A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Max Simon Nordau
Herr von Jagerfeld, a rich manufacturer who had recently been elevated
to the rank of baron in the Bavarian nobility, was celebrating a double
festival: his silver wedding and the completion of his castle,
Franzensruhe, which he had built outside the gates of Marktbreit, on
the slope of one of the hills, which, as the last western spur of the
Steigerwald, roll in a gradual descent to the bank of the Main. The
castle was a magnificent edifice, in the Renaissance style—of course.
Red sandstone and white marble had been used, with a beautiful effect
of colour, for the façade, which made a lavish display of pilasters
with foliage and vine work, niches containing statues, and bay windows
with beautiful wrought iron railings. The castle stood in the midst of
a lovely park filled with trees a century old, which extended up to the
summit of the hill and down to the river.
The master of the castle liked a lavish style. He had invited to his
house-warming numerous guests, to whom, in the spacious apartments
planned for this purpose, he could offer a really royal hospitality, at
once magnificent and refined. They were chiefly land-owners from the
province of the Main, rich merchants and manufacturers from Frankfort,
and acquaintances from places still more remote, who had flocked here
with their wives and grown children, so that from early morning the
mansion had been filled with joyous life.
The entire company assembled for the first time at the banquet which
took place in the evening. The large dining-hall, wainscoted with
polished marble in the style of the Italian palaces, whose painted
ceiling was supported by fluted columns, was lighted by a superb
chandelier with hundreds of wax candles, and contained a long table
very richly set. Silver ornaments, exquisitely wrought, adorned the
centre and the ends. The china, the array of glasses of all shapes
which stood beside each plate, bore the initial of the master of the
house, without any heraldic addition which might recall the recent
elevation of rank, a graceful bit of coquetry on the part of a man who
had been successful in life, but who was no upstart. At every plate
was also placed a bouquet, in a holder representing a crystal lily with
a silver cup. The company harmonized with the luxurious environment.
The married ladies attracted the eye by their elegant toilettes and
rich jewels, the young girls—among whom were several of bewitching
beauty and freshness—in simpler costumes, with flowers in their hair,
by their natural charms. Even among the monotonous black dress coats
of the men, an eye which took pleasure in colour found some degree of
satisfaction in the gay uniforms of several Bavarian and Russian
The hostess, still a pretty woman, with her wealth of fair hair and her
clear complexion, over whose delicate transparency the years had passed
with scarcely a trace, had at her right an elderly general with
numerous orders, who, being a great eater and a very poor
conversationalist, feasted his eyes alternately on his plate and on the
pretty faces, whispering to his neighbour remarks about the viands and
the feminine guests, whose artless simplicity—they consisted chiefly
of a noun and a laudatory adjective—showed a profoundly satisfied and
comfortable mood. At her left sat a highly esteemed friend of the
family, Dr. Bergmann, a young physician, a tutor in the Wurzburg
university, who, during the past three years had twice had the
opportunity of saving Frau von Jagersfeld and her eldest daughter, in
cases of severe illness, from threatening death, and to whom the whole
family therefore felt unbounded gratitude. Bergmann was a handsome
man, still under thirty, whose grave manner made him appear somewhat
older. A thoughtful brow, an absolutely straight nose, large grey
eyes, which on first meeting them looked cold and penetrating, lips
somewhat large, yet well modelled, dark beard, and a luxuriant head of
hair which was permitted to wave, stand up, or lie flat at will, were
the individual features which collectively formed a remarkably
interesting head. His manner showed a peculiar mingling of modesty,
nay, timidity, and vigorous self-reliance. It was evident that he was
unaccustomed to the drawing-room and large companies, and felt at ease
only beside a sick-bed. He was rather awkward in aimless chatter, but,
on the other hand, firm and clear in professional conversation. A mere
boy in the presence of a talkative, pretty girl, but a hero and a
conqueror when with a suffering, anxious human being, beseeching his
aid. His left-hand neighbour, the wife of a Frankfort banker, who
chatted rapidly about the architecture of the dining-hall and the
Wagner performances at Bayreuth, received monosyllabic, hesitating
replies, while he talked eloquently to the lady on his right, the
hostess, upon the influence of modern nervousness upon social forms.
He paid little heed to the guests, and had only glanced at them
carelessly two or three times, bowing to acquaintances, and hastily
obtaining a general impression of the strangers. At each of these
surveys his eyes had remained fixed upon a lady who sat directly
opposite to him, and whose beauty was remarkable, peculiar, and
fascinating. So far as her figure could be seen, while seated, it
appeared slight and delicate, without fragility, girlishly immature,
yet not lean in form. The small head, supported by a slender,
snow-white neck, was a marvel of grace and elegance, instantly
recalling the bust of Clytie in the British Museum. One involuntarily
looked for the sunflower from whose calyx it really ought to bloom.
The brow was narrow and dazzlingly fair, the nose uncommonly delicate,
slightly arched at the root, with mobile nostrils, so delicate that one
might believe them transparent; the mouth not very small, but
exquisitely shaped, with thin lips, curving obstinately, which curled
sometimes sternly, sometimes scornfully, sometimes bitterly, but could
also smile with infinite sweetness and charm; the chin round and
statuesque, the cheeks neither plump nor hollow, with a delightful play
of tender lights and soft, almost imperceptible shadows over their
bright surfaces. But the most remarkable characteristics of this head
were the large blue eyes, deep as the sea, beneath long lashes and
nobly-formed brows, and the luxuriant, almost golden-red hair, whose
silken wealth of naturally waving locks rested above the brow in two
bands, like the gleaming wings of some bright-hued tropical bird, while
the light of the candles, shining on the braids, struck out strange,
satiny, metallic reflections, and a powdery, glimmering sparkle, as
though the hair was dusted with gold or ruby powder. Her sole
ornaments were a diamond star in the hair and an antique gold circlet
on one of her bare arms. The white dress, trimmed on one side of the
bosom to the opposite side of the waist with a garland of artificial
flowers, looked simple, yet very elegant. The eye of the most critical
woman could find no fault in the harmony of the toilette, the coldest
man could not avert his gaze from the head, which constantly called
forth the two comparisons to a Greek cameo, or a nixie, comparisons
which the beautiful woman was compelled to hear so often that they
seemed unbearably commonplace.
The young lieutenant—a count—who sat at her left hand, was probably
whispering something of the sort into her little ear, for her face
assumed a repellently cold, bored expression, and her eyes were fixed
dreamily on vacancy,—many times farther away than the earth from the
sun,—from her gallant neighbor, the table, and the hall. But
Bergmann's gaze must have followed her all this distance, for it
suddenly met hers, and the tall, grave fellow flushed under her pensive
glance. The hostess looked at him just at this moment, and saw the
blood mount into his cheeks.
"What is the matter?" she could not help whispering.
He blushed a second time, even more deeply.
But Frau von Jagerfeld had followed his eye, and now said, smiling:
"Ah, your opposite neighbor!"
"Who is the lady?" Bergmann asked, with some little embarrassment.
"Doctor," replied Frau von Jagerfeld, this time smiling, "take care.
Many wings have already been scorched by her."
"Don't fear, madame. I can endure flames somewhat better than a moth."
"Come, come, a suspicious reflection of fire is already visible on your
A shadow of annoyance flitted across Bergmann's face. His hostess laid
her hand quickly on his arm, saying:
"Don't be vexed by a little jest, my dear friend. I will tell you who
the beautiful woman is. She is a German-American, and her name is Mrs.
Ada Burgess. Young and charming, as you see, the poor woman is
unhappy. Her father is the owner of a gold mine somewhere in Nebraska,
and was reputed a very wealthy man; at least he lived in extremely
handsome style in St. Louis, and his daughter, who was considered the
handsomest girl in the west, from the time of her entrance into society
was the reigning belle of every ball and entertainment. Mr. Burgess,
who seems to have been a handsome and elegant man, was her most devoted
suitor and appeared to be madly in love with her. Ada did not remain
insensible to the persistent homage, and Burgess bore away the victory
over numerous rivals. But it now appears that he has a base soul and
his main object was the dowry. There, however, he was disappointed.
Gold mines, evidently, are not always productive, at least Ada's father
was ruined by his, and Ada did not receive a penny. Then the comedy of
love played by Burgess ended. At first he treated her indifferently,
then harshly, and soon matters became so bad that she was obliged to
seek refuge from her husband's abuse in her parents' house. Her nerves
had been so shaken by the horrible scenes which she experienced, that
your American colleagues recommended a long residence in Europe for the
restoration of her health. She came here, and for several months has
lived in Frankfort, where the best society struggles for her. Yon can
imagine that a young and beautiful woman entirely alone, whose husband
is invisible, does not remain unassailed. Besides, there is the
American independence and confidence of manner which is often mistaken
for emancipation, and by which a man easily feels encouraged—in short,
serious attention has been paid to her, and she has seemed to accept
it. Then suddenly there came a repulse and a rupture, which has
already resulted in injury to several somewhat delicately strung
masculine hearts. Moreover she is very uneven in her manner. Often
gay, even reckless, devising pranks like a spoiled boy, then suddenly
reserved, distant, and stern. True, she is always intellectual, so
that I know many a man who is uncomfortable in her society, to say
nothing of women."
Frau von Jagerfeld had spoken eagerly in a low tone, with frequent
interruptions when courtesy compelled her to listen to the numerous
toasts which were chiefly proposed to her and to the master of the
house. Mrs. Burgess could not long fail to notice that the two persons
opposite were talking about her, and she smilingly shook her finger
across the table at her friend.
"Poor woman," murmured Bergmann, "so bitter in experience at the
threshold of life—But why does she endure her fate? It is so easy to
be set free in America."
"I don't know. Perhaps on account of her children."
"Ah—she has children?"
"Two; and it is strange and touching to see how she rears them. Often
she treats them like dolls, and amuses herself for hours by dressing
and undressing them, dragging them around the room, and then suddenly
dropping them in some sofa corner, head down and feet up. Then again,
she talks gravely and tenderly to the little creatures, and tries to
instil good principles—it is too comical. But she is a delightful
creature, oh, a delightful creature——"
The banquet was over, honor was done to the last toast from brimming
champagne glasses, and the guests went to the drawing-room. Several
minutes elapsed before the gentlemen had escorted the ladies to their
chairs, and the arrangement appointed according to rank and precedence,
which had governed the seats assigned at the table, had yielded to free
gathering in groups. Mrs. Burgess had dismissed her lieutenant with a
somewhat curt bow, and took her place before a beautiful little Menzel,
which she examined a long time. Frau von Jagerfeld and Bergmann
released themselves almost at the same moment, the former from her old
general, the latter from his banker's wife, and again found themselves
side by side.
"Do you want me to introduce you to Ada?" she asked, quickly.
He bowed silently, and offered his arm. On reaching Ada, she lightly
touched her on the shoulder, white as mother-of-pearl, with her fan,
and when the lady, somewhat surprised, turned, Frau von Jagerfeld,
smiling pleasantly, said: "My dear child, let me present to you our
best friend, Dr. Bergmann. I must devote myself to the rest of my
guests, and, unfortunately, have not time to tell you all the good I
think of him. But you will discover all that is necessary for
yourself. You know, my dear, that you are the two most interesting
people here. It is fitting for you to be together." With these words
she rustled away to address a few kindly words to the architect of the
castle, who was surrounded by a numerous group.
Bergman stood before Mrs. Burgess, gazing at her gravely and intently.
The more at ease of the two, she sat down on a sofa and, with a gesture
of the hand, invited him to take the arm-chair in front of it.
"Frau von Jagerfeld has talked of you a great deal, and very
enthusiastically," she said, in a musical, somewhat deep, resonant
voice, which thrilled his every nerve like the sound of bells, and as
he bowed, she added, smiling mischievously: "And of me to you; I
watched you at the table."
"Yes," he answered, "and enthusiastically, also."
"She is a kind friend, I know." A brief pause followed, which she
abruptly interrupted. "You are a physician, and in spite of your
youth, a famous one—modesty is unnecessary. It is strange—I like
physicians, and yet I fear them."
"Yes, why? I like them because they are usually earnest, talented men,
who have experienced much, know much, and from whom new and remarkable
things can always be learned. I fear them because they have no
"Perhaps that is not always correct."
"Oh, pardon me; how is a physician to preserve any illusions, when he
knows human beings thoroughly, sees that an emotion depends upon the
nerve of a tooth, a mood upon the degree of moisture contained in the
air, and a character upon the healthy or diseased stomach. You leave
your illusions upon your dissecting tables."
"What you say might be true if illusions and experiences came from the
same source. But they do not."
"I don't fully understand. Explain yourself."
"What you call illusions are ideal images and aspirations, which
originate in the sphere of our impulses and feelings, not in our
sensible reasoning. But the impulses and feelings are more elementary
and more deeply rooted, thought comes later and remains more on the
surface. We inherit our illusions from the countless generations that
have preceded us, our experiences we draw from our individual lives.
An individual experience cannot outweigh the illusions of a thousand
ancestors, who form a part of our organism. But, pardon me, I have
caught myself in the midst of a tutor's lecture—you see that impulse
is stronger than prudence."
"Do you ask pardon for that? What you say is so interesting. I
suppose you have a very bad opinion of women, since you do not think
them capable of understanding you?"
"I do not generalize. Whatever opinion I might have of women, I should
not apply it to you."
"You understand how to pay compliments admirably. You are not
He made no reply, but gazed at her with so earnest a look, expressive
of such unconscious admiration and worship that she flushed, and with a
nervous flutter of her fan rose. Bergmann rose also, bowed, and made a
movement to retire. Ada opened her eyes in surprise, and involuntarily
a word escaped her lips: "Why——"
"I thought I was wearying you."
She held out her finger-tips, which he pressed so warmly that she
hastily withdrew her hand. Going to one of the three large windows in
the drawing-room, she opened it and stepped out upon the broad,
projecting balcony, which on the second story extended along the whole
front of the castle. Leaning against the balustrade, both silently
watched for a moment the scene before them. The July night was warm,
and the air was stirless. Not a cloud appeared in the blackish-blue
sky, the stars were sparkling brightly, and among them, almost at the
zenith, sailed the full moon. At their feet lay the park, from which
rose faint odours of unknown wild flowers and the more pungent
fragrance of dewy grass and leafage. Directly in front of the building
extended a lawn, with beds of flowers, on which the moonlight poured a
sort of filmy glimmering mist, which gave the green grass and the
bright hues of the flower-beds a light, silvery veil. Beyond the lawn,
on all sides, towered the trees of the park, intersected by broad
paths, through which the moonbeams flowed like a gleaming white stream
between steep black banks. At the end of the central avenue appeared
the Main, flowing in a broad, calm stream, with here and there a noisy,
troubled spot in the midst of its peacefully-gliding waves, where a
rock or a sand-bar interrupted the mirror-like expanse, and caused a
rushing, foam-sprinkled whirlpool. Beyond the river, amid the light,
floating night-mists, were dimly seen the houses of a little village,
on whose window-panes a moonbeam often flashed, and at the left of the
park rose the indistinct mass of the city of Marktbreit, whose steep,
narrow streets were filled with shadows, while above the steeples and
higher roofs the moon-rays rippled, bringing them out in bright relief
against the dark picture.
The spell of this moonlight night mounted to the heads of the two
silent watchers on the balcony like an intoxicating draught, and sent
cold chills down their spines. Almost without being aware what he was
doing, Bergmann offered Ada his arm, which she accepted, leaning
against him with a gentle, clinging movement of her whole figure.
There they stood, letting their dreamy eyes wander over the woods, the
river, and the city. They would have forgotten the castle and the
entertainment had not the subdued notes of the dance music reached them
from the ball-room, whose windows opened upon the balcony on the
opposite side of the façade, filling the night with low harmonies which
were continued in the vibrations of their own nerves.
At this moment the clock in the Marktbreit steeple struck twelve,
directly after the sound of a night watchman's horn was heard, and a
wailing voice, rising in the sleeping streets of the city, called a few
"What was that?" Ada whispered.
"The night watchman, according to the custom of the country, called the
hour with a verse," replied Bergmann. A few minutes later the call was
repeated, this time nearer, and so distinctly that it could be
understood. The night watchman, with mournful emphasis, sung:
"Twelve strokes Time's limit do teach thee,
Man, think of thy mortality."
"Life in your Germany is like a fairy tale," said Ada, after repeating
the verse to herself; "everything is so dreamy; so pervaded with
"Then stay in our Germany, stay with us," he pleaded, softly, his voice
expressing far more than his words.
She shook her little head sorrowfully. "I came five years too late."
"Do not say that," replied Bergmann, pressing the bare arm which rested
on his closely to his side. "How old are you now?"
It did not occur to her to smile at the question or to answer it,
according to the ordinary custom of women, with an affected reply. She
said, instead, as simply as a child:
"And at twenty-three would it be too late to seek and strive for
happiness in life? When sorrow has been experienced so young, it can
surely be regarded as a childish disease and there is nothing to be
done except to forget it as quickly as possible."
Ada gazed fixedly into vacancy, saying, as if lost in thought:
"No, no. That is not so. There are injuries which are incurable. The
mother of two children is old at twenty-three. Since she can no longer
offer a man the full happiness of love, she has no right to expect it
He was about to answer, but with a hasty movement she placed her
slender finger on her lip, saying:
"Hush! Not another word on this subject. Look"—and her hand pointed,
down to the park.
From a bow window in the castle a powerful apparatus was sending a
broad stream of electric light into the darkness. It often changed and
moved, being thrown now here, then there. In its course it illumined
the tops of the trees with a faint, livid phosphorescence, interwove
the shrubbery with fantastic gliding spots of light, and gave the turf,
wherever it was visible, the appearance of a strip of a glittering
glacier. In the distance, where the light was lost in the dense groups
of trees, it produced the illusion of indistinct shapes gleaming out
there for a moment and then vanishing. It seemed as if one could see
something mysterious moving or standing, perhaps a human form, wrapped
in floating robes, perhaps a white marble statue hidden behind the
foliage, perhaps a mist, gathering and scattering. Night moths and
bats, fluttering across the bar of light out of the darkness into the
darkness, shone brightly during the brief period of their passage, then
suddenly vanished again like moss blown through a flame. The electric
light seemed to make a road through the park, spread a silver carpet
over it, and invite the two who watched its course to walk along this
shining road to the distance where the shadowy white shapes hovered in
the shrubbery, appearing and disappearing.
The temptation was irresistible.
"Let us go down," said Ada, and a few minutes later, with a light
mantilla over her shoulders, she was walking by his side over the
creaking gravel of the avenue and then over the noiseless side paths.
How blissful is the wandering of a handsome young couple, with glowing
hearts in their breasts, through a moonlit, fragrant summer night!
Their feet do not feel the earth on which they tread, but seem to be
floating on clouds. Nothing is left of the world save these two and
the night which maternally conceals them—he and she, naught else, like
Adam and Eve, when they were the only human dwellers in Paradise.
A damp branch of the bushes often brushed Ada's shoulders like an
affectionate, caressing hand, as she slowly passed along. Now and then
a bird whose nest was in the underbrush, disturbed in its sleep,
fluttered up before them, and, stupid with slumber, flew to a
neighboring bough. Ada sometimes plucked a flower, or cautiously
touched with her finger one of the little glow worms, which in great
numbers edged the path with their greenish light. They went down to
the Main and back again to the park fence, facing Marktbreit. Just as
they reached it the clock struck one, and the night watchman blew his
horn, and again solemnly intoned his old-fashioned melody:
"One thing, Lord God of truth, we want;
A happy death to us all grant."
The full magic of the moment held them both in its thrall. Bergmann
passionately clasped Ada's head between his hands, and pressed a long,
ardent kiss on her golden hair and her white brow. Drawing a long
breath, she submitted, not shrinking back until his burning lips sought
hers. Their hearts beat audibly as they continued their walk, and long
pauses interrupted their faltering speech.
What did they say to each other? Why repeat it? One who has never had
such conversations will not understand them, and one who has
experienced them, only needs to be reminded of them. They are always
the same. Memories of childhood, rapture and extravagance, words of
enthusiastic love, words which create the slight tremor of the skin
like a cool breeze or the caress of toying fingers. So they walked a
long, long time in the dark park, without heeding the flight of time,
far from the world and unutterably happy.
"I am tired, Karl," Ada said at last, and leaned her head on his
They were near a low, grassy bank, a few paces from the central avenue,
and almost under the balcony of the castle, but completely concealed by
the dense shadow of the over-arching trees. Karl spread his shawl over
the bank and the ground, placed Ada on it, and reclined at her feet,
resting his head in her lap. The balcony and the windows and lights of
the drawing-room could all be seen from this spot. The window still
stood open, the notes of a piano were heard, and a voice began the song:
"From out my tears will bloom
Full many a flow'ret fair."
A pretty, but somewhat cold, female voice, with no special tenderness
and feeling. Yet the combined poesy of Heine and Schumann triumphed
gloriously over the inadequacy of the execution. The wonderful,
choral-like melody soared like the flight of a swan over the rapt pair,
and completely dissolved their souls in melody and love:
"Before thy windows shall ring
The song of the nightingale,"
sang the woman's voice above, and the accompanying piano completed the
air with an organ-like closing accord.
"Before thy windows shall ring
The song of the nightingale,"
Karl softly repeated, in his beautiful baritone, thrilling with an
approaching tempest of passion, his arms clasped Ada's waist, and he
gazed up at her with wild, flaming eyes. She bent down to him and her
lips met his, which nearly scorched them. Leaning back, and gently
pushing his head away, she whispered:
"Don't repeat verses by Heine; say something which is yours, and is
composed for me."
"That I will, Ada," he cried, and, kneeling before her, clasping her in
a close embrace and devouring her face with rapturous eyes, his whole
being wrought up to the highest pitch of emotion, he said in a rapid
improvisation, bursting from the inmost depths of his soul:
"In the shadowy hour when ghosts do flit,
Thou art to me a beauteous dream;
To thy lips I cling, yet while I love,
My happiness scarce real doth seem."
"Thy mouth and thy fair hands I kiss,
I kiss thine eyes and thy silken hair,
And should our lives end at this hour,
Still we should die a happy pair."
Her eyes were half closed, and her bosom heaved.
After a short pause, he continued slowly in a tremulous voice:
"Oh, God, that I should find thee here,
Only to cause my woe,
For thou wilt vanish from my gaze,
Ere the first cock doth crow."
"No, no," she murmured, almost inaudibly, sinking into his arms, which
clasped her wildly and ardently, pressing her to his heart, while his
lips showered kisses upon her and a sudden ecstasy began to cloud her
Then, just at that moment, the clock in the Marktbreit church steeple
struck two, the blast of the horn followed, and the mysterious voice
rose in the invisible city and sang, this time close at hand and
seemingly with significant emphasis:
"Two paths are to each mortal shown;
Lord, guide me in the narrow one."
As if stung by a serpent, Ada started up, wrenched herself by a sudden
movement from Karl's clasping arms, and hastened away as though pursued
by all the fiends of hell. A moment later, her white figure had
vanished in the castle and Karl found himself alone before the grassy
bank; he might have believed it a dream if the mantilla had not still
lain there exhaling Ada's favourite perfume, a faint fragrance of
With heavy, dulled brain, aching limbs, and a strange sense of pain in
his heart, Karl staggered back to the castle and to his room. For a
long time sleep fled from him. A thousand scenes hovered in a confused
throng before his fancy, blending into a witch-dance in whose mazes his
own brain seemed to whirl also, until the giddiness became intolerable.
He saw Ada in various transformations—now seated opposite to him at
the table—then in the drawing-room—anon clasped in his
arms—sometimes brightly illuminated as the queen of the
ball-room—sometimes a faint, dark vision against the sombre background
of the woodland—he inhaled her favourite perfume, felt the touch of
her arms and her lips—he heard her voice and the melancholy music of
the night watchman and the notes of the dancing tune from the ballroom,
and amid these exciting delusions of the senses a restless,
dream-haunted slumber at last overtook him.
* * * * * *
It was almost noon when he awoke. At first his head felt confused and
empty, but gradually he collected his thoughts, and now the experience
of the previous night again stood clearly before his eyes. He suddenly
recalled all his feelings during the walk through the woods, and, while
dressing with the utmost haste, he exultingly repeated in a low tone
again and again: "I love her! And she returns my love! And we will
His first thought was to seek Ada. The mantilla, which he must return,
afforded the pretext. After several inquiries he found her apartments,
which were next to those occupied by the mistress of the house. Ada's
maid opened the door and looked at him in surprise when he gave her the
package and asked if he could see Mrs. Burgess.
"She has a headache, and probably won't be up to-day," was the curt
answer, with which the door was closed in his face. This was a
disappointment, and he felt very unhappy and forsaken. Yet he
endeavoured to combat these feelings and mingled with the other guests.
At noon he exchanged a hurried greeting with Frau Von Jagerfeld, who
looked at him intently, but said nothing when he avoided her glance.
In the afternoon he walked to Marktbreit and through the villages on
the neighbouring hills, but the longing of his heart soon drove him
back to the castle, where for hours he paced patiently up and down the
pillared hall upon which most of the rooms occupied by the visitors
opened. In the evening the guests again assembled at a banquet.
Bergmann hoped that Ada would be present, and he was not disappointed.
The summons to the meal had been given for the third time, nearly all
the other members of the house-party were in the drawing-room when
Ada's door at last opened. Karl rushed forward and held out his hand
to her. She started, paused an instant on the threshold, then hurried
past him without turning her head, and swiftly vanished.
Karl stood as if he were turned to stone, gazing after her retreating
figure; then forgetting the banquet and everything else, he hastened to
his room and wrote Ada a letter, in which he repeated all the
expressions of love lavished upon her during the preceding night, and
begged for an explanation of her recent conduct. This missive he gave
to Ada's maid, with the urgent request to deliver it to her mistress
that very evening before she retired. Then he went out to try to
conquer his agitation by a walk in the park, and when he thought that
he had regained his composure, he returned to the drawing-room to see
and to talk with Ada. The meal was over, gaiety reigned throughout the
various groups, and a storm of reproaches for his absence from the
table assailed him on all sides. But he looked in vain for Ada. She
had retired immediately after dinner.
So she was now reading his letter! Perhaps now she was answering him!
His heart throbbed wildly at this thought. He would gladly have made
another attempt to see Ada in her own apartments, but he felt that he
owed her due reserve, and determined to have patience until the next
When, on the following morning, he came out of his bed-chamber into the
ante-room, he instantly saw on the table a sealed package which bore
his address. He tore the wrapper with trembling hands and found within
his own letter and a gilt-edged book. It was an English copy of
Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream." On the first page, in a
woman's delicate chirography, were the words: "A Midsummer Night's
Dream. July 3, 188—. Ada." That was all. From the servant, who
appeared at his ring, Bergmann learned the package had been left by
Mrs. Burgess' maid early that morning. Mrs. Burgess had been gone half