A Daring Fiction by H. H. Boyesen
Leipsic is a grim old town with no sentimental associations. Schiller,
to be sure, once lived there, but he had a bad time of it, in spite of
the slippers and things with which Dora and Minna Stock tried to
mollify his existence. The smoke which hangs over the Leipsic
chimney-tops is dense, prosaic smoke, which refuses to fashion itself
into fairy forms or airy castles in obedience to romantic fancy. Mr.
Leonard Grover actually swore (in Latin, of course, for he was too
well-mannered to swear in English), that it was the most irritating
and pestiferous smoke he had ever encountered since he left his native
town of Pittsburg, where a man, by the way, has a fine chance of
studying the effects of smoke both upon linen and temperament. Mr.
Grover was, however, cheerful by nature and refused to be permanently
depressed. He was in Leipsic for a practical purpose, and could not
afford to indulge in sentimental moods. And yet, in spite of his
determination to stick to his science and his laboratory practice, he
had unaccountable fits of loneliness, when from sheer despair he went
to call upon Professor Bornholm, to whom he had had a letter of
introduction and whose family had received him with much cordiality.
He would have liked to call upon somebody else occasionally, but the
fact was, during the six months he had been at the University he had
made no acquaintance outside of his student circle, except the
Bornholms. They seemed to like him so much that they refused to share
him with anybody else; they even refrained from introducing him to the
friends who might happen to call during his visits. Minchen, who was
the artistic daughter and made wax-flowers, usually found some way of
disposing of him when inconvenient callers of the gentler sex made
their appearance. She usually brought a fictitious message from the
Professor, who, having entrapped the young man into his study,
proceeded to bore him to death with oxalates and chlorides and
Röschen, the poetic daughter, whose slippers were a little down at the
heel, displaying to advantage the holes in her stockings, was wont to
employ her mother as an accomplice and, on some pretext or other,
lured the American into her garden, where there was the most
delightful privacy for sentimental confidences. Gretchen, the youngest
daughter, who was obliged to devote herself to domesticity, on account
of the inconvenient talents of her sisters, was even at less pains to
disguise her designs upon him, but told him frankly that Minchen and
Röschen were—well, not at all as nice as they might be.
In one of these bursts of frankness Gretchen also confided to him that
Röschen had written to a lady friend in America—a former pupil at the
Conservatory who had boarded in the family—and had received from her
a complete biography of his humble self, besides a computation of his
income and economic prospects. It then required very little ingenuity,
on his part, to conjecture why the sisters, in spite of their somewhat
ostentatious amiability, frequently appeared to have been at
loggerheads just as he entered. He had often heard the word Phœnix
pass mysteriously between them, and much as his modesty rebelled, he
was forced to the conclusion that he was, himself, the brilliant bird
Phœnix, for the possession of which these fair enchantresses were
privately contending. He had never before had the audacity to regard
himself as a brilliant parti, and he had even had a grudge of long
standing against Fate for having equipped him so poorly. Measured by
the German standard, however, his modest patrimony suggested princely
opulence; and its possessor became conscious of a certain agreeable
expansion, peculiar to capitalists. Smile as he might at the smallness
of the social conditions which allowed him to play the rôle of a
Crœsus in the fancy of love-sick maids, he could not deny that he
found it a pleasant thing to be the object of such tender rivalry. It
seemed to add a cubit to his height and two to his self-esteem. He
revelled in the sense of his desirability and watched with amusement
the innocent manœuvres by which his fair entertainers checkmated
each other, and in their zeal occasionally forgot that he, too, was a
rational being, endowed with the faculty of criticism. There was
another, however, who made this reflection for them; and that was
their mamma—the Frau Professorin. She was becoming alarmed at the
discord which prevailed in the family; for, being behind the scenes,
as it were, she knew a good deal which Grover could not know, and
which perhaps it would not have been well for him to know. Thus she
found one day in Minchen’s room a drawing in which the American, in
the character of Paris, was holding above his head an apple, with the
inscription “$5,000 a year;” while three lovely goddesses in scanty
attire were stretching out their hands and jumping frantically to
reach it. The likenesses were unmistakable and the situation
sufficiently pointed to need no commentary. The Frau Professorin was
much impressed by it, and her interest, it is needless to say, was
enlisted in behalf of the goddesses. She resented the reserved
attitude of the shepherd, and was yet anxious to assist him in
arriving at a decision. Minchen, now, with her charming talent for
making counterfeit cucumbers in wax and sections of hard-boiled eggs,
would be just the wife for a practical man like him. She would invest
his home with an artistic flavor which he himself would be capable of
appreciating, though powerless to supply. And yet Röschen, with her
beautiful verses, her nonchalant toilets and her poetic sympathy for
improprieties which, in practice, she was careful to shun, might be
even more fitted than her sister to lift and ennoble a sordid American
soul. It only remained to be considered whether Gretchen, who could
grow enthusiastic over the decline of one cent in the price of butter,
might not, after all, be a more kindred nature, and therefore suit him
best of all.
The Frau Professorin was deeply engaged in these meditations when the
maid handed her a small card, upon which was engraved the name,
Leonard Grover. To conceal her agitation she threw a glance into the
mirror and gave a few decorative touches to her person, before
admitting the visitor. Then she put on her company smile and seated
herself in a defensive attitude in the large, leather-covered
easy-chair. She gave her hand graciously, without rising, to Grover as
“I hope your buffalo herds are prospering,” she said, after the
exchange of a few preliminary civilities.
“My buffalo herds!” exclaimed the young man, laughing. Then, as it
suddenly struck him that it might be a joke, he continued with zest:
“Oh, yes, indeed, thank you; they are doing famously. They made quite
a sensation as they were driven through the streets of New York, the
other day, on their way from Chicago to the Kansas plains.”
“Indeed,” replied Mrs. Bornholm effusively; “allow me to congratulate
“Thank you,” he stammered helplessly.
She had been serious after all.
A minute or two elapsed, during which he did not muster courage to
make any further remarks.
“Are the young ladies at home?” he finally essayed, just as the pause
was threatening to become awkward.
“The young ladies,” repeated the Frau Professorin, beaming with
maternal benevolence; “permit me to ask to which of them do you refer
“To all three of them,” replied the American cheerfully.
“That is very kind of you,” she retorted, without, however, the
faintest tinge of sarcasm. “I know, even though it is their own mother
who says it, that my daughters all deserve the admiration which you so
impartially bestow upon them. But the fact is, Mr. Grover—why should
I not be perfectly frank and open with you?—the fact is—no man can
marry three girls,” she finished rather lamely. She evidently lacked
courage to make the revelation which she at first contemplated.
“I am well aware of that, Frau Professorin,” was Grover’s somewhat
aimless response; “and I assure you,” he went on heartily, “that I
wouldn’t think of such a thing; no, not for all the world.”
He had an uncomfortable sensation about his ears, after having made
this laudable announcement, and he began to cast about for a pretext
for taking his leave. His hostess was, however, not disposed to let
him escape so easily.
“The Professor and I,” she remarked, blandly, “have observed with much
satisfaction your devotion to our daughters. We know you to be a man
of character, and we know that it would be far from your intentions to
trifle with the feelings of the dear, innocent and unsophisticated
creatures. But our German custom, as you may not be aware, is to
confine one’s courtship to one, and not to scatter one’s devotion
among too many. In other countries that may be different, but as you
have come here to learn German manners, I thought I would call your
attention to this, and ask you to tell me, in strict confidence, of
course, to which one of my daughters you are paying your addresses.”
If the ceiling had tumbled down over his head, Grover could not have
been more astonished. It was a fact, he had been almost a daily
visitor in the Professor’s house; he had very likely, in unguarded
moments, in order to practice his imperfect German, made complimentary
speeches to the three young ladies, individually and collectively;
and in all probability he had, from a German point of view, given the
Frau Professorin the right to talk to him as she did. And yet, to
submit readily to the consequences of his rash conduct did not for a
moment occur to him. His instinct bade him rather resort to a
stratagem, which, as he concluded, the dire necessity would justify.
“Frau Professorin,” he began solemnly, “I need scarcely assure you
that I feel greatly honored by what you have told me. But the fact is,
I am not free. I am engaged.”
“Engaged!” cried the Frau Professorin, starting forward in her chair.
“Why, then, did you not tell me that?”
“It is a secret engagement.”
“A secret engagement! And do your parents know of it?”
“They do not.”
“And the lady’s name?”
Grover had no genius for mendacity and he was already beginning to
repent of his daring fiction. But Mrs. Bornholm, suddenly possessed
with some luminous idea, proceeded mercilessly in her
cross-examination, feeling that her position, as the wronged party,
gave her a right to trample upon conventionalities.
“Is this Miss Jones musical?” she queried eagerly.
“Yes,” he replied vaguely; “that is, I believe so.”
“You will excuse me,” she went on; “but I am naturally much interested
in this unknown person, because of my interest in you. Would you mind
telling me if she is dark or a blonde?”
“She is dark.”
“One thing more; have you written to her recently?”
“No; not very recently.”
“And has she ever said anything to you about coming here?”
“Not a word.”
The Professorin arose with a triumphant nod and began to pace the
“Miss Jones is a brunette, musical and rich—I suppose she is rich?”
she repeated, with an interrogative glance at Grover.
“She is not poor,” he responded feebly.
“Good,” said his tormentor fiercely, and nodding again with great
emphasis, “very good.”
Grover began to feel apprehensive that she had taken leave of her
senses. The disappointment, the shock to her cherished hopes, had
perhaps been too much for her. He arose a little tremblingly and
offered her his hand.
“I am your most obedient servant, Frau Professorin,” he remarked,
bowing deeply, and backing toward the door.
“We shall no doubt have the pleasure of seeing you soon again, Mr.
Grover,” she observed, eyeing him with curious significance.
“You are very kind,” he murmured, and made haste to vanish.
It was only three days later that Grover received an invitation to
dine at Professor Bornholm’s. He had spent the intervening period in
meditation concerning Mrs. Bornholm’s curious behavior. That she had
something on her mind was obvious, and he had no doubt that he would
to-day discover what it was. He felt confident that she had been
plotting against him and had some dramatic surprise in store for him.
As he rang the door-bell he had need of all his sang froid to quiet
his turbulent heart. He was admitted to the inner sanctuary and was
greeted with studious cordiality by the three goddesses. They seemed
all agitated and expectant, though they were striving to appear
unconcerned. They lounged and chatted as people do in the introductory
scene of a play, with hidden reference to some plot which has yet to
be disclosed. To all appearances the plot had some connection with the
door to the Professor’s study, which, contrary to custom, was closed.
Minchen repeatedly threw furtive glances at it, and Röschen made her
determination not to look at it equally conspicuous; only Gretchen was
frankly curious and made no effort to disguise it. A strange sense of
the unreality of the whole scene, himself included, crept over the
young man; he felt like a man in a play who can murder or make love
with equal irresponsibility. He was about to indulge in the latter
diversion, when suddenly the mysterious door opened, and the Frau
Professorin entered with much dramatic éclat, leading a lovely
dark-eyed young girl by the hand. The eyes of the three goddesses grew
as big as saucers, and Röschen pressed her hand to her heart and
nearly fainted from excitement.
“Mr. Grover,” said the Frau Professorin, making a most elaborate bow,
“allow me to present—Miss Jones.”
Under ordinary circumstances the introduction to Miss Jones would have
been an agreeable incident in Mr. Grover’s career, and nothing
further. He had met, he did not know how many hundred charming young
ladies, several of whom had borne the name of Jones, and he had never
been in the least disconcerted. In the present instance, however, he
showed but imperfect control of his emotions. A guilty blush sprang to
his cheeks, and he groped vainly in his embarrassment for the proper
phrase wherewith to express his pleasure at making the lady’s
acquaintance. Miss Jones, too, somehow, seemed ill at ease, and gazed
at him with flaming cheeks and a puzzled, half-anxious look in her
eyes. The Frau Professorin, who had probably expected a different
denouement, looked disappointed, and the goddesses whispered to each
other and tittered.
“You will excuse me for a few moments,” said the Frau Professorin;
“the house needs my attention.”
Having learned all that she wished to know, she could afford to be
generous. It was plain that the goddesses had displaced Miss Jones in
her lover’s heart. Hence his annoyance and embarrassment. She could
well appreciate his position and in her heart she began to relent
toward him. Miss Jones had evidently, under the pretence of studying
music, come to Leipsic, to look after her recreant adorer, whose
silence had begun to alarm her. The goddesses, too, who had been
initiated into the secret, arrived at similar conclusions, and
proceeded to dislike the innocent Miss Jones with much vehemence. It
was but with reluctance that they heeded their mother’s significant
scowl and withdrew in her wake.
“Perhaps,” said Miss Jones, drawing a breath of relief as the last of
the trains vanished in the doorway, “perhaps you would now have the
kindness to tell me what this comedy means.”
Grover lifted his eyes and gazed at her; she was surpassingly lovely.
A pair of frank, dark American eyes, half humorously challenging, put
at once his embarrassment to flight, and made him feel a delicious
nearness and kinship to their fair possessor.
“Miss Jones,” he said, answering promptly the humorous gleam in her
eyes, “I shall have to make you a regular confession. I didn’t have
the remotest idea of your existence.”
“Nor I of yours,” she responded quickly; “but what has that got to do
with the comedy?”
“Everything. You know, I invented you.”
“You invented me?”
“Yes, in my dire need, in order to escape from matrimonial
persecutions, I invented a fiancée in America named Miss Jones. But
to be frank, I did not expect you to take me at my word, and turn up
over here, in order to regulate my conduct.”
“Oh, I see it all,” cried Miss Jones, merrily. “You are in the
position of a novelist whose heroine suddenly steps out of the book
and takes him to task for his fictions.”
“But I hope you won’t prove a hard task-master,” he retorted, gayly.
“In consideration of my generosity in making you beautiful and rich,
you ought not to betray me.”
“Do you mean that I ought to remain your fiancée?” she asked,
laughing. “I think that is to ask too much of my indulgence.”
“You are at liberty to break with me whenever you choose; but until
further notice allow the family to suppose that they are right in
their conjecture. You need simply say nothing about it. You know our
engagement is secret, and we are not expected to show how fond we are
of each other.”
“That is very fortunate. However,” she continued, lightly, as if
pleased with the absurdity of the thought, “my fondness for you will
probably never demand any very extravagant expression.”
“No, but mine may,” was his daring reply; “therefore, perhaps, as a
measure of self-defence, you ought to break with me at once. Make a
scene of some sort, revile me; do anything you choose, only so that
the eavesdroppers, who are sure to misunderstand everything except
vehemence, get a notion that we have been engaged, but are so no
Miss Jones, who had seated herself in the sofa-corner, leaned her head
in her hand and meditated.
“Do you know,” she said, raising the same pretty head abruptly, “your
proposition is a very original one? I wonder if a girl was ever before
requested to break with a man to whom she had never been engaged.
However, Mr. Grover, I am not quite as accommodating as you think. On
the whole it suits my purpose very well to be engaged. I have come
here for study and have no desire to be courted by students or
musicians, of whom there is said to be quite a colony here.”
It was now Grover’s turn to be amazed. He stared at the sweetly demure
and sensible little face in bewilderment.
“Then you mean to—you mean to say——” he stammered.
“Yes, I mean to say,” she finished, suppressing the little mischievous
gleam in her eye, “that I prefer not to break with you. We will remain
The young man’s countenance fell. He began to look unhappy; perhaps
Miss Jones was an unscrupulous adventuress who would turn the joke
into earnest and sue him for breach of promise after they got home.
To be sure, she looked as innocent as an angel, but it is a notorious
fact that women are just the most dangerous in that guise. In escaping
Scylla he had plunged headlong into Charybdis. He got up with a
painful sense of indecision, walked toward the window, and concluded,
after a moment’s thought, that he could not, as a man of honor,
withdraw from a bargain which he had himself proposed. It would be
wiser to abide by it, and to trust to his own ingenuity to extricate
him at the proper moment.
“Miss Jones,” he said, rather ceremoniously, “I thank you for your
“Not at all,” she retorted, carelessly; “it is an arrangement for
mutual convenience. But remember,” she added, lifting her index finger
in playful threat, “that we are extremely well-bred and
The goddesses found it a harder task than they had anticipated to hate
Miss Jones. Scarcely twenty-four hours had passed before Gretchen was
at her feet, and vowed that she was the German equivalent for a
“perfect darling.” In return Miss Jones taught her how to make quince
jelly, flavored with the kernels in the stones. Two days sufficed to
conciliate Röschen; and when she discovered that Miss Jones did not
positively and unequivocally condemn the homicidal eccentricities of
Lucrezia Borgia, she declared with noble enthusiasm that Miss Jones
was “a grand soul.” As for Minchen, she held out heroically against
Miss Jones’s blandishments; but at the end of a week she too
succumbed. Miss Jones had complimented her in imperfect German, but
with the sweetest of accents, on her wax flowers, and had drawn new
designs for her, full of animation and dash. Presently they said
“thou” to each other, and Miss Jones, who had been Lulu at home, was
metamorphosed into Luischen. Even the Frau Professorin, who at first
had put her down as an artful little minx, began to forget her grudge
against her. The Professor found it a positive hardship that he was
not at liberty to kiss her. But the most amusing thing of the whole
affair was that they all became her partisans against her recreant
lover, Grover, who had trifled so wantonly with her feelings. They
made cautious overtures to condole with her, but, in spite of the
tenderest sympathy, found her singularly uncommunicative on this
subject. Now the goddesses, who in external charm did not profess to
compete with her, had in the first flush of their enthusiasm been
quite disposed to sacrifice themselves upon the altar of their
devotion; but, although they could have forgiven any other form of
maltreatment, Lulu’s apparent distrust of them wounded them deeply.
They had looked forward to delicious nocturnal confidences, when, half
disrobed, each should visit the other’s boudoir and discuss the
fascinating topic from all possible and impossible points of view.
That Lulu had proved impervious to all hints of this nature was a
slight which could not be pardoned, at least not without due penance
on her part. Moreover, to add to their mortification, there seemed
daily to be less occasion for sympathy. Lulu was winning Mr. Grover
back to his allegiance slowly but surely. He called, now, almost every
afternoon, took long walks with her through the Rosenthal, and barring
a certain Anglo-Saxon reserve (which in Germany is thought perfectly
incomprehensible) behaved in every way as an engaged man should. It
was scarcely to be wondered at that the goddesses found such an
exhibition of devotion a little bit irritating, and voted Lulu, the
happy and victorious, as odious as Lulu, the abandoned, the
secretly-grieving, had been lovely and interesting. It was especially
Röschen, the admirer of daring unconventionally, who took it into her
head that she had been wronged and deceived by the false and heartless
Lulu, and she swore—that is to say, she vowed solemnly—that she
should yet get even with that sly and demure little arch-fiend. The
coveted opportunity did not, however, present itself as soon as her
impatience demanded, and while the winter dragged along slowly,
alternating delightfully between frozen mud and liquid mud, Grover’s
devotion went on steadily deepening, until Miss Jones even interfered
with his laboratory practice, mixed herself up in his chemicals, and
on one occasion precipitated an explosion which singed his whiskers
and damaged his complexion for a month to come. From this experience
he drew the wise deduction that love and chemistry are antagonistic
forces, and therefore irreconcilable; but as he could not persuade
himself to give up either, it occurred to him to effect a compromise.
He would, as far as possible, devote the forenoons to chemistry and
the afternoons to love—that is to say, he would devote himself to
Miss Jones, and try gently to lure her on to the forbidden topic.
I believe I have said before that demonstrations of affection were
strictly prohibited; but I have not remarked that in the by-laws
subsequently drafted by Miss Jones for the regulation of their
abnormal relation, oral references to the same interesting topic were
likewise forbidden. When Miss Jones had her own way, she usually
talked music, and talked intelligently and well. She seemed to find a
kind of humorous satisfaction in confining her adorer strictly to
practical topics and in ignoring sentimental allusions. If he rebelled
against this sort of maltreatment, and became silent and moody, she
aggravated the offence by not appearing to notice it. She would then
find employment in separating little boys who fought in the street, or
in eliciting confidences from old apple-women. There was something
almost fiercely virginal about her, something bordering upon
enthusiasm in the way she repelled an attempted incursion upon the
forbidden ground. And withal she was so tender and sympathetic toward
all mankind, that her wilful obtuseness on the subject of love bore to
him the appearance of wanton cruelty. It did not occur to him that she
might be acting in self-defence, fearing to give the slightest rein to
a feeling which might, on very slight provocation, run away with her.
She was the kind of girl which one does not readily think of in
connection with the tender passion; and whose love, perhaps, for this
very reason, seems so ineffably precious to him who is trying to win
“Did it ever occur to you,” he said to her one day, as they were
walking together under the leafless arches of the Rosenthal, “that
when God saw all that He had made, and ‘behold it was very good,’ He
left woman out?”
“No, I didn’t know it,” she said, with a gleam of amusement.
“Nevertheless, it is so,” he went on. “When He said it was all very
good, woman was not yet created. After she was made, God said nothing
“That was because she was so nice that she needed no commendation,”
rejoined Miss Jones promptly.
“For all that, history shows that she has made a deal of mischief in
the world,” said Grover lugubriously; he was feeling piqued and
abused at her want of responsiveness to his undisguised admiration.
“History was written by men,” was Miss Jones’s response.
“But made by women,” ejaculated Grover, eager to hold his own in the
“As you like. I don’t think the man was far wrong who said that there
was a woman at the bottom of every important event.”
“You talk like a book.”
“I only wish I had the wit to make one. I would make you men stare if
I published my version of the world’s history.”
“You can do that better without the wit,” he retorted recklessly;
then, seeing a little cloud, as of pained surprise, pass over her
countenance, he made a motion to seize her hand, but succeeded,
instead, in knocking her parasol into the middle of the road. The
necessity of recovering it cooled for the moment the passion which had
threatened to overmaster him.
“Pardon me,” he murmured penitently, as he was again at her side. “I
did not mean to hurt your feelings; but the fact is, I am on such a
constant strain to keep my sentiment below the boiling point that I
lose my self-control and say things the effect of which I only see
after I have said them.”
“Don’t apologize, please,” she said, hurrying on so rapidly that he
could only with difficulty keep pace with her; then as a perfect
godsend, there crossed her line of vision two small boys who were
pulling each other’s hair and pummelling each other lustily.
“You naughty boy,” she ejaculated with much animation, seizing the
bigger one by the arm and forcing him to face her, “why do you strike
that poor little fellow?”
“He mixes himself up in my affairs,” responded the culprit, defiantly;
then discovering a considerable tuft of his antagonist’s hair in his
hand, he turned about shame-faced and tried to dispose of it,
unperceived. Miss Jones, however (though she was not without sympathy
for any one whose affairs were becoming mixed), dexterously caught the
descending tuft on the point of her parasol and held it up as proof of
his guilt. “What a dreadful little boy you are,” she said,
“But I will pummel Anton again,” retorted the dreadful little boy, “if
he plays ‘engaged’ with Tilly Heitmann.”
“Plays ‘engaged!’ Ah, then I beg your pardon,” said Miss Jones,
airily, with a sly little glance at her companion. “Little boys who
play engaged deserve to be pummelled.”
If Prince Bismarck or his big dog had come to town, there could not
have been more excitement in the Bornholm family. The three young
ladies sat upon a bed, with their hair done up in curl papers, and
looked intense. They had hatched a plot of revenge which was worthy of
three blonde heads done up in curl-paper. It had been ascertained that
Mr. Grover had invited Miss Jones to the artists’ carnival, and that
Miss Jones had accepted the invitation. He had, moreover, asked the
Frau Professorin to chaperone Miss Jones for the occasion, and the
Frau Professorin, who was as fond of excitement as a girl, did not
have the strength of mind to show him that she resented the slight he
had put upon her daughters. She tried to make the daughters believe,
of course, that she had; and they would undoubtedly have taken her
word for it, if they hadn’t been listening at the key-hole. When taken
to task, the Frau Professorin was in such an indulgent mood that she
would readily have consented to anything; and when Röschen proposed
that she, too, should go to the masquerade and in exactly the same
costume as Miss Jones, her mother only interposed a vague demurrer
which was easily overridden. The interesting complications which might
arise, if Grover should mistake one Daughter of the Rhine for the
other, stimulated her romantic fancy and made her eager as a girl to
have the plot carried into effect. What was to be accomplished by it,
she did not trouble herself to define; it only gave her a kind of
confused satisfaction to think that she was mystifying somebody who
had for a long time been mystifying her. Röschen was exactly of Miss
Jones’s height and their figures closely resembled each other. So when
they were masked a microscope would be required to tell them apart.
Röschen, who was full of blissful anticipations, went about during the
day embracing people promiscuously from sheer excess of happiness. She
could almost have embraced Grover, foe though he was, for having
afforded her such a glorious opportunity for playing a trick on him.
Her adventurous spirit had long yearned for some monumental
enterprise, and this had somehow a mysterious atmosphere about it
which made it doubly attractive to the admirer of Lucrezia Borgia. As
for Miss Jones, she was unsuspicious as a new-born babe, which
circumstance heightened the joy of the conspirators, thrilling them
with sensations of deep and delightful villainy.
The week before Lent came at last and the reign of Prince Carnival was
proclaimed through the streets by medieval heralds in gorgeous attire.
The procession was watched from windows and balconies, and at last
came the evening with its alluring festivities, including the bal
masque. The Frau Professorin, as she flitted from Miss Jones’s
boudoir to that of her daughter, taking notes of the former’s costume
for the benefit of the latter, felt like an arch conspirator upon
whose coolness and address the fate of empires hung. Miss Jones had
had her costumes designed by an expert costumer, and the difficulty
was to make Röschen’s home-made finery as trim and dazzling as the
products of professional skill. This feat was, however, happily
accomplished, thanks to Minchen’s artistic taste and Gretchen’s nimble
fingers. The Frau Professorin then slipped with a sigh of relief into
her black domino and took her seat at Miss Jones’s side in the
carriage. Grover, in the guise of King Gunther in the Nibelungen Lay,
sat opposite, arrayed in a splendid helmet and scarlet cloak,
endeavoring to make his legs as unobtrusive as possible. The drive to
the Schützenhaus was not long, and Miss Jones, muffled up to her very
eyes, hopped out of the carriage as lightly as Cinderella from her
metamorphosed cucumber. The Frau Professorin, likewise muffled,
allowed Grover to assist her up the stairs, and was conducted by him
to the door of the dressing-room, where there stood a female Cerberus
whose business it was to keep away male intruders. When King Gunther,
after doing sentinel duty for half an hour, again caught sight of the
swan-maiden, the daughter of Father Rhine, she was so surpassingly
lovely that he forgot to inquire for her chaperone. The chaperone,
therefore, without difficulty, effected a clandestine retreat, found
her way to a carriage and drove home as fast as the spavined droschke
horse would convey her. Twenty minutes later she slipped into the
dressing-room at the Schützenhaus, accompanied by a second daughter of
Father Rhine, whom that worthy parent himself could scarcely have told
from her lately-arrived sister.
The three floors of the enormous house represented the upper, the
middle, and the lower world.
The first floor was submarine and subterranean; cool,
dimly-illuminated grottoes, some in basaltic, columnar rock, some in
emerald-glowing stalactite, invited all the fantastic creatures of the
sea, both fabled and real, who were promenading about on the floor of
the deep, to a sweet, life-long siesta in their softly-gleaming
recesses. On the second floor luxuriant equatorial palm-groves grew in
startling proximity to the snow-laden pines of the North, and a
heterogeneous assembly of all nations and ages poured through the
resplendent avenues, chatting and playing pranks on each other with
Teutonic good humor.
“Let us go to Olympus,” said King Gunther, who was drifting with his
snow-maiden through the motley throng. “I may never have another
chance of getting there,” he added jocosely.
“I am afraid I should not feel at home there,” answered the daughter
of the Rhine; “you know I belong properly to the lower regions.”
“Then let us go to the lower regions,” retorted the king, gayly. “You
needn’t go in search of the Elysian Fields; you carry them with you
wherever you go.”
“Beware, your Majesty,” murmured the water-nymph, threateningly. “You
are defying Fate. Creatures of my kind are dangerous to trifle with.”
“It is you who are trifling, not I,” he burst forth; “with me the joke
has long ago become serious.”
He felt her arm trembling where it touched his; under the black fringe
of her mask he saw her lips quiver, and her eyes shone with a strange,
moist radiance. The crowd of gay maskers surged about them and the
music whirled away over their heads unheeded, and broke in showers of
“Listen to me,” he whispered boldly, stooping to her level—but in the
same moment a heavy hand was laid upon his neck and a burly,
gray-bearded Jupiter stood before him with a great train of Olympian
“I love the daughters of this green earth,” said the king of the gods;
“or I should say the green daughters of this black earth,” he
corrected himself, touching with a caressing hand the green sea-weeds
of the swan maiden’s drapery.
“Excuse me, Father Jupiter,” Grover began, knowing well, in spite of
his chagrin, that pranks of this kind were perfectly legitimate; “you
mix up the mythologies. This is not a classic nymph, but a Northern
“By my Olympian beard,” cried Jupiter, “that shows your barbaric
taste, if you do not pronounce her classic.”
“I must insist,” Grover replied, “that to your pagan majesty a
creature of Northern fable has no existence.”
“Then by my Ambrosian locks we will give her existence,” quoth the
father of gods and men. “Mercury, my son,” he cried, pointing with his
sceptre to a graceful youth with winged heels and cap, “change me
quickly this maiden into something classic, but don’t change her too
much or you will spoil a divine masterpiece.”
Mercury, with winged speed, came forward, waved his wand over the
swan-maiden’s head, when behold! she vanished.
“Why, your magic is too potent, you rascal,” ejaculated Jupiter. “I
didn’t tell you to make her invisible.”
He flourished his pasteboard sceptre in mock wrath above his head,
dealt Mercury a resounding blow on the head, then marched on, followed
by his immortal family and a jovial throng of leaf-crowned Bacchantes.
Grover remained standing in the middle of the floor, hoping that, as
the crowd dispersed, Miss Jones would naturally again seek him. But
Miss Jones had apparently no such intention. She persistently remained
invisible. At last, thinking that she had meant her allusion to the
lower regions as a hint, he made his way to the head of the stairs and
descended, not without difficulty, to the first floor. The dancing had
commenced above and the multitude of scaly monsters who had haunted
the deep, were lured by the airs of Strauss up into the abodes of the
daylight. The submarine world was almost deserted (except by a huge
lobster and a shark, who were drinking lemonade) when Grover entered
upon his quest for the vanished water-nymph. He investigated two or
three grottoes, with no result except to tear his cloak on an exposed
nail and knock a hole in his helmet. He was just about to resort to a
classical imprecation, when the necessity for it was suddenly
dissipated. There stood the daughter of Rhine, wonderful to behold, in
sweet converse with her chaperone, the black domino. The young man
lost no time in making the ladies aware of his presence.
“I hope you are enjoying yourself, Frau Professorin,” he said, as he
offered his arm, as a matter of course, to the swan-maiden.
“Oh, yes, I thank you. It takes very little to amuse an old woman like
me,” she answered, pleasantly. “The music is good and the masks are
“Is there anything I can do for you?” he queried politely, hoping from
the bottom of his heart that she would say no.
“Don’t you bother about me,” was her amiable reply; “I will take care
of myself. I only came to see you young people enjoy yourselves.”
He had evidently been unjust to the Frau Professorin, he reflected.
She was a very charming old lady. He conceived a sudden affection for
her. In a very blissful mood he strolled away under the great
festoons of depending sea-weeds, giving now and then a little casual
pat to the hand which lightly rested on his arm. By some chance they
found themselves in a deserted stalactite cave, where the gas-jets
gleamed softly from within emerald cones of glass and spread a strange
magic glamour under the pendent arches.
“Let us sit down,” said Grover; and the swan-maiden, whose agitation
probably forbade her to speak, silently accepted the invitation. “What
a transformation love works in a woman,” he reflected ecstatically;
“who would recognize in this sweet, docile creature the rebellious and
headstrong girl of three months ago? I have long wished to tell you,”
he continued aloud, seizing her hand and drawing her close up to him,
“that my life would be barren as a desert without you. You have taught
me by your sweet reserve, and your self-respecting coolness, first to
esteem you highly, then to admire and at last to love you. Do not
think even now that I take your consent for granted. I only hope that
love, as strong and deep as mine, cannot fail to find some response.
It is imperious, all-conquering; it fears no more resistance.”
There was obviously no occasion for such impassioned rhetoric. The
swan-maiden had not the faintest idea of offering resistance. She
slipped with a soft and charming suppleness into his embrace and
received his ecstatic kisses without a murmur of protest. It was not
until he made a movement to tear off her mask (whose depending fringe
was a great inconvenience) that she suddenly recovered her senses:
with a startled cry she stayed his hand, cast a shy glance about her,
jumped up and ran as fast as her feet could carry her. If she had been
a real fairy, she could not have made a more rapid and unexpected
exit. Grover was utterly dumbfounded. He thought of the old legends
about knights who had been loved by mermaids whose kiss was death and
their embrace eternal damnation. An uncanny feeling crept over him.
But a cheerful second thought soon came to comfort him. He had heard
from the best authorities that women were enigmatical and incalculable
creatures who were most apt to do what was least expected of them.
They had a perfect encyclopedia of eccentricities, if the novelists
were to be trusted, and it was not to be expected that his brief
acquaintance with the sex should have sufficed to master it. This was
a profitable train of thought and one well worth pursuing. Therefore,
instead of pursuing his nymph, he leaned back against the wall and
The nymph, in the meanwhile, after a hurried search below, ran to the
dressing-room, where she flung herself weeping into the arms of the
“What in Heaven’s name is the matter, child?” inquired the latter.
“Was he rude to you?”
“Not at all,” sobbed the nymph; “no-o-ot a-a-at all. Quite the
“What then are you crying for?” asked the domino sympathetically.
“He kissed me, mother; he kissed me,” answered the nymph, weeping.
“You ought not to have allowed him to do that,” said the Frau
Professorin, with mild reproach.
“How could I help it, mother? He talked so beautifully to me. He
proposed to me. And I forgot that I was Miss Jones. I was only
A second flood of tears made the rest unintelligible.
“Are you sure he proposed to you, child?” queried the mother, after a
“Quite sure, mother.”
“But then he must have known you. For why should he propose to Miss
Jones, to whom he is already engaged?”
“That is what makes me so unhappy, mother, for now I shall never know
whether I am engaged to him or not.”
“Leave that to me, child. I’ll find out.”
The next day Grover had an accident, which cost him upward of $200. He
mixed something or other, which made a terrific racket and smashed no
end of retorts and bottles. When he entered the laboratory again
after having trimmed off the scorched fringe of his whiskers, he found
a big card nailed over his place, with the following inscription:
“Smoking and being in love in this laboratory is strictly forbidden.”
The prohibition in regard to smoking was in print; the rest was
interpolated with a paint-brush. Grover looked around wrathfully upon
the twenty or thirty backs which reared themselves against shelves of
many-colored bottles; they bore all an expression of unconscious
The hour was approaching when he might without impropriety call upon
his fiancée. His toilet, however, needed some attention, after his
recent experiment with explosives; and he hastened to his rooms to
make himself presentable. On the table he found a letter, addressed in
the usual high-shouldered characters of American girls. It read as
My Dear Mr. Grover:
Our engagement for mutual convenience
being no longer convenient, I grant your request and hereby
break it. I would have done so when you first asked me, only
I enjoyed your embarrassment, and had, moreover, a desire to
punish you for the liberty you took with a lady whom you had
not seen until that moment. I trust we shall remain good
friends. If you desire a scene of some sort, in order to
advertise our changed relations to the household, you may
call upon me this afternoon at three. You will understand
that I do this only to save explanations. A quarrel, you
know, ends everything; is so intelligible and satisfactory;
precludes questions and discourages curiosity. Accordingly,
my dear sir, I will quarrel with you at 3:15 P.M., promptly,
Sincerely your friend,
Leipsic, March 12, 187-.
Grover read this enigmatical epistle eleven times without deriving the
slightest clue to its meaning. He read it aloud and he read it in
silence, he analyzed, scrutinized and apostrophized it, but without
avail. That feminine caprice could reach such alarming dimensions he
had never dreamed. That she should want to break with him the morning
after she had become really engaged to him could be accounted for by a
variety of reasons. But that she should write him a cool and
semi-humorous letter, showing no more agitation than one of Bret
Harte’s heroes who is about to be hanged—that certainly capped the
climax of eccentric behavior. And that, after her passionate protests!
But hold on! What did she say yesterday that was so passionate?
Curiously enough, he could not remember a word of what she had said.
It began slowly to dawn upon him that, during the memorable scene, he
had himself done all the talking. She had not uttered a syllable. It
was odd, but probably not without precedent. Well, if she wanted her
quarrel, she should have it promptly on the hour, and with éclat.
At 3:15 o’clock he rang the Professor’s door-bell, and was ushered
into the drawing-room, where Miss Jones stood smiling sweetly upon
“I hope you didn’t misunderstand my note,” she said, seeing the
troubled look in his eyes.
“Misunderstand it!” he ejaculated, with ill-suppressed indignation;
“if I had arrived as far as misunderstanding it, I should have had
respect for my intellect. I doubt if the seven sages could have
“It wasn’t necessary that they should,” said Miss Jones imperturbably.
“But suppose they had made love to you?” he began, argumentatively.
“The seven sages never made love to me,” remarked Miss Jones,
“But suppose you had kissed them?”
“I never kissed them!”
Miss Jones repelled this insinuation with indignant emphasis.
“It is utterly useless to argue with you,” he said, pacing the floor
“Then I would not try.”
“You are cruel, vain, and heartless.”
“If those qualities were contagious, I should know where I got them.”
“You mean yesterday, when you kissed me!”
“I must decline to listen to such language. You will have the kindness
to remember Mr. Grover, that from this moment our acquaintance is at
Miss Jones arose with flaming cheeks and eyes in which the unseen
tears trembled; she made Mr. Grover a sweeping courtesy and moved with
a good deal of superfluous stateliness toward the door. He returned
her salute, though with much less dignity; then rushed forward to hold
her back, but with an impatient gesture she shook off his grasp and
“We met to quarrel in jest, and we did it in earnest,” he reflected
grimly, as he picked up his hat and opened the door. There was a
sudden, agitated rustle of skirts in the hall, and he was just in time
to see Röschen’s back hair vanish into the dining-room.
Being engaged is said to be a very delightful thing. You fulfill a
pleasant duty to society and one no less pleasant to yourself. In
Germany particularly, the engaged state is one of great honor. You
advertise the important event in the newspapers, above the marriages
and births; you walk abroad with your fiancée arm-in-arm (which is
an inestimable privilege); you introduce her with much ceremony to
your uncles and cousins and aunts; you receive congratulations—in
short, you become a sort of public character, until some one else goes
and follows your illustrious example. Then you become an old story and
lapse into insignificance.
It was this ravishing vision of the engaged state, with its attendant
festivities, which had excited Röschen’s imagination. She had seen
herself a hundred times on Grover’s arm, making the round of her whole
circle of acquaintance, and introducing him triumphantly to her pet
enemies. He would, of course, at a hint from her, be gracious to those
who had been kind to her, and politely snub those who had been
disagreeable to her. There was a day of reckoning coming for those who
had made sport of Röschen’s verses, a day of glorious revenge. But the
trouble now was, that, although Röschen looked upon herself as
engaged, and respected herself accordingly, she did not have the
courage to claim her fiancé. She was, as it were, anonymously
engaged. The uncertainty of the thing tortured her. She was more than
once tempted to sit down and write to Mr. Grover, telling him that it
was she to whom he was engaged; but the thought that he might, in that
case, divine her plot always deterred her. That he had quarrelled with
Miss Jones hardly simplified the matter; for a lover’s quarrel of that
sort is never such a serious affair as the parties involved are apt to
think. If only Miss Jones would have the inspiration to go to Berlin
or to Stuttgart, or to Halifax, the road to Grover’s affections would
be comparatively plain sailing. But Miss Jones, in spite of the most
pointed hints regarding the superior musical advantages of other
cities, persisted in remaining where she was. She practiced with an
odious regularity and indefatigable zeal, which knew neither weariness
nor discouragement. She did not grow perceptibly thinner, nor did her
complexion show the ravages of sorrow. It was unanimously resolved by
the ladies of the household that she was a cold and heartless monster.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that she paid forty dollars a month
(which was put aside for dowries), she would have been told to pack
This phase of feeling lasted about three weeks. Then the unfailing
charm of Miss Jones’s affability began once more to assert itself.
Röschen was seized with a sudden desire to kiss her; for she looked so
irresistibly cool and lovely as she sat at the breakfast-table sipping
her coffee, and propounding her neat little German sentences, which
were always correct, though with a faint flavor of “Otto.” Röschen
felt positive that those calm, intelligent eyes of Miss Jones’s read
them all like a book; and instead of being indignant at such
presumption, Röschen grew repentant. She yearned to fling herself at
Miss Jones’s feet and confess all her wickedness. She would wear
white, with a single red rose in her bosom like La Sonnambula. When
she thought of all the heroines of history and romance who had
renounced the men they loved, she too felt that she could rise to a
like heroism in renouncing the man she didn’t love; for she did not,
for one moment, deceive herself in regard to her sentiment for Grover.
It was the engaged state she had been in love with; and he was merely
a lay figure, convenient for the occasion—a puppet with whom she
enacted the scenes appropriate to the engaged condition.
She was yet pondering the problem, but had not yet nerved herself for
action, when one day she was startled at the sound of Grover’s voice
in the hall. He handed his card to the girl and inquired for the Frau
Professorin. There was a council of war on the spot, and the Frau
Professorin sent word that she was “not at home.” Grover then asked
permission to see “the young ladies.” It was a very disappointing
message; the plural number was especially disheartening. The sisters,
however, were equal to the occasion. Minchen and Gretchen nobly
declared that they were “out.” Accordingly there was nothing to do,
except for Röschen to receive the visitor. She donned her white
muslin, stuck a Jacqueminot rose in her bosom, and entered the
drawing-room with a quaking heart. The young man shook hands with her
without the faintest trace of embarrassment, and begged her to have
the kindness to present his “adieux” to the family, as he had
concluded to continue his studies in Berlin.
“And you are going to leave Leipsic!” she exclaimed, in astonishment.
“Naturally,” he replied: “I leave to-night.”
Röschen’s heart thumped as if it meant to work its way out through her
“Now or never!” it said, with an unmistakable plainness; “now or
The Jacqueminot rose fell to the ground; Grover stooped to pick it
up. Had he only said: “May I keep this as a souvenir of our
friendship,” or something of that sort, she would at once have
summoned courage to make her confession. But, instead of that, he
gravely handed her back the rose and remarked that he was under great
obligation to her father and mother for their kindness to him during
his stay in the city. She knew of no appropriate reply to this
observation until his silence forced her to invent one. “You have
given us no opportunity of late to be either kind or unkind to you,”
she said, with a blush, which made her feel hot all over.
“The circumstances are at fault, not I,” he answered, and got up to
take his leave.
“Pardon me,” she said, grasping his hand with a desperate clutch; “I
think I heard mother come in. I’ll be back in one moment.”
Several minutes elapsed, however, but neither Röschen nor the Frau
Professorin appeared. Then a sudden sound of sobs was heard in the
next room, and Grover, fearing that some one was in distress, hastily
opened the door. There stood Miss Jones, grave and benign, stooping
over the weeping Röschen, who was dramatically embracing her knees.
“Oh, it was I—it was I who made trouble between you,” sobbed the
girl, flinging back her head and gazing imploringly up into Miss
Jones’s face. “You are so good and noble, Louise, can you ever forgive
me? Oh, I wish you would kill me, so that I never could do you any
“That won’t be necessary, my dear,” said Miss Jones, soothingly,
stroking the penitent’s hair and kissing her forehead; then, catching
sight of Grover, she instantly recovered her dignity and disengaged
herself from Röschen’s embrace. The latter, with a wildly despairing
glance at the young man, sprang up and rushed out of the room.
Miss Jones and Grover stood face to face. The reverberation of
Röschen’s excitement seemed to linger in the room, and they waited for
it to pass away before speaking.
“I came to bid you good-bye,” he said at last; it did not occur to him
that he had not come for that purpose.
“I am happy to have a chance to—to—beg your pardon,” replied Miss
Jones, with a heroic determination to crucify her pride. “I was harsh
and unjust to you. Röschen has told me all.”
“I wish she would tell me all. I am as much in the dark as ever.”
“The girl to—to—whom you proposed in the grotto—was—was—not I,”
she faltered, grasping the door-knob for support, and gazing into the
mirror with a vain hope to hide her blushes.
He drew a long sigh of relief. That intelligence simplified existence
enormously. He had had a hopeless feeling, of late, that life was too
complex an affair for him to grapple with. Now, as by a flash, order
was restored in his chaotic universe. He stood gazing in rapture at
Miss Jones’s blushing face, which seemed angelic in its purity and its
dignified maidenhood. That there dwelt a sweet young soul behind
those blameless features he felt blissfully convinced.
“Miss Jones,” he began, “if Miss Röschen has confessed to you, you
know what I would have liked to say to you—that night in the grotto.
Now, what would you have answered me?”
A little ray of mirth stole over the girl’s face, and vanished again.
“I should have said—no,” she remarked smilingly.
The orderly universe again tumbled into chaos. She was the veritable
Sphinx, and he not the Œdipus to read her riddle.
“Then I will bid you good-bye,” he managed to stammer, extending an
unwilling hand and again withdrawing it.
“Good-bye, Mr. Grover,” she said with heartless cheerfulness; “I hope
it is not forever.”
“I am afraid it is,” he murmured sadly.
He took two steps toward the door, and laid his hand on the knob.
“Oh, by the way,” ejaculated the girl, with a sudden alarm in her
voice; “that question you would have asked me in the grotto—why don’t
you ask it now?”
“You said you would say no.”
He had turned about in unutterable astonishment.
“I didn’t say that,” she retorted gravely.
“What did you say then?”
“That I should have said No in the grotto.”
The scene which followed was of a strictly private and confidential
character; I fear Miss Jones would take me to task if I divulged it.