ILKA ON THE HILL-TOP AND OTHER STORIES
BY HJALMAR HJORTH BOYESEN
AUTHOR OF "GUNNAR," "FALCONBERG," ETC.
To DR. EGBERT GUERNSEY.
I can never expect adequately to repay you for your many valuable services to me and mine. Nevertheless, in recognition of what you have been to us, allow me to dedicate this unpretentious volume to you. I shall have more respect for my little stories if in some way they are associated with your name.
Very sincerely yours, HJALMAR H. BOYESEN.
NEW YORK, January, 1881.
ILKA ON THE HILL-TOP ANNUNCIATA UNDER THE GLACIER A KNIGHT OF DANNEBROG MABEL AND I (A Philosophical Fairy Tale) HOW MR. STORM MET HIS DESTINY
ILKA ON THE HILL-TOP
Mr. Julius Hahn and his son Fritz were on a summer journey in the Tyrol. They had started from Mayrhofen early in the afternoon, on two meek-eyed, spiritless farm horses, and they intended to reach Ginzling before night-fall.
There was a great blaze of splendor hidden somewhere behind the western mountain-tops; broad bars of fiery light were climbing the sky, and the chalets and the Alpine meadows shone in a soft crimson illumination. The Zemmbach, which is of a choleric temperament, was seething and brawling in its rocky bed, and now and then sent up a fierce gust of spray, which blew like an icy shower-bath, into the faces of the travellers.
"Ach, welch verfluchtes Wetter!" cried Mr. Hahn fretfully, wiping off the streaming perspiration. "I'll be blasted if you catch me going to the Tyrol again for the sake of being fashionable!"
"But the scenery, father, the scenery!" exclaimed Fritz, pointing toward a great, sun-flushed peak, which rose in majestic isolation toward the north.
"The scenery—bah!" growled the senior Hahn. "For scenery, recommend me to Saxon Switzerland, where you may sit in an easy cushioned carriage without blistering your legs, as I have been doing to-day in this blasted saddle."
"Father, you are too fat," remarked the son, with a mischievous chuckle.
"And you promise fair to tread in my footsteps, son," retorted the elder, relaxing somewhat in his ill-humor.
This allusion to Mr. Fritz's prospective corpulence was not well received by the latter. He gave his horse a smart cut of the whip, which made the jaded animal start off at a sort of pathetic mazurka gait up the side of the mountain.
Mr. Julius Hahn was a person of no small consequence in Berlin. He was the proprietor of the "Haute Noblesse" Concert garden, a highly respectable place of amusement, which enjoyed the especial patronage of the officers of the Royal Guard. Weissbeer, Bairisch, Seidel, Pilzner, in fact all varieties of beer, and as connoisseurs asserted, of exceptional excellence, could be procured at the "Haute Noblesse;" and the most ingenious novelties in the way of gas illumination, besides two military bands, tended greatly to heighten the flavor of the beer, and to put the guests in a festive humor. Mr. Hahn had begun life in a small way with a swallow-tail coat, a white choker, and a napkin on his arm; his stock in trade, which he utilized to good purpose, was a peculiarly elastic smile and bow, both of which he accommodated with extreme nicety to the social rank of the person to whom they were addressed. He could listen to a conversation in which he was vitally interested, never losing even the shadow of an intonation, with a blank neutrality of countenance which could only be the result of a long transmission of ancestral inanity. He read the depths of your character, divined your little foibles and vanities, and very likely passed his supercilious judgment upon you, seeming all the while the personification of uncritical humility.
It is needless to say that Mr. Hahn picked up a good deal of valuable information in the course of his career as a waiter; and to him information meant money, and money meant power and a recognized place in society. The diplomatic shrewdness which enabled him to estimate the moral calibre of a patron served him equally well in estimating the value of an investment. He had a hundred subterranean channels of information, and his judgment as to the soundness or unsoundness of a financial enterprise was almost unerring. His little secret transactions on the Bourse, where he had his commissionaires, always yielded him ample returns; and when an opportunity presented itself, which he had long foreseen, of buying a suburban garden at a bankrupt sale, he found himself, at least preliminarily, at the goal of his ambition. From this time forth, Mr. Hahn rose rapidly in wealth and power. He kept his thumb, so to speak, constantly on the public pulse, and prescribed amusements as unerringly as a physician prescribes medicine, and usually, it must be admitted, with better results. The "Haute Noblesse" became the favorite resort of fashionable idlers, among whom the military element usually pre-ponderated, and the flash of gilt buttons and the rattle of swords and scabbards could always be counted on as the unvarying accompaniment to the music.
With all his prosperity, however, Mr. Hahn could not be called a happy man. He had one secret sorrow, which, until within a year of his departure for the Tyrol, had been a source of constant annoyance: Mrs. Hahn, whom he had had the indiscretion to marry before he had arrived at a proper recognition of his own worth, was not his equal in intellect; in fact, she was conspicuously his inferior. She had been chamber-maid in a noble family, and had succeeded in marrying Mr. Hahn simply by the fact that she had made up her mind not to marry him. Mr. Hahn, however, was not a man to be baffled by opposition. When the pert Mariana had cut him three times at a dancing-hall, he became convinced that she was the one thing in the world which he needed to make his existence complete. After presenting him with a son, Fritz, and three rather unlovely daughters, she had gradually lost all her pertness (which had been her great charm) and had developed into a stout, dropsical matron, with an abundance of domestic virtues. Her principal trait of character had been a dogged, desperate loyalty. She was loyal to her king, and wore golden imitations of his favorite flowers as jewelry. She was loyal to Mr. Hahn, too; and no amount of maltreatment could convince her that he was not the best of husbands. She adored her former mistress and would insist upon paying respectful little visits to her kitchen, taking her children with her. This latter habit nearly drove her husband to distraction. He stamped his feet, he tore his hair, he swore at her, and I believe, he even struck her; but when the next child was born,—a particularly wonderful one,—Mrs. Hahn had not the strength to resist the temptation of knowing how the new-born wonder would impress the Countess von Markenstein. Another terrible scene followed. The poor woman could never understand that she was no longer the wife of a waiter, and that she must not be paying visits to the great folks in their kitchens.
Another source of disturbance in Mr. Hahn's matrimonial relations was his wife's absolute refusal to appear in the parquet or the proscenium boxes in the theatre. In this matter her resistance bordered on the heroic; neither threats nor entreaties could move her.
"Law, Julius," she would say, while the tears streamed down over her plump cheeks, "the parquet and the big boxes are for the gentlefolks, and not for humble people like you and me. I know my place, Julius, and I don't want to be the laughing-stock of the town, as I should be, if I went to the opera and sat where my lady the Countess, and the other fine ladies sit. I should feel like a fool, too, Julius, and I should cry my eyes out when I got home."
It may easily be conjectured that Mr. Hahn's mourning covered a very light heart when the dropsy finally carried off this loving but troublesome spouse. Nor did he make any secret of the fact that her death was rather a relief to him, while on the other hand he gave her full credit for all her excellent qualities. Fritz, who was in cordial sympathy with his father's ambition for social eminence, had also learned from him to be ashamed of his mother, and was rather inclined to make light of the sorrow which he actually felt, when he saw the cold earth closing over her.
At the time when he made his summer excursion in the Tyrol, Fritz was a stout blond youth of two and twenty. His round, sleek face was not badly modelled, but it had neither the rough openness, characteristic of a peasant, nor yet that indefinable finish which only culture can give. In spite of his jaunty, fashionable attire, you would have put him down at once as belonging to what in the Old World is called "the middle class." His blue eyes indicated shrewdness, and his red cheeks habitual devotion to the national beverage. He was apparently a youth of the sort that Nature is constantly turning out by the thousand—mere weaker copies of progenitors, who by an unpropitious marriage have enfeebled instead of strengthening the type. Circumstances might have made anything of him in a small way; for, as his countenance indicated, he had no very pronounced proclivities, either good or bad. He had spent his boyhood in a gymnasium, where he had had greater success in trading jack-knives than in grappling with Cicero. He had made two futile attempts to enter the Berlin University, and had settled down to the conviction that he had mistaken his calling, as his tastes were military rather than scholarly; but, as he was too old to rectify this mistake, he had chosen to go to the Tyrol in search of pleasure rather than to the Military Academy in search of distinction.
At the mouth of the great ravine of Dornauberg the travellers paused and dismounted. Mr. Hahn called the guide, who was following behind with a horse laden with baggage, and with his assistance a choice repast, consisting of all manner of cold curiosities, was served on a large flat rock. The senior Hahn fell to work with a will and made no pretence of being interested in the sombre magnificence of the Dornauberg, while Fritz found time for an occasional exclamation of rapture, flavored with caviar, Rhine wine, and pate de foie gras.
"Ach, Gott, Fritz, what stuff you can talk!" grumbled his father, sipping his Johannisberger with the air of a connoisseur. "When I was of your age, Fritz, I had—hush, what is that?"
Mr. Hahn put down his glass with such an energy that half of the precious contents was spilled.
"Ach, du lieber Gott," he cried a moment later. "Wie wunderschon!"
From a mighty cliff overhanging the road, about a hundred feet distant, came a long yodling call, peculiar to the Tyrol, sung in a superb ringing baritone. It soared over the mountain peaks and died away somewhere among the Ingent glaciers. And just as the last faint note was expiring, a girl's voice, fresh and clear as a dew-drop, took it up and swelled it and carolled it until, from sheer excess of delight, it broke into a hundred leaping, rolling, and warbling tones, which floated and gambolled away over the highlands, while soft-winged echoes bore them away into the wide distance.
"Father," said Fritz, who was now lying outstretched on a soft Scotch plaid smoking the most fragrant of weeds; "if you can get those two voices to the 'Haute Noblesse,' for the next season it is ten thousand thalers in your pocket; and I shall only charge you ten per cent. for the suggestion."
"Suggestion, you blockhead! Why, the thought flashed through my head the very moment I heard the first note. But hush—there they are again."
From the cliff, sung to the air of a Tyrolese folk-song, came this stanza:
Tell me, Ilka on the hill-top, While the Alpine breezes blow, Are thy golden locks as golden As they were a year ago? (Yodle) Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohlio-oh!
The effect of the yodle, in which both the baritone of the cliff and the Alpine soprano united, was so melodious that Mr. Hahn sprang to his feet and swore an ecstatic oath, while Fritz, from sheer admiring abstraction, almost stuck the lighted end of his cigar into his mouth. The soprano answered:
Tell me, Hansel in the valley, While the merry cuckoos crow, Is thy bristly beard as bristly As it was a year ago? Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-oh!
The yodling refrain this time was arch, gay—full of mocking laughter and mirth. Then the responsive singing continued:
Hansel: Tell me, Ilka on the hill-top, While the crimson glaciers glow, Are thine eyes as blue and beaming As they were a year ago? Both: Hohli-ohli, etc.
Ilka: Hansel, Hansel in the valley I will tell you true; If mine eyes are blue and beaming, What is that, I pray, to you? Both: Hohli-ohli, etc.
Hansel: Tell me, Ilka on the hill-top, While the blushing roses blow, Are thy lips as sweet for kissing As they were a year ago? Both: Hohli-ohli, etc.
Ilka: Naughty Hansel in the valley, Naughty Hansel, tell me true, If my lips are sweet for kissing, What is that, I pray, to you? Both: Hohli-ohli, etc.
Hansel: Tell me, Ilka on the hill-top, While the rivers seaward flow, Is thy heart as true and loving As it was a year ago? Both: Hohli-ohli, etc.
Ilka: Dearest Hansel in the valley, I will tell you, tell you true. Yes, my heart is ever loving, True and loving unto you! Both: Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-oh!
For a few moments their united voices seemed still to be quivering in the air, then to be borne softly away by the echoes into the cool distance of the glaciers. A solitary thrush began to warble on a low branch of a stunted fir-tree, and a grasshopper raised its shrill voice in emulation. The sun was near its setting; the bluish evening shadows crept up the sides of the ice-peaks, whose summits were still flushed with expiring tints of purple and red.
Mr. Hahn rose, yawned and stretched his limbs. Fritz threw the burning stump of his cigar into the depths of the ravine, and stood watching it with lazy interest while it fell. The guide cleared away the remnants of the repast and began to resaddle the horses.
"Who was that girl we heard singing up on the Alp?" said Mr. Hahn, with well-feigned indifference, as he put his foot in the stirrup and made a futile effort to mount. "Curse the mare, why don't you make her stand still?"
"Pardon, your honor," answered the guide stolidly; "but she isn't used to the saddle. The girl's name is Ilka on the Hill-top. She is the best singer in all the valley."
"Ilka on the Hill-top! How—where does she live?"
"She lives on a farm called the Hill-top, a mile and a half from Mayrhofen."
"And the man who answered—is he her sweetheart?"
"Yes, your honor. They have grown up together, and they mean to marry some time, when they get money enough to buy out the old woman."
"And what did you say his name was?"
"Hansel the Hunter. He is a garnet polisher by trade, because his father was that before him; but he is a good shot and likes roving in the woods better than polishing stones."
"Hm," grumbled Mr. Hahn, mounting with a prodigious effort.
It was in the autumn of 1863, only a few weeks after Mr. Hahn's visit to Ginzling and Dornauberg. There were war and rumors of war in the air. The Austrians and the Prussians were both mobilizing army-corps after army-corps, and all the Tyrolese youth, liable to service, were ordered to join their regiments. The Schleswig-Holstein question was being violently debated in the German and the English press, the former clamoring for blood, the latter counselling moderation. The Danish press was as loud-mouthed as any, and, if the battles could have been fought with words, would no doubt have come out victorious.
It had been a sad day at the Hill-top. Early in the morning Hansel, with a dozen other young fellows of the neighborhood, had marched away to the music of fife and drum, and there was no knowing when they would come back again. A dismal whitish fog had been hovering about the fields all day long, but had changed toward evening into a fine drizzling rain,—one of those slow, hopeless rains that seem to have no beginning and no end. Old Mother Uberta, who, although she pretended to be greatly displeased at Ilka's matrimonial choice, persisted in holding her responsible for all her lover's follies, had been going about the house grumbling and scolding since the early dawn.
"Humph," said Mother Uberta, as she lighted a pine-knot and stuck it into a crack in the wall (for it was already dark, and candles were expensive), "it is a great sin and shame—the lad is neither crooked nor misshapen—the Lord has done well enough by him, Heaven knows; and yet never a stroke of work has he done since his poor father went out of the world as naked as he came into it. A shiftless, fiddling, and galavanting set they have always been, and me then as has only this one lass, givin' her away, with my eyes wide open, into misery."
Ilka, who was sitting before the open fire-place mingling her furtive tears with the wool she was carding, here broke into a loud sob, and hid her face in her hands.
"You always say mean things to me, mother, when Hansel is away," sobbed she, "but when he is here, you let on as if you liked him ever so much."
The mother recognized this as a home-thrust, and wisely kept silent. She wet her finger-tips, twirled the thread, stopped the wheel, inspected some point in its mechanism with a scowl of intense preoccupation, and then spun on again with a severe concentration of interest as if lovers were of small consequence compared to spinning-wheels. Mother Uberta was a tall, stately woman of fifty, with a comely wrinkled face, and large, well-modelled features. You saw at once that life was a serious business to her, and that she gave herself no quarter.
"Humph!" she began after awhile with that indefinable interjection of displeasure which defies all spelling. "You talk like the witless creature that you are. Didn't I tell the lad, two years ago, Michaelmas was, that the day he could pay off the mortgage on the farm, he should have you and the farm too? And eight hundred and fifty florins oughtn't to frighten a man as has got the right spirit in him. And there was Ruodi of Gaenzelstein, as has got a big farm of his own, and Casper Thinglen with fifteen hundred a-comin' to him when his grandfather dies; and you sendin' them both off with worse grace than if they had been beggars askin' you for a shillin'. Now, stop your snivellin' there, I tell you. You are like your poor sainted father,—God bless him where he lies,—he too used to cry, likely enough, if a flea bit him."
At this moment Mother Uberta's monologue was interrupted by a loud rapping on the door; she bent down to attach the unfinished thread properly, but before she had completed this delicate operation, the door was opened, and two men entered. Seeing that they were strangers she sent them a startled glance, which presently changed into one of defiance. The fire was low, and the two men stood but dimly defined in the dusky light; but their city attire showed at once that they were not Tyrolese. And Mother Uberta, having heard many awful tales of what city-dressed men were capable of doing, had a natural distrust of the species.
"And pray, sir, what may your errand be?" she asked sternly, taking the burning pine-knot from its crack and holding it close to the face of the tallest stranger.
"My name is Hahn, madam," answered the person whose broad expanse of countenance was thus suddenly illuminated, "and this is my son, Mr. Fritz Hahn. Allow me to assure you, madam, that our errand here is a most peaceful and friendly one, and that we deeply regret it, if our presence incommodes you."
"Ilka, light the candles," said Mother Uberta, sullenly. "And you," she continued, turning again to Mr. Hahn, "find yourself a seat, until we can see what you look like."
"What a vixen of an old woman!" whispered the proprietor of the "Haute Noblesse" to his son, as they seated themselves on the hard wooden bench near the window.
"Small chance for the 'Haute Noblesse,' I fear," responded Fritz, flinging his travelling cap on the clean-scoured deal table.
Ilka, who in the meanwhile had obeyed her mother's injunction, now came forward with two lighted tallow dips, stuck in shining brass candle-sticks, and placed them on the table before the travellers. She made a neat little courtesy before each of them, to which they responded with patronizing nods.
"Parbleu! Elle est charmante!" exclaimed Fritz, fixing a bold stare on the girl's blushing face.
"Bien charmante," replied Mr. Hahn, who took a great pride in the little French he had picked up when he carried a napkin over his shoulder.
And indeed, Ilka was charmante as she stood there in the dim candle-light, her great innocent eyes dilated with child-like wonder, her thick blond braids hanging over her shoulders, and the picturesque Tyrolese costume—a black embroidered velvet waist, blue apron, and short black skirt—setting off her fine figure to admirable advantage. She was a tall, fresh-looking girl, of stately build, without being stout, with a healthy blooming countenance and an open, guileless expression. Most people would have pronounced her beautiful, but her beauty was of that rudimentary, unindividualized kind which is found so frequently among the peasantry of all nations. To Fritz Hahn, however who was not a philosophical observer, she seemed the most transcendent phenomenon his eyes had ever beheld.
"To make a long story short, madam," began Mr. Hahn after a pause, during which Mother Uberta had been bristling silently while firing defiant glances at the two strangers, "I am the proprietor of a great establishment in Berlin—the 'Haute Noblesse'—you may have heard of it."
"No, I never heard of it," responded Mother Uberta, emphatically, as if anxious to express her disapproval, on general principles, of whatever statements Mr. Hahn might choose to make.
"Well, well, madam," resumed the latter, a trifle disconcerted, "it makes very little difference whether you have heard of it or not. I see, however, that you are a woman of excellent common sense, and I will therefore be as brief as possible—avoid circumlocutions, so to speak."
"Yes, exactly," said Mother Uberta, nodding impatiently, as if eager to help him on.
"Madame Uberta,—for that, as I understand, is your honored name,—would you like to get one thousand florins?"
"That depends upon how I should get 'em," answered the old woman sharply. "I shouldn't like to get 'em by stealin'."
"I mean, of course, if you had honestly earned them," said Hahn.
"I am afeard honesty with you and with me ain't exactly the same thing."
Mr. Hahn was about to swear, but mindful of his cherished enterprise, he wisely refrained.
"I beg leave to inform you, Madame Uberta," he observed, "that it is gentlemen of honor you have to deal with, and that whatever proposals they may make you will be of an honorable character."
"And I am very glad to hear that, I am sure," responded the undaunted Uberta.
"Three weeks ago, when we were travelling in this region," continued Hahn, determined not to allow his temper to be ruffled, "we heard a most wonderful voice yodling in the mountains. We went away, but have now returned, and having learned that the voice was your daughter's, we have come here to offer her a thousand florins if she will sing her native Tyrolese airs for eight weeks at our Concert Garden, the 'Haute Noblesse.'"
"One thousand florins for eight weeks, mother!" exclaimed Ilka, who had been listening to Hahn's speech with breathless interest. "Then I could pay off the mortgage and we should not have to pay interest any more, and I should have one hundred and fifty florins left for my dowry."
"Hush, child, hush! You don't know what you are talkin' about," said the mother severely. Then turning to Hahn: "I should like to put one question to both of you, and when you have answered that, I'll give my answer, which there is no wrigglin' out of. If the old woman went along, would ye then care so much about the singin' of the daughter?"
"Certainly, by all means," responded Hahn promptly; but Fritz was so absorbed in polishing his finger-nails with a little instrument designed especially for that purpose, that he forgot to answer.
A long consultation now followed, and the end of it was that Ilka agreed to go to Berlin and sing for eight weeks, in her national costume, on condition that her travelling expenses and those of her mother should be defrayed by the manager. Mr. Hahn also agreed to pay for the board and lodgings of the two women during their sojourn in the capital and to pay Ilka the one thousand florins (and this was a point upon which Mother Uberta strenuously insisted) in weekly instalments.
The next day the contract was drawn up in legal form, properly stamped and signed; whereupon Mother Uberta and Ilka started with Hahn and Fritz for Berlin.
The restaurant of the "Haute Noblesse" was a splendid specimen of artistic decoration. The walls were frescoed with all sorts of marvellous hunting scenes, which Fritz had gradually incorporated in his own autobiography. Here stags were fleeing at a furious speed before a stout young gentleman on horseback, who was levelling his deadly aim at them; there the same stout young gentleman, with whiskers and general appearance slightly altered, was standing behind a big tree, firing at a hare who was coming straight toward him, pursued by a pack of terrible hounds; again, on a third wall, the stout young gentleman had undergone a further metamorphosis which almost endangered his identity; he was standing at the edge of a swamp, and a couple of ducks were making somersaults in the air, as they fluttered with bruised wings down to where the dogs stood expecting them; on wall number four, which contained the chef-d'oeuvre of the collection, the young Nimrod, who everywhere bore a more or less remote resemblance to Fritz Hahn, was engaged in a mortal combat with a wild boar, and was performing miraculous feats of strength and prowess. The next room,—to which it was, for some unknown reason, deemed a high privilege to be admitted,—was ornamented with a variety of trophies of the chase, which were intended, no doubt, as incontestable proofs of the veracity of the frescoed narrative. There were stuffed stags' heads crowned with enormous antlers (of a species, as a naturalist asserted, which is not found outside of North America), heads of bears, the insides of whose mouths were painted in the bloodiest of colors, and boars, whose upward-pointed tusks gave evidence of incredible blood-thirstiness. Even the old clock in the corner (a piece of furniture which every customer took pains to assure Mr. Hahn that he envied him) had a frame of curiously carved and intertwisted antlers, the ingenious workmanship of which deserved all the admiration which it received. Mr. Hahn had got it for a song at an auction somewhere in the provinces; but the history of the clock which Fritz told omitted mentioning this incident.
In this inner room on the 19th of April, 1864, Mr. Hahn and his son were holding a solemn consultation. The news of the fall of Duppel, and the consequent conquest of all Schleswig, had just been received, and the capital was in a fever of warlike enthusiasm. That two great nations like the Prussians and the Austrians, counting together more than fifty millions, could conquer poor little Denmark, with its two millions, seemed at that time a great and glorious feat, and the conquerors have never ceased to be proud of it. Mr. Hahn, of course, was overflowing with loyalty and patriotism, which, like all his other sentiments, he was anxious to convert into cash. He had therefore made arrangements for a Siegesfest, on a magnificent scale, which was to take place on the second of May, when the first regiments of the victorious army were expected in Berlin. It was the details of this festival which he and Fritz had been plotting in the back room at the restaurant, and they were both in a state of agreeable agitation at the thought of the tremendous success which would, no doubt, result from their combined efforts. It was decided that Ilka, whom by various pretexts Mr. Hahn had managed to detain in Berlin through the whole winter, should appear in a highly fantastic costume as Germania, and sing "Die Wacht am Rhein" and "Heil dir im Siegeskranz," as a greeting to the returning warriors. If the weather proved favorable, the garden was to be brilliantly illuminated, and the likenesses of King Wilhelm, Bismarck, and von Moltke were to appear in gas-jets, each surmounting a triumphal arch, which was to be erected in front of the stage and at the two entrances to the garden.
"As regards that Tyrolese wench," said Fritz, as he lighted a fresh cigar, "are you sure we can persuade her to don the Germania costume? She seems to have some pretty crooked notions on some points, and the old woman, you know, is as balky as a stage horse."
"Leave that to me, Fritzchen, leave that to me," replied the father, confidently. "I know how to manage the women. Thirty years' practice, my dear—thirty years' practice goes for more in such matters than a stripling like you can imagine."
This remark, for some reason, seemed to irritate Mr. Fritz exceedingly. He thrust his hands deeply into his pockets, and began to stalk up and down the floor with a sullen, discontented air.
"Aha! you old fox," he muttered to himself, "you have been hunting on my preserves. But I'll catch you in your own trap, as sure as my name is Fritz."
"The sly young rascal!" thought Mr. Hahn; "you have been sniffing in your father's cupboard, have you?"
"Fritz, my dear," he said aloud, stretching himself with a long, hypocritical yawn, "it is ridiculous for two fellows like you and me to wear masks in each other's presence. We don't care a straw for the whole Sieges business, do we, Fritz, except for the dollars and cents of it? I am deucedly sleepy, and I am going to bed."
"And so am I, father dear," responded Fritz, with a sudden outburst of affection. "Yes, yes, father," he continued heartily, "you and I understand each other. I am a chip of the old block, I am—he, he!"
And with the most effusive cordiality this affectionate parent and son separated, with the avowed purpose of seeking oblivion in slumber, in their respective apartments.
"Perhaps I have been doing the old fellow injustice, after all," thought Fritz, as he clasped his father's hand once more at the bottom of the staircase.
"The young gosling hasn't ventured into such deep water as I thought," murmured the happy father, as he stood listening to Fritz's footsteps re-echoing through the empty corridors.
Mr. Hahn, Sr., having satisfied himself as to his son's sincerity, retired to his private chamber; not for the purpose of going to rest, however, but in order to make an elaborate toilet, having completed which, he hailed a droschke and drove to an obscure little street in the Friedrich-Wilhelm Stadt, where he ordered the coachman to stop. As he was preparing to dismount, he saw to his astonishment another droschke driving away from the door which he was intending to enter.
"Hm," growled Hahn, "if she has been making acquaintances, she isn't the girl I took her for. But there are other people living in the house, and the visit may not have been for her."
Clinging fondly to this hope, he climbed with wary steps two flights of dark and narrow stairs, which was no easy feat for an elderly gentleman of his bulk. As he reached the second landing, panting and breathless, he found himself in violent contact with another person, who, like himself, seemed to be fumbling for the bell-handle.
"Beg your pardon, sir," said a voice in the dark.
"What, you sneaking young villain!" cried Hahn in great wrath (for the voice was only too familiar to him); "I might have known you were up to some devilish trick, or you wouldn't—"
Here the senior Hahn choked, and was seized with a violent coughing fit.
"You miserable old sinner!" hissed Fritz; "the devil has already got his finger on your throat."
This was too much for Mr. Hahn; he made a rush for his rival, and in a moment he and Fritz were grappling furiously in the dark. It seemed about an even chance who was to be precipitated down the steep staircase; but just as the father was within an inch of the dangerous edge, the hall door was torn open, and Mother Uberta, followed by Ilka with a lamp in her hand, sprang forward, grasped the combatants in her strong arms and flung them against the opposite wall. They both fell on the floor, but each managed, without serious injury, to extricate himself from the other's embrace.
"You are a fine, well-behaved lot, you are!" broke out Mother Uberta, planting herself, with arms akimbo, in front of the two culprits, and dispensing her adjectives with equal liberality to both.
"It was a mistake, madam, I assure you," said Hahn huskily, as he pulled out his handkerchief, and began to whip the dust off his trowsers.
The wreath of thin hair which he had carefully combed, so as to make the nakedness of his crown less conspicuous, was bristling toward all the points of the compass. His tall hat had gone on an independent journey down the stairs, and was heard tumbling deliberately from step to step. Fritz, who had recovered himself much more rapidly, seemed to have forgotten that he had himself borne any part in the disgraceful scene; he looked at his father with kind of a pitying superiority, and began to assist him in the repair of his toilet, with the air of an officious outsider, all of which the crest-fallen father endured with great fortitude. He seemed only anxious to explain the situation to the two women, who were still viewing him with marked disapproval.
"It was all a mistake, madam—a great mistake," he kept repeating.
"A great mistake!" ejaculated Mother Uberta, contemptuously. "This isn't a time to be makin' mistakes outside the door of two lonely women."
"It is fifteen minutes past nine," said Hahn meekly, pulling a corpulent gold watch from the pocket of his waistcoat.
"Madam," said Fritz, without the slightest air of apology, "I came here to consult you on a matter of business, which would bear no delay."
"Exactly, exactly," interrupted Hahn eagerly. "So did I, a matter of business which would bear no delay."
"Well, Vaeterchen, we are simple countrywomen, and we don't understand city manners. But if you want to see me on business, I shall be at home to-morrow at twelve o'clock."
So saying, Mother Uberta slammed the door in the faces of her visitors, and left them to grope their way in the dark down the steep stairway. It was highly characteristic, both of the senior and the junior Hahn, that without a word of explanation they drove home amicably in the same droschke.
Ilka's engagement at the "Haute Noblesse" in the autumn had proved a great success, and Mother Uberta, who was never averse to earning money, had, without difficulty, been persuaded to remain in Berlin during the winter, on condition of the renewal of their contract for another six weeks in the spring. Ilka was in the meanwhile to take lessons in singing at Hahn's expense, possibly with a view to future distinction as a prima donna of the opera. Her maestro had told her repeatedly that she had naturally a better voice than Nilsson, and that, if she could dry up for ever her fountain of tears, she might become a great artiste. For Ilka had the deplorable habit of crying on very slight provocation. The maestro, with his wild hair, his long, polished nails, and his frantic gesticulations, frightened and distressed her; she thought and spoke of him as a kind of curious animal, and nothing could persuade her that he and she belonged to the same species. Nor did Mr. Hahn and Fritz seem to her more than half human. Their constant presents and attentions sometimes annoyed, and frequently alarmed her. She could not rid herself of the apprehension, that behind their honeyed words and manners they were hiding some sinister purpose. She could not comprehend how her mother could talk so freely and fearlessly with them. She thought of Hansel, who was away in the war, and many an evening she stood outside the telegraph-office with a quaking heart, waiting for the bulletin with the names of the dead and the wounded; but Hansel's name was never among them. And many a night she lay awake, yearning for Hansel, praying for him, and blessing him. She seemed to hear his gay and careless laugh ringing from Alp to Alp—how different from the polite smirk of the junior, the fat grin of the senior Hahn! She saw his tall, agile figure standing upon a rock leaning upon his gun, outlined against the blue horizon,—and she heard his strong clear voice yodling and calling to her from afar. It is not to be wondered at that Ilka did not thrive in Berlin as well as her mother did; just as the tender-petaled alpine rose can only breathe the cool breezes of its native mountains, and withers and droops if transplanted to a garden.
Mother Uberta was by no means blind to the fact that both Fritz and his father had designs on her daughter, and having convinced herself that their prosperity rested on a solid basis, she was not disinclined to favor their suits. The only difficulty was to make a choice between them; and having ascertained that Fritz was entirely dependent upon his father's bounty, she quickly decided in favor of the father. But she was too wise to allow Mr. Hahn to suspect that he was a desirable son-in-law, being rather addicted to the belief that men only worship what seems utterly beyond their reach. Ilka, it is needless to say, was not a party to these speculations; to her the Hahns appeared equally undesirable in any capacity whatsoever.
As for the proprietor of the "Haute Noblesse," I believe he was suffering from an honest infatuation. He admired Ilka's face, he admired her neck, her figure, her voice, her ankles as displayed by the short Tyrolese skirt; he wandered about in a sort of frenzy of unrest, and was never happy except in her presence. That a certain amount of speculation entered into love's young dream, I cannot positively deny; but, on the whole, the emotion was as sincere as any that Mr. Hahn's bosom had ever harbored. Whether he should allow her to sing in public after she had become his wife was a point about which he sometimes worried, but which he ended by deciding in the affirmative. It was a splendid investment for the "Haute Noblesse."
Mr. Fritz's matrimonial speculations took a somewhat different turn. He raved to his friends about the perfection of Ilka's physical development; talked about her "points" as if she had been a horse. So much of cynicism always mingled with his ardor that his devotion could hardly be dignified by the name of love. He was convinced that if he could keep Ilka for some years in Berlin and persuade her to continue cultivating her voice, she would some day be a great prima donna. And Fritz had an idea that prima donnas always grew immensely rich, and married worthless husbands whom they allowed great liberties in financial matters. Fritz had no objection to playing this subordinate part, as long as he could be sure of "having a good time." Beyond this point his ambition had never extended. In spite of his great confidence in his own irresistibility, and his frequent boasts of the favors he had received from the maiden of his choice, he knew in his heart that his wooing had so far been very unprosperous, and that the prospects for the future were not encouraging. Ilka could never rid herself of the impression that Fritz was to be taken very seriously,—that, in fact, there was something almost awful about him. She could laugh at old Hahn's jokes, and if he attempted to take liberties she could push him away, or even give him a slap on his broad back. But Fritz's talk frightened her by its very unintelligibility; his mirth seemed terrible; it was like hearing a man laugh in his sleep; and his touch made her shudder.
The return of the first regiments of the united armies was delayed until after the middle of May, and the Siegesfest accordingly had to be postponed. But the delay was rather in Mr. Hahn's favor, as it gave him ample time to perfect his arrangements, so that, when the day arrived, the "Haute Noblesse" presented a most brilliant appearance. Vividly colored transparencies, representing the most sanguinary battle scenes in more or less fictitious surroundings were suspended among the trees; Danish officers were seen in all sorts of humble attitudes, surrendering their swords or begging for mercy, while the Prussian and Austrian heroes, maddened with warlike fury, stormed onward in the path of glory and victory. The gas-jet programme, with the royal and military portraits, was carried out to perfection; and each new wonder was hailed with immense enthusiasm by the assembled multitude. Innumerable Chinese lanterns glimmered throughout the garden, and from time to time red, white, and blue magnesium lights sent up a great blaze of color among the trees, now making the budding leaves blush crimson, now silvering them, as with hoar-frost, or illuminating their delicate tracery with an intense blue which shone out brilliantly against the nocturnal sky. Even the flower-beds were made to participate in the patriotic frenzy; and cunning imitations, in colored glass, of tulips, lilies, and roses, with little gas-jets concealed in their chalices, were scattered among the natural flowers, which looked like ghosts of their real selves among the splendid counterfeits. In order to tune the audience into perfect accord with the occasion, Mr. Hahn had also engaged three monster bands, which, since early in the afternoon, had been booming forth martial melodies from three different platforms draped in national banners.
The hour was now approaching when Germania was to lift up her voice to celebrate the glorious achievements of her sons. The audience, which consisted largely of soldiers and officers, were thronging forward to the tribune where she was advertised to appear, and the waiters, who had difficulty in supplying the universal demand for beer, had formed a line from the bar to the platform, along which the foam-crowned schooners were passing in uninterrupted succession. Fritz, who was fond of fraternizing with the military profession, had attached himself to a young soldier in Austrian uniform with the iron cross upon his bosom. They were seated amicably together at a small table near the stage, and the soldier, by liberal treats of beer, had been induced to relate some of his adventures in the war. He was a tall, robust man, with a large blonde mustache and an open, fearless countenance. He talked very modestly about his own share in the victories, and cooled Fritz's enthusiasm by the extreme plainness of his statements.
"It was rather an uneven game at the start," he said. "They were so few and we were so many. We couldn't have helped whipping them, even if we had done worse than we did."
"You don't mean to say that we were not brave," responded Fritz, with an ardor which was more than half feigned.
"No, I don't say that," said the warrior, gravely. "We were brave, and so were they. Therefore the numbers had to decide it."
He emptied his glass and rose to go.
"No, wait a moment," urged Fritz, laying hold of his arm. "Take another glass. You must stay and hear Germania. She is to sing 'Die Wacht am Rhein' and 'Heil dir in Siegeskranz'."
"Very well," answered the soldier, seating himself again. "I have furlough for to-night, and I can stay here as well as anywhere."
Two more glasses were ordered, and presently arrived.
"Listen!" began Fritz, leaning confidentially across the table. "I suppose you have a sweetheart?"
"Yes, I have, God bless her," replied the other simply, "though I haven't seen her these six months, and not heard from her, either. She isn't much of a hand for writing, and, somehow, I never could get the right crooks on the letters."
"Here's to her health," said Fritz, lifting his glass and touching it to that of his companion.
"With all my heart," responded the latter, and drained the beer mug at one draught.
They sat for a while in silence, Fritz trying to estimate the pecuniary value of the audience, the soldier gazing, with a half-sad and dreamy expression, into the dark sky.
"Curious lot, the women," broke out the junior Hahn chuckling to himself, as if absorbed in some particularly delightful retrospect. "There is the girl, now, who is to sing as Germania to-night,—and, between you and me, I don't mind telling you that she is rather smitten with me. She is as fine a specimen of a woman as ever trod in two shoes; splendid arms, a neck like alabaster with the tiniest tinge of red in it, and—well, I might expatiate further, but I wont. Now, you wouldn't think it of a girl like that; but the fact is, she is as arch and coquettish as a kitten. It was only the other night I went to see her—the old woman was in the room—"
A tremendous burst of applause completely drowned Fritz's voice, as Germania walked out upon the stage. She was dressed in white, flowing robes, with a golden zone about her waist and a glittering diadem in her hair. A mantle of the finest white cashmere, fastened with a Roman clasp on her left shoulder and drawn through the zone on the right side, showed the fierce Prussian eagle, embroidered in black and gold. A miniature copy of the same glorious bird, also in gilt embroidery, shone on her breast. She had been, elaborately trained by her maestro as to how she was to step the stage, what attitudes she was to assume, etc., and the first part of the programme she performed very creditably, and with sole reference to her instructions.
The orchestra began to rumble something by way of an introduction. The soldier in the Austrian uniform at Fritz's table turned pale, and sat staring fixedly upon the stage. Ilka stood for a moment gazing out upon the surging mass of humanity at her feet; she heard the clanking of the scabbards and swords, and saw the white and the blue uniforms commingled in friendly confusion. Where was. Hansel now—the dear, gay, faithful Hansel? She struck out boldly, and her strong, sonorous voice soared easily above the orchestral accompaniments. "Heil dir im Siegeskranz!"—she was hailing the returning warriors with a song of triumph, while Hansel, perhaps, lay on some bloody battle-field, with sightless eyes staring against the awful sky. Ilka's voice began to tremble, and the tears flooded her beautiful eyes. The soldier in the Austrian uniform trembled, too, and never removed his gaze from the countenance of the singer. There was joy and triumph in her song; but there was sorrow, too—sorrow for the many brave ones that remained behind, sorrow for the maidens that loved them and the mothers that wept for them. As Ilka withdrew, after having finished the last stanza, the audience grew almost frantic with enthusiasm; the men jumped up on benches and tables, shouted, and swung their hats, and even the women cheered at the tops of their voices. A repetition was loudly called for, and Ilka, although herself overcome with emotion, was obliged to yield. She walked up to the footlights and began to yodle softly. It sounded strangely airy and far away. She put her hand to her ear and listened for a moment, as if she expected a reply; but there was a breathless silence in the audience. Only a heavy sigh came from the table where Fritz sat with the Austrian soldier. The yodle grew louder; then suddenly some one sprang up, not a dozen rods from the stage, and sang, in a deep, magnificent baritone:
Tell me, Ilka on the hill-top, While the rivers seaward flow, Is thy heart as true and loving As it was a year ago? Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-oh!
Ilka stood for a while as if stunned; her eyes peered in the direction whence the voice had come; her face lighted up with a sweet, serene happiness; but the tears streamed down her cheeks as she answered:
Dearest Hansel in the valley, I will tell you, tell you true, Yes, my heart is ever loving, True and loving unto you! Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-ohli-ohli-ho! Hohli-oh!
Suddenly she made a leap over the edge of the stage, and in the next moment the gorgeous Germania lay sobbing on the soldier's bosom. It made a very touching tableau, and some of the male sceptics among the audience were inclined to view it in that light. Fritz Hahn, as soon as the idea was suggested to him, eagerly adopted it, and admitted in confidence to half a dozen friends, whom he had allowed to suspect the fair singer's devotion to him, that it was all a pre-arranged effect, and that he was himself the author of it.
"Germania weeping on the breast of her returning son," he said. "What could be more appropriate on a day like this?"
The maidens and matrons, however, would listen to no such theory; they wept openly at the sight of the reunited lovers, and have until this day maintained that the scene was too spontaneous and genuine to be a product of Mr. Hahn's inventive genius.
The singing of "Die Wacht am Rhein," although advertised on the programme, had to be indefinitely postponed, for Germania had suddenly disappeared, and was nowhere to be found. The Austrian soldier, however, was seen later in the evening, and some one heard him inquiring in a fierce tone for the junior Hahn; but the junior Hahn, probably anticipating some unpleasantness, had retired from the public gaze.
Six weeks after this occurrence—it was St. John's day—there was a merry festival in the village of Mayrhofen. Ilka and Hansel were bride and groom, and as they returned from church the maidens of the village walked in the wedding procession and strewed flowers before them. And in the evening, when the singing and fiddling and dancing were at an end, and the guests had departed, Mother Uberta beckoned Hansel aside, and with a mysterious air handed him something heavy tied up in the corner of a handkerchief.
"There," she said, "is eight hundred and fifty florins. It is Ilka's own money which she earned in Berlin. Now you may pay off the mortgage, and the farm is yours."
"Mother Uberta," answered Hansel laughing, and pulling out a skin purse from his bosom. "Here is what I have been saving these many years. It is eight hundred and fifty florins."
"Hansel, Hansel," cried Mother Uberta in great glee, "it is what I have always said of you. You are a jewel of a lad."
In the gallery of one of the famous Roman villas which commands a splendid view of the city, Mr. Henry Vincent, a young American, was lounging. Judging by his appearance he was a college graduate, or, to speak more definitely, a graduate of Harvard; for he had that jaunty walk and general trimness of attire which are the traditional attributes of the academical denizens of Cambridge. He swung his arms rather more than was needed to assist locomotion, and betrayed in an unobtrusive manner a consciousness of being well dressed. His face, which was not without fine possibilities, had an air of well-bred neutrality; you could see that he assumed a defensive attitude against aesthetic impressions,—that even the Sistine Madonna or the Venus of Milo would not have surprised him into anything like enthusiasm or abject approval. It was evident, too, that he was a little bit ashamed of his Baedeker, which he consulted only in a semi-surreptitious way, and plunged into the pocket of his overcoat whenever he believed himself to be observed. Such a contingency, however, seemed remote; for the silence that reigned about him was as heavy and profound as if it had been unbroken since creation's day. The large marble halls had a grave and inhospitable air, and their severe magnificence compelled even from our apathetic traveller a shy and reluctant veneration. He tried to fix his attention upon a certain famous Guido which was attached by hinges to the wall, and which, as he had just learned from Baedeker, was a marvel of color and fine characterization; he stood for a few moments staring with a blank and helpless air, as if, for the first time in his life, he was beginning to question the finality of his own judgment. Then his eyes wandered off to the cornice of the wall, whose florid rococo upholstery won his sincere approval.
"Hang it!" he murmured impatiently, pulling a gold watch from his waistcoat pocket. "That loon Jack—he never does keep an engagement."
At this moment, distant footsteps were heard, which, as they approached, resounded with a sepulchral distinctness on the marble pavement. Presently a young man entered breathlessly, holding his hat in one hand and a white handkerchief in the other.
"Harry," he cried, excitedly, "I have found the goddess of the place. Come quick, before she vanishes. It is a rare chance, I tell you."
He seized his companion's arm and, ignoring his remonstrances, almost dragged him through the door by which he had entered.
"What sort of lunacy is it you are up to now, Jack?" the other was heard to grumble. "I'll bet ten to one you have been making an ass of yourself."
"I dare say I have," retorted Jack, good-naturedly; "a man who has not the faculty of making a fool of himself occasionally is only half a man. You would be a better fellow, too, Harry, if you were not so deucedly respectable; a slight admixture of folly would give tone and color to your demure and rigid propriety. For a man so splendidly equipped by fortune, you have made a poor job of existence, Harry. When I see you bestowing your sullen patronage upon the great masterpieces of the past, I am ashamed of you—yes, by Jove, I am."
"Don't you bother about me," was the ungracious response of his comrade. "I cut my eye-teeth a good while before you did, even though you may be a few years older. I'll take care of myself, you may depend upon it, and of you, too, if you get yourself into a scrape, which you seem bent upon doing."
"Now, do be amiable, Harry," urged the other with gentle persuasiveness. "I can't take it upon my conscience to introduce you to a lady, and far less to a goddess, unless you promise to put on your best behavior. You know from your mythology that goddesses are capable of taking a terrible vengeance upon mortals who unwittingly offend them."
Mr. John Cranbrook—for that was the name of the demonstrative tourist—was a small, neat-looking man, with an eager face and a pair of dark, vivid eyes. His features, though not in themselves handsome, were finely, almost tenderly, modelled. His nose was not of the classical type, but nevertheless of a clear and delicate cut, and his nostrils of extreme sensitiveness. On the whole, it was a pleasant, open, and enthusiastic face,—a face in which there was no guile. By the side of his robust and stalwart friend, Cranbrook looked almost frail, and it was evident that Vincent, who felt the advantages of his superior avoirdupois, was in the habit of patronizing him. They had been together in college and had struck up an accidental friendship, which, to their mutual surprise, had survived a number of misunderstandings, and even extended beyond graduation. Cranbrook, who was of a restless and impetuous temperament, found Vincent's quiet self-confidence very refreshing; there was a massive repose about him, an unquestioning acceptance of the world as it was and an utter absence of intellectual effort, which afforded his friend a refuge from his own self-consuming ambition. Cranbrook had always prophesied that Harry would some day wake up and commit a grand and monumental piece of folly, but he hoped that that day was yet remote; at present it was his rich commonplaceness and his grave and comfortable dulness which made him the charming fellow he was, and it would be a pity to forfeit such rare qualities.
Cranbrook's own accomplishments were not of the kind which is highly appreciated among undergraduates. His verses, which appeared anonymously in the weekly college paper, enjoyed much popularity in certain young ladies' clubs, but were by the professor of rhetoric pronounced unsound in sentiment, though undeniably clever in expression. Vincent, on the other hand, had virtues which paved him an easy road to popularity; he could discuss base-ball and rowing matters with a gravity as if the fate of the republic depended upon them; he was moreover himself an excellent "catcher," and subscribed liberally for the promotion of athletic sports. He did not, like his friend, care for "honors," nor had he the slightest desire to excel in Greek; he always reflected the average undergraduate opinion on all college affairs, and was not above playing an occasional trick on a freshman or a professor. As for Cranbrook, he rather prided himself on being a little exceptional, and cherished with special fondness those of his tastes and proclivities which distinguished him from the average humanity. He had therefore no serious scruples in accepting Vincent's offer to pay his expenses for a year's trip abroad. Vincent, he reasoned, would hardly benefit much by his foreign experiences, if he went alone. His glance would never penetrate beneath the surface of things, and he therefore needed a companion, whose aesthetic culture was superior to his own. Cranbrook flattered himself that he was such a companion, and vowed in his heart to give Harry full returns in intellectual capital for what he expended on him in sordid metals. Moreover, Harry had a clear income of fifteen to twenty thousand a year, while he, Cranbrook, had scarcely anything which he could call his own. I dare say that if Vincent had known all the benevolent plans which his friend had formed for his mental improvement, he would have thought twice before engaging him as his travelling companion; but fortunately he was so well satisfied with his own mental condition, and so utterly unconscious of his short-comings in point of intellect, that he could not have treated an educational scheme of which he was himself to be the subject as anything but an amiable lunacy on Jack's part, or at the worst, as a practical joke. Jack was good company; that was with him the chief consideration; his madness was harmless and had the advantage of being entertaining; he was moreover at heart a good fellow, and the stanchest and most loyal of friends. Harry was often heard to express the most cheerful confidence in Jack's future; he would be sure to come out right in the end, as soon as he had cut his eye-teeth, and very likely Europe might be just the thing for a complaint like his.
After having marched over nearly half a mile of marble flag-stones, interrupted here and there by strips of precious mosaic, the two young men paused at the entrance to a long, vaulted corridor. White, silent gods stood gazing gravely from their niches in the wall, and the pale November sun was struggling feebly to penetrate through the dusty windows. It did not dispel the dusk, but gave it just the tenderest suffusion of sunshine.
"Stop," whispered Cranbrook. "I want you to take in the total impression of this scene before you examine the details. Only listen to this primeval stillness; feel, if you can, the stately monotony of this corridor, the divine repose and dignity of these marble forms, the chill immobility of this light. It seems to me that, if a full, majestic organ-tone could be architecturally expressed, it must of necessity assume a shape resembling the broad, cold masses of this aisle. I should call this an architectonic fugue,—a pure and lofty meditation—"
"Now, do give us a rest, Jack," interrupted Vincent mercilessly. "I thought you said something about a nymph or a goddess. Trot her out, if you please, and let me have a look at her."
Cranbrook turned sharply about and gave his comrade a look of undisguised disgust.
"Harry," he said gravely, "really you don't deserve the good fortune of being in Italy. I thought I knew you well; but I am afraid I shall have to revise my judgment of you. You are hopelessly and incorrigibly frivolous. I know, it is ungracious in me to tell you so,—I, who have accepted your bounty; but, by Jove, Harry, I don't want to buy my pleasure at the price you seem to demand. I have enough to get home, at all events, and I shall repay you what I owe you."
Vincent colored to the edge of his hair; he bit his lip, and was about to yield to the first impulse of his wrath. A moment's reflection, however, sobered him; he gave his leg two energetic cuts with his slender cane, then turned slowly on his heel and sauntered away. Cranbrook stood long gazing sadly after him; he would have liked to call him back, but the aimless, leisurely gait irritated him, and the word died on his lips. Every step seemed to hint a vague defiance. "What does it matter to me," it seemed to say, "what you think of me? You are of too little account to have the power to ruffle my temper." As the last echo of the retiring footsteps was lost in the great marble silence, Cranbrook heaved a sigh, and, suddenly remembering his errand, walked rapidly down the corridor. He paused before a round-arched, doorless portal, which led into a large sunny room. In the embrazure of one of the windows, a young girl was sitting, with a drawing-board in her lap, apparently absorbed in the contemplation of a marble relief which was suspended upon the wall. From where Cranbrook stood, he could see her noble profile clearly outlined against the white wall; a thick coil of black hair was wound about the back of her head, and a dark, tight-fitting dress fell in simple folds about her magnificent form. There was a simplicity and an unstudied grace in her attitude which appealed directly to Cranbrook's aesthetic nature. Ever since he entered Italy he had been on the alert for romantic impressions, and his eager fancy instinctively lifted every commonplace incident that appeared to have poetic possibilities in it into the region of romance. He remembered having seen somewhere a statue of Clio whose features bore a remote resemblance to those of the young girl before him—the same massive, boldly sculptured chin, the same splendid, columnar throat, the same grave immobility of vision. It seemed sacrilege to approach such a divine creature with a trivial remark about the weather or the sights of Rome, and yet some commonplace was evidently required to pave the way to further acquaintance. Cranbrook pondered for a moment, and then advanced boldly toward the window where the goddess was sitting. She turned her head and flashed a pair of brilliant black eyes upon him.
"Pardon me, signorina," he said, with an apologetic cough. "I see you are drawing. Perhaps you could kindly tell me where one can obtain permission to copy in this gallery."
"I do not know, signore," she answered, in a low, rich voice. "No one ever copies here. The prince is never, here, and his major-domo comes only twice a year. He was here two weeks ago, so it will be a long time before he will return."
"But you seem to be copying," the young man ventured to remonstrate.
"Ah, sanctissima!" she; cried, with a vivid gesture of deprecation. "No, signore, I am not copying. I am a poor, ignorant thing, signore, not an artist. There was once a kind foreigner who lodged with us; he was an artist, a most famous artist, and he amused himself with me while I was a child, and taught me to draw a little."
"And perhaps you would kindly allow me to look at your drawing?"
Cranbrook was all in a flutter; he was amazed at his own temerity, but the situation filled him with a delicious sense of adventure, and an irresistible impulse within him urged him on. The girl had risen, and, without the slightest embarrassment or coquettish reluctance handed him her drawing-board. He saw at a glance that she was sincere in disclaiming the name of an artist. The drawing was a mere simple outline of a group, representing Briseis being led away from her lover by the messengers of Agamemnon. The king stood on one side ready to receive her, and on the other, Achilles, with averted face, in an attitude of deep dejection. The natural centre of the group, however, was the figure of Briseis. The poise of her classic head as she looked back over her shoulder at her beloved hero was full of the tenderest suggestions. She seemed to offer no resistance to the messengers, but her reluctant, lingering steps were more expressive than any violent demonstration. Cranbrook saw all this in the antique relief, but found it but feebly, and, as it were, stammeringly rendered in the girl's drawing. The lines were firmly and accurately traced and the proportions were approximately correct; but the deeper sentiment of the group had evidently escaped her, and the exquisite delicacy of modelling she had not even attempted to imitate. Cranbrook had in his heart to admit that he was disappointed. He feared that it was rude to return the board without a word of favorable comment, but he disdained to resort to any of those ingenious evasions which serve so conveniently as substitutes for definite judgments. The girl, in the meanwhile, stood looking into his face with an air of frank curiosity. It was not his opinion of her work, however, which puzzled her. She had never been accustomed to flattery, and had no idea of claiming a merit which she was well aware did not belong to her. She seemed rather to be wondering what manner of man her critic might be, and whether it would be safe to appeal to him for information on some subjects which lay beyond the reach of her own faculties.
"Signore," she began at last, a little hesitatingly, "I suppose you are a learned man who has read many books. Perhaps you know who that man is with the big helmet. And the maiden there with the bare feet, standing between the men—who is she? She looks sad, I think, and yet the large man who seems to be waiting for her is well made and handsome, and his garments appear to be precious. His shield is finely wrought, and I am sure he must be a man of great dignity."
"You are right," responded Cranbrook, to whom her guileless talk was highly entertaining.
"He is a king, and his name is Agamemnon. By nationality he is a Greek—"
"Ah, then I know why the girl is sad," she interrupted, eagerly. "The Greeks are all thieves, Padre Gregorio says; they all steal and lie, and they are not of the true faith. The padre has been in the Greek land and he knows their bad ways."
"The padre probably means the modern Greeks. I know very little about them. But the ancient Greeks were the noblest nation the world has ever seen."
"Is it possible? And what did they do that was so great and noble? Sanctissima! the greatest nation the world has ever seen!"
These exclamations were uttered in a tone of sincere surprise which to Cranbrook was very amusing. The conversation was now fairly started. The American told with much expenditure of eloquence the story of "the wrath of Achilles, the son of Peleus," and of the dire misfortunes which fell upon the house of Priamus and Atreus in consequence of one woman's fatal beauty. The girl sat listening with a rapt, far-away expression; now and then a breeze of emotion flitted across her features and a tear glittered in her eye and coursed slowly down over her cheek. Cranbrook, too, as he was gradually tuned into sympathy with his own tale, felt a strange, shuddering intoxication of happiness. He did not perceive how the time slipped by; he began to shiver, and saw that the sun was gone. The girl woke up with a start as his voice ceased and looked about her with a bewildered air. They both rose and walked together through the long, empty halls and corridors. He noticed wonderingly that she carried a heavy bunch of keys in her hand and locked each door after they had passed through it. This then led to some personal explanations. He learned that her name was Annunciata, and that she was the daughter of Antonio Caesarelli, the gardener of the villa, who lived in the house with the loggias which he could see at the end of the steep plane tree avenue. If he would like to pick some oranges, there were plenty of them in the garden, and as the prince never asked for them, her father allowed her to eat as many as she liked. Would he not come and see her father? He was a very good and kind man. At present he was trimming the hedge up on the terrace.
During this colloquy they had entered the garden, which seemed at first glance a great luxuriant wilderness. On the right hand of the gate was a huge jungle of blooming rose-bushes whose intertwisted branches climbed the tall stuccoed wall, for the possession of which it struggled bravely with an equally ambitious and vigorous ivy. Enormous bearded cacti of fantastic forms spread their fat prickly leaves out over both sides of the pavement, leaving only a narrow aisle in the middle where locomotion was practicable. A long flight of green and slippery stone steps led up to a lofty terrace which was raised above the rest of the garden by a high wall, surmounted by a low marble balustrade. Here the palms spread their fan-like crowns against the blue sky, and the golden fruit shone among the dark leaves of the orange-trees. A large sculptured Triton with inflated cheeks blew a column of water high up into the air, and half a dozen dolphins, ridden by chubby water-sprites, spouted demurely along the edges of a wide marble basin. A noseless Roman senator stood at the top of the stairs, wrapping his mossy toga about him, with a splendid gesture, and the grave images of the Caesars, all time-stained and more or less seriously maimed, gazed forth with severe dignity from their green, leafy niches.
The upper garden showed signs of human supervision. A considerable area was occupied by flower-beds, laid out with geometrical regularity and stiffness; and the low box-wood hedges along their borders had a density and preciseness of outline which showed that they had been recently trimmed. Stone vases of magnificent design were placed at regular intervals along the balustrade; and in the middle projection of the terrace stood a hoary table with a broken porphyry plate, suggestive of coffee and old-time costumes, and the ponderous gossip of Roman grandees.
Cranbrook had walked for a while silently at Annunciata's side. He was deeply impressed with all he saw, and yet a dreamy sense of their unreality was gradually stealing over him. He imagined himself some wonderful personage in an Eastern fairy-tale, and felt for the moment as if he were moving in an animated chapter of the "Arabian Nights." He had had little hesitation in asking Annunciata questions about herself; they seemed both, somehow, raised above the petty etiquette of mundane intercourse. She had confessed to him with an unthinking directness which was extremely becoming to her, that her artistic aspirations which he had found so mysterious were utterly destitute of the ideal afflatus. She had, as a child, learned lace-making and embroidery, and had earned many a lira by adorning the precious vestments of archbishops and cardinals. She was now making a design for a tapestry, in which she meant to introduce the group from the antique relief. Her father allowed her to save all she earned for her dowry; because then, he said, she might be able to make a good match. This latter statement grated a little on Cranbrook's sensitive ears; but a glance at Annunciata's face soon reassured him. She had the air of stating a universally recognized fact concerning which she had never had occasion to reflect. She kept prattling away very much like a spoiled child, who is confident that its voice is pleasant, and its little experiences as absorbing to its listener as they are to itself.
At length, by many devious paths, they reached a house on a sunny elevation, at the western extremity of the garden. It was a house such as one sees only in Rome,—a wide expanse of stuccoed wall with six or seven windows of different sizes scattered at random over its surface. Long tufts of fine grass depended from the gutters of the roof, and the plain pillars supporting the round arches of the loggias had a humid and weather-beaten look. The whole edifice, instead of asserting itself glaringly as a product of human art, blended with soft gradations into the surrounding landscape. Even the rude fresco of the Mother of Sorrows over the door was half overgrown with a greenish, semi-visible moss which allowed the original colors to shine faintly through, and the coarse lines of the dial in the middle of the wall were almost obliterated by sun and rain. But what especially attracted Cranbrook's attention was a card, hung out under one of the windows, upon which was written, with big, scrawling letters,—"Appartamento Mobiliato d'Affitarsi." He determined on the spot to become the occupant of this apartment whatever its deficiencies might be; therefore, without further delay, he introduced himself to Annunciata's mother, Monna Nina, as a forestiero in search of lodgings; and, after having gone through the formality of inspecting the room, he accepted Monna Nina's price and terms with an eagerness which made the excellent woman repent in her heart that she had not asked more.
The next day Cranbrook parted amicably from Vincent, who, it must be admitted, was beginning to have serious doubts of his sanity. They had had many a quarrel in days past, but Jack had always come to his senses again and been the first to make up. Vincent had the comfortable certainty of being himself always in the right, and it therefore never occurred to him that it might be his place to apologize. He had invariably accepted Jack's apologies good-naturedly and consented gracefully to let by-gones be by-gones, even though he were himself the offender; and the glow of conscious virtue which at such times pervaded him well rewarded him for his self-sacrifice. But this time, it seemed, Jack had taken some mysterious resolution, and his reason had hopelessly forsaken him. He even refused all offers of money, and talked about remaining in Rome and making his living by writing for the newspapers. He cherished no ill-will against Harry, he said, but had simply made up his mind that their tastes and temperaments were too dissimilar, and that they would both be happier if they parted company. They would see each other frequently and remain on friendly terms. No one was blamable for the separation, except Nature, who had made them so different. With these, and many similar assurances Cranbrook shook Vincent's hand and repaired to his new abode among the palms and cypresses. And yet his ears burned uncomfortably as he drove away in the fiacre. It was the first time he had been insincere to Harry, even by implication; but after what had happened, it was impossible to mention Annunciata's name.
It was the afternoon of Christmas-day, six weeks after Cranbrook's arrival at the villa. The air was soft and balmy and the blooming rose-bushes under the windows sent up from time to time delicious whiffs of fragrance. The sky was strangely clear, and long, cool vistas opened to the sight among the cloud-banks that hung over the tops of the Alban Mountains. Cranbrook was sitting out on the loggia reading the scene in the Odyssey where the shipwrecked Ulysses steps out from the copse where he has been sleeping and interrupts the ball-play of Nausicaa and her maidens. How pure and sweet the air that breathed from these pages! What a noble and dignified maiden was this Nausicaa! At this moment the merry voice of Annunciata was heard in the garden below. The young man let his book drop and leaned out over the wall. There she stood, tall and stately, receiving, with the manner of a good-natured empress, a white-haired priest who came waddling briskly toward her.
"Bona festa, Padre Gregorio," she cried, seizing the old man's hand. "Mother is going to have macaroni for supper and she was just going to send Pietro after you. For you know you promised to be with us this blessed day."
"Bona festa, child," responded the priest, smiling all over his large, benevolent face. "Padre Gregorio never forgets his promises, and least of all on a holy Christmas-day."
"No, I knew you would not forget us, padre; but you are all out of breath. You have been mounting the stairs to the terrace again instead of going round by the vineyard. Come and sit down here in the sun, for I wish to speak to you about something important."
And she led the priest by the hand to a stone bench by the door and seated herself at his side.
"Padre," she began, with a great earnestness in her manner, "is it true that the Holy Virgin hates heretics and that they can never go to heaven?"
The good padre was evidently not prepared for such a question. He gazed at Annunciata for a moment in helpless bewilderment, then coughed in his red bandanna handkerchief, took a deliberate pinch of snuff and began:
"The Holy Virgin is gracious, child, and she hates no one. But little girls should not trouble their heads with things that do not concern them."
"But this does concern me, padre," retorted the girl eagerly. "I went this morning with Signore Giovanni, the stranger who is lodging with us,—for he is a very good and kind man, padre; I went with him to the Aracoeli to see the blessed Bambino and the shepherds and the Holy Virgin. But he did not kneel, and when I told him of the wonderful things which the Bambino had done, he would not believe me, padre, and he even once laughed in my face."
"Then he is not a good man," said the padre emphatically, "and he will not go to heaven, unless he changes his faith and his conduct before God takes him away."
Cranbrook, who had made several vain attempts to call attention to his presence, now rose and through the window re-entered his room. The snatch of the conversation which he had overheard had made him uneasy and had spoiled his happy Homeric mood. He was only too willing to put the most flattering construction upon Annunciata's solicitude for his fate in the hereafter, but he had to admit to himself, that there was something in her tone and in the frank directness of her manner which precluded such an interpretation. He had floated along, as it were, in a state of delicious semi-consciousness during the six weeks since he first entered this house. He had established himself firmly, as he believed, in the favor of every member of the family, from Antonio himself to the two-year-old baby, Babetta, who spent her days contentedly in running from one end to the other of a large marble sarcophagus, situated under a tall stone pine, a dozen steps from the house. Monna Nina could then keep watch over her from the window while at work, and the high, sculptured sides of the sarcophagus prevented Babetta from indulging her propensity for running away. Pietro, a picturesque vagabond of twelve, who sold patriotic match-boxes with the portraits of Garibaldi and Vittorio Emanuele, had been bribed into the stanchest partisanship for the foreigner by a ticket to the monkey theatre in the Piazza delle Terme, and had excited his sister's curiosity to a painful pitch by his vivid descriptions of the wonderful performance he had witnessed. Antonio, who was a quiet and laborious man, listened with devout attention to Cranbrook's accounts of the foreign countries he had visited, while Monna Nina sometimes betrayed an invincible scepticism regarding facts which belonged to the A B C of transatlantic existence, and unhesitatingly acquiesced in statements which to an Italian mind might be supposed to border on the miraculous. She would not believe, for instance, that hot and cold water could be conducted through pipes to the fifth and sixth story of a house and drawn ad libitum by the turning of a crank; but her lodger's descriptions of the travelling palaces in which you slept and had your dinner prepared while speeding at a furious rate across the continent, were listened to with the liveliest interest and without the slightest misgiving. She had, moreover, well-settled convictions of her own concerning a number of things which lay beyond Cranbrook's horizon. She had a great dread of the evil eye and knew exactly what remedies to apply in order to counteract its direful effects; she wore around her neck a charm which had been blessed by the pope and which was a sure preventive of rheumatism; and under the ceiling of her kitchen were suspended bunches of medicinal herbs which had all been gathered during the new moon and which, in certain decoctions, were warranted to cure nearly all the ailments to which flesh is heir.
To Cranbrook the daily companionship with these kind-hearted, primitive people had been a most refreshing experience. As he wrote to a friend at home, he had shaken off the unwholesome dust which had accumulated upon his soul, and had for the first time in his life breathed the undiluted air of healthful human intercourse. Annunciata was to him a living poem, a simple and stately epic, whose continuation from day to day filled his life with sonorous echoes. She was a modern Nausicaa, with the same child-like grandeur and unconscious dignity as her Homeric prototype. It was not until to-day that he had become aware of the distance which separated him from her. They had visited together the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, where a crude tableau of the Nativity of Christ is exhibited during Christmas week. Her devoutness in the presence of the jewelled doll, representing the infant Saviour, had made a painful impression upon him, and when, with the evident intention of compelling his reverence, she had told him of the miracles performed by the "Bambino," he had only responded with an incredulous smile. She had sent him a long, reproachful glance; then, as the tears rose to her eyes, she had hurried away and he had not dared to follow her.
While pursuing these sombre meditations, Cranbrook was seated—or rather buried—in a deep Roman easy-chair, whose faded tapestries would have been esteemed a precious find by a relic-hunter. Judging by the baroque style of its decorations, its tarnished gilding, and its general air a la Pompadour, it was evident that it had spent its youthful days in some princely palace of the last century, and had by slow and gradual stages descended to its present lowly condition. A curious sense of the evanescence of all earthly things stole over the young man's mind, as his thoughts wandered from his own fortunes to those of the venerable piece of furniture which was holding him in its ample embrace. What did it matter in the end, he reasoned, whether he married his Nausicaa or not? To marry a Nausicaa with grace was a feat for the performance of which exceptional qualities were required. The conjugal complement to a Nausicaa must be a man of ponderous presence and statuesque demeanor—not a shrill and nervous modern like himself, with second-rate physique, and a morbidly active intellect. No, it mattered little what he did or left undone. The world would be no better and no worse for anything he could do. Very likely, in the arms of this chair where he was now sitting, a dozen Roman Romeos, in powdered wigs and silk stockings, had pined for twice that number of Roman Juliets; and now they were all dust, and the world was moving on exactly as before. And yet in the depth of his being there was a voice which protested against this hollow reasoning; he felt to himself insincere and hypocritical; he dallied and played with his own emotions. Every mood carried in itself a sub-consciousness of its transitoriness.
The daylight had faded, and the first faint flush of the invisible moon was pervading the air. The undulating ridge of the Sabine mountains stood softly denned against the horizon, and here and there a great, flat-topped stone pine was seen looming up along the edges of the landscape. Cranbrook ate hurriedly the frugal dinner which was served him from a neighboring trattoria, then lighted a cigar, and walked out into the garden. He sat for a while on the balustrade of the terrace, looking out over the green campagna, over which the moon now rose large and red, while the towers and domes of the city stood, dark and solemn, in the foreground. The bells of Santa Maria Maggiore were tolling slowly and pensively, and the sound lingered with long vibrations in the still air. A mighty, shapeless longing, remotely aroused or intensified by the sound of the bells, shook his soul; and the glorious sight before him seemed to weigh upon him like an oppressive burden. "Annunciata," came in heavy, rhythmic pulses through the air; it was impossible not to hear it. The bells were tolling her name: "Annun-ciata, Annun-ciata." Even the water that was blown from the Triton's mouth whispered softly, as it fell, "Annunciata, Annunciata."
Cranbrook was awakened from his reverie by the sound of approaching footsteps. He turned his head and recognized, by the conspicuous shovel-hat, the old priest who had prophesied such a cheerful future for him in the hereafter. And was that not Annunciata who was walking at his side? Surely, that was her voice; for what voice was there in all the world with such a rich, alluring cadence? And that firm and splendidly unconscious walk—who, with less than five generations' practice could even remotely imitate it? Beloved Annunciata! Wondrous and glorious Annunciata! In thy humble disguise thou art nevertheless a goddess, and thy majestic simplicity shames the shrill and artificial graces of thy sisters of the so-called good society. But surely, child, thou art agitated. Do not waste those magnificent gestures on the aged and callous priest!
"Thou art hard-hearted and cruel, Padre Gregorio!" were the words that reached Cranbrook's ears. "The Holy Virgin would not allow any one to suffer forever who is good and kind. How could he help that his father and his mother were not of the right faith?"
The padre's answer he could not distinguish; he heard only an eager murmur and some detached words, from which he concluded that the priest was expostulating earnestly with her. They passed down the long staircase into the lower garden, and, though their forms remained visible, their voices were soon lost among the whispering leaves and the plashing waters. Cranbrook followed them steadily with his eyes, and a thrill of ineffable joy rippled through his frame. He had at last, he thought, the assurance for which he had yearned so long. Presently he saw Annunciata stop, plunge her hands into a side-pocket, and pull out something which he imagined to be a key; then she and the padre disappeared for a few moments in the gloom of a deep portal, and when Annunciata re-appeared she was alone. She walked rapidly back through the garden, without being apparently in the least impressed by the splendor of the night, mounted the stairs to the terrace, and again passed within a dozen yards of where Cranbrook was sitting, without observing him.
"Annunciata," he called softly, rising to follow her.
"Signore Giovanni," she exclaimed wonderingly but without the slightest trace of the emotion which had so recently agitated her. "You should not sit here in the garden so late. The air of the night is not good for the foreigner."
"The air is good for me wherever you are, Annunciata," he answered warmly. "Come and walk with me here down the long plane tree avenue. Take my arm. I have much to say to you:
'* * * In such a night as this, When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees,' etc. 'In such a night, Troilus, methinks, mounter! the Trojan walls, And sighed his soul toward the Grecian tents Where Cressid lay that night.'"
She took the arm which he offered her silently, but with a simple dignity which a princess might have envied her.
"I cannot stay out long," she said. "My mother would miss me."
"I shall not detain you long. I have only a confession to make to you. I was sitting on the loggia this afternoon when Padre Gregorio came, and I heard what you said to him."
He had expected her to blush or show some sign of embarrassment. But she only lifted her calm, clear countenance toward him and said:
"You were kinder and better than all the men I had known, and it gave me trouble to think that you should be unhappy when you die. Therefore I asked the padre; but I do not believe any more that the padre is always right. God is better and wiser than he, and God will find a way where a priest would find none."
There was something inexpressibly touching in the way she uttered these simple words. Cranbrook, although he was, for reasons of his own, disappointed at her perfect composure, felt the tears mounting to his eyes, and his voice shook as he answered:
"I am not afraid of my lot in the next world, Annunciata; and although it is kind of you to be troubled about it, I fear you can do nothing to improve it. But my fate in this world I yearn to lay in your hands. I love you very dearly, Annunciata, and all I need to make me what I aspire to be is to have you give me a little affection in return. What do you say, Annunciata? do you think you could? Would you be my wife, and go with me to my own country and share my life, whatever it may be."
"But signore," she replied, after a moment's deliberation; "my mother would not like it, and Babetta would cry the whole day long when I was gone."
"I am speaking seriously, Annunciata, and you must not evade my question. It all depends upon you."
"No, it also depends upon mother and Babetta. But I know you would be good and kind to me, Signore Giovanni, and you would always treat me well; for you are a good and kind man. I should like to be your wife, I think, but I do not know whether I should like to go with you across the great sea."
Cranbrook was hopelessly perplexed, and for an instant even inclined to question whether she might not be ridiculing him; but a glance at her puzzled face showed him that she was grappling earnestly with the great problem, and apparently endeavoring to gain time by uttering the first thought that suggested itself to her mind. The gloom of the plane-trees now enveloped them, and only here and there a quivering ray of moonlight pierced through the dense roof of leaves. The marble phantoms of the Caesars gazed sternly at the daring intruders who had come to disturb their centuries' repose, and the Roman senator at the end of the avenue held his outstretched hand toward them, as if warning them back from the life that lay beyond the moment's great resolution. And yet, before the moon had faded out of the sky, the great resolution was irrevocably taken. When they parted in the hall, leading up to Cranbrook's room, Annunciata consented with the faintest show of resistance to being kissed, and she even responded, though vaguely and doubtingly, to his vehement caresses. "Felicissima notte, Signore Giovanni," she murmured, as she slowly disengaged herself from his embrace. "You are a dear, good man, and I will go with you across the great sea."