THE SON OF CLEMENCEAU
A Novel of Modern Love and Life
A Sequel to The Clemenceau Case
ALEXANDER DUMAS (FILS)
STUDENT AND SOLDIER.
The sunset-gun had been fired from the ramparts of the fortifications of Munich and the shadows were thickly descending on the famous old city of Southern Germany. The evening breeze in this truly March weather came chill over the plain of stones where Isar flowed darkly, and at the first puff of it, forcing him to wind his cloak round him, a lonely wanderer in the low quarter recognized why "the City of Monks" was also called "the Realm of Rheumatism."
The new town, which he had not yet seen, might justify yet another of its nicknames, "the German Athens," but here were, in this southern and unfashionable suburb, only a few modern structures, and most of the quaint and rather picturesque dwellings, overhanging the stores, dated anterior to the filling up of the town moat in 1791.
The stranger was clearly fond of antiquarian spectacles, for his eye, though too youthful to belong to a Dryasdust professor, and unshaded by the almost universal colored spectacles of the learned classes, gloated on the mansions, once inhabited by the wealthy burghers. They were irregular in plan and period of erection; the windows had ornamental frames of great depth, but some were blocked up, which gave the facades a sinister aspect; the walls had not only ornamental tablets in stucco, but, in a better light, would have shown rude fresco paintings not unworthy mediaeval Italian dwellings. Many of the fronts resembled the high poops of the castellated ships of three hundred years ago, and they cast a shadow on the muddy pavement. As they resembled ships, the slimy footway seemed the strand where they had been beached by the running out of the tide.
As the darkness increased, the amateur of architecture became more solitary in the streets where the peasants in long black coats, their holiday wear, were hurrying to leave by the gates, and the storekeepers had renounced any hope of taking more money, in this ward, gloomy, neglected and remote from the mode, no display of goods was made after dark. But the man, finding novel effects in the obscurity, continued to gaze on the rickety houses and bestowed only a transient portion of his curiosity on the few wayfarers who stolidly trudged past him to cross a bridge of no importance a little beyond his post.
One or two of the passengers, rather those of the gentler sex than the rude one, had, however, given attention to the figure which the flowing cloak did not wholly muffle. With his dark complexion and slender form, not much in keeping with the thickset and heavy-footed natives, and his glistening black eyes, he made the corner where he ensconced himself appear the nook where an Italian or Spanish gallant was waylaying a rival in love.
Presently there was a change in the lighting of the scene, the gloom had become trying to his sight. Not only were two lamps lit on the small bridge, one at each end in the ornate iron scroll work, which Quintin Matsys would not have disavowed, but, overhead, the sky was reddened by the reflection of the thousands of gas jets in the north and west; the gay and spendthrift city was awakening to life and mirth while the working town was going to bed. This glimmer gave a fresh attraction to the architectural features, and still longer detained the spectator.
"Superb!" he muttered, in excellent German, without local peculiarity, as if he had learned it from professors, but there was a slight trace of an accent not native. "It has even now the effect which Gustavus Adolphus termed: 'a gilded saddle on a lean jade!'" Then, shivering again, he added, struck as well by the now completely deserted state of the ways as by the cold wind: "How bleak and desolate! One could implore these carved wooden statues to come down and people the odd, interesting streets!"
He was about to leave the spot, when, as though his wish was gratified, a strange sound was audible in the narrow and devious passages, between tottering houses, and those even more squalid in the rear, a commingling of shuffling and stamping feet, the smiting of heavy sticks on uneven stones and the dragging of wet rags.
Struck with surprise, if not with apprehension, he shrank back into the over-jutting porch of an old residence, with sculptured armorial bearings of some family long ago abased in its pride. Here he peered, not without anxiety.
By the exact programme carried out in cities by the divisions of its population, a new contingent were coming from their resting-places to substitute themselves for the honest toilers on the thoroughfares; each cellar and attic in the rookeries were exuding the horrible vermin which shun the wholesome light of day.
The spruce trees, stuck in tubs of sand at a beer-house beyond the bridge, shuddered as though in disgust at this horde of Hans hastening to invade the district of hotels, supper-houses and gaming clubs, to beg or steal the means to survive yet another day.
For ten or fifteen minutes the stranger watched the beggars stream individually out of the mazes and, to his horror, form like soldiers for a review, along the street before him, up to the end of the bridge at one extremity and far along at the other end of the line. Some certainly spied him, for these wretches could see as lucidly as the felines in the night—their day from society having reversed their conditions. But, though these whispered the warning to one another, and he was the object of scrutiny, no one left his place, and soon as their backs were turned to him, he had no immediate uneasiness as regarded an attack, or even a challenge upon his business there.
Probably the good citizens were not ignorant that this meeting of the vagrants took place each evening, for not only were all store-doors closed hermetically, but the upper windows no longer emitted a scintillation of lamplight. The spy by accident concluded that he would raise his voice for help all in vain as far as the tradesmen were concerned. But he was brave, and he let increasing curiosity enchain him continuously.
From time out of mind the sage in velvet has serenely contemplated Diogenes in his tub; not that our philosopher seemed the treasurer of an Alexander!
Ranged at length in a long row, cripples, the blind, the young, the aged, it was a company of mendicants which eccentric painters would have given five years of life to have seen. Except for consumptive coughs, the misstep of a wooden leg of which the clumsy ferule slipped on a cobblestone, and the querulous whimper of a child, half-starved and imperfectly swaddled in a tattered shawl, on a flaccid bosom, the mob were silent in an expectation as intense as the lookers-on. The wind brought the whistle of the railway locomotives and the clanking of a steam-dredger in the river, like a giant toiling in massive chains.
For this platoon of vice and misery, crime and disorder, laziness and rapine, the stranger confidently expected to see a commander appear whose flashing, fearless eye, and upright, powerful frame, would account for the awe in which all were held.
What was his amazement, therefore, to perceive—while a tremor of emotion thrilled the line and announced the commander whom all awaited—a bent-up, scarcely human-shaped form, hardly to be acknowledged a woman's. It was enveloped in a heavily furred pelisse fitted for a man.
This singular object appeared up the trap of a cellarway, much like the opening of a sewer, on the opposite side of the street. She proceeded to review the vagabonds and put questions and issue orders to each, which were received like mandates from Caesar by his legions. The voice was fine and shrill, the movements betokened vigor, but the whole impression was that the female captain-general of the beggars of Munich was far from young.
In the obscurity, and keeping in the background as he did, it was not possible for the stranger to scan her features; besides, they were veiled by the long hair of a Polish hunter's cap, with earflaps and a drooping foxtail, worn as the pompon but half-loosened in time. The eyes that inspected the file of vagrants, shone with undiminished force, and when they fell on the burliest and most impudent, these became quiet and submissive. In a word, the cohort of beggary yielded utter subserviency to this remarkable leader.
Questions and answers were uttered in a thieve's jargon which were sealed letters to the eavesdropper, but it seemed to him that they all addressed her as Baboushka! This struck him as more odd from its being a Slavonic title, meaning "grandmother." Was it possible that he had before him one of those prolific centenarians, truly a mother of the tribe, a gypsy queen to whom allegiance went undisputed and who rules the subterranean strata of society with fewer revolts against them than their sister rulers know, who sit on thrones in the fierce white light?
In any case, he was given no leisure for deciding the question, for an active urchin had whispered a word of caution which led the feminine general to direct a piercing glance toward him, and hasten to conclude her arrangements. The line broke up into little groups, though most of the men went singly, and all tramped over the little foot-bridge, which swung under the unusual mass.
Left alone, the vagrants' queen, placing her yellow and skinny hand on a weapon, perhaps, among her rags, resolutely moved toward the spy. He expected to be interrogated, for an attack was unlikely from a lone old woman; but he grasped his cane firmly.
Luckily, a noise of steps at the other end of the street checked the hag; she thrust back out of sight what had momentarily gleamed like the steel of a knife or brass of a pistol-barrel; listened again and stared; then, muttering what was probably no prayer for the stranger's welfare, she crossed the street with amazing rapidity. The student, hearing a heavy military tread at the mouth of the street, expected to see her vanish down her burrow, but, to his astonishment, she proceeded toward the new-comer.
"The Schutzmaun," muttered he, as there loomed into sight a decidedly soldier-like man in a long cloak, thrown back to show the scarlet lining, and dragging a clanking sabre.
Relying on her good angel, apparently, the witch boldly passed him, and it seemed to the watcher that a sign of understanding was rapidly exchanged between them. Baboushka seemed to enjoin caution for the stranger hooked up his trailing sabre, wrapped his cloak around him and came on less noisily. Certainly the old hag did not beg of him, but hastened to leave the street.
If the new-comer had been the night guardian coming on duty, the student might have lost any misgiving about the vagrants or their ruler; but he was not sure that in him was a friend.
This was an officer, not a gendarme or military policeman. Cloak and uniform were dark blue and fine. He bore himself with the swagger of a personage of no inconsiderable rank, and also of some degree in the nobility. Tall, burly, overbearing, the stranger took a dislike to him from this one glance, and would have hesitated to appeal to him for assistance had he felt in danger.
But the beggars had flocked into the rich quarter, and their chieftainess vanished. He allowed the military gentleman to pass, and was not sorry to see him cross the bridge with a steady, haughty step, which made his heel ring on each plank. But, on reaching the farther end, to the surprise of the watcher, his carriage immediately altered; his step became cautious and, like the other whom he had not noticed, he skulked in a doorway. He might have been thought a visitor there, but, at the next moment, his red whiskers reappeared between the turned-up collar of his mantle as he showed his head under the cornice of oak.
For what motive had the officer and nobleman stooped to skulking and prying. One alone would amply exonerate the son of Mars—devotion to Venus. And the architectural student, not fearing to pass the soldier in his excusable ambush for a sweetheart, since his route over the bridge into the new city, and not wishful to spoil the lover's sport, since he was of the age to sympathize, prepared to leave his nook.
But it was fated that continual impediments were to be thrown in his path on this eventful night. He had hardly taken two steps out of his covert, which kept him hidden from the officer but revealed him to any one approaching in the street, before a third individual of singular mien caught his view and transfixed him with a thrill so sharp, poignant and profound that a stroke of lightning would not have more dreadfully affected him.
And yet, it was a woman—young by her step, light and quick as the antelope's, graceful by her movements, charming by her outlines which a poor, thin woolen wrapper imperfectly shrouded. She enchanted by the mere contour; it was her weird burden which appalled the watcher. In one hand, suspended horizontally, lengthwise parallel to her course, she held what seemed by shape and somber hue to be an infant's coffin.
Her dark and brilliant eyes had descried him from the distance, but, in an instant recognizing that he was neither one of the usual nocturnal denizens nor another sort of whom she need entertain dread, she came on apace.
Indeed, he was far from resembling the vagrants. He was clad without any attention to the toilette, after the manner of the German student, who likes to affront the Pharisee but without overmuch eccentricity. Under the voluminous cloak, warranted by the chilly wind, a tight-fitting tunic of dark green cloth, caught in by a broad buff leather belt with the clasp of a University, admirably defined the shapeliness of a slight but manly form. His hair, black as the raven's wing, was worn long and came curling down on his shoulders; his complexion was dark but clear. But the whole appearance was of a marvel in physical excellencies; a physiologist would have pointed to him as a model and result of the combination of all desirable traits in both his progenitors. His attitude, checked in the advance, denoted this perfection. The young woman, set at ease by her glances and that peace which true symmetry inspires, continued her way, averting her head with calculation, but he felt sure that she was not offended.
He could laugh at the mistake he had made for, at this close encounter, he perceived that what in the tragic mood originated by the review of beggars in the shades of night, he had taken to be a child's casket, was a violin-case. The girl—she was perhaps but sixteen—had the artist's eye, black, fiery, deep and winning, while haughty for the vulgar worshiper; her hair was treated in a fantastic fashion as unlike that of the staid German maiden as its hue of black was the opposite of the traditional flaxen. Even in the feeble street-lamplight, she appeared, with her finely chiseled features of an Oriental type, handsome enough to melt an anchorite, and in the beholder a flood of passion gushed up and expanded his heart—devoid of such a mastering emotion before. He believed this was love! Perhaps it was love—real, true, indubitable love—but there is a mock-love with so much to advance in its favor that it has won many a battle where the genuine feeling has fought long in vain.
Sharing some shock not unlike his own in extent and sharpness, the girl with the violin-case had paused just perceptibly in an unconscious attitude which kept in the lamplight her bust, tightly encased in a faded but elegant Genoa brocade jacket, with copper lace ornamentation, coming down upon a promising curve, clothed in a similarly theatrical skirt of flowered satin and China silk braid. On her wrists were bracelets and on her ungloved hands many rings, with stones rather too large to be taken for genuine on a woman promenading alone at such an hour. Conjoined with the musical instrument, the attire confirmed the student in his first impression after the tragic one, that this was a performer in one of the numerous dance-houses of the popular region, bordering the fashionable one.
He almost regretted this conclusion, for the girl's forehead was so high, her eyes so lofty and her delicate mouth so impressed with a proud and energetical curl that no ambition would seem beyond the flight of one thus beautiful and high-spirited.
Whatever the revolution she had exercised over him, he dared not avow it, such respect did she inspire, and on her recovering from her fleeting emotion, he let her resume her way without a word to detain her.
She had not reached the first plank of the bridge before he suddenly remembered the officer, like himself, in ambush; and in the same manner as love—if that were love—had clutched his heart with the swiftness of an eagle seizing its quarry, another sentiment, as fierce and overpowering, jealousy, stung him to the quick.
As he glanced—but he had not taken his eyes off her, not even to look if the military officer were still at his post—she had swept her worsted wrapper round to set her foot on the first board of the bridge; and he caught a glimpse, delightful and bewildering, of a foot, long but slim and delicately modeled, and of a faultless ankle, in a vermilion silk stocking and low-cut cordovan leather slipper—as theatrical as the rest of her attire. Something innately aesthetical in the student, which made him adore the exquisitely wrought, impelled him now to be the slave—the devotee—the worshiper of this masterpiece of Nature.
Perhaps she stood in need of a defender?
SOLDIER'S SWORD AND WANDER-STAFF.
The place was historically favored for adventures. In 1543, the riot of Knights and Knaves had begun here. On the bridge which preceded this structure, a band of young noblemen had taken possession of the passage more important then, as this now foul and noisome channel, into which the effluvia of the breweries and tanneries was discharged, was a strong and pellucid tributary of the Isar. They levied tribute on the burghers, kissing the comely women and not scrupling to cut the purses of the master-tradesmen; in this, imitating the mode of operation of their country cousins, the robber barons in the mountains to the south, or over the river in the opposite direction.
But, as for the third or fourth time, the student was on the verge of quitting his haven, another interrupter arose. Pausing at the head of the bridge, prompted by natural caution or instinct, for the officer remained prudently invisible to her, the girl, with the violin-case, looked over her shoulder and beckoned to some one on the further side of the astonished student.
The desert was becoming animated, indeed, as he had wished, for, in the hazy opening, a man appeared, carrying under one arm what seemed a musket or blunderbuss, while leaning the other hand on a staff which might be the one to rest the firearm on. He had a flat felt hat on, with wide shaggy margins, ornamented with a yellow cord in contrast with its inky dye, and a dingy, often mended old cavalry-soldier's russet cloak, covering him from a long, full grey beard to the feet, encased in patched shoes. The aspect of a Jew peddler in the pictures of the Dutch school, who had armed himself to defend his pack of thread and needles on the highway.
But, as before, nearness dispelled the romantic conceit: the supposed gun resolved itself into a Turko-phone, or Oriental flute, while, on the other hand, the bright eye and well-shaped features, with the venerable impression suggested by the beard, lifted the wearer into a high place for reverence. Just as the girl was unrivaled for beauty, this man, a near relative, perhaps her father, would have few equals in the councils of his tribe.
While not old, spite of the grey in his beard, illness had enfeebled him, for he needed the walking-staff. The brisk pace of his daughter had left him far behind and it cost him an effort to make up for the delay. But in parental love he found the force, and quite nimbly he passed the student without observing him in his haste to join his daughter.
At the sight of him coming, she had not waited for his arm, but retaken her course. She was half way over the bridge when he began to ascend the gentle slope, and when he was arduously following with the summit well before him, the officer emerged abruptly from his covert. He must have been calculating on this moment and this separation to which Baboushka had no doubt contributed. She now loomed into view. Repulsed by the Jew in his detestation of beggars—for while the Christian accepts poverty as a misfortune to which resignation is one remedy, he regards it as an affliction to be violently removed—she hesitated to continue her annoyance. The bridge was so narrow that he had no difficulty, thanks to the length of his arms, in placing a hand on each rail, so that, as he bent his broad, smiling face forward between them, he effectively barred the way. With a tone which he intended to be winning and tender, but which nature had not allowed him to modulate very sweetly, he said:
"Divine songstress of Freyer Brothers' Brewery Harmonista Cellars!" She stopped quickly and faced half round, so as to be in a better position for retreat if he made an advance toward her. "In the hall on Thursday—when you made the circuit with the cup for the collection after your delightful ballad—you refused me even a reply to my request for an interview. That was for the favor of a salute from those somewhat thin but honeyed lips! Now, there is nobody by and I mean to be rewarded for the bouquets I have nightly sent you!"
"Father!" cried the Jewess, too frightened by the position of her assailant to flee.
"Your father? Bah!" with a contemptuous glance at the old man approaching only too slowly. "I repeat, there is no one by! That I arranged for."
The speaker had red curly hair like his whiskers; his brow was not narrow but his eyebrows overhung; his face was flushed with animation and carnal desire—perhaps by potations, though his large lower jaw denoted ample animal courage. He was powerful enough in the long arms and strong hands to have mastered the girl and her father, but it was not the dread of his prowess physically which awed the daughter of the race still proscribed in this part of Germany.
Frederick von Sendlingen, Baron of ancient creation, enjoyed a wide fame among the knot of noble carousers who strove to make one corner of Munich a pale reflection of the "fast" end of Paris and Vienna. A major in a crack heavy cavalry regiment, allowed for family reasons to remain in the garrison after it had been removed elsewhere, he enjoyed enviable esteem from his superiors and the hatred and dislike of all others. Though inclined to court after the manner of the pillager who has captured a city, his boisterous addresses pleased the wanton matrons and, more naturally, the facile Cythereans of the music halls and dance-houses.
At an early hour, he had cast his handkerchief, like an irresistible sultan, at the chief attraction of the beer cellar, which he named—the so-called "La Belle Stamboulane," and baffled in all his less brutal modes of attack, he had recourse to one which better suited his custom.
It looked as though he had lost time in not putting it into operation before, since the girl, around whom, taking one stride, he threw his arms, could not, by her feeble resistance, prevent him snatching a kiss. As for her father, casting down his turkophone, and raising his staff in both hands, his valorous approach went for little, as his blow would have been as likely to fall upon his daughter as the ruffian.
While he was bewildered and his stick was raised in air, the latter, perceiving his danger, did not scruple to show his contempt for one of the despised race whom he likewise scorned for his weakness, by dealing him a kick in the leg with his heavy boot which, fairly delivered, would have broken an oaken post. Though avoiding its full force, the unhappy father was so painfully struck that he staggered back to the opposite rail of the bridge and, clapping both hands to the bruise on the shin, groaned while he strove in vain to overcome the paralyzing agony. From that moment he was compelled to remain as a stranger in action to the outrage.
Still struggling, though with little hope, the girl saw the defeat of her natural champion with sympathetic anguish. Though he had not spied the student, she had regarded him with no faint opinion of his manliness for—repelling the kind of proud self-reliance of her race to have no recourse to strangers during persecution—she lifted her voice with a confidence which startled her rude adorer.
"Help! help from this ruffian-gentleman!"
"Silence, you fool," rejoined Sendlingen. "I tell you, the coast is clear—for I have arranged all that. It is simple strategy to secure one's flanks—"
"Help!" repeated the songstress, redoubling her efforts—not to escape, which was out of the question, but to shield her mouth from contact with the red moustaches, hovering over it like the wings of a bloodstained bird of rapine.
As this repetition of the appeal, steps clattered on the bridge, and the officer lifted his head. He may have expected Baboushka or one of her fraternity, and the tall, slender student, who had flung off his cloak to run more swiftly, gave him a surprise. The agile and intelligent girl took the opportunity with commendable speed, and glided out of the major's relaxing grasp like a wasp from under the spider's claws. She retreated as far as where her father tried to stand erect, and helping him up, led him prudently down the bridge slope so that they might continue their flight. It would have been the basest ingratitude to depart without seeing the result of the interference, and the two lingered, though it would have been wiser to let the two Christians bite and tear each other without witnesses of another creed, and with the witness of none.
It was a free spectacle, but, if it had cost their week's salary at the casino, it would have been worth the money.
As the major had empty hands after the loss of his prize, the student had the quixotic delicacy to make the offer in dumbshow to lay aside his cane and undertake to chastise the insulter of womanhood with the naked fist. But this is a weapon almost unknown in the sword-bearing class which Von Sendlingen adorned, and, infuriated by the civilian intervening at the culmination of his daring plan, to say nothing of the annoying thought that his failure would be no secret from the old hag, his accomplice, looking on at the extremity of the bridge, he yielded to the worst devil in his heart. He inclined to the most high-handed and hectoring measure. Whipping out his sabre with a rapid gesture, and merely muttering a discourteous and grudging: "Be on your guard!" he dealt a cut at the student which threatened to cleave him in two.
The other was on the alert; he had suspected one capable of such an outrage, likewise capable of worse, and he parried the coward's blow so dexterously with his cane that it was the soldier who was thrown off his balance. A second blow, with the tremendous sweep of the stick held at arm's length, tested the metal of the blade to its utmost, and, as the wielder's hand was thoroughly palsied, drove it out of the opening fingers, and all heard it splash in the black and pestiferous waters under the bridge.
Von Sendlingen would almost have preferred the blow falling on his head. An officer, whose reputation in fencing was no mean one, to be disarmed by a student who swung but his road-cane! This was not all: he had lost his sabre, and, noble though he was, he had to pass the vigorous inspection of his weapons like the humblest private soldier! The absence of the regimental sword might cause degradation, ruin militarily and socially! And all for a "music-hall squaller"—and a Jewess at that!
He ground his teeth, and his eyes were filled with angry fire. His face bore a greater resemblance to a tiger's than a man's, and had not the victor in this first bout possessed a stout heart, he might have regretted that he had commenced so well, so terrible would be the retaliation.
All the animal in the man being roused, he longed to throw himself on his antagonist to grasp his throat, but the successful use of the cudgel against the sword indicated that this was an adept at quarter-staff and a man with naked hands would have easily been beaten if pitted with him. Sendlingen, warily and rapidly surveying the limited field of combat, caught sight of the Jew's walking-staff and sprang for it with an outcry of savage glee and hope.
On perceiving this move, in spite of the pain still crippling him, the old man started to retrace his steps to regain possession of his weapon, but he was soon distanced by the younger one.
Armed with this staff, the officer, remembering his student days, when he, too, was an expert swinger of the cane, a Bavarian mountaineer's weapon with which duels to the death are not unseldom fought, he stood before the student.
"Had you been a gentleman," began the major, with a sullen courtesy, extorted from him by the gallantry of his antagonist.
"A stick to a dog!" retorted the latter, falling into the position of guard with an ease and accuracy which caused the other to begin his work by feints and attacks not followed up too rashly, in order to test him.
This time, it was the stouter and more brutal man who played cautiously and the younger and more refined who was spurred into recklessness by the contiguity of the fair Helen—or, rather, Esther—who had caused the fray.
The girl stood at the end of the bridge, opposite to Baboushka at hers, there making them simple lookers-on. The old Jew seemed eager to join in the struggle, but the staves were in continual swing, and he could not draw near without the risk of having a shoulder dislocated, or, at least, his knuckles severely rapped. In the gloom, his hovering about the involved pair would have led an opera-goer to have seen in him the demon who thus actively presides at the fatal duel of Faust and Valentine.
But the conflict, whatever the major's wariness, could not be long protracted, for canes of this sort are tiring to the arm, unlike smallswords; he was still on the defensive when the student assailed him with a shower of blows which taxed all his skill and nerve, and the strength of the staff which he had borrowed from his foe. Well may one suspect "the gifts of an enemy!" as the student might have cited: "Timeo danaos," etc. At the very moment when the officer's head was most in peril, while he guarded it with the staff held horizontally in both hands separated widely for the critical juncture, it ominously cracked at the reception of a vigorous blow—it parted as though a steel blade had severed it, and the unresisted cane came down on his skull with crushing force.
Out of the two cavities which the broken staff now presented, rattled several gold coins. At the sight, the old hag scrambled toward where the major had fallen senseless. The Jew, after picking up the broken pieces of wood, would have lingered to recover those of the precious metal though at cost of a scuffle with Baboushka. But his daughter rebuked him in their language with an indignant tone, which brought him to his senses in an instant. She seized him by the arm, and hurried him away at last.
After a brief survey of the defeated man, wavering between the fear that he had killed him and the prompting to see to his hurts, if the case were not fatal, the student took to flight in the direction the beautiful girl had chosen. He well knew that this was a grave matter, and that he trod on burning ground. At twenty paces farther, he remembered his cloak, but on the bridge were now clustered several shadows vying with Baboushka in picking up the coin before raising the unfortunate Von Sendlingen.
Not a light had appeared at the windows of the houses, not a window had opened for a night-capped head to be thurst forth, not a voice had echoed the Jewess's call for the watch. It was not to be doubted that Footbridge street had allowed more murderous outrages to occur without anyone running the risk of catching a cold or a slash of a sabre.
"A cut-throat quarter, that is it," remarked the student, still too excited to feel the cold and want of his outer garment. "After all, one cannot travel from Berlin to Paris without getting some soot on the cheek and a cinder or two in the eye. In the same way it is not possible to see life and go through this world without being smeared with a little blood or smut."
While talking to himself, he smoothed his dress and curled his dark and fine moustache, projecting horizontally and not drooping. He had walked so fast that he had overtaken the Jews, delayed as the girl was by her father's lameness, and having to carry the violin in its case which she had recovered and preciously guarded.
"What an audacious bully that was," the student continued; "but even a good cat loses a mouse now and then."
The pair seemed to expect him to join them, but as he was about to do so, at the mouth of a narrow and unlighted alley, he heard the measured tramp of feet indicating the patrol.
Already the character of the streets and houses changed: there were vistas of those large buildings which give one the impression that Munich is planned on too generous a scale for its population. Only here and there was a roof or front suggestive of the Middle Ages, and they may have been in imitation; the others were stately and were classical, and the avenues became spacious.
All at once, while the student was watching the semi-military constables approach, he heard an uproar toward the bridge. The major had been discovered by quite another sort of folk than the allies of Baboushka, and the alarm was given.
To advance was to invite an arrest which would result in no pleasant investigation.
He had tarried too long as it was. The watchman's horn—tute-horn—sounded at the bridge and the squad responded through their commander; whistles also shrilled, being police signals. The student was perceived. It was a critical moment. The next moment he would be challenged, and at the next, have a carbine or sabre levelled at his breast. He retired up the alley, precipitately, wondering where the persons whom he befriended had disappeared so quickly.
A very faint light gleamed from deeply within, at the end of a crooked passage through a lantern-like projection at a corner. A number of iron hooks bristled over his head as if for carcasses at a butchers, although their innocent use was to hang beds on them to air. On a tarnished plate he deciphered "ARTISTES' ENTRANCE," and while perplexed, even as the gendarmes appeared at the mouth of this blind-alley, a long and taper hand was laid on his arm and a voice, very, very sweet, though in a mere murmur, said irresistibly:
"Come! come in, or you will be lost!" He yielded, and was drawn into a corridor under the oriel window, where the air was pungent with the reek of beer, tobacco-smoke, orange-peel, cheese and caraway seeds.
The person to whom the shapely hand and musical voice belonged, conducted the student along the narrow passage to a turning where she halted, under a lamp with a reflector which threw them in that position into the shade. The passage was divided by the first lobby, and on the lamp was painted, back to back: "Men," "Ladies;" besides, a babble of feminine voices on the latter side betrayed, as the intruder suspected from the previous placard, that he had entered a place of entertainment by the stage-door, a Tingel-Tangel, or Jingle-Jangle, as we should say.
It was the Jewess who was the Ariadne to this maze. Seen in the light, at close range, with the enchanting smile which a woman always finds for the man who has won her gratitude by supplementing her deficiency in strength and courage with his own, she was worthier love than ever. At this view, too, he was sure that, unlike too many of the divas of these spielungs, or dens, she was not one of the stray creatures who sell pleasure to some and give it to others, and for themselves keep only shame—fatal ignominy, wealth at best very unsubstantial, and if, at last, winners, they laugh—one would rather see them weeping.
"What's your name?" she inquired, quickly. "I am Rebecca Daniels, whom they call on the Bills 'La Belle Stamboulane'—though I have never been farther east than Prague," she added with a contemptuous smile. "That was my father, whose maltreatment you so promptly but I fear so severely chastised. But your name?" impatiently.
"I am a student of Wilna University, traveling according to custom of the college, through Germany and to make the Italian Art Tour. I am Claudius Ruprecht."
"Not noble?" she inquired, sadly, on hearing two Christian names and none of family, for her people treasure the pride of ancestry.
"I am an orphan. I never knew my family. Perhaps, as I am of age, I shall soon be informed. But—"
"Enough! time is getting on, and we cannot long stay in privacy here—the passage-way for the performers. This is Freyers' Hall, where I sing—where I was a player. But my father can speak to you in the public room and see to your safety—for I fear this night's affair will end ill. But do not you fear! neither my father nor I have the powerlessness which that noble ruffian seemed to think is ours. You, at least, shall be saved—even though you killed that brute."
"I do not think that, unless his head is not so hard as his heart."
She opened a narrow door in the dirty wall. It was brighter in the capacious place thus shown.
"Go in and sit down anywhere. My father will be with you in a few minutes. We were so delayed that they feared we would not arrive for 'our turn.' They were glad of the excuse—I fancy they were told it might occur—and they are trying to break our agreement. But never mind! that is but a bread-and-butter business for us. For you, it will be life and death, if that officer be slain."
Claudius, the student, mechanically obeyed the gentle impulsion her hand imparted to him on the shoulder, and walked through the side-door. A number of benches were before him with corresponding narrow tables, and he sat down at one, and looked round.
He found himself in a very long, rectangular hall, low in the ceiling in proportion to the length, once brightly decorated, but faded, smoked and tarnished. On the walls, in panels, between tinted pilasters of a pseudo-Grecian design, were views of the principal towns of Germany and Austria, the details obliterated in the upper part by smoke and in the lower by greasy heads and hands. Around the sides, a dais held benches and tables similar to those on the floor. At the far end was a bar for beer and other liquors less popular, and an entrance from a main street, screened and indirect, down steps at another level than the rear or stage door. Where Claudius sat was a small stage with footlights and curtain complete, and an orchestra for a miniature piano such as are used in yachts, and six musicians; the performers sat to face the audience respectfully in the good Old German style.
The lighting was by means of clusters of gas-jets at intervals in the long ceiling and along the walls. The announcement of the items of attraction appearing on the stage was made by changeable sliding cards in framework at the sides of the stage; to the left the name of the scena was exhibited, that of the artist on the other.
When Claudius took his seat, the other places were almost all empty; but they soon began to fill up. The majority of the spectators seemed to be of the tradesman and workman class, with their wives and daughters, but the stranger, who had been so surreptitiously "passed in," was not blind to the presence of a more offensive element. There were faces as villainous as any under the immediate command of Grandmother "Baboushka;" and their dress was not much better. More than one dandy of the gutter nursed the head of a club called significantly the "lawbreaker's canes of crime," with a distant air of the fop sucking his clouded amber knob or silver shepherd's-crook. In more than one group were horse-copers, and their kin the market-gardeners' thieves and country wagoners' pests, who not only lighten the loads on the way to the city market on the road, but plunder the drivers after they receive their salesmoney by cheating at cards.
The student, crowded in by this mixed throng, began to doubt the providential quality of the intervention saving him from an explanation to the police; it was very like leaping from the proverbial frying-pan into the fire.
At this stage in his reflections, he felt that a person in the next seat had risen and he soon perceived that he had politely, or from a stronger reason, given up his place to another. This was the old Jew, but he would not have known him by his dress, it was so changed for the better; the fine profile, the venerable beard which an Arab Sheikh would have reverenced, and the sharp, intelligent eyes were unaltered.
"Do you speak Latin?" inquired Daniels in that tongue.
But Claudius, though reading the dead tongue fluently, pronounced it after the University manner, and felt that he could not sustain a dialogue with one who followed the Italian usage. He could speak Italian, however, for he had long studied it to be at home in the world of Art.
"The officer was not killed," remarked the Jew, and before his new acquaintance could express his relief, he added gravely, "but he has been spirited away."
"Then it's those vagabonds—"
"Of whom that old Tausend-Kunstlerin (witch of a thousand tricks) is in the position of parent? I guess as much. He said he had connived with her, one who is the actual though occult ruler of the filthy region. We have had to pay her blackmail regularly, like the other artists, for we are obliged to go home after midnight. Well, if he is in their hands, it is among congenial spirits. Tell me your name and as much of your affairs as you please to enlighten me with. I am bound to assist you as far as possible—though my debt to you will ever remain uncanceled. I am Daniel Daniels, of Odessa, Marseilles, and elsewhere, and an introduction to my correspondent nearest where you sojourn is not to be despised."
Impressed with his tone, the young man related his life-story succinctly.
He had a dreamy remembrance of a long journey, lastly in a sledge, buried in fur robes, his clearer later memories were of a happy home in Poland, in the country, where, though strangers, all were kind to the lonely orphan. There was a mystery about his parentage; his mother was probably a native as he acquired the language as easily as the art of eating, the peasants said. His father had been killed, he thought, on one of those riots which, in a small way, repeat the olden revolutions of Poland against the triumvirate of oppression, Austria, Prussia and Russia. But he had heard a tutor say, when he was not supposed in hearing, that he had perished by the executioner's steel.
"A death honorable as under the bullets," said Claudius, but half doubtingly.
As became a man who abhorred homicide in any shape, Daniels made no reply.
"At the age of eighteen, while at the University, I was given a private tutor in art and architecture, to which I had a bent. He was a Frenchman and I acquired his elegant tongue with that well-known facility of us Poles in attaining proficiency in the Western ones. Armed with that and Italian—"
"Which you speak with finish," interrupted the Jew.
"I expect my Italian and French tour to be delightful. But I am not over the frontier yet, and hardly will be soon if my passport is commented upon by an authority cognizant of this night's adventure."
"I regret to find that it was deliberately planned," resumed Daniels. "My daughter's virtue has raised more hostility under this roof than even her talent. The proprietor is a notorious rascal, but he is too useful to the profligate among the town officials to be reprimanded. The police, too, wink at his personal misdoings, because he is always their friend to deliver the criminals who make this haunt their rendezvous. All those painted women, as well as the waiter-girls, are spies and Dalilahs who betray the Samsons of crime to the police at any given moment. That would be neither here nor there, however, if my daughter and I were allowed to conclude our engagement—which, believe me, would never have been signed if we had guessed the character of the resort. Not only would they lodge me in prison for a pretended attempt to elude my contract, but they seek to throw my poor Rebecca into the arms of such reprobates as this Major the Baron. The hag whom you noticed is not unconcerned in the plot. It is a protege of hers—a lovely young girl, guileless in appearance as a cherub, whom they would substitute for my girl, if she had been detained to-night. In fact—"
He paused. The orchestra had played and two or three vocalists had appeared and sang, without Claudius, absorbed in this conversation, noticing that the entertainment had commenced. A little fat man in a ruffled and embroidered shirt, buff waistcoat with crystal buttons, knee breeches and silk stockings of reproachless black, and steel buckled shoes, had come before the curtain, sticking one thumb in his waistband and the other in his vest armhole, to display a huge seal ring and a mammoth diamond hoop, respectively, as well as his idea of ease in company. He announced in a high flute-like voice that in consequence of indisposition, which a sworn medical affirmation confirmed—here he raised a laugh by sticking his tongue in his cheek—"La Belle Stamboulane" would not appear—might have to depart for Constantinople for convalescence, but that the bewitching Fraulein von Vieradlers—one of the few authentic noble vocalists on the variety stage—following in the footsteps of certain princesses—would oblige, for the first time on any stage, with selections from her repertoire, etc.
This was concerted, for the outburst of applause, started by the most sinister of aspect among the auditors, was vehement and so contagious that the hussah was unanimous as the stage-manager retired.
La Belle Stamboulane was already eclipsed! so evanescent is theatrical fame. Of all the audience, only one felt indignant, and that was the student Claudius, who had not heard her sing or wear stage costumes!
"All is over," observed Daniels placidly. "I cannot cope with these rogues. I must go and join my daughter and get our dresses to our lodgings; thankful if we succeed so far. In about an hour, will you not call, when we will resume our conversation which I wish to have, and with practical gain to you. This is the card of our hotel. It is not aristocratic, but once there, you will be safe."
He spoke with such tranquil assurance that Claudius had not a doubt. He took the card, read the address: "Hotel Persepolitan," so that if he lost the card, it might be in his mind, and nodded with a kind of gratefulness. The father of a beautiful woman is not like any other man in the world to a young man, who is not indifferent to her.
Following the old Jew with his gaze to the narrow side-door leading to behind-the-scenes, Claudius thought that, in the brief period of its opening and closing, he spied the bright black orbs of the Jewess striving to catch a glimpse even so transient of him. It did not need this encouragement to make him resolve to respond to the invitation.
An hour would soon pass, even in this tedious recreation. He felt also some resentment and curiosity to see the person whom the director of these Munich circeans considered in adequate succession to the peerless Stamboulane. The announcement had at least kindled the public: being plebeian, the promised aristocrat was already discussed. The family was existent, whether this variety vocalist was legitimately a daughter being another question. Vieradlers was a barony that had a right to fly its four eagles—as the name signifies—in the face of the double-headed king of the tribe. The baron was the latest of an old Bavarian line, famous in story. One of his ancestors was eagle-bearer to Caesar after the defeat of Hermann. The continuators had always been near the emperors. There might be a drop of imperial blood in the child who had so strangely degenerated as to prefer royalty on the stage to that of the court and country-house.
"She may be good-looking," thought Claudius, "for I have noticed that where the men are uncomely the women are often the reverse. A Berlin professor has boldly likened the male Bavarian to the gorilla and the caricaturists have taken his cue. They are of the beer-barrel shape, coarse, rough, quarrelsome and quick to enter into a fight. It is the national dish of roast goose—a pugnacious bird—and bread of oatmeal that does it. They may well have one beauty of the sex among them. And the carnation on the cheeks of these waitresses is so remarkable that they find rouge superfluous. They are dull, and yet the twinkle in their eyes indicates cunning."
Before him, the next seat was occupied by two gentlemen. They spoke in French, thinking no one would comprehend their conversation. They were discussing the ascending star, about which one had a deeper knowledge than the subjects of Baboushka.
"She is the cause of the disgrace of the Grand-Chamberlain of a northern kingdom," said this well-informed man. "He has been obliged to send in his grand cross of the Royal Order and his rank in the Holy Empire, after what was almost a revolution in the palace. He is a man over sixty, who was in Russia on an important mission, when he met by chance this young girl, whose mother was married to a noble, although the elder sister of one of those beauties notorious for their depravity in Paris. Perhaps, though, she secured her husband before her sister won this dubious celebrity. At all events, she lived blamelessly, but bad blood does not lie! This girl seems to aim at the reputation of her aunt, the celebrated Iza, whose portrait was painted, her figure copied in immortal marble, and her charms sung by French bards. At all events, she bewitched the old Count von Raackensee, who took her on a tour through our country and Austria. It was at Vienna that he, an old statesman and courtier, committed the folly of presenting her as his daughter! The truth came out—Austria and Prussia made remonstrances, and he was compelled to resign his office or this witch. He would not give her up and so he was punished."
"Yes; he went on to live at Nice, where he had bought a villa in foresight for some such day of disgrace. The Circe was to follow him, but, instead of that, she has shaken off the golden links and condescends to stay a week in Munich to amuse us coarse swiggers of beer."
THE STAR IS DEAD LONG LIVE THE STAR!
By listening to others and observing them, man obtains the material for self-preservation. Evidently this star of the minor stage was a woman to be avoided; a rising light which might scar the sight and burn the fingers of too venturesome an admirer. Claudius had a premonition that he ought to go out and kill the few minutes in strolling the streets, before keeping the appointment, even at the risk of being questioned by the police. But he overcame the impulsion, and waited to face what might be a danger the more.
All the hall, by instinct and from the stories circulating—perhaps circulated by the agents of the management—divined that no common attraction was to be presented. Besides, to displace La Belle Stamboulane worthily on the stage, that chosen arena where the female gladiator carries the day, a miracle of beauty, wit and skill was requisite. Elsewhere, ability, practice, art, artifice, many gifts and accomplishments may triumph, but the fifth element as indispensable as the others, air, water, fire and earth—it is love, which legitimately monopolizes the theatre for its exhibition and glorification. Men and women come to such places of amusement to hear love songs, see love scenes, and share in the fictitious joys and sorrows of love, which they long to enact in reality. Nothing is above love; nothing equals it. He reigns as a master in a temple, with woman as the high-priestess, and man the victim or the chosen reward.
Preceding the novelty, a bass-singer roared a drinking-song, in which he likened human life to a brewer's house, in which some quenched their thirst quickly and departed; others stayed to quaff, jest, tell stories to cronies, before staggering out "full;" the oldest went to sleep there. Though rich-voiced and liked, this time he retired in silence, for the audience was tormented with impatience.
The orchestra struck up a fashionable waltz, and, as the door, at the back of a drawing-room scene, was opened in both flaps by the liveried servants, a young lady entered, so fresh, delightful and easy that for a moment it seemed as if it were a member of the "highest life" who had blundered off the street into this strange world.
From her glistening hair of gold to the tip of her white satin slippers, with preposterously high heels, this was the new incarnation of the woman who ends the Nineteenth Century. She was indisputably beautiful, and Claudius, who had thought that the Jewess was incomparable, feared that the apple would have to be halved, since neither could have borne it entire away. But the Jewess's loveliness exalted the beholder; this one's was of the strange, irritating sort, resisted with difficulty and alluring a man into those byways which end in the gaming hell, the saturnalian halls, and the suicide's grave. Love had never chosen a more appetizing form to be the pivot on which human folly—perhaps human genius—was to spin idly and uselessly, like a beetle on a pin in a naturalist's cabinet.
Kaiserina von Vieradlers was the modern Venus, a creation of the modiste rather than of the sculptor; though hips and bosom were developed extravagantly, the long waist was absurdly small; but no token of ill health from the tight lacing appeared in the irreproachable shape, the well-turned arms and the countenance which was unmarred in a single lineament; the movements were not strictly ladylike, they were too unfettered in spite of the smooth gloves and the stylish unwrinkled ball dress, rather short in front to parade the slippers mentioned and silk stockings so nicely moulded to the trim ankle as to show the dimple. She was more fair in her eighteenth year—if she were so old—than a Danish baby in the cradle. The yellow hair had a clear golden tint not tawny, and the fineness was remarkable of the stray threads that serpentined out of the artistic braid and drooping ringlets. The blue eyes had a multitude of expressions and gleams; now hard as the blue diamond's ray, now soft as the lapis lazuli's glow of azure; the expression was at present one of longing, tender, cajoling and coaxing—like a gentle child's, never refused a thing for which it silently pleaded.
The costume was a trifle exaggerated, as is allowable on the minor stage, but what was that in our topsy-turvy age, when the disreputable woman in a mixed ball is conspicuous among her spotless sisters by the quiet correctness of her toilet?
Kaiserina came down to the flaring footlights, after a little trepidation, which the inexorable demon of stage-fright exacted from her, with the swing and confident step of one sure that—while man may be unjust, cruel and oppressive to her sex off the stage—here she would reign and finally triumph. She bowed her head, but it was to acknowledge her gracious acceptance of the tribute of applause; she moistened her fiery-coal lips with a serpent's active tongue; she surveyed her dominion with eyes that assumed a passing emerald tint. There was a depth to those apparently superficial glances. It seemed to Claudius that one had singled him out, and he fancied, as his eyes became fastened on this vision of concentrated worldly bliss, that it was for him that she stretched her plump neck, waved her arms in long gloves, undulated her waist and murmured—though to others she was but repeating her song during the orchestral prelude:
"You talk of plunging into the strife; you are ready to endure privations, you would study and toil till you vanquish. Nonsense; you had far better repose, recruit after the humdrum, exhaustive life of college; enjoy life a little. Hear a love-song, not a professor's lecture—see a dance of the ballet, not the procession of the deans and proctors; come to me for I am immediate sensation—the pleasure for all times—eternal intoxication—certain oblivion—the ideal bliss of the Hindoo! I am the grandest proof of Life—I am Love embodied!"
What did she sing to the strains of the voluptuous-waltz made vocal? The words mattered not; in Esquimaux they would have been as intelligible from the intonation with which she imbued every note, and the restricted but perfectly comprehensible gestures with which she emphasized the phrases of double meaning—one for the literary censors who had "passed" this corruption, the other for even the more obtuse of the common herd.
The rival whom, without having seen her, she had dethroned, was obliterated. It was not a transfer of allegiance—it was Semiramis; trampling an overthrown empress among the charred ruins of her palace, acclaimed without one dissentient shout, in her stead, and as the initial of a new line of sovereigns. She enchanted, interested and amused, while Rebecca had awed, ravished and strove apparently in vain to lift to a level where the elite alone soar without dread of a fall.
A witty cardinal has said that if a fly were seen in the drinking-cup by an Italian, a Frenchman and a German, respectively, the first would send it away, the second fish out the insect before he drank, while the German would gulp liquor and fly, without demur.
The good audience of Freyers' Harmonista swallowed the so-called Fraulein von Vieradlers, flies and all! Claudius saw no more clearly than they; not only was the girl an unsurpassable idol, but to its very feet it was pure gold and immaculate ivory. An insane idea seized him not only to win her—a hundred around him shared that desire—but to keep her spotless, as he thought her, whatever the gossips had said. After all, slander had no opening to attack one whose youth was manifest; who owed no complexion to the wax-mask, the bismuth powder, and the carmine; whose hair was real and fine and of a shade which no dye could imitate; and whose movements, though in a society dance far removed from the wild whirl of the monads seen on this same stage, had the freedom of the bacchantes.
After all, the unworthiness of the object no more changes the quality of love than that of the glass alters the banquet of wine.
Oh, to withdraw her from this turbulent career, for which surely she was not inextricably destined, and let her be the bright but flawless ornament of a happy home and a choice circle—if not the lady of fashion, in case the student realized one of his fantastic dreams of aimless ambition. The quiet learner felt an immense flame usurp the place of his blood; he seemed gifted with the powers of the athletic Duke of Munich, Christopher the Leaper, whose statue adorned the proscenium, and like him, clearing the orchestra with a bound of twelve feet, he would have grasped the girl wasting her graces of voice and person on these boors, and carried her off to a more congenial sphere.
Obliged to repeat her song and the dance which filled the gap between two verses, the charmer held the spectators in a spell even more firm than that she had first imposed.
No one was conscious at the first that down the central aisle had come a little party odd enough in its components and awe-inspiring in what might be called its rear-guard to break even enchantment more potent.
An old woman, wearing over sordid garments an old furred Polish pelisse, was the guide—the herald, so to say, to a gentleman in gold spectacles and a black suit and silk hat, an inspector of police, a sergeant of the watch, while behind this formidable official nucleus marched a serried body of civil and of military police. After them all, wringing his fat hands, trotted the proprietor, with a terrified expression too great not to be assumed. Waiters completed the retinue, wearing faces much whiter than the napkins slung on their arms.
As the orchestra faced the audience, they perceived this inroad before the latter and, as by a signal, ceased playing. The startled dancer, for all her aristocratic self-command, stopped immediately for explanation, and, riveting her glances on the female head of the intruders, whom she recognized—that was clear—stood stupor-stricken.
Claudius, following her hint, turned to the center and had no difficulty in recognizing in the woman arrayed in the Polish pelisse, the chief of the beggars, Baboushka. He recalled the remark of the Jew, that she befriended this debutante, and he was averse to believing it. That delicious creature and this hideous one in ties of communion! ridiculous, monstrous!
Spite of his concern for himself, Claudius noticed that twenty or thirty of the spectators, apparently perplexed at the rare conjunction of their leader and the authorities in friendly communication, would not wait for the elucidation but began to make a rush for the outlets.
The voice of the town inspector, rotund and sonorous, froze them with terror, although not personal.
"Gentlemen—(the ladies were apparently here only on sufferance, and the stage-performer was of no consideration in the authorities' eyes)—Gentlemen, a murder has been committed and we seek the culprit here in your midst!"
"Murder!" and the audience rose to their feet like one man.
"Stand up here," said the functionary, pointing to a place on a bench which a timid spectator had vacated, and pushing Baboushka roughly, "and point out the man who has made away with the honorable Major von Sendlingen."
"Major von Sendlingen!" repeated the audience, shocked, as the officer had been seen but the night previously among them in lusty life, and death is a spectre most terrible in a saloon of mirth and carousal.
After that general exclamation, a silence ensued; one that meant acquiescence in the proceedings of the police.
"I must have killed him," thought the student. "This is a black prospect! I had better have quitted the hall and profited by the invitation of refuge which Herr Daniels offered me."
For the moment, he could take no part, though he could not doubt that Baboushka would denounce him—a stranger, and the principal in the duel with canes. His cloak would help toward the identification and unless the hag's crew had abstracted it, it would be forthcoming, he doubted not.
Indeed, elevated on her perch, able to see the faces of all around her, the hag's aged but brilliant eyes rapidly scanned those nearest her in wider and wider circles. All at once they became fixed upon Claudius, and by instinct, the neighbors fell away from him so that he was isolated. She extended her arm with an unnatural vigor, and in a voice also unexpectedly strong with malice, cried:
"That is he! there you have the slayer of poor Major von Sendlingen!"
At that very moment, a shrill, ear-splitting whistle sounded; and the gas-jets all over the hall went out too simultaneously for the act not to be that of a hand at the inlet from the street-main. Claudius heard the soldiers and policemen buffeting the people to scramble over the benches toward him. He had but a single road to a possible escape: by the little door in the wall through which Rebecca Daniels had ushered him into the auditorium. He stooped as he turned, to elude any outstretched hands, drove himself like a wedge through the compacted mass of frightened spectators and, spite of the gloom, the deeper because of the glare preceding it, he reached the egress. The uninitiated would never have suspected its existence, for the actors and staff of the establishment alone had the right and knowledge to use it.
"Lights, lights!" the functionaries were shouting.
By the time matches were struck and lanterns brought into the scene of confusion, Claudius had opened the panel, leaped through and closed it. He did not dally in the passage, but hastened to follow the walled-in road as well as he might by which he had penetrated the theatrical region.
At the dividing-line, where the path parted to the men's and to the ladies' dressing-rooms, he perceived a ghostly figure in the obscurity which also prevailed here from the general extinction of the illuminant. He was about shrinking back and fleeing in another direction when eyes blazed in the dark like a cat's, and the sweet, unmistakable voice of the singer, who had enthralled him, ejaculated:
"As God lives, it is you!"
"Suppose it is I!" he returned, impatiently. "Stand aside, or—"
"You must not pass here!" she returned, laying her hands on his lifted arm.
"Must not? We shall see about that!" and he repulsed her violently.
"No, no; you are too hasty! I mean that would be a fatal course. Here, here!" seizing him again and dragging him with her. "You were right to kill that ruffian! to cane him to death—like the Russian grand-dukes, he was not born to die by the sword. To abduct one woman while paying court to another, the traitor! But, never heed that! He is punished, and you must be saved. Here is an outlet: pursue the passage to the end and leave the town!"
"How can you repay me? Bah! repay me in the other world—below, with a drop of cold water when I parch!" And with a dulcet yet demoniacal laugh, the singular creature pushed him into a lightless lobby, slammed a door and seemed to run away, singing the refrain of the waltz which was to haunt him forever-more.
After an instant's reflection in the impenetrable shades, Claudius concluded to follow the advice of the variety theatre's prima donna. While a stranger to the City of Breweries, he knew that its predestination toward thirst was due to its being the site of an ancient rock-salt mine. In other cities, subterraneans were melodramatic; here, a labyrinth under the surface and at the level of the dancing and drinking cellars was so natural that a child of Munich, dropped into a well, would have no misgivings as to his worming his way up into the outer air.
At the worst, when pressed by hunger, he could no doubt make an appeal to the mounted patrol by night or the foot-passengers by day, whom he would hear overhead, and be released from this living burial at the cost of the imprisonment and trial which he had temporarily evaded.
Remembering that he had a box of cigar-lights, and regretting again the want of the cloak so useful in these damp passages, he lighted a match and began his flight by the sole opening that he spied. An odor of sausages, cheese and coarse tobacco was here and there strong, and he correctly divined that at these points, fugitives, probably from the same enemy as he fled, had recently made halts. Once assured that he was in a kind of thoroughfare, though one for the nefarious, he felt bolder and more hopeful about reaching a desirable goal.
He did not pause to think, as he continued, choosing, where there was a bifurcation, the most trampled corridor, hewn originally by the miners' pick. But he had much on his mind for future elaboration. Heretofore no man could have lived a less eventful life, passed among books, globes, drawing tools and lecture notes. In a few hours the change was great. The quiet student, with no aspirations but the completion of his wandering-year in Italian picture-galleries, had become a fugitive from justice, and on the hands, groping in a lugubrious earthen alley, were the stains of a fellow-creature's blood. Then, too, the singular friendships he had formed, the old Jew and his daughter, who were awaiting him—and this still more remarkable creature who had glanced across his path, like the divinities from above in antique poems, to point out the safe retreat.
But too long a time elapsed without his finding such an evidence of his security as he had too confidently expected. He might have mistaken the true line, for while at any point of divergence there were marks in the earth, where traces of saline flows still glistened, and even stones and bits of stick placed in cavities in the manner of the gypsy clues familiar to social outcasts, he could not interpret them; for once, his university education proved faulty.
A new alarm arose from the presence of swarms of rats; larger and more hideous than their fellows of which one catches a fleeting view in houses and in the streets, they seemed to be less afraid of the lord of creation than fables teach. They scuttled off in front of him, it is true, but he began to think that they followed him when he went by. One ray of comfort came in the two beliefs that his flashing matches frightened them, and that, for certain portions of the way, well-regulated droves of the vermin had districts assigned them; those that ventured in chase of him too far were beaten back by those on whose grounds they rashly trespassed.
This latter consolation was lost almost at the same time as the other: his stock of fuses ran out, while with the last flash he feared that he saw a larger mass than ever before in his track. The rats had united to overwhelm him.
Seized with panic, spite of his philosophy, dropping the all but empty wax-light case in his haste, he dashed madly forward, groping to save his head and shoulders from contact with the capacious gallery sides, but unable to take a step with any certainty how it would end. Fortunately, he had strayed back into an often-traveled path, and while the scamper of the rats died away at the close of his frantic race, he heard a sound but little above his level revealing the presence of man. It was not a cheerful sound; being the tolling of a bell such as is swung when a dead body is entering a cemetery, is carried to the chapel before interment.
Nevertheless, fellow beings would be near and he had only to find the opening by which this burial-ground could be reached. He remembered that the old cemetery had been immensely extended, if the guide-books were to be credited, and, while he had no clear idea of the direction he had rambled, he might have reached the town of twenty thousand dead. The idea was gruesome of having to call for the aid of a grave-digger, but he felt that he could not much longer support this journey in the underworld without the bodily support of food or the mental one of human fellowship.
Silence most oppressive had followed the patter of the myriad of rats' feet, and it checked his efforts. They were brought to a termination just when he looked forward with joy to a grey light dimly indicating some aperture on the other side of which shone the day. The ground seemed to give way under him, and he was hurled senseless into the pit which he had not suspected.
When he returned to consciousness, the bell had ceased to toll; the silence was once more heavy. But the pangs of hunger—remorseless master over the young—spurred him into rising.
He was thankful that he had not been attacked in his helplessness by the vermin, and he muttered a prayer in his first stride toward where he recalled the feeble light. The rats' compact column had figured in his dreams, and while they were led by the fair waltz-singer and dancer in order to devour him, unable to resist, the benignant fairy, for once dark—contrary to all precedent—wore the appearance of Rebecca.
He could not see the light; but a current of warm air stealing steadily into the underground indicated the orifice. It was a welcome draft, for it differed in many features from the noisome, dank and earthy exhalations to which he had luckily become accustomed in his indefinite sojourn.
His surmise was correct. Through a grating of iron bars, straight at the side and semi-circular at the top, set in massive masonry of some building, in the foundation of which he crouched, he saw, in the vagueness of clouded starlight, the domain of the dead.
On being assured of this, the panic, mastering him before, resumed its sway; it gave him a giant's strength to escape the fancied, grisly pursuers, and he moved the whole series of bars far enough away to enable him to crawl through the gap.
He stood, exhausted, panting, glad of the relief from the waking nightmare which the darkness encouraged. His weakness could be accounted for, as his wandering had lasted long; the syncope could not be brief since nearly thirty hours must have transpired from his rush out of the variety music-hall.
Before him, for at his back stood the chapel for services, stretched out the vast cemetery. Some of the cracked, dilapidated tombs dated back to 1600; others marked the addition in 1788 to the original God's-acre. All was hushed; it was difficult to imagine a phantom where neglect seemed to rule. It was not in this olden part that descendants of the departed flocked on All Saints' Day to decorate the mausoleums with evergreens, plaster images and artificial immortelle garlands. Except for a screeching-sparrow, which his first steps dislodged, not a sign of life appeared in this town around which the living city slept as quietly.
His eyes clearing, he believed he descried the gateway and, sure that so large a campo santo would have a warder in hourly attendance, he made his way, deviating as the tombs compelled, toward the entrance. To his surprise, all was still there, and though a lamp burned in the little stone lodge, it was certainly untenanted. The gate was ajar; there was no fear of the tenants flitting out bodily for a night's excursion.
Claudius was dying for refreshment and he was not fastidious about intruding. A man who has traversed the underlying catacombs need not be delicate about taking a nip of spirits or a hunch of bread. Both were in a cupboard in the little domicile, supplied with a porter's chair so ample as to be the watcher's bed, and a stove where a fire merrily burned, crackling with billets of pine wood.
The disappearance was the more strange, as on a framed placard, at the base of which was a row of brazen knobs, there was a formal injunction for the gatewarder never to go away without his place being taken by another "from sunset to sunrise and an hour after!"
Claudius knew what those knobs and the instructions portended in this adjunct to the charnel house. The public mortuary was at the other end of the wires from those bells; the custom was to attach them to the dead so that, if their slumbers were not that knowing no waking and they stirred even so little as a finger, the electric transmitter which they agitated would sound the appeal.
And now the watcher, on whom perhaps depended the duration of a worthier life than his, had paltered with his trust, while drinking at the beer-house or chattering with a sweetheart, the bell might ring unheeded, and the unhappy creature, falling with the last tremor of vitality, to obtain a desperate succor, would become indeed the corpse like which he had been laid out in the morgue.
Claudius smiled grimly and sadly. On what flimsy bases the best plant of wise men too often rest! The latest power of nature had been harnessed to do man service in his utmost extremity; science had perfected its instruments, but one link in the chain was fallible man. The bell would tinkle—the watcher would be laughing out of earshot—and the life would sink back into Lethe after swimming to the shore!
The student sighed as he ate the piece of bread broken off a small loaf and drank from the bottle out of which the faithless turnkey hobnobbed with the sexton, the undertaker's men and the hearse-coachman.
If the bell should ring, with him alone to hear, ought he hasten out by the gate providentially open, and leave for the care of heaven alone the unknown wretch who would have summoned his brother-Christians most uselessly? The resuscitated man would not be "of his parish," since he was a wanderer from afar. Let the natives bury their own dead!
At this instant, when philosophy pointed out to the student the unbarred portals, the bell in the midst of the row rang clearly if not very loudly. It sounded in his ear like the last trump. Could he doubt that this appeal was to him exclusively? The removal of the custodian, his own miraculous escape—all pointed to this conclusion.
But might he not run out and, if he saw the traitorous warder on his road, repeat to him the alarm? Not much time would be lost, for the gong still vibrated, and his personal safety ranked above his neighbor's in such a crisis.
But Claudius' hesitation had been that of physical weakness; confronted in this way with the problem of fraternity, he did not waver any longer. On the threshold of safety, he turned straight back into the jaws of destruction. He had not emerged from that darkness and depth of earth, to descend into a lower profundity and a denser darkness of the soul.
He glanced at the brazen monitor: its surface still shivered, though his senses were not fine enough to hear the faint sound. But there was no delusion; the dead in the morgue had signaled to the world on whose verge it was balanced.
It cost the student no pang now to retrace the steps he had painfully counted, to reach the building, out of the cellars of which he had so gladly climbed. On thus facing it, he knew by a window being lighted that his goal was there.
He had found fresh energy in his mission, rather than the scanty refreshment, and in three minutes was at the door. Heavy with iron banding the oak, it was not made for the hand of the dying to move it, but Claudius dragged it open with violence. He sprang inside with the vivacity of a bridegroom invading the nuptial chamber, although here was no agreeable sight.
A long plain hall, of grey stone, the seams defined with black cement; all the windows high up, small and grated; only the one door, never locked. Two rows of slate beds, three of which only were occupied; two men and a boy, nude save a waistcloth; over their heads—sluggishly swayed by the air the new-comer had carelessly admitted—their clothes were hung like shapeless shadows. They had been dredged up in the Isar's mud, found at a corner, dragged from under a cartwheel. No one identifying them, they were deposited here; their fate? dissection for the benefit of science, and interment of the detached portions in the pauper's hell.
Which had rung the bell?
Claudius investigated the three: the boy had been crushed by the sludge-basket of the steam-dredge; not a spark of life was left there, his companion was green and horrible; he, too, had passed the bourne.
But on the other row, alone, a robust man with disfigured face, and red whiskers, looked like a fresh cut alabaster statue. Cold had blanched him; but a faint steam arose from his armpits, in the sepulchral light of a green-shaded gas-jet. There heat remained to prove that the great furnace in the frame had not ceased to be fed.
The student bent over him to feel the heart, when, as promptly, he sprang back. Spite of the maltreated face, he recognized his combatant in the duel with canes; it was Major Von Sendlingen, who had been flung on the slab in the public dead-house.
Had Baboushka commanded his death to prevent her complicity in the assault on Daniels and his daughter being published, and had she suggested the stripping which caused the police to confound the noble officer with the victim of the "pickers-up" of drunkards?
But the major shivered in the blast from the door left open, and a brief flush ran over the icy skin.
If his enemy did not extend relief to him immediately, he would never recover strength to ring the death-bell to which ran the wires appended to his fingers and toes.
With three or four rapid strokes and twistings, Claudius broke them. He looked round; this waif of the gutter had no clothes, but a torn and shapeless garment dangled over his head; it was the old cloak of the student. The pockets had been torn bodily away to save time; it was the mere integument of the garment.
But it sufficed to retain the scanty heat lingering in the unfortunate man, when wrapped about him. With a surprising spell of strength, Claudius lifted him upon his breast when so enveloped, and crossed the grounds for the third time.
The warder had returned but he had left the gate open to close its sliding grate by mechanism worked within his little house. To his amazed eyes, Claudius presented himself with the burden.
"Help him! revive him! he is living!" he said. "I will go fetch the police surgeon! it is my officer—Major von Sendlingen!"
After the announcement of the rank, Claudius knew that the officer would want for nothing. He let the body fall into the large armchair and, taking advantage of the warder's consternation at seeing the dead-like body sitting between him and the only exit, glided through the narrow space between the sliding rails and disappeared.
The boom of an alarm bell, set swinging over the gateway by the warder, added wings to his feet, for he feared that police and patrol would hurry to the cemetery from all quarters, and he wanted, above all, to reach the Jew's hotel before morning.
Fortunately for the student, the night birds whom he met and to whom in asking information to arrive at the Persepolitan Hotel, he gave preference over the policemen, felt a fellow feeling for a man pallid, tottering, and in clothes which had suffered during his scramble through the exhausted mines underlaying Munich.
He reached the hotel before dawn and was not sorry to find it one of those old-fashioned hostelries continuing traditions of the posting-houses, where he might not expect to be challenged because of his appearance. In the stable yard, between a half-awakened horse and a sleepy watchdog, who received the new guest with a blinking eye and affectionate tongue, an ostler was washing down a ramshackle chaise. Claudius guessed that it was prepared for his flight and his heart warmed at this proof of the Jew having counted on his coming, though belated. The shock-headed man, clattering over the rounded stones in wooden shoes, made to fit by the insertion of straw around his naked feet, no sooner heard him name Herr Daniels as the one expecting him, than he bade him welcome in a cordial tone which his surly face had not presaged.
"I suppose he is asleep," he said, "but he left word that he was to be aroused at any hour on your coming. I am not allowed within doors in my stable dress," he added, "but you will have no trouble in finding the rooms. It is that one where the candle burns, one floor above, numbers 11, 12 and 13—the number is unlucky for a Christian, but that does not matter for the likes of them!—and a lamp burns at the turn of the stairs. The back door is on the latch."
Claudius, with the satisfaction of having anchored in the harbor, crossed the yard and entered the house. He was closing the door behind him when he heard a heavy tread at the street gate where he had come in. and the dog began to growl. The ostler caught it by the collar as it made a bound, and cried out:
"Who is there?"
The schutzman, who had dismounted, prudently held the door close, with one hand, to prevent the dog gliding through, while he showed his sword drawn in the other, and answered with affected joviality:
"What, Karlchen, am I not known by you better than by your pagan of a hound? But catch me putting silly questions to my boon-companion, my oldest friend! It is not in here that I saw a suspicious shadow creep, eh?"
"By my faith!" replied the groom, laughing heartily, "it may have been a shadow—but flesh-and-blood is what my true Ogre is waiting for! We are up betimes, worthy Hornitz, and we have neither had our breakfast. What has put you on the alert?"
"A general order! There was a riot at the great music hall of the Freyers Brothers—plague on it! What art they have in brewing beer that leaves a pleasant memory! and we have orders to overhaul every suspicious character in the streets, while none can get out of the town. It appears that some monstrous criminal is at large! Oh, for the reward, that would buy me a little cottage on the Friedplatz road with beer unstinted!"
"Pooh! as usual, you gentlemen of the nightwatch are badly informed," grumbled the ostler, pushing the dog into a corner. "I know what it was, for one of the theatrical players is a lady lodger of ours. She was unfairly supplanted by some insignificant young upstart and, of course, the public, always knowing true talent from shallow pretension, broke up the seats and pelted the manager with it along with his imposter!"
"Well, good-morning, Karlchen," said the gendarme, taking the correction in good part, and withdrawing his booted leg from the door. "I may see you when I am off duty and we will make sure that Freyers have better taste in brewing beer than in choosing actresses."
Having heard enough to convince him that Daniels was in a house guarded by the faithful, Claudius proceeded up the stairs dimly visible before him at the end of a clean, bricked passage. His progress was more easy when he reached the landing, as the lamp mentioned, in a recess and projecting its rays in two directions, shone on the door of the suite of three rooms where the Jew and his daughter were lodged.
Pausing before he knocked, Claudius heard the soft step of slippered feet. On tapping discreetly, a reserved voice ordered him to come in. It was Daniels who spoke; he was in a dressing-gown, with bare head, and, having cleared the chairs back to enable him to make the circuit of the table in the center of the spacious room, had apparently been walking round it like a caged lion. On the table were various articles heaped up without order and an open trunk, partly packed. He looked up in emotion while Claudius paused on the sill, more affected than he understood the reason for.
"Ah, heaven be praised! it is you," said the old man with grave joy, and holding out his hands, paternally. "I feared for the worst—that you would never come. It is so serious a matter: a nobleman and an officer who belongs to the Secret Intelligence Department—his death is not to go unpunished."
"At least, he is not dead," said the student; and he hastened to tell his story.
"Speak at any tone you please," interrupted Daniels, at the stage of his having escaped from the music-hall by the artistes' door and of the help of the woman whom he did not profess to distinguish. "My daughter is sleeping, and a sitting-room is here between her apartment and this one."
But, though without any fear that the noble girl would stoop to listen, the student related the rest with a cautious voice. Others might not be so delicate.
"You have a great heart," said Daniels, when he heard of the rescue of the major from the frigid slab of the morgue. "To do this for an enemy is lofty conduct. God grant that you have not met one of those monsters of ingratitude whom a kind act embitters. But it would hardly appear that he could survive the beating by Baboushka's gang, the ill usage from the street sweepers and that of the ghouls of the dead-house. All this makes me tremble for the plan I formed to have you conveyed hence in a chaise. I have the papers to cover your departure as a clerk whom a business firm of good standing are sending out to Buenos Ayres. Once at Hamburg, you may turn your face in any direction you desire. But the slayer of Major Von Sendlingen would not be able to cross the French or Italian frontier."
"For a man intending to see Italy, that would be taking me greatly out of the road," muttered Claudius, sinking into a chair.
"Then go as far as Ulm only, where you will let the train proceed without you. Send for a doctor whose address I will give you and I answer for his helping you to get into Switzerland. After all, that will be better. But I see that you are weak with your exertions and want of proper nourishment."
"It is rest I most need."
"Then stretch yourself on this sofa, and let me cover you with a traveling-rug. When you awake, refreshments will be at hand."
"But you, whom I deprive of rest?"
"It is true that anxiety about you, my young friend, has prevented me lying down, but I am not desirous of sleep now. Do as I tell you. I will countermand the chaise, and return with the food. This house is not a famous inn, but my coreligionists, who are traveling merchants, frequent it, and the edibles are good. As for the honesty of the servants and of the host, I guarantee it. Unless you have been dogged to the door, I believe you are safe."
Claudius said that he seemed not to have been followed. At the house, a patrolman had caught a glimpse of him but the ostler had jestingly turned him off and quieted his suspicions. Before his host had reached the door, where he paused to look back, the young man was nodding with eyes closing in spite of his will, and he was soon steeped in slumber.
"The sleep on the night before execution," muttered the Jew. "This is a sad matter! That Baboushka is a witch of malevolence, or I am woefully misinformed, and the major an awkward antagonist. I would a thousand miles separated my daughter, and this young man, from both of them."
In the lobby he saw a young girl, with her hair in curl-papers and a candle in her hand, descending the stairs from above.
"Ah, Hedwig," he said gently, "I am not sorry you have risen so early." The girl blushed.
"You are as rosy as a carnation. Will you please bring me up some coffee and light food as soon as you get the hot water? My daughter and I will probably start before your regular breakfast-hour."
The girl seemed vexed by this news, for she bit her lip, but forcing a smile, she continued her journey to the kitchen. No one else seemed afoot in the large and rambling house, through which the Jew sent searching looks as he took the turn to the yard. The ostler received him with a grin, and the dog with friendly wags of the stub tail.
"We shall not use the chaise as we purposed, Karl," said the Jew. "At your breakfast-time, my daughter will go out alone for an airing, with you or your fellow to drive. The young gentleman whom you welcomed is quite unfit for a journey before at least three days are over. Meanwhile, not an incautious word that will betray where he took shelter. In these three days," he added to himself, "we shall know how the major fares. Unfortunately, his race have iron constitutions."
This was said with a sorrow rare in one of a people who seldom deplore the survival of a brother man.
Daniels was right in his fear: the student needed repose, and only the most vigorous counter measures drove off an attack of fever. Rebecca was his nurse in the same devoted and intelligent manner as her father was his physician, but as he was on the margin of delirium half the time, he saw her like one in a vision.
His antagonist, Von Sendlingen, was not so blessed. After a cursory treatment in the cemetery gate-keeper's lodge, he was removed, wrapped in blankets, to his quarters in the great barracks; the iron constitution, of which Daniels spoke, bore him up, and before Claudius was on foot again, the officer was outdoors—a little pale, but seemingly none the worse for his horrible adventure.
He took up his own case. Fraulein von Vieradlers had already tired of her assay in elevating the stage in a social point of view. She had excited the adoration of the eccentric Marchioness de Latour-lagneau, a very old lady of fortune, who had the habit of conceiving singular fancies. This lady engaged the cantatrice as a "noble companion," and she hurried off with her into Italy. So the story ran, and added that her manager found that the Vieradlers promptly repudiated any kinship with her when he talked of their paying the forfeit money. He had thereupon endeavored to win back La Belle Stamboulane to his deserted stage, but she was obdurate, and the beer flowed flat in the double absence of stars inimitable.
The major, whose body, reeking with arnica and iodine, reminded him at every step of the drubbing he owed to the civilian, concentrated his searches therefore to discover him. He was sure that he had not left the town by the ordinary channels, but, as time passed, and the week ended fruitlessly, he was inclined to believe that the fiend which befriended Baboushka had also shielded Claudius with his wing.
He did not doubt that the old hag, believing he was lifeless, had hounded on her followers to steal his uniform and hurl him into the kennel for the most hideous of fates, which even the homeless and hopeless dread. But for the enemy whom he hated, he might now be a boxful of dissected bones in the poor man's lot instead of still enjoying the prospect, dear to the scion of an ancient race, of occupying his shelf in the family vault.
Although a soldier, he had such intimate relations with the civil powers, that the police aided him in searches which he took care astutely to represent as quite non-personal. They led him to the street of the Persepolitan Hotel, where, before he entered, he was scrutinizing the vicinity when he spied the well-known form of the old beggar-chief. Their surprise was alike.
"Traitress!" he said, with a red spot blazing on his pale cheeks, as he played with the swordknot on his new sword as if he wanted to loose it and flog her. "After receiving my gold, to bring me to death's door! What have you to say to stay me from handing you to the town's officers to be whipped out of it at the cart's-tail?"
To his surprise again, she met his glance firmly, and her eyes seemed as irate as his own.
"You are mistaken," she replied, carelessly, as if the matter were of no consequence. "How can you expect those stalwart bullies to obey an old woman like me? They would have beaten me to a jelly if I had tried to shield you. Besides, my officer, I thought you had not a spark of life left in you after that beating."
"He shall pay for it—with the sword if worthy—with the stick if a plebeian."
"You need not believe he will ever meet you with the sword," said the hag, glad to have the dialogue turn on another head than her own in spite of her unconcern. "I am going to tell you all about one whom I hated by instinct and whom I find to be a hereditary enemy."
"What do you mean? He is but a boy and cannot have wronged you or yours."
"His father, major, murdered my loveliest daughter and interrupted her career of splendor! Alas! one that had a palace where kings were received and to whom princes often sued in vain!"