died."
"Just as well," muttered Koosje, under her breath.
"It is very good of you to have fed and warmed us," Truide went on, in her
faint, complaining tones. "Many a one would have let me starve, and I
should have deserved it. It is very good of you and we are grateful; but
'tis time we were going, Koosje and Mina;" then added, with a shake of her
head, "but I don't know where."
"Oh, you'd better stay," said Koosje, hurriedly. "I live in this big house
by myself, and I dare say you'll be more useful in the shop than Yanke—if
your tongue is as glib as it used to be, that is. You know some English,
too, don't you?"
"A little," Truide answered, eagerly.
"And after all," Koosje said, philosophically, shrugging her shoulders,
"you saved me from the beatings and the starvings and the rest. I owe you
something for that. Why, if it hadn't been for you I should have been
silly enough to have married him."
And then she went back to her shop, saying to herself:
"The professor said it was a blessing in disguise; God sends all our
trials to work some great purpose. Yes; that was what he said, and he knew
most things. Just think if I were trailing about now with those two little
ones, with nothing to look back to but a schnapps-drinking husband who
beat me! Ah, well, well! things are best as they are. I don't know that I
ought not to be very much obliged to her—and she'll be very useful
in the shop."
A DOG OF FLANDERS, by Ouida
Nello and Patrasche were left all alone in the world.
They were friends in a friendship closer than brotherhood. Nello was a
little Ardennois; Patrasche was a big Fleming. They were both of the same
age by length of years; yet one was still young, and the other was already
old. They had dwelt together almost all their days; both were orphaned and
destitute, and owed their lives to the same hand. It had been the
beginning of the tie between them,—their first bond of sympathy,—and
it had strengthened day by day, and had grown with their growth, firm and
indissoluble, until they loved one another very greatly.
Their home was a little hut on the edge of a little village—a
Flemish village a league from Antwerp, set amidst flat breadths of pasture
and corn-lands, with long lines of poplars and of alders bending in the
breeze on the edge of the great canal which ran through it. It had about a
score of houses and homesteads, with shutters of bright green or sky blue,
and roofs rose red or black and white, and walls whitewashed until they
shone in the sun like snow. In the centre of the village stood a windmill,
placed on a little moss-grown slope; it was a landmark to all the level
country round. It had once been painted scarlet, sails and all; but that
had been in its infancy, half a century or more earlier, when it had
ground wheat for the soldiers of Napoleon; and it was now a ruddy brown,
tanned by wind and weather. It went queerly by fits and starts, as though
rheumatic and stiff in the joints from age; but it served the whole
neighborhood, which would have thought it almost as impious to carry grain
elsewhere as to attend any other religious service than the mass that was
performed at the altar of the little old gray church, with its conical
steeple, which stood opposite to it, and whose single bell rang morning,
noon, and night with that strange, subdued, hollow sadness which every
bell that hangs in the Low Countries seems to gain as an integral part of
Within sound of the little melancholy clock almost from their birth
upward, they had dwelt together, Nello and Patrasche, in the little hut on
the edge of the village, with the cathedral spire of Antwerp rising in the
northeast, beyond the great green plain of seeding grass and spreading
corn that stretched away from them like a tideless, changeless sea. It was
the hut of a very old man, of a very poor man—of old Jehan Daas, who
in his time had been a soldier, and who remembered the wars that had
trampled the country as oxen tread down the furrows, and who had brought
from his service nothing except a wound, which had made him a cripple.
When old Jehan Daas had reached his full eighty, his daughter had died in
the Ardennes, hard by Stavelot, and had left him in legacy her
two-year-old son. The old man could ill contrive to support himself, but
he took up the additional burden uncomplainingly, and it soon became
welcome and precious to him. Little Nello, which was but a pet diminutive
for Nicolas, throve with him, and the old man and the little child lived
in the poor little hut contentedly.
It was a very humble little mud hut indeed, but it was clean and white as
a sea-shell, and stood in a small plot of garden ground that yielded beans
and herbs and pumpkins. They were very poor, terribly poor; many a day
they had nothing at all to eat. They never by any chance had enough; to
have had enough to eat would have been to have reached paradise at once.
But the old man was very gentle and good to the boy, and the boy was a
beautiful, innocent, truthful, tender-natured creature; and they were
happy on a crust and a few leaves of cabbage, and asked no more of earth
or heaven—save indeed that Patrasche should be always with them,
since without Patrasche where would they have been?
For Patrasche was their alpha and omega; their treasury and granary; their
store of gold and wand of wealth; their bread-winner and minister; their
only friend and comforter. Patrasche dead or gone from them, they must
have laid themselves down and died likewise. Patrasche was body, brains,
hands, head, and feet to both of them; Patrasche was their very life,
their very soul. For Jehan Daas was old and a cripple, and Nello was but a
child; and Patrasche was their dog.
A dog of Flanders—yellow of hide, large of head and limb, with
wolf-like ears that stood erect, and legs bowed and feet widened in the
muscular development wrought in his breed by many generations of hard
service. Patrasche came of a race which had toiled hard and cruelly from
sire to son in Flanders many a century—slaves of slaves, dogs of the
people, beasts of the shafts and the harness, creatures that lived
straining their sinews in the gall of the cart, and died breaking their
hearts on the flints of the streets.
Patrasche had been born of parents who had labored hard all their days
over the sharp-set stones of the various cities and the long, shadowless,
weary roads of the two Flanders and of Brabant. He had been born to no
other heritage than those of pain and of toil. He had been fed on curses
and baptized with blows. Why not? It was a Christian country, and
Patrasche was but a dog. Before he was fully grown he had known the bitter
gall of the cart and the collar. Before he had entered his thirteenth
month he had become the property of a hardware dealer, who was accustomed
to wander over the land north and south, from the blue sea to the green
mountains. They sold him for a small price, because he was so young.
This man was a drunkard and a brute. The life of Patrasche was a life of
hell. To deal the tortures of hell on the animal creation is a way which
the Christians have of showing their belief in it. His purchaser was a
sullen, ill-living, brutal Brabantois, who heaped his cart full with pots
and pans and flagons and buckets, and other wares of crockery and brass
and tin, and left Patrasche to draw the load as best he might, while he
himself lounged idly by the side in fat and sluggish ease, smoking his
black pipe and stopping at every wineshop or cafe on the road.
Happily for Patrasche, or unhappily, he was very strong; he came of an
iron race, long born and bred to such cruel travail; so that he did not
die, but managed to drag on a wretched existence under the brutal burdens,
the scarifying lashes, the hunger, the thirst, the blows, the curses, and
the exhaustion which are the only wages with which the Flemings repay the
most patient and laborious of all their four-footed victims. One day,
after two years of this long and deadly agony, Patrasche was going on as
usual along one of the straight, dusty, unlovely roads that lead to the
city of Rubens. It was full midsummer, and very warm. His cart was very
heavy, piled high with goods in metal and in earthenware. His owner
sauntered on without noticing him otherwise than by the crack of the whip
as it curled round his quivering loins. The Brabantois had paused to drink
beer himself at every wayside house, but he had forbidden Patrasche to
stop a moment for a draught from the canal. Going along thus, in the full
sun, on a scorching highway, having eaten nothing for twenty-four hours,
and, which was far worse to him, not having tasted water for near twelve,
being blind with dust, sore with blows, and stupefied with the merciless
weight which dragged upon his loins, Patrasche staggered and foamed a
little at the mouth, and fell.
He fell in the middle of the white, dusty road, in the full glare of the
sun; he was sick unto death, and motionless. His master gave him the only
medicine in his pharmacy—kicks and oaths and blows with a cudgel of
oak, which had been often the only food and drink, the only wage and
reward, ever offered to him. But Patrasche was beyond the reach of any
torture or of any curses. Patrasche lay, dead to all appearances, down in
the white powder of the summer dust. After a while, finding it useless to
assail his ribs with punishment and his ears with maledictions, the
Brabantois—deeming life gone in him, or going, so nearly that his
carcass was forever useless, unless, indeed, some one should strip it of
the skin for gloves—cursed him fiercely in farewell, struck off the
leathern bands of the harness, kicked his body aside into the grass, and,
groaning and muttering in savage wrath, pushed the cart lazily along the
road uphill, and left the dying dog for the ants to sting and for the
crows to pick.
It was the last day before kermess away at Louvain, and the Brabantois was
in haste to reach the fair and get a good place for his truck of brass
wares. He was in fierce wrath, because Patrasche had been a strong and
much-enduring animal, and because he himself had now the hard task of
pushing his charette all the way to Louvain. But to stay to look
after Patrasche never entered his thoughts; the beast was dying and
useless, and he would steal, to replace him, the first large dog that he
found wandering alone out of sight of its master. Patrasche had cost him
nothing, or next to nothing, and for two long, cruel years he had made him
toil ceaselessly in his service from sunrise to sunset, through summer and
winter, in fair weather and foul.
He had got a fair use and a good profit out of Patrasche; being human, he
was wise, and left the dog to draw his last breath alone in the ditch, and
have his bloodshot eyes plucked out as they might be by the birds, whilst
he himself went on his way to beg and to steal, to eat and to drink, to
dance and to sing, in the mirth at Louvain. A dying dog, a dog of the cart—why
should he waste hours over its agonies at peril of losing a handful of
copper coins, at peril of a shout of laughter?
Patrasche lay there, flung in the grass-green ditch. It was a busy road
that day, and hundreds of people, on foot and on mules, in waggons or in
carts, went by, tramping quickly and joyously on to Louvain. Some saw him;
most did not even look; all passed on. A dead dog more or less—it
was nothing in Brabant; it would be nothing anywhere in the world.
After a time, among the holiday-makers, there came a little old man who
was bent and lame, and very feeble. He was in no guise for feasting; he
was very poorly and miserably clad, and he dragged his silent way slowly
through the dust among the pleasure-seekers. He looked at Patrasche,
paused, wondered, turned aside, then kneeled down in the rank grass and
weeds of the ditch, and surveyed the dog with kindly eyes of pity. There
was with him a little rosy, fair-haired, dark-eyed child of a few years
old, who pattered in amid the bushes, that were for him breast-high, and
stood gazing with a pretty seriousness upon the poor, great, quiet beast.
Thus it was that these two first met—the little Nello and the big
The upshot of that day was, that old Jehan Daas, with much laborious
effort, drew the sufferer homeward to his own little hut, which was a
stone's throw off amidst the fields; and there tended him with so much
care that the sickness, which had been a brain seizure brought on by heat
and thirst and exhaustion, with time and shade and rest passed away, and
health and strength returned, and Patrasche staggered up again upon his
four stout, tawny legs.
Now for many weeks he had been useless, powerless, sore, near to death;
but all this time he had heard no rough word, had felt no harsh touch, but
only the pitying murmurs of the child's voice and the soothing caress of
the old man's hand.
In his sickness they two had grown to care for him, this lonely man and
the little happy child. He had a corner of the hut, with a heap of dry
grass for his bed; and they had learned to listen eagerly for his
breathing in the dark night, to tell them that he lived; and when he first
was well enough to essay a loud, hollow, broken bay, they laughed aloud,
and almost wept together for joy at such a sign of his sure restoration;
and little Nello, in delighted glee, hung round his rugged neck chains of
marguerites, and kissed him with fresh and ruddy lips.
So then, when Patrasche arose, himself again, strong, big, gaunt,
powerful, his great wistful eyes had a gentle astonishment in them that
there were no curses to rouse him and no blows to drive him; and his heart
awakened to a mighty love, which never wavered once in its fidelity while
life abode with him.
But Patrasche, being a dog, was grateful. Patrasche lay pondering long
with grave, tender, musing brown eyes, watching the movements of his
Now, the old soldier, Jehan Daas, could do nothing for his living but limp
about a little with a small cart, with which he carried daily the
milk-cans of those happier neighbours who owned cattle away into the town
of Antwerp. The villagers gave him the employment a little out of charity;
more because it suited them well to send their milk into the town by so
honest a carrier, and bide at home themselves to look after their gardens,
their cows, their poultry, or their little fields. But it was becoming
hard work for the old man. He was eighty-three, and Antwerp was a good
league off, or more.
Patrasche watched the milk-cans come and go that one day when he had got
well and was lying in the sun with the wreath of marguerites round his
The next morning, Patrasche, before the old man had touched the cart,
arose and walked to it and placed himself betwixt its handles, and
testified as plainly as dumb-show could do his desire and his ability to
work in return for the bread of charity that he had eaten. Jehan Daas
resisted long, for the old man was one of those who thought it a foul
shame to bind dogs to labor for which Nature never formed them. But
Patrasche would not be gainsaid; finding they did not harness him, he
tried to draw the cart onward with his teeth.
At length Jehan Daas gave way, vanquished by the persistence and the
gratitude of this creature whom he had succored. He fashioned his cart so
that Patrasche could run in it, and this he did every morning of his life
When the winter came, Jehan Daas thanked the blessed fortune that had
brought him to the dying dog in the ditch that fair-day of Louvain; for he
was very old, and he grew feebler with each year, and he would ill have
known how to pull his load of milk-cans over the snows and through the
deep ruts in the mud if it had not been for the strength and the industry
of the animal he had befriended. As for Patrasche, it seemed heaven to
him. After the frightful burdens that his old master had compelled him to
strain under, at the call of the whip at every step, it seemed nothing to
him but amusement to step out with this little light, green cart, with its
bright brass cans, by the side of the gentle old man who always paid him
with a tender caress and with a kindly word. Besides, his work was over by
three or four in the day, and after that time he was free to do as he
would—to stretch himself, to sleep in the sun, to wander in the
fields, to romp with the young child, or to play with his fellow-dogs.
Patrasche was very happy.
Fortunately for his peace, his former owner was killed in a drunken brawl
at the kermess of Mechlin, and so sought not after him nor disturbed him
in his new and well-loved home.
A few years later, old Jehan Daas, who had always been a cripple, became
so paralyzed with rheumatism that it was impossible for him to go out with
the cart any more. Then little Nello, being now grown to his sixth year of
age, and knowing the town well from having accompanied his grandfather so
many times, took his place beside the cart, and sold the milk and received
the coins in exchange, and brought them back to their respective owners
with a pretty grace and seriousness which charmed all who beheld him.
The little Ardennois was a beautiful child, with dark, grave, tender eyes,
and a lovely bloom upon his face, and fair locks that clustered to his
throat; and many an artist sketched the group as it went by him—the
green cart with the brass flagons of Teniers and Mieris and Van Tal, and
the great, tawny-colored, massive dog, with his belled harness that chimed
cheerily as he went, and the small figure that ran beside him which had
little white feet in great wooden shoes, and a soft, grave, innocent,
happy face like the little fair children of Rubens.
Nello and Patrasche did the work so well and so joyfully together that
Jehan Daas himself, when the summer came and he was better again, had no
need to stir out, but could sit in the doorway in the sun and see them go
forth through the garden wicket, and then doze and dream and pray a
little, and then awake again as the clock tolled three and watch for their
return. And on their return Patrasche would shake himself free of his
harness with a bay of glee, and Nello would recount with pride the doings
of the day; and they would all go in together to their meal of rye bread
and milk or soup, and would see the shadows lengthen over the great plain,
and see the twilight veil the fair cathedral spire; and then lie down
together to sleep peacefully while the old man said a prayer.
So the days and the years went on, and the lives of Nello and Patrasche
were happy, innocent, and healthful.
In the spring and summer especially were they glad. Flanders is not a
lovely land, and around the burg of Rubens it is perhaps least lovely of
all. Corn and colza, pasture and plough, succeed each other on the
characterless plain in wearying repetition, and, save by some gaunt gray
tower, with its peal of pathetic bells, or some figure coming athwart the
fields, made picturesque by a gleaner's bundle or a woodman's fagot, there
is no change, no variety, no beauty anywhere; and he who has dwelt upon
the mountains or amid the forests feels oppressed as by imprisonment with
the tedium and the endlessness of that vast and dreary level. But it is
green and very fertile, and it has wide horizons that have a certain charm
of their own even in their dulness and monotony; and among the rushes by
the waterside the flowers grow, and the trees rise tall and fresh where
the barges glide, with their great hulks black against the sun, and their
little green barrels and vari-coloured flags gay against the leaves.
Anyway, there is greenery and breadth of space enough to be as good as
beauty to a child and a dog; and these two asked no better, when their
work was done, than to lie buried in the lush grasses on the side of the
canal, and watch the cumbrous vessels drifting by and bringing the crisp
salt smell of the sea among the blossoming scents of the country summer.
True, in the winter it was harder, and they had to rise in the darkness
and the bitter cold, and they had seldom as much as they could have eaten
any day; and the hut was scarce better than a shed when the nights were
cold, although it looked so pretty in warm weather, buried in a great
kindly clambering vine, that never bore fruit, indeed, but which covered
it with luxuriant green tracery all through the months of blossom and
harvest. In winter the winds found many holes in the walls of the poor
little hut, and the vine was black and leafless, and the bare lands looked
very bleak and drear without, and sometimes within the floor was flooded
and then frozen. In winter it was hard, and the snow numbed the little
white limbs of Nello, and the icicles cut the brave, untiring feet of
But even then they were never heard to lament, either of them. The child's
wooden shoes and the dog's four legs would trot manfully together over the
frozen fields to the chime of the bells on the harness; and then
sometimes, in the streets of Antwerp, some housewife would bring them a
bowl of soup and a handful of bread, or some kindly trader would throw
some billets of fuel into the little cart as it went homeward, or some
woman in their own village would bid them keep a share of the milk they
carried for their own food; and they would run over the white lands,
through the early darkness, bright and happy, and burst with a shout of
joy into their home.
So, on the whole, it was well with them—very well; and Patrasche,
meeting on the highway or in the public streets the many dogs who toiled
from daybreak into nightfall, paid only with blows and curses, and
loosened from the shafts with a kick to starve and freeze as best they
might—Patrasche in his heart was very grateful to his fate, and
thought it the fairest and the kindliest the world could hold. Though he
was often very hungry indeed when he lay down at night; though he had to
work in the heats of summer noons and the rasping chills of winter dawns;
though his feet were often tender with wounds from the sharp edges of the
jagged pavement; though he had to perform tasks beyond his strength and
against his nature—yet he was grateful and content; he did his duty
with each day, and the eyes that he loved smiled down on him. It was
sufficient for Patrasche.
There was only one thing which caused Patrasche any uneasiness in his
life, and it was this. Antwerp, as all the world knows, is full at every
turn of old piles of stones, dark and ancient and majestic, standing in
crooked courts, jammed against gateways and taverns, rising by the water's
edge, with bells ringing above them in the air, and ever and again out of
their arched doors a swell of music pealing. There they remain, the grand
old sanctuaries of the past, shut in amid the squalor, the hurry, the
crowds, the unloveliness, and the commerce of the modern world; and all
day long the clouds drift and the birds circle and the winds sigh around
them, and beneath the earth at their feet there sleeps—RUBENS.
And the greatness of the mighty master still rests upon Antwerp, and
wherever we turn in its narrow streets his glory lies therein, so that all
mean things are thereby transfigured; and as we pace slowly through the
winding ways, and by the edge of the stagnant water, and through the
noisome courts, his spirit abides with us, and the heroic beauty of his
visions is about us, and the stones that once felt his footsteps and bore
his shadow seem to arise and speak of him with living voices. For the city
which is the tomb of Rubens still lives to us through him, and him alone.
It is so quiet there by that great white sepulchre—so quiet, save
only when the organ peals and the choir cries aloud the Salve Regina or
the Kyrie eleison. Sure no artist ever had a greater gravestone than that
pure marble sanctuary gives to him in the heart of his birthplace in the
chancel of St. Jacques.
Without Rubens, what were Antwerp? A dirty, dusky, bustling mart, which no
man would ever care to look upon save the traders who do business on its
wharves. With Rubens, to the whole world of men it is a sacred name, a
sacred soil, a Bethlehem where a god of art saw light, a Golgotha where a
god of art lies dead.
O nations! closely should you treasure your great men; for by them alone
will the future know of you. Flanders in her generations has been wise. In
his life she glorified this greatest of her sons, and in his death she
magnifies his name. But her wisdom is very rare.
Now, the trouble of Patrasche was this. Into these great, sad piles of
stones, that reared their melancholy majesty above the crowded roofs, the
child Nello would many and many a time enter, and disappear through their
dark, arched portals, while Patrasche, left without upon the pavement,
would wearily and vainly ponder on what could be the charm which thus
allured from him his inseparable and beloved companion. Once or twice he
did essay to see for himself, clattering up the steps with his milk-cart
behind him; but thereon he had been always sent back again summarily by a
tall custodian in black clothes and silver chains of office; and fearful
of bringing his little master into trouble, he desisted, and remained
couched patiently before the churches until such time as the boy
reappeared. It was not the fact of his going into them which disturbed
Patrasche; he knew that people went to church; all the village went to the
small, tumble-down, gray pile opposite the red windmill. What troubled him
was that little Nello always looked strangely when he came out, always
very flushed or very pale; and whenever he returned home after such
visitations would sit silent and dreaming, not caring to play, but gazing
out at the evening skies beyond the line of the canal, very subdued and
What was it? wondered Patrasche. He thought it could not be good or
natural for the little lad to be so grave, and in his dumb fashion he
tried all he could to keep Nello by him in the sunny fields or in the busy
market-place. But to the churches Nello would go; most often of all would
he go to the great cathedral; and Patrasche, left without on the stones by
the iron fragments of Quentin Matsys's gate, would stretch himself and
yawn and sigh, and even howl now and then, all in vain, until the doors
closed and the child perforce came forth again, and winding his arms about
the dog's neck would kiss him on his broad, tawny-colored forehead, and
murmur always the same words, "If I could only see them, Patrasche!—if
I could only see them!"
What were they? pondered Patrasche, looking up with large, wistful,
One day, when the custodian was out of the way and the doors left ajar, he
got in for a moment after his little friend and saw. "They" were two great
covered pictures on either side of the choir.
Nello was kneeling, rapt as in an ecstasy, before the altar-picture of the
Assumption, and when he noticed Patrasche, and rose and drew the dog
gently out into the air, his face was wet with tears, and he looked up at
the veiled places as he passed them, and murmured to his companion, "It is
so terrible not to see them, Patrasche, just because one is poor and
cannot pay! He never meant that the poor should not see them when he
painted them, I am sure. He would have had us see them any day, every day;
that I am sure. And they keep them shrouded there—shrouded! in the
dark, the beautiful things! And they never feel the light, and no eyes
look on them, unless rich people come and pay. If I could only see them, I
would be content to die."
But he could not see them, and Patrasche could not help him, for to gain
the silver piece that the church exacts as the price for looking on the
glories of the "Elevation of the Cross" and the "Descent of the Cross" was
a thing as utterly beyond the powers of either of them as it would have
been to scale the heights of the cathedral spire. They had never so much
as a sou to spare; if they cleared enough to get a little wood for the
stove, a little broth for the pot, it was the utmost they could do. And
yet the heart of the child was set in sore and endless longing upon
beholding the greatness of the two veiled Rubens.
The whole soul of the little Ardennois thrilled and stirred with an
absorbing passion for art. Going on his ways through the old city in the
early days before the sun or the people had risen, Nello, who looked only
a little peasant boy, with a great dog drawing milk to sell from door to
door, was in a heaven of dreams whereof Rubens was the god. Nello, cold
and hungry, with stockingless feet in wooden shoes, and the winter winds
blowing among his curls and lifting his poor thin garments, was in a
rapture of meditation, wherein all that he saw was the beautiful fair face
of the Mary of the Assumption, with the waves of her golden hair lying
upon her shoulders, and the light of an eternal sun shining down upon her
brow. Nello, reared in poverty, and buffeted by fortune, and untaught in
letters, and unheeded by men, had the compensation or the curse which is
called genius. No one knew it; he as little as any. No one knew it. Only,
indeed, Patrasche, who, being with him always, saw him draw with chalk
upon the stones any and every thing that grew or breathed, heard him on
his little bed of hay murmur all manner of timid, pathetic prayers to the
spirit of the great master; watched his gaze darken and his face radiate
at the evening glow of sunset or the rosy rising of the dawn; and felt
many and many a time the tears of a strange, nameless pain and joy,
mingled together, fall hotly from the bright young eyes upon his own
wrinkled yellow forehead.
"I should go to my grave quite content if I thought, Nello, that when thou
growest a man thou couldst own this hut and the little plot of ground, and
labor for thyself, and be called Baas by thy neighbours," said the old man
Jehan many an hour from his bed. For to own a bit of soil, and to be
called Baas (master) by the hamlet round, is to have achieved the highest
ideal of a Flemish peasant; and the old soldier, who had wandered over all
the earth in his youth, and had brought nothing back, deemed in his old
age that to live and die on one spot in contented humility was the fairest
fate he could desire for his darling. But Nello said nothing.
The same leaven was working in him that in other times begat Rubens and
Jordaens and the Van Eycks, and all their wondrous tribe, and in times
more recent begat in the green country of the Ardennes, where the Meuse
washes the old walls of Dijon, the great artist of the Patroclus, whose
genius is too near us for us aright to measure its divinity.
Nello dreamed of other things in the future than of tilling the little
rood of earth, and living under the wattle roof, and being called Baas by
neighbours a little poorer or a little less poor than himself. The
cathedral spire, where it rose beyond the fields in the ruddy evening
skies or in the dim, gray, misty mornings, said other things to him than
this. But these he told only to Patrasche, whispering, childlike, his
fancies in the dog's ear when they went together at their work through the
fogs of the daybreak, or lay together at their rest among the rustling
rushes by the water's side.
For such dreams are not easily shaped into speech to awake the slow
sympathies of human auditors; and they would only have sorely perplexed
and troubled the poor old man bedridden in his corner, who, for his part,
whenever he had trodden the streets of Antwerp, had thought the daub of
blue and red that they called a Madonna, on the walls of the wine-shop
where he drank his sou's worth of black beer, quite as good as any of the
famous altarpieces for which the stranger folk traveled far and wide into
Flanders from every land on which the good sun shone.
There was only one other beside Patrasche to whom Nello could talk at all
of his daring fantasies. This other was little Alois, who lived at the old
red mill on the grassy mound, and whose father, the miller, was the
best-to-do husbandman in all the village. Little Alois was only a pretty
baby with soft round, rosy features, made lovely by those sweet dark eyes
that the Spanish rule has left in so many a Flemish face, in testimony of
the Alvan dominion, as Spanish art has left broad-sown throughout the
country majestic palaces and stately courts, gilded house-fronts and
sculptured lintels—histories in blazonry and poems in stone.
Little Alois was often with Nello and Patrasche. They played in the
fields, they ran in the snow, they gathered the daisies and bilberries,
they went up to the old gray church together, and they often sat together
by the broad wood fire in the mill-house. Little Alois, indeed, was the
richest child in the hamlet. She had neither brother nor sister; her blue
serge dress had never a hole in it; at kermess she had as many gilded nuts
and Agni Dei in sugar as her hands could hold; and when she went up for
her first communion her flaxen curls were covered with a cap of richest
Mechlin lace, which had been her mother's and her grandmother's before it
came to her. Men spoke already, though she had but twelve years, of the
good wife she would be for their sons to woo and win; but she herself was
a little gay, simple child, in no wise conscious of her heritage, and she
loved no playfellows so well as Jehan Daas's grandson and his dog.
One day her father, Baas Cogez, a good man, but somewhat stern, came on a
pretty group in the long meadow behind the mill, where the aftermath had
that day been cut. It was his little daughter sitting amid the hay, with
the great tawny head of Patrasche on her lap, and many wreaths of poppies
and blue corn-flowers round them both; on a clean smooth slab of pine wood
the boy Nello drew their likeness with a stick of charcoal.
The miller stood and looked at the portrait with tears in his eyes—it
was so strangely like, and he loved his only child closely and well. Then
he roughly chid the little girl for idling there while her mother needed
her within, and sent her indoors crying and afraid; then, turning, he
snatched the wood from Nello's hands. "Dost do much of such folly?" he
asked, but there was a tremble in his voice.
Nello coloured and hung his head. "I draw everything I see," he murmured.
The miller was silent; then he stretched his hand out with a franc in it.
"It is folly, as I say, and evil waste of time; nevertheless, it is like
Alois, and will please the house-mother. Take this silver bit for it and
leave it for me."
The colour died out of the face of the young Ardennois; he lifted his head
and put his hands behind his back. "Keep your money and the portrait both,
Baas Cogez," he said, simply. "You have been often good to me." Then he
called Patrasche to him, and walked away across the fields.
"I could have seen them with that franc," he murmured to Patrasche, "but I
could not sell her picture—not even for them."
Baas Cogez went into his mill-house sore troubled in his mind. "That lad
must not be so much with Alois," he said to his wife that night. "Trouble
may come of it hereafter; he is fifteen now, and she is twelve; and the
boy is comely of face and form."
"And he is a good lad and a loyal," said the housewife, feasting her eyes
on the piece of pine wood where it was throned above the chimney with a
cuckoo clock in oak and a Calvary in wax.
"Yea, I do not gainsay that," said the miller, draining his pewter flagon.
"Then, if what you think of were ever to come to pass," said the wife,
hesitatingly, "would it matter so much? She will have enough for both, and
one cannot be better than happy."
"You are a woman, and therefore a fool," said the miller, harshly,
striking his pipe on the table. "The lad is naught but a beggar, and, with
these painter's fancies, worse than a beggar. Have a care that they are
not together in the future, or I will send the child to the surer keeping
of the nuns of the Sacred Heart."
The poor mother was terrified, and promised humbly to do his will. Not
that she could bring herself altogether to separate the child from her
favorite playmate, nor did the miller even desire that extreme of cruelty
to a young lad who was guilty of nothing except poverty. But there were
many ways in which little Alois was kept away from her chosen companion;
and Nello, being a boy proud and quiet and sensitive, was quickly wounded,
and ceased to turn his own steps and those of Patrasche, as he had been
used to do with every moment of leisure, to the old red mill upon the
slope. What his offence was he did not know; he supposed he had in some
manner angered Baas Cogez by taking the portrait of Alois in the meadow;
and when the child who loved him would run to him and nestle her hand in
his, he would smile at her very sadly and say with a tender concern for
her before himself, "Nay, Alois, do not anger your father. He thinks that
I make you idle, dear, and he is not pleased that you should be with me.
He is a good man and loves you well; we will not anger him, Alois."
But it was with a sad heart that he said it, and the earth did not look so
bright to him as it had used to do when he went out at sunrise under the
poplars down the straight roads with Patrasche. The old red mill had been
a landmark to him, and he had been used to pause by it, going and coming,
for a cheery greeting with its people as her little flaxen head rose above
the low mill wicket, and her little rosy hands had held out a bone or a
crust to Patrasche. Now the dog looked wistfully at a closed door, and the
boy went on without pausing, with a pang at his heart, and the child sat
within with tears dropping slowly on the knitting to which she was set on
her little stool by the stove; and Baas Cogez, working among his sacks and
his mill-gear, would harden his will and say to himself, "It is best so.
The lad is all but a beggar, and full of idle, dreaming fooleries. Who
knows what mischief might not come of it in the future?" So he was wise in
his generation, and would not have the door unbarred, except upon rare and
formal occasions, which seemed to have neither warmth nor mirth in them to
the two children, who had been accustomed so long to a daily gleeful,
careless, happy interchange of greeting, speech, and pastime, with no
other watcher of their sports or auditor of their fancies than Patrasche,
sagely shaking the brazen bells of his collar and responding with all a
dog's swift sympathies to their every change of mood.
All this while the little panel of pine wood remained over the chimney in
the mill kitchen with the cuckoo clock and the waxen Calvary; and
sometimes it seemed to Nello a little hard that while his gift was
accepted, he himself should be denied.
But he did not complain; it was his habit to be quiet. Old Jehan Daas had
said ever to him, "We are poor; we must take what God sends—the ill
with the good; the poor cannot choose."
To which the boy had always listened in silence, being reverent of his old
grandfather; but nevertheless a certain vague, sweet hope, such as
beguiles the children of genius, had whispered in his heart, "Yet the poor
do choose sometimes—choose to be great, so that men cannot say them
nay." And he thought so still in his innocence; and one day, when the
little Alois, finding him by chance alone among the corn-fields by the
canal, ran to him and held him close, and sobbed piteously because the
morrow would be her saint's day, and for the first time in all her life
her parents had failed to bid him to the little supper and romp in the
great barns with which her feast-day was always celebrated, Nello had
kissed her and murmured to her in firm faith, "It shall be different one
day, Alois. One day that little bit of pine wood that your father has of
mine shall be worth its weight in silver; and he will not shut the door
against me then. Only love me always, dear little Alois; only love me
always, and I will be great."
"And if I do not love you?" the pretty child asked, pouting a little
through her tears, and moved by the instinctive coquetries of her sex.
Nello's eyes left her face and wandered to the distance, where, in the red
and gold of the Flemish night, the cathedral spire rose. There was a smile
on his face so sweet and yet so sad that little Alois was awed by it. "I
will be great still," he said under his breath—"great still, or die,
"You do not love me," said the little spoiled child, pushing him away; but
the boy shook his head and smiled, and went on his way through the tall
yellow corn, seeing as in a vision some day in a fair future when he
should come into that old familiar land and ask Alois of her people, and
be not refused or denied, but received in honour; while the village folk
should throng to look upon him and say in one another's ears, "Dost see
him? He is a king among men; for he is a great artist and the world speaks
his name; and yet he was only our poor little Nello, who was a beggar, as
one may say, and only got his bread by the help of his dog." And he
thought how he would fold his grandsire in furs and purples, and portray
him as the old man is portrayed in the Family in the chapel of St.
Jacques; and of how he would hang the throat of Patrasche with a collar of
gold, and place him on his right hand, and say to the people, "This was
once my only friend;" and of how he would build himself a great white
marble palace, and make to himself luxuriant gardens of pleasure, on the
slope looking outward to where the cathedral spire rose, and not dwell in
it himself, but summon to it, as to a home, all men young and poor and
friendless, but of the will to do mighty things; and of how he would say
to them always, if they sought to bless his name, "Nay, do not thank me—thank
Rubens. Without him, what should I have been?" And these dreams—beautiful,
impossible, innocent, free of all selfishness, full of heroical worship—were
so closely about him as he went that he was happy—happy even on this
sad anniversary of Alois's saint's day, when he and Patrasche went home by
themselves to the little dark hut and the meal of black bread, while in
the mill-house all the children of the village sang and laughed, and ate
the big round cakes of Dijon and the almond gingerbread of Brabant, and
danced in the great barn to the light of the stars and the music of flute
"Never mind, Patrasche," he said, with his arms round the dog's neck, as
they both sat in the door of the hut, where the sounds of the mirth at the
mill came down to them on the night air; "never mind. It shall all be
He believed in the future; Patrasche, of more experience and of more
philosophy, thought that the loss of the mill supper in the present was
ill compensated by dreams of milk and honey in some vague hereafter. And
Patrasche growled whenever he passed by Baas Cogez.
"This is Alois's name-day, is it not?" said the old man Daas that night,
from the corner where he was stretched upon his bed of sacking.
The boy gave a gesture of assent; he wished that the old man's memory had
erred a little, instead of keeping such sure account.
"And why not there?" his grandfather pursued. "Thou hast never missed a
year before, Nello."
"Thou art too sick to leave," murmured the lad, bending his handsome head
over the bed.
"Tut! tut! Mother Nulette would have come and sat with me, as she does
scores of times. What is the cause, Nello?" the old man persisted. "Thou
surely hast not had ill words with the little one?"
"Nay, grandfather, never," said the boy quickly, with a hot colour in his
bent face. "Simply and truly, Baas Cogez did not have me asked this year.
He has taken some whim against me."
"But thou hast done nothing wrong?"
"That I know—nothing. I took the portrait of Alois on a piece of
pine; that is all."
"Ah!" The old man was silent; the truth suggested itself to him with the
boy's innocent answer. He was tied to a bed of dried leaves in the corner
of a wattle hut, but he had not wholly forgotten what the ways of the
world were like.
He drew Nello's fair head fondly to his breast with a tenderer gesture.
"Thou art very poor, my child," he said, with a quiver the more in his
aged, trembling voice; "so poor! It is very hard for thee."
"Nay, I am rich," murmured Nello; and in his innocence he thought so; rich
with the imperishable powers that are mightier than the might of kings.
And he went and stood by the door of the hut in the quiet autumn night,
and watched the stars troop by and the tall poplars bend and shiver in the
wind. All the casements of the mill-house were lighted, and every now and
then the notes of the flute came to him. The tears fell down his cheeks,
for he was but a child; yet he smiled, for he said to himself, "In the
future!" He stayed there until all was quite still and dark; then he and
Patrasche went within and slept together, long and deeply, side by side.
Now he had a secret which only Patrasche knew. There was a little outhouse
to the hut which no one entered but himself—a dreary place, but with
abundant clear light from the north. Here he had fashioned himself rudely
an easel in rough lumber, and here, on a great gray sea of stretched
paper, he had given shape to one of the innumerable fancies which
possessed his brain. No one had ever taught him anything; colours he had
no means to buy; he had gone without bread many a time to procure even the
few rude vehicles that he had here; and it was only in black or white that
he could fashion the things he saw. This great figure which he had drawn
here in chalk was only an old man sitting on a fallen tree—only
that. He had seen old Michel, the woodman, sitting so at evening many a
time. He had never had a soul to tell him of outline or perspective, of
anatomy or of shadow; and yet he had given all the weary, worn-out age,
all the sad, quiet patience, all the rugged, care-worn pathos of his
original, and given them so that the old, lonely figure was a poem,
sitting there meditative and alone, on the dead tree, with the darkness of
the descending night behind him.
It was rude, of course, in a way, and had many faults, no doubt; and yet
it was real, true in nature, true in art, and very mournful, and in a
Patrasche had lain quiet countless hours watching its gradual creation
after the labor of each day was done, and he knew that Nello had a hope—vain
and wild perhaps, but strongly cherished—of sending this great
drawing to compete for a prize of two hundred francs a year which it was
announced in Antwerp would be open to every lad of talent, scholar or
peasant, under eighteen, who would attempt to win it with some unaided
work of chalk or pencil. Three of the foremost artists in the town of
Rubens were to be the judges and elect the victor according to his merits.
All the spring and summer and autumn Nello had been at work upon this
treasure, which if triumphant, would build him his first step toward
independence and the mysteries of the art which he blindly, ignorantly,
and yet passionately adored.
He said nothing to any one; his grandfather would not have understood, and
little Alois was lost to him. Only to Patrasche he told all, and
whispered, "Rubens would give it me, I think, if he knew."
Patrasche thought so too, for he knew that Rubens had loved dogs or he had
never painted them with such exquisite fidelity; and men who loved dogs
were, as Patrasche knew, always pitiful.
The drawings were to go in on the first day of December, and the decision
be given on the twenty-fourth, so that he who should win might rejoice
with all his people at the Christmas season.
In the twilight of a bitter wintry day, and with a beating heart, now
quick with hope, now faint with fear, Nello placed the great picture on
his little green milk-cart, and took it, with the help of Patrasche, into
the town, and there left it, as enjoined, at the doors of a public
"Perhaps it is worth nothing at all. How can I tell?" he thought, with the
heart-sickness of a great timidity. Now that he had left it there, it
seemed to him so hazardous, so vain, so foolish, to dream that he, a
little lad with bare feet who barely knew his letters, could do anything
at which great painters, real artists, could ever deign to look. Yet he
took heart as he went by the cathedral; the lordly form of Rubens seemed
to rise from the fog and the darkness, and to loom in its magnificence
before him, while the lips, with their kindly smile, seemed to him to
murmur, "Nay, have courage! It was not by a weak heart and by faint fears
that I wrote my name for all time upon Antwerp."
Nello ran home through the cold night, comforted. He had done his best;
the rest must be as God willed, he thought, in that innocent,
unquestioning faith which had been taught him in the little gray chapel
among the willows and the poplar-trees.
The winter was very sharp already. That night, after they reached the hut,
snow fell, and fell for very many days after that; so that the paths and
the divisions in the fields were all obliterated, and all the smaller
streams were frozen over, and the cold was intense upon the plains. Then,
indeed, it became hard work to go round for the milk while the world was
all dark, and carry it through the darkness to the silent town. Hard work,
especially for Patrasche, for the passage of the years that were only
bringing Nello a stronger youth were bringing him old age, and his joints
were stiff and his bones ached often. But he would never give up his share
of the labour. Nello would fain have spared him and drawn the cart
himself, but Patrasche would not allow it. All he would ever permit or
accept was the help of a thrust from behind to the truck as it lumbered
along through the ice-ruts. Patrasche had lived in harness, and he was
proud of it. He suffered a great deal sometimes from frost and the
terrible roads and the rheumatic pains of his limbs; but he only drew his
breath hard and bent his stout neck, and trod onward with steady patience.
"Rest thee at home, Patrasche; it is time thou didst rest, and I can quite
well push in the cart by myself," urged Nello many a morning; but
Patrasche, who understood him aright, would no more have consented to stay
at home than a veteran soldier to shirk when the charge was sounding; and
every day he would rise and place himself in his shafts, and plod along
over the snow through the fields that his four round feet had left their
print upon so many, many years.
"One must never rest till one dies," thought Patrasche; and sometimes it
seemed to him that that time of rest for him was not very far off. His
sight was less clear than it had been, and it gave him pain to rise after
the night's sleep, though he would never lie a moment in his straw when
once the bell of the chapel tolling five let him know that the daybreak of
labor had begun.
"My poor Patrasche, we shall soon lie quiet together, you and I," said old
Jehan Daas, stretching out to stroke the head of Patrasche with the old
withered hand which had always shared with him its one poor crust of
bread; and the hearts of the old man and the old dog ached together with
one thought: When they were gone who would care for their darling?
One afternoon, as they came back from Antwerp over the snow, which had
become hard and smooth as marble over all the Flemish plains, they found
dropped in the road a pretty little puppet, a tambourine player, all
scarlet and gold, about six inches high, and, unlike greater personages
when Fortune lets them drop, quite unspoiled and unhurt by its fall. It
was a pretty toy. Nello tried to find its owner, and, failing, thought
that it was just the thing to please Alois.
It was quite night when he passed the mill-house; he knew the little
window of her room; it could be no harm, he thought, if he gave her his
little piece of treasure-trove—they had been play-fellows so long.
There was a shed with a sloping roof beneath her casement; he climbed it
and tapped softly at the lattice; there was a little light within. The
child opened it and looked out half frightened.
Nello put the tambourine player into her hands. "Here is a doll I found in
the snow, Alois. Take it," he whispered; "take it, and God bless thee,
He slid down from the shed roof before she had time to thank him, and ran
off through the darkness.
That night there was a fire at the mill. Out-buildings and much corn were
destroyed, although the mill itself and the dwelling-house were unharmed.
All the village was out in terror, and engines came tearing through the
snow from Antwerp. The miller was insured, and would lose nothing;
nevertheless, he was in furious wrath, and declared aloud that the fire
was due to no accident, but to some foul intent.
Nello, awakened from his sleep, ran to help with the rest. Baas Cogez
thrust him angrily aside. "Thou wert loitering here after dark," he said
roughly. "I believe, on my soul, that thou dost know more of the fire than
Nello heard him in silence, stupefied, not supposing that any one could
say such things except in jest, and not comprehending how any one could
pass a jest at such a time.
Nevertheless, the miller said the brutal thing openly to many of his
neighbours in the day that followed; and though no serious charge was ever
preferred against the lad, it got bruited about that Nello had been seen
in the mill-yard after dark on some unspoken errand, and that he bore Baas
Cogez a grudge for forbidding his intercourse with little Alois; and so
the hamlet, which followed the sayings of its richest landowner servilely,
and whose families all hoped to secure the riches of Alois in some future
time for their sons, took the hint to give grave looks and cold words to
old Jehan Daas's grandson. No one said anything to him openly, but all the
village agreed together to humour the miller's prejudice, and at the
cottages and farms where Nello and Patrasche called every morning for the
milk for Antwerp, downcast glances and brief phrases replaced to them the
broad smiles and cheerful greetings to which they had been always used. No
one really credited the miller's absurd suspicions, nor the outrageous
accusations born of them; but the people were all very poor and very
ignorant, and the one rich man of the place had pronounced against him.
Nello, in his innocence and his friendlessness, had no strength to stem
the popular tide.
"Thou art very cruel to the lad," the miller's wife dared to say, weeping,
to her lord. "Sure, he is an innocent lad and a faithful, and would never
dream of any such wickedness, however sore his heart might be."
But Baas Cogez being an obstinate man, having once said a thing, held to
it doggedly, though in his innermost soul he knew well the injustice that
he was committing.
Meanwhile, Nello endured the injury done against him with a certain proud
patience that disdained to complain; he only gave way a little when he was
quite alone with old Patrasche. Besides, he thought, "If it should win!
They will be sorry then, perhaps."
Still, to a boy not quite sixteen, and who had dwelt in one little world
all his short life, and in his childhood had been caressed and applauded
on all sides, it was a hard trial to have the whole of that little world
turn against him for naught. Especially hard in that bleak, snow-bound,
famine-stricken winter-time, when the only light and warmth there could be
found abode beside the village hearths and in the kindly greetings of
neighbours. In the winter-time all drew nearer to each other, all to all,
except to Nello and Patrasche, with whom none now would have anything to
do, and who were left to fare as they might with the old paralyzed,
bedridden man in the little cabin, whose fire was often low, and whose
board was often without bread; for there was a buyer from Antwerp who had
taken to drive his mule in of a day for the milk of the various dairies,
and there were only three or four of the people who had refused his terms
of purchase and remained faithful to the little green cart. So that the
burden which Patrasche drew had become very light, and the centime pieces
in Nello's pouch had become, alas! very small likewise.
The dog would stop, as usual, at all the familiar gates which were now
closed to him, and look up at them with wistful, mute appeal; and it cost
the neighbours a pang to shut their doors and their hearts, and let
Patrasche draw his cart on again, empty. Nevertheless, they did it, for
they desired to please Baas Cogez.
Noel was close at hand.
The weather was very wild and cold; the snow was six feet deep, and the
ice was firm enough to bear oxen and men upon it everywhere. At this
season the little village was always gay and cheerful. At the poorest
dwelling there were possets and cakes, joking and dancing, sugared saints
and gilded Jesus. The merry Flemish bells jingled everywhere on the
horses; everywhere within doors some well-filled soup-pot sang and smoked
over the stove; and everywhere over the snow without laughing maidens
pattered in bright kerchiefs and stout kirtles, going to and from the
mass. Only in the little hut it was very dark and very cold.
Nello and Patrasche were left utterly alone, for one night in the week
before the Christmas Day, death entered there, and took away from life
forever old Jehan Daas, who had never known life aught save its poverty
and its pains. He had long been half dead, incapable of any movement
except a feeble gesture, and powerless for anything beyond a gentle word;
and yet his loss fell on them both with a great horror in it; they mourned
him passionately. He had passed away from them in his sleep, and when in
the gray dawn they learned their bereavement, unutterable solitude and
desolation seemed to close around them. He had long been only a poor,
feeble, paralyzed old man, who could not raise a hand in their defence;
but he had loved them well, his smile had always welcomed their return.
They mourned for him unceasingly, refusing to be comforted, as in the
white winter day they followed the deal shell that held his body to the
nameless grave by the little gray church. They were his only mourners,
these two whom he had left friendless upon earth—the young boy and
the old dog.
"Surely, he will relent now and let the poor lad come hither?" thought the
miller's wife, glancing at her husband where he smoked by the hearth.
Baas Cogez knew her thought, but he hardened his heart, and would not
unbar his door as the little, humble funeral went by. "The boy is a
beggar," he said to himself; "he shall not be about Alois."
The woman dared not say anything aloud, but when the grave was closed and
the mourners had gone, she put a wreath of immortelles into Alois's hands
and bade her go and lay it reverently on the dark, unmarked mound where
the snow was displaced.
Nello and Patrasche went home with broken hearts. But even of that poor,
melancholy, cheerless home they were denied the consolation. There was a
month's rent overdue for their little home, and when Nello had paid the
last sad service to the dead he had not a coin left. He went and begged
grace of the owner of the hut, a cobbler who went every Sunday night to
drink his pint of wine and smoke with Baas Cogez. The cobbler would grant
no mercy. He was a harsh, miserly man, and loved money. He claimed in
default of his rent every stick and stone, every pot and pan, in the hut,
and bade Nello and Patrasche be out of it on the morrow.
Now, the cabin was lowly enough, and in some sense miserable enough, and
yet their hearts clove to it with a great affection. They had been so
happy there, and in the summer, with its clambering vine and its flowering
beans, it was so pretty and bright in the midst of the sun-lighted fields!
Their life in it had been full of labor and privation, and yet they had
been so well content, so gay of heart, running together to meet the old
man's never-failing smile of welcome!
All night long the boy and the dog sat by the fireless hearth in the
darkness, drawn close together for warmth and sorrow. Their bodies were
insensible to the cold, but their hearts seemed frozen in them.
When the morning broke over the white, chill earth it was the morning of
Christmas Eve. With a shudder, Nello clasped close to him his only friend,
while his tears fell hot and fast on the dog's frank forehead. "Let us go,
Patrasche—dear, dear Patrasche," he murmured. "We will not wait to
be kicked out; let us go."
Patrasche had no will but his, and they went sadly, side by side, out from
the little place which was so dear to them both, and in which every
humble, homely thing was to them precious and beloved. Patrasche drooped
his head wearily as he passed by his own green cart; it was no longer his,—it
had to go with the rest to pay the rent,—and his brass harness lay
idle and glittering on the snow. The dog could have lain down beside it
and died for very heart-sickness as he went, but while the lad lived and
needed him Patrasche would not yield and give way.
They took the old accustomed road into Antwerp. The day had yet scarce
more than dawned; most of the shutters were still closed, but some of the
villagers were about. They took no notice while the dog and the boy passed
by them. At one door Nello paused and looked wistfully within; his
grandfather had done many a kindly turn in neighbour's service to the
people who dwelt there.
"Would you give Patrasche a crust?" he said, timidly. "He is old, and he
has had nothing since last forenoon."
The woman shut the door hastily, murmuring some vague saying about wheat
and rye being very dear that season. The boy and the dog went on again
wearily; they asked no more.
By slow and painful ways they reached Antwerp as the chimes tolled ten.
"If I had anything about me I could sell to get him bread!" thought Nello;
but he had nothing except the wisp of linen and serge that covered him,
and his pair of wooden shoes.
Patrasche understood, and nestled his nose into the lad's hand as though
to pray him not to be disquieted for any woe or want of his.
The winner of the drawing prize was to be proclaimed at noon, and to the
public building where he had left his treasure Nello made his way. On the
steps and in the entrance-hall there was a crowd of youths,—some of
his age, some older, all with parents or relatives or friends. His heart
was sick with fear as he went among them holding Patrasche close to him.
The great bells of the city clashed out the hour of noon with brazen
clamour. The doors of the inner hall were opened; the eager, panting
throng rushed in. It was known that the selected picture would be raised
above the rest upon a wooden dais.
A mist obscured Nello's sight, his head swam, his limbs almost failed him.
When his vision cleared he saw the drawing raised on high; it was not his
own! A slow, sonorous voice was proclaiming aloud that victory had been
adjudged to Stephen Kiesslinger, born in the burg of Antwerp, son of a
wharfinger in that town.
When Nello recovered his consciousness he was lying on the stones without,
and Patrasche was trying with every art he knew to call him back to life.
In the distance a throng of the youths of Antwerp were shouting around
their successful comrade, and escorting him with acclamations to his home
upon the quay.
The boy staggered to his feet and drew the dog into his embrace. "It is
all over, dear Patrasche," he murmured—"all over!"
He rallied himself as best he could, for he was weak from fasting, and
retraced his steps to the village. Patrasche paced by his side with his
head drooping and his old limbs feeble from hunger and sorrow.
The snow was falling fast; a keen hurricane blew from the north; it was
bitter as death on the plains. It took them long to traverse the familiar
path, and the bells were sounding four of the clock as they approached the
hamlet. Suddenly Patrasche paused, arrested by a scent in the snow,
scratched, whined, and drew out with his teeth a small case of brown
leather. He held it up to Nello in the darkness. Where they were there
stood a little Calvary, and a lamp burned dully under the cross; the boy
mechanically turned the case to the light; on it was the name of Baas
Cogez, and within it were notes for two thousand francs.
The sight roused the lad a little from his stupor. He thrust it in his
shirt, and stroked Patrasche and drew him onward. The dog looked up
wistfully in his face.
Nello made straight for the mill-house, and went to the house door and
struck on its panels. The miller's wife opened it weeping, with little
Alois clinging close to her skirts. "Is it thee, thou poor lad?" she said
kindly, through her tears. "Get thee gone ere the Baas see thee. We are in
sore trouble to-night. He is out seeking for a power of money that he has
let fall riding homeward, and in this snow he never will find it; and God
knows it will go nigh to ruin us. It is Heaven's own judgment for the
things we have done to thee."
Nello put the note-case in her hand and called Patrasche within the house.
"Patrasche found the money to-night," he said quickly. "Tell Baas Cogez
so; I think he will not deny the dog shelter and food in his old age. Keep
him from pursuing me, and I pray of you to be good to him."
Ere either woman or dog knew what he meant he had stooped and kissed
Patrasche, then closed the door hurriedly, and disappeared in the gloom of
the fast-falling night.
The woman and the child stood speechless with joy and fear; Patrasche
vainly spent the fury of his anguish against the iron-bound oak of the
barred house door. They did not dare unbar the door and let him forth;
they tried all they could to solace him. They brought him sweet cakes and
juicy meats; they tempted him with the best they had; they tried to lure
him to abide by the warmth of the hearth; but it was of no avail.
Patrasche refused to be comforted or to stir from the barred portal.
It was six o'clock when from an opposite entrance the miller at last came,
jaded and broken, into his wife's presence. "It is lost forever," he said,
with an ashen cheek and a quiver in his stern voice. "We have looked with
lanterns everywhere; it is gone—the little maiden's portion and
His wife put the money into his hand, and told him how it had come to her.
The strong man sank trembling into a seat and covered his face, ashamed
and almost afraid. "I have been cruel to the lad," he muttered at length;
"I deserved not to have good at his hands."
Little Alois, taking courage, crept close to her father and nestled
against him her fair curly head. "Nello may come here again, father?" she
whispered. "He may come to-morrow as he used to do?"
The miller pressed her in his arms; his hard, sunburnt face was very pale
and his mouth trembled. "Surely, surely," he answered his child. "He shall
bide here on Christmas Day, and any other day he will. God helping me, I
will make amends to the boy—I will make amends."
Little Alois kissed him in gratitude and joy; then slid from his knees and
ran to where the dog kept watch by the door. "And to-night I may feast
Patrasche?" she cried in a child's thoughtless glee.
Her father bent his head gravely: "Ay, ay! let the dog have the best;" for
the stern old man was moved and shaken to his heart's depths.
It was Christmas eve, and the mill-house was filled with oak logs and
squares of turf, with cream and honey, with meat and bread, and the
rafters were hung with wreaths of evergreen, and the Calvary and the
cuckoo clock looked out from a mass of holly. There were little paper
lanterns, too, for Alois, and toys of various fashions and sweetmeats in
bright-pictured papers. There were light and warmth and abundance
everywhere, and the child would fain have made the dog a guest honoured
But Patrasche would neither lie in the warmth nor share in the cheer.
Famished he was and very cold, but without Nello he would partake neither
of comfort nor food. Against all temptation he was proof, and close
against the door he leaned always, watching only for a means of escape.
"He wants the lad," said Baas Cogez. "Good dog! good dog! I will go over
to the lad the first thing at day-dawn." For no one but Patrasche knew
that Nello had left the hut, and no one but Patrasche divined that Nello
had gone to face starvation and misery alone.
The mill kitchen was very warm; great logs crackled and flamed on the
hearth; neighbours came in for a glass of wine and a slice of the fat
goose baking for supper. Alois, gleeful and sure of her playmate back on
the morrow, bounded and sang and tossed back her yellow hair. Baas Cogez,
in the fulness of his heart, smiled on her through moistened eyes, and
spoke of the way in which he would befriend her favourite companion; the
house-mother sat with calm, contented face at the spinning-wheel; the
cuckoo in the clock chirped mirthful hours. Amidst it all Patrasche was
bidden with a thousand words of welcome to tarry there a cherished guest.
But neither peace nor plenty could allure him where Nello was not.
When the supper smoked on the board, and the voices were loudest and
gladdest, and the Christ-child brought choicest gifts to Alois, Patrasche,
watching always an occasion, glided out when the door was unlatched by a
careless new-comer, and, as swiftly as his weak and tired limbs would bear
him sped over the snow in the bitter, black night. He had only one thought—to
follow Nello. A human friend might have paused for the pleasant meal, the
cheery warmth, the cosey slumber; but that was not the friendship of
Patrasche. He remembered a bygone time, when an old man and a little child
had found him sick unto death in the wayside ditch.
Snow had fallen freshly all the evening long; it was now nearly ten; the
trail of the boy's footsteps was almost obliterated. It took Patrasche
long to discover any scent. When at last he found it, it was lost again
quickly, and lost and recovered, and again lost and again recovered, a
hundred times or more.
The night was very wild. The lamps under the wayside crosses were blown
out; the roads were sheets of ice; the impenetrable darkness hid every
trace of habitations; there was no living thing abroad. All the cattle
were housed, and in all the huts and homesteads men and women rejoiced and
feasted. There was only Patrasche out in the cruel cold—old and
famished and full of pain, but with the strength and the patience of a
great love to sustain him in his search.
The trail of Nello's steps, faint and obscure as it was under the new
snow, went straightly along the accustomed tracks into Antwerp. It was
past midnight when Patrasche traced it over the boundaries of the town and
into the narrow, tortuous, gloomy streets. It was all quite dark in the
town, save where some light gleamed ruddily through the crevices of house
shutters, or some group went homeward with lanterns chanting
drinking-songs. The streets were all white with ice; the high walls and
roofs loomed black against them. There was scarce a sound save the riot of
the winds down the passages as they tossed the creaking signs and shook
the tall lamp-irons.
So many passers-by had trodden through and through the snow, so many
diverse paths had crossed and recrossed each other, that the dog had a
hard task to retain any hold on the track he followed. But he kept on his
way, though the cold pierced him to the bone, and the jagged ice cut his
feet, and the hunger in his body gnawed like a rat's teeth. He kept on his
way,—a poor gaunt, shivering thing,—and by long patience
traced the steps he loved into the very heart of the burg and up to the
steps of the great cathedral.
"He is gone to the things that he loved," thought Patrasche; he could not
understand, but he was full of sorrow and of pity for the art passion that
to him was so incomprehensible and yet so sacred.
The portals of the cathedral were unclosed after the midnight mass. Some
heedlessness in the custodians, too eager to go home and feast or sleep,
or too drowsy to know whether they turned the keys aright, had left one of
the doors unlocked. By that accident the footfalls Patrasche sought had
passed through into the building, leaving the white marks of snow upon the
dark stone floor. By that slender white thread, frozen as it fell, he was
guided through the intense silence, through the immensity of the vaulted
space—guided straight to the gates of the chancel, and, stretched
there upon the stones, he found Nello. He crept up, and touched the face
of the boy. "Didst thou dream that I should be faithless and forsake thee?
I—a dog?" said that mute caress.
The lad raised himself with a low cry and clasped him close. "Let us lie
down and die together," he murmured. "Men have no need of us, and we are
In answer, Patrasche crept closer yet, and laid his head upon the young
boy's breast. The great tears stood in his brown, sad eyes; not for
himself—for himself he was happy.
They lay close together in the piercing cold. The blasts that blew over
the Flemish dikes from the northern seas were like waves of ice, which
froze every living thing they touched. The interior of the immense vault
of stone in which they were was even more bitterly chill than the
snow-covered plains without. Now and then a bat moved in the shadows; now
and then a gleam of light came on the ranks of carven figures. Under the
Rubens they lay together quite still, and soothed almost into a dreaming
slumber by the numbing narcotic of the cold. Together they dreamed of the
old glad days when they had chased each other through the flowering
grasses of the summer meadows, or sat hidden in the tall bulrushes by the
water's side, watching the boats go seaward in the sun.
Suddenly through the darkness a great white radiance streamed through the
vastness of the aisles; the moon, that was at her height, had broken
through the clouds; the snow had ceased to fall; the light reflected from
the snow without was clear as the light of dawn. It fell through the
arches full upon the two pictures above, from which the boy on his
entrance had flung back the veil: the "Elevation" and the "Descent of the
Cross" were for one instant visible.
Nello rose to his feet and stretched his arms to them; the tears of a
passionate ecstasy glistened on the paleness of his face. "I have seen
them at last!" he cried aloud. "O God, it is enough!"
His limbs failed under him, and he sank upon his knees, still gazing
upward at the majesty that he adored. For a few brief moments the light
illumined the divine visions that had been denied to him so long—light
clear and sweet and strong as though it streamed from the throne of
Heaven. Then suddenly it passed away; once more a great darkness covered
the face of Christ.
The arms of the boy drew close again the body of the dog. "We shall see
His face—there," he murmured; "and He will not part us, I
On the morrow, by the chancel of the cathedral, the people of Antwerp
found them both. They were both dead; the cold of the night had frozen
into stillness alike the young life and the old. When the Christmas
morning broke and the priests came to the temple, they saw them lying thus
on the stones together. Above, the veils were drawn back from the great
visions of Rubens, and the fresh rays of the sunrise touched the
thorn-crowned head of the Christ.
As the day grew on there came an old, hard-featured man who wept as women
weep. "I was cruel to the lad," he muttered; "and now I would have made
amends,—yea, to the half of my substance,—and he should have
been to me as a son."
There came also, as the day grew apace, a painter who had fame in the
world, and who was liberal of hand and of spirit. "I seek one who should
have had the prize yesterday had worth won," he said to the people—"a
boy of rare promise and genius. An old wood-cutter on a fallen tree at
eventide—that was all his theme; but there was greatness for the
future in it. I would fain find him, and take him with me and teach him
And a little child with curling fair hair, sobbing bitterly as she clung
to her father's arm, cried aloud, "Oh, Nello, come! We have all ready for
thee. The Christ-child's hands are full of gifts, and the old piper will
play for us; and the mother says thou shalt stay by the hearth and burn
nuts with us all the Noel week long—yes, even to the Feast of the
Kings! And Patrasche will be so happy! Oh, Nello, wake and come!"
But the young pale face, turned upward to the light of the great Rubens
with a smile upon its mouth, answered them all, "It is too late."
For the sweet, sonorous bells went ringing through the frost, and the
sunlight shone upon the plains of snow, and the populace trooped gay and
glad through the streets, but Nello and Patrasche no more asked charity at
their hands. All they needed now Antwerp gave unbidden.
Death had been more pitiful to them than longer life would have been. It
had taken the one in the loyalty of love, and the other in the innocence
of faith, from a world which for love has no recompense and for faith no
All their lives they had been together, and in their deaths they were not
divided; for when they were found the arms of the boy were folded too
closely around the dog to be severed without violence, and the people of
their little village, contrite and ashamed, implored a special grace for
them, and, making them one grave, laid them to rest there side by side—forever!
MARKHEIM, by Robert Louis Stevenson
"Yes," said the dealer, "our windfalls are of various kinds. Some
customers are ignorant, and then I touch a dividend on my superior
knowledge. Some are dishonest," and here he held up the candle, so that
the light fell strongly on his visitor, "and in that case," he continued,
"I profit by my virtue."
Markheim had but just entered from the daylight streets, and his eyes had
not yet grown familiar with the mingled shine and darkness in the shop. At
these pointed words, and before the near presence of the flame, he blinked
painfully and looked aside.
The dealer chuckled. "You come to me on Christmas Day," he resumed, "when
you know that I am alone in my house, put up my shutters, and make a point
of refusing business. Well, you will have to pay for that; you will have
to pay for my loss of time, when I should be balancing my books; you will
have to pay, besides, for a kind of manner that I remark in you to-day
very strongly. I am the essence of discretion, and ask no awkward
questions; but when a customer cannot look me in the eye, he has to pay
for it." The dealer once more chuckled; and then, changing to his usual
business voice, though still with a note of irony, "You can give, as
usual, a clear account of how you came into the possession of the object?"
he continued. "Still your uncle's cabinet? A remarkable collector, sir!"
And the little pale, round-shouldered dealer stood almost on tip-toe,
looking over the top of his gold spectacles, and nodding his head with
every mark of disbelief. Markheim returned his gaze with one of infinite
pity, and a touch of horror.
"This time," said he, "you are in error. I have not come to sell, but to
buy. I have no curios to dispose of; my uncle's cabinet is bare to the
wainscot; even were it still intact, I have done well on the Stock
Exchange, and should more likely add to it than otherwise, and my errand
to-day is simplicity itself. I seek a Christmas present for a lady," he
continued, waxing more fluent as he struck into the speech he had
prepared; "and certainly I owe you every excuse for thus disturbing you
upon so small a matter. But the thing was neglected yesterday; I must
produce my little compliment at dinner; and, as you very well know, a rich
marriage is not a thing to be neglected."
There followed a pause, during which the dealer seemed to weigh this
statement incredulously. The ticking of many clocks among the curious
lumber of the shop, and the faint rushing of the cabs in a near
thoroughfare, filled up the interval of silence.
"Well, sir," said the dealer, "be it so. You are an old customer after
all; and if, as you say, you have the chance of a good marriage, far be it
from me to be an obstacle. Here is a nice thing for a lady now," he went
on, "this hand-glass—fifteenth century, warranted; comes from a good
collection, too; but I reserve the name, in the interests of my customer,
who was just like yourself, my dear sir, the nephew and sole heir of a
The dealer, while he thus ran on in his dry and biting voice, had stooped
to take the object from its place; and, as he had done so, a shock had
passed through Markheim, a start both of hand and foot, a sudden leap of
many tumultuous passions to the face. It passed as swiftly as it came, and
left no trace beyond a certain trembling of the hand that now received the
"A glass," he said hoarsely, and then paused, and repeated it more
clearly. "A glass? For Christmas? Surely not?"
"And why not?" cried the dealer. "Why not a glass?"
Markheim was looking upon him with an indefinable expression. "You ask me
why not?" he said. "Why, look here—look in it—look at
yourself! Do you like to see it? No! nor I—nor any man."
The little man had jumped back when Markheim had so suddenly confronted
him with the mirror; but now, perceiving there was nothing worse on hand,
he chuckled. "Your future lady, sir, must be pretty hard favoured," said
"I ask you," said Markheim, "for a Christmas present, and you give me this—this
damned reminder of years, and sins and follies—this hand-conscience!
Did you mean it? Had you a thought in your mind? Tell me. It will be
better for you if you do. Come, tell me about yourself. I hazard a guess
now, that you are in secret a very charitable man."
The dealer looked closely at his companion. It was very odd, Markheim did
not appear to be laughing; there was something in his face like an eager
sparkle of hope, but nothing of mirth.
"What are you driving at?" the dealer asked.
"Not charitable?" returned the other, gloomily. "Not charitable; not
pious; not scrupulous; unloving, unbeloved; a hand to get money, a safe to
keep it. Is that all? Dear God, man, is that all?"
"I will tell you what it is," began the dealer, with some sharpness, and
then broke off again into a chuckle. "But I see this is a love match of
yours, and you have been drinking the lady's health."
"Ah!" cried Markheim, with a strange curiosity. "Ah, have you been in
love? Tell me about that."
"I," cried the dealer. "I in love! I never had the time, nor have I the
time to-day for all this nonsense. Will you take the glass?"
"Where is the hurry?" returned Markheim. "It is very pleasant to stand
here talking; and life is so short and insecure that I would not hurry
away from any pleasure—no, not even from so mild a one as this. We
should rather cling, cling to what little we can get, like a man at a
cliff's edge. Every second is a cliff, if you think upon it—a cliff
a mile high—high enough, if we fall, to dash us out of every feature
of humanity. Hence it is best to talk pleasantly. Let us talk of each
other; why should we wear this mask? Let us be confidential. Who knows? we
might become friends."
"I have just one word to say to you," said the dealer. "Either make your
purchase, or walk out of my shop."
"True, true," said Markheim. "Enough fooling. To business. Show me
The dealer stooped once more, this time to replace the glass upon the
shelf, his thin blond hair falling over his eyes as he did so. Markheim
moved a little nearer, with one hand in the pocket of his greatcoat; he
drew himself up and filled his lungs; at the same time many different
emotions were depicted together on his face—terror, horror, and
resolve, fascination and a physical repulsion; and through a haggard lift
of his upper lip, his teeth looked out.
"This, perhaps, may suit," observed the dealer. And then, as he began to
rearise, Markheim bounded from behind upon his victim. The long,
skewer-like dagger flashed and fell. The dealer struggled like a hen,
striking his temple on the shelf, and then tumbled on the floor in a heap.
Time had some score of small voices in that shop—some stately and
slow as was becoming to their great age; others garrulous and hurried. All
these told out the seconds in an intricate chorus of tickings. Then the
passage of a lad's feet, heavily running on the pavement, broke in upon
these smaller voices and startled Markheim into the consciousness of his
surroundings. He looked about him awfully. The candle stood on the
counter, its flame solemnly wagging in a draught; and by that
inconsiderable movement the whole room was filled with noiseless bustle
and kept heaving like a sea: the tall shadows nodding, the gross blots of
darkness swelling and dwindling as with respiration, the faces of the
portraits and the china gods changing and wavering like images in water.
The inner door stood ajar, and peered into that leaguer of shadows with a
long slit of daylight like a pointing finger.
From these fear-stricken rovings, Markheim's eyes returned to the body of
his victim, where it lay, both humped and sprawling, incredibly small and
strangely meaner than in life. In these poor, miserly clothes, in that
ungainly attitude, the dealer lay like so much sawdust. Markheim had
feared to see it, and, lo! it was nothing. And yet, as he gazed, this
bundle of old clothes and pool of blood began to find eloquent voices.
There it must lie; there was none to work the cunning hinges or direct the
miracle of locomotion; there it must lie till it was found. Found! ay, and
then? Then would this dead flesh lift up a cry that would ring over
England, and fill the world with the echoes of pursuit. Ay, dead or not,
this was still the enemy. "Time was that when the brains were out," he
thought; and the first word struck into his mind. Time, now that the deed
was accomplished—time, which had closed for the victim, had become
instant and momentous for the slayer.
The thought was yet in his mind, when, first one and then another, with
every variety of pace and voice—one deep as the bell from a
cathedral turret, another ringing on its treble notes the prelude of a
waltz,—the clocks began to strike the hour of three in the
The sudden outbreak of so many tongues in that dumb chamber staggered him.
He began to bestir himself, going to and fro with the candle, beleaguered
by moving shadows, and startled to the soul by chance reflections. In many
rich mirrors, some of home design, some from Venice or Amsterdam, he saw
his face repeated and repeated, as it were an army of spies; his own eyes
met and detected him; and the sound of his own steps, lightly as they
fell, vexed the surrounding quiet. And still, as he continued to fill his
pockets, his mind accused him with a sickening iteration, of the thousand
faults of his design. He should have chosen a more quiet hour; he should
have prepared an alibi; he should not have used a knife; he should have
been more cautious, and only bound and gagged the dealer, and not killed
him; he should have been more bold, and killed the servant also; he should
have done all things otherwise. Poignant regrets, weary, incessant toiling
of the mind to change what was unchangeable, to plan what was now useless,
to be the architect of the irrevocable past. Meanwhile, and behind all
this activity, brute terrors, like the scurrying of rats in a deserted
attic, filled the more remote chambers of his brain with riot; the hand of
the constable would fall heavy on his shoulder, and his nerves would jerk
like a hooked fish; or he beheld, in galloping defile, the dock, the
prison, the gallows, and the black coffin.
Terror of the people in the street sat down before his mind like a
besieging army. It was impossible, he thought, but that some rumour of the
struggle must have reached their ears and set on edge their curiosity; and
now, in all the neighbouring houses, he divined them sitting motionless
and with uplifted ear—solitary people, condemned to spend Christmas
dwelling alone on memories of the past, and now startingly recalled from
that tender exercise; happy family parties struck into silence round the
table, the mother still with raised finger—every degree and age and
humour, but all, by their own hearths, prying and hearkening and weaving
the rope that was to hang him. Sometimes it seemed to him he could not
move too softly; the clink of the tall Bohemian goblets rang out loudly
like a bell; and alarmed by the bigness of the ticking, he was tempted to
stop the clocks. And then, again, with a swift transition of his terrors,
the very silence of the place appeared a source of peril, and a thing to
strike and freeze the passer-by; and he would step more boldly, and bustle
aloud among the contents of the shop, and imitate, with elaborate bravado,
the movements of a busy man at ease in his own house.
But he was now so pulled about by different alarms that, while one portion
of his mind was still alert and cunning, another trembled on the brink of
lunacy. One hallucination in particular took a strong hold on his
credulity. The neighbour hearkening with white face beside his window, the
passer-by arrested by a horrible surmise on the pavement—these could
at worst suspect, they could not know; through the brick walls and
shuttered windows only sounds could penetrate. But here, within the house,
was he alone? He knew he was; he had watched the servant set forth
sweet-hearting, in her poor best, "out for the day" written in every
ribbon and smile. Yes, he was alone, of course; and yet, in the bulk of
empty house above him, he could surely hear a stir of delicate footing; he
was surely conscious, inexplicably conscious of some presence. Ay, surely;
to every room and corner of the house his imagination followed it; and now
it was a faceless thing, and yet had eyes to see with; and again it was a
shadow of himself; and yet again behold the image of the dead dealer,
reinspired with cunning and hatred.
At times, with a strong effort, he would glance at the open door which
still seemed to repel his eyes. The house was tall, the skylight small and
dirty, the day blind with fog; and the light that filtered down to the
ground story was exceedingly faint, and showed dimly on the threshold of
the shop. And yet, in that strip of doubtful brightness, did there not
hang wavering a shadow?
Suddenly, from the street outside, a very jovial gentleman began to beat
with a staff on the shop door, accompanying his blows with shouts and
railleries in which the dealer was continually called upon by name.
Markheim, smitten into ice, glanced at the dead man. But no! he lay quite
still; he was fled away far beyond earshot of these blows and shoutings;
he was sunk beneath seas of silence; and his name, which would once have
caught his notice above the howling of a storm, had become an empty sound.
And presently the jovial gentleman desisted from his knocking and
Here was a broad hint to hurry what remained to be done, to get forth from
this accusing neighbourhood, to plunge into a bath of London multitudes,
and to reach, on the other side of day, that haven of safety and apparent
innocence—his bed. One visitor had come; at any moment another might
follow and be more obstinate. To have done the deed, and yet not to reap
the profit, would be too abhorrent a failure. The money—that was now
Markheim's concern; and as a means to that, the keys.
He glanced over his shoulder at the open door, where the shadow was still
lingering and shivering; and with no conscious repugnance of the mind, yet
with a tremor of the belly, he drew near the body of his victim. The human
character had quite departed. Like a suit half-stuffed with bran, the
limbs lay scattered, the trunk doubled, on the floor; and yet the thing
repelled him. Although so dingy and inconsiderable to the eye, he feared
it might have more significance to the touch. He took the body by the
shoulders, and turned it on its back. It was strangely light and supple,
and the limbs, as if they had been broken, fell into the oddest postures.
The face was robbed of all expression; but it was as pale as wax, and
shockingly smeared with blood about one temple. That was, for Markheim,
the one displeasing circumstance. It carried him back, upon the instant,
to a certain fair-day in a fishers' village: a gray day, a piping wind, a
crowd upon the street, the blare of brasses, the booming of drums, the
nasal voice of a ballad singer; and a boy going to and fro, buried
overhead in the crowd and divided between interest and fear, until, coming
out upon the chief place of concourse, he beheld a booth and a great
screen with pictures, dismally designed, garishly coloured—Brownrigg
with her apprentice, the Mannings with their murdered guest, Weare in the
death-grip of Thurtell, and a score besides of famous crimes. The thing
was as clear as an illusion He was once again that little boy; he was
looking once again, and with the same sense of physical revolt, at these
vile pictures; he was still stunned by the thumping of the drums. A bar of
that day's music returned upon his memory; and at that, for the first
time, a qualm came over him, a breath of nausea, a sudden weakness of the
joints, which he must instantly resist and conquer.
He judged it more prudent to confront than to flee from these
considerations, looking the more hardily in the dead face, bending his
mind to realise the nature and greatness of his crime. So little a while
ago that face had moved with every change of sentiment, that pale mouth
had spoken, that body had been all on fire with governable energies; and
now, and by his act, that piece of life had been arrested, as the
horologist, with interjected finger, arrests the beating of the clock. So
he reasoned in vain; he could rise to no more remorseful consciousness;
the same heart which had shuddered before the painted effigies of crime,
looked on its reality unmoved. At best, he felt a gleam of pity for one
who had been endowed in vain with all those faculties that can make the
world a garden of enchantment, one who had never lived and who was now
dead. But of penitence, no, not a tremor.
With that, shaking himself clear of these considerations, he found the
keys and advanced toward the open door of the shop. Outside, it had begun
to rain smartly, and the sound of the shower upon the roof had banished
silence. Like some dripping cavern, the chambers of the house were haunted
by an incessant echoing, which filled the ear and mingled with the ticking
of the clocks. And, as Markheim approached the door, he seemed to hear, in
answer to his own cautious tread, the steps of another foot withdrawing up
the stair. The shadow still palpitated loosely on the threshold. He threw
a ton's weight of resolve upon his muscles, and drew back the door.
The faint, foggy daylight glimmered dimly on the bare floor and stairs; on
the bright suit of armour posted, halbert in hand, upon the landing; and
on the dark wood-carvings, and framed pictures that hung against the
yellow panels of the wainscot. So loud was the beating of the rain through
all the house that, in Markheim's ears, it began to be distinguished into
many different sounds. Footsteps and sighs, the tread of regiments
marching in the distance, the chink of money in the counting, and the
creaking of doors held stealthily ajar, appeared to mingle with the patter
of the drops upon the cupola and the gushing of the water in the pipes.
The sense that he was not alone grew upon him to the verge of madness. On
every side he was haunted and begirt by presences. He heard them moving in
the upper chambers; from the shop, he heard the dead man getting to his
legs; and as he began with a great effort to mount the stairs, feet fled
quietly before him and followed stealthily behind. If he were but deaf, he
thought, how tranquilly he would possess his soul! And then again, and
hearkening with ever fresh attention, he blessed himself for that
unresting sense which held the outposts and stood a trusty sentinel upon
his life. His head turned continually on his neck; his eyes, which seemed
starting from their orbits, scouted on every side, and on every side were
half rewarded as with the tail of something nameless vanishing. The four
and twenty steps to the first floor were four and twenty agonies.
On that first story, the doors stood ajar—three of them, like three
ambushes, shaking his nerves like the throats of cannon. He could never
again, he felt, be sufficiently immured and fortified from men's observing
eyes; he longed to be home, girt in by walls, buried among bedclothes, and
invisible to all but God. And at that thought he wondered a little,
recollecting tales of other murderers and the fear they were said to
entertain of heavenly avengers. It was not so, at least, with him. He
feared the laws of nature, lest, in their callous and immutable procedure,
they should preserve some damning evidence of his crime. He feared tenfold
more, with a slavish, superstitious terror, some scission in the
continuity of man's experience, some wilful illegality of nature. He
played a game of skill, depending on the rules, calculating consequence
from cause; and what if nature, as the defeated tyrant overthrew the
chess-board, should break the mould of their succession? The like had
befallen Napoleon (so writers said) when the winter changed the time of
its appearance. The like might befall Markheim: the solid walls might
become transparent and reveal his doings like those of bees in a glass
hive; the stout planks might yield under his foot like quicksands and
detain him in their clutch. Ay, and there were soberer accidents that
might destroy him; if, for instance, the house should fall and imprison
him beside the body of his victim, or the house next door should fly on
fire, and the firemen invade him from all sides. These things he feared;
and, in a sense, these things might be called the hands of God reached
forth against sin. But about God himself he was at ease; his act was
doubtless exceptional, but so were his excuses, which God knew; it was
there, and not among men, that he felt sure of justice.
When he had got safe into the drawing-room, and shut the door behind him,
he was aware of a respite from alarms. The room was quite dismantled,
uncarpeted besides, and strewn with packing-cases and incongruous
furniture; several great pier-glasses, in which he beheld himself at
various angles, like an actor on a stage; many pictures, framed and
unframed, standing, with their faces to the wall; a fine Sheraton
sideboard, a cabinet of marquetry, and a great old bed, with tapestry
hangings. The windows opened to the floor; but by great good fortune the
lower part of the shutters had been closed, and this concealed him from
the neighbours. Here, then, Markheim drew in a packing-case before the
cabinet, and began to search among the keys. It was a long business, for
there were many; and it was irksome, besides; for, after all, there might
be nothing in the cabinet, and time was on the wing. But the closeness of
the occupation sobered him. With the tail of his eye he saw the door—even
glanced at it from time to time directly, like a besieged commander
pleased to verify the good estate of his defences. But in truth he was at
peace. The rain falling in the street sounded natural and pleasant.
Presently, on the other side, the notes of a piano were wakened to the
music of a hymn, and the voices of many children took up the air and
words. How stately, how comfortable was the melody! How fresh the youthful
voices! Markheim gave ear to it smilingly, as he sorted out the keys; and
his mind was thronged with answerable ideas and images: church-going
children, and the pealing of the high organ; children afield, bathers by
the brookside, ramblers on the brambly common, kite-flyers in the windy
and cloud-navigated sky; and then, at another cadence of the hymn, back
again to church, and the somnolence of summer Sundays, and the high
genteel voice of the parson (which he smiled a little to recall) and the
painted Jacobean tombs, and the dim lettering of the Ten Commandments in
And as he sat thus, at once busy and absent, he was startled to his feet.
A flash of ice, a flash of fire, a bursting gush of blood, went over him,
and then he stood transfixed and thrilling. A step mounted the stair
slowly and steadily, and presently a hand was laid upon the knob, and the
lock clicked, and the door opened.
Fear held Markheim in a vice. What to expect he knew not—whether the
dead man walking, or the official ministers of human justice, or some
chance witness blindly stumbling in to consign him to the gallows. But
when a face was thrust into the aperture, glanced round the room, looked
at him, nodded and smiled as if in friendly recognition, and then withdrew
again, and the door closed behind it, his fear broke loose from his
control in a hoarse cry. At the sound of this the visitant returned.
"Did you call me?" he asked, pleasantly, and with that he entered the room
and closed the door behind him.
Markheim stood and gazed at him with all his eyes. Perhaps there was a
film upon his sight, but the outlines of the new comer seemed to change
and waver like those of the idols in the wavering candle-light of the
shop; and at times he thought he knew him; and at times he thought he bore
a likeness to himself; and always, like a lump of living terror, there lay
in his bosom the conviction that this thing was not of the earth and not
And yet the creature had a strange air of the commonplace, as he stood
looking on Markheim with a smile; and when he added, "You are looking for
the money, I believe?" it was in the tones of everyday politeness.
Markheim made no answer.
"I should warn you," resumed the other, "that the maid has left her
sweetheart earlier than usual and will soon be here. If Mr. Markheim be
found in this house, I need not describe to him the consequences."
"You know me?" cried the murderer.
The visitor smiled. "You have long been a favourite of mine," he said;
"and I have long observed and often sought to help you."
"What are you?" cried Markheim; "the devil?"
"What I may be," returned the other, "cannot affect the service I propose
to render you."
"It can," cried Markheim; "it does! Be helped by you? No, never; not by
you! You do not know me yet; thank God, you do not know me!"
"I know you," replied the visitant, with a sort of kind severity or rather
firmness. "I know you to the soul."
"Know me!" cried Markheim. "Who can do so? My life is but a travesty and
slander on myself. I have lived to belie my nature. All men do; all men
are better than this disguise that grows about and stifles them. You see
each dragged away by life, like one whom bravos have seized and muffled in
a cloak. If they had their own control—if you could see their faces,
they would be altogether different, they would shine out for heroes and
saints! I am worse than most; myself is more overlaid; my excuse is known
to me and God. But, had I the time, I could disclose myself."
"To me?" inquired the visitant.
"To you before all," returned the murderer. "I supposed you were
intelligent. I thought—since you exist—you would prove a
reader of the heart. And yet you would propose to judge me by my acts!
Think of it—my acts! I was born and I have lived in a land of
giants; giants have dragged me by the wrists since I was born out of my
mother—the giants of circumstance. And you would judge me by my
acts! But can you not look within? Can you not understand that evil is
hateful to me? Can you not see within me the clear writing of conscience,
never blurred by any wilful sophistry, although too often disregarded? Can
you not read me for a thing that surely must be common as humanity—the
"All this is very feelingly expressed," was the reply, "but it regards me
not. These points of consistency are beyond my province, and I care not in
the least by what compulsion you may have been dragged away, so as you are
but carried in the right direction. But time flies; the servant delays,
looking in the faces of the crowd and at the pictures on the hoardings,
but still she keeps moving nearer; and remember, it is as if the gallows
itself was striding towards you through the Christmas streets! Shall I
help you—I, who know all? Shall I tell you where to find the money?"
"For what price?" asked Markheim.
"I offer you the service for a Christmas gift," returned the other.
Markheim could not refrain from smiling with a kind of bitter triumph.
"No," said he, "I will take nothing at your hands; if I were dying of
thirst, and it was your hand that put the pitcher to my lips, I should
find the courage to refuse. It may be credulous, but I will do nothing to
commit myself to evil."
"I have no objection to a death-bed repentance," observed the visitant.
"Because you disbelieve their efficacy!" Markheim cried.
"I do not say so," returned the other; "but I look on these things from a
different side, and when the life is done my interest falls. The man has
lived to serve me, to spread black looks under colour of religion, or to
sow tares in the wheat-field, as you do, in a course of weak compliance
with desire. Now that he draws so near to his deliverance, he can add but
one act of service: to repent, to die smiling, and thus to build up in
confidence and hope the more timorous of my surviving followers. I am not
so hard a master. Try me; accept my help. Please yourself in life as you
have done hitherto; please yourself more amply, spread your elbows at the
board; and when the night begins to fall and the curtains to be drawn, I
tell you, for your greater comfort, that you will find it even easy to
compound your quarrel with your conscience, and to make a truckling peace
with God. I came but now from such a death-bed, and the room was full of
sincere mourners, listening to the man's last words; and when I looked
into that face, which had been set as a flint against mercy, I found it
smiling with hope."
"And do you, then, suppose me such a creature?" asked Markheim. "Do you
think I have no more generous aspirations than to sin and sin and sin and
at last sneak into heaven? My heart rises at the thought. Is this, then,
your experience of mankind? or is it because you find me with red hands
that you presume such baseness? And is this crime of murder indeed so
impious as to dry up the very springs of good?"
"Murder is to me no special category," replied the other. "All sins are
murder, even as all life is war. I behold your race, like starving
mariners on a raft, plucking crusts out of the hands of famine and feeding
on each other's lives. I follow sins beyond the moment of their acting; I
find in all that the last consequence is death, and to my eyes, the pretty
maid who thwarts her mother with such taking graces on a question of a
ball, drips no less visibly with human gore than such a murderer as
yourself. Do I say that I follow sins? I follow virtues also. They differ
not by the thickness of a nail; they are both scythes for the reaping
angel of Death. Evil, for which I live, consists not in action but in
character. The bad man is dear to me, not the bad act, whose fruits, if we
could follow them far enough down the hurtling cataract of the ages, might
yet be found more blessed than those of the rarest virtues. And it is not
because you have killed a dealer, but because you are Markheim, that I
offer to forward your escape."
"I will lay my heart open to you," answered Markheim. "This crime on which
you find me is my last. On my way to it I have learned many lessons;
itself is a lesson—a momentous lesson. Hitherto I have been driven
with revolt to what I would not; I was a bond-slave to poverty, driven and
scourged. There are robust virtues that can stand in these temptations;
mine was not so; I had a thirst of pleasure. But to-day, and out of this
deed, I pluck both warning and riches—both the power and a fresh
resolve to be myself. I become in all things a free actor in the world; I
begin to see myself all changed, these hands the agents of good, this
heart at peace. Something comes over me out of the past—something of
what I have dreamed on Sabbath evenings to the sound of the church organ,
of what I forecast when I shed tears over noble books, or talked, an
innocent child, with my mother. There lies my life; I have wandered a few
years, but now I see once more my city of destination."
"You are to use this money on the Stock Exchange, I think?" remarked the
visitor; "and there, if I mistake not, you have already lost some
"Ah," said Markheim, "but this time I have a sure thing."
"This time, again, you will lose," replied the visitor quietly.
"Ah, but I keep back the half!" cried Markheim.
"That also you will lose," said the other.
The sweat started upon Markheim's brow. "Well then, what matter?" he
exclaimed. "Say it be lost, say I am plunged again in poverty, shall one
part of me, and that the worse, continue until the end to override the
better? Evil and good run strong in me, hailing me both ways. I do not
love the one thing; I love all. I can conceive great deeds, renunciations,
martyrdoms; and though I be fallen to such a crime as murder, pity is no
stranger to my thoughts. I pity the poor; who knows their trials better
than myself? I pity and help them. I prize love; I love honest laughter;
there is no good thing nor true thing on earth but I love it from my
heart. And are my vices only to direct my life, and my virtues to lie
without effect, like some passive lumber of the mind? Not so; good, also,
is a spring of acts."
But the visitant raised his finger. "For six and thirty years that you
have been in this world," said he, "through many changes of fortune and
varieties of humour, I have watched you steadily fall. Fifteen years ago
you would have started at a theft. Three years back you would have
blenched at the name of murder. Is there any crime, is there any cruelty
or meanness, from which you still recoil? Five years from now I shall
detect you in the fact! Downward, downward, lies your way; nor can
anything but death avail to stop you."
"It is true," Markheim said huskily, "I have in some degree complied with
evil. But it is so with all; the very saints, in the mere exercise of
living, grow less dainty, and take on the tone of their surroundings."
"I will propound to you one simple question," said the other; "and as you
answer I shall read to you your moral horoscope. You have grown in many
things more lax; possibly you do right to be so; and at any account, it is
the same with all men. But granting that, are you in any one particular,
however trifling, more difficult to please with your own conduct, or do
you go in all things with a looser rein?"
"In any one?" repeated Markheim, with an anguish of consideration. "No,"
he added, with despair; "in none! I have gone down in all."
"Then," said the visitor, "content yourself with what you are, for you
will never change; and the words of your part on this stage are
irrevocably written down."
Markheim stood for a long while silent, and, indeed, it was the visitor
who first broke the silence. "That being so," he said, "shall I show you
"And grace?" cried Markheim.
"Have you not tried it?" returned the other. "Two or three years ago did I
not see you on the platform of revival meetings, and was not your voice
the loudest in the hymn?"
"It is true," said Markheim; "and I see clearly what remains for me by way
of duty. I thank you for these lessons from my soul; my eyes are opened,
and I behold myself at last for what I am."
At this moment, the sharp note of the door-bell rang through the house;
and the visitant, as though this were some concerted signal for which he
had been waiting, changed at once in his demeanour.
"The maid!" he cried. "She has returned, as I forewarned you, and there is
now before you one more difficult passage. Her master, you must say, is
ill; you must let her in, with an assured but rather serious countenance;
no smiles, no overacting, and I promise you success! Once the girl within,
and the door closed, the same dexterity that has already rid you of the
dealer will relieve you of this last danger in your path. Thenceforward
you have the whole evening—the whole night, if needful—to
ransack the treasures of the house and to make good your safety. This is
help that comes to you with the mask of danger. Up!" he cried; "up,
friend. Your life hangs trembling in the scales; up, and act!"
Markheim steadily regarded his counsellor. "If I be condemned to evil
acts," he said, "there is still one door of freedom open: I can cease from
action. If my life be an ill thing, I can lay it down. Though I be, as you
say truly, at the beck of every small temptation, I can yet, by one
decisive gesture, place myself beyond the reach of all. My love of good is
damned to barrenness; it may, and let it be! But I have still my hatred of
evil; and from that, to your galling disappointment, you shall see that I
can draw both energy and courage."
The features of the visitor began to undergo a wonderful and lovely
change: they brightened and softened with a tender triumph, and, even as
they brightened, faded and dislimned. But Markheim did not pause to watch
or understand the transformation. He opened the door and went downstairs
very slowly, thinking to himself. His past went soberly before him; he
beheld it as it was, ugly and strenuous like a dream, random as chance
medley—a scene of defeat. Life, as he thus reviewed it, tempted him
no longer; but on the further side he perceived a quiet haven for his
bark. He paused in the passage, and looked into the shop, where the candle
still burned by the dead body. It was strangely silent. Thoughts of the
dealer swarmed into his mind, as he stood gazing. And then the bell once
more broke out into impatient clamour.
He confronted the maid upon the threshold with something like a smile.
"You had better go for the police," said he; "I have killed your master."
QUEEN TITA'S WAGER, by William Black
It is a Christmas morning in Surrey—cold, still and gray, with a
frail glimmer of sunshine coming through the bare trees to melt the
hoar-frost on the lawn. The postman has just gone out, swinging the gate
behind him. A fire burns brightly in the breakfast-room; and there is
silence about the house, for the children have gone off to climb Box Hill
before being marched to church.
The small and gentle lady who presides over the household walks sedately
in, and lifts the solitary letter that is lying on her plate. About three
seconds suffice to let her run through its contents, and then she suddenly
"I knew it! I said it! I told you two months ago she was only flirting
with him; and now she has rejected him. And oh! I am so glad of it! The
The other person in the room, who had been meekly waiting for his
breakfast for half an hour, ventures to point out that there is nothing to
rejoice over in the fact of a young man having been rejected by a young
"If it were final, yes! If these two young folks were not certain to go
and marry somebody else, you might congratulate them both. But you know
they will. The poor boy will go courting again in three months' time, and
be vastly pleased with his condition."
"Oh, never, never!" she says. "He has had such a lesson! You know I warned
him. I knew she was only flirting with him. Poor Charlie! Now I hope he
will get on with his profession, and leave such things out of his head.
And as for that creature—"
"I will do you the justice to say," observes her husband, who is still
regarding the table with a longing eye, "that you did oppose this match,
because you hadn't the making of it. If you had brought these two together
they would have been married ere this. Never mind; you can marry him to
somebody of your own choosing now."
"No," she says, with much decision; "he must not think of marriage. He
cannot think of it. It will take the poor lad a long time to get over this
"He will marry within a year."
"I will bet you whatever you like that he doesn't," she says,
"Whatever I like! That is a big wager. If you lose, do you think you could
pay? I should like, for example, to have my own way in my own house."
"If I lose you shall," says the generous creature; and the bargain is
Nothing further is said about this matter for the moment. The children
return from Box Hill, and are rigged out for church. Two young people,
friends of ours, and recently married, having no domestic circle of their
own, and having promised to spend the whole Christmas Day with us,
arrived. Then we set out, trying as much as possible to think that
Christmas Day is different from any other day, and pleased to observe that
the younger folk, at least, cherish the delusion.
But just before reaching the church I say to the small lady who got the
letter in the morning, and whom we generally call Tita:
"When do you expect to see Charlie?"
"I don't know," she answers. "After this cruel affair he won't like to go
"You remember that he promised to go with us to the Black Forest?"
"Yes; and I am sure it will be a pleasant trip for him."
"Shall we go to Huferschingen?"
"I suppose so."
"Franziska is a pretty girl."
Now you would not think that any great mischief could be done by the mere
remark that Franziska was a pretty girl. Anybody who had seen Franziska
Fahler, niece of the proprietor of the "Goldenen Bock" in Huferschingen,
would admit that in a moment. But this is nevertheless true, that our
important but diminutive Queen Tita was very thoughtful during the rest of
our walk to this little church; and in church, too, she was thinking so
deeply that she almost forgot to look at the effect of the decorations she
had nailed up the day before. Yet nothing could have offended in the bare
observation that Franziska was a pretty girl.
At dinner in the evening we had our two guests and a few young fellows
from London who did not happen to have their families or homes there.
Curiously enough, there was a vast deal of talk about travelling, and also
about Baden, and more particularly about the southern districts of Baden.
Tita said the Black Forest was the most charming place in the world; and
as it was Christmas Day, and as we had been listening to a sermon all
about charity and kindness and consideration for others, nobody was rude
enough to contradict her. But our forbearance was put to a severe test
when, after dinner, she produced a photographic album and handed it round,
and challenged everybody to say whether the young lady in the corner was
not absolutely lovely. Most of them said that she was certainly very
nice-looking; and Tita seemed a little disappointed.
I perceived that it would no longer do to say that Franziska was a pretty
girl. We should henceforth have to swear by everything we held dear that
she was absolutely lovely.
II—ZUM "GOLDENEN BOCK"
We felt some pity for the lad when we took him abroad with us; but it must
be confessed that at first he was not a very desirable travelling
companion. There was a gloom about him. Despite the eight months that had
elapsed, he professed that his old wound was still open. Tita treated him
with the kindest maternal solicitude, which was a great mistake; tonics,
not sweets, are required in such cases. Yet he was very grateful, and he
said, with a blush, that, in any case, he would not rail against all women
because of the badness of one. Indeed, you would not have fancied he had
any great grudge against womankind. There were a great many English abroad
that autumn, and we met whole batches of pretty girls at every station and
at every table d'hote on our route. Did he avoid them, or glare at
them savagely, or say hard things of them? Oh no! quite the reverse. He
was a little shy at first; and when he saw a party of distressed damsels
in a station, with their bewildered father in vain attempting to make
himself understood to a porter, he would assist them in a brief and
businesslike manner as if it were a duty, lift his cap, and then march off
relieved. But by-and-by he began to make acquaintances in the hotel; and
as he was a handsome, English-looking lad, who bore a certificate of
honesty in his clear gray eyes and easy gait, he was rather made much of.
Nor could any fault be decently found with his appetite.
So we passed on from Konigswinter to Coblenz, and from Coblenz to
Heidelberg, and from Heidelberg south to Freiburg, where we bade adieu to
the last of the towns, and laid hold of a trap with a pair of ancient and
angular horses, and plunged into the Hollenthal, the first great gorge of
the Black Forest mountains. From one point to another we slowly urged our
devious course, walking the most of the day, indeed, and putting the trap
and ourselves up for the night at some quaint roadside hostelry, where we
ate of roe-deer and drank of Affenthaler, and endeavoured to speak German
with a pure Waldshut accent. And then, one evening, when the last rays of
the sun were shining along the hills and touching the stems of the tall
pines, we drove into a narrow valley and caught sight of a large brown
building of wood, with projecting eaves and quaint windows, that stood
close by the forest.
"Here is my dear inn!" cried Tita, with a great glow of delight and
affection in her face. "Here is mein gutes Thal! Ich gruss' dich ein
tausend Mal! And here is old Peter come out to see us; and there is
"Oh, this is Franziska, is it?" said Charlie.
Yes, this was Franziska. She was a well-built, handsome girl of nineteen
or twenty, with a healthy, sunburnt complexion, and dark hair plaited into
two long tails, which were taken up and twisted into a knot behind. That
you could see from a distance. But on nearer approach you found that
Franziska had really fine and intelligent features, and a pair of frank,
clear, big brown eyes that had a very straight look about them. They were
something of the eyes of a deer, indeed; wide apart, soft, and
apprehensive, yet looking with a certain directness and unconsciousness
that overcame her natural girlish timidity. Tita simply flew at her and
kissed her heartily and asked her twenty questions at once. Franziska
answered in very fair English, a little slow and formal, but quite
grammatical. Then she was introduced to Charlie, and she shook hands with
him in a simple and unembarrassed way; and then she turned to one of the
servants and gave some directions about the luggage. Finally she begged
Tita to go indoors and get off her travelling attire, which was done,
leaving us two outside.
"She's a very pretty girl," Charlie said, carelessly. "I suppose she's
sort of head cook and kitchen-maid here."
The impudence of these young men is something extraordinary.
"If you wish to have your head in your hands," I remarked to him, "just
you repeat that remark at dinner. Why, Franziska is no end of a swell. She
has two thousand pounds and the half of a mill. She has a sister married
to the Geheimer-Ober-Hofbaurath of Hesse-Cassel. She had visited both
Paris and Munich, and she has her dresses made in Freiburg."
"But why does such an illustrious creature bury herself in this valley,
and in an old inn, and go about bareheaded?"
"Because there are folks in the world without ambition, who like to live a
quiet, decent, homely life. Every girl can't marry a
Geheimer-Ober-Hofbaurath. Ziska, now, is much more likely to marry the
young doctor here."
"Oh, indeed! and live here all her days. She couldn't do better. Happy
We went indoors. It was a low, large, rambling place, with one immense
room all hung round with roe-deers' horns, and with one lesser room fitted
up with a billiard-table. The inn lay a couple of hundred yards back from
Huferschingen; but it had been made the headquarters of the keepers, and
just outside this room there were a number of pegs for them to sling their
guns and bags on when they came in of an evening to have a pipe and a
chopin of white wine. Ziska's uncle and aunt were both large, stout, and
somnolent people, very good-natured and kind, but a trifle dull. Ziska
really had the management of the place, and she was not slow to lend a
hand if the servants were remiss in waiting on us. But that, it was
understood, was done out of compliment to our small Queen Tita.
By-and-by we sat down to dinner, and Franziska came to see that everything
was going on straight. It was a dinner "with scenery." You forgot to be
particular about the soup, the venison, and the Affenthaler when from the
window at your elbow you could look across the narrow valley and behold a
long stretch of the Black Forest shining in the red glow of the sunset.
The lower the sun sank the more intense became the crimson light on the
tall stems of the pines; and then you could see the line of shadow slowly
rising up the side of the opposite hill until only the topmost trees were
touched with fire. Then these too lost it, and all the forest around us
seemed to have a pale-blue mist stealing over it as the night fell and the
twilight faded out of the sky overhead. Presently the long undulations of
fir grew black, the stars came out, and the sound of the stream could be
heard distantly in the hollow; and then, at Tita's wish, we went off for a
last stroll in among the soft moss and under the darkness of the pines,
now and again starting some great capercailzie, and sending it flying and
whirring down the glades.
When we returned from that prowl into the forest, we found the inn dark.
Such people as may have called in had gone home; but we suspected that
Franziska had given the neighbours a hint not to overwhelm us on our first
arrival. When we entered the big room, Franziska came in with candles;
then she brought some matches, and also put on the table an odd little
pack of cards, and went out. Her uncle and aunt had, even before we went
out, come and bade us good-night formally, and shaken hands all round.
They are early folk in the Black Forest.
"Where has that girl gone now?" says Charlie. "Into that lonely
billiard-room! Couldn't you ask her to come in here? Or shall we go and
Tita stares, and then demurely smiles; but it is with an assumed severity
that she rebukes him for such a wicked proposal, and reminds him that he
must start early next morning. He groans assent. Then she takes her leave.
The big young man was silent for a moment or two, with his hands in his
pockets and his legs stretched out. I begin to think I am in for it—the
old story of blighted hopes and angry denunciation and hypocritical joy,
and all the rest of it. But suddenly Charlie looks up with a businesslike
air and says:
"Who is that doctor fellow you were speaking about! Shall we see him
"You saw him to-night. It was he who passed us on the road with the two
"What! that little fellow with the bandy legs and the spectacles?" he
cries, with a great laugh.
"That little fellow," I observe to him, "is a person of some importance, I
can tell you. He—"
"I suppose his sister married a Geheimer-Ober-under—what the dickens
is it?" says this disrespectful young man.
"Dr. Krumm has got the Iron Cross."
"That won't make his legs any the straighter."
"He was at Weissenburg."
"I suppose he got that cast in the eye there."
"He can play the zither in a way that would astonish you. He has got a
little money. Franziska and he would be able to live very comfortably
"Franziska and that fellow?" says Charlie; and then he rises with a sulky
air, and proposes we should take our candles with us.
But he is not sulky very long; for Ziska, hearing our footsteps, comes to
the passage and bids us a friendly good-night.
"Good-night, Miss Fahler!" he says, in rather a shamefaced way; "and I am
so awfully sorry we have kept you up so late. We sha'n't do it again."
You would have thought by his manner that it was two o'clock, whereas it
was only half-past eleven!
There was no particular reason why Dr. Krumm should marry Franziska
Fahler, except that he was the most important young man in Huferschingen,
and she was the most important young woman. People therefore thought they
would make a good match, although Franziska certainly had the most to give
in the way of good looks. Dr. Krumm was a short, bandy-legged, sturdy
young man, with long, fair hair, a tanned complexion, light-blue eyes not
quite looking the same way, spectacles, and a general air of industrious
common sense about him, if one may use such a phrase. There was certainly
little of the lover in his manner toward Ziska, and as little in hers
toward him. They were very good friends, though, and he called her Ziska,
while she gave him his nickname of Fidelio, his real name being Fidele.
Now on this, the first morning of our stay in Huferschingen, all the
population had turned out at an early hour to see us start for the forest;
and as the Ober-Forster had gone away to visit his parents in Bavaria, Dr.
Krumm was appointed to superintend the operations of the day. And when
everybody was busy renewing acquaintance with us, gathering the straying
dogs, examining guns and cartridge-belts, and generally aiding in the
profound commotion of our setting out, Dr. Krumm was found to be talking
in a very friendly and familiar manner with our pretty Franziska. Charlie
eyed them askance. He began to say disrespectful things of Krumm: he
thought Krumm a plain person. And then, when the bandy-legged doctor had
got all the dogs, keepers, and beaters together, we set off along the
road, and presently plunged into the cool shade of the forest, where the
thick moss suddenly silenced our footsteps, and where there was a moist
and resinous smell in the air.
Well, the incidents of the forenoon's shooting, picturesque as they were,
and full of novelty to Tita's protege, need not be described. At the end
of the fourth drive, when we had got on nearly to luncheon-time, it
appeared that Charlie had killed a handsome buck, and he was so pleased
with this performance that he grew friendly with Dr. Krumm, who had,
indeed, given him the haupt-stelle. But when, as we sat down to our
sausages and bread and red wine, Charlie incidentally informed our
commander-in-chief that, during one of the drives, a splendid yellow fox
had come out of the underwood and stood and stared at him for three or
four seconds, the doctor uttered a cry of despair.
"I should have told you that," he said, in English that was not quite so
good as Ziska's, "if I had remembered, yes! The English will not shoot the
foxes; but they are very bad for us; they kill the young deer. We are glad
to shoot them; and Franziska she told me she wanted a yellow fox for the
skin to make something."
Charlie got very red in the face. He had missed a chance. If he had
known that Franziska wanted a yellow fox, all the instinctive veneration
for that animal that was in him would have gone clean out, and the fate of
the animal—for Charlie was a smart shot—would have been
"Are there many of them?" said he, gloomily.
"No; not many. But where there is one there are generally four or five. In
the next drive we may come on them, yes! I will put you in a good place,
sir, and you must not think of letting him go away; for Franziska, who has
waited two, three weeks, and not one yellow fox not anywhere, and it is
for the variety of the skin in a—a—I do not know what you call
"A rug, I suppose," said Charlie.
I subsequently heard that Charlie went to his post with a fixed
determination to shoot anything of yellow colour that came near him. His
station was next to that of Dr. Krumm; but of course they were invisible
to each other. The horns of the beaters sounded a warning; the gunners
cocked their guns and stood on the alert; in the perfect silence each one
waited for the first glimmer of a brown hide down the long green glades of
young fir. Then, according to Charlie's account, by went two or three deer
like lightning—all of them does. A buck came last, but swerved just
as he came in sight, and backed and made straight for the line of beaters.
Two more does, and then an absolute blank. One or two shots had been heard
at a distance; either some of the more distant stations had been more
fortunate, or one or other of the beaters had tried his luck. Suddenly
there was a shot fired close to Charlie; he knew it must have been the
doctor. In about a minute afterward he saw some pale-yellow object slowly
worming its way through the ferns; and here, at length, he made sure he
was going to get his yellow fox. But just as the animal came within fair
distance, it turned over, made a struggle or two, and lay still. Charlie
rushed along to the spot: it was, indeed, a yellow fox, shot in the head,
and now as dead as a door-nail.
What was he to do? Let Dr. Krumm take home this prize to Franziska, after
he had had such a chance in the afternoon? Never! Charlie fired a barrel
into the air, and then calmly awaited the coming up of the beaters and the
drawing together of the sportsmen.
Dr. Krumm, being at the next station, was the first to arrive. He found
Charlie standing by the side of the slain fox.
"Ha!" he said, his spectacles fairly gleaming with delight, "you have
shotted him! You have killed him! That is very good—that is
excellent! Now you will present the skin to Miss Franziska, if you do not
wish to take it to England."
"Oh no!" said Charlie, with a lordly indifference. "I don't care about it.
Franziska may have it."
Charlie pulled me aside, and said, with a solemn wink:
"Can you keep a secret?"
"My wife and I can keep a secret. I am not allowed to have any for
"Listen," said the unabashed young man; "Krumm shot that fox. Mind you
don't say a word. I must have the skin to present to Franziska."
I stared at him; I had never known him guilty of a dishonest action. But
when you do get a decent young English fellow condescending to do anything
shabby, be sure it is a girl who is the cause. I said nothing, of course;
and in the evening a trap came for us, and we drove back to Huferschingen.
Tita clapped her hands with delight; for Charlie was a favourite of hers,
and now he was returning like a hero, with a sprig of fir in his cap to
show that he had killed a buck.
"And here, Miss Franziska," he said, quite gaily, "here is a yellow fox
for you. I was told that you wanted the skin of one."
Franziska fairly blushed for pleasure; not that the skin of a fox was very
valuable for her, but that the compliment was so open and marked. She came
forward, in German fashion, and rather shyly shook hands with him in token
of her thanks.
When Tita was getting ready for dinner I told her about the yellow fox. A
married man must have no secrets.
"He is not capable of such a thing," she says, with a grand air.
"But he did it," I point out. "What is more, he glories in it. What did he
say when I remonstrated with him on the way home! 'Why,' says he, 'I
will put an end to Krumm! I will abolish Krumm! I will extinguish Krumm!'
Now, madame, who is responsible for this? Who had been praising Franziska
night and day as the sweetest, gentlest, cleverest girl in the world,
until this young man determines to have a flirtation with her and astonish
"A flirtation!" says Tita, faintly. "Oh no! Oh, I never meant that."
"Ask him just now, and he will tell you that women deserve no better. They
have no hearts; they are treacherous. They have beautiful eyes, but no
conscience. And so he means to take them as they are, and have his measure
"Oh, I am sure he never said anything so abominably wicked," cried Tita,
laying down the rose that Franziska had given her for her hair. "I know he
could not say such things. But if he is so wicked—if he has said
them—it is not too late to interfere. I will see about it."
She drew herself up as if Jupiter had suddenly armed her with his
thunderbolts. If Charlie had seen her at this moment he would have
quailed. He might by chance have told the truth, and confessed that all
the wicked things he had been saying about woman's affection were only a
sort of rhetoric, and that he had no sort of intention to flirt with poor
Franziska, nor yet to extinguish and annihilate Dr. Krumm.
The heartbroken boy was in very good spirits at dinner. He was inclined to
wink. Tita, on the contrary, maintained an impressive dignity of
demeanour; and when Franziska's name happened to be mentioned she spoke of
the young girl as her very particular friend, as though she would dare
Charlie to attempt a flirtation with one who held that honour. But the
young man was either blind or reckless, or acting a part for mere
mischief. He pointed the finger of scorn at Dr. Krumm. He asked Tita if he
should bring her a yellow fox next day. He declared he wished he could
spend the remainder of his life in a Black Forest Inn, with a napkin over
his arm, serving chopins. He said he would brave the wrath of the Furst by
shooting a capercailzie on the very first opportunity, to bring the
shining feathers home to Franziska.
When Tita and I went upstairs at night the small and gentle creature was
"I cannot make it out," she said. "He is quite changed. What is the matter
"You behold, madam, in that young man the moral effects of vulpicide. A
demon has entered into him. You remember, in 'Der Freischutz,' how—"
"Did you say vulpicide?" she asks, with a sweet smile. "I understood that
Charlie's crime was that he did not kill the fox."
I allow her the momentary triumph. Who would grudge to a woman a little
verbal victory of that sort? And, indeed, Tita's satisfaction did not last
long. Her perplexity became visible on her face once more.
"We are to be here three weeks," she said, almost to herself, "and he
talks of flirting with poor Franziska. Oh, I never meant that!"
"But what did you mean?" I ask her, with innocent wonder.
Tita hangs down her head, and there is an end to that conversation; but
one of us, at least, has some recollection of a Christmas wager.
Charlie was not in such good spirits next morning. He was standing outside
the inn, in the sweet, resinous-scented air, watching Franziska coming and
going, with her bright face touched by the early sunlight, and her frank
and honest eyes lit up by a kindly look when she passed us. His conscience
began to smite him for claiming that fox.
We spent the day in fishing a stream some few miles distant from
Huferschingen, and Franziska accompanied us. What need to tell of our
success with the trout and the grayling, or of the beautiful weather, or
of the attentive and humble manner in which the unfortunate youth
addressed Franziska from time to time?
In the evening we drove back to Huferschingen. It was a still and
beautiful evening, with the silence of the twilight falling over the
lonely valleys and the miles upon miles of darkening pines. Charlie has
not much of a voice, but he made an effort to sing with Tita:
"The winds whistle cold and the stars glimmer red,
The sheep are in fold and the cattle in shed;"
and the fine old glee sounded fairly well as we drove through the
gathering gloom of the forest. But Tita sang, in her low, sweet fashion,
that Swedish bridal song that begins:
"Oh, welcome her so fair, with bright and flowing hair;
May Fate through life befriend her, love and smiles attend her;"
and though she sang quietly, just as if she were singing to herself, we
all listened with great attention, and with great gratitude too. When we
got out of Huferschingen, the stars were out over the dark stretches of
forest, and the windows of the quaint old inn were burning brightly.
"And have you enjoyed the amusement of the day?" says Miss Fahler, rather
shyly, to a certain young man who is emptying his creel of fish. He drops
the basket to turn round and look at her face and say earnestly:
"I have never spent so delightful a day; but it wasn't the fishing."
Things were becoming serious.
And next morning Charlie got hold of Tita, and said to her, in rather a
"What am I to do about that fox? It was only a joke, you know; but if Miss
Fahler gets to hear of it, she'll think it was rather shabby."
It was always Miss Fahler now; a couple of days before it was Franziska.
"For my part," says Tita, "I can't understand why you did it. What honour
is there in shooting a fox?"
"But I wanted to give the skin to her."
It was "her" by this time.
"Well, I think the best thing you can do is to go and tell her all about
it; and also to go and apologise to Dr. Krumm."
"I will go and tell her, certainly; but as for apologising to Krumm, that
"As you please," says Tita.
By-and-by Franziska—or rather Miss Fahler—came out of the
small garden and round by the front of the house.
"O Miss Fahler," says Charlie, suddenly,—and with that she stops and
blushes slightly,—"I've got something to say to you. I am going to
make a confession. Don't be frightened; it's only about a fox—the
fox that was brought home the day before yesterday; Dr. Krumm shot that."
"Indeed," says Franziska, quite innocently, "I thought you shot it."
"Well, I let them imagine so. It was only a joke."
"But it is of no matter; there are many yellow foxes. Dr. Krumm can shoot
them at another time; he is always here. Perhaps you will shoot one before
With that Franziska passed into the house, carrying her fruit with her.
Charlie was left to revolve her words in his mind. Dr. Krumm could shoot
foxes when he chose; he was always here. He, Charlie, on the contrary, had
to go away in little more than a fortnight. There was no Franziska in
England; no pleasant driving through great pine woods in the gathering
twilight; no shooting of yellow foxes, to be brought home in triumph and
presented to a beautiful and grateful young woman. Charlie walked along
the white road and overtook Tita, who had just sat down on a little
camp-stool, and got out the materials for taking a water-colour sketch of
the Huferschingen Valley. He sat down at her feet on the warm grass.
"I suppose I sha'n't interrupt your painting by talking to you?" he says.
"Oh dear, no," is the reply; and then he begins, in a somewhat hesitating
way, to ask indirect questions and drop hints and fish for answers, just
as if this small creature, who was busy with her sepias and olive greens,
did not see through all this transparent cunning.
At last she said to him, frankly:
"You want me to tell you whether Franziska would make a good wife for you.
She would make a good wife for any man. But then you seem to think that I
should intermeddle and negotiate and become a go-between. How can I do
that. My husband is always accusing me of trying to make up matches; and
you know that isn't true."
"I know it isn't true," says the hypocrite; "but you might only this once.
I believe all you say about this girl; I can see it for myself; and when
shall I ever have such a chance again?"
"But dear me!" says Tita, putting down the white palette for a moment,
"how can I believe you are in earnest? You have only known her three
"And that is quite enough," says Charlie, boldly, "to let you find out all
you want to know about a girl if she is of the right sort. If she isn't
you won't find out in three years. Now look at Franziska; look at the
fine, intelligent face and the honest eyes; you can have no doubt about
her; and then I have all the guarantee of your long acquaintance with
"Oh," says Tita, "that is all very well. Franziska is an excellent girl,
as I have told you often—frank, kind, well educated, and unselfish.
But you cannot have fallen in love with her in three days?"
"Why not?" says this blunt-spoken young man.
"Because it is ridiculous. If I meddle in the affair I should probably
find you had given up the fancy in other three days; or if you did marry
her and took her to England you would get to hate me because I alone
should know that you had married the niece of an innkeeper."
"Well, I like that!" says he, with a flush in his face. "Do you think I
should care two straws whether my friends knew I had married the niece of
an innkeeper? I should show them Franziska. Wouldn't that be enough? An
innkeeper's niece! I wish the world had more of 'em, if they're like
"And besides," says Tita, "have you any notion as to how Franziska herself
would probably take this mad proposal?"
"No," says the young man, humbly. "I wanted you to try and find out what
she thought about me; and if, in time something were said about this
proposal, you might put in a word or two, you know, just to—to give
her an idea, you know, that you don't think it quite so mad, don't you
"Give me your hand, Charlie," says Tita, with a sudden burst of kindness.
"I'll do what I can for you; for I know she's a good girl, and she will
make a good wife to the man who marries her."
You will observe that this promise was given by a lady who never, in any
circumstances whatsoever, seeks to make up matches, who never speculates
on possible combinations when she invites young people to her house in
Surrey, and who is profoundly indignant, indeed, when such a charge is
preferred against her. Had she not, on that former Christmas morning,
repudiated with scorn the suggestion that Charlie might marry before
another year had passed? Had she not, in her wild confidence, staked on a
wager that assumption of authority in her household and out of it without
which life would be a burden to her? Yet no sooner was the name of
Franziska mentioned, and no sooner had she been reminded that Charlie was
going with us to Huferschingen, than the nimble little brain set to work.
Oftentimes it has occurred to one dispassionate spectator of her ways that
this same Tita resembled the small object which, thrown into a dish of
some liquid chemical substance, suddenly produces a mass of crystals. The
constituents of those beautiful combinations, you see, were there; but
they wanted some little shock to hasten the slow process of
crystallisation. Now in our social circle we have continually observed
groups of young people floating about in an amorphous and chaotic fashion—good
for nothing but dawdling through dances, and flirting, and carelessly
separating again; but when you dropped Tita among them, then you would see
how rapidly this jellyfish sort of existence was abolished—how the
groups got broken up, and how the sharp, businesslike relations of
marriage were precipitated and made permanent. But would she own to it?
Never! She once went and married her dearest friend to a Prussian officer;
and now she declares he was a selfish fellow to carry off the girl in that
way, and rates him soundly because he won't bring her to stay with us more
than three months out of the twelve. There are some of us get quite enough
of this Prussian occupation of our territory.
"Well," says Tita to this long English lad, who is lying sprawling on the
grass, "I can safely tell you this, that Franziska likes you very well."
He suddenly jumps up, and there is a great blush on his face.
"Has she said so?" he asks, eagerly.
"Oh yes! in a way. She thinks you are good-natured. She likes the English
generally. She asked me if that ring you wear was an engaged ring."
These disconnected sentences were dropped with a tantalising slowness into
Charlie's eager ears.
"I must go and tell her directly that it is not," said he; and he might
probably have gone off at once had not Tita restrained him.
"You must be a great deal more cautious than that if you wish to carry off
Franziska some day or other. If you were to ask her to marry you now she
would flatly refuse you, and very properly; for how could a girl believe
you were in earnest? But if you like, Charlie, I will say something to her
that will give her a hint; and if she cares for you at all before you go
away she won't forget you. I wish I was as sure of you as I am of her."
"Oh I can answer for myself," says the young man, with a becoming
Tita was very happy and pleased all that day. There was an air of mystery
and importance about her. I knew what it meant; I had seen it before.
Alas! poor Charlie!
V—"GAB MIR EIN' RING DABEI"
Under the friendly instructions of Dr. Krumm, whom he no longer regarded
as a possible rival, Charlie became a mighty hunter; and you may be sure
that he returned of an evening with sprigs of fir in his cap for the bucks
he had slain, Franziska was not the last to come forward and shake hands
with him and congratulate him, as is the custom in these primitive parts.
And then she was quite made one of the family when we sat down to dinner
in the long, low-roofed room; and nearly every evening, indeed, Tita would
have her to dine with us and play cards with us.
You may suppose, if these two young folk had any regard for each other,
those evenings in the inn must have been a pleasant time for them. There
were never two partners at whist who were so courteous to each other, so
charitable to each other's blunders. Indeed, neither would ever admit that
the other blundered. Charlie used to make some frightful mistakes
occasionally that would have driven any other player mad; but you should
have seen the manner in which Franziska would explain that he had no
alternative but to take her king with his ace, that he could not know
this, and was right in chancing that. We played three-penny points, and
Charlie paid for himself and his partner, in spite of her entreaties. Two
of us found the game of whist a profitable thing.
One day a registered letter came for Charlie. He seized it, carried it to
a window, and then called Tita to him. Why need he have any secret about
it? It was nothing but a ring—a plain hoop with a row of rubies.
"Do you think she would take this thing?" he said, in a low voice.
"How can I tell?"
The young man blushed and stammered, and said:
"I don't want you to ask her to take the ring, but to get to know whether
she would accept any present from me. And I would ask her myself plainly,
only you have been frightening me so much about being in a hurry. And what
am I to do? Three days hence we start."
Tita looked down with a smile and said, rather timidly:
"I think if I were you I would speak to her myself—but very gently."
We were going off that morning to a little lake some dozen miles off to
try for a jack or two. Franziska was coming with us. She was, indeed,
already outside, superintending the placing in the trap of our rods and
bags. When Charlie went out she said that everything was ready; and
presently our peasant driver cracked his whip, and away we went.
Charlie was a little grave, and could only reply to Tita's fun with an
effort. Franziska was mostly anxious about the fishing, and hoped that we
might not go so far to find nothing.
We found few fish anyhow. The water was as still as glass, and as clear;
the pike that would have taken our spinning bits of metal must have been
very dull-eyed pike indeed. Tita sat at the bow of the long punt reading,
while our boatman steadily and slowly plied his single oar. Franziska was
for a time eagerly engaged in watching the progress of our fishing, until
even she got tired of the excitement of rolling in an immense length of
cord, only to find that our spinning bait had hooked a bit of floating
wood or weed. At length Charlie proposed that he should go ashore and look
out for a picturesque site for our picnic, and he hinted that perhaps Miss
Franziska might also like a short walk to relieve the monotony of the
sailing. Miss Franziska said she would be very pleased to do that. We ran
them in among the rushes, and put them ashore, and then once more started
on our laborious career.
Tita laid down her book. She was a little anxious. Sometimes you could see
Charlie and Franziska on the path by the side of the lake; at other times
the thick trees by the water's side hid them.
The solitary oar dipped in the lake; the boat glided along the shores.
Tita took up her book again. The space of time that passed may be inferred
from the fact that, merely as an incident to it, we managed to catch a
chub of four pounds. When the excitement over this event had passed, Tita
"We must go back to them. What do they mean by not coming on and telling
us? It is most silly of them."
We went back by the same side of the lake, and we found both Franziska and
her companion seated on the bank at the precise spot where we had left
them. They said it was the best place for the picnic. They asked for the
hamper in a businesslike way. They pretended they had searched the shores
of the lake for miles.
And while Tita and Franziska are unpacking the things, and laying the
white cloth smoothly on the grass, and pulling out the bottles for Charlie
to cool in the lake, I observe that the younger of the two ladies rather
endeavours to keep her left hand out of sight. It is a paltry piece of
deception. Are we moles, and blinder than moles, that we should
continually be made the dupes of these women? I say to her:
"Franziska, what is the matter with your left hand?"
"Leave Franziska's left hand alone," says Tita, severely.
"My dear," I reply, humbly, "I am afraid Franziska has hurt her left
At this moment Charlie, having stuck the bottles among the reeds, comes
back, and, hearing our talk, he says, in a loud and audacious way:
"Oh, do you mean the ring? It's a pretty little thing I had about me, and
Franziska has been good enough to accept it. You can show it to them,
Of course he had it about him. Young men always do carry a stock of ruby
rings with them when they go fishing, to put in the noses of the fish. I
have observed it frequently.
Franziska looks timidly at Tita, and then she raises her hand, that
trembles a little. She is about to take the ring off to show it to us when
"You needn't take it off, Franziska."
And with that, somehow, the girl slips away from among us, and Tita is
with her, and we don't get a glimpse of either of them until the solitude
resounds with our cries for luncheon.
In due time Charlie returned to London, and to Surrey with us in very good
spirits. He used to come down very often to see us; and one evening at
dinner he disclosed the fact that he was going over to the Black Forest in
the following week, although the November nights were chill just then.
"And how long do you remain?"
"A month," he says.
"Madam," I say to the small lady at the other end of the table, "a month
from now will bring us to the 4th of December. You have lost the bet you
made last Christmas morning; when will it please you to resign your
"Oh, bother the bet," says this unscrupulous person.
"But what do you mean?" says Charlie.
"Why," I say to him, "she laid a wager last Christmas Day that you would
not be married within a year. And now you say you mean to bring Franziska
over on the 4th of December next. Isn't it so?"
"Oh, no!" he says; "we don't get married till the spring."
You should have heard the burst of low, delightful laughter with which
Queen Tita welcomed this announcement. She had won her wager.