BY THEODOR W. STORM
TRANSLATED BY C. W. BELL M. A.
We are at the beginning of a new era which will, it is to be hoped, be marked by a general rapprochement between the nations. The need to know and understand one another is being felt more and more. It follows that the study of foreign languages will assume an ever- increasing importance; indeed, so far as language, literature, and music are concerned, one may safely assert that fas est et ab hoste doceri.
All those who wish to make acquaintance with the speech of their neighbours, or who have allowed their former knowledge to grow rusty, will welcome this edition, which will enable them, independently of bulky dictionaries, to devote to language study the moments of leisure which offer themselves in the course of the day.
The texts have been selected from the double point of view of their literary worth and of the usefulness of their vocabulary; in the translations, also, the endeavour has been to unite qualities of style with strict fidelity to the original.
Theodor W. Storm, poet and short-story writer (1817-1888), was born in Schleswig. He was called to the Bar in his native town, Husum, in 1842, but had his licence to practise cancelled in 1853 for 'Germanophilism,' and had to remove to Germany. It was only in 1864 that he was able to return to Husum, where in 1874 he became a judge of the Court of Appeals.
As early as 1843 he had made himself known as a lyrical poet of the Romantic School, but it was as a short-story writer that he first took a prominent place in literature, making a most happy debut with the story entitled Immensee.
There followed a long series of tales, rich in fancy and in humour, although their inspiration is generally derived from the humble town and country life which formed his immediate environment; but he wrote nothing that excels, in depth and tenderness of feeling, the charming story of Immensee; and taking his work all in all, Storm still ranks to-day as a master of the short story in German literature, rich though it is in this form of prose-fiction.
THE OLD MAN
0ne afternoon in the late autumn a well-dressed old man was walking slowly down the street. He appeared to be returning home from a walk, for his buckle-shoes, which followed a fashion long since out of date, were covered with dust.
Under his arm he carried a long, gold-headed cane; his dark eyes, in which the whole of his long-lost youth seemed to have centred, and which contrasted strangely with his snow-white hair, gazed calmly on the sights around him or peered into the town below as it lay before him, bathed in the haze of sunset. He appeared to be almost a stranger, for of the passers-by only a few greeted him, although many a one involuntarily was compelled to gaze into those grave eyes.
At last he halted before a high, gabled house, cast one more glance out toward the town, and then passed into the hall. At the sound of the door-bell some one in the room within drew aside the green curtain from a small window that looked out on to the hall, and the face of an old woman was seen behind it. The man made a sign to her with his cane.
"No light yet!" he said in a slightly southern accent, and the housekeeper let the curtain fall again.
The old man now passed through the broad hall, through an inner hall, wherein against the walls stood huge oaken chests bearing porcelain vases; then through the door opposite he entered a small lobby, from which a narrow staircase led to the upper rooms at the back of the house. He climbed the stairs slowly, unlocked a door at the top, and landed in a room of medium size.
It was a comfortable, quiet retreat. One of the walls was lined with cupboards and bookcases; on the other hung pictures of men and places; on a table with a green cover lay a number of open books, and before the table stood a massive arm-chair with a red velvet cushion.
After the old man had placed his hat and stick in a corner, he sat down in the arm-chair and, folding his hands, seemed to be taking his rest after his walk. While he sat thus, it was growing gradually darker; and before long a moonbeam came streaming through the window- panes and upon the pictures on the wall; and as the bright band of light passed slowly onward the old man followed it involuntarily with his eyes.
Now it reached a little picture in a simple black frame. "Elisabeth!" said the old man softly; and as he uttered the word, time had changed: he was young again.
* * * * *
Before very long the dainty form of a little maiden advanced toward him. Her name was Elisabeth, and she might have been five years old. He himself was twice that age. Round her neck she wore a red silk kerchief which was very becoming to her brown eyes.
"Reinhard!" she cried, "we have a holiday, a holiday! No school the whole day and none to-morrow either!"
Reinhard was carrying his slate under his arm, but he flung it behind the front door, and then both the children ran through the house into the garden and through the garden gate out into the meadow. The unexpected holiday came to them at a most happily opportune moment.
It was in the meadow that Reinhard, with Elisabeth's help, had built a house out of sods of grass. They meant to live in it during the summer evenings; but it still wanted a bench. He set to work at once; nails, hammer, and the necessary boards were already to hand.
While he was thus engaged, Elisabeth went along the dyke, gathering the ring-shaped seeds of the wild mallow in her apron, with the object of making herself chains and necklaces out of them; so that when Reinhard had at last finished his bench in spite of many a crookedly hammered nail, and came out into the sunlight again, she was already wandering far away at the other end of the meadow.
"Elisabeth!" he called, "Elisabeth!" and then she came, her hair streaming behind her.
"Come here," he said; "our house is finished now. Why, you have got quite hot! Come in, and let us sit on the new bench. I will tell you a story."
So they both went in and sat down on the new bench. Elisabeth took the little seed-rings out of her apron and strung them on long threads. Reinhard began his tale: "There were once upon a time three spinning- women..." [Footnote: The beginning of one of the best known of Grimm's fairy tales.]
"Oh!" said Elisabeth, "I know that off by heart; you really must not always tell me the same story."
Accordingly Reinhard had to give up the story of the three spinning- women and tell instead the story of the poor man who was cast into the den of lions.
"It was now night," he said, "black night, you know, and the lions were asleep. But every now and then they would yawn in their sleep and shoot out their red tongues. And then the man would shudder and think it was morning. All at once a bright light fell all about him, and when he looked up an angel was standing before him. The angel beckoned to him with his hand and then went straight into the rocks."
Elisabeth had been listening attentively. "An angel?" she said. "Had he wings then?"
"It is only a story," answered Reinhard; "there are no angels, you know."
"Oh, fie! Reinhard!" she said, staring him straight in the face.
He looked at her with a frown, and she asked him hesitatingly: "Well, why do they always say there are? mother, and aunt, and at school as well?"
"I don't know," he answered.
"But tell me," said Elisabeth, "are there no lions either?"
"Lions? Are there lions? In India, yes. The heathen priests harness them to their carriages, and drive about the desert with them. When I'm big, I mean to go out there myself. It is thousands of times more beautiful in that country than it is here at home; there's no winter at all there. And you must come with me. Will you?"
"Yes," said Elisabeth; "but mother must come with us, and your mother as well."
"No," said Reinhard, "they will be too old then, and cannot come with us."
"But I mayn't go by myself."
"Oh, but you may right enough; you will then really be my wife, and the others will have no say in the matter."
"But mother will cry!"
"We shall come back again of course," said Reinhard impetuously. "Now just tell me straight out, will you go with me? If not, I will go all alone, and then I shall never come back again."
The little girl came very near to crying. "Please don't look so angry," said she; "I will go to India with you."
Reinhard seized both her hands with frantic glee, and rushed out with her into the meadow.
"To India, to India!" he sang, and swung her round and round, so that her little red kerchief was whirled from off her neck. Then he suddenly let her go and said solemnly:
"Nothing will come of it, I'm sure; you haven't the pluck."
"Elisabeth! Reinhard!" some one was now calling from the garden gate. "Here we are!" the children answered, and raced home hand in hand.
* * * * *
IN THE WOODS
So the children lived together. She was often too quiet for him, and he was often too head-strong for her, but for all that they stuck to one another. They spent nearly all their leisure hours together: in winter in their mothers' tiny rooms, during the summer in wood and field.
Once when Elisabeth was scolded by the teacher in Reinhard's hearing, he angrily banged his slate upon the table in order to turn upon himself the master's wrath. This failed to attract attention.
But Reinhard paid no further attention to the geography lessons, and instead he composed a long poem, in which he compared himself to a young eagle, the schoolmaster to a grey crow, and Elisabeth to a white dove; the eagle vowed vengeance on the grey crow, as soon as his wings had grown.
Tears stood in the young poet's eyes: he felt very proud of himself. When he reached home he contrived to get hold of a little parchment- bound volume with a lot of blank pages in it; and on the first pages he elaborately wrote out his first poem.
Soon after this he went to another school. Here he made many new friendships among boys of his own age, but this did not interrupt his comings and goings with Elisabeth. Of the stories which he had formerly told her over and over again he now began to write down the ones which she had liked best, and in doing so the fancy often took him to weave in something of his own thoughts; yet, for some reason he could not understand, he could never manage it.
So he wrote them down exactly as he had heard them himself. Then he handed them over to Elisabeth, who kept them carefully in a drawer of her writing-desk, and now and again of an evening when he was present it afforded him agreeable satisfaction to hear her reading aloud to her mother these little tales out of the notebooks in which he had written them.
Seven years had gone by. Reinhard was to leave the town in order to proceed to his higher education. Elisabeth could not bring herself to think that there would now be a time to be passed entirely without Reinhard. She was delighted when he told her one day that he would continue to write out stories for her as before; he would send them to her in the letters to his mother, and then she would have to write back to him and tell him how she liked them.
The day of departure was approaching, but ere it came a good deal more poetry found its way into the parchment-bound volume. This was the one secret he kept from Elisabeth, although she herself had inspired the whole book and most of the songs, which gradually had filled up almost half of the blank pages.
It was the month of June, and Reinhard was to start on the following day. It was proposed to spend one more festive day together and therefore a picnic was arranged for a rather large party of friends in an adjacent forest.
It was an hour's drive along the road to the edge of the wood, and there the company took down the provision baskets from the carriages and walked the rest of the way. The road lay first of all through a pine grove, where it was cool and darksome, and the ground was all strewed with pine needles.
After half an hour's walk they passed out of the gloom of the pine trees into a bright fresh beech wood. Here everything was light and green; every here and there a sunbeam burst through the leafy branches, and high above their heads a squirrel was leaping from branch to branch.
The party came to a halt at a certain spot, over which the topmost branches of ancient beech trees interwove a transparent canopy of leaves. Elisabeth's mother opened one of the baskets, and an old gentleman constituted himself quartermaster.
"Round me, all of you young people," he cried, "and attend carefully to what I have to say to you. For lunch each one of you will now get two dry rolls; the butter has been left behind at home. The extras every one must find for himself. There are plenty of strawberries in the wood—that is, for anyone who knows where to find them. Unless you are sharp, you'll have to eat dry bread; that's the way of the world all over. Do you understand what I say?"
"Yes, yes," cried the young folks.
"Yes, but look here," said the old gentleman, "I have not done yet. We old folks have done enough roaming about in our time, and therefore we will stay at home now, here, I mean, under these wide-spreading trees, and we'll peel the potatoes and make a fire and lay the table, and by twelve o'clock the eggs shall be boiled.
"In return for all this you will be owing us half of your strawberries, so that we may also be able to serve some dessert. So off you go now, east and west, and mind be honest."
The young folks cast many a roguish glance at one another.
"Wait," cried the old gentleman once again. "I suppose I need not tell you this, that whoever finds none need not produce any; but take particular note of this, that he will get nothing out of us old folks either. Now you have had enough good advice for to-day; and if you gather strawberries to match you will get on very well for the present at any rate."
The young people were of the same opinion, and pairing off in couples set out on their quest.
"Come along, Elisabeth," said Reinhard, "I know where there is a clump of strawberry bushes; you shan't eat dry bread."
Elisabeth tied the green ribbons of her straw hat together and hung it on her arm. "Come on, then," she said, "the basket is ready."
Off into the wood they went, on and on; on through moist shady glens, where everything was so peaceful, except for the cry of the falcon flying unseen in the heavens far above their heads; on again through the thick brushwood, so thick that Reinhard must needs go on ahead to make a track, here snapping off a branch, there bending aside a trailing vine. But ere long he heard Elisabeth behind him calling out his name. He turned round.
"Reinhard!" she called, "do wait for me! Reinhard!"
He could not see her, but at length he caught sight of her some way off struggling with the undergrowth, her dainty head just peeping out over the tops of the ferns. So back he went once more and brought her out from the tangled mass of briar and brake into an open space where blue butterflies fluttered among the solitary wood blossoms.
Reinhard brushed the damp hair away from her heated face, and would have tied the straw hat upon her head, but she refused; yet at his earnest request she consented after all.
"But where are your strawberries?" she asked at length, standing still and drawing a deep breath.
"They were here," he said, "but the toads have got here before us, or the martens, or perhaps the fairies."
"Yes," said Elisabeth, "the leaves are still here; but not a word about fairies in this place. Come along, I'm not a bit tired yet; let us look farther on."
In front of them ran a little brook, and on the far side the wood began again. Reinhard raised Elisabeth in his arms and carried her over. After a while they emerged from the shady foliage and stood in a wide clearing.
"There must be strawberries here," said the girl, "it all smells so sweet."
They searched about the sunny spot, but they found none. "No," said Reinhard, "it is only the smell of the heather."
Everywhere was a confusion of raspberry-bushes and holly, and the air was filled with a strong smell of heather, patches of which alternated with the short grass over these open spaces.
"How lonely it is here!" said Elisabeth "I wonder where the others are?"
Reinhard had never thought of getting back.
"Wait a bit," he said, holding his hand aloft; "where is the wind coming from?" But wind there was none.
"Listen!" said Elisabeth, "I think I heard them talking. Just give a call in that direction."
Reinhard hollowed his hand and shouted: "Come here!"
"Here!" was echoed back.
"They answered," cried Elisabeth clapping her hands.
"No, that was nothing; it was only the echo."
Elisabeth seized Reinhard's hand. "I'm frightened!" she said.
"Oh! no, you must not be frightened. It is lovely here. Sit down there in the shade among the long grass. Let us rest awhile: we'll find the others soon enough."
Elisabeth sat down under the overhanging branch of a beech and listened intently in every direction. Reinhard sat a few paces off on a tree stump, and gazed over at her in silence.
The sun was just above their heads, shining with the full glare of midday heat. Tiny, gold-flecked, steel-blue flies poised in the air with vibrating wings. Their ears caught a gentle humming and buzzing all round them, and far away in the wood were heard now and again the tap-tap of the woodpecker and the screech of other birds.
"Listen," said Elisabeth, "I hear a bell."
"Where?" asked Reinhard.
"Behind us. Do you hear it? It is striking twelve o'clock."
"Then the town lies behind us, and if we go straight through in this direction we are bound to fall in with the others."
So they started on their homeward way; they had given up looking for strawberries, for Elisabeth had become tired. And at last there rang out from among the trees the laughing voices of the picnic party; then they saw too a white cloth spread gleaming on the ground; it was the luncheon-table and on it were strawberries enough and to spare.
The old gentleman had a table-napkin tucked in his button-hole and was continuing his moral sermon to the young folks and vigorously carving a joint of roast meat.
"Here come the stragglers," cried the young people when they saw Reinhard and Elisabeth advancing among the trees.
"This way," shouted the old gentleman. "Empty your handkerchiefs, upside down, with your hats! Now show us what you have found."
"Only hunger and thirst," said Reinhard.
"If that's all," replied the old man, lifting up and showing them the bowl full of fruit, "you must keep what you've got. You remember the agreement: nothing here for lazybones to eat."
But in the end he was prevailed on to relent; the banquet proceeded, and a thrush in a juniper bush provided the music.
So the day passed. But Reinhard had, after all, found something, and though it was not strawberries yet it was something that had grown in the wood. When he got home this is what he wrote in his old parchment- bound volume:
Out on the hill-side yonder The wind to rest is laid; Under the drooping branches There sits the little maid.
She sits among the wild thyme, She sits in the fragrant air; The blue flies hum around her, Bright wings flash everywhere.
And through the silent woodland She peers with watchful eyen, While on her hazel ringlets Sparkles the glad sunshine.
And far, far off the cuckoo Laughs out his song. I ween Hers are the bright, the golden Eyes of the woodland queen.
So she was not only his little sweetheart, but was also the expression of all that was lovely and wonderful in his opening life.
* * * * *
BY THE ROADSIDE THE CHILD STOOD
The time is Christmas Eve. Before the close of the afternoon Reinhard and some other students were sitting together at an old oak table in the Ratskeller. [Footnote: The basement of the Rathaus or Town Hall. This, in almost every German town of importance, has become a restaurant and place of refreshment.] The lamps on the wall were lighted, for down here in the basement it was already growing dark; but there was only a thin sprinkling of customers present, and the waiters were leaning idly up against the pillars let into the walls.
In a corner of the vaulted room sat a fiddler and a fine-featured gipsy-girl with a zither; their instruments lay in their laps, and they seemed to be looking about them with an air of indifference.
A champagne cork popped off at the table occupied by the students. "Drink, my gipsy darling!" cried a young man of aristocratic appearance, holding out to the girl a glass full of wine.
"I don't care about it," she said, without altering her position.
"Well, then, give us a song," cried the young nobleman, and threw a silver coin into her lap. The girl slowly ran her fingers through her black hair while the fiddler whispered in her ear. But she threw back her head, and rested her chin on her zither.
"For him," she said, "I'm not going to play."
Reinhard leapt up with his glass in his hand and stood in front of her.
"What do you want?" she asked defiantly.
"To have a look at your eyes."
"What have my eyes to do with you?"
Reinhard's glance flashed down on her. "I know they are false."
She laid her cheek in the palm of her hand and gave him a searching look. Reinhard raised his glass to his mouth.
"Here's to your beautiful, wicked eyes!" he said, and drank.
She laughed and tossed her head.
"Give it here," she said, and fastening her black eyes on his, she slowly drank what was left in the glass. Then she struck a chord and sang in a deep, passionate voice:
To-day, to-day thou think'st me Fairest maid of all; To-morrow, ah! then beauty Fadeth past recall. While the hour remaineth, Thou art yet mine own; Then when death shall claim me, I must die alone.
While the fiddler struck up an allegro finale, a new arrival joined the group.
"I went to call for you, Reinhard," he said, "You had already gone out, but Santa Claus had paid you a visit."
"Santa Claus?" said Reinhard. "Santa Claus never comes to me now."
"Oh, yes, he does! The whole of your room smelt of Christmas tree and ginger cakes."
Reinhard dropped the glass out of his hand and seized his cap.
"Well, what are you going to do now?" asked the girl.
"I'll be back in a minute."
She frowned. "Stay," she said gently, casting an amorous glance at him.
Reinhard hesitated. "I can't," he said.
She laughingly gave him a tap with the toe of her shoe and said: "Go away, then, you good-for-nothing; you are one as bad as the other, all good-for-nothings." And as she turned away from him, Reinhard went slowly up the steps of the Ratskeller.
Outside in the street deep twilight had set in; he felt the cool winter air blowing on his heated brow. From some window every here and there fell the bright gleam of a Christmas tree all lighted up, now and then was heard from within some room the sound of little pipes and tin trumpets mingled with the merry din of children's voices.
Crowds of beggar children were going from house to house or climbing up on to the railings of the front steps, trying to catch a glimpse through the window of a splendour that was denied to them. Sometimes too a door would suddenly be flung open, and scolding voices would drive a whole swarm of these little visitors away out into the dark street. In the vestibule of yet another house they were singing an old Christmas carol, and little girls' clear voices were heard among the rest.
But Reinhard heard not; he passed quickly by them all, out of one street into another. When he reached his lodging it had grown almost quite dark; he stumbled up the stairs and so gained his apartment.
A sweet fragrance greeted him; it reminded him of home; it was the smell of the parlour in his mother's house at Christmas time. With trembling hand he lit his lamp; and there lay a mighty parcel on the table. When he opened it, out fell the familiar ginger cakes. On some of them were the initial letters of his name written in sprinkles of sugar; no one but Elisabeth could have done that.
Next came to view a little parcel containing neatly embroidered linen, handkerchiefs and cuffs; and finally letters from his mother and Elisabeth. Reinhard opened Elisabeth's letter first, and this is what she wrote:
"The pretty sugared letters will no doubt tell you who helped with the cakes. The same person also embroidered the cuffs for you. We shall have a very quiet time at home this Christmas Eve. Mother always puts her spinning-wheel away in the corner as early as half-past nine. It is so very lonesome this winter now that you are not here.
"And now, too, the linnet you made me a present of died last Sunday. It made me cry a good deal, though I am sure I looked after it well.
"It always used to sing of an afternoon when the sun shone on its cage. You remember how often mother would hang a piece of cloth over the cage in order to keep it quiet when it sang so lustily.
"Thus our room is now quieter than ever, except that your old friend Eric now drops in to see us occasionally. You told us once that he was just like his brown top-coat. I can't help thinking of it every time he comes in at the door, and it is really too funny; but don't tell mother, it might easily make her angry.
"Guess what I am giving your mother for a Christmas present! You can't guess? Well, it is myself! Eric is making a drawing of me in black chalk; I have had to give him three sittings, each time for a whole hour.
"I simply loathed the idea of a stranger getting to know my face so well. Nor did I wish it, but mother pressed me, and said it would very much please dear Frau Werner.
"But you are not keeping your word, Reinhard. You haven't sent me any stories. I have often complained to your mother about it, but she always says you now have more to do than to attend to such childish things. But I don't believe it; there's something else perhaps."
After this Reinhard read his mother's letter, and when he had read them both and slowly folded them up again and put them away, he was overcome with an irresistible feeling of home-sickness. For a long while he walked up and down his room, talking softly to himself, and then, under his breath, he murmured:
I have err'd from the straight path, Bewildered I roam; By the roadside the child stands And beckons me home.
Then he went to his desk, took out some money, and stepped down into the street again. During all this while it had become quieter out there; the lights on the Christmas trees had burnt out, the processions of children had come to an end. The wind was sweeping through the deserted streets; old and young alike were sitting together at home in family parties; the second period of Christmas Eve celebrations had begun.
As Reinhard drew near the Ratskeller he heard from below the scraping of the fiddle and the singing of the zither girl. The restaurant door bell tinkled and a dark form staggered up the broad dimly-lighted stair.
Reinhard drew aside into the shadow of the houses and then passed swiftly by. After a while he reached the well-lighted shop of a jeweller, and after buying a little cross studded with red corals, he returned by the same way he had come.
Not far from his lodgings he caught sight of a little girl, dressed in miserable rags, standing before a tall door, in a vain attempt to open it.
"Shall I help you?" he said.
The child gave no answer, but let go the massive door-handle. Reinhard had soon opened the door.
"No," he said; "they might drive you out again. Come along with me, and I'll give you some Christmas cake."
He then closed the door again and gave his hand to the little girl, who walked along with him in silence to his lodgings.
On going out he had left the light burning.
"Here are some cakes for you," he said, pouring half of his whole stock into her apron, though he gave none that bore the sugar letters.
"Now, off you go home, and give your mother some of them too."
The child cast a shy look up at him; she seemed unaccustomed to such kindness and unable to say anything in reply. Reinhard opened the door, and lighted her way, and then the little thing like a bird flew downstairs with her cakes and out of the house.
Reinhard poked the fire in the stove, set the dusty ink-stand on the table, and then sat down and wrote and wrote letters the whole night long to his mother and Elisabeth.
The remainder of the Christmas cakes lay untouched by his side, but he had buttoned on Elisabeth's cuffs, and odd they looked on his shaggy coat of undyed wool. And there he was still sitting when the winter sun cast its light on the frosted window-panes, and showed him a pale, grave face reflected in the looking-glass.
* * * * *
When the Easter vacation came Reinhard journeyed home. On the morning after his arrival he went to see Elisabeth.
"How tall you've grown," he said, as the pretty, slender girl advanced with a smile to meet him. She blushed, but made no reply; he had taken her hand in his own in greeting, and she tried to draw it gently away. He looked at her doubtingly, for never had she done that before; but now it was as if some strange thing was coming between them.
The same feeling remained, too, after he had been at home for some time and came to see her constantly day after day. When they sat alone together there ensued pauses in the conversation which distressed him, and which he anxiously did his best to avoid. In order to have a definite occupation during the holidays, he began to give Elisabeth some instruction in botany, in which he himself had been keenly interested during the early months of his university career.
Elisabeth, who was wont to follow him in all things and was moreover very quick to learn, willingly entered into the proposal. So now several times in the week they made excursions into the fields or the moors, and if by midday they brought home their green field-box full of plants and flowers, Reinhard would come again later in the day and share with Elisabeth what they had collected in common.
With this same object in view, he entered the room one afternoon while Elisabeth was standing by the window and sticking some fresh chick- weed in a gilded birdcage which he had not seen in the place before. In the cage was a canary, which was flapping its wings and shrilly chirruping as it pecked at Elisabeth's fingers. Previously to this Reinhard's bird had hung in that spot.
"Has my poor linnet changed into a goldfinch after its death?" he asked jovially.
"Linnets are not accustomed to do any such thing," said Elizabeth's mother, who sat spinning in her armchair. "Your friend Eric sent it this noon from his estate as a present for Elisabeth."
"Why, don't you know?"
"That a month ago Eric took over his father's second estate by the Immensee." [Footnote: I.e. the 'Lake of the Bees']
"But you have never said a word to me about it."
"Well," said the mother, "you haven't yet made a single word of inquiry after your friend. He is a very nice, sensible young man."
The mother went out of the room to make the coffee. Elisabeth had her back turned to Reinhard, and was still busy with the making of her little chickweed bower.
"Please, just a little longer," she said, "I'll be done in a minute."
As Reinhard did not answer, contrary to his wont, she turned round and faced him. In his eyes there was a sudden expression of trouble which she had never observed before in them.
"What is the matter with you, Reinhard?" she said, drawing nearer to him.
"With me?" he said, his thoughts far away and his eyes resting dreamily on hers.
"You look so sad."
"Elisabeth," he said, "I cannot bear that yellow bird."
She looked at him in astonishment, without understanding his meaning. "You are so strange," she said.
He took both her hands in his, and she let him keep them there. Her mother came back into the room shortly after; and after they had drunk their coffee she sat down at her spinning-wheel, while Reinhard and Elisabeth went off into the next room to arrange their plants.
Stamens were counted, leaves and blossoms carefully opened out, and two specimens of each sort were laid to dry between the pages of a large folio volume.
All was calm and still this sunny afternoon; the only sounds to be heard were the hum of the mother's spinning-wheel in the next room, and now and then the subdued voice of Reinhard, as he named the orders of the families of the plants, and corrected Elisabeth's awkward pronunciation of the Latin names.
"I am still short of that lily of the valley which I didn't get last time," said she, after the whole collection had been classified and arranged.
Reinhard pulled a little white vellum volume from his pocket. "Here is a spray of the lily of the valley for you," he said, taking out a half-pressed bloom.
When Elisabeth saw the pages all covered with writing, she asked: "Have you been writing stories again?"
"These aren't stories," he answered, handing her the book.
The contents were all poems, and the majority of them at most filled one page. Elisabeth turned over the leaves one after another; she appeared to be reading the titles only. "When she was scolded by the teacher." "When they lost their way in the woods." "An Easter story." "On her writing to me for the first time." Thus ran most of the titles.
Reinhard fixed his eyes on her with a searching look, and as she kept turning over the leaves he saw that a gentle blush arose and gradually mantled over the whole of her sweet face. He would fain have looked into her eyes, but Elisabeth did not look up, and finally laid the book down before him without a word.
"Don't give it back like that," he said.
She took a brown spray out of the tin case. "I will put your favourite flower inside," she said, giving back the book into his hands.
At length came the last day of the vacation and the morning of his departure. At her own request Elisabeth received permission from her mother to accompany her friend to the stage-coach, which had its station a few streets from their house.
When they passed out of the front door Reinhard gave her his arm, and thus he walked in silence side by side with the slender maiden. The nearer they came to their destination the more he felt as if he had something he must say to her before he bade her a long farewell, something on which all that was worthy and all that was sweet in his future life depended, and yet he could not formulate the saving word. In his anguish, he walked slower and slower.
"You'll be too late," she said; "it has already struck ten by St Mary's clock."
But he did not quicken his pace for all that. At last he stammered out:
"Elisabeth, you will not see me again for two whole years. Shall I be as dear to you as ever when I come back?"
She nodded, and looked affectionately into his face.
"I stood up for you too," she said, after a pause.
"Me? And against whom had you to stand up for me?"
"Against my mother. We were talking about you a long time yesterday evening after you left. She thought you were not so nice now as you once were."
Reinhard held his peace for a moment: then he took her hand in his, and looking gravely into her childish eyes, he said:
"I am still just as nice as I ever was; I would have you firmly believe that. Do you believe it, Elisabeth?"
"Yes," she said.
He freed her hand and quickly walked with her through the last street. The nearer he felt the time of parting approach, the happier became the look on his face; he went almost too quickly for her.
"What is the matter with you, Reinhard?" she asked.
"I have a secret, a beautiful secret," said Reinhard, looking at her with a light in his eyes. "When I come back again in two years' time, then you shall know it."
Meanwhile they had reached the stage-coach; they were only just in time. Once more Reinhard took her hand. "Farewell!" he said, "farewell, Elisabeth! Do not forget!"
She shook her head. "Farewell," she said. Reinhard climbed up into the coach and the horses started. As the coach rumbled round the corner of the street he saw her dear form once more as she slowly wended her way home.
* * * * *
Nearly two years later Reinhard was sitting by lamplight with his books and papers around him, expecting a friend with whom he used to study in common. Some one came upstairs. "Come in." It was the landlady. "A letter for you, Herr Werner," and she went away.
Reinhard had never written to Elisabeth since his visit home, and he had received no letter from her. Nor was this one from her; it was in his mother's handwriting.
Reinhard broke the seal and read, and ere long he came to this paragraph:
"At your time of life, my dear boy, nearly every year still brings its own peculiar experience; for youth is apt to turn everything to the best account. At home, too, things have changed very much, and all this will, I fear, cause you much pain at first, if my understanding of you is at all correct.
"Yesterday Eric was at last accepted by Elisabeth, after having twice proposed in vain during the last three months. She had never been able to make up her mind to it, but now in the end she has done so. To my mind she is still far too young. The wedding is to take place soon, and her mother means to go away with them."
* * * * *
Again years have passed. One warm afternoon in spring a young man, whose sunburnt face was the picture of health, was walking along a shady road through the wood leading down to the valley below.
His grave dark eyes looked intently into the distance, as though he was expecting to find every moment some change in the monotony of the road, a change however which seemed reluctant to come about. At length he saw a cart slowly coming up from below.
"Hullo! my friend," shouted the traveller to the farmer, who was walking by the side of the cart, "is this the right road to Immensee?"
"Yes, straight on," answered the man touching his slouch hat.
"Is it still far off?"
"You are close to the place, sir. In less time than it takes to smoke half a pipe of tobacco you'll be at the lake side, and the manor is hard by."
The farmer passed on while the other quickened his pace as he went along under the trees. After a quarter of an hour's walk the shade to the left of him suddenly came to an end; the road led along a steep slope from which the ancient oaks growing below hardly reared their topmost branches.
Away over their crests opened out a broad, sunny landscape. Far below lay the peaceful, dark-blue lake, almost entirely surrounded by green sun-lit woods, save where on one spot they divided and afforded an extensive view until it closed in the distant blue mountains.
Straight opposite, in the middle of all this forest verdure, there lay a patch of white, like driven snow. This was an expanse of blossoming fruit-trees, and out of them, up on the high lake shore, rose the manor-house, shining white, with tiles of red. A stork flew up from the chimney, and circled slowly above the waters.
"Immensee!" exclaimed the traveller.
It almost seemed as if he had now reached the end of his journey, for he stood motionless, looking out over the tops of the trees at his feet, and gazing at the farther shore, where the reflection of the manor-house floated, rocking gently, on the bosom of the water. Then he suddenly started on his way again.
His road now led almost steeply down the mountain-side, so that the trees that had once stood below him again gave him their shade, but at the same time cut off from him the view of the lake, which only now and then peeped out between the gaps in the branches.
Soon the way went gently upwards again, and to left and right the woods disappeared, yielding place to vine-clad hills stretching along the pathway; while on either side stood fruit-trees in blossom, filled with the hum of the bees as they busily pried into the blossoms. A tall man wearing a brown overcoat advanced to meet the traveller. When he had almost come up to him, he waved his cap and cried out in a loud voice:
"Welcome, welcome, brother Reinhard! Welcome to my Immensee estate!"
"God's greeting to you, [Footnote: This form of salutation is especially common in the south of Germany.] Eric, and thank you for your welcome," replied the other.
By this time they had come up close to one another, and clasped hands.
"And is it really you?" said Eric, when he at last got a near sight of the grave face of his old school-fellow.
"It is I right enough, Eric, and I recognize you too; only you almost look cheerier than you ever did before."
At these words a glad smile made Eric's plain features all the more cheerful.
"Yes, brother Reinhard," he said, as he once more held out his hand to him, "but since those days, you see, I have won the great prize; but you know that well enough."
Then he rubbed his hands and cried cheerily: "This will be a surprise! You are the last person she expects to see."
"A surprise?" asked Reinhard. "For whom, pray?"
"Why, for Elisabeth."
"Elisabeth! You haven't told her a word about my visit?"
"Not a word, brother Reinhard; she has no thought of you, nor her mother either. I invited you entirely on the quiet, in order that the pleasure might be all the greater. You know I always had little quiet schemes of my own."
Reinhard turned thoughtful; he seemed to breathe more heavily the nearer they approached the house.
On the left side of the road the vineyards came to an end, and gave place to an extensive kitchen-garden, which reached almost as far as the lake-shore. The stork had meanwhile come to earth and was striding solemnly between the vegetable beds.
"Hullo!" cried Eric, clapping his hands together, "if that long-legged Egyptian isn't stealing my short pea-sticks again!"
The bird slowly rose and flew on to the roof of a new building, which ran along the end of the kitchen-garden, and whose walls were covered with the branches of the peach and apricot trees that were trained over them.
"That's the distillery," said Eric. "I built it only two years ago. My late father had the farm buildings rebuilt; the dwelling-house was built as far back as my grandfather's time. So we go ever forward a little bit at a time."
Talking thus they came to a wide, open space, enclosed at the sides by farm-buildings, and in the rear by the manor-house, the two wings of which were connected by a high garden wall. Behind this wall ran dark hedges of yew trees, while here and there syringa trees trailed their blossoming branches over into the courtyard.
Men with faces scorched by the sun and heated with toil were walking over the open space and gave a greeting to the two friends, while Eric called out to one or another of them some order or question about their day's work.
By this time they had reached the house. They entered a high, cool vestibule, at the far end of which they turned to the left into a somewhat darker passage.
Here Eric opened a door and they passed into a spacious room that opened into a garden. The heavy mass of leafage that covered the opposite windows filled this room at either end with a green twilight, while between the windows two lofty wide-open folding-doors let in the full glow of spring sunshine, and afforded a view into a garden, laid out with circular flower-beds and steep hedgerows and divided by a straight, broad path, along which the eye roamed out on to the lake and away over the woods growing on the opposite shore.
As the two friends entered, a breath of wind bore in upon them a perfect stream of fragrance.
On a terrace in front of the door leading to the garden sat a girlish figure dressed in white. She rose and came to meet the two friends as they entered, but half-way she stood stock-still as if rooted to the spot and stared at the stranger. With a smile he held out his hand to her.
"Reinhard!" she cried. "Reinhard! Oh! is it you? It is such a long time since we have seen each other."
"Yes, a long time," he said, and not a word more could he utter; for on hearing her voice he felt a keen, physical pain at his heart, and as he looked up to her, there she stood before him, the same slight, graceful figure to whom he had said farewell years ago in the town where he was born.
Eric had stood back by the door, with joy beaming from his eyes.
"Now, then, Elisabeth," he said, "isn't he really the very last person in the world you would have expected to see?"
Elisabeth looked at him with the eyes of a sister. "You are so kind, Eric," she said.
He took her slender hand caressingly in his. "And now that we have him," he said, "we shall not be in a hurry to let him go. He has been so long away abroad, we will try to make him feel at home again. Just see how foreign-looking he has become, and what a distinguished appearance he has!"
Elisabeth shyly scanned Reinhard's face. "The time that we have been separated is enough to account for that," she said.
At this moment in at the door came her mother, key-basket on arm.
"Herr Werner!" she cried, when she caught sight of Reinhard; "ah! you are as dearly welcome as you are unexpected."
And so the conversation went smoothly on with questions and answers. The ladies sat over their work, and while Reinhard enjoyed the refreshment that had been prepared for him, Eric had lighted his huge meerschaum pipe and sat smoking and conversing by his side.
Next day Reinhard had to go out with him to see the fields, the vineyards, the hop-garden, the distillery. It was all well appointed; the people who were working on the land or at the vats all had a healthy and contented look.
For dinner the family assembled in the room that opened into the garden, and the day was spent more or less in company just according to the leisure of the host and hostess. Only during the hours preceding the evening meal, as also during the early hours of the forenoon, did Reinhard stay working in his own room.
For some years past, whenever he could come across them, he had been collecting the rhymes and songs that form part of the life of the people, and now set about arranging his treasure, and wherever possible increasing it by means of fresh records from the immediate neighbourhood.
Elisabeth was at all times gentle and kind. Eric's constant attentions she received with an almost humble gratitude, and Reinhard thought at whiles that the gay, cheerful child of bygone days had given promise of a somewhat less sedate womanhood.
Ever since the second day of his visit he had been wont of an evening to take a walk along the shore of the lake. The road led along close under the garden. At the end of the latter, on a projecting mound, there was a bench under some tall birch trees. Elisabeth's mother had christened it the Evening Bench, because the spot faced westward, and was mostly used at that time of the day in order to enjoy a view of the sunset.
One evening Reinhard was returning from his walk along this road when he was overtaken by the rain. He sought shelter under one of the linden trees that grew by the water-side, but the heavy drops were soon pelting through the leaves. Wet through as he was he resigned himself to his fate and slowly continued his homeward way.
It was almost dark; the rain fell faster and faster. As he drew near to the Evening Bench he fancied he could make out the figure of a woman dressed in white standing among the gleaming birch tree trunks. She stood motionless, and, as far as he could make out on approaching nearer, with her face turned in his direction, as if she was expecting some one.
He thought it was Elisabeth. But when he quickened his pace in order that he might catch up to her and then return together with her through the garden into the house, she turned slowly away and disappeared among the dark side-paths.
He could not understand it; he was almost angry with Elisabeth, and yet he doubted whether it had really been she. He was, however, shy of questioning her about it—nay, he even avoided going into the garden- room on his return to the house for fear he should happen to see Elisabeth enter through the garden-door.
* * * * *
BY MY MOTHER'S HARD DECREE
Some days later, as evening was already closing in, the family was, as usual at this time of the day, sitting all together in their garden- room. The doors stood wide open, and the sun had already sunk behind the woods on the far side of the lake.
Reinhard was invited to read some folk-songs which had been sent to him that afternoon by a friend who lived away in the country. He went up to his room and soon returned with a roll of papers which seemed to consist of detached neatly written pages.
So they all sat down to the table, Elisabeth beside Reinhard. "We shall read them at random," said the latter, "I have not yet looked through them myself."
Elisabeth unrolled the manuscript. "Here's some music," she said, "you must sing it, Reinhard."
To begin with he read some Tyrolese ditties [Footnote: Dialectal for Schnitterhuepfen, i.e. 'reapers' dances,' sung especially in the Tyrol and in Bavaria.] and as he read on he would now and then hum one or other of the lively melodies. A general feeling of cheeriness pervaded the little party.
"And who, pray, made all these pretty songs?" asked Elisabeth.
"Oh," said Eric, "you can tell that by listening to the rubbishy things—tailors' apprentices and barbers and such-like merry folk."
Reinhard said: "They are not made; they grow, they drop from the clouds, they float over the land like gossamer, [Footnote: These fine cobwebs, produced by field-spiders, have always in the popular mind been connected with the gods. After the advent of Christianity they were connected with the Virgin Mary. The shroud in which she was wrapped after her death was believed to have been woven of the very finest thread, which during her ascent to Heaven frayed away from her body.] hither and thither, and are sung in a thousand places at the same time. We discover in these songs our very inmost activities and sufferings: it is as if we all had helped to write them."
He took up another sheet: "I stood on the mountain height [Footnote: An ancient folk-song which treats of a beautiful but poor maiden, who, being unable to marry 'the young count,' retired to a convent.]..."
"I know that one," cried Elisabeth; "begin it, do, Reinhard, and I will help you out."
So they sang that famous melody, which is so mysterious that one can hardly believe that it was ever conceived by the heart of man, Elisabeth with her slightly clouded contralta taking the second part to the young man's tenor.
The mother meanwhile sat busy with her needlework, while Eric listened attentively, with one hand clasped in the other. The song finished, Reinhard laid the sheet on one side in silence. Up from the lake-shore came through the evening calm the tinkle of the cattle bells; they were all listening without knowing why, and presently they heard a boy's clear voice singing:
I stood on the mountain height And viewed the deep valley beneath....
Reinhard smiled. "Do you hear that now? So it passes from mouth to mouth."
"It is often sung in these parts," said Elisabeth.
"Yes," said Eric, "it is Casper the herdsman; he is driving the heifers [Footnote: Starke is the southern dialect word for Faerse, 'young cow,' 'heifer.'] home."
They listened a while longer until the tinkle of the bells died away behind the farm buildings. "These melodies are as old as the world," said Reinhard; "they slumber in the depths of the forest; God knows who discovered them."
He drew forth a fresh sheet.
It had now grown darker; a crimson evening glow lay like foam over the woods in the farther side of the lake. Reinhard unrolled the sheet, Elisabeth caught one side of it in her hand, and they both examined it together. Then Reinhard read:
By my mother's hard decree Another's wife I needs must be; Him on whom my heart was set, Him, alas! I must forget; My heart protesting, but not free.
Bitterly did I complain That my mother brought me pain. What mine honour might have been, That is turned to deadly sin. Can I ever hope again?
For my pride what can I show, And my joy, save grief and woe? h! could I undo what's done, O'er the moor scorched by the sun Beggarwise I'd gladly go.
During the reading of this Reinhard had felt an imperceptible quivering of the paper; and when he came to an end Elisabeth gently pushed her chair back and passed silently out into the garden. Her mother followed her with a look. Eric made as if to go after, but the mother said:
"Elisabeth has one or two little things to do outside," so he remained where he was.
But out of doors the evening brooded darker and darker over garden and lake. Moths whirred past the open doors through which the fragrance of flower and bush floated in increasingly; up from the water came the croak of the frogs, under the windows a nightingale commenced his song answered by another from within the depths of the garden; the moon appeared over the tree-tops.
Reinhard looked for a little while longer at the spot where Elisabeth's sweet form had been lost to sight in the thick-foliaged garden paths, and then he rolled up his manuscript, bade his friends good-night and passed through the house down to the water.
The woods stood silent and cast their dark shadow far out over the lake, while the centre was bathed in the haze of a pale moonlight. Now and then a gentle rustle trembled through the trees, though wind there was none; it was but the breath of summer night.
Reinhard continued along the shore. A stone's throw from the land he perceived a white water-lily. All at once he was seized with the desire to see it quite close, so he threw off his clothes and entered the water. It was quite shallow; sharp stones and water plants cut his feet, and yet he could not reach water deep enough for him to swim in.
Then suddenly he stepped out of his depth: the waters swirled above him; and it was some time before he rose to the surface again. He struck out with hands and feet and swam about in a circle until he had made quite sure from what point he had entered the water. And soon too he saw the lily again floating lonely among the large, gleaming leaves.
He swam slowly out, lifting every now and then his arms out of the water so that the drops trickled down and sparkled in the moonlight. Yet the distance between him and the flower showed no signs of diminishing, while the shore, as he glanced back at it, showed behind him in a hazy mist that ever deepened. But he refused to give up the venture and vigorously continued swimming in the same direction.
At length he had come so near the flower that he was able clearly to distinguish the silvery leaves in the moonlight; but at the same time he felt himself entangled in a net formed by the smooth stems of the water plants which swayed up from the bottom and wound themselves round his naked limbs.
The unfamiliar water was black all round about him, and behind him he heard the sound of a fish leaping. Suddenly such an uncanny feeling overpowered him in the midst of this strange element that with might and main he tore asunder the network of plants and swam back to land in breathless haste. And when from the shore he looked back upon the lake, there floated the lily on the bosom of the darkling water as far away and as lonely as before.
He dressed and slowly wended his way home. As he passed out of the garden into the room he discovered Eric and the mother busied with preparations for a short journey which had to be undertaken for business purposes on the morrow.
"Where ever have you been so late in the dark?" the mother called out to him.
"I?" he answered, "oh, I wanted to pay a call on the water-lily, but I failed."
"That's beyond the comprehension of any man," said Eric. "What on earth had you to do with the water-lily?"
"Oh, I used to be friends with the lily once," said Reinhard; "but that was long ago."
* * * * *
The following afternoon Reinhard and Elisabeth went for a walk on the farther side of the lake, strolling at times through the woodland, at other times along the shore where it jutted out into the water. Elisabeth had received injunctions from Eric, during the absence of himself and her mother to show Reinhard the prettiest views in the immediate neighbourhood, particularly the view toward the farm itself from the other side of the lake. So now they proceeded from one point to another.
At last Elisabeth got tired and sat down in the shade of some overhanging branches. Reinhard stood opposite to her, leaning against a tree trunk; and as he heard the cuckoo calling farther back in the woods, it suddenly struck him that all this had happened once before. He looked at her and with an odd smile asked:
"Shall we look for strawberries?"
"It isn't strawberry time," she said.
"No, but it will soon be here."
Elisabeth shook her head in silence; then she rose and the two strolled on together. And as they wandered side by side, his eyes ever and again were bent toward her; for she walked gracefully and her step was light. He often unconsciously fell back a pace in order that he might feast his eyes on a full view of her.
So they came to an open space overgrown with heather where the view extended far over the country-side. Reinhard bent down and plucked a bloom from one of the little plants that grew at his feet. When he looked up again there was an expression of deep pain on his face.
"Do you know this flower?" he asked.
She gave him a questioning look. "It is an erica. I have often gathered them in the woods."
"I have an old book at home," he said; "I once used to write in it all sorts of songs and rhymes, but that is all over and done with long since. Between its leaves also there is an erica, but it is only a faded one. Do you know who gave it me?"
She nodded without saying a word; but she cast down her eyes and fixed them on the bloom which he held in his hand. For a long time they stood thus. When she raised her eyes on him again he saw that they were brimming over with tears.
"Elisabeth," he said, "behind yonder blue hills lies our youth. What has become of it?"
Nothing more was spoken. They walked dumbly by each other's side down to the lake. The air was sultry; to westward dark clouds were rising. "There's going to be a storm," said Elisabeth, hastening her steps. Reinhard nodded in silence, and together they rapidly sped along the shore till they reached their boat.
On the way across Elisabeth rested her hand on the gunwale of the boat. As he rowed Reinhard glanced along at her, but she gazed past him into the distance. And so his glance fell downward and rested on her hand, and the white hand betrayed to him what her lips had failed to reveal.
It revealed those fine traces of secret pain that so readily mark a woman's fair hands, when they lie at nights folded across an aching heart. And as Elisabeth felt his glance resting on her hand she let it slip gently over the gunwale into the water.
On arriving at the farm they fell in with a scissors grinder's cart standing in front of the manor-house. A man with black, loosely- flowing hair was busily plying his wheel and humming a gipsy melody between his teeth, while a dog that was harnessed to the cart lay panting hard by. On the threshold stood a girl dressed in rags, with features of faded beauty, and with outstretched hand she asked alms of Elisabeth.
Reinhard thrust his hand into his pocket, but Elisabeth was before him, and hastily emptied the entire contents of her purse into the beggar's open palm. Then she turned quickly away, and Reinhard heard her go sobbing up the stairs.
He would fain have detained her, but he changed his mind and remained at the foot of the stairs. The beggar girl was still standing at the doorway, motionless, and holding in her hand the money she had received.
"What more do you want?" asked Reinhard.
She gave a sudden start: "I want nothing more," she said; then, turning her head toward him and staring at him with wild eyes, she passed slowly out of the door. He uttered a name, but she heard him not; with drooping head, with arms folded over her breast, she walked down across the farmyard:
Then when death shall claim me, I must die alone.
An old song surged in Reinhard's ears, he gasped for breath; a little while only, and then he turned away and went up to his chamber.
He sat down to work, but his thoughts were far afield. After an hour's vain attempt he descended to the parlour. Nobody was in it, only cool, green twilight; on Elisabeth's work-table lay a red ribbon which she had worn round her neck during the afternoon. He took it up in his hand, but it hurt him, and he laid it down again.
He could find no rest. He walked down to the lake and untied the boat. He rowed over the water and trod once again all the paths which he and Elisabeth had paced together but a short hour ago. When he got back home it was dark. At the farm he met the coachman, who was about to turn the carriage horses out into the pasture; the travellers had just returned.
As he came into the entrance hall he heard Eric pacing up and down the garden-room. He did not go in to him; he stood still for a moment, and then softly climbed the stairs and so to his own room. Here he sat in the arm-chair by the window. He made himself believe that he was listening to the nightingale's throbbing music in the garden hedges below, but what he heard was the throbbing of his own heart. Downstairs in the house every one went to bed, the night-hours passed, but he paid no heed.
For hours he sat thus, till at last he rose and leaned out of the open window. The dew was dripping among the leaves, the nightingale had ceased to trill. By degrees the deep blue of the darksome sky was chased away by a faint yellow gleam that came from the east; a fresh wind rose and brushed Reinhard's heated brow; the early lark soared triumphant up into the sky.
Reinhard suddenly turned and stepped up to the table. He groped about for a pencil and when he had found one he sat down and wrote a few lines on a sheet of white paper. Having finished his writing he took up hat and stick, and leaving the paper behind him, carefully opened the door and descended to the vestibule.
The morning twilight yet brooded in every corner; the big house-cat stretched its limbs on the straw mat and arched its back against Reinhard's hand, which he unthinkingly held out to it. Outside in the garden the sparrows were already chirping their patter [Footnote: Literally, "sang out pompously, like priests." The word seems to have been coined by the author. The English 'patter' is derived from Pater noster, and seems an appropriate translation.] from among the branches, and giving notice to all that the night was now past.
Then within the house he heard a door open on the upper floor; some one came downstairs, and on looking up he saw Elisabeth standing before him. She laid her hand upon his arm, her lips moved, but not a word did he hear.
Presently she said: "You will never come back. I know it; do not deny it; you will never come back."
"No, never," he said.
She let her hand fall from his arm and said no more. He crossed the hall to the door, then turned once more. She was standing motionless on the same spot and looking at him with lifeless eyes. He advanced one step and opened his arms toward her; then, with a violent effort, he turned away and so passed out of the door.
Outside the world lay bathed in morning light, the drops of pearly dew caught on the spiders' webs glistened in the first rays of the rising sun. He never looked back; he walked rapidly onward; behind him the peaceful farmstead gradually disappeared from view as out in front of him rose the great wide world.
* * * * *
THE OLD MAN
The moon had ceased to shine in through the window-panes, and it had grown quite dark; but the old man still sat in his arm-chair with folded hands and gazed before him into the emptiness of the room.
Gradually. the murky darkness around him dissolved away before his eyes and changed into a broad dark lake; one black wave after another went rolling on farther and farther, and on the last one, so far away as to be almost beyond the reach of the old man's vision, floated lonely among its broad leaves a white water-lily.
The door opened, and a bright glare of light filled the room.
"I am glad that you have come, Bridget," said the old man. "Set the lamp upon the table."
Then he drew his chair up to the table, took one of the open books and buried himself in studies to which he had once applied all the strength of his youth.